The Tams – Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me played on the radio this morning and it took me back to 1972 and a boy called Steve Crane. He was one of those cool guys that people looked up to and knew very little about. He was too old for me at 17. He lived three roads up from in Withington, Manchester, and he had a younger brother called Jack. Both were good-looking boys, Jack was too young for me, so they were just friends.
Steve, with his fair curly hair and easy smile, was always friendly when he saw me. An all round nice guy. He used to do this little dance with his hands as he sang Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me. A bit like the Tommy Cooper gesture, now I come to think about it. Back then, it was cool, and I liked him because he would come over and talk to me.
When the song came on the radio this morning, I thought of him. He would be over 60 now and his brother a bit younger. They would be middle-aged guys, someone’s husband, someone’s dad, and strangely enough, they could even be a granddad. Youth served them well, and I can’t help but wonder what middle age has done to them. There again, I’m a long way from that 14-year-old who used to wear red hot pants and think she was cool!
From this thought process, I went off on another trail and my first boyfriend came to mine. I was eight years old.
As children, we moved around a lot. Dad was a police officer stationed at Bootle Street in the centre of Manchester. In those days, the police provided their officers with rented houses. Mum, who was always a bit of a wander-lust, regularly asked for the list and chose a different house, and off we went again.
We moved into a semi-detached house in Wellington Road, Whalley Range. All the rest of the houses were large Victorian ones, so it was easy to spot ours amongst them. Next door was another policeman, Jack McNeil, his wife Maryl, and daughter, Karen, a year younger than me. We became friends and used to play with our Sindy Dolls. I had Paul, Sindy’s boyfriend, and Karen had Patch, Sindy’s her sister. I also had a Sindy wardrobe and Karen, or it could have been me, had the car. It was a flash red sporty one.
For Christmas, I asked mum for Sindy’s horse and instead she bought me a black and white stallion with a cowboy saddle. I was so disappointed, but funnily it is the only toy I still have left from my childhood. It sits on a cupboard in the hall. (Much to the disgust of my husband who thinks it just a plastic horse!) Karen and I were also in love with Davy Jones from the Monkees and hearing Daydream Believer takes me back to those happy time.
With my brother, sister and some friends, we played in the garden of a house at the end of the road. It had the foundations dug for a building that was never built. It made a great place to play chase running from one end to the other. One day a man came and asked if he could take our photograph. He let us have a copy and to this day I don’t know who he was, or if he ever used it anywhere.
That’s me in the middle.
I digress, as we were talking about boyfriends. Yes, I was eight, and his name was Hughie Brock. A blond-haired boy and all we did was hold hands every now and again.
He used to stand at the end of our drive with his mate, Terry Hayes, with their bicycles, waiting for me to come out to play. Mum said they were always standing together just waiting for me. I used to go to Hughie’s house; he lived in a large Victorian house in the next road.
This is our house in Wellington Road, looking pretty much as it did in the 1960s.
Someone in Hughie’s house loved train sets. I remembered waiting in the top attic for him to have his tea. Model railways surrounded me, with real looking stations and hills, and those little people that enthusiasts put with them. Once Hughie had finished eating, we would go off out to play on our bikes with Terry.
Terry was cute, and he had the same short hair and a full fringe that was all the fashion in the late 60s. He was chubby with freckles all over his face. Sometimes if Hughie wasn’t playing out, I played with Terry. He had a den in his back garden that had an upstairs, and it was pitch black inside. I even used to bring my big doll, Belinda, to play there, too. One day I forgot her and fretted all night that she was alone in the dark. I had to wait until after tea the next day to go and get her. It was pretty traumatic stuff then.
In the years before Facebook, remember those? I frequented a site called Friends Reunited. I met Karen MacNeil again, now Karen Blinko, and we see each other most days on Facebook. I also met Terry Hayes on Friends Reunited and we chatted. I remembered Hughie wondering where he was. I imagined him living his life somewhere, much the same as I was. Was he married, with children, grandchild, I wondered?
On Friends Reunited Terry told me how he went in the army for a while and I asked if he kept in touch with Hughie. He told me that as a teenager, Hughie and his friend took a car and drove to Blackpool. It crashed it and Hughie was killed. It made me so sad. As for Terry, well, funnily enough, he told me he had a crush on a certain little girl who lived in Wellington Road.