Leigh Won’t Vote Tory…But…

“‘I’m voting Tory for the first time’: Things appear to be changing in Leigh” (MEN article (engage ad blockers))

“Leigh constituency election portrait” (the same article but for the local rag)

“Leigh could vote in Tory MP, says YouGov MRP poll” (Leigh Reporter)

The last two links to the local paper give a better insight into the split in Leigh politically as it has comments from, well regular commentators.  How local to Leigh they are is unknown but as sure as the sun rises, you can guarantee that anything story remotely political on that website will have the same commentators have their little spats, its like Twitter but on a diet of lobby.

The above articles give some good insight and my title it’s exactly a massive gamble as it is such a narrow “victory” by the 2019 Tories that only a few votes either way would swing it, the whole point being of course, how has it got to this and again the linked pieces go into some detail.

I personally think that Labour will still win quite strongly though if you look at the trend according to wikipedia the swing has been more “to the right” since the Blair years but the Labour majority seems to swing fairly consistently between 10,000-16,000 over the election cycles.

It is also worth noting that from the high turnouts of 70%+ in the 70’s and 80’s (when you factor in an anti-Tory, pro-mining sensibility) they have plummeted since, barely scratching 60% over recent elections.

The local wisdom being anything with a red rosette wins.

The Conservative candidate is well known locally and a local councillor as far as I’m aware who my sources tell me (i.e. my mates who are actually on Facebook), that he is campaigning hard, so he clearly thinks he is in with a shot.

Current Labour incumbent Jo Platt, on the other hand is a form councillor herself who it’s exactly well liked locally.

But probably liked enough to be voted for because her rosette is red and not blue.

As you may note there are 6 candidates standing this time around.  If we take Labour and the Lib Dems to represent a vote to continue to remain in the EU, then the other 4 are to leave the EU and then the possibility of vote splitting comes into play.

As the graphic above predicts, the Brexit Party could get almost 12%, costing the Conservatives victory?  Probably not.  Anyone who wants to vote Tory will vote Tory, the Brexit party votes will be, in the vast majority, disgruntled Labour voters who just can’t ever vote Conservative.

And that is where I was going to leave this totally amateur look into local politics until the news today that Labour wish to cut rail fares by 75%

The running joke about Leigh as a town, especially in the rugby league community and general banter between the local towns, is that “Leigh is the biggest town in the UK without a train station.”

There are talks locally to open Golborne station, which would do nothing for Leigh.  The original rail lines from Leigh now had the guided bus way on it, which just makes Leigh a commuter hub for Manchester rather than bringing anything into the town.

So the question is, would the train-less residents of Leigh really wish to pay out extra money in taxes just to fund those with rail stations, like the pie-eaters in Wigan and would it be enough to stop any of them voting Labour?

No.  I doubt it.  And if the Tories get in then “I’ll show my arse at Turnpike.”*

 

Thanks for reading.

 

*This is a local phrase; I won’t actually be engaging in acts of public nudity should something highly unlikely actually occur.

My Dad’s Dead Cat

My previous post about toilet behaviour was a moment of levity while I pondered a few things personally.

Given the private nature of myself I try to avoid much details of my life beyond my opinions of the political, beer related or free speech/free thought kind.  The most personal posts I’ve done on here relate to dead pets and this one will be no exception; give or take.  That I’ve procrastinated in posting this in order to get my head around things has allowed life to move on a bit and I now write this with a sense of hope.

My mum would have it that “your father has always been afraid to talk to you,” which of itself is a bit ridiculous but I do get what she means.  My dad is a practical soul and I’m, for lack of a better word, an academic.  Conversations between us are mainly me asking him questions or telling him stories in order to engage his interest, in my old science jobs this would require me to save up about a fortnights worth of banal tales all for half an hour of one-sided chit-chat.

This is the inverse to how my dad is with my mum.  On his visits to her in order to use the toilet and nab a free coffee or tea he too will either sit in silence while my mum works around him or follow her around ranting.  I have yet to experience the latter but I get it from other quarters anyway so that is my penance.

“That Erasure, not bad for a couple of poofs,” is the only opinion my dad has really ever expressed unprompted.  This from a man who happily sang along to Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.  A proper boomer.

However since I started brewing he has shown a very keen interest in all its aspects; including, much like the shopkeeper in Mr. Benn, turning up at my work out of nowhere to just hang around while every so often knocking on stuff with a crooked index finger (a habit I also do, especially with walls in unfamiliar surroundings).

My dad and the male side of his family, have a history of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, etc. but thanks to modern medicine, even a man who once insisted he drove himself to the hospital after a car battery exploded on him (and again when he burnt his hand in a chip pan) has quiet significantly surpassed the age at which his dad died.

It is always odd writing these things, a fear of tempting horrible fate takes hold but life is what it is.

As “luck” would have it, it was again on a forced hospital visit that symptoms my dad simply ignored because he associated them with his health’s history, that something more serious was found but after treatment it seems to have regressed and he can go back to bothering about his blood pressure again.

During that period it was the first but subsequently not the only time I saw my dad tearful.  I wouldn’t say cry, my dad is a person who doesn’t cry.

As a child I recall my dad visibly upset three times.  When his mother died.  When my mum’s mother died.  And when it was announced that Ayrton Senna had died.

His first bout of tears I saw were born of frustration.  Confined to a bed and swamped in the hospital by relatives, including one who’s sole word, to be fair trying to process the whole situation themselves, was “The Christie,” rather than simply telling everyone to fuck off (I’d only just arrived) his emotions came out in the water works.  This cleared the room except for me and him, so we could engage in another hour of tales and elongated comfortable silences.

Later, on the morphine he was proscribed his emotions were even more unpredictable and any tears during this phase I associated with him being off his face.

Truncating this tale to the present and my dad again appears at work.  It was not unexpected, except for his out-of-thin-air appearance, as I’d been forewarned that he’d had to take his cat to the vets.

I knew the drill; carry on working around him, watch him knock on things, answer his random questions and then when the time was right, I’d ask how he was and see if he wanted to talk about it.

The barely disguised tears started as he recounted finding his cat dragging herself around the kitchen floor, a blood clot had paralysed her back legs.  I too had had to deal with a cat in similar circumstances (and a dog too) and it is quite brutal.  To paraphrase George Carlin  “I’ve got half a cat, the front end is perfectly serviceable, it’s just the back end.”

You always feel like you’ve betrayed the pet you take to the vet somehow but you tell yourself, rightly, that there was no quality of life to be had, and we should all be thankful we can at least euthanise our pets.

But sat with him it then occurred to me, given some other things that were happening in his life, this would be the first time my dad would be coming home to an empty house.

We are quite a nuclear family (I’ve just looked up this term, it seems I’ve been using it incorrectly all this time), all the direct members of our clan (bar two) live within a 5-10 mile radius but even in these times of realisation you sometimes can’t change our own nature.  To act out a different set of behaviours based on worry would be noted, commented on and nixed before it even got going.  So we all just revert to type.  So; much like a cat, if my dad wants something then he’ll come to you, you don’t need to continuously approach him unless you are either bringing food, or need to borrow some tools.

You don’t need to worry and you definitely don’t need to fuss.  The fuss will be sought as and when required.

You will worry but that is for you to deal with.

I did raise the subject of getting another cat but he just didn’t feel like it.  Emotions being raw.  I could call his home phone but he seldom answers it.  I could try and call his newly sim-carded mobile but it is always switched off.  I wait.

He is going to be looking after guide dogs.

Well, that is his plan.  His plan, that he came to all by himself.

When my mum lost one of her dogs, she got 15 cats to replace him (she is the quintessential crazy cat lady, plus I always feel she got them to deter my dad from visiting too often given his allergies).  When my dad loses his cat he will now look after dogs.  Dogs, the first time he’s going to have one in his house since he lost his only other previous dog some near forty years ago.

Catharsis for all.

 

Thanks for reading.

That Time I Accidentally Had a Shit in a Wetherspoons Women’s Toilet

This post is literally toilet humour, nothing horribly descriptive but from now on I’m talking shit more than I normally do.

 

 

In the UK, before the advent of “24 hour drinking,” the only place to go for a drink after time had been called at 11pm was to a club.

I hate clubs, I craved a lock-in or to go back to a mates house but it was always insisted, usually be the females in the group or the singles, that we go clubbing it “just for a short while.”

I’m reminded of my time in Bradford, in a club called Maestros, the men’s toilets the cloakroom in, luckily hidden around from the eye-line of the actual bogs but enough so the attendants could keep an eye out for any tampering with the fountain of the fish it contained.

That is almost as irritating as going to the loo only to find some poor soul there waiting with a selection of fragrances and pre-torn hand towels.

For me going to the toilet is a private activity but one I’ve learnt to deal with as not solely being unaccompanied if you are in a public place.

Plus pub toilet banter is almost as funny as pub toilet graffiti.

But that is having a pee and having a pee is fine, for me at least, I still have one shy-peeing/cubicle only mate but horses for courses.

Why bring up clubs? Simply because this was my first introduction to the brassy “don’t worry lads, I’ve seen it all before” type of women who, because the facilities in women’s club loos was so inadequate that the only option was to brave the blokes.

And quite a few did, with the usual complaints about the smell and the general state.  Still, it was another source of toilet banter.

Fast forward my continued attendance at music festivals.  The long queues, or perpetual free-for-all of getting a loo at peak periods.  The fear of what awaits as you open the door of an empty one, or the worry that the next person out of the one you are queuing for will be a boy and not a girl.  Or the bigger worry for me, the fear that when I leave the portaloo it will be a girl waiting to go in after me.

Lucky them, as I leave them in a better state than I find them (within music festival toilet reason) but it is still with due deference you make that fleeting eye contact and sheepish knowing look that we are all in this together.

“Spotless” used to be my boast if I was particularly drunk, the hopefully allay worries, while also realising that this sort of toilet banter isn’t best done in an open field to complete strangers.  Meh.

And so we find ourselves with micro pubs and micro bars and the advent of one, singular shared toilet facility (because as I understand it, to have two or more would require the place to be suitable for disabled access, don’t quote me on that, this blog isn’t about accuracy, just entertainment).

Again; I leave the toilet better than I found it, though it has to be said toilet in micro bars are generally of a better standard that a regular pub, probably because of the far less work required in cleaning just the one, but I still leave the cubicle with the dread of a woman waiting to use it.

However, regardless of sex, if they’ve been the type of person that persistently has tried to open the door when it is clearly locked, then I don’t care.  These are the same people that press both the up and down buttons on a lift and then wonder why they go in the wrong direction when they get in the first one that arrives.

Patience.  All good things to those who wait.

Which brings us to the title of this piece, which must have happened a good decade ago now I think on it.

There is nothing worse than knowing, on a night out, that you need to poo.  In unfamiliar surroundings it is just potty luck, in familiar surroundings it can be worse knowing just how limited your options truly are.

There are times I’ve gone home to use my own loo or, for the price of a drink, borrowed the key to a closer by friend’s house to use theirs.

I’ve gone back to pubs to use better toilets and I’ve gone ahead, leaving drinks behind, in order to get a more comfortable shit somewhere else.

Loo roll is a must.  Then a toilet seat.  Then a door that locks.

In a Wetherspoons I was, or rather thought I was familiar with, I got caught very short and went to use the gents.  In my solitary defence, I was desperate, rather drunk and the entry doors are more or less next to each other.

I flew through the door and briefly acknowledged that the toilet was completely empty as I found a suitable WC.

I was not more than 20 seconds into my ablutions than, very much like the ending of “The Usual Suspects,” all the evidence fell into place.

This place smelt nice.  Did I just walk passed sofas and comfy chairs? And a table with magazines on it?  Wait, where were the urinals?  Why is most of the floor I walked in on still carpeted?  Why were there so many cubicles?  Is that…is that women’s voices I hear?

This would seem like the least stressful way out of this.

I tensed.  Somehow trying to control my releasing of both sound, smell and anything else that could possibly give me up to the new and rightful entrants to the toilets.

Not that shit smells any better out of women but let us not take chances here.

I finished up.  Tidied the toilet to within an inch of its ceramic life and then waited, poised for my escape.

The doors closed.  Silence.  I gave it 5 seconds for the previous occupants to reach minimum safe distance and then I moved.  Quickly ran my hands under the tap in a show of some cleanliness and then just hoped that then next few metres to me and the relative safety and embarrassment free zone of the men’s toilets would not be spoiled by the face of any other person witnessing the horrific mistake I made.

I made it to safety, unseen, unspotted.  Soaped my hands and washing them properly looked at my suddenly very sober self in the mirror.  Dried my hands and rejoined the group.

Somewhere I get the feeling that there is a staff or security member who watched this unfold live.  I also get the feeling this did not go as smoothly as I thought it did and have relayed here.

Still, the past is the past, onwards to being confused by foreign toilet signs.

 

Thanks for reading.

Manchester Foodies Political Intolerance

I was racking my brain for a more punchy title, obviously based around food intolerance, etc. so all ideas are welcome.  This one is certainly less click-bait than the original “The Bigots of the Manchester Craft scene.”

Plus it needs to be said that I have no idea if the title is grammatically correct, meh.

One of my mates is actually an entrepreneur of the burgeoning food scene in Manchester and he too charges astronomical prices for what is a simple product to make and sell and fair play to him.  Fair play to all of them, if you can mug someone off for triple the price and let your confidence trick of more cash must equal better product than have at it, fools and their money.

But as I’ve droned on about before, business and politics don’t mix and said friend in a WhatsApp chat posted this picture…

I wonder if Slowthai will make an appearance?

You just know that all the food and drink available there will be so salty from the tears that Sally Davies would be shutting the event down on the grounds of it being hazardous to health.

And why couldn’t a charity event be held on a weekend, perhaps the rich pickings of the weekend crowd are far too much to give up for the homeless.  Then again Tuesday is a nothing day so I suppose it has less challenges for attention.

As far as I’m aware the #pleaseleavemytown is a reference to this…

 

A typically British confrontation; quietly reserved, passive-aggression met with passive acceptance and droll humour.

“My town” – one bloke with a personal opinion.  Not bubbled seals harping on thinking they speak for everyone.

Still, please leave is quite comparable to “go back to where you came from” and speaking to power is fine, speaking to simple members and voters is just a question of punching in every direction other than up but that is what we’ve become, when simple differences of opinion can see the use of certain words lose all meaning from over use and in completely the wrong context.

More civilised that the way Antifa behave at least…

Still homelessness is worthy enough cause to contribute to, after all its proponents are the first to resist the craft beer wave; why bother paying £10 for a half of an imperial stout or TIPA, when you can mix and match four cans of Kestrel, Skol, Tennent’s and Carlsberg Super Strength for the same price.

 

In other fake news, it turns out both Grub and Indy Man Beer Festival had to issue retractions recently.  Happy they were that rather than the white and middle class turning up to all their events, they finally managed to attract their first paying black and arab customers.

Sadly, on all occasions it turned out to be Justin Trudeau.

 

Thanks for reading.

My Love of Holt’s Pubs

Subtitle: Oh great, if my grammar wasn’t bad enough I’m going to struggle with possessive apostrophes.

Search Holt’s Pubs

Only 12 Holt’s pubs are Cask Marque apparently.  Good, ignoring those chancers is one of my fanciful whimsies I get when I go drinking.

I don’t treat Holt’s pubs the way that some would a Hard Rock Cafe, then again if each pub did their own pin badge then I might consider the pilgrimage to every one, I’ve already got their “bee glass” and my Untappd history seems to suggest I’ve had every beer they’ve done (give or take).  Make it happen Joey.

Now I can’t say I’ve been in a vast range of Holt’s pubs and as my previous post alluded to, the city centre pubs, like The Old Monkey and Ape and Apple just don’t do it for me, not because of the pub itself but because of the location.

If you want a list of my main visitations then it would be:

Tamar (Leigh), Mort Arms (Tyldesley), Atherton Arms (er, Atherton, pronounced a-THE-er-tun), Cart & Horses (Astley), Rosehill Tavern (Daisy Hill), Edington Arms (Hindley), The Crown (Horwich) and a few others more out of the way (i.e. not a simple bus/train ride).

I used to go in The Park in Monton, replete with fish tank and bench seating.  Then they gutted it and made it a mimic of the micro bars that sprung up in “the new Chorlton,” way back when every little enclave just outside of Manchester was “the new Chorlton.”

Now I could bang on about another of my whimsy annoyances which is purely of Holt’s own making and that is their pricing.

They are cheap as chips across the board for all their wares but don’t expect a menu saying 4.5 or 3.0 as a price guide, just some well trained bar monkey going £2.57 or £9.52 all together.

Yep, you’ll be coming home with pockets bulging of coppers to stick in your empty, over sized Bell’s whisky bottle.  Unless you wish to tip the weird amounts “no, you keep the 8p, luv.”

The beer isn’t half bad either but this isn’t about the beer it is about the pubs. “Always a warm and friendly welcome;” carpets, except around the bar area, strategic coat hooks (or full on hangers/stands), bench seating, the right temperature, nice toilets, very well trained staff, TVs at the right volume that can still be easily ignored if need be, cubbyholes, etched glass, etc.

You get the picture.

To conclude this post, I’ll finish with two quotes which sum up with brevity what I’ve drawn out to pass the time; one from Martin:

A TOAST TO SIR HUMPHREY IN THE BLUE BELL

Sam Smiths pubs most easily convey that sense of peace and contentment that justify getting out of your sofa to visit pubs…”

Except at Holt’s you can still use your electronic devices, should you so wish.

The second from my mum:

“If you’re old and can’t afford the heating, just go and sit in the Athy Arms.  You wouldn’t really have to buy anything and you’ll be as alone or as talkative as you want.”

 

Thanks for reading.

Not Tired of Life, Just Tired of Manchester (pubs)

I’ve never liked crowds; or being honest, people in general, the thronging masses of homo sapiens and their need to get wherever they are going and quickly as they can and fuck everyone else. Or the opposite of this, who toddle along or stop and chat on stairs or outside doors and are a general nuisance to everyone trying to get somewhere. Misanthropy can make you view things in extremes but all I see it common sense not being that common.

When I stopped working in Manchester I stopped having to commute through Manchester and I stopped having to go to pubs there to console my time wasted as another train or bus home was late, delayed or cancelled.

I started working and therefore drinking, in earnest, in Manchester some 15 years ago, not long in the scheme of things but a lot has changed in those years and I suspect a lot of people who communicate about beer probably weren’t old enough to drink back then either. For a point of reference it was a time before Port Street Beer House existed, then during, when it opened and became excellent and then further down the line, when it went on to become arrogant and shit.

During the past few weeks I’ve drunk in many towns and cities on extended holidays, especially in London, a place I have also seen change over the past decade or so I’ve made regular trips down there for drinks and the purposes of entertainment and relaxation (get your mind out of the gutter).

I note how the first stop is the Euston Tap and they just seem to be coasting along, resting on their laurels and the captive audience they have but at least that place was deserving of a pedestal at one time, unlike its Manchester Piccadilly counterpart which has always been a hollow shell.

I entertained finally going to the Bermondsey beer mile, if only to indulge my love of Kernel Brewery beers but they don’t open apart from to sell bottles and seeing as very few of the micro (call them craft if you so wish) London breweries are actually much cop (Weird Beard being one rare exception), it wouldn’t be worth my time or money. Full marks to Kernel for not being a slave to trends which now seems to have convinced people that drinking in industrial units under heavy neon lights surrounded by a bit of art is tip-top entertainment. I like Fox’s Biscuits and Heinz Beans but you wouldn’t see me clamouring to get to the a taste of those wares in the factories at Batley and Kitt Green, far better to consume them at home, in the warmth, away from notice-me-wankers (and probably Greg(g) Wallace).

London as a whole has changed, always a heaving metropolis, the description that opens this piece fits it best, though I’ve always respected the seeming fact that London centre pubs are treated as iconic and as necessary furnishments to the economy, something that Manchester, in its clamour to look exactly like London spectacularly loves to ignore and destroy. The personal epiphany though was that all the pubs in London I went in to were havens from the gaggling hordes, something I can’t say for Manchester.

That my opening gambit in every pub and bar I went into was “do you still take cash?” and only once was the answer a “no” still heartens me.

I thought it was just city drinking I was dulled to however not only tolerating but actually enjoying recent trips to Leeds, York, Edinburgh and Sheffield and a whole host of small towns coupled with the London excursion showed that maybe its a case that familiarity breeds contempt and it is well possible because every time I’ve been back to Manchester it has just been a bit meh.

I speak for me, this is my “Rekall moment,” and not to slight the pubs, old and new that are there or the drinks that are on offer.  I am fully aware I’m the factor here.

This piece seems to be acting as a nice intro into another small bit I’m working on called “My Love of Holt’s Pubs” which will be published, when I can be bothered.

 

I’m Linus van Pelt and pubs, except for those in the centre of Manchester are my security blanket.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Oh, of note in London pubs.  Cask beer was significantly improve over recent years (I don’t take my own thermometer though).  Sam Smith’s pubs vary in whether they bother in enforcing their “no mobiles” rule or not.

My Trip to Chernobyl – in 2009

In all this time I had this blog (from 2013), I never thought once to put up my photos I took when I went to Chernobyl and Pripyat back in March of 2009 but I suppose the seeming popularity of the recent HBO miniseries has caused my just to add to the hive of information that is out there.

Prologue

If you are still reading this and haven’t skipped to the pictures already then I’ll just give a bit of personal background.

There was something about growing up in the 80’s that to a child it seemed to be a decade full of disasters.  The Cold War didn’t impact on me in the slightest, I was too young to understand that, but the stuff that disrupted my favourite TV programmes being shown, now that always hit home hard.

The capsizing of the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry outside of Zeebrugge in 1987, the Marchioness disaster is 1989, Hillsborough, Challenger exploding in 1986.  The impact of sudden deaths out of the blue had a big effect on me, it was a feeling that had replaced my fear of earthquakes and volcanoes; once the realisation that the UK isn’t exactly on fault lines or a hot-bed of volcanic activity and it was a paranoia that was eventually supplanted by the hysteria of mad cow disease in the early 90’s.

But one disaster held me in more awe and grim fascination that all others and that was the one that happened in reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in then Soviet Ukraine on the 26th of April 1986.

Fast forward close to 23 years and, having heard money was going to be spent on covering the disaster site more securely than the initial sarcophagus that was hastily constructed just after the disaster, I made it a mission to get out there and get some photos while I still could.

Photos

By all means share these photos, though I would like a credit if you would be so kind, any questions about my time there will be happily answered below.

This may extend to a few more posts as there are quite a few pictures.

A few “whhhaaattt” things that always got me.  Because of the energy deficiency that was met with the loss of reactor 4, I’m pretty sure I was told that the other reactors continued to operate “as normal” during the whole time period after the fall out.

And that; I think to this day, the French deny that any of the radioactivity from the disaster went anywhere near French soil.

First off I think we should all remember the immense sacrifice the liquidators (or bio robots), or just the ordinary firefighters who risked and gave their lives to clean up the site so the rest of the world would not have to suffer as much.

This tested us for radiation before and after our visit.

The road inside the exclusion zone and towards Chernobyl, with the site in the distance.

The decidedly small amount of background radiation outside the disaster site.

The school and associated playground.

It is about this time when you realise that even though it is still an active military site with exclusion zones, urban explorers can still get in.  Vandals get in there is graffiti everywhere and obviously tourists, so you do sometimes wonder just how “posed” some of the scenery is and just how things were left following the evacuation of Pripyat.

The recreation centre and the hotel I think.

Bits and pieces.

The fairground, may have been permanent may have been for the planned May Day celebrations.

The flora and fauna was radio active and we were advised not to step on any grass or moss or leaves where possible.

The tower blocks and housing with the reactor in the distance.

The nuclear research centre.

The “Red Forest” where the radioactivity detector went mental for the brief period it was held out of the van window.

Finally (maybe) is what I believe is called Chernobly-2, or “The Russian Woodpecker” – a huge radar array that was officially discovered following the accident.  With the size of this thing and the fragility of the never maintained original sarcophagus over reactor 4, it was suggested that if this thing collapsed the resulting ground tremor could have shaken and caused the collapse of the sarcophagus leading to the radioactivity still in the old reactor core being released all over again.

Makes you think.

Forward to Fukushima.

 

Thanks for reading.