Life-long learning is a wonderful thing. So Monitor leapt joyously out of bed at 6.10am one day last week to watch episode 12 in the BBC2 series running alongside the Open University's social science foundation course. And who was the bearded man spouting forth on regional policy in the midst of a windswept landscape? Could it be? Yes, despite the passage of nearly a decade, and the facial hair, clearly recognisable is the face and voice of a trade union studies information co-ordinator by the name of... Alan Milburn.

Ever the one for the felicitous phrase, our not-yet health minister was warning that the North East had become a 'screwdriver assembly plant' for the world - putting together products innovated, researched, developed and controlled from elsewhere. The problem, he said, was the region's 'low representation of decision makers'. Wonder whether the member for Darlington still shares that concern with local MPs, like Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool), Tony Blair (Sedgefield), Mo Mowlam (Redcar), Stephen Byers (North Tyneside), Nick Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East and Wallsend)...

Surely grander concerns occupy the minds of the upper house - such as the search for a title for former community health councils boss Toby Harris. Monitor had been musing for some time on the soon to be ennobled one's resemblance to actor Richard Griffiths, well known for his role as chef and police inspector Henry Crabbe (see left). But the announcement last week that the patients' champion is to join the Metropolitan Police Committee clenches it. Henceforth, he shall be Lord Harris of Pie in the Sky.

Weighty matters are troubling Wolverhampton Health Care trust, too. Just two days after it got a new 80,000 mobile dental unit, the vehicle was stopped by police as it trundled down the M5 - and found to be 600kg (that's several Toby Harrises) over its legal weight limit.

Stourbridge magistrates duly fined the trust 500 - not bad when it could have been 5,000, says business manager Michelle Fowler. 'Perhaps they thought the NHS was short of cash.' She hopes to get the money back from NHS Supplies.

Monitor had the strange sensation of stumbling through a time-warp at the health ministers' recent end-of-term get-together and glass of wine with the press at Richmond House. For there, large as life, was Jerry Hayes. Now Jerry was a Tory MP but never enjoyed ministerial office, being too addicted to backbench mischief. So what was he doing at the heart of New Labour's government machine? Since losing his seat he's deserted politics for the higher calling of journalism, and came along as political editor of Punch. What does he think of the current lot? 'Far too right- wing. Me, I'm Old Labour,' says Jerry, always one to startle and amuse.

Finally, we have become a grandad. Our Dobbo now has a bouncing baby grandson called Alexander Frank. Just thought you'd like to know.