This is heavy.

October 25th, 2015

I always seem to start these posts with the same line from a Courteeners song, mainly because it’s always the case that I have been away because I have been working, really hard as it happens.

Lots has gone on recently; some good, some bad. Time travel would have made the last month better, and, given that we recently celebrated Back to the Future Day, it was perhaps to be expected to be more up and down than usual, so a DeLorean and Flux Capacitor might have helped me deal with it all better.

There came a birthday, one of the best I’ve had for ages, the in laws even got me a signed EFC ball from a charity auction – something I’d always wanted for all my 36 years, and set me up nicely for the West Brom game, a few beers on a school night made that comeback all the more enjoyable… Again, even at 2 0 down I had a strange feeling we could come back into it.

And, Great Scott! How we did!

But, none of this mattered a couple of weeks later, when I found out Howard Kendall had died.

“A bolt of lighting. Unfortunately, you never know when or where it’s ever gonna strike.”

I’d had a really good week: being observed as an apparently ‘outstanding’ teacher of geography for the first time, off to see Richard Hawley, half term coming up… walking home from my little girl’s ballet lesson in which she’d shown progress, all was good in the world. We were even going to beat Man Utd that afternoon, I thought.

I tried to put her down for a sleep but she wouldn’t settle. I sat watching the fawning build up to the Spurs game, listening to her tears thankfully drowning out the Norbert Klopp love-in… then, as the texts came through and I checked Twitter, the tears were my own.

Say it isn’t true.

Alan Ball, Brian Labone, Andy King: many of those deaths upset me because they were part of the Everton I grew up reading about, watching on videos, learning about through WSAG or older fans but this time it was real – my first proper departure of a hero.

When I started following Everton, Howard was the boss.

I remember watching him on the official BBC video, and how well he spoke on it.

I remember noticing how proud and emotional he looked on the same video when watching the team go up the stairs to get the FA cup after beating Watford.

“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything…”

I suppose if I had a time machine, I’d go back to those halcyon days of the 60s to see him on the field alongside the other great names. Then, I would fast forward to the early Eighties, probably starting in the bleak days of Christmas ’83 so that the good days would be even more cathartic and enjoyable.

That I just missed those glory days, will be a long time regret, and that our main link between then and my supporting time has now left this mortal coil has, admittedly, left me reeling a little.

His memory certainly will live on, and not just here.

He left for pastures new in 1987, and I’ve pretty much convinced Mrs G that for her birthday next year, we should go to Bilbao – not just for the pintxos and Guggenheim but also to frequent Kendall’s Bar, and share stories about the dome.

Fast forward a few years, and I also remember my mum picking me up from school aged ten, telling me he was back as manager and my spending ages on teletext when we got home, then watching the game against City on the Big Match Live. I had my first live game a couple of months later, and wrote to him to inform him, getting a nice letter back.

The stories of drinking excess, not just with us but also at his other clubs, are legendary and do not need repeating here: whatever his taste for the finest things in life, or habits, he remained a hero for somehow keeping us up that season when it seemed nobody else wanted to.

“We all make mistakes in life, children”

“Although, if it wasn’t for him… We never would have fallen in love.”

After leaving for a third and final time, I actually encountered him more often. His daughter was doing a PGCE at my local teacher training college so he would call in to the pub restaurant I worked in at weekends, when visiting. He gladly signed an order slip one day. That daughter, funnily enough, graduated the same day as my then girlfriend, and he attended the ceremony alongside everyone else, proud as punch and in his Everton tie, at the same cathedral his funeral will be next week.

Years later, a couple of fleeting glimpses at the match or in Tesco Formby, and his book comes out. A new father, I excitedly arrived at the bookshop to meet him with her. He signed the book to her, posed for photographs, laughed as I told him that the previous week’s Oviedo-inspired win at old Trafford was down to her pink Everton vest, saying that he loved it when fans told him a victory was somehow down to them.

The meeting resulted in one of the best photos I’ve ever taken:


The last time our paths crossed, was back in May this year. He was drinking pink Cava with Lil and their companion one Tuesday morning, and as we enjoyed a quick drink next to them whilst the baby slept, I didn’t want to interrupt him, he looked relaxed and in his element and he’d done enough for me in the past to be left alone this time. I’d bother him the next time I saw him, I was sure.

Back to the Future has been the theme of this, but really, it’s about much more. I really wish I could go back in time once more to that bar. I’d swallow my pride, introducing myself and then thank him, telling him exactly what I thought of him and what an influence he had unknowingly been on my life. I’d buy him and his wife a drink and let him know just how special I thought he was.


For now – just thank you, Howard. I will always remember.

“I’m really gonna miss you.”

We simply have to end on an upbeat note, so I’ll leave you with some more positive news. Richard Hawley was immense, our own Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, if you will – and coincidentally, at The Dome. The shopping lists are definitely coming back this week, I have now found my hundredth list so have lots to share with you. Also, I mowed a lawn for the first time ever today, whilst a vat full of Tom Kerridge’s ragu bubbled away on the hob using some of our homegrown tomatoes.

Domestic bliss indeed.

Meanwhile, a certain young man reaches the double figures milestone. Ten years ago, I was in the Krazy House toilets and checked my phone to read a message wondering if I’d be godparent to a new born boy. As I mentioned in my wedding speech the pride I have had since day one of being asked to be Aidan’s godfather, it gets stronger every time I see him, especially now he’s taken up rugby and started doing Pollockesque canvases.


He is wonderful with B too, and she loves him back. As I was reminded by this evening CBeebies bedtime story, when you give love it grows and grows and both of them are evidence of that.

As was Howard Kendall, in a different way.

Full Time Results

September 17th, 2015

When last we met, it was all about the oranges.

Everyone has a favourite colour: diff’rent strokes for different folks, as the saying goes.


Now I was thinking about the seminal American ‘sitcom’ (with questionable racial undertones and a famous curse on its starlets)during the party for Betsy’s 2nd birthday – a tea party in our church hall – and vaguely recalled the episode when they planned a party and only a handful came. Thankfully, B had the time of her life on the playmats and at the table with the sandwiches we had painstakingly prepared the evening before, and thanks to help from others, the day went swimmingly.

It was a strange moment seeing the baby become a toddler, but it’s been a joy ever since.


The first steps, the starting to talk, the knowing exactly what she does and doesn’t want, the cheeky grins, the changing moods, the demands, the changing tastes, the growing hair, the starting ballet, the incessant wanting to watch a particular film.

And now, she’s become a little girl.

It’s hard at times to acknowledge the changes and development which have occurred over time. One day she was lying on the bed gurgling and bald, now she was tottering around in a dress and pony tail and requesting – no, expecting – us to pander to her whims.

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

All I kept thinking about was Lester Burnham in American Beauty, and his quotes on Jeanie in the film my dissertation covered, or more aptly, Steve Martin as George Banks (note the similarity in the name) seeing his beloved Annie at the top of the stairs as a princess then on her wedding day, and the sudden realisation dawned that time does indeed go quicker as a parent and for the plethora of friends and family who have experienced the phenomenon in the past month, I re-iterate our heartfelt congratulations and love and most of all, remind them to savour every moment – before it fades, as Joseph Cornell might have added.


Talking of the great man, her actual birthday we went into town and enjoyed a couple of workshops at our favourite places, the Walker and the Museum of Liverpool – understandably, I had to show her again the ‘world in a box’ that we created for The Wombats’ first album, and I had an enormous sense of pride that this time she saw it and started to understand that her Daddy had something to do with this admittedly enticing assemblage that to him, feels like it was from another lifetime ago.

Then, after a couple of cheeky Quilmeses at CAU, we were lucky enough to experience the best possible birthday tea: an afternoon one, at the new Vincent Café Liverpool, with her favourite combination of fish goujons, chips and peas and ours of more mini sandwiches, cake and scones and of course champagne, at a wonderful place that – footballing rivalry aside – I’d recommend to anyone in the vicinity.

This made her birthday for us all and we are very grateful to the staff there for their kindness and generosity, we’ll definitely be back as the chain holds such a special place in our hearts. They always look after us so well – before, on and ever since our wedding day three and a half years ago.

We ate well elsewhere in the summer: special mentions to the Fenwick Arms, a seafood pub once made famous by Gordon Ramsay for the gravy; The Sparrowhawk in Formby, where a friend once worked in its former guise and we marvelled at the décor; and local restaurant Albina, buoyed by its positive review in The Guardian and a fantastic meal including a gin & mint pickled egg on a night filled with biblical rain.

Then a trip to Manchester: seeing Brendan Rodgers in a lift, an incredible lunch at the Botanist on Deansgate, and spending big on new wardrobes for the impending term, before a wedding in Wales: not just any wedding but a festival themed event in a forest. It was in a lovely part of the world: B had her face painted for the first time, we danced in a tent as the sun went down, we drank a fair bit and had a great time.

The rural life, even if only for a day, resonated with an interview I recently with Alex James (ex Blur, cheese) who as we know, lives on a farm. I’m not a huge fan of his, I admire his career and ideals but for some reason what he said, really got to me (in a good way!)

He discussed how he wanted his kids to be ‘as comfortable on a camp site as in a castle’; stated that ‘marriage happens at the right time’; commented that ‘the best thing you can do for kids is surround them with people who love them’ and believes that ‘the more intelligent you are, the more interested in bees you are’ which after our trip, got me thinking.

Mainly because, back in Wales, the B & B we were staying in was owned by an eccentric individual called Godfrey who grew vines and grapes and kept bees. Our own B was transfixed by the hive, her dad was too, as we observed the queen being pandered to by the five thousand or so other insects buzzing around.


Sadly, there isn’t much scope for me to pursue this line of enquiry as other artists have gone there before and I don’t have time or money to take up apiary… Plus, something tells me that recent events will pre occupy many a creative mind, given the quotes referencing a ‘swarm of migrants’ which we have all sat watching, horrified – whether we are parents or not – and wondered if the world will ever be the same again, whatever the outcome of the current crisis.

The world is slowly going mad, and I need to come back to what we know.

Shopping lists are piling up, they are on their way, I promise: I’m nearing the hundred mark but was de-railed by other priorities plus my confidence I what I am doing, was knocked a little by the Waitrose magazine’s wanton cocking-a-snoop towards some southerner’s (search twitter @jhazan) efforts at collecting lists, but only those found in Waitroses.

So let’s summarise: Summer came and went, and it will remain up there as one of the best I’ve had, like, ever. Two weeks ago, we all went back to school: Some were experiencing it for the first time.
Whatever had happened in the summer in terms of results or holiday memories, this was a fresh start… Like the first day of the season, we were filled with optimism, this could be the year, things will have changed for the better, that sort of thing… Or not, for those who read a recent Secret Teacher confessional, in The Guardian.


It’s going ok so far, my new role allowing me to indulge in language and literature and offering a new insight into this crazy profession. I’ve generally been able to stay calm and positive, apart from what feels like a growing divide between the realists and the ignorami, the pragmatists and the uncognoscenti: perfectly illustrated by my blood boiling at a Tory diatribe by Giles Coren, which I had the misfortune to read last week.

He was moaning about not getting into his dream primary school for Kitty, the one he took on ‘a romantic’ all expenses paid holiday to the Bahamas last year, and having to shell out fourteen grand a year instead for her private education. This idea that money buys you better, and if you can’t get the one you demand then nothing else is good enough: also, that those fortunate enough to be selected ahead of you are middle class ‘Guardian reading’ scum, as he said, sat uneasily with me, and he went down in my estimation with that moan.

It made me think of Peppa Pig.

Well, more specifically, Madame Gazelle.

She could have been a rock star, and taught most of the animals’ parents, but instead seems to be losing it. However, her classes look fun, Peppa is doing well, and I just know that Giles wouldn’t want her teaching his daughter but knowing the job and the importance of social & emotional health and wellbeing, I’d be made up because she reminds me of some of my own primary teachers who informed my own, not-necessarily-outstanding-but-more-important-than-a-rating-education which brought me to here.

Still, there’s too much good in the world to let the bad drag you down. As much as we want the best for our kids, and don’t want to feel denigrated by a posh boy restaurant critic who can afford the best, as Alex James also said, ‘getting everything you ever wanted never made anybody a nicer person. Success will f**k you up more than failure.’

In the context of football, politics or progress measures, this is very true.

And I had to remember that statement when we battered Chelsea at the weekend, to stay grounded. I spent the majority of the match feeding animals at a farm, choosing to devote quality time to my family and our friends rather than an unpredictable and too often, unreliable group of men, although they are doing ok at the minute.

Farm life, going back to basics, is lovely. It was probably just about more rewarding to have sheep and goats eating out of my hand, rather than spending forty odd quid to see the match, and having spent the summer ‘growing our own’ – as Alex James said, ‘love and home grown tomatoes are the only things money can’t buy’ (and that includes John Stones) but also, it puts things into perspective.

“You either die in an office or on a farm… Farm life is compelling,” stated Alex.

I know what I would prefer.


Half Time Oranges

August 10th, 2015

“I’ve been away, I’ve been working… But now I’m back, and I need to know that you’re still there.
I need to know that you still care…
Of course you do!”

We are at the mid point of the summer holidays, and school, plus those shopping lists, currently feel a long way away.

After three weeks of normal life, a little refresher is required, hence the titular pun, nit just because the football’s back but also because orange is the new black in terms of being my new favourite colour, and not just because it is the only colour named after a fruit, despite popular belief that the opposite was true.


Anyway, back to the summer, and orange was a prominent colour during our trip to Italy. Betsy’s first foray abroad, she flew brilliantly, and was in good spirits when we touched down in Tuscany, so much so that her happy shouts of “MUMMY!” “NANNIE!” and “GRANDAD!” across the car hire office were met with smiles by all apart from the Hertz rental woman who scowled and moaned, complaining that she had to work in the noise, and that B should be quiet.

Welcome to Italy? Are you serious, I asked, to be met with a Tuscan profanity.

“Ma’ va te ne a fanculo,” I said.

Other than that, it was seven days of heaven, replete with Strega, sunshine, swimming, sightseeing in beautiful Siena, bistecca, Firenze, Peroni (the proper stuff) a few shopping lists too, and reading the really quite wonderful Pirlo autobiography as well as the Gazzetta everyday which whetted my appetite for what was to come at home.

Meanwhile, I adopted the look of a gondolier as we roamed the hot Florentine streets, marvelling at the signage and the lifestyle and wishing we could stay longer in the archipelago. I tasted lampredotto for the first time, drank grappa at 11am, caught a gecko to show B what nature abroad looked like, bought half decent bottles of wine for a Euro and most of all, indulged in quality family time that gets forgotten about when you live your life by a bell alongside unruly teens.

The holiday of a lifetime, then, for us all, and hopefully the first of many for Boo, even if she was secretly suffering from chicken pox throughout and the spots appeared once we got home, coming down to earth with a bump, alongside a flat tyre, lots of rain, and somewhat bizarrely, dead pigeons.

Now I wrote two years ago exactly, that an unwell pigeon appeared outside the flat as if a sign that B was on her way (she arrived a week later) and it was a test for me to nurse it overnight. It symbolised, I thought, the arrival not just of our daughter but of Duncan Ferguson as first team coach who I’d seen that day at a pre-season friendly with my Dad.

This is him, the day he came to school.

Duncan was my idol as a teenager and as a young man. My GCSE art exam was a portrait of him leaving court. Yes, many will say he never fulfilled his potential, and he did go to jail for an on-field misdemeanour following lots of off-field ones but he gave us hope, a voice, he was an enigma, a genius, mysterious yet open and both loved and loving. He even made it into my best man’s wedding speech.

Fast forward two years, I’m at another pre-season friendly with my Dad – Duncan’s testimonial no less, which ended in tears with me reminiscing during his post-match address – and then, later that evening, at about 8pm we heard a thud, went out to investigate and a baby pigeon lay dead on next door’s drive.


Meanwhile, a lonely feather and a ghostly outline, like a chalk drawing at a murder scene, clung to the glass.

I’d seen it with its parent, presumably learning to fly, and couldn’t help but feel sadness at the episode, signalling the end as it did, of my project photographing dead pigeons: although, somewhat serendipitously, my best friend / man had that very day sent me a specimen he had seen, a nicer way to close the project, methinks, alongside this classic that my father in law introduced me to the night I started writing this post.

The next day sees us off to look for garden sheds. How things have changed, you might think, and you’d be right: apart from Italy, another highlight of the holiday at half time is two days spent nitromorsing a fireplace to restore it to a former glory and it’s taking time but coming on well. So, after choosing said shed, we opted for lunch out, and after our last visit to Formby when I saw three current and former Everton stars, I wondered what – or more accurately, whom – awaited us this time.

Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed: two current Liverpool ‘stars’ who front NIVEA campaigns, having a cosy lunch I tried to ignore, and, on the next table, a former Reds player whose little boy played with B as he sipped his wine, which might have resulted in a missed chance the following weekend… the strange world of professional footballers, who took home loads of boxes of pizza and pasta whilst I got a discount code from my inbox in advance of the bill, and they presumably went home to their mansion whilst we came home to – a shopping trolley?


The dead pigeon had gone, whilst opposite the house had appeared a TESCO trolley. I immediately thought of the excellent Gomez album of b-sides from back in the noughties. I searched for said hotline, obviously nowadays there’s an app for everything so downloaded that instead, and I used it to report the trolley but after two days (enjoyed drinking among the hipsters in town and then, in the night garden) when it hadn’t been collected as the app promised, I contacted TESCO and they’d arrived within the hour to take it away.

This all brought me back to the shopping lists and, strangely, the future.

There are lots more lists on their way, don’t you worry, including some from Italy you’ll be pleased to know, but I just wonder whether the excellent series HUMANS will ‘come true’ anytime soon, what with their synths who do everything for their owners and can remember shopping lists easily, and if shopping lists – just like holiday memories and the pigeon – become a thing of the past…

056 (MELON?)

July 16th, 2015


A nice mix of specificity and disconcerting vagueness.

What seems at first to be particularly healthy, what with its fruit and benecol, then veers towards organic brand names and cheapish beers with a few intriguing question marks along the way.

The pedant in me would expect anyone who plans so meticulously their brand of peanut butter (what’s wrong with Sun-Pat?) to know that the ham has Parma in Italy as its Denominazione di origine proteta.

It then ends with another metaphorical question mark, in terms of type of juice needed.

I’m pretty sure it would have been organic, whatever flavour.

055 (BOGGY)

July 16th, 2015


Another list with multiple authors.

Another with items crossed out.

Another bundle of contradictions.

What stands out most on here is actually its title.

It should be quite self explanatory that this should be a shopping list, quite why the authors needed to write this in again is beyond me, perhaps it was drummed into them by their English teachers that every page needed a title? This idea is heightened by their care to spell chewing gum correctly: a self-fulfilling prophecy, then, that I, who do the same, should serendipiditously retrieve and write about this list.

The list itself contains a wide range of products, going from the sublime (high end goods such as butternut squash) to the quite ridiculous – I have an idea of what boggy is, nor basta, and whilst some ingredients seem suitable for an OAP, others we assume are for babies, especially the ones written in the younger looking and more feminine manuscript. Meanwhile, others are pretty much illegible.

But at least we know it’s part of a shopping list.

054 (TOM)

July 16th, 2015


A strange, minimalist, combination of items: one food, one toiletry, one confectionery.
Again, the notions of memory resonate, and the difficulty of remembering three items. Sesame Street reminds me most days, that even a child can recall three things when on an errand, what with its classic animation, I can remember:

Without wanting to slight anyone with amnesia or worse, surely the author could have remembered these three things, or not wasted paper and instead written them on their hand as I would have done in this situation, especially with the surreal mix of products…

I don’t really understand the link between them: maybe I’ve got the abbreviations wrong, and it’s simply a reminder that Tom has an interview so needs to smell nice in preparation.

053 (LEMONS X 2)

July 16th, 2015


I like that this list is colourful, it makes a nice change from the boring white or lined paper that seem to be most common amongst Sefton’s shoppers.

This list interests me most not because of the still quite interesting contents – it looks like a Mediterranean roast might be on the menu – but more so for the extravagance of the paper it’s written on and also what isn’t on the list.

I once did a performance at a gallery partly inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning drawing, in which I rubbed out some of the drawings I had done as a young boy.


Star Wars, Rambo, A-Team characters , all of which now exist only as grooves in thirty-year-old pieces of paper where pencil once sat thanks to that intervention on the theme of Demolition.

As B develops her mark-making skills at a fast rate, I wonder if she will be doing something similar in a few years, when space allows I will keep her scrawlings just in case. Talking of female artists, Sophie Calle once did a project involving eating things of the things of one colour each day of the week, entitled The Chromatic Diet.

I tell you all of this because the omissions contradict the usual process. A shopping list is, by definition, an aide memoire and normally discarded only once it’s served its purpose: it is unusual to see things crossed out seemingly before the shopping trip takes place.

I wonder why certain ingredients on this list – what looks like avocado, broccoli, cauliflower and peas – were suddenly not needed that day.

Were they bought somewhere else?

Was there a last minute change of heart – or taste?

For someone seemingly into their colours, this list appears quite anti-green vegetables.

Maybe it was Sophie Calle’s list, written on a Thursday.


July 16th, 2015


Sometimes, a list can almost too good to be true.

This person had ripped it up into four pieces, and I painstakingly reunited the fragments as carefully as Nino Quincampoix in Amelie when he carefully solves the puzzles within discarded passport photographs.

I suppose that’s what this project is all about – and every project I’ve done over the years which relates to collections and categorisation – trying to answer a question, to unravel a mystery, to understand and remember…

Going back to the list, though: why had they – she, I’d assume – ripped it up?

Perhaps she wasn’t expecting the meal, what looks like a delicious Thai curry, to go well. Hence the smoke alarms being on the list, too, in case they are also an essential part of the recipe.


July 16th, 2015


A funny little list, this one.

It gets off to a bizarre start – as if the shaving ritual is the most important moment of the day, and the other products can only be bought after cleaning up of (presumably) the face.

Then there’s a diverse range of items that belie its quite aggressive opening. I wouldn’t have expected, for example, this person to only need an ECHO, some table salt and then some dark soy sauce, if the shave is all important just to nip out to buy those three items.

I found this on a busy road and spent the rest of the day looking out for clean shaven individuals with a penchant for Asian food, an eye for local news and invigorated tastebuds.

050 (CREM)

July 12th, 2015


I really love the high & low mix of products on this list.

The handwriting is nice, it’s considerate buying for others, though quite what other types of whiskey (sic) there are other than drinking, the mind boggles.

I think they might actually have had a cold, hence the Fleetwood favourites, the Fisherman’s Friends so will forgive the whisky reference, and there is some healthy influence on there but the use of brackets for the cream is really perturbing.

Almost as if it’s taken for granted that the cream will be remembered, as if it’s a given… The use of punctuation for effect being something I now assess, well done for the subtle inclusion of subliminal reminders.

Or, maybe you just bought it somewhere else.

049 (LIDLE)

July 12th, 2015


At first glance this looked to be a rather strange list, huge quantities of specific products, and I guessed straight away that it was for a café or restaurant.

Looking at the back, my beliefs were proven correct as it had been badly scrawled on a menu leaflet not just for any café, but for the nearest one to where I live, and regularly frequent, whose very good reputation and higher price range goes against not just shopping at LIDL but also the poorly written demands for essentials.

At least I now know what not to order on our next visit.


July 12th, 2015


The shortest of my lists, I think.

Quite why this product was ripped off from the other I have no idea, nor whatever else was on the list.

Presumably someone called Mary was ill, and in a fit of pique, made this symbolic gesture.

047 (RIB)

July 12th, 2015


A really strange mix of products here, as well as other items.

A mobile phone number – I could have rung it if I wanted to know whose list this might be, but didn’t, and please don’t – a doctor’s appointment reminder, and an address.

Then, ingredients for the old and young alike, some indecipherable and others spelt incorrectly but generally, all very northern – Pop, chips, chops in piece – and then the rather sinister rib.

Spare Ribs? Rib of beef? A human bone for the doggy to gnaw on? Adam’s to create a new female version?

I guess we’ll never know.

046 (COTTIS)

July 12th, 2015


The list itself is fascinating: exotic ingredients such as herring and the mysterious ‘cottis’ hint at an older shopper, who reads the Mail and also goes the bakers. Quite why milk should be scribbled on the list carelessly, though, is another question – who wrote that?

I think this might be my first double note.

However, there is something else equally perplexing: What struck me immediately about this list is the beautiful handwriting.

It almost looks like someone’s who is learning to write English, it’s so precise and neat, they even went to the trouble of drawing a neat little border around the list and then cut it out carefully with scissors.

This idea is borne out by what was on the back of the list: or, what the list was on the back of.

Someone seemingly learning Latin.



July 8th, 2015


There is so much about this list I want to talk about.

The ingredients are impressive enough. Healthy, cleanliness obsessed, rice heavy… Well done, whoever compiled it!

But what I love most of all, especially in these times of austerity, is the meticulous planning of the week’s meals.

A really frugal housewife, perhaps, who has thought out in advance what to buy and what to cook and what the family(?) will eat regardless of weather, events, spanners in the works.

We do something similar, though not quite so rigid.

In fact, of all the 45 lists I have dissected so far, this perhaps is the most similar to what my own would look like, in that there is an eclectic mix of ingredients and meals and show some culinary expertise alongside pragmatism that improvisation isn’t always possible in the working week.

But enough of the praise. The big question is, what was the wrapping paper for?


July 8th, 2015


An impressive list.

People with a quite archpelagal diet, they even eat in the colours of the tricolore and it whets my appetite for our upcoming visit to Italy.

Forget the football shirts, the grappa or the unforgettable sunsets, what will really make my trip will be finding an authentic Italian list.

I jest, of course – a first foreign jaunt for B, quality time with the family, a week away after an annus horribilis, are all more important and rewarding, and should I not find a lista della spesa then this one will do nicely.

Quite why it’s written on the bottom of a letter from the Nationwide, though, I’ll keep pondering.

043 (CAT FUD)

July 8th, 2015


I set out on this project not wanting to be an English teacher, or come across as a snob, but I’ve honestly never seen food spelt this way.

I’m all for shorthand and code. It adds to the mystery of everything.

But to lose a letter and then lose a list for me to find, is lazy at best.

Still, the list itself suggests a lazy Sunday morning for kitty and human alike, with bacon sandwiches and Sheba all around. I picture a middle aged couple lying in bed, reading the paper, cat cosying up and enjoying being spoilt, happily devouring the bacon rind.


July 8th, 2015


A simple list with a simple instruction.


A coupon for milk suggests savvy shoppers, as even a four pinter can cost lest than 2 quid.

Unless of course it’s maybe baby milk formula, which can be expensive but very rarely do you get coupons for, due to EU laws. I am something of an expert on this product, have been for the last twenty two and a half months, and would concur that the importance of it might have led to this rather aggressive reminder to remember the money off token.

I hark back to my childhood with this list: Macauley Culkin in Home Alone 2, doing the grocery shopping and the bored till girl rolling her eyes when Kevin says, “I got a coupon for that!” excitedly.

041 (LOAF)

July 8th, 2015

Quite a cosmopolitan list, someone with continental tastes: somewhat Neapolitan what with the pizza, the olives, ice cream, the tomatoes… and leaves?


Presumably this is salad, but could be tea, which fits better with the stereotype of someone with a more traditional, English diet that comes with the rather aggressive finale which stands out most on this scrap.

“Said, d’yer like to go… for tea and toast?”

The LOAF seems to be essential. As if the other objects are relegated in importance, and the most important object is saved ‘til last so that it is remembered…

This goes against an aspect of psychology I learned when starting out as a waiter back in the summer of 1996, and we were encouraged by middle managers to always ask ‘standard or small?’ when selling glasses of wine because the former of the two options will stick in the mind.

At the minute my little girl is at an interesting stage in her development in terms of making choices, and theories we have read have suggested giving her guiding choices that we want her to make, so I might try this technique with her.

What an influence, eleven objects on a shopping list can have…


July 8th, 2015

I write in advance of the release of some more lists, basking in the ‘glory’ of some press recognition – not just for me, but also for one of my heroes, someone very few people will have ever heard of.

The links between our ideas and work are clear, although a little contrived because, whilst I had had a fascination with collection from an early age, it was the showing of a VHSd South Bank Show documentary entitled ‘Worlds in a Box’ on a dark and dreary midweek afternoon in Blackpool College, on my foundation and during which at least two fellow students fell asleep, I was falling in love with the work of Joseph Cornell.

Seeing his boxes affected my work for years onwards, aswell as my understanding of beauty and sublime in the everyday, the notion of flotsam and jetsam being all important, and certainly influenced this current obsession I painstakingly upload for your enjoyment twice weekly.

I have read a lot about the recluse, I have been lucky enough to spend hours looking at those couple of ‘poetical theatres’ up close and personal when they have been on show locally, and most bizarrely, on my first visit to New York I took a train out to Flushing and wandered up and down his street – the aptly named Utopia Parkway – in the hope of finding his house.

I didn’t, and stumbled back through Queens with a bizarre sense of regret but also knowing that it was lovely just to have been on the street where he lived, searching the gutters for more odds and ends to display with loving care in his ‘toys for adults’. The romance, the childish yet heartfeltly knowing nature of the boxes have to be seen to be believed: therefore, I would urge anyone near London to drop everything and go the Royal Academy for their current offering which ends on my birthday.

I read a gushing review at the weekend and recognized the links with what I am doing. I haven’t yet seen a way to display the lists so beautifully, but some of the quotes resonated with my ideas and show that, fifteen years on, his inspiration remains.

He died seven years before I was born, but the critic described him as having ‘had the mind of a visionary and the mind of an archivist’ which is something I’d like to aim for, as well as his work making ‘you peer through the glass into these alien places, and what you see may be both captivating and incomprehensible…’

Talking of write ups, the Hannah Festival press release finally made it in to the local newspaper at the weekend although I only found out thanks to an astute colleague, because the feature didn’t make it into my town’s version of said ‘paper.


Still, it was nice to read the take on it, the comments associated, and to wonder what readers who didn’t know me, might have made of this strange fellow and his shopping lists.

I wondered more when twice out shopping last weekend, as the paper was being read by people nearby, for the first time in what feels like months, I didn’t find one list!

It was almost as if my idea that somebody is playing a game, became a bit more true, and the locals had purposely withheld the information I crave… as the Observer critic Laura Cumming said, ‘like a puzzle that only a savant could solve’.

Thankfully, Huyton folk don’t get the same paper, so I found three more today to add to the list of lists.