The other day someone put two bombs on board the 9am National Express train from Newcastle to London.
The culprit was an elderly man. He climbed on board with a bulging Ikea carrier bag, and lumbered into the restaurant car to order breakfast. The bag was clearly heavy, and as he wedged it in the gap behind his seat he sighed, “God, those bombs weigh a ton”.
It’s not the sort of conversation you normally overhear in the restaurant car. Usually it’s “Would you like one poached egg or two, dear?”, “How’s the baby coming along?” or, “Do you think Keegan will ever manage to get another striker?”. Through the shocked chorus of cutlery dropping onto plates, Eunice, formidable ruler of the restaurant, didn’t blink an eyelid. “I’m sorry, Sir, what did you say?”
The bomb man looked about seventy, and was perfectly charming – a most unlikely terrorist. “Those bombs weigh a ton. I’ve got two of them in there”.
You and I would have run screaming towards the nearest communication cord. At Heathrow the whole place would be evacuated and the man shot by marksmen. News helicopters would be circling overhead. But Eunice, product of years of training and experience, simply said “I see, sir, and can I ask why?”
“They’re Second World War. I’ve just bought them and I’m going to the Imperial War Museum to have them checked out”. Eunice called her train manager. He too was impeccably polite. “I’m sorry, sir – you really should have had them checked out before you got on board. We’re going to have to ask you to leave.” And so, with wonderful British phlegm, the train discreetly made an unscheduled stop at Newark Northgate and the man got off, bombs dragging along the platform behind him.
I wonder what he did next. I suspect Newark’s taxi drivers would have been a bit nervous of the cargo. Perhaps he tried to hitch a lift down the A1 with an armoured truck. Maybe he’s still there. Sadly, unless the chap reads this blog, we shall never find out. But it certainly livened up the journey for Fahima, our redoubtable production manager, who was sitting in the restaurant car and witnessed the entire drama.
Much to our annoyance, Fahima and I are now spending a considerable part of our week on National Express. I do enjoy my 9am breakfasts with Eunice, and dinner on the way back with Gina and her wonderful chef Caroline. It beats the Ivy any day. But twice, sometime three times a week, is a little too much for the waistline. This is all because, sadly, the North East no longer has its own television studio.
You may have read that we are now in production with a new dating show called Loveland, starring Cilla Black. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we have to shoot it at Elstree studios, because there’s nowhere suitable up here. So, however successful our production company Standing Stone becomes, we’re going to have to be satisfied with planning, producing and editing our shows locally, but spending large amounts on studios, sets, lighting and so on, down South. One North East please note: we’re on the verge of something big, but now need the resources to move forward.