See also Trevor Davies.
This story contains some very bawdy and obscene quotes.
1. Early in 1960, when I was nearly ten years old, I was waiting for the bus home from school one evening, at the Gardener’s Arms bus shelter. Normally I waited there alone, but today I was approached by a tall boy with fair hair who engaged me in conversation.
2. I can imagine myself being rather reluctant to participate in the conversation, feeling very shy and self-conscious. I used to enjoy solitude; I would go into a world of my own and fantasise about various things: so I may initially have regarded the boy’s appearance as an intrusion.
“I think you’ve found yourself a playmate”
3. I forget exactly how the conversation got under way. Hellos would be given by the boy and returned by me, and the boy would explain his unaccustomed presence at the bus stop: he had just come to live in one of the new bungalows in Laurel Drive, which, he would ascertain, was near where I lived. I do know that he concluded this first exchange of words with, “I think you’ve found yourself a playmate.” The wording here is memorable: it was he who found me, yet he said that it was I who had found myself a playmate.
4. I didn’t recognise the boy, but he recognised me and knew that I was in Class 2 at school; he was in Class 1. (He was quite an “aware” person; he knew me by sight, because he was a bit of a “softie” at school, and he knew that I was also a bit of a “softie”, rating me even softer than himself.)
5. When we got off the bus, we presumably went straight off to our respective homes for tea, parting company at the top of Neville Drive with an arrangement to meet again, possibly the same evening. I didn’t know the boy’s name! He had not volunteered his name, and as time passed it became progressively more difficult to ask him. The problem came to a head when on about the third evening I asked him when he was coming round, and he pointed out that it was always he who called for me, and suggested that I call for him that evening. We were again standing at the top of Neville Drive, I think. There was a long pause as I imagined calling at his house, the door being answered by one of his parents and me not knowing whom to ask for. So eventually I blurted out, “What’s your name?” He was flabbergasted, amazed that I had been seeing him for all this time without even knowing his name, but he told me it was Trevor Davies.
6. I went round to his bungalow after tea, to “10 Laurel Drive”, as directed; and walked up to the front door.
In spite of the fact that I now knew the boy’s name I was still nervous as I rapped on the door with the small chrome knocker, Rat TAT-TAT Tat; but I felt all right when it was Trevor and not a parent who came to the door. In I went, through a small porch into a hall still smelling of new paint. In due time this would be replaced by the not unpleasant but distinctive “Davies smell”. The walls were bare, not wallpapered, I noticed; Trevor pointed out that this was because the house was new, and they couldn’t wallpaper yet till the plaster was completely dried out.
6A. The hall was rather dark, the only illumination coming from the glass round the front door. From the hall there led off several doors to the various rooms. Looking round anti-clockwise there were: Mum and Dad’s bedroom on the immediate right, a “forbidden area”; the separate bathroom and toilet; Trevor’s room in the far right-hand corner; his younger brother Grant’s room, the kitchen in the far left-hand corner; and the living room on the immediate left.
The living room was furnished in a modern style with a deep-pile carpet, and the sort of seating that has units which can be pushed together in a corner, the sort that you fall through if you sit on the crack between two units.
Against the wall in Grant’s room leaned a large sheet of hardboard with an OO-scale model railway layout attached to it. It was a Tri-ang, I noticed with satisfaction, like our Steve’s and mine, not a Hornby-Dublo whose accessories were made, not of moulded plastic as Tri-ang’s were, but of printed tinplate.
Dating the meeting with Trevor
6B. I remember Trevor singing the words “Poor me” from a popular song, in occasional bursts, when I was round at his house once in those first days. This is a pointer to the general dating of when I first got to know Trevor: “Poor Me” was a hit for Adam Faith early in 1960; it entered the charts on 22nd January 1960 and remained there for 17 weeks. It reached Number One on 10th March 1960.
Tuesday 31st May 1960
6C. Another pointer is Trevor’s signing an autograph book of mine.[more] My Grandma and Grandad Paine brought me back a book as a present from their trip to Germany; it has the word “Poesie” on the front , but I used it for autographs. And one of the entries in it is:
6D. Thus it was that Trevor and I became friends. We saw each other regularly throughout that school year and especially during the long summer holidays.
6E. Trevor was a sportsman, which I wasn’t. I remember once going to see him play football for the school, on the field behind the canteen. It was a cold day, and I stood shivering on the edge of the pitch as he ran, yellow-shirted, with lanky strides round the field. He also liked board games, so I was subjected on occasion to Cluedo and Monopoly. He may also have attempted to teach me one of the card games that he played.
Spring to summer 1960
7. In the early days of our friendship, Trevor and I decided to form a “gang”. Its membership was restricted to two, chiefly because we did not know anyone else of our age to recruit! Trevor was new to this part of Thornton, and I had been a bit of a loner before Trevor “enfriended” me. At Trevor’s suggestion we called the “gang” The Last Apple Gang; this was the name of a gang in a book he had read.
 A book he had read: There was a series of seven books for young people written by E. W. Hildick, in which the central character was Jim Starling, e.g. Jim Starling (1958) and Jim Starling and the Agency (1958). Each book in the series detailed an episode in the lives of four close friends, Jim, Terry, Nip and Goggles, who called themselves “The Last Apple Gang”.8. At the bottom of the long back garden at our house there was a small area with a few apple and pear trees, which had a clear space in the far right-hand corner, hidden from view by the fruit trees. This, Trevor and I decided, would be an ideal spot to build a gang den. Having obtained the permission of my Dad, and having subjected ourselves to his condition that use of the finished den would not exclude our Steve and his friends, we began our attempts to construct a little hut. Our efforts did not meet with much success; the framework of the hut kept refusing to stay up, our patience was becoming exhausted, and our tempers were beginning to get frayed as the one felt he knew better than the other. But my Dad came to the rescue and had the hut erected in next to no time. At one point he ran out of planking for the walls, so he started selecting pieces of the garden fence which were loose. And when that wasn’t enough, he started ripping off pieces of fence that were still intact, much to our amusement and delight. Then my Dad espied the old front door from Grandma’s house, which had been deposited in our garden, and decided that the glazed portion of the door would make a nice window for the hut. So he sawed the door across into two and placed the part with the round window at the back of the hut. That left only the roof; and that problem was easily solved, because there was a piece of “Asbestolux” board left over from when we had the fireplaces ripped out in the house and gas fires put in.
9. The sun was low in the west and a cool evening breeze was beginning to blow when my Dad finally placed the “Asbestolux” board on to the hut, and Trevor and I finished going inside to try the den out for size. It was time for Trevor to go back to 10 Laurel Drive, and time for The Last Apple Gang to make arrangements for their next meeting, before adjourning. Now Trevor was inclined to be a bit bossy in those early days. And noticing the debris and dirt lying around from the evening’s construction work, he left me with instructions on the cleaning and tidying of the hut, which I could do so that it would be presentable for the next meeting. I felt a bit put out by this, but I dutifully started to obey, picking up a piece of sawn-off fence here and a pruned-off twig there. But I quickly got fed up and went indoors, quite upset. It was my Mum who first revealed to me that I didn’t have to do what Trevor said.
“Who does he think he is, giving his orders?” she said. “You’ll both have to do it next time he comes round.”
Nevertheless, I was a little apprehensive when Trevor visited a day or so later.
“Have you cleared out the hut?”
“No,” I answered lamely.
“I didn’t feel like it.”
10. So, The Last Apple Gang now had their very own den—their very own, that is, as long as Steve and friends weren’t in occupation—in which to do whatever gangs do: deliberate upon gang secrets and lay plans.
10A. I remember once being in the Gang Hut, and I espied what I took to be the new green shoot of a bramble growing up just below the window at the back. So I grasped it, intending to pull it up. But my hand recoiled in sudden pain as I realised that what I had got hold of, was in fact a young and virulent nettle.
The Scab Gang
11. Our Steve, along with his close friend Alan “Barn Owl” Barnes from Lancaster Avenue, had also formed a gang with the sinister name of The Scab Gang. I was a little envious of this rival gang—on reflection, we weren’t really rivals, because the members of the Scab Gang were a year or two older than those of The Last Apple Gang so we didn’t come into contact much—as I say, I was envious, because the Scab Gang was a much larger body of people, and they had a vastly superior meeting place: the shed in Barn Owl’s back garden. By comparison, the name “Last Apple Gang” seemed somewhat anaemic, so I proposed a change of name to The Red Scar Gang. Actually, owing to parental pressure, the name “Scab Gang” had to be changed later on; it was considered distasteful in some quarters. I forget its new name.
12. I recall that Timothy Leech joined us for play from time to time, which indicates that he had not yet been banned from our house (unless, of course, he was between bans at this time!). Timmy sometimes associated with our Steve while I played with Trevor; but I recall once, that Timmy and I particularly wanted to do something that didn’t interest either Trevor or Steve (I can’t remember what it was, unless it was discussion on astronomy, which I had a passion for at that time)—so we “changed partners” and Trevor played with Steve that afternoon.
13. Once, Leech was in the back garden, and our Steve and one of his friends, possibly Barn Owl, were also there. For some reason Barn Owl, or whoever it was, had annoyed Leech, so Leech had challenged him to a fight. But the other said he wouldn’t fight anyone who wore glasses, which infuriated Leech even further.
“All right, then,” said Leech, looking all arms and legs as he stomped around in his rage. “I’ll take my glasses off!”
“I’m not fighting you,” insisted Steve’s friend.
But Leech was not to be deterred, and his gangling arm reached up and ripped off his spectacles. Thus I got my first-ever sight of Leech without his glasses on. His now unfamiliar naked-looking face remained normal for about a second, then suddenly one eye darted inwards. This gave me quite a shock, particularly since I had a “thing” about eyes.[more]
Leech hurriedly rubbed his eyes with the backs of his clenched hands, and this restored them to their former positions; and they remained thus for about half a second, till boing! the same eye shot back inwards again.
This involuntary ocular acrobatic act of Leech’s ruled out any possibility of a fight taking place, and Leech was thus denied any satisfaction of his grievance.
13A. One afternoon, Trevor, Timmy and I decided to lay a booby trap in the gang hut for Steve and the Scab Gang. A plywood flap was fixed up on the left wall, soil was packed behind it and the flap secured by a string which passed through a crack in the wall in such a way that it could be released from the outside. Then we waited—and waited.
Eventually, it started to appear that the elaborate trap had been set in vain, and that Steve and co. weren’t going to turn up this afternoon.
But during that wait, I happened to be in the hut, when I heard a noise to the side of me and I suddenly got a lap full of soil and dust, while Leech’s “Heeeeeee! Heeeeeee! Heeeeeee!” sounded off in the distance. Evidently, Timmy and Trevor had become bored with the inactivity and lack of continuing excitement that followed upon the first exciting flurry of activity; and they had decided upon me as a substitute victim.
Tri-ang versus Hornby-Dublo
13B. As mentioned earlier, both Trevor and I had Tri-ang train sets; whereas Alan Barnes had one of the dreaded Hornby-Dublos. And this started a bit of a quarrel between the Tri-ang party and the Hornby-Dublo faction. Tri-ang was held to be much more realistic and have much more detail on its rolling stock. But Barn Owl, who was rather proud of his train set, boasted that Hornby-Dublo’s stuff was much better constructed and had, for example, much better-made and smoother-running motors than Tri-ang’s. Trevor remained unimpressed, and said that Tri-ang was much better than “those tinny Hornby things”.
14. Our back garden was particularly suitable for games of war; excellent cover was provided by the apple and pear trees, and the long grass just in front of the trees. I remember Trevor running towards me, gripping an imaginary machine gun, imitating the sound of several rounds being fired:
“Kh-kh-kh-kh-kh-kh-kh-kh-kh-kh!”and sucking up the generated spit at the end of each burst:
15. I was round at Trevor’s once, and his brother Grant, younger by some years than Trevor, was there. Grant at this time was rather weakly and asthmatic, and was therefore accorded special consideration by his parents, sometimes to Trevor’s annoyance. This day, Trevor and I had decided to have a game of cricket on the back lawn, and of course Grant wanted to join in. He was grudgingly accepted by Trevor, under his Mum’s persuasive gaze from the kitchen. Grant was “in” to bat, and Trevor bowled him out with his first ball.
“You’re out!” he crowed triumphantly.
“Ah, no!” whined Grant.
“You’re out!” Trevor insisted. “I bowled you out!”
But Grant didn’t budge. He merely thrust out his lower lip, as tears began to come to his eyes. Trevor also stood his ground, continuing to assert that he had bowled Grant out.
“No!” Grant flung down the bat and ran howling to his Mum in the kitchen.
After a few seconds, Mum came out and said, “Oh, Trevor, let Grant have another go.” Trevor wasn’t too pleased about this reversal, but after due protestation he had no choice but to let Grant bat again.
With an angry “Hm!” he picked up the ball and promptly bowled Grant out again.
Grant’s performance was repeated. The lip. The screwed-up, reddened face. Trevor’s indignant appeals to the rules. Grant’s angry refusal to listen to reason or be reasonable. The tears. The whining. The appeal to Mum.
By Grant’s third innings it was clear that he was going to keep being bowled out—Trevor wasn’t going to bowl him any easy shots, and Grant wasn’t going to hit any of them. Whether Grant stormed off in a fit of pique, or whether Trevor did, or what happened in the end, I can’t remember.
16. Grant didn’t always get his own way with his Mum, though. I can’t remember what it was that Grant wanted, and was refused, on one occasion, because only his reaction is memorable; he said to his Mum, “You mean old sod!” Grant was not averse to using such terms of disrespect to his Mum, and words like “sod” and “cow” were known to come to his lips. This command of foul or low talk was all the more remarkable since Grant didn’t seem to have a very mature grasp of ordinary speech, as witness his reference once to “dusbing” men (i.e. dustbin men). But perhaps I am doing the lad an injustice; when I first met Trevor, he would only be about three years old, whereas the expression “mean old sod” possibly comes from a considerably later date.
Summer 1960—Trip to the Trough of Bowland
17. Once, the Davieses were going for a car trip to the Trough of Bowland, and Trevor invited me along, both for friendship and also because he wanted assistance to draw a map of the journey as we went along. It seemed strange, both being out with adults that I barely knew, and also travelling in a car, since my Dad owned a motor bike and sidecar. We had a picnic on the springy turf and had games on the grass (although, truth to tell, I didn’t like sports and would only indulge in them if forced by social pressure, like having to, as at school, or not wishing to appear impolite or “a misery”, as here).
Summer 1960—The “hike”
17A. Then, one summer’s day, Trevor and I went for a “hike”, to Poulton-le-Fylde and beyond. We took a packed lunch, and set off from my house, probably going by way of Links Gate; and passing through Poulton, we found a footpath heading south through some fields. Presently we came upon a wood just off the path, surrounded by a low fence, and surmounting the fence we walked for a while in the cool shade of the tall trees. The rather eerie silence there, was broken only by the song of birds above us in the trees. As we emerged from the woods on the other side, the ground fell away gently towards a nearby railway cutting, which we walked along for a while. We were hungry, so we had our sandwiches before finding our way back to a road, and then we had quite a way to walk before we got home.
18. At the end of the school summer holidays Trevor started at Kirkham Grammar School. He was only “borderline” in his “eleven-plus” performance, so no place was available for him at the local grammar schools, and he had to travel to Kirkham Grammar, which, incidentally, was unusual in that its pupils had to attend school on Saturday mornings as well as the usual Monday to Friday. And his Mum said to him, “Now if you’re going to stay at this school you’re going to have to work very hard.” She put this pressure on Trevor because she knew that academically he wasn’t a great achiever and she was worried for him. So it was that towards the end of the summer holidays Trevor told me that he wasn’t going to be able to see me very much, starting the next term. And so our exclusive and very regular friendship underwent a cooling off period when we met little.
Hide-and-seek and “Jack, Jack, shine your light”
19A. Then the nights began to draw in, for games of hide-and-seek. Our garden had lots of nooks and crannies, holes, recesses, low roofs and other scaleable structures, trees to climb, bushes to hide behind, and dark corners to conceal oneself in—all of which ideally lent themselves as hiding places in games of hide-and-seek. One of us would be “on”, and had to stand with eyes closed facing the back wall of the house, counting to a hundred or two hundred, while the others went off and hid themselves. Then the one who was “on” had to walk around trying to find the hidden people. When he did, he had to run back to the back wall of the house, and touching it, shout something which sounded like “Releasio-one-two-three!” before the other person could. Presumably, that person was then “on” next time. I never did quite catch what the precise form of words was, but by suitably slurring the words I could hide that fact. If the person who was “on” inadvertently walked past someone who was hidden, that one could then emerge and go to the counting place and shout, “Releasio-one-two-three!” If everyone succeeded in getting back before the person who was “on” did, then he had to be “on” again. I remember that Trevor and I participated in these games, along with our Steve and perhaps Barn Owl.
 Releasio—pronounced /rɪˈliːsɪəʊ/.19B. It was perhaps my Mum who told us about a game she and her friends used to play when she was a girl, called “Jack, Jack, shine your light”. And we decided once that we would try playing that. It was like hide-and-seek on a grand scale. Instead of one person being “on” and the others hiding individually, we were divided into pairs. One pair went off outside the confines of the house and garden, and the other had to set out and look for them. They probably had to count to a thousand in this case. The “hiders” were equipped with a torch [flashlight], and the “seekers” were entitled, if they wanted a clue in which direction to head, to shout, “Jack, Jack, shine your light!” The others then had to shine their torch around to enable their location to be ascertained. I cannot remember any more of the details of the game. It would have been more suited to the fields at the back of the house than to the streets of Thornton. But I remember that I teamed up with Barn Owl, and all we did was go off to his house in Lancaster Avenue and stay there for a while. When we finally turned up back at our house, Trevor and Steve were indignant and accused us of cheating when they found out where we had been.
Barn Owl shoots Steve in the bum
19C. I am not sure when the following incident took place, but the weather was cool enough for our Steve to be wearing a navy-blue gaberdine mac. On this occasion, Trevor and I, and Steve and Barn Owl, were again in our back garden. We had some air rifles at our house, .177-calibre, and this day we were using them, perhaps to shoot tin cans and the like. But we began to get a little bit too high-spirited. One of the things we proceeded to do, was shoot out the glass in the window at the back of the gang hut. I remember feeling rather afraid of what my Dad would say, but I didn’t take myself off from the company to escape guilt, as round after round was being shot, and the tinkling of glass was being heard. After doing that, we were on the lawn just in front of the apple and pear trees which concealed the hut, and Alan Barnes shot our Steve in the bum. He started to leap up in the air, clutching his backside, crying out, “Ooh! Ooh! Ow! Ow! Ooyah! Eek! Eek!” (In fact, “Eek!” was an oft-used interjection of our Steve’s, which gained him the nickname Eeker. He was also called Big Balls for some reason.) I remember turning on Barn Owl and shouting at him; I was quite upset that he had done such a thing. In fact, the raincoat Steve was wearing probably saved him from any injury other than a small bruise; the pellet didn’t pierce the material of the gaberdine mac.
And there was hell to pay when my Mum and Dad got back home. Rightly or in error, I seem to remember my Dad’s wrath being directed at our vandalism in the hut, and my Mum’s at the stupid thing Alan Barnes had done.
Dirty ditties and bawdy songs
19D. There was parental wrath, or at least my Mum’s wrath, at another time. Trevor recalls that he and I were out in my back garden and my Mum was doing something out there—hanging out washing on the clothes line, or something—when I sang rather loudly:
Lady of Spain, I adore you;And my Mum was rather indignant about that.
19E. In the early days of our friendship, Trevor Davies and I traded rude rhymes with each other near the bottom of our long back garden. It was around this time that I first heard the bawdy song Three German officers crossed the Rhine:
Three German officers crossed the RhineBut I think the source of this was the Scab Gang, indeed perhaps Alan Barnes.
19F. This is the song, though, that I sang to Trevor:
There was a woman of GlamorganDespite being given a little booklet The Facts of Life a year or two back by my Mum, I hadn’t a clue what “it” was that I’d supposedly seen, and had no idea what being “between it” meant.
19G. In return, Trevor recited this little ditty, spoken not sung. I can’t remember much of it, so I shall represent short syllables with “di” and long ones with “dah”.
Down with Mr. MurphyAnd so it went on. Strangely, it wasn’t clear to us exactly what “shag” meant, nor what “it” was that was so difficult to insert and remove from the “hole”.
Perhaps Autumn Term 1961
20. After these things, Trevor disappeared completely, as far as I was concerned. Although he had started to do better at school—he came top of the stream in the first year and so was promoted from the “B” stream into the “A” stream—and the parental pressure was off him somewhat, he was still not as free to go out as before; and also he started seeing his old friend Tom Cookson for a bit. Tom had always been Trevor’s best pal from when Trevor had lived in Taywood Road before he moved to Laurel Drive, but Trevor’s Mum didn’t like him playing with Tom and encouraged him to get other friends (like me). So Trevor had a few friends, but then went back to Tom. And then she encouraged him to become friendly with another boy called Dave Cook, with whom he used to go on holiday, hiking and so forth.
21. Trevor wasn’t to reappear on my scene until 1963,[more] by which time I had met and become friends with a number of other people: David Jones, whom in fact I was in the process of becoming an ex-friend to, by the time Trevor appeared; the Webster twins; David Rotheram, though I am not sure if Trevor actually met him; and chief among them, in that the friendship endured, Chris Woodhead and Peter Gooding.
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