The Writing Room
"Loved the link between the paragraphs with colours and numbers - this shows real maturity of writing skill. "
"What a highly original and well-crafted piece of creative writing. A very impressive use of imagery and description. It’s a clever concept which is extremely well-executed. I loved every word and the moving final part has stayed with me. Very well done. "
Very strong writing and powerful device of using colour. I wonder what the colour for 18 or 21 would be.
Growing up, colourised
by Kiera Talmage, Cirencester College
You’re five, the colour is blinding. Its bright and shiny. It’s the colour of your toothy grin as you giggle rolling down the grassy hill with your sister. It’s the colour mummy sees when she looks over at you and smiles too, shaking her head whilst laughing. Eyes wandering over the grass staining blossoming on your new summer clothes. It’s the colour of daddy’s twinkling eyes and booming voice as he pretends to be a monster and throws you over his shoulder. You wiggling and giggling, happiness overwhelming. It’s the colour of your new shoes, left discarded in the grass at the edge of the picnic blanket. You’re five and the colour is yellow.
You’re eight, the colour is blinding. It’s agonising and burning. It’s the colour you see leaking from your split knee, dripping down your leg. Gravel clinging to the pink fleshy wound. It’s the colour you see when you look at the girl who pushed you. She’s standing away from you, laughing with her friends, laughing at your pathetic tears. It’s the colour the teacher sees when you keep moaning and squirming as she applies a wet paper towel to the gaping wound. It’s not that bad, she repeats as you wail, you’ll be ok, she says as salty tears drip from your chin. You’re not crying because of that. You’re eight and the colour is red.
You’re eleven, the colour is blinding. It’s gut wrenching and stomach churning. It’s the colour clouding your vision, turning everything hazy. It’s the colour making your legs shake, making it hard to walk as they tremble like jelly. It’s the colour mum feels when she drops you off at the school gates for the first time, placing a kiss on your cheek and faking a smile to hide her tears. You wonder if maybe she’s more worried than you. It’s the colour fading slightly when someone smiles and asks your name. You’re eleven and the colour is orange.
You’re fourteen, the colour is blinding. It’s slick and cruel. It’s the colour festering in your insecurity, snaking its way through your thoughts, a never-ending torrent of cruel words. It’s the colour you see when you look at her. She’s intelligent, confident and beautiful. She’s everything you’re not. It’s the colour your eyes glow when you glare at her, spite oozing from every pore. Debilitating and all consuming. You hate her. And yet you want to be her or, at the very least, to be friends with her. You’re fourteen and the colour is green.
You’re sixteen, the colour is blinding. It’s warm and intoxicating. It’s the colour of the dim lights flashing from the living room. It’s the colour of the drink sloshing in your cup, dulling your senses. It’s the colour you see when you look at her, the colour of the effervescing feeling in your stomach when you see her smile. You realise you’d do anything to see that smile again, to see that smile every day for the rest of your life. It’s the colour you feel on your cheeks when she looks at you. It’s the colour of her lips as she leans in. It’s the only colour you see as she pulls away. You’re sixteen and the colour is pink.
You’re seventeen, the colour is blinding. It’s cold and lifeless. It’s the colour you see outside your window as it rains. It’s the colour of the blanket curled around your gaunt body as you stare at the flaking ceiling. It’s the colour of your thoughts, dark and intrusive. It’s the colour of your eye bags as you stare into the mirror, unable to recognise the face you see in it. It’s the colour of your favourite t-shirt now too baggy and too lumpy to fit you. It’s the colour you feel when you pick up the phone, stupidly looking for a message. It’s the colour you feel when you see a message and can’t force your fingers to type a response. It’s the colour of the bedsheets you spend most of the day in. It’s the colour you feel every waking minute. You’re seventeen but there isn’t a colour.
by Kayleigh Saunders, Cirencester College
He sits there, across from me.
Sprawled over the armchair, legs at five to three He is me, but,
He likes to read, he likes to write,
He places his crystals on the windowsill at night.
He layers his jewellery and stacks his rings
His shelves are full, full to the brim.
He doesn’t like people touching his things
He likes magnets and stickers and things made of clay,
He likes teapots and guitar picks even though he can’t play
He likes empty notebooks and looking at the stars -
He never knows how far is too far
He likes soft things and soft toys, but
He is a boy.
And I am not, a boy.
His hair covers his brows - one slit, impulsively in the bathroom one evening
And it curls, mostly at the ends.
He’s pale, not porcelain,
His skin is textured and splotched
And runs in a jagged line down,
Over the bump in his throat that I don’t have
And the flat chest that
Allows him to lay on his front comfortably
And a bump-less stomach not holding the organ I do have.
He walks with size nines and holds with
Hands larger than mine with fingers longer than mine,
He is broad but lean, and goes running at night
He uses glass water bottles not plastic
He drops coins in donation boxes
He watches the news
He strokes cats in the street
He is me, so painfully me
So me that if I touch him i'm sure we would melt
He is a boy.
And I am not, a boy.
I am told that because I am not, a boy-
Because I am a girl-
My legs cannot be sprawled,
My skin should be porcelain,
I cannot go running at night.
I did not sit right in my own skin I was too big
And that was wrong. But,
I like to read, I like to write,
I place my crystals on the windowsill at night.
I layer my jewellery and stack my rings
My shelves are full, full to the brim
I don’t like people touching my things
I like magnets and stickers and things made of clay
I like teapots and guitar picks even though I can’t play
I like empty notebooks and looking at the stars
I never know how far is too far
I like soft things and soft toys, and
I feel like a boy.
I feel like,
"Moving, powerful and thought-provoking. Beautifully written exploration of the feelings and emotions of being trapped in a body which doesn’t feel right. Excellent pacing and rhythm. I was fully consumed by the words. "
"Love it, strong subject matter and I can really feel this. I feel that frustration. "
"This powerful poem about a trans boy trapped in a girl's body gave me goose bumps as I read it. It's powerful, emotional, heartrending and packs a huge punch. "
"This feels like it has the potential to stretch into a novel - I had empathy and compassion which shows a real talent."
"A strong powerful commentary, well written, thought provoking and fabulous use of language."
"A powerful and moving story about the effect of domestic violence on a child and the mixed emotions she feels as the abusive parent grows older."
Did you see him?
by Talia Northam, New College, Swindon
I see him in the stands, turned towards the game, face lit up by the screen of his phone.
I see him in the car, how his words said everything and nothing. Still, I forgive him for his inattention. He is just tired from work.
I see him in the way mum's face crumples as he lies about, waiting for dinner to be served like a goddamn king.
It's all a joke, but it's all normal for him. He does care, I chant to myself as the walls shake of heartache and tears, voices breaking like glasses thrown off the shelves. Later at night, I creep down the stairs, only to sweep it up. As I always did. It's the only time I allow my smile to break, too.
I see him in the silence shared across them at the dinner table, cutlery clanking like the rattle of the prison bars that barricaded us in the bunker, waiting for the bombs to fall and shake us awake again. Valiantly, my voice quavers under their tight smiles and pointed comments. The last words that I utter try in vain to sew us together again.
They didn't seem to notice.
I see him as his red, red, suitcase stands by the door that morning, bulging like the bruise I had seen on mum's arm, which had been an accident. Just as his apologies left scars. Sometimes I could see her tears left on the rim of her coffee cup. I hated that mug. I hated how it always made her cry.
I see him as his car pulls up outside my school, waiting for the burden he no longer knew. A box of chocolates that weren't for mum sat smugly in the seat, jeering at me with the red ribbon strung around it. After he left, I started hating things more, things like harmless bouquets of flowers I kept seeing and never arriving, the sneers I heard at school telling that their father was taking them on a skiing trip, how the world was crumbling and all I could do was catch the ashes. Ashes, so many ashes I could barely breathe. I hated that. I hated him, too.
Hate was an ugly feeling, jarring and curdling like sour milk in the pit of your heart. But I couldn't stop it when I saw him, standing there laughing with that awful person that wasn't mum. I wanted to take the hate away, turn it inwards instead of directing it at others. I could control the inferno when my fingers repeatedly smashed against the radiator, while mum bled at work. My fists curl under the table, as I take the place of my courageous life giver and try to heal the wreckage.
It is the war I started and the ruin I left.
I see him as I grow up, fading in and out of my life as a flicker of friendship and memory, diligent cards for my birthday and childish gifts for Christmas. Each year I threw them out, angry he wouldn't leave my life but unable to consider the possibility. He loved me, right?
He is just tired. I tell myself this as the first signs of dementia start, telling myself he wasn't my responsibility anymore. That love didn't matter when he was surrounded by more people, more people who adored him. I was allowed to hate him! I had a right to. There was no reason why my heart broke into pieces when he didn't recognise me for the first time.
I see him again and again, our lives a deadly tangent of right and wrong, deeds and misdeeds, hurt and cruelty. Like war, you never truly lose the scars or get rid of the person who started all the chaos.
At his funeral, I see him for the last time, his family around him mourning for what I never grasped. Trips, flowers, love. My goodbye is silent, not like it mattered if I screamed. Not like it mattered if I lamented, shattered before them with my broken smile and tattered heart.
I always knew my superpower was invisibility.
"Subject matter concisely presented"
"A searing poem dissecting the concept of perfection and the standards society imposes on us. Expertly paced with super rhythm and wonderful use of language. The ‘white noise’ of perfection drowning anything deemed less than, was wonderful. "
by Amelia Green, Faringdon Community College
We are consumed by society.
Rated on a one to ten system of what's hot and what’s not,
We all chase the perfect ideals, follow a “perfect system”.
But perfect still gets picked on,
And perfect just wants to leave, and run.
Perfect is a pretty face; a small waist.
The best grades, knowing all the ways
To beat the boss at the end of this level.
Perfect is fitting in,
Perfect is standing out,
Perfect is making sure you know what to do, without a doubt.
Perfect is being with your mates,
Even though you’re picking up their bad traits.
Try to be funnier, try to be smarter. Make sure your words are harsher and sharper.
The white noise of perfect beauty standards and corporate companies
drowns out the smaller voices desperate to be heard.
We scream at the top of our lungs at turned
Heads and ears, who throw money at pointless issues.
The perfect people have perfect problems.
And we aren’t worth their time or attention.
And our world is ending, the earth is begging for help,
But we pump out our gases and emissions,
Leaving it for the next generation
to clean up.
Staring at our phones when we really need
to look up.
I’m not living up
to the expectations thrown at me by my parents, my peers, my people.
When will enough be enough?
The future holds nothing more than crying kids locked in their rooms
Because they don’t want to be seen as anything less than perfect.
Scared to tell the truth, if their truth isn’t perfect.
Scared to rock the boat, because the boat they are in is perfect.
Scared to try and succeed, because what if they aren’t perfect?
The sword of Damocles is swinging, and it will get you too if you aren’t perfect.
We are consumed by society,
Society is consumed by us.
We all want to be perfect,
But our idea of perfect needs to adjust.
by Eleanor Wingfield, Sir William Romney School
I wear the glasses you gave me
The glasses of society
I wear the glasses you gave me
The glasses that show how I should be seen
The glasses that show the man’s world
The glasses that tell me to be seen but not heard
The glasses that hold me to a higher standard but push me down when I try to stand up
I wear the glasses you gave me
The glasses of society
I wear the glasses you gave me
The glasses that perpetuate the patriarchy
I wear the glasses you gave me
The glasses you say will set me free
Your glasses are cracked so you can’t see
But these glasses you gave me, they are clean
Tinted by the shadows you cast but clear as my eye can see
These glasses reveal the ceiling you say I can’t reach
These glasses will no longer be a symbol of your hold on me
These glasses have become a symbol for the break in the mold you tried to cast
I will not wear the glasses
I will see how the world actually should be I will watch with my own eye and shout...
F*UCK THE PATRICHARY.
Special Recognition Award
"Love the imagery and the repetition and great subject matter. Be careful to make your points clear and concise."
"Really clever. Love it, bold message. Clever use of language. "
"Some really interesting passages and I felt the end was a bit predictable but I certainly enjoyed the idea of such a happy ending."
"Simple yet clever with clarity and joy. Loved it."
"I thought this was a lovely story about a fisherman whose bad luck turns out to be a blessing. It was beautifully written with excellent use of descriptive prose and the ending made me smile. "
A blessing in disguise
by Yasmin Armstrong, Dorcan Academy
Harold rowed back to the edge of the river, hauling himself up onto the bank. Anotherday, another empty net. The water was now half the depth it used to be as the scorching sun had not retreated behind the clouds for two weeks. Each evening, Harold returned home with lighter pockets than the day before. He figured the fish had moved to deeper waters where it was cooler and safer for them. Normally he feasted on tuna and mackerel, but lately his diet had been reduced to rice and vegetables he bought from the local market. At night he dreamed of new ways to fish, or he prayed that rain would pour down again and replenish the great river. He needed to catch some fish soon; all his customers were abandoning him to buy salmon from a fisherman in the next village. He was gradually running out of options.
Another week passed yet still the sun shone at higher temperatures than ever before. All that remained of the river was a few inches of murky water. No signs of wildlife had been spotted for days and the village was beginning to suffer from drought. Harold slumped over to the shore and threw pebbles into the sea while he watched huge boats sail to and fro from the docks. Envy curdled his blood, for he could not afford to buy a boat of his own. He had decided to leave his home to head for a nearby town with much larger rivers and many more types of fish. He would leave in the early morning as soon as the merciless sun began to rise. In twenty-four hours his beloved village would be far behind him and he would be making a new home in the town. With a sorrowful sigh, Harold walked home for the last time.
He did not sleep that night. Instead, he stared at the empty sky, wondering why nature had pushed such struggle upon him after so many years of providing for him and his village. When dawn finally came and light flooded his house, he picked up his bag of possessions and set off on his tiresome journey along the river, which would lead him to his new home.
After hours of dragging his feet across the dusty floor, Harold saw a sign for Trentford. It was time to leave his village for good. He took one last pitiful look at the river he used to love. It was completely dried up. The bottom of the riverbed had begun to crack and crumble. The sun was in his eyeline, blinding him. As he bent down into the shade to get a better view of the riverbed, he saw something glisten beneath a lump of dirt. He clambered down into the river to take a closer look - he was not mistaken. There was definitely something shiny in the ground. What could it be? And how did it get there? Curiosity flooded his senses and he commenced digging rapidly like a dog searching for a bone. There, amidst the soil and rock, was a diamond of incomparable beauty. Harold continued to dig, revealing a whole stash of precious gemstones. He couldn’t believe his luck. Suddenly, darkness invaded and huge raindrops fell from above. Harold laughed hysterically and stared up into the sky, dense with thick grey clouds. He collected the stones and his bag and ran back to his village, yelling:
“I’m rich! And the rain has finally come.”
Two weeks later, standing on the deck of his brand-new boat, Harold marvelled at how quickly his luck had changed. The very thing he thought would ruin him turned out to be the greatest gift he could ask for. Thanks to those weeks of drought he could remain in his home for the rest of his life, fishing for the people of the village he loved.
The broken world we live in
by Carolina Margarido, Swindon College
What’s happening in the world today
Is question with no answer
Everything is falling apart
Are we the Earth’s cancer?
With the human pollution
We kill the nature and all the rest
Aren’t we supposed to be the intelligent race?
Every day the humanity signs its own death sentence
With every choice that we make
We scream that change is needed
Are we already too late?
We are so blind that we can’t see
The seriousness of this situation
It’s less important recycling these days
Than your summer holidays
All we do is create wars
Instead of helping each other
Where’s love and mutual help?
This way we won’t go much further
Our souls are not connected anymore
We are only fragments of hate
There’s no trust or kindness
One step to the hell gate
We oppress minorities
We hate what its "not normal"
We spend our time excluding
But in a way very very formal
How can the sexuality of a person
Can bother other so much?
That it’s a crime in 70 countries
And death penalty in 6 or such
Religion and the emigrants
Are another subject of exclusion
We watch them surviving in poor conditions
But we still don’t care about finding a solution
Our prejudgement terrorises others
We spread fear as you can see
If it never stops
We will never be free
A black man walking down the street
Afraid of getting shot
The hope of returning home
Is the silver lining that he’s got
An independent woman
That just needs to walk her path
Cannot go outside
Without being harassed
The feminism needs to be heard
How can women be considered less than men?
I thought this idea was too retrograde to 2021
So I refuse to live like this, no matter when
Just think about pink taxes
That are almost unbelievable
How can we tolerate this level of inhumanity?
And let the big companies make that invisible
Nowadays we are all slaves of the consumerism
We have the need of getting more and more
We are obligated to cooperate with capitalism
Even though it’s burning us to the floor
It uses the most heard matters
Turning these into money
But it doesn’t really care at all
And I think that’s funny
The businesses are getting bigger and corrupt
Washing our brains like dishes
And worse is that we let them
Almost as dumb as gold fishes
Our mental health is killing our bodies
All the stress that society impose us
No one is taking it seriously
And I’m afraid it’s already in overplus
In this noisy world
Peace and stability are hard to find
We keep chasing impossibilities
Instead of taking care of the mind
But that’s not that simple
Mainly to the new generations
That are so different from the previous
And have so many expectations
It is a shame that life works like this
And I know it hurts you really deep
But we live in a broken world
Where even your life is hard to keep
I can’t even imagine a fixed world in the future
That will be anything but an illusion
We really messed up this time
And now we have to live with that, that’s the conclusion
"This really gained a good pace. Be careful to keep a consistency but loved the passion."
"Powerful poem, strong ideas"
"I instantly felt the pain and the struggle in this piece. It was a little clouded by so many metaphors but shows real potential."
"An evocative and atmospheric poem. I loved how the sea becomes a metaphor for loneliness and loss. The note of optimism in the final lines was a clever way to end offering some light. "
"Very strong poem, a wonderful reflection on mental anguish during lockdown and very insightful."
Without sight of the shore
by Ellie Saunders, Cirencester College
I swim in this sea of solitude
I’ve been here before
I am afloat
But my feet are getting tangled in the weeds
The tide is growing strong
This cannot be the end
I struggle to escape these waters
I know them so well
They are cold
They are dark
But they are often home
My breathing is heavy
I am tired
And without sight of the shore
Yet amidst the chaos
Amidst the darkness
I see my old life
Carried away by the current
Further from reach with each second I stay here
But I can still see my smile
Still hear my laugh
Still sense a life
Ripping the weeds from my feet
Uncovering a new-found strength
To chase the life I took for granted
To chase the girl I lost
To chase the memories
With a craving for more
We have spent a year trapped in our heads
Drowning in our oceans
Overwhelmed by our tides
And at times
We have seen no way out
Slipped back into old ways
Becoming accustomed to our darkness
Listening to our demons
Watching the black dog sitting in the corner
It’s scary to leave this place
But scarier to stay.
"Great juxtapositions of adulthood and childhood here."
"Loved this - powerful way to describe a toxic relationship. This resonated with me. "
by Eva Echeverria-Valda, Farmor's School
Does love make us naive or does love make us realise that we always were?
I had never felt safer,
I found a sense of peace in your arms, and a warmth in your lips.
You spun me around the kitchen, cold feet.
Allowed my hair to fan around me like the feathers of a peacock, as we collapsed into a pile of giggles.
Our food ablaze in the oven, too enthralled in the music to notice,
Your soft hair branded my fingers, I assumed a state of bliss.
I built tall rose fences around our love, terrified others would taint it,
But you did that yourself, didn’t you?
For you only loved me when I was your puppet, naivety.
Before loving you I hadn’t realised three words could be delivered with such distain,
Our love was not meant to have a double meaning, yet
You spat that you loved me like screaming you hated me.
Guilted me, assuring me I could prevent your demons if I just stayed,
If I just
You promised adventure and thrill,
Told me the world was ours for the taking.
We never explored that world you so promised,
For once your tales had whisked me away, the boy I knew had no reason to stay.
You promised me a fantasy that I was foolish enough to believe.
Used love as a tool you’d take away if I went outside,
Used speech as a way to control me through your lies,
I missed summers, I missed seasons, but most of all
I missed my freedom.
I once asked you if you still loved me, instead of asking myself why you made me feel the need to ask at all.
I became aware of your wiry hair wounding my delicate fingers,
The tall fences consumed by barbed wire, relentless.
The music had gradually turned menacing, the mirrors distorted my reality.
I was lost in a never-ending carnival of no escape.
No more metaphors, it was you.
Ursula you stole my voice,
No longer a mermaid, no longer anything except ‘yours’
by Madison Stevens, Dorcan Academy
she was my pain
my chords and my keys
I would brush my fingertips over her ribs
scrape her scars
to hear her sing
her voice so captivating
I would kiss her sinking bruises
tug her hair
to feel the beat
oh how I danced to her screams
hummed to her sobs
I can still recall her flaring eyes
and how when she sang
her soul bled
now I must sing to her
but I don't mind
my favourite audience is the dead
by Poornal Chevuru, The Ridgeway School & 6th Form College
Oh, how our parents dismiss
(shrouded by their god-justified bliss)
The trivial struggles of the youth,
The numb, eternally high-chasing, overdosed truth.
Children begot by fire,
By the red-hot hatred that burns – blazes - our predecessors;
The youth are holy transgressors,
Who splinter pyres of traditional values – a blasphemous massacre.
Void; our articulation of abyss
(Courtesy of your world-oppressed tyranny – Your youth-imposed calamity -)
Is shrouded by normalisation
Its silent integration in text -
Disguised under the “feeling” of death.
Between alcohol and the next emotion-inducing high,
The superficial, utterly cataclysmic lies of a better life,
To which your convenience turns a blinded eye,
You can hear our demons screaming.
Brotherhood rises to purge
(for loathing and abhorrence are a politically-promoted hurt)
Watching two lambs take up arms
In a godforsaken yet heavenly-created devastation,
Buried under six feet of dirt.
Words hold no power. Protests?
They’ll laugh and watch as you cower
Under a poised, aimed, shot, gun.
No option to run – but, do not fret –
Do not trouble your head,
We’ll come together, mourn,
As the flowers on your grave flaunt.
Yet, pessimism proves asinine;
Humanity prevails paralysed to change,
Emotionless youth and obsolete elders break no confines –
We’re doomed to watch our haunting mistakes,
We’re realising our fate far too late.
by Esme Barlow Hall, Stroud High School
As the weeping knives doth tell their tale,
and darkness frowns and the faces pale,
I wonder like shadows marred so deep:
"What have we become?" We've become like sheep.
Some cry and some holler, begging them to turn,
but their eyes fall down- the gazes burn.
The gazes of our government's millionaires.
Millionaires- more off shore banks than cares.
But it's okay it's funny, it doesn't affect me,
my anxiety about change doesn't allow me to see,
the realities and charisma that hit so deep.
What have we become? We've become like sheep.
We eat up their platter of scapegoats and blame,
those who fight for justice are brought down with shame.
"Ha, look at those snowflakes, WE don't give a care"
They write in their mansions, funded by billionaire.
Then the sad ending is, is that what they do most,
is divide and conquer for money and boast:
"Look at those people, they've become like sheep!"
And our hearts do truly weep and weep.
The unfair loss
by Emma Roberts, Farmor's School
You meet up with friends to do TikTok
You don’t seem to understand that the world was lock-
-Ed down to protect you, me and him.
You go to the park to drink with mates,
And mock social distancing, and it grates
So much because we obeyed it.
Politicians go here and there,
Yet Mr Johnson doesn’t seem to care,
It’s only us that can’t see our family.
You gather together for a ‘good cause’,
But don’t reflect, don’t stop and pause.
To think how individuals are affected.
The lockdown is lifting, I think too soon,
Primark is open – you’re over the moon
But it’s too late,
The living God
by Srijana Thapa, New College, Swindon
The One who makes me smile by hiding her pain,
Taught me to do struggle so that, something I can gain,
I always make a fault but she never complain,
That’s me who was hurt, but her eyes were full of rain,
Hope I can take birth from her womb again, again and again (2)
Once a time we don’t even have finance to buy a single grain seed,
Her stomach used to be empty but anyhow she makes me feed,
Without saying a single word, Mrs. know everything that I need,
I have grown up now, but in her view I’m still a 2 year kid,
No matter what happens, my mamma is the one who loves me indeed (2)
She’s the only genuine, In the world full of people of fakes,
Goes to bed at last but is the first one to get up and makes me awake,
She is the appeasable, who forgives all my mistakes,
I’ve never kiss her nor hug neither have done a hand shake,
Cause Our bond is made from the heaven, It’s not a show case (2)
She sung me a lullaby for me when I can’t fall asleep at night,
When I’m in dilemma mamma shows me way which is right,
In the darkest hours of life, she glows up the brightest light,
Without her my life is like a vegetable without iodide
In a single word, Maa you’re my kryptonite, amazonite and dynamite..
You’re my dynamite!! (2)
A different sort of Wednesday
by Hollie-May Clapton, Cirencester Kingshill
“Ting, ting.” Goes the little golden bell as the old door opens. A new customer had walked in - a teenage boy who was probably the same age as the girl who was sitting behind the counter. Time had stopped. They stared at each other from either end of the small store. The girl smiled and shyly tucks another lock of hair behind her ear. They both cast their glances away from each other: the boy turns to look at the small section of sweets, while the girl takes up a book from under the counter and starts to read.
The boy had dark brown, wavy hair that fell over his forehead and covered his left eye. His ocean blue irises shone and flickered from the chocolate in front of him to the girl at the counter. In his eyes, she was beautiful. From her long, golden locks that hung over her shoulders to her forest green eyes that scanned left to right from behind black-rimmed glasses. A smile danced on her lips and she laughed quietly at whatever she was reading.
The girl looked up from her book to catch the boy staring at her. She thought he was gorgeous. He was handsome too, but she thought the word “gorgeous” suited him a lot better. In the light, she caught sight of lightly coloured freckles that covered his nose and pale cheeks and a light blush rose to her own.
The brunette walked towards the counter and smiled at the girl. He hands over the small dairy milk chocolate bar and tries to start a small conversation.
“Hi.” He spoke quietly, not really knowing what to say in a situation like this.
“Hey,” the girl replied with a smile and slightly reddened cheeks, “Is this all?” Her voice was melodic as well as it was clear while speaking to the boy that had piqued her interest.
“Yes, thank you.” He spoke slightly louder this time so as not to seem shy and he watched as she took his chocolate bar and scanned it. He handed over the few silver coins he had in his back pocket and as he did, their hands brushed ever so slightly. They both blushed and looked away from each other.
“I’m Quinn, by the way.” The girl spoke quieter than before.
“Kade.” The boy smiled sweetly at Quinn and turned to look at the clock on the wall.
Secretly, Quinn took out a pen and wrote on the receipt. It was her number and a small message just underneath it.
“Here’s your change and receipt. I hope to see you around sometime.” She let her smile reach her eyes and her pearly white teeth peeked out from between her peachy-pink lips.
“Thank you and hopefully we will see each other again soon.” Kade takes his change and receipt walking away and out of the store with a huge smile on his face.
“Ting, ting.” Goes the little golden bell as the old door closes. Maybe this Wednesday wasn’t what they expected to be. As they went back to their own little lives, they thought of their small meeting and wished that they’d see each other in the near future.
Kade walked down the little street just adjacent from the corner shop and pocketed his change into his back pocket. He took the receipt and turned it over to see if there was anything useful on there. In blue ink and cursive handwriting, there was a message and a sequence of numbers.
“If you do read this message, text me. ”
He smiled at the paper and whipped out his phone. Quickly saving the number under the name ‘Quinn ’, he sent a short message to the green-eyed girl he had just met.
“Hey, Quinn. It’s Kade. You know. . . the boy from the corner shop.”
“Why hello there, ‘boy from the corner shop’.”
A masked nation
by Sofia Wright, The Cotswold School
March 2020 was a month set to be characterised by bright weather with some showers and occasional longer spells of rain. Talk about viruses and masks galore was nothing but a gentle hum from the supposed safety of ignorance. Society sat in the brownout of the lights- the lull before the storm. “2-week holiday, that’s all” proclaimed the schoolchildren. That very morning, Joe had walked through the doors that would soon become dust collectors, a pen and crisp white shirt in hand. Photos of children in penned shirts, each message a quip of some sort, a rushed good luck, or merely a name. A face, mask free, hopeful for the future. Tear streaked goodbyes, arrangement of plans made in blissful oblivion.
Joe walked with friends to the train station; yet their jokes hung in the air, infected with the anticipation of the weeks to come. Uncertainty had already run its hands over the nation. A bittersweet train ride home, masked faces dotted around the carriage. A precaution, they said. Joe looked out on a sunny afternoon, of cars piled, all ears on the 5pm news broadcast. The government's voices spread through offices, schools, businesses, shops. Through homes, families huddled, eyes on the TV set to announce a plan.
Upon arrival, he dumped his schoolbag in the hall and trod into the living room, in which his family was intently listening to the broadcast. Hands fidgeting. Hands behind backs. No one knew where to look, or how to feel. “We need to go get some food tomorrow” rang out of the silence. Little did the family standing round the TV know, the rest of the nation were thinking the same.
Shops had only the night to brace themselves. The shelves sat barren; trollies full to the brim with anything people could get their hands on. Face masks and hand sanitiser became a rarity, the shops were void of these for days on end. People were met with barren aisles, while others triumphed with stockpiles of rations. Joe watched as an elderly man stood in front of an empty shelf. He did not complain, nor panic, he just stood, lost. Eyes scanned to no avail. Joe gingerly passed the man some pasta, evoking a wrinkled smile. In that moment, he felt a sense of togetherness which rinsed him of the panic so tightly gripping him. ‘It will be okay’.
However, there was another wave creeping in. It sat upon the nation’s roofs with brooding wings. Friends and family sat behind a glass wall, hazy and unreachable. A mist, so close yet disintegrating when one tried to grasp it. Static spoke through the phone, not Joe’s friends. Rooms became holding cells, devoid of life. Life became still, the solitude offering its own companionship, the only to be known for a while. It had never occurred how the nation’s lives were so tightly interwoven and could unravel so fast. Family rose as an anchor, a crutch in times when change always loomed. Board games and family quizzes floated spirits high from the depths of isolation, buoyant. A glimmer of connection in a life so shrouded by clouds.
Yet one day this crutch could be discarded. The trudging of time and tragedy ignited a hope that carried the nation through a world where the windows were all grey. A year had passed, a new March had arisen. A town, a country, a world rebuilt in morale over days of gloom; nature was healing. Streets bustling with the murmuring of happy people, the laughter of children catching on the summer breeze. Joe and his friends all had milkshakes in hand, absentmindedly sipping these as they weaved their way around the crowds. They settled in a patch of shade, watching the sun bounce off the river in which children splashed and yelled. These children had never seen this side of life, no memory of an ice cream caked mouth in the summer. Even their parents seemed blissful in the relief of freedom. Maybe none of them really understand what we've lived through, yet the sun always rose despite the hardship. Joe took off his mask and turned to his friends.
The love of grandma
by Emma Churches, Kingsdown School, Swindon
Lockdown. Probably the craziest roller coaster ride of Clara’s life, with school turning into a computer screen and textbooks becoming her main source of learning. It seemed as if the whole world had turned on its head and there was nothing she could do to pause it.
“Clara! Can you pass down the Christmas decorations?” her dad called from the bottom of the step ladder to his daughter. She had been weaving through all the old boxes to find the ornaments needed to decorate the house.
Clara pushed a box of old stuffed animals out of the way, seeing the glittering baubles in hues of crimson and gold that her mother had brought home from a craft stall the year before. Carefully shuffling across the creaky boards, she passed the small crate down before going back to her position. As she sifted through years of photo albums, old records and her dad’s awful Halloween costumes she came across a small cardboard box with what looked like black sharpie scribbled across it in the words ‘Grandma’s memories’.
With one quirked brow she lifted open the flaps, coughing slightly at the dust that blew into her face. Inside lay a pack full of photos, sealed away with a purple ribbon. She undid the box gently, picking up the front picture. A smile spread across her pale cheeks as she moved to sit cross legged, pondering over the wedding photo of her grandfather holding her grandma.
The next showed a small girl dressed in a blue checkered dress, looking like Dorothy out of the Wizard of Oz, with pigtails tied in matching ribbons. She chuckled quietly to herself as she turned the picture over, seeing the words ‘Ella at the beach’. She made a note in her mind to ask her mother about it later.
It felt like she could peer into her grandma’s life, finding cut outs of newspaper articles from her bakery and notes from when her grandfather had been away at sea. Laughter elicited from her lips every time she found an embarrassing photo of her mum- usually stuffing her mouth with a cookie or burying her face in the sand.
“Clara, lunch time!” she heard her mum call, a pang of sadness hitting her at the thought of leaving this maze of memories to rot here.
“Be there in a minute!” she replied, picking up the last thing that had been tucked into the corner of the box. A little creased and torn at the edges, the small picture showed the grandma she remembered so fondly. She always had her hair down in soft curls, lips lined with pink lipstick and as always her cream tinted cardigan comforting her frail body. In her arms lay a baby in a knitted all-in-one, peacefully sleeping.
Clara’s brows scrunched together as she looked closer, trying to understand who this was. All her questions were answered by the writing on the back. ‘My beautiful granddaughter, little Clara xx’.
It was as if someone was pushing down on her heart with full force, her throat closing as her eyes welled up. It had only been two months since her guidance in this world had left her, and she hadn’t even had the chance to say goodbye. “I miss you grandma” she whispered to herself, finally admitting her pain. There was too much going on to grieve, too many essays to write and too many assessments to plan for. So with that in mind, Clara wiped her eyes and closed the box back up, climbing back down the metal ladder. Once again, the physical memories of grandma Irene were forgotten in the crowds of junk in the attic. Emotionally, she would always be there in her heart to look to in a time of struggle. After all, a grandma’s love can fix any problem.
A surprise friendship
by Susanna Haley, Cirencester College
Hannah sat on her window ledge staring outside as she took in her new surroundings. She had just moved to a new town with her family and after a long day of moving boxes she was exhausted. However she didn’t want to go to sleep yet so she was just looking out her window. Suddenly a movement in one of the windows of the house opposite caught her attention as a guy who seemed her age appeared and after putting a dark blue hoodie on, sat on his bed which happened to be beside his window. After a minute the guy looked up and caught her eye, he seemed surprised for a moment before sitting up straight and flashing a smile that made Hannah blush slightly. Hannah waved as she mumbled to her self “dammit I hope he doesn’t think I’m a creep for staring..” The guy waved back before holding up a finger signalling to wait a minute before he grabbed a piece of paper and proceeded to write something on it. Hannah being the curious person she is, sat watching to see what he was gonna do. The guy quickly wrote something on a piece of paper before holding it up whilst pulling this cute face. He had written a phone number and a message which said ‘wanna be friends? I only moved here a recently and don’t really know anyone, if u dislike me u can block me!’
Hannah thought for a second before getting up to grab her phone as she moved to stand her foot got caught so instead of standing up she feel flat on the floor. She hastily got up and looked across to his window hoping he hadn’t seen her, however from the smirk on his face and how his lip was twitching as he tried to hid his amusement she was sure he had seen, her face turned bright red in embarrassment. Trying to ignore his gaze she grabbed her phone off her bed and returned to her seat on the window, after typing his number in she sent a message saying “Hey stranger”. As she hit send she saw his phone light up from his bed stand and he grabbed it like a flash, his face lighting up whilst a smile formed on his face a he read her message.
“Hii I didn’t think u would message”
“Lol u better not make me regret it -_-”
“hehe I won’t plus.. ur curious otherwise u wouldn't of texted a random stranger”
“woah there boy don’t assume things about me, I’m more than meets the eye.”
after sending that message Hannah looked up and found the guy laughing whilst already looking at her, she quickly looked back at her phone as it buzzed with his reply.
“Boy huh? I bet I’m older than u”
“Also I don’t believe I introduced myself, I’m Henry :)”
“haha lol I’m 17, and nice to meet ya I’m Hannah, are u sure ur not a creep?”
“your words wound me, im wayyy to good looking to be an old creep, as I’m sure u can agree... I’m 18, lol older than u”
“wow quite the ego u have there! be careful or you not fit through ur door..”
“ u didn’t disagree though soooo compliment accepted, ur really pretty by the way.”
Hannah blushed again as she read this text, and looked up to meet Henry’s piercing green eyes staring back at her, as if to confirm he meant what he said.
“Thank u:) and wow I did not mean that as a compliment I was just ignoring ur obviously inaccurate statement.”
“lol I’ll pretend to believe that ;D "
“i’m guessing from the 3 removal lorries and the a million boxes that u guys just moved in?”
“sure ur not a stalker??”
“only kidding, yeah we just moved from Essex”
After talking for another 2 hours, Hannah said goodnight with a smile on her face. They were meeting up the next day and she was so excited as she had never met anyone who understood her and intrigued her the way Henry did..
A friendship can start anywhere!
The trouble of today
by Henry Scrase-Kings, Cirencester College
There wasn’t anything peculiar about my right hand yesterday. Not that I noticed.
It looked normal, not that I gave it any special attention, and it felt normal, not that I focused on the feeling anymore than usual. It had that feeling of not feeling, that sense of its normal existence, resting on my right wrist, exactly as it should've been. But today, today something is very wrong.
I think it’s one of my fingers. I “think” with honour to the word, that point between knowing and uncertainty. It just feels wrong.
Today started as usual: I got out of bed, made it and grabbed water. I must’ve done that with my left hand, otherwise surely I would’ve known. Then I took a shower, temperature-medium, as I brushed my hands, both if I recall, through my long, tangled hair. Was my hand normal at that time? Must’ve been.
It was only when I got to breakfast, poured cereal in my favourite bowl, with a chipped rim that I use to rest my spoon, I realised something was off.
More like, something was on.
I picked up the spoon with my right hand, a preference despite my dexterity, and dropped it the second it was raised. It didn’t land in the chip as luck would have, just sunk, tauntingly, deep into the milk. I hate when the handle gets wet.
I raised my hand in an accusatory manner, staring into the depth of my palm, not realising that the flames of blame should’ve been concentrated further up my hand. I, scared to delve deeper, began work at my laptop, hunched, starved with a fathomless longing inside me. I entered my password.
As I did, I noticed one finger wasn't touching the keyboard. One finger wasn’t accustomed to it, through relentless hours of work. One finger shouldn’t have been a finger at all.
This time, my glaring eyes located it within a second. It stood to the left of my ring finger, smaller but much the same as the normal four. The colour was without fault, the painter gifted the same palette used on all my skin, and the shape, too, couldn’t be questioned. But what was it and where did it come from?
My work was brief, on the edge of eleven minutes, as I couldn't take it anymore. I used voice-search in the kitchen to pull up any known cases of strange, appearing fingers, imposters which looked like they belonged. But the net couldn’t find anything and responded to me in a monotone recording. I had to figure it out.
I took to the garage, my study space, to get a better look. Focusing my sizable lamp on the projection, I took note of all I could see. The single crease, natural, which, with the strangest feeling yet, allowed it to fold down and touch my palm, and a nail which resembled the rest to which I was familiar. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it shouldn’t be there. It tortured me with a tingling sensation, of rigidity and volume, and everytime it brushed against my hand, there was an awful feeling, alien to me, like the object itself.
I raised it to the lamp, to touch the burning glass. It hurt. As it should?
So I took a hammer to it, the one bought last week, and hit it lightly and then harder, in attempts to numb its presence. Nope, that just made it worse.
What could I do? What could I do? I pondered, dribbling, from: nose with snot, forehead with sweat and the imposter, with my own blood. As throbbing veins in my eyes exploded, I had a lightbulb idea. Why didn’t I just cut it off? A saw in hand and a shaky arm, I took to the flesh, slowly serrating it in half. When finished, I wrapped a towel around the stump and left it to dry off during the day. It hurt, bad, but the worst feeling disappeared and looking at it now, it hasn’t come back. It almost looks normal.
So that was the trouble of today, thank the skies it’s over.
All that is left is to deal with the third leg that appeared on Tuesday.
The bird called Covid
by Alice Watson, Cirencester Deer Park
the feeling appeared like a bird in the house flying in thick and fast
like a stroke of ink
the feathers spread in splatters around the room
and the talons plucked at my skin like a needle and thread
my friends tell me to try and take up a new hobby
to take my mind off the bird preening and perceiving at the windowsill
so i do
i try crochet but the bird pulls at the threads
i try reading but the bird treads tracks over the pages
i try just lying in bed but the bird caws at the slightest slip of sunlight to keep me from
succumbing into saccharine sleep
i’m paler than i was
a semi skimmed, pasteurised face
clouds the mirror my mother got me
all porcelain white excluding my hands
red, raging, raw flesh
burning and blazing from all the washing
i will open the window for the bird
and i know it will leave
to rest in a nest not too far from here
in the dark oak by the graveyard gates
but for now,
i am in mourning
my mind is plagued by memories
and the windows stay shut
rendering me useless, a slave to recollection
i grieve the life i used to have
and the person i once was
and as this feeling stays ; so does the bird