Every Friendship has a Beginning

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The Rugby Tournament

Athene woke up and gave a small yawn. It was still a while before breakfast so she had plenty of time to write to Anthony.

She lay down on her bed and got out her writing box, with her envelopes, stamps and paper in it. She lent on the box as she wrote.

10th July 1953

Dear Anthony,

I hope you’re all well, I haven’t got your first letter yet, so I presume that either you’re busy or the post is late as usual. Probably a combination of the two!

The weather is really good this Summer which means that instead of being stuck inside trying to shelter from the rain we’ve been having all kinds of fun.

I and the other kids on the base have been going swimming in the camp pool nearly every day. But the best bit has been the rugby.

I know you prefer cricket. I’ll never understand why you like cricket. It looks so ruddy boring! Just standing around for hours on end, nothing ever seems to happen!

We’re starting off the annual Pembrokeshire base rugby tournament this afternoon. Everyone joins in, the tiny kids who are only five and get carried around the pitch whilst they carry the ball, to the retired Captains and Majors, who drive in specially just to join in. Rugby fortnight is the official start of the Summer holidays at the base and it’s so much fun!

Grandpa has been picked to be one of the referees, and he’s been helping me practise for the last few days.

Granny, just like every year is trying to talk me out of taking part, but Grandpa keeps backing me up.

“Don’t worry she’s not going to get knobbled, I’m reffing. She’s taken part in it every year before now and she’s not got hurt yet. Besides if you think you can keep Danny’s daughter off the rugby pitch, you’re crazy! She’s a Richard’s through and through!”

To make up for all the time I’m spending on the pitch though, Granny’s trying to teach me quilting and dressmaking in the evenings. She taught me how to crochet and knit before boarding school. Trying to turn me into a proper young lady I think, heavens knows why!

I don’t mind it really, it’s kind of fun! But I think that Charlie would rather die than having daily sewing lessons!

Miss you loads say hi to Mark and Julie, Athene.

As she finished writing she could hear movements downstairs.

She quickly folded the letter away and addressed the envelope.

She brushed her hair into two neat plaits tying them at the top and bottom. Her hair was getting quite long now, and was an indistinct colour, somewhere between ginger and auburn, Granny called it copper coloured, but Harry called it rusty which was his new nickname for her. Then pulled on an old pair of shorts and a green and navy striped jersey.

Then she headed down to breakfast where Granny and Grandpa were already sat.

“I don’t know why you have to dress like a boy sweetheart,” muttered Mrs Richards as she sat down.

“You’ve got such nice dresses, and you’re really quite pretty.”

Athene blushed slightly as she ate her toast.

“Leave off Glad,” chuckled Major Richards, “you cant expect Athens to play rugby in a dress. It would get ripped to pieces and the material would get ruined.”

“I’d rather she didn’t play in the first place,” muttered Mrs Richards, “coming home every day caked in mud and covered in bruises, it’s not ladylike!”

“She’s a Richards,” said Major Richards firmly, “and Richards’.”

“Play rugby,” sighed Mrs Richards.

They had the same argument so many times, but he always won.

“I’ve got to go post my letter,” she said jumping up from the table as she finished her breakfast.

“I’ll see you on the pitch in one hour, they start picking teams at nine so don’t be late.”

“I know!” giggled Athene.

She gave her grandparents both a hug and a kiss.

Before pulling on her shoes.

“Don’t forget your spikes!” called Major Richards.

Athene grabbed her muddy rugby boots from outside the door on her way out of the house.

Granny had a firm rule, if they insisted on playing rugby, they weren’t going to track their muddy boots into the house, so the rugby boots always got left on the doorstep next to the wellies.

She half ran half skipped her way down to the base post office. Holding her letter in one hand and hanging her boots over her shoulder with the other.

Quite a few young privates were going for an early morning run after breakfast as it was already eight o’clock.

“Morning Athene!” called one of the sergeants as he ran past with a group of young recruits.

“Morning Sergeant Davies!” she called as he ran past.

She went into the post office, where Captain Llewelyn was on duty behind the desk.

“Morning Athene!” he called cheerfully, “got another letter for that young man of yours?”

Athene giggled as she handed him her letter and placed it on the counter.

It was only a quarter past eight so she had time to stay and chat. Captain David Llewelyn had been her Dad’s best friend, they had fought in the war together, but David had got invalided out and now helped with the training of recruits.

“Has the post been in yet?” she asked, as she hitched herself up onto the counter and swung her legs back and forth.

“Still waiting for that first letter eh?” he asked knowingly.

Athene nodded.

“Well I might not have any letters for you yet, but I might have something else hidden around here somewhere.”

“Now where did I put it?” he asked searching his pocket dramatically.

“Don’t be silly!” giggled Athene.

“Ah there it is!” he beamed as he pulled a blackcurrant and liquorice boiled sweet out from behind her ear.

“My favourite!” she beamed hugging him.

“Now that is a surprise, I had no idea!”

At this point, the mail arrived, and two privates came in with bulging bags full of post.

“You’re going to have to come back later Athens,” said Captain Llewelyn as he came limping out from behind the counter, “it’s going to take us a while to sort through this lot.”

Athene looked somewhat disappointed. But then she noticed on the top of one of the open bags, was a bulging letter with some very familiar handwriting.

“Wait a second,” said Captain Llewelyn as he picked up the letter, “what have we here?”

“Here you go Cariad!” he said giving her the letter as she hopped down from the counter.

“And give them hell for me on the pitch!” he called as she ran off so that she wouldn’t be late.

“They won’t know what hit em!” she yelled as she ran into the distance.

She got down to the pitch with about a minute to spare, there were about sixty people of various sizes and ages congregated on the field, enough for four full teams of fifteen. They were going to be changing teams around every day, it was all just for fun really.

Athene knelt down on the edge of the pitch and started to lace up her boots.

“You won’t be needing those kiddo,” said a large boy as she did up her shoes.

The boy looked about sixteen and was tall and well built. His family were clearly new to the base, as here girls certainly did play rugby.

“Why not?” she asked standing back up.

“Because girls don’t play rugby!” he scoffed.

Athene looked around the field, and she would beg to differ because five other teenage girls were also getting their boots on.

“Go home and learn how to knit!” he laughed.

“For your information, I already can knit!” she returned, “and I want to play rugby!”

“Hey, Richards!” called Michael Evans walking over.

There were five Evans brothers aged between seventeen and eleven including a set of fifteen-year-old twins. They had only got back from school the day before. Michael was thirteen and only a year older than Athene.

“You ready to show that idiot how to play rugby?” chuckled Michael.

“Anytime, anyplace!” she said ominously.

“You ready Cariad?” asked Major Richards.

“Can you look after this for me Grandpa?” asked Athene as she passed him the letter.

“Of course, sweetheart,” he chuckled.

They picked teams, and unsurprisingly Athene was picked amongst the first people.

“Right!” said Richard Evans their team captain as they gathered in a team huddle, “there’s half an hour each way. Athens you’re our winger so when we chuck you the ball run like there’s no tomorrow.”

Athene nodded.

“Let’s show these idiots how to play rugby!” he yelled.

It was a long day, but Athene had missed this.

She got to play rugby at school, but never really got to be in any proper matches because girls couldn’t play on the school teams.

At four o’clock, Athene and Major Richards traipsed back up to the house.

She was caked in mud from head to foot and was going to have some serious bruising in the morning, but she didn’t care, she hadn’t had so much fun in ages.

“For god's sake!” muttered Mrs Richards, “get upstairs with you, the bath’s already run.”

“Thanks, granny,” said Athene as she pulled off her boots outside and then ran upstairs.

She came back downstairs half an hour later mud-free in a clean summer dress.

“That’s much better,” said Mrs Richards contentedly.

For the past few evenings, Athene had been practising her stitching on scrap material on the sewing machine so that she didn’t get it wrong when she started sewing properly.

But tonight she was going to learn how to put together a dress and follow a pattern and she couldn’t wait.

“Are we forgetting something?” asked Major Richards as she sat down at the kitchen table as Mrs Richards made the dinner.

“Forgetting what?” she asked confused.

He pulled a fat letter out of his shirt pocket.

Athene’s mouth dropped open, she had been so excited about playing rugby that she had completely forgotten about Anthony’s letter.

She ripped open the letter and found page upon page of writing in Anthony’s neat handwriting.

July 5th 1953

Dear Athene,

Sorry, it’s taken me so long to write this first letter, but there’s so much going on I just didn’t know where to bloody start!

The day after we got back, Dad called us all into the sitting room when he got back from work and asked to see if we could find something different.

It was Nick who noticed that the tele was different.

We’d been begging for a colour television for years, but Mrs Brown kept on saying we couldn’t have one. She didn’t want us getting square eyes, and she thought if we had a colour tele we’d never turn it off.

But of course, the coronation was a few months back, and Mrs Brown wanted to see the Queen in colour. So we’ve finally got it! There is a colour television in the sitting room!

Mrs Brown may have had a point though, it hardly ever gets turned off. Julie and Mark watch it a lot trying to see their favourite film stars. Simon seems to spend every spare moment when he’s not out with Celia watching it as well.

Speaking of Celia, we’ve still to meet her yet. Simon goes out with her nearly every day but always goes around to her house. Nick pointed her out in church to us, but Mark thinks that Simon is worried that we’re going to scare her off if she comes around to her house.

To be fair, I think that Fred and Ginger could scare off any girlfriend.

Simon so far this Summer is to quote Mark being a ’swarmy twat!”

I can see where he’s coming from, he keeps on swanking around the village in his leather jacket and acting likes he’s better than the rest of us.

Speaking of Simon, that reminds me, you might want to be careful when you come around next month. Dad is going to try and teach both Simon and Nick haw to drive the car this Summer. So be careful or you might get run over!

Mark tried to persuade Dad to teach him to drive as well but seeing as we won’t even be thirteen until October, Dad thinks that he’s far too young to learn how to drive, and to be quite honest, I agree with him. Just imagine Marky behind the wheel of a car!

When Mark and Julie aren’t watching the new tele they’re practising their dancing and singing. They’re getting quite good!

Besides, if I get bored with reading, I can always help them practise by accompanying them on the piano.

I know what you’re going to say. How can you get bored with reading?

Well, I don’t but it sometimes makes a nice change of scenery.

I can’t wait for you to get here next month!

Dad’s going to take us all camping for the last fortnight in August as always. He always takes a fortnight off work. and we leave all our mod cons such as radios behind for two weeks. The last fortnight before school is the best part of the whole holiday, we cook over a campfire, and go for long walks and go swimming in the river!

I miss you loads, hope you’re alright in Wales, Anthony.

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