David Parkin is put on the spot, remembers when the Bald Eagle soared and smart ideas for Christmas

THE tables were turned on me this week.

I’m used to asking questions of others but rarely has the spotlight been turned back on me.

I’d spent some time chatting to Chris Allen, the managing partner of Leeds law firm Blacks at a Welcome to Yorkshire dinner in October when he told me about his regular podcasts with significant individuals from the worlds of sport and business.

When he followed up that chat with a text asking me to be his next interviewee/victim I was surprised.

It’s not that I don’t think I have anything interesting to say, it’s just that I much prefer to be the one asking the questions.

So it was with a sense of trepidation that I made my way to Blacks’ glass-fronted offices in Leeds city centre on Monday afternoon.

Chris had told me he wanted to ask me what I did before I launched TheBusinessDesk.com – which was when we first met – what led to the creation of the UK’s first online regional business news provider, what I thought of the city and region in which we both worked and who were my most memorable interviewees?

On that last question it wasn’t just my favourite interview memories that we discussed, but also the ones I’d rather forget, like being threatened with legal action and being thrown out of an interview with the chief executive of a stock market company.

Not surprisingly we discussed my interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles after he became governor of California.

Well Chris insisted on it.

And I managed to name drop some more royalty – whether from showbiz, music, business…and even royalty royalty.

I don’t think there is ever the perfect interview – either whether you are the one asking the questions or answering them.

I left Blacks’ offices having enjoyed the experience of chatting to Chris Allen but wondering whether what I’d said was articulate or interesting – or neither.

Having listened to it for the first time last night – well there isn’t much on the telly now Geordie Shore’s finished – my worst fears weren’t realised.

Thanks to some great questions and observations from Chris it is more a chat than an interrogation and includes opinions, observations, a few memories and hopefully some interesting stories.

If you are sick of politics and jaded by the general election in the media then it certainly provides something else to listen to.

If you’d like to listen to the latest Black podcast, you can find it here.


FAREWELL then Bald Eagle.

The death of Jim Smith aged 79 this week saw the passing of probably one of football’s most experienced former managers and certainly one of the sport’s greatest characters.

The news made me feel nostalgic, bringing back memories of his time as manager of Derby County.

I was too young to enjoy the great days of the Rams under first Brian Clough and Peter Taylor and then Dave Mackay, so for me, Jim’s time at the Baseball Ground and then Pride Park represents the halcyon days of supporting my club.

It was a career that started at 28-years-old as player-manager of Boston United – when Cloughie won the First Division with Derby in 1972, Jim’s Boston added silverware to the trophy cabinet too – they won the Eastern Professional Floodlit Cup.

His nomadic managerial career took in stops at Colchester, Birmingham, Blackburn, Newcastle, Oxford, QPR and Portsmouth.

Jim was kicking his heels and shuffling papers in his in-tray as chief executive of the League Managers’ Association in 1995 when Derby County’s volatile but shrewd owner Lionel Pickering came up with the idea of tempting him back to the sharp end of football.

My father was a business partner of Lionel, who had made millions from starting a free newspaper with 200 quid in the 1960s and building a publishing empire, so we used to be regular guests at his home and at matches at the Baseball Ground.

I remember my Dad telling me that Derby had looked at Steve Bruce as a potential manager and had interviewed a number of big names including Brian Horton, the former Manchester City manager who turned up to the interview looking tanned and fit after a summer holiday in Sardinia.

But none seemed quite right to Lionel, a man who had an instinctive gut feel for an opportunity.

He remembered how Jim Smith’s Portsmouth team had, despite losing 3-0 at Derby the previous January, played some majestic football and he fancied bringing back some swagger to the way the Rams’ played.

It later emerged that the Portsmouth team had spent most of the night before the match boozing in their hotel bar believing that the game would be called off because of a frozen pitch.

Anyway Jim was tempted to Derby and shrewdly brought in a young coach from Oxford called Steve McClaren.

That successful partnership created many great memories – I remember Derby beating Arsenal 3-0 and Ian Wright was crying as he left the pitch – and Steve McClaren was asked about Jim Smith in an interview on Radio Four’s Today programme this week.

Her Majesty The Queen takes a tour of Derby County’s new Pride Park Stadium with L-R: Lionel Pickering, Chairman of Derby County FC, Jim Smith, Manager of Derby County and HRH The Duke Of Edinburgh

He recalled a dinner the pair had with Lionel Pickering soon after their appointment.

Around midnight he said Jim had a big smile, a glass of red wine in one hand and a big cigar in the other and was sitting on the Derby chairman’s knee spilling ash all over his jacket.

“He looked at me and winked and said: ‘We’re going to be all right here, son!”


NOT surprisingly there is one issue that has dominated my thinking in recent days.

Yes, you know what it is.

The shocking dress of many of those out on their work Christmas parties.

And I’m talking about the men.

It’s not so much about the dodgy Christmas jumpers they don – now a modern festive tradition – as the rest of their ensembles.

To be honest, a bright Christmas pullover wouldn’t go amiss when you see the state of the majority of the groups of men wandering the streets of our cities heading for their festive feast.

Like a herd of migrating wildebeest wandering across the Serengeti, they cluster together as they navigate with purpose to their next watering hole.

And like wildebeest, they all look the same to me.

Scuffed shoes or dirty pumps, tight wrinkled jeans or chinos, jumpers or sweatshirts topped off with fleeces, puffa jackets or anoraks – all in drab greys, blues and blacks.

In fact the only colourful thing about them are the red cheeks.

It reminds me of that Harry Enfield sketch about a bloke at his office party who thinks that the festive season gives him carte blanche to do what he likes.

Look, dressing down for work is nothing new.

I remember years ago when one of the big accountancy firms brought in a ‘dress down Friday’ policy they realised that having persuaded their male partners to ditch the pinstripe suits for one day a week, the only alternative outfits many of them had were their gardening gear.

And mustard jumbo cords with mud on the knees just didn’t cut it.

But when did ‘dress down’ go past smart casual, take a left turn at casual and end up at just plain scruffy?

I’m not going to insult waste management and disposal technicians by describing many of those out on their Christmas do’s as looking like binmen, because I’m sure binmen dress up for their annual festive bash.

In the same way that men in many workplaces all used to look similar in suits and ties, the new generation of office works now all conform in their casual gear.

Not everyone wants to be the peacock of their workplace, but taking some pride in your appearance – like cleaning your shoes, ironing your shirt and sponging the fromage frais stains off the front of your strides – isn’t a lot to ask.

I will be discussing this and other modern sartorial dilemmas with Leeds tailor James Michelsberg at our quarterly lunch next week.

It will follow the usual tradition, starting with a small libation, continuing through a culinary exploration and ending with me trying to persuade him that as a self-appointed ambassador of Michelsberg Tailoring I must be due another free suit in the near future.

I’ve a hankering for a three-piece number in mustard jumbo cord.

Have a great weekend.


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