Letters and Diary Fiction posted October 18, 2015

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Seaweed and fair rides

Taken by Surprise--Part 7 of 9

by jpduck

Thursday, 27th July, 1951
After last night’s storm, the sea was rough this morning, and the waves had thrown up fly-clouded heaps of seaweed onto the beach. This seemed to cause Mr Rendle huge excitement, and he hurried away in his car.
“What’s your dad so cranked up about, Jack?”
He cast his eyes heavenward. “Who knows? No doubt we will discover soon.”
Half an hour later Mr R returned, taking three brand-new dustbins from the back of the car, while we looked on in astonishment.
“Come along, boys and girls, we’ve got to fill these three bins with seaweed.”
“What on earth for, Dad?”
“Seaweed makes the most perfect compost. I want some for the garden.”
Jack shook his head and tapped it with his pointing finger. His dad just laughed.
All four parents came to the beach to help. Even Celia wanted to join in. Jack and I took one look at the swarms of flies and decided we would rather collect the seaweed direct from the sea. We could see tangles of it at the crest of every wave. We rushed off to change into our cozzies and gym shoes.
When we returned we charged into the water to the usual parental accompaniments of ‘Take care’, ‘Don’t go out too far’, ‘Mind the breakers’, etc. The trick was to dash into the water as a wave receded, gather up as much weed as possible before the next wave broke, and scramble out with it to the bins. It was so much more fun than doing battle with those disgusting flies.
At one point I misjudged my retreat and a huge, breaking wave knocked me off my feet. I was still jerking about under water, trying to work out which way was up, when I felt a pair of hands — adorable hands — grab me under my arms and pull me to my feet. Jack held on and walked me out of the water.
“Thank you, Jack.”
“My pleasure,” he said with a grin and strawberry cheeks.
We were shivering with cold by then. Jack’s mum chivvied us up the steps.
“Go and get dressed, Ruth, and then come back to our caravan for some hot chocolate to warm you up.”
Dressed, and a little warmer, I tapped nervously on the open caravan door.
“Come in, Ruth duckie,” Jack’s mum called.
Jack was sitting on the bench under the rear window of the van. There were two steaming mugs on the table in front of him. He patted the bench beside him, and I sat down. We grabbed a mug each. I noticed he had not started on his; I think he had been waiting for me. He’s so cute.
“Thank you very much, Mrs Rendle.”
“Oh, please, call me Sally. You’re very welcome.”
“Yes, thank you, Sally,” said Jack, with that cheeky grin of his.
Sally made as if to cuff his ear. “That’s enough of your lip, young man. Have you seen? They’ve been putting the fair together in the next door field since early this morning.”
“Oh, great! Can we go this evening mum?”
“Sure! But have you asked Ruth if she would like to go?”
“Do come, Ruth; it’ll be a blast.”
“Yes, I’d love to. I thought we’d missed it this year.  I’ll check with mum. But it won’t be a problem.”

The fair was the same as last year — no new rides. But it was a lot of fun sharing it with Jack. He was a great enthusiast and wanted to try every ride. He seemed to be desperate to go on the ghost train. I have never wanted to try that and still didn’t.
“Oh come on, Ruth. Why don’t you want to go on it?”
“I dunno.”
“Is it because you’re scared? I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“Of course it isn’t, you cheeky sod. Why don’t you go on your own?”
“Nah! That’d be boring. Besides, I want to be with you, Ruth. Please! Pretty please!”
“Oh, OK! But you’ll owe me . . . big time.”

Thursday, 27th July, 1951
Dad finally lost it this morning. He has decided we need to take three dustbins full of seaweed home with us tomorrow . . . for compost, for God’s sake. I fear for his sanity.
He dragooned us all into helping to collect it. Ruth and I decided we would rather collect it from the sea than from the stinky piles on the beach — and the sea was fabulously rough.
We had to gather it up in between waves. After a while, Ruth misjudged it and crashed off her feet under a wave. I didn’t hesitate and dived in after her to save her from being swept out to sea. I managed to pull her up on her feet and helped her ashore.
Ruth’s got tits; I only noticed them just then. They’re quite small. But they’re very nice. Oh, that’s mad. I’m glad I never let anyone else read my diary journal. Well, except Ruth yesterday. God, she must never see today’s entry. I suppose she wouldn’t anyway; we won’t ever see each other again after tomorrow.
I’m asking myself what I feel about that — not seeing each other again. It’s odd; I don’t quite know what the answer is. Feelings are weird things.
This evening we went to the fair, now open next door. Our parents gave us three pounds each to spend. Wow!  It was the best fun ever. I think we had a go on every ride there was — except the baby ones, of course.
The first thing Ruth wanted to go on was the carousel, so I joined her, even though it almost counted as a baby ride. But she seemed to enjoy it, so that’s good.
Then it was my turn to choose. It had to be the Ferris wheel — before it became too dark to see the views. Afterwards we both had a hot dog. They were yummy. I decided I was still hungry and had another one. When I asked Ruth if she would like seconds, she laughed and said “no thanks”.
Next we went on a swing boat, but I had to stop before our time was up because I felt sick.
When we went on the bumper cars, Ruth got grumpy because I did all the driving. So we had a second go with a car each, bumping each other all over the shop. She enjoyed that. So did I.
Our mums had said we must be back by ten o’clock. When I saw there were only thirty minutes left, and we hadn’t been on the ghost train yet, I tried one last time to persuade her to come with me. I think she thought it would be scary. I said I’d look after her and pointed out it was more or less our last half an hour together . . .  ever. She looked rather shocked at that and gave in.
Once we were in the ghost train car, I snuggled up to her and put my arm round her shoulders. I wanted her to feel safe. Every time the car jerked round a bend, we pressed into each other. That was nice. In the darkness we kissed each other again. I don’t know which of us started that; I think it was both together, really.



These are extracts from the diaries of two 12-year-old children, Ruth and Jack, who meet on a caravan holiday in Dorset, UK. It is fictionalised biography. The main characters are all real, with names changed. The broad outline of the holiday is also real.

The nine episodes will be posted on alternate Sundays, interleaved with further chapters from the novel, 'Time & Again'
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