The President's Competition 2015
The President's Competition 2015
Our 60th Anniversary Year
2014 was our 60th Anniversary Year; the Circle was formed in the year 1954. (Curiously enough both the current Chair and President also date from that year!)
This year's competition is to write a fictional story set in 1954. It can be fantasy, based on real facts, it can relate to the Circle or to anything else, but it must be based in 1954. That's it – the world (of 1954 anyway) is your oyster.
- Entries must be no longer than 1500 words but can be shorter.
- Each entry must be accompanied by a suitably awful pseudonym.
- Each entry must be printed, single-sided, on A4.
- Your real name should not appear anywhere on, or with, the entry.
- An entry fee of £2.50 must accompany all entries.
- Please could you supply two copies of each entry (one for each judge).
- The closing date for the competition is: 4th February 2015.
- Entry is restricted to members of the Verulam Writers Circle.
Adjudication by John Spencer and Richard Bruckdorfer (Last year's winner) will take place on 4th March 2015 at St Michael's Church Hall.
There were only two winners announced. The Winner was Barbara Cooper, but we don't have her wining entry for the website at present.
Second was Ben Bergonzi whose entry is reproduced below:
MEAT by Kate Tring
The longest hour of the week was always the one between 11 and 12 on a Saturday. The clock's progress was being minutely monitored by three pairs of eyes. The fourth person in the room couldn't see the clock because it hung over her desk. She was watching her subordinates.
Rose looked down from the clock and put her hand inside the paper bag and felt around. A few more crumbs stuck to her fingers. She withdrew her hand and licked off the crumbs, the last of her elevenses bun. Then she carefully folded the bag away and put it in the pocket of her little handbag. Across the desk, Ida was watching her over the top of her Imperial Typewriter.
Ida said, 'So what are you going to bring for lunch on Monday ?'
'A nice ham sandwich. Or maybe black pudding and pickle.'
'Ugh,' said Wendy, from the next desk. 'That's disgusting.'
'Pork pie for me,' said Ida.
'And then in the evening mum's going to do us a chicken.'
'What, on a Monday evening?' said Wendy.
'Yeah, but it don't happen every day, does it? Mum says we won't know ourselves, Cyril and me.'
'I don't remember before the war either,' said Ida. 'What must it be like to be able to just go into a shop and buy what you want? No ration books. Just - I'll have that, and there you are?'
'At least they're not rationing clothes anymore,' said Wendy.
'Yes,' said Ida, counting on her fingers. 'Flour off, then clothes off, but sausages still on. Till Monday. Mum says they're going to burn them on Sunday night. The ration books.'
'Burn them? Why?'
'To show they're free.' Ida raised her hands in a gesture borrowed from the ex-colonial leaders she'd seen on the newsreels. 'They're going to take 'em down the Conservative club and have a bonfire.'
'Our Cyril just about remembers when war broke out,' said Rose. 'Not me. A war baby, me.'
'The baby of the office now,' said Miss O'Malley, showing them a quick smile. Then she looked back down at the ledger on her desk, so determinedly that no-one said anything for a few minutes.
At five to twelve, Rose piped up, 'Hey, Miss O'Malley, do you think Mr Pitkin will give me a raise when I turn fifteen?'
'Ask no questions and you'll hear no lies. Now, have you finished in the kitchen? And you've rinsed the teapot and left it upside down to air?'
'All done.' Rose fidgeted from one leg to the other and glanced at the clock. Her blouse was straining. Miss O'Malley wondered whether to have a word with her mother about the girl's working wardrobe.
'Not twelve o'clock yet, missy. You're to collect all the old carbon papers from the desks, and fetch out the new typewriter ribbons for Monday morning.'
When Rose had dropped the carbons into the bin, she moved away, wiping the black grime from her hands and pointedly looking upwards.
Miss O'Malley sighed at the insolence, then glanced at the Ingersoll watch on her wrist. 'Very well, girls, that is noon.'
Within thirty seconds she was alone in the room. Any thoughts of wishing the girls a nice weekend or cautioning Rose not to eat too much, were lost in the scuffle of their noisy departure. She looked out of the window to Paternoster Row, four floors below. It was a narrow street, dark as a trench, but now in early July, a bar of gold sunshine reached down to the dusty cobbles. She remembered she would need to stop on the way home for some more food for her cat.
On Monday, Rose's lunch did not quite live up to its buildup. The sandwich in her paper bag looked suspiciously like the usual cheese.
'It's all so dear all of a sudden,' said Rose. 'I went to the butchers with Mum this morning, on my way to the bus. He has a big sign up, all meat off ration, fresh from Smithfield. But -'
'My mum said that would happen,' said Wendy. 'She said they always put their prices up. Hey Ida, did you go to that skiffle dance on Saturday?'
Rose said, 'Did you go with Victor? Come on. Spill.'
'Oh, I went with him.' Ida smoothed down her hair.
But now Miss O'Malley was approaching her desk. She was carrying a set of typed papers that had been scribbled over in blue crayon.
'First job, please, Ida. He needs them by ten. Twelve copies.'
It was eleven o'clock before Rose and Wendy got Ida's account of the dance. They were clustered around the tea trolley. Only Miss O'Malley was allowed tea in the office. The girls' breaks had to be taken standing up in the kitchen.
'There you are, one sugar for you,' said Rose. 'Now, are you going to tell us about Saturday?'
'I thought you and Victor were an item,' said Wendy.
Ida took a sip of her tea. She reached a biscuit from the fan arrangement that Rose had made on the plate, then glanced over her shoulder at the doorway. 'If you want to know what happened – I went in with Victor and we had one or two dances and then he went off for a light ale. He left me on my ownsome with a glass of pop. Anyway, I'm sitting there and a chap comes up and asks me to dance.' Again she turned away and smoothed down her hair. 'His hair was all up on his head, and he had sideburns. And one of those long coats.'
'So what's his name?'
'Robert. But he said, call me Rob.'
'Rob. Ah. That's romantic.' Rose's eyes were rolling.
'And what's his line?'
'Sells motorcycles. He said, did I want to come out with him?'
'Oh my Gawd.' Wendy giggled and reached over to grip Ida's arm as if to check she had not yet disappeared in a cloud of petrol fumes. 'He didn't?'
'Cyril's on the waiting list for a motorbike,' said Rose, 'He gets the magazines. So what does Rob sell? Triumph, Norton, BSA?'
'No. None of those. You'll not believe it.' She lowered her voice. 'He's bringing them over from Japan.'
'Japan?' said Wendy, affronted. 'What, the Nips are trying to sell us their motorbikes?'
'My dad's not got much time for the Japs,' said Rose.
'I know, I know. I thought all that. But what Rob says, is it's all very well for our dads. But the war was years ago. Now young people need to get about. He's selling these machines for good prices, and you don't have to wait. I say good luck to him. Someone's going to be importing those bikes, so why not him?'
'Why not indeed?' said Wendy. 'Specially as –'
Rose said, 'So when are you going to see him again?'
'Is he going to call on your parents?'
'No, not yet. Not till we're sure. What with Victor and so on. He's so uptight. No.' She tilted her head up. 'We're going to speak on the telephone. I'm going to go out at lunchtime and ring Rob up.'
'Can't you use the phone in the office?' asked Rose.
'I don't think Mother Superior would be very happy.'
'Good for you,' said Wendy. 'Two men fighting over you.'
'I'd better get this trolley out,' said Rose, 'The partners need their tea.'
'Time to drink up,' said Wendy.
As Ida and Wendy walked along the gloomy corridor, the wheels of Rose's trolley squeaking behind them, Ida felt a slight anxiety. Weirdly, at that moment it was reflected in Wendy's question.
'So do you remember his telephone number?' Her voice dropped to an intimate whisper. 'Rob's?'
'It was Grosvenor two seven two eight. Or two nine. Or maybe it wasn't Grosvenor but Museum. It was a bit of a rush. I could see Victor coming back so I said I had to go and meet my sister. But it doesn't matter, because Rob wrote it down on my ticket. And I put it in my bag.'
She reached down to the small leatherette bag hanging from her arm. Her hand was calm at first, then scrabbled anxiously.
'Is it not there?'
Ida stopped walking. 'I always put little bits like that in my ration book. That's the one thing I always carry.'
'But today you've left it at-'
'It's worse than that. Mum took it last night. For the grand bonfire. It's gone up in smoke.'
'And Rob's number with it. Is there any other way you can get in contact?'
'None that I know of.' Ida took a deep breath then straightened up. Very upright, she started walking along the corridor. Her heels were clacking on the lino floor. As Wendy scurried to keep up with her, she half turned her head and said, 'Never mind, darling. No-one's going to buy those Japanese motorbikes, anyway.'
The lucking winner of the Gnome-de-Plume was Wendy!