BIRD OF PARADISE...
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!
WHAT’S IN A NAME...
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.
THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING
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.
THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU DIDN’T KNOW: I
...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.
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