Sunday, 27 March 2011


Jennospot 21  Birfday

The day after termorrer, it’s Peter St John’s birfday, and then comes mine, but moi birfday don’t really count, ‘cos it’s the first of April, an’ people only make fun of it. Peter don’t much loike people makin’ a fuss neither when it’s ‘is birfday, least of all ‘is ‘oly aunt, an’ Oi reckon as ‘ow Oi c’n understand, ‘im bein’ an orphan an all. Any’ow, as it’s kinda birfday toime, Oi reckoned as ‘ow Oi’d give yew a bit about birfdays this toime round. ‘Ope yew loike it:

My aunt had wanted me to run several errands for her. This made me the last to arrive at Dummy's birthday party in the school shelter.
Everyone was sitting stiffly around the table. Nobody was speaking.
I went straight up to Mr Pearce. He was wearing a much worn dark suit that was too tight round the waist and under the arms. He seemed ill at ease.
‘Happy birthday, Daniel,’ I said.
‘Arrgh, thank'ee kindly,’ he replied. He showed his misshapen teeth through a matted beard in what was more a grimace than a smile.
‘What's the matter Daniel? Aren't they looking after you properly?’
‘Reckon as 'ow it's more'n a little whiles since ol' Dan'l 'ad a party fer 'is birthday. Reckon as 'ow 'ee's roight thankful. There be a fine cake with candles wot Miss Winnifred gave and Miss Molly's biscuits an' all.’
‘You could look a bit happier about it,’ I said.
‘Reckon ol' Dan'l's leavin' Widdlington afore soon. 'Ee'll be roight sad ter be leavin' 'is friends.’
‘You're not leaving today at any rate, and you're not in the lockup,’ said Molly.
‘So cheer up,’ said Winnifred.
‘Have some beer,’ said Miss Hangar.
‘Don't moind if'n Oi do,’ said Daniel.
‘Everyone's saying it was Daniel who sabotaged the survey of the allotments,’ said Leta.
‘But it wasn't him!’ exclaimed Winnifred. ‘And Mr Trundle knows it.’
‘Unfortunately, people will gossip,’ said Miss Hangar.
‘We know it wasn't you, Daniel,’ I said. ‘And we're going to prove it absolutely, so that it doesn't depend just on the word of Winnifred. We've already got some clues.’
‘That's right,’ said Roy. ‘But we need you to help us.’
Dummy looked bewildered. ‘Clues?’ he said. ‘'Ow can ol' Daniel 'elp when the Parish is puttin' 'im off'n the allotments and sendin' 'im into a home?’
‘It hasn't happened yet,’ said Roy.
‘And we're going to make sure it doesn't happen,’ said Molly. ‘Miss Hangar's going to help us.’
 ‘Of course she's going to help us,’ said Jenno in her best BBC voice, ‘Aren't you Miss Hangar?’
‘I, er—’  said Miss Hangar.
‘She's on the Parish Council,’ I said. ‘And she and Mr Trundle will tell the others what the truth is. Won't you Miss Hangar?’
‘I er— that is— yes. I'll certainly tell them the truth about the pegs when I know myself what the truth is.’
‘See Daniel?’ said Roy. ‘But there are some things we need to know. And only you can tell us.’
‘Ar—?’ questioned Daniel.
‘For instance,’ I said. ‘Did you buy those Wellington boots you promised yourself for your birthday?’
‘Mr Hibberd were roight put out when ol' Dan'l asked 'im. 'Ee din't roightly know 'ow ter come out wi' it. It's the war, 'ee said. Anything wot were rubber was next ter impossible ter come by. 'Ee said as 'ow 'ee'd be roight pleased ter favour me, but that it weren't fer termorrer nor the day after. When 'ee 'ad some Wellingtons in 'ee'd be rememberin' a pair fer ol' Dan'l.’
‘You didn't buy any then?’ asked Roy.
‘Arrgh— just so.’
‘You don't possess any other rubber boots?’ asked Jenno primly.
‘Where would ol' Dan'l be finding a shillin' or two fer rubber boots wot 'ee don't roightly need?’ replied Daniel.
‘The footprints aren't Daniel's,’ said Roy.
‘I never thought they were,’ said Winnifred.
‘Me neither,’ said Katy.
 ‘You are going to help then, Miss Hangar?’ said Jenno.
‘Yes Jenno, er— Jean,’ said Miss Hangar. ‘I'll do what I can; but you know, there's really very little I can do now concerning the allotments. The project is already approved and far advanced.
‘As for The Old Vicarage, it's a decision for the Church and the vicar. Any interference by the school would only arouse resentment. But I can certainly help Mr Pearce to learn to read and write. That way he could become independent of support from the Parish.’
‘And not go into a home!’ exclaimed Molly. She stuffed her knuckles into her mouth and looked horrified towards Daniel.
‘Don't ye be a-fazed none, Miss Molly,’ said Daniel gently. ‘Ol' Dan'l baint be deaf; 'ee knows roight well wot people say. 'Ee bain't be such a dummy as 'ow they think.’
An embarrassed silence fell. It was broken by Winnifred:
‘I think it's about time we lit the candles. Who's got some matches?’
‘I'll ask my mum,’ said Leta. ‘Wait a tic and I'll nip indoors and get some.’ She ran into the school caretaker's house and emerged a moment later rattling a box of matches.
‘We didn't know how many candles to put on, but in any case, Hibberd's store only had one box—it's the war you know—so we put them all on. There are twenty.’
‘Heh, heh,’ chuckled Daniel. ‘Roight kind ye be. Arrgh— but two-and-a-half boxes 'uld 'ave been more loike.’
‘Blow them all out in one go and you can make a wish,’ said Katy.
Daniel took a deep breath and blew. Twenty tiny flames disappeared to be replaced by twenty slender columns of smoke.
‘Make a wish,’ cried everyone.
‘But don't tell anyone until it comes true,’ cautioned Jenno.
Daniel shut his eyes; held them screwed tight and then opened them again.
‘Have you made a wish?’ asked Molly.
‘Aye,’ said Daniel.
‘And so have I,’ said Molly.

("Gang Petition" Chapter 7 – Amazon Kindle)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ask at the Gate

Jennospot 20  Ask at the Gate

Last week Oi told yew as ‘ow Peter an’ me went ter Lunnon when the air-raids was still bad. Any’ow, whilst we was there, we went ter Buckin’am Palace, wot is where the king lives; ‘Is Royal Majesty King George VI that is. Well, after we ‘ad ‘ad our little bit of a problem wiv the railway, we got ter the palace okay, but then it were that our real troubles started. It all began wiv the guard. This is ‘ow it were:

Five minutes later, we were facing high iron railings beside a sentry box in front of Buckingham Palace.
‘Cripes, it's jus' loike the pictures, 'cept it's much bigger'n Oi thought. ''Ow do we get in?’
‘Let's ask the sentry.’
Jenno stared up at the tall sentry in his red coat and high black bearskin hat. He stared ahead unmoving.
‘'Ee ain't 'arf big. D'yew fink 'ee's real?’
‘Of course he's real. D'you think he's just a stuffed dummy? Go ahead and ask him.’
‘Hey Mister— 'ow do we get in?’
The sentry didn't move. He remained silent.
‘Hey Mister,’ repeated Jenno loudly. ‘Yew wiv the furry black 'at. Yew deaf or somefink? 'Ow do we get in?’
‘Clear orff,’ muttered the guard, hardly moving his lips. He continued to stare ahead.
‘We want to know how to get in,’ I said.
‘Clear orff, you dratted kids,’ said the guard, still continuing to stare ahead.
‘Polite, ain't 'ee?’ said Jenno. ‘Please mister, we've come a long way special ter see the King. 'Ow do we get in?’
‘You can't see the King. He ain't here— so clear orff.’
Jenno was not to be discouraged: ‘'Ow do yew know 'ee ain't 'ere.’
The guard came to attention with a crash of his rifle butt on the ground that made us jump. ‘The royal standard's not up the pole. That's how.’
He took a step towards us. We jumped back. He shouldered arms with a loud smack of his hand on the rifle's magazine.
Still Jenno wasn't put off. ‘Wot pole?’
The guard made a smart right turn with a stamp of his nailed boots that trembled the pavement. ‘On the roof,’ he said. ‘Ask at the gate.’
He marched off with weighty tread alongside the railings. We looked up at the flagpole. The guard was right: there was no flag.
‘Wot we goin' ter do?’ said Jenno.
‘Ask at the gate,’ I said.

("Gang Petition" Chapter 18 – Amazon Kindle)

Monday, 14 March 2011

Oi'm Comin' Wiv Yer

Jennospot 19  Oi'm Comin' Wiv Yer

Guess wot— Peter St John 'as jus' put out 'is first e-book on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. It's called "Gang Petition". Wot's best about it, is that it's got a whole lot about me in it. Fact isonly 'ee won't 'ave itit were me wot give 'im the idea in the first place. Any'ow, in this book 'im an me, we set off fer Lunnon tergevver, surreptitious loike; only 'ee weren't too pleased about it, leastways, not at first. 'Ee troid real 'ard ter send me back 'ome, only Oi weren't 'avin' any. This is 'ow it was:

Someone touched me on the arm. I looked round.
‘Jenno!’ I exclaimed in surprise. ‘You came to see me off!’
Her reply was lost in the commotion of the stopping train which came to a halt with an empty compartment right in front of me. I turned the big brass door handle.
‘Quick,’ cried Jenno. ‘Get in before Lost-a-tanner Reggie spots me.’
She leaped into the train after me and slammed the door. A whistle blew, and the train slowly set off.
‘Phew,’ puffed Jenno, like our panting locomotive. ‘Oi thought moi mum would never go. Oi nearly missed the train.’
‘Are you going into town?’
‘Naw— moi mum's goin' inter town wiv Mrs Jay.’
‘Where are you going then?’
‘Ter Lunnon.’
‘To London?’
‘Yew din't fink yew was a-goin' there on yer own did yew?’
I gaped at her. ‘You're coming with me?’
Jenno gave me a freckly grin and nodded.
‘And your mother doesn't know?’
Jenno shook her head. ‘'Corse she don't. She'd never 'ad let me go if'n she knew. Any'ow— we'll be back 'ere again afore she gets 'ome from town.’
‘Is that why you were worried about Reggie seeing you?’
‘Naw— 'ee moight 've asked me about moi ticket.’
‘And so?’
‘Oi ain't got one.’
I gaped at her again. ‘How d'you think you can get to London without a ticket?’
‘Oi got on the train wivvout one din't Oi? Oi reckon as 'ow Oi c'n get off the same way.’
‘How often have you been to London?’
‘Oi ain't never been ter Lunnon. Oi ain't 'ardly ever bin on a train 'cept a couple a times into town wiv moi mum when Oi was little. Usually we takes the 'bus.’
‘Jenno— there's nearly always a ticket inspector on the train. And then there's someone at the barrier at the other end who collects the tickets. They'll catch you, and you'll have to pay a big fine. Besides, you haven't brought your gasmask.’
‘Aw, c'mon— yer worse 'n Dismal. There won't be no gas. We'll manage. Ow c'n an inspector get in 'ere any'ow? An' we're gettin' off in a minute, at the first stop.’
‘Yeah, okay— and then we change into an express to London. The carriages have a corridor. That's how the inspector can get in. I think you'd better go back to Widdlington by the first train and try to dodge old Lost-a-tanner getting off the platform. That shouldn't be too difficult.’
‘Oi told yew— Oi'm comin' wiv yer. So don't fink yew c'n get rid of me that easy.’
‘I can't buy you a ticket; I've only got eleven pence left and I need that for the underground.’
‘Oi'm comin' wiv yer. Yew can't make me go back— so Oi'm a-comin'.’
The train stopped with a jerk.
‘All change, all change,’ called the loud-speaker. ‘Passengers for London proceed to platform one. The express is due in five minutes.’
‘Go on back, Jenno. The indicator board will show you the next train for Widdlington.’
‘Don't waste yer breath. Oi'm comin' wiv yer.’

("Gang Petition" Chapter 17)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

An Old Perambulator

Jennospot 18  An Old Perambulator

Peter an' me, we was in different classes at school, 'cos Oi was just bit younger'n 'im. Each class 'ad its own air-raid shelter, so whenever there was a siren, we went down inter a different one. It were only in the playground that we saw each ovver at school. Any'ow, there was fings wot went on in them shelters wot were kinda secret loike. This is one of 'em wot Peter wrote down:

Hardly had we got into class, than the siren began to wail its mournful warning of danger.
‘All right children,’ said Miss Ufford calmly, ‘You know what to do.’
We reached under our desks for our gasmask boxes.
‘Stand!’ she commanded.
We all stood in file alongside the desks and slung our gas masks over a shoulder.
‘Now children, no running and no pushing. Just go quietly and rapidly to air-raid shelter number two. Are you ready? Go!’
At the word ‘Go’, the child nearest the door opened it, held it open, and the files in the aisles trotted out in order.
Molly's file, being on the other side of the desk to mine, went out first. But Molly and I had a secret unspoken arrangement for air-raids. We would meet in the darkest part of the unlit, tunnel-like air-raid shelter to sit together.
As soon as we had found a place on the rough wooden bench against the shelter wall, and before eyes could become adjusted to the rowdy, echoing obscurity, Molly pulled me to her and kissed me.
She no longer pretended that we were in imminent danger of death, and I no longer pretended to oppose her.
In London, when I had been living in the orphanage, air raids were a terrifying danger. Now, at Widdlington, I looked forward with pleasure to the sound of the siren when it meant going down into the school shelter.
After a long conspiratorial moment, Molly let me go. ‘Will you do something for me?’ she asked, breathing heavily.
I leaned towards her eagerly, but she held me off. ‘No, I'm serious,’ she said.
‘So am I.’
She took hold of my hand. ‘Idiot— I don't mean kissing.’
‘What then? Tell me quick— before Huffy comes down.’
‘Promise you won't tell anyone?’ she whispered urgently.
‘Tell them what? That you kissed me? I'm not that daft.’
‘No, you dope. Just promise you won't tell.’
‘I promise— seeing as how it's you.’
‘I've got an old perambulator.’
‘And that's a secret?’
‘No— you blockhead,’ hissed Molly. ‘I want to race?’
‘In an old perambulator? I'm not surprised you want it kept secret!’
‘No— you aggravating half-wit— in a cart. I want you to make me a cart. Will you?’
‘Uh— make you a cart?’ I stammered. ‘Molly, I— er— ’
‘Oh I just knew you would. I'm so glad you share my desk. You're the nicest boy in the whole wide world.’
She pulled me towards her to kiss me again, but at that moment, Miss Ufford came down the shelter steps and started flashing her torch around.
‘Quiet children,’ she shouted. ‘Quieten down. You know you're supposed to be quiet in the shelter. I'm going to count you now. Everybody put up one hand. You can put it down when I've touched you.’
Huffy advanced slowly towards us, counting. Molly and I put up one hand each. Our other two hands were clasped between us. But I was less conscious of that, than of the fact that Molly had more or less tricked me into promising to make her a cart when I already had more than enough on my hands.
And where had she got the idea from? From Jenno, no doubt.

("Gang Loyalty" Chapter 11)