23 years on – not a lot has changed
Is South Shields conservative with a small C?
Yesterday Mrs. Curly and I celebrated our 23rd. wedding anniversary and a brief look back over those years reveals a time of relative contentment and steady, rather than radical, change in most things in life here in South Shields.
We were married in St. Mark and St. Cuthberts church in Quarry Lane a ten minute walk from Mrs. Curly’s parent’s house on JimmyForeman’s favourite estate, that estate has now been demolished and replaced with a pleasant mix of private and social housing, the in-laws now live only a five minute walk from the church where only the incumbent has changed, the gardens in Cleadon Park still look just as lovely in summer! The function room where we enjoyed our reception at The Nook is still there although under different ownership, the taxi firm who provided the wedding cars still operates out of South Shields town centre and we still live in our first home, although we started adding the first of two lovely children in 1997. I have since taken early retirement from the employer that I was with in 1988 after serving them for 23 years, they still operate from the same location in the town centre where I was fortunate enough to find a job in 1985 having been made redundant at a builder’s merchant a month previously. My father and brother still live in the same locations although sadly my mother has passed away, we have watched our children grow into young people attending the same schools that they started at, although one has been upgraded during the Building Schools for the Future project. Today I will go out and photograph the Great North Run just as I did 23 years ago, it has sort of grown in size like me!
In the past 23 years the approach to South Shields along the Western Approach dual carriageway has altered little at all until this last year, the Eureka is no longer there and a small house building scheme is under way, the old Plessey factory has at last disappeared and land has become available of redevelopment along the river frontage of Rekendyke. We still enjoy the facilities of Temple Park Centre, even though they are long past their “best before” date, and for other leisure pursuits the West Park and the two Marine Parks are still there, the South Marine Park looking rather better after its restoration. The rest of the sea front in South Shields will not be radically different until the swimming pool is erected and in use.
Things may have been different of course if certain schemes had been pushed through against some local opposition, if circumstances had allowed faster redevelopment of other projects, if recession had not provided a stumbling block, but I am perhaps becoming more mellow in my older years realising that although we have had a Labour council throughout that period many times their hands have been tied by outside influences and the Chancellors who have held the purse strings. However, until this year, they did manage to raise our council taxes every single year! To be fair most of the visible changes in South Shields have occurred during the period of the current leadership of South Tyneside’s Labour council after many years of holding the ship as steady as possible.
Compare South Tyneside to any of our neighbours over the last 23 years and you just lose track of how swiftly Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, and Sunderland have change in appearance over that same period, we have put a small housing development and two larger buildings on the riverside beside our Market Place and both buildings ran into major opposition! I often wonder if part of the problem with the canny folks o’ Shields is that they don’t embrace change, at least not major change!
Are we inherently conservative with a small C in South Shields?