I’VE told you before that great comics were an important part of my growing up and learning to read quickly.
By comics, of course, I mean classics like the old Beano and Dandy, rather than as in stand-up comics.
As well as those fine publications, my reading range soon grew to include adventure comics for boys like Wizard and the Hotspur.
As my era in the early Fifties was not long after the end of the Second World War, tales of derring do against our recent enemies dominated many stories.
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I was always more fascinated by the more subtle tales, often involving espionage and the ways in which enemy spies were caught.
One of the favourite story themes, largely based on truth, was the fact that many Germanic people have trouble pronouncing our letter “w”.
Apparently, a suspected spy was given a list of football results to read, and it always included Wolverhampton Wanderers.
When the baddy pronounced it Volverhampton Vanderers, the game was up. “For you Fritz, the war is over”, came the triumphant response.
The speech flaw obviously extends, in reverse, to Denmark too.
When we had visitors from Hartlepool’s twin Round Table club, Hirtshals, on the northern tip of Denmark, we always smiled when we heard friends speak of the Wikings.
All this is on my mind because of a fine comedy moment which is played out several times a day at Hartlepool Railway Station.
Even if you are not catching a train, it’s worth a special visit to hear the chap on the recorded announcement who lists the stations called at on the way to Hexham.
He does pretty well with places like Seaham and Sunderland, but all goes wrong when he gets to Prudhoe.
It comes out as Prood Hoe – unbelievably posh.
The late, great Bobby Thompson had it right when he pointed out that residents of the North-East had got names like Prudhoe and Tudhoe down to one syllable.
One of his favourite gags involved the southern toff travelling through the region in his big car and stopping to ask directions.
“I say, old chap” he said, addressing a retired miner sitting on a bench, “can you tell me the way to Prood Hoe?”
“I divvent kna”, came the reply, “is it anywhere near Pruh?”
It works best said out loud!
It often worked in tandem with another great line from the Little Waster which had a similar chap seeking help.
“I say, John” said the posh chap, “could you tell me the way to New Carstle?”
“How d’ya know my name was John” was the response.
“Oh, I just guessed” was the answer.
“Well guess your way to Newcassel,” replied the Geordie.
I have a lovely image of Bobby Thompson standing in our railway station and hearing the announcement I heard and falling over laughing at the gentrification of Prudhoe.
Looking on the bright side, it gives us a great story line in the unlikely event of being threatened with an invasion of posh people.
We could just give a suspected spy a list of local place names to read out loud.
As soon as he got to Prudhoe or Tudhoe, he’d be nicked.