Monday, 27 May 2019

Happy Bank Holiday!

I hope yours is more eventful than mine as I stayed in last night, as I did last bank holiday too. Shite.

Anyway, this Saturday and Sunday sees Manchester Comic Con at Bowlers in Trafford Park. Expect big stars like Baywatch's Erika Eleniak (Also from Under Seige), Brande Roderick and Angelica Bridges. Also dropping in: Police Academy's Steve Guttenberg and other cast members, Gremlin's Zach Gallighan and other cast members, Paul Blake, Greedo from Star Wars and a few of his screen cohorts, plus loads of giant set builds. I can't wait. No meetups that I'm aware of link in to this.

Saturday night sees a big meetup in Tusk with Megamix. I might drop in and see if people can be coerced into a late one as...

Saturday night / Sunday morning, 4am, sees UK heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua take on Andy Ruiz Jr a fat bastard nobody sponsored by Snickers. What an insurmountable challenge for Joshua. Let's hope the Brit has enough gas in the tank. No meetups for this as yet although there will probably be people in Genting watching it. Dive will also be showing it.

If you don't end up staying up for the boxing, or you have an unusual sleep pattern, Manchester Minimalists are having brunch in Mackie Mayor, the independent food court in the Northern Quarter. Support a local business, get some fresh hot food, and discuss all things minimalism from 11am.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

SMPLE Community

Tonight I dropped into the SMPLE: Work for a Magazine meetup in Nexus Art Cafe in the Northern Quarter. SMPLE is an online magazine based in Vancouver, Canada, born from a tech company, focussing on art, culture, music and lifestyle. Organiser Josh Potts is taking the lead in the UK, and sat out in the garden of Nexus he described how he's looking for contributors for the 'cinematic' project: as well as written content he's hoping to include video documentaries on a range of topics, with 'no mandate on what we can and can't do.'

The project is all about empowerment, collaboration and even some cash rewards. It's early days, but I'm hoping that the community will give an opportunity for people like me to get our writing seen by a bigger audience than just our own blog readers.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Public Relations Month

Back in January I volunteered at a Manchester-based public relations company. I gave up 2 weeks to learn about the field of PR- of taking a company or organisation, looking at their data, looking at positive aspects, turning select data into a press release and pushing it out to relevant publications. The experience taught me a lot, one of the main aspects being that, in the 21st century, PR isn't just bashing out an article and 'selling in' to a stream of editors: social media is changing the face of the industry and digital outlets are now providing a much bigger reach than print. That, plus expanding radio and TV networks are also offering platforms on which brands can be noticed by the public.

The placement ended and I went back to admin. Not only am I totally unsuited to the role of business support, but I now have both the 'carrot and the stick' in my career- a job that makes me deeply unhappy, but a different field that I'm focussed on moving into. I expect this isn't as easy at the best of times, but short term memory difficulties on top of minimal experience make for somewhat of an uphill struggle. The PR company were understanding, supportive, and great fun to work with. Typically, it was the more routine admin tasks that I struggled with the most- updating the coverage book used to record where articles were published, for instance- rather than the more creative elements, like brainstorming sessions or researching cycle safety campaigns. I left convinced that PR is the right field to enter.

After this, I found this house and started the process of buying it. Now that I'm living here, and the decorating is 90% done, it's time to get back into the swing of PR.

I can think of at least one company that were ready to offer me work experience. I've got a list of the top northwest PR firms, most of which I've already approached. One of these were ready to at least meet me. I'll re-contact a few of these, plus I'll look for bar launches, shop launches and other events and see who is handling their PR, then approach them. Being a little ballsy and offering to cover events got me into the Mirror Image Style launch last month. It got me onto Go:PR's books. Go understand that bloggers are looking for opportunities to cover ideas and events, and will write positively on your project if you invite them. Although bloggers may not have the same reach as a local news outlet, scattering a message via a cluster of smaller writers, without spending anything, is going to get your name in people's mouths, so to speak.

Deadline: 22nd June!

Monday, 20 May 2019

Work for a Magazine; Andy's Man Club Oldham 2nd Birthday; Bank Holiday

Busy week ahead!

Thursday night: Smple Community: Work for a Magazine meets in Nexus Art Cafe. They are a gathering of creatives 'based in Vancouver, but have a key hold on the UK.' It's one of their 'prime territories moving forward,' and they 'need YOU to join our mission, which is essentially probing music, fashion, science and society at large, drawing compelling content into any number of formats.' I'm going to check it out, having filled their Creator-form online.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what it will be like, but Nexus has always been a great hub for creativity... and cheese toasties. 5:45pm onwards.

Saturday night: Support group Andy's Man Club Oldham celebrates their second year of running. Every Monday night a crowd of men meet at Chadderton Sports Centre to discus any problems they might have, free of judgement. The group has gone from strength to strength, with 485 people turning up to groups across the country. It's time for a party! we're meeting in Royton Band Club for drinks, a live band, food and a raffle. 7:30pm onwards.

You're probably aware it's a bank holiday: I have no plans for the Sunday as of yet. There are a few meetups on the Sunday and Monday that you can find if you want, but nothing that takes my fancy.

I whipped through another couple of free comics from Oldham Comic Con: The Avengers was a corny tale of a giant Darth-Vader-looking thing smashing up a city, so a group of superheroes (including an inexplicably female Incredible Hulk) can band together and beat them up. Vamplets: The Undead Pet Society featured some undead pets going to a creepy funfair. Nicely illustrated, but ended abruptly.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Strange things are afoot in the Meetup community

But they always are... I've met plenty of great people through the social media site Meetup.  Writers, partygoers, minimalists, young professionals new to the city... Many of these have been good people with whom I'm still good mates. Others, weird as fuck. I'm not in the habit of naming individuals, but one of the organisers of Manchester Megamix, we'll call her VL, had set up her own Facebook group chat for people who use the group, then left it after an argument.

I suggested, in this group chat, that we go to watch some boxing or UFC. A few people liked this idea. VL didn't want ideas being thrown around that weren't hers, so expressed her disagreement then left the chat. She's still down as one of the organisers, but the group chat has, unsurprisingly, dried up. There are 50+ people in the chat, but they're dropping out like flies. The meetup group itself has 5000+ members.

Meanwhile, I'm grafting away on smaller jobs at the new house. It's really taking shape. A bit of painting, some curtains and skirting boards (and figuring out why I've only got 5 channels on Freeview) aside, the house is ready.

After Oldham Comic Con I had amassed a pile of free comics and bought graphic novels, so I'm dropping in a review in every other blog post for the next few weeks. Swashbucklers: The Saga Continues features futuristic raiders chasing each other through space because colonisers are oppressing them. Or something. When a planet blows up, the shit hits the fan. Very corny, and with absurd west-country pirate accents hinted in the speech bubbles.

In other news, Jemma Lucy liked my tweet.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

What do I do with all these recorded DVDs?

Back in 1997 I got my first VCR, a Matsui, and started recording and collecting films, mostly from TV. In September that year I was doing Work Experience at the Oldham Evening Chronicle, where I happened to stumble on a load of Empire magazines that had been left in a waste paper basket. I rescued them and read them all. One of these magazines included a feature on film collectors, some very heavily-obsessed movie nerds who lived and breathed films. I wasn't as intense as they were, but I'd already amassed a fair few films, 2 or 3 per tape, recorded in Long Play. I decided, at that point, that I was film collector.

In 2006 I bought a DVD recorder, a Phillips DVD-R 3305, with the intention of transferring all of my films onto DVD. By this point I had about 300 videos, each with at least 2 films per tape. This was going to take a while, but it would, I assumed, save my collection from erosion. I recorded one and checked that this was working fine, which it was. But, the way this recorder worked is, once you've recorded something onto DVD+R, you needed to 'finalise' the disc to make it playable on other DVD players. This 'finalising' process also stopped you from further recording onto the disc.

I'd recorded hundreds of films onto DVD before deciding to finalise a single one of them. In hindsight this was a dumb move. After finalising each disc I noticed that the scanning function no longer worked- I could no longer scan forward through any of the finalised discs: not on the 3305 nor on my computer's DVD drive. In fact, playing the discs on anything other than the 3305 seemed impossible, although I did manage to get a couple of them onto Youtube.

The fact that I could upload a couple to Youtube implies that the content is still stored on these discs, hundreds of feature films, many of which you'd know, many you wouldn't. There's also hundreds more short films, live action and animated, bunched together on discs. They are on there, but they aren't particularly viewable. Hence, having moved out I've hung onto all of them. But what do I do with them? Most I can't put onto Youtube without receiving another copyright strike (an upload of Oldham Live, a local festival featuring a performance from Sweet Female Attitude, was taken down resulting in that penalty. How is that fair?!) and my hard drive is nowhere near big enough to store them all.

So for now a lot of these discs are stored under my bed as they were before the move. What do I do with them? It seems a waste to bin them after all that time and money spent cultivating the collection. I might get away with uploading the short films to Youtube: these were originally recorded from showcase TV programmes in the wee hours of the morning, in programmes like Shooting Gallery, Dope Sheet and Short and Curlies. But uploading my own cut-for-TV version of Terminator 2: Judgement Day is only going to result in a strike or the removal of my whole Youtube channel.

So what should I do? Any videographers want to throw their 2 pennies in? Comment below or tweet me.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Goodbye Birdcage

The Birdcage, Manchester's cheesiest and possibly chavviest nightclub, has closed it's door for good. The closure was sudden,  and this happened despite a £400k makeover 2 years ago. It was a great night in the Birdcage: no pretentiousness, some decent dance music and a place to meet the odd reality TV star. I met Dom Lever, Jess Shears and Muggy Mike Thalassitis from Love Island there. I also saw Gok Wan do a DJ set. Good times. Last time I went, however, the Friday night was dead and no amount of willing brought more people in. It seems Manchester fell out of love with Birdy.

Moving on. I recently read Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor, a comic from Free Comic Day and Titan Comics. I picked it up in a bundle at Oldham Comic Con Saturday. Featuring Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor, the very corny short story features an adventure taken for no reason to some kind of alien amusement park. Here's to the next free comic being better.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Oldham Comic Con '19

After the success of last year's Oldham Comic Con, the event was upgraded from Oldham Library to The much larger Queen Elizabeth Hall. I dropped in on Saturday 11th.

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The Aliens and Aliens versus Predator graphic novels were bought; the rest were free comics given on entry.

Although the event was bigger than last year's, there really wasn't as much on offer: last year saw the now-deceased Carlos Ezquerra, creator of Judge Dredd, as well as Anthony Johnson, creator of Atomic Blonde, which was adapted for the screen and released around that time. This year I didn't recognise any people or their creations.

The con included a few stage discussions and workshops in side rooms- 'Tell Us a Story' sounded an interesting talk- but these were an hour long, way longer than I was hoping. Apparently you needed at least an hour to learn anything. I passed.

Not as good as good as last year's. Third time lucky?

Saturday, 11 May 2019

I was burgled last July- here's what I did about it

Friday, 6th July. I roll out of work and go straight into Manchester to meet Manchester Depression Anxiety and Bipolar group. It'll be my first meetup with the group and have no idea what to expect, but we're meeting at Albert's Chop House Albert at Albert Square. I meet the group and we start chatting. Everyone seems civilised and there's a reassurance that everyone's afflicted with the same issues.

A girl turns up late- we'll call her MMM. We get talking, and as the night draws on the group disbands gradually until there's only MMM and me left. We drop into Neighbourhood in Spinningfields to continue drinking. The doorman frisks me and spots the tiny Swiss Army knife attached to my keys. I drunkenly hand over all my keys, intending to get them back on my way out.

One thing anyone who drinks with me should know: I sustained a head injury at birth. This is why I have short term memory difficulties and probably why my tolerance to alcohol is terrible. I get pissed quickly. And that's what's happening this night, trying to impress MMM. It isn't long before I'm spilling my heart to her, only to find she had a boyfriend anyway.

She gets a taxi home, and I walked out of the bar, crucially forgetting my keys.

With the last 5% battery on my phone I call a taxi from Piccadilly Gardens, so hideously drunk that the driver has to stop at Newton Heath so I can vomit up whatever little I ate with the rest of the mixed spirits. I get home and pay him.

I get to my flat, tearing apart my belongings looking for my keys before it dawns on me the last time I saw them. It's at this point that a neighbour, a dodgy, skinny-looking bloke approaches me with his girlfriend. He starts to ask me questions. She offers me a bottle of water. Something isn't right, but I can't put 2 and 2 together at the moment.

He asks me, are you locked out? I admit I am. Why else would I be sat on my arse outside my flat? No point in bullshitting. He asks, is yours the one with all those bottles in the window?

Fuck, I think. I knew it was a bad idea keeping my whisky collection in my kitchen pantry- from the path at the back, where this guy probably walks his dog, he can see straight into my kitchen, and if my cupboard is open, he can see loads of single malts, blends, Americans and a few rums.

Yeah, I say, trying to keep a casual conversation. My gut feelings are going ballistic, not just because I'd thrown up again moments before but because there is something about this skinny little scruff- and his missus- that I don't like.

What are you gonna do now? he asks.

Well, I admit, I'm going to have to go to my mum's.

Where's that?

I tell him the village a mile or so away. I couldn't think of a lie. I wondered off.

It must have taken hours to walk, meandering through Oldham's leafy suburbs in the middle of the night. My Saturday plans are well-and-truly wiped out, but not for the reasons I realise.

I eventually wake up my mum and she lets me sleep in a spare room. By this time, thankfully, there's nothing left in my stomach to throw up.

I wake up and my head is in agony. It's one of the worst hangovers I've ever endured. I call Neighbourhood and ask about my keys. A doorman handed them in. My dad, always there for me, agrees to go to Manchester and pick them up. My mum has a spare key for my flat, so we head over there.

The moment I get onto my street, I see the car is missing.

When I get into my block, the flat door is unlocked. In my bedroom, my wash basket is missing and my clothes are dumped in the corner. A cupboard has been opened. In the lounge, a box has been moved from the bedroom.

My mum calls me into the kitchen. About 90% of my alcohol bottles are gone. Immediately I realise who's done this. There's no way it's anyone else. I phone 999.


Over the weeks that follow, I keep in touch with the police, the housing association that rent to both me and the neighbour, the house insurance company and the car insurance company. It is the biggest ballache I have ever had to deal with. The police dust the place down; they tell me the intruder used a crowbar on the kitchen window, successfully entering, but this doesn't stop the window from functioning. I have to kick off with them to get them to replace the whole frame, as they claim there's nothing wrong with it. The intruder was wearing workman gloves- rubber on the palms, fabric on the back. There are no prints. He was wearing work boots, probably steel-toecapped.

The police offer me some stick-on window alarms that make a loud, high-pitched noise if anyone bangs on the window. As the days go on I manage to take this picture of the neighbour I was speaking to.

It's difficult to get a clear picture of someone who's always shifty, always jogging away between the shop, his flat and his car.

As the weeks drag into months, a series of incidents occur. I see the neighbour taking short car journeys. He changes his car. I look each one up: one of them is untaxed. I tweet it to GMP, nothing happens. One night I hear some shouting on the street; a woman's voice. It's about 3am on a weeknight. A window smashes. When I leave the house the next morning, the neighbour emerges with a bucket of soapy water and a cloth. His block door and the ground floor windows have been spray painted with 'SMACK,' 'BUZZ,' and 'HEROINE.' (SIC) His lounge window has been put through. He starts to mop down the graffiti.

Later that day I phone the housing team: they've already been made aware of the graffiti and they're sending someone out to take care of it. I forgot to mention, though, who was the target of that attack and my connection to him.

A month later, again in the middle of the night, the neighbour's car rear wind shield is put through.

I make occasional visits to Housing to see whether anything has happened, but frequently nobody knows anything. Eventually it emerges that one particular housing officer knows his name, but isn't allowed to tell me. She stresses the importance of residents coming forward with information. I stress the importance of them actually DOING SOMETHING WITH THAT INFORMATION when they do.

During these months, the burglary incites me to look into the possibility of buying a place to live, to stop throwing money away through rent and to work towards being a homeowner. Most importantly, to get off that dodgy-as-fuck council estate. I plan to move from the flat, which is in Oldham just before the Saddleworth border, to somewhere similarly far away but further around. I look at a handful of places but each one has glaring problems: issues with the land deeds, unlit streets, cluttered designs and- in one case, if my dad's eyes weren't deceiving him- a rope noose hung from the attic beam.

Eventually I find a terrace house on a quiet street for a fair price. We barter for a bit but agree a price. Last month I picked up the keys.

Just before I move out, I notice that the neighbour's car hasn't been on the drive in days. The cameras he'd installed to watch his car are gone. The blinds have been pulled back, and the lights are off.

I phone housing, because of course, they will tell me fuck all without prompting. They tell me he's gone. There was an order from the courts demanding he was evicted. A week later, I move out myself.

So here I am, blogging in my new little house. Things are moving forward. There are a few electrical issues to sort out, plus the spare room is full of stuff waiting to be put away. So what does this have to do with psychology?

Well, I've hardly blogged at all for the last few months as I've not done a great deal other than sort the new place out. But in sorting the new place out, with memory difficulties, I've had to rely on my parents a lot. In buying insurance, in working out the costings, in how much paint to buy, in what individual jobs are required and what individual tools and products are needed (have you ever heard of 'kitchen paint?' I hadn't)- all of these needed addressing and acting upon. Support from the NHS is currently not in place, and would only take up more time that I have. What would they advise someone with memory difficulties to do? I don't have a budget for a PA. People who are bedridden, in wheelchairs and who can't work at all don't even get the help that they need, so a working, well-spoken bloke like myself would get fuck all. I've tried. It's over to my parents. Some people at support group Andy's Man Club have chipped in, which has been a huge help, but there's nothing formal in place.

What harm does all this help do? Pride. It harms pride, that which comes before a fall. It makes me doubt myself, and makes me wonder what other people- particularly women- think of a 36-year-old relying on his ageing parents for support with a burglary and the purchase and renovation of a house. But, through years of NHS treatment, one of the important things I've very steadily had to learn is, fuck what other people think. What's the point in worrying that other people perhaps think I'm a child for receiving parental support? What benefit does that do? They might not even be thinking that anyway. And who doesn't receive some form of help from their parents?

I was once in a group of lad mates- between '09 and '15- whose banter frequently got too sour for my tastes. My reliance on my parents was the butt of their jokes, and after one too many incidents, I blocked them all and haven't spoken since. My life has been better for it. But I'm still conscious of how much I do, and how much I need my parents to do, largely because of them. I realise, though, that it's wasted thought- it's best to take the help and be appreciative of it. And if you don't like people's banter, you don't have to give up your time for them.

Another piece of advice I'd give, if you feel I'm worth listening to, is not to feel overwhelmed by how much needs to be done with any project, like moving out. Although it's been a massive learning curve for me, and although there's been hundreds of individual jobs, most of them have now been done. One step at a time, things will move on. Little improvements are big steps when you have anxiety, or memory difficulties for that matter.

Accept support, make notes, sacrifice time, kick off if organisations don't do their jobs, and remember that pride comes before a fall.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Oldham Comic Con / Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club

The weekend after a bank holiday is usually a quiet one, but it doesn't have to be. I've scouted 2 events.

Saturday sees the return of Oldham Comic Con, a free annual convention this time in its third year. Due to popularity, the event has been moved from Oldham Library to the spacious Queen Elizabeth Hall. It features a plethora of comic artists and second hand comics and graphic novels. Get down early to bag a bargain.

That night Manchester Cool Bars and Clubs MAY- may- be dropping into Band on the Wall for Craig Charles' Funk and Soul Club, a night of cool grooves with the bloke who played Lister of Red Dwarf. I say 'may' as I put this up a long time ago and really should be getting on with other things, hence these meetups being a little sparse.

In other news, I spotted cycling champ Matt Rotherham in Oldham (check the comments).

Sunday, 5 May 2019


Predictably, I'm covered in a spattering of little pock-marks from being peppered at paintballing.

I first heard of paintballing in school, when a classmate did a presentation on it- more than 20 years later, I gave it a shot. Think Laser Quest but with stinging paint pellets instead of laser guns, and an old converted warehouse as your location. It's exhilarating, slightly painful and fast paced.

I joined a paintballing trip with Young Professionals in Manchester, a meetup group covering a wider range of events than just 'getting pissed in a load of bars.' We dropped into Manchester Paintballing Arena in Nile Mill in Chadderton, a former cotton factory. We were given overalls, and a mask and given an introduction on safe use of the gun. The gun is easily loadable with bottles of pellets: different packages allow for different amounts of pellets which can be slotted into elasticated loops on the overalls. Splitting into 2 teams, we occupied both ends of a factory floor. The aim: to retrieve a flag from the centre of the room. The paintballing company had installed piles of tyres, large boxes, netting, and other paraphernalia to hide behind, crawl through and shoot from as you push forward to the centre. If you're shot, raise your gun and walk back to the 'respawning' point- touch the wall at the far end of the mill, and back once more unto the breach you go.

I got the shit shot out of me, which didn't surprise me, but it's still all fun. We ran through a few different games with different objectives, all of which resulting in me getting annihilated. Oh well!

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Bobby Ball ran over my colleague's neighbour's dog

Out of a trove of famous people that have, for some reason, all come from Oldham, you can pick out Bobby Ball, of Cannon and Ball fame.

My colleague tells me that, some decades ago, Mr Ball once ran over a dog in his car whilst driving through neighbouring town Rochdale. This happened on my colleague's street, the dog in question belonging to a neighbour. To his credit, Mr. Ball was courteous enough to stop and check on the dog, and the owner. Both were fine.