Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3558 Set by John Digby

We asked for revealing excerpts from the young lives of famous fictional characters.

Report by Ms de Meaner

Really excellent. Just what was needed after Christmas. £15 to winners. The bottle goes to Ian Birchall.

"I found the jar in my locker, Father."

The Headmaster scrutinised the round form, the shabby and crumpled trousers.

"Then how did it get there? Did it walk?"

"It fell, Father."

"From above, I suppose. Bend over, Brown."

Afterwards the Headmaster asked him if he would care to confess. The boy took him to the locker.

"You see, Father, there is a gap in the locker above."

"That locker belongs to nobody. Do I owe you an apology, Brown?"

"No, Father. The jam on my cheek came from greed. The jar fell from above, but I fell to temptation."

"If you did not steal it, who did?"

"Nobody stole it, Father."

The Headmaster looked curiously at the expressionless, strangely innocent face.

"I see you remember your Homer, Brown. Punishment has been administered; I shall take it no further. But remember, there is a limit to human charity."

"Yes, Father, but do you think Christian charity has one?"

"Go, my child, before worse befalls you!"

The Suffolk Dumpling, as they called him, waddled away. The boy would go far, but in what way, the Jesuit wondered, a wintry smile on this thin lips.

T Griffiths

The Secret Diary of Adrian Meursault

1 January. My hamster died today. Or maybe yesterday. I don't know. I am going to keep this diary so I can remember this sort of thing. I asked my mother if she had a black tie so I can make my grief public. She told me to get a life.

2 January. It was the funeral today so I went swimming. Pandora was bobbing on a big float. I capsized it, and as she fell in I brushed against her breasts. She laughed, and I asked her out to the cinema tonight.

3 January. It was a 15 film and I'm only 133/4! They let Pandora in because she has breasts! Through the haze of Gitanes I saw her holding hands with an Arab. One day this diary will be discovered and people will understand the torment of being a 133/4-year-old undiscovered existentialist.

4 January. I was playing conkers when three Arabs tried to break up our game. One was Pandora's new boyfriend! I hit him with a conker and he died. They say I must be heartless, playing conkers just three days after my hamster died.

Nick MacKinnon

Mother: "Godot, why can't you ever be on time?"

Godot: "It's not me, mam, it's the other boys; they keep playing football and . . . "

Mother: "If I've told you once I've told you a thousand times, your tea is put on the table at six on the dot."

Godot: "Sorry. I won't be late again."

Mother: "You'll be late for your own funeral, you dimwit."

Godot: "It's the other boys. They're always larkin' about."

Mother: "I don't know what's to become of you, son. You're a big worry to me."

Godot: "I'm sorry, mam, I really am."

Mother: "And your room, like a pigsty. Sometime I think you're not my child."

Godot: "Don't say that, it's very hurtful. It makes me feel unwanted."

Mother: "Unwanted! That's a ripe one. I've worn my fingers to the bone looking after you, scrubbing, cleaning and cooking, and this is all the thanks I get." Godot: "Mam, why am I called Godot?"

Mother: "That's enough out of you! Go up to your room and don't come down until I tell you."

Godot: "OK. I'll wait until you call me."

John O'Byrne

Young Morse's Schooldays

There was a loud thump on the bedroom door: "Turn that bloody noise down, Endeavour, and get on with your homework."

Grudgingly, young Morse slightly reduced the volume of Bill Haley. Stupid old sod, he thought. He hated his name. And he hoped he'd never grow old and crabby like his Dad, listening to nothing but tedious Wagner.

He downed another pint of Tizer, comparing the taste favourably to the beer he had illicitly sampled from the fridge.

He looked at his watch. 6.52. Then how could it have been his father? At that hour he was always engrossed in the boring Archers. Perhaps his father had adjusted all the clocks and watches in the house. (That's why he had been late for school!) Or maybe the voice came from one of those newfangled tape-recorders.

Another loud thump. He opened the door to see his father, who growled: "Turn it down!" Another unnecessarily complex theory screwed.

Young Morse turned to his Junior Crossword Book. C _ T: domestic animal. He scowled, puzzling. He still had a lot to learn, but one thing was sorted. At this very moment Lewis was doing his homework for him.

Ian Birchall

No 3561 Set by Margaret Rogers

We want terse verse on the euro: haikus, limericks, whatever. In by 14 January.

E-mail: comp@newstatesman.co.uk

This article first appeared in the 01 January 1999 issue of the New Statesman, An earthquake strikes new Labour