In the last summer holiday before I had the stroke, my middle son was extremely into The Beatles. He was 9, and choosing audiobooks from the library for a long drive north, he – rather oddly – chose Philip Norman’s biography of John Lennon, on (I think) 16 CDs. (Another audiobook we chose on the journey – for the ‘adults’ turn’ – was Ed Reardon’s Diary, giving rise to the 9-year-old’s comment: ‘Dad, you sound just like Ed Reardon.’)

The biography certainly made a change from Charlie Higson’s Young Bond books (better than Fleming, if you ask me), but it was quite detailed. Eventually, we got onto Lennon’s teenage years – and the expression ‘getting off at Edge Hill’, meaning coitus interruptus, Edge Hill being the last stop before the Liverpool terminus at Lime Street. This was over my middle son’s head.

Yesterday he happened to be in Liverpool giving a concert with his choir. He’s 16 next week and I texted him a ‘getting off at Edge Hill’ reference. He replied, but not to the joke. Maybe it’s still obscure to him.

In 2012 we’d spent a week with my parents at a farm in Staffordshire (we saw the opening ceremony of the London Olympics there) and then drove from Youth Hostel to Youth Hostel, up to one in the middle of Hadrian’s Wall. I’d been to the Wall once before, on a school trip at 13. Then, we walked from Carlisle to Newcastle, camping on the way. I was nervous and when, the first night, someone had a stomach ache and was whisked away in the night to a hospital, my only thought was: thank god it wasn’t me. It was my first year at senior school and failure was very much on my mind.

The weather in 1977 was great and en route along the Wall we stopped at a farm and drank water from an outside tap. Looking down, I saw a bucketful of water. It was full of puppies, recently drowned.

We had a dog – a cocker spaniel – and, being 13, I wasn’t quite pubescent. I loved the dog – and the thought of ANY puppies being drowned and just left there, without even a proper burial… Well… I don’t suppose I cried, being on school trip, but I wanted to.

I made it to Newcastle, where I bought donuts for 2p, I remember. Very cheap, even for 1977. A little more confidence had been gained. But going up the stone steps at school again, the English teacher I liked complimented me on my rosy complexion, rather creepily, and I always mistrusted him afterwards.


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I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

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