Saturday, 24 September 2022

Trapped in a Room


Welcome to a cloudy but still slightly warm South Manchester, the day after we have returned from a week’s break in Greece. It was really good with lots of sunshine, great food and total relaxation. I feel energised.

There was one casualty though; my trusty iPod has developed a fault, causing me to make a momentous decision. 

I am going to join the youth and subscribe to Spotify.

It’s a really difficult decision as I have a lot of CD’s upstairs (and if you are reading this Mrs PM, I am definitely keeping them). I am going to buy a cheap mp3 player to use for my daily walks and on my travels when I can’t get internet access (like flying for example) but everything else will be Spotify.

I am also going to invest in a new smartphone as my current one is cracked. The protective contraption I bought for it fell apart and became useless. I threw it away, only to drop my phone and crack the screen in my own house about a week later. That happened when I had Covid-19 a couple of months ago. 

I’m not too bothered because it was due to be replaced anyway.

Back to music – it is the end of an era. I will buy no more CD’s and rely on Spotify’s enormous collection to listen to new albums and expand my horizons into that vast database of songs. What I am going to do though is to produce a series of posts next year highlighting my fifty favourite albums from my collection of CD’s, using them as an excuse to drift into any thoughts associated with them. Self-indulgent I know but it will be fun for me.

Anyway – for now, let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing. 

1. If you were trapped in a room with the person who asked this for 24 hours, what would you do? The answer cannot be romantic or sexual. 

I would spend eight of those hours sleeping. In the remaining sixteen, I would simply chat to that person. What else can I do? Given that this period would be sixteen hours I would try to learn as much about him or her as I could. I hope it’s not you dear reader because you would be bored to death listening to me drone on for hours on end.

2. If you could learn any language instantly, what would it be? 

Spanish. I am trying to learn it at the moment and I am quite enjoying it. At school I studied French for five years and I can still get by with that. French would be my second choice. I also studied German for three years and of the three languages I claim to be able to speak, it is my weakest (mainly because it is the hardest). 

I can also sense that some readers might suggest that I learn English. If you are thinking of leaving such a comment, my reply will be “Don’t be naughty!”.

3. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

I would be completely bored reading just one book for the rest of my life no matter how interesting it is. I think it would have to be one of these vast science fiction space operas that are in multiple parts and stretch to thousands of pages. 

4. Favourite song lyric? 

I have several favourite lyrics and it depends what mood I am in. These keep cropping up:

Nine Inch Nails: 

I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel

Rush: 

Some are born to move the world

To live their fantasies

But most of us just dream about

The things we'd like to be

Sadder still to watch it die

Than never to have known it

For you, the blind who once could see

The bell tolls for thee

Whitesnake: 

Like a blindman, I can feel the heat of the sun,

But, like a blindman

I don't know, I don't know,

I don't know where it’s coming from

Spinal Tap:

When we die, do we haunt the sky?

Do we lurk in the murk of the seas?

What then? Are we born again?

Just to sit asking questions like these?

5. Favourite album? 

That is one of the most difficult questions you could ask me. I have been looking at my CD collection recently as I said above and trying to get the list down to one hundred and then to fifty. I managed fifty finally but I can’t get any lower than that.

Here is one that you will read about from that fifty should you choose to do so. It is called “Hand.Cannot.Erase.” by Steven Wilson. Here is the title song from it.

6. Which time of day would you say is best for you work-wise?

Definitely first thing in the morning. My mind is at its sharpest and slowly deteriorates as the day goes by. I tend to attack the most difficult things at the start of the day, those problems that require the most thought and analysis. I tend to leave the more mundane crap to towards the end of the day. 

7. What do you think people assume about you from first glance?

How did that chimp manage to escape from the zoo and buy clothes?

8. Favourite city that you haven’t visited? 

How can you have a favourite city that you haven’t visited? Surely you need to visit a place for it to become any kind of favorite.

I guess you mean, what city that you haven’t been to is the city you want to visit next?

Well that’s easy. I’m going there next month. Copenhagen in Denmark. I think I will enjoy it. 

9. If you received $10,000 but had to give it away, what would you do with it? 

I would give it to a local charity, one that helped people who are struggling in these times of crisis, partly due to the pandemic, Vlad the Invader’s war, Brexit and Liz Truss’s mad budgetary plans that occurred yesterday. The UK is in a right mess at the moment.

10. What is one book you wish you could get all your friends to read? 

A lot of my friends have a completely different taste in fiction books to me and would not be interested in any of them. I might try to persuade them to read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear though. I had already adopted the concept of habit forming when I came across it, and it takes this concept and runs with it. 

I have found it quite helpful.

11. What is one movie you wish you could get all your friends to watch? 

Again, a lot of my friends don’t share my taste in films either. I would probably recommend something like Inception and tell them that they need to watch it when their brains is at it’s sharpest.

12. If you could create one thing, what would it be?

I would create a novel or a progressive rock masterpiece. I need talent to do both so it’s unlikely.

13. If you could play any musical instrument, what would it be? 

I think it would be a guitar. I am currently trying to teach myself a piano but only because guitars are more difficult.

14. What is your favourite item of clothing?

I don’t really have a favourite item of clothing. I dress for the occasion and just pick clothes that suit whatever it is I am doing - or should I say Mrs PM chooses them.

15. What is your favourite card/board game?

I’m not a huge fan of card games or board games. I usually get coerced into playing the odd card game at Christmas but I don’t really enjoy them. 


Saturday, 10 September 2022

A Tale of Two Elizabeths

 

Greetings from South Manchester on a cloudy day with hints of sun and blue sky. 

I am going to answer the usual Sunday Stealing questions (see later) but first I thought that I would talk about two ladies called Elizabeth who have made quite an impact to the UK this week. Apologies in advance for the rambling post – you can skip to the questions if you like.

First, the Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth has died at the age of 96. She was known as Queen Elizabeth II and had a good innings both in terms of her age and also in terms of her reign, being the longest serving monarch in our history. She was on the throne for 70 years celebrating her platinum jubilee earlier this year. She was even working up to two days before her death on Thursday, accepting the resignation of Boris the Clown as Prime Minister and asking his successor to form a government the same day. More about that later.

She has been queen my entire life and it will be odd for us in the UK as now we have a new monarch, her son King Charles III who is king now but will be formally crowned in due course. Our new coins, notes etc. will bear his face and name alongside many other things and the transition will be gradual with many things like post boxes still bearing the ER insignia for a while, I imagine, rather than CR that will come soon.


So what do I think of all this? 

Regular readers know that I am not a royalist at all. With my hand on my heart, all I can say is that I am ambivalent to the Windsor family. I don’t hate them but I don’t love them either. When they appear on the news because one of them tripped up and fallen over in public, I tend to switch it off. To me they are just celebrities, born into the role and not people that I have the remotest interest in, a bit like reality TV stars. I have said that if I had met the queen, or if I ever meet the king, I would not follow etiquette. To me they are just people – not any better or worse than I am.

But now the UK has gone mad. The flagship TV channel BBC 1 has had wall to wall coverage of this news story, shelving all programmes since it happened (including today – Saturday) with 24 hour news about the queen and tribute after tribute from famous people all over the UK as well as politicians and tearful members of the public. There is not one bad word about her or her family. 

Most if not all celebrities and politicians have to praise her, or say how utterly fantastic she was, lest they are alienated and cancelled for saying anything bad or even hinting at any criticism. They are positively falling over each other to express their grief and praise. 

People who have never met her are pontificating all over the news and crying as if she were a member of their own family. 

She was arguably the most famous person in the world but I don’t understand it personally. Royalists reading this may frown at best upon reading these words – others will condemn me. I don’t really care. She was just another person to me – a famous one admittedly – who was a part of British culture. 

She has been part of my life at a distance for my entire 59 years on this island called Great Britain, so as I said above, it will be weird without her on the news all the time but I am not mourning her loss as royalists want me to. I just want the over-the-top coverage to stop now and for us to get on with life. We have enough problems in the UK without having to stop everything for one passing. 

I do hope she rests in peace and my thoughts are with her family but that is all.

Actually, one more thing will change. The National Anthem of the UK is called God Save the Queen. This, and the lyrics, will change to God Save the King. That will take a little getting used to.

This leads me onto the next Elizabeth I want to talk about. 

On Tuesday of this week, Queen Elizabeth II’s last major duty was to finally accept the resignation of the King of Clowns, Boris Johnson. Good riddance to the incompetent buffoon who was the worst Prime Minister that we have had in my lifetime (and possibly ever). His replacement is the second Elizabeth in this post – Elizabeth “Liz” Truss, the third female Prime Minister we have ever had. 

To say that Liz Truss is out of touch is a massive understatement. She may not be quite as bad as Boris Johnson (let’s face it – Ronald McDonald would have been a better Prime Minister) but her leadership campaign exposed her as being another bad leader. She already had a massive U-turn and refused to do an in-depth interview with a high profile BBC political journalist saying that “she didn’t have time”. 

The truth is that he probably would have torn her apart.

All she had to do was to convince 140,000 members of her party that she was up to the job – that’s 140,000 people deciding the future Prime Minister. I think that if a Prime Minister resigns, we should have a General Election because Liz Truss basically told this elite group of people what they wanted to hear.

You may think that I am getting ahead of myself in criticising her but her policies fill me with no confidence and she actually praised her predecessor. 

Anyway – here is a video of what we might have to suffer from her.

God help us!

Okay – now to the questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What flavour Popsicle is the best? 

In the UK, we call “popsicles” ice lollies and I used to love one that was around in the 1970’s called an Orange Maid – it is apparently still around today though I haven’t had one for about forty years. These days I tend to eat chocolate covered ice cream lollies called Magnum. Delicious.




2. Do you have a DVR feature with your cable? 

I have Sky TV which comes with a box capable of recording any program on any channel. What I tend to do is record entire series and watch them at my leisure and at the moment there is a lot of stuff to watch, including movies, documentaries, gigs and normal TV series. It’s so easy to use.

3. How many drawers does your dresser have? 

We have a couple of dressers scattered about the house. Two have four drawers and the biggest one in the second bedroom has six drawers (but is largely used to store non-clothing items.

4. Is your closet a mess? 

We don’t have a closet as such, just a cupboard under the stairs. Is it a mess? Partly. When you open the door you see some stuff on the floor like the vacuum cleaner and other similar household bits and pieces and some shelves that are neat and tidy containing all manner of files and books. To the left we hang coats but at the back it is a bit of a mess – mainly because it is difficult to get too. To be honest we should sort it out because we don’t actually know what is in there.

5. Have you ever solved a Rubik's Cube? 

I have never owned a Rubik’s cube even when everybody else seemed to have one. I have had a go at them but ultimately it would have wasted too much of my time, so I guess the answer is no.

6. Describe your favourite pair of pajama pants: 

We call them pyjamas in the UK – pronounced the same but spelt slightly differently, just like all of the American spellings I usually correct when answering these questions. We also call them jim-jams (well I do anyway because I am weird).

I just bought some new ones actually as winter is approaching. They are officially called “leisure wear” but I use them as pyjamas. One is black and the other a dark blue. Both are very nice and very comfy.

7. What colour is your wallet? 

My wallet is black. I like black wallets.

8. Do you find flea markets and thrift shops enjoyable? 

I don’t find shopping enjoyable so I am hardly likely to favour flea markets and thrift shops above any others.

9. Have you met amazing people online? 

I’ve met one fellow blogger once, a very sweet and funny Australian lady called Kath who has moved to Geneva, Switzerland. I caught up with her when I was working there. She actually wrote about the experience. You can read it here

I would be quite happy to meet other bloggers. 

10. Would you be happy if I coloured a picture for you? 

Sure – why not?

11. What show do you think 'made' the 90's? 

For me it was the science fiction epic Babylon 5. I absolutely loved it. I love Star Trek but this is much better (something that almost alienated me from a few die-hard trekkers I know). Here is a taste of what it is like:

Rumour has it that they are rebooting it. That will be amazing if it is true.

12. Are you happier now than you were last year? 

Personally I’m not sure. Certain events have unfolded over the course of the last twelve months both personal and otherwise that have challenged my usual content self. That said, the outlook now is on the up and I feel (hope) that next year will be better.

13. What are you currently drinking?

I am drinking a huge mug of decaffeinated tea. I prefer caffeinated (or full fat) tea but over the past few years I have all but eliminated caffeine from my diet. I feel better for it.

14. Do you trust people easily? 

I approach people positively and I hope that I can trust them but to be honest it depends on the person. I like to think I am a good judge of character and so far my trust has usually been well placed. I tend to avoid toxic and aggressive people although I will always be my usual friendly self, even to them.

15. What are you looking forward to in the next three months?

The first thing is my trip to Greece on Friday. Mrs PM and I are travelling to Zante for a week of relaxation and I can’t wait. 

We have also managed to slip in a weekend to country I have never been to before. Next month we are travelling to Copenhagen in Denmark for a long weekend. I am really looking forward to that because I have heard that the Danes are brilliant people. 

There also may be a university reunion in November, another trip abroad, this time to a city I have visited many time – Amsterdam. If that comes off, I will have been abroad five times this year. 

Of course three months includes Christmas, usually a busy time, and we have a couple of things planned with family and friends that should be good.




Saturday, 3 September 2022

Movies

 


Welcome to a slightly dull South Manchester. The weather has been nice recently but it looks like it may actually rain later today. I guess as summer is effectively over and we welcome autumn, we have to expect a little rain now and then. 

Today’s Sunday Stealing  talks about movies – or films as we tend to call them in the UK (personally I use both terms). 

Shall we dive in?

1. Best movie you saw during the last year.

That’s an easy one: Spiderman: No Way Home. I love super hero films (I’m still basically a kid at heart) and Spiderman has always been right up there as one of my favourites, from the days when I used to watch the Spiderman cartoons in the 1970’s. I knew most if not all of his nemeses and in this movie, not only did they bring the best ones back, I though bringing back Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield to join Tom Holland was a brilliant idea. And we had Dr Strange thrown into the mix too. 

If you haven’t seen it, I thoroughly recommend it.

2. The most underrated movie.

I cheated on this a little because I have to say that if I genuinely like a movie, I don’t care what other people think. I don’t really know what constitutes an underrated movie – so I looked up a list of what films Google thinks fall into this category. Of all the lists that I saw, one film popped out immediately – The Dead Zone – based on the novel by Stephen King. I remember seeing the film at the cinema when it was released in 1983 and, if you are not familiar with the story, Christopher Walken plays a man who has a road accident and wakes up from a coma five years later with the ability to see a person’s future just by touching them. Of course, Stephen King is one of my favourite authors so it was fairly obvious that this story would be right up my street.

3. Favourite love story in a movie.

I don’t really like romantic movies. It’s not because I am not a romantic person; I just think that it is usually just contrived and artificial. That said, I guess love can be a motivator in some movies so I reluctantly accept that it plays a part. Regular readers will know that I particularly don’t like romantic comedies – apart from one, which is Notting Hill – not because of the love story, but because of the characters that surround the two main ones. I will therefore reluctantly nominate that one.

4. The most surprising plot twist or ending

I’ve seen a lot of movies with plot twists and I love them. I would have said The Sixth Sense apart from I spotted the plot twist about halfway through the film. The one I didn’t see coming was The Usual Suspects – so I will say that one.

5. A movie that makes you really happy.

I’m not a big fan of so-called “feel good” movies. Again I find them a little artificial. I am a little weird so give me a great action flick and I will be happy. Let’s just pluck one out of there (there are so many to pick from) – Terminator 2: Judgement Day – a bloody great film.

6. A movie that makes you sad.

I have been know to cry at movies. I try to be all masculine and macho about it and hide my emotion, but my entire body lets me down – from my heartstrings to my brain and ultimately my eyes as tears flood down my cheeks. 

“I’ve just got hay fever”, or “there’s something in my eye” are two excuses I have prepared in case I am spotted in this fragile state. Please don’t tell anyone.

The film that brings out the worst response like this has to be The Elephant Man. It’s just so sad.

7. Favourite made for TV movie

I am going to include mini-series when it come to “made for TV movies” and again I am going to select one based on a Stephen King novel. The film in question is Salem’s Lot, which I saw in the late 1970’s and starred David Soul (Hutch from Starsky and Hutch) and James Mason. 

It scared me half to death and I loved it. I still get shivers down my spine thinking about it.

8. A movie you’ve seen countless times.

There are hundreds of films I watch over and over again. Mrs PM rarely does this and questions why I do it. The answer is, honestly, that I just love them – even though I know what will happen. So let’s pick one. I’m going to go for Inception because I think it is just brilliant.

9. A movie with the best soundtrack

I think for this I am going to select The Warriors, one of  my favourite cult movies of all time. The music fits in perfectly with the movie. The theme from the Warriors is just amazing. Here it is:

“Who are the Warriors? I want ALL … the Warriors. Send the word!”

10. Favourite classic movie

How do you define a classic movie? I’m going to cheat and pick two. The first, and oldest, is Way Out West featuring the legendary Laurel and Hardy:

The other classic movie I love is Some Like it Hot with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon and, of course, Marilyn Monroe. 

11. A movie that you hate.

There are lots of movies that I hate and the ones I hate most are those that I went to see based on the hype but left me stone cold.

One such movie is Dead Poets Society which I thought was rubbish, even though I love Robin Williams. Another is Independence Day, which despite the big budget and some great special effects, is hilariously terrible.

12. A movie that changed your opinion about something.

I don’t think any movies have changed my opinion about anything. However, there are a few that have intrigued me because they are through-provoking. Being a geek with a very vibrant but weird imagination, I look at sci-fi with a totally open mind and I think the main concept behind The Matrix was incredible, i.e. that although we are living what we think is a normal life, the truth could be a nightmare scenario. I just love that idea.

13. A character you can relate to the most.

I am going to pick a marvel superhero, not because I am a superhero – rather because I know how this guy feels. Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk is a scientific guy who prefers to stay out of the spotlight but will always be there to help if required. Of course, I wouldn’t like to become a towering colossal giant green anger monster – that’s not me at all – but everything else in terms of how he deals with his condition, I do kind of relate to.

14. A movie that is a guilty pleasure

I don’t like the term guilty pleasure because you shouldn’t feel guilty about anything that brings you pleasure. As I said above, if I like a movie I don’t actually care what people think or whether they agree with me. 

I guess what I am looking foe here is a movie that is universally known as “not good” that I thoroughly enjoyed. I am going to go for Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Timecop. Again, I love the concept if it means having to deal with the muscles from Brussels in the starring role, that is a small price to pay.

15. Favourite movie based on a book/comic

There are lots of them. I am going to cheat again and pick two because the movies go together: Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame – both brilliant movies.

16. A movie that disappointed you the most

Star Wars Episode i: The Phantom Menace – the less said about that the better.

17. A movie from your favourite actor/actress

I don’t really have a favourite actor or actress. I appreciate that there are some brilliant actors out of there but I just watch movies for the movie itself, not who is in it. 

I will pick two based on actors who are good.

The first is Goodfellas, starring Robert de Niro who is a great actor.

The second is The Silence of the Lambs because it stars Jodie Foster who is a great actress.

18. Favourite movie from your favourite director.

Again I don’t have a favourite director so I will pick a movie by a director who is good.

I’m going to go for Inglorious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino.

19 .Favourite action movie

I love action movies and it is hard to pick a favourite from that huge list. I’ll select one that I saw recently: Mission Impossible: Fallout

20. A movie you wish more people would have seen.

Cult films tend to be a niche that you only hear about by word of mouth and I assume that such films don’t tend to get the number of viewers that you would expect. I’m going to select my favourite film that is broadly labelled as a cult film. That film is 300. I love it.

This is Sparta!

21. Favourite documentary

I am fascinated by cults, in particular, Scientology. I have seen various documentaries about this particular cult but the only one that is a movie is Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

22. Favourite animation

I have to go back a few decades for this. When I was a kid, my mum took me to see The Jungle Book and I have loved it ever since. 

23. Most hilarious movie you’ve ever seen

Without a doubt, this is The Life of Brian, a controversial film that is actually still banned in a few place. At the time, it was released, lots of cinemas simply refused to show it, hailing it as blasphemous. The reality is that it simply makes fun and, as a Catholic, I don’t find it blasphemous at all. There are some brilliant jokes in it and I had to go and see it a second time because I missed so many jokes the first time because I was laughing so much.

24. A movie that you wish you had seen in the cinema

I tend to go to the cinema to see most movies that I want to see. There are a few that I have missed due to one reason or another and ended up having to see them on the TV some years later. To be honest, I can cope with that unless it is a full blown action movie or one that is filled with special effects that look much better on the big screen. 

Of all the ones I have missed, I think Starship Troopers is the one I most regret not seeing at the cinema. 

25. Your favourite movie of all time.

That is a truly difficult question that I can’t answer. I could perhaps list my top 100 movies but even that would be tricky. I am therefore going to cheat and simply not answer this one.


Saturday, 27 August 2022

Upstream Life Part Two


Welcome to South Manchester on a warm and sunny afternoon. 

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing?

1. Your favourite sport.

My favourite sport is football, not the game that Americans play that is like rugby with armour, but proper football, known as soccer in America. In the UK we rarely if ever call the game soccer – it is football!

The team I support, Walsall, are languishing in the fourth tier of the English Football League. They are my home town team and I handed my football soul over to them when I was too young to know any different and I have supported them ever since. There have been highs and lows over the decades, mostly lows if I’m honest, and the last two seasons have been a terrible low point. They finished in the lowest league position in my lifetime the season before last but have started this new season a little better. The club has acquired a new investment and there seems to be some money knocking about. Consequently Walsall have made a reasonable start in the early days and I hope that we actually get somewhere this season. 

2. A quote to live by.

“Try to be good. And if you can’t be good – be careful”

3. A city in the US you would like to move to.

The city I would give the dubious honour of accommodating the Plastic Mancunian, should I choose to ever uproot and go across the pond is San Francisco. I have been once and spent a very enjoyable four or five days there on holiday (or on vacation as an American might say). 

I wanted to go there ever since I watched Steve McQueen in Bullitt:

I was a total tourist; I went up the Transamerica Pyramid, ate a meal in Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, took a trip to Alcatraz, had a ride in a car up and down these amazingly steep hills, had a ride on a cable car, had a trip to Sausolito, visited Golden Gate Park and even managed to find time to do some wine tasting in the Napa Valley.

I would of course have to change my blog name to The Plastic San Franciscan – a bit of a mouthful but I think it works.

4. 3 beautiful little things in your life.

Mrs PM and my two kids, I reckon.

5. What made you laugh today?

Last night I recorded a TV show called “The Last Leg” which is a comedy show that takes an irreverent look at the news, presented by Australian comedian Adam Hills. I watched it this morning and as usual it made me laugh. Here is a taste of it what it is like:

6. A good deed you did today

I’ve haven’t had much of a chance to do a good deed today. I’ve fed the cats though – I guess that’s a good deed.

7. Activities you like to do when you are bored.

If I’m bored, I tend to watch a bit of TV or sit at my laptop and either write jibberish (like this) or watch funny videos on You Tube. I sometimes also play a football game on my PS4.

8. Are you a procrastinator?

I’m less of a procrastinator than I was a few years ago. These days I have various techniques that push me into doing things that I need to do. 

Sadly, it doesn’t always work though.

9. Your thoughts about dying

I plan to live forever.

10. What super power would like to have?

I would like to have the ability to become invisible and I would use that technique to go places where I shouldn’t like to a gig or a football match without a ticket. 

I would also like the ability to teleport. That way I could travel to a foreign land in the blink of an eye and be back home for tea.

I think I’d also like to be able to read minds. I’d be a bit worried about what I may find in there. 

11. Top 3 Netflix series

Stranger Things is absolutely incredible. Mrs PM and I have recently binge watched season 4 and we simply can’t wait for season 5 (which I believe will be the last one sadly).

Squid Game is also brilliant. 

I’m currently watching the Umbrella Academy which is also very good:

12.  Things you want to do before you die

I’d just like to travel to as many countries as I can and also write a novel (even a crap one).

13. Your biggest fears

I’m terrified of heights, which is odd because I never used to be.

In terms of what is happening in the world, I’m a little worried about what is happening and the way we as a world are sleepwalking towards oblivion. 

The UK itself is also sleepwalking into disaster with these two pillocks fighting to be the next Prime Minister. I don’t want either of them.


14. What makes you angry?

Many things – for example the two people I mentioned in the last question.

15. Do you listen to podcasts?

No but I want to start doing that. In fact, I did once consider creating my own; I don’t think that is going to happen though.


 

Saturday, 20 August 2022

Fill-ins


Welcome to a cloudy but warm afternoon in South Manchester. The threat of rain is there but hopefully it will stay dry.

I’ve managed to nuke my own laptop, which is quite annoying. I don’t know what happened; I think it was a hardware fault. The good news is that I have retrieved everything I need off it and now I am piggybacking off Mrs PM’s superfast laptop. It is much better than my old one which, to be fair, was slowing down anyway.

Shall we dive in with some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1.  I am currently obsessed with new music.

I am kind of old school and still buy CD’s because I like to actually own the music I am listening to rather than “borrowing” it from Spotify. I listen to Spotify but the main reason is to look for new CDs to buy. 

Here are two songs that I have particularly liked from recent purchases. The first is Zick Zack by German nutters Rammstein – a song about cosmetic surgery (In case you were wondering):

The second is Shattered Memories by Michał Łapaj, the keyboard player from one of my favourite bands, Riverside.

2.  Today I am happy because I am going out to meet some friends to play Junkyard Golf and have an Indian street food meal.

I’ve never played Junkyard Golf before but it has been recommended. Basically I think it just Crazy Golf but modernised. 

I also love Indian food and there are a lot of new “Street food” places opening up in the city. 

3.  The age I am is 59 and the age I feel is 21.

In my head I am still a stupid 21 year old but my old body sometimes makes me realise that I am not a kid any more. I don’t care; if you are young in your mind that is a positive thing, at least in my humble opinion.    

4.  My favourite place outside the UK is Hong Kong.

I’ve mentioned this a lot before but the city of Hong Kong is an incredible place where east meets west. I have spent well over a year of my life in the city and I intend to revisit the city again, hopefully in a year or two when we head out to Malaysia.

5.  Something I have been procrastinating is writing the novel.

I’ve made several attempts at writing a novel and finally I have a good idea that I can stick with. I won’t tell you what it is about but I think it is a good idea. I am improving since I went part time. I try to attack it on my extra day off but I have found myself doing other things instead. To be fair, I spent about an hour on it yesterday and plan to do so again this week. I am generally winning my war with procrastination these days thanks to turning everything into a habit and shaming myself with habit recording apps when I fail. Turning things into a habit consolidates everything in your head and it is a massive weapon in the war against procrastination.

6.  The last thing (big thing) I purchased was a tablet.

I have bought a Samsung tablet to use when travelling, now that the pandemic is over. It is great for watching movies on flights and entertaining myself on the days when we decide to be lazy on holiday. It has been very useful so far on my trips to Spain and Beligium.

7.  The thing I love most about my home is its location.

I live in a great little suburb of Manchester that has amazing travel links to and around the city and also has a lot of great pubs, restaurants and shops locally. I like the house itself of course but the location makes it really special.

8.  My most prized possession is my house.

Of all the things I own, I can’t think of anything better than the house I live in. 

9.  If I could be one age for the rest of my life, I would want to be 35.

I really enjoyed my life when I was in my mid to late 30’s. I still looked young and I was fit. At the time I was swimming and playing football regularly and I actually felt good within my own body. I still feel good now to be honest but I am aware of the limitations that age is starting to impose upon my creaking old physique. 

10.  My outlook on life is summed up by this song:

11.  If you want to annoy me, start praising the current British government.

There is nothing on this planet that annoys me more than politics and at the moment in the UK we are in the depths of despair. I appreciate that some external factors have contributed to this but in the past twelve years, our government has been to blame for the new depths to which we have sunk. I have to walk away these days rather than talk about it. I have friends who support them but we never ever talk politics. 

12.  I am completely defenceless when it comes to cats.

I love cats and we have had six in our house for the past twenty years. Our original two cats, Jasper and Poppy, were later joined by a cat that adopted us called Spike and then one we adopted called Liquorice who was a psychopath. Even though Liquorice turned our house upside down when she arrived, creating cat chaos, I simply couldn’t get rid of her. She was ferocious but actually liked me best of all. Those original four cats are sadly no longer with us and when our house was a cat free zone, the void was too much – so we now have two more called Ziggy and Star(dust). They wrap me round their little paws and I am their slave. I have no defence.

13. The bravest thing I’ve ever done was to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I am terrified of heights and Mrs PM persuaded me to go with her when we were in Sydney. It was the most traumatic three hours of my entire life. 

14. Something that keeps me awake at night is coffee and beer.

I rarely drink caffeinated beverages these days because of their negative affect on my sleep. Alcohol has a similar effect but nowhere near as bad. 

15. My favourite meal in the entire world is too difficult to tell you.

I love food and I have many favourite dishes, far too many to put into a list and rank. Sorry.


Sunday, 31 July 2022

Sunday 5


Welcome to a sunny Sunday afternoon in South Manchester. 

I am now free of Covid-19 – well the truth is that the symptoms only lasted for about three days and they were relatively mild but it took a further five days to get a negative test result. At least I can actually go out now and I have managed to watch England beat South Africa in a One Day Cricket International and also go to a musical festival featuring tribute bands playing the songs of AC/DC, Kiss, Metallica, Megadeth, Thin Lizzy and many more. 

That was yesterday and it was fun.

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1) What one event from your lifetime would you change if you could, and why?

That’s a difficult one because if I changed one thing earlier in my life then I wouldn’t be the person I am today. 

There have been many embarrassing things that have happened to me through the course of my life that I would probably want to forget but each one has made me a better person and I get to joke about them on this stupid blog. I probably wouldn’t change any of those either.

I guess the answer therefore has to be none.

2) If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be and how old would your younger self be when they got it? Do you think your younger self would listen?

I would tell him to just go and start talking to strangers. People are brilliant and I am quite happy to chat to strangers these days. For example while we were queuing up to get entrance into the music festival yesterday, I started chatting to the two women in front of me in the queue and it was fun. 

Would my younger self listen? 

Absolutely not because he was shy and I think he would probably rather have removed his own fingernail than chat to a stranger in a queue. I would tell him that his efforts would ultimately be rewarded in his thirties anyway so it would happen eventually.

Again, in relation to question one – perhaps it would be better for him not to listen to me.

3) Would you be any good on Survivor?

I had to look this up and the answer is that I would almost certainly not be any good. I would be okay with puzzles but anything else would be dreadful. So no – I wouldn’t bother even considering it.

4) What's a safety rule that's very important to you?

Don’t dive into anything without knowing what the consequences might be. Mrs PM is quite impulsive and she feels her life is better for it – but I am the opposite. Mrs PM accuses me of being indecisive but I feel that is a good thing. I have to weigh up the pros and cons and then I know I will be fine whereas impulsive people sometimes get stung. 

It works for me anyway.

Also if you have two black cats, always have the torch on your smartphone ready to use when you get up in the middle of the night to answer a call of nature. 

5) What would you like to say to people in the future?

Don’t blame me for the consequences of Brexit. I didn’t vote for it.

I’m sorry that we were too selfish to look after the planet.

I hope it’s not too hot.

Boris Johnson really was a complete arse and electing him as Prime Minister was the stupidest thing the UK ever did (apart from Brexit).

And don’t get me started on Donald Trump …

6) What's your favourite dish to bring to a summer cookout?

I guess by “summer cookout” you mean a barbecue. The obvious answer is sausages, burgers and steaks – and of course beer because you would only have a barbecue on a hot day.

7) How much time have you spent outdoors this week?

I always start my day with a three to four mile walk at about 6:20 am and it takes me an hour or so and I really enjoy it because it is quiet. Sadly this week it has rained a fair amount and I have had to work so from Monday to Friday not a lot of extra time was spent outdoors. However, yesterday I spent the whole day at an outdoor music festival in north Manchester so I was outside from about 10am to 11pm. I may well pop out for another stroll this afternoon as it is quite pleasant outside.

8) Where do you set your thermostat?

I don’t set the thermostat – I leave that to Mrs PM. I just adapt to the temperature that she wants to. It makes life easier for me. Happy wife, happy life.

9) How did you learn to swim?

I took lessons when I was about five years old back in Walsall, the town where I grew up. I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer but I do like to dabble when I go on holiday.

10) How do you avoid overheating?

A couple of weeks ago we had a three-day heatwave in the UK that shattered all previous records all over the country. In the south of England, we recorded 40.2 degrees Celsius (104.4 Fahrenheit). In Manchester the previous record was 33.9 degrees Celsius (93.0 Fahrenheit) but last Tuesday we reached 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit).

As you can imagine, the weather in Manchester isn’t usually extreme so we don’t normally need air conditioning and we don’t have swimming pools. We just had to open all the windows and try to drink lots of fluids. We are lucky because we live in a house that was built in 1903 and the sun is omnipresent at the front of the house, leaving the back of house cooler. The garden gets a lot of sun though but we weren’t stupid enough to go out into the blazing heat. 

While I like high temperatures abroad, here in the UK we aren’t really prepared for such extremes – and I hope that is something that we rectify soon. 

Of course, when I am on holiday in a hot climate, I either jump in the pool or switch on the air-conditioning. It’s easy.

The highest temperature I have ever had to endure was in Muscat, Oman where the peak was 46 degrees Celsius  (115 Fahrenheit). 

I just stayed inside with the air-con.

11). What are you going to do this weekend?

This weekend is almost over. Next weekend, however, we are driving across the country to the small seaside town of Whitby. Whitby is famous because Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, lived there and wrote his famous novel, inspired by the small port.

Consequently Whitby has taken on board the Dracula themes and as well as, supposedly, having the best fish and chips in the UK, there are lots of vampire related memorabilia and Goths descend on the place in late October. 

You can even stay in a vampire themed hotel. We won’t be doing that.

Dracula Experience Whitby

Goths in Whitby

12) What’s your favourite way to spend time?

Travelling and exploring new places, spending time with friends, writing nonsense like this, listening to music, watching football, trying to teach myself the piano, reading and many other things. 

The football season started yesterday and my team, Walsall, won 4-0! Great start.

13) What’s the most useless thing you own that you would never get rid of?

I regard all my possessions as being wonderful and not useless at all. I am in a constant battle with Mrs PM who thinks I am a hoarder but at least she does let me keep my old crap.

14) Have you started planning your next vacation?

We have booked a trip to Greece in September but we are also considering going to a new country in October – a city break in Copenhagen, Denmark. We will start talking about this next week I reckon. 

We are also considering a longer trip to another new country, Malaysia either next year or the year after – but the plans are very much in their infancy. We will of course pop to Hong Kong on the way home too.

15) Are you very active, or do you prefer to just relax in your free time or is it one and the same to you?

Physically I am fairly active. As I said above, I like to go for a fairly big walk every day and we like to have some kind of activity at the weekend – even if that means relaxing. Personally I like to relax too and I unleash the introvert within me at least a couple of hours a day to simply spend time on my own and enjoy my own company. 


Saturday, 16 July 2022

Travel Questions

 


Welcome to a very sunny and hot South Manchester as we prepare ourselves for a heatwave that will almost certainly smash the record temperatures in the UK. The current record stands at 38.7 degrees Centigrade (101.6 degrees Fahrenheit) which occurred in Cambridge in 2019. 

On Monday and Tuesday, the temperature in London is predicted to exceed 40 degrees Centigrade (104 degrees Fahrenheit) – something that is unprecedented in the United Kingdom.

This will be the pinnacle of two weeks of madness in both my life and that of the United Kingdom. Let’s start with my country. 

We all finally had enough of the clown/scarecrow hybrid that was masquerading as the Prime Minister and so, finally, it turns out did his own party. The government started resigning en masse and a week ago last Thursday the idiot finally resigned, although he still seems to be Prime Minister because he is trying to cling on to power like the lying leech that he is – at least until September – though I hope sooner.

This means that his Conservative Party are having a leadership contest to find the next liar who will take his place. All of the candidates (there are currently five of them) have in the past supporting the clown and now, in their campaign speeches are claiming that they are going to “fix” Britain. 

Britain is broken in their eyes (understatement of the century) and they claim it has nothing to do with their party or themselves. The idiots have been in power for TWELVE YEARS! They bloody well broke it – especially with Brexit. 

It makes my blood boil.

It is little consolation that Boris Johnson, the worst Prime Minister we have ever had, has now gone because I want his party to go too. I could go on with my reasons but I won’t bore you anymore.

On a personal note I have been to Belgium – Bruges and Brussels – and I thoroughly enjoyed it – until, that is, I came back with a little gift – Covid-19.

Yes – that’s right! Having successfully avoided Covid-19 for two and a half years, it has caught up with me finally. I tested positive on Monday of this week and now, on Saturday, I feel a lot better, but still have a cough and am still positive. This is annoying because I am now going slightly stir crazy. 

I felt rough on Monday and Tuesday but I have improved a lot since then and all I want to do is go out. I can’t – which means I will miss a cricket game tomorrow (also annoying). I have to wait for two clear days before I can join the land of healthy people again.

Back to the temperatures, it seems that in Manchester the record we have had is 33.7 degrees Centigrade and on Monday/Tuesday that will reach 36 degrees Centigrade. So maybe it is a good thing that I can’t go out (I wouldn’t anyway because I will be working from home anyway – despite Covid-19 if I still have it).

Phew – after all that – shall I answer some questions from Sunday Stealing

1. To which countries have you been?

(Deep breath):

Argentina, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Czechia (formerly Czech Republic), France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Macau, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Oman, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom (of course), United States of America, Vatican City and Vietnam

2. Which countries would you love to visit one day?

Whether I will be able to do so I don’t know – but here is a list off the top of my head:

Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Cuba, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea and Sweden.

3. Have been on a trip this year or have one planned for later?

Yes – I have been to Estepona in Spain and Bruges and Brussels in Belgium (hot off the press). The plan is to go to Greece in September and possibly Amsterdam in October/November.

4. What kinds of transport do you prefer to travel by? (train, car, plane,...)

I am not a huge fan of the actual travelling part of travel – i.e. getting there and getting home – but if you were to push me I would say train travel is best because it is quite relaxing.

5. Do you get yourself a souvenir to take home? If yes, what do you like to buy?

I used to buy fridge magnets but when we had a new kitchen, Mrs PM refused to allow them on the fridge – so there was no point collecting them any longer. I’m slightly disappointed to be fair but I guess it’s a good thing given that they are really overpriced tat.

These days the experience becomes memories and photos and that is enough.

6. Do you like to try local food? Can you recommend anything or advise not to try something?

Oh yes – unless I hate it. I am not a huge fan of That food so I had problems in Thailand itself, especially when we went for a Thai banquet in Bangkok. I managed to pick at the food and find something that was okay but the truth is that I was still hungry afterwards and had to have a street snack on the way home. 

I’m not a fan of seafood generally (especially shellfish) and people tend to warn me against that especially in hotter eastern Asian countries – I’ve seen some people suffer from them in the past. More often than not, though, the food is good. I will warn that in China and Japan you have to be careful what you eat – not because it is bad, but because you don’t know what it actually is. 

For example, in China I accidentally ate jellyfish thinking it was something else, and they love insects and pets too. My recommendation is that you take a phrase book into the restaurant and show them the food you want (for example, beef, pork, chicken etc.) and they will find something that matches for you. If you are not in a tourist area in China you will be presented with a menu in Chinese and waiters/waitresses who do not speak a single word of English. Your phrase book is your best friend.

7. Do you book your travel online or classical in a travel agency?

We usually book online these days. 

8. Name three things that you cannot go anywhere without and have in your suitcase.

I assume that you don’t mean clothes, passport for example (i.e. essentials). 

Phone, books and music. 

9. Tell about a funny travel experience you had.

I’ve shared a couple of these in the past – let’s think of another one. 

Ah yes – America.

I love America but I think that there are some Americans who don’t really know too much about the United Kingdom – but they think they do.

I was in a house in Cleveland at a party and I was constantly being asked questions by the good folks at the party and some of the questions were rather weird. Here are some of them:

“Do you have microwave ovens in England?” - The answer of course is, yes! We invented the computer and the internet, you know.

“Have you ever met the Queen?” - The answer of course is no. There are over 67 million people in the United Kingdom and she is just one of them.

“I went to London once and met a guy called John Smith. Do you know him?” – See previous answer.

“Why do English people sing in an American accent?” – Actually, that is a good question for which I was unable to provide a meaningful answer.

“Can you explain the rules of cricket to me?” – Yes:

The Rules of Cricket

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.

Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out.

When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.

Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.

When both sides have been in and all the men have got out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

Do you understand now?

10. Tell about a bad travel experience you’ve had.

We were robbed in the middle of the night on a cruise on the Yangtzee River. In the same cruise, we had a rat in the room who destroyed all of our toilet paper and lived in the walls. To cap matters, Mrs PM had a stomach bug too. All three problems were resolved but it was an unpleasant few days.

11. What kind of accommodation do you usually stay in when you go on trips?

We usually stay in a half decent hotel. 

12. Have you ever traveled alone by yourself? Did you like it? If not, would you want to try it?

I have never been on holiday on my own but I have travelled to foreign places on business. Perhaps the most boring was a trip to Moscow in the middle of winter, where I stayed in a town about 40km from the city in temperatures of -20 degrees Centigrade with just myself for company. I did manage to get to Moscow itself at the weekend and explore the city armed with long johns, three layers of clothes, hat, gloves, big boots and a coat that doubled my weight. I had a lovely meal in a Mexican restaurant before I had to go back – but it was quite good to explore the snowy, icy city on my own.

I prefer company though.

13. What is the first thing you do when you arrive at your destination?

Usually we dump our stuff into the hotel room, get changed quickly and get out exploring.

14. What kinds of activities do you like to do when you are traveling?

We like to explore, relax and sample the local customs and food. Sometimes we can be like stereotypical tourists and I don’t mind that. Mrs PM is braver than I am and usually tries to drag me off the beaten track to see more of the hidden country.

15. How do you like to spend your vacation? (on a cruise, backpacking, etc)

I’m not a big fan of cruises because I get stir-crazy and I think that the people on the boats are targets for overpriced trips that can be a little too touristy for my liking. I tend to prefer doing my own thing. Ideally a trip would involve exploring a new city with some relaxation involved too. I think my backpacking days are over – I’ve done that a few times in the past and it is tiring; I am too old now and want my own comforts.

16. Do you like to travel in your own country? If yes, can you recommend a place?

I love travelling in my own country. For those who haven’t been to the UK I would recommend:

London, Chester, York, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, The Lake District, the Peak District, the Cotswolds, Warwick (for the castle), Stratford-upon-Avon (for Shakespeare lovers), Cornwall, Liverpool, northern Scotland, North Wales and of course Manchester (if nothing else because I live here). 

I would also recommend Northern Ireland but I’ve never been there myself. That will change.