Perhaps summer 1963
1. Jones’s stories about this “Middleton Empire” may have had some basis in fact: possibly his cousin did lead a gang which called itself the Middleton Empire, and possibly Gerard had boasted to Jones of its mighty deeds. But it is certain that Jones gave a much exaggerated account of the activities of the “Empire”, either because he saw in this an opportunity to get the attention of the members of the EMB&H Club and play a leading rôle in the Club’s activities, or perhaps simply because he had a very fertile and active imagination.
Jones certainly gave every appearance of believing that the Middleton Empire presented a very real threat to the well-being of them and indeed of all the inhabitants of Thornton—as the following story demonstrates.
“If you can imagine Thornton...”
2. Chris and Jones were out walking one Saturday morning, and Jones was expressing his very deep concern about the very imminent threat of the Middleton Empire invasion.
They were walking along Victoria Road in the Cleveleys direction—possibly heading for Fairhurst’s new home in Burns Avenue, if the Fairhursts had already moved there from Ascot Road at this time. As they were passing by King George’s Playing Fields, they were approached from behind by a cyclist. This was Chris’s school friend Potts, who was returning to Cleveleys where he lived. He stopped when he recognised Chris, and chatted to him about things in general.
3. Jones just stood there, only half-listening to the chatter, thinking that at an opportune time he must enter the conversation and warn this chap about the Middleton Empire. And he did just that: he began to hold forth upon the Middleton Empire and its impending threat of conquest.
4. Potts was taken aback; he didn’t know what on earth Jones was talking about.
“Who are they?” he asked in disbelief. “How do you know? What will they do?”
5. Jones dramatised his discourse by uttering, almost in a whisper:
“If you can imagine Thornton, one Saturday morning: very quiet, people are going about their shopping—and then, the peace is shattered, when—all of a sudden, over the hilltops appears—a fleet of bicycles! The Middleton Empire is upon us!”(When Chris reported all these comic episodes to us regarding the Middleton Empire, and repeated Jones’s words: “Over the hilltops appears a fleet of bicycles!”—when we had stopped laughing, we wondered over what “hilltops” in flat Thornton the Middleton Empire could possibly appear. The only picture of anything like a hilltop that we could conjure up in our minds was at Thornton station, where there is a slight rise over the level crossing. That was the only thing that could be even remotely described as a “hill”. This was where the main road into Thornton was at that time; the main A585 route came into Thornton that way. Chris imagined these millions of bicycles suddenly spilling over the level crossing into Victoria Road.)
 People are going about their shopping: The source of the story adds here: “Stonk! Stonk! Stonk! Stonk!”, reflecting Jones’s habit of repeating onomatopoeic words when describing an activity.6. Potts didn’t quite know what to make of Jones’s words, and just said, “Oh, well, em— If it’s a Saturday morning, I’ll be in my laboratory!”—to which Jones replied, “Ah yes, but they’ll find you even there!”
7. In the end Potts concluded the conversation with: “Ah well, I’ve got to go now. See you!” And he pedalled off towards Cleveleys, where he lived.
And Jones complained to Chris that people didn’t seem to take him seriously.
(Had Jones known that Potts would shortly after this be moving to Brigg in Lincolnshire, he would probably have declared that Potts had fled the area to escape the menace of the Middleton Empire.)
 Potts… shortly after this [moved] to Brigg in Lincolnshire: His parents managed the Angel Hotel in Brigg.
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