Well Thats Another Couple of Ticks on my Bucket List




Well here we are now into the final week of January and what a busy month it has been. Now I know I said that I wouldn’t be looking backwards this year, but like most people I have a secret list of thinks that they would like to achieve before we shuffle off this mortal coil and I am no different. I call it my Bucket List and during the last couple of years I have realised that I am slowly beginning to cross items of the list almost at a monthly basis, and this month has been no different.

The first tick of the month arrived quite by surprise, and ticks of my work on a Hollywood movie.

It all happened the week before last when I was commissioned as a Director for a two minute program insert into a Hollywood movie. Yes a real Hollywood Movie. Every film maker I have ever met dreams of working on a Hollywood movie and eventually to achieve it to me is a big deal. I suppose its the equivalent of coming across a Unicorn whilst out for a walk.

Now I know what you are thinking, blockbuster, shed loads of cash and a lifestyle that makes Simon Cowell look like a Tibetan Monk.

What you have got to take into account is that I cannot claim fame to something like ‘Gone With the Wind’ this is something that will be more like ‘Gone in a Blink’. I along with a colleague was commissioned to produce a scene that will be shown on a TV in a scene in a movie. So blink and you will miss it or even worse the acting will be that brilliant you wont even notice whats on the TV screen whilst watching.

Now the nearest hint of Hollywood gets people excited, you get levels of co operation that you don’t get making a commercial, it is surprising that even in this day and age Hollywood has the effect of making people dream the dream and that is a great achievement in this day and age.

The second tick on my list is back to the second great passion in my life, Music. I must have been a particularly good boy this year because my wife Ann bought us tickets to see Queen and Adam Lambert as a birthday treat.

I am still kicking myself because in the 80s I had a chance to see them when Freddie Mercury was still at the helm, but made the mistake of thinking I will catch them next time and we all know how that played out.

So Wednesday we left a very snowy and cold Diggle and headed into Manchester to the Arena. On the way I couldn’t help think will this be as good as I remember them and will the new guy be just a Freddie Mercury Impersonator.

I needn’t  have concerned myself with that thought, from the best entrance of a Band ever to the final note of the concert, it was without doubt the best concert I have ever been to. For over two hours they blazed their way through hit after hit taking me back in time. Even doing the Radio Gaga hand claps.

As for Mr Lambert, he is his own man and he has a fantastic voice, not Freddie but different in a great way. Brian May and Roger Taylor gave performances that men half their age would have struggled with.

I suppose it is right that we think that someone will be irreplaceable and with good cause but without looking forward and finding a talented individual to take up the challenge these songs would be just tracks heard now and again on the radio, rather than as part of the epic performance I witnessed on a cold dark January evening.

Its amazing to think that I have experienced things already this year that I had erased from my memory as being unattainable, but you never know, life has a way of surprising you so my new philosophy of looking forward rather than backwards seems to be working.


Hi Love. I Have a New Hobby.

The Veterans after the parade
The Veterans after the parade

This weekend has been another in a long line of special weekends in Saddleworth. Its been the annual Yanks weekend were hundreds of people gather in all sorts Second World War uniforms and get together and have a great time and find an escape from everyday life for a little while.

Whilst I was waiting for the Parade to pass by at lunchtime I was lucky enough to watch the real veterans march past looking very smart in Blazers, Berets and Medals gleaming and worn with pride. They were greeted with a huge round of applause, not that this surprised me because like many I believe we owe these people a great deal and we don’t show as much appreciation as we should.enough.

Shortly after the parade three of these veterans came into the beer garden and had a well deserved pint or two. These guys were laughing and joking and had more life in them than most thirty year olds. I stood and laughed with them and had a great half an hour listening to them recant various tales about colleagues and events that left me slightly in awe of them.

However it was what one of the veterans said that made me think. He pointed out that he could understand these people getting dressed up and having a good time and looking back with affection, but what fascinated him more than anything was the guy who turned up with a Tank Transporter complete with Tank!

Tank Transporter

He said “What would you tell the wife when you turn up at the house with that lot”? His mate calm as anything says “He just told her he had a new hobby”.


Peace Events Can be Stressful


I have had a quite stressful week with several projects all coming to completion and others at key stages in the process. By Wednesday I felt that my head was about to explode. But towards the end of the week things started to calm down that was until Friday. 

Friday was International Peace Day and here in Oldham they celebrate by getting all Primary Schools together in The Queen Elizabeth Hall to help celebrate such a noble cause.  Now my old Production Lecturer said (a long time ago now) working with children is always challenging and should you be in such a position always have a big plan B to fall back on. So armed with a pretty good plan B I was quietly confident.

I have been fortunate to have worked on a regular basis with New Image, a local events company who can work miracles on a regular basis and are just what you need when the going gets tough and this was going to be tough. 

So here is the scenario. 600 children and teachers presenting Six 15 minute performances all with music and PowerPoint and although this was stressful enough trying to follow written instructions and getting them all in the correct order ready for performance.

The show started and all was well with the world, now this is where it could have gone wrong on a colossal scale; we had to get 195 flags in the correct order to the stage in time to be announced and placed in holders. To say my heart was thumping in my chest is an understatement.

The whole process worked seamlessly without a single issue. The children were fantastic and carried out the duty of flag bearers with great pride the audience cheering when the Union Jack was carried across the stage. The rest of the ceremony was fantastic, 600 children singing a song written by all of the schools in the audience. 

This was education working at its best. Many of these children come from some of the poorest areas in the country and they behaved impeccably and performed with huge pride. Giving children the opportunity to take part in something of this magnitude you cannot put a price on. I saw dedicated teaching staff prompting them on their knees so the audience would not see. I saw huge smiles when the children heard the applause. This is an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.

So Mr Grove when your Ofsted Inspectors come to visit and criticise these dedicated hard working professionals, working in crumbling schools in hugely deprived areas, remember that not everyone in this world has had the opportunities that you have obviously had. Many of these will find it almost impossible to get into the positions you find yourself in. 

Also remember constructive criticism is far better
than box ticking in an audit trail, remember these children are being given opportunities at school to shine. They are also being shown that by working hard and as a team you can be a part of something special that you will remember for the rest of your life. 

This is a great message to give any young person.


Rubbing Shoulders With Famous Folk


I have been rubbing shoulders with a few famous folk this week. Its been The Oldham Literary Festival and I have been interviewing guest authors for the festivals social media sites which should help promote next years event.

The first person to give me an interview was Paul Lake whose book “I’m Not Really Here” is a sensational read, a often harrowing account of a talented footballer who at the hight of his career was injured and unable to pursue his passion, playing football.

The person I interviewed rather than being a self assured sporting athlete was an articulate and incredibly modest man who has discovered the hard way that fame and fortune sometimes comes to an end just as unexpectedly as it arrives, and the road to were he is now is an inspirational story of how to pull yourself up from the depths of despair.

Together with his wife Joanne they have told the story beautifully and rather than being another football autobiography it is essentially a story of the aftermath of essentially being put out to grass at the age of twenty seven.

The other interview was with Tom Hingley the ex lead singer with the Inspiral Carpets. His book “Carpet Burns” is a great read. I was surprised to hear that he came from Oxford and only arrived in Manchester when he studied at MMU. But his time with the Inspirals has been documented in several books on the Madchester music scene, but his gives us an insight into what its like to be a part of a band, with all the highs and tensions that brings.

What these two people had in common is that they both have been in a position to be revered almost like gods in there respective fields and both have dealt with the resultant tensions since in ways that I was surprised by.

If you ask either of these people what do they treasure most in life, they both gave me the same answer. It wasn’t the money, the fame or the fantastic great times they had experienced but something far more simple. It was the families and close friends who had been with them through thick and thin. 

Perhaps a lesson to be learned the next time you decide to work an extra couple of hours instead of spending time with the people who should matter the most to you.


Friday Night is Music Night


Its been a busy old week. Full of students trying very hard to complete work before they leave the college and head off to university. Its interesting to listen in on some of the conversations about the choices they have made and the impending lifestyle change that leaving home for the first time will bring.

Rather that academic rigor being at the top of the agenda it appears that planning partying and nightlife is the first priority. The conversation I was listening into sounded more like a planning meeting for an 18 – 30 holiday to the Balearics. Perhaps I am more than a tad envious of the exuberance of youth and I wish them well in there future endeavors. 

Leaving the day job behind and suitably knackered I decide to sit down with a brew and watch the England – Sweden Match. This was like getting on a roller coaster, a scary ride of ups and downs so after to comfort my troubled soul I then venture out into the wet wintery weather to join the merry thong at the Diggle Blues Festival. It was a cracking night of live music with a great band.

The Majestic’s are a great six pieceband who do a great Blues number loosely based on La Bamba (I know I have never heard a blues version either before tonight), very enjoyable and with copious amounts of beer and some great company its been a night to remember. 

I am now sat here with the customary Cheese sandwich and coffee trying to fend of the death like feeling I will encounter when I wake up tomorrow. 



The Long Walk




Its been a busy old week. I have had to fit five days work into four days to enable me to attend the Saddleworth Whit Friday celebrations.

Friday usually starts with us being woken by Marsden Brass Band marching through the village playing Hail smiling Morn. Then I casually meander down to the kitchen for a swift coffee and a spot of breakfast before getting ready to join the rest of the village for the procession down into Uppermill for the communal service on the playing fields.

This ritual has taken place in Eccles Hall for the past thirty or so years and myself and Ann have managed to keep out of each other’s way until we are ready to face the outside world. (we find its better that way then we don’t argue and spoil the day).

That is the normal ritual. This year was slightly different, It was Ann’s birthday and instead of being softly woken by brass bands and birdsong, my daughter and her partner and four kids burst in (must get that key back off her) and turned the whole experience into what could only be described as bedlam.

It was as though the clock had been rewound twenty years, we found ourselves making copious amounts of bacon sandwiches and coffee, people arguing who is using the bathroom next and looking for sockets to plug various bits of technology into MY electricity supply.

Eventually, as I got into the Bathroom (last as usual) I was then chivvied along by Ann who was telling me that I was making everyone late. (the cheek of it!). 

We joined the merry thong and dutifully walked with our family (carrying James for a mile or so on my shoulders has I am sure compressed my spine). I found my self-thinking of the many times I had done this before and remembering the people who are sadly no longer with us or have moved away and a part of me for a short time felt a little sad.

That didn’t last very long though as the band struck up and I watched the children trying to march in time, followed by the young mothers in there Sunday best trying to walk in very high heels, not a good idea if you are about to embark on a six-mile walk through the Pennines.

Above all this day is a time to join villagers, friends and family to celebrate being a Christian and come together as one united group of people for one day together in a manner that will probably in a few years time be seen nothing more than a group of mildly eccentric people going for a bit of a walk.

I am sat here at the computer having just cleared up after the family BBQ we had last night whilst watching the Annual Diggle Band Contest. Fifty Bands from all over the world made the effort to play for us without us needing to leave the house to enjoy the event. 

The organisation of this event is incredible and I take my hat off to Steve Scholes and his team of volunteers who make it seem effortless and I am sure it takes a great deal of time and effort in equal amounts. 

So after clearing up after the Eccles Clan’s annual BBQ I feel I need a rest, but alas no, apparently Ann needs to take me and my credit card for her Birthday present (apparently I always get the wrong size or colour), then we need to go and shop for even more provisions because some bright spark decided because we had so much beer left we could have another BBQ on Monday!


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