We’re delighted to announce the winners of our COP26 competition on the theme of “When I am 100”.
2053 by Ann Seed
When I am 100, the fledgling gardeners on the Moon may have mastered how to propagate and grow greens and vegetables. Energy would come from giant arrays of solar panels stretching into the lunar distance. Free from the obstructions of atmosphere and clouds, they will harness the sun’s uninterrupted rays. The modular growing tunnels would be built in endless columns, disrupting the barren landscape to satisfy insatiable human need. Like a parasite, our ‘enough is never sufficient’ attitude would worm its way over the sterile surface of our astronomical neighbour… as if doing so will solve our ills. The Moon’s dust would be swept clean, craters domed over, to accommodate the living quarters, equipment, water and oxygen tanks for the teams of engineers, biologists and scientists who rotate every six months. NASA’s re-useable Moon-Crafts would shuttle crew, supplies and water-generating machinery. If all goes to plan, they will return the fruits of the lunar gardens back to Earth for its increasing millions. On my journey to 100, human populations will continue to exponentially explode. Grasslands and forests will dwindle while engrained entitlements rage unchecked. Those people who ‘have’ will continue to give no quarter, losing all perspective of being content with enough… of being one of many… of being ‘us’ not ‘I’. Despite increasing global difficulties, indulgence as of right will continue unabated. Housing encroaches over the lands of richer nations… no room for farming, for livestock… fertile ground ever shrinking under concrete footsteps. Solar panels multiply on acres of playground. Wind turbines eat up the hills, besmirch sacred landscapes, stand like armies of aliens over miles and miles of waves. By 2053 there will be few places for beauty, for ‘just being’. Meanwhile, deserts creep over parched lands in countries where temperatures soar ever higher. They slither northwards, south, creating drought and starvation on a scale cataclysmic but not unforeseen. Those countries not frying are drowning. Storms, hurricanes, melting glaciers, rising sea levels – all predicted, all ignored. Displacement of peoples has already started. By my hundredth birthday in 2053, it will be an unrelenting torrent. Crowded places will grow more crowded… while, in others, the millions of acres of scorched or flooded land will stretch far farther than the Moon is wide… We were as delusional as ever. COP26, the great opportunity, the potential turning point, changed little. Those in power refused to curb needless excess, to take the obvious decisions required to preserve sustainable life. Those who knew, who had done the calculations, were blind-sided again by tunnel vision. The rights of ‘now’ overtook the rights of ‘forever’. Coal would still be King in China and India… it would always be so. Talk was in great abundance, even as carbon spewed unchecked over the world… hot-air talk as great as the waste generated by those with easy, disposable lives, for whom hunger and want were illusion. What truly lies ahead for our grandchildren? Perhaps they will be the lunar gardeners, the astronauts, the pioneers at the forefront of survival discovery. For that is where in 2053 our focus may well have to lie. Perhaps they will be members of a huge, global army of Eco Warriors, effective and organised at last, who lead the world away from ‘live by wanting’ to ‘live by needing’… to gratitude, not greed. They will teach their elders what ought to have been learned long before. They have already begun. Pockets of change, of hope, are springing up and with an increasing number of young people onboard, they will gradually make the difference. By 2053, they will be acting and doing, beseeching and showing, with such a groundswell that world leaders can no longer ignore them. Force of numbers, force of voice, force of right will at last chip away the willfulness. The spacecraft, Voyager 1, departed our Solar System in 1990 and continues to sail in outer space far beyond our realms of communication. But not before it took the photograph of the Small Blue Dot, our extraordinarily beautiful planet spinning in the darkness of space. It is but a speck, barely visible in the vastness. Our leaders should have this image tattooed on their skulls… to be reminded how minuscule Earth is, how easy it is to inflict damage that will never heal… damage that endangers our youngsters’ very existence. There is no excuse. Looking at the image, aliens would find it inconceivable, laughable, that humans cannot work together to solve our planet’s ills. On such a tiny, fragile miracle of a place, is it really too much to ask? When I am 100, I will mourn what could have been, but I will have hope in the young ones who have their lives invested in the consciousness and conscience that their forefathers lacked. I will mourn that they will see fewer wild things, that we exterminated so many extraordinary creatures. I will mourn too that their world is plastered with micro-plastics that wheedle themselves into their flesh, their muscles, their very breath. The Borg couldn’t do it better. I will mourn that their food is so intensively farmed, so genetically modified out of all recognition, that they will forget what wheat fields and orchards look like. Concreted countries can no longer contribute to their store cupboards to satiate their seething populations. Until lunar farms can be fully established, food will still be shipped thousands of miles in vast containers from those few countries which can still grow crops. But the young are strong and they will not let the Earth go lightly. They will fight for it, pressing home the difficult changes needed to forge, if not a better world, then at least a survivable one… one on which new generations of restraint and sustainability can be built. Our young are the world’s most valuable resource. By 2053, I hope they will have shown the way… be living safe at last in a sensibility and wisdom too long ignored.
I wrote a poem about the Moon 58 years ago when I was ten, and I have been writing ever since. As well as enjoyable and absorbing, writing has also often proved to be cathartic. And during the weeks and months of lockdown it was a particular saviour, helping to pass the long, quiet days.
It was only after I retired that I thought to try my hand at competitions. They certainly instil a desire to write better, and I particularly like the discipline of Flash Fiction. I have had several stories shortlisted or commended in various competitions and it was a particular thrill to win last year’s Autumn Voices Spring-themed short story competition.
I have lived in Edinburgh for the past three years and am lucky to have one of my two sons, and two of my four grandchildren, living nearby. I do often wonder what life and the ever-changing world will be like for them in the years to come. I have no doubt, unfortunately, that there will be many challenges ahead.
Centenarian by A C Clarke
When I am 100 I shall not receive a telegram (no-one will know what they are) or even a card. All the trees left standing will be earmarked for carbon-soaking duties and all the energy available will power our electronic networks. We won’t be travelling anywhere that can’t be reached on foot, all other means of transport being deemed too wasteful. We’ll eat nutritious meals made from insects that everyone pretends taste just like meat – those of us who remember meat. We’ll be tested daily for one of the eighty variants Covid has generated. We’ll have forgotten snow. Before too long I will receive a summons to the nearest Centre for Assisted Dying, having overspent my allocation of nature’s resources. I won’t mind because life’s small pleasures – a glass of wine, a picnic in mild sunshine will be long gone, no-one will want to listen to reminiscences about the Great Pandemic. I won’t be able to do a Captain Oates – see above – and DIY kits will carry a 40% risk of failure. There may be a queue at Assisted Dying bureaucracy having got ever more tangled: there should be seats for those who have to wait. Once in it will be one jab and you’re done. No coffin or cremation but your corpse will be recycled tastefully to fuel the centre’s heating system. No headstone: a pre-death video may be recorded three days in advance at which you read the eulogy yourself, count the number of ‘likes’.
About A C Clarke
A C Clarke’s fifth collection is A Troubling Woman. She was a winner in the Cinnamon Press 2017 pamphlet competition with War Baby. Wedding Grief, centred on the marriage of Paul Éluard and Gala, was published by Tapsalteerie in 2021.
It is How it Is by Ann Craig
I awake most mornings in confusion. I never know what the hormone dominance will be today. Am I grandma or granddad or neither, just the usual state of flux, ah well me and a million others. One thing I do know today I am one hundred years old. The sun must be very bright today; the automatic shutters are closed but my room has a lovely mellow glow as I make my early morning cuppa. “Activate news screen Alexa” The news much the same as it was yesterday ending with the usual positive comic story: the one this morning is funny though – two folk fighting over the last tomatoes available today, squashed them during their altercation. You have to laugh. I take my temperature and decide I’m female today as its riding quite high, besides which I am seeing wee Frankie later and I think they relate best to me in my female mode. It will be interesting to see if they menstruate soon, it might hopefully mean an integrated full female gender child–I would love a true female grand child but I will be happy as long as they are happy with themselves. Work beckons, my shift was in situ mode for the last twelve days and it’s good to be going out again, not that I really mind working from home but nice to have a change of scenery. My mother/father always encouraged us to actually walk outside at every opportunity and I think I picked up that habit from them. However no choice today as high UV light means all external paths will be closed. I’ll cut through the shopping level and pick a wee gift for Frankie –cant believe they are going to be eleven. “Attention please! Attention please! The community screens light up on the walkway, “The virus count has just escalated in sectors three through to five, please follow diversions signs folks, have a great day, should be mopped up soon” The usual moaning mumbles rumble as we all change our routes, two small enforcers lurk around almost apologetically, I think, although my eldest child assures me they have no emotions!! Graffiti is being scrubbed off the walls high up on the walkway above all the screens. I have no idea how the protesters get up there –must have high wire equipment. They come when the paths are closed for spraying, scary they are not fazed apparently by the presence of unacceptable virus counts. “DID YOU BELIEVE THEM WHEN THEY SAID WE CAN STOP CLIMATE CHANGE? DID YOU BELIEVE THEM WHEN THEY SAID WE WILL HELP THOSE COUNTRIES MOST AFFECTED?? DO YOU STILL BELIEVE THEM?” The scrubbers had made the letters run as they power hosed them off and we diverted out the wet. The letters dripped looking like tears. My paternal grandmother who was female with a functioning womb hadn’t believed them; she had lain down in front of traffic back in 2021 and been arrested, my father/mother was embarrassed but I secretly admired her for standing up for what she believed in all those years ago. Lets face it she was right. We lost islands, parts of continents and places made uninhabitable. The sun now an enemy and we have new inland seas where once was thriving communities. Looking back perhaps the emergence of rogue viruses was tied to all that destruction of habitats and the loss of so much of our diverse life. I would wish for more for Frankie – a life where they are allowed outside for more than a half hour a day. I turn into the birthday shop and there in the window is the very thing, an adorable robotic puppy dog. Frankie is a nurturer; they will love playing with this cute thing. My watch rings, it’s Frankie “Hello wee one how’s you? Happy Birthday my love, I’m coming over later after work if your caregivers are ok with that?” “Happy Birthday to you too grandparent, that’s perfect but I wanted to tell you a secret first, I menstruated this morning and I’m very excited. My dads say I should wear something special to celebrate so I am going to be wonder woman today” “Aw Frankie I am so pleased for you but remember at the end of the day you can be in charge –whatever you feel comfortable with ok?” “I know Grandparent but I think I would like to be a single gender, I know it’s my choice but I am going to try it” “Well done you! That’s a brave and sensible and I will be giving you lots of hugs later, have a great day, bye Frankie –girl” She giggles ,“Oh that sounds so funny, see you soon” I felt happy and sad all at the same time, my generation saw very few people born into a single gender body, and society had to accept us as it was the same world wide. Perhaps the tide was turning but at least every person was valued no matter what their gender orientation was and who they chose to love. I looked in the window again and right beside the toy puppy was a beautiful androgynous doll wearing outrageous yellow dungarees and an old fashioned hippy like shirt. TEACH YOUR CHILDREN HOW TO BE NURTURING WITH THIS BEAUTIFUL GENDER FLUID DOLL I couldn’t help it I bought this as well as the puppy for my wee granddaughter, She’ll love it; after all we now know she can be a functioning woman. I might even be a great grand parent – lovely thought. I must dash or I will be late for work and no excuses with that blooming robot waiting to check me in……
I love poetry, reading it, and of course writing it, and I think it is a great way to explore all aspects of life, and the world in intense short bursts.
No matter the topic, I feel a bit of humour tends to creep in from my Glaswegian upbringing, where I saw how dark humour got us through difficult times.
I have lived for the past forty six years in a very small fishing village perched on a cliff on the north east coast of Scotland and the two very different environments are reflected in my writing.
I have work in anthologies and a variety of publications and recently was shortlisted in the Wigtown Poetry Pamphlet competition for my pamphlet Glasgow Angels & Witches.
I trained in drama at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now The Scottish Conservatoire) and I wrote and perform a popular one woman show around my area about a local Victorian woman, who was undoubtedly ahead of her time and who was also a poet. Some of my poetry also lends itself to performance.
The Sea-Level Uprising by Katie Lockwood
Prepare. There will be a sea-level uprising. It is coming. Nature has had enough. A phalanx of waves Shall invade As liquid legions Twist and suck A froth-topped cavalry charge Braying Annexing Florida, Vietnam, Bangladesh Tuvalu, Kiribati, Palau Submerging In vengeful brine Houses, hotels, hospitals, Schools, offices, UNESCO sites Destroying Human history In a riot of sea-spray Detonating storms and Pounding coastlines With saline savagery Wake up! Don’t you see? The sea-level is uprising: Nature has had enough.
I am Katie Lockwood, a 22 year old Teaching Assistant living in Hertford. I graduated from UEA with a degree in International Relations in 2020, and I have since been working as a Teaching Assistant at Mill Mead Primary School. I love writing poems and short stories in my spare time, and I hope to one day become a published writer.
Foregone Conclusions by Dean Gessie
when I am one hundred, inclusive language will be rain and bulb and we shall use these to plant and harvest and nourish when I am one hundred, skin colour will be as autumn leaves and the viewfinders of wePhones shall frame wonder and awe when I am one hundred, the animals of the earth will be holy of holies and they shall no longer know the bullet, the knife and the net when I am one hundred, senator trees will be left their roots just as the elderly shall know deference and reverence when I am one hundred, charity and kindness will be monetized and the currency of billionaires shall be free hospitals and schools when I am one hundred, the atmosphere will be rich with oxygen and we shall only hear of fossil fuel deployment in war museums when I am one hundred, every household will care for a dog or a cat and everyone shall know what it is to love thy neighbour as thyself when I am one hundred, social media will be as the solar system and we shall not see dark matter but for the billions of stars when I am one hundred, games will have no scorekeeper nor outcome and everyone shall know the thrill of competition and the joy of play when I am one hundred, the stock exchange will stock things useful and those who visit shall not want for food, shelter or friends when I am one hundred, the gender rainbow will be the vault of heaven and this shall be the flag of Yahweh and of all nations and peoples when I am one hundred, climate change will be axis, tilt and rotation and we shall only seriously discuss the Four Seasons of Vivaldi when I am one hundred, poetry will be printed on cereal boxes and the most important meal shall be metaphor and granola when I am one hundred, children will sit with lawmakers and politicians and adults shall navigate legislation with moral compasses when I am one hundred, houses of worship will only honor one visit and the faithful shall have as many homes as they do houses when I am one hundred, the statues of despots will populate town squares and only flying and roosting birds shall prove interest of duty when I am one hundred, heads of state will be first among foot soldiers and they shall use feet to run opposite of war and no heads will roll when I am one hundred, jails and courts will house ghouls and ghosts and we shall visit on Hallowe’en to recall the horrors of jurisprudence when I am one hundred, indigenous peoples will have reclaimed their land and generations of colonizers shall exchange loot bags for tourist visas and when I am one hundred, I and my partner will make love like acrobats and we shall give thanks for middle age and our next hundred years
Dean Gessie is a Canadian writer who has won or placed in more than 100 international literary competitions. Among other honors, Dean was included in The 64 Best Poets of 2018 and 2019 by Black Mountain Press in North Carolina. Dean was also published in the 35th World Poetry Prize Anthology in Italy. Most recently, Dean won the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award for Poetry in England, the Creators of Justice Literary Award sponsored by the Human Rights Art Festival in New York and the UN-aligned Poetry Contest in Helsinki, Finland. Dean’s short story collection – called Anthropocene – won an Eyelands Book Award in Greece, the Uncollected Press Prize in Maryland and runner-up in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Book Festival Competitions. Dean has also published three novellas with Anaphora Literary Press in Texas and he was invited to participate in the Truths to Live By: Night of Ideas virtual event sponsored by the Brooklyn Library and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York.
Congratulations to all our winners and thank you to everyone who submitted entries and made this so enjoyable!