Sunday, 29 December 2013

Goodbye 2013


2013 is almost over and it has become a tradition to dust off an old meme that summarises the previous year.

Please feel free to steal it yourself. I won’t tell if you don’t.

As usual, this is quite a long post so just in case you get bored, I will wish you all a Happy New Year right at the start, and I hope that 2014 brings all of your dreams to fruition.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?

I fulfilled a travel ambition this year. I finally visited a country that I have always wanted to visit: Japan.

I am currently part way through a travelogue on my experiences there – and believe me there are a lot of them. I plan to sum them up in a series of posts in the coming months.

All I can say is that I absolutely loved the place – so much so that we plan to return in a few years’ time.

As well as visiting Japan, I also visited two new countries. Mrs PM and I visited Budapest in Hungary for a long weekend and I enjoyed three trips to Muscat in Oman (when I say “enjoyed” I mean that I endured the work aspect but enjoyed the rest).

Here are some snaps from Japan:

Busiest crossing in Tokyo

An attempt to fry my brain at the Robot Restaurant

The Japanese Plastic Mancunian

Mount Fuji

Half a bullet train

Thousands of torii in Kyoto

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

Yes and no. Here are last year’s resolutions:

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

I was going to try writing a novel in November but work commitments made that impossible. 

However I am writing a travelogue for Japan and have produced another “volume” of blog posts from this very blog. I am now up to five volumes and producing volume six as I type. 

Next year? I hope to complete the travelogue and, work permitting, have another go at writing a novel in November. 

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

My Spanish has improved a fair amount and I am thinking about actually enrolling in a proper course. I can vaguely understand some written Spanish and need to keep plugging away. I am enjoying it.

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

I have failed miserably on this promise but I did dig out the bike for a couple of trips around the local area. This is something I simply must do this year.

(d) And this year? 

I will attempt to strengthen the three resolutions above but I have another planned that I will reveal in future posts if I succeed. Watch this space.

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

We will be heading for this pub in West Didsbury:

The Metropolitan

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully nobody close died this year.

5. What countries did you visit?

I visited Spain, Oman, Hong Kong, Japan, Hungary and Turkey.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

I have kind of identified something but I don’t really want to reveal it on this blog – just yet anyway. That’s part of my secret resolution.

Of course, I still want to defeat the lingering stubborn procrastination that haunts me continually as well as somehow managing to correctly predict the winning lottery numbers.

Usual stuff really.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

No single dates stand out this year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Visiting Japan without a doubt. I have wanted to travel there since I started exploring the planet and I finally made it. 

9. What was your biggest failure?

Failing to ride a bike to work.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I suffered quite a nasty cold last month that lasted for about three weeks. For some reason I couldn’t shake the bloody thing. I wasn’t the only one though. It travelled around my workplace like wildfire and we had a month or so of constant coughing and sneezing.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Being a geek I wanted a tablet – even though I didn’t really need one. Rather than splashing out on an iPad, I opted for a Nexus 7, smaller and more compact. 

However, I find now that I can’t really live without it. It was a constant companion on my travels, acting as an entertainment device in Oman allowing me to watch movies in my hotel room after a long days’ work as well as providing me with a portable phrase book and guide book in Japan.

I would recommend one as a lightweight portable computer, book and media device, particularly if you travel a lot.

12. Where did most of your money go?

My kids tend to demand money and so does the house. Nothing changed in that respect in 2013.

13. What song will always remind you of 2013?

2013 was a fantastic year for music and once again I bought a fist full of wonderful CDs. Here are my favourite songs from my top five albums of the year.


I regard Joe Satriani as the greatest guitar player in the world and each album release is a major event for me. His new album is, as usual, a superb collection of songs. This particular one is a classic driving song and all I can think of when listening to it is driving across America in a convertible on a beautiful sunny day with the wind running through my hair and a huge grin on my face. If you like good classic feelgood rock songs, follow the link.


I saw the Black Spiders a couple of years ago, supporting Airbourne and from the first notes of the first song I loved them. They play no nonsense hard rock music that is extremely catchy. I have seen them twice as a support act and both times they have challenged their hosts. Balls is from their second album and I expect great things from them in years to come. 

Follow the link if you like good driving catchy hard rock.


Dream Theater are masters of progressive metal and their albums feature songs that are typically over ten minutes long and are genuine masterpieces. Their new album is the usual high standard and while it features mostly shorter songs (of the order of six minutes) there is an opus that is 22 minutes long. Fear not – the link takes you to a song that is just over six minutes. If you like heavy progressive metal then follow the link.


Trent Reznor is an Oscar winning genius. He won an Oscar for the soundtrack to the film “The Social Network” and, thankfully, this year he has returned to doing what he does best – Nine Inch Nails – electronic music with a dark edge. Hesitation Marks is a triumph and in the month or two since I have had it, it has barely left my playlist. I have been witnessed driving my car listening to this song bopping away in the front seat and singing loudly without a care about who else sees me and laughs.

If you like electronic music with a hint of rock guitar then follow the link.


The album of the year is a progressive masterpiece from Steven Wilson and this is the best song on the album. It is a truly sad song about a man who lost his wife in a car accident and is so totally tormented with guilt that he cannot get over his wife’s death. The theme of the album is ghosts and in this case, the man’s dead wife intervenes from beyond the grave. The song is simply beautiful and brings a tear to my eye each time I hear it. If you follow the link, you will not only hear a truly emotional song but also see a very poignant accompanying video. The song is right up there with my favourites of all time.

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

I wish I’d written more blog posts. This year I have averaged a post a week and as far as the blog is concerned it has been my least productive year so far. I will try to change that next year. 

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

I wish I had wasted less time doing mundane boring things. I really should make more of an effort sometimes.

16. What was your favourite TV program?

Once again, TV has been great this year. Here are a few to mention:

The Walking Dead, Dexter, True Blood, Game of Thrones, 
Falling Skies, Warehouse 13, Revolution, The Tunnel, The Following, Sleepy Hollow, Under the Dome and many more.

A special mention has to go to the 50th anniversary of Dr Who and the demise of Matt Smith as the Doctor on Christmas Day. Two absolutely brilliant episodes.

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

There are people who have annoyed me, sure – but “hate” is too strong a word.

18. What was the best book you read?

I’m going to name two books, one the sequel to the other:

Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I look forward to reading two more sequels this year.

I just have to say, though, that I am quite sad at the passing of Iain Banks. I love his science fiction novels.





19. What was your greatest musical discovery?

No new bands have crossed my radar this year.

20. What was your favourite film of this year?

I enjoyed Man of Steel and World War Z but my favourite movie was Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Well what do you expect from a closet Trekker?

21. What did you do on your birthday?

Nothing special. I went to work and then had a nice meal with Mrs PM.

22. What kept you sane?

I’ve had an extremely busy year at work but, as usual, I haven’t actually allowed it to get the better of me. I would once again like to thank the usual suspects: Mrs PM, blogging, beer, food, music and travelling to Japan for de-stressing me.

23. Who did you miss?

Nobody leaps to mind.

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

Probably the drunk Japanese gentleman who bought Mrs PM and I, what he regarded as the best piece of sushi in Kyoto. He spoke no English and we spoke no Japanese so communication was fun. He tried to persuade us to go on a bar crawl around his city but we had a bullet train to catch. 

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

It is almost impossible to take a photograph of a Japanese Bullet Train roaring full speed through a station.



Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Meaning of Life - Don't Worry - Be Happy!


Some people think that I am a grumpy old man and there is evidence that supports that fact.

 I have a tendency to moan about certain aspects of life, usually involving absurdity, stupidity, injustice and the bizarre obsessions of certain groups of people who try to enforce their views and lifestyle choices on me.

However, beneath that grumpy façade, lies an extremely happy middle-aged man who has used his experience to construct a reasonable existence. Life has tried its best to deflect me from a path to happiness and contentment but I have recovered enough to find myself in a good place.

I find that having a positive view on life helps.

There have been occasions when it has been difficult and I have learned to try to discover the positive aspects of such experiences. It doesn’t always work but most of the time it does.

I can spend my time moaning about my job for example, but in the end it has enabled me to travel and it pays the bills.

Like most people, life has had its turbulent moments for me but I try to remember the good times in the past rather than dwelling on those negative moments. I love chatting about past experiences with friends and family. Reminiscing about past events is therapeutic if you don’t start wondering what would have happened if things had been different. Another way to travel to the past is through music. Music plays a huge part in my life and songs can behave like a time machine to whisk me back into the past to a moment of pleasure.

Music is a personal thing for me and on those occasions when I do start feeling a little bit down, I can select a suitable song and immediately lighten my mood.

For example, here’s a song that reminds me of working in Hong Kong with Mrs PM:



Here’s a song that reminds me of university:




This is one of the main reasons I refuse to discard old CD’s. To me they are as valuable as the TARDIS is to Dr Who.

As long as there is music, there is happiness.

I also love to experience life and for me travelling fulfils a burning need within me. Mr Motivator (the businessman who wants to be the best of the best of the best) will tell you that the way to happiness is through material possessions, a huge house, an enormous car and a high powered position in the rat race, working as many hours in the day as possible.

While that may be true for him, I find that I enjoy living in a modest house with a modest car but the ability to spend my money on trips to Japan, America, Australia and as many other parts of the world as I can. I gain more pleasure thinking about strolling around Red Square in Moscow in the middle of winter than watching the latest films on a 73 inch TV in a huge room in the back of my huge house.

I would rather spend £12000 on a round the world trip than splash out on a brand new car.

Sorry Mr Motivator – but that’s a fact.

Nevertheless, if Mr Motivator is happiest filling his enormous house with trinkets and gadgets then that's okay with me. I don’t think any less of him (as long as he doesn’t try to impose his doctrine on me) and as long as he is happy then I am happy too.

In other words, seeing other people being happy gives me a buzz, even if I am not directly responsible for their happiness. The greatest happiness for me is seeing Mrs PM laughing and smiling and my two lads enjoying life with huge grins on their faces.

Generally they are all as content as I am. My boys share the same outlook on life as me, with slightly different likes and dislikes of course and Mrs PM and I are kindred spirits (if you discount her dreadful taste in music of course).

And with Christmas fast approaching, I feel more content than ever. Yes, I will moan about shops being full, the miserable weather, the Queen’s speech, the cost of everything and having to eat too much. I will almost certainly curse the enforced diet I have to endure in January when my overstuffed and bloated body resembles a massive turkey.

Nevertheless, Christmas really does open a new door to happiness: lots of gatherings, parties and joy all around.

I may end up slobbed out on the sofa, trying to stay awake for the Dr Who Christmas special, resembling a bizarre caricature of Father Christmas as I eat another mince pie and quaff another can of beer – but I will have a huge smile on my face.

Finally, here are a couple more upbeat songs that help put me in a good mood.




Here is a guilty pleasure from two guys who like so much like me they could be my brothers. It sums up how I try to approach life.



If I don’t post again before Christmas (which is likely) I’d like to wish all readers, whether you are a regular visitor or just happened to stumble of this post, a very Happy and Merry Christmas.

I hope that Father Christmas brings you everything you want.

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Meaning of Life - The Grim Reaper


The fourth part of my mini-series on the meaning of life was going to cover happiness, leaving death until the end. However, Christmas is approaching faster than a speeding Santa so happiness is a fitting topic to finish on.

Sadly this means I have to discuss death now.

Death is a nasty part of life – which is kind of weird really because death means the end of life. Some people become preoccupied with death in the later stages of life and become obsessed with it.

I hope that doesn’t happen to me.

I have faced death in a major way, as regular readers may know, when I watched my father die at the tender age of 44. Obviously that was a traumatic event which time helped to cure. The problem was that because his death was so unexpected and so sudden that it planted a seed of anxiety that lay dormant until I approached the same age.

Reason was cast aside and for a whole year, a part of me expected my own life to come to an abrupt and meaningless end. The feeling was totally irrational and while it didn’t dominate my life, I found my thoughts drifting towards the Grim Reaper more times than I would have hoped for.

My 45th birthday was a great day because to me it meant the end of what I described as the year of death. I felt like I had reached the finish line of a great race.

Looking back now, some seven years later, I have no such fears and I can’t believe the thought ever crossed my mind. Furthermore, I really ought to be worrying about it more because I am older and, realistically, closer to the day when the Grim Reaper comes knocking to collect me.

And I can’t help but wonder why that is.

Death is the inescapable conclusion to life and, unless you have discovered the secret of immortality or are a vampire, it will happen to you.

Why worry about it?

There is no reason.

Life is great and when the time comes, it will come; there is nothing you can do about it.

What’s more, death may not be the end. The premise of most religions is that death is merely a transition to a higher plane of existence – or possibly even the chance to pop back to Earth as another person or another creature.

As a Catholic, I have been indoctrinated by the premise that when I die, I will be judged and, having been a naughty boy (and I have been a naughty boy), I will suffer the consequences in Purgatory before joining the legions of the dead in Heaven in eternal happiness.

I could go to Hell of course and spend the rest of eternity being tortured and tormented by demonic forces. My punishment would almost certainly involve being locked in a cell with Piers Morgan with diabolical pop music blaring out of speakers at a high volume.

Reincarnation seems a reasonable option – if options are available. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to be born again as another person and live another life? Of course, it might already have happened and I may have been a slave in Pompeii, or a jester in the court of Henry VIII or an explorer sailing towards America with Christopher Columbus.

Apparently it is possible to be hypnotised and drift back through your past lives. I am tempted to have a go at this but I am too sceptical and realistically I imagine my “past life” will come from a historical novel I have read or a blockbuster movie.

Other options exist; what about the science fiction concept that death is just a way of entering a new plane of existence? When we shuffle off this mortal coil, do we shed our old bodies and float off into space in an alternative reality?

Or the idea that we all drift off and continue to prevail in death? In the Necroscope series of books, when people die, they exist in a different form and continue their life’s work in death.

Apart from Hell with Piers Morgan, most of the alternatives sound appealing in one way or another.

And being a positive person, I would like to think that there is something more. The scientist within me is very sceptical and informs me that we will simply cease to be. After all, we don’t remember anything from before we were born do we?

I have no memory of anything before October 1962, my birth month. I suspect the reality is that I will return to that emptiness.

But I may be wrong.

Death could be the beginning of a brand new adventure.

Finally, please excuse the morbid tone of this post but people can’t talk about death without some negative overtones.

To cheer you up a bit, here are a couple of funny videos relating to death:

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Meaning of Life - Sector 7-G


Some people work to live; others live to work.

I am definitely in the “work to live” camp for the simple reason that to me, work is more like a punishment. I have been in my chosen career for almost thirty years and while interesting, fascinating and captivating at first, my job has become a major chore.

As I get older, I want more freedom. Some people want that freedom when they are younger which is why they delay leaping into the rat race for year or so to go travelling and explore the world. I did a little bit of travelling as a student but now I simply have an almost overwhelming desire to pack in my job and simply leave on a huge trip of exploration and self-discovery.

While I may curse my chosen career, I can’t deny that my job has encouraged me to do this.

Why?

Because my job involves travelling the world – not all of the time – but enough to give me a small taste of freedom.

In fact, I am off on my travels again this weekend, my third visit to Oman this year.

You may think that I am a hypocrite; I have a job that allows me to visit other countries and cultures. I love travelling - so why the bloody hell am I moaning?

Allow me to explain.

First of all, I work in IT – basically I spend my entire day sparring with technology. And I am bored with it.

Second, the majority of my life is spent sitting at a desk in front of a laptop surrounded by people who are equally disillusioned and frustrated and at the mercy of decisions and developments governed by Mr Motivation as he does his best to climb to the top of the corporate ladder.

Finally, while I may get the option to travel to wonderful and interesting countries, I am effectively limited to trips between the hotel and the office with very little chance to explore and only tantalising glimpses of what I could be doing if I were free of the shackles.

I am in a Catch 22 situation; I need money to fulfill my desires – and I need to work to get the money – and the work stops me from fulfilling my desires.

And this is true of most people.

The solution is simple; find a career that you enjoy, a career that makes you smile with glee when you wake up and anticipate the joy of work.  It seems to be too late for me now.

Some people may suggest that it is not too late but to those people I ask this: how can I change career when I can’t really do anything else?

I am risk averse and simply giving up what many people would consider to be a thriving, interesting and beneficial career in search of something else that will give me freedom and enjoyment, but with the same financial clout, would be absolute folly.

So I appear to be in a rut – and I can’t escape.

Outside work, I am very content and happy; when I am at work my life becomes a jumble of confusion, chaos and irritation. There are times when I get a buzz out of work but such times are becoming more infrequent.

And it would be just the same if I were to seek another job in IT in another company. At least the one I am in offers some form of sanctuary with occasional trips abroad. That’s what keeps me there.

Through my job I have visited places like Holland, the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, China, South Africa, Russia, Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong. I have become so enamoured with travel that I have visited many other varied and interesting places under my own volition, places such as Japan, Thailand, most of Europe and Australia.

If it weren't for my job, I would never have got together with Mrs PM in Hong Kong. I have a lot to be grateful for.

And it is now that I know what my ideal job would be; a travel writer.

There are drawbacks with that career, it has to be said.

First of all I have to be a good writer – I’m not.

Second I have to be able to fund numerous trips abroad – I can’t.

If I could see my time again, I would change my career choice and become a writer, training to actually improve the words I spill onto a page so that they make pleasurable and interesting reading instead of the inane twaddle that finds its way onto this blog.

The problem is that when you are young, you don’t know what you want; I alluded to this in a post about my schooldays last month.

Of course, another option is to work out a way to beat the system and win the lottery. The problem is that I have a logical, mathematical mind with a degree in computational and statistical science – and I know that the chances of my winning the lottery are about as close to zero as you can get.

You can’t plan a career on the off chance that you might win the lottery – despite what the lottery organisers tell you.

So, unless you know what you want to do and are passionate about doing it at an early age, when you can be trained and steered in the right direction before it’s too late, you will end up just like me, stuck in a rut in a stagnating career that provides money to live and perhaps give you a little enjoyment with a tiny taste of what your career might have been had you made the right choices as a kid.

That sounds depressing doesn’t it? And it makes me sound unhappy as well.

However, I’m not unhappy really – on the contrary – I am delighted with life.

I am also an optimist – I can’t help it – and I am still clinging onto the dream that one day circumstances might change in such a way that I can alter my vocation and wake up full of elation because I am going to work.

Anyway, I will discuss happiness in the next post to give you an insight on why I am happy despite moaning about my academic and occupational choices in life.

One day you might see a book on a shelf in your local bookstore with a picture of a grinning Plastic Mancunian called: The World Through My Eyes.

I can dream - can't I?

Don’t hold your breath though.

How about you dear reader?

Are you happy in your chosen career? 

Do you want to do something else?

Do you think it is too late for me to leave the rat race and unleash myself onto the world?

Any tips for doing just that?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Meaning of Life - Mini Me


First marriage – then kids.

This seems to be another rule that is self-imposed upon the human race.

“So when are you gonna have kids then?” is a question that is asked to the bride and groom literally five seconds after the phrase “You may now kiss the bride.”

I never considered the possibility of fatherhood. I had no urge to procreate and, like marriage, it crept up on me and before I knew it I was a dad.

I still remember the day I was told.

“What?” I said, “Are you sure?”

I was the stereotypical father, the man who does not believe his wife when she tells him that a tiny explosion of life has begun within her. It was only when she started to throw up every morning for three weeks solid and then grow over the next nine months that I realised my life was about to change.

And it did.

Twice!

I have two kids – or should I say "adults" now.

And their resemblance to me is uncanny, which of course you would expect.

Through all the mayhem that descended when Stephen, my eldest was born, followed by even more pandemonium when my youngest was born, I discovered two things:

(a) I love kids

(b) I am a giant kid myself

I don’t want to dwell on the bad points of having kids (changing nappies at 3am, foul substances exploding out of every orifice – usually on me) - simply because the good points far outweigh them.

I discovered fairly quickly that the best way to deal with children is to become one yourself. And that is the easiest thing in the world for me.

Some people hate kids because they demand so much of your time. For me, however, although tiring, kids are terrific fun and are easily pleased.

I found myself rediscovering childhood toys and TV programmes that were quite entertaining. I knew everything about Thomas the Tank Engine, for example, and Stephen couldn’t understand why I laughed so much at a particular episode called Thomas Comes To Breakfast where a runaway Thomas crashes into the station master’s house. With the whole house wrecked, the station master’s wife says:

“You miserable engine! Just look what you’ve done to our breakfast! Now I shall have to cook some more!”

Not one word about the semi demolished house – only the breakfast.

And when it came to birthday parties, I joined in. One time, in our house, I was surrounded by around ten four year olds all screaming their heads off. The answer was simple. I did what I do best – devolved into a four year old child myself.

I got up out of my chair and knelt in the centre of the lounge.

“I bet that nobody can push me over!” I declared in a loud voice.

Before I could say anything else, all of them, as one, grabbed my arms, pushed me, pulled me and tried to knock me over. They giggled as they struggled, one lot of kids pulling one arm, the others pulling the other arm – competing against each other rather than me.

We all had a lot of fun.

All you need to do to have fun with kids is play silly games with them, draw silly pictures, build things, watch kiddy films - anything that kids love.

I love films like Toy Story and Shrek and I would never have seen them had it not been for the kids. In fact, I reckon I enjoyed them even more!

They are all good fun.

There is a part of me that is sad that my two lads are now grown up (Mike is 17 and Stephen is 20). Our relationship has changed and I still try to stay at their level even though they are now adults themselves.

Mrs PM calls them the clones and I can see why when I look at photos of us together. In fact, I am a clone of my dad too. When I look at photographs of him in the years just before he died, the similarity between us is almost spooky.

Ultimately that is the true appeal of children for me. They are an extension of yourself and when I see them growing up from babies, to toddlers, to boys, to teenagers and now to adults, I can see myself in them.

I know that when I am a cranky grumpy old cantankerous old git, I will still have a child within me somewhere. Hopefully I will also be able to see their kids start out in life too and I imagine that I might have to allow a bunch of four year old kids to try to drag me round the lounge again.

One thing is for sure, though; I will dig out that old episode of Thomas the Tank Engine and giggle with them again – even though my sons will almost certainly say:

“Dad, when are finally going to grow up?”

I can answer that now:

NEVER!!!

And for any "kids" out there - here is the episode I am talking about.


Over to you, dear reader.

Do you like kids?

How many have you got?


Are you a big kid yourself?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Meaning of Life - Wedding Bells


I’ve recently been watching a TV show featuring the strange outlook on life of Karl Pilkington a fellow Mancunian championed by Ricky Gervais as the funniest man on the planet, simply because his perception of life can be very strange and it comes across as highly amusing.

His new show is called The Moaning of Life and in it, he travels the world looking for meaning in five key areas of life, namely marriage, children, happiness, vocation and death.

Rather than repeating the bizarre viewpoint of Karl Pilkington (and believe me it is sometimes highly bizarre), I thought it would be fun to offer my reflections on these so called key elements of life.

I therefore present to you, dear reader, the meaning of life as seen from the perspective of a plastic Mancunian - starting with marriage.

When I was a kid it seemed to me that marriage was the law; every male person on the planet had to find a female person and they two would join in an explosive ceremony full of pomp and beer. My first wedding was that of my aunt and uncle and as a six year old, I was somewhat bemused by what was going on, having rarely seen so many adults gathered together in one place where, for once, I was not the centre of attention.

I only really started to understand the concept of marriage when friends of mine suddenly lost interest in teenage pursuits and started to chase girls. Of course, being an angst ridden spotty teenager overwhelmed by hormones, I succumbed to this drive as well.

Except I was no good at chasing girls. As a late developer, I found myself left behind as girls started falling for my bigger and better looking mates. I couldn’t speak to girls, I couldn’t impress them enough to persuade them to even kiss me on the cheek – and my goal of being in a steady relationship seemed to be the most unattainable thing on the planet.

Yet somehow I managed to stumble into a relationship with a woman who actually wanted to marry me. Before I knew what had hit me, I had received a marriage proposal and from that point onwards, I felt like I had been sucked into a tornado, buffeted around, my life completely out of my own control and being forced into a slot that I simply had no choice but to fill.

I succumbed to it all; I visited a church I had never set foot in before just on the off chance that a church-going person may know a deep dark secret about me that may jeopardize my forthcoming marriage. Three times I went to that church and three times the local vicar urged me to become a regular visitor. And this wasn’t even the church I was getting married in.

Before I knew it, I was being dragged around shops, looking for a new suit, new tie, new shoes and  a new way of thinking. My wife to be demanded that I look totally presentable and this involved a haircut that consigned the long-haired 1980’s Plastic Mancunian into a little box that said “Never ever have a mullet again”. My work colleagues thought I was going for job interviews when I returned to work on Monday with my lovely locks removed and destroyed by a sadistic young hairdresser.

More terrifying than the prospect of a wedding was the prospect of the obligatory stag party.

Initially it was meant to be a single party on a Saturday night but it inevitably turned into a stag weekend. My mates from university all arrived in Manchester on Friday night and insisted on taking me for a pre-stag party drink, which resulted in my waking up on Saturday, the day of the stag party, with a colossal hangover and my will to live seeking sanctuary inside the fridge. The day continued with yet more beer and more mates as I watched the F A Cup final in a house full of drunken nutters before suffering the humiliation of being subjected to a gorillagram (who was a female work colleague who had somehow been persuaded to totally humiliate me) and then yet more dirty ale on an evening of debauchery, dancing and curry in Manchester city centre.

I woke up on Sunday morning and my will to live had vanished; my house was full of equally hung over mates who decided that the best remedy for a hangover was to go to the nearest pub and drink yet more beer.

The wedding itself was wonderful and, being a bit of an introvert, I found myself at the centre of attention being pursued relentlessly by a crazy photographer and an even crazier video cameraman with the words “just pretend I’m not here” ringing around my head for the entire day. There were so many guests that one trip to the toilet took about 45 minutes as I had to stop and chat to everybody between the toilet and my table.

I sang Save your Love by Renee and Renato to my new wife – as a joke, while kneeling on one knee with a rose between my lips, much to the amusement of everybody there.

While it was a totally special day, I cringe when I think of all the money spent because, sadly, the marriage didn’t survive.

And I still have a feeling of guilt, that simply refuses to go away.

Nevertheless, I have been to many weddings in my life and I have had a thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable time at each and every one of them. And equally, I have joined in a few stag parties too, without the fear of being stripped naked, tied to a lamppost and prodded by passers-by. I have even been the crazy video cameraman saying “just pretend I’m not here” to the bride and groom who asked me to do it for them. I thought my efforts were rubbish but they loved it and insisted on keeping the entire tape – including the bits I wanted to edit out.

The stag party, these days, has become more than a rite of passage – it is an major ordeal that has to be survived; all of your mates are with you and you absolutely know that every single one of them wants to make you drink so much alcohol that you can barely recall your own name – which I suppose is a good thing given the inevitable public humiliation that will follow.

When did stags start travelling abroad for weekends and sometimes an entire week of total debauchery and humiliation? Who made the decree that the stag party would cost an arm and a leg? With the hen party and wedding also costing an arm and a leg, it kind of leaves the poor bride and groom utterly limbless and wallowing in debt before they have even begun.

That said, I love a good wedding and the vast majority have not been as disastrous as mine was. On the contrary in fact – only one or two have failed to survive.

I am all for other peoples' weddings – but not another one for myself.

Every time Mrs PM and I go to a wedding we are inevitably asked “When are you two going to tie the knot?”

The thought of being a stag again at my age fills me with dread and I wonder whether I could survive. Also, we would have to pay for the entire thing and given the astronomical cost of weddings these days, I simply cannot justify the expense.

Mrs PM thinks the same, thankfully. We have been together for 15 years and we are both content with our lives together exactly as they are. If I were to get married again, I would make sure that it was a very tiny event with only our closest friends and family in attendance. Either that or jet off to Las Vegas and let Elvis marry us.

In fact, if the truth be known, I would rather get on a plane and enjoy a first class round the world holiday than spend (probably more) money on another enormous wedding like my first.

That said, with two sons I daresay that I will have to hand over a vast wedge of cash to help them out when they inevitably seek matrimony themselves. And if called upon, I won’t be like Scrooge and be a miserable old git reminiscing about my own past; I will be extremely happy and be the most enthusiastic father I can be.

It’s a shame, actually, that etiquette dictates that I can’t make a speech myself – I doubt my sons would let me anyway, thinking that I would no doubt try to humiliate them in my own inimitable and  puerile way.

The truth is I probably would – but I would also be extremely happy to tell them how proud I am.

That is – as long as I don’t have to go on their stag parties.

How about you, dear reader – are you a fan of marriage? 

Do you think that two people in love have to get married or is it fine to live together?

Does marriage really matter?

I would be interested in your thoughts.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Doctor Who - The View From Behind The Sofa


This post needs a soundtrack so please press play on the following You Tube link.




I am not a big fan of seaweed – I may have mentioned this before. In my youth I hated the feel of it and it actually scared me. These days I avoid it.

The source of my fear is a television programme that celebrates 50 years on Saturday 23rd November 2013. I refer, of course, to Dr Who, the tale of a Time Lord who is able to anywhere and anywhen in a spaceship cum time machine that looks like a 1950’s Police Box. Dr Who, or the Doctor as he prefers to be called, is an eccentric alien who travels around the universe and history usually with a human companion, resolving problems, saving entire civilisations and generally protecting people from nasty, marauding and belligerent monsters. When fatally wounded, he can regenerate into a different person, thus allowing different actors to portray this mad alien.

My fear of seaweed stems from an episode when I was about 6 or 7 which involved sentient seaweed coming in through air vents and strangling people to death.

I am sure that if television writers put that idea forward as an idea nowadays, it would be laughed at. However, the reality of the situation is that the programme is now the longest running science fiction programme in the world having been first broadcast on 23rd September 1963, when I was almost one year old.

I have watched most if not all of the episodes in my lifetime. As a young boy, the show actually scared me – not enough to give me nightmares, but enough to make me watch from behind the sofa.
Here in the UK, the show is a national treasure and the lucky actor who plays the part of Dr Who is effectively made for life. Eleven actors have played the character and each of them is revered by a different generation of Whovians (Dr Who fans).

Everybody remembers their first Doctor – for me it was Jon Pertwee the third Doctor Who. My kids, who are also huge fans, will no doubt consider Christopher Ecclestone or David Tennant as the quintessential Doctor. For Mrs PM is was the fourth Doctor – Tom Baker.

Whichever, Doctor is your favourite, few can deny that the show is stitched into the British fabric as an iconic and characteristically British show. The Doctor is a flawed hero, with all of the stereotypical eccentricities of Britishness, as well as the humour, the peculiar behavioural characteristics and the deeply flawed and hidden dark side that we sometimes see.

Even the villains are comical. Who would have thought that a Dalek, a creature living inside a mobile tank that resembles a rather large and strange looking pepper pot, would become a British icon?
The show has not always been popular and in the late 1980’s TV producers all but killed the show by broadcasting it at the worst time possible. There was an outcry when it was subsequently taken off the air, and after a brief reappearance in the 1990’s, Dr Who returned in 2005 and the series has gone from strength to absolute strength.

Modern special effects have replaced the hilarious costumes of the 70’s and 80’s and even the Daleks have taken on a new menacing tone.

On Saturday, the 50th anniversary special will be shown with the current Doctor, Matt Smith, and the previous Doctor, David Tennant combining with John Hurt in a special adventure that will provide a few surprises.

I can’t wait to be honest. Call it sad if you like but I will be ready to watch it and I will be excited, just like I was as a kid sitting down in front of the telly with my dad – who was incidentally also a fan, and whose first Doctor was William Hartnell, the man who started it all.

If you have never seen the show, you have missed out. Here are some highlights from the more recent series.





So, dear reader:

Have you ever heard of Dr Who? 

Who was your first Doctor?

Did the show scare you as a child?

Here is the trailer for the 50th anniversary show:




I will be watching – and I won’t be behind the sofa - honestly.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

A Thousand Words


A couple of months ago, I read an article on the BBC website about a campaign called The 1000 Word Campaign, which was created to encourage British people to learn at least 1000 words of another language.

The campaign was born out of concerns that we, as a nation, have extremely poor language skills and as a result we are losing out on international business opportunities and jobs as a result.

I have to say that I whole-heartedly agree with this, not necessarily the fear that we are struggling to win business abroad but because, generally, your average Brit can barely string together a sentence in a foreign language.

We have become lazy. We are spoiled because we can converse with Americans and Australians easily enough and a lot of European countries speak at least a smattering of English, certainly enough to be able to have a simple conversation with an English speaker.

You can pop to Holland and have a fantastic conversation in English with many people.  The thing is, I would like to be able to chat to a Dutch person in their own language rather than English or at least flip between the two.

In my last post about school, I lamented my choices not to pursue French to fluency. The next part of that particular post will also mention German, a language I studied for three years but again forgot as soon as I had the chance to give it up.

I am better than a large percentage of my fellow countrymen. My French is passable and I have survived numerous trips to Zurich where German is the spoken tongue, being able to ask for my hotel key, order coffee, read a menu and even order food.

However I am far from fluent and had to carry a dictionary with me all of the time so that I could cope with unexpected needs. I certainly couldn’t chat with people in German other than to impress them with odd words stolen from the lyrics of Rammstein songs, such as zerstören (which means to destroy - typical of a Rammstein song). In fact Rammstein songs have helped my vocabulary, albeit with words that I probably would struggle to use in a conversation given my limited German.

My French vocabulary is more impressive than my German but I still struggle to hold a conversation with a French person, simply because it is difficult to understand their accent and words that are delivered at approximately 1000mph towards my ear.

I have managed to make myself understood but as soon as the person has replied, my brain has failed to understand the words I heard, spoken at such a velocity that I could barely decipher them, let alone trawl my addled mind for their meaning.

This is the one flaw with the 1000 word campaign; being able to understand a native speaker.

I have spoken to some foreigners in English and they have had to ask me to speak more slowly so that they can understand the words I am saying. And I always thought I spoke pretty slowly anyway.

Obviously I don’t.

I am taking slow steps to improve and have started to take steps.

For the past year or so I have been stumbling along trying to teach myself a brand new language: Spanish.

And slowly but surely I am picking it up.

Well, when I say “picking it up”, I mean forgetting fewer words and allowing more of them to stick in my addled memory.

The secret to learning a new language is to stick with it and practice as often as you can. And for the past few months I have tried to step up a gear and at least try to pick up the basic elements of the language every single day – even if it for just ten or fifteen minutes.

What I have discovered is that words slip out your mind but return when you look them up again – and eventually they stick.

I am using a free online tool for the past couple of months to help me and it does seem to be working slowly. I have managed to retain a whole bunch of new words although I have forgotten a few I learned last year. The tool keeps a running total of the words you learn and throws phrases and sentences at you over and over again until some of them stick.

According to the tool I have learned over 600 Spanish words. In reality, I imagine the total is a lot less than that simply because I sometimes fail to get questions right when I test myself.

But it’s a start.

The tool also includes other languages, including German and French and my aim is to reacquaint myself with those languages too – but as a background activity.

The internet does help. There is a plethora of material out there as well as a huge proportion of Spanish television, articles, blogs etc. for me to delve into if and when I feel confident enough to do so.

The one problem I have is that I do not know any native Spanish speakers who can help me to understand everyday speech and make myself understood when I try to ask for a meal in terrible Spanish with a pseudo Mancunian-Black Country accent.

I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Learning a language is difficult, I can’t deny that, but the rewards are magnificent. Whenever I travel I try to master a couple of phrases in the local language just to let people know that I have made an effort.
I can order beer, say “Please”, “Thank you”, “Hello” and “Goodbye” in Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Dutch and even Japanese.

And even though my vocabulary is limited to one or two phrases, the local people really seem to appreciate the effort.

And yes – I can say the same words in American and Australian too. I might even try to write my next blog post in one of those two languages.

How about you, dear reader?

Can you speak a foreign language? 

If so which and how fluently?

Thursday, 31 October 2013

School Daze (Part Three) - Shapes of Things



I often wondered whether I fully exploited the subjects I did at school. To be honest, unless you really know what you want to do, deciding your career based on subject matter at an age where raging hormones and, in my case, rebellious confusion can make you decide on the path of life for the next 50 or so years is quite daunting.

I know that I had little clue about what I wanted to do and if I could go back I would change it all. Sadly, between the ages of 11 and 18 I made my choice based on the subjects I was good at, rather than the subjects that were more of a challenge.

I thought, for a laugh, and for a bit of nostalgia and to give you an idea of the person I was and how my schooling shaped me into this grumpy old pseudo Mancunian IT geek in his early 50s, who hates his career and yearns to be a travel writer.

Let me guide you through the various subjects I had to endure and how I coped.

Art

I was useless at art.

I suffered this for two years before I could safely kick it into touch. Surely the teacher must have had a bit of a clue about my ineptitude when he asked me to draw a bowl of fruit and found himself staring in shock at an alien nightmare. Mind you, my efforts could probably have been seized by pseudo –intellectual art critics as an abstract masterpiece.

My attempts at pottery were equally appalling and resulted in clay being thrown at the walls and other kids, not because I was a rapscallion; I just couldn’t control the bloody stuff as it flew in all directions. And you should have seen the result.

Woodwork

I am rubbish when it comes to DIY and I blame my woodwork teacher. He was a man who tried to encourage me with dulcet words as I destroyed half a tree trying to turn wood into something useful. I have never been able to mould wood since and I have no intention of ever trying again. Everything I constructed either fell apart or ended up in the bin. Another subject dumped after two years of wasted effort .

French

French was compulsory for five years and I had several run-ins with a rather maniacal French teacher who had the ability to make kids cry with a mixture of stern authority and menacing threat. My problem was that I could see through his façade and actually used to laugh at his attempts to belittle me in front of the class.

Despite this, he was a very good teacher who immediately sussed out who the class villains were and made them all sit directly in front of him at the front. Nobody answered back – including me – yet I struggled to stifle guffaws when he started on a poor victim. Consequently he would pick on me – yet all I did was laugh.

“What is so funny?” he would ask, growling.

“You are,”  I said truthfully.

I would of course end up having to see him after class for a stern telling off and detention (or jug as we used to call it) – but I simply couldn’t help it.

 I was actually very good at languages and I still remember a lot of French thanks to this rather eccentric teacher. French is one of those subjects I regret not mastering; I would dearly love to be able to speak French fluently.

History

I found history totally boring and in the three years I had to suffer it, I had to endure tedious facts and, eventually, I found that it was drifting towards politics, a subject I despised even then.

My history teacher was an absent-minded old man who actually wrote a book about the history of my school, a rather grand grammar school in Walsall.

We just used to joke about him, saying that his knowledge was so deep because he was old enough to experience it personally.  These days I find myself being drawn towards history again and I sort of regret not being enthusiastic about it at school, choosing instead to draw moustaches on pictures of Henry VIII's wives.

Geography

For someone who wants to travel, this should have been a key subject for me.

It wasn’t.

I have the glorious distinction of coming bottom of my entire year in my final year of studying the subject. I was not going to continue, I figured, so I would do absolutely no work in the subject.

It worked; I simply couldn’t answer any of the questions or write any meaningful essays.

I didn’t care. To be honest, I don’t really care now because travelling for work and pleasure I am learning it all again – this time in a fun way.

Music

Here is a major regret. I really should have learned to play a guitar and/or piano and paid absolute attention to musical theory.

My music teacher was another eccentric maniac whose mannerisms and warped enthusiasm helped to fuel my rebellious nature.

Unlike the French teacher he wasn’t funny – he was just an obnoxious arsehole. And because I was also an obnoxious arsehole, we clashed in magnificent fashion.

When I gave up the trombone he was angry unlike the man who actually taught me how to play the instrument, a jazz trombonist whose skill with this brass monstrosity was amazing - he was very disappointed.

 Looking back, I feel ashamed that I had let my trombone teacher down – and maybe I could have been as good as he was had I pursued it.

I really should have chosen a guitar!

English Language

My English teacher didn’t like me.

I seemed to be able to wind him up just by being in the same room as he was – and this had nothing to do with any ill feeling on my part. During free writing lessons, I wrote weird stories about the Bermuda Triangle, space travel and monsters. He criticised them saying that my warped imagination was leading me completely astray.

Consequently I was forced to write about stuff I hated and my lack of enthusiasm must have shown through. In retrospect, perhaps I should have listened to him more and at least attempted to prove him wrong. Sadly, when my rebellious nature finally did manifest itself we drifted even further apart – which was a problem because he also taught me English Literature.

English Literature

Forcing me to read Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy was a mistake in my opinion. I hated them. I also despised poetry and my abhorrence showed itself in the essays I had to write criticising them. When I say criticising, I don’t mean pouring scorn on them; I mean giving a critical analysis of the work in question.

Sadly my true feelings often came through.

It was only when we had the opportunity to choose our own books that I somehow clawed myself back from the abyss of failure. H.G.Wells, Jules Verne and George Orwell saved me. My passion was evident, even to a teacher who regarded me with contempt and he had to acknowledge that the essays I wrote about authors I liked were actually quite good – a brave admission from the man, in my opinion, despite our differences.

Finally

There’s more to come so I will continue opening a door to the past in my next post rather than droning on about other subjects.

In the meantime, dear reader:

Did you enjoy any of the subjects I have mentioned above? 

Have you any regrets about school?

And just how cheeky or obnoxious were you to your teachers? 




Saturday, 26 October 2013

Disappointed!


While I am a happy chap, there are still things in life that disappoint me. These are the tiny irksome irritating things that are like a tiny little pain, constantly there and causing discomfort on occasion – like an itch in a hard to reach place.

I can find some solace in sharing them with you, dear reader, so if you are prepared to indulge me and allow me to scratch that infuriating itch by allowing me to list them for you, then I will be grateful.

Here are a few of the sources of disappointment for me. This list is not exhaustive – there are many items that are in my deep subconscious mind hiding from my mental search – but I will get to them someday.

Anyway, enough waffle – here goes. I am disappointed because:

  • The X Factor is back for another season.  When will ITV see sense and remove this virus from our screens?
  • My favourite football team are in the third tier of English football and I get excited when they scrape a win against Swindon Town.  I have to suffer fans of Manchester United and Manchester City constantly bleating about how brilliant their clubs are while I have to sit there and watch the team I love struggling.
  • Metrolink roadworks have doubled my journey time to and from work. I arrive at work with my soapbox out already wound up about the stupid bus that blocked the road for 20 minutes because he thought he could sneak through a temporary red light.
  • Piers Morgan has a new series on television.  When will the British media stop allowing this man airtime on prime time TV? Send him to America and keep him there.
  • I am still stuck in the rat race.  My need for money forces me to spend the entire day frustrated and angry. Where is that elusive winning lottery ticket?
  • Summer is over and the rain has struck back with a vengeance.  A fairly big storm is forecast for Sunday night and Monday morning bringing yet more rain to an increasingly damp and miserable Manchester. The nights are getting longer and the grey clouds are obscuring the sunshine that I crave so much.
  • I want to travel the world but am tied up in work.  My trip to Japan earlier this year has rekindled the travel bug to the extent that the temptation to simply give up, say “Bugger this!” and just go out there, is almost overwhelming.
  • I cannot become invisible.  Okay, this is a silly one. If I had the ability to become invisible I would give quite a few people an anonymous slap.
  • David Cameron is still Prime Minister.  David Cameron, or “Dave” to his mates, may be a member of the elite club of Dave’s but he is so far out of touch with life in Britain that I suspect he is an alien.
  • We rarely see good news – unless it’s about Royalty.  When I watch the news, I see tales of war, poverty, trouble, trauma and travesty and the newscasters seem to think that seeing a baby being baptised will bring a smile to my face and somehow make the bad news go away. “Yes there is a war but at least we can fawn over the future king of England.”
  • My decrepit old body is not able to keep pace with my young man’s brain.  Aches and pains appear for no reason – well realistically because I have done something foolish like jog to the shop.
  • Mrs PM still wants to watch The X Factor despite ranting about how unfair and ridiculous it is. Sorry to mention The X Factor again but I have to put up with Mrs PM being drawn to the show, almost like a drug that she cannot give up. For the last two years, she has cried out about how unfair it is. “I can't BELIEVE they got rid of Ploppy McPlop. He was the best singer. I am NOT watching this show again.” – that is until next year when she will be there watching it avidly. Worse – she tells me what’s going on and I HATE the show.
  • I am not a millionaire.  Life is not fair; if it were I would have so much money that I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
  • I am not The Incredible Hulk.  I just want to be able to say “Don’t make me angry; you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!” to those people who annoy me.
  • Nice guys do not get a fair deal.  I am a nice guy. I treat people with kindness and respect, and I always have a smile on my face even when I am going full pelt on my soapbox. Yet the people who get on in the world seem to have a sinister nasty streak and don’t mind treading on people to achieve their goals. Life is simply unfair sometime.
  • My cats won’t go outside to answer a call of nature. Ever since we introduced Liquorice into our household, the feline hierarchy has been turned upside down. After a run in with next door’s dog, Liquorice only leaves the house when we do. Poppy has chosen to stay upstairs rather than tangle with Liquorice. Jasper is so lazy that he would rather poop in the house than outside, particularly if it is raining. Consequently we have three litter trays and each one of our cats loves to hurl litter all over the entire house.

I think that’s enough for now.

Despite the rather negative tone of the post, I absolutely love life and am rational enough to realise that however happy people are there are and always will be disappointments to deal with.

Over to you, dear reader.

What disappoints you?

Do you agree with any items above? 

Or better still have you any remedies for any of them?

[Ed – Come on PM, end on a positive note!]

OK, Ed – here is a happy little ditty that is a guaranteed earworm.

It’s called Swimwear by a band called Hey! Hello! and I guarantee you will have the chorus in your head for days to come.

Enjoy:



Monday, 14 October 2013

Goodbye Dexter Morgan


Earlier this year I said goodbye to my current favourite fictional anti-hero:
Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter analyst who works for Miami Police and just happens to be a cold, unfeeling psychopathic serial killer who murders bad guys that have escaped justice and then hacks them to pieces, pops them in black plastic bags, takes them in his boat, aptly called “The Slice of Life” and dumps them out at sea.

Here is the trailer for season one:



Whenever I become engrossed in a major drama, I find myself worrying about whether it will survive or not. Thankfully, in the case of Dexter, the series has finished and reached some kind of conclusion.

After eight seasons, I can’t imagine Michael C. Hall wanting to play the part of Dexter for a moment longer, mainly because people will forever consider him to be that character. I can’t say that I blame him simply because of the nature of the character as well as forever being referred to as Dexter Morgan the serial killer.

There are actually people out there who truly believe that the characters actually exist and the poor actor has to suffer being chastised for daring to do the bad things he acted out on the screen. In the UK, some actors have received hate mail simply because they committed an atrocity against a much loved character in a soap opera.

It’s amazing to think that people are that gullible and stupid – but it’s true.

While some series manage to run to a logical and satisfying conclusion, there are others that don’t. This is particularly true in America, where major drama series are judged on audience ratings and axed if they do not attract the required number of dedicated viewers.

This truly annoys me.

Series like Lost managed somehow to hold on and reach a conclusion (whether it was satisfactory are not is a subject for another debate), yet other series are simply cut short in their prime leaving a cliff hanger series finale that leaves fans totally frustrated.

One of my favourite science fiction series from the 1990’s suffered with the threat of being axed but recovered. It was hugely popular in the UK but in the US, the ratings weren’t quite as high as expected and the threat of the axe loomed over the series for four out of the five seasons, leading to a truly action-packed fourth season as the producers tried to cram everything in, but leaving season five slightly disjointed.

If you haven’t seen Babylon 5 – here’s a taster – a space battle with the evil Shadows in their malevolent spider-like spaceships:



Even the first season of Star Trek was curtailed too quickly after a mere three seasons. It was only later due to fan pressure that the show was resurrected as movies, which ultimately spawned four more separate series and even more movies.

In the UK it seems that producers are less likely to wield the axe on a show. Some shows last for years and only suffer if they are truly awful.

An example of a show that has true longevity is, of course, Dr Who, which remarkably is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Dr Who is the story of a time travelling alien who seeks adventure and has as his playground the whole of time and the whole of space. All of this means that he can travel to anywhere in the universe and anywhen.

Being an alien, he lives for centuries and has the ability to survive mortal wounds by regenerating into a different person – i.e. a different actor can play the character.

From 1963 to the early 1980’s the series went from strength to strength, despite shaky special effects and crazy storylines.

However in 1989 it was finally axed as the producers thought it had run its course. Many people were upset about this and there were several campaigns to bring it back. The show was resurrected briefly in the 1990’s in a one off special before finally returning to our screens with a bigger budget and much improved storylines and special effects in 2005.

And it has gone from strength to strength since then as one of the flagship programmes  of the BBC.

I can’t imagine that happening in America.

If you haven’t seen Dr Who, here’s a taster for you, with a particularly creepy alien:




And here is another clip of the Doctor standing up to his mortal enemy – the Daleks:




Thankfully, Dr Who doesn’t show any signs of going away and there are plenty of other excellent drama series out there.

But alas I must say goodbye to Dexter Morgan. If you haven’t see it, I urge you to do so if you get the chance.

 You will thank me for it.




Over to you, dear reader.

What are your favourite TV programmes?

Have you ever suffered because the networks have prematurely terminated one of your favourite series?

Are you a Dexter fan?


Friday, 11 October 2013

No Offense


Hot on the heels of my last post about offending people I know by mentioning their exploits or my thoughts of their exploits on this blog, I’d like to cast a slightly wider net and consider offending people I don’t actually know.

I often wonder whether there are people out there who stumble on my blog, read it and are so offended by it that they are too apoplectic to even write a comment telling me how my seemingly innocent post has offended them.

I’m not talking about your everyday troll, the warrior king of the keyboard, who thinks I am a dickhead and tells me such; I’m talking about people who are genuinely upset by the balderdash that pours forth from my keyboard.

Recently this has been another cause for concern. There are a lot of subjects I want to air my opinions about but have stepped back from the brink because those subjects are controversial and may cause distress to over-sensitive souls.

I have touched on subjects like religion but held back because I have known that some readers will genuinely dislike what I write – not that my opinions are extreme – they’re not. But I have had debates with religious people who have stormed off in disgust because I have questioned their belief system.

There is a line and I have never dared to approach it, let alone march up to it and stomp over without a care for the casualties of my words.

Once again, it’s “Nice Guy Syndrome”.

There are some subjects I am passionate about, such as music, and I will quite happily pour scorn on musical genres I hate, the general state of the music industry and the dumbing down of the masses with insipid pointless commercial crap that is making arseholes like Simon Cowell incredibly rich at the expense of a person with a great voice who will fall by the way side and never be heard of again.

I have even written about things I think are rubbish, like Shakespeare, opera and reality television. Yet these supposedly controversial posts have been relatively mild and offer a carrot to anybody who is willing to engage me in a debate about them.

The truth is I can’t imagine anybody getting upset because I have dragged the name of opera through the mud; at worst most people will laugh and consider me to be a blinkered buffoon unwilling to expand my horizons.

I don’t care. I have a thick skin and am happy for people to think that.

Yet if I were to turn to politics, say, and express my views in a similar way to some Americans do on their blogs, I fear that I might genuinely make an enemy or two out there; likewise with religion.

I have skirted around both subjects in the past but fallen way short of expressing my true feelings about the state of politics in Britain and other countries. The closest I’ve come really is a post about Margaret Thatcher, a woman who is seen as a hero by certain parts of the community but who I actually despised.

Again that post was relatively mild and my feelings were masked behind light-hearted observations and stolen jokes.

I have read posts in America where the author has written some truly horrific things about their politicians, particularly Barack Obama. One time, I was so stunned by what I read that I left an innocuous comment and ended up on the receiving end of a troll-like attack.

I am not sure whether if, say, I wrote a post praising the work of somebody such as Obama, whether my comment box would be full of comments from pissed off readers accusing me of being a communist.

It’s the threat of such comments that keeps me back from the line I have drawn.

Mrs PM has suggested that I air my views more and discuss controversial topics in order to attract attention to my blog.

I’m not sure whether that is a price I am willing to pay. I want people to read my posts and have a smile on their face at the end of it instead of a look of pure ferocity that makes them want to vent their fury in an enormous vitriolic comment.

Anger turns people into keyboard warriors and I don’t like keyboard warriors.

Hence I have backed off.

Nevertheless, I am in a dilemma because I really do want to court controversy. I want to express myself but I don’t want to offend people or turn mild mannered readers into raging trolls.

Despite all of this, part of me wants to say:

“So you’re offended, are you? So bloody what? Just because you are offended by my views doesn’t actually mean you are right and I am wrong. Just get over it!”

However, once again, “Nice guy syndrome” kicks in again and I find myself resisting the desire to push forward and challenge people about why the things I am saying are so offensive. For some people, the phrase “I’m offended” seems to put them on the moral high ground and they look down on you as if you are some sort of snivelling demon intent on upsetting everybody.

For example, if a man was outraged because I used the word “PHHARRK!” in front of him, I would laugh and say:

 “For God’s sake get a grip, man! Everybody swears! Get over it.”

He might then chastise me for using the Lord’s name in vain.

And do you see what these people are doing to me? I use the word “PHHARRK!” in my blog instead of the real word – simply because it might be offensive to somebody.

How about you dear reader? 

Do you like the thought of being controversial? 

Are you willing to court controversy and offend people, even innocently?

Do you care if you offend people?

It is yet another blogging dilemma that is haunting me.

I will stay on the safe side of the line for now and keep people happy – with the exception of Simon Cowell lovers and those who think the X Factor is the future of music of course.

Those people are fair game in my opinion.

And perhaps I might just stop saying “PHHARK!” instead of “FUCK!”

BUGGER! That’s the first time I’ve used the “PHHARK!” word in my blog.

SHIT! Now I’ve said “BUGGER!” as well.

And “SHIT!”

I’m doomed.

No offense.

Please carry on reading - and please don't become a troll.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Are You Blogging About Me??


There are a few things I would love to write about on this blog but the truth is I am a little worried about doing so.

There are many tales to tell, mostly funny and amusing, and some things that have irritated me or continue to annoy me. I would love to write them down but there is one thing stopping me.

They involve people I know.

I have a thick skin and can tolerate a fair amount of abuse, either funny tongue in cheek banter or even on occasion words spoken in spite because of a difference of opinion, an argument or whatever.

The problem is that I really don’t know how thick skinned other people actually are. Worse, I have no idea if they would mind seeing a story about them appearing on a blog in cyberspace that a lot of people may stumble across.

Regular readers know that I have actually written about a few people, notably Mrs PM, as well as my sons. I’ve also mentioned people in passing, usually involving an amusing incident in a light-hearted post.

However, I have hidden their names behind a pseudonym; I’ve done exactly the same with myself too. My name is not really Plastic Mancunian – in case you were wondering.

Nevertheless, even when I have mentioned people hidden behind a silly name, I have wondered whether they actually read my blog and if so what they would think if they actually recognised themselves.

It’s happened on one or two occasions.

I walked into a pub one day to meet some mates and one of them said:

“OY! You wrote about me wearing a bloody dress!”

The fact that quite a few people knew that he wore a dress once was irrelevant. I didn’t even give him a pseudonym – I merely mentioned the fact that I knew a guy who wore a dress to see the Rocky Horror Show and allowed a photograph of him to be taken.

Worse, I think I was the person who circulated the photo around selected people in the office – a double whammy if you like.

And now I’ve mentioned it again he might even bring it up YET AGAIN!

“YOU UTTER ARSE! YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN! ARE YOU OBSESSED?”

Of course I’m not obsessed and I apologise once more in advance.

This is the dilemma I have. Over the years certain people have truly annoyed me and some still do, particularly in the work environment. And I am itching, absolutely itching to pour scorn on them via the medium of the blog.

I guess that for those in my past who I do not class as friends or those I simply haven’t seen for years, the problem is not too bad. I would hate to have upset a work colleague because of a few ill-chosen sentences just to make a point – even if I disliked the fellow in question.

So I am torn; torn between an evolving need to write about people I know or have known and a desire to remain a nice guy and leave people alone.

I don’t think it’s so bad in the case above where I am simply taking the piss out of a friend. I wouldn’t mind if people did that to me – I do enough of that myself.

It is an inner conflict that needs to be resolved.

This is one of the reasons that I was disappointed that my blog was discovered in the first place. Initially I wanted it to remain completely anonymous, devoid of any photographs of myself, so that I could regale the world with tales of work, life and the universe, mentioning everybody I knew without fear of reprisals.

Thinking about this logically, I shouldn’t be worried at all. I’ve read autobiographies where the author has made it perfectly clear how he feels about the people in his or her past. It’s worse in this case because the author has actually named names and not been kind enough to protect them behind a pseudonym.

So why should I care?

I care because I think I am a nice guy and even though I may not be keen on the person in question, I feel a moral obligation to leave them alone rather than splashing their name, albeit a pseudonym, on a blog that anyone can read.

I sometimes even wonder how Mrs PM will react if I mention her in a post (and I never say anything bad about her).

Not everyone is like me. Not everyone would like to be seen as a joke or the target of a Plastic Mancunian rant.

Do you see my predicament? I could open up a whole new area of bloggery if I allowed myself to stop caring about what people would think if I were to write about them.
It’s one to mull over I think. Perhaps I can dig into the distant past and hope that people don’t recognise me or themselves.

Over to you, dear reader.

What would you do? 

Would you avoid writing about people you know for fear of upsetting them – even if you are not sure whether they read your blog or not?

Actually, part of me is tempted to lose my own anonymity on this blog.

But that's an inner struggle for another day.