January 10 2019: County lines

What with all these transport strikes, it’s time to stretch the old legs – a gentle eight-miler along the footpaths of Shildon and Newton Aycliffe before a restorative pint at the County in Aycliffe Village.

The County’s name was made by a chef/patron called Andrew Brown, an interesting chap who now sells burgers – very good burgers – from a sawn-off London black cab on Newcastle quayside.

It’s the place where, one evening in 2000, Tony Blair entertained French president Jacques Chirac to supper. They talked about red lines – honest – and had the roast shoulder of lamb.

“All right, Jacques?” asked the ravenous press pack. The president just smiled, though not like the Mona Lisa.

M Chirac had had a busy day – breakfast in Lisbon, lunch in Dublin. Goodness knows where he had his ten o’clocks. “Jacques Chirac could be forgiven for wishing that he was tucked up in bed in the sumptuous surroundings of the Elysee Palace.” began The Guardian’s report.

The County was also the place where, periodically in my later years as Northern League chairman, I’d have lunch with John Elliott, chairman of our sponsors Ebac, in an attempt to review (shall we say) some of his political thinking.

The late and much lamented Brooks Mileson, whose companies sponsored the league for a decade before Ebac, had rather simpler tastes – wholly content with a glass of lemonade and a cheese and onion sandwich in the Brit, though I might have bought him 20 fags as well.

Since the County doesn’t do afternoon tea, I’m the only 4pm customer – chance to pick up a magazine called Aycliffe Business Today, edited by Martin Walker who used to be on the PR team at both Middlesbrough and Sunderland football clubs and also did a bit of PR, presumably unpaid, for Newton Aycliffe FC.

Since attendance at Moore Lane continues greatly to disappoint, they might benefit from his services again.

One headline leaps from the magazine: “Ebac profits up 14 per cent to £17.5m.” Profit for 2017 rose to £362,000, it says, turnover to £17.5m

Ebac chiefly make dehumidifiers and, latterly, washing machines. They’re a great and hugely generous bunch and deserve the support of all football people.

A pint of Cumberland Ale (£3 80) also prompts the thought that it’s time I bought Mr Elliott lunch again. No problem with the roast shoulder of lamb; if only I can stop him talking about Brexit.