Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Mr Polite


I’m running out of ways to say “I’m sorry!”

I’m also running out of ways to say “Thank you!”

You see, as a British person, I am cursed with over-politeness, an ailment that has conditioned me to say “Thank you!” even when no thanks are normally necessary and “I’m sorry!” when I do not need to apologise.

My condition is so far gone that I end up looking for the translations of “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” into the native language of any country I visit.

I can say “I’m sorry” and “Thank you” in 352 different languages.

Just last week, I was in Nice and I found myself saying “Je suis désolé” to an absolutely clumsy bonehead who walked out of a shop without looking and barged straight into me, stamping on my foot in the process.
I wanted to say:

“You clumsy blind dickhead! Why don’t you watch where you’re bloody well going?”

But my brain forced me to say:

“Excusez-moi, monsieur. Je suis désolé!”

as if the entire episode had been my fault. I was the injured party having had my big toe crushed by a whopping great hoof clad I a brightly coloured French designer shoe, while having an elbow rammed into my midriff.

The man simply ignored me.

My worst fear is following a person down a really long corridor with approximately one hundred closed doors. If he is just a couple of yards in front of me, he will end up holding each door open for me and I will have to say “Thank you” in a variety of ways, so as not to appear to have a limited vocabulary as well as being impolite. And of course, living in Britain there is a very high chance that the person concerned will be British too, which means that he has to think of numerous ways to say “That’s OK!”.

Can you picture that scene, dear reader?

1st door

“Thank you!”  “You’re welcome!”

2nd door

“Thanks!”    “That’s okay!”

3rd door

“Cheers!”   “No problem!”

4th door

“Ta mate!”   “No worries!”

. . .
. . .

85th door

(OH MY GOD - NOT ANOTHER DOOR!!) “You’re so kind!”
(FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!)  “Any time!”

By the time we both reach door 100 we will inwardly want to kill each other while at the same time smiling politely and rifling through our mental thesauruses desperate to find yet another way to continue this pathetic charade.

It seems to me that when you are born in Britain, you suddenly lose all common sense when it comes to politeness.

Why is that?

Surely, politeness needs to be meant, and British people are so good at portraying a front of courtesy that I don’t trust any of them – myself included.

I know for a fact that inwardly each person is churning when they apologise for something – especially out of politeness when it was not even their fault.

BRIT1: I’m sorry!

BRIT 2: No, I must insist that it is my fault.

BRIT1: You are so kind but I have to apologise for it.

BRIT2: You are so gracious – and that’s wonderful but it truly is my                  fault.

What is truly meant is:

BRIT1: You clumsy great oaf! What do you think you are doing?

BRIT2: If I weren’t in a public place I would punch you in the face for                that you dickhead!

We are even polite when it comes to paying for meals – as illustrated in this clip:



While we are sometimes genuinely sincere, there are occasions when we may not actually mean what we say. Here are a few examples. You can generally judge by listening to what we say and looking at our faces for tell-tale signs that we may be disguising our true feelings behind a façade of courtesy:

What we say:
Yes, the wine is fine!
What we probably mean: 
This wine is horse piss!

What we say:                     
With all due respect …
What we probably mean: 
You’re a bloody idiot …

What we say:                     
Keep in touch!
What we probably mean:  
Don’t keep in touch!

What we say:                    
Call any time
What we probably mean: 
For God’s sake ring me before you call!

What we say:                    
It’s all my fault!
What we probably mean:  
It’s your fault you absolute arse!

What we say:                     
Oh are you sure you’ll get this round of beers? I don’t mind getting it.
What we probably mean:   
Get your hand in your pocket and BUY THE BEERS! IT'S YOUR BLOODY ROUND YOU TIGHT-FISTED GIT!

What we say:                     
That sounds like a good idea.
What we probably mean:  
Are you insane? It’s a bloody stupid idea.

What we say:                       
I’m so sorry!
What we probably mean:  
I'm not sorry at all!! You’re a clumsy great oaf!

Actually, I’ve just realised that if you are not British, you may read this post and no longer trust me or any other Englishman ever again when he is genuinely being sincere and polite. What you need to do, as suggested above, is to judge the situation from body language.

For example, when Monsieur Oaf did his best to merge his elbow with my chest while at the same time trying to flatten my foot, my voice (through gritted teeth) said “I’m sorry, that was totally my fault” while my entire body screamed said “I ought to punch your lights out for trying to kill me and not even acknowledging my presence you totally ignorant arse.”

If he had apologised I would, of course, have bought him a glass of wine and smiled sincerely.

I will conclude by saying:

Thank you so much, dear reader, for taking the time to read this post.

I am genuinely sorry if I caused any offence.

And you can tell from my body language that I am telling the truth.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Nice la Belle


I was tempted to call this post Nice is nice but to be honest I thought that would be a little corny and I wanted to express my true feelings about this fabulous French city from where I have just returned.

The city is actually called Nice La Belle, which is French for Nice the Beautiful and having just spent a week there, I am of the opinion that it is a very fitting name.

We were located in an old traditional apartment very close to Place Garibaldi, which is a central location very close to the city centre, and more importantly, to Vieux Nice (old Nice), the old town, an almost labyrinthine area of narrow streets full of tiny and extremely quaint shops, small traditional French cafés as well as restaurants and bars and even a traditional old market.

I was accompanied, of course, by Mrs PM but also my eldest son Stephen and his girlfriend.

Our apartment was ideally situated, just a short walk from a supermarket and a wonderful bakery that enabled us to buy fresh bread,  pain au chocolat and pain au raisin to enjoy for breakfast every day. I also indulged myself with French ham and, naturally, some delicious camembert.

Being based in Nice, we were able to visit a couple of other local famous locations on the Côte d'Azur, namely Cannes and Monaco, which I will dedicate a separate post to a little later.

Being with the kids, there was more emphasis on relaxing by the beach but Mrs PM and I had some influence, persuading them to explore the local area and sample the delights of southern France while at the same time allowing them to persuade us to spend time at the beach and the extremely inviting Mediterranean Sea.

Spending a day on the beach was quite expensive; we had a choice of staying on the public beach or renting a sunbed and parasol with mats to allow us easy access to the sea. SInce the beach was full of pebbles rather than golden sand, we opted for the more expensive option as it was far more comfortable and we were right next to a restaurant with waiters serving drinks to your own sunbed next to the sea. It was a temptation we simply couldn’t resist.

I did learn a valuable lesson while on the beach:

Remember to take your wallet out of your pocket when walking into the sea.

Yes I was that stupid. I walked into the Mediterranean Sea with a wallet full of Euros and Pound Sterling as well as a credit card.

Isn't it funny how you only realise your mistake when you are floating in a beautiful turquoise blue sea? Talk about shattering a peaceful moment.I had to dry out my wallet and my Euros on the sunbed for an hour having made a complete arse of myself in front of my chuckling family – and no doubt quite a few fellow sun worshippers.

And I wasn't allowed to forget my error.

The beach area we chose was adjacent to the old town, which allowed us to pop to lovely little cafés for a light lunch (that sometimes wasn’t always that light) so at least when my money had dried out, I could drown my sorrows (while suffering merciless piss-taking at the hands of people who are supposed to love me).

The old town is delightful and when we ended up visiting the area every night for our evening meal, consisting of typically delicious French cuisine accompanied by a baron of French beer and/or a glass or two of fantastic wine.

Mrs PM led the way with her command of French but by the end of the week, the rest of us had gained enough confidence to test out our own skills. The kids basically copied the words Mrs PM spoke, whereas I, claiming to know a little more French, was a little braver sometimes attempting primitive conversation (on my part at least).

I only fell foul of my lack of vocabulary a couple of times, usually when the polite French people spoke back to me at the speed of light, prompting me to shrug in the characteristic Gallic fashion with the words “Je suis désolé; je ne comprends pas” before allowing Mrs PM to bail me out.

I did okay though.

The people of Nice were extremely friendly, something stereotypical Brits do not associate with our friends from across the English Channel. Basically I have always found most French people to be extremely accommodating, with the possible exception of certain Parisians with whom I have had trouble on just about every visit. A lot of French people outside the capital also feel the same to be honest. The extremely funny taxi driver who took us back to the airport remarked upon the fact a lot of Parisian tourists who come to Nice look down their noses at the local people. So it’s not just us. In fact, given that certain Londoners are also extremely arrogant, I can sympathise with them.

One other thing I noticed about Nice was that there is quite a noticeable Italian influence. Of all the other nationalities we encountered during our week, there were a lot of Italians there; in fact some of the street names in the old town were in both French and Italian. I didn’t realise just how close the city was from the Italian border. In fact it is only around 15 miles to the border from the old town.

We certainly enjoyed more than our fair share of Italian ice cream.

On our final day, we walked to Parc de la Colline du Chateau, a park that overlooks the old town and the Baie des Anges for some breathtaking views of the city in the glorious sunshine that we had enjoyed for just about all of the week (apart from a rather spectacular thunderstorm one day which we fortunately just missed and forced us to sit in a restaurant for a little longer than we had anticipated – allowing me to enjoy an extra baron of Kronenbourg!).

Sadly, we are back now but I wonder whether we traversed a weird space vortex on our trip back to Manchester. The temperature in Nice was a very pleasant 27 °C and back in Manchester today the temperature is exactly the same. I think we must have brought back a little bit of Nice with us.
I leave you with a few photographs of the city.

Stephen and his girlfriend make a new friend in the old town
Place Garibaldi
Shopping in the old town
Like father like son (yes - we were in big trouble)
Mrs PM ordered cactus for dinner
Nice from Parc de la Colline du Chateau
Old town market
A quaint little shop
I think we might return in the future because Nice is, as the name suggests, very beautiful. I recommend it.



Sunday, 13 July 2014

Musique De Détente


It seems like ages since I’ve had a holiday. My trips to Oman in December and May simply do not count because that involves lots of work, virtually no sightseeing and little free time.

Thankfully, we are off to France on Tuesday, a visit to Nice and the surrounding area with, of course, Mrs PM and this time my eldest lad, Stephen, and his girlfriend. We aim to take in places like Cannes and Monte Carlo as well as some time relaxing by the beach.

I can speak a little French but thankfully I won’t have to humiliate myself too much as Mrs PM speaks the language extremely well, having studied it at university, during which time she spent a year in Toulouse.

I will write a more detailed post on my return but in the meantime, I thought I would leave you with a couple of songs that I like to listen to when relaxing on the beach in the sunshine (well to be brutally honest I will almost certainly be under an umbrella and covered from head to toe in high factor sun tan cream lest I end up like this ).

The songs are all really what I would class as chillax music, chillax being a word that seems to have been invented to combine the words chill and relax – a tautology that is perhaps unnecessary but kind of sums up that feeling of drifting away with the heat of the sun, the cool breeze and the gentle lapping of waves on a beach.

All the songs are beautiful in my opinion.

I hope you like them too.

Enya – Caribbean Blue



This song by Enya sums up perfectly the feeling of being on a beach holiday. Whenever I hear it, I imagine sitting on a hill overlooking a beautiful cloud free sky over a lapis blue sea with the waves crashing on an untouched and unspoilt beach.

Air – Redhead Girl



While this song doesn’t conjure an idyllic image of a beach in the sun, the beauty of the music helps to soothe my troubled mind. It’s one of those songs that erodes stress and allows me to put my worries into a crate and cast it adrift onto a sea, hopefully never to be seen again.

Porcupine Tree – Sentimental



Steven Wilson is, at the moment, my favourite musician; he is the brains behind Porcupine Tree and has released, one of my favourite albums of the last couple of decades. While he is really a progressive rock superstar, he has written some incredibly mellow and moving songs in recent years. This song is simply wonderful and again is a stress killer.

Madonna – Swim



Shock! Horror! The Metal-loving Mancunian has posted a Madonna song. I don’t care! I love the album Ray of Light simply because it has some great songs, most of which are smooth peaceful numbers that are extremely delightful. This song is one that makes me think of floating on my back on a gentle sea. How more relaxed can you get than that?

 Morcheeba – The Sea



The song does exactly what it says on the tin. Play the song and you will see exactly what I mean and the reasons why I love it. I kind of want to leave my soul by the sea. Maybe one day I will.

Empire of the Sun – We Are The People



Picture the scene.

Mrs PM and I sitting in a pub with me ranting about the dreadful pop music that landlords insist on playing at a volume so high that we can barely hear ourselves think. I was in mid rant when the next song came on – this very song in fact – and I simply closed my mouth in shock.

“Oh I suppose you hate this one too,” said Mrs PM.

“No,” I said, “this is bloody brilliant!”

This is one of those rare songs that cross the vast divide between my taste and Mrs PM’s taste, and that is a magnificent achievement itself.

Joe Satriani – The Golden Room



Joe Satriani is my favourite guitarist and he is technically flawless. He’s not a bad songwriter either. While this song is slightly less mellow than the previous offerings, the Indian percussion adds an exotic flavour to the wonderful guitar and it is this combination that allows me imagine travelling through weird and strange landscapes.

Moby – Rushing



This song is simply beautiful and absolutely dripping with positivity. I challenge anyone to listen to this and not feel better by the end of it.

Steven Wilson – Deform To Form A Star



This is Steven Wilson’s second contribution to this post, this time from his second solo album rather than from Porcupine Tree. As a solo artist, he has expanded beyond the constraints of the band and this song is a fine example of his unrestrained genius. Deform To Form A Star is an absolute masterpiece. Listen to it and feel your traumas dissipate with each note.

Nine Inch Nails – Find My Way



I think this song sums me up, perfectly.

Trent Reznor has definitely mellowed over the years from the angry young man of the late 1980’s. The change is evident in Find My Way, a song from his most recent album, a hauntingly beautiful song that is a guaranteed stress killer.

At the age of 51, I am still trying to find my way although I am getting much closer as I get older so this sums me up pretty accurately.

I simply love he song and it inspires me to make a greater effort to find my own way.

And Finally …

C'est ça! I hope you find the songs agreeable and I would be interested to hear which songs you would recommend to add my chillax playlist.

Au revoir and see you in a week or two.




Saturday, 5 July 2014

If I Could ...



It’s been a while since I’ve stolen a meme so I think I need to be a thief again. This particular meme was stolen by Pandora at Princess Pandora – Queen of Denial, who is solely responsible for leading me astray, having stolen it herself.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense; let’s dive straight in.

Travel anywhere, where would it be?


I would take a round the world trip taking in places old and new. I would bypass Europe on this trip because it is so close and I go there often anyway. So it would be a flight from Manchester to Hong Kong, with a quick visit to Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia then off to Japan via the Phillippines and South Korea. From Japan I would fly south to Australia and then to New Zealand. From there I would head east again to Chile and a tour of South America calling in at Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay, before heading north to call into Mexico. Finally I would head to Cape Town and fly north towards home via Egypt.

Meet anyone, who would it be?

I think it would have to be the three members of my favourite band, Rush. I would chat to them about their music and history and how they have managed to produce fantastic songs like this:



Also, I would hopefully persuade Alex Lifeson to teach me to play the guitar.

Bring anyone dead back to life, who would it be?

I think that would have to be my dad – just to let him know that I have done okay. 

Be anyone for a day, who would it be?

I think I’d like to be an actor currently filming a blockbuster movie. When I was a kid, I always fancied treading the boards – it’s sad to say that I would probably have been too overcome with stage fright to actually do it. 


Get anything for free for the rest of your life what would it be? 

Free concert tickets for any band that took my fancy – complete with backstage passes so that I could meet the band.

Change one thing about your life what would it be? 

My chosen career. In fact, I would leave the rat race completely and relish in the freedom it brings.

 Have any superpower what would it be? 

I think I’d like to be able to teleport anyway – and anywhen! Imagine being able to go back in time and watch historical events? Or pop to the future and see life in the next century?

That would be fantastic.

Be any animal for a day which would you be? 

A bird of prey, for the simple reason that they have the freedom of the sky without fearing any other creature. 

Date anyone who would it be? 

Mrs PM- of course!

Change one thing about the world what would it be? 

I would eliminate extremism of any kind and banish all extremists to a huge island with no escape, with a view to letting them all argue the toss with each other for the rest of their miserable lives. I am sick of reading about the opinions of nutters around the world who try to impose their crazy notions on the peaceful majority. It would also have a great side effect – no more war.
A simplistic view but I reckon it would work.

Live in any fictional universe which would you choose? 

I think that would have to be the Star Trek universe. I would start by transporting to all of the places on Earth that I wanted to visit without the pain of having to spend hours getting there – and finally I would boldly go where Captain Kirk has gone before.



Eliminate one of your human needs which would you get rid of? 

I think that would have to be sleep.  We don’t live long enough as it is but wasting seven hours a day is a bit of a sick joke. That said, there are few better feelings than being in a comfy bed about five minutes before sleep is due.

Change one thing about your physical appearance what would it be? 

My hair! No question. 

Change one of your personality traits which would you choose? 

I would eliminate my shyness. People who know me are amazed to discover that I consider myself shy but the truth is I have been battling this particular trait since I was a young man. I have had many victories and I am much less shy than I was – but there are occasions when it catches me unawares and all I want to do is crawl under a rock. 

Be talented at anything instantly what would you choose? 

That’s easy; to be able to play the guitar as well as Joe Satriani:



Forget one event in your life which would you choose? 

I don’t think I would forget any event, even a bad one. Such things make you stronger as a human being. I wouldn’t be me if I could just forget something bad.

Erase an event from history (make it so it never happened) which would you choose? 

That’s a tough question because without such significant events, the world wouldn’t be the place it is now. If pushed, I would have to go for one of the most significant recent events, the attack on the America on September 11th 2001. There have been so many repercussions because of this event – none of them positive.

Have any hair/eye/skin color, which would you choose? 

I’m told that I have lovely blue eyes – it’s just a pity they are useless. I can’t imagine being anything other than blond, so I would probably just return the colour of my hair to the time I was a kid.



Be any weight/body type, which would you choose? 

I am Mr Average when it comes to height and body type. I would maybe try to remove the flab that has appeared over the last ten years and replace it with a more toned upper body. I would probably make myself a few inches taller so I could see over everybody at a stand up concert.

Live in any country/city, where would you choose? 

Hong Kong.



Change one law in your country, which would you change? 

I would make the weekend longer. I would rather work longer hours from Monday to Thursday and have Friday, Saturday and Sunday as weekend – oh and double the amount of holidays we get.

Be any height, which would you choose?  

See above – maybe 6’5’’.

Have any job in the world, which would you choose? 

A travel writer. That would combine my love of travel and writing.

Have anything appear in your pocket right now, what would it be? 

A cheque for 10 million pounds.



Have anyone beside you right now, who would it be?

Mrs PM and my two sons.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Train of Thought


It’s happened again, dear reader. There I was, innocently walking downstairs from work, on the way home and I found myself singing a song that I would never ever sing  but, worse, that I don’t even like.

I am not even going to tell you what it is: that’s how ashamed I am.

Nevertheless, it has got me thinking. What train of thought caused this dreadful song to pop into my head in the first place?

With that in mind, I have decided to conduct an experiment. Here are the details:

OBJECTIVE

To evaluate my train of thought and try to make sense of it.

METHOD

I am going to clear my mind and just write a blog post and let my path through my imagination guide me.

RESULTS

Okay – here goes. As I write these words, I have no music on to distract me or to influence the course of my thinking. What leaps to mind as I drift into my imagination? Well the first thing is that I am writing something new and posting it in cyberspace so that people can read it. And that is quite a scary thing.

Some people who read this will have struggled through my work before and are probably rolling their eyes thinking, “Oh my God! Another crap post.”

Others might be amused. Yet more might think “Why doesn’t Dave talk to me about his odd mind? I’ve known him for years.”

It strikes me that when I write, I bare a little bit of my soul, mostly to people I have never met. What kind of person does that? Am I an attention seeker? To be honest, I don’t think so; I am merely practising for that elusive novel/book that I aim to write. By posting this nonsense into cyberspace I am seeking some form of approval.

So in a way, maybe I am seeking attention. Is that a revelation of some kind?

I am writing these words because I want the feedback of total strangers who may say “Yes, PM. It’s garbage. Don’t give up your day job.”

The problem is there is a part of me that really does want to give up my day job. When I analyse my career, I acquire approval on a regular basis because I am reasonably good at what I do. The problem is I am bored of it. I am bored of trying to teach computers how to behave themselves. I see myself  as a combination of a teacher and doctor, where my pupils/patients are computers. When I teach, I educate these electronic gadgets, instructing them how to operate and how to perform the job that is required of them. And when they get it wrong, I operate on them, to cure them – commonly known in IT as fixing bugs.

Now that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? I see myself as a mentor to computers. It’s like something out of a science fiction novel. The difference is that these computers are generally stupid and I curse their stupidity on a daily basis – actually more like an hourly basis. I find myself swearing at them – and myself.

My work colleagues probably think I’m nuts.

Hang on, I remember something I saw on YouTube – here it is:



Now, rest assured, I am not that bad. I cuss and swear under my breath but I do not destroy company equipment in a fit of rage. I may give the impression that I am a man who likes to stand up and rant on his soapbox about all and sundry but the truth is, I am quite laid back.

I have learned how to step back and take a deep breath when I find myself overcome with negative emotion. Sometimes it’s difficult to control a red mist moment but I find these days that taking a step back and trying to look at the situation from a different perspective does help. Work can be deeply frustrating sometimes, and this doesn’t just apply to my chosen vocation; I can imagine that exasperation can manifest itself in many walks of life.

For example, in my extended family we have a couple who are both police officers, both of whom have to wrestle the stresses of their jobs with bringing up a young child.

And, believe me, I have heard some stories that I wouldn’t want to share.

Yet they are both in control and reasonably happy with the chosen career. One of them even finds time to be a musician.

He is a big fan of Bob Dylan and has produced his own a CD of folk songs.

Click here for an example.

He is also in a band in Blackpool called the X Rays, who play what they call skiffle punk, covering old punk songs from the late 1970’s in a skiffle style.

Here they are performing live:



I’ve seen them play in local pubs in Blackpool and they are entertaining.

And that in itself fills me with a modicum of regret because if I could go back in time to the moment my music teacher asked me at the age of 11 what instrument I wanted to play, I would have begged and pleaded with him to let me play the guitar so that I could write my own songs.

Imagine that –  the Plastic Mancunian a rock God, writing and releasing his own songs?

I may actually have achieved that goal unwittingly. Way back in 2009, I wrote a fun Christmas post with alternative words to Jingle Bells. It was just a bit of fun to cause a mild amount of amusement. I was surprised, however, when a local band from West Yorkshire asked me if they could use my alternative version in a Christmas pub gig in Bradford.

You can read the post (and the comment) by clicking here.

I told them that they could (what do I care?). Whether they did or not I’ll never know but if they did, my alternative lyrics were probably belted out by a folk band to a pub full of people.

And the thought of that makes me smile.

That would never have happened had I not initiated the blog (it may not have happened but I like to think it did).

So not only could I be a writer (subject to approving comments from readers) I could also be a comedy lyric writer for bands willing to embrace alternative versions of traditional tunes and perform them at a Christmas gig in a Yorkshire pub.

Who would have thought that?

SO AFTER WRITING THAT DRIVEL, WHAT SONG POPPED INTO YOUR HEAD?

Unsurprisingly, the song that is in my head right now is this one:



So I managed to conjure up a song from Undertones simply by writing drivel.

CONCLUSION

I think this post proves something that I think I have always known:

I am one weird individual!


If you disagree, I have a confession to make. This was the song that I was singing out loud on Friday - and I hate it:



Weird, huh?

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Are You Listening?


“Are you listening to me?” said Mrs PM the other day.

Although I was listening a little, she did not have my undivided attention. I was watching football on the TV and she was prompted to ask because I made a minor faux pas; I nodded in agreement when she was expecting the answer “No!”

I mastered the art of switching off during a conversation when I was a child. I come from a family containing three extremely talkative women. My mother has the ability to, as the saying goes, talk the hind legs off a donkey and my two sisters are similar.

When I was a kid, trying to concentrate on the TV, homework, a book or anything else, my mother had moments when she was oblivious to the fact that I didn’t want to talk or be interrupted. I was a polite child and didn’t want to incur her wrath by telling her to shut up. I managed to train myself to enter the zone, a haven from outside influence where I can concentrate at the exclusion of any external stimulus I choose to ignore.

My mum’s voice was such a stimulus and, believe me, that took a lot of doing over the years. A lot of the time she would talk about everyday nonsense, banal chatter about friends that did not interest me sufficiently to engage in conversation. I mastered the art of occasionally feigning interest by punctuating her one way chatter with the odd “Really?”, “I didn’t know that!” and “Oh yes.”.

I knew my mum well enough to know that most of the time it would work – and it did. When she wanted to tell me something worthwhile I would of course give her my undivided attention.

It’s the same with my sisters – though in their case I would tell them “I’m too busy – tell me later.”

Unfortunately, Mrs PM knows how to catch me out.  She knows me too well and peppering a conversation with “Really?”, “I didn’t know that!” and “Oh yes!” just does not work.

So during a World Cup football match, Mrs PM was telling me about her friend’s woes when I said the words “Oh yes!”.

“Did you hear what I said?” she said.

“Oh yes,” I said again, having no clue what she had said, too intent on seeing a goal attempt by Brazil against Mexico.

She punched me on the arm and said “Are you listening to me?”.

Now she had my attention.

“Of course I am,” I said looking into her eyes.

“What did I just say, then?” she asked, her face starting to show a mixture of annoyance and impatience.

“What did I just say, then?” I quipped with a smile. That was a mistake.

“I meant before that,” she snarled.

“When?” I said.

“What did I say about Susan?” she asked again.

“Erm!” I said pathetically.

I had no idea.


I was caught out because my ability to switch off from the conversation had let me down.

What I should have done was asked her to talk to me at the half time interval rather than during the game. That too might have caused an issue but at least it would have been better than being caught in the zone.

The zone is a place that I retreat to on a fairly regular basis. It is a place where I can disable external interfaces and concentrate on whatever I need to. An example of being in the zone is when I go for a solo walk at lunchtime.

I leave work with my headphones in place so that I can walk the streets for half an hour with a soundtrack of my favourite songs, switching off from work related nightmares, contemplate life and the universe, or simply drift off into a voyage around my own imagination.

On one such occasion I was marching down the street when a friend of Mrs PM spotted me from a distance. She didn’t know where I worked so was unsure whether it was me or not – until I walked right past her on the other side of the road.

I was in the zone and simply did not see her. She called out to me but my music prevented me from hearing her.

I saw her a few days later and she mentioned this; I was surprised and slightly ashamed. I was very apologetic.

Friends of mine, male friends that is, do make the same mistake. One of my work colleagues had a similar experience but his other half caught him out in a much better way.

He was watching TV and his missus, standing in the doorway, said:

“What do you think of this dress? Should I wear it?”

“Yes,” he replied, still watching the TV.

“What colour is it?” she said.

“Erm – Erm,” he replied sheepishly.

He was so deep into the zone that he didn’t even realise that she had left the room and had not paid any attention whatsoever to the dress that she had showed him when she was in the room.

One thing does puzzle me. I wonder whether the ability to switch off and enter the zone is purely a male ability or whether women do the same.

If Mrs PM is not interested in what I am saying, she is forthright enough to tell me. She does not need to enter the zone.

Perhaps my problem is that I didn’t really want to upset my mum by telling her that I would rather watch television than listen to her talking about her friends.

Perhaps I should tell Mrs PM that I don’t want to know about Susan’s current problems because Belgium are playing Russia in the World Cup.

I’ll let you know in a future post whether I am successful or not – and I will also include a photo of my black eye if it all goes horribly wrong.

Let me know, if you are a female reader, whether you enter the zone and switch off; I am genuinely interested.

And I won’t say “Really?” – honestly.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Rik Mayall


One of my comedy heroes died this week at the tender age of 56.

I still can’t quite believe it.

I grew up with Rik Mayall’s comedy, from the day I first saw him playing Kevin Turvey in A Kick Up The 80’s to his most recent comedy role in Man Down.I’ve also seen him live three times, once with his own extremely manic show in the 1980’s and twice in the stage version of his show Bottom, with Ade Edmondson.

Here are some of my favourite Rik Mayall roles:

First, Kevin Turvey the investigator:



Next, Rick, the People’s Poet, in The Young Ones.




One of my favourite characters was Alan B’Stard, the evil Conservative MP.



And who can forget Richard Richard from Bottom?


And, of course, there is Lord Flashheart:



Most recently he played Greg Davies’s manic dad in Man Down, a role he was due to reprise in the second series:



For the last World Cup, Rik Mayall released a single called Noble England as an unofficial anthem for England. There is a campaign to get this single to number one for the current World Cup. Here it is:



If the campaign succeeds it would be a fitting tribute.

Rest in peace, Rik. You have made me laugh for most of my life.

I will miss you.