Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Berghaus ’85 T-shirt

I’m about as likely to climb up a mountain as I am to take up freshwater welding, but I just couldn’t resist this smart T-shirt I found at the Berghaus shop in Covent Garden yesterday. For some reason – and I suspect a childhood spent on the outskirts of Liverpool is that reason – this simple tee really does it for me. Nicely fitted and with a fantastic design on the front, it’s just the thing for a leisurely stroll in the summer sun. And you just know you’ll get some approving nods from other, similarly clothes-obsessed chaps. Sod climbing up the Eiger though, that’s for people who are far braver than me.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Umbrella magazine – download it for free, now!

Ten years after the dotcom boom, Umbrella is the first publication that reflects the topics that make post-internet men tick – the blogs they read, the cities they visit, the clothes they wear. Editor Anthony Teasdale says:

Umbrella is aimed at the sort of man who delights in telling you about a disused Underground station or who’ll obsess about the new jacket he’s just bought. It’s about uncovering the hidden and examining the details – something that men have always done.

“A big influence on Umbrella has been the blogosphere. Blogs, whether they cover fashion or urbanism, present content in ways that make it exciting and relevant. So we’ve combined the best of old and new media to create Umbrella.

In issue one, the magazine looks at a variety of topics, from the long-lasting cultural impact of the year 1990 and the design of the London Overground network to the joys of Japanese katsu curry and the beauty of Ralph Lauren’s new cricket jumper. The presentation of this content reflects both recent trends and older traditions, as Art Director Matt Reynolds explains:

“The design of Umbrella is informed by online news channels and the blogosphere. Simple and consistent layouts are presented with concise, easy-to-read text, and brightly coloured headers and links. Sections are colour-coded for ease of navigation and functionality.

“The use of Victorian-era graphics in bright web colours underlines the concept of the traditional being presented in a playful, modern way – something which is reflected in the editorial content of the magazine.”

Finally, Anthony believes that Umbrella provides a much-needed shot in the arm to a forgotten sector of the market.

“From my experience, it seems that the major publishers have given up on men. Umbrella shows that they’re more actively involved with their media than ever before. It’s all a matter of giving them the right content.”

Key facts

Umbrella is edited by Anthony Teasdale, former Contributing Editor at Arena and Editor of ICE magazine. He is also a regular contributor to Esquire, Grazia and FHM.

Its Art Director is Matthew Reynolds, currently Art Director of Women’s Fitness.

The magazine is published quarterly and can be downloaded or read online for free at The next issue will be out late September.

For further information, hi-res images, quotes and interview opportunities contact:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Liverpool, London and Roy Hodgson

Supporting Liverpool has become so ingrained with hating the country, that much of the vitriol from our fans aimed at Hodgson is because he's English – itself a reaction to the supporters of other clubs and national team who'd rather have an Englishman over any other nationality. If we have an English manager it might make us less Scouse.

When Rafa got the boot, every prospective candidate was seen as nowhere near good enough, that there was no doubt that they'd oversee a “fire sale” and take us to relegation “or mid-table at best”. Apart from, however, Manuel Pellegrini, not just because of his record, but because he was Chilean, and we could pretend he was Spanish, and therefore further proof that Liverpool are different to other English clubs. (This applies to every other club apart from our friends down the Lancs, who share the same anti-English credo as we do. Though they like Argentina more than Spain.)

The Cole deal is another blow to perceived Scouse separateness, or the separateness that has seen the city by the Mersey become an outpost of Andalucia for the Red-supporting side of the town. But I don't see the problem with a “Cockney*” in charge or playing a key role in the team – it certainly doesn’t make Liverpool less Scouse. We’ve become so ingrained with the anti-English thing (while moaning about tickets, drinking pints, queuing up etc – all very English traits) that if Bob Paisley turned up at Anfield today there'd be threads on internet forums about “Wools taking over at Anfield” or "the state of his his zip-up cardie".

England is a tiny country with a huge population. Its capital has over 7m people in it – it's also two hours from Liverpool, something that in any mid-sized state would be considered local. So, of course we'll get Londoners playing for us, and out of the blue we’ve got one of the best. For the first time in months I’ll allow myself a little bit of optimism – not about the ownership – but that about the fact that we may, may just have a pretty useful side this year. It doesn't matter where are players are from – though it's sad that the last local to break through was Warnock – but that we have good players. That is all.

Liverpool is not Spain, in the way that it wasn't France, when we were under Gerard Houllier. It's time we defined ourselves by what we really are, rather than temporarily cherry-picking bits from other cultures when circumstances suit us. Then we wouldn't feel so weird about having a Londoner in charge. We could even have union jacks on the Kop like we did in the ’70s. Alright, maybe that’s taking it a bit too far.

* What actually constitutes a Cockney isn’t made clear, but there are very few of them in London these days and the accent has all but disappeared from the capital

Monday, July 19, 2010

Catacombs in Paris

I like like nothing more than a good subterranean passageway. When the excellent Boing Boing pointed me to an article in Brick magazine about people who spend lots of their time exploring the Paris catacombs, I thought I’d better share it with you. Here's an excerpt.

Honeycombed across 1,900 acres of the city, the vast majority of the tunnels are not strictly speaking “catacombs.” They house no bones. Limestone (and, to the north of the city, gypsum) quarries, these are the mines that built Paris. The oldest date back two thousand years to Roman settlers, but most were excavated in the construction boom of the late Middle Ages, providing the stone that became Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. Riddling the Left Bank, these tunnels were at first beyond the city’s southern limits. But as Paris’s population grew, so did the city—and soon whole neighbourhoods were built on this infirm ground.

The first major cave-in happened in 1774, when an entire street collapsed not far from where the Catacombs Museum stands today. After a similar incident three years later, King Louis XVI created the office of the Inspection Générale de Carrières (IGC, or General Inspection of the Quarries), designated with preventing further collapses. Officials went underground: inspecting, charting, filling chambers with concrete, digging a new labyrinth of maintenance tunnels.

Then came the dead.

Read the rest of it here, at Brick magazine.

Pic: National Geographic

Monday, July 12, 2010

Twenty years of fanzines…

See more of this next week when we launch Umbrella, the new magazine for men.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Life in Liverpool Matches Part Three: Coventry City 1 Liverpool 4, August 1987

“Can I go?”
“Do Nicky’s mum and dad say it’s alright?”
“Yeah, yeah – ’course they do, they’ve said he can go to the aways on his own for the last year.”

The last year!

Mum pauses.

“I think it’ll be OK. I’ll talk to your dad.”

This is a big deal. Since their divorce five years ago in 1982, my folks have barely spoken a word to each other, apart from frosty debriefings after parents’ evenings.

But it’s 1987, now, early August and the start of the new football season. I’m 15, just the right age to begin those treks across the country to follow Liverpool. As it’s never more than a fiver to get in anywhere, I sell it as a relatively cheap way of getting rid of me for the day. In May , there was a trial run for the Littlewood’s Cup final (where we lost despite Rushie opening the scoring), but I want real away games now, where there’s a chance that things might get ‘interesting’ off the pitch too!

And if I was my folks, I’d want me to go too – all I talk about is football and clothes. Plus there’s my habit of storing copies of Knave, bought from ‘Mr News’ in Aughton, under my bottom drawer. Who needs someone like that hanging about on a Saturday afternoon? Not my dad, certainly. I’m given the all-clear.

The Liverpool side for the 1987/88 season that Kenny Dalglish has assembled is, to my eyes, about as perfect as a football team can be. In eight months he’s bought John Aldrige to replace Ian Rush (off to Juventus), Peter Beardsley and John Barnes – a trio I’m convinced will lay waste to the First Division. Throughout July, me, Nick and our Everton mate, Wayne go down to Anfield every day just to meet the three of them when they come back from training. Each time we’re there I ask Beardsley for his autograph, usually on behalf of my mum.

“Aye, what’s her name, son?”
“It’s Sheila, Peter.”
“Right. Here you go.”
“Thanks, Pete!”

And each time, he signs it ‘Sheba’.

Early August. I ring up Nicky.

“Right, it’s Coventry, second away of the season after Arsenal.”
“Sound. Not too far. Your mum and dad say it’s alright?”
“Yeah, they’re OK.”

Tickets for the game aren’t a problem, not now we also luxuriate in the title of Kop season ticket-holders (I have a mock-leather wallet with the club crest on it to hold the little book in). We’re on football’s Easy Street, able to pick and choose what games we go to, when we want to – as long as our pocket money covers it and the matches don’t interfere with our school attendance.

To facilitate our trip to Coventry, we’ve joined something called the Anfield Travel Club. In our earlier trial run to Wembley we’d used a coach laid on by Barnes Travel on County Road, perhaps the most chaotic travel agent in the world. Now, though, we’re official and we get the bus from Anfield. They might as well just be done with it and make us part of the playing staff.

The day of the game is hot. Not a surprise as the first six weeks of the season are always hot. The coach takes us down the M6 through Stoke, Wolverhampton, Birmingham. We pass other similar vehicles full of Reds making their way to the match, scarves flying out of windows, flags in the back of windows, centre-spreads from gentlemen’s magazine waved at more innocent motorists.

There’s none of this behaviour with the Anfield Travel Club though. Our steward – yellow bib with ‘LFC’ stamped on it – runs our coach like a personal fiefdom. “Don’t be fucking about on here, lads,” he warns us from his little throne next to the driver. Bet he has his own ale stash though, the twat.

And then we’re there. Off the motorway, into the city, past detached houses, then 1930s semis, until we get to the terraced streets, always a sign that we’re in footy ground territory. Outside a chip shop near Highfield Road, a big lad, the sort of fella who’d be useful in pub scrap, catches my eye and gives me the thumbs-up. He’s not alone. People are happy to see us. You start to realise that being a Liverpool fan gives you certain privileges in towns like Coventry. We’re like The Beatles, but with better trainers.

Inside, we’re all stuck on a terrace with a floodlight at the back, with hundreds of lads perched on fences and ledges around it. For some reason, the photos from this match are always used in books as evidence of Liverpool’s well-dressed ’80s support, though in truth, the golden age of scally has passed. Today, the likes of Tacchini and Ellesse have been superceded by baggier, 1950s-influenced items by Maccano and C17. Within three months people will be going on the Kop with cartoons of Fred Flintstone on their jeans.

But on the pitch we’re a revelation. Without Rush and with Dalglish looking to spend more time on the bench, the attacking slack is taken up by Beardsley, Aldridge and John Barnes. And from the off, they click. The trio’s understanding is telepathic, Beardsley feeding balls to Aldo from the right, while the left wing becomes nothing less than a pedestal for John Barnes to show off his breathtaking array of skills. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best player I’ve ever seen.

One more thing. Barnes, signed for £900,000 from Watford, is Liverpool’s first black player since Howard Gayle. There’s been occasional racist chanting on the Kop for years – though never sang with any great enthusiasm – but with Barnes it stops dead. Simply put, how can you be racist to other footballers when your best player is black? Instead, the song from the sun-baked terraces at Highfield Road is loud, happy and gloating. “Johnny Barnes!” we shout, “Johnny Barnes!”

He’s ours. And so’s the league.

From issue three of Well Red, undoubtedly the best Liverpool magazine out there