The needlessly arty and contemplative picture that newly graces my general profile was taken by the otherwise sensible Neville Whaler during my visit to the Tanfield Railway a few days ago. The photo you see above, on the other hand, was taken when the Big Blue Bus visited the site five years ago. You will not be surprised to learn that the kilt - of fine, handwoven Northumberland plaid - hasn’t fitted me almost from that day to this, more’s the pity. Why can’t you get kilts that don’t shrink?

I’m delighted to say that Neville was one of three folk who turned up at last night’s AGM at the Tyneside Cinema. The others were Hildie and Chris and a splendid time was had by all. Until, that is, we all got a bit of a shock when Hildie started to choke on an errant slice of cucumber. Believe me, this is no joke. It was an extraordinarily frightening experience for us, let alone for her. Our grateful thanks to the Coffee Room staff and to the members of the public who came to Hildie’s aid. I’m glad to report that she recovered fairly quickly and was declared to be as fit as a fiddle - well, more or less - after a visit to the General Hospital. Well done, Hildie - and well done, too, to Chris for looking after her so well.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t even get a chance to thank Hildie for bringing with her some information you may find useful. She has ‘connexions‘ (don’t ask) with Birkheads Nursery and Secret Garden. This is a truly awesome place where visitors can not only choose from a wide range of plants - many of them quite rare in these parts - but also slurp a lovely cup of tea and dribble cake crumbs all over the patio before wandering off to look at the ‘Secret Garden‘ and take in the fine views.

Hildie’s information? Well - although the season doesn’t start until March 14, the Nursery, Garden and Coffee Shop will be open for a special Snowdrop Weekend on March 7 and 8 between 1000 and 1630. From March 14, they will be open Tuesday to Sunday, 1000 to 1700. And that’s not all. Throughout March, entry fees will be reduced - two for the price of one (£3.50).

I know what you’re thinking. They’re paying me to tell you this. Amazingly, they aren’t. Believe it or not, there’s nothing in it for me.

Birkheads is just across the fields from the Tanfield Railway. How about visiting them both? What an awesome day out!

...as promised, will be on Saturday 21 March in the Coffee Bar of Sunderland’s Winter Gardens. I will be there from about 1400 to about 1600. Join me!

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8% of British people have tried DIY tooth extraction...British cauliflower production has fallen by 30% in 10 years...nothing manmade can be seen from space (not even the Great Wall of China)...

Those who know the waywardness of my thought processes will already know that I’m a big fan of trivia and lists - especially if the list in question is a list of trivia like the one above. Naturally, I’ve often found myself wondering why this might be so. To try and find an answer, I decided to take the three facts above - about teeth, cauliflowers and space - and examine them a little more deeply; to look at them from a different angle to try and determine what it is about such things that I find so fascinating.

The statistic about DIY dentistry is - as well as being faintly ridiculous - surely rather worrying. Has the cost of going to see a dentist risen so much that a substantial minority of us are prepared to attach one end of a length of cotton thread to our aching tooth and the other to the handle of an open door and then slam the door? Or is such rudimentary treatment seen as preferable to the sheer pain and discomfort of a dental visit? Either way, the statistic isn’t as trivial as it at first appears.

The same could be said about the decline of the cauliflower. I suppose the rise of the aubergine, the courgette and broccoli - amongst many other vegetable exotica - is at least partly to blame for the apparent demise of the humble (and very nutritious) cauliflower, as well as of the wonderful white cabbage and the juicy, crunchy Brussels sprout of old. In fact, we in our household were so incensed by this particular item of truckshunting trivia that we devoted our main Sunday meal to enjoyment of these old-fashioned but now threatened staples of the British dining table.

It’s ages since I ate some boiled cabbage; it was lovely.

As for the myth that the Great Wall of China is the only earthly manmade object that can be seen from space - well...you only have to think about it to realise what a load of dingo’s kidneys that is. Yet many millions of people believe it. In the same way, I’m absolutely certain that I myself believe quite a few things that have no basis in fact...

See? A second look at our list above proves that nothing is really trivial. Every smidgin of information really does have its uses; triviality is in the eye of the beholder. This was brought home to me in a big way the other day when I was idly passing the time of day with a neighbour. We were talking about some of the natural world’s most amazing phenomena - tidal waves, avalanches, typhoons - when she mentioned that one of the most amazing of all takes place right here at home. Or at least, here is where it starts...

As everyone knows, cuckoos arrive on our island in mid-Spring and proceed to lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Having done this, they leave their eggs to their fate; adult cuckoos take no further interest in the care, feeding and development of their offspring.

And yet...and yet...the fledgling cuckoo will leave its ‘adopted’ home nest and fly south a few months later. It will make its way to Africa with absolutely no help or guidance at all from any other creature. Many first-timers actually make their way - completely on their own - to the same feeding grounds as their parents.

No-one knows how they manage to do this. Amazing or what.

For Heaven's sake don't forget that I'll be in the Coffee Lounge of the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle from 1800 until at least 2000 on Thursday 26 February. If you can make it, I'd be happy to see you!!!

As planned, I met up with my old friend Neville Whaler over at the Tanfield Railway earlier today. (For those unfortunate enough not to know, Neville was almost solely responsible for the funniest - and most disgusting - of the double-entendres uttered by ‘the Tipsy Duchess’ on Paul’s Saturday show many years ago.) As well as being a working railwayman - closer to shunting trucks than most other truckshunters! - he is also a keen enthusiast of preserved ‘heritage’ railways, specially the Tanfield Railway.

I had a great time. It’s a very evocative site and a very evocative sight, too. The lines, the signal box, the sheds, the station, the tea bar, the rolling stock and locomotives, the journey...lovely.

All I can say is...if you haven’t been - GO. For details of timetables, fares and opening times, take a look at their website: www.tanfield-railway.co.uk.

And a big thankyou to all the lads and lasses whose voluntary work keeps the Tanfield Railway open and who gave me such a nice day today!

Have you ever seen them? If so...

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'Tornado' enters Newcastle


Earlier today someone asked me how long it has been since I was made redundant and I was astonished to realise that it’s only been three weeks and one day. I’m serious here; I was genuinely taken aback. It already seems like half a lifetime since I parroted You’re listening to Ian Robinson’s Nightshift on Radio Newcastle, the BBC for the North-East. In fact, it’s starting to feel a little ‘unreal’ - as if it was all a dream and that I never actually did the job at all.

I was warned that this may happen. When you are made redundant - specially from a job you did for many years and/or a job you particularly enjoyed - you feel a sense of grief and loss followed by the uneasy sense that your previous ‘working’ life was almost a figment of your imagination, even though you know it wasn’t. It was very strange indeed this morning to say that I’ve only been away from the BBC for a few days. It’s a funny old world...

In this connexion, Maureen asks a very pertinent question in her comment on blogpost 123, to which the answer is an unqualified YES. Please do continue to send me the sort of material you sent for The Old Nightshift. Jokes, puzzles, trivia, lists, curiosities...whatever takes your fancy. It’s all grist to the proverbial mill, after all, and will be very welcome.

Many years ago I was pleasantly surprised and gratified to learn that there really is a saint called Rita, a name that has remained obstinately unfashionable since, I guess, the early fifties or even before. After all, how many Ritas do you know?

And it wasn’t just the mere fact of St Rita’s existence in the canon of Roman Catholic saints that was so satisfying; it was also the rather splendid list of things that she is the patron saint of. Widows, baseball, sterility, parenthood, loneliness and (wait for it) lost causes. What a truly awesome combination.

Naturally, it is in her guise as the Patron Saint of Lost Causes that I have decided to invoke her name in this (and future) blogpostings. Let me explain...

One of the things I had intended to talk about in the very last Nightshift of all was the ill-starred and woebegone campaigns which, during my nine years ‘in office’ at the BBC, I had taken it upon myself to launch. (Wow; what a complicated sentence. Take a second or two to read it again.) Let me see now...there was Let’s Save The Apostrophe, Bring Back Andy Pandy, Give Sherlock Holmes A Knighthood ( - just imagine; Sir Sherlock Holmes and Lord Watson of Baker Street).

Not all of my campaigns were entirely frivolous or playful, though. In my final programme, I had intended to list the ones which I thought were worthy of continuing, or even re-invigorated, support. But, things being the way they were, I didn’t quite manage to stick to the script. (The story of my life, really.) So I intend to use the Truckshunter blog to give as many of them the oxygen of publicity as I can so that they don’t end up in The Book of St Rita - the catalogue of lost and forgotten causes.

So over the next few days and weeks expect to be roundly harangued by yours truly on the subject of...
...the need for trams in the north-east
...the floodlighting of The Angel
...restructuring the scoring system in tennis and football
...an honour for the Donkey Man
...the abolition of Clock Change Night
...the redistribution of Bank Holidays
...the removal of that statue...
and many more of the bees which have nested in my bonnet over the BBC years. I’m sure you will be able to remember even more of them and will know equally well that not a single one of Robinson’s Campaigns has even approached success.

Let’s grab the baton and proceed. Let’s carry the torch of reform onward and upward. Let’s pick up the ball and run with it. Let’s put an end to ludicrous metaphors like these. (I sense yet another campaign...)

Watch this space.

Council Meeting doesn’t seem to be a light-hearted enough way of referring to our out-of-school shenanigans so I’ve been giving some thought as to how we can develop our relationships now that their raison d’etre (The Old Nightshift) has disappeared. It occurs to me that we might (for example) call ourselves the Fulwell Mill Rabbit Society, the Armstrong Vickers Dahlia Group or the Coquetdale Underwater Golf Club. What do you think? Any other suggestions? (Keep it clean and decent.)

Whatever...please don’t forget that the AGM is on Thursday 26 February from 1800 in the Coffee Lounge on the second floor of the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle. Bring your grandchildren and teach them a lesson they'll never forget.

...elephants are the only animals with four knees... the coriolus effect - whereby the direction in which the water goes down the plughole depends on which hemisphere the plughole is in - is a myth...

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I found these lovely little pictures on the Internet. For me, you can keep your peacocks, your birds-of-paradise, your great crested grebes and your red-throated divers, handsome though they all might be. For me, the real bird of paradise is the humble chaffinch. What goodlooking guys they are!

One of the ways I describe getting a job at BBC Radio Newcastle is ‘by default’ - no-one else at the time happened to write a letter with quite the same appallingly self-confident and arrogant overtones as mine. Another phrase I use is that I ‘reversed into it’, because in many ways it really was pure accident - a genuine fluke - that got me to over the threshold of the Pink Palace all those years ago.

To keep my head together (as we used to say in those far off days of 1999) I had written a book about local place-names. The publisher had sent a ‘review copy’ (as they’re called) to BBC Radio Newcastle and it fell into the reluctant hands of Murphy Cobbing, the producer of Julia Hankin’s afternoon programme. A couple of days later there was a message from her on my answering machine. Her name sounded like Mercy Clubbing so - unlikely as it seemed to me that anyone would ever have a name like that - I returned the call, asking for Mercy Clubbing.

Despite this deeply embarrassing faux-pas, Murphy invited me onto Julia’s show to do a phone-in about local place-names - and my illustrious (albeit cruelly curtailed) radio career began.

In honour of those first twenty on-air minutes, I’d like to dedicate a new regular feature of the blog to Julia. What’s in a (place) name...

I guess I must begin with Newcastle, the only place in England to have had (not one, not two, but) three completely unrelated and unconnected names. It was founded by the Romans, of course, who built a bridge across the Tyne here and called it Pons Aelius, ‘the bridge of Aelius’. Aelius was Hadrian’s family name. The Swing Bridge is on the site of this original Roman structure. As a matter of curiosity, they reckon that a few scant parts of it are still visible - but I don’t believe a word of it.

After the departure of the legions, the settlement of Pons Aelius fell into disuse, although the bridge itself lasted for several centuries after that. New Anglo-Saxon settlers were quick to take advantage of the town’s ruins, though - although they must have been religious men because they called it Monkchester, ‘Roman fort of the monks’.

It was only when the (by then) ancient ruins of the fort were overlain with a ‘new castle’ in the 12th century that the city finally gained its third name - and the name by which it has been known ever since.

As matter of trivial interest, I discovered only recently - by way of a letter from a listener - that the full name of the city should be written without hyphens; thus Newcastle upon Tyne, not Newcastle-upon-Tyne, although I have absolutely no idea how these things are determined. There must be a committee.

And note that upon, not on. I suppose that it’s all down to what’s known to language buffs as ‘custom and usage’; Stockton is on Tees but Berwick is upon Tweed.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that these distinctions are unimportant. Stoke-upon-Trent and Stoke-on-Trent are two different places. Even weirder, though, is the fact that the former is actually a part of the latter. You work it out...

There are apparently at least 21 places in the world called Newcastle, including at least three others in the UK alone ( - one of which is ‘under Lyme’; don’t ask). Perhaps the best-known is the one near Sydney in Australia, where The Old Nightshift had a family of listeners.

If there’s a place-name you’re curious about, or would like to feature here, get in touch.

Don't forget that the next Truckshunters Council Meeting is at 1800 or thereafter on Thursday 26 February in the Coffee Lounge of the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle. I'm still not sure how they are going to develop but I have already decided that the one after next (in March) will be a daytime Meeting in the cafe of the Winter Gardens in Sunderland. Watch this space.

...King Henry VIII had a 52-inch waist.

In the last few days of The Old Nightshift, I invited any listeners who wanted to stay in contact with me to get in touch. I’m gratified that so many people did exactly that. What has amazed me is that so many of them had never contacted me before. They had listened as I joined Paul on his Saturday morning programme, moved on to Traffic and Travel, got my own programme with Roots of the North-East and became a roving presenter on the Big Blue Bus. And all that time, they had listened in silence (as it were), finally putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard only to say goodbye and good luck. I can tell you that the old tear-ducts were full to overflowing over those last few days.

The point of all this is...I undertook to answer every single letter, card and email personally. If you are one of the many people who have not yet received a reply from me, PLEASE be patient. I promise I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can. You’ve given me a very pleasurable mountain to climb but - honestly - I’m dancing as fast as I can. How’s that for mangled metaphors.

Post comments on this blog or email me: truckshunters@googlemail.com

I’ve just spent a wonderful few days in London with my old friend Brian (the balletmaster; you may have heard me mention him). Weather notwithstanding, it was a lovely and eventful weekend. Brian organised all the food and drink, as well as all the outings (as a good host should) so that, for the entire weekend, I had nothing at all to worry about. Seriously; nothing at all.

I could get used to this ‘enforced idleness’!

The weekend was built around a Royal Ballet performance of La Bayadere at the Royal Opera House. Thanks to one of Brian’s patrons, we were in the front stalls, row E, in seats worth over £70 each. Seventy pounds. Each.

It was a lovely ballet, beautifully performed (as you would expect) - all tutus and tights and the ludicrous posturing that makes classical ballet so utterly irresistible. It liberates you from the humdrum worries and concerns of everyday life in a way that no other art form can even approach. But it does what it does at a price well beyond the reach of those who need its mind-freeing effects most.

It was an ‘interesting’ weekend in all sorts of ways. For example...the journey to Covent Garden on the Underground was a bit of a nightmare. Because there are always engineering and improvement works on the system at weekends, many lines and stations are closed. This means that many thousands of weekend travellers have to use alternative routes - which therefore get much, much busier than normal.

Our train was very crowded indeed; and this had two unexpected and very welcome effects. Firstly - and on a journey of about 35 minutes - no fewer than five people gave up their seats, either to disabled or older people, or to women. Perhaps this should not have surprised me. After all, I lived in London for 15 years and know perfectly well that Londoners are as friendly and considerate as people are anywhere else; often, much more so.

But (let’s face it, folks) it’s extremely uncommon now for people to give up their seats on public transport anywhere in England, let alone in our supposedly inconsiderate and selfish capital city. I honestly cannot remember the last time I witnessed it in our famously friendly north-east.

The other effect of that crowded journey on the tube was even more startling.

I suffer from mild claustrophobia on crowded tube trains, so Brian and I decided to get off the train one stop too early - at Leicester Square. We found a coffee bar (which was, to be honest, almost as crowded) and were slurping our cappuccinos when...

But we need to back-pedal to last October and my trip to Seville. One of the reasons I wanted to visit the city was to renew my acquaintance with a lovely Spanish bloke I met when I lived in Sheffield 25 years ago. And when I say lovely, I mean he was a total stunner. Curly black hair, dark shining wicked eyes, a killer smile...I was besotted.

However, if you have tears to shed, prepare to shed them now.

His name was - wait for it - Manuel; but our love was doomed. He was an exchange student and within six weeks, he had to return to Spain to become a lecturer at the University of Seville, his home town. On the night before he left, he wrote down his address and telephone number and invited me to visit him as soon as I could.

I kept that scrap of paper in my wallet for 25 years. I’m looking at it now.

So - determined to honour a promise made many years ago and also out of a sense of unalloyed curiosity - I made my journey to Seville.

The rest is history - or so I thought. I discovered that Manuel was now a Professor at the University and emailed him. I was astonished when he enthusiastically agreed to meet me.

We met at the foot of La Giralda (see the picture at the head of Blog 101) and our minds instantly became uninhibited, joyful and liberated dust to be blown from the present to the past, where they do things differently.

That was last October.

Fast-forward now to last Saturday. Brian and I are in the coffee-bar at Leicester Square. And a familiar figure is pushing through the crowds towards us. A familiar, seductive smile.


I have absolutely no idea what the odds against this happening actually are. Both of us away from home meeting - by pure coincidence - on a cold, wet Saturday night in the same coffee-bar in a city of 6 million souls. Just think of the long series of events that lead up to it. I think it must be the strongest and strangest coincidence of my life. So far.

Even stranger, to a certain extent, is the fact that neither of us would have recognised the other if we had not already met in Seville a few months earlier. After all, 25 years changes people quite a lot, you know.

I’m not sure how these Council Meetings are going to progress but...just in case anyone fancies a coffee and iced finger later this month, I’ve decided that the next meeting will be on THURSDAY 26 FEBRUARY. I will be in the Coffee Lounge upstairs at the Tyneside Cinema in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle after about 1800. Even if no-one turns up, I'll stay there until 2000. I like it there!

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Now all the times - now that they are over - are bunched together like swarming wasps that will not let me be. At least not yet. Not just yet at any rate. Everyone says it will take time. And time is unarguably what there is a plentiful supply of now.

Isn’t it true that you are old when the past - all those aeons of days, months, years - seem to be concertina’ed into a confusing and unrecollectable hornets’ nest whereas the future, which should be the unpredictable and exciting path of adventure and discovery, yawns unwelcomely ahead of you, featureless and unpeopled...

All the days of the past become one composite and confusing memory...

So just in case I ever forget what the privilege and pride of doing the job was like - and I will forget, because Old Age brings forgetfulness in its wake...

Three - yes three - alarm clocks to make sure I don’t linger too long in the arms of Orpheus (or should that be Morpheus?) and only one of them a real clockwork clock just in case the batteries in the other two should somehow give up the ghost and die on me in the same night...

Ablutions then coffee without waking up the whole house at five o’clock in the morning ...realising yet again that there are TWO five o’clocks each day and that this is the antisocial one...lumbering down the stairs in the dark with unseen cats trying to force a detour...

Scrunching down the garden path, this time risking the sleepy wrath of the entire neighbourhood because Nigel (downstairs, who has taken charge of garden development) decided to lay a gravel path, which at this hour - and whenever anybody is somnolent enough to walk on it - makes a noise roughly equivalent to Gateshead Marshalling Yards at the height of the Railway Age...

The morning air...by turns chilly, damp, frosty, rainy, cool, snowy, warm. And the morning itself...by turns bright, clear, cloudy, dark, sunny, twilit, dim, hazy, crisp, empty. Always empty. Or almost empty...

But not quite totally empty. Who is the bloke in the striped jacket on Westgate Road every morning at this unearthly hour? Why is there ALWAYS a taxi parked by the lights at the end of Brighton Grove? Are those really taxi drivers playing kickabout in Nuns Moor Park at half-past five of a summer morning? Who is the girl not risking much by cycling without lights down Barrack Road as I drive across the junction?

The Pink Palace...

The security man doing his tenth crossword of the night...Mike Parr standing by the lobby photocopier with the morning’s Front Pages...’Good morning, young Mike’...through the doors and round the corner into the Newsroom...vast, empty, neon-lit, overcrowded, computer-terminalled, disorganised, friendly...posters, magazines, papers, paper, pens (never, never pens), old books, new books, printers, paper, desks, broken chairs, carpet squares held down with masking tape...

What else must I try to remember - or at least, remember not to forget?

Railton - who has forgotten more about ‘driving’ a radio programme than anyone else will ever know - is busy already...nobody would be surprised to learn that he never goes home...Howe’s Fishing...’can I trouble you for this week’s lottery money, Ian’...how much is that now, Railton? How much voluntary tax has yours truly invested in Good Causes? ‘It Could Be You But It Almost Certainly Won’t Be’...more people are kicked to death by donkeys than win the lottery...here’s my £2, Railton...

Ah yes. The accumulating pre-programme tension in the pit of the stomach. Ten to six. Running order ready. Freda Paine, Take That, Duffy, Snow Patrol, George Michael, Barry White. And Elton John. Ah yes Elton John. Trails and idents ready. ‘A passion for north-east life: BBC Radio Newcastle.’ All of it waiting to pounce into the airwaves. To fly and be gone. Waiting for the Go button to be hit. To Go and be Gone...

What other routines will fade with time, scrambling for memory space? Opening up the daily wodge of emails...lists, trivia, rebukes, congratulations, anecdotes, memories, jokes, pleas (impassioned or not), votes of confidence or no confidence...

And questions and more questions...

Ian - why, o why do you say twenty oh nine and not two thousand and nine?

Ian - why do you say Nooburn and not Nyooburn?

Ian - why don’t you ever play any Guy Mitchell or Rolf Harris?

Ian - why did you tell that joke about the male stripper and the hoover salesman? It just wasn’t funny.

Ian - why did you not mention the 67th anniversary of the three-pin plug?

Tension building.

5:58:00. I press a few buttons and suddenly I’m ‘In Control’. I’m in charge of station output... I can say what I like and do what I like ‘live’ on air and everyone will hear me...Such power...Power without responsibility...I wonder I wonder...

Finger poised over the GO button. Everything’s ready. Tracks. Trails. Idents. Links. Charlie’s ready and waiting in her newsreader’s cubby-hole...

Please don’t let me forget any of this. Let me remember the trivial and routine and predictable things of the morning...don’t let any of the last ten mind-boggling years fade away...frenzy, delight, dismay, surprise, shock, privilege, pleasure, laughter, wit, words, music, life and love...

Right index finger hovering over the Go button...News jingle all set.



'Good morning! It’s Wednesday the twenty-eighth of January and you’re listening to Ian Robinson’s Nightshift on Radio Newcastle - the BBC for the north-east. It’s coming up to six o’clock right now; which means it’s time for the early breakfast news... '

And this morning the job, though not even started, is done.




A very VERY big thankyou to to everyone who recklessly took the metaphorical bull by the horns and turned out for last Friday’s first post-apocalyptic Council Meeting. It was a hoot and I hope and suspect that everyone present enjoyed it as much as I did - especially as that wicked and capricious rapscallion Paul Wappat had the temerity to arrive halfway through the proceedings. The photo above was taken by him (which is why it’s a bit fuzzy). Vivienne's pictures are much better; I'll post some of them next time - to tempt even more truckshunters to the next Meeting.

My thanks to everyone who played their part in arranging this one. I can’t wait for the next one...
Speaking of which, how about holding our second Meeting towards the end of February? 25th? 26th? March 2nd? And how about a venue in Newcastle? Tyneside Cinema coffee room/bar? A little earlier, too. About 1800? We need to discuss our very first outing - or ‘shunt’! Any votes for the snowdrop display at Howick Hall? Or will we be too late?

As I mentioned on-air, my friend Kathy suggested that it might be a good idea to arrange a special trip for myself on the day after I finished at the BBC. I could see the obvious logic of this and promptly booked return tickets to York for Thursday 29th. Because, even though I profess to be an admirer (rather than a knowledgeable enthusiast) for trains, engines, locomotives and such, I had never visited the National Railway Museum.

So that’s where I spent my first day of unemployment!

It’s the largest railway museum on Earth - which is exactly as it should be, all things considered - and I don’t really know where to start in describing it. Suffice to say that the personal audio tour takes three hours. There are freight trains, royal trains, milk trains, post trains. The shinkansen (the Japanese bullet train) sits within yards of Eurostar emerging from a tunnel, a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket and the record-breaking Mallard ‘streak’. My favourite engine - the LMS Black Five - is there in all its shiny black-polished glory alongside the humblest of little colliery tank engines. They even have the footbridge from Percy Main station on Tyneside.

And if you’ve been, you’ll know exactly how impossible it is to describe that part of the museum called the Warehouse. So I won’t even try... (Are there degrees of impossibility?)

If, on the other hand, you haven’t visited the museum yet, then do as I did and fill the gaping hole in your experience of the world and its wonders by dashing there post-haste. You won’t regret it.

On second thoughts, it could be a singularly appropriate venue for one of our Shunts, couldn’t it?

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I promise not to go on endlessly about The Last Nightshift but...

As well as the Elbow track at the end, quite a few people have asked about my closing words on the programme. They were sent to me by Tony (from Fenham) and I decided, as soon as I read them, that they were unimprovable...

As you grow up, you learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to ever let you down probably will.
You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it's harder every time.
You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken.
You'll fight with your best friend.
You'll blame a new love for things an old one did.
You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love.
So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt - because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back.

Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin!

Thankyou, Tony.

(The picture, by the way, is a time-lapse lighthouse photograph.)
Amazing pavement art (above) ...
Does anyone know where the picture above was taken?

The best puffin picture EVER...
It's a funny old world...

I've temporarily withdrawn my blogposting 120 because it seems to have created entirely the wrong impression. It was intended to convey a sense of Wow that was fun / I'll miss you / What an awesome experience that was / I hope I never ever forget any of it / It's going to take a while to readjust...

One blogreader, however, interpreted it as a description of me 'going through hell', which is emphatically not where I am right now (as those who attended the first Council Meeting last Friday night will testify).

I'll do some tinkering and re-post it later.

I must be losing my touch - assuming I ever had a touch to lose!