Chapter 8. Christmas 1953.


- Tony

It was Christmas time. I had been promoted to 'marker up' in the paper shop which paid me 35 shillings a week. I started at 5.30am and after marking up the papers, often did a round myself in place of any absent boy. With Christmas tips I managed to collect quite a large sum of money. It didn't last long; I went straight to Tillet & Roy in Ruislip Manor and bought a new Webley Senior air pistol in .22 calibre.

Christmas day was a family day with all the family plus relatives sitting round the front room cracking nuts and sipping sherry or beer. It was boring for me in my best clothes helping clear away from the enormous meal we had all gorged. My jobs also included getting in the coal for the fire and carefully folding the used Christmas wrapping paper for re-use next year.

Webley Senior

Christmas did not seem to excite me the way it had when I was little. Everyone regarded me as a young adult and as such not wanting toys anymore. The coming year I would be sitting the eleven plus exam to see if I would go to the grammar school and eventually get a good white collar job or fail and go to that dreadful secondary modern!

My Christmas presents reflected these thoughts. I had a Waterman's fountain pen and any number of writing sets no doubt to prompt me to write 'thank you letters'. There were socks, white handkerchiefs with my initial on the corner, a Yardley novelty 'soap on a rope' in the shape of a football and a host of other gifts subtly guiding me in the right direction in life. For my main present Mum and Dad had taken out a Co-op cheque and bought me my first suit. It was of grey flannel and a size too big so that I would grow into it! Uncle Jack made me a long wicked looking sheath knife!

The only time the newly acquired television was switched on was for the first Christmas speech of the new Queen Elizabeth. After standing for the national anthem the adults now merry with drink settled down to play cards. I slipped out of the smoky warmth, donned my old combat jacket and Wellingtons, picked up my rifle and stepped out into the chilled squally drizzle.

Our waste land was now being developed into a new Express dairy depot. A chain link fence was being erected with keep out signs displayed. This of course did not deter any of us, the indigenous population! The rabbits could be gassed and the rats poisoned but to keep local children out was almost impossible.

There was no one about, all my friends were doubtless still captives of their family Christmas. The drizzle abated giving way to a watery, cold sunset. I stopped, ahead of me there was a crashing in the tangle of brambles and dead leaves. Motionless I listened; whatever was making the noise was not afraid of my approach. It was there just ten yards ahead of me crashing away. I tightened my grip on my rifle. An animal would have stopped to listen for me. Perplexed and a little frightened I thought it could be Alan messing about. I shouted his name. Silence! Then after a few seconds the noise continued. There was a watchman who patrolled the site now and I thought it could be him. But surely he would have confronted me for trespassing. Weird! Then it occurred to me that it could be that funny bloke. We called him 'Perv'. He was alright when you were together. When we were younger we used to shoot at him with catapults. We thought he was filthy because he used the 'F' word all the time and crept round trying to touch little boys.

I thought it better to retrace my steps to the path. A slug whistled past me into the bushes, Bill had escaped from his family to see the last of the short winter's day. At first I thought it was he who had been stalking me but realized that he couldn't possibly have got so far ahead. I noticed that he was still carrying his old Diana, he had been hoping that his family would have clubbed together and bought him one of the new Original model 50s.

I told him about the noise and we returned to investigate. The crashing was in exactly the same place. Now, braver as two people, we strode into the undergrowth. There we saw a record sized sewer rat struggling against the wire of a snare. It regarded us defiantly before two special slugs smashed through its skull ending its torment.

- Tony Sheppard