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Early days with Peter Gooding (2)

Early Days
Early days with Peter Gooding (1)


Gooding shows me where he used to live
 1. Peter Gooding came originally from Northwich in Cheshire,[0] but before his mum and dad and he came to live at “Beech View” (the name of their caravan [mobile home] on the Limebrest Farm caravan site [trailer park], Thornton), they had lived in Blackpool.
[0] Chris commented (email, 1st December 2010):
I read the “Early days with Peter Gooding” with great interest, and it contained stories/information about Peter, which I hadn’t known of before. For example, I have vague recollections about his time living in Blackpool, but nothing in detail. I also remember that he originally came from Northwich, but hadn’t he also lived in Wallasey? I seem to remember his having connections with Liverpool, somehow. Does that ring a bell with you? Another thing which occurred to me is that, although Wallasey is a sizeable town and has an impressive town hall, its central area is still referred to as Wallasey Village (I remember taking a train once to New Brighton and it stopped at Wallasey Village [railway station], which seemed to be the main station). Maybe this could have led Mrs. Gooding to refer to what she considered to be the centre of Thornton in a similar way.
Indeed, that does ring a bell, although I had forgotten it. In the Beatles-era the buzz-words “fab” and “gear” were fashionable. The latter word came from the Beatles’ own use of Liverpool slang. People would say, “It’s fab!”, or, “It’s gear!”; but Peter pointed out, from local knowledge, that the correct expression was, “It’s the gear!”, not, “It’s gear!”
 2. One day, Peter took me to see this former home of his. I can’t remember how we travelled, whether by Blackpool Corporation Transport bus No.14 or 14A, or by bicycle.
 I remember one time when we definitely did travel by bike, because we diverted from our usual route along Blackpool Old Road (the B5268), turning right and going along Westfield Avenue and the continuation of it, Mowbray Drive. This route took us through an estate of small industrial units. I remember being on a bike because it was downhill all the way and we picked up some speed. Peter’s dad worked as a carpenter for a firm of joinery manufacturers down there somewhere, and for some reason Peter visited him. I can’t remember whether the visit was welcome or an embarrassment. Mr. Gooding could get a bit grumpy sometimes. He was older than Peter’s mum, perhaps even in his sixties: a small man, very thin, with slightly unkempt white hair round the back of his bald head.

 3. Anyway, by whatever means, Peter took me to see his old house and haunts. We turned off Talbot Road at the corner where the Ribble bus depot[1] was, and went down Cecil Street. Peter had lived in one of the terraced houses, on the last street off Cecil Street, I think: Percy Street.
[1] Depot (in this context): A place where vehicles, locomotives, etc., are housed and maintained and from which they are dispatched for service, not (as in North American usage) a railway or bus station.

The bus depot is now a DIY store.

Cecil Street

The corner of Cecil Street and Percy Street

Percy Street
 4. At the far end of Cecil Street is the the main Blackpool-to-Preston railway line, and on the other side of that was a marshalling yard. Peter told me that one time he and his friends had pushed a mineral wagon from one of the marshalling yard’s sidings onto the main line. (I suspect that this was a tall story, told to impress me.)

How many of them would it have taken to push a 16-ton mineral wagon?
 5. After that, Peter took me across Talbot Road to the network of terraced-house streets that was there. In those days you would often find a corner shop where two such streets met, and indeed Peter took me into one. He knew that they sold little Hovis loaves there, about 2½ inches long, for three ha’pence[1] apiece. We bought one each, then he led me down to the Waller and Hartley factory in George Street, where they made “Milady” toffees. Mounted on the wall of the building there was a vertical pipe, six or seven inches in diameter, capped at the end, perhaps at head or chest height. This was used for receiving bulk deliveries of the syrup that was used for making the toffees. And syrup was dripping from the pipe just there, so we caught some up by swirling our loaves in it and ate them.
[1] Three ha’pence: 1½d, worth 0.625p in decimal money.

Peter’s dad’s car
 6. Peter’s dad had a blue car, quite rounded in appearance. I think it may have been a Hillman Minx. He garaged it in one of the outbuildings of Limebrest Farm; the farmhouse was nearby. From time to time Peter and I would sit in it, and he showed me how to depress the clutch pedal and put the car into gear, how to do the same to change gear, etc. He also spoke about synchromesh gearboxes, and about the technique of “double declutching” with other gearboxes. So he sounded and seemed very knowledgeable. Whether he had actually ever driven a car, or not, I don’t know, but he at least knew the functions of the clutch, gear-lever, accelerator, foot-brake, hand-brake…, which I up to that point had no awareness of. (We also used the car, in our imagination, for space travel.)
 His dad didn’t approve of our messing about with his car. Once, his dad was in the garage, and Peter remembered that he had left the car in gear; so without a word or a by-your-leave he quickly got into the car, set the gear-lever to neutral, and got out again. His dad asked him, “What did you do that for?”—aware only that Peter had entered the car and straight away left it again. Peter’s reply was evasive, and his dad got cross with him and told him he didn’t want us playing in the car again. We probably still did, though, if we knew he wasn’t at home.

We drive on the left in the UK, so the steering wheel was on the right, not the left as in this illustration.
Cousin Harry
 7. Peter had an older cousin back in Northwich, whom he admired greatly. “My cousin Harry’s got a ‘Mini-bin’,” he told me, presumably using the term that Harry used for a Mini. “He’s souped it up and had it sprayed in British Racing Green.” All this was meaningless to me at first, but clearly Peter was impressed.
 8. What Harry’s occupation was, I don’t know, but I guess it was engineering-related: motor engineering or general mechanical engineering. Peter had a number of exercise books, full of hand-written notes and drawings about many different engineering topics. He told me that he’d copied them from material that Harry had lent him. The writing was bold, cursive, with well formed loops and descenders, whereas the examples of Peter’s handwriting that I had seen were flatter and quite ill-formed. I pointed out that this didn’t look like his handwriting, but he said that there were a number of styles that he was able to choose. (I accepted his word then; but with hindsight, I realise that this was just one of his “stories”: the books were in Cousin Harry’s hand.)
 I borrowed the books and read them with great interest. Here was everything one could want to know about drilling and reaming, about collets and chucks, about machine tools—lathes, milling machines, etc. I first came across the term “bastard file” in these thin volumes! The information I gathered even gave me a head-start some five years later when, as part of my undergraduate apprenticeship at The English Electric Company, Limited, I first saw and operated machine tools.

Captain W. E. Johns
 9. Captain W. E. Johns is best known as the creator of the ace pilot and adventurer Biggles, but Peter introduced me to Johns’ lesser known science-fiction books. He had read a number of them, borrowed from Thornton Library’s children’s section, and on his recommendation I started to do the same. They were written in the third person, but from the viewpoint of teen-aged Rex Clinton. He and his father Group Captain Timothy (“Tiger”) Clinton R.A.F. (retired) get lost in the fog while on a deer-stalking holiday in the Scottish Highlands, and stumble across lonely Glensalich Castle where they meet Professor Lucius Brane. (This made me laugh because I saw the name as “Luscious”.) The professor has been building a space-vehicle called the Spacemaster, and they all go off on adventures in it.

Much of Thornton Library is obscured by a tree and a traffic-light in this 1979 photo. Over the door there was a sign, “COUNTY LIBRARY”, and either side of the entrance, (left:) “THORNTON”, (right:) “BRANCH”. The three side-windows of the children’s section can be seen.

Thornton Library, much as I remember it, though the photo was probably taken shortly after it opened in 1938. The entrance is at the far end, and the desk where books were checked in on one one side and checked out on the other can be seen under the rectangular opening. The children’s section was off to the left (or right, from the point of view of entering the main part of the library and going to it).
 10. The first book in the series was not available when I went to the library, so I borrowed a later one initially. It had a synopsis, so I knew who people were and what was happening. I read two or three of the books one after the other.
 11. Re-reading them in 2010, I realised that I had forgotten almost all of what they contain. I remembered that Rex met an extraterrestrial girlfriend, and I remembered that the extraterrestrial villain Rolto visited Earth and was terrified of travelling by road.
One more ordeal awaited Rolto, and that was the car journey to Glensalich; for the man who could flash through space at velocities that defied the imagination was terrified by what he thought were near-collisions on the road. —Now to the Stars
The Pan Book of Horror Stories
 12. Peter enthused about the Pan Book of Horror Stories (which he lent me), especially the part where a cat attacks a man, ripping through his eyes with its claws.
Holst: The Planets
 13. It was Peter who introduced me to “classical” music—more or less: I remember hearing DukasThe Sorcerer’s Apprentice on the school radio when I was at Church Road County Primary School. “It’s not all boring,” he said. He told me how good The Planets by Gustav Holst was. He had bought an LP of it on the Decca Ace of Clubs label, and played it to me.
da-da-da-da, da, da-da-da
da-da-da-da, da, da-da-da
da-da-da-da, da, da-da-da…

Holst: The Planets, Op.32
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent
Ace Of Clubs ACL 26 MONO
 14. I was impressed enough to buy my own copy, on the budget Music for Pleasure label—for 10/6,[2] I think. Peter didn’t like mine; his was better, he said; he disapproved of a drum-and-cymbal roll at the end of Mars.
[2] 10/6: “Ten and six”, i.e. ten shillings and sixpence (52½p)

Holst: The Planets, Op.32
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Music for Pleasure MFP 2014 MONO
Bad influences
 15. So much for the positive influences of Peter Gooding in the areas of engineering, literature, music… At school, I was accustomed to being obedient, diligent, respectful to teachers, doing all my homework, and generally keeping out of trouble. Peter’s attitude was more casual, indifferent, nonchalant. It didn’t bother him if he got a bad mark for carelessly done homework, or if he was reprimanded for failing to do his homework altogether. Some of this rubbed off on me: not completely, for I was still scared of teachers, which Peter didn’t seem to be.

 16. And there was the area of petty vandalism. Peter and I thought it highly amusing when we surreptitiously removed a soft plastic sign advertising frozen foods that was stuck to the window of a grocer’s shop and transferred it to a jeweller’s shop-window. (This took place in the part of Thornton that Mrs. Gooding, Peter’s mum, would refer to as “the village”.)
[3] Compare Chris’s comment (footnote to first paragraph).



Thornton Village, according to Mrs. Gooding

The area commonly known as Thornton Village

 17. I was with Peter in his bedroom, the last room on the left of the caravan. We would engage in banter from time to time and exchange mock blows. On this occasion, though, I failed to pull my punch adequately, and struck him on the nose, which began to bleed profusely. On a bedside table there was a tumbler, which had contained milk. He proceeded to bleed into this, and half-filled it. He didn’t seem concerned, though, because he had experienced such nosebleeds before: it was a weakness that he had, he said.

 18. On another occasion, I was with Peter at Thornton Village (the Gooding-defined Thornton Village), outside the post office. There was some banter again and he struck me—only, just as he did, I turned my head and the blow landed on my nose. There was severe pain and streaming eyes, but no bleed. However, after that, I started to notice a slight bump on the nose below the bridge. I would tug at the cartilaginous part of the nose in an attempt to straighten it. Whether or not it was noticed at home, I don’t remember, but later on my Mum said, “Our John used to have a straight nose, just like his Uncle Ronnie.” (Throughout my childhood, people would remark that I looked just like my Uncle Ronnie.)

Uncle Ronnie, 2004
 19. Just a final recollection in this miscellany of memories of early days with Peter Gooding: Peter could be quite unreliable. I might arrange to call round at his home, and he would not be there; or he might arrange to call on me, and not turn up.

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