The Jan Crocker Cup

On 30 August 2009, one of Waterfront Writers’ founding members, long time Secretary and  active member, Jan Crocker, died.

Although we all knew that the day was coming, her demise left us floundering. Her absence from our Friday afternoon meetings has taken a long time to adjust to. When our then Chairman Terry Telford suggested an annual cup in her name, we all agreed that it would be a great way to commemorate her.

Jan had a love of words, be it poetry or story, playing with alliterations, homophones, and humour. Although people diagnosed with her particular terminal cancer don’t normally last beyond two years, Jan lasted seven. But she was more than ‘the lady with cancer’ as those who met her will always remember. She was optimistic, encouraging, interested in life, gave constructive criticism on someone’s reading of their work , and she tried to live in the Now.

The Cup is in recognition of the funny side of Jan and her poetry and prose. In 2010, all entries were poetry, and in 2011, they were prose. The category is preferably amusing, witty and, fun.

 

The Plymouth based Waterfront Writers group celebrate the end of each year with a
competition for its writers. This year writers were tasked to complete a piece of flash
fiction or a poem on the subject of ‘Hope’. The competition entries were judged by
the prestigious author and poet Joan Bryant. Joan is a good critical friend and
offered positive commentary on the standard of work, who said “I enjoyed reading
everyone’s contribution and they were all to be commended”. However, with each
competition there must be a winner, and this year’s winning entry came from Godfrey
Ackers with the following poem:
 
The JC cup  results for 2016 are as follows ;-
 
First – Godfrey Ackers , with a poem entitled “A Desire”.
 
This is where I want to be
On the land and on the sea.
In every leaf and every wave,
Making nonsense of the grave –
And knowing it.
 
Is it sufficient now to know
That that is where in time I go,
If then I shall not know I am
A smallest part of every gram –
Enjoying it?
 
Second – Nick Spargo. Nick’s entry is entitled  “The Somme 1919”. This poem is  about the teams of men, mostly soldiers or ex-soldiers who went back to the battlefields to recover the bodies still on the battlefield in makeshift graves or who had just been buried and see them interred in military cemeteries.  It was work that was horrific, as they knew that, every day, they would find more bodies of young men who had died too soon.
 
Third – Heather Grange. A story entitled “The Brochure”.  This short extract gives a flavour of the story. “Jo was undecided. Her thoughts returned to the Himalayas and the long deserted Australian roads where she and Ken had backpacked and to the promises they had made each other. Archer, an old friend had just returned. He told her what he’d seen and how he’d felt. Had it changed so much? Was it too late? Was it worth the money and time spent travelling? Whatever her decision she knew Ken would understand.”

2015 Winning Entry:

Pub Landlady of the Year

by Jack Horne

Kim shook her head and gazed around her pub lounge. Hard to believe it had once been full of people. Just two customers today! She forced a smile at George and William.

‘This year’s contest is about boomerangs,’ George said, sipping his pint. ‘They want a short story.’

‘Boomerangs?’ William took a long gulp of ale. ‘Any ideas?’

George shook his bald head. ‘The prize is ‘alf a million quid, so I really want to win it. I’ll get a nice young bird then.’
William sucked his teeth. ‘Well, I’m your pal so you’ll ’ave to share the prize with me.’

Kim yawned and flicked through her newspaper. Her eyes lit up when she spotted details of another competition: Pub Landlady of the Year. If she helped a penniless old man win a prestigious literary prize, just think of the publicity! She had to find some way of drumming up trade. She tottered out from behind the bar and fiddled with the juke box. She wiped a few tables and winked at the men. ‘Quiet today, innit? Perhaps they’ve gone to The Boomerang pub, eh?’

They nodded and continued to sip their beer.

The juke box juddered into action. Marc Bolan began to sing ‘Baby Boomerang’.

‘Anything come to you yet, love?’ Kim asked, wiggling her plump leopard-skinned bottom in time to the music. ‘Baby Boomerang, Baby Booomerang.’

‘No, nothing.’

William scratched his ginger toupee. ‘It is a difficult one, for sure. Easy if you’ve been to America, I suppose.’

Kim muttered under her breath. She flicked a duster over the curved piece of wood on the stone chimney breast. ‘Oh, look what I’ve just seen,’ she said, standing on a chair to reach for the object. ‘This is a boomerang.’

Both men chorused, ‘Is it?’

Kim nodded. ‘Dave’s auntie brought it back for me, when she won that holiday to Aussie land.’ She handed it to George.

He turned it over in his gnarled hands. ‘What’s it for?’

‘Oh, I know the answer to that.’ William grinned, showing his yellow teeth. ‘They throw ‘em.’ He took the boomerang and waved his arm. ‘Like this.’ Before Kim could stop him, he’d let go.

Her painted eyes huge, Kim watched as the boomerang circled the bar, smashed several glasses, and flew from the open window.

‘Oops, sorry.’ William’s plump face was very pink.

Kim sighed as she rushed to the door and stuck her spiky head out. The street outside was deserted. No cars, no people, and no sign of the boomerang. Well, at least it hadn’t smashed a window in the vicarage opposite. The vicar was dead dishy and he’d said such nice things at the funeral. (But he was Australian, after all. Maybe he would feel at home at the sight of a boomerang).

‘What’s the point of throwing them?’ George asked.

‘They’re supposed to come back,’ Kim said, sweeping up the broken beer glasses.

‘How would you know if it was your boomerang?’ William frowned. ‘If several people threw them at the same time, I mean. They could all go home with someone else’s.’

‘I expect they’re all different.’ Kim poured herself a large gin and tonic. She wasn’t supposed to, but she needed it. ‘Mine had an emu painted on it, for example.’

‘It looked like a turkey to me.’ George finished his drink and put the glass down, with a long sigh. Wiping his moustache with the back of his hand, he said, ‘Ready for another? I’ll pay you back when I win, Willy.’

‘Same again, please.’ William counted out his loose change as Kim pulled the pump handle. ‘Anyway, don’t be daft. They don’t have turkeys over there.’

George shook his head. ‘Course they do. They must ‘ave turkey on Christmas Day.’

‘They have Christmas lunch on the beach.’ William looked triumphant. ‘So it would have to be barbecued turkey and I still say they don’t have ‘em over there. They probably have’ – he tapped his fingers on the bar – ‘ostrich.’

Snorting, Kim placed the drinks on beer mats and thanked William for the handful of coins. ‘Perhaps farmers Down Under use their boomerangs to kill turkeys, eh?’ She added sotto voce, ‘Or pub landladies over there throw them at annoying old geezers.’ She took a deep breath and slowly counted to ten. ‘So, there must be loads of ideas in your head by now, George?’

‘Nope, my mind’s still blank.’

‘I was thinking of the aircraft,’ William said. ‘They were called Boomerangs.’ He straightened his toupee. ‘Or there were Boomerang cars. And I know a boomerang’s something technical to do with colours of a spotlight.’

Kim nodded. ‘Dave’s auntie told us the posh houses in Sydney are called Boomerangs. And also the youth football team is the Flying Boomerangs.’

William put in, ‘And some flag is known as the Boomerang, isn’t it? Can’t remember which one.’

‘It’s a roller coaster at a theme park in Mexico, called Six Flags.’ Kim finished her drink and poured herself another. She eyed the clock. Another ten minutes and her regular Sunday afternoon customers would leave to catch their bus. She’d be the only person in the pub. Maybe it really was time to sell up. Dave had reeled the punters in, but he was gone. She sniffed and wiped her eyes. Now her mascara would be halfway down her face. She’d tried but she couldn’t make it alone. George obviously wasn’t going to win the prize! He couldn’t even think of an idea, despite her prompts.

‘I’ve got it,’ George said, thumping the bar so loudly that William spilt his drink.

‘Yes?’ Kim and William waited breathlessly.

Just at that moment, a boomerang whooshed in through the open window. William ducked but the boomerang hit George full on the forehead. Thud! Kim swore loudly as, cross-eyed, George slipped from the bar stool. She’d never be Landlady of the Year now.

William hovered. ‘Is he…is he dead? Will I get the blame?’

Kim dropped to her knees beside George and felt for a pulse. Smiling with relief, she had a sudden brainwave. What publicity this could be. People would flock there. She’d change the name of the pub to ‘The Boomerang’…no, ‘The Aborigine and Boomerang.’ She would phone the paramedics, of course, but, first, the newspaper.

‘He’s alive but, yes, you will be in serious trouble, William. You could have killed him,’ she said as she thumbed through the telephone directory.

William studied the boomerang. ‘It’s not the same one. You said yours had an emu and this one has a kangaroo.’ He thrust it at her for examination. ‘Look.’

Yes, he was right. ‘Well, no one will believe it wasn’t the one you threw. Just agree with everything I say and you won’t go to jail, okay?’

‘Jail?’ His bloodshot eyes were huge.

‘Attempted murder. Everyone knows George owes you money. He hasn’t bought a round of drinks in years. You’d get years inside, even for manslaughter.’ This was so wrong, but she was desperate. She smiled like a kindly aunt. ‘Now, I have a plan. Okay?’

Wringing his toupee in his trembling hands, William nodded.

‘Hello. News hotline? I’m the landlady of what’s currently known as the Dear Beer pub. A ghost of an Aborigine has just appeared. He threw a boomerang at an elderly gent’s head and knocked him out cold. This was witnessed by myself and another customer.’ Kim paused dramatically and crossed herself. ‘My late husband’s aunt recently bought the boomerang and I believe the evil spirit followed her back…’

A tall, curly-haired man poked his head around the door. ‘G’day to you.’

‘Afternoon, vicar.’ Kim sighed and dropped the telephone receiver down with a loud crash.

‘I think you’ve got my boomerang.’ Smiling, the Reverend Dingo waved a curved piece of wood. ‘Not yours, by any chance? It seemed to come from here.’ Before Kim could answer, he strode up to her and clasped her hand. ‘We have so much in common. Will you have tea with me soon? Tomorrow afternoon?’

Ah, the answers to her prayers. Kim fluttered her eyelashes and then screamed a warning…
Too late!

‘I’m not going to prison for you, pal,’ William shouted as he snatched the boomerang and clubbed the Reverend Dingo with it.

George sat up, rubbing his head. ‘Can’t remember my story idea.’

The Reverend Dingo’s dark wig flew off during the boomerang attack and landed on George. William’s toupee followed.

‘Aaaarghh. Rats!’ George yelled, struggling to his feet. ‘This place should be shut down. I’m going to the Boomerang pub in future. I’ll probably get inspiration for a story there!’ He slammed the door behind him.

As Kim watched William retrieve his toupee and also leave, she realised she’d have to close the pub. She studied the unconscious vicar. She didn’t fancy him without the wig. It really had been a mistake to batter her Dave to death with that bloody boomerang!

2014 Winning Entry.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Singer

by Jack Horne

 
They sent her off to outer space
And told her, ‘Practice there.’
They couldn’t bear her screeching voice;
She thought she sung with flair.
A friendly spacecraft picked her up
As she was floating round;
They thought she was a lovely girl
But couldn’t stand the sound.
Her Casta Diva truly dire;
Her Vissi d’arte sad;
She dreamed she’d be a superstar
But drove the space crew mad.
They dropped her off and shot away –
I guess she’s drifting still,
Attempting tone deaf Un bel di,
Unheard, her voice as shrill.
Alone, she hits the highest notes
But no one has to hear;
They know she may return some day:
The music lovers’ fear.
But till that day our singer wails;
And here on Earth all peace prevails.

 

2013 Winning entry.

CAGED
by Cally Hill

He had had something taken away from him. Something special, something priceless, something without which his life wasn’t worth living. Nothing could replace it. He pined day and night and cried himself to sleep. Every day he walked the corridors, waiting, waiting to see if he would be given a reprieve. But no such joy came to him. Rather than seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, he was heading for a darker place. Much darker. Then one day a stranger with whom he had only bid a passing hallo gave him a gift. The stranger was a kind person, thoughtful and caring, but she had no idea how much her gift was going to help him. He received the present with a slight spark of joy. He could not allow himself to feel more than that due to his unhappy situation. The gift was a small soft toy. It was a little dog with a label saying ‘Snoopy – it’s a comical world’. The little dog was white in colour with black ears, a round black nose and two small black eyes. It stood upright with short front legs and paws striped black to indicate imaginary claws. The hind legs were longer and also had black stripes to pass for individual claws. It wore a red collar with a little loop of cord to which a lead he could imagine might be attached. There were two black stripes which could just be made out for eyebrows. He named his new friend ‘Snoops’. Snoops had a black patch on his back in the shape of a leaf and a small white tail. When he flattened the ears back Snoops looked a bit like Captain Biggles and he decided it would be a good idea to find a small flying jacket for him, together with goggles. Snoops came into his life just at the right time – a critical time, when he was about to be moved on to an even darker place, darker than he could ever have imagined. At first he put Snoops on his bed and left him there but gradually he began to sense loneliness in his little friend so he started to carry him about on his person. Soon Snoops was to accompany him everywhere.

One day his captors took him on a journey and he made a plan to escape. He placed Snoops carefully in a small bag he carried with him and when they stopped for a break he broke off and ran. He was caught. That night he was incarcerated in an isolation cell and his bag taken off him. He worried about Snoops. How would he be feeling in the dark in the bag all on his own. The next morning his bag was returned to him and he breathed a sigh of relief to find Snoops still there and unharmed. Snoops proved to be a faithful friend, accompanying him by day and soaking up his tears at night. He spoke to Snoops about his unhappy circumstances, about the meaning of life and the meaningless void. Snoops listened intently. He knew he could not replace what his human friend had lost, but he did his best to ease the suffering. Gradually through stroking and cuddles Snoops began to take on the feelings of his owner and acquire them for himself. He became a thinking, feeling being with all the needs that went with such a state of existence. He became fully conscious and took on an intelligence far in advance of his years. The two friends listened to music and watched television together. Snoops sat quietly and patiently while his owner was reading or writing poetry and stories. At one point the man who had been reduced to a shadow of his former self began to feel guilt that he was replacing his love for that which he had lost. He was giving Snoops the love that he had always placed elsewhere. But deep in his heart he could not give up hope that one day he and the thing that he cared most for in the world would be reunited. The voices in his head and forces of evil tried to convince him that there could be no reunion, that all hope of a return to his former life was now impossible. His captors would never free him and he was doomed to an everlasting tortuous state of being. He began to worry that he might be forced to destroy Snoops, to chuck him in the dustbin and desert him in order to have his life given back to him. He imagined himself doing this and questioned how he could live with himself if he was to be placed in a situation where he would have little choice but to hurt Snoops. He could not give up on the precious thing he had lost and yet questioning whether he could throw away Snoops because of this left him with an intolerable amount of guilt. He could not bear the thought that he might be capable of even considering abandoning his long lost treasure. His fears around these intrusive thoughts bordered on paranoia and his mental state began to deteriorate so that his captors could just confirm the opinions they had held about him in the first place. He did not, however, could not regret meeting Snoops and forming this new friendship.

Having one’s freedom taken away does, in time, do strange things to the mind. First there is the indignance, the natural fight of the soul to demand release of the body. This boils into anger, then to tears and what follows is a retreat into oneself, a journey of self discovery. It is a make or break situation. He and Snoops were travelling companions on this journey and they laughed and cried together. There were long and very natural silences. Snoops, despite his fully conscious existence, did not have the power of speech and this is what made him such a beautiful soul to be around, as all animals without such faculties are. One day his captors came and took Snoops from him. Their reasoning revolved around issues of too much dependence on a fluffy toy. He was devastated. They locked Snoops away in a cupboard in the dark and the man cried for three days solidly. He then had a choice, whether to pick himself up for the sake of that which he had lost, or whether to fall apart forever. He chose to cope, to fight through the darkness in order to be reunited with his true life.

On the day of his release he packed his bags and was returned his property. Snoops, however, had gone missing. At first he panicked. Then he pinned his hopes on the possibility that maybe Snoops had escaped. He was not just a toy. He was a clever, thinking, feeling animal. He hoped with all his heart that Snoops was safe and well. The time came for him to leave. The sun was shining brightly in the sky. He took a cab to Abergavenny and got on a train, then changed twice to get to Plymouth. Another cab, this time to the local kennels. He stood in reception and waited. Five minutes passed and a woman walked in with a dog wagging its tail furiously. Socks leapt up to greet him and knocked him over, licking his face madly. He had never felt such joy in his life.

2012 winning entry.

BUTTERFLY WINGS
By Sarah Boulton-Way

Whispered wings alight and wait
To nestle ‘neath the petals sweet,
And clutch at nectar deep within,
A kissing for her fettered skin.
Flit she to another flower
But halt she in arachnid’s spell,
Caught within its gossamer
All the love I spun for her.
Struggle she as conscience dies
Her translucence dims my eyes.
Pawn those wings to Pitcher Plant
Hear her tears – see her rant
Lay her colours out to dry
Neath the soltan’s firey hour.
Decadence now cast those wings
Down to where the river sings

 

2011 Winning story.

Ghost Story
by Terence Telford.

Evening wears on. The abandoned house creaks. Spiders congregate in the corners of the skirting boards, grumbling together. Crowds of flies swarm on the window panes, quietly, unhappily buzzing. Henry the ghost sits, disconsolate, on the staircase, elbows on knees, chin in hands. No-one has entered the house at night for at least nine months, and the forces of darkness are still waiting to terrify unsuspecting humans.

Henry got to his feet, which were clad in bloody plimsolls, and scuffed the dusty floorboards. His blood-stained clothes and body bore witness to the frenzied knife attack with which his wife had dispatched his life four years ago. She had buried his body in the cellar and had surprisingly got away with it. And Henry decided to semi-materialise, partly to try to bring his case before the public eye, and partly to have some fun. But he forgot that the estate agent only showed potential buyers round the house during the daytime, when Henry’s transparent spectre was at its least impressive. And now that the house stubbornly refused to attract a buyer, Catherine began to wonder if there was some sinister reason why she couldn’t realise the full value of the house which was hers now. Several potential buyers had viewed the property during the day (when Henry and the spiders were sleeping quietly in the cellar), but the agents all reported a feeling of un-ease in their clients. Now, after she had finished work in the insurance office, Catherine decided to have a look for herself. Perhaps she might even visit the cellar.

A click of the garden gate suddenly alerted Henry to the approach of a longed for visitor. He sprang to the window and saw his wife, the killer, approaching. She was carrying a large battery operated torch. He leapt for joy, forgetting his weightlessness and banging his head on the ceiling. Calling out to the spiders and flies, he bade them hold their fire, and withdrew to a dark corner himself, thankful that there was no heavy breathing to give him away. Catherine opened the door with her key and immediately started coughing from the dust which had been dislodged from the ceiling. But she thought nothing of it. She shone the torch on the door to the cellar stairs. No sign of disturbance, she thought. She had not meant to, but the only thing she wanted to do was inspect the cellar and the paving stones under which Henry had been bundled. Gingerly she started down the creaking steps leading to the cellar. There were no marks on the dusty steps (well, there wouldn’t be would there? Hector being a ghost, he made no marks with his ghostly feet, but for some reason his head still felt pain, and inflicted damage when struck against a hard object). Cobwebs abounded. She hated spiders and cobwebs, but forced herself on. In the centre of the room stood a large iron and metal mesh table, the old Morrison shelter, left over from the Second World War. Underneath that shelter were the paving stones, her dead husband’s roof, and she had to inspect.

The shelter was heavy, but Catherine was a strong girl and managed to slide it to one side. When she looked she was horrified to see that the paving stones were not there, just a hole, empty, and accusing. Then all at once she was confronted by Henry, smiling, with an army of large hairy spiders at his side and a swarm of noisy flies hovering over his head. Catherine dropped the torch into the hole and without thinking jumped into the hole to retrieve it.
“Must have been some sort of hallucination” she thought as she brushed the dust off her coat and prepared to climb out of the hole. But the spiders crowded down into the pit and she became quite paralysed with terror at the sensation of their busy legs crawling up her stockings. Henry looked down at his wife and smiled.
“Hello little Cath” he said, “So you couldn’t keep away from the place.”

She made herself look up to where these words emanated, and there he was, large as life, only a see-through version. She thought of pinching herself out of this horrible dream, but remembered that when you are dreaming, you can’t pinch yourself. The spiders climbed higher and higher up her legs. She bent down to brush them off, but Henry told her not to harm them, or he would order them to bite.
“Please tell them to go away.” she said. Catherine couldn’t believe she had just spoken to a ghost, and started to wonder about laser imagery. The flies, bored at not joining in the fun, started to buzz louder and louder, a great cloud of them surrounded Catherine’s head and she screamed. The flies called across to Henry asking what they should do now, and the spiders had halted in their ascent, uncertain how far to go.

Henry sat down on the edge of the hole and scratched his head. Well, he wiggled his fingers over where he thought his scalp should be, but he was disappointed in feeling no sensation.
“Tell you what I’ll do,” he said, “I’ll call all my little friends off and let you go, if you promise to give yourself up to the police. It’s not a bad bargain. You will have a little notoriety and spend seven years being well looked after in a modern, well appointed jail. Or you can be slowly eaten by my spiders and flies, right where you stand, shaking from head to toe I see.” Henry thought for a minute, then added “If you break your promise, I will leave this rather dull cellar and follow you at night, wherever you are, for the rest of your tormented days.” There, thought Henry, that felt better.

Catherine took only a few minutes to say she promised, on the Bible, on Uncle Charles’ garden fork, that she would go round at once to the local police station. Her tear stained face, her look of terror and supplication convinced Henry that she meant what she said and he ordered the flies to retreat to the window panes and the spiders to withdraw to the skirting boards. Obligingly, Henry silently went upstairs to the box room he used as a refuge, and Catherine picked up her torch, scrambled up over the cellar steps and out of the house as fast as her shaking legs would carry her.

But Henry waited for the signs that Catherine had carried out her promise in vain. No police detectives came to cordon off the house with red tape. No-one entered to investigate the truth or otherwise of this perhaps mad woman’s story. Henry knew that his threat of following Catherine across the country was empty: he was tied to the house where he had died. And so he realised, after long hard soul searching, that Catherine’s visit must have been a dream!

 

2010 Winning entry.

NURSERY FARM
by Joan Bryant
The sheep are all in lamb
And the shippen’s full of sheep:
Once the shippen’s loud with lambs
I’ll be one up on Bo-peep.
The heifers are in calf –
They’ll be in labour soon:
When the cowshed heaves with calves
I’ll jump right over the moon.
The sows are ready to farrow:
Once the barn’s honeycomb
Of pens overflows with piglets
I’ll “we-hee” all the way home.
The white brood mare is restless,
So into the stable she goes:
When she has dropped her foal
I’ll dance with bells on my toes.
The sheepdog’s ready to whelp:
Once her kennel’s overrun
With tumbling, squealing puppies,
I’ll laugh to see such fun.
The cat is ready to kindle
Upon the kitchen mat:
When she litters the kitchen with kittens,
It’s a queen I’ll be looking at.
The farm is breeding and teeming:
We’re always on the go.
Macdonald and I are weary:
Ee-i ee-i o.