Stanzas 1-5

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Base Camp. Horizontal Sleet.

Two minor sentences open the poem. Their effect is to create drama, as if the boys were reporting on the beginning of a significant expedition.

Two small boys confirms their age and vulnerability on such a quest. We learn they have raised the steel flag of the 20 terminus as if they have reached the top of a mountain and are stating their claim.

This is an adventure to them. Even though the next stanza reveals they are only going to Hilltown, this is a key moment for them as they are going:

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for the first time ever on our own.

The words first, ever and own emphasise this.

The speaker talks with a young boy’s swagger as he goes on to consider his spending power. He lists his coins with a sense of pride. The poem is clearly set in the past (possibly the 1960s), as shillings, tanners, florins and the other coins mentioned are no longer used.

What the coins all have in common is that they are small change. Their value as money is much less than the attention the boy gives them. But to him these thick cogs that chank together in his pocket are meaningful and promise great possibilities.

The simile here suggests these coins are integral to the success of his day, just as a cog is to the mechanism of a machine. The use of the onomatopoeic chank suggests their weight. This combined with reference to blazonry and bald kings suggests that they give him status as he ventures into adulthood.

Stanza five is short and to the point:

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I plan to buy comics / sweeties, and magic tricks.

There is a tone of confidence and authority here. There is something poignant about this for older readers. Looking back on our own experience, we realise these are ephemeral concerns that take centre stage in the life of a young person who hasn’t seen responsibility or much challenge.