Rather fancifully, I had hoped to interest my old newspaper, The Northern Echo, in this slice of nostalgia brought bang up to date by Shildon's night of potential glory. A win at Bedlington Terriers tomorrow evening (Wednesday) is all that stands between them and a first championship since 1940 in the Northern League, 126 years old and the world's longest surviving league after the Football League.
The Echo declined, alternatively offering a little space for a retrospective that I fear I may have no time to provide. So I must keep my Echoes of the past for Salut! readers and for those who stray to the other places: Salut! Sunderland and Salut! ) ...
Salut! North does not want to be left out of the merriment and wishes readers a happy, peaceful Christmas and a wonderful new year.
Greetings extend to anyone who has strayed here from Salut! Sunderland, Salut! or Salut! Live. Enjoy the eccentric choice of a gallery of photos from the Royal Library of Denmark and feel free to explore the archive. If the North East of England interests you, you may like some of what you find on these pages ...
Salut! North, I meant to say here, is not dead on purpose, just flagging a little because of other pressures on my time. Sadly, I got it wrong and said it at the main Salut! site by mistake. That should not stop this splendid tale by my friend Bill Taylor appearing where it was first intended. Look on it as a lovely piece of writing and reminiscence and also as part of Bill's untiring attempts to shame me into making Salut! north active again ...
I’ve never been one to flog a dead horse (actually, that’s not at all true) but trying to breathe life into a dead blog is a different matter.
And it’s probably appropriate that this attempted Kiss of Life involves a real-life kiss… no yearning after an unattainable girl in a bus shelter for me.
It’s also mostly set in Shildon, Colin’s hometown, rather than my own, Bishop Auckland, a good three miles away. Strange how great a distance that seems when you’re 14 years old.
Any mention of Charlie Hurley takes me straight back not just to Roker Park, where I spent a fair old part of my youth, but to the Old Shildon Workingmen's Club of the late 1960s.
News of the publication of Mark Metcalf's new biography - Charlie Hurley: The Greatest Centre Half The World Has Ever Seen - has done the trick again.
Charlie, of course, was an absolute hero in all Sunderland-supporting areas of the North East, which broadly speaking meant the vast majority of County Durham. Sunderland was a proud component of the county in those days, ahead of the ludicrous invention of Tyne and Wear, and was widely seen as the county football team, the equivalent of Durham County Cricket Club.
The angels will just have to wait a little longer. I did not really expect to return to memories of punishments dished out at school, but an opportunity came to me on a plate (I was going to say it came to me in a stroke, but thought better of it).
The plate was served by Mike Amos, son of Shildon, Northern Echo columnist extraordinaire (or "that overachiever out of Albert St" if you prefer the impertinent dissenting opinion offered on these pages by one "Bassy"), tireless servant of the Northern League, godfather to my elder daughter and the man who taught me a fair amount of whatever I know about journalism.
Mike, in common with most people I knew growing up in Shildon, went to Timothy Hackworth Junior and Infant School. Well, that's more or less what it was meant to be called - there may have been a "mixed" in the title, too - but it was Tin Tacks to us lot.
This was not the most important of the questions that gnawed away at me for several weeks of 1966. There was another that needed answering first: how to meet her. And this, the need to meet her, was easier said than done
I would see the girl on weekday mornings as I was driven to my dreary dead-end job in the offices of Cummins Engine Company on the outskirts of Darlington.
My companion was Mike, easily distinguishable from me because he was not only 10 years or so older but actually knew and cared about the things that were being made at the factory. He could be said to be Doing Well in his job. The arrangement was that for an appropriate weekly sum - which, in keeping with the early traditions of these reminiscences, I can no longer recall - he would pick me up and drive me to work, though rarely home again at the end of the day.
Mike did not much like inconvenience, and stipulated that I should walk down Byerley Road and pass to the southern side of the Shildon railway crossings, where I was to wait for him. He did not want to risk being held up as shunters ambled to and from the wagon works.
Redworth is a small village roughly a quarter of the way into the eight-mile journey from Shildon to Darlington. And there without fail, as we passed each morning in Mike's sensible Hillman Imp, would stand the girl, satchel on her back, waiting for her bus to school. I was 17, and I guessed her to be about the same, but clearly bright enough to have stayed on for her A levels.
My first job, if you do not count paper rounds, babysitting or doing the shopping for neighbours, was in the Loading Bay at the railway wagon works known to everyone for miles around as Shildon Shops.
Do I remember that first day as if it were yesterday? Have I remained on close terms with the people I worked with? Does the actual date I started the job spring readily to mind? Not, I am sorry to say, so much as a bit of it.
Reliable memories of what I did each day, how much I was paid or who I met - all the important details of anyone's entrance into the world of work - have long since vanished.
How I envy those people who can delve into their minds and extract precise figures for pocket money, the size of their first pay packets and what they spent on earliest major purchases - train set, bike, car, whatever. My memory, excellent though it is in respects that sometimes surprise me, is nevertheless highly selective.
The figure of £1.50, or thirty bob as I'd have called it then, does suggest itself as the weekly reward from one of the paper rounds. I know my first property purchase was a flat in Greater London for about £9,000 and I even remember raising the 10 per cent deposit by selling a freshly purchased Vauxhall Viva, the only car I have ever owned from new. It had only a thousand or so miles on the clock, though if you looked carefully you could just about make out the imperfections of bodywork repairs that sadly became necessary after some clot ran into me as I drove it home from the showroom.
At an early Salut! North posting, I also took a stab at the price of cod and chips from Robinson's fish shop at the top of Diamond Street. But I would not be especially surprised to hear that the passing of years had distorted even that recollection.
And I certainly could not put an accurate figure on my first salary even if life depended on it. Nor, indeed, do I recall with anything approaching conviction how much I earned when I moved to subsequent jobs. There are cluttered files in which I may have stored some documentary evidence, but they are in the basement of my home. If such paperwork does exist, I have not set eyes on it for years and my home, incoveniently, is thousands of miles from here in France.
Ann, Barbara, Anthea, Dorothy, Christine, Rosemary, Margaret, Trish, Irene, Belinda. And the dark-haired beauty at the Redworth bus stop.
This is not a Salut! North version of that harmlessly silly song about having "a little bit of Monica in my life/a little bit of Erica by my side......". It is just the list of girls who occupied places of varying affection in my heart when I was single.
Even if you add a couple of missing names, it is not a particularly long list by the standards of today or, for that matter, the not quite so liberated 1960s. It becomes shorter still if you filter out one or two that scarcely qualify for inclusion as girlfriends.
My friend Len had much greater success. We'd prowl the rec path on spring and summer evenings, giving the eye to - and hoping to get it back from - any pretty girls that came our way. Actually, it was Len doing most giving of the eye. With perfectly good reason, he would tell me that when it came to chatting up, I had neither boldness nor finesse.