Germany Calling

Pip, nicknamed Pipsqueak but Squeak for short, is five and living with his grandparents in a small village in Shropshire. It’s December 1941 and Squeak’s mother is a nurse in the Eighth Army. His father is a soldier somewhere. Squeak has no idea where, nor do Grandpa Tubs and Grandma Pud; the Joyce family are fond of nicknames. Squeak’s grandparents are normally genial but at odds about listening to ‘Lord Haw Haw’ on the radio. Squeak sits on Pud’s knee as Tubs turns on the radio.

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Sleep is not always David’s fail-safe escape; dreams are impossible to predict.

On an overcast afternoon, David stands dithering at an opening in a very long hedge of dense blackthorn. Uncertainly, he passes through the opening. A swirling quarrel of sparrows is deafening as they flit and skirmish in and out of the prickly hedges that dwarf him. Seeing paths running east and west, he wonders which way to go. He turns right and meets a dead end. Retracing his steps, he goes past the opening and, as this path splits into two, he hopes he’s in a maze. I like mazes, he thinks. With no sun to guide him, he loses any sense of direction and can see no landmarks above the high hedges as he searches for the centre of the maze.

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Ex Pat

Isaac Pearlman often thinks about his friend Patrick O’Connell. Both aged fifteen, they were unlikely school friends; Patrick stood at over six foot while Isaac was small for his age. Patrick took no prisoners; anyone showing disrespect for his Irish ancestry was given an opportunity to apologise; failure to do so was severely punished. Isaac was bullied until Patrick stepped in – his ability to split the lid of a wooden school desk with a single head butt intimidated even the most foolhardy of bullies. Most of all, Isaac remembers basking in the light of Patrick’s smile, something that saw him through the darkness as his black dog bayed. 

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