© December 2004 by Crackerwriter
This is a story about early love between two boys and their winter adventure of 1958/9.
The usual disclaimers apply:
If you are under the age of 18, or reading such material is illegal in your jurisdiction, or you find such material offensive, then please leave this story unread NOW.
There is within the story a degree of male-to-male sexual content, but is not intended to encourage or promote such actions. Any similarities to any persons living or dead are highly likely.
The story itself doesn’t mention safe sex, because in those days it wasn’t really necessary. However, it’s much better to play safe these days. Use protection where it’s needed.
I wrote my story ‘Johnny’ in November 2001. This story happened around and after Christmas 1958, almost a year after we first met, although I did not mention it in the earlier story, since that was more about Johnny and myself and our growing relationship. For those of you who have read the story however, you may recognise the various characters.
It was a bad winter out in the countryside, during the beginning of that year of 1959, although admittedly 1963 was worse if I remember correctly, and a lot of neighbours helped each other out getting supplies of food and milk through almost impassable roads. And it was a near thing for one of our neighbours….
1958 had been a good year. I’d met my closest friend ever, Johnny, and he stayed with us at weekends and occasionally through the week. He was a foster child to another family in the village, but had formed such a strong friendship with my family and me, that both families now officially fostered him. Christmas ’58, he would be staying with us as the Peeves were going away to stay with relatives. Johnny had asked if he could be with us for Christmas. Secretly, my mother and father were delighted, because they were very fond of Johnny, and treated him like their own. Johnny of course, reciprocated the feelings. He had responded to that more and more until he was truly more like a real brother than a fostered child.
I regarded Johnny as a brother anyway. We were extremely close as friends, and secretly also in a sexual way, having discovered and explored our bodies together without embarrassment or shame. Even at eleven we were as close as any partners ever got to be. We loved each other with a genuine intensity that would have put many a relationship to shame.
We were members of the local church choir, and by the November of 1958, Graham, the organist’s son, had lost his treble voice as it broke, and Johnny had become the Head Chorister.
We lay in bed in each other’s arms one night, having just had a loving cuddle session together, and just relaxing afterwards.
“This feels really weird Mikey. From a nobody to head Chorister in a year.”
“You deserve every bit of it my love. You have a really good voice you know.”
“Yeah, but yours is better.”
“Look, you’ve been in the choir much longer than me and your voice is good. Maybe your voice will break before mine? It’s not important anyway; we make a great team don’t we? I’m just pleased for you, ok?”
During that year, the standard of the choir had risen to new heights, and we had been practicing carols that the choir had never been able to do before. We had started a lot of healthy competition going, with the two of us having very strong wide ranging voices, and most of the other boys at least tried now to improve their voices as well. There would be quite a number of carols sung only by the choir at our local Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols; a service that in previous years, had only had the best known carols sung by both congregation and choir together, and then only in a mediocre kind of way. This Christmas, it would be radically different and there was an air of expectancy around the village, about the forthcoming event.
Randy Brown had approached the two of us one day, after practice.
“Look you two. Do you think you could sing one carol as a duet together? I had an idea for a bit of a different arrangement and frankly you two are my best choristers. It requires very close harmony and I know how you two will work together to make it sound really good. It’s one we’ve never done before.” To be honest, we’d felt a bit smug about that. He hadn’t mentioned David at all.
“Well, we could give it a try sir, no harm in that?”
“Good lad. Let’s try it shall we?” So we had, and it had worked out nicely and sounded terrific.
It would really be a true candlelight service as well, and since we were so well rehearsed that we didn’t really need the words and music except perhaps as a prompt. It was something that had never been attempted before. We were singing arrangements that had previously been done by the Choir at King’s College Cambridge. There were some particularly beautiful carols, like 'A Spotless Rose', and descants and arrangements to other carols by their current Organist and Master of the Choristers, David Wilcox, (Now of course these days, Sir David Wilcox), who at the time, seemed determined to put the name of the King’s College Choir firmly on the musical map!
I’m pleased to say we surpassed ourselves, and a lot of the villagers were moved to tears by carols and arrangements they’d never thought they’d ever hear in their local church. For the very first time, Johnny sang a solo quite beautifully; the last verse from the carol ‘Jesus Christ the Apple Tree’, and I saw my mother dabbing tears from her eyes. She was so proud of him. I even saw my father wipe an eye. Even Mrs. Peeves had to admit he was good. (They were going away about four days later, and so attended the carol service. When Johnny and I sang ‘I Sing of a Maiden’ as a duet, there was an unprecedented hush as everyone sat perfectly quiet, listening intently. As we finished with the old favourite, ‘O come All Ye Faithful’ we did a descant that threatened to shatter every piece of glass in the place! The vicar was ecstatic about the whole thing afterwards and thanked Randy and the whole choir for such a beautiful service.
Johnny was coming straight back to our place after the service. He always called it ‘going home’. My mother and father walked ahead with Phil and Janet, our neighbours, leaving us to celebrate with crisps and lemonade in the vestry, all provided by the vicar!
“I hope you will all be able to come to the Christmas Day service boys?”
Only David would not be there, their trip being a few days before Christmas itself. Everyone else promised they would drag themselves out of bed and come to Matins, the morning service. The vicar was pleased, and promised a further treat for all who attended.
As we finished up and filed outside, Drew came over to us.
“You two are really close friends aren’t you? It shows, you know? And you were both absolutely brilliant tonight I thought. That duet was just so beautiful; it was like you were singing it for each other. I’ve only ever heard anything as good as that on a record. Tonight was the best night I’ve ever had in this choir. It was just actually enjoyable from start to finish. Thanks guys.” He hugged us both. We were both quite taken aback by his words.
Johnny gave him an extra hug. “Thanks Drew. That was really nice of you to say that. If I’ve changed, it’s down to Mike and his parents Drew. They’ve taught me it’s possible to be loved instead of used. Thank them Drew.”
Drew looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. “Guess Johnny said it for me, Mike. You lot have let him be his real self. I like the real Johnny, I really do.”
That was when I hugged Drew. “So do I Drew. I love him like a brother.”
“It shows Mike, it really does. I said so to my mum, ‘cos she’s known Johnny and the Peeves for a while now, and she said she thought I was right. Johnny’s really changed thanks to you and your family. I’m really happy for you Johnny, and I’m sorry we ever made fun of you, I really am.”
“It’s ok Drew. Thanks for that. At least I’ve found happiness at last. This is going to be the best Christmas I’ve ever had. We’d better be off. See you Christmas Day mate!”
“Yeah! See you both then!”
We walked off into the gloom of the night and as soon as we were out of earshot we stopped and kissed.
“I love you Mikey.” A kiss.
“I love you more Johnny!” Another kiss.
We were both happy. Happy to have each other; happy just to be alive.
Christmas was, as we knew it would be, just a wonderful time for both of us. My parents had bought as many presents for Johnny as they had for me and the rest of the family had sent presents too. Johnny was overwhelmed. He’d never received so many presents ever in his life before. It was an emotional time for him as well as a happy one. On Christmas Day, the vicar rewarded us with a huge bar of chocolate each and a bonus of two whole shillings! It was a very full church that Christmas, despite the worsening weather, and he was so pleased with us. So was Randy!
It was probably one of my best Christmases too, because I had Johnny with me. It was great with just him being there; the two of us together. I’d never experienced anything like it.
Winter proper descended on us with a vengeance on Boxing Day.
Now, back in the November the year before when we arrived, we were warned about winters in this part of the world. They had been dangerously severe in a few years gone by. One year, the army had been called in with enormous snowploughs to clear the roads as drifts blocked them, twenty feet deep. Our first winter hadn’t been too bad at all, but we were told that had been really mild by comparison with other years.
As a result, we always laid up contingency plans for any event. We had acquired a fifty-gallon drum and filled it with paraffin, since we had a number of ‘Aladdin’ paraffin heaters with which we could keep a little extra heat going, even if the electricity failed. We bought a few extra packs of batteries for our torches, and invested in a couple of paraffin ‘Tilley’ lamps, which gave out tremendous amounts of light compared with ordinary hurricane lamps. We had a couple of those too, but they were for outside use really. We’d also taken deliveries of an extra half ton of coal, and two tons of off-cuts from the local sawmills, which we cut further, and chopped to size and length, and stored in an outhouse, so that we could burn this on the Rayburn, or in lieu of coal in the fireplace for fiercer heat. The Rayburn was a solid fuel burning cooker/fire with top hotplate and side oven which we could use in emergency as a main cooker. We had an electric cooker for normal cooking, because there was no gas out in the country of course. Unfortunately heavy snow is often responsible for heavy power lines breaking; and miles from anywhere, they take a long time, and are difficult, to repair.
We had laid up a lot of tinned food before Christmas, and bought in a couple of sacks of potatoes, and smaller bags of other root crops. Our outside shed was sturdily constructed and had good insulation, so was relatively frost-free no matter what the weather. Nothing would be wasted; it was all food that would be eaten in any event. But as it turned out, those contingency plans were well founded this year. Uncle Bert and Auntie Emm had stocked up the same as we had, as like us, they were somewhat isolated from civilisation in their part of the English Surrey countryside. Christmas Day late evening it started to snow a little, and there was a thin smattering of white covering by the morning.
We went down to the local pub to celebrate on Boxing Day lunchtime, and met a lot of the villagers that we hadn’t met before. Many of them knew Johnny and were surprised to see him with us. Explanations were duly made. They made us feel welcome, and were pleased to hear we were starting a chicken farm later in the New Year. I was still learning a lot about electrical stuff, and wanted to take it up as a career when I was older, much to the relief of my parents, who had insisted I learn a trade after I left school. It had paid off in one respect at least, because I was able to fix a few potentially dangerous electrical fittings around the place, before the onset of winter proper.
One or two villagers asked if I knew anything about repairing radios, but I had to admit defeat there. A few years later that would change! Later, when we finally ventured outside, we were slightly shocked to find that we had already had about three inches of snowfall and it was still falling steadily. A couple of the more elderly farmers were muttering about it being a bad one this year, and with mixed feelings and some trepidation, I enquired of their reasoning. All I got was a reply of ‘ye can al’ays tell laddie’ from one very elderly Scotsman. We four crunched through the ever-deepening snow beneath our feet on our way home, which was just over a quarter of a mile away.
That evening, we made sure all was secure before turning in for the night, as the wind was starting to get up. Massive snowflakes were falling now, and being blown around by the wind, as we shut off the outside light and turned the key in the lock on the back door. Not that there were likely to be any burglars where we were, and not in this weather either! It was more of a force of habit thing, from where we previously lived in a town. It was quite cosy inside, despite the occasional howl of the wind outside, as we discarded our coats and made our bedtime drinks. My father stoked up the Rayburn for the night, and closed down the dampers so that it would just burn slowly and keep going all night. I made sure that the fireguard was firmly placed around the embers of the sitting room fire, and that the damper was closed to keep it going as long as possible.
Eventually we said our goodnights, and went to our beds. I had acquired a feather eiderdown from my aunt last Christmas, so Johnny and I were as ‘snug as bugs in a rug’ as the expression says! It didn’t take too long to get to sleep after a little canoedling, and I drifted off into a dreamless sleep with the love of my life by my side, cuddled up close to me.
I woke in the morning, aware that the room was extremely bright with a white light. Glancing out of the window, I saw everything was totally white outside, and it was still snowing heavily. Well, we never drew the curtains; there was no particular need with no one around! Later on we did, because we realised that they made a good thermal insulator from the cold glass. No double glazing in those days!
I heard small sounds of movement, and knew that my father was up making tea. I dragged myself out of my warm retreat, leaving my loved one sleeping, and hastily put some clothes on, as I realised that the air temperature inside the bungalow had dropped dramatically overnight. I finally donned a heavy pullover and went out to the kitchen. My father was waiting for the kettle to boil.
“Morning dad,” I smiled, “looks like we had quite a bit of snow last night.”
“Aye, we have that lad.” He was a Yorkshireman by birth, and had never lost the accent in all the years he’d been down South. “Quite a thick covering. If I had t’guess, I’d say well over a foot and a half deep on the thinnest parts and there’s been some bad drifting. I tried to get the weather forecast at half six, but there seems to be summat wrong with that old radio again.”
I switched it on, but there was no telltale thrum of power surge in the transformer. I flipped a light switch. Nothing.
“Power’s out dad. Might be a line down with the snow, or just a power cut. You’ll not get much joy out of that electric kettle. Better put the old kettle on top of the Rayburn, and open the dampers wide.”
He gave me quite a serious look. “Just as well we prepared for this, wasn’t it son?”
“True dad. I wonder how the Fords are doing? If they’re all right I mean?”
“Well Mike, I think it would be a right good neighbourly thing for you and Johnny to pop down there after breakfast, and make sure they’re all right. Try and help them with whatever they need doing, eh lad?”
Our ‘neighbours’, Phil and Janet, I should explain, lived a further two hundred yards down the lane, right by the junction with School Lane, and were an elderly retired couple. The wife had been the District Nurse at one time, and was now retired like her husband, who had worked on the farm at the bottom of the lane, a third of a mile away.
I went to the larder and started searching for the old whistle kettle.
“Ok dad, we’ll do that. Now where did we store that kettle?”
“It’s in the bottom of the larder Mike, next to the wine jars.” We’d kept the wine jars left behind by the previous owner, who used to make all his own wine from fruits, berries and flowers. I retrieved it, rinsed it out several times with fresh water, and then part filled it and put it on the hotplate.
“I tell you what dad, I think it was a good thing we didn’t have this old stove taken out when we moved in. I reckon this is going to be a godsend to us this year.”
“Aye, and it’s right nice and cosy sat next to it in this chair! I shan’t want to move if I stay here too long!”
“Well I reckon if I give that old toasting fork a clean, you’ll have a good excuse to sit there and do the toast in front of the fire! We’d do well to stick a pan of water on top as well for extra hot drinking water, and a frying pan or something, to cook breakfast in.”
“Clever little so an’ so today ain’t yer? Still it’s a good practical idea, and that’s the way we’ve got to be for a while I guess.”
“Well as long as you’re not going to moan at me,” I pulled his leg, “I’ve another idea as well. With the electric out and it being below freezing outside, we’d do much better to stick the ’fridge outside and use it just for storage, than leave it here in the warm, for everything to slowly defrost. We can wrap up the electrics to keep them dry, in a polythene bag and a bit of polythene sheet. What do you say?”
“I say you’ve got your head screwed on right today, my son. That’s a good idea. The ’fridge’s insulation will stop everything freezing inside as well, so it’ll just stay cool. We’ll tuck it at the side of the shed, where it’s a bit more sheltered; otherwise we won’t be able to open the door if the snow drifts around it. Let’s take out any breakfast stuff and then do it now. We can shuffle it into the porch and shut the door, to save the air blowing straight in and freezing us all to death. Am I glad we left that porch intact as well! Oh, we’ll leave a pint of milk in the porch for when we need it. It’ll stay pretty cold, but not freeze altogether.”
I grinned at him. “Well, sometimes I think harder,” I said.
He laughed back, knowing that sometimes I could have completely crazy ideas too.
“I’ll get Johnny up to help.” I went and aroused the love of my life with a kiss and he awoke with a smile on his face, got up and dressed in warm clothes like me.
We shuffled the ’fridge between us. It was an elderly ‘Lec’; one of the first models in this country I should think, and it was big and heavy. Three years ago when we’d bought it, not that many people had ’fridges. We shut the inner door, and having donned outside clothing, went and opened the porch door. It was like walking out into the arctic. A vicious easterly wind bit into us, and tore at our clothing, as we dived back for our gloves. We moved the fridge to where we’d agreed was the best place, and made sure it was all right, covering the electrics with polythene.
Dad had been quite correct, the snow was over a foot and a half deep already, and getting worse by the second. Between us, with a pair of shovels and hard yard brush, we cleared some from around the back porch, and over to the ’fridge and shed door. We saw it had drifted badly through the hedge onto the back lawn, and there were places where it was piled about three and a half to four feet deep. We started on a pathway down the drive, making it about three feet wide. There was no point in doing it all, as we couldn’t possibly have taken the car out in this. It was an Austin ‘Somerset’ and not that good without snow chains. We’d almost got to the bottom of the drive, when a man came staggering up the lane. He shuffled up to us. He had some kind of homemade snowshoes on.
“Hey there! Pleased to meet you. Alan’s the name. I own the farm down on the main road at the bottom of the hill. Have you seen or heard anything of your neighbours today?”
“No, not yet.” we said.
“I’m George,” said dad, “and these are my sons, Mike and Johnny.”
“Nice to meet you all. Yes as I was saying, they’ll probably need to get out onto the road, through your back garden you see. The lane just round the bend outside their driveway, and right down to the farm, is completely blocked with drifts about eight feet high. I had to come up the field. The snow blows off that straight into the lane, filling it up with drifts you see.”
“Good lord!” said dad, “As bad as that already?”
“Oh yes, and it’ll get worse. The power and telephones are out already. Your next-door neighbour’s line and mine go down past the pub, and then down past the recreation ground. I don’t know what it’s like down that way yet. We’re a bit cut off from the rest of the village down there.”
“Well we knew about the power of course, as soon as we tried to boil a kettle for tea, but we’ve put one on the Rayburn. It should be just about boiling by now. Will you have one and rest a minute?”
“Thanks, I will. This wind is bitter.”
We stamped up the drive, shaking the excess snow off our clothes and boots, and trooped into the porch, where we removed our boots and coats, and went into what felt like a greenhouse by comparison with what we’d been enduring out there. Alan eyed the Rayburn.
“You’re lucky you’ve got that still. Old Tommy bought it from us about eight year back you know? We’ve had relatively mild winters since then, until now of course. Sod’s law that he never needed it.” Seeing dad about to make a mug of tea, he said: “Hot and strong, not too much milk, with two sugars if that’s all right.”
“Coming right up!” Johnny and I took it in turns to toast slices of bread while dad made the tea.
“Oh yes, I came to tell you. If you need milk, come down to the farm or go to the ‘Top-shop’ if you can’t get to us. They haven’t collected from us, so the roads are blocked right through I’ve no doubt. We can treat a small amount of milk ourselves, and are going to make it available from the ‘Top-Shop’ up by the pond. I can get round to it by a different road with the tractor I think; I’m giving it a go later anyway, with a snowplough on the front. It’ll go through anything up to about four feet, and take out the occasional five-foot drift too. I’ve got heavy chains fitted for extra grip, on all the wheels. It can’t manage up the lane though; it’ll be weeks before that’s clear again. Damn nuisance, but there you are.”
Dad brought the tea over to the table, on a tray.
“Johnny and Mike are going down to see how they are next door, after breakfast. We thought it would be a good idea to keep an eye on them, especially as they’re elderly.”
“That’s good of you, and it’ll be a worry off my mind. They cope fairly well normally, but this year’s going to be a bad one, as you can tell already. We all try and muck in together if it gets that bad, and it can, believe me.” He cast an eye around. “Hey don’t let me keep you from your breakfast; I’ve had mine early of course, having to milk the cows, so I’m already fed.”
“I’ll start it dad,” Johnny said
“Ok son, do me some toast if you would.”
Just then mum appeared, having been recovering from last night, in her own little way.
“Mum, this is Alan from the farm down the lane.”
“Oh, pleased to meet you Alan, I’m Gladys.”
“The pleasure’s all mine. May I suggest something? It’s something we do, because we’ve got a stove similar to yours, but bigger. We keep a big pot of soup simmering on top, so it’s always there if needed. You’d be surprised this weather how the cold can get to you, if you stick to just ordinary mealtimes. A small bowl of something hot in between, makes a very welcome warmer, and tides you over to the next meal.”
“I’ll bear that in mind, thanks,” she laughed, “especially with my three poor starved things. You can see how badly looked after they are! Joking apart, I see your point. What do you use for ingredients?”
“Anything spare. Vegetables that get left over, lentils, dried peas, meat leftovers and bones, herbs and seasoning.”
Our mouths started to water.
“Sounds good and nourishing too. Thanks for the tip.”
“No charge! Right, I must be off. Thanks again for the tea, and you’ll definitely see to the Fords, yes?”
“Fine. I’ll see myself out; it won’t be the first time. Nice to meet you all. Bye now.” He went out to the porch to put on his coat and boots.
We had breakfast, and I dug out a couple of pairs of fishing waders, rather than have the snow come over the top of the Wellingtons. We put on balaclava helmets and woolly hats, which we rammed firmly over our ears to keep the wind off!
It took us about five minutes to pick our way down through our plot of land, and get through the gap in the hedge between our two properties. The snow had drifted more down there, and was far deeper, but it only took us about a minute for Johnny to go flying back for help.
Disaster! Phil Ford had taken a fall on his way to get some logs in, and had broken a leg. Worse still the broken bone had penetrated the skin. He was in trouble, and it was bleeding slowly. I stayed and helped Janet make sure he was comfortable and wrapped in a blanket, and that Janet could cope all right. I heard Johnny yelling for my father. He’d heard his cries when he was only half way back, because he was outside, and came as fast as he could to meet us, following our footprints. He helped Janet get Phil back inside into shelter. Then we all had a quick ‘council of war’ as to our next move. Johnny volunteered to go back and let mum know what had happened.
My mother quickly dressed in some warmer outer clothing, and she and Johnny set off down to the Ford’s place, carrying extra blankets and a couple of shovels.
It was fortunate that at least Janet being an ex-District Nurse, knew a lot about broken bones, and the dos and don’ts of how to fix someone up temporarily. Whilst Phil had been out cold with the shock and a clout to the back of his head where he’d fallen, she had straightened the leg, which brought him to with the resulting pain. She’d put on a firm compress and bandaged it, as it was bleeding badly, and found a couple of bits of wood as splints, eventually lashing the whole lot up with a cut length of washing line.
Now back inside, Janet and mum made him warm and as comfortable as they could on his bed. He was still in a lot of pain, as we didn’t have any painkillers, and most importantly, we had to get him to hospital, but how? The roads were impassable, even an ambulance would never make it through the ten miles from Winchester. We needed help. The phones were out. Or were they? I had an idea.
“Mum, can you stay here with Phil and Janet? Dad, I’ve got an idea, but I’ll need to borrow your phone Janet. Is that all right? It won’t get harmed I promise.” To be honest, I wasn’t sure, but I had to sound at least encouraging.
I borrowed a small screwdriver and disconnected the phone from its connection box. They weren’t on plugs then, thank goodness, or it wouldn’t have worked.
“Dad, we need to go back home and pick up a few pieces first, ok? I’ll explain on the way.”
“All right son, let’s go; the sooner the better.”
Dad, Johnny and I made it back to our place in good time, and I put the phone on the table. I went to my room, and came back with about thirty feet of flex, a couple of ‘Screwit’ porcelain connectors, and a pair of ‘crocodile’ clips’. Quickly, I joined the wire to extend the phone lead, and fitted the croc clips to the other free ends. I stuffed a pair of thick rubber gloves in my pocket.
“Dad, remember we had that Ordnance Survey map of this village? Have you still got it handy?”
“Because if we manage to phone through at all, we can pinpoint the Ford’s place with an exact Latitude and Longitude from the map.”
“Son, you must have inherited your mother’s brains after all!”
“We’ll need to carry a ladder between the three of us too; it’ll double as a snow raft if need be. Get that map and let’s get going!”
We did. He grabbed the map and stuffed it into a waterproof pocket of a Southwester, which went over his coat. That, and some waterproof leggings. We picked up the extension ladder, which was quite heavy, so it was a good job there were three of us, and I grabbed a length of rope and extra gloves, and set off round in the direction of the pub. Our footprints of the previous evening were long gone.
It took us half an hour to get just past the turning to the pub, where the only public phone box was situated outside the village hall. I reached inside and lifted the receiver to my ear. Nothing. Then I saw the reason why.
Down the road, which ran almost straight alongside the recreation ground and just beyond, was a fallen tree. You could see the tangle of power and telephone lines from here. I pointed at it to my father, and he immediately understood the danger.
“We’d do well to try and skirt round to the other side of the tree I think son, cut off or pull clear the phone wires before you start. I think I know what you’re up to.”
We circumnavigated the tree round its root end, because the snow was shallower there, and there wasn’t any danger of coming across a live wire unexpectedly; that’s if they hadn’t already blown the power out of course. We had a little trouble navigating the ladder through the undergrowth, but eventually we made it.
The telephone lines were on a different pole from the power lines, and on the opposite side of the road. Johnny and I leant the ladder against the telegraph pole, and with my father standing on the bottom rung, phone in hand, I donned a pair of ordinary gloves and shinned up the ladder. It was a bit risky with the wind blowing like it was, but when I reached the top, I secured the ladder with the length of rope I’d brought along, and felt more secure, as at least the ladder wasn’t going anywhere now.
I put on my pair of rubber gloves and started pulling the phone lines clear. One by one, they disentangled themselves from the mess below. When I had pulled them all clear, I started in earnest. Keeping the gloves on, I used my penknife to scrape back the outer lacquered insulation from the wires coming from the next pole down to this one. I’d picked wires that ought possibly to be pairs, and thus be able to find a ‘live’ pair. The voltage wasn’t that high, but I wasn’t into getting shocks, especially up the top of a ladder in the freezing cold!
I came back down the ladder, and took the croc clip ends from Johnny, who had unwound the cable, and climbed back up. I clipped the crocs onto the bare wires.
“Check it, dad?”
He lifted the receiver. “Nothing. Dead. Try again.”
I tried a different pair.
“A hum!” he shouted into the wind as it howled stronger.
I reversed the connections.
“Dial tone! Yes you clever little lad! A bloody dial tone!”
I almost took a dive off the ladder in my eagerness to get down. Johnny was jumping up and down in excitement. Dad dialled 999 and a voice quickly answered.
“Emergency Operator, which service do you require?” If she had been there in person, we’d have kissed her.
My father proceeded to explain to her the details of our plight, and got her to take down the exact grid map reference for both Phil Ford’s place, and also, for the electric and phone company’s benefit, exactly where we were.
“Well,” she exclaimed, “they’ll be pleased. They normally have to go out searching for their broken lines! They don’t normally get such accurate map references as these! Thank you very much. I’ll pass the information along to them straight away, and to the M.O.D. They’ll have to come out to you somehow; they’ll be the only ones who are capable I should think. We’ll get them to you as quick as possible. It may be a helicopter I think; have you got a clear landing area nearby?”
“Yes, a big field right by the side of the place. No overhead lines.”
“Can you put out some kind of marker or something? It’ll help you see.”
“We’ll do all we can, certainly. Thank you very much.”
“Good luck, I hope it all turns out well.”
We cleared the line. I tugged the clips clear of the lines and wound up the cable.
“Let’s leave the ladder here for today dad. No one is going to pinch it, with the way things are, and we might need to make another call. Now I know which pair, it’ll be easy to get the connections back on if we need.”
“Right you are son, well done. Let’s get back and tell them the good news. Have a think how we can mark out something for a helicopter, eh? You seem to have all the answers today.”
“Well I can think of something actually,” said Johnny. “Remember that dark red emulsion you had? What if we brightened it with some of that yellow stain, made it a bit thinner with water, and splashed it out in a huge ‘H’ in the snow? Can you spare the paint?”
“You bet I can for Phil! Leave it to me. Well, actually you can help me if you like Johnny? Mike, you’re the expert with electrics, I’m the painter, remember?”
We gave each other a big grin and laughed.
“Yeah, ok dad!” we chorused
Arriving back at the Ford’s, we broke the good news to Janet, who then re-assured Phil that help was on the way. Dad set to, and between him and Johnny had a whacking great red ‘H’ imprinted in the snow in the field, ready and finished, about forty minutes later.
About half way through doing it, a old spotter plane over-flew us and waggled its wings. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter of an hour after we’d finished, we heard another aircraft engine approaching. This time there was the sound of rotors cutting the air as well, as a Navy Rescue helicopter, a Wessex Whirlwind, came into sight.
We went outside and waved frantically, but they’d seen us all right. As the flight navigator later reported in the newspaper, the big red ‘H’ was the only thing that stood out like a sore thumb for miles around!
A doctor was the first one out of the helicopter, and rushed inside and gave a pain killing injection to Phil, who then was able to relax. They took him into the helicopter on a proper stretcher, and soon they were winging their way back to Haslar, the Navy’s Hospital at Gosport, about thirty miles away.
We knew at least he’d be all right now. Janet stayed with us that evening, after we’d helped her tidy up, and got a good supply of logs in. Johnny and I said that we’d go down each day and check she was all right, and that we’d get her provisions in to save her having to venture out in the ice and snow while it lasted. She was more than pleased.
We went and collected our ladder next day, and found the Southern Electricity Board hard at work. They were grateful for the report too, and to show their thanks, the power came back on later in the afternoon.
We gave ourselves pats on the back, and stumbling in our previously made footprints, made it to the pub that evening, who now had their power back too, where we found that the drinks were on the house. Johnny and I were even allowed a genuine shandy, whilst the local bobby conveniently looked the other way! The word had got around!
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