1965, the year that changed my life
Tom Bennett’s letter
1. Although I had visited Manchester before with my parents, and although Chris and I had gone there in 1964 on a day out with Christine and Pat, the first visit which had any real significance was in January 1965, for it was then that we came face to face with the power of God. But that visit was not complete in itself: we had admittedly met Pastor Williams, which encounter impressed us not least because he had been “on the telly” and we had now actually seen him in the flesh, and more so because he exercised the same power through faith in Jesus Christ that we had witnessed on the television programme. But up till now we had not actually been in the church Sharon that was featured on that programme and experienced the vitality of a meeting there. That lack was now about to be supplied. That is why I have called the next visit “the second first visit”.
 Christine and Pat were two girls whom Chris met when he worked at the boating lake in Fleetwood during the school summer holidays, 1964. He fancied Christine, so he arranged a blind date with me and her friend Pat, and we all went by train to Manchester. We went to the fun park at Belle View, where Chris (and Christine?) went on Bob’s, the notorious roller-coaster ride. I didn’t summon the courage to go on it; I made no attempt thus to impress my date, whom I found rather plump and unappealing. Christine, in my view, was somewhat plain but in comparison with the other acceptable; she looked fairly neat in a white blouse with vertical blue or black stripes. In the environs of the Belle View park, a middle-aged to elderly man was giving out gospel tracts, and in an attempt to win people for Christ was asking questions like, “Are you going to heaven?” We found this highly amusing and couldn’t stop laughing at him. On the train going home Christine rejected the amorous advances of Chris, and asked him, “Why can’t you just do what he’s doing?”; I was merely contenting myself with leaning my head on Pat’s shoulder. As far as Chris was concerned, this was a fairly expensive fiasco; if I remember rightly, he paid all our fares.Perhaps Monday 1st February 1965
2. This was the visit which started off with us having a bit of a quarrel at Chris’s house; there was some disagreement as to whether we should go by bus or by train: Gooding and I were for going by bus, and Chris had already decided to write to the Williamses and say that we would be arriving on a certain train. He had taken it upon himself to make this arrangement, which we didn’t agree with.
So Chris said, “Oh, rubbish! It’s stupid to go by bus when there’s a good train service. It’s much quicker by train.”
“But it’s more expensive by train; it’s cheaper by bus.”
“Look, it doesn’t matter! I’ve written to the Williamses,” Chris snapped, trying to put the point over that a journey by train was already arranged. What he didn’t say was that he had not actually posted the letter, because it was still there on the table.
“Well, you can re-write,” I said, and Chris said, “No, I won’t re-write!”
4. This flared up into a bit of a quarrel between Chris and me. Chris recalls, in this quarrel, smelling rubber: it was the rubber-backed windjammer [windcheater / windbreaker] that I was wearing.
And I took Chris’s pen off the table — it was a fountain pen — and just held it in my hand, defiantly, so that Chris couldn’t get at it.
Gooding stood by with his back to the door, quite non-committal, just watching the growing tension between Chris and me without making any comment.
Chris felt quite annoyed by my action and our upsetting all his previously-laid plans, and he hit out at me, raining blows on my head and shoulders.
5. When Chris lost his temper and started pummelling me, I became very nonchalant, in a defiant sort of way, and I dropped his pen on the table, and said, “Huh! Lose your temper, then. See if I care!” — which was one of my “key” expressions at the time, along with “It’s no skin off my nose!”
And with that I just got up, and walked out — followed by Peter, who made no comment or gesture beyond a shrug of the shoulders. Gooding didn’t join in or take sides or voice any opinion on the matter.
6. Chris gave us a few minutes; we had not got very far before Chris felt full of remorse. He left the house to run after us, to catch us up. We had only got as far as the last house in Ascot Road before the bungalows.
The “Second First Visit” to Manchester — Day One
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