As It Must: Jack Charlton R.I.P.


As the years go by, the privilege of having been there to see England win the World Cup grows ever more important. A ten year old boy, watching a black-and-white television set in the midst of a family, none of whom were interested in football but who gathered together to hope to watch history.

Eleven names, a litany all of us could recite. Amazingly, over half that team remain with us, but one more name has been subtracted from that list. Jack Charlton, centre-half for Leeds United, elder brother of Bobby, World Cup Winner, has passed away. We can only expect more names to follow, in more rapid order.

I remember lots of stories about Wor Jackie. The time that, on television nearing the end of his playing career, he stated that he had a couple of names in a book, of players who had done things for which he would exact revenge before he was dne. Didn’t go down that well with the authorities but I doubt there was a fan of any team that didn’t understand, and approve.

The other came out of the Munich Air Disaster. It was not a world in which news could be had quickly and Jackie and his wife took the train to Manchester where they hoped to find if Bobby had survived. I will never forget Jack Charlton, whose relationship with his younger rother, already strained by the irreversible changes in him due to the crash, telling of how he stepped own off the train, saw a newstand at the bottom of the platform, and from that distance saw his brother’s name in the printed list of survivors.

Though they grow old and leave us, they will not grow old as other, nor will their memories pass from us.

A Manchester Expedition


Once upon a time, the idea of writing about a trip to Manchester City Centre, let alone calling it an Expedition, would have seemed ludicrous. But those were inncocent days, before the current pandemic shrank life down to doing everything necessary to prevent or minimise the spread of contagion.

Since then, I’ve only gone out to three places: work, a supermarket and the chemists. The recent re-opening of the launderette doesn’t alter that, they’re only two minuteswalk from Morrisons.

But lockdown is now easing. We’ve won, go back to normal, so what if there are still daily deaths and a second wave is next to inevitable? Now I don’t trust a word this so-called government says, and I never will, but I’m not immune, I am stir crazy, and with hands washed and facemask donned, I’m going to go out.

With typical irony I first set off in the opposite direction. I have an undelivered parcel, an external optical drive, to collect from the Sorting Office in Stockport. I tried to do that yesterday and got very wet for my pains. And the Sorting Office is currently only opening until 11.00 am, and I got there for 11.10am. I’m trying again because I’d like to put it to use this weekend, but it all depends on the connection in Stockport Bus Station.

Unlikely as it may seem, it’s timely.

There is a sicially distanced queue when I arrive but it’s less than half a dozen long and anyway, it’s not raining. They’re operating a One-Out, One-In policy and instead of waiting for your package to be produced from the back,you go round o the side door where it’s waiting for you on a trestle, so things go quickly.

Back to the main road. I want a 42 for Town and one turns up in less than fibe minutes. It’s all going swimmingly well: I get nervous.

The 42 takes me through parts of Manchester I used to be very familiar with but where I rarely go now, even in the freest of times. The route is an exercise in nostalgia and a reminder of how unfree life is without private transport.

Within a stop of getting on, I’m the only person on the bus, downstairs at least. No-one’s getting on or off and we just sail along, disturbed only by the automated voice reciting stops we pass by. Eventually, we stop in the middle of Didsbury Village to let the schedule catch up to us. A querulous bloke in a much-stretched Manchester City shirt complains about the timetables being “up the wall”: just how deeply has he been self-isolating these past three months and more.

Some memories on thi ride are more plesant than others. Some memories I don’t want to remember. We take another stop outside Christie Hospital, where they specialise in cancer.

Once we’re past Withington Village, the stops for travellers become more frequent. Joggers abound. The journey gets slower, stop-and-start, traffic lights perpetually red. We’re not quite at the University when the driver has to stop and count the passengers on board before allowing others to join us.

The nearer we get to Piccadilly Gardens, the slower the driver gets, playing for every red light. But there’s only a finite number of these and he can’t stop us from getting there eventually. No sooner do I alight than a man with an Irish accent and an air of still being drunk from the last time the pubs were open, shouts at me and anyone else within hearing that I/we can wear a hundred masks, a thousand masks, but he can still see us. Yerrsss.

I’ve three objectives in coming into Manchester today, aside from the novelty of course. The first of these crashes and burns almost immediately. I wanted to browse the Oldham Street Oxfam shop for cheap DVDs to supplement the dwindling Film 2020 collection. They’re open… but not until Monday.

Forbidden Planet is sixty seconds walk away on the other side of the street. They’re regulating entry on the same basis as the Post Office but here I’m only third and I’m soon inside.

I’m hoping/expecting to collect three comics and I come out with two, but one of them is a series I’d forgotten I was getting. The last one of the series…According to eBay after I get home, I was premature: the other two aren’t released until next week.

So let’s go see if Pizza Hut‘s open. It is indeed, but only for takeaways. There’s only a limited number of ingredients and when it comes to my two favourite Create-Your-Owns, there’s an ingredient missing from each one. I end up ordering a Sharing Hawaiian, to take home and heat up. It’s like Friday evenings twenty-five years ago, doing that.

So to home. I think I’ve just missed a 203 but I can’t tell through the facemask induced steam on my glasses. The dark clouds that have hung around all day, threatening yet more later, have separated and gone white in places and the sun through the gaps is surprisingly June-like. A not young but gently attractive lady with opaque tights and a foreign accents, asks me if she’s missed the 203?  If we have, one’s very close behind. She sits diagonally in front of me after starting on the other side of the aisle: in those innocent days I mentioned earlier, I might have tried to start a conversation with her (who’s kidding who? no, I wouldn’t. Probably not). She gets off in North Reddish.

One last task: I get off one stop early and go to check if my barber’s has any indication when it may be re-opening, but there’s none, nor any number from which I might book an appointment. I’m a good six to eight weeks past the last point I would have waited to have it cut, it’s longer than any time since the Seventies, and it’s bugging me seriously.

I’m back in before 2.00pm, and I heat up the pizza and Share it with myself. I haven’t had anything from Pizza Hut since the end of February so I’m entitled, ok?

Thus ends my Expedition: still not worthy of the name, especially when I’d originally have been intending to regale you with a Buttermere Expedition in a couple of week’s time, but we make the most of what we have.

 

Michael Angelis, Boy from the Black Stuff, R.I.P.


How are some things forgotten?

I’ve just turned from the Guardian website and a short piece on the death of Michael Angelis, aged 71. They credit him as the narrator of Thomas the Tank Engine. They reference his career by reference to roles in GBH, The Liver Birds, and Auf Weidersehn Pet. They mention soaps and such that he’s been in.

But not a mention of his greatest role, as Chrissy in Alan Bleasedale’s Boys from the Black Stuff.

Yes, I know that was nearly forty years ago, produced in and about the effects of Thatcher’s first Great Recession, but there isn’t a line or a grimace in that film that isn’t equally as applicable now.

Some parts are a ticket to immortality. Chrissy was one of them. Michael Angelis brought a wealth of emotion to it, and it is his monument, his legacy. And a newspaper supposedly of the left can’t even mention it.

Rest in peace, Michael, you were bloody good.

To all of us at work today…


I can’t say this any better.

Today we remember the tragedy of the Manchester Arena bombing, the event that touched many of us and as we reflect on 3 years now passed, we are a society that have never been stronger and closer. We are flying the Manchester Bees on the windows of the office today to show solidarity with those who were most affected.

We will never forget watching the news on this night or waking up to the news the next day.
We will never forget those who lost their lives and those injured.
We will always remember the resilience we learned and the strength, as a city , we showed.
We are proud to be from Manchester. We hope there will always be one last time and we will never look back in anger.
Bee strong our kid 
🐝🐝🐝

Alison Howe

Eilidh MacLeod

Elaine McIver

Georgine Callender

Jane Tweddle

John Atkinson

Chloe Rutherford

Liam Kelly

Lisa Lees

Angelika Klis

Marcin Klis

Kelly Brewster

Megan Hurley

Michelle Kiss

Nell Jones

Oliva Campbell-Hardy

Saffie Rose Roussos

Wendy Farrell

Sorrell Leczkowski

Courtney Boyle

Philip Tron

Martyn Hett

Crap Journalism


For the past couple of weeks, the Guardian have been running an accumulating feature on the 100 greatest UK no. 1 singles. The list has been chosen by three people, which immediately reduces it to something selected upon very limited tastes. I’ve been following it with mild curiosity as to what they’ve chosen, and in what order, and personally I wouldn’t agree with many of either.

But my principal attitude is, so what? This is your choice. If you think that ‘Bridge over Troubled Waters’ is only the 45th best no. 1 of all time (and I admit I did boggle a bit at that one) you can do so. It doesn’t change my opinion about the song and its value, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only one I’m interested in.

I’m not registered to Comment at the Guardian and haven’t been for several years, and if I still were, I wouldn’t bother over something as unimportant as this. However, I do have to break ranks with myself in response to this comment, put up today by Ben Beaumont-Thomas, the paper’s Music Editor, in respect of their no 19 choice, ‘Old Town Road’ by Little Nass X.

“I know a lot of the anti-pop/pro-1960s comment brigade will be outraged at this choice. It was unanimously chosen by the music editor (me), deputy music editor and chief music critic who compiled the top 100 – so here’s our reasoning. We all feel it’s:

a) a brilliant tune with a massive anthemic melody that will be hollered in karaoke bars for years; a truly classic pop song that really does go toe to toe with the best of the last 70-odd years.
b) one of the most brilliant pop cultural moments of the last few years – the styling, the wit, the way he toyed with country tropes and indeed exposed latent prejudices in them.

Owen ably articulates its charms in more detail above. 

My feeling is that if you’re tired of Old Town Road (remix feat Billy Ray Cyrus), you’re tired of life. That said, I’m very happy for people to comment about why they don’t like it! As long as it’s not bland abuse.” No links, you’ll have to find it yourself if you’re interested enough.

Now I’ve never heard the record, and I have no interest in hearing it, though I could experience the song at the click of a mouse. It could be good, it could be bad, it could be somewhere in between for all I know, and all I care. I am not interested in having an opinion on it.

But I do have an opinion on Mr Beaumont-Thomas’s comment. For one thing, he not only demeans himself by his snotty reference to the anti-pop/pro 60s comment brigade, he’s lost his argument already by claiming that people who are pro 60s music are anti pop: my dear sir, just what the hell do you think we were all listening to?

However, it’s the start of his final paragraph that demands a response, one that I can’t make without re-registering and which wouldn’t stay up more than five seconds if I did. Let me highlight it: ‘My feeling is that if you’re tired of Old Town Road (remix feat Billy Ray Cyrus), you’re tired of life.’

Once more, Mr Beaumont-Thomas, and with the greatest of all possible respect, you can like this record and I will say nothing because I don’t care. You can dislike any record that I love and I will say nothing because I don’t care. Your opinions are what they are: opinions, and when it comes to music we all have them and none of them are right or wrong.

But if you think you can tell me that disagreeing with your opinion calls into question my very existence, then I would respectfully invite you to fuck yourself anally with a rusty chainsaw. Because not in this universe or any other in the vastest multiverse do you get to tell me what to like or dislike.

Get that? I doubt you’ll ever see this, but I wanted to tell you exactly where you’re full of self-centred shit.

You’re welcome.

Pesky Pasko, R.I.P.


A very long time ago, when I was nudging my parents into buying more American comics than they wanted to and far fewer than I wanted, there were familiar names I would see in the letter columns of DC titles, especially those edited by Julius Schwartz, who would herald their every missive. These got their comments into so many comics because they were not just prolific but wrote intelligent letters, mixing praise and criticism honestly and cleverly.

I remember the names amd the nicknames: ‘Our Favourite Guy’, Guy H. Lillian III, ‘Castro’ Mike Friedrich, Martin ‘Pesky’ Pasko.

Friedrich and Pasko went on to write for DC, and Lillian to intern there one summer but decide the busiinesswas not for him.

To be truthful, I never particularly found either Friedrich or Pasko’s work too  exciting, though there were some moments from Pasko’s career that amused me, especially the one where he managed to work Monty Python’s ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!’ into a Metal Man script, causing me to explode with laughter. And his transformative Dr Fate story, drawn by Walt Simonson, for First Issue Special 8 is still probably my favourite comic book of the Seventies.

And now he’s gone, of natural causes, aged 65. All those years ago, all those letters, and he was only a year older than me, and it feels a very personal loss, even though I never knew him. He was the one with the same name as me, which shouldn’t matter but does.

And plainly all the writers who canme out of fandom with him are devastated by the loss. No doubt he’s already giving Julius Schwartz grief over some loose plotting in a Justice League comic written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky. Thanks, Martin.

Two deaths


Announced today, two more who have left us. One male, aged 87, a public figure, a shaper of the world we know. One 86, female, known to more people than she have ever wished but to far fewer that she deserved. One is Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, rock’n’roll pioneer, flambuoyant, colourful, influential in more than just music. The other is Rennie Williams. You probably don’t know her name, just as I didn’t until a few minutes ago, for which I am ashamed. Rennie Williams was a schoolteacher in Aberfan in 1966. She was in the school the day of the disaster, she got the surviving children out. I mean no disrespect to Little Richard when I point out the discrepancy between the responses their passing will bring. Bow your heads to her, for she leaves the greater gap in the world.

Bite yer legs


I know we used to hate Leeds United, and we still do, but I have to mark the loss of another to this bloody COVID-19. The hard man of Leeds – and to stand out in that team of hard men, you had to be HARD – Norman Hunter has died aged 76.

He may have been a bastard – and he was their bastard, not ours – but Norman Hunter is unforgettable, and long after all of us who were fans during his prime have passed on and only old clips on YouTube remain, he will still be a legend.

Re-Blog: Nathan Anderson, from Facebook


I agree with every word, but he says it better than I could.

Before you start blaming individuals who in your own opinion are not obeying the rules have a read of this…

As this crisis deepens and the death toll mounts, a narrative is going to emerge that will be very seductive to many of us. It will all be the fault of “the people.”
The people who failed to practice social distancing. The people who hoarded. The people who didn’t listen to the government. The people who didn’t listen to the science. The people. Those selfish people. Look at them in their parks. The government will start trotting this out. Right wing media will push it hard. Police forces have already begun assigning blame to “the people”.
Many of us will feel the tug of this seductive reasoning. Our brains will be tempted to lash out at “the people.”
When we do, we must remember some things: –
The government had 3 months to prepare. This was a train coming down the tracks. At first we were told the plan was herd immunity. Then it wasn’t.
As the first few people started to die, Boris Johnson boasting of shaking the hands of hospitalised coronavirus patients. This was a week before the lockdown.
Why weren’t we in lockdown like other European countries, some asked. Trust us, they said.
Then we got the lockdown order. What did they say? The initial government advice was only “essential workers could travel to work”. A day later this was changed to “essential travel for work.” See the difference?
They told us to practice social distancing as MPs crowded around each other in the House of Commons.
They said only the old and immuno-comprised were at risk. Then healthy twenty-somethings started dying.
They said the NHS could cope, then they started building field hospitals in stadiums.
They said the NHS had the protective equipment it needed, then we logged on to social media.
They said we were in it together, then they got tested before the front-line workers.
They said there was no such thing as society and it was survival of the fittest, then said we needed to show solidarity.
They clapped when they voted against a pay-rise for NHS nurses in 2017, then they clapped for the NHS.
They spent a decade telling us cuts were needed to save the economy, then they said the only way to save the economy was to spend trillions.
They spent a decade insisting £94 was enough to live on, then admitted it wasn’t. – They got us to vote for Brexit by rubbishing “experts,” then told us to trust experts.
They told us retail workers were low skilled, then said they were key workers.
They said homelessness was sad but inevitable, then they order it ended overnight.
So yes, “the people” ended up a little fucking confused. Because our so-called leaders have utterly failed to lead. They don’t know what they stand for; they couldn’t believe the world could change so quickly; they resisted “alarmist” when the only proper response was to be alarmed; they had no idea how to use the power of the state, having spent a decade dismantling it; they were arrogant and complacent, wallowing in privilege.
The fundamental duty of government is to keep us safe. That’s what we pay them to do. They have failed.
As the death toll mounts, remember that our leaders are to blame, not “the people,” and we must resist the temptation to blame each other.

Author Nathan Williams

Please feel free to copy and share”

One, two, three…


Stirling Moss, Tim Brooke-Taylor and now Peter Bonetti, all in the same day,  as awful a cull at once as any we experienced in 2016.

Though he was a truly great goalkeeper, Peter Bonetti was doomed to be remembered, by those of us who were not Chelsea fans in 1970, for coming into the England team for the quarter-final of the World Cup against West Germany. After conceding only one goal in his first six appearances for England, Bonetti conceded three, as England slipped from a seemingly impregnable 2-0 lead. He never played for England again.

It’s unfair to him, but that is the memory. It can haunt him no longer.