There are several things in my life which, with the benefit of hindsight or even with just a smidgin of common sense, I would have to admit to mishandling really, really badly.

For example, I ran away from home when I was 5. We had just moved to Peterlee so who would blame me for trying to escape my doom by trying to get as far away from that benighted town as possible ('benighted', you notice, even then)? I just didn’t do it right, though. I clambered onto my trike and cycled like a toddler possessed towards the only other human settlement of which I had any knowledge: Easington Colliery. I know, I know - ‘frying pan’ and ‘fire’ spring unavoidably to mind.

As a matter of fact, I made it to Seaside Lane right near the pit gates before a lady in a wraparound pinny and headsquare asked me if I wasn’t ‘that Millie Robinson’s lad’. I can see her towering over me as I type. The childlike tears are welling up in me now just as they did then. Aaahhhh.

The escapade has stayed in my memory all these years for, I think, two main reasons. Firstly, a nice policeman came to pick me up - trike and all - and take me home; my first potent contact with fit guys in uniform. By the time I had grown up enough to have found a way of showing them my gratitude, it was far too late.

Secondly - and this is a real puzzler - the trike had no seat. Go figure.

The more I think about these events, the more I redden. The on-air spoonerisms; my first (and hopelessly ill-fated) sexual fumblings with that lass from Blyth, who probably still has not recovered - I caressed, kissed and groped her as if I had died three years previously after a life of total celibacy; and then there’s my departure from the BBC.

Until very recently, I used to think that, as long as I live, I won’t be able to explain why I mishandled it so well. Or...er...handled it so badly. My last 30-minute broadcast was on the morning of Wednesday 28 January. A few of my colleagues made a special effort to join me and the other regular early-risers for a presentation at 0630. And then I was gone.

I’m not really sure what I expected to happen in the ensuing days. I hadn’t planned or organised anything. I didn’t arrange a booze-up or a meal out for all my lovely colleagues. I just left. I find it incredible to report that I haven’t set foot inside the Pink Palace from that day to this. Actually, that’s not just incredible; it’s shameful. And, I thought, utterly inexplicable. Some of the people I met at BBC Radio Newcastle were amongst the most colourful, literate, articulate, innovative, funny, clever and friendly people that I’ve encountered in all my sixty years.

I’ve thought long and hard about why I stayed away after I left. Sometimes I’ve got to thinking it’s because of the sense of inadequacy I often felt there. To some of you, that may sound faintly ludicrous; my on-air ‘persona’ - the way I portrayed myself - was anything but inadequate. On the other hand, there will be a goodly number of broadcasters who will readily agree that any inferiority complex I had as a radio presenter was well-placed; as Churchill said of Attlee: ‘He has an inferiority complex - and has much to be inferior about’.

There’s no two ways about it. I have mismanaged the last few months to such an extent that I redden to what roots I have left and can only (and weakly) apologise to my erstwhile colleagues for not having the maturity or even the gall to pick up the phone or send an email.

When I decided to attend Mike Parr’s leaving do at The Cluny last Friday, it therefore felt as if I had a Rubicon to cross. How would they react when they saw me? Would I be cold-shouldered? Interrogated? Criticised? Alfie Joey arrived at the venue at the same time as I did so I used him - shamelessly - as a ‘shield’.

But I needn’t have worried. I did get a couple of withering looks - but only from the two people I had most loathed while I worked at the BBC. In fact, come to think of it, they were the only two people I ever actively disliked there.

But how very, very good it was to see everyone else. The wide smiles and warm hugs, kisses and handshakes. There was Sarah, my first boss; Gilly Hope and her mesmerisingly goodlooking husband; Gerry Jackson, now on local tv but, in my early days, the presenter of the Breakfast Programme on BBC Radio Newcastle when I was doing Traffic and Travel all those years ago ( - he was also the voice of Ronald Wetleg on Paul’s Saturday show); Steve Drayton, a man with too many talents - many of which I had exploited during my time at the BBC; Misha (Mike’s producer); David and Andrew, two members of the early-rising breakfast team; the awesome Simon Hoban and the redoubtable Jamie Wilkinson; and Paul, my former oppo and mentor, who is now enjoying a telephone number salary elsewhere. My sincere apologies to anyone I haven’t mentioned who knows perfectly well that, if my memory were better, they would have gotten a credit.

As I tried to make time to talk to each of them - and others - I finally realised why I hadn’t been in touch since I left. I missed them all. I’m just a hopeless case. I missed the banter, the urgency, the sense of a good job being done well on a shoestring, the tireless ingenuity, the jaw-dropping early morning humour, the obscenity, the frustration, the professionalism, the corners being cut, the laughter, the family feeling of all being in it together, the endless irrepressible creativity and innovation, the audacity and the sheer effusive comedy of the job and of the people doing it.

I had, I suppose, been in classic ‘denial’ for weeks. I had shut out my ex-colleagues because to remember them would have opened the floodgates and forced me to realise exactly how much of a huge, gaping hole their absence has left in my life. I miss them very much indeed and - looking back over the last few months - I’ve had real problems finding something - anything - to fill the gap they’ve left. I still haven’t; and I suspect I never will.

Then there’s Mike Parr, whose departure has precipitated this tirade of self-regard.

Mike Parr. What a presenter! People more experienced and better-qualified than I have sung his praises for years. As I shared his working hours, I have often stood in awe of his interviewing skills; the way he can keep to the point or stray delightfully away from it at will. Mike can turn radio corners that no-one else even knows are there. He can manipulate, extract and distil like the Inquisition; he can conduct and lead a studio panel discussion like an orchestra - and on any subject you care to name, such is his depth of knowledge and awareness; and he can raise guffaws throughout the studio and amongst his listeners of Fawlty Towers proportions.

He was always very supportive to me. He seemed to understand exactly the odd position I was in; an ageing bit of local rough trade dragged in - willingly - off the streets and expected to perform to BBC standards. I almost certainly didn’t succeed in quite the way that he and others expected or wished.

But Mike certainly did succeed. In my book, he has won every radio award going - and then some.

Thanks for everything Mike. Not just from me but also from truckshunters everywhere. For proof, see the comments on blogposting 140!

And the very, very best of luck in whatever you decide to do and wherever you decide to do it.


And now for something completely different...the photo at the top of this posting...

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Law of Averages (if such a thing exists) would dictate that the Devon seaside town of Westward Ho! was the only place on Earth whose name incorporated an exclamation mark.

Westward Ho!

You would have to be forgiven for thinking that because you would be wrong.

It has been brought to my attention that there is a town in Quebec which is (unbelievably) called - wait for it - Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! Shall we have that again?


1,471 people live there and none of them has the faintest idea how the place-name is derived, although there are some pretty colourful suggestions, as you can imagine.

Would I lie to you? If you don’t believe me (and I wouldn’t blame you for a moment), wiki it.

And finally...has anyone been to Westward Ho!? Or, come to think of it, Mondeville or Buddenstedt (see picture)?

And finally finally...Mondeville gave the Norman French family name Mundeville, one of whom came over with William the Conqueror and settled at Coatham Mundeville, near Darlington. Small world, innit?

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


Vivienne said...

Hi Ian,

I'm glad you braved your fears to attend Mike's farewell party. I'm sure he appreciated you being there. I'm also pleased to learn that you really enjoyed the evening and being in the company of your old friends. Now that you've broken the ice perhaps you will feel able to keep in touch with many of them.

Your observations about Mike's professionalism and presenting abilities are spot on. However, I wish you wouldn't compare yourself unfavourably with him. You have an unique talent in your own right, which I believe you don't value at all.

We Truckshunters all appreciate your specialism, your infectious sense of humour, your amazing knowledge on all sorts of topics, especially local history and place names, plus your willingness to speak out against injustice, promote lost causes, etc, etc.

Instead of focussing on your failures (we all have lots of those!) why not celebrate your successes? The Nightshift was a huge success and so is this blog. All your shows were fantastic, especially those with Paul. You brought a lot of fun and laughter into our lives, and still do - via your blog and especially at our AGMs!

I used to be an avid Radio Newcastle listener, but for me that special something has gone. One by one all the best presenters are leaving, and there are very few shows left which hold my interest. Every interesting interview is broken up with music from the charts. I feel sorry for the interviewee, having to hang around until the presenter is ready to talk to them again. It's also very irritating for the listener! Although I do like music, it's lovely to listen to the Gardening programme, as we can listen to advice without the fear of the annoying musical interruptions.

Although we listened to the Nightshift for your witticisms, your 'On Your Doorsteps' with Loz and stories, etc, your choices for your musical interludes were more varied. You gave Lawrence his choice of music during his interviews. No other presenter seems to do so. I loved listening to your old singles and classical favourites too. We think the BBC has got it all wrong, but our opinions don't count as we're all nearing, or have reached 60 years old!

I better stop rambling........

Night, night!

Love Vivienne xxx

mim said...

Hi Vivienne,

Well said , Ian you underestimate yourself!
Like Vivienne I listened to Radio Newcastle all day and really enjoyed it. I came here 22 years ago knowing no-one and I always felt that the presenters on there were my friends, especially Mike, Ian, Paul and Julia as I would often mail in or send a text. When you are alone most of the day as I am (my family now all grown up or working) it does feel as if you are on a one to one basis with whoever is on the radio--well if the presenter is that good and Ian you were. I don't think presenters realise what an impact they have sometimes on listeners lives.
For me Radio Newcastle will never be the same. I listened to Jamie yesterday because I like him. I did also like Gerry Jackson and Steve Drayton . I listen to Paul every evening as I cook our evening meal and it's like having an old pal in when I hear his voice--all is well in my little world.
I am so glad you went back Ian and I do know how you feel leaving something behind that has been so important to you.
Onwards and upwards.

Love Margaret xx

Hildie said...

Hi Ian
that's quite a tribute to Mike Parr and also to your other colleagues at the BBC ..... I'm afraid it has got me rather watery-eyed at the moment. I feel, indubitably, that each and every one of those people you mention holds you in as much high regard as you hold them .....
how could they not?!
It's true what Vivienne and Margaret have said .... you underestimate yourself, young man.
I am glad you braved it to the "do", they will all have been very glad to see you.

p.s. I've been to Stoke Mandeville Hospital ..... will that do?!

Sid said...

I have to agree with the ladies comments Ian, you are an absolute diamond, a rose amongst thorns, so now you know. After all, we can't ALL be wrong.

Maureen said...

You do know Ian, that you are the only person who manages to render me speechless? You just don't realise your own worth. Of course, I can only echo the sentiments of my fellow Truckshunters and I am pleased that your little outing helped you realise something, you have a need to be out amongst your public. I hope you don't mind me saying this, but you've had your break now and you need to get back into it. You aren't ready for retirement yet and we aren't about to let you. Only today at work a total stranger was chatting to me about how he used to enjoy the Blue Bus programme and how he misses the 'old' Radio Newcastle. Everyone is wondering where you have gone! Did you ever do anything about the Friends Of Beamish' idea? I'm sure that it would be right up your street and you could provide a lot of good publicity for them. Just tell me to mind my own business, I'll not be offended!I'm going to post now before I chicken out and delete, here goes ...gulp!

Ellie said...

Hello, Ian and everyone,
What can I add to what has been said already? I confess I read the blog and my mouth fell open when I read your self-tirade, Ian. You are so wrong about yourself - you are such a gem and I (and the others as evidenced above) miss your broadcasts so very, very much. I am still searching the airways trying to find somewhere that makes me feel 'at home and contented' as you did on Radio Newcastle. More please, whenever, wherever and I promise I will most definitely tune in.

Ian Robinson said...

Awww shucks everybody...I'm sorry if it sounded like i was fishing for compliments. I honestly wasn't!!! I was actually very happy to say what I said. Anyway, thanks for all your kind comments. And Maureen - please don't stay speechless for long.
I'm on holiday with my lovely friend Sue next week - Hereford, Wells and Dorset. Yummy. But I'll be checking in as usual, no worries.

Anonymous said...

Just glad you and the gang got together again. Cheers to the Blue Bus days!

Marion said...

Late as I am to contribute to this particular posting I felt that I too must re-iterate what others have said. In my email to Ian when he left the BBC I lamented the passing of those who made this radio station 'local' with a real connection to those who listened. My 88 year old mother has very little in common with the likes of Jonathan Miles et al. 'Robbo' had that bit of magic that made each listener feel that he was talking to them, that he was interested in them. Keep up the good work by continuing to communicate with your public via this blog! We do appreciate it.