FOR the first time for too long, we popped down to the Studio in Tower Street for a cracking couple of hours recently.
The Sunday lunchtime shows by our local big band Musicians Unlimited always attract a full house appreciating superb entertainment.
Like a lot of the best entertainers, the orchestra probably don’t know how good they really are.
Audiences in Hartlepool and district are pretty savvy, though, and they know top-quality when they see it.
The tingle you get when you hear twenty or so top-notch musicians belting out modern classics is priceless.
Many of the band are old friends, and there is a real old-fashioned family feeling about the outfit.
When we were there, there was even a re-shuffle necessary.
Our great friend, and next door neighbour, Bryn Jones has been a bit under the weather, so ex-schoolmate Gavin Smith moved from his customary trumpet to take over keyboard duties.
Everyone asked about Bryn as a much-loved member, and his fellow musicians were clearly missing his sense of humour as well as his company.
If he’d chosen to, Bryn could have been in the first wave of stand up comedians!
In the days when we used to put the milk bottles out, we’d often spend ages sharing the latest gags on the doorsteps.
Respective wives Enid and Joan would give it an hour and then come looking for us.
In performance, Musicians Unlimited always have a twinkle in the eye and a laugh not far away.
Vocalist Bob Caswell was in fine form as always, and, on at least two occasions, finished in time with the band.
Conductor Mick Donnelly made the Studio audience feel grateful to be living in Hartlepool with his lovely tale of the slow pace of life in Barnard Castle.
I was in hoots of laughter at his tale of popping into a supermarket there for a ten-second visit which was delayed by the two customers in front of him.
One was exchanging life stories with the girl at the checkout, while the second made a long job of buying a single onion.
The punch line was that Miss Dopey on checkout had tried to push it through the automatic price reader before realising that onions don’t have barcodes, but need weighing.
I couldn’t resist telling Mick about a cruise I was on recently near Bermuda – the triangle player disappeared. We were reminiscing too about one of the best BBC radio programmes I had the privilege to present.
We did a three-hour live broadcast from the Studio some years ago which was a feast of great live music and side-splitting humour.
People passing through the area were stopping in lay-bys to hear the end of the programme before they drove out of range.
If you haven’t enjoyed a Sunday pint at the Studio, you’ve missed one of life’s greatest treats.
And we have it for peanuts in Hartlepool every week – warmest thanks ladies and gentlemen of the band.