I have often walked down the street before
But the pavement always
Stayed beneath my feet before.
All at once am I
Several stories high
Knowing I’m on the street where you live.
Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics from the song ‘On The Street Where You Live’ from the 1956 musical stage production of My Fair Lady. A song sung by incorrigible young socialite Freddy Eynsford-Hill outside the residence of a girl (Eliza Doolittle) who at the earlier Ascot Ladies Day meeting captivated him by yelling “Move your blooming arse!” at her underperforming horse.
Set in the Edwardian era, before the introduction of restraining and noise abatement orders, Eynsford-Hill has carte blanche to make an interminable racket while wistfully wandering the leafy avenues of London in his top hat and tails. His aim to woo this beautiful suitor by telling anyone who’s remotely interested how smitten he is with this woman who, unbeknown to him, wasn’t the lady of breeding she’d professed.
In the early 1980’s, I pondered doing something similarly romantic for the young lady (Karen) I’d recently met in a Gateshead pub. A meeting that left me equally as smitten, not to mention skint after I bought all of her drinks that evening….. The tight mare!
However, concluding the residents of the street where she lived (North Dene, Birtley) wouldn’t receive my well-meaning disturbance with the grace of toffs in early 20th century London, I spurned the notion of serenading the girl who I’d later marry.
My decision further backed by learning her dad was a black belt in Cluedo. Karen’s pater a fearsome man who bred attack ferrets and knew what “Cricken the cracken” meant. A rabid critic of musical theatre, he once castaneted*** an acquaintance for singing ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ as he was about to take a putt on Birtley golf club’s 8th green.
*** – Incidentally, that wasn’t a typo. It meant to read castaneted, not castigated, He actually beat the culprit with a large pair of castanets.
The street where I lived at that time was Dorchester Gardens on Low Fell’s Chowdene estate, in south Gateshead. A quiet culture-de-sac of twenty six 1960’s Leech built houses, occupied by affable individuals – A place where I accrued a treasure chest of recollections.
Amongst those also residing in NE9 6UY during my childhood the families of Ken and Ena Cowell, Jimmy and Moira Galloway, Brian and Geraldine Holliday along with Ted and Enid Mitchell.
If memory serves me correct, Ken Cowell worked as a sales manager for biscuit company Jacobs. A fact meaning a gratis Jacobs Club was never far from the agenda after a game of football with his youngest son Kenneth. Mercifully, after a dehydrating footy match it wasn’t the Uber-dry Jacobs Cracker which Ken senior provided as a post-match snack.
Ken’s eldest son Kevin was a good few years older than me, a lad I recall in adulthood drove a flashy yellow sports car, Standing at around 6’2 in height, I concluded Kevin would be taller than god, apart from on the Almighty’s more insecure days when he wore shoe inserts. As a kid, I’d no real idea how tall the god was (and still don’t), but at that time I’d convinced myself nobody could be taller than 6’2, even the big fella (excuse the pun) upstairs….. That’s with the exception of the Harlem Globetrotters, and Mrs Grimsby on Dartmouth Avenue who owned a medieval rack.
Jimmy Galloway, who lived opposite us with his wife Moira and daughters Jane and Aileen, worked for Pirelli tyres. Consequently, his post-football match freebies were far less palatable than Ken Cowell’s. Not that we played soccer much with Jane and Aileen (if ever), or indeed ate tyres.
The amiable Scotsman was the first person I ever met who seemed more comprehensible after he’d had a few snifters. The Strachan annual New Years Eve party wouldn’t have been the same without Jimmy crashing into the record player midway through Joe Loss’ Party Hits album. His antics as traditional as the ham broth my old man always made for the occasion, or the watching of Jim’s fellow countryman Andy Stewart and Kenneth McKeller on the Hogmanay Show.
Moira was a highly accomplishing exponent of handicrafts. Once crocheting a letter of complaint to the BBC about the lack of crocheting shows on auntie Beeb. A kind, softly spoken lady, she sadly passed around a decade ago. Jim now lives in Scotland with his second wife Jean and a collection of very scratched vinyl LPs.
Our next door neighbour Ted Mitchell was a prince amongst men. Funny, mischievous and incredibly understanding about my football spending more time in his rose beds than our back garden.
A big framed man, Ted reckoned he could tell the time while standing on his head. Even if he wasn’t winding me up (which I’m fairly sure he was), I didn’t think the telling the time element of the trick was that impressive. However, if I’d have seen this middle-aged man standing on his bonce I’d have been mightily impressed.
On New Years Eve, he’d generally restart the Joe Loss track Jimmy Galloway had inadvertently sabotaged. Sadly, Ted passed away one Sunday evening in the late 1980’s after suffering a cardiac arrest while walking up the steep incline section of Cromer Avenue. A sad loss, I’d like to think Edward (as he was know by people who called him Edward) is up their now agog at god being under 6’2 in height. Not to mention having fewer footballs landing in his rose beds than experienced living at number 9 Dorchester Gardens in the 1970’s/80’s.
At number 11 on Dorchester Gardens lived Brian and Geraldine Holliday, who I’m reliably informed by my mum aren’t related to the late US jazz singer Billie Holliday, or the Cliff Richard song Summer.
I spent many a moment exchanging tongue-in-cheek banter with Brian about the respective capabilities of our two football teams in the 1980’s. He a big Newcastle United fan reckoning my footballing amours, Leeds United, were an inferior side to his beloved Magpies; me responding in kind. To be honest, though, they were both underachieving at the time (as now) and neither of us were correct; they were both utter horse manure.
Sadly Brian passed decades ago. His wife Geraldine a quiet lady, who along with Enid Mitchell is the only resident still left from my time in NE9 6UY. In those days Geraldine oft sported a top bun hairstyle which made her nearly as tall as god, but still well short of Kevin Cowell.
I’m friends on Facebook with her daughters Lindsey and Claire who in adulthood don’t sport a bun, but have the same misplaced faith in the capabilities of their late dad’s football team.
Despite the sporadic silliness within the narrative, like other members of my family, I recall all of the the people mentioned above with great fondness. Individuals who on some level taught me valuable life lessons, which at some point I’ve been able to draw upon in adulthood.