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THE KESTRELS

This short story comes from a collection of Lesbian short stories published by Only Women Press called 'The Reach' edited by Lillian Mohin. The author has given permission for it to be used in classrooms.

This set of lessons is designed for upper secondary school pupils and gives them the chance to explore their attitudes to lesbian and gay sexuality and compare them to their attitudes to heterosexuality.

By encouraging the group to consider the couple in the story as heterosexual they can examine their views on age and responsibility as it relates to emotional and sexual practice, before the lesbian and gay issue is introduced. It may well be that you would want to spend some time dealing with these initial responses. They certainly need to be in written form.

Once the fact that the couple is lesbian is known, pupils should again be allowed to explore their own attitudes and feelings fully.
The final section of the work allows them to compare their attitudes and feelings when considering it a heterosexual couple and when a lesbian one.

ACTIVITIES AND RESEARCH RELATED TO 'KESTRELS'
A. Read through Claire's sections.
1. Discuss:
· · "Should they have been separated?"
"Why?"
"Does age make a difference?"
"Why do you think they were separated?"
2. Write:
· · A letter from Jakey's school friend to Jakey's dad.
Try to show him, what you think should happen now.

B. Read the whole story.
· 1. Discuss:
· "Do you feel differently now?"
"Why?"
2. Write another letter.
· · This time to a friend, telling them what you feel about Jakey and Claire (your school friends), now that you have heard they are lesbians.

Remind pupils about correct language even if they do not approve of the relationship.
Display all the letters, with an explanation, as some may be anti-gay.
Use the letters and Part 2 of "A Different Story -Telling Friends", {Video]*, or Not Just a Phase to research, illustrate and give examples of the different ideas that exist around lesbian & gay sexuality.

C. Further Questions to Explore
1. If there is any difference, in feelings about the relationships why should there be one?
2. What does that say about their attitudes about lesbian and gay people?
3. What do they think/feel about the age of consent?
4. Why might it be all right for one set of people to make certain decisions at a particular age whilst others are not allowed to?
5. What are family reactions to having a lesbian and or gay member?

D. Related Activity
Use the letters and Part 2 of "A Different Story -Telling Friends", or Not
Just a Phase{Video]*,to research, illustrate and give examples of the
different ideas that exist around lesbian & gay sexuality.
*See resource list.
Please note that these lessons raise issues that need planning and thought on the part of teacher and school to develop if they are to be properly useful. Children will express prejudice and fear and these must be supportively dealt with. There must also be support for vulnerable pupils and staff.


The Kestrels
By Kim Martindale.

Claire's story.

Claire paused a moment on the moortrack and looked down into the valley. The small milltown crawled straight-backed up the hills, rigid rows of terraces, jagged millroofs and wet slates. There were many tall chimneys, too, but their smokeless tops told the tale of unemployment. Claire gazed searchingly at the town. If she used her binoculars, she could perhaps have picked out the school where she should have been and where her friends were now. All except Jakey, of course.

She turned away and continued on the moortrack. The wind was strong but she enjoyed the challenge. She was glad to pit herself against its aggression. Ever since Jakey had gone, she'd hated everything and everyone. Her schoolfriends, her parents, they seemed like so much trivia compared to Jakey and it had made her want to hit and smash the whole world to think of what they'd done. That was why she had skived off school and come up here, where she and Jakey always came to watch the kestrels.
She topped the hill and the track started down. In the distance she could already see the old barn where the kestrels nested and for a moment she stopped as a bird flew out under the eaves. Claire grinned. You could rely on the kestrels.

She watched the bird fly out of sight then clambered over the wall, off the track and towards the field where the barn stood. She was well settled in a corner by the lee of the old stone wall, when the bird returned.

It made Claire want to cry. The peerless ease and beauty of the kestrel always caught her emotions. But more than that she wanted Jakey here to share it. Jakey understood. And Jakey loved.

The kestrel swung out again and perched a moment on top of a telegraph post. Claire focused. She felt she could touch him. His bright eye glittered at her, his colours smooth and intricate, seemed inches from her fingers. O you are so beautiful she crooned softly. But he was off again, beating into the air, into the distance. She watched him goes, then breathed out. Oh Jakey you should be here.

Claire took out some sandwiches and a flask. Her hunger was sharp, always was up here and she ate quickly as if someone might snatch her food away. Then she sat back, a steaming cup of tea warming her hands. The kestrel had been away for some time now. She searched the sky but there was nothing. Jakey would have been impatient, wanting to move. You were always keen to get on to the next thing Jakey, for all your love of kestrels, you never liked the waiting.

Claire sipped her tea and closed her eyes. I always had to coax you just that little bit, Jakey, but then, it was your impatience that got us started. And Claire lost her hold on her thoughts as memories of Jakey pushed them out. Jakey, new kid at school, Jakey, sitting next to her in English, then everything else. Jakey, sharp and thin, weird and beautiful, round for tea, out together on the tops watching for kestrels, all new to Jakey, the city kid; the kestrels, Claire's proud gift to Jakey, with the feelings and fear of the love and the need; then Jakey and Claire in the grass, in the late summer sun by the wall, Jakey falling against Claire and not moving back, both silent and scared, and Jakey's final burst of impatience, "Claire, I love you!" Oh, the wonderful desperation in that voice, the look in those eyes and the disbelief when Claire said" I love you, too, Jakey."

She opened her eyes and finished the tea in one gulp. As she packed her flask away she saw that the kestrel was back, but she didn't pick up her binoculars. He settled on his post again and began to tear at something in his claws, the choicest of which he had already given to his mate in the barn. Claire watched him. Tear and chew, and never once letting his glance stray from his surroundings. She spoke to him, soft and low. He was the only living thing she would tell about Jakey. He became Jakey.
All that love, she said, and I would have let it go if not for you. Even so, and she smiled, it took us long enough to get that first kiss out of the way. We just hugged and hugged, terrified of it all, but when we did kiss, Jakey, I knew it was right.

She wrinkled her nose. It sounded mushy. The kestrel tore and chewed, balancing against the wind, ever on the watch. I wish I could forget you, she told him, but I love you. And for the first time since Jakey had gone, Claire broke down.

We couldn't go on up here, she sobbed to the bird, it got so cold. She stopped as the touch of Jakey came back to her, Jakey naked and warm, sweet and forbidden in the quiet Saturday house, in her bed, for weeks, months even, giggling, wow, if the folks knew, and above all, the wonder of being loved.

Then one afternoon, when their bodies seemed more in touch than ever before, they never heard the car, nor the footsteps loud on the stairs, that paused and went away again. Jakey's white faced father said later; if Jakey wouldn't give her up, they'd see what a little separation could do.

Now all the folks knew, parents, schoolfriends. A bad phase they said, yes, separation, it's a good idea. So they sent you away, Jakey, Claire told the kestrel, but the bird had finished its meal and flown away.
The light was beginning to fail and Claire's body was stiff. She'd have to go soon, but it had been a good day for the kestrels. They'd both been out and Claire began to feel excited about the time that the young would hatch. But now the dark was growing and the lights were glowing faintly in the valley. She rose awkwardly and stretched and threw her bag over her shoulder. She looked at the barn. See you soon she murmured to the quiet building, then she turned and clambered over the wall.


The Kestrels
By Kim Martindale.

The whole story.

Claire paused a moment on the moortrack and looked down into the valley. The small milltown crawled straight-backed up the hills, rigid rows of terraces, jagged millroofs and wet slates. There were many tall chimneys, too, but their smokeless tops told the tale of unemployment. Claire gazed searchingly at the town. If she used her binoculars, she could perhaps have picked out the school where she should have been and where her friends were now. All except Jakey, of course.

She turned away and continued on the moortrack. The wind was strong but she enjoyed the challenge. She was glad to pit herself against its aggression. Ever since Jakey had gone, she'd hated everything and everyone. Her schoolfriends, her parents, they seemed like so much trivia compared to Jakey and it had made her want to hit and smash the whole world to think of what they'd done. That was why she had skived off school and come up here, where she and Jakey always came to watch the kestrels.

She topped the hill and the track started down. In the distance she could already see the old barn where the kestrels nested and for a moment she stopped as a bird flew out under the eaves. Claire grinned. You could rely on the kestrels.

She watched the bird fly out of sight then clambered over the wall, off the track and towards the field where the barn stood. She was well settled in a corner by the lee of the old stone wall, when the bird returned.

It made Claire want to cry. The peerless ease and beauty of the kestrel always caught her emotions. But more than that she wanted Jakey here to share it. Jakey understood. And Jakey loved.

The kestrel swung out again and perched a moment on top of a telegraph post. Claire focused. She felt she could touch him. His bright eye glittered at her, his colours smooth and intricate, seemed inches from her fingers. O you are so beautiful she crooned softly. But he was off again, beating into the air, into the distance. She watched him goes, then breathed out. Oh Jakey you should be here.

A hundred miles away, a girl stood on the slipway to the M6, traffic ignored her outstretched thumb, wind whipping through her thin jacket. An hour she'd been here. It was getting cold and she was scared. She'd never hitched and dark half-remembered tales had made her relieved at first when the cars went on past. But now panic was making her throat dry. Please somebody, stop.
Just then, a huge lorry lumbered past, the driver caught her eye and, taillights winking, the truck finally stopped twenty yards on. Oh thank god, muttered the girl, and ran to the cab, her rucksack banging on her back and her other fear rising in her stomach.
The driver leaned across, opened the door and shouted, "I can take you as far as Preston, son." The girl was stumped. Son? Then she saw her boots and jeans through his eyes and she grinned. "Son" was a bonus. Fear quenched, she climbed in the cab.
"Preston is where I am going, mate," she said as gruffly as she dared.
"Right we are, then," and the driver eased off the brakes.
The truck lurched forward and the girl suddenly turned to the window.
"Owt wrong?" said the driver.
"No," she laughed and sat back, "just saw a kestrel, that's all."

Claire took out some sandwiches and a flask. Her hunger was sharp, always was up here and she ate quickly as if someone might snatch her food away. Then she sat back, a steaming cup of tea warming her hands. The kestrel had been away for some time now. She searched the sky but there was nothing. Jakey would have been impatient, wanting to move. You were always keen to get on to the next thing Jakey, for all your love of kestrels, you never liked the waiting.

Claire sipped her tea and closed her eyes. I always had to coax you just that little bit, Jakey, but then, it was your impatience that got us started. And Claire lost her hold on her thoughts as memories of Jakey pushed them out. Jakey, new kid at school, Jakey, sitting next to her in English, then everything else. Jakey, sharp and thin, weird and beautiful, round for tea, out together on the tops watching for kestrels, all new to Jakey, the city kid, the kestrels, Claire's proud gift to Jakey, with the feelings and fear of the love and the need; then Jakey and Claire in the grass, in the late summer sun by the wall, Jakey falling against Claire and not moving back, both silent and scared, and Jakey's final burst of impatience, "Claire, I love you!" Oh, the wonderful desperation in that voice, the look in those eyes and the disbelief when Claire said" I love you, too, Jakey."

She opened her eyes and finished the tea in one gulp. As she packed her flask away she saw that the kestrel was back, but she didn't pick up her binoculars. He settled on his post again and began to tear at something in his claws, the choicest of which he had already given to his mate in the barn. Claire watched him. Tear and chew, and never once letting his glance stray from his surroundings. She spoke to him, soft and low. He was the only living thing she would tell about Jakey. He became Jakey.
All that love, she said, and I would have let it go if not for you. Even so, and she smiled, it took us long enough to get that first kiss out of the way. We just hugged and hugged, terrified of it all, but when we did kiss, Jakey, I knew it was right.

She wrinkled her nose. It sounded mushy. The kestrel tore and chewed, balancing against the wind, ever on the watch. I wish I could forget you, she told him, but I love you. And for the first time since Jakey had gone, Claire broke down.

We couldn't go on up here, she sobbed to the bird, it got so cold. She stopped as the touch of Jakey came back to her, Jakey naked and warm, sweet and forbidden in the quiet Saturday house, in her bed, for weeks, months even, giggling, wow, if the folks knew, and above all, the wonder of being loved.

Then one afternoon, when their bodies seemed more in touch than ever before, they never heard the car, nor the footsteps loud on the stairs, that paused and went away again. Jakey's white faced father said later; if Jakey wouldn't give her up, they'd see what a little separation could do.

Now all the folks knew, parents, schoolfriends. A bad phase they said, yes, separation, it's a good idea. So they sent you away, Jakey, Claire told the kestrel, but the bird had finished its meal and flown away.

"Platform 1, sonny, you got two minutes."
"Cheers," the girl shouted above the noise and began to run. She'd had a good hitch, right outside the station the driver had let her off. She hurried through the clanking, hissing, echoing platforms. Her train was ready to go, the guard saw
her and jerked open the door with a grin. Breathlessly she stumbled in and, as the door slammed, she heard the guard say," Just in time, son."

The girl straightened up and leaned out of the window.
"I'm not a boy," she shouted, "I'm a woman."
There was hardly time to enjoy his expression as the train slid forward and she fell back, laughing until she could have cried, and never believing the train could carry her fast enough.

The light was beginning to fail and Claire's body was stiff. She'd have to go soon, but it had been a good day for the kestrels. They'd both been out and Claire began to feel excited about the time that the young would hatch. But now the dark was growing and the lights were glowing faintly in the valley. She rose awkwardly and stretched and threw her bag over her shoulder. She looked at the barn. See you soon she murmured to the quiet building, then she turned and clambered over the wall.
Far down the moortrack, the girl ran jerkily, thin legs leaping over puddles, her breath coming short. The train had been late. Hell, she muttered savagely, I have to be in time. She glanced at the track. And stopped.

A small figure had just jumped down from the wall. It began to walk slowly towards her, head down, hands in pockets, over the stones. The girl stared, she cries, she threw back her head and yelled, "CLAIRE!"

The cry ran up the valley. The kestrel on his last sortie heard it and tensed. Rabbits venturing out in the fields heard it and froze. Claire heard it, looked up and saw the tall thin figure down the track.
"Jakey," she said and then she began to run.