Note, before you start reading; for those of you who don’t already know, the term ‘Geordie’ generally refers to a person who is from the Newcastle area of Northumberland, which is in the north-east of England.
If you have lived in Northumberland you will know, as I do, that Geordies are a warm, welcoming people, and arguably the friendliest people in the country. Many call centre businesses employ Geordies because their accent is very popular among other Brits. Their voices are perceived to have a natural warmth and charm.
While living in Prudhoe, a small Tyne Valley town about ten miles west of Newcastle, I accidentally bumped in to some local burglars going about their nocturnal business. To my surprise I found that Geordie burglars were very friendly too, or at least this particular bunch were! Perhaps they had attended a burglar’s finishing school in Byker, on the banks of the urban Tyne, and had learnt how to be polite and sociable when speaking with any members of the public they might encounter. Yes, I know that the very idea of burgling people’s property is abhorrent, as I have been on the wrong end of a burglary. I am not condoning what these people were doing. I am merely telling you about my rather strange encounter on a quiet up-market, residential road.
Walking Home from the pub……
I had been out socialising with my mates down at the Adam pub, and was, if I’m honest, ever so slightly inebriated after a late night lock-in.
I had said “goodbye” to my mates after staggering up the lower part of the valley-side road with them from the pub. We had then gone our separate ways. Ian had to climb the hill even further and Howard had to head off towards Prudhoe castle, where he lived and worked. I was now walking home on my own, along the long valley side residential ‘Castle road’.
It had been about two O’clock in the morning when I had suddenly noticed, coming towards me, (emerging unexpectedly from a little footpath), six intimidating, huge young men. All were far bulkier than me, and all taller than my mere six feet one and a half inches. They were wearing identical black Adidas track-suits, white trainers and black ski-masks. They may as well have had the word ‘Burglars’ flashing above their heads in coloured theatrical light bulbs!
But it wasn’t quite so much what they were wearing, as what they were carrying between them, that had given away their un-social night-time activity. They hadn’t needed to wear stripy tops or carry swag bags to convince me of their preferred nocturnal pastime. I knew instantly, with absolute certainty, that it wasn’t protecting Prudhoe’s burgeoning badger population from an impending cull. What these hefty lads were juggling between them, with great difficulty, was a late nineties state-of-the-art Phillips thirty six inch screen television, and a video player. (Bear in mind that back in those days the televisions were far bulkier than today’s modern flat screen models).
On spotting me walking towards them they had made a very feeble attempt at hiding the stolen goods behind their backs, and in the process they had almost dropped them on to the path. I knew I was in a tricky situation. I had briefly considered challenging them, to attempt a citizen’s arrest, or maybe heroically running away to hide in a conifer hedge, or in some old gadge’s allotment potting shed, until they had passed. I quickly ruled out the first idea on account of liking my body and face just the way that they were.
The ski-masks had given them the appearance of fundamental religious zealots, not permitted to show their faces in public. I braced myself for a Geordie burglar style fatwa, with the punishment for witnessing them in their crime, (or at least having witnessed them shortly after they had committed it), almost certainly, at the very least, a damn good kicking, followed by a quiet word in whatever might be left of my ears, to keep my mouth shut about what I had seen.
I was nervous and my adrenaline had rapidly started to kick-in. I prepared myself mentally to hit back at the closest burglar if it started to kick-off. I thought about running away, (very courageously of course), across my Prudhoe neighbour’s back gardens, and jumping over their six foot high fences as if I was jockeying ‘Red Rum’ over ‘Beecher’s Brook’ at Aintree. I had no plans to stick around waiting for the inevitable ‘kick-a-thon’.
The Showdown begins……
But it was too late. I couldn’t run away. They were now blocking my path.
The biggest of them leaned down towards me, (he must have been at least six feet five inches tall). He addressed me just a couple of inches from my face. I was hit with a short sharp blast of beery breath, escaping from the mouth slit on his ski-mask. “It’s a lovely evening isn’t it sir?” He slurred very politely, in matter of fact, measured Geordie tones. We could have been walking past each other on Tynemouth Prom on a Sunday morning. This opening gambit had caught me quite unawares. He was, I thought at the time, playing mind games. He knew very well that I would be anxious and expecting something a little bit more traditional. Something like a huge, bony, hairy finger, poking away at my slim 42 inch chest, accompanied by the words “Who the fu** do you think you’re staring at?” Which of course we all know is a very popular fight starter, known, loved, and frequently used by ignorant thugs all over the English speaking world. I could smell alcohol on the rest of the lads too, and their slurred speech confirmed it. I was surprised by their nonchalant attitude, they seemed quite laid-back and relaxed, given the circumstances of our meeting.
They had reminded me of those German ‘S.S’. officers at the railway station in the film ‘The Great Escape’. You may recall them, coolly checking on the identity papers of all of the passengers, as they tried to find the escaping allied prisoners of war. They caught out one of the British officers, (wearing French civilian disguise), by wishing him “Good luck”. He had stupidly replied, in a very upper crust English accent, “Oh thanks awfully old boy.” So maybe that was their game, were they were trying to lure me into a false sense of security with their politeness? To quote Paul Weller, (from his excellent ‘Strange Town’), “You’ll be betrayed by your accent and manners (in a strange town)”. I was a lone Southerner, (and like Weller himself, also a Woking lad). I’m a tall, slim bloke, not really built for scrapping after the pubs close, and I was facing six hefty Geordie thugs. I was three hundred plus miles from ‘home’, and I didn’t have any big Southern Vinnie Jones look-a-likes to help me out if it should all ‘kick-off’.
I raised myself as high as I could onto my toes, my heels now a few inches off the path, and I looked him right in the eyes. “Yes, it is a lovely evening, you’re not wrong mate”, I replied firmly, almost aggressively, in my blatantly Southern (Surrey) accent, showing no fear. He was flanked by two of his burglar mates, and behind them were the other three. They looked like they were rugby players preparing for a scrum down with Tynedale R.F.C. and the T.V. and V.C.R. were sandwiched between the two ‘rows’. These big ‘farmer-boy stock’ lads were not a pretty sight. As I stood there, trying to quickly weigh up whatever options I might have had left, it struck me that despite the ever present threat of the ‘kick-a-thon’, the situation was quite amusing, in a surreal kind of way. I couldn’t help myself and a silly smile had slipped out. I was watching them struggling with the bulky weight of the T.V. and the V.C.R., and in their semi-drunken state I’m sure they thought I couldn’t see them. The leader, seeing my silly grin, addressed me again “You sound like a Southerner pal.” He said accusingly. (Not much gets past you, I thought). I was secretly quite pleased at his use of the word ‘Southerner’ and not the usual ‘Cockney’. Yes, I am a Southerner, and very proud of it too. Well spotted ‘pal’. (I emphasised the ‘pal’ that he had just used on me). I much preferred that to being incorrectly labelled as a ‘Cockney’, yet again. “Yes”, I said, “Guilty as charged”. I was still waiting for that first blow. I heard one of them mutter “Bloody Southerners, coming up here, taking jobs away from us hard-working night-shift workers.” The lad to his left had joined in. “Yes, and our women too, they’re always so much better looking than us!” (O.K., I admit it, I may have made that last bit up just to annoy some of my Geordie mates). I braced myself ready for violence. Perhaps they had been worried that I might ‘dob’ them in at the local ‘nick’ in the morning.
If I had decided to run they wouldn’t have caught me. By the time that they had put the T.V. and V.C.R. down on the path, I would have been hurdling over my third fence. Adrenaline and fear have that effect, it’s a heady brew. But I had decided to ‘front’ it out. They looked warily at me and then traded worried looks with each other. The boot, (or in this case the trainer), was now on the other foot. It was on my foot. Had my apparent lack of fear suggested to them that it was me that was a danger to them, and not vice-versa? Just what was it, they may have been thinking, was it that I had, that was giving me such confidence against such overwhelming odds? What exactly, they may have thought, would a lanky, jumper wearing, Michael Palin look-a-like Southerner have, that would give him the supreme air of self-confidence that he so exuded ? Just what might he have lurking up his heavy-knit, multi-coloured Scandinavian sweater sleeves? Maybe they thought I was a black belt in karate, or perhaps that I had an ‘Uzi’ sub-machine pistol secreted away under my baggy jumper. Perhaps they were expecting me to give them an evil, sly grin, and then cut them all down in a hail of bullets and flying brass spent cartridges.
In reality of course I was feeling decidedly queasy, but they didn’t know that. Never show fear, that’s my advice to anybody who ever finds themselves in a similar situation. Because if you do, just like a rabid dog, they will smell that fear on you and launch their attack. I continued my pretence and kept my head held high, looking them each in the eye-slits of their ski-masks.
Star Gazing…..(a kind of ice-breaker)….
Suddenly we all saw a shooting star and all of us exclaimed different variations of “Wow, did you see that?” (Many with swear words added in). We all continued to look up at the clear night sky and made small talk about constellations and planets. As you do. I asked them if they watched Patrick Moore’s ‘Sky at night’ T.V. show. They all did. I pointed out ‘Pegasus’. They in return, not to be outdone on their knowledge of astronomy by a mere Southerner, showed me where ‘Hercules’ was to be found, (and as they pointed up they had almost dropped the T.V. again). These Geordie burglars were not only courteous and friendly, but well educated too. I was impressed.
The Geordie Burglars decide against using me as a football…..
But to my relief I don’t think they were in the mood for violence. They stepped aside and then continued on their wobbly way, probably to go and visit the local ‘fence’ up at a pub in the town centre, or perhaps to go to one of the lad’s homes, to play the latest computer games on their recently acquired big telly. I just hope that they remembered to nick all the relevant cables too.
They’re going to Graceland, Graceland…..
As they continued on their merry way, the probable leader called out over his shoulder, “Good night to you sir!” One of his gang added pleasantly
“It has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance sir, what did you say your name was again?”
“I didn’t”. I replied, in the deepest, manliest Southern voice that I could muster. “But you can call me Al”. Al? Why Al you may be thinking. Well Al was the first name that I could think of, as I didn’t want to give them my real name. I had been listening to Paul Simon’s brilliant ‘Graceland’ album a lot at the time. They giggled at my response and replied in unison, “Good night Al!” I responded by asking him for his name. Showing the usual Geordie quick wits he didn’t disappoint. He told me his name was “Houses….. Robin Houses”. We laughed. (I hope you did too). Another burglar piped-up, “My name’s Yertelli, Nick…… Yertelli”. These lads were on a roll. They should have been on a social club stage, not nicking tellies. Who said burglars can’t be comedians too? They could always ‘break-in’ to the big time! (Enough with the cheesy jokes already!-Ed.)
As they walked drunkenly away giggling, still struggling to carry their illicit cargo, they spontaneously began to sing and rhythmically sway……
“If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal”. (The leader sang the “Dum-dum-dum- dum-dum-dum-dum-dum” bit).
I stood there for a couple of minutes enjoying the spectacle, watching them slowly moving away from me down ‘Castle road’, swaying from side to side as they did so, Zulu style……
“I can call you Betty, and Betty when you call me, you can call me Al!”
Waking all the Neighbours Up…..
A little further down the road a bedroom window opened, and a man shouted “Do you do requests pal?” The burglars stopped singing and dancing for a moment. They looked at each other first, and then up at him and replied, “Why-aye man, we can do like!”
“Well ***k off then and let the rest of us sleep!” Came ‘window man’s’ instant reply. I think the burglars were offended by his use of the ‘F’ word. Their leader said “Now there’s really no need for that sort of language! What if you woke up a bairn and they heard you cursing like that?” The man at the bedroom window had suddenly looked quite ashamed. He apologised profusely to the burglars, said “Goodnight lads”, and then shut the window. The burglars shook their heads in horror at the declining social standards, and then continued on their merry thieving way up the steep Prudhoe bank road. That telly was heavy and their backs were going to know about it in the morning. I turned away and continued on my own way home. Those lyrics went through my head again….I began to sing and sway from side to side too….
“Far away, my well-lit door, Mr beer-belly, beer-belly, bone….digger, bone…..digger, dogs in the moonlight, why am I soft in the middle now?”
The Next Morning…..
I can’t recall getting home that night, but I do remember waking up on my sofa the next morning and feeling like a hamster had crawled into my mouth during the night, been sick a couple of times, died, and then got stuck in my windpipe. That bloody song was still going around and around in my head too…..
“If you’ll be my bodyguard I can be your long lost pal, dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum”.
The Burgled Brummie Burglar…….
There is an odd little footnote to this strange tale. A couple of days later I heard, through the usual gossip-grapevine down at the ‘Adam’, that there had been a burglary further up the road on our estate that night. Apparently a big telly, a video player and some other smaller items had been stolen, including, strangely enough, six ski-masks.
The man they had burgled that night was also a burglar. He was an incomer to the region, (from Birmingham), who had somewhat belatedly taken Norman Tebbit’s advice to ‘Get on his bike’, although in his case it had more than likely been on somebody else’s. It was believed that the local burglars had soon fallen out with him over disputed thieving territories. The Brummie had apparently been robbing on their patch and they weren’t at all happy. So they had decided to burgle him. (A tip off had told the Geordie burglar lads that the Brummie burglar was away thieving in Spain, he was on a sort of ‘busman’s holiday’).
When he had returned, the police, who at the time did not yet realise that he was a burglar, had called around to speak with him to discuss the burglary on his property, and to offer him some counselling via ‘victim support’. The burgled Brummie burglar had been very reluctant to speak with them, and this had aroused the detective’s suspicions, that, and probably also the many boxes of ‘Adidas’ track-suits and trainers, and the big pile of video recorders that the police had found in his utility room, oh, and the stripy jumpers, the swag bag, other ski-masks, and the sawn-off shotgun hidden away in his garage in a trunk. (They were all a dead giveaway). I also suspect that the jemmy bar that he had left lying carelessly on the kitchen table wouldn’t have helped his defence much either.
While the detectives were there dusting everything down for fingerprints they had also taken his, in order to rule them out from any others that they might find around the house, or on any future recovered stolen property. A sharp eyed copper at the local Prudhoe station had met the Brummie guy once before in the near-by ‘Falcon’ pub, and with his policeman’s instinct he had thought there was something a little bit dodgy about the Brummie, (other than his strange accent). He had also heard the rumours in the local working men’s clubs about the Brummie’s industrious, nocturnal activities. He had visited the Northumbria police H.Q. at Gosforth, and checked the Brummie’s fingerprints against many unsolved robberies around the Tyne Valley area in recent months. He soon realised that the Brummie burglar was a one man burgling epidemic of epic, biblical proportions. The burglary rate in Birmingham must have significantly fallen after he had nicked that bike to go north. No wonder the local Geordie burglars weren’t happy with him moving on to their patch. They had a living to make, children to feed, mortgages to pay, and ‘trophy’ wives who liked to spend lots of money on sunbeds and at the ‘Metro Centre’ to make themselves look ‘glamorous’.
The Brummie burglar was leaving them with so little to steal that some Geordie burglars were taking drastic action. Some had even written to the then prime minister John Major, and even to the ‘E.U’. commissioner, demanding something to be done about it. Some had even started looking for ‘proper’ daytime jobs where you didn’t have to hide your face. Since he had arrived in the Tyne Valley the local Geordie burglars had broken into many Tyne Valley homes, only to find a dusty space where the telly and video recorder had once sat, and a little note saying “Sorry lads, but that bastard Brummie burglar has already nicked all of our electrical appliances, and my wife’s treasured family heirloom jewelry too, so don’t even bother coming upstairs. You’re too late. But do feel free to put the kettle on and have a brew while you’re here, the chocolate biscuits are in the cupboard above the draining board, and do please remember to shut the door quietly on your way out so as not to wake the bairns. Oh, and please don’t disturb the dog either, we wouldn’t want him to bite you”. (Didn’t I tell you those Geordies are very hospitable folk?) The Brummie was working far too hard and giving them all a very bad name. His prints were found on literally thousands of unsolved burglaries in the area.
What Goes Around, Comes Around…..
A couple of cop cars and a van were sent speeding up to his house on Castle road. Their wailing sirens accompanied by the sound of hundreds of flushing toilets, as worried residents spotted them coming and chucked all their weed and coke down their toilets. The burgling Brummie was promptly nicked. His prints had also turned up in a Prudhoe sportswear shop. That was of course where he had stolen the track-suits and trainers. In nineties Prudhoe no self-respecting fashion conscious Geordie man could ever be seen out in public without wearing a track-suit, or a moustache, and preferably both if you didn’t want to stand out. If you went into a Newcastle pub back in those days without the ‘uniform’ you would have, at the very least, raised eyebrows, and people would definitely have pointed at you as you entered the pub. The Brummie burglar had been selling them out of the back of his car, (the track suits and trainers that is, not the moustaches), around the local industrial estates. He had sold some of them on to one of his new Geordie mates, who had then sold them on to his own mates down the working men’s club in Prudhoe, who by chance just happened to be the same lads that I had met that night, who had of course burgled the Brummie’s own home a little earlier, while he had been out sunning himself in Spain, and robbing ex-pat Cockney criminal’s gaffs, while they were all out down the local ‘British’ pub bragging about how they had masterminded both the ‘Great Train Robbery’ and the ‘Brinks Mat’ warehouse job. What goes around comes around.
So, to recap on a small point……just in case you weren’t paying attention, (well it was a little complicated to be fair), the Geordie burglar lads I met were wearing track suits, trainers and ski-masks that the Brummie burglar had previously stolen from the sports shop in Prudhoe. Well it was a small town. It’s all quite ironic. You really couldn’t make it all up. Some of it, yes perhaps, but all of it? Probably not. The End.
This story was based on events that really did happen to me in Prudhoe in the late nineties. At the time it wasn’t quite so funny. If you have enjoyed this daft story keep a look out for more from me.
Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing gigs, though unlikely, would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and **** themselves.
All written work by Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude, Cornwall. February 1st, 2015. Edited April, 2016.
Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property. But any other images, videos, quotes etc., remain the intellectual property of those who created them. You can also find me on ‘Facebook’..@ ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night’