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The Tree


master brummie
The Tree
Mike Ingram

Once outside the house John’s world began with the back yard; a garden really, there was a flower bed. Bricks had been removed from a long strip, parallel to the house. Here, marigolds and lupins were in bloom surrounded by chickweed which John sometimes fed to the chickens. The chickens were kept in an area that was fenced off with wire netting along the wall opposite the flower bed. John knew that the eggs were collected and eaten but if the chickens were eaten, he was never told. John’s father was throwing grain to the chickens; his mother stood by the kitchen door enjoying the warm air and a Monday free from washing.
At the far end, away from the house was a great high wall which was the end wall of the Trotter.‚.’s house. It was against this wall that family photographs were taken; visiting aunts and uncles, new babies and sometimes weddings. Today would have been a good day for photographs but after dinner they were visiting an aunt and uncle.
At right angles to the wall at the left were the big gates. The big gates were about six foot high and about twelve foot wide; two gates that opened inwards.
Beyond the wall and the big gate was the Barracks. Not an army barracks but a court yard behind John’s house surrounded by twelve three story, three roomed houses that had been built in the previous century. The yard had always been known locally as the Barracks because of the large number of families living with large numbers of children living in the small close packed houses.
John pulled back one of the big gates and ran out and over to the tree in front of the Trotter’s house where Duncan was trying to lasso one of the branches.
John changed his run to a gallop and rode over to Duncan. “Howdy” drawled Duncan and they galloped to the end of the yard to lasso the lamp post that stood near Duncan’s house. Pretending not to see the four older children, who ignored them anyway, and who were kicking a ball against the dustbins in the corner of the yard, John and Duncan climbed the lamp post and swung on the two cross bars. As Duncan’s father, Charlie Bagley came out of his house they jumped to the ground and ran back to the tree. Across the yard Bert Evans could be seen through his open door winding up his gramophone in order to play his only record, ‘Hallelujah I’m a Bum’ by Al Jolson for the eleventh time that morning.
Christine Trotter who sat on her front step talking to her dolls ignored John and Duncan. She wasn’t interested in playing cowboys and Indians. She knew that if she were made to join in she would have to be an Indian who would be very quickly captured and tied to the tree. Duncan tied his rope around the tree while John climbed up and straddled the only sturdy branch. Feeling the sun on his head he remembered his cowboy hat and jumped down from the tree and back towards his house to fetch it.
A wide entry ran from the Barracks to the street. At the top of the entry Charlie Bagley was now leaning on the wall sunning himself and talking to his brother-in-law Fred Wells and Frank Trotter, Christine’s father. The three men wore their summer suits; their only suits. They had come out to leave their wives to prepare dinner and to wait for opening time. The pubs would be open a half hour earlier today. Fred asked a passer by the time and with relief the men headed towards the Guildford Arms on the corner. They would stagger back mid afternoon and if they were capable would eat the dinner that was by then drying out in the oven.
John and Duncan would have eaten their dinner and Duncan would be back climbing the tree. John would be dressed in his best clothes waiting while is parents were getting ready to go to visit Aunt Jean and Uncle Sid.

John parked and sat looking at the houses. He got out of the car and stood on the pavement. It was too warm for his jacket but he kept it on; he didn’t want to leave it on view in his car. He could hear music and an occasional shout coming from open widows of the houses and somewhere a motorcycle starting up. There was no one in the street although it was mid morning and no one was at work this Monday. The houses had been built about fifteen years before but already looked in need of renovation. The layout of the street was unfamiliar to him now but he knew he was near by working out the distance from the corner. Just past where he had parked, part of the street was set back and contained a row of garages. He walked over toward them and found an opening which led to a children’s play area behind the houses. There was a metal climbing frame and various brick and concrete blocks forming a semi circle; some covered with graffiti, some chipped. There were no children around. One of the blocks was cylindrical with a wooden centre. When John came close to it he realised that the wooden centre was a tree stump about two feet high. He could see that originally it had had been given a smooth top but now it was rough and broken. There were scorch marks suggesting that there had been attempts to set it alight. A few feet from the tree stump John could see the crumbling concrete wall that formed the back of the garages. He looked over to were the big gates had been, where Christine Trotter had played with her dolls and where and the children whose names he couldn’t remember had kicked their ball.


Kiwi Brummie Admin' Team
:angel: Michael what a great story, I too was there.
That Christine with the dolls could have easily been me 50 years ago, watching Danny Jones and Dennis Hessin playing Cowboys and Indians.

Chris :angel:

John Young

master brummie
Well Done Michael O0

So you went back around Farm Street then, the "Lane" to Villa Road 8)

Thanks for taking me "Back with You",,,, cheers John :coolsmiley:


Yeah me definitely with my dolls too! Great story - keep them coming!

Robert Harrison

Loved it. Choice of words and phrazing, quite professional.



Michael just re-read your story and saw the Hallelujah I'm a Bum reference. My dad used to sing that to me in the 50's. It was a popular song with the unemployed men in Australia and USA apparently. I've posted about it before on forum I think - we used to think it was very rude "bum".