Sunday, 18 June 2017

Guide To Life - Politics

I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about politics on this blog again. I am going to break that promise. However, unlike before, I am not going to rant about it. I kind of want people to understand why I say things I say and why I am a walking paradox, i.e. a man who despises politics and politicians yet feels the need to rant about it at almost every opportunity.

Actually, the truth is that I wanted to start a series of posts with the working title “Guide to Life” – my guide to life really – and I want to get politics out of the way first.

One of the things I have learned in 2017 is to adopt a more positive outlook on life and, fingers crossed, so far it has worked. Sadly, 2017 is proving to be as bad as 2016 (both personally and politically) and I may elaborate on that in my end of year round up.

So let’s talk about politics.

Basically I am what is known in Britain as a “lefty”. Some people have called me a “loony lefty” but the truth is I’m not one of those. Americans would probably call me a bleeding heart liberal.

I thought I would just put this up front because it explains why I am not keen on the British Conservative Party or the American Republican Party – or indeed any other right wing party.

What I have learned this year more than any, is that I really need to listen to those who have opposing views. And I have started to do that. I have realised that by chatting to Conservative voters, I can actually see where they are coming from. Of course, this is not always the case because I have been accused within the last month of being a “total lunatic” – but that is a one off. What I have found is that if you meet somebody with opposing views who is as reasonable as I am trying to be, then you can have a decent chat without animosity about your political differences and, most importantly, learn from them. Also, you can hope that the same occurs in the opposite direction and that they learn from you too.

The guy who told me that I was a “total lunatic” disagreed with my philosophy of wanting to help other people. I explained to him that Conservatives, also universally known as the “Nasty Party” in the UK (not by me by the way), adopt measures that expand the gap between rich and poor and austerity measures have a devastating effect on those who need it most – the poor. Rich people are generally less affected. I would be quite happy to pay more tax to assist.

He admitted that he was “selfish” and didn’t care about the less needy in our society. I can’t change his personality and I didn’t try – I just disagreed with him. At the end, we shook hands and he said “Great discussion but I think you’re a total lunatic.”

I wanted to say “I’m just a nice guy!” but I stopped myself.

We recently had an election in the UK and it was a corker. Our Prime Minister, Conservative Party leader Theresa May, wanted to steamroller her Brexit policies through parliament without the opposition having a say. The problem is that her majority was not very big and she feared that she faced problems. If the right wing press are to be believed, the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is an incompetent and unpopular lunatic. Theresa May decided to have a snap election (having promised that she wouldn’t do that) because her approval rating was sky high compared to Jeremy Corbyn’s.

Theresa May pretending to be a normal person

Corbyn: "Give us a kiss, Theresa"
In her mind, she would not only win, her victory would be a landslide and she would get absolutely everything she wanted through parliament and Brexit, as well as other right wing policies, would fly through with a massive majority.

Her arrogance was breath-taking.

However, she didn’t reckon on Jeremy Corbyn being a far more charismatic and principled leader. She also didn’t realise that the Conservative manifesto would piss off just about everybody but the most die-hard lovers of the party. Worse, she led with the soundbite “strong and stable” and proved to be the complete opposite, refusing to debate on live TV and only talking to the party faithful instead of the average man in the street.

She didn’t lose the election. She won.

The problem is that her majority has been slashed and we have a “hung parliament” which means that no party has overall control.

She is in a worse position than she was before and any Brexit or other policies stand a great chance of being outvoted by the opposition parties. In American terms, she is a “lame duck” Prime Minister.

I love this, not just because I oppose Brexit vehemently. I love it because the gutter press have had a kick in the teeth for their attacks on Corbyn and he has proven to be far more popular than her as a leader.

What this means for Brexit, I don’t know – but it is better than before. It is a spectacular own goal.

I have stopped ranting about Donald Trump too. In fact, on the contrary, I am now fascinated by what’s going on over in the United States. While internal US politics usually has no interest, Trump’s term is proving to be mesmerising, not least because of his tweets, his arrogance, his self-contradiction, his outrageously unpopular policies and his idiocy (and while he may be intelligent in terms of business, his pedigree as a politician is proving to be the complete opposite).

"How am I getting away this this? I have no idea!"
I remember Nixon resigning but I was too young to fully understand why. With Trump, I feel like I am watching a Hollywood movie and I am already overstuffed on popcorn, waiting for the next instalment.

Basically, to conclude, I think we should all listen to each other’s views on politics and learn to understand them. I welcome anybody to comment and either agree that indeed I am a lunatic – as long as you tell me why. If you are British and a Brexit supported or are American and love Donald Trump then please also feel free to engage.

I won’t bite.

And, for now, I will stop referring to Donald Trump as an Oompa Loompa.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Science Fiction Cult

I have a tale for you that sounds like it comes out of the Star Wars saga.

75 million years ago, Xenu, the tyrannical leader of the Galactic Confederacy transported billions of his own people to a distant rock floating around in space, in ships that resembled the aircraft that we know and love today. When they arrived at the rock, they were unceremoniously dumped out in the vicinity of volcanoes and wiped out with hydrogen bombs.

He sounds like a complete bastard, this Xenu character, doesn’t he?

Worse, the spirits of the billions of the dead aliens became immortal and after all of this time still roam the rock, which is now a lovely little blue planet teeming with life and beauty. That planet is our own beloved Earth and the spirits of the murdered billions, called Thetans, float around our planet and attach themselves to human beings. 

Basically we all have an inner Thetan and this is analogous to our soul.

Sounds like a great idea for a science fiction story, doesn’t it?

Except there are a large number of people who actually believe this story to be real; these people are called Scientologists.

The originator of this story is L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer, who has somehow managed to convince thousands of people that their souls are immortal alien spirits that operate their bodies. Amongst those people are Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

L. Ron Hubbard is now dead but his legacy lives on. Scientology leaders announced his death as if he had shed his mortal body allowing him to continue his amazing research on another planet somewhere out there in the depths of space.

The leader is now a rather mysterious man called David Miscavige.

Scientology claims to be a religion but in reality it is more like a cult. I have to be honest with you, here – I am absolutely fascinated by it, not because I believe any of the rubbish that David Miscavige and his followers are trying to peddle (for huge sums of money I hasten to add). Rather, I am fascinated about how people can be taken in by all of this utter nonsense and actually change their lives to immerse themselves so deeply into it that they cannot escape without potentially having vile facts published about them, or worse, being totally ostracised by their own family members who choose to stay as part of the religion.

When I was a young naïve student, the church of Scientology tried to recruit my friend and I when we were backpacking around Europe. The incident occurred in Amsterdam and their “expert” tried to convince me that I was a manic depressive who was about to commit suicide. She claimed that only they could help and that rather than leave Amsterdam as I had planned, I should enrol in their course to help guide me away from such evil thoughts.

You see, I was wondering around Europe and as such was fair game. I was young and naïve, but not so naïve that I believed it.

Deep down I knew I was tremendously happy and that their words were ridiculous. I may have been naïve but I was not stupid.  They attempted the same thing with my friend who found the entire experience hilarious.

Since then, I’ve followed the exploits of Scientology with interest. Initially, I found it all amusing but in recent years, events have taken a disturbing turn for the worst and I no longer find it funny.

We even have a Scientology “church” in the centre of Manchester. One time, I saw a few people protesting outside and handing out leaflets.

There are a few accusations that have been directed at the Church of Scientology but, to be honest, I’m a bit wary about mentioning them.

Why? Because the first one is “attack the attacker”. Allegedly, anybody who attacks Scientology must be treated with hostility, which means that the church will investigate those who accuse them of wrongdoing and publish any findings to the press, employers, friends and family and even make counter accusations against them, potentially leading to things like running their career. There is no “turn the other cheek” philosophy in Scientology. Such people are labelled by the church as “suppressive persons”.

We also have “disconnection”. If you are a “suppressive person” who still has family who are Scientologists, then the church basically causes your family to cut you off completely. There are many examples in the documentaries that I have seen where people have left the church and been totally disconnected from family members who are still part of the church, Worse, those family members are allegedly so brainwashed that they completely disown them. Parents have been banished by their own children.

If you are a member of the Sea Org, the most dedicated elite within Scientology, and you don’t live up to the high expectations of the church then you are “rehabilitated” which involves being locked up and isolated and subjected to intense physical hard labour and “auditing”, an activity that involves a weird kind of question and answer session while you are gripping a metal cylinder in each hand that is connected to a contraption called an E-meter – a sort of strange emotion detector.

"Will I ever be famous"?
In order to rise up the rankings you basically have to throw money at the church and study religious doctrine for every hour God sends.

No wonder they want somebody like Tom Cruise to be the acceptable face of the church.

Allegedly, their “pope”, David Miscavige is said to behave like a psychotic despot, sometimes physically assaulting people working for him.

I hasten to add, all of this comes from documentaries and films about the “church” – I have to say this in case I suddenly find myself being followed by Scientologists or have the name “Plastic Mancunian” splashed over cyberspace as an evil liar.

Oh well – if such a thing happens then maybe we’ll see whether the “attack the attacker” accusation is true or not.

I’m really looking forward to seeing “My Scientology Movie” by one of my favourite documentary makers, Louis Theroux. Here’s a trailer for it:

Let’s hope I am not labelled as a “suppressive person” as a result of this post.

Monday, 29 May 2017

The Hipster

I quite like eccentric people, particularly those who are genuinely intelligent and slightly odd. You know the kind of person I mean; somebody who is so intelligent that they don’t have time for things like fashion, style, mainstream hobbies and conventional culture.

My kind of genius
Sadly, there is a particular breed of pseudo-intellectual that tries to emulate these eccentric geniuses by being odd just for the sake of it. These people are known as hipsters. I’m sure you have heard of them.

During my life, I have encountered many flawed geniuses who simply don’t have the time or patience to worry about their dress sense, hairstyles and don’t feel the need to become a normal social animal, choosing instead to immerse themselves completely in the subjects that fascinate them.  

For example, a university professor with wild uncontrolled hair whose fashion sense was born (and remains) in the 1960’s or the computer nerd who spends every waking hour on his computer devising amazing software for fun and, when he’s not fully engrossed in that will plunge into hours of science fiction and become an absolute expert on everything relating to Doctor Who, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings.

I like these people.

My kind of genius
Over the years, people like this have started to get more respect and others are seeing the light, choosing to embrace them rather than mock them.

Hipsters are latching onto this and trying to portray themselves as – well – weird – but in a cool, fashionable and trendy way. I know for a fact that they are pseudo-intellectuals because, unlike flawed geniuses, the only things that come out of their mouths is a blend of philosophy and bullshit.

Hipsters go one step further – they purposely go out to make themselves stand out as eccentric. They actually fail miserably though because the genius will not spend a fortune on his weird attire and has no desire whatsoever to attract people to them because of their unconventional dress sense.

A hipster is the kind of person who will go to a pub and be positively thrilled that his fish and chips is served in a bucket or his full English breakfast comes on a shovel.

Hipster Breakfast
Hipster coffee
Hipsters look down on people like me who like conventional things like sport and rock music, although they will be interested in my travel exploits, particularly to the more exotic places I’ve had the good fortune to visit.

You see, the hipster tries to portray himself as a cool, open-minded intellectual who is fascinated by everything and anything, as long as it is avant-garde.

A hipster will dress in, frankly, weird clothes – the weirder the better.  

His musical taste is bizarre. Your typical hipster will buy a record full of Peruvian pop songs (even though he doesn’t understand Spanish). Note – it has to be a record that he can play on his 1970’s record player because a CD is too modern and mainstream.

The hipster will also like to portray himself as an intelligent creative genius who will try his hand at absolutely anything from writing bizarre poetry to playing weird instruments. He is the kind of person who will buy a penny farthing and voluntarily go to underground theatres to watch strange meaningless plays. His house will be full of bric-a-brac that he “found on his travels” but in reality cost a small fortune from Camden Market. He will also not understand anything he owns, says or creates, but will boast about it all using philosophical evidence to back his long descriptive words, which will make no sense to truly intelligent people, impressing only those who are trying to be hipsters themselves - pseudo-hipsters if you like.

The hipster will want to travel where his heart takes him, choosing to visit strange countries with nothing but four hipster T-shirts, a pair of sandals and a pair of garish crazy shorts. He will acquire strange tattoos that he claims came from local people who rarely see tourists because, of course, a hipster simply cannot go to a place where conventional people go! Oh no! That wouldn’t be cool.

Travel Hipster
You see, hipsters are a paradox. They like to portray themselves as outsiders and social pariahs but the only reason they do so is to be cool and popular socially. They love to bore you with tales of their exploits.

Here are some things you may hear a hipster say.

“You’ve never heard of Emilio Lugazi’s authentic Chilean classical jazz masterpiece “Soy la evolución del mono y la máquina”? It is exquisite!”

“Oh this tattoo? It means “I am eternal light!” in Thai. It is the work of a 92 year old elder in a remote village near to Chiang Mai. She did it for nothing because she liked a poem I wrote for her.”

“I’ll have the Messy Combo Vegetarian Burger with Melon Fries and Mustard Mayonnaise please. No, it’s fine if it comes on a roof slate. It’s more authentic that way.”

“Here’s a novel I wrote last week. It’s about a woman on a journey of self-discovery in the caves of Izca. I wrote it on a typewriter in Cossack’s Coffee shop. It’s called “The Imagination Cube”. I don’t want to sell it; I needed to write it for my own self-discovery.”

Finally, if you still don’t recognise a hipster – here are a few photos I have found on the web.

Finally, if you want to annoy a hipster, all you have to do is imply that they are now mainstream. For example, if you ever see a hipster typing poems on a 1960's typewriter in Starbucks while drinking his latte out of an avocado skin, just say, within his earshot:

"Wow! Writing your own poetry in Starbucks. That's so mainstream. There's a guy in an independent coffee shop on the High Street, who's just parked his penny farthing outside and is tattooing his arse with original poetry while singing traditional Uruguayan opera. And what a beard he has - five feet long, and dyed in the colours of the Brazilian flag. What a cool guy!"

He will freak out, I promise you.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


When I woke up yesterday morning I was stunned because the first words I heard on the radio were:

"I know that some people will only just be waking up to the news of the horrific attacks in Manchester last night. This was a barbaric attack deliberately targeting some of the most vulnerable in our society - young people and children out at a pop concert. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the victims who have been affected and I know the whole country will share that view."

I raced downstairs to watch the news and discovered, to my horror, that a suicide bomber had detonated an Improvised Explosive Device in the foyer of the Manchester Arena, the city’s biggest concert venue, just minutes after an Ariana Grande concert had finished.

This would be a sickening and evil thing to do normally but in this case it was even worse, if that’s possible because the audience were mainly young people and children. Over the past day or so I’ve watched the news with a heavy heart as events have unfolded. I have seen the faces of children and teenagers in anguish as one of the pop events of their lives, an event that is meant to bring happiness and joy, suddenly became a terrifying real life nightmare.

Amongst the victims were young children, in particular a girl of 8 years old.


I still don’t know what to say and the horror of what happened is still at the forefront of my mind.

Three weeks ago, my eldest son was at the Manchester Arena watching Iron Maiden. In fact, in the past five years, I have also been there on numerous occasions. It could have happened to any one of us.

I am shocked and upset and my heart goes out to all the victims of this tragedy.

I know exactly where the explosion took place and I know that it would have been really crowded just after the gig had finished. I can barely imagine how people who witnessed the carnage felt.

Knowing Manchester and its people as I do, I was not surprised to discover that people rallied to help.

The police and ambulance service were magnificent.

People heard about the tragedy and drove into the city to see if they could help, offering food and refreshments to the emergency services and people who were clearly distressed.

A hotel opened its doors for those stranded by the event and gave them a room for the night for free.

Taxi drivers took distraught people home for absolutely no charge.

Others gathered up young people and offered them refuge in their own homes until somebody could come and pick them up.

This is what Manchester is and why I love living in my adopted city.

I still cannot fathom why anybody would target such a vulnerable crowd of people. There is no cause on this entire planet that is worthy of such an atrocity.

Since the terrible events of Monday night, the police have made some arrests – in particularly in a suburb called Fallowfield where I used to live and is not far from where I live now.

The city is still shocked but Mancunians will eventually recover – we have done so before after the IRA bomb in 1996 destroyed an area of the city centre. Manchester evolved and grew after that and it will do so again.

We love our city and this will not change a thing.

I will leave you with a poem read out by poet Tony Walsh (known as Longfella) called “This is the Place” which he recited at the vigil following the tragedy yesterday.

This sums up the city and its people perfectly.

Manchester will always be wonderful. Mancunians will always be amazing people.

We will prevail.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Being A Guy

I often hear women saying things like “You don’t know how lucky you are being a man.”

I kind of agree with this because the truth is I absolutely love being a guy.

I have been a guy for 54 years (and counting) and I have loved every second of it. Mrs PM also claims that being a woman is fantastic – but I have no experience of that so can’t possibly comment. Besides, I wouldn’t want to risk the wrath of an irate Mrs PM.

Having said that, I may just risk that with this post. I recently rediscovered a humorous list from the 1990s which listed 100 reasons why it’s great to be a guy. Whilst it is meant to be a joke list, there are some elements of truth in it.

I thought I would share some of my favourite reasons from that list with you.

1. Phone calls last only 30 seconds.

This is true. When Mrs PM talks to her mum she is on the phone for what seems like hours. I don’ actually know what they talk about but I daren’t ask. If I were to ask she would reproduce the entire conversation to me including her thoughts, her mum’s thoughts and, worse, she would ask my opinion on everything – which could lead to danger if I said something wrong.

Conversely, when I make a phone call I am short and to the point – as is the man on the other end of the phone. If happens to be a woman then I can struggle to make the call last 30 seconds. Either way, Mrs PM usually wants to know exactly what was said, my thoughts, the other person’s thoughts etc.

I have no idea why. And if I say “don’t be nosey” I can get into serious trouble.

2. A five day holiday only requires one suitcase.

I only pack what is necessary for the holiday, which usually means that I have the minimum packed away. If I run out of stuff, I can buy some more. I don’t plan what I am going to wear every day – I just wear it.

Women on the other hand pack their entire wardrobe into the suitcase (or suitcases) and are oblivious to weight limits on aircraft. The argument seems to be that they don’t know what they are going to wear so they have to have a choice – for every single day. Worse, the entire contents of the cosmetic bag and bathroom have to fit in too – as well as the army of shoes.

I once travelled abroad for business with a woman and we were going for just two days. I had a tiny suitcase that I could take on the aircraft as hand luggage. She had a huge suitcase that had to be checked in. Being the gentleman that I am I also hauled the bloody thing around when we arrived.

I didn’t dare ask what she had in there – in case she either thumped me or listed the contents and the reasons why she felt the need to pack her entire house into a tiny suitcase.

3. Haircuts are cheap.

When I get my hair cut I usually say “Short at the back and sides and slightly curly on top please.”  The whole thing is over in about five minutes and costs about £8.

Women, on the other hand, are totally ripped off even if they want a trim and can expect to pay at least £20, rising up even more if something more sinister is involved, like dye.

I once went to a unisex hairdresser with my ex-wife. All she wanted was a trim the same as me. She paid about three times the amount that I did.

Why is that?

4. You can get ready in ten minutes.

If Mrs PM and I are going out, she usually starts getting ready an hour before we are due to leave, leaving me downstairs watching TV. As she is preparing herself, she shouts downstairs at ten minute intervals.

“Are you going to get ready?”

Finally, ten minutes before, I go upstairs, take a quick shower and change. I am ready before her as well.

This infuriates her. I love it.

5. Hot wax never comes near to your body.

At work, for charity, we persuaded my boss to have his legs waxed for charity. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen. He flinched and grimaced and yelped as his leg hair was ripped from his skin with maximum prejudice.

The women we work with had front row seats and kept saying “Now you know how we feel.”

I can safely say that this will never ever happen to me.

And, I have to ask, why on earth would any human being put themselves through such a traumatic experience?

I think that’s enough for now – but bear in mind there are 100 in total. I may share some of them with you in future.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Profanity Filter

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about email catastrophes. You can read it here.

I want to draw your attention to the profanity filter I mentioned in that post. The profanity filter is the procedure embedded in the email software that removes any messages that contain swear words.

I sometimes swear. I can’t help it. I find myself punctuating sentences occasionally with words that may offend people but have the effect of totally emphasising the point, adding humour or expressing my distaste for the subject at hand.

I started writing a post about the upcoming election in the UK (YES -  ANOTHER BLOODY ELECTION!!!!) but I had already promised myself that I wouldn’t upset anybody (including me!) with politics and threw it into the cyber bin.

However, the post was full of expletives and insults that would probably have offended people. Ditching it was a good thing. Nevertheless, if I had decided to keep it and send it to my work email address, the message would never have made it into my inbox thanks to the profanity filter.

And this got me thinking – always a dangerous thing!

I have a fantastic idea for a change of career. I want to be the person responsible for programming the profanity filter.

When I think of work emails, the message must run through a chunk of software that analyses every word looking for expletives. In order to identify an expletive, it must check each word against a list of known expletives.

I want to write that list, research that list and add new words whenever they come out.

Can you imagine how much fun that would be? 

It would probably only be a part time job, one day a year – but what a day that would be. New swear words pop into existence every now again, so I would have to hunt them down with the help of Mr Google.

Furthermore, I would also extend it. 

And - just for fun - I could add stupid words just to confuse people!

My job involves a lot of foreign customers, and we send out and receive emails in a variety of different languages. I would love to research the expletives that the Spanish use, for example. I would love to hunt down Polish profanities and add them to the list of disallowed words.

The job satisfaction would be immense – and testing it would be a scream.

All of this leads me onto another little story.

Many years ago at work, before the profanity filter existed on emails, a certain employee noticed that quite a few people were swearing at work on a regular basis. She wasn’t very happy. We had to listen to her because she was our project manager.

I tried to explain that sometimes people swear to diffuse or express their frustration but she wouldn’t listen. I didn’t like to offend her – she is a very nice person – so I suggested that we have an office swear box.

“I will personally look after it,” I said, “and we will have a scale of swear words, charging a small amount for the “safe” ones, rising to more painful fines for the more offensive words.”

She loved that idea, particularly when I suggested that the money would be given to charity at the end of the month.

Even my work colleagues embraced the idea. And I was targetted as potentially the worst offender, because at the time (as I am now in fact) I was a grumpy old git, frustrated by work and life and prone to rants full of expletives.

To get the ball rolling, I had to create a scale of offense.

Without thinking things through, I wrote an email to the entire team with a list of swear words and the cost of using each, ranging from 10p for something inoffensive like bloody rising up to £2 for the worst word of all (you know what word that is). In the interests of good taste, I will not reproduce the email here.

I sent the email to my team.

And promptly got a bunch of replies back, stating that without any shadow of a doubt, the mail I had sent was THE MOST OFFENSIVE email they had ever seen.

The profanity filter we have governing our mails today would have overloaded and melted the email server software had it encountered such a disgraceful message.

Consequently, I was the first contributor to the swear box. I was outvoted. I was forced to pay the fine for each word that I had used and that contribution actually hurt my wallet. But, in the spirit of comradery, I submitted and transferred the cash from my wallet to the swear box to get things going.

I was well and truly hoisted by my own petard!

Worse, one joker decided to print the email off and put it on his desk so that he could police us all. He was fined the equivalent amount because, we argued, that somebody could have intercepted it at the printer. He paid up, but I was thankful that nobody had picked it up at the printer because I’m sure it would have found its way to HR – and it had my name plastered all over it.

However, over the next few weeks, people did contribute to the swear box when they forgot themselves and the project manager was happy. In fact, she was caught out a few times when people heard her swearing under her breath.

It lasted for a couple of months and my contributions were in fact few and far between. The main contributor was a young lad who swore that he would not swear (if you’ll pardon the pun).

We finally got rid of it, when a manager from another area of the building walked in.

“I’m so fucking pissed off with those bastards!” he said.

This caused lots of merriment.

“Put your money in the swear box,” I said. “We don’t allow swearing here.”

“I’m not putting any fucking money in a fucking swear box!” he said before marching out again.

At that point we gave up on the idea but it actually worked – the amount of swearing was significantly reduced.

Looking back at this post, it would have cost me £5.10 had I read it aloud in the office at that time.

I’ll put some money in my own personal swear box here on my desk. Fear not – the money will go to my favourite charity – ME!

I will enjoy the beer I can purchase with it and I promise not to swear in the pub.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Weapon

There is a song I by Rush called The Weapon and some of the lyrics are particularly relevant:

“And the things that we fear are a weapon to be held against us”

The media thrive on it and also use it to make us (a) buy their paper (because they claim to tell us how it is) and (b) force their political agenda on to us.

Here are some headlines related to Brexit that came from The Daily Express - one of the worst papers on the entire planet:

“New EU Rules Wreck Pensions”

“Each Illegal Immigrant To Cost Us £1million”

“Britain 40% Surge In Ethnic Numbers”

“No Job Unless You’re Polish”

All of these headlines are meant to scare gullible people and persuade them to alter their thinking.

I don’t believe a single word of them. And if you read closely they are written by people with a deep political agenda. Of course, the same is true on the other side of the political spectrum too.

Moreover, fear is used as a means to sell us things that we don’t necessarily need. Salesmen use it all the time. Let me give you an example.

The first property I bought was a brand new three bedroomed semi-detached house that was just a lump of dirt when we actually reserved it from the house building company. We were so proud when we eventually moved in to this brand new estate with similar young people. I was 24 years old.

And then the vultures appeared.

We were swamped by door to door salesmen trying to acquire what little money we had left. One in particular sticks in my mind.

He arrived at 8pm and tried to sell us a burglar alarm. We stupidly let him in and allowed him to demonstrate his device to us. After an hour of his high pressure sales pitch he offered us a piece of paper to confirm the purchase.

“It’s too expensive,” I said. “We’re not interested.”

He was one of those middle-aged salesmen who refuse to take no for an answer. At first he offered us a package where we could pay in monthly instalments and when we refused that, he offered us a deal.

“I can get you 10% off the asking price,” he told us. “My boss will have my guts for garters but I’ll do it for you.”

“What part of “NO!” do you not understand?” said my (ex) wife.

 He tried another tactic.

“Do you care about your family?” he asked me.

I was taken aback by this.

“Of course I do,” I replied.

“It doesn’t seem that way,” he replied. “If your wife came back and surprised a burglar, who knows what could happen? With this alarm, that will never happen because no burglar will get past you front door.”

I didn’t like this one little bit.

“Get out,” I said, now quite angry. “I’m not interested.”

That didn’t deter him. He then started talking about another scenario where my brand new house could be wrecked, my wife injured and my property destroyed.

He was trying to scare us both into giving him money so that our house would be protected. My ex-wife was also not taken in by this. She actually got up, opened the front door and said “Please leave!”

“Are you sure?” he asked me again.

“Yes,” she said, answering for me. “Now go before I call the police.”

She gave him a taste of his own medicine because he said “No need to be like that!” before leaving.

It taught me a lesson about dealing with salesmen, particularly those high pressure types who squat in your house until you sign the bit of paper just to get rid of them.

If you think about it, there are certain companies that use fear to con you into buying things you don’t need. As well as the home security example above, we have things like:

Products that make you look younger. Obviously there are a plethora of anti-ageing products for women that will get rid of those wrinkles but for men we have hair-dye that miraculously turns a decrepit grey-haired old man into an Adonis who has to beat off women with a shitty stick. Like this load of old bollocks:

Products that stop you catching a disease. We all know that if you catch a bad cold, you may need to take a day off work. But certain adverts imply that without their flu remedy you will have to take days off work and probably be sacked as a result. As a hypochondriac, I feel particularly vulnerable when it comes to disease prevention. These bastards are targetting me.

The media. Yes, I know. I feel that I am constantly moaning about the newspaper companies using lies and sensationalist headlines to make us buy their newspapers and even influencing the way people think as I mentioned above. I am certain that they invent stories to scare people and when you actually get down to the nitty gritty of them, there is no substance.

Insurance companies. Mrs PM and I were conned into buying pet insurance for our cats. And then, when I thought about it, and did all the maths, I realised that that I would only save money if the cats became very ill once a year and had to be dragged clawing and screaming to the vet. I am glad that I cancelled it because Jasper and Poppy are now fifteen years old and I shudder when I think about how much pet insurance would have cost in the meantime. There are some insurance policies that you need, for example home and car insurance (but even then home insurance is preying on your fears of being burgled). But do people really need to insure their body parts, for example?

Jennifer Lopez and Kylie Minogue have supposedly insured their arses; Julia Roberts has insured her teeth; Mariah Carey has insured her legs; Dolly Parton and Madonna have insured their boobs; Keith Richards has insured his hands.

I wonder what body part I should insure? Actually, there are no bits of my body worth insuring. At my age, most of it is defunct and drooping now anyway.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Living In The Past

I’m a sceptic and like to judge things based on evidence and not just a belief.

There is one exception to this – and that is God – and the reason for that is fear. I was raised in a Catholic environment with a Catholic priest and teachers who basically told me that if you I dismissed God then I would burn in Hell for eternity with Satan himself using me his demonic plaything.

So let me just say this up front: God exists (I think) and I want to apologise to him (or her) for anything I have done or said against him (or her).

But I digress. For this post, I want to discuss reincarnation.

Believe me, I would absolutely LOVE it if we are incorporeal beings who occupy a human body from the moment of your inception to the moment it gives up, at which point it releases you ready to find another unblemished embryo to occupy.

While I find the idea of reincarnation fascinating, I simply cannot bring myself to take it seriously.

I can imagine that there may be a person reading this who actually believes in reincarnation to the point where they are looking forward to their next life with enthusiasm. If you are such a reader then I welcome your belief and I genuinely hope you are right.

I was reading about a form of hypnotherapy that allows people to regress to past lives, basically accessing the memory of your soul that remembers your previous incarnations. People have, apparently been kings, queens and emperors in past lives and described their lives to such detail that others are convinced of their authenticity.

I tried this.

I was so curious about the idea that I found a past life regression video on You Tube, lay on the bed and followed the instructions.

I fell asleep.

I did have an idea in my head that I was wondering around a village with weird shoes in medieval England and sitting by a blazing fire in a shit-filled hovel.

No fucking throne and palace filled with gold for me. How disappointing!

I woke up and realised that I had actually had a dream. I don’t believe for a second that I was a medieval tramp, living in a flea-ridden squat with only shit and a fire for company.

I then realised that I had been watching an episode of Blackadder II the night before and my dream had cast me in the role of Baldrick, a dumb dolt from Elizabethan times:

If I had watched Braveheart no doubt I would have been William Wallace, a skirt-wearing England-hating vagabond.

A young Plastic Mancunian?
Usually when you hear tales of people somehow tapping into their hidden soul-memory, there is always a something wonderful. They were princesses in Egyptian times or advisors to King Henry VIII. Such people rarely confess to being slaves clearing out the latrines in the middle of a dark-age forest in the pissing rain or native Americans wandering the plains of America or even simple carpenters living in a small town in 18th Century Ireland.

Nevertheless, I live in hope. I am fascinated by the future and I would love to be reborn in fifty years’ time and grow up in a world of technology.

What proof is there that reincarnation is real? Here’s what I found.

(1) 50% of the world’s population believe in reincarnation. The problem I have with this fact is that, really, this means that 50% of the world’s population don’t want to die and, like me, love the idea that we will all be reborn. Belief in something doesn’t make it fact.

(2) People have given names and dates of previous lives, having somehow tapped into their soul-memories, and that evidence has proved to be true. Is this coincidence? Or is it something to do with the fact that the people have somehow “cheated” or, like my hypnotherapy experiment, are really tapping into something they have seen or read? I think the latter. I believe that people are simply remembering something from their past about a person they have encountered in a book or in a movie. As was the case my Baldrick memory above.

(3) One American child, who was two years old, had nightmares about a plane crash, stating that he had been shot down by the Japanese during World War 2. He named the aircraft carrier from which he had taken off and lots more information about the pilot from whom he was reincarnated. When investigated, the two year old boy’s claims were proven to be correct and a person was discovered who fit the description. The boy’s father was an evangelical Christian who simply didn’t believe in reincarnation. Wow! Compelling, eh? But is it just a con or an elaborate hoax?

(4) Still with children – some have been known to speak in languages that they have never learned, supposedly because they spoke that language in a past life.

(5) Children have been born with bullet wounds, supposedly inflicted on the previous human who accommodated their soul.

To be honest, cases (2) to (4) above do make me think that there might be something in it and there are thousands of similar cases. Yet I am still sceptical. If we are all reincarnated, then surely our minds will be full to overflowing with our past lives, including what happened when we died, no matter how horrific that was.

The more I think about this, the more questions I have. For instance, our souls that have travelled through time for centuries, finding a new body every so often, must have been “born” somehow – and by the same token must “die” sometime, unless our souls are immortal.

Presumably, before humans existed we must have lived in the bodies of animals.

Do you think I could have been a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a previous life?

I really hope so. That would have been a fantastic adventure.

However, the thing that has convinced me more than anything that reincarnation is impossible is the belief of one person.

Yes – that’s right. David Icke believes in reincarnation and he is as mad as a bag of badgers. He believes that reincarnation is a slavery program and our souls are transferred from one slave to the next by “gods”. His view is that we are like the batteries in the Matrix with these nameless “gods” feeding off our souls.

Trust Mr Madman to apply his lunacy to reincarnation. Perhaps he took the Matrix too seriously. Perhaps he thinks he is Neo – or “The One”. Who knows?

Over to you, dear reader.

Do you believe in reincarnation?

If you do I would love to hear from you – either in this life or the next.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Ten Commandments Of Flying

I have flown a lot. I can tolerate short haul flights (up to three hours in duration) but I genuinely hate flying long haul. Even the excitement of reaching an exotic and interesting location cannot haul me out of the depths of despair at the prospect of spending twelve hours on a metal tube with wings.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not afraid of flying. I just hate it because it is so dull and uncomfortable.

However, the tedium of flying can be improved by following one of the ten commandments that I have just created.

If you are ever unlucky enough to find yourself on an aircraft sitting next to a grumpy blonde baboon with a hybrid Mancunian/Black Country accent then our mutual of enjoyment of the flight will be guaranteed if you follow the following guidelines.

1. Thou shalt not talk to me during the flight unless it is an emergency. 

Don’t get me wrong – I am a nice guy and willing to talk to most people. And I will allow a few words to be exchanged at the start or the end of the flight. However, if you are a talkative person and want to spend the next twelve hours engaging me in conversation about your life and experiences –JUST DON’T.

I speak from bitter experience.

One guy on a flight back from Europe told me that the book I was reading was rubbish and then proceeded to tell me the ending even when he saw that I was halfway through the thing.

“Ditch it!” he said. “Read something else.”

“I only have this book,” I said through clenched teeth.

“You’ll thank me,” said the prick.

“Okay!", I said. "Thanks for ruining the book and my flight!”

2. Thou shalt not grab my hand during turbulence or tell me that you are scared of flying all the way through the flight.

Related to the above, I was on a four hour domestic flight next to a guy about my age. As the plane took off, he turned to me and said. “I’m terrified of flying.”

I told him that flying was a doddle and he should relax. And for a while he did – until we hit turbulence about an hour into the flight. He grabbed my hand and said “That’s not normal!”

I tried to reassure him that it was but he wouldn’t have it. The remaining three hours were interrupted with shakes and bumps and he spent all of that time telling me in a variety of ways just how terrified he was. I could do nothing other than spend that time as a simian counsellor.

He thanked me at the end for being “a rock” but the truth is I almost asked to be moved. And my poor hand hurt. And the other passengers probably thought we were a couple.

3. Thou shalt not attempt to climb over me while I am asleep on a long haul flight.

I would rather you wake me up rather than wake up to find you straddled across me on your way out.

On a long haul flight, any moment you can sleep is a gift from God.

However, I am a light sleeper and any movement from the seat next to me wakes me up. So imagine my surprise when on a ten hour flight to South Africa, I awoke to find the lovely young lady next to me, straddled across me as she tried to get across without waking me. She was embarrassed, I was embarrassed and the rest of the flight was totally awkward.

Worse, the same thing happened with a rather large gentleman who actually fell on me when the plane hit turbulence. I’m glad the other passengers found that amusing.

I didn't!

4. Thou shalt not invade my personal space with any part of your body – particularly with your elbows during eating.

There is nothing worse than having your food knocked off your fork when a space invader knocks your elbow at the most inopportune moment.

5. Thou shalt not fall asleep on my shoulder and drool all over me.

I’d also like to add “or snore in my face with your bad breath” to this.

6. Thou shalt not be rude to the stewardesses.

I am genuinely in awe of stewards and stewardesses and the job they do and I try to accommodate them and be nice during the flight. However, if you are rude because they haven’t got the “right wine” or if you try to ask the stewardess on a date upon landing because she has been “especially nice” to you (and therefore simply MUST fancy you) then you are a prick.

7. Thou shalt not push your fat belly in my face whilst trying to get your bag from the overhead locker.

This is worse than having you personal space invaded by an elbow. Once a man reached up and as he did so, his T shirt rose revealing a bloated, hairy fat gut that he then proceeded to ram into my face. I almost used the sick bag. He didn’t even apologise, the prick.

8. Thou shalt not throw a book at my face.

Actually, I did this to a fellow passenger. I was boarding the flight and he was in the aisle seat. “I’m there,” I said pointing to the window seat next to him. I then threw my book to my seat but my aim was terrible. I hit him full in the face, corner first, and he yelled in pain. Worse, the book drew blood on his forehead.

I was mortified and so apologetic that I was willing to prostrate in front of him and be his slave for the rest of the short flight. He was absolutely fine and after a quick visit to the toilet to stem the flow of blood he simply said “Accidents happen. Don’t worry about it.”

He was pissed off with me by the end of the flight though because I broke commandment number one and apologised to him continuously through the flight.

What a prick I was.

9. Thou shalt not complain that the seat is too small and that the seat belt does not fit.

I don’t mind fat people. I don’t mind sitting next to fat people on a flight. What I do mind is sitting next to belligerent fat people who complain that “the seat is too small” and that “real people don’t fit in seats”. I am a real person and the seat fits fine.

10. Thou shalt make every effort to sit at the other end of the aircraft if you have a baby.

I pity people with babies who have to fly. But I have suffered with them. I once found myself sitting next to a couple with a baby on a long haul flight and the small beautiful bundle of cuteness suddenly lost all of its adorability when the aircraft took off.

For the next eight hours, it mutated into a screaming explosion of noise accompanied by vomit and shit exploding from its orifices. I didn’t get a wink of sleep and I felt sick. I wanted to be away from them but I couldn’t because the plane was rammed to overflowing. Now I know where babies are usually located, I always try to select a seat as far away from them as possible. It doesn’t always work.

And finally ...

Of course if you know me – and I like you – then you are exempt from most of the above rules. However, if you are Mrs PM or a male friend and suddenly present me with a baby during the flight I can guarantee that I will probably freak out in a highly disturbing but amusing way.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Inside My Head

I am weird.

What do you mean:“I know”?

No – really – I am. The persona you see on this blog is that of a confident arse who loves to be the centre of attention, happily dealing with all the shit that is hurled in his direction, beating it aside with a big stick while saying:

 “Is that all you’ve got? Come on – gimme some more.”

The reality is something slightly different. No – come on, Dave, let’s be honest  - the reality is totally different.

Deep inside me there is an extrovert buried alive within all of the neuroses that I keep hidden from public view. The extrovert does manage to free himself every now again surfacing on this blog far more than he does in real life.

The reality of the situation is that the introvert is more prevalent, as is the shy monster.

I therefore consider myself to be an introvert with extrovert tendencies and a streak of shyness.

In my head, the extrovert and the introvert are locked in an eternal battle for domination, with the introvert being the dominant species. The shy monster is a free radical that tips the balance in the favour of one or the other depending on many other factors such as stress, depression, euphoria, alcohol, grumpiness, tiredness etc. and with all of my fears and shortcomings also joining in the melee alongside my ego, you can imagine that it gets pretty messy in my head.

Hence the reason why I think I am weird.

My daily mood, and the way people see me on a day to day basis, is governed by one of the main two protagonists and how they have fared in their latest internal conflict.

The introvert may have hurled a paranoia bomb at the extrovert and rendered him useless, turning me into a neurotic mess.

The extrovert might have exploded a rapture grenade in the faces of the shy monster and the introvert and turned me into a rampant livewire.

I can do nothing about it.

Sometimes I wake up full of the joys of spring and attack my day with a huge grin on my face and a deep desire to run up to the nearest person and inflict myself upon them.

Can you imagine a gawking loon with mad hair grinning at you with a grotesque grin on his face?

Other days, my neuroses dominate and I find myself wanting to bask in my own weirdness – like now as I write this semi-serious character assassination of myself.

Deep down we’ve all got these beasts roaming around in our minds. I know a rampant extrovert and his neuroses surface when he finds himself on his own or when he’s not the centre of attention. There is not a hint of shyness in his body. However, he sometimes struggles at social events where everyone is focussing on somebody else – for example at a wedding, when he is upstaged by the bride and groom.

He wants to shout “Look at me! Look at me! ME! ME! ME! I’M OVER HERE!!!!!” but he can’t.

Bizarrely the introvert feels slightly more comfortable in those situations. I think everybody needs some “me” time where they are on their own and can bask in their own company. I also know at least one fellow introvert and people like that generally sometimes expose themselves to social gatherings where they are surrounded by people. The difference is that they effectively “show their face” for a short while, turning up late and leaving early so that they can spend time alone later.

I’m not that bad. I love social gatherings with friends and, sometimes I love being the centre of attention – albeit briefly – before returning home later to enjoy my own company.

Note – when I say “my own company” I really mean “with Mrs PM” because she is the only person I allow into my own little world. My introvert nature includes her and I am totally happy spending my “me” time with her by my side.

That said, I can also enjoy total isolation, like now, as I type this post with only Devin Townsend’s music and a sleeping fat cat for company.

The one thing I have confused in the past are introversion and shyness. I used to tell people that I was an introvert when really I meant that I was shy. It’s only when I was at university that I discovered the difference between the two thanks to somebody who explained that liking your own company isn’t shyness.

I don’t think introversion can be beaten. Shyness can – and I am in a position now where I have almost conquered this little beast. Sadly, when I need to be alone, shyness becomes prevalent again and I am less willing to engage with new people because I want to be alone.

If you are shy, the best thing you can do is just talk to people. As uncomfortable as that sounds, believe me it works. The way I see it is that people will judge you whether you like it or not. Not every stranger is a hostile person and most people will engage. Moreover, that person may be as shy as you.

In my opinion, if a person doesn’t like me, it’s their loss because ultimately I consider myself to be a nice guy. The truth is that the vast majority of strangers are also nice people and will love talking to you. If I am feeling confident and able to talk to a stranger, I find that they will almost always talk back.

Certainly if they are an extrovert, the chances are you won’t be able to shut them up.

In conclusion, I don’t know whether having a dominant introvert beast in my head is a good thing or not. I’m certainly very happy as an introvert but I also love it when the extrovert pops up and allows me to take on the world.

Finally, dear reader, over to you.

Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Or a bit of both?

Are you shy or can you talk to anybody? 

Friday, 24 March 2017

A Strange Family

Some people might consider me to be a bit strange but as far as I know my family history is a normal one. Of course, that might not be true and I may uncover some weirdness in my ancestors when I eventually get around to tracing my genealogy.

However, I doubt I will find anything as odd as the family that supposedly rule our country – the Royal Family.

People in Britain, either love them or loathe them. I’m indifferent to them if I’m honest.

Given our history, I find them fascinating in their eccentricity. Here are some odd things perhaps you never knew about the Queen and her clan.

Judge for yourself which one is the oddest.

(1) The Royal Family don’t have surnames. The Queen’s name is Elizabeth II and while she is supposed to belong to the House of Windsor, apparently nobody calls her Elizabeth Mary Alexandra Windsor.  When Kate Middleton married Prince William, she lost her surname (how careless) and became “Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge”.

(2) The Queen has won thousands of awards. Apparently Elizabeth has been awarded well over 380,000 honorary awards – for doing what I don’t know. I would imagine that smiling isn’t one of them because these days we rarely see her smile.

(3) It is illegal for anyone of her subjects to stand within 100 yards of the Queen when not wearing socks. I would love to see the powers that be enforce this law. Also, if you misuse a postage stamp containing the image of the Queen, it is considered an act of treason. I suspect this is why the Post Office has now made stamps sticky enough to apply to the envelope without licking it. Thank God for that! That sticky stuff on the back of stamps tastes disgusting.

(4) King Charles II decreed that there must be at least six ravens in the Tower of London because, he thought, that if they fly away then the monarchy will implode and fail and Britain will collapse in a heap of raven shit. I think politicians are doing a good job of trying to break Britain without these bloody ravens – but we won’t descend into politics at this stage.

(5) The Queen is the Duke of Lancaster, rather than Duchess. This is because Queen Victoria regarded a Duke as superior to a Duchess therefore gave herself (and all of those who would follow her on the throne) that masculine title.

(6) The Queen has two birthdays – her actual birthday in April and a made up (and more traditional one) in June. Lucky her!

(7) The Queen is not legally obliged to have a passport or driving license. She is the most travelled person in Britain, I guess and I have seen photos of her behind the wheel. I wonder who taught her to drive. I imagine that he was forced to pass her even if she was a terrible driver.

(8) It is illegal to die in any Royal building. That means the Tower of London isn’t a Royal building because Henry VIII had an absolutely amazing time butchering people there by proxy. It does make me wonder about what would happen were an MP to die in the Houses of Parliament. What can they do to him? Give him a jail sentence?

(9) The Queen no longer has any real power. These days that is up to the government or as she refers to it “my government”. When we go to war it is the Prime Minister who declares this – not the Queen. She has no say on the matter.

(10) The Queen owns all swans on the River Thames. These swans are actually marked with a ring. Moreover she owns all swans in open water in the UK – but perhaps it’s too difficult and dangerous to catch the nasty hissing buggers. Even more strangely she owns all sturgeons, dolphins and whales in British waters. So if a whale pops into our waters on its way to a holiday somewhere else, for that brief period of time, it is the Queen’s pet.

(11) Apparently the Queen can fire the entire Australian government. I doubt whether this is still true but she must have been sorely tempted to exercise this right when Tony Abbott was the man in charge down under. Sorry – shouldn’t do politics!

(12) The Queen is immune from prosecution. I suspect if she were to beat up Piers Morgan in a fit of rage (who wouldn’t want to do that?) she might be forced to abdicate. If she did that she would go up in my estimation.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, folks. I’m sure if we delve deeper we can uncover even more weirdness and eccentricity.

I need to be careful though – as one of her “loyal subjects” I might end up in the Tower of London for this post.

 I’ll have to learn how to cook raven pie!