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U3A Writing: A Day Out

Playing hide-and-seek, picking and eating bilberries, paddling in ponds, catching sticklebacks – John Ricketts tells of a glorious day out with three friends when they were all nine-year-olds.

There were four of us; Pat O’Malley who was in charge because he was almost grown up, being thirteen. His sister Philomena, Tommy Hyland and me were all in the same class at school and were nine years old. We usually walked to school together and were good friends.

We met at the O’Malley’s house and set out to walk to the tram terminus in the middle of Birmingham. We were well prepared with two haversacks. In the first we had put our sandwiches, in the second were our raincoats which our mother’s had insisted that we take even though anyone could see that there was no chance of rain that day.

When we reached the tram depot we scrambled onto the deck and then up the steep stairs to the top deck. We ran to the front to bag the seats in the open front which we had to ourselves. Our adventure had begun. When the conductor came we each bought a return ticket to the Lickey Hills some ten miles away for the pricely sum of three pence. We younger children had six pence each. That doesn’t sound much these days but for me, at least, it was two weeks pocket money. We gave our tickets to Pat for safe keeping and he put them into one of the pockets in the haversack.

An hour later four wind-blown children arrived at the Lickey Hills which was a wild area covered in trees, heather, bilberries and bracken interspersed with ponds and streams; a paradise for children brought up in city streets. It must have been about eleven o’clock by the time we found a nice stretch of grass and that, so our stomachs told us, was well after our dinner time. So out came the sandwiches. (Paddy had stopped us from eating them on the tram).

After our picnic we explored. I cannot remember all that we did that afternoon but I know that we played hide and seek in the bracken. We picked the bilberries until our hands and tongue were stained bright purple. We stuck out our tongues to each other to show similar stains. We paddled in the ponds and we caught sticklebacks in the streams. We even fed the ducks on one of the larger lakes, though they didn’t get much as we had nearly finished the lot. We even got lost and wandered about aimlessly until was saw a man walking his dog and could ask the way back to the tram.

It was almost dark when we got back to the depot, four dirty, bedraggled, happy children, dying to tell of their wonderful day but too tired to do so.

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