I've heard people being asked about the soundtrack of their life. I don't have one
of those but I have a road of my life, the A186. It has been there in some shape
or form for centuries. There was probably a track alongside Hadrian's Wall as it
ran from East to West or West to East if you will. It was a turnpike and one of the
toll gates stood near where The Venerable Bede Church is now. Somewhere
around this point the 'West Road' changes to 'Westgate Road' or vice versa, not
many people see the difference.
Where the A186 does an odd split just before the Big Lamp stands Westgate
Road Baptist Church. My parents and my sisters were married here, not all at the
same time. From about age three I attended Sunday school and church services
here but left in 1970 with the excuse of having to study for a degree with the
Open University. Just past the church was the Balmoral pub where I had my first
drink of beer, legally, believe it or not, at age 18.
I used to walk part of A186's length from Brighton Grove up to Rutherford
Grammar where I was sentenced to several year of wasting teachers' time. I
would meet up with friends and we would shamble up the road some of us
smoking Woodbines (shock horror!). I remember seeing a girl rushing out of the
Fire Station at the corner of Dunholme Road down towards the bus stop near the
Brighton Cinema. Blue uniform of Pendower Commercial School for Girls,
satchel, hand on beret a mile of white slip hanging down under her school skirt,
she was a very fast runner. Years later I met her whilst working in Fenham
Library and even more years later we agreed to get married during a walk home
from the Mill Inn, that's us ever the romantics...
We went to live on Grainger Park,a part of Elswick, South of the A186 in its
Westgate Road guise and our house was just behind the Fire Station, Bardgetts
the undertakers and the Westfield Social Club. Two of those were very noisy but
we had no noise problems with the undertakers.
I became a member of the Westfield Club and spent many happy hours over
pints of Federation Special playing darts badly and talking rubbish brilliantly.
Most of our family's activities involved travelling on the A186 in one direction or
the other. I walked to work along it when I was based in the Central Library or at
Fenham my wife went shopping there, to Jimmy Quins, the butcher's, the bread
shop, Walkers the paper shop. My three daughters, all three born in the General
Hospital crossed it on the way to school. The Plaza Cinema came and went and
eventually turned into a pub but was beaten into submission by the locals and
closed down. The Milvain Club became a Hindu Temple, Rutherford Grammar
School became Westgate Community College but closed in 2008 when Excelsior
Further west over what was, until the boundary changes of 1974, the highest
point in Newcastle at the reservoir, the road passes the 'Crem', scene of the last
rite of passage for many friends and family members.
Sorry to end on a low note but even if it's your own life story you can't beat