Alan Wright - Poolies everywhere!

IN the unlikely event of my ever managing a moon landing, I’m going to try an experiment.

I’ll pop open my space helmet for a moment and shout “Is there anyone here from Hartlepool?”

The answer will probably be a hearty “yes”.

In many years of travelling, I seemed to have bumped into fellow Hartlepudlians so often that it shouldn’t really be a surprise any more.

Last week, though, took the biscuit – twice.

Sorry to annoy you again, but I’ve just been away for 14 days speaking on a cruise around the Baltic on the P & O ship Arcadia.

If you are a cruise fan then you will know that there are several distinguishing marks of these big ships.

One is that there is something in the sea air which shrinks all your clothes a size or two – or perhaps that’s to do with eating in an excellent restaurant three times a day.

The other memorable part is the huge variety of great entertainers who are on stage in the various theatres and bars every evening.

One entertainer on Arcadia really caught my eye, partly because of his sheer skill and also because of the incredible guitar he was playing.

It’s enormous and has twenty two strings.

It was played by Paul Garthwaite and I just had to have a chat when he’d finished his set.

He’d seen a piece about me in the ship’s daily newspaper which mentioned that I was from the North-East and asked me if I hailed from near the same neck of the woods as him – Hartlepool!

Even more incredible was the fact that, like me, he was born on the Headland and grew up on West View.

He’s a bit younger than me (Paul is 44) and sends his best wishes to old friends in town.

These days, he lives in Harrogate and, as well as his solo playing, also appears as part of the duo Amethyst with his singing partner Katherine.

The two of them are due to be married in York next year and are bound to live in harmony (it’s the way I tell ‘em). His last visit to Hartlepool was to play at The Studio, in Tower Street, a bit back and I hope we can get him back to town soon.

Paul and I were chatting about bumping into fellow North-Easterners while travelling and he had an interesting theory which fits in with something I was saying in this column a few weeks ago.

His theory was that many neighbouring southerners are also travelling together but, unlike us, they never talk to each other.

If meeting Paul wasn’t co-incidence enough, I had another odd experience on the very last day of the cruise.

I was walking through reception when I was approached by a ship’s officer looking immaculate in his white uniform.

Pointing at me and speaking sternly he said, “I want a word with you.”

Trying to think of the last thing I did wrong, I gulped just as he laughed.

It turned out that it was Jamie Collins who I last saw as a member of Hartlepool Round Table about 25 years ago!

These days, he’s one of the hospitality officers with P&O and lives in Spain, and he too wished to be remembered to old friends who are Mail readers.

Having had two weird meetings in one cruise, I’ll let you know what happens on the Moon.