(Here's another chapter from my work-in-progress novel. Tomorrow I'll tell you what I think is wrong with it and with the book in general).
They went up to Chadwell on the bus to watch the Coronation on the television. They went to the same house they had stayed in for a month when they’d been evacuated after the flood in January. It was all uphill after they got off the bus and his mum was soon out of breath. It was really hot and he was thirsty so they stopped at a shop and his dad bought him a frozen Jubbly. His Dad had his suit on and a white shirt with blood on the collar where he had cut himself shaving. He still had a bit of toilet paper sticking to his chin to stop the bleeding. His mum was wearing a hat and gloves like she did when she used to go to church. She was wearing lipstick too and it came off on the fag she was smoking.
Mr Vickers opened the door. He wore the same brown cardigan he had before when they stayed there. He led them into the sitting room and sat down in his favourite chair next to the fire. The house looked the same apart from the telly in the corner. Mr Vickers lit up a pipe while his wife made a pot of tea. He still had his slippers on even though it was the afternoon. He was very fat and his trousers were held up by green braces. The television was a new one they had bought specially. Mr Vickers said they were paying for it on the never-never. He said he had no trouble fixing up the HP because he had a steady job in the shoe factory. Renting a telly was a mug’s game, he said. He was the only person they knew who had a television. Mrs Vickers cleaned the screen with a damp cloth and moved some flowers out of the way so they could all see the screen.
“I wish we could afford a telly like that,” his mum said.
“We might,” said his dad, “If the pools come up.”
They all laughed, except Chris. He didn’t care if his dad couldn’t afford a telly. It wasn’t his dad’s fault that there hadn’t been much overtime recently. Anyway, he preferred his books out the library. They didn’t cost anything.
The house smelled funny like it did before. Other people’s houses always smelled funny. This one smelled of burnt bacon.
His mum hadn’t wanted to go because she was too tired but his dad said, “Come on, Anne, you’ll enjoy seeing the Queen being crowned.”
So in the end, after a lot of fussing about so that they nearly missed the bus, his mum came.
After the kettle had boiled they all had tea and some fruit cake which came from the Co-op. Chris didn’t like the taste of the fruit cake but he ate it to be polite. He didn’t want to show his mum up by behaving badly when they were in company.
“So how have you both been keeping since we last saw you?” said Mr Vickers, removing the pipe from his mouth.
“Mustn’t grumble,” his dad said.
“You have to make the best of it, don’t you,” said his mum.
“What about the young lad. Still growing I see.”
His mum laughed. “He’s eating us out of house and home. He’s going to be as tall as his grandfather if you ask me.”
“His grandfather on my side was six feet five.”
“That is tall.”
They finished the rest of their tea in silence. Mr Vickers studied the Radio Times. “It starts at three,” he said eventually.
Nobody said anything. You could hear the clock ticking on the mantelpiece. Mrs Vickers got up and started to clear away the dishes. His mum used to say she was too house-proud by half.
“Switch it on on the way out, will you,” said Mr Vickers.
Mrs Vickers eyed the television nervously. They all watched her, wondering what would happen. Eventually she bent down and pushed a button under the screen. There was a loud pop and then a buzzing noise. They all watched nervously as the buzzing noise grew louder. Then the screen flickered like it was snowing.
“It takes a while to warm up,” said Mr Vickers, “What would you like to drink, Anne?” “Oh, I won’t bother. Drink doesn’t agree with me.”
“Go on, it’s a special occasion. It’s not every day the Queen gets crowned, is it. Have a glass of sherry.”
“Oh, all right. Just the one.”
“What about you, Henry?”
Chris didn’t know his dad’s name was Henry.
“Don’t mind if I do. I’ll have a stout, please, Charles.”
The Coronation went on all afternoon. Chris sat in a corner reading William The Outlaw while the grown-ups chatted and drank.
When he went to bed they were laughing and talking loudly all the time. He thought they might be drunk although he’d never seen anyone like that before. Later on he was woken up by the sound of shouting and screaming. It sounded like his mum. He thought about going downstairs and begging her to be quiet but he knew she wouldn’t listen. He should have got her to come up to bed when he went. Usually she fell asleep without much trouble. It was the best time of the day when she went to bed. He shoved his head under the pillow to drown out the noise. Somebody banged on the wall from the house next door.
In the morning the three of them got up early and went to catch the bus without having breakfast even though he was starving. They didn’t say goodbye. It felt like they were running away. Chris felt ashamed. Somehow he felt it was all his fault. He shouldn’t have bullied his mum into coming.
“You didn’t have to let them talk to me like that,” his mum said as they stood at the bus stop.
His dad made a face.
“You should’ve stuck up for me like a real man. I was black affronted.”
“They didn’t mean anything. You took it all wrong.”
“That’s right. Blame me for it all. As usual.”
“What did they say?” said Chris.
They waited for the bus in silence. His dad looked really miserable and he wanted to go and hold his hand but he knew his mum would be upset if he did. She got jealous really easily. He could just imagine how she must have behaved. She didn’t know when to shut up, that was the problem. It was the same at home. She never stopped.
It was the last time they ever went out to visit anyone.