Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Twilight Saga Is Rubbish

Warning – if you haven’t seen The Twilight Saga and want to watch it (for some insane reason) – DON’T!!!!

If you insist on watching it, despite my warning, this post may contain spoilers! And I’m not talking about the plot.

I like vampires and I love stories and novels involving these horrific creatures of the night but I have one thing to say about The Twilight Saga.

It is official:

The Twilight Saga is rubbish!

Last night, I had to pay a heavy price for dragging Mrs PM to see The Avengers (or as it’s called in the UK The Avengers Assemble) earlier this year.

She told me that I would have to go and see a film of her choice and so keen was I that I agreed immediately. Last night was payback.

Last night I had to go to the cinema to watch Breaking Dawn Part Two the final film in The Twilight Saga.

I had already seen the first three movies and had decided that I was not going to watch the remainder of the series – because it was utter rubbish.

I know what you’re asking:

“Why did you see THREE of the films if you think they are rubbish?”

I saw the first film on Sky Movies because it was on. I had heard that it was all about vampires and watched it because of my love of everything to do with undead bloodsucking monsters. Imagine how horrified I was when I sat through two hours of romantic tosh.

The second movie was on a long haul flight when there was quite literally nothing else to do. I had finished my book and was so bored that I was counting the hairs on the head of the woman snoring next to me. I had to watch a film – it was the only one on. It was two hours of romantic tosh.

The third movie was also on a long haul flight. Again I was so bored that this time I actually started reading the in-flight magazine. I had to watch a film. When I saw the choices, I sighed in disgust but watched it anyway. It was two hours of romantic tosh.

I vowed not to watch any more.

That was until Mrs PM told me the film she wanted to see.

“AWWW NOOO!!!!” I wailed. “You said you ENJOYED The Avengers Assemble. You CAN’T make me go to see that garbage. I haven’t even seen the FOURTH one.”

My pleas fell on deaf ears. I actually paid money to watch the fourth movie, Breaking Dawn Part One, on my laptop from Sky Anytime, and sat in the lounge having connected it to the TV, so that I would have at least an inkling about what was going on in the fifth movie.

Liquorice, my hellcat, was sitting on my lap staring at me as I struggled through the film. Liquorice stared at me as if to say:

If you rant once or vomit at the insipid nature of this film, I will tear your face off into little strips. You will wish that you had been savaged by a vampire.”

She's a very eloquent cat.

“Not one of these useless vampires,” I wailed. “I’d rather be savaged by YOU than one of these bland bloodsuckers. Liquorice, YOU are far more scary than these limp vamps.”

She agreed and I watched it while trying desperately to control my reactions. Actually, half way through I was tempted to piss Liquorice off so that she would put me out of my misery.

In the cinema last night, I watched the final part and wasted two hours of my life, while desperately trying not to stand up and scream at the screen and the rest of the audience, who were mostly women. The only other men there were young guys trying to show how romantic they were, and other idiots like me who had been dragged to the cinema to suffer this drivel.

Although Mrs PM had forbidden me from bringing my soapbox along, I managed to sneak it in.

At one point, towards the end, when they were singing “I will love you forever,” I said, to myself but sadly loudly enough for Mrs PM to hear:

“For God’s sake – when is this crap going to END?”

She realised I had brought my soapbox.

Now I realise that there are a lot of Twilight fans out there and they are mostly women (probably ALL women).

Please allow me to tell you why I think that The Twilight Saga is rubbish.

(1) The Vampires are tedium personified.

Vampires are supposed to be evil creatures, driven by blood lust; they are insatiable monsters with no feelings and no desires other than guzzling as much blood as they can from human beings.

Instead, in Twilight, we are presented with a bunch of toothless chumps, none more so than Edward Cullen, the main “vampire” played by Robert Pattinson.

(2) The Vampires are not monsters.

Vampires are supposed to be totally scary and, if you are human, you should be terrified of having all of the blood sucked out of your body through hideously long fangs that puncture your neck and draw all of your lifeblood through the carotid artery.

In some movies and novels, vampires tear their victims apart, such is their insatiable appetite for blood.

In Twilight they don’t even have bloody fangs.

(3) The Vampires sparkle in daylight.

What is going on?

Vampires, when confronted by the sun, explode in a tsunami of burning flesh, or melt into a pile of ash. The do not “twinkle” like they do in this cesspit of a saga.

(4) The Werewolves can change at the drop of a paw.

Werewolves change into murderous monsters when the full moon rises – and rip human beings to bits in an orgy of bestial ferocity. They wake up totally unaware of what they have done.

Not in Twilight - OH NO!

The Twilight wolves are like big growling puppies and can change whenever they feel the need to be lead around on a lead.

It’s pathetic.

(5) Jacob Black is stupid idiot.

This “werewolf” cuts off his hair and flexes his muscles and turns into a whimpering mutt that growls a lot. He rages about vampires but does nothing about them other than moan in human form and growl in wolf form.

He seems to spend the entire set of films looking as if he’s going to burst into tears.

And worst of all, he has a crush on Bella Swann.

(6) Bella Swann is wetter than a fish’s armpit.

The reason the main character, Bella Swann, is torn between a vampire and a werewolf is that no human male would touch her with a bargepole.

While Kristen Stewart isn’t a bad looking lass, the character is deplorable.

If I had been a vampire I would have drained her blood and cast her aside.

If I had been a werewolf I would have not bothered ripping her throat out because werewolves traditionally do not like fish.

(7) Edward Cullen is the worst Vampire in the history of the Vampiric race.

I hope that Robert Pattinson isn’t as lame as Edward Cullen.

He’s about as terrifying as a kitten playing with a ball of wool.

Even when Edward Cullen is supposed to be scary, he simply isn’t.

And since when did vampires wear hair gel and look completely and utterly lost when around humans?

He looks like he’s two fangs short of being a vampire. I wish somebody had put him out of his misery at the start of the film. Then perhaps Bella Swann would have faded into obscurity.

He is a DISGRACE!!!

(8) Is there anything good about The Twilight Saga, you moaning Mancunian git?

I can hear you asking – do you think there are any GOOD points in The Twilight Saga?”

Yes – the vampire/werewolf fight at the end of the final film – where I hoped that we would see lots of blood and gore. I liked seeing heads ripped off and the main characters gradually being killed off – but then they spoiled it by making it all a vision of the future.

And they all bloody well survived – even soppy old Jacob Black who all of a sudden being a vampire baby’s pet pooch.

I won’t ever watch these films again.

Vampires are meant to be evil, blood-sucking monsters who scare the hell out of people before eating them and causing a painful horrible death.

They are not soppy gel-wearing idiots that fall in love with fishy females.

Werewolves are equally vicious monsters who rip the throat out of girls.

They do not allow girls to put a lead on them, take them for a walk and pick up their poo.

Bella Swann should never have had a boyfriend – she doesn’t deserve one.

If you like vampires – watch True Blood or read the Sookie Stackhouse novels from whence the series came. They are proper vampires.

Or the Blade Trilogy, particularly Blade II, where the vampires themselves are hunted by a more horrific species of vampire.

Or better still, read Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series, where the vampires are so evil and monstrous that they scare me half to death just  thinking about them. If ever they make a movie out of Necroscope it wills scare the Twilight audience so much they won’t sleep for a year.

There is one good thing about Breaking Dawn Part Two – I managed to amass approximately 10,000 Brownie Points from Mrs PM.

I will probably lose them when she reads this post.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

My ABC of Travel

Travelling is good for the soul, or so I have heard, which is great news for my soul as I have soundly bitten by the travel bug.

My job involves travelling occasionally, although these days I am less keen to jet off to another country with work because I know that when I get there I will get little chance to see the place due to the demands that are thrust upon me.

Sometimes I get lucky and get some time off; others I quite literally arrive, work, eat, sleep and then repeat that monotonous list until I have to leave again, with little or no chance to break the chains and escape for a little adventure.

Holidays are obviously the best way to travel simply because I am not constrained by the chains of employment.

Anyway – to the point of this post. I have discovered an A to Z travel meme I thought might be fun to have a go at.

So without further ado, let’s dive straight in:

A: Age you made your first international trip

I made my first trip abroad when I was 20 years old. I travelled to Holland and Germany but I was totally naïve. Such a lot happened on the trip that I could write several posts on the subject. It all started off in Amsterdam, a city I have been back to more times than I can remember, both with work and travel, and ended up at the Oktoberfest in Munich.

I will reveal all in a future post.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where

There are so many spectacularly good Belgian beers that it is difficult to choose one. I will select De Koninck because it was always my first beer of the night when I was working in Amsterdam, which is the place I first tried it.

C: Cuisine (Favourite)

I love Chinese food, particularly in China itself. On a recent work trip to Kunming in China, every meal time was fantastic, particularly because we dined with local Chinese guys who ordered some of the most amazing dishes I have ever tasted. I had to stipulate that I would not eat insects. I don’t think that I did – but to be honest I wouldn’t have known.

D: Destinations. Favourite. Least Favourite. Why?

My favourite destination is Hong Kong. The whole city is vibrant, colourful and an amazing combination of east and west. It holds a special place in my heart because that is where Mrs PM revealed her feelings for me. With work and travel I have spent well over a year of my life in that wonderful city and I would be tempted to live there if I had the means and opportunity. In fact, next year we are going to another place I have always wanted to visit – Japan – and we are going back to spend three more days in Hong Kong on the way. I can’t wait.

My least favourite destination is probably Chongqing in China. When Mrs PM and I visited the city it was merely as the starting point of a cruise down the Yangtze River, which itself was a total hellish disaster. The city itself was crammed, dirty and polluted as well as having the worst drivers in China (which is quite a spectacular achievement in itself).

E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’

That is easy; Niagara Falls. I have been to Niagara twice and each time I have been lost for words. It is a beautiful, natural phenomenon that really did take my breath away.

F: Favourite mode of transportation

I love travelling but hate getting there. I think the train is probably the least offensive mode of transportation, particularly if you can sleep in the comfort of a bed, as we did on an overnight trip from Beijing to Shanghai. The sound and motion of the train makes it very easy to fall asleep.

G: Greatest feeling while travelling

The greatest feeling is the first day in a new place; leaving the hotel for the first time to explore a new country or city, venturing into the unknown.

H: Hottest place I’ve travelled to

Las Vegas, without a doubt. The temperature outside was 45 °C compared to inside the hotels where the air conditioning bordered on being too cold. Mrs PM and I walked down The Las Vegas Strip, seeking sanctuary in each hotel. It was too hot to walk back and we wilted while waiting for a bus. In the end we got a taxi.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where

It’s tough to find better service than in nice restaurants in the United States. I know that all they want is a tip and they are not really your best friend, but it is nice all the same.

J: Journey that took you the longest

I travelled to Australia but we stopped in Hong Kong on the way there and Singapore on the way back, so I guess that doesn’t count. The longest trip in one go has to be to and from Kunming a year or two ago. I had to fly from Manchester to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Beijing and Beijing to Kunming. The entire journey took almost 24 hours. I was absolutely shattered each time, so much so that on the way back from Amsterdam to Manchester, I only woke up when the plane touched down.

K: Keepsake from your travels

If I keep keepsakes, Mrs PM accuses me of hoarding .However, there are quite a few trinkets lying around the house in places that Mrs PM has yet to discover. I guess, the best keepsakes that will remain untouched are the photos we have.

L: Let down sight. Why and where?

Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I was expecting the glitz and glamour of the Los Angeles film industry and possibly the opportunity to spot a famous face or two. Instead, it is in an area that is not the best and although you can look at the pavement stars and the handprints, it was too busy with tourists and I simply didn’t get the inner reaction I expected.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel

That would have to be that first trip to Holland and Germany. When I arrived home, I was desperate to get away again – and I did the following summer when I went travelling around Europe again.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in

It’s tough to beat the Bishop Lei Hotel in Hong Kong. Mrs PM and I lived there for three months while working in the city. We negotiated a discount on a suite that overlooked Hong Kong harbour and woke up to spectacular views every single day. We got to know the staff too and we are going to stay there again when we visit next year.

O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?

I really want to be able to take pictures of the people but I am not very good at doing so, simply because I don’t want to offend anybody. I have managed to take some, but I really need to invest in a camera with a bigger zoom capability.

I do like taking pictures of famous iconic symbols too – but not with my ugly mug in them.

P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?

I used to have loads but nowadays we don’t get them when travelling in Europe. However, I do have some pretty good ones like: South Africa, Russia, China, Thailand, Canada, The United States, Hong Kong, Macau, Australia, Singapore, Barbados, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and The United Arab Emirates. There are probably more.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.

There have been some odd things I’ve seen on my travels, changing the Kremlin guards was quite amusing because of the regimented choreography involved. Also, an impromptu Dragon Dance in Beijing where Mrs PM and I captivated almost as much interest from the locals as the dragon itself.

R: Recommended sight, event, or experience

I have several that leap immediately to mind.

Niagara Falls, Sydney Harbour, Eiffel Tower, Pearl Tower in Shanghai, Grand Canyon, visit the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, London (generally), Empire State Building in New York, A traditional jazz bar in New Orleans, a stroll round Boston, Madrid, a stroll around Rome, Pompeii, Positano and the Amalfi Coast, Amsterdam, The Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, a river boat cruise in Bangkok, a stroll on the beach in Port Douglas Australia, a river cruise in Singapore and a meal at Café Deco on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

If I rack my brains I could write an entire post on this.

S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while travelling.

Everything – except Thai food which I just don’t like (making life particularly difficult on holidays to Thailand).

T: Touristy thing you’ve done

I’ve done loads of touristy things. If there is a major tourist attraction where I am I will go and see it if I can, which means that I have a massive list of things I could write about. See R above for some of them.

U: Unforgettable travel memory

A two week trip around China in 1999. If it were made into a film it would be called “Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Boats – Chinese style”. A scary but hugely rewarding backpacking experience. I am hoping that Japan next year surpasses it.

V: Visas. How many of them and for where.

I assume this means Visas I have had to have beforehand. Usually when you travel to a country, if they are friendly with the UK you get a visa on arrival. In some countries you have to get one in advance and be invited by somebody, usually a company. In which case, only two leap to mind – Russia and China. Other visas have been acquired on arrival.

W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where.

The only one that leaps to mind is a glass of Rioja in Madrid. I love Rioja. Having said that, I tasted some delightful wines on wine tasting tour in the Napa Valley, California and a similar one in Hunter Valley in Australia.

X: eXcellent view and from where

I’ll select one that I haven’t mentioned yet – Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower – if I can get over my fear of heights.

Y: Years spent traveling

I guess since the first time I travelled abroad at the age of 20, it has to be 30 years (minus the odd few when the boys were very small).

Z: Zealous sports fans and where

Amsterdam. I was working there on my own and walked out of Centraal Station on my way to the hotel and was confronted by an army of Dutch football fans ready to catch the train to see the national team play against Wales in a World Cup qualifying game. I have never seen so much orange in my life. Flags and banners were everywhere and even the people were orange, having painted their faces. And every single one of them was chanting a Dutch football song – the same song as far as I could tell. It was an absolutely unbelievable and slightly scary sight, even though there was no hint of malice at all.

And finally …

Here’s to the next 30 years of travelling, starting with Tenerife at Christmas, Hong Kong and Japan in May and, to be arranged, Hungary (a country I have never visited) and the South of France.

I can’t wait.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Plastic Businessman

Technically speaking, I am a businessman, using the definition of the word in its loosest possible way.

The definition of a businessman is:

A person, esp a man, engaged in commercial or industrial business, esp as an owner or executive.

Let’s look at that a little more closely.

A person – yes, I think I qualify as a person.

Esp a man – especially a man. I thought that you had to be a man to be a businessman and a woman to be businesswoman. Businesswoman has its own definition in the dictionary as does businessperson. So am I a businessman or a businessperson? Or both? I know one thing for certain – I am definitely NOT a businesswoman.

Engaged in commercial or industrial business – I’m not going let slip exactly what I do – apart from spending my entire day swearing at computers and the people who buy and use them. I guess that counts as industrial business.

Esp as an owner or executive – sadly no! I do not own my business nor am I an executive.

Nevertheless, I guess I do count as a businessman – albeit a plastic businessman.

My job involves travel, and when I am fortunate enough to get a trip abroad, I look forward to the prospect of visiting different countries. I don’t look forward to the work when I get there and spend the journey planning ways to escape the business prison and explore strange and exciting lands.

Anybody who has travelled will see businessmen at the airport as they check in, wait for their flight, fly, land, arrive, pick up their bags and depart to set the business world alight with their business stuff.

For fun, I would like to compare myself and my own travel experiences, the Plastic Businessman, with the stereotypical businessman, the Proper Businessman.

Checking In

The Proper Businessman will arrive at the airport in a taxi and march with determination towards the check in desk. He will be wearing a suit, even if he is travelling to the other side of the world, and he will be carrying another in one of those plastic suit carrier things. He will have a top of the range suitcase and a business case, complete with laptop, iPad and Blackberry. He will have checked in online, because his time is so precious that he simply cannot afford to waste his valuable time standing in line with the economy class scutters. He will arrive at the Business Class check in desk, hand over his suitcase and march away triumphantly with his Business Class boarding card.

The Plastic Businessman will arrive at the airport in a taxi – and that is where the similarity ends. He will be wearing a pair of jeans and a T shirt with a scruffy coat and hauling a suitcase full of work documents he doesn’t need but has been asked to take just in case. He will have had the foresight to check in online but will have to drop his bag off at the economy class check in desk with the rest of the scutters because his company will not pay for Business Class. He will ask for an upgrade and be laughed at by the check in assistant – and then he will be laughed at by the rest of the scutters. In his scruffy rucksack he will have a laptop, an iPod and a book. He will have a cheap Nokia mobile phone that belongs in a Science Museum but, being a geek, he will have an Android Smartphone too. When he has finally checked in, he will shuffle away feeling pissed off about being humiliated when asking for an upgrade.

Departure Lounge

The Proper Businessman will aim to do as much work as humanly possible while waiting for his flight. He will be constantly talking into his Blackberry or listening to it pinging as important emails fly into his inbox. The laptop will be out and he will be analysing spreadsheets, studyinging documents so important that they must be reviewed before he flies, or he will be sending emails barking orders to is underlings because he is so high-flying, so important that he doesn’t think they can function without him. If is in the Business lounge he will sip a glass of red wine as he chats, covering his mouth occasionally in case somebody may be lip-reading and keen to steal his entrepreneurial ideas or his company’s secrets.

The Plastic Businessman will make straight for the bar, or if he managed to fluke entry into the Business Lounge, will try to cram as much free beer, wine and food down his neck as he can. He will talk on his personal smartphone to tell his beloved that he is about to fly and that he will miss her. Then he will get his laptop out and, after struggling for a while to get an internet connection, will check his blog, his personal emails and then poke around web sites such as BBC Sport or Amazon. Then he may start to write a blog post. Or just play a game. And he will laugh at the Proper Businessman, knowing that he is a workaholic who isn’t actually that important but cannot actually leave his work alone for five minutes.


The Proper Businessman will walk straight onto the aircraft barking orders at his subordinates in his Blackberry – except he can’t carry it – so he has his earpiece in, looking, in his eyes, even cooler.

The Plastic Businessman will queue with the other scutters, listening to rock music on his iPod and embarrassing himself slightly when he inadvertently blurts out profane lyrics to one of his rock songs, like “I’m so HUNGRY for YOUR SEX!!”. The other scutters will laugh.

On Board

The Proper Businessman will open up his laptop as soon as the “Fasten Seat Belts” sign has gone off. His aim will be to work for the entire duration of the trip. After all, that important document won’t write itself and since he is the only man who can possibly produce such a document, it is absolutely imperative that he gets at least the first draft of the document done. One of the most frustrating things about flying is that there are no power points so that he can recharge is laptop when it inevitably runs out of power. Still, never mind; he has an iPad and he can do at least a little constructive work on that. If all else fails, he has a stash of paper documents in his business case – and a BIG RED PEN.

The Plastic Businessman is so tightly crammed into his economy seat that there is no room for him to get his laptop out. Even if he did, all he would do is play silly games on it (although he would never admit to that knowing that it is company policy not to allow any leisure software on a company laptop). Instead he will watch a film that has been sliced to ribbons so that it fits on the tiny screen and has had all of the sex and violence removed in case young eyes in a nearby seat can see it. Instead he reads a book – not a Business Book like “The Audacity of Hope” or “How to Acquire Excellence in an Economy Seat on a Cramped Aircraft Even When Sitting Next to the Fattest Man on Planet Earth”. No – instead he chooses a crappy science fiction novel called “Invasion of the Vampire Fembots From Tharg”. And when he’s fed up of that, he will once again dissolve into his iPod and inadvertently blurt out another embarrassing lyric from a rock song like “Pull my trigger; I’ll get bigger – then I’m lots of fun – I’m YOUR GUN GUN GUN!” The other scutters will laugh again.


The Proper Businessman arrives refreshed after a nice sleep because he has been in Business Class and has been able to convert his already comfortable seat into a bed and been tucked in by a beautiful stewardess. He has in his business case, lots of smelly cologne and a razor to make himself look perfect as he steps off the aircraft before all the scutters and picks up his bag immediately because it has been given a priority tag. He has a limousine waiting for him to whisk him off to a hotel to catch up on the remainder of his sleep because he is a Proper Businessman who deserves his rest after an eight hour flight.

The Plastic Businessman leaves the aircraft an hour after the doors opened because he ended up at the back and had to wait for the other scutters to struggle off first. When he gets into the terminal building he looks like a dishevelled version of the scruffy old git that checked in so long ago. Why? Because he has had absolutely no sleep. Faced with the choice of cuddling up to the fat bloke next to him or leaning out into the aisle where he would have been constantly hit by people going to the toilet or trollies full of food, he opted to sleep in the normal sitting position and ended up with a cricked neck. And then he realises with horror that his toothpaste and deodorant were confiscated because both were over 100ml and he forgot to put it in his suitcase. He realises with horror, as he waits for his bag that he has to meet the customer immediately to say hello – and he looks and smells like something that crawled out of a primeval swamp.


I am a Plastic Businessman.

I am not bitter.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Noisy Neighbours

I live in an Edwardian terraced house, built in 1906 during the reign of Edward VII. We moved into the house in 2002 and I watched it pass its 100th birthday.

I love my house.

We have now removed most traces of the previous occupants, an elderly couple who didn’t have too much money to spend to develop the property, choosing instead to (and let’s be kind here), patch the place up.

Mrs PM and I have spent a fortune on it, renovating each room in the house including a fair amount of building work, a new bathroom and a new kitchen.

The previous occupants would not recognise the place now.

We have completely stamped our personas on the house.

It is ours – well, when I say ours, I really mean that it belongs to the cats.

We acquired two of our moggies, Jasper and Poppy, about a month after we moved in and they have been with us ever since. Two other moggies have lived here with us too; poor old Spike – the cat that belonged to a woman two streets away but chose to live with us instead until he finally disappeared again – and now Liquorice, the hellcat who tears off strips of my skin for fun.

We are all one big happy family.

One of the problems of living in a terraced house is that we share walls with our neighbours, and can sometimes hear them. Normally, this isn’t a huge problem, as our neighbours are quiet and friendly.

This hasn’t always been the case though.

When we first moved in, the neighbour on one side decided that she wanted to sell up, leave her job and travel – so she did. She sold the house to a rich man, who bought it for his young son, a student.

At first, everything was fine. The young man was friendly enough and didn’t make much noise. For the purpose of this post I will call him Student.

The house on the other side of Student was owned by a young gay couple, who have since moved out but we are still friends with. They were more Student’s age and often hung around with them. We popped over a few times but I kind of lost interest because I was too old to sit outside laughing with students about young people’s stuff.

I was happy to leave them to have fun.

That is, until the fun started to get annoying.

At first, things were friendly. Student would come round and say “I’m having a party tonight – you are welcome to come round.”

“Thanks for telling us, “ I would say with a smile, but declined to leap into a house full of young people getting drunk.

On the occasions when he warned us, he was good to his word and the frivolities would fade about midnight – at first.

And then he stopped telling us.

And then he decided that the best time for the start of a party was at midnight when he and his mates had returned from the pub after drinking for hours.

And then he started doing that during school nights.

The first time it happened, I was lying in bed at 1am on a Saturday night and all I could hear was


with the gentle screaming of pissed people as a background melody to accompany the thumping beats.

The second time it happened, I was very annoyed. To cap it all, somebody knocked on our door.

I was genuinely angry thinking that one of his mates had drunkenly wobbled to our house by mistake. I quickly got dressed and ran downstairs preparing to shout at the idiot who had turned up at the wrong house.

It wasn’t an errant partygoer, it was Luke, one of our gay neighbours.

“I’m going to complain to Student,” he said. “Will you come with me for backup?”

“Damned right I will,” I snarled and the two of us went next door.

The door was answered by a very drunk Student.

“Can you keep it down? It's late and we're all trying to sleep,” said Luke diplomatically. I stood behind him looking as mean as I could.

Student uttered a quick slurred apology and the volume was almost immediately lowered.

The parties continued and no matter how much complaining we did, they kept on happening. One one occasion, I knocked on his door at 3am and was heckled by one of his mates, standing behind Student when he had opened the door, said:

“I don’t like your attitude mate. You could ask nicely.”

Step out of the house and let’s discuss it,” I snarled with an uncharacteristic rage building inside of me.

Student intervened and turned the volume down while trying to shut up his dumb drunk mate.

I decided to exact revenge. I woke up at 8 am the following day (a Sunday), knowing full well that Student would be sound asleep and nursing a hangover.

I put the speakers of our hi fi against the bedroom wall, knowing that his room was on the other side and subjected him to a full hour of this at high volume:

I didn’t hear a peep out of him; not one complaint.

The last straw, for both of us I think, was when, on a Sunday night at 3am, Mrs PM and Luke went round to complain and the noise was so loud that they couldn’t hear the door being knocked.

Our bedroom and Student's were separated only by a wall and I could hear him in his room blasting his music out at a volume that could probably have been heard in Liverpool, peppered with a few giggles from the people in there with him.

I was enraged because Mrs PM and Luke’s futile attempts to penetrate the vile pounding music had fallen on deaf ears. I ran downstairs to get a broom. One good thing about living in a terraced house with adjacent bedrooms is that the windows are quite close together.

I ran back upstairs, opened my bedroom window and walloped his window with the broom handle as hard as I could. He opened the window and Mrs PM and Luke complained in a more controlled way than I would have done.

When he turned the music down I heard him shout:


I was just about ready to smash his door down and show him exactly how I really wanted to complain. I didn’t – I was too tired.

His parents sold the house about a month after that event – that was his last party.

On the day Student moved out, I walked past as he was loading up a van with his parents.

“Moving out?” I asked with a smile.

“Yes,” he said. “It’ll be a little more peaceful now, I guess.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

Our new neighbour is the complete opposite; a lovely lady who is very quiet, so quiet in fact that we can hardly hear her most of the time.

As for Student – I bumped into him about six months after he had moved out, in a bar in Manchester, as I was having a last beer before going home after a concert.

I saw him at the other end of the bar and raised my glass to him with as smile. He raised his back to me, also with a smile, and we left it at that.

I don’t hold it against him now he's gone; after all I was young and stupid once.

Now I’m just stupid.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Half Century

I’ve been keeping a secret.

It wasn’t really that much of a secret because most people knew about it. I was just relying on the fact that they might forget.

I can now reveal the secret.

On October 8th 2012, I turned 50.

Why did I keep it a secret? The reason is that I really feel uncomfortable being the centre of attention and I really didn’t want an over the top celebration. Mrs PM was under orders not to throw a surprise party or organise anything without consulting me first.

But now, almost a month later, I can and will reveal my age, though regular readers may have guessed anyway.

As I enter my sixth decade I can look back at my life so far with some satisfaction, a little sadness, a little regret, a fair amount of embarrassment but, ultimately, a feeling of total and utter contentment.

Because 2012 was a milestone year, I took a look back through my life in January accompanied by a soundtrack of music that has been quite special, in a series of blog posts, one a day. I recently read some of that back and was quite surprised by how open I was.

Maybe twenty or even ten years ago, I would never have dreamed of doing that. The fact that I feel comfortable and satisfied with my first fifty years has led me to open up to the world a lot more. Or perhaps it’s just age; my addled brain no longer cares about how people react to me any more.

I have to say that although I tried to keep my birthday low key, I didn’t get away with it totally without embarrassment.

A good mate of mine, also called Dave, was 50 in September, and it seemed like a great idea to go away for a long weekend as a joint celebration. We did something similar when we were both 40. On that occasion, we were still clinging on to stupid youth and, together with six other lads, took a trip to Madrid where we ate, drank and generally over-indulged. I think at the end of that particular trip, I realised that I was getting old.

For our 50th birthday, Dave and I opted for Rome and, again, eight of us took the short trip across Europe to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This time, however, we took our better halves, and the eight lads out for a good time became four lads and their wives/partners, for a weekend of good food, great sight-seeing and, of course, a modicum of beer and wine.

The couples were PM and Mrs PM, Dave and Shelagh, Ian and Chris and, last but not least, Nigel and Janet.

However, because women were involved, they weren’t going to let Dave and I get away with a quiet weekend.

We flew from Manchester at around 9 am. As I sat listening to my iPod, I noticed a stewardess walking down with a bottle of champagne.

“Bloody Hell,” I thought. “What pissheads have ordered champagne at this time of morning?”

Imagine how mortified I was when the stewardess stopped at our row handed over the champagne to me and said “Happy Birthday, Mr Mancunian. Shall I get some glasses?”

Here are photos of Mrs PM, Chris and I enjoying champagne at stupid o’clock, with Dave and Shelagh also joining in.

We arrived in Rome and spent the first day strolling around and embracing the beauty of some of the wonderful sights of Rome – like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Parthenon and Piazza Navona:

In the evening, in a pizza restaurant, we were joined by two more companions: Arthur and Eric. Here is Eric with Dave:

And here is Arthur, meeting Eric across the table.

Yes, Dave and I were made to carry rubber chickens with us for the remainder of the trip. Sadly, Arthur, my rubber chicken, lost his squeak after a drunken altercation with Nigel and felt too unwell to enjoy the whole trip.

On the next day, we visited the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Basilica:

In the evening, unbeknownst to Dave and I, the girls had booked an evening meal in a restaurant and we were both forced to wear badges:

We had to wear them for the rest of the evening.

On our penultimate day, we visited the Colosseum and Forum, with Eric, before the girls went shopping and the boys enjoyed a football match in an Irish Bar:

At the start of that day, Mrs PM and I were getting ready and but I failed to notice the image emblazoned across her top. It was only when we met the other girls that I noticed. Why? Because this was what they were wearing:

I actually got into trouble for not noticing. If you can’t see the picture, it is an image of Dave and I, presumably slightly the worst for wear, with our arm round each other enclosed in a heart, with the caption Happy 50th BirthdayYou Old Gits.

As flattering as it may seem, it was also highly embarrassing and noticed by quite a few people as we wandered around ancient monuments.

Thankfully, that was the only trauma I had to endure and no other surprises appeared.

Here's a picture of everyone in the evening of the last day:

I'm missing, of course - I was taking the photo.

And now I am 50. It sounds really weird to be honest and when I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see a 50 year old staring back. I see the 15 year old child, the 21 year old man, the 30 year old settling down and the 40 year old, shocked at becoming an old man.

You see, turning 40 was a big deal for me; I fretted as I stepped over the line from 39 to 40, thinking that my youth had gone and part of me had faded away. Acceptance came a year or two later and now, I am happy.

Passing the 50 barrier has caused no additional distress or suffering and I am quite happy to be where I am today.

There is something I have come to realise. Inside my head I am still a teenager.

And I love that.

I hope that feeling stays for the next 50 years because, dear reader, I plan to live forever.

Well – you can dream can’t you?