Friday’s blog supposed that that night’s derby between Birtley and Chester-le-Street – played behind closed doors at Gateshead Council’s insistence – sounded like a cracker.
“So it was,” says ground hopper and Grass Routes reader Stuart Green and he should know – he watched through the fence as Birtley won 4-3. missing only the “excellent” pie and chips from Waddey’s Bar. Behind it all is a story to cheer these troubled times.
Back in 2016, when he was just four, Charlie Graver – whose dad Michael is a former Birtley player – suffered severe head and facial injuries in a road accident. Skin from his thigh had to be grafted onto his face.
Charlie’s slow recovery – described by the Daily Mail as “miraculous” – was supported by Changing Faces, a charity dedicated to those like him. Now fully fit again, he is dedicating himself to helping the cause.
In 2019 he raised £3,845 by competing in the Mini Great North Run. In July this year, during lockdown, he ran every day – a total of 87k, two marathons to raise an astonishing £7,403.
“A kind and thoughtful little soul,” says Kimberley, his mum. “An absolute inspiration,” says Birtley secretary Colin Beat.
Friday’s match would also have been a fund raiser for Changing Faces, an excited Charlie due to make an appearance on the pitch and the crowd likely to have been the maximum 300 allowed. Birtley had sold 200 advance tickets, Chester-le-Street their allocation of 50.
That’s part of the reason why Stuart Green and many others not only insisted that Birtley keep the ticket money but made a donation to Changing Faces.
The club, unhappy at the council’s decision, is working out how much the donation will be. They hope that issues will soon be resolved, beginning with the game against Tow Law on Wednesday.
*Another Covid casualty, Birtley’s excellent programme will this season only be available on-line. Still it carries a full-page ad for the blog, in between an ad for an immigration lawyer and another for Propa Radgie greeting cards – “blunt cards, unpleasant messages and awful language.” I feel greatly at home there.
*From outside the Masons Arms public house in Shildon on September 27 1825, the world’s first passenger railway – the Stockton and Darlington – began its inaugural journey.
The Masons has had several incarnations since then, including a “fun pub” called Spanners which was about as much fun (it may be surmised) as a pox doctor’s waiting room.
In July, transformed, it re-emerged as From Cairo to the Cape, which may not just be Shildon’s first African-themed cafe/restaurant but Co Durham’s, too.
After a lengthy walk around the old town’s urban outskirts – more beating the bounds than walking, really – we looked in at 4pm today for a very late lunch.
It’s friendly, quirky, inexpensive, idiosyncratically kitted out – Shildon meets Soweto – and is unlicensed. The hospitable guy offered to nip over to the Co-op for emergency supplies but, yet nearer, might have crossed the road to the George Samuel Brewery tap which opened on Friday in the former wagon works canteen, next to the Queen of Pain tattoo parlour.
The hour notwithstanding, our meal embraced “Aunty Misty’s American breakfast”, a huge concoction that included fruit on the side and lovely cinnamon toast. There were “smoky pit beans” with salt pork on toast, fish ball stew and a deep and greatly appreciated bowl of daal. With three soft drinks and a coffee the total was £25.
There are plenty who say it’ll never catch on, of course – but they said that about the railways, didn’t they? Closed Mondays, recommended.