Saturday, 4 December 2021

Even More Penpals


Greetings from a rainy and miserable day here in South Manchester. December is upon us and with it all of the horrible weather that comes with it. The days are getting shorter and colder but at least we are approaching Christmas, a time of year that helps to haul me from the doldrums that winter usually inflicts upon me at this time of year. I only have nine more days at work before I can take a couple of weeks off. That too will raise my spirits.

Enough of those winter blues – shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What are your plans for December

As I said above, I have two more weeks of work, give or take a day or two, before I take a couple of weeks off. There are no official Christmas parties this year again but unlike last year, the annual work pub crawl will be taking place. Also, I will be out and about a few times with friends and pending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Blackpool with Mrs PM’s parents. I will see my two lads in between Christmas and New Year. I just need to get some Christmas Shopping done – something I don’t really like doing but has to be done. I also imagine that I will be overindulging on food and drink and putting on weight as a result. Finally, I will start to plan what I want to achieve in 2022 – that will be fun as I have big plans.

2. How do you celebrate your wins/success

I usually celebrate with a beer if I can. I’m not really a fan of wild celebrations these days because, as I get older, I prefer things to be more low-key. I still have fun though.

3. Are holiday movies only for the holiday season

Yes – definitely. Call me Scrooge McMancunian if you want but I am not really a fan of Christmas films. There are obviously a couple of exceptions like Die Hard and I quite like Bill Murray in Scrooged (until the gushy ending that is) and It’s a Wonderful Life but mostly I don’t watch them.

4. What would you consider a waste of money

I consider anything that is a normal item but has a colossally ridiculous price because it is a “brand” a complete waste of money. On our last trip to London this year, I took Mrs PM to Harrods because she had never been there and we walked around the shop gaping at the crazy prices of normal everyday objects. A lot of the goods on offer didn’t have any price tags on them – you had to ask. And to be honest I didn’t want to ask. Some things “on offer” were ridiculous. 

I know some people who splash out large sums of money for things like handbags. I’ve just asked Mr Google about overpriced items and it has come back with some that are just crazy:

£645 for Gucci trainers.

£1890 for a Gucci handbag.

£14,900 for a Hermès handbag.

£15,500 for a Pierpaolo Piccioli gown

And there are zillions more examples.

5. What do you like to eat for breakfast

It depends on the day. Monday to Friday I have fruit for breakfast, usually a banana, an apple and either a coupe of plums or a nectarine or peach. At the weekend, I usually have bacon and eggs with toast and it I am feeling like pushing the boat out a little, I have sausage too.

6. How do you feel about poetry

Bizarrely I just wrote a terrible poem as part of my daily freewriting routine and, no, I am not going to share it with you. I wrote a blog post about poetry once and in that post, I kind of half-criticised poetry, which is perhaps unfair. I love song lyrics and they are a form of poetry but I hate pseudo-intellectual poems that are meaningless. I love funny poems though. I will reproduce a couple of poems from that post that I actually wrote.

The first was for a birthday card for an old friend of mine who had turned 50:

A new decade's upon you; it's your 50th today.

The little hair that you have left will soon be turning grey.

You still play squash and cycle, to cling onto your youth.

But soon your muscles will give way, along with every tooth.

And when your gums are toothless (and chewing is a chore)

The only food you'll manage will be sucked up through a straw.

You take your lady dancing (Mimi is her name)

But believe me, waltzing's tricky when you use a zimmer frame.

Your pension is approaching more quickly than you think.

But forget that for the moment - we'll buy you lots of drink

To wish you HAPPY BIRTHDAY and, if I may be so bold,

To make sure you remember, Bill, that you are VERY OLD.

The next one is a pseudo intellectual piece of crap called The Loquacious Figment:

I contemplated the torso of a despondent galactic masterpiece

And my heart thanked my voracious sight.

I hastened my swiftness, disoriented by my awareness

Yet somehow did not submit to fright.

The final piece of crap is another pseudo-intellectual’s dream called The Enigmatic Equation:

The imperceptible formula, cloaked in derangement,

Struggles to reveal its worth.

Yet the analyst blindly persists in frustration

Anticipating its Caesarian birth 

I hope you agree that they are absolute garbage.

7. Are you shy

Yes. I am shy. You wouldn’t think so if you were to meet me because I am in a constant war with inner shyness and these days I take it on charging in like a man possessed. What you would experience from me would be a smiling, happy and inquisitive chap who will ask you lots of questions about how you are, trying his best to keep the conversation flowing. Underneath that façade is a man who is in constant fear of asking the wrong question, worried about offending you and nervous about what you will ultimately think of him.

It is a constant battle dear reader – but at least on the outside I am winning.

8. Do you take time to reflect on your goals

Yes – usually at this time of year. I will, as usual, write a summary of 2021 in a couple of weeks and you will see what I wanted to achieve this year – whether I failed or not. I do okay though.

9. Something you are curious to know more about

I am naturally a curious person (in both senses of the word) and I want to know more about anything that I am not an expert in. To be fair, I am not an expert in a lot of things, which makes me keen to learn about a lot of things. If something grabs my interest, I will pursue it in order to find out more.

10. Something that makes you feel fancy

I guess wearing a penguin suit – like this one take in 2010.

11. How you’re still handling the pandemic

In the UK we are largely restriction free although with the arrival of Omicron we now have to wear masks on public transport and in shops. I am enjoying the relative freedom compared to this time last year when we were fully locked down. Also, I have had three Covid-19 jabs (Pfizer) so the hypochondriac within me is asleep for now. 

I am missing travelling though and we have started making tentative plans for 2022. I just hope that Omicron doesn’t spoil the party.

12. A close friend you’ve never met in person

I have met all my close friends. I have encountered many people online via the blog and various places I frequent – I would be quite happy to meet them in person, subject to the limitations of my answer in question 7 of course. 

13. Do you get in on trends early or later

Usually later because I think some trends fizzle out. This is particularly true of electronic devices. I am a huge technophile but you will never find me queuing for the latest devices. I prefer to let them bed in and become established because I know that sometimes the first versions are poor and you have to wait for all the wrinkles to be ironed out.

14. What is something you do on a regular basis

I go for a walk every day if I can, I write jibberish in my freewriting journal, I try to learn a little Spanish every day and I try to learn something new every day.

15. Do you enjoy spending time with family

Yes. In fact I am going to the city centre to go for a meal with my eldest lad and his girlfriend. I don’t see my youngest son that often but I will be seeing them both over the Christmas period.


Sunday, 28 November 2021

Conversations


Welcome to South Manchester on a freezing cold day. I was out and about yesterday and it was bitterly cold and quite unpleasant. Today I am staying in and as I type I can see snow falling outside. It is the first time my two cats have seen snow and I’ve just been watching Ziggy looking up at the sky thinking “What the bloody hell is this stuff coming down?”

In Covid-19 related news, it seems that Omicron is here – the latest variant that has been discovered in South Africa. It is unknown whether this variant is as virulent as Delta, whether the vaccines can cope with it or whether it is as dangerous so the Clown in charge of our country has decreed that we should, as a precaution, now wear masks on public transport and in shops – for the next three weeks or so.

I kind of agree with that but given that we are approaching Christmas and pubs and restaurants will be quite busy, perhaps we should prepare for restrictions to be reintroduced. 

It all depends on what the scientists discover.

It’s a sad fact that Covid-19 hasn’t gone away yet.

Anyway – enough of that dismal way of thinking. Let’s dive into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What is the craziest, most outrageous thing you want to achieve?

Obviously, I want to travel the world – that is not that crazy – once we rid ourselves of Covid-19 of course. I think that is achievable.

Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about what I am going to do in retirement, given that Mrs PM will not be retiring for a few years yet (being younger than me). I have come up with a crazy notion that I may or may not achieve. 

Regular readers (if there are any) will know that I can play a trombone (well I could at 16 anyway). This means that I can vaguely read music, so I have decided to try to learn an instrument. A guitar would be the obvious choice but I have had a go before and I think it is quite difficult. 

So I am going to try to learn to play a piano. My thinking is that if I can get my hands on a digital piano, with fully weighted keys, I can start to play – maybe even get lessons. I have tried a piano before and I taught myself to play a little bit of California Girls. Why that song? I have no idea – perhaps it was on the radio at the time. 

Learning a piano will open up a few things, like being able to record myself on a laptop and perhaps get some amazing software that can transform my tinkling into something that is vaguely tuneful, perhaps even transforming the piano sound into something else.

It looks quite exciting – and also quite crazy and vaguely outrageous.

It’s never too late – so I think I will do it.

2. Have your parents influenced what goals you have?

Not really. My dad wanted me to achieve more than he did and so encouraged me to excel at school and end up with a decent career – which I did. My specific goals never came from him though but I have always considered what both my parents would have thought about what I achieve. My mum saw a lot of this as she only died recently – but alas, my dad didn’t. If he is watching I am sure he will be proud.

3. What is a fashion trend you’re glad went away.

I am not a fashionista at all and I don’t really care about fashion or what the latest trends are. I kind of fall into it because I buy clothes that vaguely follow the latest trends.

However, when I was a kid I hated the fashion of the 1970’s – it was utterly ridiculous. I am sure it will return some day – these things tend to reappear – but I hope it doesn’t.


4. What word or saying from the past do you think should come back?

The word “Gadzooks” just popped into my weird head when I read this question. I don’t know where that came from to be honest but it was a word that expressed shock – a kind of strange reaction to something surprising.

I’ve just looked it up and discovered that there was actually a shop called Gadzooks in America.

I just like the word. I may start using it and see how far I get.

5. What do you bring with you everywhere you go?

My glasses and my smartphone. And clothes of course.

6. Is there such a thing as a soul?

I would like to think that souls exist – not for religious reasons (as I am not really religious). I prefer to think of a soul as the life force that keeps our bodies going and when that body fails, your soul is liberated to enjoy a more ethereal existence, watching things from afar.

It’s almost certainly not the case but I guess we will all find out sooner or later.

7. Is there life after death?

Deep following on question there. I don’t know is the honest answer but the romantic dreamer inside me likes to believe that somehow I will live on after my decrepit old body has finally given up the ghost. Whether I become a ghost or a drifting soul, I don’t mind, as long as I can still see what is going on in the world.

Related to this, I read a series of vampiric horror novels by a guy called Brian Lumley called Necroscope, where the main protagonist is a man who can speak to the dead. The idea is that the people carry on existing after they die and continue their work in this after-life environment. So for example, Mozart will still be composing symphonies, Isaac Newton will still be trying to solve elusive mathematical problems and Albert Einstein will be working on his theory of relativity. 

I really like that idea.

8. Do you think there will ever be a third world war?

I hope not but I don’t trust some of the nutters we have had as world leaders in recent times, so sadly I know that it could well happen. I was quite worried when Donald Trump was the American president and we still have people like Putin and Kim Jong-un knocking about. At least in America it is possible to get rid of a nutter, as it is here in the UK. But in places like North Korea, China and Russia this is more difficult. 

9. What smell brings back great memories?

The smell of Chinese food reminds me of all the wonderful times I have spent in Hong Kong.

10. How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as somebody who made people laugh and wasn’t a bad person.

11. What kind of music are you into?

My musical taste is quite varied but I tend to focus on progressive rock/metal and ambient music. I love everything from heavy metal, to pop music, to electronic industrial metal, to 1970’s disco, to Indie and symphonic metal. Here are two completely different musical masterpieces that illustrates the range of my taste.


12. What is the biggest surprise of your life?

That I am very close to retiring. I see myself as a young man and I can’t believe that I am really quite old.

13. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I am a sensible chap so it would have to be something that is nutritious and isn’t going to turn me into some kind of weirdo over time (well not a weirder weirdo than the weirdo I am now). It would probably be some form of fruit.

If I weren’t being sensible about it and didn't care about becoming a giant mouse then it would have to be cheese.

14. Where is the most awe-inspiring place you have been?

I have travelled to many varied places around the world and it is truly difficult to pick just one of them. I am going to be really selfish though and name just one – Hong Kong. The entire city is just incredible and I am filled with awe and joy whenever I return there.

15. Describe your life in six words

Happy and very eager to retire.


Saturday, 20 November 2021

An American Holiday

 

Welcome to a cloudy but mild and dry South Manchester on day 123 since Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

This week my friends from across the pond are celebrating Thanksgiving, an annual holiday where families get together and eat lots of turkey. 

We don’t celebrate it here but we know all about it because we see it in a plethora of American TV shows.

And today’s Sunday Stealing questions are all about Thanksgiving, which is a strange thing for me as a British citizen to deal with. But, in the spirit of harmony, and because I like America and Canada, I shall partake. I have always had a great time when I have stepped over the big pond and I have yet to meet an American or Canadian that I haven’t enjoyed the company of. 

From the person in Florida who asked me “Why do all British singers sing in an American accent?” to the woman in Cleveland who asked me “Wow! You’re from England – have you ever met the Queen?” I have enjoyed discussing our cultural (but similar) differences. From explaining the rules of cricket to trying to explain why Monty Python is so funny, I have always had fun with our somewhat surreal conversations.

Before I dive in, I shall just say this: I hope you enjoy your holidays, guys and rest easy, knowing that I will be hard at work trying to tame wild computers in Manchester while you are eating turkey and having fun.

Questions, as usual, from Sunday Stealing

1. What teacher are you most thankful for and why?  What did you learn from him or her?

I have recently been writing a few memoirs and by lucky chance, I am currently looking at and re-examining my school life. I went to a really good school that required passing an exam to get into and the teachers and kids were all very clever – which was a shock to the system for me because up until then I was always top of the class. I found myself competing with some really intelligent boys and the teachers were totally dedicated to the academic success of their pupils as well has maintaining the excellent reputation of the school.

I didn’t really grasp that at the time but in retrospect it was obvious. Each and every teacher wanted each and every pupil to be the best that they could. And for me, being an obnoxious little git for about three of those years as a rebellious teenager, I pushed them to the limit of their patience sometimes.

The good news is that they stuck by me and when my rebellious phase had faded as I approached 17 years of age, I really pushed myself to succeed. 

There were two teachers in particularly who I thought were brilliant. My maths teacher, Mr P who guided me through O-Level, A/O-Level and A-Level maths, helping me to achieve the top grade required for university, and Mr N, my chemistry teacher and mentor who guided me to choose the course I chose (even though it wasn’t chemistry) and really helped me with A-Level chemistry which initially I struggled with.

Thanks guys.

2. What’s the season you’re most thankful for, and what’s your favourite part of each season?

I love the summer. In the UK, summer is amazing (though we do get a fair amount of rain) and the temperature is always very pleasant. The rain helps keep the UK the fabled green and pleasant land. That said, I usually travel to Europe in the summer too. I love Europe and it is a bit warmer than the UK the further south you go.

Favourite parts of each season?

Spring – After winter, it is wonderful to see foliage returning to its post-winter colour and splendour and, as the weather improves and the days get longer, I find my mood improving every day.

Summer – As I said above, I love the warm long days and the travel. It’s a pleasure to be outside on a long hot summer day.

Autumn – The colour of the leaves as they turn and start to fall. It is usually still pleasant weather during Autumn, particularly at the beginning.

Winter – Winter is my least favourite season, but the one thing I do enjoy is Christmas and New Year because, although it is cold, everyone is happy and in the mood to party with friends and family.

3. What electronic device are you most grateful for, and what does it add to your life?

That’s easy – my smartphone. I rarely use it as an actual phone to be honest but it has so many uses that even if I list them here and now, it wouldn’t do the device justice. Here are just a few things I use it for:

Learning Spanish, counting steps, keeping a calendar, sending messages, banking, watching videos, listening to music, emails, taking photos, keeping in touch with friends, watching TV when out and about, internet, weather, compass, satnav, time, fitness, books

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

4. What musician or type of music are you most thankful for?

Progressive rock and progressive metal. I love so many artists that I can’t list them all but I will single out three of my current favourites:

Steven Wilson:

Devin Townsend:

Mariusz Duda (Riverside):

5. What are you most grateful for that brings beauty to your daily life?

I look for the positive in everything life throws at me – even work (which I am completely tired of). In a similar way, there is always something of beauty if you do something simple, like go for a walk. Personally though, I like to see something that makes me laugh or at least smile. There is nothing more beautiful than laughter.

That's one of the reasons that Monty Python is funny.

6. What philanthropic cause or organization do you feel thankful for?

Every single on of them. There are far too many to list here.

7. What foods are you most thankful for?

Cheese. I can’t imagine a world without cheese. I am looking forward to a ham and cheese sandwich for my lunch after I have finished writing this post.


8. What local store or restaurant are you most grateful for?  How does it contribute to your quality of life?

Again, it is difficult to single out a particular local shop or restaurant. I am quite lucky to live in an area where there are several good places within a short walking distance.

I will mention our local Indian restaurant though. I haven’t been there for a while and I think I am overdue a meal there.

9. What book are you most grateful for, and why?

I can’t honestly say, with my hand on my heart that I am grateful for a book. I enjoy a good novel and I have enjoyed most of them. When I read a novel I enter wholly into the universe created by the story and that provides a form of escapism from normality – a bit like taking a holiday in your own imagination. It’s good for the mind.

10. What act of kindness has made the greatest difference in your life?

Again there are two many to single out one particular act of kindness. 

11. What challenging experience has ended up changing your life for the better?

I’m a fairly positive person and when I see or experience a problem that may seem difficult to overcome, I will usually try to have a go at taking it on. When I was younger, I was painfully shy and decided when I went to university that I was going to declare war on what was effectively social anxiety. It is a conflict that I hurled myself into and I forced myself to explode out of my comfort zone. It was difficult at first and after a few years, I feel that I conquered it. 

Fast forward a couple of decades and shyness is still with me but I manage it very well and when people get to know me they are stunned when I admit to being shy. I guess that means I have won the war.

12. What vacation are you most grateful for?

I love travel and there are many places that I have thoroughly enjoyed. The most recent big holiday that left its mark on me has to be my trip to Japan about eight years ago. I enjoyed the experience so much that I am desperate to get back there. Sadly, it won’t happen for a few years yet as our next jaunt to the Far East will take us to Malaysia – but after that I will be pushing for a return trip to Japan.

13. Name three days in your life that you feel especially grateful for.

The day I made my entrance into the world way back in the early 1960’s in Walsall of course. 

The day I graduated from Liverpool University. I was sad to leave the city, having spent three wonderful years there, but it was an amazing experience and I had to move on.

The day that Mrs PM declared her feelings for me in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. I have never looked back. That was 23 years ago.

There are many more than three.

14. What product do you use on a daily basis that you most appreciate?

Again the list of products I use on a daily basis is vast and it is difficult to pinpoint one particular item.

Perhaps I shall say clothing because that means that I won’t scare the whole of Manchester by walking around naked (sorry for the terrible image this will conjure up – I’ve seen myself and it isn’t pleasant).

15. What, from this year, do you feel most grateful for?

I am grateful that almost all Covid-19 restrictions have gone and that I have been able to return to something like normality – at least for now. 

Those Covid-19 vaccinations and then people behind them are heroes.


Sunday, 14 November 2021

Some More Favourites

 

Welcome to a cloudy but dry south Manchester on day 117 since the Clown we have in charge of the country eased Covid-19 restrictions. I have now had my third Covid-19 vaccination because, being over 50, I am considered to be “vulnerable”. I’m not complaining and I still struggle to see why some people haven’t even had one injection yet.

I have had three and I have not grown a second head, there are no nanobots in my bloodstream recording my whereabouts to send to Bill Gates, I have not become magnetic and I am still, as far as I can tell, 100% human; my DNA has not been modified in any way.

Shall we dive into some silliness from Sunday Stealing

Name your favourite …

Place:

There are lots of favourite places I can name and it would be difficult to pick one out – so I am going to name a few off the top of my head as they occur to me:

Hong Kong

Manchester

Marbella, Spain

Santorini, Greece

New York City

London

Nice, France

Japan (the whole country)

Sydney, Australia

Sorrento, Italy

Colour:

I like a lot of colours but I would say that teal is my favourite.

Smell:

Here are a few:

Bacon

The smell of the English countryside on a summer’s day

Coffee being brewed

Baking bread

The smell of the ocean

Magazine:

I don’t really read magazines these days but the most recent one I bought (a few years ago now) was Classic Rock:

Texture:

I don’t really have a favourite texture if I’m honest. Something nice and soft to the touch I guess and let you use your imagination.

Thing to do when bored:   

When I’m bored, I will listen to music, watch TV, read or write inane ramblings on my laptop. I have so much rubbish written down. Depending on the weather I like going for a walk too.

Precious stone:

I don’t have a favourite precious stone. I’ll say jet – because it is a nice black colour - and I have goth tendencies.

Animal:

I love dogs and cats. I would love a dog but, alas, it is too tough on them at the moment as I haven’t the time to give them the care and companionship they need. Since we now have two young black cats, the likelihood of me ever getting a dog is very slim.  

Time in history:

I’m a little intrigued by the time when we were ruled by a psychotic nutcase called Henry VIII. I would love to be a fly on the wall in his court.

Font:

I use a few fonts. I am writing this in Word using Calibri, but I also use Arial, Times New Roman and, sometimes, Segoe UI. 

Sound:

I am a little weird when it comes to sounds. I love to hear the wind blowing and I love thunderstorms. I also love the sound of waves crashing on the shore and the dawn chorus when I go for a walk at 6 o’clock in the morning as the sun is about to rise.

Fruit:

I love apples, plums, nectarines, peaches and bananas. Actually there are lots of other fruits I like but those are the most common ones I eat.

Vegetable:

I like most vegetables to be honest, especially carrots, potatoes, peas, corn and broccoli. The only one I avoid is dark green veiny cabbage.

Store/shop:

I don’t really like shopping at all but if I have to choose one, it would be a shop that sells gadgets and electronic devices, such as phones, laptops, games consoles, TV’s etc. No particular shop leaps to mind.

Quote(s):

Here are some good ones.

Billy Connolly: “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”

Steve Martin: “Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.”

Dave Barry: “Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals like Hydrogen and Oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.”

Historical figure:

I am going to say Henry VIII again. The man was mad – but very interesting.

Letter:

Favourite letter? That’s an odd favourite to ask. I will say D because my name is Dave and that is the initial letter.

Memory:

I would say that it is probably exploring Hong Kong with Mrs PM when we first got together there.

Dessert:

Black Forest Gateau.

Candy:

Candy is an America word – we call them sweets across the pond. I don’t eat that much “candy” to be honest so I will just say Extra Dark Lindor.

Restaurant:

There are far too many restaurants that I like both here in Manchester and abroad. I will pick on close to home – the Yang Sing Chinese restaurant in Manchester and its younger sibling The Little Yang Sing.

Language:

I can speak a little German, more French and I am getting there with Spanish. I will say that French sounds the best because you can insult anybody in French and it still sounds beautiful.

Thing to learn about:

Everything and anything. I am always keen to learn something new. If you can learn something new everyday your life will improve.

Thing about yourself:

I look young for my age – I am 59 years old but can pass for a man at least 15 years younger (unless I grow a beard). 

I am fairly intelligent (you need to be to work with computers all day).

I am also quite funny – or at least I can be.

Please don’t ask what I dislike about myself – I will be here all week.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Moshing in the Mosh Pit

 

Welcome to a cloudy but dry south Manchester on day 97 since our resident clown lifted all restriction due to Covid-19. 

At the moment I am working back in the office two days a week but last week a person who, thankfully doesn’t sit near to me, tested positive for this wretched virus. By all accounts he is okay but I have taken a lateral flow test just in case – and thankfully I am still fine.

I won’t be going into the office next week because I am making my second trip to London this year on Thursday for a long weekend of being a tourist with Mrs PM before visiting a couple of friends down there. I don’t want Covid-19 to ruin that.

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. First thing you wash in the shower?

Woah! That’s a personal start isn’t it? Do you know, I don’t actually know what I wash first – hang on – let me think. It’s probably my hair because I have to get the useless unmanageable mop under control after a night that has morphed it into weird shape. 

2. What colour is your favourite hoodie?

I don’t actually own any hoodies. I do own three coats that have hoods: a blue summer jacket that claims to be waterproof but isn’t, a truly waterproof jacket that is so good at its job that it makes me sweat when I wear if for a long walk and a huge thick winter coat that is perfect for those cold, dismal, dark and depressing winter months (that are approaching too fast for my liking). 

3. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again?

Of course I would. I don’t give kisses lightly and if a person gets a kiss, they usually deserve another.

4. Do you plan outfits?

Absolutely not. I just open my wardrobe and pick up the first thing that takes my fancy. Actually, having said that, sometimes if I am going to a posh party or something like that, I may plan to wear my penguin suit.

5. How are you feeling RIGHT now?

I am feeling terrific and looking forward to an enjoyable day. 

6. What’s the closest thing to you that's red?

Embarrassingly, this book.

7. Tell me about the last dream you remember having?

It’s an odd recurring dream that is the result of my body telling my sleeping brain that it needs to heed a call of nature in the middle of the night. Whatever dream I having is invaded by the concept that in my dream I have to go to the toilet urgently. This usually manifests itself in a toilet appearing in my dream that I simply cannot use because there is something wrong with it. For example, if I am dreaming that I am working in an office, the toilet appears in the middle of the room in full view of everyone who is working. Obviously I can’t use it because there is no way I can expose myself in front of all my colleagues. So I wake up and have to go in reality.

Odd, aren’t I?

8. Did you meet anybody new today?

Not today, no, because so far I haven’t been out of the house yet. 

9. What are you craving right now?

I’ve just had some lunch so the truth is that I am not craving anything. I wouldn’t mind another cup of tea, though.

10. Do you floss?

Yes – otherwise my dentist tells me off. Whenever I go to the dentist I feel like a naughty child who has been summoned to see the headmaster for doing something unspeakable. My dentist is a young bloke and I always feel a little weird when he asks me how often I floss and then tells me off for overbrushing and all of the other things I do incorrectly. The strange this is that at the end of the examination, he always says “Your teeth are fine. Keep up the good work!”

Odd, isn’t it?

11. What comes to mind when I say cabbage?

Yeuch! I’m not a big fan of cabbage if I’m honest, particularly that dark green veiny abomination below.

It looks like something out of an alien horror movie, doesn’t it?

The white variety is edible though and I do try to eat it because, supposedly, it is good for your health. At least that’s what my mum used to tell me.

12. Are you emotional?

I can be. The problem is that I sometimes show emotion over the most mundane and innocuous things, like a TV program, or a great song – like this one. 

13. Have you ever counted to 1,000?

No – why would I ever do that?

14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?

I do a bit of both actually. 

15. Do you like your hair?

Not at all – and equally my hair hates me. Regular readers will know this. My hair is short at the moment but even so it is an unmanageable mop. When it is longer it becomes a sentient being that taunts me mercilessly, especially when I wake up in the morning. I swear I can hear it saying “Good luck trying to get ME under control!”

If you don’t believe me, please read this cringeworthy account in a post I wrote back in 2008:

Bad Hair Day 


Saturday, 16 October 2021

This Side of the Pond


Welcome to a cloudy south Manchester on the east side of the pond on day 90 since our clown Prime Minister removed almost all Covid-19 restrictions. 

Today we are driving to Chester to visit some friends. It’s a lovely little city that isn’t too far away (about 30 minutes) and is a haven for foreign and domestic tourists alike. I particularly like the Roman Walls surrounding the city centre and you can have a lovely walk around them. They were built by the Romans in 75 AD so they have been around for a long, long time. 

We won’t be walking around the walls today; instead we will be visiting a pub or two and having a nice meal.

In the meantime, let’s answer some silly questions that originate from the west side of the pond, on Sunday Stealing

1. What's something you've recently accomplished solo?

I’ve been trying to teach myself Spanish for a while now and I reckon I could live in a Spanish town or city and make myself understood for the essential things in life. Having a deep conversation with a Spaniard would be very difficult though – and in that sense I haven’t really accomplished the task yet – far from it in fact. What I really need to do is go to a class and actually start having conversations with Spanish people. There are a couple of places in Manchester where I can do this but finding the time at the moment is difficult. It will happen when I retire though. 

This is really an ongoing self—improvement process.

2.  What's one product you use that never ever fails?

There are quite a few things that never fail – like the TV, the microwave oven, my iPod. You watch – all three of the items I mentioned will fail miserably now.

3. Have you found your place in the world? Where is it?

I think so. I am very happy to spend the rest of my life here in Manchester, travelling apart of course. If this question doesn’t really mean a physical place, then I guess I will find that too when I retire. I’m currently in a place that I am fed up of when it comes to my career – but once that’s over, I will be seeking a new place that hopefully I will find fairly soon.

4.  Worst movie you ever saw?

I would say that Sharknado is probably the worst but it is so bad that it is brilliantly funny. If you haven’t seen the film – here is the trailer.

Believe it or not, they have made five sequels and the names kind of tell you that it is very tongue in cheek:

Sharknado 2: The Second One 

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens 

Sharknado 5: Global Swarming 

The Last Sharknado: It's About Time

The worst film I have seen that is meant to be serious is Lincoln. I watched it on a long haul flight because it won so many Oscars but it was truly awful and it bored me to tears. I would rather watch all the Sharknado movies than have to endure that again.

5. What's the last fun thing you did?

We went to visit my eldest son in Prestwich, North Manchester last night to see how he and his girlfriend are settling in, in their new house. They have bought a house that needs some work and they are slowly chipping away at it. Every time we see it, there is a massive improvement. It will be great when they have finished it. We went out to a restaurant and had a fun time with them.

6. What's your favourite Italian dish?

I love most Italian dishes but I will put forward lasagne as my favourite for now. Ask me next week and it will be something else.

7. Have you ever been to France? Any desire to visit there, and if so what would site or city would you most want to see?

I have been to France many times and I love the place so my desire to visit there is still ever-present. I speak French well enough to make myself understood, which is almost essential really, particularly in Paris. 

I am lucky really because Mrs PM speaks French really well and can easily hold a conversation with a French person. She lived in Toulouse for a year, while studying for her degree at university.

I have been to a few cities, including Paris, Bordeaux, Monte Carlo (which is really in Monaco but let’s not split hairs), Cannes, Nice, Lyon, Calais, Collioure and Antibes as well as a few northern towns. My favourite city is Nice – it is beautiful and is a great base for exploring the area. 

We will definitely go back there in the near future.

8. Have you ever been to Disney, any of the parks at all? Are you a Disney superfan or something less than that? They're open right now so tell us, would you go if you had the time/money/a free trip?

I have been to Disneyland in Paris and California as well as Disneyworld in Florida. 

I am not really that big a fan of Disney; I like the cartoons but I can take or leave them. To be honest, Disney is huge now and has engulfed lots of other franchises such as Star Wars abnd the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have to admit that my favourite of those franchises is the Marvel Cinematic Universe – I absolutely love the movies. 

Would I go to one of the parks now? Probably not – I’ve been there, seen that and done that. 

9. Your favourite place to go when you want to be quiet as a church mouse? Would those who know you well describe you as more church mouse or perhaps more like mighty mouse?

When I want to be as quiet as a church mouse I would just stay home in the room I am in at the moment. It’s not exactly quiet because I always have music on when I am in this room but it works for me when the introvert inside takes over (as it has now). 

I think people who know me well would describe as mighty mouse (if that is the opposite of a church mouse) because I can be quite loud when I want to be. When I am in the mood to see people (which is often) I unleash the extrovert within and love to have a good laugh with people – even in the office with work colleagues. I struggle to take things seriously and even when work is demanding I like to provide some light relief from time to time by just acting like a complete pratt.

10. Do you bake your own bread? Last time you had hot out-of-the-oven homemade bread? What's your favourite kind of bread?

I have never baked my own bread. The last time I had hot-out-of-the-oven bread was when Mrs PM tried to make some during lockdown. She did a good job to be honest. The best hot-out-of-the-oven bread I have had was at a small bakery shop in Nice, France. We were staying in an apartment and we popped there every morning for bread, croissants, pain aux raisins and when feeling naughty, pan au chocolate. They were divine.

My favourite kind of bread? I love thick white toasty bread – but I eat all kinds really.

11. What's something you might say is 'the greatest thing since sliced bread'?

Smartphones. I love them. It is like having your own portable computer and I would be lost without it.

12.  Share with us five little things you're grateful for today. Small blessings. One catch-they all must start with the letter T.

Tea

Toast

Television

Tunes

Travelling to Chester

13. Tell us where you were and something about what life was like when you were 20- 21.

I was a student at the University of Liverpool and living near to the centre of that wonderful city. I love Liverpool and it is close enough for me to go back and visit it on a fairly regular basis (it is about 30 miles to the west of Manchester). Being a student I was sharing a place with seven other guys so we had a great life with lots of student-related fun being pursued. Of course, I was also studying hard and left university with a Bsc Honours degree that has set me up for a great life since. 

My three years in Liverpool were probably the best years of my life.

14. What's on the menu at your house this week?

We will probably have a traditional Sunday lunch on Sunday but for the rest of the week, I imagine that there will be steak, salmon stir-fry, chicken pasta, perhaps a curry, maybe meatballs and possibly something a little more special on Friday.

15.Something you recently purchased where a coupon was involved? Do you regularly shop with coupons? 

I can’t remember the last time I bought something with a coupon if I’m honest so the answer is that I rarely shop with coupons. 


Saturday, 9 October 2021

Journal IBuddies


Welcome to a cloudy but unseasonably warm south Manchester on day 83 since restrictions were lifted. The weather is cloudy but it is pleasant.  

It was my birthday yesterday so Mrs PM and I are venturing into the city later to have a couple of beers and an Italian meal.

My date of birth makes me a Libran, the same star sign as Margaret Thatcher who was born on October 13th. The fact that I share the same star sign as that horrible woman, for me at least, destroys the very idea that people with the same star sign have the same traits, foibles and behaviours. 

Anyway, I could spend the entire blog post talking about how much I disliked Thatcher but in the spirit of beauty, congeniality and fun I will desist and chat about some silly questions, as usual from Sunday Stealing

Let’s dive in …

1. Who is your favourite singer?  What do you like about him or her? 

I have many favourite singers and in the interests of harmony I am going to single out two – one male and one female. It is difficult for me to select my favourites and if you were to ask me tomorrow I might select different ones. 

Anyway – today’s male singer is Devin Townsend. He is a Canadian singer whose genre of choice is mainly progressive rock/metal but also sings ambient rock too. Why have I chosen him? Because his voice range is spectacular, from low soothing ambience via plain rock singing to the ability to scream like the best screaming rock singers. I love the guy. Here is a wonderfully eccentric song that incorporates, ambience, choirs, Hawaiian, rock, metal and even a little dance and shows his vocal range as well as showing what a fun guy he is. The video is amazing and funny.

The female singer I am going to pick is Charlotte Wessels, a Dutch symphonic metal singer, formerly of the band Delain who has now started a solo career. She has an incredible voice and is at home singing metal as she is singing anything else. I have seen her live a few times now with Delain and her voice is as incredible on stage as it is in the studio.

Here she is in action and you will hopefully see what I mean.

2. Write about your first memory of going to the doctor.

I was about seven years old and I had an ear infection. I remember screaming all night because my ear felt like it was on fire and the doctor took a look and immediately diagnosed the problem. I was given penicillin and it cleared up really quickly. The relief was immense.

3. Write a poem about writing poems.

A poem? As long as it is just the one ...

Poetry is tricky; I’ve tried it many times.

The words can be found quickly. I just can’t find the rhymes.

It’s stories that I want to write. I’ll never be a poet.

Prose is king in my mad world; if only I could show it.

4. Write a poem about vacations.    

What – another poem? Are you serious? Okay – here goes.

I want to go on holiday, I’m bored here stuck at home.

A trip to France or Germany, perhaps even to Rome.

A visit to a foreign place can truly make me whole

Such journeys really cleanse the mind and liberate the soul

5. What is something interesting that no one knows about you?    

So after two poems, you want to get personal now? Is that it?

Okay – let me think. I can say “hello”, “thank you” and order a beer in the following languages:

English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, American, Australian, Czech and Portuguese. 

6.Why is it so important to help other people in need?   

The way I see it is that if something bad happens to me, then I would expect somebody to help me. It’s human nature. For that reason, I will always try to help people if I can because you never know when you are going to need help yourself.

7.Would you rather finish a project early or do it at the last minute?  Why?    

I would much rather finish a project early. My work is subject to deadlines and I always strive to complete it before then so that I have time to polish it – or maybe make some progress on the next chunk of work that will have its own deadline. 

People who leave things to the last minute suffer more stress in my experience. I hate stress.

8. If you had three months left to live, what would you do?     

I would travel the world if I were fit enough to. Or if I wasn’t fit to travel I would do my best to brain dump my thoughts into a book.

9. If you could be a flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be?  Why?    

That is a surreal question – the kind of question that would be asked at an interview to get into Oxford or Cambridge university. Also it is the kind of question that a pseudo-intellectual would revel in because it may make people believe that he is a smartarse.

Me? I refuse to answer it.

Oh, go on then.

I would be vanilla because I have pale skin, light hair and I also like the flavour.

10. What is the hardest thing about being a kid?

Not being an adult. When I was a kid I always wanted to be grown up because I was sick of people telling me what to do “for my own benefit”. Every adult tried to boss me around whether it was my parents or teachers or the old woman down the street who though that she was my boss because she was older than me. 

Since I was a kid I have had a problem with people telling me what to do but now I can simply refuse or at least decide for myself whether their goals meet mine. 

11. Would you rather be tall or short?  Why?    

I am about average height for a male at just under six feet tall and that is pretty good. The answer is therefore tall because you can see more. There is nothing worse, for example, than being at a gig when the tallest person in the building decides that he wants to stand in front of you. I have had some interesting chats with taller people under such circumstances and most will allow me to stand either just in front of them or just to their side. 

Equally, I am always happy to let a shorter person stand in front of me as long as it doesn’t impair my view of the stage.

12. What is the greatest challenge facing people in our world today?    

Global warming. There are people who think that it is a myth and continue to turn our world into a toilet. Personally, I think that it is too late – we are attempting to shut the stable door after the proverbial horse has bolted. 

It doesn’t help that we have world leaders who are complete climate change sceptics. Boris the Clown, for all his faults, at least has the wherewithal to realise what is happening and has set some targets. 

And thank goodness the Orange Goblin is no longer in power. We just need to get rid of people like Bolsonaro in Brazil.

13.What is the scariest experience you’ve ever had?    

I would say climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was my own fault. I am scared of heights and still I did it. I must have switched my brain off. Three hours I had to endure this torture – a torture that I stupidly volunteered for and actually paid money for too. 

What a stupid bloody idiot I was.

I’m glad I did it though – I will never do anything that stupid ever again.

14. Write a poem about music.    

Not another poem please! Oh go on then!

A song from many years ago, with lyrics built to last,

Can conjure up old memories from the dim and distant past.

A melody’s a mind machine that draws things back through time

Remembering a life gone by, a feeling so sublime.

15. Write about a favorite memory of something you did with your best friend.

My best friend is Mrs PM and all my memories with her are brilliant ones. She shares my passion for travelling so the best memories involve visits to weird and wonderful countries, such as Japan and Vietnam amongst many others. The best ones are always in Hong Kong because that’s where we got together.