Fun and Games


Peter Quartermain

from Where I Lived and What I Learned For,
Part One: Growing Dumb

Somebody was always organizing one activity or another to fill the time. On long summer evenings we'd all get to bed half-an-hour later, with the clocks pushed ahead two hours in Double Summer Time it was still broad daylight after ten o'clock, Seniors would practice cricket over in the nets they'd get permission to get the equipment out, others would practice sprinting or jumping or the discus, I hated organised sports, couldn't stand cricket or football, Jim said I didn't have any ball sense I didn't know what he meant but he always seemed to know when we were playing soccer where the ball was going to go and so'd be in position to receive it when somebody passed it, he knew where to put it when he kicked it it went there, he often scored goals. I usually ran in the wrong direction, I was a dead loss for our side, I ended up in most games standing about the edge of the field waiting for something to happen, I didn't pay attention very much somebody said I lacked a team spirit I suppose that's true I really preferred to be off by myself or with a couple of people I'd chosen to be with, when we were picking kids to be on teams in scratch games or in Games period I was nearly always the last one to be chosen but I didn't mind, it meant nobody expected me to do very much, they'd stick me out on the edge of the field somewhere if it was cricket and I could just stand there and look at things, lift up the leaves of the plantains to see the bugs underneath, watch the crows, now and again there'd be a shout and I'd look up see the ball coming my way, chase it. I liked running, short distances anyway like the hundred yards or the two-twenty I had a pretty good sprint, I couldn't stand the Marathon but we all had to do that every March, three miles for the Juniors five for the Seniors horrible runs across the fields and down the Avvie, the Seniors even had to ford the River Penk four times, what I really liked was the hop-step-and-jump but they dropped that from School Sports before I really got a chance to do it for the House, I was good at it.

Some evenings I'd go over to the playing fields and practice it, there'd usually be four or five of us doing the long jump or it, I enjoyed that there weren't any Masters around and there wasn't any competition, you were just doing it because you wanted to and you tried to do better than you had before, I tried to sort out whether to put my best energy into the hop or the step or the jump, I went all wobbly if I really worked at the step, then I had a puny little jump, nothing really, but I had a wonderful long hop and if I did that a fairly short step would take me right to the edge of the long-jump sand-pit I could fold the toe of my pumps over the lip and get a good launch for the jump the sheer pleasure of flying through the air like that wind rushing through my hair I'd be all upright for the hop my arms spread out and all crouched down arms stretching forward as I leaned through the jump trying to keep my bum in the air when I landed. Dayboys used to complain that it wasn't fair, the boarders had all the advantage no wonder our House always came out on top and got all the prizes and cups on Sports Day and Speech Day, not that we did really but it felt like that, at least it did to them. When I looked through old school magazines much later on when I went back to Brewood in 2003, David Evans lent them to me, I found that we didn't actually win all that often. Houses would get points for who came in the first three at the end of the year in class as well as for coming in first second or third in cricket and soccer and all the different events at Sports Day, and all the Boarders were in Knightley along with the village boys while the other dayboys were split up between the other two Houses, Kempson and Parke. You weren't allowed to be neutral, you had to be keen even if you weren't, I couldn't care less mostly, but the longer I was there the harder it was to be indifferent to Sports and to competition, there wasn't much else for boarders to think about. Your Report Book always gave your position in the class, in Preparatory School my position at the end of my very first term was tenth, and after Harry Brogden became Headmaster in 1944 the Report Book gave your position in class for each subject as well as your overall position in the whole class, and all these things counted in computing the standing of your House in the School competitions. At the end of every term HouseMasters 'd have to toil away at those statistics perhaps they had adding machines, not that we thought about that, and on Speech Day the Head Prefect of the House would go up to collect the Cock House Cup, that wasn't its real name of course it was a Memorial Cup for somebody I forget who but it's what we all called it and what it was called in the School Magazine once we had one again after the War, awarded each year for Best House, competition was fierce, and boarders had to be at soccer and cricket matches to cheer for Knightley, you'd get into trouble from the other kids as well as the Masters if you didn't.

One Saturday in 1942 when there was a House Cricket Match between Knightley and Kempson I'd been delayed running an errand for one of the Masters, all the other boarders had gone across to the field there was nobody else about when I came out of the Masters' Common Room in Rushall House, nobody about at all just a funny quiet emptiness, I'd started across the Quad on the way to the cricket field and I heard a voice say "You're a boarder aren't you, you belong to Knightley don't you" it was three dayboys one of them dressed in white flannels for cricket and carrying his own cricket bat, he had cricket boots on, the kind with the small conical studs peppered all over the soles and heels, not many kids had that sort of stuff in the War what with clothes rationing and everything in short supply, most kids had hand-me-downs yellowish with age if they had any cricket whites at all, hardly anybody had cricket boots but just wore plimsolls but Percy Graham's family was well off his mum a stout woman all scented talcum and lipstick, always wore a hat, he had pretty well everything a kid would 've had if it was still Before The War, dressed all over in whites, socks, shirt, trousers, sweater with the Kempson colours on the v-neck, leather cricket boots white laces in them, he even had his own batsman's gloves, green rubber fingers the backs all nubbly no palms to them in his right hand, and he stood there he was older and bigger than me by over a year and he thrust his face forward at me a few freckles among the bits of peeling skin and said "Who's best, Kempson or Knightley?" It was the funniest question, I'd never thought anyone could ever ask that sort of thing, there wasn't any way to answer I just looked at him I was so surprised and said "What" and he moved closer his pals came up to me and he said "Who's best? Kempson or Knightley?" and I didn't understand, I wanted Knightley to be best because that was my House but we didn't know did we couldn't know till all the results came in could we and he pushed his red face forward his blond hair falling over his right eye and one of his pals pushed the back of his hand against my forearm and I said "Well, Knightley!" and he said "Knightley never! Kempson ever!" and he slapped his bat against his left leg, "Go on! Say it! Knightley Never Kempson Ever!" and I said "Knightley Ever!" and his pals grabbed my arms and pushed a bit and he said "Kempson Ever!" bits of spit flacked onto my face and he said "Go on! Say it! Kempson Ever!" and they squeezed my arms and pushed at me he flourished his bat my heart was going like mad was he going to hit me I didn't understand what was going on but I said as fast as I could "Knightley Ever!" what else was there to say I knew he was going to hit me he brought the bat down to the ground again leaned forward on it said "Knightley Never! Kempson Ever! Go on, say it!" and they pulled on my arms they all three scowled, he shifted about from one foot to another I said "Kempson Never!" and he punched me, it hurt I didn't have proper cricket trousers, I had on a pair of yellowish old shorts hand-me-downs from someone, old old cricket shorts the cloth all faded and worn and ordinary plimsolls they were a bit too big they slapped down when I ran in them he slammed his gloves across my face it really stung I could feel the rubber bits digging in I knew I'd be all red across there a great big welt and he said "Knightley Never! Say it! Go on!" he was a lot bigger than me they all were he took a step back and scowled "Say It! Go On, Say It!" he drew back his fist and I said as fast as I could I was so scared the two of them hanging on to my arms my face really hurt my eyes were watering with it I said "Kempson Ever! Kempson Ever!" ever so fast I was so scared I didn't want to be hit again "Ever! Not Never!" he cried his right foot came up a great big kick right between my legs "Kempson Ever!" but as he shouted I doubled over from his kick there was bright red blood pouring down my legs and all over my shorts and I screamed there were great gouts of blood all over my short trousers flowing down my leg from my crotch they all let me go he went white they started to run away and I screamed again all that blood my hands down over the crotch sticky warm blood dripping onto the asphalt holding myself with both hands blood between my fingers my socks soaking up the red and somebody came out and said "What's going on here? What on earth's the matter" and took one look at me another voice one of the Masters said "Graham come here!" I was hustled screaming off to Matron blood all over the place one of his cricket studs when he kicked me in the groin had cut me under my foreskin a ton of blood but by the time Matron cleaned me up it had stopped I was all white and shaking Matron said "You're in shock," she shoved me into bed and brought me a cup of tea and a biscuit it was a lovely sunny day there I was lying in bed I felt all weak and diddery the sheets all cool and funny feeling after I'd been standing in the sun but there was nothing to do except just lie there no-one to talk to and she drew the blinds down and said I should I should go to sleep I was to stay in bed the whole time she didn't put me in the sick-room I was in the dormitory she'd send one of the maids up with tea and extra cake when it was time, bright bars of sun across the floor on the other side of the room after a while the Headmaster came in looking all serious I was all in my pyjamas my dressing gown across the foot of my bed he had somebody with him a nice looking man in a suit I'd never seen him before and Mr Bailey said "Well, what have we here? Are you alright?" and he looked at the other man who smiled at us both and he said "Let's see what the damage is" and I pulled down my bedclothes and wriggled my pyjama bottoms down they both leaned forward he took my penis in his hand and peeled my foreskin back "You were cut under the prepuce!" (that's a new word, wait till I tell everybody!) "but it will be alright, no real damage," and they both smiled the strange man said something to Mr Bailey as they left I heard a soft chuckle as they went downstairs. Matron came in I pulled my pyjama bottoms up and she tucked me in and said "I think Percy Graham's in a lot of trouble, don't you?" and she smiled.

After they'd all gone I pulled down my bedclothes and had a look all I could see was a tiny little cut I still felt all brangled I could hardly see it a minute red V tiny against the purple already healing over it can't have been even a tenth of an inch long is that where all that blood came from I felt detached a bit shivery I covered myself up my face hot and sore where the gloves'd hit me. When I opened my eyes again the bars of sunlight had moved right across the floor and started up the wall there were three of the really big kids, Seniors, clattering through the door they all smiled and they said "We won! We beat Kempson by four wickets! Serves 'em right" and then one of them said "You're a real hero, Little Phil! Knightley Ever!" and they all laughed, "Let's get some light in here" and pulled the blinds all the way open, I couldn't think how on earth they knew what had happened, but everybody knew, and for the rest of the day other kids came trooping in to see me "We'll teach that Graham a thing or two" they said and "You did well, Little Phil!" and I didn't dare tell them what I'd really said I couldn't tell them I'd been a hero by accident, I liked all the attention anyway. Matron brought me tea with a real teapot with a teacosy a cloth on a tray and thin bread and butter just like home, and jam and extra cake, it was smashing I still felt a bit flagged a bit shaken but restless in bed when everybody else was running about in the sunshine Bet they're having a good time, the distant sound of kids shouting and running about, footsteps running down the hall somewhere, the creak of somebody's locker door in the Billiard Room, kids talking to other kids, somebody tiptoeing along the hall outside the dormitory door, Matron's shoes squeaking on the polished lino, somebody knocking billiard balls around the table downstairs.

I thought of the knock-out billiards tournament there'd been just before Christmas, and how terribly I'd done, what a difference that was, nobody paying any attention to me at all save to laugh a bit perhaps give me a sympathetic look, a list of all the boarders stuck on the green noticeboard just inside the Billiard Room door, over on the left a column of names someone had drawn out of a hat to arrange them in pairs and next to each pair a line to write the winner's name on, someone 'd put "Bye" in the slot at the bottom of the third column. there were five columns of lines altogether, bigger and bigger gaps between the lines as you went across the page, we all had to be in it, there was only one line over on the right-hand side of the page, that'd be the winner. I could hardly see over the edge of the billiard table it came up to somewhere a bit below my chin, I had to stand on a chair if the cue ball was more than about a foot from the edge, and I'd drawn Nash, he was a lanky kid with yellow hair I didn't know who he was at all really somebody said he was bound to win, he was always playing billiards and he'd won the ladder the last two years, he was in the Sixth Form and when we got to our match all the other kids crowded all round the table he gave me one look flicked his hair back from over his eyes gave me a bored grin, and when Fatty Bullimore told us to, he was the referee and he'd chalked my cue for me "Make sure it's done properly" he'd said, "so you don't miscue," we shot our balls down the length of the table to see who'd start. The crowd all round us had to keep pretty quiet, they'd move back so we could take our shots or walk around to look then they'd crush forward again, and my ball ended up closest to the cue line so I'd break. "He let him do that," somebody muttered and I went a bit pink. I wasn't sure I could even hit the red I knew I'd never score anything with just two balls on the table, I made a shaky bridge with my left hand I looped my forefinger round the cue the way somebody'd shown me the day before, and I sent my ball down the table it went right past the red and bounced back and hit it from behind, the red trickled slowly towards me and ended up in front of us right behind the baulk line, I didn't really know what I was doing at all but Nash couldn't shoot straight at it from the D that was against the rules I knew that much alright and felt a bit pleased, I must have shown it, he gave me a look and shrugged and sent his ball scooting down the table to the far end, the yellow light from the long green hood stretching down above the length of the table made the green cloth and the three balls clear and sharp as anything, almost unreal the colours were so bright, the green so green, his ball bounced against the cush and came all the way back down the table with a clunk it potted the red, and I just stood with my mouth open holding my cue, he'd just got three points, Fatty put the red on the spot at the other end of the table and I stood there and watched like everybody else while Nash got a break of 95, I wondered if I'd get another shot not that it'd make any difference, and every now and again somebody 'd laugh quietly as Nash wandered round the table, kids scattering out of his way, potting the red or getting a cannon, the brass pointers on the scoreboard clicking as somebody pushed them along with a stick. I felt a bit daft but it didn't really matter, and when the match was over somebody wrote "0" next to my name and "102" next to Nash's and wrote "Nash" in the next column over, I wasn't surprised to be the worst player in the House but nobody paid any attention, everybody including me 'd known I'd lose. But today other kids kept traipsing upstairs to see me they weren't supposed to be in the dormitory in daytime, but why-I-was-in-bed made a good excuse to get something from their locker or just to get away from everybody else for a bit, they wanted to talk to me anyway, tell me what they were going to do to Graham, they lent me comics to read, the Beano and Radio Fun and the Dandy I hadn't seen this week's yet, and when it was Lights Out time everyone was very quiet so the wounded hero could get a good night's sleep, it was funny really it was a bit exciting but it was a bit boring there wasn't much to do and nobody would talk about anything else I suppose they couldn't think of anything else to talk to me about or didn't think they should, but I was still me.

When Broggie'd become Headmaster, this was a lot later, it was Moggie Morris's last year of teaching, there wasn't any music taught in School after that that, that means it was 1946, at Prayers one morning when Graham wasn't there, Broggie told us Percy Graham had been learning the guitar and'd been persuaded to play his guitar and sing solo in front of the whole School on Speech Day, it was a wonderful opportunity to show the parents how many different accomplishments we all had and what we could all do, especially now that the War had been over for nearly a year, and he knew we would all be encouraging and helpful, there shouldn't be any of the usual fidgeting and whispering that goes on at Speech Days when we're all sitting together, "No shuffling of feet," he said, "and no coughing and sniffling, no shoving and poking one another. You can just listen, perhaps you'll learn something." It was difficult to cram everybody into Big School on Speech Day, the whole hundred and sixty or more of us scrunched down on gym benches and chairs on the right side of the room, and rows and rows of parents on the left, everyone dressed in their Sunday Best, mums wearing frocks and hats, powder and scent, a few dads scattered about mostly in suits, a chairless stretch at the back where all the prize winners waited before coming up to collect their prizes, that's where I was, I'd won some sort of prize I haven't any idea what for it certainly wasn't the Lower Fourth Form Prize, my Report Book says I came in tenth out of twenty-five, it must have been something to do with what I'd done in the House but whatever it was for it wasn't Sports. I got a couple of books, one of them from the Britain in Pictures series, British Polar Explorers, it was alright, thin but lots of pictures, lots about Scott and Shackleton. I didn't read the other for ages and ages, three years or more, and I only read it then because I felt guilty that I hadn't and Mum nagged at me about it a bit. "You haven't even opened that book have you?" I didn't enjoy it very much when at last I did, it was a school story where they all played rugby and said things like "Cave!" and called the Prefects Proctors, though I can remember getting caught up in it once I got stuck into it. I didn't want to enjoy it, I don't think I even wanted the Prize, I resented it somehow, if I was going to win something I wanted it to be Grand, and I gave it to the School Library with a whole bunch of other books I'd grown out of, Jimmy Osborne looked after the Library by then, he told me much later on that he didn't think anyone ever borrowed it, it was a typical School Prize sort of book called The Scamp, Did you ever read it? he asked, printed on wartime grubby-looking paper in tiny print, about the naughtiest boy in the School who learned after various adventures to do Games well and get really good marks in all his subjects without ever turning into a snotty-nosed Swot, he became the Ideal Schoolboy who was respectful and obedient to his parents and joined the Boy Scouts and sang in the church choir and did Good Works but still got into various scrapes, none of them serious and none of them his fault. Published by the SPCK or somebody like that, I expect.

There I was at the back of Big School with the other prize winners we were all standing up so we could see, and after everyone had settled down and we'd sung a hymn and the School Song and heard the Headmaster's Report Henry Houston came up to the front of the stage and said something about demonstrating the diversity of School activities and how they would broaden now the War was over, Percy Graham was going to play his guitar and sing, to the piano accompaniment of Mr T. Granville Morris. There was a shuffle of hats and coats and people at the front as the door down by the stage opened, there was always a table down there on Speech Day where the reporters from the Express and Star and the Staffordshire Advertiser sat, and in came Percy Graham with his guitar. He was dressed from top to toe in a Gene Autry outfit, spotless white buckskin-looking fringed jacket and trousers just like in the flicks, red bandanna with white spots round his neck, cowboy hat, and as he walked you could hear this faint clink! clink! clink! and I gave Jeff Hayward next to me a puzzled look and he whispered "spurs," and he was right, I could hardly believe it. A big breathy shuffly scuffling noise all over Big School kids craning to see as Percy walked across in front of the stage to join Moggie Morris at the piano, the neck of his guitar jutting out in front of him, you could see his high-heeled boots as he crossed in front of the aisle, Percy walked across in a sort of dignified scuttle, his face red as red, even from the back of the hall we could see he was sweating, and Moggie said something played a note and Percy tuned his guitar and then his hat bobbed forward as he nodded and the pair of them launched forth into Home on the Range, Moggie whomped away on the piano so loud you could hardly hear Percy chording away on the guitar, they went ever so slowly through the piece in strict thump-thump time, Percy's thin high voice wavering over and through the piano, the faint timbre of his guitar echoing between Moggie's firm loud notes, everyone in the room holding their breath so they could listen, we all strained to hear, his voice faltered so, I nudged Jeff with my elbow and gave him a grin but he ignored me and when Percy had finished and everyone was clapping away I said to Jeff, my hands swinging together just like everyone else's, "Crikey, he didn't half look daft in that outfit!" and laughed. Somebody else I think it was Jake Bickerton he was older than me he was in the Fifth Form leaned forward and said "It took a lot of courage to do that," and I started to say something about how silly Percy looked, when Jeff gave me a scornful look and said "His Mum makes him wear that, she wants him to go on the stage, not him. You wouldn't have done what he did, and you wouldn't've done it so well either no matter how hard you tried." He caught my breath away, "Don't be so mean," somebody said, "You're just jealous!" and that was so preposterous that I started to say something back but he'd turned away, I could feel my face was as red as Percy's had been and I just looked at the floor, all the clapping still going on as Percy Graham bowed to the audience. I looked up feeling all wrong, not really knowing where to look, my own face all puffy and red Percy smiling pleased it was over, Moggie Morris got up smiling away like anything shook Percy's hand said something to him, and then he bowed too, the Moggie Morris who despised that sort of music pleased he clapped Percy and everybody clapped some more, me clapping extra loud to make up, to get rid of the horrible empty feeling just below my ribs, Jeff's disapproval, and Jake's, their otherness, my half-resentful shame.

And I remembered the School Concert round about Guy Fawkes' Day it must have been three years before, when I still in Prep School and how terrible I'd felt, we'd all of us the whole class proud as proud gone up on to the stage in front of everybody parents and villagers and the rest of the whole School to start off the Concert. I can't remember what we sang, something like "The Lincolnshire Poacher" like as not, that was a perennial favourite, along with a couple of others, the sorts of song people sing round campfires, Moggie Morris playing the piano and conducting by nodding his head, he liked anything marked "traditional" in the book. We filled up two rows of benches, we'd practiced for weeks, the front row sitting the back row standing on the bench, the kids in between just standing, so everybody down there could see everybody up here. We were all scrubbed clean and in our Sunday best only all I had was my usual brown corduroy shorts all battered and torn, everybody'd scorn me for looking like a wreck. My shorts looked smashing when I got them, they were a lovely dark brown, so much better than the grey flannel shorts we were all supposed to wear and different from everyone else's, Mum had almost run out of clothes coupons and she'd bought these when they were much too big for me at the beginning of last summer, "They'll last a long time," she said. "They'd better, they've got to last till your birthday. They're really good material, they might even be pre-War. You take good care of them" but early in the Term, sometime late in September or early October, I'd grown so far out of my Sunday best trousers that all I had was these brown ones I wore them every day, every now and again Matron would take them away and wash them and I'd have to wear wear my Gym Knicks until they got dry I hated that they were so thin and cold and there was only one small pocket I could put my hanky in, no pieces of string or conkers or Dinky Toys there wasn't room for them, I couldn't wear them with my green blazer they looked so stupid, so I wore my pullover, none of the other kids were like this, I always had to borrow people's pencils and things like that because I had to keep mine in my locker or my desk. Matron'd mend shorts if she had time, the holes in the pockets, but as we got closer and closer to the end of Term they got tattier and tattier and about two weeks before the School Concert I was playing football on the Croft, leaping about between two jackets I was keeping goal I loved doing that and as I dived for the ball I felt this tug and then a whole rush of cold air on my left hip and my shorts had torn all the way from the hem at the bottom up to just below the waist. Where the strong stitches were at the top of the pocket there was this great big gap it looked like a tear about six inches long or more it stretched all the way down to the reinforced fold at the bottom of the leg, all raggedy edges, Matron said the seam had given way but it was all so frayed she couldn't do anything about it really, but she'd try, I'd have to be careful not to make it worse, "They didn't really use enough cloth," she said. "You'll have to try and cover it up with your jumper. So you don't get too cold." But my pullover didn't reach that far really, I'd stretch it down and it'd climb back up right away. She got really cross when she'd cobbled it together with big rough stitches, "I can't do any better than that," she'd said, "Nobody could without a big patch, not even a tailor if they're to fit, and it's no use trying safety pins they'll just make it worse" and next day I was goalie in a game on the Croft and it ripped right open again. Matron sounded cross, "It's too hard, it's complicated and slow" she said, "I really can't do that, I don't have time. And neither do you, what'd you wear? You really must learn to be careful" but I kept ripping it when I tucked my shirt in or even when I put them on or took them off no matter how hard I tried. Someone would tell me when my shirt was hanging out at the side, Giddy Giddy Gout! Aunt Kath would've teased. When they told me I knew they were laughing to themselves, secret scorn. By the end of the week the bit hanging out got ever so dirty all the mud I'd been rolling around in, we only got a clean shirt every Sunday, and I got in the habit of holding my left hand down by my side and not swinging my arm so it wouldn't show. I'd try to hold the edges together but it looked funny even with my hand spread out over the gaping hole trying to cover it, I couldn't walk properly doing that so I stopped. I don't remember wearing a blazer then, we didn't usually wear one in class or during the week at School except in the village, and even if it had been long enough to hide my shirt-tail sticking out of the tear the green looked horrible next to the dark brown corduroy, everybody else wearing grey flannel shorts, and the only time I could cover it up was when we went to Church, I could wear my mac until I was sitting in the pew, or even keep it on like some of the other kids did.

We weren't sitting in the front of Big School at the Concert, it was after lunch so the parents could come and they sat on the left side of Big School and in the first few rows on the right along with anyone else who came, we all had to sit towards the back so that each Form when it was its turn to perform could march in a posh crocodile two-by-two down to the front all of us shiny clean, climb to the stage. The Prep School started it off, the Concert'd work up through the Seniors, some of them would play piano pieces or sing in front of everybody, and even some of the village kids, somebody would recite something too, "The Song of the Shirt" or "You are old, Father William," we all liked them and "Be off or I'll kick you downstairs!" got to be a favourite catchphrase. A couple of Forms'd do something from Shakespeare, a bit of Henry V or The Merchant of Venice, stuff like that. I kept looking for Mum she'd said she'd try and come but it depended on the buses and she might be a bit late, what with the War she might not get here at all, I wanted her to hear us sing, I wanted her to see me up there on the stage with everyone else, I couldn't see her anywhere, and as we got up and filed out into the aisle to march up to the stage I was so busy looking for her I didn't notice that I'd ended up on the left side of the crocodile. Martin nudged me and said "Here, quick, let's swop" and I said "What?" and he said "Your trousers. Then they won't see," and I went a bit pink and said "I don't mind if they do" and he said "Of course you do, come on" and he stepped round so I had to move over, of course he was right those trousers made me look like an urchin like one of the townies in Wheaton Aston as if I couldn't take care of myself or look after things, Ken Hatton was behind us he said "Yeah. Good" and grinned "It doesn't matter," he said, "but it's nice not to be noticed" and I twisted round and looked at him, as we started to march down the aisle he gently pulled my hand away from my left side and he whispered "Nobody's going to notice if you don't draw attention to it" but I still felt self-conscious and as we walked I tried to look like somebody else so nobody would know it was really me. And as we came off the stage and walked back to our seats there was Mum sitting on the end of a row right by the aisle and she smiled at me her eyes twinkled and she said "You look lovely" and it wasn't till afterwards, when we were standing in the corridor outside Big School that she took a look at my trousers and said "Oh dear. We've got to get you some new ones. Can you make those last till you come home?" and I must have looked very unhappy because she took me to one side, she said she knew it was difficult with only those to wear but there are lots of people like that and it wouldn't be for much longer, it's only a few weeks she said and you'll be coming home. I refused to be comforted I didn't dare cry not in front of everybody and she said "It's not that bad, Peter, what's really the matter?" and I said "Everybody laughs at me, they all look down on me." She asked me about Martin and Ken, she didn't know their names but she'd seen us talking and changing places, "They're not laughing are they?" and I had to admit no they aren't. "You see?" she said, "nobody minds if you don't. It's not your fault there's a War on, is it?" and I smiled at that, but I still cringed from the others over those trousers, I felt so humiliated, I wanted to hide, and Mum looked a bit desperate and said she'd see what she could do, post something to me if she could find anything. But of course she couldn't do much, I had to wait.