Fat Man on a Keyboard 'At first they came for the smokers but I did not speak out as I did not smoke. Then they came for the binge drinkers but I said nothing as I did not binge. Now they have an obesity strategy...'
Cocktails and Records ... what could be finer? A weekly tune from the record box, handpicked, dusted down, and lovingly described. Also the place to get answers to Major Questions Of The Day, such as 'is rollerskating the new trendy alternative to bicycles?'
blue cat This blue cat fellow (he writes for the telly you know) issues forth an apparently effortless stream of grade-A funniness that has me overcome in turns by helpless laughter and shameful, powerful envy. There I've said it.
Joella Joella in Oxfordshire. Working for The Man while training to be a plumber (I think!). Loves gherkins, hates aubergines... and Fascists.
Jason Mulgrew Jason in his own words: 'I am from a blue-collar Irish Catholic family from Philly, complete with a chain-smoking tattooed dad, a short gregarious mother, a younger brother that despises me and a younger sister who’s pretty sure I’m gay'.
Clare Sudbery Another of Mancheter's finest... a textually loquacious word-freak, with quite a way with words.
A Free Man in Preston Office life with unforgettable characters such as 'Stella, my eighties yuppie witch of a team leader', seasoned with occasional out-of-hours forays into the murky world of Lancastrian barbershop quartets. The writer is a very nice chap to boot.
Assistant another Jonathan! Sure there's a lot of it about...
Dubsteps (formerly Hobo Tread) Thoughts of Skif, a Havant and Waterlooville fan exiled in Liverpool- possibly the most engaging non-league football writing to be found on the web- and with a little bit of politics, and plenty more beside!
Rhodri Livejournal is much-maligned in some quarters which is perhaps why you haven't seen a link to Rhodri anywhere else. Be assured, though: this is a writer of rare poise, able to extract hilarity from the most humdrum of subject matter. Oh and as well as being a professional broadsheet journalist he's also the keyboard player with Scritti Politti (I swear I'm not making this up).
Private Secret Diary Dispatches from deepest Norfolk. Not that private and not that secret. Just consistently hilarious.
Emma Kennedy the daily weblog of BBCTV and radio's Emma Kennedy. The design and format (and the car number spotting thing!) may be copied from Richard Herring- but Emma has very much her own writing style. Consistently entertaining.
Pete Ashton's Internet Presence Birmingham's finest. Writing with enviable clarity on every subject under the sun since 2000 (a very long time indeed!). Now with added nice pictures of canals and stuff...
Tokyo Times Lee Chapman. Not the ex-Sheffield Wednesday striker (at least I don't think so) but an English bloke who lives in Tokyo. And tells interesting stories about it. Often accompanied by pictures.
Petite anglaise Petite, our very own 'cause celebre' (she was sacked for blogging back in the day, you know). The first novel now published, but she hasn't forgotten where she came from, oh no...
diamond geezer From London. And seems to have been around for about as long as the City itself. One of the 'Old School'.
Looby 'An awkward, clumsy fellow; a lubber; a novice'....a venerated (if refreshingly irreverent) blogging institution. Lancaster's very finest!
RichardHerring.com The comedian Richard Herring's kind of online diary thing. Always worth a visit.
From the neighbourhood
Levenshulme Daily Photo We're a very photogenic little suburb, you know. The go-to place for arty shots of express trains speeding past sports centres, kids on scooters dissappearing up alleyways... and rain. Lots and lots of rain.
Love Levenshulme Handcrafted local blog taking admirably positive slant on all things M19. Equally delightful postcards available from libraries, butchers, and candlestickmakers the length and breadth of our part of the A6
Quick newsflash: as some of you may have noticed we have been getting a lot of spam recently, in the form of inane comments on three year old posts (usually, for some reason, the exact same three year old post) purportedly sent by commenters with unlikely names such as 'Britney' or 'Hqwxxxcjuyyt'. I suppose I could just delete the three-year old post being targeted but hell, it's got as much right to its place in the archives as any of the other 152 and why it should be hounded out of existence by such automated abominations I'm sure I don't know. After due consideration then, I have taken the less draconian but admittedly still rather irritating step of clicking the button in the back control room here at Crinklybee Towers that will require you to prove that you are human by, when leaving a comment, copying into a box some letters written in funny squiggly script.
Now as you know we at Crinklybee Towers pride ourselves on the intimate understanding we have of our readers' needs- so we are distinctly aware that this fiddly development may go down poorly with the approximately 43% of you who are habitually moved to comment only while under the influence of strong liquor and who consequently find that the even the normal straight up lettering tends to veer alarmingly towards squiggliness on occasions. We ask that you bear with us during these testing times- hell, it's not as if we don't empathise as there will no doubt be occasions during the coming weeks when, like a drunk fiddling vainly with his front door keys I find my own squiggly-letter test beyond me and am rendered incapable of posting on my own blog and have to sleep outside in its front garden. Testing times indeed, but as I hope you will agree if the new measures protect us against Britney and her ilk then all will have been worthwhile.
That is the end of the Newsflash, we return you now to your scheduled programming.
We have an away fixture this week- over at Ben's The Art Of Noise, which for a few weeks has been running a feature named 'In The Dock'. It's a sort of amalgam between Juke Box Jury, Twelve Angry Men, Room 101 and Vic and Bob's Wheel of Justice (or at least that was how I pitched it to Ben when responding to his call for content ideas a couple of months back) and the idea is that each week a defendant from the world of pop music takes the stand to answer trumped-up charges and face trial by comment box.
The first defendants to step forward were The Beatles (which you might say is a little harsh on Paul what with him having enough legal tribulations to be going on with already), but the fearless International Court Of The Art Of Noise does not limit itself to pursuing musical acts for crimes against good taste; other weekly instalments have seen the likes of the Eurovision Song Contest, the entire genre of R'n'B, and 'Songs With Associated Dance Routines' brought before the kangaroo court for the administration of summary justice.
As it was all my idea and everything, I got to have first go at deciding who to represent. I did briefly flirt with the idea of prosecting Saddam Hussein as that appears to be all the rage nowadays, but after cursory research revealed no evidence that the moustachioed despot's crimes against humanity included the release of any novelty Christmas singles or gatefold-sleeve concept albums, I decided to take the easy option and defend one of my favourite bands- the very charming (and maybe just ever-so-slightly twee) Belle and Sebastian.
At least I thought it was going to be easy. In the end I rather fear my hastily-scribbled-in-a-coffee-bar 750-word submission (Ben is being very strict on this count after an early transgression by an 'A' list blogger who shall remain nameless; a word over the limit and he takes a guillotine to you, which I am led to believe can be painful) has only succeeded in strengthening an already very strong prosecution case (most eloquently put, I am bound to say, by the other Jonathan) and altogether hastening my defendants' journey to the gallows.
All is not lost though- anyone is free to join the jury by leaving their vote in the Art of Noise comment box... and I am sure that all my loyal readers will leap at the chance to come to the aid of the embattled Glaswegian indiepopsters, even those of you who
(a) have not the first idea who Belle and Sebastian may be when they're at home
(b) can quite perfectly well see that the other Jonathan has made a much better case, while my so-called 'argument' keeps getting lost in lengthy transgressions on subjects such as second-hand cardigans, pale blue raincoats with big buttons, and girls with perfect 60s bobs.
No further questions. M'lud. I rest my case (now get yourselves over there, go on)...
I will be back with proper posts soon, I promise. Right now I haven't got time, because I have determined to spend my 9-5 days operating with ruthless workmanlike efficiency, at least the part of them that happens before lunch. As we all know as soon as the clock strikes five past two I will start flapping, jabbering, and cursing uselessly like a caged parrot, and none of us will get anything done at all. So if I'm going to tell you this dead important thing I've got to tell you I'd better do it straight away. Straight away!
Right then, here's the thing. There's going to be a Manchester blogmeet this weekend. It's starting on Saturday afternoon with tea and cakes (interesting post-modern Danish cakes) at the shiny new Kro Bar in Piccaddilly Gardens, and ending up in a back street boozer behind the train station called Mother Macs which has the rare distinction of being a pub in Manchester that I have never been to (largely because I've never been able to find it, but don't let that put you off. Yesterday lunchtime I had trouble finding WH Smiths until I realised I was mistaking the Arndale Centre for Eldon Square and was imagining I was back home in Newcastle- I was convinced I had to cut through Fenwicks and take a left at Greys Monument, and only remembered what city I was in when I noticed there were no seagulls or men in tattered red jackets shouting 'Chronicle', and the place didn't smell of the sea and Greggs cheese and onion pasties). Anyway if that all sounds too hectic for you then the blog weekend continues into Sunday (we don't do things by halves up here you know), when there will be a very slow meandering walk around the lake in Platt Fields Park (it's in Rusholme, over near where City used to play), possibly featuring small children and large ducks. Or was it large children and small ducks? I can't quite remember.
The whole thing is being organised by the brave and sociable Clare Sudbery (see my sidebar down there if you don't know who I'm talking about), and promises to be.... well, I don't know what it promises to be, exactly. I can promise you however that our blogmeet won't be in any way a cliquey affair, because most of us haven't met each other before at all, as far as I know. Hell, I haven't even met Clare and she lives two bus stops down the road. You see- not cliquey at all!
I don't know exactly who is coming- but there is going to be a special guest. Clare is keeping us guessing on that one, but all my bets are for either Curly out of Coronation Street, Pope Benedict XVI or the ex-England manager Don Revie. Oh, and my sister (and regular commenter on these pages) Abby is coming, all the way from New York and as part of her mysterious academic studies.
I know, it's all tremendously exciting and I for one can hardly contain myself. All welcome, bloggers and non-bloggers, from Manchester or wherever, come for the whole lot or just come to feed the ducks. Hope to see some of you there.
Right then. Twenty to two, PM. Time to re-adopt my super-efficient nine-to-five persona/ start slavering onto the desk like a badly-trained wolfhound and scaring my colleagues by emitting a series of low groans while ignoring the insistent chirping of the telephones. Roll on Saturday and those Danish pastries...
'Right then, young man, enough is enough. It's all very well taking an extended Christmas break from all things real-life, but sooner or later you are going to have to wean yourself off a diet made up entirely of sherry and twiglets and face up to your regular responsibilities. I mean there's your work for a start. And do you think those old indiepop singles are going to walk out of the house of their own accord to have their photographs taken against interesting post-modern urban backdrops for the amusement of your literally tens of devoted readers? Well they're not, young man, and it's about time you realised it! Now then, you can take those 'comedy' football socks off, get a pair of trousers on, and get down to business, young man. And while I'm on the subject, you can-'
Oh. Sorry, I was just, er, having a quick word with myself there. No that's quite all right, I was nearly finished. Now then, where were we? Oh yes, Christmas. It seems rather a long time ago now, doesn't it? I mean, I'm not about to do anything foolish like look at a calendar or anything, but judging from the depressingly small amounts of Harvey's Irish Cream (well OK, Tescos Irish Cream), Martini and sherry over there, I would say our once-yearly flirtation with the middle-class idea of having a drinks cabinet, or at least a drinks area of the kitchen work surface just beside the kettle, is all but over, and it must be at least January 15th, and possibly even later. So it really is about time to get back into the swing of things.
But I can't really tell you about Christmas, because it's old news, and anyway we are trying to move on here at Crinklybee Towers and 'hit the ground running' just like Tony Blairs youthful first 1997 cabinet. New Crinklybee, new Britain. We are aiming for a major new policy initiative every week until the clocks go back, and a thorough overhaul of the NHS by June- so we really haven't got time to stand around here reminiscing about all our lovely presents, have we? Well OK, maybe just my favourite one- well, my third favourite, obviously, after the 'comedy' football socks, and, er, the one you got me. So- I will tell you about the Dogme film 'Italian For Beginners', which Charlotte (who is recognised as the world's foremost expert in giving films to me as Christmas presents) got me on DVD.
'Italian For Beginners', then. It's a bit of an uninspiring title, isn't it? I feared we might be in for a plodding and rather middle-class ensemble piece about prim Danish schoolteachers struggling with the subjunctive tense in their spare time- but it turned out to be nothing of the sort. The occasional classroom scenes were just the glue that held together a really rather moving story, set with utter authenticity in a suburban sports complex, about the gradually interlocking relationships that develop between a disparate half-dozen who, for different reasons, end up in the same community college classroom.
The male characters include a one-time local football star with a dangerous temper and an eye for the ladies, his much more mild-mannered, long-suffering and lovelorn best friend and hotel work colleague, and a diffident new parish pastor struggling to come to terms with a bereavement- while the female cast is headed by two fragile characters struggling to balance work life against the demands of ageing, dependent parents given to cruel, rage-filled outbursts. Between them this disparate set of vulnerable souls serve up a story which manages to fit into its 107 minutes two love affairs, three deaths, a tearful family reunion and a running joke about dropped trays of rum truffles.
But this is a Dogme project, remember- so Italian For Beginners never becomes breathless, breakneck and eager-to-please, like, say, Four Weddings And A Funeral. Instead the complex story is carried along by the dialogue, which is consistently inspired. The history, hopes, fears, and secret longings of the characters are conveyed to us subtly, through passages of unhurried, seemingly offhand, but ultimately revealing conversation. The lightness of touch brings to mind the guileless charm of Gregory's Girl and, at times (such as when the new pastor informs his soon-to-be paramour the clumsy baker of the reason for the previous pastor's dismissal: 'there was a disagreement over the accentuation of a hymn, and- well, the organist ended up being thrown over the balcony'), the surreal sensibility of Father Ted. If you like either of those you will love Italian For Beginners. And if you have a weakness for rum truffles and a curiosity to find out how Danish people pronounce the name of the ex-United goalie Peter Schmeichel, then you will love it even more. I am giving it a round four out of five.
Right then. I think I have got the film reviewing out of my system now. Tomorrow, a review of the 'comedy' football socks, and on Thursday a guest post from young Frankie, aged twenty-two-and-a-half months, telling us why a rusty fire engine with lethal-looking sharp metal edges bought as an afterthought for £2.50 down the charity shop on Stockport Road will always beat hands down a tasteful, wooden one designed with safety in mind by a team of trained Scandinavian educationalists and bought from the Early Learning Centre for £15.99. There will also be more of the usual nonsense- quite possibly featuring Housemartins singles pictured at jaunty angles to passing 192 buses- and also, the long-awaited expose they tried to ban- revealing how the ministry of Agriculture, in league with the giant supermarket chains, have been leading us a merry dance all along, and that the cod and the haddock are really exactly the same fish. That's right- I said one and the same fish, my good friends.
All this very soon- and certainly sooner than a month's time- we'll be having none of that kind of laxity in this brave new world of 2006, thank you very much. Oh, it is good to be back all right, even if the Martini supplies are dwindling and the Twiglets are just a distant memory. Oh yes.
Oh I'm still here allright. And I've got all sorts of stories to regale you with as well, including:
A double-header concerning my new-found enthusiasm for following Stockport County the length and breadth of the country (well OK, just the breadth, but very wide, very nearly into the North Sea in fact)
A near-fatal faux-pas at Levenshulme Catholic Club, where I come close to being blackballed by M19 polite society after my badly-parked bike nearly sends a frail old lady flying through the air.
An impassioned debate down at the park swings between me and a young scally Levenshulme dad on the subject of the managerial record of Kevin Keegan (I was firmly on the side of the bubble-permed ex-Newcastle supremo and fully prepared to settle matters with a brawl).
What were meant to be some slim 'track notes' to accompany a compilation indiepop tape I was sending to a mate up North, which turned into a 3000-word story of my halcyon floppy-fringed youth, told to an eclecic soundtrack featuring Tracy Ullman and the Wedding Present in their pomp. This one will run and run, I am going to give you three singles at a time complete with pictures (but not with the actual music, you will have to imagine it and just hum along while reading..)
and last but not least...
A shocking expose on how the global fish-and-chip cartel passes off cod and haddock as two separate entities, when really they are (pauses for dramatic effect) .... one and the same fish!
All this (or at least some of it) to follow- certainly next week! In the meantime thanks for keeping dropping by- if this is your first time here please feel free to avail yourselves of the 'Best of Crinklybee' section somewhere down there on the left (on some of the links you have to scroll right down an apparently blank page to get to the stories themselves due to a technical matter I don't pretend to understand, but they are worth it!) as well, of course, as the fine, and usually frequently-updated fare offered up on the thing there (no not there- there!) called 'some blogs I know'.
Right then, that's all for now- I'm off for a cup of tea and a listen to Radio 5's Sports Report, and the classified football results 'read, as ever, by James Alexander Gordon'. Be back soon though- really!
We are back from deepest Devon with our bucket and spade, as well as half a beach worth of finest Paignton sand which seems to have made the journey back with us and keeps turning up in unexpected places like inside our socks. We will tell you all about our adventures in the English Riviera (they've got Palm Trees and everything, man!) in due course- but in the meantime, how about I send you over to Troubled Diva, where there is a game of Consequences going on. The idea (blatantly nicked from the original, which started here) is that the last sentence of one post forms the first sentence of the next, which will be written by a different person. Here is my first offering (out of a maximum of two during the lifetime of the game which is going on until the end of July). It is about... oh, I see, you've all gone. Come back in a while, y'all. and I'll show you my holiday snaps!
Saturday morning in Manchester, and I am taking a two-minute break from attempting to fit the entire contents of our house into the back of a Fiat Punto to tell you that we're all going on our summer holidays. Hurrah! Right- we're off to Devon with our bucket and spade and will be back the week after next. Now then- back to that packing...
As some of you may have noticed, I have installed a filter on my comments box. It is like the ones that deter spam, but instead what it does is block comments by anyone not called John (or Jonathan, or Johnny, or Jon). As you can see it seems to be working quite well so far: the nett effect is to make my comments box resemble that scene in Goodfellas (I think, or could it have been Donnie Brasco?) where a newcomer to the 'Cosa Nostra' (Robert De Niro, I think, or could it have been Johnny Depp?) is being introduced to the entire New York Italian community at once (who are all gathered together for the purpose in a cavernous downtown restaurant). The De Niro/ Depp fellow is being led across the floor and faces are being pointed out to him. Gradually he realises (although the bloke doing the introducing clearly is oblivious to the fact, which is what makes the scene so funny) that all the men are called Paul (or Paulo, or Pablo) and all the women are called Mary (or Marie, or Maria). It is my favourite scene from the film (whichever film it is), and so I have installed a filter in my comments box in its honour. It is called the ThatSceneInGoodfellasOrWasItDonnyBrascoYouKnowTheOneWhereEveryoneHasThe SameName Comment Filter. If you are not called John (or Johnny, or Jon, or Juan, or Johann) then your comment will have been referred for moderation and will probably appear within 48 hours. Please bear with us during this time. Or consider asking a friend called John to leave the comment for you (there will be one nearby, it is a very common name, you know). Thank you for your patience.
While you are waiting for your comment to appear you may wish to peruse some of the other new developments we have been working through the night here at Crinklybee Towers to delight you with. For instance we now have a state-of-the-art photo album (look! Down there at the bottom, on the left!). I say 'album' but for now it is just really one photo- a view of Oxford Road, Manchester, looking towards the town centre from outside the Royal Northern College of Music. If you look carefully you will see there is a man coming towards you on a bike. Are you that man? If you are then you have just won this week's special prize of £500- congratulations! Please identify yourself via the normal channels and a cheque will be forwarded, subject to the usual conditions.
If you have not won our special prize you can console yourself with a visit to our final, and perhaps most exciting, new development- the 'Best of Crinklybee' feature (right down at the bottom, there, just under the 'photo album'). This is something I have planned to put together for some time as I am just a big show-off at heart- but also I realise that you may be comparatively new to the site and not want to trawl all round the archives to find the best bits. So I have done the job for you- it was excruciating to the point of near-impossibility let me tell you, like having to pick the favourites from among your many children. In the end and after much soul-searching I managed to limit myself to just 10 posts (out of 60 or so altogether so far). Heartbreakingly, The History of Pie Club never quite made it in, but all three 'life stories' did, as well as a very old one about the horrors of gardening, which is included largely for nostalgic purposes. Oh, and as a special treat each post has been accorded a brief summary, which appears in a little yellow box when you hover over it. Go on! I know, we really spoil you here, don't we?
Right then- finished hovering? Not the man on the bike?? Waiting for your comment to appear cos your name is not John or Juan or Giovanni??? Well in that case you have sampled all of our new delights. I will be back soon with more of the usual just as soon as I have time- and have recovered fully from Newcastle United's humiliating European exit last night at the hands of Sporting Lisbon, as well as their upcoming humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United (let's not fool ourselves, we will be lucky to get nil, and should in all probability get Graeme Souness to ring the FA this afternoon with some half-baked excuse for not being able to turn up, like the team coach has broken down, or the players have been attacked by a swarm of hornets. Anything, really to stop us actually having to face Wayne Rooney at the height of his powers).
With which ludicrous proposition I will leave you, for now, to your own splendid Friday afternoon devices. Thank you for reading, and do come back soon, y'all!
I normally leave the reviewing of weblogs to other people, because... well, at first there was really no point, since everyone else clearly had more readers than me, and they probably knew each other already. And then there were other people taking care quite admirably of keeping us abreast of who was writing what- most notably Ben at Silentwords via his regular Blogwatch feature- the feature which championed Crinklybee during those difficult early days when I occasionally wondered if anyone was bothering to happen by at all.
So anyway, I don't normally do the whole 'hey, you should check out this website' thing. But now that I've built up some kind of readership, I feel it's time to return the favour a little bit and send some of you off to a little place I've discovered that I think you might just like. And so, I give you:
Disclaimer first: John of 'eeh our John' is a mate of mine. Since he is a fellow aspiring writer, I broke one of my ridiculous rules and told him one night, after a few drinks, about Crinklybee. Actually I've told a few people this way. Their reactions have been, well, mixed:
'A block? A blog? What's a blog when it's at home?'
'So people leave comments. Oh right, a messageboard! Yeah, I do that as well.'
Or even, one time, which I have never fully worked out:
'Oh! That sounds horrible- perfectly horrible!'
Anyway, John's reaction was none of the above. Instead he sounded genuinely interested and asked all the right questions. And he even remembered the name, found the site on Google over the weekend, and emailed to say how much he had enjoyed reading. The next time we were out drinking together (it was the fateful night of the Manchester City game), he turned to me above the bar-room hubbub to say:
'I've set up me own blog now. I've put a story on about a woman who was walking along the street outside Victoria station laughing at nothing at all'
Since then he's put two more on- another vignette of Manchester life, and, well- one with a bit more to it, about his mam. If you like Crinklybee, I think you will like them. Go and have a look!
Oh, and by the way- I was going to tell you about another one as well (hence the title of this post). Once you've finished with our John, you could go and have a look (if you have not already) at:
Why? Because, like it says on the hover-box (if that is what you call them) down there on my sidebar, 'this one-woman literary non-fiction out of Washington DC, in turns hilarious, heart-rending and hard-hitting, is quite simply some of the best writing I have ever seen on the web'.
John from Bury and Julia from Washington DC. Two people who know how to fucking write. I hereby commend them to you, most heartily.