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Home > News and Events > FERGUS CAME THIRD IN THE 500 WORDS 2016
Fergus makes his radio debut with Vassos


27 May 16

Many congratulations to Fergus Gathorne-Hardy who came third in the 5-9 category of the 500 Words 2016 by BBC Radio 2. This morning Fergus received his award at the Shakespeare’s Globe and was interviewed live on the BBC.

http://bbc.in/1Ttqbfa (41:16)

Here is Fergus’s story:

The river smells different when it’s full or empty. As we approached the Thames, the old brick warehouses looming on either side, we caught the rusty, smudgy scent of low tide. My dad lifted me over the wall to check the coast was clear.

“I can see a way down’, I told him, and we dropped onto the stony shore. Only it wasn’t stones: under our feet lay a carpet of animal bones, broken pottery, shells and other treasures. Suddenly, I heard a crunching noise. A figure in black leather boots was moving towards us, the torn edges of his sweeping coat almost brushing the beach as he swept a metal detector back and forth, ticktockticktock, like an old grandfather clock. His head was bent low, but as he reached us, he looked straight into my face with a pair of brilliant blue eyes. ‘Mudlarking, are we?’ he wheezed. ‘Found anything yet?’
‘Er, not yet, no,’ I stammered. Fumbling with wrinkly brown fingers in a pocket, the man pulled out a magnificent white clay pipe.

‘Yours, if you want it’, grunted the man, thrusting it towards me. The pipe gleamed like moonlight against his muddy hands. I took it, and it felt smooth and cold, like a piece of fresh chalk. All of a sudden I noticed that a thin whisper of smoke had begun to curl out of the wider end. I whipped round to show Dad, but stopped in amazement. The skyscrapers and the Shard, and all the bridges had disappeared: there was just a thick, soft fog all around me, like being under my duvet in bed. And that’s when I noticed something else. The rumble of buses and taxis and planes overhead had utterly stopped. Instead, I could hear the strangest things: small splashes of water, a clinking of metal, and what sounded like horses hooves beating along. The pipe in my hand now felt warm.

‘Proper peasouper’ came a whisper right in my ear, though I could see nothing. ‘You don’t want to be out in those, all sorts of brigands and cutpurses and vagabonds about…’ A cold finger that stank of seaweed touched my cheek. I yelled, and fell backwards, and the pipe flew out of my hands. I heard the plop as it hit the river water. Pushing myself up from the grimy shore, I saw my Dad still waiting by the river wall. Behind him was the London Eye and red buses stacked at the traffic lights, and the winter sun was shining on a new office block. But there was no sign of the man in the coat. ‘Better hurry, the tide is turning’ warned Dad. I glanced back at the water, where the top end of the pipe was just poking out. Ripples were already edging up its neck. Soon, it would be covered.

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