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Terry Collett Nov 2013
Lydia's mother
sliced the bread thinly
and buttered sparingly
and handed Lydia

two limp slices
and said
get that inside you

can't have you going
everywhere
with your stomach rumbling
people'd think

you've not been fed
Lydia took the two slices
and a mug of stewed tea

but she hadn't been fed
that was why
she went and got
the rolls and bread

but she said nothing
just nodded her head
and followed her mother

into the living room
and sat at the table
her big sister
had gone to bed

her father was sleeping
off the beer
Lydia nibbled like a mouse

a thin long haired girl
of a mouse
can I go up West?
she asked

up West?
her mother repeated
as if her daughter

had sworn at her
up West?
she said again
turning the words around

in her head
to see how they fitted in best  
can I?

her daughter
asked again anxiously
you can in the sense
that it's possible

but if you mean may
as a permissibility
then no

her mother said
what?
Lydia said
uncertain where

she was
in her request
your gran always said

that the difference
between can and may
is one of possibility
over permissibility

said Lydia's mother
may I go?
Lydia asked softly

no you may not
her mother said
why not?
her daughter asked

because I said so
her mother replied
why do want to go there?

her mother asked
Benedict said
he was going there
and that he'd take me

Lydia replied
oh him
her mother said

she sat and took a bite
from her sandwich
picturing the boy
from upstairs

in the flats
with his hazel eyes
and big smile

and self assurance
about him
why does he want to go
up West?

she asked
he likes adventures
Lydia said

adventures?
her mother said
repeating the word
as if

it were unknown to her
who does he think he is
Biggles or someone

like that?
Lydia sat nibbling
frowning
holding the bread

in her thin hands
he's never mentioned Biggles
Lydia said

don't talk
with your mouth full
her mother scolded
Lydia swallowed

the bread
he's not said nothing
about no Biggles

Lydia said
well you can't go
her mother said firmly
looking at her daughter's

thin frame
and lank long hair
do you mean I mayn't?

Lydia uttered gently
I said what I mean
her mother said
and don't get mouthy

like your big sister
or you'll feel
my hand

across your backside
Lydia nibbled
and looked away
a train steamed crossed

the railway bridge
leaving grey white smoke
behind it

lingering there
unsettling the air
her mother muttered words
but Lydia didn't listen

she watched clouds
cross the sky darkly
carrying a storm

or rain
she liked her backside
as it was
she didn't want

no pain
she'd not ask
again.
A YOUNG GIRL IN LONDON IN 1950S AND HER MOTHER.
Terry Collett Mar 2016
Edinburgh? You want to go
get a train to Edinburgh?
Lydia's dad says. Not now,
when I'm older, Lydia says,

looking at her father's steely
eyes, sober, smile lingering.
On your own? He asks, gazing
at her, taking in her skinny

frame, arms, legs and long
straight hair. No, with Benny,
she says, we went to Kings
Cross Station saw the train

that goes to Edinburgh station.
Whose idea was that? He asks,
Benny boy's? No we both had
the idea, she says, wishing

Benny was there as he would
know what to say. Long way
to Edinburgh, her father says,
picking up his cup of tea at the

breakfast table. 6 hours the porter
man said when Benny asked him,
Lydia says. Her father sips his tea.
Lydia waits. So can I go? She asks

her dad. He looks at her. When
you're older maybe. Well, got to
go to work, he says, gets up, pats
her head, says see you, Lydia.

Lydia watches him go, hears the
door shut. Her mother comes in
with a cigarette hanging from her
lips, her hair in rollers. What you

doing? She asks Lydia. Going to
Edinburgh with Benny, Lydia says.
Her mother stares at her and shakes
her head. Well make sure you pack

your clothes and empty your piggy-
bank, her mother says and walks off
back to the kitchen. Lydia frowns,
gets her piggy-bank and shakes it.

It sounds empty, except for a few
coins rattling. Can I go out with
Benny? She calls out to her mother.
She puts down her pink piggy-bank.

She walks into the kitchen where her
mother is washing up. Can I? She asks
her mother. Can you what? Go out
with Benny? Again? You only saw

him yesterday? Her mother says through
a mouthful of cigarette smoke. Need
to see him about Edinburgh, Lydia says.
What about Edinburgh? Her mother

says her words clouded in smoke. Dad
said I can go to Edinburgh with Benny,
Lydia says anxiously. Did he now, well
he can **** well pay for it can't he, her

mother says, well off you go then, and
don't be too late, need you to help me
sort out the washing later, I don't suppose
your big **** of a sister will shift her

backside out of bed before noon. Lydia
bites her lip. Watches her mother doing
the dishes. Ok won't be late, Lydia says,
walking out of the kitchen, along the hall,

out of the front door, stares out at the Square,
wondering if Benny is about out there.
A GIRL AND HER PARENTS AND A TRAIN RIDE TO EDINBURGH IN 1958.
Terry Collett Mar 2015
Do steam trains go from Kings Cross to Scotland? Lydia asks. Her father sober smiles. Are you eloping with the Benny boy of yours? He says. Big eyes staring; blue  large marble like. Whats eloping? She asks, frowning. Running off to be married secretly, the daddy says. No, Benedict and I are only nine, so how would we be eloping? Practice run? No no, she says. Nibbles her buttered toast her mother gave. You be mindful, busy that place; crowds are there. He sips his tea. She nibbles more toast, staring at him. How are you getting there; too far to walk? Dont know; Benedictll know; he knows these things. Underground trains best, the daddy suggests. But how to get the money for fare? He asks; his eyes narrow on to her. Dont know, she says, looking at the tablecloth, patterned, birds. Has your Benny boy the money? Sober, good humoured, he smiles. Expect so, she says, doubtful. See your mother, ask her, he suggests, smiling, as if. Well, must be off, work calls, he says. Where are you today? She asks. Train driving to Bristol. Is that near Scotland? He smiles, shakes the head. No, Bristols west, Scotlands north; do you not know your geography? The daddy says. She shrugs. Sober he shakes the head. Well, Im off. See your mother about the fares. She nods; he goes taking a last sip of tea. She eats the buttered toast, cold, limp. She sits and gazes out the window. Sunny, warm looking. The birds on the grass; the bomb shelter still there. Wonders if the mother will. Money for fares. Knock at the front door. Her daddy answers. Opens up. Your Bennys here, Princess, he mocks. See you mind her, Benny boy, shes my precious, the daddy says out the door and away. Lydia goes to the door. Benny is standing there looking at her daddy walking through the Square. Her mother comes to the door wiping her hands on an apron, hair in rollers, cigarette hanging from her lip corner. Whats all this? her mother asks. Lydia looks at Benny. He gazes at the mother. Kings Cross, he says. Is he? The mother says. Train station, Benny adds unsmiling. So? We thought wed go there, Lydia says, shyly, looking at her mother. How do you think of getting there? Underground train, Daddy said. Did he? And did he offer the money? No, said to ask you. Did he? The mother pulls a face, stares at Lydia and Benny. Am I to pay his fare, too? She says, staring at Benny. No, Ive me own, he says, offering out a handful of coins. Just as well. If your daddyd not been sober youd got ****** all permission to go to the end of the road, her mother says, sharp, bee-sting words. Wait here, she says, goes off, puffing like a small, thin, locomotive. Benny stands on the red tiled step. Your dad was sober? She nods, smiles. Rubs hands together, thin, small hands. How are you? Fine, excited if we go, she says, eyeing him, taking in his quiff of hair and hazel eyes; the red and grey sleeveless jumper and white skirt, blue jeans. He looks beyond her; sees the dull brown paint on the walls; a smell of onions or cabbage. Looks past her head at the single light bulb with no light shade. Looks at her standing there nervous, shy. Brown sandals, grey socks, the often worn dress of blue flowers on white, a cardigan blue as cornflowers. They wait. Hows your mother? Ok, he replies. Your dad? Hes ok, he says. They hear her mother cursing along the passage. He says ask for this, but he never dips in his pocket I see, except for the beer and spirit, and o then it out by the handfuls. She opens her black purse. How much? Dont know. The mother eyes the boy. How much? Two bob should do. Two bob? Sure, shell give you change after, Benny says. Eye to eye. Thin line of the mothers mouth. Takes the money from her purse. Shoves in Lydias palm. Be careful. Mind the roads. Lydia looks at her mother, big eyes. Shyly nods. You, the mother points at the boy. Take care of her. Of course. Beware of strange men. I will. Stares at Benny. Hes my Ivanhoe, Lydia says. Is that so. Go then, before I change my mind. Thin lips. Large eyes, cigarette smoking. Take a coat. Lydia goes for her coat. Hows your mother? The mother asks, looks tired when I see her. Shes ok, gets tired, Benny says, looking past the mothers head for Lydia. Not surprised with you being her son. Benny smiles; she doesnt. He looks back into the Square. The baker goes by with his horse drawn bread wagon. Hemmy on the pram sheds with other kids. What you doing making the fecking coat? The mother says over her thin shoulder. Just coming, Lydia replies. Shes there coat in hand. The mother scans her. Mind you behave or youll feel my hand. Lydia nods, looks at Benny, back at the mother. Mind the trains; dont be an **** and fall on the track, the mother says, eyeing Benny, then Lydia. Shes safe with me, Benny says. Ill keep her with me at all times. Youd better. I will. Eye to eye stare. And eat something or youll faint. Ill get us something, the boy says. The mother sighs and walks back into the kitchen, a line of cigarette smoke following her. Ok? She nods. They go out the front door and Lydia closes it gently behind her, hoping the mother wont rush it open and change her mind. They run off across the Square and down the *****. Are we eloping? She asks. What? Us are we eloping? No, train watching. Why? The daddy says. Joking. Sober. Benny smiles, takes in her shy eyes. Whats eloping? He asks. Running off to marry, Daddy says. Too young. Practice run. Daddy said. Not today, Benny says, smiling, crossing a road. Looking both ways. Not now, not in our young days.
A GIRL AND BOY IN LONDON IN 1950S AND A TRIP TO KING'S CROSS.
Terry Collett Jul 2016
Lydia sat
on the red
painted tile doorstep
waiting to see
if Benny
would come along

she breathed heavily
angry and frustrated
her mother had just
told her that she(Lydia)
and Benny could not
go to Edinburgh
or Southend by train
as they had wished

she had tried to explain
to her mother the plan
but her mother
wasn't having it
in fact she had bellowed
NO NO NO so loud
that her big sister Gloria
was disturbed drunkenly
in the bed
she shared with Lydia

she watched the milkman
pull up in his
horse drawn wagon
and take out 2 bottles of milk
and walked with them
across the way
and put them on
the doorstep
then walked back

the horse was eating
from a nosebag

Lydia sat
a few more minutes
if Benny hadn't showed
she'd go and find him
and tell him the bad news

the man with the boxer dog
walked past
doffed his cap
and smiled
then walked on

then she saw Benny
galloping(on his pretend horse)
up from the *****
and into the Square

she stared at him
then waved him over

he galloped towards her
she felt angry and tearful
Benny rode up
to the red
painted tile doorstep

what's up?
he said smiling

we can't go
she said pouting

can't go where?
he said
his horse vanishing
into thin air

can't go to Edinburgh
or Southend by train
she said

who said?
he said

my mum said
no no no
but louder
Lydia said

Benny sat on the doorstep
beside her

she said at 9
we were too young
Lydia said
looking at him
her lower lip
pouting more

I'll have a word
with her
Benny said
turning around
to stare
at the front door

won't make
any difference
she said no
Lydia said

persuasion can
sometimes work
Benny said
my mum said if
you want something
bad enough
you must
like that Scottish king bloke
try and try again

you can try I suppose
Lydia said

they got up
from the step
and Benny knocked
on the front door
and they waited

the door opened
(after a few minutes)
and Lydia's mother
stood there
hair in a scarf
and a cigarette
hanging from the corner
of her mouth
and arms folded

why'd you knocked
the door?
she said to Lydia
you bloomin live here

I knocked
Benny said

what do you
want then?
the mother said

we want to go
to Southend
Benny said
we are willing
to forgo Edinburgh
until later
but Southend is a must
for us as a sort
of a trial run

the mother stared
at him coldly

I've told her
now I'm telling you
you're too young to go
anywhere at 9 years old
so the answer
is the same
NO
she bellowed
and slammed
the door shut

Benny stared
at the door

Lydia sat down again
and stared at the milkman
walking his horse along
to the next block of flats

plan B
the Benny said

plan B?
Lydia said
what's that?

we go anyway
but say nothing
to them
he said
arms folded
a determined look
about his face

do we dare?
she said

of course
Benny said
working the plan b out
inside his
9 year old head.
A BOY AND A GIRL IN LONDON AND A PLAN TO GO TO SOUTHEND IN 1957
Terry Collett Nov 2015
Where have you been?
Gloria asked

Paddington train station
Lydia said

on you own?

no with Benny

who's Benny?

Lydia sat on her bed
her big sister
was applying make up
to her face

a boy
Lydia said

boyfriend
at your age?
Gloria teased

Lydia stared
at her sister's
tight red skirt

he's a boy
Lydia said

what?
Mum and Dad
let you go?
Gloria said
gazing at her
9 year old sister
in the mirror's reflection

yes
Lydia said

what's he after?
Gloria said smirking

after?
what you mean after?
Lydia said frowning  

leave her alone you
Lydia's mum said
passing the open doorway
just because you
drop your underwear
to the nearest bloke
doesn't mean you can
get her to be like you
in any case
she's just 9
so it isn't right

just joking
Gloria said moodily

well it isn't a joke
her mother said
well Lydia
what did you do
with the Benny Boy?

watched trains
Lydia said

is that all?
Gloria said

yes and Benny
bought me
a glass of milk
and we shared
a big biscuit

big spender eh?
Gloria said

watched trains?
her mother said
all the time?

yes
Lydia said
all sorts
big trains
and smaller ones
lots of steam and noise
but we like that

Gloria said
glad my boyfriend
ain't like that
or I'd drop him
like dog's turds

her mother walked off
shaking her head

and Lydia went off
to the lounge
to watch TV
thinking of Benny
and the shared biscuit
and the promise
of going to Scotland
one day
far far away.
A 9 YEAR OLD GIRL AND BOY AND HER BIG SISTER AND HER MOTHER IN LONDON IN 1958
Terry Collett Mar 2014
Lydia's mother
opened the door
of the flat
after I had knocked

and gave me
a stern stare
is Lydia coming out?
I asked

she looked hard
at me
where?
to the herbalist

get some sarsaparilla
I said
sarsaparilla?
she said

yes it's good for you
they say
makes blood
I said

she looked
at my scuffed shoes
and blue jeans
and the gun and holster

hanging
from the snake head
elastic belt
around my waist

I suppose she can
her mother said
LYDIA
she bellowed

windows rattled
a dog
across the Square
barked

the milkman's horse
lifted its head
from the nosebag
Lydia came to the door

and poked her head
out from under
her mother's arm
Benedict here

wants to take you
to get a sarsaparilla
Lydia looked at you
her eyes narrowing

then widening
ok
she said
can I go?

she asked
course if I say so
as long
as you are wrapped warmer

than you are now
her mother said
Lydia rushed back inside
and her mother

took a long drag
of a cigarette
her yellowing fingers
in a V shape

what's your father
do for a living?
she asked
the smoke carrying

her words to me
he's a metal worker
I said
he makes things

from metal
she stared at me
a few loose hairs
had escaped

the flowery scarf
about her head
I think
he frequents ******

she said
I see
I said
unsure

what she was saying
she inhaled
on the cigarette again
her eyes

gazing beyond me
keep Lydia out
a fair while
she said

pushing out smoke
I want to rest
my eyes a while
ok

I said
she went indoors
and I waited for Lydia
sniffing in the smoke

hanging about
the doorstep
the dog barked again
the horse ate

from the nosebag
the milkman whistled
a few notes
from some tune

I sniffed the smoke again
hoping Lydia
would be out
wrapped warm soon.
A BOY AND GIRL IN 1950S LONDON.
Terry Collett Jul 2016
Go where?
Lydia's mother said

Southend
Lydia said

you can't go to Southend
on your own

I'm not going
on my own
I'm going with Benny

her mother
stared at her
Benny?
Go with Benny?
You're both too young
to go to ****** Southend
what put that thought
into your mind?
Her mother said

we talked about it
when we were
at King's Cross station

who is we?
The mother said

Benny and me
Lydia said frowning
******* her fingers

o so you talked it over
o that's all right
then is it?
The mother said

just to Southend
as a first run
then we want to go
to Scotland
Lydia said

SCOTLAND
her mother bellowed
are you mad you two?
You can't go
to ****** Scotland
at your age
what 9 years old
and want to go Scotland
and alone?
The mother stared
at Lydia
as if she was mad

Lydia wished
Benny was there
he had a way with words
he might be able
to put it better

whose idea was it?

Both of us
Lydia said
we thought it
would be good
and we could go
to Edinburgh
and see men in kilts
and see the castle

NO NO NO
the mother bellowed

Lydia lowered her head
and gazed at
her mother's slippers

you can't go to Scotland
or Edinburgh
or Southend
not alone
the mother said quieter
staring at her daughter

when can we go then?
Lydia said
looking at
her mother's
stockinged legs

when you are old enough
and we say so
her mother said

when will be old enough?
Lydia said
gazing at her mother's
blue patterned apron

when we say so
her mother said
and walked off
back to the kitchen
where the boiler
was boiling washing
and steam came down
the passageway

Lydia sighed
and opened the front door
and went out
to find Benny
and tell him the bad news
and not being able
to see the Edinburgh views.
A GIRL AND HER MOTHER AND A TRIP TO SCOTLAND IN 1957

— The End —