As the Beatles almost sang. Reading reviews of 'Red Riding' and subsequent on line discussions about corruption in local government included a mention of the Poulson case, and that case, somewhat surprisingly, had a direct impact upon the life of the younger Jane.
I have a very close friend with whom I grew up. Her dad, and her grandad before him were very active Labour party members. Her mum remembers Labour Party meetings at her home when she herself was a child, to which my own grandad used to come. She says of my grandad that he was a right bolshie sod - he sure was! But that's a digression.
F's family were like a second family to me, and I spent much of my childhood with them. They would take me on holidays with them - I especially remember a rainy week in a caravan in the Lake District where an incident involving Angel Delight ended up with the entire inside of the caravan coated with the stuff. They are also the reason I to this day will not eat seafood following a dramatic food poisoning episode on a holiday in Brittany. But those tales are further digressions.
I knew extended family members of theirs, and I knew family friends, but there was one friend of the family I simply loved, and F and I would look forward to seeing this man so much whenever he was due to visit. This man, who would have been in his 50's when we knew him, was the most charismatic person I think I have ever encountered. He must have had something special as why else would I still have such clear memories of someone who was a mate of my friend's parents? He would spend hours entertaining us with funny stories and mind blowing card tricks. Likewise he entertained F's brother who had Down's Syndrome (although we didn't call it Down's in those days). He had time for everyone, whatever their age. My mum still speaks of him and his gift for simply captivating you when you were with him. And of how he made everyone feel they were the most important person in the world when he was with them.
The friendship my friend's dad had with this man very nearly destroyed him by association in the end. The man has been dead a good many years now. I never knew at the time that this man was quite famous, or should that be infamous? They used to call him Mr Newcastle. He was jailed for his part in the Poulson corruption case. But as this obituary says "You could not meet a more engaging character than T. Dan Smith." It also says "There was a time, back in the early Sixties, when covering the proceedings of the Newcastle City Council could be a lot more entertaining than a visit to the nearby Theatre Royal, and it was all down to Dan Smith, the extraordinary leader of the Labour group." And as anyone who has ever been to any Council meeting would know - that must have taken some doing.
I bet he kept them laughing in jail.
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