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...

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


Ellie said...

Hello Ian - A fascinating 'trivia' article and coincidence reigns. I'd heard about the decline in our cauli so had it for lunch on Sunday, along with fresh sprouts etc. Yummy!
Fascination 2: Birds' instinct - just like the question 'How does the Cuckoo know where to fly?' I was watching a blackbird build a nest last year and the question occurred ~ who teaches them to build nests? I've never heard of anyone (Including Bill Oddie) saying they saw a blackbird being taught how to build a nest! When you think how much stuff WE have to be taught, then it is all the more amazing, methinks. Remarkable creatures are birdies....
Enjoy the meeting on Thursday, everyone and I'm sorry I can't be there.
Have to go and feed my pussycats x

Hildie said...

Loving your work, Ian! I've been missing the nightly dose of trivia I used to feed on! I've even stopped going looking for it, as there didn't seem to be a purpose to it any more, once "The Nightshift" ended. However, maybe I should get looking again.
I'm ashamed to say I've never been to Tanfield Railway .... and it's virtually on my doorstep.
My daughter, who lives in Manchester, sent some pictures of a steam train to my phone at the weekend. She and her boyfriend had travelled by steam train to Ramsbottom. Just for the fun of it!
Chris and I will be there Thursday. How could we forget?

Sid said...

Cauliflowers and other things vegetable are right up my street. I'm lucky enough to have had my allotment for about 40 years.
Robert Montgomery used to be the biggest cauliflower farmer in Kent. He gave up growing them at the end of 2006. He offered as a reason the fact that cheap imports from abroad and the low price from supermarkets meant it was no longer profitable to grow them. He must have been thinking about this for a while, for on his farmland a new project is now underway. It is called 'Thanet Earth Project'.
Seven greenhouses are being built, each the size of 10 football pitches. When they are completed next year they will grow 1.3 million tomato plants, along with peppers and cucumbers. With the use of artificial lighting they intend to produce crops all the year round.
Mr Montgomerys farm used to employ 10-20 people, depending on the time of year. This enterprise will employ 550 people.
Whether the tomato's will taste as good as mine remains to be seen...

Hildie said...

I'd give your tomatoes a fair trail, Sid!
I've just returned from school where I do my voluntary session on Tuesdays. While I was in the library, listening to some children reading, there were other children walking past us, carrying roses they had made. Being naturally curious, I went to ask the their teacher why they had been making roses. He told me that tomorrow the children are going on a trip to Beamish Museum and they are going to sing "Lead, Kindly Light"
(in the chapel there) and are going to lay their roses in memory of the 168 men and boys who were
killed in the Burns Pit Disaster of 1909. They are also going down the mine. It seems that the twenty seven men who survived had sung "Lead, Kindly Light" as they had made their way out of the mine.
I've read so much about it since I came home that I could have done a Doorstep Session!!
Apparently, the rescuers had no idea how many men and boys they were looking for. During the inquest, however, the inspectors made the simple suggestion that every man should in future be issued with a numbered disc that had to be handed in before entering the mine. This suggestions was adopted by every colliery in Britain and, in fact, I think it was made law..... so that never again would rescuers not know how many men they were trying to find.
I was very tempted to volunteer to go on the trip tomorrow but, unfortunately, I suffer badly from claustrophobia and would not have been able to go down the mine. I've only been brave enough to mention that because Ian mentioned about his claustrophobia when he told us how he miraculously bumped into Manuel on the London Tube the other week.
My claustrophobia affects my ability to travel .... I am afraid I'm only able to travel on B-Roads - put me in a car on a motorway or a dual carriageway and I get panic attacks and have to breath into a paper bag! My doctor says this is mild aggrophobia but it feels like claustrophobia to me - I feel trapped and want to escape. Aren't I strange?! Some of you may remember me asking on the blog if anyone knew a route from Dipton to
Newbiggin by the Sea that went via B-Roads, I haven't really found it yet. But that's why I was asking.
I don't think I'll get to The Winter Gardens at Sunderland!!!
Apologies for going off at a tangent! I've drifted off from Sid's tomatoes and that cauliflower farmer in Kent!

Sid said...

No apology needed Hildie. You gave me a timely reminder of such a terrible tragedy.

Maureen said...

Some really interesting information on this blog isn't there? I can't really add anything except a well done all round. Hildie, if the old railway lines had still been in existance you could have had a backer on one of the coal trucks down to the side of the Wearmouth Bridge! So much for progress!

Neville said...

Good to see Ian at the Tanfield Steam Railway on Sunday. He enjoyed a "cuppa" and stean train ride through the wintry landscape of the Causey Woods. The warmest of welcomes is extended to the dear blog readers and friends, to visit us and experience the atmosphere of days gone by. Steam hauled train sevices operate every Sunday throughout the year, also bank holidays and cetain days during the summer school holidays.
Good wishes to all
Neville Whaler

Vivienne said...

Hi Folks,

Neville, I thoroughly enjoyed our trip on the Tanfield Railway a few years ago, when a party from the day centre where I worked were lucky to have glorious sunshine during our excursion. It was a truly lovely day.

Maureen said...

Hi All,
Just popped on to say that I hope you have a good time today, looking forward to seeing the pics. Behave yourselves mind!

Vivienne said...

Hi Ian,

Sorry but I may not get to the Tyneside Cinema Cafe tonight. I'd arranged to meet my sister at Rheged at lunch time, but she's been delayed and won't get there until 3ish. She's driving from Birmingham back home to Scotland, and it was a chance to see her when she breaks her journey. I'll try to get there to see you all if the traffic is ok by then. I've heard there are long queues on the A69.

Hildie said...

Afternoon all! I'm busy sorting out those tape-recordings of 'Nightshift' and 'Blue Bus'
programmes at the moment.
See you in a little while
.......we got an agenda?!!