Sunday, 2 August 2020

Upstream Life

Welcome to lockdown day 132 in Manchester, UK. On Thursday at midnight, the government imposed more restrictions on various places in England, including, sadly, Greater Manchester. The reasons for the increased restrictions is that the infection rate is creeping up again. In Greater Manchester there are areas where the rate is unacceptable. Where I live is okay but, being a city, it is easy to get from the places in the north of the city with a higher rate to my area, so the government has imposed the restrictions on the whole city.
This now means that we can’t go to another household, either to their garden or inside the house. Yet we can go to the pub as a household but not to meet another household in that pub. So if I go to a pub and see somebody in that pub who I know, do I have to leave? Or do I pretend that I don’t know him?
I’m a bit surprised that they didn’t close pubs and restaurants. 
Also, I have had a second lockdown haircut, thanks to Mrs PM (even though the barbers are open I ‘m not quite ready to go there for a haircut just yet). I also trimmed my beard because one of my bosses referred to me as “Grizzly Adams” on a company briefing session. I reacted by saying “You’re only jealous because I have more hair on my beard than you do on your head”, which caused a lot of amusement and probably burned a little bridge. 
I don’t care; if you can’t take it, don’t give it, I say. I don’t care if you are a member of the “senior Leadership Team” or not. 
Honestly, it won’t matter because I have known the guy in question for about 30 years. I did enjoy the comeback though.
What else is there to do on a lockdown Sunday but answer some questions from Sunday Stealing
Let’s dive in.
1. Name 5 people you admire and why
I am full of admiration for a lot of people I know. You won’t know them at all so I will talk about 5 people you might be aware of instead.
(a) Barack Obama – I usually try to ignore American politics and I don’t care who the President is. He is the leader of another country so why should I be interested? There are two exceptions. The first is the Orange Goblin currently living in the White House and I have absolutely no respect for the lying malignant narcissist. The other is Barack Obama who I have a lot of respect for because not only did he win two elections as a black man against the odds, he also wanted to do the right thing for his country and I felt like America was changing for the better during his 8 year tenure. Sadly, it has all gone pear-shaped now.
(b) Sir David Attenborough – He has been around my entire life, leading documentaries about the world around us and always trying to pass across the message about how we should look after our planet because it is a wondrous place. Recently he has highlighted the plight of the oceans and the harmful effects of climate change. A true legend.
(c) Sir Bobby Charlton – When I was growing up as a kid, Bobby Charlton was the footballer we all wanted to be. He played for Manchester United (okay – that’s a problem but I will forgive him) and he was in the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. A few years ago, i caught a flight to Zurich for work, and when I boarded the plane, the great man was sitting in the second row. I almost had an accident and was torn whether to just ask him for his autograph or just give him the privacy I knew he would want. I chose to just nod and smile at him – he smiled back. 
(d) Dave Grohl – known as the nice man of rock, Dave Grohl always surprises me when interviewed as being a nice down to earth guy. In Cesena, Italy, 1000 musicians played a massive version of Learning to Fly and he rewarded them by taking his band to the town and playing a 27 song set to them – and he was recovering from a broken leg having fallen off the stage some months earlier.
(e) John Cleese – I love John Cleese and he has been making me laugh all of my life, from the early days with Monty Python as well as Basil Fawlty and A Fish Called Wanda. He is still funny even now when interviewed. No other reason – he just makes me life.
There are more that I admire but these are the ones that immediately leapt to mind.
2. When was the last time you did something adventurous?
Every time I travel it is an adventure. I guess the last time I did something adventurous when travelling was a trip to Vietnam where I fired a gun for the very first time. I was terrified of doing so but I managed it. Sadly I didn’t hit the target. The whole trip was one huge adventure.
3. You felt you got older when _______
I would say when I had finished university and moved to Manchester and started work. I opened my first pay packet and saw the amount of tax I had paid to Margaret Thatcher’s dreadful government. I realized then that I was no longer a young idiot having fun in university and now had to join the rat race that has haunted me for the past 3 years. It was time to grow up.
4. What one thing that could happen today would make you extremely happy?
I would suggest that perhaps might be the total elimination of the coronavirus that is causing the pandemic we are all enduring. As far as I am concerned 2020 is written off now and I just hope we can get back to normal in 2021.
5. An experience you don’t want to go through again.
A pandemic that restricts my life.
6. One decision you made that changed your life completely.
The day that Mrs PM told me how she felt about me in Hong Kong. I decided to run with it and I have never looked back.
7. How do you participate in saving the earth?
I don’t really do as much as I should. For example, under normal circumstances I will willingly travel to distant places on an aircraft that is spewing out noxious fumes. My car still runs on petrol when really it should be electric or at least a hybrid. The infrastructure for electric cars is improving in the UK and I will one day buy one, that’s if I don’t just give up on my car and embrace public transport first. Actually, I do use public transport when I can and I also recycle. I could do more.
8. A gift you would like to get on your next birthday?
Enough cash to retire would be nice.
9. Things you miss about your childhood?
I miss the freedom that I had as a kid. I was very active and basically had a great time playing in the adjacent park. I wish I had had a pedometer then because I am sure that I would broken all records walking and running around – that’s all I seemed to do. I also loved the innocence and naivety that I had back then; as you get older, you realise that life is not as simple as you think and that is why I am a grumpy old cynic now.
10. The greatest invention?
The computer, which is the basis for every bit of technology we enjoy at the moment, such as smartphones. And they have kept me in a job for 36 years.
11. Your favourite super hero
The Incredible Hulk, closely followed by Spiderman, Batman and Superman. I think Wonder Woman is wonderful too but that is because I have a crush on the actresses who have played her.
12. Your views about veganism
I have no problem with veganism. I used to work with a vegan and I had an interesting discussion with him about his beliefs. That was in the early 1990s before the popularity of veganism rose. Most vegans I have met are fine people but I believe there are a few militant vegans out there. I’m glad I haven’t met one of those yet.
13. If you could be anything else in the world, what would you be?
A writer – if I were good enough. I would probably be a travel writer which would give me a great excuse to see even more of the world (as if I need an excuse).
14. How did you parents meet?
I’ve only heard my mum’s side. She told me that she was having a picnic with lady friends in the Arboretum in Walsall (a large Victorian park close to the town centre). My dad walked past with some of his pals and they gate-crashed the picnic to try to chat up the women. It worked in the case of my dad. My mum was about 17 and my dad was 19. The rest is history.
15. Your morning routine.
On a normal workday …
I get up at 6am and immediately have a shower. I get dressed, feed the cat if Mrs PM is still in bed, and then drive to the office.
On a lockdown workday …
I get up at 6am and immediately go for a 30 minute walk, usually with Mrs PM. I come back, have a shower, get dressed and start work in the place were I am typing this now.
On a normal weekend …
I get up any time between 7am and 9am (depending on what time I went to bed), have a shower, have breakfast and decide on a plan for the day.
On a lockdown weekend …
I get up any time between 7am and 9am (depending on what time I went to bed), go for a longer walk with Mrs PM (usually an hour or so), return, have a shower and breakfast and decide on a plan for the day.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

More From Facebook

Welcome to sunny Manchester in the north of England on lockdown day 118. Things are easing slowly but surely but it is a tedious process. I’m still working from home and it looks like I will be for the next few months at least. The good news is that the rate of new infections and deaths is very slowly falling and we are now at the stage in the UK where local lockdowns may be in force in the future. For example, Leicester is still under a much more strict lockdown than the rest of the country at least for a couple more weeks. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that this could happen to Manchester too – but so far we are doing okay here.
Anyway – enough waffle. Let’s answer some questions from Sunday Stealing
1. What's your favourite movie from your childhood and why?
Even as a child I loved Science Fiction films so I will go for a real weird one; Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. I loved the TV series as well as the films. I even read the books of the films. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was the best of the film series.

2. What is home to you?
They say that an Englishman’s home is his castle. Sadly, I don’t own a castle – though I would love to. Instead I have a three-bedroomed red-brick terraced house in a suburb of South Manchester which I share with Mrs PM and a nervous 18 year old black cat called Poppy. This is my home but I regard the city of Manchester as my home. 
3. Do you get emotionally invested in stories? (I'm asking about movies, books, tv shows, whatever medium you like your stories in.)
Definitely. Whenever I read a story, I am the hero. I become him (or her if the hero happens to be a woman) and feel their emotions, urge them to do the right thing and suffer when they inevitably do not and end up in a traumatic situation. I find myself questioning their choices sometimes and reprimanding them for what they have done. In movies I can actually get quite emotional and sometimes a tear falls down my cheek even in the oddest movies. The Elephant Man still tears my heart in two.
4. What is the most physical damage you've ever received without needing medical intervention (so no stitches or splints or anything)?
I don’t think I’ve ever been seriously damaged physically. I was once very stupid and was riding a bike with a passenger on the saddle. We were hurtling down a hill when I hit a pothole and we both went over the handlebars. I landed face first on the tarmac and my passenger landed on top of me. I thought that I had lost my two front teeth but thankfully all I did was chip one of them and had to walk home with an enormous fat lip. I looked like I had lost a street brawl with Mohammed Ali. That front tooth is now a crown. I was about 15 years old.
5. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Not very far I would imagine. If there were a televised sporting event called “Woodchuck wood chucking” I would definitely watch it.
6. Do you have any obsessions? Like Tv shows, or cats or something. Not addictions.
You are talking to somebody who suffers from a mild form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder so the answer is yes. My main obsession is music and I cannot sit in silence; I have to have some music of some form in the background. For example I am typing this with a song playing in the background. I like a lot of TV shows and movies but I wouldn’t say that my obsession stretches that far. I like to watch shows but I am not obsessed with any of them really. 
7. What question or questions would you like God to answer?
Will you please come to visit me to prove that you actually exist? Will you please allow me to compile a list of questions to ask you? Can I take a selfie with you to show the world?
8. Do you bite your nails?
I used to but I stopped in my twenties.
9. What do you like about the place you live, I mean your housing, apt, house, mobile home, etc.
My house is a bit like Dr Who’s TARDIS because it looks small from the outside but is a lot larger inside than you would imagine. It is deep rather than wide, with a lounge, a backroom, which Mrs PM calls my “man cave” but really doubles as a second lounge, my office and a dining room if required. The kitchen is fairly large too and we have two double bedrooms and a smaller one at the back of the house. We have a nice garden that gets the sun all day when it dares to peep out from behind the rainclouds. 
The mortgage has been paid off and I am happy with that as you can imagine. The house is in a nice area of Manchester with a tram that can whisk us into the city in about 20 minutes and everything we need is within reach. A 20 minute drive south takes us into the Cheshire countryside for walks so we have the best worlds; close to a city and close to the beautiful rural English countryside.
I am very content here.
10. What do you like about the city or town where you live?
Manchester is the (unofficial) second city of England. Officially that award goes to Birmingham (near to where I used to live) but Manchester is more vibrant and is certainly the capital of the north of England in many people’s eyes. The people are very friendly, unlike those in London who just walk past you avoiding eye contact. Here is a news report about a man who left Manchester and had trouble in London:

Seriously, though, Manchester is an amazing place and I would urge anybody from overseas to come and visit us just to see for yourselves. Bring your umbrella though.
11. Is there one place you have visited that you wish you could live there?
Hong Kong. I love the place and I try to get back there as often as I can. It’s a real shame what is going on there at the moment and my heart breaks every time I see the news reports about China stamping down on citizens’ rights.
12. What's your favourite cookie to snack on?
I don’t eat biscuits as a rule (or cookies to American readers). But I do quite like Dark Chocolate Hobnobs.

13. Are you a Apple person or PC type person and why?
I still own an Apple iPod but I am a PC person – or an Android person when it comes to phones. I am not a huge fan of Microsoft at all and the only real reason I buy Windows PC’s and laptops is because I know more about the operating system. Similarly with Android phones. There is much more choice in the Android world and Android itself is based on Unix which I use in my day to day work. Basically, I think that Apple products are overpriced for what they are.
14. What's your favourite things about the Zoo?
I’m not a huge fan of zoos because I feel sorry for the creatures cooped up inside them. Having said that, I am fascinated with the animals you see there, like elephants, tigers, lions, apes, monkeys etc.
15. Did you grow up in the country, city or small town and what did you like about it (or hate about it if you didn’t like it?)
I grew up in a fairly large industrial town called Walsall which is about 10 miles north west of the official second city in England, Birmingham. I liked the fact that it was close to Birmingham, about a 15 minute train ride away but the town itself was not the most exciting place to live. It was okay but I wasted no time leaving the area when I was able to do so. I occasionally go back there but Manchester is a far better place to live. 
16. What kinds of things were you into and do when you were growing up?
I was quite an academic kid and definitely a geek. I still am. I read an awful lot and my curiosity was never satisfied. I would constantly ask questions, particularly about scientific subjects. I devoured science fiction programmes and films and also escaped into my own little world, creating stories in room with action figures. I was deeply into music, as I am now, and would lie on the bed with my eyes closed listening to pop music and heavy metal, sometimes pretending that I was in the band. I also loved football as I still do and tried to watch as much sport as I could. We lived next to a park so I also spent a lot of time playing football with friends.
Not an awful lot has changed to be honest – apart from the fact that I don’t play football any more.
I am still a geek.
17 .Do you enjoy receiving letters or postcards more, and why?
I haven’t received a letter or postcard for years and years. With social media, such things have become obsolete. I do dabble in social media and it is nice to be pinged occasionally.
18. Do or did you know any of your great-grandparents? Tell me about them.
I never met them. I did a little research about them recently when offered their services for free for a short while to commemorate VE Day and discovered that on my mother’s side, my great grandfather was a brass worker, i.e. he made things out of brass. Walsall, my home town, is famous for its leather products and in the past the town was the centre of the saddle-making industry in England. This was the occupation of another of my great-grandfather.
19. Do you like to be outdoors? What is your favourite thing to do there?
I do like being outdoors, even when it is raining if I’m honest. These days, I generally go for long walks either around the local area or in the countryside.
20. Have you ever broken a bone or been badly injured?
No. I guess I’ve been lucky.
And finally. 
I discovered a video on You Tube that I want to share. It is a song by a man from my hometown of Walsall that highlights the accent.
 I can imagine that you think I have a clipped English accent. I guess I would describe it as a neutral northern English accent, having lived in Manchester for 36 of my 57 years. However, for the first 18 years of my life, you would struggle to understand what I was saying. Walsall is in an area of England called the Black Country, so called because it was one of the industrial centres of the country and the by-product of all that industry was black smoke and soot. 
So really I come from the Black Country, and we are also called Yam Yams because really, I guess, that is what our accent sounds like. Have a listen to this song and see if you can imagine me speaking like this. It’s called “Am Yow a Yam Yam” which roughly translated means “Are you from the Black Country”? 
By the way, a person from Birmingham is called a Brummie and although that accent is similar to the Black Country accent at least you can understand it.
If you can understand it then I take off my hat to you.
Good luck and I hope you enjoy it. 

Sunday, 5 July 2020

How's the Weather?

We are still in lockdown in the UK but things are easing. Yesterday pubs, hairdressers and “non-essential” shops opened, meaning that we are heading in the right direction over here. Social distancing is still recommended and we are pretty good at being sensible here – except when alcohol is involved of course. 
I don’t intend to try going to a pub this week but I did take a walk yesterday to see what was happening. In the afternoon people were finally getting their hair cut and sensibly drinking a pint in pubs. However, as the evening wore on, especially in London, the news reported that people were being a little blasé with social distancing. 
Still, the good news is that the number of new cases is dropping now; we are in the realms of around 500 to 600 new cases per day (as opposed to 5000 to 6000 a few weeks ago). 
As much as we hated the restrictions, they do seem to be working. Let’s just hope that there aren’t any more spikes now some of them are being lifted.
In the UK, we seem to be obsessed with the weather and it therefore seems apt to answer a few questions about our favourite subject from Sunday Stealing
Shall we dive in?
1. Have you ever had a vacation ruined by the weather or did you just work around it?
Yes. A few years ago, we flew halfway across the world to go to Thailand, more specifically the island of Koh Samui. Sadly we messed up because as we landed we discovered that we were right in the middle of the rainy season. Had we travelled further north we would have been fine. 
I love thunderstorms and when they explode around my vicinity I watch them in fascination. You would have thought that I would have enjoyed several thunderstorms a day for the best part of a week. 
I didn’t. 
I watched the storm on the first day from the hotel balcony, trying to take photographs of lightning and failing. But when the storm continued day after day I was sick of them. One day when the rain stopped, we went for a walk only to have an hour’s respite before the next storm came. We sheltered in a bar for a couple of hours as the rain poured down so hard that the streets were flooded. In the end we walked back to the hotel in shin-deep water. Thankfully it was still very hot and I had shorts and beach shoes on so it wasn’t too bad. 
The whole holiday was a total disaster.
2. What small changes do you feel people could make to give the planet a fighting chance against global warming?
I would think that if people walked, cycled or even used public transport more then their individual carbon footprint would be reduced. We have seen the effects of lockdown in various countries on carbon emissions. There is a lesson to be learned right there.
3. Are you adversely affect by the weather, such as SAD?
Only in winter. I am generally a happy person but in January and February, when the days are short, cold and grey I feel less happy. This time of year is the best because the days are really long; the sun comes up at around 4am and sets at around 9:30pm. 
4. How is the weather where you are and have you seen drastic changes in it during your life time?
At the moment we are having a rather wet July. The sun is out but there are grey clouds. May this year was fantastic, with the sun shining and the temperature being in the high twenties most days. Summers in England tend to be warm but there is usually rain at some point. 
Over my lifetime I have seen some amazing changes in weather. In Walsall, were I was born and lived for 18 years, winters were quite harsh and if there was snow in the UK there was snow in Walsall. In Manchester, we rarely get snow – which is fine by me because I hate the stuff – but we do get more than our fair share of rain. In the last few years, I have noticed the temperature rising, culminating in a summer in 2018 where it hardly rained for three months and the temperature was constantly in the mid to high twenties, reaching the heady heights of mid thirties on a few days. 
That was odd. But every day we see records being broken in the UK, particularly with heat and rainfall. This is why is difficult to deny that there is something going on in terms of climate change.
5. Do you think we can stop global warming or is it too late?
I think that it’s too late but that we can take steps to mitigate it. Unfortunately I don’t see this happening unless we have regular COVID-19 lockdowns. One thing I hope is that the effects of the lockdown on the environment may actually wake people up and make them act differently. There are too many climate change sceptics around to make a difference. We can only hope that technology and the introduction of new ways of travelling and behaving in the future can do something. The trends do not support this though and I fear we are on a downward spiral, particularly when our so-called leaders do not believe it is a problem (and yes I am talking about the Orange Goblin in the White House, Bolsonaro in Brazil and Xi Jinping in China).
6. What could you do for an hour or so today that you would really enjoy doing?
Mrs PM has gone to see here mother for the first time since the lockdown and I have the house to myself. I will take the opportunity to do a little writing (I have rebooted my third travelogue, which is all about a trip to Japan about 7 years ago) before watching a football match on TV in a couple of hours. It will all be thoroughly enjoyable. 
7. What could you do for an hour today that might improve your life in the future?
I am looking forward to retirement and have been concentrating on working out when it is feasible to do so. I plan to spend a little time on this too hopefully. 
8. What could you do for an hour today that could strengthen or improve a skill you would like to be able to rely on?
As I said above, a little writing. The blog is good practice and also a little freewriting and attacking the travelogue will all help to get me into the groovy habit of writing and hopefully improve my technique.
9. What could you do for an hour today that would make your living space more pleasant to live in?
The living space is already quite pleasant. I’ve already put some washing in and cleaned up the kitchen after lunch. It took about an hour so that’s a good result.
10. What could you do for an hour today that would improve your relationships with loved ones?
Call them I guess. I could have gone with Mrs PM to see here mother but, being a hypochondriac, I’m still a little uncomfortable about taking advantage of the lowering of restrictions. I’ll get there but not just yet.
11. Do you like, dislike, or pay no attention to the wind?
I love the wind. There is no better feeling than climbing up a high hill on a windy day and getting a lungful of fresh untainted air. It’s totally exhilarating.
12. Do you have allergies or sinus made worse by the wind?
My only real allergy is hay fever and that is probably aggravated by the wind if I’m honest. Luckily, I only suffer in June and it has massively improved over the years, so much so that I no longer have to take medication for it. 
13. Have you ever been caught in a big wind (not a hurricane or tornado)?
Yes – many times. It is not pleasant if it is accompanied by rain though.
14. When was the last time you flew a kite?
I have never flown a kite nor do I have any intention of trying to do so. I think it is pointless – sorry.
15.Would you like to have the power of flight?
Of course (assuming that I could get over my fear of heights). Every time I see birds hopping around from tree to tree or just gliding around I am filled with envy.

Sunday, 28 June 2020


Welcome to day 97 of the Coronavirus lockdown. As you can see, in the UK, we are approaching the 100th day, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. 
From next Saturday, July 4th, the pubs and restaurants are reopening as well as cinemas, hairdressers and a few other things. Also, the “advice” is that we should socially distance by at least one metre, rather than the current two metres. 
The only doubt I have is that, once again, this advice is suitably vague – Boris the Clown doesn’t do precision, which is no surprise if you have ever heard the wittering fool bumble through a speech. 
Anyway, I have no intention of going to the pub yet – or staying closer than two metres from other people (not including Mrs PM of course). Nevertheless, I shall wander around next Saturday to see what is happening. My guess is that we shall see people flocking to the pub and chaos reigning. 
We shall see.
So on a rainy June day, let’s answer some very silly questions (and today they really are sillier than usual) from Sunday Stealing

1. If you could be a Muppet, which would you be?
There is no other choice. There is only one muppet out there that I want to be. In the world of Muppets he is my hero, the Muppet that inspired me – the greatest Muppet that has ever had a hand shoved up his arse.
I am talking of course about Animal.
Here he is in his full glory.

2. Why is a chicken crossing the road in the first place??
The chicken is presumably trying to avoid a fox, or a mad white haired man from Kentucky wearing a white suit who is pursuing it with a bag of spices and a deep fat fryer.

3. What's your favourite muscle?
The arse muscle because women seem to like it.

4. Cheerios or Rice Krispies?
When I was in America once, I was staying with a family, one of whom was waiting for me to say “Cheerio”, so that he could crack a joke by replying “No thanks! I prefer Rice Krispies!” 
Oh how I would have guffawed. The sad thing is that the only people who say “Cheerio!” in England are weird aristocrats who use also use words like “terribly”, “gosh”, “old chap” and “toodle-pip”. 
I say none of those words. 
Where were we? Oh yes – Cheerios or Rice Krispies. Well, I don’t usually eat cereals, if I’m honest. I’ve had both and I have to say I don’t like either. 
So my answer is “none of the above”.

5. Is summer ever going to get here?
I think it has arrived already. May was a beautiful month with almost all days being warm and sunny. June is not quite as good with a few thunderstorms and a few days of rain (like today) but it is still warm here and Wednesday and Thursday of last were gloriously hot at 30°C and 32°C respectively – just about the right temperature and the hottest it ever really gets in Manchester.

6. Have you ever had a utility turned off by mistake or some other reason besides weather or nonpayment?
Not that I can recall.

7. What was your "last day" of something?
Tuesday of last week was my last day of work – sadly until Thursday of this coming week when I return. I am supposed to be in Spain at the moment but am stuck here in Manchester instead, because my company is asking us to take our holidays during the lockdown even though we are incarcerated in our own homes. 

8. If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which one would you choose?
I think that it would have to be a science fiction show of some kind, preferably involving time travel. I will go for Dr Who.

9. Did you have any type of class trip, band trip, etc in high school? Where did you go, what did you do?
Yes, too many to remember. There were a lot of day trips to local points of interest, plus a couple of field trips to the school’s Welsh centre in Snowdonia. The latter ones involved being away for a week in this remote centre that could accommodate 24 pupils and two teachers, and usually involved studying local features for geography as well fun and games. 

10. Do your feet smell?
Neither of my feet contain nostrils. So the answer is no.

11. Do you know how to french braid?
I had to look it up. What do you think?

12. Two guys are walking down the street. One drops his hat and reaches down to pick it up, the other kicks him in the ass. Do you laugh?
Yes – of course I do. It’s probably because two guys are paying homage to old school comedians like Laurel and Hardy.

13. You wake up one morning and dogs are meowing and cats are barking - what are fish, elephants and crocodiles doing?
Well since this is a normal day and I haven’t been transported to the planet Tharg, I would imagine that the fish are swimming around looking stupid, the elephants are making an horrendous noise with their trunks and the crocodiles are floating in the water, their eyes peering just above the surface waiting for a stupid person to walk into the water to try to find out what noise they make.
The truth is though, if I saw an elephant or a crocodile when I woke up, I would probably call the police rather than being preoccupied with what they were doing.

14. You are going to your high school reunion. What award are you going to win?
I wouldn’t want to win an award but if I did it would probably the most travelled. And the coolest of course.

15. You find yourself stranded on a deserted island. Soon you find a laptop with a lifelong battery & internet connection, then you find a cave with an endless supply of food and a spring of fresh water. A cruise ship comes along to save you - do you get on it?
Yes – and I take the laptop with me.

16. How many shortcuts do you have on your desktop?
13 – that’s unlucky for some. I’ll have to add another one.

17. I offer you a pie... the most delicious pie you have ever seen. You either have to eat the entire thing in one sitting or allow me to slam it into your face, which do you choose?
I would eat it, of course. 

18. Are you a pen stealer?
I suffer from stationary kleptomania. I walk to people’s desks and walk away with heir stationary. I do not know why. At work, I have a draw full of stolen pens, which I hand out to anybody who needs them. I guess that I am sharing the fruits of my thievery – a kind of Robin Hood figure who steals from those who have too many pens and gives the proceeds to those poor unfortunate wretches who can’t find a pen in the stationary cupboard because a thief like me has stolen them all.

19. A dude from China comes up and offers you German chocolate cake, French fries and a Boston cream pie... what colour is your car?
I remember a question on a philosophy exam that said “There is a planet exactly like Earth but only contains unicorns. Discuss”. I thought that was the craziest question I had read but deep down there are pseudo-intellectuals who might try to make something of it to appear intelligent. 
I shall try to devolve into a pseudo-intellectual to try to answer this particularly stupid question with the craziest pseudo-intellectual answer I can come up with. Regular readers know that I am not keen on Pseudo-intellectuals. Take a deep breath …
Dong Zhongshu attempted to integrate the Yin Yang cosmology into a Confucian ethical framework and this selfless act of benevolent moral harmony clearly affected the “dude” from China. But I had to ask myself in all seriousness; “What is a Chinese dude”? This is a philosophical dilemma as the innate truth of being a “dude” is an American paradigm created by an English maverick whose thoughts drifted away from the European characteristic and more towards the customary new world convention. Consequently, we can understand the quandary the Chinese person had to grapple with and his temptation to completely abandon his Chinese heritage whilst still being ethical, forcing him to choose the Boston cream pie. Yet still he felt the struggle wasn’t over because he had to follow the origins of the English maverick in order to satisfy the deep-seated uncertainty of the impasse. The source had to be European but could not be English. How he resolved this proved arduous but then he recalled the odours of the Black Forest. The only option was a German chocolate cake, inherently European yet not traditionally English. But how could he combine the two frames of reference? What could be European and American yet not English? The French Fry completed the puzzle. The English refer to them as chips, a crude fat monstrosity that although it is made of the same ingredient bears no resemblance to the shape and texture favoured by Europeans and Americans. The circle was now complete, the French Fries bringing everything together whilst still acknowledging the origins of the English maverick. I looked upon the offering from the Chinese man; I recognised the gesture for what it was, the yin the yang, the ethics and the harmony. My reaction was to embrace this paradigm and build upon it to maintain the morality of his gift. I looked at the Chinese dude and went back to basics – to his origins. It was the only thing I could do. I saw his flag in my mind’s eye. I looked at him with a benevolent smile and spoke the words that lifted his heart; “My car is bright red – just like the colour of the flag of your motherland.” He wept and so did I.
I’m sorry about that but the bloody question was ridiculous. By the way, my car is silver.

20. Sometimes you just have to tap your foot to your favourite song - which tv series season finale are you watching?
Another crazy question. But the last season finale I watched was “Gangs of London”.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Questions You Never Thought You'd Ask

Welcome to day 90 of the Coronavirus lockdown. Things are slowly easing in the UK and the rate of infection is also heading down. 
Also, I have had a lockdown haircut. I was sick to death of trying to blast my sentient hair with products to keep it under control so I tried to buy some hair clippers. Eventually I managed to (I think every other male in the UK also had the same idea). 
Yesterday, Mrs PM put on her battle gear and attacked my hair with the clippers and some scissors. She did an amazing job, given that she’s never cut hair before and now I look vaguely human again.
Also, I have been growing a beard as an experiment. I gave myself six weeks to see what it would look like and I am four weeks into that period. And I have to say that it doesn’t look bad. When I was younger I couldn’t grow a beard for love nor money but now, being an old git, I seem to have found the ability to do this. 
The downside is that there is a little grey in there but what do you expect at 57 years of age?
Anyway, time to answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing
1. If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes who would it be and why?
I would spend a day in Boris Johnson’s shoes, hopefully taking his form so that I could right the wrongs that he has perpetrated. I would publicly admit that I am a liar and a fraud, I would sack Dominic Cummings and make another cabinet shuffle to get rid of the most odious characters. I would then call another Brexit referendum, another General Election and finally resign as Prime Minister at the end of the day.
That would teach the incompetent, lying buffoon.
2. Which celebrity gets on your nerves the most, and why?
I can’t answer that question because there are simply too many of them. I get annoyed in particular about celebrities who are “famous” for nothing, like the Kardashians or anybody has appeared on a reality TV show and become famous for just being outrageous. Of course, People like Piers Morgan and Jamie Oliver make me angry as soon as they open their mouths, mainly because they try to preach at me. 
There are just too many, dear reader. One day I will list them all, and it will read as a passenger list for the giant spaceship I intend to build when I become World President. They will all be sent to the depths of outer space to rid the planet of them all.
3. If you were going to bury a time capsule, what would you put in it?
Old photographs, a few old bits of writing that I had done, a few CDs with some of my favourite music, a couple of newspapers, my old laptop and various other bits and bobs. I haven’t really thought about it to be honest.
4. What is your saddest memory?
Death of a loved one – every one of them.
5. Would you rather be in your pyjamas or a suit all day?
I think if I were in my suit all day I would probably be going to a wedding and I do like a good wedding. I think I would say a suit – I can’t wait to get out of my pyjamas if I’m honest.
6. What’s the strangest place you’ve ever gone potty?
In the UK “gone potty” also means “gone mad” but I think this probably means “go to the toilet” so I will assume it is that.  I have been to many strange toilets as you can imagine but one of the weirdest ones was in Hong Kong. I went to a restaurant in the Peninsular Hotel, a very very posh hotel. We managed to get a reservation for an early discounted meal (it was still very expensive) and it was very nice (if not totally overpriced). The restaurant was high up in the hotel and the gents toilets were immaculate. However, as I stood there, allowing nature to take it’s course, I found myself staring out of a window at the streets of Kowloon. The view as magnificent but it was so weird.
I almost took a photograph – not of the act itself (that would be revolting) – but of the view. I decided not to because taking a photograph in a gentleman’s toilet is at best frowned upon and at worst – well I think you can imagine what I mean.
Thankfully, somebody else has already taken a photo for me.

7. How old were you went you had your first kiss?
I was seven years old. I think I have mentioned this before. 
8. Do you have any strange or unique phobias?
Not really. I have several normal phobias, heights, public speaking, spiders but nothing weird.
9. If you could bring back one toy from your childhood, what would it be?
I think it would probably be a board game or some form of building toy, like Lego or Stickle Bricks.
10. If you could be any Disney villain, which would you be?
I would be Shere Kahn from the Jungle Book, a smooth criminal voiced by George Sanders with sharp claws who was the King of that particular jungle.

11. If your life was a novel, what would the title be.
Believe it or not, I started writing down a few memories about three years ago, mainly for the benefit of future generations (and of course for a bit of fun). I pop back and scribble a few things down occasionally. I have called it “Insignificant Memoirs”.
I guess if it were like a novel, rather than just talking about old stuff, I would call it something different like
“The boy who never grew up”.
12. What do you need more of in your life?
Time – absolutely no doubt about that. I have so many things that I want to do and, being quite old, there is limited time in which to do them.
13. What are your top 3 quotes?
Top three quotes made by me or top three quotes from other people? I can’t recall every single nonsensical quote that I have ever made so I shall assume the latter. 
I don’t know to be honest – but here are a few I quite like:
“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” – Albert Einstein
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin
“Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.” – Dave Barry
14. What do you want people to remember about you?
I like to think that people will smile when they remember me. I love making other people laugh, mostly because of jokes at my own expense, and when I am gone I would like to think that when they recall some of the stupid things I have said and done (and there are loads of them, believe me), that I can still bring a smile to their faces.
15. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
What? Is this a simple answer to a question or a bloody book? As I implied in my answer to the previous question, I have done lots of stupid things and I continue to do stupid things – like admitting doing stupid things on this blog. 
The biggest mistake? Well, given that I am deeply into the music that I love, I would say not learning to play the guitar. On my dad’s advice (poor advice – sorry dad) I took up the trombone. A bloody trombone! Can you believe it? I couldn’t – which is why I gave it up after four years. But if it had been a guitar I would definitely have carried on and I could have become something like this:

So that’s quite a big mistake!

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Would You Rather?

It’s day 76 of the lockdown and I’ve been looking at the statistics regarding the virus in the UK. 
They don’t make good reading. 
As of yesterday, the United Kingdom is the second worst hit country in terms of deaths, with 40,465 people having died of COVID-19. 
In terms of total cases, we are the fifth worst hit country in the world. 
Worse, in my view, if you look at the number of deaths worldwide per million, the United Kingdom is the second worst hit country behind Belgium.
I find this really annoying because if you listen to Boris the Clown and his idiot cabinet, you hear phrases like “world beating test and trace” and other incredibly inaccurate soundbites. 
Boris the Clown said last week that he is now “taking control of the pandemic”. In that case, Boris, I would like to know who the bloody hell has been in control since March? Your brother Coco the Clown?
Anyway, to stop myself descending into a full blown rant about the incompetence of the people supposedly in control, I shall seek light relief with a few silly questions from Sunday Stealing
Let’s dive in, shall we?
1.  Would you rather work in a group or work alone?
In my line of work I need to do both, though it has to be said I find that if I am able to work alone and uninterrupted I can achieve a lot. The lockdown has forced me and my colleagues to work from home and I am actually more productive, I think, in terms of not having people walking to my desk to ask questions or just chat. At home, I can choose to ignore them. Nevertheless, I still have to collaborate with people and I think that is important – as long as it is on my terms.
2. Would you rather be stuck on an island alone or with someone who talks incessantly?
We all need human company so I would say that I would reluctantly choose the person who talks incessantly. I just hope that the island is big enough to allow me to have some alone time and satisfy my inner introvert when the talking gets too much.
3. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?
I’m not keen on either but I think I prefer being too hot.
4. When you’re old, would you rather die before or after your spouse?
I am already quite old, thanks, but I think I would prefer to go first. If there is an afterlife though I would be worried about Mrs PM.
5. Would you rather have a cook or a maid?
A cook – definitely. I can cook but I hate it. When it is my turn to cook, I opt for the quickest and easiest thing I can find.
6. Would you rather be the youngest or the oldest sibling?
I am already the oldest sibling so I can’t imagine being the youngest.  
7. Would you rather get rich through hard work or through winning the lottery?
Given that I hate my job, I would definitely choose winning the lottery. I already have a plan should I do so. 
8. Would you rather have a 10-hour dinner with a headstrong politician from an opposing party, or attend a 10-hour concert for a music group you detest?
I would love to sit down for a ten hour dinner with a headstrong politician from an opposing party, somebody like Boris the Clown. I know exactly what sort of human being he is and I know exactly what would push his buttons. Not only would I give him a really hard time, I would have progressive metal as the background music to make the clown as uncomfortable as possible.  
The thought of having to endure ten hours of music I detest fills me with dread.
9. Would you rather be an Olympic gold medallist or a Nobel Peace Prize winner?
Nobel prize winners win because they have made a difference to the world in some way. That would be far more preferable to winning an Olympic gold medal.
10. Would you rather have a desk job or an outdoor job?
I like the outdoors but I prefer to enjoy it as part of my leisure. I would therefore choose a desk job.
11. Would you rather live at the top of a tall NYC apartment building or at the top of a mountain?
I am terrified of heights so really the choice would be neither. I guess you are going to push me for an answer, aren’t you? Okay – I will say the top of a mountain. 
Well, I’ve been to New York and in the days before my fear of heights developed, I found myself at the top of the Empire State Building, laughing at a man dressed as a gorilla. I would never do that now – in fact the very thought of doing so is making my legs feel a little wobbly. 
I’ve been to the top of a mountain in Switzerland (Mount Rigi) and, while it is still very high, you don’t see the huge sheer drops and the scenery is absolutely amazing.  
11. Would you rather have Rambo or The Terminator on your side?
The Terminator is cyborg that is super strong, virtually indestructible and programmed to give his life to protect you. 
Rambo is just a soldier and, while he exceeds the qualities your everyday soldier needs to survive, he is simply human being and probably wouldn’t take a bullet for you. 
It has to be the Terminator.
12. Would you rather be proposed to in private or in front of family and friends?
I hate being the centre of attention so this answer is obvious; in private thank you very much.
13. Would you rather have to sew all your clothes or grow your own food?
My dad was a very keen gardener and used to grow vegetables in our back garden. He was so good at it that he ended up having to give a lot of them away to friends and family. He also enrolled three unwilling co-workers to assist him. The chores included digging, planting, watering, picking and handling all manner of dirt and manure. One of those unwilling co-workers was me (the other two were my sisters). And I hated every second of it.
I would therefore much rather sew my own clothes. 
14. Would you rather hear the good news or the bad news first?
I am the kind of person who likes to leave the best things until last. Hearing the bad news first is the equivalent so I will choose that.
15. Would you rather be your own boss or work for someone else?
I’m used to working for somebody else. To be honest I’m happy with that although not having to deal with pointy-haired bosses does have an appeal. 
16. Would you rather have nosy neighbours or noisy neighbours?
I did live next door to a young student recently whose rich parents had bought him a house rather than letting him rent. Sadly, this meant that he was extremely noisy, sometimes choosing to have a spontaneous party at 2am on a Wednesday night with loud dance music ripping me from my dreams. We almost came to blows several times, particularly when he told me at 3am that I was being very rude to him on his doorstep. I am not a violent or belligerent person but on that occasion I was so angry that I said to him, between gritted teeth “Step outside the house and say that!” Thankfully one of the people at the party dragged him inside and said “We’re really sorry. Of course we will turn the music down!”
Thankfully, he moved out after a few months. The last time I saw him was when I went to a gig near to the University of Manchester and I saw him at the end of the bar when I was having a post-gig pint with my mates. We looked at each other and I just raised my pint and smiled. He did the same. No words were exchanged.
I think I prefer nosy neighbours because I have curtains and blinds. 
Here is a video that sums up the experience with my noisy neighbour.

17. Would you rather be on a survival reality show or dating game show?
I would have tremendous fun on a dating game show. I wouldn’t do very well on a survival reality show.
18. Would you rather be too busy or be bored?
I can usually find something to do when bored, so I would choose to be bored but make myself busy – if that makes sense.
19. Would you rather watch the big game at home or live at the stadium.
I’ve seen several big games live in the stadium and there is nothing to beat that in my opinion. 
20. Would you rather spend the day with your favourite athlete or your favourite movie star?
If I were allowed on set to see my favourite movie star in action then I would definitely go for that. And I would be cheeky enough to ask if I could appear in a scene or two as an extra.
21. Would you rather live where it is constantly winter or where it is constantly summer?
I hate winter. Winter in the UK is cold, wet, dark and miserable and it is only Christmas that stops me from going insane. The summer months make up for it though. I think if I were omnipotent, I would tilt the earth so that the UK was roughly where Spain is now.
22. Would you rather travel the US and see the sights in a motor home or by plane?
Every time I’ve been to the US I’ve travelled around by plane, mainly due to time constraints. On my first trip there way back in 1989, we only had four weeks and I wanted to see as much as possible. A motor home would required much more time given that we travelled to New York, Washington DC, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Cleveland. On subsequent trips, I have hired a car to just to travel for a few hours between cities where they have comfortable hotels. If I had a year to visit other places I might consider it, although I have seen a lot of horror movies where such vehicles have been targetted and that’s the thing that puts me off.
23. Would you rather be a little late or way too early?
I am weird. I would much rather be way too early. I hate being late for anything. 
24. Would you rather have an unlimited gift certificate to a restaurant or a clothing store?
I am not a dedicated follower of fashion so it would have to be a gift certificate for a restaurant.
25. Would you rather date someone you met online or go on a blind date?
I think I would prefer to date a person I had met online. I have always been shy, though these days I can’t really claim that is still the case, so a blind date might be more traumatic, particularly if the woman in question genuinely looked disappointed when she saw me. If you have met somebody online, you will no doubt have an inkling of whether or not you will get on as well as probably knowing what she looks like and what kind of a person she is.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Conversation Starters - Part 2

Day 69 of lockdown and the sun is shining on what is a beautiful day here in South Manchester UK. I’ve already been for a five mile walk with Mrs PM down by the River Mersey, trying to avoid other walkers, joggers and cyclists.
There are already measures being taken to ease the lockdown slowly. From tomorrow we can meet up to six people either in a public place or somebody’s garden as long as we social distance and don’t go into the house. The exception is to use the toilet of course but we are meant to thoroughly clean it afterwards. I could use this to my advantage and invite friends around on the proviso that they clean my lavatory when they have finished to save me the job of doing it myself. 
Also, great news! Football will be back in a couple of weeks so we get to see the Premiership played in empty stadiums to finish off the season. Mrs PM is not very enthusiastic about that at all. I wonder why?
Anyway – time to answer some sill question from Sunday Stealing
Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. What do you think is the greatest television show of all time?
That’s a tricky one. Here are ten shows that I have really enjoyed over the course of my life. There are others at the edge of my memory but these are the ones that immediately leapt to mind. If I thought about it more, I would have a different list.

Babylon 5
Game of Thrones
Stranger Things
Sons of Anarchy
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Walking Dead
Breaking Bad
Dr Who
Peaky Blinders

2. Would you rather win a Nobel Prize or an Academy Award?
I would like to think that I made a difference to the world and basically, being an actor isn’t going to solve anything. So definitely a Nobel Prize.

3. What one food would you banish from this earth if you could?
 It is the only food that makes me feel physically sick with the thought of putting it past my lips. I had to endure it as a child and to avoid eating it I actually hid it under the table at school. 
We used to have a teacher who forced you to eat food – a real nasty Irish teacher with a voice so shrill that it could shatter reinforced glass. I managed to palm it off on one of my weirder friends who loved rhubarb. And allowed the Irish harpy from force feeding it to me. 
I am feeling quite queasy at the moment just thinking about it.

4. What’s the scariest story you’ve ever heard?
Top 3:

Boris Johnson becoming the UK Prime Minister
The United Kingdom shooting itself in the balls and leaving the European Union
Donald Trump becoming President of the United States of America.

The world has gone mad.

5. Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
I met Thunder back stage in 2005. They are a British rock band responsible for hits like this.

Here is proof.

I also had the chance to meet another of my favourite female rock singers, Anneke van Giersbergen,  but before I knew who she was. I stood by, about three feet away, as my mate got her autograph. I took a photo of the two of them. 
I am so gutted now because she was just a support act, and I didn’t know who she was and that she had worked a lot with another musical hero of mine, Devin Townsend. If I had known, I would have insisted on a photo with her and gushed like a tiny schoolboy. Here she is, singing with Devin Townsend – what an amazing voice she has:

6. What’s something you’ve done that most people wouldn’t know or guess about you?
I’ve had a disagreement with a Russian Kremlin guard while queuing up to get into the Kremlin itself in Moscow.
I’m terrified of heights but I have climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 
I am a bloody idiot.

7. You’re strapped in a rocket ship about to go to the moon. Are you thrilled? Or terrified?
I am absolutely terrified. My brain is not wired to cope with taking a rocket to the moon.

8. What is the correct way for toilet paper to sit on the roll?
Like this:

And it must be within easy reach of the person perched on the toilet of course. 

9. Talk about a mistake you made, or something you regret.
I wish that I had continued learning languages after school. I studied French for five years and German for three years and when I started my A-levels I could actually speak them quite well, certainly well enough to have a simple conversation with a native when I travelled to Europe for two month long trips during the summer while I was at university. I was fine in Germany and France and really should have kept it up. It is a source of constant frustration when travelling that I can’t converse with people in their own language very well.

10. What would be the best gift I could give you?
Enough money to be able to retire tomorrow.

11. What makes you feel better when you’re sad or stressed?
Listening to music, going for a walk or escaping into a good book or TV drama.

12. What is the most romantic movie you’ve ever seen?
I don’t like romantic films, as a rule, because the plots are all identical and ludicrously so in most cases. The only one I have watched more than once and genuinely laughed at is Notting Hill. I still think it’s not that great but it is the best of a bad bunch.

13. What is the worst date you’ve ever been on?
Funnily enough, I was talking about this yesterday. I had decided to go to the cinema to see the first Superman movie. Nobody else wanted to see it so I was happy to go on my own. My sister’s friend heard about this and invited herself to go with me. 
I remember when she turned up at my house to go, she was dressed up like she was going on a proper date, with excessive make-up and high heels and instantly alarm bells began to ring. I realised with horror that she had a crush on me. I also remember my dad chuckling at me and winking as we left the house. I didn’t have the same feelings for her and she kept trying to chat to me all the way through the film, which was bloody annoying. 
On the way back she insisted that her feet were hurting because of the shoes and needed support, so I walked back through the town centre with her clinging to me like I was her boyfriend. I had to let her down gently when we got back. We were both about 17 years old.

14. What is the glue that keeps couples together?
Humour and silliness helps – particularly in my case. I can be quite a funny guy when I want to be and I always try to make Mrs PM laugh. She is also very funny. We always have fun.

15.  What was your first crush.
I only ever had crushes on famous actresses like Linda Carter or Jaclyn Smith so it was one of those two.

16. When did your parents talk to you about the birds and the bees?
They never did. I heard by word of mouth and from friends. I remember hearing about the deed at the age of about seven or eight and being totally repulsed by the thought of what had to be done to produce children. I think my old man knew that I knew so he didn’t bother telling me.

17. What is your greatest achievement?
I would say it’s probably creating two wonderful kids. 

18. Were you close to your parents growing up?
Yes, I would say so. I was closer to my dad then my mum but generally we were fine as a family.

19. What was the most life-changing event you’ve ever experienced?
Going to university. I left Walsall as a naïve, spotty and scared young man and left university as an adult.

20. Have you ever had a falling out with a friend? What happened?
I wouldn’t say that I fell out with my friend Oswald (not his real name - obviously); we just lost touch and drifted apart because of circumstance. 
For many years as a child, Oswald was my best mate. He was almost exactly the same age as me (within a couple of weeks) and we were inseparable as friends. Things started to change when he left school at 16 to become a builder with his dad, while I carried on at school with A-Levels. For those couple of years we were still best mates but he had money, a second-hand car while I was still studying and broke. I think that’s when we started to drift apart. 
The final straw was when I went to university. I came back to Walsall at the end of my first year and my experiences and his were diverging. I was a different person and so was he. We went out for a few beers and ended up having a huge argument. I remember waking up the next morning thinking that something had broken between us and that the argument was the result of built up frustration. 
I went back to university and basically that killed our close friendship. I spent the remaining summers visiting friends from university and travelling in Europe and then I moved to Manchester.
I did see him on a return trip to Walsall to visit my mum a year later and discovered that he had managed to get a girl pregnant and had to marry her. I hadn’t been invited to the wedding. We had a quick chat and a laugh about the old times but it was clear that we had both moved on. 
The last I heard, was about twenty years ago when, again visiting my mum, I bumped into his mother. She told me that Oswald would love to see me again, so I gave her my phone number to give to him.
He has never called. If he did though, I would definitely go for a couple of beers with him.