Shoes for Anthony: A Novel

Shoes for Anthony: A Novel

by Emma Kennedy


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This 1944 World War Two drama tells the story of Anthony, a boy living in a deprived Welsh village, anticipating the arrival of American troops. Suddenly, a German plane crashes into the village mountain. A Polish prisoner-of-war survives and is brought into the community where he builds a close relationship with Anthony. Later, the villagers discover one of the Germans on the plane has survived and is still on the mountain.

Joyous, thrilling, and nostalgic, Emma Kennedy’s Shoes For Anthony will have you wiping your eyes one moment and beaming from ear-to-ear the next. This is a small gem of a novel that reviewers (and readers) will cherish.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250090966
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/31/2017
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

EMMA KENNEDY is the author of several books, including bestsellers The Tent the Bucket and Me and I Left My Tent in San Francisco. She is also an actress and has appeared in many award winning comedies including Goodness Gracious Me, People Like Us, and Miranda. She is the Fun Editor at Tatler, won Celebrity Masterchef in 2012, and is a Guinness World Record holder.

Read an Excerpt

Shoes for Anthony

By Emma Kennedy

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Emma Kennedy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-09097-3


Pen Pych, our mountain: here she came, rising out from the fog, ground up, like a woman quietly raising her petticoats. I loved this time in the morning, when the mountain made her presence felt. The wind blew away the haze of night and there she was, the Queen of the Valley. We were standing, the five of us, stolen tea trays tucked into our armpits, staring up towards the spoil tip that sat at her base. It was such a blot on the landscape, and yet, in a way, it fitted right in: muck and beauty, side by side.

'Race up, then race down, right, boys?' said Ade, spitting into his hand. Ade was my best bud. He had a face so ingrained with dirt he looked like the inside of a teapot. He was wearing a pair of muddied shorts and a jumper so oversized it floated round him as if he were suspended in a well. Nobody had had new clothes in years, certainly not since the start of the war. All the kids on Scott Street were reliant on hand-me-downs and the clothes of the dead.

'Onesies, right?' said Thomas Evans, scrap of a thing, tough as hell. He was like gristle – a chewy lad, we called him – forever breaking his limbs. 'Starting b'there.' He pointed up to a flat section to the left of the heaped-up spoil tip. 'But feet up, like. No brakes.'

We all nodded.

'Who's doing starters, then?' asked Bozo, shoving his glasses up his nose. One of the lenses was covered in sticking plaster, on account of him having a lazy eye. Plaster was supposed to make his lazy eye less lazy. None of us understood how that worked, mind, but there it was.

'I will,' said Fez, glancing sideways. Fez was a stick of a lad, all knees and elbows, with an explosion of curly blond hair. He looked like a firework. He lived three doors down and was an only child, something that was virtually unheard of in Treherbert. There'd been something wrong with his mam and she couldn't have any more; that's what Bopa Jackson said. Bopa lived next door to us. She knew everything about everyone. 'Better than the Pathé News,' Mam said. Still, it meant Fez always had stuff. He was good to hang around.

When it came to clambering up spoil tips, the general rule was low and fast. There was a knack to it: light on the toes, no digging the heels in, don't stand still for any length of time. Easier said than done in rubber wellingtons, but I'd been climbing spoil tips for as long as I could remember. Up and at it. There was no other way.

The five of us took up position, slightly bent at the shoulders, one leg forward. We cast each other a sideways glance. 'On your mark ...' I began, getting ready to crouch.

'Go!' yelled Fez, and off he dashed, his plimsolls digging in.

'Uffarn den!' yelled Bozo, clambering after him. 'That's not starters! That's cheating, you bastard!'

I got off to a bad start. My first footfall slid away from me and I tumbled at the off. Falling down into a crouch position, I used my free hand to stabilise and began to make inroads upwards. Fez was already a quarter of the way up. He was darting left and right, taking a leaping zigzag approach towards the summit. I'd seen him do that before. I knew it tired him out. He'd have to stop, and when he did, he'd slide down.

Bozo was struggling: for every two steps forward, he was slipping a step back. He had good balance on his left side, but his right was letting him down. That would be his lazy eye, I thought.

Ade and Thomas were neck and neck, just below Fez but higher up than me. I glanced up. There were miniature gullies in the spoil tip. You didn't want to run up those. The clinkers tended to be finer, less stable. You wanted to run up the harder stuff. It had less of a tendency to fall away.

I looked over towards Fez. He was slowing down. I clawed myself forwards with my free hand and tried to push myself up on to my toe tips. A light touch and high knees, that's what was needed. It wouldn't look pretty, but it would get the job done.

I got myself into a rhythm: high knees, touch and up. I was passing Thomas. He looked red in the face, exhausted already. Ade was within reaching distance. I checked his position. He was about ten feet from the top but almost at a standstill. Touch and up. My left foot hit a gully and slid away. I managed to stay upright but the heels of my wellingtons wanted to dig backwards. I had to push forwards.

Bozo was nowhere. He was out of it. Ade and Thomas were flagging. It was just me and Fez. I could hear him breathing, heavy, laboured. He was finished. He'd have to crawl the last bit. My legs felt strong. I had him. Push, jump and past Fez I went. The summit was mine.

I let out a cheer and straightened up, arms aloft. 'Bad luck, Fez,' I said, watching him crawl over the top edge. He flopped down on his back, his chest heaving.

'Well done, man,' he panted. 'I got stuck at the top bit, couldn't get a grip.'

'You got sticks of dyno up your arse, Ant?' said Ade, heaving himself onto the flat. 'You went by like a rocket.'

'Bloody plimsoll came off, dinnit?' yelled Thomas, holding the offending item aloft. He slumped down onto the ground and pulled it back on. 'Where's Bozo?' he said, lifting his head.

'Coming,' I answered. 'He's on his belly, mind. About to come over.'

A cry went up. 'Giz a hand!'

I went to the edge, crouched down onto my haunches and, grabbing Bozo's hand, pulled him onto the top. 'Uffach wyllt,' he said, breathing heavily. 'That's harder than it looks.'

The five of us sat catching our breath. It wasn't much of a vantage point but just enough to look down over the village, the uniform rows of pitmen's houses, smoke gently rising from the chimneys. I imagined it had always looked this way, from the day it was first built, a village for miners: functional, no fuss, at one with the mountain.

'Well,' said Thomas, standing. 'Let's get at it.'

I placed my tea tray on the lip of the spoil tip and straddled it; the heels of my wellies dug down into the clinkers. Bozo went to place his down next to me but, in his exhaustion, he fumbled it and his tray skittered away. 'No!' he cried, grasping for a corner, but it was too late. We watched as it slid and bounced its way inevitably back to the bottom.

'Oh, for fuck's sake,' said Bozo, hands on hips. 'That's a bad business, like.'

'You massive tit, Bozo,' said Thomas, laughing. 'Chuckin' your tray down, is it? It's not a throwing contest.'

'Cera yffarn, Evans,' snapped Bozo, his one eye darkening. 'Bloody accident, innit?'

'Climb on behind me,' I said, sitting down and shifting my weight forward to the front of the tray. 'Mine's a bit bigger. You'll fit on. We'll go quicker, 'n' all.'

'Hang on!' yelled Thomas. 'Onesies, innit? We never said twosies.'

'Yeah, but his tray's down b'there, innit?' I replied.

'And he's proper knacked,' added Ade. 'He needs a lift, like.'

'S'pose,' said Thomas. 'But you have to do feet down, like. Make it fair.'

'All right,' I replied, with a nod.

I felt Bozo's arms come about me, his fingers interlocking just below my ribcage. 'Everyone ready?' I cast a glance to my left and right. Ade, Thomas and Fez were astride their chariots, each holding up the top end of their tea tray to stop it slipping away.

'Ready,' they all yelled.

'Kick off, then!' I cried, and with that, I lifted my heels onto the top rim of the tea tray and we were off, sliding down the spoil tip, clinkers scattering, bumping and jolting.

To our left, Thomas let out a whoop, followed by Ade, their excited yelps filling the air. To our right, Fez, screaming, hit a ridge and literally flew through the air, like a man on a magic carpet, his hair whipping backwards and his cheeks flushed pink. Everything else around us was a blur, the distant mountains a smudge of green zipping past as we skeltered downwards. Bozo was yelling something in my ear, but I couldn't hear him, the noise of the slag beneath us scraping and grumbling. I tried to look sideways, to see if we were in the lead, but the bottom was coming up fast, faster than I would have liked. 'Hold on!' I yelled, grabbing the sides of the tea tray. Wind whipping at our faces, we span off the spoil and skidded onto patchy scrub, and as we hit, the tea tray tipped sideways and sent us spilling.

'Cut my leg,' said Fez, holding his shin. He licked his forefinger and rubbed at the long scrape of red dribbling down towards his sock.

I pushed myself up and checked myself for obvious wounds. None to report. Bozo was still lying on his back, his face black from the spoil. We were all pretty filthy. It was the single advantage of being brought up round a mine: nobody minded the dirt. We'd had some chalk, once, spent ages marking out roads for Fez's Dinkies on the flagstones. The mams had gone mental, furious with us for making a clean, white mess on their paving. We couldn't understand it: mad with us for a bit of white when we spent all our days covered in black.

Ade was pushing himself up and dusting coal off his knees. Beyond him, a small, pained moan went up. Ade turned and looked over his shoulder towards Thomas. 'What's up, man?'

'Ankle, twisted, dunno, hurts like hell.' He sat up and pulled off his plimsoll.

'Bet you've bloody broken it again,' said Ade, pointing towards his leg. 'Your mam'll have your guts. You only just got out of the last cast.'

We gathered round him and stared down. There was no denying it. He'd knacked his leg right up.

"Ere, boys,' said Thomas, staring down at his swelling ankle. 'Don't tell me mam it was the tip, mind. I didn't tell her I was taking the tea tray.'

We all nodded and helped him up. We may have liked a scrape, but we weren't stupid.

* * *

'Born of a scorpion!' said Bopa, folding her arms. 'Can you even imagine it, Em? Stealing ration books! Three gone in Scott Street alone!'

My mother shook her head. 'Who'd steal a ration book? It's wicked, Bopa. Wicked.'

'They may as well knock on doors and tell people to starve! Beryl Morris has been in tears. She's only got half an ounce of kidneys. How do you make that last a fortnight?'

'Is that how long it's going to take to get replacements?'

'Well,' said Bopa, reaching for the kettle that was starting to whistle, 'that's how long Arthur Pryce said it would take. But that's Arthur Pryce. I wouldn't be surprised if Beryl Morris doesn't see another lump of meat for a month.'

'We'll have to help her out. I can ask Alwyn to catch her some rabbits.'

'I've given her two eggs. They're appetite suppressants. Pass me the pot. I'll get it warmed.'

Bopa, our immediate neighbour, was an irascible widow. She kept a clean flagstone and a keen eye on everyone else. She had brown hair, flecked with grey, cut short and hidden under a blue checked headscarf. Her face had a rough quality to it, like a pumice stone, her features sharp and pointed. Some boys reckoned she was directly descended from that dinosaur that can fly – a pterodactyl, it's called. Mam wouldn't hear chat like that in her earshot, mind. Disrespectful, she said.

'I hope you're listening, Anthony!' Bopa barked. 'Keep your whistle clean. Do something wrong and bad things happen! Mark my words. There was a boy from Blaencwm, doing the rounds for the milkie, turned out he was pocketing half the pennies. Guess what happened to him, Anthony?'

I shrugged. 'Don't know,' I mumbled.

'He got polio and died, that's what.'

'Bopa!' protested Mam. 'Stealing doesn't cause polio!'

'Bad things happen!' she cried, raising a finger into the air. 'Bad. Things. Happen! Young boys round here would do well to remember it.' She palmed the side of the teapot. 'That's warm enough. Let's get the tea in.'

Bopa came round at 11.00 a.m. on the dot every single day. She'd bang on the adjoining wall to signal her imminent arrival and in she would come, morning chores completed, ready to update my mother on every scandal and bowel movement troubling anyone in Scott Street.

'I think it's his liver,' she said, blowing into her cup. 'He's got that bilious look to him. Mind you, he's not eaten a vegetable since 1937. "Margaret," I said, "Margaret, you've got to put a carrot in a pie. Trick him into it." He picks leeks out of cawl, Em. The very thought! I think it's traitorous wasting food when there's a war on. Hitler wants us to starve. He's doing his job for him.'

My mother nodded silently and cupped her tea between her hands.

'You're a bit filthy, aren't you?' said Bopa, her beams turning towards me. 'I mean, I know you're a mucky lot, but if I didn't know you were a boy, I'd be chucking you on the compost.'

'Yes,' said Mam, turning towards me. 'You're in a proper muck. Have you been sliding down that spoil tip again? You better not have had my tray.'

Her eyes darted towards the place on the counter where she kept her tea trays. I said nothing. I'd snuck it back in and wiped it clean using the inside of my jumper.

'Dr Mitchell's round at Anne Evans'. Don't know why yet. Thought I'd pop over after seeing you. Don't like to intrude. He'll be snaffling up any cake that's going. He's a card, ain't he? I swear he can smell a cake from half a mile away. He's like those pigs that can sniff out treats.'

'A truffle pig,' I said, picking dirt out from under my fingernails.

'That's it. A truffle pig. But for sponge. Clever lad, your Anthony, ain't he?'

Mam nodded and shot me a small smile. 'He's always got his nose in that encyclopaedia of his. He loves reading that.'

'Dr Mitchell's seeing Thomas. He's bust his leg up again,' I said.

Bopa raised an eyebrow. 'Look out, Em. Your boy's on the button. Bust his leg, has he? How he do that, then?'

'Don't know,' I said, staring intently at my nails. I slightly wished I hadn't said anything.

'Didn't he only just finish breaking his leg?' I could feel her eyes boring into me.

'Hmmm,' I mumbled.

'He did,' Bopa rolled on. 'Well. Good job Anne hasn't sent that wheelchair off to salvage, innit? He'll be needing that again. How did he do it? Didn't catch it.' She took a long slurp of her tea.

I blew out my cheeks a little and pulled my bottom lip tight. It was an unspoken rule if you were a Scott Street boy: You didn't tell. 'Running or something,' I murmured.

'Running or something,' said Bopa, with a sharp nod. 'It's this war, Em. They're running wild. Feral. He'll have been up to no good. If I had a shilling for every time a Scott Street boy said he was doing something when he was doing something entirely different, I'd be living in Cardiff in a house made of Lardy cake. What did I say? Bad things happen!'

I looked up towards the old clock that sat on the back kitchen mantelpiece. It only had one arm, the long hour one, so as clocks go it wasn't much cop. All the same, I liked to guess what the time was just by looking at its tip. Twenty past eleven, I reckoned.

'Right, then,' said Bopa, thumping her cup down onto the table. 'I've got some cloths to wash. I'll pop into Anne Evans'. Let you know what's what. Ta-ra, then. Ta-ra, Anthony.'

'Ta-ra,' I said, pushing myself up from the table.

'Ta-ra, Bopa,' said Mam, standing to place the tea things in the sink. 'See you later.'

But she was already gone.

'Wash up those cups for me, Ant,' said Mam. 'Now, then,' she added, wiping her hands on the bottom of her housecoat. 'Let's think about your father's lunch.'

* * *

The tommy box was a battered old thing, the only family relic I think we ever had. It had been handed down from father to eldest son, pitmen all, for three generations, and I knew to be entrusted with it was a responsibility of some significance.

It was sitting, opened and empty, in front of me on the kitchen table. Chin resting on my crossed forearms, I watched as Mam opened the larder door beyond. 'Your father's forgotten his lunch again. Right, then,' she said, standing with one hand on her hip. 'What shall he have today?'

She stared at the near-empty shelves. There wasn't a lot to choose from. We never had much, but then, as Mam said, if we'd never had it, we'd never miss it.

'Lord knows it's hard enough feeding three men at the best of times, let alone with a war on. He can have that trotter,' Mam mumbled, picking up a gelatinous nub from a slippery plate. 'A slice of bread and ... get me some jibbons from the veg box, Ant.' I slid backwards from the table and pulled out two long spring onions from a tangle of muddied home-grown vegetables. I passed them up to Mam, who quickly took her knife to the end of them. Peering into the tommy box, I snuck my forefinger into the trotter jelly.

'I can see you,' said Mam, slapping my hand away. She tucked the jibbons into the side of the open tin. 'Did you get that quarter of twist?'

I licked the stolen, meaty smear from the end of my finger and pulled out a small wrap of chewing tobacco from my shorts pocket. 'Mr Hughes told me to ask you to go in so you can square the bill.'


Excerpted from Shoes for Anthony by Emma Kennedy. Copyright © 2015 Emma Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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