TO be honest, when they asked if I fancied being a zombie, I was dead against the idea.

Horror isn’t really my thing. I even hide behind the curtains when Scooby Doo’s on the telly. I go faint at the sight of blood. So why would I want to become a zombie?

Here’s the rub. I’m an ambassador for Butterwick Hospice and a fund-raising “Zombie Run” is being held at Witton Castle, near Bishop Auckland, on Sunday, October 29.

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The more runners who sign up, and the more zombies volunteering to chase them, the more money is raised for a charity that makes a huge difference to lives every day.

“If you become a zombie, it’ll persuade others to get involved,” said Butterwick fundraiser Helen Kirby.

So what choice did I have? One night last week, after work, I drove to the hospice at Bishop Auckland and found myself at the mercy of make-up artist Elle McGregor.

“Shouldn’t take long,” said Elle, noting the dark rings under my eyes from having a hard paper round and raising four kids.

She then set about transforming me into a convincing member of The Walking Dead, alongside another volunteer, Peter Crompton.

Peter is the Butterwick’s Head Gardener but, twice a year, his title changes to “Dead Gardener” as he volunteers for the charity’s bi-annual Zombie Run.

Elle started by applying a foundation of porridge oats – yes, porridge oats – for “a ripped skin texture”.

I’ve never been a fan of porridge, much preferring Deady Brek, with a sprinkling of sugar. I hate porridge even more now because, when it’s stuck on your face for a while, it develops a deathly smell of mould.

Liquid latex, tissue paper, white and green face-paint, foundation, black eye-liner and fake blood all followed over the next hour before Elle finally declared: “OK, you’ll do.”

I checked my reflection in the mirror and it was more gruesome than I’d feared. My right cheek appeared to have been chewed off. It would have been no surprise if maggots had crawled out to sniff the porridge.

After a photo-shoot with The Dead Gardner amongst the foliage in the hospice garden, I set off for home with the intention of cleaning myself up in the privacy of my own bathroom.

I was halfway back to Darlington when I noticed the petrol gauge getting dangerously low. There was no way I could risk of running out of fuel, and having to hitch a ride as a zombie, so I pulled into Sainsbury’s just before closing time at 10pm.

The attendants had done nothing to deserve a heart attack so I opted for “Pay At The Pump” and tried to keep my right cheek in the shadows. I’d just clocked up 50 quid’s worth of undeaded when a poor chap pulled up in a black BMW behind me.

“Good God,” he muttered as he looked up and caught a glimpse of the grotesque creature standing before him, with a dripping petrol pump in its hand.

“It’s OK. I’m just pretending to be a zombie for charity…it’s not real…it’s mainly porridge...Quaker Oats,” I found myself saying.

He was gone in a screech of tyres and smell of burning rubber that Lewis Hamilton could never hope to match.

  • To find out more about being part of the Zombie Run in aid of Butterwick Hospice, go to:

STILL deadly serious about good causes, the historic Wensleydale Railway is alive and kicking thanks to a dedicated bunch of volunteers.

I’ll be doing my bit to support the heritage railway with an illustrated talk at The Forum in Northallerton on Friday, November 17, starting at 7.30pm.

“The Railway Town’s Newspaper – An Evening With Peter Barron” looks back at The Northern Echo’s railway connections, and some of the triumphs and disasters during my 33 years with the paper.

Tickets are £10, with £8 for concessions, and I’d love to see you there – further details are available on

BACK from the dead, the return last week of The Northern Echo’s sister paper, the Despatch, evoked a flood of memories, 31 years after it was last published.

Racing pundit Tony McCormick was among those to get in touch to tell of his enduring affection for the title and delight at its resurrection.

He went on to ask if we might see a comback for the paper’s popular tipster, Janus.

The real Janus was the admirable Matt Seymour, pictured, who has long since retired from tipping but is still a great ambassador at local race meetings.

Tony suggested I may wish to take on the mantle of Janus. It’s a nice idea, Tony. Sadly, any horse I tip runs like a zombie that’s only just woken up.