Monday, February 26, 2007

Manchester 4, Blackpool 0

By jove they must hate Manchester in Blackpool. First the tram money, then Labour, the supercasino, now the Tories are following Labour and plumping for Manchester as the conference venue for the future. What next, moving the tower to Deansgate?

The bitter end

An old friend has set up an anonymous blog charting her quest to give up booze for Lent. She's a 35 year-old North American journalist living in Edinburgh, so no clues there, then.

It's very funny, called 40 days in the wildreness, and you can read it here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fascists marching on the high street

A blog I drop in on from time to time called Harry's Place has a piece about local activists opposing supermarket developments. There is a shade of opinion that seems to say big shops - bad, local shops and high streets - good, typified by a recent BBC programme on the subject which I alluded to here.
I think some Marple traders make the trudge a pleasure. Saturday mornings are fun and it's good to potter, but for convenience and price you can't beat a supermarket. And when you've got 5 kids, pottering isn't always an option.

Why would anyone elect to trudge through mud and sleet wearing fourteen layers of clothing to shop at establishments who - if they actually had what you needed in stock - would charge you more for it than say Tesco or B&Q? The idea that the average High Street proprietor is more knowledgeable about his product or more concerned with satisfying his customers is, frankly, balderdash!
Customer service is universally bad, and the only place to get decent advice on
product is on the Internet - specifically from other consumers.

But I suspect the truth is that they fear that the majority of people do actually want the convenience and economy of a supermarket. So what these self-styled 'community activists' are saying is that townsfolk must be forced to shop in the High Street for its preservation and, apparently, their own good. This is a mini fascism.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Give peathe a chanthe

Chris Eubank has protested against Prince Harry being sent to Iraq. BBC story is here.


Last night's Rovers v Leverkeusen match was ultimately a big disappointment. We had enough domination to have won it, but despite throwing on four strikers it just wouldn't go in. The kids loved the atmosphere of a pretty much full house (not many Germans) and loads of other kids, due to the £1 ticket price and the 6pm kick off. Which got me round to thinking of the ten best ever atmospheres at Ewood since I first started going regularly in 1977.

1984 Second division v Leeds United 2-1, great game on Boxing Day, young skilful Leeds team got swept away by some Simon Garner magic

1990 FA Cup 3rd round v Liverpool - 1-1, when a Marko Van Atkins OG kept that whiney git Kenny Dalglish in the cup

1991 Second division v Plymouth - 5-2, the legend that is Kenny Dalglish is unveiled as manager
THE BEST 1992 play off semi final v Derby - 2-0 down, won 4-2. Mike Newell's wonder goal set us up nicely. The singing went on all through half time. Derby were shell shocked.

1995 VE Night v Newcastle. 1-0. You have to ask?

2001 First division v Burnley 5-0. April fools. Could have been 10.

2002 Worthington Cup semi final v Sheff Wednesday - 3-1 - We're all going to Cardiff

2002 UEFA Cup v Celtic, lost 2-0, but what a noise

2005 FA Cup replay v Burnley, won 2-1. By jove they gave us a game.

2006 Premiership v Manchester United 4-3. "Rio, Rio"

Book review in a lift - Pies and Prejudice

Chirpy bloke off the radio does a tour round the North. It starts really well; I love his observations and how he appreciates the North. He begins to irritate with some factual errors, but by the end you are left roaring with pride at the wonder of the North. 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Going overground

I've just bought 4 tickets to see the Jam at Preston. Couldn't resist, the more I thought about it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Didn't we have a nice time?

I don't think I'd even be excited about The Jam reforming WITH Paul Weller. But the news, here, that Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler are to tour as The Jam is absurd. I don't know where to start, I just wish they wouldn't.

He's here, he's there...

As I work with the comic genius Neil Tague I don't need to be convinced of his attributes. You can find some more of him here. And here. And here too, if you scroll down to the one about MIPIM. He's also had a word with this fellah.

The truth is out there

I loved the X-Files. I admire investigative journalism. The maxim of questioning power is a mighty one. But I actually felt quite sick watching BBC 2's Conspiracy Files last night. It was a patient and painstaking piece of television that must have left many nutters watching it quite frustrated that the programme didn't endorse a single mad theory about 9/11. If you don't want to believe that Mohammed Attah and his twisted death cult pals could do that, then you will invent evidence to say they didn't, and ignore the overwhelming weight of proven facts that proves they did. Equally, if you believe in a twisted ideology of superhuman order and the supremacy of an aryan master race, then it's quite hard to sell that door-to-door if everyone believes there was a holocaust in Europe in the 1940s.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Frustrated at 0-0

It wasn't a great game, the in-form home team had the better chances but it was frustrating to watch. No not Arsenal v Rovers but Marple Athletic under 8s B against Woodley. I'll take both Rovers' results this week. Bring on the Germans, and fair play to the club for slashing ticket prices.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wayne Hemingway on Holy Moly

I wouldn't normally cut and paste from the scurrilous Holy Moly email. But this is priceless.
A Mole writes: Wayne Hemingway was on BBC Breakfast yesterday complaining that modern housing is not up to scratch and how most of it shouldn't get past the
planning stage because of the lack of thought placed on "community" amongst other things.
Found his preaching a little strange seeing as I'd recently viewed some apartments in Manchester city centre (the birchin) that he had put his name to thus earning piles of cash. The thing is the apartment I was looking at was supposed to be a two bedroomed. Bedroom two wasn't big enough to fit a washing machine in let alone a bed. When I pointed this out to the estate agent showing me round, their reply was that it wasn't really two bedroomed but they had to pretend it was to get through planning. Manchester City Council insist on a certain percentage of all units in anapartment block being 2+ plus bedrooms to attract more families to the city centre. Nice one Wayne Hemingway!

The self same professional northerner and alleged Rovers fan once upset a room full of Liverpool property people with righteous bleating and poor Scouser jokes. I was paying his bill.

Roger Cashman

One of the columnists for Insider has attracted a bit of a following. I've set up a blog for him, with an archive of his words of wisdom, because he's too busy (or arrogant) to do it himself.

You can link to it here.

Ten thoughts on...the M6

Not the most riveting subject for my ten random Friday thoughts, but I have just spent a long time on the M6 motorway this week.

* Are there really speed cameras on the southbound stretch near Kendal?

* Why doesn't Carnforth have a brown sign - Gateway to the Lakes?

* Is there a more dangerous junction than Lancaster North?

* Is there a more magnificent civic monument than the Ashton memorial?

* My personal Room 101 will be to be trapped forever at Forton services.

* Is there still some rude graffiti under the big T bridge at Scorton?

* Those chevrons on the southbound side between Galgate and Broughton, what are they all about?

* Adverts on lorry trailer parked in fields, that's not legal is it?

* My goodness isn't Lancaster University ugly?

* Has anyone from Dolphinholme or Bay Horse ever been arrested and prosecuted for using the works access roads?

The Green Green Grass of Home

I've done a 20 questions feature in the Lancaster Guardian, the damn fine weekly newspaper of my hometown. Marple really does feel like home, but as the song goes "there'll always be a little piece of my heart devoted to what is known as...[Williamson's] Park life". You can read it here. But take time to look around at the rest of the news and features. I liked this one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

9/11 conspiracy

At last the truth about 9/11 can be revealed. Here. Thanks to Norm.

Get well soon Tony Wilson

My pal Tony Wilson is being treated for cancer which he writes about in the Manchester Evening News today. He rightly praises the treatment he's had from the NHS in Manchester. He's still in good spirits. I sent him a copy of Nick Cohen's What's Left to cheer him up - his reply: thanks for the book bro. You f*cking tory xxx

Monday, February 12, 2007

Have I left anyone out?

A less happy return to Goodison Park on Saturday to see Rovers lose 1-0 to the People's Club. Kids loved it. Elliot sang "Barmy army" all the way through, Mattie said "Dad, I hate Everton", which is harsh and against our sound Christian principles of love and forgiveness. Joe, who's Marple Athletic team won again at the weekend, is learning manager speak: "It's not the end of the world if we lose this, we're still in two cups." I won't reveal how Eamon Curran's daughter reacted to a late goal attempt by Rovers' Brett Emerton.
We were entertained before the game by Sean Styles a local comedian we've booked before. Great Alan Hansen impersonation. Also this: "Blackburn fans eh? You've had some great players over the years. Alan Shearer. Haven't left anyone out have I?"

Curry in a hurry

We went to Basmati on Saturday night, the curry house located in a hut kind of building opposite Marple train station. It always seems eerily deserted during the week, but gives off an alluring whiff of spicy sauce that piqued my curiosity.

Anyway, it was far from quiet on Saturday; they were queueing outside by 10. The staff were rushed off their feet and initially we overhead some punters grumbling that their food hadn't arrived by 8.30, just as we arrived. If anything our concern was the opposite; we were rather rushed along. Not by a very sweet waiter, but by the manager who was rushing around.

The food was OK. Poppadoms were a bit stale, beer glass smelled of soap, but the rest was good. A nutty lamb balti, mixed sizzling grill, cheesy peas and a damn fine Peshwari naan.

Also pleased to see the Marple Bridge man who was at great pains to tell me he hasn't won the casino bid. It'll come, Ken, it'll come.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ten thoughts on booze

My name is Michael Taylor and I am not an alcoholic. I actually don't like pubs that much. On tour I fall asleep when I've reached my limit, I can't keep up with the likes of Andrew Page, Mike Perls and John Fowler. However, I do like a tipple and as I get older, I get more choosy. Here are my ten Friday thoughts for the week on the subject of booze.

Best white wine: Marlborough Montana Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand

Best red wine: A really dark creamy Merlot (Argentina)

Best bottled lager: Cains finest lager (proper stuff, gorgeous cold)

Best draught lager: Staropramen

Best bitter: Moorhouses Pendle Witch (from Burnley, I know, I know)

Best place to buy wine: Majestic (just gets better)

Best vodka: Absolut Citron (keep it in the freezer and serve neat over ice)

Best champagne: Veuve Clicquot

Best late night tipple: brandy warmed and in a big glass

Best stout: Guiness in Dublin, obvious but so true

Unintended consequences

One of Insider's columnists, Steve Brauner, has written of his experiences of the world of blog. I was going to do a preamble to the tale, but Steve tells it pretty well from the top.

What do your employees get up to in cyberspace? Are you aware Miss Jones in accounts advertises herself on a social networking site as a bisexual paganist with a penchant for partner swapping and painful piercings?
Being a broad minded sort, you’d probably respond that while people kept things like that to themselves when you were a lad – worse luck – what she does in her private time is up to her.
Yes, but what about that young salesman who can get a bit lippy? Have you seen his Myspace blog? The one where he slags off all your customers. Still think social networking websites are something you don’t need to add to the long list of ball-aching things to worry about?
Ask the chief executive of Thorntons. The chocolate shop chain has just learned a very hard lesson courtesy of one of its junior managers.
Drafted over from Newcastle to Barrow-in-Furness, Steve Beall didn’t take to his new location. Trapped in a Travelodge on the outskirts of town, he told the world, via his Myspace blog, that Barrow-in-Furness was “a shithole” and queried how anyone could possibly live there.
Mr Beall, or Stevo to his Myspace friends, posted this on a page open to public access. Therefore anyone with a “Barrow-in-Furness” Google alert was sent an email directing them to his words of unwisdom.
One of those people was myself, editor of the North-West Evening Mail, read by more than 75 per cent of the adult population of Barrow-in-Furness. Do our readers have a right to know that the manager of a new store who smiles and takes their money by day is slagging them off to all the world by night? Yes, obviously they do.
So Mr Beall’s indiscretions appeared on our front page and some of our readers felt the need to speak to him. Thorntons’ staff felt threatened, police had to be called. Mr Beall was despatched back to Newcastle and the company’s chief executive issued a grovelling apology.
What followed was 15 minutes of infamy. Not just for Mr Beall but for me as well. On the blogosphere I was accused of suppressing free speech, invading privacy and putting a lonely young man at risk of losing his job just before Christmas.
Before you get the violins out, Mr Beall was not sacked, just reprimanded.
Even so, here are the views of one blogger, a PR man called Stephen Newton: “If anybody should be sacked over this affair it’s the editor Steve Brauner, who thought Steve Beall’s MySpace page was news.”
Did this flash of insight come to Mr Newton after his Apple iMac fell on his head? Does he think the scores of newspapers, websites, TV and radio stations who followed up the story were all stricken with the same lapse of editorial judgement? He needs to realise that cyberspace is not a sim world where it doesn’t matter what you do or say. Free speech comes with responsibility and consequences, on Myspace or anywhere else.

The Spirit of Radio

I'm not as up to date with rules on media market share as I should be, but the latest award by OFCOM of an FM radio licence in Manchester made me gasp.

RockTalk 106.1 is wholly-owned by The Guardian Media Group. It will provide "a speech and rock music service for 35-64 year-olds, which contains a strong commitment to local news, current affairs and interactive debate for the Manchester area. Comprehensive local, national, world news and information is included, with a wide variety of rock music played during off-peak and Bank Holidays".

In Manchester, GMG now owns the only daily paper (The Manchester Evening News), a TV station (Channel M), loads of weekly papers, it has a stake in the Metro free paper, it also owns two other FM radio licences (Century FM, Jazz FM).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

There be dragons

There is not a flake of snow on the pavements of Marple. I may awake to find a blizzard, but the weather that has engulfed the nation has not come to the North. You would never guess that from the national news. It reinforces the view that we live in a place on a map that the BBC and national press have down as the place marked: "there be dragons".

Can't stop the music

The latest issue of Insider is out now. We've led on the horrible story of how Music Zone bit the dust. You can read the story here.

Optimism of the will

They may be loath to admit it, but a lot of the present day entrepreneurial and quango class of Liverpool (and Manchester for that matter) cut their organisational teeth in the heady world of Labour politics and single issue campaigning in the 1980s. The hair may be thinner now, the suits may be sharper, but if you squint you can see the same salesmanship that once traded in the ideas and policies of the left, now at work on the regenerative qualities of property development and knowledge-based industries.
With this thought in mind I can tell you all, brothers, that I’m reading a remarkable book at the moment called What’s Left – how liberals lost their way by a writer called Nick Cohen. He charts the betrayal of causes such as freedom of speech, human rights and equal opportunities by people who have completely lost their moral and political compass: people who will defend Islamist death cults, or Serbian thugs, because they are against George Bush and Tony Blair. Or the west. Or whatever.
The very things that many on the left wanted in the 1980s are now comfortably within the reach of our children. The liberators are education, freedom of thought and freedom to trade. Socialism is a dead ideology. But the ability to do business and the benefits of doing good business are there for all to see.
There’s probably an even better book to read, if you have the time, which picks up where Cohen finishes the question – what is in fact now left to care about? It’s called The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. The subtitle is – a brief history of the twenty-first century and it argues that a new flat world is a fairer world to hope for. The end result is the same, but the journey is very different. Comrades: there are still some battles worth fighting.

This piece will appear in a newsletter for Downtown Liverpool in Business

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The snake pit of politics

I'd never heard of Fiona Jones MP until the news of her death last week. This story here paints a picture that confirms every prejudice about the snake pit of politics. It's been said on this blog before that most people I've known who are in politics are real creeps. However, two totally sound human beings who I know and who are also New Labour types in Manchester are Ruth Turner and Simon Danzcuk. Ruth's woes are well documented. Simon, I now hear, wants to be Labour MP for Rochdale. He's had death threats for his trouble and someone sent him a wreath. Stories about all this are here. Sickening.
It is also not on to post anonymously on this site naming people as being responsible for any of the above misfortunes. I won't have it. Be honest, be loyal, be kind.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Book review in a lift - Progressive Patriot by Billy Bragg

Based on the premise that if someone I work with asked me as I got in the lift - "what's your book, any good?" I'd be able to tell them before we got to the 8th floor without them wishing they'd never asked.

The Progressive Patriot - a search for belonging by Billy Bragg. Cockney folk singer makes a decent stab at English history by evoking traditions of the English Civil war, the domestic front during the Second World War, the labour movement and folk music. It's a lively and informative enough read, gets bogged down a few times in an obsession with a Bill of Rights and the history of Barking, but it's billed as a personal journey so why not? Six out of ten.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Though shall have a fishy

I wept tears of joy the very first time I went to the Three Fishes at Mitton in the Ribble Valley. A pub that serves gorgeous local food and welcomes you with a smile. It now appears in virtually every newspaper and foodie magazine. The latest review is here. One of its success factors has been the proximity to top boarding school Stonyhurst. I hear it's now so busy on a Sunday, you have to be there before 12. A victim of its own success? I eagerly await the opening of The Highwayman, their next venture, but hope they don't spread themselves too thinly.

The joy of football

My oldest lad's team - Marple Athletic under 8s - won again today to stay top of the league. Beats watching the likes of Lucas Neill in the greed league, I can tell you. The team they beat 3-0, Richmond Rovers, gave a good account of themselves and the scoreline was quite harsh. Sounds smug I know, but they were a decent club, as are all the ones we've played. So far I've not witnessed pushy parents behaving badly on the touchline like the ones who so appalled us at the Marple schools tournament last summer. The manager of Richmond, from over Poynton way, told me after the game however that one team have a rough following and he's reported them to the league for excessive effing and jeffing from one of the Dads. Oh dear, aren't they meant to enjoy sport?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ten thoughts

Last night's race to Blackburn could have been a night in a traffic jam had I not had the foresight to listen to Radio Lancashire's regular traffic reports. The updates and stories through the evening also showed the BBC at its best. It got me thinking, so here are ten Friday thoughts on the subject of radio.

Best phone-in programme: Alan Beswick on Red Rose Radio in the mid-1980s

Best football commentator: Mike Ingham on Radio Five Live

Most negative summariser: Richard Dinniss on BBC Radio Lancashire - "there's just no coheeeesion"

Best radio station in the world: BBC Radio Lancashire

Biggest berk on the radio: Tim Westwood

Best football phone-in: Legends on Century FM, especially when a hysterical Gary Owen is in full flight

Best double act on the radio: Jane Garvie and Peter Allen on Radio Five Live

Last time BBC Radio One was any good: When Chris Evans did the Breakfast Show

Best fictional radio station: Chorley FM, "coming in local ears"

Worst choice of topic for a radio phone-in: Islamic terrorism

Wacky races

What a day yesterday. I knew I was cutting it a bit fine to finish at ten to 6 at a Lancaster Chamber event at the Longlands, just north of Carnforth (gateway to the Lakes), and make it to Ewood Park for our Lancashire Dealmakers Awards for 7.30. Suffice to say I didn't. The traffic chaos in Preston, caused by a nitric acid spill (read about it here) meant I diverted up the Lune Valley, Wray, Long Preston, Skipton, Guisburn, Nelson, M65 - Then to Roverrrrrs for ten to 8.

Put it this way, it's probably a very nice drive during the day.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Book review in a lift - Guerra by Jason Webster

Based on the premise that if someone I work with asked me as I got in the lift - "what's your book, any good?" I'd be able to tell them before we got to the 8th floor without them wishing they'd never asked.

Guerra by Jason Webster. Slightly annoying English bloke is bored living in Spain, wants to find out about the Spanish Civil War. Book alternates chapters between a very breezy history (good) and tales of him playing keystone cops around the underbelly of Spanish society (hit and miss).
6 out of ten.