Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Girls Don't Play Cricket

Jennospot 9  Girls Don’t Play Cricket

It’s nearly the end of 2010, so Oi’m goin’ ter wish all of yew wot is so kind as ter follow moi blog, a very ‘appy New Year. And then, fer no good reason at all, Oi’m goin’ ter tell yew about the time when Peter ‘n me nearly ‘ad a good ole row. It were all because Oi’d borrowed ‘is cart wivvout askin’ ‘im first. ‘Ee were roight annoyed about it:

‘Cripes, yew didn't mind did yew?’ I said when he I tackled me in the schoolyard first thing on Monday morning.
‘What do you mean, "I didn't mind"? Of course I minded. How would you like it if I took Emmeline P without asking you?’
‘Yeah— well— yew wasn't using 'er. An' could yew see me waltzing up ter yer back door to ask yer, wiv yer aunt there an all?’
‘I was going to use her to go up to
Water Mill Lane
. What did you take her for anyway? You've got Emmeline P now.’
‘Yeah, but Oi'd just painted 'er 'adn't Oi? The paint was still wet. Besides, Oi'd given moi promise.’
‘What promise?’
‘Oi promised Oi'd show Heebie Jeebie cart racin'.’
‘What! Heebie Jeebie Phoebe from the post office? You took my Lightning to demonstrate cart racing to that horrible creep?’
‘She's in the Go-Getter Girls.’
‘I don't give a brass monkey's if she's in the Royal Marines. I detest her. And you had the blatant nerve to take my cart to show that detestable hellhag the things I've been showing you.’
‘Yeah, well— Oi've gotta get the GGG ready to challenge the boys ain't Oi? No need ter get yer garters in a twist about that. Thought yew was on moi soide.’
‘Now listen, Miss high-handed Jenno, and listen good. I don't want that foxy Phoebe anywhere near me or my cart. I've already had enough of her to last me a lifetime. She got me up before the magistrate last year.’
‘Oh yeah— Cripes, Oi'd forgotten about that.’
‘Well I haven't. So don't you ever take my cart again without asking.’
I was about to stalk off to drive home my point, when Golfball came up to me. ‘Duke, Braces an' me are gettin' up a cricket game against the wall. Want to join in?’
‘Yeah, Oi'll be in it,’ said Jenno at once.
‘I wasn't askin' you,’ said Golfball. ‘Girls don't play cricket.’
‘This one does,’ said Jenno. ‘An' cripes, Oi bet the GGG can beat yew stupid boys anyway.’
There exists an unwritten convention, that a bet of this kind represents a serious challenge. It cannot simply be ignored. Golfball knew this. Even so, he tried to get out of it. I believe he wanted to avoid humiliating Jenno. He gave her a chance to withdraw by repeating his last statement.
‘Girls don't play cricket.’
‘Wot's the matter? Scared we moight beat yer?’
‘No I just want a good game.’
‘Yew'll get a good game. 'Ow many on yer side?’
‘We're four with Peter. You're serious then Jenno?’
‘Cripes, we'll show you if we're serious.’
Golfball shrugged. ‘It's your funeral.’
‘Yew'd better watch out it ain't yours. Just give me five minutes to get my team together.’
Five minutes later, she was back with Winnifred, Molly and Selena. Jenno's team won the toss and elected to bowl. She tossed the ball to Winnifred.
Golfball was the first to bat. By the time the bell rang he had scored three runs. Winnifred was still bowling.

 (Gang Loyalty chapter 20)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Liquorice Allsorts

Jennospot 8  Liquorice Allsorts

Funny ‘ow little fings c’n sometimes ‘ave really big effects. Yew’d never fink that a little bag o’ liquorice allsorts could start off a big war all around the village would yew. Still an’ all, that’s ‘ow it turned out in Widdlin’ton one time. Peter wrote it all down from the beginning ter the end. This is ‘ow it begun:

‘Did you see that?’ I asked Jenno as I held out the bag of liquorice allsorts.
‘See wot?’ she replied.
‘What Creepy just did.’
‘I din't see nuffin'. What'd 'ee do?’
‘Just being his usual foul self. He tried to grab my sweets but they are for you.’
‘Why yew givin' me sweets?’ asked Jenno, frowning suspiciously.
‘Just wanted to say thank you for helping me get my cart back.’
‘Oh that. That weren't nuffin',’ said Jenno modestly but her frown changed to a pleased look.
‘Well, it meant a lot to me.’
I was about to say more, when my shoulder was grabbed from behind and I was swung forcibly around to find myself facing the malevolent glare of Mrs Crawley.
‘Wot yew mean by attackin' my defenceless 'Arold, yew 'orrid little bastard,’ she yelled. ‘An' it ain't the first time neither. This time I'll see yew gets punished real an' proper.’
Creepy's mum had never liked me from the day I started at that school. That was the day of my first violent encounter with her beloved Harold; with him and his bullying friend Snaylor.
Mrs Crawley gave me a shake that rattled the eyes in my head and then let me go suddenly. It set me completely off balance. I tried to stand up straight but staggered and fell against her.
The next instant a thunderclap exploded in my left ear and when the echoes had died away, I found myself lying on the ground with my head ringing as though a bomb had just gone off. Mrs Crawley had clouted me on the ear! My head rang like after the orphanage had been hit in the London air-raid. After the bomb, it had taken days before the ringing stopped. I hoped it wouldn't take so long this time.
I dazedly watched her march into the school porch, towing Harold like a bobbing dinghy behind a full-rigged sailing ship. They seemed to be on course for the head teacher's study, or perhaps they were only going to the school dispensary to patch up Creepy's knees.
I looked up to find Jenno, standing over me. ‘Wot yew doin' down there?’ she asked. ‘Don't tell me yew fainted away from the sight o' Mrs Crawley?’
‘She hit me,’ I retorted, aggrieved.
‘Git away, yew're exageratin'— she wouldn' do that— be more'n wot 'er job's worf,’ said Jenno disbelievingly. ‘Yew just fell down on purpose.’ She giggled and turned to her brother. ‘Did yew see 'er 'it 'im?’ she asked.
‘I din't see 'er do nuffin',’ said Braces doubtfully. ‘She 'ad 'er back to me. Anyways, Oi was lookin' at Creepy. 'Is knees were proper bloody. Yew did good to knock 'im down. 'Ee's 'ad it comin' to 'im fer a long time, 'n no mistake.’
Braces reached down a hand to help me up.
‘But I didn't knock him down,’ I protested. ‘He tripped over his own feet. I had nothing to do with it.’
‘Serves 'im roight any'ow,’ said Braces, ‘'orrid little sneak.’
Jenno opened the bag of liquorice allsorts and held it towards me. ‘Wot kind do yew loike? Oi always eat the coconut ones first.’
I carefully avoided taking a coconut one. ‘I like the solid black ones best,’ I said, taking one of those.

(Gang Warfare chapter 1)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Jennospot 7 - Winter Swim

Cripes, ain't it been cold lately? Yeah. Well Oi'm goin' ter give yew a cold story ter match wiv the wevver. It were when Peter St John took a little dip in the river in the winter, an' in 'is altergevver. If'n the truth were known, it were all about love. Amazin' wot love will do. Gives me the shivvers jus' ter think about it. Any'ow 'ere's the story in 'is own words:

I stripped right off and stood shivering on the bank. Better get it over as quickly as possible. I took a deep breath and plunged in. The initial shock of the cold water was terrible. I came up and gasped for breath.
I immediately duck-dived for the bottom but could see little under water; so I surfaced and swam for our branch attached to the barrel by the cord. I duck-dived again and followed the cord, pulling on it to help me down. Sure enough, there was our barrel brought up against a line of smooth boulders.
I swam along the line of boulders almost to the far bank and came up for air just against the bridge over the brook. There was nothing on the bottom other than our barrel and a waterlogged tree trunk. I climbed out of the water, up on to the bridge and immediately plunged from there back to the tree trunk where I had to come up again for air.
I used the cord once again to guide me back to the barrel. From there, I swam under water to where Roy was waiting. I clambered out shuddering from cold.
‘There's n-nothing,’ I gasped through chattering teeth. ‘Only our b-barrel and a t-t-tree-trunk. I'm p-perishing of c-cold. How d-do I get d-dry?’
Roy shrugged. ‘I haven't a towel,’ he said.
I tried flicking and rubbing the water off with my hands but it wasn't effective as a way of getting dry, so I grabbed my shirt and began towelling myself with it. My fingernails were blue.
The shirt didn't dry me very much but I pulled on my vest anyway. I was surprised how difficult it was to pull it on over my wet skin.
‘Winnie's coming back,’ said Roy. ‘She's pointing upstream— someone's coming from there.’
‘I d-d-don't c-care who's c-c-coming,’ I stuttered. ‘I'm g-getting d-dressed.’
I started to put on my underpants but had difficulty pulling them up over my wet shanks.
‘Hurry up,’ called Roy urgently. ‘Get behind the hedge. A man's coming— he'll see you.’
‘I d-d-don't c-c-care if it's the K-K-K-King himself. I'm f-f-f-freezing.’
‘There's one King across the river anyway— Winnifred King,’ smirked Roy.
‘D-d-damn that,’ I said, ‘I'm g-getting d-d-dressed.’
I struggled into my shirt, nearly tearing it in the process. It clung to my arms even worse than the underpants to my legs. I then laboured to put on my trousers.
‘Get behind the hedge quick,’ hissed Roy. ‘It's the vicar.’
‘Oh g-g-gawd,’ I groaned as I hopped towards the hedge, my pullover and jacket in my hand.
‘Too late,’ whispered Roy. ‘I think he's seen you. Winnie's going to meet him.’
‘Hello Vicar,’ we heard her say.
‘Why hello Winnifred. What are you doing here?’
‘Just thought I'd take a little walk.’
‘Me too. Who are those two boys on the other bank? I thought I recognised one of them.’
‘Boys?’ said Winnifred. ‘I saw three men in overalls. They were going towards Spruffton. I think they're mending the towpath— see the notice on the bridge. You can't go any further. Let's go back.’
‘I saw boys,’ insisted the vicar.
‘Oh, you mean Sydney Snaylor,’ said Winnifred, moving back upstream. ‘He lives over beyond the copse. Did you see all the berries there? They say that's a sign of a hard winter. Come along— I'll show you. Do you think we'll have a lot of snow this year?’
‘I don't know Sydney Snaylor,’ said the vicar giving one last glance towards where we were hiding. He allowed himself to be led away by Winnifred.
I put on my pullover and jacket. At least they were easier to get into than my other clothes. I picked up my socks, wrung them out and tried to pull them on over my shaking legs but without success. It wasn't until I rolled them down to the toe and then rolled them up again over my calves that I succeeded. They felt abominably cold and clammy. My feet were numb in my sodden shoes.
‘I told you he'd seen us.’ hissed Roy. ‘Winnie tried to distract him— but it was too late.’
‘If h-h-he t-t-tells m-my aunt it was m-m-me— I'll b-b-be in h-h-h-hot w-w-water. I j-j-just w-w-wish I w-w-were! I'm sh-shaking all over. I-I'm g-going b-back b-by the r-road. C-come on— l'let's r-r-run.’

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Moi First Cart Race

Jennospot 6 – Moi First Cart Race

Last toime Oi told yew as 'ow Oi got moi chance ter 'ave a go at cart racing. Well terday, Oi'll tell yew wot that race were loike. Mind yew, it weren't the most exciting race Oi've ever 'ad, there were ovvers later on wot were real 'eart-stoppers. Even so, it were pretty good. The main thing is— it were moi very first, an' that makes it special fer me. This is 'ow Peter St John tells it. By the way, 'ee were racing too that day, but oi beat 'im. 'Ee come in last.

"We took off down the track in a flurry of furious punting. Everybody wanted to be first into the narrow part. But it was JJ, Roy and Reenie, with their longer, stronger legs, who got there first. I was close behind with Itchyprick and Stinky alongside. Winnie was just behind me. Jenno—much the smallest—brought up the rear.
We rounded the first bend in the same order. I tried to force Itchyprick and Stinky to the outside to let Winnie through on the inside. They were slightly too far ahead for this to work.
It was only possible to put in a punt now and again to maintain speed on the next straight. Winnie had an advantage here. Her Blue Flash with its big wheels rolled easily over the rough places but Itchyprick and Stinky swerved artfully from side to side to prevent her overtaking.
As the second hairpin came up I called, ‘On the inside Winnie.’ At the turn, I reached forward and grabbed the rear of Itchyprick's cart. I pulled it against my steering bar. We slid together to the outside of the turn. Winnie broadsided neatly through the gap.
‘How's that John!’ I cried.
I let go of Itchyprick and punted hard to get ahead of him and close the gap, but Jenno slipped through as well.
Itchyprick swore and rammed me forcibly from behind. I slammed into the rocky wall on the left and spun to a standstill.
By the time I got moving again, everybody else was well ahead, but I punted solidly on towards the third hairpin.
JJ, Reenie and Roy, still closely bunched, rounded it in that order. Stinky and Winnie were somewhat behind. Jenno was on their heels. Winnie attempted to pass on the inside but Stinky obstructed her. This left room on the outside for Jenno to overtake Winnie.
Blue Flash had little advantage on the diminishing slope after the turn and without further change in the running, everybody punted on to the finish.
Lightning is very manoeuvrable, so I gained slightly on Itchyprick through the final turn but couldn't catch him before the line.
The panting racers regrouped around the finish. The judges completed their calculations.
‘Result of the first race,’ announced Dismal finally. ‘JJ first with one point.’
The Mobsters cheered. The Lotters clapped politely.
‘Second Reenie, with two points.’
This time we cheered.
‘The others, in order of arrival are, Roy, three points; Stinky, four points; Jenno, five points; Winnifred, six points; Itchyprick, seven points.’
‘His name is John,’ I called.
Dismal smiled. ‘John Itchyprick, seven points.’
Itchyprick glared at me.
‘And last, but not the least of the Lot,’ continued Dismal imperturbably, ‘Peter: eight points.’
‘That gives a total of nineteen points for the Lions Avenue Lot and seventeen points for the Pepper Mill Mob. I therefore declare the Mob, winners of the first race.’
The Mobsters cheered: the Lotters clapped politely.
‘We're going to have to do better than that,’ declared Roy as we trudged back up the zigzag to the starting line. ‘Any ideas anybody?’

(Gang Rivalry Chapter 8)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Cart Racing

Jennospot 5 – Cart Racing

Today Oi'm goin' to give yew a little bit about our cart racin'. It were the very first toime when Oi 'ad a go at racin', the boys in moi mob were always against girls doin' anyfink interestin' loike that. Any'ow, it were thanks ter Peter (and ter Winnie too Oi suppose) that Oi got a chance. Later on, Peter wrote it all down. This is wot 'ee writ:

At this moment we (that is, the Lions Avenue Lot) heard voices approaching and the Mob team appeared through the bushes with JJ at its head. Itchyprick and Stinky were there, together with Braces, Jenno and a couple of others. They had four carts.
‘We're racing three carts,’ said Roy our leader.
‘Wot's the matter?’ said JJ. ‘Yew blind or just scared? Oi c'n see four carts there.’
‘The blue one's mine,’ said Winnie.
‘So wot?’ retorted JJ. ‘It c'n race can't it? Or is a dainty little girlie like yew scared yew might dirty yer pretty little dress?’
Winnie drew herself up—which was not saying much—she was even shorter and much rounder than I was.
‘I'm not scared to race. And I'm not scared of you either. I know some interesting things about you, John Jay, that your mother would be interested to know too. So you'd better speak politely to me or just shut your big mouth.’
JJ blinked and looked at the ground for a moment.
‘Winnifred can't race, she's not a member of the Lot,’ objected Roy.
‘We've got four carts,’ said JJ. ‘So 'ave yew. If yew don't race yer four against ours we'll just say to everyone that yew chickened out.’
‘Yeah,’ said Jenno. ‘She's a girl, so she oughta have a chance to race.’
‘Reenie's racing for us,’ countered Roy.
‘Yeah— but she's big,’ said Jenno.
‘And so is JJ,’ I said. ‘That makes us equal— or isn't he racing?’
‘Oi'm racin,’ growled JJ.
‘Are you racing Jenno?’ asked Roy.
Jenno shook her head.
‘Then kindly keep out of this,’ said Roy.
‘Aren't there any girls racing for the Mob?’ I asked mildly, knowing full well that Jenno was the only girl from the Mob present.
Roy seized on this: ‘Winnie can race if there's a girl on your team.’
‘Oi'll race,’ volunteered Jenno at once.
JJ didn't like this: ‘Braces is racin'— yew've never raced in yer life.’
‘Neither has Winnie,’ I said. ‘That makes us equal.’
Roy and JJ were perplexed. I took advantage of it: ‘Hands up all those in favour of Jenno and Winnifred racing.’
Everybody put up a hand except Roy, JJ, Braces and Dismal.
‘Ten in favour,’ I declared. ‘Any abstentions?’ Braces and Dismal put up a hand. ‘Two against and two abstentions. Motion carried. Jenno and Winnie are racing.’

(Gang Rivalry Chapter 8)

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Pocket Money

Jennospot 4 - Pocket Money

Oi reckon money's a problem fer most people: specially when yew ain't got none. Any'ow, Peter St John an' me, we was 'aving a bit of a difficulty over a bet wot 'ad ter do wiv cart racin', cos Oi didn't 'ave no money see, an' 'ee didn't 'ave none neither. In the finish, that didn't matter, 'cos we found a way ter make the bet in any case, Peter'n me, we're good friends, even if'n it don't always seem so. If'n yer interested, yew c'n read about it below:

‘You've got some money then, Jenno?’ asked Peter.
‘Yew're jokin' Oi don't 'ardly never 'ave no money. Moi mum says that she can't afford ter give pocket money ter the both of us. So it's moi bruvver, wot's the oldest, as gets the most of it. Oi get sixpence the second Saturday in the month an' 'ee gets it the rest o' the toime.’
‘I don't get any pocket money either, except sometimes my aunt gives me a few pennies that are left over when I do the shopping. Sometimes I get a bit for running errands for the neighbours.’
‘Wot about yer sweet coupons? Don't yew sell 'em at school?’
‘That's right, but I don't sell all of them. Besides they only fetch a penny each. Sometimes not even that. The best is when there's a wedding or a funeral and the choir is wanted. We get paid for that; usually two shillings or even half-a-crown. But that hasn't happened since Easter. Right now, I'm completely broke. Can't even buy a ha'penny gobstopper at Ma Jennings'.’
‘If Roy beats Dismal, Oi'll treat yer ter one.’
‘I can't pay you back if he loses.’
‘Come off it— 'Oo said anyfink about payin' back? Oi said Oi'll treat yer. If'n 'ee loses, then yew don't owe me nuffink.’
I thumped her gently on the shoulder. ‘Thanks Jenno.’
‘Don't mensh.’

(Gang Petition Chapter 4)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Giant John Jay

Jennospot 4 – Giant John Jay

Are yew in a gang? Well, the leader o’ moi gang, the Pepper Mill Lane Mob, were John Jay, or “JJ” as we called ‘im. That is before ‘ee were called up ter go ter the war. ‘Ee were pretty big too were JJ.
Any’ow, Oi were there when JJ an’ Peter St John met fer the first toime, only Oi didn’t say nuffink, not then, Oi only jus’ watched. An’ cripes, it were quite somefink ter see. Oi reckon Peter were roight lucky ter get away wiv it. It ‘appened when ‘ee was a-lookin’ in the winder o’ Ma Jennings shop at Gables Corner. ‘Ee wrote it all down later on in ‘is “Gang Territory”. This is wot ‘ee wrote:

“I turned, to find my way blocked by a giant, or so he seemed to me in that first startled instant before I realized that it was a tall, bulky adolescent much bigger than me. He was flanked by Braces and Itchyprick who were grinning widely and expectantly. There was a redheaded girl behind them. The giant's face was expressionless.
‘So, this is the great playground pisser?’ was his opening remark.
I gulped and nodded, trying, without much success, to slow my galloping heart rate. It seemed of the utmost importance not to reveal my fear to Braces and Itchyprick.
‘Yeah, that's 'im, that's 'im, JJ!’ they yelled excitedly.
I decided to attempt a casualness that I was far from feeling. In circumstances such as these, a little bluff can often be useful. ‘So, this is the famous JJ?’ I replied with a smile, holding out my right hand. ‘I've heard a lot about you.’
He ignored my hand. He was not going to lower himself by treating me as an equal. ‘We don't loike them Adare Road lot neither,’ was his only acknowledgement of the Slug's humiliation in the privy. His use of the third person ‘We’ didn't escape me: that is how monarchs refer to themselves.
‘Neither do we loike the Lions Avenue Lot a-coming into our lane,’ he added.
I wanted to point out that in order to go almost anywhere from Lions Avenue, it was necessary to cross the Gables Corner end of Pepper Mill Lane. Certainly there existed another exit at the other end of the avenue but that only led away in the direction of Clayton.
I looked at JJ's stony face and decided that in the presence of his underlings he was unlikely to be open to reasonable discussion with an inferior from another territory; so I merely nodded. A nod committed me to nothing.
‘Yer new, so Oi'll let yew off this time,’ he decreed from his majestic authority. ‘Jus' keep outta The Lane in future or it'll cost yer.’
He pronounced ‘The Lane’ as though it were the ‘Kingdom of JJ’. For him, of course, it was.
I said nothing, but merely stepped around him and his humble subjects, to cross the road sedately, head erect, with as much dignity as I could muster.”

(Gang Territory Chapter 14)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Jennospot 3 -Yew'll be Needin' Us Girls Soon

Mostly, Peter’n me get on okay, but sometimes we ‘ave a bit of a barney— loike that toime Oi interrupted ‘im when ‘ee was down the garden readin’ on the steps of ‘is shed. Oi only asked, ‘im all polite loike, wot ‘ee was a-readin’, an’ cripes— ‘ee nearly bit my ‘ead off:

‘Wotchew readin'?’ Oi said.
‘I don't want to talk with you, Jenno. Go away.’
‘Go away yerself. This 'en-'ouse is in moi garden. Oi got a roight ter be 'ere. You ain't orderin me aroun' loike JJ 'n the others troi to do. Yew'll all be needin' us girls soon when there ain't 'ardly no more men around.’
‘What do you mean, there'll be hardly any more men around?’
‘Thought yew wasn't talkin' wiv me. Yew boys is all the same. Yew says one fing and yew does somefink else. 'N yew fink yer so clever— the only ones wot can fink. Us girls c'n fink jus' as good— better even. Oi'm tellin' yew, when this war's over yew'll be needin' us 'n no mistake. S'logick. When yew've done wiv killin' one another, it'll be mostly women 'n girls wot's left. Then yew'll come crawlin' ter us ter put ev'ryfink back in order again.’
‘But Jenno, it's not only men that are killed. There are lots of women too.’
‘Think Oi'm daft? Corse Oi knows that. But it's mostly men any'ow. An' it's the men wot starts it all. When we've got a queen in the palace 'n a woman prime minister, thing's'll be diff'rent. Yew'll see. Yew'll be needin' us then. But Oi reckon yew needs me now.’
‘Doesn't your mother need you?’
‘Moi mum's out. Moi bruvver too. So don't think yew c'n get rid of me loike that. Oi know somefink wot yew'd loike ter know. But Oi ain't tellin', till yew show's some respect. I've got moi roights too. It ain't only yew men wot owns the whole world. Yew treat me roight, 'n p’raps yew'll learn somefink interestin'. Wotchew readin'?’

(Gang Territory Chapter 17)