Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wet face

A very strange thing happened to me today. I spend a good chunk of every month wandering around with crap hair and a dirty car, wondering when I will ever get time to sort either. Today I had both a haircut and then pulled in on the A6 in Levenshulme for a car wash. The lad took my order and I gave him £10 for a £3 job. While he was, supposedly, getting my change I left my window down. His mate then started the job, squirting the wheels and the back window. Not realising I still had my window down he squirted me full in the face with industrial strength detergent.

He didn't speak English and I realised it was a mistake, but his boss seemed mortified. I'm sure by the time I'd gone they were all cackling to each other in Albanian at the specky bloke who they squirted.

However, it made my hair spike much better than the "product" the barber slapped on earlier.

Rose Hill Marple - all very quiet

Tony the station master hasn't been in attendance at Rose Hill this week. The guard on the train on Monday thought he must have been off on holiday. A punter said he thought there are ongoing refurbishments. I haven't been able to find anything official.

Not much information here.

Or here.

Unrelated, there is THE MOST offensive graffiti on the wall facing the car park. Obviously the nature of the intended offence reveals that the culprit is a spiteful scrote, however, the grammar and poor graphics also show this to be the work of a total and utter cretin. Strangely, this took the edge off the offence.

Cretin, what a great word.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The trouble with Diouf

In a perfect world we support football players who we would like to like. Sympathetic media profiles are designed to increase our affection for them. Certain aspects of their on-field character give clues to their overall personalities, which give further support to our affections for the players we are asked to like in an entirely different dimension. Take Blackburn Rovers captain Ryan Nelsen. He's a family man who the other players laugh at because he doesn't wear flash clothes or drive a Hummer or a Bentley. On the field he is brave, honest and very committed.

Then there's El Hadji Diouf, a pantomime villain with an image so ludicrous it's almost impossible to exaggerate his actions and outrages. A caption under a picture of him in the Daily Star this week read: "DIOUF hated." Certain of our supporters like his fist pumping and his ability to wind opposition fans up. Bolton fans had a song celebrating his spitting. He's also a "wife beater," who swears offensively in this prank call and has his ludicrous gansta look and likes flash motors.
Football wise, his performances have been patchy. His corners are rubbish, but his unpredictability can unsettle opponents and turn nothing into something.

Now, according that imperious source of news, the News of the World, Nelsen and Diouf had a scrap after our digraceful performance at Everton last week. Proper windmills and everything. That's after he lies about racist abuse and bananas thrown at him by Everton fans (as if they'd ever do that), he supposedly swears at a ballboy, then has a fist fight with the team captain, a man above criticism (though probably at fault for one of the goals).

If you start to pick apart each one of these incidents the interpretation of them serves the same charicature. It's a witch hunt, feeding a frenzy of loathing for him. There's more to this than meets the eye.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A gem of a paperback

This is a book for every football fan, anyone interested in the business of football and anyone who likes stories of the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. The stuff about Owen Coyle is very good, he's clearly one of life's genuine good guys. And Brendan Flood too is honest about how the credit crunch did for his property empire.

Here's a link to an extract from the book in Insider.

And here you can buy it on Amazon.

On not drinking

I'm still not drinking. I haven't missed it at all, though tonight we're going out for dinner and then up to the Romper for a bop along to A Few Good Men. It's this kind of Saturday where I'd usually have a bit of a bender and get slotted. At the Y Factor event on Thursday a few people asked me if i'd lost weight and that I was looking well. A few also asked if I "needed a beer" to get up and compere an event like that. The truth is, I really didn't. I needed a couple of Red Bulls to keep sharp, because I'd been working on Wednesday night as well, but I'm feeling great at the moment and really enjoying life. However, I realise I am at risk of becoming a pious bore about this so will keep quiet now.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Y Factor 2009 - a great success

I was involved in the Y Factor last night, where Manchester professionals perform in front of a band to great acclaim and with the purpose of raising money for Mencap, a charity that helps people with learning difficulties.

Here are some pictures of me with Justin Moorhouse, one of the judges, and Charlotte Porter from Mencap; and one of me with Jennifer John, a vocal coach and one of our judges on the night. In the middle is a cardboard cutout of Terry Christian, last year's man, who had to let us down the day before and so wasn't there.

There's a link here to coverage on my work website, which will tell you that the girl band from Cobbetts solicitors won.

I've included these pictures here, on my site, because a certain website has airbrushed all mention of my involvement in the event and used all pictures of the event, except these two, because I'm on them. Nice eh?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thoughts on getting a drubbing at Everton

Just back from Everton. Great day out with friends, rubbish game from a Blackburn Rovers point of view.

My random cliches. I've just watched Sam Allardyce moaning about our lack of strength. No, sorry, that wasn't the problem. Our lack of positivity is though, and who gives that to the players, Sam?

Diouf is a waste of space in games like this; lazy and a liability. Why wasn't Lars Jacobsen playing? Salgado made me jittery and was way off the pace. Eamon Andrews was found wanting again. Dunn dived, got found out and then when he was fouled he got nothing. Silly. Anything good to say? Paul Robinson made some world class saves which saved us from an utterly embarrassing scoreline.

What not to wear

I'm off to Everton today to see Rovers. I'm a guest of an Evertonian diehard in some posh seats, which has meant I have had to devote some time to wondering what to wear. I don't think I've ever been as uncomfortable in a football stadium as when I've gone suited and booted and then had to sit amongst normal people who aren't. So the new "smart casual" rules in the so-called executive lounges at football matches create all manner of tricky etiquette dilemmas.

Jeans are acceptable apparently, trainers aren't. Do you then wear a work shirt? Or a polo? A jacket? Or just a coat? Then there's the weather, it's bright now, but could be freezing in Scouse land.

Twenty five years ago, I used to REALLY think about what I was going to wear to football. Pringle jumper, Lois cords, Lacoste shirt, Clarks desert boots, suede jacket... And do you know what, I've more or less just pulled that look out today (with tweaks). Amen.

Good parents

The Marple taxi service was in busy mode yesterday. We had to get two boys to a cross country running competition in Stockport, one boy to his football match in Manchester and another to a swimming lesson in Romiley. Blissfully, one other football match was postponed and a request to "guest" for the B team was regretfully declined. It was just fantastic to see them all being active - and supporting each other - in social activities.
Lunch was "on the run" I whizzed into Marple to take in as much of the food and drink festival as possible and grab a few bits before we drove up to Earby (almost Yorkshire) for a family tea.
Here's a picture of Ian Wolfendale, his fiancee Andrea and Joy Able judging the 2009 pie competition. The "professional" winner was a awesome sounding steak, mushroom and Old Tom from the Royal Oak pub at Strines.

Bad parent

I can't believe I've neglected the Marple Leaf for a full week. The shame of it. I feel like a bad parent, which is strange, because this last week I really have been a rotten parent and husband. I must have worked a 60 hour week, involving early starts and late nights. I can't pretend I don't enjoy it, but it takes a toll. And in the midst of it all I've been working on my "book" project (which I have not talked about on here out of fear of cursing it) and doing my bit to help Marple Athletic Junior Football Club.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The long and the short of it - thoughts on Rovers v Wolves

OK, Blackburn Rovers have now won a league game. And, let's be honest, Wolves were pretty poor. I had grave fears when I saw that the West Ham line up of Jason Roberts as a lone striker, with David Dunn in a free role - a 4-2-2-1-1 - was repeated. The main difference was El Hadj Diouf. I have never been a fan of the spitter, but on Saturday he was disruptive and got forward with some ambition.

It's also true that Paul Robinson seems to be JR's main provider of long balls, that Pedersen is taking these long throws and that Samba charges up for corners, but they don't work. The most effective football comes from playing it on the deck and harrassing the opponents. David Dunn was superb again yesterday, he holds it up well and is prepared to take players on. Other bright spots were Brett Emerton's late but lively appearance, Michel Salgado coming on to calls of "Are you Tugay in disguise" and a decent performance from our Paul Ince-imported midfield of Eamon Andrews and Vince Grella. They did their jobs yesterday and passed much better.

Also, you won't have read this in any papers, or seen a clip on Sky or Match of the Day, but a keep-ball series of 30 passes showed the quality the team is capable of. It also lifted the mood of the fans who only seem to be singing about Burnley at the moment.

Interesting to read chairman John Williams in the programme - still nothing doing on the takeover front and that money is very tight.

So, season ticket tally time. Yesterday would have cost me £29 and £7 each for the two lads who came, even though we had a spare - must get better organised - so £43, plus £2 in booking fees. So, we've shaved £95 off so far. Bargain.

Come to Marple - the home of food

It's the Marple Food and Drink Festival this week. There are loads of events throughout the week. The big day is next Saturday, where stalls will be offering different local food along Market Street.

The Samuel Oldknow Pie Competition will also be taking place. There is a prize for the best pie from a bakery, or professional kitchen, and a seperate domestic award. Last year, a pork and fruit pie from Grenaby Farm, a bakery on Market Street created a piece of rare beauty. Sadly I have relinquished my judging role this year in deference to the superior pie pallett of my good friend Ian Wolfendale.

I've kept this low key, but it has now been 4 weeks since I had an alcoholic drink. I feel so much better and haven't had any cravings at all. In that time I've been to football, corporate rugby, a pub quiz and I've been OK with abstaining. I haven't missed it at all. I had also developed some expensive tastes for Amarone, so I don't feel as light of pocket either.

But food, and the appreciation of its subtleties, is possibly something one appreciates with age and wisdom. We are rather blessed here with traditional shops run by people with passions for good produce. My cheese tastes are now influenced by the helpful young man in All Things Nice deli. I can't kick this habit at all and a Carr's Water biscuit smothered with Shropshire Blue is a taste to behold.

The lads at Whites butchers are full of good ideas too. Some of them the kids even appreciate.

I am lucky to like food and not to have bloated in my sedentary early middle age. I bow to the sheer will power exercised by one of my friends round these parts. He has given up booze and is also on a major crash diet. He's lost 3 stone, looks amazing for it and is on course to to lose another 2. I couldn't do it.

Browned off

I was a tad underwhelmed by Derren Brown's explanation of how he predicted the lottery numbers. I suspect the 24 people crunching the numbers were a red herring and the whole "wisdom of crowds" explanation was a cover. It was interesting what he didn't show as he put the balls in the container. He left so much open to interpretation that he actually didn't explain anything at all. That, I suppose, is the art of the magician.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hooked by Derren Brown

I am very much looking forward to finding out how Derren Brown supposedly predicted the National Lottery numbers last night. I think he is the most compelling and fascinating entertainer working today. We saw him live a couple years ago and were hooked. And you have to say, the teaser last night, for the follow up on Friday has been brilliant marketing. Acres of media coverage today, like here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Turning Japanese

Someone is trying to post a comment on one of my blog posts about Rugby League. In Japanese.

It says: 度チェッカーで隠された性癖をチェック!外見では分からない男女のSM指数をチェックして相性のいい相手を見つけ、SMプレイしてみよう!合コンや飲み会で盛り上がること間違いなしのおもしろツールをみんなとやってみよう

Which, thanks to Babel Fish, translates as: "Checking the natural disposition which is hidden with the degree of SM checker! With appearance checking the SM exponent of the man and woman who does not understand, you will find the partner whose affinity is good, SM will try playing! Combination [kon] and rising in the drinking meeting you are not wrong everyone it will try doing the tool funny".

My reply is this: ほとんどの感謝を表するスパムの発信者は出ていく

Some early September bookmarks from my blogroll

Sometimes I feel like a genuine schizophrenic. I have these different interests, these different friends, these different corners of the internet where I find occasional stimulation (not that kind). Here are some links and bookmarks, pretty much based on the constants that I link from and include on the blogroll.

David Hepworth, publisher of the The Word (a magazine, a website, a podcast, a way of life), has a blog where he talks about the kinds of things he doesn't talk about at The Word. Here he is at his observant best talking about professional accents.

Another man with an astonishingly wide hinterland is Kevin Roberts, Lancaster-born advertising guru, rugby nut and a real inspiration. He's also just been back to blighty to see Manchester City and to visit one of his four homes - Auckland, New York, St Tropez, Grasmere. What a life.

Another City fan currently squinting at the glare from another false dawn is Laura Wolfe, who has been at this blogging lark for two years (on and off, eh Laura) but her family insights and world view are always refreshingly honest.

As is the scarily clever Norman Geras. He is very good this week on why the BBC has to invite the BNP onto Question Time, but also on why the Labour Party has to stand up to them. He's right. These people are numpties, they have been allowed to go unchallenged in places the Labour Party have stopped going.

It's the kind of debate one can get more of on Harry's Place, a politics website, where most posts tend to harrass the hypocritical left. But there's so much more, such as this great piece on The Housemartins.

If you like the link at the end to Paul Heaton's Mille Miglia and even vaguely know what I'm on about, then this quite brilliant website, CasCo, will be of interest to you. It has some of the best presentation I've seen on a website, and is a fantastic nostalgia trip into music, film, football and fashion. And all from an SK postcode too.

Nigel Hughes at Ear I Am once landed an interview with Paul Heaton, back in the day. Nige has also just lent me a superb book, 45 by Bill Drummond. Must return it. Nigel's blog is great. Always full of insights and surprises. There's a terrfic account here of his trip to Penrith FC for a tour.

If you want more obsessive traipsing around obscure football grounds, try 100 Football Grounds, latest entry includes tales of a recent trip to Rochdale. Sounds like a mad day.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Can't Kidd a Kid

Manchester City have appointed Brian Kidd as technical development manager of the club's academy. The worst manager in the history of Blackburn Rovers will be responsible for preparing youngsters for the disappointment that comes with realising you'll never, ever get into the first team ahead of an expensive foreigner, then being farmed out on loan to Stockport County.

Hat tip: The Guardian Fiver

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Little boots

I wasn't the only proud and nostalgic Dad in JJB Sports today looking for a pair of suitable football boots for one of my lads. But what I hoped would be a happy Dad n' Lad experience turned into a dreadful traipse around the moral maze.

Having found no size 2 boots at all in the Adidas factory shop at Pear Mill in Stockport, JJB was our obvious next port of call.

All the choices at JJB are branded - no problem with that, and he's just grown out of a pair of classic black Adidas. In fact, here are the choices.

As he's 10 I have to confer some decision making to him. But, as a responsible parent I had a list of minimum demands - moulded studs, not screw in, and a budget limit. And of course they must fit and be comfortable.

I would *prefer* him to wear plain black boots. The aberration of showbiz footballers wearing white and silver and yellow is a curse of our age. But, that is my prejudice.

We've never had issues before over label chasing, and it is only with boots and trainers that there appears to be any kind of peer pressure. And frankly, given my own predilication for classic old school Adidas wheels I have no right to any real estate on the moral high ground.

So, there was an Umbro boot - good enough for John Terry and Michael Owen, I said - at about £15. But it was synthetic. The average price of a normal and perfectly adequate pair of leather football ones is - ahem - about £25.

He wanted some blue Adidas F50 I TUNiT, as worn by Lionel Messi. They are bright blue and the adult ones cost £124, according the the JJB website. The young lad in the shop told us they don't have them in kids sizes, which was a relief, because it cut off that line of enquiry. Subsequent research has confirmed this. But no, apparently two lads in the team have them. "Just like Messi, Dad." We then had a ridiculous stand off. Eventually we came away with a pair of black Adidas. There's a greivance lingering, but I won't budge. If someone has paid £70, or £124 for kids boots then they are mad. But I suspect boasting.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sporting tensions

Following last week's deathly boring bore draw at Ewood Park I did the worst possible thing last night. I went to see a bit of egg chasing, seeing Sale Sharks beat Leicester Tigers in a cracking game at Edgeley Park. It was everything that the football wasn't. Passionate, tight, action-packed and full of nail biting tension at the end.

This England

Here's Rachel with Alan Titchmarsh at Chatsworth Country Fair yesterday. I wasn't there, boo. But what a nice fellah he was, with a proper manly handshake, according to FiL Eamon Curran. Chatsworth is one of those brilliant country events and Alan, as I think I have earned the right to call him, given his new found friendship with my family, is the president.

It represents another England from the urban concerns that usually occupy our thoughts through the year, even in leafy Marple.

He talks about the magic of country fairs in his column in Gardeners World in the August edition and warns that many are dying. The weather doesn't help, but the Royal Show has called it a day and as Al said to our Rachel: "It would be criminal if other shows went the same way."

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