Fit For A Princess

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In 1987, after taking voluntary redundancy from British Coal, I followed fragrant Tory Trade & Industry Minister Norman Tebbit’s advice to get on my bike to find employment. Consequently leading to me moving away from my childhood home of Gateshead.

GJ Strachan’s new employer a banking clearing house based in Edgware, London. His home address now within the borders of Bedfordshire county. A contrasting amalgam of the affluent and scenic villages on it’s western borders with Buckinghamshire, juxtaposed with the less aesthetically pleasing London overspill town of Luton on it’s south east corner.

If the County of Kent is the ‘Garden of England’, then Bedfordshire is our country’s ostentatiously, but tastefully, decorated cloak room with a Pandora’s Box residing in its far corner.

My house move in 1987 only the second in my 24 years on this dysfunctional planet. Both times long distance relocations, introducing me to different regional cultures and colloquialisms; in some cases causing initial bewilderment.

As a young child, after my family re-located a hundred miles north from the West Yorkshire metropolis of Leeds to Gateshead, I initially recall thinking all the children in my new home town were called Ben (even the girls). Something that puzzled me until my dad pointed out that people were actually addressing their offspring as bairns.

When I moved from Gateshead to Bedfordshire in my 20’s two things stood out of what were many cultural and colloquial differences between the two regions.

Firstly, in 1987 south east males were less inclined to temper their use of harsher swear words in front of women compared to north east guys. Something that isn’t the case in contemporary times. Incidentally, that’s not a judgement merely an observation.

Secondly, after my move down south it initially intrigued me how far Tyneside’s reputation for it’s great nightlife had spread across this sceptred isle. Being genuinely shocked to hear a middle-aged Dunstable woman*** talking about dancing the night away on the Tuxedo Princess’ revolving dance floor. Not to mention, a twenty something Edgware*** lad relaying joyous tales of alcohol induced shenanigans with his mates on the Bigg Market.

*** – Other age groups and areas of Bedfordshire and Middlesex are available.

My ludicrously naive belief based on a misguided assumption the relatively isolated geographical location of Newcastle and Gateshead would render reveller appeal as minimal.

Before leaving the north east I certainly couldn’t recall hearing large numbers of accents from other areas when out socially; but I stood corrected…… On learning this I concluded the tourists ‘booze cruising’ the Bigg Market must’ve been the strange individuals you’d occasionally witness wearing coats. An act frowned upon by the Pig & Whistle chattering classes regardless of season.

A couple of paragraph’s ago I mentioned the Tuxedo Princess. This a renovated ex-ferry which, if memory serves me correct, was formerly used as a people/vehicle transporter between the Scottish west coast and its islands.

I spent the evening of my 21st birthday on this floating nightclub/restaurant moored close to the Swing Bridge on the Gateshead side of the Tyne. My girlfriend (now wife) Karen and me indulging in a meal on the fairly recently opened entertainment venue, followed by drinks and occasional dance upon the different themed decks.

One of the decks coming complete with a revolving dance floor. A novelty boogying area whose mild centrifugal force actually made me more accomplished at the art of bopping. Although if truth be told it couldn’t have made me any worse.

In it’s 1980’s heyday the Princess was an iconic venue attracting numerous celebrities, such as Danish royalty, actor Kevin Costner, composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber and my mate Archie Cheescloth……. Ok Archie wasn’t really a celebrity, unless you count being seen on in the audience dancing to The Smiths on a broadcast of TV music show The Tube as enough to elevate you to that status. Which these days possibly is!

If memory serves me correctly, initially you had to adhere to a strict dress code to gain access to the moored floating nightclub. This included the banning of divers flippers, wearing anything beginning with the letter X and T-shirts adorning the word bollocks. Thankfully for locals, though, these edicts didn’t include coats.

Last time I was aboard ‘The Ship’, as it became known, was on my brother’s stag do in 1998. At that time it was a great deal rougher than before I left the area in 1987. Probably not helped by the relaxing of the dress code, which now allowed the wearing of T-Shirt’s with the word bollocks, so long as it was spelt correctly.

On Saturday 26th September 1987, I planned to propose to my girlfriend Karen on the Tuxedo Princess. However, as she was in Michelangelos restaurant on the other side of the river at the time she probably wouldn’t have heard me, consequently I aborted the plan!

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1 comments on “Fit For A Princess”

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