Saturday, 10 April 2021

Morning


Welcome to a weird day in South Manchester. 

First of all, you may have heard that the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip has passed away at the ripe old age of 99, just two months away from his 100th birthday. I feel really sorry for the Queen and her family but, in typical fashion, and as you can imagine, the whole of the UK has gone crazy over this. The schedule on the main terrestrial channels has been removed and we are now subject to documentary after documentary about his life and what an absolutely wonderful guy he was. Some radio channels have replaced their normal playlists with mournful dirges. The newspapers are urging us to stand up at 12pm today and contemplate his death as gun salutes occur in certain cities across the nation.

There was no other news yesterday and there will be no other news for the next couple of days at least. 

That is all I am going to say on the subject because to be too negative about the over-the-top reaction will invite equally negative responses from those royalists who would have me mourning alongside them for weeks on end as if he were a member of my own family. 

The second weird thing about today is the weather. Mrs PM and I got up for a walk this morning and I had to wear my big winter coat because it was snowing. Yes, in spring in the UK we have had snow and hail for the first few hours of Saturday. This is timed perfectly for the next phase of lockdown relaxation. From Monday, pubs are open again and can serve groups of up to six people outside. You are not allowed to go inside at all apart from a trip to the toilet. 

In true British fashion, rumour has it that some pubs will open their beer gardens at midnight on Sunday night so that people who are brave or stupid or maybe just alcoholics can sit outside at 1am drinking their favourite tipple with up to five friends.

I love the strangeness of my country.

Anyway, enough of all that nonsense. Let’s dive into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing.

1. You have just been hired to clean your own home, what is your first complaint?

The mess that cats make with cat litter. At the moment we are trying to persuade the cats to make use of natural outside facilities and contribute to fertilizing local gardens in their own way. The problem is that they are so well trained to use the litter tray that they actually come in to use the tray and then go outside again. We have been popping the trays out in the garden and it is working; they are using them. It is only a matter of time I think. 

The problem is, with weird weather like the snow we had this morning and the rain that usually comes in April, we are having to be careful about leaving the trays outside. So we bring them in. 

And Ziggy, our male cat, and the bigger of the two, is so OCD about covering up his contributions that he hurls the litter out of the tray and into every nook and cranny of the surrounding area – usually in our kitchen. 

We will get there sooner or later – hopefully sooner. 

2. Are you able to ignore a ringing telephone?

Absolutely. I ignore the phone if I am in the middle of something or even if I am watching a particularly good TV programme. We have an answering machine on the landline (yes – incredibly we still have a landline) and of course on our own personal smartphones. If it is urgent they can ring back. To be fair though, if I am not doing anything I will answer it – and I will get extremely annoyed if it is a nuisance call. One time, we were getting loads of marketing calls from the provider of the phone line and in the end I lost my temper. The conversation went like this.

PEST ON THE PHONE: Hello, this is your telephone line provider. How are you today?

PM: What do you want?

PEST ON THE PHONE: A quick survey if you have five minutes. First question: do you get loads of nuisance calls?

PM: Yes – and all of them are from you. 

PM slams down the phone.

3. How often do you allow a ringing phone to go to voice mail?

I answered that above. Quite a lot actually.

4. Do you answer your cell phone, out in public, every time it rings? Or do you silence it and get back to it when you’re in a more private area?

It depends who the caller is. If it is a friend or member of my family then I will answer it. If I don’t recognise the number then I ignore it. If they are desperate to get in touch they can leave a message.

5. How often would you say you’re on your home phone? Your cell phone?

Rarely to be honest. 

6. Do you like talking on the phone or do you view it as a necessary communication tool?

It is a necessary evil. I don’t like using the phone to be honest. 

7. When did you last go for a bike ride?

A couple of years ago, it was Cycle to Work Day in the UK so I decided to dust down my bike and cycle to work. It’s not that far actually – about a ten mile round trip. 

8. Do you own a bike?

As you can tell from the last question, yes I do but I rarely ride it these days.

9. Given the most popular New Year’s resolution of losing weight, would you consider putting bicycle riding as one of your exercise options? Why or why not?

I think I might but I am always a bit nervous riding a bike because you have to share the road with inconsiderate drivers, lorries and double decker buses. There are places I could go that are safer but I would have to take my bike in the car and then cycle in the countryside. 

A former work colleague is a keen bike rider and a few years ago he was knocked off his bike by a car and almost killed. He spent weeks in hospital but has made a full recovery. He still rides but it has made me think twice about cycling. 

Really what we need are more cycle lanes and routes in the city. We have then but I think they could do more, particularly as the government are trying to urge us towards a more environmentally friendly existence.

10. If you had to name a smell that always makes you nostalgic, what would it be? What sorts of memories does the smell evoke?

The smell of a Chinese restaurant. When I first went to Hong Kong with work, I was taken to a Chinese restaurant in Wan Chai and the first thing that struck me was the aroma of all the delicious Chinese food from the restaurants of the area. I have such fond memories of my many trips to that amazing city that are conjured up by the smell of Chinese food.

11. What did you do over the weekend? No detail is too small. This is your journal, so tell us about the mundane tasks in your life.

I am bang in the middle of my weekend. Since we are in lockdown, we are limited in what we can do, so it is largely very boring. Okay – the weekend starts on Friday, so here goes.

Friday: After work, I took part in the “after work quiz” that we have every Friday afternoon. I have won it a few times but this time I only managed to finish fourth. I then listened to a bit of music and played a couple of games of football on the PS4. Mrs PM then appeared after an afternoon nap and we opened “The Black Cat” pub in our lounge and had a couple of beers and wines while adding the the playlist (see here) and chatting. We then had a lovely Chinese meal for dinner and watched a little TV before retiring for the night.

Saturday (so far): We got up early today, about 8am, and fed the cats before going for a walk in the snow. After that we had breakfast. I put on the washing and fulfilled my daily habits (a little Spanish, some freewriting, a TED Talk and writing this blog post). 

Saturday (planned): I am going to watch Walsall’s football match later after lunch and then we will probably open “The Black Cat” again for an hour and chat, listening to the playlist before dinner and a little TV. I will watch Match of the Day before retiring.

Sunday (planned): Get up at a reasonable time and go for a walk. I will then have breakfast and get on with a few chores before looking at my finances and have lunch before watching a Premiership football match on Sky. After that we will have dinner and watch a movie, because Sunday night is movie night. 

12. If it weren’t for my blog, I’d ....

Probably be wasting my time on social media. I don’t dabble in social media that much and to be honest I am thinking that I might reduce it even further and try to take up something more constructive. I think I would probably be writing more. 

I did have a blog wobble a couple of years ago where I almost decided to quit the Plastic Mancunian. I am happy to say that I have found new energy and enthusiasm for the blog, possibly down to the pandemic and lockdown I guess, so I am continuing with it for quite a while yet. I am quite happy to continue.

13. When was the last time you replied “because I said so”? Do you find yourself saying that a lot? Or do you prefer to tell people WHY you want them to do something for you.

I rarely say that now but I think I used to say it to the kids a lot, usually when I couldn’t directly think of a reason why they couldn’t do something. 

It is a ridiculous thing to say.

14. What is the worst gift you’ve ever received?

A book by Derek Acorah.

Derek Acorah was a spiritual medium who, in my opinion, was a total charlatan. He used to claim to be possessed by spirits of dead people in haunted houses and did so in the most ridiculous ways possible and was about as convincing as mouse masquerading as a cat. Whenever I saw him on TV I used to laugh at how he tried to convince gullible people that his powers were genuine. 

To me it is praying on the grief of people and exploiting their vulnerability when they have lost somebody close.

Here is Harry Hill taking the mickey on his show TV Burp:

Why did I get the book? I told Mrs PM’s mum that I love anything supernatural. What I meant by that was I love ghost stores and weird stuff like that. Sadly I didn’t tell her that I hate any so-called paranormal experts because they have about as much ability in contacting people who have passed to the other side as I have – that is, none at all. 

She took that as a green light to buy me this:

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I thought the man was a cheating, lying charalatan. I didn’t read it.

15.  Tell us the worst gift you’ve ever given. What was the reaction of the recipient?  

I bought my youngest son a Furby (a joint present with his mother). 


On Christmas morning he opened it enthusiastically and stared at it open-mouthed. “Result!” I said and winked at my ex-wife who smiled back. 

“A FURBY?” he said with a look of total disgust and hurled it over his shoulder. He was five years old.

It wasn't intended to be a bad gift.

Monday, 5 April 2021

The Playlist

I have learned something about my relationship with Mrs PM during the year or so of lockdown and restrictions due to COVID-19. It is something that has surprised both of us. 

Over the past year, we have reserved a couple of hours on Friday and/or Saturday night to relax and just chat. Since we are locked down we cannot go out anywhere and so we just talk about life with the assistance of a glass of wine or a beer. 

We used to do this before lockdown in a pub or a restaurant and the one thing that we needed at home was some background music. Usually in a pub, you have no choice about the music that is playing in the background and, as you can imagine, the pop music that plays in these places is not my favourite. I tolerate it because I have to.

Home is a different matter. This is my home and I want to control the music. Mrs PM has the same outlook – she wants the control the music too.

The problem is that our tastes in music are poles apart. She likes dance music and all manner of modern pop music that I despise. I like older pop music and rock music, including progressive rock, heavy metal and basically (as she calls it) “weird music”.

There is no overlap. Here is a Venn Diagram illustrating the music we have in common.


I have all of my music stored electronically on my laptop and I still buy CDs because I want to own it. Mrs PM is transient in her taste and when she hears something she likes, she plays it to death and then discards it when she is fed up of it. She used to buy CDs and then commit an act of pure sacrilege that I can barely bring myself to type – she GIVES AWAY HER CDs. She thinks that I should do the same. 

I know – it’s incredible.

Now she has decided that she won’t buy any more CDs and has taken up a paid Spotify account. This is good for her and I also considered it but for reasons that I am not going to go into now, I decided against it. I have a free Spotify account that I sometimes use to discover new music which results in me buying the CD eventually.

We decided to treat ourselves to a Sonos speaker, a wireless device that you can speak to with Google Assistant and will allow us to set alarms, ask questions, and most importantly play music from Mrs PM’s Spotify account, opening us up to a vast database of music.

If only we could agree on what music to play, given that it has to live in the overlap in the Venn Diagram above.

One Friday, we decided to attack this problem head on. Our discussion was; “What music can we possibly have in common?”

At first we took the tentative steps down the path. 

MRS PM: Do you like Britney Spears?

PM: (having eventually stopped laughing) Of course not.

MRS PM: How about Rihanna? Or Madonna?

PM: NO! I hate them. Oh hang on – there are a couple of Madonna songs I quite like. 

This one:

That was a start. I asked about classic progressive rock and she agreed that this song was good:

That is two songs in common. Over the weeks, we have chatted about music for the first hour or so, popping songs onto the Sonos and either adding them to a Spotify playlist or discarding them. Both of us have been willing to experiment and listen to suggestions and it has only bloody well worked. 

We have built up a considerable playlist of music that we both actually like and this includes, broadly, 1970’s disco, some glam rock, 1970’s David Bowie, 1980’s electronic pop music, ELO, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, some Nine Inch Nails, one heavy metal song by System of a Down, Some Simon and Garfunkel, one Rush song, early Elton John, Blondie, The Police, Roxy Music, Muse and many many more.

We have between 250 and 300 songs that we can both listen to in the background without either of us complaining. And we are adding more each week.

That’s incredible.

We are both delighted because we can take this playlist with us on holiday or on trips and chat over background music that doesn’t leave one or both of us screaming “For crying out loud TURN THAT CRAP OFF!”

Here a couple of songs from the list to finish off.

The moral of the post is - you can always find common ground and something to agree on.


Saturday, 3 April 2021

Etsy


Welcome to a cold but sunny South Manchester on day 385 of COVID-19 restrictions. Spring is definitely in the air and as restrictions are slowly being lifted, the warmer weather and the potentially resurrected freedom we used to enjoy are slowly raising my spirits. Not that I am struggling, dear reader – on the contrary, I am absolutely fine and the daily routine is keeping me sane. 

Things will improve and that is delightful. 

Let’s leap into a set of questions, as usual compiled by Bev at Sunday Stealing

P.S. You may have noticed that I have corrected the questions from an English perspective, having replaced “favorite” with “favourite”. There are two reasons for this. First, the spelling is labelled as incorrect in Microsoft Word (because I use a UK spell checker) and secondly because I am English and not American. I don’t mind the fact that Americans use “favorite” at all; on the contrary – it means that I am fluent in another language – “American English”. I know the meaning of words like “diaper”, “sidewalk” and “faucet” as well as many others that our cousins across the pond have adopted. 

Anyway – enough nonsense – let’s dive in.

1. What’s your favourite kind of cake?

Black Forest Gateau by a country mile. In fact, I persuaded Mrs PM to buy one for Christmas Day instead of boring old Christmas Pudding, which I find too heavy. After eating Christmas Pudding, I can feel it squatting in my stomach for hours and days.

“Why have you got that tired and strange look on your face?” people ask.

“I am doing battle with Christmas Pudding,” I say with a sigh.

Black Forest Gateau is a culinary delight and about as evil as food can get – deliciously dark, with cream and a rich cherry filling. It is one of the best things to come out of Germany (apart from their wonderful beer). 

How can you truly resist this?


2. What’s your favourite cocktail?

As a rule, I don’t drink spirits of any kind, although occasionally I will have one if nothing else is available, or as an aperitif. The ones I have tried that are okay are Piña Colada and Tequila Sunrise – so I will opt for those two.

3. If you are alone for the evening, what do you fix yourself for dinner?

As I stated in the last post, I hate cooking. But if I have to cook for myself I will opt for a chicken pasta dish, a stir fry or a typical meat and two vegetable dish.

4. What make was your first car?

It was a Nissan Micra, one of the most reliable little cars I have ever had.

5. What is your height?

I am 5ft 11 inches, I think. My hair makes me look about 6ft 1 inch.

6. What was your least favourite toy as a child?

I don’t think I had a least favourite toy as a child. I had a very active imagination and absolutely everything that I owned could be used to form an elaborate framework for bringing elements of that imagination into reality. Toy soldiers would become an army to fight a giant (played brilliantly by Action Man), marbles would be used to stage football matches for example. I could us anything to create anything that allowed me to dive into my weird little mind, even it if seemed useless. 

7. What’s your favourite cartoon character?

Are we taking classic children’s cartoons or modern cartoons? I tell you what, I will do both. I used to love Scooby Doo, Wacky Races (particularly Dick Dastardly), the Pink Panther show and Tom and Jerry. 

Here’s an example:

Modern day cartoons? It has to be the Simpsons and my favourite is, of course, Homer himself. 

8. What’s your dream car?

I don’t really have a dream car. I guess the ideal car would be one that doesn’t break down, has enough room to accommodate the things I need to drive around, is economical and isn’t so expensive that people try to steal it

9. What’s your favourite pizza topping?

Anything with meat and cheese is good enough for me.

10. What’s your favourite sports team?

Sadly, my favourite sports team is a football team playing in the fourth tier of English football: Walsall FC. At the time I gave my soul to this football club, there were many other teams in the West Midlands that were bigger and better. My dad supported Walsall and he took me to the games – and I have never looked back, despite the fact that they will never compete with the Manchester United’s of this world. 

I have endured many years of people saying “Who?” or people thinking my team is called “Walsall 0” but they have given me enough pleasure to carry on supporting them. Not this year, sadly – they are not doing very well unfortunately.

Here is a game from this season, one of the few games we have won. We are playing in red. Note – the reason there are no spectators there is because of COVID-19 restrictions, not because we are so poor that nobody goes to see us.

11. What’s your favourite TV show?

At the moment it is a toss up between The Expanse and The Boys, both of which I am thoroughly enjoying at the moment.

12. What is your favourite ice cream?

I don’t eat much ice cream to be honest. However, I do like French and Italian ice creams and will always try some in those countries. Also, I do like Häagen-Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s chocolate ice cream.

13. What is your favourite song?

It is difficult to say. However, here are three that I really like at the moment – a pop song, a progressive rock song and a progressive metal song.



14. What’s your least favourite chore?

Cooking and ironing, I particularly hate ironing and I have tried many things in order to avoid it over the years. I have come close but, being a bit of a perfectionist, I can’t stand wearing creased clothes and nothing eliminates creases better than ironing. Mrs PM hates ironing even more than I do so no matter how many times I have tried to persuade her, I have failed, even to the point where she has suggested that I iron her things as well as my own.

15. What was your first job?

My first job was a newspaper delivery boy when I was a kid. I loved it, especially walking around the streets before anybody had arisen from their beds. 


Saturday, 27 March 2021

Cooking


Welcome to sunny South Manchester on day 378 of restrictions due to this bloody virus that is still lurking around the globe. 
Today’s Sunday Stealing has questions about a subject that is not very close to my heart at all – cooking. As you will see, I hate cooking – it is a necessary evil that I have to do. I have to say that thanks to the lockdown, Mrs PM has taken it upon herself to do most of the cooking. We used to take it in turns and I think once we are unleashed from the prison that we currently residing in, we will return to that arrangement. Besides, Mrs PM enjoys cooking and has used the opportunity to try some new recipes that have proven to be quite successful I have to say. 
Anyway, I will try to answer the questions based on my own past efforts at cooking. Strap yourselves in, folks; this is going to be one hell of a ride skirting around the edges of boredom.
1.  How often do you make food and eat it?
At the moment, rarely, as I said above. Under normal circumstances, however, we share the burden of cooking so I would say about 3 or 4 days a week. And of course, I eat all the time.
2.  Do you consider toasting bread, preparing instant noodles, or boiling an egg to be cooking? Why or why not?
Absolutely not. Any fool can do that – and I am living proof. Cooking involves careful preparation and constant monitoring. This is one of the reasons that it is way down the list of my favourite pastimes.
3.  What’s your favourite dish to make?
The only dishes I like to make are those that take the shortest amount of time possible. A prime example of this is probably chicken pasta. 
4.  Cooking or baking: what’s more fun? What’s more difficult?
This feels like being asked: what is more fun – being poked in the eye or kicked in the shin? If I had to apply the word fun to any element of cooking I would add the word “not” in front and “at all” after it. So I will answer the question: "What is the least annoying, cooking or baking?"
Cooking is the least annoying because baking can potentially be the most disastrous. If you spend hours baking and it turns out to be an inedible mess then you have wasted time that perhaps you could have spent more productively by, say, watching paint dry. I have baked in the dim and distant past (usually with the kids when they were younger) mostly, I have to say, with success. But on the occasions when it was a disaster, I was furious with myself. I felt it was time wasted.
5.  Who did most of the cooking in your house when you were growing up?
My dad used to take control of the Sunday meal and he would often try random recipes. Unlike me he enjoyed cooking and was very good at it. My mum cooked most of the rest of the time and she was pretty good too.
6.  How have you learned the cooking skills that you have?
I went to an all-boys school and cookery wasn’t even an option like it is in some schools. Clearly it didn’t regard this necessary life skill as academic enough for its pupils.
My mum taught me the basics when I left home for university in Liverpool and since then I have really taught myself from recipes in books. Mrs PM has taught me a few things though. 
7.   Have you ever taken a cooking course? If so, what did you learn? If not, would you like to do one? What would you like to learn?
No. I wouldn’t like to take one either because, as I said, I would be bored stupid.
8.   Have you tried cooking food from another culture? What did you prepare? How was it?
I have cooked Italian food, Mexican food and dabbled with curry. In fact, just give me a recipe and I will do my best to have a go with it – if I am feeling particularly masochistic.
9.   Is it cost-effective to do your own cooking? Can you save money by cooking?
Of course it is more cost-effective. Most people cook their own food in the UK but equally we do love to go out to restaurants too. Restaurants tend to be more expensive so, yes, you can save money by cooking yourself.
10.  Would you rather do the cooking or do the washing up afterwards?
We have a dishwasher and I am happy looking after that side of things at the moment. When we get back to the post-lockdown routine, we will share the load – whoever cooks doesn’t do the dishes.
11.  Do you use recipes to cook? If so, where do you get the best recipes? Do you get them from friends, family, online, or from cookbooks?
No. I don’t use recipes unless, as I said, I am feeling particularly masochistic. We have a load of cookbooks around, including one by that dingbat Jamie Oliver. Mrs PM was given it as a Christmas present and I have tried my best to throw it out. When I am World President, Jamie Oliver will be the head cook in a team of terrible TV chefs on the spaceship that I intend to build to rid the planet of all the odious people. To be fair, I haven’t seen many TV chefs that I actually like so most of them will be on the spaceship too.
Bloody Jamie Oliver
Here is one of our more famous chefs who likes a drop of wine, as you can see when she offered words of encouragement to her favourite football team. Her name is Delia Smith and she is on the spaceship as well.
12.  Have you ever tried to prepare some food and just totally ruined it? What happened?
Once or twice. We had some friends round for dinner a few years ago and Mrs PM asked me to make risotto and a dessert from a recipe book. The risotto was a massive success. The dessert was a total and utter disaster that resulted in me throwing it away in disgust and rushing to the shops to replace with a cheesecake.
13. Do you prefer cooking at home or eating out at a restaurant? Why?
If you have been paying attention to any of the answers above you will know that I prefer eating out in a restaurant to cooking myself. If Mrs PM is cooking then I am delighted to eat at home.
14. Is cooking a social activity for you? Do you like to do it with other people, or do you prefer to do it alone?
I prefer to cook on my own and with no interference – even from Mrs PM. When I am cooking, I ban her and anybody else from the kitchen. I am amazed when I see the plethora of cooking shows on TV where so-called celebrities spend three hours wittering on about mindless nonsense while preparing a dish guided by celebrity chefs who will ultimately end up on my spaceship when I am elected.
This makes me sound like a truly miserable old git but this is what cooking does to me, dear reader. I am a nice guy really and cooking turns me into a monster.
15. Do you have a lot of cooking equipment? How often do you use it all? Do you have any pieces of equipment that you rarely ever use?
We have enough cooking equipment to make the things we like to make. The only cooking equipment we are lacking is an unpaid chef who will do our cooking for us. I have looked for one online but they are inconsiderate and regard “working for free” as an insult to their integrity. 

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Blog Challenge

 


Welcome to a cloudy but warm South Manchester on day 371 of the Covid-19 restrictions. Tomorrow is the first day of Spring and the weather is improving every day. I was quite warm on my morning walk today and had to take off my coat at the end of the three mile stroll.

It’s frustrating because at this time of year we are usually planning our trips abroad but the ongoing pandemic is putting this in jeopardy. I have prepared myself for not travelling for the second year in succession but we may get the chance towards the end of the year – maybe. 

Still, infections are low in the UK and vaccinations continue at pace and I can see then end coming soon.

Shall we have some fun with some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. An unforgettable day in my life.

There have been a lot of unforgettable days in my life and it is difficult to pick one to be honest with you. Most of them involve travelling to places and seeing or doing something amazing. 

Perhaps, visiting the Kremlin in Moscow and then getting drunk with a work colleague in a Mexican restaurant with tequila later the same evening. 

Or perhaps catching a train to the Great Wall from Beijing and walking up and down this immense and magnificent undulating structure. 

Or maybe climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge (something I did despite my fear of heights). 

Or bringing in the new year in Times Square, New York City in temperatures of 15 degrees Centigrade below zero and then walking back to the hotel via an Irish Bar and eventually wobbling home at 3am with the streets full yellow cabs flying around. 

Or maybe just seeing my son graduate from university.

Or perhaps seeing the birth of my two sons. 

See what I mean? Too many to consider. 

2. My favourite snacks

I love cheese on toast, nachos with hummus, flame raisins, sour cream and onion Pringles, cheese on crackers, a banana, plums, nectarines, Granny Smith apples, peaches – again too many to mention.

3. My biggest fashion accessory

I don’t really do fashion accessories. I’m a grumpy 58 year old git. 

4. My biggest celebrity crush

Actually, there have been a few recently. We’ve started watching Modern Family, the American sitcom and I have to say that it is probably Sofia Vergara at the moment.

5. One hobby I would like to learn

As I close in on the end of my career, I shall be looking closely at new hobbies. A couple are out there; 

Improve my creative writing and finally write that book that is inside, learn a guitar, learn a piano, become fluent in Spanish, or maybe even take up IT as a hobby when I finally do leave it as a career (just concentrating on the fun side of it and things that I want to do rather than those chosen for me).

6. My OCD habits

I am slightly OCD partly because Mrs PM can be scatterbrained. I always double check that doors are locked when I go out or go to bed for example. The same with the car – make sure that it is locked. The pandemic has also made me a little bit of a germophobe. I have washed my hands so much over the past year that I have had to use Mrs PM’s moisturiser to deal with dry skin that has appeared.

7. If I could eat one last meal

It would have to be a traditional Sunday roast I think. 

8. Working on my fitness

When I was younger, I was very fit; I used to swim, run, play football and any other sport that I could. I gave most of that up in my late thirties and eventually started again with gym work before stopping (I find gyms really boring). 

These days I walk a lot but I could do more I think. Several years ago I set myself a target of 6000 steps a day but increased that to 7000 in order to force myself to get out there and do stuff. I have achieved that every month for the past two or three years, sometimes exceeding that for some months. I might just add another 1000 steps to my target next year. 

9. What I spend money on

Nothing at the moment. In the past year, I have only bought things like CDs. During a normal year though, I will have a blitz with clothes, or spend my money on travelling and everything else associated with that. If Mrs PM had her way, a lot of money would be spent on the house but thankfully that doesn’t happen that often.

10. My favourite recipe

I can cook but I hate it. My favourite of the ones that I attempt involve pasta, probably meatballs and spaghetti. 

Mrs PM is an excellent cook – she can make a wonderful curry and her paella is incredible.

11. The best part of each season

Winter – There is nothing good about winter at all apart from the weeks leading up to Christmas. January and February are the worst months of the year. 

Spring – It is almost spring now and the flowers are out and the buds are starting to appear on the trees. I just love the fact that winter is over and the weather is improving.

Summer – my favourite season by a country mile. Warm and long days, plenty to do both here in the UK and abroad. The UK is a green country but the whole place comes to life in summer.

Autumn – autumn is good because the leaves change and produce wonderful colours. Usually at the start, the weather is still warm, thanks to the summer and, of course, my birthday is in the autumn.

12. A life lesson I’ve learned

Do not let stress get the better of you. Push back and try to be happy. Always smile at people and try to do a good deed when you can.

13. My inspiration to blog

I have always loved writing (even though I write nonsense and am not very good at it) and the main plan is to eventually write a proper book (not a travelogue like the couple I’ve written). Basically the blog has given me an opportunity to write and get it out there into the world. I don’t really care whether anybody reads it or not. I just find it cathartic. 

14. What’s inside my closet?

I don’t have a closet. I have a cupboard under the stairs if that counts. What’s in there? A vacuum cleaner, coats, electricity meter, lots of books, notes and photos and quite a lot of junk.

15. Let me brag a minute.

I don’t like to brag at all. I am just a modest guy who like to make people feel happy, with a wise crack or just a little conversation. If I can make somebody smile then I am happy. 

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Ask Anything

 

Welcome to an unsettled South Manchester on day 363 of Covid-19 restrictions. The weather is a little odd at the moment, sunny one minute and raining the next. It is typical or late winter/early spring and thankfully it is starting to get warmer. 

Shall we just dive straight in with another set of questions from Sunday Stealing

1 Do You Sleep With Your Closet Doors Open Or Closed?

I don’t have a closet in my bedroom. If I did I would close it, simply because if I didn’t then Ziggy and Star(dust) would creep in there and start creating mischief while I slept. In fact, we have had to ban the cats from our bedroom because they have a tendency to wake us up in the middle of the night by walking all over us, playing with our feet, jumping on us, sticking their bums in our faces, play fighting with each other on the bed or a combination of all of the above.

Talking of closets, we do have a cupboard under the stairs that is a little like a closet, which remains closed for the same reason, i.e. potential cat mischief.

2 Do You Have Freckles?

I am blonde and fair-skinned so the answer is yes. In fact when I am a hot place and in direct sunshine they are clearly visible.

3 Can You Whistle?

If you mean the kind of whistle that doesn’t involve putting my fingers in my mouth then the answer is yes. I can, as they say, whistle a happy tune.

4 Last Song You Listened To.

Heart of Amsterdam by The Gentle Storm, featuring the incredible Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals. It is a real potpourri of styles, with elements of folk and symphonic rock, including pan pipes, strings and electric guitars, with a joint guitar and violin sole towards the end.

The video is pretty good with images of the city of Amsterdam, one of my favourite cities in the world, a place I have visited through work countless times as well as being there for weekends. Here it is.

I need to go back to Amsterdam when all of this pandemic nonsense is over. I miss the place.

5 Name Something That Relaxes You.

Ambient music. Something like this:

6 What Sounds Are Your Favourite?

One of the good things about walking first thing in the morning while everybody is still asleep is that you can watch the sun rise, especially at this time of the year. As the sun peeps up over the horizon, you can hear the dawn chorus, as just about every bird announces to every other bird that the day’s machinations are about to begin. It is a paradox; so peaceful and yet so noisy. I feel totally relaxed. Similarly, a walk in the countryside during the summer can have the same effect as I listen to a soundscape that is devoid of cars and full of nature with birds, insects and farmyard creatures composing their own music for my pleasure. 

I also love the sound of the ocean gently lapping onto a beach. 

7 What Do You Wear To Bed?

It depends on the time of year and how warm it is. During winter, I wear a long-sleeved T shirt loungewear trousers. In the summer I tend to just wear underpants. I am not a pretty sight when I get out of bed.

8 Do You Sing In The Shower?

Sometimes if I am the only person in the house. If Mrs PM is around then no. The reason is that my singing voice is like that of a cat being tortured.

9 What Books Are You Reading?

At the moment I am reading two books. The first is The Creative Writing Coursebook which is full of tips and tricks and advice for budding writers. The second is a novel called Recursion by Blake Crouch, which I have just started.

10 Do You Believe In Magic?

No. I do love to watch a magician in action and I always try to work out how they have done what they have done. The truth is that they are basically entertaining tricksters and it is just an illusion. This guy is one of my favourites.

11 Can You Curl Your Tongue?

Yes I can. 

12 Have You Ever Caught A Butterfly?

I have caught a moth and thrown it out of the window. In Australia, however, I inadvertently caught a few butterflies at the Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda, Australia. A couple of them landed on me.

13 Name One Movie That Made You Cry.

I have been known to blub like a baby at some movies but the one that got me the most was The Elephant Man. This scene in particular.

14 Peanuts Or Sunflower Seeds?

I love peanuts, particularly dry roast peanuts. Mrs PM hates them, especially the smell of them, which she says makes her want to vomit. 

15 Are You A Heavy Sleeper?

No, sadly. If a mouse moves a pebble in my front garden I ping awake and sit up saying “What was that?” This is another reason why the cats are banned from the bedroom.


Tuesday, 9 March 2021

The Peeping Tom

 

Part of my daily pandemic routine involves getting up on a normal working day and, after feeding the two demanding young cats that are my new masters, I go for a three-mile walk. This happens at roughly 6am in the morning when most sane people are asleep in their warm beds dreaming of a time when the world isn’t being ravaged by a nasty virus.

In the winter months a walk can be an unpleasant experience; it is dark, cold and sometimes pouring with rain. You may ask what the appeal of subjecting myself to the cold and hostile elements of Manchester at 6am in January can be.

I ask myself the very same question.

However, at that time of day, whether it is January or March, it is really peaceful. There are very few cars and people around and the streets are calm and quiet. I remember that I used to love walking the streets doing a morning paper round as a kid for exactly the same reason.

I can walk along, drift into my own little world and contemplate life, the universe and everything, while at the same time getting some exercise. Sometimes I am accompanied by Mrs PM, other times I am on my own with just my iPod for company.

It is blissful, even when it is raining.

There is one downside though and try as I might, I find that I cannot avoid it.

I sometimes feel like I am a Peeping Tom.

Okay, I can imagine that you are considering clicking the little X in the corner of your browser window now and the one thought that is running through your head is “I didn’t know that this man was such a bloody pervert!” and imagine me creeping up to people’s houses to peer into their window with a lecherous and leering look on my grinning face.

You are 100% wrong.

Allow me to explain and hopefully put your mind at rest. As I walk along the street in the darkness of a cold, winter morning, I find my gaze drifting towards houses and seeing no lights in most of them because people are in bed. Sometimes, however, I see the odd bedroom light on. On other occasions, people are up and about and downstairs lights are on.

In almost all cases, the people concerned value their privacy and keep their blinds, shutters or curtains closed.

Sadly, there are those people – let’s call them exhibitionists – who want to let everybody outside know exactly what they are doing. These people open their curtains, blinds or whatever, switch on their lights and then, for reasons I have yet to fathom, do whatever they need to do in full view of anybody who happened to be walking outside their house.

I am very paranoid about allowing people to stare into my house when it is dark outside. My curtains and shutters are closed as soon as the sun sinks behind the horizon and they remain so until I am fully dressed and sun has popped up again. 

The last thing I want to see is a person – any person – gazing into my house as I go about my business. 

Now I can imagine another thought going through your head dear reader – “What on Earth are you doing in your house that you don’t want people to see?”

The answer is “Nothing – of course!” What do you think I am? I am just a normal geezer and I am nothing like this bloke or any of the people he spies on:

Call me weird if you like but I like my privacy.

And this is why, when I see these people opening themselves to the world for all to see at 6am on a dark winter morning, I think they are peculiar.

Why would you do that? 

And I can now guess that thinking – “Well, Peeping Tom, you don’t HAVE to look.”

And you would be right (except for calling me Peeping Tom). I don’t have to look but I find my eyes subconsciously drawn to any light source at that time of the morning. I’m not even aware that I am doing it until see somebody eating his breakfast staring back at me. 

In my head, I am miles away on a voyage through my imagination thinking about budding novels about vampires, aliens and space wars. The last thing I want to see is an old bloke eating his cornflakes in his pyjamas.

When this happens, I have a deep urge to march up to his window and scream “Shut your bloody curtains, man! Nobody wants see you chomping on your toast in your jim-jams you bloody weirdo!”

Of course, I don’t do that and you will be pleased to know that I avert my eyes from these exhibitionists as quickly as possible.

They can ruin my walk. I am brought crashing back to reality, away from the space opera in my head and as I continue, I have to start again and expunge the image of the old so and so from my brain, lest it remain there and ruin my creativity.

Thankfully, it is now March and as I take my walks, my eyes can be drawn towards the rising sun and the wonderful dawns that appear instead of electric lights showing people getting dressed. 

They are much more wonderful as you can see here from a photo taken late last week.

When I am World President, exhibitionism will become a crime and anybody caught revealing the insides of their homes at 6am on a British Winter morning will be confined to their houses throughout summer with their blinds, shutters and curtains nailed shut. 
Apart from that I shall be a benevolent leader – I just don’t like exhibitionists.