David Banks: Trust me, I'm a journalist

Journal columnist David Banks makes his case for a role as roving critic of the region's Festive church services

The Playhouse in Alnwick
The Playhouse in Alnwick

On the other hand, I told the posh lady at the Alnwick Playhouse, there are journalists whose work I DO trust.

I had been speaking at a reception for the Friends of the (truly wonderful!) Northumberland Theatre Company and obviously not putting up too convincing a case for the British press, because she was impishly minded to inquire of the Tabloid Colossus before her “whether or not one ought to believe ANYTHING one reads in the newspapers?”

Certainly not everything, I told her in a moment of blinding honesty; to unquestioningly believe, for example, those right-wing commentators who insist that our government knows what it is doing would be, in my view, the political equivalent of believing Luis Suarez to be a vegetarian.

“On the other hand . . .” And this was where I reeled off Banksy’s most trusted: Polly Toynbee’s social commentaries in the Guardian, Bob Fiske’s Middle East polemic in the Independent, Andrew Norfolk’s incredible and brave four-year Times campaign to uncover institutionalised child abuse in Rotherham and beyond. . . and last, but by no means least, The Journal’s very own Secret Diner.

A shadowy figure imbued with taste and an unquenchable appetite for fine living; a fingerpost pointing the way to the best bites to be had, from Bishop Auckland to Berwick. I follow his recommendations slavishly, especially since my beloved Red Lion earned a brief complimentary mention from him a year or two back.

Reader, what I would not give to become the journalistic equivalent of Jimmy Five Bellies, but that role is taken so I have embarked on a campaign for a similar column – one with emphasis on the pious rather than the pies.

The idea was conceived when fellow columnist Bernard Trafford invited Gemma and I to a Carols and Christingle service in Kirknewton Church the Sunday before Christmas. And lo! The Sacred Diner was born.

My mission, should the editor choose to accept it, will be to surreptitiously take communion at every church in the diocese, giving marks out of ten for food (wafers trad or crinkle-cut, fundamentalist or flavoured) and quality of wine (does the vicar know which vine would best suit vespers?). Then there would be marks for ambience (lighting, incense, tinkling bells) and, of course, quality of service. Sounds inviting? Well, it’s the right time of year to get started. Vicars who throw in an amuse-bouche or two (mince pies and mulled wine for afters, say) would get the kind of write-up that would bring slavering worshippers flocking to the pews.

Honestly, I know whereof I speak. After all, you can trust me: I’m a journalist.

KNOW-ALLS: don’t you just hate them, especially when they wind up on your quiz team?

I once deferred to an eminent consultant gynaecologist in allowing him to insist that the ex-lover referred to in the Carly Simon song ‘You’re So Vain’ was Mick Jagger, when everyone KNOWS it was really W****n B****y (£1 in the post gets you the answer, quiz fiends!)

Anyway, call it bad luck or bad grace on my part if you like, but I always end up sitting next to a turkey in the village hall Christmas Quiz

Last British golfer to win the US Open? Justin Rose, said Gemma. “Rubbish!” roars Young Neil. “It was Rory McIlroy! I’m a hundred per cent certain. . .”

The answer? It was, of course, Justin Rose.

The only celebrity we hadn’t named when the time came to hand it the picture page? “I think it’s Jennifer Anniston,” I ventured. “Never in a million years!” yells the Excitable One. “It’s Cheryl Cole or I’m a Ukip voter!”

Hmmm . . . Ms Anniston it was.

Okay, there were one or two questions the lad got right. And one or two I thought I knew but didn’t.

But I should have known better than to give way. A year or two back there appeared in the Red Lion gents an unsubtle piece of graffiti in our pal Stripper’s handwriting which offered ‘Lady has complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica for sale, totally unused. Reason for sale: husband knows everything!’

The telephone number beneath belonged to Young Neil!



David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer