I kicked off this week with a very funny Sunday evening at the Cackling Clown Comedy Club at The Studio in Hartlepool. Live entertainment is always the best kind, and this venue works brilliantly.

As you might know, it's a great conversion of a former chapel, and its original builders might have been staggered by the change of use, but curiously in harmony with the atmosphere on Sunday. The "congregation" simply enjoyed being in each other's company and wallowing in the God-given gift of laughter. A good line-up of comedians went down very well, but perhaps the funniest part of the night was when energetic compere Warren Speed led a really hilarious audience participation session on the theme of James Bond and his alleged incontinence. You had to be there, but it was unforgettably funny. I'll see you at the next one if you fancy it; there's comedy at The Studio on the first Sunday of every month.

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Talking of laughing muscles, I think that part of my affection for the comedy business came from my Dad who loved a good story, especially with local connections. One of his favourites, which he always enjoyed telling well, featured the way a journey to work used to be over fifty years ago. These days, many of use have a very cosy life, driving along in the cocoon of a modern car, insulated from the weather. At one time, my Dad, and many of his mates, had a regular journey by bike (in all weathers) from Hartlepool, along the Tees Road, and then over the Transporter Bridge to a shipyard on the Middlesbrough side.

The great tale hinges around Ernie who had been late for work three times in a week and was told that one more would lead to serious bother. This wet morning, he set off especially early and battled along the Tees Road with cold wind and rain biting into his face and freezing his fingers. Murphy's Law struck, and, almost a mile from the Transporter, he had a puncture. Incredibly, he put the bike over his shoulder and ran like a whippet. To his horror, the gondola of the famous bridge was a few feet from land as he got there. With a P45 looming, he jumped, complete with bike, and just made it over the gate, landing with a crunch at the feet of the amazed conductor.

A bruised but proud Ernie said "Pretty good eh?"

"Bloody brilliant" said the conductor, "we're just coming in!"

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Sometimes comedy just writes itself, even in the midst of trying times.

Recently I gave a presentation to a local Business Leaders' Forum on "How to Get Free Publicity". This had been booked months ago, long before my departure from Radio Cleveland, but the title of my talk gave the first big laugh of the night.

There are a few more chapters to go in that story, but I'll leave that to m'learned friends. I mustn't end this week, though, without saying a sincere "thank you" to an army of people who've taken the trouble to get in touch since the news broke. It has been touching and really moving, and I'll keep you in touch with new directions. I'm delighted to have this opportunity to keep in touch through the Northern Echo and this splendid web-site, and I hope a friendship built up over thirty years of broadcasting to the people of this patch will continue to grow and remain strong.

Published: 09/10/2002