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By way of introduction I always find the identification of any favourite things really challenging. However, I’m up for the challenge so here goes.
My favourite TV show - I love great TV drama series especially the Saturday night BBC4 offerings. The Bridge, The Killing, Spiral etc. However, they really are not a patch on The Wire which was absolutely the best thing on TV ever! Last year I thoroughly enjoyed Chernobyl. My regular weekly watch includes University Challenge (we all test ourselves don’t we ?) and NewsnightMy favourite place to go - Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC. Every time I visit it feels as exciting as the first time. The red set against the vivid green of the pitch, that moment when you ascend the steps and get that first glimpse of the pitch and the smell which is unique and so difficult to describe. It’s magical every time I experience it. No other football stadium compares
My favourite city - Whilst Liverpool is very dear to me this would have to be Edinburgh. A great city with its old and new town. Great architecture, great museums and galleries. Cheapest taxis in any city in the UK, within striking distance of the coast, great countryside and it has some smashing hotels and bars. No visit these days would not be complete without a visit to the Oxford BarMy favourite thing to do in my free time - This largely relates to sport. In my youth I played football and cricket to a reasonable standard. Those days are past and so I play golf now with a great bunch of mates at Rutland Water Golf Club. I try to enter as many competitions as possible. It’s a great setting with stunning views across the water. It’s a real test and even if you play badly you are in good company and the walk is good for you. I do walk a lot these days and try to get out for an hour each day. Outside of sport I am very happy spending time with family. We are very close and I get enormous pleasure from my children and grandchildren
My favourite athlete/sports personality - Whilst I have supported Liverpool FC all my days and it would easy to say Kenny Dalglish my all time favourite player, in terms of pure sports personality it has to be the genius that was Seve Ballesteros the Spanish golfer who played with his heart on his sleeve, continues to be an inspiration to modern day golfers and watching old footage of his antics on the course is simply magical.
This iconic image on the 18th at St Andrews when he won the Open Championship will endure forever.
My favourite actor - This one has challenged me the most but in the end, I’m going for Sir Ian McKellen who never lets you down whatever role he takes on. He was born to play “Gandalf” in The Lord of the Rings. The scene on the bridge where he shouts “fly you fools” is a great cinematic moment. His voice is superb, instantly recognised and from what I’ve seen on chat shows seems to be a really nice person
My favourite author - Whilst I am reasonably well read and enjoy a range of genres my favourite author is the late Umberto Eco author of The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum and my favourite book The Prague Cemetery. Umberto was an Italian novelist, literary critic, philosopher, semiotician, and university professor who worked at several universities across the world although at the time of his death he was professor emeritus at The University of Bologna ……..Never an easy read but really thought provoking with lots of historical references. The recent TV adaptation of The Name of the Rose shown on the BBC was excellent, and I would recommend this book as a way into his work. During the lockdown I have been listening to audiobooks on my daily walk and just listened to Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle. BBC Sounds is an excellent resource for books and drama
My favourite drink - Coffee first thing and tea in the afternoon is my daily routine but when it comes to proper drinks then I love a good Argentinian Malbec, but if pushed it would certainly be Real Ale. We are now blessed with many ales to choose from. More recently I have really been enjoying the wide range of Craft IPAs and other “new world beers”. To sample some of the best locally I recommend a trip to “The Maule Collective” in Northampton or the “Tap and Kitchen” (Nene Valley Brewery) in Oundle. NVB’s “Release the Chimps” is a personal favourite. Whilst many Wetherspoons have a great selection of ales at very affordable prices their owner Tim Martin’s views on Brexit and his response to the lockdown in response to Covid-19 has led me to seriously consider a boycott post lockdown. Finally how could I not mention single malt whisky, especially those from Islay. If I had to choose one it would be have to be Lagavulin. Lagavulin distillery is a malt whisky distillery in the village of Lagavulin on the south of the island of Islay, Scotland
My favourite food - Anyone who knows me can tell I love most foods. I have an ample girth as evidence! Very difficult to narrow this down but I do love seafood especially the way the Italians do it. Having lived in Scotland and near the coast we were spoilt with good seafood restaurants. When on holiday abroad fish tends to be my staple diet. Squid, Scallops and Langoustines would be top of the list
My favourite place to eat - Again so many on the shortlist, but if I’m honest on a nice summer's day we (the family) love to go for Sunday lunch to Rutland Water Golf club. The food is always special, and the service is exceptional. For a quick lunch we love a pub in Stamford called the “Tobie Norris” where Matthew the landlord (who used to work at RWGC) always provides a warm welcome, good wine, excellent ales based on the season and the food is spot on
I like people who - are honest, hardworking and are prepared to put their hand up when they make a mistake. I value those who have a sense of society and are prepared to work for the better of all. I would count myself as a socialist and have always migrated to the left in terms of my politics. I love the following quote from Bill Shankly the legendary manager of Liverpool FC. He stated; “The socialism I believe in isn’t really politics. It is a way of living. It is humanity. I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day. That might be asking a lot, but it’s the way I see football and the way I see life” (cited in Weber 2006, You'll Never Talk Alone, Liverpool: 21)
I don’t like it when people - hide behind “window dressing” and therefore lack substance and too easily try to blind us with falsehoods and to use a modern parlance “fake news”. I detest it when people do not take responsibility for their words and actions. In recent times this has been best demonstrated with false slogans on red Buses, bluster about making America great again and social media posts with no regard for the feelings of those under attack. Manners, honesty and kindness are not weaknesses but essential strengths.
My favourite book - already addressed above Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery see The Guardian review here to get a sense of the novel
My favourite book character - On the basis that would really love to walk in this persons shoes I am going to choose “Rebus” from the novels by Ian Rankin. Who wouldn’t want to live in Edinburgh, work for the police but be a complete maverick, rub shoulders with the underworld and drink in The Oxford Bar. Ok there are some downsides; he supports Hibs but better than supporting Hearts!
My favourite film - I’m not a massive film enthusiast, preferring TV and theatre, so this choice is particularly difficult. I did however go to the cinema to watch the Oscar winning Parasite which was excellent and thoroughly deserving of the best picture Oscar. From a bit further back I loved Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner, where an Iowa corn farmer, hearing voices, interprets them as a command to build a baseball diamond in his fields; he does, and the 1919 Chicago White Sox come. It’s a film that makes me cry every time I watch it mainly as a father son thing.
My favourite poem - I really found it difficult to choose between “Easter 1916” by W.B Yeats with it’s famous final lines of;
“Now and in time to be, Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.”
or “Digging” by Seamus Heaney and I finally chose the latter. Mainly because of the line;
“By God, the old man could handle a spade.”
My old man certainly could, god rest his soul. I recall him saying to me as a child that he didn’t want me, or my brothers for that matter, making a living with a pick and shovel as he had done all his days. He was the typical Irish navvy, who relocated from Northern Ireland in the 1950s for work and to distance himself and his future family from what was to come. The poem has a particular poignancy for me given my use of the pen in my academic career
My favourite artist/band - When younger I migrated from an early love of Tamla Motown and soul music to Heavy rock (Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple ). However as I have grown older I have sort of turned into my parents. Brought up on classic Country and Western I now adore anything broadly classed as “Americana” or Alt Country. Richmond Fontaine, The National, Ryan Adams. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that in 2020 I have been trying to expand my listening and so far I have definitely discovered the genius that is Stormzy and Dave. I do think I have a very broad taste in music and never thought I could appreciate “Hip Hop” but some of it is very good.
My favourite song - La Cienga Just Smiled by Ryan Adams from his album “Gold” no contest.Lyrics mean a lot to me in songs especially when they paint pictures and stories.
Extract from lyrics:
And I hold you close in the back of my mind
Feels so good but damn it makes me hurt
And I'm too scared to know how I feel about you now
La Cienega just smiled, "see you around"
My favourite art - I Love the Surrealists, especially Salvador Dali and my absolute favourite is the Christ of Saint John of the Cross made in 1951 which is in the collection of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow.
It depicts Jesus Christ on the cross in a darkened sky floating over a body of water complete with a boat and fishermen. Although it is a depiction of the crucifixion, it is devoid of nails, blood, and a crown of thorns, because, according to Dalí, he was convinced by a dream that these features would mar his depiction of Christ. It is genius. I had planned to visit to Kelvingrove art gallery the other week as part of a weekend in Glasgow to watch the famous “hoops” but Covid-19 put paid to that
My favourite person from history - Not necessarily a favourite but If I could go back in time I would want to sit down and have a conversation with this man.
James Connolly was a Scottish-born Irish republican and socialist leader. Connolly was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to Irish parents. He was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and founder of the Irish Socialist Republican Party. He was centrally involved in the Dublin lock-out of 1913, as a result of he helped form the Irish Citizen Army that year. He opposed British rule in Ireland and was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. He was executed by firing squad following the Rising. My Irish heritage is very important to me in terms of my identity and to be able to explore and understand what made men like Connolly rebels would be fascinating. What is it that makes men like him willing to die for his cause? Steadfast to the end the following quote sums it up;
“I said to him, "Will you pray for the men who are about to shoot you" and he said: "I will say a prayer for all brave men who do their duty.". His prayer was "Forgive them for they know not what they do" and then they shot him.”Dr Stephen O’Brien
Visiting Professor: Faculty of Health, Education and Society
The University of Northampton