Winners chosen for Ely Writers’ Day

Ely Writer's Dayn 2017

Ely Writer's Dayn 2017 - Credit: Archant

Writers from the district gathered for Ely Writers’ Day in the city library to hear a series of speakers on the subject of writing with a chance to meet and share information about the literary world.

The event is part of the Isle of Ely Arts Festival.

Among the speakers were well-known local novelist Alison Bruce and Deputy Mayor Mike Rouse.

At the end of the day the Mayor, Councillor Richard Hobbs, gave out the prizes to the winners of the short story competition.

First prize Lorna Hoey ‘Fugitive of the Fen’; second prize Jan Kaneen ‘Bagsy Bogsy’; third prize Mark Bartholomew ‘The Watchful’.

Highly recommended were Dominic O’Sullivan ‘King of the Skies’, Wendy Rolph ‘At Peace’; Jennifer Bedford ‘Fenland Beauty’; Imogen Arthur ‘Now we are Free’; Tessa Ogden ‘First Step’; Joy Lennick ‘Deadly Impact’.

• Fugitive in the Fen by Lorna Hoey.

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Gaudy bands of colour streak the sky above the leafless willows. The air’s turning chill; the tops of the willows sigh gently, swaying in time to the cool gusts that whisper across the dyke and trace pathways in the sedge.

The sky is so bright it dazzles all the way down to a half-saucer of light that’s sinking below the damson-coloured horizon.

He’s out there somewhere.

The water beneath my feet is a cold band of white silk. Only at the bank, under the hoops of old brambles, is there the smallest of ripples. The sun dips lower now; the colours deepen from a clear orange to magenta and spread outwards to violet-purple and an inky blue-black. The willows quiver, their tall whippy branches a scribble of black calligraphy against the gleam.

I strain to hear his footstep, wait for that cautious press of dry grasses. Crouch in low, so I’ll get him against the skyline. Silently I switch on the night-sight, scope around for any movement.

The sun is a sliver of white. Minute by minute, the colours dilute and spread outwards.

Now the wind is getting up and the willows begin to tremble and vibrate to its beat.

A kingfisher darts from the brambles with a thin whistle and disappears down-river, its silent, swooping flight startling a blackbird who releases a sharp alarm call and flies away across the darkening fen.

There - a shape in the reeds. I track him with the night-vision binoculars. He’s up, looking round. He’s seen me. No, he’s moving this way.

The water’s surface is ruffled now. It tinkles over the stony part where the brambles dip. There’s too much noise; I listen hard but I know I won’t hear him.

A bunch of fibres - old stems, oak leaves - swirls against the brambles where it is held captive. The sound of the water mesmerises; gently, sleepily, gurgling between the banks.

A sudden breeze and a clink of stones. I think he’s somewhere behind me now. My finger’s on the trigger and I’m ready.

The water is beginning to scramble throatily round corners. A stick twirls in the eddies under the bank but it fights its way out and is gone with the rest.

All at once the wind drops. There’s a rustling on the opposite bank and I line up the cross-hairs for my target. Here we go…but it’s a moorhen, journeying to meet another.

They softly scuttle around each other, then fly up and away across the fen, leaving behind a deep silence pierced only by the settling-down chirping of roosting birds.

I know he’s close. The reeds are moving yet there’s no wind. Then I hear it again – the sharp rattle of stones.

I wriggle round and he’s right in front of me, his white throat luminous in the deepening dusk. A beautiful full-grown male otter, he’s tossing around a small stone like a child. Slowly I take aim, and the camera shutter clicks.