The Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the inaugural Tetbury Goods Shed Young People’s Writing Competition. And our sincere thanks to everyone who entered. The standard and variety of the submissions impressed our judges greatly and made it all the harder to choose a winner in each category.

After much deliberation they agreed that the deserving winners of this year’s competition for stories, poems or essays on the topic of The Perfect Day are:

Age 7-12 Years – Winner: Seth Kilburn-Bond (10) for “Rockpool Life”. Highly commended: Eva Edgecombe (9) for “Sledging for Gold”

Age 13-16 YearsWinner: Elise Davies for “Perfect Enough”. Highly Commended: Arwen Borthwick-Hunter for “Perfect Vengeance”.

Age 17-21 Years – Winner: Ellie Sanders for “The Perfect Day”

Each will receive a prize of up to £30 in vouchers to spend in The Yellow-Lighted Bookshops in Tetbury and Nailsworth. We will present them with their vouchers when restrictions on “non-essential” retailers (as if bookshops are non-essential!) are lifted.

We also extend our grateful thanks to the judges for working together across continents and time zones: Christine Berry, who is a Goods Shed Trustee and former teacher and has been a selector for the BBC Radio 2 ‘Five Hundred Words’ Award; Phil Kirby, who runs our writers’ group at the Goods Shed, and Annie Hooper, author and journalist. And finally thanks also to the competition coordinator, Carol Paton, for making it all happen.

The winning entries

Here are the winners, telling us about their entries. Click on each title to read their winning submission and find out what inspired them to write it.

Because I love going to Cornwall and rockpooling, I decided to write my story as if I am a rockpool which I thought would be an interesting way to look at the prospect of what a perfect day is. When I was in Year 4, I wrote a short story as if I was a volcano and I liked the effect of this so I thought I would write something similar. For Christmas, I had a book on rockpooling so I used that to help me with information about the different animals and plants.

Rockpool Life

Only my fingertips break the waves; I am almost completely submerged. Intently, I watch a large black goby looking for a place to hide in my midriff. The father lasher who has been hunting on my belly tries to swallow it but soon gives up. Dappled sunlight streams in, illuminating the brown body and whiskers of a mischievous five-bearded rockling.

Gradually, I begin to feel the pull of the outgoing tide, stroking my barnacle cloaked fingers and exposing my rocky nose. Waves crash against me, daring me to move but I don’t. I can’t. I just sit and wait for my favourite part of the day.

Hours later, I am completely exposed and basking in the warm, afternoon sunshine. I feel the light tickle of a hermit crab on my cheek and touch the beauty of a tiny cushion star. I can hear the excited mumble of rock poolers getting louder as they come to discover the magical collection that thrives all over me.

The limpets and clingfish sense them coming first. I feel one of their spades rub comfortably on my shoulder and another pops the bladder wrack growing out of my nose. Silently, I thank the rock pooler who pulls a huge clot of japweed out of one of my many crevices. This foreign intruder of a plant has been bothering me all week. A net is lowered into the water, no doubt they are after the blenny, resting a few centimetres away. Whoosh! The net swoops forward just as the blenny rockets into the shadows. I cheer its escape and chuckle every time one of the rock poolers tries and fails to catch anything more exciting than a shrimp.

The youngest rock pooler goes hunting for snails and is surprised when one moves a little too fast! He puzzles over it for a while but I know he won’t be able to resist it. Laughing, I watch as he picks it up and peers into the shell, suddenly dropping it again when the tiny, naked hermit crab pops its head out and waves its panicked claws around.

Splash!

‘Argh!’ Although the now wave-drenched rock pooler is cold and upset, I feel suddenly excited because this means the tide has turned and soon I will be enveloped by the warm embrace of the sea.

As darkness falls, the blue moon begins its reign and heralds the end of my perfect day. Later tonight, I will be uncovered once again but this time, only the stars that scatter across the sky will see which wonders have chosen me as their trusty harbour. For now though, I am tucked up under a blanket of water, with just my fingertips breaking the waves.

Seth Kilburn-Bond, aged 10
19 February 2020.


I’m a book enthusiast in Year 9, who enjoys cycling and 80s pop music! This story might not fit into conventional ideas about perfection, but I wanted to show how a seemingly normal situation might be different under the surface, and the small (but important!) sacrifices people make for loved ones.

Perfect Enough

Rowdy voices shouted around her. Alex sat, hunched over her textbook, staring blankly at a page on the nervous system which she already knew by heart. Lines of text floated in her head, intermingled with the occasional chant of ‘It’s-not-fair-it’s-not-fair-it’s-not-fair’. She dragged her eyes up to the clock on the wall. 3:15.

This morning, Alex had bounced into school, brimming with excitement that had been building for weeks. Year Eleven was going on a trip to Thorpe Park, as a well-deserved break from their studies. Everyone was restless. However, just as Alex was about to board the coach with her best friend, Kalaya, she was stopped by her science teacher. Mrs Beckett informed her that she’d only scored 15% on the recent science mocks, clearly a result of ‘poor effort and lack of revision’. Which was ridiculous: she and Kal had spent hours agonising over all the elements!

Cutting through her protests, Mrs Beckett had announced that she would forgo the trip to revise instead…

And so Alex was abandoned at the back of a – horror of horrors –Year 7 class. There she’d sat the entire morning, besieged with questions of why she was here, what she was doing, and whether she thought Evie or Ashley was taller. After sitting alone at a table for lunch, she’d reluctantly returned to the classroom for another endless two hours. And all of this while her friends had fun at a theme park.

“Hey – you can go now.”

Evie poked her, and Alex started out of her brooding. It was 3:25 – finally! Scooping up her bag, she scurried out of the classroom. Maybe she could escape before her classmates came back, bursting to relate how fantastic their day was.

But when she stepped outside, she saw the coach had already arrived. Year Elevens teemed around it, chatting and laughing elatedly. Kal spotted her and ran over, looking concerned.
“Alex!” she exclaimed. “Why on earth didn’t you come? You missed so much, like-” She faltered at the sight of Alex’s gloomy face.

“Actually,” she said tactfully, “Alex Everett was sick everywhere on the coach, and you can imagine what that smelt like.” Alex smiled half-heartedly; it was nice of Kal to try and lift her mood, but she would have given anything to go, even if it meant sitting right next to Everett.

Then it clicked. Alex Evans. Alex Everett. Ignoring Kal’s bewildered look, she marched right up to Everett, a slight athlete who was mucking around with his mates.

“Hey – Alex Everett!” He broke off his sentence and turned. “Just curious, what did you get on those science mocks?” His face split into a wide grin.

“Oh, you heard? I got 86%. Crazy, huh? And I didn’t even revise!”
Alex turned on her heel and left.

As she walked home she didn’t notice the honking cars, green-tipped trees, or the sky streaked with colour. She was filled from head to toe with a black rage.
How did they make that mistake? Hadn’t they realised something was wrong? Why hadn’t she thought of getting Kal to confirm she’d revised? And again and again, a manic mantra: so, so, so unfair. Of course, she could reveal the school’s mistake. They’d be very apologetic. But what Alex really wanted was someone to moan to, just someone who would listen.
Alex arrived in front of her house, a small brick building with worn curtains, and hurried inside.

“You won’t believe what-” Alex stopped abruptly. It was pandemonium in their cramped living-room. Her two younger brothers were yelling over the blare of the television and battering at each other with pillows. Meanwhile, her dad was trying frantically to calm a distraught baby Sasha, clear up after the boys and get dinner sorted. However, his strained face relaxed into a smile when he saw Alex.

“Hi, darling! So, Thorpe Park- how was your day?”

Alex opened her mouth, then stopped. She looked at her dad. She saw the lines etched into his skin. She saw the bags under his eyes. She saw the worries that leeched the colour from his hair and the strength from his bones: that he couldn’t act as a mum and a dad, that his children would always be held back by his low income, and his guilt for sometimes wanting to walk out of there.

And Alex stretched a smile across her face, and started helping him clear up.

“Perfect.”

Elise Davies

“Throughout this pandemic, writing has allowed me to express the emotions I have felt during this rollercoaster year. Before coronavirus, I was in a really positive place; enjoying sixth form with a great set of friends and huge dreams for the future. When the pandemic first hit, I had no idea quite how much it would impact life. My A-Level exams have been cancelled, my travelling plans have been put on hold and I haven’t seen anyone other than my parents and neighbours for months. It seems crazy to look back at life before and part of me struggles to comprehend that we still live in the same world as we did then.

 “I think that this pandemic has taught people to appreciate the little things and begin to realise what life is really all about. In my piece, I wanted to encapsulate this feeling of living in another world to before and emphasise the importance of acknowledging the good things in life. It looks at ‘The Perfect Day’ as something that we have only just been able to recognise because of how life has changed – we don’t realise what we have until we no longer have it. I want people to read my piece and reflect on how they viewed life before the pandemic, compared to how they view life now and how they intend to live when lockdown restrictions are lifted. People are free to interpret my writing how ever they like; I simply hope that they find it thought-provoking, honest and optimistic.”

The Perfect Day

As unrest persists, we seek better days.

We look back at our lives before

Desperately banging on the door they sit behind,

Begging to be let back in.

We squint through the letterbox

Frantically seeking a sight,

A sniff,

A sound

Of life before.

  

We are torn between looking forward to the future

And yearning for the past.

We plead with time

Apologise for every second we let slip,

Every moment of joy we failed to catch

Because we did not savour our happiness;

Our freedom. 

  

We did not savour the sweet taste of company

Or the reassuring touch of another.

We were so blind to our blessings

And now

We wish and pray and seek

For the perfect day.

   

Amidst the chaos

Amidst the time spent trapped in our own heads

Amidst the darkness we find ourselves in

We have finally started to see

The fragility of life,

The fragility of those moments,

The fragility of laughter

And love.

  

Einaudi put it simply,

“It is only when we become aware that our time is limited that we can channel our energy into truly living”.

So whilst some march their made path

And others find comfort in the unknown,

Neither stop to ask

‘What is it we are truly searching for?’

   

Perhaps you have lived your perfect day

Without even realising.

Perhaps we only appreciate things once they are no longer ours.

Once we complained about the little things.

Now we see

That our needs are simple;

Our joys easy.

  

After this darkness is lifted

And light returns,

After the door to life before reopens

Maybe then we will live our perfect days

And recognise every single one.

We won’t let them slip away like we once did.

We will catch the smiles

Soak up the laughter.

We will live life

Free of care

And with gratitude close.

  

These days are not perfect.

But perfect days are coming.

Highly Commended


After the snowfall in January, I really enjoyed the sledging, when we finally got the opportunity to use our family sledge properly. The previous attempt had been a let-down after my father had failed to remember to polish the rails of the sledge, resulting in rather sluggish performance!

Sledging for Gold

I close my eyes and run my fingers down the smooth, sweet-scented wooden edges of my family sledge, taking a long breath in of the brand new polish that my parents used to smarten it up the previous evening by the fire. Now, in streaked blue lettering and white flames licking around the corners, my name can be seen, staring up into the deep blue sky. I hastily slump onto the far edge of the sled, where it still bears my own teeth marks from when I was three years old, when I first found my love for sledging. In my slumber, tiredness gets the better of me, and I stumble into a daze.

I’m at an imposing hill, where great gatherings of people are standing, some sledging, some chatting, and some dog walking. It’s only then that I spot my three-year-old self, knee deep in snow, in a bright pink furry snow suit. I’m laughing, clapping, and screaming with delight as my parents whizz down the giant hill. When they eventually tug the sled back up again, they are rosy cheeked and giggling so much that my younger self just felt the need to sledge too. I cautiously stepped onto it, my mum holding my hand and squeezing it tight. Once safely seated, I take my thumb out of my mouth and clumsily push off. I race down, my tiny hands clinging on to the sides hard. When I’m up at the top again, I shriek “More, More, More!” The real me smiles at this memory.

“Wake up, the race is about to start,” the speakers blare in my ears deafeningly.

Now I remember. I’m just about to represent the whole of the UK in a sledging championship. I’m sporting a Union Jack suit and the worldwide contestants are all giving me the evil-eye. They’re lowering my spirits and I feel like a wilting flower inside.

Suddenly, the speakers deliver the words I’ve been waiting for.

“ON YOUR MARKS,”I bite my lip in concentration, “GET SET…,”I brace myself for the knockout word.

“GO!”

I kick off and hurtle down the pearly white hill, my dark blonde hair streaming, and my heart soaring. I feel as if I am floating. All of my fellow villagers are down below, and they have all come to watch me. It could have been the strongest athlete that was chosen, but instead it was me. Me. Everything after this is a blur. Without warning, the Russian sled zips past and shouts something in Russian I don’t understand. I groan in frustration. A few sleds and riders have been tossed out of the race. I’m sure it is only me, the guy from Russia, and a few others. I’m 2nd. I keep on going for what seems like hours, bumping and spinning all over the place. Now I’m starting to feel hopeful. Beginning to relax a little, I see two things that stand out. Firstly, I can see the Russian sledge, and secondly, I can make out a crowd of people through the mist. Steering a little to the right, a pile of rocks comes into view. Maybe I could fly over the pebbles and reach the finish line, a little voice in my head says. This could be a sparkling success, but it could also go horribly wrong. My legs turn to jelly, and in my minds eye, I picture myself flying over the stones and beaming as I cross the finish. It works spectacularly. I zoom through the fog and land with a thump. We’re neck and neck now, and I’m getting more tense by the second. There it is – the line. I can’t fail now, please… Maybe I can do this. For a moment I imagine a big silver trophy sitting on my desk back home. I put all of my strength, determination, and hope into my last move. I cross the line. I don’t believe it. I’ve won!

The villagers tackle me in a hug. I grasp the silver trophy just in time to see the Russians booing us all and then trudging off. I don’t mind. Today, I’ve made my family and friends proud. I’ve also made myself proud. It just proves I can do anything, if my heart is in it. We party off in a big parade, ready to enjoy the rest of our perfect day.

“I like to write stories that are twisted and unusual. It gives me an opportunity to break from reality and create a new world where anything is possible. My entry is a fictional piece of writing in the form of a monologue.”

Perfect Vengeance

Everyone has their own definition of perfection. For some an organised room, for others one hundred percent on a test is their dream of perfection. I knew that perfection came in many different forms however, I never knew mine would involve you. As well as a definition of perfection everyone has a craving. It could change or it could be the same day in day out. Yet again I never knew mine would change from a simple desire of a second chance to something way more wicked. It’s these traits which make us human, that make us similar to one another. Everyone has simple dreams and desires and we all expect them to be normal. So, we fit into our little fairytale society. Well, I’m done being society’s puppet. I no longer want to be held by strings and told what to do day in day out. I want my own perfect day. Where people notice me, where I am not stuck in my mother’s shadow. Who knows, maybe one day that might happen. But until that magical perfect day arrives, I am stuck in an unbearable hell. Where perfection is expected.

There is no need for me to tell you about the sad past of my life. The future is where it gets interesting. When you were little, adults would always ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up. You probably said a fireman, or a princess. If so, your answer bores me. Why be something so simple? Well, you didn’t have much choice being princess did you. Following mummy and daddy’s rules like an obedient little dog. No, my future is going to be different. It is not written in stone. People are going to remember me, not for my brains or my heroism. No, no they will remember me as powerful. But look at me prattling on about my life I haven’t stopped to ask you about yours. Well? Oh, that’s right you’re afraid of me. I understand, I really do. Is it the way I am living up to my mother’s image? Well, I am glad I do! Honestly thank you for showing me who I really am. I just wish I could see the look on your face right now. Shame. You’re missing out on watching the monster you created take shape. Now I understand the power I have. I can’t wait to show you what you created.

Now do you see how society really is! They abandon you to fend for yourself. I mean you are the only one here apart from me. Shame. It really is a shame. I wanted someone to be here to witness my perfect day and the only one left is you. Everyone else just couldn’t survive the fun. All I wanted to do was to have my perfect day and send society a message. God, I feel like I am speaking to myself, I know you’re in here though. Come on, you’re boring me now. How about this. We make a deal. I will tell you why I kept you, and only you, alive and you come out and listen. No. well I guess I will just have to find you. After you told everyone my mother was a villain. You ruined my second chance. Actually, my first chance. I could have turned out different. Nothing like my mother. But here we are my perfect day has arrived, and I will let you in on a little secret princess. What I desire, more than anything in the world, is revenge. You wouldn’t understand. Oh, but God does it taste sweet. It’s on the tip of my tongue like your desperation for help. Well princess no one is here now. There is no prince to save you. Well, there was. He was just not very good at his job.

So, now you understand my idea of perfection. It was never really to have revenge on you. What you did was a mistake and I forgive you for that. Oh, you should have seen your face just then. Of course, I will never forgive you, you turned me into a monster! It’s time to make history sweetheart. You will be the first ever princess to not be saved by your perfect prince. Oops, I gave away my plan. Well, you must have known it was coming. Here’s to perfect revenge, princess.