I’m sitting looking out of my Newcastle hotel room French doors across the River Tyne. Staring back from the opposite bank is Gateshead, the town where I was raised after my family relocated from Leeds when a young child. A town where I’ve not resided since 1987, after leaving for London to seek my fortune and perfect a Cockney Walkabout.
For the uninitiated, a Cockney Walkabout was an aimless bow legged amble invented by comedians Reeves and Mortimer in which the participant cockily clutched their collars while spouting platitude in rhyming slang….. And to answer your inquiry, no I didn’t manage to perfect it.
There’s little left of this area of Gateshead as surveying through my childhood/young adult eyes. Although, to be honest, I resided in the south of the town (Low Fell) so didn’t spend much time in the quayside area of the metropolis’ north, especially in childhood.
That being said, the Hide & Skin factory my dad relocated to manage wasn’t far from the area where I pen this piece. In the 1970s/80s the Hawks Road works just up the hill from the Swing Bridge was a scruffy run down building in a scruffy run down area of town.
Contemporary times, though, present an altogether more aesthetically pleasing landscape. Dock regeneration presenting a much more appealing landscape than the traditional industrial backdrop it replaced.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that beauty is only skin deep – That uglier centuries old landscape shaped the north east of England and its people. The grit of shipbuilders, miners and dock workers forging an ingrained resilience within the regions DNA; underpinning the populaces determination to successfully evolve after traditional local trades were ruthlessly ripped from under their feet.
Anyhow enough of my unreliable socio/economic comment…..Who do you think you are, Strachan; David Dimbleby?!
Friday evening, was spent in two of Low Fell’s finest hostelries with a friend of over 40 years who, as he goes by the name of Gary Simpson, I assume is called Gary Simpson. Some may deem I’ve been overly trusting, but I’ve no reason to think he’d lie about his moniker and had spent four decades using an alias….. Although, I guess you never fully know someone!
Anyhow, Mr Simpson is an affable lad who is probably the nicest guy I know called Gary (if that is his name)…… Well apart from my mate Gary Hannah and the baker Gary Baldibiscuit. Actually, coming to think of it Simpson’s a bit of a t**t, meaning he’s probably the unfriendliest Gary of my acquaintance.….. Strike that!
Footnote – Incidentally, I’m also assuming Gary Hannah’s name isn’t an alias.
Anyhow, Friday evening with the least affable Gary I know (if indeed that is his name, the lying b*****d) turned out to be a cordial affair. The usual jocularity ensued; along with learning he’s on such good terms with the staff at one pub they allow him to run a tab, which he pays when the evening concludes….. Bearing in mind I’ve just unearthed how untrustworthy he is, It’s hard not to comment the bar staff’s behaviour is reckless.
Saturday was spent strolling along the Newcastle side of the quayside with my estranged wife whose surname I’m more certain of than Messrs Simpson and Hannah, as it’s mine…. Well, unless she’s divorced me and reverted to her maiden name. Something, I’m sure she’d have raised during our amicable meander in the north east sunshine.
In the evening I ventured to the Low Fell home of a mate of nearly 50 years, Darrin Shaw (name check ensuing). Here a group of mates, his wife Nicole, son Lucas and his adorable dogs drank long into the name…. Actually, not the dogs; they’re both tea total. The level of jocularity on show during Saturday every bit as high as Friday evening when the deceitful Gary Simpson was my drinking partner.
Anyhow, thanks to Gary, Darrin and the other cast of characters for making my weekend in the area of my childhood so memorable and brio filled…… I must dash, my train back to Leeds is imminent.