Friday, November 16, 2018

The Great Escape of Marple

These local posters are the handiwork of my old pal and neighbour Eric Jackson, once of the Manchester Evening News and the creative force behind Statement Artworks.

We have a few 1930s art deco railway posters around the house. It's a style from the golden age of railway advertising, rather than the railways themselves, and Eric has cleverly borrowed from that style.

So many localised artefacts are twee and boosterish, but I love how these tread that thin line between a smidgen of pride and self deprecating northern humour, something very dry and very Eric. Northernticity, as Dave Haslam calls it.

He's been telling me for a while that there was a Marple one in the pipeline. I wondered what local characteristics it could come up with. I think the allusion to the traffic is genius and the typography a great twist. The Offerton poster is great too, drawing a landmark with a gentle overstatement of the place in anyone's heart.

Take a look at Eric's website for one for your area, I love how he's not tried to be in any way tactful for Wilmslow, Alderley and Hale. There's an assumption, I suspect, that there aren't markets in irony to be found in Cheshire's golden triangle.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Heap's Sausages in Greenwich - a delight

I've said before that one of the best ways to experience London is by its cafes. As I found in Holborn, Pimlico and Bethnal Green, they reveal all the deep layers of London life in each one, multiple generations as well as shifting demographics.

Last week I was in Greenwich at a conference, so I skipped the option of the predictable hotel breakfast and went on the hunt for a local cafe. I struck gold with Heap's, a sausage specialist and delightful haven just around the corner. The sausages and bacon were as good as anything I've experienced, rich in flavour and the eggs were cooked to perfection, which is rare.

There were other options available, but nothing that really fitted the old school bill. But this at least had that artisan nod to some firm London traditions.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Here comes the techlash - interviewing Carl Miller author of Death of the Gods, the new global power grab

Carl Miller has travelled the world meeting people at the forefront of digital change - Russian spies in Prague, fake news merchants in Kosovo, hackers in Las Vegas, powerful Silicon Valley titans and the British soldiers training in information warfare. I interviewed him in Manchester last week, above is a link to the raw and uncut recording of the event. Fascinating.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Thank you for the music - the 30 song challenge

So, that's the 30 Day Song Challenge completed. A mad, epic, exploratory, confessional expo. Choosing songs based on the criteria listed above. Broadcast via a group chat on Twitter, curated by a group of old pals from KPMG's Manchester office, I set myself the target of picking something new if one of the others had bagged that song first. It's incredibly cathartic too, makes you cleanse your playlists and explore more from artists others jog your memory on. I've done my top 100 songs list too, if anyone fancies a go at that, it's here.

1. Orange by Richard Lumsden
2. One Last Love Song by The Beautiful South
3. The Sun Rising by The Beloved
4. Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes
5. The Air That I Breathe by The Hollies
6. Voodoo Ray - A Guy Called Gerald
7. Driving Away from Home by It’s Immaterial
8. True Faith by New Order
9. Left to my own devices - Pet Shop Boys
10. A Good Day to Die by Sunhouse (Gavin Clark RIP)
11. Union City Blue by Blondie
12. Yes Sir I Can Boogie by Baccara
13. When You're Young by The Jam
14. Mr Rock n Roll by Amy Macdonald
15. La Vie En Rose by Grace Jones
16. How soon is now? by The Smiths
17. Your Love Alone (is not enough) by the Manic Street Preachers and Nina Persson
18. Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks
19. Wide Open Road by The Triffids
20. This is the Day by The The
21. Stan by Eminem with Dido
22. My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
23. All You Need is Love by The Beatles
24. Northern Skies by I Am Kloot
25. Purple Rain by Prince
26. Annie's Song by John Denver
27. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Dusty Springfield
28. Son of a Preacher Man by Dusty Springfield
29. Waterloo by ABBA
30. Make Your Own Kind of Music by Cass Elliot 

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Black Moss - a storming fictional debut by author David Nolan

I love an author event. I love seeing writers sharing their moment, their pride, their secrets. 

I love an event in my home town, where we can be home in time for the rest of our evening. Strangely, this was the first time I've been to such an event at Marple Library, but where David Nolan has started, I hope there will be more.

For a start, he spoke so well, so powerfully and was so compelling that we not only bought this book but his investigative books on the St Ambrose child abuse scandal. I'd already read the Tony Wilson biog when it came out.

While Black Moss is a fictional story, there is a solid grounding in reality. The background is important, David Nolan was writing a book on the complex and murky world of abuse scandals - particularly kids in care homes and the existence of a dossier into high profile paedos held by former Saddleworth MP Geoffrey Dickens. Dickens was always dismissed as a bit of a buffoon, but the hard truth, we sometimes discover, is stranger than anything we could dream up. The revelations about what was going on in Rochdale, for instance, have been truly shocking.

David's publisher didn't think the book was worth him finishing so paid him a kill fee. He turned that disappointment into an inspiration for a story about an unsolved child murder, committed in plain sight at a time when the news media and the police were obsessed with the Strangeways prison riot of 1990. Using a major event to hide a crime was the root of I Am Pilgrim - Terry Hayes' sprawling espionage thriller, set against the aftermath of 911. This tale is far more locally focused, intensely so, and he uses devices to show the time and place to great effect. They are best when they are subtle - speech and behaviours - rather than what was playing on the radio. The attention to the detail of Manchester and Oldham's changing topography is also highly skilled, while he clearly had some fun settling a few old scores with the depictions of characters from a barely disguised Piccadilly Radio newsroom, or even a Tory MP called "Peter Jeffreys". But the tale is one of isolation and rather sparse emotions - a central character with flaws, a monstrous ego, but also an impatient hunger to right a series of wrongs. The eventual plot twist is ballsy, I'll only say that, but the journey to get there is driven by a writer with a real feel for the pace of a story. An excellent first foray into fiction.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Our story - a year of excuses from Greater Manchester Police

Twelve months ago today, I discovered that one of our sons, along with three of his friends, had been mugged at knifepoint. In an hour-long ordeal, hidden in plain sight of customers and staff at a major 24-hour supermarket, they were robbed by four youths who had half a dozen younger kids for support.

They were stripped of their personal possessions (mobile phones, outer clothing, cash) and then, at knifepoint, taken along the main road, to a cash machine and forced to withdraw the money from their bank accounts.  Our son was first to be sent to the ATM, and told that if he did a runner or told anyone what was happening, they would "cut" his friends and find his mum and brothers and hurt them. One of the youths even openly chatted-up drunk girls in the queue.

Luckily, all four of our lovely young men survived this dreadful ordeal in-tact.  They even laughed at how surreal it had been, but at the same time, shook with fear.  At one point, as they were led into the underpass beneath the M60 motorway, our son truly believed he was going to die, "just like Jimmy Mizen."

Until now, you will not find any mention of this crime on my timeline, on this blog, because I do not ordinarily believe in sharing every single detail of our life with social media.  Our dignity and privacy is far more important to me.  Instead, we decided to trust Greater Manchester Police to find the lads that did this, and for the criminal justice system to do the rest.  We did not want public hangings or life sentences. Justice, that's all. And safer Stockport streets for other beautiful young people enjoying time with their friends on a Friday night.

Twelve months on, the perpetrators of this crime are still at-large.  This, despite the fact that each one of the four youths were identified by name the next day, thanks to a little detective work and the joys of a small-world via Instagram, Snapchat and FB.  One even bragged he was off to the Trafford Centre to spend his ill-gotten gains, and asking if anyone wanted to buy an iPhone 7.

Unbelievable?  You betcha!

I'm tired of how many excuses I have heard from GMP.  I'm tired of how pathetic their attempts to do anything have been.  But I am listening, with interest, to the chief constables of major police forces this week, discuss their need to tackle ever-rising violence and crime on a threat-harm-risk basis and wonder what will happen next.

By the way, we have given up on ever seeing justice for this particular crime.  We no longer harass the police officer for updates.  He tells too many lies. It's embarrassing.  Our son quit college and joined the British Army, despite the risks in that particular career path. He even told us he would be safer in Iraq than in Stockport, and is now receiving initial soldier training. We are so proud of him.

So, Happy Anniversary boys.  All four of you are amazing.  And whatever doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger. Except polio, maybe.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Untypical Rovers and those legions of Leeds fans

That was the anti-Rovers out there today against Leeds. All season we’ve been conceding late goals, denying us points in games that should have been out of sight. Ipswich, Villa, Forest and so very nearly at Stoke. At the end of a second half where we comfortably matched a fluid and attacking Leeds side, we did it again. Same old Rovers, we all thought.

But there were very important differences on display today, some of it not great, some of the passing out of defence was off beam, but when they earn you three points against Leeds, dirty Leeds, with their 10,000 fans, then this is most definitely not a complaint. So here are the untypical Rovers traits.

1. Adam Armstrong terrorising the Leeds defence. He’s threatened to do that all season but today he did it with vengeance. Well deserved for boozed up jewellers guests’ man of the match.

2. Corners. When did we last score from a corner? End of last season at Doncaster, maybe? Even that was an aberration. Our corners are shocking. Reed and Conway landed two crackers onto unmarked heads today. Boom.

3. Bradley Dack was brilliant today without ever actually being Bradley Dack. The odd flick, two sniffer’s chances (and Leeds fans of my vintage will get that) but it was link up play, his persistence, his hard running, his tackling back, all of that for me made him one of our stand out perfomers today.

4. Cynical game play to the death. Again, when did we last waste time and cynically see out a game with such effectiveness? I can’t remember either. I still don’t know what kind of player he is, but Ben Brereton was a nuisance for that last period, so was Craig Conway, both of whom I didn’t wholeheartedly welcome when they came on.

5. A decent referee. I barely noticed the ref today. Despite us getting bookings (deserved) I can’t think of a bad call for either side.

All week, I have been thinking how much I wasn’t looking forward to the unpleasant walk through the 12,000 Leeds fans back to the car as they celebrated their victory over us. I didn’t actually believe we’d win until we actually did. In the end I rather enjoyed it. Instead it was like a hushed parade away from a wake. Shuffling off together.

I love welcoming large crowds to Ewood, I really do. So I dedicate the win to one of the 20,000 Leeds fans for whom I held the door of Leavers before the game and told him, with a smile, that these will be the best pies he’ll enjoy all season. “I know,” he snarled. “We came two year ago, but couldn’t come last year as you’d been relegated. Ha ha ha.”

For you my surly Yorkshire friend, after the game, stuck in traffic to make way for the 25,000 Leeds fans, we played the saddest song ever written on loop. And for once I had a massive smile on my face. Love will tear us apart, indeed.