THE way that Bishop Auckland over-eggs the Stan Laurel pudding has never been particularly diverting. We’ve suggested as much before.

Admittedly the guy was baptised there while staying with his grandparents and spent a few undistinguished months at the town’s grammar school while his father managed the Eden Theatre. Then he was gone.

On the former school site, the derelict and arson-hit Laurel Building stands forlornly awaiting an unlikely salvation.

The Hog Wild tent of the Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy Society, has decamped from the town hall – the Laurel Room, inevitably – and now meets at the local Asda.

Stan’s statue, looking suitably perplexed, stands often unnoticed on what was the Eden Theatre corner.

It may explain why, to no surprise, Bishop gets not so much as an aside in Stan and Ollie, the poignant and greatly entertaining film about the pair’s later years, released earlier this month.

It was on last week at the Vue Cinema complex in Darlington. We took retired GP Bob McManners, appointed OBE for services to the community in Bishop Auckland. A co-founder of the acclaimed Mining Art Gallery in the market place, he’s still chairman of the Civic Society, the Choral Society and the Heritage Action Zone – not forgetting the Coundon and District Society for the Prevention and Prosecution of Felons, though the last one’s cultural impact may be limited to an annual dinner at the golf club.

Dr Bob was a Ferryhill lad, recalled watching Laurel and Hardy matinees at the Gaiety, the Pavilion and the Majestic – less grandly known locally as the Ranch – has never been a Hog Wild member but once brought back a fez from a Turkish market for its grand vizier. “I haggled,” he recalls.

He first practised at Bishop General exactly 50 years ago, accepts that the Stan Laurel connection may have been overplayed in the past but reckons it’s not now because it’s hardly being played at all.

He also thinks that Stan’s statue should be relocated onto a plinth and not, as he puts it, looking like he’s waiting to cross the road.

The tickets – “senior online VIP”, £15.48 the pair – promised a 3.30pm start but that discounted 25 minutes of trailers, commercials and futile appeals not to talk or fiddle, fatuously, with phones. The credits at the end may be almost as lengthy, everyone from the bloke who made the glass eyes to the third assistant accountant.

It’s wholly captivating, not least in exploring the duo’s fractiously deteriorating relationship. “You’re just a lazy ass who got lucky because you met me,” Laurel tells Hardy.

The only North-East connection is when they pitch up at Newcastle expecting to play the Theatre Royal and find themselves at the Queens Hall (wherever that was) instead. Bernard Delfont, the impresario, is more interested in a young newcomer called Norman Wisdom, it’s claimed.

It matters little. These days, not least thanks to men like Bob McManners and Jonathan Ruffer, there’s so much more stirring in Bishop Auckland. It need rest on Stan’s laurels no longer.

PECKISH after the big picture, Dr Bob fancies a hot dog – all manner of ghastly, American-style offerings which made us long for the days of all-in Westling. Two of the larger sort are £12 the pair, reduced to £11.99 if a big bag of sweeties or can of fizzy pop is included at a net price amounting to minus a penny. Is this Vue Darlington’s contribution to tackling the obesity crisis?

Lord Foster, the former Bishop Auckland MP who has died, was both a very good parliamentarian and a caring, charming and genuine man – for 25 years the only card-carrying Salvation Army member in the Commons and someone who manifestly practised what he preached.

For all that, he was frequently teased in these columns for always wearing the same style of pinstripe suit, whatever the occasion.

Derek Foster’s fashion was smart, witness his lipstick red Bentley, but he didn’t do smart casual. His idea of dressing down – or quite likely dressing up, come to think – was probably to wear his Salvation Army uniform.

“Oh yes, he had wardrobes full of suits,” confirms Anne, his widow, who like Derek always took the leg-pulling in the sartorial spirit it was intended.

In the Commons he became Labour’s Chief Whip, in the Lords thereafter he continued assiduously to represent both constituency and region. His funeral’s at noon on January 25 at the Salvation Army citadel in Millfield, Sunderland. More of that later.

KEITH DRAPER, who has died aged 72, was licensee of the Half Moon in Durham for more than 30 years – traditional pub, perfect landlord, ambrosial pint of Bass.

We’d become allies in 1998 when Bass, the pub company, proposed totally to eclipse the Half Moon and to rebrand it as an It’s a Scream pub, based on a famous painting by Edward Munch and aimed, unashamed, at the young.

“To Durham’s traditionalists it’s like selling doves in the cathedral,” said the Eating Owt column. “Like Violet Elizabeth Bott they could thcream and thcream thcream until they were thick”

The proposal, we added – clearly a bit vexed – would not just rip the guts out of the Half Moon but the heart and soul as well. “One of the more egregious obscenities in the hideous history of pub wrecking.”

Battle was joined by Gerry Steinberg, the city’s late MP, by the Civic Society and by the erudite Peter Rowell, who’d taught us history all those years back at Stan Laurel’s old school (but who still talked of his dog cowping its creels while chasing an imaginary rabbit down Flass Vale.)

Keith, who’d also helped initiate Durham’s Best Bar None and Pubwatch schemes, retired in 2011. The Half Moon was taken over by his son, Graham.

We met again a couple of years later when he was recovering from a quadruple heart bypass at the James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough, the cardiac problem only discovered when he turned up for a cataract operation.

“They said I’d be in for a day and I was there for seven weeks,” he said, cheerful as always.

“I went to see him after the op and told him the pub had had the best week’s takings ever,” recalled Graham last week. “It perked him up no end.”

His funeral was held last Tuesday, the wake back at the Half Moon. It survives, his memorial, exactly as he left it.

THE Durham Age UK men’s breakfasteers gathered the day after Keith’s funeral, unanimously agreed that the post-prandial pint should be transferred from Wetherspoons to the Half Moon (which opens at 11am).

Nothing’s changed. “It was the condition that I agreed to take it over,” said Graham. We raised a glass in affectionate memory, the Bass as ambrosial as ever.