Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Pepsi Challenge

I can't pretend I was the most disappointed person in the world when I heard that part-time MP for Darlington, Alan Milburn, was stepping down from the House of Commons at the next General Election.

In fact, I've only just surfaced from the mother of all celebratory benders during which, I can assure readers, we were consuming something slightly stronger than cola. The people of Darlington have been waiting for years for this moment, and they weren't about to miss the opportunity for a street-party.

Alan returned to frontline politics in 2004 (after he'd resigned as Secretary of State for Health to spend more time with his family), but his decision to quit again is apparently to let him "balance my work and my family life with the time to pursue challenges other than politics". It's clear from his blog (which is updated less frequently than my own - which is saying something) that there just aren't enough hours in the day for juggling being a family man, an MP, a blogger and a consultant to Pepsico.

Being a part-time MP is clearly a lucrative business - but it's clear that the Pepsi Challenge comes first for this particular honourable member. So, farewell then, Alan Milburn. I'm sure I'll be raising another drink to your departure before the day is out.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Finger On The Pulse

As a gentleman of advancing years, I like to think I keep myself in trim. Despite decades of abuse, my body has kept up with the ravages of time remarkably well, and a lifetime in provincial journalism has left few scars on my body.

I'm told I still cut a dapper figure when I take to the floor at Flanagan's Apple and, since Mrs Blunt's departure from our marriage, I won't pretend I haven't attracted the attentions of the fairer sex every now and again. The recent popularity of James Blunt has helped, of course, and I'm a little ashamed to admit I've done nothing to dissuade those young ladies who assume I'm somehow related to the stubble-faced singer songwriter. Whether I'm taken as young Jim's father or his brother seems to be directly related to the number of WKD's or Smirnoff Ice's the said young ladies have supped that evening.

Maintaining the illusion comes at a cost - and I don't just mean having to keep stocked up on Grecian 2000. I also need to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of popular music.

That's why the launch of a new website by media giant EMI got my heart racing. A showcase for the 335 artists signed to their stable (not all of whom are dead, by any means), the site allows the reader to easily preview individual tracks and albums to get a taste for new musicians.

When I logged on, I was a tad surprised to discover that '60's crooner Peggy Lee was described as a 'Breakthrough Artist'. Way to go, Peggy!

Easy to navigate, and a portal to thousands of tracks, EMI's new site means that anyone trying to pretend they're younger than they are should have no problem sorting out their Flex's from their KJ-52's. It's an easy way to discover new artists - in the way that Fuel My Blog let's you find new blogs - and I was particularly taken with attractive songstress Bethany Dillon.

Give the site a spin - you'll be glad you did.