Shush!!!

As I recall, the Low Fell library was built-in the early 1970’s. Progress of its construction at the corner of Durham Road and Chowdene Bank something I witnessed during games of football on adjacent grassland on the cusp of a small dene. A near neighbour of the Thomas Wilson WMC. A club I’m told was named after an acclaimed Low Fell based poet.

I didn’t ask the person who informed me of this snippet of the borough’s history, however I’m assuming that poet possessed the moniker of Thomas Wilson. I’m perceptive that way!

One of the mates at that time, Stewart Mackie, living about 20 yards south of the newly developed library building. Across the road a Chinese takeaway where I first sampled oriental food – An eatery that during late teenage staggers home, after a Friday night drinking on ‘The Fell’, became an habitual stop off point.

I don’t recall the name of the takeaway, but can remember ordinarily plumping for ‘Number 25’ on the menu. Choosing the same number of the Newcastle to Chowdene estate bus as an aide memoire, a contingency stance for the days my powers of recollection were impacted by excessive alcohol intake. To clarify, for some reason back then I was always able to remember bus numbers no matter how much I’d had to drink.

From memory, ‘Number 25’ on the Chinese takeaway menu was sweet and sour chicken in batter. My ‘go to’ scran at the conclusion of an evening that’d earlier seen me imbibing bowls of loud mouth soup in such esteemed hostelries as The Beaconsfield, New Cannon, The Crown, The Belle Vue and The Black Horse.

I think the number 25 bus routed through Low Fell along Durham Road prior to terminating at Wrekenton. after a low geared struggle up the steep incline at Harlow Green.

For some reason my bus number anecdotes were banned from Friday nights out with my mates. That being said, Mr Wong** in the Chinese takeaway seemed to enjoy them. In fact so enamoured was he with my tales of journeys aboard the number 737 to Chester-le-Street he started giving me preferential service. The amicable Chinaman ensuring my meal was always served faster than other patrons; appearing anxious I didn’t hang around his shop for too long.

** – As I’m unable to recall the name of the affable owner of the takeaway, I’ve given him the pseudonym of Mr Wong.

It was in that takeaway on a Wednesday evening in May 1982 I heard my beloved Leeds United had been relegated from Division One in 1982.

I was in good spirits when entering the shop, eager to tell Mr Wong the fascinating tale of how the previous day roadworks in Birtley had meant the 723 Darlington bus had arrived at the terminus 13 minutes late. However, within seconds of arriving, while pondering why Mr W had started hiding below the counter as soon as I’d walked through the door, a lad around my age followed me into the takeaway. Promptly informing one of his mates, who was already in the queue, that Stoke City had beaten West Brom, consequently consigning Leeds to Division Two***.

*** – For the benefit of some younger readers, Division Two was the moniker attributed to the second tier of English football prior to Sky TV properly inventing the game in 1993.

I left Mr Wong’s shop that evening in a state of melancholy. Consuming the takeout back in my Dorchester Gardens home on the Chowdene estate I could only taste the sour in my meal of sweet and sour battered chicken with egg-fried rice

My Leeds born and bred parents, along with my siblings were in similarly low spirits. Even reading in the Evening Chronicle that the number 84 bus to Rowlands Gill had received a makeover couldn’t shake me from my football induced despair.

I wasn’t happy – The footballers representing my place of birth had let me down. Not only had it taken them less than a decade to plummet from the champions of the country to tinpot, but their ineptitude had exposed me to a forthcoming few months of interminable gloating from Newcastle and Sunderland fans……. That night in May 1982 the start of numerous despondent times and false dawns I’d experience over the next three decades at the hands of my team.

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When I started this narrative I’d intended to talk about the construction of the Low Fell library when I was a child. The local community building where my younger brother Ian later worked until becoming victim to local council cuts. A move undertaken after deeming they no longer needed anyone to walk around the premises telling patrons to “Shush!!”

When it eventually opened, I became the indifferent owner of a library card, but rarely ventured into the informational establishment. My aversion to entering this hall of learning not through lack of desire to broaden my literary horizons, moreover I got fed up of our kid shouting “Shush!!” in my face when I’d my head in a book.

On the infrequent occasions I did visit the brand spanking new local council premises it was ordinarily to pick up bus timetable information or leave notes in the suggestion box such as a request they start stocking ‘Oor Wullie’ and ‘The Broons’ annuals, along with recommending the ‘Number 25’ from the Chinese takeaway over the road.

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