Tuesday, June 15, 2021

'Beyond the Bomb' Manchester moves forward

I was reminded today that it was 25 years since the IRA tried to blow up Manchester City Centre. I was in the city at the time for the Germany v Russia game at Old Trafford. 

It was also 5 years since my dear friend Neil Tague released this wee film he'd made. It makes me quite emotional watching it today. What a journey we've all been on.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Remember Me? by Shobna Gulati reviewed

Grief is by its nature very very difficult to write about. We pack in the loss, the ache, the loss of that joy of life as it was. Much harder is to really say what you feel, what the difficulties of life’s journey have been. All of them.

Shona Gulati’s account of her mother’s death is some of the most beautiful and raw writing I’ve ever experienced. It is powerful, it is painfully honest, and nothing is left out.

What also isn’t left out are the specifics of a difficult and complicated relationship with her family. And while these particulars don’t make for comfortable reading, they do build up the sheer weight of honest grief that comes from a relationship that wasn’t without its complications.

But if all families are complex and often have unbearable tensions - and clearly many in Shobna’s were to be resolved, or unresolvable, by the end of this book - so too is the experience of dementia. In this case it was the caring responsibility and the very particular circumstances of Asha Gulati’s condition. There aren’t many comforting words, or successful coping strategies, save for an acceptance and an understanding that it isn’t just forgetfulness, or senior moments, but a far more upsetting deterioration.

This is a brave book. But more than that it is a book with a serious and heavy expression of the one word that was so missing between Shobna and Asha all of their lives. So much was left unsaid, but it’s been said now. Love. Love. Love.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

World in Motion or Three Lions? Actually, both


Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The best football song ever is New Order’s World In Motion.

I don’t just say that because I’m a New Order fan, I say because I’m a football fan. It just is the best of them all, there’s nothing else to say. 

The first ever official England song was Back Home, recorded for the 1970 World Cup, when England were defending world champions. It was written by legendary Irish songwriter and composer Phil Coulter and by Scotsman Bill Martin and featured the vocal exertions of the whole squad, filmed belting it out wearing tuxedos on Top of the Pops. 

Sadly it trigged a lamentable run of squad songs for major tournaments by our home nations that never really got any better until, of course, World in Motion in 1990. 

 But for England fans no song has captured the mood on the radio, the terraces and in the fan zones quite like Three Lions, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner’s anthem recorded for Euro 96 with Ian Brodie of the Lightning Seeds. The chorus of ‘it’s coming home’ still rings out whenever England are playing. 

 I suspect it has stuck partly because it was a song created by fans, for fans, rather than for the team. Even now you hear chants to that chorus almost as often as you do to the tune of Go West. Most of these, if we’re honest, are pretty unimaginative. And part of the problem is that crowds collectively have had this stuff served up for them as football becomes increasingly part of showbusiness. 

 One of the many things I have grown to dislike about modern football is the pumped in music in order to create atmosphere in stadiums. Not all clubs are fortune enough to have matchday DJ like Tameside Radio’s Dave Sweetmore, who entertains the punters at Rochdale FC’s home games. 

For a couple of season my team, Blackburn Rovers, walked out to the instrumental bridge of Coldplay's Viva la Vida, a rousing soaring anthem about a guilty liberal wrestling with his childlike understanding of religion. I never understood why. 

 My personal nadir for pumped in, pumped up music was the use of Status Quo's Rockin' All Over the World in February 2002 at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium as Rovers paraded the League Cup. It spoiled a genuine moment of joy. 

 I saw a clip last week of the Liverpool fans on the Kop terrace singing Beatles songs and Cilla Black’s Anyone Who Had A Heart, I suspect they had a prompt from the tannoy, but they weren’t drowned out the way those examples were and it feels like a beautiful collective moment. 

 Still, if you really want an example of a football crowd giving you a proper ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ moment, go and find the video clip of Hibernian fans singing Sunshine of Leith at the Scottish Cup Final in 2016

 And remember as you enjoy Euro 2021, there’s only one way to beat them, and that’s round the back.

(From the Tameside Reporter, Weekender, June 10, 2021)

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

SAS Who Dares Wins


My guilty pleasure on TV at the moment is SAS Who Dares Wins on Channel 4. I watch it on catch-up as it clashes with our radio show. 

The added ingredient this year is that we know one of the contestants. Sean Sherwood was a teacher at Harrytown when our lads went there and when I was a Governor. He was absolutely great with them and they all have very happy memories of their time with him. Max and Louis in particular were part of the team that won the Stockport Schools football cup in 2015 that Sean coached. It was, he has said, his greatest achievement in education and something all of the lads recognise was done against all the odds. I remember watching the game in abject disbelief, fully expecting a plucky defeat, but they found a sense of belief and courage that surprised everyone. That proved to me that their coach had a fundamental winning mentality. So to see him on this gruelling stage fills me with admiration and expectation. Obviously it's going to be hard to win, but we're four weeks in out of six and he's right in the mix. So yes, it won't surprise me in the slightest that he'll win.