Sunday 3 January 2016


       The first chapter of the rewrite of THE FARMHOUSE TREE with added material and more of a poetical style. Any grammatically/spelling errors to be corrected when I redraft.                                        
                                                     .HAY MAKING.

         For as far back as I can recall, and until I was sixteen, there was always the scent of grass changing into hay during the months of June and July, wafting in from the meads, filling the family farmhouse, known by me from the age of nine, as  my farmhouse tree. In those mid-summer, swallow-filled months, the scent from swathes of drying grasses and wild flowers pervaded front and back courts, floating in from the two newly mown meads in perfumed waves. A sea, which washed  through every branch-room in an ebb and flow of  nose-tingling fragrances, saturating the two feet thick, seventeenth century, cob walled trunk. They came, not only from my father's fields, but also from the green sward of the two other farms in the tiny village of my childhood, until it seemed as if the whole parish was submerged beneath one gigantic hay field sea, the waves crashing  over me and drowning me daily.
       Through the winter months, the  scent of freshly cut drying grass, was replaced by the sweet  smell of hay from tallet, loft and and hay shed. A musky aroma oozing  out, my father, kneeling each morning at dawn in the summer harvest, as if in prayer, plunging  the two feet long iron blade of the hay knife downwards, releasing a hot scent to thaw the frost-filled air, and flow over Higher and Lower meads, where Red Ruby Devon  bullocks waited impatiently to be fed with a roped wedge of summer goodness. 

      I would like to say, as I look at an old black and white photograph, one of the first to be taken of me, aged nine months, sitting, propped up between proud parents in the hayfield, that I can remember the hay-filled afternoon, but that would be stretching credulity to the limit. My mother in a late nineteen forties floral-patterned short-sleeved dress protected by her hand-stitched apron, and my father in his collarless shirt, cord breeches  and a waistcoat taken from what was once his Sunday best suit.
     In another photo, snapped within a few days of the other, my proud parents are joined by my aged maiden aunt - Aunt Nell who lived with us, and another aunt, Milly, who lived with her sister Marjorie at the bottom of the village. As a child, I always thought Milly and Marjorie were great aunt's, but  decades later I discovered they were, in reality, cousins of the numerical and I believe removed variety. Coloured tints had been added to enhance the scene, my mother with lips a bright temptress-scarlet and a  backdrop hedgerow the most  technicolor verdant green ever seen.
    Pride is writ large on all of the faces, probably due to the fact that my mother and father had waited a long time for their prayers to be answered, and for what had seemed the impossible to happen. The winter of 1946, which ran over  into 1947, was a bitter one - roads and hedge troughs snow-drift filled,  and certainly the coldest one  in my mother and father's fifteen-year long  marriage. Snuggling up close together for warmth, was the order of the night, in a farmhouse without electricity and with only a stone hot water bottle in their iron and brass double bed for heat. Nine months after that first cold week at the end of December, I was born. "After all those years the stork finally located the gooseberry bushes in top garden,"  said my mother with a laugh, one day, when I  was visiting her in the nursing home where she spent the last years of her life.
      "Yours was a hard birth," my father once let slip, as I was watching him in the shippen as he heaved, sweated and strained on a rope attached to the legs of a calf which he was attempting to pull free. "Harder than a calf coming out backwards, so your mother told me."                                                    Nothing more was said, and many years  elapsed before I discovered that my birth had been a Caesarean section which had left my thirty-seven year old mother, scarred both mentally and physically.
        Only a couple of months after I was brought home from the hospital to my farmhouse tree, she suffered a mental  breakdown, which was described to me, many years after her death, as  - 'Your mother was down on her nerves.' Back then 'post natal depression' and 'baby blues' were  unheard of terms, and it was only when she was told by the family doctor that if she did not go into a rest home voluntarily, then he would have no choice but to section her into a mental home, that my mother made the decision.  Taking the pen, she is alleged to have scrawled her signature in letters large enough to go across the page, marched to the awaiting ambulance and without looking back at her forty six year old husband, was driven to a private nursing home where she remained for almost six months. When I was taken to see her, I was told that she clutched me to her in the manner of a mother cat with a kitten, and she could barely be persuaded to let go of me when my father and aunt were preparing to return home.
     The hayfield photographs were taken soon after she returned, and during her absence I had been looked after by my aunt. For the rest of my childhood, into adolescence, and until my aunt died, when I was twenty four, I had two mothers. 
      As a baby I only had to sit up in my carriage-sized, pram-nest, flap my wing-arms, give off a loud squawking cry, and immediately two mother birds would fly down and thrust table spoons of NHS cod liver oil, or concentrated orange juice into my  upturned beak-mouth in the manner of two reed warblers feeding a nestling cuckoo.
      As soon as I could talk baby-talk words, and sit up in my posh  push chair, I was wheeled around  the countryside  by either my mother or my aunt, during the hay making months of June and July. Years later, whenever I brought a girl friend home, my mother with a smile would recount the tale of how, hour upon hour,  she wheeled me, mile after mile, around the roads and lanes. It was an oral photograph for the listener, of how we shared a game of I-Spy ricks and pooks  ( heaps of hay ready to be carted to either rick or shed) and of how, each time I spotted one,  I would shout out in a loud voice that I had seen a pooky-heap. I was reminded that we played the game each day, and that one afternoon we found a cane with wild yellow raspberries. My girl friends were told how much I loved those rides around the countryside. The tales were designed to tease me in a harmless way, words full of fun told by my still doting mother about her grown up son, who, in her eyes, was still a little boy. All through the telling of the tale her eyes were an album of memories..
        For the last six years of her life when she was in a nursing home, I collected her, when time permitted, and inwardly cursing her second childhood, pushed her along the pavements in her wheelchair, our roles reversed. Surrounding us, as far as the eye could see, views of suburbia, with open-plan estates, and a skyline of tile and Cornish slate roof. Occasionally the scent of a newly mown lawn. Once, while gazing at distant fields, she looked at me and said, "The raspberries were very sweet in those days and so was the newly carried hay."

    I never tired of those hay-making days of my childhood, the yearly countryside ritual, so important in the farming calendar. In those hay-making days, bringing  in the crop with horse-sweep and long cart was a summer highlight. The two meads, totalling just over three acres, contained a variety of grass species including meadow foxtail, dog's tail, sheep's fescue,Timothy and sweet vernal. The names, which I was taught by my father, were evocative and mysterious. He also told me that there were approximately half a million seeds to every pound in weight of sheep's  fescue.
     Cresting the wave upon wave of rippling wind-blown grasses,  was  a school of flower fish - red and white clover, meadow buttercup, orchid, lady's smock, trefoil, pig nut, yellow rattle, betony and yarrow. At the edge of the green sea, close to the hay shed a beach of fragrant chamomile.
       In the ancient banked Devon hedges, a flutter of flimsy dog-rose petals. Through the beech and hazel branches, a turn-twist of honeysuckle flowers - bee and moth sucked.
        The chosen days, providing the weather was set fair on the weather glass, those flaming days in June, were an annual extravaganza in the manner of the Cecil.B.Mille epic film The Ten Commandments. Director and leading man - my father. Leading lady - my mother. Best supporting actor - our next door neighbour, my octogenarian farming hero. Best supporting actress and catering manageress - my aunt. Hero of the plot - Charlie the shire horse, all stamina, strength and sweat, decked out in a costume of leather, iron and brass. His acting lineage dating back to armoured-warrior bearing stock. Best boy and extras - Myself and Jim and Derek, my imaginary friends 
          Housed in the galvanised iron shed between the round house and the hay shed, the props required for the epic - mower, turner, rake, sweep and hand tools- forks, prongs, wooden hand rakes and scythe. In the open fronted linhay at the top of front court the long cart and the set of wooden lades.
       Each morning, before the milking ritual, he gave the banjo barometer hanging on kitchen wall a sharp knuckle-tap. On what could be the hay-making days he gave the glass an extra fervent rap. The words I'd been waiting to hear as soon as I was awake, echoing up the low narrow back stairs - "Goin' up. High for a few days. Fine weather."
       The wireless weather forecast at five to eight on the Home service, listened to with rapt attention, and the piece of seaweed hanging on the cob wall next to the cider press and the hogshead barrels, brought home the previous summer, from the annual Sunday school seaside outing treat trip, checked between index finger and thumb for any sign of dampness. When all of the auguries had been checked to his satisfaction his voice once more echoing up the stairs, "Cutting today."
         Before I had been born, and for the first couple of years of my childhood, the grass laid up for hay in March, was cut with a pair of horses, one borrowed from my octogenarian hero, the other from a farmer at the bottom of the village.The last of my father's horses having died in the mid 1940s. In my hay making childhood, the farmer at the bottom of the village,who was highly  mechanised, came in with his Ferguson tractor and mower to cut the grass. In the sky-hearth the fire blazed with a white-hot intensity. Mirages melting and flowing. Dew drenched chamomile bruised and crushed by hoof and boot electrifying the air, sending a shock through my newly charged body.
    Above the sound of the tractor and the click-click-click of the mower blade, the mew of the mouse hunting buzzard hawks - The Lord and lady together with their squire son, heir to be, inspecting their feudal estate.
       Moths, alarmed by the blades, flickered blindly into the light from their dark grass clumps, wings fluttering; guttering candle flames. Occasionally the squeal of a mouse sliced by the clicking blade.
       At the end of the cutting, the beached flower fish lay stranded on the flat still sea while Jim, Derek and I ran across the mead in a frenzy of excitement, chasing my shadow over the swathes, before feasting on crisps and drinking a bottle of Corona pop.
        One year, in the corner of Higher mead where the grass had been left uncut, and in a spot hidden from the  prying eyes of fox and human  - the treasure chest of a partridge's nest. The first of the olive eggs cracking  open at the end of the day's mowing to reveal a Faberge jewel, priceless beyond all wealth.
       In the banked beech hedge,the leg-chirp of grass hoppers and the squirm of the escaping lizard through the wild strawberry plants with their tiny ruby fruits. Between my finger and thumb a stub-inch of tail. In the corner, by the gate leading into West Furze Close, a prickly gooseberry bush bearing fruits the size of alley marbles, golden, succulent and sweet in a juice-flow of pips over my chin and chest.
       Over the following two days, as soon as the early morning dew had evaporated, Charlie the Shire horse, borrowed from my octogenarian farming hero and stabled over night in our stable, was harnessed and hitched to the hay turner. Beneath a skin-burning sun, the swathes were turned and tossed into the air to allow the grass to dry evenly and more quickly. Across the mead, my father and the shire horse fused as one and haloed in flies tramp-tramp-tramped the hours away. Forward, turn and back again. Turn, forward and back again. Tramp, tramp, tramp. The implement wheels and cogs revolving in a soak of oil. Man and beast in a soak of sweat. The stickiness of hayseeds in a glisten on chestnut flank and bronzed arm.
          One afternoon, the bite of a rogue horsefly on sodden flank caused Charlie to rear up.Two  iron shod hooves madly beating the melting mirage-filled shimmering air. My father almost losing control as the terrified beast careered off in a tumble-turn of wood and iron shafts and turner. Brought back under control with his firm but gentle voice, "Whoa boy. Whoa there."
   Filling the air, and overpowering my senses, the scent of hay mingling with chamomile flowers crushed by iron horse shoe and leather hobnail boot; sensuous and intoxicating. And all through those hay making days the buzzing of bees bustling around  in the gentle breeze. My father's chanted verse each summer, 'A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.In June a silver spoon, but in July not worth a single fly.' A babble of buzzing around their Tower of Babel flowers in the ancient banked hedge. Eden-like the bank brimming over with vetch - tufted, pea and yellow, fox and cubs, boots and shoes, a floral plate of bacon and eggs, white bindweed, foxglove, meadowsweet and rosebay willow herb yet to break bud. Cascading down the bank  in a tumble of petals, a floral rainbow. In the hedge trough, brittle porcelain shards of the pink and white dog rose.
          On the final day, another tramp-tramp-tramp, and the final turning. My mother and aunt hand raking the straggle of grass stems back from the hedge trough with rake and prong. Next, the hay raked into windrows with the Blackstone iron rake before being swept in Higher mead, and carted from Lower mead to the hay shed.
       My father pressing the foot bar with his hob nail boot, while his hand worked the hand-lever to raise and lower the rusty curved tines. The clunk-clunk-clunk echoing across the field. All the while me and my imaginary friends  cartwheeling, somersaulting and skipping with the red wooden handled skipping rope, "Salt, mustard, vinegar and pepper." The skipping rope chant from the playground.
       In Higher mead, the windrows heaped into pooks for the sweeping. The shire horse hitched up to the wooden sweep. Pulled over the grass the sweep tines piled high.
     "Higher, dad, higher.Sweep it higher. Build it up to the sky."
       The sweep swept heap of hay pulled back to the shed by Charlie. "Whoa, there. Whoa boy. Back up." In a strength-wrench, his hands pulling the sweep back and tilting it upwards and forwards. "Move on boy." The sweep rising into the air, before somersaulting over the swept heap. My father moving nimbly around the side of the tipped heap, righting the sweep as it landed, to prevent the wooden tines from smashing. "Whoa boy. Good boy." A click of his tongue. "Move on." 
      Once again  over the field to gather up another heap of hay. Back at the hay shed the swept hay pronged with picks up to the rick builder by two villagers, brought in as extras for the epic film. The stack shaped and trampled down by my octogenarian hero, built up on foundations of beach faggots from the wood ricks in back court to prevent damp from seeping up into the hay  and causing mould to develop.
     When the hay from Higher mead had been swept up, Charlie was unhitched from the sweep and harnessed to the long cart. Crafted before the beginning of the First World War, in the carpenter and wheel wright's shop directly opposite my farmhouse tree for, it consisted of an oak framework, a floor and wheel hubs of elm, and spokes and shafts of ash, and had taken many weeks to construct and had cost eighteen guineas. As well as carrying hay it was used for bringing in sticks and faggots when a hedge was laid, and in previous years when my father had grown corn it was piled high with sheaves brought in to the barn where they were thrashed by the stationary barn thrasher powered by the oil engine
      Pulling the cart was a lumbering of strength. Heaving and straining. Plodding hoof and the head bowed.  The jangle of harness. The creaking of axle and hub.Iron rimmed wheels rumbling through pot hole and rut, and the ground dust-dry. The ton load lurching to the left and to the right. Hay wisps in a straggle, snagged on beach branch and bramble. Swift wings scything the sky in an arcing flight. Pitch forks thrusting upwards, and the rick growing ever higher.
     An oil slick of sweat staining the chestnut coat, flanks flecked in foam. And the horse piss in a gush steaming, leaving a froth pool  in the grass. Seconds later, small bubbles still bursting.
      That never to be forgotten first time ride atop the final load with instructions from my father to hold on tightly  as the first dew of twilight began to dampen the air. Exhilarating and at the same time frightening. My small hands gripping the rope, which clamped  the load tightly to the cart, my knuckles white.
          For a few minutes the horse drawn cart became a galleon, its grey timbers creaking and groaning, as the craft with its stacked cargo made its final voyage to the hay shed quay across the meadow-sea. Honey suckle rope rigging and white bind weed flower sails.
      Lying out full length, flying above the farm-field world. Head down, face buried in the hay stalks, nostrils soaking up the scents of the dried grasses and flowers, their fragrances mixing with the chamomile crushed by boot and hoof. The first twilight moths fluttering into the banked hedge. Beech leaves brushing my naked back as the cart passed under the branches of a tree.
      Plucking up the courage to lift up my head and take in the hay-world as the  load lurched and swayed  beneath me. Apprehension in the pit of my stomach as I anticipated getting down from the load. Sitting up and the feelings of fear disappearing. A smile filling my face.
     "Whoa boy!"
      Coming to a halt. The pause. The deep breath before sliding down the side of the load and  into my father's  safe arms. Crop and boy, all safely gathered in. The final load, the final act in the film. Hay in a cascade tumbling.
      On a June night around ten-o' clock the hottest place on the farm was at the top of the hay shed in the three feet of confined space between galvanised iron roof and the stack, as the final load was pronged up. This was an oven, where sweat oozed out from the octogenarian rick maker in the manner of grease from a chicken roasting on Christmas Day. The scent from the shaken cocktail of dried flowers and grasses with the aroma stirring my senses leaving me giddy and intoxicated.
    One summer a whirl wind on the final afternoon, just as the carting was beginning  in Lower mead, blew from out of nowhere and lifted swathes of hay, depositing them over the hedge in the adjoining Bull's Mead where they were hand raked into pooks to be carted as the last load to the hay shed.
       Tea times at hay harvest time were times of delight, with a feast laid out for the cast of the epic. A white linen table cloth taken out from the withy baskets for the finest picnics of the year. Home baked pies and tarts. Thick slices of home cured ham between doorstep slices of freshly baked bread smothered in home churned butter.
      Even when meals were eaten out of doors, grace was always said, together with the unspoken words of thanks, for a crop almost safely gathered in. Under the shade of the centuries old towering beach trees the contented munching sound of Charlie enjoying a well earned rest. A glut of home baked riches. A smothering of butter on slices of recently delivered crusty loaves. A treat Corona bottle of fizzy pop, the Orangeade bubbles exploding up my nose. The first long draught from a glass tumbler, followed by a loud belch. A look from my aunt, my father chuckling, "Where ere you be, let the wind go free. In church or chapel kept it rattle. Let it rip through either door." 
A shake of her head, a "Tut,tut,tut," and an admonishing look followed by - "And don't go losing the bottle, there's thrupence back on it."
       As well as the hay harvest affecting my senses of hearing and smell, there was also a new sense slowly waking in my body. Rolling over and over, face down, my body fully outstretched between the windrows, into the windrows and through the windrows Feeling the prick of dried stems on my naked arms, legs and chest. The new sensation mingling with the scents, tingling through my skin and into the very fibre of my being. Enjoying it, but at the same time feeling wary of it, almost afraid of this new feeling.This was the beginning of my gradual awakening.
           A buttercup held under my upturned chin by my aunt with the words, "Yes, he likes mum's pat of butter. See how the yellow spot dances on his skin!" 
           Two buttercups held. My aunt smiles. "Two dancing spots. He likes dad's separated cream as well!" The words exclaimed with  joyous laughter which, in that split second, erased the lines from her sixty-five year old face. A fleeting glimpse of  much younger features which I had only seen previously in the photo from her youth, taken when she had posed for the photographer on her twenty first birthday. The tips of her fingers lingering briefly against my neck in a stroking motion as she withdrew the flowers.
         "And here's a chain for our little prince." Mum fashioning the daisies into links, as she had done  at every hay making time, since I was four, from flowers growing at the base of the stout pine poles, which supported the galvanised iron roof of the hay shed. The chain lowered over my tousled head and placed in position around my neck. Her fingers ruffling my curls, moving down to caress my glowing cheek. The lingering scent of chamomile on her finger tips from when they had brushed against the flowers while picking the daisies.
        The two women in my young life, vying not in competition, but in a loving way for my attention and affection. The awakening continuing. The first tactile, sensuous sensations beneath the  rays of the evening sun which would remain with me forever.
     With the hay shed stacked and the cob-walled tallet filled, the dark descended. The afternoon wing-surfing-the-clouds swifts, the sky-swimming house martins and the soaring, diving swallows, were replaced by the fluttering wings of the tumbling brown-black velvet coated pipistrelle. The first dew of twilight on newly mown grass, sun-bleached and beginning to grow again, and the darkness startling us with its sudden arrival. The air a shaken smother-scent of hay and chamomile. A cocktail rich and intoxicating. In the hedge, in a tendril-twist of tender limbs, the honeysuckle twirled  her body in a gyration of spell-binding twists and turns through the beech and hazel branches. Her perfume drawing in the twilight travelling moth as she serenaded the harvest home.
     In the language of the film director, we had a wrap and the epic film was in the can. The actors and actresses congratulating one another. The hero of the action unharnessed, fed and watered. On the director's face a look of quiet pride of a job well done as he quietly left the set. In our nostrils a scent, incense sweet. If I was lucky my father would lift me up on Charlie's back and lead him across the meadow before returning him to be unharnessed, fed and watered in the stable. Bouncing along as he muffle-clomped his way over the grass. In my head I was a Grand National jockey, as I looked over the winter-laid Devon banked Beech hedge - my Beecher's Brook which I knew I would only jump in my imagination.
       Coming to a cinema near you, if you're very lucky, the cinematic epic - HAYMAKING.
         My family was a Methodist family, consequently no farm work, and that included hay making, was ever done on a Sunday, even if rain threatened. My father commenced his hay-making  early in the week as soon as fine weather set in, and because of this his hay was always carried by the end of the week, and the need for Sunday carting never arose. I know for a fact however, had he had  a field which, because of inclement weather needed to be carried on a Sunday, when rain was forecast, the hay would have remained in the field
          He only ever lost one field and that was in 1963. Soon after he had decided to cut a field, which he had never harvested before, but which had an abundance of lush grass in it, black rain-filled clouds moved in overhead which refused to budge, and over the next few days there were heavy storms. Unable to turn the grass, he watched as the crop was ruined and at the end of a fortnight the thin remains of the grass stalks were loaded on to the long cart. "Poor stuff," he told me on my return from boarding school for my summer holiday. "Barely a load. Only fit for bedding in the shippens, barely better than rushes.  I never want to see a crop like that again."                                                                       
             In the implement shed at that end of that summer, turner, rake and sweep, all stored away, cleaned and oiled. The hand rakes and prongs leaning against one side of  the galvanised iron shed. The scythe, used to cut the grass by the hedge troughs to open up the field, was  honed in readiness for his next hay harvest which would never take place under my father's custodianship of  the fields of my farmhouse tree.
        At the farm sale the long cart, together with the lades, hay turner, rake, sweep and assorted hand tools was sold for less than ten pounds.



Saturday 28 June 2014

The Game Of Happy Families

                                                     THE GAME OF HAPPY FAMILIES.

When I was a little tacker growing up in my farmhouse tree in the 1950s, we played 'Happy Families,' and 'Old Maid,' around the open kitchen fire, eating golden slices of bread,toasted over the glowing logs. As I played, my concentration sometimes wandered and I made up stories revolving around the characters and their lives. 
     Now, as I enter my second childhood, I once again take the cards from the pack and spin stories around their lives. Not all of the Mr, Mrs, Master and Miss charters have survived my passage from childhood through adulthood and have been lost along the way.
      The lives of the characters take a time to deal out so do not expect a full hand to be laid out very quickly! 

                                                         THE PACK OF CARDS.

Behind the curtains in the village cottages,houses and farmsteads, life stirs slowly. The saucepan of porridge simmers, and comes to the boil. Doors into the new day creak open. The happy families  in the game of life shuffle into action. The lives of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are all laid out. The sun, a golden joker in the blue sky pack, shines down on the village. What has the hand of fate dealt the occupants? Will the rules of the game suit the players? Will hearts be broken? What tricks lie ahead as they play life's game for another day.

                                                      MR BUN THE BAKER.

In the two up two down snow-white, white-washed cob walled mid terrace cottage, its slate-flag-stone kitchen floor, silver patterned with trails left by slug and snail, lives Mr Bun the Baker. He stands at the planed pine plank table, its  golden-grained flour-flecked surface lit by dappled sunlight filtered through apple tree branches. With sleeves rolled up, he kneads the dough for his personal needs, beads of sweat glistening on on his gleaming forehead as he pommels his daily bread.
       Pausing, he licks his lips in anticipation, before shaping the dough into two white baps, in his imagination he smears them with farm churned golden butter delivered weekly on a woven withy basket.
        He smiles, as in his mind, appear the two firm breasts of Mrs Field the Farmer's wife, recently almost widowed. Closing his eyes, he cups her breasts in his hands and bending down places trembling moistened lips against the flake-white, pure-white domes of yielding softness. Who says that man cannot live by bread alone, he thinks to himself as he recalls the text from the  Sunday service led by Reverend Pew the Parson. And as he presses his lips into the soft yielding flesh, Mrs Bun the Baker's wife enters the kitchen, and is surprised to see a startled Mr Bun the Baker rise up with dough smeared all over his face.

The next card to be dealt  - Mr Chalk the Schoolmaster.

Tuesday 20 May 2014


                      The 4th chapter in the saga of a boy and his imaginary friends and his days on the farm and at school. Again, please forgive errors,it has not been copy edited. "I can't see any," said Jimbo. "Neither can I," echoed Derek. "Perhaps they're in your imagination."   Copy right David Hill 2014. Not that it means much in this digital age where any thing goes and probably does!
                                                       CHAPTER FOUR.

RUBY, ONE OF OUR herd of seven cows, had calved the previous week. There were gallons of extra milk, and dad had been busy in the dairy making cream in the separator machine, and I hadn't fallen into any more buckets full of milk. I licked my lips in anticipation as I put  an extra big dollop of cream on my bowl of cornflakes.
        Mum laughed, "The last day of term,Christmas Day, and the Sunday school outing to the seaside, are the only days when I don't have to drag you screaming from your bed in the morning."
       Dad and my old aunt joined in the laughter, and so did I, but I couldn't really see anything funny in me staying in bed as long as I could each morning.
       "But why the rush, I know it's the last day, but the school bus won't be here for fifteen minutes,said mum.
        My old aunt laughed again, "He wants to be the first one to see what the replacement bus will look like."
        "Don't expect a brand new shiny Royal Blue coach," chuckled dad, "if I know Fred he won't hire in anything for one day that is going to cost him much money. Just don't go building your hopes up. You might even have to walk."
      Looking up quickly I was just in time to catch him winking at mum..
      He was right about one thing though. Mad Freddy didn't hire a posh bus.
      "Swizzy!" Chorused the wild children. "It's the same old rust bucket. Swizzy!"
      Sure enough, down the road, it's engine spluttering, came the dirty rust bucket cream and red bus, with Mad Freddy crouched behind the wheel puffing out thick clouds of blue smoke.
       The bus juddered to a halt, and a piece of rust fell off.
        I gave a loud gasp.
        The wild children went quiet.
        The birds stopped singing.
        There was still no door.
        But where the door should have been there was a heavy thick black curtain which billowed out in the wind. The rust covered bus resembled a one winged bird.
        "Get in then," he said, holding back the curtain. "Don't just stand there gawping. None of you ever seen a curtain before? Come on. Get in. I haven't got all day. And be careful when you walk back through the bus my ladder's lying on the floor. Got a roof to thatch. Don't want you walking on the rungs and breaking them."
      "Seen a curtain," I said  "in front of a window, but not where a door should be."
       Mad Freddy laughed as we trooped up the steps taking  care to step between the rungs.Once we were inside Mad Freddy flapped the curtain back into position.
       "Best if you sit away from the door," he laughed. "Don't want you falling out as I take a corner."
       The rust bucket bus rattled along, and the black curtain flapped up and down. Our  bus was a ragged,  one winged, black, red and cream crow.
     I knew there'd be fun when Kenny got on and I wasn't disappointed.
     "What play is us goin' to see?" He asked as Mad Freddy pulled back the curtain and poked his head out. "I hope it's a funny one. I like funny ones with fat dames, beanstalks and geeses in."
     "Button your lip," snapped Mad Freddy, "or I'll play with your ear and we'll see if you like that. See if you find that funny."
       Anyone else would have seen that Mad Freddy meant business, and that he was in a really bad mood. Not Kenny the Gorilla Harris. He's too thick."
       "Can't," grinned Kenny. "Haven't got a button on on my lip."
        Mad Freddy lived up to our name for him.
        Just as Kenny drew level with him at the top of the steps, he flipped up his right hand and caught him a real beauty around his ear. In fact it went all over his ear.
        For once in his life, Kenny went very quiet, and his ear went very, very, red.
       "There's your play. It's a real comedy," laughed Mad Freddy. "It's a real pantomime. I hope you find it as funny as I do."
        Kenny wasn't laughing, he was nearly crying, but he didn't blub. And we were all disappointed, because no one has ever seen the gorilla cry. That would have been a real Guinness Book of Records entry.
        It was good fun in school, because we were allowed to play games. We always do this on the last day of term because our teacher is busy tidying her cupboards and taking the pictures off the walls. Kenny cheats at every game he plays. In Snakes and Ladders he refuses to slide down the snakes, and when he gets close to a square with the bottom rungs of the ladder in it he always lands on it with the next throw of the die, but he covers the die so we can't see what number he has thrown.
        After dinner and playtime, during the first lesson, which wasn't a lesson because we were playing more games, our teacher announced, "I shall have to leave you on your own for a few minutes because I have to go next door and have a word with Miss Stephens. And I don't want to hear a sound."
        She looked in Kenny's direction when she said it.
         Kenny grinned.
        As soon as she had left the room, Kenny beckoned to Donald and Peter and me to join him.
        "Right," he said. "Now's our chance. Last day of term. Miss is out of the room, so we can look at it."
        "Wot?" asked Donald. "Wot can we look at?"
        "The Book, Quack-Quack. Wake up. The Book."
        "You mean THE BOOK!" Exclaimed an incredulous Donald.
         "Yeah THE BOOK," said Kenny breaking into a fit of giggles.
         I looked at Peter, who looked at Donald, who looked at me.
        "Right, I'm game," I said, even though I knew that it would probably end in trouble with a capital 't' trouble, because it was Kenny's idea.
        THE BOOK  is on the top shelf at the back of the classroom. It's full of mysteries. Everyone talks about it in hushed voices in the corner of the playground, and us boys talk about it in the boys' lavatory. No one dares to talk about in when Miss is around, because she says it is the teachers' book. Kenny tried to take it off the shelf once. Bad move. Miss caught him.
WHACK!                                                                                                                                 WHACK!
      She said, "If I've told you once I've told you twenty times you are not to look at that book Kenneth Harris. You're not old enough. This is a reference book for the teachers. If ever I catch you climbing up to the shelf again. It will be the cane, and I shall write to your parents.
       Whenever you walk past the book you feel heads swivel around and lots of pairs of eyes look at you, as if daring you to scramble up to the shelf. Daring you to look so that they can find out what mysteries are held within the pages.
        "My brother says though, it's worth looking at," continued Kenny as we made our way to the back of the classroom. "He looked at it before he went up to big school. And he said that you won't believe wot you've seen until you've seed it and then you won't really believe it." 
      With that he scrambled up over a desk and pulled THE BOOK from the shelf.
       THE BOOK is a big,thick,book. As big as a clenched fist, and the pages are crammed with hundreds and hundresds of words so Kenny's brother says. The words are big words printed small and there are loads and loads of black and white pictures.
        Kenny held out the book and I read the words on the blue cover - GRAY'S  ANATOMY.
        And then Kenny really amazed us, "I know what anatomy means."
        We all stared at him.
        We couldn't believe our ears.
        Kenny never knew the meaning of words, especially a long word.
        And then he amazed us again. "Found it in the dictionary."
        Our mouths dropped open.
        We were completely gob-smacked.
        "Didn't even think you knew what a dictionary was," sniggered Peter.
         "Let alone how to look up a word in it " added Donald.
        "Wanna feel this Quack-Quack?" Said Kenny clenching his fist.
         Donald's answer was to move back a few feet..
         "Anyway," continued Kenny, "it means str...stri...stricture or something of the humming body. Summit like that anyway."
    "What does stricture mean and how does a body hum?" Asked a mystified Peter.
       I thought about saying that Kenny's body hummed when we were doing Movement and Dance, but I thought better of it.
       Kenny shrugged his shoulders, "Dunno. Didn't find the word stricture. Got bored with looking at all the words. Me brother says if you hold the book up by the covers THE BOOK opens at the page we want. Here you can do it."
        With that he thrust the book into my hands.
        "Why me?"
         "Cos I got the book off the shelf and..." He clenched his fist into a knuckle fist sandwich to complete the sentence, before adding,"Besides, if Miss comes back you'll be the one wot's caught holding THE BOOK."
        I looked at his knuckle fist sandwich and decided I wasn't hungry, and the wooden ruler didn't seem so frightening either. Lifting the evidence into the air, I held it upside down by the covers. The pages fanned open to reveal.......
           For a few seconds  we were speechless as we stared at the open page and the black and white illustration. 
       "Wow!" Exclaimed Donald.
        Peter let out a low whistle.
        "Crikey-Cripes," whispered Kenny. "It's massive."
       "Mine doesn't look like that," I said.
       "Nor mine," added Donald.
       Peter shook his head, "Should it look like that?" The anxiety showing in his voice. "What happens if it doesn't?"
        As one we shrugged our shoulders.
      Lifting up the book I made a closer inspection. "Is that the size it's meant to be?"
      "Don't ask me. Mr Gray is a lot older than us. Perhaps it gets bigger the older you get," Said Donald. "Mine's a lot smaller than that. So's yours."
       I nodded. "And yours is too Kenny."
       Kenny peered at the page, "Never seen one that big.Naaa, it's a made up one. Gotter be. Perhaps that's what stricture means.....A made up drawing.....Naa, can't be real. No one can have one that big. Not even old Mr Gray."
      Satisfied that we'd seen everything, I closed the book and Kenny,with a clenched fist indicated, Donald to replace it onthe shelf.
      We trooped back to our desks and resumed our game of Ludo, and for once Kenny didn't cheat. At playtime we all grouped up in the boys' lavatory.
     "Wot a whooper that was," said Peter.
      "Ginormous,"echoed Donald.
      "Easily that big," said Kenny measuring out the length between his thumb and middle finger. "Still can't believe biys.And it must be real because it's in a big book like an anycyclopaedia, and everything's real wot you read in an anycyclopaedia.Never seen a bigger one,not never, ever."
     I nodded, "You'm right Kenny. That's the biggest conk We've ever seen. You could smell for miles with a nose that big."
      There was a brief silence before Kenny spoke, "Dunno why me brother got so excited though. After all it's only a nose.. I mean it's not as if it's Mr Gray's wi...."
       His last word was drowned out by the sound of Miss ringing the hand bell.Playtime was over and as I returned to my desk a thought flashed into my head...What if we'd been looking at the wrong page, perhaps Kenny was right when he'd almost said the 'w' word.
       The thought quickly left my head as an ink pellet hit me on the back of my neck. Three guesses where that had come from, but my teacher only needed one -
      "Did you fire that paper pellet Kenneth Harris?"
       Kenny pretended to look hurt."Always picks on me Miss.Gets the blame for everything."
       Our teacher smiled at him, "Now I wonder why that should be?"
       We sniggered  to ourselves.
       Kenny shrugged his shoulders, "Dunno Miss. Not fair."
       Our teacher removed a small tobacco tin from her desk drawer and held it up. "Think yourself lucky, it's the last day of term and I'm not going to pursue it. And now for that part of the final afternoon which I know some of you are going to enjoy." She rattled the tin and I heard the chink of coins.
      I smiled to myself and clenched my fist. This was definitely the time I'd been anticipating. I hadn't missed a day's school all term, and that meant I'd get a prize. I watched as our teacher ran her finger across the register, a couple of names were called, and then I heard my name. Feeling my face turning red I walked out to her desk.
       "Well done. There you are."
       I held out my hand and a coin was pressed into it.
       "What a difference from yesterday,"she said as she closed my fingers around my prize."Pain on the palm then, pleasure today."
     I blushed bright red, "Thank you Miss."
      Walking back to my desk I looked at the shiny thrupenny bit, and thought of the sweets it would buy.
     "Can I have one Miss." Asked Kenny.
     "May I have one Kenny.May I"
     Kenny became excited, "Yes please Miss. Can I."
     Our teacher continued, "May I, and the answer I'm afraid is no."
     Kenny looked confused, "Said please as well. Shan't next time."
     "The next time will never happen because you have to attend school every day for a term. One complete week doesn't count I'm afraid." With a laugh, she replaced the tin in her drawer and locked it.
    Kenny scowled.
    "You want to be careful it's not a forgery," said Donald my desk mate, as he admired the coin.
     Donald's family have got electricity and a television set. He watches it until his bedtime at eight-o'clock and he believes everything he sees on it. "Last week," he continued, " the news man said there are a lot of dud coins and notes around. And the only way to test if a shiny new coin is a real one is to bite on it. If it's a genuine one it'll be hard. If it's a forgery it'll be soft and your teeth'll leave bite marks."
     I was soft enough to believe him, and I put the coin between my mouth.
    "'Ere gi' us a look mate," said Kenny, walking up behind me and slapping me on my back. "Us can buy gob stoppers with it after school mate."
      "I gulped as he slapped me again, and down my throat went....
     "Miss! Miss! Quick Miss! He've gone and swallowed the drupenny bit wot you gived 'im. You'll be in trouble now Miss."
     I began to shake uncontrollably with fear.
     "No gobstoppers now," moaned Kenny as our teacher joined us.
     She got me to lean forward and then she gave me a sharp slap on my back.
     Nothing happened.
     "Go to the canteen Peter and ask for a jug of water with two table spoons of salt in it and a beaker please." She instructed.
     Peter was soon back and our teacher made me drink a beaker of salty water in one go. UUUUUGH!!
     "Will that make him spew up Miss?" Asked  Kenny who was by this time really interested in my predicament. "Stand well back everyone. 'E's going to throw up. Might get our gobstoppers after all.Mind yer shoes.I wonder if there'll be orange bits. There's always orange bits even when you 'aven't had carrots."
      Our teacher looked him straight in the eye. "If you haven't got anything sensible to say Kenneth Harris, then I suggest you keep quiet."
      Kenny pretended to look hurt. My teacher took my hand in hers and squeezed it. "You'll be O.K. You're not to worry."
       Kenny sniggered, "Not thrown up yet Miss. Not working. Hold 'im upside down and shake 'im like mad Miss.Needs to be held up by his ankles. Needs a man. I'll do it Miss."
      "If anyone needs to be shaken it's you. Now sit down and shut up you silly little boy."
       "Ain't little, and besides it's your fault, you gived him the coin," he mumbled as he returned to his seat.
      He sat down, but he didn't shut up. "He'll always have money Miss. like the old woman wot swallowed a fly, it'll always be in him. 'E'll be a human money box."
      Our teacher ignored him.
       I was worried. "Will it stay in me forever Miss?"
       "No of course it won't, she replied. You can't feel any pain can you? Not stuck in your throat?"
      I shook my head, "No Miss. Can't feel a thing."
      "That's one good thing. I'll write a note to your mum, and you're to promise me that you'll give it to her as soon as you get home."
      I nodded, "Promise, Miss."
      She returned to her desk and ten minutes later the letter was in my pocket.
     At the end of school while we were standing by the village shop, waiting for the rust bucket bus to arrive Kenny sidled up to me and said, "Praps Mr Ronson will let us have three gobstoppers on tick. Us can owe 'im. Tell 'im the money is in your human money box and......." He spluttered with laughter......"and you'll pay 'im next term when yer gets it out."
      I didn't find it funny, and I didn't know how I was going to get it out. My mind went back to my head being stuck between the iron bars. Perhaps they'd have to cut it out with a saw.
      The rust bucket bus arrived. I was so engrossed at the thought of being sawn open that I didn't even notice the door had been repaired and was back in position. But I did hear Mad Freddy tell our teacher that she wasn't to worry, and that he would take my mind off it. Fat chance I thought to myself.
    We waited for Mad Freddy to start up the engine.
    "Why are we waiting,Why are we waiting," sang Kenny.
     Mad Freddy ignored him. "As you can see the sliding door is sliding again."
    Everyone cheered except for me.
    "It's the last day of term," he continued.
    Another loud cheer.
    "And next term I'll need a new door monitor, who I'm going to choose now.
    Everyone went quiet, including Kenny. Some of the sissy girls carried on talking, because they knew Mad Freddy wouldn't choose a girl to do the job. Door monitor is the bestest job going. You're in charge and you have to slide it open and shut at every stop. It's much better that being school ink monitor where you have to make sure the ink wells are full each morning. Better even than being milk or straw monitor where you have to give out straws and the third of a pint milk bottles each morning playtime. Girls usually give out straws and milk. You'd give a gob stopper to be door monitor for a day, let alone a whole term. You feel really important, and all your mates are really jealous. Terry Down had been door monitor for the term, and Terence, as his mum calls him, is a goody-goody, and he's good at every lesson. He never does anything wrong, and he always gets everything right in the tests, and he can always do the problem, problems.
       Mad Freddy looked at our eager faces.
     "I'll do it! I'll do it," roared Kenny. "I've got the biggest muscles. Got big mans's muscles."
     "Got the biggest mouth, that's for sure," laughed Mad Freddy."Pity your brain's so small. Can't have you sitting at the front bawling in my ear all the time."
      Kenny gave him his gorilla glare.
       There was a long pause as Mad Freddy eyed us up and down.
       It couldn't be.
       It was.
       Mad Freddy was looking  straight at me.
       "You're reliable. Never miss a day. you'll do for door monitor."
       Kenny's glare changed into a scowl. "I'm stronger than wot 'e is. I should be do in' it. Not fair."
        "I wouldn't give you the job for a hundred pounds Mr Harris, and as you get older you'll learn that life isn't fair" he laughed.
        "Huh!" Snorted Kenny. "Your old bus isn't even worth a hundred pennies."
       Mad Freddy laughed even louder, but it was drowned out as he started up the engine.
       As soon as I got home I told my old aunt my exciting news as she was the first person I saw, and I was bursting to tell someone.
       "That's very nice I'm sure, but don't go boasting too much or your head will swell up and your cap won't fit next term." 
    Mum came into the cellar and I suddenly remembered that I'd swallowed the thrupenny bit, and the letter which was stuffed in my pocket.
   Mum and my old aunt read it together, and discussed it in hushed voices.
   "I'll phone the doctor and get his advice," announced mum as she quickly left the room.
   "Don't worry," said my aunt ruffling my curls. "I'll see if I can find you a barley sugar. Sucking abarley sugar always helps, and it'll cheer you up."
    Mum returned, smiling broadly, "He says there's no need to worry, and it'll pass through very quickly."
      As soon as I heard the words 'pass through', I knew that I wasn't going to like what I was going to be told next, especially when she exchanged a glance with my old aunt. An exchanged glance usually means trouble with a capital 't' trouble.
    Mum continued, and I'm sure she was trying not to laugh. "Each morning you've got to sit on your po......." Here she paused a couple of seconds and cleared her throat before continuing...."and you're to stay there until you've done your number twos."
      "But mum I could be sitting on it for hours and hours."
    "You should have thought of that before you decided to eat money. And no, you just sit on it when you think you need to go. Not as soon as you're up and dressed.You can read a comic."
     On Wednesday morning nothing happened. 
     Well something did happen, but I didn't get my money back.
     "Poohy," exclaimed Jimbo when I told him.
     "Double poohy," echoed Derek."When the scouts do a job they get a bob."
      "And all you'll get is thrupence. And your own at that," laughed Derek.
      All three of us laughed and laughed and laughed.
     They never came around the next day when.........
     Again nothing happened.
     "A double helping of prunes at dinner time," suggested my old aunt.
     I groaned. Holiday time and here I was having to eat school dinner prunes and custard torture meal.
UUUUUUUUUUGH, Kenny the gorilla Harris had a lot to answer for.
      After I'd eaten my shepherd's pie, which didn't have any shepherd in it, I was presented with a big bowl of custard and stewed prunes.
      "Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man , poor man, beggar man, thief. silk, satin, velvet, lace , silk, satin, velvet, lace.I'm going to be a thief and get married in a lace shirt I announced as I counted the stones and said the rhyme.
       Whether it was my old aunt's prunes, or things going naturally, I don't know but the next morning there was a loud clunk of metal on china.
      And there it was..
      "I've got it.I've got my money back," I yelled. "I'm rich again."
       I ran down the back stairs where I was greeted by my old aunt as I waved my coin at her.
      "That is good news," she said with a beaming smile. "But I'd wash my hands if I were you."
       I went bright red, as in my excitement at getting my money back I'd forgotten where the coin had been.Uuuuuuuuuugh.Making a face I  plunged  my hands into the bowl of soapy water.
       Mum came in, heard my good news and produced an empty match box from the table drawer. "Keep it in there. It'll be your lucky mascot. You won't want to spend that one.
     My old aunt must have seen the disappointment on my face, because from her apron pocket she produced a shiny sixpence. "I've been saving this one for the good news day. And do you know what day it is today? It's Good Friday, and it really is a good  Friday."
    I pocketed the coin. I'd doubled my money and still had the original coin. It really was turning out to be a Good Friday, and in my head a plan was formulating, but it was a plan which I couldn't  carry out until the first day of the next term.






Friday 16 May 2014


                                                            CHAPTER THREE.

         Again this has not been copy edited so forgive any errors. And I hope you enjoy meeting and making the acquaintance of Kenny the Gorilla Harris!l 

On Monday morning I dawdled down the road, because I didn't want to have to wait too long, with the wild children, for the school bus to arrive.
            As soon as they saw me the jeering began.
            "Ears sore?"
             "Did the witch cast a spell to free you?"
             "Did you have to eat a toad?"
              "Gotta banana for playtime?"
              I was glad there were only two days to go before the Easter holiday, but I still had to meet up with Kenny the Gorilla Harris. 
              The school bus is old and rusty. It's painted red and cream. It's so ancient it should be in a museum. It's also very dirty. In fact it's filthy. When Kenny the Gorilla punches a seat with his fist, clouds of dust blow everywhere, and we all begin coughing and sneezing very loudly. The sides of the bus are so dirty that we can scrawl our initials in the dried mud on the paint work. It's like a great big autograph book page. Everytime it rains heavily the page is washed clean, but it soon gets dirty, and then we sign our names again.
             Kenny the Gorilla scrawls rude words. VERY RUDE WORDS. Everyone knows he's written them because he can't spell. He's worse at spelling than I am. His rude words are always spelt wrongly. He scrawls words such as - WILY AND BOM. He also scrawls - KENNY IS THE GRETEST.
         The school journey is about eight miles, and as soon as Mad Freddy started up the rust bucket school bus he began puffing on his pipe.When he isn't smoking it, he sucks on the stem and he makes loud squelchy noises. He can even fill his pipe with baccy, as he calls it, which he keeps in his leather baccy pouch without taking his hands off the steering wheel.
     As we pulled off we nearly ran into a car. Mad Freddy started laughing and waved his hand at the driver who nearly ended up in the hedge.
     A few minutes later what I had been dreading, happened. We reached Kenny's house and there he was leaning up against the wall grinning. Normally, as soon as he climbs on the bus he picks on Donald the Duck Hayes. Kenny calls him Quack-Quack. But Kenny wasn't the target today. It was me, he had in his sights.
      "I 'ears that someone not very far away got their nut and ears stuck  between the bars in their cage, cos their ears is too big.Thats what I 'ears anyway."
       The bus filled with shrill laughter.
        I knew exactly what was going to happen next, and it went exactly according to Kenny's plan. He slouched past me, bundle Donald the Duck off his seat and sat behind me.
        "That was my seat," moaned Donald.
        "Was. Mines now. That's your seat on the floor. Make a nest Quack-Quack and lay an egg."
        For the remainder of the journey Kenny kept leaning over the back of my seat  tugging my ears and asking for a banana. When we arrived at school my ears were red. Kenny as usual raced through the bus to be first out and into the playground. Unseen I hung back by the side of the bus where the mud and dust was really thick.
        The first lesson was arithmetic. I call it sums. Some I can do and some I can't.
       "Firstly we'll run through our tables to see how much you've forgotten over the weekend."
    Kenny put his hand up, which he didn't do very often. There was going to be trouble with a capital 'T' trouble.
        "Yes, Kenny. Are you going to volunteer to say your eight times table for us?" Asked our teacher who is also the head mistress.
         "No miss," he said, giving us a big grin."Instead of running through our tables, why don't us walk over our desks and chairs. I'll go first. With that he beamed at us, sniggered, climbed out of his chair and jumped up and over his desk.
         "Come out to the front this minute Kenneth Harris."
          When our teacher gets angry she always calls him Kenneth. He was going to be really for it.He gorilla-slouched out to her desk, with his hands hanging below his knees. We all knew what was going to happen next, and we weren't disappointed. There was going to be big trouble with a capital 't' trouble. Fun for us, but not for Kenny..
        "Hold out your left hand."
         Kenny did as he was told and he stopped sniggering. Our teacher picked up the twelve inch wooden ruler from her desk.
         The ruler came down on his outstretched palm. He went a little red in the face and slouched back to his desk. He'd stopped sniggering completely. Our teacher replaced her ruler, picked up a piece of chalk and began to write a sum on the black board. It was the worst sort of sum imaginable.
       "Here's a problem for you to copy into your excercise books.Put today's date, and write out the problem in your best hand writing. We'll leave running through our tables for another day Kenneth Harris."
       Kenny gave her his best gorilla scowl. Our teacher smiled back at him.
       Our teacher's sums are always a problem. I have a problem copying them into my book, I have a problem understanding them and an even bigger problem doing them. We do problems most mornings, and this is the sort of problem we have to do. This is a mixture of the worst problems made into one problem, problem -
       "Problems is rubbish Miss," called out Kenny.
        There was going to be more trouble with a capital 't' trouble.
       "Problems are rubbish Kenny. Are."
        Kenny was confused. We were confused. Our teacher was agreeing with him. This was definitely a Guiness Book of Records entry.
       Kenny's face was screwing up. Kenny was concentrating. A rare and painful event. But he couldn't fathom it out. Neither could the rest of us. 
        "I knows they is Miss.That's what I said. Problems is rubbish."
        Miss shook her head, "And rubbish is kept in the waste paper basket."
        And with that she picked up the whicker basket which is next to her desk, and as it was Monday morning it was empty, beckoned Kenny to join her and placed the basket over his head so that it came right down over his chest. She then marched him to the corner of the room.
      "You are a dunce Kenneth Harris.As we haven't got a dunce's cap you can stand in the corner with the rubbish basket over your head until playtime."
     After we had had our third of a pint of milk, which we drink out of the bottle with a straw, we went out to play.
      On the way out Kenny whispered to me. "Good eh. I'm clever I is. cos I didn't 'ave to do her stupid ole sum. I baint no dunce."
        I was only half listening, because coming towards us was Shirley Stone - Shirley the Sucker fish Stone. I made a run for it.
      Shirley Stone's got pink blubbery lips, which are just like a sucker fishes. Kenny calls her Blubber Lips, but only behind her back. He's afraid of her really, but we'd never tell him that to his face. She goes around trying to grab you and kiss you.  UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!
         She aims her sucker face lips at you, and they stick with a squelch on your face, and it makes your cheek all wet.UUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!
         She's got muscles as big as tennis balls, and she grabs you in a bear hug, presses herself against you and then she kiss-sucks your cheek. UUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!
         It's worse than being kissed by all of my old aunts at the same time. DOUBLE UUUUUUUUGH!
         Each morning she chooses her victim, and today it was my turn. I had to think quickly. There's only one place Shirley Stone won't enter and that's the boys' lavatory.
         I zig-zagged across the tarmac, and ran into our lavatory and crash-bang into the paws of the gorilla.
        I gave a sigh of relief as I saw Shirley move off in the direction of her second choice victim. Being caught by Kenny is bad enough, but it's better than being kissed by those sucker fish lips. UUUUUGH!
        I gasped as his gorilla arms squeezed me tightly. The air exploded out and  my body sagged in like a punctured football. With a gorilla-roar of delight Kenny bundled me against the wall. Letting go of me he pointed to a side wall. The walls are painted black, and it's only partially covered by a roof. Most of it is open to the rain, so you have to be really desperate to go for a pee when it's wet.
           Taking out his willy he pointed at the side wall and said, "Betchyer I can pee higher up the wall than wot you can pee. If I win I'm allowed to thump yer for beatin' yer. if yer wins which yer won't, but if yer do I'll still thump yer for beatin' me."  
      I didn't have to give his ultimatum much thought. "Looks like I can't win either way."
      He grinned "'S right I think. But because I'm a fair sort o'person, if  yer do win, which yer won't, I won't thump yer quite so hard. Fair enough?"
      I nodded. 
       The challenge had been issued, and it was more than my life was worth not to accept. Kenny's next words  convinced me, if I had been in any doubt.
        Course if yer don't do I'll really thump yer."
        "I'll do it Kenny."
       The boys' lavatory is an Olympic stadium with the black painted walls covered in scratch marks. Everytime one of us pees up the wall and it is a high pee you mark it by chipping the wall with either a small stone or with the blade of your pen knife. But you have to have a witness present who has viewed the athletical feat, otherwise it doesn't count.
        "Bags I go first," said Kenny. "It'll be so high you won't have to bother trying to beat me."
        Standing well away he arched his back and began to pee into the air up the wall.
        It went higher and higher and higher.
        He was only about twelve inches  off reaching the top when Peter the Rabbit Coombes, who had been Shirley's chosen victim exploded into the lavatory.
         He ran slap bang into the back of Kenny.
         Kenny went spare, really spare.
         "Now look wot you've bin 'n' done. Yer've made me shoes all wet," he roared in his loudest gorilla-roar voice.
          He made more loud monkey noises, and the result was Peter the Rabbit left the lavatory faster than he had come in and he was caught By Shirley the Sucker fish who gave him him the biggest squelchiest blubbery kiss imaginable. UUUUUUUUGH!
          Kenny grinned, wiped his shoes on the back of his socks and indicated the wall.
         "Your turn. That's if yer wants to bother mate, cos yer won't beat that one."
           Taking out his knife and by standing on tip-toe he he reached up, scratched his mark, wiped the blade on his sleeve, folded it and put it back In his pocket.
          "Good one eh mate."
          Taking a step back I undid my flies, took out my willy, I arched backwards until I could almost see the doorway behind me and got ready to pee.
         I had nothing to lose. Kenny was going to thump me either way. Win or lose, I couldn't win. And there was no difference between Kenny's thumps. They all made your eyes water.
        I took a deep breath, aimed my willy and began to pee.
        It was my lucky day. The extra glass of milk I'd had at breakfast together with my playtime bottle was about to pay off. what goes in must one out as dad says, and it did. There must have been as much milk in my body as there is blood. I was bursting with milk, and out it came surrounded in hot steam. A yellow stream arched up the wall just like a golden rainbow.
       It went higher, and higher and higher.
       It went over Kenny's pen knifed mark which he had just scratched out.
       It was a Guinness Book Of Records' entry.
       And it went even higher.
       It went right over the top of the wall.
       Kenny was gob smacked and so was I. He was so gob smacked that he just stood there opening and shutting his mouth without any words coming out.He didn't stay gob smacked for long though, but before he could thump me and before I could chip out my mark with pride right at the very top of the black wall, there came an angry voice from the other side.
       "Oi you dirty little beggars.Just wait...."
        His words were drowned out by Kenny shouting,"Run!"
        And we did. We ran like scalded cats. I've Never seen a scalded cat, let alone one running, but that was what Miss said when we ran slap-bang into her.
         The first lesson after playtime was history. We were just sitting back in our desks to listen to it on the big wireless speaker that gets moved from classroom to classroom, when there was a loud BANG-BANG-BANG on the door.
          I could feel my legs turning to jelly, and I crossed my fingers.
          Before Miss could get to the door it burst open, and a man with a trowel in his hand charged in.
 He was very, very, angry. He was a charging bull, and he charged across the classroom. His face was scarlet with rage..
         I had a funny sort of feeling in the pit of my stomach. it wasn't a funny, funny sort of feeling that makes you want to laugh. This was the funny sort of feeling that told me there was going to be trouble with a capital 'T' trouble. Big, big trouble.
        The bull charged up to our teacher's desk, snorting angrily. His face was full of thunder and then the storm broke. In a loud bellow he said, "I was in my garden planting out some lettuces when......."
        The gardener was not amused.
        Our teacher was not amused.
         We were not amused either when she called Kenny and me out to the front of the class.
        She pointed to our left hands. We held them out and she gave us a stroke each with her twelve inch ruler and told us we were  very dirty little boys.
         Why is it that just as the ruler hits your hand your eyes automatically shut. 
          It didn't half sting. Half sting! It completely stung. I'd never had the ruler before, and it was as if a giant bee had stung the palm of my hand. And it went on stinging and stinging, no matter how tightly I clenched my fist. I had tears in my eyes, but I wasn't going to let my mates see me blub.
       The bull-man was no longer angry, our pain had made him a happy bull. He became a smiling man and his smile grew bigger when I unclenched my palm and he saw the red mark. He left our classroom a very, very, happy man.
       Kenny whispered to me, when he thought our teacher wasn't listening, "Dunno why he went mad. All us done was help him with his watering. He oughter 'ave said 'thank you boys. You saved me a job. Here's a penny for some sweets'" Unfortunately his whisper wasn't quiet enough, it rarely is and Miss heard him and she didn't agree with him.
       WHACK!                                                                                                             WHACK!
       My hand was still sting from just one bee, so Kenny's must have been really sore because he'd had a swarm of bees sting his. I was glad I'd only had one whack. At least my hand wouldn't be red when I got home and mum wouldn't know I'd had the ruler.
         I'd also beaten Kenny at peeing up the wall, and even though it wasn't marked and no one had seen it, Kenny knew I'd beaten him and so did all my class mates now.
        Definitely a Guiness Book Of Records Entry.
        In the afternoon when we were lining up to catch the rust bucket bus, Kenny said to our teacher, "I shall get my dad to come in and see you, and you'll be had up for cruelty."
        Somebody whispered just loud enough for everyone to hear, "Is that cruelty to animals."
     Kenny didn't know who had said it, and he glared at everyone.
     "Good," replied our teacher, trying hard not to smile. "You tell him to come in any time he wishes. in fact, ask him to come in tomorrow.There's a lot I want to tell him."
       Kenny gave her his gorilla scowl, "He won't come in tomorrow cos he's busy. He'll come the next day."
      "Unfortunately we'll all be on our Easter holidays as well you  know Kenneth Harris."
      "Tough," he replied with a big grin. "Won't be able to tell him anything now."
       "I've never heard of anyone being too busy because they're doing nothing," sniggered Donald the Duck. "My dad says your dad spends all day sleeping it off, whatever it is that makes him so tired."
       Kenny went spare,"I'll give you one in the beak Quack-Quack, if yer don't watch out."
      "And you want to watch what's written on the side of the bus," laughed Peter the Rabbit as the rust bucket bus pulled up.
        Our heads swivelled to look where he was pointing.
         Kenny hit the roof, least ways he would have done if he'd been sitting in the bus. He leapt up and gave a gorilla scream as he read what was written in the grime. One word had been added, and it now read -
           KENNY            IS              THE                 GRETEST                   FOOL.
        Miss tried hard not to laugh. Kenny was so angry that he stamped up and down just like a real angry gorilla. He hunched his shoulders over and his hands hung down below his knees. His face went all squeezed up like a monkey's.
       It was a good job our teacher was around or he'd have turned us all into pulp.
       Finally we climbed into the rust bucket bus.Mad Freddy started up the engine and we set off. While he was trying to light his pipe he dropped his match and his trousers started smoking in a place where you don't want to have a fire. As he was flapping at the smoke with his left hand he almost drove into the hedge. He stopped so suddenly that a van nearly went into the back of us.
      Kenny said as Freddy put out the small flame, "If you hadn't put it out with your hand, you wouldn't have had far to go far for water. You could have turned on your own tap."
        Mad Freddy stood up.
         We all went quiet.
         Kenny had really done it now.
         There was going to be trouble with a capital 't' trouble.
          But there wasn't any trouble at all. Instead Mad Freddy threw back his head and roared with laughter. He sat down again, started up the rust bucket bus  and we moved slowly off.
       At the next village he stopped where he didn't normally stop and we thought he had run out of baccy or matches. But when he climbed back into the rust bucket bus he was holding a ginormous bag of sweets which he handed to Kenny, "There you are young Mr Harris. Share those toffees out with everybody and that includes the maids. Never laughed so much in a long time."
      Kenny beamed, grabbed the bag and shared them out.
      "One for you, one for me. One for you, another for me. One for you, two for me."
       Mad Freddy lit his pipe again, and puffed out the customary clouds of cough-making blue smoke,until the air was thick.
       "Always smells like ole socks burning," sniggered Kenny.
       Donald the Duck started coughing and Kenny enjoyed thumping him on his back, and Donald almost choked on his toffee.
       A couple of minutes after Kenny had got off, the bus door fell off. one minute it was there, the next minute it was gone.
       It simply fell off and ended up lying in the ditch.
       "Freddy! Freddy!" We screamed. "The door's come off."
       The rust bucket bus screeched to a stand still, and Mad Freddy said a very rude word, in fact he said two or three, and clambered out through the hole where the door should have been."
    We were laughing behind our hands, because we didn't want Mad Freddy to see us and get even madder. He climbed back in carrying the door which he placed on the floor between the seats at the back.
       A wind blew through the hole where the door should have been, and Mad Freddy puffed and puffed at his pipe, until it looked as if he was an Red Indian chieftain sending out smoke signals. I think he was a very, very, worried bus driver, because he drove the slowest I have ever known. He drove so slowly that I was afraid I'd be late getting home and that I would miss Children's Hour at five-o'clock on the wireless, and It was 'Jennings and Derbyshire' as well - one of my favourite programmes.
      In the evening when I told Jimbo and Derek they couldn't stop laughing. They both agreed that it was the best bus journey they'd ever heard about. They were jealous that they hadn't been on the rust bucket bys and seen it all happen. They also agreed that it was great that Kenny had missed out on the all of the fun.
      When I told them about the scribble word - FOOL on the side of the rust bucket bus Jimbo said, "I know."
       Derek tapped the side of his nose with his finger and added, "You can't tell us anything we don't know,and he is a great fool."
          Now I knew who was responsible.
          MAGIC, REAL MAGIC.

      Coming soon - CHAPTER FOUR......KENNY GETS A THICK EAR, THE BOOK ( What we should have seen, but didn't) AND THE HUMAN MONEY BOX.