Winners of first St Albans Drabble Competition announced - all entries included here

St Albans Literary Festival 2014

St Albans Literary Festival 2014 - Credit: Archant

The wait is over, and the winners of the first Herts Advertiser Drabble Competition have now been selected.

St Albans clock tower in the snow

St Albans clock tower in the snow - Credit: Archant

The competition to find the best St Albans-themed short stories of exactly 100 words was held as part of the city’s inaugural Literary Festival, which was supported by the Herts Ad, and judged by festival ambassador and leading author Kate Griffin.

Kate said: “The standard of entries was really high and it was almost impossible to choose between them, but in the end I decided to strictly apply the rules of writing a drabble: ‘A drabble is a short work of fiction of exactly one hundred words in length, not necessarily including the title. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.’

“This meant I was looking for complete, succinct stories. Although many entries were beautifully written I couldn’t include them on my final shortlist because they were descriptions or opening lines, not whole stories.

“Across all the entries two popular themes emerged - Roman Verulamium and the supernatural which is appropriate given St Albans’ wonderful old buildings and very long history.”


Over 18 category

Most Read

Special mentions to Nicola McPherson for her evocative Night Fishing at Verulam, Heather Trefusis for neatly spooky The Holiday Friendship, Mial Pagan for the clever twist in A Soldier’s Mother, Ian Salkey for his beautifully written Long Weekend and Wendy Parker for her moving Last Chance. It was very difficult to choose between them all - and in the end I couldn’t! My joint winners are Martyn McCarthy and Ted Webb.

Martyn’s entry Transfixed by the Coming Storm is poignant and year-appropriate and Ted does so much in a few words in A Dying Act - and he includes a joke!


Transfixed by that coming storm by Martyn McCarthy, Harpenden

The footpath near the Abbey was pitch by contrast to the lightning that strobed that late July sky. Silhouetted near the gate to Romeland was a youth in military tunic staring across Verulamium Park appearing transfixed by the coming storm. Without turning he spoke to me, ‘My parents didn’t hear the thunder or see the lightning’. I hesitated; then walked on. The next evening on my walk along that path I noticed newly placed Forget-me-nots on a neglected grave. Why I stopped? I will never know. The grave stone read ‘our only son, died aged 17, Passchendaele, 31st July 1917.


A Dying Act by Ted Webb, Sandridge

‘I died in St Albans, many years ago.’ The trainee spiritualist froze. At the dead of night he had come to the city centre to attempt connection with the poor souls lost in the first battle of the Wars of the Roses in 1455. The suddenness of the lugubrious voice was nevertheless a surprise. He turned to the shadowy figure behind him. ‘Are you the spirit of the slain Duke of Somerset?’ ‘Somerset! I’m Freddie Derbyshire lad, the Earl of Twirl. My plate spinning act bombed at the Arena in 1981. It was a big mistake to follow The Krankies.’


13-18 category

For some reason this group attracted the fewest entries, but the ones that came in were excellent, which still made it very hard to judge. In the end I’ve chosen Joshua Howell’s super spooky Tick Tock. I’ll never look at the Clock Tower in quite the same way again! Good use of the word maleficent!


Tick Tock by Joshua Howell, St Albans

And so there they perched, on the side of the clock tower. There was something curiously sinister about those eyes in the darkness, those stony, maleficent eyes. There they sat, watching passers-by intently in the deafening silence of the night. Of the three recent disappearances in the city, it was peculiar to think that they were all last seen alone, at the foot of the tower. However George, having absentmindedly placed himself there, had not noticed them. He had not noticed their deft, agile movements. They were rapidly coming towards him, scuttling down the face of the clock tower. Tick Tock.


12 and under category

Once again it was almost impossible to pick a winner here as all the entries were inventive and neat. Younger entrants really knew how to tell a concise story. Popular themes here were ghosts and battling barons.

Special mentions go to Zachary McPherson for his adventurous historical drabble The Plot and Zoe Birch for her spine-tingling The Martyr’s Warning, but the winner is Kiera Hybel for her wonderful supernatural story, The Gentleman in Black.


The Gentleman in Black by Kiera Hybel, St Albans

I heard the footsteps approaching, closer, closer, closer... From the shutters I could not see much, only his top hat, cloak and boots. I watched him walk down St. Peter’s Street and enter number thirteen. The next day the murder mystery was reported. ‘Puzzle of the 19th century’, the newspapers cried. I sat alone looking out of the shutters at number twelve. I could have done something to stop someone from suffering. How could the murderer break in and out when all the doors and windows were locked from the inside? I knew. I recalled the footsteps approaching, closer, closer...


All of the winners will receive book tokens courtesy of festival sponsors Waterstones


Other entries...

The Eyes Of The Angel

By Jasmine Halsall

We were so engrossed in its beauty, we didn’t notice they’d left.  They didn’t realize we were missing. At least Jack was with me. Studying the Cathedral’s unique stained-glass, was a moment to cherish; Mum and Dad were right; it’s so powerful it moves you. When we saw the angel’s eyes- darting, we knew they would lock onto us; nothing   prepared us for what followed. She floated down with such elegance it astonished me. All stars together wouldn’t outshine her halo. At sunrise, she returned to her window. We visit often, watching to see if those eyes will lock again.

The Long Weekend

By Ian Salkey

It was last thing Friday afternoon at St Albans School of Languages, and a pigeon was stuck up the chimney.

-‘It’ll find its way out the way it came in,’ was the guilt-edged consensus, after the failure of twelve nationalities of hand to reach across the species divide.

But one RSPB member, restless in a peaceful Cornish tent, in a war-torn world, finally cracked and drove back 228 miles to find the famished, feathered one, miraculously alive, ready now for the soggy chocolate biscuit left on the hearth, before swooping out into the wettest ever August Bank Holiday Monday sky.


The portrait on the wall

By Eva Lawrence

The portrait of our beautiful ancestor hung in my grandmother’s room.

I prized away the frame, revealing the rubric “St Albans” and the marriage date of my grandmother’s grandmother, Ernestine.

She died at 27, leaving five daughters and her bereft husband Anselm.

His children were cared for while he travelled the world.

Finally he returned to St Albans.

Grandmother Selma loved visiting him. His death saddened her - and then her mother died. Grandmother was only eleven! Was Anselm’s precious memento a consolation for Selma, orphaned so young, just as Anselm’s unfortunate daughters had been?


Iceni v Brigantes

By Ann Wroe

Cartimanua in “Verulam” bookshop ordered her usual coffee. A woman exclaimed “I’m going to faint”.. Cartimanua proffered her drink but the woman Boadicca refused it. .Cartimanua heard a ticking from Boadicca’s unzipped

handbag. “A bomb ! You can’t scare a fearless Northern lass.” Erik

Bloodaxe, the Security Guard,lifting out the”bomb” said: “Cartimanua - it’s a simple alarm clock”. Boadicca then brandished a revolver, killed Erik and shouted “You and Cartimanua,,,, your whore, are both finished.! She then shot

Cartimanua and exclaimed “I’m going to faint again”. No-one was left in the

bookshop to offer her coffee.. Nothing ever changes does it eh?


Modern day Saint Alban

By Gabriella Pia Martin

“Lets begin with talking about Saint Alban. Who was he? He was the first Christian Martyr. He gave shelter to a Christian priest, as he protected him from the Romans”

My mum she does this job where she gives talks about Alban.

“Shall we finish with the end of it? Saint Alban got beheaded and his head rolled down Holywell hill.”

Everyone claps.

After, we walk home. I go upstairs to bed, suddenly I’m scared.I dreamt that I got beheaded and my head rolled down a hill! Maybe I’m the modern day Saint Alban Could that really be true?!



By Robert Gurney

People were coming into Kampala with stories of mangled bodies left lying on the roads out in the bush in Buganda. They said that the lorries in which they were travelling were riding right over them. Lorries were a popular form of transport then.

“I saw six down by Lake Victoria,” someone said.

People fell silent in the City Bar. No one knew what to say. No one pronounced the words ‘human rights abuse’. It was a conspiracy of silence, the default position being not to criticise the Ugandan government.

“None of our darned business now,” I heard someone mutter.



By Robert Gurney

My room, on top of Nakasero, one of the highest hills in Kampala, far above the malarial area in the valley below, had a fine metal mesh covering the windows but still the mosquitoes came in. The trick was to fling a pillow as hard as you could at the space in front of the spot where the insect was perched. Each night I killed between six and ten, leaving blood stains on the walls. After a year the wall was turning red with my blood and with that of others whom I didn’t know who lived down the hill.



By Robert Gurney

I can’t remember exactly what we were doing. Studying volcanoes in the Rift Valley, I think. Through the classroom window in Tororo on the border with Kenya we could see a group of men who were raising a pole by pulling rhythmically on a rope. We could hear the words they were singing. A solitary voice would start by telling what sounded like a story. Then, as one, the workmen would chant and pull.

“Harambee!” (“All together now!”)

Little by little the post went up. Even now that sound from Tororo, on the Uganda-Kenya border, is echoing in my head.


The Calf

By Robert Gurney

I hitched a lift on the dirt road that ran between Kenya and Uganda.

A calf, startled, ran out in front of us trying to join its mother on the other side. There was a bang. The car felt as if it was about to take off into the air. The inside of the car filled with dust. I turned round. The calf lay on its back with its feet in the air. It looked dead. He drove straight on without stopping.

“Never stop when that happens,” was his reply to my puzzled stare. “You never know what will happen.”


The Mercenary

By Robert Gurney

“Spitfire pilot. In the Congo.” He spat dust on the City Bar floor.

“That’s what we had all wanted to be! You were our hero!” I stuttered.

He said that he had flown in the Battle of Britain and that he had shot down Messerschmidts and Junkers.

I looked at him with admiration. He was middle aged. His face was bloated. He was covered in dust. He said that he was bombing the rebels.

Later I heard that Che Guevara might have been among them. Che, too, was one of the heroes at that time. One hero pitted against another.


The Hippopotami

By Robert Gurney

I have a recurring dream: of being closed in. It is dark. I am in a club in Kisumu, in Kenya, on the edge of Lake Victoria. I suggest we all go out for a walk to see the stars.

“Not at this time of the night,” comes the reply.

“One of our members tried to do that a few years back. We found him the next day face down in the mud as flat as a pancake. He had panicked the hippos that were grazing on the shore. They all rushed into the water when they heard him coming”.


The City Bar, Kampala

By Robert Gurney

“Spitfire pilot. In the Congo.” He spat dust on the floor.

“That’s what we had wanted to be! You were our hero,” I stuttered.

He said that he had flown in the Battle of Britain and that he had shot down Messerschmidts and Junkers.

I looked at him with admiration. He was middle aged. His face was bloated. He was covered in dust. He said that he was bombing the rebels. Later I heard that Che Guevara might have been among them. Che, too, was one of the heroes of that time. One hero pitted against another.

A mad world.


One piece of chocolate

By Celeste Jones and Caitlin Morley

It was 1888, and Mary was the last person sitting at her sister’s grave. She sensed an unwelcome presence; she knew she wasn’t alone.

The Abbey was quiet; she saw something out of the corner of her eye - her sister.

“Mary, you never loved me; only now you realise what you did. Be warned: I’m more than a ghost to you. You killed me just because of a piece of chocolate. Now it’s my turn for revenge. St Albans is a wonderful place but……… “

Mary sat up. Did that piece of chocolate really matter?


Chocolate for the Enemy

By Peter Raynard

“That’s the only bar of chocolate in St Albans”, said my Father, locking it in the cupboard. But I stole it.

I crossed the field with the chocolate cornered in my pocket. Emil was cutting back hedgerows. He was a good worker for a prisoner. At least that’s what my dad said.

“Ah Fred, mein Junge.” We ate it together in the woods.

We lost touch after the war. Nearly fifty years later I got a parcel. A message inside said, “From Emil to remind you of our time at Sopwell Farm in 1919.” It was a box of chocolates.


A Soldier’s Mother

By Mial Pagan

I have no idea why my son joined the army. Usual reasons I suppose; camaraderie, excitement. It was his friend Paul who got him into it. Of course I worry where he’s going to be posted, what mother wouldn’t? The world’s an unstable, dangerous place; everywhere you look there’s trouble.

There’s one place I constantly pray he won’t end up. Where they behead you if you don’t believe in their religion. They’re just brutal savages.

Now my worst fears have come true. I’m terrified for him. He’s been sent to Britannia; to some barbaric town I’ve never heard of, Verulamium.


The Other Coat

By John William Peters

He needed a coat. It was freezing and his anorak was flimsy. No money and looking weird, he had no chance. This place seemed all coffee shops, but there were charity outlets. Could he blag a coat for free? At one of them he rifled through the racks and tried on a long black number that fitted. He left his anorak in its place. Now came the blagging part. Was that assistant surreptitiously talking into a radio? Soon a traffic warden miraculously appeared at the window watching him. A police community support officer came in from nowhere . “Name?” “Alban,” I said.



By Liz Griffin

Pushing through crowds swarming in the streets, the panic starts to rise inside me. Market traders shouting, bodies laughing, jostling, crowding in. I run frantically across roads, through lanes and over cobbles.

I burst through the large wooden doors and sanctuary envelops me. Peace caresses its wings around my body and carries me weightless to a pew. The dappled sunlight throws a rainbow over my face as I close my eyes and succumb to the moment.

Cool air ruffles the feathers surrounding me. Zen like I absorb the serenity and send silent thanks to the monastic builders of the past.


The Boozy Elf

By Stephen Gore

Elves rarely helped cobblers make shoes in middle Europe, they usually ignored them. One elf did fancy a tipple and made it his life’s work to track down the best. Travelling widely, he came to an island where a strange drink was brewed and for an elf, anything that was “real” was exciting. Months later he found a poor man selling drink from a jug in the street of an old town. Tasting his best ever real ale, he drank all night whilst trying to make shoes to pay. He failed, but left behind The Boot in Market Street instead.


The Martyr’s Warning

By Zoe Birch

It was a dare; Zac and Leo had secretly crept out to their local cathedral to see St Alban, Britain’s first Christian martyr. His ghost was supposed to return tonight.

Suddenly a hooded figure appeared holding a cross. ‘Run for your life,’

it croaked. Zac fled but Leo stayed.

The figured vanished and now walking towards Leo was a skeleton. Leo screamed with horror. Zac heard him. He sped back. Leo was lying over a grave completely still.

Zac bent over his friend and began to shake uncontrollably. Leo’s face had vanished and now he looked just like a skeleton.


House Clearance

By Matt Cox

“It’s the same boy,” she said, sipping tea and wiping her eyes.

I flicked between photos, still baffled. The last of dad’s possessions.

Victorians on Holywell Hill 1891. St Albans market 1915, uniformed soldiers outside a shop. Locals in Verulamium park 1938. And on each one, staring straight at the camera, the same young face.

“How on earth...?”

She shrugged. Took a last picture of the lounge with her phone, the room suddenly cold.

Finally, we stepped outside into sunshine and Abbey bells. Oblivious, until we saw her photo later, of the boy standing behind us in the kitchen doorway.


Riding the Funalis

By Malcolm Blaxland

He had about ninety minutes to kill before the showroom expected him to deliver so he found the perfect place to park up, out of harm’s way.

Funny thing was, in all the years he’d lived in this town, he’d not once visited the Verulamium Museum. Well here he was with time on his hands, so why not? He was amazed at just how much he didn’t know about the Romans and the rich history of St Albans. Afterward, as he drove the sleek black Ferrari along Watling Street, he wondered what a Centurion would make of this Roman chariot.


Saint Alban

By Stephanie Morris




“Forty three”



Please wait over there.


Alban sat and contemplated. Had he been right? Should he have put his family first? Loyalty. Faith. Love.

Love, especially. He loved his family, but loved Jesus and his message of love. You always have to do the right thing. But was he right? Life is difficult. Complicated.

Someone sat beside him. “ How could we have done more?” . Alban sighed. “We can always do more”, he declared.

They both lapsed into their own thoughts.

Hearing his name called, Alban stood and followed.

“Welcome” smiled Jesus, “ and thank you”


Time travelers

By Shehnaz Toorab

‘’Now, where have I put that smarties button?’’ cried Sweetsugar while wandering around her mum’s liquorish garage. ’’Aha! There it is,’’ she said, fastening the button on with a candy cane. ’’Lunch is a large candy cane!’’ called her mum. Sweetsugar leaped to the door but she tripped on a lemon grenade, BANG! She peered at her time machine, it was burnt! She was stuck in the future! She looked around; Sweetsugar eyed an enormous lemon grenade. She crept up on it and, BOOM! She was back in the present! ‘’Hooray!’’ she screamed.




By Steve Clough

From the top of the clock tower, the view is spectacular. Over there, the mist over Verulanium where we used to play, picnic forgetting that we sat where hundreds lived, worked and died thousands of years before.

I turn and see the cathedral, dark, filled with death where we celebrated life: where Gloria and I were married; where Daniella was baptised.

Over there must be our house, somewhere. Where we married and lived. Where Daniella took her life, and Gloria’s mind, leaving me with the body to care for. Until even that beat me.

“Sorry” I mumble, as I jump.


As in a theatre

By Martina Bonichi

I get off the plane, get in the car and closing my eyes I imagine tomorrow, when I will wake up, look out the window of a cosy home in London Road.

Every time I come to St. Albans I feel less foreign than before and go to places that I love, the cathedral, the park and stay to watch the swans in the lake.

I live in a setting that seems to tell new stories every time I return and, in the meantime, I find myself amazed, curious, trying to see if anything has changed, as in a theatre…


The Steps

By Robert Gurney

There’s a small flight of steps just by the Cathedral. It is not at all clear where they lead to. They have been worn smooth down the centuries, more than that, in fact, they been hollowed out. It’s not quite clear where they lead to since a high red brick wall cuts right across them blocking your way. There is no sign of a door having been filled in. There is no sign of a house behind the wall. They say that it was by that spot that the charnel house once stood where Benedictine monks lay out their dead.


The Shadow

By Robert Gurney

I was walking in the field opposite my house on the west side of St Albans. The sun was in my face, a cold wind behind me. The farmer had just ploughed the earth and harrowed it into neat lines like the grooves in an old gramophone record. Here and there were pieces of brick and tile. I kept thinking about the Romans who ploughed that field. I had a feeling I was being followed. It felt like someone from the past. I could see a shadow just behind me. I swung round and saw that it was my mine.


The Ship

By Robert Gurney

It was midnight on 1 January, 1254. There were no clouds. The air was still. The hunchbacked moon overhead was eight days old. A large ship appeared in the sky. Well equipped, she appeared to be made of planks painted in beautiful colours. Then she began to disappear. I read that some black friars saw it from top of Holywell Hill, their bibles open at Revelations, whilst in Paris a book written by Gerard of Borgo San Donnino prophesying a new era, a new testament, a new Israel, at the end of time, was published then burnt on a bonfire.



St Alban

By Robert Gurney

I have tried again and again to write a drabble about St Alban. I follow him from his trial in the Forum down by St Michael’s Church, over the River Ver and up the hill. His path is no longer that clear. I see him put his head with its red hair upon the block. I see the executioner’s sword raised aloft. I see the severed head, the gushing stream. I see the executioner trying to catch his own eyes as if they were false and had just fallen out. It’s Matthew Paris’s fault, not mine. It’s him I blame.


Fast to St Pancras

By Nikki Halsall

Platform three, six twenty-six. He shuffles down to meet the doors of carriage two. Same doors, different dreary day. He’s given up on his commuter blog; no-one was reading it. His City ambition died many journeys ago too, the make money dream turned into disillusioned drudgery. Today this once high-flyer, now has-been, dismounts his career with an unexpected grin.

His fellow sweaty sardines, stuck on the same track, continue on. Resigning before he is pushed, he travels home to St Albans. No longer a commuting recruiter, instead a penniless writer with a novel to finish. Meet Howard Noakes, budding Bestseller?



Better Than The Pictures...

By David Jefferson Tallantire

In St. Albans, lives Harold Jacobsen…

At No. 27.

He loves the wizened streets of St. Michaels - he always thought they radiated such charm…

Harold was a simple man, liked the simple things.

No frills.

And nothing was better than living in the peaceful city of St. Albans.

He always thought the sheer grandeur of its surroundings seems to envelope you in its folds.


Since he moved to the aged city of St. Albans, it continually evolved…

Every new season, the mood of the weather brings a new dimension and personality to the vibrant city of St. Albans…


Dating at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

By Mo Purdie

Thick sausagey fingers beckon to me and his play-dough face folds into a rubbery grin. Centuries of courtships have burgeoned in this hostelry but the self-named “Knight of Dreams” does not arise. Perhaps the semi-circular chair is stuck to his gargantuan bottom. His dating profile, beneath a blurred headshot, promised a muscular physique!

Checking the exits, I approach. Makeup, so carefully applied, masks my strained smile as I surreptitiously re-button my silk blouse and swallow my disappointment.

“You must be Barry.”

“Oh, sorry, I’m John waiting for Mandy from Match...”

Turning away, I eagerly scan the bar, fingers on buttons.


The Decision

By Beliz Mckenzie

She runs with urgency; a desperate need to keep going, going, going.

Her heels are sore; she glances down at her aching feet, knowing that blisters will soon appear, red and raw. She is too tired for pain. Panting, hair sticky with sweat, she hears the whoosh of the arriving train. Nearly there. Racing to the platform, she looks up at the destination: St Albans.

The doors open; she steps on. She allows herself to picture the majestic cathedral, smell her favourite coffee shop, tread the familiar cobbles. The beeps sound. She feels safe, starts to smile. She steps off.


Aesop Schmaesop, or Mud

By Ian Salkey

Walking in Verulamium Park recently, after a night of heavy rain, I was annoyed to see a heart-shaped hole in the path where a stone had been prised out.

‘Bloody vandals!’ I thought, - or words to that effect, ‘What is the point of doing that?’

But a step or two further on I smiled to see that some public spirited soul had placed a heart-shaped stepping stone in the quagmire of mud which had accumulated overnight, allowing me to step safely across.

How often we jump to conclusions which are shown to be erroneous in the fullness of time.


The Watcher

By Ciaran Cook

Watching; waiting. It stood within the clock tower, pale, in the shadows. The clock struck midnight. Many heard the gonging of the bells, but none were there to notice the figure silhouetted against the clock face. Then – a crunch of gravel as a cloaked form stepped across the road. This was what the watcher had been waiting for. It clattered and crashed among the bells, trying to draw attention. Pattering footsteps ascended the narrow staircase, echoing throughout the tower. But when they finally reached the source of the clamour, they found themself alone in the clock tower of St. Albans.


The Black Shadow

By Kristina Frost

Ah, sleeping peacefully; the little angels of Salisbury Hall. Their bodies are nestled in warm sheets, buried in comfort, dreaming soft dreams. Dead to the world, they heed not the whispers of the wind behind their window, nor do their snoozing little minds notice the quiet besides.

I watch them as they lie; breathing quiet, perfect and without care. At the foot of their beds I stand.

I sing in their ears. They stir, wake, shriek loud and terrible: ‘Mother, it’s here again!’

The nights have become empty, the dark cold, like a corpse.

Oh, I do miss the children…


The Tudor Tavern

By Linda Brown

It was the 1970’s; a double date at the Tudor Tavern. What a setting! My third date with my future husband. It was me, him, my best friend and our future best man. We sat down. I cannot recall what we ate or the conversation, but I do remember feeling special, sophisticated, grown up…

“Bill please,” demanded our best man in an era when credit cards were new and mint and who threw his onto a silver platter. “Sorry sir, non.”

Non?…Consternation…Embarrassment…washing up…?

Luckily my 19 year old had just enough notes to pay. Girls never carried cash back then.


Maternal feeling

By Clare Byrne

As I walk up Holywell Hill I see a young woman labouring upwards with a pushchair. A small boy, perhaps three, is holding onto the chair. My children are adults now but I remember how difficult the simplest activities could be.

My mother before me pushed us up this same hill to the shops. As I draw level the boy sits down. His mother pleads with him in an unknown language; an immigrant, like my family, two generations ago.

‘Can I help you?’

She picks up the boy and smiles as I start pushing the chair. No words are needed.


Last Chance!

By Wendy Parker

A drop of blood unfurling in the water heralds unspeakable pain.

The familiar journey to St Albans hospital is strangely calm.

Windscreen wipers beat time; silent tears fall on empty hands.

Years of hope and disappointment led to this last chance.

She prays that acceptance will take the place of despair, yet knows that her body craves a child to hold to its breast.

An unrelenting primeval yearning.

Turning her head for the scan she watches the anguished face of her husband Desperately searching the grainy void.


Sudden overwhelming joy!

One tiny defiant heart, beats strongly on the screen.


Morning in Verulamium Park

By Margaret Lowndes

I’m not one to stand around preening myself but he should be approaching the lake about now. I see him every day, always beautifully groomed, soft sheen to skin and hair, but he’s barely glanced my way. No time to spare, he marches like a Roman – minus the toga – from one side of Verulamium to the other. What keeps his lovely face so serious I can’t imagine but today’s the day I’ll be ruffling his feathers. Here he comes so let’s go! One, two ...

“Get out of the way, you stupid duck!”


There was no need for that.


The Plot

By Zachary Macpherson

I sprint through Verulamium park, dodging my brother’s outstretched fingertips. We shouldn’t have ventured into the park - the daylight hours are disappearing and Mother had specifically told us not to be late. We collapse onto the ground, breathing heavily.

Suddenly, I see men dressed in fancy clothes making their way towards the cathedral. I tell my brother that I left something behind, and go to explore.

I find myself in a hidden corner of the cathedral, watching the rich men begin to talk.

“We must force change and rise above John,” one says.

The Lords are plotting against the King!


The Holiday Friendship

By Heather Trefusis

“We’ve had a wonderful holiday”, Mr Turner said to Mrs Giles, the owner.

“Oh I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed your stay.”

The Turner family had spent a week exploring St Albans, staying in the 17th century guest house, just off Holywell Hill.

“Could you give this gift from Emily to Charlotte please? It’s been so nice for her to have another little girl her own age to play with.”

Mrs Giles went white as a sheet. “Charlotte?”, she murmured.

“Yes, every day they’ve played together before dinner in the drawing room. Is something wrong?”

“Charlotte... she died here in 1808.”


Night Fishing at the Verulamium

By Nicola McPherson

Arthur flexed his toes in the water and stared through the bright circle of light on the lake. The grey craters on the moon mirrored his colour. He breathed in the silence. He wasn’t like the others. His friends were tucked up in bed but he’d sneaked off to his favourite spot.

The fish were good here. He pulled another from the water, feeling its desperate wriggle as it fought for freedom. He swallowed and yawned. “Time for bed.” thought Arthur. Ripples disturbed the moon’s image as he opened his wings and took off for the tall trees of home.


Frame, the Phantom rider of St Albans

By Cameron Halsall

Unlock. Over it goes, on towards Victoria; church of trinity passed as it gains speed, then on, up the hill where the hill of the holy well once had the eponymous head roll down. It goes up, not stopping. Lights of red fail to prevent passing. It is too much. As it reaches the tower, a piece of traffic pulls out. A collision results, but no flesh flies. The frame is the saddled missile of metal which hit on impact. The colour of light matches the colour of blood as demonstrated. It killed the driver. Look out on the roads.


Chariots and Fire

By Paul Hargreaves

“Painted men are no match for good Roman steel.” Claudius thumped his chestplate and belched loudly.

Julius said nothing. He squinted towards the line of barbarians on in the fields outside Verulamium. Behind them the trees were burning.

“Blue men with twigs for hair? Do they think me a child?” Claudius spat.

Julius squinted again at the figure on the lead chariot. There was something about the way it moved; something not right.

“That’s no man.”

Claudius squinted. “A woman? On a chariot? This will be even easier than I thought.”

“Pray that will not be your epitaph.”

It was.


Shuffle 360: St Albans City

By James Gibson

I dropped out of school for one year, last year. But buzzing back up to the first floor of 35 Market Place I saw everything still changing in the same way. I attended speeches from American Jesus and Abdulrahman of the Middle East, harmonised with Asian Buddhists, noted thoughts of European priests. Back on the horse, Diversity of Discourse, racing daily, 360-1.

Meeting people in St Albans is a breeze for a teacher. (My first TEFL pay cheque sent since being back was, to the ersh, yen, cent and very penny, 360GBP.) A revolution seemed complete; I shuffled on repeat.



By Catherine Turnbull

The garrison is back. I know this even before I see the dust rising from their marching. I feel them cross the Ver, the waterway that feeds our mill, and enter the town, sweeping round the forum with their breastplates brushed clean of weeks putting down rebellions.

I will him to come, even though I fear this even more than when the Iceni queen burned our houses down. My insides tighten and I wait for the pain to come. It must be done.

There’s a step outside and the tall man from Gaul fills the doorway.

He smiles, he’s mine.


Throwing Opportunities Away

By Emma Legouix

James hung up his cap and gown removing the chalk ‘Chalk dust everywhere!’ Perhaps at this school amongst spiral stairs and cloisters he’ll teach someone that will make it all worthwhile….

Amongst dusty textbooks and abandoned projects he finds a box of wires, switches, electronic paraphernalia. Embossed with the initials SH.. Sam?

Simon? Whose SH? Did he become someone? ‘Straight in the bin!’

Later at the St Albans School Centenary event he ponders the idea of opportunities taken and missed. He forgets about S.H until the guest of honour is announced

‘Ladies and Gentlemen…...Professor Stephen Hawking…..’


Thanks to everyone for their contributions...