The Red House, Monkwearmouth


Regular nightshifters will know that, during the period when my blogpostings were mostly ‘in abeyance’, we started a new weekly slot on The Nightshift called On Your Doorstep (OYD). I say ‘we’. The whole idea can be laid squarely at the not inconsiderable feet of Lawrence Hepple, previously known only for either his renowned skills as a piano-tuner or his almost equally well-known enthusiasm for, and advocacy of, Berwick Bandits speedway team.

To both of those cap feathers can now be added that of an increasingly astute and thoughtful radio producer and researcher. Over the last 3 months or so, Lawrence has not only decided which subjects - animal, vegetable or mineral - should be covered each week on OYD; he has also done all the necessary accompanying research and scripting. It would, after all, be profoundly unwise to enter the arena of a Nightshift grilling inadequately prepared!

But his production talent doesn’t stop there. He has also taken it upon himself to book a few musical acts onto The Nightshift as well. You have already heard two of them - Paul Liddell and the youthful Leonard Brown, the jaw-droppingly skilled accordionist. Their studio performances have ensured that both of them will be paying us another visit in the not too distant future.

The particularly galling aspect of all this is that OYD garners at least as much nightshifter reaction as any other item on the programme. I’m not entirely joking when I suggest that Producer Hepple is ‘up to something’. He even brought his son Daniel into the Pink Palace last week on some ludicrous pretext or other, for Heaven’s sake.

So - seriously - for your contributions to The Nightshift way beyond the call of conventional listenerhood ......

Lawrence: TAKE A BOW.

Okay okay that’s enough of the limelight for now......

Last weekend my old friend Brian, whom you may have heard me mention over the years, came up to Newcastle to visit me. He’s one of those jetsetters - he’s a balletmaster and teaches all over the world - who has been to Tierra del Fuego, Inner Mongolia and Cape Horn but who’s never been to Edinburgh. Naturally, I criticise him roundly and often for this and last weekend decided to actually do something about it. So, instead of sitting around the flat getting not-so-quietly sloshed on red wine and lighter fuel, we went out on a couple of trips. Admittedly, one of them was only as far as Newcastle city centre but the other more than made up for the shortfall.....

Firstly, we called at Tynemouth Station Sunday Market. What an exhilarating pleasure!! I’m ashamed to say that it’s quite a few years since I’d been and I found it as exciting and unpredictable last weekend as I had the first time I went. What a great venue for a market like that. Covered, with easy access by public transport and with plenty of refreshments available; Brian was delighted and I, for my part - as part of my list of things to do while I’m 60 - determined to visit it at least once a month.

We then went a little way up the coast to St Mary’s Island, where it was (shall we say) cold (specially for London-dwellers like Brian). Thus forced to retreat by what was - for me, at any rate - a mildly chilly sea-breeze but what to Brian was the beginnings of the next veritable Arctic ice-age, we drove to Sunderland so that Brian could visit the National Glass Centre.

If you’ve been there this close to Christmas, you’ll know that they produce and sell some stunningly beautiful Christmas Tree glass decorations. I have a feeling that Brian’s tree will look particularly striking this year!

A little way along the north bank of the river at this point brings you to one of my favourite pieces of north-east public art: The Red House. It's described (in Public Sculpture of North-East England) as...

'...a large sculpture which represents the ground floor of a house, left open to the elements. Large blocks of red sandstone are carved into features such as a fireplace, a coat hanging behind a door and a table. A rug on the floor has 'WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND' carved around its edges. There are also books, tools and a secretaire. Scattered beyond the walls are other fragments of sandstone, one with a letter inscribed into it. The colour of the sandstone reflects that of the new brick houses behind, and the whole is sited within a planted area beside the riverside pathway.
That description is static; but Colin Wilbourn (its originator) makes narrative sculpture; he feels that there's always a story buried within it, even if he doesn't necessarily know what that story is....'

I love it. It’s astonishing. It’s as if the house has been blown apart somehow - or turned inside out. To me, it justifies the comparatively modest amounts of money spent on public art in the north-east at least as much as any other works which have benefitted, including the Angel.

Sunderland, I think, should boast a little more about its public art and open spaces and (perhaps) a little less about its football team....

Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
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

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


Vivienne said...

Hi Folks,

Just signing in to say we are having a super time at Tarn Howes. The cottage is very cold but the scenery is magnificent. The weather is perfect today for photography, so check out M&D when I get back.

I hope you're all behaving yourselves!

Love, Vivienne xxx

Inga said...

Hello IAN, glad you had such a good time and showed off your part of the world to Brian. I can, however, completely understand his reaction to your temperatures! Brrrr! Hope that you did at least end the day with red wine.
Your praise of Laurence is well deserved, to say the least. I am always looking forward to his report even though I have to plug up my ears sometimes :-)!
The Red House is a fascinating work of art. Narrative sculpture at its best.

Sid said...

I shall never cease to be surprised at how little I know of the north-east. Born and bread in this area, I must have gone around with my eyes, and ears, clamped shut. Thanks Ian for another great snippet of information.

For those of us that might need a reminder, here are two.
Christmas Eve is 5 weeks tonight, and 2 weeks tomorrow is Ians birthday. I thought I should mention it because Ian is much to shy to do it himself.

I had called in here before and added a few words, quite a few really.....and then realised I hadn't signed in. Isn't that so annoying.

Inga said...

Hello again, Sid - this is what I meant by "going next door" !
I can completely relate to your frustrations about posting a comment and then loosing it for some reason. Here's what I do, provided I think of it, that is ! I copy it into my email program, check spelling and save it there. My customers are a constant reminder how close Christmas is but I am glad you mentioned Ian's birthday. I have a card with appropriate comments [re: his perceived old age] and will send it any day now. I hope he gets this one, I sent one about 3 weeks ago which he apparently did not receive. Post Offices! - not terribly reliable, are they? Maybe he mentioned it when I wasn't listening.
Barack Obama has indicated that he was going to make use of the internet to communicate and so he has. I had submitted a question on his website [] and while I have not received a reply [yet] I managed to get on his email list and received one today. There is a form to post suggestions - this one regarding Energy and Environment Policy and various videos. I am sure our President Elect would love to hear from people in other countries so I want to encourage all of you to make use of this website and submit your comments. Who knows, you might even get an answer. If nothing else, you'll get on his mailing list.
Here is the link:
If it doesn't work, try and then click on the "Inside the Transition: Meet members of the Energy & Environment Policy Transition Team" posting.

Loz said...

Hi Gang,

and THANKS Ian.... really feel quite humbled at your kind comments.

Thing is I absolutly adore OYD and the research is a pleasure to do.

I cannot honestly believe how well its all gone - I'm a proud piano tuner now :-)

Thing is living in such a rich are for history helps so much as our ancestors have left a wealth of happenings and events to pick from.

I love our North East - that's why I remain up here where most of my contemporaries from Rutherford School have moved well away....their loss.

I'll keep looking out the musical items too..... stay tuned.... I have a few really exciting ones up my sleeves.

Anyway.... OYD research beckons once more.

Cheers...Lawrence (and THANK YOU Ian for allowing me to nick so much air's so muchly appreciated.)

Hildie said...

Wow, Inga!! That was the best surprise I have had in a long time! I switched on the radio and heard you talking to Ian! I can't tell you how monumentally surprised I was! You are now so real! Thank you for doing that! It blew me away!
Lawrence, just so's you know ....
we do honestly appreciate OYD and are becoming well educated about North East History now. The worst thing for me, about the Felling Pit Disaster, was the tender age of some of the victims.
Sid, thanks for those reminders.
Like you say,it's such a shame Ian's so shy!
There's something Ian mentioned that I'm curious about and it's sure to be on air tonight when I can't listen . Friday is school day for me, so it's early to bed.
(I only work one day a week as there's not much Supply Work about these days.) Anyway, it's 'PROJECT 60' that's got my curiosity aroused - so, if Ian talks about it tonight, please could someone update me?
What's he up to now?!

Ian Robinson said...

Your sarky comments about my alleged modesty have not gone unnoticed. At least David in Fenham - via email - didn't feel the need to sink to that level; he just came out with it and called me 'shameful' for mentioning my birthday so often and thus 'fishing' for cards and gifts. Propriety impels me therefore to change my evil ways. From now on, I will mention my upcoming 60th birthday no more than, say, 7 or 8 times in each programme.....
As for Project 60......

Hildie said...

You absolute tease, Mr. Robinson!

Sid said...

Me Sarky (wife nods head), Gilly help.

Inga said...

HILDIE, no need to thank me for talking to Ian. Heavens, I can't think of anything I would rather have done. It was sheer fun and a great honor.
It appears that Ian might answer your question about Project 60 with all of those dots at the end! If not we'll let you know.

SID, glad I still have that Geordie dictionary. It lists the word "sark" as another word for shirt. So I take it that "shirty" is the right translation. I have heard that word before and in a context that leads me to think I know what it means.

IAN, great new picture of you! Love the new word you've coined: Woogle! Don't care for the abbreviation OYD for such a wonderfully named program. Sounds like something the police or a hospital might use :-) How I feel about that fits in somewhere with my dislike of www. But it's a sign of times, I guess.

Sid said...

Hello everyone,
Inga, the word 'Sarky' is derived from sarcasm. In the context that Ian used it I look upon sarky as a mild and humorous form of sarcasm.
Hildie I shall record Nightshift for you tonight, incase I miss the important bit.
Ian, how anyone can call you shameful is beyond me. Just remember...shy bairns (young children, Inga) get nothing.

Ian Robinson said...

Hi Sid, I've always assumed that local word 'sarky' is derived from 'sarcastic'. But isn't Inga's detective work interesting? 'Sark' = 'shirt' so 'sarky' = 'shirty'; not quite the right meaning but very close!!
Details of Project 60/60 will be on next week's Nightshift. And please don't build it all up TOO much or you'll be disappointed at how mundane it's going to be!!

Inga said...

SID - YOU CAN TAPE THE NIGHTSHIFT PROGRAM?????? Pssst, are you up to a little piracy? :-)

Sid said...

Inga, my tv supplier is a well known (in the UK) cable company. I can download onto a hard drive anything my tv receives, including radio. It is then, in theory, able to 'burn' the content onto a dvd. I say in theory because I've never produced a dvd from it... yet. There's always a first time, wish me luck.

Inga said...

Sid, I am totally impressed. You guys are so far ahead of us, well, me anyway! I haven't even learned how to download music onto a CD! I will keep my fingers crossed!

Sid said...

Hello everyone,
My little experiment was a great success. I am now the owner of a DVD that has Ian's Nightshift on it, all five and a half hours. I shall post it off to you Hildie on Monday morning. I hope you have a DVD player.

Just a thought Ian, will I have to pay you 'Royalties' for this, I hope not. lol.

I wonder if Ian is working day shift over the Christmas period, I hope he doesn't mind if I cross my fingers and wish very hard indeed that he is.

Hildie said...

Sid, I always knew you were clever! Can't thank you enough for making the DVD for me. I shall be watching for the postman. Aren't you lovely as well as clever!
I'm hoping, too, that Ian will be on the radio on Christmas Day, it wouldn't be the same without him.
Is Vivienne not back yet? I hope she's okay.

Vivienne said...

Hi Everyone,

Yes I'm back and had a lovely, but cold, time! I left a message on M&D in response to Sid asking where I was. I'll post some photos when in get the opportunity.

My sister returned with me so we could attend a concert by the Bach Choir tonight at Newcastle University. Shirley met up with an old school friend, plus a former teacher, both of whom she hasn't seen for nearly forty years! Needless to say we had a super evening.

I hope you are all keeping well, and looking forward to Christmas. What's happening about this get-together?

Love, Vivienne xxx

Inga said...

SID & HILDIE - at first I was totally green with envy but I quickly remembered that you guys pay dearly for your privilege of listening and watching the BBC while I am sitting over here at my computer and don't pay for any of their services. I am still envious, of course, but I also try to remember that listening to Ian is easier for us in America than it is for you due to the time difference. So, Hats Off to you Sid and enjoy - HILDIE.

VIVIENNE, Welcome Back! I am looking forward to your pictures!

IAN, please let us know about anything you will do - on the radio :-) - on Christmas Day and/or during the Christmas holidays.

Hildie said...

Does anyone know where Ian can find a Variegated Aspidistra, with cream -striped leaves, or a Stag Horn Fern? I heard him asking this morning.
It's funny which of his words come back to you when you wake up in the morning!