Monday, October 30, 2006

The Royle we

It's been frequently said that anyone who has been a manager in an office, or has even just worked in one, will watch scenes in The Office in a state of a permanent wince.

It was the same on several occasions last night watching the The Royle Family special on BBC1. This is when I did, anyway:

- Getting your kids to perform Armarillo, or do Peter Kay impersonations
- Up above, down below
- Getting your kids to do martial arts demos
- Playing on the goodwill of grandparents
- "I'm getting laminated"
- Not being able to finish the laminating
- Johnny Cash

Overall, the return was a cosy tying up of loose ends, and more of a sympathetic and sentimental dropping in on the Royles than the individual shorter episodes ever were. The appeal, like many situation comedies, is that the dialogue follows a theme, jogs along to some vanishing point at which you realise that nothing actually happens.

Yet as well as Nana's death, there was the birth of a second new baby, which is twice as much as what happened in the rest of the previous series put together.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Manchester Lord's Prayer

Norman Geras got me started on this one. Wolfie and Neil have tweaked it a bit, but it is a work in progress.

Our Father, which art in Heaton,
Fallowfield be thy Name.
Thy Kingsway come.
Thy Withington.
In Irlam as it is in Heavily.
Give us this day our Lower Bredbury.
And forgive us our Reddishes,
As we forgive them that Prestwich against us.
And lead us not into Timperly;
But deliver us from Cheadle:
For thine is the Swinton, the Crumpsall, and the Gorton,
For Eccles and Eccles. Hough End.

Ten thoughts on...films

A new end of week series starts here. Ten thoughts on...

I don't get to the cinema as much as I used to, but there have been golden eras when I'd go all the time. As a yoof in Lancaster, or when I was paid to review films in Perth and Melbourne, or when in Bristol in the 1990s an 8 screen cinema opened five minutes from my home/office, which was perfect for task avoidance.

In 1998, at a charity bash, I foolishly bid £250 for a cinema pass and a Warner Village leather jacket. Never fancied the George Bush look, but the pass was well-used. Read on...

* First film ever seen at Lancaster Odeon: Gold, with Roger Moore

* Best film ever seen at Lancaster Odeon in the 1970s: Star Wars

* Best British gangster film of the 1970s: Long Good Friday

* Best British gangster film of the last ten years: Layer Cake

* The worst: The Business

* Best British film of last ten years: The English Patient

* Best American thriller: Heat

* Best scene to quote when pissed: Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men
"Son, we live in a world that has walls..."

* Second best: Michael Gambon in Layer Cake
"You're born, you take shit, get out in the world you take more shit, climb a little higher take less shit until one day you're up in the rarified atmosphere and you've forgotten what shit even looks like; welcome to the layer cake, son."

* Best kids films: Cars and Finding Nemo (can't decide)

What is it all for?

Since I started this blog in July I've been delighted with the response. Friends who I don't see very much have said lovely things like - "I feel like we're in touch again".

But this week I've been throwing some ideas around for Insider magazine in a feature about blogging. I had the pleasure of a warm and courteous exchange on the phone with the wonderful Norman Geras, though I was a little intimidated by such an intellect. He also offered The Marple Leaf a few tips - such as including a blog roll (see right) of other blogs I like. The trouble is, while Norm's is vast, the limited blogs I visit are few in number.

It's made me a little more self-conscious and I've paused before posting today, but this has also been a very busy week. I was in London yesterday to interview a top chap called Sir Terry Matthews for Wales Business Insider before heading off to the Magazine Journalism Awards. I didn't win, but felt very honoured to be named in despatches.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Assorted lists (a bloke thing)

Currently reading: Love, Poverty and War by Christopher Hitchens

Most recent "lost gem" addition to iPod playlist: The British Way of Life by The Chords (1979)

Best thing on TV: Spooks (just gets better)

Morning radio: Today on BBC Radio 4 (posh London FM)

Drivetime radio: Peter Allen and Jane Garvie on Radio Five Live
(the voice of intolerant liberal Britain - "ban it! tax it!")

Best music magazine: Word

Best current affairs magazine: Spectator

Best other blogs - Harry's Place and Dougal

Favourite current Blackburn Rovers player: Benni McCarthy

Save the Gormleys

The Gormleys at Crosby are going after a totally unacceptable and
appalling decision by a planning committee. If you want to join me
in protesting at this nonsense, here are a couple of email addresses: (chair of planning committee) (contact person for Sefton
Coastal Partnership)

Given the time taken for appeals, I doubt if anything can be done,
but it would be awful if this decision went by without some kind of
The pic above appears in The Guardian today in an excellent piece by David Ward.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What a crock

I was at an awards do last night - one of ours, as it goes. Neil Tague - raised in Wilmslow, lives in Cheadle - has kindly reviewed the new Channel 4 series Goldplated.

"The blingo cards were at the ready and Channel 4 didn’t disappoint. Sports cars crunching over the gravel outside big house? Check? Gaudy jewellery? Check. Cocaine being snorted off expensive-looking furniture? Check.

"The first episode of Goldplated, Channel 4’s new drama set among North Cheshire’s nouveau riche was everything predicted by the sort of cynics who predicted “a Hollyoaks with Botox” earlier this year.

"In tellyland, Northerners either live in scummy tower block hell or something approaching the Palace of Versailles with no in between. The self-delusions and self-hatred of those who cross the divide is a story already told many times, all better than this. It was pitiful – Footballers Wives without the humour, appealing characters and action. 0/10."

Monday, October 16, 2006

The joy of golf

I really struggle with golf. Great game, but I just don't seem to get any better.

In fact, if it wasn't for the Manchester Rabble Golf Tour I'd probably give up entirely. We returned last night after four days in Lagos, Portugal (see pic, above).
Top trip, and a major hat tip to Andrew Page and Steve James for organising everything.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

That London

I grew to be weary of London when I lived there from 1989 until 2000, with a two year stint in Bristol. I like going back though. I love the energy and the scale of it.

Then there's the taxi drivers. In the short trip from my hotel at Marble Arch to Euston I was treated to the following: "Buses are a pain in the arse, the Olympics in 2012 will be a total disaster, there are too many mosques, Ken Livingstone is an idiot, the congestion charge is killing businesses, Tony Blair is an idiot, this isn't our country anymore, the hotel I'd stayed in is the biggest knocking shop in London (????), red routes are stupid, Enoch Powell was right. I won't have that lot in the back of my cab." Phew.

You couldn't make it up.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Once more unto the beach

The first hint that our planned perfect day out at Crosby may not go to plan was the large apple that was thrown at the windscreen of the Taylor-Gee bus (our 7 seater) from the side of the M57 by a tracksuited child. The old bill were informed, they knew all about this idea for Saturday afternoon fun, and were on their way.

At a roundabout near the entrance to the docks was a posse of hoody youths flicking Vs at passing cars. We told our lads that they were waving to welcome us to Liverpool. Which in a way I suppose they were.

Following the signs to Antony Gormley's statues we parked up at the far side of Crosby Marina (as it turned out) and the kids played in a park for a bit. The hike to the dunes took a while, with most of us suffering from one ailment or another - I've got a gammy eye, Rachel's got the twins' party to worry about. Then there are the kids: one has a cold, two have a disorder called LOF (Lack of Football) which means they can't cope without a ball to kick around, and the hike made all of them tired.

The statues were great, and it was worth the trip to see them and to spark the kids fascination, even on a cold day. But the beach was effectively the municipal tip. Rubbish everywhere. Including syringes and broken bottles. Nice.

The dunes provided a more fertile space for imagination and play. But most of us seemed to have at least one close encounter with dog poo. And as much as I love my Timberland boots, getting it out with a lolly stick and a packet of wet wipes was a struggle.

Hungry kids need food by 4pm and Satterthwaites came to rescue. Even gently microwaved sausage rolls were crisp and tasty. Best I've ever had, said both Rachel and the senior lad. Too small, said one twin. The pork pies, as recommended by Dougal Paver, were warmed at home in the Aga and eaten with Marrowfat peas. I think we have another winner.

I'm reluctant to take cheap digs at Liverpool and draw conclusions about the European Capital of Culture 2008. But some of our memories of this day out consist of all of the above, plus more scally kids, a surly youth in a paper shop, a feral biker doing wheelies up Crosby's main drag on an off road trials bike, and the veneer of dog mess on the park. But this was my truth; tell me yours...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Politics is rubbish

A new book - I want to make a difference, but I don't like politics - claims business people are not engaged with politics and public life.

It's true, they think it's a waste of time and the culture of politics and the public sector runs contrary to a "can-do" business ethos.

I'd go further and argue that when you make choices in life you follow the people that are like you and that you like being with. I think I'm pretty normal and while I've tinkered with political activity from time to time, I find most political people to be odd. Some of the real creeps I've met in my life have got wrapped up in political parties of all colours. It's just not for me.

The author of the book is John Redwood MP, by the way.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Bangalore Express

In due deference to my sustainable yoghurt weaving chum Steve Connor, with whom I will be breaking vegan bread later, I left the tractor in the yard this morning and took the train.

Too crowded, too damp and a little bit late. Standing room only from Marple. And my pal Wolfie, who did get a seat at New Mills, had already moved to avoid a public sector harpie yakking on about a spatial awareness workshop.

I was far too afraid that I would inflict the tinny invasion of my iPod's carefully composed commuter playlist on the rest of the crowded carriage, so that pleasure was also denied. Spatial awareness, see.

I now have a sore back, a distaste of grumpy students and a burning sense of frustration that the people of the Peak District, the Hope Valley and Marple are poorly served by this service.