Thursday, January 29, 2009

When a draw feels like a win

Last night's game was absolutely rubbish for the first hour. I don't just mean because we were losing, but because we played the way Bolton play. Hoff, Bosh, Bish, Bash. Awful stuff. And they are better at it than us.

But once Tugay came on we played football. Grella and Eamon Andrews simply can't do that. The last half hour was exciting and we were all over them. We could have (should have) won.

Also just discovered this bloke is a celebrity Rovers fan.

I went with Darren from work last night and it would have cost us £30 as there are discounts galore at the moment. The running total we have therefore chalked up against the purchase is £657.25.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hacks guide to managing PR people

Some other bloggers out there, him, and him, have been hat tipping and passing on links to stories focused on the relationships between PRs and journalists. Like this one here.

There's also this one here. And this one here about how not to sell a story to a newspaper. And a simple 100 tips for Rubelle Pymley-Bowles and her sushi sisters from Ostentatious PR, from an editor in Bristol who is weighed down by a mere 250 emails a day.

There's often a real piety from journalists on this subject (see above). When you look at it from the other point of view, it's clear there's teeth grinding frustration there too. I tried to find a link to this list of tips for hacks in dealing with PR people, but couldn't find it. So here it is in full. Source unknown, but you can feel a lot of anger here. Comments welcome, but there is a more serious issue of quality control that lies beyond this.


1. Always wait until 5pm on Friday to call looking for a quote that "has to be in today". PR people like the adrenaline rush.

2. Always tell the PR person, "I'm sorry, I don't regard you as a good source for a quote. I need to speak to your boss." This is particularly effective with female PR people.

3. Always be rude. PR people misinterpret politeness as lack of urgency.

4. Always call to demand invitations to events for which you've been overlooked. Then don't show up. Remind them who's boss.

5. Accept all invitations to one-on-one interviews. Then, just before you hang up, make a comment that implies you've always wanted to have a real go at the interviewee and you're looking forward to it. PR people hate to feel secure.

6. Always use the same excuse when you miss interviews. PR people will
eventually get the hint.

7. A good interviewing technique is to interrupt the interviewee and say you're not interested in his/her opinions, but only in answers to your specific questions. This keeps the interviewee from gaining control.

8. Never thank the PR people for anything. Gratitude upsets them.

9. Do not make positive comments regarding information provided or skills such as writing, presentation, or running an event. Better to say things like, "Gosh, the [name rival PR agency here] event I went to was really good. We had champagne."

10. Always tell PR people what kind of giveaways you want. If you're sick of T-shirts, don't hesitate to say so. PR people really welcome the feedback.

11. Assume that every journalist is exactly like you, and whatever you want is what they'll all want. Educate PR people accordingly.

12. Refuse to help PR people get to know you via questionnaires or off-deadline phone calls. What happened to good old-fashioned social skills?

13. Always yell as abusively as possible when PR people *in your estimation* fail to deliver what they promised. Accept no excuses: these people are *paid* to serve you. Make sure they know you'll complain to their client companies if they don't shape up.

14. If you haven't been invited to a PR company's most recent press event, call them and shout at them for ignoring you. Make sure they realise how important you are.

15. If you missed a press conference, call the PR company and shout at them for not checking that you'd gotten the invitation. If they did call, shout at them for nagging you.

16. Always demand a free meal as the price of doing an interview with a company executive.

17. Request a special meeting with a client because you share his personal interests. Put the PR people to great trouble getting tickets and other access to sought-after locations. Reconfirm when the PR people call you the day before. Don't show up. When the PR people call to ask what's happened, say you forgot.

18. On press trips, be unpredictable. Miss the plane.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Half The World Away

I've never cut a track in a recording studio. Probably never will again. But I did on Saturday. It was a fabulous experience. Nigel Hughes (Ear I Am) bid for a session at Futureworks at a charity do we went to last year. We wanted to perform the Oasis track Half The World Away, possibly best known as the theme tune to The Royle Family.

I feel we all had a role to play. Nigel was an inspirational bundle of energy. Keen to try new things, eager to stretch us all creatively and ever so slightly bonkers. In deference to the track of choice, let's call him "Noel".

Nigel also (wisely) invited his old pal Des McDonough. He can play, he steadfastly refused to sing. He absolutely nailed the musical arrangements, improvised on the ambient percussion track. He carried the whole thing through. Let's call him "The Edge".

And me. I can't play. I turned up late. I can't sing, but I had a go. I look alright in the photos. As it's his birthday today, then think of me as the "Andrew Ridgeley" of the trio.

There's a link to the pics of us on Flickr here.

There will be an audio file of the recording shortly.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The mystery of the painted lady of Compstall

Ken Sharrocks at the wonderful 4 Corners picture framers in Compstall Mill showed me this slightly creepy picture. A bloke brought it in to be framed 8 years ago, paid up front, said he lived in the village and has never been back. Ken has taken it round the pubs, shown it to people who come in with jobs, but all to no avail. No one has a flicker of recognition as to who the lady is. Please pass this picture on and let's see if this blog can solve the mystery of the painted lady of Compstall.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What recession?

I've been in Jersey today. Still am actually, bored at the airport. Here are ten observations based on a very quick visit. Giving nothing away as to why I was there, because this blog is not about work.

I have never been in a plane that has landed on one wheel before. Bumpy landing doesn't explain the half of it. I was very relieved when I stepped out to feel the strong winds; at least it wasn't a dodgy plane or a drunk pilot.

Jersey Rugby Club and First Tower Football Club have very neat and smart facilities built and financed by Jack Walker.

The main shopping streets are the same as the UK, except for the lack of "everything must go", "beat the crunch" and "closing down" posters. It appears totally untouched by the recession. There was a Woolworths that closed down, but the whole place felt snug and comfortable.

Private banking for people who have made a fortune is clearly still thriving. Private family trust offices and obscure sounding brass plates give that away.

Had lunch in La Campannina restaurant, the fish was fresh and tasty. We were lucky to get a table, as it's quite the destination, but it's not what you know here, clearly. The place was full of eccentric well fed characters.

Curtis Warren is still in jail on Jersey. The papers aren't allowed to report the hearings and the appeals or the charges, but it's been nearly a year now.

The fudge is nice.

The airport is quiet.

I'm bored.

Er, that's about it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The slumdog billionaires

I really don't know where to start with Man City. I can't work up any righteous indignation about the obscenity of it. Well, I can't can I? Jack Walker decided to splurge a similar proportion of his kid's inheritance on Rovers, and I enjoyed the ride.

But this is interesting from the Telegraph: "A week of buffoonery unparalleled in the history of football." Then read the comments below, a rising tide of anger and frustration. If City really do want to break the establishment, then their supporters are going to have to grow thicker skins than this.

And this is good in the Guardian. "And he [chairman Garry Cook] really did suggest Milan lacked dignity. This would be disingenuous were it being spouted by Ron Manager. Coming from a man whose public credo has hitherto been bowdlerised Nietzsche, it begins to look like a demented form of self-parody."

Then there's this from Ricky Hatton.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History made today

My colleague Margaret wore her Obama shirt to work today. It is a historic day.

The inaugration speech was mesmerising. Inspiring. Stirring. What an orator. No wonder the streets are lined with excited people.

Best bit:

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill.Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

Then this:

We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

Video link is here, for posterity, for the kids.

And my goodness how they manage to talk on Sky News.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Wire: 5 Season - summed in one rap

Superb. There are loads of brilliant Wire links on You Tube. One with a laughter track is ace, especially when, er, you know, thingy gets shot. But beware, this rap is a spoiler.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Marple soldier killed in Afghanistan

Danny Winter, a Royal Marine from Marple has lost his life in Afghanistan. A lovely tribute is here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Re-reading the Fall Out

Andrew Anthony's Fall Out - How a Guilty Liberal Lost His Innocence is a very important book. It tracks how one liberal journalist has re-appraised a lot of what he thinks as a result of guilt ridden, anti-American default reactions and political positions. On one level he has been criticised as just another lefty drifting rightwards. But I have more respect for him as a writer and as a decent human being to dismiss either his infantile youthful lefty rantings and posturing *blushes* and his innate defence of individual freedoms and of human rights and democracy today.

Indeed, in the Observer this week his account of Salman Rushdie's fatwa is exemplary.

The debates that shape it centred around the hot issue that has dominated our generation; the invasion of Iraq and the response to it. The hatred of Bush's America fed by buffoons like Michael Moore and by those with seemingly greater intellectual ballast - like Noam Chomsky and John Pilger - has polarised opinion and blinded liberal responses to atrocities like 7/7. Well, has it?

In his preface to the paperback edition he refers to the reviews and the criticism the book received and the labelling - neocon, racist, midlife crisis - which mainly came from the very people who had clearly royally got his goat in the first place - Seamus Milne, Decca Aitkenhead and various others based at the Guardian, but also people he'd meet in his circle in London.

He's right of course, the liberal left doesn't have a response to terrorism, human rights abuses by Islamist terrorists. Or about crime and policing. Or racism. Just a knee jerk "yebbut" about America, Israel and "the West" and the police. He's grown weary of it, and so have I.

I've been on a similar journey myself, but have found the liberal left position I've always held as also lacking anything meaningful to say about entrepreneurship and business. I meet many decent, energetic, caring entrepreneurial people who aren't instinctive Tories, who care about the world we live in and respect human rights and justice. Labour policy has tied these people up in knots despite every attempt to speak the language of business. Despite the enormous contribution of ideas and energy that entrepreneurs make to the advancement of civilisation they tend to get parked in a place on a map marked "there be dragons" when it comes to weighing up the good guys and the bad guys. There is a racket called "corporate social responsibility" which utterly misses the point, by the way.

The current economic crisis has once again thrown all of this up in the air. Who hates America with Obama as President? Is socialism making a comeback under Gordon Brown? Is state control of the commanding heights of the economy on the agenda? Is labelling someone "a liberal" or of "the left" relevant at all anymore? Is David Cameron a liberal?

I think it's worth exploring further. Any ideas?

I'm sitting in the railway station

Chinley station has a fascinating history, a large platform, an interchange and a major junction between the Hope Valley line and the route to Stockport in one direction and the Marple loop in the other. Bored yet? I was last night when I was stranded there, freezing my nads off. Anyway, you can brush up on it all here. I got a train home from Sheffield, where I'd been working, and was advised to change at Chinley. The connecting train never arrived. There's a button on the unmanned platform instructing travellers to push for information. It puts you through to a call centre in India. Salim, who was lovely - this is not a rant at Indian call centres by the way, informed me and the one other traveller that the 18:55 had been cancelled due to staff shortages. The next train was 19:55. He even apologised like he meant it.

Here's the point of this. Globalisation and technology has created the means to gather information, but our shambolic infrastructure lacks the ability to deliver it effectively. Or rather, to have the sense to disseminate it. This is the major point of contention with morning and evening commuters. When delays occur no-one on the stations seems to be aware what is happening. What's the point of information that's available to a contact centre in India, but isn't available to the guard on the train that's just dropped us off at an unmanned village station in the peak district on a freezing cold night?

At the time I was cold and not a little angry. If this happens in future I now know where the local Chinese chippy and the local Conservative Club are for sustenance and shelter.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Prince Prat

Everyone has something to say about Prince Harry using the P word. For what it's worth, I think he sounds like an idiot. There has been a lot of guffawing about whether the word is offensive or not. Well, in this country it is. I remember when I lived in Australia a headline on a sports page referring to "the Pakis". It was explained to me that over there it was an affectionate nickname like the Windies, the Indies, the Kiwis and the Poms. No one believes it is a cuddly term in the UK. It is loaded with derision and thrown around as a form of abuse.

Still, it has enormous comic potential and this is very funny.

Monday, January 12, 2009


So, we're back from Amsterdam. Great time, pretty much dossing about on the ale for a weekend. It was freezing cold, we ate great food and were well looked after in the Krasnapolsky Hotel. I've been there with work loads of times (a previous life), but this was a great break with pals.

We struggled to buy the kids any presents. Everything was either shaped like a phallus or was a piece of drug paraphenalia. Still, I bought plenty of licquorice home. They love it over there, just as we seem to be making it harder and harder to find. I won't knock out a long blog about what we did in our holidays, but something might occur to me when I wake up a bit.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Off to Amsterdam

We're off to Amsterdam for the weekend, WITHOUT THE CHILDREN! I know, we'll miss them. But we're going with friends and it's going to be great fun. Normal blog service will resume next week. Pip Pip.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Four great things Brits do well

There's a terrific review here of the new film Valkerie, which is about the plot to blow up Hitler during the war. Referring to the "entire battalion" of Brits playing Nazis, Anthony Lane delivers this great line:
Character acting is, of course, one of the four things that the British still do supremely well, the others being soldiering, tailoring, and getting drunk in public, but you can have too much of a good thing, and there were points in “Valkyrie” when I felt that I was watching a slightly outrĂ© installment of the Harry Potter series.
Superb. Can you think of any more? Hat tip: David Hepworth.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Remembering David Burns

I probably only met David Burns a dozen times, but I enjoyed each occasion. He was funny, lively, honest and very, very brave.

It was so sad to hear of his death over the weekend; thinking about his family spending their last Christmas with a loving father and husband.

Personally speaking, he was always supportive and encouraging for what we did at Insider. In May he contributed an excellent presentation on the Chill Factore, his latest venture, at our Business of Sport Summit. But before that he also gave me a great deal of advice and guidance on what was needed to make the event a success. He'd been the chief executive of the Football League between 2000 and 2002 and knew his stuff; I wish I'd had the chance to be in a pub quiz team with him.

He came to a lunch at my old school last January as the wine flowed he had us all pledging support for a school trip to his ski slope. He was on great form.

One of our mutual friends spoke to him just before Christmas and said he was in good spirits, describing his medical condition in great detail, but with much humour; also picking apart the organisational shortcomings of healthcare.

When I interviewed him for Insider last year he was very open about his battle with cancer. It was inspiring to hear at the time - though to read it back it's heartbreaking.

He continued to throw himself into his new job at the Chill Factore. He continued to take in plenty of football matches, watching Sheffield Wednesday, Rangers, Altrincham, but anyone really. He lived life to the full.

He was one of the good guys and he leaves many, many friends with happy memories of him.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Soundtrack to life

We let the kids stay up for New year. That's not to say they stayed awake to see in 2009, but some did. They witnessed us dancing to this. Some might think it's embarrassing seeing grown ups covorting around a kitchen jigging about. We don't. It makes us laugh and the kids think it's "our song" now. "My woman of the hearthfire, harbour of my soul".

On the way back from London before Christmas me and Joe were both listing to his playlist on my iPod when Chasing Cars came on. We held a father-son stare for a moment. That'll be our song forever now. "I need your grace, to remind me, to find my own".

Back on the train gang

The winter wonderland that greeted Marple this morning came a week late for our children. And also, it would appear for Northern Rail. I managed to park in the station car park, which was a blessing given what a mess the ice makes of the overflow. The 07:59 was late, which meant the 08:09 was stuck behind it. We all piled on the 07:59 - at about ten past - not knowing what was going to happen, in fact it was announced as the 08:10 by the public address system which isn't in sync.

And the fares have gone up. I await tonight's joys with some trepidation.

Boz seems happy though.

Eaten alive by Sharks

Before Christmas I hosted a lunch for Sale Sharks Rugby Club as a favour. Link to the official report is here. I was terrified that I would commit some kind of gaffe exposing that I knew sod all about rugby, which is true, I really don't. I memorised all the names, positions and nationalities of the players I had to interview on stage. But checked myself; don't get chummy - you don't know them. I worked the room frantically gathering questions from each table - some from other players were cheeky, but I'd allow them to ask the question. Some were a bit technical, so I thought I'd bring the mic to the person asking the question.

And so before I introduced the six giants of rugby for an interactive Q&A session I fessed up. I'm a convert to all of this, I like watching, but like most of the corporate guests I know zip all about your sport, but love the honesty of rugby. Appreciative nods all around.

Then I introduced the players: "Juan Lobbe, Charlie Hodgson, David Tait, Matthew Tait and Mark Cato." Aaaaaggh. I said it. I said "Cato". Credibility gone. Mark Cueto. Pronounced Cwayto. I knew that.

I can only describe it as my John Stapleton moment.

To be fair, they were great sport and answered the questions with good grace. Especially my new best mate Mark Cueto, who has been playing brilliantly since.

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year Quiz - take the test?

We gave the kids a quiz on New Year's Eve. If you think you can beat their score, then let me know quietly. A great team effort yielded a "gold medal" score!

1 Who does Mr Krupp turn into when he hears fingers snap?
2 Who is Tintin's friend who is a professor?
3 What's the newspaper called in Club Penguin and what day does it come out?
4 What colour puffles are fussy eaters?
5 How many hours does it take to set up the Scalectrix track?
6 What is K in the referee's alphabet?
7 Who's the woman who sings Valerie, and which is the band who did it originally?
8 What's Horrid Henry's club called?
9 Who is Number 6 in Thomas?
10 How did Henry punish the naughty boys who threw stones at him?
11 Who is the new President of the USA?
12 Who is the secretary of Marple Athletic and for a bonus, who are his sons?
13 What is the name of the town in Italy where nice Scottish people sell ice cream
14 Who is the actor who currently plays Doctor Who?
15 Where was our house at Center Parcs?
16 Who is the manager of West Brom?
17 Who was crowned King of the Jungle in 2008?
18 Which three blokes present Top Gear?
19 What's the best pie in Marple as judged at the Food festival?
20 What was Terry Christian's verdict on Dad's Y Factor effort?
21 Who is the Deacon and who is the priest at Holy Spirit?
22 Who's garden are you not to go in to get wayward footballs?
23 What does snow taste like in Gatlantis?
24 What seaside town did we go to for a football tournament?
25 What do they sell on the shops there?
26 Who has the highest points in Match Attax cards 2008?
27 Who are the kids in Mary Poppins?
28 Which city hosted the Olympics in 2008?