Sunday, 6 March 2011

An Old Perambulator

Jennospot 18  An Old Perambulator

Peter an' me, we was in different classes at school, 'cos Oi was just bit younger'n 'im. Each class 'ad its own air-raid shelter, so whenever there was a siren, we went down inter a different one. It were only in the playground that we saw each ovver at school. Any'ow, there was fings wot went on in them shelters wot were kinda secret loike. This is one of 'em wot Peter wrote down:

Hardly had we got into class, than the siren began to wail its mournful warning of danger.
‘All right children,’ said Miss Ufford calmly, ‘You know what to do.’
We reached under our desks for our gasmask boxes.
‘Stand!’ she commanded.
We all stood in file alongside the desks and slung our gas masks over a shoulder.
‘Now children, no running and no pushing. Just go quietly and rapidly to air-raid shelter number two. Are you ready? Go!’
At the word ‘Go’, the child nearest the door opened it, held it open, and the files in the aisles trotted out in order.
Molly's file, being on the other side of the desk to mine, went out first. But Molly and I had a secret unspoken arrangement for air-raids. We would meet in the darkest part of the unlit, tunnel-like air-raid shelter to sit together.
As soon as we had found a place on the rough wooden bench against the shelter wall, and before eyes could become adjusted to the rowdy, echoing obscurity, Molly pulled me to her and kissed me.
She no longer pretended that we were in imminent danger of death, and I no longer pretended to oppose her.
In London, when I had been living in the orphanage, air raids were a terrifying danger. Now, at Widdlington, I looked forward with pleasure to the sound of the siren when it meant going down into the school shelter.
After a long conspiratorial moment, Molly let me go. ‘Will you do something for me?’ she asked, breathing heavily.
I leaned towards her eagerly, but she held me off. ‘No, I'm serious,’ she said.
‘So am I.’
She took hold of my hand. ‘Idiot— I don't mean kissing.’
‘What then? Tell me quick— before Huffy comes down.’
‘Promise you won't tell anyone?’ she whispered urgently.
‘Tell them what? That you kissed me? I'm not that daft.’
‘No, you dope. Just promise you won't tell.’
‘I promise— seeing as how it's you.’
‘I've got an old perambulator.’
‘And that's a secret?’
‘No— you blockhead,’ hissed Molly. ‘I want to race?’
‘In an old perambulator? I'm not surprised you want it kept secret!’
‘No— you aggravating half-wit— in a cart. I want you to make me a cart. Will you?’
‘Uh— make you a cart?’ I stammered. ‘Molly, I— er— ’
‘Oh I just knew you would. I'm so glad you share my desk. You're the nicest boy in the whole wide world.’
She pulled me towards her to kiss me again, but at that moment, Miss Ufford came down the shelter steps and started flashing her torch around.
‘Quiet children,’ she shouted. ‘Quieten down. You know you're supposed to be quiet in the shelter. I'm going to count you now. Everybody put up one hand. You can put it down when I've touched you.’
Huffy advanced slowly towards us, counting. Molly and I put up one hand each. Our other two hands were clasped between us. But I was less conscious of that, than of the fact that Molly had more or less tricked me into promising to make her a cart when I already had more than enough on my hands.
And where had she got the idea from? From Jenno, no doubt.

("Gang Loyalty" Chapter 11)


  1. 'She no longer pretended that we were in imminent danger of death, and I no longer pretended to oppose her.' Nice line.

    Call me a blockhead but I don't know what a
    Perambulator is.

  2. Cripes John, it's one o' them big four-wheeled fings wot yew push babies around in. Reckon they call 'em push-carts these days or maybe trotters, but them's wot pigs 'ave got four of; one at each corner.