FOR a time over the bank holiday it seemed that the only content of today's column might be the wanton recollection from Elizabeth Steele in Staindrop that she once knew a caravan site on a sewage farm at Sandford, near Oxford, which was owned by a Mr Crapper.

Since then, however, we have not only been seeing a pretty vivid red but feeling the effects of the wind. Readers may even care to recall that, if the wind was named Maria, what were the names of the rain and fire?

A blow by blow account a little later.

A MIDNIGHT feast almost, we recalled a few weeks ago how a late night dinner party in Thirsk had been hushed by the critical need to know how Garibaldi biscuits came by their name.

Subsequently it emerged that the great Italian general Guiseppi Galibaldi had not only had his troops wear bright red shirts but that the garments in question were made at Aysgarth woollen mill, in Wensleydale.

Now, via a pair of Durham University anthropologists, we hear that the red breasts may have a distinct advantage in sporting conflict, too.

Dr Robert Barton and Dr Russell Hill studied four events at the 2004 Olympics - boxing, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling and tae-kwon-do - in which contestants were randomly allocated red or blue.

The fighting talk, published everywhere from the Los Angeles Times to Punjab Today - but not, curiously, in The Northern Echo - showed that the red man won 55 per cent of all bouts. Where contestants were reckoned of almost equal ability, the figure rose to more than 60 per cent.

The results were not only borne out in the Euro 2004 football finals - in which the five teams with red as an alternative strip all scored more goals when wearing it - but in the behaviour of mandrill monkeys and zebra finches, too.

The England football team should not necessarily be compared to mandrill monkeys, of course. It's just, say the Durham boffins, that red rouses testosterone and inflames passions.

The testosterone marks were published shortly before the FA Cup final, in which the reds of Arsenal so overwhelmed Manchester United's temporary black shirts, and before the Champions League final in which the Liverpool's slow to rouse reds staged so extraordinary a fightback.

Dr Hill's a Liverpool fan. "They've been appalling when they played in their yellow kit this season," he says.

Sadly, it doesn't quite explain Sunday's League One play-off final in which Hartlepool, obliged to change to red from their normal blue, lost to the blue and whites of Sheffield Wednesday.

Back to the drawing board eh, boys?

A GUARDIAN columnist, incidentally, suggested on Saturday that if the Conservatives were ever to return to power then they, too, should wear red - "as always used to be the case in the enlightened North-East of England".

It was so, and Labour wore green, at a time when the Tories nationally had long been true blue and Labour a ruddy, bloody, red.

Memory whispers that Lord Lambton may have had something to do with it. Though he certainly knows, long serving former Shildon councillor and Gadfly sparring partner Walter Nunn has unfortunately not been available.

Someone else may be able to crack the colour code. A fat lot of good red did the Tories, anyway.

IF "Better dead then red" is ascribed (as Mr John Briggs supposes) to Joseph McCarthy, "Better red than dead" falls within that many splendoured section of the quotations dictionary attributed to "Anonymous".

It lies between the reinvigorated "Rock and a hard place", said to be an early 20th century American colloquialism, and the somewhat self-evident statement that the best defence against an A-bomb is not to be there when it goes off.

Anonymous is responsible for everything from Lily Borden (who takes an axe) to Lloyd George (who knew my father), from God Save the Queen to Swing Low Sweet Chariot, which in some quarters appears about to usurp it as England's national anthem.

London Underground graffiti like "Life is a sexually transmitted disease" and "Death is nature's way of telling you to slow down" are also believed to be his handiwork.

Without too much effort, Anonymous is also said to have written the shortest poem in the English language, on the antiquity of microbes:


Had 'em.

IN sharing thoughts about Garibaldi and his Reds, Jack Chapman in Hebburn also offers thanks for the column's recent revelation that a flageolet is not just a musical instrument, which he knew, but a kidney bean, which he didn't. The kidney bean's roots are different, mind.

We have also been talking to Mike Hall about his Gateshead born forebear Richard Garibaldi Bell, who became world boules champion.

Mr Hall has now pointed us in the direction of another family member in Haydon Bridge, from which Tyne Valley village we hope to report shortly.

Whether Bell's global domination was down to the colour of his breeches we have so far been unable to discover. It could be a whole new boules game.

AN email from Clive Wilkinson insists that last week's column was wrong to doubt the long held theory that "Pom" - the fairly derisory Australian term for Brits - is a corruption of "Prisoner of Her Majesty", on the back of convicts' uniforms.

Though others believe it to be short for pomegranate - the colour of limey skin after a few days in the Australian sun - Clive clearly has the courage of his own convictions, since he recently spent time in Freemantle prison. "I bought a ticket for a guided tour, hence my superior authority," he writes.

Freemantle, as cricket enthusiasts will know, is also famous for its gentle gusts - the Freemantle Doctor said to bowl in from mid-on (or some such) most afternoons of the summer.

The term (with thanks to Mrs Lynn Briggs) was first used in South Africa and the West Indies to describe a sea breeze with refreshing and cleansing properties.

Others include the brickfielder (southern Australia), the Capetown Doctor (South Africa), the Chinook (Rocky Mountains), the Maestro (Adriatic) and the Mistral (Mediterranean).

All that from Pom and circumstance. Truly it is an ill wind, indeed.

STILL on the inside, Janet Murrell in Durham returns whence it came a cutting in which the Cathy Jones, in charge of Liverpool jail, is described as the governess. "Not exactly," supposes Janet, "a job for Mary Poppins."

SO finally, it was the 1951 musical Paint Your Wagon - and eight years later a hit for the Kingston Trio - in which the wind was named Maria.

Maria blows the stars about and sends the clouds a-flyin'

Maria makes the mountains sound like folks can think they're dyin'

The rain was Tess, the fire was Joe and with a weather eye on the quotations dictionary, the column returns, anon.