1965, the year that changed my life
A letter from Pam
***Strong language and sexual content!***
1. “Don’t get up to too much mischief in the holiday,” Pam had advised in one letter, and, “Behave yourselves in the rest of the school holidays,” in another. Her advice, given perhaps tongue in cheek, was about to gain pertinence. For I was about to learn for myself how quickly the spiritual heights of Scarborough could turn into the carnal depths of Kirkby.
2. I was with Peter Gooding at his caravan home [trailer home] one day, and he showed me the letter he had received from Barbara Meredith[more] in Kirkby-in-Ashfield. It said, “You’ll have to come and see us”; and we took this to mean, “Come and see us.” So, having some time left of our long summer holiday from school, we immediately packed our bags and got the bus from the Coliseum coach station, Blackpool.
3. I seem to recall being in Lower Mosley Street bus station, Manchester, and it could have been further down Lower Mosley Street, across a side street from the white-faced buildings of the more familiar part of the bus station. The familiar X60 bus that we caught from Blackpool may even have changed its designation from X60 and taken us on to Nottingham, where we would use the local bus service to take us to Kirkby-in-Ashfield.
4. Anyway, by whatever means, there we were, all unexpected, on their doorstep! And we were a bit of an embarrassment to them; they didn’t know that we would take their letter literally and come without warning, and there was no way that two young men and two young ladies were going to be accommodated under the same roof. During this conversation, Doreen,[more] whom I found more attractive than her older sister Barbara, dashed any hopes I might have for getting off with her. “I’m spoken for,” she told me.
5. Across a road from a coal mine, there was a field, or parcel of waste ground, where Peter and I put up the tent we had brought.
6. Later, we met up with the youngster we had met at Scarborough Camp, Ian W—.[more] How this happened, I can’t remember. Perhaps we spent a night in the tent, then went to church the next day and met him there; perhaps, knowing his address, we called on him. But we spent a number of nights at his house — and very welcome Mr. and Mrs. W— made us, too. I remember his blind granddad, very old and frail, sitting in the corner, not doing or saying much. And I remember at breakfast time being offered cereal. I declined, but Peter said, “Yes.” And with there being no milk on the table, Peter started to spoon the dry cornflakes into his mouth, till Mrs. W— asked, “Don’t you want water on it?” A lucky escape for me there!
7. One evening we went to a Chinese restaurant, the first one I had ever been to, and the first time I had ever eaten “weed pie” (pancake rolls with bean sprouts). I was sick that night at the W—s’; it may have been the “weed pie”, but it could have been exacerbated by my going on the Waltzer on the travelling funfair (or “wakes” as the Kirkby-ites called it) that was visiting Kirkby just then.
8. Another evening Ian, and possibly Robert,[more] Ian’s older friend who was with him at Scarborough and who worked down the local coal mine, took us to meet G— D—. She was, I guess, in her early twenties. She was married, but her husband either travelled in his job or worked shifts; for whatever reason, he was not there. It was at such times that Ian and Robert used to visit her.
So Peter and I went with him or them; and we were all scrambling around her and over her on the settee, each trying to be the next to kiss her. My turn came; I remember the pink lipstick, and her short dark hair. I also remember my discovery that access to within a bra is impossible from below where it is tight round the body, but quite easy from above. So my groping hands must first have gone up inside her dark blue blouse—worn on the outside of trousers, not tucked in—from below, and realising the obstacle, have approached from above. This was the first time I actually felt (but did not see) a woman’s nipple, skin on skin. (Of course, in saying this, I disregard any infant experience I had, which I have completely forgotten anyway.) I seem to remember unclasping her bra at the back, too. But my activities were curtailed by Ian. I remember that as quickly as I was undoing the buttons at the back at her blouse, Ian was doing them up again. Either a sense of the impropriety of the situation had seized him, or he was just jealous that I was going too far with the one he considered to be his girl. Anyway, despite more than one attempt, I couldn’t get her blouse unbuttoned or her bra unfastened without him, without a word, doing them up again.
9. I am uncertain about what happened next. Certain memories come to mind:
10. There are a few more isolated memories which I have.
I remember being in a street of terraced houses — it could have been Robert’s neighbourhood — and there were a number of people in groups, dotted around, doing various things; and outside a front door, on the left side from my viewpoint, was a very ill-tempered young boy with Down’s syndrome, trying in an uncoordinated way to kick a black dog.
I remember being surprised by this, because I had believed up to that point that people with Down’s syndrome — or mongols, as we called them — were happy, good-natured individuals.
I guess that the boy and the small group of youngsters who had perhaps teased him enough to get him into such a state, must have been known, or related, to Robert (if indeed it was Robert whom we were with).
11. One day, Peter and I had a bus trip to the nearby Sutton-in-Ashfield, where we hired a rowing boat on the boating lake that was there. There was an aggressive young lass in a nearby boat who, taking a dislike to us, proceeded to become violent and lash out with one of the oars of her boat. I remember feeling distinctly endangered as it crashed onto the side of our boat. I can’t remember what we’d done to annoy her: perhaps nothing, or perhaps we had been investigating whether the boat contained any suitable “birds” to merit our closer attention.
12. Another day, we were walking up a hill, and Peter decided that he wanted a pee. (Was it a natural hill, or was it perhaps a hillock of mining waste that had been landscaped?) I said to him, “Don’t you dare pee on me!”, whereupon Peter immediately flashed his urinary stream onto my leg.
“YOU BLOODY FUCKING CUNT!” I bellowed at him, with words I had supposed cleansed from me forever by the grace of God and impossible for me ever to utter again. “You bloody fucking cunt!”
13. When we departed from the W—s’ house to go home, Peter and I left presents — a box of chocolates and a Thermos flask — together with a note, thanking them for having us stay with them, and apologising for the inconvenience we had caused them. We probably had in mind my vomiting one night, and our appearing with a police escort another night.
Chris wrote on 19 March 2009 10:25, about the Kirkby-in-Ashfield story:
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