Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Summer lovin'

Press release of the year so far?

I wondered whether you’re planning on doing any holiday health stories on the website? If so, I’ve pasted info on our safe sex holiday phrases below as research has shown women are more likely to have sex with a new partner on holiday more quickly than they would at home ([1] What happens in Tenerife stays in Tenerife: understanding women’s sexual behaviour on holiday”, M Thomas (2005).

The Language Of Love
Essential foreign phrases for a sexy and safe holiday


At last! Summer’s finally here. Time to start planning that trip you’ve been looking forward to all year – there’s nothing quite like fun in the sun with your bezzie mate.
But it’s not just about the trip to the beautician or the high street before you go. It’s important to make sure you have everything you need to stay safe and have fun while you’re away.
Sun, sangria and sexy senors can be a powerful mix, and research shows women are more likely to have sex with a new partner more quickly on holiday than they would at home. So whether you’re in the mood for a holiday romance or not, the best way to stay safe and healthy is to slip a pack of condoms into your washbag before you go.

Whether you’re hooking up with Sexy Stavros or getting it on with Pouting Pierre, to help you stay condom confident across the globe we’ve gathered some essential phrases you won’t find in your travel guide.
You can use these condom confident phrases when visiting the following countries:

1. Greece
2. Spain
3. Italy
4. France
5. Germany
6. Portugal

Do you have a condom?
Greek - Eheis ena profylaktiko?
Spanish - Tienes un condon?
Italian - Ce l'hai un preservativo?
French - As-tu un préservatif?
German - Hast Du ein Kondom?
Portuguese – Você tem um preservativo?

No condom no sex
Greek - Horis profylaktiko den exei sex
Spanish - No practico sexo sin condon
Italian - Senza preservativo, niente raporti
French - Pas de préservatif, pas de relations sexuelles
German - Kein Kondom, kein Sex
Portuguese - Nenhum preservativo nenhum sexo

Let’s try this ribbed one
Greek - as prospathisoume afto me tis ravthoseis
Spanish - provemos este con estria
Italian - Proviamo questo modello ondulato
French - Essayons ce modèle nervuré
German - Lass uns dieses Kondom mit Rippen versuchen
Portuguese - Deixe-nos tentar isto marcou um

Which flavour condom do you prefer?

Greek - pia yefsi profylaktikon protimeis?
Spanish - Que sabor de condon prefieres?)
Italian - Quale gusto di preservativo preferici?
French - Quel est ton parfum de préservatif favori ?
German - Welches Aroma Kondom ziehst Du vor?
Portuguese - Que preservativo do sabor você prefere?

Sorry love, you’re not my type
Greek - Signomi koukla mou - den esae o typos mou
Spanish - Lo siento, tu no eres mi tipo
Italian - Mi dispiace caro, ma lei non e mio tipo
French – Désole, mais tu n’es pas my type!
German - Sorry Liebling, du bist einfach nicht mein Typ
Portuguese - Sinto, mas não eres para mim

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Capital of Culture? It's London baby

2008 may have been Liverpool's year - but it wasn't enough to challenge London's monopoly on the tourist industry, or to overshadow Asani the black rhino calf born at Chester Zoo.

Despite two thirds more visitors than usual turning up, Liverpool could only chug in 17 and 19 in the rankings with the Tate Liverpool and Maritime Museum.

Whereas down the road at Chester Zoo it only took a cute baby rhino and a two per cent rise in day trippers to secure the number 11 spot.

That's not bad going, especially when you consider that unlike the two top 20 Liverpool attractions the zoo charges for entry.

The UK's top 10 visitor attractions, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, are all in London.

Perhaps it's reasonable to conclude that geography can't be beaten and the concentration of world class exhibits and architecture London offers makes it a one stop shop for tourists.

Still, it would have been good to see all of Merseyside's museums and galleries queueing up to challenge that stranglehold in '08 year.

The top scoring attraction outside of London is to be found in a former capital of culture city, Glasgow.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum sits at number 11, but also reports that it has lost more than a third of visitors on last year, which makes you wonder what it takes to crack the top 10.

Glasgow gained a much lauded lift from it's 1990 year as the European Capital of Culture, but 18 years on has the magic worn off? Of the 10 Glasgow attractions eight had lost visitors - some to the tune of 30 - 40%.

And while Liverpool's '08 year was widely considered a success, what will it take to maintain the tourist interest in the city and capitalise on it - especially during a recession?

Potentially more worrying for the Wirral's battered and bruised cultural infrastructure the beautiful Lady Lever art gallery in Port Sunlight has clearly felt an adverse impact from Liverpool's year in the spotlight, recording 16% less visitors.

It remains to be seen if the much anticipated new KLM routes will bring extra tourists to the city from Asia, Africa and he Americas, via Amsterdam.

If thousands of first time visitors do arrive in Liverpool then we need to make sure that we're making the most of the city's cultural institutions.

2008 was a great start to a revolution in arts and tourism investment in Merseyside, and that work continues with the Museum of Liverpool opening in 2010.

But I can't help thinking that the city had a spectacular year - possibly the best year our generation will witness - and even with the massive increase in visitor numbers it has still fallen short of establishing itself beyond argument as a must-visit UK destination.

If this is as good as it gets, then in my opinion it's not good enough.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Crunch time

There's only so long a journalist can sit around waiting for the PR mavens at Walkers to realise that her blog is called "Secrets from the Squirrel" (and kindly put a complimentary packet of their new Cajun Squirrel flavour crisps in the post) before she has to take matters into her own hands.

Well, readers I regret to inform you that either the snack manufacturer's lame "do us a flavour" campaign is sadly lacking in intelligent e-marketing strategies, or this credit crunch is really biting.

Whatever the cause, the effect is the same, and it has left a nasty taste in Secrets from the Squirrel's mouth.

In order to blog about this naff publicity stunt I have had put my hand in my own pocket and pay 60p for a bag.

And frankly, I'm ashamed of myself - on many levels. For a start I'd have been better off buying Razzle for the dirty looks carrying a bag Cajun Squirrel afforded me. Secondly, I'm doing what the PR people want me to do. Thirdly, Charlie Booker has already written the definitive critique on the Cajun Squirrel abomination.

Self-loathing aside, I have bought said snack, eaten it and arrived at an opinion: It is horrible.

On first whiff they smell like Tesco value steak crisps, burnt toast and paprika - it turns out that's what they taste like too, to begin with. But then after a moment they start to burn the back of the throat in an offensive synthetic chilli manner.

The overall effect is best likened to a hangover where you wake up realising you didn't brush your teeth before you passed out and the last thing you ate was a dicey Indian. Less Louisiana, more "where is the nearest loo - I think I'm going to be sick."

Of course, I'm being melodramatic, the flavour actually owes its unique, um, taste to milk lactose, salt, sugar, flavourings, dried onion, dried garlic, dried lemon juice (is that even possible?), cardamon, ginger, coriander, chilli, cumin, oregano, thyme, allspice, and parsley.

But far more importantly, squirrel lovers: "Thankfully no squirrels were harmed in the making of this crisp!"

Although truth be told, if there is some super-strain of mutant Cajun kick ass squirrel then this blog would love nothing better for them to be hunted down and turned into crisps. We've got enough on our plate with the advance of the greys to even contemplate a war on two fronts.

So to conclude, Secrets from the Squirrel has bravely taste tested these crisps on your behalf - just in case in a moment of petrol station weakness you were ever tempted to buy a bag while no one was looking - and has this message for you all: Don't Do It.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Five seconds of fame

Geoff has become a superstar overnight, and because his legal battle has become national news there is a need for expert comment and analysis.

Which is obviously why Jeremy Vine's radio 2 people called today and asked me to appear on the show.

Here's my chat with the very charming Jeremy Vine (it starts at the 34min mark) http://bit.ly/15Er7Z

I spent the rest of the day taking media inquiries on Geoff's behalf - he was tired after a 4am start for GMTV, you see.

So far, after gracing the front page of this morning's Metro Geoff has lined up appearances on Trisha, featured on the Vine show and has offers on the table from two Merseyside radio stations and a Brazilian TV network. His facebook group claims that his story has spread as far as Australia.

Frankly if Geoff carries on like this I won't be able to hack the pace.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Press gang

The gallery of North Sefton Magistrates was heaving with hacks today because it was time for Geoff Dornan, Ormskirk's OAP rollerblader, to learn his fate.
Not since Stevie G got himself mixed up in a bar brawl has Southport seen so many film crews outside the court room.
I counted at least 10 journalists on the press bench taking notes - despite this Geoff nodded off during proceedings, I imagine all that skating would make you sleepy.
Anyway it didn't end well for Geoff, but he's vowing to appeal, so the media circus will reconvene at Liverpool Crown Court in the near future no doubt.
I do hope someone with a sense of humour will list Gerrard and Dornan for the same day - just to see if Geoff can pull in a bigger crowd than the Anfield ace.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Football is my church

As another manager is sacrificed at the altar of the beautiful game there's no denying football is the new religion.

Premiership players are gods, chants replace hymns and the cathedral has been abandoned in favour of the home ground.

Worship is held on match days, Kevin Keegan is not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy, and Alex Ferguson is probably the pope.

Phil "the sacrificial lamb" Scolari has found this out the hard way thanks to Roman Abramovich's very convincing turn as Pontius Pilate.

Interesting that at a time when everyone else is apologising - bankers, the BBC, hell even Barack Obama - Scolari was out on his ear before he could even begin to grovel.

That's because the football gods are merciless - think Old Testament meets Rangers fans and you get the idea.

Failure demands action, not words - after all the Champions League is far more important than the global banking crisis, and so it is fitting that the Chelsea manger has been dealt a larger serving of public humiliation in his ruthless execution than Mssrs Goodwin, Hornby, Stevenson and McKillop were delivered by the select-committee.

The good news for Big Phil is that there's likely to be a second coming with another high profile job in top flight football almost a guarantee before the month's out.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

New York, London, Milan, Paris and Southport

Napoleon took one look at Southport's Lord Street with its tree-lined boulevards, landscaped gardens and wrought iron fancies and thought to himself, "Zut alors! This is what Paris is missing!"

At least that's according to the pleasingly named architecture professor Quentin Hughes.

His theory is a lovely jigsaw of fact that adds Napoleon's time spent lodging just off Lord Street to his later destruction of medieval Paris to make way for the Champs Elysées etc to argue that Paris was based on Southport.

I'm all for it, let's see some Parisienne chic in Sefton.

For a start we'll be needing an annual fashion week - possibly with catwalk shows on the pier - to rival the four fashion capitals of the world. Admittedly that sounds a tall order until you think of the wealth of golf couture we boast in Britain's classic resort. Plaid shorts and tartan tank tops anyone?

Then there's Hesketh Bank - surely more than a match for Paris' Left Bank culture hub with it's annual steam rallies, village shows and Pumpkin festivals?

We'll also need to see some metropolitan rudeness, so I'm afraid the charmingly polite Campaign for Courtesy and the Ambassador Awards will have to go in favour of the Gallic shrug.

The indigenous WAG population should ensure a suitable level of glamorous, boutique frequenting females to give the whole endeavor the necessary je ne sais quoi.

Really, I have no idea why the similarities haven't struck me sooner.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

A queer case of West End theatre a Wirral murderer and The Beatles

Heath Road, Bebington, Wirral is a comfortable suburban nest - and it is also the birth place of queer thespian and murderer Kenneth Halliwell.
Kenneth shot to posthumous notoriety after taking a hammer nine times to the head of his lover, the award winning playwright Joe Orton.
Years earlier people had predicted that Kenneth's name would be splashed across the front pages - not because he exhibited homicidal tendencies - but because he was regarded as one of RADA's most promising talents.
It was at drama school that Kenneth and Joe met and in the beginning it was Kenneth who was the star, the sophisticate and the older man to Orton's awkward, outrageous, angry outsider.
Before long the tables turned and Orton's advance on the West End was unstoppable - in 1966 Loot! won the Evening Standard Theatre Awards cementing Joe's place alongside the likes of Pinter and Stoppard - while Kenneth's career had stalled.
Holed up in a tiny bedsit close to Angel's Camden Passage the pair kept a claustrophobic joint diary that chronicled Orton's promiscuity in cruel detail, Halliwell's failing artistic endeavours, the pair's trips to north Africa and Orton's stage successes.
Editor, mentor, ball and chain, father figure, failure and muse Kenneth found he had become Joe's foil, and forgotten by the fickle theatre set he increasingly turned to prescription drugs.
Eventually, goaded by Orton, Halliwell snapped and bludgeoned his partner with a hammer before taking an overdose.
The pair were found in their Islington flat by the chauffeur who had arrived to take Orton to a meeting with The Beatles, where he was due to discuss a screenplay he had written for the band.
Kenneth left a suicide note, signing off with:
"If you read his diary all will be explained. KH. PS Especially the last part."
Kenneth's early years in Bebington tell us much about the man who would eventually become a murderer: His mother died in the most bizarre of circumstances, stung in the mouth by a wasp. A pupil at Wirral Grammar School Kenneth was a conscientious objector during the war and at the age of 20 found his father dead, with his head in the oven.
Now enjoying a revival of his work, Orton is remembered as Imelda Staunton and Mathew Horne, hot from his Gavin and Stacey Christmas special triumph, take the lead in Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Trafalgar Studios. Loot! is also onstage at The Tricycle garnering five star reviews.
And just as it always was, Kenneth is forgotten.

Orton on The Beatles screenplay which never was, as interviewed by Barry Hanson:
"I was approached to do a film script for the Beatles. I said it would have to be an absolutely original script. Paul McCartney said do whatever you like. I said that means you'll never be able to do it. He said as long as it's good, that's all right. So I did the script and I was very pleased with it and my agent was very pleased with it and she's not an easy woman to please."

Sunday, 11 January 2009

It's simply not tennis, Wossy

I was surprised to see Jonathan Ross twittering about tennis today.
Because anyone that knows anything about Ross' approach to media reports of his life will know that the tennis court is sacred.
But fanning the flames of the Sachsgate scandal on Twitter, Ross has managed to make sure he stays firmly in the media spotlight during his exile from the BBC.
His 8,334-strong following in Twitterdom has been kept abreast of domestic developments at "Wossy's", and the national papers have dutifully relayed the updates to the rest of the UK.
Things were different back in 2006 when lawyers acting on Ross' behalf kicked up a stink over paparazzi pictures of the presenter playing tennis with David Baddiel. In warnings sent to the press they made it clear that Ross felt that the images were a breach of his privacy.
Fast forward less than three years, and after trouncing Andrew Sachs' right to privacy, Ross must feel differently about sharing details of the tennis court.
Today's twitter updates from Ross below:
"Recoering from exhausting game of tennis - doubles. ma and David Baddiel versus two blokes who didn't even want to sit down for a breather."
"They beat us 6 -1, 6 -1. But one of them used to be a County Champ."
"I still secretly think I might win wimbldone one day. Not so secretly now perhaps."
"I know that really it's fairly unlikely that I'll win at wimbledon, but in movies that kind of thing happens quite often. Ergo..."

So where would Ross stand in the eyes of the law if next week he's papped serving up a double fault and wants to stop the pictures appearing in the press? Can he still claim that he should be able to expect the details of his tennis matches to be private?
The Sun's lawyer Tom Crone launched an impressive broadside at Ross when the Sachs row erupted.
Crone commented: "Jonathan Ross is a serial litigant. Get anywhere near his private life and you’re likely to hear from m’learned friends.
"Since Mr Ross is so keen on consulting his lawyers, perhaps he should ask them to explain what the laws on privacy and harassment mean."

*All typos Wossy's own.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

"Slaapwandelende pedo"

There are times when the news gods choose to bestow favours upon journalists.

I now know this because a case landed in my lap that even the accomplished novelist Jordan could turn into a must-read splash, so bizarre and structurally perfect were its circumstances.

Sitting in the press bench thinking about what to have for lunch and waiting for the robbery trial I was there to cover, another Ormskirk case came before the court listed only "for mention".

Usually this means the lawyers wrangle about the practicalities of the case without debating the actual charges. Not so on December 22 2008.

CPS prosecutor Fiorella Brereton stunned me by coming out with this.

A sleepwalker accused of a sexual assault - against a child.
A lengthy battle to clear his name - actually almost 12 months to the day.
Not just an incident that happened at any old time of year either - but after a New Year's Eve party as we were working on the New Year's Eve edition of the Advertiser.

As I say, even Jordan could knock up a splash with those lines to go on and, thanks to the total lack of other reporters in court, call it an exclusive.

And so it came to pass that I went round to Alan Ball's house in Ormskirk, had a chat with him and wrote the story which has since popped up in the Echo, Lancs Evening Post, Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday , Daily Mail (from where it has been linked to by lots of American media including USA Today, Huffington Post & Washington Post) and - my personal favourite - has been translated into Dutch and featured in De Telegraaf where the story has provoked more than 20 comments.

Apart from proving the power of sheer good luck, this story illustrated the way a report can spread across the world thanks to the web and makes me realise how little I do to push my work to a new online audience.

In the past sharing was bad and we kept our exclusives to ourselves, but as news sites grapple for more web users it's hard to see how that mindset will survive.

How satisfying would it be to see some of the 10m+ USAToday.com unique users clicking through to the Ormskirk Advertiser's story instead of the Daily Mail? Would that have been the case if it had been submitted to Drudge?

Right now it's a one way relationship with the internet - journalists are comfortable with the idea of going to Facebook & co to find a story - but rarely link their reports back to the community it came from.

It will probably take some convincing before regional papers accept that there's more benefit in sharing the story online for free to increase traffic over making a profit by selling it to a newswire or national paper.

That said, and as much as I hate "predictions for 2009" style preaching, I do think a reporter's job will start to include seeding our work and getting stuck in online to create a buzz around the stories we've filed.

Hopefully the days when we'll be expected to translate them into Dutch are still some way off.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Save Wirral's culture centres

***Newsflash from the SaveWirral campaign***

For those outside the Wirral this is the news that the peninsula's libraries, leisure and community centres are to be shut down by the council and sold off in a cost cutting drive. Read the full story here.

Monday 5th January - The Lauries Centre, Birkenhead. Start time of 7:00pm.
Tuesday 6th January - Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight. Start time of 7.00pm.
Wednesday 7th January - West Kirby Concourse, West Kirby. Start time of 7.00pm.
Thursday 8th January - Floral Pavillion Theatre, Wallasey. Start time of 7.00pm.