In this blogposting...
* The Things People Say
* A Goodbye Kiss
* Advice from Sid
Every one a winner...


When you’re trying to learn a foreign language - like I’ve been trying to learn French over the last few years - the real difficulty is taking on board the everyday phrases that people us ‘in the street’ rather than the official, textbook version of the language.

Conjugations, declensions and grammar are tricky enough but using day-to-day street talk is what impresses native speakers the most - and presents the biggest problems.  Phrases like all’s well that ends well, no pain no gain, cheap at twice the price, more haste less speed, it’ll be alright on the night - they’re very idiomatic and pithy, and not always easy to translate.

Here are some I’ve tried to learn over the years.  There are more on Serge’s blog.

Comme on fait son lit on se couche.
You lie on the bed you make.

Il n'y a que les imbéciles qui ne change pas d'avis.
Only a fool never changes his mind.

On ne fait pas d'omelettes sans casser des oeufs.
You can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs.

Qui couche avec des chiens se lève avec des puces.
Who sleeps with dogs wakes up with fleas.
Is there an Englsh equivalent of that one?

Pluie du matin n'arrête pas le pèlerin.
Morning rain doesn’t stop a pilgrim.

Après la pluie le beau temps.
There are better days ahead - ‘after the rain comes good weather’.

Bien mal acquis ne profite jamais.
Ill got, ill spent - ‘what you acquire wrongly will not benefit you’

Heureux au jeu, malheureux en amour.
Lucky at cards, unlucky in love.

Deux avis valent mieux qu'un
Two heads are better than one - ‘two points of view have more value than one’.

En amour comme à la guerre, tous les coups sont permis.
All’s fair in love and war - ‘in love as in war; all moves are allowed’.

Il ne faut pas mettre la charrue avant les bœufs
Don't put the cart before the horse - in French, the cart before the ox.

Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l'ours avant de l'avoir tué
Don't count your chickens before they're hatched - ‘don’t sell the bear’s skin before you’ve killed the bear.’

And my favourite - if only because of the way it rolls off the tongue so mellifluously in French...

Advienne que pourra.
Come what may.

Beautiful, just beautiful.  French really does have a truly unique sound system, doesn’t it?


I’m writing this blog during one of my periodic visits to see my friend Brian in London.  At the very start of my journey down here yesterday, something quite remarkable happened...

Platform 4 at Newcastle Central was quite crowded; it’s Easter weekend and lots of people were travelling.

As I sat waiting impatiently for the train to arrive, my eyes fixed on a middle-aged couple standing close by.  They were, I should think, in their late 40s.  The man was tall, goodlooking, slightly balding.  The woman was ‘petite’, pretty and slim without being thin.

And they were involved in a quite astonishingly loving ‘goodbye kiss’.  Their arms wrapped round each other, they were kissing full-on mouth to mouth.  They gazed into each other’s eyes, their faces almost locked together.  They kissed and kissed and kissed. 

I timed it.  Four minutes.  That’s quite a long time for a mutual, passionate embrace on a station platform on a very cold March Saturday morning.  They obviously meant every second of it - and enjoyed it immensely.

It wasn’t one of those sad, ‘farewell my love’ kisses, either.  They smiled as they hugged.  It seemed to me that their parting may only be brief and that they were using it as an excuse to make each other feel passionate pleasure - right there amongst all those people waiting for the train.

It was seriously erotic.  One of those sexy embraces that outrages maiden aunts (and bachelor uncles) from Corbridge or Barnard Castle.

And it was extraordinarily lovely to watch.  It seemed to me that, the moment they parted, they would immediately start looking forward to meeting again.

The woman sat in the same carriage as me and I genuinely found it very difficult to resist the temptation to tell her much I’d enjoyed watching that Goodbye Kiss, and how  - er....uplifting - I’d found it.

Two mature, grown-up people - shamelessly in love.  Wonderful.


It reminded me of this advice I received from Sid...

Life is short - break the rules
Forgive quickly
Kiss slowly
Love truly
Laugh uncontrollably
And, never regret a thing



Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting...
* More of St Cuthbert's Forgotten Heroes
* The Piper
Proceed at your own pace...


The story of St Cuthbert’s unmemorialised and neglected descendants continues.

In the Comments box of the last blog, Brenda suggested that Grace Darling deserves a statue or sculpture somewhere in the north-east, and I agree with her.  The only memorial to her that I’m aware of is her tomb (above) in Bamburgh churchyard - which is all very well.  But surely something that befits her truly legendary heroism is long overdue.

Brenda also mentions the Venerable Bede…
This is the man, remember, who not only wrote the first book in the English language but also devised the system of year-numbering which we still use today.  It’s down to Bede that we call this year '2013'.  A ‘wooden thing’ in Jarrow (or even his elaborate tomb in Durham Cathedral (above)) however aesthetic, aren't enough.
Charles Avison

A neighbour of mine has also suggested that Charles Avison, Newcastle’s own Handel, deserves to have more than a street named after him on a run-down estate.  A life-size statue outside the Lit and Phil (where many of his musical manuscripts are held) seems in order.
A splendid photo of Sir Joseph Wilson Swan

The Lit and Phil was also the venue for the world’s first demonstration of an incandescent light bulb, invented by local lad Sir Joseph Wilson Swan.  Nearby Mosley Street was the first in the world to be lit by electric light.  And yet, as far as I know, his only memorial is an almost invisible plaque on the wall of a derelict sports shop.

Peter from South Shields has suggested that statues of Jeremiah Dixon (from Cockfield) and Thomas Wright (of Westerton) should be adorning South Durham’s environment. 
 Jeremiah Dixon

Dixon helped to survey the old dividing line between the northern and southern states of the Union - the Mason-Dixon line - and is thought to have bequeathed his name to ‘dixie’-land.
 Thomas Wright

Wright built one of England’s first-ever observatories in the 18th century - now called the Westerton Folly.  Unbelievably, this early astronomy genius - the first man to properly identify the Milky Way - is utterly uncommemorated locally.
 Thomas Bewick

An unidentified emailer called ‘denizen’ has also suggested that Thomas Bewick deserves more than the small memorial bust at Amen Corner in Newcastle.

And finally, I’d like to add another two-pen’orth.  William Wouldhave and Henry Greathead (wonderful names) jointly invented one of mankind’s greatest philanthropic assets - the lifeboat.  A replica of it stands at the bottom of Ocean Road in South Shields, their home town.  But where is the monumental statue of them that should, by rights, show them looking proudly out to sea from the Sandhaven?


My thanks to Brenda for sending me this deeply moving story.  Sadly, the name of the story-teller isn’t known.

‘As a bagpiper, I play many gigs.

Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man.  He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Scottish Highlands.

As I was not familiar with the area, I got lost and - being a typical man - I didn't stop to ask for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw that the undertaker had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.  There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.

I felt bad and apologised to the men for being late.

I went to the side of the grave and looked down.  The vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around.

I played my heart and soul out for this man with no family and friends.

I played like I've never played before for this homeless man, and as I played
Amazing Grace, the workers began to weep.

They wept and I, too, wept.

When I had finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car.  Though my head hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say

“I’ve never seen anything like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for over twenty years."’


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


In the last blogposting I bewailed (lovely word!) the fact that the truly saintly and gentle St Cuthbert had no statue in the north-east (without adding that the vicious Lord Londonderry has).  Well, if you’ve been keeping up to speed, you’ll know that Brenda added a comment to the blog that included a link to a statue on Holy Island that turned out to be of St Aidan.

Not to be outdone, the amazing Brenda has now posted a new link in the Comments box - and this time, it really is a statue of St Cuthbert.

To be honest, I’d forgotten about it, even though I’ve seen it several times.  Looking at the picture of it, I can see exactly why I’ve forgotten about it.

Let’s face it - it doesn’t do our patron saint many favours, does it?  Compared to the simple grace of the statue of St Aidan, it looks clumsy, contrived and almost pedestrian.  At least, it does to me.

I appreciate that beauty is in the eye of the beholder - but so is ungainliness and ugliness.  For me, Mr Lawson’s sculpture says little or nothing about Cuthbert’s life and humble spirituality; it doesn’t evoke the feelings of affection and pride in him that I want to feel.

I just don’t like it - which is a shame when it represents a person of whom I am very, very fond.  I would much rather, in this case, that ‘modern art’ gave way to a more traditional image of St Cuthbert.  I reckon I would be moved very deeply - and feel much more that he ‘belonged’ in his place - if he was portrayed with a donkey (a ‘cuddy’) and a duck.

This whole question of statues and sculptures has - thanks to Brenda - got me thinking, though.

My time on the Blue Bus showed me that there is a surprisingly large number of notables of one kind or another who do not seem to have been immortalised by statues in their native north-east.  Before I drafted this blog, I scribbled some names down…

* Robert Smith Surtees, from County Durham - the immensely popular author of the Jorrocks stories in the 1830s and 1840s.

* William Mills, from Sunderland - who invented the ‘Mills bomb’ (a type of hand grenade) in 1913.  I’m aware that memorialising a ‘man of war’ may not be to everyone’s taste - but Mr Mills’ invention certainly helped to win World War One; and Sunderland needs as many memorials as it can get.

* Emily Davidson, the suffragette killed by the King’s horse at the Derby in 1913, should also have a statue, preferably in her native Morpeth.

* William van Mildert, the last Prince Bishop of Durham, whose name and philanthropy is scandalously little-known.  It was through him that the palatinate of Durham was finally abolished in 1836 so that the University of Durham could be founded.  His statue in the Cathedral should be moved to the centre of Palace Green at once.  Or better - to the Market Place to replace the appalling Lord Londonderry.

* Tommy Armstrong, who wrote the words and music to some of the north-east’s best-loved songs:  Wor Nannie’s a Mazor, Durham Jail, Hedgehog Pie, Oakey’s Keeker, Trimdon Grange Explosion, Stanley Market, and many more It would be splendid to have a mighty statue of this humble man atop one of the heights around Tantobie, where he lived and died.

* Thomas Hepburn, the extraordinary social reformer from Pelton - yet another local man whose memory is shamefully neglected.

And that’s just for starters.  I’m sure you can think of others.  Any votes for Neil Tennant?  Jonathan Ive?


You can see some photos of a visit Serge and I made to Tynemouth Market while he was here recently on his blogposting 192.

It was a great day; thanks to everyone who greeted us so warmly - and practised their atrocious French!


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

Serge has been staying with me here in Newcastle over the last ten days or so, which is why things have been so quiet on the blog front recently.  Sadly, he’s now back in  Beaujolais and I need a distraction from the slough of self-pity into which I drift at times like these.  A new posting should go some way to doing the trick, I reckon.

As a matter of fact, I’ve discovered that a couple of important dates have gone unremarked on the blog while my thoughts have been elsewhere.  One of them is St Cuthbert’s Day - of which more later - and the other is…

Carlin Sunday
...which falls two Sundays before Easter Day. 

I can remember my Nana making references to Carlin Sunday and it’s mentioned in a playground rhyme, which I can also  just about remember - Tid, Mid, Miseray, Carlin, Palm and Paste-Egg Day.  These are shortcut mnemonics to the six Sundays leading to Easter.  Tid, Mid and Miseray are named from the beginnings of psalms and hymns traditional in services on that day; the Te Deum, Mi Deus and Misereri mei.

'Carlin', though, has nothing to do with psalms - or even with Christianity.  As I’m sure everyone reading this blog knows perfectly well, carlins are small, nutty peas, sometimes called ‘black peas’ or ‘pigeon peas’ and steeping them, boiling them up, drenching them in vinegar and wolfing them down at roughly this time of year is a tradition, specially here in the north-east, that goes back many centuries and may well pre-date the onset of Christianity here.

Interestingly, they play a (perhaps apocryphal) part in local history, too.  It’s said that a Dutch shipload of carlins saved Newcastle from starvation when the city was besieged during the Civil War.  Which ought to have earned it a place on Newcastle’s coat of arms at the very least, if you ask me.

I doubt very much if anyone observes Carlin Sunday now, though.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten them, on Carlin Sunday or on any other day.

You never know, though…


The other important date I missed while my eye wasn’t on the ball - as Hildie pointed out in the Comments box of the last blog - was...
St Cuthbert’s Day
...which falls on March 20.

I’ve always liked this date as the feast day for our local patron saint.  It’s the last day of Winter - the Spring equinox.  Whatever the weather, the crocuses and snowdrops are out, daffodils are budding and, from St Cuthbert’s Day onwards, the days are finally longer than the nights.  Spring has arrived.

And, rather than being associated with dragons, fire, martyrdom and war, St Cuthbert is commemorated by his local descendants in the affectionate naming of donkeys and ponies (which were known as ‘cuddies’ when I was young) and eider ducks - still referred to as ‘cuddy ducks’ in these parts.

Above is a photo of his lovely tomb in Durham Cathedral - but why isn’t there a statue of him somewhere?


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* Keith and Linda:  Life’s Lessons
* Kev
Don’t say I didn’t warn you…


The weather was insidiously treacherous on Thursday; it was much, much colder than it looked.  Nevertheless, and true to our spirit and our motto, I braved the idle winds and arrived at Thornton’s not really expecting to see anybody there.

This time round, I was graced with the company of Keith (of Keith and Linda fame), Neville and Hildie - although, intriguingly, not all at the same time.

First to arrive - even before me - was Keith.  It was good to see him and to know that, despite an extraordinarily difficult year, he’s kept going strong.  It’s impossible to imagine how hard the things he’s been through have been and I admire him very much indeed.

Keep it up, Keith.  And happy retirement come August!

And give the Company’s hugs to Linda, who had to work and couldn’t attend.

It’s always good to see Neville, too.  He’s already retired, of course, and looks far too happy for his own good.  The man’s feet never seem to touch the ground!  The embodiment, you might say, of truckshunterdom (being the only one of us who professionally deserves the name).

After Neville left, Hildie arrived - although I don’t think it was cause and effect.  Both Hildie and I have only ever missed one AGM - before Christmas, when we got snowed in - and now both of us are hypersensitive about missing another.  So the impeccable and indispensable Hildie attended, even though she’d already done a morning’s work.

A small but loyal AGM!

It’s a shame, of course, that more truckshunters can’t attend.  But the AGMs will continue - even if I end up by being the only one there.

But please keep in touch, one way or the other.  Leave a Comment on the blog or send me (or any other truckshunter) an email.  It’s always good to hear how you are.

And a very big Thankyou to Keith, Neville and Hildie for braving the deceptively cold weather last Thursday.


Keith brought with him a whole wodge of aphorisms, axioms, sayings and proverbs for our delectation.  Here are some that caught my eye…

* Sex is like air - it’s not important unless you aren’t getting any.
* No-one is listening until you fart.
* Don’t worry - it’s only kinky the first time.
* We are born naked, wet and hungry and get our bums slapped - then things just get worse.
And some more….

* A mummy covered in chocolate and nuts has been discovered in Egypt.  Archaeologists think it may Pharaoh Roche…
* Two Indian junkies accidentally snorted curry powder instead of cocaine.  One’s in a korma, the other has a dodgy tikka….
And some awful puns…

* I thought I saw an eye-doctor on an Alaskan Island but it was only an optical Aleutian.
* No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
* Two hats were hanging on a hat-rack.  One says to the other ‘You stay here, I’ll go on ahead…’
* I wondered why the cricket ball kept getting bigger.  Then it hit me...
* A Buddhist refuses anaesthesia during a tooth extraction.  His aim?  Transcend dental medication…

If you have any more like these, please keep them to yourself…..


Today - Sunday - is Kev’s birthday, which he shares with Tsar Alexander III, Chuck Norris, Sharon Stone, Prince Edward and Osama bin Laden.

So let’s hear it - all together now…



Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
PLEASE don't forget - FEED THE BIRDS
(This is a bullfinch; isn't he handsome!)
In this blogposting…
* Old Thoughts from an Old Person
* Brenda’s Jokes
You have been warned….


Our next AGM will take place at 1100 this upcoming Thursday, 7 March.  I’ll be waiting in the inevitable sunshine outside Thornton’s at the monument end of Grainger Street.

This AGM’s a bit special.  Hildie won’t be able to join us until a little later so, if you want to arrive later too, nowt’s the bother.  I’ll be hanging around until she arrives, even if nobody else does!

So...see you at 1100 or thereabouts on Thursday.


There are quite a few viral emails doing the rounds about the hazards, pitfalls and ironies of growing old; to be honest, most of them are fairly predictable and almost not even worth ignoring.

This one caught my eye, though.  I’ve received it twice, which says a lot about what the people who email me think of me...

As I was lying in bed pondering the problems of the world, I rapidly realised that I don't really give a damn. It's the tortoise life for me.

After all
*  If walking is good for your health, the postman would be immortal.
*  A whale swims all day, eats only fish, drinks only water - and is very fat.
*  A rabbit runs and hops - and only lives for 15 years.
*  A tortoise doesn't run - or anything else, really - yet it lives for 450 years.
And you tell me to exercise??? I don't think so.

I'm retired. Go around me.

God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked, the good fortune to run into the people I
do like - and the eyesight to tell the difference.

Now that I'm older here's what I've discovered:
*  I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
*  My wild oats have turned into prunes and all-bran.
*  Now that I’ve finally got my head together, my body is falling apart.
*  Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
*  Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
*  If all is not lost, where is it?
*  It is much easier to get older than it is to get wiser.
*  It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.
*  If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees.
*  These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter. . .I go somewhere to get something, and then wonder what I'm hereafter.
*  Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

And remember...

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

That last thought could easily serve as one of our Honourable Company’s many mottoes.


Here are a couple of jokes that Brenda sent me.  So - don’t blame me!

A lawyer boarded a flight in Perth with a box of frozen crabs and asked a blonde stewardess to take care of them for him.

She took the box and promised to put it in the crew's refrigerator.

He advised her that he was holding her personally responsible for them staying frozen, mentioning in a very haughty manner that he was a lawyer, and proceeded to rant at her about what would happen if she let them thaw out.

Needless to say, she was annoyed by his behaviour.

Shortly before landing in Sydney, she used the intercom to announce to the entire cabin ‘Would the lawyer who gave me the crabs in Perth, please raise your hand?’

Not one hand went up ..... so she took them home and ate them.

There are two lessons here:
1 - Lawyers aren't as smart as they think they are.
2 - Blondes aren't as dumb as most folk think.

The local news station was interviewing an 80-year-old lady because she had just got married for the fourth time. 

The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband's occupation.

‘He's a funeral director,’ she answered. 

‘Interesting,’ the newsman thought...

He then asked her if she wouldn't mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living. 

She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years. 

After a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she had first married a banker when she was in her 20's, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40's, and a preacher when in her 60's, and now - in her 80's - a funeral director.

The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse careers.

(Wait for it)

She smiled and explained,

(Wait for it….)

‘I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go.’

Like I said - don’t blame me….


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
 Stephane Hessel
In this blogposting…
* Daffodils and Leaks
* You Must Remember This…
* In Memoriam:  Stephane Hessel
Enter here…


Our fortieth AGM - yes, I know; FORTIETH!!!! - will take place at 1100 this upcoming Thursday 7 March, when we will be mustered at Grey’s Monument. 

If you arrive and don’t see anyone, look outside the branch of Thornton’s - mmmmmmmmmm - at the top of Grainger Street, just a few yards away.

Better still, look inside Thornton’s….

See you next Thursday….


In the meantime, though, we’ve only got as far as March 1 - St David’s Day.  So, as usual, in his honour and that of the lovely country of which he is the patron saint (and which, as you can see, is lucky enough to have TWO of the most strikingly dramatic national flags in the world)…
                                                           DYDD DEWI SANT DA!
                                                         HAPPY ST DAVID’S DAY!


Despite the admittedly lofty average age of we truckshunters, I don’t often give in to the temptation of ‘good old days’ reminiscences.  We tend to live for the excitement of the here and the now.

But, once a while, it gives you a nice warm feeling to look at photos like the ones scattered here and let the memories come flooding back….


This is what I wrote about Stephane Hessel two years ago, in blogposting 252 (February 2011)…

'Something very strange and unsettling is happening in France at the moment.  And it’s all because of a book.  Well, not a book, even.  A pamphlet.  It’s only about 6 pages long and France is getting very worked up about it.

It was written by a 93-year old man called Stephane Hessel and it’s called
Indignez-Vous!, which translates roughly as Get Angry!

Stephane is a national hero in France; a survivor of Nazi concentration camps and of the Resistance  - and a passionate believer in ‘peace and people’.  And
Get Angry! is an incitement to do exactly that.  To rescue the world of work and art and social responsibility and dignity from the claws of the venal, the corrupt and the avaricious.

It is inflaming many parts of French society.  Sarko himself (the 'Garden Gnome', as his millions of detractors call him there) is unsettled by it.  It has been translated into English and several other languages.  You may find some extracts from it on the internet.

M Hessel’s personality, his heroic history and his conclusions about the world we have created for ourselves and our children have combined to inspire me to read his treatise - in French (just in case anything gets lost in translation).  This means that I’m only up to page 2 - and I’m already primed to agitate, protest and complain as volubly as I can.

When I and my generation had a chance to change the world for the better, in the 60s, we failed catastrophically.  Instead, we produced the cesspit of money-grubbing corporate selfishness through which we’re all wading now.  Putting Number One first is now the expected norm and the ideals of selflessness that inspired post-war social welfare policies throughout western Europe are under attack.

I want to be living proof, though, that you’re never too old to Get Angry!' 

M Hessel died last Tuesday, aged 93.

You can read a lot more about this astonishing man on, for example, Wikipedia ( - at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St%C3%A9phane_Hessel; if the link doesn’t work, cut and paste it into the Search box of your internet browser).

He was, and remains, one of my heroes. 

Let’s get together on this one.  Every year, on February 26, let’s set aside some time to ‘get angry’ about the hateful, 'privatised' world of theft, greed and venality which we are now forced to endure - and which Stephane Hessel reviled so elegantly - and so much.


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