Friday, August 22, 2008


Today England play South Africa in the first of five One Day Internationals. Oh No, I hear you say, he’s off on his cricket theme again. But no, keep going, dear reader.

At the same time, I’m also reading a book by a guy (Paul Gogarty) who ambles his way around the coast of England and writes his thoughts on the journey. he writes in the style of Bill Bryson, except this guy’s got his knickers a bit twisted on the Global Warming thing, which irritates me a bit. If I want the end of the world rammed down my throat, I'll look at Al Gore's video, thank you. He’s reached the North East Coast of England, and having had something approaching a messianic vision on Lindisfarne, he heads Earthwards and reaches the village of Ashington in Northumberland, where he stops for a cup of tea and a bun.

Now Ashington pushes the definition of a village a bit – it has around 28,000 inhabitants - but technically, it’s a village. One which has suffered deprivation and hardship like most Brits simply wouldn’t understand. The Colliery which was the village's life blood has gone, unemployment is almost the status quo, and the main entertainment today, he sees, is playing Bingo.

And yet, Ashington has hidden depths. If you’re into Painting, read up about the Ashington Group, a band of mid Twentieth Century artists who pictured the lives of the locals in the community. This is a real Division One school of Painting – Princess Anne opened the £16 million gallery housing their Art a while back.

The place Mr Gogarty, our intrepid Author writes, is also the home of the Leek Growing World Championships - don’t ask, this is England. He mentions a contestant who is photographed playing the violin to his veggies - apparently it encourages them to grow.

But if you are into sport, try this for size. If Football (soccer) is your bag, it would be a Once in a Lifetime event if the hugely prestigious Footballer of the Year competition was won by someone from your town or village. Surprisingly, Ashington has been in the illustrious and small group of places where an inhabitant has achieved this, which is not bad for a village.

Except, it has happened on four separate occasions. Jackie Milburn (known in the local Geordie dialect as “Oor Jackie”) in 1958, Jimmy Adamson in 1962, (Sir) Bobby Charlton in 1966, and Jackie Charlton in 1967, all came from Ashington. Ooh-er.

So back to the cricket. It starts on TV in five minutes, so I’d better get typing quickly. Who’s back in the England team today, with a brief to blast the South Africans out of the game? Someone who returned into the England Test team a few days ago, and gave the South Africans a real roughing up in the last match. None other than Steve Harmison – one of the very few/only (you choose) really fast bowlers in this country today.

And, just to close the circle of this piece of scribbling before the game starts, just hazard a guess where he comes from?

You got it! There must be something in the water.


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