John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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The Leeches

Early Days

Spring to summer 1961
 1. Chris Woodhead’s initial friendship with Leech was at a time when he was new to the area and Leech was an “old hand”, so Leech acted somewhat in the role of guide to Chris.

 2. He used to come round to Chris’s house, but of course Chris never, ever, got into his house; the nearest Chris ever got was the back door. A forbidding sight was Leech’s back doorway: it was in a small, flat-roofed extension to the back of the house; one stepped to the left off the drive into a recess in the wall, and the back door was ninety degrees, left again, in this recess. The door would open, and Leech would be allowed to slip out or slip in; but no-one else ever saw the other side of it. Chris got on to the step in the recess—if nothing else but to knock on the door—but never into the house.

By the time this 1979 photo was taken, a door had been fitted, flush with the wall of the extension, in front of the recess.
 3. Chris must have learned fairly early on what a funny set-up it was at Leech’s house. He would, for example, witness the “ceremony” Leech had to perform to gain admittance there, of taking his shoes off,[1] making sure that they were clean, and knocking on the back door before it would be unlocked and Leech allowed in—but nobody else: one never got into Leech’s house.
[1] Taking his shoes off: The interior of the house must have been absolutely immaculate. When they put that house at 129 Victoria Road up for sale, Mrs. Leech had people to come and look at the house, and she would only let them in if they took their shoes off. One couple came who refused to take their shoes off; they just turned round, saying, “Right, we don’t want to bother, thank you!” They were so indignant that they walked off.
 4. Then, he would notice how terrified Leech was of getting his shoes dirty, or indeed any part of himself dirty. Once, Leech even wept because he had got something on his shoes or had scuffed them, and he was frantically trying to get them clean; he was looking for any material he could find to clean his shoes. He was in tears; he was really worried about it and daren’t go home.

 5. One never got into Leech’s house. Chris nevertheless found that Leech’s parents seemed friendly enough; they didn’t exclude their son’s friends from the house out of any feelings of malice. And they were even known to come out and speak.
 Once, Chris had accompanied Timmy back to his house, and Timmy’s Dad, George Leech,
[2] was in the kitchen. And when Timmy had “gone through the ritual” of taking his shoes off and knocking at the door, Mrs. Leech came out there, smiling and quite chatty; and then Mr. Leech came to the door, smiling but not saying anything much, as Mrs. Leech introduced Chris to him: “This is Timmy’s new friend.” He was bald, Chris seems to remember; he only saw him that once.
[2] George Leech: According to a variant of this tale, it was when Chris called round for Timmy that he saw George Leech. Mr. Leech was in the kitchen and answered the door. He smiled and was friendly enough in his appearance, as he realised the purpose of Chris’s visit and said, “You’re Timmy’s friend.” Mrs. Leech also came into view there, and then Timmy appeared.

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