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Two Rooms And A View: 115 – Still A Shields Lad

Concluding his autobiography Robert Owen thinks of old friends.

To read Robert’s book from the beginning please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/two_rooms_and_a_view/

In June 2000, Angela and I had been married for forty years. To celebrate the event, we decided on a small reunion of those friends who had been bridesmaids, best man and groomsman at our wedding. We were still in contact with most of them, but had difficulty contacting Eddie Jermain, my former BB colleague.

After much research I discovered that the Jermain brothers were living in Swindon. Eddie had found his way there via London, where he had married a girl from Twickenham in 1967. Sadly when I found them, I was two years too late. Eddie had died of a heart attack in May 1998. I reproached myself for not keeping in touch and silently recalled how, as a teenager, he always had to use a camp bed when camping with the BB due to having had rheumatic fever as a child. Eddie, with his easy-going pleasant personality, was remembered at our ruby wedding celebrations.

Old friends I have kept in contact with include former cricket and football colleagues, Malcolm Scott and Joe Woodcock, best man Jimmy McDowell, long-time family friend Cyril Halliday and former BB Leaders, Bill Barron and lately Norman Graham who now lives near Beverley.

Also I have discovered that developing family history skills promotes an incentive to contact friends from many years ago - or is it with just getting older? As a result, after 57 years I have renewed contact with Eddie Davis from Fence Houses and with Brian Graham, the successful two-degree lad from Stanhope Road School, who I last saw in 1951.

This interest seems to be shared with others, because during 2002 former team-mates from the BB Battalion football team of 1950/51, wrote to the Gazette inviting contact from former colleagues. Amazingly, former centre-half Doug Martinson was in Alberta, Canada and inside left Harry Carr was in Queensburgh, South Africa.

At a family level Angela and I have long since retired, and my sisters, now of very mature years, still live in South Shields and Birmingham. Their respective families have moved to Warwick, Winchester and New South Wales in Australia. This mobility contrasts sharply with their great-grandparents over a century ago, who worked most of a lifetime to move 'a mile up the road' out of the grime-infested Tyne Dock to the cleaner air of West Harton and Whiteleas.

Our eldest son, Michael, is now a Business Director in London, and David is a Mathematics Tutor in West Yorkshire. Our only grandchild, on whom the family name depends, is a young footballer of no mean ability. He correctly tells everyone that his uncle is Michael Owen!

I think myself very fortunate to have been born in 1935. Yes, I experienced poverty and the war in my early years, but overall these were more than cancelled out by the benefits of economic expansion and technical developments during the last five decades. The pity is that society has also changed with these developments, and unfortunately not always for the better. For example a recent survey by the over 50's magazine 'Yours' branded modern society as 'crime-ridden, foul mouthed, sleazy, promiscuous and lacking respect and discipline'. I don't hold my breath for the future.

There is a saying that you can take a lad out of Shields, but you can't take Shields out of the lad. Perhaps this is true because I still talk with a Geordie accent, support the Magpies, read the Gazette and lick my knife after a good meal. Although I have lived away for nearly forty years, I still enjoy returning to my home town to visit places of my childhood.

Are these the same genes that called my mother back to Shields for my birth in 1935? We shall never know. What I do know is that every time I come back to Shields, I drive slowly along Western Approach and look left at the Reed Street roundabout and see the site of our former 'Two Rooms and a View'. It still brings back many nostalgic memories.


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