1954 (Chapter 3)
The following morning Patrick kicked his stone to school, sat through several hours of daydreams wishing he was somewhere else, then kicked the stone eagerly through the streets to Kevin's house. Kevin was in the garden holding a fairly large knife and cutting into a piece of wood. Patrick climbed over the gate just as Kevin shouted.
"The gate is not locked. My father has the key and he said that it was silly that you had to climb over so he has unlocked it."
"What are you doing?" Patrick asked.
"I am carving a present for my father. It is his birthday soon." Said Kevin handing the piece of wood to Patrick for inspection.
He looked at it and tried to guess what it was. There was a flat bottom and it was about the size of a fist but he couldn't imagine what it was for. Kevin saw his confusion and said.
"It is a pipe-holder for my father's favourite pipe. Next I have to sandpaper it down and make it really smooth. Then I will dye it."
"Can I see the knife?" Said Patrick.
"Of course." Said Kevin handing it over. "But be careful. It is very sharp."
Patrick took the knife and handled it like it was the crown jewels, with awe and admiration. He ran his thumb along the blade and said.
"It's like a razor."
"It has to be. You cannot carve with a dull blade. The sharper the better. Here, there is a bit of spare wood, try cutting it."
Patrick held the knife in his right hand and the piece of wood in his left, positioned himself and made an incision. The knife was very sharp.
"Try not to cut so deeply. You need to shave the wood off." Admonished Kevin. "You must not be so impatient."
Patrick managed to cut a small sliver of wood and it wound itself into a spiral.
"That is wonderful." Praised Kevin. "That is how it should be. Try again."
Patrick spent the next twenty minutes trying to cut the wood into thinner and thinner layers. Some of them were almost transparent. Kevin sat patiently nearby seeming to take pleasure in Patrick's efforts. Finally he asked.
"Would you like to stay for tea?"
"If your mum don't mind." Said Patrick.
"No. She already expects you to stay. You had better phone your mother and tell her."
Patrick took the mobile phone from his pocket and Kevin stared intensely as Patrick turned it on. He moved closer and looked over Patrick's shoulder as he pressed the speed-dial. Just like the previous day there was no signal so Patrick went out into the street. The reception there was perfect. His mother answered.
"It's me." Said Patrick. "I'm at Kevin's. Can I stay to tea?"
"As long as you're not in the way." Said his mother.
"No. They were expecting me. I'll see you later."
Patrick hung up. Kevin looked with disbelief in his eyes. It was like something from an Eagle comic. Something Dan Dare would use. He would like to have one like that.
"Can you phone anyone using that or it is just your mother? I saw that you only pushed one button." He said.
"That's the speed-dial. Her number's programmed in. You can phone anyone anywhere in the world if you want. You're the only person I know that doesn't have a mobile. Don't you do texting?" Asked Patrick.
"Texting? What is that?" Enquired Kevin.
Patrick explained that it was a way of sending messages to people.
"Like Morse Code?"
"Not really but it's similar. You can write messages and your friends get them on their phones. Are you sure you don't know what a mobile phone is?"
"No." Replied Kevin. "But I will ask my father about it when he gets home. He is sure to know. I will carry on with the carving later. I have a good throwing knife. Do you want to play a game with that?"
"What do we do?" Asked Patrick.
"I will show you." Said Kevin running into the house and coming back with a long, narrow, knife with a pointed blade.
He demonstrated how they should stand a few feet from each other and throw the knife so that it stuck in the ground.
"It should not be more than twelve inches from the other's foot or else it is a foul throw. Then you have to move your foot until it is next to the blade. We will take turns. Whoever falls down first is the loser. It is great fun."
After a few failed attempts Patrick managed to make the knife stick but, by this time, his feet were a yard apart as Kevin was very good at throwing it. Patrick made three successful throws while Kevin missed his and soon the boys were stood, legs akimbo, laughing so much they both fell to the gound.
"This is a super game." Exclaimed Patrick. "Where did you learn it?"
"It was in one of my books. The Boy's Own Annual, I think it was. Sometimes I play it with Mr. Potter. He is very good at it and his legs are longer than mine so he usually wins." Said Kevin. "It is your turn to throw first."
They continued playing until Kevin's mother came to the door and announced that tea was ready.
"I am afraid it will just be the three of us again. My husband will be working late." She said. "I have made a shepherd's pie. There was a lot of meat at the butcher today. I even managed to get a small roast for the weekend."
After the pie, which was delicious, there was apple crumble with custard.
"This was very good." Said Patrick, politely. "Where did you buy it? I must tell my mum."
"I made it myself, dear. It is so good to have so much fresh food again in the shops. I was getting tired of food out of tins and packets. I can give you the recipe if you like. It is easy to make."
"My mum don't have much time to do cooking. We usually eats takeaways and ready meals." Explained Patick.
Kevin's mother seemed confused and there was a quizzical look on her face but she made no comment. After the meal the two boys went out into the garden.
"Do you like climbing trees?" Kevin asked.
"I've never done it much." Patrick replied. "You're not allowed to climb the trees in the park. It's something to do with health and safety."
Kevin seemed querulous and asked.
"You are not allowed to climb the trees? That seems strange. Well, we can climb this one."
He indicated the tall tree in the middle of the garden which, to Patrick, now seemed even taller than before.
"Isn't it a bit dangerous?" He asked. "Shouldn't we have safety helmets? What if we fall?"
"You will not fall." Declared Kevin with confidence. "It is an easy tree to climb. I have done it hundreds of time and I never fell once. As long as you hold on properly and put your feet in the right places there is no danger."
With that he moved to the tree, caught hold of the lowest branch, and hauled himself up upon it. He stood and held on to a branch further up.
"Come on Patrick." He said. "I will give you a hand if you like."
Patrick was determined to do it himself and copied Kevin's actions. The first two times he failed but the third time he managed to get a leg over the branch and pull himself up. It was not far from the ground but he already felt excited and very nervous. Kevin moved further up the tree and indicated that Patrick should follow him. Patrick was not naturally brave but he was not going to lose face in front of Kevin who was alredy climbing higher. He moved up a branch and then another and was soon halfway up the tree. He stopped and looked down. It was a long way to fall and he could kill himself if he did. He hung on even more firmly.
"Do not look down." Kevin advised. "It can make you feel giddy. Either look up or in front of you. I go to the very top. You can see a long way from there. Are you coming?"
"Yes. Of course." Said Patrick, with little conviction, and started climbing again but more slowly and carefully. When he finally joined Kevin at the top of the tree he felt a great sense of achievement and, in spite of Kevin's warning, he did look down. It was a really long way and he was worried about going down again but he forgot all that as he looked out over the roofs of the surrounding houses and all the way to the church on the far side of town. He felt really powerful but didn't know why. He was incredibly happy. There was a branch where the two boys could sit quite comfortably.
"I sit up here for hours sometimes." Said Kevin. "It is really good when the wind is blowing. The whole tree moves."
Patrick thought that it was scary enough as it was, being so far up, and had no wish to experience a moving tree. He was happy for it to stand stock-still.
"I had better be going home." He said. "My mum will be expecting me and there's a programme I want to see on telly."
"Telly?" Kevin questioned.
"Yeh. Television. Did you see the match last night?" Asked Patrick.
"We do not have a television. My father says they are a waste of money and he will wait a few years until there are better programmes. He says he does not think it will ever be as popular as the wireless and that it robs people of their imaginations. He is not sure if it is a good thing." Concluded Kevin.
Patrick suddenly felt sad for him. What a shame to have such a strict father that won't allow television in the house and, as for waiting for better programmes, he had over a hundred channels. There was something for everyone.
"Maybe you could come over and watch telly at my place. I'm sure my mum won't mind." Offered Patrick.
"I would like that but I will have to ask my father first." Said Kevin. "Shall we go down now? I will go first. Take it slowly."
Patrick found it surprisingly easy to climb down. He held on very tightly with both hands as his foot reached out to find a place to stand. In no time he was jumping onto the grass beneath the tree and smiling very broadly.
"I really liked that." He said. "We're going to have to do that again."
"How about tomorrow?" Kevin suggested.
"I'll tell my mum so she won't expect me." Said Patrick.
They said goodbye at the gate and Patrick kicked his stone all the way home scoring a hat-trick for England in the process.
His mum was sat in her armchair watching a reality show where people cooked meals for each other and then marked them out of ten. She was addicted to that show though he didn't know why. She was sat with a portion of fish and chips on her lap watching people prepare lobsters and venison and fillet steak and the most amazing desserts. He watched the last five minutes with her. She liked company sometimes. At the end of the show, as usual, she disagreed with the verdict of the diners and thought someone else should have won."
"She used custard from a packet and her brother-in-law, who's a chef, helped her prepare her main. That's what I call cheating."
She went on for several minutes criticising not just the culinary skills of the winner but also her appearance and personality. When she finally stopped Patrick asked.
"Can I go to Kevin's after school tomorrow? Oh. I said he could come over here and watch telly. I said you wouldn't mind."
"Don't he have his own telly?" She asked.
"No. They don't have one. His dad don't agree with it." Patrick explained.
"What do they do in the evenings with no telly? I suppose they're all on their computers."
"I haven't seen any computers and I noticed that they don't have a fridge or a freezer and I don't think there's a washing machine." Said Patrick.
"I couldn't live without my washing machine. There's only two of us but I uses it every day. There's always something that needs being done. I can't imagine what it's like with three of them. What's his dad like?"
"I haven't met him yet. He worked late again today." Explained Patrick. "Oh. By the way. I had shepherd's pie and apple crumble with custard for tea. She made it all herself. It was super good."
"If she don't have a job she'll have plenty of time for stuff like that. I wish I did have the time to make nice meals for you but by the time I get home I'm really tired and can't be bothered. It was different when your dad was here. I'd never had a job until he left and then I had to work. I didn't really want to but we needed the money. When he was here I used to spend hours in the kitchen. He expected a hot meal when he got home and the traditional Sunday roast with all the trimmings. I gets hungry when I thinks of some of the meals I made. You wouldn't think so but I actually enjoys making proper food. I tell you what. On Sunday I'll do an old fashioned roast and you can invite your new friend Kevin. If Bob from work is free I'll invite him too. He looks like he could do with a good meal." She said, decisively.
"OK." Said Patrick. "I'll ask him."
He then kissed his mum on the cheek, went to his room and turned on the television.
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