Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy new year from us all!

A very happy New Year to everyone. May the wind be always at your back, may you and your family have a safe, happy and prosperous 2008.

Lots of love,

(l-r) Louis, Rachel, Matt, Joe, Max, Elliot and Michael.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 28, 2007

Half way report - predictions reviewed

At the start of the season I predicted this league table for the end of the season. Here's how I'm doing so far.

Man U (spot on)
Liverpool (nearly)
Chelsea (spot on)
Spurs (overestimated)
Arse (underestimated)
Villa (nearly)
Rovers (nearly)
Everton (underestimated)
Sunderland (overestimated)
Newcastle (spot on)
Reading (spot on)
West Ham (nearly)
Portsmouth (underestimated)
Birmingham (nearly)
Man City (way out)
Bolton (nearly)
Middlesbrough (nearly)
And for the drop...
Derby (spot on)
Fulham (spot on)
Wigan (nearly)

Quite pleased with that. I'll go so far as to say that Man Utd will still win it. Spurs will get into the top eight. Sunderland will stay up and I'm sticking to that bottom 3. Man City will finish 4th.

Rovers steal a point at Man City

Much as I love the company of all our children, and much as I love Christmas, we really enjoyed a grown-up night out last night at the City of Manchester stadium. Lee Grooby's excellent report is here. We went in the posh seat with our friends Juliet and Mark Cort and sat on our hands as Rovers achieved what no other side has managed and took points off City at their ground.

It's strange watching your own team amidst the mutterings and analysis of home fans, especially when we equalised in such controversial circumstances. I think City made Rovers look like mugs in the first half. Our conclusion was that we were stuffed unless Brett Emerton was restored to right back, and that Morten Gamst Pedersen was replaced by Jason Roberts.

So, half right. Zurab was skinned by Petrov four times and paid the price. I think the tactical switch was good insight from Mark Hughes. There have been a fair few Rovers fans slating Benni McCarthy on here, but I think he changed our options in the second half and we always looked threatening. He is a class player and he looked totally committed to the cause. At the end, we could have stolen it completely. Roque Santa Cruz and David Bentley were superb again.

It's amusing to sit here now, watching Sky Sports News, with Mark Hughes smiling and praising the ref and linesman. My view of our manager was that he spends far too much time berating the officials and not enough time communicating with the team. It makes him appear graceless and surly. I wish he wouldn't do it.

And in due respect to the many, many Marple-ites who follow the home team, I think they're the best City side I've ever seen. Yes, even better than the one featured in the programme who battered us 6-0 in 1983. A strongman in midfield - a fit Hamann - could prove all the difference and they could finish in the top 4.

Monday, December 24, 2007

What's the time?

Had an enjoyable afternoon with the f-i-l Eamon Curran discussing the best away trips following our respective teams. His is here. You know mine. The rivallry may be strong, but the memories are the same: Bad pies, good pies, welcome pints, cold terraces, bad coaches, right hammerings and jammy wins. All happy memories.

Eamon reckons the trip to Millwall was scary, though mainly through reputation. A walk through Liverpool was genuinely the most violent with scallies flashing the blades and asking you the time.

And me? Any trip to t'Turf. Like this, here.

Second half of the season starts now

So, we lost 1-0 to Chelsea, but it didn't feel as bad as the 1-0 loss to West Ham somehow. Zurab didn't put a foot wrong at the back. Bentley relished his free role and Santa Cruz was desperately unlucky not to score.

We're off to the Temple of Doom on Thursday to see us try and hold on to our good record there.

The stewards at Rovers had a word with knuckle head and potty mouth two rows behind. They then tried to intimidate me at half time and at the end of the game, fingering me for "grassing on them" to the stewards. Scumbags. I'm determined not to let these racist arseholes spoil my family's enjoyment of the football.

Blair becomes a Catholic

There was a sharp intake of breath at Mass on Sunday when prayers were offered for Tony Blair. Much of the comment about it seems to have wrongly focused on his faith as if it were membership of a political party. In all the time I've been in the Church no-one has ever brought up stem cell research, faith schools or abortion as the central tenets of what we do and how we think. Humility, compassion, forgiveness and love on the other hand are central to every homily and prayer I've heard.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Are you local?

I'd be lying if I said the decision to buy all our food for Christmas in the local was motivated by Marple pride. The supermarket scrum at Tesco in Stockport and Sainsburys at Hazel Grove is too awful to contemplate. So is the traffic in and out of Marple.

I got the wine yesterday from here. The guest stalls at Stockport market were very impressive, especially the one from Lancaster Smokehouse. The Morecambe Bay potted shrimps went down very well.

Borders yielded a nice haul of last minute presents, and a wry chuckle at this. A Christmas card with all copies of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

Today, I was getting the BIG PRESENT for the boys ready while Rachel went into Marple on foot. We're now stocked up and Nick Lindley from Deli Select is once again considerably richer as a result of our cheese and pate craving.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Own goals and DVDs

In an act of penance for this, I've been buying presents. The younger ones got this. The older ones got an own goals and gaffs DVD narrated by some bloke called Bradley.

Joe laughed like a hyena at Ronnie Rosenthal. Louis loved the Rene Higuita crab kick. Max roared at Robbie Keane when he scored at the expense of some hapless keeper.

It cost about twenty quid and it will be ruined in days. I then spotted the Danny Baker VHS in an Oxfam charity shop in Marple (I've been living rough) and do you know what, they like it better. It cost 25p and the machine we play it on will pack up before it has a glitch.

Simon Hawkins, here, reviews the current crop of rubbish in this flooded field.

Fairytale of White City

The BBC has made a U-turn decision not to censor the word "faggott" from the Christmas hit "Fairytale Of New York" by Pogues frontman, Shane MacGowan, and the late singer Kirsty MacColl after MacColl's mother branded the decision to bleep the word out as "pathetic", the Guardian reports. "While we would never condone prejudice of any kind, we know are audiences are smart enough to distinguish between maliciousness and creative freedom," said Radio 1 controller, Andy Parfitt.

Couldn't make it up, world's gone mad, blah blah blah.

Black cloud

Kevin Gallacher on Radio 5 this morning spoke of a black cloud over Blackburn at the moment. Me and Rachel went to last night's latest defeat at home to Young Arsenal. I was baffled and can only communicate in a series of questions.

What has happened to our defence?

Does Morten Gamst Pedersen have a groin injury?

Since when has Stephen Reid been a right back?

If Zurab is going to be playing against Chelsea on Sunday in his first league start, then why was he not introduced last night?

Does Benni McCarthy know where the goal is?

Is David Dunn completely fed up with all his team mates, or just Savage, Perdersen and Mokena?

When playing a team reduced to ten men, why persist in playing David Bentley as a free man when he's only ever been effective on the wing, where he can pull the opposition out wide?

Mokena and Roberts have said they want to leave. Who's next?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Greatest story ever old, la

Maybe it was the book launch we went to. Maybe it was a the great night out we had with our favourite Scouse Marple-ites - Mark and Rachel Oldfield - last night. But we watched the Liverpool Nativity. It was fantastic. Plenty of warmth and spirit. Good use of songs too - plenty of Beatles, Lennon, Harrison, Teardrop, Echo and Wah.

Thought Story of the Blues or Sinful might have made an appearance, but overall it was one of those really magical public expressions of goodness that makes you feel warm on a cold night.

I tell you what, if this is a shape of things to come then this Capital of Culture year is going to be alright.

A day to remember, a night to forget

I was invited to a private dining event on Thursday with a group of 20 blokes from round and about. He was there, these chaps were as well, as were him and him. This bloke kept us amused, not least at the anagram of his name - Him of Claret, which is good for a Burnley fan. It is a tremendous occasion. How I got home is a mystery. How I managed to lock the family out is not. I double bolted the door and they had to call a locksmith while I was asleep inside. Frankly I'm lucky I've not been kipping in the shed this weekend.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lost property at Rose Hill

The temporary gypsy camp at Rose Hill station has moved on. If anyone knows any of the people concerned could they pass on the message that the forgot to take a few things.

- A caravan (bashed)
- Two empty gas canisters
- A mattress (torn)
- A formica chest of drawers (smashed)
- Full bin bags (several, split)
- A rope

The Ancient Greek used to say they had a duty to leave the world more beautiful than they found it. I don't think it applies here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A tale to warm the heart

I get press releases from Manchester University, but none with quite the impact of this one.

A former Kenyan slum child who found University of Manchester prospectus leaflets in a dustbin will finally achieve his dream of gaining a Masters degree tomorrow (13 Dec).

Sammy Gitau discovered the documents inside a discarded cardboard wallet decorated with the University’s name in a well-to-do neighbourhood near his home in Mathare, Nairobi 's oldest slum district.

Sammy read references to his country on a page about a course based at the University's renowned ‘Institute for Development Policy and Management’.

And after a struggle of epic proportions he’ll receive the accolade on Thursday. Aged 13, Sammy became his family’s breadwinner when his father, who brewed illegal alcohol, was killed in a hammer attack.

After he was beaten by angry mobs for thieving he became a drug seller in 1997, hitting rock bottom when he overdosed on cocktail of drugs soon after.

Even after he was accepted on to the course, Sammy was forced to take on the UK immigration service, which after hearing about his limited schooling, refused to believe he was a genuine student.

The ruling was overturned seven months later.

Drawing on his experiences, Sammy established a community resource centre which lobbies for fresh water and an electricity supply, as well as helping young men to come off drugs and find a job.

A group of wives of local and international officials - including the wife of the head of the Kenyan EU delegation Monica Quince - helped Sammy to convert cargo containers into classrooms from which he could teach skills to disenfranchised youngsters, such as carpentry and computing.

And it was another EU official Alex Walford who encouraged Sammy to apply to the University’s School of Environment and Development to take the MSc in the ‘Management and Implementation of Development Projects’.

He said: "After the drugs put me in a coma, I remember hearing hospital staff telling me I was going to die and when you are dying, you make a deal with God.

"You just say, get me out of here and will do anything. I will go back and stop children going through the same kind of life as me.

"This may be the end of the first part of my journey, but it certainly isn’t the end of the road.

"In my field work last in July this year, I was able to share and set some foundations of how best to work effectively with slum communities.

"It is the hope and the trust in the eyes of my people that strengthens and ensures me of great success in future.

"I have big plans for the centre – I hope to expand the project into other areas of Nairobi.

"Who knows, it be may a model which can be emulated across Africa.

"If it wasn’t for my amazing experience and support from my friends at Manchester University and constant support from donations around the world, this dream would never have become a reality."

Sammy’s University programme director, Dr Pete Mann said: "I found it humbling to teach Sammy - it really is a remarkable achievement.

"In class, he was reflective, thoughtful and creative - a very successful student.

"A development project or agency can only benefit from one who has witnessed so much adversity yet brings such intense spirit of endeavour on behalf of others.

"We have only begun to hear from Sammy Gitau."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oh Come All Ye Faithful

I go to Church every Sunday and my faith is very important to me. A surprising number of people seem to think I will be swayed if I were to read a book called The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I haven't been impressed with any of the extracts I read in the papers. Frankly I can't be arsed. I know what I believe and my faith journey has plenty of tests and twists as it is.

I love Christmas and all it represents. So I was therefore amused to note that Nigel Hughes has started to read it and has reviewed it and responded in great spirit. A flavour is here:

I'm not usually very outwardly religious but the infuriating, mean spirited, too-big-for-his-boots, not-quite-as-clever-as-he-thinks-he-is, boffin-type way he scoffs at the average everyday folks who happen to go to church has got me so riled I thought I should do something about it, so I did.

A link is here.

It's even more amusing to read here, that Dawkins describes himself as cultural Christian.

You can learn it all in three days

Peter Wilby in the Media Guardian yesterday found a fantastic quote about a career in journalism from Matt Taibbi, a heir to the throne of Hunter S Thompson.

If you have no real knowledge or skill set and you’re lazy and full of shit but you want to make a decent wage, then journalism’s not a bad career option. The great thing about it is that you don’t need to know anything. I mean this whole notion of journalism school—I can’t believe people actually go to journalism school. You can learn the entire thing in like three days. My advice is instead of going to journalism school, go to school for something concrete like medicine or some kind of science or something and then use the knowledge you get in that field as a wedge to get yourself into journalism.

A link to the full piece is here.

Rose Hill invaded by travellers

I had to do a sharp turn at Rose Hill this morning and head for the usual chaos of Marple station. The station car park at Rose Hill has been taken over by caravans. There didn't like there was anywhere to park, but frankly I wasn't going to leave my car there all day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Potty mouths

It was so frustrating to lose at home to West Ham yesterday. Santa Cruz missed a couple of chances and I have to say Robert Green made a save to savour from our Turkish delight, Tugay.

But what really made the day sour for us was the potty mouth who sits in seat 49, row C. The occasional burst of swearing at a ref is understandable and you kind of live with it. I'd hope they might temper it for the sake of the kids. But calling Carlton Cole of West Ham "f****** black c***" five times, is completely out of order in any circumstances.

When we asked, please, think of the children. We just got a volley of abuse to get off to the family stand as he's been there for 10 years. I suppose that's OK then. Can't make my mind up about what to do next.

Christmas party time

We had our work Christmas do on Friday. It was a great night. After presenting to the staff all the highlights of the year we then took them all to Opus nightclub in the Printworks again. It was a really good night and everyone seemed to have behaved themselves. Though do you honestly think they'd tell me if they hadn't?

The whole 'elf and safety and claim culture mood can cause you to avoid the risks involved in a Christmas do, but we are determined not to ever let that get in the way. Pip pip.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I don't want to change the world

Marple Leaf regular Nick Morrell tells a great tale about a day with Billy Bragg at Lancaster Prison. Nick, an old pal from Lancaster, is now a prison officer after serving in the forces.

Thought you'd be interested in the morning I've had today at work at HMP Lancaster Castle. We're taking part in an initiative that's been started by a certain Billy Bragg that raises money to buy guitars for use by prisoners 'doing time' in HMPs around the country. The Castle is one of the first prisons in the country to have taken part in this so far. Prisons that have received the instruments are then visited by Billy. So there we are this morning, myself, a couple of other officers and about 12 prisoners just sat chatting with Billy and watching him play. He did The Jam, Clash, Bob Marley and a couple of his own, finishing, of course with A New England. A marvellous morning's work!

A link to more information on this is here.

Change for the better

Michael Heseltine was wonderful last night, speaking on his time in Liverpool as a minister in the 1980s and kick starting so much of what is happening in the city now.

Report in today's Daily Post is here.

The book The Mersey: The River That Changed the World is available now from here. An exhibition of Colin McPherson's photographs from the book is now on at Albert Dock.

We actually missed the start as it took us 2 and a half hours to get from Manchester city centre to Albert Dock. Awful weather and awful traffic. The price of a successful city?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Book and exhibition launched tonight by Hezza

Here's the release relating to tonight's launch of the exhibition and book: Mersey: The river that changed the world.

It will be officially opened by Guest of Honour, Michael Heseltine on Thursday 6th December 2007 in the Albert Dock’s Grand Hall. Proceedings will start at 17.30 and continue through to 19.00. Lord Michael Heseltine has a long standing relationship with Liverpool having been Environment Secretary in 1981. Once dubbed Minister for Merseyside, Michael decamped here for 3 weeks following the Toxteth Riots and was then instrumental in amongst other initiatives, forming the Merseyside Development Corporation which, ultimately led to the restoration of the grade 1 listed World Heritage Site we enjoy today.

Mersey: The river that changed the world features superb pictures by acclaimed photographer Colin McPherson with chapters by leading Northwest writers including David Ward, Michael Taylor, Deborah Mulhearn, Peter de Figueiredo and the late Tony Wilson. Joe Edge, Director of the Albert Dock said

“This will be a superb exhibition and one which, I am sure will be extremely popular with both Liverpool natives and our many visitors. We look forward to welcoming Michael back to the Docks and showing off the exciting progress that has been made of late”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Catcher in the rye with stanley knives

I laughed out loud on hearing the news that Awaydays, Kevin Sampson's novel about Tranmere lads in the late 1970s has been made into a film. Some photos and gossip about the shooting of the film are here. Hysterical story in the Liverpool Echo, here.

The whole casual thing is still of interest to me. Neil Tague maintains that the lads who dress at football don't fight, and those that fight don't really dress. The Clone Island look so beloved of throwbacks who like to do both is particularly hideous and goes against a lot of what was innovative and experimental about this wildly misunderstood era of culture and fashion.

I don't go mad for the gear like I did when I was young, but I still like a pair of classic Adidas trainers, a good parka coat and a Lacoste t-shirt. I also tend to like something classic from here, or here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

That Morrissey row

I've stumbled upon the row over Morrissey's comments on immigration. I even went out and bought the NME for the first time in a long while to fully appreciate the context over his comments.

The interviewer, Tim Jonze, started asking about music, etc, but the subject of immigration came up. Bizarrely, he has asked for his name to be removed from the feature.

He says, in a nutshell, that he won't come back to live in England because it is "a terribly negative place". And that this is possibly because "Other countries have held on to their basic identity...England was thrown away..." as a result of uncontrolled immigration.

As if to re-iterate one of Morrissey's points, that this is a subject that dare not speak its name, the paper goes on to draw some fairly harsh conclusions likening him to the BNP, which is absurd.

My view: an out of touch popstar who exists in a rarified world tries to comment on a country he hasn't lived in for far too long (he uses Knightsbridge as an example, for God's sake). A paper which has always sought to occupy a moral high ground hasn't the maturity or the sense to grasp that and has thus defaulted to student-style politics and crude sloganeering.

There's a link here, to more hissy fitting from Morrissey's "people" and a strange legal threat that isn't a threat at all.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Alan Partridge Marple Interview

I've been searching for Marple's feature on BBC News 24 to no avail. But found this. Brilliant.

Sadly it appears to have been removed. I did click on it through YouTube, but I bet it wasn't cleared for copyright.

Anyway - it was very funny.

Where did Shearer win the league?

A real game of two halves at Ewood yesterday. We deserved to win though. Newcastle proved to be pretty fragile at the back. Santa Cruz should have scored early on and spared us a gruelling first half. We had a superb view of Bentley's free kick. As soon as it left his foot we could see where it was going.

And those Geordie fans. I scoff at all this greatest fans in the world stuff. It smacks of self pity and poor excuses. In an era where only one of three teams ever win the league it seems to me that any team's fans are destined to be "long suffering". A big city club is always going to have a big following. We have four other "town" clubs in the Premiership or Championship within a twenty mile radius whose natural fans would never choose to come to Rovers in a way that the average Geordie is a Toon Army fan by birth. Fair play though, in contrast to their silence and booing of their own team they made a lot of noise yesterday.

They've forgotten that Rovers fans have forgiven Alan Shearer now. The signing of his name used to be a taunt. Now it's a reminder that the greatest centre forward of his generation has one medal to his name. Premiership champions 1995.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Merry Marple Christmas

It's the mavellous Marple Christmas Cracker event today. Link here.

We'll be supporting it. See you there.

Friday, November 30, 2007

How do you do?

Welcome to anyone who has clicked through from the How Do website. It's been a laugh doing that weekly guest editor thing for Nick Jaspan. If you don't have a clue what I'm on about, click here.

But be careful not to link to How-Do Dot Com, which is here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fairness, accuracy and the rewards that follow

Me and Neil Tague hot footed it to London yesterday to the RAC on Pall Mall (we're not members). The occasion was the BVCA's media awards. Blow me if we didn't win again. So chuffed to have won for the cover story we did about the collapse of Music Zone, which explored the way private equity backed businesses are at risk from their bankers.

The full list of winners is here.

I'm not going to pretend I'm not bothered, I am SOOO chuffed, but there's a human element to this story that hopefully is winding its way towards a happier conclusion. The MD of the company, Steve Oliver, has now picked himself up and has started a new venture - Music Magpie - which I hope is a success. I'm sure he won't stretch the borrowing this time.

And however pleased I was to have won, the phone call I had from a very choked and emotional Steve Oliver, after I published, saying that reading the piece was difficult for him, but that it was fair, meant more than anything. Journalism can be a rough trade, you can print things that aren't comfortable. You can be lively, colourful, be prone to exaggeration for effect, but always be fair. I worked for editors as good as John McCrone, Scott Howlett, Kate Bulkley, John Flint and Nick Masters who are such good people with good solid values and decency running through them. They all gave me a hard time at one point or another and I'm so grateful they did.

And do you know what? I am also blessed to work with a graphic designer as talented as Damien Wiehl. His cover was one of the best I've ever seen. Anywhere.

Check this out:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

If the kids...

I've been to the University of Central Lancashire today to talk to the MA course in Magazine Journalism. They're a great bunch and I learned a lot about how they're interpreting the world and preparing for careers in journalism. They ask such perceptive questions and produce great ideas. I always encourage them to stay in touch and to bounce ideas off me. They don't believe, but they should ask David Casey and Martin Pilkington, two graduates from this course who work for us now.

Today is Lancashire Day, where we celebrate all that is great about God's own county. I know I technically live in the historic county of Cheshire now, but we're proud to have been born under the red red rose.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Proud of my family

I didn't think there could be much that would make me prouder than having my name read out at a Journalism awards do in the company of my peers. But having my name read out at the Lancaster Milk Kitters Ball as one of the high points of the year takes some beating: "Our chairman Stewart Taylor's son has won an award, just make sure what you say to him, or it might appear in the paper".

That, and Joe Taylor getting "man of the match" for the third time this season for the Marple Athletic Under 9s.

Work is great for me. I love what I do, but Rachel and my boys are my greatest prize of all.

Mersey - the river that changed the world

I have my author's advanced copy of the book I have been working on about the river Mersey.

My pal Walter Menzies had this to say and I don't disagree:

It is a challenge not to break down in hysterical sobbing it is so magnificent. It is dedicated to Tony Wilson for reasons only you and the handful of us who were here at the time of his unforgettable outburst will ever understand.

A link to a story of that outburst is here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Irish eyes are smiling

Had a monster night last night at the Manchester Hilton and feeling the effects today. We went with Pat Loftus and his wife Paula to the annual Irish Abroad dinner. Pat is a great guy and knows how to put a good table together to make quality connections and how to make sure we all have a fun time. Had a great laugh with our other guests - Heejae Chae and his wife who hve moved from New York, Laoise Flanagan and her bloke Oliver and Neil and Tracy Rodford.

We go to a lot of corporate events and charity functions, but this was something special. Everyone was so considerate and generous. The atmosphere was wonderful and the entertainment was awesome - Ireland's top pianist Phil Coulter and a parade of awesome vocalists. Eamonn O'Neal was the host, has to be one of the most genuine blokes in the business. Love him to bits.

Pat bid for a holiday in the auction, Neil also chipped in for a Dubai holiday. I was outbid for Pele print. And Sir Alex Ferguson paid £5k for a Christmas tree adorned with Harold Riley pictures of angels.

A few of Neil's clients at Formation are Rovers players. Without breaching confidences, everything he had to say was good.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Journalism Awards and Greg Dyke

Me and three of the Insider team are off to Leeds tonight for the Northern Journalism Awards. We're shortlisted in five categories - young journalist (David Casey), campaign (Lisa Miles' for our Green issue), team (North West and Yorkshire teams) and business journalist (me). We did well last year (and the year before that, etc) because we had a clear run at the business magazine category. They've scrapped it this year so we're up against the papers, which is tough, because the Yorkshire Post are very good and they do have a bit of a halo about them. The Journal in Newcastle has done well too, especially on the Northern Rock stuff. Neil Tague and Lisa have already bagged a couple of awards this year and would be nice to win some more, but frankly, we've done really well to get this far and I'm very proud of the team for doing so.

I'm also looking forward to hearing Greg Dyke speak. When I covered the TV industry in the 1990s (for this kind of thing) he was terrific to interview. He used to get us down to LWT for briefings and a gossip. An unbelievably good contact to have for a 23 year old reporter. I was appalled that his tenure at the BBC ended the way it did, he was the best director general the BBC ever had.

From Channel M - waste not, want not

This is me on Channel M talking about the Marple bin bag trial

Euro 2008 - no WAGs, no flags - let's go

I cheered when that third Croatian goal went in last night. That is what this dismal team has done to us. The players on the pitch, indeed for that whole Euro 2008 non-qualification campaign, have not been a team the nation could be proud of. That is their fault, not ours. Neither is it the fault of the pitch, the FA structure, the Premiership or Arsenal.

I knew it was a lost cause when the anthems were being sung and, disgracefully, booed. Every Croat sung with the roar of a small nation born from war and bonded by a strong team spirit where every player knew his job. England's shabby collection of overpaid journeymen and spoilt babies were barely able to utter a line. They showed no pride and once the game started it was clear they had been given no clue. Five in midfield is based on keeping the ball and finding the best place to play it. You can only do that if your opponents yield. They didn't, they fought and they passed better and they shot at goal with belief.

I went to the World Cup last year and wished I hadn't gone to see England. And do you know what, without England's appalling supporters and without the unedifying spectacle of the hated WAGs the tournament next year might actually be quite good, and even worth attending.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The idiocy of Scottish football

I really can't stand Scottish football. The kids call Setanta's Scottish football round up - "As if it's important". I pretend to like Rangers, but that's only because I deeply dislike Celtic and their semi-mythological status as defenders of some warped version of history, politics and faith.

"The club was founded to help the poor Irish immigrants to Scotland. They may take a particular view of history, what happened in Ireland, which is different to many other people. So I don't call those pro-terrorist songs" - Jeanette Findlay, chair of the Celtic Shareholders Trust, doing her bhit for bhigotry. (From the Fiver).

I love the fact that the Fiver calls them Queen's Celtic and Pope's O'Rangers. By the way.

There's more coverage of this kind of thing, here. And stuff about new chairman John Reid getting it in the neck here.

Bin laden with secrets

Blimey, I'm quoted in the Stockport Express this morning as being "furious" about the new see through bin bags which are being trialled in Marple. A link to the story is here.

The story makes the point that there may be waste you don't want your neighbours to see.

I first mentioned it on this blog here.

My main problem isn't with recycling. I like doing it, I abhor waste. A positive campaign that encourages people to do something really good for the environment is worth so much more than unleashing another tier of weasels. Any snooping and regulating ends up getting the mild trangressors who are easy to pick on. I will comfortably predict here that this will lead to people being told off, then prosecuted, for leaving a baked bean tin in the waste. Not some scrotes who fly tip, or discard bag loads of McDonalds in Etherow car park.

I'm also slightly annoyed that Stockport Council don't collect plastic bottles. We take ours to the tip, but not everyone else can do that.

There's even more on all of this. If you go to this page, here, you can see the Manchester Evening News version of the same story. And an interview I did on Channel M has also been added to the blog, here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life's shit tapestry

I have been up and down the country in the last two days sampling all life on Britain's railways, I am coming over all Boz. I can laugh now, because I had a very interesting conversation with a philosophy academic from Lancaster University on the leg of the journey from Cardiff to Crewe.

Prior to that I endured a family of scrotes, one of whom told me to "fuck off" when I asked her to turn down her mobile phone, which was playing horrible music.

An ignorant mother with a lovely daughter. Mum grunted at me when I helped her get her bag down.

Then I had two sweaty fat Welsh blokes showing each other porn on their mobiles.

Rachel thinks I hanker after a time when only the rich and educated were allowed to travel on trains. Harsh, but possibly true.

The scarf my father wore

I was reminded at Stockport County on Saturday of one of the best songs sung by football supporters - "the scarf my father wore". It's sung to the tune of Orange anthem "The Sash" so has slightly dodgy overtones, but it is a masterpiece. I recall Cyril Ryder telling me about it at 2am in the morning in Rusholme in 2003, which then caused a row with some Irish women who assumed he was singing the original. Anyway, the full version is here. A sample is here:

It's forever being beautiful,
And the colour's white and blue!
I wore it proudly 'round my neck,
At Chesterfield & Crewe!
My father was a County fan,
Like me grandfather before.
And at Edgeley Park I love to wear,
The scarf me father wore!

Cracking stuff!

Cameron has the momentum

This blog is very non-partisan when it comes to politics. Nevertheless, an eyebrow was casually raised in July at the performance of David Cameron at a business event in Liverpool. A link to it is here.

I was impressed and thought he had the momentum. He seemed to lose it over the summer as Gordon Brown had a bounce. Now, all the new ideas in the news, all the smart observations and the projects that people want to hear are coming from Cameron. His performance at the party conference gave everyone else the chance to see what we did in Liverpool - a class act and a polished performer.

It's proving to be tough going for Brown and he looks doomed. He lacks judgement, lacks courage and has a weak team around him. The people have been looking for a change and he just isn't it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Great day for Marple Ath

We've all been to Stockport County today. Marple Athletic Junior Football Club have been officially awarded with the FA Charter Standard so 180 of us took over the far corner of the family stand and watched a rough tough Hereford United beat County 3-2.

I'm "media officer" for Marple Ath, so this blog is one of a number of outlets we've managed to get this story onto. My pal Ruth Shearn has sponsored Joe's Under 9s team through her company RMS (Ruth's Marple Stars) and she's been plugging us with her usual boundless enthusiasm. Jon Keighren mentioned us on Pure FM. Ath's founder Alan Rainford has been on BBC Radio Manchester and we're hoping for a bit of coverage in the Stockport Express.

I've also finally managed to get the club's website,, up and running. It's still got a few rough edges, but we'll get there.

It's been a great day. The Under 9s teams won 10-0 and 2-0 against spirited Stockport Vikings sides this morning. And I believe the Under 10s did well too.

To complete my Marple sporting tour de force I went to the Marple Cricket Club dinner last night with a great bunch of blokes, Trevor, Mark, Andy, Kevin and Dom, who I've got to know since we moved here. Speaker was Mark Ilott, who was a better after-dinner than he was a fast bowler.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Unwarrantedly in a list

A new website called How-Do has done a list of 100 media people in the North West. I'm not going to pretend I wasn't pleased to have been included in the 41-59 cluster. A link to it is here. There's even a comment from someone called Biz acumen (easy to be so rude when you're anonymous, isn't it?) - who refers to me as "the region's most unwarrantedly arrogant journo". Ace, must be doing something right. Is "unwarrantedly" even a word?

The Marple diet

For the first time in my life I'm on a diet. Not any of these Atkins or F Plan diets, but a more concerted effort to keep on eye on the level of crap I put in my body. That said I've just had fish and chips for tea tonight (Goyt Fish Bar - best in Marple). We have cut out booze during the week. Frankly we feel better for it. I couldn't get through these winter days at work with a fuzzy head and the feeling of lethargy that a a shared bottle of wine can bring.

I've also cut down on tea and coffee, snacks and crisps, pop and sweets. Which has been tough. I've always used the excuse that a little of what you fancy can't hurt, but I'll see if I fancy something healthier like fruit.

I've also had a weigh-in with the lads in the sales team at work. They've got this competition going where the biggest percentage weight loss wins. I can't remember what I weigh, but unless I get more exercise, I'm just arresting a surge.

Back on the train gang

I had such a horrendous commute by car on Monday and Tuesday (I was heading for Preston on Monday, I was just lazy on Tuesday) that I had to try something new today. I got the 07.40 train from Rose Hill, which was fine. Rose Hill is good as it's the first station on the line, you can curl up with a book, the Metro, or listen to music. Marple can be crowded. I have seen people at Romiley fail to get on a train from Marple due to overcrowding.

Just as I was sitting down to my latest book, thinking that I hadn't had a Boz moment, otherwise known as a terrible experience of the human race that leaves one reeling with digust, I paid for my ticket with a £20 note. The notes the guard gave me back had been clasped in his mouth and were soaked with his spit. Yuck.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


It's our first wedding anniversary today. So very happy. Thank you Rachel.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sir Alex Ferguson and his mind games

Preparing to face the enemy at Old Trafford on Sunday is always a daunting experience. I've never seen us win there but we're hoping that the full entourage of me, Rachel and the 5 boys will be some kind of good luck omen. We're going as the guests of Nigel Hughes, one of the best bloggers in the North West in my view, and a very generous chap too.

I went to a lunch at the Midland Hotel today where Sir Alex Ferguson was the guest speaker and the object of 21 years worth of pent up adoration from an audience of middle aged blokes. I kept staring at him and muttering " rest Ronaldo", "try one up front", "don't bother marking Bentley, let him roam". I think it might work.

When he was asked which ex-United players surprised him by going into management he said: "Sparky surprised me, because he was always so quiet." He stopped short of endorsing him as his successor. Players in the world he'd most like to sign? Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho. Not Bentley, or Pedersen, or McCarthy eh? Pah. Mind games.

In praise of...Gyles Brandreth

We had our Dealmakers Awards last night at Manchester Central. Our host was Gyles Brandreth, who did an absolutely superb job. He really entertained the crowd, he was warm, funny, cutting, bitchy and really great to work with. I never thought a presenter would get an ovation at a corporate finance awards do for ending his turn with a poem by Hilaire Belloc. He did. Wonderful.

I had to do the serious bit of the night with a kick off of our pledge to campaign with businesses in the financial world to repeal the stupid decision to phase out taper relief on business assets.

The big winners on the night were PricewaterhouseCoopers. Colin Gillespie, a really nice bloke, won the Dealmaker of the Year Award. For a Manchester United season ticket holder he's advised more than his fair share of scousers - Liverpool FC and Matalan. The sale of John Hargreaves' business was voted Deal of the Year.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cameron's big idea - meat on the bones?

There has been a huge amount of shock and awe coverage about Manchester's broken society. Ian Duncan Smith's report into the divides in Manchester make for provocative reading and listening, here, here and here. I heard some rubbish being spoken on Radio 5 this morning.

Ian Duncan Smith had concluded: "Manchester is one of the greatest cities in the UK and its economic rebirth over the last 15 years in enriching the lives of many of its two million citizens.

"But many others are being left behind. On just about every measure of social breakdown Manchester scores far worse than the national average and other big cities."

I quite like Jonathan Schofield's take on things on Manchester Confidential, here. But he still tries to gloss over the point about social breakdown. Manchester is an example. Not the only one, but an acute one.

He points out quite rightly that the actual Manchester city council area is a small part of "greater Manchester". Still, the core point that places like Moss Side are not enjoying any of the great economic benefits of the city centre is a quick soundbite, yet based on a truism.

The main point about all this, however, is an entree into David Cameron's announcement today about the need for a mutualised education system, a Conservative Co-operative Movement, which he has launched in Manchester today, full speech is here.

It is strange indeed that a Tory leader can attack Labour for leaving bits of the country behind, but there is something exciting in using the energy and skills of private sector management to run public services better. The social business model has turned into a movement the parties are seeking to colonise, yet in many cases they are just charities, or subsidised businesses with plenty of waste and poor outcomes. It's a fashionable bandwagon, but is it one that will stand up to scrutiny?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Namedrops keep falling...

Regular readers of the Marple Leaf will be familiar with the regular pattern of namedropping that goes on here. Today, I have to say, I don't know where to start. Here's a sentence I never thought I'd write: I had dinner with Drew Stokes and Ricky Hatton last night.

At the Society of Editors dinner last night, my table comprised of these people:
  • Sir Christopher Meyer, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission and former ambassador to the USA
  • Ricky Hatton, top boxer
  • Andrew Stokes, chief executive of Marketing Manchester
  • Paddy Harverson, communications secretary to Prince Charles
  • Paul Horrocks, editor, Manchester Evening News
  • Linda Horrocks, editor in chief, Manchester Evening News
  • Harold Riley, artist
  • Ashraf Riley, wife of Harold
  • Angie Robinson, chief executive, Manchester Chamber
Angie, Paul and Linda are good mates anyway, but I really enjoyed everyone's company on the night. Great mix of people and loads of brilliant stories flying about.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Midlands Business Insider columnist in furore

Nigel Hastilow, a columnist for our magazine in the Midlands, has got himself into bother by writing a column for the Wolverhampton Express and Star in which he said people tell him that Enoch Powell was right. He is now no longer the Tory candidate for Halesowen.

His blog, here, with THAT article in full, has some abuse, messages of support and an offer from the BNP for him to stand for them instead. Oh dear.

I don't know Nigel very well, but I think he knew what he was doing. Richard Littlejohn churns this stuff out every week in the Daily Mail, but the new shiny Tories need someone a bit more subtle. Nigel's column didn't pass the test required of public servants.

The most telling piece of his article was this:

It’s too controversial and far too dangerous [to discuss immigration]. Nobody wants to be labelled a racist. Immigration is the issue that dare not speak its name in public.

Yet everywhere you go, you hear the same story. There are simply too many people competing for the space, houses, benefits, public services and jobs this country has to offer.

He's right. It is very difficult to discuss immigration, and the tragedy is because of the fear of a well of poison that is perceived to lurk beneath. I think Enoch Powell was wrong. There have not been rivers of blood, Britain remains one of the most tolerant countries on earth. What's wrong with saying that we're being taken advantage of. It's true.

Lost dog in Hazel Grove

Marple Leaf reader Nancy from Hazel Grove has lost her dog.

"My little dog has been missing for three days, she escaped from our garden on Torkington Road, Hazel Grove on Friday night (think fireworks had something to do with it) and I am mounting a bit of a campaign to try find her. She is a well loved family pet, her name is Missy and that's the first word our baby Joe said - or rather it was "iieey".

"She could be miles away by now I know, so I am casting the net Stockport-wide.

"She is a gold and white shih tzu and she has a short hair cut at the moment (stop laughing). She has a red collar and a pink identity tag. Phone number to ring is 0773 696 5574."

UPDATE: 6/11/07
Just to let you know that Missy has been found and is in the hands of the High Peak dog warden. Now got to get over to Buxton to collect her. She was picked up on Strines Road - little mutt travelled a fair distance.

Thanks for ruining your blog for me ha ha!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Radio GaGa

As Blackburn Rovers edge into the top six, each win produces more and more analysis of...the weaknesses of our opponents. We've now taken points off Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool and the story each time - on Match of the Day, Sky Sports News, BBC Radio 5 Live's 606 and in the papers I read - is how the BIG CLUBS have dropped points.

Last night we watched the 0-0 thriller against Liverpool and then sat in the car while "irate of Carshalton" and "apoplectic of Wrexham" told Alan Green on Radio 5 how it was all Dirk Kuyt's fault.

It reminded me of why I can't abide these phone-ins. Fans of BIG CLUBS phone up demanding more and more money be spent. Usually when they've been roaring their team on from the Dog and Duck in Putney High Street. YOU SOUND RIDICULOUS. Fans of Mansfield and Barnet phone in to say how they took 200 fans to Hartlepool and they are so proud. NO ONE CARES.

Maybe I just catch the bad days. Maybe there are rare insights on unsung players, tales of amusing songs, intelligent and sporting acknowledgement of opponents.

After the game we usually try and catch BBC Radio Lancashire which has a phone-in that does this a little bit. Radio Rovers is a joke. Wendy Howard does great interviews, but Gerald Jackson's twenty minute conversations with some bloke from San Diego who's been listening on the internet is as pointless as it is toe-curlingly dull.

When we don't play on Saturday at 3pm - most weeks now - Radio Lancashire is all over by the time we've got back to the car.

Will Mark Hughes be the next manager of Manchester United? Only if he wins something at Blackburn Rovers. If he does that, I'll be very happy.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Green Green Grass of Home

We've had Jenkins Landscapes in again. They have transformed our garden. And they're so lovely too. Such gentlemen.

Rather than have me blather on about it, let the pictures do the talking.

Do you like the arch? It's our one concession to post-modernism. I got the inspiration from here.

Law and order

There was a very good interview on BBC Radio Manchester this morning with one of the two kids from Macclesfield jailed for vandalising trains with their graffiti. I've followed this with some interest. I have no doubt that our five boys will at some point get up to no good. I did. Whether it gets too serious will be a challenge for us as parents.

I think, on balance, two years in jail was an inappropriate sentence for them. But they should be made to suffer for the damage they did and hopefully the publicity serves to show that this is a crime that could lead to a custodial sentence. Teaching kids in the hood not to do it - which they are going to do - is just the start. Cleaning stations and trains for six months while wearing overalls saying - criminal - would do the job.

Eamon O'Neal, the interviewer, who I like, says the lad was genuinely contrite. The balance to strike in the administration of justice is a) fear of the consequences and b) shame. If the latter is genuine, then a much more appropriate sentence would be a very public community service. If there is no shame, if it is two fingers to society, then there is no alternative but to jail them. That jails are universities of crime is one of the biggest problem this society faces.

The messageboards at the Macclesfield Express (here) reflect the view that they are - to quote one - "spoilt mummies boys".

A messageboard at the BBC, here, on whether they are "artists" has just got silly. They're still criminals. The issue is over how you prosecute justice effectively.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Food glorious food

I like cooking. I hadn't done much until me and Rachel started living together, but our division of labour sees me in an apron most weekends. It's helped by the fact that we have an Aga in our kitchen that is a joy to drive. It warms, slow cooks and has two hotplates.

I've had a couple of setbacks lately though.

You have to stir the porridge rigorously or else it sticks to the pan. Also, our dishwasher has been bust so the pan hadn't been properly rinsed away - and it's last square meal was cabbage.

The other was an absolutely ropey braising steak I made. Really rank. This is my Mum's signature dish, the meat flakes off in a rich gravy. Having come back for another go this weekend - with much better results - I have deduced one of three things - don't put the vegetables in with the meat when cooking in a slow oven; cover it all in a large pot or dish; use meat from a proper butchers. Supermarket meat is grim.

I'm desperate to get our brood to eat more veggies. They seem to go off them at will. Any tips gratefully recieved. Post on here, or email me here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Talking rubbish

We got our new see-through bin bags last week. Marple is the first part of Stockport to get this new service. We're being encouraged to recycle, which I don't mind, but the reason given for the 60 see-through bags is so officials can see people who are disposing of "business waste". I wasn't aware this was such a huge problem to warrant such a dramatic change in policy and practice.

The real reason is almost certainly to start targeting people who don't recycle cans and bottles and paper with "advice" and then prosecution. I just wish they'd be honest enough to admit it.

The link to the Council explanation is here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Spooks - Is Zafir dead?

We said at the end of the last series of Spooks that it couldn't improve upon what has gone before. It has. Gripping stuff once again. The plot twists have been quite brilliant. But can they really have killed off Zafir? No spoiling from the cheats who catch up early on BBC3.

Thoughtful piece in Private Eye this issue, link here, about how sensitivity in the BBC will lead to a drop in Islamist baddies this series:

“Increasing nervousness about showing the world as it really is poses a big problem for Spooks, which is now in its sixth season of depicting MI5’s best – or, at least, best-looking – at work. For reasons of realism, spy supremo Harry Pearce and his boys are clearly going to have to be shown fighting the ‘war on terror’, but the official policy in the drama department is that the country is at more risk from dads denied access and gerbil-lovers angry about how lipstick gets made than from Osama bin Laden.”

Personally, I think the script writers are quite capable of moving the whole thing along without having to chop and change the episodes with different varieties of bad guy. I like the sparky French woman and the tough Indian agent. These are good new opponents. The loyal viewers, like us, will not swallow a major clear and present danger to the security of this country from, er, a weekend Dad dressed as Batman.

Don't let us down.

Quality sausages

The Manchester Markets are in Piccadilly Gardens today. The people who run the Bowland Meat stall are so lovely. I always end up spending a few quid more. And I have to say, the sausages are a class above anything you can get from a supermarket.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


American Vanity Fair is to release a one-off magazine compiling a list of the 50 greatest film soundtracks. Purple Rain tops the list even though it was described as "perhaps the best badly acted film ever," by editors at Vanity Fair, while Trainspotting came in at No.7 and Saturday Night Fever was eighth.

A Hard Day's Night came in a No. 2, followed by The Harder They Come, Pulp Fiction, The Graduate and Superfly. American Graffiti and The Big Chill rounded out the top 10.

I'm obviously a biased Northern git, but I thought the 24 Hour Party People soundtrack was pretty immense. Pulp Fiction would probably get my vote.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Control at the Cornerhouse

To the Cornerhouse for a double bill of musical and cultural indulgence. A seminar (part of In The City) followed by Control, the film about Ian Curtis. The panel discussion featured punk spokesman and talking head John Robb, musical historian CP Lee, Terry Christian, a bloke from Channel m and the producer of Radio 4's Front Row. Terry was very well informed, at times funny, but then lurches back into default idiot savante who has to be more plebian than anyone else. CP Lee I could listen to all day with his amazing stories.

Control was an awesome film. Apart from the obvious historical and musical points of interest it was an incredibly powerful film, beautifully shot, about the unbearable pressure of a young man terrified by his future and unable to face up to the choices he has to make. We've all been there.

When the closing scene drew to its inevitable conclusion and the hum and the drum roll at the beginning of Atmosphere kicked in, my throat did swell. Not just because it took me back to that memory at Tony Wilson's requiem mass as that sad sad procession started to that same sad sad song, but also as the screen filled with the image of the smoke billowing from the chimney at the same Macclesfield crematorium where we lay our friend John Flint to rest in 2003.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Phoney liberals and strange bedfellows

Good piece in the paper yesterday about the bizarre bedfellows of the Islamists and the revolutionary left. It starts with a strange tale of Che Guevara's family visiting a conference in Tehran.

A flavour is here:

There used to be a clear dividing line between conservatives and liberals. It defined the culture wars of the late 20th century, which pitted reactionary fuddy-duddies against tolerant, enlightened types, who believed in equal rights for women, minorities and gays. That fault line is becoming as dated as the flower power of the 1960s.

A link to it is here.

There's also a quiz to see how much of a phoney liberal are you?

A weekend of sporting glory

Well, it was for us anyway. On Saturday, Marple Athletic Under 9s (A) won 2-0 in a tough game on Saturday at home to Signol.

After wolfing down the braising steak I managed to ruin we hot footed to Ewood Park for the 4-2 win over Reading. Rovers were awesome in the first half and there was evidence that Tugay may be some kind of superhero with his goal. By golly hasn't Benni McCarthy done well since Mark Hughes took the brave decision to drop him when his performances were: "not of the standard we require". I can't add much more to the report than what is in the paper today, here.

It was nice to bump into the BRFC London Supporters Club again. We joined them in the Premier Lounge after the game where David Bentley was presented with his player of the season award for last year. Picture of Elliot after a nifty nutmeg on Bentley:

My Scottish team won 3-0 as well. Nice preparation for Barca. Good story here.

OK, the rugby was a let down, but hey.

The Marple Athletic Under 7s continued to do well at Curzon Ashton. A win and a draw.

Formula One? Who cares?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ten thoughts on...playing football

St Paul’s Scotforth – semi final at the Easter Field. I loved playing for my primary school team in my last year, but not the year before. I was bullied and nagged at by knobs like Ian Chippendale and Duncan Fraser, and the team was crap. The next year we were much better and got to the semi-final of the annual Easter Field at Giant Axe, which was good for one of the smaller schools.

College – We didn’t play football at school and I pretty much gave up proper organised football after that. Kicking about never does you any good for the real game as I found out at FE college. I played for the second team a few times and really enjoyed it. We were a great side and had Ian Stevens playing for us who went on to be journeyman pro and is now with Bacup Borough. Link to his career is here.

The University years – I had a shocking time playing at University and really paid the price for wasted teenage years. I turned out for Cath Soc a couple of times. I did however turn out for Manchester Football Supporters Association against Merseyside in a charity game for Alder Hey at Marine FC. I was marked out of the game by Mike Lyons and Terry Darracott.

Roverrrs, first time, the best of times – my best ever goal v Doncaster. Pitching up in London I turned out for BRASIL – the Blackburn Rovers Away Supporters In London. We were all Rovers fans, give or take the odd ringer. Sometimes we were really thrashed, by Celtic, Rangers and – awful, awful – Burnley - and it was just dreadful. But we also had our moments too and I formed some great friendships. I scored a freak goal from the half way line against Doncaster Rovers, who were all Irish lads from Acton - at Hurlingham Park, Fulham, which was nice and I will remember that for the rest of my life.

Best celeb I ever played with - our winger was Neil Arthur, pop star and top lad. Our midfield general was PC Pat Whittle – Bad Lieutentant – who once famously told Neil - “Get Blancmange back together, Neil: there’s always room in the charts for a couple of puffs with a synthesizer.” He asked me: “Why do you play up front? You couldn’t score in a barrel of fannies.”

Best ever tour. In 1990 We went on a tour to Devon, staying in Brixham and playing at Brixham Town, a park in Torquay and finally at Exeter City FC. Great fun, but we didn't win a game.

Dirtiest ever side played – Rotherham United London Supporters Club. None of them from Rotherham, just a vile set of cockney thugs.

Dirtiest side ever played for – Wansdyke, circa 1994. When I lived in Bristol I played for these after an invite from a mate, Darren Hook, who promptly left them. A vile set of racist thugs. Some good players mind.

Roverrrs, second time around. When I moved back to London I played for Roverrrrs (BRASIL) and an outfit of social workers and media types called Shepherds Tuesday. Got found out and was forced to choose – I chose Roverrrs, obviously. Different set up, woman manager – Margaret Reid – and some young players. We’d also been relegated so instead of getting thrashed we’d play some competitive games. I also dropped to full back and did much better with the ball coming at me. We got to a cup final where we were beaten by Wrexham, who were all black lads from south London, managed by a fat lad from Ruabon called Dave.

Best player ever played with. My mate Rick Ogden, who now lives in Japan, was an awesome centre half, especially for a little fellah. I played with him twice for different friendly teams.

Tony Wilson memorial sorted

There's a wonderful piece on Manchester Confidential, by Mark Garner, about the best ever tribute to Tony Wilson.

A flavour is here:

Everyone and his dog wants to get in on the ‘lets give Tony a memorial’ gig at present.

Forget it.

Because the memorial is here already, it consists of a young man and woman with an unreserved, joyous and passionate love for their dad. If I had brought you two up I would be the proudest father on the planet. There is no memorial in the world that would make him prouder; there is no doubt in my mind that Tony considered his greatest achievement to be you two.

The full link is here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Football, crazy

Much to the amusement of the serious footballers in our family I am rekindling my commitment to play regular five-a-side football tonight. I shall be wheezing around the JJB Soccerdome at the Trafford Centre with the lads from work and a few fellahs from Hurst.

I have to do something or I'm going to get so badly out of shape.

I've also cut down on rubbish food and booze for a while. All the lads who went on the Rabble Tour to Portugal last weekend are suffering this week.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Manchester Airport gets a kicking

In the Financial Times today there's a story that Manchester Airport is even worse than Heathrow for queues.

The survey on the Travel Counsellors website, which monitors airport delays, has named Manchester as the worst airport in the country for the longest check-in, security and immigration queues. Average times for check-in was 35 minutes, followed by 32 minutes for security, the study found.

Hold on a moment. The league table is a summary of all the reported airport delays. The airports that appear on the table are those that have received data from passengers. The number of passengers that have posted data for each airport is also shown. Manchester had reports from 138 passengers. Heathrow from 178, Aberdeen, one of the best, had recorded 4 comments. So it's hardly scientific.

Neither, therefore, is what I am about to say. I don't enjoy travelling through Manchester Airport. In my personal experience Manchester also compares less favourably to wherever I happen to go. Faro (better facilities, never delayed), Malaga (didn't lose my bags), Marakech (cleaner), Stansted (longer queues, but it was August, and the bars and shops are far better) and Munich was just such a pleasant experience in comparison I wouldn't even know where to start.

It's just another of things that Manchester needs to sort out before it's too late. I personally still can't understand why it's owned by the councils and think it should be flogged off now.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Flying high

Last night: there we were at Faro airport playing cards and drinking water. On the next table in the cafe area was Ryan Giggs and a bunch of mates – all regular looking fellahs who’d been golfing for a few days. And on the next table was Alan McInally and his wife also waiting near the gate to board the Monarch scheduled knee crusher to Manchester. Giggsy was getting lots of attention from excited teenagers and their Dads – photos, handshakes, knicker wetting and squealing. Even McInally was ribbed about Sky Sports News. Spare a thought then for Harry Kewell. Loading his wife and kids and entourage onto the tiny seats he barely attracted a sidewards glance. I hate to say this, but even our John Fowler was recognised, though one of Giggsy's mates thought he was Martin Bayfield.
So, here's the question: what's worse, living it? or losing it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Going away

I will be heading for Portugal on Thursday the 11th of October for four days of male bonding, drinking, oh, and a few games of golf. See you all when I get back.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Tao of Moulton

Jon Moulton, leading venture capitalist and generally sound bloke, if a little scary, is in the latest issue of Midlands Business Insider talking about a range of things.

Here are two very sensible observations.

On TV’s Dragon’s Den:

“It’s a dreadful programme.”

On investing:

The questions an investor needs to ask are: “How much money are you looking at? What business are you in? How many divorces have you had?”

Moulton says analysis of investments showed companies run by someone who had been divorced once are more successful than those run by happily married men.

However, people who are twice divorced are not to be relied on, while when he puts money into companies run by people who have been divorced three times, he has lost the lot.

“After one divorce you are hungry; two divorces – he must have a lot of spare time and doesn’t concentrate too much at work. Three divorces – he is not driven by his head, is he?”

Random Friends United

I got my renewal email from Friends Reunited. In it there was a list of 20 people "randomly selected" from my area and my "places".

Random, my arse. It's a neat piece of tracking that's designed to get you to use the site more. It's tracked who I've checked out and reminded me, and clearly included people who've clicked on my profile. One of them keeps in touch via this blog. Hi Nick.

It also included someone who I was checking out for a story I was working on, my first ever friends, Rick Townson and Andy Worth, I often view their profiles to see if they've added details, people I was friends with and a smattering of others from my class at primary school.

It's included a few journalists who were at the University of Manchester when I was, which is clever, when you think about it. Including this bloke, here.

It also "randomly" includes Rachel Curran from Nelson, Lancashire. Who I only met four and a half years ago and am now married to.

This whole FU thing seems to have taken a back seat to the incredible momentum created by MySpace and Facebook, but I still like it. When it first started it was a refreshing nostalgia trip and a good antidote to the Lancaster Royal Grammar School old boys network. There, everyone was doing ever so well for themselves. You never heard from the punks, the quiet ones or the people who, like me, dropped out early.

The Anthony Wilson Way

There's a story here, about plans to rename Whitworth Street West as a tribute to Anthony Wilson.

There's another story here about a motion before the full Manchester City Council about a plaque at the Town Hall. Something usually reserved for Freemen of the city.

In our own way Insider has frozen the 99th position in the annual Power 100 list we produce in July.

Friday, October 05, 2007

What is Urbis for?

There's a piece on ManCon, here, asking the question I've often asked: What's Urbis for?

The interview with director Vaughan Allen is OK, but the comments from readers are better.

Here's Howard Sharrock: Urbis may be a delight but probably in sculptural terms rather than arcitectural. To be a great building it needs to fulfil some functional purpose. I've never seen any evidence that Urbis achieves this.

And here's the ex-creative director's sister: I was privy to some 'inside' information about what went on within the organisation. Apparently, for quite some time Urbis was under immense pressure by the Council to put on more 'Manchester' themed exhibitions and it has undoubtedly succumbed to the pressure in recent months; the Council even suggested just putting up a big show on United. Why? Because let's face it, folks - Manchester only cares about Manchester and Manchester's history.

Here's another anonymous poster: The problem with Urbis is all down to Ian Simpson (the architect) who was so busy trying for "iconic" that he didn't bother considering whether the building was welcoming to the casual visitor.

I went down this lunchtime to see the Hacienda exhibition which is running until February, here. Except when the whole building gets taken over by a bunch of cheek sucking numpties from the world of fashion for Manchester Fashion Weekend.

I think it can be a great asset. Plus, the thing I like about most galleries and museums is the shop. Urbis has a great one.

Happy birthday Max and Louis

My step sons Max and Louis are 7 today. Being a step parent, people have told me, is unrewarding, thankless and hard work. I agree on the last one, but being a parent is tough, full stop. But the rewards in bringing up such loving and happy boys are incredible.

They've got their own dad, Marcus Gee, who is a great guy, and who rightly gets all the love a dad deserves. I'd never assume the important place he has in their lives. They are such good boys, they've made our family such a happy unit, welcoming my own sons into the fold and forming these quite unusual, but solid, bonds.

So, happy birthday lads, even if you wouldn't lend me ten quid from your mountain of birthday money this morning.


There is an astonishing piece in November's Vanity Fair by Christopher Hitchens. It's about Mark Daily, a young soldier killed in Iraq, who had been inspired to enlist by Hitchens' conviction that Iraq was a just war. He meets Mark's family, attends the scattering of his ashes on a beach in Oregon and looks deep into his own soul about the betrayal of what should have been a noble mission.

A flavour is here:

These grand, overarching questions cannot obscure, at least for me, the plain fact that Mark Daily felt himself to be morally committed. I discovered this in his life story and in his surviving writings. Again, not to romanticize him overmuch, but this is the boy who would not let others be bullied in school, who stuck up for his younger siblings, who was briefly a vegetarian and Green Party member because he couldn't stand cruelty to animals or to the environment, a student who loudly defended Native American rights and who challenged a MySpace neo-Nazi in an online debate in which the swastika-displaying antagonist finally admitted that he needed to rethink things. If I give the impression of a slight nerd here I do an injustice. Everything that Mark wrote was imbued with a great spirit of humor and tough-mindedness. Here's an excerpt from his "Why I Joined" statement:

Anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).… Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.

But do go to the full feature, here.

Jumping for Joy

Blimey. The new Ian Curtis film gets the five star treatment from Peter Bradshaw in the paper today. Wonderful review, it certainly promises a lot.

A flavour is here:

It all looked so vividly real to my fortysomething eye that, frankly, I thought I'd died and gone to Q-magazine-reading 50-quid bloke heaven. And when John Cooper Clarke came on playing himself, a support act to Joy Division when they were called Warsaw, I pretty well levitated out of my seat with sheer happiness, and had to be tied back down with guy-ropes.

You can link to the full review here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Radio Tameside

I love hearing from an old pal out of the blue. Yesterday I got an email from a character called Kenni James who's had his head down plotting his comeback in the big bad world of commercial radio.

The just of it was this:

I've just launched Tameside Radio and into our first week on air. It booms in across most of the North West and it’s going well. Have a listen.. 103.6 FM Tameside Radio.

Kenni's got a great grasp of music and targeting it for the right time of day. He also knows how to mix up a bit of modern and nostalgia. I tuned into the drivetime programme and liked it a lot. It also came across as very authentic and just right for the down to earth punters of Ashton and Hyde. It reminded me of the early days of The Bay in Lancaster, which Kenni also launched.

It's good to see more local stations popping up. Pure in Stockport and High Peak Radio in Glossop are both good fun stations.

Lunch with SHB

Yesterday I had lunch with Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council. I get on great with SHB, he's a straight up bloke who does everything with the best interests of the long term improvement of Manchester in mind. We disagree on a few things, I'm still appalled that a congestion charge would be introduced to pay for better transport, for example.

But he shares my biggest frustration about Manchester: people think it's a slam dunk, job done ; that everything is rosy and heading in the right direction. He senses other authorities trying to claw Manchester back - like over the decision to award a casino. He too is acutely aware of how the international competition to Manchester as a place to visit, locate and attract business is constantly innovating and improving. He's currently very excited about Stockholm.

The international theme of our next edition of North West Business Insider magazine follows this idea through.

SHB is also the chief returning officer for Manchester. He had just come away from a meeting where the election date of November the 8th was discussed. It clashes with the switching on of the Christmas lights, but it is the date they are expecting to be announced on Tuesday. This is the nightmare scenario for the Conservatives, and a supreme piece of political stage management from Gordon Brown. He is breaking with the Blair era, getting a mandate before some tough economic medicine is needed next year (tax rises) and he has an opportunity to split the Tories and finish them off for another generation.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sit down for the champions

I went to Old Trafford to see Man Yoo v Roma last night. I went as a prawn sandwich munching guest of Robert Levy, one of the nicest lawyers you could ever meet, so contributed fully to the somnolent atmosphere that so irks United fans and players of a certain persuasion. These Champions League games can be very tense tactical affairs and last night was no exception.

What struck me more than anything about the game was how rigid Roma stuck to a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Totti on his own up front. Until Tevez came on, they had the game locked down, really. Two shocking misses near the end would have been grossly unfair, but Roma and their tiny band of fans would have been happy to go home with pride intact and front teeth still in place.

After last year's bother it was no surprise to note that there were no Italian fans in the city centre yesterday.