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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

South Shields contributes to Darlington’s survival

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cast members of Alf Ramsey knew my grandfather

“Alf Ramsey” play to be used as fund raiser for ailing club.

Picture: Left to right (Back): Jackie Fielding, Adam Rundle (Darlington FC), Ed Waugh, (Front): Iain Cunningham and Wayne Miller.

It has pained me to see the plight of Darlington Football Club recently as they have fallen out of the Football League and have now been relegated from the Blue Square Conference Premier League, their 25000 seater ground, built at the behest of George Reynolds, is far too large for their needs and costs over £10000 per week to maintain, they are in one very big heap of financial trouble. Now they may be looking for a ground share arrangement with another local club, at least until they can find new ownership and a more stable financial base. So it is good to see local South Shields and South Tyneside folk doing something to help them out, and that is despite the fact the South Shields Mariners are also facing a little uncertainty over their own ground arrangements.

South Tyneside theatre people are rallying to the support of ailing Darlington Football Club.

The comedy drama Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather, written by Lawe Top resident Ed Waugh and his writing partner Trevor Wood, will be performed at Darlington’s 900-seat Civic Theatre in July to raise money for the club’s youth team.

Involved in the show about the team of miners from West Auckland who won the first world cup in 1909 in Turin, Italy, will be South Tyneside actors Wayne Millar from Jarrow and Iain Cunningham (South Shields) as well as stage manager Jackie Fielding from South Shields.

Adopted Sand-dancer Mark Wingett, for 21 years the star of ITV’s The Bill and the classic British film Quadrophenia, will direct the show.

Wayne, Iain and Jackie are well known to Customs House audiences and they are encouraging South Tynesiders to join Darlington footballer Adam Rundle from Hebburn at the show when he takes a step out of the footballing limelight to cheer on the actors.

Wayne, who was in the original cast for the play’s sell-out run at the Gala theatre, Durham, and at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, where it received standing ovations, will be joined by Iain, who makes his debut in the show.

Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather has already been seen by more than 8,000 people in the region.

Wayne, a Newcastle fan, said: “This will be my hat-trick of appearances and it’s for an important cause. While the play’s backdrop is football it’s really a play about the men and women of a community overcoming adversity to win the top prize. I have no doubt the people of Darlington will fight to the end for the survival of their football club and this will be our proud contribution to that.”

A strong South Tyneside contingent has signed up for Alf Ramsey with 30 friends and family already having bought tickets for the show that runs from Tuesday, July 24, to Friday, July 27, at Darlington Civic Theatre.

Ian, a Sunderland fan, said: “This is a regional issue and we are urging all football supporter and theatre fans to come along and enjoy a great show.”

More details can be obtained via

Tickets cost from £10 to £20 and can be obtained from the box office: 01325 486555.

So, if you would like to support local non league football, and at the same time support local acting and theatre talent, you know how to go about it, and be entertained at the same time.

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The Blues

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Which have nothing to do with music or Chelsea!

Apologies for the recent lack of posts in here, I’m going through another of those inexplicable periods that stifles creativity, optimism, the will to write, and a slight depression. Much of it has been brought about by seeing rioters locked away without any real efforts to have them clean up their communities (I knew things were heading in the wrong direction) too many doctors were producing a diagnosis and then prescribing entirely the wrong medicine, the illness will not be cured. Heard a really interesting interview on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday evening with a former policeman in Glasgow who is now involved in a project to reduce violent crime and gangland culture which has had startling results over the past year, shame it isn’t available as a podcast for you to hear. The crux of his solutions was to offer a stark choice between punishment and reform coupled with multi-partnership early intervention schemes starting with parenting classes and advice centres which put great emphasis on the first three years of life helping (mainly) single parents to introduce empathy, consideration, a realisation of the consequences of poor behaviour, and its effects upon others around you. The scheme also involves parents and teachers working together to reintroduce discipline at school and in the home for children between four and fourteen with rewards for good behaviour and reductions in privileges for poor behaviour. Those who do make the choice to join gangs and enter into a life of criminality in their teens are warned of the “zero tolerance” attitude that their local police will take going right down to the point of possible eviction from social housing, chasing down their mothers if they don’t have a TV Licence, chasing down the family if their car is not taxed, chasing down those who are in arrears with council tax, in other words the police promise to be “in their faces” all day long. Local courts are encouraged to hand down more community sentences which see offenders making real reparations for the damage that they may have caused, they get to meet victims of crime and experience the horrors and fears that many carry with them for life.  On the other hand, if they choose not to display criminal behaviour they will be offered places in schemes which channel their energies in better ways such as football teams, youth groups, apprenticeships, art classes, special interest groups that teach music, video editing, video game programming, all the things that modern teenagers would probably love to do.

Unfortunately such schemes can be costly to run, but economically make good long term sense, particularly if re-offending rates begin to collapse, and they have in Glasgow, no wonder that the Strathclyde Chief Constable is one of the favourites to take over at the Met.

Then to cap off a bad week, the politicians in their wisdom decided that everything was more or less solved so they took off on holiday again!

If that wasn’t bad enough to give you the blues, I don’t what is.

As a typical South Shields football supporting lad I was looking forward to yesterday’s derby match between Sunderland and Newcastle, but now working every Saturday prevents me from going to the Stadium of Light to watch Sunderland, (my visits will have to be restricted to Sunday and mid week games now), but two sessions in front of the box watching Match of the Day have simply added to my depression, two games against Liverpool and The Mags should have netted six points if only our strikers could hit the bloody target! I fear a week of solid ribbing from the black and white half of this town. At least yesterday’s game appears to have been trouble free with only 21 arrests at the ground, which is pretty good from a capacity crowd!

So……….hoping that a bit of cricket this weekend will cheer us all up as England try their hardest to secure a test series whitewash of India, two days left to bowl them out twice for a humiliating innings defeat, at least we can say we’re champions at something! For those poor folk who cannot, or would not, dream of paying for a Sky subscription there’s  always Test Match Special on BBC Radio, probably the best tonic for the blues and depressions, even without the venerable “Johnners” there are enough characters to give you a laugh, I leave you (for now) with this little classic!


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Written by curly

August 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

A Northumbrian Tale

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How low can we go?

Let’s be honest there’s nothing like a good old moan is there?

South Shields has its fair share of moaners and ne’er-do-wells particularly when it comes to car parking, charges, visitors, and shopping, Jarrow of course is a safe haven for many in South Tyneside, but really are we beating a well worn path that leads to nowhere or are we justified in our protestations?

Yesterday the Curly family took a ride out into Northumberland for a little history and culture in the hope that it may provide some inspiration for “Junior” and “Missy”, learning something of how other councils treat their visitors can be an eye opener too and Northumberland County Council is not short of detractors! The 160 mile round trip took in stops at Alnwick, Berwick, and Lindisfarne Island with the first being an unplanned emergency toilet stop in the market town of Alnwick where I discovered that the local Morrisons supermarket did not have customer toilets and the £1 parking charge was only refunded after the purchase of £10 of produce, not the £5 limit that we have in South Shields. Furthermore after a hasty walk down to the market place we discovered that the public conveniences in Northumberland carry a 20p usage fee! Parking in charges in Berwick were £1.8o per hour and again the same 20p toilet ticket, so by time we’d taken lunch and made another natural relief visit I was already £5.40 out of pocket. On returning to the car I discovered that the Edinburgh family parked next to me were in a furious fighting mood having picked up a £60 fixed penalty notice because one of their tyres was more than six inches over the white line marking out the bay! I was pretty glad that I know how to park straight!

And so we returned south to visit Lindisfarne just in time to see the last of the sea retreating across the causeway leaving us almost as much time as we wanted to explore the island, charges at the visitor’s car park were £2.80 for up to three hours, which should be long enough for most people, so I happily filled the machine with more coins but blast it did not print a ticket! So I repeated the operation at another machine and took note of the minuscule telephone number and rang the County Council, alas the 0845 number rang and rang and rang! Another few pounds wasted and I’m now down by £11.00, and then to add insult to injury the kids got bored and Mrs. Curly was disappointed not to see any monks distilling the famed Lindisfarne Mead, not sure where she picked up that misconception, but we purchased a few bottles as gifts for the family. So after an hour and a half I reluctantly admitted that I have a family of Philistines lacking in any real education about the north-east and its cultural and religious history, perhaps its the education syllabus to blame, perhaps its the multi-religious approach of the schools, or more likely it was my own fault for not fully advising them in advance of what to expect. However, having to take a reluctant decision to leave after such a short time was pretty gnawing and I rightly or wrongly thought that once again my day had been marred by the British bureaucrats.

The important point about this Northumberland tale is that once you get away from South Tyneside you realise that our 1p a minute parking charges really are a reasonable amount to ask, the current charges at supermarkets are not “out of the box”, and we still have public conveniences that are clean, well maintained, and free! This does not negate the previous comments that I have made about a shoppers car parking scheme. Whether we think that these things are right or wrong is immaterial, the fact is that we are cheap,  how low can we go? Perhaps too cheap, and perhaps, as the picture illustrates, higher charges will not necessarily put off visitors, oh if only Bede had been brought up as a skyetender and built a monastery next to the Roman Fort on the Lawe Top!

Northumberland County Council’s parking charges work out at roughly about £1 per hour, but after the first few hours the charges ramp up steeply, I’m not saying that they have the correct formula for retaining visitors and encouraging trade and they have managed on more than one occasion to upset the traders in Morpeth, but seriously here in South Tyneside we probably have gone as far as possible now in setting reasonable charging rates for car parking.

Another important point to note  is if a place is worth visiting, if it has important historical artefacts, if it has a place in history, if it has something to entertain and amuse, it will attract visitors in droves without any real problems. Tourists do take a day out expecting to spend money!

Now, who bets that 25000 people would not have been willing to part with £10 to watch Joe McElderry? 

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Written by curly

July 27, 2011 at 10:30 am

Summer Festival Picture special

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South Tyneside Summer Festival 2011 off to a scorching start

Well I missed the big parade in South Shields on Saturday, but my daughter reported that it was just as busy as the best years, the sun was out to bake the entrants on their procession from the Town Hall to the sea front and the Bents Park as thousands of residents and visitors lined the streets to get this year’s festival off to a flying start. Sunshine and warmth is certainly a great help for the Cookson Parade and huge splashes of glorious colour and noise attract visitors and encourage them to spend! “Missy” came back from the fayre in the Bents Park with a giant teddy, so her day was made.

The festivities continued yesterday with the whole sea front area swathed in crowds of summer visitors enjoying the beaches, the parks, the fun fair and the entertainment provided by local artists in the Bents Park. The park was packed as local talent was showcased on the stage in a family fun day involving rides and entertainment for the children, food and drink for the adults, selling opportunities for local businesses, and general good natured fun.

Customs House Director Ray Spencer in his guise of “Tommy the Trumpeter” was enjoying his role as Master of Ceremonies as he told me that:

“This really is as good as it gets for the first weekend, the weather has been brilliant and the crowds yesterday and today really made the effort to come and enjoy themselves. I’m delighted that local bands have got a great audience to play to today we really have some talented people in our community, and I’m looking forward to the other Sundays coming up, lets just hope that the weather continues like this throughout July.”

“Tommy” was enjoying a little break as South Shields actor Dale Meeks, who played Simon Meredith in ITV’s Emmerdale,  was fronting his band “Shake ya tail feather” on the stage. The band has now been joined by a female vocalist who helps to balance Dale’s tones and add some width to the range, as they belted out a repertoire of gutsy blues based beats from the Blues Brothers to the Doors, just what the crowd needed to get them moving! We were later treated to a Beatles tribute band of unusual qualities, not as you might expect a four piece bunch of “mop top” lookalikes but a six piece combo including a female vocalist! Looked nothing at all like the Fab Four but their sound was  authentic Merseybeat as they ran through a stream of early sixties Beatles covers in a very accomplished manner.

Later after the concert in the Bents Park was over another huge crowd listened to “the Proms” at the amphitheatre from South Tyneside’s youth orchestra with great vocal support.

If you were there, I am sure you will have enjoyed it, if not then you ought to have been, if you are reading this from outside of South Tyneside than can I encourage you to visit the Summer Festival web page to get a flavour of what is on offer this year and suggest that a visit here will be a rewarding experience.

Now, if you are a councillor or a council official can I encourage you to think long and hard about the numbers of people visiting South Tyneside this summer, yes it is great when the weather is this kind to us, the spending power is greatly appreciated by local businesses too, but we let a great opportunity slip by a couple of years ago to get our visitors to make more than just a day trip to the seaside. That’s right, we need to encourage them to stay for weekend breaks, and that means more accommodation in the town centre and sea front areas, the ill fated hotel at Gypsies Green would have fit the bill perfectly. We still have land and development opportunities available in the Town Centre,  Harton Staithes, and further along the riverside, we could use a four star hotel and something along the lines of a Travelodge to cover the budget end of the market. We need to be bold and brave and determined to aggressively market these opportunities, let’s not be suckered twice by blinkered opposition.

Enjoy this small picture slide show of yesterday’s events in the Bents Park.

p.s. Following my words yesterday about my dying monitor (which now works again after I fixed a faulty panel switch) I was rather surprised and overcome by the very generous offer of a free monitor from one of my readers! You really were far too kind sir, and your thoughtfulness was that of a typical Sanddancer, thank you very much for your offer I shall not forget your gesture.

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Written by curly

July 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm

So, your neighbour is a Muslim?

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Ever thought of getting to know them a little better?

Regular readers here will know that for some time I have been very concerned at how “The War Against Terror”, and the attendant changes in anti terror legislation introduced during the Blair/Brown era, affected the way we viewed ourselves, our civil liberties, and the way in which we approached others within our communities. I have to report that in South Shields, at least, the more general fears and stereotypical views about the followers of Islam have not been realised, although there have been a very few isolated incidents reported in the local press.

I have often criticised in this blog, the apparent failure of government to adhere to its own principles that terrorism would not alter the way of British life, government itself has managed to achieve that by regulating, legislating, monitoring, spying, and gradually eroding many of our centuries old civil liberties that we often take for granted. Following on from the major outrages of 9/11 and 7/7 government has managed to introduce an illogical sense of fear about Muslims in our communities and allowed sections of the press and media to highlight the most extreme extreme examples of expression from teachings and preachings to public demonstrations, yet in the majority of British communities, and most certainly here in South Shields, there is very little evidence at all to support these fears.

We have lived side by side with Muslims in our locality for over two hundred years here, with descendants of Yemenis and more recently Bangladeshis, educated in our schools, working in our community, and generally being normal “Geordies” enriching our lives with an infusion of diversity and culture. I stated in a previous post that I will be writing a little more about our Muslim neighbours during June and July to try and bridge that gap of understanding which still exists, and I am meeting some people who are keen on reaching out into the wider community to help us gain that understanding about their cultural and religious beliefs.

We all need to appreciate, accept and respect each other’s beliefs and be able to come together in those areas where we all share a common path, it strengthens us as human beings, engages us, and challenges us to move forward with greater social integration. We have been blessed in South Tyneside with many years of social, cultural, and religious harmony, but the history of recent more international events risks alienating a section of our community which has done little to deserve suspicion on any level.

The video above is taken from an American website which has broadly the same aims, My Fellow American is also reaching out to bridge that divide, caused by ignorance, and build stronger local communities with greater social cohesion. Just because your neighbour may have a different coloured skin, or may occasionally dress differently, or wear a beard, or eat different meals to you is no reason to view him with a wary eye. We didn’t necessarily do this with those speaking in an Irish brogue in the 1970s did we?

As we approach Ramadam I will be introducing some members of the Muslim community here in South Shields who will talk about their experiences and share them with us, I hope you will find their stories fascinating, interesting, entertaining, and engaging.

I hope that it may encourage you to reach out and get to know your neighbour a little better.

It’s part of what being a Sanddancer is all about.

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Written by curly

June 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

Electoral spin offs

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Non political benefits

One of the huge benefits of getting involved in a local election campaign in South Shields is the opportunity to meet new people, the chance to savour some new cultures, or to reacquaint with areas that you have perhaps pushed to the back of your mind a little. Having spent a few weeks in the Beacon and Bents ward helping the Conservative candidate Mr. Ali Hayder, I was struck, once again, by the warmth and hospitality of our Bangladeshi community, I was struck too by the amount of Scottish people who have made the move down South to live and work here on the banks of the Tyne.

A few of those Scottish folks were brought down to Tyneside during the traditional “Glasgow fortnight” each summer in the 1960s and 70s, enjoyed holiday romances which blossomed and they have enjoyed lifelong love and happiness with a wife from South Shields or Whitley Bay! I also met a couple of ladies who married our menfolk down here and never gave it a thought to return north of the border, needless to say they are as much part of our tight knit community as anyone else. I recalled the days when I worked in a five storey department store in Newcastle with Eddy Russell in the 1970s when our half price shoe sale seemed to be more famous in Glasgow than it was on Tyneside! To prove a point about how good it was I showed one gentleman the antelope skin shoes that I was wearing, I bought them in 1976 for around £30 (which was almost two weeks wages to me back then), they have been resoled twice but are still lasting the course after 35 years, that is one of the reasons why Glasgow men in particular loved visiting Newcastle during their holiday fortnight!

Our Bangladeshi community in South Shields is a sizeable minority and many of them are third or fourth generation inhabitants here, those younger than myself speak better “Geordie” than I do and like all youngsters have a wonderful grasp of new technologies. I met quite a few from all sections of their community and found their warmth  and hospitality to be second to none, and why should it not be? Despite having been here for around 60 years some feel they still need to integrate more and they are looking for ways to extend their links with other groups, associations, faiths, clubs, and communities throughout the borough. The want to play a greater part and want to feel more easily accepted, there are barriers of course, but over the years these are breaking down and allowing a greater two way conversation to take place.

I had a long such discussion with Rana Rahman, chairman of the Bangladeshi Welfare Association, who has very modern realistic aspirations about taking the next generation of Bangladeshis further into the wider community and inviting others to come and savour the flavours and delights of the cultures which they bring to us and add to our diversity. We touched upon faith and some of the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, we also ranged over community projects, education,  use of community facilities, and the general lack of knowledge amongst the indigenous population about the cultures and lifestyles of some of the most hard working and charitable members of our community here in South Shields.

I hope to meeting with him and others again soon, and hope through this blog, to extend a little more knowledge and interest about their cultures, history, and faith. I am hoping to pen an article shortly that explains the role of the Islamic faith and the abstinence of Ramadan and how it affects the lifestyle of a large part of our community, the thirty days of Ramadan will begin at sunset on 31st. July this year. I am looking forward to increasing my own understanding as well as helping others to accept more readily this important part of the life of many of our citizens.

I have always thought that differences ought to be understood, encouraged, and celebrated, they make South Tyneside what it is, a hospitable place where friendships flourish and even cross the political divide. Islam has been with us in South Shields since the late 1700s when the first Yemeni sailors arrived here and began to settle in larger numbers in the mid 1800s, and because we have two distinct groups settled in South Shields I will also be meeting with leading members of the Yemeni community to learn more about their roots and the strong tie in to the region.

My greatest desire is that we can encourage more and more people to take part in a wider and more diverse selection of community activities and to partake in the political process and representation of our people. This theme applies equally to all of us who want to continue to see change and evolution in South Tyneside, I believe that our political parties (all of them) are under represented by members of minority groups and that efforts need to be increased to encourage membership generally across the demographic spectrum and to assimilate more cultures into our community politics.

In this respect, volunteering to help out in an election was worthwhile, fruitful, and educational as a result I found a spin off which left me feeling richer than I was before it started.

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Life imitating art…….

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South Shields Town Hall

………or is it the other way around?

I was inspired to make this fetching piece of art having read that Cllr. Allen Branley, the millionaire dentist and property developer, has launched an art gallery. The South Tyneside Independent Alliance councillor (twice removed) has partnered up  with Corbridge artist Andy Balman to present and promote works of art within his Complete Smile Dental business in Thomas Street, South Shields.

I wish him well, it is an innovative way to get people to wander into the former Chelsea Cat building to browse some paintings and ponder some fillings and crowns whilst they are there.

I was inspired to make this piece of artistic representation by two things, this painting found at Branley’s new Complete Art website, a fascinating little rural montage featuring a sketch of a bird and a hanging stickman,  and the interesting history of Cllr. Branley’s local political career. The new website is quite informative, and once you are finished looking around the works of art in the Customs House, spent some time in the Customs House shop in King Street, South Shields, perused Bill and Ian West’s photography in Harton Village, you can come back to learn that Cllr. Branley splits his time between South Shields and Texas in the USA as a practising dentist, lecturer, and international art collector. He is clearly a very busy man!

I am fascinated by Allen’s taste in art as illustrated and presented on his new website, the two potato heads with the joker’s hat tickled me, as did the tasteful young naked lady, I also found a couple of mad hatters surrounded by small works, all very nice.

If anyone is interested I can provide an A4 print on very plain paper of the above piece “The Road to Westoe” for only £900.

I’d like to finish this post with a piece of music dedicated to those who don’t have tow pennies to rub together, cannot afford to own properties, and to those who need a drink (or three), – just enjoy the art, it’s healthier.

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Written by curly

January 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm

My first love

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maggie thatcherThe summer is here, so share your sunny secrets

Yes, it’s recess season, MPs, Meps, MSPs, AMs, councillors etc. all take a big break from spouting hot air and head for the hills, beaches, and the sunnier climates of the world to read a book, fulfil outside business interests,  or write their memoirs as they re-engage their first love – lucre! The rest of us can enjoy a political hiatus and witness South Tyneside’s Labour Council undergoing a chameleon like change as they rediscover their very own first love, a hatred of all things Conservative, spiced up with a little Liberal bating too. Having followed the right wing path described during the Blair/Brown years and forsaken all things socialist, they can now transform themselves into dogmatic lovers of political rivalry and proceed to cock a snook at measures proposed by the coalition government in Westminster, and so it comes to pass that choice in education and financial probity are the first topics to undergo a radical change in direction – it is all their fault, and we just love telling you that!

We all tend to try and return to our first loves, they were character forming events in our lives which gave us emotional direction and perhaps, not unnaturally, remain with us forever. We retain a fascination over what might have been, or question ourselves over where it all went wrong.

I’ve had an exciting life with a wonderful husband, wonderful children, wonderful grandchildren and wonderful great-grandchildren but every day I think of my first love; He was killed in the war. –   Mary, 1944

I messed my first love around and lost her. I saw her recently in Newcastle. She looked really happy. Three young children were calling her grandma. I was a fool! –   Martin, 1976

I met my first love at a school dance.  He proposed two years later and we’ve been happily married ever since. -Janet, 1981

I never forgot my first love. When my marriage ended I contacted her on Facebook. She’s single so I asked her out. She told me to stop living in the past. –  Roger, 1991

Curly’s first love was a girl called Denise (surname perhaps Miller), wonderful slim figure, full of life and happiness, playful and funny, with a smile that should have been used by Colgate. He last saw her clambering over the rock archway in South Shields’ North Marine Park, she was really everything that I wanted in the female species back then but I just didn’t have the “bottle” to tell her! I’d hate to think when that moment occurred, she was a fellow pupil, albeit in a different class, in Barnes Road junior school and we were both around seven or eight years old – never saw her again in my life after I passed the eleven plus and went to the Grammar School, that’s the way the cookie crumbles! I just hope she didn’t fall for a Newcastle supporter.

So what/who was your first love?

Bosses at The Customs House want you tell them, names, dates, places, experiences, thoughts and feelings.

The idea came about because of the forthcoming play called Good To Firm, which asks the question: Do you ever forget your first love?
Written by Tyneside playwrights Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, whose comedy hits include the international successes Dirty Dusting and Waiting For Gateaux, Good To Firm will evoke memories of first love for everyone who attends. Tim Flood, Customs House marketing and programming manager, explained:

“Everyone remembers their first love. Some of the experiences may be happy, some not so happy.
“Others may be of unrequited love. Some people may still have their love letters. We want to hear them all.”

The idea is to display these first love reminiscences on a wall during the course of the play, which runs from Wednesday September 8 to Saturday 11 at the 450-seat venue.Mr Flood continued:

“What we’re after is a brief account of your first love, up to a maximum of 32 words, with your first name and the year of your first love. They can be straight accounts or poems. They can be a happy ending or a sad ending. There will be many, many individual stories about first love and we aim to use as many as possible in the display.”

The winning entry will win a pair of tickets to the opening performance of Good To Firm and a two-course meal in the Green Room.
People can either email their stories to (subject: FIRST LOVE) or post them to the Marketing Department, The Customs House, Mill Dam, South Shields, NE33 1ES, marked First Love.

Mr Flood added:

“Good To Firm is a great comedy about first love viewed from 27 years later. It is guaranteed to make everyone who attends laugh and to think about their first love.”

Good to Firm runs from Wednesday September 8 to Saturday 11. Tickets cost £14, £12conc and are available by calling the Box Office on 0191 454 1234 or by visiting

I wonder if they’d be interested in Curly’s first love, or whether they might be more excited by my story of a dance with Maggie Thatcher when I was a Young Conservative at a conference at the Spa in Scarborough back in 1978, yes I loved that woman too. Oh yeah, and whatever happened to Margaret Humby?

Do let them have your stories at The Customs House.

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No sympathy for Moat

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PC David RathbandCase brought out best and worst in people

This is a picture of PC David Rathband, the policeman shot at almost point blank range by Raoul Moat as he sat in his police car in Newcastle, I make no apologies for including it here. PC Rathband was quite sure he was going to die and asked paramedics to tell his wife and small children that he loved them very much, let us remember now that he was a family man like many others of us in the north-east, he was only doing his job, a job which serves the public and carries, at times, enormous risks. Moat cared not a jot for PC Rathband or his family, just as he neglected any feelings at all for his former girlfriend Samantha Stobbart when he blasted her with a shotgun,  nor her new boyfriend Chris Brown who he shot dead with two cartridges in a callous deliberate act of murder.

Along with many others in South Shields I watched events play themselves out in Rothbury last Friday evening in a very public stand off covered by television news channels hoping that Moat might see the sense in giving up his weapon and delivering himself to the police, but alas events took a different turn, in a way that some had predicted when the felon discharged the weapon at his own head.

The whole episode since his release from prison saw variously the best and the worst in people from the north east and the sections of the media reporting the news, which amplified some of the tensions already existing between the public and the police. It was the actions of neighbourly well spirited people which gave the police the leads that they needed to track Moat down from Vigo to Rothbury, and it was the responsible journalists who responded correctly to Northumbria Police requests when they needed news blackouts and when they needed additional publicity to generate public cooperation. These actions undoubtedly resulted in fewer people being exposed to Moats fragile state of mind whilst in possession of a deadly firearm.

However, his boastful remarks of being in a war against the police have brought out the worst in others, allowing them to express themselves by leaving flowers at the scene of his death and at the scene of his other alleged crimes, the setting up of a Facebook “sympathy” page has also allowed these deluded people to gather together to create a rather silly looking image for people from the north east. It is no surprise that Prime Minister David Cameron has criticised these moves and proclaimed that there can be “no sympathy” for the callous murderer Moat.  Personally, although I find there is some merit in Simon Heffer’s arguments yesterday, I find the “sympathy for Moat movement” to be demeaning for the people of the north east, embarrassing to witness, and likely to provide the rest of the UK with the stereotypical imaging that they like to use to portray us as “thick northerners” – and nothing could be further from the truth!

Heffer’s somewhat misogynistic views don’t help his case, neither does his description of the folk of Rothbury as being “morally sub normal” (someone needs to educate him that Moat and his small band of followers are almost without exception resident many miles away from Rothbury, and the majority of folks interviewed in the town last Friday were clearly not originally from this region), however certain passages ring true and describe better the life of Moat the monster than the anti hero, especially when recalling the thoughts of another ex girlfriend:

Moat, according to her, engaged in acts that many men and women would not want to include in their domestic lives. He raped her. He would tie her up and flog her with a belt. He throttled her until she fainted. He hit her on her spine with a baseball bat. He kneed her in the face. She described him as “a living, breathing monster”. I for one would not seek to disagree with her.

Come on folks, do you really want to belittle this region by sympathising with someone who behaves like this?

Heffer touches on a note of dissatisfaction with our police forces and he may have a very salient point after the thirteen wasted years when greater and greater volumes of legislation have been dumped upon the heads of Chief Constables, who somehow have to manage their men and women in the prosecution of laws, many of which are more difficult to understand. The pressure built during the Blair and Brown years when public services became target driven led to a different type of police force than we were earlier used to, as they became more remote and too many beat officers were tied up behind desks completing mountains of forms and paperwork, by the end of the NuLabour regime Neighbourhood policing had become a “buzzword” in some forces, and in others this community aspect was carried out by volunteer uniformed “replacements”.

The police are good at mobilising themselves for murderers, rapists, abductors of children and possibly armed robbers. They are exceptionally good, too, at catching people who commit minor motoring offences. For the vast mass of crime in the middle – theft, burglary, mugging, flouting of the drugs laws and so on – they are utterly useless. Their role extends little beyond supplying a crime number to a victim so that a claim may be made on the victim’s insurance. That part of the operation might as well be privatised and sold to Lloyd’s. It is much easier to sit in a layby and catch someone driving over the speed limit than it is to retrieve the precious possessions of a family that has been burgled, so why try? That is how the public see the police, and it won’t do.

There is much to acknowledged there, and Heffer may well have caught the public mood, perceptions are often worth more than the realities, yet the reality is that our police forces have been driven off course by the battering of new legislation and target achieving, they no longer have the time or will to build rapport and community cohesion and have been weakened by top down pressures that have resulted in better figures but poorer reputations. Cameron and May have decided that there needs to be a bonfire of vanities in respect of some of the laws passed by NuLabour, something which is long overdue but will play but a small part in the rebuilding of trust between the police and the public, a trust that can only flourish with fewer simpler to understand laws which allow police men and women to get out of stations and into communities.

Perhaps then, all together, we can begin to relearn some common values of what is right and what is wrong and help each other to become “self policing” in a manner than does not require much more than common sense and common purpose. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister along with Nick Clegg and his websites, face a huge challenge in finding those common moral values, as a quick read through the comments to Heffer’s article reaffirms that incidents such as this really have brought out the best and worst of people.

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A South Shields’ man’s journey to the World Cup

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Andrew Grady and his “Magic Thumb”

The sounds of the vuvezela maybe droning and stretching the nerves whenever you are at home or in a South Tyneside pub watching a World Cup game from South Africa, but this hardship is water off a ducks back to former South Shields resident  Andrew Grady as he makes his way to Johannesburg from his Queens Park home in London. He has decided to hitch hike across Europe and the vast African continent using as much generosity as he can find along with his “magic thumb” and his ginger mate Simon Wilson operating the controls of the video camera.

Andrew’s efforts will not be a cheap road trip, in fact it will cost him far more to get the the World Cup this way than it would have been to simply buy air tickets and reserve hotel rooms, but he has picked up one or two small sponsors along the way and some newsworthy television and newspaper stories should assist him in gaining a bit more. His mission also seems to include spreading the Geordie language across the deserts and forests of Africa as well as improving our education of the humble lot of small communities that he interacts with along the way. Here he is in a village called Bamako teaching the local kids the best lingo in the world:

His journey has been a whole adventure full of bureaucratic nightmares with visas and cheap food including bread filled with brain, heart and liver, cooked up on a grill. Newcastle born and South Shields raised, one might have guessed that he’d become a globetrotter having taken employment in London, but this must be the journey of a lifetime, the nights spent in a £9.47 Argos tent would have tested most of us with night time temperatures dropping to bone chilling levels, but he would have been overjoyed at the “complimentary” room purloined from the Holiday Inn, Accra courtesy of the intervention of a Scottish general manager and a sighting of the Daily Mirror.

Andrew only has patchy access to the internet and is currently posting from Ghana, you can read his exploits in where you can also find lots of little vlogs (video clips – video blogs) which will eventually become part of a larger film of this adventure.

If any local businesses would like to contribute a little towards Andrew’s project they can email him

Media enquiries should be sent to

I’m looking forward to the full film and hope that the rest of his journey goes well, I also hope he finds some football to cheer about and that the English team somehow find room to fit him into their busy schedule after the lengths that he has gone to to share English and Geordie bonhomie across two continents!

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Written by curly

June 15, 2010 at 7:15 pm