HOW exciting that the BBC should bring Question Time to Darlington – but what a let-down to see the standard of debate and the lack of any real connection to the North-East.

We had five panellists: London-based Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry; Energy Minister Claire Perry, the MP for Devizes; Times political columnist Rachel Sylvester; co-chair of the Leave Means Leave pressure group, Richard Tice; and Manchester broadcaster Terry Christian.

I understand the importance of the national perspective but is it too much to ask to have one out of five panellists from our region? Where, for example, was Ben Houchen, the first elected Mayor of the Tees Valley, or James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce?

Sadly, Question Time’s visit to Darlington will be best remembered for Terry Christian behaving like a lippy, spoilt child from Grange Hill.

THE night after Question Time was filmed in Darlington’s Central Hall, it was a joy to compere the Darlington Junior Eurovision Song Contest next door in the Dolphin Centre.

Hundreds of pupils from 20 primary schools sang their hearts out and were impeccably behaved. Terry Christian could have done with being there. He might heave learned something.

IT was also pleasure to host the inaugural “Being The Best Awards” for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service the other day, despite the irony of having to explain the fire evacuation procedures.

I admit there was a part of me secretly hoping the alarm would go off, just so I could get a picture of a load of firefighters gathered in the car park outside while they waited for a fire engine to appear.

On a more serious note, the event at Hardwick Hall Hotel, near Sedgefield, shone a well deserved spotlight on some of the stars of the service, and included a fitting send-off for popular Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Colin Bage, after 30 years in the job.

Paying an emotional tribute to Colin was the genial chairman of the local fire authority, Councillor John Robinson, who also took the opportunity to lament the fact that he hadn’t won the raffle prize of an overnight stay for two at the hotel.

“It would have been nice to stay here in a bed, rather than a cot,” said John, explaining that both he and his wife, Maxine, had been born at Hardwick Hall in the days when it was a maternity hospital.

Over a chat in the bar afterwards, it emerged that the Hardwick connection runs even deeper for the Robinsons. They spent their wedding night in the hotel but I wasn’t quite all they’d hoped for.

It coincided with Kevin Keegan signing for Newcastle in 1982. Keegan had put pen to paper at Hardwick Hall and the ensuing party to mark the capture of the popular England captain continued into the small hours.

“There was a right racket going on downstairs, which isn’t what you really want on your wedding night,” recalled John.

Without going into too much detail, let’s just say it proved to be something of a distraction.

So wouldn’t it be nice in Valentine’s week if Hardwick Hall read this and helped the fire authority chairman reignite the flame of romance after all these years?

IT seems that Stephen Hill is also struggling to get over a bitter disappointment going back years.

It came to light when I visited St Anne’s Church of England Primary School last week to present a a story-telling workshop as a literacy ambassador for Darlington Building Society.

I tweeted a picture of the screen showing my presentation in the school’s main hall, and it prompted a response from Stephen, who now works as a designer.

“Can you echo my disappointment that my starfish, which I painstakingly painted on that mural behind the screen has at some point been painted over – Stephen Hill, aged 32 (former pupil).”

I’m sure it was a very good starfish, Stephen, but it’s time to move on.

BIZARRE tweet of the week came from Paul Clark, of Middlesbrough, during a thread about the wonder of “fadgies” – the Teesside name for home-made bread buns.

I joined in by saying that my Auntie Nellie, who lived in Grangetown, was the cook at Smith’s Dock and many a ship was built on the back of sustenance from her fadgies.

Paul’s reply was surreal. “As good as Peter the Fadgie Man who drinks in the Beacon...also known for putting burnt newspaper ash on his head to hide his baldness.”

I may have to try that.

FINALLY, many thanks to Joan Lawrence, mum of missing York chef Claudia, for passing on a little book she unearthed while having a “blitz” at home.

It is a collection of newspaper gems, compiled by Denys Parsons and published 36 years ago.

I thought I’d include a few examples from time to time and the first is from the Hartlepool Mail: “Mrs Maria Thompson was so incensed after her husband had bitten her on the buttocks, she tried to jump on him from a first floor window as he left the house.”

Perhaps not the most appropriate example to choose for Valentine’s week but I’m desperate to know if the relationship survived.