Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Next Big Thing

Jennospot 89  Blog Hop Interview

Peter St John 'as gone an' done somefink daft; leastways, that's wot Oi reckon. 'Ee's accepted ter be interviewed by author Joan Szechtman, wot 'as got a noice blog at . 'Ee's doin' a sorta blog 'op idea called "The Next Big Thing". 'Ee's gotta answer ten questions about 'is writin' an' then pass on the questions ter five ovver writers. Yeah, well Oi s'pose that's all roight in its way, but the trouble is, 'ee wanted ter use moi blog ter write it all out! Well, when Oi 'ad come down off'n the ceilin', an' 'ad cooled off a bit, Oi said as 'ow 'ee c'd, seein' as 'ow Oi know 'im an' all, (an' jus' between yew an' me 'ee's doin' me a favour wiv a little book of moi own, so Oi owe 'im one) but Oi just 'ope 'ee ain't a-goin' ter make an 'abit of it.

Any'ow, 'ere are the questions wot come from Joan Szechtman, tergevver wiv Peter St John's answers. An' if yew fink I shouldn’t ‘ave gone flyin’ up ter the ceilin', yew c'n tell me about it later:

1) What is the working title of your next book, Peter St John?

Actually, my very next book, or perhaps I should say "our" next book because it's all Jenno's words, with my drawings, is called "Jenno's Face Book". But as it's no more than a small collection of her web posts, to be published free on Smashwords before Christmas, it hardly counts as a proper book. On the other hand, I do have a new novel in mind, and the provisional title is "Gang America".

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is to be the seventh novel in the "Gang" series. The series tell of the difficulties faced by an young lad bombed out from a London orphanage in 1940, in adapting to life in the English village of Widdlington. The children who live there divide the village into several gang territories which the orphan must navigate at his peril. The ongoing tale in the six novels has almost arrived at the point where the United States of America enters the war as a combatant in 1942. The arrival of the Americans brought many changes to Britain, not least to Widdlington, close to the site of a brand new American airfield.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

This question always gives me much difficulty. The novel will be fiction but, like the others in the series, it will be set in the historical context of the Second World War. My intention is to reflect in miniature, the issues and values at stake in this conflict. Although the narrator in the series is a child, and the principal actors are children, I do not write specifically for children. Even so, I believe children could follow the narrative with pleasure.  Let us say then that the genre is historical fiction with a certain biographical element, and that it is intended for readers from nine to ninety-nine.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I find myself incapable of answering this question as I rarely go to the cinema, and seldom watch a film on television. A number of my readers have suggested that the "Gang" series would be well suited for the cinema, perhaps along the lines of the hilarious "Our Gang" or "Hal Roach's Little Rascals", black and white films. The novels lend themselves readily to this idea because the story is told mainly through dialogue. Someone once said to me that they could see Judi Dench playing the villainous part of "Aunt". Beyond that I feel unable to go except to say that casting so many young characters (there are about 25 of them, never mind the numerous adults) might pose some problems.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of the new book you have in mind?

The consequences of the 1942 American invasion of Britain on social relationships in a English village seen from the viewpoint of the children.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self published, including many illustrations.

7) How long does it take you to write the first draft of a manuscript?

It usually takes seven or eight weeks for me to write a first draft. This does not include preparing the plot and chapter outline, similar to a film story board, which might take a couple of weeks ahead of the first word of the draft. As for editing, that takes far more time than preparing and writing the text. In fact, as it is so easy to amend electronic books, editing can become a never-ending activity.

8) To what other books would you compare the stories within your genre?

I find any comparison with other books embarrassingly difficult, and prefer not to make such comparisons myself. However, in reply to your question, I can say that the "Gang" series has been compared by others with Robert Westall's "The Machine Gunners" and even Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mocking Bird".

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The "Gang" series grew out of an intention to create an anthology of short stories about life in an English village under the stress of World War II, but the initial short story got longer and longer until it finally turned into a full-length novel. The series was inspired, at least in part, by a wish to "get even", as it were, with a strict, pious aunt who in the finish became the principal "villain" of the series.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

It was with some misgiving that I began to use dialect for the speech of some of the characters in the "Gang" series. I tried out the idea by reading an extract to the local writers' group. They loved it, and so it became a feature. The principal dialect speaker is Jenno Bryce, who is becoming quite well known on the web. None of her Facebook friends seem to have problems with her way of speaking, or with the way she writes in her little publications. And with the mention of Jenno's booklets, I am brought back full circle to the beginning of this blog.

Next Week's Tagged Authors

Now I'd like to "tag" the authors who are to carry the torch of this blog hop into next week. They are:

Kate O'Hearn, who writes enchanting fantasy that I recommend most heartily.

Katherine Ashe, whose absorbing series about Simon de Montfort have drawn me into a keen interest in the Middle Ages.

Maggie Secara, whose historical novels I have not yet explored, but that pleasure will surely not be long delayed.

Marcus Ferrar, who's absorbing biographical novel "A Foot in Both camps", I have read recently with huge interest and pleasure.

It only remains for me to say now: "Thank you, Jenno. I hope that, in the event, you haven't found my ‘blog 'op idea’ as daft as all that."

S'orrite, Peter St John. It's jus' that Oi c'd see yew go a-blatherin' on an' on about nuffink in partic'lar, loike as 'ow yew do sometoimes. But Oi'm grateful, any'ow, fer yer 'elp wiv "Jenno's Face Book" wot's goin' ter go up soon fer free on Smashwords. Oi might even give yew a copy fer Christmas.

Any'ow, if any of yew wot reads this would loike ter know more about Peter St John's "Gang" books, yew c'd take a look at But only if'n yew really want to, that is. There's even a couple o' pictures there o' me, but yew gotta search fer 'em…

Monday, 26 November 2012

Cabbages and Chrysanthemums

Jennospot 88  Cabbages and Chrysanthemums

Oi've got a real noice friend wot's called Ginny Rogers. Ginny writes stuff, mostly poetry, an' it's stuff wot makes yew fink, wot makes yew dream, an' often wot makes yew chuckle an' all. The ovver day Ginny showed me piece wot Oi loiked so much, Oi asked 'er wevver Oi could share it wiv yew on my blog, an' she said as 'ow Oi could. So 'ere it is, wiv greetin's from Ginny:

"On Cabbages and Chrysanthemums

The autumnal season baffles me. I revel in the red, russet and golden glory of the landscape. I squint cheerfully at the shafts of dazzling sunlight, and am gleefully surprised by the short startling showers of rain.

But - the heavy rainfall comes not as a happy surprise, nor the frosty cold and wet; ominous threat of a gliding, sliding pathway that could appear overnight, enhanced by autumnal snowfall. And then the wild wind, making stage appearance with full force.

Is this autumn or winter?

I like to believe in an autumn that heralds winter, the season when gold turns to grey, and light to darkness with smooth and gentle movement, rather than the harsh twist from soft obscurity into total gloom.

Today I dress in sandwich apparel, to insulate my body and add to my weight. I am no match for the wind. My cap flies off and I am jolted into accelerated mobility in a dervish dance. One glove, pulled over frozen fingers, falls to the ground. I remove the second to pick up the first, and sob at the sight of the two on icy earth. Fingers hurt with cold, even as I slip on wet gloves with polar hands and jam my cap on a now wintry head.

I continue on my autumn jaunt, and stop short to pay respect to a mass of orange-bordered crimson cabbages alongside tangerine and frenetic fuchsia chrysanthemums tended resolutely by someone making the most of the fleeting season. Here Autumn plays herald in tangible tone. Even as I squash tarnished leaves under my feet and raise my head to commiserate with trees in a state of undress, the riot of resilient colour brightens my path."

Oi ‘ope yew loiked that, an’ Oi ‘ope yew ‘ave an ‘appy season. By the way, it were me wot put in the picture, so don't yew go a-complainin' ter Ginny if'n it ain't ter yer taste.

Luv from Jenno.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Gang Territory

Jennospot 87  Gang Territory

Moi village o' Widdlin'ton ain't an important place, 'cept fer them wot live there, o' 'corse, wot don't mean that there ain't no visitors from toime ter toime. Any'ow, a real noice lady from Pennsylvania (wot's in the United States o' America) come by recently, an' she were kind enough ter write a piece about it, an’ even if’n she din't say nuffink about me, she did say somefink about a "Boy". Well, it jus' so 'appens that that "Boy" lives in the back o' moi place, be'ind moi chicken run, an' cripes, Oi know all about the trouble 'ee 'as wiv gangs, an' wiv 'is aunt an' all. This American lady's name is Katherine Ashe, an' she writes super novels about English 'istory, so she really knows wot she's talkin' about. Any'ow, this is wot she wrote about the "Gang Territory" in Widdlin'ton:


"World War II and the bombing of London brought about the displacement of multitudes of children. We see photos of them, wan, frightened as they’re herded onto trains bound for the safer countryside or they’re led away by the firm grip of strangers’ hands. But what happened to them after that, when they arrived at their unfamiliar destinations?

Peter St. John’s autobiographically inspired story of a boy from a destroyed London orphanage gives us an insight. An insight not only into the new hazards such children faced, but into the noble code of boyhood, a code that forbade complaining when one was abused and that produced a degree of self-reliance that would serve well in later years – provided the noble spirited little lad survived.

As in a medieval romance, the hero’s name is never revealed to the reader. We will call him Boy. Boy arrives in the rural village of Widdlington which is scant of indoor plumbing but rich in gangs of children. Every street has its own gang who guard their territory from intruders. And an intruder is any other child who does not live on that street. This of course makes life exceedingly difficult for Boy, whose aunt and guardian seems oblivious to the juvenile culture surrounding her, for she makes a habit of sending him on errands where his very life depends upon his ingenuity in getting to his goal and back home again unobserved.

There may be individuals as completely lacking in humane feeling as this aunt, so completely focused on a sense of being put upon, so resentful of a young boy, and so determined to gain every instant of advantage from the unwanted presence of a child, as to resemble a slave driver with a savage tongue in place of whip. When the aunt seems to relent at sight of the boy’s injuries one senses that self-protection, not pity, is her foremost, driving motive: fear of being discovered as the abuser she is. Why is she so cramped and mean of spirit? Seen from the viewpoint of Boy, we never learn.

But if the aunt makes his new home hellish, the principal local bully, known as Slug, turns the entire outside world into a trial of strategy for Boy as he must navigate from place to place nearly always under the threat of severe bodily harm if he loses his focus of attention for a moment. St. John sets up hazards and triumphs that make the plot predictable but that also create suspense – and a certain admiration in the reader as we know what must be coming but well drawn intervening events keep forestalling the inevitable.

Widdlington is peopled with kindly folk as well as brutes: from teachers to parents to children – mostly girls – and the local derelict known as Dummy. Many speak in dialect although, thank heaven, Boy does not. As yet another “Oi” for “I” is uttered, the words of Henry Higgins spring to mind: “Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?” Walter Scott loved writing in dialects too, so St. John is in illustrious company.

The issue of bullying is as timely now as ever and St. John’s exploration of the ways in which children cope: isolatedly, determinedly, with fear and bravery, is as resonant in Gang Territory as in Huckleberry Fin, and as a salutary reminder of obtuse adult perceptions and the complexity of the world of childhood."

Katherine Ashe, author of the Montford series 14 November 2012


By the way, it's me, Jenno, wot put in the pictures of Widdlin'ton just in case yew'd loike ter see a bit o' moi village, so if'n yew don't loike 'em don't yew go a-blamin' the noice American lady. An' p'raps if’n yew'd loike a few more, yew c'd always go ter

Luv from Jenno.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


Jennospot 86  Poppies


This 'ere's a poem wot was writ by Peter St John fer Poppy Day, November 11. It's the day wot marked the endin' of the two World Wars. It's the day when we fink real special about them wot died in these two wars, and we fink about the reasons why they gave their lives: It were fer us, remember.

Let us not forget:

The Poppy Seller

Buy a poppy, lady?

A few pennies for a poppy?

Please give, just for a poppy.

Won't someone buy a poppy?

Some pennies for a poppy?

Buy a poppy, mister?

Just a poppy sir.


Poppies grow in upturned land 

Such as dug by bombshells. And

Fed by blood and bone manure

They bloom bright red. As pure

As spikes of crimson sun—

Flowers fit for everyone...

Buy a poppy, lady?


Retail poppies, up for sale.

Poppies tell a wartime tale.

Poppies peeping where none grow—

Hats, and buttonholes also—

Buttonholes instead of eyes.

Button-eyed, a whole world cries...

A few pennies for a poppy?


Buttons trimmed with petals red;

Lacquered holdfast to the dead.

Button up and cry inside.

Batten down and seek to hide.

Poppy fields were blooming there

In the smoking, stinking air...

Please give, just for a poppy.


Scarlet petals, blood-like stains;

Black dark pit of stamen grains;

Poppies waving in the breeze;

Poppies writhing into wreaths.

Opium for a suffering few;

Drugged with poppies. Poppies new...

Won't someone buy a poppy?


Black death; red death; poppy bright;

Only death can stop the sight.

Poppy bright evoking blood;

Poppy shining from the mud.

Hope, despair, gut-wrenching fear;

Fleas, disease, and tin-can cheer...

Some pennies for a poppy?


Pretty poppy pepper-pot,

Blood-red petals now forgot,

Shake out far your hard black seeds;

Poppy flowers are not weeds.

Some saw carnage; poppies there.

Shake my can, and show you care...

Buy a poppy mister?


Just a poppy, sir.

© Peter St John

Monday, 29 October 2012

A New Label?

Jennospot 85  A New Label?


Yesterday, Peter St John 'ad some writer friends over at 'is place ter talk about poetry an' lit'ry stuff loike that. Peter showed 'em a poem wot 'ee wrote a little while ago, an' since it's that toime o' year when we fink about armistice, an' our soldiers an' such, they reckoned as 'ow it would be good ter share it wiv ovver people. So 'ere it is, fer yew:

The Label on Jimmy Jim's Locker

He's so bright and keen,

Soldier Jimmy, nineteen.

Uniform new;

All derring-do,

And ready to fight—

Take up arms for the right.

Esprit de corps—

"War to end every war".

The label he sticks on his locker.


With barrack square drill,

They prepare Jim to kill.

Discipline please—

"Shoulder arms. Stand at ease".

When Jim swears the oath

Country first— nothing loath—

He underscores

War to end all the wars—

The label he's stuck on his locker.


In battlefield hell

All is shot, shit and shell.

There Jimmy stands:

Is that blood on his hands?

As bombshells mushroom—

Deadly blossoms in bloom—

Can we be sure

This is war to end war:

Like the label that's stuck on Jim's locker?


But where's Jimmy now?

He's not come for his chow.

Not in the mess—

Or the barracks we guess.

Our Jim can't be found.

Jimmy's life is unwound.

All given for

Final war— to end war—

The label on brave Jimmy's locker.


Our Jim seeks no shroud;

Jimmy, soldier so proud.

Jim underground

Goes ahead, onward bound.

Far better for us

To discuss without fuss

How to end war—

No more war to end war—

A new label for Jimmy Jim's locker?.

Wiv luv from Jenno

By the way, if'n yew'd loike ter know more about Peter St John yew c'd go, if'n yew want, ter:

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Jennospot 84  Halloween

"Now it is the time of night that the graves, all gaping wide, everyone lets forth his sprite, in the churchway paths to glide."

Cripes, din't ol’ Shakespeare 'ave a fantastic way wiv words? An' it's Halloween on October 31, wot is jus' the moment when all them sprites, an' spirits, an' creepy-scary fings come a-glidin' around out o' the churchyard. An' if'n yew don't treat 'em roight… well cripes, so much the worse fer yew…!

There's some people in moi village o' Widdlin'ton wot won't never go through the churchyard at night, never moind at Halloween. But Peter won sixpence in a bet wiv Selena over that. Cripes, 'ee nearly died o' fright a-doin' it. It were in a good cause though, 'cos 'ee needed the money urgent loike ter go ter Lunnon.

Any'ow, all that's by the way, 'cos Oi wanted ter tell yew about Halloween, wot's the evenin' afore All Saints' Day. In the real old days, this were the eve o' the end of the year, an' they used ter light big bonfires on top o' the 'ills ter scare away the evil spirits. An' then the souls of all them wot were dead, c'd come back an' visit their 'omes.

Touble is, along wiv all them souls come a whole lot o' ghosts an' witches, an goblins an' ghouls, an' scary spirits wot are too 'orrible even ter mention. So most ev'rybody got around them big bonfires so's they'd feel safe. It were noice an' warm too, wot don't come amiss on top of an 'ill at this toime o' the year.
Any'ow, them wot couldn't go up the 'ill would barricade themselves inside their 'ouses, wot didn't do much good, 'cos them sprites wot c'd get out o' their graves, wouldn't 'ave no trouble at all comin' down the chimney or through the key'ole, if'n yew see wot Oi mean. So if'n somebody come a-knockin' on the door in the dark, yew couldn't never know wevver it were a neighbour or a sprite. Cripes, it moight even be yer long dead, great, great, great gran'muvver, an' yew wouldn't want ter turn 'er away, would yew? So ter be on the safe side, if somebody come a-knockin', yew'd give 'em a treat so's they wouldn't do yew no 'arm.

Well, kids ain't stupid, so they latched on ter this, an' went around in disguise a-knockin' on people's doors fer "trick or treat"; wot ain't such a bad idea when yew come ter fink of it. An' not only that, they was safe from all them 'orrible sprites etc, 'cos their disguises were so terrifyin' that they would scare the very Devil 'imself. See wot Oi mean…?

Any'ow, 'ave yerself a safe an 'appy 'Alloween, booooooh,

Wiv luv from Jenno


By the way, if'n yew'd loike ter know more about that sixpence wot Peter won, yew c'n read about it in "Gang Petition":

Monday, 15 October 2012

There Ain't Nuffink Better

Jennospot 83  There ain't nuffink better

Cripes, ain't it wunnerful? There ain't no doubt about it. An' it don't matter wevver it's somefink wots jus' come all new, or wevver it's about someone or somefink wot yew've known ever since the cows 'ave come 'ome an' been milked. There ain't nuffink really wot's better; leastways, Oi ain't found out yet wot it could be. Yeah, that's roight… Oi'm talkin' about love

Love is all about carin', an' sharin', an' about bein' there jus' a-grinnin' an' a-bearin'-up when fings don't go the way yew fink they oughtter. It's about bein' able ter say wot yew really fink, quite darin' like really, 'cos yew know that the person wot's listenin' won't get shirty at yew. An' it's about calmin' fings down when somebody starts bangin' around an' gettin' a bit 'ot under the collar. Cripes, love is getting out the cups, an' brewin' some tea, when somebody's feelin' a bit down; an' Oi don't mean when it's yew wot's down.

Love is when yew turn yerself inside-out an' upside down ter get over a problem wot somebody's 'aving, when it ain't really yer problem. 'Cos love c'n always make a way ter foind the best in any kinda situation.

Love is finkin' of ovvers, when yew'd rather fink of yerself. It's givin' out a smile, even when yew don't feel much loike smilin'.

Love makes a diff'rence ter somebody's day, if'n yew see wot Oi mean.

So 'ave yerself an 'appy day,

Wiv luv from Jenno


By the way, 'ave yew seen moi latest collection of the stuff wot Oi put up on Facebook? If'n yew want, yew c'n 'ave a look at it on Yew c'n even download it fer free, or yew c'n read it online. That is, if'n yew loike…

Monday, 1 October 2012

Votes fer Women

Jennospot 82 – Votes fer Women


Terday Oi'm goin' ter tell yew a little bit about a real famous lady. Fact is, Oi don't reckon as 'ow there's any lady more famous than wot she is, but o' course yew don't 'ave ter agree wiv me if'n yew don't want; that's up ter yew. Any'ow yew've prob'ly guessed already 'oo it is: Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst!

O' corse she weren't called Pankhurst when she was born at Manchester in 1858, 'cos 'er fam'ly name were Goulden. She become Mrs Pankhurst when she got married in 1879 ter Richard Marsden Pankhurst wot were a lawyer. 'Ee must've been a roight sympathetic sort o' man, 'cos it were 'im wot wrote the the first woman suffrage bill around 1865 (wot didn't 'ave much luck) an' later on, the Married Women's Property acts, wot did.

 Any'ow, around 1890, Emmeline set up the Women's Franchise League (a bit loike wot Oi did wiv the "Go-Getter Girls" in "Gang Loyalty", wot didn't 'ave a whole lot o' luck neither) but Emmeline 'ad some luck 'cos er League got the roight fer women ter vote in local elections, but not fer the House of Commons.

Oi reckon 'as 'ow this encouraged 'er ter go on wiv 'er idea, 'cos in 1903, she founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) wot got inter trouble two years later when a couple of its members got chucked outta a meetin' o' the Liberal party (wot is more loike the Conservatives terday) fer demandin' a resolution about votes fer women. Fings got worse outside, 'cos it seems they got arrested fer assaultin' the police. When they refused ter pay fines, they was put inter prison. This weren't good fer them, but it were real good fer WSPU publicity.

From then on, Emmeline really got 'er dander up compaignin' agaist the Liberals 'cos 'er followers started ter go out o' their way ter interrupt meetin's o' cabinet ministers. Cripes, then Emmeline 'erself got arrested and jailed fer distributin' a leaflet callin' on people ter "rush the House o' Commons". Cripes, did that ever start a barney! It turned inter somefink loike a war (wot we also 'ad in Widdlin'ton wiv our "Gang Warfare") until she declared a "truce" wiv the introduction of a "conciliation" bill on women's suffrage. But the truce didn't last long 'cos the government blocked the bill. An' did that ever set fings off…!

The WSPU become loike a nest o' wasps wot yew've poked wiv a stick (wot Oi don't recommend yew do). The members started settin' fire ter fings, chainin' themselves up an' doin' ovver such shockin' acts. Mrs Pankhurst got 'erself sent ter prison again, where she refused ter eat. They would let 'er go out fer a while, so as she could eat an build up 'er strength, but just as she were a bit better, they arrested 'er again an' put 'er back in a cell. They did this twelve times in a year. Cripes, can yew imagine…! Not only that, but ovvers of 'er followers got themselves jailed an' all.

Any'ow, then come the First World War in 1914. So, wiv this foreign threat to the nation, Emmeline called off the suffrage campaign, an' the government released all the suffragette prisoners.

Durin' the war, Mrs Pankhurst visited the United States of America, Canada, an' Russia  encouragin' women ter stand up fer their political roights. She went back to England in 1926 where she was chosen ter be the Conservative candidate fer a constituency in the east of London, but by this toime she were getting' on a bit in years an' 'er 'ealth weren't so good. But cripes, at the finish she 'ad satisfaction fer all 'er determination over the years. A few weeks before 'er death, the Representation of the People Act 1928, wot gives equal votin' roights ter men an' women, was passed by Parliament.

Although Emmeline Pankhurst didn't never get elected ter Parliament, she very nearly got in at the finish. There's a statue of 'er in Victoria Towers Gardens. Yew c'n go an' see 'er if'n yew loike. She stands roight up against the railin's o' the Houses o' Parliament. Yeah, real close. Oi still reckon 'as 'ow there ain't no lady wot is more worthy o' fame than wot she is. There's lots of us ladies around the world wot still ain't got the roight ter vote. So jus' fink o' Emmeline Pankhurst all yew ladies wot do 'ave the roight, next toime yew go out ter vote fer yer president or yer parliamentary representative.

Luv from Jenno.

By the way, Oi visited Emmeline's statue once wiv Peter, when we went up ter Lunnon tergevver. Yew c'n read about it, if'n yew loike, in chapter 19 o' "Gang Petition" ( Vote well...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Moi Name

Jennospot 81  Moi Name

There's some people wot reckon as 'ow Jenno is a boy's name, an' they ain't all tergevver wrong, 'cos girls are usually called Jenna or Jenny. 'Corse moi name is really Jean, but not 'ardly anyone ever calls me that, 'cept my teacher at school. Even moi mum don't call me Jean 'cept when she's angry wiv me. Usually she calls me Jeanie, but when she says Jean, then Oi know Oi'm in trouble. Yew wanna know 'ow Oi got ter be called Jenno? Well Oi told Peter about one day when we 'ad started ter make moi soapbox racin' cart. Peter tells it loike this:

I decided to tackle Jenno at the milk break about the girls making carts. It wasn't difficult, as she was actually looking for me.

‘Hello,’ said Jenno. ‘Oi've got four of them mushroom bolts we need. They're about as long as moi middle finger. Will they do?’

‘That's fine. They're called coach bolts by the way.’

‘Why coach bolts? Shouldn't they be called cart bolts?’

‘I don't know why they're called coach bolts. They just are. Might as well ask why you're called Jenno when your name is Jean.’

‘Ev'ryone calls me Jenno.’

‘Is that a reason?’

‘Naw, cleverdick. It's 'cos Oi've got a cousin Jean, about moi age, wot used ter live in the same 'ouse as me. They called 'er Jeanie, and me Jenno so's we'd know who was who. So there. Why're yew called Peter, fer that matter? Oi don't see yew a-peterin' out all the toime.’

Jenno giggled.

‘It's in the Bible,’ I said.

‘Yew fink Oi'm iggerant? Peter was the guy wot said 'ee din't know Jesus when Jesus got inter trouble wiv the law. Foine sort o' friend 'ee was.’

‘He was a fisherman.’

‘So? Yew a-goin' in fer fishin'?’

‘His name means a rock.’

‘Cripes— yew'd better not go a-fallin' inter no water then.’

‘Oh, shut up Jenno. You're impossible.’

‘Yeah, an' moi name comes outta the Bible too. Peter 'ad a good friend wot was also a fisherman. 'Is name was John. An' that's where moi name Jean comes from. So sucks ter yew.’

An' that's it fer this week, wiv luv from Jenno

By the way, the story about moi name an' 'ow we built moi racin' cart, an' a whole lot of ovver good stuff, is in "Gang Loyalty": or

Monday, 17 September 2012

Moi First Cart Race

Jennospot 80 – Moi First Cart Race

Last week Oi told yew about the first lesson Oi ever 'ad in soapbox cart racin'. Terday, Oi'm goin' ter tell yew about moi very first cart race wot were between moi gang an’ that lot from Lions Avenue. It weren't moi most excitin’ race ‘cos there were ovvers later on wot were real 'eart-stoppers. Even so, it were pretty good. Peter were racing that day an' all, but oi beat 'im fair an' square 'cos 'ee come in last! The fing is, it were moi first real race ever, an' that makes it special fer me. We was racin' on the Zigzag wot is the track down inter the Mountain Glide. There's a narrer bit near the top wot makes fer some tricky manoeuvrin'.

The line-up at the start
Ev'rybody wanted ter be first inter the narrer part, so we took off at the start in a flurry of furious punting. But it was JJ, Roy an' Reenie, with their longer, stronger legs, wot got there first. Peter was close behind 'em, wiv Itchyprick an' Stinky alongside 'im. Winnie were just be'ind Peter, while Oi brought up the rear. Well, Oi were the smallest weren't Oi? Besides, it were moi first real race, so Oi were bein' sorta cautious loike.

Any'ow, we come round the first bend in the same order. Peter troid to force Itchyprick and Stinky ter the outside so as Winnie c'd come through on the inside, but they was a bit too far ahead fer this ter work.

On the next straight, wot is only moderately steep, it were only possible ter punt wiv a leg now and again to maintain speed. Winnie 'ad an advantage 'ere, 'cos 'er Blue Flash, wiv its big wheels, rolls easily over the rough places but Itchy an' Stinky saw 'er idea an' swerved from soide to soide ter stop 'er overtakin'.

As the second 'airpin came up Peter called: ‘On the inside Winnie.’ An' then 'ee reached forward an' grabbed the rear of Itchy's cart. 'Ee pulled it against 'is steerin' bar so as ter make 'em slide tergevver ter the outside of the turn. Winnie broadsided through the gap.

Peter let go of Itchy and punted hard to get ahead of 'im an' close the gap, but Oi slipped through be'ind Winnie as well.

Itchy said some words wot weren't at all perlite, an' then 'ee rammed Peter from behind wot made 'im slam inter the rocky wall on the left of the track. 'Ee spun round an' come ter a standstill. By the time 'ee got movin' again, ev'rybody else were well ahead, includin' me, but 'ee punted on towards the third hairpin even so.

JJ, Reenie an' Roy, still close tergevver at the front, rounded the bend in that order. Stinky an' Winnie were a few yards behind 'em, an' Oi were on their 'eels. Winnie troid to pass on the inside but Stinky moved ter block 'er. This left room on the outside fer me ter overtake Winnie.

Winnie's Blue Flash didn't 'ave no advantage on the flattenin' slope after the turn, so wivvout any change in the runnin', ev'rybody punted on ter the finish.

Peter's Lightning is a good cart, so 'ee gained a bit on Itchy through the final turn, but couldn't catch 'im before the line.

We all grouped, pantin', around the finish. The judges were busy wiv their calculations.

‘Result of the first race,’ announced Dismal finally. ‘JJ first with one point.’

All of us from the Mob cheered. Peter's Lotters clapped politely.

‘Second Reenie, with two points.’

This toime the Lotters cheered.

‘The others, in order of arrival are: Roy, three points; Stinky, four points; Jenno, five points; Winnifred, six points; Itchyprick, seven points.’

‘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.’

Not bad fer moi first race, don't yew fink…?

(Adapted from "Gang Rivalry" Chapter 8: )