Dear Diary... February 2003

Friday 28th February - Things happen when you don't expect them to

I've had a really odd week, but a couple of nice surprises along the way. First, there I was watching Top of the Pops 2 and at the end of the show was Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails' superb track "Hurt". At first, I thought "what the..." but then as I started to listen to it and watch the really intense video (download it from here by right clicking and do save link as/save target as - it's about 30MB though!) it really made sense just why he did it. Further, Trent Reznor himself has seen the video and he was just blown away by how good it was, so much so he got his mate Zach de la Rocha (used to be in Rage Against The Machine) to watch it with him, and they were both stunned. So, as far as I see, if Trent likes it, most of us should. It's different to see such an old but classic artist cover something relatively modern. It's intriguing.

And then there's those surprises you don't really expect. I was there in HMV in the Trafford Centre tonight checking out their clearout sale (as sometimes you can get the odd bargain or two) and so I thought "let's head into the film soundtrack section to see what they have.." and anyway, there it was - the holy grail I'd been hunting for months without having to pay Virgin a rip off £17 for - Lalo Schifrin's excellent film score from Enter The Dragon, for a mere £4-99! Most excellent, and as there was just one copy left I headed straight to the till with it to be absolutely sure it was mine. For certain, it's a classic film score and really captures the flavour of the film nicely (shame that it's only 26 minutes on the CD, yes that short!) and it was when Schifrin was argubaly at his peak, doing the scores for Dirty Harry, its' sequel Magnum Force and Bullitt as well. When you look back and see how cool they all were, no wonder he was in demand. In the main "Theme From Enter Then Dragon" he even manages to sample Bruce Lee in full flight as well which has to be a considerable bonus.. Anyway, well chuffed. Not every day you get a bargain in HMV considering the prices they normally charge - and if you get time, get the Doves' first CD "Lost Souls" for £3-99, an excellent purchase.

Which leads me nicely onto my rant for the day - CD pricing. Why oh why do the major record stores in the UK insist on a mad price of £12-99 and £13-99 for CDs, and why are most of the public such fools to pay that sort of money in the first place? The only way to reduce prices is to vote with your feet and shop somewhere else for your CDs when they get released. As a usual matter of rule, I never buy anything from HMV, Virgin, Tower etc unless it's on sale and reasonably priced. Instead I'll either use independent retailers such as Piccadilly Records or Music Zone (they're quite good for new releases particularly) or go online to places like Play and CD-Wow although as the latter two tend to get most of their CDs from the USA, be warned if you want a limited edition UK release - back to the indie store it is. I know come March 17th when I'll be buying both Kristin Hersh's and Throwing Muses' new albums, I won't be paying £13-99 for it, for sure. In fact, as lots of indie labels do mail order over the Internet, why not give them a go too? I'm sure the very lovely Jo over at 4AD will thank you for that. Their prices are competitive and you get that nice touch of having it sent direct from the record label, meaning no problems getting the limited releases. Maybe something to think about?

Anyway, beware the ides of March and more from the diary soon...

Thursday 20th February - The Goat has been fed (and met, too)

Well it's not every day you get to meet one of your heroes is it? But for me, tonight happened to be a rather special little evening. Me uncle Wayne had managed to snag us a couple of tickets for the Man City fans forum up at the Cresta Court Hotel in Altrincham, so up we went and after finding where to go once we got into the hotel, we realised it would be the usual panel format of one of the City directors and backroom staff, and two of the players. Little did we know until they came in that it would be the goalie Carlo Nash, and the legend of current City players that is Shaun Goater. (for those of you who don't understand the legend, let me explain. Shaun Goater's nickname is "The Goat" and the City fans sing "Feed The Goat and he will score" - and he usually does. He's been at City since 1998, scored over 100 goals including three against Man U this season, and always seems to score the important goals for City.) Needless to say of course, Shaun got an almighty cheer and chants of "Feed The Goat". Shaun and Carlo were very patient having their pictures taken and autographing shirts and so on. I did manage also to get my picture taken with each of them, and just to see how relaxed and laid back The Goat is at first hand was a pleasure to see.

The fans asked questions in the forum, and you could tell the aura placed around The Goat as he answered not only with good, knowledgable answers, but also with a really good sense of humour as well, he wound up Carlo Nash a bit and generally enjoyed himself, even allowing a little shameless plug to his own personal website (coming soon), which amongst the prizes btw allows you to win the very shirt he scored against Man U at Old Trafford in. I know, I know, I would love to win it. You couldn't help throughout the whole session think that not only does The Goat realise what it means to the fans to play for City, but also that he respects them a lot for getting behind him, cheering him on, and when he said he had no plans to go anywhere the whole place could have quite easily taken off and erupted on the spot. Needless to say also that my pic of him and me will be treasured. Must get some decent photo quality paper for the printer and get it on the wall... Apart from that, City director Chris Bird gave us the good news all City fans want to know - not only are we going back to traditional sky blue next season, but also having the red and black striped away kit. YES! This is the proper away kit that we should always play in, if you ask me, and it's long overdue.

Other good news is that I don't have long to wait until the new Throwing Muses and Kristin Hersh albums come out. In fact, March 17 sees the first Muses album in years (Kristin's band, incase you wondered) and on the same day, a lovely sweet new Kristin Hersh album too! So I can rock a bit with the Muses CD and then chill out and curl on the sofa to Kristin, apparently there's a lot of violin and piano on it too so that should be something. I just with the TM tour would include Manchester though: it's too expensive to go down to London Astoria and see them, and the next nearest gig is Glasgow, which would also mean train there and hotel overnight. On the other hand they could easily fill the Academy here in Manchester and it'd be a great gig. Still, the good thing is that at least new stuff is out that I can run to the shops and buy when they come out, safe in the knowledge of the quality of the product. (bit like when I got both Frank Black albums on the day of release last year - both of them most excellent). And Kristin just looks so divine, still. I know you're not supposed to swoon over people when you get to thirty plus, but she's very very special, and as you may have seen in the poems section, I dedicated a recent poem written with her in mind. It's the sort of respect where I'd just love to give her a hug and say thank you for her music which has helped me get through lots of stuff.

Synopsis update: the synopsis is coming along nicely, thank you. The main thing I've had to think about the last few days is the location and the setting, and I've got them down to a tee. Thankfully in the name of research you can actually visit a few places (and even go drinking in them) and just go there as a customer, and feel the vibe yourself, and that rubs off on you when you feel enlightened for ideas (cue lightbulb appearing above my head at this point) and suddenly, life has new meaning to me (oh sorry that was some crap romantic song wasn't it?) What I meant to say was suddenly things click into place and you feel a level of inspiration that you can get all your thoughts jotted down before you lose track of them. Well, hopefully you get the idea. I also thought of a little twist in the tale somewhere, but I'm not sure which twist to think of or how I implement it. That might just turn up when I least expect it.

Anyway, must get on and get some sleep. Take care, everyone.

Monday 17th February - I'm addicted to the red button

Well, a nice weekend all around really. Even though I did my best to avoid the television a fair bit on Valentine's Day and not ponder to the soppy romantics left right and centre around me, one thing that caught my attention last week was that Surprise Weddings show on ITV. On the Tuesday, six women had proposed to get married to their partners live on the telly, and surprise surprise on Thursday, all six couples carried out the deed. Just by seeing how lovey dovey they could get and having the sick bucket nearby, it also goes to show that looks can be deceptive, it's what's inside that counts. One couple (Bonnie and Jacob I think they were) really seemed well suited and they were both full of smiles and laughs through the whole ceremony, and when Bonnie asked the question on Tuesday, they both smiled with a laugh of happiness. See, the little things do matter, and just their own private shared moment at that point was proof. Remember for those of you very much in lurve: it's not the big dramatic statements of how much you love someone, it's the little things you do each day that add up to the special togetherness of the two of you. Remember that, and you'll go far.

Anyway, BBC have increasingly decided to go interactive with the sport, like they did over the weekend, and it works well - almost too well for my liking! I end up waiting for the 5 second "press red" to come on screen and the red button on my Nokia Mediamaster 221T's remote is duly pressed. And in practice, it works quite well. For example, for the Man U v Arsenal game I could watch the highlights at half time instead of listening to Alan Hansen rant and rave (had to be worth it just for that) - and especially with that Ryan Giggs miss, almost of Ronnie Rosenthal proportions, it just had to be worth seeing again and again. The tactical analysis is also pretty good with a different commentary as well. In the final, you may find that they do what they did last year and have the two Mini Motty winners "alternative commentary" (think like the Fanzone thing on Sky Digital, but much less biased) in similar circumstances. Another neat thing is the match stats you can call up at any time, and certainly that was of use during certain parts of the game. Okay, so Sky Digital have had this for a fair while, but it's nice to see the Beeb taking their commitment to the Freeview package seriously enough to provide a quality service.

The Six Nations rugby afterwards (England beating France, oh yes) was similarly good with tactical stuff and stats and also highlights not just of that game, but the Italy-Wales one too, and that was really appreciated for most people who had been watching Arsenal beat Man U over on BBC1. And again on Sunday when Wolves beat Rochdale, the full service was very good, glitch-free and certainly adds a dimension to watching live sport. The main quandry now is I could end up pressing the red button and hoping there's more content. However, there are going to be advantages - for example, they could show both tables' play live during the World Snooker Championships in April (hint well and truly dropped, BBC, I want paying for the idea!) or indeed later in the year, different camera angles of the London Marathon, say one following the men's race, the other the women's? The potential is there to be used and it's good for all us Freeview users out there.

Anyway, I thought more about the synopsis for the first novel today - I basically have the plot roughly sketched in my head, there'll be three main characters, locations that will stir the memories of anyone who have been there, and indeed will hopefully be quite warm and down to earth, with hopefully a sprinkling of my dry sense of humour. Having the motivation to write it is always difficult of course, but I think I have enough ideas in my head, as well as plenty of chill-out music to keep me going, to make it a worthwhle project. And in the back of my mind, even if I don't get it published by a book company, well I can always whack it online here anyway.. now there is a thought!

Anyway, it's getting bloody freezing here as I'm typing this, so time to warm up... more soon.

Wednesday 12th February - Memories are made of this

Went with me uncle Wayne to one of the Man City end of an era Roadshows. There was a panel of mainly old City players (including Gary Owen, who still commentates on Century FM for City's games, and goes _mental_ when we score) and some of the old players' memories were brilliant. Johnny Hart and Paddy Fagan (players in the 50s and 60s) were particularly funny, as they were remembering their games and how the manager would tell them what not to do, and they'd do it in games sometimes just for the sake of it. When asked about their favourite City goal, Paddy said "the two I got against United when we beat them 5-0 at Old Trafford" and Johnny just looked around and said "Denis Law's backheel, wasn't it?". You could tell the mutual respect all five players had for each other, and Paddy is quite active in City's Former Players Association, and with the sense of humour he has that isn't surprising. Great fun, and we got some autographs for Wayne's kid Luke's book of City legends :)

It goes to show in a way that sometimes the old memories and the players that played really do instill that history and nostalgia into supporting any team, whether it be football, cricket, whatever. It's the affinity, the belolnging and most of all knowing what it means to wear the shirt with pride, something the England team could do a lot about knowing (see my lengthy rant in the Thoughts section). After all, it's a privelege, not a right. And the players there last night showed to us all that if you can look back warmly on your career with funny moments, then it must have been a job worth doing. Something worth thinking about your own job I think. Are you enjoying it? Do you actually look forward to going to work?

Anyway, recorded Footballers' Wives last night and watched it when I came in. I don't think even Jackie Collins could make it as trashy as this. An inter-sexual baby, a slightly posh yet weird acting daughter of one of the top staff, and the return of the nurse Dunkley! Where will it end I wonder? Well, I think it could well be the second and final series of this, but nonetheless, for pure nothingness and trash telly it's almost compelling to watch, it really is. Especially that kid Dairus whom Tanya is seeing on the side but is all over her like a little rash. Miaoww..

Anyway, more from the diary soonish...

Sunday 9th February - Feed The Goat and he will score, oh yes

Today wasn't just about another game of football - it was City versus "the scum" (as a lot of City fans put it). Us versus them. Football fans up and down the country know what it means to have a local derby, where the passion is at its highest and the bragging rights can be yours for the next six months or so. Of course, since City won 3-1 against United in November, all the prematch talk was of revenge and how they were going to crush us.

There's no worse feeling than being sat in the pub when United score against City, you feel almost sick to the stomach as you know it could well be the goal that sets them on their way to victory, so at about ten to one in the afternoon, I felt completely gutted inside, like everything we'd worked for in November was going to be taken away, and being one down at half time kind of represented something like "oh well, at least it's still 1-0 and they haven't put three or four past us". Such is the nature of being a City fan that you automatically fear the worst, and after the last ten up and down years or so, you can hardly blame us can you?

However, the second half saw pride, passion and the skill to go with it. Eyal Berkovic ran the show for most of the second half and the likes of Veron and Beckham worryingly disappeared for United, and it was almost like it was left to Keane to try and get a grip for them. Eyal was having none of it - he was back, still not 100% fit mind you, but back nonetheless and showing the team the way. And as the second half went on, I and every Blue started to believe that we could yet get something out of the game - I'd have taken a draw before the start of play and so just one goal would have done. I panicked when van Nistelrooy was on his own bearing down on Carlo Nash, but Sylvain Distin's excellent tackle saved the day and it looked very much like it could stay at one nil, which still wouldn't have been too bad I suppose.

But five minutes to go, and on came Shaun Goater. Well as they say at Maine Road, feed the goat and he will score, and it took a mere nine seconds to do just that. Ali Benarbia took the free kick short, Shaun Wright-Phillips dinked in a beautiful cross and The Goat was fed. No need to say what happened next. The City fans went completely delirious and all of a sudden Old Trafford fell quiet apart from the 3,000 City fans crammed into the corner of one of the stands, and chants of "Who let The Goat out?" emnated around the stadium. As someone who has been to Old Trafford and seen City get a draw there (once with ten men, I should add, which brings back very special memories of singing "You couldn't beat ten men" and knowing that United fans couldn't say nothing back to you) that feeling of seeing City score there and silence the crowd has always been amost special moment for any City fan, and so it proved here. And then for about twenty seconds deep into stoppage time, I thought Goat had won it and I was hugging every City fan I could find to go mental. Alas, to be fair Anelka did handball it in the build up before he fed The Goat. 1-1 was about a fair result as United had dominated the first half and us the second.

Still, if this one game proves anything, it's that WE, yes Manchester City, are _The Pride of Manchester_ again. And that alone will give every long-suffering Blue a Ready-Brek type glow as they walk into work tomorrow morning. I can't wait....

Tuesday 4th February - Let it snow!

Into a new month, and in Manchester there's even been some snowfall! Well well well. It mainly happened between 9 and 11pm last night and it even settled, so the view outside the window was that of a winter scene. Very picturesque, unfortunately it didn't stay for long and by this afternoon it had all gone, which was an absolute nightmare. Still, it's nice to actually see some snow for a change and at least share in the same Arctic conditions gripping the rest of the country (although thankfully not as many accidents, although yet again the road gritters weren't out properly and this led to some very icy roads into Manchester city centre this morning, and the bus was going a little slower than normal...

This weekend just gone was really nice, got a good excuse to go to number 1 Oriental buffet, yaay! I was going to go in there on Sunday with a friend of mine, but as it was Chinese New Year everywhere was pretty hammered, so we ended up in Penang Village. It was nice in there as usual though, and we even had the nice sight close up of two of the Chinese Lions doing their little dance to drums and music around the restaurant, so it was good to see the tradition of Chinese New Year pretty close up. The manager was very kindly explaining what all the different coloured envelopes (the red and the green) meant, and basically the idea is to live long (green) and prosper (red). Needless to say those more enterprising look very hard for the red envelopes come New Year, not least because they usually have a decent amount of money in! No wonder there was only one in the restaurant out of customers' view, hehe.

Also got the chance to go to Jongleurs Comedy night and see what that was like, and on the whole, pretty good. Don't actually look for the sign saying Jongleurs though,or else you won't find it. It's actually in the top floors of a rather large club/bar called Pisa, and even though when we paid to get in it was looking like we'd have to stand, rather conveniently some people didn't turn up who had pre-booked, so we got a great view of the comedians over the balcony. Rather good too, although for absolute entertainment the Comedy Store edges it, this was still good and there was lots of humour from the three entirely different acts, so well worth a go.

Mind you, once I get paid, I know one thing: I'm going to have to get myself a new vacuum cleaner. Although I've patched up the old Panasonic beastie, clearly it's on its proverbial last legs, so it's looking like a silver and delia Dyson DC04 for me. Delia, you say, don't you mean lime? Ah, perhaps I'd better explain. I always call lime delia because of the TV cook Delia Smith's countless obsessions with them (and capers for some inexplicable reason) in all her cookery shows. It's true. She'll be like "ooh, you can get these capers from this posh market, but if you can't.." and "Don't you think that this needs a bit of lime? I love lime, don't you?" One day I'll have to dig out my poem about her and her lime obsession so you can see what I mean.

As for Man City, how the hell did we manage to lose to West Brom 2-1? Well, apart from a crap referee who didn't give an obvious penalty, we didn't turn up. I am just hoping we're luring The Scum into a false sense of security before we go to Old Trafford and whup them Sunday. I'll be biting the fingers though at Sunday lunchtime, but then again any derby I'm always the same. At least we won the last one at Maine Road so I guess that's something...

Anyway, enough waffle, don't forget to tell Sheik Abu Hamed to sling his hook. Tata for now.