Something different for Carol’s ‘Close Up’ – ‘The London Boys’ by Maggie Jones

Maggie Jones has always written. She is the Chair of the Wight Fair Writers Circle. Maggie is well known for her short stories that have recently been published by http://alfiedog.com/ in fact she was one of their Best Selling Short Story Authors for February 2013!

Maggie has also wrote a couple of novels – her latest and favourite is called ‘The London Boys’. Here is the blurb and the first chapter… Why not let Maggie know what you think of her latest project for she would love to hear from you!

You can e mail Maggie Jones direct @ maggiej64@hotmail.co.uk

Good luck Maggie with ‘The London Boys’!

Carol x

Blurb for ‘The London Boys’ – Maggie Jones

Life in London’s East end in 1911 for the London brothers is tough. 

Ten year old Jimmy’s teacher, ‘Hard as nails Harwood,’ seems to delight in caning him for no reason.  And older brothers, eighteen year old Artie and sixteen year old George have to learn to cope with their dad Arthur, who’s an abusive, alcoholic, often taking his temper out on his long suffering wife Gladys.  When they come home and find he has beaten her within an inch of her life, they take matters into their own hands. 

 

That same evening, they pay a visit to teacher Peter Harwood’s house and are shocked to discover he’s preparing to take a bath with his headmaster’s young daughter, Eliza!

 

They blackmail him; agreeing to keep quiet, if he helps Jimmy gain a scholarship into grammar school.  Jimmy’s a wiz with numbers.  Harwood reluctantly agrees. 

 

Jimmy does exceptionally, gaining a place at the prestigious Spencer Hall, an all boys’ grammar school in Derbyshire.  Gladys can’t afford it, so again, Artie and George blackmail Harwood, who begrudgingly agrees to pay for Jimmy’s whole education.

 

Follow the boys’ trials and tribulations as their lives change dramatically, over a course of events, which they could never have predicted.

First Chapter of  ’The London Boys’ – Maggie Jones 

The London Boys

 Chapter 1

 London May 1911

 Jimmy London’s life was shite.  Everyone had heard of the London’s, especially his dad Arthur, who was a complete and utter bastard.  Most days he was blind drunk, and he’d be abusive to any and every one around him.  Although, it was nearly always his family who seemed to bear the brunt of it, especially when his temper got the better of him, which it frequently did.  And then it scared Jimmy and his siblings witless.  Here was a man not to be reckoned with when he was like that.  He was someone who could and would be very handy with his fists.

 

          Jimmy, was his third son, and along with his brothers and sisters, soon came to know what sort of mood their dad was in at a very early age, and also when to keep their distance.  Arthur Jr (Artie) was the eldest at eighteen, next came George, sixteen.  There had been two other children born after them, but they’d died in infancy.  Then it was Jimmy, next was Ethel nine, Agnes seven, and finally followed by the twins Freddie and Mickey five.

 

          Keeping out of their dad’s way, kept them from many a sound beating.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case for Gladys, their mum.  Over the years she’d been given the odd slap and occasional punch, but more recently the slaps and punches were becoming severer.  Arthur was continually losing his rag with her for no reason.

 

Recently Jimmy celebrated his tenth birthday, but there wasn’t anything in the way of a celebration.  His mum had tried hard to save a few pennies, but Arthur soon found her hiding place and boozed that away down the pub.  At every opportunity, he was out drinking.  He didn’t need an excuse; he’d rather be in his local pub, The Swan than working, or bothering to look for any jobs.  He was out of employment more times than he was in it.

 

Not having any money for drink wasn’t a problem either. Arthur spent any money he’d earned, or took by threatening his sons, until they gave in and gave him some.  He regularly took money meant for food, and if he didn’t have any money, then he had an understanding with Fred the landlord that he would let him have a slate.  Arthur would drink in his pub, and get his drinks for free, if Fred knew what was good for him! 

 

Normally Fred wouldn’t have let anyone have a slate as times were hard, but he’d seen Arthur fly off the handle at the least thing.  His temper was legendary and so was his fighting.  Fred had seen him fight in the past, and he was one dirty fighter, someone that he didn’t want to get on the wrong side of ever.  So it was with some reluctance that to keep Arthur sweet and off his back he let him have one.

 

          From the moment the pub doors opened, Arthur had been in there, and hadn’t gone home when Fred rung the bell announcing he was shutting, just after the lunchtime shift had finished.  Arthur preferred to sit there and take his time with his last pint, before the pub re-opened again, just a couple of hours later.

 

          Fred knew better than to say anything, it was best for him to keep his mouth shut about him just sitting there.  At the end of the day, as long as he wasn’t causing him any trouble, Arthur could stay put, he surmised.  And Arthur thought it was better staying put, rather than out looking for another job, especially when he knew there wasn’t one to be had.  Well not for him!  He’d tried his luck with most places in the past, but because of his temper, most of his employers were glad to see the back of him after just a couple of days.

 

          But on this occasion, Rosie, Fred’s wife had had enough with Arthur and his threats about getting his pints put on a never ending slate or else?  And she was fed up with it and him.

 

          ‘I’ve just about had enough of that bloody Arthur London.’  Rosie snapped at Fred as soon as they were out the back in the kitchen after locking the bar door.

 

          ‘Hush up now love or he’ll hear you?’  Fred said trying to keep his wife quiet, afraid that if Arthur heard her, he would indeed have a go at him about not being able to keep his wife in her place.

 

          ‘I don’t care if he hears me or not.’  She raged.  ‘Enough is enough Fred.  You’ve got to talk to him and tell him he can’t stay here when we close after lunch, and more importantly talk to him about that slate of his.’ 

 

          Fred gulped hard.  He knew his Rosie was right, but he hated confrontation, especially with someone like Arthur London. 

 

          ‘If you don’t say something to him Fred, I swear I will.’  She glared defiantly at him.

 

          Rosie had him over a barrel, as he knew just how much Arthur would go on at him, about the money that was owed?  It would be almost as if it were Fred’s fault that Arthur had been allowed to have a slate, which in a way it was.  But Fred knew better than to say no to Arthur when he wanted something. 

 

Rosie kept on at him until she’d worn him down.  In the end to pacify her, he promised faithfully he would tackle Arthur about his slate when they opened again for the evening.  Rosie huffed at her husband; she supposed that would have to do.  But if Fred thought she was going to forget about it, then he had another thought coming.

 

          And as soon as they’d opened, Rosie was true to her word, and kept on urging him to go over and sort it out.

 

          ‘Go on Fred, go and say something to him while we’re quiet.’

 

          ‘I will love, just give me time?’

 

          ‘I’ve given you plenty of time Fred.’  She snapped and wouldn’t let it rest.  She kept on giving him the evil eye, until he’d finally had enough of it and bravely walked over to where Arthur was.

 

          ‘Arthur……’  Fred gulped, before taking a deep breath.  ‘I wouldn’t normally trouble you, but you see it’s about the money you owe me…..’  He stopped talking for a second, seeing a sudden glare flare up in Arthur’s eyes.  He knew he was asking for trouble, but he had a point to make, as Rosie kept on telling him so.

 

          ‘That slate you’ve got, well I was wondering … when you were going to pay me for it?’  He said as his words all came out in a rush.  His face flushed a vivid shade of red, almost matching the fancy bow tie he always wore.  For a big man, Fred was really a gentle giant.  He wasn’t hard at all and Arthur knew and used it to his advantage.

 

          ‘Look ere Fred, you’ll get your money when I’m good and ready to give it to yer and not before.  Now yer get me another pint and be quick about it.’  He shouted as Fred quickly nodded at him. 

 

Well he’d done what his Rosie had kept on at him to do, which was to speak to Arthur about his slate.  She hadn’t specified that he had to actually have the money from him!

 

          That was all he wanted, Fred after the money he owed.  Arthur thought watching Fred scurry back to the bar.  Well if Fred knew that Arthur had been laid off again with no possibility of getting another job, then he should have been worried.  But, as Arthur played his cards close to his chest, then that would be the last thing he or anyone else would know about for a very long time.

 

          Arthur looked up as Fred brought him his pint.  As it was placed down on the table, he licked his lips and grasped it in one hand.  Pulling it up to his mouth he downed it in one swift go, belching loudly afterwards.

 

          ‘If yer know what’s good for yer, you’ll keep em coming Fred.’  He said as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.  Fred just nodded as again he went back to the bar.  As Arthur looked at Fred’s retreating back, he smirked to himself.

When Fred got back to the bar, he smirked.  Arthur might think he was getting beer for free, which he was, but little did he know that all he was getting was the slops.  There was no way he was going to waste his good beer on someone like him.  He looked over at Arthur and smiled towards him as he lifted up the pint glass.

 

          After getting another six free pints from Fred, Arthur finally staggered out of the pub and made his way home.  Since being there for most of the day, it was still relatively early in the evening.  But, the only thing he wanted when he walked indoors was his bed, and not for Gladys to start on at him asking for money for food he didn’t have.  He didn’t want anything to eat, and as far as he was concerned, if he didn’t want it, then that meant that no-one else was going to have it either.

 

          ‘Have yer got a couple of bob for me to give Ethel to send her to the corner shop to get some bread and cheese?’  Gladys asked the minute he set foot in the kitchen.

 

          ‘No I’ve got none.  Don’t yer think if I had any, I’d be at the pub instead of back here with yer?’  He sneered at her.

 

          Arthur after drinking himself into a stupor had been thinking about work, or rather the lack of it.  He knew that finding another job would be near impossible, especially for him.  And if Fred was after the money he owed him, then that meant the others would be after theirs too.  But, more importantly for him, it meant he couldn’t rely on getting anymore free beer from Fred now.  He knew Rosie, Fred’s miserable cow of a wife wouldn’t stand for it.  Especially, as his slate had risen considerably in the last couple of months.   

 

He was brought back to the present by Gladys.

 

          ‘But the kids, they ain’t had any tea?  Yer promised me yer were gonna get paid today and that you’d give me some.’

 

          ‘I’ll give yer some fink in a minute.’  He roared as he suddenly grabbed her by the hair and slapped her hard across the face.  ‘When will yer ever learn, that when I say no woman, I mean NO.

 

          Sadly for Gladys, because Arthur was only thinking of himself yet again, his temper quickly rose.  The girls and the twins had been in the kitchen with their mother when Arthur had come stumbling in.  They were frightened of him and had moved to the corner, out of his way.  Seeing him grab their mum so viciously was enough for Ethel to round them up and send them all scurrying out into the night to look for help.

 

          Ethel took her sister and the twins along the cobbled streets looking for her older brothers.  Jimmy had gone out earlier on to play with his friends, before going to meet Artie and George from work.  By now she knew that they would be well on their way home.

 

          The twins and Agnes were in tears.  Ethel felt teary too, but knew she couldn’t show it in front of them.  She felt for them she had to be strong.  They all hated their dad with a deep passion for what he did to them and their mum.  She was such a kind and gentle loving woman, and had never laid a finger on any of them.  She didn’t have to; they knew she meant what she said without resorting to violence, unlike their dad.  And why he thought she deserved the beatings he dished out to her, none of them knew.

 

          Suddenly Ethel saw her brothers and started shouting out and waving her arms in the air.

 

          ‘Artie, George, Jimmy, come quick.  Our dad’s beating mum black and blue again.’

 

          At that the boys looked briefly at each other, before suddenly running up the road past Ethel and the young ‘uns, turning the corner and going as fast as they could up the street, before rushing indoors.  They were just in time to see their dad punch their mum in the face, swiftly followed by him kicking her hard in the stomach with his great hob nail boots.

 

          Gladys had been beaten to almost within an inch of her life; it was only the quick thinking of the boys that saved her that night.  Artie, George and Jimmy somehow managed to pull him off of her.

 

          ‘Leave her be dad.  You’ve half killed her, yer bloody bastard.’  Artie said grabbing him roughly from behind and holding tightly onto him with George helping, as Jimmy gently tried to help his mother to her feet.

 

          ‘Mum…mum, can yer hear me?  Can yer manage to stand if I help yer?’  Jimmy said speaking quietly to her.

 

          He had tears, but blinked them away.  If his dad saw them, he knew he would make some kind of reference about him being a baby, a big cry baby.  He hated his dad with a passion, and longed for the day when he got his.  If he had his way, then that day wouldn’t be too far away.

Gladys couldn’t answer, her mouth was filled with blood, and she could hardly see.  Both of her eyes were almost closed, but somehow she managed to lift her head and look at him, before slowly nodding.  This was something no child should ever have to see, she sadly thought.  Her children had seen her beaten more than enough in their short life time.  Where had that loving man gone?  Arthur had been so very different when they’d first met and married.

 

          She tried to smile at her son, but couldn’t.  There was nowhere on her body that didn’t hurt, but she didn’t want to worry him any more than necessary.  So she tried to mask the pain from him.  Thank god the little ‘uns were still outside; they knew to keep out of their dad’s way when he was like that.

 

          ‘Ere mum, try and sit down.’  Jimmy said as he helped guide her towards a chair.  He pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket.  She spat into the cloth and saw that lying there was yet another tooth.  The amount of teeth she’d lost due to beatings from Arthur was all ‘par for the course’ now.

          ‘Gerr off me!’  Arthur suddenly growled, as he struggled to force himself free of the boys.  But they held firm.  Many a time in the past when they thought he had calmed down, he’d suddenly hit out catching them unawares.  And then he’d punched them wherever his fists could find a target.

 

          ‘We’ll only let yer go when we’ve got yer outside and not before.’  Artie said through gritted teeth, as he and George bundled their dad back out into the street again.

 

          The younger children had followed them home and were waiting there.  Seeing their dad struggling to break free from their brothers scared them witless.  They’d all seen him lose his temper in the past, and they knew exactly what he’d done to their mum and what he’d do to them and their brothers given half a chance.  George looked at their anxious faces.  He knew just how afraid they really were.

‘It’s alright; don’t worry, we won’t let go of him until you’re all back indoors.  Go on in and lock the door behind yer.  Artie and me will knock when we want to come back in.’ He said forcing himself to smile at them. 

 

He knew they wouldn’t be shocked at the sight of their mum; unfortunately it wasn’t anything new to them.  They were so used to the sight of her when she’d been beaten, but just lately it seemed to have become almost an everyday occurrence.

 

          Well, as far as George was concerned, this was the last time that their dad was going to do this to her or any of them ever again.  If he and Artie didn’t do something, then the next time…… he shuddered to himself shaking his head.  It just didn’t bear thinking about.

 

          The four little ones did as they were told.  They went back inside and shut the door behind them.  The boys heard the bolt being drawn across the wooden door with a resounding thud, as it was slid into place and locked.  George looked at Artie.  The look that passed between them said it all. 

 

          ‘Stop struggling dad, we’ll let you go when you’ve calmed down and not before.’  Artie said as he and George dragged him further down the street and out of sight of prying eyes. 

 

Old Mrs Hobson was looking out of her window at them as they went by; she shook her head.  She’d heard the sound of the beating through the paper thin walls.  That Arthur London was a bad one alright.  George nodded at her as they went past and she nodded back, before pulling the drapes across her window.

 

          Both boys were their father’s sons, inheriting their height, dark chestnut hair colouring and ruddy complexion from him.  But, neither had inherited his temper.  George at sixteen looked a lot younger than his age with his baby face, although he and Artie were just over six foot tall and now towered way above Arthur.  Where once, he had been a fine figure of a man, standing tall, proud and strong at six foot two, now he’d become a shadow of his former self. 

 

          With his panache for drink, he now supported a great beer belly, hardly washing and wearing the same clothes day in and day out.  He was a complete and utter slovenly mess.  He hunched over whenever he walked.  He still had bulging biceps, but they were nowhere near as muscular and toned as they used to be. 

          When the boys were growing up, he’d often boxed bare knuckle with them or had them boxing against one another.  He wanted his sons to be men’s men.  So now they too had bulging biceps, which was just as well, as they were able to hold tightly onto him as he continued to struggle as they carried on pulling him along the streets.

 

          Eventually they dragged him to an old disused building.  When they got to the door, George kicked it open.  Arthur looked from the door to the boys.  What did they think they were going to do to him?  He could easily take them; he thought they were no match for him and said as much too.

‘When you let me go, I’m gonna give yer both the hiding of your lives.’  He slurred as he spat on the floor in disgust.

 

          ‘No dad, that’s where you’re wrong, you’re never gonna hit any of us ever again.’  George said as he suddenly let go of him and quickly bent down and picked up an iron bar that had been hidden from view.

 

 

 

 

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