Sting, where is thy death?

PLUS: Vaccine fun and games, Superintendent Ted Hastings, Reiver and much much more!

Tucked away in a corner of one of today’s review sections is a paragraph about Sting’s new album. It’s called Duets and gets three rather salutary stars.

Reading between the six lines, the inference is that the album is for Sting completists only.

As a Sting completist, I’ll probably give it a listen. I thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread when he was frontman with the Police, and my devotion remained undimmed even after the band split and, lute in hand, he began the long and often painful journey up his own backside, where he remained for the best part of 30 years.

Thankfully in recent years he has started to take himself less seriously. Indeed his most recent albums and musicals have had all the hallmarks of being written by an elderly man who no longer gives a toss what anyone thinks.

(In many ways they are the musical equivalent of the Jenny Joseph poem that goes: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple”.)

And let us not forget that Sting is an elderly man. This year he turns 70!  Which brings me to my primary concern: while he remains extremely well preserved for his age, the name “Sting” has surely become untenable, not to mention embarrassing in a “dad dancing” sort of way.

His real name is Gordon, of course. He adopted “Sting” 50 years ago, when he was bassist with a short-lived Tyneside band called the Phoenix Jazzmen — and when he hit the big time it stuck, because Gordon is no name for an international rock star.

But Sting is no name for a pensioner. Especially a Geordie pensioner.

Gordon is — which is why the time has come for him to bite the bullet and ditch the nickname. No-one will think any the worse of him. Indeed it may result in one last flowering of his career, especially if he takes to the road on a tour of working men’s clubs.  

And if nothing else it will prove that it can be done. Bono and the The Edge out of U2 are only 60 and 59 respectively, but in 10 years they will be grateful to follow Sting’s lead and revert to Paul and David, as nature intended.


A great new online game for the over-50s was launched this week. It’s called “Book A Vaccine” and it has become all the rage.

To play, you have to log on to the NHS Covid Vaccine website, enter your details, and then try and book a date, time and a venue for your jab. You have to be quick, mind! At any one time as many as 20,000 over-50s in your postcode area are trying to nab the same prime slot as you.

The game is perfectly suited to those who misspent their youth in amusement arcades, playing Galaxians or Track & Field.  Nimble fingers and sharp reflexes all but guarantee you’ll get your vaccine within a 10-mile radius of your home.

However if you’re too slow, or you press the wrong button, you can end up having to drive up to 100 miles for an 8.45am appointment in a town you’ve never heard of. Forget to book your second jab at the same time, it’s game over and you have to start again.

I used to be quite good at Space Invaders, but that was clearly a long time ago. My nearest clinic is in Carlisle, but the best I could get on “Book A Vaccine” was Grasmere pharmacy a week on Sunday.

Still, it’ll be a nice day out as long as it doesn’t rain.


Are you looking forward to the new series of Line of Duty, which starts on Sunday night?

Do you think that affable Superintendent Ted Hastings is “H”? Or, like his AC-12 colleague DI Kate Fleming, do you think he is “Haitch”?

Throughout the series, as in real life, the way Kate says this particular letter has been a source of intense irritation for me. Call me a pedant but “Haitch” is up there with “mischievious” and “lacksadaisical” in the list of verbal tics which set my teeth on edge.  

I mean, if the police can’t get their basic pronounciation right then what hope is there for the rest of us?


Her days as supreme leader of Scotland may be numbered, but I won’t hear a word against Nicola Sturgeon after her decision to lift restrictions and re-open the church hall in Gretna on April 4, thereby allowing my band Reiver to resume rehearsals after three months’ enforced hiatus.

Even so, it may be cutting it fine. More than a year since we were founded in lockdown, it looks like we’ve finally got a gig. Next step: get some songs.

Undercooked or not, the farmer’s market at Dumfries on May 8 is the place to be if you want to see North Cumbria and South-West Scotland’s premier five-piece covers band in action.

Will Nicola still be in power then? If not, then her fall will have been spectacular.

Then again fate has a way of dealing with even the most impregnable leaders.

Take John Magufuli, president of Tanzania since 2015. A fervent Covid-19 sceptic who believed prayer was more effective than vaccines, he had just secured another uncontested five years in power when he died this week aged 61, most probably of Covid-19.


As someone who attempts to earn a crust from writing, I’ve always fully subscribed to Gore Vidal’s maxim: “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.”

The same does not apply to little sisters, however. This week Lucie Brownlee won a prestigious nationwide sit-com writing competition and for now I could not be prouder. The recognition is more than well deserved, and she is a star in the making.

(This fraternal goodwill will quickly wear off, of course, and when it does I’ll be suing for my share of the intellectual property rights along with the rest of the family.)