IN THE week that saw the passing of Keith Waterhouse, founder of the Society for the Abolition of the Aberrant Apostrophe, a letter arrived from Brian Jefferson in Darlington.

(Squire’s Court, Darlington, to be precise.) Brian had been given a flyer from Debenhams store advertising “womens and mens sunglasses”. He wrote to them. It should be women’s and men’s, he said.

Maureen Bunn in customer relations – clearly promoted, Mrs Bunn used to be the baker’s wife – has sent a courteous, if curiously punctuated, reply.

“There are various ways to position the apostrophe, hence women’s sunglasses or womens’ sunglasses, as the word is plural and referring to more than one person.

“As in the case of the block address (Debenhams) that is used in correspondence at the present time without the apostrophe or comma this is the way we present our marketing.”

Brian wonders if they have a point.

They haven’t. As they may say in Debenhams shoe repair department, it’s a lot of cobblers.

GAVIN Hay, also in Darlington, was watching Dragons’ Den when a couple were trying to promote a device to squeeze the last bit out of plastic packaging like toothpaste tubes.

Though he thought it a great idea, he was aghast at the unchallenged slogan “This is what you loose”.

Every which way, he was reading a few evenings later the latest MoD reports on UFOs – “I know, but it was a very quiet night” – and came across a very bright light “hoovering for about half-an-hour in the sky”. Perhaps an alien Mrs Mop, he supposes.

Gavin wants a clean-up, too.

“Never mind the apostrophe campaign, we should Stop the Extra O at once.”

KEITH Waterhouse was from Leeds. JB Priestley, whom Waterhouse admired, was a Bradford lad. To mark the 60th anniversary of its first publication, a new edition of his short essays – “Delight”

– has arrived from Great Northern Books.

The book, says the cover, “captures the moments of wonder and beauty that are found beneath the surface of everyday experience”.

Published tomorrow, Waterstone’s have a complementary volume, Modern Delights. Sue Townsend, one contributor among many, chooses everything from running a thumbnail down the silver paper ridge of a Kit Kat to birdsong in an English wood, from receiving a handwritten letter on good-quality paper to teaching a child to splash in puddles.

In truth there is no greater delight than coming home from a good match on a cold Saturday evening, finding the coal fire ablaze and that Arsenal also have won, being brought soup and a sandwich and, within ten minutes, being blissfully asleep in the chair.

AUSTIN Mitchell, Yorkshire MP and former television presenter, has put his name to Austin Mitchell’s Grand Book of Yorkshire Humour, another Great Northern offering.

Harrogate, it supposes, is the place where people spend money they haven’t got, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.

As that snippet suggests, you could change the accent and call the jokes Geordie, or Scouse, or whatever.

There’s a nice one, though, about the old Tyke who knocks on a terraced house door in Bradford, is greeted by a sobbing woman and asks if Fred’s in.

“Nay,” she says, “’e’s died. Took reet sudden in’t neet. Ahm just waiting for’t undertaker.”

The old bloke says how sorry he is, ponders, concludes that she’s had enough sympathy. “Did ’e say owt about a pot o’ paint?”

IN Birkby church on Sunday, we bump into the Reverend Gordon Johnson, another Yorkshireman, who three years ago published his own little joke book to aid church funds.

Gordon, 81, is a former Church Army evangelist, thoroughly good bloke, and lives in the hamlet of Lovesome Hill, eight houses and a village hall between Darlington and Northallerton.

His favourite joke, he supposed, was the one about the old lady who goes to the GP, sees a much younger doctor than usual, runs out of the surgery in tears and is confronted by the senior partner.

Later, he upbraids his colleague.

“She’s 74, has eight children and ten grandchildren, why on earth did you tell her she was pregnant?”

“Well,” says the younger doc, “has she still got hiccups?”

LAST week’s column was, as John Foster in Langley Park puts it, in “very jovial mood”, too.

John, a dedicated theatre historian, picked up the reference to the Cosy Nook theatre in Newquay where North-East comedian Rudi West had met Lynnie Larkin, his future wife. It would, John supposes, have been 1988.

From 1954-58, the Cosy Nook had five summer seasons of Terry O’Neill – still remembered from the early days of Tyne Tees Television – and in 1968 ran with Gateshead lad Bobby Pattinson, still going strong, in the New Quality Show.

Between 1963-65 the summer star was Frankie Desmond, subsequently to shine for seven summers in “Dazzle” at the Spa Theatre in Scarborough.

His finale, John recalls, was “The Last Lift Home” and he became known as Mr Scarborough. We are back in Yorksheer.

ERIC Gendle in Middlesbrough – which Eric would, rightly, also claim to be in the North Riding – asks what can be worse than the phrase “head up” – “as in Inspector Bloggs is heading up the investigation”.

What’s wrong, he asks, with “heading”?

What would be just as bad is “free up” – every bit as prevalent, equally wasteful – though “heads-up” now seems also to be a managementspeak noun. It may, just may, mean a summary.

Though technologically peerless, the Echo’s electronic archive appears, happily, to be of the old school.

Invited to ascertain how many times the terms “head up” and “free up”

have appeared in these pages over the past 20 years, it groans, breaks into a cybersweat and takes to its bed.

Hospital beds, come to think, appear to have been more greatly “freed up” than almost anything.

The lesson, it’s to be hoped, will be heeded. As true grammarians would suppose, up with this we will not put.

AGAIN combining the grammatical and the medical, will someone please explain the present epidemic of “preexisting conditions”? Surely something either exists or it doesn’t?

…and finally back to Yorkshire and to Dr John Sentamu, recently named Yorkshireman of the year. Dr Sentamu, it transpires, is a Twitter (or Twitterer, or whatever the proper noun may be).

His Tweets – the young will understand – were much lauded in a piece in Sunday’s Observer, though Victoria Coren felt obliged to point out that Lily Allen’s site had 1,347,657 followers and the Archbishop of York’s just 1,490.

An appeal to double his “virtual congregation” by the end of Sunday appears partly to have fallen on stony ground, though by Monday teatime it had risen to 1,848.

What particularly appealed to Ms Coren was Dr Sentamu’s entry for St George’s Day, a gathering at Bishopthorpe Palace in York for a local primary school – “a game of rounders, gingerbread men and a chat about our patron saint”.

Just a fortnight ago, the column revealed that Thomas the Baker in Darlington – as doubtless elsewhere in the region – no longer advertises gingerbread men but gingerbread persons, four for £1.

For his tacit rejection of such politically correct absurdity, Dr Sentamu is again to be praised.

If it’s good enough for the Archbishop of York, it should be good enough for doubting Thomas’s.