Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in review - looking forward

Here's something of a review of the year based on the most used topics and tags on this blog. A lot has changed this year, a new business, no booze, a book, travel, new horizons, important projects. Anyway, here's a review, and all in Twitter form.

Blackburn Rovers - The. Worst. Year. Ever. But under Venky's things will get worse. I trust in the Trust.

Manchester - you can read all about my views on civic matters and business issue on my Downtown blog Taking the Michael.

Marple - the day of reckoning approaches. Two new supermarkets planned. Please don't let Asda build on Hibber Lane.

Football - really enjoyed watching the rise of Hyde FC and some other local encounters. Love real football. Against Modern Football.

Friends - since my career change I've really found out the value of true friendships, and false ones. You know who you are (happy face).

Politics - Disappointed that the people of Marple South re-elected our dismal councillor Shan Alexander.
Commuting - Don't do this quite as much as I used to. Doing the London trip a fair bit, avoiding the 19:05 from Euston.

Telly - Obviously Match of the Day doesn't hold as much interest as it once did. But last night on MOTD2 I loved the dissection of two games by Pat Nevin. Shearer, get your coat.
Best day of 2012 - it's been a brilliant year, shared a stage with inspiring and brave people - but this day takes some beating. Getting my honorary fellowship from UCLAN.

Blogging - Going to do something very different on this blog from now on. Thanks for bearing with me.


The very last BBC Radio Manchester business programme

It was a privilege to be involved in the BBC Radio Manchester business programme over the last 8 years. We recorded the very last one on the Monday before Christmas and I was proud to be the last voice on there. It's a shame it ended, but hopefully there's a proper sense in the station of the role that the private sector plays in the life of the city.

I was also on the BBC Breakfast News this year, not bashing the banks and on BBC Radio 5Live a few times. I have to say the BBC is a brilliant institution full of fine people. The move North was a stroke of brilliance.

Pictured are: Andy Crane (presenter), me, Steve Saul (producer), Brian Sloan (Chamber of Commerce), Jacqui Hughes Lundy (business team), Tim Murphy (Seneca Partners) and Reverend Pete Horlock (business chaplain).

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sasha Baron Cohen's great new character - "Shebby"

Confidential memo from agent representing Sasha Baron Cohen, to head of comedy at Unamed Hollywood studio.


Great to see you at the last Vanity Fair party. I mentioned to you that Sasha has been pretty busy lately. He revived Ali G at the Britsh Comedy Awards, which was a reminder of his genius. After two character roles in films, which he was pleased with, he is now ready to unveil his latest deep cover project.

The success of the whole Borat character was remarkable, Bruno has done pretty well too and we're  sure you will be delighted he is looking to the same format of spoof character. For this Sasha has had to go further and deeper in his public deception than anything he has ever done before.

I am telling you about his latest comic creation: "Shebby".

We started out as a football (soccer to you) summariser on TV in Malaysia. Unbelievably, people bought into his phoney past we created for him. We thought this was good enough, right up there with Ali G at his cheeky best, but a couple of Bollywood guys over in Pune, India, decided they wanted to get out of this crazy deal they'd struck to buy an English soccer club. Long story short, it had all gone horribly wrong, they wanted to get out and agreed to invest in the next film as long as we could stretch the character in a role as "global adviser". They expected it to last a week or two, but do you know the craziest thing? He has been on Sky TV, he has met the fans, he has even fired two coaches. The first quit and sued the club because of some of the things "Shebby" suggested. We have all this on film, hidden cameras are great.  We've got shots of him in the pub talking to fans. Some of them are totally into this guy. And get this, right. He did this public meeting where they were firing questions at him, and they actually applauded and cheered.

We're going to get this in the can pretty quickly now as the rest of the fans have turned against him. He's going to get lynched if we're not careful. I love Sasha's bravery, but he is properly messing with these guys.

Now, he's done this lame radio interview with some ex-soccer player, Robbie something, and his cover is like totally blown now. I mean, it was comedy gold - making up his role with each question, agreeing with the questions, dodging questions, getting aggressive. Our next move is to get his sidekick in as coach, this other character we've created - Judan Ali. Then the fun really starts, a new strip, a dwarf playing as goalkeeper, the appointment of a guru. Changing the strip to saris. But the clock is ticking.

So, Hank, what do you say?



Hey Chuck,
I love it. I agree that Borat may have jumped the shark, but this is genius. Let's meet for lunch at the Mondrian on Friday. Seems a bit far fetched, but it has promise.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

BRFC Action Group - you don't speak for me

I am too weary and sad about what the witless Venky's have done to my beloved Blackburn Rovers. I am at risk of repeating myself.

Indeed, here is what I said just over a year ago:

This is what Venky's should do now. They should turn round to the protesting fans, and to John Williams, and to Tom Finn, to Ian Battersby, Ian Currie, Wayne Wild and Roger Devlin and say, "Sorry, we just didn't understand English football. We cocked up. Have your club back. We're sorry."

But those protesting fans have somewhat splintered. We had the disgraceful scene this morning of self-appointed fans spokesman Glen Mullan commenting on Radio5Live about the "downward spiral" and saying "someone needs to be accountable", without ever criticising the ownership of the club by Venky's or their appointee Shebby Singh. This is a guy who shared a platform with Shebby Singh.

No, the only serious option is for all Rovers fans to get behind a serious and concerted effort to rid the club of these idiots and pursue a supporter ownership model. It won't get us back to the top of the premiership, it won't attract top talent, but it will restore dignity where currently there is none.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Shop talk - Marple takes steps forward, and back again

The ever changing range of shops and cafes in our home centre of Marple seem to have taken steps forward and backwards over the last few months. And that's before we even consider the impact of Asda, Waitrose or Aldi opening a new store.

A new ironing shop and the ZipYard franchise near each other on Stockport Road both offer excellent service and are a cut above what I'd been getting in comparable businesses in Manchester.

Interesting dynamic on the Hollins parade. While we loudly praise the efforts of local and independent retailers, the multiples are providing a complementary backbone to the more creative offer, sometimes competing. With the exception of the Wilsons veg shop, all the shops on the Hollins are now multiples - Barclays, Johnsons cleaners, Greenhalgh's bakery, Co-op pharmacy, Greggs, Taylor Made Betting, Costa Coffee, Bargain Booze and soon to be joined by Dominos Pizza. This isn't an objection, just a comment.

Nothing much is going on restaurant wise. Another Indian, solid food in the pubs, rumours of some of the cafe's looking to sell up. All Things Nice continues to impress the new people we bring to work at our office in Marple - don't just take my word for it, here's a great review from Mellor View.

The parade at the bottom of Stockport Road just south of the junction seems to be ready for a new opening of a traditional sweet shop called Granny's. Always a tough location, it will be competition for the Stars and Stripes shop, which seems to be doing OK.

I must admit to a sense of relief everytime I see the Marple bookshop still open, it could do with an injection of life and ideas though. The Bramall shop Simply Books is a good template.

But the biggest groan I have to emit since the demise of Toast Deli is for the news that The Bike Shop - Marple is having a closing down sale. These guys will be much missed. We've bought three bikes here, serviced many others, stocked up on accessories and it's been an inspiration to us to get out on our bikes more. I feared this would happen.  I'll continue to get bikes for our lads from their shop in Heaton Moor and thank them for giving Marple a real go. Good luck, Will.

As for Asda, they have now submitted their planning application. I'll be lodging my own objection and would urge you to do the same.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Revealed: Blackpool's confidential scouting report on Rovers

On my way out of Bloomfield Road this evening I found a piece of paper - it was a confidential leaked scouting report to Blackpool manager Michael Appleton and a briefing for his team.

"Right, I don't know how to brief you to be honest. On paper this lot, man for man, are a top team. But there's such a bad feeling around the club, and you'll know what that's like from your time at Portsmouth, that we just don't know what could happen. There's this clown Shebby Singh gobbing off about tactics - it's caused mayhem behind the scenes, the players don't know what's going on.

"Absorb a bit of pressure in the first 15 minutes and you'll be home and dry. They're bringing a large following - they've sold out - but they'll soon turn on their team, the owners, and that will get to the players.

"If they've got any sense they'll play Jordan Rhodes with another forward just off him. If they do, then we're in for a tough afternoon. Lately though, they tend to play him on his own up front (I know! barmy).

"They have these young lads up and down the wings, a combination of Lowe, one or more of the Olsson twins, this lad King from Man United who doesn't want to be there, Henley. Let them run around a lot, it won't come to much, as long as we keep a couple of big lads on Rhodes they'll have nothing to aim at.

"There's nothing we can tell you about Vukcevic - a bit of a mystery man.

"Stick a couple of early challenges on Etuhu, he's doesn't fancy it, let him know he's in a contest and he'll be useless. Same goes for Kazim-Richards. Test this young keeper Kean - he's going to be bricking it, so keep the pressure on him in one to ones.

"If we get a corner, just float it towards the penalty spot. Don't worry, you'll be unmarked. Givet might be there, but equally, he might not. You never can tell with him.

"The best news I've heard is that Scott Dann is going to be skipper today. Not only is
he hopeless at set pieces, but his confidence is shot to pieces.

"Make sure you patronise them in the programme notes and pre-match interviews, say they're a top top team, but to be honest this will be a breeze."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Olympic gold

One of the great unsung heroes of modern British culture is Frank Cottrell Boyce. I bumped into him at the Hay Festival and asked him to speak at a conference I was involved in at Aquinas College.
He is a terrific speaker and responded really well to questions afterwards. He played a huge role in scripting the Olympic opening ceremony with his friend Danny Boyle, which is full of anecdotes and glory. But I just really liked his delivery. He has a warmth and generosity about him and a particularly smart way of communicating the simplicity of Christian values and faith. Just what you need for an event like this as the rhetoric can get quite heavy.

Here he is: "Even so, people are often surprised when I admit to being a practising Catholic. Not that anyone’s ever taken issue with it but there is always that moment of surprise that tells you they had an image in their head, and it wasn’t you. And because people are polite you never quite know what that image is: did they think I was going to be St. Francis – poet, environmentalist, genius – or did they think I was going to be Mel Gibson?"

Here is the full text of Frank’s talk and here is the audio recording.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

My mate #19 - Andy Shaw

Dennis Tueart, Andy Shaw and Michael Taylor
The latest random profile of one of my friends and how I know them is my pal Andrew Shaw, a prolific football supporter, FA Councillor, property personality and an all round good sort.

Me and Andy got off to a great start in my early years as the editor of Insider back in 2000. He was a generous informant and good conduit for intelligence and information in the property world when he ran the Jones Lang LaSalle office in Manchester. He moved to another agency and was always supportive. Though we would get together and talk about business and property, he also had a more colourful hinterland as a keen observer of politics, a parent with shared interest in some of the subtleties of how we bring our lads up. And then there's the football.

Football is where we share a particularly anorakish interest. While I like to ground hop and support my team, Andy has also taken his involvement to another level altogether. He joined the board of Altrincham FC about a decade ago, as well as being a massive Manchester City fan, home and away. He's now an FA Council member, looking after non-league clubs, and visiting hundreds of clubs around the country.

He served as the chairman of judges in the Insider Property Awards for a few years and added a real flair to the day. It was a role I was keen to revive for him when he joined me as a judge of the Northwest Football Awards. So, pictured is Andy, with me, and another of his pals from the football world, Dennis Tueart.

Now, the glasses I'm wearing (above) are currently in Andy's possession. I left them on our table at the awards and haven't seen them since. He rescued them - he's good like that - and I thought this blogpost might flush him out and get him along to meet me for a quick drink and hand them over. I mean, they're bloody useless without me.

Andy is not only great fun, he's incredibly loyal and a very considerate. I'm proud to call him a mate.