Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Childbirth - A Dad's View

I was poking around a few old directories on my desktop computer when I found a little piece I had written in 1993.

As I read it, I had to smile because it brought back bittersweet memories.

It was a small article I wrote about the birth of my eldest lad, Stephen.

At the time, I was married to my ex-wife, the mother of my two boys. I shall refer to her as W.

The memories conjured up by my words are bittersweet simply because I was overcome with joy at the birth of my first born child but, as you will no doubt have guessed, our marriage didn’t last and ended in some acrimony.

Nevertheless, both myself and W appear to have come to terms with those dark days and now we get along reasonably well. We both made a pact to put the boys ahead of anything else and, despite initial bitter recriminations we are philosophical about it all; we still continue to put the boys welfare above all else.

We split up almost twelve years ago – it seems like such a long time.

Anyway, I’m not one for dwelling on the past so I am going to use this post to show off my kids a little.

My eldest is Stephen and he is 17 – which incidentally makes me feel very old. My youngest lad is Michael and he is 14. Both of them are wonderful and I am so proud of them.

I find it very hard to treat them as adults and spend all of my time with them fooling around – so much in fact that I have been told to “grow up” on numerous occasions (you can read about it here). It is difficult for me to grasp that Stephen is 18 in June next year and will, hopefully, disappear off to university soon afterwards.

Anyway, here is the article I wrote and I apologise in advance to Stephen for this account of how he entered the world. He has been known to read this blog and even make the odd comment.

In my defence, at the time, I was almost certainly an absolute wreck, riding a rollercoaster of conflicting emotions. The experience obviously had a profound effect, hence my desire to get the words down way back in 1993.

Here's the article:

I thought that I was fully prepared for fatherhood until I walked in the house and found my wife, W, in labour. I had been to all of the ante-natal classes, read books on the subject and even seen a video of a birth. Naively, I believed that the delivery of our first child would be relatively straightforward and that I would easily be able to cope.

How wrong I was.

One of my main problems was seeing how uncomfortable W was. I understood that child birth could be painful but when I saw her, I didn’t know how to react. My original plan was to reassure her and calmly drive her to the hospital. What I could not predict was how I would feel about it. Rather than trying to comfort W, I found that I couldn’t think straight and spent a fruitless ten minutes rushing aimlessly around the house trying to sort everything out. In fact, W seemed more composed than I was and, in between contractions, helped me to organise everything.

Up until that point, I had felt as if I was not participating in the pregnancy. W had carried our baby for nine months and, although I had seen the baby grow and felt him kicking, I considered myself to be an outsider. After all, W had carried the baby, suffered from morning sickness and spent several uncomfortable months with backache and sleepless nights. My only contribution was to take over the housework and do the shopping. Now was the time when I would be involved and I was filled with apprehension.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was relieved that W was now in the hands of the experts, though I was still extremely nervous. We had a scare because W’s waters broke shortly after she had been examined for the first time. The baby became distressed and W was almost rushed into the operating theatre for an emergency Caesarean section. Fortunately the baby’s condition stabilised.

We started the long wait in the delivery room. A foetal monitor echoed the baby’s heart beat. It was the first time I had heard the rhythmic electronic pulse from the machine and it brought home to me the fact that there really was another member of our small family on the way.

In many ways, the waiting was the worst thing. The midwife told us that the baby would come when he was ready. I was hoping he would as impatient as I was and would make an early entrance.

W and I passed the time listening to music, reading and talking, although I have to confess that my mind was elsewhere throughout. I couldn’t help thinking about things which could go wrong and worrying about the condition of my wife and child. In contrast, W seemed remarkably at ease under the circumstances. I wondered how she could talk to me and smile during those long and painful hours.

Eventually, a midwife persuaded me to go and get something to eat. As I sat pushing my food aimlessly around the plate in the hospital canteen, I reflected on how the arrival of our child would change our lives. I wondered how we would cope with sleepless nights, bottles and teats and dirty nappies.

Had we got the right equipment?

Would I be able to hold the baby correctly?

How would we bathe him?

What if he became ill?

In the end anxiety won the battle over my appetite and I went back to the delivery room with half my meal untouched.

There were times when I thought that W was not getting the attention she needed. I felt that there should be somebody monitoring the situation constantly. However, when something did happen, the hospital staff were there in force. In what seemed like seconds, the delivery room was filled with doctors, anaesthetists, midwives and paediatricians. The moment seemed to have arrived.

Everybody in the room was playing an important role, that is, everyone except me. At that moment, I felt more inadequate than I have ever felt in my life. I was completely helpless, my only contribution being to hold W’s hand and look extremely worried.

W had wanted to give birth naturally but, when it came to the final push, the baby was just too big. The doctor said that an emergency caesarean section was necessary because the baby was becoming distressed again. Husbands can be present at these operations but because this was an emergency, I was told that I had to wait outside.

A midwife said “Say goodbye to your wife,”

And I did with tears in my eyes.

I’m sure the midwife didn’t mean to make it sound as if this was the last goodbye – but that’s the way her words registered when my addled mind tried to make sense of them.

All I could do was watch as W was wheeled into the operating theatre, the doors shutting behind her with a firm bang that seemed to confirm my mind’s interpretation of the situation.

I remember seeing old films with men pacing up and down the hospital corridor, chain-smoking packets of cigarettes while waiting for the nurse to come out with news of the birth. Looking back, I was just like those men, except I was guzzling glasses of blackcurrant juice rather than smoking. Every time a door opened I would whirl around thinking that the midwife was coming out to give me the news. I felt like the operation took two or three hours, when in reality it took probably half that amount of time.

Eventually the midwife led me into a small room to see my son for the first time. My first thought was that he looked pink and healthy, although his head was slightly misshapen and bruised. All I could do was stare at him with an inane grin on my face. The midwife told me that he was a big baby, weighing 8lbs 10oz, and asked what he would be called. W and I had disagreed about the name but at that moment I was so proud of her that I gave the midwife my wife’s choice: Stephen.

Shortly afterwards, I was allowed to hold Stephen while W recovered. All my fears about how to hold a baby were vanquished as I cradled Stephen in my arms. Wrapped in a blanket and wearing a little hat, Stephen looked at me and his surroundings with his big blue eyes. I held him close and spoke gently to him.

At that point I was the happiest man on earth and couldn’t wait for the next chapter in the life of our family.

Thankfully, Michael’s birth was far less traumatic. Because Stephen was born via an emergency caesarean section, Michael came into the world in a nice orderly planned caesarean section. I was there, in the operating theatre when it happened and there is nothing more to tell apart from my being so scared at the prospect of blood that I almost passed out.

Finally, I want to apologise once more to Stephen and now extend my apology to Michael.


Because I am going to publish a couple of embarrassing photographs below.

Stephen in the bath - as you can see, I gave him a great hairstyle.

Michael thought he had got away with it - how wrong he was.

Michael on the beach.

Stephen at his fifth birthday party.

Michael, Stephen and me at Blackpool in 2006.

Last year in Majorca - crikey I feel old!!

So, lads, if you are reading this, I'm really sorry for publishing a couple of embarrassing pictures.

I will grow up one day - honestly.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Aggravators Incorporated

Aggravators Incorporated is the ideal company for employees who despise laziness. We believe that any form of indolence, no matter how fleeting, is an absolute sin, punishable by a life sentence in jail.

We are an excellent company that thrives on the excellence and diligence of each and every employee. Our recruitment techniques have won awards. We refuse to allow anybody to become an employee of Aggravators Incorporated unless they pass a series of gruelling interviews, terrifying aptitude tests, bloodcurdling personality tests and survive two days with our ex-SAS sergeant major who thrives on inflicting dangerous team building challenges involving karate, knives, guns and medieval instruments of torture.

Only then can an employee be deemed suitable for a position at our company.

For those who make it (and there a few) we demand 1000% commitment. Anything less will result in severe disciplinary action.

Our working practices have been described as “impossible”, “insane” and “illegal” by indolent observers, yet we thrive on achieving the impossible.

Our employees have been described as breathtakingly arrogant, pompous beyond belief, subhuman psychopaths and crazy, yet we still surpass all of our targets.

And now we plan to push those boundaries even further.

We are already the best of the best of the best of the best. We are campaigning to have the word “excellence” redefined in the Oxford English Dictionary to refer exclusively to the achievements of Aggravators Incorporated.

But we want more.

Why strive for 1000% when there is a higher target? We can achieve 2000%.

The challenge has been laid down. We have thrown down the gauntlet to corporations and governments. We have licked the arse of the "Working Time Directive" and stuffed a custard pie into the face of "Employee Rights".

We will prevail. We always do. We love a challenge and in order to increase our productivity we are taking the following measures will will help us to achieve our new so called “unattainable” targets.

(1) Holidays – At the present time we have bowed to UK and European corporate law and allowed our employees to take holidays. How can we achieve excellence if we allow our staff to take time off to “be with their family”? Almost all of our employees have no family. And we are certainly assisting the others to dispense with next of kin by encouraging divorce. After all, families encourage laziness and at Aggravators Incorporated we loathe laziness of any kind. Our first step therefore is to phase out annual leave over the next year. From January 1st 2011, employees who ask for annual leave will be dismissed immediately and sued for causing the company to lose an asset. How can we achieve our projected profit margins if we lose assets?

(2) The Working Day – The average working day in the UK is from 9am to 5pm. What craziness is that? How can market leading, ground breaking companies at the forefront of their industry be expected to keep their share holders in the lifestyle they are used to by only working eight hours a day? Are employees expected to wallow in sloth for the remaining sixteen hours? We think not. Therefore, from 1st January 2011, employees will expected to work from 8am until midnight, allowing eight hours sleep. It should be noted that our employees are so wired on a cocktail of extra-strong triple strength coffee and Red Bull that they require much less sleep. So from 1st June 2011 the working day will be extended further from 6am to 1 am.

(3) The Working Week – Laziness is encouraged in the western world by allowing employees to rot in their own filth for two days every week. Those who do not slob around in their pits of apathy are encouraged to pursue pointless activities such as visiting family, extra-curricular activities, such as hobbies, and socialising and having fun. At Aggravators Incorporated we hate this kind of meaningless pastime – why should people be allowed to have a life outside of work? What can they possibly achieve? How will it help our business? It will not. Therefore, from 1st January 2011, the working week will be extended to seven days.

(4) Bank Holidays – Why are these pointless days called “Bank” Holidays when they lose money for corporations such as ours? Money cannot be earned having a day off decreed by a lazy government that encourages apathy amongst its citizens. We therefore defy the government and will from 1st January 2011 ban Bank Holidays including Easter, Christmas, New Years Day and those idiotic pagan days dreamt up by indolent peasants in the past.

(5) Sleeping – We acknowledge that our employees need to sleep (despite our attempts to keep them awake with caffeine and drugs) so we propose to install beds in all of our offices to maximise efficiency. The beds will in fact be chairs that can be tilted back. Furthermore, these beds will have built in alarm clocks that are preset to wake up the occupant at precisely 0558. Employees must log on within two minutes and start selling or they are given an electric shock. When the employee is alert, assistants will be on hand to complete the waking up process with copious amounts of monster strength coffee and Red Bull. This takes effect from 1st June 2010 because we have to wait for delivery of the chairs from a company that is so unreliable they allow their employees to work part time. Such practices should be made illegal.

(6) Toilets – Another source of inefficiency amongst employees is the need to answer the call of Mother Nature. Even we cannot combat this inefficiency in the design of the human being which means that we have to adjust our business practices to accommodate this flaw. Unfortunately the building we occupy is badly designed and the toilets are quite frankly too far away from the average employee. Sometimes it takes as long as ten minutes to use the facilities. How can a company make profit with such poor working practices? We are fighting back by installing toilet facilities inside the chair-beds described above. A strategically placed hole will be provided to allow employees to continue working while answering the call. Interruptions will be eliminated. Unfortunately we must wait for the apparatus to be installed – it is a travesty that we simply have to deal with these appalling companies. In the meantime, therefore we will be installing power points, wireless routers, fax machines, printers and video-conferencing facilities in all of our toilet cubicles until the chair-beds are adapted towards Quarter 3 in 2011.

(7) Coffee Breaks – We positively encourage our employees to consume as much coffee as possible to maintain their optimal brain capacity and processing ability throughout the working day. However, the act of preparing coffee is inefficient not to mention the time taken to walk to the kitchen. Furthermore, thanks to CCTV cameras installed in the kitchen, we have discovered that certain employees have been talking about subjects other than work. That is quite frankly scandalous and must be discouraged before it mutates into other fruitless pursuits such as discussing sport or the weather. Thankfully these skiving, lazy sub-humans have been dismissed and prosecuted for stealing resources from the company. To combat this, we will employ a system that delivers coffee and Red Bull on demand to the desk. To save even more time, a tube will be inserted into the employee’s mouth and the liquid fed in, eliminating the inefficient practice of picking up mug, thus making the employee even more capable. We hope to install the apparatus by June 1st 2011.

(8) Food – Another flaw in nature is the requirement to eat. This flaw is very damaging and encourages alarming inefficiency at many levels. We will therefore be installing a human based system that will allow employees to be spoon-fed three times a day. Sadly we have to employ lesser humans to fulfil this purpose – at least for the short term. Nevertheless, we are hoping that our innovation department will complete the design for the robot slave as soon as possible. The human food providers will be employed on January 1st 2010. The date for the robot slaves is unknown but initial estimates are encouraging – 1st January 2012.

(9) Sickness – Sickness is not permitted. Anybody who is so sick that they cannot achieve our 2000% targets will be dismissed immediately - unless they make up the hours.

(10) Profit – Profit is the goal of Aggravators Incorporated. We work, we earn and we aim to be the biggest global company generating the most cash for our shareholders. We have several schemes to claw in as much cash as we can get our hard-working hands on:

(a) Our customers are royalty and must be treated as such, with money being no object. However, we simply cannot encourage our employees to waste company money by splashing out on expensive meals, copious amounts of alcohol, cigars and lap-dancing bars for these scrounging thieving sub-human arses. Our employees must therefore pay for all entertainment costs themselves, while at the same time spending as much money as possible to encourage our customers to give us their cash. This new expense regime comes into effect on 1st January 2010.

(b) Employees are sometimes sent away on business and while this is a necessary part of corporate life, we simply cannot allow such practices to gouge a massive hole in our finances. Therefore from 1st January 2010 all employees who are expected to go on business must pay for hire cars, petrol, fuel, flight tickets, taxis, food, hotels – everything in fact – from their own pockets.

(c) Our company is the best company in the world. Our employees earn an average of £200,000 per annum. However we feel that our employees are fortunate to work at Aggravators Incorporated and therefore must pay for the privilege. We therefore charge each employee the sum of £150,000 per annum for the privilege. We propose to increase profit by raising this employee contribution to £175,000 starting from January 1st 2010.

As you can see, we aim to become the most profitable and richest company in the world. Aggravators Incorporated is already a household name and you can perhaps see why we are such a wonderful company.

Please come to work for us. We are struggling to recruit for reasons that we cannot fathom.

We’re desperate …

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Sunday Stealing - Meme Of Many Odd Questions

As usual I thought I would have a go at a Sunday Stealing meme and find that this week it is part three of a huge meme.

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and go for the all three parts – so the answers are a bit shorter than I would like to make them.


1. First thing you wash in the shower?

The first thing I have to wash is my sentient wild hair in order to pummel it into submission by drowning it in a bottle of shampoo. By the time I’ve finished with that, I’m knackered enough to go back to bed to be honest.

2. What color is your favorite hoodie?

I hate hoodies – so I would say “invisible”.

3. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again?

Yes – it was Jasper my fat cat.

4. Do you plan outfits?

I plan them but them Mrs PM unplans them with words like “You are NOT going out dressed like THAT!”

5. How are you feeling RIGHT now?

I feel great. I’m supping a beer and typing this.

6. What's the closest thing to you that's red?

My T-shirt – that’s pretty close.

7. Tell me about the last dream you remember having?

It was an intergalactic space opera with me as the hero. I regularly have weird dreams like this.

8. Did you meet anybody new today?

I exchanged a few words with a popcorn seller at the cinema if that counts – hardly a “future friendship” conversation though.

9. What are you craving right now?

I could murder some cheese on toast – I wonder whether I could get Mrs PM to cook me some?

10. Do you floss?

Always – I think therefore I floss. I lie to the dental hygienist about that so I don’t see why I should tell you the truth, dear reader.

11. What comes to mind when I say cabbage?

Farts. I hate cabbage because it allows certain people I knew to brew absolute monster napalm trumps very quickly.

12. Are you emotional?

I am very emotional but I only display about 10% of my inner turmoil to the outside world.

13. Have you ever counted to 1,000?

Only when suffering from insomnia in the dim and distant past. I seem to recall that it didn’t work because I was worried about how you could fit 1,000 sheep in a single field without harming them.

14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?

I’m a licker.

15. Do you like your hair?

See the answer to question (1) and also numerous posts on the subject. I hate it. I hate it so much that I would shave it all off – if Mrs PM would let me.

16. Do you like yourself?

No – I LOVE myself. I am the best person on the planet.

17. Would you go out to eat with George W. Bush?

No. I like to dine with people with intelligence.

18. What are you listening to right now?

“Enter Sandman” by Metallica. My eldest lad is playing “Guitar Hero Metallica” as I type.

19. Are your parents strict?

My parents were very strict – particularly my mother. Thankfully by the age of sixteen I was independent enough to ignore her.

20. Would you go sky diving?

I am terrified of heights. What do you think?

21. Do you like cottage cheese?

I LOVE cottage cheese. I have been known to eat it straight from the tub. I particularly like it when they add an ingredient to enhance the taste – like curry.

22. Have you ever met a celebrity?

I have met Richard O’Brien, the writer of the Rocky Horror Show and presenter of The Crystal Maze. I have a very funny photo somewhere. I have also met three members of Thunder, a very good British rock band, who split up recently sadly.

23. Do you rent movies often?

I have no need to. We have Sky Movies.

24. Is there anything sparkly in the room you're in?

Yes. There is a dreadful lamp that Mrs PM bought. “Don’t you just love this?” she said as she presented it to me. “No – I hate it”, I replied. “Tough!” she said. Her friends love it too. Why do certain women have such bad taste?

25. How many countries have you visited?

The current count is 22. I will be visiting Iceland in August to make that 23.

26. Have you made a prank phone call?

Yes – as a kid. I sent a taxi to somebody’s house for a laugh.

27. Ever been on a train?

Of course. The last train journey I had was a trip from Manchester to London earlier this year.

28. Brown or white eggs?

Either - I don’t care. I don’t eat egg shell.

29. Do you have a cell-phone?

I have two – a personal one and a work one that is right next to me (I pray it doesn’t ring).

30. Do you use Chap Stick?

I had to Google that so the answer is definitely no.

31. Do you own a gun?

I have a water pistol to spray strange cats that sneak into our house – does that count?

32. Can you use chop sticks?

I have spent a year of my life in Hong Kong. Of course I can.

33. Who are you going to be with tonight?

I am with Mrs PM and my two lads.

34. Are you too forgiving?

Yes. If I’m angry at somebody I will eventually forgive them, although to be fair, nobody has done anything really bad to me.

35. Ever been in love?

Many times but the only recent target of my affections is Mrs PM.

36. What is your best friend(s) doing tomorrow (or the next soonest week day)?

I have absolutely no idea and I am not going to phone them up to find out.

37. Ever have cream puffs?

Yes – once or twice.

38. Last time you cried?

When Jasper sank his teeth into my feet.

39. What was the last question you asked?

“Can you turn the volume down on Guitar Hero? I’m trying to concentrate.”

40. Favorite time of the year?

Summer – definitely.

41. Do you have any tattoos?

No. I would hate to tattoo something to my skin and then change my mind.

42. Are you sarcastic?


43. Have you ever seen The Butterfly Effect?

Yes – a great film. I love weird movies like that.

44. Ever walked into a wall?

Only when drunk many years ago. I don’t recall the incident but there were witnesses.

45. Favorite color?

I would say blue – probably turquoise.

46. Have you ever slapped someone?

Not for many years. I have been slapped though, particularly in my youth.

47. Is your hair curly?

My hair is horribly curly (see answers above).

48. What was the last CD you bought?

“Deadwing” by Porcupine Tree: progressive rock at its very best.

49. Do looks matter?

They are important but they don’t matter that much. Thankfully Mrs PM doesn’t think that looks matter.

50. Could you ever forgive a cheater?

Absolutely not.

51. Is your phone bill sky high?

Not compared with Mrs PM’s.

52. Do you like your life right now?

I’m pretty content at the moment even though I rant about a lot of things. I am happy – honest.

53. Do you sleep with the TV on?

I fall asleep in front of the TV sometimes – usually when it is something I want to watch.

54. Can you handle the truth?

It depends what the truth is. I’m pretty good at guessing the truth to be honest.

55. Do you have good vision?

No – I wear varifocals and I am blind without them.

56. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people?

I don’t hate anybody.

57. How often do you talk on the phone?

At work I talk a lot. Outside work not an awful lot – unless chatting to a woman of course – particularly my sisters.

58. The last person you held hands with?

That was Mrs PM yesterday.

59. What are you wearing?

A red T-shirt, jeans, socks, underpants, my glasses and a content grin as “Seek and Destroy” comes onto Guitar Hero Metallica.

60. What is your favourite animal?

I love dogs – but if Mrs PM is reading this – then cats (to be fair I love both cats and dogs).

61. Where was your favorite picture taken at?

My favourite picture of me? I hate seeing photos of myself but I would probably say a portrait of myself and Mrs PM on our recent cruise. It was airbrushed and makes me look quite young (even though I do anyway). I might post it for a laugh later.

62. Can you hula hoop?

Absolutely not.

63. Do you have a job?

Yes – I swear at computers for a living.

64. What was the most recent thing you bought?

I spent loads of money in the supermarket yesterday.

65. Have you ever crawled through a window?

Yes, when I locked myself out of the house as a child. It was tiny and I had to smash glass to get in. My parents were livid.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Exit Light - Enter Night

My parents always loved me, of that I am certain.

However, my dad had a slightly mischievous personality and used it to scare the crap out of me when I was a child.

Sadly I have inherited this trait and have taken it to new levels – just ask Mrs PM and my two lads.

Anyway, allow me to tell you how my father, the man who loved me, was responsible for scaring me half to death as a child.

Parents are generally wonderful people who build a found a foundation for our lives. Sometimes they use their own lives as a blueprint to construct a basis for their children to take those first independent steps into the wilderness that is adult life, directing them in the general direction of prosperity and arming them with the tools and equipment to survive.

There are times, however, when our parents, for one reason or another, sow seeds of fear into the minds of their children. Maybe they do it for fun. Perhaps it is to prepare them for the difficulties and reality of life outside childhood.

I only know that a child’s imagination can misinterpret their parents’ words, creating an entity that, in extreme cases can stalk them throughout their lives.

There is enough to fear in the world without inventing horrible creatures, nightmarish characters and bizarre monsters to intensify that fear exponentially.

I have vivid memories of being a child in a cold terraced house in Walsall and my father tucking me into bed. It was winter and the temperature was so cold that I could see my breath. There was no central heating. To keep myself warm, I wore thick pyjamas and my bed was covered in layer upon layer of blankets. Within ten minutes of crawling into the mound of bedding, I was embraced in wonderful warmth and safely tucked in so that nothing could get me. And then my loving father uttered a sentence that chilled me to the bone:

“Stay under the covers or Jack Frost will come after your fingers and toes.”

And then he left the room, turning off the light and leaving me in total darkness, before I had a chance to utter the words:

“Who is Jack Frost?”

Instead of succumbing to sleep in my cosy bed, I hid under the covers, shivering despite the warmth, wondering what kind of man would come into my bedroom in the middle of the night and attack my extremities. If my father's plan was to make me sleep, he made a colossal error of judgement.

After a dreadful night’s sleep, I asked my father the next day who this crazy pervert called “Jack Frost” was.

He told me that Jack Frost was the man who made the windows frosty in winter and that if naughty children messed about in the middle of a cold winter’s night, he would nip their toes.

I was horrified and suffered several sleepless nights. On one occasion, I swear there was something in the room and screamed until my lungs were empty. My father came rushing in, switched on the light and said: “What’s the matter?”

“J J J J Jack F F F F Frost is in the room,” I stammered.

“Don’t be so bloody stupid,” he said. “Now go to sleep.”

I’m certain that his reasons for introducing me to Jack Frost were not malicious; he probably wanted a peaceful night and thought that Jack Frost would have the desired effect. Unfortunately he forgot how vivid a child’s imagination can be – mine is particularly strange and vivid and it worked overtime.

It wasn’t just Jack Frost; he told me about the Sandman.

Why would a man who loved me, tell me about another imaginary creature who somehow breaks into my room every night and throws sand in my face to send me to sleep? On cold winter nights, I had to contend with Jack Frost and the Sandman invading my room. I started to ask myself questions like:

What if the Sandman had arrived first and sent me sleep before I was fully tucked in and left my feet dangling outside the bed at the mercy of the perverted Jack Frost?

I know my father loved me but whatever his intentions, he couldn’t possibly have dreamed about the sheer terror he introduced into my life for a good few weeks. I got over it because after many sleepless nights it was plain that neither the Sandman nor Jack Frost actually appeared in my room.

Another nasty creature he introduced was the Bogeyman.

I am not talking about the weirdo at work described here.

I am talking about yet another monstrous beast that preys on naughty children. My parents used to say, again just before bedtime:

“You had better behave yourself or the Bogeyman will come to get you.”

And this resulted in even more sleepless nights. I’m surprised I slept at all as a child.

The Bogeyman was probably the scariest of all of the creatures I was warned about. The Sandman and Jack Frost were people, as far as I could tell. They were sick, perverted and fearsome but at least they looked human. The Bogeyman was a formless beast that nobody could describe.

“What does the Bogeyman look like?” I asked my dad as he was about to switch off the light.

“Nobody knows,” said my dad menacingly.

I almost crapped the bed.

To me that meant that if you were unfortunate to be visited by the Bogeyman then you would not live to tell the tale. I hid under my bed clothes and shook with terror. When I finally did get to sleep, I had nightmares. I still remember to this day the terrible recurring dream I used to have about being chased down a tunnel by a huge humanoid monster with a massive white head and huge red eyes.

The problem with the Bogeyman was the fact that I had nothing to guide me. Consequently every single shadow in the room was the Bogeyman; every single noise was the Bogeyman.

My imagination ran amok, resulting in huge terrifying monsters being created within my dreams. I saw beasts with massive sharp teeth, huge claws, bloodshot eyes and vile, terrifying bodies. I had a lot of nightmares.

I got my own back by screaming like a banshee in the middle of this nightmare and waking up my parents. I recall my mum running into the room one night and saying: “What’s wrong, love?”

I had a bad case of the “yips” and could barely get my words out.

I’ll bet you are wondering what the “yips” are, aren’t you, dear reader?

A comedian, Billy Connolly I think, coined the term. It describes the sensation when you have been crying so much that you can barely catch your breath and when you speak you take sharp involuntary breaths.

“Thuh thuh thuh thuh thuh the Buh Buh Buh Buh Bogey muh muh muh muh man wuh wuh wuh wuh wuh was ih ih ih ih ih ih ih in muh muh muh muh muh muh my ruh ruh ruh ruh ruh ruh ruh room.” I yipped.

My mum was livid and not just because it was 3 o’clock in the morning. She comforted me and told me, in soothing tones, that there was no such thing as a Bogeyman. I didn’t believe her.

And then I heard her bellowing at my dad in the other room for “scaring the hell out of him”.

As I grew older, my fear dissipated despite my dad’s attempts to frighten me half to death (you can read about one such episode involving vampires here ) and I found myself becoming fascinated with all things that go bump in the night.

I am drawn to creepy horror films. I’m not talking about those dreadful films with axe wielding maniacs that seem to delight in hacking teenagers to bits. I am talking about genuinely frightening films that stretch your imagination to its limits.
Moreover, I love a really good horror novel.

I have been known to read these stories late at night and struggle to sleep as a result – even now.

Take “The Dark” by James Herbert. The synopsis on the back cover of the book describes “a malignant power”, “physical blackness” and “unstoppable evil”.

I read this book before I was married. I was twenty two years old, living alone in a small flat in Manchester and I recall lying in bed at around midnight, totally engrossed in a particularly tense scene. I switched the light off and tried to sleep. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim room, I looked across at the wardrobe and noticed something odd. The wardrobe was white and clearly visible – except it wasn’t white at all – a black shadow was cast over it.

My imagination screamed at me.

“Come on Dave,” I thought. “You are an adult. You’re eyes are deceiving you.”

I studied the wardrobe and, sure enough, it was obscured by an amorphous black shadow. My mind drifted into the past, remembering the time when I thought I saw the ghost of my father.

Even further back, I started to recall the fear of vampires and the time that I convinced myself Count Dracula was in my room, his red eyes boring into mine as he prepared to feast on my blood.

Even further back, I remembered the Bogeyman and the recurring nightmare that I was being chased by a horrifying monster down an endless tunnel. Images of Jack Frost appeared and I pulled my toes under the duvet, for fear that the shadow was going to lunge forward and attack my extremities. I kind of hoped it was the Sandman – at least if he were to throw sand in my eyes, I might actually get some sleep.

The shadow didn’t move at all. It waited there, teasing me, taunting me, terrifying me.

I had no choice but to reach out and switch on the light. My heart was pounding more than Neil Peart’s drum kit during a Rush drum solo.

I reached for the bedside lamp and promptly knocked it on the floor.

What should I do?

Should I hide under the duvet and hope that it scared the shadow?

Should I be brave and get out of bed and face the beast?

To be honest, the idea that a duvet will act as protection against a hellish fiend is as preposterous as the concept of supernatural monsters actually existing. What use would a duvet be if Count Dracula decided to break down my door and use my neck as chewing gum? How would a duvet protect me against a Bogeyman with ten inch teeth, claws that can rip skin from bone and who delights in dismembering young children?
I went for the light.

I leapt out of bed and fumbled around in the dark, almost crippling myself as I fell over the bedside table. It seemed like an eternity until I got the light on – enough time even for a crippled old vampire to hobble over to my bed and gum suck my jugular.

The room was bathed in glorious bright light.

I stared at the wardrobe.

What do you think I saw?

The bloody door was open. I almost kicked myself in frustration. Why? Because I remember opening the bloody thing. I just forgot to close it.

What an utter arse I was.

These days I am much braver and far less inclined to crap myself because of my imagination.

Mrs PM on the other hand is not. She is fine as long as she can forget whatever scares her. And I am just as bad as my dad was; I delight in scaring her half to death.

We were watching “The Ring” a very scary remake of an even scarier Japanese film. A work colleague (who incidentally reads this blog – sorry Mr T) went to the pictures to see it and was so scared that he couldn’t even say the name of the film; he referred to it as the “R” film.

Anyway, we were watching it at home and, to make the atmosphere totally conducive to the tone of the film, I insisted that we switch off the lights and watch it in the dark.

It scared the buggery out of me and terrified Mrs PM even more. She clung to me like a limpet.

When it came to bedtime, she insisted – no - DEMANDED – that we take one of the cats in to act as protection. I howled with laughter at the image of our fat cat sitting on the bed watching an insane beast tear us limb from limb, staring into those grizzly red eyes as if to say “you’ve had your food – can you feed me now?”

We lay in bed reading (I was reading a Stephen King novel and she was reading something soft, fluffy and safe) and eventually she started falling asleep.
I turned the light off and, instead of saying “See you tomorrow” I said something else. I don’t know what possessed me to be honest but I said it anyway. I whispered:

“Don’t forget – SHE NEVER SLEEPS”.

It was a quote from the film and it had a dramatic effect. All of the lovely fluffiness from the book that had filled her head making her totally content and happy with life was annihilated as the image of the monstrous girl crawling out of the TV stampeded into her imagination.

YOU UTTER &*%$£*&” she screamed. “I’LL NEVER GET TO SLEEP NOW!!

And she didn’t – at least not for a long time.

Did I regret it? Absolutely – she had a nightmare and woke me up in the middle of the night. Worse, she didn’t speak to me the next day.

“It’s only a film,” I said laughing.

It didn’t work – she simply didn’t see the funny side of it at all.

She did say that she would get me back and I sense that she might.
The truth is, all she needs to do is fire up my imagination and allow it to go beserk.

I’m not going to tell her how to do that.

I just hope she doesn’t read this post.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Where Do I Come From?

There is a question that strikes fear and terror into the hearts of most parents today. That question is:

Where do I come from?

Many parents will stare at their five year old cherub, whose innocent, beatific face is beaming at them, and feel the urge to run screaming from the room. Most people will react instinctively and blurt out a veiled explanation involving birds, bees and storks. Others will stutter and stumble and then blind their child with science. Some will probably say “Mind your own business” and walk out of the room.

And there are those that will invent a preposterous tale about fantasy creatures.

When I consider the miracle that is the creation of life, I am simply shocked that parents tell their children such lies about this beautiful concept. I heard a few of these bizarre untruths when I was an innocent five year old and frankly one or two of them scared me to death.

The first lie I was told was “the stork brought you”.

“What’s a stork?” was my next question.

If you think about it, telling a child that they were carried to their parents by a big bird is an awful thing to do.

Just think about it for a second.

When my mother told me that I was delivered by a bird, I asked my granddad what a stork looked like when I next saw him. This was a relatively easy question for him and one that wasn’t accompanied by the embarrassment that sex invoked – he didn’t know what had prompted this strange question.

My granddad loved my inquisitive nature and so he took my hand and led me to his bookcase, full of dusty old tomes on a variety of subjects. He selected an encyclopaedia of birds, lifting it from the shelf, blowing away the cobwebs before opening it on the table. With me perched on his knee, he flicked through the book and opened it at a page with a picture of a huge ugly bird.

A stork is a big wading bird that can grow up to five feet tall and has a wing span of six to seven feet. To a five year old child that is absolutely huge. Even worse, it has a huge pointed bill and long skinny legs.

So imagine how that hideous, winged brute looked to a young child like me. Something like this:

I recoiled in horror, particularly when I saw the sharpness of the bill. I had visions of an enormous bird flying over me, staring at me with its black eye, before swooping down towards my naked and helpless form with its monstrous sword like beak ready to pierce my flesh. My imagination ran amok.

Would I be stabbed?

Would it open its mouth and swallow me before somehow regurgitating me into my mother’s stomach?

“What’s wrong?” asked my granddad.

I told him what my mother had said and suddenly his enthusiasm for my questions vanished, only to be replaced by the primeval fear that had gripped my mother when I asked that first fateful question. So what did my granddad do? What did this wonderful old man, whom I loved and depended on say to me to appease the situation?

He lied to me. This was the second lie.

“The stork brings you wrapped in a sheet,” he said. “It’s just like a postman. It flies along and delivers you to your mother. It drops you down the chimney.”

His lie had made the situation far worse. My weird imagination, which was almost as crazy as it is today, flew into overdrive, carrying me into new realms of horror. The massive revolting bird in the book, somehow smothered me into a sheet as a baby, and then whisked me up in the air, carrying me to my mother’s house. When it arrived, instead of soaring down, knocking on the door and handing me to my mother, the feathered beast simply dropped me from a great height, into the chimney.

What if it had missed the chimney?

What if the chimney hadn’t been wide enough and I had got stuck?

What it I had bounced off the chimney and rolled down the roof?

Would my mother be there at the bottom of the chimney to catch me?

What if she forgot and I landed in the fireplace?

Would the stork have warned her that I was coming?

What if there was a roaring great fire waiting to incinerate me when I reached the bottom?

I was distraught. My poor granddad and mother wondered what happened. Both of them had forgotten how children interpret the facts that bombard them in the first ten years of their lives. Imagination is a devious thing and each person on the planet interprets facts differently. And as I have said before – I have a very weird imagination.

As I stared at the stork and pictured myself being kidnapped by the thing, another question occurred to me:

Where did the stork get me from?

Surely I must have existed before the stork got me.

I asked my granddad and by now he was wading through a mine-filled quagmire of deep panic. My granddad was one of the most articulate men I have ever known, yet I had reduced him to a gibbering stuttering wreck.

I imagined a huge commune of babies lying there in blissful ignorance in a creepy location that was a bit like a postal sorting office, until an army of storks arrived and selected one each (or two or three if the poor parents were lucky enough to have twins or triplets). In my imagination, when the storks swooped down, I pictured babies putting up a fight but being subdued by white cloth.

And then I thought; who put the babies there in the first place?

My granddad had an ace up his sleeve for this one. His distraught face suddenly changed as dread evaporated. He smiled benignly and said: “Babies come from God.”

As far as I was concerned, that was it; question answered. My granddad was a strict Roman Catholic and managed to pat himself on the back for answering my question and also sew the seeds of religion in my mind in one fell swoop.

I’ve often wondered where the stork story originates. As a five year old child, I saw a stork as a monster; my opinion has changed.

Now that I have (sort of) grown up, I see them for what they are; graceful creatures and very beautiful. The stork depicted in cartoons carrying babies, is in fact the white stork, a pure white bird with black feathers on the wing. In flight it is a majestic sight, so the symbolism of this lovely bird carrying a fragile young baby in a sheet does conjure a charming and people image. Furthermore, the stork is seen as a symbol of happiness, luck and fidelity and, because they sometimes nest on chimneys, could easily lead to the popular tale that this wonderful bird is responsible for delivering a child to a mother.

Nevertheless, one question remains unanswered for me, even today:

Why would parents and grandparents go to such great lengths to avoid answering a very simple question?

I suppose, considering this for a second, that telling a young child exactly how a baby is created is probably enough to traumatise the poor blighter for a good few years.

Honesty, in this particular case, is definitely not the best policy.

I can imagine the look on a child’s face if a parent to go into the finer details of sexual intercourse, not to mention the next part, where you have to describe an army of tadpoles and an egg.

When I discovered for myself what happened, as a teenager, I was shocked but amazed.

The creation of a human being is a miracle. There is simply no other way to describe it. Let’s skip the act itself (for now at least), and move onto the aftermath of the sweaty, post-coital activities of the new players on the stage; the sperm and the egg.

During sex, a man unleashes an army of up to 200 million sperm. Think about that for a second.

200 million sperm.

A single sperm resembles a tadpole, complete with a head, a neck, a middle bit and a tail. As soon as this army of sperm are released, they enter a race to reach their ultimate goal, their Holy Grail if you like. Can you imagine 200 million tiny little tadpoles swimming through the cervix and into the uterus, battling away with each other until they reach the egg?

However, this is no ordinary race; it is a quest full of hurdles and dangers that Indiana Jones would think twice about embarking upon.

First of all, the female immunity defences immediately target the army that has just invaded the body, resulting in a huge number of them dying really quickly.

Eventually, as the army races towards its objective, the number is reduced further, so that by the time they reach the egg, there are only a couple of hundred left. That’s almost 200 million sperm that died on the way.

Finally, one lucky sperm manages to penetrate and fertilise the egg, presumably leaving a whole bunch of totally pissed off sperm hanging around outside waiting to die.

This means that you and I, dear reader, are created as the result of an epic struggle of one unbelievably heroic sperm winning a race of life and death against 200 million others.

How brilliant is that?

It makes me wonder what would have happened if the leading sperm had somehow tripped up or incapacitated on the way. Would I have been a different person? I would assume so; I would guess that perhaps my appearance and personality would be different in a subtle way.

I could have been a girl. Imagine that if my manly heroic sperm had lost the race to another equally heroic but altogether different sperm that turned me into a woman.

Basically what I’m saying is that it is an absolute miracle that you are the person you are and that I am the person that I am.

I could have been so much different; I might not even have made it. What would have happened if, for example, all of the sperm had faltered and failed on the occasion of my conception?

Perhaps I wouldn’t have existed at all. Perhaps you would be reading some other drivel instead of this post.

I can sort of understand that explaining the miracle of birth to a small child is not only a question of embarrassment. Most parents would struggle to cope with the mind-boggling enormity of it all.

I’m awestruck just thinking about it now. Any number of factors could have prevented my conception resulting in a different person being here – or no person at all.

Perhaps I might have been a handsome bulldog of a man with charm and intelligence, living a luxurious life in a colossal house on a sun drenched tropical beach, with so much money that I used it as wallpaper for my billiard room. I might even have started a blog called the Plastic Billionaire or the Plastic Hawaiian.

Knowing my luck, I would have ended up as a Jeremy Kyle contestant, pouring out my troubles to a drooling audience of car crash TV fans.

For that alone, I thank my lucky stars that the correct conditions prevailed to produce the author of this nonsense you are reading.

May the stork be with you.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Hoarder

I am a hoarder.

There I’ve said it. I didn’t need to go on the Jeremy Kyle to tell a bunch of strangers who like car crash TV. I didn’t tell the world that I have come to terms with my problem because of some weird personality trait dictating that I should wash my dirty clothes in public.

Instead, I confessed it in a blog to a handful of readers, a lot of whom I have never met, most of whom probably think that I am some kind of eccentric oddball.

I feel much better now.

Mrs PM knows that I am a hoarder and she hates it. She is transient by nature and devotes all of her attention to whatever takes her interest during that fleeting period.

Take music for example. At the moment, she is devoted to The Black Eyed Peas and Lady Ga Ga and she will continue to be so until she gets bored of them. And then she will ditch them. Not only will she ditch them, she will also dispose of any evidence that she was remotely interested in them. The CD’s will find their way onto Ebay and into the hearts of any crazy fool dumb enough to buy them. To Mrs PM, she has lived for the moment and that moment will be well and truly over – so she will obliterate them from her life with absolute maximum prejudice.

This is her mantra: “It is so over!”

You may have heard me quote that mantra before when I have had to deal with her desire to throw out my clothes.

They say that opposites attract; in the case of hoarding we are poles apart.

As far as I am concerned, if a band enters my radar and I love them, I will buy the CD and I will keep it – forever. It has earned its place in my affections and therefore deserves a place in my life and in my cupboard. I will never, ever get rid of it.

I also have the same attitude to other things too. My collection of books, rock magazines, clothes, gadgets, university notes, football programmes, DVD’s – anything that I like.

Mrs PM hates it.

I have already told you about how, when we got together, she annihilated my wardrobe, throwing out all of my shirts and leaving me without clothes.

“You need to buy new clothes,” she said.

“How? I haven’t got any clothes to wear to actually go and buy anything. Do you want me to walk around the Trafford Centre in my underpants?”

“Not THOSE underpants – they’re SO over.”

Thankfully, she allowed me to wear some unfashionable jeans and a T-shirt in order to buy a whole new set of clothes.

I allowed her to get away with it, simply because we were in the honeymoon period and I wanted to impress her. She clearly didn’t feel the same way I did. I was a formless blob of plasticine to mould into the man she desired.

Of course, needless to say, I rebelled, as I usually do and revisited my hoarding past. It was a dirty hidden secret that I relished.

And this is where the problems began.

You see it is really difficult to hoard without keeping it a secret. My collection of CD’s outgrew the shelving that accommodated them. My wardrobe was only a finite size and every new shirt that I bought had to be crammed into an ever decreasing amount of free space. I bought yet more books and, like the CD’s the number grew too large to store on a bookshelf.

Mrs PM discovered my dirty little secret. She was pretty good about it.

“Let’s have a massive clear out. You can start with your wardrobe then you can move on to those paperbacks. And when you’ve finished with that lot we can look at you CD’s.”

“You ARE joking!” I retorted.

“No!” she replied.

Thus our power struggle began.

I know where my tendency to hoard comes from; my mother. She is the world champion at hoarding. Why does she hoard?

I have a theory about that.

My parents were both born just before World War II and this, as you can imagine, was a very difficult time in terms of acquiring basic necessities. Even after the war was over, the British government continued to ration supplies. People ran out of everything and consequently began to stockpile even the most fundamental bits and pieces.

As a child I remember all four of my grandparents telling me that I shouldn’t waste anything. If there was a use for it then it should be kept. My mum told me the same. It was a mentality born out of rationing. Few things were available so when something passed your way, you kept it.

I remember when my ex-wife’s grandmother died at the age of ninety six. She had lived a fabulously long life, surviving two world wars and more than her fair share of hardship. When the time came to clear out her house, she had hoarded all sorts of things; she had boxes of brown paper bags; bags full of paper clips, elastic bands, pens, pencils, notebooks, thimbles, cotton, plugs, fuses, cutlery, plates, books, newspaper, cotton, plasters, plastic containers, toothpicks, matches, kitchen foil, string – you name it, she had it.

And she wasn’t alone. When my mum’s parents died, we found money in boxes scattered in hiding places throughout the house, under steps, behind skirting boards. My grandfather trusted nobody and hoarded all sorts of junk. He built his own shed and it was literally overflowing with nails, screws, tacks, tools and all sorts of hardware. He could have opened a shop. His wife, my grandmother, was similar. Like my ex-wife’s grandmother, she kept bags and boxes of everything that we take for granted.

The mantra was “You never know when you might need some string” or in fact anything that could conceivably be useful.

Unfortunately my mother shares this mantra and her small house is overflowing with junk. I spend a lot of time telling her that she can and should get rid of some of her stuff but she repeats her mother’s mantra and looks at me as if I am a particularly stupid primeval swamp creature.

One day, I visited her and she said “I’ve bought a new fridge.”

“Fabulous,” I said. “I think you needed one. That old one was falling apart and it was too big for your kitchen.”

I walked into the kitchen to look at the new fridge and saw it standing there, nice and shiny and absolutely full of food. Next to it was the battered old fridge.

“Didn’t they take it away?” I asked.

“No – I’m keeping it.”

I opened it and, sure enough, it too was full of food.

I was speechless. “You’ve got enough food here to feed the British Army and have some left over for the Americans.”

“You never know when it might come in useful,” she said.

This happened two years ago. My mother is also the most stubborn woman who has ever lived and she still owns two fridges full of food.

I am desperate to go there with the world’s biggest skip and have a massive spring clean – but she is prepared. She won’t let me in the house unless I sign a declaration in blood stating that I will not remove a single thing from within her walls.

It’s ridiculous.

Mrs PM thinks that I have inherited this hoarding gene.

She is wrong. I do hoard but the things I keep really are necessary for my life and my sanity. I refuse to discard any CD’s and the vast majority of my books, as well as many other things.

Take my scruffy old leather jacket, for example. It is a masterpiece. I have worn it for every single rock concert that I have been to since 1985. It is twenty five years old and still going strong (though Mrs PM will allow me to wear it if I am with her). That jacket has character and is part of my history.

Here it is:

It’s a beauty isn’t it? It’s seen some of the biggest bands on the planet: Rush, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Deep Purple, The Foo Fighters, Metallica, Judas Priest, Guns’n’Roses… the list is endless. How could I possibly get rid of it?

Mrs PM thinks I want to keep it because, like my mother, I am stubborn.

Despite cementing my feet to the ground and refusing to budge, Mrs PM has worn me down over less important stuff and I have ended up having a massive clear out over the years.

However, I am wise to her motives.

Her “clearouts” are getting more and more frequent and she is trying to shame me into giving things away to charity, accusing me of being a heartless self-centred oaf when I refuse. I have started to give in and, with tears in my eyes, sorted out massive piles of stuff, filling bags and lugging them to the local Oxfam shop.

What she doesn’t know, however, is that I have quite literally started to hoard junk. I keep magazines, newspapers, flyers and all sorts of old tat. That way, when she wants a clearout (which are now becoming so frequent now that they are every two weeks), I simply throw away the junk that I have hoarded and have no emotional attachment to. I fill bags full of crap that I really do not want and then the stuff I really do want to keep is saved to live another day.

My fiendish plan is working. Please don’t tell her. I couldn’t bear to part with my beloved leather jacket.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

The Eighty Meme

I thought I’d waste a bit of time with some Sunday Stealing . Today’s effort is the second of a two part meme called the Eighty Meme.

I don’t like doing things by halves so I’ve opted to do the two together.

Here we go – hold on tight because this is gonna be scary …

1. What curse word do you use the most?

I am afraid that I can’t repeat it here. Much to my shame, I use a word that rhymes with “duck”. I wish that I didn’t but I do. I have tried to wean myself off it by using comedy swear words like “Shazbat” and “Cripes”. It doesn’t work.

2. Do you own an iPod?

No – but I want one. At the moment I have an IRiver 40Gb mp3 jukebox but there is an iPod Touch 64Gb that has many features that my brick doesn’t. However, I am wondering about getting an iPhone too and, being an indecisive Libran, I can’t make up my mind.

3. What person do you talk to on the phone the most?

Probably Mrs PM – or any number of customers at work.

4. Do you still remember the first person you kissed?

Yes. She was an Irish girl called Brid and we used to hold up comics during playtime and steal kisses behind them. I think I was probably about six. I started early.

5. Do you remember where you were on 11/9/01?

I was at work. A very sad day when nobody at our company did any work whatsoever.

6. What was the last movie you watched?

The last movie I saw was “BrĂ¼no” starring Sacha Baron Cohen (creator of Borat and Ali G). It is incredibly funny and extremely shocking.

7. Has anyone ever called you lazy?

Yes – just about everybody I know has called me lazy at some point in my life. Why? Because I AM lazy.

8. Do you ever take medication to help you fall asleep?

No. I explore my imagination by plotting fantastic science fiction space operas. I am currently working on a Dr Who/Star Trek crossover. It will never see the light of day and the plot is so convoluted that I actually fall asleep while trying to work out the intricacies of the plot. One day, such epic crap may actually even make it to the internet.

9. Has anyone told you a secret this week?

The cat told me that he can speak English and understands every word I say. I am sworn to secrecy though.

10. What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex?

Boobs. I am sorry but I am a man and I simply cannot help myself.

11. What are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to a trip to Iceland in August to celebrate Mrs PM’s fortieth birthday. I am looking forward to having a word with that bloody volcano that caused mayhem earlier this year.

12. Do you own any band t-shirts?

Not any more. The last one I bought was at a Guns’n’Roses concert in the early 90’s. It had the cover of “Use Your Illusion II” on it – the best album they ever did. Sadly, as with most gig T-shirts, it died a few years later.

13. What will you be doing in one hour?

I will be posting this meme and probably watching extra time in the Spain v Paraguay World Cup Quarter Final.

14. Is anyone in love with you?

I am pretty sure that Mrs PM is in love with me. Why else would she put up with me and my bizarre habits? Apart from that I don’t know – there might be others, like Megan Fox for example. However, if Megan really were in love with me, I would have to let her down gently.

15. Last time you cried?

That’s a good question – probably when Jasper, my hungry fat bloater of a moggy, attacked my bare foot, thinking it was food.

16. Are you on a desktop computer or a laptop?

I started this post on the desktop but am now on the laptop because I am multi-tasking (typing and watching the Spain v Paraguay World Cup Quarter Final – which has now become very interesting because Paraguay have just been awarded a penalty. Hang on …Bloody hell – it’s been saved). Oh no – another penalty, this time to Spain … hang on again … GOAL!!! Bloody Hell – he has to take it again – talk about drama – SAVED!!!! CRIPES (see I CAN control my swearing).

17. Are you currently wanting any piercings or tattoos?

Absolutely not! The thought of anything piercing my skin makes me want to vomit!

18. Would you ever date anyone covered in tattoos?

Absolutely, if I were young, free and single that is. Some of the best looking female rock singers have fabulous tattoos.

19. What were you doing before this?

Watching the first half of Spain v Paraguay.

20. When is the last time you slept on the floor?

Years ago at a party. I don’t do that any more.

21. How many hours of sleep do you need to function?

I can get by with six hours but I really need around seven and a half hours. I am that predictable. If I go to bed at midnight I wake up at 07:30 give or take five minutes.

22. Do you eat breakfast daily?

Of course. I can’t function without food.

23. Are your days fast-paced?

Sometimes work can be a little hectic but normally I like to be lazy and drift through the day, taking my time doing the things that need to be done. Why hurry? I do enough of that at work.

24. What did you do last night?

Mrs PM and I went for a meal and a few beers in the Northern Quarter in Manchester city centre. There are some crackingly weird bars there.

25. Do you use sarcasm?

Of course – particularly on trips to America.

26. How old will you be turning on your next birthday?

I will be forty eight in October.

27. Are you picky about spelling and grammar?

I be very pikky abowt speling and grammmmer. I 8 it wen peepul right badd.

28. Do you get along better with the same sex or the opposite sex?

I get along with both sexes.

29. Do you watch the news?

Yes, with my soapbox at the ready.

30. How did you get one of your scars?

I only have one scar and that is on my hand, when I picked up a knife by the blade when I was in my twenties. What a pillock!

31. Who was the last person to make you mad?

Outside of work it was Jonathan Pearce, the commentator of the football match I am currently watching. In fact, it was about five minutes ago when his blithering nonsense pushed my buttons again. He, like most TV commentators, talk absolute garbage most of the time. Why don’t they just tell us who has the ball instead of waffling and giving us their opinion? I really don’t like Jonathan Perce but he is an absolute gem compared to his equivalent on ITV, one Clive Tyldesley. That man should be gagged.

32. What is the last big thing you purchased?

A 37 inch HD television – the one I am currently watching in fact.

33. Who would you want to be tied to for 24 hours?

Megan Fox. No – only kidding. Mrs PM, of course.

34. What is a rumour someone has spread about you?

None that I recall. I would like somebody to spread a rumour that “The Plastic Mancunian” is really Tom Cruise – that would invite some interesting comments.

35. What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator?

I would press the alarm button and try to have a conversation with the other people trapped with me. If I were alone, I would probably sit down and continue plotting my space opera.

36. T or F: All’s fair in love and war?

False. I have suffered in love and it definitely isn’t fair.

37. Do you know how to use some words correctly, but not know the meaning?

No – I am a walking dictionary.

38. Do you know which US states don’t use Daylight Savings Time?

Of course not. I am British not American.

39. Do you want a bright yellow ‘06 mustang?

Why? Have you got one for sale?

40. What’s something you’ve always wanted?

I’ve always wanted to go to Japan and South America.

41. Would you rather swim in the ocean or a lake?

It depends. I don’t want to set foot in the sea in Australia because there are beasts in there that can give you a horrible lingering painful death. In a safe place I prefer the ocean.

42. Do you wear a lot of black?

Yes – I am the man in black, much to Mrs PM’s disgust.

43. Describe your hair:

My hair is blond with one or two grey hairs. It is alive, bushy and hates me. I cannot predict what position it will have glued itself into whenever I wake up and am usually horrified. It takes me hours to control it. I hate it. I want to be bald but Mrs PM won’t let me shave it all off.

44. Where is/are your best friend(s)?

My best friend is sitting next to me on the settee. It’s my fat cat Jasper. Only kidding, it is Mrs PM and she is here too.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Grow Old Disgracefully

I’ve been lucky when it comes to growing old. People who meet me for the first time are shocked when I reveal my age, some of them visibly.

It’s been great.

I have a full head of hair and a young complexion, thanks to my sensitive skin that normally turns to fire when exposed to a little sunlight. Lessons have been learned along the way and I no longer spend any time in the sun if I can help it. Instead I sit in the shade and am mocked by those wrinkly old sun-worshippers with leathery skin and I simply don’t care – I am reaping the benefits of avoiding the sun.

I have a lot of friends who are younger than me and some of them are jealous. One friend said just a few days ago:

“I’m nearly forty and I look about five years older than you. How old are you now? Forty seven? You make me sick!”

Looking younger than my age has made me act a little younger too. I have been told that I can sometimes behave very immaturely (usually by my two teenage lads) and to be honest I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I have often said that I am a middle-aged goat with a teenager trying to escape from within. You may find that description a little peculiar but it is totally accurate.

And the good news is that by looking so young, I have been able to get away with it.

Until now.

Something has happened and I am a little shocked.

Before I reveal all, let me tell you about a little argument that I had with Mrs PM.

Some background first:

Age milestones can be traumatic – I know, I’ve been through a few myself.

My twentieth birthday was horrible. I was at university and I realised that I was no longer a teenager; all of a sudden I was supposed to start acting like a grown up human being. After a couple of pints I thought to myself “Bollocks to that!” and so began my battle with age.

On my thirtieth birthday I refused to bow to the pressure of settling down and continued to behave like an idiotic young arse despite people my age telling me that I was acting like a juvenile imbecile.

On my fortieth birthday I really struggled to cope with on-coming middle age and beat myself up daily in the months leading up to the big day, compensating for middle age by dressing up in young clothes and doing even more stupid things.

Thankfully, I came to my senses and grew up a little. Nevertheless, coming to terms with my age has turned me into an unsympathetic bonehead when it comes to others reaching similar milestones, responding harshly when people have said things like.

“Oh no – I’m old! I’m thirty next week.”

“What do you mean old?” I have replied, oblivious to their trauma. “I tell you what, when you are forty seven like me then you can start to bloody worry about your age. Thirty! THIRTY!!! What’s wrong with you? You’re still a child! No – you’re a BABY! It’s been so long since I’ve been thirty that I’ve forgotten what it felt like. Thirty – honestly. Do me a favour and go and moan about it to somebody who is twenty five. That’s the only way you’ll get a sympathetic ear. Worried about being THIRTY? STREWTH!!!”

To be honest, I do feel bad about giving people a hard time when they have wandered off feeling depressed, because I remember being afflicted by the same depression at the time myself.

Unfortunately, my insensitivity towards younger people reaching milestones came back and bit me on the arse yesterday. Why? Because Mrs PM is forty this year; that’s why we had an argument.

It started off as such a nice day. I returned home from work and found Mrs PM sitting in the garden, enjoying a wonderfully sunny day.

“Shall we eat out?” she said.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Let’s go the pub and have dinner in the beer garden!”

We strolled to one of our local pubs and were enjoying a wonderful meal with a pint or two of the landlord’s finest ale in the lovely June sunshine, when the subject of age reared its ugly head. The conversation went something like this:

MRS PM: I’m forty in August.

PM: I know.

MRS PM: I don’t want to be forty. I’m slightly perturbed about it.

PM: It’ll be fine. Nothing will change. I was forty almost eight years ago. I’m fine.

MRS PM: I remember when you were forty; you were distraught.

PM: Yes, I know I was – but I was stupid.

MRS PM: What do you mean “stupid”?

PM: I mean what I say. I’m quite happy now, all these years later. I don’t know what the problem was. One minute I was thirty nine, the next I was forty. Nothing changed. Nothing dropped off. I didn’t die. I didn’t suddenly become old. I was fine. I am fine. I was a stupid bloody idiot.

MRS PM: You’ll feel the same when you turn fifty.

PM: I can assure you that I won’t. I’m absolutely delighted to be forty seven years old and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m very happy, thank you very much. I don’t know why I was so idiotic.

MRS PM: Well I feel down about it.

PM: Well that’s stupid. I know that everybody who reaches a milestone like that suddenly realises that they are getting old, but so what? Nothing will change. Everybody who worries about it is being daft.

MRS PM: Are you saying that I am stupid?

PM: No – I am saying that you are BEING stupid worrying about it – just like everybody else who worries about such things. I was stupid too.


At this point, a few people started listening in. I think I saw one person go to the local shop to get some popcorn. Of course, I was oblivious. I was on a roll. I was being a total dickhead.

PM: Look, sweetpea, there is nothing to worry about. Think about it. What’s wrong with being forty? What is so different about being forty? You’re not going to become an ugly, fat old bat overnight. If you think you are then you are being stupid.

It was a sunny evening and all of a sudden the atmosphere changed, as if a dark cloud had appeared above. I was oblivious to this because I was in full flow, ranting away about things that I shouldn’t even be pondering.

Sometimes I can be such a moron. I should have stopped; I didn’t.

PM: When a twenty nine year old comes up to me and says “Dave – I’m worried about being thirty”, I just want to scream at them. They are YOUNG at thirty. It’s ridiculous. It’s STUPID.


PM: I’m not calling you stupid. I am saying that you, like me and every other bugger who has beaten themselves up about entering a new decade, deserves a slap to bring them to their senses.

At this point, the audience winced, presumably anticipating the pain to come. I stopped my rant briefly to look into Mrs PM’s eyes.

They were red. They were fiery. She was angry. She was going to kill me.

A little voice popped into my head and said “FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – SHUT UP!!”

So I did.

But it was not over – not by a long way.

MRS PM: HOW DARE YOU CALL ME STUPID!!!! Do you know, you can be right arsehole sometimes and you're being one now.

Were some people applauding?

MRS PM: I know that turning forty won’t change anything …

PM: But …

MRS PM: SHUT UP!!!! I want to be in my thirties. I want to stay young. I don’t want to be forty but I know I will get over it. I just want some sympathy. I don’t know why I bothered trying to get any from you. You are such a pratt! I ask for sympathy and YOU CALL ME STUPID!!

PM: I didn’t call you stupid, I …

MRS PM: SHUT UP!!!! I haven’t finished.

There was definitely some applause and a little mocking laughter. I turned around to see who it was.


At this point I deservedly had to suffer a tirade of abuse. I tried to make amends by smiling and nodding. I endeavoured to reiterate the fact that I didn’t think she was stupid at all but my pleas fell on deaf ears. She lectured me about feelings, age and all sorts of things related to what an uncaring, cold-blooded, heartless, callous and cruel barbarian I could be. Her words struck home and I decided to take one for the team. I sat there and allowed her to chastise me.

And then I switched off.

Her words flowed over me and I tried to filter out the key phrases that would allow me to put my foot in the door and try to regain a place in her affections. I was humble. I hung my head in shame, seeking a gap where I could change the subject. I knew I was beaten.

And then it happened.

MRS PM: Hang on a second. Have you looked in the mirror lately?

The pitch of her voice had changed. She was no longer annoyed with my callous outburst. Moreover, there was a hint of humour in her voice, a hint of mischief – the tables were about to be well and truly turned. I decided that now was the time to lighten the mood with some self-deprecating humour.

PM: Of course, not. I don’t look in the mirror. You know that I am scared of baboons. And if I survive the ordeal I’m worried that the mirror might not. I’ve had enough bad luck over the years.

MRS PM: (now laughing): I think you should look in the mirror.

PM: (now slightly worried): Why?

MRS PM: You’re going grey!

PM: Nonsense.

MRS PM: Honestly – there are flecks of grey in your hair at the side.

PM: Rubbish! When the sun shines on my hair, it looks more blonde – not grey.

MRS PM: I’ll prove it.

PM: How?

The audience had their popcorn at the ready as Mrs PM gently reached into the hair at the side of my head.

PM: OUCH!!!!!

Mrs PM handed a hair to me – a genuine, bona fide grey hair. I was flabbergasted. I was shocked. It had grown out of my head. A bloody great big thick grey hair!!!

Here is the proof:

So you see, ladies and gentlemen, age is finally catching up with me. For those who are wondering what happened after Mrs PM’s fantastic revelation, we walked back home with Mrs PM chuckling to herself as I did my greatest Victor Meldrew impersonation: “I DON’T BELIEVE IT!!”

Mrs PM has forgotten about the trauma of reaching forty because there is now visible evidence that I am a middle-aged git and to her that is funny enough to allow her to forget the approaching milestone - at least for now.

And I can imagine what you are thinking - IT SERVES YOU RIGHT - and you are of course totally correct.

Dear reader, I am no longer the Peter Pan of the blogosphere. My hair, which has irritated me ever since I can remember has now climbed to new heights of annoyance.

But, fear not – I won’t let it bother me. I shall continue to grow old disgracefully – the only problem is that I may now start looking the part.

I no longer have an excuse to act like a pratt.

But one thing’s for sure – I will definitely, definitely, definitely not be buying “Just For Men”.