Elsewhere on the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ that is this truckshunting blog, I have mentioned that the only good reason to go anywhere near Bishop Auckland is the existence of the village of Escomb, which lies a couple of miles upstream of that truly benighted hellhole. And that was because of its small, barn-like, coal-blackened church. Despite its unprepossessing appearance and its irredeemably squalid surroundings (well done, once again, Durham County Council), Escomb Church is almost certainly the oldest complete building above ground in England.

Like so many of the architectural gems of my native county, it has to be actively sought out and loved almost despite itself, like the follies at Hardwick Hall, the beforested ruins of Langley Hall, the Elizabethan perfection of Horden Hall (practically invisible from the nearby main road) or the captivating little churches at Old Seaham and Dalton-le-Dale, all of which require some considerable effort to find.

Well, Escomb has reared its surprisingly bonny head yet again. This time, it’s because the village and its environs are one of the best sites in the north of England to see bats. Or so I am reliably informed.

Naturally, I’m very well aware that the human species - more especially the Western European version of it - seems to have a genetic, or even pathological, fear and hatred of certain other creatures with which it shares the world. Spiders, snakes, rats, beetles and house-mice spring to mind.

I have to admit that all of these have, at one time or another, given me the Ian Robinson version of the vapours. But each of these morbid fears has been more or less overcome, usually quite fortuitously.

My life at the BBC sometimes played a part in this. When you’ve held a tarantula spider in your hand, as I did once for the Blue Bus programme, then the average English house or garden spider tends to lose its fearsome qualities. And my quaking fear of snakes had to be abandoned when I handled a couple of them at the Wildlife Sanctuary at Ulgham and found them strangely calming and restful!

And who, I ask you, could be quite as afeared of rats after Lawrence Hepple allowed The Nightshift to adopt Grosvenor as its mascot?

As for mice...We once saw a little mouse run across the floor of the dining room of my house in Sheffield. My then-partner at once declared it an ‘infestation’ but agreed that any trap we set should be of the humane variety. The cheeky little so-and-so couldn’t resist a small piece of my home-made Victoria sponge cake (although, now I come to think of it, not a single human being was so easily seduced). We drove ten miles up onto the Derbyshire bilberry fields to release it, which made me actively jealous.

I still have problems, though, with beetles and some other ‘creepy-crawlies’. As far as I know, my frigidity in their presence dates from a truly unforgettable occasion when I slept overnight in the downstairs lounge of a distant relative who owned an adjoining fish and chip shop in Stockton. When I switched on the light during the night, the entire floor was - literally - crawling with cockroaches. Hundreds of them. And all falling over each other to get into the shadows.

I was 12 and had never, ever knowingly seen a cockroach in my life, let alone a whole floor full of them. That hideous sight burned itself in to my brain forever. For weeks I had a recurring nightmare that my best friend at school (Geoffrey Oliver, from Waterhouses) lay dying at the bottom of a cliff with cockroaches crawling out of every orifice. I’m shivering as I type.

But bats....well, I’ve always loved bats. I’ve honestly never understood the human dislike of them. To me, they are proof positive that ugliness and beauty are in the eye of the beholder and are also only skin deep. Their snub-nosed, ‘pugnacious’ faces are full of character and their physiology is a wonder of adaptation and evolution, from the oversized, radar-sensitive ears to the delicate membranes of their wings.

Many years ago I was on a canal holiday in Staffordshire and, on the first night, we moored up beneath some trees by a lovely old canal bridge ‘in the middle of nowhere’. As the light faded, the bats came out to play. We watched for over half an hour as they swooped and fluttered their bat-ballet in the gathering twilight. I’ve never forgotten it.

Anyway...the moral of all this is - and I never thought I would be saying this - go to Bishop Auckland. Well, go to Escomb nearby. And, if you’re very lucky, these charming creatures will give you a graceful and ageless twilight show.

I don’t often see my ex-colleagues from BBC Radio Newcastle so I am delighted to say that two of them made very pleasurable re-appearances last week.

Natasha had, for a while, been one of the producers on the Big Blue Bus programme. Many of our brightest moments were down to her and I missed her very much when she moved on to ‘pastures new’. (Where does that phrase originate?) She lives in Bristol now but was visiting Newcastle for a couple of days. We had several immensely enjoyable cups of coffee on Monday evening, during which, true to form, Natasha came up with a typically clear plan of exactly what I should be doing with my time. Just like the old days. I loved every minute of it.

She reads this blog, too. So - hello, Natasha. And put the kettle on.

On Tuesday, I met up with Paul Wappat. Normally, I take a tablet before I do this but I didn’t need to on this occasion because Julia Hankin was there, too.

Yes - Julia Hankin. It was on Julia’s afternoon show that my voice was first heard on radio. So she has a very great deal to answer for. I’m gratified to be able to report that the nightmares have now passed and Julia’s as happily unfazeable as ever. And even better: remember that kinda cheeky ‘twinkle’ in her voice? It’s still there!

She’s the Marketing Manager for the Centre for Life in Newcastle now and is loving it. But I still miss her on the radio. Don’t you?

Just a reminder that the next AGM will take place on Sunday 6 September at Tynemouth Station Market at about 1100. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. Specially jim.little, our new ‘follower’!

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


mim said...

Hi Ian,

Yes I do miss Julia she was my afternoon friend for many years and I still don't think anyone has filled her shoes. As for Paul, well I have to listen every day to him as I know when his lovely voice is on my radio all is well in the world. I was so upset when he left Newcastle radio but am so glad to have found him again . Those sketches he did with you on the aeroplane still make me chuckle when I think of them. I like bats too and we used to see one often when I lived on The Wellesley--sadly no more--in Blyth.

Love Margaret xx

Sid said...

Oh it's good to be sat here reading this blog and having a cuppa. I feel soo much calmer now...visualising those bats putting on a display, just for us.
Its been a weekend of pc problems, and they still remain...defying me to put them right. I'm sure I have made things worse with my problem solving methods, but at the moment I couldn't care less.

Ian Robinson said...

Margaret...as far as GeordieJet is concerned, you don't know the half of it! Paul never told me what he was going to say and his aim was, of course, to 'corpse' me - to render me speechless with either shock or laughter or (usually) both...
Sid...that's the spirit! I'm sooo glad you and Margaret both enjoy watching a bat-ballet. And er...when can I come and visit you in your caravan? What's good enough for Vivienne is good enough for me!

Vivienne said...

Hi Folks,

I had a super time with Sid, Jean and Gillian on Thursday. If you haven't seen them already, take a look at my photos on murphyanddorastravels.blogspot.com

Jedwater is a lovely caravan site and Sid, Jean & Gilly took me, Murphy, Dora, Rocky and Jock on a guided walk around the site.

Many thanks again, Sid. I hope you manage to sort out your pc problems.

Love Vivienne xxx

Sid said...

Ian you are welcome to visit us whenever you desire. I'll send you an e-mail.

Hildie said...

Margaret, hi, I very much know what you mean about those particular voices on the radio making it feel that all is well with the world. I haven't forgiven Radio Newcastle yet for the fact that Ian, Paul and Julia are no longer there, on air. Shortly after Paul left R. N/cle I walked into a Flower cum Fruit Shop in Stanley and heard his voice eminating (is that a word?) from the radio they were playing as background sound. I honestly stood stock-still! It was like bumping into an old friend. It was lovely. By the way, it's a good shop that one ... it's currently selling peches plats! But ... back to the good old days .... wasn't R. N/cle crazy to put an end to the Blue Bus programme? Geordie Jet,The Anagram, The Quiz .... miss them all! I found out such a lot about where places were in the North East by trying to do the anagram every day .... as I often resorted to the map!!
Vivienne and Sid, I have had a look at your photos from the other day .... looks like a good time was had by all. Mind, I have to say ... that's a swell pool where Rocky's new job is!!

Murphy and Dora said...

Hello Hildie,

Rocky says he'll be glad to rescue you anytime Hildie.

Luv Murphy xx and Dora xx

Vivienne said...

Hi Everyone,

Has anyone seen Maureen? I hope she's on holiday and having a wonderful time.

Radio Newcastle? Well, I dip in and out nowadays, instead of listening all the time. I think the whole station could do with a good shake up, including a change in management. It needs someone who listens to and acts upon what the public wants to hear. I signed up to 100 Lives, thinking I'd get the chance to influence future programmes. They even edited out my comments about enjoying the Nightshift. Instead we get the occasional email asking for our comments/ experiences on topics planned for discussion on The Breakfast Show with Alfie & Charlie. However, we rarely get enough notice to participate.

Hildie said...

Hi Vivienne
I'm not exactly understanding what you mean they did with The Nightshift comments / though I AM incensed / where did they edit them from?
Do tell Rocky I will be looking out for him!

Vivienne said...

Hi Hildie,

When I applied to take part in 100 Lives I had to supply a profile and choose 10 of their questions to answer. One of the questions was, 'What keeps you awake at night?' I mentioned three factors. Number One was listening to the Nightshift. At the time I submitted my answers Ian was still broadcasting. By the time they published our profiles and the Q&A's, the Nightshift had ceased.

In their wisdom the person/s responsible for publishing had edited out my sentence about the Nightshift. I had specifically chosen to answer that question so I could demonstrate how important the Nightshift was to me. They could have discussed their decision with me when they phoned to check I was ok about them publishing other material I'd submitted. Alternatively, they could have said that I used to be kept awake by the Nightshift etc. etc. It's as though Ian and the Nightshift never existed as far as the BBC is concerned!

mim said...

Hi ,
I think they were mad to let Julia , Paul and Ian go and Mike Parr. It's never been the same since and personally I can't bear to listen any more. I occasionally listen to Jamie in the afternoon but the morning programmes used to be so informative as well as entertaining now they are neither .
I still don't think anyone can interview like Julia and there is no-ne filling Paul and Ian's shoes.
Bats--we have a bat who comes out every fine evening just as it gets dusk and flies around ours and next doors garden and I love him. He's so fast and I wonder where he lives.
Love Margaret x

Sid said...

I listened to Mike Parr the other morning (via my laptop). You wouldn't believe how they have changed the format of his show. I thought it was rubbish, and turned it off. He had more music than discussion, and that wasn't the Mike Parr that I had come to love, and sit on the fence with. Seems its not only RN that's changing program formats.

Vivienne said...

Hi Sid,

That's interesting about Mike. I keep intending to listen in, but I'm rarely up, or rather down, at that time in the morning. I still can't use this laptop upstairs since I changed to broadband. I planned to use my old laptop as a modem, but it won't recognize the broadband connection. I've got a wireless router sitting back in its box, gathering dust!

Sid said...

Mike is on 'listen again' Vivienne. You started me wondering...just how much computer gear do we have lying around gathering dust. I have a collection of cables that 'might come in handy'. Other cables are still in unopened packets, and I haven't a clue what they are for.
And as for mobile phone chargers...