Banana bungle;Write away;TES Competition

18th June 1999 at 01:00
Senior winner. Stephen Jeffs, age 14, Exmouth Community College, Devon

As with most of my generation, we wanted to be footballers in my road. It was a quiet cul-de-sac, so jumpers were put on the ground as makeshift goalposts, or walls were used as nets. I can remember the way we enticed people out; we were too small to reach the doorbells, knocking annoyed the parents, so we would link each other's arms and march down the road chanting: "Who's gonna play football, football?" until everyone was out.

The problem with our road was most of the houses were occupied by people who'd fought in the Hundred Years War (or so we believed when they told us their teeth had been chopped off by marauding Frenchmen). Many of these soldiers had no social lives, so resorted to talking to plants. One such elderly gentleman's favourite conversations stemmed from his prize roses, with thorns like kitchen knives. When not pruning, he used to keep a watchful eye on these prestigious plants. His eyes were also trained on us, with the precision of an M15 agent; he could've pinpointed our every freckle.

We didn't care. We could all kick straight and were feeling particularly rebellious, so we proceeded to kick a ball against a wall. I'd been doing pretty well so I emulated the ultimate in skill and expertise: the banana kick!

Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed something pink. I froze; if my blast went one centimetre too far it would be torn apart by an army of rusty cutlery, with little pink napkins to dispose of the remains.

Despite perspiring two gallons a second, I knew I could do it. I checked that the gleam of binoculars wasn't there. I ran. I struck. It was perfect; it soared through the air like an eagle, before diverging left with the power of a jet engine. The defenders were baffled, it was down to the keeper.

Shilton's outstretched hand elongated, making contact with the tiniest of finger tips. If his nails had been cut it would've been in the net. But they hadn't. The ball screamed towards a regiment of bayonets. It was dead, impaled on a thousand thorns. My friends stood gormless, staring at the ball, at the roses, at me.

Meandering up the road was a Jehovah's Witness, systematically having doors slammed in his face. I deduced that it would take a few seconds for the weathered old gentleman to realise and slam the door himself, just time to leap over and snatch the ball. I whispered my plan to my friends hiding behind the wall.

The gate squealed open. He ascended the steps. I waited. Now!

I darted towards the garden. Leaping towards the ball, I snatched it away and was about to jump when, horrified, I heard a rip, a tear, a snap. I nervously turned around to see a single flower, gripping my jumper. He would surely send me to Ms Kelly to do the splits, or even worse: shout at me! There was only one thing to do: run. Carrying half a rose bush with me I kamikazied off the wall, landed and ran. The others had conveniently vanished.

I found myself at the bottom of the road, five miles away, a forbidden area. What could I do? The police would have been notified, or John Major alerted, I was no good at this. My mentality was not that of a criminal.

Interrupting my thoughts was someone bawling my name. It was my mum calling me in.

Needless to say, the banana kick was not attempted for some time.

* Stephen Jeffs attends one of Europe's biggest schools, with more than 2,000 on roll and at least 20 teachers in the English department. It's just as well that he enjoys exercise. "There are two sites, half a mile apart, so we often walk a mile -and-a-half a day." Football is less important than it used to be; he now concentrates on racquet sports and mountain biking. The incident in his story happened when he was five or six. He has exaggerated it for effect, observing that "kicking a ball into a neighbour's garden is quite a small event". An outdoors person, Stephen says writing keeps him indoors - a pity, says Ingrid Quick, his teacher. He has received full marks for his GCSE coursework so far. Ingrid enjoyed using the "Write Away 2" booklet, which she says was "brilliant".

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