Friday, February 29, 2008

Ten thoughts on an evening with Sven

I went to the Palace Hotel on Wednesday for an evening with Sven Goran Eriksson. It was organised by Front Row Events, who do a lot of this sort of thing.

First off, you don't expect a varcious namedropper like me to neglect to mention that I was sat with Kevin Moran. What a top bloke. I'm sure he has United fans telling him tales of the Big Ron days, but I was in full flow swapping tales about his years at Rovers - the best years of my football supporting life.

He's now a football agent, but says he's a very fair one. Not one of the bad apples.

The auctioneer, John Virgo, was pissed.

The comic, Jason Manford, who I have worked with before, was excellent.

I'm not being funny, but some of this sporting memorablia at these sorts of events is rubbish. And I'm mindful of this.

Sven says Thaksin wants the stadium full every week and he may have more money to spend to do that.

He's going to sign an iconic superstar if he can. Why not Mark Owen. That'll get them in. I shake my head with bemusement at this kind of gimmickry.

Of the England players who he managed he reckons the two who would make the best managers are Gareth Southgate and Frank Lampard. I can't see it myself. Lampard's a spoilt brat. Southgate lacks steel.

He can't understand the tabloid fascination with his private life. He recently got papped in the Daily Star with a "mystery blonde" who turned out to be his daughter.

He doesn't blame the WAGs and their media circus for England's dismal showing in the World Cup. Must have been the manager then....


I'm always surprised by how many people I meet who send their kids to private schools. It was never an option for me, though I went to a Grammar school, and it's never really occurred to us that we will educate our boys any other way. Apart from anything else, we couldn't afford it with all five of ours. We're also lucky that as Catholics we have excellent local schools that provide a wonderful Christian spirit to children in their formative years.

I'm happy to say that their schools are outstanding. That's not just us saying that, but OFSTED.

We were gutted that we couldn't get all the boys in the same school, but it's worked out well enough.

I was amused to read Toby Young in the Spectator today on this subject, London schools always terrified me, but the ugly culture of vanity and greed that seems to be promoted in private schools just sounds vile.

And while I'm on, St Mary's has a new website, done to a great standard by Clare and Stuart Manley, from IF Consulting, who also do this site for Marple Athletic.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Marple in the FT

Brian Groom in the FT reports having spent the weekend in Marple. All he had to say was that he wondered if the beauty contest winner would be crowned Miss Marple.

Ha ha. As you can see, here, such a winner is in fact crowned Carnival Queen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bleak house

More impressions of Flat Earth News by Nick Davies. I'm trying to get time to read on the train this week so I can make a proper dent in this book. It's hard going. I'm on the chapter about private detectives at the moment. When our magazine did a story about a strange character a few years ago, here, it was picked up by one of the nationals. They were quite a bit nastier than us and found out more very personal information about him than we did. At the time I thought it must because we weren't hard nosed. I'm not so sure now.

John Sweeney has done a good review in the New Statesman, here.

I also think Davies is missing one of the biggest shifts in media consumption. The front page of Press Gazette last week splashed with the £2bn figure for the size of the business to business press. People work harder now, they expect good information and their media touchstones that shape their identity are their own personal trade and business titles. That's why my old alma mater, EMAP, has just been bought for such a princely sum by Apax and the GMG.

Because people don't associate with their own community to the same extent, regional papers are trapped in a cycle of decline. Ultra local media may begin to fill the void, but it hasn't reached that time yet.

I'd argue that the quality of writing and research on mags like Broadcast, Retail Week and Computer Weekly is excellent. This is also where a large and fruitful future for journalism lies.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Extra vowels

One of our boys - Matt - has a very charming habit of inserting extra vowels into words that already have plenty.


"How are you, Matt?"

"Fi-ya-en, Dad, is there any more foo ad?"

Do you get that? He's fine, but he wants some more food. The extra vowel only gets inserted into words with plenty of them anyway. He wouldn't do this in quite long phrases or words like "Sponge Bob Square Pants lives in Bikini Bottom".

All told it's not a bad way of evolving the language.

I think we're also creating our own regional hybrid accent. Part Marple - part Nelson. One of
the characteristics of a Nelson accent - which I fell in love with, by the way - is, for example, school rhymes with Noel. Mummy, funny and tummy are pronounced "mummeh, funneh, and tummeh".

Hopefully we can bring together the best of both.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ten thoughts ... popular themes

Ten Friday thoughts this month is brought to you from the car park of the Reebok stadium. I've been at the North West Conservatives conference. I'm frazzled so it's a random one, based on some common categories on this blog.

Marple - You can't get a good cup of coffee in Marple. Why is that?

Family/Football - Marple Athletic Under 9s play Bramhall North away tomorrow. It's being covered by Channel M. They are one of only two sides to beat us this season. Should be fun.

Blogging - Dougal Paver has been got at. He's stopping his excellent blog. Such a shame.

Politics - George Osborne was very impressive today. David Cameron was too. The NW Tories however are a dreary bunch. Their questions were about crime and tax. No one asked about windmills.

Technology and Namedropping - Met David Cameron today. Got a photo to prove it. And I showed George Osborne how make recordings on a mobile phone.

Cars - I counted ten Audi cars in Marple on my way to work one day this week. It's definitely the car of Marple man. That and the VW Passat.

Family - love them all so much. Poor Matt has been ill, Rachel's been up and down the country, Elliot's been photographed for our next cover, Max and Louis's school has been rated "outstanding" and Joe's got some new glasses that make him look very distinguished.

Friends - I'm a shite friend, I've not spoken to some of my best pals for ages and have just caught up with Steven Lindsay - one of the nicest guys you could meet.

Telly - Ashes to Ashes had that annoying obvious soundtrack last night, and it needs to get creepy and dark or it's going to be drama by numbers.

Jokes - This was everywhere today - As Gazza has been sectioned he'll be sent to an institution for retards with no chance of recovery. Kevin Keegan said "We're delighted to have him back"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Urban legends

There's a nice destruction of an urban myth about how some workmen got themselves trapped by their own craftsmanship. It started as one of those *hilarious* emails that attempt to make a certian race, nationality, look stupid. I picked up on it because it's in Quay Street, Manchester.

The link to it is here. The rest of the site looks fascinating.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The business of culture

Think of struggling artists and I conjure up images of hairy poets and scrawny artists knocking out rubbish no-one wants. Yet, earning a living from writing, music and art is harder than ever.

There's this from the paper today about how hard it is to earn a living as a writer. My abortive attempt at a book was never going to make me any money, but that wasn't why I was doing it.

Then there's this very nicely-put dose of reality about music.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Boxing clever

Driving to work last week past this bloke's house, the same bloke then popped up on the radio with this. How spooky was that?

The subject was feral youth and the bloke, if you can't be arsed with linking, is Ricky Hatton. He is calling for tougher sentences, bobbies on the beat and more things for kids to do. I agree about sentences for violent attacks. Three strikes and you're out. The recent spate of knifings and mob kickings are stomach churning. "A" level sociology tells you it's the fear of crime, not the threat of crime that is the real social trend. I don't buy that any more. Gary Newlove's murder was all the more shocking because it was someone standing up to thuggery who paid the highest price. So were the stories about blokes getting a kicking that Ricky Hatton felt so moved by.

You see plenty of people standing up to scrotey behaviour around where we live, the website has a few tales, here. There's currently a spate of BNP graffitti, which one of the Rose Hill commuters has sought to have cleared up. Good. I genuinely don't think this is evidence of far right activity, just some scally with a marker pen trying to shock.

When you start looking the other way when bad things happen you are on the slippery slope. I'm proud to live in the kind of place where we don't.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ten thoughts on ten blogs I like and why

Blogging takes some effort. There are plenty who have dipped in and ducked out in the time I've been doing this. Some have stuck to their guns, others have tweaked. Here are my top ten.

Blog By Boz. Hilarious. The grumpy commuting cat is consistent and observant. I just hope he/she isn't on the Rose Hill train.

Ear I Am. Nigel Hughes has decided to concentrate on home life and steer clear of PR industry gossip. I think this is a shame. I think Nigel has something original and thoughtful to say about anything, but I can see why he wants to concentrate on immediate concerns. I will watch with interest.

Dougal. Another PR man, another lively blog. I love the consistent themes on Dougal Paver's regular rant.

Norm Blog. The original and still plenty to look at. Norman Geras opens a window on a much more intellligent and cerebral world than mine. I don't get half of it, but he always links very well too.

Harry's Place. Anything that baits lefty lunatics is a very good thing.

Kevin Roberts. A wonderful mind, it's like dipping into Monocle magazine, but better. People ask me if I was at school with Kevin. I wasn't. He has a daughter my age. Which is why he was expelled from school. Go figure it out.

Broody Years
. I'll be honest, I didn't think Laura Wolfe would stick at it, but fair play to her she's created a very warm and genuine diary of her life. And I'm intruiged to see how she'll make the transition from the IoD to the real world.

Richard Leese. I'm on record as not liking politicians, but I like SRL. His blog paints a detailed and stark picture of life at the top of Manchester Council, including all the boring bits.

Business Matters. Accountant from Kendal rails at the insanity of it all. Love it. Especially when he gets arsey with Quangos.

Dave Hill's Big Britain. I used to live near to Dave Hill in London and he's got loads of kids (like me). I couldn't put my kids through what he does, but his blog is lovely.

Funk to Funky

Much debate about whether Ashes to Ashes is as good as Life on Mars. I think the second episode got better and better last night. Zoe from Spooks is good and her interpretation of her fantasy world and "Gene Hunt" is different to Sam Tyler's angry confusion.

The music is too obvious though. Douglas Friedli reckons it's like "Heartbeat for the 80s generation". Expect someone doing a Rubik's Cube to Tainted Love next week.

Setting Sons - not daughters

I do like these ever so clever articles that pinpoint as yet undiscovered sub tribes and social milieu.

There's one in the Spectator this week about The Jam Generation. Given I spent some crucial years of my youth as a fully paid up member of The Jam Army, I was intrigued.

Sadly, it just points out that loads of politicians are about my age. So what? Cameron and Osborne were on the wrong side in Eton Rifles. I clearly remember Jam gigs from 1979 to 1982 and it was like being at a football match. I just can't imagine Ruth Kelly and Yvette Cooper being part of that.

It was also very working class too and very non-political. So I just can't see the earnest Millibands and Nick Clegg there at all. Caroline Flint maybe, she sounds a bit Wellerish and is about the right age (46), and quite an unlikely looking politician.

But as the great man once said:

And as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end
That bullshit is bullshit, it just goes by different names

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ambassador's party

I don't think I've ever been to an ambassador's party before. But Japan's man in London, Yoshiji Nogami, was in Manchester Town Hall on Monday night. Richard Leese takes up the formal part of the tale, here.

And what we were missing is here.

Flat Earth, hard going

I'm ploughing through Nick Davies' book Flat Earth News. All I can say is I'm pleased I didn't go to work in newspapers. If half of what his gloomy book says, then they are all just churning out wire copy and PR puff.

There's a considered piece to be written about the complex relationship between PR and journalism, after I've digested this book. I think the rights of the readers, the people we are seeking to serve, are paramount. Whether they are better served now, than they were in coarser times, is an important point. As is this: "Is more less?"

I'll keep you posted.

Turns to Gold

It was party time in the Restaurant Bar & Grill in Liverpool yesterday. I first met Simon Edwards five years ago. He struck me as a really decent bloke. Very kind, very down to earth, but with a clear idea of where he was taking his business. He'd just launched Midas Capital and was looking after the dosh of various rich people.

He did a deal yesterday which made him very rich, and brought more business into Liverpool.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Predictions in football

I take part in a football prediction league, here, which I'm not doing very well at. It's a good job I don't gamble.

One of this week's sure winners was that Manchester United would beat Manchester City 2-0. I also was fairly convinced the minute's silence for the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster would not be respected. Happy to be wrong on both counts. They'll be dancing in the streets of Marple today.

The curse of Manchester "upmarket average"

I've been on about how there's nothing special foodwise in Manchester for ages, here and here. It's a theme covered here too. Now there's this in the paper today.

What is it with Manchester? Why, when it comes to restaurants, is it always so nearly, but not quite? Why does every restaurant I visit fail to deliver? Is it me? Do they hate me so much that they decide to show me such a mediocre time I won't return? Or is it the city? It's a big buzzy place, Manchester, full of interesting-looking people, and there are lots of Mancunians with money - exactly what you need for a thriving restaurant scene. And yet almost every time I eat here, I return home wallowing in disappointment, as though a little bit of me has died. Let me put in the obligatory mention for Red Chilli. I could eat there any time, and perhaps that's what I should do when I go to Manchester - just eat at Red Chilli. Manchester equals the Red Chilli lamb hot pot. Job done.

I do like Jay Rayner's slightly snooty restaurant reviews. He then records his disappointment at Paul Heathcote's new gaff, Grado. And reckons someone could make a killing if they did a proper job. I shall see for myself this week and let you know. Also, Red Chilli is near to work, and I've never been.

Helping Uganda Schools

Friday, February 08, 2008

Ten thoughts on - always looking on the bright side of life

The news this week has made me cross, but actually, as an optimist even the bad news has a silver lining. Here are the top angst creating, from the top, with reasons to be cheerful.

Rowan Williams and his ill-thought out notions on Sharia law. Stupid. But everyone has said so.

The Premiership playing games abroad. Idiotic, but everyone has said so.

Manchester getting shafted over the super casino. This government has really done sod all for Manchester. This is another act of political cowardice from Gordon Brown. I liked Gordo's idea for an alternative use for the Super Casino site. Made me smile anyway.

The constant digging up of Marple Bridge and Compstall to start again next week with gas repairs. But at least it's half term, and the roads will be a bit quieter.

England's nervous performance against the Swiss. Hey, but they passed it, and Bentley played well. Who needs the other DB7 now?

Joe's Marple Athletic team lost at Oldham Athletic's centre of excellence last night, a brief report is here. But they gave a great account of themselves against some of the best junior footballers in Manchester.

Digby Jones getting into bother for saying what he thinks as a government minister. Keep it up Diggers.

There's nothing bad about last night's episode of Ashes to Ashes on BBC1. The return of Gene Hunt, the greatest TV character ever (probably not, but you name one better on a Friday at 5.17).

Or the possibility of a McCain v Obama election in November.

And I'm definitely happy that we're going out to Basmati in Marple Bridge for a curry tonight with Nic and Dom. Pip pip, have a good one.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Premiership abroad

I had to double check the date on this wasn't the 1st of April.

It's an absurd suggestion to play Premiership games abroad. Absolutely bonkers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Street of shame

I've been very much looking forward to Nick Davies' book Flat Earth News. The extracts I've seen have really ripped into the behaviour of journalists and it will not make for comfortable reading. The reviews have been very positive. Here, here and here.

I cannot deny that we in the business press can get too close to the PR industry, but there is room for expression and room for lateral thinking. We are not led by the nose.

I had just bought the book in Waterstones when I bumped into my pal Walter Menzies who has a charming habit of calling me Lord Gnome from the Street of Shame.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sit up and listen

Well I've never been to a business meeting quite like it. Rob Cotton, the chief executive of NCC Group certainly got my attention. He wanted to tell me how the threat of fraud is greater because people are complacent about the risk. To prove it he showed me a passport application, credit application, drivers licence duplicate and a bank account application all completed perfectly for me with a frightening amount of personal information.

We've got a piece in North West Business Insider next month by the excellent David Conn on this subject. There have been no prosecutions of fraudsters from call centres in the North West. Does this therefore mean that none has ever taken place, that the systems are that good? What do you think? If a bank were to prosecute, and therefore admit this was happening, on the scale it is happening, then there would be queues to close accounts longer than the ones outside Northern Wreck last year.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

What happened?

I can't remember the last time I've felt so ill for so long. Now that I'm on my feet I'm mindful of not overdoing it. The moment it really hit home was being unable to walk upstairs after coming down to make a cup of tea.

As well as the usual exertions in running our house, Rachel looked after me. I also feel very lucky to have some very loyal and hardworking colleagues who I know have really knuckled down. Can't believe I missed our Lancashire Dealmakers Awards at Ewood on Thursday, but by all accounts Mark Edwardson and Lisa Miles did a grand job.