Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Trading Shrapnel and Other Collectibles

OK, we now know the war is for real. Watching the Spits having dog fights in the blue summer skies was fascinating. Loads of white vapour trails swirling around as the pilots swooped and dived engaging the enemy planes.

One of the joys of my young life was finding a shell-case or a jagged piece of shrapnel on my way to Elmwood Road school in Croydon. It's surprising how many kids were into "trading" bits and bobs of the detritus that falls from those blue skies.

Traipsing through the alley-ways on my way to Elmwood Road School when I meet Kevin Philips.

"You wanna have a look at my map of the war?" asks Kevin. "Yes please..." I say, a touch too eagerly I suppose.

"Whatcha got to swop then?" Kevin says. I produce a brass shell case from my pocket. It's about three inches long I guess. "Hmm ... not bad; got anyfink else?" muses Kev. "Nah, sorry - that's all I've got today."

"Okay then" says Kevin, pocketing the shell case; "'Ere's yer map. Ta ta..." and off he scampers.

The map was something cut out of the Daily Express, about 4 inches by 5 inches or so. It had some arrows printed on parts of it pointing to enemy locations I think.

I'd been well and truly had over by this older lad. He certainly saw me coming, but I didn't mind. In trading, you win some you lose some.

Next day I was walking through the alley-ways leading from Hathaway Road into St. James's Road on my way to school. Halfway through the alley-way I met Kevin, going the other way. Obviously bunking off from school I imagine. He was carrying a black, heavy looking book.

He pointed to the writing, gold embossed, on the front cover. "What's this say?" he demanded.

Looking at it carefully, having been reading for a short while I replied: "Er, holly bibble..."

Kevin then slammed the book on top of my head, making me feel quite dizzy. "Holy Bible, you twerp" said Kevin. "It's the Holy bleedin' Bible!" and stalked off towards Hathaway Road. I carried on to school, with a slight headache gathering strength.

Luckily I was not late for school. Not a good thing, being late for school at Elmwood. You put yourself on offer for the cane if you were late now and then. I don't remember a single teacher's name other than the headmaster: Mr. Thatcher. Nobody could possibly ever forget this forceful man. In fact, he's the only teacher I remember out of the two schools I attended. He ruled the school with Churchillian strength and force. He was firm, but very fair. If you got into bother with Mr. Thatcher you can bet your life you deserved it.

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