Friday, 15 January 2010

Metric vs. Imperial

Recently a writer calling himself 'Lancashire United' wrote in to my local newspaper, The Oldham Evening Chronicle. I'm going to quote his entire letter (13/1/10), just so you can grasp my motivations to act.


'I read in the Chronicle that the EU has granted The United Kingdom permission to continue to use imperial measurements. The standing joke about Great Britain becoming part of the United States of Europe seems to be getting frighteningly real.

'Well within my lifetime, England was the bulldog of the world, respected around the globe for engineering, manufacturing, and service, but gradually we have become the tail of the dog, being a dumping ground for every other country following Brussels decrees.

'I sincerely hope that the BBC and Granada Television read the item, and realise that we are still English (just about).

'In recent times we have been receiving the weather reports in cms and meters. It is bad enough getting the weather in Celsius, but to hear that there will be a snowfall of 15cms is totally meaningless to most of us, and is yet another piece of enforced metrication.

'I fear for our once great country.



I responded, and my letter (following) was printed 15/1/10.


'Lancashire United's letter (13/1/10) requesting that we all revert back to imperial measurements is typical of the naïve and ignorant views that damage this town. The idea that the rest of the world no longer respects us because we are starting to use the metric system is utterly ridiculous. The whole of Europe uses it because it is simple and uniform. I am 27. In my lifetime I have never been taught imperial measurements. I have a good grasp of the metric system: my education was funded by LU's taxes. It would, however, be helpful if the media industry supplied us with both imperial and metric measurements for temperatures (and weights and lengths). But to say we should abandon 'new' methods because he doesn't like them is unrealistic. Does LU know what year it is?

Matt Tuckey

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Quarterly Summary 4

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

-The Doors, The End

Well. The end of an era. Not only is 2009 in the past- quite a ridiculous year, to say the least- but the entirety of a decade is now behind us. The last few months, to which I'm dedicating this piece, have been typically mixed. Sometimes life has been disheartening, sometimes fantastic, but mostly things have been slightly weird. That's life in the 21st century, I'd say.

In the last Quarterly Summary I mentioned I'd applied to the BBC's Trainee Broadcast Journalist scheme. Suffice to say, they turned me down. They didn't say why. I was one of hundreds who applied, but I still enjoyed the application procedure (even though I had to call them to unlock my online application as something went wrong with the computers, meaning I had to hammer the application out at the last moment, submitting it with 26 minutes left on the deadline. But life is empty without the application of pressure).

Local newspaper The Oldham Advertiser features a full page dedicated to one watering-hole every week, presumably as a publicity-drive for the town's night-life. A while back their photographer found me in Milan, a pretty classy bar close to my home. My picture appeared in the paper, circulation 87,000.

Area 51
For the serious dance music enthusiast in Manchester, Area 51 should be showing up on your radar. Opposite the once-high-class-now-overpopulated Deansgate Locks, a series of terraced bars, the club is home to the best house music night in the city. A few months ago I saw Jason Herd play to the crowds of Area 51. Herd, along with Jon Fitz, Make up dance music producer duo Herd 'n' Fitz. Their big hit was 'I Just Can't Get Enough' in 2005.

I Am Not in Bizarre Magazine
In autumn last year I posed naked for a fledgling Manchester publication called Hive Magazine. I was photographed, with fellow volunteer Sara, a student who'd responded to the same advert. We posed infront of various Manchester landmarks- the Gmex Exhibition Centre, Manchester Central Library, Beetham Tower- the tallest building in the city, The Urbis Museum- an uber-modern exhibition centre featuring works about city life and The Manchester Wheel, a 60-metre- high ferris wheel.

The magazine folded due to lack of advertising, but I still had copies of the pictures on my computer. They've been on Facebook for a while.

A few months ago Sara sent the pictures to a magazine called Bizarre, which- for want of a better description- features the craziest pictures from around the world. The magazine was interested in publishing the photographs, but as they'd been reduced from the original size for Facebook, they had lost their resolution. Bizarre were asking for the originals. Nobody from Hive wanted to claim ownership. Hence, my inevitable surge through the heights of international fame will have to wait...

I'm not sure what it was that made me commit to the five-hour round-trip of Greater Manchester. I had a book to read, and a bus pass. And something had posessed me and convinced me that my life would be better with a pair of nunchucks- the two-sectioned hand weapon from China and Japan, made famous by Bruce Lee. He's holding them on the poster for Enter the Dragon.

I'd seen them a few years ago in sport shop Decathlon in Stockport, which is a major trek due to the shit-ness of Greater Manchester's transport system. But I had a book to read, and nothing pressing to do. I also wanted to see if they stocked any Mixed Martial Arts clothing.

When I arrived I found they stocked no MMA gear but I got the 'chucks, and I've been watching Youtube instructional videos. I'm becoming a dab hand in the Eastern ways, and it's great for upper-body conditioning. And yes, I have twatted myself on the head numerous times during practice.

Yeah, I had a nice time. All went well.

New Year
I brought it in at Manchester's Birdcage. Imagine 2001 Odessy club from Saturday Night Fever stylistically interbred with the 'El Paraíso' club from Carlito's Way and you get a hint of the kind of place it is. Overly metallic, classically 'disco' and slightly camp (but still certifiably straight), the club provides cabaret entertainment to rival the Kit Kat Club (minus the Nazis.) Oh, and it's also heavily populated with fine women. I'm at a loss, however, to explain why I arrived home wearing a black, Zorro-style eye-mask.

To Conclude
I recall these incidents to remind myself of the highs. It's all too easy to dwell and wallow in negativity- the women who have said no, the publications that have turned me down (notice no section on published work?) the fact that, now approaching 28, I still live in my parent's house- a place where logic and reason seem absent- but people need reasons to be positive. Keeping a record of every 'up' seems to help.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Judge Jules and Ratpack at The Warehouse Project

'The Judge Won't Budge.'
- Radio 1 stab

The building is massive. The former Boddingtons brewery, that used to pump out a stench of cooking malt and hops as revellers poured out of the bars and clubs of Manchester, has now been renovated into a club in its own right. The Warehouse Project, capacity 1800, feels like a throwback to what I'd imagine the 'illegal rave' events of the 1990s were like: I wasn't old enough to go. By the time I'd reached 18, bar culture, posing and cold pretentiousness had replaced the sense of togetherness that clubs were renowned for. It isn't just the club that's been renovated: Manchester's clubbing scene has been injected with new life, through this venue.

The woman in the fur bikini rips me off. £5 for a tiny bottle of 'Pure Gold' poppers? Whatever. Why not. It might take off the chill: away from the main stage the club is sparsely populated and freezing. The hall near the DJ booth, however, is rammed with people, a sea of hands pumping in unison through the colourised vapour and the nineties hard core. Above them, projected logos for Radio 1 and Smirnoff Vokda slide across the brickwork. I take a big Pure Gold hit through each nostril and pass the bottle to mates Toby, Kev and Duressa. My head is an aeroplane, and has just taken off. The smell of poppers and vapour hangs in the air. But the ceiling is so high that the usual BO smell found in clubs densley packed with revellers is strangely absent here- even at the turbulent stage-end of the club.

Radio 1 DJ Judge Jules, distinctive in his trademark wraparound sunglasses, appears behind the decks, doused in a red mist. His music set, which includes a remix of LaRoux's In For The Kill, is incredible and it lifts me even higher.

Everyone was searched on entry, but it's obvious that some people have evaded security checks and are wired, sweating profusely and dancing like depraved lunatics. Good for them, I think.

As the music styles edge towards hard house, dipping our enthusiasm, we wander into the Smirnoff Movie Theatre. In this side-room a few spaced-out clubbers, sitting in the rows of benches, are watching a projection of Star Wars.

We pass through into the main room again. 90s Old Skool Rave group Ratpack are performing a live PA: their remix of Liquid's Sweet Harmony. I'm too young to remember them in their prime, but a friend of mine at uni introduced me to them when he downloaded a shitload of music for me. The CD he gave me featured this particular track. It is piano house music at its finest, and the venue lends itself perfectly.

Welsh DJ Mark E G, seemingly the most drug-addled DJ of the night, ups the tempo with a single 15-minute happy hardcore track. He shows his love of the music he plays by throwing his t-shirt on the floor, climbing ontop of the 2-metre speakers, throwing himself off and thrashing around on the floor of the stage, moving in time to the bassline, tongue lolling. His hair, heavily gelled into thick neat spikes, remains immaculate.

A few hours later, the Smirnoff movie theatre has replaced Star Wars with what I figure to be the Bill Murray movie, Lost in Translation.

In a separate hall, away from the echoing music, the lights are harsh and one side of the perimiter is lined with around thirty portable toilets. There's a constant, sporadic slamming of doors as people walk in and out of the cubicles, the sounds deflecting off the high stone walls.

On arriving home I take off the semi-transparent red Smirnoff golf visor that some randomer gave me and try to sleep. It's broad daylight.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Knife Job

The Knife Job


Two lads, both 17 years old, wearing tracksuit pants and hoodies, sit in a corridor with their backs to a large window overlooking the college grounds. In a few moments, one of these may be a killer- an ASSAILANT. The other is already the INSTIGATOR.

I saw him ride off on it. There was a car boot sale last week as well… I only found out yesterday. There’s no way he didn’t sell it. I mean, it’s just a bike, but still…

If people find out that you knew it was him and you just let him off, they’re going to think you’re a mug. And how are you going to push to all those people without a bike? You’re not old enough to drive. You gonna get on the bus with all that weed?

They could come to mine.

And have queues of druggies outside your door? Will your mum like that?

The Dibble will. That’s why he took it. He wants all my… my customers. And if I can’t push weed I’ll have no money… McD’s doesn’t hire people like me. There is NOTHING out there.

You've had benefits before. They give you coin for college, yeah? And you shouldn't be paying your mum keep til you're eighteen. You want to sort that shit out.

My bird will fuck me off if I’m not dealing.

Ahh. I feel you know. Well. Don't be taken for a chump.

I won't. I’m gonna have to shank him, but I don’t know how to get away with it.

I do.

Instigator hands Assailant a knife.

It’ll have to be a knife job. It’s totally safe. For you, I mean.

What about cameras?

There are none. Four computers got taxed from the media block last week; I don’t know nothing about that though.

Me neither.

That's why they’re installing a shitload of CCTV next week. It’ll be all over the campus. So he's got to go now.

Okay. How are we gonna do this?

Go in through- hang on, have you not been here before?

Assailant shakes his head.

I always push at the back gate. I never meet people inside.

The guy lunches in the canteen. Wears a man bag. Bleached blond hair. Can’t miss him.

Over Instigator’s instructions, Assailant’s soon-to-be actions are played out. Note: The visuals have no sound other than Instigator’s voice.

Assailant walks through the yard, looking around at the campus buildings.


Note: This scene should ideally be shot in a full canteen where the customers are unaware of any filming occurring. This should result in a realistic 'shocked' response from the other diners. Perhaps long-shots or wide-shots from a static high angle might give a CCTV feel.

A LAD stands up from his table. He has bleached blond hair and a man bag. He walks off.

Unsuspecting, another lad walks from the serving counter and takes his place. He sits down with a tray of food. He also has bleach-blond hair but is taller and older and looks nothing like the first lad. OLDER LAD doesn’t carry a bag of any kind.

Assailant steps into the lunch area wearing the same clothes, including a scarf wrapped around the lower part of his face. He looks suspicious, dangerous, but nobody will make eye contact with him.

He’ll be eating in the middle table. He’s a boring bastard, as well as a fucking thief, so he sits in the same place every day eating the same scran.

Older Lad sits exactly where Man Bag Lad was sitting. Man Bag Lad walks out of the canteen.

Assailant strides up to Older Lad, drawing the knife from the hoody pocket. Assailant stabs Older Lad in the chest and neck several times in quick succession. Older Lad spits food and blood over the table and food tray.

Diners- not actors- will hopefully react in horror.

Hold on to the shank, whatever you do. I’ll sort that out.

Assailant panics, dropping the blood-soaked knife. He looks at the diners nervously, then walks briskly off-frame.

Cut to a wall sign: ‘Courtyard Theatre’.

Go right past the Courtyard Theatre.

Confused, Assailant strides hurriedly left past the sign.

You should see a building with a big J on the front of it.

Assailant is plastered in his victim’s blood. A RECEPTIONIST glances at him, shocked. She says nothing. Assailant looks around, nervously. He avoids eye contact with the woman. He realises he’s gone wrong somewhere.

A whip-pan shows the automatic doors, a careers guidance room, a library, the reception area and the corridor back to the canteen.

Get past that and you’re home safe, man.

A SECURITY GUARD runs at Assailant- from the canteen to the end of the corridor, to the camera. When only his face fills the screen (just before the guard is able to arrest him), we CUT TO BLACK.

What could go wrong?


Friday, 8 January 2010

A Glimpse of Huddersfield

‘Exterminate all rational thought. That is the conclusion I have come to.’
-Bill Lee (Peter Weller), Naked Lunch

Oh God, here we go again. I’m not doing myself any favours, but fuck it. This shit has to be documented.

Only the nicest of taxi drivers allows you to hoover up coke in his van while he canes it through twenty miles of rural Britain. Destination: Huddersfield, population 146, 234. Mission: to get absolutely twisted for Hicks’ birthday.

Hudson held open the tiny bag with a forefinger and thumb and scooped up a bump of powder with the nail file of a Swiss Army Knife. A pothole in the road sent the coke back into the bag.

'Oh... Cobra! Nearly lost it then, pal!'

Hudson uses this taxi service so much he knows all the drivers by codename.

'That driving's venomous, Cobra,' Hicks shouted. 'Venomous!'

Hudson scooped a lump of coke onto the metal again. I closed one nostril, sucking the powder straight into my head as it mixed with the early naughties dance music and mucus.

The minor paranoia of drug ingestion was magnified last night- I’ve been having slight headaches since I blacked out practicing ‘triangle chokes’ at the gym a few nights ago. The triangle is not even a choke- it’s a sleeper, meaning it cuts off blood to the brain.

My training partner wasn’t quite putting it on right. The setup was good- he was on his back; I was kneeling between his legs. One leg was over my shoulder, the other under my armpit. He hooked one ankle behind his opposite knee, completing the triangle shape, and then pushed my arm out straight across my neck. This cuts off the blood to the head, finishing the submission. My arm was still in front of my chin though, stopping the submission from coming on. The guy is a big lad, so he was squeezing pretty hard because I wasn’t tapping to it. Then when he moved his hips slightly to the side and my arm slipped down onto my neck it came on with a vengeance. My head felt like it was going to explode. My vision turned to static. I had electricity pylons buzzing loud in my ears. Later, my training partner told me I looked at him ‘like I was really scared of him.’

He let go fast and I stood up. My knees gave way and I staggered to the side, slumping on the edge of the boxing ring. The noise- loud and unnerving- started to fade and colour started to pour back into the world again.

‘Oh,’ I mumbled, mostly to myself, ‘I didn’t like that.’

My trainer said it happens every now and then and that it’s nothing to worry about. I hope he’s right...

We were wired in Huddersfield, surrounded by students. It was apparent quickly that the men outnumber the women- there was so much sausage in the first few bars that I started to think I was walking around a German market. I was caning Jack Daniels and talking to these two guys from our group.

‘Well, if you’ve already got Chlamydia and you go and get AIDS as well, you really are fucked,’ said one.

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘That would only, uh...’ I stared at the floor, trying to keep shit together and praying I don’t pass out or anything dumb. ‘...Exaberbate the situation.'

They laughed.

‘I’ve gotta write this shit down,’ I said. None of us noticed I'd mispronounced Exacerbate. Particularly not me.

Later on, as more chunks of coke found their way down my throat, I for some reason described the feeling as being ‘like a lump of jizz on a leather handbag.’ I’m not too sure what I was thinking, in retrospect.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Twisted Scene in Lime Bar

‘Every dog has his day- but the nights are reserved for cats.’

2007. Just off Manchester’s King St, surrounded by uber-expensive clothes shops that a lessening number of people can afford, sits Lime Bar- a trendy, urbanite watering hole for yuppie bankers and whoever else finds themselves straying from the beaten tracks of Deansgate or Peter St.

It was the first time I’d seen Tom since he left to start his Naval career in Plymouth. He’d been texting me with details of his training- a camping expedition in Wales, a promotion within the first couple of weeks and a jump out of a Sea King helicopter for a rescue drill. I was tempted to apply myself.

After intense training, Tom told me, he was given some basic survival equipment and dumped somewhere in the 368 square miles of Dartmoor- the most barren part of Devon. He put his training to the test, gathering whatever he could find and assembling a bivouac.

Night fell. It was freezing under the expanse of stars, the makeshift wood shelter proving a stark contrast to the concrete Naval barracks. Despite the celestial glow, the land of Dartmoor was an impalpable expanse. Below the horizon line, there was nothing but black. He was truly alone.

Or at least it seemed.

A mere 50 metres away, two white dots, glowing in the blackness, traversed the land with a slight bounce, a rhythm. Something was looking Tom right in the eye.

Dartmoor is famous for its big cat sightings. In the late 90s the papers were awash with stories of livestock having their throats ripped out, blood-curdling roars being heard in the night, and oversized paw prints being found in muddy land.

‘The BBCS report reveals that 2,123 sightings of big cats were reported between April 2004 and July 2005.’- British Big Cats Society ( also sheds light:

'I have seen ponies and sheep with their throats torn out down by Dendles Wood... It is thought that the introduction of the 1976 Dangerous Animals Act was a contributing factor in the appearance of the big cats. The act required any owner of such an animal to obtain a license from the local authorities and ensure it was kept in secure conditions. Some owners did not or could not obtain the licenses and so simply released the animals in the wild. It is not known whether any of them actually bred or how many survived in their new environments but sightings regularly occur.'

Tom is not the kind of guy to get scared. I’ve never seen him that way. But when he described being in such close proximity to a lethal animal, he admitted to me- ‘I shit it, mate.’

The cat didn’t stop. It just disappeared into the dark as quickly as it had emerged.

I don’t blame Tom for freezing in fear at the sight of one of Britain's most lethal animals, roaming the same wildernass as him unrestrained. Even I needed a piss after a story like that.

The urinals of the bar, on the lower ground floor, are true to theme- Lime coloured, backlit and glowing. Water cascades down them like some kind of neo-waterfall themed convenience, a testament to adept modern hygiene.

The stairwell leading to this was in a similar state of cleanliness when I descended it. But on emerging from the gents I found that someone had violently vomited all over the corridor walls and floor, as if they’d performed some kind of bizarre pirouette puke. At the top of the stairs I found the culprit looking pale and sheepish.

His throat was still intact.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

I was Sir Jimmy Saville's Archivist

Now then, now then. It is summer 2006. I’ve managed to land one of the few jobs there are in the city at Baker Tilly, a Manchester accountancy firm.

The office lights are scorching my head- the rolling filing cabinets, containing thousands of documents, are on a raised area making the ceiling closer. The supposed simplicity of a filing job seems beyond my capability as various sheets don’t seem to have homes, but there are a few factors lightening my day.

Firstly, my manager is fit: long, dark hair, possibly younger than me in her early twenties, slim, a bastion of the pencil skirt and with a posh South-England accent to boot. Unfortunately she has a Deborah-Meaden-style coldness in her persona. Small-talk is out of the question- more so since she bollocked me for turning up half an hour late on two consecutive days.


The second day-brightening factor: the filing I am doing is for childhood dream-maker and Britain’s most respected chav, Sir Jimmy Savile.

Unfortunately, these are not the archived letters sent in to the hit show, Jim’ll Fix It. The correspondence relates to the slightly-less-interesting charity work with Mandeville Stoke Hospital, but it's a much more worthy cause than the former.

‘Dear Sir Jimmy,’ the letter starts out, before the detailed analysis of figures. He’ll understand it all, alright. The MENSA member Savile has an alleged IQ of 150, or so I’ve heard.

I note down the address for his Leeds home, just in case the show is revived. What would I ask for? I wonder. ‘A decent woman’ springs to mind.

I clip the sheet into the file.

Or a decent job.