The girl next door

Maxie Forster is a binman who carries out ashes from the coal fires of North Shields the holes in his leather soled boots are letting in water from the rain and he cannot afford to go and take the boots to the cobbler shop in Billy Mill. He tries repairing them with some old lino and cuts the shape out with a stanley knife and glues them with some evo stick then places cardboard in the insides. Looking over the road on his round he spots a family being evicted by the bailiffs - the wagon is loaded with furniture and the woman and her five children stand in the rain as the barrow with everything she owns is pushed down the street.


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Both Catherine and Sarah organised a wake to be held in Chirton Club after the funeral which many of the neighbours and ex work colleagues turned up. There was several photo’s on top of the bar counter and the very last one of Shirley and Sarah together where they had their arms around one another smiling. That was the way Sarah would always remember her friend.


Two weeks after the funeral Sarah gave both Maxie and Catherine the letters as instructed by her friend. They both waited until they were alone before reading them. They both smiled knowing how unselfish she had been; not only as a wife but as a mother too.



Christmas was always an exciting time for children and the children of North Shields were no exception. They helped put up all of the decorations and dress the Christmas tree. It was a time when friends drew near and sent cards and invited those less fortunate to share in a humble meal. Russell Howard never forgot his roots; he organised a Christmas dinner to be held in the Seaman’s Mission for any family who could not afford Christmas dinner. A Christmas gift was also given to every child so that they didn’t feel as if they were being left out. Even on the dawning of a new year there were still family’s going hungry as unemployment gripped the North East. The Miner’s strikes of the middle eighties; the closing of the Ship yards, and steel industries had left thousands of men with no jobs and very little hope. Some young enough had retrained to do other kinds of work but those who had spent almost a lifetime either on the River Tyne or down a pit’s of the North East there was a sense of impounding doom and a real sense of hopelessness. The pride they once had in their work was now gone. Many just gave up as industries crumbled around them.

This sense of hopelessness was passed down to their children who now roamed the streets in gangs. Society was once again changing and not for the better. As some six million people found themselves out of work and living on the welfare system. Once on it, these men found they could not live without it and it became a dependency; like some drug. The government tried blaming them for not getting on their bikes to look for work, when these jobs being offered would not sustain a family and it was safer staying on the benefit system. The constant form filling and the changes made by the government made it harder for claimants to receive help only fuelled the anger of people around the country. They were being labelled as scroungers, Malingerers, benefit cheats, and fraudsters.’ People were using any means at their disposal to try and support their families. Many suffered from chronic depression and ended up on what was called incapacity benefit; people found they were better off on this benefit than ordinary dole payments. So a nation of sick people claiming this benefit began to arise. All through the eighties and into the nineties work just did not pay. When a person could earn more claiming benefit than doing a weeks hard manual work many found themselves taking the benefit route. We as a society had gone back in a sense to the Victorian era. Where poverty was real the work houses were replaced by the YOP scheme many were doing what was considered to be slave labour in the hope that employers would actually take them on doing full time employment when in reality the employer was better off not employing them and receiving money from the government rather than paying them themselves; charities were supplying food and clothing to the poor and less fortunate whilst the government was giving millions away in foreign aid to African Countries. 

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