CHARLIE Emett, a thoroughly nice little feller who used to write the "Walks" column hereabouts, still looks into the building.

Invariably he brings a bag of cream buns - they used to sell much the same thing at the elephant house in London Zoo - and quite often a copy of his latest local history book. Charlie is prolific, 78 next month and still a worker ant.

His latest is called Made in Darlington, photographic cameos of companies like Cleveland Bridge, Whessoe and the North Road railway workshops. There's even a chapter on The Northern Echo.

W T Stead, the campaigning editor of the 1870s, is described as "outstanding", Harold Evans "possessed of unusual gifts" and the present incumbent "successful" and "deserving" with a "wonderful" wife and "delightful" children.

Even the pre-war Nig-Nog club is considered "charming and popular." Clearly Charlie is a man who knows the side upon which his cream buns are buttered.

There's also a picture, pint in hand, of your columnist. "Dehydration is the journalist's curse and Mike Amos will go to great lengths to avoid it," says the caption - a toast to a mark in history.

CHARLIE (and others) may therefore be surprised to learn that on Saturday we embarked on a ten mile walk, past six pubs and a workmen's, and not a drop to drink.

The walk was from the Bowburn interchange on the A1, through Coxhoe and Quarrington Hill - what a tip the rubbish disposal site between the two - past Cassop, Ludworth and Haswell Plough and onto Shotton Colliery for the match.

It would have been two workmen's clubs had not the club at Haswell Plough - why that straight and narrow name, incidentally? - been so utterly abandoned.

Signs warn of the dangers of asbestos, others that the council is taking action to secure the premises. A roughly painted notice indicates with awesome optimism that the place is for sale.

A few miles to the north, a do last night in Chester-le-Street marked Jack Amos's retirement after 21 years as secretary of Durham CIU. In his time in charge, and despite his admirable leadership, the number of clubs between Tyne and Tees fell from 341 to around 230.

Pubs decline similarly. The lengths grow greater by the day.

Sunday was the feast day of St Chad, a Northumbrian born bishop still more greatly revered in the West Midlands.

The At Your Service column took itself off to St Chad's on the Roseworth estate in Stockton and would have been musing about history's other Chads had something wholly unexpected not happened at the end. More of that on Saturday.

There was The Rev Chad Varah, founder of the Eagle comic and exactly 50 years ago of the Samaritans and Chad Valley, a long established toy maker called after a stream in the Birmingham area. Now it's a Woolworth's trade name.

Perhaps the most famous Chad of all, however, was the curious little feller who peered over wartime walls, inevitably with a short shrift caption about "Wot, no something or other?"

Examples are said to have been found in the basement of the former Dresser's store in Darlington and to exist on the mirrors of Betty's restaurant in York.

Chad is thought to have been the creation, around 1938, of George Chatterton, a British cartoonist known as Chat. He should not be confused with Kilroy - but always is, of course.

JAMES Kilroy was real, employed by the Bethlehem Shipping Company in Quincy, US, to check the riveters' productivity.

Originally he used a chalked tick, changing to the crayon message "Kilroy was here" when the workers began to rub out the tick in order to be paid twice for the same job.

The message spread from hull to Halifax and across the ocean at a rate of knots. Hitler was said to be paranoid about Kilroy, so ubiquitous had he become. Word of Kilroy's previous presence is said to be written everywhere from the top of Mount Everest to the dust on the surface of the moon.

At the Potsdam Conference, an outhouse was built for the exclusive use of Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt. Stalin, first in, quickly reappeared.

"And who is this bloody Kilroy?" he asked an aide - in Russian, of course.

WOT, no hyphens? Several hundred readers have pointed out that in both a story and headline on Saturday we again referred to an Englishman abroad as an "ex-pat". It is probably our most frequent and incorrigible mistake. He is not a former anything, he's an expatriate.

THE writing on the wall has nothing to do with old Chad, however. The script's much older than that.

It's in the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel, where bad king Belshazzar - as if he hadn't enough wives, concubines and divers other delights - pinches the best gold and silver drinking vessels from the temple in order to hold something akin to a Babylonian orgy.

At the same time the fingers of a man's hand appear, writing on the palace wall - and what the moving fingers wrote so terrified old Belshazzar that (says the King James Bible) "the joints of his loins were loosened, and his knees smote one against another."

His wise men being unable to see through it, the king sent for Daniel who read Mene mene tekel upharsin, which being translated meant "You've had it, mate."

Belshazzar, who failed to read the writing on the wall, was slain that selfsame night.

THE phrase about the weak going to the wall is rather less sinister, and is explained in the visitors' leaflet at the ancient church of St Agatha in Easby, near Richmond. (The At Your Service column, by happy chance, was there the week previously.)

Medieval churches rarely had seating. At St Agatha's as elsewhere, however, there was a wall bench near the Romanesque font where the infirm might rest awhile.

It was a case of the weak going to the wall.

WOT, no more space? The county border line case, the letter about sheep's backsides and other matters of a no less fascinating nature must wait another week. It is time, perhaps, for the pub.

Published: 05/03/2003