Lucy Vickery

First or last

In Competition No. 3125 you were invited to compose a comically appalling first or final paragraph of the memoir of a well-known figure, living or dead.
This was one of those challenges that raises a glass in memory of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Victorian novelist and patron saint of purple prose. The oft-cited example of his florid style is the opening to the 1830 novel Paul Clifford — ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ — which was used by Charles Schulz as the first line of Snoopy’s novel, and by Brian Murdoch in his winning entry below.
You didn’t quite hit the spot this week and the standard was patchy. Some creditable entries were disqualified because they didn’t strike me as plausible beginnings or endings.
I enjoyed Frank Upton’s portrait of a young Jeremy Corbyn soaking up the ideological wisdom of Noggin the Nog and The Woodentops; he earns an honourable mention. Other highlights were D.A. Prince’s Richard Branson, Paul Freeman’s Jacob Rees-Mogg (‘I well remember my emergence from mater’s womb, or Wexit as I call it…) and George Wright’s John Bercow.
The prizewinners are printed below and earn £30 each.

Born with a congenitally weak chin in Kington Saint Michael near Chippenham on the wrong side of the Cold War, it was inevitable I should be aware of injustice at every level of British society. That society had levels and was not arranged as a communitarian bungalow inspired me to fight, pacifically, for radical change. At home, I freed toys unjustly dependent upon me for animation, expressing solidarity for their silent dignity by refusing to participate in the wasteful and exploitative charade of capitalist play. At school, I challenged an education system which rewarded only achievement, demanding recognition that numbers other than four could be the product of two plus two. Always I was acutely aware of the suffering of others: the milkman compelled to rise before dawn, the paperboy struggling to bear the weight of Sunday supplements.

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