Friday, 16 November 2007

Ever so humble...

When, at the behest of my son Jasper, I launched myself into the world of blogs, it was with no thought to the honours that might be bestowed on me.

Modesty almost forbids me from mentioning, therefore, that Bill Blunt's Blog has recently been awarded the coveted Golden C*** of Excellence Award by none other than that scion of upper class virtue, Lord Likely.

Throughout my career, I have always striven to maintain a modicum of respectability. Not for Bill Blunt the easy headlines to be gained by peppering my articles with words like 'Sex', 'Drugs' and 'Rock & Roll'. I think I know my audience, and those I do know are not comfortable with words calculated to cause my good friend, the Reverend Ivan Stang, to blush.

Lord Likely's award more than made up for the panning I got when my blog was recently reviewed by Humor-Blogs.Com.
I can't pretend I wasn't just a tad mortified to have my blog described as "an absolutely snooze-fest". Nor that someone seemed to think that my reflections on my recent marital breakdown were meant to be amusing: "All this person talks about is his wife leaving him. Maybe he isn't whining about it, but geez, I don't want to read about people's marital problems. If I did, I'd read the Enquirer..."

It would be easy to be wounded by such views. Fortunately, years of working in local journalism have hardened me to comments like that. I learned, long ago, that when the constant barbs of criticism are thrust towards your open heart, you need only to turn aside to deflect them.

At my age, recognition is enough.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Have your cake and eat it

As someone who has become increasingly concerned about my weight, a front page of the Independent newspaper came as something of a relief, last week. Apparently, marginally overweight people live longer than any other group of people. The scientists have given their blessing, it seems, to people being just a little bit porky. It’s better to be a few pounds on the plus side than either obese, thin or ‘normal’ (whatever that means).

I didn’t read the full article, in case the small print hid some kind of caveat or other. It’s quite enough to know that carrying a few pounds more than he should is not going to do Bill Blunt any harm. At the same time, another headline I saw seemed to suggest that exposure to the sun helps prolong life, too. That’s another tick in the box for Bill, then, as I reflect on all those summers spent in the ‘60’s at Juan Les Pins, before Mrs Blunt came along.

When I think about all those painfully thin, pasty-faced scientists who parade themselves on TV, telling us what we should and should not be doing to maintain our health, I can’t help stifling a smug grin. What nightmares must they now be suffering as they tuck into their fat-free cranberry and broccoli yoghurts?

As I savoured the good news (and made a mental note to book a place on that Tuscan cookery holiday I’ve always wanted to try), I couldn’t help but reflect on the wise words of the late Freddy Marple. “Women like a decent set of love handles, in my experience,” he used to say. And there were few men more experienced than Freddy. Before he settled down, his fabled address book could easily have been mistaken for the Thompson Local. Many were the times his friends, at a loose end for what to do on a Friday night, would ask to rifle through those well-thumbed pages for inspiration. It was said of any woman in Stockport that, if she hadn’t been with Freddy then she was probably only visiting for the day.

There’s hope yet, then.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Divided Loyalties

Imagine the scene. A young boy still in short trousers and knee high socks, accompanying his Uncle Jesmond to his first ever football match. The excitement of the capacity crowd, the dashing players in their classic 1950’s kit, the roar of pleasure as the pie-man started his trail around the terraces. A mug of steaming Oxo at half-time, to take away the biting wind-chill of the Boundary Park terraces. Those were, indeed, the days - and must, I am sure, have led me into my life’s career as a sports journalist.

Although I was to later to cover many other sports, it was always to football that I returned. The steady commercialisation of the game was not something that I relished. The glorious game, made dirty by the noxious whiff of money, was the living nightmare that enmeshed Association Football during the 1980's, as television got its grubby hands on the game.

As a leading sports columnist of my generation, I sat on the sidelines as Messrs Murdoch and Co sullied the sport with their wads of cash. Somehow, it took the pleasure out of physically going to the match, as you could now watch the entire proceedings from the centrally-heated comfort of your lounge. Grey school shorts and Oxo were swapped, in later years, for bermuda shorts and a few tins of fizzy lager.

Last night, however, I had a conversion on the road to Birkenhead. Having realised that Oldham were playing my new local team, Tranmere Rovers, I decided to forsake the sofa, and don my worsted overcoat. Even as late as a few moments before purchasing my ticket, I was unsure which side to support. But, like that famous psychological test of tossing a coin to make your mind up about something (so that if it falls the wrong way, you finally know), as I approached the turnstiles my mind was made up. You can take the man out of Oldham, but you can't take Oldham out of the man.

And so it was that I joined the hardy band of away supporters, cheering on the Latics as they put up a sterling fight. Despite being close tot he bottom of the League, they fought valiantly against Tranmere, who looked shoddy and uninspiring by comparison. Tension mounted as the game drew to its close, the scoreline 0-0 after 90 minutes of play. Then, magically, Oldham managed to sneak in a winner in the final minute of extra time. Pleasure unbounded for the couple of hundred Oldham fans who had been in proud voice against the desultory silence of their Tranmere counterparts.

Tranmere Rovers 0 Oldham 1

Monday, 5 November 2007

Sex & Shopping

I’ve discovered that I’m a bit of a tart, when it comes to supermarkets. I know some people return, time and again, to the same, familiar shop to buy their weekly groceries. I always left the shopping to Mrs Blunt but have, since our divorce, had to learn the art of foraging for food amongst the aisles.

I won’t pretend it came naturally to me. My first attempt at buying fresh fruit came unstuck when I realised I hadn’t the faintest notion of what constituted a kilogram. Two kilos of nectarines sounds like a reasonable enough proposition, until you discover that’s about twenty of the little blighters – far more than any sane man would want to consume in a week. But mostly, I’ve taken to the grocery shop like a duck to water.

I find that I am as at ease in Morrison’s as I am in Sainsbury’s, as relaxed in Aldi as I am in Asda. I can get quite chipper at the thought of popping in to squeeze melons in my local Iceland. No one could accuse me of monogamy in my dealings with the major food retailers. I like to ‘put myself about a bit’, and have even been spotted in Netto, now and again.

Yet there’s one place that always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s all that pseudo-patriotic red, white and blue … but I’ve never yet been seduced by Tesco. They just don’t do it for me. I know that the retail analysts will tell us that one pound in every eight spent in the UK finds its way into the hands of the Tesco family, but they’d be lucky if they got a tenner a year from me. They’re obviously doing something right as they steamroller their new shops across the country. A lot of folk clearly like what they do. Not Bill Blunt, though. The remorseless Tesco-fication of Britain leaves me cold. Their pioneering ‘out of town’ supermarkets almost spelled the death knell of Britain’s corner shop. What few are left will easily be seen off by the Tesco Metro’s that are springing up everywhere. Every time I hear that phrase ‘Every little helps’, I can’t help feeling just a little queasy.

Though I have forsworn setting foot in Tesco, there are still (thankfully) plenty of other retail giants offering the opportunity to saunter down the dairy aisle, coyly smiling at the rather attractive female choosing which brand of low-fat cottage cheese to buy, while I ruminate over yoghurts. Supermarkets are now the place of choice for the single, unattached male bent on picking up women, it seems. They perform the same social function as the dance hall or the coffee bar once did, in my youth. And a glance in the basket of any woman will give you an instant appraisal of the type of person she is.

My top tip, for any man who finds himself checking out ladies at the check-outs, is to look for a well-balanced basket. Plenty of fresh fruit, veg and all that stuff. A bottle of red wine, perhaps. Fight shy of the bottle of gin types: you can’t know for sure it’s not a daily habit.