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Donna’s Men

by Michael E. Lloyd

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Book II: Never So Good

Chapter 8: 1962

part 2 of 2

12 September

It was Robert’s birthday on Sunday. But he didn’t have a party this year. He went into town with his friends to see a film.

And yesterday I started at Grammar School! Yeti cycled up from his house and we caught the bus together. Then it was another bus ride from the centre of town over to the school. It took us an hour to get there! Most of the boys and girls from my old school were on the first bus too, but we didn’t sit with them and they ignored us. Good!

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.

Yeti’s in a different class from me, which is sad. But at least it means everyone’s calling me Peter and not Wally. Hooray!

And hopefully his new friends are calling him Jamie.

We’d heard all sorts of stories about the “ragging” that everyone said would happen on our first day, and I’d been very worried. But it wasn’t too bad. In the morning break a few of the second-years were waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs, and they marched us into the washrooms and put our heads under the taps and rubbed soap in our hair. But that was all. And at lunch-time they pushed a few of us into the holly bushes. We didn’t get scratched — much — but one boy’s brand new blazer got a bit torn ...

I think they only picked on the smallest of us. And of course I’m still almost the smallest and youngest in my class.

But there was no more ragging today, so I think that’s all over now, thank goodness. And someone said he’d heard it used to be a lot worse!

I hope you’ll really be able to relax now, and get on with lots of new learning and make plenty of good friends.


We have a lady class teacher this year, even though almost all the others in the school are men. Her name’s Miss Carpenter, but everyone calls her Sander. I don’t know why. They say it’s short for sandpaper. I still don’t know why.

Pick A Bale Of Cotton.

The USSR is sending arms to Cuba. That’s not good, is it?


Sealed With A Kiss.

We had our first French lesson today. I really enjoyed it. And I’m still looking forward to getting some homework! But I’m not enjoying the long bus journeys. I don’t get back here till nearly five o’clock!

* * *

30 September

It Might As Well Rain Until September.

They don’t play football at the Grammar School. They play rugby! It’s horrible. We all have to stand around in the cold and wet, and then chase after the silly egg-shaped ball. And as soon as you pick it up, all the big boys pounce on you. I’ve got a lot of bruises already. So now I make sure I don’t pick the ball up. What a waste of time! And I was so good at football! It’s just not fair.

Try and find ways to enjoy it, Peter. It’s not going to go away just because you want it to, is it?

Bah! Humbug!

And I hate the swimming lessons. The pool’s always freezing, and it’s still only September. And I don’t like it at the deep end, even with my float!

Our music teacher’s called The Elephant ’cos he talks so loudly, like a trumpet. He made us all go up to the front of the class, one at a time. I was one of the first. He asked whether I wanted to have music lessons at school. I said yes, because it seemed to be what he expected, and when he asked me ‘Which instrument?’ I couldn’t get his name off my mind, so I said ‘Trumpet’ and I heard a few boys sniggering behind me. But he didn’t get annoyed — he just wrote it down. Then he made me sing a verse of a Christmas Carol, like the first few boys had, and he said I would be in the School Choir — just like that!

Aren’t you pleased?

I think so. Well, I don’t like to disappoint my teachers. And I do enjoy singing. But in the end he only chose three boys from my class. So I’m already feeling a bit “different” again ...

When I got home I told Mummy the news. She was delighted about the choir, but Daddy said ‘No!’ to the trumpet straight away, and she said she agreed with him really. I do hope The Elephant won’t be angry when I tell him.

Of course he won’t, you silly!

Telstar. I love that tune! It has a very strange modern sound.

It’s meant to reflect the modernity of the new satellite.

Yes. And I asked Daddy to buy the record for us. But he didn’t get the Tornados’ recording — the one that’s in the charts. He got a cheaper one, to save money. It’s not nearly as good.

Our French master’s a very nice man, and I really like learning all the new verbs and vocabulary on the bus coming home, and then doing the little translation exercises. It seems just like sums to me — there’s a correct answer, and you have to work it out. And I’m enjoying the Arithmetic lessons too, although I know most of it already.

But I don’t like doing the English essay for Sander at the weekends. You have to think of lots of things to say and then make them into an interesting story. I’m no good at that!

Yes, you are. You write very well, and Miss Carpenter says so when she marks your essays. You’ve learnt a lot of skills from keeping and correcting this diary every month for so many years!

But you just don’t like doing that sort of creative work. And it doesn’t make it any better to moan about it all weekend, and keep putting it off till Sunday evening, and then demanding Mummy’s help with it! That’s driving her crazy!

Loco-Motion. I wanted the Little Eva recording. But Daddy got another cheap copy. It’s awful!

Don’t be so ungrateful!


There’s a new quiz programme on the telly called University Challenge. The students all look so old, and they’re really clever. I don’t know any of the answers. But I’m definitely going to Cambridge University one day!

If you’re very lucky.

By the way, I’ve heard something else on the grapevine.


Well, in the British pop music papers there’s a report about a new group playing at one of the clubs in the big northern city of Liverpool. They’re supposed to be very good. Very different. They’re called The Beatles. And they’ve made a new record on Parlophone. It should be coming out soon.

That sounds great!


* * *

28 October

I didn’t know being in the choir would mean I had to spend a whole hour in rehearsals after school every Monday. The Elephant makes us work really hard! And by the time I come out it’s nearly dark now, and I don’t get home until after six o’clock!

But aren’t you enjoying learning all those lovely new Carols?

Well, I suppose so ...

And the harmonies of the four different voices, from the treble of the young boys right down to the bass of the sixth-formers, sound quite wonderful to me!

Animal Magic is a good new telly programme! I love the way Johnny Morris pretends to talk as if he were all the different animals, one after the other, thinking out loud about what’s going on around them in the zoo! He makes them sound far more sensible than human beings.

That’s often not too difficult, Peter ...


I’ve been hearing about the Cuban Missile Crisis on Panorama. This is getting rather serious, isn’t it?

Oh yes.

I’ve started my stamp collection properly at last. There’s a special little shop in town, near the bus stop for Estingham, and I’ve started popping in there occasionally after school and buying one or two stamps with the money I got from Grandpa on my birthday.

What Now My Love?

I’m too old for the Cubs now, so I’ve gone up into the Sea Scouts. I wish we didn’t live by the seaside. I’m not really interested in anything they do at their meetings. I don’t know how long I’m going to put up with it.

Be patient. And don’t forget the Skipper takes his scouts to the indoor pool in Orlesbury once a week, in the winter. Imagine that — a lovely heated pool! Perhaps you’ll finally be able to learn to swim properly!

I suppose that will be nice, yes ...

Venus In Blue Jeans.

I wish I could wear blue jeans. I still have to wear short trousers all the time. Even to Sea Scouts!

Hey, guess what! I heard The Beatles’ Love Me Do for the first time yesterday!

Oh, I’m really jealous!

You’ll hear it for yourself very soon, I’m sure. And it’s so new, so fresh, so different. So much fun!

Do you still love me, Peter?

Of course I do! Let’s Dance!

* * *

25 November

Bobby’s Girl.

Robert must have known that song was coming out! He’s got a proper girlfriend now, called Marianne. So I wonder who it is singing about him like that? Maybe her name’s Sherry ...

Ha-ha-ha! That was very clever, Peter. But I don’t think Marianne’s a proper girlfriend. He’s only fourteen, and she’s only thirteen. They’re just good friends, like you and Christine earlier this year.

I miss her.

I know.

And there aren’t any girls at my new school. I like girls better than boys.

I know that too. Never mind. Just concentrate on doing well in your lessons.

Huh! Some of them are a lot harder now. I’m not very good at History, or Geography, or Scripture, or Science any more.

But you’ve hardly started on those subjects at this new level, Peter. And you’re no longer a lot cleverer than all the others. It’s all much closer to normal now, thank goodness.

And I’m no good at all at Handicraft.

But we know that’s where Robert’s talents lie, don’t we? And you’re doing really well at French and Maths and Music.

I suppose so.

I hate the bus journeys, though. They waste about three hours every day, and even more when we have to go through all the small villages instead of staying on the main road.

Oh, do stop complaining!

The James Bond Theme.

Mum had a brilliant idea for my English essay two weeks ago. We had to write a short story called “Bonfire Night” and she said I could include the time Dad tied the jumping crackers and the other fireworks up in the trees, because the grass was so wet. And I did, and Sander said that part was really good!

Well done!

But we were probably supposed to be writing about this year’s fireworks. So was that actually cheating, Jane?

No, it wasn’t. Your assignment was to make up a good fictional story, like all those you love reading. And when you do that, you can mix in things that have happened with things that haven’t, and change the sequence of events if you want to, and invent interesting characters, and so on. It’s called “poetic licence.” As long as you’re not promising people that what you’re writing really is completely true — because that’s a very different sort of essay — then you can say whatever you like in a piece of fiction, to try and make it as entertaining as you can!


I love watching the Top Cat cartoon show on the telly. But they have to call it Boss Cat in England, because Top Cat’s a brand of cat food over here!

Sun Arise.

Khrushchev has ordered the missile bases in Cuba to be removed at once. That sounds good, doesn’t it?

It certainly does! Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

And the United Nations has officially condemned apartheid in South Africa. So will that change things quite quickly, too?

I doubt it.

Oh dear.

I was hoping to be able to have at least one stamp on every page of my album. But the man in the shop says some countries’ stamps are all very rare and expensive. Oh well, never mind.

That’s better!

* * *

Christmas Eve

Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.

The Carol Service was wonderful! I felt so proud to be part of something that was making such lovely sounds.

I agree! And Mummy and Daddy loved it too. So are you feeling a little bit happier about things?

Sort of. But I still hate the bus journeys, and the weather’s so cold now. They’re calling it the Big Freeze on the telly. And even the smog’s come back. Whatever happened to that Clean Air Act?

I think these are what they call freak conditions.

I read in Dad’s paper that Britain and France have agreed to begin the development of a supersonic airliner. Wow!

I also saw that three men called Crick, Watson and Wilkins have just received the Nobel Prize for some discoveries they made at Cambridge University nearly ten years ago!

Yes. I don’t understand it very well, but I know they helped to explain how we inherit all sorts of things from our parents ...

Maybe I should work harder at Science, to make sure I can go to Cambridge too.

Well, you should always try to do your best at everything. But you’ll probably be happiest, and quite successful, if you concentrate later on what you’re really good at and what you really enjoy.

But do also try never to forget the very special, important things ... and anniversaries.

Return To Sender.

There’s a brand new show on telly late on Saturday evenings, called That Was The Week That Was. I don’t really understand it, but it seems to be making fun of what real people have been doing, in government and entertainment and things like that ...

It’s called satire, Peter. And a lot of people aren’t very comfortable with it. But it’s all part of the new society that is slowly emerging ...

So do you think I should carry on watching it each week?

Definitely. And look at the clock! It’s past midnight now. Merry Christmas, brother!

Merry Christmas, Jane!

* * *

Christmas Night

I got a Spanish guitar! I didn’t even ask for one, but I’m so happy! I’m definitely going to be a pop star!

And Love Me Do has gone into the Top Twenty!

Yes! The Beatles are the best group now, aren’t they, Jane!

Well, maybe they will be, one day ...

Dance On!

To be continued ...

Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd

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