Thursday, May 15, 2014

Local elections in Marple and Stockport

The local elections are upon us in Stockport, with the possibility of a change at the town hall. As usual the Liberal Democrats are pursuing their voter suppression technique. Tell the supporters of other parties that they are wasting their time and should stay at home, or vote negatively for someone they don't agree with. You'd expect them to hold both Marple wards, but these are strange times.

The three big issues to look out for in the local elections are these:

  • The UKIP surge. I see Stockport as prime UKIP territory, loose, white, grumpy and lacking tribal connections to the main three parties. This is partly why the Liberals have done well here. As the election is on the same day as the Euros, they could upset the pattern in a few seats at the expense of every party.
  • Dave Goddard. The former leader of the council is trying to make a comeback in Offerton after getting beaten by Labour two years ago.
  • Labour support rebuilding and adding to the gains of 2012. The Labour Party have had an injection of energy and are working hard in target wards around Offerton, Bredbury, Woodley and Manor.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Football's Coming Home - happy to be back at Ewood two years on

Two years ago I almost wept at how toxic and depressing it had become at Ewood Park. A team of useless mercenaries led by a man of dubious credentials and no connection with the fans. We lost to Wigan and were relegated. I never wanted to come back until this horror had gone. I blamed the Venky's 100%.  

Today we ended the season on an optimistic note. We may have concluded a game against Wigan in the knowledge we'll be playing in the Championship next season, but the change is seismic.

The owners are the same, but this young team and a decent minded manager have a good chance of winning this league next season. I look around at who else will be in this division and I think that has to be a realistic ambition. A team with the spine of Tom Cairney, Rudi Gestede, Jordan Rhodes, Matt Kilgannon and Grant Hanley need fear no-one. What it lacks, I fear, is mental strength; something that comes from experience, strong leadership and shared purpose. They need, and seem to have, a belief in something greater than the sum of its parts, that they are at Blackburn Rovers to achieve rather than to just drift. There's a tangible connection between the fans and this team too. That helps enormously. 

Handing out the Allez scarves was a nice touch, but honesty and commitment will properly cement that relationship.

And we have to be grateful that all is quiet on the Indian front. They seem to have learned something in the last two years.

I'll be honest and admit that the fans seem to have learned a thing or two as well. Expectation, mainly. I'd be proud and happy to come back with my lads to Ewood next season. It feels like home again.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Neil Finn and Johnny Marr LIVE in Manchester - There Is A Light at The Lowry

I didn't take this video, but I was there. It's Neil Finn of Crowded House and Split Enz topping a majestic and expansive two hour set with one of his mates popping along for an encore. How cool was that?

It would have been a great night without this, but Johnny Marr crowned it. I've already seen Morrissey do "There is a Light..." a few years back, and now Marr. Makes up for never seeing the Smiths, almost.

What does it say about me that my favourite music venue is now a cosy arts theatre. Already booked for Roddy Frame in December.

Paul Morley's The North reviewed, finally

Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy is a complex, tangential and often confusing book. Not only did it subvert a new form of literature before it had even really taken off - the modern novel - it has served to provide a new set a particular challenges for modern interpreters of other literary forms; the modern novel as the basis for a filmic treatment, or for a stage play. Many said it couldn't be done, so that a version of it became Cock and Bull, the Life of Tristram Shandy, adapted by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who then disowned this film within a film, which in turn became the basis for Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's The Trip, featured Tony Wilson playing himself, confronting Coogan as if he were Partridge. The only thing missing was Tristram Shandy, a gentleman, propelling into the immediate present, a narrative that speaks for the past and the future.

This has everything and nothing to do with Paul Morley's The North. Pause for a moment if you will and think about what I did there. I'd like to think I don't usually write in such confusing riddles. I would imagine if I were writing a book about the North I would do just that. I would talk to people all over the North, gather their recollections, piece together a narrative based on conflicting yet coherent streams. I may, in my limited way, project some of my experiences in a narrow sphere of my life. Maybe, say, my obsessions with male street fashions and teen cults. I could call it, at a push The North. I may even dwell with an unnecessary and unreliable memory on stories about bus routes around Lancaster. In order to make up for the fact I couldn't be arsed to get on a train to Newcastle, Harrogate, Carlisle, Barrow and Preston I'd pepper the text with cut and paste jobs from Wikipedia and a few facts you could otherwise pick up from hours scouring the internet. People may even like stories about Wittgenstein and Anthony Burgess in Manchester, or that karaoke was invented in Goyt Mill in Marple, or the time I met Dave Lee Travis on holiday in Italy. Or that my Dad moved around a lot when he was a lad. But I wouldn't do that. I'd get the name of Liverpool's manager right though. It wasn't Bob Shankly, you numpty. It was Bob Paisley.

I'm not a contemporary book reviewer, I got this for my birthday last July and it's been on my reading pile for ages. If you want to read a generous review, go and look up one by everyone's favourite cultural theorist Terry Eagleton.

In the end, even trying to review this mess of a book is making me irritable and tetchy. It has genuine, genuine gems. But it is not really about the North at all. It's a series of tangents, a product of a distracted mind, or someone able to frustrate and manipulate his publishers despite not delivering his much promised biopic on Anthony Wilson.

It also defiantly and arrogantly doffs a flat cap in the direction of Tristram Shandy with the rambling disconnections and the stubborn refusal to be what the author claimed he wanted the book to be in his original submission, which he even includes as a form of showing off. It takes brass balls to do that, or a brass neck. And we all know what's there where there's brass.