With that we left our bags and our little gaggle of determined boys made for the side entrance of the Big School building. There was Mr Francis, with of all people, Porky Prothero. What if I was wrong. No matter. Jonathan took over.
“Sir,” he said as Mr Francis finished talking to Prothero who was just standing there not taking much notice. “Sir,” he repeated, “We’ve just been told Prothero there has been apprehended with things not his own.” Gosh, I thought, Jonathan had a way with words, too. “And my brother…,” he went on as Mr Francis turned his attention to him, “…Says his friend lost a pound and that boy…,” he pointed at Prothero, “…was seen coming out of their room and I have no reason to doubt my brother.”
Mr Francis smiled. “And I have no reason to doubt him either.” He turned to Prothero who seemed quite unconcerned by any fuss. He stopped smiling. “And what are we going to do about this, eh, lad? Anything to say?”
“Well you might as well kick me out for that as well,” he said slowly, “I only borrowed all those things. I don’t need them…. …And as for that money..,” He raised both hands up palms out. “…I don’t need it either. My mother says I can have as much as I want.”
My brother wasn’t having this. Before Mr Francis could intervene he stepped forward and looked all ready to grab Prothero round the throat. “We all know you’ve got plenty, so why the hell did you upset my brother’s friend by pinching his money? And what about all the others?”
Mr Francis stepped in between them. “Jonathan, don’t get worked up! We’re all upset and that doesn’t help.” I noticed Mr Francis called my brother by his first name and not by his surname as was usual. I would have to ask Jonathan why that was.
Jonathan still looked angry but stepped back. “Give me five minutes with him and he wouldn’t….”
“Sergeant Drummond,” Mr Francis said softly, “That wouldn’t solve our problem. And it is our problem.” He put the emphasis on ‘our’. “I am sure that Prothero would benefit a good deal from your attention to detail in the CCF with your new promotion.” He smiled at Jonathan. “In fact, Prothero is not being thrown out but he’s being placed on probation by the school. He will not be going home over the vacation as his parents are busy in the States so he’s staying here with me and my wife. Once all amends are made he’ll be fast-tracked into Big School for the beginning of next term. He’s old enough and he’s passed his Entrance so that’s no problem. One condition is that he joins the CCF and he will be in your and Corporal Tuddenham’s squad.”
The looks on Jonathan’s and Tuddenham’s faces. Jonathan stood to attention though. “Are we really promoted, Sir?”
“Yes,” said Captain Francis smiling, “And the other’s on the CO’s orders.”
I looked at Tuddenham. He was staring almost open-mouthed then sprang to attention, too. He was big like Jonathan. I didn’t think Prothero would like him as an enemy.
“Corporal Tuddenham,” said Mr Francis, or Captain Francis, as I knew he was one of the officers in the CCF, “You understand?”
“Yes, Sir, thank you Sir, and will Prothero be in Mr McCrae’s house with us?”
“Yes, that has been arranged. There is a vacancy in C Room and I am sure he will be happy there.”
Jonathan and his friend grinned at each other. There was something going on and I didn’t understand. Perhaps I was a bit too young. But being promoted, too. Gosh! Dad will be pleased and so will Grandfather. I felt very proud of my brother.
I must say Prothero then did look a bit sick.
“I’ll see you both first day next term,” said Captain Francis, “Have a good holiday.” He looked at me. “Your friend is Peter Douglas, I assume?” I nodded. He knew we always sat together in class. “A pound?” he asked. I managed to say, ‘Yes, Sir’. “He’ll get it back before he leaves…” He smiled. “…And help your brother with a bit of practice with his drop kicks, he needs it.” He grinned. I liked Mr Francis. He was very good when we had our touch rugby and he said that next term we would move on and do some tackling as well.
There was a lot of noise then as several buses entered the drive.
“I think your conveyances have arrived, gentlemen,” said Mr Francis with a smile, “Farewell and enjoy yourselves.”
We said goodbye and Prothero looked even sicker as Mr Francis and he walked over to where the Range Rover was parked.
We lined up for our particular bus and news about the promotions and Prothero spread pretty quickly. Both Jonathan and Tuddenham were congratulated. I think they must have been quite popular and their friends were calling out until Mr McWilliam, who was seeing everyone onto the buses, told them all to keep quiet or someone would end up in Timbuctoo instead of the back end of John O’Groats.
Jonathan let me sit by the window on the bus while he chatted across the aisle to the older Lorimer brother and Corporal Tuddenham as I thought of him. I heard the name Prothero mentioned a number of times and that Lorimer said something very quietly and he and Jonathan just burst out laughing. I wondered if I could ask Jonathan later what was so funny. I think it was about Prothero’s father’s name. I think it sounded like something or other cock.
We caught our train to Edinburgh with just minutes to spare and I sat with three other of us young-uns, as the older ones called us, and played Hangman and Battleships until we arrived in Edinburgh. Mum was waiting for us and I think she was pleased to see me and, luckily, she didn’t kiss me as I went up to her. She just smiled and said she was glad to see us both. We took a taxi to Grandfather’s house and she did ask me then how I was once we were in the cab.
“I like school,” I said, “But it’ll be nice to be home.”
Jonathan poked me in the ribs. “He’s learned to be diplomatic,” he said, “But you haven’t asked me how I am.”
“As usual, I assume,” she replied, “But even more so now you’ve been promoted.”
Jonathan just looked at her. “How did you know? Captain Francis has only just told me.”
She laughed and reached over and patted him on his knee. “I have my spies and I’ve got your new stripes all ready to sew on.”
That seemed to end that conversation as Mum then said we would have a house full as Great-Aunt Cassie as well as Uncle Hamish and Auntie Vanessa and their son Alistair would be around. Jonathan gave a little groan. I knew why. Cousin Alistair was three years older than Jonathan and was a Law student at Aberdeen University and talked the hind leg off a donkey according to Dad. He’d come out to Athens for a fortnight during the summer and did nothing but yap and criticise everything until Amanda Dixon, who was only fourteen like my sisters, told him to shut up. He sulked the rest of the time but at least he didn’t bother me. Jonathan said he was a stuck-up twit and needed to be pulled down a peg or two, good for Amanda. But Uncle Hamish and Auntie Nessa were OK. And Great-Aunt Cassie was a bit more cheerful than her brother, our Grandfather. Then Mum said Dad would be flying back to London from Athens on Thursday. He would have to report to the Ministry on Friday then would fly up to Scotland that evening or on Saturday. She said he would probably hear if he was staying in Athens longer, or be posted elsewhere.
Mum finished telling us what was to happen and spoke across me to Jonathan, “I’m afraid you’ll have to share with Jamie,” she said. “Can’t be helped. You wouldn’t want to share with Alistair, I know, and with the others staying Christmas night all the bedrooms will be occupied. Your sisters will be back tomorrow and the others will all be at Grandpa Drummond’s by the weekend ready for Christmas.”
Jonathan grunted as Mum said that. Whether it was because he wouldn’t have to share with cousin Alistair or he had to share with me I didn’t know. Then he put his hand above my knee and squeezed.
“Thank you, Mum, for small mercies,” he said holding onto my leg. I squirmed a bit. “At least Alistair can bore the pants off himself and I know Shrimp doesn’t snore so I’ll put up with him. If he misbehaves I’ll make him sleep in the drawer again.”
He squeezed my leg again, just gently and I knew he wasn’t annoyed. And, that story about the drawer? If I’d heard it once I’d heard it a hundred times. When I was born I was premature and there wasn’t time to get Mum to the hospital the military used. I knew that word ‘premature’ as Jonathan had explained it when he’d said I was so inquisitive I couldn’t wait to see the world. As there wasn’t a crib ready at the house in Delhi the nurse had popped me in a taken-out drawer from the chest-of-drawers in the bedroom while she dealt with Mum. I looked up at Jonathan and sneered.
“Proper little Braveheart, now, are we?” he said, giving my leg another squeeze. But it was a friendly squeeze.
The taxi didn’t take long to reach Grandfather Sinclair’s house. We lived with him because Dad never knew where he would be posted next and Mum had kept house for Grandfather since Grandma died five years ago. I didn’t really remember her but Jonathan always touched the frame of the painting of her hanging in the dining-room. He said he missed her.
Grandfather had his big house in one of the squares. He was very important. He was a lawyer and a judge and a Lord of some kind. Jonathan said it went with the job. That was, being a Lord, not the house. Uncle Hamish was a lawyer too. He was in charge of the family law practice at their offices in Perth. I think he was called a Writer to the Signet whatever that meant. Cousin Alistair was going to work there as soon as he got his degree. Jonathan had said as long as he wasn’t at the Edinburgh office, and round for tea every day, the further away the better. That was when we were in Athens he said that and now Alistair was going to be here over Christmas.
Good, as soon as we arrived home Mum said we would be having tea immediately as no doubt we would be starving after the journey, but there would be dinner much later as Grandfather wouldn’t be in until after seven. We’d had a packet of sandwiches each given out by Matron and I’d eaten mine as soon as we were on the train so I was famished.
Jonathan and I took our clobber up to my room as Alistair was having his. He went in there a couple of times and came back with piles of his clothes and books and records.
“If he touches anything in there I’ll kill him,” he grumbled.
What was there to touch? It seemed that my room was now full of his things - even the old teddy bear. He saw me looking at it.
“He’d only take the piss if I left it in there.” He slapped me on the shoulder. “And don’t you dare say anything rude, or use words you shouldn’t now you’re home. OK?”
As I didn’t use words I shouldn’t anyway, I still nodded.
“You can have that side, OK?” He pointed to the side of the bed opposite to where we were standing. He laughed. “It’s your bed, really, I’m only the unwelcome guest. We’ll be OK and we’ll keep Ally on his toes.” He gave my shoulders a friendly squeeze. “I promise I won’t call you Shrimp when he’s around.”
“And I won’t call you Drummers,” I said in retaliation.
He just laughed. “You picked that up quickly, eh? But, I mean it, watch what you say.”
I nodded. “Congratulations, anyway,” I said, “I haven’t had a chance to say about you being a Sergeant. Dad will be pleased.”
“Thanks. I wondered if I would get it. I knew I might be in the running.” He looked at me. “You’ll have to make your mind up whether you want to join the CCF when you get to Big School and you’re fourteen. Hope you do. Dad will be pleased for that as well.”
Grandfather was quite affable when he arrived home and I was asked how I was getting on. Perhaps I was getting used to people as he didn’t seem so stern and was a bit less frightening. I told him about making friends, like Peter Douglas, and that I liked my lessons and games. He smiled and said I obviously had a head on my shoulders from the report the school had sent. I had forgotten that, as Stu had said he wouldn’t have wanted to be in Lorimer’s or Tuddenham’s shoes when they got home as their reports would be dreadful. Grandfather had looked a bit thoughtful when I said Pete’s name. “I know a Douglas who has a boy at your school. Probably him as I had to deal with a document appointing Mr Douglas to the governing body of the school.” I said I’d seen Mr Douglas with Peter on Commemoration Day. He said “That’s him. Good man.” What all that other meant I didn’t know and didn’t enquire.
I was allowed up a bit later that night than usual but was pretty glad to get up to my bed. Jonathan wasn’t around. He had gone off with Grandfather to his study straight after supper and I was washed and in bed and half asleep when he came into the bedroom. He was fairly quiet as he undressed then disappeared off to the bathroom. I was nearly asleep when he reappeared and got into bed beside me. He was very restless. He turned on one side than on the other and he muttered something under his breath which I couldn’t quite hear. A few moments later he lumped around in the bed again and I did hear him say “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”, three times just like that, and then he turned over onto his right side away from me and drew his legs up. All this made Mr Lion slip down the pillow where I’d put him.
I thought back to what Watson and Cheng had said about their fidgety brothers. I turned over towards Jonathan’s back.
“Jonathan,” I whispered as I clutched at Mr Lion to stop him falling right down between us, “If it would help you settle down I don’t mind if you want to masturbate.”
Jonathan lay very still for a few moments then he turned slowly to face me.
“Where did you learn that word?” he asked very slowly and deliberately.
“From… …school,” I whispered back rather hesitantly, then I gabbled a bit, “That friend of yours’ brother, Lorimer, got into trouble for writing it on a wall and Pete and I didn’t know what it meant, but the other boys in our dorm told us.” I stopped and waited.
Jonathan was quiet for a few moments more. “You know what it means?”
“I think so,” I said even more hesitantly. I still wasn’t too sure of everything.
“Nobody’s asked you to do anything?” he said very quietly.
“What do you mean?” I was getting rather frightened. Jonathan sounded very stern, a bit like Grandfather, and how Jonathan had sounded when he was with Prothero this morning.
He must have sensed I was getting a bit upset and put his arm over my shoulder and pulled me gently towards him.
“It’s OK Jamie, just tell me the truth, now. Has any boy asked you to touch him or has any boy touched you.”
I sniffed a bit. I shook my head. I clutched Mr Lion even tighter. “What do you mean?” I said, almost sobbing. “Nobody has, except when we play touch rugby.”
“Oh, Jamie, Jamie,” Jonathan said and moved his arm and stroked my head, “My wonderful little brother. I should have explained all sorts of things to you before you started school but I thought you were too young. I only wish I’d had a big brother before I went.” He moved his arm back and hugged me. “You’re safe with me now, so tell me all… …All about how you know about that word.”
I didn’t seem tired any more so I told him about Mr Carstairs finding the writing on the wall. Jonathan hugged me more firmly. “I heard rumours about that and knew those two were involved,” he said. “Their brothers are friends of mine. Tuddy’s in my dorm room in McCrae’s House and Lorimer was in my dorm at Prep School but he’s in Wilson’s House now. I know young Lorimer has riled Mr C over a few things in the past year and I suppose that was the last straw. His brother told me he’s had a warning and he’s been given extra work to do over the hols. So what’s next? What have you learned?”
I relaxed a bit. I knew I was safe talking to Jonathan. I explained that neither Pete nor I had known what Mr Carstairs meant so Pete had asked the others and that was how we found out that boys when they were older masturbated. Or, at least, all the older brothers did. I didn’t say ‘wank’ as I didn’t know if Jonathan knew that word.
“And I know you do it,” I said in conclusion, “That’s what you were doing in bed in Athens and Watson McPhee says his brother does it to calm himself down.”
I felt Jonathan’s chest heaving against me. He was laughing silently and he squeezed me to him even more. Poor Mr Lion was being squashed between us.
“Oh, Jamie, Jamie,” he said, trying to stop laughing as he said it. He shook his head. “I should have guessed you weren’t asleep.” He leaned forward and kissed the top of my head. “But I needed it.” He giggled again and released me a bit. “McPhee Senior is quite correct.” He rubbed my back. “You’ll learn soon enough.” He stifled his laughter again. “It’s OK, I took care of it in the bathroom just now. I’m not restless about that and I promise I’ll tell you everything you want to know.” He became serious quite suddenly. “And you’re quite sure no one’s done anything to you or asked you to touch them down there. You understand?”
“Quite sure,” I said, guessing he meant my penis, “And you promise to tell me things.”
“Tomorrow and the next day and every day after that I expect. And don’t forget Jacky and Caroline will be home as well tomorrow. Go to sleep now.” He leaned over and kissed the top of my head again and gave me a last hug. “Goodnight and sleep tight! And that’s for Mr Lion as well!”
I must have slept very soundly because Jonathan was up and dressed in the morning before I woke. “Come on, Tiger Tim,” he said when he shook my arm and I woke up. “Breakfast’ll be ready and Grandfather will be waiting and he’ll whack you with The Scotsman if you’re not down soon.”
Grandfather always read the newspapers over breakfast and had threatened to wallop Jonathan last year with a rolled-up paper if he didn’t stop whistling. “I’m just cheerful,” he’d said back and Grandfather had said cheerfulness was alright but Jonathan’s whistling was an abomination unto the Lord and the Wee Frees were probably right to banish the ‘kists of whistles’ if they sounded like that. I always listened hard to what Grandfather said as Mum told us he was one of the cleverest men in Scotland to have become a Judge at a very early age. As Jonathan looked blank Grandfather had explained that a ‘kist of whistles’ was an organ and he enjoyed the sound of the one in St Mary’s Cathedral where we went to church. “So do I,” said Jonathan. “Then you know what I mean,” said Grandfather.
I suppose I was rather overawed by Grandfather. Mum said he always worked hard so was tired when he came home. I think she knew I was a bit frightened of him. He was tall and thin and wore dark suits and he didn’t like to be disturbed when he was working in his study like when I played that noisy record. He had always asked me about what I had learned at Miss Pruitt’s and asked me to work out new sums and to make up sentences with words I was learning. He wasn’t unkind but always said I had to work hard. I suppose he seemed very old to me as he was sixty-four and I was only eight getting on for nine. What a difference.
Grandfather was already in the breakfast room when I got there and Jonathan was just diving into a huge bowl of hot porage. “You’d better grab some food before your brother scoffs it all,” he said after we had exchanged ‘Good mornings’. “Any plans for today?”
“I think I’ll take him up to the Castle this morning as we haven’t been up there for ages,” said Jonathan before I had a chance to answer. “Then he can come with me to the Club this afternoon for a bit of practice and I’ll do a bit of Mr McCrae’s work this evening.”
Our day was mapped. Grandfather eyed Jonathan quizzically. ‘The Club’ was the Heriot’s FP Rugby Club. Jonathan was an honorary member as Dad had been to the school as a boy and had played for one of the Former Pupils’ teams when he was younger and home on leave.
“Taking my advice seriously, eh?” he said. Then smiled.
Jonathan resumed eating but was smiling as well. I was smiling, too. I loved going up to the Castle. Mum had taken me there many times and I liked the ancient buildings and the big guns and the smart, kilted soldiers. Last year, as a treat, she had taken us all to the Tattoo and the parades, the pipes and drums and all the displays were just stupendous. But I’d only been to the Club once when Jonathan had been roped in to play in an under sixteen side last year. All I remembered was that it was very cold and Grandpa Drummond had taken us afterwards to that nice café nearby for tea and hot buttered crumpets. He was very proud he said as his two sons, Dad and Uncle Hamish, had been at the school and now a grandson had been asked to play there as both of them had done many times.
“Would you like to come to the piping tomorrow evening?” Grandfather asked Jonathan, “It’ll be our usual Thursday gathering.”
I knew that the bagpipes and bagpipe music were an important part of Grandfather’s life. Mum had said he was recognised as a real expert even though he rarely played now. He was always in demand as a judge for piping competitions and on Thursday evenings, when he could, he went to a School of Piping to teach the youngsters. Jonathan tried to play but he wasn’t really interested and sometimes the noise he made with his chanter was awful. As he wasn’t allowed to play his bagpipes at home that was a small mercy.
Jonathan nodded. “Yes, I’ll come…. …And can Jamie come, too?”
What was I being let in for? I knew you had to have plenty of puff to inflate the bag below the pipes. I’d tried with the set Jonathan had in his bedroom - now perched on top of my wardrobe - and I really couldn’t get enough air in.
Grandfather looked at me. I had my mouth full of Weetabix, ‘cause it was different from porage which we had every morning at school, and I stopped chewing. Grandfather smiled again. I wasn’t used to that, I thought. “Would you like to, Jamie? You can try a chanter and I’ll teach you.” My heart sank a bit. More sums and sentences before, now learning to play the pipes.
“Come on, Jamie, you’ll enjoy it!” And that was Jonathan who always groaned when he was told to go and practice.
I nodded and carried on chewing. I suppose I’d better agree or Jonathan might not tell me things.
Mum came in at that moment. She said she had been up to check the girls’ room. They shared. Two unmade beds and a floor full of clothes was Mum’s usual description.
“It’s tidy now but what it’ll be like half an hour after they get into it, I don’t know,” she said, but we knew she wasn’t serious.
Grandfather laughed. “Just like yours when you were fourteen. Your half a bit tidier if I remember than Vanessa’s!”
Vanessa was Uncle Hamish’s wife and Alistair’s mum. She was just like our mother who was her twin sister, and was bright and cheerful, too. Uncle Hamish was cheerful most of the time and he and Dad always had a laugh together. I heard Dad say when we were in Athens that he was a typical lawyer and Alistair was treading close in his footsteps and Jonathan added ‘Except for his lack of a sense of humour’.
Still, I was looking forward to my sisters being at home. They were twins, too, like Mum and Aunt Vanessa. They were two years younger than Jonathan and just about six years older than me. Jonathan said my middle name should be ‘Afterthought’ as it was such a long time before I was born after them. I would have to think of a good name for him! Anyway, Jacqueline and Caroline always chattered away together and I came in for a lot of teasing but I didn’t mind that because they were really very kind to me. Grandfather always smiled a lot when they were around so that would be good, too.
“That’s alright, Papa,” Mum said, “They live in their own mess and as long as it doesn’t spill outside their door we can cope. Anyway I don’t think we shall see much of them as they’ll be round with the Donaldsons at every opportunity.”
“Only because Geoffrey will be there,” said Jonathan very quietly. He didn’t say any more as Mum gave him a look.
I knew why. Geoffrey was just a bit older than Jonathan and had been a fixture in our house, as Mum had described him, as he was at George Heriot’s School and in the Heriot’s School Pipe Band and Grandfather gave him extra lessons because he was very good. That was until during the Easter holidays Grandfather came out of his study because the twins were screeching their heads off and Geoffrey was doing an imitation of Grandfather marching up and down playing the pipes and they thought he was very funny. Grandfather was not pleased but Geoffrey wasn’t banished, he just preferred not to appear on the doorstep every day. Anyway, he had two sisters and the twins were very friendly with them. “Only so they could be there with Geoffrey,” was Jonathan’s opinion. Anyway, Mum just smiled when Jonathan said I was going to the Piping Class with him.
I heard more about Geoffrey when Jonathan and I walked across the Meadows on our way to the Castle later that morning. He and Geoffrey had been friends ever since they had been at Miss Pruitt’s school together as very small boys. Geoffrey had gone on to Heriot’s, where our Dad had been, so had stayed at home in Edinburgh but Jonathan met up with him every time we were at Grandfather’s during the school holidays. I also knew, because I heard Mum telling my sisters, that although Grandfather was annoyed because he had misbehaved he liked Geoffrey really because he played the pipes so well and was actually a good lad. He still came round for extra lessons, and he was keen, not like Jonathan.
“Geoffrey’s coming to the Club this afternoon, too,” said Jonathan, “I ‘phoned him last night and he said bring you along as he’s helping out with some of the youngsters today. We’ll teach you about proper kicking and tackling so you’ll be well ahead when you get back for next term.”
I didn’t like to ask him then when would he tell me other things but I guessed that would be while we were in my room rather than out with other people around. In any case, that could all wait as there was plenty to see and do, especially when we got to the Lawnmarket and up to the Castle. We watched the soldiers on guard and then others marched up, some with bagpipes, and there was the usual ceremony as they changed over. Then we went inside and saw the Honours of Scotland - the beautiful crown, the sceptre and the sword. I hadn’t been in St Margaret’s Chapel before and Jonathan described the things in there and then we spent rather a long time in one of the military museums until Jonathan realised I’d seen enough for one day. We wandered out and down until we ended up in a café and I had a glass of Coke and a scone while Jonathan had a big mug of coffee with a huge ham, cheese and pickle sandwich. I was very happy and I don’t think Jonathan thought I was a nuisance. In fact, I think he liked describing all the things we’d seen and he didn’t treat me like a little kid because all the time he talked to me it was as if I was quite grown-up, or at least not just eight and three-quarters.
“I’ll tell you why I was restless last night,” said Jonathan once we had settled down at the table and he’d looked around but there was no one near listening. “Grandfather gave me a telling-off last night after supper. That’s why I wasn’t around as he told me he wanted to see me in his study. He said I was spending too much time on games and the CCF and not enough on my school subjects.” He paused and took a couple of bites of his sandwich. “I’ve got my exams after Easter and I need to go into the Sixth Form next year so I’ve got to do well and I was upset and angry with myself because I know I haven’t been concentrating on all the things I should. You understand?”
I didn’t really know about exams but I’d heard Mum say to him she hoped he was buckling down to do more hard work, otherwise he wouldn’t get the grades he needed for entry to Sandhurst. But I knew he was upset and angry about something because of the way he’d said ‘fuck!’ those times. I nodded.
“I suppose I’ll have to take exams sometime,” I said. “What are they?”
He grinned at me. “Just like when Mr McWilliam gives you a test on what you’ve learned, but even more so. More difficult!” He took a swig of his coffee and took the last corner of the sandwich in one go. He sat looking out of the window.
I watched him as he did this and I took a rather large bite of my scone in imitation and chewed it for some time before swallowing it. I was thinking as well. What he’d said didn’t really worry me. I got on OK with my schoolwork and always got ticks from Mr McWilliam. Even Jack Pringle was getting ticks now and he said it was only ‘cause Pete and I helped him during Prep. From what I’d heard that big boy Arnold found learning hard. He didn’t seem to want to mix and seemed surly. Was that because things were hard for him. But then I thought, Jonathan had used the word difficult which seemed the same.
“Does it get really hard, then?” I asked when I’d finished chewing over things, including the rest of the scone.
Jonathan looked a bit faraway. “All the time,” he said. He shook his head. “Sorry, Jamie, I was miles away. What did you say?”
What was he on about? I repeated my question. “School. Does it get harder?”
He laughed. “Oh, I see what you mean! It gets harder but only if you don’t keep trying and learning all the things you’re taught.”
“Did Grandfather mean you weren’t trying enough?”
He nodded. “Yes, he did and said it very forcibly.” He grinned. “I wouldn’t like to be in court if he was judging me.” He paused. “Mum’s said, though, that he’s very strict, but fair, and she said she’d take me along one day when he’s sitting. He’s got a big case coming up soon and he has to work on whatever the case is at the moment so I expect that was why he was a bit short with me last night.” He smiled at me. “So you and the twins hadn’t better screech and disturb him.”
Me! Screech! I was always as quiet as a mouse. Except when I put that awful record on. The twins always laughed a lot and were noisy. I think that’s girls ‘cause at Miss Pruitt’s the girls always screeched in the playground during break-time and Mrs Kenning the other teacher would come out and hold up a finger. They would go quiet but as soon as she went indoors the screeching always started again. Taylor MacAdam who sat next to me said that was girls being all contrary. I knew the rhyme,’Mary, Mary, quite contrary’ so I supposed that was right.
“Come on,” Jonathan said, as we’d both finished eating and drinking, “We’ve got a good walk home and then you’ll be ready for lunch.”
Yes, it was quite a walk, but I didn’t mind as I was with my big brother.
“You can change into your kit after lunch and Mum will give us a lift in the car and she’ll pick us up just before four. The girls won’t be arriving until at least half past five and Grandfather will meet them at Waverley.”
My sisters were at a school in England. I think it’s not too far down. A place called something like Cumbria and the school’s right on the coast. They were sent there because Grandma Sinclair had been there as a girl years ago before she had gone to the music college in London and Mum said they had special rates for the children of Officers. I heard her say that to old Mrs Cathcart who lived next door to us and had all those cats and that old Rolls Royce in her garage which only went out once a month when the man from the garage came. She always said we could go out with him so I’d been in it lots of times but it did smell a bit of cats.
I was famished when we got back. Still, Mum had some nice baps and ham ready and I found she’d put my rugby kit all clean and tidy on my side of the bed when I went upstairs afterwards. Jonathan came rushing in just as I was putting my second shoe on. He stripped off completely ever so quickly. Gosh! He had got bigger since the summer holiday. I mean, his thing looked bigger and waggled around and he seemed to have more hair round it. I didn’t get a really good look at it as he pulled on a pouch thing and then nearly fell over as he tried to put his shorts on too quickly. “Oh, fuck!” he said, then looked at me and screwed his face up. Next he grabbed his shirt and that was over his head and dragged down in a moment. He lumped onto his side of the bed and started to put his socks on.
“Right, Jamie,” he said as he got his foot in the first one, “You’re ready so you go down and keep Mum happy ‘cause I’ve got to have a quick whizz before I come down. OK?”
I picked up my football boots and was at the door. “Tell her I shan’t be long,” he called out
I told Mum that he was almost ready but had to go to the lav. I didn’t say ‘for a quick whizz’ as Mum had told him off about that too. I knew he meant ‘have a pee’ and we always said ‘go to the lav’ and I’d been told not to say ‘go for a wee’ or for the other, ‘a number two’, which my sisters always told me to say when I was younger.
“Oh, Mum, you won’t mind if we don’t have a shower at the Club? I expect the hot water will be off until the Old Boys practice on Thursday evening,” he said as we went down the back steps to the garage in the mews behind the garden, “If we’re mucky you could put towels on the car seats when you fetch us and you’d better have an extra one as Geoffrey will probably come back with us.”
“Jonathan….,” Mum began, then shook her head. “Who’d have boys?”
“You’ve got two, Mum, remember? And Geoffrey’s a boy, too. And more than likely he’ll be mucky, too…”
“I put up enough with you two…,” she began again.
“I’m not trouble like him…,” I said.
“Not you as well answering me back,” she said and laughed and she put a hand out and ruffled my hair. “I hoped school would teach you good manners, but what can I expect with him leading you astray when you’re at home.”
Jonathan opened the driver’s door of the car. “There you are, mother dear, a dutiful son seeing you into your seat.” He shut the door carefully and opened the back door. “And you, my curly-haired little brother, get in the back and belt-up!” I looked up at him and he just grinned and gave me a shove onto the back seat. “And just keep quiet, Mum doesn’t like back-seat drivers.”
He shut my door and ran round to the passenger’s side and clambered in.
“Why didn’t you put your track-suit on? It’s chilly out there.” Mum asked him as he settled his long, bare legs and put his seat-belt on.
“It’s a bit stinky and needs a wash.”
“When has that ever bothered you?” Mum said as she manoeuvred the car back out of the garage onto the drive in the mews. “But then I would have to suffer the smell, I suppose. A small mercy in this confined space!”
“Watch it, Mum! There’s one of Mrs. C’s cats there!”
“Huh, it’ll get out of the way and don’t tell me what to do, you’re not your father!”
“What did I tell you, Shrimp! Back-seat drivers get short shrift in this old bus.”
“Huhn, this car’s only five years old! ….And don’t call him Shrimp. He’s got a proper name.”
“Yes I have, Drummers!” I said as loudly as I could.
Mum laughed. That shut him up.
She dropped us off and said she’d be back exactly at four, so don’t be late.
I thought he might start telling me off for calling him Drummers but Geoffrey cycled up at that moment on his mountain bike. He was wearing a tracksuit and had a sports bag with him.
“Glad to see you,” he said as he jumped off, “And you Jamie. Like school?”
I said I did and said I wanted to get ahead with rugby ready for next term.
Geoffrey laughed. “Good! There are three of the juniors coming this afternoon. They’re in the Prep School here and they’re really keen.”
Just as he said that three boys who looked about the same age as Watson came along the road each swinging a sports bag that looked as big as they were.
“Hi,” they chorused as they saw Geoffrey, then stood in a row and eyed Jonathan and me.
“Well, lads,” said Geoffrey, “This is my friend Jonathan and his brother Jamie.” The boys grinned at us. “And these,” he said pointing to each in turn, “Are Ian, Sandy and Luke. Say hello and we’ll be on the field in five minutes.”
The boys seemed friendly enough. Ian was quite a bit bigger than me and Sandy had red hair more so than like his name while Luke was exactly my height.
“Where are you at school?” asked Luke, “That green’s not our school is it?”
“I’m at Kinloch,” I said. I pointed at Jonathan who was ahead of us chatting to Geoffrey. “My brother’s there, too. But he’s in Big School.”
Luke nodded sagely. “I know about it. My cousin’s there. Richie Small. Do you know him?”
I shook my head.
“I think he’s in their Big School too ‘cause he’s fourteen.”
“I know him,” said the red-haired boy, “He lives in the same road as we do.”
“Where is it? That school?” asked the third boy. “Is it in Edinburgh?”
Luke seemed to know a lot. “No, it’s much further up. We went past the turning at Spean Bridge on the road to my Gran’s at Invergarry. It’s a good way from here.”
I had no idea where Invergarry was and only a hazy idea where Kinloch was though I’d heard Stu Barclay say he had an uncle and aunt at Spean Bridge. I think he said he was a doctor. Dad had shown me where Kinloch was on the map but I wasn’t too sure how to get there other than get on a train in Edinburgh then a bus from the little station.
“We’d better get in and change,” said Sandy looking at the retreating figures of Jonathan and Geoffrey who were now well ahead with Geoffrey disappearing into the clubhouse.
“Come on, you lot!” Jonathan called out, “Look smartish or it’ll be dark before we get on the field at this rate!”
The three boys took off at a run. I followed a bit more slowly. They vanished into the clubhouse as well.
“Come on, Jamie, you’ve still got to get your boots on!”
Oh dear! Mustn’t upset Jonathan. He sat on a bench outside the door and got his boots out of his bag and had one on by the time I got there and retrieved mine.
“What do you think of that lot?” he asked.
“I like them,” I said, “They’re just like the boys at school, aren’t they?”
“All boys are the same. You treat them as equals and they’ll treat you the same as well. Understand?”
“I’ve only met ones I like so far,” I said, “Are there ones who I won’t like?” I wondered about that boy Arnold. Would Jonathan like that boy Prothero who was causing trouble?
“I suppose Ally is a bit of a dickhead,” he said as he pulled on a lace to make it tight, “But he’s nothing to some of the kids at School when they get older and start throwing their weight around.” He grinned at me as I looked up at him. I didn’t know that word. ‘Dickhead’. I would have to ask him about it. Later. “There are a couple in my year who could do with a good hammering. Still, they don’t bother me. Rugger and the CCF gives you a bit of authority but you mustn’t overuse it.” He paused as he tied a knot in his second bootlace. “And now I’ve got bloody Prothero to cope with as well!”