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Donna’s Men

by Michael E. Lloyd

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Book II: Never So Good

Chapter 7: 1961

part 1 of 2

29 January 1961

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Why are the French people doing nuclear tests?

Because they don’t want to be left behind in the arms race we’ve talked about. And they like to stay very independent of Britain and America.

But I thought we saved them from the Occupation in the war?

Yes ...

That doesn’t seem very grateful.

What’s “conscription”?

Well, a better question is ‘What was it?’ It meant most of the young men in Britain had to go into the army for a while, after leaving school and before going out to work. But it ended on New Year’s Eve.


America and Cuba have severed diplomatic relations. That doesn’t sound very good.

It’s not.

And they’ve discovered a Soviet spy ring in England. Is that all part of the same thing, Jane?

Well, sort of. Actually, yes.

I’ve been reading Peter Pan. Peter Kerr doesn’t want to stay young forever!

You might change your mind about that one day ...

Rubber Ball.

Is the new American President going to make things even better for them?

That’s what he promised. We shall see.

They’ve just put a chimpanzee into Space. Isn’t that wonderful!

I think you ought to ask the chimpanzee.

But that’s silly, Jane! He can’t talk!


Juke Box Jury. That’s my favourite telly programme now. And Daddy’s started buying records for me and the family! He gets us a new 45 every other Friday, after work.

They held the 11-plus exam at school this week. Everyone else in my class took it. But Mr Bags wouldn’t let me, because he said I couldn’t go on to a senior school next September because I’d be far too young. So I’ve got to sit all the way through another year in Primary Four!

Well, at least you’ll be back with all your younger friends at last!

But they’re almost all still older than me! And I’m going to be really bored with the lessons yet again!

* * *

26 February

Who’s right?

About what?

About how you should hold your knife. And whether you should hold a bowl with your free hand all the time, or not. And which way you should tip the bowl when you’re finishing your soup ...

Why are you worrying about all that?

Because other children have been told different things from we’ve been taught at home. And sometimes they laugh at what I do. So, who’s right?

Everybody. Nobody. Oh, I don’t know, Peter!

Wonderful! Okay, what about always walking on the outside of the pavement when you’re with a lady or an elderly person? And always opening a door for them, and never pushing through it first yourself?

I think those are very nice things to do, no matter what anyone else might tell you.


Ebony Eyes.

I’m still getting on well at Cubs. Another three badges!

It’s really meant to be fun, not one big long test!

But I’m good at tests!

Messing About On The River.

There’s a radio programme called Down Your Way which goes to different towns and villages all over England. They came to Estingham last month, and it was on the radio today! Quite exciting. But we didn’t know anybody they spoke to.

That may be because Mummy and Daddy hardly ever go out.

Yes. She just looks after Trudy and does the shopping and the housework. And he’s still working in the garage whenever he’s at home.

But we have to go and visit Grandpa and his family in Wood Green often enough! It is nice to see them, I suppose, and Sally’s very cute. And I do enjoy going down the little garden path and into the greenhouse, and smelling the tomato plants and hunting for the frogs hiding under the floor racks. I still hate the long journey on the buses and the coach, though, especially coming back in the dark! It means every visit takes up a whole precious Sunday! But I suppose the best thing about it is that Uncle Charlie always giving me a shilling when we leave.

Oh, Peter ...

Walk Right Back.

I’ve finally made friends with one of the big boys in my class. His name’s Colin Sims and he lives in Tileheath, halfway between here and Orlesbury. And his young sister Christine is one of the three girls who were nice to me on my very first day at school here.

I’m going to Colin’s house on the bus next Saturday, and he’s taking me rabbiting in the fields. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds good fun. Christine might come too.

Calendar Girl.

The Horse Racing on the telly is really boring! It always seems to be raining, and all they do is show the horses galloping around a big field in the distance. And it’s in black and white, of course, so you can’t tell the difference between any of them! And everyone does a lot of shouting. What’s the point, Jane?

It’s because people bet money on which horse will win.

And what happens if the one they choose does win?

They end up with more money than they started with. Sometimes a lot more, if they’re very lucky.

Ah, now I understand .......

* * *

31 March

I’m reading the Worzel Gummidge books. They’re so funny!

I did go to Colin’s house, last month, and he and Christine and I all went out rabbiting. But actually that just meant they took their dog with them, in case he could smell out any rabbits and chase after them! But he didn’t.

There was an electric fence around one of the fields, to keep the cows in. Colin said the electricity goes around it quite slowly, so if you touched it very quickly you wouldn’t get a shock. And he did that, to prove it. But I didn’t want to try it for myself! Nor did Christine.

And we had to climb over four stiles. I’d never seen one before, and I was a bit clumsy at it to start with, and they both laughed out loud — but not unkindly. So I made sure I was first over the final one, properly, and then I held out my hand to help Christine down. Her hand was ever so warm and soft! And she gave me a lovely smile and said ‘Thank you’ really sweetly!

That’s nice! Make sure you take good care of your friendship with her, Peter.

I will.

Are You Sure? And Will You Love Me Tomorrow? And Wooden Heart. It seems to be all love songs around at the moment, Jane.

Ah, that’s just what you happen to be noticing right now! But it is what makes the world go around, of course ...

I thought that was the sun!

Let’s Jump The Broomstick. But what on earth does that mean?

Colin gave me some bubble-gum to try, while I was at his house, and I still had two pieces left in my pocket when I got home. Mummy found them soon afterwards, and she was really annoyed. We’re never allowed to have bubble-gum. I can’t understand why!

Nor can I. But that’s Mummy, I’m afraid.

We’ve had some chickens at the bottom of our garden for a few weeks now. I sometimes go out and collect the eggs. They’re all warm. And occasionally one is very soft and rubbery, almost without a shell!

I think that’s because certain birds develop too fast, or not fast enough, or have got very stressed for some reason ...


I’ve started going on the bus with Mark and Martin to the Saturday morning children’s picture show in Orlesbury. They have lots of old black and white Westerns and Comedies with people like Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Cops. And they sell a wonderful sort of ice lolly in the interval, called a Peach Melba. I tried to buy one at our shop the other day, but they’ve never heard of them.

No, those lollies are very new, and I think they’re made specially for the cinemas. So don’t be upset ... just treasure it as a special part of going there each week.


They told us at the end of term that Paul Smith — the boy who wrote the class play last Christmas — will be the only one going to Grammar School next year.

So, your judgement of his talent was spot-on. Well done.

Why has South Africa left the Commonwealth?

Because a lot of other countries don’t like the way it treats its coloured people.

So is that going to make things better?

I don’t know.

Theme For A Dream. There’s another one!

But despite what I said, Peter, love is not the only thing some people dream about.

I know! I dream about being big and strong. Like Popeye! Every Monday, Mummy buys me a tube of Smarties. And when Popeye pours his spinach down his throat, I pour down a mouthful of them too! There are four cartoons in each programme, so I have to make sure not to swallow too many at the start, or I run out!

You’d do better to eat real spinach, like Popeye.

Ugh! No! It’s horrible!

* * *

30 April

A man in space! The Russians put a man in space and he came back safely!!

It is amazing, isn’t it?

I’ve written to the Kremlin to ask Yuri Gagarin for his autograph. I want to be a cosmonaut when I grow up.

That’s actually what they’re called in the USSR, Peter. You’ve more chance of becoming an “astronaut”. That’s what the Americans call them, and they’re hoping to have a man in space soon too.


What’s the Bay of Pigs?

It’s a place in Cuba. The Americans were trying to help some people to depose Castro. But they failed, and now the two countries are even more angry with each other.


Trudy gave birth to two puppies at Easter. But we weren’t allowed to see them. Mummy said they were very small and not very well. She didn’t even want to give them names in case they died very soon. And one of them did die, a few days later. But the other one got better, and she’s okay now, and we were finally allowed to see her! Her name’s Tracy, and she’s very cute and her breath smells all sweet and nice.

I think Mummy is very happy and very sad at the same time.

Yes. And I know what name I’m going to remember the other puppy by.

I wonder .......

We went to visit Auntie Patience the other day. I’ve never met her before. She seems very old. Is she really my Auntie?

No. She was Mummy’s mother-in-law. But Mummy’s first husband was killed in the war, twenty years ago.

Oh! Why has she never told me that?

She doesn’t like talking about anything to do with sickness or death, Peter. That’s why she and Daddy never told you anything about me.

Shall I ask her to tell me about it?

You could. But it might make her very uncomfortable ...


Auntie Anne doesn’t have a husband either. Did he die too?

Yes, only a few years ago.

Poor Owen, not having a daddy. And what about Auntie Harriet?

Her husband went to live with somebody else.

Poor Victoria. Does she ever see her daddy?

Sometimes. Not often.

Blue Moon.

We watched the University Boat Race on the telly on April Fools’ Day. Cambridge won. That’s not far away from here, is it?

Not too far. It’s much closer than Oxford.

I’m always going to support Cambridge! And I’m going to go to Cambridge University.

And maybe you just will. If the world changes fast enough ...

It was Bob-a-Job Week again after Easter. I was very tempted to keep some of the money again. Especially when people didn’t bother to write down how much they’d given me on my card.

Oh Peter, I’m really shocked to hear that!

What’s the matter? I only said I was tempted. I didn’t actually keep any money. I wrote everything down properly, and handed it all in. You should be pleased with me, not shocked.

You’re Driving Me Crazy.

* * *

28 May

Have A Drink On Me.

You were right, Jane! America did put an astronaut into space. I like Alan Shepard better than Yuri Gagarin!


Because Gagarin didn’t reply to my letter. And because President Kennedy says he’s going to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. I’ll be eighteen by then, and maybe it can be me!

Oh, Peter ...


What are the Freedom Riders?

They’re people protesting against racial discrimination in America.

Like the people who made South Africa leave the Commonwealth?

Not quite. These are ordinary people who are trying to get some new human rights laws actually upheld rather than disregarded. But to do that they often have to break other laws at the same time. Or people say they’re breaking them. It’s all very complicated.

But breaking the law is wrong.

Sometimes it can be right and wrong.

Aha! Like riding your bike on the pavement without lights?

Yes, a bit.

* * *

24 June

I got a new sports bike for my birthday! It’s got drop handlebars and Derailleur gears!

Daddy spent a lot of money on that present, Peter. I hope he knows how pleased you are.

I hope so too!

Well, have you told him?

I think so ...

Pop Goes The Weasel.

They’ve had another summit meeting, haven’t they? This time Kennedy went to meet Khrushchev in Vienna. What happened?

They talked about disarmament and other related things.

But did they agree not to use those weapons?


Proceed to part 2 ...

Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd

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