Friday, July 18, 2014

Mr Cheeky's Girlfriend

No wonder Mr Cheeky has been as keen as mustard to get out again - he has a girlfriend!

I came back from my morning constitutional to find them sleeping close to each other.

They spent the whole day together, playing and cuddling, and quite often kipping a few feet apart
because of the tremendous heat.

It is great to see the Cheekster so happy.

I just hope it makes him more sensible when he goes out during the day.

I still keep him in at night - and have yet to buy him pet insurance. A job for tomorrow, perhaps.

It has been a very strange time. I cannot say what has been happening workwise for legal reasons, though the image at the bottom of this posting may give you a clue of the depressing state of play.

I have been busy on several fronts, while trying to keep up my spirits.

The weather, of course, has been unbelievably good. It is hard to work for nothing when the sun is shining so brilliantly.

I have a routine. I see my girlfriend, Laura, to the bus stop in the morning. Then I walk along the seafront and see the gang - Nicky, Alice, Lindsay, Lauren - at my favourite cafe, Picnics, in Victoria Terrace, Hove, for a cup of tea.

Back at home, I do some writing and emails until lunchtime, usually a sandwich. Then some housework and maybe a single or two on the turntable.

I believe everyone has a beach sport in them - and mine is basketball. I walk down to the basketball court with my ball, do some shooting practice and persuade the youths to let me join in a game.

It is more than 40 years since I last played basketball - at Henry Harbin Secondary Modern school (now called Poole High School), in Poole, Dorset.

But I am not quite as bad as you would imagine and really enjoy it.

Here are some images of my basketballing - three days in!

And also some of the sights I capture on my little camera on my wanderings around Brighton and Hove.
























More news soon. . . 

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Freed from the Shackles of Fifa!

So, Germany has won the World Cup and it is all over. 

It was an amazing, hugely enjoyable tournament but I cannot say I am devastated to see it end. It was the first World Cup finals that I watched pretty well in its entirety and I could not have taken a second more.

For one thing, too many of the games went into extra time.

The pundits were always talking about how tired the players get, but what about the exhausted viewers?

For the Final, I was not sure who to support but as it drew on I started to dislike Argentina's dirty tackling and their surprising inability to put away sitters. I reverted to my genes and started backing Deutschland.

That said, I was very glad Germany won with a single brilliant goal, rather than on penalties, which would have left one feeling that the World Cup Final was really a draw.

I have also finally completed my "Ultimate Football Walllplanner" which came free with the Brighton Friday Ad.

The groups are surrounded by small advertisements for local shops and artisans, whom I can highly recommend.

The Ultimate Wallplanner has proved invaluable, guiding me on teams' form in the later stages of the competition and giving me a reason to live.

I have really enjoyed filling it out. Every result, how ever insignificant, felt like a job done well.

Maybe, a tiny piece of me will miss the World Cup. But I am delighted to have my life back, having seen the best team triumph.

I am, after all, half-German, so ein halb of me is celebrating with a bratwurst and ein stein of Becks, the beer of my mother's home town, Bremen.

P.S. And Liverpool sold Jaws in double-quick time - just as I predicted. You read it here first!

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We went to a superb musical performance a couple of weeks back - compered by our upstairs neighbour, singing tutor Dionne Slater.

A capacity crowd at the Brunswick venue in Hove enjoyed a couple of hours of brilliant performances by Dionne's students.

I had listened to the rehearsals for weeks (or months) coming down through our living room ceiling (in exchange, Dionne had to put up with hearing my guitar practice and croaking of my inaugural song Mr Cheeky rising up through her floor!)

I knew the show was going to be good.

We were both totally knocked out by the high standard of the performances and how Dionne's students had put their heart and soul into their work.

Here are some images of that glorious afternoon:











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Naturally, you are all interested in how Mr Cheeky is doing.

Pretty good, thanks for asking.

The Cheek-ster always likes to be near the action.

For instance, this is where he is as I write this posting, wrapping his furry body around the keyboard, making it as hard as possible to complete this blog.

This is what Mr Cheeky calls helping out.

He is still on antibiotics after his latest health scare, not that you would know it.

He eats like a wolf and constantly tries to get out. I do allow him to go into the hall where he is a hit with passing neighbours.

However, he wants to hit the street again.

One day at a time, Mr Cheeky. One day at a time.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Big Demonstration

I joined the big demonstration today in Brighton and Hove in support of more than one million public service strikers across the nation: teachers, firefighters, council staff, librarians and many, many others.

We numbered around 2,000, according to the police.

I marched three miles, carrying our National Union of Journalists branch banner, with Natasha Steel, to give our NUJ branch's backing to our brothers, sisters and comrades in more than half a dozen other trade unions.

The march was long and windy. I had turned up late and rather agitated for reasons I cannot disclose and it was great to find myself in the midst of our fraternity.

Natasha and I were at the back at first when we embarked from Hove Town Hall - motto: Floreat Hove - and I had a good chat with Jim, the very friendly policeman walking beside me.

Halfway down Western Road, the teachers from Bhasvic and Varndean tagged on the end, with their lovely banner.

Our NUJ banner is large but has the distinct disadvantage that it catches the wind like a main sail, on this occasion holding us back.

It was a bit like trying to sail without a boat! We tried to tack into the wind or even windsurf sideways, but it was heavy sailing.

Unfortunately, the NUJ banner's frame is made of plumber's spares, meaning than a gust of wind could easily dismantle the top pipe, causing us to collide with the teachers behind.

A police lady even warned us we were demonstrating too slowly - a spurious new law if ever I heard one!

By the time we got to The Level, I was exhausted.

I bought a fried egg sandwich and a large cup of tea from the cafe across the road and listened to the words.


Brighton's Green MP Caroline Lucas gave a
rousing speech in support of the strikers and my Trades' Council comrade Phil Clarke also spoke very strongly.

Once again it made me think that if you are being treated unfairly by your employer, you should fight and carry on fighting until they treat you right.



Today's strike has closed around 2,500 schools in England and Wales, and courts, council offices, libraries and museums around the country were also shut.


All Welsh Assembly business has been cancelled and there were passport control delays at Heathrow Airport.

The basket of disputes feature unions fighting poor pay deals, cuts to jobs and pensions and privatisation of services.

It was very good the trade unions in Brighton and Hove demonstrated in such force.

As Caroline Lucas said, we are stronger together.


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Mr Cheeky is back to his usual naughty self.

He is fully recovered from his latest ailment, having incurred (for me) another veterinary bill - for £130.

I simply cannot afford to let him out any more.

Facing joblessness as I do, it is just too expensive to pick up the tab for a social life which would put Prince Harry to shame.

Instead, I spend my waking hours entertaining Mr Cheeky indoors with his mouse on a stick, catnip fish and a bird whistle.

My next job today is to find suitable chords to fit the Mr Cheeky song I have penned.

Not being a song writer of any talent,  I may just crib them from The Beatles.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Thirty Years' Hard Labour

It is 30 years ago today (9 July 2014) that I started my media career - as a trainee reporter at the Hull Daily Mail, in Jameson Street, Hull.

I worked in a big newsroom in a listed building, famous for its Victorian tiling.

Everything there seemed ancient. The windows were of dirty frosted glass; the typewriters were heavy and semi-functional; all activity was decidedly pre-computer and pre-mobile phone.

My reporter colleagues at the Hull Daily Mail were great: sociable, kind, boozy and utterly loyal.

Almost to a person, they were good trade unionists who looked after each other. Those happy, carefree days are distant now.

I spent two-and-a-half glorious years at the Hull Daily Mail before passing my journalism exams  and moving to the Evening Telegraph in Coventry - on Corporation Street - where I was a senior reporter and Pop Editor, writing a thrice-weekly column.

I went on to freelance for the now-deceased News of the World and then edit the pop column at the Daily Star - at famous "Black Lubianca" Express Newspapers building on Fleet Street, before becoming its Showbiz Reporter and Television Editor, running the showbiz desk.

Then I went drastically upmarket to work as a news reporter and for the foreign desk of the Sunday Telegraph, at Canary Wharf, and, afterwards, the features department of the Mail on Sunday.

I was the London correspondent of American news magazine US News and World Report, contributed news-features to Time magazine, and worked as a business writer at the CNN TV in Rathbone Place in London's West End.

After my journalistic career, I went into PR and worked as an account director for a City of London financial PR agency, and then as Head of News and acting Director of Communications for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, based in Eccleston Square, London, and as Director of Communications for an animal charity based at Abbey Park, Leamington Spa, before starting my current communications director job in 2008.

Thirty years of hard graft.

Sitting at home today or doing a spot of gardening at my allotment at Earwig Corner, I cannot say it currently feels like I have been a resounding success.

I have certainly had a most varied and interesting career working in and with the media, but it has not made me wealthy or brought me much status in life.

Back in 1984, there was a sense that a staff job was a permanent affair.

You would have to do something pretty extraordinary to lose it.

Now, of course, businesses are constantly throwing talented and experienced people out of their jobs for no good reason. . . discarding them like used fag ends because their face does not fit anymore, or a grass-is-always-greener person is preferred.

Loyalty has become a one-way street, and that is very depressing.

Looking back, I can't help feel I might have been better off joining a profession, becoming a doctor or a solicitor, assuring myself a decent income and pension and some job security.

Or I could have become an investment banker and made enough dough by the age of 52 (or much younger) to be financially independent, rather than counting every penny.

All the same, I have on the whole really enjoyed my career, even if my talents and toil have not always been appreciated or adequately rewarded.

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Mr Cheeky has been poorly again.

I let him out for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon and he returned utterly exhausted, could hardly move and would not eat or drink.

So, it was back to the vet - who was almost as mystified as I was.

Now I am preparing chicken broth to help nurse Mr C back to good health. He is already looking up a little.

I wonder if he should just stay indoors. Every time he goes out, something awful happens.

As you might have picked up, I have had a lot of time on my hands of late.

So, I have been writing my first song - entitled Mr Cheeky - about the lad's exploits.

I am up to 20 verses. Well, there is so much to say. . . 

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This incredible, astonishing, fascinating World Cup goes on.

I can recall watching World Cups since Mexico 1970 - 44 years ago - when Brazil were in majestic form, beating Italy 4 -1 in the Final to lift (and keep) the Jules Rimet Cup.

This year, the Group of 16 and Quarter Final matches were often extremely close. Hardly a cigarette paper betwixt the sides.

So, Germany's seven-goal annihilation of Brazil last night was as shocking as it was thrilling.

Remember this is the same German side in the same tournament that within the past couple of weeks drew 2 - 2 to Ghana, and only beat the USA and Algeria by one goal in very close games!

Even without two star players, how did the great Brazil collapse so totally? It is almost beyond belief.

I am half-German - my beloved mum is from Bremen - so I should have been delighted by the German victory (England having been knocked out of course).

Instead, I was horrified to see the great Brazil humiliated on their home soil.

I wanted Brazil to win (if the plucky Costa Rica could not!)

I cannot help but secretly wish the Netherlands or Argentina will be able to beat Germany in the Final on Sunday, however unlikely that now appears.

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