Robinson’s off on his travels again tomorrow - just for a day or two, though. I’m going to be spending some time with my old friend Kathy in Chesterfield; she’s the lass I went to Seville with last autumn and I haven’t really seen her since then.

But before I go, a quick but nevertheless heartfelt Hello to Kev. Most truckshunters will know that Kev was a stalwart of The Nightshift throughout its short bright rise into the radio firmament - as it were. Almost every programme was peppered with Kev’s puzzles, trivia, solutions, jokes, anecdotes.

Well, just to remind you of the sheer class of his contributions, here’s something he sent me a few days ago.


The Children's Bible in a Nutshell

In the beginning, which occurred near the start, there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas. The Bible says, 'The Lord thy God is one, but I think He must be a lot older than that.

Anyway, God said, 'Give me a light!' and someone did.

Then God made the world.

He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren't embarrassed because mirrors hadn't been invented yet.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden of Eden.....Not sure what they were driven in though, because they didn't have cars.

Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother as long as he was Abel.

Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something.

One of the next important people was Noah, who was a good guy, but one of his kids was kind of a Ham. Noah built a large boat and put his family and some animals on it. He asked some other people to join him, but they said they would have to take a rain check.

After Noah came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was more famous than his brother, Esau, because Esau sold Jacob his birthmark in exchange for some pot roast. Jacob had a son named Joseph who wore a really loud sports coat.

Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name was Charlton Heston. Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from the evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh's people. These plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable.

God fed the Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then he gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include: don't lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbour's stuff.

Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humour thy father and thy mother.

One of Moses' best helpers was Joshua who was the first Bible guy to use spies. Joshua fought the battle of Geritol and the fence fell over on the town.

After Joshua came David. He got to be king by killing a giant with a slingshot. He had a son named Solomon who had about 300 wives and 500 porcupines. My teacher says he was wise, but that doesn't sound very wise to me.

After Solomon there were a bunch of major league prophets. One of these was Jonah, who was swallowed by a big whale and then barfed up on the shore.

There were also some minor league prophets, but I guess we don't have to worry about them.

After the Old Testament came the New Testament. Jesus is the star of The New. He was born in Bethlehem in a barn. (I wish I had been born in a barn too, because my mom is always saying to me, 'Close the door! Were you born in a barn?' It would be nice to say, 'As a matter of fact, I was.')

During His life, Jesus had many arguments with sinners like the Pharisees and the Democrats.

Jesus also had twelve opossums.

The worst one was Judas Asparagus. Judas was so evil that they named a terrible vegetable after him.

Jesus was a great man. He healed many leopards and even preached to some Germans on the Mount.

But the Democrats and all those guys put Jesus on trial before Pontius the Pilot. Pilot didn't stick up for Jesus. He just washed his hands instead.

Kev’s ‘wit and wisdom of schoolkids’ doesn’t stop there, either. His next contribution featured a schoolteacher who gave the first parts of several proverbs to her class, inviting the kids to complete each proverb.

Try your hand at these.
What do you think the kids made of them?
* Don't change horses until...
* Strike while the...
* It's always darkest before...
* Never underestimate the power of...
* You can lead a horse to water but...
* Don't bite the hand that...
* No news is...
* A miss is as good as...
* You can't teach an old dog new...
* If you lie down with dogs, you'll...
* The pen is mightier than...
* Where there's smoke there's...
* A penny saved is...
* Two's company, three's...
* Don't put off till tomorrow what you...
* Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you...
* There are none so blind as...
* Children should be seen and not...
* If at first you don't succeed...
* A bird in the hand is...

The funniest completion wins nothing but the appreciation of fellow-truckshunters.

...that the next AGM will be at 1100 onwards on Wednesday 22 April at The Secret Garden and Birkheads Nursery, near Sunniside, Beamish and the Tanfield Railway.

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

As everyone knows, St Rita is the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. Naturally, this immediately makes her by far the best qualified Saint to be Patron of this blog. After all, no cause has ever been loster. A few weeks ago, therefore, I officially adopted her as our ‘mascot’ and St Rita is now, I imagine, the very first truckshunting saint in the history of hagiography.

I’ve also adopted her because, knowing a Lost Cause when I see one, I have made it my business to take under my voluminous wings - and fight the good fight on behalf of - some of the less well-publicised campaigns of recent history. I have to admit that my efforts so far have been a complete and utter waste of time. Not one of the causes for which I become so heated and animated has even made it to the local paper, let alone to Questions In The House. The need for St Rita is glaringly obvious.

Well, I’m about to give her her first assignment. Tonight I will be kneeling by my bed as usual, hands clasped together. But that’s another story...

Afterwards, I will say a prayer to St Rita about...

...Changing Some Sports Rules.

A listener to the Blue Bus programme once called in to ask why the points awarded in the football leagues - Premiership and Championship and so on - were so complicated. Why, he asked, aren’t points awarded simply according to the goals scored by each team. Thus, in a match ending Sunderland 4 - Newcastle 2, Sunderland would get 4 points and Newcastle 2. Because the call was about football, it was instantly ignored. But I thought about it during a subsequent idle moment and even mentioned it on-air a week or so later.

No-one has come up with a sustainably good reason why our listener's idea should not be adopted. After all, a point for every goal would encourage more goals, which ought to be what everyone wants from the game. So why isn’t the system adopted?

So there’s some cudgels for St Rita to take up.

(What are cudgels? Do they ever come in ones? And why do we invite people to ‘take them up’?)

Here’s another. Why are tennis players allowed to serve wrong? I can’t think of any other sport (not that my knowledge is by any means exhaustive) where players are permitted a foul shot with no penalty. So why lawn tennis? If the rules were changed so that players had to get their first serves in, the pace of the game would pick up and there would be far fewer one-shot rallies. Am I making myself clear?

Go for it, St Rita.

And thirdly....

In all innocence, I once asked an enthusiastic golf-playing BBC reporter why men and women didn’t compete together in that tedious and graceless 'game'. He looked at me as if I had just uttered the most depraved and appalling innuendoes about his mother. Realising I may just have touched a raw nerve - perhaps his mother had once asked him the same question - I asked him again.

Why don’t men and women play competitive golf together?

The answer, of course, is because the men are afraid of losing to the women. Personally, I cannot understand why anyone would ever wish to play golf. There are, after all, far better ways of spending time - like watching a fridge defrost, having your toenails torn out or dying. However, for those benighted women who do wish to do so - and against men - the way is barred and looks as if it always will be. The kind of humourless, lugubrious and vapid men who play golf are the least likely men of all to admit to being inveterate cowards when it comes to competing against - or even with - the 'ladies'.

St Rita has a truly sisyphean struggle with that one.

To be honest, I don’t give St Rita much of a chance with any of these changes - specially on the golf course. But you never know. Stranger things have happened. Well, almost.

Vivienne - who took the AGM picture above - has also sent me the text of this lovely letter, apparently written by a Hampshire farmer to the Secretary of State in 2007. Enjoy.

Dear Secretary of State,
My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the 'not rearing pigs' business.
In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy.
I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?
As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?
My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968.
That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.
If I get £ 3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100?
I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year.
As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department.
Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?
Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?
I am also considering the 'not milking cows' business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the current Defra advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?
In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits.
I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.
Yours faithfully...

..will take place from 1100 onwards on Wednesday 22 April at Birkheads Nursery and Secret Garden (which is near Sunniside, Beamish and the Tanfield Railway).

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


The third of our post-apocalyptic AGMs took place as planned last Saturday. And what an AGM it turned out to be...

(Incidentally, a number of intrepid - not to say foolhardy - folk have dared to raise their heads above the parapet to point out to me that AGMs, by definition, should occur only once a year. I am not stupid enough not to see that a case can, indeed, be made for such a thing. AGM is, after all, an abbreviated form of Annual General Meeting and built-in to that phrase is the word Annual which, I have been led to understand, means 'once a year'.

But it’s not quite as simple as that, is it? Regular truckshunters will be aware that one of the many bees buzzing around in my bonnet (not that I’ve worn any such thing for many years) is the malleable and ductile qualities of the English language; sometimes these are manifest in the way it is pronounced (woe/shoe; limb/climb; go/do) and sometimes in the way that some words change their meaning over time, almost by popular demand. Thus decimate originally meant 'to reduce BY a tenth' and not 'TO a tenth'; silly once meant 'blessed by God'; and a deer was once any animal at all and not just a deer.

In the same way, I believe that it’s time for abbreviations to join the huge throng of unpredictabilities that bedevil our native tongue and make it so damnably difficult for Johnny Foreigner to learn. After all, if DVD can be a pure invention and not mean anything at all, if the S of Harry S Truman can stand for absolutely nothing - then the meaning of AGM can be altered at the whim of whoever happens to be using it. In this case, me.

Thus, from now on, AGMs can take place as often as the people involved in them want them to.

End of story...

Now where was i?)

Saturday was, of course, the first day of Spring and Mother Nature was benevolent enough to give us a really lovely day to mark it with. When I arrived in Sunderland the sun was shining, it was pleasantly warm and there was a spring (if you pardon the pun) in my step. Yes, even in Sunderland.

I got my coffee in the Winter Gardens cafe, went out onto the south-facing terrace and took out my paper in the half-expectation that no truckshunters would bother to turn up.

How could I have been so wrong? Hildie turned up. And Vivienne. And...

J Arthur Smallpiece turned up too.

Yes, I know. J Arthur Smallpiece.

He actually turned up on Saturday afternoon in Sunderland. He really exists. He was not, after all, a figment of our collective imagination. No-one who lives in Jesmond and has a dog called Polly can be entirely imaginary. And the mystery man who sent me those astonishingly literate and complex poems which so often reduced me to tears of laughter finally revealed himself and, in so doing, put me out of my misery. Because, joking apart, one of my biggest regrets on the day I left the BBC in January was that I would never find out who J Arthur Smallpiece was.

Well now I know. And so do you; that’s him up there.

Hello Gerry and welcome to the truckshunter fold.

Like I said before, it turned out to be quite an afternoon. I don’t think either Hildie or Vivienne or I have got over the revelation yet!

It’s inspired us, though, to make the next AGM even specialler. It’s going to take place at 1100 on Wednesday 22 April at Birkheads Nursery and Secret Garden, which is near Sunniside and the Tanfield Railway.

More about that nearer the time. For the present, put it in your diary and try very hard to make arrangements to be there!!!

Incidentally, the monument that Vivienne and Hildie are standing next to is the memorial to the Victoria Hall 'Calamity' (as the inscription calls it) which took place nearby in June 1883 and in which 183 children died. We've mentioned it on The Nightshift, and on the Blue Bus programme before it - many times.

Speaking of the vagaries of the English language...I got involved in another of my infernal arguments the other day and have undertaken to accept your arbitration decision as final. So - what is the difference between jealousy and envy????

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

Just because I’m not presenting my usual inane style of radio programme doesn’t mean that I can’t carry on celebrating St Cuthbert’s Day as I have done every year for as long as I can remember - well, since 1999 when Mike Tickell came on-air and pointed out the significance of the date. Long live the Northumbrian Association - and HAPPY ST CUTHBERT’S DAY.

(That first sentence contained three negatives in a row. Sorry about that.)

I was trying to dream up a way of honouring our national local patron saint; it occurred to me that one of his most endearing and legendary characteristics was his love of wildlife, especially on and near his redoubts on Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands. There was certainly something of St Francis of Assisi about him.

By a strange coincidence, the news this last few days seems to have been full of stories about how animals continue to surprise and even astonish us just when we think we know everything there is to know about them.

So, just in case you missed them, and to honour St Cuthbert, here are some of the best and most recent examples of animal wonderfulness that I could find...

Mayflower, the Shetland pony whose legs are so short that passers-by think she’s sinking in the mud and call the Fire Brigade...
...an otter called Hope who was rescued near Exeter and was kept alive overnight by cuddling up to a teddy-bear...
...the chimpanzee in a Swedish zoo who has taken to gathering small rocks during the night and then hurling them at visitors when the zoo opens in the morning...
...the Thai monkey who had been beaten into harvesting coconuts by his cruel owner until he decided he’d had enough and killed his owner by throwing a coconut at him...
...still in Thailand, there’s Mosha the elephant whose leg was blown off by a landmine when she was a calf - so she was fitted with a prosthetic leg which has now been replaced with a bigger one because she’s fully grown...

...and, for all those ludicrous creationists amongst you - all those religious fundamentalists who insist that homosexuality must be unnatural because God created Nature without it - how about the two handsome mallard drakes in Arundel Wetland Centre who, despite all the efforts of the Centre’s well-meaning staff, have fallen hopelessly in love and become utterly inseparable. There’s something almost terminally endearing about a couple of gay ducks...

Tomorrow, March 21, is the first day of Spring. The place to be at 1400 will be in the cafe of the Sunderland Winter Gardens looking out over Mowbray Park. I'll be there...

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


I only have to mention the word Amsterdam and I can almost hear you groaning with incipient boredom at the thought of me once again singing its praises to the skies. The relaxed atmosphere, the architecture, the culture, the people, the food, the history. And I’m honest enough to admit that you do have a point. In my radio days it really was difficult to the point of impossibility to shut me up when I was waxing lyrical about Amsterdam’s many attractions.

My motives, though, were common enough. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all part of the human condition. If I’m passionately enthusiastic about something - if I discover something that gives me huge amounts of pleasure - I want to shout about it from the rooftops (or on 95.4FM). That’s not just because I want everyone to know how happy I am about my discovery; it’s also because I want everyone else to sample it too; I want everyone to share my passion, enthusiasm and happiness.

Sooner or later, of course, some people actually give in. Last week, Paul finally agreed to accompany me to Amsterdam, as you can see from the photo above (he’s sitting outside De Pieper, a ‘brown cafe’ on Prinsengracht). For two nights, we had a splendid flat in an area known as The Seven Bridges; for those who know the city, it’s near Rembrandtplein.

In such a short time it’s truly impossible to get anything more than a flavour of the city but I did my best to introduce Paul to its delights. And, as you can imagine, we had a great time. I don’t think Paul was quite prepared for exactly how unique Amsterdam is but I thoroughly enjoyed watching his jaw drop again and again as we turned a corner and another splendid canalscape hove into view or we came across another of my favourite ‘brown cafes’.

I missed out on my usual regular visit to Amsterdam last year and it was awesome to be back amongst its friendly streets and alleyways and its equally friendly and unassuming people. And of course I was thrilled to smithereens that my old oppo had finally joined me there and seemed to like it almost as much as me.

I know what you’re thinking, though. What did a dyed-in-the-wool straight bloke make of Amsterdam’s famous - if not notorious - gay scene? What did a married man approaching middle age (sorry, Paul) make of the red light district?

That’s another story altogether...

I overheard a conversation close to my heart while I was travelling home on the bus the other day. The two women in front of me were talking about the street-name Barrack Road - which is where the bus happened to be at the time. Truckshunters will know, of course, that Barrack Road is part of BBC Radio Newcastle’s postal address; as such, I - and every other presenter - have read it out on-air countless times over the years.

And that’s why I was fascinated by my eavesdropped conversation. One of the women was querying ‘Barrack’. Surely, she said, it ought to be ‘Barracks’. Barracks Road. There was, she said, no such thing as a ‘barrack’ in the same way that there’s no such thing as a ‘trouser’ or a ‘scissor’. All of these words, she contended, only existed as plurals. Barracks. Trousers. Scissors.

And she was absolutely right. What amazed me was that, in over ten years of phone-in broadcasting, no-one had ever raised this interesting - though admittedly trivial - question.

..with Tony Hancock and Professor Jimmy Edwards in 1954

I was distressed to hear of the death of Joan Turner last week. I found it even more distressing to discover how many people had never heard of her. Even people of a certain age, who ought to have known better.

Joan Turner was a staple ingredient of my teenage years listening to the Light Programme and watching my Nana’s flickering black-and-white tv. Her classically trained operatic voice was astonishing; her rendition of Puccini’s One Fine Day, from Madama Butterfly, could move you to tears and did.

To me , though, she came into her own when, quite suddenly and in the middle of her performance, she turned to comedy. She poked the cruellest fun I have ever heard at the elitist exclusivity of the world of opera; arias became ludicrous patter-songs and elevated language of the opera lyricist was changed to lewd double-entendre - to devastating effect.

Even better were her impressions of the divas of her day. She had the tearful and emotionally strained wailings of an older Judy Garland off to a T. And I will truly never, ever forget her version of Shirley Bassey’s What Now My Love? which she sang in its original French, Piaf-style, as Et maintenant? (‘And now?’) To find out how she made it funny, you’ll have to find a copy of it for yourself.

Please don’t forget St Cuthbert’s Day on Friday 20 March - the last day of Winter. Spare our local national saint a few moments of your time.

I can tell from your comments to the last blog that you haven’t forgotten the next AGM. I have taken on board your views about the venue. As you know, I chose Sunderland to spread the venues round a bit. For that reason alone, I’m disinclined to change it at this stage. I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed anyone but...it’s far too long since I was in Sunderland and I love the Winter Gardens and Mowbray Park very much. So although the next AGM will be back on Tyneside somewhere, I intend to be in the Winter Gardens cafe at 1400 on Saturday as planned.

But please don’t worry that no-one may turn up. I don’t mind at all. I’ll have my paper and a book to read. And, once in a while, I’ll be able to look up and glance over at that beautiful, big walrus. And then I’ll smile a very big smile.

He’s a truly lovely walrus.

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


There are many ways of describing the kind of experience you can expect to have at a supermarket. Frustrating. Expensive. Self-indulgent. Mildly annoying. But how many people, in all seriousness, have ever experienced something that could be described as uplifting and educational in such a place? Well, it happened to me today...

For those who don't know how we organise ourselves here in England, Morrison's is one of our 'big four' supermarkets. I was doing some 'basics' shopping there earlier today - you know the kind of thing: industrial strength deodorant, mattress protector, lard, anti-ageing toothpaste. As I passed the 'in-store bakery' I noticed a special offer; a large 'Apple and Winter Berry Oat Crumble' for only £1.85. Well, you know me and apples, right? I grabbed it and flung it into my trolley.

But not before looking down the list of ingredients. In a mulled wine sauce (scrummy) and under a crumble topping containing nutmeg, cinnamon and oats (scrumptious) were Bramley apples (yumyummy), cherries (slurrrrrp), blackberries (oo errr missus) and redcurrants (wowie zowie). Oh - and crasins.

Yes - crasins.

Curious, I wheeled my trolley over to the bakery counter and asked them if they could tell me what crasins were. They couldn't because they didn't know. Even though they had - according to the label - just baked something that contained them.

None of the other members of Morrison's staff had the faintest idea what crasins were, either. I asked two shelf-fillers, the fishmonger and the checkout girl (Lucy). The nearest guess I got was that it was a misprint for raisins.

And here's the uplifting and educational bit. When I got home and sampled it, I was delighted to discover that my Apple and Winter Berry Oat Crumble was mouth-wateringly delicious.

Furthermore - and although only one of the four online dictionaries I use included the word - I found out that crasins isn't a misprint at all. I now know what they are.

This story would have been included...

A scientist based in the Wirral is hoping to prove that a 3,000-year-old artificial toe from Egypt is the world's oldest prosthetic body part.

Her name is Jacky Finch and she has spent ages examining the prosthesis. It's made of papier mache and glue just like the things we all used to do in primary school and has stuck snugly to a 50-year-old mummy's foot since 1,000BC - and presumably for some years before that, when she was the other type of mummy.

Jacky has been looking for volunteers who have lost their right big toe, so that she can test an exact model of the prosthesis at the Human Performance Centre in Salford University.

Any volunteers? If so...

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

...don't forget the 'diarise' the next AGM at the Sunderland Winter Gardens on Saturday 21 March at 1400.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo


All art is absurd. (My goodness; I wonder if Oscar Wilde - or one of his more objectionable and declamatory characters - ever said that.) You may, of course, be of the opinion that this statement itself is absurd, or at least a little OTT, and that, if I have a case to make, I’ve already overstated it and thus diminished my chances of winning you over.

Consider this, though. Every time we go to see a play at the theatre - or even watch one on tv - we all engage in a kind of collective lunacy. We know that the people in front of us are not who they are pretending to be. We know that they are acting and that what is happening before our eyes isn’t ‘real’. When we watch EastEnders or go to see the latest Woody Allen movie, we perform a psychological conjuring trick which only human beings are capable of: we suspend our disbelief and allow ourselves to believe in something we know isn’t true.

A moment’s thought tells me that I ought not to have cried at the end of ET; the strangely endearing creature never existed, did not get stranded on Earth, did not die in a suburban American lounge-diner... But, along with almost everyone else who doesn’t have a heart of solid concrete, I wept like a baby, because I willingly suspended my disbelief enough to allow myself to be swept along in whatever direction the skilled and manipulative Spielberg chose to take me.

As far as I am concerned, all art is like this. And the ‘higher’ up the artistic ladder you climb, the worse it gets and the more gullible we become.

Take opera, for instance. All it takes is two rough-cut lengths of balsawood painted to look like trees and the entire audience is willing to ‘pretend’ that there’s a forest up there on the stage. Opera-goers not only accept that people sing their thoughts and feelings to each other but are prepared to become emotionally involved in it all as well.

And ballet is even worse - perhaps the most absurd artform ever developed. The rigid dancing styles, the gestures and mimes, the ludicrous and faintly obscene costumes, the complete lack of a plotline that relates in any way to everyday life. Ballet is so completely stylised that it bears no relationship at all to anything that anyone watching it has ever experienced. Unreality has taken over completely and the extent to which its practitioners are drawn into its world of tights and tutus is aptly illustrated by the fact that Dame Margot Fonteyn’s real - and very unballetic - name was Peggy Hookham.

I’m giving voice to all this because last Saturday night I had the amazing experience of seeing Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle and meeting some of the Principle Dancers afterwards.

In ballet circles, the ‘Trocks’ are an institution. A group of extraordinary ballet dancers who have recognised that ballet is ripe to be taken down a peg or two from its elitist perch and who do so with the grace and panache the artform deserves. Before you can do something badly, you have to learn how to do it well - Les Dawson could play the piano wonderfully well - and the Trocks prove time and again that they know their balletic stuff.

But it’s when they start taking the piss out of ballet’s stuffy conventions that they truly come into their own. On-stage jealousies, ill-disguised dressing-room affairs, missed entrances, wrong steps - they’re all there. And if you haven’t seen the Trocks’ version of The Dying Swan, you haven’t lived.

And perhaps the funniest thing of all is that that they are all men. Check the picture above for proof.

This was the first time I had seen them. If they ever return to the north-east, I’ll be at the front of the ticket queue.

Here are one or two facts about paper...
If the whole world used as much paper as Europe and the USA uses, there wouldn’t be a single tree anywhere on Earth.
In Europe, 60% of the toilet paper we use is manufactured from recycled products. In the USA, this figure is only 2%. For Americans to wipe their arses, trees are cut down in vast numbers.
And speaking of trees...
The world’s largest tree is General Sherman, a sequoia in California; it is 275 ft tall and its base is 102ft around.
The world’s oldest tree - indeed the world’s oldest living inhabitant - is a spruce discovered last year in Sweden; it is an amazing 9,550 years old.
The world’s tallest tree is a coast redwood in California; it’s called Hyperion and stands 380 ft tall.
The tallest tree in Britain is a Douglas fir at Stronardon in Argyllshire; it is 209 ft high.

...that the next AGM will be held on Saturday 21 March in the cafe at Sunderland’s Winter Gardens at about 1400.

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

Along with everyone else, it seems, I am EXTREMELY impressed with Vivienne’s design for a new, ‘real’ Union Flag. Like one or two others, I tried (and failed) to incorporate the Cross of St David into the national flag several times before I set the exercise as a truckshunter challenge. I reckon Vivienne’s design is extraordinarily striking and colourful. I love it and have taken the liberty of attempting to draw it with a cheap and cheerful Mac drawing program I have. It’s supposed to be easy to use but, as you can see, I’m not as computer-literate as I sometimes like to think. My version of Vivienne’s design definitely needs refining.

I can sense another of Robinson’s infamous campaigns coming on - a campaign for the adoption of a new national flag for the new millennium. For far too long, Wales has been treated as second-class. Until recently, it was referred to merely as a part of England. A once proud and independent people reduced to being patronised as a ‘Principality’ and fighting to save an ancient and noble heritage and language. I know quite a few foreigners who are simply unaware of Wales as an entity, and who are uncertain of its status and rank within the UK.

Well, we can start to redress an ancient wrong right here and now. We can campaign to have Vivienne’s design adopted as a ‘true‘ federal flag of the UK. A revolutionary, devolutionary national symbol. It’s awesome.

Of course, it could well end up in the Book of St Rita as yet another truckshunting lost cause, along with many others that have been mentioned on this blog recently. You know the ones I’m talking about...

In the meantime, though...watch this space.

Now then...who’s in charge of the National Flag? The Home Secretary? Who on Earth is that???

A truckshunter called Michael has asked me about the derivation of York. Here goes...

It is best to begin with the ancient Celtic name for their settlement here - Eburacon - which was derived from the name of the Celtic landholder here. He is thought to have been called something like Eburos, a name related to Old Welsh and Old Irish words for ‘yew’. Thus, in its earliest forms, York was ‘Eburos’ place’. (The Modern Welsh word for the city is still Efrog, and the Archbishop signs himself ‘Ebor’ - which is also the name of a prestigious race at the city’s racecourse).

But how do you get from there to York?

When the Romans arrived and established a settlement here, they adapted Eboracon slightly to Eboracum. To later Saxon settlers this name was meaningless, so they adapted it still further, applying their own words to what they heard and thus transforming Eborac(um) to Eofor-wic, ‘wild-boar farm’.

Later still, Viking settlers, who established a major town here, adapted Eofor-wic into Iorvik and then, by elision, into Iork. This name was then re-adopted by the Saxons as York.

Does that make sense?

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Because my radio presenting days have been so cruelly curtailed and are now, it seems, over for ever, I find myself in the wholly unfamiliar situation of not having wished our Welsh-speaking co-truckshunters ‘Happy St David’s Day’. So...

Dydd Dewi Sant hapus!

...a day late.

As I type, I am reminded that on St David’s Day five years ago - when I had just stumbled Englishly through my hopeless and totally inadequate Welsh pronunciation - a listener called with one of those unforgettable pieces of utterly pointless trivia which were our stock-in-trade on the Big Blue Bus. Were we aware, he asked, that, to conform with the flags of the other nations that make up the United Kingdom, the Welsh flag would need to be changed out of all recognition?

He explained that the flag of England is also the cross of St George; the flag of Scotland is also the cross of St Andrew; and the flag of (Northern) Ireland adapts the cross of St Patrick. Why then, he suggested, isn’t the Welsh flag the cross of St David?

Rashly, I denied that such a design even existed. I was wrong. As proof, I present you with exhibit A above: The Cross of St David.

I’ve never quite recovered from this devastating new information. The problem for me is that, although the flag currently accepted everywhere as the national flag of Wales is undoubtedly a colourful, powerful and startlingly dramatic design, the simple yellow-on-black cross above is just as striking. I reckon it’s as unlike other national flags as the familiar red dragon is. I like it a lot.

I’ve never really understood why Wales wasn’t included when the Union Jack (properly, the Union Flag) was designed. It combines Sts George, Andrew and Patrick but not St David. So my next point is obvious...

If there are any truckshunters who know a thing or two about graphic design and who would like to make a stab at a Union Jack that does incorporate the Cross of St David, I’d love to see it...

Our very own local national day is almost upon us. St Cuthbert’s Day is on March 20 - the day before our next AGM at the Winter Gardens in Sunderland. How are you going to celebrate it? Let’s have some ideas.

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