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Page last updated on 20th September 2002
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by Mike Jay
Much of our childhood was spent playing in the old workshops of his fathers timber/carpentry business, building go-carts from planks of wood with pram wheels nailed to them, climbing trees and most other things, as well as wandering the local countryside.
Go-carting was always a favourite and in the late sixties it was still safe for us children to ride our carts etc. down the hill starting from my home at the lower end of Poplar Terrace heading down until we reached Lower Farm. The only traffic we had to contend with was the occasional tractor or Mr Martins cows coming home for milking. One of my funniest memories of carting, although not so funny for Johnny, was when we were having a race, Johnny on his by now, almost patent designed cart and me on my old tricycle with all brakes and chain removed. This particular cart of Johnny's used some exceptionally heavy wood and was slow to get going, although once it was moving it went like a rocket, this had given me time to gain a lead. By the time we rounded the corner by Steps Cottage, Johnny was gaining and was just about to overtake when I turned to look where he was. Just at this moment the front wheel of his cart touched the back wheel of my tricycle flipping the cart straight up into the air. The cart somersaulted from left to right and fell back to the ground with poor Johnny underneath. The sight was so comical, like something from a slapstick comedy, that I laughed so much I crashed headlong into the stone wall opposite Steps Cottage. You really had to be there to appreciate the full scene. Luckily, having brushed ourselves off and nursed our bruises for a while we returned to the top of the hill and restarted our race.
One other favourite game was 'Billy the Kat', after the cartoon character in the Dandy. Johnny and I were always 'Billy the Kat' while my brother Christopher and Johnny's sisters Rebecca and Stephanie were always the villains that we had to catch and tie-up, (we found this useful if we wanted to get rid of our younger siblings and go off and do things on our own). The game usually involved climbing over the workshop roofs, sheds etc. and jumping off to catch our victims, the lord only knows how we never broke any bones.
No one deserves an untimely death and Johnny's death was a blow to all, especially his parents Roger and Jennifer, and sisters Rebecca and Stephanie, as well as all of us who were lucky enough to have him as a friend. His death, like others in the village, who have been taken from us prematurely, serve as a poignant reminder of how precious life is, and that we should all try to live it to the full.