Monday, 31 January 2011

The Battle of the Bulge

I am fighting another war and to be honest it is not one that I saw coming. Consequently, I am lagging behind.

But I am fighting back.

I am engaged in the Battle of the Bulge, dear reader; me versus my expanding waistline.

When I was a kid, I was so skinny that the term “bag of bones” was a fairly accurate description. I was like a living skeleton with skin tightly wrapped around my frame, with only a little muscle to hold it in place and make me look vaguely human.

I was thin – terribly thin. Yet I had a massive appetite and a fantastic metabolism and I could, quite literally, eat a horse and burn it off without blinking, belching or farting. If I ate a crisp you could see it travel down my neck before reaching my stomach where it was napalmed out of existence and added to my energy intake.

As a kid I used to think that my inner combustion engine was like the world’s greatest nuclear reactor that could break down anything thrown at it.

“I don’t know where he puts it,” my mum used to say, and to be honest neither did I.

The food I consumed gave me loads of energy. I used to run everywhere, like a little whippet. I played football in the park, swam, played squash, badminton, rugby, athletics, cricket – you name it, I tried it. I was in the school cross country team and at the end of each race I felt alive. I had a newspaper round and I carried a bag full of daily missives around the streets, running the entire time.

And I still ate loads, my nuclear digestion giving me enormous bursts of vitality allowing me to pursue all of my sporting activities with ease.

Even at university, when I cut down the exercise slightly (only slightly, mind you), I still ate vast quantities of food, especially chocolate, crisps and other things that were extremely fattening and they were absorbed without adding anything to my body fat.

Nothing changed – even when I settled down into working and married life.

I still ate loads and only put on a little weight, which vanished whenever my ex-wife, W, decided to go on a diet. She often battled with her weight (and usually won) but whenever she made a supreme effort and ate more healthily (with whatever the latest dieting fad was at the time), I lost weight too - and very easily. It used to infuriate her. I simply ate massive quantities of whatever she was eating and while the pounds slipped off slowly for W, they dropped off me.

In my early thirties, I remember standing in front of a mirror, staring at my naked reflection, and thinking to myself “I’m still a bag of bones.”

And I was.

Even at the age of 32, I could see my rib cage and my stomach was totally flat. I had no muscle to speak of at all.

I became blasé about it all. I was blissfully unaware that at some point my nuclear digestion would begin to falter. To me, the Battle of the Bulge was something I would never have to fight. Obesity, for me, was an enemy that was too terrified to take me on. I would never be fat.

How wrong I was.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time that I noticed things starting to change. I have a feeling that it might have coincided with my 40th birthday.

I noticed that my weight was increasing. “Time for a diet,” I thought. I recalled that when W had inadvertently put me on a diet, my weight dropped. It would again – wouldn’t it?

Nope!! Not at all.

I ate more healthy food and the weight didn’t go. I actually joined a gym and started to exercise more, but the weight only drifted off a little. All of a sudden, I had a minor weight problem. I couldn’t believe it.

And it has been that way ever since. I have had to cut down on the amount of food I eat and have all but eliminated fattening food like chocolate, crisps, cakes etc. in favour of fruit.

People tell me that I am not fat and to be honest, I’m not really. The problem is I recall standing in front of the mirror and seeing a bag of bones.

Now it looks as if somebody has tried to inflate me. If I compare that mental image of myself aged 32 with the naked image I saw this morning, the difference is frightening.

I have moobs and a little podgy stomach. My shoulders are looking broader and my face is fatter. Things are drooping, dear reader – DROOPING.

People who haven’t seen me for a few years keep saying things like “My God – you’ve put on weight, Dave.”

And that hurts.

I have therefore decided to declare war on another front and try to rediscover the physique of my youth.

Stop laughing! Stop laughing right now!

I can do this – I know I can. I actually decided to start in December when I stood on the bathroom scales at the height of Christmas over-indulgence only to leap off in shock.

“GET OFF ME YOU BIG FAT LUMP OF BLUBBER!” yelled the contraption and it wasn’t even a “Speak Your Weight” machine.

I have to confess, dear reader, that I am not actually that fat. I am just a little overweight. The problem is that I am not used to it and I don’t like it at all.

I aim to lose a stone – then I will be happy. Nonetheless, just losing a few pounds can be difficult. The main problem is the food I like. I don’t want to give it up.

Why is it that the food that tastes best also adds several inches to your waistline? I love crisps, bacon, sausage, burgers, beer, pizza, cheese, chips, steak, hot dogs, mayonnaise, ice cream, fried chicken, curry, pies, kebabs, cheese on toast, biscuits, doughnuts, etc. etc.

It's like a sick joke.

The good news is that I am not a fan of chocolate and cakes so I can easily avoid such items. Sadly, there is one temptress that taunts me every time I open the fridge door. My nemesis is a giant slab of cheese.

“Go on,” it whispers. “Just a couple of slices of cheese on toast. You know you want to.”

I have resisted so far. Since December I have managed to lose about four pounds. I haven’t necessarily stopped eating crap but I have cut down, substituting an apple for a bag of crisps for example. Also, doing a bit more exercise has helped (though I have managed to hurt myself slightly doing Tae-Bo, so much so that I have decided to cut down on it a little on that too – don’t tell Billy Blanks).

I reckon that by spring, when the weather improves and the days grow longer, I shall be ready to get on my bike, quite literally.

This is a war I shall win – as long as I can resist the call of the cheese.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Survival Of The Drunkest?

The human race is evolving and it is all down to alcohol.

You may think that I have lost my mind, dear reader, but if you read on you will find yourself agreeing with me.

I am certain of this.

Well, there is an element of doubt.

Okay – you may NOT agree with me and you might end up considering me to be a weird arse. Nevertheless, please indulge me because I know I’m right.

Well maybe – perhaps!

Picture the scene. You have been invited to a major event that will involve drinking, dancing and generally revelling in a night club, or some similar debauched establishment, and you are preparing yourself.

You want to turn heads.

You want members of the opposite sex to fall in love with you.

You want the world to be talking about you tomorrow.

There is only so much you can do, physically. If, like me, you look like a decrepit old grape, then the task is almost impossible. If you are a woman, no matter how wonderfully attractive you are, you will still want to spend approximately six hours perfecting your appearance.

That is a given and has nothing to do with evolution. That is human pride and the need to be loved. And we all need to be loved (well, apart from Piers Morgan or Sarah Palin perhaps).

The evolutionary part is the way our bodies have developed to cope with the effects of imbibing too much alcohol. Some of these evolutionary traits are harmful - so I guess maybe you could say that there is a paradox here – we are evolving and regressing at the same time.

Of course, not everybody goes out planning to drink a lake of beer and wine. Most people know their limits and can enjoy themselves responsibly.

However, there are those who opt to break the record for the largest amount of alcoholic beverages ever consumed and there are also those who forget about responsibility and simply go with the flow without realising that they too are consuming a small river of beer.

And this is where evolution kicks in – and also regression.

The evening has started and you are surrounded by your friends. Everybody has had a couple of beers and the conversation is flowing. This is when the first evolutionary trait suddenly kicks in – the Beer Brain.

The Beer Brain is responsible for unleashing that inner potential that exists in all of us. When the Beer Brain is activated, entrepreneurial ideas that exist in a dusty old chest within our minds are suddenly released. The fact that this chest has a sign on it saying “DO NOT OPEN – EVER!!!” is completely ignored. Alcohol gives us the ability to shatter that lock and unleash all of our potential on the unsuspecting crowd. There will be those who are sceptical about this – but I am certain that in that chest there is a massive idea waiting to be implemented.

Something like, perhaps, the spaghetti mask. When eating spaghetti and you slurp it up, the end flies around spraying tomato sauce all over the place and, more importantly, all over your glasses (this is painful for me I can tell you). So you wear a metal mask with a mouth hole that takes all the spray as you slurp.

What about a homing sock? Each pair of socks comes with a remote control and an in-built locator device. When the button is pressed on the remote control, the sock comes to you – you will never lose a sock again.

Maybe a pair of underpants that you can turn into a toilet at the push of a button (something like this would be useful for me on my forthcoming trip to China).

How about an ironing machine? All you have to do is throw you clean but frazzled clothing into a machine, wait a while and extract the neatly ironed product. Some men may say that they have a device that goes the whole hog – called a washing basket. All they have to do is pile their dirty washing in the washing basket and, hey presto – in a couple of days it is hanging up crisp and clean in your wardrobe. Sadly, I don’t own such a basket and have to endure the full manual cycle – including the ironing.

After the Beer Brain, comes the Beer Ego. The Beer Ego transforms you into the greatest person who has ever lived – all it takes is a little more beer. Suddenly, when the Beer Ego detonates, you are the world’s greatest dancer, the world’s greatest conversationalist and the world’s most attractive person – all rolled into one. You can do no wrong. Eyes turn whenever you hit the dance floor and every member of the opposite sex wants to have your babies.

What about this poor fella?

Yes - that is me under the influence of the Beer Ego playing my guitar to the Drifters at New Year.

And, of course, there are the Beer Goggles that help you to select an equally attractive mate. The most hideous creature known to man can in an instant become the most attractive person on the planet:

Somebody once told me that Beer Goggles help ugly people get partners. It clearly didn’t work in my case, because Mrs PM really is lovely (mind you – I think she wears her Beer Goggles permanently).

Anyway, having solved the world’s problems with your Beer Brain, charmed everybody with your Beer Ego and used your Beer Goggles to grab yourself a date with a member of the opposite sex, it is now time to go home.

The amount of beer it takes to activate the Beer Brain, Beer Ego and Beer Goggles does take its toll and here, dear reader, is where the final evolutionary miracle occurs. You have two choices:

(1) The Homing Device – this is a built in six sense that somehow manages to inform your addled brain that you have, perhaps, consumed just a little bit too much alcohol. This fabulous mental device guides you in the direction of the exit, fending off all cries of “You can’t go yet, Dave,” with a dismissive wave of the hand and a heartfelt “OMGUWINUM”. This ingenious evolutionary part of your brain can direct you out of the pub or club and start you off on your way home. Mind you, it isn’t totally dependable, in which case a second ingenious evolutionary advancement comes into play:

(2) The Beer Scooter – The problem with the Beer Scooter is that nobody knows exactly how it works. The Beer Scooter is a miracle. Why?

(a) The Beer Scooter obtains fuel automatically (usually in the form of a large Donner Kebab).

(b) The Beer Scooter gets you home, no matter how much cash you have left after your night out on the town. Some sceptics say that taxis or The Nutty Bus are involved – but I don’t buy it.

(c) The Beer Scooter not only gets you to your front door; it gets you in the house, undressed and into bed. Some advanced humans sometimes even find that the Beer Scooter has provided water to help minimise the inevitable cost of your depraved evening.

So there you have it, dear reader; my theory of evolution due to alcohol and in the past, I have taken advantage of all these evolutionary enhancements. Sadly, they have dulled with age – even my Beer Goggles have stopped working.

Alas, so has my Beer Scooter, though I have found a half-eaten Donner Kebab in the fridge on occasion so perhaps it still works - a bit.

Actually, thinking about it, why on earth would anybody put a half-eaten Donner Kebab in the fridge? If anything is going to induce a violent reaction when you have a hangover it’s going to be a cold half-chewed scraggy lump of unidentifiable meat wrapped in cardboard and covered in “all the dressings – especially the monster strength chilli sauce”.

Perhaps we are regressing back to being apes after all.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Top Ten David Bowie Songs

When the TV series “Life on Mars” appeared a few years ago, Mrs PM said “I really like the theme tune. Who is it?”

“Who is it? WHO IS IT?” I screamed almost choking on my cup of tea. “You really are a musical heathen, aren’t you? It’s the legendary David Bowie.”

“Oh,” she replied. “I’ve heard of him. I love Let’s Dance.”

“This is before Let’s Dance,” I said.

“I didn’t know he’d done anything before Let’s Dance,” she replied causing me to splutter yet more tea onto my lap.

I then lectured her on the finer points of early David Bowie music and urged her to listen to it because, in my humble opinion, Bowie was at his peak in the 1970’s and the album Let’s Dance was a disappointment for me. Don’t get me wrong; I quite like the album but it proved to be the beginning of the end of my love of his music.

I have caught some of his material since then but with the odd exception, I have lost interest.

Nevertheless, the purpose of this post is to resurrect some of his legendary music as I offer you, dear reader, my favourite ten songs by David Bowie. You may have heard some of them; some may be familiar to you, others may not. Either way, they are worth hearing.

To be honest I really struggled to get the list down to ten because bubbling under are a whole bunch of other brilliant songs. If your favourite isn’t in the list, you can be sure that it is just below.

And to my sweet Mrs PM – when you read this post, please click on the YouTube links and listen because if you like Life On Mars you will love them.

10. I’m Afraid of Americans

This is (relatively speaking) a recent song from 1997. I stumbled across the song while searching for some information about Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame and was absolutely astounded to find a collaboration between him and David Bowie. I love Trent Reznor and the fact that he was involved with Bowie is something so delicious I had to have a look. The result is a superb song with a fabulous video, featuring Trent Reznor himself as a menacing stalker. These guys should definitely work together again.

9. Ashes To Ashes

The album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is David Bowie’s last great album and my favourite (with Aladdin Sane coming a close second). Just about every song is a masterpiece and Ashes to Ashes is a timeless classic. It brings back vivid memories of my time at university and that is one of the many appealing factors. And of course, the video itself is a bit of a landmark. We all wondered what happened to Major Tom, didn’t we?

8. Life On Mars

This one is especially for Mrs PM and, thankfully, it also makes my top ten. It is a truly great song that has an epic quality that never fails to move me. It must be good if both me and Mrs PM like it, particularly given our totally dissimilar musical tastes. Check out the blue eye make-up in the video.

7. John, I’m Only Dancing

Now this is a strange song to make the top ten. For some reason the tune appeals to me. I don’t know whether I’m alone here but I think it is a catchy song with an infectious chorus that really makes me want to sing along with it. Or am I just weird? Don't answer that question.

6. Panic In Detroit

The very first David Bowie record I bought was Aladdin Sane and it is still one of my favourites. The album features Panic In Detroit, which is a fabulous song with a magnificent beat and amazing guitar work. It is almost worthy of an air guitar session.

5. Loving The Alien

This a bizarre song but one that I love. It was released in 1985 and I first spotted it on a late night music show. As strange as the song and the video are, again it has an epic quality that appeals to me. Essentially it is a pop song with a twist and I like that.

4. Shapes of Things

The second Bowie album I bought was Pin Ups which features covers of various songs from the late 1960’s. The song was originally recorded by The Yardbirds. In fact, I also have a version of the song recorded recently by Rush, my favourite band. Nevertheless, this version by Bowie is the best of the three – and that is massive praise considering how much I love Rush.

3. The Jean Genie

At the age of ten I was just beginning to take notice of music. I distinctly remember hearing The Jean Genie for the first time and I loved it. I used to wander around the house singing the crazy chorus having no idea what they meant: “The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks”. What does that mean? Who cares. This is the song that got me into David Bowie and it is the reason I bought the album Aladdin Sane. It deserves its spot at number three for that reason alone - and it is a fabulous song.

2. Starman

I love Starman. It is one of those songs that has a great sing-along chorus, while at the same time sending a massive shiver down your spine. It is a truly great pop song.

1. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

The best song from the best album had to be number one. The title track of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is a weird and menacing song, and at the same time extremely catchy. I’m sure there are some of you out there who disagree with me on this. I can’t really explain why I love this song – I just do. David Bowie produced some really weird songs with even weirder lyrics and the appeal of all of those songs is packaged perfectly in this one tune. I can’t say any more than that – I love it.

Actually, I have found it very refreshing to plough through my Bowie collection and it has perked my interest again. There are so many other great songs, like Rebel Rebel, Ziggy Stardust, China Girl and Heroes to name but a few. And I am sure that some of his more modern material is worth more than just a passing interest.

I think I might delve into the world of Bowie again, if nothing else, just to remind me what a great artist he is.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Skool Daze (Part Two) - The Trombone

I can play the trombone. Don’t laugh – it’s true.

When I say “can play” I really mean “used to be able to play”. I can hear the question you are about to ask, dear reader:

“Why on Earth would a man who sings the praises of heavy metal play a trombone?”

It’s all the entire fault of my father.

When I arrived in my first year at the grammar school we were all told that we had to go and see the music teacher – individually. My name was called out and off I went.

I arrived at the door to the music room and knocked.

“Enter,” yelled a posh voice.

I walked in and stood facing a man who scared the shit out of me. The music room was just like any other classroom in the school apart from one or two things that gave its purpose away.

In the corner at the right hand side of the room, stood an open cupboard that was stacked full of vinyl records. At the back of the class behind the desks, there were a number of music stands. Other cupboards lined the room and they were closed. At the front of the room next to the teacher’s desk was a piano and behind that two blackboards; the first was a conventional blackboard but the second had several staves coloured in dark orange, where the teacher or pupils could actually write music. And in the corner at the front of the room was a top of the range music centre.

I was terrified and stood there gawping at the room like a raving rabbit caught in headlights.

“Name?” asked the madman in front of me, whom I shall refer to as Mr Ragbag (not his real name obviously but it does incorporate his nickname).

I told him, squeaking like a mouse held captive by a mad moggy.

“Right – I want you to sing for me. I want you to sing a scale.”

“A what?” I blurted.

“A musical scale you stupid boy. And call me SIR!!!”

He demonstrated what he wanted by singing himself and then looking at me expectantly.

A tiny dribble of urine escaped and my hand instinctively reached for my crotch.

LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH!” I sang. I was proud of myself, despite the fact that I had stumbled part way down the road towards pissing my pants. I thought I sounded fine. Mr Ragbag gave his damning verdict.

“You sound like a parrot being strangled, boy,” he said putting a big red cross in a book next to my name. “You won’t be singing in the choir.”

“Phew!” I thought.

“What musical instrument would you like to learn?” he added.

“Dunno!” I jabbered.

“I DON’T KNOW, SIR!!!” he shouted. “Think about it and come back tomorrow. Now get out.”

If I knew then what I know now, I would immediately have told Mr Ragbag that I wanted to be a rock guitarist.

I want to be an axe-wielding psychotic metal God, deafening people with my insane riffs! I want to be like Jimi Hendrix and set fire to my guitar before smashing it all up. I want to be a rebel and write songs about death, destruction and girls.”

Sadly, I didn’t say that at all; if I had my life could have been so different.

Instead, I just walked out hoping that I really hadn't peed my trousers.

I never liked Mr Ragbag and he didn’t like me either. That first encounter paved the way for our future relationship; a very rocky one at best.

I went home and spoke to my dad about the encounter and asked for his advice.

Sadly, my dad didn’t envisage me as a mad guitarist and now he had the opportunity to mould me into something that he thought I should be.

“Play a trombone – like Glenn Miller,” he said, pride pouring out of his big smiling face.

“Okay,” I said, without thinking. I returned to Mr Ragbag the next day and told him that I wanted to play the trombone.

I was assigned an external music teacher who specialised in brass instruments. He visited the school every Friday and music lessons were arranged to coincide with real lessons but organised so that different lessons were missed every week.

I remember that first lesson well. There were several smaller music rooms, full of a variety of musical instruments, with just enough room for three people to sit down and make arses of themselves with musical instruments.

I actually liked my trombone teacher and he liked me. He always encouraged me, telling me that I was a good student. On the first day, he shook my hand – yes, a teacher who shook my hand - and called me Dave. I loved it. All of the other teachers called me by my surname or “BOY!!!”.

I shall call my trombone teacher Mr Miller (after Glenn Miller – again not his real name). Mr Miller was a fully trained trombonist who was almost a virtuoso. Outside of school, he played in a jazz group and was an absolute maestro.

“Sit down, Dave,” he said on that first day. “Have you seen a trombone before?”

“Only on telly,” I blurted. I didn’t even call him “Sir,” a crime punishable by detention.

“That’s okay, “ he said. “Let’s sort one out for you.”

He moved a few instruments aside and hauled out a box that was as big as I was. He opened it up and inside was a shiny new trombone, which he extracted and put together for me.

“That’s yours,” he said smiling.

Over the next five years or so, Mr Miller helped to turn me into someone who could read music and, more importantly, actually make a big brass instrument with a slide sound something like a musical instrument.

I actually became quite good, so good in fact that I played in the school brass group, the school orchestra and briefly in the jazz group.

Unfortunately the school orchestra was run by Mr Ragbag and he took great pleasure in bellowing at people who didn’t play in the style he wanted. When I first saw Mr Ragbag’s attempts at conducting, I almost wet my pants again – this time, laughing. He bellowed at me in front of the entire orchestra, much to the amusement of everybody else, and then carried on conducting like he had a ferret in his trousers, forcing me to make even more mistakes as I struggled to stifle my chuckles. I didn’t last long in the school orchestra.

The jazz group was run by Mr Miller but it was far too whacky for me. The music put in front of me made no sense and it was as if everybody in the entire group was playing a different tune. I have never liked jazz and I guess that is where my hatred of the genre began.

Despite my failings in the orchestra and the jazz group, I was a star in the brass group. We played decent tunes and it was relatively easy. Mr Ragbag wasn’t involved at all and again Mr Miller took control. The brass group gave me my first and possibly only shot at fame. We played in school concerts and also in Walsall Town Hall. On one occasion, had to stand up during a rendition of “The Floral Dance” and play a solo. I was terrified but somehow I muddled through.

Sadly, my relationship with the trombone hit rocky ground and by the time I was an arrogant fifteen year old, I had decided to give it up. I didn’t bother to tell Mr Ragbag; I just stopped going to lessons. After a month of skipping lessons, Mr Ragbag finally lost his temper with me and I recall the day vividly.

I was in an English lesson when the door burst open and in walked a very irate Mr Ragbag.

“Can I help you, Mr Ragbag?” asked the English teacher.

“Where’s Plastic Mancunian?” he bellowed, looking wildly around the room. Of course, the rest of the class was chuckling with excitement at the prospect of my public humiliation.

I shrank in my chair but it didn’t help. He spotted me.

In those days I had long bushy blond hair and looked like a member of the Hair Bear Bunch.

Mr Ragbag strode purposefully towards my desk, reached out and grabbed my hair, hauling me out of my seat and dragging me towards the door. He uttered a sentence that made my life hell for the next month. My so-called school friends were merciless.

Why? Because of what Mr Ragbag said to me.

I’M GOING TO SCREW YOU!!” he yelled, dragging me out of the door. When we were outside the classroom, he let rip, telling me in no uncertain terms what he thought of me. I tried to intervene but was yelled down.

He was livid. He grabbed me by my arm and led me to Mr Miller who was waiting for me.

“I forgot,” I told Mr Miller. He clearly didn’t believe me and the look of disappointment on his face told me everything I needed to know. He didn’t yell at me; he just carried on with the lesson, leaving me feeling ashamed.

However, my heart wasn’t in it and I gave up a few weeks later, citing the pressure of O-levels as an excuse. It was a lie.

I didn’t tell Mr Ragbag; I chose instead to tell Mr Miller and I hoped that my apparent desire to progress academically made him feel better.

It didn’t. He told me that it was a shame and that I should continue.

“You are a good trombonist,” he said. “It’s a real shame you want to give up. If you change your mind, you know where I am on Fridays.”

I felt really bad that I had let him down and I handed over the trombone one final time.

I haven’t picked one up since.

Mind you, recently I have been tempted to have another go, for old times’ sake. I imagine that I would probably sound dreadful but it would be good for a laugh.

And just watch this clip below. My dad was a huge fan of Glenn Miller – I could possibly have played in this band.

My dad would have loved that.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Stupid Evil Bastard Meme

First meme of the year, stolen from Sunday Stealing .

Here goes:

1. What time did you get up this morning?

Today is Saturday, a day when I get the chance to have a lie in. I went to bed on Friday at around 1:30 am having been drawn into “Starship Troopers” and hoped that I would wake up at a nice time in mid-morning feeling gully refreshed and ready for a relaxing weekend. Wrong!

I pinged awake at 7:30 am, barely six hours after my head touched the pillow.

Why does that happen? Why? Why?

The answer is therefore : too bloody early!!!

2. How do you like your steak?

That depends where I am. If I am in England I ask for it to be medium rare. If I am in France I ask for it to be well done (if they ask that is – and if they can understand my pigeon French) because if I don’t then it is usually so rare that it looks like it has just been sliced off the cow.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?

Sore point. We had a vote. I voted for “Gulliver’s Travels” starring Jack Black and Mrs PM and the lads voted for Little Fockers. So I lost and I had to watch that. It was quite amusing though.

4. What is your favorite TV show?

At this present moment in time it is the brand new series of “True Blood”. Lots of vampires, blood, sex and Anna Pacquin.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

I would live in Hong Kong. I love the place.

6. What did you have for breakfast?

Mrs PM and I tossed a coin and she lost. Her forfeit was to cook one of her incredible English breakfasts, while I had to go out in the rain and buy the paper. Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sure she lost.

7. What is your favorite cuisine?

I like all sorts. I’m a big fan of Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Italian – so close your eyes, and pin your cursor on one of those. Whichever you choose, I’ll say that’s the answer.

8. What foods do you dislike?

Rhubarb, dates, figs, prunes, damsons, cranberry, pears, liver and most Thai food. If I am in China, insects, tripe and any pet.

9. Favorite Place to Eat?

I love eating in the pub. You can’t beat a hearty pub meal washed down with a pint of bitter.

10. Favorite dressing?

Clothes. Oh – you mean for salad? That has to be blue cheese.I’d better not mix those up again. I would look a bit daft wearing blue cheese and I would probably get arrested too.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?

I drive a dark blue clapped out old Ford Escort. Sadly at its last MOT I was told that they were running out of bodywork to weld more metal onto so I fear that it will not survive until September.

12. What are your favorite clothes?

I feel most comfortable in jeans and a T shirt.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?

In order of preference: Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Argentina.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?

Beer glass half full. I am a stupid optimist.

15. Where would you want to retire?

I would love to retire somewhere hot. I am drawn to the South of France to be honest. Ideally I would love to be able to afford a second home somewhere like that so that I can pop back to England in the summer.

16. Favorite time of day?

I am a night person. I am a grumpy old git in the morning – well, more grumpy than I am at any other time in the day.

17. Where were you born?

I was born in a bedroom in a terraced house in Walsall. Apparently it was a Monday morning at 5am and my mum screamed the place down. My dad sat downstairs chain-smoking. I was a big baby with a big head and apparently I did a little bit of damage. Nothing’s changed there then.

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?

Football. If you are American, dear reader, I shall translate for you: soccer. If you are Australian, dear reader, I don’t mean that crazy Australian Rules game where players beat the living daylights out of each other.

Oh – and also, if you are Australian, I LOVE CRICKET!! Can I just say: 3-1, 3-1, 3-1 and gloat about the Ashes again?

19. Who do you think will not tag you back?

I’m not going to tag anybody so the answer is nobody.

20. Person you expect to tag you back first?

See previous answer.

21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this?

This question or this meme? Or life? I guess I would like to see this meme completed by Barack Obama, Chuck Norris and Mr T. And perhaps the Hoff as well.

22. Bird watcher?

I am a secret bird watcher – unless Mrs PM’s not around when I am blatant about it. I’m sorry – that was sexist but I couldn’t resist.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?

I answered that question above. I just want to add that I would love to be a vampire.

24. Do you have any pets?

I have two feline masters; a fat moggy called Jasper and his sister Poppy who is scared of everything.

25. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share?

Yes. I am off to China again in February and am currently psyching myself up to handle Chinese toilets. I am also off to a new country on holiday later in the year – I’m off to Turkey.

26. What did you want to be when you were little?

Bizarrely I wanted to be a footballer, a pop star and an actor. Sadly, I can’t play football, I can’t sing (well I can, only I sound like a cat being skinned with a lawnmower) and I can’t act. That’s why I am an IT geek. If only I had learned to play the guitar instead of a bloody trombone.

27. What is your best childhood memory?

Without a shadow of a doubt, it was leaving school and telling one particular teacher what I thought of him. Incredibly he laughed, clapped me on the shoulder and said, “You’ll go far. Good luck.” Weird.

28. Are you a cat or dog person?

I am a secret dog person but I also like cats. Sadly, Mrs PM is a total cat person, hence the reason why I am slave to two moggies.

29. Are you married?

I have been married and am now in a “partnership” with Mrs PM. We are effectively married though.

30. Always wear your seat belt?

Well if I don’t the chances are that I could be collared by a policeman. So the answer is yes – it is the law.

31. Been in a car accident?

I’ve reversed my car off my drive straight into a parked car on the other side of the road. Convinced that I had hit the kerb, I drove forward and reversed into it AGAIN! What a total pillock I was. I destroyed the door and the owner was so shocked at my ineptitude that he was speechless.

32. Any pet peeves?

Have you got a few years? Yes – I have quite literally several thousand.

33. Favorite Pizza Toppings?


34. Favorite Flower?

I’m not a big flower person but I like roses.

35. Favorite ice cream?

Chocolate chip cookie.

36. Favorite fast food restaurant?

I don’t go to fast food restaurants unless I have had a few beers – and then it is the local kebab shop, so I will say that.

37. How many times did you fail your driver’s test?

I passed first time despite failing to spot that the traffic light had changed from red to green. I looked up just as it changed back to red and swore. But I still passed.

Incidentally, my eldest lad, Stephen, has just passed his driving test – first time too. I feel so old.

38. From whom did you get your last email?

It was junk mail offering me genital extensions.

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?

A shop that sold electronic equipment, books and CDs.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?

No. What a boring answer!!!

41. Like your job?

No! That’s something I could write a book on.

42. Broccoli?

Yes – I wear it all the time.

43. What was your favorite vacation?

I would say a trip to Australia via Hong Kong (on the way there) and Singapore (on the way back) in 2005.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with?

Mrs PM and her mum.

45. What are you listening to right now?

I am listening to “Shout” by Tears For Fears. One of the greatest pop songs of the 1980’s.

46. What is your favorite color?

Back and blue.

47. How many tattoos do you have?

Déjà vu!!! I don’t have any tattoos because I am afraid of needles.

48. How many times have you tagged someone to do a meme?

Never – I don’t do that kind of thing.

49. What time did you finish this meme?

It is now 22:30 and Match of the Day is about to start.

50. Coffee Drinker?

Rarely. I prefer beer and tea (not together).

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The iPod Shuffle

It’s time to steal an idea again and this time it is to do with music.

I am stealing an idea from two fellow bloggers (Princess Pandora, Queen of Denial and Working Through It).

The idea is simple:

Put your fruit-flavoured or other brand MP3 player on Shuffle, and write down the first 15 songs that come on, and what they mean to you (if anything).

Of course, the idea is to be honest and list the first 15 songs and I shall endeavour to do that, no matter how embarrassing. Why? Because these songs are in my collection and I will stand by that.

Can I just add that I don’t own an iPod – my mp3 player is the one pictured above and can accommodate 40Gb of music. It is not far from being full so I may have to either purge some of the songs or reinvest in another one.

Anyway, here are my random 15 songs:

(1) Bruce Springsteen – Born In The U.S.A.

In the 1970’s one of my best mates was a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen and he would play his music over and over again. Consequently I was kind of brainwashed with classic albums like “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, “Born to Run” and “The River”. He really grew on me. The album “Born in the U.S.A” hit the shops when I was university and reminds me vividly of that time. I love this song, and not just because of the memories that are reborn. I have to say that Bruce Springsteen is one of the finest acts I have seen live.

(2) AC/DC – Rocking All The Way

This is a song from the latest album by AC/DC called “Black Ice” and their style hasn’t really changed over the years – and they really have been going for years. I have always wanted to see them live and finally got my wish the year before last when I got the chance to see them at the Manchester Evening News Arena. Such was their popularity that they sold out within minutes. And they were fantastic. I just wish I’d had the chance to see them before Bon Scott’s tragic and premature death.

(3) Aerosmith – Jaded

As much as I like Aerosmith, the album “Just Push Play” was a bit of a disappointment to be honest and it was the last album I bought by the band. This song is a single from that album and, while it is not a bad track, it lacks the punch of their earlier stuff.

(4) Manic Street Preachers – Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky

The Manic Street Preachers have written some great songs over the years. My favourite album by the band is “Everything Must Go” and this beautiful little song comes from that album. It is one of those songs that you can listen to with the lights down low and let your mind wander as the stress is left behind. A lovely song to relax to.

(5) Judas Priest – Sands of Time/Pestilence and Plague

The lead singer of Judas Priest, Rob Halford, hails from my home town of Walsall and has a magnificent rock voice – even now he is in his fifties. I have loved Judas Priest since the 1970’s and some of their material has been fantastic. Their latest album, released a couple of years ago, is a concept album charting the life and times of Nostradamus and is called, unsurprisingly, “Nostradamus”. It is an absolute triumph. “Sands of Time” is a beautiful mellow song that builds up, ultimately transforming into a superb heavy metal anthem called “Pestilence and Plague”. Give them a go, you might actually like them. I certainly do.

(6) Pendulum – The Fountain

My eldest lad has inherited my love of rock music and heavy metal (much to Mrs PM’s disgust) but one of his favourite bands is Pendulum, a kind of electronic rock band whose genre I can’t quite put my finger on. He has been to see them live in concert and he has been urging me to listen to them. So I have. This particular song surprised me because it features the vocal talents of Steve Wilson, the main man behind “Porcupine Tree”, a progressive rock band that I discovered last year and haven’t stopped listening too for the past few months. Pendulum are slowly growing on me and this song certainly helps.

(7) Cream – Sunshine Of Your Love

You can’t beat a bit of blues rock and Cream are one of the best. I discovered Eric Clapton, thanks to “Layla” and graduated to his earlier stuff with Cream soon afterwards. This song is a timeless classic.

(8) Joe Satriani – Love Thing

Joe Satriani is, in my opinion, one of the greatest guitarists in the world. I have a plethora of albums by him and his virtuosity never ceases to amaze me. I have seen him live twice and he brings his guitar to life. One of my favourite albums is “Crystal Planet”, which has special significance because I played it to death when Mrs PM and I got together. Mrs PM, having no taste in music, hated it. Nevertheless, it holds a special place in my heart because of our blossoming relationship. “Love Thing” is a beautifully mellow love song that you might think is quite apt. Of course, it is – but unfortunately the songs that stick in my heart are the screamers on the album. Those of you who like a little romance will no doubt like this – I prefer the faster heavier stuff. Still, it is a good tune.

(9) Geddy Lee – Slipping

Regular readers will know that Rush are my favourite band of all time. For those of you who don’t know, Geddy Lee is the singer and also plays keyboards and the bass guitar for the band. During a hiatus, Geddy Lee released a wonderful solo album called “My Favourite Headache”. While not classic Rush, you would be forgiven for thinking you are listening to the band because of Geddy’s distinctive voice. There are a couple of diamonds on this album and “Slipping” is one of them. It is a beautiful song and would easily fit onto any album by Rush. Wonderful.

(10) Nazareth – Broken Down Angel

Nostalgia time again folks. When I discovered heavy metal, I decided to research other rock bands around the time and discovered a Scottish rock band called Nazareth. While not particularly heavy and loud, they have a distinctive sound, thanks to the vocal talents of Dan McCafferty. This song is a from “Razamanaz”, released in 1973. Some of their later stuff is much better but this is a nice little number to give you an idea of how good they are (and I believe they are still around).

(11) Guns ’N’ Roses – Don’t Damn Me

Guns ‘N’ Roses self-destructed thanks to Axl Rose but thankfully after their impressive double album release “Use Your Illusion I” and “Use Your Illusion II”. I was lucky enough to see them on that extensive world tour and, although we had to wait three hours for the buggers to arrive on stage, it was worth it. “Don’t Damn Me” is from “Use Your Illusion I” and is a nice rocky little number.

(12) Judas Priest – Night Crawler

I guess it was inevitable that my random list would contain more than one song by an artist. This song is taken from the album “Painkiller” which, even by Judas Priest’s standards, is quite a heavy album. “Night Crawler” is one of the tamer songs on the album; if you think it is heavy, you should hear the rest of it. Get your air guitar out and rock!!!

(13) Gillan – Come Tomorrow

When Ian Gillan left Deep Purple, he formed a new band. Clearly he couldn’t think of a good name and decided to name the band after himself. Their second major album was called “Glory Road” and in order to promote it, the band gave away a free album called “For Gillan Fans Only” which didn’t set the world alight but contained the odd half decent song.

(14) Dream Theater – Never Enough

Regular readers will know that I have mentioned Dream Theater before. For those that haven’t they are one of the finest bands on the planet. One of my favourite albums is “Octavarium” and “Never Enough” is one of the songs on that album. Usually their songs are epic progressive rock monsters that take you on a rollercoaster ride. “Never Enough” however, is a small song in comparison, coming in at a mere six minutes long. A great tune.

(15) Skin – House of Love

Skin were a rock band who had a modicum of chart success in the 1990’s. I saw them a couple of times in small venues in Manchester and they always went down a treat. They split up after a couple of albums, which was a real shame because I quite liked them. They tried reforming a year or two ago and I saw them one final time in a venue that had a bar. Needless to say I had a beer or two too many and ended up nursing a hangover the next day. They have recently split up again though, sadly. If they reform and make me drunk again, I might have a few words to say.

That was fun but you may think, dear reader, that my taste is biased to all things rock and metal. That is simply not true – it is the fault of the shuffle algorithm on my mp3 player (honestly).

I may have another go in a future post – after all there are a lot of songs to go through.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Skool Daze

I was having a chat with a couple of work colleagues the other week about the subjects we all did at school and I started to think more about school days. The picture above is me aged twelve. Just look at that bloody hair!!!

I’ve already mentioned a couple of my exploits as a child at school but I’ve never really written anything about the school itself.

At junior school, I was regarded as quite a clever kid. I was one of the stars of my year and I excelled in everything I did. Ultimately I took an exam called the 11-plus, along with all of my fellow pupils, and I passed easily. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. I certainly didn’t consider the reward for this achievement.

My father had been told that I was good enough to apply to the local grammar school in Walsall. It was a boy’s only school (there was an equivalent girl’s only school) and it was considered a privilege to go there. Most parents wanted their kids to enrol but in order to qualify, they had to pass the 11-plus. Since I had sailed through that exam I was accepted without question. Some of my mates didn’t quite do well enough and one or two had to take a further entrance exam.

Unfortunately, amongst the kids of Walsall, my school was considered a school for toffs or rich kids; we were mocked mercilessly by them. To be fair, most of the kids in my year did come from more privileged backgrounds.

Sadly I didn’t. My father worked in a factory and my mother didn’t work at all. We didn’t even own a car.

And this is where I had a huge problem.

I lived within spitting distance of the local comprehensive school which meant that when I walked to school I had to pass kids from the two comprehensive schools every single day. But it was worse than that, dear reader, because on the way to school I had to pass yet another comprehensive school. The journey to and from school took about half an hour and it wasn’t pleasant.

First of all, I was forced to wear a school cap in my first two years. It was a bizarre school rule to say the least and obviously something that was traditional. Such customs were irrelevant for my eleven year old self; all I thought about was a safe and trouble free journey – I rarely got one.

No other school in the borough of Walsall had a similar stupid rule about caps, meaning that I stood out like sore thumb. It was even worse than that, dear reader, because as far as I know, I was the only kid in the entire first year who lived in my area and consequently I was alone in my journey home. You can imagine what happened.

“Look – it’s a TOFF!” a voice would cry and then before I knew it I would be surrounded by kids from one of the other two schools. My cap was their target.

I had to try to fight them off or run away from them. I wasn’t always successful. That bloody cap was run over by a buses and cars, stuffed into dustbins and hurled around all the time.

I actually stopped wearing it for a while until I was caught by a teacher who just happened to be passing. This cretin stopped his car and screamed my name.

“Where’s your cap?” he said.

“I forgot it,” I replied thinking of the worst excuse possible.

“Detention, lad!” he said before driving off.

I was bloody annoyed I can tell you. The school’s idea was that wearing a cap would show that you were from a great school and that “you should be proud to wear it”. I wasn’t – I hated it.

I’m convinced that this episode was the beginning of the anarchic streak within me. I actually had an argument with the teacher who had stopped.

“You don’t have to walk back through a bunch of kids whose idea of a joke is to steal my cap,” I argued. “That’s why I don’t wear the fracking thing.”

“Don’t argue with me boy and how dare you use language like that!” he snarled. “Every time I see you on your way to or from the school without your cap you will get a detention.”

“That’s not bloody fair,” I cried. “My parents don’t own a car so I can’t get a lift. Everybody else leaves school, gets into a car and I’m willing to bet the cap comes straight off. It’s not fair.”

My arguments fell on deaf ears and the idea of rebelling against these stupid and idiotic rules was born. I became a rebel because of that bloody cap.

I managed to get away with not wearing it most of the time and only got caught a handful of times – each time I got a detention and sometimes I argued myself into yet another one.

Thankfully, when I reached the third year, the cap became optional. I ceremoniously burnt the bloody thing at the bottom of the garden by hurling it onto my dad’s bonfire.

It wasn’t just the cap the got me into trouble on the journey to and from school. One day a week I had trombone lessons and I had to carry the bloody thing for half an hour each way, sometimes with my sports bag and briefcase (yes that’s right – I had a bloody briefcase while other kids had Adidas sports bags or no bags at all).

Sometimes I looked like a pack mule.

The kids from other schools absolutely loved trying to steal my stuff. Thankfully, I used the trombone case and whatever else I was carrying as a weapon and swung them around hoping to make contact. It was sometimes like running the gauntlet, I can tell you.

The other problem I had was my background. My father was fiercely proud that his son had managed to get a place in the best school in Walsall because, at the time, it was considered quite an achievement. He worked in a factory in Darlaston and I was one of the only kids in my year whose dad wasn’t a businessman or some similar profession.

Consequently I ended up on the receiving end of a lot of abuse from certain arseholes in my year. Some of the posh kids considered me to be a pauper and called me names like “El Cheapo”. I gave it back, I can tell you, but it hurt my feelings, especially because my parents were so proud of me.

In the end I developed a thick skin and tolerated it, occasionally lashing out when the abuse got too much (as I did here). And because I regarded some of the school rules as totally stupid, I also gained a reputation for being an impudent child, arguing with teachers, taking the piss out of teachers and even calling them names to their faces while questioning their intelligence.

In summary, dear reader, I don’t really look back at my schooldays with too much affection at all.

I liked some of the teachers (they weren’t all arses) and I liked a lot of the kids; my problem was that those I didn’t like made it quite difficult sometimes and turned me into the rebellious arsehole I am today.

I simply do not believe that stupid rules have to be obeyed just because they are there.

Nevertheless, ultimately, I have to be grateful because the school made sure that the kids were driven and pushed academically. Without that grammar school I would never have gone to university and I wouldn’t be where I am today.

And I thank the school and the teachers for that – even though the buggers made me wear a bloody cap.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Plumping Iron

I am considering the best way to get fit, dear reader, and I am in a bit of a quandary.

Mrs PM says that I should join a gym. It’s a good suggestion but one that I have a bit of a problem with. You see, dear reader, I have been a member of the gym in the past and I know that it is not for me.

Allow me to explain.

The first problem is the cash. Gym membership is expensive and the only way to get value for money is to go on a regular basis. A few years ago, I joined the local gym, newly opened and very modern. It had everything I needed from such a place: a swimming pool, sauna, equipment, canteen, personal trainers, TV, classes and five star changing rooms.

It was New Year and I was determined to rediscover the fitness of my youth. And as an incentive, the cost was relatively cheap – or so Mrs PM told me.

HOW MUCH? I screamed when she told me the cost. Unfortunately, I only screamed within my own head and I watched in horror as Mrs PM signed both of us up for six month membership, including a signing on fee.

WHAT, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS SANE, ARE YOU DOING? screamed my wallet when it heard the price.

I think burning my own cash might have been more cost effective.

Having signed away my income with blood and sweat, I decided to make a supreme effort. My personal trainer took me around the equipment, showing me how to use the various machines, including cross trainers, running machines, cycling machines, rowing machines and all manner of contraptions for lifting weights using various parts of my body. He even came up with a workout routine for me that involved spending forty minutes of cardiovascular exercise followed by a further half an hour of circuit training culminating with various methods for cooling down.

I recall that first session with horror.

I entered the gym and mentally calculated how many fivers I could have burned at home. I changed into my sporting gear and, as I left the changing room, caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

“Cripes,” I thought. “What a scrawny fat git!”

Then I realised that I was looking at myself. And yes, dear reader, I was scrawny at the top of my body, yet fat around my middle. I was a walking paradox.

All the other guys who were getting changed looked athletic and muscular, making me look like a badly stuffed scarecrow in comparison.

And this was the second problem, dear reader.

I looked totally out of place. Here I was, a forty-something, trying to look cool while surrounded by athletes who were already totally fit, toned and honed and using the gym to put the finishing touches to an already fine physique.

I was paying money to embarrass myself. I bit the bullet and went for it.

My first port of call was a cycling machine. Armed with headphones, I perched myself on a machine and started watching the TV as I cycled. From the corner of my eye, I saw a lovely lady on the machine next to me – she was pedalling furiously. Just in front was a guy who was also pedalling as if his life depended on it.

The testosterone floodgates opened. I wouldn’t allow myself to look like a sad old pillock in front of these two young athletes. I ignored my workout programme and pedalled as if the hounds of hell were on my tail.

Ten minutes later, I got off the machine and almost passed out. I was gasping for breath but I just stumbled away, muttering something like “Good workout,” to try to hide the fact that I was about to fall apart.

And that was when I tried the cross trainer.

Next to me was another young woman who made it look easy. I climbed onto the contraption and followed the instructions, programming the thing to give me the workout that the personal trainer had recommended.

Within ten minutes, the thing had me doing all sorts of crap.

“Pedal backwards – now forwards – now with your arms – now with your legs”, read the display as it showed me how badly coordinated and unfit I was. It was like a mechanical bootcamp sergeant.

I was half expecting the thing to suddenly scream at me:

“What do you think you are doing you blubbery lump of dog meat? You look like a bag of mad badgers.”

Thankfully it didn’t have a voice.

Feeling totally humiliated, I decided to go circuit training and encountered problem number three, dear reader.

All of the contraptions were occupied by huge men whose sole purpose was to fill the entire room with muscle. I felt totally inadequate – like a twig standing next to a Giant Redwood.

One of the machines I was supposed to use was free. I was about to sit down when a big booming voice said “I haven’t finished yet.”

Standing behind me was a huge black guy, covered in sweat with bulging veins that were bigger than my arms.

“I’ll be five minutes, mate,” he boomed. “Wait there.”

I watched him set the weight to something just short of “ELEPHANT” and then lift the colossal chunks of metal with absolute ease, blowing and puffing as he went. It was mesmerising – the man was a monster.

I must have been stargazing because I didn’t notice him get up. Either that or was I in a state of shock.

“Do your best,” he boomed, slapping me on the back. I almost went sprawling. He watched as I sat down and adjusted the weights – to “WIMP” (the lowest setting). He chuckled as he walked to the next machine where he would undoubtedly lift three ten ton weights.

My ego was in tatters but I took a deep breath and followed the instructions I had been given.

On the next machine, another guy was about to begin. He stared at me as I approached. He looked as if his ego had been annihilated too. His approach was slightly different from mine. Rather than accepting the fact that he was not a muscle-bound meathead and really should be working within his limits, he decided to repair his ego by showing that he could cope with the “ELEPHANT” setting.

He took a deep breath and, as I watched, lifted the enormous chunks of metal. His head, already red, turned crimson and then purple. His arms shook. His breath was ragged and he struggled to suppress a groan of agony as he pushed his body to the limit. Veins popped out all over his arms and neck.

He tried to look calm and composed, yet his face betrayed him. He only managed a couple of lifts and then dropped the weights with an almighty crash.

“Good workout!” he whispered as he got up. “It’s all yours.”

He watched as I took his place and adjusted the weight setting back to “WIMP” and followed my instructions. I smiled at him and I think my face said it all:

“You didn’t impress me, mate!”

I did manage to persevere for about three months before I began to get bored. I adjusted my workout in an attempt to relieve the tedium but to no avail. The physical effects were noticeable though. My upper body shape changed slightly and when I finally gave up, I had progressed and was comfortable on the “WEAKLING” setting. I could also run further and faster; I even managed to tame the cross trainer.

I would like to get fit again but the gym is not for me. I could try Mrs PM’s Tae-Bo challenge at home, which I have managed to do for a month or two before that bores me to death (after almost killing me). If you have never heard of  Tae-Bo, click here to see what I mean. Billy Blanks, the inventor of Tae-bo, is a master of martial arts and all round fitness guru.

Mrs PM bought a video about ten years ago and, after laughing, I decided to try it myself. Let me tell you, dear reader – it is bloody tough! If you can disregard the cries of “ALRIGHT!!!” and the typical American whooping and screaming, it really does work – until boredom sets in (as it inevitably does).

So my choices are:

(1) Humiliate myself at the gym whole burning loads of cash.
(2) Allow Billy Blanks, the Tae-Bo king, to bully me into shape for a month or two, until the weather gets warmer.
(3) Bite the bullet and revisit my cross country running youth by taking up jogging.
(4) Get on my bike and cycle to work.
(5) Do nothing and grow into a fat old git.

I have started in the right way by allowing myself to be terrorised by Billy Blanks this evening. I am currently half-dead as a result - it must be working.

Wish me luck.