Phyllis Gailey Literary Competition 2020 – 3rd Place

Posted April 2, 2020 by WI Staff in Event Reports

The following piece, written by Jennifer Gardiner of Kilrea WI, was awarded 3rd place in this year’s Phyllis Gailey Literary Competition.


As I Walked Out One Morning …

As I walked out one morning I decided that it was now time.  The last few weeks had been extremely challenging as I had experienced every emotion known to mankind.

I must act immediately in order to move forward with my life.

It was one of those dank, foggy mornings which fitted my mood perfectly.  Water droplets were suspended from the garden hedges reminding me of tear drops and plenty of those had been shed recently.  Everything was colourless, shrouded in grey.  Nature reflected my present life.

I walked past the buildings which had been the gas works.  As a child the stench of rotten eggs had filled my nostrils every time I went down the Ormeau Road.  It was a childhood memory best forgotten.

I walked over the bridge at the River Lagan.  A rusty discarded pram rested on the mud flats.  It was a symbol of decay and death which made me shudder.  Enough of morbid thoughts and time to move forward.

The entrance of the Ormeau Park loomed up.  I remembered going there as a child to play tennis, my mum’s racquet in my hand.  Sport was something I failed miserably at but tennis was the exception.  As a child I thought I was good enough for Wimbledon.

The Ormeau Park was also the venue for The Lord Mayor’s Show in the 1960s.  I recall standing with my nose pressed against the railings watching the colourful floats gliding past.  The memory made me smile inwardly and as if on cue a watery sun peeped through the misty gloom.

Also beside the park’s trees a carpet of golden daffodils heralded the coming of spring.  It reminded me of Wordsworth’s poem.  I felt as if I was wandering lonely as a cloud.  However the daffodils played a large role in lifting Wordsworth’s mood and they gave me confidence in renewed life, hope and a fresh start.  The cool crisp air made me shiver and I plunged my numb hands inside my anorak pockets but without much relief as my fingers touched the cold metal key.  This brought me back to reality and my determination to carry out my errand.

I couldn’t believe it when I spied the next landmark on my stroll – the bicycle shop!  It had survived the generations.  My Raleigh bike had been purchased there.  That bike gave me a freedom to explore the streets around my home.  It dawned on me that after recent events I now had a new found freedom. The ties and restraints of caring and being in a particular place at a set time were gone.

At a street corner I recalled the little toy shop that used to be there.  Everything on sale was crammed into the window.  For a child it was an Aladdin’s cave.  The task which faced me was also like an Aladdin’s cave as I didn’t know what I would discover.  There was a mixture of fear, excitement and stepping out into the unknown like an explorer.

By this stage I had reached the top of the Ormeau Road at Rosetta. The small roundabout in the middle of the road made me chuckle.  At one stage my brother decided to run away.  He travelled as far as the roundabout and became totally lost. The coalman discovered the tearful boy and returned him home somewhat subdued.  The incident reminded me of how empty and lost I had been feeling recently.  Life seemed so colourless and flat.

At Rosetta the quaint buildings had housed the local post office.  It was outside the post office that I had tripped when holding on to my brother’s pushchair.  My finger got caught in the wheel spokes.  It was a painful experience leaving me scarred for life.  The events of the last few weeks would also have a lasting impression on me.

I continued on my journey knowing that the end was in sight.  At St John’s church I remembered fancy dress parties.  One time my mum made me into a Christmas tree, festooned in green crepe paper and covered in chocolate decorations.  The whole afternoon I was followed everywhere by a big St Bernard dog who fancied the sweets.  It was great comfort to have happy childhood memories particularly when life was difficult and challenging.

My walk was coming to an end.  Whenever I started out it was all glum and doom.  Now I felt as if a shutter had been lifted to let in the light.  The trip down memory lane had been really therapeutic.  It had given me a renewed strength and vigour to face whatever lay ahead.

Journey’s end – I pushed open the garden gate and walked up the short path.  With a thumping, racing heart I removed the key from my pocket and placed it into the lock.  As I had set out that morning I knew it was time.  My mum’s house was waiting for me.  It was time to sort through her things.  Death had separated us.  Life would never be the same.  However the reminiscing walk had given me the courage to tackle the task at hand.  Just as the walk had triggered a variety of emotions I knew the following days would be the same.  What would I find?  What would I discover?

A ray of sunshine cast its beams over the dusty furniture.  A feeling of peace came over me.  I wasn’t alone.  Mum was looking down on me.  Now where should we start?


Written by Jennifer Gardiner, Kilrea WI.


 Judge’s critique:

What I particularly enjoyed about this piece of writing was how through one morning and one walk the protagonist gained strength to do something she had been putting off for a long time.  I felt through your use of descriptive language I too was walking past the Gas Works, Ormeau Road, past the River Lagan and by Rosetta with the funny little roundabout in the middle of the road.  It was amazing how those landmarks sparked a memory for the main character and you transported the reader back to those times, reliving those memories.  The reference to Wordsworth was a nice touch.  I enjoyed the description of the daffodils and for the main character the daffodils gave her ‘confidence in renewed life, hope and a fresh start’.  Although the topic was painful, the loss of a mother, your words were so positive and uplifting.  In the last paragraph I particularly liked the phrase ‘ray of sunshine’ and the word ‘peace’.  These were comforting words and suggested the protagonist was indeed not alone but rather her mother was close by ‘looking down’ on her.  A beautifully written story.”

 (Miss Deirdre McCausland BA Hons, PGCE)


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