by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Book II: Never So Good
Chapter 1: 1955
I’ve just got into bed, and these are the first words of our new diary. And Jane is here to help me with it, as she promised. I’d better ask her what I should do next. Jane?
Well, why don’t you say a few words about today’s birthday, to start with? But don’t forget to write down what I say first, each time — in a special “Jane way”!
There. I’ve done that. Does it look all right?
It looks super, Peter! And as I said this morning, we can come back and improve the spelling and the grammar as you get older. And don’t worry about always writing proper sentences, especially if you’re getting tired. Just capture your thoughts in whatever ways you like. Now, off you go ...
I’ve written that down for you too.
Friday 24 June 1955
When I woke up this morning I found my sister Jane had come back to be with me. That made me very happy! Then I cried when she went away, and I had to spend the whole day without her. But she’s here again now! She’s my best birthday present ever!
Oh, thank you, Peter!
Mummy was with me all day, as always. We had a nice lunch together, and then we practiced some more handwriting. After that we went out to see the ducks, and I asked her to buy me an exercise book for my new diary! And we had a lovely tea party with Robert and some of our friends from our road. Then Daddy came home a bit earlier than usual, which was very kind of him, and I opened my special present. It was a fountain pen of my very own! I’m using it now!
Well done, Peter! I’m really proud of you. And I’m very happy too! I just wish I could give you a big birthday kiss!
So do I!!
Now, do you feel like writing a little more, if you’re still not too tired?
So, perhaps you’d like to say a bit about what you remember of your life so far? Then another day I can maybe help you fill in a few of the gaps.
Well, I don’t actually remember very much before this last year. Let’s see ...
Daddy always goes off to work early in the morning, and comes back late. So when I was younger I only ever used to see him at weekends. Robert saw him almost every night! But I have been going to bed a little later, recently, so I do sometimes have a few moments with him in the evenings now. But it’s not the same as being with Mummy.
She takes me for a walk in the park every day, if it’s not really bad weather. She’s been doing that for as long as I can remember. I like looking at the boating pond and the ducks and the huge trees.
And Mummy has taught me to read, and in the last few months she’s also been teaching me to write with a real fountain pen, for an hour after lunch every day, before she listens to Woman’s Hour! I love doing that!
I saw our next-door neighbour for the first time last month, over the back garden fence. She’s a very old lady, but she smiled nicely. We never see her in the front garden.
Oh yes ... we went on a special summer holiday last year. Mummy said it was the first one they’d been able to afford. We went to a place called Clacton, on a coach, and we lived in a Holiday Camp for a week. But I don’t remember very much about it. The weather was cool and rainy most of the time, and we had to stay in our little chalet and play indoor games. We did go in the children’s pool, twice, but it was freezing. I do remember Daddy was very unhappy.
Mummy often takes me for a ride in the child seat of her bike, and Daddy sometimes does too, at weekends. But Robert’s far too big for that now. He’s got his own real little bike!
We listen to the radio every day. I like the music best, on programmes like Housewives’ Choice and Children’s Favourites and Pick Of The Pops. My own favourite songs this year are Dry Bones, Softly Softly, Shake Rattle And Roll, and Stranger In Paradise. But I don’t know what they’re all about! And we always tune in to Listen With Mother.
We also sometimes watch the little telly we got last year. Guess my favourite programmes, Jane! Watch With Mother and the Interludes! Mummy also likes the News on the radio and the telly, but I’m not very interested in that. They keep talking about things like the new Prime Minister Eden, and ICBMs, and the Blackboard Jungle, and someone called Einstein who has just died, and the Warsaw Pact. I don’t really understand any of it, and Mummy doesn’t talk to me about it. And neither does Daddy, of course.
I’d like to play with the other children out in the road, but Mummy won’t let me. She says it’s dangerous, and I shouldn’t mix with them anyway. I don’t see why, but I don’t want to annoy her by arguing, because she’s so kind to me, all the time. We do sometimes have David and Andy round to our garden, with their mummy, and we get out the paddling pool if the weather’s nice. But not very often. And they both go to a different sort of school, so I won’t be able to play with them when I start in September.
Robert’s allowed to visit his own big friends, though. Maybe I can when I’m older ...
Anything else? Oh yes, I love reading. I’ve read every children’s book in the house at least three times. But they’re all very babyish and I’m bored with them now. And Robert never wants any new books. But Mummy says she and I can go to the Lending Library together each week after I’ve started school! I can’t wait!
That’s all I can think of, Jane. And Robert will be coming to bed soon, and I’m already feeling very sleepy ...
Of course you are. You’ve done so well! And Happy Birthday again, my darling, darling brother!
Happy Birthday, Jane. I do love you.
I love you too, Peter. See you tomorrow!
* * *
Friday 1 July
Jane has told me I should only write my diary when I really feel I want to. And it did take a lot of effort the first time. But she’s here tonight to help me again. And we have had some lovely days together in the past week, haven’t we?
We certainly have, brother! Write that down!
Ha-ha-ha! Yes, I know I have to do that. You definitely won’t need to remind me again, sister!
Actually, I don’t have very much more to say here. Life has gone on very normally this week, apart from all the wonderful moments spent with Jane “by my side”. We’ve just been two young children enjoying this beautiful summer weather in the garden and the park!
So I’m mainly writing this second entry in our diary tonight because Jane wants to tell me a few more grown-up things. And I’m ready now, Jane. But take it nice and slowly, please! I’m still learning to use this challenging new fountain pen!
Yes, you’re right, Peter. It has been a marvellous, carefree week for both of us — and the happiest of my life. Thank you!
I just wanted to find out how much you actually know about where we live. You know this little “town” is called Northgate Hill, don’t you? But do you know where that is?
No. Mummy hasn’t taught me any of that yet.
Okay. Well, this will help you to get a real sense of your place in the world.
Northgate Hill is surrounded by lots of other small towns, all linked by wide roads, which are really all part of one big district. And even though there’s still plenty of countryside around us, it’s right on the northern edge of a huge, expanding city called London.
And London’s the capital city of a very large country called England. And that’s just part of a big island called Great Britain. And ... well, it goes on and on, Peter, but I think I should stop there for now!
Yes, that’s just what I thought when I learnt about it!
But how did you learn all that already?
Just by listening to the radio, and observing things on the telly and in the newspapers and magazines that Mummy and Daddy read, and seeing lots more in other places outside our house. Remember, I’ve been doing that day and night for two and a half years now. I’ve learnt a lot!
The other thing I wanted to do, Peter, was to remind you about some of our relatives. Because you didn’t talk about any of them when I asked you, on our birthday, what you could remember of your life so far ...
Oh, that was silly of me! I should have mentioned Nanny and Grandpa Kerr, of course, and Auntie Barbara and Uncle Charlie. They all live quite close to us, I think. We’ve been to visit them twice.
You’ve seen them far more often than that. But you don’t remember those early visits. And yes, they live in Wood Green. It’s only a short bus ride away.
And there’s also Auntie Rose and Uncle Bill, and Steven and Nancy ... and Grandma! They came to visit us last summer — in their big Ford Consul car! But I think they live a very long way away!
Yes, they do — in the west of England, in a village near Bristol.
And then there’s your godmother Ruth and her family, and Robert’s godmother Lillian and her husband and children. They’ve come to visit us a few times. And you have several other aunts and uncles and cousins. Most of them have been here too, once or twice.
I don’t remember any of them.
Never mind. You’ll meet them all again over the coming months and years. And maybe Mummy and Daddy will visit their houses a bit more often than they have so far.
Why don’t they take us out very often?
They stopped doing that after I died, Peter. They got very sad and stayed at home for a very long time, and I still don’t think they’ve recovered from it. I expect they will, eventually. We must be patient and understanding.
Yes, of course.
Right, let’s stop here for tonight.
Okay. Hey, this is all good practice for my handwriting, isn’t it?
Very good indeed!
* * *
Stirling Moss won the British Grand Prix today! I saw the news on the telly. Hurray! I want a sports car for Christmas! A real pedal one, like Trevor’s up the road!
And on the same News programme they said a wonderful holiday park called Disneyland has just opened in a place called California. I don’t know where that is.
It’s on the other side of a huge ocean and another huge land called America.
Ah. I was hoping we could go there for our next holiday. It looks a lot more exciting than Clacton and its very Cool Water!
Ha-ha-ha! And I expect it is, Peter. But I don’t think Mummy and Daddy can afford it.
Oh well, never mind. As long as you’re with me, Jane, I don’t care where we go.
* * *
My very first day at school! It was so exciting to be able to stay there with Robert at last, rather than walk all the way home with Mummy yet again! I was a bit sad when she had to leave, but Robert was very kind, and he came to make sure I was all right at playtime. And Mummy brought me home for lunch on her bike (Robert has school lunches — perhaps I’ll have to as well, one day).
Our teacher Miss Johnson is very nice, and so are the other children. But I’ve never been with so many of them at once! And most of them are a lot bigger than me. It was a little scary.
I think you were very brave, Peter! And because your birthday’s in June, you’re one of the youngest in the class. You probably won’t feel so much smaller as time goes on.
But you mustn’t say too much about how well you can read and write, you know. A lot of the other children may not even have started yet. You don’t want to annoy them, or your teacher.
Oh! How strange. Okay then, Jane — if you’re suggesting it, I’m sure it’s best.
And Mummy says we can go to the Library straight after school tomorrow!
* * *
Today was Robert’s seventh birthday. He wanted a new bike but he didn’t get one. He got a big model aeroplane kit.
He had a nice party after school. But everyone was his age. I felt very small. Nobody took any notice of me. Except Mummy. And Daddy got home far too late to join the party.
But Jane whispered in my ear once or twice to cheer me up!
I’m glad it helped, brother.
Yes, it did. Thank you!
I borrowed my first three library books on Wednesday. They’re all about Noddy and Big Ears, and they’re great fun to read!
* * *
I’m going to read every Noddy book in the Library! I’ve already finished twelve of them, and the lady said there are about forty others available at the moment. But she also told me Enid Blyton is writing some more! And then she said the author’s a lady! I’d assumed Enid was a man’s name ...
On the News the other day they said there’s now another TV channel as well as the BBC. But Mummy says we can’t see it on our little old telly. Maybe Daddy can buy her a new one for Christmas!
Don’t set your hopes too high, Peter. You know they don’t have much money to spare ...
Okay. But maybe we can afford some of those new Fish Fingers they said they’re selling now.
Why don’t you ask Mummy?
Yes, I will. But I didn’t think fishes had fingers ...
They don’t. It’s just a joke. You’ll learn to spot those as you grow older.
Ah, thanks, Janey!
* * *
We had Fish Fingers for tea! They look just like fingers! That’s really clever!
And then we had our Guy Fawkes Night bonfire and fireworks at the bottom of the garden! I remember last year’s now. I didn’t like the jumping crackers very much. Robert went chasing after one and Daddy got very angry with him.
He was only trying to keep Robert from getting burnt.
I know. But I did love the rockets and the Roman Candles and the Catherine Wheels!
So did I!
The Yellow Rose of Texas.
There’s a little girl in my class called Catherine. She’s very quiet. I’d like to talk to her at playtime. But I’m too shy to ask.
Maybe I can give you a bit of encouragement next time you want to do that ...
Oh, yes please, Janey!
That Old Black Magic.
* * *
Rock Around The Clock! What does that mean?
I’m really excited! Do you think I will get a sports car tomorrow, Jane?
Don’t raise your hopes too high, brother.
Do you remember what day it is?
It’s Christmas Eve, of course. Look, I wrote it at the top of this page, and we’ve just been ...
Oh yes. Oh, I’m so sorry I forgot.
Don’t worry about that! I didn’t really expect you to remember. But I wanted us to think about it together, just for a moment ...
Of course .......
It’s been a wonderful six months, Jane. I’m so glad you came back to me.
So am I, Peter. I’ve loved being with you and helping you along from time to time. Especially with Catherine. I’m glad you and she are good friends now.
And I’m really pleased your life has been so free and easy, so far. But don’t forget it may not always be like that. Awful things can happen very suddenly — as we know. So be ready to be brave whenever you need to be, okay?
I’ll try to. But our lives might have been even happier if you’d still been here with me — for real. So I do hope nothing like that ever happens to any of us again.
So do I, Peter. So do I.
Now, try to get to sleep before Robert comes in, or you’ll both be talking all night and tomorrow will never come ...
* * *
Happy Christmas, darling sister!
Happy Christmas, darling brother! How lovely to be able to say that at last!
Well, I didn’t get a real sports car to drive. Just a little model one. But that’s okay, because I also got a Children’s Encyclopaedia. It’s wonderful! And an abacus too! I love sums — it’s my favourite subject at school!
Mummy didn’t get a new telly. Maybe she didn’t ask for one. But she got a pretty new dress instead!
Robert got a saddle-bag for his old bike, and a new pair of real football boots. He loves football!
I think Daddy only got a new pair of socks. Poor Daddy.
I’m very sorry I couldn’t give you a present ...
And nor could I give you one, Peter. So that’s fair, isn’t it!
Jane, what’s a “Civil Rights Movement”?
I’ll tell you another time. Perhaps next year.
All right. And who are Gaitskell and Atlee? Are they a comedy act like Laurel and Hardy?
Ha-ha-ha! No, they’re not! Maybe I’ll explain that later too. Or maybe not.
Night-night, Janey. Night-night, 1955.
Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd