An Extract From The Book: Jimmy Spence 8th Of June 1974 By Kelvin Rush.
Jimmy walked reluctantly and very nervously down the street, with both hands firmly in his front trouser pockets. The excitement he felt when he woke up that morning had deserted him, and was now replaced with self-doubt and apprehension.
He got to the end of the street and turned left onto Redclose Crescent, which led directly to Barkers Park. Under normal circumstances, it would have taken him no more than five minutes to reach the park from his house. However, these weren’t normal circumstances. As he got to the park entrance he was still feeling very anxious and nervous. He was also twenty minutes early, so he decided to take a detour. He bypassed the park and carried on walking to the end of the street. He then turned left and made his way to Barkers Park woods.
He followed the footpath through the woods and then across the field, before finally reaching Barkers Park at precisely ten minutes to ten. Jimmy’s heart was racing, as he walked towards the cricket pavilion. The cricket pavilion was the focal point of the whole park. It was where everyone met and hung out together. This was obviously the place where Julie wanted to meet him.
The pavilion was a large white building made from brick and wood. It had ladies and gents changing rooms and toilets, and a staircase leading to a balcony. The balcony was used by the batting team, who had a bird’s eye view of the whole cricket pitch and surrounding field. The public weren’t allowed to use the balcony, so the staircase door was always locked. There was also a very large black clock on the front of the pavilion above the balcony. For some reason the clock was always five minutes fast. The park itself had a large field, that included a cricket pitch and three full-sized football pitches. It had a children’s playground, with swings, slides, climbing frames, and a large rocking horse with six seats. (When you got six kids on the rocking horse, it went like the clappers.) There was also two bowling greens, three tennis courts, and a small twelve hole putting green.
Jimmy sat on the wall outside the pavilion. There was no sign of Julie, as he nervously looked up at the black clock. It was now five minutes to ten. He got a little panicky, before realising the clock was always five minutes fast. He still felt agitated but at least his heart wasn’t racing as much. He sat on the wall for several more minutes, anxiously looking all around the park. But Julie was still nowhere to be seen. The next time he looked up at the clock, it was fifteen minutes past ten. Jimmy was now beginning to think that all this was some kind of sick joke. ‘I bet our Mel’s been lying all the time,’ he muttered to himself. ‘I bet she’s at home right now laughing her head off, knowing I’ll be sat here like a loser, waiting for an invisible Julie Richardson to appear.’
Five more slow minutes went by….. Then another five….. And then another five….. And still no Julie Richardson. That was enough for Jimmy. He stood up and began walking away from the pavilion full of rage and anger, working out in his head, how best to get revenge on Mel. Just then, he heard a faint voice in the distance, that made him stop dead in his tracks. It sounded like someone was calling his name, but he couldn’t be sure. He looked across the field towards the woods. He could vaguely see two figures coming towards him. The voice got louder and louder, as the figures got nearer and nearer.
‘Jimmy…..! Jimmy…..! Wait…..! Don’t go!’ Moments later, Jimmy’s whole body was infused with pure adrenaline and excitement. He could hardly believe it. It was Julie. But who was she with? He soon realised it was Sally Scrivens. But what was she doing here? He didn’t have a clue why he was meeting Julie, and now Sally Scrivens only added to the mystery.
He knew Sally quite well, as she was friends with his twin sister Mel. She’d also been to his house a few times. Jimmy sat back down on the wall. He was extremely nervous and his heart was now beating faster than ever. His body was also shaking, which he tried to control, by crossing his arms and legs really tightly, (although it didn’t seem to do much good). The girls arrived at the pavilion shortly after. They both smiled warmly at Jimmy, before sitting down on the wall. Julie sat next to him, just a foot away.
‘Sorry we’re late Jimmy,’ she said. ‘I had to take my little sister Tina to the swimming baths. When we got there, we’d forgotten her water wings, so we had to go all the way back home to get them. Thanks for waiting. Have you been waiting long?’ Jimmy tried to reply, but nothing came out of his mouth. He sat there as numb as a rock, as if he’d seen a ghost or something. He still couldn’t quite believe that Julie Richardson (one of the cutest girls in his school), was sat right next to him. He finally managed to string a few words together.
‘Oh no, I’ve not been waiting that long Julie. I was a bit late myself to be honest,’ he said, bending the truth slightly. ‘You don’t mind me bringing Sally, do you Jimmy?’ Jimmy didn’t know what to mind. He didn’t even know why he was meeting Julie, let alone Sally. ‘Oh no, of course not, hello Sally.’ Sally was fiddling around with her ponytail that was dangling over her right shoulder. She looked up and cheerfully grinned at Jimmy. ‘Alright Jimmy, how’s your Mel?’ ‘Oh she’s fine thanks Sally, annoying as ever.’
Although Sally had been to Jimmy’s house a few times with Mel, he’d never really paid much attention to her. However, he was a lot more observant these days (especially where girls were concerned), and he noticed a few things about Sally, that he’d not noticed before. For instance, a tiny dimple appeared on the left hand corner of her mouth, when she smiled, he’d not noticed that before. And she had a small diamond shaped, light brown mole on her neck, just below her chin, he’d not noticed that before. And her eyes were like two perfectly formed ripe green gooseberries, he’d certainly not noticed that before.
Since Jimmy’s adventure into puberty, a whole new world had opened up to him, and there were lots of things he’d never noticed before, that were now clearly visible. Although Sally wasn’t as pretty as Julie, Jimmy still thought she was lovely. Julie looked at Jimmy, all concerned. ‘How’s the lump Jimmy? I’m so sorry for hitting you with the hockey ball. How did it go at the hospital by the way?’
‘Oh the lump’s fine Julie, it’s just about completely gone now. It’s just left a little red mark that’s all. Nothing really happened at the hospital. I was examined by Doctor Hurst, but there was no concussion or anything like that. I was given an ice pack for the lump, and paracetamol for the headache, and then sent home.’ Julie leaned over to look at Jimmy’s red mark on his forehead. ‘Can I touch it Jimmy?’ she asked eagerly. ‘Yeah, if ya like Julie, after all you created it.’ She touched it carefully with the little finger on her right hand, and gave it a gentle rub. ‘Does it hurt Jimmy?’ she whispered.
‘No Julie, not at all.’ Jimmy was only a few inches away from Julie’s face. He’d never been this close to any girl before, let alone to the girl of his dreams. It felt incredible. He gazed into Julie’s sea blue eyes, mesmerised for a few seconds, before she pulled her head away.
There was then a period of nervous silence, as it seemed everyone had run out of things to say. The three of them were sat on the wall looking slightly uncomfortable. Sally was still messing around with her ponytail, criss-crossing strands of black hair, to make several pleats, only to unravel it all and start again. Julie was staring into space, nibbling on the leather necklace around her neck. And Jimmy? Well he was just sat there with a dopey look on his face, wondering if Julie thought he looked cool in all his gear, and his slicked-back hair.
Eventually Julie broke the silence. ‘You can play putting here can’t you Jimmy?’ Jimmy sprung to life. ‘Yeah it’s twelve holes Julie, I play all the time, have you ever played?’
‘No never,’ replied Julie.
‘Me neither,’ said Sally.
‘Do you both want to play?’ asked Jimmy, full of enthusiasm. Julie rummaged through her jean pockets and pulled out a few coins.
‘How much is it Jimmy?’ she asked, as she began counting her money.
‘It’s twenty pence Julie, that’s ten pence for the putting and ten pence for the deposit. The deposit is refunded at the end, when you hand back the golf ball and putter. But if you lose the golf ball or damage the putter, you lose your deposit.’
Julie finished counting her money. ‘Oh….. I’ve only brought twelve pence with me, how much have you brought Sally?’ Sally shrugged her shoulders. ‘Well I haven’t brought anything, I didn’t think I’d need any money.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll pay for you both,’ said Jimmy proudly. ‘I’ve got enough money. I’ve been saving up for the latest Liverpool shirt. I’ve saved over three quid ya know.’ Both Julie and Sally were impressed. ‘Over three quid!? Wow! How did you save that then Jimmy?’ asked Sally. ‘Pocket money and paper round money mainly, and a bit of birthday cash.’
‘Even so Jimmy,’ said Julie. ‘It’s not fair for you to pay for us all. Here, take this twelve pence, and if you can pay eight pence towards the deposit that would be great.’ Jimmy took the twelve pence. Sally felt really awkward for not having any money. ‘You two go and play, I’ll wait here,’ she said. Jimmy was having none of that. ‘Oh no, no, no Sally, we’ll all play! I’ll pay for you, it’s no big deal.’ ‘Well if you don’t mind Jimmy.’ ‘I don’t mind Sally. I’ll go and find Alan, the park’s manager. We need him for the putters and golf balls.’
— Alan was the park’s main gardener and manager, and was responsible for the general running and maintenance of the whole park. He was in charge of the putting, the bowling green and the tennis courts. Every Sunday he put the nets up, and corner flags for all the football matches, and whitewashed the lines and penalty spots, at least once a month.
He prepared the cricket pitch on match days, and even umpired on one occasion, when the normal umpire was taken ill. He also kept the flower beds (of which there were many) neat and tidy. Alan was always at the park, and everyone knew him. It was easy to find him, he was either sat on the bench watching people playing bowls, (mainly old men), attending to the flower beds, or sweeping the tennis courts. Jimmy leapt up off the wall and set off to look for him. As the bowling green was closer than the flower beds and the tennis courts, that’s where he went first. Sure enough, as he approached the bowling green, there was Alan. He was sat on the bench smoking his pipe, watching the old men playing bowls.
‘Oh yeah! That’s a great bowl Ted!’ he shouted, raising his pipe in appreciation, as the bowl stopped just short of the white jack. ‘How far is it away from the jack Al?’ asked Ted. Alan got up from the bench and walked onto the bowling green, and up to the cluster of bowls surrounding the jack. He knelt down to have a good look around. ‘Oooh, no more than eight inches I would say Ted, possibly ten.’
‘Right you are Al, right you are,’ said Ted thankful for the information. Alan then returned back to the bench. Jimmy walked over and sat down next to him. ‘Alright Al? Can we have three for putting please?’ Alan nearly choked on his pipe. He’d seen Jimmy many times before, but he’d never seen him looking so smart. Jimmy was usually in scruffy jeans and a t-shirt, or shorts and a Liverpool top. ‘Look at you all dressed up like a dog’s dinner, looking like a young Tony Curtis. Where on earth are you going? Church?’ Jimmy smiled. ‘Church? I don’t think I’ve ever been to church Al. I’ve been to Sunday school but never church. And what is it with this Tony Curtis guy? I must be one of his long lost children or summat.’
Alan took a long hard suck on his pipe, before releasing a ton of smoke into the atmosphere, from the corner of his mouth. ‘Who ya playing putting with Jimmy?’
‘I’m playing with two girls Al.’ Alan cackled with laughter, sending his whole body into a spontaneous spasm. His loud sustained belly laugh, echoed repeatedly around the bowling green, which slightly annoyed Ted, who was about to roll his final bowl. As Alan was laughing, he was gripping the end of his pipe really tightly with his teeth. Jimmy could clearly see they were yellow and somewhat rotting. (I bet that’s what happens to teeth when ya smoke a pipe, thought Jimmy.)
Alan was still laughing as he got up from the bench. ‘Playing putting with two girls Jimmy? I thought as much. I thought they’d be girls involved dressed like that, I mean, ya don’t normally dress like that do ya?’ Jimmy felt a little embarrassed and didn’t respond. Alan and Jimmy then walked back to the pavilion. As they got there, Julie and Sally were still sat on the wall. ‘Watch him,’ said Alan jokingly. ‘He’s really good at putting ya know. Don’t play for any money, will ya?’ Both girls giggled. ‘We don’t have any money to play with,’ said Sally.
— Alan was right about Jimmy, he was really good at putting, he must have played hundreds of times. In the long school holidays he played every other day. He would also borrow his mates putter and golf ball, and sneak onto the putting green when it was closed. He would easily climb over the six foot fence, and have the putting green all to himself. Alan always removed the small flags from the 12 holes, when he locked up for the night. So Jimmy stuck twigs in the holes instead.
On one occasion, Jimmy lost all track of time. He was in the zone, putting like Jack Nicklaus (the three times U.S. open champion, and four times Masters champion). He got five holes in one and had never putted so good. By the time he got home it was dark, and well after 10 o’clock. His mum Carol was on the verge of calling the police, just as he walked in the front door.
‘Where on earth have you been Jimmy!? I was just about to ring the police!’ Jimmy was still on a high. ‘Oh sorry mum, I lost all track of time. I got five holes in one mum! Can you believe that!? Five holes in one!’ Carol had no idea what Jimmy was going on about, and she didn’t care either. ‘Never mind that Jimmy! Get upstairs to bed! You know it’s school in the morning! And get up when I call you! Don’t be going back to sleep like you normally do! I don’t want you being late for school again!’ Jimmy went upstairs to bed, still thinking about the five holes in one.
— Jimmy knew all 12 holes on the putting green, like the back of his hand. He knew for instance, that hole 1 was as straight as a pin. If you aimed the golf ball directly at the flag, as long as you got the pace right, you would get it close to the hole. He knew that hole 6 was halfway down a hill, and you only needed to tap the golf ball very gently. If you hit the ball too hard, it would shoot past the hole and end up in the ditch, right at the bottom of the putting green. He also knew that hole 12 was very deceiving. You needed to hit the ball to the far right, for it to get anywhere near the hole. If you hit the ball straight at the flag, it would curve away and roll at least ten feet past.
Alan unlocked the pavilion door and Jimmy followed him inside. All the sports equipment was kept in a room next to the toilets. The room was jam-packed full with putters, golf balls, tennis rackets, bowls, cricket gear, footballs, football nets, and lots of other sports equipment. Jimmy gave sixty pence to Alan, and left the pavilion carrying three putters and three golf balls. Alan followed him out and locked the door behind him, before heading back to the bench to watch the bowls.
By now most of the nervousness had left Jimmy, and he was beginning to feel a little more confident. He really liked Julie a lot, and he was desperately hoping that she liked him too. He gave Julie and Sally a putter and a golf ball each, and the three of them walked to the putting green. They reached the first hole shortly after.
‘Here’s where you start from, in line with the tree. I’ll go first,’ announced Jimmy. He carefully placed his golf ball on the grass in line with the tree. After taking five practice swings (showing off), he placed the putter behind the ball and struck it with an air of confidence. The ball travelled at pace towards the hole, before hitting the red steel flag with a thud, and then disappearing.
Jimmy’s face lit up brighter than a Catherine wheel on a gloomy bonfire night. He couldn’t contain his excitement, or the cheesy grin that suddenly appeared on his face. Without thinking, he ran like a madman towards the hole shouting: ‘Hole In One! Hole In One!’ He then bent down and picked his golf ball out of the hole. He ran back to the girls, holding the putter high above his head with both hands, (like he’d just sunk the winning putt to win the Ryder Cup). Julie and Sally just stood there, looking slightly bewildered at Jimmy’s behaviour.
‘It’s your turn Julie!’ shouted Jimmy. Julie put the golf ball down in line with the tree. She took at least eight wild swings trying to hit the ball, before finally connecting. She must have thought she was hitting a hockey ball, as she whacked it so hard it flew straight past hole 1, then past hole 5, and then past hole 9. Eventually, it ended up in the ditch right at the bottom of the putting green.
Both Julie and Sally let out an ear piercing, high-pitched scream, (just like five-year-olds do, when they get overly excited). Now it was Jimmy’s turn to look slightly bewildered, as the girls went sprinting across the putting green to retrieve the ball, still screaming. Julie decided to hit the ball back to Jimmy, and once again gave it a good old wallop. This time the ball ended up on the bowling green.
When Jimmy went to get it back, he got a few angry glares from the old men. They took their bowls very seriously, and didn’t take kindly to any interruptions, like flying golf balls, or eleven-year-old kids running onto the bowling green. Alan, (who was still sat on the bench watching the game), wasn’t too pleased either. ‘Be careful Jimmy! I don’t want this bowling green damaged!’
‘Sorry Al,’ replied Jimmy, as he quickly picked up the ball, apologised to the old men, and then scarpered back to the girls. After it took Julie and Sally more than eleven putts, to get the golf ball into the first hole, Jimmy concluded that putting with the girls wasn’t to be taken seriously. They spent a good hour on the putting green, laughing and joking and having a great time, before returning back to the pavilion. Alan unlocked the pavilion door and went inside with Jimmy, who returned the three putters and golf balls and got his deposit back. When Jimmy came out shortly after, he was surprised to see Sally sitting on the wall on her own. He assumed Julie must have gone to the toilet.
‘Julie’s waiting for you Jimmy. She’s round the back of the pavilion,’ said Sally. Jimmy sat down on the wall. ‘Round the back of the pavilion? What for Sally?’ Sally was being a bit coy. ‘I don’t know Jimmy, I think she wants to ask you something.’
‘Ask me something? Like what?’
‘It’s not for me to say Jimmy, you’ll have to go and find out for yourself.’ Jimmy’s relaxed, comfortable demeanour suddenly changed big time. His confidence and self-assurance disappeared in the blink of an eye, and back came the nervousness and anxiety. He got up from the wall and walked slowly to the back of the pavilion. His body was rigid and tense, and he had a sickly feeling deep down in his stomach.
He reached the back of the pavilion, and saw Julie leaning up against the wall. He was desperately trying to act casual and matter-of-fact, but it wasn’t easy as his shyness kicked in once again. He tentatively walked up to Julie, and stood just a foot away. Julie was staring down at the ground, avoiding any eye contact. ‘What’s up Julie?’ asked Jimmy, (in no real rush to hear the answer, in case it was bad news, like she didn’t like him or something). Julie was just as nervous as Jimmy was.
‘Oh….. erm….. erm….. I just wanted to ask you something Jimmy, that was all,’ she said in a quaint unassuming voice, still staring at the ground. ‘Ask me what Julie?’ said Jimmy, still in no rush to hear the answer. ‘Well….. I was just wondering Jimmy. Well just wondering….. Have you got a girlfriend?’
It’s a good job Julie was staring at the ground and not at Jimmy, as she’d have seen the look of sheer panic appear on his face. He also turned a vivid scarlet colour, like he’d been sat in a red hot sauna, with all his clothes on for the past hour. He got all defensive and raised his voice just slightly. ‘Girlfriend…..!? What do you mean Girlfriend…..!?’
— He knew how daft that sounded. It was obvious what Julie meant, have you got a girlfriend? Simple. Of course the answer was no, he didn’t have a girlfriend. He’d never even kissed a girl before, so he most definitely didn’t have a girlfriend. And that was the problem, but he certainly didn’t want Julie to know that fact.
Julie began swaying slightly, from side to side subconsciously, (which she often did whenever she felt a little uneasy). She was thinking about what to say next, and how best to say it, without alarming Jimmy any further. She didn’t say anything for a good few seconds, but when she finally spoke, she knocked Jimmy for SIX. In fact, she knocked him for SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE and TEN too.
‘Well….. What I mean Jimmy, is have you got a girlfriend? Cos if you haven’t….. Well….. I was wondering….. Just wondering….. Can I be your girlfriend?’
At that second….. that very second….. time literally stood still for Jimmy Spence. It was like his heart had stopped beating, but he was most definitely still alive. In fact, he’d never felt so alive. He stood there perfectly static, like someone had nailed his brown loafers to the ground. Never in a million years did he ever expect to hear those words from Julie Richardson. Jimmy was absolutely and totally besotted by this girl, and was certain he was in love. He would have done anything to have Julie as his girlfriend, but he never seriously thought it would ever happen. After all, she was one of the prettiest and most popular girls in school, and all the boys liked her. So why on earth would she be interested in a nobody like him?
Deep down he didn’t have much confidence, and felt inferior to a lot of other kids his age. Because he came from a council estate, he knew some of the well-off kids looked down on him. Even his mate Scotty thought Julie was out of his league. He was beginning to wonder if all this was some kind of cruel joke.
Both Julie and Jimmy stood there as still as the night, in complete silence, not really knowing what to say or do next. The atmosphere was palpable. Then….. all of a sudden, something magical happened. Jimmy suddenly felt this incredible surge of intense raw energy, right throughout his whole body. It swallowed him up like a tidal wave engulfing a tiny fishing boat. He seemed to be at the mercy of some inner force. A force that was so intelligent, so empowering it was impossible to stop. The shy, nervous, vulnerable Jimmy Spence, evaporated in a puff of smoke, right there on the spot. Stood in his place was a confident, fearless, strong, self-assured Jimmy Spence, ready to conquer the world.
He reached out and gently put both his hands on Julie’s shoulders. Julie slowly raised her face up from the floor. Jimmy looked straight into her sea blue eyes and softly whispered: ‘It would be a great honour to be your boyfriend Julie Richardson. I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life. You’ve made me the happiest boy in the whole wide world. And now, I would like to kiss you Julie Richardson. Is that ok?’
Jimmy had absolutely no idea where these words came from. It felt like someone else was speaking on his behalf, and he was a mere observer. Julie was completely shell-shocked, as she gazed into Jimmy’s eyes, before responding. ‘Yes Jimmy Spence….. You can kiss me.’
Jimmy slowly moved his face closer to Julie’s. Seconds later their lips connected, and they were locked together in a loving embrace. It was the most beautiful, amazing, exhilarating experience, that either of them had ever encountered before. Not only was it Jimmy’s first ever kiss, it was also Julie’s.
— It was just like Tony Curtis kissing Janet Leigh, in the classic 1954 movie: The Black Shield Of Falworth. They kissed for what seemed like a lifetime, but was actually about ten seconds. After which they hugged each other without saying a word. Time had most definitely stood still for these two eleven-year-olds, and just for that moment….. that very moment….. Life was wonderful and perfect.
Eventually Julie whispered in Jimmy’s ear. ‘I’ve got to go now Jimmy, mum’s expecting me back at twelve. I’ll see you at school on Monday.’ Jimmy didn’t want to let go of Julie, he wanted this moment to last forever.
After finally letting go of each other, they both went back to reunite with Sally. ‘We need to get off now Sally,’ said Julie. ‘I told mum I’d be back at twelve.’ Sally had a curious look all over her face, desperate to find out what Julie and Jimmy had been up to. After saying their goodbyes to Jimmy, the two girls set off across the field to go home. Jimmy sat down on the wall and never took his eyes of Julie, until she faded into the distance. He sat there for a while, savouring every last second of this momentous occasion.
Eventually he got up, and walked slowly back home. He went straight upstairs to his bedroom, and laid on his bed in his own little world, still thinking about Julie.
One thing was certain: Saturday the 8th of June 1974, would be etched in the memories of Jimmy Spence and Julie Richardson for the rest of their lives!
An Extract From The Book: Jimmy Spence 8th Of June 1974 By Kelvin Rush.