CHRONICLES OF HALDEN IIA
The Banner:
The Banner: jeans on a pole a
dramatic
tetralogy

by
Robin
Gordon
Part 3: Effie

Auksford crest: Great Auk with book bearing the words "Ex ovo sapienitia"
-  Auksford, 
2008  -
 
©  Copyright Robin Gordon 2008

Characters in order of appearance
Little Willie, leader of the Black Dragons
Sid Thatcher
Ken
Stan
Pete
Jake Thatcher (Old Jake), Sid’s father
Effie
Sandra
Ronno
King, leader of the Swarrell gang
Tommo
Scouse
Steve
Jim Gormley, aka Kim
Nelly
Claggy
Wank
Hutch
Mal & Dek, the guards
A Dragon Boy
Black Dragons
Swarrell gang

 

* * *

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
        -- Jesus Christ: Sermon on the Mount

* * *

Iphigenie:
       Edel sei der Mensch, hilfreich und gut.
      (Noble let Man be, helpful and good).
            -- Goethe: Iphigenie auf Tauris.


* * *

ACT I,  SCENE 1

    Open space between the old goods yard and the Alebeck, close to the viaduct.  The Swarrell gang is yelling insults across the stream to where they suppose the Halden lads to be skulking.
    The younger boys, led by Little Willie, are dressed entirely in black except for dragons, mainly in red on the backs of their denim or plastic jackets.  They are in the forefront of the jeering, around Sid Thatcher, who is carrying a banner made out of Nails Palmer’s captured trousers attached to a pole.  He flourishes this flag in time to the chants.
    Ken, Stan. Terry and some older youths are standing in the background, watching, but not joining in much.  They have no set uniforms.
    Old Jake is hanging about near the younger boys, a fag hanging from his mouth, watching and rubbing his hands in glee as Sid’s antics call forth cries of “Nice one Sidney!”


Dragons:  “What have you got there?” said Milder to Malder.
“We may not tell you,” said Festle to Fose.
“It’s our flag of battle,” said John the Red No-ose,
“It’s our flag of battle,” said John the Red Nose.

“What is it made of?” said Milder to Malder.
“We may not tell you,” said Festle to Fose.
“It’s Nails Palmer’s trousers,” said John the Red No-ose,
“It’s Nails Palmer’s trousers,” said John the Red Nose.

“Where did you get them?” said Milder to Malder.
“We may not tell you,” said Festle to Fose.
“We debagged Nails Palmer,” said John the Red No-ose,
“We debagged Nails Palmer,” said John the Red Nose.

Raay!
We wanna battle!
We wanna battle!

Willie:  We want your trousers!

Dragons:  We want your trousers!

    Sid advances and flourishes the Banner.

Dragons:  Raay!  Good old Sid!
Nice one Sidney!
Nice one, son!
Nice one Sidney!
Let’s have another one!

Ken:  You can tell there’s nobody out there.  You wouldn’t find Sid out in front if there was any danger.

Stan:  Hey!  Pete!  What are you wasting your breath for?  There’s nobody there!

Pete:  Course there is!  They’re scared to come out.

Willie:  They’re dead shanned ‘cos we’ve got their leader’s kegs!
    [Sings]: Where are all the Halden lads?

Dragons:  Over there!  Over there!

Willie:  What do we want?

Dragons:  We wanna battle!
We wanna battle!

Ken:  You lot don’t need Halden for a battle – just shadows.

Willie:  Nails Palmer’s kegs aren’t shadows, are they?  And we’ve got ’em.
[sings] Nails Palmer came to Swarrell
         with a million boys or more!
   
Dragons:
Nails Palmer came to Swarrell with a million boys or more!
Nails Palmer came to Swarrell with a million boys or more!
But we got his trousers off!
    Glory, glory, see our banner!
    Glory, glory, see our banner!
    Glory, glory, see our banner!
    We’ve got Nails Palmer’s pants!
Raay!  We are the champions!
[Clap cláp clap-cláp clap]
We are the champions!

Willie:  Nails Palmer’s gang went running for to save their yellow skins!

Dragons:  Nails Palmer’s gang went running for to save their yellow skins!
Nails Palmer’s gang went running for to save their yellow skins!
But we got Nails Palmer’s pants!
    Glory, glory, see our banner!
    Glory, glory, see our banner!
    Glory, glory, see our banner!
    We’ve got Nails Palmer’s pants!
Raay!

Jake:  Hee-hee-hee-hee, listen to this:
[Sings] We’ll be coming for your trousers when we come

Dragons:  We’ll be coming for your trousers
                    when we come!

Jake:  You’d best run to your mums
before we bare your bums,
cos we’re coming for your trousers when we come!

Dragons:  Raay!  Good old Jake!
We’ll be coming for your trousers when we come!
We’ll be coming for your trousers when we come!
You best run to your mums
before we bare your bums,
cos we’re coming for your trousers when we come!

Sid:  I didn’t know you could write poetry, Dad.

Jake:  Yeugh, where d’you think you got your talent from?  Not from your mother!

Willie:  Come on Sid!  Where’s the Banner?

    Sid goes forward, flourishing the Banner.

Sid:  How’s this?
[Sings] See our Ba-anner!
Watch the ma-anner
that I wave it up and down,
for we stripped Nails
to his shirt-tails,
and we drove him out of town!

Dragons:  Raay!  Good old Sid!  What a poet, eh?  What a poet!
Nice one, Sidney!
Nice one, son!
Nice one, Sidney!
Let’s have another one!

Jake [scowls and gives Sid a V-sign behind his back, and mutters]:  Yah!  Dirty little wanker!

Pete:  Look!  There’s one!  Near the railway bridge!

Dragons:  Where?  Where?

Pete:  He’s gone.  Under the bridge.

Willie:  Let’s get him!  Bring the Banner!  Come on, Sid!  Charge!

Sid:  Wait!  Wait!  It could be a trap.

Willie:  Aw, don’t be daft!

Jake:  Sid’s right.

Willie:  What d’you know?

Jake:  The Japs were always up to that sort of trick.  You’d see one of ’em moving in the jungle, and you’d go and get him – and the next minute there’d be a hundred and fifty of the little yellow bastards on top o’ you.

Willie:  Aw …

Jake:  It’s true!  A lot of my friends were killed that way – and they were the lucky ones.  Some of ’em were taken alive.  We could hear their screams.

Willie:  You never had no friends – anyway it’s not Japs, it’s Halden lads out there.

Sid:  I think we should go for reinforcements.

Willie:  Yellow!  Give me the Banner!

    Willie grabs the Banner.
    Ken grabs it from Willie.

Ken:  Hang on!  This isn’t a Dragon banner, it’s ours!

Stan:  Yeah!  And you’re not taking it anywhere without King’s permission!

Willie:  I’ll have banners of me own!  Come on, lads!

Ken:  More likely lose your own kegs!

Willie:  Eh?

Ken:  If there’s anybody out there, there’s not just one.  You lot have got yourselves all worked up.  You’ll grab the Banner and go rushing across the beck and under the bridge.  How many d’you think are waiting for you on the other side of the bridge?

Willie:  How do I know?

Ken:  See!  Well I divven’t care if you lose your own trousers, but you’re not taking the Banner!

Willie:  An ambush?

Ken:  Bright, inn’e?

Willie:  The dirty bastards!  They’re not getting away with this!  Let’s get the rest of the gang together!

Ken:  Now you’re talking sense.  Hey!  Some of you stay here and keep the chanting going, but don’t cross the beck!

Some of the boys go over to the beck and start chanting again, others go off to find the rest of the gang.  Sid and Jake stand irresolute for a moment, then they slope off together, taking the Banner with them.

 

ACT I,  SCENE 2

    Effie and Sandra are watching from the viaduct.

Effie:  Just look at them!  Just look at them!  Honestly, Sandra, I’m so fed up with the way they go on I could just turn me back on the whole lot of them.

Sandra:  Even Ernie?

Effie:  Huh!  Ernie King!

Sandra:  You like him though, don’t you.

Effie:  I’ve liked a lot of people.

Sandra:  Used to like Sid Thatcher.

Effie:  I thought it would be orright when he joined the gang.  I thought he’d calm ’em down.  But he’s just as bad as any of’ em – going about waving those trousers like a flag.  He just encourages Little Willie, you know.

Sandra:  He likes to see lads having their knickers taken off.  It gives him a thrill.

Effie:  Well, it doesn’t give me a thrill.  I think it’s disgusting.  King should put a stop to it.

Sandra:  Oh, come on, Effie.  What harm does it do?  Hey, remember when we were in Miss Foster’s class and that fat boy pulled Deirdre Whassername’s hair and we got him in the corridor and shoved him in the girls’ cloakroom?  Hey, he knew what we were after, didn’t he?  Remember how he started crying even before we touched him.  Hey, you just had to say, “Deirdre’s looking for you,” for weeks after, didn’t you?  “Deirdre’s looking for you” and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

Effie:  What d’you wanna go talking about things like that for?

Sandra:  Why not?  I’m just remembering the old days.  They call it nostalgia.  It’s all the rage now – and anyway, I didn’t notice you hanging back.  I didn’t notice you telling us not to be such naughty girls.

Effie:  Well … he stole my protractor … and he tore my geography book.  He was always making trouble… Well, it’s tradition, innit? … When you’re at school … when a boy really deserves it … I mean when you’ve got to teach him a lesson he won’t forget …

Sandra:  … you debag him!

Effie:  You’re just trying to put me in the wrong.

Sandra:  Well you’re trying to put everyone else in the wrong, aren’t you.  I thought it would be good when you and Ernie took a real fancy to each other like that.

Effie:  Aw Sandra, what am I gonna do?

Sandra:  What d’you mean?

Effie:  Well, I like Ernie – I mean it’s not like when you and me and him and Ronno used to go down behind the engine sheds.  I mean, that was just … well it didn’t matter, did it?  It didn’t matter who you were with, sometimes one, sometimes the other – and, well it was nice, even if you didn’t want to …

Sandra:  Yeah, that’s another thing.  Everybody thinks we did.  You know that, don’t you?

Effie:  Well I know we didn’t, and he knows we’re not going to, and that’s all that matters.

Sandra:  Hey, d’you wanna marry him?

Effie:  I dunno … I wanna … I wanna save him.

Sandra:  Wha’?

Effie:  I dunno what I mean … Yes I do.  It’s all this fighting.  I wanna get him to stop it before it’s too late.

Sandra:  What d’you mean: too late?

Effie:  It’s getting worse – like they talk about on telly: escalating. – One day there’s gonna be a real battle.  Somebody’ll mebbe get killed.

Sandra:  Never!

Effie:  It’s serious, Sandra.  The boys from Halden are just boiling to get their own back.

Sandra:  So Ernie King gets debagged?  Well, he’ll survive it.

Effie:  Why d’you have to be so … I don’t know.  Why d’you have to make everything into a joke?  It’s … I can’t tell you.  You’d just laugh.

Sandra:  No I wouldn’t.  Honest.

Effie:  All right.  Listen.  I know what I’ve got to do.  I’ve got to be a PEACEMAKER.

Sandra:  What?

Effie:  A peacemaker!  Listen, Sand: I was at church last Sunday …

Sandra:  Church?!

Effie:  Yeah.  Me auntie goes to St Lazarus’s every week, only she had flu, so I had to go wid’ er.

Sandra:  Oh, yeah.  That’s what I call a real Christian attitude.

Effie:  What?  Going with her?

Sandra:  No.  Her.  Making sure everyone else got their share.

Effie:  She said the Lord would make sure no-one else got it.

Sandra:  And did He?

Effie:  How do I know?

Sandra:  Didn’t make much of a job of protecting her from it, did He?

Effie:  Listen, I’m trying to tell you something, aren’t I?  Something important.  There was this visiting preacher there – seems they can’t get a regular vicar at St Lazarus’s…

Sandra:  I’m not surprised.

Effie:  … so they take turns from round about.  Anyway, he was really good.  He preached a fabulous sermon.

Sandra:  Handsome, was he?

Effie:  I didn’t notice.

Sandra:  Young?

Effie:  Quite young.  I didn’t really pay much attention.

Sandra:  Ooh, Effie!  D’you wanna be a vicar’s wife?  You have to be careful?  You start fancying any of the choir-boys and you’ll be in the Sunday newspapers.

Effie:  There you go again!  Making jokes of everything.  Anyway, vicars have to be celibate.

Sandra:  That’s only Catholics.

Effie:  Look, do you wanna hear or not?  Cos I don’t have to tell you.

Sandra:  Go on! Go on!  Tell us!

Effie:  Well shurrup your laughin’ then.

Sandra:  Yeah, orright.  Tell us.

Effie:  Well, he was talking about violence and that – intolerance, you know?  About how nobody listen’s to anybody, and they’re all having strikes and that, and wars, and terrorists chucking bombs, and that.  And he said this bit out o’ the Bible: Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.  I thought it was ever so wise.

Sandra:  Yeah, well, the Bible is wise, innit?  That’s what it’s for.

Effie:  I talked to him afterwards.  He was standing at the door shaking hands with all of the people.

Sandra:  Can’t have been at St Lazarus before, or he’d have known better.

Effie:  I said, “What you said is just like what it’s like round here.”  I said, “All the boys are always out just looking for trouble,” and do you know what he said to me?

Sandra:  What?

Effie:  I remember the exact words.  They’re engraved on my heart forever, like Calais was on Queen Bloody Mary’s – and that’s not swearing.

Sandra:  Yeah, but what?

Effie:  He said: “Ah yes, it’s always a problem keeping the chaps apart when their blood is up, but that’s where you chapesses come in.  You could have an immense influence for good, you know.  Just think about it when you’re having your Quiet Time tonight and ask the Lord to guide you.

Sandra:  Dunn’e talk funny – and woss’e mean Quiet Time?

Effie:  Suppose He means saying your prayers.

Sandra:  Did you then?  Did you say your prayers?

Effie:  Don’t be daft.  [She sees Ronno coming].  Hey, shurrup, eh?

    Enter Ronno

Sandra:  Ooh, look what the cat’s dragged in.

Ronno:  Shurrup.  I’ll see you later – behind the engine sheds.

    Effie turns away in disgust.

Sandra:  Maybe.

Ronno:  Has she still got her knickers in a twist?

Effie:  She is not prepared to let herself be pawed about by a great, randy hooligan – if he means me – and you can tell him.

Sandra:  She doesn’t want him to paw her about.

Ronno:  I heard.

Sandra:  It’s got ears.

Ronno:  You’re looking for a belt round yours.

Sandra:  Ooh, yes.  It’ll keep me hair in order.  Can I have yours.

    Sandra grabs at Ronno’s belt.

Ronno:  You can have whatever you like – when we get behind the engine sheds.

    Ronno and Sandra embrace.  Effie looks away.  Ronno breaks off.

Ronno:  But I’ve got to talk to her first – about King.

Sandra:  She’s made up her mind: she won’t have him.

Ronno:  Aw, come on, Effie, be reasonable.  I mean, he really likes you – and it’s not as if you’ve never been behind the engine sheds with us.

Effie:  Don’t be disgusting!

Ronno [to Sandra]:  Well it isn’t, is it?

Effie:  You know we never did anything.

Ronno:  You came, though, and we had some good times, didn’t we? – [to Sandra] What’s she got against King?

Sandra:  Nowt.  It’s not like that.  She’s just got this thing about being a peacemaker.

Ronno:  Well she’s making King’s heart race.  Isn’t that enough for her?

Sandra [playfully punching him]:  Not a pacemaker, clot – a peacemaker.

Ronno:  Well she’s not making much peace between me and King.  He thinks it’s cos of me she won’t have him.

Effie:  You?!  You must be daft if you think I care about you! – [to Sandra]: Have you ever heard anything like it?  You let them kiss you a couple of times and they think they’re God’s gift. – [to Ronno]: You?!  You just don’t understand anything, do you – any of you.  [to Sandra]: They all think if a girl doesn’t fancy a fella it’s because she fancies some other bloke.  They never think there might be other reasons.

Sandra:  Sex-mad they are.

Effie:  Nothing but sex and violence!  It was bad enough before, but you’ve really started summat now.

Ronno [to Sandra]:  What’s she on about?

Sandra:  Nails Palmer.

Effie:  And you’re making it worse, waving those jeans like a red rag to a bull.  How d’you think it’s going to end.

Sandra:  With King in his underpants.

Ronno [furiously turning on Sandra]:  Shurrup, will ya?

Effie:  Somebody’s going to get really hurt.

Ronno [to Sandra]:  What d’you wanna go and say things like that for?

Effie:  I said someone’s really gonna get hurt one of these days and it’s all your fault.  You want to grow up and stop behaving like savages!

Ronno [to Sandra]:  You always have to make fun of everything, don’t you?  You think everything and everybody’s just one great joke.

Sandra:  I don’t need to make you lot into a joke.  You’re one already – and here comes the punchline.

    Enter King.

King:  Hi, Effie.

Effie:  Huh!

Ronno:  ’Lo, King.

King:  What you doing here, Ronno?

Ronno:  Nothing.

King:  Trying to get off with ’er behind my back!

Ronno:  No.

King:  Oh yeah?

Ronno:  If you must know I was trying to put in a word for you.

King:  I can put in me own words, thank you – so bugger off!  And take that sniggering cow with you.

Ronno:  Come on, Sand.

Sandra [shaking him off]:  I can walk, thank you!  I’m not an invalid.

    Exeunt Ronno and Sandra.

King:  Effie?

    No reply.

King:  I said: Effie!

    Still no reply.

King:  Listen woman, I’m talking to you.  Look at me when I’m talking to you.

Effie:  I’m not your dummy, you know.  I’ve got a mind of me own.  I don’t just say the words you put into me mouth.

King:  That’s obvious.

Effie:  I’m not your property.

King:  I never said you were.  Aw, Effie, what are we quarrelling for?  It’s not right.  I love you, Effie.  There, I’ve said it.

Effie:  And what do you expect me to do?

King:  Well, you could say you love me.

Effie:  Yes, I could – and I do.

King:  Well then?

    He puts his arm around her.  She resists.

King:  Well what’s wrong?  Don’t you like me touching you?

Effie:  Yes, course I do – I do, I really do, Ernie – but I won’t.

King:  What?!

Effie:  Not till you stop it.

King:  Stop what?  I mean, do you want me to touch you or don’t you, and if you do, what have I got to stop it for?

Effie:  Till you stop the violence and that.

King:  Eh?

Effie:  The gang fights.  Blessed are the peacemakers!  You should’ve been at church, you’d have heard him.  Blessed are the peacemakers.

King:  Turn the other cheek, you mean.  Like Nails Palmer.  He got religion – and where did it get him?

Effie:  He’s marrying Marlene Foster.

King:  Is he?

Effie:  Settling down.  Giving up the gang.

King:  Way I heard it they took the pants off him and kicked him out.  He didn’t give up anything – he was finished.  What sort of a gang-leader d’you call that?  Stripped by his own gang!  He had nowt to give up.  Now me, I’m top gang-leader for miles around – everybody knows.  I’m the King!  But I’d give it all up for you, Effie.  Everything.  It wouldn’t just be like anybody else leaving the gang – it’d be like abdication.

Effie:  Like the Duke of Windsor?

King:  That’s right.  What d’you say?

Effie:  You’ll have to give it up soon enough anyway.

King:  I was trying to … well …

Effie:  Oh, Ernie, I really do like you, and I think it’s really great of you, really generous … noble – but it’s not what I want.

King:  What then?

Effie:  I want you to stop it.  I want you to be a peacemaker.

King:  What?

Effie:  Stop the fighting.

King:  But we’ve always had fights against Halden.  As long as there’s been Swarrell and Halden there’s been fights between Swarrell lads and Halden lads.  It’s natural.

Effie:  It isn’t!  Just cos it’s always gone on doesn’t make it natural.  It’s wrong, Ernie – and it’s getting worse … It is.  Look!  You took the pants off Nails Palmer.  You sent him back to Halden in his shirt.  Nobody’s ever done that before.

King:  We never captured him before.

Effie:  They’re down there at the Alebeck, waving his trousers about on a pole, taunting the Halden lads, day after day.  They’ve never done that before.

King:  We never had his pants off before.

Effie:  That’s what I’m saying.  It’s getting worse.  You’ve got to stop it before it’s too late – before somebody really gets hurt.  There’s only you can do it.  You’ve got to stop all of it – the fighting and the violence – and Little Willie and his initiation ceremonies.

King:  What initiation ceremonies?

Effie:  You know.

King:  There’s no initiation ceremonies in my gang.

Effie:  Your gang?  What d’you mean:  your gang?  Why don’t you open your eyes for a change?  I mean the Black Dragons.

King:  Them la’al lads that hang around wi’ Willie?

Effie:  Oh, you’ve noticed have you?  All those sweet little boys all dressed in black – with the pretty dragons painted on the backs of their jackets.  Have you noticed how many there are?

King:  No.

Effie:  Well take a look some time.

King:  Doesn’t matter how many there are.  They’re all part of my gang.

Effie:  Your gang doesn’t have initiations.  The Black Dragons do – and you can guess what sort.  You know Little Willie.  He’s got only two ideas in his head: fighting and taking off other lads’ trousers.  You played right into his hands with Nails Palmer – and it’s up to you to stop him!

King:  No but listen …

    Enter Ronno and Ken in haste.

Ken:  King!  Come on!  There’s a battle!

King:  What?

Ronno:  Down by the Alebeck!  Willie and them!

Ken:  They’re gan after the Halden lads!

Effie:  You’ve got to do something!

Ken:  If we hadn’t told them to wait for you they’d have gone rushing out and got themselves clobbered in an ambush.

Ronno:  And lost the Banner!

Ken:  Come on, man!

King:  Let’s go!

    Exeunt King, Ronno and Ken.
 


ACT I,  SCENE 3

    The goods yard.  An open space near the engine sheds.  The gang have assembled and are milling around.

Dragons
[Chanting]:  We’re góing to táke their tróusers off,
we’re going to take their trousers off,
we’re going to take their trousers off!
[Singing]:  We sent Nails Palmer running back to Halden in his shirt,
we sent Nails Palmer running back to Halden in his shirt,
we sent Nails Palmer running back to Halden in his shirt,
cos we took his trousers off!
[Chanting]:  We’re going to take their trousers off,
we’re going to take their trousers off!
[Singing]:  Now Swarrell’s going to strip the pants off all the Halden lads,
now Swarrell’s going to strip the pants off all the Halden lads,
now Swarrell’s going to strip the pants off all the Halden lads,
we’ll take their trousers off!
[Chanting]:  We’re going to take their trousers off,
we’re going to take their trousers off!

Willie:  Let’s gettem!  [Chants]:  We’re going to take their trousers off!

Stan:  Wait!  Wait for King!

Willie:  Where is he?  Where is he then?

Stan:  He’s coming.

Willie:  Where’s the Banner?
[Sings]:  See our Banner, watch the manner
that I wave it up and down …
[Breaks off]:  Where’s Sid?  Where’s the banner?  Where’s King?

    Enter King.  Loud cheers.  He climbs onto a pile of rubble.

Stan:  There’s King!

    More cheering.

Willie:  Now we’ll go for ’em!  We’ll smash ’em up!  We’ll kick their heads in!  We’ll rip ’em to pieces!

Gang:  Raaay!  Yeah! Yeah!  Raaaay!

Willie:  We’ll murder ’em!  We’ll slaughter ’em!

Gang:  Yeah!

Willie:  We’ll decimate ’em!  We’ll annihilate ’em!

Gang:  Yeah!  Raaaay!

Willie:  We’ll pulverise ’em!  We’ll garrotte ’em!

Gang:  Yeah!  Yeah!

Willie:  We’ll hang, draw and quarter ’em!  We’ll put sticky burrs down their necks!

Gang:  Yeah!

Willie:  We’ll debollock ’em and kick ’em in the teeth!

Gang:  Raay!

Willie:  We’ll liquidate ’em!  We’ll throw’em in the nettles!  We’ll exterminate’em!  We’ll blow their brains out!  We’ll put a half-nelson on ’em!

Gang:  Yeah!  Yeah!

Willie:  We’ll bash ’em and kick ’em and knife ’em and stab ’em and spear ’em and rip ’em and slash ’em and hack ’em to pieces!

Gang:  Raaaay!

Willie:  There’ll be nowt left but blood!  Buckets o’ blood!  Buckets o’ blood!

Stan [squawking mockingly]:  Pieces of eight!  Pieces of eight!

    Some of the older lads laugh.

Willie:  What are we waiting for?  We’ll sacrifice ’em!  We’ll slaughter ’em!  We’ll take the pants off ’em!

Gang:  Raaaay!

Dragons [chant]: We’re going to take their trousers off!
We’re going to take their trousers off!

Ronno:  QUIET!  QUIET!  SHURRUP!

Ken:  Listen to King!

Stan:  We’re ready!  Just say the word, King!

    Some Dragons are still chanting.  Ronno, Ken and Stan descend among them like prefects and restore order.

King:  That’s better.  So, you want a battle?

Gang:  Yeah!  Yeah!

King:  Against Halden?

Gang:  Yeah!

Willie:  We’ll spifflicate ’em!  We’ll marmelize ’em!

    Ronno cuffs him.  The gang laugh.

King:  Yeah, Swarrell rules!  We’re the greatest!  [Chants]:  We áre the chámpions!

    The gang take up the chant and continue till King signals them to stop.

King:  Yeah!  We’re the champions!  Nobody looks at us, or they know what they’ll get.  We’re better than Manchester United!  As for Halden – what did we do?  We got their leader – and we took the pants off him!

Gang:  Raaay!

Ronno [sings]:  Nails Palmer came to Swarrell with a million boys or more,

Gang: Nails Palmer came to Swarrell with a million boys or more,
Nails Palmer came to Swarrell with a million boys or more,
but we took his trousers off!

    King signals for silence.

King:  Yeah!  We took the pants off Nails Palmer to use for our Banner!

Gang:  Raaaay!

King:  The Banner of Swarrell!

Gang:  Raaay!

Ronno  [singing]:  “What have you got there?” said Milder to Malder.

Gang  [singing]:  “We may not tell you,” said Festle to Fose.
“It’s our flag of battle,” said John the Red No-ose.
“It’s our flag of battle,” said John the Red Nose.
[Cheering and clapping]:  Raay!  We wanna battle!
We wanna battle!

    King signals for quiet.

King:  While we have the Banner, we’re top gang!  We conquered Halden!  We took the pants off their leader!  We’re top gang in Swarrell!  We’re top gang everywhere!

Gang:  Raaay!  Raaaay!  We are the champions!  We are the champions!

King:  As long as we have the Banner, we’re the greatest!  We’re the greatest there ever was.  We’re the greatest that ever will be!

Gang:  Raaay!

King:  Defend the Banner!

Gang:  Raay!  Defend the Banner!  Defend the Banner!

Ronno:  Long live King!

Gang:  Raaay!

King:  We’ll follow the Banner into battle!  The Banner of King’s gang!  The Banner of Swarrell!

Gang:  Raaay!  The Banner of Swarrell!  Raay!  We wanna battle!

King:  But defending it is one thing!  Throwing it away by rushing off into the marshes with it, like some of you wanted to, is another!  We’re top gang!  We decide when there’s going to be a battle – and where!  We don’t just go charging in half-cock when Halden say “Come on!”  We don’t just go rushing into their ambushes without thinking!  We decide when there’s a battle.  And when there’s a battle we do it right!

Willie:  Wass’e on about?

Pete:  Sh!

King:  When there’s a battle, we decide!  King’s gang decide, cos we’re top gang.  I decide!  I’m the King!

Ronno:  Long live the King!

Willie:  What about Halden?  What about the battle?

King:  Halden?!  If it wasn’t for the smell we wouldn’t even know they were there!  Halden?  They’re nowt!  They’re not worth bothering about.  We’ve already annihilated ’em – and we’ve got their leader’s trousers!

Gang [doubtfully]:  Raay.

Ronno:  The Banner of King’s gang!

Gang:  Raaay!

King:  The Banner of Swarrell!

Gang:  Raaay!

King:  Where is it anyway?

Ken:  Gone.  Sid took it.

Stan:  Nicked off when things started getting too hot.

Ken:  Yeah.

Willie:  We want the Banner!

Dragons:  We want the Banner!  We want the Banner!

King:  Sid’s got more sense than any of you.  How many Halden lads are out there?  Well?  How many?

Pete:  Dunno.

King:  And where are they?

Willie [scornfully]:  Over there!

King [even more scornfully]:  Yeah, over there.  You don’t know how many there are, and you don’t know where they are.  But they know where you are, and how many.  So what happens when you go charging into the marshes?

Willie:  We take …

King:  I’ll tell you what happens!  You lose the Banner!

Ronno:  The Banner of King’s gang!  The Banner of Swarrell!

King:  … and before we can get you out of trouble half of you are in your shirt-tails!

    Buzz of consternation.

King:  You never stop to think, do you?  It’s the oldest trick in the world.  They let you see a few of ’em.  You chase ’em – and you run right into a trap!  Well I decide when there’s going to be a battle – and right now there’s not!

    Mutterings and murmurings, some assenting some dissenting.

King:  We’re gonna nick off out of here, dead quiet, right?  Suddenly there’s no sign of us, and no sound from us either.  They won’t know whether we’re behind the engine sheds or behind them.  They might hang around for hours waiting in the marshes.  I hope they get pneumonia.  Right!  Bugger off the lot of you!

    King, Ronno, Ken and Stan remain standing together on the heap of rubble glaring fiercely.  The other boys begin to move away back towards Swarrell.

King [to Ken and Stan]:  Watch they don’t come back.

    Ken and Stan move away after the others.

King [to Ronno]:  D’you reckon that’ll make her happy?


 
ACT I,  SCENE 4


    Just inside the gates of the goods yard.  Ken and Stan and a few other older boys come from the direction of the engine sheds.

Ken:  What are King and Ronno up to?  D’you reckon they’ve gone soft all of a sudden.

Stan:  It’s them tarts that’s behind it.

Ken:  D’you reckon everybody gets too old, all of a sudden just like that, and starts taking orders from bints?

Stan:  Could be.

Ken:  Never! He must’a known summat.  He must’a known it was a trap.  We don’t wanna lose the Banner.

Stan [mockingly parroting Ronno]:  The Banner of King’s gang!  The Banner of Swarrell!

    They laugh jeeringly.

Ken:  Or mebbe he was just letting La’al Willie know who’s boss.

Stan:  Yeah.  Could be.

Ken:  Hey, look!

    Willie and the Dragons come in through the gates, comparatively quietly.  The older youths move to block their passage.

Ken:  Hey, Willie!  Where ya gan?

Willie:  Where d’ya think?  We’re gonna take the pants off the Halden lads!

Dragons:  Yeah!

Ken:  Lose your own, more like!

Willie:  You watch it, you!

Ken:  Yeah?

Willie:  Yeah!

Ken:  Oh yeah?  Try threatening someone your own size, Little Willie!

    The Dragons move in closer.

Willie:  Doesn’t matter how big you are, we can still get you!

Pete:  Yeah!  Don’t try being funny wid’ us.

Willie:  Nobody shoves the Black Dragons around.

Stan:  Nobody’s shoving you around.  We’re just telling you for your own good.  Listen, if King thought we could’a just walked in and wiped the floor with Halden, taken the pants off them and walked out again, he’d have done it.

Ken:  Yeah.  There’s things you don’t know, La’al Willie.

Willie:  Like what?

Ken:  You’ll find out.  Go on!  We’re not going to stop you.  But don’t expect us to come and save you.

Stan:  They’ll have the pants off you – every one of you.

Ken:  Go on!  What are you waiting for?

    The big lads move out of the way.  The Dragons hesitate.

Willie:  Yeah, we’re going – and when we come back we’ll have a banner each. 
[Chants]:  We’re going to take their trousers off!
We’re going to take their trousers off!

    The Dragons join in raggedly, without much conviction.

Steve:  Hey look!  There’s Kim Gormley!

    Steve points out into the street.

Willie:  Raaay!  Let’s geddim!

Dragons:  Raaaaay!
We’re going to take his trousers off!
We’re going to take his trousers off!

    The Dragons swarm off out of the gate, cheering and chanting.

Ken:  They don’t care whose pants they’re after, do they?

    The older boys stroll off through the gates.


- End of Act I -

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Effie: Act II

Effie: Act III

Chronicles of Halden: The Banner: Index

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