Kevin pushed the wheelchair through the long grass and across the sports field towards the football pitch. The wheels bobbled over the small bumps, and Charlie, who was sat inside, found that he had to clutch the sides tightly. He looked up at Kevin and grinned, his freckled face lighting up with pleasure as the bumpy movements relieved the boredom of the previous monotonous smooth ride along the main road.
They reached the touchline and Kevin steered the wheelchair into a gap between the spectators. The match had already started. Many of the players from both teams surged around the football field in a constantly changing pattern in their efforts to maintain their respective positions.
The muddy ball swung high, in a wide arc, towards the part of the pitch where Kevin was standing. The right half player loomed into view, just in front of Kevin on his left. He hooked the ball strongly up the field towards the centre, mud flying from his boot and scattering to the ground near Charlie’s feet.
‘’Come on lads! Get stuck in! Now’s your chance!’’ a voice shouted from just along the white line to Kevin’s right. Kevin stuck his head out and peered to see who had shouted. He saw that it was Jack Cooper. Kevin thought that he had recognised the voice. Jack, a short burly man, was a keen fan. He avidly followed Millbrook Athletic and could usually be spotted somewhere at every match they played.
‘Oooh!’ A large cry welled up out of the crowds on the touchlines as the muddy ball skimmed like a missile over the top post of the Ilford goal. The goalkeeper seemed to hover in the air for a brief moment, his arm outstretched towards the ball in a supreme effort to help it on its way, before he crashed to the ground. This was followed by applause as many of the spectators clapped.
In the brief respite whilst the ball was being recovered the members of the crowd visibly relaxed. The tall thin man in the grubby grey raincoat, who was standing to the left of Kevin, cupped his thin bony hands together and blew between his thumbs. Hot breath steamed out from the effort and disappeared rapidly into the sharp cold air. Then he rubbed his hands vigorously together and blew more hot breath out in a relaxing sigh as he stared down the pitch to where the ball had disappeared.
‘Like a torpedo that one was.’ He remarked.
‘Lower your periscope!’ shouted Jack and grinned around at the crowd seeking some response.
Kevin looked down at Charlie. ‘All right? ‘He asked. ‘Are you warm enough?’
Charlie grinned up at him. He only had his thin grey ragged summer jumper on but he was wrapped in a cream coloured woollen blanket. Admittedly it was rather stained with brown patches but it was the only one his mum could spare. At least it was thick and warm and kept out most of the cold air. He actually felt quite warm and cosy.
‘Yes’ He replied. ‘Can we stay long?’
‘Only a few minutes.’ Kevin said ruefully. ‘Then we must go on to the shop.’
Kevin lifted his head up and stared back down the pitch. The goalkeeper was placing the ball down and getting ready to resume play.
Kevin did not want to leave at all but he knew that they had to carry on walking to the shops. Dad would be home soon and he would want his tea. Kevin knew that it would not be fair to let him down. He and Charlie had been sent to the shops to get some more bread and mum needed that for his dad’s tea. Anyway, Kevin would not let his dad down. He loved him too much and would never do that.
Play resumed and the ball soared high towards the centre of the field. The ball descended rapidly and was neatly trapped by one of the Ilford team players. The crowd tensed in anticipation as the player made a short pass to another member of the Ilford team over towards their right wing. A sequence of short sharp passes then followed as the Ilford team members tried to maintain possession of the ball. Moving down the pitch towards the Millbrook goal the Ilford players managed to retain possession of the ball. It was once again passed swiftly over to the Ilford right wing player. A sliding tackle from the Millbrook left half failed to obtain the ball and the right-winger hooked it in a high arc towards the centre of the Millbrook goal.
‘Look out lads!’ shouted Jack Cooper, straining forward to see clearly to his left.
The ball descended just in front of the Millbrook goal and two players stretched up in a desperate attempt to reach it with their heads. The Millbrook goalkeeper however was in position. He sprung high and his gloved hands rose in a desperate attempt to cover his goal. He just managed to touch the ball with his left hand.
‘Oooh!’ The cry from the crowd welled up again. The ball skimmed past both the opposing player’s heads and deflected then bounced off towards the corner of the field.
Kevin, who had been watching intently, breathed a sigh of relief.
‘Wow!’ exclaimed Charlie from down below. He grinned up at Kevin as Kevin glanced down at him. ‘Near thing that Kev!’
‘Good match’ remarked Kevin, smiling back at Charlie. He sighed again. Only this time it was a wistful sigh. ‘I suppose we had better go’
Kevin twisted the pushchair around and they set off bobbling again back towards the road. The gap in the crowd standing along the touchline closed together behind them.
As they drew away from the field the shouting welled up again. Kevin had desperately wanted to stay to watch the match but duty called. The cries of the crowd grew fainter as they neared the road.
Crossing over the road, Kevin pushed the wheelchair across the entrance of Barefoot Street. The street was typical of most of the streets in Millbrook. It was bounded on either side by a row of back-to-back terraced houses. The doors fronted straight onto the pavement. Each door had a small step at the foot of it. Some of these were coloured red. Flimsy white net curtains covered most of the windows. Some of the net curtains looked fresh and crisp.
However the general atmosphere was very depressing. The houses were badly stained. They were covered with years of black grime inherited from the grey smoke that unceasingly poured out from the numerous house and factory chimneys in the town.
To add to the misery the pavements were constructed of large broken and crooked grey stone slabs. This was the result of years of neglect. Weeds, struggling to survive in a hostile environment, sprouted through the cracks. At the far end of the street on the left was a row of communal toilets.
Immediately across the other side of the entrance to Barefoot Street, on the corner, stood the shop that Kevin was aiming for. He crossed the street pushing the wheelchair, which this time bobbled over the cobbled surface. Charlie looked up at Kevin and grinned again. Charlie liked the movements, uncomfortable though they were. The bobbling reminded him very much of the journey that he had taken on Mr. Corbett’s coal cart last week.
Kevin opened the door of the shop. A bell jangled as they entered. The smell of freshly baked bread wafted over both of the boys as the entered the shop. Inside facing them was the counter. A large pair of brass weighing scales stood on the right hand side of the counter. On the left two jars of broken biscuits lay facing them. Behind the counter were rows of shelves stacked high with tins and packets of all types of goods. The bread that he wished to purchase was stacked on the second shelf up on the right.
A door over in the corner of the shop opened and Mrs Paisley, the shop owner came in. She was a rather plump, grey haired, kindly looking woman. She smiled at them both. She lifted her apron off the peg on the door and began to strap it on.
‘Hello Love’ she said to Kevin. ‘Come for your Dad’s tea have you?’
‘Yes Mrs Paisley.’ Replied Kevin, smiling back at her. ‘Mum say’s could we have some more bread – Oh – and can she have it on the slate?’
Mrs Paisley stared steadily at him for a moment with a rather more serious look. Then she looked down at Charlie. Then she smiled at Kevin again.
‘Oh, I think we can manage that.’ She said. ‘I know your mum will pay me on Saturday.’
Now, Saturday was payday and Kevin knew that he would be sent straight round to the shop with the money as soon as his Dad came home with the wages.
Kevin’s dad, Fred, was a miner. He worked in the local Colliery. He was well respected by his workmates in the mine. Like many of the families in Millbrook the Harrison’s were desperately poor. It was true that the wages for the miners were low, but jobs were hard to find. To be employed in these difficult times was a blessing. The wage did at least provide the rent and to some extent feed a small family. Unfortunately there was little money left over for the small luxuries in life.
This of course was the reason that Kevin could not play for the local Methodist church football team. His dad could not afford to buy him a pair of football boots. Kevin certainly did not lack any of the skills necessary to join the team. After all, like most of the local lads Kevin had learnt his football skills playing in the streets. In fact, Kevin was gifted. He was a natural football player. He also had the grit and determination to succeed, and if you want to fulfil a dream you have to pursue it. Kevin pursued his dream and practiced every day. He just needed a pair of football boots.
Mrs Paisley reached up and took down a large soft white loaf of bread from the second shelf.
‘And how are you today young Charlie?’ she queried, as she wrapped up the loaf of bread in some brown paper.
Charlie looked up at her. His freckled face beamed up at her and then crinkled into a cheeky grin.
‘Oh fine Mrs Paisley.’ He replied.
She smiled back at him as she pushed the wrapped loaf across the wooden counter towards Kevin.
‘How are your legs?’ She asked Charlie. ‘Any signs of improvement yet?’
Kevin looked down at Charlie. His mind flashed back to when Charlie had first tried to walk. His mum and dad had been very worried when Charlie had shown no signs of hauling himself up and tottering when he had been tiny. They had taken him to the doctors and had found out that Charlie had a rare disease. After lots of examinations his mum and dad were told that Charlie was unlikely to ever walk correctly. However, they were also told that with repeated treatment there might be some hope that Charlie’s mobility may improve slightly. Charlie had received some treatment over the years and he could stand and walk now for a short distance but he was very ungainly and found it very tiring.
‘All right Thank’s Mrs Paisley. I shall be playing football soon.’ Charlie gave her a wicked grin.
Kevin looked up. He reached out and picked up the wrapped loaf of bread. He bent down and handed it to Charlie. Charlie took it and laid it across his knees. The loaf felt warm and cosy. He wrapped his arms around it.
‘Now mind you don’t have a little nibble of that loaf on the way home’ Mrs Paisley said sternly to Charlie. ‘We can’t have customers saying we’ve got mice in the shop’. She smiled gently at Charlie.
‘It’s the mice at home that will fancy it’ Charlie replied. ‘They live under the larder.’
Mrs Paisley gave him a look of mock horror. She was well aware that most of the houses had resident mice.
‘Well, I hope you have a good mousetrap’. She replied.
‘Mum doesn’t like the mice’. Charlie said ‘but I’m rather fond of them, so she doesn’t use it’.
Charlie did not want to tell her that the real reason was that they could not afford to put a piece of cheese in the trap.
‘Thank’s Mrs Paisley’ said Kevin ‘See you on Saturday.’ He turned the pushchair around and headed towards the door.
‘I’m sure you will’ She replied. She gazed thoughtfully after them as they headed out of the shop.
The bell jangled again as they left. Out on the pavement Kevin headed back across the entrance to Barefoot Street. This time they continued along the main road past the sports field. In the distance another roar from the watching crowd welled up.
Continuing down the main road they crossed over the entrance to Duke Street and a little further on turned into King Street where they lived.
King Street was almost identical in appearance to all the other streets in the area. Perhaps the only difference was that at the far end it was terminated by a scrap metal yard. This yard did not improve the general appearance of the immediate area; in fact the yard degraded it to some extent. Two eight-foot tall wire gates, which were padlocked for most of the time, straddled the road at the entrance to the yard. Inside could be seen several piles of rusting metal, heaps of girders and several large black boilers. The weeds had even here having seized upon the opportunity to grow in cracks in the concrete.
However, the gates were of advantage to the lads who lived in the street. They served as a goal net. As Kevin turned into the street he could see several boys kicking an old battered football around.
Kevin steered the pushchair across the street to their house, number 10. There were sixty terraced houses in his street. Thirty on each side of the road. He stopped outside the front door. Fishing into his pocket he produced a metal key. He inserted it into the lock on the front door and turning the handle pushed open the door.
The entrance led straight into the front room. Immediately inside the doorway there was a hair mat set into a well type depression on the floor. The floor was covered in linoleum. The linoleum had a diamond shaped pattern and was of a light brown colour. It was shiny because Kevin’s mum kept it smartly clean and washed it regularly. Over on the right was the fireplace. Blue patterned tiles surrounded this and the mantelpiece and hearth were constructed of black slate. In front of this on the floor was a rag mat. Both Kevin and Charlie had helped to make this. Her sister who lived nearby had given Mrs Harrison some old clothes. Kevin and Charlie had spent many an evening cutting old worn out black overcoats and trousers into short strips. They had pulled these through the sack backing with the clip tool to make the mat. Either side of the fireplace were alcoves. One contained three shelves on which were displayed some ornaments.
Above the fireplace hung a mirror. It hung on a chain from the white wooden picture rail above. The reflection in the mirror seemed to make the room look bigger than it really was. There was a small low settee against the far wall, adjacent to the doorway leading into the next room and an armchair opposite this under the front window.
Kevin reached down and put his hands under Charlie’s armpits and pulling upwards helped him to stand up. Charlie, still clinging onto the loaf, winced a little because he had stiffened up a bit through sitting for so long.
At that moment the door opposite them opened and Mrs Harrison appeared. She was a tiny, rather thin woman, pasty in appearance but she always seemed to present an air of kindness.
‘Hello you two’. She smiled. ‘Back already? My, that was quick.’
‘Well there was no queue at the shop’. Beamed Charlie. ‘Is dad home yet?’
‘He’s just finished work.’ Mrs Harrison replied. ‘Pop the bread in the kitchen lads; the tea will be ready in about half an hour. Oh, and shoes off please, they look rather muddy’. She smiled again at them and then disappeared off up the stairs in the narrow hallway.
Kevin helped Charlie over to the settee and Charlie sat down. Kevin reached down and untying Charlie’s boots pulled each one off. He then untied his own shoes and, carrying them over, placed them on the hair mat to dry out. He then lifted Charlie up again.
‘How’s the legs?’ he asked.
‘I think I can manage now Kev’.’ Charlie replied. ‘The feeling’s coming back.’
They entered the kitchen. Charlie put the loaf down on the table that was in the centre of the room. The table was already laid. An enticing appetising smell wafted over towards them from the gas cooker situated over against the far wall. The kitchen, slightly larger than the front room had a window, next to the back door, facing out onto the rear yard. Over on the right opposite the window a small area, which was curtained off, led down to the cellars. They both in turn washed their hands under the kitchen sink tap. Then they sat down at the table.
The other door opened and Kevin’s Dad, a dark haired, broad shouldered man came in.
‘Now then’. He said. His brown eyes twinkling. ‘Are you hungry you pair?’
‘Hello Dad.’ Said Kevin. ‘Had a good day?’
‘Fair to middling.’ Mr Harrison replied, sitting down at the table. ‘And how about you? How did school go?’
Both Kevin and Charlie attended Hop Lane Secondary School. The school founded in 1875 was quite large. It was one of three schools in the town. Hop Lane was the nearest in their area. Life in the school was quite strict. Kevin had to push Charlie to school in the wheelchair every day except Thursday, when Mr Corbett’s coal round passed the school and they got a free ride both ways. Kevin was fourteen years old so he was in the third year. Charlie was a year younger so he was in the third year class.
‘Oh fine dad’. Kevin said. ‘Mr Clarkson said that my work was good. He gave me top marks for my sums’.
‘Well-done lad. That’s the way. What about you young Charlie?’ He queried ‘How did you get on?’
‘Miss Fisher said my reading is improving’. Charlie replied cheerfully. ‘She asked me to stand up and read from the class book today. It’s called ‘The Black Arrow’. It is a story about the War of the Roses.’
‘Good’. Remarked Mr Harrison. ‘How are the legs today?’ He asked gently.
‘Oh, not so bad Dad.’ Replied Charlie cheerfully. ‘I managed to join in with a bit of P.E. for about ten minutes today’.
Mr Harrison rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. His eyes twinkled and he smiled at Charlie.
‘Well, that is good news Charlie. That’s an improvement from last year. I can remember when you could barely stand then. We’ll have you playing football yet’
‘We watched the match for a few minutes today.’ Charlie said. ‘It was really good.’
Mr Harrison looked across at Kevin. He frowned slightly.
‘I’m sorry about the boots Kevin. Times in the mine are hard at the moment. Wages are low and I’m lucky to have a job. Many of the lads are laid off at present. Hopefully things will improve and then we’ll see what we can do for you’.
Kevin looked back at him. He felt disappointed but tried not to show it. The problem was that there was a depression on. Many people had lost money when the stock market had crashed. The demand for coal had dropped and the mine bosses were nervously hanging on to their money.
‘Oh that’s alright Dad.’ He replied. ‘I’ll just keep on practicing until you can get me some.’
Mr Harrison stared thoughtfully at him for a moment. Then he continued.
‘Well, I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you both go outside for a short while and do that now whilst I get cleaned up and ready for tea?’
‘Thanks Dad.’ Said Kevin.
‘Only half an hour mind you.’ Said Mr Harrison. ‘No longer.’ He smiled at them again.
Then he rose and headed off upstairs.
Kevin helped Charlie up and they returned to the front room. The boots were replaced and they let themselves out of the front door.
Once they were in the street they headed down towards the scrap yard gates. As they got nearer the football came skidding across the road surface towards them. Kevin neatly trapped it with his right leg and returned it with a skilful gentle punt towards the gates.
A tall, gangly, ginger haired lad with a dirty, smudged, smiling freckled face came bounding towards them. He was dressed in rather ragged but clean clothes.
‘Kev! Great! Have you come to play?’
Billy Platter was one of Kevin’s best friends. Kevin liked him a lot. They were in the same class at school. Billy was always friendly and cheerful. Billy’s dad was in the mines as well. He worked in the pit on the same team as Kevin’s dad. Billy was also mad keen on football. However, Billy had been a bit luckier than Kevin. His dad had a brother called Frank who worked at the Millbrook Athletic Ground. Frank had managed to find Billy a second hand pair of football boots and Billy had managed to get a place in the Methodist church team. Billy was a skilled footballer and he was an asset to the team.
‘We’ve got about half an hour.’ Said Kevin. ‘Who’s playing?’
Billy looked back towards the gates. He pointed to a group of lads who were stood staring at them.
‘It’s Jack, Fred and George against Sam and me. But Sam’s got to go home now. You two can come on my side and that will be three against three, won’t it?’
Kevin looked across at the group. He frowned for a brief moment. The only trouble was that George Harvey who lived in Duke Street was there. Kevin did not like George very much. George always seemed to be sarcastic and prickly. George, a big built lad was also unfortunately a bully. He had a few close friends but no one liked him very much. Kevin did not like George’s dad either. He also worked down the pits but he was on a different team to his dad’s. Mick Harvey was a burly loud man who threw his weight around. He also drank most of his wages away down the pub. George had tried to bully Kevin but Kevin had stood his ground and managed to fend him off up until now.
‘You don’t mind then if Charlie joins in?’ Kevin asked.
‘Course not.’ replied Billy with a friendly grin, looking at Charlie. ‘Come on Charlie you can be our goal keeper.’
Charlie grinned back at Billy.
‘Thank’s Billy’ He beamed. ‘Thought you would want a professional in the team.’
‘Right then.’ Billy responded. He clapped his arm round Charlie’s shoulder. ‘Come on Charlie – you’re in.’
They headed towards the group.
George Harvey was standing in the middle of the group bouncing the ball mindlessly up and down. He looked up as they approached. Then he spoke.
‘What did we stop for then?’ He snapped out, looking at Billy. ‘Raining is it?’
‘No, Kev and Charlie are here and they are going to play.’ Billy replied.
George turned his head and looked at Kevin. His cold blue eyes narrowed.
‘Who said?’ he challenged.
‘I said he could.’ Replied Billy. ‘Any way Sam’s got to go home. Then it’s three against three.’
George continued to stare at Kevin. Kevin stared back.
‘More like three against two and a half.’ George sneered still staring hard at Kevin. ‘The half will be Knock Kneed Charlie.’
Kevin felt his blood level rapidly rising. He remembered the advice his dad had given him. He had told him to keep calm when someone was trying to wind you up. He tried not to show his anger.
‘Charlie would like to play.’ Kevin replied calmly, staring George out. ‘It will help him to develop his legs.’
George’s top lip twitched. He continued to stare at Kevin.
‘How’s he going to get the ball off me then?’ he retorted. ‘After I’ve gone home?’
George brutally laughed loudly. Then he dropped his gaze from Kevin and swivelled his head to look around at the others for support. Then he swivelled his head back to stare fixedly at Kevin again.
‘He won’t have to.’ Said Kevin quietly. ‘He’s going to be in our goal.’
That did it. The hidden inference that George would not get near enough to Charlie to score a goal suddenly wound George up like a clock. His top lip twitched rapidly again twice. He suddenly knew that he had lost the verbal battle. He dropped his gaze and turned away. Savagely he booted the ball against the gates. The metal mesh wire shuddered under the force of the blow and then the ball bounded away.
‘Come on then.’ George snarled ‘let’s play.’
They played for twenty-five minutes altogether. Eventually both Billy and Kevin scored a goal. Once Fred managed to get a shot at their goal and luckily it deflected off Charlie’s wheelchair. Jack also got one shot in and Charlie actually managed to raise one leg and deflect it away. George got more and more angry as each time he neared the goal that Charlie was in, either Billy or Kevin managed to get the ball from him.
Finally the game came to a halt when Billy booted the ball by mistake over the scrap yard gates. George climbed over and retrieved it and came back bouncing the ball. He stood, breathing heavily, in front of Kevin, and stared hard at him in pure hatred.
‘Sorry.’ Said Kevin. ‘But we’ve got to go home now. Our tea will be ready.’
‘Chickening out are you?’ snarled George. ‘Just when we’re about to score.’
‘No.’ Replied Kevin with a steady gaze. ‘I told Dad I would be back home in half an hour.’
‘Yeh?’ Said George. ‘He stared hard at Kevin once more. ‘Shove off then while you’re winning.’
He turned round and glared over towards Charlie. Then he savagely booted the ball in his direction.
Unfortunately the ball came at Charlie like a rocket. It hit him full on the side of his face and his wheelchair toppled over sideways under the force of the blow.
‘Goal!’ Jeered George loudly. He turned to stare in defiance at Kevin.
Kevin and Billy rushed across and looked at Charlie. He was writhing in agony and biting his lip in pain. Tears were starting to well up in his eyes.
‘You all right Charlie?’ asked Billy anxiously as he and Kevin lifted the wheelchair upright. Kevin put his hands under Charlie’s armpits and heaved him back into the wheelchair.
Charlie’s hand went up to his cheek. His cheek was already turning very red.
‘Yea- yes. I’m ok.’ He said. He screwed up his eyes and tears squeezed out. Then he opened them. He rubbed his cheek and then dropped his hand to look for signs of blood. ‘Yes, it stings that’s all.’
Kevin turned to look at George. He clenched his fists.
‘There was no need to do that.’ He said quietly.
George smirked at Kevin.
‘Oh, sorry.’ He replied. ‘I was aiming for that wall over there. Foot must have slipped.’
He turned to look at Jack and Fred who were staring at Charlie.
‘Come on.’ He said, grinning in triumph. ‘Let’s go back to our alleyway. I’ll get me catapult out and well have some fun.’
With that he went over, picked the ball up and followed reluctantly by the Fred and Jack set off down the street, whistling.
‘Typical.’ Said Billy, watching them leave. ‘He’s always got to try to get the last word in. Don’t know when to stop does he. Never mind, He’ll meet his match one day.’
Kevin quietly stared after them as well as they disappeared around the corner into the main road. He remembered what his Dad had said and tried not to get too angry.
‘Trouble is.’ he replied thoughtfully. ‘It’s the amount of damage he achieves in the meantime before his day of reckoning comes.’
‘You wonder how people like him get like that.’ Said Billy. ’Why can’t he be friendly like most people?’
‘My Dad says that it’s because they feel really insecure deep inside themselves.’ Replied Kevin. ‘He say’s that they then get jealous of people who look happy and try to take it out them.’
He looked down at Charlie. Charlie bravely grinned up at him. The red patch on his cheek was slowly fading away.
‘Feeling better?’ he queried.
‘Yes. It’s ok now.’ Charlie replied. He grinned again cheerfully. ‘I guess I should have ducked.’
‘Come on then.’ Said Kevin, reaching forward and playfully ruffling Charlies hair, ‘We had better go home or we’ll be late for tea.’
‘I’ll give you a hand to push him.’ Said Billy grinning broadly ‘I’ve got big muscles due to pushing the cricket club roller down the pitch with me Dad.’
Kevin looked at Billy’s arms.
‘They look like a pair of small hard peas to me.’ He said seriously, peering at them.
They all laughed.
Together they pushed Charlie back home.
The following morning everyone was up on time. Fred Harrison, Kevin’s dad was on day shift and started work at 7a.m. He left at twenty minutes to seven carrying his bottle of water and his sandwiches that were wrapped up in old newspaper. He did not mind day or shift work. In fact he welcomed any mining work that was available. After all, less than two million miners were now employed. He was grateful to be one of them.
He kissed Mrs Harrison lightly on the cheek and shouted goodbye to the boys. Then he left. Kevin could hear his Dad’s hobnail boots clattering down the street and fading into the distance. Shortly after he heard the pit hooter going.
Both Kevin and Charlie usually went round to Andersons scrap yard on a Saturday morning to help out. They collected empty jam jars and bottles whenever they could and were paid a small amount of money by Mr Anderson for finding and sorting them. They also helped to sort the old clothes that Mr Anderson had assembled during his 'Rag and Bone' round. Sometimes this was a source for replacing their own clothes if anything really decent turned up. They always gave most of the money that they made to Mum to save for Christmas. However they were allowed to keep three pence each occasionally and they often used this to buy apples. Kevin would push Charlie round to Shepherd's nursery where Mr Shepherd let them collect a handful of fallers from under the trees in the orchard. They set off just after eight o’clock.
Mrs Harrison had some washing and ironing to do. She put most of the items to be washed into the copper, stirred it around with the copper stick and then switched it on to boil. Then she scrubbed some clothes in the kitchen sink. Kevin sometimes helped with mangling the washing, which squeezed most of the water out before it was hung up to dry. He did not mind doing this job. He liked watching the cogs go round when the handle was turned. His dad kept them well oiled. He usually turned the mangle handle whilst his mum fed the clothes through the rollers. Sometimes they swapped over but you had to watch your fingers as you fed the washing through. Some of the clothes from the previous day had dried and she switched the gas stove on and put the iron on the ring. She had two irons and always swapped them over when one grew cold. She made sure that the iron cloth, which was burnt and charred round the edges through constant use, was handy.
By lunchtime Kevin and Charlie had finished and they set off home for lunch. On the way home they passed the pithead. They stopped for a while and watched the coal tubs being hauled up to the surface. The coal was being emptied into the screens where the slack and dirt was removed and the coal graded. Railway wagons were underneath the screens collecting coal and some wagons clattering away, were being shunted into the sidings.
They also passed the Miners Institute. This was on the main road. It had been built by the Miners Union. It was funded by money that was collected every week from the miners.
By the time they got home they were really hungry. However lunch was not quite ready and Charlie wanted to play with his ants. He and Kevin had found some old glass panes and they had wedged them together, filled them with lumps of soil and put an ant’s nest inside. That way they could watch the ants building their nest. They kept it in the corner of the back yard. They went into the back yard and slid the box containing the ant house out. They sat gently poking at them with some small sticks and watching them working. Eventually Mrs Harrison called them in for lunch so they slid the box back out of sight and went indoors.
It was halfway through lunch that disaster struck. They all heard the hooter going at the same time. This was something that everyone in Millbrook dreaded might one day happen again. It had happened many years back and it had heralded the news that twenty-three miners had lost their lives.
Kevin looked across at his Mum. She was sitting quite still listening and gazing in the direction of the kitchen window with her teacup poised in mid air. She slowly put her cup down on the table, not really looking as to where she was placing it. Then she turned her head and looked across at him and Charlie. Suddenly he could not fail to notice that her face had become quite pale and then she sat there and shut her eyes for a brief instance, breathing in and out heavily. He knew straight away what she was thinking.
Then she stood up and started to unfasten her apron. She looked across at them once more. Then she spoke calmly and quietly.
‘Well that does not sound too good does it lads? Right. We had better go and see what is happening.’
Kevin scrambled to his feet. He reached across and grabbed Charlie’s blanket and quickly tucked it around his lap. Mrs Harrison picked up her coat and putting it on fastened the buttons up. Between them they steered Charlie’s wheelchair out through the front door.
They did not emerge alone. King Street was already humming with activity, other doors were already open and several anxious families had already started to head towards the pithead.
What do you think has possibly happened at the mine? Do you think Kevin will ever get any football boots? Can Mr Harrison manage to get more money to pay for them? What do you think will happen to Charlie? Will he recover eventually from his illness?
Perhaps you would like to show this story to your teacher and then write down what you think happens next.
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