Winners of the Summer Writing Competition Announced!

Winners of the Summer Writing Competition Announced!

Congratulations to Anne Lake for winning our Summer writing competition!
Highly Commended awards go to Sheila Farey and Diana Newson.

Please take a moment and read their entries - some interesting ideas around the topic of 'Summer.'

 

The Dog Days of Summer by Anne Lake

There they are, on the top shelf of the pantry, the little tins I remember from my childhood.  They are painted, depicting the seasons.  There is the snowman for winter, which held the cloves to flavour our apple pies; there are the yellow daffodils for spring, containing the nutmegs which were grated over our rice puddings; there are the red and gold leaves for autumn, out of which came the cinnamon sticks for stirring our hot milk at bedtime.  But where is summer?  It seems there never was a summer.  I asked once, but my mother just shrugged her shoulders and said that she had never had a tin for summer.

There is a fourth tin, though.  It has a picture of dogs on the front, of no determinate breed, just two brown dogs with upright ears and lolling tongues.   I can’t remember anything ever being taken out of the dog tin, so I assume there was never anything in it.

I take the four tins down and open the three seasons tins.  They are empty, but the lingering scent of the spices they once held is still strong and makes me breathe in deeply, as incense does in a church.  I ponder over which pile to put them on: the throw away pile, the charity shop pile or the keep pile.  It saddens me to have to make this decision about all my mother’s things now that she is gone.  I put them on the keep pile.  Maybe one day I will decide that I no longer need the spice tins, but I am not ready to dispose of all the reminders of my childhood, not yet.

Then I pick up the dog tin and something shifts within it.  I open it and find a photograph and a folded sheet of paper, a letter.  The photograph is of a young man, a male version of myself at that age.  The letter is brief.  ‘Stay with your husband,’ it says to my mother, in neat, sloping handwriting, much like mine.  ‘Let’s remember our stolen time together as an enjoyable summer diversion.  Nothing could have come of our relationship anyway.’  It is signed with the single initial ‘D’.  I look at the date of the letter and realise that I was conceived during that summer, in its dog days, in late August.  To the world I was the child of my mother’s husband, the father I still love and miss, so many years after his death. 

And my mother kept her secret, but the evidence, was it put away and forgotten, or deliberately left for me, Danielle, to discover? 

One day I might try to find the man I believe to be my father.  I might.  But for now, on the top shelf of my kitchen cupboard, between the daffodils of spring and the falling leaves of autumn, are the dog days of summer.

 

 © Anne Lake 2017

Picture This by Sheila Farey

PICTURE THIS

‘Picture this!’ Noel sang joyfully waving a lottery ticket under his wife’s nose.  ‘By the end of today, I could be a millionaire!’

Me, me, me, Alice seethed to herself eying the boxes stacked in the hallway containing the new computer, printer and scanner her husband had recently ordered.  Noel’s eyes followed her gaze.

‘I’ll soon have this up and running, love!’

‘And the boxes? There’s no room in the garage.  What with that stuff from your dad’s house.’

‘-I know!’ he interrupted.  ‘Stop nagging will you? I’ll get rid of it!’

The early July sunshine felt good on her back as Alice made her way to the bus stop. After the long awaited rain that came during the night, the air felt clean and fresh.

Deep in thought pondering on Noel’s extravagance, Alice failed to notice until it was too late, the bus pulling up through a muddy puddle, mockingly spraying her sandals.

After purchasing her few grocery items Alice made her way along the high street, past the expensive boutique shop with no price tags on display; the wool shop closed as usual on Wednesdays; the ironmongers with its quirky coal scuttle sign, always an amusement to Alice: ‘Don’t scuttle by - take a look inside!’  The once empty shop next door was now occupied by ‘Julian’s Antiques.’  Unable to resist the temptation, she stepped inside.  Wandering around admiring the ancient toys that evoked childhood memories, a picture of a narrow boat moored against a snowy bank caught her eye.  

‘Nice picture, don’t you think?’

Alice looked up to see a fresh faced young man standing beside her. 

‘It’s charming.’  She cocked her head. ‘Looks familiar...’

‘It’s a very early watercolour of Turner’s painted when he was about fifteen years of age, would you believe!’ He held his hand out. ‘I’m Julian Foxworthy by the way.’

Alice took his hand. ‘Pleased to meet you. We’ve recently cleared out my late father-in-law’s house and there’s a picture similar to this but painted in summertime.’

‘Really?’ Julian’s eyes widened.  ‘Who’s the artist?’

Alice shook her head.  ‘No idea.’

‘Mmm, could be interesting...’

‘How d’you mean?’

‘Well, Turner painted two pictures for his aunt who had looked after him as a youngster.  Some letters written by him to his aunt came to light just before the First World War and amongst them was one he’d written sending her two watercolours entitled respectively Winter and Summer’  Julian hesitated briefly.  ‘Imagine finding that other painting now...’

‘The one entitled Summer?’

‘The pair at last together would be worth a fortune.’  Julian let out a sigh.

‘I’ll bring the picture tomorrow, if you’re interested.’

‘You bet I am!’

Alice could smell burning as she let herself into the house. From the kitchen window she watched as a myriad of coloured flames leapt skywards from behind the garage.

‘I’ve burnt those boxes like I said I would!’

‘And those boxes of your Dad’s?

Noel nodded proudly towards the fire. ‘Just put the last one on ...!’

 

© Sheila Farey 2017

 

Summer by Diana Newson

Summer

 

is the out-breath. The world exhales right through to autumn

sending its nutrient broth into berries and stone fruit.

Tomatoes fatten and redden.

The aubergine sends out myriad small purple eggs.

Leaves fade, stems fall, great seedy heads are gently laid on the earth.

 

People in summer, act like it’s not summer.

My timetable, my responsibilities, my obligations.

We die in the heat, lugging shopping, mowing lawns,

wiping eternal patio doors.

Is there some time spare? Then fill it up with chores.

 

Animals in summer, hope for a kind summer.

Longing for bone-drenching warmth - but let there be water.

Animals in sheds on farmed land become hysterical;

feral cats slink up to birdbaths, then lie in the shade under hedges;

and goldfinch uniforms become unbearably bright.

 

People in summer, act like it’s not summer.

My emails, my deadlines, my self-imposed tasks.

We’re disappointed if it rains, or shines, or if there’s no breeze.

We lie on our backs to relax on the lawn for five minutes

and then jump up and get back on the computer.

 

When we were young, we could do summer.

Cloud watching, day dreaming, napping in the garden.

Watching wrens build their nest in the  bank for a whole day

Now, we rub our hands together, brushing summer off.

“That’s that then. Not much of a summer.”

 

© Diana Newson 2017