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


Vivienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vivienne said...

Hi Ian,

I've very much enjoyed reading post 123, with your interesting facts about Newcastle, and your early days at Radio Newcastle. I had a good laugh at 'Mercy Clubbing'!

As I was born in Jarrow and lived there for many years, please will you explain where Jarrow's name originated?

Many thanks,

Vivienne xxx

ps. I hope I haven't made any mistakes on this Comment. I had to delete the first. Sorry!

mim said...

Hi Ian,

As an adopted Geordie that was very interesting. I love Newcastle especially the buildings.

My friend Phill has a 52 inch waist, wait until I tell him who else had!!

What have you been doing recently any more trips planned?

Love Margaret x

Vivienne said...

Good morning folks!

And what a great morning it has been! I had at least SIX Waxwings in my garden this morning, feeding on rosehips and drinking in the bird-bath. This has been my first sighting of waxwings in Winlaton since moving into my house in 1996.
I ran for my camera but only captured them at a distance before they flew off. I've enlarged one of the birds for my profile, but the colours don't do it justice.

Ellie said...

Good afternoon, everyone
I love 123 - and it brought back memories of listening to Radio Newcastle yonks ago. I hadn't realised how long I have been a listener ~ Heavens!
Telling about how many 'Newcastles' there are in the world reminded me of my childhood. We (My mother, my sister and me) left Newcastle upon Tyne when I was 7 years old and travelled to Newcastle in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. My father was stationed there and we went to join him. It was a fabulous posting. A year later we came back and, crossing the High Level bridge knew we were home. That was such a good feeling.
Sorry to prattle on, but I thought you wouldn't mind if I shared this with you.
You see, Ian, you have stimulated such memories with your writing.

Vivienne said...

Hi Ellie,

Don't worry about prattling on. We all do it from time to time. Anyway I was interested to learn you'd lived in Jamaica. That must have been a wonderful experience. I've been on holiday to Barbados but not Jamaica, but I guess they're pretty similar in many ways. I found the Bajans to be very friendly folk, the beaches were covered in soft fine coral sand and the sea was most inviting - cold, but ok once you took the plunge! The pace of living seemed very laid back, although most of the folk we met worked long hours, with little or no paid holidays. However, as the people we spoke with were in the tourist industry others may have different working conditions.

Although I feel really cold today, despite the temperature forecast to be about 9 degrees, I do like the different seasons. I would miss the snow, spring flowers and burnished Autumn shades.

Have you heard anymore about your job/ redundancies? I hope your boss decides s/he can't do without you.

Vivienne said...

Hi again folks!

I've received an email from Inga and she's thinking of all of you. She was just finishing her packing before setting off for Florida. She's taking her laptop in the hope she can get a connection and keep in touch. If not, Inga should be back on 27th Feb.

Have a lovely holiday Inga and Wendell. xxx

Hildie said...

Morning everyone!
I enjoyed the tale of Murphy Cobbing, Ian! We could do with another accident of fate to get you back on the airwaves. You stayed there for ten years for a reason, you know. People out there do miss you and are sad you've gone .... it's not just us, I googled
'digital spy ian robinson nightshift' the other day,
and people on that website were discussing you. I've sent an email to Radio York ... see if they've got anything going for a whizzy
presenter! My radio is still feeling very empty.
That's just the best news about Inga, Vivienne! It's good to know she's off on her holidays .... that means things must be very much back to normal for her now.

Vivienne said...

Hi Hildie,

I'm sorry to say Inga's homeland is not back to normal by a long way. She's told me it feels like living in the Third World. All the birds and deer have disappeared and she's worried they won't return. The power is back on now but everything has been repaired in a rush, so some of the poles aren't secure, and could fall over in the wind. If that happens their power will go off again.

I think it's good that Inga is taking a holiday right now, so she can have a break from the devastation. When she gets online I'm sure she'll explain in more detail.

That's interesting about digital spy Hildie, I haven't heard of it.

I've been to Gibside today doing my voluntary work in Renwick's Bookshop. It's the Grand Opening this weekend so I'll post details on M&D.

For newcomers who may not have heard of M&D the blog ID is:


I set up M&D while Ian was taking a break from blogging, and everyone is welcome to call in, look around, and post some Comments. It's still up and running.

I want to scan in the National Trust, Gibside poster for Renwick's Bookshop opening. I'll also post some photos, so please give me a day to sort out the new posting.

Vivienne said...

Hi again!

I've just updated my profile with a photo of the Stable Block at Gibside where Renwick's Bookshop is situated. If you click on the photo you'll get a better view of the building. I will be posting it on M&D where you may click on any of the pictures for enlargements.

At present the bookshop is open from 11.00am - 3.00pm, although the Gibside estate remains open until 4.00pm. We're still on winter opening times. We sell light refreshments in the bookshop, so you can have a hot cuppa while you browse or still and relax. We have to keep chasing out the friendly chickens though!

Vivienne said...

That was supposed to read, 'Sit and relax' not still and relax! Sorry!

Ian Robinson said...

I haven't heard of 'digital spy' either, Hildie. And now you've told us about it, I daren't look!!...And aren't waxwings LUVLY...

Sid said...

Hello everyone, I hope you are all keeping well.
DigitalSpy is well named, and well worth a look. Its amazing what you can find out. Go on Ian have a look, you've nothing to fear.
I liked the info about the bookshop Vivienne, might have to call in and browse the gardening section one of these days. Does the coffee come with a chocolate digestive....

Maureen said...

Hi everyone, just popping in to tell you I'm back. I've missed you all. I hope that you are all well.
You've all been busy haven't you? I'm just catching up on the news and emails. I will reply as soon as possible if anyone's waiting for one from me.
Good to hear that Inga's having a holiday, I hope that her homecoming isn't too bad. Spring's on it's way hopefully!
Welcome to any 'newbies' that I haven't already said hello to, it's lovely to have some new friends to 'chat' to.
Ian, I miss your programme so much. I was wondering if we can still send you jokes, trivia etc the way we used to? I've got some amazing pictures from those awful fires in Melbourne that I thought you might like to see, and how about our (and your!)'ones at one', maybe you would consider posting them for us? I miss all those little bits that made up such a wonderful show and I'm sure that everyone else does.
Phew! Ok, that's me back with a vengence, over to someone else now!

Ellie said...

Good evening everyone -
a quick note before I retire (as I get up so early!)
Vivienne: thank you for the encouragement and yes, Jamaica was very interesting for me even at 7 yrs old ~ I learned a huge amount just being there and seeing things which were amazing for a child.
However, the birds in this country are fascinating. I have a flock of about 30 goldfinches that use the feeders I have up in the back as well as a huge number of crows and jackdaws that feed on the ground followed by lots of collard doves and some wood pigeons. However the starlings that appear are fabulously clever and I could go on but I wont. All this started years ago to entertain my house cats who sit in the window and watch with whiskers twitching away ....hmmmm
I will know more about redundancy next week.
Maureen - welcome back. Glad you are up and running again.
Signs of spring coming up all over the place - yipeee..
on that happy note I will bid you all a very good night x