Blackberry Lane – Episode 20

DOUGIE PAINTER paused in his work. Goodness, but it was a hot, energy-sapping day. He squatted on his haunches and mopped the sweat from his glistening brow. Just lately he’d been finding his job as a sweep harder.

“Do you want tea,” Kate asked, “or would you rather have a nice cold elderflower cordial?”

“A cold drink would be nice.”

As he started to pack his tools away, there was a knock on the front door before it opened. Marcus’s tall figure entered the kitchen.

“Hello, Mrs Proctor, Mr Painter,” he addressed them both politely. “Excuse me troubling you, but do you have any idea where Maureen is?”

“Hello, love,” Kate said. “The girls are with Archie over in the churchyard. The vicar’s said they can take the grass for hay.”

Marcus was keen to head off, but he noticed Dougie huffing and puffing as he hauled the heavy bag of rods about.

“Here, let me help you,” he offered quickly, grasping the canvas bag and swinging it from the ground with ease.

“Mind you don’t get that uniform sooty or you’ll be on a charge.”

“Don’t worry. If it’s not that it’ll be something else.”

Kate’s ears pricked up. His words had been uttered with a touch of bitterness, which was unlike Marcus.


“Look out,” Stella yelled at Maureen. “Here comes lover boy.”

Maureen glared at her, and casting her rake to one side went to meet him.

“Hello, darling.” They exchanged a fleeting kiss “What is it?”

“I’ve had tonight’s leave withdrawn.”

“Don’t worry,” Maureen said, caressing the side of his face with her hand. “We’ll make up for it next time.”

“If there is a next time. The way they’re acting, I might be confined to base till the end of the war!”

“Now don’t let them get to you.” She looked deeply into his eyes and summoned up a smile.

“Come on, Mo,” Stella’s voice floated across the churchyard, I’m not doin’ this lot all on me own.”

They exchanged another kiss, more lingering this time, not caring who saw them.

“What’s up with him?” Stella asked as Maureen resumed work.

“Like you care.”

“No need to be hoity-toity with me. Not my fault if lover boy’s got himself into trouble at work.”

“He doesn’t get himself into trouble.” She turned on Stella hotly. “They pick on him.”

“Excuse me,” Archie’s voice cut through the bickering, “but are you two going to stand arguing all day?”

“Sorry, Archie.” The girls flounced off in different directions, and resumed their raking.

Maureen still seethed inwardly. It wasn’t fair. Ever since this latest unit of men had arrived, Marcus and his friends had been out of favour.

Stella was no longer Maureen’s friend. Maureen suspected she didn’t much like the fact that she’d found a man before her.

Stella had one now, though. Carl had arrived with the new unit of men. Broad-shouldered and blond-haired, he seemed to fulfil all her desires.

Maureen couldn’t stand him. He was so full of himself, she thought. It was a sad ending to a friendship which had begun years before, and a world away, on the streets of Bermondsey.


Children gasped in amazement and delight. With a puff of smoke the silk handkerchief disappeared, soon to be replaced by a white dove!

“How d’you think he does that?” Russ whispered to Frances.

“It’s a trick. He hid the hanky while we all watched the smoke.”

“Yeah, but where did the bird come from?”

“Reckon it must ’ave been in his hat.”

“What, sittin’ on his ’ead?” Marty exclaimed, forgetting he should whisper.

The three of them weren’t, strictly speaking, supposed to be there. This entertainment had been set up for the children living in the harvest camp, but as Russ, Frances and Marty had been working alongside them all day, they’d been invited to sit in.

The harvest camps had been set up by the government. The crop this year was vital to the country’s effort to feed itself, and expected to be immense.

Local people were asked to help feed this army of young workers. Two hot meals a day, and a “pack-up” of sandwiches were what had been deemed necessary.

“And where’s all that supposed to come from?” Kate had asked anybody who happened to be listening, as she busily put together boxes of vegetables, and sorted through her precious rations.

Ted’s attitude was rather different. He was just glad of some help to get his crops in. He couldn’t imagine how he would have managed with just Archie, the girls and himself to do it all.

Inevitably, some of the children had turned out to be more trouble than they were worth. Most, though, had followed instructions.

God, but he was weary of this war!


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!