John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Sandra Gorst

Beechwood Baths

…Speech Day. Remembered
“Sandra K. Gorst” from Beechwood
Baths days.…

When I was about ten my Dad used to take our Steve and me swimming on Sunday afternoons to a private school situated in spacious grounds with its main entrance just opposite our front gate—“Beechwood School and Kindergarten”—to its small indoor heated swimming pool. It was far more convenient than, say, Derby Baths in Blackpool, and the water was a lot warmer.
We used to meet the Gorsts there: Mrs. Gorst, whom my Dad knew because she also worked at Norcross, and because she was in the Amateur Dramatics Society there which met across the corridor from the Club, where my Dad was steward; and her slim, dark-haired daughter Sandra, all resplendent in her blue swimming costume. [Somewhat exaggerated: however, she did wear a bright blue costume which had a sheen.] There was another girl who used to appear there—Sandra’s sister, perhaps; Sandra was about my age, but the other girl was somewhat older; she looked older and her breasts were beginning to develop. So we used to swim and have games together. [This older girl wore a black swimming costume.] [See Beechwood Baths.]
After I had started at Fleetwood Grammar School, in September 1961, my Dad reported that Sandra thought I was “stuck up”, because I hadn’t acknowledged her when she had spoken to me at school; quite frankly, I hadn’t noticed her—which was a pity, because at Beechwood I had a childhood crush on her. [See I learn to swim.]

November 1967–February 1968
I only noticed her again at school, and remembered her as the Sandra of old, one school speech day. Speech days were held at the Marine Hall, Fleetwood. They started off being quite exciting because of the prospect of missing lessons; but as the afternoon wore on, sitting and being subjected interminably to the ramblings and anecdotes of the guest speaker, the offerings and recitals of school pupil musicians and performers, and the drawn-out procedure of the prize-giving, I always became very bored indeed.
On this particular speech day, looking at the programme, I noticed the name of one particular prize-winner: Sandra K. Gorst. “Can this be THE Sandra?” I wondered. And as she went forward on to the stage to collect her award amid the applause of her peers, I recognised her, as I said, as the Sandra of old.
(This was [on Friday 10 November 1967,] perhaps six years after the Beechwood days.)
I was quite impressed by her appearance and carriage;…

…Not really upset about loss of
Audrey tonight. I fancy Sandra Gorst.
I was quite impressed by her appearance and carriage; and this served from time to time (as for example on Wednesday 15 November 1967) to take my mind off its mourning the loss of Audrey Wood.

…On Sandra’s table. Hilarious time
(Mr. Long).…

On Sandra’s table again.…
On Wednesday 22 November it is recorded that I sat at Sandra’s table during school dinner, when I had a hilarious time messing about in company with one Michael Long. It seems that to begin with I was not on Sandra’s table every day, because on Monday 27 November I record that I was “on Sandra’s table again”, i.e. ?a second time. It was quite a coincidence that I should notice her for the first time in years, then 12 days later appear on her table.

…Talked to
Sandra. Not bad!
I spoke with her on Friday 24 November; under what circumstances, or about what, is not recorded. What is recorded, is that I thought, “Mmm! Not bad!” about her.

School. Chucked
off Sandra’s table.…

Dancing. With Sandra 3 dances.
She picked me in Ladies’ choice!
Peter with her once. He fancies
her. I saw her first.

On Tuesday 5th December I was “chucked off Sandra’s table.” Presumably, then, in the week commencing 27 November (mentioned above) I had been on her table every day. Why I was “chucked off” I can’t remember: perhaps it was because someone had been absent from school, who had the place I occupied on the table, and who had now returned; perhaps it was to separate Michael Long and me, who, as we have seen, had a hilarious time together, probably to the disapproval of all who sat around us.
The next day, Wednesday 6th December, instead of games we had dancing, to prepare us for the forthcoming school Christmas party (or “soirée” as it was called by some). So, when the announcement came to “take your partners, please, for a military two-step”, “tango”, or whatever, I naturally headed across the hall straight for Sandra to ask her for “the pleasure of this dance.” I thus danced with her three times, and I was very pleased when, during the “ladies’ choice”, she came and asked me. I was beaten to her once by Peter Gooding, who true to form also fancied her (we always seemed to have the same taste in girls) as he admitted to me later that day. I thought to myself, “I saw her first; lay off her!”, not thinking of the fact that he’d laid first claims to Pamela Williams, and I’d “got off with” her; and he’d seen Audrey Wood first, and I’d gone out with her. As it turned out, neither of us got Sandra Gorst, although possibly if I’d been a little bolder and not hung back I might have had a chance with her.

Went school. Wish
could go with Sandra (to dance?).…

Went B’pool. Sandra
there. Green suit—lovely! She says (dad said) I’m a
raving lunatic.…
The following Friday [8 Dec. 1967] I was wishing that I was going out with Sandra, and thinking forward to the dance, wondered if I should ask her to go with me to it. But I didn’t ask her.
Next day [9 Dec. 1967], I went into Blackpool and while there caught sight of Sandra, looking lovely, so I thought, in a green suit. We probably just passed in the street and smiled and said, “Hello!” to each other. My Dad commented that she thought I was “a raving lunatic”; she must have told her Mum something to this effect and word must thereby have got to my Dad. It seems, then, that my Dad was there in Blackpool with me when Sandra passed; I can’t imagine seeing her, going home and then saying to my Dad, “I saw Sandra Gorst when I was in Blackpool.”

School. Dancing.
Sandra/me in ladies’ choice. Great
stuff (she is!)…

School. Talked with Long
about Sandra.

Went school party. Sandra there.
Danced and hung around with
her. Promising moment (together
—rub noses). BUT she seemed
to be brushing me off. At end
was dischuffed.

School. Bit “fed up” ’cos
of last night. Hardly spoke to
her. Feel a bit of a failure in
this—I’m not chatty, and
other things, as I’d like to be.…

School. Talked to S.G.…

In next Wednesday’s dance-session [13 Dec. 1967], I was again favoured by Sandra in the “ladies’ choice”.
On Thursday [14 Dec. 1967] I talked with Michael Long about her, but I can’t remember how the conversation went.
Four days later [Mon. 18 Dec. 1967] was our year’s Christmas Party, held in the school hall. Sandra came, and I felt a bit disappointed because she did not look as well turned out as, say, a week last Saturday when I saw her out in Blackpool. She was with a friend, but I nevertheless hung around with her. There was a promising moment in one of the formal dances when we were together and I rubbed noses with her. But when it came to “our kind of dancing”, as she said (“your kind of dancing,” I think I replied, instantly regretting my words and feeling such a fool), I held back, because I hadn’t any practice at this kind of dancing, so I was afraid to join in. So I watched her dancing from afar.
[It was in the context of “our kind of dancing” that I first heard Simon Dupree and the Big Sound’s song Kites, which to this day always reminds me of Sandra Gorst.]
And suddenly she went out of the hall into the corridor. I met her there, and suggested we go for a walk; but she said her Dad was coming to take her home. (Was it her Dad? Or was her Mum widowed — or divorced?)
So after she had gone I was disappointed and angry with myself for not joining her in “our” kind of dancing.
Truth to tell, she was at the party with her female friend, her rather plain friend, and so probably did not welcome too much too-exclusive male attention.
Next morning, Tuesday [19 Dec. 1967], I felt really fed up. I sat in the Study, head in hands, groaning with embarrassment, because of last night, as she came in. On second thoughts, did she come into the Study? I hardly said a word to her. Actually, my ardour for her had evaporated since the party; now, I thought, it was she who was “stuck up”.
However, it is recorded that I spoke with her the following day [Wed. 20 Dec. 1967].

School. Gayle (Mm!) Sandra
…Ashamed at table.
Girl made remark about something
I’d said. (Sandra laughed at this.)…
After the Christmas holidays, I was back on her table again for school dinners [Mon. 8 Jan. 1968]. I said something that provoked a remark from one of the girls at table. I don’t know what I said, or what her comment was (it might have been something like: “That’s a fine thing for a Christian to say!”). Anyway, Sandra laughed at the comment, while I blushed with shame for saying what I did.

Talked to Sandra & friend. (She talked
about some boy being jealous.)
Four days later [Fri. 12 Jan. 1968], it is recorded that I spoke with “Sandra and friend” (presumably her rather plain friend she went around with). Sandra said something about some boy being jealous. What? I wonder now: jealous of Sandra and me? I wonder if I COULD have gone out with her if I’d asked her.

School. Dinner time—
learnt that salt cellar doesn’t float in
custard. (Big laugh all round.)…
The following Tuesday [16 Jan. 1968], Michael Long and I conducted an experiment to investigate whether a salt cellar would float in custard. He mounted the salt cellar on the end of a fork, and banged the other end, while I held up a jug of custard. The salt cellar rose into the air and, plop!, sank instantly. Whether Sandra was amused at this display of bad table manners, I cannot recall.

B’pool—Got mac—hair cut
—SAW SANDRA—but didn’t speak.…
That Saturday [20 Jan. 1968], I saw Sandra again in town, but we didn’t speak.

Went Salford Univ.
for tour of Elect. Eng. Dept. and inter-

Learnt that Sandra
said while I’m away—“detest him—
fancies me, fancies himself.”…

The Monday following [i.e. Mon. 22 Jan. 1968], I didn’t go to school as usual, but went to Salford University to see round the Electrical Engineering Department, where I had applied to do an Electrical Engineering course. This gave Sandra the opportunity to air her views about me. I learned the following day [Tue. 23 Jan. 1968] from ?Michael Long that she had said, “I detest him: he fancies me, and he fancies himself!” This was a bit unfair of her: the former, of course, was true, but as the reader can judge from my hesitancy at, say, the Christmas party, I could hardly have been accused of feeling I was “God’s gift to women”—or that particular woman at any rate. Unless, of course, my bravado, and antics with Michael Long at the dinner table were misconstrued as my fancying myself.

Monday 12 Feb. 1968:

…School—Sandra drenched me with H₂O.…
The only possible contact between Sandra and me involving water would be during school dinner. Whether she accidentally spilled the water or deliberately drenched me in playful spite is not remembered.

An isolated event
Saturday 20 Sep. 1969:

…Aft[ernoon: I]
went… [to] Cleveleys, where,
after seeing but not speaking to Sandra Gorst,
bought braces
[U.S.: suspenders].…
It is not clear whether she also saw me; I assume not.

Sandra disappears from view now until 1971.

October 1971
For Thursday 7th Oct. 1971 I wrote in my diary:

Instead of going to [the] Prayer Meeting, I
decided to go to [the] folk evening at [the] DHSS
Social Centre. So I arrived, had R[um] and G[reen] G[inger wine]—[I] was
surprised to see Jean Coplin arr[ive]. Steve and Janet
arr[ived a] few min[ute]s later. Quite enjoyable even[ing].
[It was a] good group [that played, but a] lousy audience: Much too
cold and staid; [it] wouldn’t participate. Steve [Willingham] and I
participated—very much so: At “Nay,
boys, never!” we went bang, bang, bang,
bang! on [the] table ([and I] bruised [my] thumb to prove it!),
whereupon the ashtray inverted! and
my rum glass shattered on the floor.
“That’s what I like to see, a little
enthusiasm,” said the singer, busting
his “G-string” (so he said).…
Since 1965 I had been part of the Full Gospel Church, Fleetwood, where abstinence from consuming alcohol, frequenting pubs and clubs, going to the cinema and theatre, etc., was all, explicitly or implicitly, part of the religious mores. Shortly before my 21st birthday, though, I met Steve Willingham, who persuaded me to go for a drink at the Gardener’s Arms pub to celebrate it. After that, Steve and I started going out drinking regularly together. Jean Coplin also was part of the Full Gospel Church, and that is why I “was surprised to see” her at this Folk Evening.

Steve Willingham, 1972 and 2005

The Gardener’s Arms, 1992

Jean Coplin, 30 May 1969
It appears from my diary entry for Tuesday 12 Oct. 1971, that I saw Sandra Gorst there, though I didn’t speak to her:

…Steve and I…
went to [the] DHSS Social Club.
Mrs. Gorst [was] there, with Sandra. Sandra
had been for a time at the Folk
Evening last Thursday, when she had
awakened in my heart all those old
feelings from her at school. Well,
tonight I just wished I could contact
her: like, for example, she was sitting
at a table with her mum and some
oldish fellows, and I was wishing I
could find some way of attracting her
to our table. At one time she and her mother
[were] standing at [the] bar, so Steve and I walked over
to get a drink. [We] said hello to Mrs. [Gorst],
and she was about to introduce us
to Sandra, when she patronisingly
(a bit) stated she already knew me.
Unfortunately, conversation didn’t
blossom (maybe she hates me,
or despises, she was so untalkative! I
could have asked her about her college,
or explained what a “dirty drop out” I
am!!!)—I wonder what would have
happened if I had bought her a
drink. It is so frustrating.…
Friday 15th Oct. 1971:

Mrs. Gorst came up to me at work, saying
she hadn’t recognised me, up till last
Tuesday at [the] Social Club. I am feeling
pretty enamoured of Sandra. Steve went
over to R516 ([to] Mrs. Gorst) to drop
some hints. I felt pretty embarrassed.
I hadn’t told him to go or anything.
Even[ing]: [I went to] Steve’s house. I decided for us
to go to Social Club on the off-chance
Sandra might go there with her mother.
So we walked there.…
Mrs. Gorst did turn up,
but not her gorgeous daughter!…
Wed. 20 Oct. 1971:

…Steve… came round and we went to the Social
Club.… Sandra and [her] mother arrived later, and
the way [the men] ogled and buzzed round
Sandra was very nauseating (or did it
just arouse jealousy, in that they were
in a position to buzz around, whereas I—?)
Anyway, being dizzy from beer and stuff, it
roused me on leaving to shout out
from [the] back of Steve’s bike before reaching
the DHSS gate, “Sandra is
a bitch, Sandra is a lousy
cow!” I regretted it later, of
course, and shuddered that they
might have heard. [I] also regretted
calling up Sandra’s number in
a phone box, then walking to
another to try again and see if
the number had been answered.
It had.
If ever the Full Gospel Church, Fleetwood, needed justification for the custom of abstinence from alcohol, this was it!

Friday 22 Oct. 1971:

…Even[ing].: Steve called and we “tanked up”, for the
Norcross Players thing, at the Gardener’s [Arms].
A generous man—he was drunk, see—
bought us [a] half-pint each in addition to calling
me to Steve a socialist twat.
We arrived [at Thornton Lecture Hall] for the play “Waters of the Moon”
a few minutes late, and because of the beer
I had to excuse myself before the end of
the second scene. It was agony waiting even
that long: I thought I had damaged
A very well-performed play. The character
of Mrs. Lancaster, an interfering snob, was
so realistic that me and Steve were almost
ready to shout out with hate.
Of course Sandra won my heart; she looked
quite gorgeous.
Afterwards we went to the Social Club,
where after a bit Sandra and [her] mum and [the] N[or]cross Players
came, and we had a few words w[ith]
Sandra’s Mum.…

Thornton Lecture Hall, 1979
I think that’s the last time I ever saw Sandra Gorst, though I have thought of her often over the intervening years. And in 2004 I heard from her once, but she didn’t continue the contact.

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