Shell OM Reading Competition

The annual Old Marlburian Reading Prize Competition took place on Tuesday 28th January, with Shell Form pupils reading the best of this year’s responses to the work of OM writers.

The 16 finalists presented written pieces based on work by Bruce Chatwin (B2 1953-58), Lauren Child (B1 1982-84), Frank Gardner (LI 1974-79), John Betjeman (B2 1920-25), Louis MacNiece (C1 1921-26), Emerald Fennell (NC 2008-03), Claire Lowdon (MO 2008-03), Siegfried Sassoon (CO 1902-04) and Charles Hamilton Sorley (C1 1908-13).

The Master adjudicated and praised the exceptionally high standard of writing this year. The winner was Matilda Marriott (MO) with ‘The Bullet’, written in response to the writing of Frank Gardner. The runners-up were Arthur Gill (PR) and William Hudson (C3). All three pieces can be read below.

Andrew Gist
Head of Form



The Bullet
by Matilda Marriott (MO)

Today was my day, having been left alone for what seemed like an eternity. What would be my destiny and whose life would I end?

The hasty movement of a finger squeezing the trigger released me from my magazine. Now, I was free. I penetrated through the humid air, catching up with the timorous deer as though he was a magnet that I was attracted to. There was nothing stopping me. Time seemed to slow as I sped up. The sun beamed onto my burning rigid outer shell and melted my excitement away. I was no longer nervous nor, estatic, I had a job to do.

Time caught up with me and I plunged at top speed into the deer. I pierced through his skin at such an impact that I shattered his pelvis into ruptured fragments like broken glass, and implanted myself in the soft cushioning of the warm and moist internal organs beneath the broken bone. A blanket of crimson blood washed over me. It seeped into the neatly intertwined fibres of his white shirt.  Bodily fluids crusted over from its congealed form as the broiling rays of sunlight burned onto his clothing. Blood continued to gush out and onto the gritty sand beneath the dissembled corpse and meandered around it. The pool of blood continued to circle around the body like sharks enclosing on their prey. My damage was accomplished, but little did the deer know, there was more damage coming his way. Five more bullets were soon to be pumped into him.

Then it dawned on me that this was not a deer, but a man. The piercing scream was something I had never witnessed before and will stay with me as long as I lived – inside him. My extraction came much later, but in the sterile silence of an operating theatre.




My Grandma
by William Hudson (C3)

I took my inspiration from a passage in Monster by Emerald Fennell, who was at Marlborough twenty years ago and went on to read English at Oxford.

My grandma is the most amazing, beautiful and supportive person. We had great times together, interesting times together and very sad times together. She was like a rose, beautiful and lovely, yet strong and tough.

Grandma lives in Jersey you see, so I used to get very excited about going to see her – mainly because I loved her, but also because of all of the great things about where she lived, for example, crabbing, surfing, swimming and most importantly eating fish and chips.

She would always be my number one fan when I was jumping in the pool, showing her what I though was unbelievable, but now I think about it, doing a belly flop isn’t the most incredible sight in the world. And she would always shout ‘are you ok?’ and give me a big round of applause.

Something that I have always admired in my grandma is the fact that my grandad is a very hard working man and has always been in his study a lot to this day, but she never got annoyed by this as she knew he was a great person and was just trying to provide for the family, And give my mum and her sister a great start in life. Grandma was not much of a carer for health and safety and let them do some pretty dangerous things as safety was not much of a thing back then. They went swimming in pools with 10cm of water and would not care if they dived in headfirst.

The saddest time in my life was when I found out my grandma had liver cancer. I was in year 6 when I found out and convinced myself that she would be ok, but little did I understand how devastating and fast working cancer could be. 2 weeks later was one of the most troubling times in my life. My cousins and flew over to jersey to visit Grandma in a hospice. She was clearly not well at all and was faded and yellow like an old daffodil. However, her hair was still in perfect condition. She found it very tiring to speak, so there were a lot of awkward silences. But it was still the same grandma who was my best friend. The bit that I still think about every day is when I was saying goodbye to her. I said, “Bye Grandma, see you soon” and she replied, “maybe not”. That as it was when it hit that she would leave my life forever. But I knew that I would remember her and love her for eternity.




Prose writing inspired by Bruce Chatwin
by Arthur Gill (PR)

I opened the olive door to my widowed grandmother’s small and rather dusty cottage (she was too ill to clean). The house was in Lyminton, a small village that was full of elderly people, who had not had the most interesting lives. It was a place where nothing moderately exciting had happened since – who knows when?

The overwhelming smell of cigarettes and soup filled my nostrils. Through the haze of cigarette smoke I saw an old woman swaying gently in a rocking-chair, with a dying fire spluttering away in the corner next to her. There was virtually no light apart from the dull flicker of the fire. The few light bulbs were caked in a thick layer of dust and the melancholy yellow of the lampshades seemed to be reflecting the mood of the place.

It was deafeningly silent, apart from the tiny crackle of the fire and the rhythmic creaking of the rocking-chair, which beat out an eerie aura in the small house. There was a cigarette lying in the ashtray and, as it slowly burned down, my grandma suddenly moved.

Her bloodshot eyes were alert for someone that old, but the rest of her body was frail. She shuddered her mouth into a rasping sentence;

‘Get me a cup of tea from the kitchen, deary.’

I walked into the kitchen. It had a tiled floor which would have caused my mother to faint (it was incredibly dirty). I opened a random cupboard and I saw something very strange. It was a small oak chest with no padlock, so I brought it down and opened it. The first thing I saw was a pendant, Aztec in design, though it clearly hadn’t been touched in a very long time. It was a lion with bared teeth with two eye slits. It was beautiful!

There was a necklace, embroidered with huge canines. A spearhead and many other curious objects stuffed into the small oak chest. I held the Aztec pendant and wandered back into the room my grandma was in, thinking of how my grandmother had got all these treasures. Was she a thief? No…she couldn’t be…

She saw me with the pendant in my hands and a smile creased her lips.

‘Ah, Bruce things are not always as they seem sometimes…’

Her eyes twinkled and I sat down in a chair as she began to talk.

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