Please scroll down to read the winning entries to our
Open Short Story Competition 2021
judged by Helen Baggott.
Entries are listed in reverse order followed by judge's report.
We welcome feedback about these stories and any others you have read on our website. Also, if you wish to comment about our competitions please email Debbie.
Fifth placed, Easy enough to smile by Liz Andersen and fourth placed, Grass Widow by Tony Oswick, were awarded a Highly Commended place. Both have won a free entry to our 2022 Open Short Story Competition.
Third place wins £30 - Quiet Love by Sam Szanto
Sam provided a few words about her writing experience:
A number of my stories have been published and commended in competitions. I also write poetry, and my work has won and been shortlisted for a number of competitions for this too. .
You became a nun because you were in love with Jesus. I became a nun because I was in love with quiet.
I’ve told you how I always wanted a quiet life. A hackneyed phrase, but I mean it fervently. You seemed surprised when I mentioned my noise-sensitivity, but it has dominated my life. As a young child, I saw and felt loudness like a rash, so often, even in our suppressed suburb. The shrieking in the playground, the scorching sounds of the school disco made me crouch in a corner, hands over ears. I would tell my parents to turn the TV down in the evenings and if they had friends over, to avoid the drill of their frivolity, stayed with grandparents. I refused birthday parties: going to or having. My parents, worried and exasperated, took me to a child psychologist; she said I was fine, ‘just’ an introvert. My schoolmates and my brother said I was boring.
As an adult, I was offered a lucrative job in London – yet, it being the big city, the only decent place I could afford was a flat above a salon. Despite the slugs of foam pushed into my ears at night, the noise was relentless. From ten in the evening, drunken shrieks invaded my skull; sirens sliced the folds of my brain. Each sound was inside me, like a crazy heartbeat. Stark awake, I’d read until it was time for the clatter and bang of dawn deliveries; the bleeping sensors and the thud-thump of rubbish collectors.
You know the story of how I came here. One day, wandering backstreets at sunrise, my favourite time of day, I came to a church. Strangely, it was unlocked. I sat, soaking in the solitude. A few elderly people filed in for an early service and I stayed. Brought up Catholic, I enjoyed the familiar ritual. I started to speak softly to Jesus. Soon I was going to the church every morning. The hush embraced me; people weren’t offended if I sometimes walked off without speaking, holding the God-given quiet inside me.
And then, someone in the congregation told me about a community of modern nuns in Surrey who wore what they liked and didn’t change their names.
You laughed when I told you what my family said. ‘You’re in for a gruelling life of gruel’: Dad. ‘What a waste of a good accountancy degree’: Mum. ‘Weirdo’: Brother. ‘I’m not joining the circus,’ I said. But to them, I might as well have been.
They accepted it, over time. When I want something I want it. My mum liked the idea of me still being able to work, albeit at a smaller accountancy firm ‘in the sticks’, as it normalised the idea of me being a nun. My commute would be by bicycle rather than tube so there would be no hearing other people’s music or rumbling stomachs.
A few months later, my father drove me here. I didn’t bring much: my bicycle, pictures for the wall, some clothes; books and books and books. I couldn’t wait to read undisturbed, for words on a page to be the only things I heard.
When Dad left with a loud farewell, I breathed in the quiet: the smell and taste of it. Peace slipped inside my body. I stood in the entrance hall, waiting for someone to show me where my room was, absorbing everything. There’s nothing garish in our hallway, is there? There’s peace in that highly polished dark parquet, the threadbare cream rugs; the white walls, the votive images and crucifixes. I felt like I was finally in the right place.
You moved towards me over that smooth wood like a lullaby. I took in the sight of a young woman with plaited auburn hair; a heart-shaped face; a fog-coloured top and blue jeans; a silver cross. A detailed description that does nothing to describe you.
‘Jenny?’ you asked. Your smile lit up your whole face, as if there were candles under your skin. ‘I’m Sister Agatha Harrison – Taggie. I’ve come to take you to your room. It’s next to mine, in the attic.’
You picked up a couple of my bags, not flinching at their heaviness. I thanked you and took as much stuff as I could carry. The rest could wait.
‘Have you got any questions about life in the community, Jenny?’ you enquired, as we climbed two steep flights of stairs.
I had thought I knew what to expect. After all, I had come to the convent for an interview, to see if I would be a good fit and vice versa; this was followed by a long telephone chat. But I wanted to hear you talk, so I asked what a typical day was like. What I really wanted to know was what your own life was like; had been like. What brought you here? It was too soon for those questions, though.
You said that eight nuns, including us, lived here. There was lots of group time: communal dinner every night, shared cooking duties; meetings and discussions in the lounge; services at the chapel. I wondered if she thought I would get lonely; whether I wanted to know there would be other people around a lot of the time.
‘We have solitary prayer time, too, of course. You’ll find it quiet,’ she said. ‘I guess you were expecting that… but we have fun.’
I hadn’t considered fun.
You went on. In the daytimes, most of the women went out to do paid jobs; you taught Latin part-time at a private school. The community did voluntary work; you helped at a food bank on Saturday mornings. And there were jobs to do at the convent: you were the gardener. When I said that I was an accountant, you enthused about how useful it would be if I could do the community’s books.
‘Sister Mary Howatch used to do them, but she’s gone back into the world. Hence the free room next to mine. Nice lady, she’ll be missed, but she was terrible at doing the books, always making mistakes.’
She let out a snort of laughter. It was loud, but I didn’t flinch as I usually would have done. It was the sound of joy.
‘Are you really a nun?’ I asked abruptly. ‘You’re not what I imagined. Sorry, that sounded so rude.’
You burst out laughing again. I laughed too.
‘I really am a nun,’ you said, ‘we’re not indoor penguins here.’
We laughed yet again.
Afterwards, we reminisced about my clumsy manner of speaking on that first day. Still, I was right when I said that; you didn’t seem, or look nun-ish. Aside for the cross around your neck, if I had seen you on the street I wouldn’t even have guessed you were religious. But I would have wanted to get to know you.
As we ascended into the attic, the peaceful feeling slipped out of me as quickly as it had arrived. It left a heaving sensation, as if I were floundering in water.
You’re approaching on your bike. Your wavy hair is unruly as always; a sea-coloured dress floats around you; it’s hard to discern your shape beneath it.
As you push through the flower-scented air, the breeze dances. I watch you, feet on the moist mossy earth and head in the clouds. Not with Jesus, where it should be. Where it always was before I met you.
‘Taggie,’ you call.
My hand spider-dances in a wave.
‘Off to do my good works,’ you say. ‘Going to the shops on the way back, my turn to cook – do you like rabbit pie?’
I have never had rabbit pie: but why not? Before you came, we ate the kind of food my grandparents would have cooked. I couldn’t believe it when you told me people had called you boring. You seem so adventurous; so full of life.
‘Rabbit pie sounds great.’
You smile and sail out of the gates. My heart is jumping in my chest. It is nice and unpleasant at the same time: it is the feeling of change. I am uneasy at experiencing such a human connection when for so many years I only felt connected to a higher, unseen presence. Even when we are apart, Jenny, I feel as close to you as the two words of a name. So soon, you have come to know me. But in the crucial way, we do not know each other at all and to do so would irrevocably change both of our worlds.
You have heard the fact-file of my life over the past twenty-nine years. I’ve told you about my family: Catholic, not very tolerant of anyone who isn’t. I fitted in. Even before hitting puberty, I had found my true love: Christ. I didn’t want another. When I put on my frilly white dress and patent shoes for my First Holy Communion, I thought I really was marrying him. It didn’t matter that there were girls in the exact same dresses, the same shoes. Jesus and I knew how to share. I loved going to church even when most of my Holy Communion chums had stopped, preferring to lie in after nights out. I went on nights out too, but I didn’t like drinking, and came home early. My classmates wouldn’t have been surprised that I became a nun, I expect; I eschew social media so I don’t know. I was called boring too. Even a teacher called me old before my time. I do like old people, old things. I trained as an archaeologist and spent years doing the academic work, including learning Latin. But it all started to feel meaningless. The dead things were so dead. It was only at church, when I stared at Jesus hanging on the cross in his loincloth, or as a baby in Mary’s arms, that I felt connected and in the right place. I stared at that beautiful, sad face and felt a stirring. He was dead, but he was alive too: faith brought him alive. Like you, I started attending church every day, at home I read the New Testament over and over. Usually alone. I had found a house-share, in an attempt at a social life, but my housemates clearly felt uneasy with my religiosity. They didn’t invite me out much.
I wanted to believe that I could fit in, somewhere. I wanted to find my people on earth as well as in heaven. So I joined the community here. As soon as I arrived, I felt content; I got on well with the older people; enjoyed listening to their stories and learning from them. There was a lot of warmth and laughter; the evenings were a tender-grey. When I wanted to be alone, I went into my attic room and read, or prayed, or worked. I gardened, bare-foot, cracked and brown soles absorbing what the earth wanted to give. Worked at the school; the girls I taught were generally studious and friendly. Life felt rewarding and calm.
And then you came.
Wow. You don’t do boundaries, do you? You’re porous; you touch when you talk, you hug. You come in. I have always kept my bedroom door shut; we all do. No one enters unless they have a message. Downstairs is for meeting and talking. But from your second day here, you’ve been in and out. The attic is our space. We sit on my bed in PJs and talk, as if we are girls having a midnight feast. I don’t draw my curtains, somehow it seems safer. Occasionally, in the light of a half ring of gold, we read poetry. We move back and forth with the rhythms like rowers moving oars through water. I like the epics: Ovid, The Odyssey; you enjoy Neruda, Machado, Rumi. When you read, your voice is so quiet it can be hard to hear the words, and I move closer.
You respect my boundaries. If I am praying or meditating, you return later. If I’m getting dressed, you wait outside until I’m decent. I try to keep the barrier in place because I am fearful of the flood if the dam is breached. Compared to you, I am reserved. You are open, disclosing comes so easily. When you explained about your extreme sensitivity to noise, I was startled; I would never have guessed your yearning for quiet. I could see it was a painful subject and longed to hold your hand.
Yesterday, you came in while I was Skyping with a student who had been ill. I motioned for you to sit on the bed, the lesson was nearly over. I shouldn’t have; it wasn’t professional. As your naked feet kissed the floor, my voice started to tremble. When you lay on my bed like a love letter, I lost the thread of what I was saying entirely. Trying to concentrate on Ovid, I couldn’t stop staring at the lines on your soles. Each line with a meaning, if only I could dig to the root of it.
‘Will I get questions on the poet’s feelings in the exam?’ the student, young and enthusiastic as I should have been, asked. ‘Miss, Miss… can you hear me?’
I said something vague. I could only consider my own feelings at that moment. My own are savage and destructive as the sea, life-giving and protective as womb-water. When I met you, my brain was baptised in salt water; scrubbed with it. The night you arrived, I stood in my almost bare bedroom and listened through the wall to your susurrations. Of course you asked if I really was a nun, I wasn’t behaving like one.
But I am a nun, and so are you. Nothing can or will happen that is beyond the bounds of friendship. I push myself back to the present. You have disappeared, off on your bike to do your good works. I bend to my gardening; my own good work. I kneel, ready to yank up carrots by the roots. We’ll have them with the rabbit pie.
That night, I don’t pray or meditate. I read an anthology of Neruda poems. When I come to the words ‘a flower climbs up to your lips to seek me’, I touch the black words on the white page, follow their curves.
There is a knock on my door.
‘Come in, Taggie,’ I say.
Feet stroking the floor, you move into my room. You sit on my bed, head below the rosary on the wall. How long, I wonder, will we do this for? Will our quiet times become a whisper, then silence? Or will our bodies become boats that we sail somewhere we can’t be heard?
I look at you, and I know.
Second place wins £70 - The Sum of the Parts by Ann Abineri
Ann provided a few words about her writing experience:
I was a keen writer in my teens and returned to it in my forties. I write flash fiction, short stories and poetry and have been successful in a number of competitions. The imagery in this short story came to me when I attended a writing course in Iceland in 2018. I am hoping to be able to draw inspiration from travel again soon.
The Sum of the Parts
I first felt her presence in the lagoon, sensed her movement under the cloudy waters.
She had left imprints of her feet in the mineral-rich silt where mine now trod. When I
went to dress, I felt something prickling in the toe of my sock and found a tiny, pale
The next time it was her laugh in a coffee shop, a joyful tinkle, translucent and
sparkling, bouncing from the window and skipping from table to table, leaving each
person surprised as the unexpected giggle stole their sentence or replaced their
One day, as I walked near Nautholsvik, I knew that she was the sandy grit in my eye,
a painful reminder of something elusive.
Time and time again, I wondered who she might be, how she came to be here with
me. Was I sensing a Great Grandmother shamed by her family for dallying with
Marines during the War? A Grandmother who marched in flower-power dungarees
calling for Wages for Housework? A busy working Mother with a quiet sadness in
her blue eyes?
Another day I thought someone brushed against me on Laugavegur but when I
turned no one was there. Feeling in my pocket for my Straeto ticket, I found a balled
up scrap of paper. I unrolled it and the folds and faint markings appeared to say
Find Me. Then a sudden gust of west wind snatched my scarf and when I had
retrieved it and rearranged myself, the paper had gone.
Gradually my sense of her as the translucent blue of water or glass or the darkness
of lava faded. Now she was as green as the feathery dill clinging to the herring on
the plate or the weeping, mossy walls of Reyjavik City Hall. I began to leave the
bedroom blinds up in the hope that I would see her in the dancing lights upon the
ceiling and, oblivious to my husband’s complaints, all windows and doors ajar in
case she was looking for me. When it snowed I sensed a piercing whiteness and
held snowflakes on my bare palms, examining each one in case it was her. One
night I slept with a familiar looking icicle on my pillow.
My husband phoned our friends and told them that I had been possessed by the
huldufolk, those wayward sprites who roam the countryside and in whom the majority
of my compatriots purport to believe. They set up a rota to keep me safely indoors
and feed me hearty kjotsupa of lamb and carrots to weigh me down in case I should
float off across the lava fields on my search.
One day, as I tidied absentmindedly, wondering where she would show herself next,
I spotted a shiny square of paper under a bookcase. I looked at the shelves above,
most of them my mother’s books.
I picked up the paper, a Polaroid, and saw two words in capitals and an address, a
children’s home in Copenhagen, Denmark. The words read Mosaic Syndrome.
I turned the square over and looked at the photo. A blonde child, not much more
than a baby really, with wide set eyes and a friendly open smile.
Then I knew.
My sister, given up, banished, but still here in my mother’s sad eyes and in feathers
and wind, in lava and water, in plants and in the elusive rolling waves of colour in the
sky. Each of these a piece of the mosaic that makes her who she is. Complete.
Precious. Icelandic. Waiting for me to bring her home.
Winner of £100 First Prize
Something in Common by Valerie Bowes
Valerie provided a few words about her writing experience:
I have been writing seriously since the late 1990s, with stories published in women's magazines and a novel set at the time of Waterloo. My website is www.valeriebowes.com
Peter Mallory stood on the top of the cliff and watched his brother’s body drift
slowly out to sea. He strained his eyes until the dark speck vanished into the bobbling
waves and uncertain light, then turned to fling himself on his bike and pedal furiously
He was trembling so much, it was hard to keep his balance. What should he do?
The mobile phone in his pocket was no use here. No reception. Should he flag down a
car, in the unlikely event one should pass him on this road, and get some help? They
could call the Coastguard to fish Michael out, but Michael was dead. He had to be, after a
fall like that.
And it was his fault. Peter clamped the brakes, skidding to an ungainly halt, and
sat straddling the bike while his brain churned wildly through the turmoil that would
greet his confession. He hadn’t meant to push Michael over. But who would believe him?
Everyone knew the state of warfare that existed between them.
Never had two brothers – all right, half-brothers – been so chalk and cheese. He
loved football; Michael was a fine spin-bowler. He was a whiz at the X-Box; Michael
preferred chess. He liked parties and girls; Michael was always poking about on his own
with those binoculars, pretending he was bird-watching. Creepy little bastard!
Merely thinking about Michael brought the resentment bubbling into Peter’s
brain. His brother had been a pain in the arse since he was born. He was always there,
like a cuckoo in the nest. He spoilt everything. Be quiet, Peter, you’ll wake Michael. Give
it to Michael, he’s four years younger than you.
But now he was gone. Peter set the bike in motion again. His legs moved more
steadily as the realisation set in. Michael was gone, and all he had to do was sit tight and
deny all knowledge of his brother’s whereabouts.
He’d be quite safe. It would never cross anyone’s mind that Michael’s death was
anything but a tragic accident. He’d been warned about going near the cliff-edge, but
Michael always did his own thing, right? And, when all the fuss had died down, life
would be like it was BM. Before Michael.
Moira Mallory was more angered than concerned when her son failed to come in
for his tea.
‘Where on earth is he? You haven’t seen him, have you, Peter?’ She posed the
question as a last resort, not actually expecting an answer and accepting her stepson’s
wordless shake of the head as par for the course. It was unlikely that either boy would
know where the other was, and she’d never felt that she and Peter connected on anything
but the most basic level.
But at least it was a start, she supposed, with a faint sigh. She’d never thought it
would be so hard. It wasn’t as if she’d been a marriage-breaker so Peter could claim she’d
messed up his life. His own mother had died when he wasn’t yet five. He must barely
remember her and she’d tried to take her place. She really had.
‘Are you hungry? Sausage and beans do you? You might as well have yours and
I’ll do something for Michael when he gets in. If I’ve told him once, I’ve told him a
thousand times to let me know if he’s going to be late. What’s a mobile for?’ She tried to
laugh and Peter lowered his head with a strangled noncommittal grunt. Keeping shtum
was not going to be as easy as he’d thought.
Peter bolted his food and hid himself in his room but, however hard he tried, he
couldn’t shut his ears to Moira’s increasingly desperate phone calls to all the places
where Michael could possibly be. She was beginning to panic by the time Howard
Mallory got in from work.
‘I’ll go and look for him,’ Howard said. ‘He’s probably had a puncture or seen
one of those bloody birds and forgotten the time. Peter can come with me.’
It was the last thing Peter wanted to do but he could hardly refuse. They cruised
the route Michael took from school, gradually widening the fruitless search. Peter made
ham-fisted attempts to respond to his father’s determinedly cheerful chatter, which faded
the further they drove. At last, after half an hour of complete silence, Howard turned the
car around, went home and called the police.
The officers who came were very kind.
‘We’ll set up a search-party, sir. Perhaps you’d man the phones here, and let us
know the minute he turns up?’
‘No,’ Howard said. ‘I’m coming with you.’
‘Wouldn’t it be better if you stayed with your wife?’ the older man suggested
‘Peter will do that, won’t you, mate?’ Howard patted Peter on the shoulder and
turned away, taking his son’s white face and rigid stance as concern for his brother. It
was the worst evening of Peter’s life.
The police were even more sympathetic when they returned to break the news that
they had found Michael’s bike at the top of the cliff and evidence of a slip down the face
‘The Coastguard’s arranging for a helicopter to overfly the area with searchlights,
in case Michael’s lying injured somewhere but, to be honest, I can’t hold out too much
hope. Not there.’ The young officer looked uncomfortable. He hated telling the parents.
‘Why would he have been on the cliff, do you think, sir?’
‘Birdwatching,’ blurted Peter. It was the first word he’d uttered all evening.
Howard nodded. ‘He was obsessed with peregrines,’ he said, his voice choked. ‘I
should never have given him those binoculars.’
‘Giving a lad a pair of field-glasses is nothing to blame yourself for,’ the fatherly
policeman said. ‘You can’t wrap them in cottonwool all their lives.’
The night dragged past. Peter could not make himself take off his clothes or get
into his bed. He huddled into a corner of his bedroom, trying not to hear Moira weeping.
His eyes followed the silent shadow that paced back and fore across the light that shone
in a golden bar at the bottom of his door and he knew his father had not gone to bed
By the time dawn tinged the sky with pink, the impulse to confess what he had
done was beginning to overwhelm him. But it had gone too far now. After the nightmare
he’d put them through, how could he tell his parents that he’d known what had happened
to Michael all along? And the police – they’d been out searching. Would he be sent to
prison for wasting their time? He had to tell himself over and over again that he was safe,
that nobody knew he’d been there, that he only had to sit it out and everything would be
His room closed around him like a prison cell, and at length he could not bear it
any longer. Quietly, he slipped downstairs and out into the fresh morning. He wheeled his
bike carefully away from the house, then leapt into the saddle and frantically pumped the
It had not been his intention to go anywhere near the cliffs, but it seemed as if the
bike took him there without any conscious decision on his part. He bumped slowly along
the path, trying to remember where he had stood – was it really only yesterday? And then
he saw the small figure.
He almost fell off his bike as fear and hope hit him in almost equal proportions. It
had only been a glimpse, but he was sure he had seen Michael. The bike clattered to the
ground as he threw himself clear and pushed into the patchwork of rocks and small
‘Michael? Hey, Mike!’ He thought he heard an answering cry and plunged after it.
The edge of the cliff appeared with appalling suddenness under his feet, but he could
have stopped in time if it had not been for the violent shove in the middle of his back.
Michael Mallory stood on the top of the cliff and watched his brother’s body drift
slowly out to sea. No mistake this time. The same miracle would not happen twice.
Careering down the cliff, steep as a falcon’s stoop, he had fallen among a clump
of the little misshapen trees that clung, stunted but tenacious, to a tiny foothold. The first
that he grasped with desperately clutching fingers had broken loose, to carry on down the
face until it plunged into the sea, its dark, wind-bowed crown deputising for a partially
submerged body. But it had slowed Michael’s wild descent enough to allow him to grab
another, which held.
The painful scramble back up would have been well-nigh impossible for anyone
but himself, small and slight as he was for his twelve years, but he made it and sought
sanctuary instinctively in his hidey-hole in the rocks. Little more than a crevice between
two slanting slabs, it was a jealously guarded secret. He squashed himself in and gave
way to the explosive sobs of reaction but, when the paroxysm was over, his mind worked
swiftly with a cold, deadly anger. He’ll come back. I would. I know he will. And I’ll be
His plan matured, covering every move like a game of chess. He moved his bike
to a spot some few hundred yards away, carefully scraping the lip of the cliff as far down
as he could reach. When the police explored this area again, they would find two slips.
Where his bike had been, they would find that the slipmark did not reach the bottom;
where Peter’s bike was, it would. The inference would be plain, even to the dimmest
mind. The searchers had missed him in the darkness; Peter had come to try to find him
He returned to his lair, to lay hidden from the searchers and nurse his hatred. A
film he’d seen at his bird-watching club, of the baby bird being inched over the edge by
its cuckoo sibling, played itself over and over in his mind.
An unexpected tear slid suddenly down his face. He dashed it away with the back
of his hand. The movement drew a sharp twinge from his many stiffening bruises and he
clung to the pain, deliberately using it to fuel his anger and his purpose.
Bitterness rose like bile in his throat. He hawked and spat it out, along with a
twinge of regret. It wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t started it. Peter had intended him to die.
He’d turned the tables, that was all. And now it was time to emerge from hiding and be
‘found’. Peter was gone, and all he had to do was sit tight and deny all knowledge of his
He wouldn’t miss his brother, he insisted to himself, resisting the fierce stabbings
of guilt. After all, they had nothing in common.
All of the stories that reached the final round of this competition deserved their place. Reading stories of such a high quality made the task of picking the ultimate winner an almost impossible job.
Two stories have been selected as highly commended.
It’s Easy Enough to Smile was a finely observed story of jealousy. The writer of this story captured the frustration and anger of the main character and the final twist made this a poignant and painfully sad story.
Grass Widow really was something quite different. A victim who is anything but has the last laugh and I found that humour was delivered with a very light touch.
Now to the top three, beginning with the story placed third.
Quiet Love was written with so much passion and tension that I felt the emotional power of the words through every sentence. When I reread this story, I found that new thoughts came to me; it’s such a deep story that I know will continue to reveal itself again and again. There’s something very sad about the two main characters – but also something incredibly wonderful. As a reader, I felt I was with those characters, on the edge – waiting to step off into the unknown.
In second place, The Sum of the Parts. This story was one of the shortest of the entries I read, but the phrasing and rhythm of the writing was by far some of the strongest of the competition. Some sections, during the second read, were read aloud and there’s something beautifully poetic about how the sentences have been structured.
So, after the praise given to those four stories, how have I selected my winner? When I read Something in Common the first time, I found the twist gave me a ‘Wow!’ moment. The writer of this story captured the unforgiving attitudes of adolescents and how sibling rivalry can bring out the deadliest of emotions. Peter and Michael have a complicated relationship, something children found within second marriages might often experience. Guilt and regret resonate through this story – and also revenge. One of the elements I assessed with all the stories is how fitting a title is to the story. In the winning story, it’s perfect. Of course, other elements were also considered and some stories lost points for a weakness here or there. Something in Common came through without losing a point – and it was a thoroughly good read, making it for me the outright winner.