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 – 1979


C1. Geordie and Tosker pick up two girls in a nightclub and take them back to Geordies’s rather downbeat flat, next door to Nicky’s, (which used to be Mary and Tosker’s). Geordie has forgotten his keys so goes next door to Nicky who keeps a spare set. In the morning Tosker leaves without saying he’s going home. A policeman knocks at the open door and comes in, “Drugs squad” he says, then hands Geordie some drugs. It’s a scam but his colleagues are on to him, there are police cars outside. Back in the suburbs Mary and Tosker discuss their failed marriage.

C2. Geordie and Nicky are talking in his flat. Nicky’s been reading a book about corruption in the Met and tells Geordie that he’s in it. Jules is mentioned as having died from a fall, in a postscript at the end of the book. Felix has lost his job at Swan Hunter. Anthony visits Geordie’s flat in his absence. He drinks some whisky and finds the gun.

C3. In Soho Geordie is in search of who killed Jules. Benny denies it. In Newcastle the police raid Geordie’s flat and find Anthony holding a gun. He is taken to the police station but has absconded by the time Mary arrives. Anthony runs off to the allotments and damages Roy Johnson’s greenhouse. Still on the hunt for a culprit for Julia’s death Geordie tries the Met and in another of the excellent angry scenes confronts a copper.

Roy Johnson is back at the Met, despite retirement, to challenge the new boys on the results of their anti-corruption drive. “In God’s name Mick, when is it all going to be stopped?” – asks Johnson. The interview ends when a note is passed about trouble on Roy’s allotment which causes some amusement to the sidekick.

C4. Tosker meets a woman called Elaine in the nightclub. Geordie turns up and Tosker tells him he’s going to marry Elaine. Nicky takes Anthony to see Roy Johnson in hospital, to apologise for damaging his allotment. A touching scene takes place in the car afterwards between Mary and Anthony.

C5. Elaine goes to see Mary at her constituency office, out of courtesy. Nicky holds a hustings but faces accusations of IRA support. Meanwhile the Tory campaign of Claudia Seabrook has Colin Butler, a spin doctor, as their PR machine. Geordie returns to London having come home and found his flat crudely padlocked shut after the police drugs raid. He wants to let the heat die down.

C6. At the Tory HQ Colin Butler has printed 1000’s of posters about Nicky’s IRA support and had them posted all round the constituency. It reduces his support in the polls and the Tories are ahead. However Claudia is unhappy about his tactics, reads up on his background and the following emotive scene takes place:-

Willow Lane tower blocks are demolished.

Nicky’s back in Newcastle after a European trip to recover from losing the election. He runs into Mary who asks him if he’ll run again, he says no. They almost make a date but Mary says the children have to come first.


NOTES AND COMMENTS – 1979


C1. Definitely

Geordie and Tosker are at a club in Newcastle, they pick up two girls and go back to Geordie’s flat. “Can we swap over Tosker?” asks the blond girl. Geordie has a flat next to Nicky’s but has forgotten his keys, again. Nicky keeps a spare set in a drawer.

“Has he left home, or what?” asks Nicky of Geordie about Tosker.

Toskers marriage to Mary is clearly in trouble, and he lost £22k on a nightclub on quayside that never opened its doors.

It’s the morning. The girls are sitting at the breakfast table. “Tosker’s gone out for croissants” they think but apparently but he hasn’t. Geordie thinks he’s gone home. There’s a knock at the door. A man walks in, “Drugs squad” he says holding up a piece of paper. He hands Geordie some “coke”. Since he’s being followed outside (police radio and cars) it appears he’s a corrupt policeman.

Tosker arrives home to a large suburban house. They talk in the kitchen.

“Where were you when it was Bernadette’s netball final?” asks Mary.

“Ah bollocks!” replies Tosker “I forgot”.

They discuss the children and their relationship. Mary accepts that the marriage is over but the children still need their parents. Tosker sobs. There’s a lot of male sobbing in this film. Mary arrives at some four storey walk ups in a red hatchback.

C2. The Book

Geordie is visiting Nicky who is reading a book about police corruption in the Met.

It turns out Geordie was stitched up for shagging Jules. Julia Allen gave evidence against the lot of them. She’d been to bed with most of them. Nicky was surprised to hear that Geordie was serious about Jules. He wants to talk to him about the book’s postscript. Jules died in a fall from a balcony at her home.

[Research: Benny Barratt may be based on James Humphreys. The book is “Another Nickel in the Machine” Harold Chappell may be based on Kenneth Drury, not Blamire surely? It turns out £100k pa was being paid to the Met to ensure Soho could continue flogging Danish porn.]

Geordie talks about Jules. Geordie sobs. Men sobbing is becoming a meme in this film.

Felix has lost his job at Swan Hunter. Felix and Roy Johnson are chatting at the allotments.

Anthony calls on Geordie but he’s out. (Why does Anthony call on Geordie?). Anthony goes to Nicky’s flat to get the spare keys. (How does he know?). He gets them and leaves quietly while a raging argument is going on in Nicky’s flat about him standing as a Labour candidate. He’s warned that if selected he will be replaced.

Eddie calls on Mary and suggests she stands to resolve the row where the incumbent Alan Paine is useless and Nicky won’t be accepted.

Anthony is prowling round Geordie’s flat. He drinks some whisky and finds the gun in a drawer. Loud music is being played in the flat.

C3. Back to Soho

Geordie is prowling Soho in search of Benny.

“Who did it? Who helped her through the window?”

Benny denies that anybody “helped her through the window.”

Back at Willow Lane there’s a police raid on Geordie’s flat. Perhaps because of the noise or perhaps because of the drugs arrangment with the bent copper. Anthony is playing Teenage Kicks at full volume, and is pissed. The Police shoulder the door and tell him to “put that down” he’s holding Geordie’s gun which he drops on the floor, then wets himself.

Geordie is back at New Scotland Yard trying to see if the corruption’s been stopped. It hasn’t. He’s trying to find out what really happened to Jules. It appears she knew too much. The policeman he talks to denies that Julia Allen was murdered.

“You lying bastard!” “Chappell was out in ten months, Salway was out in 2-1/2 years”. “I did more than that for nothing!”. “The people that let it happen are still here aren’t they?” – shouts Geordie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWpEyEVz1lw&feature=youtu.be&t=1530

Roy Johnson goes back to the to the Met. He’s retired now. He is asked to wait, again.

Mary goes to the Police station to collect Anthony. Anthony has absconded from the Police station. He runs up to the allotments and smashes Roy Johnson’s greenhouse and damages his allotment. Damages the fence and knocks his canes down. Mary and the police catch up with him.

Back at the Met, Roy Johnson has a dizzy turn and is given a glass of water. Then he has a go at Cmr Jellicoe and his sidekick about watering down this corruption enquiry. They reply that 800 detectives have gone and what more does he want?

“95% on medical discharges and early pensions” he replies, “What sanction can you have against a man with his hand on £50,000 who knows if he ever takes it the worst he’ll get is an early pension eh?”

“In God’s name Mick, when is it all going to be stopped?” continues Johnson.

The interview ends when a note is passed about trouble on Roy’s allotment which causes some amusement to the sidekick.

In Newcastle Nicky is launching his political campaign for selection as a Labour candidate. Alan Paine is the alternative.

C4. Claudia

Meanwhile over at the Conservative Newcastle office, Claudia Seabrook is the candidate. [It’s all a bit blue, and obnoxious.]

Tosker is in a club, (disco playing Le Freak by Chic), a bit down because he’s had to deal with Anthony going off the rails, no doubt part adolescence and part his parents not getting along too well and his Dad playing away. A woman chats him up. Elaine is her name. She’s clearly a regular because she asks…

“Where’s your mate?” (Geordie).

Tosker and Elaine slow dance to ‘Just the way you are’ the Barry White version.

Geordie turns up, Tosker has a go at him for causing trouble for Anthony by having a gun there. Geordie questions Tosker’s new relationship with Elaine especially when it turns out they’re planning to marry.

“Does your wife know about this?” asks Geordie in front of Elaine who goes to powder her nose.

“I’m going to marry her, I am man” replies Tosker in Elaine’s absence.

Nicky takes Anthony to see Roy Johnson in hospital to apologise for the allotment damage. Anthony is angry about his Dad never coming home and his Mum only having time for the Labour party. Roy Johnson is very reasonable with him.

[Roy Johnson is as good in his own way as L. P. Hartley in writing the letter from Leo’s Mother in reply to him when he’s homesick at Melton Hall. “The ten days will soon pass” – The Go-Between.]

Rather than berate the boy for damaging his allotment, Roy wants to know what he’s angry about. It’s a welcome recognition of the difference in maturity between the two individuals.

“Are you and my Dad splitting up?” asks Anthony of his Mother.

Back in the car, away from the hospital Anthony tries to comes to terms with his future.

“I think it’s inevitable, yes” replies his Mum.

“When you cry at night, is it because of me?” – he asks.

Mary stops the car to talk.

“No, Anthony, that’s not why I cry, not you son, nothing that’s happening’s your fault ok?.”

“Why do you cry then?” he asks.

“I cry because I’m lonely. I know I’ve got you and Bernie but I get lonely.” – “It’s a long time to live with someone if it’s not really working.”

“When he goes, you can get somebody else I suppose.” says Anthony.

“No, I don’t think so.” – replies Mary.

“I’m going to look after you.” says Anthony.

Mary smiles.

[Unfortunately Mary leaves the engine running during their conversation. I think it would have been a more powerful scene in silence. The contrast would have emphasised the emotional content. Compare and contrast this scene with the one that follows when Elaine goes to see her. The silence after she sits down is very telling.]

———————————————————————————–

C5. The Other Woman

Mary is in her constituency office. “There’s a Mrs Craig to see you.” It’s Elaine.

She sits down opposite Mary. Silence. Then after a while . . .

“Are you Elaine?” asks Mary. They talk.

Roy Johnson is back on his allotment and Anthony is helping him make good.

Mary is at home, Tosker comes in, Mary wants them to tell the kids together, but he wants her to tell them and to blame him. He goes. Anthony comes downstairs to comfort his Mother. They hug each other.

Nicky is at yet another hustings. A man in the front row is asking if he supports the IRA.

“I condemn all acts of terrorism.”

“Is that what you told your girlfriend when she got 12 years?”.

Nicky leaves the hustings.

——————————————————————————————–

Now we see the smarmy little shit Colin Butler. Doing the dirty work for the Tories.

Nicky is out canvassing but it doesn’t go well. He turns to Mary for support but she won’t support him owing to abuse hurled at Alan Paine the sitting MP. He wants a campaign manager.

Geordie comes home to Willow Lane but his flat is padlocked. He meets Nicky on the landing. Geordie decides to return to London, he’s wanted for drug offences in Newcastle and is worried he’ll get nicked. He was running a scheme with the Head of Drugs in the police who has been busted.

[It still goes on https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/19/police-officer-found-700000-of-drugs-at-his-home-court-told-bradford-keith-boots]

Nicky has a hustings organised by Mary; Eddie is speaking. He has a go at the Tory campaign …

C6. A Good Show

… but Colin has been busy printing 1000s of posters highlighting Nicky’s support for the IRA and had them posted all over the constituency overnight.

Colin is outlining the Thatcher campaign. Claudia outs Colin as a far right interloper. She indicates the others should leave and has a private meeting with Alan and Colin Butler and tells him to go. ->

“**** off you scruffy little man, back to your scruffy little friends.”

The third excellent angry scene.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWpEyEVz1lw&feature=youtu.be&t=3609

Colin’s poster has worked, the Tories are now winning the polls.

Alison (his campaign assistant) phones Nicky but he doesn’t answer. He is upset about Colin Butler’s poster so listens to the answering machine instead. The Willow Lane flats will be demolished and Alison says they are all proud of him for that. She is very supportive. The tape runs out and he is crying.

Claudia Seabrook holds a Tory hustings.

Willow Lane tower blocks are demolished. [As were those at Felling.]

Nicky is back from a European trip.

“Will you run again?” asks Mary.

“No, Good God no!” replies Nicky “Seeing as the net result of all my efforts was to hand a safe Labour seat to Claudia Seabrook I think I’ll bow out of active politics as gracefully as I can, democracy will have to muddle along without me.”

Nicky and Mary almost make a date, they get closer but she cites the kids as being confused, “they have to come first.”

Tosker and Elaine are making love in the style of Bill and Ben.

End of 1979.

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