I’m delighted - astonished, in fact - to say that, together, we’ve reached the 300th posting on this blog. It’s taken almost four years to get here, and a lot has changed in that time. I’ve just spent a pleasant and sobering couple of hours contemplating exactly how much has changed, in fact.

Four years ago, I was presenting The Nightshift on BBC Radio Newcastle and had the doubtfully bright idea of starting a blog which would relate to, and expand on, the ground covered during the programme. (It’s name arose as a result of a chance remark by fellow-presenter Gilly Hope.)

After a while, I was instructed not to mention the blog on-air because it wasn’t an official BBC blog. I kept on writing it, though - and have maintained regular postings through all the changes that have occurred since those days, which seem so very long ago now.

Of course, four years really is quite a long time in cyberspace and I think one of the reasons my BBC days seem part of a distant and unreal past is that, since my retirement, all our lives have been somewhat overtaken by the overwhelming digital media revolution that crowds round us and gathers pace all the time.

It’s now possible to add sound and video to a blog; posters can be followed - and contacted - on Facebook and Twitter. Blogs without these facilities (in other words, blogs like this one) are now regarded as rather old hat, like black-and-white tv in an age of full colour HD.

So, in its four years and 300 postings, Truckshunters has inadvertently fallen behind the times. A long way behind the times. And I’m not really sure what to do about it.

I’ve tried to master the intricacies of Facebook. Every time I receive an email telling me that someone has left a message on my Wall, I log on and instantly get lost. I still haven’t even found my Wall and therefore apologise to everyone who has ever left a message on it.

My desultory and dispiriting experiences with Facebook mean that I haven’t even tried to hook myself onto Twitter.

So I’ve set myself a target. I am determined to overcome my pathetic ignorance of these two socially and digitally essential means of communication. But because I’m old and hoary, I’m giving myself plenty of time to get to grips with them.

15 years.

If I’m not tweeting by the time I reach 77, I’ll give up.

(Incidentally, if you want to see the blog of a truckshunter who has managed to keep up with blogging developments, you could do a lot worse than look at Mietek’s (in Canada). You’ll find it at scurvytoon.blogspot.com.)

In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in some of the statistics relating to this primaeval and outdated blog. They certainly interested me

In the 47 months since posting number 1, there have been 300 postings, which is 6 - 7 a month or 1 - 2 a week.

The blog has been looked at 20,403 times. Last month, 1,287 people read it. 54 people looked at it yesterday, including people in the USA, France, Germany and Russia.

Most truckshunters - 13,961 - live in the UK but there are 2,017 in America and 1,318 in France.

Perhaps more surprisingly, at one time or another, the blog has been read 365 times in the Netherlands, 337 times in Germany, 189 in Russia, 108 in Canada (that must be Mietek), 106 in Iran, 87 in Mexico and 85 in Slovenia. Would the Dutch, German, Russian, Iranian and Slovenian truckshunters please make themselves known!

The statistics I have to hand exclude blogsters whom I know to exist in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia and several other countries besides. Blanket coverage!

89% of blogsters use the Windows operating system while (disappointingly) only 7% use a Mac. Interestingly, 39 people have read the blog on an iPad. I don’t know anyone with an iPad. Step forward, please.

A few weeks ago, I started to index the blog, too, though I’ve only got as far back as blog 245, which was posted in January this year.

Since the beginning of this year alone, we’ve covered almost 150 identifiably different subjects, which include 16 ‘editions’ of Life in France and four of Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know.

Forgotten Heroes covered since January have included Admiral Collingwood, Emily Davison, Gladstone Adams, Tom Taylor, William Mills, William Wouldhave and Henry Greathead

We’ve looked at various local words and expressions - twice.

We’ve marked National Procrastination Day and St Cuthbert’s Day.

Even Bishop Auckland has had its moment in the truckshunter sun - three times.

And there’s a lot more besides.

So...a VERY big Thankyou for keeping the faith; for staying with me for all this time; and for contributing so freely and imaginatively via the Comments box or through email. The blog would certainly not be the same without your active input and participation.

You amaze me. You really do.

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

In this blogposting…
* Alison Best
* Linda
* Spepere
And it’s all true…

Our Super Summer Sunshine Festival And Grand Extravaganza (no, really) took place as planned on Wednesday.

Well, not exactly as planned. The brass band backed out when my cheque bounced so we had to make do with the Delves Lane And Stoney Heap Under-8s Kazoo Ensemble, bless them. Also, the Full Monty Stripping Mad Monks got held up in Crook when their chara broke down ( - at least, that’s their story).

It didn’t end there, either. Flags Of All Nations (Grange Villa) Ltd mistakenly sent bunting in the national colours of Bolivia, the ventriloquist was drunk, only one member of the Hetton-le-Hole Honeyed Harmony Barbershop Quartet turned up (and was subsequently hospitalised after trying to sing all four parts of Sweet Adeline at the same time) and the juggler simply ran away.

All, however, was not lost, thanks to the redoubtable - nay, unbelievable - Neville Whaler and his perennially patient and generous colleagues at the Tanfield Railway. Thanks to them and them alone, the coffee and cakes were scrumptious, the crack was of a uniformly high order AND we got a free round trip on the train.

It was an awesome day out, as I knew it would be. If you weren’t there, it’s no more than you deserve for not getting your priorities right.

A big, big Thankyou to Vivienne, Hildie, Linda and Keith and, again, to the wonderful Sir Neville Whaler, whom I am recommending for a knighthood forthwith.

See you there next year!

As you may have seen from the Comment Val added to posting 296, there’s some heartwarming news about Alison Best, a loyal and lively truckshunter who died last year (see blogposting between 229 and 230, et seq).

Here’s a copy of the (slightly edited) newspaper article Val sent me a few days later.

'A NEW trophy will be presented this weekend in memory of a local artist.

The specially commissioned glass vase in memory of Alison Best will be one of the prizes on offer at this weekend’s Horticultural and Health Show.

Alison’s brother Don Williams presented it to North Tyneside Council on Monday, and it will be given to the winner of a new category – Best Floral Artist – at the competition, now in its sixth year.

Alison was well known in the region as a contemporary flower and plant artist, contributing work to the popular show.

The focus of her work was the natural world, while she also worked closely with Alnwick Garden on a design project, and together with Don co-wrote and illustrated a children’s book, Monkey Business in the Tree House.

Twice Alison had her work exhibited at the show, in 2008 and 2010, along with Iain Duncan.

But following a long period of ill health, Alison died last November at the age of 57.

Don said: “Talented, gentle and determined, she was an amazing artist and a valued friend to the arts in North Tyneside.”

Mike Brannigan, the council’s allotment officer, said: “Last year’s show was a big success.
“We had a wonderful array of exhibits that showed the region’s exceptional talents in cookery and crafts. And with the addition of the Best Floral Artist category, we hope to get more people involved, from novices to experts.”

I’m genuinely delighted that Alison’s name and work will from now on be commemorated in this way - in a branch of art for which she felt so passionately and innovated so beautifully.

The show in question was held last weekend but I have been unable to find out who won the very first Alison Best Trophy. Can anyone help?
This upcoming Saturday is Linda’s birthday.

Linda is, of course, an essential part of our glorious truckshunter panoply. Indeed, without her, our AGMs would be a lot less enjoyable, if also a little quieter!

It gives me very great pleasure indeed to wish her a VERY Happy Birthday this weekend. And many, many more of them, too.

Happy Birthday, Linda - from all of us.
Serge has been adding to his blog over recent weeks. Needless to say, I love the sort of stuff he posts - from chronicles and pictures of his daily life in the village to the frankly astonishing work he's done lately in his garden. There are some great pictures of animals and rocks there, too.

I think you'll like it, too. Take a look. Better still - become a Follower.

Just click on his picture in the Followers box on this page, then click on his name in the pop-up window.

And by the way, the Three French Hens which we bought at Chatillon market in July are doing well. They're developing into good layers!

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

The Minaret of Jam
In this blogposting…
* The World: A Truckshunter Geography - 1
Go on, I dare you…

Our Fantastic Summer Extravaganza takes place at 1100 this upcoming Wednesday 24 August at the Tanfield Railway.

I’ve been told that our train leaves at 1200 sharp.

Don’t miss it. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

With this posting, we begin our journey around the world, visiting each of its 193 (or thereabouts - nobody seems quite sure) independent states. We’ll be calling in on them in alphabetical order, which seems as good a method to use as any other, although it will make for a rather zigzag trip.

On our journey, we’re looking for the strange, the wayward and the unexpected, in typical truckshunter fashion. Yes, there’ll be a few of the bare facts you might find in geography textbooks. But, hopefully, as we travel we’ll uncover a treasure trove of surprises in each of the countries we visit.

Which is precisely what’s happened at our very first port of call...

Poor old Afghanistan has been a centre for conflict, death and war for much longer than you might think - almost since it came into being, in fact. And that’s because it lies foursquare on several of the ancient routes from east to west and south to north; routes - including the fabled Silk Road - used for hundreds of years to transport the exotic silks and spices of the east to the markets of Europe.

There’s no way that a country so placed was going to be left in peace by ‘the West’ and perhaps one of Afghanistan’s greatest and earliest misfortunes was to be taken over by the British in 1742.

History has shown that, for quite a few territories around the world, to be ‘mandated’ to the British often proved to be the eventual kiss of death. Our style seems to have been to rule some of our domains as if they were exotic and infinitely exploitable versions of Surrey or Buckinghamshire and then abandon them to sink into turmoil and unrest. India/Pakistan, Cyprus and Palestine have all suffered from the British way of doing things and Afghanistan has been at war almost constantly since the British finally left in 1913.


Is it even remotely possible, amidst all this past and present brutality and repression, to draw a beneficial, if sceptical, truckshunter eye over this benighted country? Is there anything to make us smile or make us wonder?

You shouldn’t be surprised to hear a resounding Yes, You Bet There Is.

For a start, Afghanistan was the birthplace of the carrot.

I’ll say that again. Afghanistan was the birthplace of the carrot.

It still grows wild all over the place there.  Oddly, in ancient times, it was only the leaves that were eaten, though.  People didn’t start eating the root until the Middle Ages.
 Born in Afghanistan
A warning must be issued, however, with this otherwise trivial item of botanical history, namely:  excessive carrot overindulgence can result in carotenoderma, a condition in which the nose turns orange.  Which wouldn’t do at all.

There may be another reason why you shouldn’t consume too many carrots in Afghanistan: the toilet problem.

Only 7% of homes possess a flushing toilet. And there are only 35 public toilets in Kabul (the capital city), of which a mere 5 are suitable for disabled persons ( - of whom there are a very great many, thanks to the war).

They have traffic-light difficulties there, too.

Kabul has only 14 sets of traffic-lights and none of them work. The local electricity authority refuses to provide the power, claiming that the Afghan Police (who are responsible for the lights) haven't paid their energy bill for years.

Bear in mind that the city has terrible traffic problems even without the traffic-light conundrum. Many drivers ignore traffic rules, have never taken a test, and either bought their licence with a bribe, or just don't have one.

Kabul partially redemms itself, however, by operating trolleybuses (of all things).
Incidentally, if you ever hear a BBC correspondent pronounce it as ka-bull, you have every right to contact the Corporation and complain very loudly indeed. I have it on impeccable authority that the correct pronunciation is much closer to English ‘cobble’.

Speaking of pronunciation, there are two national languages in Afghanistan - Dari (which is really a dialect of Farsi, the language of neighbouring Iran) and native Pashto. Here are the numbers from one to ten in Pashto, should you ever be in a position to need them:

yaw dwa dre tsalór pindzé shpag owé até ne les

I think shpag is a truly wonderful word for ‘six’.

And notice the eerie similarity between the Pashto numbers two, three, eight and nine to our own. Weird or what.

Presumably, these numbers will be heard a very great deal during a game of the Afghan national sport - Buskasi or 'Goat-Grabbing', which is played on horseback. The general idea is for a player to grab the carcass of a headless goat or calf, get it clear of the other players and pitch it across a goal line or into a target circle or vat.

Which makes even bullfighting sound like flying kites.

Fortunately for the faint-hearted, kite-flying is popular, too.
Buskasi; the headless goat is in the possession of the player, far right

I’m told it was these same bloodthirsty horsemen who originally bred Afghan hounds, though I’m not sure why. When I was a teenager, we were given an Afghan hound by a policeman who found it impossible to control. It was called Zarack and was far more trouble than it was worth.
To give you a very general flavour of how Afghans see the world, here are some of their proverbs...
Don't stop a donkey that isn't yours (mind your own business)
He ran out from under a leaking roof and sat in the rain (out of the frying pan into the fire)
A wolf’s pup will grow into a wolf, even though it be raised among men (a leopard can’t change its spots)
It's the same donkey with a new saddle (clothes do not make the man)
He who can be killed by sugar should not be killed by poison (subtlety is better than force)
That which thunders does not rain (a dog’s bark is worse than its bite)
He hasn't time even to scratch his head (he is very busy)

The one about sugar and poison has a certain irony, given current circumstances.

Statistically, Afghanistan is not without esoteric interest, either.

For example, it has fewer cars per capita than any other country on Earth except Malawi.

It also has the highest percentage of male smokers in the entire world - 86%. (Britain comes in at number 105 with 27%.)

And there are fewer doctors in Afghanistan than almost anywhere else - 1 for every 5,000 people (compared to Britain’s 1 for every 500).

Also in extremely short supply are Jews. At the last census, there was only one.

And if the endless depressing news coverage from Afghanistan has given you the impression that it’s merely a vast and mountainous land of brown dust, or that its main exports are big dogs with long hair, opium, rugs, misery, fear, dysentery and death, then look again. There are vast and beautiful fertile valleys there; but for its dreadful conflict, Afghanistan could easily be one of the world’s leading growers and exporters of melons, grapes, apricots, pomegranates, dried fruit and nuts.

If all this has given you an urge to visit Afghanistan for, say, a long weekend in the sun, you should certainly make a point of seeing one of the region’s most important World Heritage Sites - the Minaret of Jam, which was featured on BBCtv’s Around The World in Eighty Treasures and is also on our very own list of 1,000 Buildings to See Before You Die.

Remember, though, that you may indeed die as a result of visiting it.

And if you do visit this unfortunate country, bear in mind while you are there that, until recently, it was considerably more joyless even than it is now.  To prove it, here is a list of some of the ‘unclean’ items banned by the old Taliban Ministry of Virtue and Prevention of Vice….

Pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography and any equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computers, VCRs, television, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, fireworks, statues, sewing catalogues, pictures, Christmas cards.’

Which doesn’t really leave much.

And here are three final practical tips:

* Should you be called upon to sing the National Anthem, the first verse is…
This land is Afghanistan,
It is the pride of every Afghan
The land of peace, the land of sword,
Each of its sons is brave
* The currency is, rather unimaginatively, the afghani. There are 100 puls to each afghani. At present, one afghani is worth almost exactly one pound sterling - useful to know for bribery or ransom purposes.
* In Afghanistan it is illegal to play anything composed by Chopin on a banjo.

You think I made that last one up, don’t you?


My thanks to truckshunters Sid, Peter and Martin for much of the information I’ve used here. Well done, lads.

Readers may now wish to turn their attention to the next country on the list: Albania. Much closer to home, but just as strange.


Post comments on this blog or email me: truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* What’s So Special About Hull?
* Wildlife Report
* Eccentric England
* A Bite From The Big Apple
Bring it on…

The other day - and for reasons far too complicated to go into here - I found myself slurping a fairly insipid cup of coffee in a Wetherspoon’s pub.

I’m prepared to admit that, so far, this is hardly the most epoch-making piece of news you will have heard recently, what with riots, financial crises and the rest.

However, there is an aspect of this otherwise humdrum event which has intrigued me virtually ever since. Go with me on this one.

When you buy a cup of coffee at Wetherspoon’s, they give you a ‘coffee collector’s card’, which they stamp each time you buy another coffee. When you’ve bought five, you get the sixth one free. (Not a reward particularly worth having, as it happens.)

The trifling bagatelle that caught my attention was a small promotional ad on the back of the card. It said that free wi-fi was available in Wetherspoon’s outlets - except:
- at airports
- in Ireland and
- in Hull.

So...Wetherspoon’s in Hull has no free wi-fi. The question is, of course - why not?

What’s so special about Hull?

Our Grand Summer Festival - second only to Edinburgh’s in its cultural significance - will take place at 1100 next Wednesday 24 August at the Tanfield Railway. I have asked that purple and orange silk bunting be draped along the entire length of the railway. I have also arranged for a brass band, a hurdy-gurdy and a troupe of attractive cheerleaders - male and female - to be in attendance.

So the least you can do is be in attendance yourself.

You may not be too happy about the off-and-on quality of the weather so far this summer, but it seems to have been of enormous benefit to local wildlife - mostly insects. So, while we’ve been switching the central heating on and off, some of our little neighbours have been taking advantage of the weather’s vagaries. Notably...

You may have noticed how many more wasps there seem to be this summer. This is apparently because, in consistently warm weather, their bodies can dry out. The rain has helped them survive.

...small tortoiseshell butterflies.
These pretty creatures, once common in England, have staged something of a comeback this summer - perhaps because the weather has killed off the parasitic fly that’s been decimating their numbers.

...red admiral butterflies.
These amazing butterflies actually migrate to England from Europe every year, and this year they’ve been doing so in greater numbers than ever.

...bumblebees and hoverflies.
During hot periods, plants wither and their nectar dies. But regular rain has kept nectar levels high, which has greatly benefited bees and hoverflies.

Well done, them.

Here is a list of some of the weirder events that take place, usually annually, in this hopelessly wayward country and which you may like to attend. Keep the list for future reference; after all, you never know when you may be stuck for something to do and might fancy popping out somewhere to see someone gurning, carrying sacks of coal or paddling around in a giant Yorkshire Pudding.
Shrovetide Skipping
When the Pancake Bell rings at noon, the whole of Scarborough heads for the South Foreshore and starts skipping in very long lines and with very long ropes. There are pancake races, too.

World Championship Snail Racing
This takes place on the 21 July on a damp circle of cloth on Grimston cricket pitch, Congham, Norfolk. The snails race from an inner to an outer circle and the winner receives a pewter tankard full of fresh lettuce.
Clock Burning
On 21 December, the people of Brighton gather to make paper-and-willow clock lanterns then march them through the streets to the beach. Here, they set them alight amid a gigantic firework display.
Onion Eating Championship
Each participant is given a 7-ounce raw, peeled onion. The winner is whoever finishes first. If you fancy your chances, make for Newent in Gloucestershire on 10 September.
Orange Races
The good people of Totnes, Devon, chase oranges down the High Street. This happens on August 23, so you’ve got time to catch this year’s event.
Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race
In early June, people paddle across Bob’s Pond (in Brawby, North Yorkshire) in giant Yorkshire puddings - real ones, made of flour and eggs and coated with yacht varnish.

There’s a gurning competition at Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria every 17 September. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch the Pipe Smoking Competition and the Apple Cart Parade.
Mud Racing
A 400-yard dash through the waist-deep oozing mud of the Blackwater Estuary near Maldon, Essex.
Water Football
A rather wet six-a-side football game played in the River Windrush at Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire. This year, it’s on 29 August - so you’ve time to catch this one, too.

I’m delighted to say that there are many, many more. I haven’t even mentioned a whole series of Lawnmower Races, the Sherston Mangold Hurling Championships, the Bognor Birdman or the Ossett Coal-Carrying Competition.

I’ve often thought, especially since spending so much time in France, that the English have a unique talent for not taking themselves too seriously and I’m glad that this list seems to confirm my suspicions.

Unbelievably, I’ve been to New York. I keep looking at the photos I took - including the one at the top of this posting - to remind myself that the trip actually happened. That I walked along Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. That I paid homage to Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn. That I sat in the sunshine of Washington Square and saw the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. Grand Central. Madison Avenue. Sunset looking out from the Top of the Rock to the Empire State Building and Central Park.

My bite from the Big Apple was only a small one - I was there for only five days. But I’m afraid that doesn’t mean you’ve avoided a typical Robinson travelogue, a la Grand Tour. No such luck. I have domestic worries distracting me at the moment (which is why this posting has taken so long to appear) but as soon as I can, I intend to bore you to tears with tales of what I saw, where I went and who I met.

You have been warned.

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

Kulula Airlines...
In this blogposting…
* An Unfortunate Injury
* The BBC Wildlife Fund
* Kulula Airlines
* This Blog
On your marks, get set, GO…

The ageing Sid (see the last blogposting) has emailed me this tragi-comic story lifted from the Rockhampton Courier-Mail in Australia. Take a deep breath and hold your nose…

‘A man from the Royal Australian Air Force suffered life-threatening third-degree burns after a portaloo exploded on Monday - an incident connected to an ongoing US-led military exercise in the area.

Officials believe that the man was using the portable toilet (also known as a port-a-potty) at Rockhampton Airport, in the state of Queensland, when he lit a cigarette.

"There was some sort of explosion," a Department of Community Safety spokeswoman said. "He suffered burns to his head, face, arms, chest and airways."

The man, whose identity was not released, was taken to the Rockhampton Hospital in a serious condition.

A spokeswoman from Talisman Sabre 2011 - a US-led exercise supported by Australian forces - confirmed the explosion was a military incident but said no further information was available at this stage.

"I can confirm that an incident has happened but we're still gathering information," the spokeswoman said.

There has been speculation that methane build-up in a portable toilet could cause it to explode - a theory was not proved when tested by TV science show "Mythbusters."

Until I received an email from Vivienne recently (she may have sent it to you, too) I was unaware that the BBC had a Wildlife Fund, let alone that they were going to close it.

Notwithstanding the august status of my former employer, I have to admit that I was surprised that it operated such a fund, preserving wildlife having no particularly obvious connexion with a large broadcasting organisation.

The cause, however, is an unimpeachably good one so three cheers to Aunty for having the nous to support it so actively - if a little quietly (I’ve never either seen or heard any reference at all to this fund).

Below is the link that, once clicked on, will take you to the website campaigning to prevent the BBC from making yet another wholesale blunder. Please take a moment to read it and support the campaign if you can.

And thanks, Vivienne, for drawing it to our attention.


Our next AGM, which is bound to be bathed in the gloriously warm sunshine of an English mid-summer, will take place at 1100 on Wednesday 24 August at the Tanfield Railway.

Truckshunter Neville, who’s a volunteer there, has promised to do a Dance of the Seven Guards’ Flags for us but don’t let that put you off. We always have a lot of fun when we have AGMs there - and remember just what an important historical site the Tanfield Railway is; it’s the oldest working railway in the entire world (having opened in 1725) and pre-dates the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which likes to hog the limelight in these matters, by fully 100 years.

Be there.

Dave Shannon - whom the gods preserve - has sent me one of the most pleasurable emails I’ve received in ages. It’s all about Kulula Airlines, a South African company with a highly unconventional, and extremely welcome, attitude to livery design and customer relations.

At first, I was sceptical about all this and found myself Googling their name just to make sure it was all real. And it is!
I hope you enjoy the photos - and the selection of cabin crew announcements below - as much as I did. You'll have to look quite closely at the pictures to get all the jokes.

On a flight with a very ‘senior’ flight attendant crew, the pilot announced:
"Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants."

On landing, the stewardess said:
"Please be sure to take all of your belongings.. If you're going to leave anything, please make sure it's something we'd like to have."

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this aeroplane."

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker:
"Whoa, big fella. WHOA!"
From a Kulula employee:
"Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth. To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised."

"In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favorite."

"Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."
"As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.."

And from the pilot during his welcome message:
"Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"

An airline pilot wrote that on a particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a "Thanks for flying our airline". He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had got off except for a little old lady walking with a stick. She said,
"Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?"
"Why, no Ma'am," said the pilot. "What is it?"
The little old lady said,
"Did we land, or were we shot down?"

After a real crusher of a landing in Johannesburg , the attendant came on with, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tyre smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.."

Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement:
"We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today.. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurised metal tube, we hope you'll think of Kulula Airways."

Heard on a Kulula flight:
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this aeroplane is on the wing.. If you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em."

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all airlines dropped the sickeningly supercilious attitude they invariably have toward their unfortunate customers and instead adopted this kind of gentle good humour.

Some hope.

Thanks very much, Dave. Keep ‘em coming.

All other things being equal, I’m off on a short holiday today. I’ll be spending a few days in the Big Apple - yes, New York, New York (so good they named it twice blah blah blah). In the short time I’ll be there, I’m going to try and pay homage to all the those places and streets and buildings that we all grew up with, via songs, cinema and tv.

So look out - Broadway, Washington Square, Battery Park, 42nd Street, Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Central Park, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Staten Island Ferry...the British are coming.

Well, one ageing Durham bloke with a very old camera is coming.

I will try to post to the blog while I am there but, if that’s not possible, I’ll tell you ALL about it when I get back next week.

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


Today, 2 August, is Sid’s birthday.

Sid has been a fully-active truckshunter since well before the idea even entered my head - way back in those insomniac days of The Nightshift. Indeed, it was many of his ideas, or his lively responses to other people’s ideas and queries, that kept the programme going.

Even back then, I think I recognised, in my contacts with him, that Sid was a rather special bloke. His messages were packed with humour and keen observation - and that sense of wonder and curiosity so essential to survival in a world which is often unhappy and never easy at the best of times.

I’m really glad that Sid was one of the people who kept the flame alive after The Nightshift ended. And I’m even gladder that he chose me to be his friend. I’m honoured.

Happy Birthday, Sid. From all of us.