Articles, Features, Reviews and Other Writering

marklemore

Manchester Evening News 

Macklemore gig review, and pretending to be his bother

stewart-lee

Manchester Confidential, http://www.stewartlee.com

Stewart Lee, Much A-Stew About Nothing review

men

Manchester Evening News

Review of De La Soul, Albert Hall, Manchester 

lifeshare

I Love Manchester

Feature on homeless charity Lifeshare 

float

I Love Manchester

Flotation Tank review  

manc-hip-hop

Manchester Evening News

Manchester hip hop feature

dubncnn

DUBCNN

The Game  – Jesus Piece album review 

rosso

I Love Manchester

Rosso restaurant review 

 

derren-bown

I Love Manchester 

Derren Brown Miracle review

jamies

I Love Manchester

Jamie’s Italian restaurant review

hccs

I Love Manchester 

Hip Hop Chip Shop Wars

 

xzibit

DUBCNN

Xzibit – Napalm album review

 

Humble Pie With a 7-1 Defeat

Originally written for and published on http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk in December 2010

Humble pie with 7-1 defeat

One Saturday morning in 2005, Blackburn were playing at Old Trafford and on a hung-over whim, I decided to go to the game on my own and buy a ticket for the United end.

In what I had previously perceived to be one of the harbingers of the Apocalypse, Blackburn won. Being a solitary Blackburn fan amongst all the furious United fans I stayed silent with a smug grin on my face.

Flash forward 5 years and I’m en route to a repeat of this fixture, this time at the hospitality of Manchester United for the VIP Europa Suite experience. In my previous forays into football fan espionage, this would be the furthest behind enemy lines I’d ventured.

I arrived at Directors Entrance where I was to be greeted by a club representative. As the other media guests arrived I was immediately outed as a Blackburn fan having forgotten that I’d admitted it in an email when making arrangements. With my cover blown, I was forced into plan B; adopt the guise of affable fan of the plucky underdogs fully expecting a heavy defeat. Little did they know that I’d secretly put a tenner on a Rovers’ victory that morning.

We were taken through the tunnel for a pitch side tour. As we stood in front of the United dug out, the guide treated us with an encyclopaedic knowledge of every possible fact about the ground, most notably that just below the away stand, United have a selection of cells for any wayward fans to be kept before being taxied to the police station after the match. We were advised that these were very seldom used.

It was then to the Europa Suite, a huge room laden with tables beautifully set out for the pre-match meal. The food itself was very good, four courses interspersed with helpful waitresses seemingly intent on getting me drunk. I shan’t fall foul of your ploy to soften me with drink, I figured, as I sunk my fourth glass of wine.

There was all sorts of entertainment put on with a compere, a pub-style quiz in which we performed abysmally. Just before we took to the stands, Gary Neville arrived, bizarrely through the gents toilets, to pose for photographs for all the adoring fans…. and me. Then it was time to take to our seats, with a great view adjacent to the half way line. A fantastic place to view a smash and grab Blackburn win.

Berbatov loves Blackburn Rovers

berbatov

Ok, bit of a nervy start but I think…GOAL. Berbatov.

Ah. Well not a great start but at least..GOAL. 2-0.

With each of my fellow guests greeting each goal with a wry smile my way, I respectfully applauded whilst my confidence began to wilt away like ice in a kettle.

Well if we just get to half time 2 down then we can….GOAL. 3-0.

The only solace I took was that after each United goal, a secondary cheer from the home fans greeted one Blackburn supporter after another being forcefully ejected by police and taken down to the previously under-used cells. By half time it was 3-3 by my reckoning; 3 goals to them, 3 arrests for us.

Back to the suite for half time drinks where our preferred tipple had been laid out at our tables waiting for us, a lovely touch. In search of alcoholic reprieve, I sank my pint in less time than it took United to score another immediately after we’d retaken our seats. Big Sam obviously gave an epic half time speech.

Goal after goal passed by with my seated ironic applause as Rovers capitulated until the score board taunted me with the 7-0 scoreline. No more arrests either. With 8 minutes remaining, I joked that we could just score one goal per minute to grab an unlikely victory and ALAS, in came a corner as Samba rose to nod in at the near post. My loud jumping celebration would, under normal circumstances, earn me abuse at the very least, but the prawn sandwich brigade merely looked on with pitying smiles.

Back to the Europa Suite I trundled for post match refreshments, which equated to lashings more wine in an attempt to drown my sorrows at the expense of my victorious foes.

Finally, the Man of the Match arrived, again confusingly through the gent’s toilets, as The Count from Sesame Street (Berbatov) posed with fans to celebrate his Premiership record-equalling five goal haul.

My only consoling thought as a Blackburn fan was that at least I’d been well fed and watered as I was thoroughly humiliated. Small mercies maybe, but something to hold onto.

Drivesafe Speed Awareness Course Review

Drivesafe Speed Awareness Course review

Article originally written for and published on http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk

I’m a criminal. A no good criminal. It feels good to get it out there, but the absolution of my sins unfortunately does not end there.

No, like so many of the lawless renegades before me, it was only so long I could continue to flagrantly offend the laws protecting this fine nation before I was brought to swift justice.

The crime?

On occasion, I have been known to sometimes, perhaps, drive a little bit faster than the highway laws would like. Naturally, I would only do this in emergency situations like trying to get to the old warehouse in time to pay off Russian kidnappers for the safe return of my family, or if the football was about to start. I can already sense the palpable disgust causing your eyes to vomit disgraceful tears of rage and, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.

My punishment? The Drivesafe Speed Awareness Course.

It’s hard to defend breaking speeding offences as the reality of causing someone else to suffer from your own selfishness in trying to get somewhere quicker shouldn’t be belittled.

As we arrived, there was a sign directing me and my fellow motor crooks to sit in a canteen to await the course. People sat in relative silence, exchanging bashful smiles and it regressed me back to school to the feeling of being sat outside the head teacher’s office awaiting punishment.

One thing I immediately noticed was that everyone else seemed to be holding copies of the Highway Code and I had nothing but my iPhone…I really should read letters every once in a while.

Not to worry, off to the classroom we went. “Right, welcome to the Drivesafe Course ladies and gentlemen, you’re going to be with us until 9.30 at which point you will have successfully completed the course.” It was 5.20. That’s four long hours ahead then…

The course was run by two chaps, both who admirably attempted to keep boredom from setting in with interactive questions and no doubt much-repeated gags befitting of a compare at the DVLA Christmas party.

We were taken through the process of different quizzes, educational monologues over a Powerpoint (with snazzy laser pointer), stringently dissecting every facet of safe driving and our lack thereof.

The attention to detail was astounding if not interesting. Much of it was common sense, other parts consisted of painstakingly mundane references to the Good Book (The Highway Code, that is), punctuated by little parables and mantras designed to capture attention and increase the likelihood of retention within our withering brains. Probably worked too.

Throughout all, my impulse to provide sarcastic answers bubbled away inside but with the warning that glib participation would result in being kicked off the course, £120 and 3 points in tow, I only cracked a couple of times.

Example:

“Does anyone see any potential dangers in this photograph?”

“Yes that crow looks a bit shifty to me”

“Mark, I’m not going to ask you again.”

“Sorry. Do carry on”

I did start to feel sympathy for both our tutors as we went along. The poor sods having to conduct a four hour lecture to a room of reluctant people about a dreary subject matter. A tough gig.

Nevertheless, I can’t deny that it was a bit of a shock as I realised how feeble my knowledge of basic road principles actually was.

The course itself is actually a good idea, introduced as a buffer of warning to the first time offender to retain a clean licence at the expense of an education in the implications of your indiscretions – the strong olive branch of the law. Seems fair and I’m glad I did it for the points if nothing else.

It’s important, however, to mention that my Grandmother, who I’ll call Mrs X for anonymity purposes, took this course recently due to amusing traffic offences and went on to get a speeding ticket a couple of months after.

Whether or not I’ll slip back into bad habits or give in to a possible innate genetic propensity to be a highway scoundrel will only become apparent through time, Your Honour.

Rating: 10.5/20

Food: 1/5
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 3/5
Success: 2.5/5

Night bus, soap opera on the 192

Article originally written for and published on http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk

night bus

I’ve always felt that the night buses of Manchester offer a fascinating glimpse into the weird and wonderful after-dark inhabitants of the city. Sometimes shameful, sometimes endearing, sometimes hilarious, but most of the times I’ve got on a Manchester night bus, there’s never been a dull journey for the ardent rubbernecking passenger.

After a gig at the Apollo and with the heavens dutifully opening, the approaching 192 back towards Piccadilly Gardens seemed a great opportunity to avoid the rain and rediscover old delight.

Upstairs there was a fairly standard after-gig audience lolling around. Amongst whom was group of drunken girls a couple of rows in front clumsily howling their favourite song of the gig, a group of chaps to the left having a serious debate about the band being much better live. Disappointing there seemed no obvious contenders for a bizarre incident.

So we begin to discuss the gig ourselves, “I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them really, I think…” “RAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLPPPPPHHHHHH’ came a sudden blood curdling bellow from the two lads in front as one of them released a powerful stream of vomit tapering through his emergency (one-second-too-late) hand cover.

In my impish excitement at trying to locate who would be the one to illuminate the journey, half hoping for Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy to come shouting his way up the stairs, I’d failed to notice the couple of lads directly in front. They were about eighteen, fairly scally and I’d foolishly failed to see the telling head-drooping of the one sat by the window.

His last ditch attempt to cover his mouth had, fortunately, sent most of his produce down the back of the seat in front, but a rogue stream had funnelled in between the top of the seat and the handle, down the back of the drunken singing girls. The one directly in front was wearing a little lacy blouse.

“Eeeeeewww, Oh. My. Goooood!”, she squealed as she jumped up, craning round to assess the inevitable damage, her friends jumped up showing transparently false empathy, ‘thank God that was you, not me’, written on each of their faces.

“Bail! Get off the bus!” said the vomiter, frantically nudging his isle-blocking, equally drunk friend. After a couple of seconds of his drunken friend processing the information, they both sprang up and scampered down the isle impressively pressing each STOP button along the way.

Feeling like I’d had my night bus fill for the evening, I kicked back. With my mind adrift, I suddenly snapped back into the room as I became aware of a bizarre argument brewing on the seats directly behind. Jackpot. I’ll call them Carol and Phillip. (I’ve made few changes in the interests of, well, decency).

Heaven is a bus. And hell. Life is a blur.

Carol: I was waiting there for you for like, twenty minutes outside the toilets.

Phillip: It was loud, I thought you said meet outside, I now know you said meet at the toilets. We both have mobiles. We met, its fine, isn’t it?

(Seems reasonable)

Carol: That’s just typical. You don’t give a shit do you? Oh ‘whatever’, ‘wherever’, you don’t care. At all.

Phillip: Look, why are you kicking off for no reason? We met, we’re here, it’s fine.

(Seems reasonable, again).

Carol: You’re just so patronising and I’m sick of it.

Phillip: Patronising? Why? What did I say?

Carol: It’s not what you said, it’s your hand gestures.

Phillip: What? My hand gestures? What are you going on about?

(I was wracking my brain trying to think of any hand gesture which could be construed as so infuriatingly patronising.)

Carol: I’m sick of it. I’d have been Head of Department now if it wasn’t for you patronising me, I’m sick of it!

Phillip: What are you on about? Why aren’t you Head of Department? Oh yea, cos you cocked it up, didn’t you?

Carol: Yea, I fucked it up because…..stop doing that patronising thing with your hands, I hate it, and you’re even doing it now!

(Frantically, I’m trying to turn my head enough to catch a reflection of Philip’s condescending trotters.)

Phillip: I thought you were done with all this, when I took you back again last time. But here we are, you giving me shit again for no reason.

(Took her back again? I’m thinking this isn’t a first-time occurrence. Poor Phillip, but he should have considered his patronising hands more.)

Carol: I’m just sick of you patronising me with your hands.

Phillip: Let just get off the bus before you make a show of us.

Before? Like the chucking-uppie brothers before them they sprung up and shuffled down the aisle, pausing only to shoot a scathing glance back at the giggling passengers helplessly trying not to stare.

In the space of a ten minute trip back into town, there was magnificent drama for the rubbernecker and I felt my point had been well and truly made about the follies of the Manchester night bus. Magnificent. The cheapest, most honest entertainment around.

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