Wednesday, December 31, 2008

That was the year that was

I feel strangely upbeat as the year turns. We've had all the shocks and mishaps to contend with. I've got my money out of Iceland; yes, I kept that quiet. We don't feel in any way complacent about the extent of the horrors that may lie ahead and we certainly aren't smug about it either.

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.

Some random book reviews

I've finished a few books I had on the go. In the usual fashion, here are some short reviews, told as if explaining in a lift.

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

Football predictions - so far

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.

Chelsea (wrong)
Man U (rightish)
Liverpool (wrong)
Arsenal (right)
Villa (right)
Spurs (wrong, by a mile)
Portsmouth (rightish, but falling like a stone)
Man City (wrong, by a mile)
Middlesbrough (wrong, by a mile)
Everton (wrong)
Rovers (wrong, by a mile)
Newcastle (wrong)
West Brom (wrong, by a mile)
Sunderland (rightish)
Wigan (wrong, by a mile)
West Ham (rightish)
Fulham (wrong, by a mile)
Bolton (wrong)
Hull (wrong, by a mile)
Stoke (rightish)

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?

Two texts straight after the Rovers v Man City game said it all. One, from a City fan who was at the game: "Sometimes a draw feels like a win". Another from a Rovers fan on holiday in Istanbul: "When a draw feels like a loss."

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

Merry Christmas

A very merry Christmas to everyone.

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.

Squatters evicted

Sam Allardyce knows what he's doing. Nigel Winterburn and Robbie Fowler were two old pals of Ince who served no purpose. Bye.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Joan Lancaster RIP

It was a sad start to the Christmas period today. We held a service and cremation at Macclesfield Crematorium for my Aunt Joan Lancaster, who died last week aged 87. She was a lovely, lively and bright lady who my Mum was very close to. Her husband of 60 years, Doug, died in September. She had, as they say, a good innings, but it was a very sad day for us all. Doug and Joan were great dancers. Her signature tune was Misty, which was played at the end of the service

Top boy

Back in the day a group of lads used to come to the odd Rovers match and start fights. They called themselves a name which was overtly fascist and were led by one particular bloke (Blackburn's "top boy") with a semi mythical reputation as a local hard man - a Lancashire Keyser Sose. This particular bloke, who I'm not going to name as I don't want to attract that sort of internet traffic, was in the News of the World a couple of weeks ago. Link here. Nice.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We've got our Rovers back

Smiling at the Rovers again. All that optimism was well founded as we won 3-0 against Stoke City. The players seemed to play with a lot of belief and were much better organised. Those smug sofa dwellers at Match of the Day even acknowledged a positive contribution from Eamon Andrews. I thought David Dunn was quality yesterday, a vice-skipper's performance. Still unsure about Robinson. He's a decent shot stopper, but is hopeless at judging crosses. Another bright spot was Benni McCarthy - I think he's an exciting and gifted player. He can score some awesome goals, and is capable of creating something out of nothing. Allardyce seems to have staked our future on him getting back to his best.

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.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Corporate Bubble

Phil Jones has got his momentum back with an excellent blog - The Corporate Bubble. I've added a link on the "my neck of the woods - local" panel. This now includes a few cheery business people from Manchester, a Marxist professor, some young arty types, my oldest son, some journos and a commuting cat.

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.

Ten thoughts on what's been going on at Rovers

I haven't been excited about going to see the Rovers this season - each game I've been to I've expected us to lose, and we did. Today we play Stoke and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm sure the game won't be pretty, but direct attacking football has its excitement as well.

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.

Other People's Annoying Children

Went to the Christmas concert at the Bridgwater Hall last night. A Roger Cashman type family were sat in front of us. His youngest daughter hooted like a red Indian at the end of every song and waved her arms around at every opportunity. All with her parents encouragement. What a pain in the backside.

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

Strutting for cancer care

My pal Ruth Shearn has done her bit for Marie Curie Cancer Care by doing a catwalk modelling performance alongside Harry Craig, Daniel's little brother. Trumps by Bond namedropping. Please support her. The link is here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sam is the man

I think he can scrap us out of this. Might not be pretty.

BBC News story here. Official site here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who's the Guvnor now?

This is good, from today's Fiver:

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.

Ince sacked

...and good riddance. Take your rag bag team with you. I'd laugh if it was Owen Coyle who replaced him, but think it's going to be Souness and Tugay until the end of the season.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sports Personality of the Year Awards - what I should have said, could have said

Had a great night last night at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards at the Echo Arena. I went as a corporate guest and managed to avoid speaking to John Prescott who was also in our party.

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

Elliot and Matt in their nativity plays

Elliot was Joseph in the school nativity play. He did ever so well. Lovely performance by all the kids. Matt was a King in his - another magnificent performance.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Go Ince Go

I had a pang of sickness in my stomach seeing Paul Ince on the news tonight. I can't believe he is still our manager. I want him out as quickly as possible. Tomorrow will do. Bizarrely, I think we can get something at Wigan. We've still got a decent side with good players. The manager doesn't have a clue, and his backroom team is a shambles.

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.

The blunder of Woolies

My Grandad worked in Woolworths when he came out of the army after the war. He rose through the ranks and managed stores. They were proud places, back in the day. The greatest tragedy is that this wave of nostalgia - signifying some kind of affection for the brand - has not been tapped into by the recent management.

Time for Plan B

I don't take any pleasure at all in being completely correct about the result for the Manchester transport referendum. I just feel weary and slightly depressed about the utter waste of energy and effort.

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

Could it be music?

Glasvegas played the Academy last night. They did a blistering 40 minute set in a small sweaty venue where the crowed bayed for more. Energy, raw action and ceaseless passion. Sounds brilliant. Sorry. Brullyant.

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.

TIF referendum, the winner is...

Apathy. Scepticism. Ignorance. With a very poor turnout - less than 50 per cent in any borough - even less in Manchester, the winner of this expensive and energy sapping exercise is looking like a "No" vote, but on a very low turnout. In Stockport the votes received add up to 89,432 so far, from an electorate of 216,973. A turnout so far of 41.2% is above the regional average of 38.2%.

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

Best of lists

I do like lists at the end of the year, especially when they reaffirm what I like. Usually they don't. I will sometimes see a book or a music list in some achingly hip publication that contains nothing at all that I own, or have experienced.

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

Winter wonderland

This is usually the point where I report on how our lovely family spent a beautiful wintery day in Marple for the Christmas market - another wonderful community event. We certainly went and it definitely is a glorious day. But don't kids wear you out? I want I want I want.

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.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Another rant from me about TIF

Is here.

Revealed: Who is to blame for Rovers slump

Who is to blame for the FACT that Blackburn Rovers are second to bottom of the league without a win in ten games?

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.

A Man with Two Cows returns

I've updated my corporate finance blog this week. It's about the future of private equity. Apologies to anyone who has nodded off already. If you're interested it is here.

Marple grinds to a halt

It was only a bit of snow this morning, but the whole of Marple came to a standstill, maybe it's because we sit at the top of the hill. The trains weren't coping very well either. I sense a rising tide of anger over the whole TIF thing in Marple. There isn't anything in it for us, seems to be held in common consent.

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

Bunnymen in Liverpool

Marple Leaf reader Nick Morrell was lucky enough to get a ticket for the Bunnymen gig at the Liverpool Echo Arena for the 30th Anniversary gig last week. I'm very envious. Especially as my current IPod faves - Glasvegas - were the support. Here's his report.

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.

Marple Ath dinner - great time had by all

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rugby confusion

I really enjoy going to the rugby. Really. But I can watch a game of rugby and be enthralled by the sheer physical brute power and athleticism on show, but still fail to understand any subtlety of the game whatsoever, or understand any of the rules at all. And so it was last night when Sale Sharks beat Leicester Tigers.

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

What if Ince was to leave?

Who would make a good manager of Blackburn Rovers if Paul Ince was to leave? You never know, he always said he fancied Inter Milan one day.

What about Dave Jones at Cardiff?

Idiots to avoid on the road

Nearly had a nasty accident today on the way to Warrington. I braked to stop at a pedestrian crossing and the car behind, a new Mini, was far too close and had to brake severely, skidding in the process and ended up at 45 degrees to my rear. The silly cow then followed me to Warrington at the same close distance that nearly resulted in whiplash for me and my passenger and a bashed rear for the MLCM. What is it with women who drive these new Minis? I saw another this week applying make up on the A57, and another texting away. They now the join the following as a "stereotypes to avoid when driving."

  • Royal Mail vans
  • Scaffolders
  • 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

Cameron's flying visit to Manchester

Saw David Cameron in action again at the Chamber dinner on Monday. I thought he was on good form. The government's spending on the economy and the tax changes have, I think, fallen short of the lurch to the left that many were expecting. I think equally that the public sector waste that needs removing is a territory he fears. The link to his speech that he delivered at the CBI that day - the same one as in Manchester - is here.

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

Dirty tricks

Andrew Simpson, managing director of Peel, and a leading figure in the campaign against the congestion charge, said at one of our events last week that he has been horrified at some of the things that have gone on.

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

Jumping for joy

At a junior football match a couple of months ago me and Matt celebrated a goal from Joe with a little too much exuberance. He's a defender and doesn't get up the field much. And it was 8-0 at the time. The other team's manager gave us a look and muttered. I felt bad. We played his team yesterday and I meant to express some contrition.

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

My fascist neighbours

I found about a dozen Marple, Compstall and Marple Bridge residents amongst the BNP membership list that was posted on the interweb. I don't know anyone on there, I'm pleased to say, and I won't be linking to any web site that lists the BNP members list. And I found a business owner on there that I've long suspected of being dodgy like that.

Transport - the facts

The propaganda war has got going in Manchester regarding the planned congestion charge and the level of transport improvements. This morning the Metro was wrapped in a load of guff from GMPTE claiming they were presenting "the facts".

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

Blogging about finance

It's Wednesday and I haven't blogged. I've done another of those financial blogs, which you can link to here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let's move to... Lancaster

My paper had a property piece about my home town this weekend. And both my schools get a name check. The link is here. No comments as yet, but it's all very fair. Lancaster got a raw deal out of the town centre developments of the 1960s and hasn't quite captured that heritage trail that Chester and York have. The traffic is awful too. But we've just had a great weekend there, spent at my Mum's house on the edge of the Quernmore Valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

All going wrong

We didn't go to Rovers yesterday. Too much going on. But I think we're going to be in the bottom three for a while now. We were lucky to have caught Newcastle and Everton in crisis mode, now we face Portsmouth and Spurs on the rebound. Nul points. I don't think we've got a good enough squad to turn teams over, just chase a game. On balance I would prefer to be in the quarter final of the Carling Cup than not, but I'm sure Ince would have preferred the points now that we're going to get turned over at Old Trafford. And Ince blamed the players publicly yesterday, which is a sign he's losing it.

Just not Cricket

We had a top night at Marple Cricket Club's annual dinner on Friday.

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

Northern Rail - wonderful staff

I left my suit on the train this morning. I know, what a div. The guard from the 07.57 from Marple to Manchester handed it in. The same guard who held the back door so I could leg it down a slippy platform and get on board.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

James Crumley - RIP - some chance

There are a handful of writers I have followed closely and consumed, devoured, everything they've written. James Crumley is one. His hard boiled American crime novels aren't light reading, they pack a punch and grip you from the start. He also lived his life as hard as some of his characters.

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."

Why I have a headache tonight

Commuting this week has been shocking. Cancelled trains on Monday going in. No driver and massive delays tonight. The worst of it is the lack of communication at Piccadilly. The screens all say different things, the staff are clueless and surly and offer conflicting advice to the staff on the trains.

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.

Bring on the Burnley

Just been rooting for Burnley in the penalty shoot out with Chelski (on Sky Sports News). With Rovers winning at Sunderland, we're hoping for home draws and a meeting in the final. Quite keen to avoid the Arsenal Youth team however.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Seen three, lost three

We went to Ewood yesterday to see Rovers lose. There was an inevitability about it, but I was impressed at how the team tried to play neat passing football, even in wet conditions. Match of the Day was fair to us - and I agreed with the callers to Radio Rovers that Robinson was our best player, not Pedersen, as the suits in the Premier Suite chose.

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

Travelling army of synthetic supporters

There's a new book out about Subbuteo. A link to a review is here.

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.

Free travel to London

Been down that London today. It cost an absolute fortune on the train, but it seems I could have travelled down for free. The young man behind me pretended to be asleep, when the guard woke him up he said he couldn't find his wallet, nor could he remember how much his ticket cost. "It must have been stolen, or I dropped it." He found it later when the trolley came round, by the way.

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

Colour clash

I'll be honest, I think Wayne Hemingway can be quite funny. It hasn't always been so. But now that the internet can't even find the reason why I should be affronted by him, I can forgive and forget.

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.”

A sharp bit of work

Barack Obama t-shirts here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ten thoughts on the American election

Barack Obama is a wonderful orator. His acceptance speech was very special. Calm, yet urgent. He is also a wonderful campaigner and has organised his team exceptionally well. I know everyone is saying this, but I'm linking to that speech her for posterity. It is history being made in our lifetime.

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

Vote for Barack Obama

We obviously can't vote for Barack Obama in the US presidential election, but you can pretend on the Economist site here.

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.

Keith Andrews is a football genius

I was delighted that Keith Andrews scored at West Brom. He was rubbish against Arsenal and I feared the worst. But he knows the score. Rare humility from a footballer is here.

Insider website has an MT blog

When I started blogging it was to see where it went. And I keep work out of this blog. We're now stepping things up at work. Here's my first corporate finance column - Deals Focus.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Marple to Stockport - it's insane

I missed Stuart Maconie's programme on the railways. And it's not on iPlayer. There's a story from the Stockport Express here.

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."

The big issue

I know this is just the 'ickle ole Marple Leaf, but as news priorities are all upside down, some things just need saying.

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.

Oh Brother, where are't thou?

Welcome back to the land of blog, Phil Jones. He promises to update his blog here. Show him some encouragement.

Galaxy of stars at Bond premiere

We went to the premiere of the Quantum of Solace last night in Chester. Great night. Great film. The tickets promised "a galaxy of stars". Maybe it's my age, but we only spotted the regional director of the CBI and Ron Dixon from Brookside (I don't recognise actresses and footballers anymore, but they were there).

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

My word is my Bond

The kids love James Bond. Imagine their horror last night when we explained that we're off to Chester tonight to see the Quantum of Solace. Without them. It's a charity event for the RNLI, organised by Daniel Craig's father Tim and his wife Kirsty. Can't wait. We got in the mood last night by watching Casino Royale. I'll be honest, the last 20 minutes were rubbish and the card game was far too long. When he goes all mushy on his traitorous girlfriend, tells her he loves her and resigns; I thought I was going to wretch. You hope he's learned a lesson and will get back to what he's good at. They know they have a hard act to match with the Jason Bourne series, so we're expecting great things.

Frozen out at the Villa

When I looked at the fixtures in the summer, I pencilled in Aston Villa away as a chance to spend some time in our Birmingham office and to catch up with Andy Coyne, one of my best pals, who I don't see enough of. It didn't quite work out like that. It's half term (all the boys are with us), I'm very busy at work and, to be honest, I thought we'd get stuffed.

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

Mystery Fox

In the course of learning the guitar I read Will Hodgkinson's excellent book Guitar Man - I blogged about it here. I emailed him to say I couldn't get one of his tunes out of my head, even though he only wrote about it. He replied eventually. And Mystery Fox is here on the My Space page of his band Double Fantasy. Cool.

That's better

The second Spooks of the current series was much better. Sir Harry's rapish wit came to the fore. Malcolm's fun with gadgets thwarted those pesky Russians and the dark one out of Robin Hood had a few nice twists and turns. Roland Gift's still dull as dishwater though, or whatever he's called.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Small world

John Barnes was at Center Parcs last weekend with his family. He seemed to be enjoying himself.

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.

Spooked by spooks

Spooks is back. And I never expected Adam to get killed off. I must admit I found the whole thing last night a bit flat. Adam's lines seemed very wooden and contrived: "No fanatic with a sword is going to stop us honouring our dead". Harry didn't have enough of the mischief about him and the posh one off Cold Feet was even more pneumatic and cartoonish than ever. And is there a more boring member of the grid than the lad who used to be a journalist?

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?

Idiots galore

At a time when we're being asked to consider road charging and to experience a big uplift in public transport funding in Manchester, the whole experience of commuting into Manchester to work is getting worse. The 08:11 from Marple has been cancelled a couple of times recently, meaning the 08:24 has been rather crowded.

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

Nothing to fear

Having just returned from a very pleasant few days at Center Parcs, I am reflecting on a very strange series of experiences.

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

Nothing special

The concluding episode of Marple-based tear jerking drama Sunshine concluded last night on BBC1. Bernard Hill was amazing as George Crosby, the Grandad and Dad of the piece. And the unstated love between the Coogan character and his estranged wife was very well played out. I didn't envisage quite such a happy ending, and it was too short a run for any more plot twists, but as a piece of feel good drama it was triumph.

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

Comment is free

Marple Leaf reader Guy Ainsworth has urged me to encourage more comments. I've switched the moderated page settings to allow all comments. I'm not sure whether this blog is the kind that sparks debate, even on pies. But we'll see.

Man of the moment

We went to a dinner party last night in Bolton. Everyone there was lovely and lively company. Especially this bloke. And he's every bit as warm, passionate, funny and decent as he seems on telly.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The joy of Joomla

I've been tinkering with the Marple Athletic website today. I'm getting the hang of it. It uses a Content Management System called Joomla, which is alright; but not as user friendly as blogger, which this blog is done on.

Surprise!

Last night, when we went to Billy Kochhar's 40th at the Cinnamon Rooms in Bowdon, we had our theory proved once again about the key to happiness: spend time with the people you love. We've been looking forward to it for ages and it's been too long since we've seen Billy. Also, to be fair, Billy didn't have a clue it was happening. I thought I'd put my foot in it if I rang him for a chat, so haven't. His wife Kate had gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the whole surprise going, even getting tickets printed for a fake jazz concert that they were supposedly going to at the venue. When the curtain was pulled back to reveal family, friends and a room ready for a party I saw something I thought I'd never see: Billy lost for words. They are a great couple and I've really enjoyed spending time with them over the last few years. Rachel and Kate were pregnant togther all those years ago and have been close ever since.

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.
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Friday, October 17, 2008

Oasis live

I've set myself a target of being to do passable versions of two Oasis songs on the acoustic guitar, by Christmas. There will be an unplugged concert at a mystery location in the Marple area on Boxing Day.

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

Tartan Tories

Regular readers of this blog will know my political lineage, but I don't really care for any of them as they stand.

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.

More tales from the man in black

The sponsors of Joe's football team are RMS PR. One of the directors, Peter Davies, is a referee. Here's a match report of his latest match. Sounds very familiar. Hey, I bet none of your teams walk off the pitch!

Sunshine in Marple

We watched the second episode of Sunshine last night, the BBC drama starring Steve Coogan and written by Craig Cash. Coogan's character is a hopeless gambling addict on a downward spiral.

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

It's Baby Calum

Shutterfly | Shared Picture Detail

Hey! If you click on the above, you can get a picture of us all with Calum, the beautiful baby son of Rachel's brother Sean and his wife Reena.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Walking to New Mills

What a glorious day it has been today. Bright sunshine and just the right temperature to go for a Sunday morning walk. We strolled along the River Goyt from Hague Bar to the Millenium Walkway at New Mills (pic isn't mine it's from Buxton Online, a lovely site).

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

The thoughts and words of Roger Cashman

Roger Cashman has gone a bit over the top in his column in our magazine this month. I get a very mixed reaction to his column. Some people think he's a cult classic and others just think he's a c.... He's certainly better than Martin Lukes.

Anyway, judge for yourself, a collection of his monthly thoughts is here.

What's London ever done for us?

I mentioned our 42 Under 42 dinner from Tuesday night. My civic pride rather got the better of me. To cut a long story short, I wanted to remind our audience how much has been achieved in the North West in such a short space of time.

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?

Me. A disgrace

Apparently I'm a disgrace. I refereed a junior football match this morning. No names, but you can probably work it out if you wanted to. I'd been warned to keep an eye on one of the team managers. I had a chat to him before the game, then again at half time when things had - predictably - got a bit testy. I didn't actually expect to have to watch out for dirty play with 9 and 10 year old boys, or off the ball incidents, but to stop the game if a kid got hurt and give the odd free kick. You sort of let things go unless they're really serious. One boy was getting tearful because another was clipping his ankles. At half time I appealed for calm and asked the managers to have a word with the players concerned.

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

Wire - top ten footy lookalikes

Someone I know hasn't enough to do, or is a genius.

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

Mixing it

What a week. We had a 42 Under 42 dinner last night at the Radisson Edwardian. I think people don't know how to behave at functions any more. People are in shock and they feel uneasy about mixing and mingling. Once we got them warmed up it went very well. But these are odd times indeed.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Historical football kits - a quite brilliant site

There's a brilliant site here with all British football kits on it. Like, EVER. It is so ace. *Dons anorak*

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.

Annoying quirks of iTunes

For some stupid reason when I try and play an album on my iPod it shuffles the tracks, rather than playing them in the order on the CD. It's particularly annoying with the Glasvegas album because the tracks blend very well from one to the other, especially from Geraldine to It's My Own Cheating Heart... it didn't used to be like this. And randomly shuffling Paul Weller's 22 Dreams would have ruined the effect totally. How can I correct this?

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.

Haughty 40

We've been to a few 40th birthday parties lately and I have to say, they've all been top nights out. Everyone seems really pleased to be out, it's a real landmark and I think our age know how to let rip in the right way. I think the right amount of effort is put into a 40th as well. We've been treated to live bands and a quirky DJ in the last few weeks. One of the live bands was the same one that I had for mine in 2006, and who were the band for the Y Factor. The other was fronted by Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet. Yes, seriously, him. I would have written more about it on here but in these chastened times the last thing I'd want is to land some mate in the papers.

We've got another in a few weeks, but the person concerned doesn't know.

Positives from getting beat by Man Yoo

It's never pleasant to lose to that lot. And the walk back to our car up Livesey Branch Road was the wettest yomp ever.

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.

Arabian Nights

A couple of Marple Leaf readers have recently moved to the Middle East to explore the brave new worlds of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Coincidentally both have blogs to keep friends updated.

Britney of Arabia is here.

Chris the Greek is here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Baltimore - London

Not that I'm obsessed with The Wire or anything, but when I heard this, I thought - that sounds like Mayor Carcetti stiffing Commissioner Burrell.

Monday, September 29, 2008

And when I die

Morbid, I know, but death's been around me lately. There's this string - And When I Die - on The Word website about songs to play at your funeral, prompted by one service that featured Magazine's Shot By Both Sides.

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.

Rovers on a roll

I'm not going to come on here and admit I was wrong about Paul Ince, I wasn't and I still don't like him. In fact I was completely right about Keith Andrews being out of his depth against Arsenal and completely right that Matt Derbyshire, Benni and Tugay would have given us options.

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?

When you walk through the garden

We've now ended our regular tour of duty to Baltimore. Yes folks, tonight we watched the last ever episode of the Wire. All 58 episodes in less than three months. It's been an incredible journey. I know I sound potty, but I cannot recall a TV series this good.

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

Welcome to the layer cake, son

Rachel's out tonight, all the boys are asleep and I'm watching one of my favourite films on DVD - Layer Cake - and necking a bottle of Amarone. It's a brilliant film, full of great dialogue, imposing performances and has a sense of humour. It was also a real milestone in Daniel Craig's career, propelling him to the Bond role. Or so his Dad told me over lunch on Wednesday. Sorry, couldn't resist.

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.

Kevin Roberts at the Lowry Centre

As I mentioned earlier, this week has been really gruelling. And for all the effort I was still double gutted to miss an Insider event I'd worked really hard to put together. I got Kevin Roberts to come and do a talk in Manchester. It was a great success, Nigel Hughes says so here, and my guys are still buzzing from it.

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.

Worst radio interview ever

Is this the worst radio interview ever? It's writer and broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli being interviewed about his new book, Indian Takeaway, on the Les Ross show on BBC WM.

Source: Holy Moly and the Word.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Playing catch up

I feel I'm slipping on this blog. Sorry. Something had to give during this phenomenally busy couple of weeks. Here are ten things that are on my mind at the moment, from the ten most popular categories on this blog.

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

Doug Lancaster RIP

Doug Lancaster, my Great Uncle, will be laid to rest at Macclesfield Crem tomorrow and mourned by a sad and large throng at Mobberley Church. He was a lovely kind man and played a huge role in my Mum's life after her father died in the war. RIP, Doug.

Pie winner announced

The Marple Food and Drink Festival was an absolute triumph. The weather helped, but the efforts of so many great people paid off. There were queues at every stall at lunchtime.

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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

...played it till my fingers bled

My fingers hurt today, because I had a guitar lesson last night. It really isn't going very well at all. Part of me wants to blame the teacher, who seems to show me some nifty moves with his fingers, that look physiologically impossible, but doesn't say anything that makes it easy. But basically, I don't practice enough. I just don't get the time. I will try harder to pratice, but I find chord transitions really hard and can't concentrate on two movements by different hands.

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.

Sitting in judgement

I'm going to be a judge at the Samuel Oldknow Pie Competition this weekend at the Marple Food and Drink Festival. We'll be outside the pub on Market Street.

The glory of the North West

Stuart Maconie is to be an ambassador for the North West, he's doing a web service, which is here. I like Stuart, he's a funny writer and his book Pies and Prejudice was a great old ramble around the North. I did a review of it for one of our magazines, which he took exception too, partly because I said he made a few mistakes and then tripped up by making one of my own - he didn't in fact go to Manchester Poly.

Anyway, I hope it works out.

This is the worst trip...

The Times is reporting here that Rangers fans have been singing sectarian songs about the Irish famine. If I recall, this song ends with the line: "the famine is over, why don't you go home." And it is to the tune of Sloop John B.

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

Italy is different

This cute animation about Italy is quite amusing. Click here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Oh dear - Rovers get battered

Stuffed at home by Arsenal, who barely broke sweat. And our manager linked with the Newcastle fiasco. All my worst fears about Paul Ince, Keith Andrews and our flaky defence look like coming true. We will be in the bottom three tomorrow and may well spend a great deal of the season there.

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.

Y Factor a great success

The Y Factor was an enormous success on Thursday night. Dean Gormley of law firm Halliwells was crowned as winner after wowing judges, even the super-cynical Terry Christian, Rowetta, Sean Fitzgerald and Angie Robinson and an audience of over 450 professionals with his rendition of Suspicious Minds. Emma Leathley of Clearwater came second with her excellent Manic Monday.

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

Feeder club

It is customary for the perpetually vacant manager's job at Newcastle to be linked with whoever is in change at Blackburn Rovers.

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.