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20th September 2016

Living off-grid, off-road, and way out of sight of any other building, I expected to encounter many familiar scenes in these pieces of writing. I hadn’t anticipated the great variety of interpretations of the ‘Middle of Nowhere’ title; some literal, but many more metaphorical. I was struck by how relative and subjective the concept of ‘nowhere’ is; one person’s nowhere can be another’s somewhere. This is something that does seem familiar; some may think that I (along with my partner) live in the middle of nowhere, but as fell-runners and lovers of wild places, this spot is right in the middle of where we want to be.

I chose ‘Message in a Bottle’ (2070) as the winning entry, for the writer’s evocative use of language. I felt it really took me to the inhospitable, lonely, sun-scorched land described.  I particularly like the imagery in the lines: “Black buzzards circle high on muscular thermals, dry cries echo from cracked rock hot enough to fry an egg”. Although the setting may seem a relatively conventional interpretation of the title, this piece of writing is far from contrived or predictable. 

I thought the story which begins on a bus (2079) should also be featured. It was gripping and described a bleak (but sadly real) world, in which there are no heroes; each character being unlikable in their own way. I could really feel the shame of the older passenger, who felt obliged but unable to act. 

The story written from the viewpoint of someone lying in bed, apparently suffering from depression (2083), also tackled a tough subject.  I like this piece for the way the condition of the writer is slowly revealed as the narrative unfolds. It also insightfully depicts how one can feel alone and isolated whilst living in the middle of society, or as the writer puts it: “surrounded by the ingredients of our lives and the lives of others”. 

Thank you for letting me take part in this weeks’ competition; I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the entries.


About the judge

Suzanna Brett, along with her partner, is the warden of Skiddaw House , one of the most remote and highest independent youth hostels in the UK. They also spent two years running the equally remote Black Sail youth hostel.  

Prior to moving to the 'back o' beyond' (her current home as described by Alfred Wainwright), she spent two years teaching English to Turkish teenagers and Syrian refugees in Antakya, Turkey. An anthropology graduate, Suzy also enjoyed editing papers written by Turkish Anthropologists during this time. 

Read about the history of Skiddaw House in the newly published book: The Loneliest House in England. Contact the author, John Martin to order a copy:

My Notes