Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Alternative Eurovision Song Contest


Last night I watched a truly European phenomenon on my telly box; The Eurovision Song Contest. This year, the competition was broadcast throughout the world for the first time, including China and the United States.

So now the whole world knows that the whole of Europe is absolutely crazy!

I am guilty because this competition, now in its 61st year, is an annual spectacle which is a mixture of pomp and utter madness. Some of the songs are absolutely crazy and, to be honest, absolutely dreadful.

Last night was no exception. I watched the show laughing my head off at the over the top theatrics and marvelled at how poor the continent’s taste in music actually is. Even the United Kingdom’s effort was dreadful and, quite rightly, finished a poor 24th out of 26 songs.

One or two, vaguely interested me but that is about it.

Even Australia had an entry. Why? I don’t know; they were guests last year for the 60th anniversary but why they were in it this year is beyond me. Not that I have anything against Australia – the country is not in Europe so therefore should not take part.

Worse, what amazes me is that all of the nations taking part have artists that can produce genuinely fine music in most genres – ourselves included. Yet we have to endure pop songs, weird songs and absolutely dreadful songs from all nations.

Yet, perversely, I am drawn to it because, in my opinion it is so bad that it is brilliant. Mrs PM and I watched the show picking our favourites (which was a massive struggle for me because they were all awful) only to be disappointed at the end when the rest of Europe (and Australia) voted a dreadful Ukrainian song as the winner.

I may sound like a dreadful bore and a man who criticizes music just for a rant but I can’t help it – and I am certain that most people think the same way (they just won’t admit it).

Anyway, I read a blog post recently that proposed a new slant on Eurovision by selecting Heavy Metal songs from each of the countries. The author is Big D at Assorted Thoughts From An Unsorted Mind and I have decided to plagiarise his idea, except for one subtle difference. I am going to pick songs from my own collection which may or may not be rock songs.

Without further ado, here is my alternative Eurovision Song Contest – limited to 10 songs, rather than the 26 of the original competition (my God – we’d be here all night!).

If you fancy it, take your pick and let me know your favourite. One thing I can guarantee you – there are no singing grannies from Russia, no bearded women from Austria and no bad songs!

Poland

I have a beautiful progressive rock song for you to start with from Poland. The band is called Riverside and the song is called Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching).



France

I really like Air, an electronic duo from France who produce very melodic relaxing pop songs. This beautiful song called Redhead Girl is typical of the band.



The Netherlands

Within Temptation are one of two symphonic metal bands I like from Holland. Don’t be put off by the label “metal” because this song, Edge of the World, is a beautiful orchestral piece that would win Eurovision – of that I have no doubt.



Ireland

If it’s Ireland it can only be Enya. Here is a beautiful relaxing song called Afer Ventus– which bizarrely is sung in Latin.



Sweden

Livening things up a bit with the Swedish entry, we have The Hives. If at first you don’t succeed Try It Again.



Norway

You have almost certainly heard of A-ha. I was a big fan of the band because they wrote great pop songs. Minor Earth Major Sky is a later song after their early to mid-1980’s peak.



Finland

Nightwish are another symphonic metal band but veer into the realms of progressive rock by flirting with different styles. The Islander is a almost a folk song.



Belgium/Australia

Gotye was born in Belgium but now lives in Australia so I am killing two birds with one stone with this song. You will have heard it before – a great pop song called Somebody That I Used To Know.



Germany 

Mein Land is a fun song from German industrial band Rammstein, which believe it or not is not as heavy as their usual numbers. The video is a little naughty and turns into mayhem at the end. It would do well at Eurovision I think.



United Kingdom

For the UK it has to be a song from my current favourite British artist, Steven Wilson. There are so many good songs but here is an upbeat song from his current album called Happiness III.



And Finally…

Over to you, dear reader.

If you feel like telling me which one you would vote for, feel free.

Alternatively, if you watched Eurovision this weekend - did you actually like any of the songs?

Personally I would vote for all of them because in my opinion, they are all better than anything Eurovision has offered (well since Abba and Lordi won it anyway).


Friday, 13 May 2016

Stress Relief


Over the years I have been a victim of stress sometimes and while I still occasionally confront the demon stress-monster, these days I can usually vanquish him with casual and relaxing punch in the face.
Most of my stress comes from my job, something I think is true the world over. It amazes me that we as a society can allow ourselves to wind ourselves up at work to the point where it actually causes physical symptoms. You often feel like you really have been in a fight with a monster.
Something like this happened to me about seventeen years ago and I vowed that I would declare war on the beast that threatens to destabilize my life. These days we spar intermittently with me almost always coming out on top.
I have a few techniques that work for me to deal with stress. Some are obvious, others may seem rather unorthodox. They work for me and usually manage to keep me in control of the demonic beast at both a professional and a personal level. Here they are:
Hypnosis
Before you slap a label on me as a crackpot, let me explain. In a previous post, I started out attacking hypnotism as a mystical load of old bollocks for gullible people. That is until I tried it, in the name of research. 
What I discovered was that if you lie back in a darkened room and listen to a hypnosis tape for a while, you actually do start to de-stress. I would never pay money to go for hypnotherapy and on a couple of occasions I have tried it to relax with a lot of success. Try it - YouTube is full of them.
I am still sceptical about it – particularly when people start talking about past life regression and nonsense like that. I can’t imagine for a second that I have lived before, let alone suddenly find that under a hypnotic trance that I weirdly have access to these past lives. That is plain ridiculous.
Beer With Friends
Some foreigners may think that the British tradition of sitting in a pub with friends and/or family at the end of a hard work is a bit strange. The truth is that there is no better way of unwinding with good company, good ale and a bellyful of laughs. The stress monster is never invited to such shindigs.
Listen To Chill Out Music
Music is very therapeutic and it is a very important part of my life. There are numerous songs in my collection that are gentle, peaceful and soothing and usually invoke a special memory like lying on a beach in the sun with the waves kissing the beach and Mrs PM next to me as we sip a cold drink. 
Here is an example of a stress melter:



Playing With Cats

I have three cats, all of which have different personalities. They are getting on a bit at the moment yet I can entertain myself with each one of them, either gently stroking them, or baiting them with string, toy mice or my own hand (which is risky, particularly with the hellcat who has the capability and the will to induce more stress; having to go to hospital can be quite stressful itself).

Ask Yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?”

I am afraid of public speaking and the first time I had to really face my fear was when I was asked to travel to America to give a course. Beforehand, I spent about a month beating myself up about it to the point where I actually decided that I was going to just refuse to go. However, I am professional and I decided to take the bull by the horns and go for it. I asked myself “What is the worst that can happen?” and I answered my own question. Nothing, even the sack, would matter – I would bounce back even from that. In the end, I was nervous but I completed the course. And since then I have given courses in Russia, Switzerland, China and South Africa. I still hate it it but I don’t allow myself to get stressed about it.

Go for a Long Walk

My days are generally split into two when working. I endure the morning period and then at around 12:30, I pick up my iPod, leave the building and embark upon a walk of just over two miles with my music as a soundtrack. Not only does this get me away from my desk, it also allows me free thinking time where I can drift into my own imagination and even reignite my creativity. And of course, my mind wonders away from the pressure of work for half an hour or so.

Go on Holiday

Whenever work starts to grind me down, I look at my calendar and remind myself of my travel plans. Sadly, I don’t get enough holiday to travel anywhere near as much as I want to, which is frustrating but at the same time makes the trips I take very special. At the moment, I have two holidays to Europe booked and a weekend break next week in Barcelona. The stress is fading just thinking about it.

Play a Video Game

You may think that I am a little too old to indulge in childish pursuits such as playing games on a console. And the truth is that I am. Yet when I decide to pick up the joystick and play a football game or become a nightmarish villain in a surreal city or even fight zombies and monsters in a scary labyrinth, my imagination runs amok and once again I have a victory over worries and tension.

Read and Write

I may not be a good writer, but putting down my thoughts on paper is a fantastic way of winding down. Whenever I put myself at the mercy of my imagination, I usually have fun, even if it’s writing a simple blog post, a plan for one of the many books in my head or just my thoughts. Whether anybody reads my words is totally irrelevant – it’s great to just get them down.

Alternatively, there are few things more enjoyable than immersing yourself in a decent book. Stories are wonderful things and I always imagine myself as the constant companion of the heroes of the story, watching them as they struggle, lose and ultimately triumph (though not always). It’s a great way to forget about your own woes.

Listen to Hard and Heavy Rock Music

This may sound a bit weird, but when I allow myself to totally succumb to stress, which does happen, albeit infrequently these days, I simply blast away the negativity with a good dose of noise. It may seem wrong to unleash loud and heavy music when in a mood like that but for me at least it totally works. At the end of a heavy tune I feel a lot better – something like this:



R.I.P Lemmy

Spend Time With Family

Letting off steam to Mrs PM and family generally can be therapeutic because ultimately they will listen to you and offer words of encouragement. Of course, simply chilling out with family is equally good. There are few things I like better than spending time with Mrs PM and/or my two lads.

And Finally …

Over to you, dear reader.

How do you cope with stress?

What techniques have you for winding down and beating back the stress demon?

Monday, 2 May 2016

Bridge On The River Cam



Mrs PM and I have a quest to visit some of the great cities and towns in the UK to complement our travels abroad. Two years ago, we visited Oxford and this year we decided that it was the turn of that other great university city; Cambridge.

When I was trying to decide which universities to apply to, both Oxford and Cambridge seemed beyond me because in order to get there, a student would have to acquire the top grade in each subject as well as sitting extra exams, called S-levels (or Scholarship levels) which would have meant extra hours of study.

Oxford and Cambridge only take the best. Sadly I was nowhere near that level and realised this before my school persuaded me to at least try.

Now I found myself in Cambridge, trying to see what I would have missed.

Unlike our journey to Oxford, we caught a train instead of driving so that our journey would be relaxing. Mrs PM used the time admirably – to research an itinerary taking in all of the sights to see. On the other hand, I simply read my book and enjoyed the English countryside accompanied by hard rock music.

Our hotel was about a mile and a half outside the city centre and as soon as we arrived just after lunchtime, we dumped our bags and set off. The walk was pleasant enough, the April sun warming us up enough to be able to stroll without our coats.

The first thing that struck me, like Oxford, was the number of bikes in the city. They were parked everywhere, and many people rode them. As soon as we reached the city, the bikes were ubiquitous, parked in long lines and outnumbering the buses, cars and taxis.

Bike City
Just like Oxford, the city is small compared to Manchester and very accessible by foot. The first day there was an attempt to get our bearings. Mrs PM had been there before with work and had not really looked around the place, so we took a time, wandering around until eventually we found a tourist information office. In these modern times, we had our smartphones to help us with navigation but sometimes, it’s good to have a bit of a plan. With that in mind, we bought a map highlighting a couple of decent walks that we could follow the next day.

As the afternoon crept on, we decided to walk back to the hotel, have a little rest and return in the evening to have a beer and a meal. By then, the weather had turned bad and it had started to pour with rain.

This is bloody typical of England, particularly in April. The weather simply doesn’t understand that it can ruin a day. Thankfully we had umbrellas (always be prepared in the UK with a brolly) and our rather unpleasant walk back to the city proved not to be too traumatic.

We found an Italian restaurant and enjoyed a lovely meal before braving the weather and walking back.

Next day, after a hearty breakfast, we walked back to the city and found the starting point of a walk that would take us around a lot of the colleges. Sadly, the weather refused to change it poured with rain. Mrs PM bravely juggled the map and her brolly.

Despite the weather, there were a lot of people milling around, particularly foreigners being led around in large groups under the guidance of an expert describing the city in their mother tongue. In fact, because we were carrying a map, we were approached a couple of times by potential guides.

Our walk took us in and around a lot of the colleges, including King’s College, Pembroke College and Trinity College as well as around the city to some of more historical buildings. We even had lunch in a famous pub called the Eagle, the place where Francis Crick and James Watson announced that they had discovered the secret of life, their proposal for the structure of DNA.

We strolled across the river Cam, after which the city is named, and watched people punting on the river. We were tempted but the weather was too patchy and the short sharp showers would have meant a good soaking on the river.

I thoroughly enjoyed my tour of the city. Cambridge is similar to Oxford but more compact and has more of a small town feel to it. It is very easy to walk around the place and the colleges are all worth a visit – although some of them were inaccessible to tourists because it was the exam period, which was a shame.

Here are some rainy photos of the city.

Pembroke College

Fancy some sweets (or candy if you are American)?

Ceiling of King's College Chapel

King's College

King's College Chapel 

Bridge on the River Cam


The Round Church (obviously).

Finally, here are a few fun facts about Cambridge.

(1) Lord Byron was told that he couldn’t keep his beloved dog, called Boatswain, in his room at Trinity College. Byron despised this rule so in order to fight back he decided to keep a bear in his room instead because the college did not have a legal basis to force him not to.

(2) The first official game of football was played in Cambridge. The rules, known as the Cambridge rules from 1848, became the basis for the official Football Association rules in 1863.

(3) Some of the most famous alumni from Cambridge include Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Stephen Hawking.

(4) The University of Cambridge has over 100 libraries. The Central Library has around 8 million books and is able to request a free copy of every single book published in the UK and Ireland.

(5) Trinity College Cambridge has won more Nobel prizes than the whole of Italy.

I would fully recommend visiting Cambridge. It is a short hop from London (about an hour on the train) and you can easily pop there and back in a day if you are visiting the capital.

In fact, as part of this trip, we decided to pop to London for a short extension to our trip. I’ll let you know about that in a future post.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Coincidence?


In the UK we have a motoring organisation called The Automobile Association (or AA for short). A man who works for them had a day off and had used that time to drive to the country and go for a walk, effectively in the middle of nowhere. 
He passed a public phone box and at that moment, it started to ring. Feeling curious, the guy decided to answer it, only to find that the person on the other end of the phone was somebody he worked with at the AA. 
The caller had meant to ring the guy’s mobile phone number but had mistakenly dialled the guy’s staff number instead. And that staff number just happened to be the same number of the phone that our hero was walking past at that precise moment.
What are the chances of that happening?
I love stuff like this, however hard it is to believe. Statistically it would be nearly impossible for the phone call to happen at that precise time given all the variables and scenarios that could have happened.
It’s mind boggling.
Sadly a coincidence on that scale has never happened to me. That said, a couple of things have happened in recent years that have surprised me. Here are two of them. Names have been changed, as usual, to protect the guilty.
A couple of years ago, Mrs PM and I decided to have a long weekend in London. Mrs PM wanted to be a total tourist in our capital. We took Friday off work and checked into our hotel on the south bank of the river Thames at about lunchtime.
We strolled to Tower Bridge and mingled with other tourists taking photos of one of London’s most iconic sights before crossing it and having a late lunch in a nearby pub. After that, Mrs PM decided that she hadn’t seen the Crown Jewels so our next destination, just over the river, was the Tower of London. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking around one of our most historical buildings, culminating, at the end, in a queue to see the Queen’s jewellery box. 
After that, we were about to leave when Mrs PM told me that she just needed to answer a call of nature. I decided to try too because it was a fair walk back to the hotel. Of course, public toilet etiquette dictates that men are not supposed to talk to each other or look at each other while doing the business, so in my blinkered cave-like world I just answered the call as quickly as I could. 
On the way out, I walked behind another man and a thought entered my head: “that guy in front looks just like Ben from work.”
I was unsure so I didn’t say anything. When we left the loo, the guy walked over to his wife and kids who were waiting for him. It was Ben after all.
I had taken a day off, come to London, decided to visit one of the thousands of attractions in that city at precisely that time and decided to relieve myself at exactly the same moment as him.
I stood waiting outside the ladies toilet for Mr PM and watched Ben and his family walk towards me. I stared at him with a huge grin on my face. I don’t think I have ever seen a better double take in my entire life.
He glanced at me, glanced at his wife and then stared straight back at me, with recognition dawning on his face.
“What the PHHAAARKKK are you doing here?” he asked incredulously. Just at that moment, Mrs PM came out of the ladies and I saw my second favourite double take. Mrs PM saw Ben, looked at me and then stared at Ben and said “What the PHHAAARKK are you doing here?”
The second coincidence also involved a work colleague who I shall refer to as Walter. On our desk at work, whenever Walter goes on holiday to the sun, he makes it known to the entire desk, gloating for weeks in advance until the week before when he steadily becomes insufferable! To him, a holiday is a way to totally destress with absolutely no reminders of work. For the period of his holiday he can totally relax and cast away all of his work woes, popping them into a little box so that he can enjoy himself. 
A couple of years ago, he had just booked his holiday and walked around to my desk to gloat. 
“Guess where I’m going on 20th August?” he said with a grin. 
“Who cares?” I said. 
But then I remembered. 
“Actually, we’re going away that week too,” I said with some satisfaction. I showed him my calendar with the week clearly highlighted in yellow to indicate “Annual Leave”
His face dropped and he returned back from gloat mode to normal mode. 
“Going anywhere nice?” he asked. 
“Turkey,” I replied.
His face dropped further.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Turkey’s a big country,” he said. “Where exactly?”
“I think the place is a little town next to Bodrum called Gumbet,” I said. 
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” he yelled. 
His face was a picture and I wish I’d had a camera.
“Don’t tell me you are going to Gumbet that week too,” I said. 
Of course he was!
I had already ruined his holiday because if he bumped into me while enjoying a relaxing time, it would remind him of work and raise his stress levels. 
What followed for the next few weeks was the best period of winding poor Walter up that the entire desk has ever enjoyed. He stupidly let slip the name of the hotel he was staying at and I pretended that we too were in that hotel. We were in a different one.
“Maybe we’ll be in the room next door,” I suggested. “We can go the beach together and enjoy the sun in our speedos!” 
What he really feared was me telling his missus all sorts of funny things about him – I had never actually met her at that point.
I think, to be  honest, he thought the entire thing was a massive wind-up and that I wasn’t going on holiday to the same place at all – that is until the day that Mrs PM and I were sitting at a table on a beach in Gumbet, enjoying an evening meal. I saw Walter walk past and shouted:
 “OY! WALTER!!”
His exact words were: “OH PHHAAAARRKKK!! Oh I mean – Hi Dave!”
Of course, I didn’t drop him in it at all and told him that we had no interest in stalking him on his holiday. That said, we did meet up a couple of times for drinks and had a good laugh.
Of course now, he refuses to tell anybody where he is going on holiday just in case. But you can’t fool fate and I am sure it will happen again, no matter how impossible he thinks it is. 
I really hope so!
Personally, the only coincidence I really want to be part of now is that the lottery balls drawn tonight match the lottery balls I have selected.
It could happen!
And now over to you, dear reader. 
Have you experienced any weird coincidences?


Sunday, 24 April 2016

Top Ten ABBA Songs


I have had my musical taste questioned many times but the most recent attack came from a work colleague who suggested that my favourite music genre is basically just ripping off ABBA, which of course it isn’t.

This all stems from the discovery that one of my current favourite artists, Steven Wilson, produced an album of cover versions, one of which was an ABBA song.

Regular reader may know that in the past, I may have mentioned that I kind of grew up with ABBA. When I was a young impressionable kid just about to become a teenager ABBA were the biggest pop band in the world. And I have to admit that I was a fan – and I guess part of me still is. Nobody can deny that their music was influential (just not on progressive rock and progressive metal) but in the world of pop music, it was up there with the best.

And I had a massive teenage crush on Agnetha Fältskog (which hormone-filled lad didn’t at that age?).

My musical taste is fairly wide and ABBA reside proudly on my iPod alongside many more bands that some might say are an acquired taste.

Without further ado, therefore, I present my top ten ABBA songs, knowing full well that everybody likes them (even those cynical work colleagues who deny it).

10. That’s Me

My best mate as a teenager was also a fan and owned the ABBA album Arrival which featured this song. He used to play it all the time and for a while became firmly entrenched in my head as a pleasant earworm. And on the rare occasions I have heard it since, it has once again taken up residence, taking me back to the mid-1970’s with a smile.



9. Lay All You Love On Me

Towards the end of their career, ABBA embraced a more electronic sound, as was the trend at the time. It appeared in the charts in the period between my leaving school and starting university. By this stage my musical taste had changed significantly, flipping between heavy metal and electropop. My fascination with ABBA was over, but this song appeared and took me back to those years when I liked the band and fitted in with my tastes at that time.



8. Knowing Me Knowing You

As mentioned earlier, my best mate loved the album Arrival and this was by far his favourite song on the record. It’s a great song but I can’t help thinking about Alan Partridge when I hear the chorus. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a spoof presenter/reporter (and arguably the worst in the world) with a show called Knowing Me Knowing You and whenever he appears he yells “AHA!” at the top of his voice.



7. I’m a Marionette

I didn’t normally take much notice of B-sides and it wasn’t often that they were better than the A-side. My sister bought The Name of the Game and this was on the B-side. I remember she played her single while I was there and then turned it over to give the flip side a spin. “That’s a much better song,” I said. She disagreed and never played it again. I actually took it to my room and popped it on my current mix tape at the time. It’s a bit of a darker song, with a nice guitar piece in the middle, which probably explains why I preferred it.



6. Mamma Mia

As a rule, I prefer the rockier ABBA songs and Mamma Mia was one of the first I heard after they had won the Eurovision Song Contest. I have to confess that I have never seen the dreadful musical to which this song gives its name because to me it is an abomination to take ABBA’s music and turn it into a sleazy story peppered with their songs. I know it’s incredibly popular but there is no way I would waste my money or time on it. What a terrible, terrible idea. Anyway, rant over – the song is good!



5. Waterloo

This is the song that started it all. I hate the Eurovision Song Contest now but in the past, I actually used to watch it avidly (well until about 1978 anyway). ABBA won the competition with this song way back in 1974 and this was their big introduction to the rest of Europe and the world, in fact. It remains my second favourite ever winner – behind the more controversial Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (which I will spare you). Mind you, just take a look at those costumes in the video,



4. S.O.S

This is another earworm for me, a song that burrows into my head and stays there for a while, to the point where I find myself humming it. In fact, as I type I am humming the chorus. It’s a great little song.



3. Voulez-Vous

I’m a little puzzled as to why this song wasn’t a bigger hit, as it was certainly better than most of their other high chart entries. It’s a great dance song and at the time of its release it usually had the effect of filling the dance floor. It coincides with the time I first started venturing out into the world of the night club and remained a favourite of quite a few that I frequented around that time.



2. Eagle

Eagle is a beautiful and epic song. In fact, of all the songs they have released, this is the closest to being progressive, with a fantastic orchestral keyboard sound and a great little guitar solo (around the 3:10 minute mark). It’s a very uplifting song and always puts me in a great mood. I guess I need to start listening to it at work.



1. So Long

As a lover of rock music, I had to pick what I consider ABBA’s rockiest song as my favourite. You would expect nothing less, I guess, dear reader. Again, this was one of the first songs I heard after Waterloo and, strangely it was never released as a single in the UK. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that you have not heard it, dear reader. I also apologise for being a bit of a letch; Agnetha is particularly lovely in this video – it’s probably what started it all off, to be fair.



And finally …

I hope you liked my selection , dear reader.

I am sure you are a closet ABBA fan.

Feel free to let me know your favourites – particularly if you are the work colleague who inspired this post (you know who you are!).

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Speak English!


Recently I have been struggling with the English language. Certain groups of people have taken it upon themselves to make me look like a fool by speaking a language that sounds like my mother tongue but in fact is far from it.

I have stared at these people, either in the flesh, or on my television set, as they abuse the language I have spoken all my life and, basically, speak meaningless nonsense, masquerading as English, in an attempt to make me look and feel like the dumbest person on the planet.

Don’t get me wrong; these people are using English words and constructing sentences and, strictly speaking, if you analysed their sentences you would find that they were in fact speaking English.

The problem is that their sentences make no sense at all.

They are talking bullshit!

For the past ten years or so, I have been paranoid, thinking that I am devolving and gradually turning into a total cretin. However, thinking about it, I have become aware that the language I speak fluently is being abused by certain groups of people like businessmen, politicians and youngsters who have taken my language and mutated it into a new and sometimes unintelligible load of gobbledygook.

The problem is that other people in the same group actually understand what is being said, so I have often found myself looking blankly at them as if they are speaking Russian. To them, I look like the village idiot and really, what I should be saying is “Speak English! You are making no sense whatsoever.”

I am not the only one. Other clever people have noticed this disturbing trend.

I’ve found myself in meetings and at presentations listening to people who use phrases that make no sense whatsoever.

For example, here is a sample presentation with the thoughts going through my head:

Presenter: Going forward, we have to make sure that we are all on the same page.

PM: Are we supposed to be reading a book?

Presenter: I’m sure you all realise that we have to address the elephant in the room.

PM: How rude! I’m not fat!

Presenter: The helicopter view is that we need to make maximum use of our greatest assets and some of those assets are here today. We need to leverage our potential and grab the low hanging fruit.

PM: What are you saying? Are you asking me to fly into the office in a chopper and pick fruit? I didn’t even know we had any apple trees.

Presenter: Nevertheless, we all need to touch base on this one.

PM: Baseball this afternoon anyone?

Presenter: To maximise our business and climb the strategic staircase, we must look under the bonnet. 

PM: I thought we all worked in retail, not an upstairs garage.

Presenter: And for that reason we need to downsize. We will be looking for some volunteers but from the rest of you, let’s put on a record and see who dances.

PM: Party time.

Presenter: Anyone who wants to discuss this can touch base with me offline.


    LATER

PM: What on earth were you talking about?

Presenter: You fired! Bye!

I’m not saying that such bullshit is spoken in my workplace, but I have noticed an alarming increase in such nonsense.

It’s not just business.  Politicians infuriate me with their bullshit or simply revert to gobbledygook in an attempt to cover their tracks with a string of nonsensical jargon. Either that or they repeat the same drivel ad nauseam. Everybody knows it yet they still do it – and worst of all – they get away with it.

Interviewer: Are you going to admit that you are wrong and that you lied to the House of Commons about the tax increases?

Politician: Let me refer you to my earlier statement. We, as a government, are totally committed to making sure that the working families of the United Kingdom are rewarded.

Interviewer: By paying more taxes?

Politician: The fiscal machinations of the governmental departments are designed, unequivocally and exclusively to promote the advantages of the diligence of our dedicated citizens who reap the rewards of full time employment. 

Interviewer: What does that even mean? You lied to the House, didn’t you? Working families will be much worse off.

Politician: The figures show that our policies have led to the most successful government in years, unlike the last government who were a disaster.

Interviewer: But …

Politician: Will you let me answer the question? My point is that we have increased spending in the NHS by 3% in this term.

Interviewer: What’s that got to do with you lying in the House?

At this point I would love the interviewer to throw down his microphone and slap the politician in the face with a large fish while screaming:

“JUST ANSWER THE PHHHAAAAARRKKKINNGG QUESTION AND STOP TALKING BULLSHIT!!!”

One thing that really annoys me about politicians trying to bamboozle us with inane rhetoric is that they basically think the rest of us are stupid. As they lie to our faces, refuse to answer questions or smile in the most insincere manner possible, they secretly believe that we are stupid enough to buy what they are saying.

Of course, there is the dim possibility that they are sticking to a prewritten script in order to save themselves from being caught out and forced to resign for actually baring their true soul to us.

Finally, we have the youth of today whose “urban” speak is like a foreign language. It comes from rap, I guess, but to me it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Thankfully, here is the very funny Doc Brown to give me a helping hand:



Mind you, I’m a bit of a hypocrite myself. I originally come from Walsall, a town near to Birmingham, in an area known as “The Black Country”, so-called because of the heavy industry there, pumping vast quantities of soot and smog into the atmosphere.

It is the area that gave us Judas Priest and, most famously, Ozzy Osborne and Black Sabbath, as well as Led Zeppelin.

I used to speak in Black Country slang as illustrated by this jolly little video.



Did you understand it?


Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Look


I love The Walking Dead and so does Mrs PM. We were watching the exciting and disturbing climax of series six on Monday night and when it finished, my beloved said:

“What are we going to do without The Walking Dead?”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “There’s a spin off starting next week.”

“Really?” she said, looking very excited.

“Yes,” I continued. “It looks at the issue from another angle. Have you seen the Hitchcock film called The Birds?”

“Yes,” she said.

I now had her full attention.

“Well, it’s a variation on that theme. Instead of people dying and coming back to life, the problem is all about birds. It’s a post-apocalyptic drama about people dealing with Zombie birds.”

“Wow,” she said.

“It starts next week. It’s called The Squawking Dead!”

“OH PULEEEEAASEEE!” she shouted.

I started laughing as, once again, I had proved that there is no such thing as a lying face and a lying voice, the apparent features she uses to detect whether I am fibbing to her. It’s a rare thing to catch her out and when I do, I don’t let her forget it (see here for more examples where I have failed misreably).

“There is no such thing as a lying voice or a lying face,” I declared triumphantly.

And then she responded with The Look!

Most men know what The Look is. It is the expression on a woman’s face that tells her man, without words I might add, that he has stepped over the line and has lost so many Brownie Points that he is bankrupt.

The Look has several intensities depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime committed. On a scale of 1 to 10, this was about a 2 out of 10 – mild irritation. Mrs PM was disappointed that The Walking Dead had finished and irritated at the fact that I had exploited her momentary weakness and struck a comedy blow.

Really, she was pissed off because I had caught her totally unawares!

In case you don't know what I am talking about, here are some stock images of The Look!

2 out of 10 - You might just escape unscathed

4 out of 10 - Be warned
6 out of 10 - Now you are in trouble!

8 out of 10 - Lock yourself in the cupboard and pray
10 out of 10 - Run for the hills 
I have never achieved a 10 out of 10 (or at least I don’t think so).To be honest if I were to reach that lofty pinnacle, I would probably be out of the house and down the road when the eruption took place.
Sometimes, I see The Look in other women, particularly in social situations, when their oblivious husbands/partners have overstepped their bounds. Usually this involves showing off, saying something that was meant to be kept a secret or basically being an arse in front of her and friends, resulting in, in her eyes, ritual humiliation.
It’s quite funny, really, because the man will continue acting the dick, or mouthing off and she will smile as if she is enjoying his antics. He will be oblivious to her feelings and continue to entertain his friends. She will smile – but not with her eyes. 
And then, she will wait until there is a lull and her beloved man looks at her. That is when she will strike with The Look and he will immediately know that he is in trouble.
I’ve seen it many times and it can go one of two ways.
If he notices The Look, he will stop abruptly and change the subject and spend the rest of the evening trying to rectify the situation, cuddling his woman, telling people openly how much he loves her etc. etc. 
It won’t work. 
Women have long deep memories and the moment she gets him on his own he will feel the full force of her wrath. The 4 out of 10 look of annoyance will escalate, potentially, to a 6 out of 10 look – if he’s lucky.
Worse, if he fails to notice The Look and continues down to the next level of Hell, then woe betide him when they get home. 
I have seen both situations.
Worse, I have BEEN in both situations. 
In my defence, I thought I was being clever and funny – when in reality I was almost certainly being a dick.
However, there is one situation that all men struggle with. And I will bet that it has happened to each and every male reader with a significant other (don’t deny it, guys! You know I am telling the truth). The situation to which I refer is when you arrive home and get The Look as soon as you see your lovely lady.
This is the worst situation of all. At least when you are a dick in front of your friends, you have an idea about why you are in trouble - and you have no idea why
You may try to delay the inevitable by saying “Hi beautiful” or another similarly shallow attempt at making things right. You may panic, walk straight out of the door and run to the nearest pub to get drunk.  At least when the inevitable tempest occurs, you will have an idea about what you did wrong.
“What have I done now?” is the usual response but that won’t help either. 
Women are irrational beings and will say:
“Well if you don’t know, I am not going to tell you,” and then walk away leaving the environment in the house frostier than a snowman’s underpants.
Thankfully, Mrs PM is the kind of woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and she will tell me in no uncertain terms the exact reason why I am a dick and what I did to incur her wrath. Mostly, it will be something insignificant and through an insincere cloud of apology I will do my best to rectify the situation even if I am deeply puzzled about why I am in the wrong.
Tact is my middle name – at least until Mrs PM reads this post.
By the way, I also tried to crack the same joke about The Walking Dead to my eldest lad.
Before I had even begun to describe The Squawking Dead he simply said:
“This is going to be a crap joke, isn’t it?”
Maybe that says something about the difference between men and women.