Sunday, 30 January 2011

Mountain Glide

Jennospot 13  The Mountain Glide

This is my thirteenth blog, so terday Oi’m goin’ ter give yew somefink wiv thirteen in it. An’ guess wot? Chapter thirteen of Gang Warfare ‘as got a cart race in it; so that’s wot yew’re goin’ ter get. It were a race down a gravel pit that ain’t been used fer a long toime. We call it the Mountain Glide. It’s our favourite racin’ place. ‘Ere we go then, down the Mountain Glide, loike it or not:

As we approached the Mountain Glide we saw that we were not the only ones planning to race down the steep quarry-side. Four members of The Street gang, including the Haflin twins, were already there with three carts. Their greeting was not friendly.
‘Wot you doin' 'ere?’ they asked truculently. ‘Clear off.’
‘Clear off yourselves,’ retorted Roy, ‘This is our cart run.’
‘No it ain't! Yew don't own it.’ they replied. ‘Anyone wot wants can race 'ere.’
‘All right,’ said Roy. ‘If it's racing you want we'll race you.’
‘Yew race?’ came the sneering reply as the Streeters eyed our carts disdainfully. ‘With those stupid soap boxes? Yew couldn't race a tortoise with the gout.’
‘We'll race you your three carts against three of ours, in three races,’ proposed Roy. ‘No holds barred. First past the post is the winner. If we win, two out of three, you'll promise not to come here again.’
The Streeters looked dismayed and went into a huddled conference from which they emerged with a condition.
‘We want a slalom race. Everyone has to go around the clumps of bushes on the slope the first clump round to the right, the second to the left, then the last to the right again. The finish line is to be alongside the stream at the bottom. One of our gang is to be the line judge at the finish. If we win, you'll give us all your bonfire material.’
Roy looked around at us. We all nodded.
‘Agreed,’ he said, ‘as long as one of us, Tommy here, is also a line judge. That okay with you Tommy?’
Tommy nodded.
‘We'll need a starter too,’ went on Roy. ‘How about you, Leta?’
Leta agreed. ‘We'll pull straws before each race for the order at the start line, alternately one of you then one of us,’ she said.
She scratched a long line with her toe in the dirt at the edge of the Mountain Glide: she had done this duty before.
‘Is everything clear?’ asked Roy.
‘Who's racin' on your side?’ asked one of the Haflins.
Roy looked at us. Everyone wanted to race and he knew it, but he and I had the fastest carts. Reenie's cart was good and so was Brian's if a little less manoeuvrable. The carts of Leta and Dismal were little more than wooden boxes on wheels, hardly suitable for racing.
‘I think it's between Reenie and Brian,’ said Roy.
There was silence for moment. I could see the two of them having an inner struggle. They both spoke at the same moment:
‘Reenie's already made a bet,’ said Brian gallantly.
‘It should be Brian,’ said Reenie simply.
Roy smiled. ‘Thank you Brian, for withdrawing. It'll give Reenie a chance to win her bet. Could you take Tommy down to the finish in your cart?’
‘I wanna go too,’ yelled Wikky. ‘I wanna ride down with Brian.’
‘Take Wikky with you as well,’ he added.
Wikky beamed, jumping up and down excitedly.
‘Dismal, you take the Streeter's line judge down with you. Just be careful not to tip him out on the way.’
Dismal grinned and set off with the Streeter, at an angle down the slope. Brian followed him, just behind.
As soon as the finish line judges waved to indicate that they were ready, the six carts were lined up at the start, alternately Streeter and Lions Avenue Lot.
I had done badly in the straw drawing. I was last on the right which gave me a disadvantage in turning round the first clump of bushes as I was on the outside and would have to go fast and turn sharply left after it in order to remain in a competitive position.
‘Everybody ready?’ asked Roy. ‘Okay Leta. We're under starter's orders now. Do your stuff.’
‘Everybody ready?’ repeated Leta. ‘The rules are as follows: The course is from here down to the finish line by the stream at the bottom, passing by the three clumps of bushes on the slope; the first clump is to be turned round to leave it on the left-hand, the second to the right-hand and the third on the left-hand; anyone who crosses the start line before I call go, is disqualified; the first past the post is the winner, best of three races; otherwise, no other rules. I will call ready; steady; go—. Are you ready― steady― go!’

Gang Warfare chapter 13)

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Home Guard Boating

Jennospot 12  Home Guard Boating

Durin’ the war, most of the men (them wot was mostly young an’ fit any’ow) got called up ter fight in the Army. Them wot was left over, granddads, cripples, the ‘alf blind, an’ such loike, ‘ad ter go inter a sorta part-time army wot was called the ‘Home Guard’. They used ter run around doin’ manoeuvres, an’ such, an’ ‘elpin’ out the police. Oi remember one toime when they ‘ad ter ‘elp the police wiv a search in the river. This is ‘ow Peter described the beginnin’ of it:

We saw two uniformed Home Guard men with a hand-cart coming down the hill in front of the Parish Hall. The cart was carrying a bulky load that protruded a long way over both ends of the cart. The two men were having difficulty controlling the awkward vehicle on the steep slope.
I recognised the Home Guard members as Mr Earthy, a fellow singer in the church choir, and the elderly Mr Hibberd. I wondered who was looking after Mr Hibberd's general store in The Street while he was on Home Guard duty. Probably it was closed.
‘Hello Mr Earthy,’ I called. ‘Why didn't you use your lorry instead of the cart?’
‘Got no more petrol left— won't get any more for another week yet. Used up all my ration, Oi did, after that bombin' up by your way. Mr Hibberd here kindly said as how we could use his cart.’
They stopped the cart and Mr Hibberd took off his cap to wipe his forehead.
‘What do those three marks on your sleeve mean, Mr Earthy?’
Mr Earthy looked proudly down at his arm.
‘Them's moi sergeant's stripes. Mr Hibberd here has two— for corporal.’
Mr Hibberd nodded and gazed at me short-sightedly through thick spectacles: ‘Which means that on duty— like now— I have to do what he says; but not otherwise. Aye— mostly it's otherwise.’
‘Come on Bill,’ said Mr Earthy. ‘Pull. We haven't got all day.’
‘It's my cart. I'll pull when you start to push.’
They got their awkward load under way again but stopped at the gate leading to the towpath and exchanged a self-conscious salute with the sentry on guard duty there. They trundled the cart through the gate, lifted off its long flat load and laid it down on the grass.
‘Looks like a weird sort of raft,’ I said to Winnie.
‘I can see four paddles,’ she said.
‘Wouldn't want to go out on the river with that. It’d tip up at the least movement.’
‘No, look— they're unfolding it. It's all joined together by canvas. It's a sort of boat. They're putting boards in for seats or something.’
The three men appeared to be having difficulty, however, in fitting the boat together. No sooner did one part seem correct than another would collapse.
‘Let's go over and help them,’ I said. ‘They might tell us what they are going to do with it.’
‘Okay, let's.’
We ran down to the gate giving on to the towpath but Mr Earthy saw us coming. ‘You can't come in by here,’ he said somewhat sharply. ‘Stay you out on the road.’ He then relented a little. ‘Oi'm sorry,’ he said, ‘but we've got roight strict orders. Nobody can come down on the towpath without official permission. We're doin' military manoeuvres between here an' Spruffton— could be dangerous for the public.’
‘Military manoeuvres my foot,’ I replied. ‘Come off it Mr Earthy. We know very well you're working with the police search. What are you going to do with the boat?’
‘That Oi can't be tellin' you. Official secrets you know. You wouldn't hardly want the Germans to get their hands on what we’re looking for, would you?’
‘The Germans Mr Earthy?’ said Winnie. ‘More likely you mean some scabby Englishmen who would be more than happy to get their thieving hands on it.’
‘Aye lass— you're not wrong there. It's just that Oi'm not at liberty to be tellin' you so. But if you're a mite wise, you'll stay away from the river for a day or two. An' be sure you tell your friends the same.
‘Oi've got to go now. We've got to be gettin' this here boat into the water and test it so's we can start searchin' the bottom tomorrow when them buckets get here. Remember what I told you now. Keep away from the river.’

(Gang Rivalry chapter 3)

Sunday, 16 January 2011

It Ain't Fair

Jennospot 11  It Ain't Fair

Lot's o' fings in life ain't fair; 'specially if'n yew're a girl. D'yew know wot I mean? Loike when some o' the boys in our village (an' Oi'm not talkin' about the Lions Avenue Lot), don't let girls join in wiv wot they're doin'. Well, sometimes yew've just gotta put up wiv it, 'cos there ain't nuffin else yew c'n do. But sometimes, what's unfair, is that they cheat, an that's jus' plain nasty. Any'ow, today Oi'm goin' ter tell yew about the start of a cart race, where not only were us girls left out, but the boys in the gang wot we was racin' against cheated as well. Cripes, it were enough ter make a girl spit. This is 'ow Peter told it:

We went on up The Street towards Hibberd's general store. Four Streeters were already there, including Arthur and Albert. They had drawn a chalk line across the width of the road.
‘Oy!’ exclaimed Arthur. ‘No girls.’
‘Winnifred's not racing,’ said Roy.
‘Wot's she doin' 'ere then?’
‘Since she's not racing, she can be the starter,’ I said.
Arthur pushed his face aggressively into mine. ‘Ain't yew got no ears? Oi said, no girls; 'n Oi meant, no girls.’
I was severely tempted to hit him, but after an inner struggle, contented myself with a glare.
‘Who's going to start us then?’ asked Roy. ‘Where are the rest of your gang?’
‘They've gorn down Water Mill Lane ter the finish by the bridge. Oi'll start us.’
‘That's not fair,’ objected Dismal. ‘That gives you an advantage.’
‘Just yew shut up, dimwit Dismal. If'n yew lot come up on our territory, yew'll do things our way.’
‘Let it drop Dismal,’ said Roy. ‘We'll beat them anyway.’
‘Huh, sez yew,’ replied Albert.
‘How are we going to score?’ asked Brian. ‘Lowest aggregate wins?’
‘First past the post is the winner,’ said Arthur.
‘With you as starter? Not likely,’ said Dismal. ‘I want lowest aggregate wins.’
‘Me too,’ I said. ‘First over the line scores one, the second two, and so on. That way everyone in the race counts.’
‘Yeah— okay,’ said Arthur reluctantly. ‘So let's get started. Everyone get 'is cart behind the line. Get outta the way with yer stupid cart, Winnie.’
‘My name is Winnifred,’ said Winnie with dignity. ‘Miss King to you. And I'm not in the way, Mister misogynist Haflin.’
‘Wot's misogynist?’ said Albert.
‘Look it up in a dictionary,’ retorted Winnifred. ‘That is, if a great intellect like yours even knows how to read.’
‘Just yew shut up, Winnifred King,’ snarled Arthur. ‘Or else—’
‘Or else what?’ said Winnifred mildly. ‘Don't you threaten me, Arthur Haflin. Unless, that is, you want Mr Trundle to learn of certain things that you'd rather he didn't hear about.’
‘Yeah— well— okay— just stand to one side.’
‘Please,’ said Winnifred.
‘Please,’ echoed Arthur.
We lined our carts up along the chalk line. The extreme left was the most advantageous position, but the four Streeters had already positioned themselves on the left.
Roy saw me getting ready to protest. He shook his head at me. ‘Doesn't matter,’ he said. ‘It's a long race, with a lot of punting. The start positions aren't that important. We're going to beat them anyway.’
‘Oi'm goin' ter call, ready, steady, go,’ announced Arthur. ‘Nobody's ter move until the go. Ready— steady—’ Arthur pushed off. ‘Go!’
‘No!’ shouted Roy. ‘You cheated. It's a false start.’
Arthur glanced back with a grin. ‘We're racin'.’ he yelled. ‘See yer at the finish.’
All the Streeters punted on.
‘After them,’ yelled Roy. But the Streeters had already gained a stolen five-yard advance.
 (Gang Petition chapter 13)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Body Language

Jennospot 10  Body Language

This is moi first blog fer 2011 so: ‘appy New Year everybody!

D’yew know, somefink bizarre ‘as ‘appened (ain’t “bizarre” one o’ them super words?) ‘cos moi friend Peter were never much of a one fer poetry―me neither really―’ee always reckoned poetry was kinda mushy. Any’ow, ‘ere ‘ee is writin’ a bit o’ poetry, an’ wot’s more, getting’ it published an’ all. If’n you want, yew c’n find it on in the best five poems fer the month of November. Still an’ all, it ain’t really worth while lookin’ it up there, ‘cos, loike it or not, Oi’m goin’ ter give it to yew ‘ere. If’n yew ain’t ain’t inter poetry neither, well, yew don’t ‘ave ter read it unless yew really want to. After all, nobody’s forcin’ yew. But cripes, ‘ee don’t ‘alf use some posh words. So, loike it or lump it, ‘ere it is:

Body Language

The body feels the silence speak:
Acoustic eloquence of touch
A visceral, comprehending Braille,
Is voiceless in its lexicon:
Its verbs vibrate; its subjunctives
Caress its muted adjectives.
While gagged and speechless nouns redound
To sound the silent sinews.

Articulated messages,
In mute and mental mutterings;
Prompt jostling inarticulate cells
To semaphore their tingling tales.
The mumbling rumbling tummy drums
Its acquiescent resonance.
Thighs sigh belief in their relief:
Unvocalised vibrations.

So lips be still, let fingers work
And with their tender tactile tips
Delineate deft languages.
Let tongue and fingers lick and knead;
Through taste and touch and tickling, tease
The talking, tell-tale place of ease.
The body speaks responsive sense:
Be quiet and feel the meaning!