And we haven’t got to the really hard ones yet.
‘Moonlighter’ is the odd one out in Boys from the Blackstuff. It’s Dixie’s story, ‘Dixie’ Dean (Tom Georgeson), the foreman of sorts in Middlesbrough, who got shafted by the con-game, who holds a griudgre sagainst Chrissy, Loggo and the rest what what they’ve done to him, a grudge he won’t release for the rest of his life. Of course his story stands alone: he’s no longer one of the boys. Less than five minutes, that’s all, walking up the street from the docks, passing Goerge Malone’s house, stopping to respect Snowy’s coffin being brought out. A passing but still distant word with two of the boys, grudgrs suspended in respect for the dead. But no more. Never no more.
Dixie’s got a job, a moonlighter, a security guard down the docks, working nights. Of course he’s still signing on. He’s a wife and four kids, all still at home, including Kevin (Gary Bleasedale), who lies in bed all day because there’s nothing else, literally nothing else to do. Dixie’s a working man. He’s an old-fashioned man. The man works to support his family. He’s head of the household. He isn’t violent to his slightly dumb and soft wife, Freda (Eileen O’Hara) but this isn’t what you would call a mutually supportive marriage. But it’s what both of them expect.
Whether it’s right or wrong, the whole thing is based on self-respect. It might be respect for things that deserved to disappear but it’s integral to Dixie. To all the Dixies, all the Chrissies, all the Yossers in that place and that time. It’s integral to all of us. And in that place and that tme, and in this place and this time it’s being treated by everyone as shite. Dixie’s story is that of the security guard who’s expected to sit back whilst five dockers, making it plain that he doesn’t have any say in the matter, rob the ship he’s watching of boots, good, strong working boots, including a pair for Dixie to replace the trainers he’s wearing.
Dixie’s no thief. But he’s no fool, either. He takes the boots. And he turns up the next night, when the big robbery’s taking place, because he’s been made aware of things that will happen if he doesn’t, and not just the loss of his bonus. Calls to his home. Calls to Freda.
It’s all boiling up inside. Dixie can’t help it, can’t help any of it. There’s the contempt for him down the Dole. Freda’s being investigated, for the heinous crime of shoving leaflets for 3p off Corn Flakes through people’s letter boxes for a pound an hour, three afternoons a week. Just to live on. Worst of all is the contempt, the utter contempt he gets from Aitch (Tony Heygarth), to whom he is the dregs, a nothing, a shite, dragged in off the dole.
You may say how is it possible for such a man, a back street Liverpool hard-living man, a genuine nobody, to be degraded, but Dixie is degraded. He has to watch the robbery. He gets a share of the profits. He comes home early, packs a hold-all. Are you going somewhere, asks the fearful Freda. Out of my mind, Dixie says. But the hold-all is for Kevin, as is all the money from the robbery. To get him out of Liverpool, out of this living death, to somewhere else, anywhere else, where jobs can be had, where lives can be led and not just existed.
Like I say, this isn’t one of the hard ones.
I watch this, forty years on, and it hurts as much as it did then, to see people being treated like this. Why do we sallow this? Why do we do this? What right has anyone, least of all in Government, of which we have a shallow, pretentious joke, to decide that people, our people, are scum and that not only can we treat them like this, but laugh about it too? One day, maybe, but I doubt it, people of an unimaginable future will look back at this and regard it as unthinkable: no-one could have done that. Yeah, right.