In this blogposting…
* This Land Is Your Land
* For Sale
Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war…


Saturday saw the first tentative snow of the autumn.  It also saw our 38th AGM take place at Bede’s World in Jarrow.  As far as I’m concerned, they were both extremely pleasant experiences.

I’ve never really understood why people who live in England complain when it snows in late October.  I’m sure I’m not imagining younger days when it had almost always snowed by All Hallow’s Eve.  Not deeply, crisply and evenly, perhaps, but it certainly wasn’t regarded as abnormal or freakish to have to tramp through slush to get to school before potato-picking week.

So I have to admit to a frisson of guilty pleasure as I brushed the snow off Rhoda the Škoda and headed for South Tyneside.

I also have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sure that there’d be anybody there except for me and the amazing Hildie, without whom the Honourable Company would have put up the proverbial shutters years ago.

I needn’t have been concerned though.  It would take a lot more than an effete dusting of autumn snow to deter the hardiest truckshunters - namely, Hildie, Linda, Keith and Stephen.
Linda and Keith have had a really turbulent year; their lives have been strewn with the unhappiness of family loss and, in truth, we’ve all had our fingers crossed that the light at the end of their tunnel would brighten as time passed.

And that’s why it was particularly good to see them at Jarrow.  Although times are still difficult - as they are bound to be - they seemed to be in a hopeful and positive frame of mind.  I hope the AGM helped!  I can remember plenty of occasions when AGMs have helped lift my spirits when things have felt a bit rough.

Back at the AGM, it was Stephen’s experiences as a rugby coach at Ashington - and his sharing of anecdotes with Keith, who used to play - that were the conversation-grabbers.  I learned a lot about the ‘underside’ of the game; I even found out what ‘chicken-winging’ is.

Hands up if you know!

Unfortunately, the high quality of the conversation wasn’t matched by the uniquely poor photographs I took - as you can see.  They’re awful, aren’t they?  My apologies to all concerned.

And so - a very, very big Thankyou to Stephen, Keith, Linda and Hildie for braving the weather, as well as the off-the-beaten-track location.  It was good to see everybody.  Here’s to the next time!


Truckshunter Val also has her fair share of difficulties at the moment, as you'll find out if you read the Comment she's posted to the last blog.

Dear Val...we're all so very, very sorry to hear about your Dad.  It sounds like he was a great character - and with a lot of typically local memories, too!  You must miss him a lot.  Please remember that Keith, Linda and me have all recently been in the unhappy place where you are now.  Get in touch - however you like - if you fancy a chat.  Don't forget!

As for the coffee you mentioned...I would count it an honour to visit your Mam.  Email me sometime soon and we'll sort something out.  OK?

Do it!!!

Eric and Jean have sent me this link to an amazing YouTube video - one of the best I’ve ever seen.


If the link doesn’t work when you click on it, cut and paste it into the Search box of your browser.

And enjoy!


Do you know anyone who needs/wants an unused toilet seat?

Seriously.  Do you?


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* Bywell
* Starlight Castle
* Australia
* The Daily Wisecrack - again
There’s a few requests for help this time round…


All AGMs are special, but don’t forget that the next one will be even specialer.  We’ll be at Bede’s World in Jarrow, which is a marvellous place and well worth a trip if you’ve never been - or even if you have.

We’ll be mustered at the entrance (as it were) at 1100 this upcoming Saturday morning (October 27).

I’m sorry that Bede’s World is not too easily accessible by public transport; if anyone would like a lift, just give us a shout.


A few days ago, I found myself in Bywell-on-Tyne for the first time in ages.  It’s one of my favourite north-east villages; in fact, it’s one of my all-time sublime villages anywhere. 

That it survives agelessly, and within a few minutes of urban Tyneside, is a minor miracle and it’s worth the trip to see the perfectly manicured, ‘estate’ fields that surround it, the ruins of its ancient castle peeking out above the trees, the solidity and unhurried permanence of its few houses - and to visit its two mediaeval churches.

To have two ancient churches side by side - almost sharing the same churchyard - is a very great rarity in England, or anywhere else, for that matter.  I’ve only seen it once before, in the lovely Essex village of Willingale and the phenomenon occurred there for exactly the same reason as here at Bywell. 

Parish churches are usually built somewhere near the centre of the parishes they serve but at Willingale and Bywell, they were built right at the edges of two parishes, where the parish boundaries met.

Which is why two beautiful and venerable old churches stand cheek by jowl at Bywell.

It rained heavily while I was there the other day, which only served to crown my visit with one of the most vivid rainbows I’ve ever seen.  I hope you like the photos I took.

When I got back home from Bywell and was telling a neighbour about it, he asked me if I’d ever been to Starlight Castle - apparently, he knew it well when he was young and wondered how well, or badly, it had fared over the years since he used to play there.

I’m ashamed to say that I’d never heard of it, which is a bit rich coming from someone the BBC used to promote as ‘our local history expert’.

Having scrubbed the internet in search of more information, I now know roughly where, and what, Starlight Castle is.  There’s a charmer of a story attached to it - but I’ll let you discover it for yourself!

Have any truckshunters or other blogsters been there recently?  Can you add to its story or update my neighbour about its current condition? 

Please get in touch…


I’ll soon be casting my beady eye over our next port-of-call:  Australia.

A big Thankyou for the all the quirky trivia and lowdown I’ve received already - even from blogsters in Australia itself.

If there’s anything you think I should include in my ‘portrait’, please email me.


Thankyou to Brenda and Hildie for their Comments on the last posting.  The phrases Brenda quotes are reminders that north-east people can hold their own in any battle of gentle, but incisive, sarcasm.  They reminded me of the many ‘stock phrases‘ my Mam and Nana used to use when they thought the occasion called for it.

In fact, I’m doing my best to compile a list of as many home-grown wisecracks as I can and I’d really love to hear any that you can remember hearing in your family - or that you still use yourself.  Look in the last posting’s Comments box for the sort of thing I mean. 

The comments about the local word for turnips rang a bell, too.  I can’t ever remember calling them anything else but ‘turnips‘ but I know that my brother - who led a far more daring life than me - called them ‘snaggers‘ or ‘snags’.

Many years ago, a listener to Roots of the North-East sent me a long list of local words for plants and animals.  I was hoping it might have been in the box of print-outs I found the other day, but it’s not.

So, as a final request to the Honourable Company…

If you’d like to reach back into the cobwebby cul-de-sacs of your memory for any words you used - or even still use - for animals and plants of any kind, I’d love to hear from you. 



Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
The tomb of the Venerable Bede in Durham Cathedral.
I'm not a religious man but I've always found the quotation on the wall particularly beautiful...
'Christ is the Morning Star who,
When the night of this world is past,
Brings to his saints the promise of the Light of Life
And opens Everlasting Day'.

In this blogposting…
* The Daily Wisecrack
Go for it…


Our next, momentous, AGM will take place at 1100 on Saturday 27 October at Bede’s World in Jarrow.  It’s a lovely, atmospheric and - of course - historic site.  You can find out much more about it here:  http://www.bedesworld.co.uk

(If the link doesn’t work, cut and paste it into your browser’s Search box.)

You will see from the website that there’s an admission charge but don’t worry about that - the AGM will take place in the tea room, which is in Jarrow Hall, outside the site itself.  Going into the museum and grounds to explore will be an optional extra.

And remember - wherever we are and whatever we do, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.


The other night I found myself scrabbling about under my bed looking for whatever it was that had just made an eerily unsettling noise and woken me up.  As it turns out, my cat Halki had been playing with a dislodged fridge magnet from the Severn Valley Railway which scared the wits out of her - and roused me from my slumbers - by clanging loudly as it attached itself to the radiator.

I don’t know how she managed to de-attach it from the fridge in the first place, or why she chose that particular magnet when there were others much lower down the fridge door.  Perhaps she has a thing about trains.

In any case, riveting though that anecdote undoubtedly is, it’s not the point of this little diatribe.

Whilst fumbling about in the dust and cat-hairs under my bed - and trying to avoid Halki’s brutal claws at the same time - I chanced upon an innocent-looking folder marked (under several layers of industrial-strength grime) ‘programme feature ideas’.

Judging from the dates on the documents it contained, the folder had lain there undisturbed for seven years, which is some kind of record, even for me - and says quite a lot about how often I spring clean.

The folder contained dozens of emails, which I had laboriously printed out at the BBC back in the days of the Blue Bus programme.  They’d been sent to us over a period of several weeks by enthusiastic listeners and contained a whole raft of items which I obviously thought were worth keeping; they could be used, I must have decided, during any embarrassing gaps during the show, of which there were regrettably a large number.

Amongst the jumble of papers was a paperclipped sheaf on top of which I had scrawled The Daily Wisecrack, consisting of dozens of cheeky put-downs and personal insults which I could have used in my daily, on-air dealings with Paul.  Presumably, they were sent in by a sympathetic listener who realised that my verbal reactions were not as sharp, as incisive or as rapid-fire as Paul’s and that I needed all the help I could get.

Unfortunately, I do not know who that listener was.  The top pages of what was a very long email are missing.  But, if it was you, my apologies for not having the courtesy to thank you at the time - and for not having the gumption to actually use the wisecracks themselves when they were most needed.

For the record, though, here are the first few examples on the list.  Imagine, if you would, Paul’s reaction if I’d come out with a few of these….

Can I borrow your arse for a few days while my face is on vacation?

He suffers from diarrhoea of the mouth - and constipation of the mind.

Did your parents have any children that lived?

Most people live and learn.  You just live.

Your purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.

Do you have to leave so soon?  I was about to poison your coffee.

He doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘fear’.  But then again, he doesn’t know the meaning of most words.


If you can think of any more as deliberately unkind as these, email me...


This is my ongoing campaign to disinter words from the obscure end of English vocabulary - words which have inexplicably fallen into unmerited disuse.  For others, see postings 385 and 388.

Today’s word is - wait for it….

It means ‘small talk, chatter’.  If you manage to get to the AGM, you’ll experience some inaniloquence yourself.  You may even contribute some of your own….


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

In this blogposting…
* New From Nowhere
* Australia
* Stress Test
Do it while you still can...


Our next AGM will take place at 1100 on Saturday 27 October at Bede’s World in Jarrow.  It’s an amazing place - lots to see and much to do.  If you’re ashamed of never having been, now’s the time to feel better about yourself by going.

After all, the Venerable Bede lived there almost all his life and if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for us.

Amongst many other things, it was his idea to number the years the way we do - although, judging from the story in the last blogposting, he could have thought the whole thing through better and decided when each year should actually start.

See you on the 27th, if not before!


It’s time we caught up with the real news, as we used to do on The Nightshift….

* A German man has been reunited with his car almost two years after he forgot where he’d parked it.  After a particularly heavy night’s drinking in December 2010 - and an unsuccessful search the next day - he reported his car as missing to Munich police.  Authorities discovered it by chance last month after a traffic warden noticed that its inspection tickets had expired.  It was 4km from the spot where the man - now 33 - thought he’d parked it…

* A Dallas woman has been jailed for 99 years for beating her daughter and glueing her hands to a wall.  Elizabeth Escalona attacked her daughter Jocelyn because she was having trouble potty-training her.  Jocelyn suffered bleeding in the brain, multiple bruises and was in a coma for two days…

* A 15-year old girl in Timbuktu. Mali, has received 60 lashes after Islamist extremists convicted her of talking to some men in the street…

* A pilot has been suspended from flying after landing an Indonesian jet at the wrong airport.  The aircraft, carrying 96 passengers and six crew, was meant to land at Minangkabau airport in Padang but instead descended to the Tabing airport six miles away…

And a crop of the results of some recent research…

* People prone to feeling guilty make good best friends...

* Mice can learn songs...

* The Duchess of Cambridge grows her own potatoes...

* Women get more stressed than men when they read bad news stories...

* Plants grow better if you talk to them in a north-east England accent...

* Dogs work better when they've had their breakfast...

* Men named Brian and women called Helen have the best credit profiles in the UK on average...
Chinese soft-shelled turtles pass waste through their mouths...
* Men with high testosterone levels lie less...

* Bull sharks have the strongest bite of any sharks...

The next port of call in our armchair tour of the world is Australia. 

I’ve already received some useful contributions from blogsters in the country itself, including the winner of a vote to find ‘Australia’s greatest gift to the world’.  And you’ll never guess what it is…

If you have any wayward and offbeat trivia about Australia lurking somewhere, don’t keep them to yourself.  Email them to me…


The picture above has been used in a case study on stress levels at St. Mary's Hospital, London.

It shows two dolphins leaping out of the water.  They are identical.

The hospital case-study revealed, however, that people under stress can see differences between the two dolphins.

Furthermore, the more differences a person finds between the dolphins, the more stress that person is experiencing.

Look at the photograph again and if you find more than one or two minor differences you need a holiday.


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* Maureen
* The Talking Dog
* Time-Traveller
Get ready, get set…..GO


Today - October 12 - is Maureen’s birthday.

Maureen has been a member of our Honourable Company since before it was even thought of and has been a very welcome presence at many of our AGMs. - and will be at many more in the future, we hope.  She’s lovely!




This is a charming, and apparently true, story sent to me a few weeks ago by Martin, from Houghton-le-Spring, who - I’m glad to say - still dips his toes in truckshunter waters now and again.

A bloke is driving around the countryside and sees a sign in front of a house:
Talking Dog For Sale

He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the back garden. The bloke goes into the garden and sees a labrador sitting there.

‘Do you talk?’ he asks. ‘I certainly do’, says the labrador.

‘So what's your story?’ the bloke asks.

The dog looks up and says ‘Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was quite young.  I decided that I wanted to help the government, so I told MI5 about my gift.

In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders - after all, no-one would reckon that a dog would be eavesdropping.

I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running.’

But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger.  So I decided to settle down.

I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security - wandering near
suspicious characters and listening in.  I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded several medals.

I got married, had loads of puppies, and now I'm just retired.’

The bloke is amazed.

He goes back in and asks the owner how much he wants for the dog.

‘Ten quid’, the guy says.

‘Ten quid?  But that dog is amazing.  Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?’

‘Because he's a liar. He never did any of that shit’


Our next AGM will take place at 1100 on Saturday 27 October - yes, a Saturday for a change.

And, to make an even greater change, it’s going to be held at Bede’s World in Jarrow - a venue new to us.

There’s lots to see and do there, but don’t let that put you off.  Come along anyway!

After all, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.


As far as I’m concerned, it’s no surprise that the people of the world are at permanent loggerheads when, even just in western Europe, we can’t all agree on how to measure things or do the same things the same way.

Most of us in Britain still use yards, inches, feet, pounds, stones, pints, quarts, acres - and even furlongs and links, for heaven’s sake.  (If you want to know what a link is, see blogposting 396.)

If I was drafting this posting anywhere else in western Europe except Portugal, I’d be doing it one hour later and my charger wouldn’t fit their electrical sockets (even in Portugal); I’d need an adaptor.

All of which means that I’m taking very great comfort from a lovely book I’m reading at the moment.  It’s called The Time-Traveller’s Guide to Mediaeval England.  It’s a kind of Lonely Planet guide to daily life in the 14th century and it’s fascinating.

Measuring things in those days was fraught with inconsistencies and pitfalls.  Most measurements, for example, were inexplicably different in Devon than everywhere else.  There were 16lbs (not 14) to the Devonian stone, but only when you were weighing cheese and butter.  And each lb weighed 18 ounces, not 16.  There were 10 gallons in a Devon bushel and not 8.  And so on…

But when the author (Ian Mortimer) writes about the measurement of time, he takes us to a level of truly other-worldly complications.  We're not just talking about telling what time of the day it was, either.  Even deciding what year it was could depend on factors of rococo complexity.

It’s worth quoting some of what he says in full…

‘The day on which New Year’s Day gifts are exchanged in England for the historical year 1367 falls in 1366 in Florence and Venice but in 1367 in the Italian port of Pisa, where the year begins on the previous 25 March.

If you sail from England on 1 January 1366 and land in Pisa in mid-February, it will be 1367 there already.  Travel on to Venice and arrive before the end of February and you will be back in 1366.  Leave after the 1 March and it will be 1367.

Ride into Florence and you will be back in 1366 again.  Return to your boat at Pisa after the 25 March and it will be 1368.  Sail to Provence and you’ll be back in 1367.  Stop in Portugal
(good old Portugal) on your way home and it will be 1405!  That’s because they still count their years as dating from the arrival of the Romans in 38BC…’

So at least some things have changed for the better since 1366.  Er...1367.  Hmmm...1368.  Er...1405.


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
One of the best-known images of Oradour - 
M Desourteaux's car still parked on the village green where he left it.


In blogposting 398, I described the events that befell the little French village of Oradour-sur-Glane on 10 June 1944.  I’ve just re-read my account of that terrible day and, considering how unimaginably dreadful the happenings were, my description of them seems to me to be rather coldly and almost clinically written.  As unimpassioned as a recipe or some flat-pack assembly instructions.

'First of all this happened, then that, then this, then that, then….'

But - unbelievably for someone as ‘wordy’ as me - that’s the only way I could do it.  The words, and thus the events, had to stand on their own two feet, as it were, without any verbose and emotional embellishments on my part.  Any other way of laying out what happened that day - including, perhaps, expressions of shock, sorrow, repulsion and horror - would have seemed patronising to those involved.

Instead - and as I said in the same posting - I would give expression to my personal reactions when I wrote a description of my visit to Oradour.

But now, I can’t do that either.  I can’t find the words to describe how I felt as I wandered round the ruins of the village.

I don’t think I’m overstating things here.  I think almost anyone would have the same problem of self-expression after such an experience, or after a visit to, say, the ruins of Auschwitz. 

Some thoughts and reactions really are inexpressible and, perhaps, ought not be expressed anyway.  After all, the events at Oradour and - on a much more brutally extravagant scale - at Auschwitz happened very recently indeed and very close to home (in every sense). 

Much too close to home, in fact.

So, instead of a heavily emotional step-by-step portrait of my visit to Oradour, these photographs I took as I walked around the ruins and learned the village’s story will have to speak for me - and for themselves.


 At each location where the menfolk were murdered, and their bodies burned, 
there is a plaque like this one.  It says:
'This is a place of torture
A group of men were massacred and burned by the Nazis
Think about these things'

 The garage business of M Desourteaux, with its tinplate advertisements still in place
 Many of the buildings have plaques which tell you who lived there and what they did for a living; this is M Beaulieu's forge on the main street.  You can still see the churns, wheels, plates and spars he was working on when he was led away.
 This plaque says 'This is where the villagers were assembled'.
 The plaque on the right says that 6 men escaped from this barn.
(They were caught later and murdered.)
 Cars parked in the forecourt of Oradour's second garage.
 This is the only 'family' memorial in the village.  
It commemorates five members of the same family.  The youngest, Renée, was only 5.
 This was the grocery and café opposite the church.

 Inside the church.  
This is where the women and children were slaughtered.
Mme Rouffanche hid behind the high altar and jumped through the centre window's stained glass.
The child's folded pram on the floor is impossible to look at.
 Mme Rouffanche escaped through the centre window and ran across the road to the market garden.
A woman who tried to emulate her was seen - her and her baby were machine-gunned.
 The tramlines and overhead wires running past the church wall and the bakery.


Memorials to the victims and locations of Nazi brutality have played a regrettably important role in my travels this year....


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

Yesterday - October 1 - was the birthday of our esteemed and gracious Honorary President, the wonderful Ada.

Previous commitments prevented me from visiting her on the day itself but I called in to see her at her home in Walker today to wish her a Happy Birthday from me and, of course, on behalf of all truckshunters everywhere.

It’d been a while since we met so I was naturally glad to find her in good form and in high spirits.  She looked great (as you can see) and was full of chat, news and memories.  In case you don’t know it already, Ada has an archetypal photographic memory and can recall, as well as any modern piece of digital equipment, absolutely all of my most embarrassing radio moments.

She is also, however, polite enough not to bring them up in conversation too often!

Her recollections, though, go much further back than a mere stripling like me.  I spent a wonderful couple of hours asking her about her lifelong career as a nurse - and listening to her replies, which were full of Ada-style anecdote and humour.

She was a young nurse during the later stages of World War II, for example, and can remember looking after soldiers who had been injured during the Normandy landings - both British and German.  I laughed loudly when she told me a story about a colleague of hers at the time…

Injured German soldiers were given, amongst other things, as many slices of bread to eat as they wanted.  Ada’s fellow-nurse, not being exactly fluent in German, proffered a plate of bread to one of them.  She promptly, and quite understandably, misinterpreted his reply of ‘Nein, danke‘ as ‘Nine, thanks‘ and proceeded to pile up nine slices of bread in front of him, much to his astonishment.

You live and learn.  And everybody has a story to tell…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ADA - from all of us.


Hildie was meant to be with me on my visit to Ada today but she’s not too well right now.  Please spare her a thought as you read this - and get in touch with her if you can.

Please get well soon, Hildie.  You’re indispensable!


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