Short story competition
PUBLISHED: 14:52 25 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:19 26 February 2013
Jennifer Holland is the winner of our competititon to mark National Short Story Week. Her tale is set in the Herefordshire countryside, where her nanny was raised. Read her story plus those of our runners-up
Ancient and Modern
by Arianne Forrester
The builders had disappeared again, there was no hot water, and a scruffy old man was leaning over Claires gate. It was bad enough abandoning London for a building site. Furious, she marched over to confront the bystander.
Can I help you?
Nope. He replied through teeth clenched on the stem of a blackened pipe.
Russet mud enclosed Claires Cath Kidston wellingtons. She could feel all the warmth wicking out of the top of her head, like a candle flame. Folding her arms, she cleared her throat meaningfully.
Nasty cough. The old man peered at her through wreaths of tobacco smoke. Do you know, my mother used to raise calves in this orchard.
You lived here?
Ah. Til I moved to the old folks development, over there. He stabbed his walking stick toward the breathtaking panorama stretching from Coughton to Lea.
Claire softened. How could you bear to leave a lovely smallholding like this?
He laughed. Down in the view, a tractor crawled over the landscape like a bot as it put another green field under the plough. These days I prefer to watch work from me nice warm bungalow. Ah, its good to see that Herefordshire soil. Red as its cattle.
The hazel hedge shed its last few leaves as golden coins, spinning between them. Claire shuffled her feet, trying to keep her circulation going. Any minute, she expected the old man to start moaning about the way she was having his old home stripped and rebuilt. She cast around for some excuse to turn her back on his past.
Well, its been lovely meeting you, but I must be going. Its apple pie tonight, and that fruit wont pick itself. She nodded toward the nearest orchard tree, but the old man threw back his head and roared with laughter. He cackled so hard, it brought on a fit of coughing that threatened to turn him inside out.
Youll be in trouble if you try cooking with they! He wiped his eyes on a frayed cuff. Thats Foxwhelps - for cider. We used to make gallons of it here, to keep out the cold.
Claire thought of her new wood-burning stove, and imagined washing fluttering among the apple trees instead of desiccating in a tumble drier.
Happy days. She mused.
You must be joking! Carting logs and having everything freeze stiff on the washing line for months of the year? Id rather live in me new Twenty-First century bungalow, thanks!
But you must miss your house - your land...
No. Herefordshire is as much a part of me, as I am of it. Where I live wont never change that. I shall look out at the view, and raise a glass to it now and again. Thats enough.
He turned, and limped off down the lane.
Wait! Claire started after him. Can you show me how to make cider from these apples? If I cant cook with them, maybe we can toast Herefordshire with them instead.
Jennifer Holland is the winner of our competititon to mark National Short Story Week. Her tale is set in the Herefordshire countryside, where her nanny was raised...
Last November, as part of National Short Story Week, Herefordshire and Wye Valley Life and organised a short story competition, supported by Leominster author Fay Wentworth who shared her tips for writing a good tale.
The competition asked budding authors to submit a 500-word story around the theme of My Herefordshire. Entries not only explored Herefordshires beautiful countryside, but also its rural heritage and community spirit.
After much deliberation Fay, whose stories for children and adults have been published in magazines and anthologies, and Herefordshire and Wye Valley Life editor Joanne Goodwin judged Rainbow Ride by Jennifer Holland from Cwmdauddwr in Powys, the winning story.
Jennifers prize is to see her story in print in this months Herefordshire and Wye Valley Life.
Fay said: Rainbow Ride captures the reader in the first paragraph. This is a warm, believable story that left me with a smile on my face; the childs voice is authentic and the characters skilfully portrayed. The comparison between God and Mr Hope in the childs mind is beautifully interwoven throughout. The dialogue, particularly in the playground scene, is realistic.
Runner-up places went to Ancient and Modern by Arianne Forrester from Lydbrook, which Fay described as a well-written story the reader can relate to, with a lovely ending and Following the Hunt by Campbell Page from Leominster with excellent Herefordshire dialogue and capturing a true picture of the old-timers that follow the hunt.
You can read all three stories below.
by Jennifer Holland
For goodness sake leave that mare alone! Youll be getting the cane! Mother feared horses, blacksmiths wife though she was, almost as much as I feared God and Mr Hope. Id never been late for school. I wiped my hands on my pinafore and started running up the hill. I knew I was late because I couldnt see Sam and Martha Day, my companions every day on the trudge to Lyonshill School.
Soon a stitch stabbed my side. I knew Father was taking the trap and Nipper to Madley. Maybe hed give me a lift. I called to him but my voice was swept away by the autumn wind. Then I could see the trap by Longacre Farm gate. Father wasnt in it. He must be in the house. He could be hours. I couldnt wait.
Before I could analyse what I was going to do Id hauled myself up on to the wooden seat of the trap, slapped Nippers reins against his sides and said: Walk on! Nipper didnt move. I slapped the reins again. Nipper moved reluctantly. Then I remembered I bent and picked up the ancient tin can with its cargo of pebbles. Nipper trotted. Everything creaked: reins, wheels, upholstery. Sitting high up I could see away to the Golden Valley and the distant smudges of Vowchurch, Peterchurch and, further off, Hay Bluff.
Rain fell muffling the sunshine and wrapping us in a rainbow. My ears sang, but competence guided my fingers.
Then, up the hill, hooves pelted and a thundering, muddy tide of pink jackets, dogs and thoroughbred horses overwhelmed us. A horn blasted the frail air and a flood of hounds tumbled around us.
Move out, young un! Make way there! And Nipper jerked up his head and thrashed his hooves. The trap hurtled and bucketed. My hands clenched, sore and desperate, over the reins.
I forgot school, although I was almost there. I forgot Mr Hope as survival dragged at every muscle in my body. Whoa there! I hissed, but my voice was a wretched caricature of itself.
Houses, church, vicarage Before I could pitch headfirst onto a waiting tumble of stones I was dizzily aware of someone hauling on the reins and shaking the trap to a shuddering stop.
All right my child? Ive got you. Someone had dragged me into his arms and a wing collar scratched my chin and a silver beard tickled my cheek. Perhaps Id died. Was this God or Mr Hope?
Around me children screamed, strident as the hunt. Is she dead, sir? Has she lost her teeth? How much blood, sir? Daisy, my best friend was weeping. So, I realised suddenly, was I.
Annie! Annie! Good God, Mr Hope, sir how can I thank you enough? It was Father, hoarse, and scarlet from running. I sobbed into Mr Hopes wing collar. Another rainbow arched over us
Although it was the first time Id been late for school I dreamed that night of God smiling into His silver beard.
Following the Hunt
by Campbell Page
Owdo ol mate splutters old Den Wicherly through the swirls of cigarette smoke circulating around his face and cap ent sin you for a while, were ya bin? Oh here and there y know replies Dens hunting friend Jimmy Newman. Watch ya mean ere and there questions Den Followin the missis round the shops more like, Dave saw you buying knickers in Primark last Friday. I never saw im asserted Jimmy anyway, it was her birthday Aahh you soft begger chuckles Den as several other hunt followers arrive wriggling out of their cars and 4x4s, now parked at all angles and inclines.
Anythin at the Hyde then Den? asks Dave Barton as he sidles up to take position at the gate next to Den and Jimmy. Na nowt, its bin wet mind, no scent confirms Den but they reckon theres summot down ear as he indicates across the grass field towards the small wood some 500 yards away.
They paid plenty for that land at Blakefield the other week says Dave taking advantage of the brief pause in conversation. Gone bloody mad ent it snaps Den in response, eight and a aaf grand an acre, wot they gonna do with it at that money? Who got it enquires Jimmy. Bill Merchant they reckon replied Dave. Wot from Upper Longview Den enquires. No, his brother, hes got land at Werten down by there Dave confirms. Good tater ground down there they reckon says Jimmy.
Whaa, eer we go shouts Den as he responds to the staccato of the Huntsmans horn and the yelping hounds as they plunder the woodland. Looks like theyre edin fur Burfields, cum on quick The fleet of assorted vehicles lurches into life along the lane, the passengers necks straining as they scan across the hedgerows for sight of the pack or riders, knarled hands gesticulate the general directions.
Den Wicherly, now leading the convoy, slowly negotiates the narrow lanes in his rather tired looking 4x4 down towards Burfields Farm, where he knows from many earlier outings the hunt is likely to arrive. As the convoy begins its parking manoeuvres at the bottom of Burfields pitch there is the familiar sound of steel shoes on tarmac, accompanied by a call of Den you old fox, thought youd be too old for this hunting lark now Den swings round from closing his car door to by greeted with the sight of Huntsman Julian Green, mud splattered yet somehow resplendent in his red jacket and mounted on a now steaming bay mare. Ello Julian replies Den Im alright, its the others as is the trouble. You go steady Den, and good to see you Julian answers in his modulated tones as he shuffles his horse around in the road and canters away.
Jimmy and Dave join Den again by the cars. Ees a right pillock ent ee grunts Den to the others. Nothin like is old man, now ee was decent bloke