St Paul's, Jarrow

THURSDAY 31 JANUARY

Having got a little hot under the collar yesterday, I’ve decided to calm myself down a bit today. I am therefore pleased to be able to guarantee that there’ll be nothing even remotely controversial about this posting. I promise.

BBC RADIO NEWCASTLE
There are changes to the weekend schedule from this coming Saturday and Sunday. The new Saturday timetable looks like this...
0600 - Howe’s Fishing
0630 - Simon Hoban
0900 - Sue Sweeney
1300 - Alfie’s Comic Cuts ( - the best bits from Alfie Joey’s weekday programmes)
1400 - North-East Sport
1830 - Jamie Wilkinson
2200 - Sue Sweeney
Sundays look like this...
0530 - Howe’s Fishing
0600 - Frank Wappat
0730 - Jon Harle
0900 - Sue Sweeney
1300 - Garden Mania
1400 - Kathy Secker
1700 - Paddy MacDee (Solid Gold Sunday)
1900 - Frank Wappat
2200 - Sue Sweeney
Sunday morning’s Nightshift will therefore start one hour later, at 0100 instead of midnight.

WINNING WEBSITES
As promised, here are the prize-winning websites I mentioned on Wednesday morning.
Best Ethical Website - thenag.net
Best Travel Website - worldreviewer.com
Best Innovative Site - moveme.com
Best Educational Site - friendsabroad.co.uk
Best Social Site - doggysnaps.com
Best Weird And Wonderful Site - facesinplaces.blogspot.com
Best Charitable Site - freerice.com
Best Shopping Site - nigelsecostore.com
Try them out - they’re awesome!

See? Nothing controversial at all.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

Neptune, Durham City

WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY

THE STATUE
At the risk of boring you to tears by grinding this particular axe once again.......I really have had a proverbial bee in my bonnet about the statue of Lord Londonderry that befouls and besmirches the Market Place in Durham City for some years now. When I was in my teens and going to school in Durham, I naturally spent a lot of time there - and often went back on Saturdays too, to visit my schoolmates. Like many local people, I became besotted with Durham's combination of grandeur and intimacy and by the time I left home at 18 I think I knew the city as well as anyone of my tender years. This means that I have carried my hatred of Lord Londonderry’s monument around with me for over 40 years!

But why? I guess I should firstly define my terms here. The sculpture in question (pictured on yesterday’s blog-posting) is a perfectly acceptable - though by no means outstanding - example of the Victorian sculptor’s art. It is competently designed and reasonably well-made. As a work of art, that is one of its main problems as far as I am concerned. It is just too ‘ordinary’ to grace the municipal centre of a unique city. It also too big for such an intimate space.

But it is not because of its artistic merits (or demerits) that I would rather see it at the bottom of some forgotten cesspit. It is the man who is commemorated that offends me so much. Lord Londonderry was a grasping and avaricious coal-owner of the very worst kind - in an area where grasping and avaricious coal-owners were the norm. He treated his miners much worse than he treated his cattle - much worse. Stories of his pompous, cruel and callous disregard for his pitmen’s lives, and thus the lives of their families, are legion. Even after several explosions at his collieries, he refused to sanction the use of safety-lamps because they were too ‘expensive’ - and this over 50 years after they had been introduced elsewhere. He spoke against their use in the Lords and even resisted their introduction after they became compulsory. His miners were still taking candles underground in the 1860s.

Lady Londonderry was even worse, in her own way. To her, miners were bestial savages to be displayed to her London visitors. She insisted, when she drove her visitors through the streets of Seaham, that her husband’s workers - unwashed and black with coal - should line the streets and applaud her as she passed by.

Even by the standards of the time, the Londonderrys were a grotesque and much-criticised parody of capitalism - even fascism - and I have never understood why they should be honoured with any memorial at all, let alone an oversized and grandiose statue like the one in Durham City. Their true monuments are the graves of the pitmen who died in their collieries - almost always as a direct result of the Londonderrys’ reactionary greed and almost unbelievable disregard for humanity. There are many sources of evidence for the legendary cruelty of this monstrous couple; if you can, get your hands on a copy of Troubled Seams by John McCutcheon. I promise, you’ll never be able to look at the Londonderry statue again.

Naturally, these are not the reasons that Durham City Council is considering the removal of the two Market Place monuments. Personally, I would much prefer Neptune to stay exactly where he is. After all, he is a historically important and interesting figure who stood in the Market Place from the late 18th century to mark a drinking pant and to commemorate a bold scheme to canalise the River Wear from Sunderland to Durham - a scheme which came to nothing (as it happens). I reckon he is a harmless talking point and focus for the square.

If the Council decides that Lord Londonderry’s statue should stay, then perhaps the plaque on the plinth could - at the very least - be replaced with a more honest and much less deferential inscription.......
’a man who, with his execrable wife, and by the decisions he made and the actions he took (or did not take), caused the deaths and/or serious injuries of many hundreds of miners over many years.....’

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

Market Place, Durham City

TUESDAY 29 JANUARY

THE MYSTERY POEM
Towards the end of this morning’s programme, I read out a poem I had received via ‘snail-mail’ before Christmas. If you heard it, you may have wondered why such a wonderfully funny - and cleverly-written - poem should have been kept under wraps for so long. Well, to be honest, I thought that, if I kept quiet for long enough, the poet would make himself known to me - if only to find out why his handiwork had not been broadcast. Alas, he has kept himself firmly in the shadows and I am no wiser now than I was when I received it. Unable to resist the temptation any longer, I have released his poem into the wild where it belongs. I hope you enjoyed it - especially if you are its originator. If you missed it, you can hear it again on Sunday’s Nightshift.

SUNDAY
Changes to BBC Radio Newcastle’s schedule mean that, from this coming weekend, Sunday editions of The Nightshift will be starting one hour later than heretofore, namely at 0100 - the same time as every other night of the week. (Isn’t ‘heretofore’ a wonderful word? Like ‘wherewithal’ and ‘notwithstanding'!) There are unexpectedly exotic reasons for this which I will explain in Thursday’s posting.

THE THEME MUSIC PROJECT
Thanks for all your suggestions, which range from the intros to Sugar Coated Icebergs and All I Need Is A Miracle, through Fanfare For The Common Man, I (Who Have Nothing) (!), Claire de lune, Albinoni’s Adagio, Grieg’s In The Hall Of The Mountain King, to You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) and many others. Please keep them coming. And if you think you can actually write a short intro/theme to The Nightshift, I’d be glad to hear from you!

THE STATUE
The picture above is of the statue in Durham City’s Market Place which I have seriously wanted removed ever since I learned the life-story of the revolting man it represents. Gilly’s news that the City Council is considering its removal - albeit for all the wrong reasons - is the best news I’ve heard for years. I will have more to say about this on tomorrow’s posting. In the meantime - and especially if you’re not sure why I get so aeriated about this - take a glance over any potted life of the Third Marquis of Londonderry. Google him. (Someone ought to have Googled him at birth.) QED.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.
Norham Castle

MONDAY 28 JANUARY

A few blogsters (or whatever we’re called) have had the enormous effrontery to criticise me - ME! - for not being more forthcoming in the personal details attached to this blog; the ‘profile’. I’ve had requests to know what my favourite songs are, or my favourite colour or book or item of clothing. Why on earth anyone would want or need to know such things is well beyond me; it strikes me that there are much more interesting things to know about people - like ‘what superpower would you like?’, ‘who would you hate to be stuck in a lift with?’ or ‘what’s your most expensive (or most personally-valued) possession?’

So Top Ten Favourite Films it is, then! As a matter of fact, when I sat down to draw up my list about an hour ago, it took no time at all for my Top Ten Films to become my Top Forty-Two Films. Where do you draw the line? How can you include Fred and Ginger in a list that also contains Pan’s Labyrinth and then justify the list? What criteria should you use for including a film in the first place - nostalgia, acting, direction, overall quality? I suspect that this is the reason I’ve avoided making such a list in the first place. On the plus side, being forced to make choices in this way quickly becomes an interesting intellectual exercise. Try it for yourself.

Having whittled the list down to just ten, I have genuinely found it impossible to rank the movies from 1 to 10. So in no particular order, here goes....

The earliest film I can positively remember watching on nana’s old monochrome tv set (bought, like thousands of others, for the 1953 coronation) was I Remember Mama. It was probably of no particular merit, and its ‘leading lady’ was Irene Dunne - quite a star in the 40s but now long forgotten. Interestingly, the film’s only claim to any kind of tenuous ‘fame’ was that Barbara Bel Geddes was in it. If you want to know how she found wider acclaim later in her life.....look it up!

Naturally, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers must be included. Even though it’s not just your disbelief you have to suspend when you watch them, they still have the power to transform a miserable damp Sunday in Elswick to a sunny warm Sunday in Hollywood. Their best film is probably Swing Time. Or perhaps Carefree. Or maybe Top Hat. Dammit!

One of my favourite composers is Philip Glass, some of whose music I once played on The Nightshift. He once co-operated on what was, at the time, a ground-breaking trilogy of films. The best of them is called Powaqqatsi and I must include it in my list.

I am of an age, too, when any list of top-notch movies must include something from the Ealing Studios. But which one? The Ladykillers? The Titfield Thunderbolt? The Lavender Hill Mob? The Man In The White Suit? Laughter In Paradise? Passport To Pimlico? This really is an impossible choice; they all mean so much to me, even now. But I’ve decided that The Belles of St Trinian’s says it all. You really can’t go wrong with Alastair Sim, George Cole and the sainted Joyce Grenfell.

I’m a big fan of William Hurt and agonised over which of his movies to include. Second Best is a real charmer but it was pipped at the post by Smoke - if only because of that film’s closing sequence.

And how do you choose between The Railway Children and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, both of which I watched over Christmas. I swear I know the scripts by heart. The answer is to omit them both. Sadly, that’s what I’ve done.

It’s generally regarded as unfashionable to like Steven Spielberg’s films these days. But I do. So I’m bunging Close Encounters Of The Third Kind into my list, if only because of ‘that’ moment when the entire cinema audience gasps in amazement.

For not dissimilar reasons, I couldn’t possibly leave out 2001: A Space Odyssey. I remember sitting in my cinema seat long after the film ended, open-mouthed in sheer awe.

Things are now getting tricky. There’s Napoleon Dynamite, Fight Club, Gattaca, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Golden Compass.....I knew it. It just can’t be done. You’ll find that you end up with the same headache I’ve got if you try to do this. But.....

I must include three of the films I’ve most enjoyed in the last few years. I’m usually not a big fan of subtitled films - there’s too much for me to do while I’m watching them! But Amelie (since branded as a ‘chick-flick’ by some critics) and A Very Long Engagement (also starring the wonderful Audrey Tautou) are truly irresistible.

And the very best film ever made? It’s called The Lives Of Others and was released only about a year ago in German. It concerns life in East Germany during and after the Berlin Wall period. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know perfectly well why I’ve chosen it. If you haven’t, there is a very big gap indeed in your cinematic experience which you should fill as soon as you can.

OK, OK. I know you disagree with everything I’ve said and every film I’ve chosen. So try it yourself and you’ll see just how tricky it can be. Be imaginative and perhaps there’s a Nightshift item in the making here!

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.
Our Mascot

FRIDAY 25 JANUARY

GROSVENOR
Thanks to Lawrence for sending me the latest pictures of our glorious mascot Grosvenor, the Black Rat. And what a fine-looking creature he is, to be sure. His plump proportions and shiny coat not only put all other, less media-friendly, rats to shame; they also bespeak a life of pampered ease, which is no more than a Rat of his importance deserves. He is truly Grosvenor the Happy Rat and the entire company of truckshunters should be grateful to Lawrence for looking after him so well on our behalf.

Are his ears supposed to look like that. though? They look almost human; unnervingly so, in fact. They remind me of an ex-colleague.....

Thanks to truckshunter Mary from Low Fell for calling me the other day to remind me that the Chinese New Year is almost upon us - the Year of the Rat. What do you think we should do to celebrate? A ‘live’ Nightshift, perhaps? Hmmmmm.....

THE MINER’S HYMN
Another ‘thankyou’ now - this time to the many truckshunters who answered the call of our President, Bob Williams from Blackhall Colliery. He wanted to know if there was a recording of the Miner’s Hymn and you responded exactly as I would have expected. It seems there are at least three. You may be interested to know the details. The Grimethorpe Colliery Band include it on a CD produced by Castle Music (based in Chessington, Surrey). The Ellington Colliery Band have also made a CD which includes the Miner’s Hymn - you can get further details from their website: ecband.org.uk. And Easington District Council (whom God preserve) include it on a CD they commissioned called Banners Music.

This last-mentioned CD actually sounds very interesting. Kev tells me that 200 local musicians and singers perform on it - led by the redoubtable Jez Lowe. The Daily Telegraph named it ‘Folk Album of the Year’. So well done, Easington District Council - you are almost (but not quite) forgiven for inflicting that dreadful logo and slogan on us.

WEBSITES
Most people who use the internet to buy CDs tend to go for amazon.co.uk - usually with good reason. If, however, you’re into more unconventional music of any kind - including rock, folk, jazz, classical and world - you may also like to try CDbaby.com. It’s an American site chockablock with fascinating and often rarely-recorded music that deserves a wider audience.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.


Carlisle Gardens, Morpeth

THURSDAY 24 JANUARY

THE COMMUNITY OF TRUCKSHUNTERS....
...is rapidly becoming exactly that - an active, co-operative and growing community. It’s truly awe-inspiring to think of the many things that, between you, you contribute to The Nightshift on a daily basis; Newsreel items, jokes, ‘imponderables’, trivia, questions (and answers), comments, suggestions, requests, good wishes, gifts and so much more - including, of course, the time you spend actually listening.

I often say on-air that the The Nightshift is a ‘multimedia’ programme. At first, I guess I was half-joking but not any more. You have used the whole range of methods available to you to make your contributions. You have written to me (via ‘snail-mail’) in numbers much larger than I would have expected. You email me faithfully every night of the week and from all over the world. There are almost always text messages waiting for me each morning. After 0530, I’m often jumping up from the presenter’s driving desk to answer the phones while there’s a record playing. You make your comments and suggestions freely on this blog - which is one of the reasons it exists, of course. Some of you even call into the Pink Palace in person to leave letters, newspaper cuttings, CDs, gifts.....

You are an awesome bunch of people and I’m so proud to be one of you. Indeed, because of the programme’s surprisingly large and growing community of listeners - and because of the way they are actively involved in the programme - I’m thinking of renaming the it The iNightshift in the manner if the iMac, iPhone and the BBC’s new iPlayer (which, ironically, doesn’t work on iMacs!). That’s how involved I feel you are.

So please don’t forget - your contributions, of whatever kind, are always welcome - and in any quantities you like. Lists for the Brahms and Liszt quiz, anagrams and questions for Bob’s Yer Uncle, Fanny’s Yer Aunt and, of course, the invaluable flotsam and jetsam of information and trivia that keeps The iNightshift world turning.

Thankyou all so very much. So far, so good!

CRAIG IN SEGHILL
As evidence that The iNightshift is reaching parts other, less unconventional programmes don’t, I would like to cite Craig. Craig is 19 years old and lives in Seghill. He texted me at 0300 this morning to congratulate me on the quality of the programme’s music (a rare occurrence indeed) and to ask me to play Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. I have to admit that I wondered for a moment what a 19-year old Seghill lad was doing up at 0300 on a Thursday morning. But hey, it takes all sorts. And as for Bat Out Of Hell.....well, whatever floats your boat. If I can find it in the BBC’s record skip, I’ll play it. OK, Craig?

MORPETH
I downloaded the picture above from this morning’s featured website: imagesofengland.org.uk. Sponsored largely by English Heritage, it has just completed the herculean task of uploading an image of every listed building in England. The site has been re-drawn, too, to make it easier to navigate. It’s a doddle now - and very impressive. See for yourself.

TONY IN FENHAM
You’re absolutely right, Tony. Neither of the jokes you emailed me is remotely broadcastable. But they both gave me a laugh. Especially the one about the sheep.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY

THE THEME MUSIC PROJECT
As I have already mentioned, the idea of recycling used theme music - on the very sensible basis that the BBC is unable, and disinclined, to provide The Nightshift with its own - has been well and truly scuppered. However, as the most boring Management Trainer in the history of that despicable profession once said to me, ‘every problem is also an opportunity’.
With my truckshunting head held high and a posture reflecting - I hope - my undefeated state of mind, I have decided to turn this catastrophe to our advantage. The Honourable Company of Truckshunters - you - will decide what The Nightshift theme should be. Even if we have to write it ourselves.

I’m serious about this. I’m looking for your suggestions here. And not in ordinary, think-of-a-piece-of-tatty-old-music-that-says-’nighttime’ kind of way. I want the task to be undertaken consideratively (is that a proper word?). I’d like you to think about this! There are, after all, several hundred thousand bits of music that could be used, from Claire de Lune to The Night Has A Thousand Eyes. So here are some guidelines for you....

The theme must be a ‘snippet’ rather than the whole shebang. A Night On Bald Mountain is a truly stirring piece but the programme would be half-over before I even got to say 'You’re listening to Radio Newcastle, the BBC for the North-East.....'

The ‘snippet’ should say what it needs to say in less than a minute - otherwise we’d all die of boredom after a few nights. So the opening riff - or the first few bars - should be striking enough to make the statement.

It should be instrumental - or the instrumental part of a track that otherwise includes singing later on. Shirley Bassey or Coldplay warbling us into the programme each night just isn’t on.

It doesn't need to be slow or downbeat, either. In fact, it needs to make a strong, overt statement at the top of the programme. So something fairly 'muscular' may be just the ticket. Think laterally and be creative!

And it could be original. If you think that you - or someone you know - has the ability to write a royalty-free melody and donate it to The Nightshift, then go for it. Naturally, you will also need to be able to record it, or arrange for it to be recorded. Note, however, that ‘royalty-free’.

This is not a competition. Although I will try to keep you abreast of suggestions, there will be no vote. If I can, I’ll play some of your suggestions to elicit your reactions to them. I’ll certainly keep you informed of the ideas that, I’m sure, will come flooding in. I’m the producer/presenter so I will decide on the final selection! So there.

As you’d expect, I’ve got some thoughts of my own but I’d rather the inspiration came from you. So take your time. Think about it. Have a shufty through your memory and/or your record collection. You’ve got about 3 weeks. Enjoy!

WEBSITES
The websites I mentioned on this morning’s programme were wikipedia.com (the online encyclopedia) and megalithic.co.uk (for details of prehistoric sites all over the UK). I downloaded the picture above from whatatop.com, one of many good sites for photographs.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.
TUESDAY 22 JANUARY

TRUCKSHUNTER PHOTOGRAPHS
I’m delighted to say that you are responding magnificently to my appeal for photographs to post on the blog. Thankyou very much indeed; I knew I could rely on you. Please keep them coming - but PLEASE keep them as small as you can. That is, as far below 1Mb as possible.

The picture at the top was taken by Truckshunter Maureen to show just how empty Roker Beach can get at this time of year. It’s the way Maureen likes it and, although it must be er.... ‘bracing’, I like it that way too!


ANOTHER SHUNTER OF TRUCKS
It seems I was a bit previous in suggesting that our President, Bob Williams (from Blackhall Colliery) was the only truckshunter who had actually shunted trucks. I might have known that Neville - with his experience in, and love of, railways - would have been involved in the activity at some point in his career. As proof, he has sent me this picture. His caption is...
'....a very young me truck shunting at Pallion Goods Yard (Sunderland), 1970. A large pole with a hook on the end is balanced on the wagon buffer and the hook placed under the coupling adjacent to a large hook attachment on the wagon or loco. The upwards force lifts the coupling chain over the hook and the wagons are then separated. The engine driver is then able to give the wagon a nudge and it can freewheel into a siding, while the rest of the train remains attached to the locomotive. To couple a wagon to another, the engine brings the buffers together then the connecting chain is swung over the wagon hook using the shunting pole. It’s hard work! The late Ernie Douglas of South Dock is the driver about to give the trucks a shove.'
Thanks Neville!

BLACKHALL COLLIERY
Speaking of our President......he has sent me this picture of Blackhall Colliery, the site of his truckshunting activities in years gone by. It’s particularly evocative for me; my granda worked there for 30 years from 1926 until he died of pneumoconiosis.

As I mentioned on the programme the other day, Bob is looking for a recording of The Miner’s Hymn. Can anyone help him out, please?

THE SHUTTLE
Truckshunter Sid sent me this photograph. His own caption says it all....
'Seeing as how we have been talking of the wonders of the internet on the Truckshunters Blog, I thought you might like to see this photo I downloaded from the NASA website in 2005. On completion of this mission the space shuttle Discovery had to land at Edwards Air Force Base in California, due to the bad weather at the Kennedy Space Center. The only way to get Columbia back to her home base was by air. The Americans do it in great style Ian - have a look!'
You’re right, Sid. They DO do these things in grand style. It’s a great picture.

AND FINALLY....
From Roker via Pallion, Blackhall and the USA out to our Solar System. I downloaded this picture of Jupiter and Io a few months ago and have it as an occasional desktop here at home. I think its beauty is positively mesmerising. The awesome silence of majesty.

See what I mean? The internet really IS an amazing facility!

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

The Low Light and Fishquay, North Shields


MONDAY 21 JANUARY

DISMAL DAYS
The word ‘dismal’ is descended from Church Latin dies mal, ‘bad day’! And apparently, today was the very dismallest in the calendar. The high spirits and indulgence of Christmas and the New Year seem like a distant memory; the nights are still long, cold and damp; no-one has any money and many of us haven’t been paid yet; the credit card bills - reflecting our recent overspending - are arriving; the next Bank Holiday is still weeks away and, for most of us, our summer hols are like a distant fantasy.

So how was it for you? Were the psychologists right? Did you succumb to misery and self-pity - which (let’s face it) can sometimes do you the world of good? Or did you not even notice that today was any worse than any other day? I have to admit that things went fairly smoothly for me today. It was quite something to see Mike Parr in full Scottish regalia, including, of course, the kilt - a garment close to my heart (as you know) as well as to other parts of my anatomy! Why menfolk feel hidebound to wear trousers when a liberating alternative like the kilt is available, I will never truly understand. OK sure, it’s a skirt for men. But so what? It seems to me that men are so protective of their perceived masculinity that the mere thought of wearing a kilt fills most of them with trepidation. Gentlemen - all you need to do is ask the ladies what they think. Then pluck up the courage and try it out. You’ll never be the same again.

For some people, I guess the snow which fell on Newcastle today must have seemed like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Not for me, though. I loved it. It seems like aeons since it really snowed. I’ve spent the whole day hoping it would ‘lie’ and that I might wake up to an old-fashioned white-out. Unfortunately, this seems unlikely.

Incidentally, ‘dismal days’ actually exist in the pastoral Church calendar. They are days of particularly bad omen. If you’d like to know more, look it up on Wikipedia. If you’re not sure what Wikipedia is, listen to tomorrow morning’s Nightshift!

NO SOONER A WORD.....
In my last posting I talked at some length about the ‘borrowed’ themes I’ve been using to introduce each morning’s Nightshift and made you all sorts of promises about them. No sooner a word than a deed.....These ‘recycled’ theme tunes will stop after tomorrow morning’s Nightshift. Keep listening if you’d like to know how you can become involved in a fiendish plot I’m hatching to replace them.

REQUESTS
Wherever I can, I ‘m happy to play any track you ask me to. When putting in your request, though, please make sure you indicate -within an hour or so - when you are likely to be listening. I wouldn’t want you to miss the track you’ve asked me to play simply because my timing was out!

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

Saltwell Park, Gateshead

WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY

THE NIGHTSHIFT THEME
The BBC is, of course, neither able nor willing to fund a specially-commissioned theme tune for The Nightshift and, as long as this is so, I have been compelled to purloin theme tunes from other sources: radio, tv and even occasionally films. I play a different one each night at the top of the show (as the hateful American phrase has it). In doing so, however, I seem inadvertently to have upset some of you by not telling you what the themes were originally used for. Information is power (as someone once said) and by withholding the identity of the tunes from you I am able to give myself a brief buzz of control-freakery. But I don’t want to upset you - or anyone else, for that matter. So from now on, the identity and origins of each theme will be revealed here on the blog.

For the record, the themes used so far have been the ATV ‘ident’, The Big Country, The Big Match, Bill and Ben (The Flowerpot Men), Pot Black ( - Winifred Atwell playing The Black and White Rag), Blake’s 7, Brokeback Mountain, Brookside, Cagney and Lacey, The Clothes Show and - today - The Colbys. Remember The Colbys? Barabara Stanwyck giving it her mean and nasty all. Bit of a come-down from Double Indemnity, though.

EMAIL
I do almost all of the research and production work for The Nightshift here at home. That’s where I’m writing this blog right now. This means that I tend not to see your emails until I arrive at the Pink Palace, bow to Lord Reith’s lower dentures and settle down in Studio 1A. For most purposes, this seems to work OK but I appreciate that sometimes it may be necessary or desirable for you to email me rather more urgently. So I’ve set up a new email account on my Mac specially for YOU. How thoughtful is THAT! If you wish to contact me after The Nightshift has gone off-air, you can now email me on ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com.

NEVILLE WHALER
Many of you will have heard Neville’s name mentioned on-air before. Many years ago, he was responsible for some of the Tipsy Duchess’ sauciest double-entendres - a fact which I have never let him forget. More respectably, you may have heard me mention his name in connexion with the voluntary work he does at the Tanfield Railway. This morning I received an email which, I think, it is worth reproducing here.
‘This may seem a strange request but with the internet bringing us all into a smaller world, who knows. I am researching my family heritage - Whalers from the Lincolnshire area. I noticed from your blog (13 Dec 07) that you have a friend named Neville Whaler. Would you mind terribly passing on my email address to him. I believe we may be cousins -- distant, but still cousins. I descend from a George Robert Whaler who is the brother of his great grandfather Charles Whaler. Thank you so much for taking the time.’

Isn’t that awesome? If proof were ever needed that the internet is the most amazing communication tool ever developed, here it is. A woman listens to The Nightshift via the internet in North Carolina, USA. As a result, she reads the Truckshunters blog - on the internet. There, she sees Neville’s name and - again, via the internet - emails me about him. Dinosaurs who think that the internet is all porn and paedophilia don’t understand the awesome power of what they’re missing and its ability to bring people together almost instantaneously all over the world.

I’ll keep you informed of The Whaler Case!

THE NEXT POSTING...
...will be next Monday, 21 January. This is because I'm on leave tomorrow and Friday. Keep in touch!

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
ianstuartrobinson@googlemail.com
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

North Pier, Tynemouth

TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2008

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE BBC
In an effort to tear away the veils of almost mystical awe surrounding the BBC - and in the spirit of honesty and openness which has long been the BBC’s second motto - I have decided to pull back the chenille curtain just a little so that truckshunters can know a little more about my employer and thus become even more well-disposed towards it than they are already. After all, none of us wants the BBC to acquire the ‘secret society’ aura of special handshakes, ‘speaking in tongues’ and performing ludicrous rituals with rolled-up trouser legs to which other august and ancient bodies have succumbed.

The BBC is the oldest and unarguably the most famous broadcasting organisation in the world. The BBC 'brand' is one of the top three most recognised brands on Earth. The sheer magnitude of these facts - and the awe with which my employer is regarded in all four corners of the world - can sometimes serve to conceal the human face of the organisation. It should always be borne in mind that the BBC virtually invented broadcasting, which was as new in 1922 (when the BBC was founded) as Web 2.0 and digital social networking are now. Newer, in fact. The waters were totally uncharted and the fledgling BBC had to steer a course into completely unknown territory.

As with any pioneering organisation like this, superstition and ritual to ensure success quickly took hold and as you would expect, many of these are widely maintained and observed to this day - partly to uphold the BBC’s traditions and partly out of respect for the avuncular nature of the BBC itself.

For example, immediately before going on-air, all presenters make a kite sign with their hands - index finger to index finger and thumb to thumb. No-one knows the origin of this ritual, although it is thought to be a reference to Herbert Fosset Smyth’s ‘human kite aerial’, used for the first ever outside broadcast in 1923 from The Grimsby Cod-Gutting Festival. Unfortunately, a lightning storm blew up. Mr Smyth was buried at sea after the accident.

Naturally, all BBC studio premises display a prominent picture of Lord Reith and on ‘Reith Day’ (which this year falls on October 11) the portrait is draped in purple velvet (kept in the ‘Founder’s Box’) and staff gather to intone the Reithian undertaking to ‘inform, educate and entertain’. For unknown reasons, this does not happen in Wales.

Additionally, each studios proudly possesses its ‘relic’ of 'The Reekie Old Scowler ’ (as Lord Reith is respectfully known to BBC staff). Every studio keeps its relic in a glass container which must be on public view. Our Reithian memento in Newcastle is the lower half of His Lordship’s dentures, which grin unsettlingly at Marlene, our receptionist, all day. As has been pointed out to her many times, she should count herself lucky. The reception staff at BBC Radio Suffolk have to gaze upon a much more upsetting relic than that.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

MONDAY 14 JANUARY 2008

NORMAN CORNISH
An exhibition of the work of this wonderful painter - who worked as a Durham miner for most of his life - has just opened at the University Gallery of Northumbria in Newcastle. Go and see it.

MY LISTED BUILDINGS
My visit to St Nicholas’ Cathedral last week had an even more thought-provoking effect than shown by my last posting on Friday. The shamefully unsung glory of the lantern tower made me think of the many other architectural treasures that nestle in the heart of the North Country, uncelebrated and even neglected. These, then, are just three of my ‘listed buildings’ - special structures that could do with a little TLC as well as, perhaps, a little more publicity. I’m sure you can think of buildings and other structures that you would add to it.....

Escomb Church sits rather forlornly in an untidy and very badly rebuilt pit village by the Wear about 4 miles west of Bishop Auckland in County Durham. At first sight, it looks like a fly-blown, coal-blackened barn awaiting demolition. It is, in fact, one of the two or three oldest complete buildings above ground in the whole of England. Its precise construction date is not known - that’s how old it is - although, from its definite Anglo-Saxon style, it must date back to the mid-7th century. Bede may well still have been alive when Escomb Church was built. And it’s still there - all of a piece! Just looking at it - especially in its drab surroundings - is an extraordinarily melancholy experience.

St Mary’s Church, Old Seaham - again, in County Durham - has a similar story to tell. For 14 centuries the centre of a thriving agricultural and fishing village, the church (again, Anglo-Saxon) now looks out to sea from its lonely clifftop site as the last representative of an ancient settlement. The village was swept away by the builders of nearby Seaham Hall, famous once as the marriage site of Lord Byron and now as a ‘spa hotel’ of international standing. Until fairly recently, Vane Tempest Colliery spoiled the view of the church from the north. The same view is now ruined even more effectively by a ‘posh’ housing estate - probably called something like ‘Willow Glebe’.

Finally, I would nominate another church, this time nestled in a fold of the hills beyond Alnwick in Northumberland. The Almighty Himself could not have chosen a more fitting site for such a charming old building as the church at Old Bewick. Indeed, He must have chosen the site; it is otherwise something of a puzzle as to why it is where it is. Unlike at Old Seaham, there was never a village in the immediate vicinity. A wander round the tiny interior is rewarding, too; a small country church blessed with two noble chancel arches is a very great rarity indeed.




TONY
The picture above was sent to me by Tony from Fenham and I’m happy to post it on the blog. In fact, I hope it inspires you to send me a picture if you can. Remember, it must be digital (of course), a lot smaller than 1Mb and you should send it to my BBC email address. I will be able to ‘manipulate’ it on my Mac here at home. So....Kev, Anne, Sid, Bob, Gilly, Chris and Jojo - everybody - get those pictures to me. After all, I don’t know what you look like. And neither do you. (If you see what I mean.)

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.
St Nicholas' Cathedral, Newcastle

FRIDAY 11 JANUARY 2008

Even at this distance, I’ll never forget how much fun it was to be the Traffic and Travel presenter on BBC Radio Newcastle. Easy for me to say, I know - I wasn’t the one stuck in traffic snarl-ups listening to Ian Robinson making inane and distracting references during traffic bulletins, after all. But it wasn’t just these that I enjoyed. The job also gave me the opportunity I needed to familiarise myself with local geography. At the time - and indeed, even now - there is much of the north-east I have never visited. Even despite the 4 years I spent on the Big Blue Bus, there are still many villages which await the nightmare of a visit from me.

And a third aspect of the work - linked closely to the second - was the indignation from listeners when I got a location wrong in one way or another. All presenters have to undergo the indignity of admitting, once in a while, that they are not all-knowing when it comes to the nooks and corners of the north-east. When the Gateshead Millennium Bridge first opened, a flood of calls followed when one of our presenters called it the ‘Tyne Millennium Bridge’ (on the very sound basis that it linked Gateshead and Newcastle, and so didn’t really belong solely to either of them).

My knuckles were rapped painfully and unforgettably when I persisted in referring to roadworks as being near ‘Newcastle Cathedral’. Newcastle, listeners delighted in pointing out, has two cathedrals - Anglican and Roman Catholic - and I had to apologise fulsomely to local Catholics for not making it absolutely clear which one I was referring to.

I mention all this because I had cause to visit St Nicholas’ Cathedral yesterday afternoon. I met my brother there for a coffee and ‘a wander’. I’m ashamed to say that I had not visited it for some time so it was a kind of journey of re-discovery. What a splendid building it is! Unusually wide for its length, it’s extremely airy and light for such an ancient structure, probably because the rare styling of the nave arcades deceives the eye into looking upwards rather than outwards. The hidden secrets of the old charnel house - and the pure Elizabethan flamboyance of the Maddison Memorial (it’s on the west wall of the south transept) - focus the mind very effectively on thoughts of the afterlife.

The Cathedral’s crowning glory, however, is exactly that. The lantern tower which rises so majestically at the west end. Close-up or from any distance, it’s a truly sumptuous design and, although lanterns like this are generally regarded as of Scottish tradition, we have one in Newcastle which can match any north of the border. It’s an awesome structure and I think perhaps that we should celebrate it a great deal more than we do.

'BOB’S YER UNCLE, FANNY’S YER AUNT'
Towards the end of each Nightshift, Monday to Friday, we play our new quiz which, for indeterminate reasons I am not prepared to go into here, has the above name. You’re meant to preserve the first letter of the answer to each day’s question so that, by Friday, you’ll have five letters which you can then anagrammatise. Kids’ stuff. The five questions this week (which I re-ran on today’s Nightshift) were.....What’s the capital of Spain? Which East Anglian city used to be the centre of a ‘Soke’? Which is the 7th planet from the Sun? What’s the common name for NaCl? What’s the ‘medical’ term for werewolfism? All will be revealed on Monday morning.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

Ian Robinson

THURSDAY 10 JANUARY 2008

RAILTON HOWES
The picture I posted yesterday of my colleague and mentor Railton Howes has caused much more of a kerfuffle than even I would have thought possible. Scented envelopes of various hues have been arriving at the BBC’s Reception Desk here at the Pink Palace all day, although why the letter-writers chose that particular scent I can’t even begin to imagine. No sooner had Dyno-Rod left than a queue of lolling-tongued women of various ages - and in differing stages of decomposition - started to form. This is quite usual for Mike Parr but for Railton it came as a revelation, especially as many of them were carrying keep-nets and fishing rods - or offering to carry his. I’m afraid our security staff had to manhandle away those whose lust had got the better of them and who were thus carrying placards saying things like LET ME SORT OUT YOUR FLIES or HOWES THAT FOR SEX APPEAL.

The St John Ambulance Service, assisted by a passing farmyard vet, did sterling service reviving those unfortunate souls who swooned clean away when Railton finally appeared at the door. Poor Thomasina (‘Ena The Cleaner’), whom I have long suspected of harbouring unspeakably wanton thoughts about Railton, was later found hiding in the mop cupboard in tears of angry jealousy, along with Jonathan Miles.

Naturally, the phones haven’t stopped ringing all day. Railton has received offers from, amongst many others, Playgirl (to be their centrefold) and ManHunk (ditto), as well as from Hollywood - to play Dr Gunglegonk in the final Harry Potter movie and to be Brad Pitt’s body-double in Fight Club 2: The Musical.

It’s got to stop. The BBC’s phone lines are needed to take the many thousands of calls about Sam Allardyce that we haven’t been able to answer. So PLEASE ladies - desist. Railton is unavailable as a potential 'beau' (as a woman from Pallion described him). If the mob-stalking doesn’t stop, the BBC will be forced to set up an ‘unrequited love’ help-line similar to the one that already exists for admirers of Anne Leuchars. (I know that number off by heart.)

Finally - and to redress the balance a little - I have attached above a photograph of my good self. Please bear in mind that I do not look quite like that now. The picture was taken over six months ago, after all - at the Bishop Auckland Jon Harle Lookalike Competition. I now have slightly more facial hair.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

Yes, it's Railton Howes

WEDNESDAY 9 JANUARY 2008

RAILTON HOWES
Railton is, I think, the longest-serving member of BBC Radio Newcastle staff - and the only man I’ve heard of who is named after a car (apart from rugby player Austin Healey). In fact, his name dates him just a little. I’m not sure when the 'Railton' car was in vogue, but it’s been out of circulation for quite a while now! Perhaps that’s to Railton’s advantage; a younger version would be called Astra or Cortina Howes, which wouldn’t sound right at all for the presenter of a fishing programme.

As a matter of fact, Railton does a lot more than that at BBC Radio Newcastle. I work alongside him early in the mornings (his mother provides the biscuits we have with our tea) and he foolishly agreed to let me scan this photograph of him onto the Truckshunters blog. It was taken just after he started his career at the station in 1973 ( - two years after the station itself was born). I would like to say that he hasn’t changed a bit. But he has.

I’m glad so many of you enjoyed the on-air chat I had with him on the station’s 37th birthday last week. I’m still getting feedback from it.
Listener John Hindmarsh emailed me an explanation of those mysterious radio station codes that were used - in 1922, we were ‘5NO’. I’ll be featuring the information on one of next week’s programmes.

In the meantime, if you’re curious about how our other presenters looked 35 years ago (and who wouldn’t be?), just tell me their name(s) and I’ll try to inveigle an incriminating picture from them to post on the blog!

THE NIGHTSHIFT THEME
Listeners to the early part of the programme, Mondays to Fridays, may have noticed that, not content with one theme tune for The Nightshift - that would be far too ordinary - I have borrowed as many theme tunes from other radio and tv programmes - and the occasional film - as I can find. I play them one at a time, night by night. Have you recognised them all so far? At present, I ‘tease’ you by not revealing their identities - even though some of them are quite old. If, however, you can’t stand the suspense of not knowing, I’ll give the game away - but ONLY on the blog!

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.

Dragon Fruit

TUESDAY 8 JANUARY 2008

DRAGON FRUIT
I mentioned this weird fruit on the programme a few days back. Helpfully (as always) truckshunter Maureen has sent me a picture of it so that you know exactly how weird they are.

'ONE PIT’S AS BAD AS THE NEXT AND A DAMNED SIGHT WORSE...'
I was reminded of this well-known miner’s witticism when I was listening to a discussion on Mike Parr’s programme last week about the possible return of deep coalmining to the north-east. An NUM spokesman was saying how wonderful it would be to see the return of this traditional macho industry to one of its old heartlands. And with it, presumably, a return to the old ways of mutual self-sufficiency and self-help, community spirit, fabled north-east friendliness and reliable, dogged hard work.

I remember, when I first started at the BBC (- I used to do a ‘local history’ hour with Paul Wappat on his Saturday show -), asking on-air what ex-miners thought of the demise of their industry, and how strikingly at odds with each other they seemed to be in their responses. The last pit in County Durham hadn’t been defunct for that long, and mining wasn’t the fading, almost sepia-tinted memory it is now. There was much talk of the characteristics I mention above - a good day’s work for a good day’s pay, a real ‘man’s job’, the camaraderie, the mutual dependency, the Durham ‘Big Meeting’, the sense of belonging felt by everyone, pit by pit, village by village....

Other callers, though, had different ideas. They remembered the work as back-breakingly hard and fearsomely dangerous - not just in terms of accident and injury but also of disease and disability. The industry, they thought, scarred the countryside and the coast and was held in appallingly low esteem by those who ought to have known better. Memories of undervalued - indeed almost disregarded - menfolk suffering the horrors of pneumoconiosis (of which my granda died at the age of 56) or death and injury underground came flooding back. ‘Good riddance to a bloody AWFUL industry with a tarnished and exploitative history....’

You will have gathered that I incline to this latter view. The ex-miners of the north-east can indeed look back with very great pride at a good job well done - if not properly appreciated by the wider world. Although they did a brutal job with grace and dignity, you have only to look at the website of the Durham Mining Museum (dmm.org.uk) to see what a pernicious and damaging industry it was. Or you could try visiting one of the (shamefully few) stark memorials to it, like the one recently erected at Easington Colliery or the heartbreaking Engine House Monument at nearby Haswell Plough pit. Perhaps the most moving of them all is the memorial in Durham Cathedral...
...Remember before God the Durham Miners who have given their lives in the pits of this County and those who work in darkness and danger in those pits today.....
God forbid.
It ends by pointing out - quite correctly - that ‘they are forgotten of the foot that passeth by’.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.
MONDAY 7 JANUARY 2008

THE SALTWELL DUCK
This picture was sent in by Sid from Gateshead, who says the duck proudly emerged from the water of Saltwell Park’s lake to be photographed - and perhaps to show Sid the unusual place he wore his tag!

Remember that if you have a digital photograph you’d like to see on the blog, all you need to do is send it to me at my BBC email address - see below. Make sure it’s a lot less than 1Mb in size - pictures as small as 20 or 30 Kb are perfectly OK. How about sending in a picture of you, for a start? Or is that tempting fate?

OUR NEW PRESIDENT
Thankyou for all the messages of support you’ve been sending me about the appointment of Bob Williams as the President of the Honourable Company of Truckshunters - mostly on the basis that he seems to be the only member of the Company who has ever actually shunted any trucks. I am delighted to report that Bob has gracefully accepted the position, and the onerous responsibilities that go with it. In his own words....
'....Thankyou for the honour you have bestowed on me.....’
What a nice bloke!

FURTHERMORE.....
The President’s inaugural address consists entirely of an explanation for the existence of pubs known unofficially as ‘The Trust’ in Horden, Blackhall and Easington.....
....The Trust had a brewery in Yorkshire and from the sinking of the three collieries they tried to build either a Hotel or a Public House in each of the villages.
At Blackhall Colliery they applied to build a hotel; the chapel and church members objected to this as Nimmo's had already built the Hardwick Hotel and there was also an Officials Club. Also, Nimmo's had a covenant that said no one else could build a Public House in Blackhall, but as far as I know no other Brewery could build a Public House within five miles of the Nimmo's Brewery at Castle Eden. I do know the Trust Hotel was built and opened in 1925 and that it was later called the Blackhall Hotel in East Street.
...now just a little ‘snippet’ - there wasn’t another pub on the Coast Road between the Chester Hotel in Hartlepool and the Kings Head at Easington village. In 1935, Blackhall Workmen's Club wrote to one of the Nimmo family to ask their permission to open the Workmen's Club in Cemetery Road at Blackhall, and they got permission. The Club is still open.
I have no Idea when they built the Trust Public Houses in Horden or Easington. And to this day there are no pubs on the Coast Road on the left side coming from Hartlepool. There’s Blackhall Club and Easington Miners Welfare Club and there are several pubs on the right hand side.
The depth of Bob’s knowledge is awesome. He’s going to make an excellent President!

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.
The Sage, Gateshead

FRIDAY 4 JANUARY 2008

OUR COMMON LINGO
This all started with an annual seasonal competition run by America’s Washington Post to see who can come up with the most original re-interpretation of word-meanings - new meanings for old words, in fact. My favourites from their list are...
gargoyle - ‘olive-flavoured mouthwash’;
lymph - ‘to walk with a lisp’;
testicle - ‘a humorous question on an exam paper’;
willy-nilly - ‘impotent’; and
esplanade - ‘to attempt an explanation while drunk’.
You, however, have managed to trump those paltry efforts roundly. Amongst your gems of invention are....
reptile - ‘a travelling salesman’s hat’;
moratorium - ‘a temporary ban on Conservatives’;
manoeuvre - ‘a man who does the vacuuming’;
manhandle - ‘a fat bloke’s hip’;
dependable - ‘able to swim opposite the shallow end’; and
catastrophe - ‘prize-winning puss’.
A big thankyou to Stuart, Lorraine, Anne and Lawrence. Your efforts have made me laugh out loud several times and there a still quite a few I haven’t mentioned on air yet. Keep listening - and please keep sending them in to me.

Jim from Gateshead called to point out that this is also a game played on BBC Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, of which he and I are both great fans. We spent some time discussing which - if any - of the other games on the show we could ‘adapt’. To be honest, there aren’t many but we could have some fun with your Cost-Cutting TV and Radio ideas: Only Fools, Jonathan Yards, Glance North.....
or - and old favourite, this one - specialised Film and Song Clubs. The north-east’s, for example, would include Move Over Darlington, You’ll Never Get to Hebburn or Blaydonrunner.....
Perhaps I should run Jim’s ideas up the flagpole on-air and see who salutes (to use a cliche I’ve been slating on the programme recently).
Mornington Crescent on the Nightshift is, of course, unthinkable. Isn’t it?

EMAILS
I have received a very strongly worded complaint from a listener who was deeply offended that I did not reply personally to emails he sent me. In fact, he formally withdrew his ‘best wishes for the New Year’ - something that’s never happened to me before. So that no-one else is under any illusions that I have banks of secretaries dealing with my correspondence.....I research, produce and present the Nightshift on my own (as I have said many times before) and, although I try to respond to as many emails as I can, it is simply impossible to reply to more than a handful. Please do not be offended if I do not reply to you personally; I just don’t have the resources to do so. And please - don’t let that stop you sending your emails to me. I read and value every one of them!

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.


Blackhall Colliery

THURSDAY 3 JANUARY 2008

A TRUCKSHUNTER
Loyal and extremely attentive truckshunters may remember that, during Christmas week, I mentioned an email I’d received from Bob Williams. I hope he won’t mind if I reproduce it here.....

Hello Ian
It's that man again from Blackhall.....I am sorry if my emails are not coming through correctly but I am having troubles beyond my brain....
I heard you on Wednesday morning as I am a poor sleeper (unless I have a good shot of whisky). Could you send me your truckshunters blog address? I was a truck shunter at Blackhall Colliery on the steam locos shunting coal and stone about the pit yard, and down onto the beach banks. I also worked on the ‘aerial flight’ when the Get Carter film was made. I know my job has nothing to do with your "Truckshunters" - and can you explain what a Blog is for me? Best wishes Bob.

There are a number of things about this email which I’d like to draw your attention to. (Note: For the pedants amongst you - and I know you’re out there - I have included two composition errors in that sentence just to annoy you; one is grammatical, the other is an offence against accepted usage. Where was I?)
Firstly, Bob is from Blackhall - the one on the East Durham coast. As far as I’m concerned, that alone is quite enough for him to have won The X Factor. Not only is it one of the most gloriously-placed colliery villages in the entire cosmos but it is also home to some of my earliest and most cherished memories. My granda was a deputy at the pit and a regular at the Trust next door to the pithead. (I’ve never understood why Blackhall, Horden and Easington each had a pub unofficially called the Trust.)

Secondly, Bob listens to The Nightshift, even if only occasionally.

Thirdly, he drinks whisky.

Fourthly, he is prepared to admit - even if it’s only to me - that some modern technology is ‘beyond his brain’. A man after our own hearts.

Fifthly, he worked on the strangely magnificent (but environmentally disastrous) aerial flight at Blackhall; a kind of cable-car system of underslung buckets which tipped colliery waste into the North Sea 24 hours a day and which was featured - to great dramatic effect - in Get Carter.

Sixthly, he was there when they filmed it.

Finally - and most importantly - Bob was a truckshunter. A Real Living Shunter of Trucks. As far as I know, he is the only person in our sacred band who truly merits the title of Truckshunter. I am genuinely in awe of the pure serendipity of this fact alone. Bob is a Truckshunter amongst truckshunters - with a capital T.
I’ve been wondering what to do about this singular piece of good fortune. I rejected the idea of a Nightshift New Year’s Honours list as being too trivial and flippant. I have decided instead - through the powers vested in me by the BBC - to raise Bob Williams to the position of
President of the Honourable Company of Truckshunters.

I have emailed him to that effect in the hope that the natural modesty so evident in his email above will not prevent him from accepting the offer.

What an awesome start to 2008!

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.


The Mowbray Park Walrus, Sunderland

WEDNESDAY 2 JANUARY 2008

NEW YEAR’S DAY HOLIDAY
Regular listeners to BBC Radio Newcastle - and regular readers of this blog, come to think of it - will know that I am an extremely well-balanced person. And that’s mostly because I have several chips on both shoulders which enable me to grind my axes with perfect poise. You know the sort of thing......why is the statue in Durham Market Place of such a hateful personage as the Marquis of Londonderry allowed to remain there? Why do we continue to let Nexus get away with providing such lousy public transport in Tyne and Wear? Over the years, dozens of bees like these have been buzzing round my bonnet with no discernible positive outcomes whatsoever. Well, we’ve just had a Bank Holiday so prepare yourselves for yet another Ian Robinson onslaught. Bank Holidays in the UK....

France, Norway and Spain each award themselves 12 Bank Holidays. The Germans and Italians reckon they deserve 16. Sixteen. We only have eight. But the lack of parity doesn’t end there. Of our eight Bank Holidays, three - almost half - occur within a week of each other (Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day). That leaves five. Of those five, two fall over the same weekend - Good Friday and Easter Monday. That leaves three. Of those three, two occur in the same month - May Day Monday and Spring Bank Holiday. Which leaves only one paltry isolated day - Late Summer Bank Holiday at the end of August. That we get so few days off is bad enough; that they are spread so preposterously unevenly is - well, preposterous.
You will be aware that this blog - and the Nightshift programme with which it is associated - are not without influence. Collectively, we truckshunters have friends in extremely high places (Consett, Tow Law, Kielder) and are led by Grosvenor, a black rat of awesome proportions who is not afraid to show his mettle when angry. Together, we can change things. We can have the number of Bank Holidays increased to, say, 12 - one of which should be our birthday (as in Germany). And we can insist that they are spread more evenly through the year. I am not, of course, encouraging you to write to the national or local press about this, or to contact your MP or the Home Office. That would be far too political......
Axe ground. End of harangue.

AND FINALLY.....
A very, very big thankyou - from me and my partner John - for all the wonderful cards and other messages we received over Christmas. I’m not kidding - we were both genuinely moved by your affection and good wishes. I hope you realise that you are held at the same level of affection by us as we are by you. Thanks again. One way or another, it was an unforgettable festive season.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.
TUESDAY 1 JANUARY 2008
NEW YEAR'S DAY
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Terra Novalis, Consett

MONDAY 31 DECEMBER 2007
New Year’s Eve

Until I was about 11, New Year’s Eve was the day I felt most sorry for my elder brother - our Deryck. My two brothers and I had been left fatherless since I was 5 and, along with all the other horrors this situation forced upon the family at that socially conservative time, came the responsibility - always on our Deryck’s shoulders - of being our firstfoot. Normally, of course, my father would have performed the requisite duties; and according to the physical standards required of firstfoots (firstfeet?) at that time, he would have been the perfect harbinger of good luck. A tall, dark and coincidentally handsome man. But fatherless we were, so the formalities of ushering in the New Year always fell to our Deryck to perform. For those truckshunters not long enough in the tooth to know what I’m talking about here....
Picture it. It’s a bitterly cold winter midnight. In the same way that summers were always long and warm, New Year’s Eves were always bitterly cold, weren’t they? Peterlee, where we lived, mostly sits on the side of a long hill above the North Sea and New Year’s Eves were invariably enlivened by sub-Arctic winds blowing directly from Spitzbergen. My nana called them ‘idle’ winds - too lazy to blow round you, so they blew straight through you.
As midnight approaches, men mysteriously appear in front of their own front doors. I say ‘mysteriously’ because they’ve all left their houses via the back door. It was regarded as chronically bad luck for the last person out of the front door to be the first person back in again.
And they were always shivering and stamping their feet in the cold as they waited for the midnight minute. Each would be bearing the traditional New Year gifts: a bottle of wine or spirit or beer, a lump of coal; perhaps a slice of fruit cake; sometimes a pinch or two of salt. Calling weak ‘Wot cheors’ to each other across the silencing snow and ice, they knew that each of their fellow firstfooters were thinking the same thing. Why am I doing this? Is it worth it? What are the correct words to use? Why didn’t I put my coat on?
Then at the stroke of New Year, they would knock at their respective doors and be welcomed inside (right foot first - ALWAYS). The mistress of the house would have the glasses and plates ready and everyone would look to the firstfoot for his ‘speech’. To all within this house I wish and bring health (the cake), wealth (the coal or salt) and happiness (the wine). But most of all - health (more cake). That’s when I felt sorry for our Deryck. He was always self-conscious performing duties like this as the under-age ‘man of the house’ and I squirmed as he recited the words. But he always did it so very well, being aware (I think) that his father would expect nothing less and might even have been proud of his oldest son.
I don’t know the extent to which this tradition genuinely persists in north-east England. I would like to think that we haven’t quite outgrown it just yet. And, although Deryck died almost 10 years ago, I nevertheless feel that it’s not too late to thank him for the many happy and peaceful years he ushered into our house.

CONTACT ME
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
ian.robinson@bbc.co.uk
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN

NOTE
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.