Sunday, 29 January 2012

Dogging in Newcastle

Excuse the misleading title, just I'm vaguely amused at the additional page hits I'll receive by randy Geordies googling hotspots for sordid public displays of making babies in their cars. I'm actually referring to greyhound racing that takes place four days a week in the East end of Newcastle..

Went for the first time ever last night after the wife received free complimentary tickets through work, and had a blast. A few friends, a few family and myself and the wife went dogging in Byker (I'm sorry, I'll stop it now). Throughly enjoyed the free pie and pies and a few jars, whilst having a few quid on the dog I fancied in each race. Had three winners out of twelve races, the best was the aptly titled 'Mags Gamble', so just came under break even - but made it far more enjoyable even if it was just for peanuts.

Shall certainly look into it again as was a relativity cheap night - entrance, fed and watered, and twelve singles and spent just over £20 - for me and the wife. Great nights entertainment. Shame a few of the lads opted out, but they're heavier gamblers than us lot who went, so will possibly have been worried about loss of wages. Could have had a better end to the evening for the wife too - she fell ill on the way home, and was in the driving seat at the time so covered the dash, herself and me in vom. Meant I had to drive from Gateshead to Durham slightly over the limit, but four pints of watered down Carlsberg (which is pishwasser anyway) led to no driving mishaps - it probably just added to the evenings entertainment.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Suggs - My Life Story in Words and Music

One of my childhood and, indeed, all-time heroes and idols took to the stage last night in Newcastle, doing the difficult job of being front-man of a one-man show. I wasn't sure what to expect, receiving the tickets for Christmas from the wife, and now sat in the stalls pondering if the Nutty Boys singer would cut it going alone. I needn't have worried. Suggs was amazing and lived up to all the hype and buzz in the newspapers. Recounting tales from his unusual adolescence, through teenage rebellion, the highs and lows of living with Madness and tv/radio career - plus searching for his personal history through a deceased bastard father. Suggs delivered the touching anecdotes with at times humility and emotion, and the funny ones (most) with working class cussing and hilarious comic timing that most professional comedians would kill for.

Personal highlights for me included the Madness tale, when dressed in full Police uniforms filming 'Shut Up', kicked the door in of where the Clash were recording in a faux raid. Illegal substances were promptly flushed down the toilet before the punks realised. Another was filling in centre stage for Oasis in Paris - after the headlining Mancs refused Madness to use the main stage before them, forcing them to use a smaller tent the day before, only to split up (the first time) allowing Suggsys boys to play in the Gallagher's place. Cue an excellent impersonation of Liam's Chimp-with-polio swagger and nasal Manc lilt. Madness brought the house down then, as Suggs did last night.

Also there were excellent renditions of his personal classic pop songs, which assisted the story telling and raised it from memoirs to a music hall extravaganza. Dangerman cover of Lola, solo song Cecilia, Baggy Trousers, Madness, Shut Up and the finale It Must Be Love were all sung to rapturous applause. Following the Labi Siffre love song, Suggs left to a standing ovation. Brilliance. Borrow, beg or steal the money to go an see this show. To coin a couple Madness album titles sums it up perfectly - Absolutely and Wonderful.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Feel Good Revolution

Kickers boots have gone hand-in-hand (or should that be feet-in-feet?) with most major youth cults throughout it's 40 odd year history, and the feel good revolution website charts this. The timeline brought to you by the brand itself is well worth a look, particularly the early football casuals of 1977s, acid house era of late 80s and Cool Britannia's 90s Britpop.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Fishermans Friend

I'm not talking about horrible little lumps of aniseedy nastiness but a nice thick Aran jumper. Been a wonderfully mild Dec/Jan so far, indeed January has been very spring like, but nasty weather will be on it's way no doubt so delighted with this recent pickup. Had a M&S voucher burning a hole in my pocket since the end of October and thought I'd have missed any decent swag in sales, but got this smart winter warmer for £19 (from £50). From M&S Heritage collection, which is a modern retake on classic British heritage clobber, which had a good few thick jumpers - I took notice last autumn/winter - but this one stood out for me. Was over the moon it was in my size and cheap to boot. Another successful thrifty purchase.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Navigators

Also known as the Ken Loach film you haven't seen, the 2001 film 'the Navigators' follows a group of track workers as they 'navigate' their way through life after the collapse of British rail in 1995. From the outset a bustling work room full of grizzled Yorkshiremen full of laughter, banter and camaraderie, are told their new company's mission statement - new terms like 'performance-related pay', 'efficiency' and 'unpaid holidays' are mentioned. It's a case of staying on under the new firm were BR agreements with workers and unions are void, take the redundancy cash and begin life as casual agency workers.

The film follows a key handful of these chaps. Loach used lesser known actors, the only 'names' so to speak are Steve Huison (the Full Monty, When Saturday Comes) and Tom Craig (Where the Heart Is - you know the one, he's a Sheff Wed fan in everything he's in), as to keep the authenticity and real life aspect of the film. The lads struggle on at the new firm as one by one their colleagues accept the redundancy package, and before long there is only a couple of them left. Those that stay are appalled by the 'flexible working' and extreme cost cutting at work, the economic problems with family life at home and the changing face of society.

In the end they all take their chance with agency work with varying success. In the end the over the top cost cutting by new railway companies are highlighted, leading to a heart breaking and deeply upsetting scene, that puts the rest of them in a deep moral predicament - do what is right or do what will keep them in work. An appalling situation that shows just how desperate the lads have become.

Hard hitting, sad but full of dry wit, the Navigators is not as important as 'Kes', not as acclaimed as 'Riff-Raff' and not as witty as 'Looking for Eric', but is still a very good piece of British film. Given good reviews, it was given even more kudos later in 2001 when Railtrack was folded by the Labour government, after cost-cutting and shady dealing had led to several high profile accidents, bringing the content in Loach's rail film real topicality, making it a critically acclaimed important piece of film making.