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The Unofficial Guide to Sheffield (12/06/2011)

With more and more emphasis placed on spending money in the UK (with ‘Buy British’ campaigns being all the rage right now), UK tourism is an industry that has been devastated by the availability of cheap and easy holidays abroad; whether it’s a classy city break for a discerning couple, or a 7 day piss up in I-Beef-Ah (which is nothing more than a glorified game of ‘STI Bingo’, if we’re honest). Just look at the state of seaside hotpots of yester year; Southend is now a point of ridicule, Morecambe is simply known as ‘that place that the funny man came from’ and Blackpool is like a ghost town. However, at Shouting at Cows we like to stick up for the plucky underdog. Therefore, we wish to show you why The UK has so much to offer, you’ll never want to leave! Besides, what can the south of France offer that Skegness can’t? Nothing, that’s what. Here’s our thinking person’s guide to Yorkshire’s finest; Sheffield.

History

With famous exports ranging from Steel to TV’s Sharpe, The South Yorkshire city of Sheffield is the fifth most populous city in the UK. After the decline of steel production in the 70’s, Sheffield renovated itself as the ‘home of snooker’, with the yearly World Snooker Championships taking place in its Crucible theatre. It’s probably replaced Steel production with other things too, but for me, nothing says ‘modern Sheffield’ like Steve Davis eyeing up a tricky red off the cushion. You want ‘northern grit’; watch that man wielding a cue. It will send shivers up your spine.

Sheffield is the greenest city in England, with 61% of its entire area being made up of Green space. This provides ample space for picnics, illegal drug use and dogging, which is the hallmark of every great city, I think you’ll agree.

Sights

Henderson’s Relish Factory

‘The Spicy Yorkshire Sauce’ is a fixture in central Sheffield. Those of you expecting some sort of brewery operation will be disappointed to learn that the Henderson Factory is little more than a detached cobbled house that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Coronation Street. Known to some as ‘The home of Relish’ (no-one calls it this), you can learn the story of Mr Henry Henderson, who started manufacturing his own special sauce in the late part of the 19th century. Now it should be said, It’s exactly the fucking same asLea and Perring’s. Bottle, taste, label; the works. So either those two or Henry Henderson was lying, as I refuse to believe that two people invented an ostentatious sauce for cheese on toast by coincidence.

Don’t go expecting a relish based version of Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory either, with sauce rivers and pickle wallpaper. Though, there is a gift shop. With, like, mugs, and stuff.

The Crucible Theatre

The aforementioned crucible has put modern day Sheffield on the map. Opened in 1971 and named after a Sheffield-devised method for Steel production, If it isn’t witnessing a career defining performance by a young actor in a Shakespearian tragedy, then it’s showcasing Ronny O’Sullivan working out the financial ramifications of each yellow he potts, or Denis Taylor wearing his glasses funny. Its events are broad, its appeal universal; The Crucible Theatre, ladies and gentlemen.

Other sights in Sheffield include the usual city centre attractions, such as various arbitrary museums and statues, in-particularly the intriguing ‘Bus Museum’, which isn’t too dissimilar from the ‘On The Buses’ set. Gents; rope in your wife or girlfriend to come along, then recite various archaic and offensive views on women – It’s your chance to become Reg Varny for the day!

Shopping

Meadowhall

At one point Europe’s biggest shopping centre until Bluewater’s construction, Meadowhall is a shopping emporium. With every chain shop you can think of under its glass domed roof, it’s a capitalist, consumerist wonderland that comes across like a Phillip Green wet dream that someone ran with. Not saying it’s bad, but anyone with a semblance of moral value would need a cold shower after visiting it. Luckily I am devoid of compassion, so skipped up and down it’s marble hallways with gay abandon. And you can to.

Central Sheffield has a lot to offer also, with the usual city centre highlights of a gothic style shop selling band logos on Fruit of the Loom t-shirts, a pain inducing ‘artificially hip’ store selling non-descript Fred Perry polo shirts at £90 a pop, and the odd charity shop here and there that’s wall-to-wall, dripping with hipsters that would make you want to go postal if you had to hear another ‘gap yah’ story.

Nightlife

Leadmill

Sheffield’s premier music venue, Leadmill, is the place to be to hear tomorrow’s acts at yesterday’s prices today! Sheffield’s music scene has been fruitful in the past, with scene defining bands like Pulp, Def Leppard and Cabaret Voltiare. The scene has slightly tailed off in recent times, however. Despite bands like Arctic Monkeys gaining worldwide acclaim, Sheffield most famous recent product is Grindcore outfit Bring Me The Horizon, who are to this day, the single worst band I have ever heard in my entire life. “Oh Nick, stop with the hyperbole”, No, just no. They are a band so bad it made me apprehensive to even visit Sheffield. Imagine an average metal band. Then ply the musicians with loads of cheap, shitty limeade insuring that they have the attention span of children with severe ADHD. Then subtract all intelligence and musical nous from them. Then front them with a singer so bad that he can barely stay in key for longer than ½ a second. Then times it by 1,000 – and you have Bring Me The Horizon. They make me want to sell my ears.

However, if that sounds like an enticing prospect, then by all means, get down the Leadmill.

Corporation

Corp is your trendy-alternative watering hole. Everyone decked out in black and covered in tatts, it’s full of design students, overgrown teenagers and people with ‘problems’. Not like proper problems or anything, but like ‘western and white’ problems; Boyfriend is being weird, lost a follower on Myspace, that sort of thing. Regardless, the drinks are cheap, the beer is cold and the company is fine, so expect a ‘jolly good knees up’ if one was to frequent it. But also expect the inspiration behind Bill Bailey’s “How Can I Feel Pain, When You’re Being So Supportive?” song on every corner of every room.

Embrace

For those of you who are more of the ‘Nuts Magazine’ persuasion, Embrace is the local hotspot of choice. With Ben Sherman clad, Clark shoes wearing, shaven headed idiots rubbing shoulders with extras from The Only Way is Essex, expect a night high on debauchery and low on any sort of intelligent utterances. Girls dance on tables, every 3rd song is Rhianna; you know what to expect.

Surrounding Areas

Rotherham

Pronounced ‘Rov’Rum’ by locals, Rotherham is famous for bringing us the most famous double act since The Two Ronnies or Nixon and Kissinger, in the form of the Chuckle Brothers. As with the decline of industry in the north, the decline of Chucklevision saw the finances of Rotherham being hit hard. The high street is now awash with closed down false moustache shops and branches of Blockbuster video, whilst the faint sound of ‘Ch-Ch-Ch-Chuckle-Chuckle-Vision’ can still be heard in derelict buildings and abandoned vehicles.

Regardless, the average person only sees one smashed up car dumped on a roundabout and one disused mattress in a woodland area, proving that assumptions are only partly true.

Wentworth

Containing the finest petting Zoo since NOFX’s 1996 album ‘Heavy Petting Zoo’, Wentworth estate is like a ‘Toys’R’Us’ of countryside activities; a derelict stately home, a garden centre, National Heritage sites and wildlife – all under one (metaphorical) roof! Wentworth House is – to quote a BBC documentary on it – ‘In trouble’, and due to be renovated into a hotel and restaurant plaza soon. This will be great, as it will allow you to eat dinner over views of Rotherham’s council estates, and let you drift off to sleep under the sweet sounds of a glassing outside a Rotherham public house. Perfect.

The Garden centre is full of like, erm, pots. And showroom conservatories. And homemade black pudding. And for some reason, they were also knocking out copies of ‘Unbelievable! The official Autobiography by Chris Kamara’ there too. Puzzling one, that.

And so, there you have the definitive guide of what to do in Sheffield. Forget your sojourns to Sicily, or dalliances to Dresden; all the fun can be had right here, in old Blighty. So bin your Lonely Planets, put the suitcase into storage and just think that in 24 hours’ time, you could be the owner of a ‘Henderson’s Relish’ t-shirt. Is that an opportunity you can really afford to pass up on? Didn’t think so.

OMG! With Peaches Geldof (aka Intolerance and Stereotypes in Trendy Clothing) (03/01/11)

(For more from us, go to shoutingatco.ws. We’ll make you laugh, cry, and punch a wall in anger. All within your lunch break!)

There is no end to Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof’s talents. Writer, fashionista, TV personality, icon, idol, visionary; she is like our generation’s Patti Smith. Not really, I’m being sarcastic. But then you probably already realised that.

I’m not going to bore you with my thoughts on Peaches’ journalistic qualities. They can all be found on a previous piece we did, here at Fort Shouting at Cows (for a pithy summary; she makes my brain hurt). After the outstanding success of her last foray into television, she has been brought back on our screen by those masochists over at ITV2. Her latest presenting role is on ‘OMG! With Peaches Geldof’. The show is essentially a group of TopShop mannequin conversing in a warehouse and talking about edgy shit, because, they’re so fucking edgy. I mean, it’s all there. She’s got a nose piercing. People in the crowd are wearing trilbies. If this lot were any more ahead of their time, us old fogies would be watching an empty aircraft hangar.

As far as I can tell, this is a stealth version of the FeMail column in the Daily Mail. It’s an unsightly collage of intolerance, homophobia, narcissism and shock value. I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul Dacre himself commissioned this. The Mail, due to its deplorably offensive content, has become a ‘get left-wing for free’ card for any brain dead-hipster. Phrases like “Yah, I hate the Daily Fail. And the f-ing Tories. They’re all such racists, yah know?” commonly occurs in the patois of myopic hipsters nationwide, usually before they sulk into TopShop and spend £50 on a boho-chic skirt, giving £50 to every socialist’s best mate, Phillip Green. You know; the guy that doesn’t pay tax and is on the payroll of ‘the f-ing Tories’. Anyway, this social group contains some of most vacuous and self-centred people on the planet, and you can market the most offensive, most discriminatory shit to them. As long as it’s packaged up properly, this lot will lap it up in spades.

The show is so artificially hip it’s painful. Peaches Geldof – the edgy one, dad swears, caught doing drugs once, got married in Vegas (got divorced once she realised no-one cared) – hosts, in a show which is sold as a sort of celebrity scandal/sociological study/Social Media Exploration set-up. I don’t really get what its remit is.

The main focus is on so called real life Vampires. They roll out Allison, who is a REAL LIFE VAMPIRE! She has teeth and everything! So what is it like living as a Vampire? Well Allison can’t tell you, all she does is put on a contrived dress and some artificial fangs. She’s essentially a goth. With false teeth. Allison – with her voice sounding like Joe Pasquale on helium – has SOMEHOW managed to be more annoying than Peaches. She’s interminable. Now, I don’t know if you know this, but Peaches is very edgy. So naturally all she wants to talk about is sex;

‘Do you have sex with the fangs on?’

‘It’s more of a foreplay thing.’

Brilliant. That’s the age old fang-in-bed-yes-or-no debate put to bed. Peaches and her co-hosts’ knowledge on Vampires extends to ‘goff gear’ and Twilight. That’s it. That’s the extent of her research. Peaches asks Alison if she likes Twilight. Alison says she likes Vampire Diaries; in a scene reminiscent of Frost/Nixon. So what is Allison going to do when her favourite Show becomes Madmen? Wear a suit everywhere and try and flog Lucky Strike cigarettes to people? Allison has some male chums who also claim to be vampires, despite the fact that these guys’ involvement in vampire culture extends to wearing ill-fitting suits and a cape. Peaches ask if they are into blood-drinking, but they say they find it a bit weird. They just do the dressing up. So in summary, you’re not fucking ‘vampires’ then! It’s the equivalent of me putting on a full Chelsea kit and claiming to be a professional footballer.

Friend: Like the outfit Nick, do you ever kick a ball about?

Me: Nah, I find that all a bit weird. I just like the clothes.

Friend: Oh right, cool. Wow, I’ve never met a professional footballer before.

I mean, the whole set-up is contrived and utterly pitiful. Never one to miss the opportunity to be centre of attention, Peaches and her chums go off to a gothic dress makers to ‘become vampires’.  This is merely an excuse for Peaches to play dress up. The whole skit is a collective wankathon over how zany and edgy Peaches and her chums are; ‘We’re dressing up as goffs! Isn’t this such a great laugh and not remotely patronising!’.  They have a competition to see who can have the best outfit. Co-presenter Aled Haydn-Jones wins with his outfit of – yes, you guessed it – an ill-fitting suit and a cape. Well stone me dead, what a fucking transformation. The only point of the skit is for Pearches to show off her latest non-descript, Morrissey-lite, male model boyfriend.  She bursts into his house, to which he shoots her a blasé, despondent stare, or as I call it; ‘The international sign for ‘Christ alive, I’m dating Peaches Geldof. How did it come to this?’’. AHJ tells Peaches that ‘You just can’t shock your boyfriend now!’ You know, because of how ‘outlandish’ her behaviour is. She does mental stuff, like drinks and smokes jazz cigarettes. Edgy doesn’t quite cut it. How about Peaches and him have a 5 minute conversation about a semi-important subject? I don’t know about him, but hearing her talk about politics or society would scare the life out of me.

Now one could go on for ages about how awful the content the show is. I know I could. There’s the mind numbing ‘we ended our relationship on Facebook’ section that I haven’t even touched on yet. But for me, there is a deeper darker problem at its heart. The show is rotten all the way to the core. What stuck out to me during the whole production was ‘Fuck me, marketing people have discovered a way to legitimize and promote discrimination’.

The first thing that sticks out is rank homophobia. Co-host number 1, Aled Haydn-Jones, is introduced as being on the show because ‘everyone needs a gay best friend’. Because all gays are the same, after all. As long as he likes boys, get him on. Imagine if she said ‘because everyone needs a black best friend’. It would have gone down like a fart at a funeral. The stall is set out straight away that gays are to be represented as nymphomaniacs. Peaches goads AHJ into confessing his deepest secret, that of him having a 3-some with a set of twins. His only involvement with the audience is to probe sexual questions to them about vampires and dreams, and the only other gay men shown in the audience are so overtly camp and talk with such forced sexual undertones that it feels like a pastiche. AHJ’s one feature piece is where he does an expose on Grindr. Grindr is essentially a mobile app version of a dating website for gay men. According to their website;

Whether you’re looking to chat, go on a date, or find a buddy to grab a drink with, Grindr makes it happen.

You know, like a dating website. However, the application is represented on OMG! like cottaging for the iPhone generation. Peaches and her co-host talk about the dangers of meeting random people through this service and sleeping with them. Because you know, gays can’t just meet up and have a drink like straight people. No, they have to start fucking each other in the street, don’t they. During the feature, the background song contains the lyric ‘Don’t want no short dicked man’, while AHJ claims that someone on Grindr told him he ‘wanted to fuck his dog’. Which must have been awful for him, I mean you never get any sexual deviants on lovely hetero websites like Facebook do you? It is so Daily Mail it’s painful.

The real kicker for this program comes in the form of Emma Kenny, who plays the role of ‘least tolerant woman in Britian’. A segment of the show is devoted to a genuine sanguine vampire (someone that bites and drinks blood). So finally, the show has an interesting person, who IS edgy and can convey a different culture. So what do the too cool for school presenters do? Well, they ridicule her incessantly, of course. She has some genuine interesting insights into the culture. She claims that she ‘Came on the show to readdress people’s conceptions of blood drinking’. Though Peaches and her cronies have no interest in this, instead they want to her ask her sexually charged questions and to do weird shit.

Peaches ‘Anyone in the audience that you’d like to suck on?’

Vamp Girl: ‘It’s personal.’

It becomes a farcical Victorian freak show-esq display. Peaches asks her about whether the culture replicates Twilight or The Vampire Diaries, she claims ‘I think you just read too much into films’. But it’s Emma Kenny that really excels here, displaying all the tact of the bastard love child between Melanie Phillips and Richard Littlejohn.

Kennedy: ‘I think it’s too much like self-harming’

Vamp girl: ‘Different from self-harming. Same risk as sex’.

Kenny: ‘But what about the dangers of diseases in the blood?’

Vamp girl: ‘Everyone I drink from is HIV tested, or it’s my own blood.’

She actually has smart stuff to say on the subject.  But instead it’s back to ‘OOH LETS GET THE WEIRDO TO DO ODD SHIT’. They get her to drink blood, which she drinks out of a red vile. Peaches has a fucking fit when this happened shouting ‘uurr, yuck’. Behave, Peaches, could be cherryade in there.

AHJ, who is now fully playing the role of ‘token deviant’, asks;

AHJ: Is it a sexual thing?

Vamp Girl: ‘No, it’s just like something you enjoy. Like alcohol or chocolate’.

But this isn’t enough for Kenny, who states that ‘It crosses a boundary and it’s not okay. I love how you dress, think that’s great. But not the blood drinking. It’s weird.’ in that horribly patronising way that a pushy parent would tell her 16 year old child that they should do maths instead of photography (‘I love your little photos, they’re very nice. But you should do proper subjects, yes?’). She also tells coprophagans (people who enjoy eating faeces) that they ‘need to seek help’. Now I’m not one to fly the flag for the scat-munching community, but so far on OMG! Kenny has claimed all gay men looking to meet others are sexually depraved, sanguine vampires are ‘not okay’ and coprophagans ‘need to seek help’. Sorry, I thought this was the forward thinking place where everyone can come clean about their secrets? You know, and not face ridicule? It’s like dinner round Nick Griffin’s house, this.

And that’s how the whole show comes across. It is stereotypes and intolerance in trendy clothing. You write out the TV show as an editorial under the header ‘unsettling hobbies and homosexual sex; the state of modern Britain’ and stick in the Daily Mail, and you’ve got the latest item to cause uproar in the blogging community. At least the Mail are honest with what prerogative they’re pushing. With this, you have the same deplorable discourse and themes, but under the veil of an attractive audience, rebellious looking hosts and lots of sex talk.

The show itself clearly has endemic problems from a content standpoint. Uninteresting people talking about uninteresting events. But the wider issue is that it conveys through its production that content no longer matters. It is constructed by people with no semblance of individual thought or self-reflection. They are totally reticent to what they say and present, and as long as they get to wear cool outfits and piss around with their mates to an audience of similarly thoughtless drones, they couldn’t care less. It sets the example that the important crux of a show is not discourse or content, but how your presenters look and who they’re dating.

Other than those issues, it was alright.

My First Bus Ride Countdown (24.02)

(For more like this, go to shouting at cows. We bring the news, we bring the funniez. You bring the eyes).

I don’t know if any of you were lucky enough/rich enough/middle-class enough to read yesterday’s Telegraph, but there was the most brilliant article by Binkie West yesterday, where she described the event that us normal folk worry about the most; the finer points of our absurdly ostentatious wedding to an affluent beau we met at our local polo club. She really did manage to encapsulate the population’s qualms with her piece, especially in these times of financial peril. Without people like her, who is going to keep the Pol Roger champagne empire afloat?

It made me think of an event that I too will be experiencing for the first time this year; using public transport.

As a young boy, I had visions of being a public transport passenger with a lovely blond tussle fringe with foppish undertones. A bit like an aryan Hugh Grant. In preparation for this, I booked myself in for a wet trim at Supercuts (www.supercuts.co.uk). I don’t want to look like an utter plum-in-mouth, upper class nitwit, so I’ve gone for something that says to fellow passengers ‘yes, I too am one of the proletariat. I’ll happily spend my weekends drinking pints and watching soccerball on the television’. Getting on a bus you want perfection, and I think a haircut that says ‘public school wanker’ is rather lovely.

On Saturday I attended a ‘Using public transport for the first time’ party. My hair looked rather lovely. They couldn’t believe it was £8.95 without a booking! We went to Wetherspoon’s for their ‘Beer and a Burger’ lunchtime deal. It was great to be there with my brother, who will be accompanying me when I embark on this amazing journey. He has ridden on buses before, so Biffo thought it would be a good idea to call him ‘Dole Daniel’, as he doesn’t own a car. Honestly, first time me and Hugo heard that we chunderd so hard. With many of us using public transport for the first time this year, there really is tube fever about.

All this preparation for being ‘down with the ozlone layer’ was stressful, so to relax I went for a game of laser quest with some friends (www.laserquest.co.uk). A few head shots will make me feel my absolute best on the big day.

This week I also sold my car. D-Cam was talking about how as a country we need to go green, so I sold my little runner (www.autotrader.co.uk). I learnt to walk when I was two and have always been a little tusker, so I’m relishing the experience. In preparation for this green-shift, I’ve imported some eco-friendly radiators in from San Francisco, and installed them at a competitive rate (www.Britishgas.co.uk). I just think it’s criminal how other people don’t care about their environment as much as me, and refuse to import eco-friendly home wares in on gas-guzzling freights.

Having left my job as an assistant regional advertising recruitment consultant executive, I’m relieved to have so much more time on hands. Not only are there appointments to fit in, but there is also the ongoing admin. I have to buy the ticket, pick out my outfit (you don’t want to look pompous, but at the same time you want to make it pertinently clear to other passengers that you have a shitlot more cash than them). There are the various questions to ponder over; do I go free plan with some autumnal layers and a simple cashmere scarf, or do I opt for some knitware to appropriate the ‘boho-chic’ look, metaphorically saying to other passengers ‘yeeeeeah, just taking the bus. It’s how I roll. Might go for a jazz cigarette and pint of beer later as well. Just the crazy shit that a man in knitwear gets up to’. I’m constantly planning different outfits, so this morning I visited my favorite little ‘underground’ clothes shop (www.topman.com) to find something hip and unique to make me stand-out on that communal vessel of hopes and dreams.

When I think of all the friends and relatives that might venture down to experience this with me, it makes me wish that I’d picked a double-decker, or even a Megabus (www.megabus.com)! Having said that, I wouldn’t change my first bus ride on the number 6 (doesn’t go past my house during off-peak times) for the world. I always wanted a small, intimate bus ride for my first sample of public transport, and so far everything is meeting all of my expectations. I can’t wait!

70’s Fashion…Seriously, wtf?

Still, most of its better than the sh*t you see in topshop…

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