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Terry Collett Apr 2018
Outside the Duke of Wellington
you waited for me
clutching your doll
close against you.

I met you there
by the metal railway bridge
nearly opposite
the coal wharf.

I met you
in the grocer shop
that morning
while we were shopping
for our mothers
and arranged going
to the herbalist shop.

"Sarsaparilla
makes blood"
I told you.

"Does it?"
You said.

"So Jim told me"
I informed.

"So if I drink a pint
will it make a pint
of blood?"
You asked.

"Guess so"
I said
"going by
what Jim said."

We walked up the road
behind the cinema.

We passed a *****
sitting by the side
of the road smoking.

You were nervous
and stared at him
through your
thick lenses glasses.

We came out
on to the New Kent Road.

The road was busy
with mid-morning traffic
so we went down
the subway.

"Got money?"
I said.

"Got 1/-"
you said opening
your palm.
"That be enough?"

I nodded.
"Plenty enough"
I replied.

We walked down the road
by the train station
and went past the entrance.

"Have I got enough
for liquorice sticks too?"
You asked.

" Plenty"
I said.

We crossed the road
to the herbalist shop
on the corner
and went in.

We bought
liquorice sticks
and two glasses
of saraprilla
and gave the man
our money.

We stood
by the window
looking out
pretending
we were drinking stout.
Terry Collett Mar 2018
You walked the bomb site
with Benny,
he was relating

about some gunslinger
he'd seen at the flicks
and how the gunslinger

had his guns different
from other gunslingers
he'd seen,

with guns back to front
so that he had
to cross his hands

over to reach guns
from different holsters.
You listened as you often did

to his talk on guns
and gunslingers
and cowboy films

he'd seen.
He bent down
and picked up a stone

for his catapult
which he had
in the back pocket

of his jeans.
You told him
about your young brother

and how your mother
wanted you to hold him steady
while she changed his *****,

and how he kicked his legs,
and how hard it was
to hold him there,

and your mother saying:
Hold him steady
while I get

his clean ***** on.
Benny weighed the stone
in the palm of his hand,

then put it in his pocket.
So did you managed
to hold him?

Benny said.
You looked past him
as a copper walked

towards you both.
Copper, you said.
Benny turned

and stood beside you.
What are you doing here?
the copper said.

Looking for ammunition,
Benny said.
Ammunition?

the copper said.
Stones for my catapult,
Benny said.

Bomb sites
are dangerous places,
so clear off,

the copper said.
You stared nervously
at the copper.

But I need stones,
Benny said.
I don't care

if you are looking
for the Crown Jewels,
the copper said,

sling your hook.
You followed Benny
off the bomb site

into Meadow Row.
The copper stood
watching you,

hands at his sides.
Let's go to the other
bomb site,

Benny said,
up off the other side
of the Square.

You looked back
at the copper
still standing there.
©
Terry Collett Sep 2017
Helen was in the sandpit
making sandcastles
with the ***** yellow sand.

Benedict was sitting
on the low wall
staring into space.

Buckley said girls didn't have
the same as boys;
said his sister hadn't
when he saw her bath time.

Aren't you going
to make sandcastles?
Helen said.

He looked at her
and her sandy hands.

Guess I can,
he said,
getting down
from the wall.

She offered him
a small blue *****
and small bucket.

Wonder if they have?
Buckley could have
been telling fibs.

I have made
three sandcastles,
she said,
the sand is damp
after yesterday's rain.

He shovelled sand
into the bucket.

A woman with her daughter
was in the sandpit
making sandcastles.
He looked at her.
He wondered if she.

Don't trust Buckley.
That time he said he saw
his parents playing games
when he went to their room
for a glass of water one night.

Benedict made
two sandcastles
and joined them up
to Helen's three.

Our big castle,
she said excitedly.

Girls must have
he mused moodily.
Boy and girl in London in 1955
Terry Collett Sep 2017
Helen brought me
small round stones
for my catapult
from the bomb site
off Meadow Row.

She brought them
captured in her
small pink hands.

Can I try your catapult?
She asked.

Sure you can
I replied
handing her
the weapon
and showing how
to load and shoot.

She aimed along her  
narrow arm and the Y
at the end and let go
and watched the stone
whizz away
fly past a tin can
and disappear amongst
debris and weeds.

Try again
I said.

She tried again
and missed the can
but almost winged a pigeon
in its flight.

On her final attempt
she missed the can and pigeon
and hit nothing but infinity.
Kids in London 1955.
Terry Collett Aug 2017
I was with Helen
on the bomb site
on Harper Road.

I was practising
drawing my toy gun
from the left hand holster
as I’d seen Billy the Kid
do in the film.

I was better
with my right
but I did it but slower.

Why do you need
to have a gun
both sides?
Helen said.

So I can shoot
two bad guys
instead of one
I said.

She watched me patiently
I drew my left hand gun
again and again
until I was happy
I was quite quick.


I showed her
around the bomb site
there was a bombed out
butcher's shop
and we got in
the back door
(which had been
busted open by someone).

I showed her around
careful of the stairs
they're a bit fragile
I said
as we climbed
the shaky staircase.

Upstairs there
was a hole in the roof
and we could see the sky
we went to the window
avoiding walking
on the center of the room
(we walked
around the sides)
and looked out
the window
on Harper Road.

I got caught here
the other week
with other kids
and a Rozzer
told me off
I said.

Rozzer?
she said.

A policeman
I said.

O I would hate that
she said.

Don't worry
I will keep an eye out
I said.

We looked around
then came out
the back way.

We went
to the 1d shop
and bought two bottles
of 1d drinks
and sherbet dips
and walked back
to Rockingham Street
and we began
to drink and eat.
KIDS IN LONDON IN 1955
Terry Collett Jul 2017
And I told 'er
your old man
don't go round 'er place
for nothink
he must be up ta
somethink
the woman said.

Benny’s mother
did not reply
but nodded
as in agreement.

His mother
never dropped her H's
and her vowels
were rounded
giving the impression
of upmarket
or posh sounding.

Stands ta reason
I told 'er
can't trust men
as far as you can
throw 'em.

Benny stood
behind his mother
gazing at the cakes
on display
in the glass case
shelf after shelf of them.

His mouth watered
at the ones at the bottom
with shredded
coconut on top.

He wondered
if he could persuade
his mother to buy
him a coconut cake  
only 4d
for Christ’s-sake.

But he never asked
he understood
that things
were tight
and it was only right
she spend her
money wisely.

But still
his mouth watered.

But will she listen?
the woman continued
not on your belly
goes all off with me
only doing it
for your sake
I says to 'er.

His mother nodded
looked at the woman kindly
but with a sense
of stiffness or aloofness
Benny thought.

Once the old girl
had gone
and the shopping bought
Benny’s dream
of cake or cakes
came to nought.
A SEVEN YEAR OLD BOY AND HIS MOTHER OUT SHOPPING IN LONDON IN 1955
Terry Collett Jul 2017
Helen fell over
in the park
and cut her hand.

I took her
to the first aid lady
in the little hut
at the park entrance.

How did
you do it?

I feel off
the swing.

She dab the cut
with yellow stinky stuff.

Helen winced
******* up
her face.

Who is he ?
She said
looking at me.

He's my friend Benny
Helen said.

Didn't push her off
I suppose?

No he didn't
Helen said
I fell.

Why would I
push her off?
she's my friend
I said.

You never know
what kids'll do
around here
the woman said
gazing at me sternly.

After dabbing
the cut clean
she wrapped
a bandaged
around it
and stuck it down
with pink plaster.

That should
keep it clean
best show
your mother
when you get home
the woman said
now shoo
I have other things
to do.

We walked
out the hut.

Helen looking at
her bandaged hand.

Shall we go
home now?
she said.

Sure if you like
I said.

We walked out
the park
and along
Bath Terrace.

Helen said
Mrs Knight's new kitten
tried to escape
but it had crept
into Helen's parent's flat
and they took it back.

When we got
to Helen's flat
she showed her mother  
the bandaged hand
and explained
what happened.

Her mother said
good boy Benny
and gave me
a glass of lemonade
and a biscuit or two.

What else
was a 7 year old
boy to do?
KIDS IN LONDON IN 1955
Terry Collett Jun 2017
Helen said
the woman
in the flat
above hers
(Mrs Knight)
had a new kitten
to replace the one
that got run over  
on the road.

It was a tabby
and when Mrs Knight
lets it out
it rubs
against my legs
Helen said.
I can show
when you
come round
next time.

We walked
to Jail Park
went on the swings.

I'm going
to get a kitten
when I'm older
she said
a tabby
like Mrs Knight.

We rode
the swings high
rising up
into the morning air.

I pretended
I was in a Spitfire
shooting down
German warplanes
tat-a-tat-tat
I went.

Helen talked on
about how the kitten
drinks the milk
she puts out
on a saucer
but too often
or it'll want to live
with us
she said.

I shot down
half a dozen warplanes
the invisible pilots
falling dead.
KIDSS IN LONDON IN 1955
Terry Collett May 2017
Benny Coles looked past the bomb site at the road beyond. Cars, buses and lorries went past almost without stop . To his right the bomb site reached to the railway arches boarded up and the railway above where steam trains went by frequently. To his left the bomb site reached to Meadow Row, with the green grocer shop on the corner of narrow Arch Street, with the public house on the opposite corner. Behind him was the back of the coal wharf where lorries and horse-drawn wagons waited to be filled with black sacks of coal or coke. Benny stood, hands in the pockets of his blue jeans, wearing his white open neck shirt, his coloured patterned sleeveless jumper . His terrain, his manor, as far as his hazel seven year old eyes could see. His uncle Freddie talked of his manor and who did what and when. Uncle Freddie was a tall, lean man with a steady unblinking stare, or so it seemed to Benny whenever his uncle talked to him. Need to know what's going on in your manor, Uncle said, puffing on his cigarette, eyeing Benny, taking in his brown hair, with a quiff, and those hazel eyes that seemed to sparkle. Benny liked it when his uncle talked of the War. About being in Monty's mob in North Africa fighting Jerry. Who this Jerry was Benny was unsure, but it was exciting to listen to what his uncle said. Benny took out his catapult from the back pocket of his jeans and picking up a small stone from the bomb site placed the stone in the pouch and aimed at a pigeon over the way. He released the pouch and the stone whizzed through the air, but missed the pigeon which took off in fright, and hit the old wooden door of one of the railway arches. He had aimed at a rat one time which he saw in one of the ruins of a bombed out house, but he missed and the rat ran off back inside the ruins out of sight. He liked the bomb site. He liked to imagine who lived there before the bombs fell, what they were doing before the War. On some walls of the bombed out houses there was still wallpaper and on one wall he saw a picture frame still hanging, although the roof and one wall were missing. Later he would go to see if his friend Helen was allowed out. A plumpish girl, aged seven, with wire-framed spectacles with thick lens which made her eyes large like cow's eyes, and dark brown hair tied in two bunches. He bent down and chose another small stone, and put it the pouch of the catapult, and aimed at an old tin can sitting on a large boulder over by the arches. He pulled back the pouch and let it go. The stone whizzed through the air and knocked the tin can off with a clatter. He put the catapult away in his back pocket and walked back towards Meadow Row. He'd have some lunch at home, then go to see if Helen was going out. He walked past the public house, a piano was playing, and through an open door he saw an old man sitting at the bar with a glass of beer and smoking a pipe. A barmaid was standing there, a cigarette between her red lips, her blonde hair piled up on her head like a beehive. Benny walked on down Meadow Row, passing houses on both sides, the cobbled road was shining where rain had fallen that morning. He crossed Rockingham Street, looking both ways to make sure nothing was coming. He walked up the ***** to the Square, and along by the pram sheds, walked past the baker with his horse-drawn cart, and along and up the concrete stairs to the flat where he lived with his parents and siblings, and the budgie named Billy. He stopped outside the front door and peered over the balcony and the view beyond. His manor, his terrain. The sky looked dull which promised thunder and a downpour of rain
A BOY IN LONDON 1955
Terry Collett May 2017
Helen showed me
the conker
she had found
brown with a black area
at one end
she held it
in her small
pink hand.

I picked it up
weighed it
in my hand.

It was a good one
I told her.

She said
she found it
along St George's Road
on the way home
from school
the day before.

It was amongst
others Benny
she said
but it seemed
the best one.

We walked through
the Square
to get
my mother's shopping
the conker
in my pocket.

Helen said her
upstairs neighbour
Mrs Knight
had a new cat
a kitten all black
when Mrs Knight
showed her
the room behind her
smelt of cats
and old dinners.

I bought the items
on the shopping list
my mother had given me
with the coins
wrapped up in it.

I put the stuff
in the shopping bag
we went back
to my parents' flat.

I put the conker
with others I had
in my room.

We went out again
although the sky
looked like rain.
KIDS IN LONDON IN 1955
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