by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Book II: Never So Good
Chapter 6: 1960
part 1 of 2
30 January 1960
We watched The White Heather Club on the telly on New Year’s Eve. It was funny to see all those men dancing around in skirts!
They’re kilts, Peter. They’re a sort of National Costume in Scotland.
What, in all that cold weather they have up there? Poor men!
Ladies have to wear skirts and dresses all the time.
Poor you. Well, not you, Jane, of course! Maybe ladies should decide to wear trousers too.
Maybe they will, one day.
I’m glad you’ve finally agreed to stay at school for lunch. That will at least give Mummy a bit of freedom at last.
Yes, but I don’t enjoy the food at all! And I still haven’t made any real new friends. So I’ve decided I do want to join the Cubs now.
That’s a very good idea.
Way Down Yonder.
Robert has just taken the 11-plus exam. It’s to decide which school he’ll go to next year.
Mummy still listens to Sing Something Simple on the radio on Sunday nights. I can’t understand why — it’s really boring.
Don’t be so unkind, Peter. She likes to hear the songs from her younger days. But she likes all the new pop music too. You really must be more tolerant.
I’m going to start getting the Dandy comic. And I’m reading The Jungle Book. They said that’s a good idea if you want to be a Cub.
* * *
What was the “Wind of Change” speech all about?
Macmillan was telling people in the British colonies in Africa that he expects they will be able to separate from us quite soon and govern themselves. Like America did, but without having to have a war first.
You do talk more and more like a grown-up, Jane!
That’s because I nearly am one now.
You know Daddy told me we should never ride our bikes on the pavement?
Yes. It’s against the law.
Well, David’s daddy told him you can do that, in the dark, if you don’t have any lights on your bike.
Well, that’s probably quite sensible ...
But Daddy told me you must never go out on your bike in the dark without lights.
So why do different grown-ups tell their children different rules?
I don’t know, Peter. It sometimes just depends. But it is difficult to understand.
It certainly is! And I bet you know really!
I just know you shouldn’t argue with those other people, but you should probably do what you have been told is right.
One of the boys at school told me his daddy went out into their back garden last week and rolled around on the lawn in the snow, without any clothes on! That sounds like great fun! But when I told Mummy about it, she was really shocked.
I don’t think people did that in her family.
But I told her their house is a long way from anybody else’s, and no-one could have seen him!
She still doesn’t think it’s the right thing to do.
Does that mean I mustn’t do it either?
Slow Boat To China. I wish I was on it! You know, Jane, even though I’m in the third year at school now, I’m still not learning many new things in most of the lessons.
Yes, I do know.
Whirlybirds is so exciting! I want to be a helicopter pilot!
We get that special extra day again tomorrow. We used to think God gave it to us, didn’t we?
I’m not so sure now.
Nor am I, Peter.
I don’t like Sunday School at all these days. I told Mummy I wanted to stop going. She says I must wait until the summer, when I’m nine, because it would look very bad if I left before then. I wanted to ask Daddy if he’d let me stop earlier, but I don’t think I’ve seen him for more than two hours this week, and we were never alone together ...
* * *
We had a special test two weeks ago, and it said you had to put your full name at the top of the answers sheet. So I did what I was told, and I wrote Peter Walter Kerr. And then last week Miss Jones read out all the results, and I came top, so she read my full name out first, and she said it like this: Peter “WALTER” Kerr, and everybody laughed, and now they’re all calling me Wally and I’m really unhappy! Everyone knows a wally’s a stupid person!
Yes, that was very inconsiderate of her.
But it’s too late now, isn’t it? My name’s Peter, not Wally! Why did Daddy have to give me his silly name??
I think he and Mummy meant it as an honour.
What do you know about it??
Oh, that’s just not fair!
You Got What It Takes.
I’m really enjoying the Cubs. We play lots of different games and do other interesting things. And I’m finally making friends with a few boys of my own age — the ones I left behind when they moved me up at school. And I’m going to earn stacks of proficiency badges!
I suggest you let yourself just relax and enjoy it, rather than feeling you have to achieve a whole lot more. You’re achieving quite enough at school already ...
I don’t see why I should do that. It’s not natural. Stop interfering!
California Here I Come.
They said on the news that America has sent its first troops to Vietnam. What’s that for?
They’re fighting another war there. They’re worried about the Russians again.
I’ve started reading the Just William books. They’re good fun, but rather childish.
That’s because they’re written for children, Peter.
Robert has failed the 11-plus exam. He’ll be going to a secondary modern school in September. He doesn’t care — in fact he says he’s pleased he didn’t pass. He wants to be a motor engineer, and he says the Grammar School’s for sissies. Only one boy in his class is going there. Robert says everybody is singing ‘Grammar Bugs Eat Slugs ...’ and it’s made that boy really upset.
In South Africa.
What’s a massacre?
I’m not going to tell you.
Mummy hasn’t got a job after all, even though I’ve stopped coming home for lunch, just to please her ...
Well, I heard her say she’s lost interest in the idea of working, and she also doesn’t need to, now that Daddy’s earning enough money himself. She’s happy just to stay at home with Trudy, and visit her friends occasionally.
Happy? She doesn’t seem very happy to me these days.
That’s surprisingly observant of you, Peter. Yes, she realises there’s little more she can teach Robert or you — at least for now. And I think that’s making her feel rather unwanted, in every way ...
* * *
We went to visit Auntie Mary and Simon for the first time last week. Simon’s a lot older than us. But his daddy died a long time ago. He says he hardly knew him.
While we were there we played two wonderful games called Solitaire and Monopoly! I want to have those games for my birthday!
They’re still calling me Wally at school, all the time.
My Old Man’s A Dustman.
Daddy made us a lovely garden swing last month, in between two of the trees. I can get up really high now, and when I’ve had enough I leap off forwards and land on both feet!
You’re very athletic, Peter. It’s because you’re so light. But I’ve told you before — you must be more careful ...
Or I’ll end up in Emergency Ward 10?
And Mummy and I played football in the garden all through the Easter holiday — and French cricket. And Robert sometimes joined in, under protest. And Trudy! But she’s a bit of a nuisance, really ...
She’s a dog, Peter!
But she spoils it for me! So now we put her inside when we want a proper game.
Do you want to talk about what happened to you and David at the playing field ...?
Not really. Those big boys had no right to insist on borrowing our ball. So I refused to let them.
I did whisper to you at the time, didn’t I? I told you to just give in and avoid trouble.
It wasn’t your business. And then they got me on the ground and punched me, lots of times. It was horrible.
You should have told Mummy who they were, when you got home, instead of pretending you didn’t know them.
No, I shouldn’t. And David doesn’t know them ’cos he goes to a different school. So I’m safe.
Standing On The Corner.
We did Bob-a-Job Week with the Cubs after Easter. That was good fun. I was working with boys of my age and a bit younger. We all got on fine. But I wish I could have kept the money for myself!
* * *
Fing’s Ain’t What They Used To Be.
What’s the “Civil Rights Act” all about?
Well, the one in America this month is specifically to protect people who want to vote in government elections. So that they won’t be pressured into doing something against their will.
What are “rights”?
It’s very complicated, Peter. But basically it means that everybody should be allowed equal freedom and opportunity to do what they want to with their lives, without being persecuted because of their beliefs or their race or other things.
Do we have Civil Rights here too?
Yes ... but probably not enough, yet.
I wish I’d never joined in with that group of older boys at lunch-time on Wednesday ...
They forced you to. You didn’t have much choice.
But if I’d known they were going to tear down another gang’s playhouse in the woods, I would have refused. That would have been my right, wouldn’t it?
He’ll Have To Go.
And when the other gang turned up and got very angry and took us all prisoner, you whispered in my head again, and told me to run away. But I couldn’t, could I? And then I started crying. And they said they would let me go if I promised not to warn any of the other boys back at school. So I promised.
And yesterday the boys in the first gang gave me a “trial” in the school toilets, and they said some horrible things about me, and now they’ve sent me to Coventry.
I’m very sorry for you, Peter.
Well, it’s not at all fair, is it? I was only keeping my promise! But maybe I shouldn’t have listened when you told me to run away. Maybe I should have been braver. Maybe it’s all your fault ...
Oh, Peter! Now who’s not being fair?
I love watching the wresting on the telly on Saturday afternoons!
I don’t think you’ll ever be a wrestler!
Three Steps To Heaven.
Why did the Russians take Gary Powers prisoner?
Because he was piloting a spy plane over their territory.
That’s not fair either. He was only doing what he’d been told to.
What was the Paris summit?
It was a big meeting recently between Eisenhower and Khrushchev.
And why was it “aborted”?
Because they argued a lot about the Gary Powers issue, and then gave up and went home again without making any progress. And he’s still a prisoner.
Oh. What’s a laser?
It’s a very special sort of light beam. The Americans have only just managed to create one. They could become very powerful, I think.
But they were invented ages ago! My comics are full of zapping weapons like that!
* * *
Happy Birthday, Jane.
You remembered! Happy Birthday back to you!
Eighteen today, then?
I think so. There or thereabouts.
I got the Monopoly set I wanted. And a pocket Solitaire game. And a Kodak Brownie camera, with two rolls of film! Each one can take eight photographs!
Why do newspapers and the telly only show everything in black and white?
Because the equipment to show colour pictures either doesn’t exist, or is too expensive.
But the films I’ve seen at the cinema were in colour!
They already know how to record onto colour film. And because people all over the world will pay to see the films, the producers can afford to spend the extra money it costs to buy the expensive special equipment.
We have to go and visit Grandpa and Charlie, Barbara and Sally tomorrow. Just ’cos it’s my birthday. That’s boring. It’s a really long journey on two buses and a coach, and Sally’s too young to play with us, and Grandpa’s too old.
You’re being very selfish again, Peter. Daddy wants to see his own family occasionally, especially since Nanny died. And he’s very proud of you.
Yes. And it’s actually quite nice for me to watch you all together. And especially to see little Sally growing up.
Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd