BILLY'S CONTRACT on being a Poolie



I wish Pools would hurry up and get on a losing streak, as there is nothing to moan about these days. I have always felt the direr the straits that 'Pools were in, the funnier the articles are in Monkey Business. The reverse tends to apply when we are winning on a regular basis, it is as if the gallows humour seems to desert the contributors when we do well. So as I cannot think of anything 'sarky' to write about 'Pools I thought I would turn my attention to the town itself and its identity.

A few weeks back I was driving along the A689 into God's own backyard when I noticed a new sign which reads: Cameron's Welcome to Lion Country. Whatever happened to Monkey country I asked myself? I cannot recall the good folk of Hartlepool hanging a Lion - a lot more difficult than string a chimp up, I dare say.

Just above this sign is another which reads: Welcome to Hartlepool in the Tees Valley.
Since when did Hartlepool become part of the Tees Valley? I don't recall voting for it. As far as I am concerned Hartlepool always was and always will be in County Durham, the Land of the Prince Bishops, and not part of the Middlesbrough-based Cleveland County... Land of  the smog.

I do fear that sometime in the not too distant future there will be created a county called Tees Valley. Sadly I fear that Hartlepool will fall under its control and more worryingly, County Hall / head office call it what you like, will be based in Darlington. Being ruled by Cleveland was bad enough all those years ago, but can you imagine sending you rates bill to Darlo. I think not.

Can anyone tell me where on earth is the Tees Valley anyway? Is it some mythical place like Brigadoon or Narnia. I have looked for it on a map and can't find any trace of it.

Hartlepool itself is certainly not in a valley, and the town is a fair walk from the Tees to boot. If there was such a place as Tees Valley, to my mind it would be plonked somewhere near Cow Green resovoir  the other side of Middleton-in-Teesdale, near High Force (logic tells me that they would need to have a valley to accommodate a reservoir).
" rumours have it that, as part of their continuing fight for independence from West Hartlepool, the Headlanders are amassing weapons of mass destruction"
There is also a 'hoarding'  at the Vic' which reads, or rather states, that Poolies are born not made. I can't quite get my head around that one. I and a few of my mates who stand in the Town End are not by birth Poolies and for three of us, Pools were not the first team of our choice when we were youngsters. So in our cases Poolies are made not born. To add further to the confusion, come the forthcoming closure of the maternity unit at The General Hospital, strictly speaking there will be no such thing as a Poolie, as in future, if not so already, they will all be born at North Tees hospital. Which effectively means that forthcoming generations of 'Poolies, will in fact be Stocktonians. So it will be a definite case of Poolies being made not born. Confused? Well, so am I.

It really gets my hackles going when Hartlepool is referred to as Teesside in the media - the Middlesbrough-based Evening Gazette being among the worst offenders for this obscenity along with Radio Tees (soon to become Radio Tees Valley?), who broadcast before each news bulletin 'Serving listeners in Teesside, North Yorkshire and County Durham.' Needless to say in their eyes Hartlepool would  fall under the Teesside bit. I would much prefer it if they said 'Serving listeners in Teesside, North Yorkshire,  County Durham and HARTLEPOOL. If they did this, Alistair Brownlee excluded, I might listen to this radio station a bit more. Come to think of it, no I wouldn't.

A couple of Sundays back I spent an enjoyable hour or so at a vintage car show at the Marina (it was frightening how many of the exhibits I previously owned).  There after, for the first time in 'Giddy Yonks' I had a wander around the Museum of Hartlepool, after which I boarded The Wingfield Castle. (I did not realise that part of the film The Elephant Man was shot on board this vessel ...think it was the bit where he was looking for his trunk).

From here it was a short jaunt over to the Ancient Borough and a first visit to the restored Heugh gun battery, and though it is in its embryonic stages, it is well worth the £4 admission. Mind, the Battery could be getting a visit from a NATO delegation, as rumours have it that, as part of their continuing fight for independence from West Hartlepool, the Headlanders are amassing weapons of mass destruction. I did note that most of the guns were actually trained on the Marina.

Someone once said to me that if the town has an elected mayor, then the Headland should, at the very least, have a king. I wouldn't disagree with that myself. 

Feeling nostalgic for my old stomping ground, I had a leisurely stroll along the promenade taking in the sea air. It was then it hit me (no, not a brick thrown from Poolpower's bedroom window) that I was experiencing a really enjoyable day in this fantastic town of ours. I swear it was almost like being on holiday. This view was further reinforced when that same week six of my relations came over from the Emerald Isle and spent three days in the town, and with the exception of the early closing times in the pubs, and the fact that they had expected to see 'Pools play Preston (cock up on the fixture list there) they thought Hartlepool (West included) was a wonderful place.

I am  not saying that Hartlepool hasn't got  its faults. When I first moved here from Stockton  in 1965 at the age of eleven, I was beaten up three times in a fortnight by three different gangs from the Headland, so it wasn't exactly love at first sight for me. But to my mind, shopping experiences excluded, Hartlepool has far more to offer and is far nicer than many other towns I have visited, and it stands head and shoulders above any of those within the so called Tees Valley area. I firmly believe that Hartlepool has a unique identity that no other town in the area possesses. I don't know if this is because we have a strong history or the fact that we are out on a limb geographically with our backs to the sea, or the fact that we hung a monkey and saved the country from invasion, but there is something very special about Hartlepool.

I have yet to hear of any one from Stockton/Boro/Billingham say that they are proud to hail from these towns in the same manner someone from Hartlepool would.

 I might not have been born in Hartlepool but I am proud to be a Poolie.