Gary Strachan – "Write" Said Fred

Off The Wall Essays From Deep Within A Capricious Mind

The View

As part of my research for yesterday’s narrative, I undertook a rare visit to google maps for a current day view at my childhood home on Low Fell, Gateshead. The street I lived being Dorchester Gardens on the Chowdene estate; a cul-de-sac of twenty six three bedroomed semi-detached houses, solidly constructed by Leech in the late 1960’s.

Built on a valley incline that led at it lowest point to the river Team (a southern estuary of the Tyne) produced western facing views of varying aesthetic beauty. Looking from Dorchester Gardens the south westerly aspect bestowed scenic sights on the opposite side of the valley, courtesy of Kibblesworth green fields and hedges. Directly west were views of the Team Valley Trading Estate; an amalgam of factories and offices at the estuary’s trough.

This trading estate not exhibiting the pleasant canvas of the Kibblesworth fields, but what it lacked in aesthetic beauty it more than made up for in its importance to the north east economy and with providing the local populous with employment.

These views, which like most kids were taken for granted during my fledgling years, in some ways a metaphor for life itself. By that I opine that our existences can’t always be beautiful, we’ve also got the less cosmetically appealing elements to contend with. Those ugly and often less fulfilling experiences are equally necessary as ordinarily its those  that make us stronger, more resilient and provide the sustenance and shelter we need to survive.

Some may read the above paragraph and opine “What a right load of pretentious b*ll*cks!”…… I know I bl**dy did when re-reading the thing! That being said, though, it is a metaphor I believe can be drawn from those westerly views from my childhood home…… Ok, I’ll admit it. It is a right load of pretentious b*ll*cks!!

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Despite the buzz of seeing my childhood home via both street view and satellite, there is something that makes me uneasy about surveillance by google maps. It made me feel as though I’m literally walking around my old domain peering through house windows, making it feel a bit voyeuristic.

It made me think of if google maps existed in the 1970’s what sights you could have seen through the large rectangular lounge window of 8 Dorchester Gardens. If it was possible to time-travel to that era, peering through my old homes lounge windows may’ve brought forth the following ghosts:-

  • Visions of my brother Ian and me receiving numerous rollockings for smashing ornaments during a game of indoor football. Our ill thought out attempts at hiding the misdemeanour, ie turning the ornament around to hide the damage, only giving brief respite from the wrath of mum (Maggie0.
  • Distant images of my younger sister Helen writing a letter to my mum saying she was going to Africa as no one loved her. Maggie, as proved with her uncovering of ornament breakage, wasn’t that easily taken in. Finding her ten minutes later at Moira Galloway’s house (number 18).
  • The ghosts of Strachan family laughter witnessing TV gold of that era in the shape of Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies, Fawlty Towers, Mike Yarwood and Reggie Perrin. Up until May 1973 these visions delivered in monochrome, on a television that required much faffing about with vertical and horizontal hold buttons to stabilise its picture.
  • Bad tempered games of Subbuteo between family and friends. Heated arguments whose catalysts were ordinarily allegations of player shuffling, incorrect recital of crowd chants, or the spiteful kneeling on an opponents plastic team member.
  • The massive Christmas turkeys my dad received from his customers in the butcher trade. One of which so huge that, if received alive, he could’ve probably ridden it home from his work on Hawks Road, Gateshead.
  • My old man inadvertently wood chipping part of the kitchen wall after sneezing with a mouthful of bran cereal. An accident that gave him the idea for a less labour intensive way to wall paper the house. However, after working out he’s need to buy 94 boxes of All Bran for that option he dropped the idea.
  • Maggie finding a song for any occasion/event in the home. For instance, if the dog died we’d get a rendition of ‘Old Shep’ from the Leeds lass; although to be honest as we didn’t have a dog it wasn’t a refrain we heard often. Seriously, though, if the subject turned to railways mum would feel the need to sing ‘Oh, Mr Porter’. If the subject of ex-Leeds player Frank Worthington reared it’s head, mater would ‘treat’ us to a version of ‘Don’t Put Your Daughter On The Stage, Mrs Worthington’. The latter refrain having no relevance to football, however the name Worthington getting a mention was enough to set her off!

Most importantly, though, looking through the rectangle window of 8 Dorchester Gardens in the 1970’s would’ve shown three children being brought up by two adults who wanted their offspring brought up in an environment of security, laughter, love and, in my mum’s case, 50+ year old songs from the old music hall.

Get the tissues ready…….

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