Wednesday, December 31, 2008
But for the record, for my peace of mind and for posterity, here are the ten thoughts about the year just gone, categorised by the top ten labels on this blog.
Family - our boys are all turning into wonderful young men. Elliot has started primary school, Joe has had a look round his high school and is doing ever so well at his football. Matt has invented the world of Gatlantis, which deserves an entire blog all of its own. Max and Louis have come on so well at school and in how they are growing up. We've mourned my Great Aunt Joan and Great Uncle Doug this year, as well as Rachel's Aunt Kitty in Dublin.
Friends - There never seems to be enough time to see friends, but making the effort to go to London and see John Dixon and his family, to work with Andy Coyne again and to enjoy a brilliant weekend away with the Dimblebys have been real highlights. As was the night out at the Radisson where we brought a few people together, like him and Mrs H.
Marple - There have been some wonderful community events in Marple throughout 2008, the food festival, the Christmas fair and our very own Glastonbury, the mud bath that was the Marple Athletic Junior Football summer tournament.
Manchester - That was a year when Manchester once again stumbled, I fear. The whole exhausting row over transport has set the city back.
Music - In a year when we've been to see Bruce Springsteen and Barry Manilow, we've done little gig going - but I've actually enjoyed seeing Marple rockers A Few Good Men, because they do such a good set and they do it so well. But seeing the Boss was something special. Best album - Elbow's Seldom Seen Kid just shades it over Glasvegas and Paul Weller's 22 Dreams. And I'm still learning to play the acoustic guitar. While I'm on, I did a random top 10 on best cover versions and put Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley at the top. It's not often I'm an early adopter.
Books - I've caught up on the back catalogue of Douglas Coupland and really enjoyed J-Pod. Best non-fiction book of the year was Jim White's You'll Win Nothing With Kids - also enjoyed meeting him at the North West Football Awards.
Namedropping - Our best namedropping story has to be going to a dinner party and having a good laugh with Phil Brown, manager of Hull City and his lively wife Karen. Even that beats the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards and the James Bond premiere.
Blackburn Rovers - there have been precious few highlights this year. I thought last season was pretty poor stuff as well. The Walker Trust haven't been able to sell the club, but seem to have taken more of an interest and reinstated their investment. I hope media interest like this from David Conn has had something to do with this.
Telly - this was the year we discovered The Wire. It was sensational. Quite enjoyed Spooks, Outnumbered and The Apprentice as well. But I have to say the best comment on telly this year came from Gareth McLean on the Media Guardian Podcast - the three most offensive words on the BBC - "starring Julie Graham".
Food - I have continued to search for a quality Manchester dining experience that isn't steak and chips. It's been pretty depressing to be honest. But on the bright side the Marple Food Festival unearthed a fantastic Turkish spread from the Golden Plate. Grenaby Farm won the pie contest, which I judged. Best food at a big do (this 40th) and at a dinner party (this one) were both creations of Martin Jones of With a Twist Catering. Delightful.
Andrew Mueller - You Wouldn't Start From Here - Australian music journalist travels to trouble spots around the world (Iraq, Northern Ireland, Israel and Kosovo etc) and finds most people to be kind and decent, but encounters a few nutters and idiots. Quite amusing. 7/10.
Richard Carman - Johnny Marr - unofficial biog of Smiths guitar hero. Skipped large swathes of this hard going cuttings job, but found the later bits about The The, Electronic and Bert Jansch sufficiently intriguing to go and root out a few old tunes. 4/10.
Jeff Winter - Who's the B*****d in the Black - referee memoir. Starts off like staple hoolie-porn, he used to be a Middlesbrough boot boy, then tells his career story and settles a few scores. Completely deluded about the importance of referees. 2/10.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Man U (rightish)
Spurs (wrong, by a mile)
Portsmouth (rightish, but falling like a stone)
Man City (wrong, by a mile)
Middlesbrough (wrong, by a mile)
Rovers (wrong, by a mile)
West Brom (wrong, by a mile)
Wigan (wrong, by a mile)
West Ham (rightish)
Fulham (wrong, by a mile)
Hull (wrong, by a mile)
As you can see, my punditry is pretty poor this time round. But the middle of the table will sort itself out. Stoke will combust.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
How did that happen? We were superb for 93 minutes. They scored in the 94th. A good ten minute opening spell when both teams looked up for a good game, then a lot of dross, but there was only ever one team likely to win. Us. Emerton was brilliant, Tugay was at his very best, Andrews was, well let's not get carried away but he didn't make any mistakes. Up front McCarthy and Roberts were holding it up well, flicking intelligently and causing City all manner of problems. Robinho was bullied by Warnock. 2-0 would have been a fair result. I can't explain and I just don't understand what happened. I took a City fan with us who could only offer an apology. Report from the BBC is here.
Anyway, the running total on the season tickets. Joe and Louis came to this one, plus two adults would have cost £55.70, I forgot to add the Liverpool game which Rachel went to with three boys and would have cost us £117, with booking fees. The Stoke game would have cost £63.55, as Steven came with his friend's son Anil. So by reckoning that makes the running total £627.25. We'll probably have got our value with three more games.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
We're having a wonderful day, Grandma Eamon and Grandma Margaret are here. My Mum's best pal Sally Unsworth, who lives in Cyprus, has just popped in to say hello with her son James who I grew up with - more like a cousin than a pal. Lovely to see them both.
Me and Joe went to London yesterday to potter around with Joe's Godparents Rachel and John Dixon. It was also a chance to hang out with their beautiful children Ruth and Michael.
It's a great time of year and the kids are so excited, especially as we're tracking Santa, courtesy of NASA. See for yourself, here.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
It was interesting listening to Dunny on Radio Rovers after the match. His apology to Sam Allardyce two years ago, when he snubbed him at Bolton to come to Rovers again, was probably the smartest phone call he ever made.
Before the game I popped the Marple Leaf flag over the front of the upper tier for all of two minutes before the chief steward came towards us following orders to prevent any obscuring of the full stop of Walker Steel. I spotted him before he spotted me and then confused him by removing it completely. I'd love it if we had a spot to but banners and flags, like the Europeans and Man Yoo seem to accomodate.
Also, the badge seller outside was moved on by Ken Beamish. I always wondered what his job was at Rovers. Now we know.
Pictured are Anil, Sean, Joe, Big Sam, Louis and me. All smiles, all happy. We've got our Rovers back.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I like all these blogs and visit them regularly. I take off links if the blog becomes dormant - say, less than a month without a post.
I said all along that Ince was out of his depth, after initially being excited for about a day. The signing of Keith Andrews from MK Dons and Robbie Fowler from the St Helens Housing Association B Team were always going to define his performance. They did. Rubbish. And the best heckle on the subject came from Roland Horridge in the front row of the Jack Walker stand: "Ince, you'd have been better off buying Eamon Andrews".
The "football people" lining up to condemn Rovers chairman John Williams for sacking him after less than six months make me laugh. Of course Tony Adams and Tony Pulis were happy to see Ince at Rovers, six easy points, eh lads.
My source in all of this told me that back in June Sam Allardyce was told at his interview that Ince had been offered the job, but there was a problem with his coaching badges. That's when he pulled out of the process. There were other trustees who were violently opposed to Sam, but now see the folly of their ways.
I cost Sam Allardyce a boozy lunch last week. He was going to be coming to our lads Christmas do we hold every year, but as a Rovers director was also going to be there, as well as a football agent, a sports lawyer, the Blackburn Rovers "shadow cabinet" and a pesky scribe (me), he wanted to avoid an awkward moment and asked for Sam to be disinvited. Next year, maybe?
Oliver Holt in the Mirror has tried to make the hounding of Ince by Rovers fans a race thing. Absolute baloney. Race had nothing to do with fans wanting him out. But had a lot to do with him being appointed.
Tip for any player, manager or person associated with my football club. We're "Rovers" not "Blackburn". You might think I'm splitting hairs, but there's an important distinction.
Tip for any football club choosing a manager. Ask who the backroom team will be. Mark Hughes had a superb unit at Rovers. Ince had a rag bag of old mates and has beens (Nigel Bloody Winterburn for sooths sake). Sam Allardyce at Bolton embraced peak performance - look where it got them. Bring Mike Finnigan back to Ewood, I say.
Poor old Santa Cruz. Damned if he stays, damned if he doesn't. James Richardson on the podcast says he hasn't been the same since his commitment to Rovers was described as "lacking ambition". He's in the papers and on Sky today talking broken biscuits. Give it another season, son.
So come on, get behind the team and let's get three points in bag to warm us up for Christmas.
I'm sure we must have the same effect on people who see our unruly rabble, but I thought that was well out of order.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
That's only one of the reasons for which Paul Ince is entitled to be sickened today. Another is that being sacked just before a home game against Stoke is a bit like the alarm clock going off just as you're about to compose the sheet music for your duet with Beyonce. And another is that, while he may have lost over half his 21 matches in charge, the sales of David Bentley and Brad Friedel and the injuries to Steven Reid and David Dunn meant Ince also lost almost all his top players. The Guv'nor was presumably looking forward to filling the holes in his squad in January. Indeed, he had perhaps already supplied the board with the names of his transfer targets. And it's not as if those names probably included a lower league journeyman, an England has-been and a portly property developer who looks like he'd struggle to finish a paper round let alone a Premier League match. Isn't that right Keith Andrews, Paul Robinson and Robbie Fowler?
Names doing the rounds - Sven, Allardyce, Laudrup, that Spanish bloke from Swansea, Coyle. I saw Souness yesterday afternoon at San Carlo restaurant. The Rovers board were meeting last night at the Lowry, about two minutes away. Sam Allardyce wasn't returning phone calls to a mate of ours today. I think he's our man.
Monday, December 15, 2008
You've seen the awards on TV so you don't need me to run through all of that. It also really worked as a live spectacle for the 9000 punters. What was so impressive was the detail. Every seat was filled even if the ticket holder - named - didn't show, as was the case with Garry Cook, the chairman of Man City. I was sat just behind Prescott and Brave Kirsty Howard, and across from Brian Barwick of the FA and Andy Murray's mother. The Man United 1968 team were just to my right.
That moment when Jack Charlton came out was priceless. The ovation from the audience for Sir Bobby was lovely. And it was nice he thanked Liverpool. A class act.
I thought my pass might get me into some aftershow party for fellow corporate liggers, but was happy to find we were mingling with all kinds of sports stars I was far too shy to go up and speak to.
I've since thought of a ten questions I could have asked if I'd been the kind of nerdy pest that most other corporate liggers were turning into by the time I left at 10.30pm.
Ian Rush: Are you going to get as pissed as you did at the North West Football Awards?
Brian Kidd: You must be pleased Paul Ince is now going to replace you as the worst manager in Rovers' history?
Mike Newell: How come you got to sit next to Paula Radcliffe, in front of Lewis Hamilton and behind the director general of the BBC? Did Alan Shearer get you a ticket?
Lewis Hamilton: Do you realise you might have won if you paid your UK tax?
All the cyclists: Do you realise you've saved cycling from the clutches of the druggies?
Martin Bayfield: My mate John Fowler got mistaken for you once, by Ryan Giggs and his mates, how does that make you feel?
Bill Beaumont: Ince, rubbish isn't he?
Ricky Hatton: Do you want a lift home?
Chris Eubank's kids: Why don't you dress smartly, like your Dad? On second thoughts, don't answer that.
Denise Lewis: Do you remember we met at a drinks party at my pal Ross Biddescombe's flat
about 10 years ago?
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
PS - This piece here claims all sort of inside info on the split board at Rovers. Well, I was with one board member on Wednesday who didn't even go. He went shooting instead.
All previous rants on the subject are here.
Ten nil, and as resounding as it was, is a savage result that must be hard for the Yes people to swallow. They fought an imaginative campaign at times, but even the mendacious way in which the arguments were pitched as facts worked against a proposal that was based on a leap of faith. They were utterly doomed. This is not a time for trust.
As I said on BBC Radio Manchester last night, I was looking forward to drawing a line under this process. I think it was wrong from the outset to concede to a government proposal to consider congestion charging. The need for Britain's most important regional city to have better trams and trains is uncontestable, a charge is too big a pill to swallow.
Stockport's pugnacious leader, Councillor Dave Goddard, said the money is still there if the right plan is put forward. SHB says it isn't. Actually he said, in response to a question about whether the money was still there: "What the f*ck do you think?"
Susan Williams, Conservative leader of Trafford Council, had it right here: "There is always a plan B and we must all regroup next week and call on the government to give us the money if they're indeed serious about the growth of cities."
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Except I didn't go. If I had gone I would probably have been one of the ten oldest people there.
Instead I was at the MEN Arena watching Barry Manilow. He did a emotional 1 hour and 40 minute set where the crowd screamed for Could it be Magic which he only teased them with. The arena was also quite warm. I can only put this down to the radiation generated by hot flushes from the women-of-a-certain-age who packed the place. I was definitely in the younger quartile of the audience.
David Ottewell is good on his blog here:
The three are mutually re-enforcing. Scepticism leads to ignorance and apathy (people who don't trust the system don't find out what's going on, or don't care). Ignorance leads to scepticism and apathy (people who don't understand the system don't trust the system, and so don't care). Apathy leads to scepticism and ignorance (if you don't care, you don't bother to learn or trust).
I have maintained all along that this plan has been doomed from the moment it went to a ballot. People are confused by the mixed messages about a plan, based on a deal, hinged on trust. They don't get it. The words I've heard which nail this thing are: "Well they say that now" about any aspect of the train service improvements, the rate of the congestion charge, the time of it, the place where it is levied. Everything you care to mention. The trigger to introduce road charging will be when 80% of public transport improvements are in place. Within that figure is 100% of all bus improvements. The easy stuff. So that means, as little as 60% of train and tram improvements.
Cryptically, Stockport Council believe there are more twists and turns to come.
After residents’ votes are counted, Leaders of the ten councils in Greater Manchester will meet on December 19 to discuss the next stage of transport changes for Greater Manchester.
I can't help but think that the AGMA leaders (SHB, in reality) will go to the Transport Secretary and say, hey Geoff, we tried. We put our reputations on the line, we thought long and hard about this, we campaigned like mad, we did everything. Come on, let us have some of the money. The public won't buy road charging if you ask them. Not in this climate. Come on Geoff, what do you reckon?
Monday, December 08, 2008
Imgaine my surprise when opening this month's Observer Music Monthly and seeing their Top 50 picks of 2008. I haven't heard anything by Bon Iver, who they name as the best album of the year, but maybe I should. Amadou and Mariam has also passed me by.
The rest of the top 5 however is Elbow, Glasvegas and Kings of Leon. Also in the top 50 are Sigur Ros and Paul Weller's 22 Dreams. I'm not in the slightest bit concerened whether this makes me hip or not. It can't can it? But it's all good for the spirit of adventure. I blame the iPod.
And if there's a better music writer than Garry Mulholland I've yet to read him, or her.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Rachel has taken a couple of them to Rovers - with a mate - I'm moderating the bickering with those who remain.
Apparently it was decided to host the Marple and the Marple Bridge Christmas events on the same day. Not sure that was such a good idea. Could have had twice the fun next week, as opposed to half the fun this.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Paul Ince is clear. It's the critics. The "out of order" critics. Maybe they should stop printing the league table. Or maybe it's "them critics" - like this one - what is picking a midfield of Keith Andrews and Aaron Mokeona. Oh dear, the paranoia of a cornered man.
There's another word for "critics" it's "fans". And they ain't happy either. The supporters forum is fizzing with anger.
Then there's this, from Alan Nixon in the Mirror: the Walker Trustees have realised they won't get £50m.
Like this comment I got from a prominent Marple bod this morning:
1 cm of snow and the entire Marple road system gridlocked. Congestion charge proposals for cycle lanes, bus lanes, potted plants on Rose Hill station platform but nothing at all about road improvements and they expect us to vote "Yes" - what planet are these people living on?
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Wonderful venue, even better gig! A near capacity crowd watched, for me anyway, the Bunnymen at their sublime best. Forget Liam Gallagher, Bono et al; Mac is the ultimate rock god. The first half was a sort of greatest hits compilation. They started with 'Lips Like Sugar', never one of my faves, but it was a decent start. Then it got better and better. 'Nothing Lasts Forever' was terrific, McCulloch broke off and did Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wildside' in the middle. They did 'Rescue', 'Dancing Horses', 'Bedbugs and Ballyhoo', 'People are Strange', all brilliantly, but the highlights of the first half were ' Back of Love' and 'The Cutter', both absolutely awesome. There was then an interlude of 15 minutes before they returned to the stage. The second half saw them return with an orchestra to accompany them on the whole of 'Ocean Rain'. Beforehand I'd thought that for a band to perform the whole of an album, track for track, with a backing orchestra was a little daring. Especially when you remember that this particular album is 24 years old ( Christ is it that long ago?), I needn't have worried; not only has Ocean Rain stood the test of time, it's better than ever. Certainly better than many of the young pretenders have come out with thus far anyway. Oh yes, Will Sargeant...a musical genius, for me up there with Marr as the best.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Another thing that baffles me. The Miami Dolphins are called that, because they are based near the ocean. The Dallas Cowboys reflect the Texan preoccupation with cattle. I have never seen a Shark in Sale, or a Tiger in Leicester. Quite what they should have been called isn't my problem, but it just adds to the whole sense of confusion I have over rugby.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
- Royal Mail vans
- Skip transporters
- Certain compact German cars driven by, er, certain types of lads from East Lancashire
- Anyone in Longsight
- Mini cabs with billowing fumes from the rear
- Buses in Manchester city centre
- Any car with a fish sticker on the back - why are born again Christians such dreadful drivers?
Anyone care to add any more?
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I've also expressed the view recently that the Tory Party locally is intellectually and tactically weak. I met Alex Williams (prospective MEP) and Susan Williams (Trafford leader and candidate for Bolton) and thought they were bright and astute. The last senior Tory I met was Alan Duncan, I thought he was a bit of an arse, frankly. And he was dreadfully rude to Shelagh Fogarty on Radio 5.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I know what he means.
Take this, for example:
An advert produced by supporters of the Greater Manchester Momentum Group, which portrays a young woman being assaulted because her father was unwilling to pay the Congestion Charge.
The advert, filmed at Peel Holding’s Trafford Centre, was apparently produced by Sonassi Media, supporters of the Greater Manchester Momentum Group.
The video purports to show a women pleading with her father to collect her from the Trafford Centre because she fears she is being followed by a potential assailant. Her father refuses because he states he cannot afford to pay the congestion charge. The woman is subsequently assaulted.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
His team pulled back a 3-0 deficit at half time to draw 3-3. He seemed to enjoy the moment, so I let it pass.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
As the whole leap of faith on all of this is based on a deal - "money for improvements, then a road charge, trust us" this is an obvious and very important point for GMPTE to drive home. It is also a "fact" - as stated in the timetable - that a fast train leaves Marple at 08:11 for Manchester Piccadilly (it didn't), that a train leaves Wilmslow at 08:26 and arrives at 5 to (it didn't), and that while the 07:28 train left Mossley Hill on time, it is due to stop at Urmston, Trafford Park and eventually Oxford Road (it was too full, so it didn't).
On one hand, the answer to this moan is that the Transport Innovation Fund money will make the world a better place and that the trains will run on time. On the other, you could deduce that the current regime at Northern Rail and GMPTE couldn't run a whelk stall.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I always think cricket lads are a good laugh. By and large the banter is sharper than football and not as lewd as rugby - I've never fancied drinking piss out of a sock.
Bizarrely, most of the auction prizes were football and boxing bits and pieces. The speaker was Jeff Winter, the ex-ref, who was a late stand-in for Jonathan Agnew. He signed copies of his book and told stories about his refereeing days. He was very good, but to be honest I can't remember much as we rather hosed it down.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I went to a book signing in London once where he just sat there and ripped through a few tins of beer. He invited everyone there to drop by and visit him if they ever made it to Missoula, Montana - "my phone number is listed". Top man.
Crumley died recently after a full life. There are some fulcome obituaries here, here and here.
Anyone who can write an opening line as good as this deserves such accolades: "When I finally caught up with Abraham Traherne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts, in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."
And driving is no better. The road snarl ups on the A57 at Gorton are still a pain - and totally pointless. Just what the world needs - another Tesco.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Spoony on Radio Five tried to whip up a lynch mob on the low crowds at Blackburn, claiming Wolves, Norwich and Barnsley get more fans. I do tire of this. If Norwich was surrounded with densely populated mill towns each with a fierce loyalty to their own town team, instead of cornfields, then I doubt even they would get 20,000 fans to come and see their team lose in the pouring rain, for £35, or to watch it on TV in the pub.
And Barnsley were playing Sheffield United, a local derby.
Running total on the season tickets: That would have cost us £117, with booking fees. Add to the previous games, we've now chalked off £391 worth from our total outlay. We'll have paid for them soon and we may yet see a win.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Around 1980 we used to have mega tournaments round at Peter Corke's house. The final would feature Brazil v Lancaster City and other such delights. Great days.
It's also recalled very well in this song by Half Man Half Biscuit - You Tube link is here. Some background is here.
Insider even featured two figures on the front cover in December 2002.
I asked the guard what she was going to do about this blatant act of fare dodging and she said - "what can you do?" Call the police, possibly?
On the way back the heavy handed Virgin Trains staff were checking tickets and I had to pay a fortune for a peak fare - because I'd missed the 15.05.
I was surrounded by about a dozen 14 and 15 year olds who were such great kids. Real characters with a ton of spirit. They weren't posh or polite or creepy or anything. They had the strongest Salford accents I've heard in ages too. As ours get older I worry about what they'll be like in the next age group. if they're like these I'd be very proud and happy. I passed this on to their teacher, who told me they were from a new academy in Salford attached to Media City and were studying A level philosophy. Fantastic.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
This however, is ace. Especially when you read the comments below.
A flavour is here:
You will not find the colours of Burnley FC in anything inspired by the Blackburn design guru. “You won’t find anything in those colours designed by me, certainly not clothes and not even to this day in my other work.”
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Conservative leader David Cameron said Mr Obama was the first of a new generation of world leaders. "In electing Barack Obama, America has made history and proved to the world that it is a nation eager for change. This has been an exciting and inspirational contest with two great candidates. In these difficult times people everywhere are crying out for change. Barack Obama is the first of a new generation of leaders who will deliver it - he has my whole-hearted congratulations. This is an important moment not just for America but for the world. Barack Obama's victory will give people a new opportunity to look at the United States and see her for what I believe she is - a beacon of opportunity, freedom and democracy." And if he's first, who's next, Dave?
I was in Pittsburg for the 2000 election and it was a depressing farce. This must have been awesome.
How much of the billions raised on this election could have been better donated to charity?
America needs to grasp this moment and get the world to love it again. The last chance was after 9/11 and America blew it by "kicking ass".
Sarah Palin was a disaster for the Republicans. I heard that McCain only met her twice before he adopted her as a running mate. Absurd.
One of my pals has a bet on that the next president - to be sworn in - will be Joe Biden. It assumes Obama will be assassinated. Perversely, his daughter is working for the Obama campaign. This is unrelated.
People thought McCain was a good bet because he had spent 4 years in a Vietnamese prison. So had Gary Glitter, but I wouldn't have voted for him either.
Obama needs to break with the past, yet look to the future. Clinton took on the problems of the previous recession and almost claimed them. Obama should avoid the Clinton's like the plague. An awful lot.
I read his book, but I'd struggle to tell you an ideological arc within it beyond - "why can't we all just get along?"
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I would, anyway. And according to my stats, I had some visitors from the US recently, though they were looking for Miss Marple and references to six strings. So, if you do drop by, even by accident, please vote for Obama.
Friday, October 31, 2008
He did a piece on how Marple has been cut off from Stockport, concluding: "It is insane that there is no rail link between Marple and Stockport and it is easier for shoppers to get the train to Manchester than drive to Stockport just four miles away. Stations like Rose Hill are like a ghost town - no-one uses them. Even if they were to reopen the lines it would be impossible because supermarkets have built all over them. These problems were caused by the short-sightedness of Dr Beeching back in the 1960s. They expected a massive increase in car usage and thought the public wouldn’t use the transport system as much - this was a disastrous decision done for economic gain which 40 years later has caused a lot of grief."
He added: "Local authorities want to introduce things like congestion charges but they are offering no proper alternatives to cars."
Government intervention in the economy is the biggest issue facing everyone today. If you wish to take that on as a piece of political analysis then you have to conclude that it is very much the Tories' achilles heel at the moment. George Osborne on Radio 5 this morning was still repeating the mantra "you can't spend your way out of a recession". The interviewer should have picked him up on it by mentioning Germany (the Marshall plan), post-war Japan and Roosevelt's new deal in America in the 30s, to name but three examples.
Osborne probably isn't that bright. He just sticks to the laissez-faire line because it is in his Tory DNA and because it is constantly drummed into him by his rich mates in the City.
It's likely now that calls will increase for Labour to promote a (semi) return to statist politics and to announce they will up taxes for the super rich. They can probably get away with a bit of a shift to the left in the current climate. The problem is they could hammer the Tories on this stuff day in and day out but they don't seem to have the big beasts to do it any longer.
But, hey, there are more important issues to discuss, like radio presenters making a rude phone call.
Hat tip: Andy Coyne.
Basically the film has got all the bits that make the Bond franchise an enduring success - and added more of the action that has elevated the rival Bourne series to the level of serious competition. Stunning locations, chases, fights, fires, floods, raunch and wit. The film is all action; it has bad guys, good guys, murky guys who have to decide who they are, and bad guys doing over other bad guys. Bond is confused in the middle of all of it.
Weak points - not witty enough. And not nearly enough raunch. Daniel Craig as Bond is darker, but could do with a better sense of humour and fun.
I mentioned all of this to his Dad (see pic above). More pics here, by those chaps at The Digital Paparazzi.
Which is exactly what I needed when I got pulled over for speeding on the M56 on the way home. That wouldn't happen to Bond, would it?
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Here's Andy's report:
You picked a good one to miss. Poor match despite five goals and it was frigging freezing. Blackburn better side for most of match - dominated first half. Lots of quick, one touch passing in midfield. Morten Gamst Pedersen at the heart of a lot of it. Once the strikers are firing on all cylinders you will be flying. Villa a different side when Carew came on at half time. He gave Samba a lot of problems and brought Agbonlahor into the game. We caught you on the break a few times for the goals. 3-1 would have been a criminal injustice, though. Your fans were good too. Singing all through the game - mostly about Burnley.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Rachel also bumped into Nick Lindley from Deli Select in Marple. I think my investment in smoked nuts, expensive cheese, pate, interesting snacks, rare olive oils and organic tomatoes will have paid for his weekend.
We also saw Badly Drawn Boy driving a BMW x3 near the Trafford Centre. And yes, he was wearing his hat.
In its favour, I was getting very tired of jihadist English boys as bad guys, so I like the twist to make the Russkis the villains again. They do it so well.
The new one, him from Robin Hood, who is a Russian double agent, also asked about Tom Quinn - the best agent the grid has ever had. And I'm sure he was in the titles. Could be coming back?
On the days when I have to be out and about, so I bring the car, the drive home along the A57 has been wretched. For no reason the traffic outside the new Tesco store in Gorton has been reduced to one lane through a slalom of cones. It adds 20 minutes to a journey, what a terrible waste. Taking the alternative through Longsight and Levenshulme is no better, due to double parking, rat running and arrogant bullies of a certain type.
Most traffic congestion is caused by idiots. Either idiots driving too fast and having accidents, or idiots who think they can drive where they want without a thought for anyone else. Or idiots who dig up roads and cone them off.
You could weave a plausible conspiracy theory that the Gorton scheme and the terrible trains are all part of a plot to drive everyone into the arms of the pro-TIF lobby voting YES in order to dsave us all from this misery.
Monday, October 27, 2008
I think I'm getting old and soft. I got battered in the flume in the swimming pool. I've always liked water parks and slides (I know, I know), but I came off with quite a headache and my sinuses throughly washed out. Then we went tree trekking, which is basically walking on a series of obstacles high up in the trees. My thoughts were with the kids, not just ours, but Ross and Daniel, the sons of our friends Julie and Mark. Joe went first and obviously needed a fair bit of encouragement. Daniel cruised around. But as I watched them it only dawned on me that I actually had to go through the trek myself at the moment of my first step. It was really hard. Frankly, I couldn't have done it without Daniel!
I'm also getting very close to that point of no return where you play football with your kids and they are better than you.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
There are some other reviews here and here.
Here's a bit from one: "It was shot in a nothing-special northern town with rain and war memorials and boozers and betting shops and kind hearts and corny jokes."
And a view to die for, a high street with everything you need and it's own cinema, even. Something very special in these times, I'd say. But the point is a fair one in this context.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
The night before we pulled a group of friends together who didn't all know each other. As Jennie Hughes, better half of him, said: "You've got wonderful friends". Aye, but there's never enough time, and we still like making new ones. We feel worn out today, but refuelled and content.
So, happy birthday Billy.
Friday, October 17, 2008
By a remarkable coincidence it was announced today that Oasis are to play Heaton Park next year. The BBC 6 Music story on it is here. I have fallen in and out of love with them over the years. First album, adored it. Second, I lapped up. Third, I think All Around The World is one of their top five tracks, still. After that. So predictable. Little By Little is good. Their b-sides are some of their best tracks - Half A World Away, Slide Away.
Live, they are brilliant. I saw them twice in 1996 in San Francisco, then Cardiff (supported by the Manics). They had to work hard in America and it was probably a better musical spectacle. For energy, Cardiff was one of the best ever.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
There is one party in the mainstream of British politics that I have consistently distrusted, disliked and disregarded as serious. That party is the Scottish separatist rump, the SNP.
Bankrolled by Sean Connery from his wee croft in Bermuda, the SNP know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Their leader has a dream of a small country with muscle, he has previously cited as a model for an independent Scotland, wait for it, Iceland.
Here's a savage critique of all that wee shite. A flavour is here:
It comes down to the simple arithmetic and coincidentally pleasing numbers. Westminster gave the two institutions £32bn and access to more. The Scottish government has a total budget of £31bn and even with North Sea oil and independence, would be bankrupted by that bail-out.
It's almost as laughable as the Welsh separatist who said: one day I dream my country will take its seat at the United Nations between Cuba and Cyprus.
For us, the star attraction was Marple, where the whole thing was shot and set: Church Lane featured a lot, Mellor Church, Goyt Mill, the Railway Arms, Stockport Road and for a real touch of authenticity the young kid in the story went to All Saints School. I was a bit disappointed that he didn't play for Marple Athletic Junior Football Club, but relieved too that it was a faceless kit and not R*** H*** R*****.
There are a few local grumblings about the filming here and here.
More pertinently however, I watched most of it with a lump in my throat. Anything dealing with men falling apart, men failing as fathers and men being supported by their elderly fathers gets me every time. It was funny at times, as you'd expect from anything Craig Cash has written - but it was savagely raw as well.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Lots of mud, lots of splashing in the water and climbing up bankings. We are very lucky to live round here, where the city meets the Peak District and all its exciting landscapes. We were spoilt for choice when we set out, but Rachel hadn't been here before. Good exercise too, the boys will all sleep well tonight.
There's a plaque at the end of the walkway reminding visitors that the bridge is now a permanent memorial to Stan Brewster, the civil engineer who oversaw its construction, who was killed in the 7/7 terrorist attacks on London. It's a wonderful monument to a life cruelly taken.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Anyway, judge for yourself, a collection of his monthly thoughts is here.
Think about what rainy Manchester has created in the last 50 years: the computer, the splitting of the atom, free trade, Oasis (who were in Liverpool, during Capital of Culture year, that very night), developing a cure for cancer, Elbow winning the Mercury Music Prize, the Halle, even Manchester United. And what's sunny London ever given us: Chelsea, Arsenal, derivatives and hedge funds.
To close the evening I did an updated version of a rant from the last interview Tony Wilson did, where he roughly said:
In the North West it rains and it rains. And yet we managed to produce the industrial revolution, trade union movement, the Communist Manifesto and even the computer. Down south, where the sun never sets, you took all our money and what did you produce? Chas and f*cking Dave.
Which, for the record, was a nice twist on this, from Harry Lime in The Third Man:
In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
It's right though, isn't it. Chas and Dave, eh?
Second half, early on, I spotted a bit of a niggle between two boys, but it didn't amount to much and I let play go on. Well, the manager never let up after that. I had to stop the game and ask him to calm down. When the home team scored, the away goalie burst into tears and claimed another boy had punched him in the eye. I never saw it. Hurt pride, I think, because he'd kept his team in the game until that point. This manager then took his team off and refused to play the remaining few minutes, blaming me. What a tool. He didn't stop ranting for a good 20 minutes. I walked away. Even a parent from his team told me he "had a short fuse" and that I had done a good job.
I needed to tell him he couldn't carry on ranting about me and just asked him to remember that it's just kids football and to ask the question all people involved in junior football need to ask: who is this for?
His response: "You're a disgrace".
Never again. And I feel utterly depressed.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Bill Rawls - Luiz Felipe Scolari
Carver – Florent Malouda
Bunk – Yakubu
Herc – Brad Friedel
Fruit – Nicolas Anelka
Chris Partlow – John Obi Mikel (miniaturised version)
McNulty – Michael Ballack
Bunny Colvin – Shaun Goater
Slim Charles - Didier Drogba
Wallace – Steven Pienaar
Sunday, October 05, 2008
I drive through Chesterfield a bit and wondered why the Union Jack features quite so much (chippy, garage, pub). Well, this was Chesterfield from 1892-3 they really did have that kit. And York from 1973 had that.
I fixed my view of what colours different teams were in about 1973 (when I was six). I had this incredible book my Dad got me one Christmas, and I have never been able to take seriously clubs that change their kits so much. Millwall, Crystal Palace, Luton Town, Stockport County and Rochdale have all buggered about with their tradition. I'll let another blogger of a nearby parish explain Tranmere's experiment with blue, and a workmate to put light on Oldham's flirtation with Orange. As for Burnley's first ever kit being blue and white halves, well, words fail me.
I've also been messing about with Genius, it's thrown a few good playlists together, but I suspect it's based on purchase history given that it can't work out what to recommend from your own record collection when you click on a Beatles track. Ha.
We've got another in a few weeks, but the person concerned doesn't know.
Here are ten positives from yesterday, clutching at straws I know, but it could have been worse:
Face facts, we've come out of a good run, we meet this lot and they are very, very good. Rooney is deadly, Berbatov a fine footballer and Ferdinand very solid. What a spine. Ronaldo, however much he's a diving prick, is a marvellous player to watch. So, we got beaten, but by an excellent opposition.
The fifteen minute spell when we looked like the better side. Roque would have nailed it against lesser sides. They didn't like it up 'em.
We seem to have cut out the defensive errors that would have made the score even worse.
Jason Brown. He looked quality. The save from Giggs was awesome. Their first goal from the resulting corner shouldn't have been given and it was cruel on him. He deserved the home team man of the match award.
Tugay. What a master. He can still hold his own on the most part even against Giggs and Berbatov, but lacked a fetcher and carrier to link with. It isn't Andrews, who got closer to the ball when he was on the bench than when he came on. Where is Vogel?
We took Sean and Fraser, two of Joe's school pals and Marple Athletic team mates. They really enjoyed seeing their team win 2-0.
The Roverstore is very good, the experiment with Sports World running the shop and selling shell suits galore was a mess. It's good to have our own temple of tat.
I bought 4000 Holes, the original Rovers fanzine. It was very good in parts. I laughed out loud at the story that Burnley are the 6th most hated club according to a spurious survey and the comment from the Pisoir Pundit that such a position will match their fingers.
I spotted Potty Mouth and Knuckle Head in the old seats. They will have got very wet.
Running total on the season tickets: That would have cost us £132, with booking fees. Add to the previous game, we've chalked off £275 worth from our total outlay. We'll have paid for them soon.
Er, that's about it.
Britney of Arabia is here.
Chris the Greek is here.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
I've been to two funerals recently where the tunes played were Joy Division's Atmosphere (a choker) and Abba's Fernando (he's smiling on us all).
And then there's this magnificent send off from the Baltimore PD.
The Rovers fan in the Observer was full of praise, claiming we're playing better football than under Hughes. I'm not qualified to comment on that, so will reserve judgement.
We've got Man Yoo this weekend and as long as Rob Styles isn't the ref, then we've at least got some momentum to take into the game.
And I'm bottom of the office prediction league. I'm getting a few results (one point), but no correct scores (three), so what do I know?
If you have reached the end, as I have, there are some excellent reviews here, here and here, from New York magazine, The Word and The Guardian website.
Do not click through if you haven't finished.
But, as discussed, there are friends who are behind us on this. Neil, Rob M, Rob H and John Dixon have been very good about not revealing plot lines, so I'm not going to blab about what's happened to different characters, top ten moments, top ten most horrible characters etc.
But let's get our skates on and organise a screening and discussion at the Cornerhouse. Baltimore, the Manchester connection.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Director Mathew Vaughn was inspired by another multi-layered crime epic - Heat - which I also never tire of.
When I do an event I always tuck myself away for five minutes and listen to Michael Gambon's speech at the climax of the film, followed by Lisa Gerrard's soaring Aria.
You're born, you take shit.
Get out in the world,
you take more shit.
Climb a little higher,
you take less shit.
Until one day, you're up
in the rarefied atmosphere...
...and you've forgotten
what shit even looks like.
Welcome to the layer cake, son.
Here's how it was reported:
Kevin Roberts, the chief executive of global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, last night called for a complete rebrand of the MediaCity development at Salford Quays, saying the name and design of the emerging creative centre lacked the originality needed to put it into the hearts and consciousness of a worldwide audience. Speaking at Insider’s Creative Forum, held at The Lowry Centre, Roberts praised the idea of MediaCity, but said its execution has so far been poor. “I think you need to add mystery, sensuality and intimacy to it,” he said. “It needs to be rebranded, to have more storytelling around it and the external design needs to change. It’s not enough that it’s coming to Salford over London – we have to make this great and fabulous and ours. I really want it to succeed, but I just find it so bland at the moment.” Roberts added that the economic slowdown could also benefit the creative community, saying some of the most innovative ideas are generated during tough times.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Manchester put on a great show for the Labour Party this week. I've been at a do in Harrogate tonight and the (private) perspective from the white rose side of the Pennines is that Manchester is streets ahead of other UK cities right now. The Cushman and Wakefield report here confirms it.
I'm enjoying discovering new wine, but it's harder to find bargains at Majestic these days. The cheeky Chilean Merlot I like has doubled in price. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is also soaring.
I was involved in two events at Labour Conference. It struck me again how much I am switched off the whole entourage of politics. I was impressed with Richard Leese and John Healey and their honest, very personal commitment to public service, but Labour are doomed. The Tories seem exciting, but that's only because they're in opposition and don't have to do anything. They are weak once you get past Cameron, Osborne and Boris. See if anyone else stands out next week.
It has never been a more fascinating time to be in business journalism. Scary, yes. Complex, yes. But truly remarkable times. I've marked some student projects for UCLAN this week and I am in awe of what these students are capable of.
I didn't go and see Blackburn Rovers beat Fulham. It wasn't a great game according to my kilt wearing correspondent, but I did notice that Keith Andrews got Man of the Match in one paper.
I went to the Marple food and drink festival, which was a fantastic reminder to us that we are very lucky to live in a community where people care about their neighbours and their environment. The best pie award went to Grenaby Farm, as I mentioned. But there were also a whole range of entries in the home made category, which I regret to say I can't remember. As for other food, I was also really delighted to see that Murillos were doing a roaring trade in paella.
The best programme ever to appear on telly - The Wire - has concluded its fifth and final season. We're catching up on DVD and have seen the first three episodes. And it's set in a news room. Unbelievably good.
The Glasvegas CD is brilliant music. I love the energy and the initial feeling of authenticity. But part of me thinks there's a cynical plundering of Definitely Maybe and the early Jesus and Mary Chain that smacks of trying far too hard to get attention. Or maybe I'm just a grumpy old man. Still, I can play Smoke on the Water on my six string now.
So here I am, in a hotel in Yorkshire, away from my family. All this talk of Ruth Kelly giving up her cabinet job to be with her family makes me sad that I don't see enough of my Rachel and my boys. We did our best to have a great birthday for Rachel this week, but we're both at it again straight away. You feel so guilty all the time, but we devote so much of what we do, what we earn and how we invest our love into our family. And on another note, last month we went to my cousin Mark Leamy's wedding party in Morecambe, today we paid our last respects to Uncle Doug and on both very different occasions I was struck by how close people are in different parts of my extended family, and yet I've become distant from it.
We're also so proud of Rachel's niece Emily, who has been on the X Factor. I don't think I properly appreciate what a wonderful extended family we have. And I still haven't seen little Calum! Honestly, I know there are family who pop on here, I just wanted to say "Hello, and I love you all very much".
Sunday, September 21, 2008
And the winner of the Samuel Oldknow Pie Competition, as judged by myself and Joy Abell was...
Professional category: Grenaby Farm pork pie with cranberry.
There were other winners, but I am sketchy on the details.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I read a terrific book on holiday called Guitar Man by Will Hodgkinson. It's one of those self deprecating middle aged man books that embarks on a journey of discovery. He learns the guitar in six months and plays a concert. It should inspire me to stick at it. All I want to achieve is being able to pick, strum and fret my way through a few campfire classics.
Anyway, I hope it works out.
As one of my Cardiff based colleagues reflected today, when Rangers were in Manchester, and he was required to be here, he did muse: "This is the worst trip, I've ever been on."
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I'm going to do running total here, working out how much the match tickets would have cost had we bought them on a game by game basis, as opposed to buying our family season ticket. As Arsenal are a category A team, the price would have been £111.
Overall, the event raised nearly £40,000 for Mencap.
A DVD of the night, plus unseen extras, will be available soon after some wizardry from Chris and Alan at Zut Media. No doubt it will include raw footage of Phil Tarimo of Investec who provided "one for the ladies" with You Can Leave Your Hat On. The hat, and the trousers, did indeed stay on... but the shirt did not.
An absolutely blinding night. I understand Dean is still wearing the Elvis outfit.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
According to a "rumour" in today's Fiver: "Dennis Wise and Mike Ashley think Paul Ince is the perfect puppet for the Newcastle job."
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Must have been how he snatched a point from Hull City, a week before Wigan stuffed them 5-0.