As mentioned before, Amber and I have both written stories for the Bexley “BookBuzz” Literary Festival Short Story Competition.
Millie did, too, but sadly decided not to enter because she thought her story wasn’t good enough).
I wasn’t going to enter either, but freelance work is currently a bit thin on the ground, so I did – just to keep my hand in.
The only criteria for entries were a 500-word limit and at least one mention of Bexley.
Let me know which one you prefer.
The Tale of the Forest
One February afternoon, Eva was walking through Joydens Wood in Bexley on her own. She was a 12-year-old girl who had just had an argument with her older brother.
She was sitting on a muddy wooden log snapping sticks and chucking them into the mud. Her hands were getting sore from breaking the sticks so she decided to start walking.”stupid brother”, whispered Eva. It was starting to get dark and Eva was still walking. She had been in Joydens Wood for hours now and wished she was at home eating dinner but no, she was walking around Joydens Wood trying to find her way out.
She starting crying ”I shouldn’t have come here, I miss my family,” she sobbed. She couldn’t fall asleep she was scared of what creatures could come out at any second. She was hungry, tired and she didn’t have a phone or any way to contact her family. SHE. WAS. LOST.
She woke up the next morning wishing she was in her bed at home and it was all a bad dream. She opened her eyes to realise it wasn’t a bad dream. Soon days had passed, weeks had passed, and no one had come into the woods because it was winter. She couldn’t sleep in the night and during the days she would shout for help.”HELP, PLEASE GIVE ME SOME FOOD AND DRINK I’M STARVING”.
After two weeks she gave up. No one would ever find her in this place. Just after she lost all hope, she was relieved to see an old man and woman and sprinted straight to them and told them about her situation. They were surprised to see a girl covered in mud and they led Eva to the entrance. She remembered the way home and ran. She found her house. What would her family think?
She rang the doorbell and the door opened…
The Great Plan for Bexley
Shortly after the First World War, a remarkable plan was hatched to recreate the London Borough of Bexley as a literal League of Nations. This would be a bold and technically challenging achievement even today, but in the context of the Europe of 1919, savaged by four long years of war, it was – almost, but not quite – unbelievable.
The idea for this new borough began with a Bexley resident, one Corporal Fitzgerald Potter. “Fizzy” as he was often known, had survived three years of front-line service in the Great War, during which time he lost one half of his moustache (shot off by a stray bullet from a German fighter plane, it never grew back). According to Potter’s few surviving notes, it was the incredible good fortune of his survival and the “irreparable incongruity” of his damaged facial hair that led directly to his plan.
Potter’s post-war, post-moustache dream was nothing less than a reunion of the shattered countries of the Continent that would make any repeat of the carnage of 1914-18 an absolute impossibility. Although so soon after the war he was far from alone in such a utopian wish, where he departed from any of his contemporaries was in the astonishingly grand and impractical plan he hatched to literally bring together former allies and enemies. Having experienced first-hand the new aircraft and Zeppelins used to devastating effect throughout the Great War, Potter had asked himself: what if these could be employed for a peaceful but no less earth-shattering purpose?
The plan was to take these formidable new war-time technologies and use them to build a new London, one made from transplanted Continental soil. Lifted whole from their native land and flown intact across the Channel by fleets of repurposed Zeppelins, great swathes of vegetation, wildlife and entire villages would be re-potted (so to speak) upon the no-mans-land between London and the countryside. Potter’s plan would create a literal League of Nations in the peaceful environs of beautiful Bexley.
Sadly, very few of Potter’s enthusiastically detailed letters to the great and the good of the time have survived. That any at all have been preserved is surely testament to the sheer number produced and the demented force of his arguments. One letter is briefly mentioned in the diaries of H.G. Wells, who mistook it for a fan letter with an idea for a new story and dismisses it as “..the ravings of a half-mustachioed lunatic”.
The final tragic mention of Potter comes from court proceeding of October 1921, mentioning him as having absconded, leaving behind a large debt to the Post Office for stamps. An unnamed family member testified that Potter had “..recently left for France with a great many large suitcases to fill with that country’s still tender soil and return to begin his great plan.”
He never did.