Perhaps like me, you have the occasional need to check a newspaper's date just to confirm that a story is not an April the First spoof.

Yesterday's Northern Echo front page (March 11th) featuring Liz Lamb's exclusive on televisions in court waiting rooms came right into that category.

As you probably saw, the County Durham Magistrates' Courts Committee is planning to spend around £2,000 to buy TVs for the waiting areas for all its courts. Whether it's a priority in terms of public spending is an argument in itself, but what intrigued me was the claim that the plan was "in response to public opinion". I'm trying very hard to imagine people waiting to go into court considering a TV as their main priority.

Surely waiting to go into court, especially as a defendant, should be a sobering experience. I'm just trying to picture the scene which will be produced by a crowded, noisy waiting area with the latest soap opera or quiz programme blaring away like lunatic wallpaper. It's only a matter of time, too, before the TV becomes the cause of a dispute which leads to court! An escalating argument between fans of snooker and Jerry Springer would be comedy material if it weren't so serious.

Have the brains behind this scheme really thought it through? What will it do for the concentration levels of people who are about to enter a courtroom to give evidence on matters which could make a crucial difference to a person's life? Pity the one-off attender at court who is suddenly confronted by a circus-like scene where the usual suspects (literally) are guffawing along to a comedy programme.

Personally, I find the waiting room kind of TV perfectly capable of leading me into violence, never mind anyone else. In most situations like that, it's a noisy irritant with very few people actually watching a programme. I know the world changes, but isn't it possible to take along a book or a newspaper if you know you face the possibility of a lengthy wait?

With only a few weeks to go to the real April Fools' Day, it will be hard to find a story to cap this one!

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If you fancy some live entertainment (rather than that lunatic wallpaper!), there are two consecutive one-nighters on stage at Hartlepool's Town Hall Theatre this week.

Tomorrow night (13th) there's Still Marilyn performed by the Bad Apple Theatre Company. Written and directed by Kate Bramley (once of the excellent Hull Truck Theatre), it is built around the 1950s when Marilyn Monroe was at the height of her fame. It's an intriguing blend of fact and drama which will draw all fans of the Monroe legend.

The following night (14th) there's a chance for all mature rockers (hands up me) to enjoy the power of Meatloaf. His lookalike Steve Steinman has built up quite a reputation with his powerful voice, and backed by big sets and a live band, it sounds like a great way to end the week.

Both shows start at 7.30 and you can book tickets on 01429 890000, or risk it on the door.

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Finally, talking of quality entertainment, I had a nice surprise watching the superb Clocking Off on BBC TV on Sunday night. Among the cast were Mark Benton and Joanne Rowden who I first knew when they were young proteges of talented local director Gordon Steel some years ago. They've both gone on to build fine careers, and an impressive list of TV appearances, and I'm chuffed to bits for the pair of them.

Published: 12/03/2003