A splendid time was guaranteed for all...

It’s a credit to the Nightshift truckshunting spirit that, despite there never being any more than six or so people at our AGMs, we always contrive to paint the town...if not red, then a warm and welcoming shade of pink. This time, the hardcore truckshunters (Vivienne and Hildie) were joined by the redoubtable Ada from North Shields.

As a matter of fact, Ada was the first one I met. She shamelessly introduced herself as we were both waiting for the Q2 bus outside the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. I have to say that she looked resplendently well-dressed; the epitome of good taste and far too elegant for the likes of me (as you can see above). And what a wonderful lady! It took all of us no time whatsoever to be - once again - lost in conversation, stories, laughter. Exactly the way an AGM ought to be.

Vivienne, I’m relieved and delighted to report, does not seem to have suffered any long-term consequences after her unfortunate escapade in the bathroom; her account of the incident is almost certainly going to give me saucy daydream fodder for days.

If not weeks.

We all had a truly memorable time and put the world to rights in a typically decisive way. Ada would, I’m sure, be the first to say that, once you get over the introductions, everything settles down to the usual truckshunter camaraderie - chaotically friendly! We seem to be developing into a real ‘family’; I’m loving it, as you can imagine.

The next step, as far as I’m concerned, is that we grow still further - into a group of disparate troublemakers leaving in our wake a trail of good-humoured confusion wherever we go.

You seriously don’t know what you’re missing. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll try your best to get along to the next AGM in September - see below.

I’ve had an email from ‘Grumpy Owldsod’ (whom God preserve) which states, in terms I wouldn’t dare argue with, that donut peaches are available in the north-east. He says ‘...I got some two weeks ago at Crook Market. The fruiterer there bought them at the wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market at Team Valley. I have also seen them at the same man's stall in Consett Market and in the Grainger Market.’

As you will readily understand, I’ll be making it my business to follow up these sightings personally over the next few days. Watch out for further reports.

The next AGM will take place on Sunday 6 September at Tynemouth Station Market at about 1100. Put it in your diary now. Is that understood?

A truckshunter who rejoices in the online name of Matt King Coal (!) has sent me an email with some interesting trivia - and not so trivia - about England. Namely...

- England is 74 times smaller than the USA, 59 times smaller than Australia and 3 times smaller than Japan;

- England is however 2.5 times more populous than Australia, and 1.5 times more populous than California. With 2.5 times fewer inhabitants than Japan, its density of population is slightly higher than the country of the rising sun.

- The highest temperature ever recorded in England was 38.5°C (101.3°F ) in Brogdale, Kent, on 10 August 2003.

- English people consume more tea per capita than anybody else in the world (2.5 times more than the Japanese and 22 times more than the Americans or the French). Surprise, surprise.

- English people have the highest obesity rate in the European Union (22.3% of men and 23% of women). They also have the highest percentage of overweight women (33.6%) and the 6th highest for men (43.9%).

- French was the official language of England for about 300 years, from 1066 till 1362.

Makes you proud to be English, don’t it?

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I don’t want to overegg the truckshunter pudding here but just in case you haven’t read Emergency Blogposting 155, the date of the next AGM has been altered to this upcoming Friday 31 July at The Sage Gateshead, to be followed by a riotous tour of the latest tat masquerading as Modern Art down at BALTIC.

To assist the terminally confused and feeble, I have helpfully posted a picture of one of the venues taken from inside the other. How co-operative can a blogger get?

The mention of a metaphorical truckshunter pudding just now has sparked yet another of Ian Robinson’s ludicrous ideas. Why don’t we invent a real Truckshunter Pudding? In order to be worth the name, and to satisfy my regrettably oversweet tooth, it would need to contain at least some of the following: bilberries, blackberries, almonds, apples, honey, sultanas, cinnamon, peches plats (naturally), chocolate, tapioca, clotted cream. I could go on.

I’m a lousy cook - but somebody out there should be able to concoct a confection along those lines. Please?

With my background, you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m the sort of geyser who goes on and on about the misuse of the English language. Apostrophe's in all the wrong places - video’s, potatoe’s, pizza’s; overuse of awesome and great; inventions like prequel; euphemisms like collateral damage; unhappy abbreviations like vid and uni; regrettable Americanisms like semester instead of term.

Mostly, however, I tend to be equivocal about such things. It seems to me that no amount of lecturing or haranguing is going to change the fact that the ‘new’ plural of pizza is pizza’s or that decimate now means ‘almost obliterate’.

There is, however, one word which is changing its meaning radically before our very ears - largely thanks to the BBC’s sports (and other) reporters.

‘The Man U players are literally building a wall in front of the goalmouth...’ No, they aren’t. They are building a metaphorical wall there.

‘Tom Daley is literally the flying fish of British diving’. No, he isn’t.

Not only is the inclusion of literally gratuitous - omitting it would make the comments correctly-stated metaphors - it is also linguistically perverse. In the examples above (and dozens of others) it is used to mean its exact opposite.

Even the sainted Charlie Charlton, on BBC Radio Newcastle, has fallen prey to its misuse. This morning she was discussing the relative merits of women darts players and told us, in all seriousness, that Dutch players literally wiped the floor with ours. That I’d like to see.

Literally, like decimate, seems to be doomed. From now on, literally literally means its exact opposite: metaphorically. Thankyou, BBC.

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With my usual flair I seem to have chosen a date for the next AGM on which almost no-one would be able to attend. The date has therefore been altered to...this upcoming Friday 31 July. The venue is the same.

Anyone with any sense who is over 60 is a member of Silver Screen at the Tyneside Cinema. That not only includes my good self (even though I have no sense at all) but also truckshunter Hildie, who accompanied me there today to see Moon. And a cracking movie it is, too.

In fact, if you’d like to join us on some otherwise ditchwater-dull Monday, help yourself. Membership is free and you get to see some stonking pictures.

Anyway, to get to the real point...

Hildie had spent Saturday in York with her daughter - and guess what she saw for sale on a fruit stall there?

Yesssssss! Peches plats. Donut peaches. If this means nothing to you, see blogposting 151. Hildie very thoughtfully (and very foolishly, in my opinion) brought some back for me. Naturally - and purely for the purposes of market research - I have now eaten all of them and can confirm that they are as delicious as I remember them in Paris. They are the ‘nectar of the perishin’ gods’, as my Nana used to say. We are very fortunate that luscious comestibles such as these have not been made illegal.

What is, however, of even greater import (if that were possible) is the information that Hildie’s daughter passed on; namely, that donut peaches are on open sale at Sainsbury’s - in Manchester.

I am therefore hereby launching yet another truckshunter campaign. Do as I intend to do tomorrow. Visit a branch of Sainsbury’s and - if donut peaches are not on sale - make a fuss. Demand to know why the benighted folk of Manchester, who haven’t the nouse or common gumption to appreciate them, are being offered these delectable fruits while the enlightened people of north-east England are denied the opportunity of sampling them.

Go on - make a scene; and report back at the AGM.

While we were at the Tyneside Cinema earlier today, two ladies (of otherwise spotless reputation) made themselves known to us. They had been members of a WEA class I used to tutor in Whickham many years ago and we had a nice chat about what fun it was. Fancy remembering me after all these years! They’d even followed my subsequent career on the radio. Once experienced, never forgotten, I guess.

So - Hello, Maureen and Pat. Keep in touch!

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After wading through one hundred and fifty three blogpostings, you’re probably already well into the habit of forgiving me the occasional repetition. It’s not always that easy to be entirely original every time I put finger to keyboard; and, to be brutally honest, I'm not usually inclined to look back through them all to make sure that the pearls of wisdom that are about to burst forth upon an unsuspecting world haven’t already graced the blogosphere.

That’s by way of being an apology if, at some point over the last couple of years, I have waxed lyrical about Wells Cathedral...

Revisiting Wells (in deepest Somerset) is one of the 60/60 items I drew up last December. (Yes, I know that taking a photograph at 1300 every day was also on the list. I’ll update you about that another time.) When Sue and I stayed in Wells overnight on the way down to Lyme Regis recently, I realised exactly why I had included it on my list of ‘60 things to do while you’re 60’.

Although it’s very small, Wells is undoubtedly a city and it’s dominated by its cathedral to much the same extent as Durham is, but not in the same way. Because of its position and architecture, Durham’s cathedral presents a powerful, dominating, almost ‘macho’ image to its surroundings, almost all of which seem to ‘cower’ below it. Wells Cathedral, on the other hand, dominates by seeming to be by far the largest and most beautiful ship floating in the Somerset countryside, with the tight, cramped and winding streets fluttering around it, protecting and admiring it.

I’ve loved Wells - the city and more especially its cathedral - for decades but had not visited it for many years. Seeing it again reminded me of how wrong I had been to neglect it. Its setting is perfect and the West Front, emblazoned with elaborate carving and statuary, is unique in England.

Also unique are perhaps its best-known feature: the ‘scissor arches’ which support the weight of the tower from inside the building; see above. In the 14th century, the glorious central tower was found to be leaning dangerously to the west and an unknown mediaeval architect came up with this most ingenious solution to help the four interior tower arches take the strain. Indeed, they are also known as ‘strainer arches’. As far as I know, there’s nothing like them in any other ancient building in Europe. They’re worth going to Wells to see.

So my first visit in many years to the beautiful city and cathedral of Wells didn’t let me down. Even the parish church is dedicated to St Cuthbert!

On the evening of our visit, though, Sue and I began to dream up experiences in our lives that had been ‘disappointing’; we started a list of things - any things - that had turned out to be let-downs; to be not what they’d been cracked up to be; not what we had been led to believe, if you catch my drift.

I have the list in front of me and it includes...

*being 18
*Charles Dickens
*The Rolling Stones
*French food
*Oscar Wilde
*seaside rock

and many more. I’m sure you could add a lot more, too - even privately...

The date and venue are set, then. About 1100 on Tuesday 4 August at The Sage. Don’t worry if you can’t make it; Nightshift/Truckshunter loyalty can only be stretched so far. I’ll take a book with me just in case.

The book will probably be The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Have you read it? If you have, I’d be interested to know what you made of it.

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75% of English teenagers don’t know how to boil an egg...
Komodo dragons are not just vicious - they’re venomous...
Taller men earn more money than shorter men...
Bob Marley’s closest British relatives live in Ilfracombe.

The last planned AGM disappeared down the plughole of oblivion, for the fact of which I apologise profusely. This means that we need to restore a semblance of respectability to the Honourable Society of Truckshunters by having another AGM sooner rather than later. I propose, therefore, that it takes place on Tuesday 4 August at 1100 or thereabouts.

Many venues have been suggested for our AGMs. The aborted one was to have taken place at Tynemouth Station Market (which is held every Saturday and Sunday). Other suggestions have included Durham City, Saltwell Park, Souter Lighthouse, Chester-le-Street, Milkhope...all of them excellent ideas which should last us well into the second year of shunting trucks.

I suggest, however, that the next AGM should begin at The Sage Gateshead (easily accessible by private and public transport) and should then continue by adjourning itself to BALTIC to see what unapproachable and incomprehensible rubbish is masquerading as Modern Art these days. Both of these venues have free admission.

Your views would be appreciated. But remember, you don’t have long.

Yet more sad deaths to report on and contemplate...

Henry Allingham died the other day at the age of 113. He was the oldest man in the world and the last RAF and British Navy veteran of the First World War.

Gordon Waller (pictured above, on the right, in 1964) has died of a heart attack aged only 64. He was half of the 60s pop-singing duo Peter and Gordon, who had important hits on both sides of the Atlantic with A World Without Love and Nobody I Know, both written for them by Paul McCartney.

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Once in a while you have one of those experiences which you know is going to influence you very deeply and stay with you, one way or another, for years - if not for the rest of your life. Sometimes, of course, these experiences can be unpleasant; a first visit to Middlesbrough, accidentally watching Dale Winton on tv, mumps, discovering that you’re not gay after all. Happily, these catastrophes are usually balanced by an equal or even (hopefully) greater number of enjoyable and lastingly beneficial experiences. Last night, I had one of those....

I had never previously heard of the Spooky Men’s Chorale - as, I trust, you haven’t either. I saw them listed as appearing in Hall Two at The Sage last night and - having a rare gap in my otherwise hectic and cluttered social and cultural diary - I booked myself a seat. I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t disappointed (if that makes sense).

Having said all that, I’m going to find it difficult to describe exactly why they’re so special. But special they most certainly are. 16 bloke-ish blokes from Oz, of all shapes, sizes and ages, present themselves in black apparel of various kinds and styles. They stand in a shuffling semicircle and, led by their chorusmaster (who wears a fur-lined flying hat) they...

Well, they sing.

They sing about anything they think is worth singing about. Many of their songs are about what it means to be a man (not, though, as opposed to what it means to be a woman; there are no ribald songs, or any inter-song chat, about women, football or cars). There are ear-catchers about how everything you do makes a mess and , if you leave the mess, it seems to get worse; about the love of a lamp-post for another lamp-post. And there’s advice on what to do if you don’t like the government. This latter, along with a song of advice to those waging the War on Terror, are must-hear songs in a whole evening of must-hear songs.

They have a penchant for traditional Georgian male-voice singing; that’s the Georgia between Turkey and Russia and it’s reckoned to have the oldest polyphonic singing in the world. It’s desperately melancholic. Its effect bypasses the brain and goes straight to the heart.

I guess that’s one of the reasons they’re so special. By turns, they had the audience laughing uproariously or on the verge of empathetic tears. The evening was certainly an emotional roller-coaster. I’m happy to report, though, that their two standing ovations prove conclusively that the audience made their ways home uplifted and liberated.

If you’d like to find out why I’m so enthusiastic about The Spooky Men - and I’m very well aware that my descriptive powers have rather let me down here - then you have two further chances to find out. They’ll be at the Jubilee Hall in Rothbury on Wednesday 19 August and at the Gala Theatre in Durham City on Thursday 20 August.

Kill for a ticket.

I was sad to learn of the death of Jimmy Forsyth last Thursday at the age of 95. During my time at BBC Radio Newcastle, I had helped to draw much-needed attention to his work on several occasions - usually when the publishing arm of Newcastle City Council issued a new book of his astonishing and evocative photographs.

Jimmy was moved to start taking pictures with his ‘box-Brownie’ in the early 60s when the old and characterful West End of Newcastle started to disappear under the bulldozer’s blades. He worked mainly around Scotswood Road, not far from where I live now, and his photographs illustrate an environment and a way of life the totality of whose destruction we may well be starting to regret. To look at his pictures is to be taken back to an era that, very sadly indeed, seems to bear no resemblance to the soulless West End which confronts us today.

It’s estimated that he took well over 40,000 pictures in his busy life, including the one at the head of this posting. At least as far as I am concerned, his skill, his eye for a picture and the huge importance of his work, were never recognised and valued nearly as much as they ought to have been.

He has left us a priceless legacy. Thanks, Jimmy.

Last Saturday was Pride Day in Newcastle so I thought I’d pop over to Leazes Park to join in the celebrations - the Pink Picnic!

Considering what a bloody awful afternoon it was - almost continuous heavy rain - it was very well-attended and great fun. Men and women of all shapes, sizes, ages, colours and creeds (both gay and straight) gathered together in a kind of communal proclamation that the fight is still going on against shame, fear, abuse and ignorance.

You might think that there isn’t much left to fight for in this country. After all, gay people in England can now enter into civil partnerships (and there was a guy at the Picnic in a black kilt with whom I would gladly have done just that) and macho stalwarts like Northumbria Police and the local Fire Brigade both had stalls at the Pink Picnic.

But in many ways, the north-east lags behind most of the rest of urban England in many of its attitudes towards gay people. Sunderland is, without any doubt whatsoever, the largest town in England without any gay venues at all. And I’ve often wondered how on earth gay people manage to live in areas like Bishop Auckland or Billingham, where ‘coming out’ would risk instant and vicious homophobia. (To be honest, I often wonder how anyone, gay or straight, manages to live in Bishop Auckland or Billingham.)

When I got home from the Picnic I found myself reflecting on all the changes that have taken place during my lifetime, from the decriminalising of homosexuality in 1967 to the introduction of civil partnerships in 2005. And I spent a few moments honouring and ‘respecting’ gay people in the many parts of the world for whom things are much, much worse than they are for me.

There are dozens of countries throughout the world where homosexuality is stridently illegal and punishable by long terms in prison and/or corporal punishment. Even worse; in Sudan, Mauretania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Iran gay people can be - and are - put to death for their sexuality. The death penalty; for being gay.

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In my official capacity as Bringer of Good News to the teeming thousands - nay, millions - of the world’s ever-eager shunters of trucks, I do hereby formally announce the arrival on this green and sceptr’d isle of....

...the doughnut peach.

See above.

As with everything else that goes on in this rapidly deteriorating organ I am (still) pleased to call my brain, there’s a kind of ‘back story’ (as my ex-colleagues on the news desks of BBC Radio Newcastle say) to this announcement. Yes, I’m afraid so; another turgid and tedious tale from the fevered keyboard of someone who should by now have found something better to do with his time.

Anyway, here goes...

As you probably know, I - like many millions of others - enjoy the occasional jaunt across the Channel ( - the French get really annoyed if you call it the ‘English’ Channel, and who can blame them?). It probably hasn’t escaped your attention either that the most frequent victims of this tendency of mine are Amsterdam (which God preserve) and Paris (ditto) - both of them historic and bustling capital cities which proffer experiences a lot more exotic and exciting than anything even Newcastle has up its sleeve.

One of the aforementioned exotic experiences is - wait for it - fruit and vegetables.

Let me explain.

Even on my very first visit to Amsterdam, I noticed, with some consternation - not to say indignation - that their fruit and veg were indisputably not the same as ours. And, before I go any further, I know what you’re thinking. For the love of all that’s sacred - surely, Ian, there must have been something a little more eye-catching to notice in Amsterdam than the quality or otherwise of their comestibles. Well, yes there was - but those things had to wait for my visit with Paul Wappat to truly come into their own.

But I digress. What I mean by their fruit and veg ‘not being the same as ours’ is that their grapes (for example) were not the same as our grapes; their grapes were sweeter, riper, juicier, fresher - and much, much bigger. They were the size of what we accept as plums. Well, nearly.

Their plums, in turn, were soft, succulent orbs of orgasmic flesh and syrup; they could star in their own porn movie. And so on, and so on...

Not only that. Our European cousins - who must be laughing their euro-cods off at the garbage we English are prepared to accept as good fruit and vegetables - also seemed to consume, in vast quantities, fruits which we either regard as dinner-party rarities that cost an arm and a leg (thus negating, to a large extent, the benefits of 5-a-day), like kumquats and lychees, or even to possess fruits of which normal people like you and me have never heard, like dragon fruit (about which I bored you to tears in a previous posting).

Well this unfortunate fructine jealousy has now extended to Paris, where I was lucky enough to spend a few swelteringly pleasant days recently. And it didn’t take me long to uncover their obvious fruit and veg superiority, either. My friend Dominique (a man rather than a singing nun) lives in central Paris and the streets surrounding his flat were chockablock with bistros, cafes, restaurants, shops and markets - a happy situation long since lost to all British cities, which we’ve allowed to be taken over by national and international ‘chains’, so that all our city centres look exactly the same.

Naturally, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Dominique’s inner-city heaven until...I discovered yet another fruit previously unknown to me. The doughnut peach.

As you can see, instead of being the usual peacherine shape, ie round like an apple (and, if bought in a British supermarket, just as hard) they are - well, doughnut shaped. It’s as if they’ve been squashed almost flat. Indeed, the French call them peches plats, ‘flat peaches’. The result is a furry, lumpy roundel of sumptuous deliciousness. The flesh is not as ‘giving’ as a conventional ripe peach (excellent though they are) but is, instead, a little more al dente. There’s something to bite.

(Wow - three languages in one blogposting. Not bad, huh?)

During my four-day stay in Paris, I ate 23 of them. I then bought six to bring home but had eaten them by the time the train entered the Tunnel. Yes, that’s how good they are.

If you’ve got this far, you’ll want to know what the point of all this is.

Well, as I announced so smugly at the start, they’re finally being imported into England. Naturally, if you see them on your local travels and buy a few on the strength of this blogposting, you’re going to be disappointed. We English will be offered - and will accept gratefully - the unripe, sour, rock-hard dregs from the doughnut peach barrel; and you’ll end up complaining bitterly that, in this case as in so many others, Ian Robinson is talking a load of old dingo’s kidneys.

But I’m not. If you want indisputable verification of all that I’ve said, sell a family heirloom and book a seat to Paris or somewhere similar. (Is there anywhere similar to Paris?) Find a local market and snaffle up a kilo or two of peches plats. Believe me, it’ll be worth it.

Of course, in the good old days of the Big Blue Bus, I could have said all this live on-air - and if I had, someone would have turned up before the programme ended with a couple of bucketfuls of them. Ah, happy days.

Anyway, if you see any for sale locally, inform me at once.

Thanks for your clerihews. You have proved that a sense of humour couples nicely with a concise poetic bent (as it were). Keep them coming.

...it's almost 0100 and I'm going to bed.

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I had intended to celebrate the 150th blogposting by publishing Part One of my autobiography; a suitable way, I’m sure you agree, to mark such an auspicious - nay, epoch-making - event. I was going to tell you how I was born in what had once been a workhouse and is now a landfill site for unwanted detritus; how, at the age of 18 months, I was swept up from a backstreet in Shildon having been mistaken for an unusually pale and globular deposit of horse manure; how, simply to put food in his siblings’ mouths, my eldest brother entered - and won - the Miss Peterlee competition in 1957. (We never did find out how he managed that; he always refused to tell us, mysteriously remarking instead ‘The leanest meat makes the weakest gravy’.)

However, this first riveting instalment of my wayward life story - which I have decided to call The Only Way Is Up - will have to wait. And before you put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, to voice your disappointment, I have to tell you that the delay is entirely due to Maud Bentley.

Who ( I can almost hear you ask) is Maud Bentley. Well, she claims to be one of those myriad ‘silent’ truckshunters who home in on this blog periodically then home out again (can you ‘home out’?) without making their presence felt. They make no comments and leave no mark of their visitation through our hallowed portals.

Except sometimes they do. Maud certainly did. She has emailed me in high dudgeon (can dudgeon be anything else but ‘high’?) to complain about the mawkish - not to say morbid - nature of the poems I selected for inclusion on blogposting 149, which see. Having looked at them again, I can see her point. Taken as a whole, they are hardly liberating spirit-lifters, are they?

At this point, the plot thickens a little. In her email, Maud suggested that I lighten truckshunter spirits a little by once again featuring poetry but this time of a more light-hearted and less enervating kind. She suggests that I do this by using clerihews.

If Maud had not gone on to explain what a clerihew is, I would have had to look the word up in my Uxbridge English Dictionary. She relieved me of that task, however, by telling me that clerihews are ‘four-line humorous and/or satirical verses, usually biographical. The first two lines rhyme with each other, as do the second two lines. The rhyming scheme is thus aabb'. They are, then, witty four-liners about famous people.

Before we go on to look at some examples of the genre, I should say that, at this point, the plot thickens even more - to about the consistency of the custard we used to get at school. I quote here Maud’s explanation of why she is so keen on clerihews.

'I think this verse-form is neglected, Ian. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? After all, clerihews were invented by my grandfather, Edmund Clerihew Bentley.'

That’s all she says. I’ve looked this man up on the internet (as you do) and Maud is absolutely right; he was the inventor of the clerihew. It's his face which graces the heading of this posting.

More than that, however, Maud doesn’t tell us. So...Maud: if you’re reading this - and I know you are - please get back to me/us and fill in the many gaps you’ve left in our already woefully inadequate knowledge of a man who was obviously articulate, witty, literate - and very clever.

And so - to celebrate the 150th posting on this Truckshunters blog - here are some clerihews. Most - but not all - of them were written by the man himself. And I'm truly grateful to Maud for sending me them.

Sir Humphry Davy
Was not fond of gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium

John Stuart Mill,
By a mighty effort of will,
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrote Principles of Political Economy

Did Descartes
With the thought
"Therefore I'm not"?

Sir Christopher Wren
Said 'I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St Paul's'

Thomas Tallis
Bore no man any malice
Save an organist named Ken
Who played his music rather badly now and then

The art of Biography
Is different from Geography.
Geography is about maps,
But Biography is about chaps

What I like about Clive
Is that he is no longer alive.
There is a great deal to be said
For being dead

Edward the Confessor
Slept under the dresser.
When that began to pall,
He slept in the hall

It was a weakness of Voltaire's
To forget to say his prayers,
And one which to his shame
He never overcame

And my own personal favourite...

George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder

They’re good, aren’t they? So good, in fact, that I’m prepared to bet that you’re already trying to compose your own. How about Tony Blair...Paul Wappat...Hilda Flood...Jonathan Miles...

And, as the clerihews above show, they don’t have to be biographical. So go on, give it a whirl.

After I drafted the first version of this posting, I took a quick look at the comments on posting 149. To my utter delight, J Arthur Smallpiece - our very own Poet Laureate - had added his latest composition at precisely the same moment I was completing this draft. The Intellectual's Night Out is well up to his usual standard and - if you ask me - well worth the Arts Council grant which facilitated its composition. Once again, Mr Smallpiece - brilliant! Well done. And a big thankyou from truckshunters everywhere.

Note to J Arthur: PLEASE email truckshunters@googlemail.com with your contact details. No-one but me will see them and I soooo want us to be able to stay in touch with you, if you don't mind

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HAPPY 150TH!!!

Roseate Terns have returned in good numbers to the Farne Islands; this picture
of one of them was taken a few days ago.


All but blind
In his cambered hole
Gropes for worms
The four-clawed Mole.

All but blind
In the evening sky
The hooded Bat
Twirls softly by.

All but blind
In the burning day
The Barn-Owl blunders
On her way.

And blind as are
These three to me,
So blind to someone
I must be.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

All through the long night
I lay awake and watched
Your stars, as diamonds, enrich
the poverty of my sleeplessness.
I lay awake.
And you devoured my thoughts
and I yours
Until I was within you
Complete; inward and outward.
And I lay awake cushioned by your presence.
And always I was beside you
And always you were with me
And the band of time played
And the hands of time clapped
And the face of time smiled
And the feet of time walked
All through the long night.

All through the dreamless night
I lay awake and listened
And my lonely darkness was pierced
By the brave light of you
even at this loveless distance.
I lay awake
And you consumed me whole
and I you
Until, sated and happy,
There was between us no space
we could not bridge
And our longings were my pillow
And there was always us
With no apartness and no absence
And the tide of time ebbed
And the stream of time flowed
And the eyes of time closed
And the song of time was sung
And the book of time was written
Sweetly and gently
All through the dreamless night.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

There's little in taking or giving,
There's little in water or wine;
This living, this living, this living
Was never a project of mine.
Oh, hard is the struggle, and sparse is
The gain of the one at the top,
For art is a form of catharsis,
And love is a permanent flop,
And work is the province of cattle,
And rest's for a clam in a shell,
So I'm thinking of throwing the battle-
Would you kindly direct me to hell?

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