The Winter’s Tale (Paper 2 Language – writing task – Exemplar)
Timing: 1 hour including planning and checking
Assessment Objectives: AO5 (24 marks) and AO6 (16 marks)
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Close-up: a child making a snowman with a friend
Wide-angle: fields and roads covered in snow (bird’s eye view) panning to cityscape with cathedral spire
Close-up: a homeless man in a make-shift shelter, shivering and alone
The idea is to try to shift tone from an idyllic scene of snowy weather as a charming and playful experience, to one which disrupts that first mood and tone, towards empathy and awareness that wintery weather can also be dangerous to those who are vulnerable.
Rosy-cheeked and flecked with wind-spun flakes of snow, the toddler’s hands glided back and forth over the sculpted torso of his creation. Try as he might, he had been unable to find a spare hat amongst his parents’ wardrobes and so the being before him wore a crop of porcupine-quill sticks which stuck out at various angles from his smiling head. A carrot, liberated from the rabbit coop, stood out proudly for a nose and his ice-blue eyes glittered in the harsh morning sunlight, lancing across the garden in which the snowman stood (his sister would surely not miss the oversized faux sapphire rings?).
The boy had been working hard for more than two hours but the squalling snow seemed to mute out the passing of time as well as the sky and horizon – strange how such days were defined by both stillness and chaos at the same time. His yellow mackintosh and rubber boots seemed to yell in defiance against the hungry white blanket that had swallowed up the world around him. Billowing upwards in a twisting column, his breath pulsed as he continued his labours. All around him nature contracted, waiting patiently for the sun to do its work and take the edge off the frigid, icy carapace of the day.
A solitary crow, gliding eastwards, held that yellow speck in its glassy gaze for a moment, before turning its attention once again to the patchwork of fields and serpentine roads that cut their way through the landscape. In the distance the cathedral spire punched its thick neck skyward and here and there fool-hardy commuters slid and skittered their way along grey paths towards skeleton-staffed offices; business as usual!
Huddled in a tiled shop doorway, a sodden sleeping bag twitched and convulsed as the wind tore its way into the alcove. The display window, full of racks of staring spectacles and backlit posters of models with perfect teeth and contact lenses, glared unapprovingly at their unwelcome visitor.
A sudden cough racked him and his face emerged from the depths of his polyester sarcophagus. He couldn’t have been more than 25 but the pallid skin and dark circles under his dead eyes made him seem ancient. His gloveless hands were numb and swollen, nails bitten to the quick. He fumbled into a pocket, coming out with a rolling paper and a few pinches of tobacco, harvested from discarded butts the day before. He set about making his first cigarette of the day, squinting as the snow renewed its assault.
On the opposite side of the street sat two bulging bin bags, leaning against the wall of a shoe emporium. The snow had settled where it could, the taut black slopes offering small pockets of repose, set against avalanche-prone valleys. The crow landed deftly on the summit of one of the bags and began pecking, trying to penetrate the plastic cadaver.
Taking pity on the bird, the homeless man broke off a piece of stale bread from his breakfast feast and tossed it across the divide between them. The corvid hopped down, spying the man with suspicion, before spearing the offering with its sharp beak and taking to the skies. The shivering figure watched the black feathers slowly disappear into the white wall, which pressed down relentlessly on the cityscape. Where might he go, if he too had wings?
He lit the crinkled tube and drew heavily on the first lungful of acrid smoke. Exhaling, his breath too billowed upwards in a twisting column. Perhaps the boy in the yellow mackintosh breathed out at the same time. Perhaps they met somewhere in the skies, in the secrecy of the blizzard, where all distinctions are erased. And perhaps the crow knitted their breath together like some black-feathered seamstress.