In starting the new year in the way I mean to go on, let me introduce you to the links between the taste sensation of a pastie (or pasty if you prefer), inspiration from the classical Muses in the spoken word, and the Greek writer Homer.
This comes as a follow up to last week’s column when I was telling you that I was privileged to be present during one of those magical episodes when great comedy seems to fall from the sky.
As you will remember, it came on a most unlikely day for comic splendour, when I was compering the Entrepreneurs’ Forum Conference at Wynyard Hall.
This was a full day event, attended by about 250 of the region’s most successful business people, and featuring the best range of inspirational speakers I’ve ever seen.
My task was to glue the day together and, despite dozens of hours of preparation which nobody sees, the best bits come from listening carefully and reacting to what the speakers say on stage.
The keynote speaker, closing the morning session, was George Clarke, originally from Pallion in Sunderland and now with a global reputation as an architect and, these days, as a TV presenter on Channel 4 with programmes like Amazing Spaces and Restoration Man.
He gave a riveting talk on his love of design and how he had worked hard as a youngster to get his career started.
He went off to college to train in architecture and was somewhat deflated when he was given his first task by the lecturer.
The chap sliced a croissant in half and the young George had to spend weeks producing charcoal drawings of the thing – not the kind of start he had in mind for his ambitions to design great buildings.
Presentation complete, and it was time for me to join George on stage to interview him.
Now, we did talk about many areas, including building design and inspiring young people to succeed in life, but it was the croissant which stuck in my head.
All through the day, guests had been tweeting their thoughts on what the speakers were saying and that’s an area of modern life which may be new to you.
Essentially, people have only a couple of dozen words to say what’s on their minds, and, through their phones or computers, it’s instantly all over the world for people to read and make comments.
As well as the real tweets, one came into my head when I told George that nearly 300 residents of Sunderland had asked what on earth a croissant was.
Cue a tweet from Hartlepool, where else, which pointed out that the French breakfast treat is simply an empty pasty. We worked out a story on this which explained that southern business people were coming here, paying 50p for the pasty and then eating the insides before selling the resultant shell as a croissant in London for £2.75.
Where these flights of fancy come from is a genuine mystery and, ending where I started, best explained thousands of years ago by the Greek poet Homer who celebrated the muse behind all of the arts of speech:
“Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course.”
In many years of writing these columns, that must be my classiest ever start to a year – it can’t last.