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Day 2 – Prompted by El Farol by Santana

April 13, 2012

El Farol by Santana on YouTube

El Farol = The Lantern (according to Google! Let’s hope tomorrow’s song is in English!)

Alligator and Me

Child in Van

Photo courtesy of

The gang had chased me through the Saturday morning shoppers and had me cornered by the library when Alligator saved my life – he appeared out of the bushes waving this big tomahawk thing and screaming like a looney.  They scattered and for two hot summer weeks we became friends.

Alligator was about two years older than me and he lived with his mother in an old bus painted flaky red with symbols all over it.  “CND” they said.  “Filthy layabout scroungers!” my dad said.

The bus was one of a bunch of coaches and caravans on a piece of waste ground near the old soft drinks factory.  They were part of a peace convoy Alligator said.

Our neighbours called them names too.  There were meetings in the Town Hall.  I think my parents went.  I stayed home with Mrs Hendy’s Bridget and watched the police on the TV news dragging people, vans and busses like Alligator’s out of fields near Glastonbury.

We ducked school a couple of times.  He may have been new to the area but he knew the best places.  We made a den in the garden of this big empty house and nicked bottles of milk off doorsteps.  We stopped doing that when we didn’t go to the den for a couple of days; the milk had turned into this lumpy cheese stuff and stank the place out!

I went to his bus once.  It was dark inside and smelled funny, kind of earthy and spicy.  Alligator’s mum was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  She had red hair – not ginger  – but proper red with these purple beads woven into it.  She had silver rings on every finger, even her thumb.  The bus was messy but she didn’t even seem to mind.

She was making a meal and she asked me what I liked to eat.  I said sausages and she smiled; Alligator told me they were vegetarian.  They were having this sloppy bean casserole.  In the end I had just bread and jam for tea.  It was brilliant.

On the way home I found an old lantern in a skip.  It just needed a new bulb and a battery and some tape on the handle.  I took it for Alligator.  There was no electricity in his bus.

When I got home I could hear mum and dad from the kitchen

“ … place is a tip.  Those old vans and not one of them with a tax disc!  Honest people subsidise these dole-scrounging weirdoes sitting about smoking goodness knows what.”

“But you know what Councillor Morgan said…”

Dad made a noise through his nose.  “The Council are bunch of wet liberals.  No, if we want this sorted there’s only one way to go about it.  Jim Richards has the right idea.  A few of us are meeting up at the Red Lion tonight.”

The kitchen door opened as mum came into the hall; I scurried up the stairs into my bedroom.

I heard my dad come in very late after I’d gone to bed.  I couldn’t hear what they said this time but my mum’s voice sounded worried.  Next morning he had scratches on his hands like he’d been gardening and a bruise over his eye.

After breakfast I ran to the waste ground to give Alligator the lantern I’d mended, but when I got there it was empty.  There was just this junk lying around and a black sooty mark where Alligator’s bus had been.

That was years ago.  My parents never mentioned that night.  I think they forgot all about it.  But I’ve still got the lantern.

Wikipedia: Battle of the Bean Field 1st June 1985

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