Q & A With Sunderland FC Fanzine

How much of an impact could the Manchester Derbies have on the title race?

I wish you had not asked me that so soon after the derby, it still hurts loosing to a last minute winner (as United always seem to do) and to loose our unbeaten home run as well.

It’s never nice to loose, least of all, to a “you know who goal” and I guess from a fans perspective it’s hard to walk into work on a Monday morning after you have lost.

Therefore, as we lost, then I guess I will have to answer it saying that “the derbies are only two games out of 38 in the campaign”, and last week was the loss of 3 points, out of a total possible of 114 points over a season. 

However, had we won, I think I would have given you a different answer altogether !

 

Can you expect to retain the title ? What has to improve ?

I think every Club, Footballer and indeed Supporter has to believe they can win, or else there is no point in starting a season is there?  Sadly, in my opinion, our media are constantly craving a story with some sort of ‘crisis’ at a club for them to report on.

Naturally with the squad and depth that we have, then we should be able to retain the title, and we are on paper, more than capable of doing so. However, to ensure it remains in City’s hands, I personally would prefer to see the best 11 starting each week, and to keep a winning squad without too many changes.

(That’s my personal opinion as a fan, not a manager. I can’t even play FIFA on the computer so I hope nobody listens to closely my tactical opinions !!)

 

 

Mario Balotelli. World Class footballer or immature child ?

That’s the problem…. Which Mario?   The world class footballer Mario Balotelli who can, at the flick of a switch, bring some truly magical football to any game? Or the ‘Marmite Mario’ who people either love or hate him for his antics ? 

I personally like him.

As your readers will know there is enough bad press about football these days, and I personally like the Mario headlines about helping the homeless and stopping school bullies, albeit in an unconventional way.

We never know what has happened in a person’s past to make them behave the way they do in life, but as for Mario…

Generous and warm hearted to charities around Manchester? – Yes

Genius? – Yes/No (delete as appropriate after his latest game)

Talented? – Yes

Carrying some sort of baggage? – Well who knows?

 

What are you expecting from the Boxing Day game at the Stadium of Light ? 

In all honesty I’m expecting half (or more) of the 49,000 “Boxing Day Football Faithful” to be nursing hangovers and carrying a few extra pounds after celebrating Christmas with their loved ones and those close to them.

Actually, if I may use this as an opportunity to remind all footy fans to ‘stay sensible on Christmas day’, especially with the wine/booze.

We all have long distances to travel, so please take it easy, drive safely and make sure you return home safely that night, to continue enjoying the festive season with your loved ones.  Merry Christmas to all your readers and Good Luck for 2013

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A Lesson Learned About Travel

As you know, I do like a good moan from time to time, but this is a quick blog to hopefully help you avoid the mistake I made, and hopefully save you money !

We were all packed and ready to go to Chamonix, when suddenly the plans changed and my wife was rushed to Hospital with acute pains. She is ok, and nothing that some rest won’t cure.

The problem was, that the flights we had booked, were due to leave from Manchester just 8 hours after my wife was discharged from hospital. Naturally, I took the decision that we would not travel that day, and I thought that we would forego the outward bound part of our ticket and purchase a low-cost airline to get us to our destination at a time and date that suited us.

That’s exactly what I did. Having put the outward bound tickets effectively in the bin, we arrived a day later at our destination airport via a low-cost airline and resumed our original travel plans. Once we arrived at the airport, I had the bizarre paranoia to check with the initial airline that our return tickets would still be valid for the return journey.

To my horror, I was informed that as we had not started our journey with that airline, then my return ticket was ‘Nil and Void’. Yes, my return ticket had been cancelled by the airline !!

Not only was my ticket cancelled, but effectively I was without a return ticket home.

I asked the airline for a quote for a flight home, and (between various airlines the prices ranged from €1,200 to €1,800) I was speechless. Also, as I had not fulfilled my part of the contract by not flying on the first part of the journey, then there was no refund to me !

I guess it could be said that you should always purchase the “flexible fare” and pay the extra £50-£100 per person. However, flying frequently as I do, then all these additional £50-£100 add up over time.

Thankfully, we did find another low cost airline that would fly us to the UK for just under €200 for the two of us.

The lesson here, is always check the small print on your tickets. Can you imagine arriving at the airport, thinking your return journey was still valid, and then realising that having left your hotel etc, you are now on your own in an airport with no ticket home.

I hope this help someone, avoid any anxiety in future !

 

P.S. This is not an advert, but two “links in the chain” we’re priceless to me.

Firstly, Mountain Drop Offs understood the situation, and accommodated our change of dates, times, flights etc. This meant we got from the airport to our destination (in another country) with no hassle or anxiety with with no extra charge. Also, the Balcons Du Savoy changed our accommodation dates, without charge, allowing us to be flexible, when we arrive and leave in order to get a flight home (not costing €1,800).  Both of these companies were more concerned about my wife’s health than charging….”Thank You” 

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Application For The Job Of Chancellor Of The Exchequer

Mr D Cameron
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

Dear David,

Firstly you must have been crying into your morning coffee today as you saw the headlines about your colleague Mr Osborne and his ‘error of judgement’ yesterday when he attempted to travel with the masses and use our much outdated public transport system. I am certain that the thoughts “what an idiot” may have, for a brief moment, crossed your mind.

I hope you don’t mind me calling you David ? I know you are famous for your ‘hug a hoodie’ speech, and how you like to embrace all walks of society, so I’m hoping that David is ok with you. I did contemplate Dave, but that sounded like someone you would drink down the local boozer with, and hopefully if you are going to be my boss, then I think we should keep it slightly formal. After all, we don’t want those pesky journalists thinking we are too close and the last thing my future employer needs is anymore of those nasty press headlines that we saw over the phone hacking scandal.

I digress, in an alternative way to apply for the role of Lord Chancellor, I propose to to illustrate how as a fantastic IFA, I have for many years been able to both make clients significant investment returns as well as saving my clients money too.

Your colleague, whom I hope to replace when he falls on his sword, had made a number of errors, and here I will explain further.

Standard Fare Ticket from Wilmslow to Euston £140
Upgrade fee (to upgrade to 1st Class) £160

Total Cost of a one way journey £300

However, were I to be the Chancellor, I would have purchased a ‘1st Advance SIngle’ costing £34
When we multiply this to incorporate a return journey, then the cost is £68
Based on a return journey, I have just saved the tax payer £532 for one return journey !!

Now to be honest David, my maths does get a bit sketchy here, I’m hardly even in the job and already I’ve learnt to make things up (I think we will work well together), but if say only 10 of all the ministers in the UK adopted my policy of transport each week and were prudent, then my weekly savings are over £276,640 per year.

I appreciate its a drop in the ocean, but we could use that each year towards our pension funds and save the embarrassment of the press tearing into us, as we debate our yearly increase (it is still a 1/15th Scheme isn’t it ?).
In addition to the train savings, we could also remove the 2nd homes allowance. I know a smart hotel in London, and the staff are really lovely there. Don’t worry, it is a 4 Star hotel, so our colleagues wouldn’t have to ‘slum it’, and we can negotiate a great rate of only £120 per night. Yes, £120 per night for a 4 Star in central London.

I understand from the Daily Mail, that the allowance was in the region of £24,000 per year. However, as ministers are probably in London maybe two nights a week at the most, then at £120 a night the annual cost is reduced. Furthermore, when I calculate the annual cost, I must include the lovely breaks in Parliament, so lets say its thirty weeks a year. Based on my calculations each MP would only cost £7,200 per year.

I am convinced you are on the phone now to your personnel department, asking if George has quit yet, but don’t be so hasty David, as I do have to give three months notice to my current employer. Actually, in truth if possible, would it be ok to continue in a ‘consultancy capacity’ with my current employer ?

I know most of your colleagues ‘do foreigners on the side for a bit of extra cash‘, but mine would be fully legitimate, with full disclosure to all. It’s just that I really like my job David, and I achieve a great sense of satisfaction is helping people, in some of the most awful situations in life. This is something I know you have been through yourself, and perhaps after one of our ‘departmental briefs’ we can share experiences over a beer.

Oh, one final thing to ask before you make the offer of employment to me, no doubt the press would want to have the token pictures of me and my family. Is there any chance of a few days notice of this event, as my wife and mother can be a nightmare about choosing which clothes to wear. I’m not sure if Mrs C is the same, but my wife would need some significant notice so that she can get her hair and nails done, as well as trying on almost the entire stock at John Lewis (I’m glad you understand).

Ok David, thats about it from me, erm pop the letter in the post and we’ll take it from there yes ??

See you at Number 10 !!

Yours Sincerely

Neil

P.S. As the new Chancellor, can I change that awful brief-case on budget day?
Lets be honest, its does look a bit old and worn out, dare I say ‘past its best’ a bit like
Mr Osborne eh !

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Seedy Boarding

easyJet Airline Company Limited

Customer Service

Hangar 89

London Luton Airport

Luton

Bedfordshire

LU2 9PF

Dear Sirs,

I had the experience of flying with yourselves on the 26th September from Liverpool to Geneva. As an anxious parent who is easily susceptible to persuasion and influence, I duly purchased your offer of “speedy boarding” for my family and myself, in order that we could ensure our granddaughter was sat with her mother and not with a stranger.

I appreciate this does make me sound somewhat neurotic however, I am sure that you will agree, a 13 month old child really should travel with her mother and for the sum of £21.50 per person the £107.50 was money worth spending.

Sadly, at Liverpool airport, the designated “Speedy Boarding” lane is actually after the ticket and passport check, which makes the purchase of this service irrelevant and of no use whatsoever.

Clearly we have two routes that can be taken here. The first is a refund of the speedy boarding fees that I paid, and a vague albeit ‘standard’ letter of apology stating the following buzz words:

“Easyjet is committed to customer service”

“We will investigate your concerns”

“We always strive to achieve customer service”

“We are making improvements to enhance your future journeys with us”

Naturally, I expect the letter to be ‘cut and pasted’ from your library of standard replies, and for it to show the emotion and concern of teenager who’s been asked to clean their bedroom, but an acknowledgment would be nice.

Our second option is for me to pursue this through the office of fair trading citing that the “offer to buy” does not match the service provided. This route we both agree, will involve a long and tiresome exercise wasting both our time and energy.

I personally do not wish to go down the litigation route, as I find the thought of posing for a picture outside the airport somewhat tedious. Whilst my mother thinks I’m lovely looking, lets say that I’m not really a ‘Pin-Up’ type of chap, and so the sorrowful pictures of me looking abandoned would have to be edited significantly.

We all know how journalists behave, and how they blow stories out of all proportion, therefore, I would not wish to be included in the following stories:

Daily Mail        “Peril at 30,000 feet”

Daily Star         “Baby abandoned mid-air”

Express            “I thought I would never see my child again, say’s distraught mother”

Times              “Ticketing Fiasco, Labour MP’s to blame”

FT                   “EU to Probe easyjet, causing markets to fall”

Sun                   “Exclusive Pictures of topless Kate Middleton” (well it is the Sun)

I fully acknowledge that you actually want to reply to me with something like “What did you expect for £40 plus taxes”, you may even think to yourself “oh sod off you moaning old man, this is easyjet not Concord” and you would be right to think it. However, your marketing guru’s in head office, would choke on their frappe latte’s during the ‘focus group’ meetings, if they heard you saying that.

Therefore, I hope you will agree that a simple resolution is required, and I wish to give you the following options, as like yourselves, I like to offer choices and to make your experience as positive as possible.

1)    You can write me a cheque for the refund and post it to my address. For this service, I have a simple ‘Handling Fee’ of £20 which, can be added to the amount.

2)    You can credit my card with the refund. For this service I have a small ‘Card Fee’ of £9 which again, can be added to the amount claimed.

3)    You can communicate with me via e-mail, but before doing so, in the interests of safety and to comply with international regulations, I would require some evidence of identity, such as a passport or driving license.

4)    You could make a donation to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital for the sum involved.

My preference is for a donation to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, as any monies paid to me, would be given to them in any event. Should your marketing people wish to monopolize on this situation, I am more than happy to meet them, have photo’s taken and show your colleagues the amazing work that is done for very poorly children.

Before consigning this letter to the bin, please do take on board (did you see the flying pun there?) the comments in this letter, and above all, please do have a look at the Great Ormond Street website.

I wish you all the best,

Kind Regards

Neil Brownhill

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New To Twitter 2

Firstly, thank you for reading my blogs and for the honest feedback that I received. As a result of the feedback, many people asked for more information, so I hope this helps.

Following on from the last blog, a common point made, was that many ladies felt nervous when men sent them direct messages, in particular some people felt like they were being chatted up. Use your twitter and followers for what you want to use it for, but be mindful and respectful of others.

Whats all this # about ? You may have seen tweets that have the hashtag attached to a word or sentence. This usually changes the colour of the words too. In short, a hashtag is a way of condensing a topic or theme into one phrase. By doing this, there is a link that connects all other tweets to that subject. A good example of this is that we are currently enjoying the UEFA European Football Cup competition. To simplify the phrase, so that you don’t have to keep typing it, the tag #euro2012 or #euro12 is being used. Again, it condenses the topic UEFA European Football Cup competition into a simple six letter phrase.

In addition to news, football and current affairs, often jokes and witty banter will adopt a hashtag, for example #funnyplacenames or #10thingsaboutme. Because everyone uses the same # then if you want to see what people are saying on that same topic, all you have to do is search the topic.

Why cant I follow more people ? This is commonly referd too as Twitter Jail or #twitterjail. When you start off on twitter, you are set limits on the number of people you can follow. Typically, these limits are 250 people a day and 2,000 people in total.

As you can imagine, it is easy to follow a few hundred people, especially if you are new, and want to find the good tweeters who will share information about your chosen subject. It is the belief of twitter that once you follow 2,000 people then that’s enough for now. At that point, twitters rules say that until you have more than 2,000 followers, you cannot follow new people (You can follow people back though).

Therefore, you have a choice to make. Normally people will tweet things like “Help me, I’m in #twitterjail “ which is where they are looking to attract sufficient followers to get them over the 2,000 mark. In my experience, these people do un-follow you once they are set free.

The alternative is probably better, where you sit down and analyze the people that you are following. Does the Justin Beiber fan who constantly tweets “I Love Justin” actually enhance your day ? If so, fine, but if your not a Justin Beiber fan then perhaps think again. I personally dislike the people who start off being a football fan, and then morph into a ‘Day Trader’ or ‘Car Hire’ firm.

Actually, while I’m having a rant. Please, if you are looking for followers, then ask yourself, if you are an interesting person to follow. My pet hate is people who do nothing other than say “#Teamfollowback I follow back RT me”, come on ask yourself why would I want to read that all day. In fact, most people actually un-follow people when they tweet rubbish like that.

Before I ramble on too much, a few ideas for accessing and using twitter.

I personally like the Echofon app on my iphone. It’s a personal thing, but for me I’m used to it. The advantage of an app, rather than using the web, is that you can manage your account and more often, its easier to share photos and things you are doing.

There are plenty of apps to make your twitter experience better, here are just a few of them:

UberSocial, Tweetbot, Hootsuite, Twitteriffic, Tweetcaster and of course twitters own app that can be downloaded. Again it’s a personal thing, but I tried a few, and liked the one I use. I find it good fun on match days, to list my City friend and immediately focus on City tweeters, or the app can let me take a photo of something and share it with people immediately. So in summary, download a few and have a play.

I don’t want to keep you too long, so in the next update (if its wanted) I may give greater details on apps, websites, managing your account etc.

Ok, I hope that you found this interesting, and as always, I appreciate all feedback. Please feel free to comment or ask questions. Now remember, tweet safely and play nicely children !!!!

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New To Twitter ??

So your new to twitter ?
I hope this blog explains some of the best and worst of twitter and hopefully will guide you towards an interesting and positive experience.

Firstly I should say “BE CAREFUL
Why be careful? Well unlike other social networks you may have used before, such as Facebook or Linked-in, twitter is an ‘Open Forum’ which basically means anyone in the world can, and will see, what you have said.

When you say something on, for example, Facebook, only your circle of friends will (normally) see what you have said, whereas on twitter everyone, even if they are not on twitter, can see it.

Secondly, as with all things in life, there are good people and bad people on twitter. You only have to look at a celebrity or a footballer and see the vile & horrible things that people say to them, and after 20 seconds you will want to leave twitter. But bear with me, and you will be able to avoid (as much as possible) these awful people.

My experience of twitter is good, but these golden rules should be followed, (listed below). Also when being careful, do not divulge anything too personal, such as your address and then wonder why you were burgled when you were tweeting about being on a three month holiday to the Riviera, or giving away your bank and password !

Ok, so just like any communication, we think twice about what we say, and even though we may have strong opinions on something, be prepared for ‘some nutter, somewhere in the world’, to give you a nasty reply. (I will talk about blocking & privacy later)

So, who do I follow ? And what does that mean. Well it means you will follow that person and all their tweets will appear on your time-line. (Sorry, timeline is the word for all those tweets you see on your screen when you log-on).

Choose carefully who you follow, I’ll not tell you who to follow, but if I may suggest, try and find people with common interests as yourself. For example, I am a Manchester City fan, and therefore the majority of people who I follow are Manchester City fans. By doing this in the early stages with people who share your interests, you can slowly learn how this whole twitter thing works. In time, you will then become more used to twitter and encompass other groups of people, such as charity, finance, travel or whatever you are interested in.

Who’s following me ?? Now by the time you read this, you will probably have about 10 followers, most of whom you do not know, nor have any interest in. These are what we call ‘Bot’s or Spammers’. They are nothing more than a computer invented, false account that just wants to get your attention in order to sell you something. Do not be under the illusion that these Spammers like you, know you or are even interested in you. Just like the the rich Prince in Nigeria that e-mails you about sending you money, it’s not real. Also the bank or charity that follow you are not real.

But Madonna is following me?” …. Come on, think about it, is she really ? Yes, 10,000 people may have been sucked into believing its her and followed her back, but please, take everything on twitter (and any other social network) with a huge ‘pinch of salt’ and mix it together with a large portion of skepticism !

People may not be who they say they are, usually they are fake celebrities or fake family members of a celebrity. I was joking with Stephen Fry’s wife about this the other day, the fake account did not realise Stephen Fry wasn’t married !!

So always ask “why is this person following me”?. Now the chances are, the persons following you may have similar interests as you, and are interested in your tweets and opinions. The world cup is a good example, or during the London riots in 2010 more information was passed by twitter that through the media. The person who has started following you may have become aware of you because you and someone else have a mutual friend on twitter, or they could be the ‘nutter’ I referred to earlier.

Ok, I’ve followed some people, some have followed me back and it’s going ok, but why are people saying “Followback” to me. Well the short answer is that some people ask you to follow them back as you may be able to share thoughts and opinions, sadly others are only interested in gaining followers for themselves. I will address this later (if this blog is a success)

Now your tweeting away, your reading other people’s views and then like a bolt of thunder, some clown says something nasty to you.

Block them
Forget it
Be hard skinned

I consider myself to be a friendly tweeter’ engaging with others, even those of a different football club, but I once got drawn into a row with another City fan about homeless people. I should have just blocked him, but learn from MY mistakes, remember everyone can see what you say, and before you know it, the whole world is taking sides. Do you really care if ABC123 or whatever their twitter name is, un-follows you ?? No, so Block and move on.

What’s a Re-tweet?“. Has someone ever pinched your joke on Facebook and you have seen them get ‘300 likes’ and all the time you are sitting there thinking “that’s my joke, you nicked that from me”? Well a RT (re-tweet) is a way of saying to your followers, that you like something and want to share it with them, whilst still giving credit to the original person who first said it.

It must be said, that you should be careful what you RT. At times I get mad, as a certain tea brand or shop may say “RT this to win a supply of tea bags for a year”. Ok, do you really want free tea bags ? Are the people who follow you actually interested in your desire to win free tea bags ?? A Ferrari maybe, but tea bags ? It’s your choice, but I hope it illustrates the point about thinking what you tweet.

Porn. This is the Internet, so your going to get porn. Out of no-where some “BOT” will send you a link and it will, believe me, it will be porn. It’s your choice, but remember these links do carry viruses.

Speaking of viruses, now would be a good time to mention some of the oldest tricks in the book. The current virus doing the rounds is where you receive a DM (Direct Message) that usually starts off with “Have you seen what this person is saying about you”, another favourite is “I’m laughing so much at this picture of you”. You can imagine the sort of wording, it’s designed to make you feel insecure and click on the link attached. Yes you’ve guessed it, one click nothing happens and behind the scenes, the virus has attacked you.

Privacy
You can protect your tweets by selecting it in the settings part of the twitter home page. On the plus side, only those who you allow can see you tweets, but this is 2012 and anyone can copy the page and tell the world what you said, so it’s not fool proof. Speaking of privacy, my sister joined twitter recently, and the first thing I said was “get that picture off”. Until you are used to twitter, I personally advise either a blurred picture of yourself or an emblem or something. You may, in the early days fall for a scam, and you don’t want people knowing you just yet do you ?? Many of my City fans have distinctive City pictures such as the FA cup final or homer Simpson in a city shirt etc. in short be careful how much you share. Certainly having a photo should encourage greater affinity with people, but are you sure that their picture is really them ???

If I may illustrate this further. I was dining in one of my favourite restaurants in London when a man came over to me and said “Your Neil Brownhill”… Immediately I thought, are you a client ? A Solicitor, Barrister or Judge whom I work with?? Before my mind started to panic he calmly said “You don’t really know me, but I’ve been following you on twitter for 6 months and I know how you really like this restaurant. Therefore, I have brought my partner here, based on your tweets. I noticed you were tweeting from here tonight and as your picture looks like you, then I put two and two together”

Now I know that my wife felt really uncomfortable about that incident, but it does illustrate the point clearly about your privacy.

So, some golden rules.

  1. Be careful
  2. Privacy
  3. Is Michael Jackson really following you (think about it)
  4. Learn to use the Block button
  5. You may think your right, but everyone is entitled to an opinion of their own

If this very basic introduction to twitter, I don’t want to put you off, but intend to guide you safely through this new phenomenon of social interaction. If you have enjoyed it, found it useful, please let me know. Also, if there are other questions or topics you feel could be of use in a second blog then again feedback is always good. These topic may be FollowFriday, using web based filters, lists, which app for my phone/tablet/PC or Mac ? I don’t have all the answers, but I will try and cover as many as possible.

Finally, why are you on twitter? What do you want? Please spare a minute and read my blog about the positive things about twitter called “Good People” (The kindness of strangers)

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Tyred of Poor Service

Ok, it’s a play on words, but this blog, like earlier ones, is about the simple things in life, like manners.

As always seems to be the case in our family, anything car related ends up being my responsibility. I’ve never fathomed this out, given that my knowledge of cars starts and ends with, “4 wheels & they drink petrol”.

To enlighten you further with my motoring credentials, here is a brief resume of my motoring disasters:

A shared car with an ex-girlfriend (when we were in our late teens) was a bright yellow mini with Pertula written down the side.
A BMW coupe, not the proper one, but the small ones that looked as if it had been washed at a too higher temperature and had shrunk. This was affectionately referred to by my mates as the ‘smurf mobile’
A Renault megane coupe, this little car was again, affectionately referred to by my friends as my ‘hair-dresser’ car
A silver Mondeo. Not too bad you think, but when I tell you it had beige seats, you’ll see why the family were embarrassed to get into it.

So you’ll agree, that when it comes to motoring, I’m not really the Jeremy Clarkson type.
Anyway, I digress, Mrs B needed a new tyre and it was my ‘manly Saturday duty’ to get it fixed. I contemplated buying some overalls, staining them with oil and putting a rag in my back pocket in order to look more like a Petrol-head, or at least someone who knew what a catalytic converter was, but opted for the “I haven’t a clue, don’t rip me off too much look”

Having trawled through the Internet in search of the best deal, I did what everyone else does, and simply drove to the nearest tyre garage. On entering the forecourt I was faced with a dilemma, Kwik-Fit or National Tyres.

Which one do I choose ? I don’t know, a tyre is a tyre isn’t it ?

National Tyres looked busy, Kwik-Fit was empty, and I thought to myself “let’s get this humiliating experience over and done with, as soon as possible”.

I slowly drove into the Kwik-Fit garage and became aware of muffled shouts around me. The garage was empty, nobody around, so who was shouting and who was it directed at ?
I opened the car door, swallowed my pride and prepared to throw myself at the mercy of the garage in order that a new tyre could be fitted. Walking towards the reception area, the muffled noises became clearer and clearer, was it me they were shouting at ?

What had I done ? What was he saying ? Is it an emergency ?

“What you doing driving that f@@{ing car in here” bellowed out from a very grumpy man. I turned around to make sure he wasn’t talking to someone beind me. “You can’t put your f@@{ing car there” was the next outburst.

Again, I turned around to look behind me but nobody was there. I pointed to myself and mimed the word “Me”?? I was in shock, what had I done wrong I thought. By this time, Mr grumpy was outside of his little office, and was walking towards me. I will confess, I did panic a little, thinking he may be a mad-man and I’ll end up with a spanner up my backside. So I quickly apologised for whatever, I was supposed to have done and started my retreat.

“Health & Safety” he mumbled, “Health & Safety” he repeated.
Again, I said “sorry, what have I done”……
“Your not allowed to drive your car here, it’s dangerous” he mumbled.
Gob-smacked I shyly retreated to the safety of the car and politely said “Sorry, I didn’t want to cause any trouble, I only wanted a tyre”. Quickly, I shut the door, and he stood there scowling at me. Having now locked the door, I opened the window slightly and again apologised, explaining that “I only wanted a tyre”.

I know your thinking I should have ‘decked him’ or taken his name, but it was early on a Saturday morning and I’d not had my “3 Shredded Wheat”…….Ok I’ll be honest, I was kacking myself.

Full masculinity resumed, as I reversed the car out of there in a style that James Bond would have been proud off (except for no smoke or screeching tyres etc).

I think the adrenaline must have started pumping through me, as I drove into National Tyres with my “don’t mess with me swagger”. In reality, they were probably wetting themselves with laughter at what they had seen unfold next door. But they were polite, courteous and well mannered.

In summary, the tyre got changed, I won’t go to Kwik-fit, and more importantly the marketing departments of the world most famous tyres are crying in the ‘focus groups’ wondering why I think a tyre is just a tyre after the millions they spend on advertising.

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Remember, Remember the Fifth of November…..

Well that’s what we were taught in primary school back in the 1970’s. I remember sitting there listening to how there was a ‘festival of fire’ to celebrate the Protestant victory over the Catholics in, what at the time, was a huge story of how Parliament was going to be blown up by a man with a funny name (I was 8 years old), called Guy Fawkes.

Even then, in my grey shirt, elastic tie, grey shorts and matching (embarrassing) socks, I couldn’t understand why this event was celebrated. My great-aunt was a Catholic, she was a God fearing woman, who now (as a Christian, I believe, is with Jesus in Heaven). There was even a Catholic church near the school, and some of my classmates went there every Sunday. So why did we draw pictures of bonfires, and talk about someone who tried to cause harm too people?

In the 1970’s there was (as a young boy) I remember, news about the troubles in Ireland, and I knew that whether you were a Protestant or a Catholic it didn’t make any difference to Jesus, as both were seen as equal in his eyes.

We all celebrated the Birth of Jesus at our school nativity play, and there was no faith issues in who played Jesus or Mary there! Believe you me, as always happens, it was the ‘teachers pet’ that got the star role in any school play. Sadly, from an early age, I knew my days of ‘treading the boards’ in the West-End were doomed, purely because I was not shaving at a mere 8 years old!.

I still find it ironic to this day that Jesus was played by a ‘sporty type’ of guy who was a good Catholic lad and Mary was played by a Christian girl who was also Australian by birth! (work that out when your only 8 years old).

But, just like the skipping around the maypole on May Day, with your parents taking pictures on their 35mm cameras, that will come back to haunt you for eternity, we did ‘what we were told’ by the teachers. This was the 1970’s and teachers could still give you a ‘whack’ if you stepped out of line.

Did it harm me? No. Do I feel the need to take legal action against my primary school? No. Did we get a sense of pride knowing our parents were there watching us dress up like Guy Fawkes and reciting poems? Yes of course we did.

That was my youth, I wouldn’t change a single thing (except for the cute girl, who played Mary, who subsequently moved back to Australia and broke my heart).

Fast forward to the year 2007, and I am at Glasgow airport. I am minding my own business, when Bilal Abdullah & Kafeel Ahmed arrive in their green jeep, fully loaded with propane canisters, and drive straight into the airport, in an attempt to ‘make their own statement’ against Parliament by causing huge loss of life. Just like Guy Fawkes, these guys were not ‘cannon fodder’, they were educated men. Mr Abdullah was a doctor and Mr Kafeel worked at the local hospital.

Thankfully, no lives were lost on that day. But do we drive around in green jeeps on the 30th June each year celebrating this? No we don’t. So why do we spend millions of pounds every year on bonfire night?

I don’t have a problem with Sainsbury’s (other than their monopoly on Red-Nose day, but that’s another blog), but they advertise that in these dark times of recession, you can “feed your family for £50 a week” and at the same time, promote people spending over £100 on fireworks, which wont even last long enough to cook a piece of chicken.

Sorry, “I don’t get it“. With our county in deep financial crisis, it’s not just the money that worries me; it’s the Health & Safety aspect. I read a report which quoted, that for every £1 spent on fireworks, then £2 is spent on the NHS with treating firework related accidents, not to mention the fire brigade being on full alert during the ‘silly season’, thus costing everyone money in taxes. (In 2009 over 1000 people needed hospital treatment for firework related injuries – source ROSPA 3rd Nov 2010)

Also, I don’t understand that in the name of “Guy Fawkes” I can legitimately buy dynamite, but if I try and go through an airport with so much as a 200ml bottle of water, then I’m a threat to national security.

Thankfully, the recession has lead to a drop-off in sales of fireworks, but this inevitably leads to cheaper, illegal and unsafe brands, which are flooding the market. Only this week, GMR Radio reported on a teenager who, will probably, loose his hand, because of playing with fireworks.

So, if I may surmise, “I don’t understand it”.

I don’t want your feedback on Jew or Gentile, Muslim or Atheist.
Speak to your ‘Line Manager In Life’ about that, not me.

But be safe. Teach each other safety, teach one another, love and respect.
Finally, as a good ‘Blue Peter’ watcher from the 1970’s, if your going to use fireworks this year, then remember what Peter Perves taught us with ‘Shep’ the dog…..
The firework code:

Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable
(The days before we had mobiles & email)
Keep fireworks in a closed tin box and use them one at a time
(Tin Box? Like the old Crawford’s or foxes biscuits tin)
Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary
(We used to have torches before iPhones)
Light the firework at arm’s length with a taper and stand well back
(and don’t tweet or FB while your lighting it)
Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
(in the days when you could smoke)
Never return to a firework once it has been lit
(No really… Don’t)
Don’t put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
(Its not a ‘LOL’ moment, its Real)
Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
(i.e. the sky)
Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
(think of a zippo exploding, but only 100 times worse)
Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving
(That doesn’t mean drinking WKD until 2am)
Put your 70’s Jeans outside your Wellington Boots
(Ask your parents if you don’t understand)

Be Safe and Love one another

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Good People (The Kindness of Strangers)

In the aftermath of the dreadful riots across the UK, there has been so much “finger-pointing” at who is to blame. Recently the government (who blamed society, who blamed the police, who blamed the government, who blamed the economy, who blamed the parents…. etc etc etc) called a meeting of the major social networking companies, to ask how their part in this, social networking phenomenon, had influenced and had fuelled the troubles.

However, this blog is not about blame, nor the causes, or the reasons for trouble, but is a positive personal experience of the use of social networking. I should comment here, that I have no interest (personal or financial) in any of the companies mentioned, and as regular readers of my blog know, I use social networks whilst traveling, for up to date news, information, prayer requests, banter and of course, for keeping me in-touch with any news about Manchester City. (but don’t let the City theme stop you from reading)

As with all things in life, there is a good and a bad use of this thing we call ‘social networking’, and here is MY experience of the good things, about a personal issue called #BIL

#BIL will be know to you on Twitter and Facebook-as we say up north- as “My Sister’s fella Simon”.

#BIL was injured in a horrific car accident, and for legal reasons (as the case is still being pursued) I cannot say any more, other than the Police are doing a good job in finding the person/persons responsible, who will be bought to justice (long live CCTV).

That aside, after the awful first phone-call giving the basic details about the accident, I was en-route to London to be there and to help my sister and her family.

On the train, I was aware that my Dad was at the Man City game, and I knew I had to get a message to him, so that he should phone home to collect Mum, so that, they could go to my sisters house, to look after her children whilst she was at the hospital, praying beside #BIL’s bed.

As well as texting my dear friend Raymond, my cousin Lucy and the lads at the game, I used this powerful medium of Twitter & FB to ask for 3 things:

1) That all my friends could Pray for this situation
2) That a fellow City fan, could ‘grab a steward’ and get them to announce that my Dad should phone home
3) That fellow blues could let me know if they had heard the announcement

On the journey down to London (where #BIL had been taken to a specialist brain injury unit) my phone almost ran out of battery, with the well wishes, thoughts prayers and genuine concerns of people, some of whom, I had never met before.

As you can expect with social networking, the initial flurry of interactivity is inevitable. However over the next few days, weeks and months, people were genuinely asking how #BIL was, how he was doing, how my sister was coping and what could they do to help. Amongst the genuine questions, thoughts and assurances, there were people saying:

  • “Assure your sister that they know someone in a similar position, it will be ok”
  • “Your sister will find strength, hang on in there”
  • “The Lord will guide you all”
  • “That hospital is great, he’ll be looked after”
  • “Hold-firm and be there for them both to support them”
  • “Love to you all”
  • “What can I do to help”

That’s just seven of the thousands of messages, tweets, texts and phone calls I received over the coming days & weeks. A significant number of messages offered practical and financial support, if #BIL were not to survive, and again, these were real, practical, honest offers of help to my sister’s family, should the worse happen.

If you read my previous blog about the Thistle at Euston, you will see how all the staff there, made sure that all practicalities were taken care of, in terms of families coming to London, at this awful time.

But as I say, this is a positive blog, about ‘Good People’ and how, through the use of social networking, people phoned me at home and work, not to make a small gesture of sympathy, but to actually say “I work for a brain rehabilitation center, and if I can help, please just phone me, here is my home phone number”. Lawyers (not ambulance chasers) but professionals, offered to give up their own time to help and assist, strangers offered help to a man who’s Twitter profile rambles on about toast on virgin trains !!!

On one particular visit to see #BIL in hospital, I thought it would be nice to cut & paste on to paper some of the well-wishes that were sent to me, to relay to him. I realized that when I pressed ‘print’ there were over 2000 messages that day alone.

When you read about how bad social networking is, when YOU read headlines damming this new way of communication, and all the awful stories linked to it, remember that YOU are part of why, it was made. YOU are the good side to this story.

For every wrongdoing on social networking sites, there are 20 good deeds done. And lets hope that WE, can change it in the future.

As I mentioned, I cannot comment on #BIL’s progression (for legal reasons). But I am grateful for social networks, I am grateful to YOU. YOU are not organizing riots, causing trouble, wreaking havoc, YOU are part of something special.
And this blog is for YOU. Its for YOU to receive acknowledgement, for YOU too smile at, for YOU to be proud of the fact that YOU helped a wife, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, friends and family get through it.

YOU are: (in no particular order, but you know who you are)

The christian who put it on his prayer chain, to ask the Lord for help
The health worker, who provided reassurance and real life experience
The drinker, who left his last pint to think about the situation on his way home
The nurse that phoned around to ask for practical help for my sister
The medical student, who would ask his boss and let me know
The insurance man, that asked daily how could he help
The brain specialist who offered his help
The homeless adviser, who daily asked how he could help
The atheist, who said “I’ll pray too whoever”
The 18 year old lad in the pub, who left his date to tweet to ask how #BIL was

And on the list goes………………………………….. YOU are
The bloke who plays the ukulele
The bloke who plays the fool
The vicars
The car-sales man
The cat lovers & dog lovers
The bloggers
The sisters & brothers
The models
The hairdresser
The internet guru
The music producers
The food producers & food eaters
The paint sellers
The widow & the newly wed
The gay & the straight
The muslim, buddhist & hindu
The Policeman & the fireman
The people who travel
The correspondents from the BBC
The people who make you laugh
The Bolton, Wolves, Newcastle, Arsenal, Stoke, Palace, Rangers, Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham & all the rest of the #twitter92
The financial advisers
The F1 fans
The accountants
The guys looking for work, wanting to feed their families
The bars in Chamonix, Cheadle, London & abroad
The Photographers who are both City & United fans
The DJ’s that tweeted late at night, to check up
The sports commentator
The computer geek
The tax lawyer & the PI lawyer
The writers, the playwrights & the actors
The man who lost his child
The couple trying for a child
The chatty woman & the quite woman
The people who cook
The mums
The dads
The carers of disabled children
The Bankers (grrr)
The people who make you laugh
The skiers
The cyclist & the runner
The ones who have maturity beyond their years
The Pie makers
The Pie eaters !!!
The landlord & his regulars
The teacher & the student
The fat bloke & the thin bloke
The hotel manager
The barmaid
And yes, the City and the united fans

And the list goes on and on and on and on and on…………….

Thank you

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WELCOME TO HOLLAND

As regular readers of my blogs will know, I am lucky to meet and share my job/life with some of the most amazing people that God has created.

They may be to some ‘Disabled’ to others, they are ‘uncomfortable to be be around’. But to me, they are amazing people, with a story, a life and a great example to us all. Lets remember that behind this child is a parent, a Mum, a Dad, sister, brother and a grandmother.

Some people look at the child and think “Ahh Bless..” but what about the family, how do they feel ??

This is mostly taken from Emily Kingsley. I don’t know her or her family, but I hope it gives a positive side to disabled people, their families lives, dreams and how they cope. I hope that when you read it, you see how families, like yours survive, like they always have done, but with a different set of issues than the ones you face and the good things that can come from every situation.

Having been asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience, to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous holiday to Italy.
You buy all the guidebooks and make your wonderful, thought-out plans. You will visit the Coliseum, see the Michelangelo David, You will ride the gondolas in Venice, even plan a trip to Harry’s Bar for a Bellini to celebrate the birth.
You download the app on your phone to learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all planned, its exciting, its all going to plan.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there YOU must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. You will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while, and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills… and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But it still remains that everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

Next time you see me in my chair, don’t look at the floor…. Look at my parents, not in sympathy, but look at them and remember…. “We went somewhere special”

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