John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Chris and I return home

Early Days

Sunday 1st November 1964
 1. The following afternoon[1] Ann and Jennifer saw Chris and me off at the same Grimsby Town station, and there was more kissing. As the train pulled out of the station and we settled in our seats, I felt for the first time the pang of parting and the yearning that persisted afterwards.
[1] The following afternoon: i.e. the afternoon after the events of the story Ann Nurse.
 2. This first train was a diesel multiple unit (DMU), which left Grimsby Town station at “15:01”. It travelled a different route from the one on our outward journey (it went via Doncaster) and it arrived at a different station in Sheffield (Midland, not Victoria) at about 5pm. Alighting there, we crossed over a footbridge and joined a more “traditional” corridor-train, a stopping-train to Manchester Central station which departed at about 5.20pm.

 3. The DMU didn’t have compartments; on either side of a central aisle it had seats, each with room for two people on one side of the aisle and three on the other side.
 My experience of travelling on trains was limited; but when I was small, as a treat, occasionally my Mum and Dad would take me on the train instead of the bus, say, from Thornton station to Fleetwood, or to Blackpool North. Such local services would have carriages divided into separate compartments, each with its own door (or, I should say, with two doors, because access and egress were needed on both sides).
 The train we boarded at Sheffield Midland was a corridor-train: its carriages were connected so as to have through its entire length a continuous corridor, into which the compartments opened. Chris thinks that it was steam-hauled, probably by one of the “Black Fives”, which were about the most common mixed-traffic locomotives on the London Midland Region of British Railways at that time.
 4. Chris was a train enthusiast; he would buy railway timetables and work out routes and remember train times. This journey was of especial interest to him because it was on the “Hope Valley” route, via Hope, Edale and Chinley, rather than the more regular “Woodhead” route by which we had come on the outward journey. The train called at Stockport Tiviot Dale station, proceeding along the loop-line through Chorlton-cum-Hardy to Manchester Central station (not Manchester Piccadilly, as on our outward journey).
 5. In Manchester we had to change stations; our homeward train went from Manchester Victoria station. But it was not due to depart for another two hours, or two-and-a-half hours, so Chris proposed that we visit his Aunt Harriet; as we had to cross from Central to Victoria anyway, going to her place wasn’t that much of a detour. So that is what we did.

Central station, Victoria station and Aunt Harriet’s are shown in green.
 Aunt Harriet was an elderly cousin of Chris’s Aunt Grace, and was a dear soul whom Chris liked. She lived in a ground-floor flat in a large, five-storey block called Victoria Square, which faced on to Oldham Road in the nearby Ancoats area of Manchester. Access to the flats was gained by an arched “tunnel” through the side of the building in Sherratt Street.




 She welcomed us in, sat us down, and made us a cup of tea. She opened a tin of salmon, and made us some sandwiches. It may by now have been about seven o’clock, and we may not have eaten much, if anything, since lunch-time. I wasn’t keen on tinned-salmon sandwiches, but I seem to remember that the chief off-putting thing was that she had a little fleshy blob attached by a stalk to one of her upper eyelids!

 6. On the train, another DMU, from Manchester Victoria to Blackpool, we sat at the front. We expected the train to arrive at Blackpool Central station around 10.30pm, which might just allow us to get the last bus home from Talbot Road bus station if we hurried there. But there was some kind of hold-up at Preston, an interminable-seeming delay.
 Blackpool Central station was due for closure the next day, so ours was going to be the last-ever train to arrive at it. Immediately in front of us, separated from us by a largely-glass partition, was the driver, so we were able to witness what happened at the penultimate station, Blackpool South: a colleague got into his cab and presented him with a half-bottle of whisky. Then the approach to Central station was marked with much braying of the diesel multiple unit’s two-tone horns, for the benefit of the “reception committee”, as we rolled towards the platform-end.

 7. By now it had already turned eleven o’clock, and we knew that we would have missed the last bus. So we approached a taxi driver and asked him how much he would charge to take us to Thornton, but the price he quoted was more than we had on us. We thanked him and wandered off, considering the alternatives, when suddenly he turned his cab round in front of the station and pulled up alongside us. Maybe he felt sorry for us, but he just said that he would take us for as much as we had on us. Precisely where he dropped us off, we can’t remember; but anyhow, we got home.

Monday 2nd November 1964
 8. Next day, I was back at school again. I asked Brian Collinge, whom I considered to be an expert on birds, to help me with a letter to Ann, which he readily did. I remember, in the context of writing to her, that she lived in Pershore Avenue, Grimsby. This Collinge-dictated letter started off something like, “When I arrived in Thornton” (or “Blackpool”) “I was already missing you”, and continued with more lines of affectionate words. I did receive one reply back, scribbled in red ball-point pen, apologising for itself because she was not used to writing letters, but that was all that happened.

 9. When Chris and I saw Collinge, though, feeling quite proud of ourselves and eager to crow about our success to our “mentor”, he seemed rather unimpressed—as though we couldn’t possibly have done it properly without him!

Easter 1965
 10. Chris and I wanted to go back and visit Jennifer Ballard and Ann Nurse again at Easter (1965)—in fact Chris did meet Jennifer again—but my Mum said it was out of the question. “I’ve written to Monica,” she told me, meaning that she had already arranged for the family to stay with Monica, my Dad’s cousin, in Sheffield—to which I replied, in the now-famous words: “Well, can’t you ‘de-write’?”


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