John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Towards the first kiss

Early Days

Barbara Swann
 1. Chris lived in Ascot Road, Thornton, and further down on the other side of the road, past where the semi-detached houses give place to bungalows, was where Barbara Swann lived. If Chris and I saw her as we passed, we would stop and speak, and sometimes have long conversations with her at her garden gate. She was older than we were, and was no beauty; but to me, despite my going to a mixed-sex school, talking to a girl was something new and exciting. It was an easy thing to accomplish when Chris was near, but much harder if I happened to encounter her when I was alone. Then I would feel embarrassed and start to fidget and turn my head as if looking around for someone.

“Ascot Road… where the semi-detached houses give place to bungalows…” Chris’s house, No.19, was toward the far end on the right; and Barbara Swann lived at No.52, in the third bungalow, the first two of which appear on the left in this 2003 photo. Regarding conversations with Barbara Swann, and indeed a visit to her home, Chris recalled on 23 October 2013:
Alan Swann… and our David were friends… My conversations at that time were mainly with Barbara, however, who was nearer to our age. I remember being at the Swanns’ house one day and being introduced to a girl who said she was their cousin. I can’t remember her name, but she also came from the vicinity of Denshaw, near Oldham, from where the Swanns hailed. The conversation turned to Jones, and this girl, who also went to Fleetwood Grammar School, claimed to have been the one who had taunted Jones with fake declarations of love. She was in his class, apparently! I was already privy to Jones’s version of the story [see In and around Davelyshome: “I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown”] and to the fact that these declarations of love had deeply troubled him. Alan was around, at the time, but he would have still been an “insect” [to refer to him as Jones would have done], and such conversations probably wouldn’t have interested him very much.
The “cousin” also appeared in a “Happy Land” (cf. par.10, below) context; see Pat Lomas and Elaine, par.2.
 2. Chris and I once spotted her and a boyfriend in Cleveleys. They were in a sea-front shelter and wanted to do some necking, but we started spying on them from cover not far away. We weren’t very discreet, either, and initially their awareness of our presence and soon their annoyance at it became obvious. Our repeated giggling must have given away our location, for all of a sudden he sprang up and ran over to us holding up a clenched fist in front of our faces, demanding abruptly, “Do you want toothing?” (which interpreted means “If you don’t stop pestering us, I shall hit you in such a way as to knock your teeth out”).

Christine and Pat[1]
 3. The impression I had towards the end of that year, 1964, was that Chris was an “old hand” at getting off with birds; I hadn’t even started yet, I hadn’t experienced my first kiss. However, it seems from what he told me later on, that it was quite a recent experience for him, too. Apart from once, at the age of 10, before he moved to Thornton from Grimsby, when he kissed Julie Woodhead, the first bird he got off with was Judith Wilkinson, when he was working at the Boating Lake, Fleetwood, during the long summer holiday from school in 1964. She was from Burnley but must have been visiting her cousin Pat. And they, and Pat’s friend Christine, used to hang around the Boating Lake. Chris fancied Judith, and he got a date with her; they went up to some gardens near the Mount, Fleetwood, necking.

The Mount, Fleetwood
 4. When Chris finished at the boating lake and had been paid off, he had saved quite a bit of money; and he thought it would be a good idea to go out for the day to Manchester. By now Judith had gone back home to Burnley, but Pat and Christine were still around. And he asked them if they’d like to come with us, and they agreed to do so. For me, it was a blind date; I was to go with Pat, whom I hadn’t met before.


 5. We went by train to Manchester; they must have come to Thornton by bus, because we boarded the train at Thornton Station. We went to the fun park at Belle View where Chris and the girls went on “Bob’s”, the notorious roller-coaster ride. Chris was probably “shitting bricks”, as they say, about going on it, but decided to, out of bravado. I didn’t summon the courage to go on it; I made no attempt thus to impress my date, whom I found rather plump and unappealing. Christine, in my view, was somewhat plain but (in comparison with the other one) acceptable; she looked fairly neat in a white blouse with vertical blue or black stripes. Pat wore a dark dress with a somewhat scooped neck.

 6. In the environs of the Belle View park, a middle-aged to elderly man approached us, gave us a tract, and told us he was going to heaven. He asked us if we were, too. We found this highly amusing and couldn’t stop laughing at him. We told people later on: “This bloke stopped us and told us he was going to heaven!”

 7. Christine and Pat were quite happy for us to spend money on them, but then they lost interest in us and were after other blokes on the train home. They were chatting up these other blokes, or trying to get them into the compartment with us. Also on the train going home, Christine rejected the amorous advances of Chris, and asked him, “Why can’t you just do what he’s doing?” I was merely contenting myself with leaning my head on Pat’s shoulder. As far as Chris was concerned, this was a fairly expensive fiasco, “getting off with”-wise; if I remember rightly, he paid all our fares, for I hadn’t been working that summer.
[1] Christine and Pat: This story is also told in somewhat abridged form in Concerning the “Second First Visit” to Manchester.
Brian Collinge
 8. At the beginning of the school Autumn Term, 1964, a new face appeared at Fleetwood Grammar School, Brian Collinge, who had just moved to Fleetwood from Burnley, and who was in Peter Gooding’s class. That is how I met him, through Peter. It quickly became evident to us that Collinge was an expert on birds—or that was his reputation, or what he wanted people to think—and Chris and I were content to tag along with him to learn what we could from him.

 9. We met up with him one night at Fleetwood, where he was going to teach us how to pick up birds. But as far as Collinge and I were concerned, the evening was fruitless. Chris had more success by his own unaided efforts, however, for as we were walking past the Mount, he espied a girl sitting there under the Mount veranda on a bench, and he sat down next to her and put his arm round her. Was she upset about something and he spoke tenderly and consolingly? I just have the impression of that sort of tone of voice. When he joined Collinge and me again, I asked him what he had got off her, and I think he told me, “A bit of ‘top’.” I may be mistaken, or confusing this with another event.

The Happy Land
 10. Collinge and his cronies used to frequent the “Happy Land”, an amusement arcade in Cleveleys; and Chris and I, and sometimes Peter too, would go along there in the hope of picking up birds. We also used to wander around Thornton, or hang around in the bus shelters at Four Lane Ends, in the usually vain hope
[2] that some suitable young ladies would pass us.
[2] Usually vain hope: Cf. Doreen Tewson.




Postcards of Victoria Road, Cleveleys, showing the “Happy Land”.
See also David Jones.


One of three bus shelters at Four Lane Ends, Thornton, in 1979


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