In this posting...
*The Admirable Lawrence
*Another Stockton Hero
Now read on, Macduff...
THE ADMIRABLE LAWRENCE
Most thoroughbred truckshunters will know of the redoubtable Lawrence Hepple, a stalwart and regular companion of mine on The Nightshift. He it was who dreamed up, and scripted, the topics for the weekly On Your Doorstep feature. His research was meticulous, even though the poor misguided fellow rarely knew the direction our chats would go in.
It’s only fair to say, at this point, that I didn’t really know where the chats were heading to either. Lawrence and I promised you each week that he wouldn’t tell me the OYD subject until I pressed the ‘record’ button. And he didn’t. Sometimes I wished he had - a sentiment I’m sure you share. Mostly though, the cul-de-sacs and blind alleys we went up were a sheer delight, journeys of exploration that often left me gasping with amazement at Lawrence’s erudition or guffawing at my own ignorance and/or stupidity.
After recording each edition of OYD, Lawrence and I made it our business to sample the delights of the ‘greasy spoons’ (no offence meant) on ‘Motorbike Hill’. So established did this habit become that it even survived my departure from the BBC. Lawrence and I still meet up once every three weeks or so for breakfast - usually at the Job Bulman pub in Gosforth. If you’d like to join us one morning, just say so.
Two of the four pictures above were taken at our last Breakfast Summit on Tuesday; the other two were taken at AGM IX. You shouldn’t need me to differentiate them for you!
And weren’t we lucky that the Eye opened while we were there?
...will be held, with all the panoply and dignity we can muster, at the Biscuit Factory on Stoddart Street in Newcastle on Thursday 3 December at 1100. You’d better be there.
A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
STOCKTON: ANOTHER FORGOTTEN HERO
For a while, BBC Radio Newcastle used to tout me as their local history guru. Seriously. I know - some guru. As I’ve said time and again, and almost since the day I started, what is truly awe-inspiring is the amount of north-east history I didn't know and which, therefore, my literate and knowledgeable listeners could impart to me. Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe in Gateshead. The play that Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated was written by a Sunderland lad. Birds can get Newcastle Disease. That kind of thing.
Well you’ll be glad to hear that the tradition is still very much alive. Truckshunter Peter has emailed me to ask how, in my ramblings about Stockton in posting 181, I could possibly have omitted to mention the birth, on December 6 1888, of none other than Will Hay in that noble town.
Yes, that Will Hay. He of the Oh Mr Porter, bumbling headmaster-type characters in British black-and-white films of the 30s and 40s. And all this time I simply didn’t know that he was a local lad.
Well I never. Thanks Peter. Keep in touch!
This is, of course, the time of year when many, if not most, retail businesses do most of their turnover. Which is why it’s also the season for shop windows to be full of stuff we can’t afford and don’t need - stuff for us to spend spend spend our money on.
In fact, we’re so used to the cynical, money-grubbing commercialism of Christmas that Fenwick’s longstanding tradition - steadfastly upheld for many years - of spending thousands of pounds on a specially-commissioned Christmas Window on Northumberland Street seems almost unbelievable. You’d have thought it would have gone the way of real log fires and carols round the family tree years ago.
Paul and I were once allowed to pre-record an item for the Blue Bus Programme from behind Fenwick’s Christmas Window. I suppose it would be disloyal and discourteous to describe the many ‘Heath Robinson’ contraptions hidden behind the seasonal public facade - contrivances without which the donkey’s tail wouldn’t wag and the Three Wise Men would remain obstinately in the East.
That there is still a department store - and one with strong local connexions at that - which is willing to do all this every Christmas does something to repair the jaded festive spirits each year. Go and see this year’s offering. It’s as good as ever, I reckon.
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