annanotbob2's Diaryland Diary


The Way We Were

From writing group today:

1963, Highworth, Wilts.
Penny May says we’re going on an adventure, an exposition. She told us to go and get provisions, which is food to eat on the journey. Mum would never give me food in the middle of the morning, but she was leaning on the fence talking to Mrs Parker about the birds eating all the raspberries, so I sneaked in and stole three biscuits from the tin.
Penny made us stand in a line, smallest in front (Susan Parker), then middles (my sister Sally and brother Andrew), then me at the back cos I’m biggest.
She made us ‘stand tall, comrades!’ then a load of stuff I didn’t understand. We all had our bows and arrows with us – we’d made them last weekend with sticks from the elderberry bush. I started picking off the last bits of bark on my arrow,
We had to explore the land between the tennis court and the hedge – there isn’t really any land – the court is right in the corner of the rec and the hedge pokes through the fence in places. We’d have to crawl – she said it might be dangerous but that she had faith in us. Andrew started to cry when she said dangerous till Sally said it wasn’t really dangerous, just pretending, which made Penny May cross and I thought we’d all be able to just go and play on the swings but Penny said, ”Right, men, onwards!” She meant us though we’re not men, we’re girls except Andrew but he still wears a nappy so he’s not a man.
She went first, Penny May, on her hands and knees under the hawthorn at the paddock end and we all followed her. Andrew didn’t like it and started crying again but stopped when I told him we had biscuits.
It was good, like a tunnel of green, like another world. It smelled of cow parsley, mostly. We could hear the whack of the tennis balls and the shouts of the grown ups as they hit them to and fro, but we couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see us. It was prickly on my knees, but not too much and Penny May thrashed the life out of the stinging nettles with her bow and arrows and pushed them back before us little’uns got there.
It took us hours and hours to get to the corner where there was a little space under the branches, like a den and we sat all together eating our provisions. We had our biscuits, custard creams, and Susan Parker had a bag of Little Gems, which she wouldn’t share. She never shares anything, though she does let us come to her house and listen to her Beatles LP. Penny May started to tell us a story about being stuck in the middle, half way between there and back again, but I didn’t really listen. Sometimes she forgets that we’re little children. She had a sugar sandwich wrapped in the paper from the bread. Mother’s Pride, red and white stripes like Swindon Town Football team, she said.
We were tired now and thirsty but we had to keep going or we’d have to spend all the rest of our lives in the green land by the tennis court. It took all day to get to the end of the tunnel, but suddenly there we were, out the other side, by the swings and the seesaw. There were lots of children from across the main road on the swings and they all stared at us but Penny May told them we were adventurers so of course we had muddy faces and bits of hedge in our hair. Better than being clean and boring.
I love Penny May. I’m going to be like her when I’m a big girl.

10:43 p.m. - 06.11.23


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