Chapter 1 Two young lives
‘Megan, make me a cup of tea, will you?’ shouted Harry Jenkins from the front of his small shop. ‘And then come in here and talk to me.’
‘Here you are, Dad,’ said Megan, giving him a big cup of hot tea and trying to smile. Every day it was the same. As soon as Megan got home from school, her father asked for his tea and then he wanted to know everything about her day – what she had done at school, if the teachers
were pleased with her work, who she walked home with. She was sixteen years old and she was fed up with it all. Why did he have to be so interested in her?
‘So, Megan, how was school today?’
‘OK,’ said Megan.
‘Did the teacher tell you about last week’s exam, then?’
‘And?’ asked Mr Jenkins.
‘And what?’ said Megan, knowing very well what he wanted to know.
‘And, how did you do? Come on, girl, if you’re going to go to college, it’s important that you do well at school.’ Nobody from Mr Jenkins’ family had ever gone to college, but now there might be a chance for Megan. He wanted her to get away. The Welsh village of Tredonald where they lived was a coal mining village. Nearly all the men worked down the mine, getting the dirty black coal out of the ground. Mr Jenkins didn’t want his daughter to marry a coal miner, or even to spend her life working in the shop – she was too good for that. He hadn’t asked Megan what she wanted.
At the other end of the village, Megan’s friend, Huw Thomas, was finishing his work for the day. Huw was also sixteen years old and already tired of life. He worked eight hours a day, five days a week in the village coal mine. There was nothing much else for people in the village.You either worked underground, or you didn’t work at all. That was it. But it was better than
being a soldier and fighting in some foreign country, like a few of the men in the village. The prime minister in London kept saying the war was nearly over, but Huw wasn’t sure if he believed it.
Huw got into the lift at the bottom of the mine with a group of other tired-looking men. Their faces were black from the coal and at first he didn’t see his older brother, Gareth, standing opposite him. They smiled at each other, but didn’t speak. The lift climbed slowly and noisily up from the dark underground world. Ten dirty faces looked up towards the light.
At the top, it took a few seconds for their eyes to get used to the daylight. They walked over to the bath house, taking in the fresh air. For Huw this was the best moment of the day. He had only been a miner for six weeks, but it felt like longer.