Friday, October 30, 2009

Swine flu, Jesus, Frank Skinner and us

Frank Skinner writes a column in the Times, which I've only just discovered, but this early delve has found some belters.

His latest one is about swine flu hysteria and how it is affecting the taking of holy communion.

Forgive me as I move from the ridiculous to the sublime. When I take Holy Communion in church on Sunday mornings, it involves eating a thin disc of bread and then sipping from a chalice of wine. As a Roman Catholic, I believe that this bread and wine, through some supernatural process, has transubstantiated into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Being a recovering alcoholic, some sceptical friends have accused me of using transubstantiation as a loophole. I can’t blame them for this. I’ve had similar doubts about Catholics on a no-carbs diet.

Either way, in recent weeks, my local church has withdrawn the wine element as a precaution against the spread of swine flu. Given that it too believes in transubstantiation, the inference is that I might catch it from Jesus. Surely that strain would at least be self-healing.

Brilliant. I'll let you know if such madness spreads to Holy Spirit Marple this Sunday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Climbing mountains

Check out this. A candid and mildly bizarre statement about the future of Sale Sharks from owner Brian Kennedy.

His definition of success:

When we are playing in front of 15,000 fans every home game with the camaraderie of occasion that belongs to the world’s greatest team game; when we are competing and winning against the top teams in Europe; when Sale Sharks can truly say we are a top flight club in every way.

This ambition can only be achieved with the support and help of the people of the North West. I urge you to join me and our loyal fans, sponsors and employees in this challenging and stimulating journey, the destination of which is worthy of the most creative and enterprising region in England... THE NORTH WEST.


I say it's bizarre because elsewhere in the piece he's remarkably candid and self-effacing. He makes a blatant plea to councils in the whole of the region to get in touch and help him build a new stadium, but isn't that bothered about where it may be. The whole thing also strikes me as odd because I simply couldn't imagine this kind of ambition and focus coming from any Premier League football club owner outside the Big Four. Go on, read it and see what I mean.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The best Word podcast ever - Danny Baker is a radio genius

If there is a better radio programme on God's earth than the Word podcast with Danny Baker, then I will eat my iPod. Do listen to this if you get the chance, it made my drive from Manchester to Preston fly by last week. All weekend I was dripping anecdotes and stories from the podcast at Rachel and our friends. Amazing. Don't just take my word for it, Paddy Hoey liked it too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You're Entitled to An Opinion - David Nolan's Tony Wilson book

For a man who has had a film made of his life and who spent so much time in the media, there are few accounts of Tony Wilson that really do him justice. This one does. Partly because even in the title it acknowledges there were so many intruiging sides to this unique and very special individual, who I personally still think about often. David Nolan's final chapter sees the author step in with his own personal recollections and in so doing brings back the raw sense of loss of August 2007. It inspired feelings of amusement, anger, frustration and pride - all at the same time, much like time spent around the great man himself. Much of it seems to be correcting the slapstick version of Wilson's life that was represented in the film 24 Hour Party People, but knowing quite when to stop was probably Nolan's biggest challenge; afterall, doesn't everyone have a Wilson anecdote? Lovely contributions from Yvette Livesey and many other forgotten friends from Granada. Some nice bits on Marple too; Tony went to St Mary's and the author still lives here.

A random collection of bookmarks for late October

I used to have a badge with "Professional Northerner" on it. But what is one? Michael Henderson tries to explain in the Spectator, but really just wants to be rude about John Prescott.

Football 365 is a site I've largely forgotten existed, but anyway, as a memory jogger here it is: the Mediawatch section is very good.

The olde football curiosity shoppe - Football Spotter.

Jonathan Schofield in Manchester Confidential is very good on just how rubbish one of our MEPs was on Question Time last week.

Keep an eye on UKIP, this is interesting from old pal Laurie Laird in GQ.

Comment on my work blog from a story that came out of a Question Time event I chaired last week. And the report in the Lancashire Evening Post.

Kidnapped by the Taliban, this looks fascinating, from the NY Times.

Parc life

We've been away at Center Parcs and I've thus gone a week without updating on here. Sorry for that. There are many highlights involved in time spent with friends and family: Max and Louis learnt to ride bikes, Matt and Joe discovered classmates from school were also on site, I queued for the water slide behind Middlesbrough coach Colin Cooper. And apart from that we didn't particularly do very much at all, except have a lovely time.

That said, I'd make the following observations about Center Parcs: the staff seem more laid back, and the pool is looking a bit tatty.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Twang live - "unbelievable"

I wrote about The Twang, the Brummie indie rockers, here. I've since had chance to listen to their new album, The Jewellery Quarter, which is good.

My friend David Smalley went to the gig at the Ritz on Sunday night - I was on Cloud Nine and unavailable - and here is his report:

One of the best concerts I have been to. The atmosphere was unbelievable with absolutely everyone getting involved and the music just didn’t stop one great song after another. The last thing I wanted was an hour’s drive on a Sunday evening into wet Manchester but I am so glad we did. Before I saw them support Happy Mondays at Manchester Central a couple of years ago I had never heard of them but I came away thinking they were brilliant. Easily the best band at the moment.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Insular Peninsula

Having lived for three quarters of my life in Granadaland, England's Northwest, whatever, then I can fairly say I know my way around. But I'm clueless about the Wirral. I've probably been here three times in my life: all for sport, the Open at Royal Liverpool and twice to see Rovers at the other Rovers. And that's why I'm here in the Village Inn in Bromborough as I have an early start in Birkenhead in the morning.

I also have no idea whether the place is insular or not. But it's a very cheap headline and I like a bargain. Over to you Nigel...Blackwell, or Hughes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Job Dunn

My first derby against Burnley was a 3-2 win where the scoreline didn't do justice to our dominance. And so it was this afternoon at Ewood as Joe and Louis enjoyed seeing a lively and comfortable win, orchestrated by another massive performance from David Dunn, reports here, here and here.

The game has all manner of dimensions for us these days - I'm now married into a Claret supporting dynasty, but loyalty is as strongly blue as ever.

The guys around us in the family stand apologised for their language and behaviour before the teams were even out. "This one's different," they said. It was, and it was also one of those days where your faith and commitment is renewed. Most Rovers games barely merit a mention in the press and end up being at last on Match of the Day. The hype this time was incredible. And, blissfully, there was no bother.

At 9 and 10 the lads are old enough to know bad language and where it is not right to use it. They were both understandly anxious about trouble, but as a good pal from Lancashire plod had texted me yesterday - "We've enough cops to invade Poland." It doesn't seem right that such extraordinary security is deployed for a football match, but maybe the more we play each other it won't be such a big deal. I'd also like to add that the Claret callers to BBC Radio Lancs and Alastair Campbell on 5Live have been fair minded and constructive. It might be wishful thinking, but maybe the nastiness could ease away if Burnley stay up this season. Maybe not.

In the stadium I wish they'd turn the pumped up music off. It kills the spontaneity and noise from the fans - Black Eyed Peas, No Nay Never, Killers, it doesn't matter whether I like the music but it's a pain.

Football wise I thought we were impressive today. Fluid, committed and capable of real quality. Nick Hornby once said that a 3-2 win is the best kind, especially if it involves coming from behind. Well, he's right. It has everything a football drama should have. A great day.

As for the sums, well, that first half was worth £199 on its own. Had we gone for match by match it would have cost us £67 today, and that means we've had £162 worth out of the season tickets so far.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spiral of righteous loathing

When a celebrity dies it's never long before the sick jokes start. The mainstream media however usually respect the dignity of the departed and elevate them to a peculiar level of sainthood. Once the funeral is done, then the nastiness starts. With Stephen Gately the jokes were immediate, but The Daily Mail's Jan Moir piled in with a piece of hasty spiteful conjecture. This afternoon she has been hounded into an apology, advertisers have withdrawn from the site and the internet mob has had its blood up, encouraged greatly by Charlie Brooker of the Guardian. The last time I looked on Twitter people (including Brooker and Derren Brown, to be fair) were appealing for calm after her home address was published. There's an irony there, for sure.

It's a social media phenomena this. Normally you would just not bother to read the Daily Mail if you didn't like it. Now the Twitterati is quickly mobilised. In the US this is as likely to be a conservative backlash. But the kind of people who arse around on the internet all day are more likely to be socially liberal, Guardian readers and more than capable of waving the pitchfork.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Country Life

On the recommendation of Nigel Hughes of Ear I Am, we went to the Cheshire Game and Country Fair at Tabley today. Luckily it didn't rain, and luckily I ran out of cash by the time we reached the food tent. And lucky too that they don't have a cash machine on site.

I think these events are brilliant. It gives you a glimpse of English life you wouldn't normally see where we live and work. The demonstrations of hunting, shooting, falconry and horse riding are displays of dedication from often very young people who take part in their chosen activities.

Then there's the clobber. My favourite sturdy belt was bought at Lowther 8 years ago, and if I ever get my timings right a country fair would be the perfect place to buy my Dad new stuff to top off his peerless agricultural look (he is a farmer). Today we shopped for new green wellies for Rachel (romance isn't dead, eh?).

The Lowther event in summer 2001 was something else. The hunting ban was just about to come in and the Countryside Alliance had their blood up. A full pack of horses and hounds rode into the parade ground to the tune of Do Ye Ken John Peel. Everyone sang along, it was spellbinding. The posh lady on the Tannoy then railed at the "urban socialist government which has declared war on British country way of life". A (urban socialist) politician I was with whispered in my ear; "welcome to Nuremberg, Cumbria style." I think that rather reinforced the view that the hunt ban was totally class motivated.

Then there's the food. Perversely, given the rise of the gritty organic food movement, the tucker on offer today was almost universally and marvellously unhealthy. Today I salivated over ice cream, pork roast, pork scratchings, venison, sausages, ostrich meat, cheese, salami, curry, pate, pies, donuts, more cheese, cakes, nuts and olives, baklava and these monster chicken kebab wraps being eaten by the lads selling wellies and snide Barbours.

And the kids? Yes, they have a moan that they're not doing exactly what they want, like, right now ("I hate owls, they're boring," was the best comment of the day as we stopped for a minute to look at, well, an owl). But as long as they have some food and a fair chance to play on stuff it holds their attention even if they don't share my sense of sociological and gastronomic fascination with the whole thing.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Derby day looms

There's an air of giddy excitement over Lancashire in anticipation of the Rovers v Burnley derby match next weekend. My first was in 1977 at Turf Moor when Rovers won 3-2 after leading 3-0 at half time. I was only 11 and had never experienced anything like it. I can only imagine how my Dad was feeling with me at his side penned in the away bit of the Longside.

I haven't missed a derby since. I've seen us win six, lose three and draw one. The worst feeling was when they did the double over us in 1978-79, when we eventually got relegated. At Ewood in 1979 I'll never forget the feeling of seeing 5000 of them singing and dancing around in delight, compounding our slow and painful demise and inevitable relegation. That feeling of utter deflated sickness when you lose to your closest rivals is just horrible.

At our school, Lancaster Royal Grammar, a lot of the boarders were Clarets fans - Chris Harper, Chris Marriott, Paul Lucas, Graham Ashworth, Ian McFarlane - and I got dog's abuse back at school. I just knew it was coming too which made the remainder of the Easter holidays unbearable.

In 1982 I hitched there. On Boxing Day. But it was worth it. The game in 1983 at Ewood was when the Burnley fans rioted. Simon Garner scored twice.

The recent meetings (2-0, 5-0) in the 2000-2001 season and the FA Cup games (0-0, 2-1) in 2005 were all pretty spicy affairs.

After the 2000 game some lads I know placed a sign in the window of the Burnley club shop that read "2-0 in your Dingledome". That same slogan was left on the answerphone of Alastair Campbell, details here. For the record I published the photo in North West Business Insider and will dig it out for posterity.

The tension in this house hasn't started yet, but I can feel it bubbling. Right now Rachel's at a High School reunion with the likes of Tony Livesey whipping themselves into a similar state of frenzy. Back in 2005 at Turf Moor I was trying to see where she was in the Bob Lord stand and texted her asking if she was sat anywhere near a nutter in a white coat and black hat who seemed to be getting overexcited - "that's me" came the reply.

That day I went with a few pals to the Fence Gate, a Burnley pub in a village outside the town. We had a driver take us to the ground in a people carrier. One of our number jumped out on Yorkshire Street, and joined the throng. We couldn't leave him on his own, so we bounced out as well, a good few hundred yards up the road and just as the pubs were spilling out. We were right in the middle of a big mob of Burnley's finest. So with our collars up we were the only lads not shouting "we hate Bastards". Out of the crowd a voice shouted - "Alec, Alec, do you know where you're going?" (it was John Townsend, brother of Man United PR man Phil, and who Alec worked with). Helpfully JT added - "the away end is just there". It was like a wild west film where everything stops. Suddenly they were looking for whoever was being helpfully directed. Another voice shouted: "there's bastards here, it's gone quiet and it fucking smells".
We stuck together and fronted it out unscathed. The game was rubbish.

What bodes well for us is that our best player at the moment is the only man who will take the field on Sunday who understands the rivalry. David Dunn is a Rovers fan, he has mates in Great Harwood who support Burnley. It really matters to him. When he played in the 2000 game at Turf Moor Kevin Ball attempted to disembowel him (and was sent off).

Come on Roverrrrrrs!!!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Football quiz for you

Can you name 20 players in the Premier League who were born within 10 miles of where they now play?

Some links, Tory conference and stuff

Here are a few links I liked.

A new look London tube map for tourists.

Oxford in the 80s with Boris and Dave. Not unlike Manchester in the 80s with Derek and Mike.

Best headline in the Daily Mail ever. One gay man, two lesbians, a three-legged cat and a poisoned curry plot.

The best session I went to at the Tory fringe was to see Philip Blond. Fascinating. A quip and a line doesn't begin to do it justice.

Here's a clip of the NESTA session on Creative Industries.

A few thoughts on Cameron's speech

I was dipping in and out of David Cameron's speech - which you can still watch here - I was struck on two occasions by a very hollow inauthentic ring. Not, as it happens, when he spoke about Ivan; I think that was genuine and desperately sad.

The first was that bloody letter from some OAPs besieged by yobs. It was a device Enoch Powell used in his Rivers of Blood Speech and had a phoney feel about it then. The other was at the very end when he was walking out of the arena, waving to the crowd, still with his mic on, and self conciously turned to his wife and said "let's get those kids home darling". I'd have preferred it if he'd muttered something like, "Look darling there's David Davis, what a twat."

I liked following the tweets afterwards, for and against. Usual political guff: "no policies" "devil in the detail" "Blair lite" "toff" as well as overblown right wing hype like "Big Government and socialism quiver in your boots. Cameron is coming."

But I'm also liking a few wise words such as these:

Phil Jones - liked the honesty of flushing out the debt problems

David Ottewell - it was a vision speech, deliberately dull.

Or as Matt Finnegan said: "He has articulated a vision of Britain which Brown failed to do. Whether it's the right vision is another matter...."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Today at Tory conference

I saw the dark side of the Tories today, their nutters. First there was an absolutely barking mad woman sat at the front of an IoD fringe meeting who said "all regulation should be abolished," which even John Redwood on scary mad-eyed (brilliant) form had to correct her. Secondly, I put my head round the door of a Freedom Association meeting at the Bridgewater Hall and Redwood was there again. Then I got really scared when I stopped for a chat to the people from the Taxpayers Alliance. I chose not to take a car sticker with "Love Europe Hate the EU" on it.

This morning Philip Hammond was impressive again in a debate where he got wound up by Polly Toynbee from the Guardian. He is quite resolute in the need to balance the books. George Osborne's later announcement about public sector pay freezes is part of the package of reform he is wrestling with. I suspect he has been doing the work for Osborne in this.

It's been interesting too to see how the policy to "reform the regional development agencies" has been interpreted as "abolish" by very senior speakers at events. The glum looking officials from the NWDA that we see around the place have, until now, been putting a brave face on things. But it's a visible quick fix that rouses the rabble. Presumably now every two bit local authority will have their own economic development, regeneration and tourism marketing people to make up for what the NWDA won't be doing. How's that an effeciency?

I was disappointed not to get in to see a fringe event on Conservatives and Creative Industries organised by NESTA and featuring Jeremy Hunt and Martha Lane Fox. A small and very frightening posh lady turned up even later than me, seemed just to be on the verge of saying to the doorman "don't you know who I am", but withdrew gracefully to fold her Burberry coat over a chair in the coffee area.

Tomorrow me and my pal Steve Connor are satiating our intrigue in the ideas of "progressive conservative" Philip Blond at an event organised by his think tank Respublica entitled "A new Conservative political economy and the common good".

At the North West reception last night I detected a certain triumphalism. They need to be careful about that. I'm spending some more time around and about them tomorrow and will see if that has been nipped in the bud. They've been told to say "if" not "when" they win an election and have been warned not to drink champagne.

That said, on Thursday David Cameron has to whip them up with a message to put fire in their bellies. Presumably it won't be: "go back to your constituencies and prepare for a coalition." It certainly won't wash with the nutters, but they have always been part of the problem.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Northern Tories

I harboured a feeling at North West Conservatives regional conference back in 2008 that the party lacked depth. Beyond the front bench the talent pool was pretty shallow.

Tonight I saw Eric Pickles on fine form, using an old cricketing sledging joke. But that's just showboating. Policy wise I was impressed with some of the ideas aired by Philip Hammond this lunchtime: savings bonds to fund infrastructure, tax advantages for equity investment without debt structures.

The event at the Town Hall was a good idea and was very Northern in feel. Insider's North West PLC publication was on show. Food was supplied by the Garstang Cheese company, there was Bury Black Pudding, Warburtons bread and Hollands Pies. I'd never had the pepper steak one before but it is very good.

They are working hard on planting deeper northern roots, and there is much ground to make up.

I met our delightful local PPC - Annesley Abercorn. Bless him. He has a house in Romiley, but works in London for Oliver Letwin. Next time he's up, he's promised to pop round and would like to meet more of his potential voters in Marple.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Touching the stars - WSC Howl

My Friday afternoons are made happier by the arrival of an irreverant newsletter from Half Decent Football Magazine When Saturday Comes called the Weekly Howl. I submitted a story this week which they've run.

Here it is:

Touching the stars
Playing with or against footballers, or indeed a celebrity of any kind

I played for Blackburn Rovers Supporters Club, London branch, in the APFSCIL league throughout the 1990s (my party piece is pausing after the first five words of that sentence). I'd met this lad from Darwen, called Neil Arthur, who used to front up synth-poppers Blancmange. He seemed to be able to play football a bit and supported Rovers, so came along to stake a claim to a place in our struggling side. Everyone in the team knew who he was. But for three weeks no one mentioned it. Until one lad, a copper, blurted out: "Right, Mr Pop Star what are you up to these days?" Anecdotes flew around and giddy questions fired at him until PC Pat asked him bluntly if he was thinking of getting Blancmange back together. A diplomatic answer followed, a less sensitive reply came back: "Come on Neil, there's always room in the charts for a couple of poofs with a synthesiser."

Link to the full Howl is here.

The Marple Leaf Welcomes the Tories to Manchester

Manchester welcomes the Conservative Party this week. Except there is plenty of evidence that it does not. Tweets and blogs from supposedly intelligent people have complained about the congestion they will cause, etc. Please get over your infantile disorders and tribal instincts.

Wake up. This is the next party of government. And you don't even have to think what the alternative is, look around. Labour have failed everyone.

Grow up. This event is good for Manchester. 200,000 visitors alone.

Wise up. Manchester has contributed to new ways of city governance and new ways of public private partnerships. Tory policy on many areas is unformed. Use this opportunity to take part in the debate.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

In a parallel universe

I used to write about music, film, arts and fashion. Seriously. I was the editor of a fashion magazine in Australia (sic) for six months. I fell into business journalism by necessity for a job, rather than a calculated career diversion. But I've always essentially been a sociologist. What I do is basically tell stories about people, the links they make with other people and why they do what they do.

Back in the day - in Perth, Western Australia, where I peddled the music and fashion thing - the pop star interviews were tightly controlled by PRs and were often pretty flimsy. The Proclaimers flounced out of my phone interview because the previous hack offended them. One band wore their shades indoors, but I had turned up to interview them still drunk from the night before and it was a bit of a fiasco. Ben Elton was lovely. I could go on. I do sometimes wonder what may have happened if I'd thrown myself into music journalism instead, but not with any regrets.

Yesterday, for reasons far too complicated to explain, I interviewed a lad called Phil Etheridge from Birmingham indie band The Twang. He was good fun. He was very passionate, knew his music, but was a bit angry and introduced me to a new word I'd never heard before, which wasn't even in Urban Dictionary (though it might be now, ahem). The context was "slagged it off". (I've since heard Danny Dyer and Nick Love use the same phrase on the DVD track of violent vigilante flick, Outlaw).

I enjoyed our conversation, appreciated his honesty (and swearing) and got a decent piece out of it, mainly about Birmingham. Anyway, I had barely had time to listen to 4 tracks by the time we spoke. I read the press release for the tour, did a ten minute Google search and asked the anoraks in the office about them. I have to say I liked his music and reckon they would be a good live band. They've been compared to the Happy Mondays (which I can't see at all) but they are melodic and doff a bit of a cap to The Streets, Cast, Shed Seven and early Charlatans (showing my age here). But I've now filed a two page spread based on nothing at all really.

But much as I enjoyed the nostalgic novelty of dabbling in music journalism after all this time, there was a sadness about it. And a relief it's not a world I inhabit. For a start the interview was a nightmare to sort out. Once I'd got his mobile number it only took three calls to get through. But Phil only answered the phone because he was lost and thought I was someone who could direct him to the dressing room at the venue in Derby. There are different PR people for different parts of their lives - tour, CD, local, national and Phil had no recollection of being told I was ringing him. But, to be fair, he was great value.

He was sore about "some cock end of a journalist" which revealed that rather seedy and virulent nastiness in music journalism. In business you tend to pick your targets: scoundrels and crooks. In music and film there is such a jealous back channel going on. So much building up and over hype, then a massive backlash of spite. Phil is feeling this now. I'm not qualified after one listen to dismiss this man's album or praise it. It may catch on, I may add it to my pile of "never quite got into that" music (The Coral, Beth Orton, Saint Etienne). But what I could never do is put my name to a hastily cobbled together review that utterly dismisses the efforts of these lads - over a year or more - to record an album, play it in front of appreciative festival audiences and then to go on tour. I think I made the correct career turn in 1989.

Some autumn links to things I've liked

Best customer complaint ever.

Most prolific swearing ever, DVD commentary on Outlaw (not child friendly)

Mark Garner is looking forward to Tory Party conference next week.

Some nostalgic Hacienda artwork.

A very good recipe for Greek-style roast chicken.

We've put up some Respect barriers at our junior football matches, for our derby matches we're thinking of ordering these from Poland.

How did I miss this. Kevin Cummins photo exhibition at Richard Goodhall Gallery. Pay attention.

Thoughtful piece on the myth of the debt mountain by Michael Luger of Manchester Business School.

More outrageous stories from Roger Cashman and friends.

Feeling sorry for yourself? Snap out of it. It could be worse. You could have had a week like Nigel Hughes has had.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

New feature - My mate... #1 Mike Finnigan

I've been thinking of introducing a new feature on here that randomly shuffles my address book and I write something about someone I know, how we met, what they do, what I like about them, etc. My pal Mike Finnigan has asked me to write something for his new book - Impossible to Inevitable. So, I'm including it here as the first in a series.

I first met Mike Finnigan at the Reebok Stadium at the conclusion to a thrilling Lancashire derby between Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers, my team. It was August 2003. At the time Mike was working for Sam Allardyce and Bolton Wanderers. Our emotions at that first meet could not have been more different. I was elated as my team had equalized in the last minute of the game after looking dead and buried at half time with the scores at 2-0 to the Whites.

He had a lot to say about the game, about the belief of the team and what it was that led to a seemingly unassailable lead being lost. I was struck then by his charisma and positivity. Since then we have helped each other out.

I’ll give you one example. At late notice I asked him to come and join me at an Insider breakfast event on leadership in Lancashire. It was a hard event to get people out of bed for at the crack of dawn. One speaker didn’t even turn up. But it was and is a really important issue. People running businesses need to be aware of their responsibilities, of their mission and how absolutely bloody brilliant it is to have that ability to turn someone’s day from a good one to great one.

Finn was the star attraction. He energized the room. He didn’t literally grab people by the lapels and tell them to smile, shout, scream and laugh, but he might as well have done.

One of the other panel members, a really good guy called Clive Memmott, came out of himself that day. He was running Business Link in Preston at the time and must have had one of those jobs where you can either be sucked under the quicksand with the politics or bureaucracy, or you come out fighting. I saw Clive fight that day. I truly believe Finn showed him a glimpse of what he could be if he knew he couldn’t possibly fail.

And me? I’m a cynical journalist by background. Looking at the matrix of organizational roles that Finn first showed me I’ve probably been a terrorist in the past. I’ve also worked with people who are energy sappers. I won’t have it any more. You have that one opportunity to make your mark. Whoever you are and whatever you do, you matter and people around you will react to how you are. When I’m old and grey and look back on these fantastic years at Insider, I’ll rightly be pleased with a few different articles, the odd witty headline and some crazy design on a front cover like our smiley face in February 2009 when everyone was ready to throw themselves off one of the tall (and empty) buildings in Manchester city centre.

But the one aspect of the job that brings me the most pride is the development of the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with. Seeing them bloom sometimes brings a lump to my throat. They’ve done it all themselves because they are keen to get on. But we all help each other out and have that environment of self improvement, positivity and risk taking. If you ask them, they might have a different take on it all, but I know what I’ve seen. It is so important to recognize that no-one sets out to have a crap day and be rubbish. Some people might not be up to the standards we set, and they’ll be happier somewhere else.

And I’m dead serious about this as well. Mike Finnigan taught me the value of positive thinking and the infectious nature of positive people. My wife Rachel is one, she has lifted my life and filled me with joy. My children have that zeal. When they are not, it is because they are hungry, or tired.

Mike Finnigan is endlessly entertaining to be around. When he left his last business to set up i2i he said he “just wanted to be great around people”. What a job! What a statement. What a guy. You can be great around me anytime.

Rose Hill - an explanation

Good news. The graffitti at Rose Hill has been painted out. There is also a poster up - link to it here - explaining that the ticket office is closed "due to refurbishments" but the end date is vague.