LIKE many more residents of that fair city, Janet Murrell in Durham received an invitation last week to buy a "limited edition Durham luxury table lamp". It would cost £99.50, with a "certificate of authenticity" and 100 per cent satisfaction guaranteed.

The company was called Decor Art Creations, the accompanying literature headed "Canterbury, 28 February 2006". It was predictably effusive.

The lamp, it promised, was "full of refinement, classic meticulous craftsmanship and quiet luxury". It radiated "conviviality and substance", the artist had made a selection on "creative grounds", guests would "admire your good taste and perhaps be a little envious".

A lot of attention, added the brochure crucially, had been paid to "tracing the various subjects that are typical of Durham. This fine piece exudes peace and joviality. It is a moment to stop and observe." Janet did, and was duly enlightened.

The four aspects of the "unusual" shade - and "unusual" may be a shade of an understatement - are said to be of "rich" 18 carat gold, "unique luminance" and to show Durham motifs.

One depicts the Cathedral, another Neville's Cross College, a third the old Chantry Chapel alongside Elvet Bridge and the fourth "Maple Durham Church." Mapledurham church is 250 miles away, near Reading in Berkshire.

Built in the late 13th century - the period of the Canterbury Tales, says its website, not inappropriately - the church is dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch and was featured in the film The Eagle has Landed.

Though interesting in its own right, it has nothing whatever to do with the city of Durham

THE telephone number which Decor Art Creations offers is answered by a machine. Neither the machine nor any human being has returned the column's call.

The search engines, however, stoke up attention to several more unfortunate mistakes by the company.

In July 2000, residents of Hayley Green in the Black Country were offered for around £90 a set of "limited edition" porcelain plates showing "cherished scenes" of their village.

"Many hours have been spent in searching for the most beautiful places in Hayley Green," added the brochure. A pity that all but one of them were in nearby Cradley Heath.

The following year, Decor Art Creations made the folk of Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire a similar offer to buy a porcelain tea set of town scenes. "Kingston House" was actually The Hall and the "Town Hall" was the local Roman Catholic church.

DAC's classic blunder, however, came in the Somerset village of Doulting where Chris Atyeo had jokingly named his house Fuque Hall.

The company included its image in an "unprecedented" series of plates showing "the living heart of Doulting - its pride, its beauty and its traditions."

It was December 2001, and the story made The Sun. "I think," said Mr Atyeo, "that Decor Art have completely missed the joke."

DIGRESSING as always, someone at the lunchtime planning meeting invited the name of two British number one hits which have partly been sung in German. Sprechen Sie Deutsch? The answer at the foot of the column.

VIA a Methodist church magazine, last week's column told of God's latest task for Noah - a 20-level ark full of fish, to be known as a multi-storey carp ark.

It reminded Tom Purvis in Sunderland of the old story of a church mag competition in which contestants were invited to retell Old Testament stories on the assumption that God was female.

"In the beginning," wrote the winner, "God created the heaven and the earth and the earth was without form, and void.

"And darkness was upon the face of the deep. And God said 'Let there be light', and there was light.

"And God hesitated and said: 'Could I just see the darkness again'?"

A COMMUNITY partnership group, reported a front page "taster" paragraph in last Tuesday's North edition, was "hoping to establish a £500,000 play park in a north Durham village which will be named after its most famous son - Sir Bobby Robson."

Taken literally, suggests John Heslop in Durham, it could provoke outrage among loyal Langley Park residents concerned at losing the identity of Bishop Langley in favour of the former England and Newcastle United manager - especially if they didn't read the full story inside.

Where would it all end? Wendy Craig would be an excellent name for Sacriston, says John, while Henry Pease would be "passable" for Darlington. "Elizabeth Barrett and Anne Isabella Milbanke don't sound so good for Coxhoe and Seaham, respectively."

And dear old Shildon? "Mike Amos doesn't sound too bad," concedes John, "but I think Timothy Hackworth might object."

WE'D also reported last week that, in protesting about the threatened closure of Hackworth House care home - in Shildon, inevitably - the decidedly ladylike Winnie Richardson had described Durham County Council as "bloody awful".

And that, added Winnie - as if shocked by her own temerity - was swearing.

It reminded Darlington exile Davie Munday of perhaps the best known Shakespearean joke, also frequently recounted by the late Arthur Clark when for 21 years chairman of the Northern Football League.

Geordie is offered the bit part of King Duncan in Macbeth, almost nothing to say except at the start of Act 1 Scene 2 when a "bleeding sergeant" - perhaps the Oil Drum Lane polliss - appears.

His line is "What bloody man is this?" but Geordie, for all his efforts, is suffering dreadful stage fright.

Finally he remembers and gazes towards the newcomer: "Weez this bugger, then...?

THOUGH still committed to its correct use, the column may be outgrowing the campaign for the humble little apostrophe. The Apostrophe Protection Society, run by a retired newspaper sub-editor, might be feeling the same way - Peter Sotheran in Redcar points out that they've now also taken up the no less confusing cause of the difference between "less" and "fewer".

Granville Chambers, meanwhile, points out that a sign outside a new school being built at Barnard Castle offers "accomodation". That's the Department of Education.

....and finally, those two number one hits sung partly in German were 23 years apart - Wooden Heart by Elvis in March 1961 and 99 Red Balloons by Nena, March 1984.

Published: 08/03/2006