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A Sack of Spuds
Top of the Sixties
Sample PassageThe winter of 1961 was cold and snowy, although no one could have known how much worse the next one would be. There had been snow since early January. On the pavements dirty snow was piled up and the roads looked dark and slick. It felt as if it had been cold for ever, there had never been any summer. Darkness came earlier than usual, so that the snowy front lawns were lit orange by the street lamps.
At fourteen years of age Keith Golder looked ridiculous smoking a cigarette, yet he felt like a pop star with his upturned collar and Elvis Presley hair. He scooted his bicycle down the side entrance of the newly built semi into which his family had recently moved. He flicked his cigarette casually away, just as he’d seen them do in the movies, except that he fumbled it slightly and had to make an emergency stop to retrieve the glowing embers from his jeans turn-up. No swearing followed, because Keith was fully occupied shaking his burnt fingers in the icy darkness.
Leaving his bicycle in the little shed at the back, he yanked open the sticking back door to the kitchen and felt his young body relax as the warm fug enveloped him. He struggled out of his steaming coat and hung it on the pantry door handle. He was aware that his father had just pattered over the lino in his threadbare carpet slippers.
‘Hi, Dad.’ Keith struck a pose for no one in particular and gave a lopsided smile, rather like a sneer, which was very fashionable for the time.
‘You’re spending a lot of time with that Harding girl.’ Keith’s dad peered at him over his reading glasses, which consisted as much of Elastoplast as of any optical materials.
It crossed Keith’s mind to say, ‘What of it?’, which would be suitably rebellious, but he knew better.
His father appraised him silently, then said, ‘Your mother spoke to the fruit and veg man today.’ Keith waited to hear how such an event could possibly concern him. His father raised his voice slightly, as if expecting resistance. ‘His helper has moved house and Mr Davies is looking for another young lad to help out on his fruit and veg round.’
Keith’s heart sank and a host of objections swam into his mind, not least the freezing cold involved in working on a van which was open at the back. His father went on, raising his right hand to ward off any argument, though Keith thought he looked like a retired traffic policeman, standing like that against the kitchen sink.
‘You’ve got to help out in this house, lad. Your paper round finished ages ago. You can’t just sit around here playing your Roy Shannon records and cavorting with the Harding girl.’
‘No, Dad, it’s Roy Orbison and Del Shannon, not Roy . . .’
To read the rest of the story buy Top of the Sixties.
This story is featured in an interview with David Ayres on Sunday 30 June at the Mitre Pub.
Number of pages: 165
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What was said about Top of the Sixties‘Ayres's portrayals of the inhabitants of this Midlands backwater are often touching and sympathetic ... his dialogue is excellent’ - The Short Review
‘From beginning to end, David Ayres shows his remarkable talent for description. His openings evoke strong imagery, while his characters are full of life.’ - Zouch Magazine
The book brought back those school days and the teenage angst about how to look cool, part time jobs, full time jobs, dating and the minefield that went with it. Thanks for a great read and for bringing those memories back to life.’ - editor FuerteNews
‘Much of what Ayres has to say about youthful exuberance, teenage angst and finding ones place in the world are universal.’
‘I thought of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as I read of a boy surveying his room in ‘Out of the Box’.’ - Karenlee Thompson on her blog
‘I really enjoyed the stories – very atmospheric.’ - Catherine Best, editor
‘Top of the Sixties is an interestingly constructed book and an easy read’
‘I did chuckle remembering the whole-life experience of getting a ‘Short back and sides’ in a local men-only barber’s shop, I could almost smell the Brylcreem!’ - David Elliot reviewing for Red Cap