Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Goodbye 2011



2011 is almost over, which means that it is time to resurrect a meme that I stole a couple of years ago which will help me reflect upon the last twelve months.

Feel free to steal it if you like.

This is quite a long post so just in case you get bored, I will wish you a Happy New Year right at the start, and I hope that 2012 brings all of your dreams to fruition.

Right – here goes – hold your nose and dive right in …

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?

I started learning Spanish. After a holiday to Ibiza I thought that it might be fun to try to at least attempt to communicate in another language. I enrolled in an online course and have actually managed to maintain my momentum (apart from the last week or two thanks to Christmas and a last minute business trip).

Procrastination? I don’t know the meaning of the word.

And I hope to continue in 2012, so much so that I am considering enrolling in a real course at Instituto Cervantes in Manchester. The only thing likely to scupper this is juggling work with study (given that I may end up being out of the country a little more this year).

Hopefully I will prevail. I’ll let you know this time next year.

In the meantime …

Feliz Año Nuevo

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Sort of…

I failed miserably to write that elusive book again but I think I’m going to change my relationship with writing a little. I think a novel is possibly too ambitious given that I am not the world’s best writer and writing fiction is actually quite hard.

However, I have an idea for a non-fiction book. And I think it might be achievable. I’m not going to promise myself that I will write it – but I may have a go.

My other “resolution” was to get fit again. And actually, recently I have started to make some headway, by walking a lot more.

Nevertheless, the bike still taunts me – maybe when the weather improves (where have you read THAT before?).

Of course I shall make resolutions for next year.

Here we go – let’s see whether I manage to achieve them:

(1) At least TRY to write that elusive book.

(2) Learn Spanish to the point where I can talk to Spaniards without a dictionary.

(3) Cycle to work at least twice a week (when the weather improves).

How’s that (he says trying to ignore Captain Paranoia)?

3. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?

This year the penguin suit will not be taken out of the wardrobe. We are going to the Metropolitan pub in West Didsbury for a meal and a disco (or whatever they call that situation where I am dragged up onto the dance floor to make a complete arse of myself in public).

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My ex-wife’s partner died suddenly while Mrs PM and I were away on holiday with the kids in the summer. It was a very traumatic experience and it has changed things a little between W and I (for the better I think). He was a nice guy too and only a couple of years older than I am.

It’s an absolute tragedy.

5. What countries did you visit?

I visited China, Portugal, Spain (Ibiza), Turkey and Switzerland.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

I would like to have more money obviously. The good news is that the house is more or less complete (certainly on the inside) so perhaps Mrs PM and I can start to look at spending it on more enjoyable pursuits instead of investing it all in plaster, wallpaper, paint, carpets, light fittings and furniture.

There is still work to do but at least Mrs PM is now a lot happier with our little house – which makes me happy too – particularly as I simply cannot stand a messy house.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

No dates stand out really.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I think that would have to be maintaining my interest in learning Spanish. I just hope I can continue to do so.

Also, of course, my continued ability to pour forth the utter bilge that you read on this blog, dear reader.

9. What was your biggest failure?

For the third year running – the book. But I may have a new plan for that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes – and I wrote about it in June (read it here). Basically I fell over while running for a bus after a beer festival. What a clumsy idiot I was – and am!

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I’ve not bought anything of significance this year. There were quite a few CD’s added to my collection, which I shall mention later, so I guess, boringly, it will have to be one of those.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Usual answer – the house. Also, my eldest lad has started university thus opening yet another bin into which I can throw away cash.

13. What song will always remind you of 2011?

2011 was a brilliant year for music and I have to say that I bought loads of fabulous CD’s. It would be unfair to mention just one song – so here are my top five songs of 2011:

At number 5 – Joe Satriani – Wormhole Wizards

Joe Satriani is my favourite guitarist in the world – a pure genius. The album Black Holes and Wormhole Wizards is his latest solo album and is up there with his best.

At number 4 – The Foo Fighters – Burning Bridges 

I love the Foos and this year they returned with a magnificent album called Wasting Light. Here is my favourite song on the album.

At Number 3 – The Black Spiders – Si, El Diablo 

I saw the Black Spiders support Aussie rockers Airbourne in 2010 and they are simply one of the best support bands I have ever seen. They finally released their debut album Sons of the North this year and I bought it immediately. This is British rock at its very best.

At Number 2 – Dream Theater – Breaking All Illusions 

Dream Theater are magnificent and this year they released yet another storming album called A Dramatic Turn of Events. I love this band and next year I finally (FINALLY) get my chance to see them in the flesh at the Apollo in February. I can’t wait.

At Number 1 – Within Temptation – Faster 

The album of the year is The Unforgiving by Dutch rockers Within Temptation – and this is against some very challenging opposition (Foo Fighters, Joe Satriani Dream Theater etc.). I have barely stopped playing it for months now. I love the voice of the lead singer, Sharon van Adel - and she's a lovely lady too. It is a magnificent recording – a triumph. I love it. I was lucky enough to see them in Manchester in November and when they sang Faster (my favourite song on the album), I felt tears running down my cheeks. That’s right – a 49 year old rocker moved to tears by a great rock song. How embarrassing is that? How much more embarrassing is it that I have actually admitted it on this blog?

14. What do you wish you'd done more of?

I wish I had started learning Spanish before going to Ibiza and I wish I had written more posts for the blog. Sadly, this year I have written fewer posts than previous years – not by much – but it matters to me. All this will change in January when you will be subjected to a marathon of posts – one per day; you (un)lucky reader.

15. What do you wish you'd done less of?

I am getting more and more grumpy as the years goes by and I am starting to moan and witter on about trivial things. I think I am going to make an effort to be more positive this year too. I shall still be ranting though – when the need arises of course.

16. What was your favourite TV program?

Too many to mention – but I will try:

Dr Who, Fringe, The Tudors, V, Dexter, Game of Thrones, Torchwood: Miracle Day, Merlin, Terra Nova.

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

No. I genuinely do not hate anybody.

18. What was the best book you read?

Two books stood out this year:

(1) Matter by Iain M. Banks - This is only the second book I have read by Iain M Banks – and it was fabulous. A great slice of science fiction.

(2) The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Mayberry – the sequel to Patient Zero a good mix of sci-fi, horror and action thriller.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Within Temptation – okay, they have been around for a while and I own a previous album but I would say that I have rediscovered the band.

The Black Spiders deserve a mention too, as do Black Country Communion.

Here is Man in the Middle by Black Country Communion.

I would like to thank my work colleague Graham for turning my radar in their direction. They have released two albums and now I have them both. The band has its roots in the Black Country, which is where I come from, and is actually a supergroup made up of Jason Bonham (son of the legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater keyboard player), legendary blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa and Glenn Hughes (ex Deep Purple).

20. What was your favourite film of this year?

I am going to name two: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

21. What did you do on your birthday?

The usual – a lovely romantic meal with my beloved Mrs PM.

22. What kept you sane?

The usual – beer, music and writing this drivel.

23. Who did you miss?

Nobody really.

24. Who was the most interesting new person you met?

I don’t normally mention new people but this year I will.

I was lucky enough to meet blogger extraordinaire, Kath Lockett in Geneva while I was working there a week or so ago. I’ve been reading her blog for a couple of years now and she never fails to amuse and interest me.

If you haven’t come across Blurb From The Burbs  you should go over there immediately and start reading it.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:

Two things.

(1) Never run for a bus holding a glass having had a couple of pints of beer.

(2) Never stare at a Chinese man having a crap on a squatter – even if he is staring at you.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Old Farts' Reunion


Last night I had a trip down Memory Lane.

Every year, there is a reunion in a small pub in Heaton Mersey in Stockport. It is a reunion of old work colleagues and a couple of my mates attend every year. It usually occurs on the Friday before Christmas.

I have been invited but am usually unable to attend because it coincides with another event that is also annual and traditional – my workplace’s Christmas pub crawl around Didsbury – which usually takes place the day before, on the last Thursday before Christmas.

As much as I love beer, it usually too much for me to take in both events – there is only so much beer you can drink at my age, so I attend the Didsbury crawl – and have done for the last ten or so years.

This year, however, the Didsbury crawl will take place next Thursday and I was delighted to hear that the Heaton Mersey reunion would be a week earlier. In fact, it took place yesterday afternoon – and I went.

The pub is about fifteen minutes’ walk away from my house, and as I braved the snow and rain, I started thinking about who might be there. One of my mates jokingly refers to it as “The Old Farts’ Reunion” because at the age of 54, he is one of the younger people there.

I walked into the pub and it seemed empty, but then I heard some raucous laughter from a room at the back. I walked in and was astounded to see around twenty guys that I have not seen for years – some of whom I last clapped eyes on about twenty years ago.

I was slightly overwhelmed and blurted out:

“Bloody Hell – I haven’t seen some of you old buggers for YEARS!”.

This exclamation was greeted with laughter. It was four thirty in the afternoon and some of them had been there since three o’clock; most were slightly inebriated.

I was the youngest there – at the age of 49 – and some of these guys remembered me as a spotty faced little idiot joining their project team way back in September 1984. I was still a youngster to most of them.

The conversation flowed, with lots of names popping up that I had not heard for years. My very first software team leader was there as was my first supervisor, who greeted me with the following words:

“How are you, lad?”

I liked that – “Lad” – as if I were still a pasty-faced 21 year old filled with innocence.

We chatted for a few hours and over several pints, reminiscing about how life had changed.

I was reminded of a three way bet involving football that apparently was still in place. I foolishly pitted my team, Walsall – a shit little club languishing in League One, against Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers, the teams supported by the other two guys. The supporter of the team that finished lowest of the three in their respective divisions would have to buy a pint for the other two.

I support a team that is (and let’s be kind here) – absolutely pathetic and I have lost every year almost for the past twenty or so years.

“You owe us about twenty pints,” I was told. “Get your money out.”

Another guy who last saw me when I was married was astounded to find out that I had divorced. Another guy who had seen me just after the divorce said,

“How many women have you had since then, Dave?”

What followed was a very amusing character assassination and my claims that Mrs PM was and is the only woman I have been involved with since the divorce were hurled aside in favour of banter with me as their target. 

"It was thirteen years ago," I said but my claims fell on deaf ears.

And it was hilarious – I thoroughly enjoyed being savaged by these guys.

Another guy said “How old are you then?”

“I’m 50 next year,” I said.

“Farkin’ hell – you MUST use cream on your skin. You haven’t even got any grey hair. I’ll bet you’ve been using products for twenty years.”

More raucous laughter followed by more piss taking at my expense.

It was sad to hear about people I knew as a young man who had died – a melancholy diversion from Memory Lane – but overall it was brilliant to see some of these guys again. As the evening drifted on, Mrs PM’s words echoed in my head:

“Don’t get shit-faced. It’s my Christmas party tomorrow and you are coming whether or not you are hungover.”

So reluctantly I had to go, leaving behind a handful of die-hards sipping more beer and chatting about age, work and the past. I thoroughly enjoyed this little trip down Memory Lane and promised that I would do my best to come back next year.

And as I wobbled back home in the snow and rain, the one clear thought that shone through the alcoholic haze was this:

I will keep that promise.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Boring



On Saturday I heard some bad news: I was told that I was “boring”.

The accuser didn’t tell me to my face; she did it in a subtle way but she spoke her words directly in front of me (almost as if I wasn't there). The conversation went something like this (the words changed slightly to protect the guilty and the innocent):

Mrs PM: I work at a place that's similar to your workplace. My company does the same sort of thing.


The Accuser: How BORING!!


Mrs PM: What? What do you mean, “boring”?


The Accuser: It must be full of engineers – and engineers are SO BORING!


Mrs PM (grinding her teeth): Well I’m an engineer, of sorts – and I like it.


The Accuser (now referring to me): Well YOU TWO are MADE for each other then!!

I thought Mrs PM was going to explode. Mrs PM was actually trying to help the person concerned and the “boring” tag was something she really didn’t like at all.

I was amazed that somebody had the audacity to call Mrs PM and I boring to our faces. Not only that: she actually called ALL engineers boring.

The Accuser, thankfully moved away, presumably her senses being nullified by the tedium of our conversation - or maybe she sensed the aggression in Mrs PM's demeanour.

“I can’t believe she said that,” said Mrs PM snarling. “How can she call engineers boring? I’m not boring, am I?”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said jokingly. “I’m boring too.”

Sadly, that didn’t go down too well.

There are a lot of engineers in my company, as you would imagine, so really the Accuser’s slur was directed at all of us.

Now I don’t want to have a go at somebody I barely know – so I won’t. Well, I might do – one day.

But I certainly won’t do it now. It wouldn’t be very nice.

I have actually heard one other woman who works for my company (she shall remain nameless) say a similar thing about one of my fellow engineers:

“He’s really quite nice – for an engineer”.

Again, this struck me as an odd thing to say (and of course he was ridiculed mercilessly for it). And if you are reading, dear engineer - I'm sorry for bringing it up again - but I do have a point to make so I hope you'll forgive me.

Of course, Captain Paranoia had a field day:

“HA HA!!! She just told you TO YOUR FACE what everybody else thinks of you. You are tedium personified. I've been telling you that for YEARS! You have the same effect on people as Medusa – one sentence from you turns them to stone. Even your cats find you boring – your bloody cats!!”

And for a while I heeded his words and started to think – am I boring?

Are engineers all boring people?

Do we induce coma when we use our tedious conversation as a weapon to neutralise people?

Do people fall asleep when listening to us?

Are you, dear reader, struggling to stay awake while reading my monotonous rambling?

I haven’t noticed it to be honest. But would I really notice something like that? Do people call me boring behind my back?

One thing I will say about the Accuser is although she has to interact with engineers as part of her job (albeit briefly), she isn’t an engineer herself. She doesn’t sit at a desk with engineers and she doesn’t therefore participate in our day to day banter.

Consequently, she doesn't really know us.

Maybe we are all geeks who are so preoccupied with technology, gadgets, science fiction and computers that we have little time for small talk about the more mundane things in life that might interest a wider range of people.

I know for a fact that I wouldn’t want to spend my time having a conversation about soap operas for example.

Does that make me boring?

Now, I know a bore when I see one – but I would never call a person boring to his or her face – even if I really did find them boring.

Anyway, I don’t mind what people think of me. I have a thick skin and I can take it. I’ve been called far worse.

One thing I do know, if you are ever unfortunate enough to be trapped in a conversation with me and are about to blackout into an abyss of oblivion, just remember what you have read on this very blog; you can change me from being a boring bastard into a rampaging, ranting monster just by asking me what I think of X Factor, politicians or a whole host of insane madness that blights my world.

On seconds thoughts, maybe that’s not such a good idea.

I just hope this post didn’t bore you.

Are you still awake?

Hello …

HELLO …



Thursday, 8 December 2011

Silly Campaigns (Part Two) - Health and Common Sense



I am certain that at some point in my life I have eaten dirt.

Obviously I was a child at the time – it’s not something I do now – at least not knowingly.

To be honest, I’m surprised that there hasn’t  been a TV campaign urging me NOT to eat dirt. There are TV campaigns to stop me doing everything else that might harm me.

I am not a stupid person, despite being portrayed as such by the media and health and safety experts.  They are not just picking on me, dear reader – they are picking on you too.

We see it every day from crazy health and safety rules and regulations to the news throwing all manner of scare tactics our way.

I’ve told you about a sign in our toilets at work that urges you to wash your hands after using the loo, together with pictures showing you exactly what to do; but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

We have a near miss register – a list of potential issues that could have happened, didn’t and need to be addressed. A person is assigned to each near miss and then action is taken. And it is hilarious reading.

Here are a few examples (I am not making them up):

The condition of the road was very icy and no grit had been put on the road. I approached the barrier very slowly but despite this found I could not stop the car, the car slid slowly toward the barrier and the security guard then came out slowly and lifted the barrier very slowly. I nearly crashed into the barrier.


Walked into kitchen and foot slipped significantly on the floor. It has been recently mopped by the cleaners but they have not put out a wet floor sign and have used a high concentration of multi-purpose fluid in their mop bucket mixture making it very slippery


From where I sit in the office I regularly see near misses where people are rushing out of the kitchen and turning right towards the HR offices with hot drinks and meet someone walking the other way towards my teams area. I think its only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.


Faeces and nose pickings on walls of cubicles of toilets in the offices where staff are working. Reported on 28/11/2006. 29/11/2006 - Reported again: cleaners had not identified and cleaned off. On 30/11/2006, cleaners had still not cleaned the toilets, so reported again, who did get the cubicles cleaned properly after a site visit. To be covered again, at fortnightly H&S meetings on the office facility.


Unwashed Tea Towel has been left for a period of time. This is filthy and I believe may pose a threat to health if used either for drying utensils or use on hands. There are no hand drying facilities in the kitchen. It may sound insignificant but there is a lot of publicity with regards to kitchen germs.


One of the decorative panels behind the urinals fell off. Nobody was using the toilets at the time.

It is worse at some places. Today a work colleague was telling me about his friend who works at another company and has to put up with rules like:

All staff must walk down the stairs holding the handrail. Anybody seeing a person not holding the handrail must report that person. Anybody who knows of a person who did not report another person for not holding the handrail must report the person who didn’t report the first person.

This bizarre rule had a comical effect at a conference in a posh building with one of those staircases that widens into a trumpet shape at the bottom; because the staff were on company business they had to adhere to the above crazy rule. Everybody else marched up the middle of the stairs like the adults they are. The staff of this nameless company all had to hold the handrail and stood out like sore thumbs.

And it gets worse – the same company actually give travelling staff a small handbook which contains instructions in different languages for any taxi driver ferrying the staff member. Instruction like:

The taxi driver must not start the car until the staff member has fastened his safety belt. 


The taxi driver must not smoke in the car. 


The taxi driver must wear a seatbelt. 

That would be pointless in China. In Kunming last year, I jumped into the front of a taxi and tried to fasten my seat belt – the driver refused to drive until I unbuckled my seat belt. I then had to suffer a hair-raising trip around the city of Kunming without a seatbelt.

And what was the reason he had shouted at me for fastening my belt? By fastening my belt I was insulting his driving – implying that I considered him to be a terrible and unsafe driver. No little book would have helped me.

We are being treated like idiots dear reader. They won’t let us use our common sense. We can’t even let our kids outside to get dirty in case they catch some revolting disease.

What they forget is that I have built up an immunity to germs and bugs by actually playing in and with dirt – and I have probably eaten some of it too in my life.

Equally, as adults we are being treated as morons who cannot read and have no common sense. I mean – if I didn’t read the signs they put up I would spend my day with my hands under scalding hot water or picking up dog shit with my bare hands and then eating my sandwiches.

This is my new campaign dear reader.

And I have a big name on my side. I don’t like David Cameron, our new Prime Minister, but I have persuaded him to back my desire to eliminate this inane stupidity.

Read it here.

At least he and I agree on something.

Of course the dates indicate that this was two years ago and he doesn’t actually give me the credit I deserve.

But then again he is politician.

Who's with me?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Blogging Block



The computer is on, the Word document is open and a blank screen sits in front of me.

A voice inside my head says: “Well go on then – type something.”

I answer that voice: “I don’t know what to type.”

Another voice speaks – it is Captain Paranoia:


“Ha ha ha! You have no stupid ideas for your stupid blog – it’s over! The Plastic Mancunian is no more. HA HA HA HA!”

I reply: “It’s just writer’s block – bugger off!”

I am a realist striving to be an optimist so I won’t be beaten by a touch of blogging block. I’ve written all sorts of nonsense on this blog – why can’t I do it again?

Something will happen.

All I need is some inspiration. I close my eyes – and rack my brain. It is devoid of ideas.

Where did they all go? I claim on this very blog to have a superb and weird imagination. There must be SOMETHING in that vast creepy universe that I can write about.

Something…

Anything…

Nothing!

Nothing at all!

Bugger! Is Captain Paranoia right? Is my alternative persona fatally wounded?

Will the Plastic Mancunian disappear into the ether?

Not if I can help it. I click on Windows Media Player and hit a random tune to see if that gets the creative juices flowing.

Supertramp – Sister Moonshine

Mmm – shall I write about my favourite Supertramp songs?

Bugger! I've done that!

Next song; Dream Theater – Under a Glass Moon.

Mmm – shall I write about my favourite Dream Theater songs?

No – not many people out there know about Dream Theater and I may find myself ranting about the state of music again – and I’ve done that.

Then I remember a book I bought called “The Writers Block” – a small cuboid book packed full of ideas to inspire writers (which I guess I am – a plastic writer perhaps).  I open it at a random page:

Spark word: Waiting

Bugger – I’m waiting for inspiration; that’s a frustrating spark if ever I heard one.

Crap – I’m stuck.

Captain Paranoia resurfaces:


“You may as well give up now…and delete the blog while you’re on.”

Maybe he’s right. Maybe I am struggling because I have run out of ideas.

I’ve written 344 posts and I can’t write one more – about anything!

Anything!

Writer’s block – my imagination won’t talk to me. What have I done to it?

Next song: The Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love

I remember that song – from my youth. I liked that song – it brings back memories. Good memories.

A spark.

A massive spark.

Memories and music.

That’s it! That’s what I’ll do – I’ll trawl my music collection and select songs from my collection. It is vast – there are too many songs.

How about a song a day?

How about 31 songs – a song a day for an entire month – and stories about my life at that time?

Too much for one post – but what a great idea.

Captain Paranoia – get back in you hole. I can now write 31 posts – maybe for January.

Count them Captain Paranoia - 31 posts!!!

Captain Paranoia: “Doesn’t help you for December though – idiot.”

Yes it does. I can write a post about writer's block.

NOW GO AWAY!!!!

Inspiration can be found from the most unlikely sources. If you suffer from writer's block – write about that – and listen to some music - ideas will come.

Inspiration is out there for everyone. It’s just a matter of finding it. Thanks to the Buzzcocks ...

I start typing:

The computer is on, the Word document is open and a blank screen sits in front of me... 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Silly Campaigns (Part One) - Picking on Pluto


I want to bring a crime to your attention, dear reader. This is not a small crime; this is a crime of planetary proportions – a crime against an entire planet.

This is a crime where the rules have been changed to hide the crime from the rest of us.

You will be shocked, dear reader.

I can barely bring myself to type this…

Pluto is no longer a planet.

There I’ve said it. I hope you are as disgusted as I am.

This crime occurred a couple of years ago and the perpetrators think they have got away with it.

They have NOT and I am here to start a campaign against them and fight for Pluto's rights.

When I was growing up and learning about the solar system, I was taught the names of the planets. Way out there at the very edge of the solar system was Pluto, happy in the knowledge that we on Earth were aware of its existence and had named a dog after it.


And now, a bunch of scientists and astronomers have changed the rules and reclassified poor Pluto as a dwarf planet.

How dare they? What has Pluto ever done to them. Is it so far away that it has been forgotten about? I can imagine the conversations:

Evil Criminal 1: Yeah – Neptune is pretty big but what about Pluto? We may as well forget about it.


Evil Criminal 2: Ha ha – yes! I’ve hated it for years. Let’s just get rid of it.


Evil Criminal 1: Yeah – and we can kick it while its down – let’s call it a dwarf!


Evil Criminal 2: MU HU HU HU HA HA HA HA HA!

Here are the rules they dreamt up to define a planet:

A planet must orbit the sun.

Pluto orbits the sun and takes a bloody long time to do so. It’s stuck out there guarding the frontier and our solar system against evil aliens who might invade.

A planet must have sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium shape – i.e it must be a sphere

Well of course it’s a sphere.When it was first discovered in 1930 by Clyde W. Tombaugh he said “There’s another big sphere out there – it is a planet”.

A planet needs to have “cleared the neighbourhood” of its orbit

This is the invented rule that these so-called “astronomers” have used to reclassify the mighty Pluto. Apparently it crosses Neptune’s orbit.

So what?

I know the reason – it’s because Pluto is small. Pluto is no longer welcome in the exclusive club of planets because it is a tiny planet when compared with, say, Jupiter – or even Earth for that matter.

But I don’t care – I welcome Pluto into the planetary club. I say – ignore these petty jobsworths who have nothing better to do than postulate wacky theories and invent rules that mean nothing.

It could be more sinister than that, dear reader, because there are actually two more bodies further out than Pluto – Eris and Ceres (not exactly awe-inspiring names are they?).

Eris is a little bigger than Pluto. I simply do not understand why we can’t announce that we have eleven planets in our solar system instead of nine. Imagine if we met an alien from another solar system; we could ask:

“How many planets have you got? We have ELEVEN.” 

Now because of those scientists we have to say:

“We only have eight planets; but we do have three dwarf planets.” 

Nowhere near as impressive in my opinion. I would imagine that the alien would snigger as the phrase “dwarf planet” was mentioned.

Allow me to make a stand here.

It seems to me that these scientists are picking on Pluto because it is the tiniest planet in the solar system; the runt of the litter if you will.

What I am seeing is nothing short of bullying and picking on the small guy.

I vote that Pluto be re-instated as a planet effective immediately and, as a punishment for climbing onto a pedestal and announcing dictatorial rules to fit their oppressive natures, the scientists who dreamed up this nonsense should be made to record a message apologising to Pluto and personally pay for a spaceship to fly to Pluto, broadcasting their apology to any life forms who may inhabit that cold little planet as well as any aliens within earshot.

Dwarf planet indeed; fight oppression everywhere including planet oppression.

Who’s with me?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Entertainer



I want to talk a little bit about work.

I avoid this subject because it irritates me immensely. Work is the bane of my life and although on occasion it can be rewarding, more often than not it pushes those buttons that set me off on a massive rant.

And that is what I want to talk about.

I actually work with some fine people – I don’t want to talk about those who drive me insane.

Yesterday, one of my colleagues confessed something to me; something that surprised me.

First, a little background:

I share a desk that is situated at the far end of our office with five other guys. Next to that is another desk with eight people on it.

All six of us on my desk, while professional about our work, are always looking for a weakness to exploit in the banter stakes. And there is usually plenty of opportunity, with all of us joining in. The banter is good, funny and a great diversion from the shadow of stress and despair that looms over us.

My role is the entertainer.

I only discovered this yesterday.

I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea with two of the eight people on the next table.  One of them, a guy I have known for years made the confession.

“Don’t get me started on X Factor,” I said.

“It’s easy to get you started on ANYTHING,” he said. “It’s great when your buttons get pushed. We just get the popcorn out and watch the entertainment.”

He told me about one of the other guys on the desk, who sits most of the time working with his headphones on. When I start ranting about something, there is a signal and the headphones come off so the all eight of them can sit and enjoy listening to me putting the world to rights in my own inimitable fashion.

Apparently I am very entertaining.

When I am pouring out my thoughts about the utter idiocy of the workplace and the world, pouring my heart out in the hope of finding a kindred spirit to share my disgust, I am being encouraged because I am funny and make people laugh.

A lot of the time I am being serious too.

The guys on my desk know exactly how to get me going and do so often. I maintain that I can also wind some of them up to – but clearly they don’t react in the way I do.

I returned to my desk after the confession and didn’t know what to think. I’ve said before that ranting can be very therapeutic for me because it allows me to get things off my chest; it also, clearly entertains my work colleagues.

Is that a win-win situation? I feel a bit weird about it to be honest.

When I think about the whole thing it makes sense. Here’s an example that really should have made me suspicious.

One of the guys who sits on the next desk was working from home. An email arrived that had been sent to the entire company. I was sitting at my desk, on the phone to somebody and didn’t spot it.

The email was a button-pusher – an absurd and bizarre company-wide email, the kind that makes me realise that I am one of the few people working in a company who has any common sense whatsoever.

My colleague read the email from home and took immediate action.

He called me on the instant messenger. The electronic conversation when something like this:

Colleague: Can you wait until I get in tomorrow?


PM: What are you talking about?


Colleague: Wait until I get in tomorrow before you read it.


PM: Read what?

The guy who sits next to me started a countdown – 10 … 9 … 8 … 7

Colleague: The email.


PM: What email?


Colleague: The one that’s just come in from Mr Boss.

The countdown continued:

6 … 5 … 4 … 3

PM: I see it. Why? Is it something you need to talk to me about? Wait a second – I’ll open it.


Colleague: NOOOO!!! Wait for me ...

2 … 1

PM: YEEAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!

Those in my presence got the popcorn out. The poor colleague at home missed my outburst. When he arrived the next day he actually came up to me and asked for a replay.

It’s good to know that I provide a service for my work colleagues, dear reader, while at the same time trying to make sense of an insane world.

One day I shall tell all.

One day …

Friday, 18 November 2011

Adopt a Plastic Mancunian


Dogs cannot write or speak. Neither can donkeys, cats or meerkats.

Why am I stating the obvious?

There are many people in the world who love animals. I, too, am an animal lover, particularly cats and dogs.

Nevertheless, I don’t quite understand the philosophy behind the concept of animal adoption. I’m not talking about going to the Cat Protection League to give a cat a good home; or a trip to the Dog Pound to adopt a stray dog.

I’m talking about the concept of adopting a wild animal that you rarely if ever get to meet for a monthly fee.

I’m not stupid enough to consider the alternative, for example, letting a tiger rampage through you house (though I think Liquorice would give a tiger a good run for its money). I’m talking about these “packs” you can get to adopt, say, a meerkat or another animal you would never consider having as a pet.

The idea is that you pay a certain amount of money a month and you get to adopt the animal concerned. You only get to meet the little creature if you spend an absolutely whopping amount of money per month otherwise you and up with little more than a photo and your name listed somewhere.

Even funnier is the promise that your animal will write you a letter. Can you imagine a dog trying to write a letter or type something?

I smell a rat – I reckon the letter part is made up.

Some people have likened me to a wild animal (or at least a dumb one). So what do you think of a plan to “Adopt a Plastic Mancunian”?

Do you think that might catch on?

Based on what I’ve read, I reckon there might be some mileage in trying to get people to “adopt” me.

Can I try an advert for this service on you, dear reader? Will there be anybody who would fall for this?


Meet Dave! As far as Plastic Mancunians are concerned, this is a really weird specimen. He is a bit old and decrepit but his heart is in the right place and he is forever scurrying around, making strange bleating and growling sounds. 


His daily routine is utterly predictable and he can actually perform tricks when requested. He loves a pint of beer and can be seen scampering between his den and the beer trough occasionally. He is also hard working and comical (well a lot of people laugh at him anyway).


His thick pelt is mainly located on his large misshapen head and in the morning you might be forgiven for mistaking him for a ball of straw. A quick dunk in water usually does the trick and he begins to actually look vaguely human. 


Overall we think you may find him a pleasant little creature, predicable and grumpy, yes, but interesting enough to amuse you if you push the right buttons.


Would you like to adopt Dave the Plastic Mancunian?


For a monthly fee of £400 we will send you an adoption folder consisting of:
  • A certificate
  • A photograph (we will make sure we provide one that doesn’t scare your children)
  • A copy of his birth certificate – with the date changed to make him seem younger.
  • A weekly letter 
  • Your name listed on “The Plastic Mancunian” blog.
What will you £400 be sent on? 


Dave is broke and would love to be released into the wild. Your monthly fee will provide:
  • Food in the nicest restaurants in Manchester
  • Beer (you should see his little face when we give him a pint of beer)
  • Clothes (the ones he wears at the moment are fashionable – if you live in the year 1956)
The remainder of the fee will be put into a bank and ultimately will be spent on a round the world airline ticket as well as hotel fees and excursions to allow little Dave to see as much of the world as possible. 


Adopt now – make a Plastic Mancunian happy.

Do you think it will work? 

If you are tempted, please let me know – and I promise you one thing – you don’t actually have to meet me. 

That would be a little TOO much to bear.

And I promise I will write you a letter – it will appear on this blog (the fact that others may see it is irrelevant – I will address it personally to you – honestly).

How can you resist these photos?





On second thoughts - don't answer that question!!!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Hard Questions Meme



It’s been a while since I attempted a meme so I have decided to steal one. This is shamelessly stolen from Pandora at Princess Pandora - Queen of Denial who actually stole it herself – so there is no guilt (there wouldn’t have been anyway).

This is called “The Hard Questions Meme” and may be quite difficult. Wish me luck.

1. What is a quote that you love? 

There are quite literally hundreds of quotes that I love from comedy shows to song lyrics, from novels to speeches. What I look out for are thought-provoking quotes or those that make me laugh. I could quite literally give you a quote a day for the next ten years – well possibly.

Here is one from the great Winston Churchill:

Nancy Astor: Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.
Winston Churchill: If I were your husband I would take it.

And how about these from Stan Laurel:

If you had a face like mine, you'd punch me right on the nose, and I'm just the fella to do it.

I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.

And finally, from a Rush song called “Losing It”

Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we'd like to be
Sadder still to watch it die
Than never to have known it
For you, the blind who once could see
The bell tolls for thee...

2. Do you think of pure hate as something humanity created? 

I think hatred and love are intrinsic within human nature and are not things that have been created. They have developed as we have evolved and as negative as hatred is, it is perfectly balanced by love. Despite what we observe, I think humanity is balanced as a species. Sadly this means that hatred has to exist.

3. When was the last time you wanted to scream? 

I want to scream most days to be honest, particularly at work. I am deeply intolerant of people who construct barriers to hinder my progress, particularly of those barriers are pointless. And at work, most of them are. I am getting worse. When I leave work, I breathe a sigh of relief but that feeling of intolerance comes home with me and evolves into something else. I find myself ranting at the television, in particular at the news and when I am unfortunate enough to catch utterly dreadful programmes that are solely aimed at stupid, gullible idiots. Thankfully a good rant is like a good scream and I find it therapeutic. Mrs PM just shakes her head.

4. Do you ever at times see the world in black and white? 

Not at all. Even when things appear to be in black and white, I question them and try to blur the lines. The world is a deeply complex place – and not black and white.

5. Have you ever thought that cell phones are too obtrusive? 


They are too obtrusive – there is no doubt about that. It is really irritating trying to have a conversation with somebody who is texting, surfing or yapping on their mobile phone. I am guilty of it too – so I am a hypocrite. I love my mobile phone – I never thought I would ever hear myself say that, but it’s true. I have to have it with me. The worst mobile phone is the “support” phone, the one I have to carry with me when I am on call. It means that work can contact me when I am not in work and if the bloody thing goes off all I want to do is to hurl into the nearest bin. There are times when I wish they had never been invented.

6. In your life, where do you think the rainbow will end?

That’s easy – when I can quit the rat race.

At the moment, career wise, the storm clouds are rampant and there is thunder and lightning and the torrential rain is relentless. I am praying for the time when it all stops and I see the rainbow glistening in the sunshine. Then I will be up and away to see the world without the chains of work. I can’t wait.

7. What is something that you never want to do again? 

I never want to experience going through a relationship break up again. So Mrs PM – you are stuck with me!

8. When was the first time you realised the world was small? 

The internet has really made the world seem like a small place so I would say late 1980s early 1990s. With its creation and expansion I have been able to be in touch with people all over the world, through work and blogging. I can fix software problems in America and chat to work colleagues in China at the same time. Equally these very words can be read by people all over the world. That is amazing and one of the main reasons I am a geek. Add to that you can also fly to these places within hours, it makes the world seem totally accessible, which to somebody like me who loves travel, is perfect.

9. How you spend your time contemplating life’s mysteries? 

When I am writing or about to go to sleep I allow my imagination to run riot. Life is a complex maze and I love getting totally and utterly lost within it.

10. Ever discuss your political beliefs with people? 

I do it all the time. I regard myself as a fair-minded and open person, the kind of person who would help anybody in need. And when I see and hear politicians and their supporters championing policies that favour the privileged and walk all over the deprived it makes my blood boil and I rant. I can talk to those whose beliefs differ from mine but inside my stomach churns. That is one of the reasons I hate politics and avoid it like the plague.

11. Do you care about the environment? 

I am very sceptical about the environment. I am sad to say that I don’t trust politicians (as you may have already guessed) and I think that they use the environment to control us further. We live is a state of fear, fear that our planet is being used as a toilet and that our children and grandchildren will all suffer because of us. People like Al Gore infuriate me because he organised Live Earth concerts that were meant to bring environmental issues to the people yet produced a carbon footprint that was immense. The rock stars flew hundreds of thousands of miles to participate and further their own careers.

I don’t like being preached to by hypocrites and when it comes to the environment I see lectures from people who fly all over the world in private jets to tell us to use less petrol. If somebody like Al Gore wants to make a difference then he should try to become US President and pass a law to reduce the amount of fuel consumed by Americans.

The environment has become a political tool – that is why I am a sceptic. Banks tell us to go online rather than “destroying the environment” by sending us statements through the post. What they don’t tell us is that not sending post saves them a fortune. So they are not really doing it for the environment; they are doing it to save money and make you and I look like evil planet destroyers to do it.

That said, dear reader, I do actually recycle and yes I care about the environment. However, I do not like to be lectured by people who are abusing this important issue for their own needs.

12. What’s your motto for life? 

Don’t worry, be happy.

13. Is progress destroying the beauty of the world?

In some places yes. There are many untouched areas of amazing beauty on our planet but there is also the fear that as we become more technically advanced and our population increases, then we are going to have to infringe on these wonderful places. To be honest, it’s a tricky one. I’ve been to beautiful places like Alaska, which is a barely touched area of magnificent natural beauty. What would happen if we had to build a huge city the size of Los Angeles there? Closer to home, England has some wonderful countryside, rolling green fields and lovely forests. Yet as the population of our island increases and we need power and resources to accommodate them, will this land pillaged?

I suspect so. We need to preserve the world’s beauty but as we become more advanced and the population increases it will become more difficult.

14. Do you believe there is life somewhere else in the universe? 

Yes – there has to be. I’m not talking about aliens who want to visit Earth but given the infinite nature of the universe it seems deeply arrogant of us to assume that we are the only life forms in existence.

15. Would you like to rule a country? 

I am tempted to say “Yes”. Why? Because I would rid my country of all the things that irritate me. Having said that, I don’t want to be a dictator – I would allow those who love Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan to leave and start a new life elsewhere. Suffice it to say, the aforementioned “celebrities” and many others would be deported.

16. Do you believe everything has a purpose? 

No. What about wasps? What purpose do they serve? What about Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan? And Jordan – what possible purpose can she have? What about Royalty? And modern art? What about curling – how can that useless sport serve a purpose?

Don’t get me started …


17. Is war ever for the best? 

I would gladly live in a world where there was no war. Sadly I don’t think it will happen. As long as there are nutters with too much power war will always be a possibility. Whether it is a good thing to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein is questionable, particularly given that it was done for the wrong reasons. That said, removing a man who murdered his own people can only be seen as a bonus – but what is the cost?

18. Could you kill anyone in defense of self or loved ones?

The easy answer is no but I think that if I saw somebody about to kill somebody close to me, all rational thought would disappear. A very difficult question.

19. How do you react to people who don't believe global warming is really our fault? 

It is not all our fault. That is a fact. We have contributed, there is no doubt about that, but I think that climate changes over thousands of years in cycles and we are noticing these changes as the cycles progress and our ability to measure them improves. Many things can affect the climate such as natural cycles in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. If we move even a little bit closer then our exposure to the sun is increased; conversely if we move a little bit further away then our exposure is decreased. And what about solar activity? All of this has a noticeable effect on the world’s climate.

As I said, we may contribute – but I don’t believe that our contribution is as massive as we are led to believe. Like I said above, I believe it is used for political gain and to keep us boxed up in a state of fear. If global warming campaigners believe that we should all change our ways, then let them start first. Sell your car. Stop flying. And stop organising massive concerts with a carbon footprint that is way in excess of a typical small country's contribution.

Sorry for ranting – but I would genuinely be interested in scientific proof that it is our fault entirely. I am deep down fascinated by science and regard scientific fact in much higher esteem than political rhetoric.

20. Does love conquer all?

Love is great – it makes you happy – and that is a good thing,

21. Is euthanasia morally acceptable? 

This is a tough one. I don’t know, is the simple answer. I believe that if somebody is terminally ill and in extreme pain then it seems to me to be morally more acceptable to rid them of their trauma than to prolong their agony. I haven’t experienced that dilemma for myself so I simply do not know.

22. Is world peace impossible? 

Yes, although I would love the answer to be no. As I said above, as long as there are nutters and these nutters are allowed to reach positions of power then we will have war.

23. Is pride a good or a bad thing? 

Pride is a human trait and I think it can be both a good thing and a bad thing. If a person is so proud that he is blind to the obvious then that is a bad thing. But if you take pride in your achievements then that is a good thing.

24. What do you think is the purpose of your life? 

To annoy you, dear reader. Actually I was joking. I don’t know what the purpose of my life is. Putting it scientifically it is to procreate and make my mark on future generations. I have done that and have two clones (that’s what Mrs PM calls my boys). Who knows? I might have spawned the seed of a world leader or a historical figure. In reality though my ramblings and life will be forgotten in the mists of time so I guess my purpose is to bring a little happiness into the lives of as many of my fellow human beings as possible. Or perhaps not.

25. Do you believe in karma?

I want to believe in karma but I don’t think it exists. Looking back through history we see many people who have spent their entire lives being complete and utter monsters that have led long and happy lives being utterly ruthless murdering arses. Where’s the karma there?

Well that’s it, dear reader and thanks to Pandora for introducing the meme to me. That said, and having read your answers, Pand, we may have to agree to disagree on some of them.

Sorry about that.

And yes - it was a meme full of hard questions.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Scary Mary



There are some scary people in the world; you only have to switch on the TV to see weirdo scary so-called celebrities masquerading as entertainers.

I just don’t get it. Why do people watch these imbeciles? Why are people fascinated with the exploits of these losers?

I call them losers but they must be doing something right. After all, most of them have more money than they can possibly imagine, their only talent being that they have the power and the arrogance to relentlessly and successfully pull the wool over the eyes of a large percentage of the world population.

See? They are making me waste my time posting about them.

Anyway – that isn’t the point of this post; I want to talk about people who scare me (mainly due to my own imagination it has to be said).

I’m talking about people I can’t deal with.

Have you ever walked home late at night and seen a group of youths standing on the corner of your road? They may be completely harmless. The problem is that they outnumber you and as you approach they watch you. This has happened to me several times and each time I have passed them with no problem whatsoever. The problem is that my imagination runs amok and I find myself analysing them. Will they try to mug me? Will they laugh at me? If one of them attacks me should I run or fight back? What if they talk to me?

Last night I went to a concert in the city centre and caught the nutty bus back home. Sadly as I approached my road, I spotted a group of people hanging around on the corner. I had to pass them.

It was the worst kind of group – a group that strikes fear into the very soul of every man on the planet.

It was a group of four very drunk women.

And it was worse – they were laughing raucously and as I approached I heard the words penis, arse and the killer word - sex – followed by laughter so loud that made my very soul quake.

Why was I scared? Because there is nothing worse than a gang of loud, drunk and boisterous women.

They have the power to embarrass any man so much that his very ego can be destroyed. I haven’t much of an ego so I am at a disadvantage from the very start.

I did consider turning back – but that would have been too obvious. Besides, they had spotted me. I had to defend the honour of my gender; no women were going to belittle me. I gulped and continued on my way, opting, foolishly perhaps, to walk past them.

I found myself thinking of scenarios that might play out and almost all of them resulted in my ego being shattered. As I got closer I realised with mounting horror that they were all in the thirties or forties – women who knew exactly how to destroy me.

“He couldn’t even find it,” said one. “How long have we been married? Ten years? And he still can’t find it.”

“Is he that crap in bed?” said another.

They were talking about sex, openly, brashly and without fear of consequence. And I was walking right into it.

I felt like I was strolling nonchalantly into the maw of the most savage shark on planet Earth.

And then the talking stopped. They realised that there was a man approaching. All four of them stared at me. I looked down to the ground.

And then the sniggering started. Whispered words floated on the wind and made their way to my ear, evaporating seconds before I could hear it.

And then the belly laughs began again.

They were now talking about me.

I decided that I would take them on. I decided that I would be brave. I decided that I would show that their words couldn’t harm me.

I looked up. I pulled my shoulders back and with my head held high I walked right through them.

“Evening ladies,” I said confidently.

That was a mistake; a big mistake; an enormous mistake.

“Evening ladies,” said one, openly mimicking me.

“Do you think he could find it?” said another, laughing raucously.

“Nice arse,” said a third also laughing.

The fourth one whistled sounding like a workman ogling a girl, causing yet more merriment.

“I’ll bet he’s scared to death,” screamed another. “Look at him! He’s terrified!”

And I was. I couldn’t say anything back for fear of being totally ridiculed. And the banter got worse as I walked on. Many other words too disgusting to mention in this post were hurled about like confetti. I prayed they weren’t talking about me.

I arrived home and could still hear the laughter.

And as I put the key in the door, I remembered the one thing they said that my ego really should have noticed: “Nice arse!”

Mrs PM says that – and as long as she does, I’m happy.

And I’m not scared – honest.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Dribbler



I’m not a huge fan of the dentist.

I understand the benefit of them but they do cause a modicum of fear when I visit them (read about it here: ).

I have a new dentist. My old dentist is retiring soon and is handing off his patients to a new guy who is younger and much more enthusiastic, which I suppose is a good thing, as he will almost certainly catch anything evil before it causes excruciating pain.

He’s a really nice guy but he does scare me.

A typical visit for a check-up involves him checking each tooth meticulously, prodding my gums with an implement that I can only describe as an offensive weapon, and then gripping my face whilst probing my neck, chin, throat and jaw for any lumps, bumps or other malignant threats.

When he has finished, he settles down in his chair and gives me the lecture.

It is the same lecture every single time.

I have a tooth that needs to be rotated; my crown has been in too long and needs to be replaced; a wisdom tooth is positioned awkwardly and if it pops out will cause agonizing pain.

“The trouble is, Dave, we don’t know what is happening underneath that crown. It could be fine – it could be perfectly fine. But you have had it a wee bit too long now and you ought to consider having it replaced. I’m not trying to scare you – far from it – but it could fall out, it could be rotten underneath (we can’t X-ray it) and it could fall out or break out and you will be left with a huge unsightly gap. We need to be proactive, not reactive. I’ll leave you to consider that – but it is probably fine.”

Being a hypochondriac I start to worry and then I think – hang on – he probably needs a new set of golf clubs. Certainly my old dentist didn’t strike the fear of God into my molars.

As I said, I do actually like the guy – he’s young friendly and (I think) has my best interests at heart. He presumably is thinking of me when he pictures an old git with one tooth at the front, all others having fallen out, and not that his 5 iron is a little decrepit.

Anyway, this last check-up was no different – except I need a filling.

And the fear of God has been well and truly introduced and has already slapped me relentlessly.

I can hear you thinking: “Don’t be such a wuss!” but the last filling I had, about a year ago, was as embarrassing as it was traumatic.

I sat in his chair and my friend the dentist  injected me with the anaesthetic before telling me to wait in the waiting room for it to kick in. I honestly don’t mind the needle – what I hate is the sound of drilling.

Metal upon metal makes my teeth rage and a drill on enamel is worse for me than a tiger scraping its ample claws down a blackboard.

I’ve asked dentists before for a general anaesthetic and been told “Don’t be a wuss!!”

When I returned on this occasion, I spent what seemed like an eternity in the chair as he drilled through my tooth into the very borders of Hell itself – or so it seemed to me.

When he had finished I was mightily relieved and he proceeded to fill the gap with cement or concrete or whatever substance they use these days.

My entire mouth was numb and he tried to have a conversation with me:

“That’s finished, Dave,” he said. “The effects of the anaesthetic should wear off soon and you should be back to normal. Don’t forget; try not to bite anything in your mouth.”

It was only when I was driving back to work that I realised what he meant.

My tongue was numb.

My lips were numb.

My cheek was numb.

I could have chewed and chewed on the flesh without feeling a thing – until the anaesthetic wore off. And then I would have been in agony.

But it was worse than that.

Because I had no feeling in my mouth, I was dribbling like a baby.

I caught a glimpse of mutated face in my rearview mirror and I looked utterly ridiculous. I never knew that a human being could produce so much saliva. It was like a waterfall cascading down my chin onto my shirt.

And I didn’t have a handkerchief or a tissue.

People were staring at me as I drove past.

As I approached work, I pictured the scene in the office. I would be ripped apart. There would be no mercy. Kick a man when he’s down? They would be relentless and cruel, unsympathetic and pitiless.

And I wouldn’t be able to defend myself because I could barely speak.

“Dave – shall we get a dummy for you? Do you want a bib?”


“LLUURRRGGGHHH  MURGGHHH ALLLLURRGHHHH!!”

I decided to seek solace at home instead and all the time I drove home, one thought was foremost in my head.

“DO NOT CHEW YOUR TONGUE!”

Sadly it was accompanied by a little voice: “Go on – just a little chomp”.

Fear not, dear reader. I didn’t make mincemeat of my lips, cheek or tongue and I lived to tell the tale.

On Tuesday next week I have to have another filling. I have prepared myself by making sure that I do it after work.

I have meditated using the mantra:

“DO NOT CHEW YOUR TONGUE, DAVE! DO NOT CHEW YOUR TONGUE!”

The dribbler will be back – and I hope I can survive.

Just as long as the dentist doesn’t throw me by mentioning my crown again and activating Captain Paranoia and the Hypochondriac.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Music Fascist


I hate X Factor and all it stands for. I think it is destroying music.

And people have called me a music fascist because of this opinion.

I don’t think that I am a music fascist at all. I know what I like and I listen to it and buy it. The problem is that the music I like is rarely played on the radio or television so I find myself exploring the internet in order to get satisfaction.

Radio and television programmes claim to champion music but they don’t. They only play the music that they want you to hear, which means that you either get to listen to the same old songs or are spoon fed the latest trends that the music moguls want you to hear.

Chief amongst the diseases that afflict the music industry are shows like the X Factor, which wind me up for many reasons: here are a few of them:

(1) The winner of the X Factor is “guaranteed” to be the Christmas Number One. I wouldn’t mind because I know that songs that get to number one these days are put there by mass marketing that has nothing to do with the “talent” of the artist. I was delighted a year or two ago when there was an enormous backlash and Killing In The Name Of  by Rage Against The Machine derailed the X Factor juggernaut and slapped Simon Cowell in the face. What’s more, “the coveted number one spot” these days is a joke. Years ago, songs didn’t automatically go “straight in at number one” like they do now thanks to the power of the marketing machine.

(2) Many people watch the X Factor in the early stages to laugh at and ridicule the deluded idiots who think they can sing but can’t. I have caught the odd audition and I know for a fact that I can sing better than they can – and I can’t bloody sing.

(3) Once the final gets underway we get sixteen weeks of it with just one act being voted off each week. And the voting lasts for 24 hours making the producers even richer at the expense of the people who vote.

(4) Phrases like “You OWNED that song” make me want to vomit, as do phrases like “The stage was YOURS” and “You’re going to be a STAR”. The eventual winners usually get forgotten about after two years.

(5) Contestants who say “I want this more than ANYTHING – it’s my DREAM” are ritually raised up and then shot down. It is a truly humiliating experience for some of them and we witness them falling to pieces in the name of entertainment.

I could go on about X Factor but the point is that we as a music loving nation are spoon fed utter dross. Radio One is a major culprit, refusing to play anything that they deem unfit for their audience. Other radio stations are the same.

If the only music I had to listen to was the crap that was served up by Radio One I would only ever listen to Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Take That and bloody Westlife. We live in times when manufactured pretty boys and girls who can’t sing are suddenly breaking records by having “the most number ones”.

It’s ridiculous.

It’s also bland, repetitive, tedious and awful.

I favour rock music but when you ask for a rock song at any party, pub or wedding you end with Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns n Roses, Living On a Prayer - Bon Jovi Sex On Fire - Kings of Leon or, the crowning turd in the DJ’s collection, Don’t Stop Believing - Journey. I’ve grown to hate those songs because they are overplayed and people always look to me with a face that says “Stop moaning – this is rock music!”. They claim to like these songs. But when I cite other examples by the same bands - BETTER songs that people have no clue about. 

These songs are far superior and you will never hear them played anywhere. If you like the token rock songs I mentioned above, follow the links below - much better songs.


(1) You Could Be Mine - Guns 'n' Roses

(2) Keep The Faith - Bon Jovi

(3) Four Kicks - Kings of Leon

(4) Separate Ways - Journey


It may be rock music – but these songs are just the tip of a planet sized iceberg.

And when people hear me ranting about why I hate Jesse J and Eminem they accuse me of being a music fascist, a one genre imbecile who is living in the past.

They may be partially right – I am living in the past a little because back then a wider range of music used to be available on the radio and television.

We had The Old Grey Whistle Test and Radio One had DJs like John Peel, a man who bought the music he played, and was responsible for launching the careers of some sparkling diamonds in the music world.

Those days are gone. I mourned the loss of John Peel, a man who would play what he liked in a bid to expose new genres.

It really annoys me that there are great bands out there busting a gut to be heard and to gain exposure and being ignored in favour of a bunch of dreadful karaoke singers who are forced to sing songs written by old millionaires or dirges have been dug up from the pit of songs that should have been consigned to Hell within seconds of their conception.

Thank goodness for the internet.

Thankfully, I am beginning to see changes. There is a lot of music out there – it’s just a question of finding it.

And thanks to the internet it is possible to find out when my favourite bands are releasing new albums, something I have struggled with in the past because they have not been favoured by Radio One and that ilk.

Anyway – enough ranting.

I am going to do a bit of a John Peel thing now and provide links to some tunes from my collection, some old, some new, some from artists you may have heard of, others not. The thing they have in common is that they have never been played on Radio One or sung on X Factor.

Have a listen and let me know what you think.

(1) North – Paul Mounsey

(2) Air – Kelly Watch The Stars

(3) Porcupine Tree – Trains

(4) Ink Dot Boy – Circle 

(5) Ten – Endless Symphony 

If you like them – fine. If not then that’s also fine. But at least you had a chance to listen because you would never have heard them if Simon Cowell had his way.

I would ideally like to set myself up as the anti-Simon Cowell and force radio stations to play as wide a variety of music as possible. I would like the X Factor to become a show where new bands are allowed to shine on the television. It wouldn’t matter what the genre was and I wouldn’t stop a young rapper having five minutes to appeal to those who like that style of music (even though I personally hate rap).

I would employ a wide range of judges – not the shower that we see on X Factor – judges who are fair and open and recognise true talent when they see it. There would be judges with amazing eclectic taste not Louis Walsh, the man who infected us with Westlife.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine an open music talent show with real musicians, real singers, real songwriters and people?

A music fascist is surely somebody who wants to spoon feed everybody with music that they either like or will make them rich rather than allowing free expression for all genres.

I am therefore not a music fascist; those behind the X Factor and Radio One etc. are guilty as charged.

I rest my case.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Tales of Terror


Do you like a good horror story? I do – I am weird that way.

Strangely, I’m not a huge fan of horror films, particularly disturbing films like the Saw series. For me, I prefer to let my imagination do the work and, together with the fine words of an author, I can allow myself to be scared shitless in the comfort of my own bed, on a train etc.

Over the years I have read some fabulously scary books; books that have enthralled me and terrified me; books that prove there are people out there with wonderful imaginations.

With Hallowe’en just around the corner I thought I would let you know about some of the best horror books I have read over the years:

Watchers – Dean Koontz

Watchers was the first book I read by the prolific author Dean Koontz. The idea for the story is amazing. Genetic engineers have created two creatures, one dog whose intelligence has been enhanced, the other a hideous monster whose purpose is to kill the dog. Throw in a ruthless assassin and you have a fabulous tale that is gripping and scary. Watchers is a wonderful yarn.

Necroscope – Brian Lumley

Forget Twilight and other safe vampire tales. Vampires have become cool and trendy these days none more so than those in the Twilight saga. If you want a really scary vampires then look no further than the Necroscope series of books by Brian Lumley. In his books, vampires (or Wamphyri) are terrifying alien creatures that invade their human hosts and mutate them into creatures from Hell itself. They are genuine monsters. Only one man can combat them; the Necroscope, a man who can talk to the dead. Necroscope is the first of a whole series of books, some of which are truly terrifying. I think my favourite is Necroscope III: The Source but they are all worth a read – all thirteen novels (plus some short stories).

The Wyrm – Stephen Laws

Stephen Laws is another excellent British horror writer. The Wyrm tells the story of a sleepy little town beneath which lives a monstrous, ancient and truly evil force that is released inadvertently by the townsfolk and then proceeds to wreak bloody havoc. It is definitely my kind of book.

Imajica – Clive Barker

Clive Barker’s books are quite disturbing and if you have seen the film Hellraiser you will have some idea what I am talking about. Imajica is really a massive fantasy novel. Our own Earth is just one of five dominions yet has been cut off from the remaining four. The heroes of the tale traverse each dominion in a bid to reunite them with Earth, encountering all manner of wonder on their journey, some good and some evil. If you like fantasy horror on a large scale this is the book for you.

Domain – James Herbert

The first horror book I read was James Herbert’s The Rats and I have that book to thank for my love of horror fiction. The Rats was in fact the first of a trilogy, the final book being Domain. London is devastated by a nuclear blast and the survivors have to cope with every horror you can imagine in order to survive. Sadly for them these things are the least of their worries because waiting for them are irradiated and demonic super rats. If you fear rats in any way this book will absolutely terrify you.

Swan Song – Robert R. McCammon

I love books set in post-apocalyptic nightmare. In Swan Song, again the theme is nuclear attack, except this time America itself is devastated. Again the survivors have to cope with all the horrors that you would imagine plus armies of evil with their own agenda that eventually culminates in the age old battle between good and evil. It is another massive novel and a mesmerising read.

The Stand – Stephen King

The Stand is, in my opinion, Stephen King’s best novel. Like Swan Song it is a huge novel set in a post-apocalyptic America, this time the devastation being caused by a mutated flu virus that wipes out most of the population. Again the survivors are drawn towards the forces of good or evil, the result being another immense confrontation between the two. Since I read the novel many years ago, a new uncut version has been released and I have been tempted to reread it. Part of me wants to remember the story as it was, which I why I have resisted so far.

Phantoms – Dean Koontz

Phantoms is a fabulous story. A small town is suddenly hit by a terrible unexplained force. A few strangers chance upon the town and see remnants of the disaster (population missing, scattered severed limbs, mysterious noises, etc. ) and then they gradually begin to succumb to the same horror. This is a scary and very intriguing book and I would recommend reading it alone, in a dark house with just the bedside lamp for company.

Daemonic – Stephen Laws

A reclusive billionaire who lives in a monstrous skyscraper called “The Rock” offers a number of seemingly unconnected people to his home, kidnapping those who refuse to come. There they are confronted by something that he has made a pact with – something daemonic. I loved this book; characters lost in a changing labyrinth and being stalked by all manner of beast. It would make a terrific movie.

Cain – James Byron Huggins

Take an ex-CIA assassin, genetically enhanced to become the ultimate killing machine and possessed by an ancient evil and you have one hell of a great idea for a novel. I picked this up in Hong Kong airport ready for the flight home and I read it in two or three days. I have tried to find other books by the author but sadly they seem to be available only in the States for inflated prices. It’s a shame really because this is genuinely a great story and I would love to read more of his offerings.

Black Angel – Graham Masterton

Black Angel is a very disturbing and alarming novel, with extremely graphic descriptions. It tells the story or a serial killer who is so utterly horrific that he is called “Satan” by the police and you can imagine how horrible it becomes particularly the dark supernatural cloud that hovers over the entire experience. I found it very awkward to read not only because of the shocking imagery but also because it is a genuinely frightening novel. I would think twice about seeing any movie adaptation.

Shrine – James Herbert

Some of James Herbert’s books open up a door within my imagination; the door labelled “Do Not Open”. I can’t quite put my finger on why this book scared me so much; possibly because it involves religion and possession, two things that push the wrong buttons. Like all novels by James Herbert, Shrine is a cracking read but has the added bonus of giving you a sleepless night – if you like that sort of thing.

Christine – Stephen King

You may laugh at the idea of a car that is possessed and in turn possesses the young man who buys her. It is a bit slow to begin with but when it gets going Christine is difficult to put down. Like most Stephen King books, it has been turned into a film but that particular film doesn’t do it justice. The book is much better – and much creepier.

The Dark – James Herbert

The final two books I am going to mention are the ones that scared me the most. I wrote about The Dark in a post last year. Here’s an excerpt that says everything I need to say about the book:

I have been known to read horror 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.

Says it all, doesn't it?

‘Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

The image of a little boy turned into a vampire and scratching at the first floor window of his friend to be let in is a disturbing one for a fifteen year old boy. The screen adaptation of ‘Salem’s Lot scared the hell out of me because all of a sudden kids were prey to these monsters. Add to that the fact that the lead vampire was immune to religious symbols and you have a genuinely scary film. I read the book some years later and again I let my imagination get the better of me. The book was better, of course, and opened up that door in my imagination, leading to sleepless nights and fear of everything vampiric.

Yet I am still fascinated by them.

Finally...

Thanks for reading – I hope you made it to the end without being freaked out.

I am always on the lookout for new authors particularly of horror novels, so if you have any recommendations I will be glad to check them out.

Now, I’ll say good night – I hope the vampires don’t bite.