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). 

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.


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.