Grange Hill Fan Fiction


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Robyn's Day



Chapter One: Departure




A girl in a yellow tee shirt with a blue denim jacket over the top of it and faded blue jeans walked up the hill from the station, checking the names of the roads she passed. The older village streets gave way to newer estates with modern brick houses, all the same, like peas in a pod.

Robyn looked at her watch - nearly midday - it had taken her way, way longer than she had expected to get to Wodeby Morton, what with having to change at Colchester as well as all the messing around on the tubes. She pulled out the letter from her shoulder bag and checked the address - yes, this was the right road - Peacock Drive - a set of modern terraced houses lined up in a row. She put the letter back in the bag, her shoulder aching from the weight of the school uniform which she had carried after changing out of it awkwardly in the station toilets. 



Number 54, 56, 58, 60. This was the place. Robyn walked up the path, past the simple patch of well-tended lawn and knocked on the bright red door. It opened, and an oval pasty-faced girl of fourteen stood there, in a plain white t-shirt and jeans.

"Robyn!" said the girl, beaming broadly.

"Hi Alice. Wow, love the short hair. Suits you. Is it safe to come in?"

"Well I'm not contagious or anything - not now anyway. No danger unless you're pregnant - you aren't are you?"

Robyn laughed, and shook her head.

"Come in, Come in. God - it's amazing to see you, I'd never expected in a million years to find you at the door."

Robyn came in and perfunctorily wiped her shoes. She followed Alice into the living room. The television was tuned to MTV - Alice took the remote control and turned the TV off. Robyn sat down, relieved to be off her feet.

"It's quite a walk from the station," she said.

"You get used to it," said Alice. "I use the train quite a bit, 'cos we're, like, in the middle of nowhere here."

Robyn looked at her old friend. "You're a bit pale, but you don't seem too bad. Shingles, you said in the letter that came with my birthday card. Mum said it was rare to get that unless you're quite old."

Alice shrugged. "It's been pretty painful, and I've been off school for weeks. That's not so bad, but I can't do anything else outside either.  At least I couldn't till a few days ago. It's cleared up now, pretty much and I'm back to school again next week."

Alice's mother entered the living room. "Oh you've got a visitor - Robyn - oh great! Alice needs a bit of cheering up. It's good to see you again Robyn."

"Hello Mrs. Rowe," said Robyn politely.

"Can get you a drink - coca cola, cup of tea, pint of beer?" Alice's mother joked, and Alice rolled her eyes and tutted.

"Id love a coffee," said Robyn. Mrs. Rowe left the room.

"Don't mind my mum and her weird sense of humour. She's been driving me mad, thank God she works part-time down the corner shop, so stays out of my hair for some of the time," said Alice

"She's nice. She don't fuss like some mums do, like mine for instance. I did have a coffee on the train - but it was stone cold and the biscuits were stale."

"Stone cold - for Miss Stone. So hey - why did you come here? Nice to see you, but any special reason?"

Robyn paused for a moment before replying, slowly.

"Sort of. I had to get away. I needed to talk someone away from home, away from school, away from everything and you're the only one I could think of."

"Oh, so what's happened?" asked Alice, sitting forward on her seat.

"It's this boy I went out with. Adam. He works at the supermarket.  I thought I was something special to him, but on my birthday - there was no card from him."

"Oh." Alice grimaced. "Did he know it was your birthday?"

"Yes - of course, I kept telling him, and he knew where I lived. Anyway, when I went round to see him at the supermarket, and I found out he's been seeing this other girl. So it's just like... like I meant nothing at all to him. Nothing at all!" Robyn found her eyes moistening, and fought to control the threatening tears. She blinked them back, and neither spoke for a moment, the mantelpiece clock punctuating the silence with regular ticks. Then Alice spoke.

"Blokes - they really aren't worth fussing about you know. Brains in their you-know-whats."

Robyn sniffed and then giggled. "You're right, he's not worth it. I'm going to put him out of my mind completely. Well try to, anyway."

"Good idea!" said Alice with a little forced good humour. "Forget about him and tell me all the juicy gossip from Grange Hill."

Mrs. Lowe came in and put a couple of mugs of coffee down and then left the girls alone, closing the living room door behind her.

"You're mum's pretty cool - didn't even question why I was off school," said Robyn, taking her mug and blowing on it.

"Hmmm. So you are bunking off then - I didn't think it was half term or a bank holiday," said Alice.

"Yeah - I decided I deserved a special day off for my birthday."

"Well your birthday was a few days ago now, but... why not, yes, it can be Robyn's Day, a day in celebration of Robyn Stone's birthday...  so, did you get anything nice?"

"I got a bike - it's a pretty cool one," said Robyn. "And some money, some perfume, and a few other bits and bobs."

"What's school like - same old crap?" asked Alice.

"More or less. But there's this new girl - a traveller - who's started."

"A traveller? What's that?" asked Alice.

"A gipsy if you like - they prefer to be called travellers I think. She's called Mary, we've become friends. She lives in a caravan near school," said Robyn.

"She sounds cool. I'd like to live in a caravan. And travel round see the world in it.  And what about Julie and Becky?" asked Alice.

"Well Becky's okay, but Julie - she's become really snide. She's changed.  I'm sure she's been spreading stories about Mary."

"I suppose we can't blame Julie after we were so horrid to her in the First Year," said Alice.

"Do you remember when she jumped into the swimming pool with her clothes on?" asked Robyn and laughed. Alice joined in. 

"We shouldn't laugh," Alice said.

"No," agreed Robyn, but burst into a fresh peal of laughter after a short pause.

* * *

Alice took Robyn upstairs to her bedroom. 

"You got quite a nice view out the window," said Robyn, conversationally.

Alice shrugged. "Not really. Just the fields and hills. You can see Colchester at night - a kind of glow in the distance. I sort of miss London, you know?" 

Alice stood on her bed and opened the top compartment of the cupboard. She pulled out a cardboard box.

"What you got there?" asked Robyn as Alice placed the box on the bed.

"Aha. A box of goodies. Well, junk mostly. It's from Grange Hill. From the lost property cupboard."

"How did you get it?"

"It was in the last week of term, and I'd had a walkman confiscated by Monroe. She must have been in a generous mood, or drunk or something, because she just gave me the key to the cupboard, and told me to take the Walkman myself, and return the key later."

"But she can't have meant you to take all this other stuff too!"

"Well who would miss this stuff, it's been there years? Dust all over it too."

"So what's there?" asked Robyn.

"Have a look.  Got a nice white jumper pullover thing and a scarf - quite a nice one with a French label. God knows who put that it in there. Those aren't in there, I took them out. There's this - it says it's a diary by Laura Reagan, whoever she was," said Alice.

"Let's have a look.... Not really much of a proper diary. Full of boring things about lessons. In the inside cover it says Laura loves Freddie with a heart around it - but then crossed out fiercely," said Robyn. "I wonder who they were?"

"We'll never know, I guess," said Alice. "But there's this other thing in there - a poser of the year award with Freddie Mainwaring written on it - so that tells us something about him."

Alice fished in the box and pulled out a photocopied sheaf of papers stapled together.

"This looks old. A school magazine from 1981 - look at these pictures of the boys with their long hair!" said Alice laughing. "Picture on the front's quite good - it's signed Tucker Jenkins."

"What's this!" said Robyn pulling out a man's toupee. 

"It's a wig - a toupee - what do you think it is?!"

"It's like a small furry animal," said Robyn, and made it move like a rodent around Alice's bed.  "The things people lose," she said. "What next, a wooden leg?"

Alice shook her head. "No wooden legs."

Robyn pulled out a neat stack of chocolate bar wrappers. "Minto bars. Never heard of them."

Robyn looked through the rest of the item in the box. There was a chimpanzee mask, an obviously-faked bus pass, a book about biorhythms, a large lump of builder's putty, the tip of a clarinet, some yellow stickers still with their backing present, and some home-made jewellery. Robyn blew in the clarinet tip, but was disappointed that it didn't whistle, and briefly tried on the chimp mask, making animal noises.

* * *

Robyn and Alice returned to the living room, having exhausted the fun that could be had with the old lost property box.

"So are you allowed out then?" asked Robyn. "You could show me round this place, if you like."

"Sure. I've been down to the shops yesterday. I'm itching to get out the house really. But there's not much to see around here."

"Oh well," said Robyn.

"Hey - I've got an idea though. We could go to the seaside for the day," said Alice.

"The sea - we're not near the sea are we?"

"No - but it's not too far - there's a train that goes from the station here. It's an older line - Mum says they're talking about closing it down."

"How much will it cost though? I've got a tenner left from my birthday money," said Robyn. "I've got a return ticket for home, so it doesn't matter if I spend it."

"Oh that will be plenty. I've got some money from my allowance. It's about four quid return, I think," said Alice. "Unless you didn't want to, I don't mind if we don't."

"No - it would be good - and get a bit of fresh air. Where is it we're going - Southend, Brighton, or Caister, or somewhere like that?"

"Brighton! Your geography's worse than mine. Brighton's down South. No, It's a little place called Hocksea, not far from Clacton. Mum and me went last September just after we moved in. We laid on the beach, mooched around town - there ain't much to see, but it's okay. Trains run on the hour - easy to remember that. We could get the One O'clock."

Alice's mum came back into the room.

"We're gonna go down to Hocksea," said Alice. "It's alright isn't it?"

"Yeah sure. Don't be out too late though, and wrap up warm. It's only May, there's still a bit of chill in the air."

"Don't fuss mum, it will be fine," said Alice.

Alice went upstairs leaving Robyn and Mrs Lowe alone. 

"No school today then?" asked Mrs. Lowe, voicing the one question that Robyn hoped she might avoid.

"No, not today," said Robyn, hoping she wouldn't have to elaborate, but Alice's mother just shrugged.

Alice appeared, with a thick white jumper, and a chic looking cream scarf around her neck. She looked at the living room clock.

"Let's get going," she said. 

At the station, Alice asked for two returns to Hocksea. The man behind the counter raised an objection:

"It's cheaper for you to get singles. Just buy the other ticket from the other end."

"How can it be cheaper than a return?" asked Alice.

"Don't ask me, missy. It just is. It's 2.40 for a single ticket, or 5.50 for a return."

"All right, two singles then." Robyn handed over a fiver and took the tickets.

"You buy the return tickets, okay?" she said to Alice. Alice nodded. 

"Come on then, 'missy'," Robyn said, and ducked as Alice aimed a blow at her, in jest. 

* * *

There were two platforms, one for trains that went towards Colchester and Harlow, and one rather more run down side that went to the sea, calling at half a dozen out of the way villages and towns. A large clock suspended from the platform roof sliced time into precise seconds.

The train was fairly empty when it arrived and Alice and Robyn had most of the carriage to themselves as they plonked themselves down opposite each other. A man in a smart suit sat reading his newspaper, and an old lady was knitting furiously on the other side. On seats behind them was a young women trying to keep her toddler son in check.

"Bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah," said the infant loudly.

"Will you shut up, Patrick and stay still on the seat," said the woman in a broad Liverpool accent. "You're really starting t'annoy me."

"Tannoy-tannoy-tannoy-tannoy-tannoy-tannoy-tannoy," said the boy, changing his rapidly repeating word at the same volume.

The woman looked apologetically at Alice and Robyn.

"Sorry, he's not always this bad. He's been like this all the way down." The woman pulled a bag of sweets from her bag, and thrust something sweet and chewy in the boy's hand. The boy immediately fell silent as his jaws got to work.

The train chugged slowly out of the station, and gathered speed, but it ran at a more sedate speed than fast train that brought Robyn from London. Alice took a chocolate bar from her bag and broke it in two, giving one half to Robyn.

"Got any Minto bars?" joked Robyn, remembering the old wrappers from the box of junk.

"'Fraid not! Have to make do with Dairy Milk. Got a few - Mum gets 'em cheap from her shop because they're past their sell-by date."

The internal carriage door opened and two boys came in, sitting down on the parallel seats to Alice and Robyn. They were untidy youths of about ten years old, one with thick black overlong hair, and the other with a close-cropped blonde head.

"Don't think much of yours," said Robyn.

The boys started talking loudly to each other.

"So I think it's rubbish that they didn't pick me for the team 'cos he's just useless."

"Did you see that kick he did in the St. Lukes match. Rubbish. He's an old woman..."

"Hey Barry, what we missing today - Maths innit?"

"Yeah, Maths and Physics - waste of time anyway."

Alice rolled her eyes at Robyn, irritated that their peace was disturbed. For several minutes, the boys continued to talk loudly to each other in an incessant stream. Alice could take it no more. She stood up and sat next to the one with the thick mop of black hair, and he stopped talking and looked at her in surprise.

"See that man with the newspaper," she said conspiratorially. The boy looked over his shoulder.

"Yeah, what about him?"

"He's a county truant officer."

"Don't believe you!"

"Straight up. He's already come and talked to us - we're in dead trouble now, aren't we Robyn?"

Robyn nodded assent. "He took down our details," she lied.

The lads exchanged whispered words. They stood up, and quietly exited the way they had came. Alice rubbed her hands together. "Good work," said Robyn approvingly. The woman with the child smiled too.

A man with a trolley came through the other carriage door.

"Drinks and Snacks," he announced. 

"Shall we?" asked Alice.

"Not after last time, as I said, my coffee was cold - and they're far too expensive," warned Robyn.

The refreshments man approached the middle of the carriage without either the suit-man or the knitting-woman wanting anything. As he reached Alice and Robyn's seats he clutched his stomach.

"Sorry.... bad... urrgh... got to ..." he rushed off back the way he came leaving the trolley behind.

Alice raised her eyebrows.

A few minutes past by. Alice and Robyn looked out the window, watching the countryside speed past. It was mostly flat, fields and patches of housing and an occasional narrow lane running parallel to the railway tracks, or level crossing running at right angles. The unattended trolley clanked as the train vibrated.

"I don't think he's coming back," said Alice. "I reckon it's self-service today." She stood up, and approached the trolley. She took a plastic cup from the stack, and put it under the tap of the metal coffee canister. Coffee flowed into the cup, and Alice put it on the table in front of Robyn who gazed open-mouthed at her audacity. Alice filled another cup, and distributed sachets of sugar and little plastic bowls of UHT milk. Robyn saw her stoop behind the trolley, and after a few moments, Alice plonked a couple of packets of biscuits on the table, and put something in her bag.

"Better not push our luck," Alice said, and pushed the trolley back so it was further away. She sat back down, blew on her coffee cup, and opened one of the packets of biscuits.

"The coffee's warm at least.  It will fill a hole, as my gran says," said Robyn.

"I can get some more if you like," said Alice.

"We could dirty your face up, and you could be Oliver Twist again," said Robyn.

"Oh - I'd forgotten about that - the school dinners we protested about because they gave such stingy portions. God, did we really do that?" Alice laughed, and Robyn smiled.

"This is most civilized," said Robyn, and Alice nodded in agreement.

"Won't be too long now before you can see the sea," she said.

"See the sea..... great!"

The trolley man came back through the far door.

"Now where was I?" he wondered aloud. He pushed the trolley up to the two girls.

"Tea, coffee, biscuits," he offered.

"No thanks, we brought our own," said Alice, raising her cup at him almost like a salute.

The trolley man frowned suspiciously, but then a twinge of pain passed through him, and he pushed the trolley on through to the next carriage. Robyn giggled. "You're very bad, you are," she said.

Chapter Two: Arrival

Hocksea in early May wasn't exactly a hive of activity. There was quite a stiff breeze, and Alice wished she had brought a coat. Most of the shops on the seafront were closed, but there was a more general store open where Robyn bought a couple of sticks of rock, which they sucked on as they walked along the sea barrier.

"We could get some fish and chips later," said Alice. "You have to have fish and chips by the sea, it's in the rules."

"You'll get no argument from me," said Robyn.

"I want to dip my feet in the sea," said Alice. "It's a sort of ritual, otherwise I won't really feel like I've been away."

They headed down some stone steps onto the beach. The tide was out some distance. A couple of women, warmly dressed, sat in deckchairs with their eyes shut. Overhead gulls circled, crying plaintively. Close to the sea, Alice took off her shoes and ankle socks, and rolled up her jeans until they were half way up her calves. 

"I don't think I'll join you," said Robyn. "There might be jellyfish or something."

Alice snorted. She walked into the water until it covered her ankles, feeling the gentle salty waves splash against her legs. She walked along the beach for a short distance, then stooped, picked up a pebble, and threw it out to sea. Robyn walked alongside in parallel, but kept her feet dry.

"There, mission accomplished," said Alice. She walked out of the sea, and then back to retrieve her socks. The two girls walked along the beach until another set of steps led back up to the promenade.

"It is nice here, though I don't think I could stick a week here like some families do," said Robyn as they climbed the steps.

"We used to go to the seaside when I was little. I don't mean here though - somewhere like Brighton, or Southend. I was always bored by the third day," said Alice.

"Where did you stay?"

"One of the hotels - nothing too grand though," said Alice.

"I think I'd like to travel," said Robyn. "You know, go to somewhere exotic abroad, and not stick in one place."

"Yeah, me too," agreed Alice.

"I wouldn't mind going in a caravan, like Mary does," said Robyn.

"So you said earlier.  We did stay in a caravan once. It was cramped and cold. They make them too small. I'd like a big one with an upstairs," said Alice.

"That would just be a house on wheels," said Robyn.

As Alice and Robyn travelled further along the road, going out of town, there were no more shops and all that remained up ahead were a mixture of private houses, boarding houses and hotels. There were shops that in summer would sell ice cream, souvenirs and rock, but these were all closed. At the very end of the line of shops was an establishment with the word "Amusements" signed above. Alice wandered in, and Robyn followed.

Inside were the usual electronic and mechanical contraptions expected at a seaside Amusements, but most machinery was far from contemporary: some were positively antiques. There were a line of one-arm bandits for five pence a turn, a mechanical grab with an array of soft toys on offer, a set of pinball machines with lurid, enticing designs, a roulette wheel game for two pence a turn, and some antique machines that spun a silver ball around in a circle, where it might fall into a prize hole and return four coins back. Another bank of machines called "Avalanche!" allowed you to put in ten pences which pushed against large piles of such coins which appeared to be on the verge of falling down. 

In the middle of the room, a fat man sat in a glass and wood booth dishing out change. The place had two or three people in it: a bald man stood impassively feeding money into the roulette wheel, a young woman with a pram had a few tries at the mechanical grab, each time trying to get a white monkey, and each time finding the monkey slip out of the grab's feeble grasp before it had time to reach the return slot.

"Let's get some change. There's not much else to do," said Alice. Robyn nodded. Alice changed three pound coins into ten pences and a further pound coin into two pences, and Robyn broke into her second five pound note getting a pile of two pences and a pile of tens. 

"Best not go too mad," said Alice. "Just this, and then we'll go get some fish and chips or something."

Alice headed for the roulette wheel and won with her very first coin, choosing the green slot. Robyn was more intrigued by the mechanical grab, but the lady with the pram was still absorbed in it, so instead Robyn tried the ten pence pusher. The first coin pushed down a stack of coins, and she was gratified to see about fifty pence in the coin return. Another stack followed after a further two coins were inserted, and Robyn was hooked.

At the roulette wheel, Alice became bored with losing, and tried some of the other machines, enjoying the loud metallic sound of the old-fashioned silver ball machines - the ball spun round the metal guides with a "rowr-rowr-rowr-clunk"  - but she didn't win any money. To her surprise, she found that her supply of two pences quickly ran out, and she went to see what Robyn was up to. 

"It's not bad this - look," said Robyn, showing Alice a handful of ten pences. Robyn noticed the mechanical grab was now free, and went to take a look.

"You carry on here," she told Alice.

Robyn walked over to the grabber, and read the sign on the front that said it was 40p a turn. Optimistically she fed her ten pence pieces in, pushed the button to start, turning the handles which moved the crane into position and then closed or opened the grabbing claw. The grabber took hold of the white monkey, and for a moment it seemed victory was imminent - then the metal claws let go, and the monkey bounced back more or less to where it had been. Robyn fed some more coins in. After a few more attempts she looked up to see what Alice was doing, and noted that she was changing some more money at the change booth. After pushing piles of ten pences towards Alice, the man in the booth returned to his newspaper.

Robyn suddenly found that her supply of ten pences was exhausted. Perhaps if she went back to the sliding thing, she could win some money back and have another go. She went to the change man, and handed over another two pound coins.

* * *

Alice admitted defeat. Robyn was there with her at the Avalanche machine, on the adjacent side.

"No good. This machine cheats. The money slides into the sides all the time," said Alice. She banged the side of the machine, but the stacks of ten pence held firm. The man in the booth looked up and glared at them reprovingly.

"Shall we change some more," asked Robyn, and dug into her jeans pockets. She pulled out a 50p piece and a number of coppers coins.

"Oh, I'm out of cash. You've got some cash left, I hope," said Robyn with a little laugh.

Alice checked her own supply of cash, and her pale face became even more white.

"One pound and 9p. Oh my God, I thought I had another fiver."

"Me too," said Robyn, "I could have sworn I had more than that."

"We're screwed," said Alice. "We need money for the train fare."

The two were silent for a moment, thinking. Alice bit her lip and Robyn looked at her watch.

"My God have you seen the time - it's gone five thirty. I'd meant to get back before they noticed I'd gone anywhere."

"That's the least of our problems at the moment," said Alice.

"I'll have to phone Dad, he'll be mad at me, but there's no other choice is there?" asked Robyn.

"We could hitch hike," suggested Alice.

"No way! Do you have 10p for the phone?"

"Don't have anything left, that stupid push game took it all. "

"Maybe the man in the booth will let us use the phone."

Alice shrugged and then shivered. "I wish I'd brought a coat," she said.

"You can borrow my coat, it's got a warm lining - I've got my school blazer in my bag," said Robyn. "We're about the same size."

Alice took Robyn's denim jacket and put it on. Robyn took her school blazer out, and put it on. The combination of blazer and jeans looked a little incongruous.

"It's not so nice, the seaside before the proper summer begins, is it?" Alice said. She pulled the thick scarf out of her own bag, and wrapped it round her neck.

Robyn approached the change booth again. The large man behind the glass blinked a few times behind his lenses, looking at Robyn, and seeming to be surprised at something. Then he looked at Alice, and seemed even more surprised.

"Excuse me," started Robyn, using her special polite little girl tone of voice. "I don't suppose.... I wonder if you'd mind.... umm... that is, can we ..."

"Grange Hill," said the man pointing at the badge. "You're from Grange Hill. North London."

"Yeah, so?" said Robyn.

"It was my school. About five or six years ago. Alice had joined Robyn to see what was keeping her and had heard the last remark.

"How come you ended up here - did you fail all your exams?"

"No! I did all right! I'm just here for the summer, minding my Uncle's shop. " 

"We're a bit stuck. Can we use your phone?" said Robyn, trying not to get sidetracked, but the young man ignored her.

"You still got McClusky as Headmistress?"

"She left ages ago. We got Keele these days. She's a bit of a battleaxe," said Robyn.

"Probably no-one there I know now... So you two bunking off then?"

"Sort of," admitted Robyn. "Had some problems, and I wanted to get away to think."

"Yeah - I bunked off a few times when I was there, early on. 'Cos of the bullies mostly."

Alice looked a bit uncomfortable at that, remembering how she used to treat Julie Corrigan. She spoke up:

"I'm not actually at Grange Hill now. My mum moved away to Wodeby Morton. Near Colchester. I'm Alice, this is Robyn."

"I'm Roland - Call me Roly," said he. 

Alice giggled, and Roland grinned good naturedly. "Yeah, yeah... I've heard it all before. I don't mind any more. The nickname stuck."

"So anyway, you gonna let us use the phone or what?" asked Alice.

"Can't. It don't work. BT are supposed to have fixed it, but it still ain't working. So what's happened to you two anyway?" said Roland.

"We sort of spent our return fare in here, and we're stranded," said Robyn.

Roland laughed. "You wouldn't be the first!"

"That's right, laugh - you've taken our money, and now we're stuck here while you can use it to buy lots of pies!" said Alice.

Roland shook his head and glowered a bit. "You don't have to be rude.  Not me who gets all the money. My uncle's machines, I just work here for a pittance.  It's a free country, you didn't have to put your coins in here did you? No-one forced you to.  And it's a bit of fun, escapism.  But  since you're from Grange Hill, I'd better help you out. But... that scarf - I'm sure was Fabienne's." He pointed at Alice's neckwear.

"Fabienne? No the label says it was... lett oil der mare"

" You mean l'etoiles de mer - that means Starfish," corrected Roly with a fair approximation to the correct pronunciation. 

"God, She's come out here to get away from school," exclaimed Alice. "And there you go correcting our French."

"Sorry. Anyway what I meant was it was my girlfriend's who came over to Grange Hill from France. That was the label, I'm sure it's hers."

Alice shrugged. "Could be - it was in the unclaimed lost property. Just gathering dust, like."

"Can we do a swap - your ticket fare back in return for it?" asked Roland eagerly.

A wave of relief spread across Robyn's face. "Go on Alice.  You don't mind do you - about the scarf?"

Alice shook her head. "I've got other scarves. It's fine." She unwrapped the scarf, shivered briefly, and handed it over. Roland took the enormous ring of keys from the shelf, and came out of the booth.

"One more thing - I saw you kept trying for the white monkey. Everyone does, but it's not actually possible to win that crane thing, not for the monkey anyhow - it's too large - it won't fit down the chute, it'll bounce out every time. The smaller toys are possible though, if you know how. "

"What a con," said Robyn and Roland smirked.

Roland walked to the "Wonder Crane" machine, and unlocked the back. He lifted the Perspex panel, and removed the white monkey, giving it to Alice. 

"There's only the one, so don't fight over it," he said, and then pulled a ten pound note from his jeans pocket and gave it over to Robyn.

"Will that get you home?" he asked.

Alice and Robyn both nodded in agreement. A middle-aged woman entered the arcade, and headed for one of the fruit machines.

"I better get back to the booth soon," said Roland.

"It's not very busy here," said Robyn.

"It's only just May - the season's just starting. You should have seen it last August. We opened up last week. Get a few day trippers. More when the weather warms up.  Next year I'm going to go to France - I'll take Fabienne her scarf back. "

"Why haven't you been to see her already?" asked Robyn.

"I did get to France, but I didn't realise how far away Paris was from Boulogne. I had to get the ferry back again. Never had the money since. But I will one day."

"But, she might have forgotten you, or moved," said Alice, tactlessly.

Roland frowned, and his demeanour became noticeable cooler. "Well don't let me keep you. You better get back before it gets too late," he said walking huffily back to the booth.

"Bye," said Robyn and left the arcade with Alice walking behind, clutching the white monkey.

"Quite a good result," said Alice outside.

"You didn't have to be so cruel to him about his French girlfriend," said Robyn.

"He could swim over to her - it's only about 20 miles from here. He'd float, that's for sure."

"You're horrible, you are," said Robyn. "Well... at least he gave us the dosh to get home."

"Yeah, I suppose - he was all right really. Though how he gets into that tiny change booth..." Alice puffed out her cheeks. Robyn giggled, and they walked along the sea front, linking arms. The tide had come in, and the waves almost reached the tall grey barrier which ran along the edge of the beach. 

Alice bought fish and chips from one of the restaurants on the sea front, sharing the generous single portion between the two of them and getting very greasy fingers in the process. They stuffed their faces greedily as they walked back towards the station.

"So this Adam bloke," said Alice.

"I thought he really liked me. Sod him - who needs men anyway," said Robyn.

"Hardly a man. That's what you should go for Robyn, a real man," said Alice. "Forget about Adam. Plenty more fish in the sea."

"The only fish I want right now is this one," said Robyn, taking a wooden forkful of battered cod from the shared packet.

They walked along in silence for a few minutes, demolishing the last of the chips. Ahead, up the hill was the station.

"Will you come and see me again?" asked Alice. 

"'Course. School holidays aren't far off. And you come back and see Becky and me too - right?"

"Sure. And I want to meet this Mary girl, the gypsy. "

"If she's still there.  They might have moved on. Anyway It's 'traveller' - not 'gypsy'," corrected Robyn.

"Yeah, whatever."

Robyn suddenly put a hand to her neck. "Oh it's gone," she said sadly.

"What's gone?"

"My necklace. It was lovely. Oh, damn, damn, damn. Mary gave it to me. Must have dropped it on the way."

"You sure you wore it today?"

"Yeah. I reckon it came off when I was biking across the fields - it was pretty bumpy. When I got to the end of the field there was a road, and a sign to the station. That's when I thought to come to you. I remembered your letter that was in with your birthday card. It was like a teardrop shaped stone. I'm always losing things, I am."

"Oh well, never mind, that's life," said Alice.

"C'est la vie," said Robyn.

"Don't you start on the French too! It's my worst subject at school."

"How is your school in Colchester? What are they like there?"

"It's all right I suppose. Made a few friends, and a few enemies, as you do. I've fallen behind with this illness. They'll have forgotten me. And it's a pain to get to, almost an hour on the bus," said Alice.

"An hour!  That's a long time."

"Yeah. It's all right though. Bit of a laugh. There's a group of us get the bus to school, we sit in the back and mess around."

Robyn laughed.

"You know," said Alice thoughtfully, "I reckon you'd look better with your hair shorter."

"Like yours is now? "

"Sure. It's easier to manage too," said Alice.

"I'll think about it," promised Robyn.

The girls reached the station. The sun had almost completely set. The signs indicated a Westbound train would leave in ten minutes. Alice bought two tickets from the little window, and the two of them headed onto the platform.

"I'm getting quite hungry again," said Alice.

"Me too," said Robyn.

"Mum could do us some grub."

"She seems all right your mum. She never asked if I should be there. "

"I suppose she's okay," said Alice grudgingly. "Do you want to stay the night?"

"Mum and Dad will do their nut if did. It's getting late - I meant to get back before this. I'd better get onto the next train back once we get to your stop."

"If you're sure.... You could always call your mum from mine," offered Alice.

"It'll be alright, they've probably not even noticed I've gone. Better not push my luck though."

"We can have these to stave off the hunger pains," said Alice, and took out a couple of packets of biscuits from her bag. "Courtesy of British Rail."

"Good old British Rail," said Robyn.

A train left the sidings and approached the platform.

Alice spoke, but made as though the furry white monkey was talking: "So did you enjoy your birthday treat, Robyn?" she said in a deep a voice as she could.

"Yes, Monkey, it was very enjoyable," replied Robyn in a mock serious  tone.

Alice laughed, and the two girls boarded the train.

2008 Geffers all rights reserved. (c) BBC Grange Hill Characters.

Some background:

This story is set in Series 16, but since it's in the second half of the series, I've set it in May '94, rather than Sept '93 (It had to be in or near summer to work). The dating of stories is always problematic: Grange Hill seems to be set in a world where there is usually only one term of generally warm weather. Like my other stories, I try to put little suggestions in which point the way to something that is yet to happen in the actual series, like Robyn and her strange almost-affair with Mr. Parrot, and her change to short hair.

In the series, Robyn goes missing shortly after her birthday, her bike dredged up from the river, and it's assumed she was abducted. When she returns, she explains she went to see old friend Alice who left the previous series - hence this story is a missing adventure of what happened that day. It's not completely unreasonable what happens, though the places are fictional. As for the return tickets being more expensive, well I've come across journeys where that was true. There are quite a few backward references in the lost property box  (references to previous series of Grange Hill), one big one (in more ways than one), and if you look carefully, you'll find a tongue-in- cheek forward reference or two as well.