Saturday, 30 April 2011

More Cart Racing

Jennospot 24  More Cart Racing

Ave yew ever been in a cart-race? Oi mean a real honest-ter-goodness, no-'olds-barred cart-race? Well no more 'adn't Oi until the day we 'ad this race down the Mountain Glide. Peter St John wrote about it in "Gang Rivalry", wot 'as jus' been put out on Amazon Kindle. Oi din't do too badly fer a beginner. Jus' as good as wot Peter did any'ow. Moi bruvver Braces were roight miffed about it 'cos Oi were racin' fer the Mob in 'is cart instead of 'im.  This is 'ow it began:

The Mob team appeared through the bushes with JJ at its head. Itchyprick and Stinky were there, together with Braces, Jenno and a couple of others. They had four carts.
‘We're racing three carts,’ said Roy.
‘Wot's the matter?’ said JJ ‘Yew blind or just plain scared? Oi c'n see four carts there.’
‘You didn't tell me you were going to be racing,’ whispered Winnie to me.
Roy challenged them only this morning— that's why,’ I replied.
‘The blue one's mine,’ said Winnie.
‘So wot?’ retorted JJ. ‘It c'n race can't it? Or is a dainty little girlie like yew scared yew might dirty yer pretty little dress?’
Winnie drew herself up—which was not saying much—she was even shorter and much rounder than I was.
‘I'm not scared to race. And I'm not scared of you either. I know some interesting things about you, John Jay, that your mother would be interested to know too. So you'd better speak politely to me or just shut your big mouth.’
JJ blinked and looked at the ground a moment.
‘Winnifred can't race, she's not a— ’ began Roy.
 ‘I think she can race,’ I cut in. ‘She's got a terrific cart. Besides, she helped us with the— with our project.’
It was Roy's turn to blink.
‘We've got four carts,’ said JJ. ‘So 'ave yew. If yew don't race yer four against ours we'll just say to everyone that yew chickened out.’
‘Yeah,’ said Jenno. ‘She's a girl, so she oughta have a chance to race.’
‘Reenie's racing for us,’ countered Roy.
‘Yeah— but she's big.’
‘And so is JJ,’ I said. ‘That makes us equal— or isn't he racing?’
‘Oi'm racin,’ growled JJ.
‘Are you racing Jenno?’ asked Roy.
Jenno shook her head.
‘Then kindly keep out of this,’ said Roy.
‘Aren't there any girls racing for the Mob?’ I asked mildly, knowing full well that Jenno was the only girl from the Mob present.
Roy seized on this: ‘Winnie can race if there's a girl on your team.’
‘Oi'll race,’ volunteered Jenno at once.
JJ didn't like this: ‘Braces is racin'— yew've never raced in yer life.’
‘Neither has Winnie,’ I said. ‘That makes our teams equal.’
Roy and JJ were perplexed. I took advantage of it: ‘Hands up all those in favour of Jenno and Winnifred racing.’
Everybody put up a hand except Roy, JJ, Braces and Dismal.
‘Ten in favour,’ I declared. ‘Any abstentions?’ Braces and Dismal put up a hand. ‘Two against and two abstentions. Motion carried.’
Winnie and Jenno grinned at me. I grinned back.
‘In that case,’ said Roy, ‘I want a contest of three races, the winner being the team with the lowest aggregate.’
‘Wot's that?’ asked JJ.
‘What's what?’
‘Lowest agga— wot you said.’
‘It means,’ said Jenno, before Roy could reply, ‘that the winner of each of three races scores one point— the second two and so on; wiv him or her wot comes last countin' eight. Yew add all up the points fer each team and the team wot 'as the lowest score at the end wins. Loike that everybody wot is in the race scores— got it?’
‘Won't we need a starter?’ asked Reenie. ‘We need to be alternately Mob and Lot on the start line. How about someone from the Mob to start us?’
JJ nominated Braces. He looked pretty sour about it, but that was probably because his sister was racing his cart instead of him.
Braces took a stick and traced a long line across the track at the top of the zigzag. The track was wide enough at that point to take the eight carts side by side. It rapidly narrowed down, however, to where it would only take three or at a pinch four, here and there, mainly on the bends. There would, in consequence be a fine old scramble at the start to be ahead before the track narrowed.

 ("Gang Rivalry" Chapter 8 – Amazon Kindle
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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Cart Racing

Jennospot 23  Cart Racing

“Gang Warfare” as jus' been put out on Amazon Kindle by Peter St John. I don' reckon it's one of 'is best, 'cos there ain't nuffink much about me in it. Instead, 'ee goes on an' on about that prissy Penelope Garman, wiv 'er ferget-me-not eyes, wot ain't 'ardly never let out of the 'ouse 'cept ter go ter chapel. Cripes, roight stuck on 'er 'ee were. Any'ow, ter get away from that subject, Oi thought yew moight loike ter 'ear a bit about a cart race. 'Ere it is:

The straw-pulling for the order of the line-up could have been in our favour, for it placed Reenie at the extreme right which could have been perfect for a swooping run, but at the ‘go’, the Streeter on her left deliberately rammed her and they spun together just three yards from the start.
Matters were not better elsewhere, for the four remaining carts locked together at the first turn and came to rest in a cloud of dust in the middle of the turn. Reenie and her opponent broadsided into us to make a compact stationary knot.
We all sorted ourselves out, more or less at the same moment, to roll together in a confusion of shouting, running, pushing and punting, round the second turn.
We entered the final turn in a tight mass. Here there was another series of collisions until the scene resembled a battleground rather than a race. I was forced hard into the bushes and only escaped by rolling off Lightning at the last moment as she plunged into the brambles. I saw Roy rolling over and over behind me as Sprinter continued on in my direction.
‘Take her, take her!’ yelled Roy.
I leaped aboard Sprinter and with furious punting, headed her into the final straight.
There was a Streeter just on my left and another on my right, both punting as hard as they could go. I could also hear someone punting just behind me but didn't look to see who it was. My object was to stay ahead of the field. This race was going to be won on the ability to punt and there were still about a hundred and fifty yards to cover.
I was small, but fortunately Sprinter was light and ran easily. So we punted desperately on, our breath becoming more and more laboured. The finishing line began to loom close. I was still a short neck in the lead.
I saw the Streeter on my left glance in my direction. The expression on his face was unmistakeable: he was going to ram me to leave the field clear for his team-mate on my other side. There was nothing I could do to avoid this. If I veered right to avoid him, I would collide with his team-mate, leaving him a clear run to the line.
Suddenly there was a grinding noise behind me and a shocked look of surprise on the face of my opponent on the left as he veered sharply to his left. He plunged over the edge of the stream bank and into the water. He had been rammed by whoever was just behind me.
My remaining opponent and I punted on neck and neck. The finish line loomed up, none too soon, as I was almost at my last gasp with punting. We rattled over together. I collapsed panting onto Sprinter, letting her run on, heedless of where she stopped: there were no obstacles ahead. I heard Tommy shouting gleefully and Wikky crowing. Had I won then?
I rolled off Sprinter onto my back and gazed up at the sky, my chest heaving. For a few enchanted seconds, I watched the translucent blood cells floating around inside my eyeballs against the blue of the infinite.
I sat up and gazed back towards the finish line. Everybody seemed to be converging towards it. I stood up, and gathering the reins of Sprinter, walked towards the group.
Reenie was standing on the stream bank wringing out the hem of her skirt. So it was she who had rammed the Streeter on my left. This unfortunate was squelching towards the finish, looking dejected and very wet indeed.
As I arrived at the group, Roy appeared from the other side towing Lightning. We exchanged reins and grins.
‘Nice little cart, Sprinter,’ I said.
‘Yeah, ain't she,’ agreed Roy. ‘Now what's going on here?’
Tommy and the Streeter's line judge were gesticulating at one-another and shouting, ‘We won, we won!’
‘No you didn't, we crossed the line first.’
‘No― it was us!’
Objections were also being raised by the Streeters that Roy and I cheated by changing carts in mid-race. We pointed out that there was no rule forbidding this.
The arguments could have gone on a long time and could even have become violent had Roy not intervened. ‘Suppose we call it a tie?’ he proposed, ‘As far as I'm concerned I'm happy we all finished without anyone being killed.’

 ("Gang Warfare" Chapter 13 – Amazon Kindle)

Monday, 4 April 2011


Jennospot 22  Milk

D'yew loike milk? Durin' the war, ev'ryday at school, we 'ad ter drink milk. A third of a pint, it were. Well Peter St John, 'ee weren't too fond o' milk; an' ol' Golfball, din't loike it much neither, so between them, they set up a little scheme so's they shouldn't 'ave ter drink it. This is 'ow they worked it; at least at first...

‘I need two volunteers for milk monitor today,’ said Miss Ufford.
At the risk of being taken for a teacher's toady, I put up my hand.
Miss Ufford selected a weedy-looking individual from a desk on my left. ‘Spalding, you can be the other milk monitor.
I caught a sour look of resignation on Spalding's face.
The clock on the wall showed when Miss Ufford called out: ‘Right, the two milk monitors can leave now. You've ten minutes to get everything ready.’ Then she said mysteriously, ‘The number is twenty-eight.’
‘Yes Miss, twenny-eight,’ repeated Spalding and I realised that that was the number of pupils in the class. He got up, beckoned to me with his head and moved towards the door. I followed him. ‘Okay Spalding,’ I said, ‘what do we have to do?’
‘You c'n call me Golfball,’ he said gloomily. ‘Ev'rybody else does. Spaldin's the name of a make of golf balls.’
‘But what's your real name?’
‘Archibald,’ he replied. ‘An' you might as well know, that after that comes Spencer. Imagine 'ow that looks as initials.’ He sighed heavily.
I stifled a guffaw and tried to look sympathetic. Some parents are extraordinarily short sighted when it comes to giving names to their children.
‘Okay Golfball, what do we have to do?’
His answer surprised me; I would not have thought this gloomy, strangely-named Golfball capable of such a flight of dry humour. ‘What we 'ave to do is our national duty,’ he declaimed, drawing himself up into a parody of stiff military attention. ‘We administer a government programme for the benefit of present and future generations.’
‘See this table at the classroom door?’ he went on, saluting it smartly. ‘We 'ave to go'n fetch, from the duty teacher at the service entrance, twenny-eight bottles of milk and twenny-eight straws. We place the bottles on the table. As the pupils come out for mid-mornin' break at 'alf-past ten, we 'ave to see that each one takes a bottle and we give each one a straw.
‘When they've drunk the milk, we 'ave to make sure that there are twenny-eight empty bottles come back. We 'ave to make sure that the waxed paper cap is still on the bottle and that each one 'as a straw passing through the 'ole made for the purpose in the cap. If anyone 'ands in a bottle what is not completely empty, or without a cap or a straw, we 'ave to take 'is or 'er name.
‘When all the bottles are back, we return them to the service entrance, then we can go back into class.’
He made a face and shuddered. ‘I 'ate milk and I 'ate bein' milk monitor.’
‘I hate milk too,’ I said. ‘Can't one refuse?’
‘No way,’ he replied decisively. He then recited, as though he had learned it by heart, ‘We 'ave to be thankful for our free Government milk, provided generously at the risk of men's lives so as we can grow up to be strong an 'ealthy.’
He shuddered and made a vomiting noise. ‘Leastways, that's what Uffy says.’
‘Uffy?’ I asked.
Golfball looked at me as though I were daft, then he grinned. ‘Miss Ufford, natch,’ he explained.
I nodded my understanding. ‘Can't you just pour your milk down the drain in the washroom?’
‘No way,’ he said again, making an even more disgusting retching sound. ‘They watch the washrooms, and you're not allowed to take bottles into the toilets outside either. Come on, we'd better get those bottles or we'll not be ready when the bell rings.’
We went to the service area. Just outside was a pile of milk crates and the duty teacher. ‘Hurry up,’ she said tetchily, ‘you're late. Get a move on or the bell will ring before you're ready. How many?’
‘Twenty-six,’ I said quickly. Golfball gave a gasp, opened his mouth to speak but shut it again quickly when he saw me glare at him.
The duty teacher wrote ‘26’ in the little book she held in her hand; pushed over two crates of third-of-a-pint bottles, each containing a dozen; placed an additional bottle on top of each crate; added the straws and said, ‘Buck up now, it's almost ten-thirty. Hurry along now.’
We staggered off with our loads, dumped them on the table outside the class room and stood behind it waiting for the bell. Golfball gaped at me with a look of apprehensive admiration on his face. ‘Quick thinkin',’ he remarked, ‘but if we're found out we'll be for it. Kept in for a week I shouldn't wonder.’
‘We'll not be found out, but if we are, I'll take all the blame. I'm new and I was never very good at figures.’ At that instant the bell rang and we readied ourselves behind the table. ‘I'll hand out the bottles,’ I said, ‘you distribute the straws.’

("Gang Territory" Chapter 2 – Amazon Kindle)