THE Oldie, the magazine for the not yet Punch drunk, carries a piece this month by Edna Wallace on her 1930s childhood in a North-East pit village.

There are memories of middens and of standard green house paint, of blinded pit ponies, colliers on their hunkers, zinc bath tubs and of the weekly visits by the Ringtons Tea man.

At one time Ringtons really was everyone's cup of tea, the delivery men followed down Edna's street - as no doubt in many others - by brazzend fond bairns delightedly reciting:

Ringtons Tea

Makes you pee

Makes you want a wee-wee-wee.

Sam Smith, a Yorkshireman not to be confused with the Tadcaster brewer of the same name, started the company in Newcastle in 1907 with a business partner called William Titterington.

Titterington's final syllables virtually filled the tea pot; poor Sam was left with the final s and not so much as an apostrophe to separate them.

With their first £250, they bought a horse, a van, utensils and a chest or two of high quality tea. By the outbreak of World War I there were 11 vans and 17 sales assistants, probably all pursued by raggy trousered urchins with suggestions of diuretic properties.

Or was that dandelion and burdock?

The company is still in Newcastle. Though the last horse was put out to grass in the early 1960s, Ringtons 200 vans still deliver to 300,000 homes nationwide, and worldwide via the Internet, selling everything from coffee to cookies.

The marketing slogan is something about opening your door to some of the freshest speciality teas and coffees. The pee, as they say, is silent.

SPEAKING of golden oldies, Adam Faith's sad passing reminded John Briggs in the Pub Discussion Group of one of pop music's little curiosities.

What Do You Want, Faith's first hit, was the 1950s' last number one. The first of the 1960s was the ungrammatically entitled What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes at Me For by Emile Ford and the Checkmates.

John went further, however. Not only did he insist that Emile, born Emile Sweetman in the West Indies, had a strong Blackhall Colliery ("or maybe Horden") connection but that he changed his name in improbable salute to the Ford Estate in Sunderland.

Though John is fairly omniscient, a compliment akin to being rather unique, an incredulous bet was struck involving the window of a well known Darlington department store.

Neither he nor the Echo cuttings library can substantiate his theory. Emile had his final hit in 1962; the last the cuttings library heard of him was a 1980 story that Beryl Hankin, owner of Guru boutique in Darlington, was re-forming his fan club.

"I had a terrible crush on him," she recalled at the time. "As a working class girl I used to spend all my money following him around when he came to the North-East."

There was nothing about a Ford fiesta in Sunderland, however, or on making Blackhall rock. The last anyone heard, he was driving a London bus. Binns window looms large for Mr Briggs.

WITHOUT realising the momentousness of the occasion, we caught the 10.15am train on Saturday from Darlington to Saltburn. Exactly ten minutes later, the significance hit home.

The train landed at Teesside Aiport.

No one either entered or alighted; probably no one has for years. Whilst Mr John Prescott and others talk ever more about their commitment to an integrated transport system, the 10.15 on Saturdays is the only eastbound train all week which calls at the airport.

There may have to be a pretty short haul flight in order to catch the weekly return, too. It leaves at 13.41 the same day. The column's excitement may therefore easily be imagined. One small stop for mankind.

BOLDLY as ever, recent columns have pondered the childish term for boyhood dares - known in some parts of the North-East as funkers and in others as doing one's dags.

Paul Wilkinson, formerly The Times man in the north, knows an altogether more fundamental definition of "dags", however.

"A former assistant news editor on the Press Association was a New Zealander famous for his forthright colonial tones, to put it euphemistically, towards staff," says Paul, now near Harrogate.

"He would encourage tardy reporters with the rejoinder 'Rattle your dags", the New Zealand sheep farmer's equivalent of 'Shift your backside'."

Dags, it transpires, are "a small piece of dried compost material which dangles from the long strands of wool on a sheep's rear end."

Whether they are subject to such sudden movement, adds Paul, is no more clear than whether the boyish term has the same derivation.

Disbelievers who suspect that Mr Wilkinson is also talking out of his woolly rear end, need look no further than the Oxford English Dictionary.

PAUL Dobson, who works on the Aycliffe industrial estate, reports that a shop floor vote is taking place on who should be made to come to work in drag on Comic Relief Day.

Voting slips are being posted in something marked "Ballet box". Oddly enough, writes Paul, the young lady responsible also put the motionless sign on the stationary cupboard.

Another of Janet Murrell's little gems has arrived, too - this one from our own Articles for Sale columns.

Janet's in Durham. Do you suppose, she asks, that the chip monks are from the same order as the fish friars?

MANY blackboards could be devoted to Tales from the Chalkface, not least the teacher who last week tried to explain the mysteries of 3-D to his junior school class in Newton Aycliffe.

"Please sir," piped an eager youngster, "we've got one of those VD cameras at home."

Joe Powell in Middlesbrough recalls the opening of a school in Cleveland, great and good duly assembled, the senior education adviser ("a rather severe Scottish lady") droning on about the cost of the two new pianos and other state of the art equipment.

It was an infants school, oldest seven. Children, says Joe, shuffling on their bottoms and getting restless.

Finally, the adviser invited questions. Craig's hand shot up. "A shudder ran through the teachers. Craig wasn't known for his mental gymnastics."

The adviser unerringly picked him out. "Yes, sonny, what would you like to know."

"Please miss," said Craig, "why have you got a moustache."

EVERY week we promise a couple of maps to illustrate the loss of the traditional English counties. Every week space precludes it. It's not forgotten.

The Oldie of the Year awards are presented at a posh do in London on March 18, but since the column seems not to have been shortlisted - it can't be age - we rattle our dags again next week.