Chapter Twenty Three

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Dear Diary,

For some reason I keep remembering a holiday we all went on years ago. I must have been about nine years old, about one year before Mum died. God, we were so happy: Leo, Mum and I. There was a group of us, all from the village, a camping holiday, staying in tents. The campsite was only up the road; it took about twenty minutes to get there.

I remember Mum driving us in our banger, an old Ford Escort. It was the three of us plus Mabel, the nextdoor neighbour, in our car. Leo and I were so excited. Camping was our favorite thing to do. We were the ones who put up the tent – one of those big ones with little rooms inside – each one divided by a thin sheet of canvas. Mabel stayed with us.

Now, can I remember who was there? Yes, I think I can. There were other kids, I remember that. Marilyn, yes, she was there with her Mum and Dad, Aggie and Luke. The Crombies. Then there was Dorothy and Ken, the Frys. Plus a few other families I think.

Leo and I were always the leaders of the pack. All the other kids would follow us and want to be a part of whatever we were doing. Sometimes that meant trouble! There was the time we thought it would be fun to steal a tractor.

There was this tractor that was always at the front bit of the campsite, next to the cottage where the owners lived. There was the tiny playground next to it. The rest of the campsite consisted of a shower block, a toilet block and loads of fields and hills for the campers.

So on this particular holiday Leo and I conjured up a plan to steal the tractor and take it for a spin around the campsite. I remember how keen Marilyn was to get in on the whole thing. I can see her at that age right now. She has hardly changed. Still the same long blonde hair, often in pigtails.

She wanted to be the one who drove the tractor. To be fair, she did do quite well. It was Leo who managed to start the thing up whilst the rest of us watched and giggled from the bushes. He fiddled with the gears and once it was rolling Marilyn got herself behind the wheel and drove it down the hill.

We all thought it was hysterical. A ten-year-old girl driving a tractor, Leo clinging onto the side then the old guy who owned the campsite chasing them down the path so they had to stop the tractor, scramble off it and run away. We scattered and left the tractor in the middle of the lane.

We must've laughed for hours. The simple pleasure of nicking a tractor! Sometimes I wish I could get my kicks that easily these days. Another thing I remember, crystal clear, is how Mum would sing in the evenings. We would make a fire – Leo and I, of course and then everyone would gather round. Mr Crombie – or Uncle Luke as we used to call him – Marilyn’s Dad – would be on guitar. He was a good player. I loved the rainbow strap he always used to wear.

Mum’s sweet voice would echo through those summer nights. Sometimes there would be a song we could all sing. I loved that too. I always sat close to Mum, sometimes holding her hand, sometimes laying my head on her shoulders. I was such a Mummy’s girl. The love I felt on those nights, with Mum on one side and Leo on the other… Life could hardly get any better.

It’s funny, I remember one night in particular, yeah, it was during the same holiday. Our evening got a bit spoilt. I didn’t know exactly what was going on. All I remember is there we were around the fire. Mum was singing ‘Amazing Grace’. It was early evening, the sky shone ferocious red with wild streaks of orange and pink.

Suddenly a car drove near to our camp area and this guy Terry got out. I can’t remember much about him. He used to organize gigs for Mum, in the village. I don’t think you could call him her ‘manager’. There wasn’t that much to manage because she only really did gigs in Ellwood.

Anyway, Terry stormed out of his car looking angry and as soon as Mum saw him she stopped singing and jumped up to go and speak to him. She seemed to know what he wanted. They were quite a way from the group by the time she met got up to him so I didn’t hear much of what they said.

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