Saturday, April 09, 2022

Another disappointing day at Ewood as play off hopes drift away

It was one of those days where the weather couldn’t make it’s mind up, but neither was it clear which Blackburn Rovers would turn up. 

The first half version from Coventry, or the battling second half edition, or the ultimate bottlers. 

As it happened it was the frustrating, nervy, disjointed, diving Rovers. Picking up stupid bookings, over hitting passes, getting in the way, losing shape and failing to hit cow’s arses with banjos, rarely troubling the Blackpool keeper.

For fans of most teams who fancy an end of season flourish, it’s the hope that kills you. I think today that’s gone. I write this before even looking at the other results, but this just doesn’t look like a side with enough belief to secure a top-six finish let alone step up to the occasion of the playoffs.

The team has missed the enterprise and guile of John Buckley in that in-between slot, not least when John Buckley himself has fallen so short of those giddy heights his performances offered. The same too could be said of thrusting Joe Rothwell and busy Lewis Travis. Instead, Rothwell looked disconnected and indifferent today while Travis just seemed to get in the way. 

On the positives, it was good to be reminded how good it feels to have Dack on the pitch. He got the ball in the net but the pass from Lenihan bobbled and slowed on its way which may have bought the advancing defenders a split second worth of reprieve. He offers something exciting, and he should play from the start. 

Another gripe while I’m in a low mood; I want the scoreboard to tell me how long there is to go, not that we’re playing Stoke City on Easter Monday. Or that we’re HOME and playing BLA. These are basic little things, but then so is passing to your own side. And as we know, getting those basics right are the foundations of all good things. 

It’s not over, there are 15 points still to play for. I want to believe, I truly do, and there are better teams than Blackpool in the way, but on a bad show like that my main worry is there aren’t many capable of being as limp and listless as we saw today. 

Music Therapy - top tunes and great jackets

Since me and Neil started doing Music Therapy back in 2020, just as we thought we were emerging out of lockdown, we’ve really discovered a lot about ourselves, but also about our listeners.

Confession time, we only managed to record one show from the studio before another lockdown sent us all home again. For an absolute age we were recording from home. Blissfully, thanks to the ingenuity of the station controller Andy Hoyle and the wonders of modern technology, by some minor miracle, we managed to get a show out every week.

Honestly though, since we returned to the studio, it’s been a proper gamechanger. We get to twiddle nobs a bit more (fnarr, fnarr) get a few tips from Alex Cann, the most prolific man in commercial radio, and take over curated pictures of ourselves wearing a variety of much admired jackets.

One of Neil’s oldest mates said to him that he’d heard the show and that we sound like actual real radio DJs now. I think he meant it as a compliment, we’re certainly taking it as one.

You can’t beat being in the same space and having the right technology. The sound is crisper, we’re not likely to get bounced out by a dodgy WIFI connection, but it’s given us time to think and appreciate the music we play on the show.

We’re both hustling freelancers, looking for new opportunities, more often than not working from home, so the chance to do what human beings should be doing is an important part of our weekly structure. Although we haven’t been headhunted by BBC 6 Music (yet) every person I’ve done work for has found it fascinating that I do this. Neil has made films about the music and fashion scenes in Manchester and Sheffield for the fashion brand Pretty Green, which have been informed by having a focus on music. 

But the main delight has been our interactions with you, the listeners. We have no idea on the numbers of people, but through social media we get lots of love and comments. We don’t do requests, but we do take suggestions from people who get the show and what we’re about.

Some of our listeners aren’t even in Tameside and the High Peak. They use modern technology such as Tune In and Radio Player, or the station’s superb app, to listen to the show from anywhere in the world, at a time of their choosing.

One of those conversations sparked an idea to do a slot called Original Spin. We pick a song that you will be familiar with, but probably didn’t realise was a cover version. A few times these have been Prince songs, I Feel For You, covered by Chaka Khan, and Nothing Compares 2 U which Sinead O’Connor rescued from being an unperformed album track.

It takes us on a journey into different styles, plays to our ethos of there being no such thing as a guilty pleasure and hopefully opens up music that will be new to people.

I also don’t think I’ve been as switched on to new music as I am now. So thanks for the opportunity and keep on listening. Drop us a message if you fancy a chat about what you’d like us to do next.    

Monday, April 04, 2022

Lunch of the month for March - and the winner is ... in Stockport


I've been very pleased with the variety of quick lunches I've managed to have through the month of March. Definitely a Greater Manchester theme this time around as there's a good variety of locations too that are all noteworthy. 

Starting from the top left, going clockwise, is Athena, a very tasty Greek joint on St Petersgate in Stockport, where I spend a lot of time these days. The chicken gyro was very juicy and the sauces added a real kick.

Along the top was a return to Society food hall in Manchester, this time for a katsu curry and dumplings from Manzoku which went down very well and was significantly better than the one I had at Wagamama recently. 

In the top right is crispy beef at Stockport's Kambuja, the Cambodian stall in the Produce Hall. Sensational. 

Then there's a hearty wrap at All Things Nice in Marple where I watched my pal Alex order a cheese and avocado toastie and I suffered a bit of food envy. 

I've included my mum's chicken sandwiches, not because they qualify for this competition, but because 8 pictures look crap and they are truly amazing.

Next was a trip to Oldham with the Professor of kebabs himself, Andy Westwood. Amazing bread, but the salad was hard going. We'll just have to have another one soon to continue our quest. 

In the centre is a succulent burger and fries from The Butcher in the unlikely setting of Manchester Arndale. The company was good too, great to break burgers and bread with Gemma Krysko and her husband Matthew (DJ Radiator, warms up rooms). We were treated too, so thank you. 

Finally, the winner, Stockport Produce Hall is the place, the jerk halloumi wrap from Mamma G's Caribbean Soul Food was the choice and it blew my socks off. Fresh, tangy and very wholesome. 

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Autism acceptance - something for us all

This paper lands on your doormat in the middle of Autism Acceptance Week, as promoted by the charity the National Autistic Society, writes Michael Taylor.

(Tameside Reporter column, 1 April 2022).

Without going into details, I think I’m fairly aware of autism and what it means for how someone with that diagnosis lives their life, battles the education system and locates support.

The mission statement of the charity points out that there are currently around 700,000 autistic people in the UK. Their work seeks to create and contribute to a more inclusive world: a world where autistic people are accepted in society and able to live a life of choice and opportunity. During the week the charity has been sharing lots of information and ideas on how everyone can play their part in making this happen.

Crudely, we are all on a spectrum of how our brains are wired and how our senses interpret, communicate and signal to us how we respond. People on the autism spectrum find many of these processes challenging.

When it comes to encouraging acceptance, TV can play a huge part in doing the heavy lifting for us all. 

There’s a great video on the NAS website by Alan Garner who presents a series called The Autistic Gardner on Channel 4. He makes the point not just that people on the autism spectrum face their own challenges, but that they are so frequently misunderstood and therefore unable to live a life where they reach their full potential.

One of the best TV drama series I have seen is the BBC’s The A Word. It brings to life the complexities of a family challenged by the sinking realism that their beautiful son Joe has autism. His Dad encourages Joe’s love of great music which forms a vital part of the soundtrack, but for me the best part of the series was the rest of the annoying and complex characters around him. Life is like that, and if these lot can accept Joe and all his differences, then so can you.

I didn’t need a TV drama to know what effect a child with profound special educational and emotional needs has on a family. It's uncomfortable, the shock, the stages of comprehension and the allowances you make are all there.

I read somewhere that the series didn't speak a truth about one reviewer's autistic brother. Maybe so, but that's not the point. It didn't try to be the last word on autism any more than it is about the tensions of succession in family businesses.

It can be annoying telling people that autism doesn’t mean maths genius, card counter, or music obsessive. Each person is unique, but several core communications challenges require the rest of us to be more understanding.

Which brings me to the main thrust of this week, awareness, yes, but also acceptance and appreciation of people on the autism spectrum.

Having worked in a university, a media company and been part of social activities around music, football, politics and the outdoors and I can tell you firmly that I meet people all the time who have a way of communicating that others bristle at, because they don't understand the other person's wiring. 

I am not qualified to diagnose, and I don’t claim to have any kind of super power, but I find myself identifying behaviours that if that is a possibility that someone is on the autism spectrum then maybe those of us who are neuro typical have to meet others half way.

We say it at the end of each show, look after each other out there.