Kids, yer tea’s ready! (part one)

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Drawing by Rosa

Today’s been a lovely warm, sunny day, after all the rain yesterday. Nathan and Julie, their cousins and friends were out playing, running in and out of the trees, skirting their village. It’s like that most days, after school and before tea.

Their favourite game is tick and chase, rushing through the muddy fields to avoid being caught. They’ve been told not to go inside the fence surrounding the field but they go anyway. It’s worth crawling under the hole they’ve dug in the earth beneath the fence to pick the succulent shoots of sweetcorn, growing on the cob. What harm can taking a few stems do when there are so many? Julie’s especially good at crawling under the fence and collects a number in her jumper, throwing them over the high fence for her friends to catch.

Other times, they like to go off into the wood, exploring for animals. They may see deer or owls, lynx or wild boar, if they’re lucky. Once, a wild boar chased Nathan, who’d got too close to the piglets back up the track and he had to scramble up a tree quick to escape.

‘Tea’s ready!’, called their mum. Her singing voice boomed across from the village to the wood. The pair knew they had to be back by the third call or else they’d be for it. Washing the floors or emptying the compost bin were two of the best kind of jobs they could be given if they let their tea go cold. There was much, much worse. Don’t even go near the compostable toilet!

They waved goodbye to their friends, who were all heading back to their homes too for their own tea. It was summer. Still time to play out after tea and chores but usually they were too tired with homework to finish. Dad made sure of that. He was convinced that if they worked hard enough and do as their teachers told them, they could each go to university, something he’d wanted to do when he was young but had never had the chance. Farming was his way of life; his father’s too.

As the late evening birdsong drifted through the open windows, they sat down to eat, scents of wild lilacs wafting in through the doorway. ‘Tell me about your day’, Sarah, their mum asked. ‘We did maths and English and sport and I may get picked for the school team, if I keep playing well’, Julie said. ‘And me!’, Nathan blurted. He was more into chess and had recently represented his county at a competition. ‘Good,’ I’m pleased to hear it.’, their mum  said. ‘And you haven’t been near the field with the fence around, have you? I’ve been hearing strange stories about it and nothing that I like. It’s not like your dad’s. They’re spraying it with chemicals and goodness knows what else, besides, to deep the bugs down! I want you to stay away from it. I don’t want you eating that sweetcorn, do you hear me!’ ‘Yes, mum. We won’t, mum.’ And they exchanged glances.

Later, not far away, some musicians were starting to pick up a tune in the square. The musical notes of the accordion carried to them in the air. It was a favourite pastime of the villagers during the summer. Soon, couples and older children would be dancing. Sarah started humming the tune to herself while she was ironing. ‘Come on, kids, your tea’s ready!’, it went. She sang and hummed over, swaying from foot to foot, heel to toe dancing with the shirts and blouses.

She looked across the room to her husband, Sam, who’d fallen asleep in his favourite armchair and threw a sock at him. ‘Wake up, sleepy head. It’s time to get the kids to bed!’ ‘Right, you two, off you go. No ifs…off you go, young lady.’ Julie, at 11 years, two years older than her brother, guarded her superior status as best she could but she was no match for a determined dad. Not yet, anyway. ‘Ah, 10 more minutes, dad, please..!’ ‘Oh go on, then, but then, bed, the pair of you. I mean it. That compost bin needs putting out, you know…’ His wife raised her eyebrows but couldn’t help a smile, though she tried not to show it. ‘Ten minutes, then, then off to bed.’ They raced towards the door. ‘And don’t forget to say goodnight to your gran and grandad too.’ ‘We won’t.’ They could still start  a board or a card game, they knew, before bed, before their parents came to say goodnight. Till all that was left were their dreams. Another day done, another belly full. Come soon, tomorrow!’ While outside, from deep in the heart of the forest, echoed the cry of a wild beast.

Drawing by Ruth

Drawing by Ruth

Part one of four

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The Living

20160330_063034.jpgFour scenes in one act

Scene 1                     Steven, living away for the first time, writes home

Dear Mum,

Just a short line __ (agh, ho, ho!) to let you know how I’m getting on…starving, freezing, moneyless; you know, the usual student life. But, you know me, I don’t like to complain. I’ll pull through somehow. You carry on living in the lap of luxury. Don’t spare me a thought – your miserable, impoverished, emaciated only son. I understand that you must have a great many problems, including our Kay’s weight problem, all far more important than my plight, your only son’s misery. Still, I expect I’ll manage somehow!

Enough of my problems, the neverending, day to day struggle against all odds to get the meagre things necessary for my meagre existence. How’s life at the ranch? I’ve told everyone my dad’s a millionaire with his money in stocks and shares and unforgettable hidey-holes. And mum, even though I don’t often know where my next meal is coming from, I’ll do all I can, everything in my power, to stop our Kay running away with Thomas Blakeney. It would break Lyndsay’s heart, my beautiful, devoted, wonderful sister – yuk, did I say that? Yuky, yuky, yuk.

For some reason, which no doubt he’ll tell us when he gets back tomorrow night, my house mate, Jeff, never quite made it home, so I don’t know if he’s a dad or not. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on any new developments.

Have to dash now, otherwise my egg – that’s my tea for tonight – will be hardboiled. God, I hope I can pull through.

Your everloving, dashingly handsome, if perhaps a little on the skinny side (unique in our family) son,

Steven

 

Scene 2                     a reply

Dear Steve,

…a few pounds to put you over and don’t ask me for anymore. I haven’t got it. Your dad’s got me up the wall, paying his debts. Good job he was getting, we’ve never had it so bad. I get £10.40 for cleaning.

Love,

Mum

Sorry if I sound hard but I’m fed up trying to make ends meet. Also Lyndsay, Kay are still at school and I only get their family allowance. That’s it.

I can’t ask anyone for money. I just have to make ends meet. A holiday, I wouldn’t know what one is.

Ps let me know if you get the money.

 

Scene 3

Dear Steven,

Received your letter today. Glad you got the money okay. Sorry if I sound like a moaning mum, but you know if I have the money you’re welcome to it, but I get so mad with your dad. He talks so big at times. He changed his job. Oh, we were going to have everything. Instead, he gets less than he was on before, but I have heard so  many promises over the last 29 years, that it’s a good job I take it as I have always done. I’m working 6 hours a week in a shoe shop. Also I do a few hours Wed, Fri, selling shoes, which helps. Don’t say nothing to your dad but I get sick of paying his debts and he just takes it for granted. It makes you mad at times, Steve, but, never mind, I seem to get over it.

Kay gets her ‘O’-level results today. She did well in her CSEs. Lyndsay is still in the shop on a Saturday and Kay does Sat afternoon. She gets £3 for it.

We are all looking forward to seeing you. Look after yourself, son.

All my love,

Mum

Hope you got the card okay.

 

Scene 4                     approaching Christmas

Dear Steven

In answer to your most welcome letter, both of them, I’m sorry, son, for not answering sooner. You should have had two letters off Lyndsay by now. You know what I’m like at writing. Anyway, son, how are you getting on? You never said anything about your job. Make sure you are eating well and look after yourself. Are you coming home for Christmas? I am still working 3 mornings a week in the shop. I have your jumper. It’s blue and I think you will like it. Well, Steve, I am feeling okay now, after a few off days with my tum. Well, son, you seem to be enjoying yourself. I am glad you have got a place. Is it very dear, the rent, I mean? Keep your feet warm at night. Put a pullover around them and they will keep warm at night. We will have to get you some bed socks for you.

Today, 15 November, your dad hadn’t been to work for the last 2 weeks. He’s okay. The doctor gave him  bottle for that wind he gets, so I don’t know if he is going in next week or not. I can’t get any work done. You know how he hates getting out of his chair. Lyndsay told him to get back to work but I told her to say nothing but you know Lyndsay. Well, Steve, you know I told you about my little job. Well, the manager had a breakdown last year. Well, he came back 2 weeks ago. I was made up because we got on great, but he had to go to see the head manager last Friday week and, when he came back, he said he was moving to a small shop in Old Swan. He asked me if any work came up, would I go to work over there on the sales, 10 till 3.30. I said yes but as it’s only a small shop…they only have 2 and a Saturday girl, so I just wait and see but I can’t see any of them leaving. Anyway, Steve, we have a manageress, and she is a cow. She is okay with me. Not that she opens her mouth much, only to find fault with the woman, so Gill and the boy, who works there can’t have a laugh. The boy who works there got the push last Thursday and he hasn’t been in yet. I told him to join the union but he hadn’t but I think his dad is looking into it. I would, but then you know me.

Anyway, son, I told you about work and everything’s about the same at home. Your dad is in bed. It’s 10.40 am. I will hear his feet go bang on the floor any minute for his tea, but I am going up Moss Lane now to post this letter. Hope you understand it. I can’t, ha, ha! Never know, Steve, your dad might do some work in the house or garden. That would be the day. He moans all day about money. I tell him, as long as we live, he should shut up. He…I go mad.

(Well. Forgot my Well) Son, will close now. Look after yourself for me.

All my love,

Mum

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