A man of many interests, George Reynolds finds himself with a finger in yet another pie

AFTER night clubs and football clubs, worktops and wondrous wheezes, George Reynolds is now getting his teeth into pork dips, saveloy sandwiches and other, associated, edibles. They’re not yet doing porridge.

The business will be called Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pies.

The first opened in Durham last week, shops following in Crook and Houghton-le-Spring before the month’s out. He anticipates 20 between Tyne and Tees.

“It won’t be as big as Direct Worktops,” he concedes, “but I’d expect an annual turnover of £6m.”

The amended rhyme on the front of the counter supposes that Georgie Porgie kissed the girls and made them laugh, an interesting concept given GR’s chequered love life.

Unlike others of his felonious fraternity – we reminisce about the late Ronnie “Rubberbones” Heslop, the first man to escape from Durham Jail – it may never be said that Georgie Porgie ran away. He liked prison too much.

“I’d no trouble with it at all,” he insists.

“The last one, at Wetherby, was wonderful. I knew someone who asked for an extra two weeks so that he could finish what he was on with.

I had a great time there, made some very good friends both among the inmates and the warders. Prison was fine.”

Again free to follow his fertile and irrepressible imagination, he denies that at 76 he might be expected to slow down a bit, though his pub vending machine business – they dispensed perfume and aphrodisiacs and things – is failing to coin it.

“The pub business is dying, they’re closing all the time. People are buying six-packs and drinking at home, you can’t blame them.”

The hair grips, like the hair, have gone. The gum remains; George chews on.

“What would I do if I retired? I’d just become a couch vegetable. I have Shelley, my business partner in Georgie Porgie, a real Cinderella story. She’s the energy and I’m the brains.

“When I’m shoving up the daffs this will be buzzing. They’ll give her a little wave.”

The Northern Echo: George Reynolds

THE first venture is in the Cheveley Park shopping centre at Belmont – or possibly Broomside – on Durham’s outskirts.

Perhaps principally pudding and pies, it also sells baubles, bangles and beads – “Everything in the case £5” – and eyelash adhesive, carving knives and cowboy hats, an’ all.

Everyone diversifies, says George.

“You can buy slippers in a fruit shop now.”

There are two armchairs, from one of which George holds court. He remains what folk call a big lad, doesn’t get away – the term may be supposed figurative – as well as he once did, but retains a capacity for 15-hours-a-day hard work, out-of-thebox thinking and what in other spheres might be called Reynolds masterpieces.

“The only difference between me and all the PLCs and white collars is that I came around the back to rob you with a crowbar,” he says.

“They rob you through the front door with a letter.”

Probably he needs no introduction: Sunderland lad originally, formative years in Shildon, reformative years with Her Majesty, made millions from worktops, owned a yacht and a helicopter, threw an awful lot of money at Darlington FC, built the Reynolds Arena, miscalculated.

Mucked up? He’s uncommonly reluctant to discuss the Quakers, possibly because everyone’s heard it all before. Suffice that he still supposes his model could have worked. “We had five or six times the crowds they’re getting now, and now they’re in the Northern League.”

On the grounds that you speak as you find, it should also be said that we are old friends, and that it remains that way. Other friends from a colourful career are listed, rather unexpectedly, on his I-poddy thing. “I’ve just about got the hang of it,” he says. “The only trouble is I still can’t spell.”

There’s Donald Trump and Uri Geller – “Uri still rings me once a fortnight” – someone from The Jam and Cynthia Payne, the lady with the Luncheon Vouchers with whom his relationship was mutually affectionate but strictly non-professional.

Last week, he also listed someone called Tony the Roman, a well known Durham character – aka Maximus, Decimus Maridus, formerly of Britain’s Got Talent – who in full Ninth Legion fig had looked in during the shop’s first week.

While we’re chatting, he turns up again but in jeans and T-shirt.

George fails to recognise him.

“Sorry,” he says, “I didn’t know you without your toga.”

THE shops will sell old-fashioned food – “60s food,” says George – at fairly old-fashioned prices. A takeaway meal, of pie and peas, rice pudding and a coffee perhaps, will be £2.

Anyone just wanting tea or coffee gets it free. George rationalises: “Tea’s dearer than petrol. It’s probably about £1.25 a cup and I can make it for 8p, 10p at most, but that works out at £73 a gallon.”

The moral may be better than the mathematics. “People will tell their mates, it’s free advertising, I’ll make a profit. Trouble is, you can’t run a car on tea.”

He met Shelley, whose husband Hassan is a professional cage fighter, when she was running a bouncy castle business. “The work we’ve done in these past 12 weeks setting everything up has been tremendous, sometimes 15 hours a day,” she says.

“George is the first person in my life who’s believed in me. It’s not going to stop here, we’re going to the top. I’ve got the best teacher I could ever had. I’ve seen a lot, but I’ve never seen anyone like George. I just want to thank him.”

The first week was buoyant, they reckon, folk flooding in during the storms. They included, he says, the deputy governor and nine officers from one of the city’s prisons. “I think they’re trying to keep an eye on me.”

Monday morning’s quiet, George unperturbed. “People told me that the worktops business wouldn’t last six months and I was turning over £51m a year. What does that tell you?

“All you have is pizza places, Chinese places, Indian places. This is different, the only thing of its kind in Britain. I don’t think you ever lose the Midas touch.”

The column enjoys a pork dip with pease pudding, a bowl of rice pudding and a coffee. £2? As they may never have said of the incorrigible Mr Reynolds, you really can’t go wrong.