Someday, when you look back over the course of your life thinking about all the important and most significant events that took place, you might come to realise there were certain people who were instrumental in shaping the type of person you eventually became. For me, Fergus was such a person. He was good natured, fun-loving and ever present.
On Duck-Apple night, it would be Fergus and me who would be bobbing for those apples and winning the prizes his mum had bought for us and on Pancake Day, it would be the two of us round at our house for tea. On Bonfire Night, we would be making a Guy or perhaps lighting a few bangers.
It was Fergus and me who made that rickety trolley out of a set of old pram wheels and a few planks, and then rode it recklessly down the canal bridge, narrowly avoiding startled pedestrians who shook their fists at us with indignation.
We walked to school together, we were in the same class and we played together in the park, after school, before our parents returned home from work.
When my dog died and I broke my heart crying uncontrollably over the loss, it was Fergus who came round to just be there and sit with me. My dog’s name was Jock and I loved that dog. We took her in when she followed me and my Uncle Bill home one night in the snow. As I recall, Fergus and me didn’t say much to each other that day, but he was there to share my grief.
When I was sent to school by my parents, despite the pains in the lower abdomen that were the early symptoms of appendicitis, a condition that developed into peritonitis during the day, he was there. By midday, the pains had become so bad that I could barely stand and it was Fergus who walked home with me and raised the alarm; not to put too fine a point on it, actually saving my life in the process.
They took me straight to Alder Hey Hospital and removed my appendix immediately. I remained in hospital for about six weeks. The thing I remember most vividly about being in that hospital was having the dressing on my wound regularly changed. The nurse would not allow anyone to remove their own dressing. Instead, she insisted on ripping the Elastoplast away in one swift, merciless movement causing her patients quite a bit of unnecessary trauma in the process.
On another occasion, my parents took both of us for a day out by the sea at Freshfield, near Southport, where there was a boating lake. Fergus and me were absolutely delighted when we were allowed to take a boat out onto the lake completely unsupervised. As I had previously paddled a canoe with my dad and therefore had some experience in nautical matters, I naturally appointed myself captain.
For a while, we were doing fine, but heading along the edge of the lake, we approached a row of fishermen who had their lines cast and were busy coarse fishing. They became more and more animated as we got closer and not with undue concern. When I shouted to Fergus to stop rowing, I suppose he’d had enough of me telling him what to do and he just decided to ignore me. Neither of us would stop rowing to allow the boat to change direction and we consequently ploughed right through the tackle.
The lines became hopelessly entangled around our bow and we were soon dragging their rods in our wake chased by the little group of fishermen who were shouting instructions and various other things whilst, at the same time, attempting to rescue their precious and, no doubt, expensive equipment.
My dad ran over and managed to calm things down. I don’t know how exactly, but he was very good at doing that kind of thing. Somehow he managed to take charge and he got us away from the situation quickly before mounting his own inquiry into what had gone wrong. It was not the last time my dad would come to our aid. Over the years, he repaired a good number of the neighbour’s windows. In our street, cricket was a particularly hazardous game.
We were always together, Fergus and me, and these innocuous shenanigans were really just the start of things. They played an important part in forging the unbreakable bond that formed between us; the bond that helped us survive the trials that were to follow. As we got older, we became embroiled in much bigger and far more serious difficulties; things never before told. But now, finally, the time is right to talk frankly about those difficult school years that followed.
The true story of my childhood years, growing up in Liverpool in the sixties, this book is now available on Kindle. Fergus and Me is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry and even wince as you read of the unforgettable shenanigans of these two Liverpool lads.
Get Your copy here: Fergus and Me