Tosker Nicky
Mary Geordie

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 – 1995


C1. Florrie has died, and Nicky is re-reading her letters to him at the bungalow.  The priest tells Nicky how Felix felt about the Jarrow march. Geordie talks to Sean Collins on a bench near the Guildhall. Tosker and Elaine are fitting out their floating nightclub. Sean Collins leaves Geordie, steals a nearby car and goes joyriding. Nicky is at the care home preparing Felix for a trip out.

C2. Nicky shaves his Dad. Felix doesn’t understand that Florrie has died. Mary has organised a meeting about Sean Collins. Anthony is hostile. Felix and Nicky have a day out. On the boat the band are rehearsing but don’t want Tosker as pianist. Anthony and Mary argue at the meeting about Sean.

C3. At the bungalow Nicky finds a letter from the woman who gave Felix a pair of shoes for the Jarrow March. Geordie visits Tosker and Elaine on the boat and plays keyboards for the band. Tosker and Elaine invite him to stay. Nicky walks into a pub and runs into Anthony who is aggressive. Nicky and Mary agree to see each other at the nightclub opening night.

C4. Tosker and Elaine get their fire certificate. Nicky and Felix visit the lady who gave him the shoes on the Jarrow March. Tosker and Elaine are at home and not impressed with Geordie sleeping on the floor. Nicky walks into a pub and sees Geordie who is due to play keyboards for the band.

C5. Geordie stands the band up so Tosker plays instead. Sean Collins walks into the bar where Nicky was drinking with Geordie. Sean’s Dad Christopher is there with two friends. Sean wants to live with him, Geordie intervenes but is attacked by Christopher who is dragged away by his mates. Anthony tells Mary he’s leaving Barbara and the kids. On the quayside Geordie sees Sean joyriding again. The nightclub opening continues. Anthony catches Mary at home just as she’s about to go to the nightclub opening, to have a go at her for being a poor parent. Nicky looks for Mary in vain on the boat. Geordie tries to board the boat but is repelled for being dishevelled. Sean crashes into a concrete wall. An angry and aggressive Anthony leaves Mary in tears.

C6. “Mrs Cox? John Harrop. I thought you’d want to know what’s happened. Sean Collins is dead.” “Thank you John. I’ll come over.” Mary sits down and cries. It’s the day of Florrie’s funeral. Back at the bungalow there is a still life scene as the four original friends are reunited for a moment in one room. Geordie is playing “I only have eyes for you” on behalf of Nicky and Mary presumably. Anthony doesn’t turn up to pick up his family so Barbara and the children go to play on the boat at Tosker’s invitation. Nicky and Mary agree to have lunch sometime, Nicky runs down to the quayside after her car and they make lunch today. The film ends with Geordie walking across the Tyne bridge and glancing down at the boat to the sound of Oasis “Don’t look back in anger”.


NOTES AND COMMENTS – 1995


C1. Tomorrow’s too late

Nicky is playing the piano at home on the day of his Mother’s funeral. He is reading her letters. She is grateful for a trip to the Vatican, thanks to Nicky.

“Since she went to the Commons we don’t see so much of her up here any more.” – Nicky reads about Mary.

The priest tells Nicky how Felix felt an acute sense of failure and how the Jarrow March achieved nothing because the Government told the marchers to go back and sort it out for themselves in a town that had 77% unemployment.

“Have you seen Mary at all?” asks the priest.

“No, the last time was four years ago at me Mam and Dads Golden wedding, I suppose I’ll see her at the funeral.”

Geordie is on the quayside looking haggard. Christoper Collin’s wayward son Sean sits down next to Geordie and talks about sinking the boat opposite, (the real Tuxedo Princess) which Tosker has just leased.

“Why are you here?” asks Sean.

“Cos I’ve just escaped from prison.” replies Geordie.

Sean breaks into a car and drives off joyriding.

Tosker and Elaine are fitting out the boat, the fire safety officers are on board. The Artificial Animals are on board. They are the main act.

The joyriding continues then the police turn up. Cars stop: kids run. Kids get away being younger than cops but cops know where they live so catch up with them. Because his Dad doesn’t want to know him there’s a desperate sadness behind Sean’s behaviour and the police know that.

Nicky is at the care home watching his Dad being dressed. [They shoot horses don’t they.]

There’s a telling exchange between the amiable care worker and Nicky, but the message is crystal clear.

“Do you live abroad Mr Hutchinson?”

“Italy”

“Do you think you’ll stay out there or will you come back?”

“I don’t know”

“Oh well, we’ll do our best for him.” [Ouch]

Felix is being prepared for a trip out with Nicky to see the woman who gave him a pair of shoes on the Jarrow march.

C2. She’s Gone

The carer is about to shave him.

“Can I do it?” asks Nicky.

Nicky tries to establish if Felix understands that Florrie has died. It appears not.

Mary is looking after her Grandchildren at a meeting she has organised about Sean Collins. Anthony returns and is hostile.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to have a meeting about one kid.”

Anthony is Mary’s son and a policeman. [He is becoming less and less likeable as time goes by.]

Felix and Nicky are walking on a beach holding hands. They have tea in a cafe overlooking the sea but Felix can’t manage his cutlery, his hands are shaking. Nicky cuts his food up and feeds him piece by piece. Felix munches noisily.

Nicky attempts to tell Felix his hopes as a child about how his Dad would treat him and love him but he may as well be talking to a wall. There are flashes of apparent insight but they are few and far between.

On the boat the band is rehearsing for the opening night. Tosker is playing keyboards but not well enough. The band would clearly like a better pianist.

At the meeting about Sean Collins one of the members, Stan, says his ‘Dad would have had the skin off me if I’d done half these things.’

Anthony falls out with his Mother at the meeting because he won’t accept her argument that it’s just Sean’s parents to blame and not a problem with the estate as a whole. Anthony leaves in despair. Mary has to apologise for her son’s behaviour.

[Since the 1984 episode Anthony’s personality appears to have changed for the worse, in my view, and it isn’t over yet.]

C3. Jarrow Marchers

Nicky is at the bungalow looking at books, there’s one about the Jarrow march. Inside he finds a letter replying to his Mother from the lady who took Felix in and gave him a pair of shoes.

On the boat preparations are still going on, Geordie turns up,

“I was looking for the boss, any chance of any work?”

Elaine recognises Geordie despite his dishevelled state. She gets Tosker on deck to meet Geordie who has by then found the band and is playing ‘House of the rising sun’ on the keyboards. Tosker is disappointed that Geordie didn’t wait until after Friday to turn up, given the way he looks. The band prefer Geordie playing the keyboards to Tosker and say so.

Tosker invites Geordie to ‘come and stay with us’. Geordie tells them he is on parole but Elaine doesn’t believe him. Tosker’s a little put out that Geordie is better on keyboards than he is.

Nicky walks into a pub. Anthony is there.

“Sorry about Florrie.” says Anthony.

“How’s your Mam?” asks Nicky.

“She’s fine, but she wasn’t, why did you do it? If you hurt her again, I’ll break your neck”. Anthony leaves.

[He’s become a real charmer].

Nicky phones Mary. They talk about a meal but end up deciding they’ll meet at Tosker’s opening night.

Geordie settles in to Tosker’s house by dragging the bedding on to the floor.

C4. Best of Luck

Tosker and Elaine are delighted to get their fire certificate.

Nicky is driving Felix to the village visit. Felix remembers the march and the sore feet incident but soon descends into nonsense. His mind is clearly damaged. They visit the old lady. The visit ends badly. They leave shortly afterwards.

Tosker and Elaine go to wake Geordie, get no response and open the door to his room. He’s not there but it’s a mess and he’s dragged the bedding onto the floor. They are not impressed. He is due to play with the band for the opening but he’s not around.

Felix is back at the care home and exhausted from his trip with Nicky who leaves having seen him settled in.

Nicky walks into a pub. Geordie is drinking instead of on the boat where he’s due to play with the band. Geordie sees him and goes over. They haven’t seen each other for some years. Not since the bullring when Geordie was homeless. They hug.

C5. The Big Night

Back on the boat Tosker and Elaine are angry that Geordie hasn’t shown up. So Tosker is going to play the keyboards, oh dear.

“Can we not cancel?” asks the band leader.

“No, we cannot” replies Tosker.

Sean Collins, whom Geordie met on a bench on quayside recently, walks into the bar to talk to his dad Christopher Collins, who is seated with two friends. He wants to spend some time with his Dad.

“Hello Dad”

“You! Get lost! The barman will only chuck you out.”

Nicky leaves for the boat and asks Geordie if he’s coming with him. But Geordie is not leaving and Nicky doesn’t understand why not. Geordie says it’s to drink but that’s not the motive, he’s more interested in why Sean Collins is here.

In the suburbs Mary is getting ready to go out but Anthony is at the door being angry again.

“Oh, my turn for an advice session is it?” Mary greets him sarcastically, clearly having heard from Nicky.

“Can I talk to you” – Anthony, whose timing stinks.

Back in the bar.

“What do you want? Are you deaf? I asked you a question” Collins reaches into his jacket for some money.

“He doesn’t want money, he doesn’t want money” says Geordie.

“Who the **** are you?” replies Collins.

“Tell him something” says Geordie to Collins.

“What like? Who the **** are you?” he replies.

“Talk to him, Sean” says Geordie.

“Sean, say what you want to say then get out” adds Collins.

“Did it hurt when they shot you Dad?” asks Sean.

“I haven’t got time for this, go and talk to your Mother”

Sean starts to sob.

“Why can’t he talk to you?” asks Geordie.

“You keep your gob shut, who the **** are you anyway?” asks Collins.

Collins walks over to Geordie. and confronts him in an aggressive manner.

“Just talk to the kid man, it’s not much.” says Geordie.

“Sean, I’m losing my temper, what do you want?”

Sean walks over to his Dad and hugs him around the waist (Sean isn’t very tall).

His Dad pushes him off and says

“I’ll get the hotel to chuck you out.”

“Don’t walk away, you just don’t walk away” says Geordie then Collins nuts him. Geordie is knocked to the floor with a bloody nose. Collin’s two companions drag him away and out of the bar before he can do Geordie anymore damage.

“You. Get home now!” shouts Collins to Sean as he is dragged from the bar.

[Poor Sean, he only wants his Dad. Why have kids if you’re not willing to look after them.]

“You all right?” Sean walks over concerned about Geordie.

“Yeah, champion, never better”

Sean leaves the bar.

“Sean!” Geordie shouts after him, “you going home? Sean!” he shouts again.

Anthony tells Mary he’s leaving Barbara and the kids.

“Why?”

“One of those things, these things happen”

“Is there somebody else?” He nods.

Geordie is walking on the quayside across from Tosker’s boat, smoking a cigarette. There is the sound of screeching tyres and a car comes round the corner by the Guildhall. Sean is joyriding again, their eyes meet then he’s gone; tyres squealing.

Across the river the opening night continues. Elaine announces the Artificial Animals. Geordie ought to be there playing the keyboard but Tosker is instead, badly.

“Sorry to spoil your night” says Anthony, “I just needed somebody to talk to”.

Mary takes her earrings off. He’s chosen tonight to tell her, which he didn’t have to, and now he has a go at her for supporting him.

[He really is the most miserable ungrateful self absorbed sod. By this stage in the film I don’t like him at all.]

Sean is racing through Newcastle in the rain.

“If you’re going to be angry, be angry with yourself!” declares an exasperated Mary to Anthony, “Is it my fault your marriage is breaking up?”

“Yes, it is” replies Anthony.

Mary gasps in disbelief.

“I thought you had more self-respect than that.”

On the boat the night is going well, in spite of Tosker’s playing. Elaine is ecstatic. Nicky can’t find Mary. Geordie tries to get onboard but looks dishevelled, has drunk too much and has blood on his shirt. They don’t let him in.

Sean, driving at speed, and crying, sees a concrete wall and makes for it with the inevitable crash.

“You’ve got to take responsibility for your own mistakes Anthony!” continues Mary in what must be one of the most unfair and unreasonable confrontations (by Anthony) in the entire film.

“I’ll stand by you like I always have, but it’s you . . .” M.

“I don’t want you to stand by me.” A.

“What do you want?” M.

“Nothing that you can give us. I don’t want what you give us. I don’t want sacrifice.”

[He wants a slap that’s what he wants.]

“I don’t want your tears, I’ve had ’em all my life! You were never happy Mother! That’s all I wanted. I wanted you to stop crying and I wanted you to put a smile on your face. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t have a Mother, I had a martyr, and that’s why I went and married one the same.”

[You ungrateful ****. By this point I despise Anthony.]

He picks up her earrings in his hand and holds them in his fist in front of her aggressively.

“Go to the party! Go to the party!” then puts the earrings down and makes as if to go. “Any don’t make any more speeches about how to bring up kids.” “Yeah!” He says looking down at her. And walks out.

[What a charmer. At this point I’d happily wring his neck myself. He has become a spoilt and unpleasant brat.]

C6. Nothing More

“Mrs Cox? John Harrop. I thought you’d want to know what’s happened. Sean Collins is dead.”

“Thank you John. I’ll come over.”

Mary sits down and cries.

On the boat it’s the morning after the night before. Geordie was nowhere to be seen, they are not aware he tried to board (late) and failed, or why Mary didn’t show up. It’s the day of Florrie’s funeral and Tosker and Elaine promise to be there.

Florrie’s funeral. Jesu Joy of Man’s desiring is being played on the organ. Geordie still has caked blood in his nose from last night. Tosker is glancing over and wondering what’s happened to him. He doesn’t look best pleased.

Mary is in the pew behind Nicky.

As the priest is speaking Nicky starts sobbing. [Christ, there’s a lot of sobbing in this film. It gets a bit hard to take.] Nicky sobs all the way through the funeral.

Back at the bungalow Nicky is saying goodbye to the mourners. Geordie is playing ‘I only have eyes for you’, slowly, on the piano. Inside the bungalow are Geordie, Tosker and Elaine, Mary, Nicky, Barbara and her children. Anthony hasn’t turned up to pick her and the kids up.

“I’m not ever talking to you” says Tosker to Geordie who continues playing.

“Were you good?” asks Geordie of Tosker.

“Yeh” he replies. “Bloody good”.

Barbara has given up waiting for Anthony so Tosker offers to let them spend the day on the boat and everyone agrees with that. Goodbyes are said leaving Nicky, Geordie and Mary in the bungalow. Geordie is still playing ‘I only have eyes for you’, slowly and Mary is smiling. A closeup of Mary shows grey in her hair, the only concession to ageing the film has allowed. [Of them all she ages the least over 31 years.]

Tosker returns briefly “I forgot the bairn’s coat” to a room that could be a painting from the National Gallery. It is a moment in the film, a still life, a moment where they each exchange glances in turn and Nicky and Mary look at each other and wonder whether they ought to try again. The piano is silent. Tosker looks at Mary, she returns his glance. Her eyes move to Nicky.

For the last time the four of them, who started out as friends are together in a moment of mutual understanding and acknowledgment. Then Tosker breaks off and leaves. Mary is still looking across the room at Nicky. Geordie starts playing again. Mary gets up to go.

“Will you be around for a while?” asks Mary.

“I’m coming back.” (from Italy) “Felix needs looking after.”

“Good.” “We’ll have to meet, have that lunch”.

Mary leaves. Nicky is torn. He wants Mary then remembers his Mother’s words “Because tomorrow’s too late” and he chases after Mary’s departing car. He runs all the way down to quayside taking shortcuts as the road loops, and catches her up.

Nicky arrives out of breath by the river and Mary has stopped the car and got out.

The same view today – note the further railings are identical

“Why not today?” asks Nicky.

“Why not?” is the reply.

It’s over – the credits roll.

Oasis “Don’t look back in anger” is the soundtrack.

“Slip inside the eye of your mind”

“Don’t you know you might find, a better place to play”

“You say that you’d never been, but all the things that you’ve seen, slowly fade away.”

Geordie, who left the bungalow while Nicky was chasing Mary down to the riverside, walks across the Tyne bridge and looks over to the children playing on the boat below.

“So I start a revolution from my bed, cos you said the brains I had went to my head.”

“Step outside, summertime’s in bloom”

“Stand up beside the fireplace, take that look from off your face.”

“You ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out.”

“So Sally can wait, she knows it’s too late, as we’re walking on by, her Soul slides away”

“But don’t look back in anger I heard you say.”

and the film ends as Geordie walks past the camera having crossed the Tyne bridge.

The end.

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