Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Writing while Manchester burns...

....well, while there's a small fire in the doorway of Miss Selfridge anyway. And that's almost certainly out by now, thank goodness. 
So actually I'm writing when, hopefully, the risk of Manchester burning has been surpassed. Even if only temporarily. The news reports show an empty Deansgate, a vacant Albert Square and a largely uninhabited Oldham Street; and the unflappable #gmpolice twitter feed does its very own Nick Ross by telling us not to have nightmares because the city centre is now quiet.
And it is, you know. Quiet. Okay there's the odd siren, but that's standard for any Northern Quarter-based lughole hanging out the window. I get twitchy when i don't hear a siren for a couple of hours; makes me think the outside world might have vanished.
Not that you could possibly think that tonight (well, last night, depending on when you're reading this)... the sheer amount of activity on Twitter and Facebook concerning the 'Manchester Riots' was endless, and so rich in content that it made the Sky News feed - which lovingly featured a shot of my home - seem slow, stale and censored. 
It was also great at dispelling rumours that "they" (dunno who "they" are) had spread all across town: that Afflecks Palace had been blown into orbit, and that the Arndale centre had had all its walls removed leaving only a roof teetering on a stack of empty JD sports trainer boxes.
I simply refreshed the feed and the facts were there to see - from the writers and reporters out on the streets - and then for me to relay (admittedly somewhat smugly at times) to my family and friends. The buildings were intact.
Mainly though, I've been able to observe it from my balcony, and by occasionally popping out onto Oldham Street and Ancoats Street, and I must admit that on more than one occasion I almost soiled myself.
For me, as early as 6pm you could feel how twitchy people were, particularly when walking across Piccadilly Gardens. Gangs of tracksuits shouting battle cries and staring angrily at policeman. Shopkeepers shutting up shop. Pubs pulling the doors to. But even so, I still thought naively the whole of Manchester would rise above and let the riots pass us by.
Turns out that wasn't the case.
By 6.40pm (now safely at home) I was tweeting about the sirens, the swarm of people up Oldham Street to escape the rioters in town and the  hoodies loitering under my balcony looking for something to light a fire with. Probably. And for every update I gave, hundreds more went up from other people in Manchester.
Teenagers were arriving by the car load, looking to loot whatever they could; even the Oxfam at the end of the road got ransacked FFS. They were trying to get into service doors at the back of clothes shops, a fenced-off Travelodge car park and the one time I opened the main doors to our building to look outside, a couple of them lunged towards me like they wanted to come in and see what they could steal from my apartment.
Obviously I didn't venture out again. I simply sat, online, sharing stories of peril and woe with everyone else who was online trying to get the latest goss. And to see if we'd have a city in the morning.
Not the most heroic thing to do, I agree; I'll leave that to the Greater Manchester Police (and that weird kid on YouTube who dresses in a superhero outfit bought by his mum and seeks justice on the streets of Rochdale.).
I have however signed up for the Manchester Clean-Up in the morning; and will be spending an hour helping to locate and replace the Arndale centre's walls before going into work.
I hope it's the only Clean-up I ever do though; partly because i'm lazy, but also because it pains me to see Manchester suffer. Or set on fire.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

I blog, therefore I am (annoying? outdated? self-indulgent?)

“All you future Google whores might want to pay attention to what I’m about to reveal,” once said someone seemingly very frustrated, online, via a blog. (Google it if you don’t believe me.)
Without even clicking on the link, all sorts of conceptions crossed my mind about what kind of person might open with such a gambit… was this a digital visionary about to predict the death of a ubiquitous search giant? Were they warning of government blocks on prostitute-related keywords? Or was it an excited teenage lad about to embark on a journal of his own journey through puberty?
Turns out it was a guy flogging web traffic.
Blogging certainly divides opinion at the moment, with some saying it’s had its day, some saying it’s self-serving (99% of it doesn’t get read anyway, they say!); whereas for many it’s a sales tool, an outward release of the soul or an attempt at marketing when you’re skint. Maybe even it’s an interesting opening headline (or tweet) you thought of, that you feel simply must have an article attached to it.
Calling someone a whore is a great way of getting someone to read the next sentence – but if that following sentence starts talking about ROI vs. number of websites built, there’s a 99.9999% chance you’re going to click off. And not just click off; you’ll actually think the writer’s a bit of a tit.
So why blog in the first place?
Why did I even bother starting this blog page (I’ve only done two articles so far)?
I write for a living so I can’t really use the “it’s a release” clause. But then again I currently write about accountancy software in my day job, so one could argue I need a release more than anyone.
Am I simply arriving late at something that is already on its way out, thinking “If I have my own blog it’ll boost my career chances / twitter followers (it’s @stevedelporter by the way) / cool points at work?” (“See that guy over there, he spends his spare time musing. Just musing.”)
Maybe I just like to read my own words in digital print, asking people to ‘Google me’ in the pub if the conversation drops.
Hopefully, it’s none of these reasons. Maybe, it’s all of them. Likely, no one cares!
I do intend to blog though, when I get chance, and hopefully the reason why will reveal itself. Google whores at the ready…  ;0)