If debt-stricken steel company Corus decides to close its Teesside works, the Lodge family, and thousands like them, will face life on the dole. Chris Webber talks to the family.

DOT Lodge's children run in and out of her nice, tidy seaside home while her older daughter calls on the phone and her husband nips out to the shops. It's a breezy, busy family moment and makes the Lodges seem like the most normal people in the world.

No outsider could possibly know that this is a family whose lives have been put on hold, a family who face life on the scrapheap. A family who spend every day waiting to hear if breadwinner Matt will be thrown out of his job, devastating the plans he and his wife have worked for all their life.

"The kids notice. They're old enough to know what's going on, much more than in 2001 when they threatened to close us down," says Dot, at their home in Marske, near Redcar. "I've had them come to me saying, 'Is dad going to lose his job, what's going to happen to us?' It's hard to know what to tell them."

Dot worries for the future of her son, Matthew, even more than for his twin sister Lucy. She knows that if Corus closes its Redcar, Lackenby and Hartlepool plants more than 3,000 men directly employed by the company will be thrown on the dole and about 7,000 others working for contract companies will also join the ranks of the North-East's unemployed. She knows the chances of those good, relatively well-paid, jobs being replaced on Teesside are remote.

"I want both Matthew and Lucy to go to university but my little boy is interested in electronics and steel and things like that. I remember when he was very little we would ask him what he wanted to be when he was grown up. He'd say, 'I'm going to British Steel.' He wanted to be like his dad, you see. My older girl, Carly, is at university but she stays with us. I don't want my children to go away, I want them to stay here, near their family."

It's a natural sentiment for any mother but Dot and Matt know they must concentrate on the here and now. The couple simply cannot avoid the question of how to survive if the worst happens with Matt just a few years off his pension. "It's the fact that you have to put your whole life on hold which is one of the worst things," Dot explains. "We had plans to save for our future, to buy a new car, to pay for the kids to go through university. All that's on hold.

"I can't see Matt getting another job, not a proper job anyway. He's a very good fitter and he's strong - but how many other men just like him, younger than him, will be looking for work? If he gets finished he won't get his full pension until he's 65 and he's only 44 now.

"The two of us would have to go out and get whatever work we could to make ends meet. The thing is the two of us working on the kind of jobs we might get, if we're lucky, would still be less pay than what Matt is on now. Some families relocate: there's people we know upped sticks and went to Scunthorpe back in 2001. We spoke to one family who did that recently, they're scared stiff that Scunthorpe will go and they'll have left home for nothing."

Given those prospects of life without steel, it's easy to see why the Lodge family, and thousands of other workers just like them, are prepared to stand up and be counted to fight for their jobs. They know their MPs, their business leaders, their local newspapers and, most especially, their trade union, will fight for Teesside steel. But the bosses at Corus should know that no one will be fighting harder for Teesside than this family. After all, they did it during the last so-called "downsizing" of 2001 when Matt's previous job at the coil plate mill at South Bank was lost, forcing him to move to Redcar's beam mill.

That time the family did the round of interviews, collected and passed on petitions and even paraded round London with T-shirts calling on Corus chairman Sir Brian Moffat to resign.

This time the Lodges are getting stuck into the battle again - but, as they explain, it feels a little different. "Two years ago it felt personal, it seemed to be about just our little family," says Dot. "This time it seems like we're fighting for the whole of Teesside. I look at Redcar and I can see Consett. I think of what they did to that town when they closed the steelworks in the 1980s. I'm from Sunderland myself so I know that it can happen. No one would have dreamed the entire Wearside ship-building industry would go up the river but it did, and no one's under any illusions that it can't happen here.

"As I say, I look at Redcar, look at the little shops and so on and I think of all the other people who would be affected by this. I just wonder what's going to become of us."

Matt, back from his errands, reflects on the state of the industry and Teesside's chances of survival and explains why he was prepared to talk to the papers while others, fearful for their jobs, have declined. "Last time it was an endless worry, the waiting game making it worse," he explains.

"Two years on and it's just the same, nothing has changed. I hate to say it but I think Teesside is the favourite this time. We can't really consider serious industrial action, that would just make the situation worse. But we can't sit back and do nothing. After all, we've done everything they've asked of us and the chief executive has just walked out the door with half a million pounds.

"I've been at British Steel and then Corus for 28 years and last time I was not prepared to face the prospect of life without it. Now I have to consider spending half my life unemployed or leaving the area altogether."

Meanwhile the Lodges, their friends, and thousands of others continue their grim wait for news.