Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The road to hell...

I am trying to sort things out online. My presence here (there?) is a mess. This blog is a prime example. It was inspired by Richard Herring's Warming Up blog, which I've never really read. (update: I've just read the latest entry and was reminded why I don't like it very much. He's too honest.) What I liked about it was the idea of writing, as often as possible, about daily professional life.

The problem has always been thematic content. Much as I like wittering on about random things which interest me, I'm not sure doing so has any inherent value. Little projects like a month of veganism and year of sobriety provide a framework in which I can write, but for some reason I didn't put them on this blog.  I set up a separate blog.

This year will see the High Court trial Bates (and others) v Post Office, which I am determined to attend and report, all 20 days of it. Quite how I will raise the finance to do so is down to a multiple of variables. I might crowdfund it, I might not have to if I can raise enough commissions, but it makes sense that the material I generate from that trial (and the subsequent one scheduled for March next year) goes up online alongside the material I have generated on this blog over the years. It needs a new, or at least, better home. All the PO material on here is in a horrible un-indexed and badly cross-referenced state.

My TV presenting news can go up on the blog on www.nickwallis.com - I haven't had anything to announce on that front recently, though I hope to soon. And, looking at that website, I need to update my showreel, which is always a painful task. It involves pulling together clips from last year's One Show, ITV News and the last series of Criminals Caught on Camera. Even if I get someone to edit it for me, physically locating this material is like pulling teeth.

Then there's the stuff about on youtube I started recently. Daily reporter stuff, the vegan vlog and fifty daily irritations. All a bit of fun, but again, in desperate need of sorting into something coherent.

I also want to set up a journalism blog which provides an outlet for a few under-reported stories (possibly starting by transferring  all the Post Office Horizon stuff on this blog) - most of which have followed on from the work I did at BBC Inside Out South. It would be nice to be able to write up stories which don't work for TV, but which lend themselves to the printed word. But I'm thinking might work better on an established platform.

Then I can leave this blog for the whimsy, opinion and pop culture stuff which interests me on a personal level even if it doesn't quite fit anywhere else.

Finally there's my training company. That has its own website and blog. I'd like to do more training and more writing for the blog on there, but shortly after we set the company up I started getting way too much other work to market the company effectively.

As I say, it's a mess...


Thursday, 14 December 2017


I've decided to experiment with vlogging. Very short videos, recorded mostly at home, on my own, trying to process what I'm meant to be doing or have been doing on any given day. So far I've covered chest shaving, interviewing Secretaries of State, doing corporate jobs and generally surviving long hours and early starts. These initial vlogs won't win any awards, but I hope as I get better, they will become more interesting. Here's the latest one - they're all on youtube. 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Top Ten Albums - The Head on the Door

I had intended to nominate The Cure's first singles compilation "Standing on a Beach" as my next top ten album. I found it through the pages of Smash Hits magazine and the JHQ Rheindahlen record library. From the rudimentary Killing an Arab to the accomplished performance of In Between Days, there was a strong and obvious strain of genius running through every song. In 1986, and for the next five years, I had found my New Favourite Band.

The joy of getting into the Cure just after the release of Standing on a Beach was that, until "The Head on the Door", Bob Smith had resolutely refused to release more than one single off any album. Punk, y'see.

This meant that on a compilation of 13 classics, there was a rich back catalogue of albums waiting to be excavated: "Three Imaginary Boys", "Seventeen Seconds", "Faith", "Pornography", "Japanese Whispers" (itself a sort-of compilation), "The Top" and The Head on the Door. All lined up and good to go.

So, for me, Standing on a Beach was the gateway drug to The Cure, and a world of adolescent hero worship which made Robert Smith the only person I've avoided saying hello to (when given the chance at the 1997 Xfm launch party).

Having devoured Standing on a Beach (and the legacy videos from  "Staring at the Sea"), I started working backwards - first stop: The Head on The Door.

This is the best Cure album, the best goth pop album and, in my indie-tainted eyes, one of the best albums ever made. The opener, In Between Days, is as joyous a song as you'll ever hear despite lyrics which begin "Yesterday I got so old, I felt like I could die..."

Close to Me is a finger-clicking, swinging pop tune about what appears to be an awkward drug comedown and A Night Like This is genuinely epic. Easily the best thing on the album despite never being released as a single in the UK. 

There's more - Push is the distilled sound of indie-guitar exuberance and Sinking, which ends the The Head on The Door, contains recurring Smith themes - existential angst, aging and drowning (cf La Ment, DisintegrationFaith, The Same Deep Water As You and, er, The Drowning Man), but deals with them in a very matter of fact, confessional style. The fillers (Kyoto Song, The Baby Screams, Screw) are all perfectly performed/produced pop turns.

It is a great album from a band whose time was just about to come. The Head on The Door's brilliance pushed me further back into The Top, "Concert", Japanese Whispers, Pornography, Faith, Seventeen Seconds, Three Imaginary Boys and then forwards into "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" and "Disintegration". And two excellent concerts on the Kiss Me and Disintegration tours in Köln and London respectively. And, very briefly, hair like this:

On a side note, last year I was trying to write a script and ended up initiating a facebook discussion about the best Cure album. I fought THotD's corner whilst battling many Disintegration all-comers. In the end a friend of mine whose knowledge of the Cure is far deeper than mine suggested I might have made him think again, and as he was involved with Bestival, which happened to have the Cure headlining that August, would I care to avail myself of a pair of complimentary tickets to watch Bob in action one more time. Yessir I would. I took a dear friend, met up with my old friend and watched a band winging its way through its fifth decade in style. Thanks to all involved.

The Head on The Door is the album I've chosen to represent my 31 year love affair with The Cure, and I'm pleased to do it on the 32nd anniversary of its release*. Thank you, Bob. I hope if we ever do meet, I won't mess it up.


* Thanks to Matt for reminding me.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Top Ten Albums: The Bends

Two years after writing up my last top ten album, here is my next. If you want to read about the others, please have a look at the links at the bottom of the page. At this rate I might just finish by the end of the decade.

The Bends is too huge an album to sensibly review. You’d have to be pretty obtuse not to like it. You could call it slightly over-produced if you were being picky, or you could take issue with the angst threaded all the way through it. But The Bends’ angst is tempered by some incredibly tender moments and is nothing compared to the whiny, hectoring angst present on several subsequent Radiohead albums.

All of the songs on The Bends (bar one - “Just” - which I’ve never liked) are phenomenal. That’s 11 out of 12 phenomenal songs. 

You don’t get a hit rate like it nowadays. You didn’t get a hit rate like it then. The main criticism of The Bends as far as I can tell is that it seems to be too perfect, too well-engineered/arranged/produced with just the right amount of emotion, wigging-out and on-the-money songwriting to matter.

Yeah, but… what a record. Its release passed me by, for some reason. I think I was listening to a lot of Nick Cave at the time, and, er, Mansun*. Radiohead were there, on the peripheries of my consciousness, but so were Mudhoney. No one thought Radiohead were capable of pulling something as extraordinary as The Bends out of the hat, so when they did, no one really noticed.

Over the course of 1995, The Bends caught on by word of mouth. It was not a radio record so you didn’t hear it much on the radio. It wasn’t an indie nightclub banger, and it wasn’t really the sort of album you’d put on when you had people round. This was more or less pre-internet, so The Bends got heard because friends started telling their friends about it. And that process was not instantaneous.

Which makes sense. I cannot imagine listening to The Bends in company. Although you could hardly call it a naked or personal album, the range of emotion Thom Yorke produces from that weird, shrieking falsetto and the quality of songwriting and musicianship is transfixing.

By the middle of 1995, purely on the strength of The Bends (I’d never liked ‘Creep’), Radiohead were well on the way to becoming my New Favourite Band. 

Then in September 'Lucky', a song the band recorded in five hours, appeared out of nowhere. It was the lead track on the War Child HELP EP and was one of the best things I’d ever heard. Mysteriously, it completely flopped. 

Two years later Radiohead put out OK Computer and became one of the biggest bands on the planet. I still think The Bends is better. But that’s just me.

If you've never heard The Bends or any of the tracks off it (really?), click on the spotify link which you can hopefully see directly below. There's no bad place to start.


Love - The Cult

The rationale for doing this

Further rationale at the bottom of the This is the Sea entry.

* And Jane’s Addiction. And Britpop. Bloody Britpop.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

1,000 Subpostmasters join legal action against Post Office

This press release came through today:

 1,000 subpostmasters come forward to join legal action against Post Office

28 March 2017 – The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) announced today that the Group Litigation Order (GLO) against Post Office Ltd has now been approved by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, which means that the case will continue through the court as a group action.  Post Office Ltd is defending the claim.

Over 1,000 subpostmasters from across the UK have applied to join the action.

While the grounds of the case may be subject to revision as the matter proceeds, the claim focuses on a number of areas – particularly the true nature of the contract between the subpostmasters and Post Office Ltd in terms of the Horizon operating system, and the way in which Post Office has dealt with alleged shortfalls.

The claim covers training and support, the proper recording of transactions, liability for claimants to pay alleged shortfalls of cash or stock and the processes for identifying, investigating and recovering shortfalls. The claim will also look at Post Office Ltd’s rights to terminate subpostmaster contracts and will examine issues of “good faith, fair dealing, transparency, co-operation and trust and confidence.”

Alan Bates of the JFSA said: “The case is now up and running and we have had over 1,000-plus candidates come forward so far. Subpostmasters now have until 26 July to join the action before the cut-off, which prevents new claimants joining the claim thereafter.

“Subpostmasters have brought the claim to force Post Office Ltd to accept responsibility for the flaws in its Horizon operating system, for its refusal properly to investigate accounting shortfalls and for its shoddy and careless treatment of postmasters who have lost their liberty, livelihood or savings because Post Office Ltd wrongly accused many of them of theft or fraud. As well as a court finding of responsibility, the claimant group will be seeking appropriate financial compensation in respect of loss and damage suffered.”

The claim also seeks to establish whether subpostmasters were placed under duress by Post Office Ltd when they signed off incorrect accounts or when they resigned.

Bates added: “We are looking to establish that Post Office Ltd acted ‘unconscionably’, in other words harshly, oppressively or beyond what would be considered normal commercial bargaining. If that was the case, we’ll seek to establish whether this has a bearing on either the signing of the accounts or forced resignations. We are also concerned that individuals may have been unlawfully harassed and also whether Post Office can be held liable for damages in terms of the stigma created around the affected subpostmasters, for their loss of reputation and the stress caused as a result of these serious breaches of legal obligations.”

Any subpostmaster who was in post since 1999 and experienced issues with Post Office Limited and its Horizon system including alleged shortfalls or discrepancies or other issues from using the system, may be eligible to join the case. Either go to the website, www.poclaims.co.uk, contact poclaim@freeths.co.uk or call 0800 304 7727.