Sunday, 17 February 2019

Back to the 1970's


Last night I was in a restaurant when the DJ in the adjoining bar started playing old 1970’s disco hits and as I listened, I started moving my shoulders in time to the beat, to the point where Mrs PM and her dad noticed.

I am quite self-conscious and giggled nervously before trying to change the subject.  Mrs PM smiled knowingly and then told me that 1970’s Disco Music in coming back.

I’ll take her word for that because I don’t listen to the radio stations that she loves. However, it did transport me briefly back to a time when I first began to take notice of music. In 1970 I was 8 years old and my dad had started to allow me to listen to the radio on my own. Thus began my love of music and if you were to look at my collection these days you would be absolutely amazed at the songs and styles that laid the foundation for my current taste.

Back then I was a slave to charts, which were filled with a huge array of different genres  all vying to rule the musical world, from Disco to Pop, from Glam Rock to Punk, SKA to Heavy Metal, from Progressive Rock to Electropop. I embraced all styles in those early days and my collection reflects that, including great bands and artists such as Abba, Electric Light Orchestra, Donna Summer, The Stranglers, Nazareth, The Sweet – the list is endless.

I thought I would share with you a few of the songs that I loved – and still love today. Bear in mind that these songs all contributed to my love of music and whenever I hear them I think of that spotty little bespectacled blond kid struggling with the pressures of childhood, school, puberty and decisions that would shape my life to come.

Stevie Wonder – Superstition



I’m not a huge fan of Stevie Wonder yet there is something about this song that allows it to fit snugly into my musical comfort zone. The bass guitar throughout has me playing along with my own "air” version as I am trying (badly) to dance to this whenever it appears at a wedding or party. This is easily Stevie Wonder’s greatest song.

Suzi Quatro – Can the Can



I was in love with Suzi Quatro. In 1973 when I was a mere 11 years old I remember seeing her on Top of the Pops and being utterly star struck. Here was a woman who was banging out an amazing song and she was gorgeous too. She even appeared in Happy Days as the aptly named Leather Tuscadero. The show had The Fonz and Suzie Quatro together. They were happy days indeed.

Chic – Le Freak



To me, this is the perfect disco song. It has all of the elements that made the 1970’s disco scene what it was, the elements that appealed to me, from the guitar, violins, lyrics and dance moves. Yes, this is another embarrassing dad-dancing wedding song that I have used to humiliate myself on a couple of occasions.

Focus – Sylvia



My current favourite genre of music is Progressive Rock and when I look back there are numerous bands that fall into this category, some of whom were especially big in the 1970s. Bands like Rush and Emerson, Lake and Palmer broke into the charts occasionally. So did Dutch rockers Focus with this masterpiece that I clearly remember from the mid-1970’s. Progressive Rock has been with me my entire music life and this is one of the earliest examples.

The Stranglers – Tank



I was never really that much into punk rock. Some songs were not bad and really I like the way punk rock evolved through the 1980’s and 1990’s. The one exception is The Stranglers who were my favourite punk rock band of the 1970’s before they changed their style in the 1980’s. Tank is the B side of a single I bought and while it is not that famous, it is a beautiful example of the best bits of punk rock.

Moțrhead РOverkill



Okay – there had to be a bit of metal in here to finish off. In the 1970’s I discovered heavy metal and loved numerous bands, any one of which I could have selected as my choice in this genre. Nevertheless, as time has passed, I have become more and more of a fan of early Motörhead and the part they played in shaping modern metal. Overkill is a great example of their early material when the band was at its peak with Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clark and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor. I simply love this song.

And finally ...

The 1970’s might not be well liked for political and economic reasons but the music that came from that decade because of the issues shaped the future of music, certainly in my case.


Monday, 21 January 2019

The Pros and Cons of Vampires


I’m fascinated by vampires and have been ever since I was a child. The whole concept of vampirism is terrifying and I have seen and read many examples from the laughable glowing human friendly plastic joke vampires of Twilight to the horrific parasitic shapeshifters of Brian Lumley's Necroscope books; they are not nice creatures at all.

I was recently watching Blade, a movie about a half-man half-vampire whose purpose in life is to turn all vampires to ash and wipe them all out. And I started thinking.

What would I do if I woke up in the middle of the night and found myself in the grip of a ravenous vampire about to turn me into one of his blood-sucking kind?

Would I welcome it with open teeth?

I thought I would try to list the pros and cons of being a vampire – for a bit of fun – and check at the end whether I would try to stake the thing or accept the mutation into a child of the night.

By the way – I am omitting the Twilight vampires from everything I discuss about them because in my opinion they are not vampires – they are imposters.

Let’s start with the cons:

(1) Vampires cannot go out in daylight.

I love the sun and I would really struggle if I had to wake up at dusk and get to bed as the sun rose. I love taking photos of sunrises and sunsets and because vampires burn and fry in the sun, I would probably not live to enjoy the fruits of my vision.

Actually, when I think of it, so do already burn now as a human, so much so that I avoid extreme sun and bask in the shade. My eldest lad’s girlfriend already calls me “The Vampire” because I am “scared” of the sun, which is also highlighted by my extremely pale skin.

Oh and the less said about the twinkling vampires in Twilight, the better.

(2) Vampires live on blood.

I am totally squeamish and hate the sight of blood. I look away in movies when blood appears in the scene, whether it is because somebody has been shot or a poor unfortunate has had his throat ripped out by an over-zealous vampire. The thought of having to drink blood fills me with dread. I would probably faint and starve.

(3) Vampires are evil.

Traditional vampires are considered evil because they either turn people into vampires or murder them to feed. Worse, they are considered to be satanic and can be burned by a cross or holy water. I think I’m a nice guy so I wouldn’t like to be hunted for being a godless creature.

(4) Vampires sleep in coffins.

I don’t like coffins at all and the thought of having to sleep in one fills me with claustrophobic dread. I like my comfortable bed too much. Moreover, you have to sleep with the coffin lid down for safety and I tend to wake up periodically so I would repeatedly end up bashing my brains in during the day.

(5) Vampires are allergic to silver and garlic.

I love garlic. I think it adds that certain something to a meal.  Having said that, as a vampire, I wouldn’t be able to eat food anyway so perhaps that is not such a bad thing. I do wonder whether a vampire could be injured if he inadvertently nibbled on the blood of a person who had just eaten a garlic infused meal. I don’t really care about silver to be honest.

And now the pros (yes there are pros).

(1) Vampires go out at night.

I love going out at night but usually for a meal and a beer or two and, of course, vampires cannot consume either of these two things. Still, there would be nothing stopping me from going into a night club or something like that as long as I could get an invitation. Apparently vampires can’t enter a building unless somebody invites them in; I guess you could use hypnosis though (see later).

(2) Vampires are immortal.

This is the most appealing feature of vampires. Once converted, you end up looking as you do at the moment for the rest of eternity and as long as there are no Van Helsings or Blades around trying to stab you with a stake then you can enjoy an amazing life. Knowing my luck, a vampire would attack me on the eve of my 80th birthday so I end up looking like a grizzled old man for the rest of time.

(3) Vampires are sexy.



There is something deeply sexual about vampires, which is a little bit of a paradox, considering that humans are the source of their food. Vampires have a kind of hypnotic power over humans, enthralling them as a lover might enthral their partner. I would definitely love to be hypnotist.

(4) Vampires are powerful.

In all of the movies and books I have seen, vampires are incredibly powerful creatures, much more so than your average person. They are stronger, faster and have more natural weaponry. If I were a vampire, Piers Morgan might be one of the first people I visited for this reason although the thought of a blood-drinking immortal Piers Morgan rampaging about the country is something I wouldn’t want.

(5) Vampires are shapeshifters.

Vampires can turn themselves into other creatures such as bats and wolves in order to escape or to travel quickly. I would love to be able to shape shift into another creature or, even better, another person. Sadly,I don’t think that’s possible.

The Verdict

All in all, I think I I’m quite happy not being a vampire so I would probably try to use a stake or garlic when confronted by a blood-sucker. I would be tempted by immortality and hypnosis but that would be too big a price to pay if I had to drink blood.

Dracula – please don’t pay me a visit.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Goodbye 2018


So 2019 is almost upon us but 2018, so far, has been a fairly good year – much better than the previous two years that’s for sure. I’ve neglected the blog a bit this year, which is a shame really. To be honest I’m still in two minds as to whether I should actually continue with it.  For now I will but I may decide to end it next year. Let’s see how it goes.

For now, I shall post my traditional summary of the year with a series of questions that I dust off annually around this time of year.

1.What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

I didn’t really do anything new this year but I did discover something that has proved to be quite useful. While on holiday, I read something about forming habits that intrigued me. The idea is that if you force yourself to do something every day, it will naturally become a habit after 66 days. I was very interested in this so I downloaded an application to my phone that helps you to record your chosen habit and reminds you if you forget. The application is called HabitBull and so far I have used it to force myself to learn Spanish words every day and also do something called Freewriting, which is basically where you sit in front of a blank sheet of paper and write whatever comes into your head, ignoring grammar, spelling and, most importantly of all, self-criticism.

With the help of HabitBull I have achieved 111 days of consecutive Spanish study (only a few minutes a day) and 54 consecutive days of Freewriting.

Not bad eh? I plan to add new habits in 2019.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I started off trying to be more positive and it worked for the first part of the year. I also gave myself some monthly goals which also worked until around June. I shall try a few resolutions this year but I don’t know what they will be yet.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Two very good friends of mine became grandparents this year – I guess that counts.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

An old workmate of mine died earlier this year. He was only 61.

5. What countries did you visit?

This year was great for travel. In April we visited some friends in Abu Dhabi. We also had a long weekend in Porto, Portugal and Brindisi in Italy.

I revisited Croatia for the first time in almost thirty years with a week in Porec and we had a late summer week in Marbella.

Sunset in Marbella

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

I would like common sense to prevail and for the UK to finally scrap Brexit. I am currently embarrassed for my country and the fucking mess that we are in thanks to stupid politicians who are thinking of their own self-interest rather than the country.

I feel like we are turkeys that have voted in favour of Christmas.

We are fucking idiots!

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

No specific dates but I will remember the period between May and September where we had the hottest summer on record. It was hotter in the UK during those months than in some places in Europe.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I stupidly agreed to climb the Old Man of Coniston, a small mountain in the Lake District. It was a test of how fit I am and, while I managed it, I was bloody knackered at the end of it. While that sounds like a hard thing to do, it wasn’t really because there are paths up the mountain – but it was steep and once we reached the top, we walked down and around it. In total it was a nine mile walk. The pint of ale at the end of the walk when we returned to Coniston was the best pint I had all year.

As an aside, this blog reached it’s 10 year anniversary.

View from the Old Man of Coniston
9. What was your biggest failure?

Probably to lose weight. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not fat but I did have a vague plan to lose about 6 pounds. Instead I am the same weight as this time last year. I’ll probably try again in 2019.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Only aching limbs after climbing a mountain.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I bought a Kindle Paperwhite because my old Kindle suddenly died. I can read the new Kindle in the dark – which is a great thing.

Sadly, however, a month after the Kindle Paperwhite arrived, I found the old dead Kindle and impulsively tried it – and the bloody thing started working.

So now I have two Kindles! I guess I can use the old one as a spare.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My PM award this year goes to the England football team who, against all odds, managed to reach the World Cup semi-finals, winning a penalty shootout on the way. I have never hugged so many strangers in the space of a month in my life.

Oh My GOD! We won a penalty shootout!!
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Donald J Trump is still President and still being an utter dickhead!

Theresa May and her government are still fucking up everything and thanks to them we are the laughing stock of the world.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Holidays and redecoration of the lounge. But the good news is that we have paid of the mortgage!

Hurray!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

England’s World Cup campaign is a tough one to beat but I was quite excited about going to Croatia. 

Also, I saw Polish progressive rock band Riverside for the first time (see next question).

16. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Lament by the wonderful Riverside.



17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

I am much happier, almost the same weight  and possibly a little richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

I’ve neglected this blog and writing in general. Thankfully, Freewriting may help and my decision on whether to continue the blog partly depends on this.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Eating.

20. How will you spend New Year's Eve?

We’re going to Chester this year to have a meal and dance with some friends.

21. Did you fall in love in 2018?

No need. Mrs PM is still here with me.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

I like the Netflix superhero series and the new Doctor Who with Jodie Whitaker.



23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. I still hate Trump, Morgan, Farage et al.

24. What was the best book you read?

I thoroughly enjoyed the Pandemic  and Genome by AG Riddle.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I discovered a new Progressive Rock supergroup called Sons of Apollo. Not a bad band at all.

26. What did you want and get?

A fantastic summer.

27. What did you want and not get?

And end to Brexit.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

I loved Avengers: Infinity War and I also thoroughly enjoyed Mission Impossible: Fallout.



29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was on holiday in Marbella and Mrs PM took me out for a lovely meal. I am 56 years old.

30. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Nothing this year really.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

My aim as usual is to try not to look like a total dickhead when I go out. Mrs PM helps me achieve that because I couldn’t do it on my own.

32. What kept you sane?

My beautiful Mrs PM as usual.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I saw Nightwish in December so I shall nominate their lead singer, Floor Jansen.


34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Fucking Brexit!

35. Who did you miss?

The people I usually miss. Nobody new.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I’ve met quite a few new people this year – all of them great.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

Never trust a broken Kindle.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

You've got the future on your side
You gonna be fine now
I know whatever you decide
You're gonna shine
Don't let the day go by
Don't let it end
Don't let a day go by, in doubt
You're ready to begin

And finally...

I’m looking forward to 2019 – another year older but another year closer to retirement.

And who knows? Maybe The Plastic Mancunian blog may be here this time next year.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Special Hair Service


So there I was, sitting in one of my least favourite places in the world, staring at an amorphous blob in the mirror.

The place was my barber shop and the reason that I was staring at a pale blurred alien-type creature was that it was the time when I had to get my hair cut.

I hate having my hair cut – worse I hate my hair full stop (regular readers will know this).

One of the reasons my hair gets into the sorry state it was in on this particular occasion is that I delay and delay having it cut until I can’t bear my hair any longer and having it removed is better than it taking over my entire head.

Even when my hair is short, it is unmanageable. It is like a wild sentient mop of curly spaghetti that refuses all attempts to get it to behave itself.

When I get up in the morning, I dread looking in the mirror because I wonder what shape it has assumed overnight. A lot of the time, Mrs PM will just smile and say:

“Look at your hair.” 

She will chuckle because that is usually my cue to start a humorous rant about how awful it is. She will watch as I try to tame it with a brush before going into the shower to get the big boys on the job (shampoo and water).

However, there have been occasions when I have been in such a hurry that I have showered, towel dried my hair, got dressed and left the house without having brought it under control.

I arrive at my destination (usually work) and wonder why people are sniggering at me.

 “Is that a wig, Dave, or have you picked up an alien on the way to work?”

Worse, I then have to go to the bathroom and try to tame the mess on my head with a little water and my fingers and usually I end up making it ten times worse – and this is even when it is bloody short!

You would think that I would be used to it after 56 years of pain – but no! I’m not. Every day is a challenge – every day my hair finds new ways to hurt and surprise me by mutating into something inhuman and horrific.

I can sense your next question, dear reader.

“Why don’t you just shave it off?”

Believe me I have considered it. The problem is that some people actually like it. These strange people are members of the opposite sex who on occasion have actually said things like:

“Your hair is lovely and thick!””

“I wish I had hair like yours!”

Mrs PM will not allow me to have it short – she prefers it as it is (for some crazy reason).

So why do I hate having my hair cut when in reality it makes my unmanageable mop more controllable?

Several reasons:

(1) I hate waiting for anything. My local barber does a pretty good job and I feel loyal to them but if I time it badly, I end up having to wait behind quite a few people. The magazines available are all men’s magazines full of cars, weight-lifters, pictures of semi-naked women or all three so I have to read my phone.

(2) While waiting, I have to check every bugger who comes in. If the place is really busy I have to make sure that none of them queue jump when one of the hairdressers says “Who’s next?”. So I can’t really concentrate on my phone at all.

(3) When I finally sit down I am throttled by the gown they make me wear. I see pictures of handsome men with magnificent hair and super trendy hairstyles and I know if I asked for one of those I would look nothing like them – just a stupid old git with a mad haircut. So I ask for my usual style – which is a bit dull but it works.

(4) When I am asked what I want, I have to take my glasses off – hence staring at an amorphous blob in the mirror. I can’t see myself at all – in fact I am so paranoid that I am not 100% convinced that the person I am staring at is actually me or somebody in the building next door peering at me.

(5) I can’t see what they are doing with my hair. I have asked for my usual style and then he or she has set to work lopping off my locks. First my hair is so unmanageable that it has to be drenched with water which, despite their best efforts always ends up in my face or running down my neck. Even if the barber were to shave all of my hair off, I would have no clue. If I ended up with a weird Mohican I would be oblivious.

(6) I have to have an inane conversation about holidays, work, football or all three. That’s not so bad but when I talk to somebody I like to look at them and without my glasses the barber is just another amorphous blob wandering around me. I can’t even tell whether the barber actually has eyes.

(7) When he or she has finished, I will be asked what I think and no matter how bad it looks I will invariably say “Perfect!”. To be fair, they usually do a grand job but I am still haunted by the memory of the mad woman who cut off my mullet in the 1980’s – I still have nightmares about it.

At least when my hair has been cut I have a couple of weeks when I can jump out of bed and mock my hair telling it to do its worst.

That’s right, dear reader – I talk to my hair.

My next visit to the barber will be in a couple of weeks when I have to queue up with everybody else wanting a wonderful style for Christmas.

It’s either that, or spend the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year doing battle with my mop armed only with wax and a lot of patience.

What a choice!

I really hate my hair!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Skinny Jeans


So there I was in the changing rooms in a men’s clothing establishment about to try on a pair of jeans. This is something I have done  many times before, usually with great success because I am average in every way – average waist and average regular trouser length.

I don’t want to scare you all by getting into too much detail but suffice it to say I had to take off my shoes and trousers in order to try on the new pair (try not to picture me in my shreddies, dear reader – you can’t unsee an image like that).  After all, it would be pointless trying to haul a pair of jeans over another pair wouldn’t it?

Not even I am stupid enough to do that.

The exercise was supposed to be straightforward; I pull on the new jeans, check that they fit my slightly expanding waistline, check that they are not too long or too short and see if they actually look good on me, rather than making me look like an abnormal alien creature.

It all sounded too simple – until I actually attempted to get the things on. Being an old coot, I didn’t really check them well enough. There seemed to be an extra dimension – a “fit”.

I had heard of things like “boot cut”, “loose”, “straight”, “tapered”, “slim” and “skinny” and I knew my limits.

Sadly, a malicious, evil and possibly incompetent buffoon had mixed up the jean “fits”. I can imagine the evil sneaking satanic swine swapping the trousers, putting the “boot cut” on the “tapered” section, the “slim” on the “tapered” section and sniggering as his victim took the wrong pair.

The jeans themselves had no warning of what was to come – no sign that said “wear these jeans at your own risk”.

I had picked up what I thought were “tapered” jeans. There was no sign to tell me otherwise – only the price tag, the waist size and the leg length.

I thought I would slide my leg in easily.I was wrong – horribly wrong.

My pushed my foot in expecting an easy slide to the hole at the end of the leg and it got stuck so suddenly that I stumbled and almost overbalanced, hurtling forward towards the curtain before I managed to reach for the wall.

Imagine if I had lost my balance completely and fallen out of the room in my underpants?  No – please don’t do that.

I was so relieved that I managed to lose a little more common sense.  I know that new jeans can be a little stiff but I was determined to win. Part of me thought that my leg had grown so thick in my old age that even tapered jeans were a struggle to peel on.

Reason gave way to more stupidity. I was overcome by a sense of competitiveness that is unusual for me; I would pull these jeans on if it killed me, if nothing else to prove that I wasn’t just getting bigger in my old age. The denim would slacken as I wore them, I figured. I didn’t consider that I would look ridiculous in tapered jeans that were too tight.

I had to sit down.

I have fairly big calves anyway (I do a lot of walking) and once I had got my foot past further in, I had to apply immense force to peel these bastards onto my leg.

“Stop it,” screamed an inner voice. “They don’t fit.”

I ignored this inner voice of reason and persevered, groaning as I hauled the leg of the jean over my knee and upper thigh.

“Are you okay in there?” came a voice from outside.

“Yeah,” I said thinking that I sounded nonchalant.

I tried the next leg and the struggle was possibly worse. I found myself standing there with a pair of jeans halfway up my upper thighs. With more crazy resolve, I pulled the jeans the rest of the way, somehow managing to slide them over my arse.

I looked at myself in the mirror; I was bright red and sweating like a pig that had just run a marathon.

I managed to fasten the trousers at the front and button them up – but it was hard, dear reader. I could feel my circulation being cut off and I won’t even describe the feeling around my nether regions.

I turned around and I looked like a sack of potatoes perched precariously on two thin branches.

At least they weren’t those low slung jeans that don’t cover your underpants; that would have been far worse.

There was enough room to walk around a little in the cubicle and I tried, dear reader, I tried. These bloody jeans actually squeaked as I moved and I let out at least two involuntary high-pitched squeaks of my own.

The pain of walking around in these satanic jeans focussed my mind.

“What the bloody hell are you doing?” I asked myself.

With much relief, I sat down to take the things off but in a moment of manic madness I realised I had forgotten to unfasten them.

How I didn’t squeal is a miracle to me. I had to stand up again.

It took me ten minutes to peel the bastards off – it felt like they had been superglued to my legs.

Eventually I got them off and with much relief I put my old ones back on again. I left the changing room, still red with the effort of extricating myself from their clutches and, as I handed them back to the man looking after the changing room, he smiled knowingly.

“A bit too skinny for you?” he asked.

“Skinny?” I asked. “I got them from the tapered section.”

He looked at me as if I had gone mad. “Can’t you tell?” he asked sniggering.

I was so embarrassed that I left the shop in shame.

As I wandered around trying to recover from the humiliation and assault by a pair of skinny jeans, I noticed that a few young lads walking around the shopping centre were wearing them.

These things had nearly castrated me and here were young 20 year old males with skinny legs walking around in jeans that were around four times too small for them.

And I swear, dear reader; every one of them squeaked!


Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Useless


Sometimes I feel useless and when I do, I try to think of things that are more hopeless than I am to make myself feel better.

For example, a Tyrannosaurus Rex is a fearsome creature that was King of the Dinosaurs but this terrifying giant lizard with huge claws and ferocious teeth had a major design flaw – tiny arms.

When I feel useless, I just imagine this horrific creature trying to make a bed.

In fact, it’s worse than that. With those tiny little arms, the Tyrannosaurus Rex would be quite limited if the species had thrived, gained intelligence and managed to fit in with society.

Sorry to bring the subject matter down to the toilet again, but a T Rex on the toilet would have a problem trying to reach the loo roll, wouldn’t he?


How crossing a river? I don’t know whether a T Rex could swim but if he had to use a boat, he would have a big problem with the oars.

What about fashion? How would he mange to put on a hat? Or a pair of trousers?

And what if he wanted to keep fit by doing push ups? Those tiny arms would be a massive hindrance, don’t you think?


In fact, something as simple as drinking a glass of water would prove a little too much for this terrible lizard.

Okay – so I’m picking on a long extinct reptile, but you get my drift, I hope.

I certainly wouldn’t want to meet the one that would be offended by what I have just written.

I think I’m safe though because even if a T Rex could read, he would struggle to find my blog on the internet because he wouldn’t be able to type on the keyboard -  even if he were far more intelligent than I am.

Nor would he be able to use a smartphone because it would be so far from his head that he wouldn’t be able to use it.


I think I’m safe.

I no longer feel useless.

I just hope I never meet one.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Let's Do Europe



“Let’s do Europe!” is a phrase I have heard quite a few times, mainly from Americans but also from other nationalities, including people from my own country.

Last week I was in a restaurant in Porto, Portugal, and I heard a variation on the words again from a young American couple on an adjacent table.

“I can’t believe we’re in Europe,” said one of them. “I’ve always wanted to do Europe and here we are.”

I’m not criticising them, far from it in fact. I am delighted that these young people have taken the time to leave the confines of the United States and venture out to, in my opinion, the most exciting and varied continent on the planet.

The only minor quibble I have is that it is pretty much impossible to “do Europe” unless you are very wealthy and spend many years travelling around each country in turn and within each country visit as much of it as you can.

I have lived in Europe all of my life and I have barely scratched the surface – and I have travelled a lot. In fact, I can also say that I have not “done” the UK either – and I live here.

My travel map for Europe looks impressive to people but the truth is that is isn’t really.

For example I have never been to Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden or Ukraine.

When you compare the list to the places I have been (Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and Vatican City) it looks like I have seen less than half of the continent.

One of the countries I have spent a lot of time in is Spain and I have barely scratched the surface of that vast and wonderful country. I have had conversations with people in the past who claim to know Spain “like the back of their hands” and yet base their knowledge on a few two week package holidays to the Balearic Islands (having never even been to the mainland!).

“So do you speak Spanish?” I have asked.

“No – there’s no need. They all speak English!”

Wrong.

Try travelling on a train from Seville to Madrid and see how many people speak English. In fact, just wander around either of those two cities and see how far you get without a few basic words or a phrase book.

It’s a similar story with other continents of course. For example I have been to the United States and Canada quite a few times and I simply cannot claim that I know either of those countries. Sure, I can speak English and have been to a few big cities like Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC and Toronto but if I were to tell an American that I have “done” the United States he would, quite rightly, laugh at me and tell me how wrong I am.

I’ve been to Australia too but I would need two decades at least to fully explore that huge place – I was there for just over two weeks!

Similarly with Asia – the biggest continent of all. I have spent eight weeks of my life in China yet every time I have been back, the place never ceases to amaze me with its wonderful quirkiness, beauty, customs and traditions. I learn something new each time I visit.

What I would say to anybody who wants to “do Europe” is this:

Yes – I agree – you should do Europe – again and again and again! 

Keep coming back and seek out new adventures. 

Eventually you will get to know the place. 

Mind if I join you?