Dear Diary... March 2003

Monday 31st March - I have the Holy Grail

Well, at least for me anyway. Been trying to get through to Manchester City's ticket office to try and get a ticker for the game against Sunderland on Easter Monday, and I at last succeeded. Tried for 15 mins constant this morning when the phone line opened at 8am, no joy. Tried a couple of times during lunch, no joy, got home and on the third try I got through, held on for eternity and.. yes! The ticket will be in my hand soon. Considering they're like gold dust for any game at Maine Road (especially with it being City's last season there of course) it is the proverbial Holy Grail. I dread to think how much the tickets for the final game against Southampton are going to be on the black market, let me tell you. Still, that's me sorted for the game and that has to be a definite bonus.

Went to see Mum on Sunday for Mothers' Day, which was very nice. Her and my dad are off to the Bridgewater Hall to see David Gates (the guy who used to be in the 70s band Bread, not that idiot Gareth Gates from Bradford with spiky hair) and I got her her ticket as the present, much more practical than flowers any day. The local Interflora near me was doing so much business on Saturday they had two of their staff outside the shop manning a stall! Anyway, I'm sure Mum will enjoy herself tonight and I'm sure if she sings along my Dad will just think "Not with her.." or something. It was also good cos I got to watch the England-Ireland Grand Slam decider with Dad, and surprisingly he was really into it (although of couse, rugby league is miles better than union, but that's just my viewpoint having been brought up on league and watching the Challenge Cup since a kid). England even whupped Ireland into the bargain, no mean feat either.

As for the England football team this Saturday, well weren't we rubbish? Yes, we won, but 2-0 against Lichtenstein (and allowing them chances that really they should have scored) just isn't good enough. We looked stale in midfield and attack, and to be brutally honest, only Beckham and Owen are keeping Sven-Göran Eriksson in the job right now. They always seem to pull it off in terms of goals when needed. But apart from that, who have we got? The game almost sent me to sleep and that has to say something about the overall lack of quality of the performance. Even using the red button and trying out the interactive stuff on BBC1 (such as the tactical analysis commentary) did nothing at all to heighten the senses. What that says, I don't know, but it also tells me that we need to improve dramatically against Turkey on Wednesday. Incidentally, the opera singer who's singing both anthems Wednesday night tried out a sample audience in Manchester's Café Istanbul (a very fine Turkish restaurant) the other day and that had to be worth going along to see before the big game.

As for the poetry, I'm putting the finishing touches to a couple more for the BBC Manchester Voices project and will email them off to the Beeb. Fingers crossed they take them as that'll be five I have up - certainly prolific if nothing else. I'll keep you posted if I get any of them recorded.

March is almost over, so into a new month and a period of intense typing on the keys is forecast. More on that soon...

Wednesday 26th March - Voices in the wilderness

Well, I am a very happy person this week now. What's made it all change? Well, I've had my first poems published elsewhere apart from this web site, and on the BBC no less! You see, BBC Manchester are doing the "Voices" project in the suburb of Manchester where I live, and so they've asked for all sorts of submission. I aim to borrow the digital camera at the weekend and take pictures of the area for the site, but in the meantime they asked for some poetry about the area, and so I've duly obliged. Two are already on the site, with more to follow (I sent one to them tonight). If you'd like a read of them, I suggest you go here :)

So what do some of them mean? Well, "The Scar on Carrill Grove" reflects back on my diary entry of January 29th and how the fire started near me (read back in January's archive for more information) and "Rush Hour in Levenshulme" really does reflect the Monday morning run into work (well, more of a walk, even on the bus), which should at least be of interest to people. Just to re-dress the balance a bit, I've done a nicer one too about the red squirrels that populate one part of the suburb - and they're all really nice, too. Actually, I love it here and don't really want to move, and it's not often you can say something like that about a place is it?

Anyway, I might have to end up recording the poetry for transmission on BBC GMR or the local station ALL:FM (Ardwick, Longsight and Levenshulme FM) which might be interesting. I suppose it's also been a worthwhile opportunity to get my thoughts down on something different and give myself a break from the writing (and the endless cups of decaf tea I seem to be having) at the moment. A fresh impetus is always good and something to give you new confidence. And ironically it's also given me some thoughts about one of the characters in my book - more on that as I write stuff down but I think the events of this week have inspired me somewhat.

More soon..

Monday 24th March - Test The Nation's Patience With Philip Schofield ;)

Well, well, well. There I was thinking that City had turned the proverbial corner - and what happened? We get thrashed 5-0 at Chelsea. I thank my lucky stars that a) I didn't go and pay £40 for a ticket, plus lots extra for transport, for the privelege and b) I was out shopping at the time so I didn't watch the goals going in on The Goal Rush, that would have been bloody painful to say the least. I sincerely hope though that we finally wake up and actually go to a proper 4-4-2 formation, it's the one that works for most teams, and the two live games I saw down the pub yesterday pretty much proved that.

Mind you, if I was going down to London for any reason, it would have been last Thursday to see Throwing Muses live at the Astoria. However, the cost of staying in London, plus the fact I needed two days off work to go down and stay over well prevented me from doing that - it would have cost something in the region of £100 plus including the ticket, and although seeing them rock would have been cool, most things about London really are not, like the expense of the place (apart from the public transport, kudos to Ken Livingstone for that one) and the fact that it takes ages to get absolutely anywhere. It's just a shame the only dates were London, Glasgow and Dublin. Bah. I hate it when bands only do little tours, or as is more often the case, they only do London. Not everyone lives down there, you know!

Rant over. I've been getting myself sorted for the holidays and beyond. With everything now in place, I just have to get myself some clothes and stuff so that I can look the part. I really want a decent pair of trainers for walking in, but the problem is that, well, the styles are crap. They're too loud and in your face, or (even worse) the bits where you do the laces has this really cheap plastic looking (especially on Nike ones!) which would probably last about five minutes at the most. Something rugged and practical would be nice, and preferably in black, but as long as they look okay they'd be fine. Might end up going for something flat and practical and simple in the end. But as a consolation prize, I did get a couple of pairs of shoes, one for the holiday, one for looking really formal for the forthcoming zilions of weddings I seem to have been invited to lately. I have three in the space of six weeks for some reason, I guess though that's what happens when it's the summer and lots of loveydovey couples decide to tie the old proverbial knot (although not themselves if they're playing Twister, natch)

Talking of relationships, did anyone try out that Relationship Test The Nation thing on BBC1 Saturday night? I did, and so armed with the digital remote, the red button was pressed and off I went answering the questions as they came on. Was it me, or was it bloody annoying that there were lots of unnecessary pauses between questions? They could have cut the programme by about half instead of faffing around asking the "celebrities" every two minutes or so. Anyway, the cool thing was that using the digital interactive thing, I actually got my score calculated as the first programme ended, so I didn't have to wait up till later and calculate the results (unlike my friend had to) - and that was a plus. Not just that though - the other thing was the sheer fact that some of the questions depended on what stage of a relationship you were at, far too ambiguous for my liking if you ask me. For the record, I scored 174, which means that it would be a healthy and balanced relationship - woohoo! At last I actually do well on one of these test thingies. Oh, and someone please tell Philip Schofield: "You can't present". Just one person. Then just walk away. That would be fine. Or does he not have any other face when presenting on TV apart from that one that he always seems to have. Ah well.

War... huh! What is good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again... and with that simple lyrical sentiment adieu for now.

Sunday 16th March - At last, a win!

Well, a weekend of two halves this weekend as I took in two Premiership games - and only saw one goal, although that was the one that mattered the most. Yesterday I went over to Liverpool with a friend to see Everton fire blanks against West Ham. It was a really dour game from both sides, who needed the points for different reasons. And yet it seemed like both of them didn't really want to win it, even though Everton with a triple substitution put some pressure on late on and just couldn't break West Ham down. As it stands, the draw has cost them fourth place as Chelsea won today, and with the remaining games Everton have left, it's going to be a little bit tougher to qualify for the Champions League, although still well doable.

Today saw me off to Maine Road to see my blue heroes against the blues of Birmingham. Fair play to them, they brought their fans and they got behind the team, although the appearance of Robbie Savage for them didn't exactly go down too well with the City fans (used to be a Scum player, you see). Nonetheless, it was a very workmanlike performance from City who did just enough to get past them with a 1-0 win, and the first goal in a City shirt for Robbie Fowler. Naturally it was pleasing to see him score and you could tell by the players' reaction that it was one everyone was happy to see go in. And indeed, our first win since we thrashed Fulham 4-1 back in late January, and got us up to 41 points, which should mean definitely Premiership safety for next season, and that has to be a considerable bonus going into the new stadium and all.

I also got a nice surprise yesterday morning as the postman delivered the new Throwing Muses and Kristin Hersh CDs so I had them two days before the release date (Monday). So there are benefits when ordering from the record label directly! I'll in due course post some reviews to the site as I'll take the time to listen to both CDs and give them a thorough session to sum up my thoughts. From what I've heard so far though, it's the usual high standard of quality music that won't chart, but nonetheless will show that she is way up there as one of the best modern day rock women there are. So there!

I've also been pretty busy thinking things over for the novel - how to best approach it from a writing point of view. Although there are numerous personal experiences that I could draw upon and make good reference to in the book, it might not be wise to do that, as it would be almost to self-autobiographical, and that would be a bad thing, I think. Sometimes you just have to imagine something completely different so you can look at things from an independent angle rather than try and lean too much towards your viewpoint. Also, it means that the central characters will be more independent of my own self and that also means I can spend more time on developing them throughout the book. Now that will be interesting to see what happens for sure!

And not to mention the fund raising thingy that is Comic Relief this weekend - an excllent job all round. Man City mascot Moonchester won a mascot race in Central Manchester (well done Moonie!) and it was great to see the return of Monkey (from the old ITV Digital adverts). He was his usual dry and sarcastic best, and it was really good. As was the University challenge, which although seemed fixed so that the townies would win, was quite well done, with David Baddiel and Frank Skinner teaming up well as part of the Gownies team. The look on their face when the other team got a question which was their hit record Three Lions played backwards, classic!

Anyway, I'm back off to listen to the divine Kristin Hersh. Tata for now.

Wednesday 5th March - A black day indeed

It really has been one of those days today, not helped by the dodgy Fujitsu hard disk inside the PC at work deciding to die a slow death as it knocked against itself to oblivion (and it already had the latest firmware which you're supposed to have - ah well), and so I spent a fair portion of the day putting a new hard disk in and then reinstalling all the stuff I need to - thank heavens for Norton Ghost in these circumstances! Anyway, as I worked on the other PC, I also found out the news which I didn't really want to - the chairman of Manchester City, David Bernstein, has tendered his resignation.

Now with most football clubs, the chairman leaving can often be a good thing if they've not been up to the job or have spent lots of the club's money and then realised that they didn't have it in the first place. However in Manchester City's case Bernstein had been an excellent chairman, guiding us through the last five years with not just financial acumen when we needed it most down in the Nationwide Division Two, but also being able to put the club back on such an even keel that we could go out and spend £13 million on Nicolas Anelka at the start of this season. Not just that, Bernstein came out of the Robbie Fowler transfer saga with full credit, having not just re-negotiated a deal to suit all, but crucially one that was better off for City all around at the same time. His prudence in a world where football finances are clearly running very dry has to be admired - and he and the board still allowed a fair amount of spending by City manager Kevin Keegan on the team, some of which Keegan should at least have the decency to admit has been an utter waste of the club's money (£4 million for Vicente Matias Vuoso, anyone?)

Not just that either, but Bernstein also managed to get City a deal to move into the City of Manchester Stadium (where the Commonwealth Games took place) for 2003, comverting the stadium after the Games into a 48,000 seater arena which every City fan will be rightfully proud of, as well as at the same time carefully agreeing a deal with the City Council where the club will only pay a proportion of the gate receipts when it exceeds City's current capacity, thus being able to keep the money pumped into the club rather nicely. Not just that either - as chairman he had the courage to sack Joe Royle after City were relegated in 2001, even if it wasn't always the most popular decision, and then ensure that Kevin Keegan replaced him as City manager. There's nothing but good things to be said and his chairmanship of the club has been excellent.

With the board left in place, and one of the deputy chairman John Wardle taking temporary charge till the end of the season, questions remain about any board split and whether indeed they came to disagreements over the club's spending policy, on one hand Bernstein wanted to keep things steady and not go overboard, whereas some of the other members felt they needed to inject even more cash into the current squad. If it turns out to be a dispute over money, then it is sad that those who wanted more money spent should realise how far we've come, and how far we've yet to go. Steady progress financially has been the order of the day under Bernstein, and no one could have expected events on the pitch this season result in us being mid-table. I would have happily taken 17th place and survival at the end of the season - but maybe some of the board themselves should realise this? From little acorns, big trees grow after all.

On a happier note, at least on the 17th of March I get the utter joy of both the new Throwing Muses and Kristin Hersh albums - I've already preordered them from 4AD directly, so the postbox should be bulging with them on the day of release. Naturally, I'll have to review them although it'll be hard trying to be objective when it's your all time favourite woman on both albums. It's not a sexual thing you should understand, it's more spiritual (although she does look very feminine indeed at times - and feminine is attractive to me). I should mention at this point I got a CD through the post yesterday which was one of my ebay winning bids - KH's first album Hips and Makers in its limited deluxe edition digipack sleeve with postcards, and it's also signed by Kristin herself on the sleeve and two of the postcards! It's really lovely and something I'm going to treasure.

I've also been gradually watching all the Dirty Harry movies on DVD in order, as I got the box set a few weeks back. Last night I whacked on Sudden Impact on my trusty Pioneer DV646A, and that very much rocked. I'd forgotten how good it actually was, especially as it of course has the classic phrase of "Go ahead. Make my day" along with many other little robbery scenes et al where Clint Eastwood, naturally, kicks ass. One more to go now, and that's The Dead Pool - with a very young Liam Neeson in it, if memory serves me well (he says not bothering to dig out the DVD from the box). In a way, it's nice to have the whole box of them as a series rather than get each one individually, it's a good set.

For those of you that have Freeview, as I was channel hopping tonight, I noticed for some reason that CBBC is now the CBBC Channel. Weird isn't it? I think this was because the Beeb decided that because they have CBBC on BBC1 and BBC2 during the day (like old Children's BBC used to be between 3-30pm and 5-30pm Monday to Friday - if you remember that far back) it would confuse too many people, hence the name change. ITV2 should rename itself "Countless repeats of ITV1" or something like that - at least it's a bit more realistic as to most of its programming! People only watch ITV2 when they have the Champions League on, I reckon.

Take care out there...