With Mum and Dad to Preston
Extract from The Cooper Diaries:
We saw J off at Blackpool North on the 9.26. Then after a brief return home and some shopping (e.g. Dad went for petrol to Safeway, Cleveleys, and I withdrew £30 from the “hole in the wall” there) we went off to Preston, with my intention of looking down Fairfield Drive[more][more][more] and going through Haslam Park to the canal.[more] We went via Kirkham.
A story, disconcertingly at variance with what I wrote in My parents and Gooding’s visit Sharon[more] emerged, concerning Mum and Dad’s and Peter’s Mum and Dad’s first exploratory visit to Sharon. For in… par. 3, I wrote:
Chris, Peter and I didn’t go to Sharon on this occasion, for some reason.
 The full text of the original writing is as follows:
1. Everyone was waiting for Chris to have a fit—except Chris himself, and Peter and me, who were absolutely sure that he wouldn’t. “I hope you feel it was all worthwhile,” Tom Bennett had written in his letter, “if Chris is cured.” This expression if Chris is cured was repeated time and again over the weeks that followed our first trip to Manchester. My Mum and Dad, for example, couldn’t really believe the reality of the cure, until time went on—and on. I used to contradict them every time they said, “If Chris is cured”; I would insist on saying, “Now that Chris is cured.” When he wanted to borrow my brother Steve’s bike, my Mum said, “He can’t ride a bike because he has fits”, and I said, “No, he doesn’t.”
2. My parents and Peter Gooding’s parents must have met together at some time, concerned about our weekly trips to Manchester. For they decided that they had better find out what we were getting into. Peter Gooding’s father said, “All right, we’ll have a run over there.”
Perhaps Sunday 21st February 1965
3. And that is what they did: the four of them went one night in the Goodings’ car to Sharon. My Dad used to work on a Sunday at the Blackpool Park Golf Club, but somehow he got this particular Sunday off. Chris, Peter and I didn’t go to Sharon on this occasion, for some reason.
My Mum thought that Pastor Barratt was more “refined” than Pastor Williams. My Dad remembers that they were very impressed by what they heard and what they saw. Mr. Gooding went out for prayer, and he fell down the same way as Chris and others did. He suffered from a chronic chest condition—I remember his terrible, gurgling cough, too weak to bring anything up—and he had not been able to lie flat on his back for a very long time. But when he went down this evening and lay on the floor he was really comfortable. He said afterwards that he had never felt such peace.
Afterwards, my Dad was speaking to Pastor Williams and asked him, “Is there a church like this in our area?” (It was a long way to keep going to church, to Manchester.)
But today, after Dad reported my telling him (or them) that we wanted to start going to church to Sharon (Sharon sent our fare to enable us to go), he went on to say that we had already gone this particular Sunday when they decided to go and find out what we had got ourselves into. So they set out in Peter’s Dad’s car. (What was Peter’s Dad’s name? No-one could remember.) And a loud rattling noise started as they were passing through Kirkham, so they stopped to investigate. They discovered that the wheel-nuts were loose and that the noise had been caused by the wheel wobbling about; the car had just been serviced, and someone had neglected to tighten the wheel-nuts up.
So on Dad’s latest version of the tale, we were there at Sharon when my parents and Gooding’s came. I thought my sources stated that we were not there, but it appears, on looking at them again, that that is a construction I have put on them; nothing is explicitly stated about our being or not being there. Dad’s words on 10 December 1994 were:
Mr. Gooding,… Elsie,… your mother and I went one night to Manchester.And my report of the phone call on 29 December 1994 states:
Elsie Gooding, Peter’s father, Mum and he went to a meeting at Sharon.Evidently, I took our non-inclusion to mean our exclusion; but it now seems that we weren’t included in the account of their going because we were already there.
If we were there at the time, that would solve the apparent disagreement between Dad’s account of his asking Pastor Williams about a local church and my account of Pastor Williams writing to Chris with addresses.
We approached Preston along Blackpool Road, turned left into Fairfield Drive—
View of Fairfield Drive from Blackpool Road. The side of our old house — No.20 — can be seen facing us. It appears to be at the end of Fairfield Drive, but there is a "kink" in the road, which turns sharp left then sharp right.
—and Dad stopped at the end—
View back from the end
—with difficulty because just at that time one or two other vehicles chose to want to be there—then turned back to park on the “kink”.
View back from the "kink"
I had got out and was wandering around. I thought there should be trees on the railway embankment at the end of Fairfield Drive, on our side[more] in addition to the trees lining Haslam Park on the other side, but there are none. Mum remarked on the road which now runs parallel to the railway between it and Haslam Park, but that was constructed later; there used to be four railway tracks there but now there are only two. No. 20 is the first house of a terrace of three, i.e. Nos. 20, 22 and 24.
The nearest house is No.20, despite its having a rubbish bin outside numbered "21".
Mum remembered that the Dents lived at No. 24 and their daughter was Elizabeth. The houses in the street look smart and well kept. I noticed that the houses opposite were numbered 13–27.
 I noticed that the houses opposite were numbered 13–27 — but counting the houses in the photo above, captioned View back from the “kink”, suggests that there are seven of them that side of the “kink”, i.e. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, which would make the rest 15–29. On the Royal Mail website, for the postcode PR2 1JJ, all the numbers from 1 to 25 are given, plus 27 and 29. To confuse the information, though, both 13 and 11A (often used by the triskaidekaphobic instead of 13) are given [Note, written
ca.2010].I also made the following sketch, showing the positions of the front doors of the houses leading up to ours.
The issue is resolved definitively by looking at the map retrieved 2011 from Lancashire County Council Maps and Related Information Online:
I had forgotten about the gable ends of Nos. 4 and 16. Mrs. Gilliard used to live at No. 18. The Salters lived at No. 11 [No.11A on the information in the footnote above]. The present occupant of No. 20 appeared, but he was impatient to leave and excused himself. They have extended the kitchen which was originally very small. My impression that it was bigger probably comes from the memory of Monica’s kitchen in Sheffield. Dad reckons the wooden shed that he put in is still there. I thought it had been an asbestos shed but I’m mistaken. The back entrance gate is immediately to the left of the corner of No. 18 and No. 20, and there’s a garage now to the right as you go in.
We went on to Haslam Park. It is much larger than I, or in fact we, remembered. There is a children’s playground there, more or less where I would expect to find it, but Mum indicated a different place where it originally was.
Mum: …And for the first time in my life (because my Mum to me was always old, as I assume that I always look old to you)— But she always looked old. And then, she was pushing you two on swings, and for the first time in my life I thought, “How pretty she looks!” And I told her, and she was really chuffed! Because you don’t often think of your parents as ever having been young, or anything like that.Dad remembered that the way to the canal was via a duck pond. There’s a kind of overflow from the canal with a series of small waterfalls, and the water presumably passes under the path and drains into the large duck pond. It’s to the left of these waterfalls that one could (and still can) scramble up the bank to the canal.
Dad: My mother always was old to me, because she was 30 before I were born.
Mum: Well, I was 25, was—
Dad: 25, you were, weren’t you?
Mum: Oh, I think I was almost 25, wasn’t I?
Dad: Almost 26.
Mum: He was born in 1948—yes.
Dad: Yes. I was 25; you were nearly 26. I’m sure there was a pond, somewhere over there.
Dad (against a background-sound of flowing water): …But I always thought this was nearer there; it’s much bigger than I remembered it.The “aqueduct” of my memory—actually a fairly substantial stone bridge carrying the canal over a stream, Savick Brook—is a few yards further down. We wouldn’t have approached the canal from there, I thought, because the banks of the stream that is being bridged there are too steep. My writings say, “…joining the canal near an aqueduct…”, not necessarily at the aqueduct; but my markings on a map of the route indicate a joining at the aqueduct.
Mum: Yes. Well, come on, we’ll go up there… Of course, they’ve shut the canal off now, in the middle of Preston; where it used to go to the Bowl, in Preston, it no longer does so.
Me: Yes, but it was always dry just further up, wasn’t it. It never went into the centre of town in my memory, I don’t think.
Dad: It used to do at one time, to the Bowl, because you could use to get boats from there.
(Sound of a blackbird singing.)
Me (having reached the canal towpath): Oh. Yes, I remember, we used to come up here. Are you all right?
Mum: Just “help the aged”!…
Me: Well, it appears there’s an official path, actually; look: it says, “Haslam Park ¼” there.
 The story Beyond Fairfield Drive now says, in the light of today’s expedition: “Sometimes, I remember, we would go up from the park to a canal. The embankment of the Lancaster Canal forms part of the east boundary of Haslam Park. Below it there is a large duck pond with a path around it, and there is a kind of overflow from the canal with a series of small waterfalls; the water presumably passes under the path and drains into the duck pond. It’s to the left of these waterfalls that one could (and still can) scramble up the bank to the canal. And that is what we used to do when Steven and I were little. We would then turn left and walk along the towpath of the canal. A few yards further down, a fairly substantial stone bridge carries the canal over a stream, Savick Brook, which flows below between steep, wooded banks.”It was a hot, sunny day, and there was the song of birds. There were ducks and moorhens with young on the canal. I had forgotten that there were houses on the other side at this point.
Click on the image for a larger map.
The first of the humpbacked stone bridges over the canal was close at hand, but it just led to a field. Looking at the map now, it is clear that we would use to turn left off the canal towpath at the third bridge. At that time, the canal would mainly pass through fields—as indicated on an old map of Preston that I have. Now, according to a more recent Ordnance Survey map, there are buildings along much of the north side of the canal.
We turned back from the first bridge—
—retracing our steps, and walked by the duck pond again.
(Sound of a bird, perhaps a chaffinch, then a much louder blackbird.)Then we went for a tour in the car. Conversation: We were poor when we lived in Preston—it was 1962 when Dad was promoted to EO [“Executive Officer”, the grade above “Clerical Officer” in the Civil Service], and we started to be better off; he earned £20 a week then. So he had to take an evening job when we lived in Preston—doorman or cloakroom attendant, did they say?—in a dance hall. Nanny Paine wasn’t happy about Mum being left alone so much, particularly when Mum had her illness, and she bought Mum her first washing machine. She couldn’t really afford it; she got it on the “never-never”. When we passed Moor Park, Dad recalled our often going there—he mentioned a bandstand—but I didn’t remember it at all. We went on past Samlesbury, and left onto the A59. My Mum had never been up the hill to Mellor, so we turned right there and went up that road. We were also looking for a pub to have lunch at, and I thought the one we’d passed at Mellor Brook when we turned into this road looked more welcoming than one further up, so we turned back and went to it: the Fielden’s Arms. It turned out to be quite a large pub, busy with men in suits and ties. (Where from? British Aerospace, Samlesbury?) Dad and I had a pint of Castle Eden—I had that, remembering that it’s a favourite tipple of Andrew’s—but it was a bit sweet and not bitter enough for my taste (it is an “ale”, after all, and that’s how ales are supposed to taste), so I had some Boddington’s next round. We had beef sandwiches and some chips. We set out again, continuing on the A59 which bypasses Whalley and Clitheroe (names I remember from going to Bridlington on holiday with Mum and Dad and Grandma and Grandad Cooper in Mr. Armstrong’s taxi. We got a puncture one year in Harrogate). We passed through Gisburn and stopped in Skipton, where we walked around for an hour or two. Dad bought some tent pegs from a camping shop which we passed shortly after we set out from the car park; when we entered the owner was on the phone to the police complaining about loud music from a Range Rover parked outside the pub opposite. I looked at the perpetrators in a “Go to hell, bastards!” fashion when we left. We went in a small museum in the town hall, looked at the outside of the castle and the church, and fed the ducks and pigeons with bread on and by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal before returning to the car. We went along the A65 and went through Settle and then on to Kirkby Lonsdale. I noticed numbers of “travellers” (so called; bastards scrounging off the state and not paying anything back in property and income taxes, more accurately) camped with their horses staked along the grass verges. (Why do they have horses when they have trucks to pull their caravans?) We stopped for ice-cream at Devil’s Bridge. We took the A683 through Melling and Hornby. I noticed the sign to Wray, so after that we must have been travelling along the route Peter Gooding and I cycled along when we camped at Wray. We decided to go through Lancaster rather than avoid it on the motorway—not too bad a decision; we only hit a slight delay due to traffic in the centre of Lancaster. Then, A6, A586, which now merges with the A585 as it approaches the cross-roads at Little Singleton—quite a long queue of traffic waiting for the traffic lights there—A585, home. Transferred my centre of operations from my caravan “den” to the bedroom.…
Dad: …Oh, yes, there he is, aye. There he is. Oh, he’s just flown off. But that’s him that’s singing.
Mum: No. No, no, no, he’s still there.
Dad: Yes. He was on this branch; he’s flown up. He’s—
Mum: How beautiful it is! How nice and warm!
Dad: —defending his territory. Or marking his territory. That means “Keep off!” to other blackbirds…
Mum: Very nice, very nice! I’d forgotten. The main thing that I can remember is the canal and the swing—
Me: Yes, I remember the swings and I remember the canal—
Mum: —and I remember scrambling up a bank to the—
Me: Which is by the side of this watercourse here, to the left of the watercourse.
Dad: I remember the duck pond.
Mum: Yes, I remember a pond also, but—
Dad: But I thought it was a lot nearer where we parked.
Me: On my recollection it was an aqueduct, but that is further along, a few yards further along there where the stream goes under. But we wouldn’t go up there; it’s just, I’ve merged the two memories into one.
Dad: That’s where we used to scramble up when you were kids.
Mum and me: Yes.
Dad: And that’s the field— No, not that field; the one further up is where we used to fly your aeroplane. But it was— It think it was more Steven that did that than you because you were only five when we left.
Me: Yes. I can remember it vaguely now: it was a balsawood structure with paper, wasn’t it.
Dad: Yes. And dope on it, to tighten it up. It was quite a big one; it had a wingspan like that.
Me: How was it powered? Elastic band?
Dad: Elastic band, yes. Well, the first one was just a glider, and that was a very big one; and then I made another one, a smaller one, with an elastic-band motor. The glider stayed in the air longer than the powered one.
Mum: Mind you, John won’t remember quite as much, because you were only five, weren’t you, when we left.
Me: I’ve got a vague recollection of a balsawood framework and paper stretched out over it.
Mum: It still impresses me how posh Fairfield Drive looks.
Dad: There’s a lot of “duck à l’orange” around here.
Mum: Yes. I don’t see where “l’orange” is.
Dad (to someone passing): Morning!
Mum: Did he acknowledge?
Dad: No. Never mind.… How long did I travel on the bus to Norcross after we decided we were going to go back to Thornton?
Mum: Oh, I don’t know.
Dad: It was quite a while… It was a long day, was that! Because it was an hour on the bus in those days.
Me: Well, it still would be, wouldn’t it, because the bus would still go all around…
Dad: You’d two hours’ travelling as well as an eight-hour day: it was a ten-hour day, it was a long day…