Gary Strachan – "Write" Said Fred

Off The Wall Essays From Deep Within A Capricious Mind

The Subbuteo Team Isn’t Always Greener…..

After my brief overnight stay in Gateshead, I’d an incident free odyssey south on the A1(M); arriving back in Leeds yesterday afternoon.

My journey predominantly spent with the late morning/midday solar rays positioned just to the left of the driving seat sun visor. Consequently, my singing along to the refrains on Sting’s ’10 Summoners Tales’ album was accompanied with pugilist-like weaving and bobbing of my head while seeking refuge from the distracting solar glare.

Prior to embarking on the journey south from Gateshead, I’d a nostalgic drive around the  Chowdene estate where I grew up in the 1970’s/80’s. Located in the town’s southern suburbia, the Low Fell area was where I received my education; both from an academic and life lesson perspective.

My alma mater’s Oakfield Junior School, Breckenbeds Junior High, and Heathfield Senior High. Further mentoring received from a cast of many existential influencers, including members of Gateshead Fell Cricket Club, Cromer Avenue Boys Brigade and fellow workers at the National Coal Board (NCB) offices on the Team Valley Trading Estate.

On leaving the north east of England in November 1987 I was still a wet behind the ears 24 year old boy/man. However the above influences during the two decades prior to my departure for employment in London ensuring I’d the wherewithal to survive, secure decent work roles and raise a family once out in the big wide world.

Driving around the Chowdene Estate yesterday, evoking epiphanies of some of the lessons learned. Sights like passing the group of four Dartmouth Avenue shops, one of which was formerly the newsagent I delivered papers for in the mid to late 1970’s.

The newsagent a retail outlet known in the Strachan residence as the ‘bottom shop’. To clarify, it got that name as it was located on the street below Dorchester Gardens, where we lived, to differentiate it from the ‘top shops’ above on Durham Road….. It wasn’t a nickname procured from the fact it sold posteriors; well not to my knowledge anyway!

On my drive around the Chowdene estate, or the sometimes named Leech estate (as the 1960’s/70’s houses there were predominantly built by the Leech construction company) I also stopped momentarily at the Allerdene field where I learned my fledgling sporting skills. More of which I write in yesterday’s narrative Allerdene Field For Ever.

As I pulled over adjacent to Allerdene field on Dartmouth Avenue, I took a photograph for posterity. In particular, ensuring I captured the trees, now 40 years maturer than when my mates and I used them as goalposts in the 1970’s. A time when their trunks were so lacking in girth they required the assistance of a wooden stake to keep them upright…… Incidentally, in the previous sentence I’m alluding to the trees’ paucity of girth not my mates and me!!

Anyhow, moving on swiftly!! ……

Driving along Dartmouth Avenue, I passed the top of St Austell’s Gardens, a road which dipped quite steeply as it declines down the fell towards the Gold Medal pub – Named after a former Chowdene estate resident, the former Olympic medal winner Brendan Foster.

As I drove slowly along Dartmouth Avenue, I recalled a childhood friend of mine in junior school, Paddy Alderdyce, used to live at the top of the St Austell’s Gardens. A wry grin crossed my face as I recalled Paddy’s attempts, in the early 1970’s, at sprucing up our tired looking Subbuteo table football teams.

Paddy’s claimed to be a painter of such forensic accuracy, in association with being adept at colour mixing, he’d have no problem recolouring the tiny plastic figures kits. Sadly, my classmates boast turned out to be an epic fail.

Instead of a team with a blue kit and a yellow kit both his and my team ended up with teams adorning green football strips. As we didn’t know any teams who played in green, not to mention the obvious problems introduced by the teams colour clashing, it took the shine off our Subbuteo encounters until we could afford a new tube of oil paint.

There was a brief respite in the lack of table football enjoyment after watching the 1971 European Cup Final on TV where I noticed one of it’s protagonists, Panathinaikos, performed in all green.

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That being said, this re-ignited enjoyment only lasting until we got bored of playing matches involving Panathinaikos versus Panathinaikos Reserves……. As the old adage goes ‘The Subutteo team isn’t always greener on the other side’!….. Or something like that anyway!

Yep, yesterday it was nice to revisit some childhood haunts prior to returning to my now home in Leeds.

Driving down the A1(M) to West Yorkshire on Saturday, as a consequence of my little venture around the Chowdene estate, it hit me just how much I owe the people in those Low Fell streets, workplaces and schools for what they’ve subliminally added to my adult life.

Categories: Blogs, family, fiction, humour, memories

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