The star of the show...

Where to start...?

I suppose I could just say something like 'AGM XXXV took place, as planned, at the Tanfield Railway last Wednesday and a great time was had by all'.  But that wouldn't go anywhere near to describing what a splendid AGM it was.

It's not as if there was a huge turnout, either.  Unusually, when I arrived there was no-one else there at all; and I wasn't expecting anyone else to arrive, either.  The weather was atrocious - deeply overcast, wet, drizzly, windy and cold.  Not really AGM weather, then...

Hildie was the first to arrive after me.  And let's face it - it's always good to see Hildie.  She's not only a mainstay of AGMs, either.  It's largely down to her enthusiasm and positive frame of mind that the Honourable Company of Truckshunters has survived all this time.  Isn't she an awesome Company secretary?  Without her, we would all have gone our separate ways years ago - and I'm so glad we didn't.

Thanks, Hildie.

Vivienne was next.  She became the Company's official photographer and resident mystic ages ago - and gets better and better in both roles.  Most of the photos on this posting are hers - including a couple of the ones she's actually on.

Vivienne, too, is now a mainstay of AGMs and they're all the richer, more enjoyable - and much better photographed - because of her presence.

So thanks, too, to Vivienne.

Linda was the third truckshunter to arrive.  She and Keith have had a really difficult year so it was especially good to see her at Tanfield.  As it turned out, it was her irrepressible good humour and determination to enjoy herself that made this AGM so special for all of us.

Thanks, Linda.
I love this photo - i really do...

So what actually happened?  Well...

There was the obligatory train ride to the Causey Arch and East Tanfield - so full of anecdote, jokes and tittle-tattle that we hardly saw the sodden scenery passing us by.
 The lovely picture Vivienne took at the Causey Arch

Fits of genuinely uncontrollable laughter are far too rare in this unhappy world and the tears of giggling, the endless wisecracks, the tomfoolery - all interspersed and overladen with real affection and care - made me realise, yet again, what a unique bunch of friends we all are and how lucky I am that a few ex-BBC listeners think it's worthwhile for us all to stay in touch, even if we can't always get to AGMs.
I can't help wondering what the little lad is thinking...

Our collective thanks for a typically splendid time must go to the stars of the show - the Tanfield Railway itself and its accommodating and understanding volunteers, one of whom is the wonderful Neville Whaler, who has now organised our Tanfield AGM for three years.  Who would have thought we'd all still be together after all this time?
A very big Thankyou to Neville - and his colleagues - for once again hosting such a wayward group of people so generously.

You can follow the Tanfield Railway blog here:  tanfield-railway.blogspot.co.uk
Being photographed photographing

And a similar Thankyou to Mick and Christine at Birkheads Nursery, to which we all repaired for a warming posset afterwards.   They selflessly allowed us to behave raucously and completely without regard for the comfort and safety of their other customers, who must have been wondering deeply...
A tango...
...and a plank

It was at Birkheads that we finally got round to dealing with two agenda items that have been hanging around threateningly for months; tango and planking.

Needless to say, Linda was involved in both, although I'm sure she would agree that neither was what you would call a complete success.  I swear I danced the tango as best I could but ended up needing as much help as Linda did when she planked.

I never thought I'd see the day....
Once again, a big, big Thankyou to Linda, Vivienne, Hildie and Neville for giving me a day to remember - for all sorts of reasons!


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


Noah’s Ark was probably nothing like you imagine it to have been.  Put aside visions of large yachts in Amble harbour; the dimensions given by the Bible suggest that the Ark displaced 22,000 tons of water.

And it needed to.  According to St Hippolytus, it contained birds (14 of every species); ‘clean‘ animals (again, 14 of each type); ‘unclean‘ animals (2 of each); Adam‘s bones; plentiful supplies of gold, frankincense and myrrh; and long palisades of anti-fornication spikes to separate the males and females of all the creatures on board.

Most importantly for Armenia, though, it also contained Noah and his family... 


You don’t have to be one of the world’s gigantic nation-states to pack a historical punch.  Armenia is less than half the size of Scotland but, if countries were measured by the sheer eccentricity and individuality of their histories, Armenia would take centre stage.  And even though its glory days of empire and influence may be over, it continues to nibble annoyingly at the ankles of its more powerful neighbours to this day.

Its origins lie deep within the myth of biblical folklore and tradition, and to find them, it is necessary to go back a very long way...


If, on a clear day, you look west from Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan, you will see a permanently snow-capped peak - Mount Ararat.  This is, of course, the selfsame Mount Ararat upon which Noah’s Ark came to rest when the waters of the Great Flood subsided and it is to this sacred mountain that Armenians look for their origins.

Tradition and folk-memory dictate that Armenians are descended from Noah’s great-great-grandson (no less), a man called Hayk who, in his youth, helped to build the Tower of Babel.  Which, as collective ancestries go, is fairly impressive.

Hayk is such an important figure to Armenians that they use his name as the name of the country itself - Hayk (or sometimes, Hayastan - ‘Hayk’s land’).

And, as if to defy 21st-century scepticism, his great-great-grandfather’s vessel appears - balanced precariously atop Mount Ararat - on the country’s coat of arms.


With a Biblical pedigree of this order, it’s hardly surprising that Armenia was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion.  This happened in 301, almost 40 years before the Roman Empire followed suit.

Already by this time, there had been an Armenian Christian community in Jerusalem for over 200 years.  In mediaeval times, the city was divided between four groups - Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian - and the Armenian group still retains a strong presence there to this day.  Over 2,500 people practise their muscular version of Christianity in their own cathedral and monastery.

So no, you don’t have to be a giant of the modern geo-political scene to make your presence felt.


Armenians do not, of course, spend all their time reading their Bibles and lighting votive candles.  They know how to enjoy themselves as much as anyone else.

When you’re there, all you have to do is say barev dzez (‘please’) to a friendly-looking local and you may be rewarded with a warming posset of soorch (the thick, luscious coffee that Armenians prefer) or even konyak (cognac, the national tipple).

Genats!  (‘Cheers!’)

After a few of these, try saying tse’tesutyun (‘thankyou’) as best you can.  If you manage it, you may be offered some khoravats as a reward - it’s skewered and barbecued pork or lamb and is ranked as Armenia’s national dish.

As you drink and eat, listen to an expert player of the duduk - a kind of double-reed flute - and the cumulative effect could well be semi-drunken weeping or dancing in the street, depending on what he plays.
A duduk - or 'apricot oboe'
If, after an evening like this, you can count from one to ten, pat yourself on the back and retire for the night.

You may as well practise before you go.

mek yerku yerekh chors hing vec yoth uth inn tas

Almost despite the idiosyncrasies of Armenian, it’s possible to see shadows of some European languages in the words above for five, eight and ten, provided you're sober enough and interested in such things.


Of all the satellite states in the former Soviet empire, Armenia has benefitted most since the break-up; its ‘relative economic performance’ has shot up by almost 70% since 1991.  And everyone who has visited it says that this is reflected in the vibrant street-life of its capital city - Yerevan.

A comfortably unmonumental city of shops, bars, cafes and street markets should be enough to occupy any self-respecting visitor but, hangovers notwithstanding, here are some more pretty awesome things to do if you’re in Armenia but not in Yerevan…

* visit Holy Echmiadzin, the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church…
* go to Dilijan, full of ‘gingerbread‘ houses and starving artists - the ‘Switzerland of Armenia…
* explore the southern province of Vayots Dzor - monasteries (naturally), walking trails, the Selim caravanserai and the wine-growing Arpa valley….
* clamber down to the snake-pit once occupied by St Gregory the Illuminator in Khor Virap monastery….
* visit Goris, home of very potent fruit brandies - and more monasteries.

Whatever else you do, though, avoid Hripsime Khurshudyan, seen here during the 75kg+ Women's Weightlifting event at the recent Olympic Games.


Armenia is the home of the apricot; its botanical name is prunus armeniaca, ‘Armenian plum’.  This is noteworthy in itself but has even greater significance for, of all people, the US Army.

Their tank crews are unaccountably suspicious of apricots and won’t knowingly let any of their tanks anywhere near one - a fact of which I was previously in ignorance and about which I am genuinely puzzled.

In any case, Armenia is probably safe from American land attack for the foreseeable future.


This is not to say that all is sweetness and light between Armenia and its neighbours nearer to home.

Its relationship with Turkey, to its west, is notoriously unstable - and for very good reason.  During the First World War, Turkey became suspicious of Armenia’s loyalties and began systematically killing as many Armenians as they could find.  The genocide spread rapidly from Istanbul to the rest of Anatolia.  Modern historians reckon that more than a million Armenians were slaughtered by the Turks.

To its perennial shame, Turkey still denies that this appalling mass-killing ever happened, preferring to blame the deaths on a combination of influenza and famine.  Yeah right…


Armenia itself, though, is no sea-green incorruptible.  After the Soviet break-up in the 1990s, it engaged in grimly-fought warfare with its neighbour Azerbaijan over the territory of Karabakh.  30,000 people died and the issue is still unresolved.

Which is why there is an exclave of Azerbaijan on the ‘wrong’ side of Armenia.


No whistle-stop tour of Armenia would be complete without featuring one of its most singular characteristics - its language and, in particular, its alphabet.

Small though it is, Armenia is one of very few countries in the world to use its own, national alphabet.  It was designed by someone called Mesrob Mashtots in 405 - and is a work of art as well as a means of written communication.

Master its beautiful calligraphic intricacies and you’ll deserve all the konyaks you can imbibe.


My thanks to all the truckshunters who helped me with information about this astonishing little country.  Our next stopover is in a different league altogether - we’re going to Australia.

Get cracking!


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

In this blogposting…
* Waking Up Is Hard To Do
* The BBC - Bang Up to Date
Deep breaths....

It seems incredible to me that, almost four years after I retired from the BBC, our AGMs have survived and flourished.  We’ve now had 34 of them, and the 35th is on the horizon.

Sometimes, ad hoc committee meetings even spring up as if from the minds of the Honourable Company.  Such a convocation gathered last week at Birkheads Nursery.  Vivienne has kindly sent me these pictures of it.

As you can see, Hildie and Vivienne were there, and it was specially good to see Maureen and Sid again; they haven’t been able to attend recent AGMs.

A very big Thankyou to Mick and Christine for providing the coffee, the cakes and the cabaret once again.

Back to AGM XXXV now, though. 

Our annual visit to the Tanfield Railway (not far from Birkheads Nursery) will take place at about 1030 this upcoming Wednesday 29 August.

Planking and tangos notwithstanding, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.


The guys in this video are all genuine, practising anaesthesiologists from the University Hospital of Minnesota.

Just click on the link or copy-and-paste it into the Search box of your internet browser.

And enjoy.


A big Thankyou once again to Dave Shannon, who sent me it.


Lawrence has sent me this mysterious remnant of Paul and Ian on BBC Radio Newcastle.  The link below will take you to what Lawrence calls ‘a hidden page’ of the current BBC Newcastle website.

Click on it here (or copy and paste the link into the Search box of your internet browser).  When you get to the relevant page, click on the Speaker icon below our names.


What surprises me most about this link is not necessarily that it still exists some 5 years after Paul and Ian’s programme was despatched to the Great Radio Archive in the Sky but rather the content of the link itself.  What on Earth made the BBC choose this particular snapshot of inconsequential drivel when they had 7 years’ worth of much worse inconsequential drivel to choose from?

I can think of many moments from our programme that I wish I had taped….


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
A hero of the Games
In this blogposting…
* The Olympic Games
* Vacivity
All together now…


Our Great Summer Extravaganza (incorporating, as usual, the Annual Nudist Bring-and-Buy Sale) will take place at about 1030 on Wednesday 29 August at the Tanfield Railway.

There is now quite a backlog of agenda items, so come prepared to either plank, use a SOW word (see below), recite a tongue-twister or dance the tango - or all four (though not at the same time).

There’ll probably be a train ride thrown in, so ladies intending to wear Singapore-slit tango dresses….you have been warned.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all - depending on how many ladies wear Singapore-slit tango dresses.


Take a deep breath….

Until August 6, the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada - population about 110,000 (half that of Newcastle) - made Olympic history.  It won its first ever medal of any colour, and, as if to make the occasion doubly momentous, it was a gold.  19-year old Kirani James crossed the line first in the men’s 400m final, as you can see above.

This amazing achievement from such a tiny country lifted Grenada from the huge well of the unmedalled masses - up to number 58 on the Official Medal Table, along with Bahamas, Algeria, Finland and Latvia.

Which strikes me, and many millions of others, as deeply unfair because it misrepresents the successes of the many smaller nations which grace the Olympics with their presence.  How dull it would have been without Tonga, Togo and Tuvalu (none of which won any medals at all).

The Official Medal Table takes no account of the size, population or wealth of the medal winning nations.  It’s a stark, raw list which, in essence, comes as no surprise to anyone.  You would, after all, expect the biggest, richest and most populous countries to win the most medals, and they do.

Here’s the Top Ten (worked out by scoring each gold medal as 3 points, each silver as 2 and each bronze as 1)...

1  United States
2  China
3  Russia
4  Great Britain
5  Germany
6  France
7  Japan
8  Australia
9  South Korea
10  Italy

But it’s much more equitable, and, in my opinion, more accurate, to re-configure the table to take account of each country’s population size.  If you do this, amazing things happen…

1  Grenada
2  Jamaica
3  Bahamas
4  New Zealand
5  Trinidad and Tobago
6  Montenegro
7  Cyprus
8  Hungary
9  Slovenia
10  Denmark

The ‘official’ Top Ten have disappeared.  The US drops to 47, China to 73, Russia to 34, Great Britain to 20, Germany to 35, France to 36, Japan to 50, Australia to 11, South Korea to 31 and Italy to 40.

Already, the ‘official’ table is looking inaccurate and tawdry.  Of the original Top Ten, the best performers now are Australia, Great Britain and South Korea.  Per head of population, the US performed only averagely and China, very badly indeed.

What happens, then, if you list the medal winners according to how wealthy their countries are - using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure.  After all, a dirt-poor country winning Olympic medals deserves more credit.

1  Grenada (again - good old Kirani James)
2  Jamaica (again)
3  North Korea
4  Mongolia
5  Georgia
6  Kenya
7  Montenegro
8  Armenia
9  Ethiopia
10  Belarus

Using medals-per-GDP, the original Top Ten do even worse than when we used population size.  The US is way down at 66, China’s at 54, Russia at 36, Great Britain at 40, Germany at 55, France at 58, Japan at 70, Australia at 44, South Korea at 42 and Italy at 57.

Of the original Top Ten, the best performers per-GDP are, once again, Great Britain, South Korea and Australia.

Another unofficial measure introduced at these Games was to list the medal winners according to how big their countries’ Olympic teams were.  And again, interesting things happen…

1  China
2  Jamaica
3  Iran
4  Botswana
5  US
6  Ethiopia
7  Kenya
8  Russia
9  Grenada (again)
10  Georgia

China is back at number one, the US has dropped to 5 and Russia to 8.  Great Britain drops to 13, Germany to 19, France to 23, Japan to 21, Australia to 31, South Korea to 15 and Italy to 24.

As far as I am concerned, all three of these ‘alternative’ medal tables are preferable to the original and give a much more accurate, eye-opening and liberating view of exactly who performed well in London and who didn’t do as well as they might think.

And it’s gratifying to know that all the British self-congratulation was wholly merited.  Whichever table you use, we didn’t do badly at all, did we?

My own personal Gold Medal, though, would go to the amazing Clare Balding, who knocked all the (many) other tv presenters into a cocked hat during the Games.  I’m told the BBC refuses to use her as a presenter on Match of the Day, because, if they did, she would be the only one who knew what she was talking about and would put the likes of Lineker and company - all male and all shallow, empty-headed pundits - in the shade.

And we can’t have that.


The Save Our Words campaign is intended to prevent perfectly respectable English words from sinking into the pit of extinction by bringing them to your notice so that you can use them and thus give them new life and vigour.  (For the first two at-risk words, see blogposting 385.)

Today’s word is…

VACIVITY - ‘emptiness’

As in ‘At best, I feel only complete vacivity when I think of Graham Norton, Middlesbrough or cricket.’

Use it or lose it.


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


As I write, it’s a late mid-August Sunday afternoon in Newcastle.  It’s pouring with rain, though the weather is not cold.  Instead, what breeze there is is cloyingly warm and humid, all of which conspires to make the day even more drably uncomfortable than just rain on its own does.

Serge, on the other hand, has just landed in Paris.  He has texted me to say that the temperature there, under a cloudless blue sky, is over 40 Celsius.  He has taken the sunny warmth we had here yesterday back home with him.

He was in Newcastle for a week, and each of those seven days seemed curiously warm and welcoming to me….

He arrived late last Sunday afternoon and bravely (not to say defiantly) proclaimed his Olympic loyalties by wearing a specially-purchased blue gilet with FRANCE written very whitely on the front of it.

We’d both been riveted by the Olympic Games, and decided to enter into the spirit of the final day by watching the closing ceremony together.  I suppose we thought it would be as eccentrically British as the opener had been, but it wasn’t.  Instead, we were confronted by a mostly dreary and seemingly endless confection of mediocrity and derivative predictability.

For me, the high point was Eric Idle’s rendition of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, complete with high-kicking Roman soldiers and nuns on roller-skates.  This was more than offset, though, by the barrel-scraping inclusion of Russell Brand.

After what seemed like three months, we decided to call it a day.


On Monday…we went for a wander around the Town, partly so that Serge could re-acquaint himself with real-life British eccentricity ‘on the ground’.  Streetwise geniality, people wearing silly hats, repulsively fat lasses wearing tiny shorts, lads looking effete and forlorn, monumental metropolitan architecture…

There were peeks inside some of the Town’s most characterful pubs, the Castle, the long descent of Dog Leap Stairs - and the Quayside.

Here, Serge met up again with the wonderful Mike and Pauline at their Little Yellow Coffee Van - he hadn’t seen them for over two years - and with their son Jamie, who, at the tender age of 19, has decided that extreme sports of one kind or another are the best that life has to offer and pursues them with foolish vigour.  He will soon be off to Canada to go hang-skiing over the edges of cliffs, or something along those lines.

For his part, Serge couldn’t resist the allure of the open-air public gym which some health-conscious freak has had installed on the pavement nearby.  I stayed well clear.

In the evening, I though I’d try to disabuse Serge of his affectionate opinions about English culture by taking him to the Folk Club at The Bridge pub, near the Castle.  Amazingly, he loved it and so did I.  We both ended up singing along to almost every song we heard - and kept on singing them all week long.

A big Thankyou to truckshunter Dave Minikin for making us so welcome.  Anyone fancy going along there sometime?


On Tuesday, we went to Tynemouth.  We go there every time Serge visits the north-east and that’s because, for a man who loves the sea so much, Serge lives about as far from it as it’s possible to get and still be in France.

We both love watching the river and the sea from Spanish Battery or clambering about on the rocks on Black Middens beach.

We stopped at Roy’s Bakery so Serge could eat his first-ever sausage roll - and even met some friendly Tynemouth traffic wardens.

It was lovely.


Wednesday was a stay-at-home day, except for a flying visit I made to Waitrose - we had to eat, after all.

Picking my way carefully through the minefield of bread varieties they thoughtfully provide there, I discovered a ‘gold medal’ made of shortcake and sugar-icing.  I thought this would compensate Serge for France’s comparatively flaccid performance at the Olympics and I was right - it did.

As you can see.
Usain Bolt 2

Serge with Barry and Jean; Serge is the one with his eyes closed

On Thursday we visited my brother and his wife in Sunderland.  They always make Serge welcome there and he, in turn, appreciates the fact that they take their French seriously enough to know the words for mistle-thrush, sparrowhawk, silver birch and damsel-fly - which is quite something.
Serge and monbrieta; Serge is the one with his eyes closed

I thought that the day’s crowning glory was a gift of uprooted monbrieta, which Serge has never noticed growing in French gardens, but I was wrong.  The pinnacle was reached when a couple of holly-blue butterflies appeared.  These splendid little creatures are very rare in the north-east and the more welcome for it.

On Friday we went on a jaunt into the wild open countryside - well, as far as Birkheads Nursery, anyway.

We had a lovely time, just as you’d expect.  For the first time in ages, I wandered around the Secret Gardens and was seriously gobsmacked at how lovely they are.  If you’re stuck for somewhere gorgeous to go to between now and the end of September - or even if you’re not - get over to see Christine at Birkheads.  I’m thinking of buying a season ticket.
Don't ask...
You can follow Christine's blog about Birkheads at
 Serge is on that big screen - somewhere...

Last days together are always a bit melancholy, to say the least.  To try and offset this effect, we decided to go back into the Town so that a Frenchman could watch the English world go by one last time.

It didn’t really work, though.

Which means that, right now, I’m feeling rather sorry for myself.  I’ve realised, with some force, that, when two people part like Serge and I did earlier today, it’s always worse for the one who’s left behind.  And usually, that’s Serge, waving me away on my train north from Macon TGV station.  This time, though, it was me waving him Goodbye at the security gate and returning home to the ‘empty-chair’ syndrome - a feeling I’m not enjoying in the slightest.

I don’t envy him my departures….


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* God’s Law
* More Bad Luck
* Armenia
Tread softly….


Amongst the most rabidly homophobic people on Earth are religious fundamentalists of one hue or another.  One of them is Dr. Laura Schlessinger, an American radio personality.

People call her programme in need of moral advice and guidance on some issue - and naturally, she’s happy to declaim her God-given opinions to anyone who will listen.

On several occasions she has said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, she regards homosexuality is an abomination, because it says so in the Bible at Leviticus 18:22.  It therefore cannot be condoned under any circumstances.

What follows here is an open letter sent to Dr. Laura by someone who happened to hear her pronounce on the issue of homosexuality, including her reference to the Bible.

‘Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law.

I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws laid down in the Bible and how to follow them…

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord (Leviticus 1:9).  The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them.   Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.  In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Leviticus 15:19- 24.  The problem is, how do I know? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

Leviticus 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations.  A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians.  Can you clarify?  Why can't I own a Canadian slave?

I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death.  Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Leviticus 11:10 - it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.  I don't agree.  Can you settle this?

Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight.  I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.  Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27.  How should they die?

I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend).  He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.  Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them?(Leviticus 24:10-16.)  Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws?  (Leviticus 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan


Enough said, I think.


In posting 378 (back in July), I featured a seriously fascinating email I’d received from Peter in which he attempted to explain the origins of our most popular and enduring superstitions, like Friday the Thirteenth, black cats and spilled salt.

I’m pleased to say that Peter has now followed up his email with another.  He’s been asking his friends and family to list as many superstitions as they can.

It’s quite a list.

 - A bat flying into the house
 - An owl hooting three times
 - Three butterflies together
 - Looking at the new moon over your left shoulder
 - A five-leaf clover
 - Breaking a glass while proposing a toast
 - Putting a shirt on inside out
 - Red and white flowers together
 - Hearing a cock crow at night
 - Cutting your nails on a Friday
 - Putting a hat on a bed
 - Getting out of bed left foot first
 - Violets blooming out of season
 - A picture falling
 - Breaking a mirror
 - Singing before breakfast
 - Opening an umbrella indoors
 - Giving away a wedding present
 - Stepping on the cracks in the pavement
 - An itch inside your nose
 - Crossed knives
 - Seeing an owl during daylight

Reading through this list, and the item above it, reminds me very forcibly that we are indeed a vulnerable and insecure species with a desperate need to believe in gods, devils, mysterious invisible super-beings - and nonsensical superstitions.

I wonder if we’ll ever grow up?


Don’t forget that the next country to fall under the truckshunter microscope is Armenia.  All inside information, no matter how trivial or wayward, gratefully received.

Email me.



Our annual Summer Extravaganza at the Tanfield Railway isn’t far away now.  It starts at about 1030 on Wednesday 29 August.  The weather is going to be balmily warm, the coffee and sarneys tasty and refreshing and the company invigorating.

So you’d better be there, hadn’t you….?


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
Riviation (in Finland, as it happens)
In this blogposting...
* The Olympic Games 2
Reduce speed now....

My pointless and disrespectful musings on the first names of US athletes has been well and truly trumped.  So, for a genuine truckshunter’s-eye-view of the Games, I would highly recommend our very own Olympics commentator - Val.

If you haven’t seen it already, take a look at the description of her visit that she’s posted in the Comments box of the last blogposting - number 384.

A little gem of joy that seems to capture the Olympic spirit perfectly.

Thanks, Val.  I loved it.


The English language has more words in it than any other language on Earth.  Inasmuch as this is so - and it is - I suppose it’s inevitable that quite a few of them fall by the wayside through lack of use.  Or because not enough people are even aware of their existence.

It’s not as if the words in question aren’t useful, either.  What’s not to like about ‘jobler’ - someone who does small jobs?  Or ‘riviation’ - fishing?  Or ‘historiaster’ - a contemptible historian?  Or ‘frutescent’ - like a shrub?

Admit it - haven’t you seen quite a few frutescent things today - perhaps whilst jobling?

With all this in mind, a particularly esoteric friend of mine - who really should get out more - has suggested that, if we happy band of truckshunters wish to make a mark on the wider world, it should be in the realm of ‘word preservation’; we should make it our business, in this conservation-minded era, to ensure that no more words become extinct and thus deprive us of an interesting way of saying something.

So yes, this yet another truckshunter campaign.

SOW.  Save Our Words.

This is how it works…

Once in a while here on the blog, I’ll mention a word I’ve discovered that I think deserves to be saved from extinction.  Our collective job will be to use these words as much as we can, thus ensuring their continued survival.  How noble - and how simple - is that?

My first nomination for preservation is…

SUCCISIVE - ‘pertaining to spare time’.

Thus:  ‘In succisive moments, I knit or go scuba diving - occasionally at the same time’.  Or  ‘On succisive days I enjoy pulling the legs off crane-flies and feeding them to my gerbil.’

My second nomination is…

VULTUOUS - ‘having a sad or solemn expression’.

Thus:  ‘Everyone looked totally vultuous when they saw Paul Wappat wearing only his underwear’.  Or ‘I could only look vultuously on as he tore the legs off crane-flies…’.

It’s as easy as that.

Don’t forget that you can unearth neglected words yourself and nominate them for preservation.  You can do this via the Comments box or preferably by email.

Get to it - adimpleate the blog!


Our august August AGM will take place at about 1030 or so on Wednesday 29 at the Tanfield Railway.  Bring a shovel.  And an endangered word to use.


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting….
* The Olympic Games
* A French Joke
* Another French Joke
* A German Joke
* How To Write Good English
* Armenia
On your marks...

If you’re anything like me (God forbid) you will have been transfixed with joy and wonder at the Olympics in London.  I’ve been virtually housebound for over a week now and, on several momentous occasions, have found myself chucking rose-petals at the screen and pouring another glass of wine - both at the same time.

And haven’t the crowds been wonderfully noisy?  And doesn’t London look terrific - all scrubbed-up in its Olympic best?

Not all of the events are of equal fascination, of course.  So, during the 5 hours of synchronised volleyball that the BBC made us sit through early one morning - when I noticed that a member of the US team was called something grotesque like LaDurana Macfee - I decided to waste a couple of hours trying to find the American Olympian with the silliest name.

It’s been a couple of decades now since American parents, under what seems like collective drug-induced hysteria, started giving their babies - usually their daughters - names that made them sound like infant lavatory-cleaning products. 

Here are some that I found hidden amongst the Erins, Laurens and Courtneys before the pain in my sides forced me to stop.

Jozy, Kelci, Kobi, Treniere, LaShinda, Torri, Zoila, Breaux, Novlene, Kara Lynn, Jevona, DeeDee, Muna, Beezie, Missy, Ogonna, Darvise, Tayshauna, Keli, Loree, Deontay, Mclain, and Rau’shee.

Amongst the medal contenders, though, were Cappie Pondextre (a basket ball player), Hope Solo (who plays soccer), Sam Stitt (a rower), Misty May-Treanor (beach volleyball) and Terri Tiffee (who plays baseball).

But the Gold Medal goes to the lovely Tamika Catchings, above, who is also a baseball player.


Two men were discussing what they would do if the world was going to end in 15 minutes.
‘I would make love to everything that moved.  What would you do?’
‘I would stand perfectly still.’


Jean-Pierre was saying his prayers as his father passed by his bedroom door.

'God bless Maman, and God bless Papa - and please make Lyon the capital of France.'

'Jean-Pierre,' said his father, 'why do you want Lyon to be the capital of France?'

'Because that's what I wrote in my geography exam.'


One day Hitler decided to go to a clairvoyant to find out what day he would die on.

After looking though her crystal ball, the clairvoyant replied, ‘Mein Führer, you will die on a Jewish holiday.’

Hitler - deeply shocked - asked ‘Which Jewish holiday?’

The clairvoyant replied ‘Mein Führer, the day that you die will always be a Jewish holiday.’


I received this useful list from Kev.  I’m very well aware that I haven’t been able to stick to it .  But it’s still a very funny list...

* Avoid alliteration. Always.

* Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

* Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat.)
Employ the vernacular.

* Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

* Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

* It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

* Contractions aren't necessary.

* Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

* One should never generalize.

* Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

* Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

* Be more or less specific.

* Understatement is always best.

* One-word sentences? Eliminate.

* Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

* The passive voice is to be avoided.

* Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

* Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

* Who needs rhetorical questions?

* Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
* No negative statements allowed

Thanks Kev.


A big thankyou to those dogged truckshunters - specially Martin in Sydney - who have already started their offbeat research into the next country on our list.  I’m already staggered by the things I didn’t know I didn’t know about Armenia.  Even some Armenians are going to be surprised…

Keep the info coming, please - by email.


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* The Truth About Diving
* A Mischievous Kid
* Lights in the Sky
* When Science Becomes Art
* The Good Old BBC
* Armenia
Your time starts……………

Ever since this blog started (more years ago than I care to remember), much of its content has originated with you, its Followers and casual readers.  Almost since the first day, I’ve been receiving anecdotes, quotations, jokes, puzzles, questions (and answers), axioms, trivia and much else besides.  And I always enjoy sifting through them, even if some of them don’t end up in the blog itself, for any one of a number of reasons!

Often mixed in with these brain-curdling injections of verbal refreshment are images; photographs, drawings, paintings, videos - or internet links to them.  These are usually just as waywardly interesting as the word-based contributions you send so, once in a while, I like to devote a blogposting to them.

Let’s start with two emails sent to me by John…

Just in case you think that competition diving is a walk in the park, take a look at these amazing pictures, taken at recent world diving championships. 
It made me feel stressed and exhausted just looking at them.


Click on the link below, or cut-and-paste it into your Internet Browser’s ‘Search’ box.

I love this!


Thanks John.


Dave Shannon has sent me this lovely picture of the Northern Lights glittering and shimmering over a teepee campsite in (I think) western Canada.
He also sent me a photograph of a phenomenon I’d never heard of before - a Fire Rainbow.

The note he sent with it says that fire rainbows are one of ‘the rarest of all naturally occurring atmospheric phenomena because the conditions which cause them coincide so very seldom.  The clouds have to be cirrus, they must be at least 20,000 feet up and must contain just the right amount of crystallised ice.  If sunlight then strikes the clouds at exactly 58 degrees, this is what happens...
This astonishing picture was taken on the borders of Idaho and Washington states.


Dave also sent me this link.  It’s a hypnotic demonstration that pendulums swing at differing speeds depending on how long they are.

Students at Harvard suspended 15 pendulums in a row, each one slightly longer than its neighbour, set them in motion and filmed the result.

Again, click on the (very long) link below or cut-and-paste it into your Internet Browser’s ‘Search’ box.


It’s positively beautiful.  Watch it to the end.


This is another link from Dave Shannon, whom God preserve.  It constitutes proof, if proof were needed, that there are still some things that my ex-employer does incomparably well.

I hope you feel as uplifted watching it as I did.

As before, just click on the link or cut-and-paste it into your Internet Browser’s ‘Search’ box.

And enjoy!

www.youtube.com/embed/auSo1MyWf8g?rel=0 <

Thanks for your wonderful contributions, Dave.


It’s time once again to resume our world tour, during which we crash-land in each of the world’s countries and do some clandestine digging around with the sole purpose of finding out what they’re really like behind the ambassadorial pleasantries.

What do the people there eat and drink?  How do they say ‘not bloody likely’?  Do they have a version of The X Factor?  And (specially for Vivienne) when did they last have an earthquake?

The next nation to suffer at our unforgiving hands is Armenia.  So your assignment, should you choose etc etc etc, is to snuffle around in the geographical undergrowth and emerge with as much offbeat information and trivia about Armenia as you can.

A botanically-minded friend has already unearthed an item of unsurpassing unimportance, namely….that, in much the same way that all carrots ultimately come from Afghanistan, every apricot ever grown was descended from its wild ancestors, all of which came from Armenia.  The apricot’s botanical name means ‘Armenian plum’.

Beat that!

I await your email with breath fully bated.


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