Banksy’s Week…


The call of Nature and the lure of the village hall

For several years I wrote a Friday column in The Newcastle Journal based on a city dweller’s rural retirement. The characters and their nicknames are all real. Most of them drink with me in the Red Lion up here in an area I call the Godzone. Since I stopped the column, many ex-readers have demanded that it return. So here it is. . .

I AM TAKING A DIURETIC TABLET every morning. It’s an ‘age thing’, necessary to counteract some water retention which I can either blame on a new course of anti-leukaemia chemotherapy or something to do with my diabetes.

See? I told you it was an age thing. . .

Anyway, from breakfast until beyond lunchtime I now traipse off to the bathroom every 15 minutes or so and, in that three hours, offload two-and-a-half litres of liquid, relieving the pressure on an overworked bladder and steadying my blood pressure.

Now the only experience I previously had regarding water tablets was in the mid-70s when the Daily Mirror’s chief sub editor cheated his way to a handsome cash prize by drinking half a gallon of water before the official weigh-in for a £20-a-head office slimming competition. Two weeks later and ten pounds in weight lighter the smart-arse popped a couple of water tablets just before the ‘weigh out’ and trousered a couple of hundred quid.

More recently I’ve had some fun at The Byreman’s expense since that 30-year triple heart bypass veteran was prescribed water tablets a year or so back. “Two tablets in the morning and two more in the afternoon keep me going all day until I get to the pub. Then I try to sit still for an hour or two,“ he would joke. Then the Heart Doc wiped the smile off his face by adding a fifth tablet, which now demands an additional loo visit every time he gets up to buy a round.

How I laughed! Until, that is, my doctor noticed my ankles puffing up and prescribed – yes, you’ve guessed it – a water tablet for me to take every morning.

Uh-oh. . .excuse me, Nature calls. I’ll be back in half a litre or so!

We’re Getting Big By Thinking Small!

THIS IS VILLAGE HALL WEEK and the folk in our small Northumbrian village of Crookham and I are justly proud of our meeting place. So it seems a perfect time to say ‘Thanks’ to all our friends and to provide a little history at the same time.

The hall was built in 1912, originally as a ‘reading room’ by the enlightened landowner who also supplied it with newspapers which the estate workers who inhabited his tied cottages could otherwise not afford.

A smaller hall was added as an extension in 1932 to accommodate a billiards table. Several teams of farmworkers formed a popular billiards league in the days when a nightly game was the working man’s substitute for a night in front of the telly.

How times change: Crookham’s billiards table has long since been removed for lack of support, the local league is down to three teams and has lost most of its venues and our leaking, decrepit small hall is virtually unusable.

Today the much-improved main hall with its spanking new kitchen, double glazing, disabled access to all areas and warming overhead heaters and woodstove is the most-used hall in the district. Which creates another problem. . .

The building is now so popular that it is bursting at the seams with activities and badly needs its tumbledown small hall back in action. Discouragingly, the cost of a rebuild is estimated at £137,000. But ours is a village which doesn’t know when to give in.

Three times in its century of existence the hall looked doomed. Three times it was saved by a combination of determined self help (we raised £16,778 ourselves!) and funding from wonderful individual donors (old friends John and Jan Benn gave us £3,000!) and charitable organisations: Northumberland County Council (17,438); Big Lottery Fund (£20,000); a total £11,250 towards refurbishments from the Joicey Trust, Grassroots Scheme, Sir James Knott Trust and Catherine Cookson Foundation; and, through the good offices of the Northumberland Community Foundation, we were gifted a further £3,000 (Roland Cookson Foundation); and £17,222 (EDF Barmoor Community Fund).

It goes without saying that a one-street village like Crookham couldn’t have repaired its beating heart without big-time donors and the dedicated advice of Community Action Northumberland.

But, as they say in these parts, “Shy bairns get naethin’” (Tr: If you don’t ask, you don’t get!). So the fundraising machine is being cranked up again to rebuild the small hall. We’re already £71,000 along the way to our target with lots of events and a ‘Buy a Brick for a Tenner’ appeal newly launched.

If someone somewhere wants to write their name on a brick or, better still, could help us find major sponsorship our treasurer, Colin Speight, would be happy to hear from you by email at

You’d be making a village very, very happy.


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