Collecting the prize

Sherry Sept 17

At the end of last month, Sherry Morris came to stay with us, together with her partner Phil. I suppose you could say she came to collect her prize as winner of the 2017 Book a Break short story competition, though there wasn't actually a ceremony like they do at Wimbledon. Maybe next year I'll manufacture a cool trophy which the winner will hold aloft before making a speech.

Living here, I sometimes forget what a splendid place it is, notwithstanding certain discomforts of modern life such as the ever-increasing volume of traffic and rising levels of pollution. But Sherry and Phil weren't bothered: they live in a remote part of Scotland, so it was an opportunity for them to observe some human beings. Though apparently in summer they get a lot of them up there too. There are human beings all over the place.

Apart from Aix itself, they visited Avignon and Marseille, where Phil went to see a Black Madonna. For some reason, he developed a sudden interest in Black Madonnas whilst over here, so now he'll be trekking the world in search of them. Or else he might just write about them - he's a playwright, so maybe at some point there'll be a new nativity play starring Beyoncé.

After reading Green Tights, Sherry's story in With Our Eyes Open, one of the contributors said it was 'very David Lynch', which I thought nailed it perfectly - the same blend of startling imagery and delicious, twisting storyline. I'd imagined her rather similar -  eccentric, intense, prowling the garden in a creative bubble of her own. In fact she's perfectly normal, which reassured me that you don't have to be extraordinary yourself to produce extraordinary writing; you just have to roll up your sleeves and work at it.

My own company, of course, isn't part of the prize, but inevitably it's in the package, at least for part of the time. So I tried to keep on my best red carpet behaviour, though I stopped short of the bow tie, or indeed of any tie. Come to think of it, my dress sense - no, better not go there. Let's just say I'm better at cooking. On the whole, that is, though I managed to make a mess of Sherry's tea. I'm not sure how. I think it was George Orwell's fault - I was following his recipe. I'm a great Orwell fan, but maybe when it comes to tea, I should seek inspiration elsewhere.

The Book a Break competition is singular in that the organiser gets as much pleasure from it as the winner. Like Ingrid Jendrzejewski last year, Sherry and Phil were charming and interesting guests - my thanks go to both for making this year's edition so enjoyable.

The 2017 Book a Break short story anthology is available for now on Amazon as a kindle ebook in colour or directly from this site by clicking below. Alternatively, you can donate directly to the Against Malaria Foundation. Forward their thank you email to me (curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com) and I will send you the PDF file straightaway.

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18 Comments

      • That was an amusing read. As a coffee drinker who occasionally drinks a cup of tea, I haven’t been aware enough of any tea’s origin to be able to discern a difference between Indian tea and any other. In fact, after checking labels, it seems most of the tea I’ve had is a blend of leaves from Africa and Asia. I wonder what Orwell would have had to say about that?

        On the other hand, while some of his stipulations strike me as quibbling and arbitrarily capricious, I fully agree with Point 4. I have always wondered why people drink tea if they have to disguise its flavor in order to swallow it? Why not just drink hot, milky, sugar water? My own feeling is that it’s diluted enough if one adds milk or cream. Hot, strong, and dark as black coffee — that’s my idea of a “nice cup of tea.”

        But George has motivated me to seek out Indian tea leaves. If he’s right about that, maybe he’s right about the entire process. What’s your precise difference of opinion with him about Point 1? Do you feel Chinese tea is just as excellent as Indian or Ceylonese? Or do you have an objection to Indian?

        • I’m not a great tea drinker myself, but there’s a definite difference between Indian black tea and Chinese green. In Aix there’s a fabulous tea shop that stocks about 60 different types of tea, and the green teas differ enormously between themselves. Orwell was full of contradictions – born into the lower-upper-middle class (his own claim), he yearned for a proletarian revolution but didn’t much like the proletarians. I suspect something similar coloured his attitude to tea.

  1. It sounds as if you had a great time, even if you didn’t wear a bow tie. I must enter again next year in the hope of winning and coming to meet you. Good luck with the anthology sales.

  2. Thanks everyone for the lovely messages and a huge thank you to Curtis for such a fab write-up. I had forgotten about the tea mishap, but these are the details that make a good story! What did stay with me was your openness, your hospitality and your generosity. The trip to Provence was the perfect cap to my summer. And folks, the anthology is bursting with excellent stories — i’m truly honoured that mine was selected for the top prize. Be sure and get yours today!

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