Friday, 19 August 2011

Cart Making Continued

Jennospot 34 Cart Making Continued

This 'ere 'll 'ave ter do yew fer a couple o' weeks 'cos Oi'm goin' away fer a sorta 'oliday. Moi last blog was about 'ow Peter an' me started ter make moi very first soap-box racin' cart. This is wot Peter wrote about 'ow we went on wiv the rest of it:

‘Oi've got the coach bolts,’  said Jenno excitedly. ‘Wot we goin' ter do wiv 'em?’

‘Come into the shed and I'll show you. They're to fix the box to the plank. We'll also need a good one for the steering pivot. I just hope they're the right length.’

We went into the shed and Jenno handed me the bolts. Each was equipped with a square nut.

‘They look as though they'll do,’ I said, ‘except perhaps for the steering, but I've already found a bolt that I think will be okay for that.’

‘Can Oi fix the bolts?’ asked Jenno.

‘Sure you can. But first we'll do the steering bar. When we've done that, we can better judge the overall length.’

With a brace and bit, I began to bore a hole at the centre of the steering bar. I did this carefully. It had to be a nice close fit for the pivot bolt.

‘John Jay's bin called up,’ said Jenno suddenly. ‘He's goin' inter the army.’

‘JJ's going into the army? I didn't think he was old enough.’

While Jenno held the front axle in place, I marked the position for four judicially placed u-bolts to retain the axle.

‘JJ was eighteen last month,’ said Jenno.

‘Who do you reckon is going to replace him as your next gang leader?’

I began boring holes in the steering bar to take each of the u-bolts.

‘Dunno who it'll be.’

Between us we began to bolt the axle to the steering bar.

‘Do you want to be leader?’

Jenno gave a short laugh. ‘Yew'd better get yer 'ead examined. Even moi bruvver 'ud stand a better chance than me an' he's a year older. Me leader? Yew're barmy.’

We finished fixing the axle on the steering bar and tightened the nuts on the u-bolts.

‘That weren't too difficult,’ observed Jenno.

‘Not when you know how.’

‘Yeah— but 'ow do yew know 'ow?’

‘Don't know exactly. I just watch I guess. And then I've got Lightning to copy. Come on, let's fix the front axle to the plank and then I reckon that'll have to do for today.’

I measured a point at the front of the plank where I estimated the front axle should go and made a mark.

‘JJ's mum is in a roight stew about 'im leavin'. She was a-finkin' the war would be over afore JJ got to be eighteen.’

‘Perhaps it will be over soon.’

‘Now I know yew're completely barmy. Wot wiv them Gerries all over everywhere in France, there ain't nuffink stoppin' 'em from comin' over 'ere 'cept a bit o' water an' the Royal Air Force.’

‘And the Royal Navy,’ I added, thinking of Winnifred's brother.

‘Yeah,’ said Jenno.

I took up the brace to drill the hole for the steering bar.

Jenno asked: ‘Can Oi do it?’

I passed her the tool, together with the drill-bit.

‘Just make sure you keep it at right angles to the plank,’ I said.

Jenno fitted the bit, and while I held the plank, she bored the hole.

‘Do you think the Gerries will come over here soon?’ I asked.

‘They'll try, but we'll be ready fer 'em.’

We fitted the steering bar in place, passed the bolt through the holes with a large washer on each side, and another two washers between the bar and the plank. Jenno put a nut over the threads of the bolt and screwed it up with her fingers.

‘Don't we need a spanner to tighten it up?’ she asked.

‘Leave it like that for now. We'll put a lock nut on it later when the rest of the cart is done.’

‘If the Gerries come, let's stay together.’

‘'Corse we'll stay tergevver— wot d'yew fink? It'd take more'n them rotten Nazies ter split us up.’

‘I still think you'd be the best leader.’

‘Aw— yew're jus' barmy. Stinky'll be the next leader. He's the oldest. Besides, he's that close wiv Itchyprick an' moi dear bruvver, that yew'd need a crowbar ter get 'em apart. 'Ow much longer ter finish the cart?’

‘We might be able to finish it tomorrow. Except for the painting of course.’

‘Will you teach me 'ow ter race it?’

‘You're already pretty good at racing. I remember last year.’

‘Yeah but that was the only time Oi'd ever raced in moi life, an' in any case it were moi bruvver's cart. Oi've got moi own cart now an' Oi want ter race 'er real good.’

‘But we'd have to do it without anybody knowing. I don't see how it would be possible.’

‘Yew're allus sayin' as 'ow fings ain't possible an' then yew go ahead an' do 'em anyway.’

‘Now it's you who's talking barmy.’

‘Lucky fer yew that yew ain't moi bruvver.’

‘Why Jenno?’

Jenno grinned. ‘'Cos if'n yew were, Oi'd jus' flatten yew out fer sayin' that. Look, Oi gotta go now. Cripes, if'n Oi stay any longer yer aunt'll find me in 'ere an' then she'll flatten both of us. See yer at school termorrer.’

Gang Loyalty  Chapter 11

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Cart Making

Jennospot 33 The Makings of a Fine Racing Cart

Peter said 'ee'd 'elp me make Moi cart "Emmeline P". Oi got tergevver some of the makings, and this is 'ow we began; leastways, this is 'ow 'ee tells it:

Jenno reached into the opening of her henhouse and pulled out a plank together with a wooden box containing two pram-axles with wheels, a piece of wood for a steering bar, and a tin of rusty nails.

‘Is it okay?’ she asked anxiously.

‘Help me take it into my aunt's shed and I'll have a look. You go first with the plank— I'll bring the rest. Keep your head down so nobody'll see you.’

Jenno ducked through the wires of the fence and went into in the shed. I followed with the box. I shut the door.

‘S'pose yer aunt foinds me in 'ere?’ asked Jenno anxiously.

‘She'd better not— but relax. She never gets home before seven. She won't be here for over an hour. Let's have a look at what you've got.’

I stood the plank on end next to her. ‘It's a shade on the short side, but then you're not very tall. We can compensate by letting the box overhang at the end.’

I emptied the box and put it down on the floor. ‘Put one knee inside and then lean forward on your hands as though you've got them on a steering bar.’

Jenno did so. The box was long enough to take her lower leg with two or three inches to spare. Jenno looked up at me questioningly.

‘The box is plenty big enough,’ I said, ‘with room for growth. It'll do for a couple of years at least. Get up now and we'll look at the wheels.’

I spun them on their axles. They ran easily and were without buckles.

‘They come off moi old pram,’ explained Jenno. ‘The rest of it got busted when moi dad used it fer cartin' firewood an' then moi stupid bruvver let it roll down the front steps in front of a tractor.’

‘The wheels are okay though,’ I said. ‘You've the makings of a fine racing cart here, but what's this tin of nails for?’

‘Jus' thought they moight be useful fer joinin' the bits tergevver.’

‘Nails are always useful, but not for a cart. We're going to screw it together, or better still, bolt it. Have you got any bolts with their nuts? You know, the kind with heads like mushrooms and a little square underneath. Nails would work loose in no time.’

‘Oh,’ said Jenno. ‘Well— 'ow was Oi ter know?’ she added defensively.

‘How indeed— if nobody told you? Take it easy Jenno. It's not a criticism. I know girls aren't taught practical things. It's a shame.’

Jenno smiled at me. For an instant I thought she was going to hug me. But she quickly recovered her customary coolness.

‘Wot do Oi do first?’ she asked. ‘Oi can't stay long— moi mum'll start wonderin' where Oi am.’

‘Let's do the steering bar first. Then we can better adjust for the total length.’

I took up the piece of wood intended for the steering bar and placed it against one of the axles. It was too long. I made a mark on it to indicate a suitable length.

‘We'll have to saw off three or four inches.’

‘Can Oi do it?’ asked Jenno eagerly.

‘Okay, why not.’

I took up a cross-cut saw and stood behind Jenno to show her how to hold it. She leaned back against me. I could feel her bony warmth through her summer dress.

‘Like this?’ she said.

‘Like that.’ I said. ‘Use the whole length of the saw.’

Jenno sawed off the surplus wood. The cut wasn't very straight but it would do.

I took the saw from her to hang it up on its nail. As I did so, it seemed as though Jenno leaned against me again for a moment. It seemed as though she did it on purpose, but I couldn't be sure.

‘Oi've gotta go now,’ she said. ‘Can we do some more termorrer?’

‘Why not?’ I said.

‘Don't yew tell no-one.’

‘Of course I won't.’

‘See yer then.’

‘See you.’

Jenno ducked under the fence wire and disappeared through her henhouse. There was a squawk; a flutter of feathers; a rattle of the door catch; and Jenno was gone. Her warmth remained.

Gang Loyalty  Chapter 10

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Vicar

Jennospot 32 The Vicar

Terday Oi'm goin' ter tell yew 'ow it was when Peter met the vicar fer the first time. Oi won't say no more 'cos Oi reckon the bit below says it all. 'Ee 'ad ter go away in the finish. The new vicar was sorta okay, except... well that's anovver story.

Winnie paused and looked beyond me over my shoulder. ‘Oh look, here comes the vicar and your aunt as well.’

I turned as a balding man in a black suit and a white dog-collar appeared from one side of Ship Yard. At the same moment my aunt swooped round the other side on her bicycle. She braked hard, jumped off her bike with a little run, and waited for the vicar to come level with her.

I heard her greet him with syrupy sweetness, ‘Oh good morning Vicar. How are you? Such lovely weather.’ She then began to apologize even before he could get a word out. ‘I'm a little late this morning: my nephew, you know. Makes a lot of extra work.’

The vicar was not to be outdone in oily courtesy. ‘My dear lady, how delightful to see you. Yes indeed it is fine weather: our Heavenly Father is generous, but I fear it's possible to have too much of a good thing. The Farmers' Union has asked us to pray today for rain to ensure a bountiful harvest. I've chosen some suitable hymns as well. So your nephew has arrived. I hope he's settling in all right. When will I have the pleasure of meeting him?’

‘You can meet him right away,’ replied my aunt. ‘He's standing there with Winnifred by the church gate.’

The vicar turned his gaze in my direction. I disliked the way he ran his eyes all over me. I felt a hot rush of embarrassment. ‘Oh the dear boy,’ he gushed, bouncing up and putting his hand on my head. ‘Welcome my son. How you must have suffered under the bombing in London. But you'll be all right here, under the care of your dear loving aunt.’

I felt an immediate dislike of him. I could in no way consider myself his son; I was in serious doubts about the lovingness of my aunt; and I detested the touch of his hand. I wriggled out from under it and feigned interest in a nonexistent object on the far horizon.

‘Silent little chap isn't he?’ observed the vicar.

I smouldered inside. I could have kicked him: hard!

‘Say good-morning to Father Hardcross,’ ordered my aunt with a steely look in her eye.

‘Good-morning Reverend Hardcross,’ I said mechanically. Damned if I was going to address him as ‘Father’. My aunt didn't; she used the term ‘Vicar’.

‘It's customary to address the vicar with the title Father,’ chided my aunt.

‘He's not my father,’ I muttered between clenched teeth.

‘What did you say my son?’ enquired the vicar affably, placing his hand on my head again and bending his ear down to the level of my mouth.

Winnifred came to my rescue. I could have kissed her. ‘Good-morning Father Hardcross,’ she said brightly. Then she explained, ‘What he said was, "It's hot my Father".’

The vicar turned to me and beamed. ‘Indeed yes, it is hot for the time of year. It's been so dry. The farmers are in need of rain— yes indeed.’ He paused and tilted his head sideways to size me up as he said to my aunt, ‘Shy young chap isn't he?’

I squirmed out from under his hand again and decided to show him how wrong he was by turning on the charm tap. I smiled confidently at him and put on the same syrupy voice that my aunt had used. ‘I'm so sorry Vicar. It's just that I'm not yet used to village ways. It takes a little while to get adjusted. Everything is so different: your smart suit for example.’

‘My smart suit?’ said the vicar astonished, looking down at himself.

‘Yes indeed Vicar,’ I replied, taking a leaf out of his own book. ‘At the convent, the priests all wore long robes like dresses. They looked very old-fashioned. Your suit is smart and modern-looking.’

The vicar seemed very pleased with this little speech. He smoothed the lapels of his suit with both hands and smiled warmly down at me.

‘What were you doing in a convent my son?’

My aunt quickly answered for me. ‘The nuns from the convent ran the orphanage he was in.’

Her intervention gave me time to work out a plan which might stop him calling me ‘my son.’

‘At the convent I used to sing in the choir. Winnifred says that you have a choir here. Could I join?’

The reverend father turned to my aunt. ‘Can he sing?’

My aunt turned her eyes quickly skywards and back again. ‘I don't know. I've never heard him sing.’

‘Well, if you agree,’ he said, ‘I'll speak to Mr White, the choirmaster. We can try him out after the service. He looked down at me. ‘Would you like that, my son?’

‘I'd like it very much, Vicar,’ I replied with as much warm enthusiasm as I could muster. ‘I would also be really extremely pleased if you could call me by my name: all the other good friends I've made here do.’

This little request was followed by such a profound silence that I began to feel I'd gone a bit too far.

The vicar went pink, then a broad smile spread slowly over his face. ‘I've never been offered such a charming compliment before and from such an unexpected source. I think you must truly be a child of God, as indeed we all are,’ he added hurriedly. ‘I'm extremely flattered that you want to consider me your friend.’

He looked me intently in the eyes, took my hand, held it a moment, then shook it warmly. ‘Welcome to the parish,’ he said. And then he called me by my name.

Gang Territory Chapter 8