How far would you go to put the old gang back together?
I grew up at the top of Bellevue Road in Ramsgate during the 80s. Everybody knew everybody else….even if they hated them. It was that sort of place. You could leave your front door open confident in the knowledge that half your stuff would be gone by the time you got back…but at least you wouldn’t be murdered. This one time, I actually heard of a thief leaving a ‘Thank You’ note in place of a microwave: you can’t BUY criminals like that, these days.
In any case, I’m exaggerating (which is unlike me). Bellevue Road during the 80s was an okay place to be. My friends include my next door neighbour, Gem, Simon who pronounced every word with a ‘St’ in front of it (my name was ‘Stavid’ for example), Dianne (who was a Tomboy in the true dungarees and spiky haired sense of the word), Helena (who was very posh because she could pronounce long words and wore different clothes every day), Ginger John with all the Freckles (I was Ginger Dave with no Freckles), Big Wayne (there was no small Wayne), Hot Kim (there was no Cold Kim) and the Ghost Twins, Peter and Paul (who lived in the haunted Sycamore Hotel where they found the crashed train carriage in the tunnels beneath the basement).
Half of these kids didn’t actually LIVE on Bellevue Road but they did live on Albion Road, which led down from my house to the back of the Granville Theatre. I often get very nostalgic about my childhood and wonder what happened to most of these kids and what sort of adults they turned into. After all, the people who were around as you grew up often witnessed the birth of those little pieces of you that end up becoming big pieces of who you turn out to be.
Simon was with me when I saw my first Commodore 64 computer game: it was a completely rubbish one about off road biking, but that’s not important right now. Wayne introduced me to WWF wrestling when he handed me the VHS tape of the 1990 Royal Rumble, to my mind still the greatest single sporting event in history. Dianne was the first person to show me around a four-storey house, which really scared me at the time because I was convinced that any house with more than three floors would eventually fall over. Helena was the first girl I remember actually fancying. Peter and Paul were the first boys I ever fought with and I can clearly recall being in the middle of celebrating a win over Peter when I was suddenly beaten up by Paul. Ah…great days.
The adults were even better: there was Mad Irish Paddy, who I always felt a bit sorry for because he only became Mad Irish Paddy due to a single incident. He was a lovely, friendly guy with a traditional dwarfish beard and round, rosy cheeks who always said hello to everyone and just generally got on with his life until the one night he went and stood outside his house and didn’t move. He just stood there, staring straight ahead of him and pretty much turned into a rock as various neighbours tried to gently coax him back inside his house. Alcohol was suspected as the culprit, but never confirmed.
There was Charlie, who always walked his dog with a stick and the sort of expression that suggested he was either planning to throw it or use it as a weapon. There was Helena’s dad, a prison warden with the perfect demeanour for the job: I was so scared of him that I would always retreat to the gate whenever I rang the door to see if Helena could come out to play. He once glanced at me, winked and said ‘I know, you know,’ and I honestly never found out what it was he knew that I knew.
Further up the hill there was Jack, who insisted that I call him ‘Mate’ and then confusingly called me ‘Mate’ back (for some reason, I just didn’t understand this as we all had other names) and Old Beardy George, who lived with his sister Eva and would regularly greet everyone with ‘Nice Day’ even when it was bucketing down and thunder was ripping the sky apart. George was my next door neighbour and a constant delight: he would walk out of his front door at the stroke of midnight every New Year’s Eve and ring in the new year quite literally with a massive brass hand bell. It was borderline deafening and he would be out there come hell or high water.
Then there was Herbie, who I found out many years later was actually called ‘Urbie’ because he was Polish and his true surname was Urbanski. I’m pretty sure the guy was a cigarette smuggler but he always smelled fantastic and looked like he’d been directly teleported straight from a seventeenth century pirate ship.
Most of all, though, I remember the kids: Gem was always my sort of sister and we’ve kept in touch even though our lives have diverged somewhat: she worked with my wife for a while before her photographic memory and insanely acute attention to detail landed her a job in the NHS. The others, however, are a continuing mystery to me, all living lives of their own in a future we could never have foreseen when we were young.
I wonder what jobs they’re doing now or how many of them are parents. I wonder if they’re happy and healthy and if they ever think back to the days of Garbage Pail Kids collectible cards, Knightmare on CITV and doing jumble sales outside my house so we could all buy the board game ‘Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs’ from Carousel Toys on Harbour Street.
More than anything, I guess I hope they’re all still here…and that they occasionally remember Ginger Dave (with No Freckles).
The People’s Republic of Bellevue Road was written by Davey Stone on Sunday 6th June, 2021. If you enjoyed The People’s Republic of Belleuve Road, please subscribe to the blog: all our content is free. To learn more about Ramsgate during the 80s, click here.