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Open Features: James McNeil - His Story - part 2

...So I emptied out my pocket onto the table. Contents of said pocket were:

1 tennis ball
12 pieces of string
7 elastic bands
2 pieces of shrapnel (given me by a solder from Dunkirk)
4 small keys (that I found and don’t know what they’ll open)
Half a stick of Edinburgh Rock (raspberry flavour, which I gave to Helen and she threw on the fire)
1 threepenny bit (the remains of my pocket money)...

Betty McKay concludes her story in diary form concerning a 12-year-old boy.

9th October, 1940

Yesterday Mum and me decorated my bedroom. Dad had shifted the furniture, and then Mum and me painted the walls cream. She showed me what to do with the sponge and then left me to get on with it. I dabbed on all the terracotta dots.

Mum moaned about the red splashes on the floor, but when we cleaned up and put the mats back, it looked a lot lighter than the dark, old-fashioned wallpaper that Dad said had been there since Adam was a lad.

Mum said I could have the pine desk out of the spare room instead of the old marble-topped washstand that never gets used anyway.

When we started to move the washstand, the cupboard door underneath opened and all Rob’s nudey magazines fell out onto the floor. Dad asked if they were mine. I said, cool as you like, “No, I’ve never seen them before.”

Mum got very upset, saying she’d be having a word with Rob next time she saw him.

Helen, my sister, who all the time had been standing in the doorway, shouted, “Mother, if that’s the worst thing Rob sees before you meet him again, then you’ll be very lucky.”

It all ended in an argy-bargy out on the landing. I squeezed past the three of them and went round to Victoria Park for a game of footie with the lads.

I’m so glad I went because Chas is back. He’s my best friend, and he’s been away for nearly six months while his dad’s been working up in Scotland.

After the game we went round to his house, and he gave me some Edinburgh rock. It was a bit sweet, except for the ginger flavour. He’s back for good now. It’s great to have someone to talk to again.

Some of the lads in my form are worse than girls for gossiping. They are really pathetic. It’s impossible to have a serious conversation with them. I don’t think any of them read books. The Beano and Film Fun are about their limits.

Mrs. Conran said she thought I’d got much taller since they have been away, but my hair was still as curly as ever. I’ve got red hair, and she said it’s wasted on a boy.

I think she was joking because a lot of girls shout after me, “Ginger, you’re barmy” and I don’t think they’d do that if they liked it. When I told her that, she said perhaps that’s why I liked ginger-flavoured Edinburgh rock and gave me some more.

When I got back home, Mum had finished upstairs. My room looked really good. She’d put some yellow curtains up. Months ago Dad had put criss-cross brown sticky-backed paper on all the windows, in case the glass got broken in an air raid.

Mr. Gregory, the air raid warden had said everyone had to do it; otherwise he’d report them. Mum said she thought he was behaving like a right little Hitler, when we all knew that at home he was hen-pecked.

Helen stayed in this evening, so we played Sevens. I won most of the games. When I stood up, Helen said, “You look all lop-sided.”

I said, “Don’t be daft – lop-sided yourself!”

But Mum said, “She’s right. Have you got a growth on your hip?”

So I emptied out my pocket onto the table. Contents of said pocket were:

1 tennis ball
12 pieces of string
7 elastic bands
2 pieces of shrapnel (given me by a solder from Dunkirk)
4 small keys (that I found and don’t know what they’ll open)
Half a stick of Edinburgh Rock (raspberry flavour, which I gave to Helen and she threw on the fire)
1 threepenny bit (the remains of my pocket money)

Mum confiscated the tennis ball, keys and the shrapnel, saying now she realized how I managed to get so many holes in my pockets.

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