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Moving somewhere

“Yah?”

“Yah. And Clementine knows somebody who can get us on the Mahiki guest list.”

“Yah?”

“Yah.”

Welcome to the neighbourhood.

I have moved. Or, rather, a couple of months ago I moved. This was the first conversation I heard in my new area, spoken by a couple of 17-year-olds on a bus. It is, I think it is safe to say, sufficiently more upmarket than the delights of Tooting, where I was previously residing.

There, I walked to the tube station and looked smart. Here, I wear the same clothes and look like a hobo. I walk past two schools on my way to the station. I’m sure anxious mothers are already ringing the police about the scruffy looking man who walks past at a set time every day [1]. As opposed to scruffy men driving by in their 4x4s. That’s quite alright.

I quite like it around here.

This isn’t to do with any kind of aspirational stuff about moving to a better area and polishing my driveway every day in the hope of getting an invite to the country club. And if, in the unlikely event I have a daughter any time soon, I’m certainly not bloody well naming her Clementine.

No, this is more to do with the general niceness of the area and the house, which I’ve managed to find myself renting through good fortune and I love to bits the people who’ve made this possible.

The area has a lot of green bits and pieces. This is important to me. I grew up in Devon. I’m used to see cows outside my bedroom window. Trees were a given, not an optional extra. Tooting wasn’t big on trees, although we did have some fox cubs living in our back garden, which were cute. A pain, but cute.

So, the new place has trees. And also grass. Never underestimate the importance of grass. Just as a rug ties a room together, so grass ties a neighbourhood together. So, yes, trees and grass and plenty of wildlife roaming around.

There are also rather quaint churches and long bits of grass and trees for people to walk on, all of which seems somewhat of a novelty in London. There’s even a village green where the local pub team play cricket every Sunday. Cricket! On a village green! That’s probably even better than my Devon village has managed for a while.

Then there’s the house itself, which is lovely and has a garden, which also has grass and is big enough to plant things around the side of the grass. For a while now, I’ve been wanting a garden to plant stuff in. Ok, so the house at Tooting had one, but you had to negotiate the fox piss and the garden itself was a little, well, untended.

So, now I have a garden, and I’ve planted stuff in this garden (in addition to the other stuff already planted), and I’ve now found I’ve become one of those people who actually welcome rain in the summer because it’ll do the garden good.

Not that my attempts at becoming the next Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are overly spectacular. I think the birds ate my lettuces. I’ve managed to kill half the beans. I’m not sure if my parsnips are alive or not. But the onions are very happy, and the leeks are coming on nicely, and I think I should get a decent amount of potatoes. If nothing else, I should be able to make a nice stock come the autumn.

I’m also planning on getting more adventurous. There’s already parsley and chives, so I may well create a herb section. And I have squash seeds ready to bring on. I quite like the idea of being able to pick my meal out of the garden.

Oh, bugger it. I clearly am moving towards the aspirational end. I’m still not calling my bloody daughter Clementine though.

I quite like it here. In fact, scratch that. Despite not having a 4×4, a posh accent, or snappy Paul Smith suits, I really like it here. Even if all the 17-year-olds can get onto the Mahiki guest list. They can have their minor royals. I’m quite happy with my vegetable patch.

[1] There are a lot of young families in the area and the mothers are, well, a tad overprotected. The other day, while walking to work, I hear a scream a little way in front of me, as a mother caught up with her errant child who had wandered off ahead of her. “Don’t you ever go off out of my sight like that again,” she admonished. “You saw what happened to that little girl on the news [I presume this was Madeline McCann]. Anybody could take you, that man over there could take you.”

Thanks for that. I just happen to wear jeans and T-shirts or the like each day rather than suits, and now I’m a child-snatcher. I appreciate the mother’s point, I’d rather she picked somebody else to make it with.

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This is the news and this is why we did it

One of the joys of the web is it opens up the thinking process behind news values decisions to, well, everyone.

Take the Birmingham Mail’s exclusive letter from Gareth Barry to Aston Villa fans, for instance. The Mail didn’t post it up until after lunch, despite it being an exclusive and something, I imagine, that would have sent a fair amount of traffic in their direction.

Like Joanna Geary, I would have assumed it was a bit of a missed opportunity for the paper. But then the editor, Steve Dyson, enters into the comments and explains exactly why they held back.

Having read his explanation – and the amount of publicity they got out of the letter – I can see his reasons. And I can’t blame him either. It’s one of the few times you can make a convincing argument for holding back from publishing online. Then again you could also say the increased traffic would have been worth it. But would they have got the credit? It’s a fascinating debate.

But I do like that Steve took the time to enter into the comments and explain the paper’s thought process. Ok, it probably helps that Joanna is an ex-employee, but then her blog is quite widely-read in the industry, so it makes sense to get involved.

The more readers can understand editorial decisions, the closer the bond they have with the paper, and that can only increase if journalists will take a bit of time now and then to chat about it.

Ok, it doesn’t make sense to actively hunt down every comment about every article (although there are probably some journalists who do this), but the odd comment on the odd relevant blog, even if it’s negative, goes a long way. In the old days, the blogger would have probably got a rather stern email instead of a comment.

If traditional media is to survive in these choppy waters, we all need to befollowing Steve’s lead and having conversations like this across the web,

End of season elsewhere

So, the final twofootedtackle podcast of the season is now online. It seemed only fitting that we got John Stanton, the guest on our first podcast, back into the studio, and he didn’t disappoint. Among the topics covered were the FA Cup, England Internationals, MLS, Champions League, Gareth Barry, managerial changes and, um, cricket (well, the Ashes are coming up).

We will be doing occasional podcasts over the summer but we’re taking a bit of a break for the time being to let us charge our batteries.

Then I’ve also put my two pence forward at Soccerlens on what changes should be made to the FA Cup, Champions League and UEFA Cup.

It’s already got accused of hateration from an Arsenal fan…

Predicting reality

Here’s an interesting thing. On Saturday I, along with nearly 20 million others in Britain, was watching Britain’s Got Talent (both for work and pleasure). I also, predictably, was on Twitter, and had several trending and tracking tools – Twitscoop, Twitterfall, etc – open (because I’m a geek and I like tracking the conversation, m’kay).

Once all the acts had performed, it was obvious that Diversity were trending stronger than any other act over Twitter. “If,” I thought, “Twitter is anything to go by, Diversity will win.”

Interestingly, Julian Smith, the third place act, wasn’t far behind Susan Boyle in the trending stakes. Twitter seemed slightly shocked Julian made it into the top three. I initially was, but it made sense following the conversation earlier.

Twitter, to be clear, didn’t win it for Diversity (as I’ve seen claimed in some places) but it did provide a surprisingly accurate snapshot into the mindset of the nation.

Mashable have picked up on a similar point when they used Google Analytics to try and predict the result of American Idol. And, of course, Google have been using their tools to predict flu trends.

Twitter’s a fascinating backchannel to popular culture, and there’s unlocked potential to make it even more useful. Somebody, somewhere, one day not too far in the future, I’d imagine, will develop something that enables them to make a lot of money from this.

Total football

When Brian Clough brought the phrase ‘the beautiful game’ into common usage, he would have probably rarely applied it to many Champions League games of recent years. Tense, defensively-minded tactics and meaningless group games have long been the order of the day, but this season has been different, and crowned by one of the most complete displays from a team in a modern major final.

Barcelona perhaps needed a little bit of help from the referee to get to the final, but there was no doubting their class in Rome. Fans are used to leaving games speechless, but rarely because they struggle to find superlatives that do the winning team justice. Tonight, Barcelona turned in one of those performances.

Granted, they needed an early goal to settle their nerves and were helped by poor defending and goalkeeping from United. But what followed them was a masterclass in how to win a game.

The Catalans defence, missing three first-choice players and making do with a holding midfielder at centre-half and a centre-half at right back were imperious, only twice giving United the space to fashion chances, both of which the English side wasted. Puyol, at right-back, was magnificent, keeping both Ronaldo and Rooney quiet and bombing up the wing like a man half his age.

In the centre, Xavi and Iniesta were sublime. Every move, every chance inevitably came through these two. No ball was wasted and no matter how tight the space was, the pass could always be found. Some of the interplay in the centre of the park was a joy to watch and they could well have bettered that goal by Cambiasso for Argentina against Serbia, such was the build up and crispness of the passing.

Up front, Henry rolled back the years, Messi weaved his magic and Eto’o was, well, Eto’o. He scored in a European cup final, he did his job, he’s still not as good as the statistics may suggest this season, but he deserved his medal tonight.

The second goal was a thing of beauty. Yes, the defence went awol, but Xavi’s cross was pinpoint perfect and Messi’s leap and header was exquisite. How a man of 5 foot 7 could leap that high and put that amount of direction on the ball is beyond me.

Then again, Manchester United were poor, with only Rooney and Park trying to make anything of the game. But let’s not dwell on that. Barcelona could have been playing anybody tonight, and I’d be lavishing praise on them (and given they’ve thumped both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich this season, this result isn’t entirely surprising).

It’s rare that I’ll sit down on here and shower superlatives (or otherwise) on a team that isn’t Exeter, but Barcelona blew me away tonight. That they managed such a performance in the Champions League final is even more impressive.

And this post isn’t intended as United bashing. I’m strangely indifferent to the team. They’re the least objectionable of the Big Four, they play nice football and have one of the best players in the world in Wayne Rooney playing for them. And they were ws abject as Barcelona were superb tonight.

Truthfully, anybody could have supplied the opposition tonight and I’d still have been blown away by that performance. I’ve got no interest in poking fun at United (if it were Plymouth…), just in praising Barcelona for one of the greatest team performances I’ve ever witnessed.

I’m not sure if it quite comes close to Exeter City at Oxford United in the Conference play-off final second leg in 2007 though.

Anyway, if you want a bit more football, there’s the twofootedtackle podcast, largely taken up with dissecting Newcastle United’s corpse, plus a bit of chat on the Bundesliga. And there’s more mulling over the Magpies from me at Soccerlens.

I promise I will largely shut up about football on here now. At least for the next two months.

More Gary stuff elsewhere

You know what? I can be complementary about Exeter’s rivals. Over at Soccerlens, I’ve done a bit of a ‘well done’ to Torquay for getting promotion [1] out of the Blue Square Premier. I’m actually quite happy to see them back in the league, and chuffed for their centre-half, Chris Todd. He’s one of the nicest men in football and has battled back against Leukaemia this year to become a Wembley winner.

Then there’s the twofootedtackle podcast, with myself, Chris Nee and Kate Clarke, where we pick our Premier League team of the year, predict who’ll drop down to the Championship, chat MLS, share tips for poaching eggs, and have a quick chinwag with Bobby Zamora.

And then the longer Pulitzer-winning [2] version of the interview with BZ can be found at Soccerlens.

[1] If this were Argyle it would, naturally, be a slightly different story. Assuming I even bothered to write it.

[2] May be a lie.

12 seconds to sell yourself

Here’s an interesting way to get a rung on the PR ladder – sell yourself in a little over half the time the So Solid Crew spent bigging up themselves.

The deal: getting PR graduates (plus anybody else who fancies a go) to sell themselves in what may possibility the world’s shortest job interview via micro-vlogging site 12Seconds.tv. The prize: a month’s paid PR internship with the Big Yellow Self Storage Company.

Essentially, the candidate has 12 seconds to sell themselves in their job interview and even tough there’s only one internship up for grabs, all the entries will be shown around the industry.

Now, on one hand you could scream ‘reality TV gimmick’, but I think it’s quite a fun way of getting yourself known and, for the Big Yellow Self Storage Company, a good way to boost their profile in the social media sphere, especially when you consider that they’re not perhaps the most natural fit for social media.

For the candidates, it’s a good lesson in being concise. One problem that virtually every journalist and PR suffers from, usually early in their career, is excess verbosity, so anything that encourages applicants to edit down to only the absolutely necessary will stand them in good stead. Plus it also gives the applicant a chance to show they ‘get’ social media.

Also, I can see more companies asking candidates to upload videos to YouTube, Seesmic, 12seconds.tv and the like in the future. But that’s by the by. But The Big Yellow are certainly ahead of the game in that regard.

It’s a nice, fun way to give newcomers a chance to get into the industry, and ticks several social media boxes, so hats off to the person who thought this one up.

Anyway, if you’ve happened to stumble across here, happen to be looking for something like a paid internship and want something that’s more useful than my musings, head to 12seconds.tv/campaign/bigyellowselfstorage, register, and link your Twitter and Facebook account to your 12 Seconds account.

Once you’ve done that, record your 12 second video on your mobile phone, webcam or video camera and upload it to12seconds.tv/campaign/bigyellowselfstorage, along with a copy of your CV. You’ve got until June 13th, so plenty of time to get creative between now and then.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com