In this blogposting...
*Robinson’s Grand Tour
*The Blogpic
Now let’s be ‘avin’ ya...

In former years - in those far off salad days when I was but green in deed - I used to think that, generally speaking, palindromes were little more than utterly trivial wastes of time. It’s all very well to concoct a sentence that reads backwards as well as forwards - and yet somehow pointless if the result makes no sense at all. Rats live on no evil star seems to me to be complete drivel. Madam I’m Adam is useful only if you’re called Adam and there’s a woman nearby who you think wants to know your name. Able was I ere I saw Elba can only have been declaimed by Napoleon - and even then, he would have said it in French.

The only palindrome I ever found that had any sort of literary merit was A Man, A Plan, A Canal - Panama! It not only meets palindromic criteria but also makes a modicum of sense. In its own elegant way, it even tells a story (of admittedly limited scope)

I was therefore delighted to hear once again from Martin, in Houghton-le-Spring. He has sent me proof, if proof were ever needed, that one of mankind’s more endearing qualities is the relish with which he is prepared to wallow in complete trivia, to bathe in the warm waters of his own fruitless yet joyful inventiveness.

There is, apparently, a whole family of Panama! palindromes. There’s even a kind of Panama! fan club, whose members occupy their time in attempts to lengthen the original Panama! palindrome to inordinate and ludicrous proportions. The idea seems to be to make it endless so that it stretches, ad infinitum, to the far reaches of hyperspace where no-one but Patrick Moore (whom God preserve) will ever find its conclusion.

Stage One: A man, a plan, a cat, a canal – Panama!
I’m not sure if there is any historical evidence for feline involvement in the construction of the waterway, but I’m prepared to turn a blind eye to the truth on this occasion.

Stage Two: A man, a plan, a cam, a yak, a yam, a canal – Panama!
The cat has disappeared and been replaced by an engine part, a kind of huge cow and an exotic fruit. But still this is Central America, so you never know.

Stage Three: A man, a plan, a cat, a ham, a yak, a yam, a hat, a canal – Panama!
The cat has returned (as they do), this time accompanied by some meat and an item of headgear. Credulity is being stretched to the limit. It snaps completely at...

Stage Four: A man, a plan, a canoe, pasta, heros, rajahs, a coloratura, maps, snipe, percale, macaroni, a gag, a banana bag, a tan, a tag, a banana bag again (or a camel), a crepe, pins, Spam, a rut, a Rolo, cash, a jar, sore hats, a peon, a canal – Panama!
Were it not for the fact that heros is misspelt, this would be a truly magnificent palindrome. I love that a banana bag again (or a camel)!

Martin quite clearly needs to get out more. Although where exactly he would go in Houghton-le-Spring is a matter of some conjecture.

Thankyou for all the advice, tips, hints, wrinkles and recommendations you’ve sent me about the towns and cities I’ve asked you about so far on my Grand Tour. They’ve all been carefully logged for further research and investigation.

It’s time now to move on to the next stage of my journey; to Verona and Venice.

The route taken by the Munich-to-Verona express is said to be one of the prettiest in Europe and I’m looking forward to it immensely. And when I get to Verona, I’ll be in the city of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Two Gentlemen of... There’s a complete Roman amphitheatre there, too. But what else?

From Verona I will be taking a day trip by train to Venice. Yes, I know that a few hours in one of the world’s great cities seems to be rendering it an almost perverse disservice. Indeed, quite a few people have been roundly critical of the fact that I’m not giving each destination the time it deserves.

My only counterblast is that, to a certain extent, the destinations are a kind of bonus. The holiday is all about the train journeys themselves. Please try to understand, dear reader.

Having said that, I’d love to hear what your experiences of Verona and/or Venice have been, or what unexpected and hidden delights you can find out about either or both of them.

Still on my Grand Tour...something rather amazing happened today.

I went to good old Marks and Spencer’s to find some cargo shorts and a safari jacket for my trip and the lass who said Can I help you? as I looked vaguely round the racks turned out to be none other than Yvonne Salisbury. Yes, that Yvonne Salisbury. Munich, it turns out, is her most favourite place on earth. So much so that she runs a website called insidersmunich.com and has won an award for the travel book she’s written about the city.

Isn’t it a small - and deeply coincidental - world? Take a look at her website. And the next time you’re in Marks’ say Hello from me.

I showed a slightly cropped version of this posting’s picture above blogposting 193. However, everyone seems to have been so engrossed in the correspondence between the Lady Euphemia Overall-Burke and myself that no-one at all asked what it was a picture of.

Until someone does ask, I intend to keep re-posting it. So there.

The next AGM which I will be able to attend will probably take place in wcm 12 Showery. Please feel very free to decide on which date, and at which venue. You could even have your own AGM to make those decisions.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all - at either or both!

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

It is not without a certain feeling of trepidation - not to say sheer, mind-numbing horror - that I lift my appendage on this auspicious night. My fingers - and various other parts of my anatomy - are stiffening at the epoch-making news I am about to impart to you via my humble keyboard. My eyes, like most of my other orifices, are moistening with nervous anticipation. My right wrist, normally so pliant and flexible whenever those qualities are called for, is peculiarly flaccid and unresponsive, as if it had a mind of its own. Which would make for a very interesting wrist, you must admit.

What is it, I hear you ask, that is making my bodily functions baulk. (Lovely word - baulk.) I can keep you in suspense no longer....

A few memorable days ago, Jean-Marcel Sergio O’Shaughnessy - our friendly local postman and ratcatcher - knocked vehemently and persistently at my entrance until I was roused. Upon seeing me resplendent in my mauve, terry-towelling Singapore-slit bathrobe, he thrust into my palm something unexpectedly large, throbbingly robust and suspiciously pink - then ran down our ginkgo-lined driveway, strewing subscriptions to Which? and final reminder gas bills as he went.

After withdrawing to my boudoir I hesitantly opened the envelope...

My dear truckshunters. I have received a letter from...her. No ordinary her; no run-of-the mill, world-and-his-wife her. Oh no. By ‘her’, I mean ‘her’.

As I type, I am gently sucking a Fisherman’s Friend and remembering those heady days ten years ago when the Lady Euphemia Overall-Burke first crash-landed in my life. Her inimitable, and occasionally illegal, contributions to Paul’s Saturday Quiz will remain forever in the warped and wafer-thin minds (and queasy stomachs) of those who heard them. Her disarming, and disgusting, descriptions of life at Burke’s Corner (her copious seat near Esh Winning) were unforgettably nauseating; her faithful retainer Tossit; her cultured son Sebastian and his friend Malcolm (both of them huge fans of Thai food and Thai cinema); her rugged but moody gardener Clint (forever strimming at the edges of Her Grace’s ha-ha); her inventive and pestilential housekeeper Shivers; and, of course, the local vicar, exorcist and snake-charmer - the Rev Unseemly Dogposture.

And we will have to draw a veil over her mysterious sister Hortense - whose Facebook page was recently closed down by order of the Child Protection Agency - and her husband the Lord Algernon Overall-Burke, once big in treacle but now, alas, departed from this world and living with a barmaid in Swansea.

I reproduce below (a phrase often used by Euphemia herself) the text of Her Grace’s missive. I don’t think it needs any enlarging by me (also a phrase frequently used by Her Grace).

'My dear esteemed Mr Robinson,

I’ve had a most terrible job getting this darned email thing working. Finally Lord Dogposture tried his “log in” and it was so much better.

Yes my dear….greetings from the resplendent Burkes Corner, which you know all too well, having had the pleasure of my country seat on more than one occasion.

Life here is much the same. Rumour had it that I was now bedridden; well that’s partly true …about 3 times a week by Lord Dogposture.

I still have my splendid family around me. There’s my most charming son Sebastian and his friend Malcolm….shall we say they are not ‘ladies' men’ in the old-fashioned sense of the word.

Then there's my darling sister, the Lady Hortense Pinky-Bavington, who has just returned from the Far East (Hartlepool Headland).

My faithful old retainer Tossit is still here too…. it’s good to know that in hard times he’s always there to fall back on. He attends to all my little foibles…he’s absolutely marvellous! Everyone should have a Tossit.

Shivers the cook always has something on the boil, and can always be found bending over a hot ring.

Then there’s my ever so macho gardener Clint. I think designer stubble looks so sexy on a man…unfortunately not where
he’s got it. Really, that man's been in more beds than Percy Thrower's trowel. He is rather moody and those who rub him up the wrong way will come to a sticky end. He’s presently in his greenhouse, sorting out his bedding plants...I believe he’s pricking out before hardening off.

Sebastian is still in the menswear department at Isaac Walton's, and following recent promotion is now quite big in the trouser department. Sebastian and Malcolm have recently taken up swimming and enjoy a few lengths, 3 times a week.

We still have our afternoon soirees, when my dear friend Boothby Pagnall plays his cello to accompany me on the pianoforte. Just picture the scene - Boothby scraping away at that huge instrument between his legs. He is of course a most talented violinist and has enjoyed fiddling with Nigel Kennedy on several occasions. Yes he is a most fantastic musician…but as he is always reminding me ” you didn’t get far in the trombone section of the Boys Brigade without a good wrist action”.

Well my dear Mr Robinson that brings you up to date with our lives here at Burkes Corner. You must call in for a pot of tea and a few fancies, and bring that nice Mr Wopshop from your radio programme. I always had a long felt want for him…still there’s no accounting for taste.

We live by the river; feel free to drop in sometime.

Your dear friend,

Euphemia Overall-Burke'

This is the text of my reply.

'My dearest Lady Euphemia

Thankyou for your letter - and on scented paper, too! (What exactly WAS that scent, by the way?)

You find me in rude health. In fact, receiving your letter made my health even ruder. Now that I am no longer casting my seed abroad, I am filling my life with good works. For instance, I spend Sunday mornings at church at North Shields riveted to the spot by the Rev Thong and his choirboys' well-filled cassocks. Then I dash down to the fish quay where I have volunteered to clean out the fishwives' smelly boxes once a week. Apparently, no-one else will do it.

Afterwards I spend my Sunday afternoon on the lookout for seamen. Many of the charitable institutions thereabouts may have closed but I know people - such as the Rev Thong - who have access to many of the area's back passages, even if they have to be forced.

I'm so glad that Tossit is still performing well for you; if I remember correctly, he always came up to scratch. Shivers, too, remains in my memory - I was constantly amazed (and sometimes even shocked) at what that woman could do with a stick of celery and a batter whisk.

I think it must have been your darling Sebastian who measured me up at Isaac Walton's the other day. He insisted on taking his device to my inside leg even though I only wanted a tie. So thorough!

Anyway, I must dash now. It's my night on duty at St Everard's when I spend the entire night scouring the streets and back alleys (mostly in Sunderland) looking for young men who have wandered off the straight and narrow so that I can save them. Would you like me to save YOU one?

I will be sure to call into Burke's Corner for an iced finger when next I am in Esh Winning. In the meantime, please pass on my best to everyone - it will be arriving under separate cover shortly.

Your affectionate correspondent

Ah, happy days.


In this blogposting....
*Robinson's Grand Tour
*Blogposting 193: Special Announcement
Now - on with the motley...

Following on from my one-night stops in Brussels and Cologne, my Grand Tour will take me down the Rhine valley into Bavaria - to Munich.

I have mentioned in previous postings that Brussels and Cologne are not entirely unknown to me; I visited both cities on a school trip when I was 16. From hereon in, though, my travels will be taking me to towns, cities and countryside I have never seen before - and this journey to Munich is the first stage in my journey into the unknown.

To many Germans, Munich is not merely Germany’s second city - it is Germany’s second capital city. By report, it is a stately and thriving place with much to distract the travelling shunter of trucks. And once again, this is where you come in, if you will.

If you have any experience of Munich - any tips, suggestions or advice about the city - or if you’d like to do some research into its less predictable aspects (in typical truckshunter style), please feel free to get in touch with me. You can do this by using the Comments option that accompanies this posting or you can email me. See below.

But your potential involvement in this part of my Grand Tour doesn’t have to stop at Munich. This is because, although I’ll be spending three nights in Munich ( - on the first day, and each evening, I should have oodles of time to scratch the surface of what appears to be a proud and bustling place - ) I am hoping to make day trips by train from Munich to two other places not too far away: Ulm and Regensburg. My researches so far indicate that both of these towns are worth a visit - and neither of them is more than an hour or so from Munich by train.

So make haste. Put finger to keyboard and get in touch if you have something useful or flippant or curious to tell me about Munich, Ulm and Regensburg!

Just as my upcoming Grand Tour is tending to dominate this blog, so it also overwhelmed AGM XIII, which took place last Friday 19 Wheezy at the cafe in Newcastle’s new Central Library. I can only apologise for being so damnably obsessed, excitable and talkative about it at the moment. I’d also like to thank all members of the Honourable Company of Truckshunters for their forbearance during these happily turbulent times.

As a matter of fact, I enjoyed the AGM immensely; but then again, I suppose I would say that as I did most of the talking and love the sound of my own voice. I’m also one of those irritating people who think that everybody else loves the sound of my voice, too.

If I tell you that the assembled throng consisted of Maureen, Hildie, Sid, Ada, J Arthur Smallpiece - yes that J Arthur Smallpiece - with his partner Hillary and Nev then you’ll need no convincing that we were a talkative and joyous bunch. We weren’t quite thrown out of the library but it was a close-run thing.

It was especially good to see Nev there. He and I go way back (as they say) to the earliest days of my illustrious radio career on Paul’s Saturday show. He was the agent of a hugely successful AGM at the Tanfield Railway, too, but this was the first time he had attended an AGM as a regular - and, in his case, a real live - shunter of trucks!

Despite all this, he does not appear on any of AGM XIII’s photographs because he scarpered before the cameras came out.

I don’t know what it is about these regular convocations of the faithful but (and I hope I’m not tempting fate here) they seem to be going from strength to strength. We seem to have transmogrified into a happy band of friends. Long may it be so.

I should finally say that I was in the happy position of being able to announce to those attending that the post of Lifelong Honorary President of the Honourable Company of Truckshunters has been filled - by the redoubtable Ada, Walkergate’s finest and a real trooper. She managed to get there last Friday with a strapped ankle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: What a woman!

Because of my Grand Tour, I will be unavailable for the AGM that would normally take place in Sneezy. But please feel free to hold one in my absence.

The next ‘centrally-organised’ AGM (as it were) will therefore be in Showery and probably in wcm 12. That gives us all plenty of time to set the exact date and venue. Lodge your ideas in the usual way - via the Comments box or through email.

I’m toying with the idea of calling an AGM AGM; a kind of Extraordinary Truckshunt - well, even more extraordinary than they usually are. It would take the form of a carefully organised and faultlessly planned all-day outing to somewhere more exotic than, say, Bishop Auckland but at the same time less exotic than, say, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.

I would be very grateful for your ideas on this.

The next blogposting - which, all other things being equal, should appear in two days’ time (that is, on Wednesday 24 Wheezy) - will be very special indeed.

At this point, it would be both undiplomatic and foolish for me to elaborate further on the epoch-making nature of blogposting 193. Take it from me, however, that it will go down in truckshunting history as the posting that changed everything; the posting after which nothing could ever be the same again.

You have been warned.

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


In this blogposting...
*Three Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know About Time
*Robinson's Grand Tour
*In Memoriam
Now, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war...

*In Hindi, the word for ‘yesterday’ - kal - is the same as the word for ‘tomorrow’; and in Punjabi, parson means either the day before yesterday or the day after tomorrow
*In Balinese Indonesia, njepi is a national public holiday where everyone remains perfectly silent
*After the French Revolution in 1789, those wacky revolutionaries renamed all of the months; they called them things like floreal (‘month of flowers’), fructidor (‘month of fruit’), brumaire (‘month of fog’) and pluviose (‘month of rain’). The sarky and disrespectful English quickly nicknamed them all: showery, flowery, bowery, wheaty, heaty, sweety, slippy, nippy, drippy, freezy, wheezy and sneezy.

Now I don’t know about you, but I reckon these cheeky nicknames say just about all there is to say about the months of the year. So much so that, even though the Revolutionary Calendar was abolished by Napoleon in 1806, I think it should be revived under its British guise.

This could be the greatest step towards lunacy that we truckshunters have ever taken - and that’s saying a lot.

And what this all means in practise is that.....

....will take place this upcoming Friday 19 of Wheezy at 1100 in the cafe of Newcastle’s Central Library. The consequences of your not being there could be serious, depending on what your excuse is. After all....

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

The first ports of call on my stately progress around this awe-inspiring continent of ours will be Brussels and Cologne; one of them famous for bureaucracy and a urinating statuette, the other for its eau. If you have any information, tips, wrinkles or advice about either of those two great cities, now is the time to fill me in. Otherwise, if I miss something I should have seen while I’m there, or if something goes horribly wrong, I will blame you.

Incidentally, to a mind as stubbornly wayward as mine, Cologne is an interesting place-name. Confusingly, in English we use the French name for the city; the natives call it Koln, which is an exact equivalent of the -coln in Lincoln. Both names date from Roman times and come from Latin colonia, ‘colony’. How interesting is that!

And...do sprouts really come from Brussels?

We truckshunters make it our business to mark the passing of people who were, at some point in their lives, household names but whose stars may perhaps have faded from the memory of the celeb generation.

Sir John Dankworth has died, aged 82. I’ve never been a fan of jazz; it’s like cricket - I just don’t get it and I’m deeply suspicious of people who do. Nevertheless, even to my untutored ear and tastes, the name of Johnny Dankworth (as most people still refer to him) is etched all over my youth. He and the adorable Cleo Laine always seemed to be popping up on the Billy Cotton Band Show and such; they did a great deal to popularise jazz, though not with me!

Another face that peppered my younger days was that of Ian Carmichael, who has died aged 89. He mostly played bumbling upper-class English twits in films like Private’s Progress, Brothers in Law and I’m All Right Jack, and on tv as Jeeves. He only broke free of the typecast in his later career, playing the suave and debonair Lord Peter Wimsey.

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

Some people have had the enormous effrontery to voice highly critical comments about this blog. The two commonest are, firstly, that is does not appear regularly enough (yeah, right) and secondly, that when it does appear, it is too long.

So, purely on the grounds of experimentation and in the interests of brevity...

A Lewis Carroll 'word-square' sent to me by Peter of South Shields
They should have better things to do in South Shields


In this blogposting...
*Robinson’s Grand Tour
Now, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war...

The next AGM will take place at 1100 on Friday 19 February at the cafe in Newcastle Central Library.

After all this time, you will not be surprised to hear that a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

For a man of my educated and bookish background, my naturally curious temperament, my mature years and my towering intellect (perm any three of four), I am strangely ill-travelled.

My first rip abroad took place when I was a mere 16 years old. It was a school trip which my mother could seriously not afford and I’m ashamed to say that it was probably wasted on me at the time. It was a coach journey that took in Bruges, Brussels, Cologne, Koblenz, Trier and Luxembourg.

I have discovered since that each of those towns and cities has its own claim to monumental, historical or aesthetic fame - and sometimes, all three - although, as is the way with these things, they were almost completely lost on me at the time.

I can remember a high tower in Bruges, a urinating statue in Brussels, nothing at all about Cologne, an amazing view of two rivers confluencing (?) in Koblenz, a Roman arch in Trier and two disembodied spires in Luxembourg. The rest passed me by completely.

The only mementoes I have of the trip are a few scratchy faded photographs and the clothes-brush which, for some unfathomable reason, I brought back as a gift for my terminally puzzled mother. (In that latter respect, times have not changed. I am the sort of ingrate son who can visit a city as spectacular as, say, Istanbul and bring her back a fridge magnet.)

Needless to say, that school trip did not engender in me a lust for travel (or a lust for anything else, more’s the pity). This is probably just as well. We’re talking 1966 here; most local people of my impeccably working-class background still went on holiday to Crimdon Dene, South Shields or Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. Cheap fares for the millions were decades away.

Having said all that, my next visit to johnny foreigner was truly memorable; indeed, I haven’t forgotten any of it.

My four-day journey by train to Istanbul. It was the prologue to a three-week visit to my brother, who had the very great fortune to be living in that incredible city at the time. My memories of that journey, and of the holiday, are too numerous and detailed to go into here. They are however the subject of my very first travel-writing book: the ill-named On Foot And By Camel Through The Hindu Kush And Beyond, available in the less reputable charity shops and incineration centres.

Less astute readers may wonder where all this is leading. I’m beginning to wonder myself.

It took another ten years for me to pluck up the courage to venture beyond the trusty bulwarks of this sceptr’d isle again. By 1976 I was living in Sheffield (something of a foreign country itself) and had a shiny new boyfriend called Philip. Obviously feeling the need to broaden my ever-narrowing horizons, he suggested we have a holiday on the Greek Islands. Well, not all of them...

It was my first flight and I really was one of those oiks who say ‘look at those people down there - they look like ants!’ But the holiday - which was on Naxos and Paros - was unforgettable and, as you probably know, I’ve been besotted with the Greek Islands ever since.

After that, though, my wanderlust remained resolutely suppressed. Holidays were taken on narrowboats on canals or in log cabins beside Scottish lochs. I’m not complaining, mind you. They were great holidays.

The one unexpected exception occurred in 1998, when my old friend Brian invited me to spend a week or two with him in Kyoto. Yes, that Kyoto. Again, the details of those incredible days are too tedious to recount here but you can read all about my adventures in Japan in my misleadingly named second travel book Through Bolivia With A Kayak And A Cuckoo Clock.

Suddenly, however - and almost certainly prompted by yet another romantic entanglement - there came a flurry of flights to foreign parts. Several Greek Islands - Paxi, Symi, Halki, Crete - were ticked off the to-do list, I re-visited Istanbul (see above) and made my first visits to both Paris and Amsterdam. I have now visited those two startling cities quite often and they are etched forever inside what’s left of my mind. They are almost second homes.

So what, I hear you ask, has any of this got to do with shunting trucks. Well....

My feet are itching once again. I’ve tried douching them in a tincture of aqueous cream and Body Shop Refreshing Peppermint and Tea Tree Foot Scrub but the itch remains. I realised some time ago that there was only one solution to the problem. Namely, to award myself the One Big Early Retirement Present to which I felt I was entitled on that dark and frosty morning when I finally walked out of the stiffly revolving doors of the Pink Palace.

So I’m going to go on a journey.

A big, long, eye-wateringly monumental journey around a sizeable chunk of Europe - my favourite continent, a citizen of which I am enormously proud to be.

My journey will take in mountains and lakes, rivers and fields, villages and towns and cities. I’ll be passing through five countries and some of Europe’s most stunning scenery to visit some of the world’s greatest and most beautiful cities. En route I will greedily be devouring history, myth, art and culture. I’ll be meeting new people, eating new food and doing new things.

And I’ll be doing it all by train!

These days, it’s the only way to travel. All over Europe they’re busy building superfast railway lines and running elegant, streamlined trains on them. (Well, not here, of course, but everywhere else.) I bought Thomas Cook’s European Rail Map and realised - in naive astonishment - that everywhere is connected to everywhere else. From the toe of Italy to the cliff-hugging fjord railways of Norway.

(Did you know there’s a bridge over the sea between Denmark and Sweden? You can go by train from Newcastle to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo and even St Petersburg.)

Now admit it - you’re jealous, aren’t you? You wish you were doing it, don’t you? You want to come with me, don’t you?

Well, you can. In a way.

It’s taken me several very pleasurable weeks to work out the route I want to take but I’ve finally decided where I’m headed. Thanks to the internet, I even have a good idea about the exact times of the trains I need to catch.

And over the next few blogpostings I’ll be detailing my route and timings and inviting you to join in the fun of planning it all.

If you have any experiences of the places I’ll be visiting, I’ll be keen to hear all about them. If you know of any sights, monuments, galleries, museums, parks and such that you think I might enjoy, tell me about them. The quirkier, the better (naturally).

If you can recommend any hotels or B&Bs, cafes or restaurants, local food and drink, I’ll be delighted to know about them.

Tell me, too, about anything you think I should avoid.

If you want, you can even join in the research. Do what I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing over the last few weeks. Make yourself a particularly strong mug of coffee, sit yourself in front of your computer and start daydreaming! Find websites that tell you things you think I should know about the places I’ll be visiting and pass the lowdown on to me. After all, I may not have found the website that you’ve come across.

Be warned though. Once you start, it becomes addictive. You’ll be sending me emails saying ‘I know you’re planning to get the 0945 train but I’ve discovered there’s a Museum of Toilet Paper which doesn’t open until 1000. Why not pay it a visit and then get the 1215 train instead?

At least I hope that’s the kind of email I get!

By the time I set off from Newcastle Central station in March, I hope to be equipped with the means to post blogs on the hoof, as it were. As I go, I should be able to keep you abreast of delights and disappointments, missed trains, jaw-dropping scenery, surprising people and new discoveries - many of which I hope you will have recommended to me in the first place. Isn’t the internet amazing!

So watch this space over the next few days for details of my route. Then, if you’d like to...get to it!

(And a final heartfelt thankyou to Mietek and Neville, who have already sent in some suggestions!)

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


In this blogposting...
*Information Needed...
*Things You didn’t Know You Didn’t Know
*In Memoriam
Now, read on, Macduff...

I have been informed - by a source I generally consider to be impeccable - that the World Pie Eating Championships were held at Wigan (where else?) in December. Unfortunately, my source (whose name I am concealing to protect the innocent) is refusing to tell me who won and - perhaps most importantly - how many pies he/she managed to consume to achieve the victory.

The event (should its existence prove to be a reality rather then the result of my friend’s fevered truckshuntery) has also inspired me to get the old grey cells a-moving. How whacko! would it be for us to sponsor a logic-defying world championshiop of our very own. Custard pie throwing. Poetry reading. Swimming through treacle. Trainspotting.

I’d better stop and take a tablet.

Over to you.

As everybody must know by now - and as you can see from the picture above (courtesy of Vivienne and murphyanddorastravels.blogspot.com) - AGM XII took place at the Centre for Life in Newcastle on Saturday 23 January. The absence of a couple of hardcore truckshunters was more than made up for by the attendance of no fewer than three AGM virgins.

The formidable - and previously mysterious - Ellie journeyed all the way in from Seaton Delaval to make sure that her year can only get better from hereon in. It was great to be able to put a face to the name and to have her seated where she truly belongs - at the head of the table. Thanks for your lovely comment to blog 188, Ellie. Come back soon. And all our truckshunting love to your cats!

My friend Sue was visiting me from Hereford for a few days and decided to tag along to the AGM as well. I am glad to say that I’ve received a bulletin from the Hereford and District Home for the Suddenly Bewildered that - apart from occasional nightmares - Sue is recovering steadily and should be out if hospital within a few months, provided a suitably caring and sympathetic environment can be found for her.

Perhaps the most surprising visitor of all was the redoubtable Michael Poulter. Apart from the flawed genius that is Paul Wappat, Michael is the first of my ex-colleagues to pluck up the idiocy to attend an AGM and, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the last. His attendance was worth its weight in solid platinum, if only because I got to find out that the overnight show on BBC Radio Newcastle - which has been non-stop music since I left a year ago - now has more listeners than it had when I was at the helm.

Talk about crestfallen. Any more news like that and I think I might join Sue in the Hereford and District Home for the Suddenly Bewildered. All that work - for nothing!

Vivienne, Hildie, Maureen and Lawrence made up the disparate group of truckshunters who enjoyed themselves immensely - as usual. My thanks to them - and everyone else - for taking my troubled mind off the audience figures. I haven’t slept since. I’ve been forcing myself to listen to the overnight programme on BBC Radio Newcastle, thus increasing its audience even more. How’s that for irony? (Or should that be ‘paradox’? What’s the difference?)

The next truckshunter mustering will take place at 1100 on Friday 19 February at the cafe in the new Central Library in Newcastle. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Maureen has forwarded a genius email to me called Revenge on the Telemarketer. In case you haven’t seen it....

Three Little Words That Work!!

The three little words: 'Hold On, Please...' 
Saying this, while putting down your phone and walking off (instead of hanging-up immediately) would make each telemarketing call so much more time-consuming that boiler room sales would grind to a halt. 

Then when you eventually hear BT's 'beep-beep-beep' tone, you know it's time to go back and hang up your handset....you have efficiently completed your task. 

These three little words could help eliminate telephone soliciting. 

Do you ever get those annoying phone calls with no one on the other end?

This is a telemarketing technique where a machine makes phone calls and records the time of day when a person answers the phone. 
This technique is then used to determine the best time of day for a 'real' salesperson to call back and get someone at home.

What you can do after answering: If you notice there is no one there, is to immediately start hitting your # button on the phone, 6 or 7 times, as quickly as possible. This confuses the machine that dialled the call and it kicks your number out of their system. Gosh, what a shame not to have your name in their system any longer!!! 

When you get those 'pre-approved' letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd mortgages and similar type junk, do not throw away the return envelope. 

Most of these come with postage-prepaid return envelopes, right? 
It costs them more than the regular postage IF and when they are returned. It costs them nothing if you throw them away!
In that case, why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little, postage-prepaid return envelopes. 
Send an advert for your local chimney sweeper to American Express... they might need one! 
Send a pizza coupon to HSBC... in case their canteen packs up. You get the idea. 

If you didn't get anything else that day, then just send them back their blank application form.... after all, it is their form! 
If you want to remain anonymous, just make sure your name isn't on anything you return. 

You can even send the envelope back empty if you want to just to keep them guessing! It still costs them, and it is their envelope after all… you are just returning it!!!! 

The banks and credit card companies are currently getting a lot of their own junk back in the post, but folks....we need to OVERWHELM them, in order to stop them. 

Let's let them know what it's like to get lots of junk mail, and best of all they're paying for it...Twice! 

Let's help keep Royal Mail busy. Since the Royal Mail is saying that e-mail is cutting into their business profits, let's help them so they will not need to increase postage costs again.
You get the idea! 
If enough people follow these tips, it will work ---- maybe you'll get very little junk mail anymore.

I’ve put this into practise already. The feeling of smug self-satisfaction is incredible. Try it.

*There is a general for every 415 men in the Army
*Every Scot drinks the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka each year
*2 houses in every 1,000 in the UK still depend on an outside toilet
*20% of British children think that bacon comes from sheep
*8 out of 10 of the dirtiest hotels in Europe are in England
*The dinosaur sinosauropteryx was ginger-coloured
*The world’s oldest bible - now in a Florentine museum - was written by the scribes of Jarrow and Wearmouth
*Henry Travers - the wonderful actor who played Clarence the angel in It’s A Wonderful Life - was born in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

In the everyday hurlyburly of your exciting truckshunting lives, please spare a thought for Pernell Roberts, who has died aged 81. He played the part of Adam Cartwright in Bonanza.

And don’t forget Bobby Charles, who has died aged 71. He wrote See You Later, Alligator.

And finally, our thoughts should fly to Edwina, Britain’s oldest duck, who has died aged 22.

When I started this blog half a lifetime ago, I never for a moment imagined that I would end up commemorating the death of a duck.

...the last time I looked, this blog had 15 followers. It now has 14. Which rat has deserted this particular sinking ship?

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