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.