John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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My friendship with David Jones

Early Days
Perhaps Spring Term 1962
 1. At Fleetwood Grammar School, and elsewhere, David Jones was the butt of much ridicule from his peers, with his conformity to old-fashioned manners and dress, and his attitude of nose-in-the-air superiority to everyone else. But I became friendly with him briefly, before I, like the rest, started to make fun of him.

 2. Perhaps during Spring Term, 1962, at school, Jones and I were walking, one lunch-time, by the small wood which lay at the edge of the playing field. Being by inclination a solitary character, I had invented my own fantasy world with space ships and the like. And, as it became evident in our conversation, so had Jones. As we were strolling by the wood we were trying to outdo one another in our claims for our space ships. Jones boasted something along these lines:
 “My space ships are so manoeuvrable that they can turn within their own length.”
 I attempted to meet what I saw as his challenge: “My space ships are so good that—” (I can’t remember what).
 But Jones bettered me, until (he claimed): “My space ships have such good navigational equipment that they can land on a pin—and balance!”
 Jones had an authoritative air and what I took to be a sophisticated command of words, so he tended to win on such occasions; and I could then only hope to gain a few concessions for myself by pleading with him.
 In this way (“But Jonesy—!”) I got him to agree that he would at least see a drawing of one of my space ships.

 3. The next lunch-time, again by the trees, I produced a piece of paper on which I had drawn a super-duper version of one of my rockets. It was one of my usual bullet-shaped ships with tail-fins; but this one I had embellished, in every possible way, with cannon and other armaments, protruding in every conceivable direction and from every possible position on the vessel: it just bristled with fire-power.
 Eager for Jones’s approbation, I handed him the paper, and Jones held it up to inspect it. But he had only glanced at it for the merest fraction of a second, when he let the hand holding the paper drop to his side; and slowly shaking his head in disdain, he affected a haughty laugh:
 “Ha!— Ha!— Ha!—”
 My feelings were wounded by Jones’s reaction; I was crushed.
 Jones then offered his explanation of his reaction: my space ship was obviously too clumsy to be of any use whatsoever in controlled formation fighting, and carried far too many armaments to be of any controllable use.

The kind of space ships that Jones found so risible

The source of inspiration for my space ship
 4. I recovered from this set-back, however, and Jones and I decided to pool forces. But Jones’s fantasies and ideas tended to dominate our play; so once again I found myself pleading with him: “But Jonesy—!” And Jones conceded to me, that while my organisation might have the edge over his in its expertise in the long-range exploration and colonisation of planets, his forces were vastly superior to mine in matters of defence technology and strategy. But, it turned out, in our fantasy-games, or “The Game” as we came to call it, that it was all war and fighting with Jones’s forces, and the activities of my organisation didn’t enter into it.

“The Game”
 5. In The Game, the “baddies” from my fantasy, the “Jake Lads”,[1] became the adversaries of our newly merged forces. Jones’s force was called the “Animals House Air Force” (abbreviated to “AHAF”), and was run on military lines. Jones was its commander in chief—if he told me what his title or rank was, I have forgotten—and under Jones was his teddy bear, Brumas Bear-Jones. There was also another teddy bear in the organisation, Colonel Curly Bear-Jones. The teddy bears were the reason for the word “animals” in Animals House Air Force; but Jones did add, “Why ‘House’, I don’t know.”
 My organisation was called “RC”: “Rocket Corporation,” I told Jones, because I didn’t want the bother of explaining the real name, “Rainmac-Crocodiles”
[1]. Rainmac,[1] my teddy bear, wasn’t the problem, for Jones had teddy bears in the AHAF; it was the Crocodiles[1] that I felt embarrassed about. In RC, Rainmac was the “Supreme Commander” (I pinched that title from a story in The Giant Book of Amazing Stories, called “Mutiny in Space”). Despite the military-sounding title “commander”, I perceived RC as a civilian organisation which didn’t have uniforms.
 I started to call the newly merged force “RC-AHAF”, but Jones called it “AHAF-RC”—in alphabetical order of its components, he argued.
[1] The Jake Lads, Rainmac and Rainmac Crocodiles are introduced in Class 4: Rainmac and the Jake Lads. The Crocodiles themselves are introduced in Class 5: Crocodiles.
Rainmac — 2011 photo
 6. Most of the action took place in “Davelyshome” (Jones’s bedroom, upstairs at 53 Victoria Road, Thornton), our control room or headquarters. (The name “Davelyshome” was a contraction of “David and Curly’s home”; so although Brumas was second in command, it was Colonel C. Bear-Jones who was evidently Jones’s favourite.)

 7. Jones’s typewriter was the “teleprinter” on which we received constant updates on the progress of the conflict with the Jake Lads. The fact that it was Jones who was typing the messages didn’t bother me overmuch. I tolerated the fact also that Jones took the lead in The Game and decided how most of the events would develop.
 I was unhappy, though, about the way he manipulated The Game to the extent that Rainmac lost his command and I was promoted to his position. We were outside the front door in Jones’s drive, when suddenly Jones exclaimed, “Wha-at the—!”, and turned his head in a long sweep. My “But Jonesy!” protest went unheeded: Rainmac had got drunk on Bear’s Best Bitter and had taken one of AHAF’s fighters out for a joyride; and, as I said, Rainmac was relieved of command.

 8. I was quite content in “The Game” to let the war proceed outside while Jones and I were in “Davelyshome”; that way, the “real life” feeling was preserved, and I didn’t actually have to “pretend” anything, apart from ignoring the fact that it was Jones typing the “teleprinter” messages. As far as I knew, it could all really be happening out there. It was when I was forced to imagine seeing things which I knew were not there, like the AHAF fighter careering by Jones’s house with a drunken Rainmac in the cockpit, that I started having difficulty. This was particularly so when we were in his back garden, the Jake Lads were coming over the back fence, we were out of ammunition, and were fighting them off with swords (that is, waving our arms in the air). Jones seemed to be quite happy with this; I was not.

 9. I am sometimes tempted to think that the AHAF was what its name suggests, purely an “air” force, until I came along, when Jones hurriedly upgraded it to have a space-flight capacity. Certainly his crudely scrawled designs—Jones, as we already know, was no typist, and similarly was no draughtsman either!—which he showed me shortly after I had shown him my drawing of a space ship, gave every impression of being aircraft. However, Jones did talk about “space tornadoes”, which posed a threat to all space travellers as no craft could withstand them.

 10. It may have been attempted one-upmanship on my part that I started to equip RC with hulls made of “Fabulisium”, an extremely light but immensely strong metal. Ships made of fabulisium could pass through space tornadoes. Fabulisium, I imagined, though probably did not state it, is even found in its solid state in the cores of stars! In the second year at Fleetwood Grammar School (September 1962 onwards) I started doing chemistry, but I was probably already aware that there are in existence over 100 elements. A book I had before this, a popularisation of modern science and technology called Wonderama, says: “The atoms are of different kinds; altogether 102 kinds have been tracked down so far, although only 92 of these occur naturally, that is, outside a laboratory.”
[2] So the problem was: where to fit in Fabulisium. All the available spaces were filled by already-existing elements, so I had to go upwards to an atomic number of over 102. The problem then was, that all such elements have unstable nuclei, so I said that they were held together by—“Oh, what can I think of?”—mesons. That still left unsolved the high density that such an element would have; and, as I have said, Fabulisium was extremely light. I evidently didn’t have a table of the elements by me when I devised the chemical symbol for Fabulisium; to avoid assigning it an already existing one- or two-character symbol, I used three characters: “Fab”. I think the atomic number was, in fact, 103. (Unfortunately, I have been overtaken by the progress of science: 103 is Lawrencium, 104 Rutherfordium or Kurchatovium, and 105 Hahnium.)
[2] Angela Croome [Eamonn Andrews (ed.)], Wonderama: a Book of Modern Marvels (London: Adprint Limited, 1957), page 14.
 10A. I also introduced a type of plastic: “Durymide”. I proposed it to Jones as “Durythalidomide”, but he suggested that the name might not be appropriate. (“Among the grimmest of all the year’s grim stories was that of the deformed babies born to mothers who had taken the drug thalidomide.”)
[3] “News Stories”, Britannica Book of the Year, 1963 (Events of 1962) (London: Encyclopædia Britannica, Ltd., 1963), page 351.
 11. Jones revealed to me that he was not from the planet Earth at all; he came from a planet called Sinjury.
[4] He told me of his lost love Asa (a feminine-enough sounding name if you are not familiar with the Judean king of Bible history!); whether she was dead or just couldn’t be found, I don’t remember. Sinjurians had the faculty of delivering a powerful and fatal bolt of electrical energy, and for the protection of earthlings Jones’s body was enclosed in a thin layer of insulating plastic. The covering over the hands was removable, as he demonstrated to me once as we walked along Hawthorne Road, Thornton, peeling the glove off and pointing the long, white fingers at the imaginary adversary with appropriate sound-effects. Why he didn’t use this power when the Jake Lads came swarming over the fence, I haven’t a clue. Perhaps Jones was just “into” sword-fighting. Jones offered me what seemed to him to be the privilege of undergoing some procedure to become Sinjurian, but I declined; I didn’t fancy spending the rest of my life cooped up in a plastic bag! (It was more than a “game” to me, you see.)
[4] Sinjury—rhymes with “injury”; I’m not sure if I have the spelling right.

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