Schools Writing Competition 2008


The Society holds a Schools Writing Competition every two years. The theme for the 2008 competition was 'The Calm before the Storm'.


We are delighted to publish the winning entries below. However, unfortunately the Society is unable to give the actual names of the winners for privacy reasons.


2008 Competition Results


Winning School, £300 Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Penrith, Cumbria
Runner-up, £50 Holy Trinity School, Crawley, W. Sussex
Runner-up, £50 Kings School, Harpenden, Herts



2008 Winning Essay


Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Penrith, Cumbria


The Calm before the Storm


This was their territory. He shouldnt be here. But there was no choice, not this time.There was blood in his hair, trickling down his neck onto the collar of his filthy shirt. Filthy, and getting filthier. The wall he was leaning on was encrusted with grime and mud, the white paint barely visible beneath the filth and graffiti.


His breath came in ragged, gasping sobs, his thin shoulders shaking. Rain ran off the bridge above him and hissed onto the cracked tarmac. The bridge shuddered slightly as a train thundered over it. He shivered.


It was early autumn, that time when the weather can't decide between hot and cold, and usually decides on rain. The city huddled under a dirty grey shower, and he huddled beneath the city, safe, for now. He'd been running for upwards of ten minutes, he needed a rest; he'd carry on when . . . he'd . . . rested.


A distant siren wailed, the sound snaking through the freezing squall. Police or ambulance? The end or nothing to do with him? Either way it didn't really matter. If the police caught up with him it would be another caution, another talking to, then back out onto the streets. If it was an ambulance, well, unless it was coming for him then he couldn't care less.


He touched the back of his head gingerly. Hot sticky blood clung to his fingers. He looked at it with something between disgust and disinterest, then wiped it on his trousers. He was used to the sight of blood – his own, or someone else’s. It was all the same really. They make him bleed, they get the same treatment. Treat others as they treat you. That message had been drummed into him from such an early age it was practically instinct. And that instinct kept his face in one piece and most of his blood on the inside of his body.


But not this time. This time they'd been quicker. He'd been fighting again. But you had to fight to survive. If you didn't, you'd lose your ground, worse, your pride, and worse still, your place in the gang. He was a North Sider. It had at one point been the most powerful gang in the area – their territory had run from the canal right back to the train lines. But now, their ground was just the canal and some shabby warehouses; South Siders were pushing them further and further back. It was only a matter of time before there was a proper gang war raging over the territory. A prickle of fear and excitement touched his spine at the thought and he ran his thumb down the blade of the knife in his belt.


But unless he thought fast, he wouldn't live to see it. Or if he did, it'd be from intensive care. Six South Siders were on his tail. They knew he was on their land, just not exactly where. But it was only a matter of time. He had to be quick. He was a Tagger, and he'd drawn the short straw, and been 'volunteered' to tag the South Siders' bridge.


So, tag the bridge. Easy. He unzipped his bag as quietly as possible and pulled out four cans of spray paint. His hands shook as he slipped a mask over his mouth and nose – he could hear the South Siders on the bridge above him, shouting for him to show himself, clattering guns along the railings and flashing torches around.


Tag the bridge and run, tag the bridge . . . he thought desperately as he started spraying. A sword and a rose crossed over a Union Flag, with the words'North Sider' scrawled above it – his gang's tag. He made it as big as he could manage. He wished he could see the looks on their faces when they found it. North's tag on South territory? Priceless.


His heartbeat slowed and his breathing eased as the paint hissed almost silently onto the wall. He was a Tagger for a reason. Nothing else seemed to matter, just, paint the tag. Sure the South Siders might catch him, but it would be worth it. He'd be running for his life in a minute but first, the tag.



2008 Runner Up


Holy Trinity School, Crawley, West Sussex


Not much happens in the calm before the storm,

A place of peace,

All alone suspended in space

When all you feel is your own

Beating heart and breathing lungs

And the calm.


Just before all hell breaks loose

You lose yourself in peace

Flying past the moon and stars

Of your imagination.


As I walk through the park,

Past the children playing on the swings

Passing a ball in the grass covered field

The small bell dings as

I enter the shop.


No one is there,

I’m all alone,

In the calm before the storm.


The river slows its water stills

The fish stop and glide along

The ducks halt and land

But the splash is small,

Meaningless in the calm,

The importance

To not disrupt a thing.


Alone in the middle of the bridge,

But surrounded by people,

Alone in my thoughts,

Thinking of all things that are good


I’m in the calm

The calm before the storm.


The cars speed past,

But they are going so slowly

Splashing in the puddles

The soft sound

Of splashing water

When you hear it for

The first time you hear it

Only in the calm.


Plane engines that scream over-head

Sound dull and muted

As though flying over a great cover

Separated from the world.

Up in the dark blue sky,

Tinted at the edges

By silver and grey clouds,

The only hint of coming;

The inevitable break

Of the coming storm.


I can feel the green grass

Beneath my toes,

The moisture in it.

I can feel it all

Much more than I have ever felt it before

But only because of

The calm.


The trees blow in the building wind

More and more

The tiny creatures in them

Are blown about

Hanging on dearly to their lives

Hanging on to the tree

Before it overcomes them

And they are blown off

To land far away

Out of the calm

Exposed to nature

All alone

While I am in the calm

With the world slipping by.


It goes on without them

While the small patch I am in

Is safe and secure.



2008 Runner Up


Kings School, Harpenden, Herts


Sublime peace! If he shut his eyes, Jack could almost believe it . . . The late summer sunshine shone purely out of a cloudless sky, gently warming but not yet hot. The soft breeze drifted aimlessly across the meadow, scarcely ruffling the newspaper Jack had been reading moments before. The distant village church bells pealed their proclamation that this was Sunday. Nearer to Jack, the intermittent ‘coo-coo’ of wood pigeons entered his consciousness, harmonised by the constant murmur of insects, which occasionally caused him to flick lazily, almost absent mindedly, as something got too close.


But this was September 1940. Although still a meadow, this one was an airfield. As Jack returned from his brief reverie, so did the hum of conversation from his fellow fighter pilots around him, as some chatted, others read or wrote letters, and some, like him a moment before, just dozed. Again he took in the camouflaged Spitfires parked just a few metres away, the refuelling tankers, the hangers and buildings on the far side of what to him was still the meadow. Idly, Jack thought, ‘Since this was Sunday would the Germans give them the day off?’


Some hope! No sooner had the thought entered Jack’s head than the urgent clamour of the Squadron telephone abruptly grabbed everyone’s attention. ‘Scramble!’ The mad dash that followed was only to be expected. The gloomy smell of fuel and smoke drew upon them as they neared their planes and the mechanics began to start engines. Jack clambered into his Spitfire as it roared into life. The formation was set and they took off leaving Jack’s reverie and peace at the airfield fast disappearing below . . .


Jack’s engine screams in protest as the squadron strains to gain height. They must get the advantage of diving into the attack out of the sun. And then, there they are, the German bombers in mass formation below. Jack’s stomach knots. Beads of perspiration break out on his forehead. Instructions for the attack fill his earphones. Jack hears himself screaming with the others, ‘Tally Ho!’ They follow their leader into a steep, curving, power dive . . .


A German bomber fills Jack’s gun sights. He instantly presses the fire button. Eight cannons blast into action. His Spitfire judders at their rhythmic pounding. Jack pulls out of the dive. The bomber spins to earth, its fuselage shredded. Jack’s ears fill with the crackling mayhem of the fight around him. Shouts and warnings. ‘Watch your tail!’ ‘Break right’. Triumph and disaster. ‘Got ’im.’ ‘Leaders going down! Anyone see a parachute?’ The maelstrom of the battle around him; duck and weave, dive and shoot, twist and turn. Jack feels the thud of enemy gunfire on his plane. Oil splashes onto his canopy. But his aircraft still flies!


Then as suddenly as it had filled, the sky around Jack is empty. The dogfight is over. The enemy bomber formation scattered and shattered. Time to go home.