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Donna’s Men

by Michael E. Lloyd

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Book II: Never So Good

Chapter 4: 1958

part 2 of 2

29 August

We’ve been here for two weeks now! It’s lovely to have such a big garden to play in! I’ve been riding Robert’s bike all around it, whenever he lets me — in and out of the apple and pear trees, and even through all the long grass at the bottom. Daddy hasn’t had time to cut that yet! He’s still busy with all the unpacking and stuff, and he starts his new job at a factory in Orlesbury on Monday, so I don’t know when he’ll get around to cutting it. But I don’t care!

And the weather’s much better than it was here last year. We’ve been to the beach four or five times already, sometimes with David and Andy and their mother. They’ve got a little beach hut now! We stay in there when it gets windy or cold, or just to play indoor games.

And Mummy’s going to teach us to swim!

I’m glad you’re so happy here already, Peter. I am too!


And they’re having a “Church Fete” on the playing field opposite the village school tomorrow. There’s a fancy dress competition, and I’m going as Noddy! Mummy’s managed to find me all the right clothes!

A man from the Church came to visit us a few days ago and invited Robert and me to go to the Sunday School. I don’t really know what that means.

He did say it’s where they teach you more about the Bible than you learn just from going to church, didn’t he?

But we never went to church in Northgate Hill — except at Easter and Christmas, with the school.

Well, it will probably be very useful, then.

I suppose so. And maybe we’ll make some friends there. So, we both have two new schools to go to soon!

But I’ve just discovered that David and Andy don’t go to the village school. They have to go on the bus to a different one in Orlesbury. Just as they had to in Northgate Hill. Why is that?

Because their family are Roman Catholics. It’s a different way of being a Christian, so they like to teach their children in different ways.

Different from what?

From the English Church. It’s all very complicated, Peter, and I’m only just beginning to understand it. There’s nothing you can do about it. Concentrate on making some nice new friends at school, and look forward to playing with David and Andy at weekends and in the holidays.

Won’t they be at our Sunday School either, then?

No, Peter.

Yakety Yak.

We haven’t got a telly any more. Well, we have, but it doesn’t work! I don’t know why ...

There’s no aerial on the roof for it. So we can’t receive the broadcast signals.

Oh! Do you think Daddy will be able to get one?

Well, you know how busy he is, especially right now. But I expect he’ll do whatever he can, as soon as he can. For Mummy as much as for you.

Yes, of course.

* * *

9 September

What a special day!!

It was Robert’s tenth birthday. He got his brand new bike at last! I was really happy for him. And I have his old bike now, and I got two other late birthday presents — a big model space rocket kit to build, and a huge story book about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table!

So you’re happy with them, after waiting so long?

Oh yes, Jane!

And it was the first day at our new school!

Robert’s in Primary Class Three. He’s the very oldest one in his year now! Nobody else has had their tenth birthday yet.

And at least I’m not an “Infant” any more! I’m in Primary Class One. But I expect I’m almost the youngest, as usual. Most of the children seem bigger and a bit “rougher” than those in my old school. And they all talk very strangely.

It’s the Suffolk accent, Peter. It might sound “strange” to you, but it’s just different. It’s not better or worse than yours, even if anybody suggests it is. So try not to say anything about it, or you’ll probably annoy someone. And if they mention your London accent, or even say it’s strange or whatever, just smile and shrug it off. Okay?


Actually, most of them didn’t take much notice of me at all today. But three of the girls were very kind and welcoming. Their names are Diane and Christine and Gillian. I hope they can be my friends.

But they are already! So just take it from here, and don’t be shy about saying hello to them tomorrow and talking and playing with them whenever you’d like to. They’ll soon let you know if they don’t want you to. But I’m sure they’ll be very happy to have a new friend of their own.

And do try to get to know one or two of the boys soon, as well. Perhaps the younger ones, to start with ...

Yes, I will try. Thank you, Janey.

Twenty Questions. That programme’s great fun.

I’m not surprised you like it. You’re always asking me questions!

Oh! Do you really mind?

Of course not, silly. Carry on asking!

All right, then. Where’s Notting Hill? Is it near Northgate Hill?

Not really. It’s further south, near the centre of London.

What were the “Riots” they had there the other day?

It means there were some people arguing and fighting with the police and other people they don’t want living near them.

Why not?

Because their skin’s a different colour.

That’s stupid. There was a boy with black skin in my class at Northgate Hill, and he was good friends with lots of the children.

I know. But I believe a lot of grown-ups secretly agree with the people who were rioting, even if they don’t say so. There haven’t been many people from foreign countries living here until recently, and many English people are finding it hard to get used to. I think even Mummy and Daddy feel a bit like that.

Oh, I see. But I still don’t understand it.

Fever. That singer’s not really sick, is she? She actually seems to be quite happy.

Yes, that’s right! You’re listening to the words much more closely these days. Well done!

But what’s she so happy about?

She’s in love. Like Romeo and Juliet.

Who are they?

A boy and a girl who fell in love! In a story.

Love and Marriage. So, did they get married?

Well, yes — in secret. But they both died soon afterwards.

Oh, no! Everybody nice seems to die. It’s not fair. Why did they have to?

It’s rather complicated, Peter. And it is only a story. But their families didn’t get on very well with each other to start with, and it all got worse after they met.

“Didn’t get on very well with each other.” You mean like people who speak with different accents? Or those in the different Churches? Or in last week’s riots?



I didn’t win a prize with my Noddy costume. I think I deserved to.

You shouldn’t think like that.

Why not? Mummy worked really hard to make it for me, and it looked very good!

Anyway, I’ve been to the Library for the first time — see, there is one here after all, Janey-Waney — and I’m starting on the Five Find-Outers books. They’ll keep me going until December!


Volare. There are some other funny words in that song, apart from the title!

They’re in the Italian language, Peter. It’s a very good language for writing poems and songs.

I want to learn a foreign language!

You will one day, I’m sure.

* * *

26 October

There’s a new telly programme called Blue Peter! Everyone in my class is talking about it! And they made jokes about my name, but they weren’t really being unkind because there’s another big boy called Peter and they were joking about him as well.

But I can’t watch it ’cos we still don’t have a telly! Jane, does “blue” mean “sad” in some of those American songs?

Yes. Well spotted!

Then I’m Blue Peter.


It’s not funny!

On the radio they said that NASA has just started operations. I think that’s something to do with rockets and satellites.

Yes, it’s the new American space exploration agency. They’re going to launch a lot more rockets in the future.

Oh, good! Will they beat the Russians in the end, then?

It’s not really like a game of football.

I know. I heard them say it’s called the Space Race. So it’s more like athletics.

Desert Island Discs. That’s quite a nice radio programme. But the guests do choose rather old-fashioned music. Not many rock ’n roll songs!

Stupid Cupid. Now that’s more like it — whatever it means!

And they’ve changed the name of Saturday Skiffle Club to just Saturday Club and it’s now on for two whole hours, straight after Children’s Favourites! I love pop music!

I wish I’d made a few more friends at school by now.

Maybe it’s because you still insist on cycling home for lunch every day. You don’t get to talk to the other children in the canteen or play with them afterwards.

But I’ve always had lunch with Mummy!

And apart from that, I’m still not learning anything new. It’s the same as in my old school. Worse, actually!

I know. But don’t get too unhappy, brother. Maybe it will improve.

How, clever old Miss Janey?

* * *

5 November

Bonfire Night! And it was really special! We had lots and lots of fireworks this year — all my favourite sorts. And Daddy did something very clever, because the grass was wet. He tied the jumping crackers onto the branches of our apple trees with pieces of string, and when he lit them they danced around in the air like demons. It was fantastic!

I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

But when he lit that big Catherine Wheel ... well, I’m sure you can guess who I was thinking of.

Of course, Peter. Because I was too, I promise you.

At least I’m making one or two new friends now.

That’s the spirit!

I asked Mummy what that old wooden building is — the one behind the fence at the bottom of our garden. She wouldn’t tell me.

It’s a disused abattoir. It’s where they took the pigs from the local farm, in the old days — to kill them and get them ready for the butcher.


I’m glad you’re here to answer my questions, Jane.

* * *

30 November

I told Mummy how frustrated I was with school today. She was shocked.

You’ve never told her before, have you?

No, I haven’t. And you’ve never suggested I should, so don’t start being clever-clever about it!

Oh, Peter, please don’t get angry with me! I always try to make good suggestions for you. But sometimes I really don’t know what’s best ...

I’m sorry, Janey ...

Okay. So, what did she say about it?

She said she’d talk to Daddy.

Hoots Mon.

* * *

Christmas Eve

Tea For Two.

It’s nice to be in my own room tonight and not have to worry about Robert coming to bed!


We went to the Children’s Christmas Party at Daddy’s factory last week. There was a pop music hats competition. Daddy had made Robert a hat with two big padded gloves reaching up for a silver star. It won a prize! Mummy had made me one with four sticks of Estingham Rock, one sitting on each corner, surrounding a pretend clock. That didn’t win anything, but one of the girls had a similar hat, with cardboard teenage couples dancing around a real alarm clock, and she did win a prize.

I thought my hat was much better than hers.

Oh, don’t be so unfair, Peter.


It’s All In The Game.

Okay, what’s a motorway? ’Cos they’ve just opened the first one in England!

It’s a very wide road for lots of cars and lorries to drive on. But that’s not important for us right now ...

Two-way Family Favourites. What does “two-way” mean, Jane?

It means people can write to the BBC to dedicate songs on the radio to their husbands and brothers and sons who are in the armed forces abroad. And those men can also ask the BBC to dedicate a song to their families.

So we’re still fighting wars?

Not now. We’re keeping the peace. Most of the time.

Ah, good.

Tom Dooley. Why does he have to hang down his head?

You’ve listened to the song often enough to know the answer to that.

Because he’s going to die?

Yes. And no.

It’s the 24th again, Peter ...

Oh. I’m sorry. Again.

* * *

Christmas Night

Mummy’s got a brand new telly! Mummy’s got a brand new telly! I’m so happy for her!

You sound very happy for yourself too.

Of course I am! It’s got a huge twenty-inch screen and it gets ITV! They delivered it last week and put the aerial on the roof, but Robert and I didn’t spot it! And Daddy says he hasn’t bought the telly, he’s “renting” it, so in a year or two’s time we can have an even better one, just like that!

Well, I’m happy for you too, Peter! I hope you’ll learn a lot from it, as well as enjoying all the entertainment.

But what about your own presents? Mummy and Daddy spent a lot of money on you and Robert this year ...

Oh, they were okay. But it’s really only the telly I care about! I could watch it all day and all night!

All on your own?

Of course!

But we were all able to watch the Queen’s Christmas Message together again this afternoon. That made Mummy very happy.

So what did you think about it this year?

I didn’t think about it — again. I was too full of Christmas dinner to do any thinking!

It’s Only Make Believe.

Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd

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