IN ALMERIA, in south-eastern Spain, a mystical figure lines the streets, adorns the walls, decorates the car bumpers and appears on every piece of tourist tat.

The bags that the tourist tat comes in tell you that it is a prehistoric symbol which was found scratched and drawn in caves. It is believed to be 4,000 years old, and it is thought to show a man, or possibly a ghost, with a rainbow arching over his head.

The rainbow is a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds, and so the figure is called the “messenger of the gods” – or “indalo”, in an old Iberian language. He brings good luck to all who display him and, according to the tourist information, he wards off “the evil eye”.

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So, on our holiday this year, it was impossible to escape indalo man. He was everywhere: on railings, on drain covers, nailed to walls, in company names, on chocolate bars, on t-shirts, on keyrings, on plates, on pottery.

And, yes, to my delight, they pronounce it “in-darlo”. The Darlo man is a lucky charm.

When I use “Darlo” as a short form for “Darlington”, older people tell me that they regard it is a rather insulting, dismissive, even rude abbreviation. But having now heard decades of Quakers football fans sing out lustily “we love you, Darlo, we do”, I regard it as a fond nickname for the town. Middlesbrough people are proud to say they are from “the Boro”; is it just the younger generations of Darlington people who are proud to say they come from “Darlo”?

But if they know that for millennium the indalo man has brought luck, everyone will embrace the Darlo name.

Of course, we brought loads of souvenirs back from our holidays, and so now there are lots of indalo men in Darlo.

A MYSTERIOUS cloud of gas that swept over Beachy Head on the south coast this week has left people rubbing their eyes and itching their throats while the authorities have been left scratching their heads as to its origins.

My first thought as to the culprits was farmers. Their muck-spreading is often pungent at this time of the year – I’m told that it is pig manure that is going down – but earlier this week, certainly where I live to the south of Darlington, it verged on the nauseous.

On Bank Holiday Monday, the smell followed me into the town centre, and on Tuesday evening – late August, quite balmy – a noxious cloud wafted over that was so strong that I had to close all our windows and doors to keep it out.

I was trapped inside my own house by an unpleasant pong. Not even my new army of indalo men could see it off – but then they only deal in evil eyes, not nasty niffs.