The only village on Halki - population 478
 Some of the houses on sumptuous Symi.  
The bloke on the balcony of the green-shuttered house is...

Thankyou for the splendid comments you’ve made, both in the Comments box and via email, about my cats Halki and Symi, who played such an important part in the the last blogposting.

They are named after two of the most idyllically beautiful places I’ve ever been in my whole life.

Look at a map of the Greek Islands and home in on the Dodecanese group down in the south-east corner.  By far the largest island in this group is Rhodes.

Off the north-west coast of Rhodes lies the tiny island of Halki.  Its near neighbour to the east, lying in a claw of the Turkish coast and only marginally bigger, is Symi.  Both of them are breathtakingly pretty.  I visited them in the autumn of 2004 and will truly never, ever forget my time there.

Because they are both so photogenic, you can find lots of pictures of them on the internet.

When we acquired our two kittens - who are sisters - and were thinking of names for them, we scoured our wayward predilections for something appropriate.  Brahms and Liszt seemed disrespectful (not to say pretentious) and Hansel and Gretel seemed positively mawkish - and just as pretentious.  And then, almost simultaneously, we thought of Halki and Symi.

And I’m glad we did.  Each time I say their names, even if it’s out of frustration that Symi has been demanding attention by knocking my coffee clean out of my hands or Halki has tripped me up by weaving between my ankles, I remember those wonderful little islands - and sometimes even ask myself why I didn’t ‘do a Shirley Valentine’ and stay there.

They were oooh-aaah kittens then, of course.  Their names are hopelessly inapt now.  Such is their in-yer-face assertiveness that, if we’d adopted them only recently, we would have called them Corfu and Crete.

* * *
Our collective Grand Day Out at the Tanfield Railway this year will take place on Thursday 15 August, starting at 1030 (so that we can catch the 1100 train).

You need bring nothing but your sense of humour…

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

* * *
Last night I went out with a synonym ...what the hell, that is what I met 'er for!!!!

(Think about it.)

* *
...let’s pause to congratulate three of our most faithful truckshunters...
Vivienne has successfully moved into her lovely bungalow, which is good news enough.

But it doesn’t end there.  O my word no.

It's Sid's birthday this upcoming Friday...

And, to top it all...

Brenda has got married and is now a de facto respectable woman
Congratulations, Brenda, to you and Mick.  On behalf of us all - have a wonderfully happy, rewarding and fulfilled life together.

Much, much love from all of us.

* * *
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
 ...when they were kittens

In a few weeks’ time, I’ll be embarking on what will be - without any overstatement at all - the greatest adventure of my life.  I’m hoping that, like the two Grand Tours I’ve undertaken so far, it will change my life by giving me totally new experiences and new perspectives - new vistas, new places, new people and, of course, new memories.

Planning it, though, has concentrated my mind wonderfully, as you’d expect.  I’ve not only been pre-occupied with schedules, timetables and venues but also - surprisingly - with what it all says about the kind of life I lead now.  I found myself asking if my enthusiasm for travelling is fuelled by an unsettling dissatisfaction with my daily life.

Am I (I asked myself) secretly unhappy or frustrated?  To help sort this out, I started to draft a kind of Typical Day In The Life Of Ian Robinson.  It goes like this…

Am usually asleep by now but that depends on the book I’m reading or whether I have podcasts to listen to.

Asleep - with Symi, one of my two cats, also asleep right on top of me.  I’m used to her snoring away on my chest and anyway I couldn’t stop her sleeping there even if I wanted to.  She’s the kind of cat that does whatever she likes.  Whoever said that ‘cats don’t have owners, they have staff’ was absolutely right.


Wide awake.  Something has spooked Symi and she’s suddenly leapt off my chest, waking me up with quite a shock.  I curse her roundly and drift slowly back to sleep, lulled by the ticking wallclock.

I know that some people find the tick-tock infuriating but, whenever I’m abed in a room with no audible clock, I just can’t sleep. 


Wide awake.  Unspooked, Symi has clambered back on my chest and woken me up.

Asleep until 0600, when Symi starts her neurotic ‘paddling’ - pressing her claws repeatedly into the continental quilt.  I’m used to this, too, and have the scars to prove it.  I quickly doze off again.

About 0830
The alarm sounds and spooks me
and both the cats - Halki, too.

I stagger out of bed and make for the kitchen, narrowly averting utter catastrophe because the cats are weaving between my ankles or collapsing flat on the floor in front of me.  Why do cats do that?

I pour myself some fruit juice - blood orange juice, if I can get it - and put the coffee machine on.

After I’ve fed Halki and Symi ( - Purina Senior Recipe Meaty Chunks in Jelly, £5 for 12 pouches, Thankyou Good Morning - ) I stare out of the window and wait for the coffee machine to finish hubblebubbling.

I flop down in Mam’s old fireside chair, slurp my coffee and read that day’s To Do List.  I started drafting To Do Lists five years ago because, like many newly-retired people, I found that I suddenly had far too many things To Do each day and got hopelessly confused.

It might look like this…

Meet Hildie 1130
Text Paul
Put that picture up
Send birthday card to Kathy (or whoever)
Draft blog - it’s late!!!
Buy batteries, porridge, flour, washing-up liquid, cat litter
Check emails (you forgot yesterday)
Reply to Martin, Peter, Susan
Listen to back-podcasts…

And so on and so on.  I sigh heavily because I know I will never get through this lot.  

This realisation, though, spurs me into action.  I pour another coffee, sit back down again and finish reading yesterday’s paper.

That done - it’s breakfast time. 

What I have for breakfast depends on what day it is - I’m a bit OCD about this.  It’s always porridge on Mondays, Oatibix on Wednesdays, yogurt and fruit on Fridays and croissants on Saturdays and Sundays.  I'm not sure why I don't legislate for Tuesdays or Thursdays but I don't.

So if it’s Monday, I will have mixed up my oats with milk the night before because everyone says you should.  I take the mixture out of the fridge, bung it on the stove, stir it as it boils for a few minutes, lace it with sultanas and maple syrup (if I’ve been able to afford them) and sit back down - again - to eat the resulting heavenly gruel.

I really, really love porridge…

Somehow, I seem to have daydreamed away most of the morning.  My To Do List remains unticked - and its almost 1030.  If I don’t bestir myself now, Hildie will be left sitting all alone on the steps of Grey’s Monument - an experience to which she is not altogether unused.  I blush with shame and make for the shower.

The phone rings.  It’s Barry, my wonderful brother.  He’s overexcited because he’s seen a very rare moth in his garden - or a particularly beautiful species of moss on the foreshore or an unusual plant on Tunstall Hills - and wants to know when we’re going to get together so he can tell me all about it and I can tell him about my latest trip to France…

At this point, I stopped drafting my Typical Day In The Life Of Ian Robinson and read through what I’d written.

A day that starts like that, with a list of options and opportunities as rich as that - and cats so affectionate - can’t be bad. 

No, I decided.  The reasons why I long to travel - to be moving - must lie elsewhere.

But I knew that already, anyway.

* *
Please don’t forget that the Great Truckshunter Summer Extravaganza will once again be taking place at the Tanfield Railway.

The date - Thursday 15 August.

The time - 1030.

Get there if you can.  Bring a friend, too, if you like.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all…

* *
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* Truckshunters Day

* * *
July seems to be an auspicious month, one way or another, for whole troops of people.  The USA and France mark their national days in July - on the 4 and 14, respectively.  Venezuela has hers on the 5, South Sudan on the 9, Somalia and Rwanda on the 1, the Solomon Islands on the 7, Peru on the 28.  The regrettably long-memoried people of Northern Ireland goad each other into acts of defiant violence on the 12.

Amidst this bustle of international flag-waving, one small, quiet voice is raised in the name of wayward sanity.  Ours.

And our day is today - July 24, the feast day of our very own patron saint.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen; the day has once more come round when we must show the appropriate respect for St Christina the Astonishing.  Truckshunters are Astonishing by nature and St Christina was Astonishing by name - a perfect match.

So - for just a couple of minutes today - lay down your daily burden of cares, of getting and spending.  Switch off your mobile phone and your tv.  Remove all distractions - present and possible.

Make a nice cup of tea and retrieve a digestive from the biscuit barrel.  Stare out of the window.  Look at the trees.  Stroke the cat or the dog - or both.  Dunk your McVitie’s then slurp your tea from the saucer.

And think of St Christina.

When you’ve finished, pick up the daily threads again, safe in the knowledge that your Astonishing duty has been done and that St Christina can rest peacefully for another year.

Happy Truckshunters Day.

(Incidentally, you can find out all about the Astonishing St Christina in blogposting 381, from July last year.)

* * *

Today also seems like a good day to confirm that our Annual Grand Day Out at the Tanfield Railway will take place on Thursday 15 August.  It will start half an hour earlier than usual - at 1030 - so that we can catch the 1100 train from Andrews House station.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.  You’d be a fool (or a mountebank) to miss it.

If anyone needs a lift on the day from Newcastle city, please get in touch in the usual way.

See you there…

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

It’s Gay Pride Day in Newcastle and I’m feeling good.  So here are some jokes I’ve been sent over the last few weeks...

A pirate walked into a bar, and the bartender said ‘Hey, I haven't seen you for a while.  What happened?  You look terrible.’

‘What do you mean?’ said the pirate, ‘I feel fine.’

‘What about the wooden leg?  You didn't have that before.’

‘Well,’ said the pirate, ‘We were in a battle, and I got hit with a cannon ball, but I'm fine now.’

The bartender replied ‘Well, OK, but what about that hook?  What happened to your hand?’

The pirate explained - ‘We were in another battle.  I boarded a ship and got into a sword fight.  My hand was cut off.  I got fitted with a hook but I'm fine, really.’

‘OK - but what about that eye patch?’

‘Ah,’ said the pirate, ‘One day we were at sea, and a flock of birds flew over.  I looked up, and one of them shit in my eye.’

‘You're kidding,’ said the bartender.  ‘You couldn't lose an eye just from bird shit.’

‘It was my first day with the hook.’

* * *
This next one’s called The Perfect Husband...

Several men are in the locker room of a golf club.  A mobile phone on a bench rings and a man switches on the hands-free speaker function and begins to talk.  Everyone else in the room stops to listen.

Man: ‘Hello’

Woman: ‘Hi sweetheart, it's me.  Are you at the club?’

Man: ‘Yes.’

Woman: ‘I'm at the shops now and found this beautiful leather coat.  It's only £3,000; is it OK if I buy it?’

Man: ‘Of course - if you like it that much, go ahead and buy it.’

Woman:  ‘I also called at the Lexus dealership and saw the new models.  There’s one I really liked.’

Man:  ‘How much?’

Woman:  ‘£90,000.’

Man:  ‘OK, but for that price I want it with all the options.’

Woman:  ‘Great!  Oh, and one more thing... I was just talking to Janie and found out that the house I wanted last year is back on the market.  They're asking £980,000 for it.’

Man:  ‘Well, then go ahead and make an offer of £900,000.  They'll probably take it. If not, we can go the extra eighty-thousand if it's what you really want.’

Woman:  ‘OK.  I'll see you later! I love you so much!’

Man:  ‘Bye! I love you, too.’

The man hangs up.

The other men in the locker room are staring at him in astonishment, mouths wide open.

He turns and asks ‘Does anyone know who's phone this is?’

* * *

In posting 472 I posed another of the Evil Doctor’s inscrutable questions, namely…

Two Austrians are waiting at a tram-stop in Graz.  One Austrian is the father of the other Austrian’s son.

How are they related?

The answer, of course, is that they are husband and wife.


As evidence in support of this fatuously obvious solution, please see the picture at the top of this posting, which shows the Austrians themselves.  (It really is a picture of two Austrians; no other blog gives you service of these high standards of authenticity.)

If you have any mindboggling puzzles like these, send them to me or accept the consequences…

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


A tram in Graz...
In this blogposting...
* Le Blog à Pépère
* Intellijokes
* Doctor Malevolent's Puzzle Book

* * *
Serge’s posting 226 is yet another example of why I’ve found learning ‘street-French’ so rewarding - and so much fun.  It shows how different languages often choose to express sentiments and observations using very similar - or sometimes even identical - metaphors.

* Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois....
In the kingdom of the blind, one-eyed people are kings

* A force d'aller mal, tout va bien.....
This seems to mean ‘by dint of going badly, all goes well’.  I’m not sure if this transmutes into an English equivalent or if it tells us something that’s uniquely French.

* A chaque jour suffit sa peine.....
As my Nana used to say…‘sufficient undo the day is the evil thereof.’  She really did used to say that.

* Il n'est pire sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entendre.....
There are none more deaf than those who will not hear.

* On ne peut avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre…
You can’t have butter and the money for butter - ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it.’

This last is one of two stock phrases that have puzzled me since I was quite young because it doesn’t seem to make sense.  Surely you can have your cake and eat it; what you cannot do is eat your cake and (still) have it.

The other is ‘cheap at half the price’, which is no commendation of the price at all.  Surely it should be ‘cheap at twice the price’.
Or am I missing something?

* * *
Here are some more side-splitting and intellectually-challenging jokes.  I hope you’re sitting down.

* Why do Marx and Engels drink herbal tea?  Because proper tea is theft.
* How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?  One - but the light bulb has to want to change.
* A British one-two-three cat had a swimming race against a French un-deux-trois cat.  The one-two-three cat reached the finish but the un-deux-trois cat sank.
* Why did the quantum particle cross the road?  He was already on both sides.
* Schroedinger’s cat walks into a bar.  And it doesn’t.
* Why did the inverse function cross the road?  To get to the same side.
* A woman comes home to find her string-theorist husband in bed with another woman.  ‘But honey’ he says, ‘I can explain everything.’
* What did the proton say to the grumpy electron?  ‘Why do you have to be so negative all the time?’

* * *
In posting 470, I invited you to try and solve The Game of Death.  Unsurprisingly, nobody at all has contacted me with the solution. 

So, for better or worse, here it is…

The problem is the presence of de Gaulle, who sometimes tells the truth and sometimes tells lies.  So you must use your first question to identify which of the phantoms he is, and eliminate him.

So this is what you do…

Let’s call the phantoms A, B and C.

Ask A ‘Is B more likely to tell me the truth than C?’

If the answer is Yes and A is Gandhi, then B is de Gaulle and C is Goebbels.

If the answer is Yes and A is Goebbels, then B is de Gaulle and C is Gandhi.

If the answer is Yes and A is de Gaulle, then B is either Gandhi or Goebbels and C is either Gandhi or Goebbels.

So if the answer is Yes, you know that C is not de Gaulle and you should address your second question to C.

(If A answers No, then the logic is the same, except it’s B who is not de Gaulle.)

Your second question is ‘If you were asked if the left-hand road leads to heaven, would you reply in the affirmative?’  If the left-hand road does lead to heaven, both Gandhi and Goebbels will answer Yes to this question; if it doesn’t, they will both answer No.

It’s as simple as that.

Now - here’s a much trickier one…

Two Austrians are waiting at a tram-stop in Graz.  One Austrian is the father of the other Austrian’s son.

How are they related?

(Note:  You should have got the answer to that one by the time you read this sentence.)

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


In this blogposting…
Wimbledon Postscript
Burnopfield Masonic Hall Workteam Advice Sheet

* * *
Everybody knows that, even amongst the Elysian Fields of life - those rarefied pastures of pleasures that occur far too seldom - there’s always a swatch of nettles waiting to sting your lower legs.  And they always do.

Take this year’s otherwise exemplary Wimbledon…

Throughout the tournament I was naturally in daily Skype contact with Serge, mostly in order to gloat about how terribly English it all was - strawberries and cream, pristine courts,  everything either white or green…

Somehow, though, Serge managed to derail my smugness at the first hurdle.  Who, he wanted to know, was The Man In The Hat?

A little to the left of the Centre Court’s main scoreboard is the box of seats reserved for the players’ families and friends.  And - every day, match in and match out - the seat on the right of this box was occupied by a distinguished-looking older gent in a dark blazer, striped tie, neat white shirt - and an enormous homburg - or is it a trilby or even a stetson?

Once seen, never forgotten.  After Serge had pointed his presence out to me, I consciously looked out for him every day, and every day - there he was.

But who was he?

Serge’s question - which he mischievously repeated each time we spoke - was a reasonable one; and one to which no research on my part could provide an answer.

Until the very end of the tournament, when the BBC decided to run a feature about ‘the unremarked heroes of Wimbledon’, of which he was one.

The Man In The Hat was David Spearing, no less.  This well-turned-out gent had somehow earned the right to be the tournament’s Honorary Steward.  It was his job to usher the families and friends into and out of their special box and to look after them while they were in it.

In return for his arduous duties, he got one of the best possible views of the action on Centre Court - and a gratifyingly large number of appearances on tv screens all over the world.

As it happens, Serge and I weren’t the only ones who were curious about this fine gentleman.  He has become an internet institution - as this interview with him shows…


* * *
Eric and Jean sent me this last week.

I still haven’t stopped laughing….

A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it  smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.

Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light.  Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, 'Oh sh*t'.

A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

Used to round off bolt heads.  Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.

An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle; it transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads.  If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

Used almost entirely for igniting various inflammable objects in your shop.  Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub out of which you want to remove a bearing race.

A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.

Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.
A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.

Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

A tool for opening paint cans.  Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws and butchering your palms.

A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in  order to replace a 50p part.

A tool used to make hoses too short.
Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent to the object we are trying to hit.
Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund cheques, and rubber or plastic parts.  Especially useful for slicing work clothes, but only while in use.

Thanks, Eric and Jean - keep ‘em coming…

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



 These clog-dancers were performing at the Monument last Saturday as I was passing through...

Inspired by the recent regular inclusion of the Royal Oak Quiz which Ross has been sending me, a blogreader hitherto unknown to me has got in touch via email.

He calls himself Doctor Malevolent and you’re about to find out why…

‘Thanks to you and Ross for the quizzes, Ian’ he says, ‘but how about some really sadistic, mind-mangling puzzles to get truckshunters tearing their hair out over the summer.  Not just brain-teasers - brain annihilators!!!’

He says he has a bottomless pit of such migraine-inducing conundrums and - being a truckshunter and therefore a man of his word - some of them were attached to his email. 

I received them almost a week ago and, being something of a sadist, I undertook to do as he requested - namely, not to look at the answers until I had tried to solve the puzzles.

I have to be honest, though, and say that, after 3 sleepless nights, I gave up and peeked at the solutions.  The funny thing is - having read the answers, I’m none the wiser.

Try solving this first one of yourself, and you’ll see what I mean - they’re absolute stinkers!!

Doctor Malevolent tells me that, in ancient China, prisoners condemned to death were given this puzzle to solve at sunset on the night before their execution.  If they solved it by sunrise, they were allowed to live or, if the Emperor was feeling particularly generous, set free.

So no pressure, then.

Here goes….

'You are on the road of death.

You reach a place where the road divides - one to the left and one to the right.  You know that one road goes to heaven and one road goes to hell - but you do not know which is which.

Three ghostly phantoms are standing at the roadside to help you.

One of them - Gandhi - always tells the truth.

Another - Goebbels - never tells the truth.

The third - de Gaulle - sometimes tells the truth and sometimes does not.

You do not know which ghost is which.

Naturally, you want to take the road to heaven.  To determine which of the two roads that is, you are allowed to ask the phantoms two questions - of the kind that can be answered Yes or No.

You cannot ask all three of them at once, though.  You may only ask each question once and you may address only one phantom at a time.'

I found this puzzle so heartbreakingly difficult that I am prepared to offer a prize to the first person who contacts me with the right answer.

And - er - thanks, Doctor Malevolent.

* *
To make up for the damage he/she has probably done to our collective psyche, the good Doctor has also included some jokes which, he claims, scientists tell each other to prove that science (and philosophy and stuff like that) has a sense of humour.

* Pavlov is having a drink in the pub when his phone rings.  He jumps up and shouts ‘Hell! I forgot to feed the dogs!’
* How many surrealists does it take to change a light-bulb?  A fish.
* There are ten types of people in this world - those that know binary and those that don’t.
* A Buddhist monk approaches a hot-dog stand and says ‘Make me one with everything.’
* What do you call two crows on a branch?  An attempted murder.
* An Englishman, a Frenchman, a Spaniard and a German are walking down the street.  They see a juggler performing but there are so many people that the four men can’t get a good view of the juggler.  So the juggler gets up on a platform and asks ‘Can you see me now?’  The four men reply ‘Yes’ ‘Oui’ ‘Si’ ‘Ja’.
* A Roman walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says ‘five beers, please’.
* A computer programmer’s wife tells him ‘Go to the supermarket for a loaf of bread and if they have eggs, get a dozen’.  He comes back with 12 loaves of bread.

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


In this blogposting...
* The Worm Turns...

Our latest AGM has finally taken place, and at the appointed hour and place.

Naturally, I arrived before everybody else and was already on my second cup of coffee by the time other truckshunters turned up. 


The indispensable Hildie, without whom truckshunterdom would simply fade away and retreat whence it came…

Brenda, the sound of whose dancing clogs were heard more than once in our old Radio Newcastle days - and who is still a fund of smiles and stories...

Dave Shannon, who has been an essential ingredient of the mix since he started emailing me on The Nightshift - and probably well before…

Neville, who is the only truckshunter who has ever actually shunted any trucks in anger and who therefore occupies a slightly-raised plinth in our Hall of Fame…

Mietek and Naomi, who, unless I am very much mistaken, are already positioning themselves to mount a takeover bid by filibuster, a well-known North American method of political debate…

And me.

It was quite a meeting, I must say.  I suppose I ought to have taken notes of the range of items we covered that weren’t on anyone’s agenda and that just plopped into the conversation from nowhere and plopped out again in due course.

There were several points during the convocation when I wasn’t sure who I should be listening to and whose story I should be following.  You know those confused gatherings when you half-wonder what’s been said that’s made the person next to you laugh so loudly?  Well, it was like that.

It was, as usual, quite exceptionally great fun.

Visual proof that this typically wayward and fascinating AGM took place at all will have to wait until Mietek emails me the photos he took.

My thanks to everyone who was there - including Keith Topping, who turned up to see Mietek at the end.

Don’t ask…

* * *
After decades of my being deeply sarcastic about it, cynical about it, directing my nastiest invective at it, laughing at it or even just plain ignoring its very existence, Bishop Auckland has finally bestirred itself from its ungainly slumbers to bite my bum.

One of the most important archaeological finds of recent north-east history has just been unearthed there.  Let me explain who historians think the handsome fellow above might be…

As you leave Newcastle along the Old West Road, you are, of course, following exactly the route of Hadrian’s Wall.  Well, about 2 miles from the City Centre, just after you pass the Jobcentre on your left and begin the long slope down past the crematorium to Denton Burn, you will almost certainly not notice a very anonymous-looking estate of run-of-the-mill houses just beyond the Jobcentre.

And that’s a shame because, hidden deep amongst the forsythias and privet lie the scanty ruins of a little - and very ancient - temple.  It was built up against the south side of the Wall but now languishes, virtually ignored, in someone’s front garden.

There is a plaque, though, which explains that this is the Temple of Antenociticus. 

Who he?

None other than the god of fertility that was worshipped by the local ‘ancient Britons’ before the Romans even got here.  (I’ve seen him described as ‘the Geordie god’, which is infantile and fatuous journalism of the Jonathan Miles variety.)  (And No, Jonathan, nobody knows how big his penis was.)

Archaeologists have always strongly suspected that the existence of a temple dedicated to Antenociticus implies that the Romans tolerated his cult - or may even have encouraged it.

And now, thanks to Bishop Auckland, they probably have the proof they needed.  The fine sculpture above is thought be of Antenociticus himself, and its existence inside the ramparts of the Roman fort of Vinovia suggests that the soldiers may have been encouraged to follow his cult.

But, before the benighted folk of The Town That Dare Not Speak Its Name get too big for their boots, it’s worth pointing out that Vinovia’s ruins aren’t actually in Bishop Auckland at all but at Binchester, a couple of miles outside the town. 

Bad luck, Bishop Auckland - but a good try.

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


In posting 312, I drew your attention to a cat that looked like Hitler.
It's not just cats, though, that have the misfortune to resemble the most evil man who ever lived...
This kettle has, apprently, had to be withdrawn from sale by US department store JC Penney...

...and this house is in Cardiff (of all places)

In this blogposting…
* In Memoriam

* Jokes About Engineers

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This is your final reminder.  Well, your final reminder but one.

The next AGM will take place at 1100 this upcoming Thursday 4 July at Oliver’s Cafe on Grainger Market..

You know you want to be there and that there’s no point in not going.  So remind yourself to remember not to forget.

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We don't often feature Today in History items on the blog and I'm not sure why.  Thanks mainly to Peter in South Shields, they were a regular feature on The Nightshift and provided quite a few talking points as well.

Take today, for example...

On 1 July 1916 - two years into the First World War - the Battle of the Somme began.  100,000 British soldiers climbed out of their trenches and went 'over the top' into No Man's Land.

By day's end, 20,000 of them lay dead, with another 40,000 wounded or captured.

It was the worst one-day loss suffered by any army in the whole of human history.

The British line had advanced two miles.

The Battle of the Somme lasted until November.  When it ended, the death-toll was staggering.  420,000 British soldiers had died.  South of the river, another 195,000 French troops had lost their lives.  The Germans suffered an appalling loss of over 650,000 soldiers.

Well over 1¼m people dead - in five months.

As far as I know, nobody has ever been brought to justice for what many historians believe to have been a wilful crime against humanity.

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As engineering seems to have been June’s flavour of the month, and because one of my best friends and also one of my nephews are engineers, here are some jokes about engineers….
Chocolate Chip Cookies

1  532.35 cm3 gluten 

2  4.9 cm3 NaHCO3 

3  4.9 cm3 refined halite 

4  236.6 cm3 partially hydrogenated tallow triglyceride 

5  177.45 cm3 crystalline C12H22O11

6  177.45 cm3 unrefined C12H22O11 

7  4.9 cm3 methyl ether of protocatechuic aldehyde

8  Two calcium carbonate-encapsulated avian albumen-coated protein 

9  473.2 cm3 theobroma cacao 

10  236.6 cm3 de-encapsulated legume meats (sieve size #10)

To a 2lt jacketed round reactor vessel (reactor #1) with an overall heat transfer coefficient of about 100 Btu/F-ft2-hr, add ingredients one, two and three with constant agitation.

In a second 2lt reactor vessel with a radial flow impeller operating at 100rpm, add ingredients four, five, six, and seven until the mixture is homogenous.  To reactor #2, add ingredient eight, followed by three equal volumes of the homogenous mixture in reactor #1.  Additionally, add ingredient nine and ten slowly, with constant agitation.

Care must be taken at this point in the reaction to control any temperature rise that may be the result of an exothermic reaction.

Using a screw extrude attached to a #4 nodulizer, place the mixture piece-meal on a 316SS sheet (300 x 600 mm).  Heat in a 460K oven for a period of time that is in agreement with Frank & Johnston's first order rate expression (see JACOS, 21, 55), or until golden brown. Once the reaction is complete, place the sheet on a 25C heat-transfer table, allowing the product to come to equilibrium.

Half Full or Half Empty?
To the optimist, the glass is half full. 

To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.

To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

This question was posed to university applicants in the USA…


This was one of the essays written as a result…

'I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice.  I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. 

I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.  Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.  I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes.  

I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru. 

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants.  

I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries.  When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard.  I enjoy urban hang gliding.  On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge. 

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie.  Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear.  I don't perspire.  I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail.  Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration.  

My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles.  

Children trust me. 

 I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy.  I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening.  I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket.  

I have performed several covert operations for the CIA.  I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair.  While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery.  

The laws of physics do not apply to me.  

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid.  On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami.  Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down.  I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven.  

I breed prize winning clams.  I  have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin.  I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis. 

But I have not yet gone to college.'
They admitted him to New York University.

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