I need some help from you this week, dear reader, because, after years of trying, I still don't understand what prevents Government from taking the obvious, and popular, step needed regarding firework control.

I could have written this article six months, or six years, ago because the problem comes round with depressing regularity.

Unless you live in a very isolated area, you won't have escaped the nightly torture of a barrage of explosions from late afternoon until late at night. Why on earth have Governments of both persuasions hung back for years on totally banning the sale of fireworks except for licensed organised displays?

I'm not being a killjoy, and I know it's possible for some people to have innocent entertainment in the back garden, but it's becoming increasingly clear that giving up that pleasure is a tiny price to pay.

Most banger and airbomb fireworks are let off to annoy and frighten and not to entertain, and the period of the torture gets longer and longer. Like me, you've probably had the problem for at least a month and the weekend just gone made me wonder if there were going to be any of the wretched things left for the Fifth of November. The worst spell in my patch in Hartlepool was Saturday night when, despite pouring rain, a continual torture of really loud explosions went on from teatime to almost midnight.

For many years I've talked to local M P s and council leaders who are at one on the need to end the menace for good. What I can't, genuinely, understand is where the counter-argument comes from. Surely, the industry isn't so big to argue that a ban would lead to huge job losses or damage to Britain's economy. I suspect that many of the exploding monsters come into this country from dubious routes anyway.

Remember, too, that if it's just an infuriating nuisance to you and me, it's mental agony for many older people living alone who feel unsafe in their own homes during the weeks of stupidity. For pet owners the old advice about keeping animals in on Bonfire Night is well outdated. What should you do now? Keep them in for the whole of Autumn?

The final baffling part of all this is that I'm convinced that any Government which ended this annual craziness would get massive approval from a grateful public. If they can't take that big step, let's start with a compromise. Pretty fireworks we'll leave a bit longer, but let's make this year the very last when it was legal to set off an explosion in public for the sole purpose of tormenting decent people.

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On to more pleasant things, and I thoroughly enjoyed a trip to Teesside Airport the other evening. It always feels strange to go to an airport with no plans to fly, but it turned into a very pleasant night indeed.

We were having dinner with John Waiting, of Teesside Airport, and his wife Dorothy. They've been friends for years and always have a good tale to tell.

Poor Dorothy had suffered an accident in Guisborough not too long ago and had to cope for several weeks with a broken wrist. John was soon telling friends that, after many years as Mr Charm of Guisborough, he was having to change tack and learn how to put a lady's bra ON. On Dorothy you understand, not him!

We ate at the Spa Hotel, just walking distance from the terminal and it was very good indeed. I'd passed the place many times, but I was pleased to have the opportunity to see the restaurant and very good accommodation facilities. Manager Steven Sands was telling me that the hotel is a real success story and has a thriving Sunday lunchtime trade as one of the busiest times of its week. More details (and its sister hotel in Saltburn) on www.spahotels.co.uk

I'm delighted, too, to see Teesside Airport looking strong, with exciting plans on the horizon and an increasing range of destinations. It's crucial for the Tees Valley to have a vibrant and successful airport as a demonstration to the rest of the world of our status, and as a great facility for those of us who live here.

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It was a fantastic experience to be on stage at Darlington Civic Theatre on Monday night to help celebrate the achievements of staff and students at Darlington College.

The atmosphere was electric and a full house of almost a thousand people gave terrific support for the successes of students and staff. Live entertainment came from College band Foola and they really lifted the roof. I was telling the audience that my afternoon audition with the band had gone well. I understand that I'm due to play guitar in their Christmas concert; what they actually said was that it'll be a bloody cold day before I play for them!

The ambition of the College is really inspiring. You've probably read in the Echo this week about their ambitious plans to move to a state of the art new site in the town, and that will be very good news for the whole area. Principal Sarah Farley is buzzing with new ideas, and it heralds a very important stage in a major part of Darlington life.

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I've just heard about a lovely idea in at the Westgate Department Store in Hartlepool's Shopping Centre to help the Butterwick Children's Hospice at Middlefield Road in Stockton-On-Tees.

Travelcare Branch Manager Ana Coyle told me about Santa's Suitcase and the aim is to fill a large suitcase full of Toys/Selection Boxes/Crayons etc which is then given to the Hospice for the children. All items are to be unwrapped so that the staff can allocate them to the right child. The promotion is running until the 14th December. If you'd like to help, items should be taken to Travelcare, Westgate Dept Store, 195 Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, Hartlepool.

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Finally a sporting thought of the day. I'm very concerned about the rumours circulating as I write about Hartlepool Manager Chris Turner being lured to old haunts at Sheffield Wednesday. Purely selfish you understand as Chris and I usually play squash first thing every Wednesday morning. (Last game - Turner 2, Wright 3 - closer than it sounds.) That will have riled him - I'll get stuffed today!

Published: 06/11/2002