Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Psychology Month

Me in 20 years? Perhaps.

"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind." -William James (American philosopher and psychologist 1842-1910)

We all have brains in our skulls- even the US President and the burgling scratters on my estate. (More on each of these later.) We normally use these brains without consciously 'thinking'- going about our day doing whatever we do- working, studying, staying in, going out, exercising, whatever. And, as a result, we achieve whatever it is we achieve- staying in a job, paying bills, enjoying an easy-going TV show. This is all well and good, if you're happy.

But what if you're not?

What if you want to be smarter, happier, more socially adept, more successful (however you want to define that)? Can we use psychology to develop ourselves further? I say we can. Due to memory difficulties and depression I've been learning more about psychology since 2007. By reading online advice, joining an employment scheme for people with disabilities, reading books, meeting with support groups and spending time with various NHS professionals I'm overcoming issues and developing more direction. I'm meeting with someone in the NHS at the moment, working on confidence building and combatting depression, so now is as good a time as any to start a new monthly project. This month I'm going to look for new opportunities to challenge myself. I've asked around at support groups like Andy's Man Club Oldham, Talk About It Mate and Manchester Depression, Anxiety and Bipolar Meetup. The goals, as embarrassing as this is to write, are:
  • to be free of anxiety when approaching women, and free of self-pity in the face of rejection.
  • to provide helpful information relating to memory difficulties, that could assist others with acquired brain injuries.
  • to come down in weight- to drop from 80.9kg to 77.
  • to run for 10 minutes at 14.2kmph.
  • to bench 104kg.
  • to do 16 wide-grip chin-ups in a row.
  • to horizontal dumbbell fly 2 40kg dumbbells.
I will then review each challenge I find myself faced with and upload these once a week to the blog as part of the #psychologysaturday trend. Starting now...

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Sweet Female Attitude at Oldham LIVE

Music concert Oldham LIVE returned to Parliament Square yesterday afternoon for a second year, featuring acts like Dodgy and Ella Shore. I dropped in later on for Sweet Female Attitude, fronted by Manchester's Leanne Brown.

SFA started with a few classic Garage tracks then ended with their 2000 hit Flowers.

I enjoyed the set. Would have loved to have said hi, but wasn't the opportunity. As you can see from the videos the square had plenty of space- I think over the years if word gets out, #OldhamLIVE will become a much more popular festival.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

What happens when your navigator bails from your plane?

Emperor Haile Selassie

Another segment of my grand-uncle Dick's memoirs.
I was now back with 'B' Flight and my last unusual experience was due to happen.

I had been promoted Corporal and one of our Wellesleys was due back from Addis Ababa It was August 1941 about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. There was myself and two lads waiting for the old Wellesley to arrive, sitting outside the hangar.

The war in this area was practically over and the Squadron, as well as isolated bombing of pockets Italians, scared to surrender to no-one but the British and South Africans, we were also carrying out quite an amount of VIP and Communication work.

She duly appeared over the edge of the plateau, as previously stated 7000 feet up, landed and taxied up to the hangar.

The normal crew of the Wellesley was the pilot, navigator and rear gunner. On this trip there was no gunner but a passenger instead. Since there was no air opposition, she did not have to protect herself.

The old Pegasus engine wound slowly down, the cockpit hood slid back, and the pilot climbed out onto the top of the wing. Fg Off. James was a tall, dark youngster, about 6'2, a bachelor, the latter perhaps being one of the key facts of the story. The step was unfolded, and the two lads busied themselves with chocks, fitting of control locks and getting the covers ready. I mounted the step and opened up the heavily-loaded spring perspex canopy. Looking into the fuselage I saw a young Army Captain getting his kit together prior to disembarking.

“Afternoon sir, good trip?” A fleeting glance trying to locate the sickness bag.

“Yes, fine thanks.”

“Pass your kit out, Sir, and we'll run you and the crew up to the mess in the OM.”

OM were the initials on the front of the little Italian jeeps, a number of which we had 'requisitioned' from the Italian Air Force. What they stood for I cannot remember now. (ОМ-32 Autocarretta da Montagna) Four wheel drive, four wheel steering, hard solid tyres with a four cylinder, two stroke engine; an amazing little vehicle. They towed Bowsers, the lot.

My own time was then occupied with getting a brief from the pilot and filling in the Form 700. This done James turned and shouted to the mid-fuselage window position.

“Sling my hat out, Bonner.”

Bonner was his navigator; a sergeant married with children, another fact which has quite a bearing on the story.

No hat duly arrived, nor any answer to the request. James then jumped up on the step and put his head in through the window and peered fore and aft, up and down the fuselage tunnel. Finding no navigator, he turned and looked in the direction of the hangar, fully expecting to see Bonner standing quietly facing the hangar wall with a blissful and serene look on his face.

Once again a blank, so he turned to the ground crew in general and said, “Anyone seen the nav? Where's he gone?”

None of us had seen him. There was only one other person to ask: the passenger.

James turned to face the young Captain, still passing down his kit. I can see him now: a good looking chap, dark, with a small Clark Gable moustache. And the conversation went like this:

“Where's the navigator?”

“He bailed out about 300 miles back.”

“He what?”

“He bailed out about 300 miles back.”

“What the hell for?”

“I don't know, he came through the tunnel, clipped his chute on his chest, put a bag of desert rations over his shoulder, a water bottle over the other, said 'Excuse me,' opened up the hatch and bailed out.”

“What did he do that for?”

“Don't ask me, I thought that he might be on a secret mission.”

We all stood there dumbfounded. The Army Captain too, as soon as he realised that the pilot was just as much in the dark. Until then, whilst unloading, he hadn't been in the least perturbed. But now he too became transfixed. Nobody moved for a moment, then we boarded the OM and drove to the mess with not a word being spoken.

For my part in the incident gradually faded in importance over the next few days until Sgt Bonner turned up with quite a growth on his chin. He had been picked up by Abyssinian patriots who, though he had a job in finally convincing them he was on his side and not an Italian, finally took him to a British Forces post. From there he hitched transport back to Asmara and to the Squadron. It appears that his 'Goolie Chit' was the only thing that saved him.

Well what had happened? After climbing out of Addis Abba James had, instead of climbing to his regulation height, decided to have a bit of a change and fly along the valleys. But Bonner, a married man with children, had other ideas. He knew the capabilities of the Wellesley, cruising 160 knots, one single little Pegasus in the front, rate of climb at 10,000ft about nil, and he did not fancy the idea of suddenly around the next bend, being confronted by a mountainous cul-de-sac.

It is said the conversation went like this:

Nav to Pilot: “Come on, get up top, above these mountains.”
Pilot to Nav: “Who's flying this kite?”
Nav to Pilot: “Either you get up, or I get out.”
Pilot to Nav: “?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!”
Nav to the Army Captain: “Excuse me. Sir.”

A few weeks later I started packing my kit. So I never knew of any repercussions. I think that many such instances in those days were allowed to be quietly forgotten. Especially when both aircrew were partly to blame. I hope so.

Goolie Chit

Incidentally a 'Goolie Chit' was a slang name for the document carried by British Servicemen, especially air crew, in this area. Written in Sudanese, Eritrean and Abyssinian with the stamp of the Abyssinian Emperor Haile Selassie, who was then sheltering in England having lost his country, it stated that the holder was a member of a friendly country and should be taken to the nearest military establishment wher he would be rewarded.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Meeting Jamie Oliver

Pukka Mate!
Gotta keep those turkey twizzlers outta school, innit?!
Got to Waterstones early, queue already building
Deansgate branch with people out the door
like wet spaghetti.
Obligatory food simile: tick.
Cool guy. Only had seconds to chat.
Not followed a recipe in AAAAGES.
Will now try Jamie Cooks Italy,
my signed copy.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

SBJ Model Scout Party in Menagerie

Sunday night: Menagerie Bar in Spinningfields hosted SBJ Model Management's first ever scouting party. SBJ, ran by former Miss Manchester Sara Beverley Jones, was searching for new ring girls to introduces fighters at various televised boxing events- mainly the World Boxing Super Series. As per, Menagerie was full of celebrities and fine women, so of course I dropped in.

Here's Sara,

Who warmly invited me to get closer to the podium to take pics and to meet a few of the celebrity judges, including boxing commentator and former WBO cruiserweight champion- the longest-reigning of all time- Johnny Nelson. A friendly bloke.

I also met Hanna Eliza from Love Island Season 1

And Jess Impiazzi from Ex on the Beach and Celebrity Big Brother.

Here's presenter and former Miss Manchester Gabrielle Taylor.

The top 5 finalists were signed as ring girls, with Olivia Wright taking top spot.

A great night. The Model Scouting Party was a well-organised event from SBJ and Menagerie.

Free drink on entry. Can't complain

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Beautiful You

This week I read Beautiful You, by Chuck Palahniuk. Fresh out of college, the young Penny starts at a company producing highly successful women's sex toys. CEO Maxwell, however, is not just planning on being her boss- he wants her as her guinea pig. But what's the end goal? Penny might find out, provided she doesn't die of sex exhaustion.

A funny, twisty book, riffing off the successes of 50 Shades but self-consciously cliched. A fun read but not for the easily offended.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

I'm having to escalate my HMRC complaint

Over the last few Saturdays I've updated on an ongoing problem with HMRC: After my Disability Living Allowance was stopped, I was asked to apply for Personal Independence Payment. After initially being refused, I applied via mandatory reconsideration and was awarded about a third of what I was initially in receipt of under DLA. Not long after this, my Working Tax Credits were stopped. Following this, HMRC demanded £416 in apparent overpaid WTC. For many months, I received no valid explanation for any of this, and instead of explaining their processes, they passed this overpayment to a debt collector.

I've spent a few months receiving assistance from TJ, a Welfare Rights Officer. She's helped me to collate any and all information relating to my WTC claim: we've got paperwork, and now recordings of calls made to HMRC. The debt agency wanted nothing to do with my case due to my memory difficulties, and threw it back to HMRC.

This week TJ has called me explaining that the overpayment has been remitted. I should have been more inquisitive during this phone call, but my understanding is that 'remitted' in this sense means 'cancelled' as opposed to 'paid off,' as I definitely haven't paid them. So that's a relief. It isn't over though, by a long way.

HMRC are willing to pay me £70 for my troubles. £70 for months of bailiff threats, a total lack of explanation, numerous lengthy phone calls and still no WTC. TJ and I agreed that this isn't enough. HMRC say they aren't willing to reinstate WTC as Oldham is a Universal Credit area- a new benefit to which I'm not entitled.

We're going to debate this, though. TJ is escalating this to a Tier 1 Complaint, which 'provides for payment of compensation if a claimant has lost out financially, or suffered anxiety or distress, as a result of HMRC's error or delay.'

I've changed nothing. Same job, same hours, same pay, same home,same memory difficulties, same depression and anxiety. The only things that have changed are the massive levels of stress caused from the aforementioned situation and the benefit money that HMRC pay me, and that changed due to their actions, not mine. And I'm just one guy, out of 947,000 people, moved from DLA to PIP and dealing with the consequences. What's important, though, is that claimants- disabled people like myself- are transparent and have a voice. It's vital that we use the internet to keep the public informed of these situations without shame or fear.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Abyssinian Baboon Attack

Mountain track, Abyssinia
The next instalment of my grand-uncle's war memoirs.

Spring 1941

A few months after settling down to a very nice standard of living, weather lovely and cool, so different from the Sudan, peace was interrupted by the arrival of a regiment, the Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders.

They had been chased out of Greece and Crete with terrible losses, heavily outnumbered, and had been sent down to Asmara to rest and recuperate. Every time we met in bars or cafes, their only remarks were, “Where were you lot in Greece and Crete? We were on our own, no help from you lot. You bastards.”

Fights started left, right and centre and in the end the OC Troops decided that the RAF and the Army would only be allowed out on different days of the week. This went on for a couple of months until the situation eased.

The Squadron played the local football team in the Post Stadium. We had heard about the local team, the way they introduced themselves and entered the pitch and the Squadron were ready for them. They ran out onto the pitch in single file, along the halfway line to the centre circle, right around the centre circle, across the middle to turn and face the stand. At a given signal they all raised their right arms and clenched their fists to give the Fascist salute. Trumpets, bugles, raspberries, drums and clappers sounded, drowning their salute. Our lads were just knocking the ball in the other goal. We beat them 4-1.

One of the flights had an aircraft which force-landed on an emergency strip about 50 miles into Abyssinia. Once again we loaded up the open 3-tonner, with the Cpl and driver in the front and four of us sitting in the back. It must be said that the Italians were good colonisers. In a terribly mountainous country they had built smashing roads up the sides of mountains with precipitous drops. Every water course was ducted under the road carefully. Heavy transport consisted of huge diesel lorries with often two big trailers behind.

We had been climbing and descending for about three hours when, slowly climbing up the side of a huge mountain, a huge male baboon jumped down into the middle of the road. Then another, then another, until there were about eight. Huge, snarling, menacing creatures. By the time the wagon had stopped we were about ten yards away from them. They were making mock attacks of a couple of yards, then retreating, barking all the time, fangs showing.

Then the main tribe came off the mountain across the road and down into the valley. Dozens of them. Mothers with babies hanging underneath. Always there were at least half a dozen big males menacing us. Some would move on only to be replaced by other males.

Back up,” we shouted from the open back of the wagon. This the driver did, freewheeling backwards down the road for another 10 yards or so. We had rifles, but if they decided to attack we would not have much chance to use them.

And so they all disappeared down over the edge into the valley. It was said they often used to raid the cultivated plantations in the valleys.

A complete plug change cured the problem on the sick Wellesley. A one night stay in a native's borrowed mud hut was sufficient and we were on our way back the following day after first seeing the aircraft airborne.

Monday, 13 August 2018

A Packed Weekend of Events

Manchester is very lucky this week- TONS is happening.

Friday night: Jack Fowler from Love Island is dropping into The Birdcage for a meet-and-greet. Love Fridays are always a fun night out whether you watch reality TV or not, so don't stay in. Get involved with the Manchester Cool Bars meetup.

On Saturday night I'm heading back to the Birdcage, this time with Singles Saturdays- Manchester. I'm again running the event, the first time I've done so with this Facebook group. Stopout Saturdays is the night. In both cases, ID is essential!

It doesn't stop there- oh no. Make sure you're properly scrubbed up. Sunday Evening sees SBJ Management hold a model scouting party in Spinningfields bar Menagerie. The modelling agency, ran by former Miss Manchester Sara Beverley Jones, will be looking for Manchester's next top models. Expect an array of talent. Again, Manchester Cool Bars is dropping in. Tickets are flying out at £15 a pop. Act fast! There are 10 people on the meetup so far so expect the event overall to be hugely popular.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

I have mostly been reading

By the end of the story, you, well, you'll understand the cover.

This week Northern Quarter stalwart Kosmonaut closed down, to be replaced with a beer house. A fucking beer house. Bullshit, man. I loved Kosmonaut's brutalist Russian look with elongated seats that reminded me of the top deck back row of an old bus: dark leather, half-pipe style. They had some good old-school hip hop blasting out most nights, a refreshing change from Manchester's staple soundtrack of Drake mixed in with Drake.

I finished Doomed, Chuck Palahniuk's sequel to his equally brilliant Damned. Snarky little dead girl Madison has found herself in Purgatory- out of Hell, but walking the Earth as a ghost. We learn more about what horrendous scenes landed her in the Fallen Kingdom in the first place, and who might actually have been in on it from the start. It's a great follow-up story, enriching all the characters (if you can call it 'enriching'- the majority of them are moral vacuums, and for good reasons). A very addictive, fascinating and totally gross follow-up.

My copy was signed.

Also today I dropped into meetup Talk About it Mate, a depression support group. I met with them a few months ago. A great meetup for men and women, with good chat, coffee, book recommendations and movie talk. If you think it might help, join the group.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Avoid being captured by Abyssinian soldiers at any cost

Asmara during the British occupation of Eritrea

The next instalment of my grand-uncle Dick's memoirs.

And so we moved into 1941, the war going well. The army was advancing with the help of the South Africans and Indian Divisions.

Periodically we helped to load up the Wellesleys with packs of leaflets for dropping over the Eritrean and Abyssinian territory, written in Italian, Eritrean, Abyssinian and English. They spoke of the Allied Successes.

Bags of Marie Theresa Silver Dollars were also dropped by the aircrew to Abyssinian patriots to pay them to carry on the fight. This was an old Austrian Dollar, but because of its silver content it was used as an additional currency throughout the Middle East.

Our billets were now built of mud bricks made from Nile mud with simple wood moulds. They dried in an hour. We watched our NAAFI built and grow from nothing in a few days.

Incidentally in the camp there was a tree ringed with an iron railing stating that General Gordon used to ride out from Khartoum on his camel to pray. He was a very religious man.

Two miles away was a Free French Squadron with Long Nose Blenheims. We managed to arrange a hockey match with them and on passing the aircraft we noticed one Blenheim, with both engines completely nude, with not a cowling in sight. We found out that a sand storm the previous day had caught the ground crew completely by surprise whilst at 'tiffin' (lunch) and about twenty cowlings were now bowling across the desert fifty miles away, never to be seen again. I do not think that we ever saw that Blenheim move again.

Once a month, on Saturday morning, was 'de-bugging.' Wooden rope beds were taken outside and all the joints brushed with anti-bug solution and we would watch them crawl out to be 'assassinated.'

The army had now entered Asmara, Eritrea, shortly followed by the Squadron moving into the Italian Air Force Camp which had been bombed the first day of the war. Attached to a rear party I remained behind at Gordon's Tree to service a few Wellesleys on rectification. Finally, I climbed aboard one of the last aircraft and flew into Asmara.

Asmara was a fine city with shops, cafes, an Odeon cinema and a football stadium. The war was practically over with just isolated pockets of Italian troops, mainly holding out on mountains, scared to surrender, but only to the British. For an Italian to be captured by an Abyssinian was a fate worse than death. They say they were given to their women who cut off their testicles, put them in their mouths, and sewed their lips together.

British soldiers were told not to surrender their prisoners to the Sikhs who would offer to take them back behind lines. Some Sikhs had had their hair cut of by the Italians when taken prisoner, against their religion, a terrible insult. The Sikhs would slit their throats.

Sports teams suffered. It took a good few weeks to acclimatise ourselves to enable us to complete a game without chest pains and shortness of breath. We were 7000 feet up.

One problem on road traffic: we made them change their right hand side drive to left hand drive, resulting in the buses offloading their passengers in the middle of the road. It was dangerous when suddenly confronted with oncoming traffic. A couple of civilian deaths ensued.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Damned, and one upcoming meetup

Damned, by Chuck Palahniuk. The snarkiest little dead girl in Hell, Madison, finds herself in a row of cells accompanied by a gathering of inappropriately placed, not-so-bad individuals who are forced to cold call members of the living world, in an endless loop of market research.

After a breakout, they take a tour of the underworld to confront the devil himself, who has some unusual plans for our Maddy.

A great fun read, and very well-researched. Numerous demons from international folklore play their part, while Maddy's backstory- what landed her in the fallen kingdom- is gradually revealed to us.

I'm currently hammering my way through Doomed, the second in the trilogy. After a run of non-fiction books and short graphic novels, a novel like Damned by a favourite author was a refreshing change.

This week: Not much on the nightlife calendar to speak of, but Sunday morning has a Meetup with Talk About It, Mate, 'a non-judgemental environment in which to meet others who have experienced different issues.' Drop into Peter St's Caffe Nero for a chat at 11am.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Gok Wan DJ set in the Birdcage

Manchester Cool Bars dropped into Manchester's Birdcage for Love Fridays, where this week TV stylist Gok Wan was DJing. After midnight the How to Look Good Naked consultant took to the decks playing dance hits, making a change from the RnB that came before it. I didn't feel like Wan interacted much with the crowd but it was still a great fun night.

Album here.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Andy's Man Club Dominate ANOTHER quiz

Thursday 26th: pub quiz over at Failsworth's Millgate. I attended with a few guys from the Oldham branch of Andy's Man Club and we formed a team.

Took a while to get started, but eventually the questions rolled in. A good portion of them were film questions, so, predictably, I dominated. We won. I think we got beer, which I didn't drink.
Good pub grub too.

Andy's Man Club is more than a 2-hour weekly support group. You'll meet a group of mates, a brotherhood. And, if I'm on your team, you might win stuff too.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Cross-Dressing Christmas Maltese on the Red Sea

The next installment of my grand-uncle Dick's Memoirs.

December 1940
An interesting lorry trip was undertaken to Suakin on the Red Sea. Suakin was called 'The Dead City.' It was understood that Suakin, in the 19th Century, was the main port on the Red Sea for the Sudan, but extensive coral growths and sand banks made it impossible for the larger shipping to enter the small harbour. As a result the whole population vacated the city and moved north, and Port Sudan was then developed and became the major port. Suakin was about 50 miles south of Port Sudan.

Suakin now stands as it did, still intact, almost as if everyone had suddenly been killed by a plague. Just a few caretakers seemed to be around, looking after all the white buildings, still in excellent order.

The journey through the Red Sea Hills, about 3 hours, was undertaken in the flight wagon, a contracted Sudanese lorry with its owner called 'Pop.' We used it as the flight runabout.

Later the Squadron moved to RAF Gordon's Tree where we spent Christmas 1940.

Three weeks before Christmas, following a Saturday morning parade, we were- before being dismissed- held back by the Station Warrant Officer.

Gathered into the close circle, he remarked, “It's Christmas in three weeks time. Anybody like to get up a Christmas concert?” A pause. “No volunteers. Right, you lot, anybody play an instrument?”

About a dozen pointed to me. “He does the violin.”

Right lad, get a concert party up for Christmas. Parade dismiss.”

I stood there transfixed, but within a few minutes chaps were all round.

I'll help you, mate.”

And so we put together a good show. The last night, the CO came with the officers and sat in the front row. Our best turn was a RAF Maltese airman who dressed up like Carmen Miranda – super costume- and great falsetto voice who, during the act, finished up sitting on the CO's lap stroking his cheek.

After the show he said to me, “Where did you get the girl from, the Caberet Khartoum? She was super!”

I replied, “No, he's one of your photographers on the Squadron and comes from Malta.”

He used to shave his legs and arms and his make-up was perfect. He had photographs showing him and his friend dancing with the Navy chaps in Malta.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

A Poem About Allotment, a Northern Quarter Restaurant I Visited

A post shared by Matt Tuckey (@matttuckey) on

Quiet trip hop tinkles
through the Northern Quarter venue's speakers
bouncing off the exposed brick
and painted plant-green ceiling.
Allotment: a restaurant, not a cabbage patch
nor a home for pigeons,
but spiced pulled chicken is on the menu.
Loved the Sriracha pork chop with spicy egg noodles,
plenty of choice and originality.
No lamb, or hibiscus on that day, but
no digging required. We just ordered.
Sweet potato wedges, still encased on one side in peel.
I'd have trimmed that off,
but leaving them on gave that
'just unearthed' quality.
Raspberry and lime lemonade an original concoction,
a recommended option for thirsty shoppers.
The back-bar a gin-lover's paradise, varied and transparent.
Like any other allotment, a wooden-themed escape from
the bustling, narrow roots of the Northern Quarter streets.