Self-Isolation: pages 10 & 11

 

Two-weekly challenge for week 10.

Find a photograph you have not seen in years and write about the memories it brings back.

Congratulations to Frances whose piece “Black and White” was declared the winner of this challenge.

 

Memories of Sydney.

Glowing sunlight, a beautiful day,
Feeling warm, still tired from jet lag,
We waited for a while, pacing,
Admiring Sydney Opera House.
Glancing, towards the grand Harbour Bridge,
Scanning the large groups,
For a familiar face,
Would I recognise my cousin?
So many years had passed.
A familiar face came into view,
Smiling, we hugged, introductions followed.
Before strolling over to sit,
A welcome coffee, reminiscing.
Later, the busy ferry beckoned,
Bustling crowds, then finally boarding,
Admiring the views, the skyline proud,
Across the still waters, sailing,
Whilst heading for Manly Beach.
Glowing sunlight, a beautiful day.

Erica McKinnon.

 

Black-and-white world

Young people have the idea that the world was black and white before about 1960. But it wasn’t. The sky was just as blue, the flowers still as bright.

But perhaps the children’s cheeks weren’t quite as rosy as they are now, their clothes not quite as colourful. It’s difficult to tell from old photographs, but their legs were definitely skinnier, and their clothes always looked too small – or too big. You were always either growing into your clothes or out of them.

I found the photo among my mother’s belongings when she died. The local newspaper had done a story on life in the slums before everyone was moved out to go and live in brand new council houses with bathrooms and gardens after the war. There we were, the children of the street, playing on a nearby bomb site. It didn’t strike us that we were lucky to be alive. Some of us had even enjoyed the war, evacuated to the country or sent to stay with distant aunts and uncles. It was now that our freedom was curtailed, with fathers back from the army and discipline reimposed at home. But unlike today’s children we were free to roam wherever we liked, with no one wondering where we were unless we weren’t home by dark.

That’s Rosie Murphy in the short candy-striped dress. Her mother took in washing so she always looked clean and ironed even though they can’t have had much money. Her grandad lost a leg in the first war and some of the boys used to taunt him in the street and he’d wave his stick at them. Rosie always said she was going to be a model so she could wear one of those New Look Dior dresses with long white gloves.

Rodney Clifford is the one hanging off the lamp-post. He was mad about football and his ambition was to join the local team. There he is wearing the team scarf, though half the time he hadn’t any shoes. He had to share a pair with his brother and they took it in turns to go to school. I seem to remember one of the teachers got him some second-hand ones so that he could go every day.

I can’t remember the name of the boy sitting on a pile of rubble with the big grin, but his dad was killed just before VE Day. His mum married a man who could get you stuff on the black market during the war, but later he was a market trader, selling fruit and veg. Dead respectable now, or that’s what most people believed.

The little girl with plaits is Susan, my first crush. She gave me a kiss once and I was in heaven for a week. That’s what it was like to be nine years old.

Then all at once it was 1960 and colour came bursting through. We were dancing to rock‘n’roll, going to work, getting married, our families a lot more prosperous and living in decent houses. After grammar school I went to university, something my parents never dreamed of.

Where are they now, the children of the street? I’ll never know. But one thing I do know – we came through the bad times just as the children of today will survive the present lockdown. I hope our grandchildren will emerge into a colourful, and in particular a greener, world.

Frances

Ych y fi!*

The photograph in my hand is only small. Probably taken by a Kodak Brownie camera in 1952. It is a picture in black and white tones.
It shows a group of two young women with two small children sitting on a beach. They are all dressed in summer clothes and a picnic is spread out on a rug in front of them. You can almost smell the salt in the sea air, the fish paste in the sandwiches and the orangeade in their vacuum flasks.
The women are modestly dressed for a beach. No sunbathing for them with their fair skin. Their dresses reveal their delight in being able to wear clothes with enough material to spread out around their legs. This is the time of Dior’s New Look although their clothes have the air of being homemade.
Porthcawl, South Wales, is the setting for this beach party. It is where my father’s cousins lived and a visit to them in summer meant a day on the beach. There would be other families there too from Neath and the surrounding valleys. This was not the time of hordes of “townies” descending on the coastline of Britain.
It all looks and sounds idyllic apart from the face of one of the little children sitting on the sand. She is dressed in a striped, knitted bathing costume. On her head she has a pale sun hat that ripples around her dark brown curls. Her face is scrunched up into a mask of horror. It is clear to see that she is about to cry. Perhaps, if we listen carefully, we can hear, across the many years, what is being said:
“What’s wrong, darling?”
“Ych y fi Mummy, ych y fi!”
“What’s dirty, sweetheart?”
“This,” and the little girl hits the ground where she is sitting. Her face screws up even more and tears start to roll down her red cheeks.
“It’s only sand. It won’t do you any harm. Look, come and sit beside me on the rug.”
It was just before the little girl moved that my father took the photograph. Of course, the little girl was me and I really did have a hatred of sitting on sand. It was a phobia which lasted for many years. The sight of this photograph just brought it all back to me.
Ych y fi indeed.

Helen

*(Ych y fi is pronounced ukavee)

 

Memories

In an old black and white photo, now faded to shades of grey, a group of six-year-olds are ranged in front of a wooden hut. At the back, six boys stand on a bench, and one of them is me. In front sit three lines of girls, six in each row. This is my first school photograph, taken in 1945, and we’ve all been scrubbed, combed, and brushed for the occasion. Looking at it now, two questions strike me.
First, why does it look so drab?
It’s a monochrome image but that isn’t the explanation. It’s due to our shabby clothes. No-one is in uniform because it isn’t that sort of school. Although the war is over clothing is still rationed, so most of us wear patched and mended clothes, or garments handed down from elder siblings. Boys’ jackets hang loose and girls wrap themselves in oversized cardigans. Some of the girls are in dark skirts; blackout curtains have been recycled. Underneath, our underwear is probably improvised; no point in wasting precious clothing coupons on garments that are not seen. Underpants are tied up with tapes in place of elastic, and knickers are made from flour bags.
The photo brings back memories of that hut, warmed unevenly in winter by a huge cast iron stove, standing in one corner. It’s my task as milk monitor, to bring in the frozen milk-bottles each morning from the crate outside, and stand them in front of the stove to thaw. The icy bottles sticks to my fingers but I’m happy to do that job, as it earns me a place close to the stove, in the warmest part of the room.
The best time of the school day is of course, home-time. Instead of taking the boring way home along the road, most of the boys take shortcuts through the bomb sites that surround the school on three sides. There we have ruined houses to explore, piles of rubble to climb, and concrete shelters to hide in (much more fun than any “adventure playground” of the present day). Children accept the situation they grow up in as normal and it never occurs to us that there is anything unusual about our environment. In the photo, we are all smiling.
I wonder what became of those young people. Did they live all their lives in faded shades of grey, or emerge like butterflies into glorious colour?
And my second question is, why were we boys outnumbered three to one?

Peter Hilton

 

FORGOTTEN MEMORIES

It happened during the school holidays; those long, hazy days of summer when childhood dreams could grow and prosper like some magical movie. However, in the case of myself and my two younger brothers we were a dispensable luxury, incompatible with the successful managing of a seven day a week business, so we were sent away across the seas.
From the hurly burly of a busy city shop and courtesy of Aer Lingus’s “assisted transfer” we were transported to the sleepy West Coast of Ireland. Ballina, Co. Mayo was the place to be. Watching salmon being caught in front of the cathedral on the way to daily mass with my ultra-religious grandma. On the premature death of her husband my grandma moved with her two unmarried children from Manchester to Bohernasup, Ballina and my selected photograph was taken on one of these annual pilgrimages. One of her children, Tom, became a farmer so it was heaven for us “city boys” to experience the thrill and freedom of animal life on open farmland.
So here I am, seven years old, a liberated enthusiast shaking hands with my new four-legged friend, Bing. Mum and dad’s post office and newsagents had hundreds of customers calling in daily for their newspaper and ten Woodbine cigarettes as they descended on the three cotton mills at the end of the street. This was not compatible with having any decent sized pet so to be transported to this oasis of calm and tranquillity with freedom and space was an absolute delight.
My children and grandchildren view the scene on the photograph with a mixture of amazement and amusement. Seeing grandpa in this idyllic rural setting shaking paws with this cutest of collie dogs is a real surprise to them. They laugh openly at the sight of this seven-year-old boy in short trousers and wellington boots posing, with sleeves rolled up and most surprisingly sporting a long tie.
There is a warmth and charm to old sepia photographs, and it has been quite poignant and emotional as these wonderful childhood memories come flooding back.
Treasure the memories, rich in content, precious in the telling, a casket of golden gems.

Peter Diggle.

 

Nottingham.
30th May 2020

Dear Sis,
I have also been looking back through some of my old photos with the intention of filing them into some sort of order whilst we have all this spare time in ‘lockdown’! Many brought back happy memories of our childhood days and one in particular reminded me of our wonderful grandparents who seemed to be such a loving couple and equally so towards us, their only grandchildren. It is a very tiny black and white photo which must have been taken on a summer’s day around 1948 when I was about five and you were three. I can’t remember the photo being taken but in it we are standing next to Grandpa and Grandma on their lawn with each of them seated on deckchairs. Mum or Dad must have taken the photo with their box camera.
Grandpa would have been sixty-five at that time and Grandma four years younger. As I study the photo I notice Grandma’s gnarled fingers as her hands rest on the arm of the deckchair. In the time that I remember her she always suffered from chronic arthritis and during our childhood she became a semi-invalid with the front room of their house being converted into a bedroom for her. I can also recall her going for country ‘walks’ with us all and her being pushed in a wheelchair by Grandpa. Both Grandpa and Mum would point out and could name lots of wild flowers that we saw when out walking. This must have started my interest in wild flowers.
In the photo Grandma is wearing a calf length, very dark, maybe black dress with a similar coloured cardigan. She appears to have sheer stockings on and her shoes are black with a bar- strap across them which would no doubt have been fastened at the side with a button. I have kept that button hook that Grandma used. Grandpa is wearing a light coloured suit with baggy trousers and a white shirt and his bald head shows up well! Both of them look quite slim in the photo and are smiling at the camera.
I have lovely happy memories of them both and I wonder if you have similar ones. Do let me know what you can recall about them.
Do you remember how you were always sick when on the bus when we visited them with Mum and Dad, going there at least once a month? It took all morning by bus or rather three buses to get there- a journey that by car I would now do in much less than an hour!
When we arrived, Grandma would often be sitting with a bowl in her lap peeling potatoes or shelling the peas even with her arthritic hands. Grandpa would be working in the kitchen finishing preparing a roast dinner and a pudding for us all. All the vegetables we ever ate there were grown in their extensive garden. How I loved to be asked to go and pick the peas for lunch because I enjoyed popping their shells and eating vast quantities of them in their raw state as I moved amongst the rows! When we played out in their garden Grandpa would always offer us a penny if we could catch any cabbage white butterflies. I never really knew why until one afternoon I saw him catch one and kill it, much to my horror!
Grandpa also grew flowers and in the summer I loved to see and smell the pottery vase of sweet peas that was always placed on the roll topped desk. That fascinated me as it could so smoothly be rolled open to reveal the little compartments in it which were interesting to examine. Other things within the house that I can recall were the wooden slatted draining board in the kitchen with the hand pump for drawing cold water beside it- good fun to operate from a child’s point of view! Round the fireplace there hung horse brasses which were always well polished.
I remember that we all stayed there for at least one Christmas and you and I slept in what seemed a very high bed as we both had to clamber up to get into it. It had a deep maroon coloured old stuffy smelling eiderdown on it, something I had never seen before. Grandma explained to me about the feathers that were inside it and with my love for wildlife from being very young, I began to feel sorry for the now dead birds whose feathers may have been used in this eiderdown! Someone put a stone hot water bottle in the bed to warm it up for us. That also was a new experience for us! One Christmas when we were staying there the Mummers came banging loudly on the door and Grandpa welcomed them in. We were very scared of them and you burst out crying! They were all given a drink and mince pie that Grandma had made and went happily on their way afterwards round the village giving Christmas greetings to other villagers.
Whenever we visited our grandparents in winter we were allowed to go upstairs to play. As we lived in a bungalow, the stairs themselves provided a great game for sliding on or jumping down. But there were also interesting rooms to explore upstairs. On the landing there was a wooden washstand with a beautifully decorated pottery washbowl and matching jug on it which we had to be careful not to knock over as we moved into one of the other rooms. We always had great fun up there rummaging around and we both enjoyed sitting and reading from the Arthur Mees Children’s encyclopaedia which was kept there. I would sometimes find a partially filled hard bound ledger which Grandpa would let me bring home. As Grandpa had been the Head Teacher of the local village school, he had probably acquired some notebooks from his days there! I would use the ledger back at home as a class register when I played ‘schools’ with the neighbourhood children with me as the teacher, no doubt a bossy one!
I clearly remember Grandpa smoking his pipe and his look of contentment as he puffed away on it. He always lit it after lunch. I would often sit on his knee as a youngster whilst he did so and would enjoy watching this quite lengthy deliberate procedure. Do you remember how he would get out his tobacco pouch, pick a small quantity of tobacco out of it pulling any lumps apart as he did so, roll it around in his brown stained fingers and then slowly pack the bowl of the pipe until it was as full as he wanted it to be. He would sometimes use a tamper to gently push the tobacco down. He would then put the pipe to his lips and strike a match to light it. The exciting part for me was when he finally lit his pipe and allowed me to blow out the match! I loved the smell of the tobacco, did you?
I have so many more happy memories of our kind and loving grandparents but do let me have your recollections too.
However within a year of Grandma dying at the age of seventy one, Grandpa remarried and moved to live with the lovely person who we came to know well and called Auntie Mag. She lived in Weston Super Mare. You and I spent several happy holidays there with them but Mum was shocked and very upset that Grandpa married this much younger person whom he had known from years ago. She didn’t attend their registry office wedding. Grandpa lived to be ninety-two and died in 1973 so he and Auntie Mag no doubt also enjoyed many happy years of living together. Love Margaret

Margaret Richardson

 

A MENTAL STROLL THROUGH AN OLD PHOTOGRAPH

I am looking at a photograph of my first home, to which I was brought in 1949.
This terraced house was small, dark, damp and poorly maintained. It was a Georgian house, already condemned as a slum, but accommodation was scarce so soon after the war, and my parents were grateful to have somewhere to live.
There were two rooms upstairs, and two down, and a kitchen at the back.
There was no road out front, just a steep wide pavement, which linked two main roads that had been constructed at different elevations.
Over time, a sister and two brothers, joined me. We all slept in the back bedroom, in one large, double, brass bed.
The top two feet of both bedrooms’ walls were permanently wet, and there was no heating upstairs.
It was so cold in the winter that my father would place his heavy army greatcoat on the children’s bed for extra warmth.
However, getting out of bed could be an ordeal. We would look at Jack Frost’s patterns on the inside of the window pane, and knew how cold it had been in the night. That meant a forthcoming shock for tiny warm feet, meeting the numbingly cold lino.
My parents had the same problem.
The solution was to make rugs, which we did whilst listening to the radio in the evenings. This valve radio was housed in a high light brown, domed, wooden casing, which had a fretted area cut out at its front, behind which was a dark brown fabric.
Until I grew up, I always thought that there were lots of little people living in this radio, and I couldn’t quite figure out how they all got in there, or how all the actors and actresses, big bands, newsreaders, announcers, singers etc., lived!
Our primitive toilet was ‘out back’ in a narrow brick alcove, next to the coalhouse. It had a short wooden door with a gap at the bottom of some 12 – 18” – very cold and draughty! In winter it was necessary to break the frozen water in the toilet bowl, with a stout stick, kept in the loo solely for that purpose. Toilet paper was torn up newspaper! Ouch! Rough!
Potties were the order of the day in the bedrooms. After all, no-one was ever going to go out into the overlooked yard in the pitch black, in a howling gale, or even on a balmy summer’s night, to use this outside loo!
The skylight in the kitchen was permanently jammed open, which allowed a perpetual draught to circulate around the house, as well as letting in rain and snow.
The front room downstairs, was the living room. When a coal fire was lit, we would often toast bread, or crumpets in front of it, using a toasting fork.
It was in this very room that I remember my mother distraughtly nursing us all when we had whooping cough.
I have an image imprinted on my mind of her tear stained, loving face looking down at me, as I looked back up at her, whilst gasping for breath, and hacking that awful cough, after which this terrible disease is named.
Thankfully we all recovered, just as we did from mumps, measles, and chicken pox, but the thought of polio, rickets and scarlet fever still really scared my parents.
The downstairs back room was ‘for best’ – in case we had visitors. It had a small dining table and chairs in it, and I remember how my brother, Mike, who was excruciatingly shy, would crawl under the table if anybody came to the house, relative or stranger, and he would stay there until they’d left.
Well, I could go on for ages about this photograph and the memories it stimulates, but I will say just two more things.
The first is an irony of life. These houses, in Terrell Street, were all demolished in the early 1960s, in order to make room for the expansion of the nearby Bristol Royal Infirmary.
On the exact spot where our house had stood, the hospital built their Oncology Dept., and it was here, fifty years later, that my sister came for treatment for her breast cancer.
I remember her telling me that she was wondering if she were destined to begin and end her life on the same spot of this planet, but the treatment was successful and she made a full recovery.
And the other thing I want to say, is, that despite the childhood diseases, the poor housing, basic food, lack of treats, wooden toys and second hand clothes, we all laughed a lot, played games, and were a happy family.
It didn’t last.
© Bob Reader June 2020

 

THE FAMILY PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM

I do not do this often, but today I find myself opening the family photograph album.
I look at the images and I quickly remember that I am of mixed race.
My paternal grandfather, was a Scot, his wife English.
My maternal grandfather was Hungarian, his wife Slovenian.
My father was English, my mother Austrian.
What a complex mix of genes and British and mid European traits I have inherited, of which I was not always aware.
Genes are gifted by our forefathers, and activate themselves at different times of our lives.
My ‘later life’ genes are now kicking in, conferring novel ailments on me. Thanks!
All my antecedents were white, which means that nobody is aware of my mixed race unless I choose to tell them.
An accident of war brought my parents together, and they begat their four children, and each child inherited a different mix of British and Central European physicalities, traits, mannerisms, and peculiarities.
Collectively, we four children display Austrian melancholy; the sanguine and phlegmatic characteristics of the Hungarians: and the intuitiveness and empathy of the Slovenians.
To these add in the ruggedness, honour, and loyalty of the Scots, and the stiff upper lip and first class moaning of the English, and you might see how we children had a plethora of genetic options bestowed on us.
Yet this this happens in all families.
We are what we are, because of our forefathers, and we can do nothing about it.
So I close the album, and become Bob again!
© Bob Reader May 2020

 

THE TALE OF TWO PHOTOGRAPHS

I am looking at two photographs
Of two uncles, both now deceased,
Who were soldiers of World War 2,
On different sides of the street.

My uncle, Reg, in the left hand pic,
Was eighteen when he went to war,
And he drove tank transporters
In the Army’s Transport Core,

He fought in North Africa, Italy too,
Then Austria, where his war was ended,
In the city of Graz he met a young girl,
Who he very quickly befriended.

They got married twice – that was the law,
Legality in both lands,
Army chaplain, and Austrian priest,
Each blessed their wedding bands.



The other photo is my uncle Karl,
Who was posted to the Russian Front,
And, in ’42, he was a prisoner of war,
After a vicious and brutal manhunt.

He worked in Gulag 74, a forest prison camp,
Cutting timber in cold dirty water,
He survived for nearly ten years,
By thinking of his wife and daughter.

Freedom came, and he found much change,
So different to the world he once knew,
For his brother, Fritz, had married his wife,
Making his daughter his brother’s too.

Reg’s war was short, so different to Karl’s,
But neither of them had real choices,
Yet they both survived to see better days
And in their pictures, I hear their voices.

© Bob Reader May 2020

 

Two -weekly challenge for week 11.

Write about a moment in your life (or your character’s) that made you or others laugh.

Congratulations to Helen for her piece, “No Sense of Humour” which has won this week’s challenge.

 

Bob kicks off this week’s challenge with two amusing poems. As Bob is judging the winning entry he will not, unfortunately, be able to select his own! I suspect they will be hard to beat. Editor.

JUST ANOTHER DAY WORKING IN THE POST OFFICE

THE LITTLE OLD LADY

When I was young, I earned my bread,
As a Post Office clerk in Bristol,
And I remember well, what an old lady said,
When dealing with her matters, fiscal.

She wanted to buy some Savings Bonds,
Which she’d heard were a good investment,
With interest rates that went beyond,
All of her high yield assessments.

This scheme, designed for OAPs,
Was so good it caught everyone’s eye,
So she joined my queue, and when she got to me,
She told me what she wanted to buy.

I smiled, and asked if she’d had some before,
“No lad. I haven’t. Not ever.
But in the Financial Times I saw,
That to buy some was boxing clever.”

“Ah, yes.” I said in a voice undaunted,
“We’re selling a lot of these;
I’m sure you won’t be disappointed,
High interest, and even tax free!”

But you’ll need to fill in this registration card,
With your name and address, etcetera.”
She replied, “But I find writing so hard!”
So I filled it in, which was better.

“Are you a Mrs or Miss?”, I asked her politely,
Her reply made me really laugh,
“Actually sonny, I’m a Miss!” she said brightly,
“But I’ve not missed what you might think I have!”


THE ANGRY GENTLEMAN

An irate gent came to complain,
About the state of his parcel,
It arrived, much to his great disdain,
Disfigured, like a snapped metatarsal!

I looked at the parcel, and my mind went blank,
It really was quite kaput!
And all I could say is, “It’s been wrongly stamped”
He replied, “Did you use the wrong foot?”

© Bob Reader May 2020

No Sense of Humour

Let me introduce my ex-colleague Jane to you. She taught PE and was dynamic, organised, and talented. Her only problem was with words. She was not dyslexic, she just failed to use the correct ones. Let me give you an example:
It is Monday morning in the staffroom and Jane arrives late for the Headteacher’s briefing.
“I’m so sorry I’m late but men are just not very shrivelous are they?”
All heads turn towards her and utters of, “Pardon?” are heard. “Men are not what?”
“Shrivelous. Men are not shrivelous.”
There is a definite moue of distaste from the more senior and strait-laced members of the staffroom; mutterings of “I don’t want to hear about your private life, thank you very much.”
It is when Jane explains a tyre on her car had flattened on the way to work, and not a single man had stopped to help her, that the meaning dawns on us.
“Jane, you mean “chivalrous”” we respond.
“Yes, that’s what I said.”

Her absolute best error that caused much amusement came one assembly. The Upper School, consisting of two hundred or so pupils between the age of 14 – 18, was lined up in rows facing the school stage. Tutors and members of staff stood at the back whilst one of the Deputy Heads, a Miss Roland, stood at the front to give out the daily notices.
You need to know something about Miss Roland to be able to appreciate the situation. The school had previously been an all girls’ grammar school and Miss Roland had been its Deputy Head and had continued in this post when we became a comprehensive in 1975. Instead of dealing with eager, compliant students she now had to cope with the full range of ability and with males as well as females. She managed reasonably well as she was highly intelligent, Oxbridge educated, smartly dressed and, probably only in her late 30s. Her problem was she had no sense of humour.
I shall never forget the day I met her. It was September 1973 and it was my first teaching job. I was a child of the 60s. I had spent four years at university. I was recently married, and I wore miniskirts. This was a new world and I was ready to grab it by the horns. I wasn’t quite into burning my bra, but I certainly hoped that this was now a liberated society. Suddenly, a woman I had never met, aimed at me with her hand outstretched.
“Welcome. I am Miss Roland,” said a cultivated almost plummy voice which hid a Yorkshire accent.
Everyone else I had encountered on that first morning had been friendly and informal, “Hello, I’m Jillian/Claire/Pippa/Isobel” so I thought she was being funny. Anyway, who was she to be so condescending? So, I laughed, “I’m Helen.”
I expected her to laugh as well but she withdrew her hand with the haughty words, “I am the Deputy Head,” and for weeks she never spoke to me again. Come to think of it, she hardly spoke to me from then until she left in 78 or so. Perhaps you now have a fuller picture of the woman.
Back to the assembly. It was customary for members of staff to give Miss Roland any notices for the pupils for her to read out. It was infra dig for an ordinary member of staff to read out their own messages. As a PE teacher, Jane had an exciting piece of information to pass on, so she had written it down on a piece of paper which she had asked to be conveyed to the upper school. The general murmuring paused as Miss Roland walked to the front of the stage and waited for the hall to become silent.
“A message from Miss Reynolds,” said Miss Roland in her clear tone of voice. “She has obtained tickets for a group of pupils to see a sporting event at Nottingham Arena.” A ripple of excitement went around the hall. She waited for silence again. “It is to watch the famous, American basketball team, the Highland Globetrotters.
Ears pricked up and sniggers went like waves around the lines of pupils. Even the staff, who had generally switched off, looked up with interest.
“I shall repeat that again when you are quiet.” We all waited in anticipation for her to correct herself. There was silence in the hall. With added dignity she declared, “The event is to see the Highland Globetrotters at the Nottingham Arena!”
She had reiterated the mistake. Everyone just burst out laughing – including members of staff. It was obvious that Miss Roland did not have the faintest idea about such common things as basketball teams. Whilst someone on the stage attempted to explain that they were called the Harlem Globetrotters the rest of the staff, despite appreciating the amusement, were left to bring order to the merry chaos which had ensued. How had the mighty fallen? Miss Roland was furious, and her bright red face matched the colour of her top. She quickly passed the assembly over to the Headteacher and stepped back into the darkness of the wings.
We learned later that, sadly, she had called for Jane and had accused her of deliberately attempting to make her look silly by writing down the wrong name. Of course, it was not true. Jane had muddled her words again. Miss Roland never forgave her.
Later that day a wonderful cartoon appeared on the door to Miss Roland’s office. It showed a game of basketball in progress played by men in kilts. It was ripped down before we all went home. I knew she did not have a sense of humour.
Helen

 

Betrayed by Beans

It was a can of baked beans that did for me. Shouldn’t have indulged before I went out. The job was a cinch, but the beans ruined it. I got into the shop, blew the safe and stashed all the jewellery in my bag. My stomach was playing up a bit but I climbed out the back window, and then I saw two coppers coming up the alley. They hadn’t spotted me, so I crouched down in the dark, behind a big bin and kept shtum. They strolled right past, so close I could’ve reached out with my jemmy and tripped them up, but they never saw me. That was when it happened. The beans gave me away. There was a thunderous report from my rear end that echoed down the alley. They both turned and were on me before I could say “Pardon.” The worst part was I was helpless with laughter. Farting always makes me laugh. They were amused too. Couldn’t stop chuckling while they put the cuffs on. They took my bag and my jemmy and marched me away. So here I sit, condemned. Betrayed by beans.

Peter Hilton

 

Revenge

Locked in. No means of escape. I can’t believe they could do this to me.
I always thought we enjoyed our evening walks in the neighbourhood. I check on the gardens and the progress of house buildings. Sometimes I take a pleasant diversion to visit friends. I thought my family enjoyed my company.
But today .Locked in. The door shut behind them. Are they going to return? I wait anxiously trying not to worry in case something terrible had happened to them. But no, I remember the locked door. This had been deliberate.
They return. “Hello” they said and dared to ask if I’d missed them .
For the rest of the evening I remain cool. My people look uneasy, guilty. But my chance will come.
My erstwhile friends look so cosy in bed having enjoyed Horlicks and a cuddle. They will regret their wickedness.
I leap heavily on to their bed, baring my teeth and pound my feet on their quilt. I jump on their quivering chests, dig my newly sharpened claws into their flailing arms and terrified faces. I stop their screams with my beautiful paws. I bite, I scratch, I shriek with rage. They scream ,they whimper in terror.
Finally I get tired of my efforts and retire to my own bed .My family will never leave me behind again.
Morning comes. My pitiful family stagger downstairs. Their day passes painfully and full of regrets.
The usual evening walk with the family and their foolish dog. But now I’m in the lead, walking triumphantly, my tail waving proudly. My people hobble behind looking pathetic with their many bruises, plasters and bandages.
Some months later another skirmish was necessary to remind my servants that they reconsider their attempt to change my food to an inferior brand.
I have decided to stay.
Jenny