By Liz Hedgecock
Jennifer peeped out carefully through the letterbox. The street looked like a party! There were long tables with white cloths, and red and blue paper plates set out. She had been at the front room window almost all morning, hiding behind the nets and watching the men stringing Union Jack bunting between the lamp-posts. Mummy had switched the telly on in the morning so that they could watch the Silver Jubilee.
Jennifer watched the beautiful golden coach roll past the crowds and buildings. Maybe when she was older she could go and see London. ‘How old is the Queen?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Is she older than you, Mummy?’
Mummy laughed a short laugh. ‘Yes, of course.’
‘Older than Annie Walker?’
‘Are you going to watch or ask silly questions? Come on, you can help with the cheese and pineapple. Go and wash your hands.’
After helping, and eating two spare pieces of pineapple, Jennifer went back to the window. There was Daddy, helping carry a trestle table! And some of her friends from the street. ‘Can I go out?’
‘No, you’ll get under people’s feet.’
‘I won’t! Michelle’s outside. And Lisa.’
‘No.’ Mummy lit a cigarette and blew smoke. ‘It’s not safe, all sorts of things are going on.’
But now it was time! She had her hair in bunches, with red ribbons, and her party dress on. Mummy was wearing her flowery dress with ruffles. ‘You look much nicer than the Queen, Mummy!’
Mummy gave her a very gentle hug, so that her ribbons wouldn’t get squashed. ‘So do you, Jennifer.’
At last they could open the door properly and go outside. ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ was playing but people were standing around looking as if they didn’t know what to do.
‘Who will be at the party?’
‘Everyone from our street, of course.’
‘What about round the corner?’
‘Round the corner can have their own party.’
‘But it’s only a little street.’
‘So they’ll have a little party. Why don’t you go and play with Lisa. No further than Cedar Road, though.’ Cedar Road led to the dangerous underpass. Someone had written on the sign with big black pen ‘Join the NF’. When she asked what the NF was Mummy said that they were silly people.
Jennifer ran towards Lisa. She was in the same class at school, class 2, and lived on the same side of the street, so Mummy would sometimes let her go and knock.
Suddenly there was a whine from a big speaker with a red ribbon tied round it. Michelle’s Daddy was standing on a chair with a microphone. Michelle was in class 3 and lived over the road. They had two cars! And Michelle’s daddy was the head of the club committee.
‘Good afternoon everyone, welcome to the Larch Road Jubilee Street Party.’ He was smiling. ‘A special guest would like to say a few words.’ From behind the speaker, out came Michelle’s mummy dressed as the Queen! She had a long white dress and a crown, and she was carrying a gold ball and a gold wand. Everyone clapped and cheered.
‘Good afternoon.’ Michelle’s mum even sounded like the Queen, she must have been practising. ‘Unaccustomed as one is to public speaking -‘ she paused while people laughed – ‘one is delighted to declare this street party open.’ Michelle’s daddy passed her some scissors and she cut the ribbon round the speaker.
Everyone clapped again and the National Anthem played. Jennifer only knew the first verse but some of the grown-ups were just opening and shutting their mouths. Her teacher would have made them stand in the corner.
Mummy sat her down with Lisa and Michelle and then went to fetch the cheese and pineapple. Everyone’s mummy had brought something. There were sausages on sticks, and cheese spread sandwiches, and Iced Gems, and fairy cakes with silver balls.
And then it was a disco! Dancing Queen came on and almost all the girls and women got up and danced in front of the speaker. Jennifer wasn’t sure if she was dancing properly, so she tried to copy, stepping to the beat. It wasn’t as much fun as it looked on Top of The Pops. Mummy and Daddy were talking at one of the tables, looking a bit cross.
‘I’m bored.’ Michelle said after a few songs. ‘Come on, let’s play house.’ They scrambled under the nearest tablecloth and it was nice and cool after being out in the sunshine. They sang along to the music, and Lisa had brought her cat’s cradle string.
Someone was shouting! Three teenage boys, wearing T-shirts with holes in, were standing by the speaker. One was holding a record with the Queen on the cover, but with writing over her eyes and mouth. Michelle’s daddy shouted again, broke the record in two, then made fists. The boys backed away and then ran down Cedar Road to the underpass. Mummy was right when she said it was dangerous!
The tablecloth lifted and Auntie Jane, Lisa’s mummy, peered in. ‘Found you!’ Her face was pink, as if she had caught the sun. ‘Come on Lisa, school tomorrow.’
‘Ohhhhhh!’ Lisa flounced out.
‘I bet she’ll tell our parents we’re here.’ Michelle said. ‘Grown-ups are no fun.’
There was a slow Leo Sayer song playing, and lots of the grown-ups were dancing together. Mummy was dancing with Michelle’s daddy, who must have told her a joke. Daddy was sitting with a group of men who looked as if they were talking about something serious, like the news, or the strikes. Another slow song came on. People must be getting tired from all the disco dancing, Jennifer thought. Mummy looked as if she was going to fall asleep on Michelle’s daddy.
‘I think they’re still busy.’ It was chilly now and Jennifer wished she had her cardigan. Michelle pulled a bit of tablecloth round them and Jennifer snuggled up. ‘Let’s play cat’s cradle again.’