Tidy Street in the 1970s

Photo:Junk shop 'Articles' at 31 Tidy Street in the 1970s

Junk shop 'Articles' at 31 Tidy Street in the 1970s

Photo from Michael Reeve's collection

Photo:Another view of the shop 'Articles' in the 1970s

Another view of the shop 'Articles' in the 1970s

Photo from Michael Reeve's collection

It was never dull

By Michael Reeve

Denizens of Tidy Street in the early 1970s were a diverse bunch.

Interesting characters

Besides the exotic showbiz flamboyance of Tex MacLeod (see here) there was a Chinese family who ran a takeaway in Preston Road; an affluent London couple who had a weekend cottage; a dapper retired tenor from D'Oyly Carte (spats and a pale grey waistcoat with pearl buttons); the gay secretary of the Gracie Fields fan club and ourselves: a young couple of ex-teachers with two young sons living above the junk shop 'Articles' at No 31 - now a private house (see photos).

Some enchanted evening

On a particular Saturday night not long before Tex expired in the phonebox, we were asleep in our bedroom over the shop when we were woken up by twp unmistakably Irish voices returning from the pub and giving the world their fairly tuneless but loud interpretation of "Some Enchanted Evening".

They'd lost their key

They were giving the final rising line "...wise men never try...." the full welly when they realised they had lost their door key to Tex's lodging house; the "never try" tailed off to a whimper as they began to hammer away on Tex's front door.

They tried to attract his attention

We peered through our curtains to see what would happen next. Everyone on Tidy Street knew that Tex was fairly deaf and the two Irishmen knocked harder and began a repetitive dirge that grew louder and louder in the echoey night-time empty canyon of the street - "Tex, Tex. Open up Tex. It's us Tex. Tex Tex. Open up." And as Tex failed to respond the litany changed to - "Tex, Tex. You daft old bugger. Open up. Tex,Tex - a pox on you you cloth-eared son of a cowpoke" and with that one of the pair picked up the milk bottle from Tex's step and smashed one of the glass panels of the front door and reached through to open it.

Only a few moments of silence

They disappeared inside. There were a few moments of silence and then we heard muffled shouting and banging culminating in an overstuffed suitcase hurtling through the remaining glass of the door onto the road followed by the two drunks being harangued by Tex, resplendent in striped pyjamas and slippers and cracking his bullwhip with a sound like pistol shots.

The 'conversation'

"Out you no-goods. Out you bums," Tex roared - "I've had enough."

"You Yankee bastard," one of the men said, "where's our coats, where's our coats?"

Tex cracked the whip and the men cowered between two parked cars. "I give you beds. Cheapest beds you've ever had. I run a respectable place here. Coming in at all hours.... Pissed."

"Just give us our coats you grasping bloody cowboy."

More silence

We watched as Tex gave one more almighty crack that seemed to zip like an electric shock through the Irishmen. Tex went inside the house. There was a period of silence. It looked like the Irishmen were trying to get up the courage to have one more try at getting to their beds. Tex might have calmed down. The Irishmen rose from the road between the cars.

Sparks flew

 

Suddenly a large flaming bundle of cloth shot through the broken glass of Tex's door and fell flaming and smoking like a bonfire in the middle of Tidy Street followed by Tex, now wearing a stetson and cracking the whip at the burning coats and sending sparks and ash into the night air. "There's your coats, you slobs, you bloody slobs. Go and sleep on the beach."

The incident ended

The Irishmen grabbed their suitcase and scuttled away. Tex went back into his house. We closed our curtains and went back to bed, exhausted.

Tidy Street was never dull.

 

 [Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 238, January/February 2016]

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