John Edward Cooper’s Notes

HomeContentsAlphabetical listingWhom I’d like to meet in eternity…

First day of term of Fleetwood Grammar School:
Jones meets Gooding

Early DaysMonday 4th September 1961[1]
 1. It is the first Monday morning of September, in 1961. At about eight-twenty we pass the bus stop at Four Lane Ends, Thornton. About ten children, mostly girls, are waiting there for the maroon Ribble double-decker bus
[1a] which will take them to Fleetwood to start the new term at the Grammar School. Most of the children have made the journey many times before, although it seems strange to them to be here at the bus stop again after six weeks’ school holidays.
 There are two eleven-year-old boys at the bus stop, we notice, for whom this is the first such journey; they are new at the Grammar School today. One stands alone and is otherwise undistinguished by reason of his normality. The other, a tall boy
[2] wearing a dark blue gaberdine mac,[3] with a royal blue school cap[4] pulled firmly down on his head, and carrying a huge, square, brass-cornered, tan vinyl framed document case,[5] is accompanied by a middle-aged woman who is fussing round him.
 The bus arrives and our view is obscured. When it starts up again, there is only the woman, the boy’s mother, standing there, and she looks sad.
[1] The Georgian, Spring 1962, page 3:
  Sept. 4—Beginning of Christmas Term.
The Georgian was the Fleetwood Grammar School magazine, published at that time twice yearly.

[1a] The maroon Ribble double-decker bus: The bus is described as “maroon” to distinguish its livery from the vermilion colour which Ribble introduced in the 1970’s (when this story was first drafted).
[2] A tall boy: Jones was a tall, slim boy, though tradition has assigned him a soft, flabby, grey-pullover-clad belly. He had a distinguished-looking, if not ugly, face, with a fairly prominent nose, pointed but upturned, narrow and bony with a bump just below the bridge (I often imagined what would happen if his nose were dealt a blow from the side: would it just fold over intact onto his face like a felled tree?), and protuberant lips, which lent themselves readily to pouting in disapproval or offended pride, but which could equally part in a playful (or sometimes serious) snarl, or form that lop-sided smile when his face would fold up into a mass of lines and creases round his mouth, eyes and forehead.

[3] A dark blue gaberdine mac—almost obligatory in descriptions of Jones.

[4] A royal blue school cap: There were two authorised suppliers of the blue Fleetwood Grammar School uniforms: Rawcliffes Ltd, “YOUR School Uniform Contractors”, of “Schoolwear Corner”, Church Street, Blackpool, who claimed to be the “Official Suppliers of Fleetwood Grammar School special clothing” (their slogan “To RAWCLIFFES and then to SCHOOL” was obviously aimed more at potential parental purchasers than their poor pupil offspring!); and J.S. Walker & Sons Ltd, school outfitters of Albert Square, Fleetwood, boasting themselves “Outfitters by appointment to Fleetwood Grammar School for girls’ and boys’ clothing”. The latter firm supplied uniforms of a slightly lighter blue than the former; hence, the description “royal blue” for Jones’s cap, for the Joneses supported Walker’s whereas my parents went to Rawcliffes. Compare Note 2 of Early days at Fleetwood Grammar School.

Pages from The Georgian, the Fleetwood Grammar School magazine
[5] A huge, square, brass-cornered, tan vinyl framed document case: In my memory, Jones always carried a large framed briefcase to school with him; but whether he had it with him on his first day there, and indeed whether he actually struck anyone with it on the bus then, are uncertain. I am not sure whether Peter Gooding mentioned it when he related this tale to us. However, my memory of his accidentally striking people with “Albert”, as he named his briefcase, on his way down bus aisles, particularly if the bus was crowded and Jones was in a hurry not, for example, to miss his alighting stop, is very vivid.
 2. Peter Gooding found an empty seat on the bus near the back of the lower saloon. There were a few girls, mostly older than he, still finding places to sit. None of them sat with Gooding; but Gooding was shy, so that suited him. The last person on the bus was that tall boy, who had just been kissed goodbye by his mother. He started to edge down the aisle, but had not come very far before he leaned over the occupant of a forward seat and asked her something. Gooding heard neither the question nor the reply. The boy leaned over to the other side and did the same thing.
 Eventually it became obvious to Gooding that the boy was questioning every Grammar School pupil he passed, asking, “Are you new?— Are you new?”
 He edged nearer, his briefcase trailing behind him. He wasn’t too careful about his positioning of the briefcase, and the brass corners thereof left their mark on a number of knees and shins as he passed. Eventually he arrived at Gooding’s seat.
 “Are you new?” he asked, his eyebrows raised in mild enquiry.
 It happened that Gooding was new; and the boy, without prompting or invitation, eased his tall frame
[6] awkwardly into the vacant seat, displacing Gooding’s knees with the monstrous briefcase. His conversation and manner reduced Gooding to total embarrassment.
 The boy was—David Jones.
[6] His tall frame: Jones, being tall, was rather ungainly and uncoordinated. This is demonstrated in this story by his failure to move on the bus without causing injury, and his awkwardness in finally gaining his seat. One could also mention his rather sad attempts at high jump at school, or even at running: Jones was no sportsman; this is evinced by the fact that wherever the rugby ball happened to be on the school field, Jones was not to be seen anywhere near there. (Regarding this latter point—neither was I!)

Surviving page from an early version of this story
First day of term of Fleetwood Grammar School: Illness prevents me from attending

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]