Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Image Control In The Age Of Digital Culture

Submission for 'E-Learning and Digital Culture MOOC' from Coursera / Edinburgh University.

Image control in the digital age has become one of the most important tasks that companies, and individuals, undertake as part of their on-line life.  Manipulation of traditional media news stories, tweets, trending Facebook articles, friendly bloggers and using onside lurkers to post popular and relevant forums have all become part of business and political strategy.  Sometimes though, no matter what your goals and aims are, they come unstuck due to human influence, sometimes through error, more commonly via deliberate action.

In this short exploration of how one real event changed via digital culture, I hope to show that no matter how advanced the machines and how great the technology, it is still the spark of human imagination and creativity that drives us forward in the age of digital culture.

In 2011 a reporter from the Iranian government owned Press TV attended a demonstration held by the English Defence League, during filming of the demonstration the reporter interviewed a number of people attending the march, including the young man below.



The leadership structure of the EDL had been at pains to show that they were a number of things, non-racist, a popular mass protest movement with a broad support from many sections of society, and opposed only to militant Islam and not Islam as a whole.  Their detractors argued just the opposite of this, that the EDL were, according to them, a racist and often violent collection of, almost entirely, white football casuals who were just out for a beer and a fight.  The young man who was interviewed does appear slightly incoherent, his speech is a little slurred and he has a hard time differentiating between the terms Muslim and Islamic, so he coins the new word Muslamic.

The clip was seen by musician Alex Ross, who, under his stage name of Alex Vegas reworked the clip through an auto-tuner, added some backing music and uploaded the track to YouTube from where it was picked up by the anti-facist blog Lancaster Unity.  From there, the clip rapidly 'went viral', that is, it was swiftly promulgated by cross posting to TwitterFacebookTumblr and a host of other social media sites.



The remixed video picked up on the young man's slightly blurred speech, in particular the fact his pronunciation of  'Muslamic rape gangs' sounded a bit like 'Muslamic Ray Guns.'  The remixed video quickly became a propaganda tool of the anti-facist movement, used to mock the intelligence and aims of the EDL, and possibly to make themselves feel a little superior to the individuals they were opposing. 

The original message of the EDL was further diffused and mocked when the interview clip gained the attention of the comedian Russell Howard and made its transition into traditional mainstream media.  There is of course ample room for discussion of what compromises 'traditional media' or indeed 'mass media' in the digital age.  A viral video or meme may gain far more viewers on the internet than a short film might hope to achieve in cinema or on television.  


So, the message of the EDL that they were opposing radical Islam was heavily undermined by a musician, a comedian and the ease in which digital information in the form of video clips can be exchanged through social networking.  Was there a controlled strategy behind this demolition of the EDL's image ? Probably not.  Press TV, although owned by what some people would consider to be a radical Islamic foreign power, probably did want to demonstrate the poor intellectual quality of the EDL, perhaps hoping that this would resonate in the Muslim world as news footage of flag burning Muslim protesters is often popularised by western news agencies.  Alex Ross couldn't have imagined that his reworking of the interview would become  such a hit on YouTube, currently 1.1 million views for his video and hundreds of thousands more views for various re-postings and other re-mixes.

Whatever message the EDL had hoped to convey to the British public via their demonstration was rapidly buried beneath an avalanche of social media mockery.  This subverting of a group's message by others occurs in other forms, one of the most common being the misuse of corporate Facebook and Twitter feeds by disgruntled employees.  Recently this was highlighted as the HMV Twitter feed was 'hi-jacked' by employees who were part of the mass sacking as the company went into administration. 

Social media continues to be used by the anti-facist movement to combat the EDL, recently the Facebook page English Disco Lovers achieved more 'likes' than the EDL's own page.  The Disco Lovers subvert the EDL by using similar imagery but promote a pro-disco / anti-hate message with tongue firmly in cheek, in the style of the English Defence League they have opened up a number of regional Divisions and actively oppose the EDL by organising events and counter-demonstrations.  It should be noted also that the Facebook presence of the English Defence League seems to have been further undermined by anti-facist 'hacktivists' gaining control of the EDL page.

Here then we have then what purports to be a mass political movement, setting up its own corporate branding complete with logos and an internet presence designed to bolster and spread their message, finding that the same technologies that they were using to advance their cause were simultaneously being used to change, subvert and oppose their stance.  Corporate image control is hugely important to businesses, political groups and protest organisations, and as I hope to have shown here, once your image or brand is released into the arena of digital culture, it becomes something that human inventiveness can easily manipulate via new or old technologies to say something very different from the original message.






Monday, February 25, 2013

EDL in fighting in Cambridge



This appears to be the entire EDL contingent these days, about a dozen protesters were outnumbered by 200 police officers and two dozen photographers.  Despite their dwindling numbers they still have to chuck out one of their own for displaying a swastika.  Although the EDL claim to be non-racist and only against what they term as militant Islam, it is quite clear from the alcohol fuelled berks chanting "You can stick your fucking Islam up your arse" where their real feelings lie.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Plague of Earwigs - The New House Episode #2

The painting at the new house has been going well, armed with brushes and more enthusiasm than talent, Meg, brothers in law Rob, Andy and myself have painted most of the house walls, and in my case some small portions of carpets, light switches, plug sockets and spectacles.

As the house has been empty for a little while, an assortment of mini-creatures have moved in and taken up residence.  Every wall corner boasts a spider's web and either a live spider or shrivelled and empty husk.  I find the discarded spider shells to be slightly more disturbing than the inhabited ones, I can see what a live spider is up to, but the sight of an empty skin always gives me the feeling that its former inhabitant is somewhere behind me.  Probably waiting to drop down the back of my neck and give me the screaming abdabs.

My arachnid phobia aside, the decorating was progressing at a decent pace until Andy asked..."What do you call a collection of earwigs ?"  He said this in a sort of high pitched and unnaturally strained voice, he also said it walking backwards out of the half finished dining room.   As he disappeared I saw a sizeable piece of wallpaper had unattached itself from the wall and was now glued to Andy's paintbrush like a little yellow flag of surrender.

The hole in the wall revealed by the dissolving wallpaper was moving, as Andy retreated from the room, I hid at the top of the step-ladder as a tide of tiny beasts wriggled and writhed out onto the carpet.  Woodlice and earwigs ran around in profusion, but when it became apparent that the hole did not actually contain any variety of hideous jumping spider we manned up and crushed the invaders.

Afterwards we did what all good decorators would do, we glued the bit of wallpaper back on with some extra paint.
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Monday, February 11, 2013

I'm Only Gambling On The Internet So I Can Afford Crack

Bet365
Bet365 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Most of the blokes at work have on-line betting accounts, and around Christmas, and before I knew I'd be out of work, I put a couple of hundred quid into two services, Skybet and Bet365 to see if I could make my fortune by correctly guessing the outcome of a variety of football, cricket and rugby matches.

Could I then ? Would it be possible to put a gambling strategy in place that would enable me to provide a regular profit ? In short, the answer is no.

I say no, but I have placed bets almost every day, on quiet weekends I have placed numerous bets each day and after a period of five weeks my net profit and loss stands at £3 down, or the price of a pint.  For the fun and interest I have had for a month's betting, £3 seems a pretty fair price to pay.  I realise of course that it could have been much worse, but my absolute limit is to be that if I burn my way through the £200 on a poorly chosen selection of useless footballers and three-legged nags, then I am not depositing any more money with the bookies until next year.

Big money gambling isn't really my thing, if I lose £50 in an evening's play at the casino I'll come home grumpy, trying to work out how long it took me to earn fifty quid just to throw it away.  Conversely, the same amount of money spent on a good steak and a nice bottle of wine seems like a fine way to exchange my hard earned wages for pleasure, horses for courses as they say.

My betting strategy, such as it is, isn't ever likely to earn me any serious money because I never bet enough, or at any serious odds, to make much money back.  The reverse also applies though, I don't lose enough money in a single bet that would upset me or make consider changing the bad bet with another in a desperate attempt to win the money back.

Of the two sites I have tried, Skybet looks cleaner and less cluttered, but it actually gives far fewer options on the front page than Bet365 does.  Bet 365 has much better options for 'in play' betting, which is where I have spent most of my time, betting £5 here and there on safe 'win and/or draw' combinations and earning tiny amounts in return.

Both sites had offers for new gamblers, Skybet give a free £5 for the rest of the football season so long as you are in credit and betting at least £5 each week, Bet365 doubled my initial £200, the extra money cannot be withdrawn of course and has to be gambled with.

I have had dozens of little wins, but all my serious losses have come from gambling larger amounts on what I foolishly considered to be 'banker' bets, £15 on Inter to win at bottom of the table Sienna seemed to me like a safe bet, Inter were scoring goals for fun, Siennawere glued to the bottom of the table. Five furious minutes saw three goals in, two in the wrong direction and Inter were down to ten men as the ref waved a red card.  This weekend £15 on Man City to either win or draw at Southampton seemed like a regular little earner, then their defence dissolved, three goals went past them and I waved goodbye to my money.

My tips for this week then are Liverpool to beat West Brom, and Juventus for a win or draw at Celtic.  In a very busy weekend of betting, I placed £250 at an average £5 each bet, for a total gain of £4.63, it's harmless and fun, and if I lose my money then I'm walking away in a huff.
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Harlem Shake (original army edition)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The New House - Episode #1

Hyacinth Bucket
Hyacinth Bucket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Exactly a month ago I was told that my catering franchise had been awarded to someone else, with two months' notice.  The franchise came with a house in which we have lived for the past 12 years.  Almost in the blink of an eye I was jobless, and Meg and myself were homeless.

Meg, along with Dad and Shirley, just threw themselves into house hunting, calling in at every letting agents in the area and constantly checking and endlessly re-checking the estate agents websites for updates.  Do you know how hard it is to rent a house in the Ilkley area at short notice ? It's really quite difficult.  There are only the two of us, yet we seem to have accumulated rather a lot in the way of furniture and sundry possessions.  I have always known that I own more books than most people and some smaller branch libraries, and that Meg has more family photographs in frames than the National Gallery has royal portraits but the crunch really came when the removal man came to assess our stuff.

Firstly, he did that thing that car mechanics do when you deliver your runabout which has developed a strange ticking noise.  He sucked air in through his teeth, paused, and said "You have a lot of stuff, it's going to be a three man job."  A three man job is apparently the removal man's equivalent of  "Nasty noise that, sounds like your rotary flange has come off the damping arm, it'll be costly."

Three man job or not, we still need to transport our stuff.

Following two and a bit weeks of frantic searching we found a property that might just suit our needs, at least for the short term.

"I don't think you'll want it," said the letting agent.  "I've done 20 showings and nobody has shown the least interest in it."  Almost fearing the answer, we asked why this should be.  The reply didn't reassure me, it needs some TLC she said.

On viewing the property I rapidly came to understand that the phrase "Needs some TLC" might perhaps be estate agent's code for "Nobody in their right mind is going to buy this house."  To say the house has rising damp issues would be to miss the point that the damp is also coming in through the flat extension roof, under the eaves and most bizarrely, seemingly just drawing in through the middle of one of the upstairs bedroom walls.  The décor wasn't exactly to our taste, being of a style that only Hyacinth Bucket could really appreciate, and it was with some trepidation that I got a touched anything in the house, from doorknobs to
wallpaper, lest it fell off.

Still, we were due to be homeless in a few short weeks, and whatever its faults, this house was at least a house.  Unless it falls down if I slam a door.  We duly signed on the dotted line, with the proviso that we were allowed to do some minor repairs and decorating.

Bearing in mind that the house needs quite a bit of work, we signed the rental agreement early to leave almost a month of overlapping time in order to be able to transform the place to the best of our abilities.  In typically organised fashion, Meg had bought the paint, tools and materials needed, and had made a preliminary sweep of the house to determine what might live where almost before I had managed to pour a glass of celebratory red vino.

As we had to cancel out planned holiday, we converted some of that time into decorating days, grabbed some familial volunteers, and set about changing the damp and unloved interior of the house into something more comforting and liveable.  Meg planned the decorating like a military operation, I slotted into the plan like bumbling Gunner Milligan in Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall.  As Meg laid out dust sheets in precise order and began edging the new paint around mantelpiece and curtain rail, I would be proceeding slowly to drop daubs of paint onto the carpet, my spectacles or hair.  As Meg swiftly covered the main portion of the wall with elegant sweeps of her roller, I would find a soft feeling bit and my brain would say "Go on, give it a push and see what happens."

Then Meg would ask "Why did you just says oops ? You saying oops isn't a good thing."

"No problems love," I replied with my palm over the finger deep hole in the plaster that had opened up beneath my inquisitive digit.  "I'm sure it will just paint over."
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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Transfer Deadline Day – Is Everyone Wasting Their Money


As the dust from the last minute money wasting exercise that is transfer deadline day in the English Premier League settles, the big question really is, has everyone just wasted a huge pile of money.

Premier League clubs spent between then over £120m in transfer fees in the January window.  Three clubs, West Bromwich Albion, Manchester City and Chelsea actually managed to make a profit.  Wigan, West Ham, Norwich City and Fulham did most of their trading through free transfers and swap deals, although there are not many Leeds United fans happy at the swap deal with Norwich that took Luciano Becchio away and brought the Championship side Steve Morrison in return.

The big spenders were 7th placed Liverpool who splashed out £20.5m for Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge and Inter’s Phillipe Coutinho, and bottom of the table Queen’s Park Rangers who have spent a similar sum including £12.5m on the French/Congolese defender Christopher Samba.

If Samba proves to be the bastion that prevents the other 19 teams from scoring, and that is a big if, then perhaps QPR can muster enough goals from Cisse, Taarabt and Zamora to get themselves off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation zone.  QPR though are 4 points adrift of defensively hapless Aston Villa and 7 points away from even the shadow of safety.  With 13 matches to go, it is a massive gamble, and probably a huge waste of money at QPR to spend so much on a defender, or maybe they are just hoping he will play well in the Championship next season.

Will Liverpool win the Premiership after their outlay ? No.  Will Newcastle make it into a top 5 slot and quality for European competition after spending £18m in a series of raids on clubs across the Channel ? No they won’t.  Despite the money spent fans of these teams will only have yet more seasons of mid-table mediocrity to look forward to.

balotelli
balotelli (Photo credit: segnaleorario)
The other largest potential waste of money is everyone’s best loved, fireworks on the bathroom, toys in the attic striker.  AC Milan have proved themselves braver than most by spending £22m on Manchester City’s problem wunderkind.  Poor Mario has been seen sporting a t-shirt that reads “Why always me?” as if to say he is innocent of the charges of falling out with team-mates and physically confronting his manager Roberto Mancini, which in itself is odd as Mancini appears to be one of the few people who actually like Balotelli. Throwing darts at people for a ‘prank’ , wearing a snood during games, not paying attention to his manager’s instructions and falling over when being tackled in a comedy Monty Pythonesque fashion have all become part of the Balotelli mystique.

The biggest waste of money then ? Mario scored twice on his return to Italy as AC Milan narrowly beat Udinese, perhaps now that he is back at home Balotelli can live up to his reputation of being a great footballer rather than a slapstick buffoon.


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Yorkshire Soul - Professional Copywriter

Olive Oil
Olive Oil (Photo credit: ReneS)
Well hurrah for me, I have managed to get my first copywriting contract.  It is a tiny job, 5 blog posts on various aspects of the the Greek food industry for a company promoting their products in Russia, and it won't pay much more than a morning's wages for the whole job, but it is a start.  I can now put professional copywriter on my CV.

I haven't had even a whiff of an interview so far in my search for a proper job, so I spent a morning registering myself with some freelance writing sites and began to hammer out some articles as proposals for submission.  Even if most of my proposals don't win the bid and the job is snapped up by another writer, I think this is proving to be good experience in writing short articles to somebody else's specification.

The first contract I won is to write 5 blog posts for a Greek company promoting their products to the expanding Russian market, luckily they wanted a native English speaker as I cannot write anything in either Greek or Russian.  I submitted a short article about Kalamata olives and told my prospective employer that I had 30 years of wide ranging experience in the food industry.  Two days later, my bid was accepted.

Is your Italian olive oil really Italian ?

So here it is, my baby, my first paid piece of writing since I penned a few heavy metal gig and album reviews over 25 years ago.  Apologies for the typos, they seem to have crept in after the article left my hands.

When I wrote for Metal Forces Magazine I always hated it when editors made changes to my writing, sometimes changing a single word provides an entirely different point to the one I was trying to make.  I am far more sanguine about this now, I think the article I submitted was tidier and slightly snappier than the slightly altered one that has gone live on the website, but that's how the editor wants it so I'm not going to fret over it.

So far then I'm working for the Greeks in Russia, ah, the powers of the internet.  I have also entered bids to write about aspects of the tourist industry in Bali, writing teaser posts for a new MMORPG, penning short articles on new social networking technology and to three different websites in New Zealand, California and London wanting writers with experience in food and nutrition.

I don't thin that I can replace my wage with this minor freelance stuff, but any money at all coming is is handy.  Then there is the added bonus of honing my skills, researching and writing the first article took me jjust under two hours, including a minor re-write at the client's request, by last night I was completing similar pieces in 45 minutes.  It's all good experience, another string to my bow, another skill on my CV.
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Monday, February 04, 2013

Top Ten Golf Courses In The World


1) Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
What really sets Cape Kidnappers apart from other golf courses is its truly stunning location. Golf course architect Tom Doak  carved this course out on a succession of ridges reaching out into Hawkes Bay.  If you cannot keep your shot straight on the undulating fairways and angled greens you’ll face searching for your ball in series of frightening canyons more suited to climbing than golf.

2) The Majlis course at Dubai Emirates Golf Club
Familiar to us as the home of the Dubai Desert Classic, the Karl Litten designed course is a shining emerald jewel in the Dubai desert.  Follow in the footsteps of champions like Woods, Jimenez and MacIlroy as you take on the numerous dog-legs and water hazards.  Being in the desert though, you’ll always be spending some time in the sand.
The 9th hole on the par-3 course at the August...
The 9th hole on the par-3 course at the Augusta National Golf Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3) Augusta National Golf Club, USA
Home to The Masters, the Augusta National course is one of the spiritual homes of golf, every golfer from municipal course hacker to world class professional dreams of playing there.  From ‘Amen Corner’, ‘Ike’s Pond’ and ‘Hogan’s Bridge’, Augusta is the course that has both fulfilled and destroyed dreams.  One of the most beautiful courses in the world, it can also be one of the most unforgiving.

4) Carnoustie Golf Links, Scotland
Ernie Els says the Championship course here is “the best bunkered course in the world”. Carnoustie’s links have a fearsome reputation, some of the greats of world golf have floundered amidst the dunes, bunkers and a high grown rough that swallows wayward shots.  Carnoustie, sometimes with help from the Scottish weather, have also produced some truly outstanding competitions.

5) Royal Melbourne West Course, Australia
The MacKenzie designed course in Black Rock, Melbourne is part of Australia’s oldest golf club.  Many of the holes tempt big hitters to drive directly to the green, but well positioned and generously sized bunkers await the unwary, and intelligent use of grass types on the fairways may see you get less run on your ball than you are used to.

6) Royal Dornoch, Scotland
Royal Dornoch will be celebrating 400 years of golf in 2016, and the chance to play this ancient and mesmerising course should not be spurned.  The course really comes into its own in late spring as the yellow gorse blazes into life and winter gales give way to mere summer squalls.  Isolated and challenging, Royal Dornoch is also naturally beautiful and should be part of any golfer’s ‘must play’ list.

7) Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, California
Cypress Point is probably the most famous golf course in the world that you will never get to play.  Exclusivity isn’t just the middle name of this Monterrey course, it seems to be it’s entire reason for being.  If though, by some grant of the golfing gods, you do get  to play this magnificent course, and especially the trio of holes in the back 9 than run along the shoreline, you should come back with a new perspective on golf. Where else in the world can you play a tee shot like that at the 16th, where a 230 yard ocean carry makes for one of the most memorable holes in world golf.

8) Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, England
3rd hole at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoy...
3rd hole at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The distinguished history of Hoylake includes hosting no less than 11 Open Championships, 18 Amateur Championships and a host of other events.  What is it then that keeps the professionals coming back time and again ? Designed to be a demanding test of golf, the original links course has constantly been updated to allow for improvements in equipment. The combination of sculptured fairways, tight greens, high sided pot bunkers, deep rough plus the occasional wind blowing in from the Irish sea makes for a demanding but fulfilling round of golf.

9) The Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland
Widely considered to be the home of golf, the world famous Old Course at St. Andrews is rather unusual in that unlike some other, highly exclusive golf courses, this course sits on public land and any golfer with an appropriate club handicap can play there.  If you are successful in the tee time ballot you can play on the world’s most famous course, taking in the Road Hole, a tricky shot over the Old Course Hotel and the possibly the most photographed and televised 18th hole in golf.

And then there is….

10) Kabul Golf Club, Afghanistan
Not a top ten course in the traditional meaning, but if you make it around Kabul’s nine holes, from which land mines, rockets and thousands of rounds of ammunition were removed before the course opened for play, we guarantee you’ll be regaling your mates with the story next time you’re in the 19th at your own club.

I was writing this blog article as a submission for an on-line gambling site when the job was pulled at the 11th hour.


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Friday, February 01, 2013

New Media



#edcMooc presentation #4, New Media is a straight down the line machine overlord dystopia.  In a very close future machines representing an alien power or evolved human technology have taken over, possibly destroying human society.

Whereas the earlier films in this presentation showed a balance between the benefits or impediments that information sharing technology can bring, this very short CGI animation from MOLI, a multi-disciplinary arts group from Buenos Aires comes down firmly on the side of dystopia.

The theme of self aware computer networks rising up to dominate humanity has been a popular one across various sci-fi themed media.  From Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics to the evolution of Skynet in the Terminator series of films, enslavement by technology from without or within has been a common sub-genre of sci-fi.

Running alongside dystopian domination by technology is the genre of dystopian domination by other humans, sometimes aided by technology, sometimes not.  The list of literature in this category contains many world renowned works, 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Lord of the Flies, A Clockwork Orange, Battle Royale, all of these to a greater or lesser degree employ technology as a de-personalising or alienating element.

So far so disturbing then, that's most of the video presentations for week 1 watched, now onto readings about technological determinism, non-reductionist methodology and digital immigration.

Thursday



Thursday is a short animation by Matthias Hoegg, presentation #3 for the #edcMOOC.  Although Hoegg's film looks like a dystopia at the beginning, with people living in a highly regulated city doing cubicle jobs and with little outward sign of art or decoration, the film actually seems to revolve around hope, love and family.  The little human interactions are nice, especially in the scene when the station worker warms the IT man's hand so he can pass through the biometric security gate.

Technology and emotion are closely entwined in this short film.  As with the previous two, Hoegg demonstrates our increasing reliance on information technology, but he also shows us the power of companionship, emotional bonds and dreams.  The office workers make their weekly escape from what seems to a fairly dull and predictable life, although the girl especially seems happy and upbeat, by making a trip up to an orbiting station, there to gaze back down on their city as the gods would.  They are taken out of their normal life by another technology, given a different perspective, allowed in one sense to see a bigger picture, at least until their paid time slot on the station is up and they are whisked back to the city.

I think Hoegg achieves a nice balance here between showing what a dystopian near future might look like, and how individual humans react to it, and largely they just get on with their lives.  The beginning, or perhaps continuing relationship between the protagonists is given a future reflection by the blackbird caring for her brood, we see what might be happening further along the couple's lifeline.  I find the city itself to be depressingly ordered and bleak, there is no green, no parks or play areas, nothing much for relaxation and fun, but in between the dominating architecture life, and love, goes on.

The Band Played On

Brightly coloured balloons fly from every beer glass strewn table, it's three deep at the bar and the band are leading the audience through a joint rendition of Mustang Sally, it looks like a party and it is, this is the wake for our friend Brian Bailey.

I mostly knew Brian, and therefore his family, through his involvement with Ilkley Cricket Club.  On the few times that I could get a Saturday free to watch a game, Brian would be there, behind the bar or collecting subs or quietly, unassumingly, and with no flag waving just getting on with any of the numerous tasks that need doing to keep a volunteer led sports club running.

Brian always had time to chat to with you, always asked after you and how you were doing, was ever polite and courteous and happy and his sudden death last week came as a tremendous shock to us all.

I have seen Brian's band Five Dollar Shoes a couple of times, it's great to see someone doing the thing that they love and doing it really well.  Brian was a great entertainer, although as Abigail pointed out during the wake, his memory for song lyrics wasn't always perfect, to be honest though, this rather added to his charm as opposed to detracting from it.

I have done a fair few wakes over the last dozen years, and I can honestly say I have never seen a better turnout nor seen a man so fondly and warmly remembered.  Well done Alex, Abigail and Annabel for performing so well, I know from bitter-sweet experience it is a very hard thing to stand up and speak or play or sing in memory of a parent.

Years on from my own mother's death, I can say that still, most days, something happens that triggers a memory of her, a phrase spoken in the way she would say it, something that we used to cook together, or more directly perhaps a photograph or friend recalling her.  Things do get easier, there will come a point where memories become easier to bear and thought's of Brian won't provoke so much raw emotion.  For whatever consolation it is, Brian was tremendously well thought of, a really nice bloke who we all liked and got along with.  Best wishes to Miggy, Abigail, Annabel and Alex, thanks for inviting us to Brian's last big party, it was a real pleasure knowing the man.