When In Manchester, Nog

I was sat in Starbucks last night, thinking of tax, and people watching.

I had time to kill before meeting up with my wife outside the Apple shop to assist her in the attempted resurrection of her seemingly deceased phone.

Sat to my left were four Asian men, perhaps holding a business meeting or family conference. To my right was an amorous, touchy-feely couple, possibly Latin American. Surrounded by unfamiliar languages, in the safe knowledge that they would hold no distractions, I pulled out the cheap second hand book I had just picked up from Paramount.

I do love those second hand book shops, a lot more than Waterstones. The books smell dusty, show signs of being loved and caressed by strangers hands. Some have notes scribbled inside which you try to decipher and imagine probable cause.

When I’m out and about and see other people reading, I am filled with an abiding curiosity to know what they are reading. I try to steal sly, surreptitious glances at the covers. I get tempted to ask, but I am wary of other people’s boundaries and hate to initiate small talk.

I began to read my book, unfamiliar tongues dancing around me and circling my Americano. After only around ten minutes I became aware that one of the Asian guys, middle aged and not discreet, kept sending curious glances my way. Was he weighing me up, wondering why I would be sitting alone and radiating silence? Perhaps he was gauging how much coffee I had left-maybe there was another, fifth member to arrive and he wanted my seat?  Surely he wasn’t trying to decipher the text on my book cover?

To my right, love’s young dream continued oblivious.

Then, after a studious few minutes, the man asked me:

“What are you reading?” 

There-he just came out and asked the very question that was so often on my lips but had never escaped. And it would have to be when I was holding a book like this-when I had only just started and there were no easy answers.

There may even be the problems of a language barrier.

I could just give the title and the author-Nog, by Rudolph Wurlitzer. But that might come across as a bit curt, a little cold. There was the quote at the top of the book, by Thomas Pynchon:

The Novel of Bullshit is dead.


No, I wasn’t going to risk that misunderstanding. I turned to the blurb on the back,

In Wurlitzer’s hypnotic voice, Nog tells the tale of a man adrift through the American West, armed with nothing more than his own three pencil-thin memories and an octopus in a bathysphere.


An octopus in a bathysphere.

Maybe the other two quotes on the back would help?

Jack Newfield, Village Voice:

Nog is to literature what Dylan is to lyrics.


Or what about good, dependable, Newsweek:

Somewhere between Psychedelic Superman and Samuel Beckett.


He held my gaze as I thought it over. I took another gulp of coffee.



Touching Distance/Please Don’t Rain On Our Parade

I won’t go on too much and bore you all, I know football is not everybody’s cup of tea. But I went to the Manchester City v Aston Villa game last night at a rain lashed Etihad Stadium, Rainy Manchester definitely living up to its name. Beneath an incessant deluge City won the game 4-0, despite a very nervy first hour.

Nervy because we went into the game knowing that a win and a draw in both last night’s and this Sunday’s games will be enough to win us our second title in three years.


Fittingly it was our Ivory Coast international Yaya Touré that scored the last, milestone goal. Milestone as it was the 100th league goal of our 2013-2014 campaign. Voted the African Player of the Year for the last three consecutive seasons, the goal was also his twentieth league goal of the season, which is an astonishing return for a midfield player.


Oliver Holt, Chief Sports Writer for The Daily Mirror, described it thus:

There are few finer sights in the Premier League than Touré in full flow. He is speed and grace and power personified. He ran and ran and the Villa defenders could not get near him. He outstripped them all.

Speed and grace and power personified. Whoever said that there was no poetry in football? Another newspaper referred to him as

a destroyer with the feet of a dancer.


Catch him if you can. I would have included a clip via YouTube, but my PC still slumbers on.



In a previous post, in an attempt to capture both his strength and skill, I shared this description of Yaya:

A buffalo in ballet shoes.

What an image that conjures, eh? I’m sure he must have featured in that Kia Ora advert a few years back.

However, I will share one last image that I think succinctly illustrates City’s number 42’s playing style.


Roll on Sunday. A point is needed. Win or draw and we have won the title. But as we all know, in football anything can happen.

Please don’t let it rain on our parade.

The Maybe Maypole

Well it wasn’t exactly May Day, that being the first of May, but today was the May bank holiday, and the plan was to take the kids to Jubilee Park (the place that featured in my Halloween post, obviously a park for all seasons) to watch some local school children dancing around the Maypole. I could go on here about the link with the Celtic pagan festival of Beltane, the re-enactment of old folk traditions and customs concerning the Green Man and the rites of Summer etc, but I will leave that to more informative blogs. It doesn’t feel right with a mouthful of candy floss. I will just show you a few photographs of the occasion instead.

It was just a normal, leisurely, bank holiday afternoon. Sat in the park. Being approached by some bearded men with feathers in their hats and bells on their toes.


The band in the bandstand struck up. Where else would you expect to find a band, except in a bandstand? Perhaps jumping on a bandwagon?


This guy here offered his drumstick to my children, to hit the drum with as hard as they could. Neither of them would do it. I couldn’t believe it-you want to hear the racket that they make at home. Yet when given the opportunity they play the shy card.


A processional file started following The Green Man around the park. The procession went anti-clockwise, widdershins, for those of you who care about those sort of things.



Up close to the Green Man, my little boy was afraid of the ‘walking tree thing!’ and kept an out-of-reach-of-branch-arms distance.


It was a scary experience all round for him. He earlier got half way up the steps of the Edgar Wood-designed Exedra (admit it-you thought that they were just steps, didn’t you?) when the church bells started ringing out and he abruptly turned and ran straight back down.





The Green Man was demonstrating, with the help of a narrator and some young dancing children, how he had slept through the Winter months before awakening from his dormancy in the Spring, but being at the back of the crowd my children couldn’t see and were getting restless. So we decided to leave and seek out a real park that had swings and slides and things.


On the way I showed them this anchor, which is attached to the outer wall of Middleton Library, that once belonged to the Norwegian brigantine Sirene that ran aground in Blackpool in 1892. Any excuse to share a bit of history, their interest waned when they learnt that there were no pirates involved. I should have just lied for entertainment purposes.


Through one of the old, cobbled town passageways, we left behind the traces of a diluted, earlier tradition to emerge blinking into the concrete jungle of twenty first century Middleton life.


Still no sign of a Maypole. Next month we’ll search for Juniper berries.

Claws for the Weekend:Smile Fido Smile

Thought I would share these photographs that featured on my FB timeline with you all.

Just like when you finally manage to gather all the kids together, get them to sit still after wiping snotty noses, orchestrating them all the time into the best position to pose, there is always one who sticks his tongue out at the crucial moment when the camera clicks.

Maybe licks his big brother’s cheek to make him laugh.


As man descended from apes, and his best friend later descended from wolves alongside him, in their mutual evolution a few tricks were shared along the way.

Fetch. Roll over. Play dead. Take a selfie.

Everyone’s at it.


Have a great weekend. Give that tail a wag.

See you on the flip side.