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Competitions

Watford Area Arts Forum Literature

Competition 2017

( Formerly the Harrington Trophy )

Abracadabra….

Watford Area Arts Forum and Watford Writers would like to invite you to express your interpretation on a theme of ‘Magic’ in art form or in writing.

The winner of the competitions will receive a £50 cash prize and The Harrington Trophy, 2nd prize is £30 and 3rd is £20.  

There is also a category this year for ‘Students in Full Time Education – up to age 25’. The winners of the literature and art competitions will receive a trophy and a voucher.

The prizes have been generously donated by Richard Harrington MP.

Art Challenge

Please submit your work with the theme ‘Magic’ and your interpretation of this, but please give your pictorial entry a title other than ‘Magic’. Do let your imagination run wild…the magic of nature and living etc.

Entries can be in any form; oils, watercolours, pen and ink, collages, photographs etc.

Please bring your entry along to Watford Museum on Wednesday 14 June, between 11am and 1pm. All entries will be on display at the Museum (during normal opening hours) from June 15 until Saturday June 24. We are delighted that Ms Georgie Wheeler. Head of Art at Watford Girls’ Grammar School will be judging the anonymous entries and assessing the top three and the winner of the student category.

Writing Challenge

Can you come up with 500 words, they could be in the style of a factual or fictional story that you are bursting to write, with a sprinkling of magic dust? You might put a modern twist on an old fashioned story or fable or maybe a magical love story, of course there could be a sinister side to magic as well…

The judging panel will include Richard Harrington MP, Watford Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and Linda Spurr, BBC journalist and Creative Writing Tutor.

The deadline for entry is Friday, 19 May. All entrants will be invited to Watford Writers meeting on the 12 June and the top ten stories will be read by the authors. The entries will be on display from 7.30pm at Cassio Lodge, Oddfellows Hall, The Avenue, Watford. The top ten entries will then be on display at various locations including Watford Museum where there will be a formal trophy presentation.

On Saturday, June 24th, at 10.30am, presentations will be made to the winners of both competitions in both categories at Watford Museum.

Full details for submitting your entry and full rules are available at www.watfordwriters.co.uk or www.watfordareaartsforum.com

Queries should be referred to Watfordwriters@gmail.com (Literature) or ian@scleater.co.uk (Art).

 

 

Entry Form and rules 2017
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Harrington Trophy Literature Competition  Results 2016

The Harrington Art and Literature competitions in conjunction with Watford Area Arts Forum form part of these celebrations and we were delighted to host the literature results event on Monday evening.  Linda Spurr, creative writing tutor had kindly shortlisted the entries to a top 10, which were then circulated to the three judges, Richard Harrington MP, Watford’s elected Mayor, Baroness Thornhill and Melanie Anglesey, Features Editor of The Watford Observer.  Following their results, a scoring system was put in place and the winning votes were cast.  At this stage all the entries were anonymous. 
 
On Monday evening nearly 30 people attended with apologies from some of the entrants, we were delighted that Linda was on hand to talk through the entries and provide comments.  
 
Below are the finalists with only the top three in place order:
 
   
Writer's BlockadeRob Summers1st
Curse.ComSally Campbell2nd
All the World's a StagePaul White3rd
Something WickedJan Rees 
Loyalty Binds MeCynthia Marsh 
The Bard's Watford SecretMike Conlan 
Living OpheliaCarolyn Storey 
A Tragedy of ErrorsTrevor Spinage 
The Lost FolioPenny Rowland 
Kiss Me Kate
 
Brian Bold
 
 
The entries will be on display in Watford Museum until the 25th June when a presentation will take place, the will also be published on the Watford Observer website.  Further displays by Watford Council to be confirmed.
 
Congratulations to everyone that took part, a very high standard this year. Thank you to the judges and to Richard Harrington for donating the cash prizes.

Winning Stories

First Place

Writer's Block - Rob Summers

With an anguished howl and explosive blot of ink young Will Shakespeare threw down his quill.

Pacing the floorboards of his lodgings he stopped in front of a mirror.

'A story!' he shouted at his reflection. 'I swear that if I possessed a great kingdom I would give it willingly for a story,..anything to unshackle me from this cursed Writer's Blockade.'

'Oh, do stop being such a great tart,Will.'

Ned Goodfellow,Will's childhood friend, yawned. 'You know as well as I that it will come, it always does.'

'But...'

'No buts Will. I suggest you see me onto the Stratford coach and then go for a damned good drink and see what the morrow brings.'

After a drunken farewell, Will weaved through the busy streets of London on a midsummer's night. Halfway down a lane, in the warm dusk, a beautiful young girl was leaning from the balcony of a warehouse, whispering unheard words to a dark haired boy gazing adoringly up at her.

'Love's young dream,' a watching Will mused to himself and headed into a tavern where his advice was sought by Thomas Dogberry, the signwriter.

'I am commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh to paint the signage for his new tobacco and coffee shop,' Dogberry said. 'It is to be called 'Hubble Bubble' after all the infernal pipes and paraphernalia associated with this strange smoking practise. Now the problem is Will, are these words spelled with two B's or not two B's?

'Two B's or not to B's?' Will pondered the question before draining his tankard and banging it down on the bar. 'Unquestionably Thomas, it is two B's! Landlord!'

It was purple dark as he unsteadily left the tavern. Passing a courtyard he watched three drunken old crones stirring a great pot of steaming washing, their faces thrown into shape-shifting malevolent masks by the flickering shadows of their fire.

'Hubble bubble,' he giggled drunkenly as he continued. 'Hubble bubble... '

In Cheapside a man declared 'Kiss me Kate!' to his pretty companion as Will entered The Seven Stars where his friend Francis Bacon beckoned him.

'Will!    Come hither and lend me your ears,' he called. 'I have gossip!'

It was a stupendously drunk Will who collapsed into a deep, tempest of a dream that night.

At first he was in an enormous, bubbling cauldron crying out, 'A story, a story, my kingdom for a story!' whilst the three old crones stirred the great pot chanting, 'Hubble bubble, Hubble bubble...' and then silver moonlight fell like a silent curtain as the beautiful young girl on the balcony whispered down to him 'Will,Will, wherefore art thou Will?' and he was born aloft by two giant bees into her arms declaring 'Kiss me Kate!' but when she she leaned towards him her face transformed into one of the old crones, lips puckered and...

With a scream and a great bump Will fell out of bed. He lay there thinking.

Thinking.

And then William Shakespeare, picking up his quill, began to write.

 

Second Place

Curse.com - Sally Campbell

The day was foul. Although hidden away in their basement, the trolls could still sense the stormy air as another colleague skulked into the office.

 “They’re coming,” said the nondescript troll as he took his place at a workstation, “I saw them as I crossed the heath. They were looking murderous”.

The door crashed open and one hundred heads stood to frightened attention, each troll trying to look as inconspicuous as his neighbour. All three sisters stood there, their usually immaculate hair plastered across their faces and droplets of rain sliding down their taut skin.

“What are you looking at? Get back to work”.

It seemed to their employees that they spoke as one. They swept past their workers into a private office at the back of the room. The blinds were lowered. The door was slammed shut. The trolls were certain something was brewing.

The sisters were revelling in the power they’d assumed since the launch of Curse.com. It was a simple concept: “Your trouble, our toil”. They were the orchestrators of evil, generating wealth out of their clients’ cowardice. Even they had been surprised at the speed of success. The company already employed banks of trolls, hunched over screens, channelling their clients’ hatred.

They had to move quickly once they’d hunted down their prey. An abusive comment; a threat of violence; posting compromising photos – whatever would disturb or discredit their victim. It all depended on the product the client had ordered. Then, as quickly as they’d appeared, they would vanish, using their multiple identities to evade detection. They were visible only to their paymasters.

Masked by the blinds, the sisters scrabbled round nervously, pulling back hair and straightening suits in an effort to make themselves presentable.

“Call her up,” barked the eldest sister, “we’re already late”.

Seconds later the face of their Director appeared on a screen glowering over them from its position on the wall. “What’s kept you? Didn’t I say how important this was?”

Now sheepish, the sisters looked up at the screen. “There’s no time to waste. I’ve received the order and it’s our most ambitious yet.”

The sisters craned towards the screen, pricking up their ears. They absorbed every detail of what they were told. No notes were taken, no evidence left behind.

As the screen went to black the sisters exchanged gleeful looks, their minds already planning how they would spend the hefty commission this job would earn them. But this wasn’t a simple dose of hate administered to an unsuspecting victim. They needed to get under his skin, discover the dark impulses driving him. Only then would they be able to bend him to the will of their client.

Their eyes were overcome with a look of icy determination as they set to work, focussed on one thing only: the downfall of Macbeth.

 

Third Place

All The World’s a Stage…Paul White

 ‘Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day.’                                                                                              Which, in a few words, sums up exactly why you don’t want your wife of twenty odd years taking up amateur dramatics. I mean what sort of answer is that? You’re fruitlessly rummaging about for some underwear on a cold, dark, November morning and you ask, quite reasonably, ‘where have you hidden my boxers?’ A simple enough question and one that prior to Susan being cast as the oldest ‘Juliet’ in town by the local am-dram society would have elicited a simple enough answer. But not now, oh no, now every sentence has to be delivered with a Shakespearean flourish and include so many ‘betwixts’ and ‘henceforths’ that a normal conversation proves nigh on impossible. Which begs the question, why does she think that I’ll understand it any better at 5 o’clock in the morning, when I’m stark naked and bent double over a chest of drawers?

Apparently Susan’s luvvie leanings are entirely my fault. It would seem, unbeknown to me, that the romance had somehow escaped from our marriage and she felt that an interest outside of our flat would ‘reignite the spark.’ Enter Justin, local am-dram director come smarmy chip shop owner and two large cod and a portion of fries later my wife is suddenly thirteen years of age again. Needless to say greasy Justin wasted no time in trying to inveigle himself and was soon battering my abilities as a husband with almost the same frequency as his fish. Culminating in a particularly nasty accusation that I was unsupportive of Susan’s acting aspirations, something I vehemently denied, mainly because I wasn’t even aware she had aspirations, acting or otherwise.

But, there comes a time when you have to fight fire with fire, or at the very least be prepared to get your matches out, and so one wet Wednesday evening, library book in hand, I stood beneath our balcony for over half an hour, loudly yondering to my Juliet about soft lights and broken windows. Not that she heard a word of it of course, not with us living on the eleventh floor, but as I always say, it’s the thought that counts. It certainly counted when Justin turned up halfway through my performance and challenged my interpretation of the part. I’ve got to say under the circumstances I thought a police caution was very fair considering the swelling on his nose. 

On the plus side, old Mrs Smith in Flat 2 thought my Romeo was wonderful and has taken to winking at me every time I see her, but then who knew her first name actually is Juliet? As for Susan, she’s talking to me again now and since greasy Justin has given up the director’s chair, I’ve taken a non-speaking role as third courtier from the left. Who knows, henceforth, maybe we can reignite that spark.                                                                                                                               ‘For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo’

 

 Other Shortlisted Stories

 

Something Wicked……Jan Rees

More sinned against than sinning, this was always known

She’d married him for love, but ended up alone.

He’d married her for money and cheated on her too

So when she had discovered this she pondered what to do.

 

Of course she could divorce him, but that would take some time

She couldn’t live with the pretence and so she turned to crime.

She could stab him, she could shoot him but couldn’t face the mess.

It had to be a method that he would never guess.

Something quick and easy, something swift and sure

So poison in his coffee and he would cheat no more.

 

Soon she was arrested, with forensics on the case

The evidence was damning, things moved at quite a pace.

More in sorrow than in anger the jury made their choice.

The foreman had the verdict, they had spoken with one voice.

 

The judge inclined to clemency, the sentence wasn’t life,

But still a certain price is owed by every vengeful wife.

The limits of her prison life sometimes drove her mad,

But thinking of it overall it really wasn’t bad.

 

She had time to read and study and took her first degree

And what she concentrated on was Ancient History.

She found it fascinating, and planned, on her release,

A trip to several ancient sites in Italy and Greece.

 

Meantime her new companions opened up her mind

Stony hearted villains of the bloody minded kind.

She often thought good riddance when returning to her cell

But no-one here could break her heart or make her life such hell.

 

She learned that many prisoners were victims just like her

But driven there by different tides, a different force majeure.

She listened to their stories and found them hard to take

Poverty and violence and people on the make.

Born into loveless families and no success at school

Small wonder that between them they had broken every rule.

 

All this set her thinking of what had brought her here

Her childhood was idyllic, not marred by debt or fear

Privilege and plenty, not hardship or abuse

It seemed her jealous anger was still her lone excuse.

The slings and arrows in her life were few and far between

Her marriage was the only blot upon a tranquil scene.

 

Her dreams of home and children had vanished with her crime

But perhaps her wealth could do some good while she served her time.

She set her lawyer straight to work, her mind was clear and firm

A half-way house she had in mind for those who’d served their term.

 

And in this way she found some peace, could sleep perchance to dream

Could contemplate her later years involved in her new scheme

And so she faced the days ahead, accepting of her fate

And thinking of the day that she’d walk through that open gate.

 

Loyalty Binds Me - Cynthia Marsh

I whimpered when he picked up his helmet and made to leave the tent.

He looked down and caressed my head.

‘Ralph’, he said to the youngest of his squires. ‘This hound will follow me if he is not tied up. I want you to stay and see he does not escape.’

‘Sire, I want to fight with you.’

Richard smiled at the boy’s disappointment.

I strained at the leash as I watched my master stride out into the harsh sunlight. Every muscle and sinew of my body ached to stay by his side, but I knew I must obey.

Ralph and I followed at a distance as Richard led his army to the top of a hill that looked down on where Tudor had amassed his troops.

I had never been close to a battle before. The air filled with the noise of cannon, screaming men and terrified horses. The copper tang of blood mingled with the stench of spilled guts in the warm air.

Ralph paled, no longer sorry he was forbidden to take part.

His grip on my leash loosened as men fell in the heavy fighting. Norfolk, leading Richard’s vanguard, pushed the enemy back but could go no further.

A trumpet rang out.

Richard spurred his horse, White Surrey, down the hill and led his men into the thick of the battle. He fought his way to within feet of where Tudor cowered, surrounded by his bodyguard.

Ralph moaned.

‘Betrayed! Why has Northumberland not attacked? Where is Stanley?’

I reared onto my hind legs as White Surrey fell, wounded. Richard staggered to his feet.

‘A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ he cried, as his knights strove to reach him.

I could wait no longer. I pulled free and raced down the hill; my eyes fixed on the crown on Richard’s helmet. I would not let anything or anyone stop me. He was fighting alone now; his companions all slain.

Seconds before I reached him, a sword sliced his shoulder. He dropped to his knees as the blows rained down. Even after he fell they slashed and tore; driven by their hate.

My master was dead. I stood over his body and howled. I wanted to rend the universe with the agony of my loss.

‘Get rid of that dog!’

Tudor walked towards me.

‘Like too many Englishmen, its loyalty is misplaced,’ he mocked.

I growled and bared my teeth. The soldiers kept back, until one swung a mace against my head.

Thrown off his body, I lay bleeding in the churned-up mud as Tudor grabbed the crown and placed it on his own head.

I was glad my vision blurred as they stripped his body and slung it naked over a horse.

My eyes closed. Every breath was torture; my body arched in pain.

Then a gentle hand stroked the bloodied fur away from my eyes.

‘Come, it’s time to go home,’ his familiar, beloved voice whispered in my ear.

  

The Bard’s Watford Secret - Mike Conlan

A sharp pain shot through my body as a hard object hit me between the shoulder blades. I fell to the ground and it was 10 minutes before I came round.

Panic swept over me… Shakespeare’s words had vanished.

24 hours earlier:

I was 24 years old, lanky with brown hair, bland features and a white collar shirt with blue chino trousers, the same age as Shakespeare in 1588. Unbeknown to me, I was walking into Watford in Shakespeare’s footsteps with my actor friends. Short on luck and money in the year of 2016, the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare's untimely demise.

I shared Shakespeare’s love of tragic, funny storytelling. I have no fancy quill but I have imagination, passion and a smartphone.

 My actor friends headed towards a Watford B&B. John, my best friend, asked me: “Are you coming with us?” 

I responded: “I’ll see you later. You know me, I love local graveyards.”

“Ok mate, no probs.”

After sitting for several hours against a brown headstone inscribed with “To my beloved Anne Marie Hathaway. Loved by all”, I heard the noise of shovels on soil. It was 1am and I was certain that burials were only carried out during daylight. One of the men in black whispered to the other: "I've found it?" The other man responded: "Let me see?" I then heard the sound of shovel on flesh and bone.

This sickening noise was something I'd only heard as a sound effect in a horror play. I retched and the tall man in black with the killer shovel looked right at me. He walked towards me menacingly. I ran from the St Mary’s Church graveyard like I'd never ran before. I lost him in the maze of Watford streets. 

I headed back to my B&B room. At 7am, I decided to head back to the graveyard to see what the tall man in black was looking for. I looked around the disturbed grave and saw a dirty piece of old looking paper. The body of the other man in black wasn’t there. I picked the paper up and started to read the scrawled, very old text. 

It read: "I’m in a pretty village and I like this place and willingly waste my time in it. People will make assumption that I was uneducated. They will look for other explanations, other imposters to explain my work. Whatever happens with my stories, they are mine. Don’t be fooled by wicked lies and untruths. To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. William Shakespeare.”

I fell to the ground in agony.

The tall man in black and William Shakespeare's words were gone.

I never told anyone. No one would have believed me. I knew the truth of Shakespeare and his time in our pretty Watford village.

And I remembered something scrawled on the tall man in black’s T-shirt. It read “Christopher Marlowe RULES OK.”

 

Living Ophelia - Carolyn Storey

 "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown...UGH," Paige threw her script aside. “Why can’t they talk proper English!?”

    She leaned to catch a glimpse of the performance.

    Katie Parsons as Queen Gertrude and Todd Benson as Hamlet were in the last stanzas of the Act.

    Paige turned to the full length mirror and ruffled her pink gown. Perfect. Paige tip-toed out, behind the big drawn curtains, (careful not to disturb the play going on in front

of them) and reached the bath sat in the centre of the stage. 

    Paige looked down at the still icy water and the colourful fake flowers bobbing on the surface. 

    She took a deep breath. Paige Hoxton was about to get her big starring moment...!

   “You’d better take your place-”

    Paige jumped to find horrid old drama teacher Miss Tovik behind her. She squirmed as Miss Tovik crept right up to her and narrowed her eyes. 

   “You are Ophelia,” she whispered. “Ophelia is heartbroken by Hamlet’s rejection. When she lays in  the river she is so consumed with sadness she becomes the water. And she drowns...very happily.”

    “Shut up,” Paige hissed. “All I want is to have everyone see me in a lush dress and looking totes

amaze. That’s the only reason I took part in this stupid ancient play-” 

    “Stupid play?” Miss Tovik seethed. “Shakespeare’s heroines are as relevant now as four hundred

years ago. Heartbreak is ALWAYS relevant. You young vain girls don’t know heartbreak. You have to know sadness to play Ophelia.”

   The crone pulled a silver cuff from her pocket and she shoved it onto Paige’s wrist.

 “This ought to help you embrace Ophelia,” she whispered resentfully.   “..Break a leg.” And she

smiled, then disappeared to the wings.

   Paige felt shaken. That was weird even for Miss Tovik. Paige looked at the silver cuff.

 “Weirdo witch.”

   Everything went quiet. This was it!

   Paige climbed into the bath and lay with her eyes closed, as directed.

   And she was pleasantly surprised to find the water was hot, not freezing!  

   She sighed as she enjoyed the warming sensation of the water encasing her and her gown

completely. 

    “So fast they follow / your sister's drown'd, Laertes-“ Kate Parsons recited.

    Paige heard the audience babbling, enthralled. Right now her face was being projected onto the

back wall of the stage.

   Everyone in school would remember her for this. Paige Foxton as Ophelia. Paige tried not to smile!

    But then, Paige felt a tingling coming from the cuff.

    Suddenly, she felt unwell. Not sick, but some sort of...emptiness. From deep inside her soul.

    Then, Paige felt her head sinking. Her ears went under the water. The water crept over her

cheeks. And over her lips, and her nose. She was completely submerged. And she was sinking down still. 

    Perhaps she should move?

    But Paige didn’t want to move. This feeling inside her was so debilitating, and the water was so, so warm... No. She was quite happy to simply lay here...in the water.

   

 A Tragedy of Errors - Trevor Spinage

  ‘There you are, Will. I didn't know you frequented this ale house.'

‘Oh, hello, Dick. Yes, I come here sometimes when I need a bit of inspiration. But what are you doing here?'

'Looking for you,' said Dick. 'I was wondering how the new play is coming on. It must be nearly finished by now.’

'The new play, yes,' replied Will. He took a swig from his tankard. 'I'm afraid it’s not going very well at all, it’s nowhere near finished. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t written a single word.’

‘What!' exclaimed Dick. 'We're supposed to start rehearsals in five days’ time. I thought you had the whole plot worked out weeks ago.’

‘I did,' confirmed Will. 'That’s not where the difficulty lies. It’s the characters; or rather one of them in particular. You see, I was sitting in this very tavern last month trying to finalise the scenes of the play, but I couldn't concentrate because of the noise being made by a group of men at the next table. They had obviously had too much to drink. One of them was drunker than the rest and kept shouting for more ale. Then, much to the amusement of his friends, he let out the loudest burp I've ever heard. And that was it. I knew then that I had to include him as a character in the new play; a typical boozy Englishman. I even came with up a perfect name for him.’

Dick was puzzled. ‘So, what’s the problem?’

'Well, in the first place, the play isn’t set in England, is it?’

‘That’s true.' Dick thought for a minute. 'I know,' he said. 'Why not have him just visiting. He could be an Englishman abroad, there’s got to be plenty of scope for comedy there.’

Will shook his head. 'That brings up the other difficulty. The play is supposed to be a tragedy, not a comedy.'

'I'm sure you could squeeze one little light hearted scene in somewhere.'

‘I thought about that,' explained Will, 'but whichever way I try to fit him in it doesn’t work. He sticks out like a sore thumb. I can’t come up with any convincing dialogue he can have with the other characters or even think of a plausible explanation as to why he’s in Denmark in the first place.’

'Ok then, Will,' said an exasperated Dick, ‘it's obvious. Just leave him out. Put him into another play.’

‘I suppose that's the sensible thing to do, but I really don’t want to do that. He’s such a fun character with a really great name.’

‘What did you say you called him?’ enquired Dick.

‘Sir Toby Belch.’

‘Ah.' Dick smiled. 'I think I see your dilemma now. He'll never fit into the play with a name like that.’

‘I know,' sighed Will, ‘but I just can’t make my mind up. Should I include Toby Belch in Hamlet or should I leave him out? Toby or not Toby that is the question.’

 

The Lost Folio - Penelope Rowland

            There has always been a mystery as to where William Shakespeare was between the years of 1585 and 1592. Not only was this time lost, but it is probable that some papers were lost too.

            This folio, the draft of a story, was only found in April 2016. Buried under the ruins of our greatly-loved but now demolished Charter Place, it may offer an explanation.

            A traveller on the banks of a river looks up and down stream for a bridge.

            “ How shall I cross this river?” he grumbles shifting his heavy pack on to his shoulder. “I shall have to wade through it.”

The water seems shallow but his boots weigh him down; his cloak floats on the water. Suddenly, he slips into a deep pothole.

            “Why do they not repair the roads?” he complains as he stumbles forwards. “ I cannot feel the bottom,” His limbs are thrashing. “Help, help,” he calls frantically. “ Oh please, someone, deliver me from certain drowning.” 

A horseman gallops up to the water’s edge.

            “What ails thee traveller?“ he asks.

            “The water is deep and cold; my pack heavy; I cannot swim,” our traveller splutters.

The horseman leads his horse into the water and pulls the traveller to his feet.

Shaking the water off angrily, the traveller steps on to the firm opposite bank.

             “What treacherous water is this that nearly caused my undoing? What ford is this?”

            “What ford? Watford. “ Why does the horseman answer in riddles the traveller wonders.

                        “ I think you need some sustenance after your dunking,” the rescuer declares. “Let us sample some of this town’s well-renowned ale,” and they stagger up the gentle slope of the High Street passing timber houses to left and right.

            “This church, should I not go in and offer a thanksgiving for deliverance?” They bow their heads as they pass the door of St Mary’s.

            “A pint of ale first,” the rescuer points to the Saracen’s Head opposite the church.

            “I still have coins,” the traveller reaches for his wet purse. “But where in this town can I find a place to lay my weary head?” He glances at the charming alms-houses beside the church.

            “I know the very place,” the rescuer proclaims. “ I have room to spare at my own home. It is but a mile or so from here.”

            “What manner of place is yours?” the traveller asks anxiously.

            “I have new, fine rooms a plenty, fifty six in total. There’s even a brewery where we may continue to make merry,” his friend replies and leads him through parkland and orchard to the “fair and large” house at Cassiobury

Though Public House is buried beneath sad BHS,

St Mary’s Church with almshouses stands there still, oh yes.

So was it William Shakespeare who met that noble Lord,

And found a refuge when he crossed that ford?

Alas the potholes cause us still to swerve and slip

Whene’er through Watford we must take a trip.

 

Kiss Me Kate - Brian Bold

 Andy decided no Valentine card was necessary this year. It wasn’t worth wasting money on a pointless gesture. His latest marriage, to Kate, had only a month to run and they’d already given each other five-star ratings. This parting, more than any other, would be such sweet sorrow, he’d miss her beauty, humour and minestrone soup. But business was business.

When Fixed-Term Marriages became legal, and traded on eBay’s dating site, Andy saw the attraction of limited committment. “Live Long and Love Many” was a compelling offer. Not for everyone, of course, but very popular with the younger generation. “Till death us do part” had a hollow ring now life expectancy was touching a hundred years.

For a while, Andy was a buyer and bought wives for looks and sex. Tinder and other dating apps made that easy. But he began to realise there was money to be made selling himself instead.

Passion, with chivalry, became the top marriage proposal, after the introduction of ex-partners’ comments on personal profiles. A string of positive reviews could inflate an eBay marriage price enormously. So Andy invested time in making himself attractive to mature women, with money, looking for a reliable lover.

I come to wive it wealthily in Watford

Initially, he sold annual marriages. They offered excitement and ended before the novelty wore off. Kate had been his first two-year marriage.

Although he worked out and was a Romeo in the bedroom, he needed to improve his gallantry skills. The Thoughtfulness App was a godsend when changing women so regularly. He never missed a birthday or anniversary. But more importantly, he was prompted to make unexpected romantic and thoughtful gestures. Without it, he wouldn’t have written poems, wore all the ties he was given or listened to his wives’ rants, occasionally. His “ideal-husband score” soared.

Now it was time to offer Andy Fairhead to the highest bidder again. His tender loving and considerate company would be available from April. He clicked onto his eBay account. No need to change the picture or his profile, they both worked a treat. But those glowing reviews were the real money in the bank.

Andy stared with horror at Kate’s new comment. His high rating, built over ten years, had been decimated by a Shakespearian quote.

Kate Smith: They do not love that do not show their love

“I spent two passionate years with this man. I loved him and thought he felt the same but he couldn’t even be bothered to send me a Valentine card.”

“Damn the woman,” Andy muttered, yet in his heart, he recognised his obsession with money had obscured the truth. He had found something more valuable with Kate.

He texted her with his own quote.

Kiss me, Kate, we shall be married on Sunday

Let’s wed again, this time forever.”

Or as long as your money lasts, the old Andy thought.

 

  

Watford Live! 2015 Richard Harrington

Literature and Art Challenge

 

1st Place - The Seeker

By Carolyn Storey

“Many people wish to see Faeries. All you need to do is BELIEVE, and they will appear.”

That was the opening line in Jake’s new book:  The Faerie Seekers’ Guidebook. Jake’s Grandad knew

he loved reading books about Magical beings. But this one – he told him - was the best yet: it could

teach you how to see Faeries!   

    “He’s eleven,” Jake’s Dad grumbled. “He’s starting secondary school soon, he should be doing

away with that rubbish.”

    “He’s still young,” said his Grandad, winking at Jake. “The faeries are drawn to those who are

young-at-heart.”

     Now of course Jake, like everyone, knew that faeries can’t be real.

     But he couldn’t help wondering. What if they were?

     What if this book really could help him see the creatures he had always read about?

     There was only one thing for it – he was going to put his book to the test!    

     The next day, he put on his wellingtons and went traipsing straight over to the park! In the park was a rolling meadow with a hidden stream, which was surrounded by towering trees that reached over, making a leafy canopy roof. And the brambles had completely overgrown all along the banks. It made Jake feel like he was cocooned in an enchanted gully.  

      So Jake sat at the edge of the riverbank and drew in a deep breath.

     “Be silent, be still – BELIEVE.”

      As the minutes ticked by Jake was begging for something to appear.

      Like a Water Sprite suddenly jumping out of the murky river, or the beautiful Dryads –tree faeries – stepping out from tree trunks?  Or maybe, The Pan himself would pop out from the nettles?

      But two hours had passed, and nothing. 

Jake was getting impatient, hungry and he was feeling very chilly. He stared idly at the peaty water. There was no magic here, just an overgrown, unloved river.

     “Stupid.” He muttered. Who was he kidding? How could he be so pathetic at his age to believe a book could help people see faeries?  

      But then–

      A flicker! A flash!   

      Jake’s heart jumped. He could see it, hovering, dancing in the air behind the mess of brambles! A glimmering, shimmering blue!  – And... Orange too!

     And then it stopped, sitting on a branch, deep in the shadows.    

     Jake was stunned to the spot. He tried desperately to make out the thing between the branches, but it was just too far away, and it was too dark now!

      Jake reached for his phone to take a photo. -Oh no!  He’d switched it off!

      Jake couldn’t wait. Every second counted. He had to get a better look -

      And then, it was gone.

     That evening, as he trudged home across the meadows, Jake was utterly mystified.  He couldn’t stop asking himself:  Was that really what he thought he saw?

     “It had to be. I just had to.” Because there was one thing Jake definitely was sure of:  

      There’s NO such thing as “flashy- blue-glimmering-orange-birds” living by rivers in Britain.

     -Right?