Monday, 28 November 2011

Against the Wall

Jennospot 45  Against the Wall

The boys reckoned as 'ow the girls couldn't play cricket, ter say nuffunk of all them ovver games wot girls don't usually play, so we decided ter show 'em just 'ow wrong they were. Peter St John wrote it all down in "Gang Loyalty". This is 'ow it all started:

"Golfball marked out the stumps and bails on the red bricks of the school wall. Since it was his bat and ball, he had first innings. He tossed his ball to Braces. Meanwhile, I stepped out fifteen paces, scratched a line in the gravel and put my gasmask box against it to mark the bowler's crease.

Jenno stood to one side watching.

Golfball scored only two runs before Braces clean-bowled him. I picked up the ball and went to the bowler's crease, while Braces took the bat and positioned himself in front of the wicket. He patted the ground at his crease with the bat a couple of times and then glanced up at me to indicate he was ready.

‘C'n Oi play?’ asked Jenno suddenly.

‘Girls don't play cricket,’ growled Braces. ‘C'mon Peter— bowl.’

‘Don't see why not,’ said Jenno. ‘There's only three of yew. One more would make it more interestin' loike. Besides, Oi'm yer sister.’

‘Oi told yew din't Oi— girls don't play cricket.’

‘Aw, c'mon Braces. Jus' this once. It ain't goin' ter do yew no 'arm.’ She turned to me. ‘Ain't that so, Peter?’

It was a clever move. She knew very well that, as her friend, I was likely to support her. ‘She'll help give better fielding coverage,’ I said. ‘So why not?’

‘Wot about yew, Golfball?’ asked Braces.

It was a mistake to ask Golfball: he was my ally.

‘Blimey, I reckon Peter's right when he says there's only three of us,’ said Golfball.

Braces was outnumbered, so he didn't insist. He looked a bit sour about it all the same.

‘Okay, Jenno,’ I said. ‘Put your gasmask down by the wall and stand over there, the other side of the wicket from Golfball. Do you know what to do?’

Jenno shot me a frowning glance. ‘Oi'm not daft. Oi've watched yew boys playin' often enough ter know wot ter do. We're goin' ter get moi bruvver out. So don't talk so much an' bowl.’

I bowled.

Braces blocked my first ball, and the second. The third he slipped past Golfball for four runs.

‘Stand a bit further back,’ I called to Jenno.

My next ball I delivered exactly like the previous one. Braces hit it neatly into Jenno's hands.

‘Out!’ she cried exultantly.

Braces reluctantly passed the bat to her. She tossed the ball under-arm, back to me.

I had two more balls to go in my over of six. Jenno neatly blocked them both. She had obviously learned something from watching the boys play.

‘Gimme the ball now,’ said Braces although strictly speaking it was Golfball's turn to bowl. Braces had a determined look on his face. He bowled a fast ball that Jenno hit over my head for two runs.

‘Spread out yew two,’ cried Braces, waving us further back from the wicket before he launched his second fast ball.

Jenno hit it sideways and scored another two runs. Her brother scowled. But before he could bowl again, the bell sounded for the start of school.

I gathered up my gasmask and joined Golfball as we moved to take our places in line prior to filing into class. ‘Don't open your milk-bottle at the break,’ I murmured. ‘See me first.’

Golfball looked surprised, but he nodded. ‘Blimey, Jenno's pretty nifty with a bat,’ he muttered.

‘Perhaps she's been practicing with the GGG,’ I replied. ‘But I wonder if she can bowl.’

"Gang Loyalty" Chapter 7

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Gang Territory Review

Jennospot 44  Gang Territory

Wadda yew know? Oi get a mention in a book review! Am Oi ever chuffed. An' cripes, my bruvver ain't 'alf jealous; 'im wot is a year older'n me too. Any'ow, it's Ginger Dawn Harmon wot wrote it. Oi ain't never met 'er 'cos she lives a bit far away from me in them United States of America, but Oi reckon she must be a real lovely lady, 'cos 'er son, wot's called Andrew, goes in fer soap-box racin', an' that's somefink wot Oi really loike. She 'ad some real noice fings ter say about "Gang Territory" an' all. This is wot she wrote:

A book review by Ginger Dawn Harman

Some stories in life become great novels that are exceptionally written, adorn a library, or perhaps become a well-known movie. However, very few novels have the ability to captivate the heart and soul as Peter St. John has in his novel Gang Territory. This reader has been captivated, charmed, and fallen in love with a cast of characters that touch every aspect of the lives we each live. The story begins in 1940. A young boy arrives in the village of Widdlington to live with his pious spinster aunt after his orphanage in London was bombed. The struggles procured in a new community, involving relationships, and the sculpturing of one’s faith, are just some of the complexities that Peter St John has emphasized in his novel, Gang Territory.

Many of the friends encountered along the way personify the spirit of growing together as a community that, although separated by boundaries or gang territories, teaches acceptance, love, and forgiveness. A common bond was formed with Archibald “Golfball” during government enforced milk breaks. There was also the loyalty and advice of Jenno. A bully named Snaylor, devised a contest of pissing over the privy wall, and there is the Vicar who lives with secrets. The acceptance of Mr. “Dummy” Pearce, with his primitive innocent ways, is another of the concurrences of growing up in a small village.

One of my favorite characters and exchanges was between Mrs. Rumble and Peter. Peter tells Mrs. Rumble that she was “one of the best Christians that I know. There’s more love in this little house than in any church I’ve ever been in the whole vast convent where I was.” An overflowing of tears, and the embrace of the Rumble family who didn’t attend a church, but lived the teachings of a higher power of love, goodness and human respect, is a great example of true Christianity. Furthermore, the gift of a soapbox derby cart, that has a bit of every community member in the axle, wheels, and paint scheme, opens the door to friendships that last for a lifetime. Examinations of behaviour, demonstrate the adult prejudice, and past transactions, that can bring about a change in the children of a community, and in an aunt who truly loves a little boy. The stories over lunch or on the playground, shared with an orphan and stranger to an established community, challenge each of us to examine our own life and sometimes listen to the heart of another, much like the cost and true loss of Mrs. King and Winnie during war. Sometimes we find out our greatest supporters are like Miss. Hanger and Miss Ufford, or come from a simple thankful prayer to God at bedtime.

Peter St. John displays talent, internal emotion, and interpersonal dynamics in his writings. His tale is one that we all share, each of us who grow into the world! Gang Territory is funny, touching, and full of love hidden in the heart that burst with each page. Get ready to laugh, cry, and fall in love with a great group from Widdlington, England! Peter St. John digs deeply into the soul and capriciousness of humankind! I highly recommend Gang Territory by Peter St. John!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Poppies and Aniseed Balls

Jennospot 43  Poppies and Aniseed Balls

One Poppy Day Winnifred gave Peter a bag of aniseed balls. Cripes, did that ever get 'im inter trouble. This is 'ow 'ee described it:

It was not often I was given money—least of all by my aunt—but this morning, before leaving for work, my aunt got out her purse, extracted three pence, and gave them to me.

‘It's to buy a poppy with,’ she said. It's the eleventh of November today; the day we celebrate the end of World War One and remember those who died or were wounded during that war. Earl Haig set up a memorial fund to help soldiers and their families. To raise money for it, poppies are sold every year. There will certainly be a poppy seller at your school. The money is for that.’

‘But why poppies and not other flowers?’

‘It's because Flanders, where much of the fighting took place and so many of our soldiers died, is renowned for poppies. They are also the colour of blood.’

Hardly had school started, than a large lady appeared in our classroom. She had a tray supported by a cord around her neck. She looked like an ice-cream seller at the cinema, except that instead of ice-creams, her tray was loaded with imitation poppies. They were of various prices from a penny for a very simple paper rosette, up to as much as half-a-crown for a small bouquet.

I thought at first of buying a penny one and keeping the remaining two pence for myself. But my conscience pricked at this idea. It seemed likely anyway that my aunt would probably be acquainted with the styles and prices, so I handed over my money for an honest three-penny one. It had a little leaf at the base of the stem made out of green cloth.

I tucked the poppy into my lapel and then forgot about it, the way one does.

When my aunt arrived home that evening, she peered at me critically.

‘Where's your poppy? Why aren't you wearing it?’

‘Sorry, Aunt— it fell into the river.’

‘Into the river? I thought I told you to stay away from the river.’

‘I was on the bridge, coming home from school. There was a boat in the water. I leaned over to see it and the poppy fell out of my buttonhole.’

‘A boat on the river at this season? A likely story.’

Thinking that an aniseed ball might sweeten her humour, I pulled the bag from out of my pocket and offered it to her.

‘Aunt— would you like an aniseed ball?’

‘Aniseed balls? Where d'you get the money from to buy those?’

‘Winnifred gave them to me.’

‘Winnifred? Winnifred King? Don’t you lie to me. Why should Winnifred King give you her sweets?’

‘She's a friend.’

‘A friend indeed— huh! Stop romancing— you're deceitful— just like your mother was. You took the poppy money to buy sweets.’

‘No, Aunt. I bought a three-penny poppy, but it fell into the river. Winnifred gave me the sweets.’

‘Enough of your lies. Give me those sweets— they were bought with my money. Now— I'll give you one more chance to tell me the truth or you'll be punished.’

‘But I have told you the truth.’

‘So you persist? Very well. There's no supper for you tonight. Instead, I have a job for you to do. I'll teach you not to lie.’

I had to force back my tears. Damned if my Aunt was going to make me cry.

‘I have told you the truth,’ I said defiantly.

“Gang Rivalry” Chapter 11