From Chapter 2
We had some fun I can tell you. Climbing trees were one of our favourite things. Meg could climb any tree better than most of the lads. Mind you she were always very long in the leg and her ankles were good and strong. We must have climbed nearly every tree in Blessham. And fell out of some of ‘em too. I remember especially the day we climbed to the top of the big cedar at the Hall. Now, that were a real adventure. Right to the top we went. No kid had ever done that before, mind you, no kid had ever dared to go into the grounds of the Hall before. But me and Meg did. Oh, how we did. It were a Saturday afternoon in the middle of summer. Blazing hot day it were. We were sitting by the old fishpond throwing stones in and talking about all sorts of things when she turns and says to me, ‘Hey Joe, want to go and climb a tree?’
‘Yeah, if that’s what you want to do?’ I said.
‘Yeah, come on,’ she says, ‘And I know just the tree.’
‘Which one?’ I said.
‘Guess!’ She said and I think she were teasing me.
‘I don’t know.’ I said. ‘The oak in the middle of thirty-acre field?’
‘The wizened old Ash down Fiddlers Lane?’
‘That big windblown Larch on the edge of the woods?’
‘No, no, no! I’m thinking of something much bigger.’ She said with a huge grin and her eyes seemed to widen.
‘I don’t know Meg, just tell me.’ I pleaded.
‘What’s the biggest tree in the village?’ She said. And then it hit me.
‘You don’t mean...?’ I said.
‘I sodding well do.’ She laughed.
‘Oh no Meg, not the cedar up at the Hall.’ I thought she were off her rocker.
‘That’s the one.’ She said still laughing. She had a lovely, cheeky, little laugh when she were a young ‘un. Still has actually.
‘You’re off your blummin’ rocker Meg.’ I told her, ‘If Her Ladyship catches us on her land, why, she’ll skin us alive.’
‘Only if she catches us. Come on!’ She said.
And that were it. She jumped up and set off for the hall. Well, I had to follow her, didn’t I? By ‘eck I were scared, shit-blummin’-scared, if you’ll pardon such language and I truly apologise for using it. Mind you, anybody would be shit scared if they’d met Her Ladyship. Anyway, we got off the road and crept through the woods until we came to the edge of the big lawn at the front of the Hall. We waited until we were sure that there weren’t no one about and then we ran towards the great cedar in the middle of the lawn as fast as we could. And as soon as we reached it Meg shot up it. She must have gone ten feet up before I’d got started. Me heart were pounding, me legs were shaking, and I weren’t far from pappering meself with fear. But I just kept climbing. I could see Meg’s feet clambering away above me and I just followed ‘em. I don’t know how long it took, it seemed like forever, but we eventually reached the very top.
It were blummin’ amazing. What a view we had from up there. We could see the whole of Blessham and because it were such a clear sunny day, we could just make out the town off away in the distance.
‘Do you know Joe,’ Meg said, ‘we must be the first people to climb this tree.’
‘Yeah, I reckon we are.’ I said.
‘How do you feel Joe?’ She said.
‘Great,’ I said. ‘just great.’ And then I looked down...
The smell were terrible. I’d never been so frightened. Oh God, it were high up. It took us best part of half an hour to get down and I were blummin’ glad to get there. But, as my rotten luck would have it, old Isaac, Her Ladyship’s gardener, were waiting for us at the bottom. He grabbed hold of me by the shirt collar but Meg got away and legged it.
‘What are you doing on Her Ladyship’s land young Wilkie?’ He demanded.
‘We were just climbing the tree Isaac, honest.’ I said and I remember that I started crying I was so blummin’ scared.
‘Do you know what Her Ladyship says I should do to any of you young ‘uns if I catches you on her land?’
‘No.’ I cried.
‘She says that I should I should give your arse a bloody good kicking and cuff you round the lugholes.’ He said sternly. I cried some more but then old Isaac started laughing.
‘Give over, you soft little sod, I’m not like her. Now go on, get off before she comes out and sees you, you silly little beggar.’ He laughed. And then he let me go. He were alright really were old Isaac. So, I walked off to look for Meg. It weren’t easy walking either what with having messed me underpants but I found her back at the fishpond and told her what had happened. Ah yes, that were a real adventure that were. And we had loads more. Me and Meg.