1954 (Chapter two.)
The two boys went into the house and Patrick asked to use the bathroom.
"We do not have a bathroom." Said Kevin. "But the toilet is just there. You can wash your hands at the sink in the kitchen."
Patrick thought that it was very unusual not to have a bathroom but said nothing. In the toilet he was surprised to find a long chain hanging from an overhead cistern. On the wall was a calandar with a picture of a very young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. He recognised them from a project he had done in school. He looked at the date, 1954, and wondered why anyone would have an old calandar hung on the wall. When he was finished he went into the kitchen to wash his hands. At the sink there was just one tap and no hot water.
"Just a minute, dear." Said Kevin's mother. "I have just boiled the kettle."
She picked up the kettle from the stove, poured hot water into an enamel basin and then mixed in cold water until she deemed it to have the correct temperature. She handed Patrick a piece of soap and a towel. He washed his hands thoroughly and dried them then went into another room where he found Kevin sat at a table which was laid out with sandwiches and cake.
"Sit down." Said Kevin's mother, indicating a chair. "What would you like to drink? There is Dandelion and Burdock if you want. It is Kevin's favourite."
Patrick had no idea what it was but if Kevin liked it then he wanted to try it.
"That'll be fine." He said, but with very little enthusiasm.
It tasted surprisingly good. It was like nothing he had ever had before and he tried to identify the flavour but didn't recognise it. He knew what dandelions were but had had never eaten one and, as for burdock, he had never heard of it. He resolved that when he got home he would ask his mother to buy some when she went to the supermarket.
"Help yourself, dear." Said Kevin's mother. "There is a lot of choice. It is so good that rationing has ended. I can buy whatever I like now."
Patrick wondered what she was talking about. 'Rationing? What's that?' he thought, as he helped himself to a sandwich from the nearest plate. It looked like ham but didn't taste like it. Seeing his apparent confusion Kevin's mother clarified.
"That is spam. It was on special offer today. And there is corned beef, cucumber, boiled egg and Marmite sandwiches. There is sure to be something you like. I made the cake myself using fresh eggs." Then, as an afterthought, she said. "Kevin's father will not be joining us. He has to work late today."
"He is always working late. I hardly ever see him." Kevin complained.
"You know the present situation. The country has to be rebuilt and your father is vitally involved in the planning. This is the dawn of a new era and you children will be the beneficiaries of all the work that is being done now. I know times are hard but they are getting better. The National Health Service is working well and soon everyone will have access to a doctor. The future is looking very rosy." His mother concluded.
This statement went a long way over Patrick's head. Wasn't his mum always complaining about the poor state of health services and, as for the country being rebuilt, it seemed to him that it was falling down. He reached for a corned beef sandwich. It was delicious and even better washed down with Dandelion and Burdock. The cake was wonderful and he ate the three slices that were offered him and felt very satisfied.
"I think I must be going." Said Patrick. "My mum will be expecting me."
"You must not keep her waiting." Said Kevin's mum. "It is good that Kevin has made a friend. It is not easy for him, moving around the way we do."
Patrick got up from the table and said.
"I'll just use the toilet before I go."
This time he took a closer look at the calandar. It seemed brand new and didn't appear to be more than sixty years old. He wondered, once again, why anyone would have a calandar from 1954 hanging on the wall. He dismissed this thought and rejoined the others. He thanked Kevin's mum for the food and Kevin accompanied him to the door.
"Thank you for coming." He said. "Can you come again tomorrow? I have a lot of new marbles and we can play with them if you want."
"I've never played marbles but I'd like to learn." Patrick replied. "OK. I'll see you tomorrow after school."
With this he walked down the path, climbed over the gate, took his stone from his pocket , placed it on the ground and kicked it all the way home scoring several goals on the way.
His mother was sat in the living-room watching a game show on the television. He called out, "Hi mum", went to his room and turned on his computer. His mother appeared at the door.
"If you're hungry there's still some pizza left but I finished the chips." She said.
"No. I had loads to eat at Kevin's house. It was really good." He replied.
"What did you have?" She enquired.
"Sandwiches and cake and we drank something called Dandelion and Burdock. That was really good as well. I'm going to look it up on the net and find out what it is."
"I know that it's something they used to drink in the old days. Maybe it's something to do with the war. They went without lots of things but I suppose there was always a lot of dandelions. I've never tasted it myself. I wouldn't want to, either." She said.
"It's really good. A bit strange at first but you get used to it. We played conkers as well. That was really fun." Said Patrick.
His mother eyed him curiously.
"I used to play conkers when I was a young girl but it died out and you don't see it anymore. I think it's got something to do with health and safety. Children are supposed to wear safety goggles when they play or something rediculous like that. Every weekend in the conker season we cycled out into the country to collect them. We played all the time but I don't remember anyone ever getting hurt. Nobody lost an eye as far as I know." She concluded.
Patrick took his conker from his pocket and showed her.
"This one's king over four." He said, proudly. "Tomorrow Kevin's gong to show me how to play marbles."
"That's another thing you don't see nowadays. Where does this Kevin live?" She asked.
"Over on Ash Street. They've got a house with a big garden."
"Sounds like they're rich." Said his mother. "What does his dad do?"
"He works in something called planning. He's helping to rebuild something but I didn't really understand what it was. I didn't see him. He was still at work but I met Kevin's mum. She's really nice and makes super cake. I had three slices."
"What does she do?" His mum asked.
"She don't do nothing. Just stays at home. She was a bit surpised when I said you had a job." Said Patrick.
"They must be rich if she can afford not to work." Said his mum.
"They don't seem rich. They don't even have a bathroom and I don't think they've got a washing machine or central heating either. They got little gas fires in each room. They got fireplaces as well. They looks poor to me."
"What school does Kevin go to?"
"He don't go to school. They teaches him at home. They don't believe in schools."
"I can see why you gets along with them if they don't like schools." Laughed his mother. "That's right up your street."
Patrick defended his new friend.
"They don't like what they teaches you in school. Says it's a waste of time. Just like me. They wants Kevin to learn more interesting stuff."
"School's a waste of time for you but it's not the school's fault. If you put in a little bit more effort you'd like it better and you'd do better. You're just lazy."
Patrick knew where this discussion was heading and with a final, "I'm not lazy. I'm bored." he feigned a pressing need to get back to his computer. His mother took the hint and left the room. Experience had taught her there was no point in them arguing. They never drew any conclusions and merely put the dispute away to be brought out again at some time in the future. She was sorry she had called him lazy and considered going back to him and apologising but he had already closed the door to his room. She knew he wasn't really lazy. When he was interested in something he would work at it for hours and even forget to eat. He'd get up early in the morning to carry on with whatever he was doing. Unfortunately it never had anything to do with school work.
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