The column goes along to the World Jarping Championship where cracking heads is not only allowed but also a must.

SO that everything may not be supposed to be in one basket, the code of conduct of the World Egg Jarping Association (WEJA) is divided into two distinct sections: administrative rules and competition rules. There are 23 altogether.

The first group insists that the eggs are boiled together on the evening before the end-to-end encounter, that there will be no ringers – egg plants, as it were – and that the entries must be stamped.

“We used to use one of those things that pubs had when there was twopence back on the bottle. Unfortunately we lost it,” says Roy Simpson, retired ICI executive and WEJA chairman. They just number them now.

There’s also a stipulation that each contestant will get a free egg supper – that is to say, the chance to eat his entry – and that the hosts will provide salt and pepper. The former is for rubbing into the wounds.

The second section covers both holding and jarping, insists that contestants keep both feet on the ground and that on no account is there to be tampering.

“Tampering includes dipping or immersing eggs in beer, brushing with nail varnish, smearing with hair cream, warming on the radiator or any act deemed to enhance the strength of the egg,” says Roy.

He recalls some hugger-mugger bugger caught craftily administering nail polish after the first round.

Fingered, they were instantly expelled.

Jarping, as even embryonic readers may by now have deduced, is the ancient North-East pastime – always at Easter – of knocking the heads of two hard boiled eggs together in order to ascertain which is closer to its shell-by date. The world championship is in its 26th year, Mr Simpson anxious to protect the global image. There was once a chap from South Africa, he says, and no matter that he was stopping at their house.

On Monday evening there’s an entrant from Easington: It may not be quite as far as South Africa, but it’s getting on three miles away.

Once, too, he got on the Richard and Judy Show, cracking on with Ian Wright and Meatloaf, the singer.

Meatloaf did his head in, and not just with a standard egg.

“We just thought that everything at Easter was being aimed at the kids and it was time we did something for the grown-ups,” explains Roy. “It’s a daft little tradition, it does no one any harm and it raises a few bob for charity.”

As always it’s at Peterlee Cricket Club, breathlessly renamed the Helford Road Sports and Community Club, clearly what the once-new town defines as adult entertainment.

The column is in attendance for the first time in nine years. Just for the crack, of course.

THE trays of eggs are locked in the cellar overnight, carefully placed at 8.30pm in the middle of the concert room floor. Like the Falkland Islands, they have an exclusion zone.

“They’re all boiled, accredited and looked at,” the chairman announces.

Initially the entrance fee was 20p, then 50p and now £1 to reflect the £75 top prize donated by Peterlee Lions Club. (It’s probably a little Lions Club.) One chap’s never entered the point-to-point since it went up from 20p. They say he’s as tight as a fish’s – well they say he’s tight, anyway.

Laura Stevenson, the 27-year-old defending champion, somewhat surprisingly insists that it’s all luck. “It was my first time. I think it was just picking the right egg,” she says, self-effacingly.

Jumping Jack Smedley, twice a world champion, echoes her views but still opts for a holding strategy.

“If you don’t hold it tight, you’re knackered,” he says.

Brian Sandham, originally from Middlesex, is a bit taken aback to find a gentleman of the press in attendance.

“Do you do serious journalism as well?” he asks.

What, I reply, do you suppose that this is?

MEN and women compete on equal – almost equal – terms.

One lady wears a top which invites the attention elsewhere.

“She’s trying to distract you,” Roy warns her male opponent.

The tossed coin winner has the option of holding or jarping. Most hold, though there’s precious little tenable to support the theory. Nor have the eggheads been able to explain why it is that when irresistible force meets immoveable object, only one head is done in.

“It’s to do with the way you hold it, it exerts forces,” says the chairman, and there’s a technical term for it, too. It’s what’s called cobblers.

Readers with a knowledge of eggy aerodynamics may know better.

About 30 have opted to go to work on an egg, necessitating a preliminary round of 12 contestants.

There’s Stacker Strange, Happy Tom, Bingo Jack. “I hope we’ve got this right,” says Roy. “We’ll know we haven’t if there are three in the final.”

The champ is dunshed at the first.

Jumping Jack exits in round two, as does the chairman’s son, Mark, Hartlepool United’s press officer.

They, in turn, had been dunshed a little earlier.

Roy’s getting into overdrive, like Jim Bowen with a gas ring up his stainless steel bottom. “No gouging, no spitting, no runs up and no wild swings,” he insists. Were he to announce that there’s nothing in this game for three in a bed none would particularly be surprised.

A crack’s hairline, adjudication needed. Roy inspects magisterially before announcing his verdict. He’s a Peterlee JP, too.

Like the eggs themselves, tension’s coming gently to the boil – gripping, it might almost be said. “There was no need for that,” says a lady contestant, cheerfully, after her egg goes pear-shaped.

It’s finally won by 70-year-old Ann Watson, herself a first-time entrant though she’d once won the Peterlee gardens competition. In earlier rounds she’d opted both to jarp and to hold.

Her trophy, mounted, is a suitably golden egg. “I’ve never jarped since I was a little girl,” she says. “It’s been even more exciting than bingo.”

Roy Simpson JP, delighted that they’ve raised £100 for Macmillan Nurses, is already planning the 27th.

“You’ll run out of puns before we run out of eggs,” he says and doubtless it is true. Ova and out.

Another good egg...

LARRY Mason was the other finalist. Could it have been THE Larry Mason who 50 years ago entertained the region as a resident singer on the innovative and affectionately remembered One O’clock Show? It could.

Larry’s now 77, a former Horden miner who sang at the Big Club in the village and for eight years was resident singer at The Rink, behind Hartlepool United football ground. “I just used to love the big bands,” he recalls.

The One O’Clock show went out live on Tyne Tees Television, five days a week for five years. “It was brilliant, such talented people to work with,” says Larry. These days he only sings in the bath. “I still think I can hold a tune, but there’s a bit smaller audience, I’m afraid.”

Small world, an email also arrived this week from Barbara Law, another former lunchtime resident at Tyne Tees. Barbara’s long in Tenerife and still singing professionally – but more of the Law lady next week.

The great pacemaker

ARTHUR Rodgers, a man in love with cycling, has finally reached the end of the road. He was 97.

As charming as he was generous, Arthur joined the Cyclists Touring Club (CTC) in 1929, rode from Land’s End to John o’ Groats when 68 – picking up his pension at both ends – and was still in top gear at 90.

We’d encountered him a couple of times at the CTC’s annual church service at Coxwold in North Yorkshire, that at which the kingdom of God was once compared to the cyclists’ café at Gargrave and where someone once told the only known joke about a vicar’s bike. Since it also involved the seventh commandment – or, specifically, a breach of it – it couldn’t possible be repeated here.

Arthur was born in what was then West Hartlepool and, though only three-and-a-half at the time, vividly remembered the morning of the Bombardment – December 16, 1914.

“It was near Christmas,” he said. “There was a lady running away with a cat under one arm and a Christmas cake under the other.” It was the first direct attack on the British mainland during the Great War, and inflicted the first service casualties.

“We were having our breakfast and wondered what all the noise was about,” Arthur recalled. “There were all sorts of rumours, like the Germans had landed and we were being overrun, as the Belgians had been.”

He moved to Northallerton, was an RAF flight sergeant in the Second World War, became a shopkeeper, technical college lecturer and enthusiastic supporter of the Royal Air Force Association, among other charities.

Wheels within wheels, his home was full of cycling memories – 220 miles in 12 hours in 1937, Yarm to York and back in four hours 20 minutes, Cycling magazine’s best all-rounder, also in 1937.

Arthur also remembered trips to Aysgarth youth hostel, where the warden (it was said) had taught his dog to play dominoes. The dog was called Gyp, said Arthur, and he beat it.

He and his wife Peggy hadn’t had a car since 1986, when the Zephyr blew up. “The good Lord gave me a good battery and two good pistons,” said Arthur. “Why waste money on petrol?”

By 1993 he was still cycling 100 miles a week – “If it’s less than ten miles I don’t even put it in my diary; going to the shops doesn’t count” – fixed wheel in town, three-speed Sturmey Archer on the open road. Though he finally slowed down in his 90s – heart pacemaker, replacement hip – he still kept fit. “My father lived to be 92, so I feel I’d be letting the side down if I didn’t reach 90,” he said. “Sometimes I think I’ll finish where I started, trying to get my balance on a tricycle.” Arthur’s funeral is on Friday, April 24 at 2pm at All Saints church, Northallerton.

A CYCLIST himself, though better known as a walker, the indefatigable W R Mitchell leads a walk across Ribblehead Viaduct in July to mark the publication of his book – Thunder in the Mountains – on that wondrous structure.

A former editor of the Dalesman, Bill’s said to be “in his 80s”. The number of his books may be no easier to tell, but is approximately 200. With the column’s record on heights, and bridges in particular, we will not be joining the party – but there’ll be much more on book, and author, in due season.

THE Reverend David Youngson, a remarkable man about whom we wrote in January last year, has been honoured by St Dunstan’s, the charity which helps blind ex-service personnel. Formerly a vicar in Stockton and on the Owton Manor estate in Hartlepool, David was himself registered blind 20 years ago. Now in Billingham, he’d also had a spell as a layman at St John’s in Shildon. “There was something spiritual about Shildon that I’d never encountered anywhere else. Just something special about it,” he once said.

With the help of his wife, a PA and a guide dog called Ernie (about whom he has many times heard the line about the fastest guide dog in the west) he continues to write and research, mainly on forces’ chaplaincy.

He’s also researching the First World War alumni of Ushaw College, the Roman Catholic seminary near Durham. “The problem is that a lot of them changed their names to saints’ names, then had to change back when they enlisted. It can be very confusing.”

The St Dunstan’s “Service in the community” award is for 28 years of producing, copying and distribution a monthly tape/CD for the visually impaired which goes to 300 people. David, 70, received it – and a £50 cheque – at a ceremony in Sheffield. Ernie was left guarding the house.

ON March 12 we reported an imminent threat to Tow Law WMC, the improbable place high up on the A68 where the English folk club revival is said to have had its birth after Ewan McColl and Bert Lloyd – later to become legendary – were discovered singing there in the 1950s. Sadly, Tow Law has now become the latest workmen’s club finally to put up the shutters – a sad note upon which to end.