Through latter day smoke signals which go under the guise of social media, I learned yesterday that ITV’s cop drama Vera was being filmed at the bottom of the Gateshead street where, in the 1970’s/80’s, I spent my fledgling years.
This Low Fell cul-de-sac with the Chowdene estate in the southern suburbs of Gateshead, a few hundred yards from where the Angel of the North now resides. As I’d left the area in 1987 to seek my fortune with my whistling stage act and a cure for the leprosy that’d dogged me through the mid 80’s, Anthony Gormley’s sculpture hadn’t been erected (or indeed even sculpted) in those halcyon days of my early adulthood.
I imagine, though, if I still lived at my childhood family home in Dorchester Gardens (DG) Gormley’s creation will be clearly visible from the front door through which I walked (and latterly staggered) hundreds of times. I know for a fact that it is from the southern end of Dartmouth Avenue (the street below DG as the Fell slopes toward the Team Valley) as I drove along that road only two weeks ago.
I’ve absolutely no idea what scenes were being filmed at the foot of the street I used to call home, or indeed if the twice Academy Award nominated star of the drama, Brenda Blethyn, was present as the cameras rolled. It did set me wondering, though, what plot lines a police drama would’ve incorporated if filmed on the Chowdene estate back in the 1970’s/early 80’s during my tenure there.
Would we have witnessed Regan and Carter, from ITV’s hard-hitting The Sweeney, travelling north to retrieve a fugitive from justice who was hiding out at Jean & Graeme Jones’ house on Dartmouth Avenue?…… I know the Flying Squad wouldn’t ordinarily be on that manor, but hey you never know.
Or would we have perhaps seen veteran Sergeant George Dixon (from Dixon of Dock Green), who was visiting his daughter Andrea in Tiverton Gardens for the weekend, become embroiled in helping local plod locate the thief of Ken Cowell’s Jacob cracker stocks from his garage at 21 Dorchester Gardens?…… Actor Jack Warner, who portrayed Sgt Dixon*** until he was the age of 121, filming his famed “Evening all!” scenes (prefixing and suffixing the storyline) at the top of St Austell’s Gardens.
*** – No relation to Brian Dixon who for a time in the 1970’s/80’s lived at 13 Dorchester Gardens, or indeed Philip Dixon**** who lived at 3 Dorchester Gardens around then. Brian the man who introduced me to Gateshead Fell cricket club, where I played between 1977-1987.
**** – To clarify, not every family in 1970’s Dorchester Gardens had the surname Dixon.
I can’t recall any north east of England based cop dramas during my 1970’s/80’s childhood. There was top notch comedy from the pen’s of Ian La Frenais/Dick Clement in the shape of shows The Likely Lads, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, and latterly Auf Wiedersen Pet.
I’ve recollections of a kids programme produced by Tyne/Tees TV called The Paper Lads which was set on Tyneside; not forgetting the BBC’s Byker Grove. Although I’m unsure if the latter, which introduced a young Dec Donnelly and Ant McPartlin to TV, had started when I was a kid, and at the moment I’m too lazy to google it.
It’s not a conscious decision on my part, but I’ve never seen an episode of Vera. Apart from Miss Marple, whose escapades came from the brilliant and prolific pen of Agatha Christie, I’m not a massive fan of dramas where the cop/sleuth is played by an actor in their 70’s.
I’m pretty sure that the actress who’s won a Golden Globe as well as a BAFTA for her acting, won’t lose much sleep over my detective ageism. She’ll no doubt be on Cromer Avenue filming ‘The Case of Gary Hannah’s Missing Pen Top’ as I write; content in the knowledge she doesn’t have to swap bank accounts with me.