Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bookmarks for late April

Words Dept on the Channel M cutbacks. There has been real anger at the Guardian Media Group about the amount of money chucked at Channel M. I heard they were going to sell it to Manchester City FC; which still could be on the cards. Either way, local TV seems a dud idea now.

People Twittering at our technology event this morning. Sums it up quite well. They set up something called #insider which I haven't worked out how to do yet.

Stuff White People Like - a website, a way of life. Very amusing. My Bob Marley phase was 1983.

Two of my footballing heroes... with Jason Roberts and Aaron Mokeona.

Jamaica bans "daggering" and a good reason why is here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Canals and mills

On BBC breakfast news this morning at about 7.20 a report on regeneration in Manchester began: "This city used to be known for its canals and mills". I'm looking forward to a report from London tomorrow starting: "This city used to be known for its pea soupers and Jack the Ripper."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Why I still like Golf

For the first time in a year I dusted down the golf clubs and had a knock around Marple Golf Club yesterday for the Marple Athletic Junior Football Club Golf Day. It remains a frustrating and deeply anxious pursuit for me. And yet I enjoy it's simple democratic beauty. I played with a couple of young men about my age and one of their father's-in-law. There's a wonderful soaring feeling when your drive goes straight - I don't really do distance - or when a putt plops in. But there is no more crushing emotion than topping a tee shot on a par 3, or of over hitting a green after getting there in enough shots to score.

But I come back for more and will do so again this summer. I especially like the way I have learnt new things from much older players and watched them master techniques that match their physical limits. Playing with my pal Joe Dwek at Dunham Forest a few years ago, I learnt the virtue of the long iron for a well hit runner - why chip when a runner will do the job and get you on the green?

I also like the self regulation and gentleman's spirit of the game. Cheats just aren't tolerated, you don't need stewards and referees, you play for enjoyment and the crack.

I'd like our sons to get the basics of this game. I couldn't manage a game of football now, and Matt challenged me to a sprint race this morning and beat me, but I loved a five hour hike with a military pack on my back yesterday. I can still see myself doing this with my sons in 30 years time, though I might have bought a trolley by then.

And my score? Rubbish - 17 Stableford points and three complete blobs involving lost balls in ravines and lakes. But the best bit? We didn't get the wooden spoon in the tournament. That was the honour of Dave Riley's team.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Marple station - now a pub, eh?

I'm really enjoying Stuart Maconie's search for middle England in his latest book, Adventures on the High Teas. In a passage on the slaughter of the railways he refers to Marple station and says it is now a cheery pub (p237). Surely this is a mistake. There may be a pub in Marple that used to be a station, but I can't think where. And both Marple and Rose Hill stations do have adjacent pubs.

He did a very good TV programme on Marple and Stockport not being connected by train - and a link to this is here.

It rather spoils the effect and I mentioned this when I reviewed Pies and Prejudice, his last book, here. You take him at his word on places you don't know - but keep finding mistakes when he writes about the places you do.

Anthem For England

Happy St George's Day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

An experiment in human nature

Ok, so how was it for you? I twittered my way through the Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers game. It's all here. I don't think I added much to the lexicon of human understanding, but I did get across my more visceral considerations on the events at hand.

It was only 1-0. And Stoke didn't have THAT many chances. But where was a goal coming from for Rovers. Really? I always turn to the Observer's fan verdict and this week the Rovers fan thought we need more like Diouf. Well, I don't. I thought he was poor again. Was that because I was sat in the posh seats on the half way line, and not behind the goal with the Rovers fans?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some things I picked up in April

Here are some bookmarks for things I liked.

The whole Derek Draper, Damien McBride thing just seethes with sanctimony. This is quite good from the Spectator.

Twitter explained, finally
. Now I'm "in it" I'm surprised at the patchy usage by evangelists.

When hobbies collide - Adidas Vespa here. And a PNE one here. Hat tip, Neil Tague and Billy Routledge.

This is great. Paintball's Coming Home.

I was telling the boys some stories about football fans of old. Helen Turner was fondly remembered, though we did used to goad her at her flower stall at Manchester Infirmary, she gave as good as she got.

Off to Stoke now, come on you blues....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Forever Damned

Proper journalist David Conn has done a marvellous article in the latest issue of Yorkshire Business Insider on Leeds United. Link is here.

Where it all began

I started this groundhopping thing at the age of 6 at Giant Axe, home of Lancaster City, when the Dolly Blues played Barrow in 1972. The peerless Shaun Smith has just clocked it as his 208th. Nice report here. Contains nudity.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Real football

So, I've had a double dose of real football this weekend. On Saturday an old mate invited me to his table at Deepdale for the Lancashire derby, Preston North End v Blackpool. Or Nob End v Donkey Lashers as it had been vociferously built up. It wasn't just because we were in the posh seats, but I thought it all seemed quite low key to be honest. It certainly wasn't the seething cauldron of hatred of a Rovers v Burnley encounter.

Deepdale is now totally rebuilt from the stadium I first went to in 1973 to see PNE v Burnley, my first ever big game (Lancaster City doesn't count). And it's the first time I've been back since I disgraced myself by running on the pitch at the end in 2001 when Rovers got promoted. Unlike then, the home fans don't seem to have a noisy end of their own where the drummers and singers whip everyone up. The Blackpool fans were pretty quiet too.

I'd also forgotten how miserable North End fans get when it doesn't go their way. Paul McKenna, who I thought created lots of space for himself in the middle and could have bossed the game if he had better options to pass to seemed to get dogs abuse. Sometimes before he even received a pass.

There were three ex-Rovers players Eddie Nolan for PNE and Brett Ormerod and Ben Burgess for Blackpool. Burgess was slow, unfit and pretty useless. Nolan looked tricky and was man of the match, in the way that only home players ever get it. Keith Southern for Blackpool was probably the best player on the day.

Having only watched Premier League dross and occasional Champions League games recently the main difference was the number of errors the players made. It brought it all back from when Rovers used to grind out 1-0 and 3-0 wins against grim teams in yellow back in the 2000-2001 season.

And today I took Max and Louis to see Morecambe beat Macclesfield at the Moss Rose. It's only half an hour away, I've never been, kids get in free and it was great. Morecambe are a decent side, quite direct, use the attacking full backs well and are very solid in defence. Macclesfield probably try and play the more artful football, with John Rooney (brother of Wayne) a two footed creator in the middle. But they have some young lads who get knocked off the ball easily. The referee disallowed 3 goals for Morecambe, all for rough and tumble in the box. A weaker ref would have let it go.

The kids for free offer is a wonderful gesture, but I didn't notice a great uptake. The crowd was 1,773, and we were the 3.

I've reviewed my total for grounds I've watched football on. It's 118.

Quite fancy Hyde v Southport on Wednesday night.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What it means. What does it mean?

For Christians Easter means a great deal more than four days off work and a stomach full of chocolate. For the national media looking in, and focusing on the stance of the church on issues of the day, it has become a curious sideshow.

I don't talk about being a Catholic much on here, or anywhere to be honest. I know I should, but I just am, it's how as a family we live our lives. To me, the words I take the most from after a service are the last ones - let us go in peace, to love, and serve the Lord. The punctuation is important, especially the middle bit about love. If you embrace that in all you do, then the rest follows.

I mention this because of the reaction to Vincent Nichols and his message at Easter. One newspaper (here) urges him to reject "rightwing" ethics and work harder at his "politics of compassion". Eh? It's amazing how many newspaper leader writers seem to treat faith issues as if they were political matters. I don't. Whatever. God bless you all. Happy Easter.

Bookmarks at Easter

My Twitter updates are all here. Still don't get it, and I can't work out how to change displays between my banal updates and the twits from other people. Here's something clever about Twitter evangelists.

My interview with Alan Gilbert from the University of Manchester.

Mark E Smith performs in a wheelchair - Chino Splashback - genius.

100 greatest TV shows ever - watched this nostalgia fest last night. My favourite memories (and none were in the 100) were of short run drama series like The Changes, Kizzy and Rocky O'Rourke. Also remember the aching lovesickness of an 8-year old crush on Judi Bowker in Black Beauty.

My rather pithy review of Ed Smith's What Sport Tells Us About Life.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Easter football - remember the 96

I note with some interest that there will be a march by Liverpool fans before the visit of Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. This being April, I thought it might be to do with the impending 20th anniversary of Hillsborough, but it isn't. It's to put pressure on Justice secretary and Blackburn MP Jack Straw to free Michael Shields, the lad who was jailed for chucking a brick at Martin Georgiev in Bulgaria. I don't know enough about this case to know that a Bulgarian court got it so wrong, but everyone else seems to be an expert on it. What is certain is that 96 innocent people died at Hillsborough, the trauma still runs deep and all football fans should mark it at the date closest to the day of the game.

I won't be there, I've been invited to Deepdale to watch the Preston v Blackpool local derby. Real football rivalry this one. Looking forward to catching up with old pals who support both teams and to seeing the transformed Deepdale, the ground on which I first saw professional football back in 1971.

Style - a bit of poetry for Easter

Style is the answer to everything.
Fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous day.
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without style.
To do a dangerous thing with style, is what I call art.
Bullfighting can be an art.
Boxing can be an art.
Loving can be an art.
Opening a can of sardines can be an art.
Not many have style.
Not many can keep style.
I have seen dogs with more style than men.
Although not many dogs have style.
Cats have it with abundance.

When Hemingway put his brains to the wall with a shotgun, that was style.
For sometimes people give you style.
Joan of Arc had style.
John the Baptist.
Garc?a Lorca.
I have met men in jail with style.
I have met more men in jail with style than men out of jail.
Style is a difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water, or you, walking
out of the bathroom without seeing me.

Charles Bukowski (in memory of Roy Jopson)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Reclaim the streets

Phil Griffin talks great sense about how parts of the city centre can get awfully messy if no-one pays attention. His suggestion is to take a good look at everywhere, then chuck out the unnecessary signs, poles, bits of concrete, etc

Link is here.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Punk's Not Dead

I've opened a few old vinyl record cases today. Two boxes were ruined, including a limited edition Public Image newspaper sleeve. All my original Jam singles are a bit musty.

The highpoint was a punk box including some rare pieces you can't get through iTunes, or even on CD, including Crass - Bloody Revolutions. I really enjoyed listening to this and recalling that it was bought for me by my childhood pal John Unsworth, who is now a born-again Christian living in Cyprus.

I've wired up my Bower & Wilkins speakers to a retro record player/radio and the quality is excellent, chortling at the irony embedded in this other rediscovered classic. Lyrics here.

The Word Podcast - a sort of an apology

A while back I said The Word magazine's podcast was, er, not up to the same impeccable standards as the print product. Link is here. Well, it's getting better and better. Or else I'm getting used to the fact that it doesn't have to be Radio 4 standards to be brilliant radio. The last one on St Patrick's Day also revealed the bit on Match of the Day 2 that I missed, when Alan Pardew described some action in the Chelsea v Manchester City game - "he's absolutely raped him there".

And some lines about cliches which no self respecting writer should use - "iconic" being one.

And some humour about the People's Republic of Stoke Newington.

I listened to it whilst driving in first gear through the most dangerous place on earth. It took me 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Emotional rescue at Ewood Park

For 80 minutes I went through the same tortured, miserable series of emotions I've been through all season watching Blackburn Rovers. Despair at the poor quality of the football, especially from us. A fickle feeling of doubt too about the effectiveness of Sam Allardyce; chucking Chris Samba up front seemed like a gimmick, persisting with Aaron Mokoena seems like stupidity, especially with Tugay on the bench. There's the frustration at poor refereeing decisions which seem to cost us every week. And finally prickly irritation at everyone around me in the Family Stand - the kids with the horns, the hungry and bored faction within our brood, the armchair pundits behind me who moan too easily. And not a little embarrassment at the amount of emotional capital I invest in this football club with all its faults and all the ensuing disappointment it causes me.

And then, in the final ten minutes, some verve. A spark, a sending off - probably a bit soft - and two late goals. Delight, pride, cheer and a shine to the day.

If we didn't have season tickets it would have cost us £77.25. That brings the total for the season to £791.82. I've promised the tickets for Wigan or Portsmouth to another family after I donated the tickets in a raffle, and we'll go to the last one against West Brom.

Friday, April 03, 2009

From the other side

Went to a presentation today by Eben Black, now with DLA Piper, formerly of the Street of Shame, who was very entertaining. As indeed was Joe Dixon, his Manchester-based associate. It was a seminar on crisis management aimed at businesses being turned over by the press. The key messages:

Don't trust journalists. They are out to get you.

But bloggers are also a threat to your business. Watch them too.

If you get in bother, don't hide. Get a grip of the situation.

Have 3 clear messages.

ABCD - Acknowledge, Bridge, Control, Divert.

Give them another bone to chew on to distract them from you.

There's no such thing as "off the record".

Appear open all the time.

Tell the truth, but only the truth you want to tell.

PR companies who get you nice stories aren't up to crisis management.

And on it goes. For someone, like me, in the business of winning trust and earning it and building relationships it was fascinating to be there to hear this. There was also one company well represented there who have poor media relations and no idea how to respond to hostile questions. So, feeling like a bit of a scumbag I thought it only fair to spread a bit of joy around the terrified delegates and ask them how they felt about me now. Wary, I suspect.

I took our work experience student who was amazed. He was, however, delighted to be told by Eben that political journalism used to be the most exciting place to be, now it's business. Amen to that.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bookmarks this week

Management Today feels the same way as me about Twitter. Thank goodness someone else is talking sense about this twaddle.

I obtained a leaked memo from a major City institution advising staff on what to wear. It suggested a look like this.

Zadie Smith lecture in New York. This is clever stuff about the new world what we're living in.

Marple Athletic Under 10s sponsor enjoys the reflected glory. My friend Ruth Shearn did me a massive favour sponsoring Joe's football team.

Dr Kevin Jones was speaking last night at the CBI dinner. Liked his take on this one. Which is this.

Profundity from David Hepworth on London's shifting population - one third of the population of London were born overseas. That is an incredible statistic.

Andy Dickinson has retired from blogging. Shame. In fact, it's worse than that. He's "fallen out of love with journalism at the moment".

Kevin Roberts with more Lancaster memories. I used to wish I'd gone to Ripley St Thomas School instead of my ever so up its own arse Grammar School.

I saw a bloke on the train back from Leeds today reading the Daily Express, it reminded me that David Quinn blogged on this particularly dreadful newspaper. Very good.

And finally, Newcastle United opt for magic beans bought on the way to market

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Shearer is no fool

Yes, I thought it was an April Fool as well. Why would Alan Shearer risk his reputation to return to Newcastle as manager? Well, he can't lose can he? If they stay up, he's the saviour. If they go down, it was someone else's problem. And he can learn the ropes bringing up the best supported team in the Championship.
He's only ever won one medal as a player, with Blackburn Rovers. It must stick in his craw that he put his heart before his head and went to Newcastle instead of Old Trafford, where he could have won everything.