Chapter Nine – The Tree Camp- by Nick Darke
One of nine stories written for his children using their names but with people from his own childhood in 1950s Cornwall.
Jamie was reluctant, to say the least.
‘Come on!’ yelled Kate.
Jamie climbed up the tree and joined Kate in the tree camp.
‘Hardly a tree camp,’ thought Jamie, ‘it’s an old pallet she’s found on the beach and shoved in the tree.’
Kate was at the drain pipe ‘AT LAST JAMIE IS HERE!’
The sound of Kate’s voice boomed through the drain pipe and reverberated right round the village, across the beach and up the valley.
‘I bet Harry Pool heard that up in the Old Mill,’ thought Jamie.
‘Come on Jamie,’ said Kate, ‘they’re expecting you.’
‘Who?’ said Jamie.
Jamie could see quite a lot from up in the tree camp, he had quite a view of everything, but couldn’t see one person who looked remotely as if they were expecting him. In fact he couldn’t see anyone at all.
Henry had locked himself in his room when he heard Kate saying she was going down to the tree camp. He’d taken the precaution of picking up Whisky, his cat, and carrying him into his room with him, because he thought this was going to be a long time to be alone in your room without a cat. Henry was doing everything with Whisky in his room that his mother forbade him to do, rubbing noses, burying his face in Whisky’s fur and smelling him, and putting him down the bed.
Kate was winding the gramophone, furiously.
‘THE NEXT RECORD IS I’LL BE HOME BY PAT BOON!’ boomed Jamie, in concert with the drainpipe.
‘Wait a minute!’ said Kate.
‘WAIT A MINUTE,’ boomed Jamie.
‘No! You don’t say that!’
Jamie wasn’t at all concerned what to say and what not to say, he just did what he was told to the letter up in the tree camp. It’s not that he was afraid of Kate, he was more afraid of the tree camp. It was not in the least stable and the wood was rotten.
Henry opened the window of his bedroom. He couldn’t open the top bit so he opened the bottom half. He opened the window so he could listen to Jamie announcing the record.
‘Right. Say it again,’ said Kate.
‘THIS IS I’LL BE HOME BY PAT BOONE!’ said Jamie through the drainpipe.
Henry heard that in his bedroom, through the window. He also heard the beginning of the record, which was louder than the drainpipe.
‘I’LL BE HO-OME MY-HEE DARLINNNN, PLEASE WAI-HE-HATE FOR-HOR-HOR ME-HEE!’ crooned Pat Boone. Then the gramophone refused to play any more and made a fearful squeal and all was silent.
Inside Henry’s bed Whisky must have heard the squeal and found his way out from under the sheets. Seeing that the window was open, the cat saw his chance to escape and before Henry had a chance to snatch him back, leapt through the window, onto the coal shed roof, and off, across the garden and down the drive towards the tree.
Henry unlocked his door and dashed down the stairs three at a time.
‘Need a new needle,’ said Jamie.
‘I know,’ said Kate. ‘There’s only one thing to do.’
‘What?’ asked Jamie.
‘You’ll have to sing a song.’
‘I can’t sing,’ said Jamie.
‘Of course you can sing,’ said Kate ‘you’ve got a lovely voice, you sang like a lark at Christmas, what’s that carol you sang in church?’
‘Silent Night,’ said Jamie
‘Go on then, sing it,’ said Kate.
Jamie put his mouth the drain pipe, ‘Si-y-lent night, si-y-lent night…..’ he began to mutter.
At that moment Mrs Cobly arrived at the bottom of the drive. She was on her way back from Jack Brenton’s and had a rabbit in her hand. She stopped to listen to Jamie’s singing.
‘That’s lovely,’ she said to Kate ‘lovely voice that boy’s got. He sang that in church at Christmas time.’
Mrs Cobly stood fast in the middle of the road and listened to Jamie singing his carol. She wouldn’t budge when Jimmy Babs motored down the hill in his Ford Popular, so Jimmy Babs had to stop his car and listen to Jamie’s singing as well.
Jack Brenton always skinned Mrs Cobly’s rabbits and she always held them by the back legs so they dangled down by the hem of her raincoat, which she wore in all weathers, even hot sunny days like this one. Mrs Cobly’s head was slightly cocked, her face turned up towards the tree camp where Jamie’s pure high voice boomed Silent Night through the drainpipe.
Mrs Cobly’s skinned rabbit lent itself particularly to the interest of Henry’s cat Whisky, who had made his way down to the bottom of the drive.
Jamie’s singing seemed to have more appeal to the public than Pat Boone’s, because here was Mr Strongman, making his way up the lane from the shop, his white apron stained with pig’s blood, his hands full of cabbages, three in each hand.
The last person to arrive on the scene was Henry. He was running, as usual, after Whisky. He was caught up short by six cabbages.
Looking round, the first thing he saw was Jimmy Babs, leaning out of his car, looking up to the sky.
Then he heard Jamie’s rendering of the final verse of Silent Night.
Then he heard the crack, a scream from Kate, and the clunk of the gramophone hitting the ground.
Mr Strongman dropped his cabbages and managed to catch Kate in his arms as she came tumbling after.
Henry, swamped in cabbages, looked up to see Jamie hanging in mid air, kicking his feet where the tree camp once was, and clutching onto the drain pipe.
Jimmy Babs by now was out of his car and shinning up the tree.
Needless to say Jamie had ceased singing Silent Night, but Mrs Cobly was still gazing up into the tree, muttering to herself.
‘I always said he could climb like a monkey.’
She was referring to Jimmy Babs of course, who by now had Jamie by the waist and was lowering him slowly to the ground.
Henry didn’t want to leave, but he had to.
He had to run up the drive as quick as he could.
He didn’t want to but he had to.
He didn’t dare risk being present when Mrs Cobly discovered that his cat was eating her rabbit.