Sunday, 31 July 2011


Jennospot 31 Broadsiding
The ovver day there were a blog on internet about a course fer making soapbox racers. Oi were surprised that it said as 'ow soapboxes didn't need ter make 90 degree turns. Cripes, wivvout brakes, 'ow d'yew stop, never mind manoeuvre, unless yew c'n make sharp turns. When Peter showed me 'ow ter race, 'ee explained all that. This is 'ow it was:

I got to the clay pit before Jenno and sat down in Lightning to think about what to tell her and show her, about cart racing.
We were both small. This was a disadvantage when it came to punting where strength and long legs counted. On the other hand, when downhill speed had increased sufficiently to make punting ineffective, small size reduced wind resistance, particularly if one hugged close to the body of one's cart.
This also kept the centre of gravity low, thus increasing manoeuvrability and reducing the tendency to turn over on bends. Sharp bends could be negotiated better by sliding broadside and then quickly straightening up again. Broadsiding could also be used effectively for braking.
I decided to show Jenno how to broadside. The gravelly track down from the pit would be good for this, particularly for a beginner, as it had a fairly gentle slope. I had arrived before Jenno, so I decided to practice.
I set off at a run and leaped aboard Lightning. I was just entering the first curve in the track when Jenno appeared. I swung Lightning left into a broadside, shifting my weight rapidly to the left from the outside of the turn. With the steering bar, I kept Lightning balanced in her slide to come to a halt in a cloud of dust just a couple of feet from Jenno.
For an instant she looked as though she would jump away, but she didn't. She merely stopped and broke into a laugh.
‘If'n yew fink yew c'n scare me loike that, yew c'n jus' fink agen.’
‘Sorry Jenno. I didn't see you coming.’
Jenno continued to laugh. ‘'Corse yew did. Yew done it a-purpose.’
I got off Lightning and stood up. ‘Jenno, believe me— I didn't know you were there.’
She stopped laughing. Her freckles drooped down her face. ‘Cripes— yew're serious! It were pretty good any'ow. Would yew teach me 'ow ter stop loike that?’
‘It's not difficult. You just have to get a feel for the steering and how to keep your weight low and balanced from side to side as the cart turns. Come on— let's go back up the track a bit. We'll start with simple turns. Find out how your new cart handles before we try anything more difficult.’
‘Emmeline P's goin' ter 'andle real good, don't yew worry.’
‘How can you be so sure? You've never ridden her.’
‘She's exackly loike Lightnin' fer size an' wheels an' all; so she'll 'andle jus' the same.’
‘You're probably right Jenno, but let's make sure— we don't want any accidents.’
Gang Loyalty Chapter 16

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Down the Zigzag

Jennospot 30 Down the Zigzag

This weekend Oi'm finkin' o' all them kids racin' their carts in the All-American Soap Box Derby. Excitin' ain't it? Bit nostalgic too. (Noice word that, "nostalgic" don't yew fink?) Any'ow, back in 1940 we done fings a bit different. In any case, it weren't old Adolf Hitler wot was a-goin' ter stop us racin' our carts. So ter celebrate the All-American soap boxes, 'ere's a description of a race down inter a gravel quarry near where we lived. We called the track the "Zigzag", 'cos that's wot it was. Oi come in fifth, wot weren't bad fer a beginner; Oi beat Peter at any rate. 'Old on ter yer 'ats, 'cos it ain't really quite loike wot they do in the All-American:

We took off down the track in a flurry of furious punting. Everybody wanted to be first into the narrow part. But JJ, Roy and Reenie, with their longer, stronger legs, got there first. I was close behind, with Itchyprick and Stinky alongside. Winnie was just behind me. Jenno, much the smallest, brought up the rear.
We rounded the first bend in the same order. I tried to force Itchyprick and Stinky to the outside to let Winnie through on the inside. They were slightly too far ahead for this to work.
On the straight, it was only possible to put in a punt now and again to maintain speed. Winnie had an advantage here. Her Blue Flash with its big wheels rolled easily over the rough places, but Itchyprick and Stinky swerved from side to side to prevent her overtaking.
As the second hairpin came up I called: ‘On the inside Winnie.’ At the turn, I reached forward and grabbed the rear of Itchyprick's cart. I pulled it against my steering bar. We slid together to the outside of the turn. Winnie broadsided neatly through the gap.
‘How's that John!’ I cried.
I let go of Itchyprick and punted hard to get ahead of him and close the gap, but Jenno slipped through as well.
Itchyprick cursed and rammed me forcibly from behind. I slammed into the rocky wall on the left and spun to a standstill.
By the time I got moving again, everybody else was well ahead, but I punted solidly on towards the third hairpin.
JJ, Reenie and Roy, still closely bunched, rounded it in that order. Stinky and Winnie were somewhat behind. Jenno was on their heels. Winnie attempted to pass on the inside but Stinky obstructed her. This left room on the outside for Jenno to overtake Winnie.
Blue Flash had little advantage on the diminishing slope after the turn. Without further change in the running, everybody punted on to the finish.
Lightning is very manoeuvrable, so I gained slightly on Itchyprick through the final turn but couldn't catch him before the line.
The panting racers regrouped around the finish. The judges completed their calculations.
‘Result of the first race,’ announced Dismal finally. ‘JJ first with one point.’
The Mobsters cheered. The Lotters clapped politely.
‘Second Reenie, with two points.’
This time we cheered.
‘The others, in order of arrival are, Roy, three points; Stinky, four points; Jenno, five points; Winnifred, six points; Itchyprick, seven points.’
‘His name is John,’ I called.
Dismal smiled. ‘John Itchyprick, seven points.’
Itchyprick glared at me.
‘And last, but not the least of the Lot,’ continued Dismal imperturbably, ‘Peter, eight points.’
‘That gives a total of nineteen points for the Lions Avenue Lot and seventeen points for the Pepper Mill Mob. I therefore declare the Mob, winners of the first race.’
The Mobsters cheered. the Lotters clapped politely.
‘We're going to have to do better than that in the second heat,’ declared Roy as we trudged back up the zigzag to the starting line. ‘Any ideas anybody?’

Gang Rivalry Chapter 9

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Girls Aren't Racing

Jennospot 29  Girls Aren’t Racing

It were noice up in the mountains, noice an' quiet that is. Peter St John got a whole lotta drawin's done fer "Gang Petition" while we was there, so's 'ee c'n put out an illustrated version on Kindle. If'n yew was finking o' buying a copy, better wait until the illustrated one is out, then yew c'n get all the pictures as well fer the same price. There's even a couple of me in it. Maybe Oi'll show you later on. But fer now Oi'm goin' ter give you the start of anovver cart race wot we 'ad wiv the Streeters. It weren't a fair race, but wot c'n yew expect from the Streeters? Any'ow 'ere it is:

‘Girls aren't racing,’ said Dismal.
‘Don't I know it!’ exclaimed Winnie. ‘That's the Streeters for you.’
We went on up The Street towards Hibberd's general store. Four Streeters were already there. 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