Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Voice of the North: Toon and Country

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Voice of the North: Toon and Country

Article excerpt

Byline: David Banks

THERE'S a bloke I see in the village pub from time to time, usually when he breaks his journey between the big cities of Newcastle and Edinburgh.

To his face his name is Martin, but out of earshot the locals call him Leslie, or Les for short . . . Les Miserables, get it?

Shoulders hunched over the bar staring glumly into his pint, Les rarely has a word for anyone, much less a cheery word. I thought of Les last Monday, a day which science has declared to be the most miserable day of the year. Apparently, in the third week of the first month foul weather, mounting debt, fading Christmas memories, failed resolutions and a lack of motivation conspire to depress us all, even cheerier souls than Leslie.

Take dollops of data concerning your debt, the state of the weather and the fact that there are now 343 shopping days until the next dose of Christmas spirit cheers us all up, mix with alcohol and too many festive leftovers from the freezer and what you have is Misery.

Anyway, last Monday marked the maximum point on the Misery Index. Fittingly, it was the day the missus and me chose to file our tax returns over the internet, a requirement which confirmed my far-from-mellow mood. There was only one thing for it: a cheer-me-up visit to the local. The village pub is the most stimulating form of group therapy: "Hi, I'm David and I'm a recovering depressive with a Hark-the-Herald hangover that only a funny story will dispel." And it worked.

"You think this weather's bad?" moaned old Ramsey, cocking an eye in the direction of the window where horizontal hailstones were peppering our refuge. "Nothing like the winter of '47. We were walking over the tops of telegraph poles that year." Ramsey, it has to be said, often recalls the winter of '47 with a tearful fondness because, as one of the Magpie majority cruelly jibed, "it was the last time Sunderland had a Cup run".

John the landlord topped that tale. Laying his mobile phone on the bar, he solemnly displayed a text message received from BT assuring him that "a telephone connection has been successfully installed (at his new house) without requiring the attendance of an engineer", but reminding him that the cost of providing a phone line with the flick of a switch at the exchange would still be pounds 124. …

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