There’s more to Stockport than St Winefred’s choir

At the end of a night, people sometimes ask me what is was like growing up in Stockport.  And I reply, “It were shit.”

People working stupid hours in slave wage factories.  Or getting made redundant from them. 

Maybe that was just the 80s.  But there’s only so many times one can reel off the fact that the world’s first factory was borne in Stockport, or that Stockport’s viaduct is THE biggest brick built structure in Europe with any modicum of pride.
But I forget!  Stockport is home to the 192 bus – the late night vehicle of choice to get from Manchester to Stockport/Your Chance to get Mugged/The Ultimate Compromise/Transport for Thrill Seekers.
True to form, I’m practically a year behind the times,  but now I hear that the 192 has been immortalised in song.
New York, Kingston Town, San Jose, Amarillo…eat your heart out. 

Long time no see

Things have moved on.   

It’s been a long time.   

You and I, we may have grown apart.  

It’s not been you, honestly.  It’s been me.  I’ve needed the time to readjust.  True love waits and all that.  

But it’s not like I’ve just been sat on my proverbial, knocking back the second half of bottles of wine whilst watching old episodes of Family Fortunes.  

Well, a bit.
But honestly, I’ve been rushed of my proverbials.  Feet that is.   

Over the last month and a half, I’ve :- 

  • Got a little black cat called Mario 5 Billion Let Mario out and lost him 
  • But then he came back again! RRAAYY! (My life is a crazy jam-packed whirlwind) 
  • Started a new job   
  • Passed out on the train to Waterloo  
  • Decided that public transport was not for me and bought a scooter  
  • Skirted with death on said scooter 
  • Reconciled with public transport.  (Me and Scoots are working things through though and just need a little time apart)  
  • Broke bed.  This is very bad.  They’re not cheap to replace.  Am currently rocking the student mattress-on-the-floor look awaiting a new one that is half its original price but still twice as much as is sensible to spend on something that doesn’t match anything.  
  • Unscrewed a Vax V2 hoover (you know what I mean, vacuum cleaner, whatever) into a million tiny pieces then put it all together again minus tufts of Christmas tree which when layed end to end were equal in length to a fully grown adult’s intestine.  
  • Went to Barcelona   
  • Looked, but did not buy a car   
  • Put in a new light bulb over the mirror in the bathroom  
  • Bought a new jumper, got a blood blister, folded some laundry, read the paper, had a lie in and grew my hair.  Look, I’ve been busy, alright?  

Anyway.  Let’s not get into an argument over it.  I’ve posted some of my old posts from my old work blog by way of filling the void.    

In PR we call it ‘repurposing’.   

Some old stuff

Capture the zeitgeist!!!!!
Here’s some of the stuff I wrote for my old work blog.  I think they belong to me.  That’s what the disclaimer said anyway.    
Sorry, seem to have lost the amusing but terribly apt pics to go along with them.  Please use your imagination whilst I get round to restoring them.  Thanks!

 I need, you need, we all need a MailGregator

Published 28 November, 2007 
Phew. If it wasn’t enough having a full time job AND being an all round PR superstar, I’m now having to juggle five email inboxes. 

As well as the 100s of mails your average PR gets in their work inbox every day, I’ve also got Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook to contend with. And some of those inboxes send messages to other inboxes to tell me I’ve got a message from someone else.

I’m pooped!“What I really need,” I say to myself, “is an email aggregator”. 

And guess what? After an extensive trawl of page one of a Google search, I discover there’s no such thing as an email aggregator!

My mind’s racing now, I’ve got visions of me standing with my flipchart in the Dragon’s Den pitching my idea to the Dragons.

The Dragons think my MailGregator idea is brilliant.

They ask me how much investment I need.

I say £200,000 should do it.

They ask what their cut is.

I say 10%.

Straightaway, Bannatyne’s oot.

Peter Jones says he’ll take it on for 50%.

I panic, and say I’ll settle on 60%.

Jones and I shake hands, but the deal falls through as I’ve only agreed to sell 60% of the MailGregator business, not my soul.

Now, I’m really exhausted, and decide I should just learn to live with it.


Memories, like the corners of my mindPublished 8 November, 2007 

Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time rewritten every line?

Memory, yep, THAT type of memory.

Oi. Where’s your manners? Hear me out before you flick over to read the latest nonsense on tech frippery, because from where I’ve been standing, you know how people say ‘people start wars, not religion’? Well, it should be ‘people start religion, not memory’, or ‘memory starts wars, not religious people’. 

Or something, because memory’s important.

The last 30 years has been an almighty battleground for memory and the reason why these wars have become so vicious is because of what’s at stake.

So let’s take the well trodden path of VHS v Betamax. Fundamentally, we’re talking about JVC’s VHS video recorder taking the upper hand (not the memory). But it’s the memory where the money was made -millions and millions of tapes churned out for a price of up to £89.99 (if the video shop stickers for a new release were to be believed) and VHS dominating the market for nigh on 20 years. Same thing with Sandisk – one could argue that the validity of a whole industry, from Jessops to Nikon, pivots on making sure that most people have the right sized slot in their camera.

So. We come to our latest battle. Toshiba’s HD DVD and Sony BluRay. The 100 year’s war of the memory game. Apparently HD DVD’s better, but Sony made the deals with the studios (except porn, which you may remember from my post ‘ Sony says no to Blu Movies’). Now it turns out that HD DVD has sold more players as Toshiba slashes the cost to $99. In all honesty, you might as well give the players away on a cereal box, because if you win the player fight, you win the memory fight and remember, that’s where the money is to be made.

Plenty more to come on this one.

But lastly, let us pay our respects to the casualties of memory; Private Minidisc, Corporal Cartridge, Sergeant 8 Track and Lieutenant CD ROM. A special mention goes out to dear old Colonel Floppy Disk; gathering dust in the lofts of the Western World, holding the secrets of years of further and higher education, never to be reopened as the PC slot just doesn’t exist anymore.

As a concept, I find the move from hot new start up to world dominator fascinating. In their first stage, they’re bursting with cookiness, newness and freshness and (dare I say it) INNOVATION. By the time stage two comes along, you hate their guts, they stand against everything your could possibly ever hold dear to your heart. Then, for stage three, they learn the errors of their ways, soften up their image, and whilst still a bit evil, it’s more of a mumsy kind of evil so you learn to live with it.

So, take for example, Microsoft.

Stage 1: Microsoft v1984 (Gates does Weird Science, or Teen Beat magazine if you’ve seen the photospread to the right)

Stage 2 : Microsoft v 2002 (Gates does Cardinal Wolsey )

Stage 3: Microsoft v2007 (Gates does Lorraine Kelly, or perhaps you could substitute that for Al Gore if you’re brain doesn’t work to my rhythm)What I’m saying is that there’s a quite clear evolutionary path for these mega tech corps.

So on this reckoning, Google has entered stage two. Facebook is walking towards a two as well. So I ask myself, is it possible to be a stage one and stay a stage one and still make bucket loads of money? Does it matter? Possibly. And Apple seems to be making a good go of it. Because the beauty of being in stage one is the goodwill that you have from your audience. When you get to stage three you’re in danger of becoming a commodity, and this is where you could start to lose value.

But maybe it’s inevitable. Perhaps its just the same as real life long term relationships. You fall head over heels in love, then it turns out to be not quite what it was cracked up to be, but at the end of the day you love ‘em anyway and you wouldn’t have it any other way. 

FYI: Pls see blog below for further details

Published 23 October, 2007 

I hate the phrase, “pet peeve”.

So much so that it is, in fact, my pet peeve.But it’s not my only peeve.  Guaranteed to turn a good day into bad are those three little letters:-FYI

Tagged onto the top of an email, these seemingly innocuous looking letters tell a much more sinister story.  In fact I’d go so far as to say that FYI is a misnomer.  It should be

ICBBRTECBITYM: I can’t be bothered reading this email chain, but I thought you might


PDTEEATMWIM: Please decipher this encrypted email and tell me what it meansor

YPDNTKTBICMB: You probably don’t need to know this, but I’m covering my backor the real killer

TIAT: OOSOTTPMIRTY-PTSBTFYTFO: This is a test: Only one sentence of this three page mail is relevant to you – possibly two sentences, but that’s for you to find outAnyway, I’m not a fan of the FYI.So you might also reasonably assume that I’m in support of Intel’s “no email day”.  And tis true, I’m increasingly on IM.  In fact I phone people not ten metres away from me  or if I’m feeling particularly technically capable/irritating, I’ll video conference them too.  Sometimes I even go so far as to do voice and live interface with people (”f2f”, I think it’s  called, or “a real conversation”).

But although we are in comms, we are also a service industry and that means “servicing” our customers and stakeholders in the way they want us to.  And a lot of the time they want to talk to us by email.  Quickly as well, not just when we fancy it.  Also, as some of the people we talk to are in different time zones, it’s often more practical to email.  And this service industry malarky also means that, despite my protestations, I will still have to read FYI emails from time to time.

So I accept email.  In fact, I’ve taken to actually recording a lot of my conversations with people by typing them up and sending them by email as an aide memoire.  You see, for me, email is like my own personal Work Wikipedia.  Ask me what I was doing at 10.51 12/2/07 and I can tell you – it’s filed in email, I was chasing up final images.  Another random one: 4.23 4/7/7  I was saying how glad I was that it all went well.Now.  Isn’t that useful? 

Goodbye Ming, hello…WHO?

Published 17 October, 2007 

So Menzies’ gone and the Liberal Democrats need a new leader. Well, if the Liberal’s want to actually win the election (whenever that may be), they could do worse than to ask someone who has spent many many minutes studying what makes someone statistically more likely to become Prime Minister. And if they ever were to ask me, this is what I’d say….Limp Biscuit is out of the running straight away and it’s not because he’s running around with a Cheeky Girl (which one it is, nobody knows). It’s because Lembit doesn’t rank among ‘traditional English names’. 

No, you’re statistically much more likely to become Prime Minister if:-

1. You have one of the popular King’s names (ie Henry, William, Edward)

2. You’ve studied at Oxford (University, not Brooks)

3. You were born in England (even the famously Welsh Lloyd George was born in Manchester)

4. You entered parliament before you were 30 (Ming, you’re not doing too well so far, are you?)

Given this criteria, I have found the perfect candidate for the Lib Dems, who is almost certain to take them to victory.

He is Oxford grad, Mansfield born youngster, Edward Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton.

Only trouble is, a certain William Hague also fits the bill perfectly…Statistics, eh?



  Bright ideas in marketing – part onePublished 21 November, 2007 

This week, ten points awarded to the seven year old for astute observation.

I quote: “Energy saving light bulbs?  How ridiculous.  How can you have a light bulb that actually saves energy?”

And of course, she’s right because fundamentally, the role of the so-called energy saving light bulb is not philanthropic – it does not give back to the grid.  It’s more, light bulbs that do not expend as much energy as normal light bulbs.Light bulbs for cheapskates.

Light bulbs for those who care about the environment but are afraid of the dark.

OK, bit unfair that and I’m being flippant.  These more energy efficient light bulbs are a good thing, but interesting nonetheless how marketing nomenclature can seep into everyday language and not be recognised as such (unless you are a PARTICULARLY bright seven year old). 

So I award nine points  to the marketing wizard that came up with the energy saving phrase and managed to make it stick.  

And eight points to me, because it’s my game.

Last week I put in place the machinations for a fascinating experiment that promised to set our blogstats alight.

You may recall I hoisted what I believed to be popular search terms into the blog in a bid to capture the floating internet user (if not, scroll down a bit and have a look at my entry last week…and then scroll back up.)

You with me?

OK. So if I’ve sensed the mood correctly, you’re now on the edge of your seat, desperate to know the results of my cunning plan. Well, wait no more, because I can officially announce that over the last week we have doubled the number of hits onto the blog! And I can also officially announce that this boost in popularity is almost entirely due to the following search engine term:-

In Rainbows

Darn it! Should have thought of that one.

However, I don’t feel too bad as closer search term analysis revealed that if you discount ‘In Rainbows’ as our number one search engine term, the rest of the top five is a pretty motley crew:-

Pakistan nice views

Saddest minor key

Mickey Mouse

Woman shopping (the psychology of this one intrigues me)

SEO, we’ll meet again, but for now I’ve hung up my labcoat and given my black leather glove to charity.



Diary of a megalomaniac blogger, aged 30 1/3

Published 3 October, 2007 

I had a plan.

I was going to quadruple the number of visitors to our blog overnight by doing something like this…

Britney Spears

FacebookHow to get rich quick

British Airways


Five day weather forecast…and a few other words that I realised in hindsight might not be appropriate to link to my work blog.…and THEN I was going to watch our blogstats blow through the roof.

Alright, in SEO (search engine optimisation) terms, it might not attract the kind of visitor that is necessarily interested in PR, or technology, but I thought of it more as an experiment, a modern day Pavlov’s dogs if you will. Give them the keywords and they will salivate. Or something like that.

Except, as is life, it’s not quite so simple as that.

Firstly, since SEO has become a serious business, it’s not so easy to get hold of the information on how to do this.

Secondly, and this is weird: We’ve got a blog posted that contains the word ‘myxomatosis’ and that gets LOADS of hits. 


Which leads me neatly to point three: I don’t really know what I’m doing and I have a sneaky suspicion that there’s probably more to it than typing random words. (Then again, I also have a sneaky suspicion that it IS just a case of typing in random words.) The point is, I don’t know.

And lastly, apparently, it’s unethical. Apparently. Tsk.

So there we have it. Omnipotence in tatters, off I skulk. Experiment failed. Bamboozled.


I will be back. 

Right, I’ve heard this one too many times to ignore the hot question of the week:-

“What on God’s green earth is Bluetongue?”

It seems to have collectively bypassed the media that some people might not actually know that Bluetongue is a viral disease of sheep, cattle, goats, and wild ruminants, transmitted by biting flies of the genus ‘Culicoides’.

Or maybe it’s that it’s tricky to fit into a nice and easy sound bite.

It’s an issue that technology PRs across the globe will be very familiar with: How to explain something quite complicated – like a piece of technology – in a couple of easy to understand words. It’s why you see phrases like “black magic”, “seamless integration”, “turnkey solution” and the like creep into press releases so often.

It’s obscene.

And I’m a drama queen, but it’s not as easy as one might think writing for technology PR.

It’s not the only industry where people hide behind fancy words – it’s just that seeing as we’re in the business of communications, you’d expect people to, erm, well, communicate.

The first question that should be answered for any piece of writing is “does it make any sense?”

In tech PR, all to often, the answer is “no”.

Or, as lesser PRs might answer, “in enabling the demands of our market, we are delighted to announce that our cutting edge response is in the negative.” 

D minor is the saddest key of all….

Published 14 September, 2007 

Alright, alright. Before we start, let’s just establish a couple of things.

Firstly, turn your eyes to the right and take note of the disclaimer.Secondly. Well, if you happen to be a devotee of the following subject, just take it easy, breathe deeply and pay no attention to the non PR related comments I’m about to make. 

Because if I know one thing, it’s that fans can be sensitive.



Q: What do you get if you multiply the number of people with an affectation for 1970s prog rock with the number of times it is possible to press the refresh button in three days?

A: 20 million

Or, as the Guardian puts it, 20 million ACTUAL PEOPLE. 

Yes, apparently, in the last few days, 20m people have tried to buy Led Zeppelin tickets.

Now, far be it from me to suggest that the promoter inappropriately insinuated the number of web hits that the Led Zeppelin site has received since the announcement of a London gig was equal to the number of individual people wanting to attend, but quite frankly, the alternatives involve organised eBay tout crime or a highly strung web counter.

Maybe it’s just that I’m not bothered by The Zep, or The Plin or The Light Emitting Diode, or whatever it is that people who like Led Zeppelin call them (well, I do like The Battle of Evermore, but even THEN – “Queen of light took her bow…dark Lord…throw down your plow and hoe” hmmm?) so I might be biased. I just don’t believe that 20 million actual real live people are that fussed about seeing Zepper.

I say it’s all a bit made up and unnecessary, because THIS IS THE ZEP FOR GOODNESS SAKE. They have enough real fans to keep them going in grandad shirts and leather drainpipes for life.J

ust not 20 million of them battering a website.Spare them. 

Spare me.

If there are only two things I’ve learned from this whole sorry affair, it’s that promoters are PR scoundrels and that in the last 35 years, male grooming has come a long way. 


Published 5 September, 2007  

It’s been two weeks and three days

Since I went away

I stayed up every night and slept all day

When I went on holiday

When my Facebook said,’ Jastca is wondering how old Nick Knowles actually is’, this was only partly true. It could have reasonably also said, ‘Jasta is eating her dinner in a fancy rest-er-awwnt on holiday in New York.”
I admit it. I, Jastca, would much rather keep the information I put out on the internet to all and sundry reasonably vague.

So why the worry?

Have to say, I’m not too fussed about protecting my decorum in front of employers. I’ve decorum enough and if needed, I’ll summon the decorum for any future employer.

I’m decorumed up.

It’s more the obvious things like the burglars who want to ransack my house for its bounty of backdated Argos catalogues, impulse buy toiletries, USB cables for gadgets I’ve never owned and an odd number of chopsticks.

And those weird stalking types with bad skin, wearing Homor Simpson pants who go well past their bedtime drinking Tesco VAT 69 whiskey and like to follow your every move via the internet.So generally, I think it’s only sensible to have a scale of openness along the lines of:-
1. The person you share a bed with
2. Family/friends
3. Colleagues
4. The Inland Revenue
5. People you know
7. People you don’t know but who you can see
8. People you don’t know but who you can can hear
9. People you don’t know who can use the internet
10. People who write letters to, and actively romantically pursue Charles Manson 
ScootermanThis is what I’d say to the chaps at Scooterman, if ever they were to ask my advice.

In case you don’t regularly find yourself staring blank-eyed at the inside of a cubicle door in the pubs and restaurants of major UK cities, I shall elaborate:

-Scooterman is a service that allows you to drive to the pub AND get sloshed.

“How irresponsible!” says you, “the streets of major UK cities will be littered with mountains of smashed up cars and goodness knows what other dystopic horrors.”

Aha! No. You see, you drive to the pub. Get sloshed. But instead of stabbing and jabbing keys at your car, you call Scooterman. He scooters to the pub, folds up his scooter, pops it in the boot of your car and drives you home for less than the cost of a cab.

Bob’s your proverbial uncle.

Except, despite the kertrillion adverts, all cleverly placed in the aforementioned facilities, it doesn’t seem like anyone actually uses it.Why’s that then?

My theory is that you don’t want to take a chance on the service messing up, or not working for one reason or another once you’re already over the limit. You need to know it’s going to work. You need to know it HAS worked. For ordinary people. People like you.

And this is where PR and a nice slice of case study comes in. A good case study will whisper sweet nothings into your ear. It will massage the knots from your shoulders, stroke your cheek, put its arm around your waist and tell you not to be afraid. Everyone’s doing it. You’re safe.

So get on yer bike, Scooterboy, sort yourself out with some decent PR, and start pocketing the millions of pounds’ profit that are rightfully yours. 

Silly season

Published 8 August, 2007 

Flipping nora. What’s going on in the world?


Not a sausage.

Well, that’s not strictly true, but what with it being August, news has practically shut down for the month. I’m bored of reading about the weather (rainy => floods => global warming => sunny => global warming => rainy….). I’ve got NO interest in the Premiership, so that’s off for me. Pete Doherty’s got out of jail.  Again…yawn.The news agenda, (much like my brain right now) is nought but tumbleweed bobbing along the wastes of the Atacama.So unless you want another post on Prince or Virgin from me, time for a retrospective by way of a couple of gems from Charlie Brooker’s Screen Burn, as seen in the Guardian’s Guide on a Saturday. It’s lazy, I know, and I apologise:-

“Dancing In The Moonlight by Toploader: the sort of song that comes on the car radio while you’re gassing yourself with a hose, and merely serves to reinforce your decision.”“These aren’t even real words. I filmed the individual letters two years ago, then edited them out of sequence to give the impression of an article.”

“It’s an absolute pig, the future. Intriguing yet ultimately unknowable – a bit like Moira Stuart.”

“According to the popular imaginary superhero Jesus Christ, it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. In either case, it’s not impossible. To solve the camel/eye-of-needle puzzler you need a liquidizer, an extremely tiny spout, a steady hand, and a shitload of patience.”


“People ruin everything. Open the window: look, there’s a bunch of them right there, wrecking stuff. Bloody persons. Always pissing in your cornflakes. On any given day, a person might give you a cold, burgle your home, or break your heart. Who started the second world war? A person. Who invented ringtones? A person. Who wrote I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)? Trick question: it wasn’t composed by a person, but a tiny clockwork machine. Which in turn was created by a person. Or maybe a netherworld daemon. We just don’t know.” 

January, January…

…January, January, January.  Where the Sun cocked a disinterested eye, turned its back, pulled the duvet over its ear and set the snooze button to March.  None of that tippety tap, ‘come hither’ rain that dances on the pavement.  January rain just belches out its wetness on you, all cold and house rottingly damp.  Kehh.

January.  So named after our old mucker, Janus – the two-faced, multiplicious chap. 

So, it’s unsurprising that I should spend the first part of the month rapt in the arms of spirituality, chewing the proverbial and actual cud in a bid for austerity that would simultaneuosly bring me closer to my deeply deep core of being as well as set me on the road for devoting enough alms for a decent pension in years to come. 

The second half of the month has of course been devoted to online shopping for new party dresses, occassional jackets and a couple of pairs of snazzy new shoes – thank GOD for that.

Thought I’d never get over it.

Call me Quested. MISS Quested.

The lovely, lovely people of Nepal.  Genuinely lovely they are.  Seriously, all of ’em.  Really. 


…’cept that large troop of overly spirited young men.  Agitated chaps, of the type who weren’t afraid to look a lady in the eye. 

The archetypal ‘angry mob’.

Them ones with the big sticks.

Giving it the baseball swing n tap on our vehicle.

As my dear husband went to lock his side of the taxi, the one that I like to call “really mean”, yanked open my side of the taxi and started prodding my stuff with his mean ole finger, really meanly.  Just to let us know he wasn’t messing, I specs.

Anyway, it became clear that our taxi wasn’t going to cross that particular picket line that day.

Never one to be known as a scab, back we scuttled to a side street to contemplate Plan B.

The particular spot we chose was right next to the place where the sticks for angry men were being produced and handed out.

This focused the mind somewhat.

Eventually, we jumped on a cycle rickshaw which was evidently immune to the strike and we took an hour and a half trip straight-backed and styling it as only slightly nervous Englishers can through beautiful villages, paddy and tea fields to the airstrip to which we were headed. 

Jolly pleasant it turned out to be too.

Just a quickie

A few things I’ve noticed over the last week or so.  In chronological order.

1. A charity shop ain’t no charity shop unless it’s selling a copy of Hard Times

2. The film, Blood Diamond is a bit full on for a plane journey

3. Black hole my arm..  Calcutta is LOVELY.  I highly recommend an afternoon at the Maidan listening to the thwack of leather on willow.

4. Spending the night on a sleeper train with ten military chaps does not a uniform fetishist make and it doesn’t make you feel particularly safe neither.  But their rhythmic snoring coupled with the chug of a train and the near continous chant of “chai, chai, coffee, chai, chai, chai”, is akin to cuddling up to a hot chocca and a duvet for a date with Michael Aspel and the Antiques Roadshow.

5.  Jeep journey’s in mountains – seatbelt = Fantastic views + fear of death

6. For a ‘celebrity sunrise’, visit Tiger Hill.  Just me, ma husband, a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding hills and mountains around Gurkhland and 2000 rowdy tourists and their snappety snap cameras.

Anyway.  All well.  Food great.  Calcutta’s great.  As is Darjeeling.  Off to Nepal tomorrow.

Wish u were here.

If I was Ice Cube – my version of Good Day

Following the other week’s discussion on Ice Cube’s classic, It was a Good Day and real life events that unfolded today, I felt urged to write this little ditty…hope you like it.

Just waking up in the morning and I don’t know
Still dark out, but today seems kinda slow
No barking from Radio Fo’, no alarm tone
Anyways, John Humphries’ a ho

Check out my face in the mirror, acne break out
God Damn, forgot to put the rubbish out

No-one’s up yet and it’s ten past eight
Chris Hollins’ on Breakfast News, and he’s the one I really hate
And ma second trainer I can’t locate
I gotta say – I think I’m running a bit late

Ran to the station but I’m baffled
Platform’s empty, God damn Kingston train’s been cancelled
It’s far too late now, but I shoulda gone and cycled
Get on the 33 to Richmond and I’m rattled

Cuz I only got 80p on my Oyster prepay
I have to say today wasn’t a good day