The Jolly Boys

Shirley Stephenson is a bored housewife who never stops day in day out, its the same humdrum existence. Bob her husband is a lazy good for nothing. who lost his leg in an industrial accident and is claiming benefit fraudulently. he keeps her short and moans because she goes to the bingo. Shirley finds the courage to file for a divorce and free herself. her life is suddenly transformed after she finds all of the compensation that Bob has been hiding from her. she orders a taxi she takes £30.000 and takes a box with some things that her gran had left her.


7. 7

Jimmy closed the bedroom door then switched on his Commodore 64 computer then waited for it to boot up before inserting a floppy disc. Tonight he was playing on “Battle zone” a tank warfare game where you got to blow up building and other tanks and Lorries. The game had 3D drivers and POV graphics. The game was pretty cool which had some great sound effects. Jimmy bought copies from his mates and when a new game came on the scene each of his friends would take turns to buy it then copy it for the others. It was a cheap way to keep up with the latest in game technology. It was totally illegal but everyone was doing it. Jimmy couldn’t wait for the new CD’ discs that would change the way people listened to music. He thought that he would keep his collection of Vinyl records then transpose them all onto CD’s. He could do the same with all of his music cassette tapes. No more would he need to use a pen to rewind the tape when it all came out.  

 On Dorking Avenue on the Meadow Well Estate the sound of dogs barking was a regular occurrence. Many took it upon themselves to buy Staffordshire bull terriers. They were a fighting breed of dog but had become popular as pets. Another dog favoured by the Folk of North Shields was the Rottweiler, a large dog that weighted around ten stone when fully grown. It could pull a fully- grown man off his feet if it felt the need to chase another dog down the street. Children as young as ten were seen walking these dogs around the estate where one in three men were out of work.  Teenagers roamed the streets on stolen mountain bikes bought cheaply from other teens looking to make a few quid. Others took to stealing cars and driving around the council estate in them. The screeching tyres and the smell of burning rubber filled the air. The term “Ram Raiding” swept Britain; it had been used in America to break into shops by driving straight through the front window of the shops then mass looting would take place. Margaret Thatcher’s government introduced a Youth training programme (YOP) designed to get the youth of Britain back into work. 16- year olds who were not in college had to join a thirteen- week course which paid them £23.50p per week. £4.50p more than the dole which they were receiving. False promises by the Department of Employment made saw many working their socks off in the hope of finding a job at the end of it but in reality, over 60% of YOP scheme trainees left with no skills at all after the thirteen- week programme and no job to go to. Teenagers were then forced to join the dole queue until another work- related scheme came up and they were forced to join it or receive no benefits at all. In some parts of Britain Youths were sent out to count lamp posts or clean cars all day long. The labour party were calling for proper structured training apprenticeships that would lead to permanent employment. Of course, this never materialised. Violent crime was on the rise during the early eighties. The privatisation of the steel industry and shipping industry saw mass unemployment in the North East. Many who got redundancy or were paid off. They put themselves on the sick to stop the government from making them live on the money they had received in holiday entitlements and redundancy pay. After thirteen weeks on the sick they were entitled to incapacity benefit and industrial injuries benefit. Which brought them close to what they were earning on a flat week without overtime. So, began the rise of benefits Britain. It was not worth bothering to look for work said a lot of men when the average family could get more in housing benefits, incapacity benefit, and industrial injuries benefit. On top of all that some men were moonlighting on top of this and were far better off. Some young men who had started on the YOP/YTS scheme were now in their twenties and thirties and still had no proper Jobs. Some 58% of the scheme left before the thirteen weeks was up saying that it was slave labour. Mass protest took place all over the country with thousands complaining about forced labour schemes. Kevin Barron a Labour called it a disgrace and called for the department of Employment to investigate.

“The system is failing the youth of today. “I strongly urge this Government to tackle youth unemployment. The Tory solution is to force young people into low paid work then deny them benefits if they refuse. The Tory minister for employment said that over four million youths had now found permanent work because of the YOP/YTS programme. He reiterated that the government had spent 1.1bn pounds on training programmes for young people and that is was doing something to help the youth of Britain back into work. “The days of something for nothing society is over.’

Over the next five years Britain would go through its worst economic crisis since before the Second World War. Austerity was looming and next the miners and Shipyard workers would come out on strike. This was closely followed by council workers, binmen refused to empty bins and the streets were piled high with rotten food.

Betty Badoe a black woman and publican who lived on the Estate then called “The Ridges” had seen the plight of the people who were living in adverse poverty. She campaigned for better living standards for families on the Estate and when a community centre was opened at the bottom of Dorking Avenue (Laburnum Avenue) Betty and committee set about helping the people on the estate. Food banks and regular lunches for those out of work could go there and get a meal. They set up a Credit Union to help mothers who could not afford to pay off bills. A lot of young mothers got themselves into debt to loan sharks. Betty was not the only woman who had tried to help the less fortunate. Elizabeth Hoult who ran a butcher and pork shop on the estate helped many poor families. She gave when others wouldn’t.


The boy stood in the Butcher shop his head barely reaching the counter as he handed over the note given from his mother with two bob. The elderly lady tried to read the note which was written on old wallpaper. The spelling was very poor and the woman who had written it had drawn the items that she wanted. She had been brought up in a family of thirteen children and her mother kept her off school in order to help do the chores in the house. Her mother baked and cooked on an old range making every penny count. The woman learned from her mother the value of everything and how important it was to make meals cheaply. She utilised every resource.

Come on then Terry, give us a song said Mrs Hoult as she looked down on the boy with a pair of short pants and a snake belt holding them up and a tee shirt. His hair had been combed into a quiff with Brylcreme. It was 1964 and the sun was shining outside.

Terry broke into song straight away, he loved singing and had a nice voice. He would sing for all of his father’s work mates when he would come home from the Robin Hood Inn and drag him out of the bed he shared with his brother. Taking his feet out of the sleeve of a heavy trench coat used to keep him warm he’d get up and wipe the sleep from his eyes then walk into the living room in one of his father’s old shirts that trailed the ground and the sleeves rolled up then sing songs by Mario Lanza, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, and Dean Martin. They would all clap then give him two bob each which he would then give to his mother to help her out. He was singing Mona Lisa by Natt King Cole for Mrs Hoult today as she went about putting up small parcels for his mother. He placed the items into a raffia bag then was given a whole pigs head from the back of the shop where Bob Mather was cutting up meat. Bob was going out with Mrs Hoult’s daughter and he came through to listen as the boy sang.  The pigs head would be roasted on a Sunday and used for brawn and the crackling eaten by the family. Mrs Hoult had generously given him mince, steak and kidney, a couple of chops for stewing. Bacon bones, liver, and some lap to make some broth with. Terry was just one of many boys living in the Ridges estate who knew what it was like to be poor. The bag he was carrying was almost as heavy as him as he limped up the street after thanking Mrs Hoult. His calliper boots echoed off the ground as he walked up Oakwood Avenue to his house. He passed Mrs Masons house and Roy the black mongrel dog came out of the garden and began to follow him.’

“I’ve got no bones for you today Roy.’ I’ll get you some tomorrow.’ Terry walked on seeing Helen Oliver playing in the path with two tennis balls against the wall and singing a song as she juggled them.

Further on Mr Jackson worked on his motor bike which had a side carriage. His hands were full of oil as he used a spanner to tighten a nut that was loose. Colin and Kevin Ford, Bernard Johnson, Jimmy and Keith Heads were on the roof of the shed next to Colin’s house. They sat eating willicks that they’d been down to St Mary’s light house and collected. They sat in their knitted bathing costumes. They were alright until they got wet then came down with the weight of the water. Many used their snake belts to hold them up as they splashed each other with a hose pipe whilst jumping from one roof to the other owned by Mr Henry Lane. Who was better known as the diluted Frank Sinatra? Each Saturday night he’d roll in drunk down the street with a bottle of Newky Brown in one hand and singing “Fly me to the Moon” his flat cap covered his bald pate and he had no teeth to speak of. He was about seven stone soaking wet and the suit that he wore looked like it was two sizes too big for him. He would take two steps forward the five back as he walked unsteadily in the middle of the street under a lit lamppost as if he was under the spotlight of the stage. Then would come the fireworks as he and Mr Scott would argue and then come to blows outside in the path.

Betty White, Ella Villaverde and Mrs Cosh would be trying to break them up.

Mrs Cochrane would be sweeping the path and Alec Lowther who lived up- stairs would be tending his roses in the garden. Sarah Smith was propped up at the window watching Christine and Shirley her daughters as they played with Corrine Connelly, Janice and Denise Villaverde and Anne Cosh.

Terry slipped into the path and into the opened door and into the thre-e bed roomed house.

He dropped the shopping bag then raced out of the house. Feeling two stone lighter than he had been. He crossed over the road to old Lillian Maidstone’s path where the Burgo’s and the Mitchell’s lived.

George Mitchell was killed in the shipyard, decapitated they said. He had two son’s George junior and Geoffrey. Big Manny Burgo the ex- heavyweight boxer and his even bigger father lived down stairs. They owned a piggery in Percy Main and the wagon that parked outside with metal dustbins stank the street out. Terry ran down the path Climbed onto the fence that belonged to Mrs Colquhoun, Rob and Ann who were older lived there. He climbed onto the wall with his calliper and then ran along to the end past the Phelps House. Billy was a footballer who played for the North Shields Boys Club on Hawkey’s Lane he had a sister called Julie. He saw Ginger Burns as he jumped into the sand pit from the co-operation council Yard wall. He looked around seeing his school friends Billy Wilson and David “Copper Cawley swinging from the rafters of a derelict house on a lump of rope.

“The backer’s as it was better known was the playground escape for many kids living in the Ridges. Where they would play “Japs and commandos” or cowboys and Indians. Using bits of old wood, they were made into guns and rifles improvised by them all and bits of old bricks as hand grenades. Sometimes you’d hear a yelp as a brick would bounce off a head of someone hidden in the grass that was about four feet high and usually had a lot of nettles so invariably you’d come home covered in stings. There were dares to prove your bravery and Billy being the Boss of the gang would order us all to carry them out. How many survived was all down to the grace of God as they scaled the roof and walked along the beams with a fifteen- feet drop below onto walls that had been knocked down. Swinging like Tarzan from room to room. It was a great adventure.

We’d take jam sandwiches and a packet of Tudor crisps and a big bottle of Villa Lemonade in there and play until dark. Our mothers never worried about us and were not aware of the dangers that we all got up to.


   Twenty years later little had changed, they had re-modernised the houses and changed the name of streets and the Estate but the poverty and the stigma of living there still existed. The shops that were there when Terry was a boy had nearly all gone now. Hoult’s pork shop was one of the only shops who had survived. The butcher shop where Terry sang was now gone. In its place was a Ladbrokes bookmaker, Harry Newham’s, Rutherford’s, Pottsie’s newsagent’s, Day’s fruit and veg and the Wool shop. The Library, the Hadrian store, the butcher shop on Marina Avenue, Ronnie Hancock’s, and Billy Burston’s were now all gone. Sold and now taken over by Asian’s.

Stephan Matuszewski “Chucka” to his mates sat in the front garden of his house. He had not long moved in to his house in Barmouth Way formally (Briarwood Avenue) or named the Congo by the locals because there used to be a lot of black families living in the street. Stephan’s parents had come from Kracow in Poland just after the war and had settled here. Everything was fine to begin with Stephan and his wife Anna lived peacefully and helped in any way they could. Stephan was very handy and could lend his hand to most things like fixing washing machines, erecting fencing, and decorating. When his neighbour John Copsey’s fence came down during the high winds of March 1984 he helped him build another. Anna baked lovely bread and cakes and she and Marylyn got on very well until the early hours of one morning. There was banging at the door. Stephan looked at the clock it was just after three thirty in the morning. He went down to the front door in pyjama bottoms and saw john standing barefoot in a pair of red Jockey underpants. He had no shirt on.

“What the hells all the banging about said John angrily to his neighbour.’

“Banging John, what are you on about there is no banging here. The only banging I heard was you trying to break my front door in.’

“There’s been banging going on for the last hour; I’ll report you to the bloody council I will.’

“Listen are you crazy, there had been no banging going on here now go away from my door and go back to bed.’

“Fucking immigrant’s you come here and think you can do what you like.’

Stephan ignored the comment then went back upstairs Anna his wife and Kevin his son was now awake having heard John Copsey ranting and raving down stairs.

“What’s going on Stephan asked his wife.’

“It’s John from down stairs he says that he hears banging for over an hour but there are no noises; can you hear anything?’

“No,’ he must be mistaken.’ They walked around the whole house listening in the silence of the night but could not hear a sound coming from anywhere.’

“Come Anna lets go back to bed I will speak to John in the morning.’

“I thought you were going to decorate Paul Judd’s house on Lambourn Avenue?’ (Formally Firtree Avenue)

“I am but I want this sorted out first.’

“Please go to bed Kevin everything is going to be alright.’

“Alright dad, goodnight.’

They got back into bed and sat and talked for a while about their neighbour until they eventually nodded back off to sleep.


Stephan washed and changed when he awoke ready to do the decorating job that he’d promised Paul Judd. Kevin his son had already left to go to his YOP scheme where he was learning car sales at Dutton Forshaw’s Garage. There was no guarantee of a job at the end of it but Stephan told his son dress smart every morning in a suit and tie in the hope that his boss may see the potential his son had. He had taught his son how to drive and fix engines so if he needed he could strip an engine down and repair it. He ate some toast and drank a cup of tea that Anna his wife had made him then went to knock on his neighbour’s door. He stood outside in his bib and braces waiting but no one came to answer the door. He came back inside and told his wife, who told him to forget what had happened.

“Maybe it was just a misunderstanding Stephan said his wife.’

“I don’t know Anna, he seemed pretty angry to me.’

“Leave it to me I will speak with Marylyn and explain.’

“Alright I’ll go then but if there is any trouble please give me a call on my mobile. Stephan packed his paint brushes, pasting table, scissors, and roller. His step ladders were tied onto the roof rack

 Stephan’s tape measure and long steel rule he used for marking out were placed into the boot of the car. Paul Judd was supplying the wallpaper and paint he had the four rooms to paint with emulsion and then wallpaper. He would gloss the doors and the skirting boards after that. It was a full day’s work and Paul was paying him a hundred pounds for doing it. If he’d got a decorating firm in it would have cost him three hundred. 

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