Thursday, August 17, 2017

Manchester, united

22 funerals.
22 mobiles that would never be answered.
22 ticket stubs never to be treasured.
Taxi drivers pitched in.
Clubs blue and red came together.
Tony Walsh spoke to the masses.
The spirit of Manchester appeared on our lampposts in bumblebee form.
The city rose up.
And the Brothers Gallagher fought in familial fashion.

It was love, it was peace, it was Manchester. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Gone Walkabout - Italy to Croatia by boat

I found that during the two weeks I spent in Italy I had on more than one occasion one of those travel moments which I'd conveniently forgot. I refer not to standing in front of an age-old monument and feeling a deep sense that all is right with the world, but one of those moments easier to put to the back of your mind in which you really do want to tear your hair out. Whether it be turning a corner to find your hostel isn't where you expected as your water bottle dwindles and the weight of your backpack pulls on your neck in the blistering heat, or discovering the handy sugar sachets you picked up at your last jumping-off point have now helpfully split into pieces, their contents working their way into every crevice of your purse, this trip was no exception; Italy a country whose beauty was matched only by the infuriation I so often felt when trying to navigate its complex ways and unwritten rules.

So when I stood on deck on my overnight trip from Ancona to Croatia after another incredibly frustrating couple of hours spent trying to make sense of the nonsensical, I felt a bittersweet sense of loss at leaving the country behind, along with it the experiences I'd had there, but also relief in many ways to be moving on - and heading to the next and last part of my journey before returning home.

Travelling never fails to broaden minds and remind us of what's important - so at odds was this particular trip then with how I felt about the evident collective mindset of the majority of the electorate in the country I called home. I had never before felt so strongly a citizen of Europe and of the world, and so in tune with the new places and people I was experiencing, I resolved then and there to make post-Brexit the start of a time in which I opened myself up to new cultures and experiences and not closed the doors on them. 

But in spite of this, I found that the prospect of home had never felt more real or more appealing.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Last Christmas my daughter asked me to Christmas dinner, and the very next day I caught food poisoning.

Prior to the last 12 months or so, I confess to have never even managed to cook a Sunday roast. But after a couple of successful chickens and a beef joint, I reckoned a turkey was my gradual next step: lucky then, since this year I have invited my Dad to mine for Christmas dinner.

Armed with my pre-stuffed Morrisons turkey joint earlier today, and the legal version of Nigella’s tips for a perfect Christmas, I began with some trepidation as I negotiated margarine hands, burning tin foil and whether those little pink bits were really supposed to be there or not.

A relief it was finally then, to pull the steaming bird from the oven a couple of hours ago and carve, to find it looks near enough OK.

It doesn’t look at present like I will kill him (from the food, that is). But there’s time yet.

 If all goes well, next year I might even attempt my own stuffing.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ken Barlow’s ‘Kimonos on the Cobbles’

Some suggested plot lines for the Corrie scriptwriters, to cover Bill Roache's absence:

1. Ken has gone off to find himself on an extended narrowboat barge holiday to the Norfolk Broads.

2. Ken has had a long-standing love affair with his daily-worn silk kimono and as a result of which, he has gone on a fact-finding mission to Asia with the aim of becoming the Street's first kimono maker & opening his own shop, 'Ken’s Kimonos on the Cobbles’.
3. Following a letter from an anonymous and previously unheard of lovechild, Ken is embarking on a worldwide tour of his romantic history to confirm their identity, a'la Bill Murray in Broken Flowers.

4. Ken is renting a cottage in Kendal for the summer, during which time he will complete his seminal novel, 'Ken: The Golden Years'.

5. Ken has been silently battling the lesser-known three-quarter life crisis. As a result of this, he has shelled out for a Harley Davidson, a room in a B&B on Blackpool front, & will for the foreseeable future be working the log flume at the Pleasure Beach.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The world in one city.

Just 12 months away seems too long. The last time I was here I shared my experience of the city with another - but even with the pain of the end of that relationship with me as I wander through the streets of Manhattan once again, I feel nothing but gratitude at being here at this time.

I have always held the view that you take away from your time here whatever you need and desire to, and my experience has been that if you embrace the city and all it has to offer, it will in turn embrace you.

It is the city of hedonism, of getting needs and desires met - whatever these may be. And although you reach the end of many days here having really had enough, you feel as though you are truly living and experiencing all that life and this city have to offer.

I believe it is this understanding of being in a place where you can have everything and anything you have the courage and self-belief to reach out and take that unites New Yorkers, and makes this the warmest and most alive metropolis you could ever hope to visit, not to mention feel a part of.

As one New Yorker put it to me: "We know it's tough here. So we help each other out." I speak only for myself when I say this, but I can't imagine at this time anything more inspiring than that.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Death of a Legend

So much has happened since the death of one of the greatest soul singers of my, and arguably anyone's, generation, I find myself only now sitting down to write a bit about what Amy Winehouse and her music meant to me.

It’s a mistake often made I think, to assume that because of the populist style of her music, and her public image, there wasn’t actually a great deal to her as an artist or a person. I actually think there was a great deal more to her than people generally believe. Yes, people praise her music but I often wonder whether, if she hadn't been such a master of the hook and many a catchy lyric, she would in fact have been as popular as she was. For me and many others, she was so much more talented than just this. She really could write, with lyrics which were bare and bold in equal measure, and a voice which had quality and individuality so rarely heard.

When I heard she’d died it wasn’t just sadness of the loss of such a great artist which troubled me so much, or even her extreme vulnerability which always seemed to mark her out from the rest of the pack – in the end tragically. In fact it was largely I think the memories her music brought back, and the idea that when she died that music and those memories went with her. The fact that she was a Londoner and I only really began to listen to her when I moved to the capital was of real significance – while so much about the city and its culture failed to inspire me, here was a sensational, unique person who was born here and I could relate to. It meant a great deal to me.

To reflect on her death with sadness though doesn’t really serve any purpose. She was a troubled soul, and despite opinions to the contrary, clearly unable to fight her demons and cope with everyday life. When I listen to her now, it serves only to remind me of this fact - but instead of being sad I remember it was this which made her special.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Apprentice 2011 - Tantrums, Tiaras and Egomaniacs

Following slippery evil leprechaun Jim’s miraculous escape from the boot in last night’s Apprentice, I felt compelled to marvel somewhat here at the audacity of this year’s candidates, and indeed the show itself.

Pure gold in terms of entertainment value, it can’t be denied that for kicking back and watching something that requires very little brain power, and let’s face it the opportunity to snigger at the corporate-style quips and sheer gall of some of the candidates, The Apprentice really can't be beaten. Whether I held out too much hope for this year’s series , I don’t know – I certainly reckoned that as this time round it was about finding a business partner for Sir Alan rather than an executive 'on a six-figure salary', some of the candidates might be a little bit more 'normal' than the eccentric self-adorers the show usually unearths. 

Helen seems like a pretty decent down-to-earth character with a preference for common sense. Though Susie does seem a bit whiny and wet behind the ears sometimes, she also comes out of most episodes well. My favourite of all is Tom - he has a kind of humble charm or something, and doesn't appear to feel the need to shout about his achievements. He's my bet for overall winner, with maybe Helen, Susie or Melody in the final with him.

These exceptions aside, I can't help but be instantly and irrationally repelled by the likes of some. I don't think it's the candidates themselves, rather the character traits they exhibit I have issue with. For right or for wrong, we live in a society of a 'survival of the fittest' mentality, but whatever happened to valuing individuals for their authentic selves, worts and all. Maybe in a boardroom, passivity and being generally agreeable aren't the most desirable of qualities, but I'd personally rather work with someone warm and generally more humble and human, than an apparent big 'I Am' like Jim or a cynical, professional put-downer like Zoe.

Fun though The Apprentice is, I say roll on the creation of a show which is as much about substance of character as it is about hailing the ever-revered ego.