WITH unalloyed thanks to the readers who make these columns perpetually possible, the Press awards went well again - but with a salutary note from Andrew Smith.

Andrew's editorial director of Northeast Press operating in the Tyneside-Wearside area but lives in Catterick Village, North Yorkshire. On the day of the awards he'd nipped out to the Colburn fish shop for his lunch and found it wrapped in the Backtrack column.

Not any old column, either, but the one a few weeks ago about a morning in the life of Darlington FC chairman George Reynolds.

"It was a good read," said Andrew, generously, "but not quite as good as Colburn fish and chips."

Though the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations records Nye Bevan's admission that he was an avid newspaper reader - "my one form of continuous fiction" - it has no truck with the aphorism about today's newspapers being tomorrow's fish and chip wrappings.

Whoever said it, mind, he clearly had a point.

FROM fish and chips to tripe, a progression which may be either arithmetic or geometrical. The route, at any rate, has been circuitous.

Last week's column, suffice to say, recalled UCP - tripe purveyors to all Lancashire. (Tripe is the lining of a cow's stomach: this is the inside story.)

The initials stood, we said, for United Cow Products. As Susan Jaleel has good cause to recall, it was actually United Cattle Products - "the offal emporium of the north-west."

UCP, however, sold much more than loads of tripe. There was cow heel and black pudding, liver and kidneys, rissoles of doubtful progeny and other bovine delights.

"The initials UCP used to be as ubiquitous in the north-west as M&S, BHS or MUFC," wrote Matthew Engel in The Guardian in May 2001.

Matt should know: the canteen at the Manchester Guardian used to sell tripe salad, though the stuff was also popular with shady greyhound trainers who wanted their dogs to lose.

Nothing lay more heavily than a half pound of tripe.

Susan especially recalls the cafes above the UCP shops, staffed by waitresses clad formally in black and white. "Anything that was sold in the shop you could eat in the caf; the queues waiting for a table knocked Harry Ramsden's into a cocked hat.

"The caf in Bank Hey Street, Blackpool, behind the Tower, was the number one venue for millions of day trippers over the years."

Particularly, however, she remembers them because the UCP caf in Hyde is where she and her husband - now retired from a Darlington Memorial Hospital consultancy but then too poor to afford a proper reception - held their wedding lunch in 1965.

A day to remember? "We were definitely not disappointed."

AS it does on so many forgotten facets of civilisation, The Northern Echo cuttings library offers a packet marked "Tripe".

There's the story of 65-year-old Leonard Wiley, retiring in 1974 as Darlington'a last tripe man - once he'd dressed up to 130 stomachs a week, delivering as far as Durham and Leyburn - and another about the Japanese developing a ruminative taste for the stuff.

Matthew Engel may have read it. "Since smart young people eat sushi," he wrote two years ago, "what's wrong with tripe, which has a similar texture and at least as much taste."

Much the most vivid cutting, however, is from the Eating Owt column published on Bonfire Night in 1988.

A WEEK or two before November 5, Mr Stuart Lord from Aycliffe Village had had a letter in Hear All Sides in the wake of Edwina Currie's outburst on eggs, bad and otherwise.

"I have little interest in politics but wonder if Mrs Curry (we misspelt it) would approve my recent lunch menu. This was a full green salad with creamed tripe and onions," Stuart wrote. "Eating Owt please note."

Eating Owt not only noted but held a taste test, tripe for the picking, at the North Briton pub around the corner from his home. Allan Edgar, the incomparable landlord, had bought for 15p a second hand copy of the Andy Capp Cook Book, locating tripe and onions between curried sweetbreads and brain fritters in a section entitled "Rent day recipes."

Opinions varied. The column's old dad, however, had once declared that he could eat anything in the world except tripe and seemed, as usual, to be talking sense.

The Internet now offers recipes like Farmer's Apron (battered tripe), tripe seafood stew, tripe l'Espagnole, tripe Madrid style (with pigs' trotters and capsicums and things), Irish baked tripe and classic tripe and onions.

As always it is a matter of taste - but it'll never take the place of Taylor's pies.

MORE acronyms: Alan Macnab recalls that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority was to be known as the QUANCA until someone pointed out the similarity to another word and it was changed to QCA.

Chris Lloyd, in the next office, insists that in his formative years as a reporter it was revealed that Darlington Memorial was one of four hospitals chosen to trial the £4m, computer based Patient Information Support System.

Soon afterwards, the name was changed to Hospital Information Support System. Ever assiduous, Lloydy enquired the reason. He was told to go and work it out for himself.

ALAN Macnab also adds "Beyond Expectations KS4 Transformation Programme Effective Learning Consultant in ICT" - straight from Sits Vac - to our series "When I grow up I want to be..."

Janet Murrell, who started the job off, adds the two above. "Do you think," she asks, "that this has anything to do with the Beacon readers for the Bob the Builder generation?"

SO finally back to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. At a rapturous Songs of Praise evening at Boltby, near Thirsk, on Sunday - about which much more in Saturday's At Your Service - we remarked to the lady of this organisation that the combination of idyllic village, Spring evening, brass band and bagpipes might be pretty close to heaven.

She in turn recalled someone, G K Chesterton she thought, who supposed that heaven was pate de foie gras with trumpets.

The Oxford doesn't embrace it, though there are views of heaven from the Bible to Irving Berlin and from Shakespeare to Paul Simon (who supposed that heaven held a place for those who pray.)

Readers may care to propose their own ideas of heaven, on earth or otherwise.

It was William Wordsworth, of course, who supposed in the wake of the French Revolution:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive

But to be young was very heaven.

He may well have been right, but just now it feels pretty good to be 50-odd, an' all.

www.thisisthenortheast.co.uk/ news/gadfly.html