John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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New friendships

Early Days

My friendships up to that time
 1. Now that the summer holidays in 1961 were over, I had lost touch with Trevor.[more] Whatever the dating of my brief friendship with Alan Holt[more] might be, he was no longer in the picture. As for Leech, I don’t recall any further contact with him after the summer holidays and the “ghostiologists” game;[more] Leech had gone to Baines’ Grammar School and presumably the changed circumstances resulted in changed friendships. Or, perhaps he had been banned again from our house; that was always a possibility with Leech. I can’t remember if initially in the first year I associated at school with anyone in particular, though later I got friendly with David Rotheram from my class.

The Webster twins—November 1961 or before
 2. Outside school, I got friendly with (or had got friendly with) the Webster twins, Billy and John Webster. They lived in Neville Drive, at the nearer end of the straight bit that my Grandma’s house was in. “Billy” was not, I was surprised to learn, short for “William”; his actual name was Billy. He was shorter than his brother John and had a chubby, cheeky face. He was the extrovert of the two; he laughed readily, and always seemed to be the leader in any mischief the two got up to. John — who, as I said, was taller than Billy — had a serious face which reflected his quiet nature. He looked older than Billy, but I learned he was the younger by about twenty minutes.
 I know that I knew them fairly early on in my first year at Fleetwood Grammar School because I remember them being around when The Springfields’ song Bambino was first popular; the “single” of this title hit the pop-music charts on 16 November 1961. I also have a vague association between Acker Bilk’s clarinet performance Stranger on the Shore and the Websters; I don’t know why this is so. This hit the charts on 30 November 1961 and stayed there 55 weeks. I also remember singing Frank Ifield’s I Remember You through to them, yodels and all, in the back garden of my house. This was considerably later than Bambino and Stranger on the Shore; it went into the charts on 5 July 1962 for 28 weeks.

 3. How I met the Websters, I don’t recall; they after all were some years younger than I was, and at that age one didn’t usually associate with anybody with an age difference of more than about a year. Their Dad bought from me a guinea pig, a brown dutch
[1] smooth-haired one, which they called Fluff, the son of my albino Fred and brown dutch[1] Rita. Perhaps this is how my association with them started.
[1] Dutch: Coloured on both sides of the head and on the rump, and white elsewhere.
 4. (I used to advertise in the local pet shop window when I had young ones to sell off. Once the father of the soon-to-become-gorgeous Porter girls from Alexandra Road visited. I remember this, because he appeared to be in considerable discomfort, being eager to leave and have a “wash”.)

 5. I played the dominant rôle in this friendship with the Websters; I suppose, being younger than I was, they looked up to me. But they were so easily distracted from the play I devised for us; whether it was a safari in the African bush, on the Hawthorne Road playing field, or some activity in my back garden, they would find some trivial, irrelevant, annoying thing to divert their attention, and I would be left hoarse in my efforts to bring them back to what I wanted to do. My Mum once told me off following an incident in the back garden where I had become enraged and frustrated, shouting very loudly. I protested that they weren’t doing what we’d agreed to do; but my Mum had the idea that play was play whatever you played at, and—why couldn’t we do what they wanted instead of just what I wanted? I also shouted a lot when their noses and fingers were into things around my house that they had no business to be in. “Don’t touch that!” I would say to one, say, in my Dad’s garage, or “the shed” as it was called; but as I was relieving him of whatever he had dared to pick up, even at that moment the other was prying into something else behind my back. Yes, they frustrated me half to distraction, those Websters. My indignation was justified, however—I think I threw them out of the garden—when they once got great glee from peeling the skin off a couple of young frogs’ legs. Callous wretches!

The Webster twins—spring 1963 to November 1963
 6. According to my memory-of-impressions, I was not friendly with the Websters for very long. But my memory-of-associations (e.g. of datable things like pop songs and TV shows) gives the lie to the first memory; as we saw before, the Webster era can be dated from as early as November 1961 if not before, and was still running in July 1962. Another memory springs to mind, that of playing at “Doctor Who” with the Websters. Doctor Who was a BBC Television science fiction series, the first episode of which was in November 1963. In it the Doctor travelled through space and time in a device called the “Tardis”, which was very much bigger on the inside than it was on the outside, and which could be changed in appearance to resemble anything that fitted in with the surroundings on any planet visited. At least that was the idea; the Doctor’s Tardis was malfunctioning and was stuck in the form of a blue British police box, common in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I forget what we used as a Tardis in our game there in the back garden near the greenhouse; I know it was something very small—like a bucket! I remember also that some months earlier, in summer 1963, they participated in an incident where we went round (with Trevor, with whom I had by then come into contact again, and Peter Gooding) to Jones’s house to “wreck” him. This is described in its chronological place in these notes under the title The Apple Incident.

I call round at the Websters’ house for perhaps the last time—about 26th December 1964
 7. The Webster twins and I seem to have drifted apart after this, because I remember that I had not seen them for some time when in December 1964, possibly Boxing Day,
[2] I called round at their house when the snow covered the ground, and made one of them cry by throwing a snowball at him which accidentally hit him in the face. The Websters had an older brother, even older than I; and he came out and told me off, saying that it was a stupid thing to do. I don’t recall going round to the Websters’ after that. The reason for the rift between us, though, is probably simply that I had found friends of my own age, displacing the younger Websters who caused me considerable frustration with their constant messing about.
[2] I say 1964, possibly Boxing Day because I associate this incident with my brother Steve’s acquiring the Beatles’ album Beatles For Sale (issued 4th December 1964) for Christmas.
The Webster twins—late 1963 or 1964
 8. The only other thing I remember of the Websters is their treatment of Andrew Pickup on one occasion; I describe this later under the title Andrew Pickup.


David Jones—Autumn Term 1961
 9. Let’s go back to the Autumn Term of 1961, and to one Games period for the first-year boys at Fleetwood Grammar School. I had been excused because I had a cold. Another boy was also excused—David Jones. Although I didn’t know him to speak to—he wasn’t in my form—his face was familiar to me. For right from the beginning of that Autumn Term, if one were to walk past “Broadway” in the morning a little before 9 o’clock, one would see groups of children standing on the spare ground at the back of the building, waiting for the door to be opened—some standing chatting and others playing at some game or other—and one would see Jones, distinct from them, apart, (one might almost say,) aloof. I have a picture of him in my mind’s eye, just taking slow, occasional steps, and languidly swinging Albert his briefcase around him, almost like a cat twitching a very heavy tail. Even if he were in conversation with someone, say, Gooding, he would still be readily distinguished by his erect posture and haughty manner, to say nothing of his height which was considerably above average even at that age. So, although I hadn’t yet spoken to him, I nevertheless knew Jones as Jones; everybody did, and from time to time we would chuckle one to another about him.

Showing the position of “Broadway”, the annexe
where my form (and David Jones’s also) had
lessons in our first year at Fleetwood Grammar
School
 10. Although on this day Jones and I were not participating in the rugby game…
 “Participating” might not be the right word to use here, because, being both useless at rugby, even if we had been required to don our rugby kit, we could hardly be described as participating with the others in any real, active sense.
 As I say, although on this day Jones and I were not participating in the rugby game, we were expected to come outside to the rugby pitch, like the rest of the boys, only in our ordinary clothes, not our kit; and we were strolling on the perimeter of the pitch together.

 11. Jones had taken the initiative and had begun a conversation with me; and as he ambled majestically along with his hands behind his back, his subject was hypnotism: he claimed to have been hypnotised some time before and to have been taken back into his past.
 He then stopped and, turning to me, said, “I say, Coops, will you hypnotise me?”
 I thought, What a strange request! “I don’t know, Jonesy,” I replied. “I don’t know how.”
 My protests probably went on for a few seconds more, but Jones, who usually got his way when he had been allowed to take the lead, was persistent. “Well—try!” he said.
 “Well—all right then,” I conceded.

 12. And I said to him, “Now I want you to relax, Jonesy, relax.” In a way, I did know how to do it; I’d seen something of the sort on TV, but whether it was a variety-show item I’d watched, or a tele-play such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I don’t remember. “You are falling into a deep sleep,” I said to him slowly: “a deep— deep— sleep.”
 Jones’s face formed itself instantly into a relaxed, trance-like expression. Far too instantly, I thought.
 “Come on, Jonesy!” I said. “You’re pretending!”
 No reaction, beyond, perhaps, the slight fluttering of closed eyelids! Jones left me no choice but to acquiesce in his little fantasy.
 “Now then, David,” I went on, “I want you to cast your mind back to your early childhood.” We may have agreed beforehand to do this.
 Jones spoke out of his “trance”. “Daddy— Daddy!” he squeaked, in imitation—unconvincing!—of a little child’s voice.
 “What is it, David?”
 “Daddy— Daddy!”
 “What is it, David?”
 “It’s a bus, Daddy!”
 “A bus?— What sort of a bus is it, David?”
 “It’s a bus, Daddy!”
 “What sort of a bus is it, David?”
 “Daddy— It’s a bus, Daddy— It’s a funny bus, Daddy!”
 “Why is it a funny bus, David?”
 “Daddy— Daddy— It’s a— a funny bus, Daddy!”
 Saying, “It’s a funny bus, Daddy!”, was just about as far as Jones seemed capable of going at this point. Eventually, though, he did add, “It’s got doors in the middle, Daddy!” Presumably, such buses had been unknown to the juvenile Jones; but they were very familiar to me, because there were buses around Thornton and Blackpool that fitted this description.
[3] But Jones had been brought up in Manchester, over fifty miles away.
[3] “It’s a funny bus, Daddy!… It’s got doors in the middle, Daddy!” Presumably, such buses had been unknown to the juvenile Jones; but they were very familiar to me, because there were buses around Thornton and Blackpool that fitted this description: Blackpool Corporation acquired rather flamboyantly styled buses for its double-deck fleet between 1936 and 1950, with centre entrances having two, pneumatically operated, sliding doors. I read that the bodies of the first buses were constructed by English Electric, but that all subsequent ones were built in the town by Burlingham. I do remember in the late 1950s, and perhaps early 1960s, that although it was usual to see the newer of the buses, one would occasionally encounter one of the older ones still in service. The doors on the newer buses were mounted on the outside of the body, but on the older buses they were inside; and I also seem to remember that the Tshshhhhh!-sound of expelled air from the doors’ mechanism occurred on the newer buses when the doors shut, but on the older ones when the doors opened.


“The newer of the buses”


“One of the older ones”
 13. Eventually I snapped Jones out of his semi-somnolent state with the formula: “At the count of three: one, two, three!”
 Jones instantly came alert with a start. “Wha— Where am I? What’s happening?” he stuttered.
 I explained to him, with considerable doubts as to his truthfulness, that I had been hypnotising him; and Jones claimed that he didn’t remember anything about it. In fact, he put on a very puzzled frown indeed as I told him about the “funny bus”. His long, white fingers touched his exaggeratedly-wrinkled brow as if he were trying to clutch at something just beyond the reach of his memory.
 And then it “clicked” with him: “Ah!” he exclaimed. “When I was six years old my father took me to— ah— Lytham St. Anne’s, and I think it was there—yes, it was—that I saw this strange bus with doors in the side, that went Tshshhhhh! when they opened.”
 “Well,” I said to him, “buses like that, go Tshshhhhh! when the doors shut.”
 But Jones was adamant. “No,” he insisted. “This one went Tshshhhhh! when the doors opened.”
 So for the second time that morning I gave in to him: the first time was my agreeing to hypnotise him; the second was my giving in over his insistence that the buses went Tshshhhhh! when the doors opened.
[4]
[4] Tshshhhhh! when the doors shut.… Tshshhhhh! when the doors opened: My actual memory of this whole event is quite vague. I seem to remember two instances of giving in to Jones, but whether the second was about the timing of the pneumatic hiss of the doors, or whether it was about something else, I don’t remember.


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