8 months ago
Gordon and Audrey Mellor (my parents) met Frank and Enid Cummins (Nick’s parents) when they all became founder members of Middleton Round Table and Ladies Circle.
Their houses sort of backed on to each other, ours was on Crow Hill South and Nicks on Mainway in Alkrington. This meant a few years later that Nick and I could meet up and play without going out onto the road.
Anyway, in 1956 Audrey and Enid were delighted to announce they were both about to have their second child following the birth of Susan and Simon respectively 3 years earlier. I was born in March 1957 in the spare room of our small semi and Nick was born in May at Beech Mount Maternity Home, Harpurhey.
We were great friends then and always have been. When people used to say “how long have you known each other?”, we’d say “we were friends when we were in our mummies tummies”. Our mums developed a child minding rota, one of them would have us both in the morning and the other in the afternoon, which meant that we spent all day together which we loved.
We did all the usual things, footy, bike riding, digging for treasure, fishing for newts in the pond and collecting frog spawn in a bucket. We got into some real scrapes too. Once we asked my mum if lunch was ready and she said, “no, go and do something for a few minutes” – so we did.
We went on an adventure on our tricycles down to the end of Crow Hill South, across the very busy Rochdale Road and on into Alkrington Woods. The police, fire brigade, army and teams of parents scoured the neighbourhood. We were of course lost but we eventually saw someone we knew (Mr Bull, the decorator) who brought us home in his car, much to my mums relief.
Another time we found a paint brush my dad had left lying around. As he’d let me have a go with it the day before, I announced that I was an expert. We went into the garage and painted everything – walls, windows, lawn mower and tool boxes. I’d climbed up onto the work bench but it looked very high to a small boy. Nick went next door and Auntie Lily, a lovely neighbour, came to get me down. I was grounded for days after that and had to watch everyone playing out with my nose pushed against the window.
So you get the idea, we went to Alkrington Primary together, got in lots more trouble and had a great time. However, a devastating blow was about to hit us. My dad announced he’d got a new job and we were moving to Nelson, about 25 miles away. Nick came with us on moving day in May 1965, a clever parental ploy to keep us quiet. But we insisted on seeing each other which meant our parents driving half way each Friday night and handing a child over for the weekend. However they did go in the pub for an hour or so, coming out with coke and crisps to keep us quiet. So we kept seeing each other even though we’d moved.
We both got very interested in football and our weekly trips had to coincide with watching Burnley one week and Oldham Athletic the next. I am lucky enough to have watched the 1966 World Cup Final and it still lives with me. We have both supported our team through thick and thin (mainly thin) to this day.
By the time we were teenagers we got very interested in girls and the ones in Alkrington were particularly helpful. We played at Alkrington Tennis Club where there were a plethora of beauties to impress with our skills. Afterwards we’d drink in the bar and then in the evenings there was always a party to go to. I went to Manchester Polytechnic in 1975 to do my HND in Hotel and Catering Management at Hollings Faculty, Nick was re-sitting his A levels and so even though I was living in Loxford Tower Hall of Residence, we saw a lot of each other.
We had both learnt to drive and Nick had use of this mum’s car. He would come and pick me up and take me back to Middleton where my washing was done and I’d be fed very tasty food by Auntie Enid (thanks!). More parties and more girls, a few fights, a few scrapes and lots of laughs were the order of the day.
We played golf at Blackley Golf Club and sometimes we’d go to Angelsey Golf Club in Rhosneigr for a weeks golf all for £10 – student rate! We’d tee off at about 7am, play the first four to warm up, then play 18. In for a big strap-up breakfast and then out for 18 more. Then we’d go to the pictures, or play tennis, or squash or go for a swim, then came home for tea.
By 6.30pm we’d be bored, so we’d go to the golf club to practice which always led to a full round. So that was 3 rounds plus 4 holes a day for a week, that’s 58 holes per day. I’m sure some people reading this will think I’m making this up but I swear on all I hold dear this is the truth and we did it about twice a year for 4 or 5 years.
I still go to Angelsey now with my family and I love playing round Angelsey Golf Club It’s a real links course, admittedly with sheep on it, but on a windy day a real test for any golfer.
By this time Nick had a steady girlfriend, Jean who he’d been to school with, she was a real stunner and he was happy. Her mum and dad had both died young and she’d been left the house on Penryhn Avenue and Nick spent a lot of his time there. Jean’s dad had loved his garden and Nick took over gardening duties and the grass was always perfect with lush border plants. He still likes gardening especially looking after lawns, a love he continues to this day.
They got engaged and I was asked to be Best Man. I’d never spoken in public before and I felt nervous about the prospect of standing in front of loads of people I knew for the whole year leading up to the wedding. Even though I was scared, I wrote from the heart and prepared diligently. I went down well and got a few laughs. Ever since then I’ve never really worried about public speaking, in fact I quite enjoy it.
Baby Louise was born first and their second and youngest was a son called James Richard and I’m proud to be his godfather. He’s a lovely, clever, gentle young man who has met a smashing girl and lives happily in Edinburgh where he went to university. Louise is a Primary School teacher in Rochdale and is a real credit to her parents.
I had a succession of girlfriends in my 20s and although they were all lovely, there was never that zing that I knew I needed to marry someone. I worked for a company called Compass Services as a Catering Manager, in previous incarnations it was called Midland Catering and then Grandmet Catering Services.
At the age of 28 in 1985, I applied internally for the post of Catering Manager at Oldham Civic Centre incorporating the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was the biggest contract the company had in Manchester, the salary was £10,000 plus overtime but you got a black Ford Escort with tinted windows. That clinched the deal and luckily I got the job.
The staff were great fun and we worked really hard but blimey did we have some laughs.
My favourite time of day was 10.30am when we all sat down for 20 minutes for tea and toast before serving lunch. The young girl who prepared the table and looked after everyone was a gem, she laughed all the time, she was never negative.
She poured the tea and made sure everyone was fed. 20 of us sat at a long table in the restaurant and as the boss I got to sit in the middle. As the “tea lady” she sat opposite me. I had a penchant for story telling in those days, they were slightly embellished of course but Michelle Slater, for this was the girls name, loved them. Every day she would exhort me to tell another tale which I always did.
There was one about a girl from another canteen I’d worked at who’d lost her virginity against a gravestone just before her wedding day and in the Best Mans speech he said that the bride was the only girl he knew who had “Rest in peace” imprinted on her bottom. The groom had gone to the pub for a pint of “Dutch courage” before the liaison and told his mates about what was going to happen – and of course they’d all followed and watched the proceedings with interest!
The Head Chef encouraged Michelle to go to Oldham College to do her City & Guilds Catering exams and she changed her overalls for Chefs Whites. She worked hard and was always positive, she was definitely one of our best members of staff.
Two years later I left to become General Manager of the Dunkenhalgh Hotel in Accrington, and had a leaving party at Withington Golf Club. All my friends from South Manchester were there and a coach load came down from Oldham. Michelle looked stunning in a beautiful blue dress. She has a great figure and dark curly hair, tanned complexion and smiley eyes.
I said goodbye to all my friends. I shook hands with the men and danced with a lot of ladies. The last one I danced with was Michelle and that thing happened when the dancing records make way for a smooch and it was “Lady in Red”. Maybe it was the drink talking but I told her she “looked lovely and if only I was 10 years younger …..”. “What would you do?” she asked “I’d be in like Flynn”, I said. “Well what’s stopping you?” she replied. “So if I asked you out, what would you say?” I asked.
But at that moment the coach turned up and the whole Oldham party left. I waved them all goodbye and looked deeply into Michelle’s eyes and she smiled encouragingly. Two days later I got up the courage to ring her, she was going to a craft fair with her mum and dad but said never mind, “I’ll meet you in the car park of ASDA in Oldham in 45 minutes.” I have never driven so quickly.
We had a lovely day, I went home and finished with my girlfriend of 5 years (sorry) and little did I know Michelle was doing exactly the same thing with her boyfriend.
We got engaged a month later and were married 5 months after that. We lived in the managers flat at the Dunkenhalgh in Accrington and after about 18 months Michelle announced she was pregnant. We put a £50 deposit on a 4 bed detached house on Cottom Croft, Clayton le Moors, and got a £50,000 mortgage.
Katie was born in May 1989 with blond curly hair and blue eyes. She was beautiful then and still is. She is now running CJUK. Jack Nicolas Gordon was born in October the year after. He is now running Personnel Checks. Nick Cummins was best man at our wedding and is Jack’s Godfather. Jack is his own man, he doesn’t follow the crowd, he’s engaging, sporty, has the deepest voice you’ve every heard and has real presence. His granddad has always said “He’s officer material that lad”.
My family mean everything to me; I’d do anything for them. But Nick Cummins has been a great friend, more like a brother. We’ve been through a lot together and we’ve been friends forever.
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