Let’s Play ‘Pretend’


d “Let’s play ‘pretend’,” she’d say. And on a dairy farm, miles from the nearest town, and a long way to walk to play at your friends’ farm…what else could you do when you’re bored with dolls, toys, colouring in, and all the other indoor activities. On a sunny day, playing ‘pretend’ was the best way to fill our day.

“Let’s pretend we’re Robin Hood?”

“No, there’s only two of us here, and I’m fed up of being the Sherriff of Nottingham!”

“Let’s pretend we’re Sir Edmund Hillary!”

“No. That only means we walk up the hills to the ridge at the top. That’s not real climbing.”

“Well, let’s pretend we’re Biggles and Ginger.”

“Yes, let’s. Can I be Biggles this time?”

“No, you’re too small to fit in the cockpit. I’ll be Biggles.”

So that means I’m Ginger. Like I was the last times we’ve pretended.

“You don’t mind, do you.” It’s not a question. She’s already heading off down towards the cream stand near the gate.

I don’t mind, not really. At least Ginger gets to do more than Biggles, who just tells me what to do. I follow, as always, as we move across to the windbreak of old macrocarpa trees. No breeze today, so no riding the lower branches.

Beside – actually through some of the trees’ trunks – is the old almost-still-a fence, with its posts slanting every which way, probably supported more by the macrocarpa trunks than the posts. Lying across the sagging top wires is the old tree trunk, blown down years ago, stripped by the weather and the seasons of its bark and side branches.

We scramble over the fence into the old orchard, with its rows of neglected apple trees whose windfall fruit feeds the pigs when they’re allowed out from their sties. I’ve never seen the pigs myself. She has. She’s told me why Dad doesn’t want us to come into the orchard – the pigs are wild, she told me, and dangerous. That’s why we mustn’t tell Dad and Mum this is where we sometimes play.

Biggles checks the plane, making sure it’s not damp, it’s got no bugs in it. As she climbs into the cockpit, she gives Ginger orders.

“There’s parts missing, Ginger. See what you can get from the hangar.” So I get some likely-looking twigs, and pass them up to her. I start to climb up into the seat behind Biggles.

“Ginger, I’ll do the safety checks. But we’re short on fuel. Sort it out old chap.” I leave her to stick twigs into borer holes, for switches, climb through the fence again and get the old bucket from under the cream stand. It’s always there. I’ve told Dad about it. I asked him if he wanted me to bring it home, but he said to leave it there.

I carry it up to the house, going in through the front hedge and around to the water tank beside the back of the house. I refuel it, and carry it back to the plane. It’s heavy, and some sloshes out.

“That’s not much fuel,’ says Biggles.

“That’s all the chaps could spare. Besides, you said there was some fuel left from the last flight.”

“Okay, Ginger. Fuel her up.” I pour the ‘fuel’ into an opening in the old trunk. We both know the hole goes right through, and I’ve worked out how to stand and refuel without getting fuel on my feet. I put the bucket down by the fence, and climb aboard.

“Wait till I get the engine running, Ginger. I need you to pull away the chocks.” Biggles starts the engine. “Took, took, tchook, tchook… Took, took, tchook, tchook… Took, tchook, tchooka… Rrrrrrr, Rrrrrr… Chocks away, Ginger!”

I kick away two rocks, and clamber aboard. Biggles has the motor running smoothly, and it starts into a full roar, rising in pitch, as he revs her up and we take off. I run the motor when Biggles runs out of breath, so the engine doesn’t stutter and die.

“I say, Ginger,” calls Biggles. “We’re right over the enemy air field now. Snap those photos now, old boy!” Biggles takes over the engine, while I hold out the camera and take snaps.

Click. Kachick. Click. Kachik. Click. Kachik. Click. Kachik.

“I got four good snaps, Biggles. Will that do the major?”

“Keep snapping Ginger!”

Click. Kachick. Click. Kachik. Click. Kachik. Click. Kachik.

“Right-oh, that’ll have to do. One of their planes is out taxiing – they’re after us. Let’s head for home. Well done, Ginge!”

We fly back to base, land, and taxi to our spot beside the runway. Biggles does the safety checks while I replace the chocks.

“Great flight, Biggles. Are we going to see the major straight away?”

“Oh no, Ginger. Let’s stop off at the canteen for a cuppa on the way.”

We clamber through the fence, I replace the fuel bucket, and we walk up the gentle slope to the house – going through the back gate to the kitchen.

“Welcome back chaps. Good flight?” Mum asks. The teapot’s full, and there’s scones on the counter. Help yourselves, won’t you.” She smiles, and leave us to it, going out to the clothes line to lower the prop and unpeg the washing.

“Runs a good canteen, does Mum, eh.”

“Yes, she does.”


Dairy farm, c. 1955-56, in Whangarata, Waikato, New Zealand
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Outburst of Rage – (Daily Prompt)


http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/prompt-mad-hatter/  Krista posted: “Tell us about a time when you flew into a rage. What is it that made you so incredibly angry?

______________________________________________

I was aged sixteen, in Sixth Form at a Catholic Girls’ School for my final year, and there under much reluctance. No – that’s not strong enough – bottled fury would be closer.

You see, I’d done my first three years secondary school education at this school, and by the end of Fourth Form I had realised the staff were not effective at teaching, the classes were well over-stuffed, the text books were grossly outdated, and the curriculum was designed to split the girls into two streams – “academic” and “commercial””, regardless of a pupil’s talents or interests. I had as good as failed the national School Certificate examination at the end of Fifth Form – a 60% pass in English and a 50% pass in three other subjects was required. I ‘d passed with a total of only 204 marks.

Passing at all was the result of, every school evening working in my parents’ “dairy” (NZ term for I guess a US drug store), I would ask every state school student who called in for a milk shake or ice-cream cone what books he had in his bag, could I borrow it overnight and he pick it up from the shop in the morning. Those modern texts were the only way I learned a small amount of math, a smaller amount of French and a heck of a lot of history. I’d finish up at the dairy at 9:30, walk home with Dad, watch a bit of t.v. with him (The Virginian, The Untouchables, Dean Martin Show…) off to bed and rise at five in the morning to study.

When I received my pathetic results I asked my parents to transfer me to the town’s state school. They refused (the costs of a new uniform for one year, probably). I swore that returning for Sixth Form would be a waste of their money, a waste of the nuns’ time, and a waste of my time, as I would be “on strike” from day one. It made no difference – I was in the Convent school’s Sixth Form classroom on day one.

And on strike.

I refused to carry exercise or text books from school to home. I read war comics in class. In “study break” (when the nuns left us thirteen senior students unsupervised) I would bring out an electric kettle,  send a boarder to the school kitchens for a jug of milk, and we’d gulp instant coffee, regale each other with the female version of BS, and no one would get any study done.

During religious education lessons (I was a non-Catholic) I would openly scoff at the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Faith, until one day the teaching nun said that that day’s lesson was for Catholics only, so would I mind taking some study material to the Library. I headed off, got a few paces along the corridor and stopped. I went back. As I walked in again, the catholic girls’ faces were stunned.

“Excuse me, Mother – if this is really a lesson for catholic girls only, why are Irene and Sue still here and not asked to leave?”

“You don’t want to leave the room?”

“Not under that pretence, thank you,” and I sat down in my seat.

“Very well–Catholic girls, pick up your materials and we shall work in the library. Maria – ask the caretaker to come and light the Library fire for us please.” And she sailed out (nuns always sailed out), followed meekly by the good catholic girls. Lynne – nil; nuns – one.

No matter what I tried I could Not get them to expel me – they knew about my Strike, you see, and weren’t going to give me the satisfaction. So there I was full of hostility, frustration, impotent to change things…

And as we sat one day, gossiping, me for a change actually reading a history magazine, a girl sat on a desk behind me, swinging her foot to rap against my wooden chair back. I remember gritting my teeth. I turned around to her and said with controlled courtesy

“Please stop doing that – it is annoying me,” and turned back to my magazine.

She persisted.

I turned around a second time.

“Believe it or not, I am actually wanting to study this magazine. I’ll ask you a second time – stop kicking my chair back. Thank you” and turned to my own desktop again.

After a pause, she began again. Again I turned around to her.

“This is the third and last time I will ask you. Please, stop kicking the back of my chair. If you continue, the consequences will be yours, not mine.”

I turned back to my desk again. By now, almost all conversation in the room had stopped. I sat over my magazine, thankful that five years of elocution lessons had taught me how to control my voice and tone. I know I was looking at the desktops beside mine.

When the stupid girl began again, I grabbed the heavy Catholic Prayer Book from the neighbouring desk, swung around and cracked her knee-cap. The snap echoed in the silent room, but was soon covered with her scream of pain. She tried to leap off the desk and hurl herself at me, but made the mistake of trying to land on the leg with the broken knee cap. She buckled, shrieked again …

… and the door hurled open as two nuns rushed in. They were Furious with me, although they did accept that I had given her three warnings (I did have some friends in the room).

What actually made them even angrier was my choice of weapon – the Prayer Book!

The girl with the knee was packed off to hospital, where they pinned her patella, plaster-cast her leg, and she was excused sport for the remainder of the year – dang it.

So, in all honesty (now) the kicking of my chair back was only a trigger for the inner rage at being stuck in a useless school. I cannot even remember who the girl was. (She probably remembers me rather well, poor cow.)