For eight years DAVID BANKS wrote a popular weekly column for The Journal, Newcastle Upon Tyne. He introduced the north-east to a cast of characters – the billionaire Byreman, Klondike the gold-digger, the Lawnmower Salesman, Billy the Quid and many others – who inhabit the life of this former Daily Mirror editor, now retired to Northumberland.
Today, by popular demand and because he likes writing it, the column is back. . .SPREAD THE WORD!
IT IS THE SECOND funeral wake Godzone’s Young Farmers Club (average age 69) has held for the Byreman. And our old pal has been the life and soul of the party at BOTH of them.
The Byreman’s pre-burial booze-up with Hizzoner Himself in the chair has become as much of a fixture in the Red Lion calendar as the Leek Club’s annual weigh-in and the darts and dominoes charity comp in aid of Maggie’s cancer fund. Worryingly, we look forward to the wake with an unhealthily eager anticipation.
So how did the custom come about? Well, the bibulous old boy’s lament (“Bugger it, poor Fred/Joe/Beryl would have enjoyed being here with us today!”) every time we raised a glass to yet another dear departed pal so wearied the regulars that it was decided that the one person who SHOULDN’T miss his finest hour was the Byreman. So, out of death, a great tradition was born.
Every year, around this time, we console ourselves at the Byreman’s passing BEFORE IT HAPPENS just so he can enjoy the event and be on hand to contradict the exaggerations to be expected in the retelling of a long life well lived.
We’ve been doing it each year since the eighty-odd-year-old and his Good Lady took to spending the festive season half a world away with their son’s family in Australia, involving as it does a 22-hour flight each way.
This year’s party, as wakes go, was a frugal affair. Drinks only; no food, since he refuses to wear his teeth unless royalty are present. Last year’s sandwiches and sausage rolls went to waste (if you count me scoffing the lot as ‘going to waste’). “Besides,” said the Byreman, “I don’t want to risk having the runs when we’re up in the air.” Could that prove fatal ? Wouldn’t that just make the wake all the more worthwhile?
Anyway, there followed a YFC discussion of his possible demise, although naturally Farmer Morebottle declared an interest: as the Byreman’s domino partner, he explained, he didn’t wish to be seen pre-celebrating the potential passing but at the same time felt he should launch his search for a successor.
“Anything could happen,“ intoned my neighbour the Undertaker cheerfully as he downed his third large measure of embalming fluid laced with lemonade. “It’s an awful long way, y’know. There will be precious few facilities for the likes of the Byreman if –ahem– Emirates have to drop him off in Dubai to come home as – ahem – air freight.”
Mere mention of ‘air freight’ (aka The Coffin) was, as always in elderly company, followed by polite coughin’, much shuffling of feet and a noisily un-orchestrated clearing of throats.
Of course, there’s always one: the Lawnmower Salesman couldn’t resist adding his uncouth threeha’p’orth.
“It won’t be the flight that finishes him,” said Lawnmower, a touch too confidently for my liking. “It’s the temperature over there. It’ll boil the old bugger alive.” Now Lawnmower knows whereof he speaks: he is a seasoned world traveller, having honeymooned with the Stable Girl as far distant from home as the exotic Castle Hotel in Berwick.
“Rubbish!” retorted Klondike. “It’ll be the drones that might do for him.”
Drones? The Byreman was perplexed. “I’m not worried about midges,” he said. “I’m taking two tins of fly spray with me – and I’ve got a bush hat with corks. . .”
That did it. We decided itwas two large brandies past his bedtime, sang him a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne and called for Scott the Taxi to take him home.
I’ll let you know if and when he returns. . .
A FRIEND OF A FRIEND laid her handbag down in the car park opposite Bamburgh Castle while she put some Christmas shopping in her car boot.
In a flash the bag was gone: snatched up by the passenger on a speeding scooter, which whizzed off along the road towards Seahouses.
She got the bag back, empty of course. The local police found it, along with a dozen more, all minus cards and cash
So, what with the ram raids The Clarion revealed last month [CLICK HERE], more and more metropolitan crime comes to Godzone.
And Godzone seems to have fewer and fewer policemen to stop it. Is this why we elected a Police Commissioner?
Are you listening, Vera Baird?
I LOVE THE STORY of the woman who presented her daughter with a chocolate-filled Advent calendar which the youngster opened and ate with decreasing enthusiasm until, on December 11th, she finally called a halt.
“I won’t eat another of those chocolates!” she wailed. “They’re yucky!”
Mum was unsympathetic. “Nonsense,” she replied, opening and unwrapping December 11th’s offering and popping it into her mouth, where it stayed for but a moment.
After spitting the foul, grey-green lump of confection into the bin she put on her specs and checked the contents: “A treat every day made of catnip and yoghurt” boasted the label. It was an Advent calendar for cats!
Should’ve gone to SpecSavers!