In this posting...
*The Admirable Lawrence


*Another Stockton Hero

*Fenwick’s Window

Now read on, Macduff...

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.

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.

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


Hildie said...

I will be at school tomorrow, Lawrence, when you are blowing out your candles - so I thought I would pop in now and sing for you!
I've just had a brainwave ... I can tell you're all aghast ... struck with overwhelming shock or amazement no less .... but I have, honestly! I have floated this idea on Truckshunters before as Happy Hour ... but my brainwave is the new catchy name for it ....
I have decided we could have
"Talking Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays on Truckshunters at Ten".... you do understand, don't you??
I'm wondering why we are spelling connextions with an x ... when did we decide to do that? One of those times I was late for an AGM I expect!
I'm interested to hear about Jason , Ian. Is he going to write on the blog? And is Peter?
I had SUCH a lovely Christmas Shopping Trip today .... you don't hear many people say a thing like that .... I caught the bus to Durham ... it wasn't in the least busy in the shops there. I got through half my list in one go.
I don't know if you'll think that's good or not.
Is it impressive?

Lawrence, have a great day!

Sid said...

So THAT'S where the fire engines were heading to. I thought all those candles would set the alarms off. Anyway have a great day Lawrence. The older you get...the quicker they come around. Happy Birthday.

Leroy La Strange said...

Yo Ian,

"I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness".

That is pure class I'm stealing that one.


Sid said...

I've just found out that Bobby Thompson was born in Sunderland, now that is a surprise.

Ian Robinson said...

I didn't know that either, Sid - but it kinda doesn't surprise me. He was always HUGELY popular with the folk of the pit villages of East Durham when I was growing up there. Isn't the accent he used a bit more Wearside than Tyneside? Hmmmm..interesting.
Leroy...glad you like it!

Hildie said...

You know those funny sayings you were talking about - a blog or two ago - Ian? I heard another one of them in the staff room yesterday
the secretary was talking about the particularly unsavoury mother of a child we used to have in school ... "Oh, her", she said,
she's enough to frighten a police horse!"

I have heard from Ellie !!!
She was telling me that, at the moment, she can't make it to our AGMs because of work commitments ...
HOWEVER, she did say, "Watch this space, because in the New Year,
things are going to be changing."

Hope you've got your vote in for Joe McEllderry, Ian .....
we Truckshunters are all behind him!

Maureen said...

Belated birthday greetings Lawrence. I hope that you are just recovering from it!
Wonderings again... why is it that no matter how much you like the smell of a new air freshener, you hate it by the time you are halfway through it? or is that just me?

Leroy La Strange said...

Yo Maureen,

I'm like that with my newish Body Shop aftershave I loved it but for the past two days I thought I could smell wee, then realised it was my aftersave after having it on for a couple of hours.

I was starting to think I had a problem of sorts, LOL

Leroy x

Hildie said...

Did you know it's St. Andrew's Day today? Apparently, they are all busy doing The Dumfies Fling , even as we speak, up there in bonny Scotland! They are making a Guinness World Record Attempt in
Dumfies High Street
.... they are aiming to do the largest Scottish Reel EVER,
everyone is welcome,
if only we Truckshunters had known!
We'd have been good ,
would we not??!!

Maureen said...

Hi All,
Leroy that aftershave, it isn't Essence of Old Folks Home is it? Just wondered...
Hildie, yes we would have shown them a fling or two wouldn't we? I always think that it's a pity such a fuss is made of St Patrick's Day and the others hardly rate a mention, although it is getting a bit better now. I'd love to see big celebrations for St. George's Day and maybe a public holiday?

Hildie said...

We should definitely have a Bank Holiday , Maureen, for St. George's Day. How could we arrange that?

Tonight (in Dumfries) we would have heard The Red Hot Chilli Pipers at the Christmas lights
switch on, if only we had joined in the big fling. I hope it went well!
I bet a few tots of whisky have been downed by now!

Hildie said...

Maureen, did you know that the man who wrote "Little Donkey" came from Sunderland? It seems he has died today. His name was Eric, but I'm afraid (for the life of me)
I cannot remember his surname. His death was mentioned on the local news. I had never known that it had been written by someone up here in the north!

Maureen said...

If you are serious about that Hildie you can show your support on http://www.stgeorgesday.com/home there are a lot of famous people backing it. I registered a few years ago and they don't pester you, just a reminder email once a year and I suppose that you could opt out of that if you wanted to.
Actually when you think about it the Scots celebrate Burns night too don't they?

Hildie said...

By, there are some funny looking things live under the sea.

Maureen said...

Now you've started something Hildie! I did hear Eric Boswell's death mentioned and was surprised to hear that it was a hit in the '50s for Vera Lynn. I always thought that it was someone like Peter, Paul and Mary? Maybe a later version? Anyway I've 'happened' on to a website all about songs and singers of Geordie dialect. I'm sure that Ian wil be interested: http://www.rolyveitch.20m.com/dialect_songwriters.html this is what he says about Eric Boswell: (and I was surprised that his notes are completely up to date!) Eric Boswell - born Wearside, date not known - died Nov 2009.
Eric was a professional musician/writer based in London during his very successful career. He wrote a pop song in the 50's 'Little Donkey' which became an international hit.
He retired back to his native north east, and lives in rural Northumberland. He was commissioned by Mawson - Wareham(JG Windows Record Store, Newcastle)to write dialect materials. This was specifically for a 1980's dialect show toured locally and on radio, called Geordierama.
It featured local BBC presenters Mike Neville and George House. The shows comprised of Geordie jokes and recitations also Boswell's songs. He has written 4 books of songs, some now very well known and part of the standard repertoire. Among these are the hilarious, yet touching 'I've got a little whippet', a seduction song - 'Wi me pit claes on', an anthem - Tyneside's where I come from' and 'The forst footin' song'.

Maureen said...

Hi again, when I've checked the site out properly the writer is a jazz musician and keen photographer called Roland Veitch who has posted lots of his photos of the Winlaton, Barlow area. Some people might be interested in taking a look, they're very good.

Loz said...

Hi guys..... thanks for the birthday wishes.... many thanks - I had a good one.

45...... flippin' ancient

Hildie said...

Hiya Lawrence ... I'm glad you had a good birthday .... 45 ...
seriously, you're just a baby!
Wondering if you and Vivienne will be there on Thursday. I think Maureen can't make it this time.
ADA is coming!! I checked on the Truckshunter grapevine .... umm, actually, yes, you're right, I rang her ... and she'll be there ... and I know Sid will be ... and last, but (of course) not least, Ian ....
that , up to know, is the sum total of what I know.
I'm off to school shortly, to hear some people read.
See you all soon.
Excited for that!

Hildie said...

Ahh, Sid, just had to pop back and thank you for emailing me the story about Mike Parr, from
'The Guardian'. Don't you feel proud of him? I do!

Vivienne said...

Hi Folks!

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.

It was Nina and Frederick who sang, 'Little Donkey'. I may still have the record!

Val said...

Googled the article about Mike's wonderful broadcasts. I really miss Mike Parr. Lately I've been nostalgic for Tony Cartledge.

When I was little we used to have Little Donkey by Gracie Fields. I found it on the net - but without the crackles and jumps our very well worn record had - a bit dull really, Nina and Frederick's was much better.

Ian asked how I found out about a classical concert I went to recently at St Georges Church, Jesmond. I stumbled across another accidentally on website for what's on in NewcastleGateshead [as they like to call it] There's another at St Georges [and Hexham and Carlisle] http://www.candlelitconcerts.com/ The choir are 'The Singers' based in Newcastle http://www.singers.org.uk and they have beautiful rehearsals on youtube. I booked online so hope it worked.

I'd hoped to have got along to the AGM but so much to do just now and need to save my leave for Christmas when kids are home from uni and abroad. Sure you'll all have a fab time.

Sid said...

I had a great time today, thanks everyone.

Vivienne said...

Hi Folks!

Another fun packed AGM. Thanks to everyone who came along. I enjoyed being with you all very much. It wasn't really an AGM, rather Ian's early birthday party. Ian, I hope you remember to post Gerry's poem, which is brilliant! It was a lovely surprise when Paul turned up too.

I've posted my photos on murphyanddorastravels.blogspot.com

Hildie said...

Oh, aren't we a happy , little band?! As Sid said to me,
"Today was a hoot" ......
it's lovely you know!

Ian Robinson said...

I hadn't heard about Eric Boswell. 'I had a little whippet' was one of Paul W's favourite local songs.
As for St George's Day - fiddle-dee-dee. It's St Cuthbert's Day (March 20) we should be celebrating with a day off up here!!

Maureen said...

Why not both Ian? How about an extraordinary AGM on St Cuthberts Day in March? Somewhere connected with St Cuthbert? I'm sure that we could think of something...

Maureen said...

BTW, Can we have three cheers please for Fenwicks, who have provided a beautiful, traditional start to Christmas? and Hildie, random comment about things living under the sea? or did I miss something...

Maureen said...

Oh, and thanks Vivienne, Nina and Frederick, whatever happened to them?
The word verification on here at the moment is chipsyco! hmmm....