1965, the year that changed my life
Our second visit to the Full Gospel Church, Fleetwood
1. David Charles Jones, who was in the same year as Peter and I at Fleetwood Grammar School, was the butt of much ridicule, with his conformity to old-fashioned manners and dress, and his attitude of nose-in-the-air superiority to everyone else.Trevor put it, “wreck” him, make fun of him. I was seen as, and probably was in fact, “always the ringleader”, till Charlie Jones, Jones’s Dad, banned me from ever setting foot in Park Road again, with the promise of getting the police on to me if I did — a more considerable threat then than now.
(By this time, the Joneses had moved from the bungalow in busy Victoria Road, Thornton, to another one in the more secluded Park Road.) Of course, every time I walked down Victoria Road and passed the entrance to Park Road, I would veer defiantly in a slight arc into Park Road.
2. In 1964 I more or less stopped having anything to do with Jones, either good or bad. During this time Chris, however, was still friendly with him, although he didn’t see a lot of him; he didn’t go round to his house as often as he used to. But he was never banned from Jones’s house, as I was, and there was never an actual rift between them, as there was in my case.
In summer 1964, when Chris worked at the Boating Lake in Fleetwood, he hardly saw anything of Jones at all. But then, he didn’t see much of anybody during that period; he couldn’t, he was working seven days a week.
And by late 1964 Chris was getting interested in girls (“birds”, as we called them); we all were. Jones didn’t fit in with anything like this as a friend. For one thing, he didn’t seem to have any interest in birds, or if he did have such an interest, he kept it to himself. For another thing, he wasn’t the kind of chap you would go out with looking for a bird. You wouldn’t take him, for example, into Cleveleys to the Happy Land, an amusement arcade frequented by many young people; he wouldn’t be interested in that sort of thing. And taking Jones along would have ruined your own chances of success!
3. When Chris was first converted he visited Jones, more than once. One of the first times was when his Mum (or Mums) came out and said, “Why do you come round for David, Chris, when you go around with those boys?” — “those boys” meaning me and Peter Gooding and Trevor. On this particular visit to Jones’s, he had only got as far as the doorstep when Mrs. Jones appeared and said this. Whether or not Chris got into the house, he can’t remember.
4. On a second or subsequent visit, when he went round to Jones’s, there was no-one else in the house; Jones’s parents were out. Grans may have been there, but not in the room. (She had probably been sent to bed!) It was a Sunday evening.
Jones took Chris into the lounge, and they were talking. Jones sat in an armchair near the fire; in fact, they were seated on each side of the fire. Jones was a little guarded in his attitude to Chris; they hadn’t seen much of each other recently. Chris tried to convince Jones that I was a “good guy” now, and that he and I ought to make up. Jones was very reluctant, and kept referring to me as “Vermin”. Chris tried to discourage him from that, but he wouldn’t back down; he was quite relentless in his accusations against me as “Vermin”.
“But Jones, — David,” Chris may be imagined as saying. “Cooper is all right now. He’s changed!”
“You know, Chris,” let us imagine Jones replying. “It rather amuses me to hear you talk like this, because, you see, I — I know ‘Vermin’. I, ha — I cannot believe what you’re telling me to be true.”
“But it is, David!”
“Ha– ha– ha– ha–! No-o-o-o, no, Chris. I think you grossly misunderstand the situation. I think you’re somewhat deluded, my friend.”
He might have said something like that. That would be the sort of comment that Jones would come out with; he would patronise you after a while.
5. Clearly, in Jones’s eyes, I was regarded as something akin to an arch-enemy; but somehow, at school, I succeeded in “witnessing” to him, telling him what God had done for me, and trying to share my faith with him. I can’t remember how I approached him. I can remember having conversations with him on the school playing field, possibly near the old air-raid shelters — near where three years previously he had looked at my drawing of a space ship and laughed disdainfully, “Ha– ha– ha– ha–!”[more] — and I remember Jones being unconvinced.
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