Grange Hill Fan Fiction
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The Alarm Clock
Ann Wilson stood in the kitchen a frown on her face, and a clock in her hand. She had changed into comfortable jeans and stripey top. Her father chopped onions at the worktop.
"Did you enjoy your first day?" he asked.
"I suppose it wasn't too bad," she admitted. "Some of the older girls aren't very nice though. I kept getting lost. Our Form teacher was okay, but some of the other teachers are a bit fierce, a bit old-fashioned."
"It's quite something to have my little girl starting at big school."
"Big school! I'm not a kid, Dad."
"I know. Soon it will be 'O' levels and 'A' levels, and boyfriends, and then you'll be leaving home!"
"Oh Dad - it's just my first day!"
"Ah you've grown up so fast. It seems just yesterday you were a little baby."
"Oh - Dad, don't cry!"
Mr. Wilson laughed. "No - it's just the onions!" Ann laughed a bit too.
"They gave us homework - can you believe that, on the first day, two essays to write. English and Geography. Yuch. Mum out at work already?"
Ann's dad nodded. "Yes, she's doing an evening shift from tonight. I don't know how she does it, changing shifts like she does. I can never sleep unless it's night time. What are you doing with that clock?"
"Hmm. Ah, I'm doing this," said Ann. She walked to the flip-top bin and inserted the clock into it. "It's no good. I was late today thanks to it. I'll set my digital watch tonight."
"Hey - no don't do that. I don't know - the modern youth, throw everything away." Mr. Wilson retrieved the clock from the bin, put it to one side, then washed his hands.
"What good is it - it doesn't work, it's stuck on ten to eight!"
"I'll get it fixed. It's a good clock. Look at the legend in the base "Made in England 1958" - how many times do you see "Made in England" any more? And - look it's still got your initials Dymo'd onto the side. Remember how you went round putting A.W onto everything? Even on me, I recall!"
"Well I was about six years old," protested Ann.
"Hmm. More like eight I think. They don't grow on trees you know, good clocks."
"Be a funny sort of tree if they did. It's just a clock. A broken clock. Useless. Kaput."
"It's good quality, solid. You know the junk shop off Station Road?"
"Take it there tomorrow."
"Are they likely to want to buy broken clocks?"
"Not to sell, silly! It probably just wants a spot of oil. Bob, the old bloke with the straggly white hair. He does clock repairs cheap. He knows me, but get a receipt for it anyway."
Mr. Wilson added the chopped onions to the beef mince sizzling in the frying pan.
"I'll do it after school tomorrow," agreed Ann.
* * *
What had happened the day before is this:
Ann's mother had been woken by the sound of her daughter hurriedly getting ready. Although groggy from having only a couple of hours sleep after her night shift Mrs. Wilson remembered that Ann was starting at the comprehensive. She forced herself out of bed, and went to investigate. She found Ann in something of a panic. The living room clock had stopped (as it always did overnight), and in order to work out the time, Ann turned the radio on.
"I'm going to be in so much trouble," Ann fretted, as she bustled about the house.
"It'll be all right, it's only the first day," her mother said reassuringly. When Ann had tumbled out of the house, like an athlete doing the 100m dash, Mrs. Wilson decided that a bit of expenditure was required to stop a similar occurrence in the future. When the weekend came round, she presented her daughter with a small present - a shiny new electrical clock that plugged into the mains and had bright LED digits.
"We can't have you being late again! I need my beauty sleep. You'll never have to wind it, and it's a decent radio too," said Mrs. Wilson.
Ann smiled and gratefully accepted the gift.
A few years passed by, the clock languished unwanted in the junk shop. The shop's proprietor, Bob had a policy of putting uncollected items on sale - after all, he had put time and effort into fixing the timepiece. It was surprising how often people forgot their repair items, he thought.
A man called Frank Hooper bought the clock. He tried it out in the second-hand shop, wound the mainspring and the alarm winder, and turned the knob that moved the hands so the alarm sounded.
"Nice and loud," he said approvingly. "I'll have it."
At home, Frank examined the clock. He tried to remove the "A.W." sticky Dymo label, but it seemed to have welded itself into the metal of the clock, and after almost losing a fingernail to the sharp edge, Frank left it alone.
The alarm clock did Frank proud for almost three decades. Through good times and bad, the birth of his daughter, the affair with his wife's sister, and the birth of a granddaughter, Rachel, who he was forbidden to see. Where did all the time go, he wondered when he looked at the clock. There was something very pleasing - optimistic - about its timbre and its solid tick-tack sound. In later years, after he retired, the cheerfulness of the clock reminded him of happier times. Even after he had retired, he set the clock alarm each day - it was like it was saying to him - "come on Frank, seize the day, Carpe that deum - no time to waste."
And then came something of a second childhood, an interest in computers, the Internet and all modern gadgets: DVD players, iPods, and the discovery that the local school had made their facilities available to the general public. And Frank had another reason to get acquainted with Grange Hill, for he learned that Rachel had started to go there. And finally there had been something of a reconciliation between them, but an outstanding problem - the rift between himself and his daughter.
Perhaps it was a vindictive streak in the clock that made it happen, or just random chance, but on the day that Frank had decided to go and visit his daughter, his alarm clock, that most faithful of companions, failed to sound its alarm. Just as it had done 31 and a bit years earlier, it reached its alarm time, and jammed. When Frank awoke, he was too late to visit his daughter, but decided to go into school, and to take his clock with him to be repaired. And then there was a the whole business with the bomb under the school - ticking - ticking - except it was just the silly old clock which had started working again. The alarm sounding had almost given Frank a heart attack... You're a silly old fool, he told himself afterwards.
Frank bought himself a battery alarm clock. Much more reliable, he told himself. He almost threw the old unreliable clock away, but ever the modern techno-type, he listed it on eBay, describing it as "a vintage 1950's alarm clock, may need some attention." He often listed things, even if they virtually went for nothing, because the act of parcelling things up and taking them to the post office kept him busy. He did not add a photo - he told himself he would have to master digital photography soon, and it might give him something new to do. To his surprise, someone did actually bid on it, someone called Ann McPherson.
"I seem to live near you, can I collect it?", came the message from the winning bidder. Frank agreed, and a few days later, a lady knocked at the door, tall and thin (too thin, Frank thought) and with hair cut very short, but dressed in a very chic manner in black jacket over simple white top and faded blue jeans.
"I've come for the clock," she said. "I've got the exact money. My electric one packed in. Had it years. Quite like the idea of an old-fashioned one again, but you can't get them. It's all cheaply made rubbish now."
"That's true. Come in, come in," said Frank, and living alone, was glad of the company, even for a fleeting few minutes.
Frank handed over the clock. The woman smiled at him, then paled, her mouth open in surprise as she regarded the clock.
"What's wrong, are you feeling all right?" asked Frank. "Do you want to sit down, love?"
The woman regained her composure, and laughed a little. She fingered the label on the back, still stuck fast. "A.W. I bet you don't know what that stands for," she said.
Frank shook his head. "I expect it was the previous owner," he suggested.
She nodded. "That's right. Ann Wilson. My maiden name. My old clock. God it brings back memories. Do you know, it made me late for my very first day at my new school - Grange Hill."
"Oh. Well, there's a thing. How strange. Most peculiar. It almost made me 'late' too, if you get my drift," said Frank, and Ann looked puzzled , not getting the pun.
"My granddaughter, Rachel. She goes to Grange Hill you see. We had a bit of an adventure there. It's a long story... Are you in a hurry? No, good, then sit down, and I'll put the kettle on..."
(c) 2012 Geoff Phillips (c) BBC Grange Hill characters.