The Cotton Club

April 6th, 2014

We married on a Thursday.

Two years on, we celebrated the cotton anniversary and it allowed a natural opportunity to reflect on the day itself plus how our marriage is going so far.


Our wedding day itself was a Thursday, Maundy in fact, and the sun shone on the righteous as the chauffeur told me on the way to Rufford. I had not slept well – perhaps still recovering from the stag the weekend earlier, when I met Johan Cruyff and saw Iniesta and Messi score, the holy trinity… But certainly due to nerves that our months of intricate planning would go ok.

I woke early and went for a ‘proper’ shave, a great experience that I would like to have again when not so edgy. Walking back, I remember buying a paper and just being in a complete daze. A bottle of estrella with my best man and ushers sorted me out and when Elvis’s 1975 Fleetwood Cadillac turned up, I was good to go.

Despite being described as ‘puce’ before the ceremony, everything went as planned and it was as if in a dream dreamt by another. We were overjoyed to become betrothed and made our way to the Vincent Hotel.

Fast forward two years and we returned there yesterday. It’s in Southport, a lovely town that a Pop Artist would have loved given the Victorian elegance, kitsch glamour, multi millionaires and chav pov chic, high and low culture that are evident on every street, and to be honest, embodies its charm. England’s Classic Resort is either the most beautiful or most depressing place, depending on what time it is, and perhaps the only location where you might find an ashtray like this:


Anyway, we love it, especially the hotel that the reception was held at. The venue and staff on the day were just perfect and yesterday the same, all of us including Betsy was made to feel special and they arranged some synchronicitous celebrity appearances for us too.

Suggs was playing at the Atkinson next door later that day, and skulked outside smoking a cigarette. We had of course seen him in concert at Aintree a few years back, the venue of that day’s Grand NAtional. Then, in walked Aiden McGeady, recent Everton signing who I wasn’t too sure about but is growing on me, especially after he walked past our table and I shook his hand. It had been his birthday the previous day, but the real coincidence was that our page boy on the big day and both our god sons, share his first name.

We were treated to some prosecco and talked about the day we had enjoyed in 2012: Anniversaries are something I have been thinking about a lot recently, that opportunity to reminisce and reflect, the commemoration of an important milestone good or bad. Obviously they are largely only important to the people directly involved, though their very recognition can then evoke sentiments amongst strangers, who develop an interest in the date and from then on will celebrate it in one form or another because they can’t ignore or forget what happened that day.


Similarly, if a day becomes important, naturally one looks for significance throughout history, and again, coincidence became apparent for April 5th. Naturally for us we think about the year before the wedding, we were in Barcelona as a gift of Jay and contemplating what would be; last year, we were in Nice enjoying steak tartare and planning for the birth of our unborn.

But, going further back, on that day, Pocahontas married John Rolfe; Oscar wilde was arrested (I kissed his grave stone a few years back at Pere Lachaise cemetary in Paris)… Bomber Harris, whom I have been teaching about this year plus Howard Hughes, Tom Finney (a childhood hero who died recently) and Allen Ginsberg (quoter of the following:

“The weight of the world is love.
Under the burden of solitude,
under the burden of dissatisfaction
the weight,the weight we carry is love….”

““Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an angel!”


“I know too much and not enough”

All very apt. And also, on this day twenty years ago, Kurt Cobain ended his life and although he never really influenced me, he did my generation.


Talking of influential musical genii, the new album from Mr Moz is on its way and I am slowly growing in excitement for it. Dermot O’Leary, when talking about his own marriage and honeymoon, might not be: “We walked into a hotel in Rome and we dumped our bags and we came downstairs to the courtyard and had the strangest situation – David Moyes, the Everton manager, was sat over there and Morrissey was sat over there.” He approached Morrissey, whom he had previously interviewed for his BBC Radio show: “I went over and I said, ‘It’s lovely to see you’, and he said these words: ‘Really? I’m sure you’d say the same thing to Barry Manilow or Gary Barlow’.

“I said, ‘No it is. Morrissey, I’m here on my honeymoon’, and he said, ‘It won’t last, these things never do’.”

Now Steven Patrick has been pretty outspoken about religion and Jesus in particular, now unfortunately for him we will be confirmed this holiday and perhaps will eat loads of meat, showing that when once I would have gone along with anything he said, marriage has changed things a little, and now I am confident enough to go against what he suggests.

especially when Andrew Warhola shares his own inimitable opinion:


So thanks Lisa for an unforgettable two years and for Bets for enhancing the whole thing.

Next time: I am the resurrection.

Alpha Papa

March 9th, 2014

I spent some of this week showing the film Junior as part of the Year 10 Medical Ethics project.

If you haven’t watched it, it’s a must-see. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the world’s first pregnant man, twenty years before the strange case of Thomas Beattie lest we forget, and although it’s not the best film in the world it raises a lot of questions for my students about the morals of what Arnie & Danny Devito’s characters do and even more pertinently, what would happen if men got pregnant.

It got me thinking too, firstly of the past, because fourteen years ago, I was producing screen prints based on the famous Saatchi poster:

But also of the present: as this weekend, like Alex in Junior, I was both Mama and Papa.

Mrs G enjoying a well deserved weekend away with the girls, I was in sole position of Bets and we enjoyed ourselves. I decided to keep a diary of the twenty odd hours to document for the wife to see what went on and for B to read in the future.


648 We get up and have a play, I watch some football highlights from the week and then Sooty.

c.900 We have a go in the Tigger bouncer, then get hooked on the film The Life of Pi which is pretty breathtaking Saturday morning viewing. Browsing the internet we are overjoyed that Morrissey has announced a new album to be released in the summer, presumably he has been inspired by my dressing up as him for World Book Day in school this week?


How lucky I felt, arriving at school as my hero, daffodils in pocket. I spent the day explaining who he was, granted, but this meant showing vintage TOTP performances at least, and despite the rule of foctional characters only, I argued that this act was in his contrary nature, plus he wrote as if an alter ego.

938 Messy nappy

1020 I read an email off a friend to whose e-zine I contribute. His sage advice was perhaps the highlight of the weekend. It certainly helped me through the difficult moments.

1023 Whilst reading said e-zine, Betsy is sick.

1024 She then wees on her mat.

1043 Betsy scratches my gum.

1113 After seeing Mrs G off at the station, we see Jamie Carragher drive past and get a bad feeling about the day’s football.

1245 FA Cup quarter final kicks off, B is in high spirits, I am nervous. She is startled when Lukaku equalises but happy.

1334 Falls asleep, which is a good job as whilst she is down I am hanging the washing out and see an old man, stereotypical hobo with white beard long coat and carrier bag, has a wee in the park we look out on too.

c.1400 Bets wakes up crying just after Arteta scores, almost as if she knew…

1508 Everton are out of the FA Cup, embarrassed again at the quarter final stage. It being Crufts weekend, this image sums it up nicely.


Disappointed but not surprised by the result, we get the train to the place that always makes me feel better, Waitrose in Formby. I spent a silly amount on my favourite Pastis, and 20p on a second hand glass in a charity shop that Mrs G hasn’t noticed yet, buy Bets a new giraffe, we see a purple car.


1834 Wee on the mat again whilst dad reads recipes for baby food by Alain Ducasse. We are so close to crawling, though.

Saturday evening: More frustrating football as Barca lose. Not a great bath time but she settles nicely and I am able to finally get around to watching the Alan Partridge movie, he was a huge hero of mine (despite being a fictional character) and thoroughly enjoy it, as I do the Bayern Munich game.


702 Dad wakes up

718 Hears crying from the bedroom

720 Sooty again! A vintage episode all about cleaning.

808 An enjoyable breakfast of half a Farley’s rusk, my own childhood favourite, whilst watching the recent Culture Show documentary on Matisse and his cut outs. I love that idea of him sat in bed with a pair of small scissors cutting out portraits of the doctor Picasso had sent for him.

1010 we go out to enjoy the sunshine, a long walk along the front, avoiding dangerous dogs at the coffee bar and contemplating what I will submit about #Northernness to Hannah festival.

the first is a project I did three years ago about St Swithins Day, it’s on my blog at and involved me collecting the rain that fell outside my flat during the forty days and nights afterwards in forty plastic test tubes plus a load of photos of ice cream vans. So that might depend on space.

A work in progress is researching the story of John wilkinson from Morecambe who was given an ASBO and threatened with prison for feeding pigeons. I was following his story through my parents sending me the local paper and I think it sums up nicely Northernness because of his generosity and pigeon fancying, this would be a letter maybe some drawings etc and the news clippings.

The other suggestion is some small portraits of the cocklers who died in Morecambe Bay, it’s near where I am from originally and obviously this year is their ten year anniversary.

By strange and a bit dark coincidence, I go home for a lunch of Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimps.

1308 Mrs G arrives back home. Daddy’s little girl survived her ordeal: I am proud of myself and went back to not being a seahorse.

I really did have the time of my life and can’t complain, I loved every minute. I know other people might not get the opportunity or others have no choice so I really do treasure every moment. Having the time to plan work as well was an added bonus, we shall see how that develops.

Now I know what you are all thinking: what did the e-mail say that guided you through the weekend? I met the guy who wrote it, through Everton, and I suppose it could refer to my support, though it’s never easy.

But what he said about looking after Junior for the weekend really makes sense, and came true.

It’s a doddle. All you need to do is love them, everything else follows.

7 UP

February 23rd, 2014


Betsy was six months this week, and the Smiths’ first album thirty years, so as we enter the seventh month, here are seven things that have been playing on my mind recently, accompanied by S & M greatest hits…

Forgive a slightly different way of writing: we finally entered the twenty first century and bought an i-Pad. Nigel Slater claims to have written his last two books on said tablet device, so we will see how this goes…


We bought the i-Pad in Reading, a great city where my sister lives and I have always had a soft spot for the Biscuit boys since a childhood friend supported them. Whilst there, we celebrated Betsy’s actual six month birthday with a great meal at Jamie’s Italian.

Funnily enough it was seven years ago this week that I met him at a Healthy Schools reception Charles and Camilla held (she offered to send us some carrots) and after four glasses of red wine in an hour, plus a lovely lamb & orzo stew, I approached him with a rewards ribbon Lisa had made.

It was just after the school dinners revolution that he had instigated.

“The kids think you’re a nobhead but I think you deserve this” I told him.

He laughed, thankfully, and wore the ribbon with apparent pride.

I never really liked Jamie Oliver but now I really admire him, for a variety of reasons.



Talking of wine, this past month my old bete noire or getting ID’d has returned with it happening twice at Sainsbury’s I boycotted last year. The first time was with Lisa, she had her driving licence with her luckily, although this begs the questions why didn’t they insist I had proof of age too given that I was paying? The woman behind in the queue didn’t help when she said ‘oh you easily look over sixteen’ and the following week (having been served twice in between with no problems) it happened again.

Quite how many under eighteens or 25s buy a ten pound bottle of Duboeuf Brouilly Beaujolais I am not sure, this time was a classic though: I had bought some beers earlier in the day and not been questioned, so the assistant felt quite proud at having challenged me. I asked how old she thought I was; twenty four the reply.

I kind of want to do this:


What was interesting was that this week I took to wearing glasses, after buying a pair of cosmetic specs on a whim whilst away. I reminisced to four years ago before the lasering and got used to the fake tortoiseshell frames partially blocking my view of the world, I suppose part of me thought they might make me look older (and strangely like Gareth Malone) rather than younger and more prone to being challenged at the checkout.

Bizarrely this week also, an artist from WASHINGTON UTAH has got in touch about using my eyes story in a project she is working on, crazy stuff.


I went to Magic world at the world Museum Liverpool last week too.

Being half term it was extremely busy but well worth the trip, featuring as it did the notion of make believe and not just conjuring performers but also fairies and fairy tales. There’s a toy bear and his wand, which reminded me that the past few weekends, when me and Bets have sat watching Sooty at 7am, me marvelling at the nostalgia three puppets can inspire her not having a clue what was going on.


The other show I had been keen to see I mentioned last time. ‘We two boys’ by Hockney, which features in the gallery, remains for me one of the best paintings I have ever seen, not just for its visual content but also the colours within, the subtext and the intirinsic coded messages I probably won’t ever understand.

We Two Boys Together Clinging, 1961, Oil on board

And, all this in the week it was announced 3.18 would be supporting Morrissey in America!


I was approached recently about contributing to a festival of Northernness during the summer. It is entitled Hannah and links back to the work I did for Northern Spirit / Wondrous Place, in which I championed elements of being from the north / not travelling south.

I have an idea of what I want my work to be based on, it involves a pigeon, but wondered if I might ask a little favour:

Can you let me know what you think is particularly northern and therefore worthy of entry? Use hashtag Northernness on Twitter or send me a message, please.


Parenthood has taken agrip of me for over a year now, indeed it was February half term 2013 that we had our first scan and everything became all the more real.

This week then saw the anniversary of that as well as half a year since betsy’s arrival, how time flies.

Alabaster crashes down. Six months is a long time! Try living in the real world, instead of a shell…

Well it hasn’t all been fun at the time but it has been the most incredible experience and every moment memorable. It feels like a new chapter, half a year, as clothes change and signs of development are ever more apparent.

She is definitely saying DADADADADA when she sees me and she is grabbing and biting everything she can. Church today was a nightmare, as she found her voice in the cavernous spaces of St. Nic’s. She is laughing and smiling as if there were no tomorrow and whilst those naughty pegs are causing her problems, generally she is happy as can be and that makes us all the more proud of what we have created.

She is now old enough to sit in a highchair: here she is.


These moments have grown more significant since Lisa has to go back to school. She has done such a wonderful job looking after B and we are very lucky with the situation we are in, but know there are testing times ahead.

As we discussed with the vicar yesterday (S. P. was correct by the way) we are determined to give her the best possible grounding meaning we are going to be confirmed on Easter Sunday to prepare for our bringing her into the church, I know some people will scoff but it means a lot to have her grow up with faith and spirituality. We had a time when other things were going on but now are back with renewed belief and thanks.

I think we feel so blessed after praying for such luck and being rewarded that we want to pay it back, so to speak, and thank God for these first few months and for the future hundreds.

In the mean time, it is back to school, Morrissey’s favourite topic of conversation along with religion.


I’ll leave the final words to Sooty’s various father figures.

Bye bye, everyone.

Bye Bye.


January 26th, 2014

This has been a weekend of strange coincidences.

It started yesterday morning, when getting in the shower, and a DJ on Magic Liverpool told a stupid joke about what is the difference between the Rolling Stones and a Scottish sheep farmer?

One says, “Hey, you, get off a my cloud”

The other says “Hey McCloud, get off a my ewe”.

Unimpressed, I turned over to Radio Merseyside and their DJ was introducing the next song.

It was:

Next thing, and I knew this was coming, was my best man and best mate for 23 years now in the Guardian. Planned and arranged the blind date was, the fact it was printed on his birthday brought an extra little twist.

Elsewhere in the newspaper there was also an in depth article on David Hockney with a focus on my favourite painting. I knew the background to We Two Boys Together Clinging but this writer went into detail about the influence of Walt Whitman plus the use of text within Hockney’s work, when in the week I had been recommended to visit his ongoing exhibition here that I had not yet had chance to see.

This morning we went to church again, a place we have been made to feel more than welcome, part of the family in fact, and given that St Nicholas is the patron saint of children, this is perhaps not a surprise. However, it is also partly because the first sermon we heard there was all about John the Baptist (a name a friend calls me) and the baptism of babies, all quite apt. Even last week when we transferred temporarily to a local church, one of the congregation giving communion was a well known author who has written the screenplays of Millions, a film I use as a resource in the classroom: Twenty Four Hour Party People, a seminal film from my early twenties, and of course the Olympics opening ceremony, which I taught about this week and today in church we sang Jerusalem – which until today, I didn’t know was actually entitled ‘and did those feet in ancient time’ after a poem by William Blake.

On the way home, today’s Observer is collected and it features a spread on Shelagh Delaney, such an influence on Morrissey and in turn my own topics of discussion.

The crescendo of all this is that today is exactly a year since we told our parents and in laws that we were expecting. A beautiful moment that we will never forget, followed by a meal at the aptly named Stork (would you expect anything less?) and today she wakes up with her first tooth! a sharp little growth that has caused her irritation, but not when we spend a wonderful afternoon at Isaac’s second birthday party and she visits a ball pool and soft play for the first time, a sign that she is growing up fast. A friend on facebook tonight said she was the image of my beautiful wife and I have to agree that I am lucky about that, on two counts.

Five months and a bit on, the eyes don’t stop welling up at important moments: the smiles, the laughs, the grabs, the sleepless nights or indeed sleepy ones. The fact that it is now exactly twelve months since dreams became a reality, suggest it won’t end any time soon, and that’s more than ok.



December 31st, 2013

I found out recently that there are only six days in a week (Sunday doesn’t really count, according to a Year 10) so these thirteen days of Christmas – quite aptly, given that this started off as a blog about the art of superstition – have given some time to reflect on 2013.

Alain de Botton recently tweeted that “It’s a positive sign we’re learning if we now feel a little embarrassed of who we’ve been and some of what we did last year” plus “one of the more generous things we can do for another person: believe in their capacity to change” and I can’t be the only one at this time looking back and forward.

’13 was the year that brought us all a variety of ups and downs, horsemeat, weather madness, a man falling from space, celebrity scandals, important deaths, babies: just the same as most years, really.

Personally though, we came in the year knowing this was going to be even bigger than ’12, when we had got married, had two wonderful honeymoons plus a stag in Barcelona, take part in an exhibition in London, and much more. Knowing we were expecting, made last Christmas and new year a blur really, and the first month or two until our big announcement and subsequent scan, was pretty much the same. More on that later.

The eleven blue shirts of Everton also had an impressive year, despite a huge overhaul of players, managers and even badges. Betsy coming along forced me to prioritise and it was a welcome break away from going the match, especially as the new regime has started so positively, and some excellent performances recently suggesting the future could be much brighter too. I did make it to the last home game of the year and the refreshing atmosphere around the place made me realise they’ve been doing fine without me and I don’t need to worry.

As for culture and creativity, obviously I had my hands quite full this year so was not at my most productive. I do still have a top ten of things seen, heard and visited over the year:

Art Turning Left at the Tate, Boardwalk Empire, Wondrous Place at the Unity Theatre, Liam Fray at the O2, Alicia Keys at the Manchester Arena, 40 Years of Sesame Street DVD, Bastille’s album, Nice, Masterchef, Jeremy Deller at Manchester Art Gallery (Betsy’s first exhibition)


In the song, we have nine ladies dancing. Morrissey sang Death of a Disco Dancer, and this year he released his much awaited autobiography. I am slowly making my way through it, it’s great so far.

I ate and drank some good stuff this year, despite not really having much of an appetite. Bone marrow, slow cookers, I honed my skills at roasts and soups. Healthy eating and drinking is a top priority for next year, mainly because I have had some health problems this year, the most recent of which being a kidney stone – an ailment that also affected my dad and ex Barcelona No. 7 David Villa this year.

The six half terms were tough but better than in the past, long may that journey of improvement continue.

The 5th April was of course our wedding anniversary and I have written about our excellent trip to the Cote d’Azur before. Married life is wonderful.

So, thank God, is parenthood, and the four grandparents as well as friends and family have been so supportive of our new addition to the family this is a chance to thank them again for their support, generosity, time, love and care. Being completely responsible for a little person takes a lot of time, energy and effort but is all completely worth it.


Of course, my other half does most of the hard work, and deserves every credit, because of what she does for me too. We make a good team and have managed ok so far, being completely besotted and scared and emotional and all those other feelings that people talk about, including suffering from lack of sleep and not being able to recall what life was like before she came along.


The process of pregnancy and childbirth still seems surreal, as if in a dream dreamt by another, but every cry, nappy and smile make it real again. Christmas was a chance to cement and celebrate having a child, unfortunately the realities included a heavy cold and chesty cough meaning frequent worries and trips to the chemists, all part of the process I know. Still, she started opening her presents, eating solid food, sitting up straight, making those noises… it was a great experience and I know it will get better in the future.

I wish everybody a happy new year.