Gary Strachan – "Write" Said Fred

Off The Wall Essays From Deep Within A Capricious Mind

Baltic In The Baltic

I woke this morning relieved to find yesterday’s unforgivingly icy breeze had abated. This glacial wind rendering my body heat as frigorific as temperatures experienced during 1980’s nights out on Newcastle’s Quayside and Bigg Market.

A deeply uncomfortable coldness not abetted by being bereft of a coat, even in sub-zero temperatures. Sartorial stupidity that ensured that most Friday nights I’d be baltic in the Baltic (a pub on the city’s Quayside at that time).

Most people knew the lack of overcoat/anorak during chilly Tyneside winters, was a foolhardy clothing strategy. However, if you turned up with an outer clothing layer more than a sweater you’d be exposing yourself to inevitable questioning of your constitutional resilience.

A lad wearing a coat being deemed weak, catapulting them down their mates pecking order of people they’d want beside them when stood in the metaphorical trenches of life.

Entering a Newcastle pub with chattering teeth from the onset of hyperthermia, exacerbated further by ordering a cold lager, was common place in my late teens/early 20’s. Consequently, Bigg Market evenings between November and February became more akin to Arctic survival training than a comfortable booze up with mates.

I’ve not researched this, however it stands to reason that this masochistic dress code when socialising must’ve meant being a Tyneside coat retailer can’t have been a lucrative business. Their demographic market being restricted to the elderly, along with kids who were made to wear them in their fledgling years by parents who didn’t practise what they preached when it came to keeping warm outdoors.

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I don’t recall if I even owned a coat in my late teens and early twenties. If I did I’d imagine, like George Michael at the time, it stayed in the closet.

Even though tolerated, if truth be told, wearing a sweater on winter nights out was frowned upon by many. The lads I drank with on Tyneside only accepting the adorning of wool jumpers after one of our number, who for anonymity purposes I’ll call Egbert Nobacon, became cryogenically frozen while queuing to get into The Half Moon pub on the Bigg Market.

An incident that resulted in Egbert taking two weeks to thaw out. On his return to consciousness he told how he’d embarked on a utopian dream while frozen. Experiencing visions of a place where it was deemed acceptable to wear a coat; a society with reps for missold Personal Payment Insurance would ring you up to provide you with untold riches for doing nothing…… Foresight which all seemed very far fetched in 1985

As teenager’s got towards the age they’d be recklessly braving the elements in search of alcoholic refreshment in Newcastle’s renowned drinking spots, some would train in preparation for their inauguration into surviving winter temperatures bereft of coats.

One of those lads, Jordan Croaker from Deckham, spent three hours a week in Low Fell butcher Ronnie Keith’s walk in freezer…… From my own perspective, twice weekly my preparation for dealing with cold came through visits to my future in-laws home; a place where I was always guaranteed a frosty welcome…… I’ve no idea what became of Jordan Croaker; I just hope he’s not still in Ronnie’s freezer!!

Categories: Blogs, fiction, humour, memories

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