There was a flat blue sky the morning Milky White moved in down Barratt’s Road, first week of the summer holidays when me, Daz, Skinny and Dodge were bored to death, perched on the wall and drumming it with our heels, flinging stones against the kerb. By elevenses our mums had their tights off, feet up with cups of tea and Woodbines, lines sagging while the washing dripped. We gobbed on passing ants, the bubbles popped and dried on the hot pavement. It would soon be flippin’ hotter. Back gardens white with butterflies on the cabbages as we waited for the flying ants to rise from nesting cracks between the kerbstones, each suggestion leading into argument.
« We could git some worms an’ goo darn Feobalds. Caught masses o’roach larse toime dint we ? »
« You never Skinny. Anyway, you owe me a packet of ‘ooks… »
Skinny walked to the corner to see if there were any bloomers on Edna Haunt’s clothes line.
« ‘Ere you lot ! » he shouted, pointing up the road. « Removal lorry ! »
We jumped off the wall prepared to run after it, either down the hill as far as the pond or up one of the cul-de-sacs, but Daz said what we all knew : « Oany forty-nine’s empty ».
He was right because it turned our way, shifting gears and stopping at our feet.
« Bliiiii-mey ».
Huge and green, dented by low bridges, it was the size of a whole house. BARNEY & SONS MAIDSTONE. We perked up at this and looked for boys among the newcomers. They came up behind in a black Humber Hawk, emerging like cubs into the wild, one about our age, one a squirt and the third a sister. We swaggered for their benefit, if swaggering means three foot of dribble or lobbing handfuls of gritshot on the lorry roof.
We re-arranged ourselves on the wall and waited for the show to begin. The path sloped upwards behind us, thus the wall rose higher, higher than the lorry, to the empty house at the top. They all went up there as the men began to open the lorry doors. So we stayed put, and there it was, these newcomers’ sitting room as it must’ve been in real life, all ready to sit and read comics in.
The oldest boy came down first to cart his own belongings up the path. He wouldn’t let the men touch them. Under one arm a remote controlled boat, under the other a big Scalectrix set. We forgave him that, you had to show something off, but this boy swamped us. Up and down he came and went, like a moving toyshop at Christmas. Cluedo, Etch-a-Sketch, Junior Chemistry Set, Dan Dare Radio, Sealey Octofloat hollow fibreglass float rod and Mitchell 324, Diawa Air pistol, frisbee, gyroscope, boxing gloves, and more and more and more, all preserved like new.
« Blinkin big’ead » Dodge said, gobbing in the dust and rubbing it in with his plimpsole.
The boy was back again, clapping dust from his hands, an upright, soft treading boy, his lips compressed with purpose, his face not one of our faces. We didn’t bother disguising our contempt when he wheeled his bike out. No Chopper for this nancy. His was the perfect bike, leading it out the lorry and down the ramp like a girl’s first pony, light blue and turquoise, white saddle, white-walled tyres, 3-speed twist grips, white rubber pedals. Its sober handlebars were for steering on straight clean roads. Its mudgaurds knew no mud. Dodge had a tracker made from bits off the dump. Daz had a chopper with cow horns and one brake.
« Namby-pamby » they said.
« Andy Pandy more loike » Skinny said, whose bike had one pram wheel and you stopped it with the hole in your shoe bottoms. We laughed, just as the boy’s dad came down to the lorry to give orders. He sounded just like our dads, so we thought they must’ve won the pools.
When the lorry was empty and the beds were in their rooms, the man stood with his eldest son by their new front gate.
« Those boys look your age Melvyn. Goo an’ make friends with ‘em ».
We didn’t think much of that name and smirked. Melvyn pouted but his dad held the gate open, fiddled with the catch and said he’d better go fetch his toolbag and some lubricant.
« ‘Ere comes Mouw-vyn, » Skinny said.
We pretended to ignore him. Daz chanted in a Yankee drawl :
« ‘Ere comes the jurdge, ‘ere comes the jurdge, righdy-righdy-righdy-righdy ‘ere comes the jurdge ».
The judge was upon us, his jeans pressed to a knife edge, checked shirt gleaming, his bumper boots just out of tissue paper, a knitting pattern boy, that hair combed into waves and corrugations you could stand an Airfix model ship on. There were even little daisy fields of freckles either side of his snub-snob nose, but his mouth was set hard for the ordeal he could see we meant it to be. We looked sideways now, jealous, acting bored, sullen, but our ears open like traps all set to catch his spick and span words, the words of a boy whose father has ideas for him and tells him to mind his words like ours told us to wash our mouths out with soap and water.
« Do you live down this road ? »he pronounced.
« Wouldn’t be si’n ‘ere if we didn’t yer twit, » Dodge said, passing his fists under his nose and sniffing them.
And thus began the five minutes which turned our world inside out. I’ll tell you what happened in episode 3.