David Parkin on muppets and the War of the Roses and Talking Heads on squawking iPads

THEY sit like uneasy neighbours squabbling over the size of a privet hedge between their houses.

The North West and Yorkshire have had a rivalry stretching back to the Wars of the Roses.

Now the argument is often over the respective merits of each region’s economy, particularly over whether Manchester outshines Leeds when it comes to finance and commerce.

There is no easy way to settle such an argument but a recently published book perhaps highlights the differences between the two.

If you think I’m going to quote from some crusty economy tome, don’t worry.

And I won’t be delving back into classic literature either. I’ve never really appreciated a bit of Trollope.

No, I’ve been reading a book called ’40 By 40’, a fascinating bit of pulp fiction by Michael Taylor, the former editorial director of Insider business magazine.

The book charts the seemingly inexorable rise of fictional Cheshire businessman Roger Cashmore, a man whose life’s ambition is to make £40m by the time he hits 40.

But then the financial crash of 2008 hits and the book charts Cashmore’s challenges while facing the chill winds of recession among the bling-bling Cheshire set of footballers and entrepreneurs.

Taylor’s talent is combining real people from the world of business and sport with a host of fictional characters such as Jesu Bravado, a “footballer and swordsman” and Wayne Bellamy, described as “corporate finance adviser and muppet”.

To make sure his lawyers aren’t working over time, Michael has made sure to only portray the fictional characters as bed-hopping “muppets” or “fit birds”, while the real people are all “great lads”.

What made me smile was the glossary of “technical terms” used in the book.

These range from AIM (Alternative Investment Market) to ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order) and MBI (management buy in) and MIPIM (annual property conference in Cannes) to MILF (if you don’t know what it stands for, just Google it).

The quote on the front of the book from a reviewer at DQ magazine, gives you all you need to know: “Roger Cashmere is amoral, disgusting and abhorrent. The unacceptable face of capitalism, Cheshire style. I laughed all the way through.”

My old TheBusinessDesk.com colleague Chris Barry made this observation about the Cheshire anti-hero: “Cashmore is like so many colourful figures I’ve covered over the years. His rise, fall and rise again is a cautionary tale for every budding entrepreneur.”

Given they are now doing university courses on Star Wars, then business schools could do worse than including 40 By 40 – it might be fiction but at least it charts a real period in our recent economic history.

So why did this book get me thinking about the respective merits of the North West and Yorkshire economies?

Well, could we find enough characters over this side of the Pennines to populate a similar novel? If you dreamed up a host of larger-than-life fictional characters would they be as outrageously believable as Taylor’s cast of rogues and vagabonds?

Over the years I’ve always admired his ability to navigate the twisting thoroughfares of North West business.

It seems to me he’s had to be not just a top class business journalist but something of a David Attenborough too.

I’m far too genteel to survive such a bloodthirsty corporate jungle. I’ll stick with the gentlemen and scholars (well that’s what they tell me they are) over this side of the Pennines.

40 By 40 by Michael Taylor is available on Amazon priced at £7.99.


IT was nice to catch up with Elaine Holmes and Alison Carpenter of corporate travel firm Traveleads at an event they held for clients and contacts at their new base at the imposing headquarters of Leeds-based property group Evans.

A bonus from the evening was winning the raffle organised by iconic Yorkshire business Betty’s and Taylors.

I’ve just received a nice parcel of tasty goodies from the Harrogate-based firm.

That should provide a nice Christmas gift for my mum.

Oh, no, perhaps not. She reads this blog, or at least tells me she does.

Back to the Christmas present drawing board.


THE photograph above popped up on Facebook the other day with a note pointing out that it was exactly four years since I uploaded it to the social networking site.

It brought memories flooding back of one of my more memorable evenings – interviewing literary legend Alan Bennett at a dinner celebrating the 30th anniversary of another Yorkshire institution, the much missed La Grillade restaurant.

The Yorkshire-born playwright and author answered questions and gave a reading from one of his books at the cellar restaurant where he was a regular diner.

Guy Martin-Laval launched the cellar restaurant in Wellington Street, Leeds three decades previously and it became one of the city’s premier dining venues attracting business people alongside showbusiness and media personalities.

Among the questions Alan Bennett was asked by guests, was to describe Mr Martin-Laval in a word.

“Suave,” said the writer, who started his career with satirical show Beyond the Fringe and went onto write Talking Heads, The Madness of King George, Untold Stories and The History Boys.

Asked who his favourite actress was from the Talking Heads TV series, he said it was impossible to pick one, but spoke of his admiration for Maggie Smith and Patricia Routledge.

And he collaborates with Maggie Smith again in his latest work, a big screen adaptation of his play The Lady in the Van, which has garnered rave reviews and I must go and see.

Unfortunately my memories of the evening are slightly marred by an incident that happened about a week later.

I attended the Manchester launch of Santander bank’s Breakthrough programme to encourage more firms to trade overseas. Every attendee at the event was lent an iPad loaded with the agenda, notes and other relevant information.

Sitting at the back of a presentation by a bigwig from IBM or Hewlett Packard, I chatted to a Leeds accountant, who pointed out that we could read TheBusinessDesk.com on the iPads we were using.

Four years ago, that was still a bit of a novelty, so I logged into the website and clicked on a story I thought would interest him – my report of Alan Bennett’s appearance at La Grillade.

What I had forgotten was that the article was accompanied by a video clip of the event that automatically played when the page was opened.

So there I am, sitting in a packed lecture hall, with Alan Bennett talking about the contents of his parent’s mantelpiece at their home in post-war Leeds.

I’d never used an iPad before, so it took a considerable time to turn the thing off, much to my embarrassment.

Have a great weekend.

1 thought on “David Parkin on muppets and the War of the Roses and Talking Heads on squawking iPads”

  1. Parki – I started reading your blog with interest (for once) as I thought the much missed War of the Roses was about to kick off again.
    Your lead story tailed off into insignificance ( as most do) leaving me once again waiting for the punch line, only this time I was looking forward to a line that I could have used in one of my never ending verbal battles with the Yorkies.
    As a Derby boy you have no idea how important the War of the Roses is to us exiles. Especially one born in Oz and brought up in Lancashire – a Yorkies worst nightmare. The fact Bosworth Field is so close to Leeds makes living and working here very sweet.
    Im looking forward to taking you to our annual ABL (anyone but Leeds) lunch on 22nd December. I will just have to bring my own punchline.
    As someone with an ex wife, a current one, two children, a host of fantastic friends,a business partner, and a business, that were all born and bred in Yorkshire I genuinely have nothing but love for the county. Except when it comes to sport and wars.
    And before anyone tells me to bugger off back to Oz – I just got back yesterday (from watching AC/DC) and they don’t want me either.

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