(600 words) I was a schoolboy at St Paul’s when the incident I’m about to relate occurred. I was one of a small number of boarders – my parents were ‘swingers’ (as we’d now call them). Not that I knew that at the time, of course. They just said they had ‘business to attend to,’ so I was packed off to St Pauls for months at a time. Anyway, it was a quiet Saturday in May, and I’d gone down to the kitchens to fetch some milk for a pot of tea I’d just made. There was Sally, the kitchen maid, with her arms up to her plump elbows in a sink full of washing up. “Hello, Sally, what’s that smell?” I asked. There was an unpleasant odour, not unlike the dreaded boiled cabbage, cooked to death, served up four times a week.
(1000 words) It was in my eighth year, shortly before my birthday, that my mother took me to live with her mother, Françoise, in Woodhall Spa. In my perception, we were one moment walking along the beach in Skegness, past huge black rocks like giant Tourmaline tumblestones, that I later learned were to stop the sand from being eroded, and the next, we were beside my grandmother’s swimming pool, the clear water azure and alluring. At that time, I did not recognise we had crossed a border between worlds. I was soon enrolled at St. Cuthbert’s, a private school for girls, situated within acres of green lawns, cricket and football pitches and its own private woodland, where small-leaved limes rubbed shoulders with the wild service tree and where a little wooden pergola displayed a plaque dedicated to the school’s founder. “Christiana, you and Anne are to share a tent.” So said Brother Joseph, a teacher I disliked on account of his yellow eyes and spots, like boils, that seemed to cover his cheeks. I was ten years old now, aware of changes in my body that I didn’t completely understand. We were camping in the school arboretum over the weekend. It was June and it seemed like summer would never end. I looked over to Anne and we both smiled. “OK.”