Let me tell you this. We North-Easterners are very proud of any hint of celebrity that comes our way, but we are also fond of accuracy. There was a national story early this week about a horse that visited a cinema (see picture), having found that automatic doors cannot read whether the entrant is human or equine. For those of you who thought that the North-East’s population consisted only of half-humans, whippets and pigeons, think again. The areas between Sunderland and South Shields are full of fields, and the fields are full of horses. Wild life is still active, despite the industrial past. Here is the horse:
The picture appeared in The Guardian, who described the four-legged friend as being, at the time the snap was taken, ‘near Gateshead’. Excuse me? Near Gateshead? That is very close to saying that the horse was from Newcastle. Gateshead is a good, and I use the word ‘good’ in its most generous sense, ten miles and more from where the horse is standing, which is in a multiplex called ‘Cineworld’ in Boldon Colliery.
And Boldon Colliery is in the disputed territory between Sunderland and South Shields. Put it this way: even if it is more Shields than Sunderland, it will be a supporter by proxy of Sunderland football club, and not its rivals across the Tyne, the Tyne that is all that separates Gateshead from being called ‘Geordie’. In fact, culturally speaking, Gateshead has been annexed by Newcastle, as in the phrase ‘Newcastle-Gateshead’ which is bandied around by local developers.
I know this, because that horse is standing about one mile and a bit from the place in which I was brought up, and in which my mother lived for over eighty of her eighty-four years. She knew this cinema well. It is right next to the most important architectural feature in the area: the local Asda. Nor is Boldon Colliery’s Asda any old Asda. It is the Asda which featured in the Asda adverts for in-store bakery, which starred – and I don’t think that’s too grand a term – Victoria Wood. Okay, Boldon Colliery doesn’t have a Colliery any more, and okay, even the station ‘Boldon Colliery’ has been re-named Brockley Whins (no, honestly, it’s the name of a huge estate, with one of the best names in the North East, beaten only – shamefully – by Newcastle’s Spital Tongues, and a village outside Durham called Pity Me, and, most effectively of all, a small place between Sunderland and Durham called No Place. I have met someone from No Place. They have had a lifetime of fun explaining where they come from: ‘Where?’ ‘No Place.’ ‘Where?’ And so on, as in the Abbott and Costello sketch, ‘Who’s On First?’)
So there we have it, and just in time for the hundredth in this sequence of daily blogs. A horse in the local cinema, a strange and tantalising and tempting memory of home, travestied in the national press. It is true that the local organ of repute, ‘The Sunday Sun’, referred to the ‘mane’ feature being ‘Blazing Saddles’, but that’s journalists, the whole world over. I just wish I was in the North-East, hearing the locals pass comment, being part of the whole affair. The time will come when I get back and say ‘Eeee…’ like everyone else in the North-East, where Collieries are still remembered, and the horses still graze in the nearby fields, and people live in addresses liked Aged Miners’ Homes, even though there are no miners left.
I hope the cinema manager had a word with the horse, as Bob Hope does to Trigger when Trigger gets up and goes out during the night in ‘Son Of Paleface’, as the doors swished to and fro behind it: ‘What were you? Born in a barn?’