Mary and Tosker at Willow Lane Flats

Four friends in Newcastle have the strands of their lives interwoven with the political and economic events over three decades. Superficially it’s a nine hour film about housing, but it’s much more than that.

The Labour Party, corruption in public life and housing, the rise and fall of T. Dan Smith (Mr Newcastle), John Poulson and Reginald Maudling, sleaze in Soho, corruption in the Met, the Tories rise to power, the violence and politics of the Miners’ strike in 1984 to name but a few of the political events covered.


PLOT SUMMARY BY CHAPTER – 1966


C1. Nicky is promoting Edwards System Building at Austin Donohue’s offices on the 1st floor of the Guildhall by the Tyne Bridge. Mary and Tosker are living in a new flat at Willow Lane. In Soho Walensky’s has closed and Geordie has lost his job. Tosker is playing the field.

C2. Knowing Tosker is otherwise occupied Nicky goes to see Mary in the new flats. They are damp. Already. Mary is unhappy with her new life and the turn events have taken. Roy Johnson is pursuing Met corruption allegations with the man who first made them, Berger, who is incarcerated in a mental hospital unjustly it would seem. (To keep him out of the way).

C3. Tosker fails to make it as a singer, Geordie meets Benny Barratt in Soho and gets a job as a barman, Berger hangs himself in the asylum in despair that the Met isn’t going to change.

C4. Eddie Wells asks Nicky what Donohue is up to. Donohue gets the PR job for the Labour Party. Mary confronts Tosker over his womanising. More police raids in Soho.

C5. In Soho Benny’s damaged (protection racket) club is reopened.

C6. Nicky and Austin Donohue fall out, Nicky leaves with the ESB file containing all the names of people on the payroll of John Edwards.


NOTES AND COMMENTS – 1966


C1. No sign of the end

Roy Johnson visits the former Met policeman (Berger) at the mental asylum.

Edwards System Building promotional film is projected by Nicky at Austin Donohue’s offices where he works, the film features Mary and Tosker in a new system built flat at Willow Lane. The audience I presume to be councillors and local Government officials with influence.

At a meal afterwards John Edwards butters up Bede Connors by offering him a trip to Spain ostensibly to see flats.

Walensky’s has closed (becomes a porn shop). Geordie phones Nicky from London looking for a job.

Nicky goes to the pub and sees Tosker with a girl who is not Mary …

C2. Absent friend

… knowing Tosker is otherwise occupied Nicky takes a taxi to see Mary at the new flats. Patrick is living with Mary and Tosker in the new flat.

“Feels a bit chilly, a bit musty” – Nicky says having asked if the flat is ok.

“They all are” replies Mary, (a portent of things to come).

They disagree about who Nicky works for, Mary suggesting that he works for Edwards (Poulson) but Nicky is vehement that he works for Donohue. “Isn’t that the same thing?” replies Mary.

“I don’t work for a builder” replies Nicky.

Mary expresses her regrets about her present life, nearly in tears, Tosker has given up his apprenticeship as an electrician, “He said he couldn’t keep a wife and baby on apprentices’ wages”

“Now he’s got a dead end job he hates and he’s even more obsessed with becoming a singer.”

“It’s been horrible not seeing you” – says Mary, in tears. They hold hands.

But just at the point when Nicky might have moved across to join Mary on the sofa, Patrick expresses his disquiet by making noises and looking in their direction, so they break off.

“Not a mistake, it’s a mess, no marriage should start like that” says Mary (referring to the shag in the park).

“I’m pregnant again” says Mary

“Could you try to like Tosker?” continues Mary

Bear in mind that Nicky has seen Tosker in the pub with another woman.

Nicky leaves the flat with mixed feelings.

The scene changes to Austin Donohue’s office, but he’s away and it’s his secretary who quizzes Nicky “Not working today Dominic?” They have a frosty exchange.

She hands him some work – to organise a three day trip to Spain for three couples, trip must include a genuine bullfight. Nicky throws it in the bin.

Scene changes to Roy Johnson talking to the Met at Scotland Yard who won’t listen, then back to the mental asylum where Berger hears the bad news,

“Nobody will ever clean up the Met, nothing will ever change” says Berger.

C3. Fathers and Sons

It’s talent night at the pub. Tosker is singing there’s a talent scout in the pub to assess his potential.

Tosker is looking at, and singing to, the girl Nicky saw him with the other night.

Mary notices and seeks reassurance from Tosker’s Mum, the landlady, who is sitting close by.

Nicky arrives and sits with Mary.

The talent scout beside them says to Tosker “Don’t give up the day job”.

Tosker and Nicky argue and Nicky leaves.

Roy Johnson goes to the asylum, lights flashing, Berger has hung himself.

Soho

Geordie wanders into a porn shop, it used to be Walensky’s. He’s about to leave when there’s a police raid. First sight of Det John Salway. They question the “owner” then Benny Barratt turns up. The police arrest two people running the shop and clear the stock. Barratt tries to sort it out by phoning West End Central but there’s been a change of attitude. Things are toughening up and the police won’t play, for the moment, the desk sargent hangs up.

Geordie walks into a basement club. It’s one of Barratt’s. Asks about work. A heavy (protection racket) starts smashing up the bar. Punters leave. Thugs continue smashing the place up. Geordie doesn’t leave. Benny shows up. The barman flees.

“I think you’re going to have to pay them Benny,” says his bouncer. (Protection racket)

Geordie is offered the bar job that has just become vacant – and takes it.

C4. Truth and Lies

Nicky and Eddie are walking across the high level bridge. They talk about Donohue (T. Dan Smith).

“What is Donohue PRS?” asks Eddie. T. Dan Smith is no longer leader of Newcastle City Council and has set up a PR company instead. He is working with Poulson bribing people in the area.

Eddie tries to pour oil on troubled waters with Nicky over his fallout with his Dad, Felix.

At Willow Lane flats Mary confronts Tosker about his other woman. Tosker denies it. “I don’t want to talk about your act, I want to talk about this woman” – Mary.

They agree that Mary will tell him the truth about his singing if he tells her the truth about the other woman. She tells him he can’t sing and he lies that it’s only Mary, and walks out.

Donohue has got the job of PR for Labour in the coming election and Nicky is helping the safe seat candidate Arthur Watson with his manifesto.

Soho. Benny is bending a stripper over the table. (Shagging her from behind.) Geordie interrupts them, he’s been setup for a joke by one of the bouncers telling him that he is wanted in Benny’s office.

A Grey Austin J4 with sliding doors with three Met in the cab follows Benny along the street but Benny loses them by going into a cafe and leaving by another exit.

Porn shop raid again (former Walensky’s) Geordie the front man this time, denies knowing who the owner is, a copper thumps him hard in the guts, and they leave.

Benny visits injured Geordie (two broken ribs) in his flat over the shop.

At “the Yard” John Salway is called upstairs to tell the brass what he plans to do about the spread of the porn shops.

Newcastle

Arthur Watson is interviewed for TV the day before the election. Nicky despises him and thinks he’s a Tory.

C5. No honour

Back in Soho, Geordie is now the barman, Benny is celebrating the re-opening of his damaged club. The thugs are back. One of his staff changes sides but Benny pays the racketeers off and beats up the turncoat.

It appears Wilson won the 1966 election.

C6. Market Politics

Austin Donohue and John Edwards are talking in Austin’s office. Edwards wants to be on the honours list. He wants Austin to arrange it.

Donohue wants Nicky to write a speech for Edwards but Nicky is disgusted that Edwards (who is already earning a fortune from system built flats in Newcastle) is supposed to get an honour as well. Austin and Nicky argue about the direction politics is taking.

Nicky resigns. As he leaves he takes the ESB file containing details of all the trips and payoffs to people that make the Edwards/Donohue machine run.

[then does absolutely nothing with it, and worse, keeps silent when it matters to Eddie and Mary see 1967 C5.].

“The great moral issue facing modern British politics is corruption.” – Nicky H.

End of 1966.

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