An Extract From The Book: Jimmy Spence 8th Of June 1974 By Kelvin Rush.
‘Once the ambulance gets here Jimmy, I’ll ring your parents and tell them what’s happened,’ said Mrs Cartwright. ‘What did happen Mrs Cartwright?’ asked Jimmy, who still felt a little groggy and confused. Before Mrs Cartwright could answer, a voice called out from the crowd.
‘It was me Jimmy….. I’m really sorry….. honest I am. I was taking a shot on goal and I mishit the ball. It sliced off my hockey stick and right into your head. Didn’t you see it coming?’ Jimmy looked up, glancing around the crowd, trying to put a face to the voice. His eyes fixated on a pretty girl stood next to Tommy Platt. It was Julie Richardson. With the sunlight striking her long golden brown hair, it was as if she had a halo around her head. She looked just like an angel.
— It was precisely 3.19pm on Monday the 3rd of June 1974, and from this moment on, Jimmy Spence’s life would never be the same again. Jimmy seemed to be instantly dumbstruck and didn’t say anything. When he finally responded, he got all nervous and tongue twisted. ‘Oh err….. err….. err….. Yeah….. don’t worry Julie….. it’s not your fault….. it’s no big deal. Yav not killed me or anything.’
It was the first time Jimmy had ever spoken to Julie Richardson. She was in class ten and was friends with his twin sister Mel. He’d seen them together a few times in the playground and on the sports field, but he’d never actually met her in person. Julie began tapping the ball in the air with her hockey stick. ‘How do you know my name Jimmy?’ she asked looking all surprised. ‘Cos he fancies ya, don’t ya Jimmy!?’ shouted Birdie. The crowd erupted, sending loud raw laughter echoing all around the field. Even Mrs Cartwright and Mr Brown got sucked in. The only two people who weren’t laughing were Jimmy and Julie. Jimmy got really embarrassed. He could feel his already flushed face getting even flusher. ‘Shut it Birdie! Or I’ll give ya a lump bigger than this one!’ he bellowed out angrily, making his head throb even more.
— If the truth be known, most of the boys fancied Julie Richardson. She was a popular girl with a wide circle of friends, although some people thought she was a bit of a snob. She was good at sports and was the captain of the school hockey team. She wasn’t brought up on a council estate like a lot of the other kids. Her parents were well-off and she lived in an affluent area, in a four bedroom detached bungalow. She certainly didn’t want for anything, and went on all the school trips, dressed in nice clothes, and always had the latest trendy shoes and trainers. Most of the time her hair was tied in a ponytail, revealing a sweet and pretty face. She had perfect straight white teeth and when she smiled (which she often did), her face would sparkle like a shining star.
Boys always seemed to be following her around like lost sheep. Some would ride past her on bikes on the way home from school, pulling wheelies, showing off. Others would tell her silly jokes and impersonate celebrities off the telly, to try and get a few cheap laughs. She wasn’t that interested in boys and certainly didn’t encourage them to hang around. But she wasn’t mean enough to tell them to get lost, and she didn’t want to upset anyone’s feelings. As the laughter eventually died down, Mr Brown stood up to address the boys.
‘Right….. games lesson is over. I want all the boys to go back to the changing rooms and get dressed. Then you can all get yourselves off home.’ All the boys began to cheer, apart from Tommy Platt, (one of the brainiest and geekiest kids in school). ‘But it’s only half three sir,’ he said. ‘We’ve got another thirty minutes to go.’
‘Shut it Tommy!’ shouted Birdie. ‘Yeah shut it Tommy!’ said another voice. Mr Brown was adamant. ‘Well you can finish early for once can’t ya Tommy? Now get off to the changing rooms.’ Some of the boys jumped on Tommy’s back, as they began walking off the field. ‘What about us miss?’ asked Jessica Charles. ‘Can we go home early as well?’ Mrs Cartwright was still knelt down next to Jimmy. She didn’t want him to move an inch until the ambulance arrived.
‘I suppose so Jessica,’ she said. ‘Go on get off.’ As the girls began to leave the field, Julie Richardson walked up to Jimmy and crouched down beside him. She leant over and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. ‘Sorry again Jimmy, I hope you’ll be ok at the hospital. See ya.’ Jimmy’s little heart was racing. He’d never been this close to a girl before, and certainly not a girl like Julie Richardson. He smiled nervously.
‘Oh thanks Julie. Yeah, see ya.’ Julie stood up and dropped the hockey ball on the ground. She then whacked it straight down the field with her hockey stick towards the changing rooms, before running after it. Jimmy’s whole body began to shake and tingle, as his testosterone levels hit the rooftops. His mind, body and sanity was already in the midst of puberty, and he no longer felt in control of himself. The aroma and human touch of Julie Richardson lit the fuse once again, and sent his emotions into overdrive. It was like a thousand different fireworks exploding at the same time, into a cold, dark, cloudy sky. He would experience many more episodes of bewilderment and confusion, during his adolescence period. But for now he was just about coping.
‘Great they’re here,’ said Mr Brown, referring to the two paramedics coming towards him pushing a stretcher. They were dressed in smart green uniforms and bright yellow jackets. ‘About time too,’ said Mrs Cartwright, as she slowly rose to her feet, relieved to be standing up again. She brushed away the grass and muck from her short pleated skirt, and from her knees. The two paramedics lined up the stretcher alongside Jimmy and lowered the legs, until it was a foot or so from the ground.
‘He’s been hit on the head with a hockey ball,’ said Mr Brown. ‘His name’s Jimmy.’ One of the paramedics knelt down next to Jimmy, and carefully moved his hair away from the enormous red lump. ‘Hello Jimmy, my name is Sid and this is my colleague Trev. Whoo…..! that’s a big lump isn’t it!? I’ve never seen one as big as that before! How are you feeling son? Any blurred vision? dizziness or nausea?’ Jimmy put on a brave face to try and avoid going to hospital. ‘I feel fine,’ he replied positively. ‘I’ve got a bit of a headache but that’s all.’ (He didn’t know what nausea was, but he was certain he didn’t have it.) Sid took a closer look at the lump.
‘You’ve took a good old bash on the head their son,’ he said, as he examined it from all angles. ‘Been hit with a hockey ball have you? Now how long have you been playing hockey? Boys never played hockey when I was at school.’ Jimmy started grinning. ‘I wasn’t playing hockey, I was running around the football pitch warming up with mi classmates, and I got whacked on the head with a hockey ball. Didn’t I Mrs Cartwright?’
‘Yeah….. that’s exactly what happened,’ replied Mrs Cartwright, with her usual warm broad smile. Sid removed a neck brace from his bag. ‘So the first thing we need to do Jimmy, is pop a brace around your neck to stop it from moving. Is that ok?’
‘Fine,’ said Jimmy, who’d never even seen a neck brace before. Sid gently lifted Jimmy’s head a few inches off the ground, and carefully wrapped the brace around his neck, securing it with two velcro straps. He then took out a small narrow torch from the sleeve pocket on his jacket. ‘Right Jimmy, I’m gonna shine the torch into your eyes now, can you focus on the light please?’ Jimmy didn’t understand.
‘What do ya need to do that for?’ Sid tried his best to explain without alarming Jimmy too much. (I don’t think it worked.) ‘Well Jimmy, I’m looking for irregular eye movement. For instance, do your eyes respond to the light in the proper way? Have they dilated? Are your pupils the right size? I’m actually looking for signs of brain injury.’
Jimmy was beginning to wish he’d never asked. Brain injury was the last thing he wanted to hear. ‘Oh right, no worries,’ he said, still trying to sound positive to avoid hospital. Sid turned on the torch and hovered right over Jimmy, just a few inches away from his face. Jimmy could smell Sid’s breath and couldn’t quite make out what he’d had for lunch. It was definitely coffee and perhaps some kind of fish, but he couldn’t be sure. Sid shone the torch directly into Jimmy’s eyes, first the left then the right.
‘Yeah, everything looks fine son. Can you follow the light please?’ he asked, as he moved the torch from side to side, then up and down. Jimmy followed the light like a hawk, trying not to blink. Sid turned off the torch, pushing it firmly back into his sleeve pocket. ‘No problems there son, I think your brain is still intact.’ Jimmy was relieved. ‘I’m going to take your blood pressure now Jimmy. Have you had it taken before?’ Jimmy shrugged his shoulders. ‘I don’t know, I don’t think so.’
‘Well it’s nothing to worry about, it doesn’t hurt.’ Sid rummaged through his bag and produced a piece of equipment which he held out in front of Jimmy. ‘This is called a sphygmomanometer. We use it to take people’s blood pressure.’
‘Oh right,’ said Jimmy, who wasn’t really that interested. Sid rolled up the left sleeve on Jimmy’s Liverpool football shirt, and wrapped a piece of fabric around his upper arm. ‘This is called a cuff,’ he said. ‘We inflate it with air, by pressing this little black ball here, called the inflation bulb.’ (Sid sounded more like a science teacher than a paramedic, thought Jimmy.) Sid began inflating the cuff. Jimmy felt it getting tighter and tighter on his arm, as he screwed up his face in a little discomfort. ‘It’s not too uncomfortable for you is it son?’ asked Sid. ‘No it’s fine,’ sighed Jimmy, not wanting to make a fuss. A minute or so later it was all over. Jimmy’s blood pressure was fine. Sid released the air from the cuff and removed it from Jimmy’s arm. He then shoved all the equipment back into his bag. ‘I need to check for concussion now Jimmy, so I’m going to ask you a few questions, ok son?’
‘Fire away,’ replied Jimmy.
‘How many fingers am I holding up?’
‘What school do you go to?’
‘Redclose Junior School.’
‘What’s the names of these two teachers?’
‘It’s Mr Brown and Mrs Cartwright.’
‘What’s your name Jimmy?’ Jimmy was baffled by the question. ‘Yav just said it, it’s Jimmy.’ Everyone laughed including Sid, who looked somewhat embarrassed. ‘I think even someone with concussion, would know the answer to that question,’ said Mr Brown.
‘Ok Jimmy, everything seems to be fine. But we’re going to take you to hospital to get you checked out thoroughly, just to be on the safe side. You also need that lump looking at.’ Jimmy looked very disappointed. ‘Do I have to go?’ ‘I’m afraid so,’ said Sid. ‘Don’t worry Jimmy,’ said a sympathetic Mr Brown. ‘I’ll go with you. I’ll ring your parents when we get there.’ ‘Thanks sir, dad’s working but mum should be in.’
‘Right Jimmy, we’re going to lift you carefully onto the stretcher. Try and keep your body as straight as you can,’ said Sid, as he took hold of Jimmy’s shoulders. Trev (the other paramedic), bent down and cupped his hands around Jimmy’s ankles. They gently lifted Jimmy onto the stretcher, and pulled a dark green blanket over him, right up to his neck brace. Sid then raised the legs on the stretcher and released the wheel breaks. ‘Right then son off we go,’ he said. Sid and Trev were on either side of the stretcher, as they pushed it slowly across the football pitch, and headed towards the car park where the ambulance was. Mrs Cartwright and Mr Brown followed closely behind.
As they got nearer the school, a number of kids had their heads poking out of the classroom windows, wondering what was going on. All they could see was Jimmy’s large white neck brace, and his football boots hanging over the side of the stretcher. For some reason a rumour had circulated around the school, that Jimmy had been shot with an air rifle. It was later established that the culprit was none other than Simon Sparrow (Birdie). He’d started the rumour as a joke, but then denied any involvement, as the joke got out of hand. Even some of the teachers had been sucked in. Mr Grayson the history teacher was even considering getting the armed police involved. Some of the kids began to shout from the windows:
‘Has he been shot!?’
‘Is he dead!?’
‘Who shot him!?’
‘Have they caught the killer!?’ Then another voice shouted. ‘Are you alright Jimmy!?’ Jimmy recognised the accent, it was Paddy (Patrick Kelly). Paddy was one of Jimmy’s best mates. They played football together and were both Liverpool fans. Paddy’s family moved to England from Ireland in the early seventies, and they’d been best mates ever since. Jimmy wanted to shout back to him, to confirm he was alright, but he didn’t have the energy. Also, it was embarrassing enough having to be wheeled off the school field on a stretcher, without trying to shout out a message to Paddy, who probably wouldn’t hear it anyway.
Instead, he clenched his right fist and punched the air several times (like a wounded soldier in battle, signaling to his infantry that he was ok). There was an almighty cheer, as kids once again started shouting from the windows:
‘We thought you were dead Jimmy!’
‘Welcome back Jimmy!’
‘Nice one Jimmy!’
‘Who shot you Jimmy!?’
‘Are you off to hospital Jimmy!?’ Some of the kids who were cheering didn’t even know who Jimmy Spence was. They only got involved so the lessons would be disrupted.
— With paramedics on the school field, kids shouting from windows, and rumours flying around that a pupil had been shot, one thing was certain: Redclose Junior School had never seen anything like it before. They eventually reached the school car park where the ambulance was. Trev opened the two back doors as wide as they would go. Jimmy looked a little downbeat. ‘Are you ok son?’ asked Trev. ‘Are you warm enough? I can get you another blanket if you like.’
‘I’m fine thank you,’ said Jimmy, who’s little face was redder than ever. He was dehydrated as he’d not eaten or drank anything since dinner time. The neck brace was also tight and uncomfortable, and he still had a throbbing headache. ‘Could I have a drink of water please Trev?’ he asked. Trev climbed into the back of the ambulance, and brought out a blue plastic water bottle from behind one of the seats. It had a narrow plastic tube stuck out of the top. He carefully put the tube into Jimmy’s mouth. ‘There you go son, you’ll have to drink out of this. Try not to move your head.’ Jimmy quickly took several gulps of water that rushed down his throat, instantly quenching his thirst. As Trev removed the tube from Jimmy’s mouth, Jimmy let out an enormous belch. ‘Sorry Trev,’ he said rather embarrassed.
‘Better out than in son, better out than in,’ said Trev smiling. Trev and Sid then lowered the stretcher and carefully lifted Jimmy into the ambulance. Mr Brown got in and sat down on one of the seats. Sid would be driving the ambulance to the hospital, while Trev and Mr Brown were in the back with Jimmy. Sid jumped out of the ambulance and closed one of the back doors. Mrs Cartwright poked her face inside. ‘I’m sure you’ll be fine Jimmy, try not to worry love. Mr Brown will keep me up to date with things.’
‘Ok Mrs Cartwright, thank you very much for all you’ve done,’ said Jimmy, as his eyes began to well up. A few moments later he burst into tears. Before long he was crying uncontrollably, as the events finally began to catch up with him.
— It was quite an ordeal for an eleven-year-old to cope with. He’d been knocked out unconscious by a hockey ball that could have killed him, and now he was on his way to hospital in an ambulance. He’d never even been in an ambulance before, let alone a hospital. On top of all that, he had a banging headache, and a lump the size of an egg on his forehead. And he’d also had a close encounter with an unknown kind, by the name of Julie Richardson. All in all it had been quite an eventful day to say the least. He also desperately wished his mum was there, she would make things better.
Mrs Cartwright’s maternal instincts kicked in. She had a young son of her own, and was well aware of the emotional upheaval in the life of an eleven-year-old. She climbed into the ambulance and gave Jimmy a gentle hug, being very careful not to knock his enormous lump, which was now very sore and as red as a beetroot.
‘Try not to get too upset love,’ she said whispering in his ear, while wiping away the tears with her thumb. ‘You’ll be ok. Would you like me to go to the hospital with you?’ Jimmy was too upset to answer. Mr Brown made a suggestion: ‘Why doesn’t Mrs Cartwright go to the hospital with you Jimmy instead of me? I’ll go and ring your parents, and write up a full report of the incident. Would that be better?’ Jimmy nodded in agreement. Mr Brown then thanked the paramedics and said his goodbyes before heading back to school.
— Mrs Cartwright was well liked by the children, and her fellow teachers. She was very kind and approachable, and always took a keen interest in the wellbeing of the kids, especially the vulnerable ones. She was easily recognisable around school, as she was the spitting image of Velma Dinkley from Scooby Doo. Her usual attire consisted of long white socks (pulled right up to her knees), a baggy turtleneck jumper (either yellow or bright orange), a short pleated skirt, square black rimmed glasses, and a jet-black pudding basin haircut.
On a few occasions, she’d been involved in the personal lives of some of the children in her class, who she suspected were being mistreated at home. While some teachers turned a blind eye, she tackled the issues head-on. She knew she would face a backlash from the parents for sticking her nose in, but as far as she was concerned, the children always came first. And she didn’t hesitate to get social services involved either.
That’s exactly what happened several months ago, when Caroline Bradley walked into the classroom and sat down at her desk. She’d obviously been crying and looked very upset. She also had a nasty looking bruise on her right cheek. Mrs Cartwright noticed straight away, but didn’t say anything and calmly called registration as normal, as she didn’t want to create a scene. When registration had ended, she took Caroline to the headmaster’s office. As it turned out, Caroline also had a number of nasty marks all over her back. It looked like she’d been hit with a belt of some kind. Because she refused to talk about it, Mr Bradley (the headmaster) and Mrs Cartwright had no alternative, but to call social services and the police.
After a thorough investigation, it was established that Caroline had been physically abused by both parents. It was mainly her father who dished out the punishment. He was a cocaine addict and was well-known to the police, for violence and drug offences. Her mother was violent to a lesser degree, but she still hit Caroline on a number of occasions, and she failed to stop the beatings Caroline received from her father. They could hardly take care of themselves, let alone their young daughter.
They were both arrested and charged with neglect of a child and actual bodily harm. Her father was sentenced to eight years in prison and her mother five years. Caroline was put into foster care. It was very upsetting for Mrs Cartwright, and she had to give evidence in court. But that certainly didn’t deter her from raising issues with other parents, for sending their children to school hungry, unwashed, and not properly clothed. Mrs Cartwright still keeps a close eye on Caroline, and continues to help her through her ordeal.
An Extract From The Book: Jimmy Spence 8th Of June 1974 By Kelvin Rush.