February 11 2018: Latin routes

Such the trepidation with which yesterday’s blog employed the 15-letter word “pulchritudinous” that it was immediately followed by an asterisk, and the suggestion that all might be revealed at the last.

It was. Pulchritudinous meant bonny, we added. It’s from the Latin pulcher, meaning beautiful, though Geordie – ever perverse – supposes it very much in the eye of the beholder.

“By, thoo was in a bonny state last night” probably suggests something else entirely.

Familiar former Northern League manager Ray Gowan is now in South Africa. Either he didn’t notice the asterisk or it had been impounded by the border guards. The word pulchritudinous, he protests, is completely absent from his Oxford Mini Dictionary – even the “new expanded edition” and despite the fact that he will shortly be married to the pulchritudinous Pauline.

In its continuing attempt at further education, today’s blog therefore invites readers to suggest the meaning of 20 (fairly) common English words, all – like millions more – with Latin roots. The answers follow immediately, so no cheating.

19-20 championship form (promotion optional), 15-18 play-offs, 10-14 mid-table mediocrity, 6-10 sack the manager, 3-5 relegation, 0-2 FA inquiry (and we all know what they’re like.)

1. Mellifluous 2. dextrous 3. Culpable 4. Omnipotent 5. Bellicose 5. Arboreal 7. Lucid 8. Bovine 9. Defenestrate 10. Nocturnal 11. Vociferous 12. Verbose 13. Epistolary 14. Umbral 15. Corpulent 16. Commensurate 17. Recumbent 18. Dolorous 19. Saline 20. Dulcet.

Answers: 1. Sweet (Latin mel = honey, fluero = flow. 2. Adroit – dexter, right handed. 3. To blame – culpa, fault. 4. All powerful – omnis all, potens to be able 5. Warlike – bellum, war. 6. relating to trees – arbor, tree. 7. Clear – lux, light. 8. Cow-like – bos, ox. 9. To chuck through the window – fenester, window. 10. Night-time – nox, night.

11. Noisy – vox, voice. 12. talkative – verbum, word. 13. relating to letter writing – epistola, letter. 14. Shady – umbra, shade. 15. Fat – corpus, body. 16. Measuring equally  – mensure, measure. 17. Prone – recumbere, lie down. 18. Sorrowful – dolore, to grieve. 19. Salty – sal, salt. 20. Sweet – dulcis, sweet.


February 10 2018: Privy counsel

Three good reasons for watching Ryhope CW this afternoon: a) Led by Darren Norton and Dougie Benison, they’re top football people (and were brilliant on the Last Legs walk). b) It’s one of the grounds to which I haven’t yet been this season c) I might double the crowd.

Two reasons for not going. a) It’s a beggar to get to by public transport, at least four journeys in each direction. b) They’re playing Guisborough Town.

It must be the sixth time I’ve seen Guisborough in as many weeks, the eighth this season. Thus far they’ve managed but a single point. Further to worry them, their last two visits to Ryhope have resulted in 7-1 and 5-1 defeats.

The word “jinx” is frequently employed. Warned by Dougie of my impending arrival,  the visitors hold an emergency meeting in the clubhouse and decide to co-opt me on to the committee, with special responsibility for cleaning the netties.

The train journey from Thornaby to Seaham is enhanced at Hartlepool by the biggest hen party since Buxted declared a general amnesty. One of the more pulchritudinous* of their number suggests kidnapping me, but becomes rather flummoxed when I suggest that the term kidnap implies reluctance on the part of the victim.

At Ryhope CW, as half a mile away at RCA, the conversation turns as always to the crowd  usually between 50 and 100 at the Colliery and often closer to the former figure.

Might there not be a few more because Sunderland are in far-off Bristol? “It wouldn’t matter if Sunderland folded,” someone says, “there’d still just be the same old faithfuls.”

An unexpectedly pleasant afternoon may have drawn a few more, though the home fans will be disappointed by a lacklustre display by their team, edging a little too close to the relegation places.

Lee Bytheway scores twice in Guisborough’s 3-0 win. Town chairman Don Cowan accepts that the monkey may at last be off their back; someone else is going to have to clean the netties.


February 9 2018: confessions of a milkman

Bryan Conlon was a centre forward of the sort once known as bustling. Shildon lad, once on Newcastle’s books, he made his debut for Darlington Reserves in the name of an amateur footballer from RAF Middleton St George because Quakers had missed the registration deadline.

A couple of years later he was married in Shildon at 12 and played in the home game against Bradford City at 3 15. The Quakers always kicked off at 3 15 – they and Newport County, memory suggests – apparently because it gave more time for the pubs to turn out.

Bryan played subsequently for Millwall, Norwich City, Bradford City and Hartlepool and on the first day of 1974-75 – when the risible “amateur”status had finally been abolished – made his Shildon debut alongside fellow former Quakers Lance Robson and John Peverell.

The headline in the 1974-75 chapter of the Northern League’s millennium history was Pro’s and Conlon.

Lovely lad, good mate, Bryan was also a bit of a scallywag. In summer in the 60s he’d also work for the council – and that’s how our paths first crossed.

I was a pre-school milkman, up at 6am seven days a week to ensure that the good folk of the Jubilee Fields estate were never without their pinta. Lotta bottle? Even in the Arctic winter of 1963, I never missed a shift, and all for half-a-dollar a day.

The header’s probably misleading: little to confess, though the lady – wife of a very well known Northern League footballer – who’d periodically come to the doo rin what apparently was called a baby doll nightie was, shall we say, a bit of an eye-opener.

Then there was Mr Conlon. The round occasionally involved leaving the wooden cart and heading off with a hand crate. Sometimes upon returning there’d be a pint missing and a big bloke with a refreshed expression sitting on a wall nearby.

On bad days he’d utterly deny it, on good uns offer a second-hand Daily Mirror in part exchange. Top bloke, Bryan died in October 2000, aged just 57.

Back in the 1960s, says a piece in today’s Daily Mail, 99 per cent of British homes had a daily milk delivery – in glass bottles. Now, because of the plastic backlash, the milkman may (!) be making a comeback.

The Mail talks to a milkie who was made MBE for services to the community (“which he collected from the Queen dressed as a Friesian cow.”)

Why Her Majesty should have been dressed as a Friesian cow isn’t explained. When I got mine, she was definitely wearing a frock.



February 8 2018: Gala occasion

It may no longer be said that Darlington RA secretary Alan Hamilton likes to let his hair down, not since last summer’s sponsored head shave which raised £750 to fix the mower.

When he wants a good night out, however – or, annually, a weekend under Cropredy canvas – he’s a Fairport Convention man.

They’re a folk/rock band, around since 1967 – with numerous personnel changes – and still capable of filling the place, as they do tonight at the Gala Theatre in Durham.

The name came because one of the founder’s parents lived in a houise called Fairport, in Muswell Hill, north London. Since my old dad was also a Muswell Hill lad, it seems appropriate to wear an Arsenal scarf in his memory.

Alan not only pays for me and club chairman Doug Hawman and our wives – “I call it missionary work,” he says  – but stands the pre-show curries, too. Top man.

The Gala’s newish. Most folk would rhyme it with “parlour”, a Durham miner with “jailer.” The only other time I’ve been there was four or five years ago for a very jolly play about West Auckland winning the World Cup. There’s a much b igger audience tonight.

These days the word “gala” is much traduced. A “gala dinner” means the usual tosh with balloons on the table; a “gala supper” is mint sauce with the pie and peas.

This evening’s excellent, though physically – certainly not musically – one or two of the lads are starting to show their age. “If we tour another ten years,” says fiddle player Ric Sanders, “we won’t need roadies we’ll need travelling paramedics.” They hope to, nonetheless.

Some of the jokes may be almost as old as Fairport are, but I liked the one when they contemplating playing a bit of Handel. “Handel merged with Hinge and Bracket. They became The Doors.”

We shall convene again.


February 7 2018: 3G or not 3G?


“When two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather” – Samuel Johnson

Anyone spot the report in today’s papers about the effect of climate change on sport – by which they particularly meant golf and cricket?

The R&A, golf’s biggest governing body, talks of the weather now being “a huge factor”, playing time – and thus finances – increasingly denied and coastal courses losing holes to erosion.

The sport, they say, has been affected more than any other by climate change – except, of course, for skiing.

Unexpectedly heavy rainfall, it’s said, cost the ECB £1.6m in emergency grants to grass roots clubs last season, while £2.5m has been set aside annually for future rainy seasons.

But what about football? All scheduled Ebac Northern League matches are off tonight, only one played last night and a pretty gloomy medium term forecast. Despite the wholly laudable efforts of league secretary Kevin Hewitt to rearrange games as early as possible, the situation’s starting to look awfully familiar.

Marske United, as so often is the way with successful Vase teams, still have half their 42 league fixtures to play and with just 12 Saturday’s remaining. Newcastle Benfield have 19 to fit in, several others 17.

In the second division, Heaton Stannington, Crook and Bedlington 16 , three others 15 – plus cup games, of course. It’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

Traditionalists will shriek, but it seems to me that the answer -with all sorts of additional benefits – is to explore the possibility of more 3G pitches if funds can be made available.

Better yet, the FA and the Football Trust might explore the possibility of substantial grants to transform so many pitches at this level from converted cow pasture to surfaces truly fit for football.

Truth to tell, mind, I was quite glad that tonight’s games were off. The plan was to watch Shildon v Benfield — despite several attenpts, I’ve yet to see the new stand – but I still can’t shake off this blooming cold.

Like the poor  Northern League secretary, I’m a bit under the weather.


February 6 2018: Sods’ law

Only Durham City’s match with Chester-le-Street survives winter’s worst – much credit to the guys who nurture Willington’s once-notorious pitch.

Since I saw Durham last week, and since there’s an uncommon cold coming on, I stop at home to start on the Western League’s 125th anniversary history.

Ted Roylance emails, incidentally, to say that Somerset cricketer Colin Dredge wasn’t the only Demon of Frome. Formula 1 driver Jensen Button was a Frome man, too. Chris Froome rides a bike.

Formed in 1892 as the Bristol and District League, the Western was the first south of Birmingham. In the early 20th century, when it had a professional division, almost all the top London clubs – except Arsenal – looked west, though they played in other leagues, too.

From the south coast they attracted Southampton and Brighton, from Cornwall they included Truro and from Wales teams like Pontypridd, Mid-Rhondda and Ton Petre. Now it’s the league of familiar Vase names like Cadbury Heath, Melksham and Odd Down.

The book’s irresistibly anecdotal,  similar in many ways to the Northern Goalfields volumes which marked the Northern League’s centenary and the millennium.

Chiefly, it might be concluded, there’s nothing new under the sun. Right from the start – about as far as I got before taking to an early bed – there was crowd trouble, referee abuse, wrong uns, disputes and even a chap sentenced to 14 days in the slammer for wrongly appearing as an amateur. Saying nowt.

Mangotsfield, who once played Shildon, had ten men suspended for “insulting” the referee in his changing room. Left with only two registered players, they fielded them in the next game – figuring that, since the offside law then required three to be in front of the ball, the other lot would never score.

They’d forgotten the bit about not being offside from a corner. A goal down, the two men walked off.

It’s also fascinating to note club nicknames, not least every bird under the heavens. Cadbury Heath are the Heathens, Hallen – inexplicably – the Armadilloes, Mid Rhondda were the Mushrooms and, yes, Chipping Sodbury really are the Sods.

*Another View from the Terraces, written and researched by Sandie and Doug Webb, has 560 well-illustrated pages and costs just £12 50. It’s a great piece of football history.

February 5 2018: Powler howler

peg powler

Yesterday’s blog contained what some call a typo, others a literal and yet others simply a boob. Recalling Somerset cricketer Colin Dredge – the Demon of Frome – we inadvertently described him as a “fast powler” when, of course, he was a fast bowler.

It travelled the world, was spotted in South Africa and arrested by familiar former Northern League manager Ray Gowan. “The latest of your indiscretions,” he says.

When he was at Spennymoor United, Ray recalls, they’d sometimes finish training with a game of cricket – “mainly because most of the lads were useless and it gave us a laugh.”

One such was Gary Powell, a “very useful” centre half – known as Powler – but a bowler so alarming that the batsmen would seek safety at square leg. They called him the fast powler.

So what’s all that to do with the apparition atop today’s blog? That’s Peg Powler, described as “a hag and water spirit in English folklore” and said to inhabit the River Tees at Barnard Castle.

Ms Powler is said to have green skin, green hair and – by way of contrast – red eyes. Then again, haven’t we all? Her modus operandi, it’s reckoned, was to lure the unwary to the river bank – a bit like the Lorelei, but not as bonny – grab them by the ankles and pull them to a watery grave.

In other parts, apparently, similar creatures are known as Jenny Greenteeth, Nelly Longarms and the Grindylow (who must not be confused with the Gruffalo.)

At any rate, wakeful kids in the Barney area would be told that if they didn’t go to sleep Peg Powler would get them – which in itself is coincidental. When my bairns were small and taken faithfully to watch Shildon, I’d say exactly the same of Raymond Gowan.

*Ray’s memoirs have reached 2002-03, from when he finds a cutting of a Durham Challenge Cup tie between Jarrow Roofing and Easington Colliery. Manager then as now, Richie McLoughlin – also mentioned in yesterday’s blog – came on as a second half sub.

“He was the subject of much good natured barracking from the terraces,” says the report, “but had the last laugh when he supplied a killer pass to set up the sixth goal.”

Richie was then said to be 52. We must assume that the dear old boy is now 67 but, sadly, no longer getting a game.