Friday, November 30, 2007

How do you do?

Welcome to anyone who has clicked through from the How Do website. It's been a laugh doing that weekly guest editor thing for Nick Jaspan. If you don't have a clue what I'm on about, click here.

But be careful not to link to How-Do Dot Com, which is here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fairness, accuracy and the rewards that follow

Me and Neil Tague hot footed it to London yesterday to the RAC on Pall Mall (we're not members). The occasion was the BVCA's media awards. Blow me if we didn't win again. So chuffed to have won for the cover story we did about the collapse of Music Zone, which explored the way private equity backed businesses are at risk from their bankers.

The full list of winners is here.

I'm not going to pretend I'm not bothered, I am SOOO chuffed, but there's a human element to this story that hopefully is winding its way towards a happier conclusion. The MD of the company, Steve Oliver, has now picked himself up and has started a new venture - Music Magpie - which I hope is a success. I'm sure he won't stretch the borrowing this time.

And however pleased I was to have won, the phone call I had from a very choked and emotional Steve Oliver, after I published, saying that reading the piece was difficult for him, but that it was fair, meant more than anything. Journalism can be a rough trade, you can print things that aren't comfortable. You can be lively, colourful, be prone to exaggeration for effect, but always be fair. I worked for editors as good as John McCrone, Scott Howlett, Kate Bulkley, John Flint and Nick Masters who are such good people with good solid values and decency running through them. They all gave me a hard time at one point or another and I'm so grateful they did.

And do you know what? I am also blessed to work with a graphic designer as talented as Damien Wiehl. His cover was one of the best I've ever seen. Anywhere.

Check this out:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

If the kids...

I've been to the University of Central Lancashire today to talk to the MA course in Magazine Journalism. They're a great bunch and I learned a lot about how they're interpreting the world and preparing for careers in journalism. They ask such perceptive questions and produce great ideas. I always encourage them to stay in touch and to bounce ideas off me. They don't believe, but they should ask David Casey and Martin Pilkington, two graduates from this course who work for us now.

Today is Lancashire Day, where we celebrate all that is great about God's own county. I know I technically live in the historic county of Cheshire now, but we're proud to have been born under the red red rose.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Proud of my family

I didn't think there could be much that would make me prouder than having my name read out at a Journalism awards do in the company of my peers. But having my name read out at the Lancaster Milk Kitters Ball as one of the high points of the year takes some beating: "Our chairman Stewart Taylor's son has won an award, just make sure what you say to him, or it might appear in the paper".

That, and Joe Taylor getting "man of the match" for the third time this season for the Marple Athletic Under 9s.

Work is great for me. I love what I do, but Rachel and my boys are my greatest prize of all.

Mersey - the river that changed the world

I have my author's advanced copy of the book I have been working on about the river Mersey.

My pal Walter Menzies had this to say and I don't disagree:

It is a challenge not to break down in hysterical sobbing it is so magnificent. It is dedicated to Tony Wilson for reasons only you and the handful of us who were here at the time of his unforgettable outburst will ever understand.

A link to a story of that outburst is here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Irish eyes are smiling

Had a monster night last night at the Manchester Hilton and feeling the effects today. We went with Pat Loftus and his wife Paula to the annual Irish Abroad dinner. Pat is a great guy and knows how to put a good table together to make quality connections and how to make sure we all have a fun time. Had a great laugh with our other guests - Heejae Chae and his wife who hve moved from New York, Laoise Flanagan and her bloke Oliver and Neil and Tracy Rodford.

We go to a lot of corporate events and charity functions, but this was something special. Everyone was so considerate and generous. The atmosphere was wonderful and the entertainment was awesome - Ireland's top pianist Phil Coulter and a parade of awesome vocalists. Eamonn O'Neal was the host, has to be one of the most genuine blokes in the business. Love him to bits.

Pat bid for a holiday in the auction, Neil also chipped in for a Dubai holiday. I was outbid for Pele print. And Sir Alex Ferguson paid £5k for a Christmas tree adorned with Harold Riley pictures of angels.

A few of Neil's clients at Formation are Rovers players. Without breaching confidences, everything he had to say was good.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Journalism Awards and Greg Dyke

Me and three of the Insider team are off to Leeds tonight for the Northern Journalism Awards. We're shortlisted in five categories - young journalist (David Casey), campaign (Lisa Miles' for our Green issue), team (North West and Yorkshire teams) and business journalist (me). We did well last year (and the year before that, etc) because we had a clear run at the business magazine category. They've scrapped it this year so we're up against the papers, which is tough, because the Yorkshire Post are very good and they do have a bit of a halo about them. The Journal in Newcastle has done well too, especially on the Northern Rock stuff. Neil Tague and Lisa have already bagged a couple of awards this year and would be nice to win some more, but frankly, we've done really well to get this far and I'm very proud of the team for doing so.

I'm also looking forward to hearing Greg Dyke speak. When I covered the TV industry in the 1990s (for this kind of thing) he was terrific to interview. He used to get us down to LWT for briefings and a gossip. An unbelievably good contact to have for a 23 year old reporter. I was appalled that his tenure at the BBC ended the way it did, he was the best director general the BBC ever had.

From Channel M - waste not, want not

This is me on Channel M talking about the Marple bin bag trial

Euro 2008 - no WAGs, no flags - let's go

I cheered when that third Croatian goal went in last night. That is what this dismal team has done to us. The players on the pitch, indeed for that whole Euro 2008 non-qualification campaign, have not been a team the nation could be proud of. That is their fault, not ours. Neither is it the fault of the pitch, the FA structure, the Premiership or Arsenal.

I knew it was a lost cause when the anthems were being sung and, disgracefully, booed. Every Croat sung with the roar of a small nation born from war and bonded by a strong team spirit where every player knew his job. England's shabby collection of overpaid journeymen and spoilt babies were barely able to utter a line. They showed no pride and once the game started it was clear they had been given no clue. Five in midfield is based on keeping the ball and finding the best place to play it. You can only do that if your opponents yield. They didn't, they fought and they passed better and they shot at goal with belief.

I went to the World Cup last year and wished I hadn't gone to see England. And do you know what, without England's appalling supporters and without the unedifying spectacle of the hated WAGs the tournament next year might actually be quite good, and even worth attending.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The idiocy of Scottish football

I really can't stand Scottish football. The kids call Setanta's Scottish football round up - "As if it's important". I pretend to like Rangers, but that's only because I deeply dislike Celtic and their semi-mythological status as defenders of some warped version of history, politics and faith.

"The club was founded to help the poor Irish immigrants to Scotland. They may take a particular view of history, what happened in Ireland, which is different to many other people. So I don't call those pro-terrorist songs" - Jeanette Findlay, chair of the Celtic Shareholders Trust, doing her bhit for bhigotry. (From the Fiver).

I love the fact that the Fiver calls them Queen's Celtic and Pope's O'Rangers. By the way.

There's more coverage of this kind of thing, here. And stuff about new chairman John Reid getting it in the neck here.

Bin laden with secrets

Blimey, I'm quoted in the Stockport Express this morning as being "furious" about the new see through bin bags which are being trialled in Marple. A link to the story is here.

The story makes the point that there may be waste you don't want your neighbours to see.

I first mentioned it on this blog here.

My main problem isn't with recycling. I like doing it, I abhor waste. A positive campaign that encourages people to do something really good for the environment is worth so much more than unleashing another tier of weasels. Any snooping and regulating ends up getting the mild trangressors who are easy to pick on. I will comfortably predict here that this will lead to people being told off, then prosecuted, for leaving a baked bean tin in the waste. Not some scrotes who fly tip, or discard bag loads of McDonalds in Etherow car park.

I'm also slightly annoyed that Stockport Council don't collect plastic bottles. We take ours to the tip, but not everyone else can do that.

There's even more on all of this. If you go to this page, here, you can see the Manchester Evening News version of the same story. And an interview I did on Channel M has also been added to the blog, here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life's shit tapestry

I have been up and down the country in the last two days sampling all life on Britain's railways, I am coming over all Boz. I can laugh now, because I had a very interesting conversation with a philosophy academic from Lancaster University on the leg of the journey from Cardiff to Crewe.

Prior to that I endured a family of scrotes, one of whom told me to "fuck off" when I asked her to turn down her mobile phone, which was playing horrible music.

An ignorant mother with a lovely daughter. Mum grunted at me when I helped her get her bag down.

Then I had two sweaty fat Welsh blokes showing each other porn on their mobiles.

Rachel thinks I hanker after a time when only the rich and educated were allowed to travel on trains. Harsh, but possibly true.

The scarf my father wore

I was reminded at Stockport County on Saturday of one of the best songs sung by football supporters - "the scarf my father wore". It's sung to the tune of Orange anthem "The Sash" so has slightly dodgy overtones, but it is a masterpiece. I recall Cyril Ryder telling me about it at 2am in the morning in Rusholme in 2003, which then caused a row with some Irish women who assumed he was singing the original. Anyway, the full version is here. A sample is here:

It's forever being beautiful,
And the colour's white and blue!
I wore it proudly 'round my neck,
At Chesterfield & Crewe!
My father was a County fan,
Like me grandfather before.
And at Edgeley Park I love to wear,
The scarf me father wore!

Cracking stuff!

Cameron has the momentum

This blog is very non-partisan when it comes to politics. Nevertheless, an eyebrow was casually raised in July at the performance of David Cameron at a business event in Liverpool. A link to it is here.

I was impressed and thought he had the momentum. He seemed to lose it over the summer as Gordon Brown had a bounce. Now, all the new ideas in the news, all the smart observations and the projects that people want to hear are coming from Cameron. His performance at the party conference gave everyone else the chance to see what we did in Liverpool - a class act and a polished performer.

It's proving to be tough going for Brown and he looks doomed. He lacks judgement, lacks courage and has a weak team around him. The people have been looking for a change and he just isn't it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Great day for Marple Ath

We've all been to Stockport County today. Marple Athletic Junior Football Club have been officially awarded with the FA Charter Standard so 180 of us took over the far corner of the family stand and watched a rough tough Hereford United beat County 3-2.

I'm "media officer" for Marple Ath, so this blog is one of a number of outlets we've managed to get this story onto. My pal Ruth Shearn has sponsored Joe's Under 9s team through her company RMS (Ruth's Marple Stars) and she's been plugging us with her usual boundless enthusiasm. Jon Keighren mentioned us on Pure FM. Ath's founder Alan Rainford has been on BBC Radio Manchester and we're hoping for a bit of coverage in the Stockport Express.

I've also finally managed to get the club's website,, up and running. It's still got a few rough edges, but we'll get there.

It's been a great day. The Under 9s teams won 10-0 and 2-0 against spirited Stockport Vikings sides this morning. And I believe the Under 10s did well too.

To complete my Marple sporting tour de force I went to the Marple Cricket Club dinner last night with a great bunch of blokes, Trevor, Mark, Andy, Kevin and Dom, who I've got to know since we moved here. Speaker was Mark Ilott, who was a better after-dinner than he was a fast bowler.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Unwarrantedly in a list

A new website called How-Do has done a list of 100 media people in the North West. I'm not going to pretend I wasn't pleased to have been included in the 41-59 cluster. A link to it is here. There's even a comment from someone called Biz acumen (easy to be so rude when you're anonymous, isn't it?) - who refers to me as "the region's most unwarrantedly arrogant journo". Ace, must be doing something right. Is "unwarrantedly" even a word?

The Marple diet

For the first time in my life I'm on a diet. Not any of these Atkins or F Plan diets, but a more concerted effort to keep on eye on the level of crap I put in my body. That said I've just had fish and chips for tea tonight (Goyt Fish Bar - best in Marple). We have cut out booze during the week. Frankly we feel better for it. I couldn't get through these winter days at work with a fuzzy head and the feeling of lethargy that a a shared bottle of wine can bring.

I've also cut down on tea and coffee, snacks and crisps, pop and sweets. Which has been tough. I've always used the excuse that a little of what you fancy can't hurt, but I'll see if I fancy something healthier like fruit.

I've also had a weigh-in with the lads in the sales team at work. They've got this competition going where the biggest percentage weight loss wins. I can't remember what I weigh, but unless I get more exercise, I'm just arresting a surge.

Back on the train gang

I had such a horrendous commute by car on Monday and Tuesday (I was heading for Preston on Monday, I was just lazy on Tuesday) that I had to try something new today. I got the 07.40 train from Rose Hill, which was fine. Rose Hill is good as it's the first station on the line, you can curl up with a book, the Metro, or listen to music. Marple can be crowded. I have seen people at Romiley fail to get on a train from Marple due to overcrowding.

Just as I was sitting down to my latest book, thinking that I hadn't had a Boz moment, otherwise known as a terrible experience of the human race that leaves one reeling with digust, I paid for my ticket with a £20 note. The notes the guard gave me back had been clasped in his mouth and were soaked with his spit. Yuck.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


It's our first wedding anniversary today. So very happy. Thank you Rachel.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sir Alex Ferguson and his mind games

Preparing to face the enemy at Old Trafford on Sunday is always a daunting experience. I've never seen us win there but we're hoping that the full entourage of me, Rachel and the 5 boys will be some kind of good luck omen. We're going as the guests of Nigel Hughes, one of the best bloggers in the North West in my view, and a very generous chap too.

I went to a lunch at the Midland Hotel today where Sir Alex Ferguson was the guest speaker and the object of 21 years worth of pent up adoration from an audience of middle aged blokes. I kept staring at him and muttering " rest Ronaldo", "try one up front", "don't bother marking Bentley, let him roam". I think it might work.

When he was asked which ex-United players surprised him by going into management he said: "Sparky surprised me, because he was always so quiet." He stopped short of endorsing him as his successor. Players in the world he'd most like to sign? Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho. Not Bentley, or Pedersen, or McCarthy eh? Pah. Mind games.

In praise of...Gyles Brandreth

We had our Dealmakers Awards last night at Manchester Central. Our host was Gyles Brandreth, who did an absolutely superb job. He really entertained the crowd, he was warm, funny, cutting, bitchy and really great to work with. I never thought a presenter would get an ovation at a corporate finance awards do for ending his turn with a poem by Hilaire Belloc. He did. Wonderful.

I had to do the serious bit of the night with a kick off of our pledge to campaign with businesses in the financial world to repeal the stupid decision to phase out taper relief on business assets.

The big winners on the night were PricewaterhouseCoopers. Colin Gillespie, a really nice bloke, won the Dealmaker of the Year Award. For a Manchester United season ticket holder he's advised more than his fair share of scousers - Liverpool FC and Matalan. The sale of John Hargreaves' business was voted Deal of the Year.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cameron's big idea - meat on the bones?

There has been a huge amount of shock and awe coverage about Manchester's broken society. Ian Duncan Smith's report into the divides in Manchester make for provocative reading and listening, here, here and here. I heard some rubbish being spoken on Radio 5 this morning.

Ian Duncan Smith had concluded: "Manchester is one of the greatest cities in the UK and its economic rebirth over the last 15 years in enriching the lives of many of its two million citizens.

"But many others are being left behind. On just about every measure of social breakdown Manchester scores far worse than the national average and other big cities."

I quite like Jonathan Schofield's take on things on Manchester Confidential, here. But he still tries to gloss over the point about social breakdown. Manchester is an example. Not the only one, but an acute one.

He points out quite rightly that the actual Manchester city council area is a small part of "greater Manchester". Still, the core point that places like Moss Side are not enjoying any of the great economic benefits of the city centre is a quick soundbite, yet based on a truism.

The main point about all this, however, is an entree into David Cameron's announcement today about the need for a mutualised education system, a Conservative Co-operative Movement, which he has launched in Manchester today, full speech is here.

It is strange indeed that a Tory leader can attack Labour for leaving bits of the country behind, but there is something exciting in using the energy and skills of private sector management to run public services better. The social business model has turned into a movement the parties are seeking to colonise, yet in many cases they are just charities, or subsidised businesses with plenty of waste and poor outcomes. It's a fashionable bandwagon, but is it one that will stand up to scrutiny?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Namedrops keep falling...

Regular readers of the Marple Leaf will be familiar with the regular pattern of namedropping that goes on here. Today, I have to say, I don't know where to start. Here's a sentence I never thought I'd write: I had dinner with Drew Stokes and Ricky Hatton last night.

At the Society of Editors dinner last night, my table comprised of these people:
  • Sir Christopher Meyer, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission and former ambassador to the USA
  • Ricky Hatton, top boxer
  • Andrew Stokes, chief executive of Marketing Manchester
  • Paddy Harverson, communications secretary to Prince Charles
  • Paul Horrocks, editor, Manchester Evening News
  • Linda Horrocks, editor in chief, Manchester Evening News
  • Harold Riley, artist
  • Ashraf Riley, wife of Harold
  • Angie Robinson, chief executive, Manchester Chamber
Angie, Paul and Linda are good mates anyway, but I really enjoyed everyone's company on the night. Great mix of people and loads of brilliant stories flying about.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Midlands Business Insider columnist in furore

Nigel Hastilow, a columnist for our magazine in the Midlands, has got himself into bother by writing a column for the Wolverhampton Express and Star in which he said people tell him that Enoch Powell was right. He is now no longer the Tory candidate for Halesowen.

His blog, here, with THAT article in full, has some abuse, messages of support and an offer from the BNP for him to stand for them instead. Oh dear.

I don't know Nigel very well, but I think he knew what he was doing. Richard Littlejohn churns this stuff out every week in the Daily Mail, but the new shiny Tories need someone a bit more subtle. Nigel's column didn't pass the test required of public servants.

The most telling piece of his article was this:

It’s too controversial and far too dangerous [to discuss immigration]. Nobody wants to be labelled a racist. Immigration is the issue that dare not speak its name in public.

Yet everywhere you go, you hear the same story. There are simply too many people competing for the space, houses, benefits, public services and jobs this country has to offer.

He's right. It is very difficult to discuss immigration, and the tragedy is because of the fear of a well of poison that is perceived to lurk beneath. I think Enoch Powell was wrong. There have not been rivers of blood, Britain remains one of the most tolerant countries on earth. What's wrong with saying that we're being taken advantage of. It's true.

Lost dog in Hazel Grove

Marple Leaf reader Nancy from Hazel Grove has lost her dog.

"My little dog has been missing for three days, she escaped from our garden on Torkington Road, Hazel Grove on Friday night (think fireworks had something to do with it) and I am mounting a bit of a campaign to try find her. She is a well loved family pet, her name is Missy and that's the first word our baby Joe said - or rather it was "iieey".

"She could be miles away by now I know, so I am casting the net Stockport-wide.

"She is a gold and white shih tzu and she has a short hair cut at the moment (stop laughing). She has a red collar and a pink identity tag. Phone number to ring is 0773 696 5574."

UPDATE: 6/11/07
Just to let you know that Missy has been found and is in the hands of the High Peak dog warden. Now got to get over to Buxton to collect her. She was picked up on Strines Road - little mutt travelled a fair distance.

Thanks for ruining your blog for me ha ha!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Radio GaGa

As Blackburn Rovers edge into the top six, each win produces more and more analysis of...the weaknesses of our opponents. We've now taken points off Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool and the story each time - on Match of the Day, Sky Sports News, BBC Radio 5 Live's 606 and in the papers I read - is how the BIG CLUBS have dropped points.

Last night we watched the 0-0 thriller against Liverpool and then sat in the car while "irate of Carshalton" and "apoplectic of Wrexham" told Alan Green on Radio 5 how it was all Dirk Kuyt's fault.

It reminded me of why I can't abide these phone-ins. Fans of BIG CLUBS phone up demanding more and more money be spent. Usually when they've been roaring their team on from the Dog and Duck in Putney High Street. YOU SOUND RIDICULOUS. Fans of Mansfield and Barnet phone in to say how they took 200 fans to Hartlepool and they are so proud. NO ONE CARES.

Maybe I just catch the bad days. Maybe there are rare insights on unsung players, tales of amusing songs, intelligent and sporting acknowledgement of opponents.

After the game we usually try and catch BBC Radio Lancashire which has a phone-in that does this a little bit. Radio Rovers is a joke. Wendy Howard does great interviews, but Gerald Jackson's twenty minute conversations with some bloke from San Diego who's been listening on the internet is as pointless as it is toe-curlingly dull.

When we don't play on Saturday at 3pm - most weeks now - Radio Lancashire is all over by the time we've got back to the car.

Will Mark Hughes be the next manager of Manchester United? Only if he wins something at Blackburn Rovers. If he does that, I'll be very happy.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Green Green Grass of Home

We've had Jenkins Landscapes in again. They have transformed our garden. And they're so lovely too. Such gentlemen.

Rather than have me blather on about it, let the pictures do the talking.

Do you like the arch? It's our one concession to post-modernism. I got the inspiration from here.

Law and order

There was a very good interview on BBC Radio Manchester this morning with one of the two kids from Macclesfield jailed for vandalising trains with their graffiti. I've followed this with some interest. I have no doubt that our five boys will at some point get up to no good. I did. Whether it gets too serious will be a challenge for us as parents.

I think, on balance, two years in jail was an inappropriate sentence for them. But they should be made to suffer for the damage they did and hopefully the publicity serves to show that this is a crime that could lead to a custodial sentence. Teaching kids in the hood not to do it - which they are going to do - is just the start. Cleaning stations and trains for six months while wearing overalls saying - criminal - would do the job.

Eamon O'Neal, the interviewer, who I like, says the lad was genuinely contrite. The balance to strike in the administration of justice is a) fear of the consequences and b) shame. If the latter is genuine, then a much more appropriate sentence would be a very public community service. If there is no shame, if it is two fingers to society, then there is no alternative but to jail them. That jails are universities of crime is one of the biggest problem this society faces.

The messageboards at the Macclesfield Express (here) reflect the view that they are - to quote one - "spoilt mummies boys".

A messageboard at the BBC, here, on whether they are "artists" has just got silly. They're still criminals. The issue is over how you prosecute justice effectively.