Solent Writers Circle

Patsy's 100-word Competition 2021

The winner of Patsy's Competition for this year has been announced as Barbara, with her story entitled "Successful Reversal". 
Well done and many congratulations to her!

Gillian Clears the Board!

It's not often a member of the Circle can boast winning all three annual competition prizes in the same year but Gillian Sinclair has done just that!
In February it was announced that Gillian had won Patsy's fiendishly difficult 100-word competition with the theme of "Leaving", winning a book token. Lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions then meant the Circle was unable to meet in person, although the prestigious Lavinia Hammond Competition was still held, this year with the title "Beyond the Rainbow". Gillian once more impressed the judge, this time external judge Graham Minett, and was awarded the Cup, in a socially-distanced way, by last year's winner Patsy Collins.
Then, in December, previous winner of the Anthony Collinson Award for Humorous Writing, Mandy Shearing, judged this year's entries, awarding the trophy to the author of  "An Awful Christmas", who just happened to be Gillian! Needless to say, all Circle competitions are judged blind so it was a delight to see a member win all three.
Once again, Gillian found herself on her doorstep accepting an award in a socially-distanced way. She said she was delighted to have won and, now that she's "done the triple", thought she might concentrate on judging next year! She has kindly allowed us to reproduce her winning entry below.
Many congratulations, Gillian!

An Awful Christmas

On this Christmas afternoon in the year 2020 I am enjoying the peace of my household. It isn’t our usual Christmas, but we are in our family bubble – myself, my wife Alison, my two daughters and my parents, all glad to relax after a festive lunch. My daughters are quietly occupied with their new tablets, Alison is loading the dishwasher, my parents have retired for an hour’s rest and I am alone, remembering a Christmas long ago.

It was Christmas 1993 and I was eleven years old. In November we had received the usual phone call from my Grandparents in Bromley, Kent, inviting us to stay with them for Christmas. Grandma and Grandpa were my Mother’s parents. She was their only child and we always stayed with them at Christmas. They were kind, in their mid-seventies and houseproud.
“We’ve had the lounge refurbished,” Grandma told Mum on the phone. “You’ll love it Meg, it’s stylish and modern.”
“I can’t wait,” replied Mum.
So it was that on 24th December we set off – my Mum, my Dad, my annoying sister Melissa, who was six, and myself.
Melissa and I were always allowed to open one present each before we left. At eleven years old I was excited about the science lessons at my new secondary school. I had dreams of becoming a famous scientist and astronaut, of setting up a hotel on the moon and starting a tourist industry there. I was delighted to open a box labelled: ‘LAUNCH YOUR OWN ROCKET – INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE YOUNG SCIENTIST OF THE FUTURE.’ I insisted on taking it with me, although Mum had doubts.
“You won’t be able to do anything with it. Open one of the presents we chose together – your new pyjamas or the T-shirt with the leopard on it.”
However, wise woman that she was, she recognised the likelihood of a sulky child over Christmas. I took the science pack.
Melissa took her Barbie doll, named Priscilla after her new best friend at junior school. Priscilla’s Mum had a posh way of speaking and often expressed surprise with, “Oh mi God!  Reely?” Melissa had begun to copy this expression, a matter of concern to our parents who preferred, “Wow,” or “Gosh.”

On our arrival in Bromley we duly admired the newly refurbished lounge. The walls were magnolia and there was a new cream sofa with coloured cushions. Grandma pointed out that the plasterers had even picked out the period features on the ceiling. Our Grandparents’ faces beamed with pride and joy.
“We’ve invited a few people for drinks tomorrow – we want to show it off. We hope you don’t mind.”
I minded but no-one asked me.

On Christmas Day we opened a few small presents before the adults busied themselves in the kitchen. Lunch would be mid-afternoon to allow for the select drinks party. Melissa was upstairs, getting her doll ready for the party. The rest of us were downstairs dressed in smart casual clothes, awaiting our guests.
I was alone in the lounge. I eyed the corner behind the lit Christmas tree where I could see my science kit. There was half an hour to go, just time to look through the instructions.
The kit contained a rocket shaped, silver-coloured metal object, about 10 cm long, with two wires sticking from the tail, a wooden launch pad with a battery fitted and four packets of brightly coloured powders which needed mixing with water. Five minutes after opening the box I placed the rocket on the launch pad and fetched a glass of water from the downstairs loo.  
Following the instructions as best I could in the dim tree lights, I began to mix the powders. Grandpa had left a tray on a side table with an array of liquids and glasses on it. I made use of these as needed. Engrossed in my task, I entirely forgot about the guests and my surroundings.
Everything happened at once. The doorbell rang and I heard Grandma greeting the neighbours.
“Sorry we’re a bit early. We came straight from Church.”
“Never mind. It’s lovely to see you. How smart you all look. New dress Mary?”
“New this morning. David’s got a new waistcoat too.”
“Lovely. Come on through.”
I suddenly realised where I was and grabbed the rocket by the attached wires. It flew out of my hands, round the room, narrowly missing the guests as they entered the lounge. It landed among the cushions on the new sofa, leaving a burn mark. The glasses, filled with explosive powders, sent
colourful fountains high up to the ceiling, down the walls and over the shocked guests. Glass shattered around me as I knelt on the ruined carpet. 
The tree lights went out.
Grandma screamed.
Mary cried, “Oh – my dress!”
Mum sighed, “Oh Christopher.”
A doom-laden silence followed, broken by Melissa who appeared in the doorway.
“Oh mi God!” she piped.
No-one tried to correct her. The comment seemed appropriate to the occasion.
We went home the following day.
“That,” said Mum, echoing the sentiment used by the Queen the year before, “Was a Christmas Horribilis.”
At home I read the instructions again. I had missed a bit: ‘OUTDOORS ONLY. ADULT SUPERVISION REQUIRED.”

I am woken from my reverie by a ping on my smartphone. I have a WhatsApp message from my daughter, Christabel. “Dad, I need some help with this science experiment on the internet.”
I jump out of my chair and take the stairs three at a time.