Monday, 30 November 2015

Prospective Mondays

On Wednesday the Socially Awkward group are visiting Barking Tales, a night of comedy with a mental health theme held at Zombie Shack on New Wakefield St. If that sounds controversial, it probably is- but rest assured, the comedians themselves all have- or have experience of- mental health issues. The organiser describes the environment as “a very small step in helping to reduce the stigma that still surrounds mental health and shows that there is funny to be had in such topics.”

I'd be really interested in reading about this. Fancy attending the event and getting involved? Drop me an email.

Saturday: Olympic Gold medalist and Tour De France champion Sir Bradley Wiggins will be dropping into Waterstones Deansgate to sign copies of his new book My Hour. Signing starts at 12pm. Might be a good idea to get there early.

By all means email if you want your event here for free.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

In chronological order, here are this week's happenings:

Monday: house music producers The Freemasons favourited my tweet, which was actually about the fraternal organisation of the same name. I must see them DJ one day.

Tuesday night's #bloghour trending topic is a weekly online discussion organised by the UK Blog Awards. Each week the awards team asks a series of questions relating to the art of blogging, and whoever chooses to join in with the hashtag can contribute suggestions and answers. It's a great way of garnering advice and digitally “meeting” other bloggers. At the end of each Bloghour, the awards team will ask for suggestions for questions to be asked the following week. On Tuesday just gone, my question was included in the discussion.

If you follow the link and see the tweet on Twitter, below it you'll see some of the answers and suggestions. People find their stories in a multitude of ways: talking to knowledgeable friends, working with talented creatives around the world, checking other websites like Pinterest Instagram, Bloglovin, Klout and Stumbleupon, personal experience, requests, and a general sense of intuition: keeping your eyes peeled, one tweeter suggested, will allow the stories will come to you.

Once my question was put out to the trending topic my notifications went wild. It was a lot of info to digest but the feedback has been brilliant and there's loads for me to mull over and digest. If you're into blogging, tune in to #bloghour on Twitter, 9pm GMT on Tuesdays.

Anyone remember season 15 of Celebrity Big Brother? The one before last? Remember Cami Li, the Puerto Rican model finishing in in 8th place? She favourited my tweet (which was actually her tweet) about Lady Colin Campbell, who is currently in the Australian jungle starring in I'm a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here.

Thursday: Manchester readers will be familiar with local radio station Key 103. Each morning they play the Top 10 at 10, from a mystery year. That day the year was 2003, when I was working in Brannigans, so I texted in and told them. They read it out! Woop woop. It's the small things.

Friday night: I met with Manchester Social Group for their monthly Meetup. Slug and Lettuce on Albert Square was apparently- and unsurprisingly- heaving, as it was right next to the Christmas Markets. (I was on my way in when the group decided this.) For the last few years these stalls have been so busy that they aren't even fun to visit any more. So we switched to the Deansgate branch, which reopened last weekend after a refurb. It's smart and tidy inside but the music was too loud for a bar of its type- it's more of a catch-up-with-your-mates place than a showoff place, or we all felt it should be. I still like it though. A good meetup too; a good chance to meet other members of the group and bandy about a few ideas for upcoming events.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Prospective Mondays

Celebrities, fights, booze: no, it's not a jungle-based reality TV show, it's what's happening right here in Manchester this week.

If you're new to Young Professionals in Manchester, or you haven't even heard of them til now, well, you're just in time. Tomorrow night is a night for newbies at Bluu in the Northern Quarter. A few relaxed drinks and conversation awaits. It's already very popular.

Wednesday sees speed dating for thirty-somethings in Tiger Tiger. Check out this Manchester group for more info.

Celebrity chef and Celebrity Juice contestant Gino D'Acampo also has a new book out. He'll be signing in WH Smith Selfridges (no, I didn't know one was inside the other either) in The Intu Trafford Centre from 1pm on Thursday.

Great British Bake-off presenter Sue Perkins is signing her book Spectacles: a Memoir on Friday. Get down to WHSmith in the Arndale at 12:30pm to meet her. Also, if you fancy writing it up and guest-posting here, get in touch.

Join me Friday night for Manchester Social Group's monthly meetup. We're gonna be at Albert Square's Slug and Lettuce from 7:30. It's a chance to meet the members in a smart but relaxed environment that's to the tastes off the majority.

Saturday night: join Manchester Creatives on their trip to bohemian Bavarian beer house Albert's Schloss. It's a great bar and not what you'd expect. A bizarre mix of Alpine drinking hut, 19th-century church and 70s-era disco hall, Albert's is a unique and weirdly wonderful venue.

Also on Saturday night is heavyweight boxing bout Wladimir Klitschko Vs Tyson Fury. Prediction: Fury will not last more than 5 rounds. He's all bravado and his displays of confidence are there to convince mostly himself. Also, I know it's not a beauty contest but compare the physiques of the two fighters. That matters. Fury isn't even in fighting shape and never has been. I put up this event but it hasn't been announced yet. Anyone fancy it? Where's a good place to watch it?

Tweet me for your event to appear here.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Green = Don't Go

Last night I went out to watch local boxer Anthony Crolla make a second attempt to become the WBA lightweight champion. I'd set up this meetup and asked people for advice on which venue from which to see the fight. I got one RSVP who suggested The Green, a sports bar in the Northern Quarter with simulated golf range and large screens for watching sports. I phoned them to check they were showing it and got the affirmative. Okay.

I headed into town early but the traffic around Ancoats and the Northern Quarter was absolutely horrific. The chances of turning right to get down to the CIS building were minimal. Absolute gridlock. The Crolla fight took place in the Manchester Arena, so it's possible that the traffic was related to that.

I should really have got out earlier to watch the under-card fights from the start. I got in half way into the first of the two before the main fight: couple of wars between two tough fighters respectively. The first of these fights had no commentary, just the video feed with The Green's own trance soundtrack. I found my meetup member: a cool guy and a boxing fan. The atmosphere in The Green was a little grating, though: there was a lot of Burberry checks, gold medallions and the odd baseball cap. Not many people were into the boxing, and my instincts were telling me there might be a bit of trouble.

Eventually the Crolla Perez fight began, with both fighters showing class and resilience. The bar started to empty out. Last orders were called not long after the fight began, which seemed a bit weird. I thought, they're not really going to:

Yes, the manager came out and turned off the TV in the fourth fucking round. Not long after this there was a little argument between a few young customers and the door staff.

We left The Green and had a wonder down through Piccadilly Gardens towards Deansgate. By the time we got to Sawyers, Crolla had already won in the 5th with a heavy bodyshot.

Well. I'm writing this to encourage you to boycott The Green. I had phoned them prior to the night to check they were showing the fight and they confirmed they were. I dunno, I thought it was self-explanatory that I meant “are you showing the whole fight?”

I saw some boxing in Norwegian Blue in the Printworks some time ago, but that's not much less chavvier and they haven't tweeted about last night's fights. Where's good to watch boxing in Manchester?

The full fight:

Thursday, 19 November 2015

#tbt German Beermats from the Early 90s

I visited Germany in 1994 for a family holiday, and also to practice the language which I'd done pretty well in during my first year of school. A conversation with my parents brought back a few memories from being 12 years old. We settled the caravan in Nideggen, at the edge of the Eifel National Park, and got a warm welcome from the Dutch man who ran the campsite. He was fond of British. My mum, dad and sister and I got into some rock climbing out near the Ruhr river, which was the same river hit by Allied forces in World War II, and one of rivers featured in The Dam Busters movie. On a trip into town we came across a meeting for owners of TRs, with a number of the vintage sports cars lining the car parks.

It was the first time we saw people paying for plastic bags in shops, or people taking their own (something most British supermarkets have introduced in the last few months).

Most of our pictures are on slides, so there isn't a great deal to show. But while out there I picked up a couple of beer mats from a pub or cafe, which I've just dug out of my parents' loft. Are there any vintage beer mat specialists out there? I prepared these for an art project a few months later.

'The art of beer! These are some beer mats I collected from Germany (Summer 1994). It's not exactly art but it's German, and I collect beer mats. They are quite special to me. There is some art on the back of “REISSDORF KOLSCH” beermats.'

Monday, 16 November 2015

Prospective Mondays

A cheesy week awaits, in more ways than one.

Free cheese in Didsbury tomorrow night. Sounds weird, but hey, I didn't set up this meetup. If cheese is your thing, and South Manchester isn't too much of a trek, take a look. A word of warning- Traffic around that end is not the only thing likely to be congested.

Any Michelle Visage fans in the house? The star of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Celebrity Big Brother is signing her new book The Diva Rules in Manchester Waterstones on Deansgate.

On Thursday the After Works Drinks gang are out on Salford Quays. Hugely popular group. Be part of it!

I have a dare for you this Friday: try speed dating. If you're not going to stay with your partner 'til you die, then this is something you should experience before you do. You have 2 rows of seats- one with men, one with women. You get a minute or so with each competitor in order to “sell yourself” to a potential partner. After each move, you mark a “yes” or a “no” box next to each person's name or your personal sheet. The sheets are collected at the end of the dates and the organisers with send you details of your matches. Simple! Try it out with Boy Meets Girl Speed Dating.

This weekend sees the opening of winter attraction The Curling Lanes, the country's only outdoor curling venue. Try it out on The Lawns in Spinningfields!

Any Danny Dyer fans in the house? He's signing his new book, Life Lessons from the East End, in WHSmith Arndale Saturday 1pm.

More boxing this week! Anthony Crolla has another title shot against Darleys Perez on Saturday. If you fancy watching it with me and a group, check out this meetup. We need a location!

Any creative writers out there? Try out Writers Connect on Sunday afternoon. It's a great opportunity to receive helpful feedback on stories and poems. I'll be there seeking feedback on a script synopsis. I want to know what you think!

Tweet me if you have more!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

No Selfies Please: Trevor Nelson in The Milton Club

"I might play some fucked up shit tonight, seriously,” says Radio 1's Trevor Nelson. “I might play Kool and the Gang or something, I dunno.” Well, I don't think he did bust out any “Get Down On It” or “Joanna”, but the Radio 1 hip hop DJ did dish up some underplayed classics, including SoulIISoul's Fair Play and many others.

Last night was Mr Nelson's third appearance in The Milton Club for their monthly Soul Purpose event, which has featured an ever-expanding list of high-profile DJ and singers. He didn't come on until quite late, letting resident Justin Fry take command for the first few hours. The night got busier later on than usual, with a lot of women filling the club. Mr Nelson eventually busted out a few rarities from the 90s hip hop scene, setting a great mood. He didn't seem to pay much attention to the customers, though, and my attempts to get a picture with him were mostly in vain due to the impenetrable crowd near the DJ booth.

That said, there was a great atmos. I've been a Milton Club member for a year now and it's a place where I can always see friendly faces.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

#tbt Amiga games

Christmas 1992: I got an Amiga 500+, an underrated and great computer with some superb games. As the years went by my collection grew, and although Commodore got a bad rap, the Amiga provided hours of entertainment.

Among my favourites were Putty (this guy has given a stern review- it's better than he makes it sound)

Also a favourite: the addictive Rainbow Islands.

I wasn't all for brightly coloured platform scrollers: Road Rash was bloodthirsty fun.

1996: as GCSEs began, the available time I had to play them shrank, and my interest in films grew and grew. Added to that, a lot of Saga and Nintendo fans treated the Amiga as a laughing stock, and it didn't deserve such treatment.

This week my parents cleared out their loft, and I rescued a load of these games from a big black bag up there. I'm tempted to shell out on an Amiga on Ebay, but the prices are almost as steep as a brand new one would have cost back in the day. So I'm looking at the possibility of finding the hardware and software to play old Amiga games on the PC. Has anyone had any success with this?

Did you have one? Were you a rebel and shunned the Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo? What was your favourite Amiga game? Are there any resources for playing games like this?

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Prospective Tuesdays

A few treats this week.

If you haven't seen Matt Damon SF movie The Martian yet, Manchester Social Nights are watching it tonight. £6 is cheaper than most cinema tickets these days.

If you fancy learning the Latin step of Bachata, keep this Thursday free. The Manchester International Party People have reserved the whole of Element 19 club for lessons. And speaking of “free”, so is the event.

Friday: join me and Manchester Social Group at The Milton Club for Soul Purpose, where Radio 1 DJ Trevor Nelson will be playing. I've been to a couple of Soul Purpose nights before and they were superb. You'll need a ticket. We'll be starting in Deansgate's Slug and Lettuce pub, which has recently been refurbished. In fact, Friday is the venue's reopening party. Come take a look!

On Saturday Manchester's Christmas Markets officially reopen. It's always a good shout if you want trinkets, pork burgers with stuffing and Gluwein. Find them at these places and probably any other small section of side street the city council has managed to cordon off. They will be RAMMED, so be prepared to use your elbows and shoulders.

Tweet me if you've got more!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Why you should get drunk with your debit card

A few Long Island Ice Teas in Sakana kick-started a Saturday night on Peter St. Small and classy, the Japanese restaurant's bar makes a good starting place. We moved on to the recently opened Albert's Schloss, under Albert Hall and in the unit that once housed Brannigans. The d├ęcor of the club has been scraped back to the bare brickwork and the disco balls and lights give it a blend of 70s dance club and German-styled beer hall. Unique and with size and presence, (and Arabian-style performance dancers) it's a great starting place. The only problems I had were the 20-minute queues at the bar and the smelly cross dresser. Seriously, what the hell. Anyway. Oh yeah, and there's a bookable seated area that isn't properly cordoned off, and we strayed into it at one point in the night resulting in evil looks and a few stern words from the customers. The security should have been tighter.

Playing that night were The Turbans.

We then moved next door to Club Liv, the local celeb haunt. Great club. I didn't recognise any famous types but my mate pointed out footballer Tom Cleverley, who I'm assuming was the recipient of the giant wooden crucifix that the bar staff were carrying flat across the club. The frame's design held 10 bottles of Dom Perignon in circular holes cut into the wood paneling, each bottle adorned with a club sparkler.

I was not big-balling to that extent, being on a BSO's wage, so I was buying £5 shots of Wild Turkey instead. This isn't too bad a price, considering I payed £4 for a shooter and £12 for a shot of obscure whisky in Sakana a while back.

Re the title of this blog post: most clubs now allow you to pay on card. This means that you don't have to walk around with a huge wad of cash in your trousers / purse (you may need some on the door, I don't know. It depends on the establishment). It also means that you'll get home with a series of receipts detailing exactly where you've been and how much money you've spent. Just don't throw them away and you'll piece together every part of your night. Having said that, even if you do your bank statements will hold testament. If all you do is draw out cash, that's the only record you have. Everybody's memory gets a bit hazy after a few scoops, but if you've got memory difficulties like I have it's much easier to just log onto internet banking the next day and see where your money went. It also stops you from spending your taxi money (unless you're using Uber, which is contactless payment anyway). The only reason you'd need cash is perhaps for the entry fee, or food after leaving the club. Or if, say, you drunkenly spill someone else's drink and you want to give them the money for another.

It's perhaps not so good if you're the type who needs a limit on how much they spend.

LIV's Facebook pics from the night are here

The Facebook Snapchat video of the night is here.

I went with someone I met in the Party People group, showing the Meetup site works and allows you to meet the right people for you.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Is Sheffield Always this Scary, or Just on Halloween?

You know I love you, Sheffield people. But seriously, how cheesy? And what's with the vast number of couples?

Anyway, I had a top impromptu Halloween night out last weekend in the Yorkshire town. For my first night out there, this is what I went dressed as.

We went to a few bars, went on to Popworld (very cheesy) and ended in Dempseys (very gay) til about 5am. (It was the only place open.)

This guy was loving playing the chained-up zombie from 28 Days Later, flailing himself about in the middle of the street. Kudos.

Sheffield: a funny, fun night out. Not to be taken seriously. It's not Spinningfields. There's no house or RnB. But in all fairness I didn't see it kick off, and you're hardly going to be charged £12 for a scotch you've never heard of.



Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Down and Out in Paris and London

I picked up this George Orwell classic in Fopp in Manchester. It's a fascinating account of people in the early 1900s, struggling to get by on waiter's wages and slipping into utter poverty and destitution. You think you're poor? You are not poor.

It's surprisingly entertaining and not as depressing as you'd expect. The narrator tramps his way through the two cities, battling the cold, hunger, tiredness and the vicious attitudes of short-term employers. It's a fairly directionless story, really, (aside from a distinct downward spiral), but is suitably short and very interesting.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A Sad Time for Urban Cookie Collective Fans

Urban Cookie Collective and fellow Mancunian Diane Charlemagne lost a battle with cancer last Thursday. She was 51.

Ms Charlemagne was probably best known for The Key The Secret, which peaked at number 2 in the charts in 1993.

I was in first year in secondary school when the song came out, and it always reminds me of school discos- in particular my first one in secondary school, where someone- presumably a teacher- dressed up as a snowman and began busting moves on stage to said song. The outfit looked like some kind of dress, and all the kids in the front row were drying to reach up onto the stage to lift it up. Weird.

I personally preferred Feels Like Heaven, an underplayed 90s classic.

I remember hearing it on what was Kiss 102 in around 1994, back when dance music wasn't as popular as it is now. Urban Cookie collective were still very well-loved among teens despite this.

Ms Charlemagne will be missed.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Prospective Mondays

Now you've wiped off the fake blood and makeup from Saturday night and put the Patrick Bateman / Netflix and chill / nurse / mutilated cheerleader outfit away, what can you look forward to this week? What's happening that's a little less dead / slutty / ridiculous looking?

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is under way. If you fancy writing a 50,000 word novel, now is the best time: So are thousands of other people. The site will give you all the support you need. I'm working on redrafting a screenplay this month, which is a fair bit shorter, but needs plenty of redrafting. I'd start now though, if I were you!

If you fancy getting a close-up look at some of the puppets from TV show The Clangers and Sci-Fi comedy Mars Attacks!, then get yourself down to The Waterside Arts Centre in Sale. Puppet Masters runs until 27th February. Great for the young'uns, especially the millions of Bob the Builder fans out there.

Tonight, Young Professionals in Manchester are off into town to watch Tim Burton classic horror comedy Beetlejuice.

Guillem Balage, author of the new Christiano Ronaldo biography, is signing copies in Waterstones Deansgate midday Thursday.

I'll be in celebrity hotspot Club LIV this Saturday. Great music, stunning clientele. Worth a look.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

November is NaNoWriMo.

The month of November in the States is National Novel Writing Month. As the site describes, “On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”

I've noticed this event mentioned on Twitter over the years, but I've never given it a shot. Writing a novel isn't something that I've particularly wanted to do: I've wanted to write short non fiction, short fiction and screenplays. When I think of ideas for stories that I've had over the years, most of them have been short stories, poems or short screenplays. In my teen days I came up with a few ideas for feature-length scripts. Some were dreadful. Some weren't too bad.

  1. An insomniac bank manager's gifted, straight-arrow assistant exploits her employer's weaknesses to rob the establishment.
  2. A con man rips off a logal gangster and has to fend for himself, and as the turf war escalates we see how, through each of the characters, the seven deadly sins are alive and well in contemporary society.

The rest were abysmal. As I got older, some of the ideas I had were sharper and more defined, and I eventually got around to writing them. One short script was published on a fiction website some years ago.

There's a story I devised in 2004 about a graduate who, after becoming increasingly disillusioned with the British job market, finds himself inducted into a world of terrorism, illegal immigration and shady backroom politics. I called it Once Upon a Time in Great Britain. I finished it some time in 2006, but kept tweaking it for years after. I printed a copy of the script some time in 2010, and then my Macintosh G4 died a slow agonising death and a lot of my files- that manuscript included- vanished.

I've still got the printed version, though- it's clunky and is hampered by “writer voice”- all the characters sound like angsty, 20-something me. It's also 17,000 words and 45 pages long, only half the length the ideal screenplay should be. Added to this, although it's short, it's also over-complex. When I took the synopsis to feedback group Writers Connect they described how they struggled to keep up with the plot, and noticed the few female characters are underdeveloped with minimal screen time.

I made notes on this, and somewhere in my cupboard is a printed synopsis covered in scribbles. I need to dig it out, rewrite the synopsis, retype the original screenplay and then work on rewriting it based on the advice I've received. And that is what I'll do, all before 1st December.

Get involved with the Twitter hashtag!