Saturday, 18 September 2021

15 more out of 5000

 


Welcome to a sunny South Manchester on day 62 since Covid-19 restrictions were eased. Infection rates are actually starting to drop again over here in the UK but hospitalization and deaths are still slowly rising, even though they are nowhere near as bad as they were during the previous spikes. 

I expect them to start falling too soon.

This is all due to the vaccination program and now we are starting to give over 50’s and vulnerable people a third booster jab. I will be eligible but not until six months after my second jab, which will, in theory be in December, just before Christmas. 

I still have to do a lateral flow self-test this weekend for another day in the office on Monday. I have to say these tests are quite unpleasant because they trigger your gag reflex and make your eyes water as you poke a swab in places where swabs aren’t supposed to be. 

It’s worth it I guess, even though there are no signs of Covid; after all I could be one of those lucky people who don’t actually know they have Covid – you never know. 

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. If America is one nation under God then are atheists citizens?

One nation under God? There is something I don’t quite understand about America. I love the place but it is a little bit of a paradox, especially when it comes to religion. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people who choose to immerse themselves into religion of any kind because, ultimately, in most cases, it provides comfort. 

I am a Roman Catholic but I have not practiced the religion since the age of 16. I was indoctrinated until I actually realized that perhaps there was something else out there. I will never say anything bad about people for whom God is the single most important feature of their lives.

Yet in America, I think religion is taken to extreme and sometimes used to exploit people. The President who fails to say “God Bless America” is the person who will be ousted at the next election. Even the Orange Goblin, a man who I doubt believes in anything but himself, pretended to embrace religion when he somehow reached that pinnacle. 

It is obvious he has never read or studied it but people would have believed him. His favourite book? Not a bloody chance.

When I talk about people using religion to exploit the masses, I mean guys like this charlatan:

Don’t get me started on these arseholes!

Sorry for rambling but to answer the question – of course atheists are citizens. And America doesn’t have a monopoly on God. I think most nations in the world would agree with me.

2. Is there anything that you believe should be banned for any reason?

Absolutely. This is something I could write a book on many things I think should be banned. Let me just start with one so-called religion: Scientology. Now there’s a start.

3. How often do you eat too much?

Probably every weekend. I am slightly overweight but not so much that I couldn’t get back to a healthy weight in a month with some willpower. From Monday to Friday I eat really healthy diet, with fruit for breakfast, a fish or chicken salad for lunch and a healthy meal in the evening. I do not drink alcohol from Sunday to Thursday either. Yet on the weekend, starting with Friday evening, I usually drink a couple of beers and have a lovely fried breakfast on Saturday and Sunday with a large lunch, though the evening meal is reasonable usually. This year I have managed to reach my lowest weight for about two years, although I am above that now thanks to it being Saturday and having had bacon and egg for breakfast.

4. If you died tomorrow, what mark would you have left on the world?

I doubt that I will leave a mark whenever I die (although as I keep saying, I plan to live forever). I guess some people might still read this blog in the unlikely event of my demise; it’s been around for thirteen years and people still stumble across older posts, probably thinking “who is this weird nutcase?”

I am sure that I will be remembered by friends for a few years, and my name will crop up in family conversations for a few decades. And maybe, a future descendant will unearth me in a century or two and realise that he is descended from a weird nutcase. 

We’ll see. 

But, of course, if I come back as a ghost, I will see this all for myself, won’t I?

5. Are you a city person or a country person?

I am primarily a city person but I love the country too. 

The city is vibrant and I love being part of a huge community with everything you need at your doorstep. Manchester is an amazing place to live. I also love London, and I am off there next week for a university reunion and again in October for a four day trip being a tourist before visiting other friends. London is huge and a great place but a little too big and busy for me, I think. Manchester is more compact and perfect for what I need.

That said, I love to escape to the countryside too. When I need to escape, I can easily just drive for about half an hour and find peace and tranquility in more rural settings. In fact, that is another reason why Manchester is great – city life on your doorstep and countryside just a small drive away.

6. What annoys you the most about yourself?

I am actually very fond of myself but I know that I am, like every other human being on this planet, a flawed creature.

Despite boasting about conquering shyness, I am still shy. I am sometimes overly cautious when perhaps I should take more risks. 

Also, I am heading towards 60 years of age and although I am quite fit in terms of walking most days, I can feel the pull of old age – and that annoys me. 

But generally I am happy with who I am.

7. Who was your childhood hero?

I would probably say my dad. 

8. With nearly 100 channels why is NOTHING ever on?

There is always something on, but there is an awful lot of absolute garbage available to laugh at or mock. My TV viewing habits have changed dramatically over the past five years or so. Here in the UK I subscribe to Sky, which gives me access to movies, sport, the freeview channels and a lot of other weird and wonderful channels from all over the place, most of which I don’t watch.

I share this with my two sons. Who in return have shared their access to Netflix and Amazon Prime. So rather than watching things in real time, I tend to record stuff to watch later or simply tune into Netflix or Amazon to carry on with one of the hundreds of offerings they have.

I am also tempted by Disney+ - the only reason being that they have the Marvel series ( I am a huge geeky fan of Marvel) – but I am resisting the pull because I really don’t want to end up as a couch potato. One day I might but probably not until the only thing I can do is dribble in my soup.

9. Would you adopt a stray kitty wandering through your neighborhood?

Absolutely. In fact, the two wonderful black cats I own, Ziggy and Star(dust) were rescue cats when some heartless cruel bastard left them in an alleyway for a couple of days in a cage where nobody could find them. When an old lady eventually found them and took them to a cat charity, they were covered in shit and very ill. They were only about a month or two old.

How could somebody do that?

I was so angry and I would love to meet the perpetrator of that particular crime.

Anyway, they are now healthy cats, as cute as anything you could ever wish for, and amazing fun. Best of all, they are happy and have a loving home with us. 

When it comes to strays, in particular though, we did adopt a cat quite a few years ago. At that time we had two other black cats called Jasper and Poppy and one day we spotted a new black cat in our kitchen. He had come in for food. We gave him some, although he looked well-fed, and he gradually moved in. We called him Spike and he settled in nicely.

However, after about eight months, he came in with a collar on and a name tag. It turns out, he was owned by a woman who lived about four streets away and his name was really Hamish. I called the number on the collar and took him to his real home where she accepted him gratefully and said that he keeps going missing. Also, she didn’t have a cat flap so every morning when she went to work, she would just turf him outside and leave him out all day come rain or shine. No wonder he looked for a new owner. 

In the end, he just kept coming back to our house and we simply kept him. I gave the woman my phone number and address but she never came back to ask for him.

Sadly, he disappeared from our house too. He was older than Jasper and Poppy and Mrs PM thinks that he just went off somewhere to die. He was a lovely cat and we had him for about three years.

Sorry – another rambling answer.

10. Which Lord of the Rings movie has the best ending?

My favourite is The Return of the King.

This scene at the end always brings a tear to my eye.

11. What are you missing in your life?

At the moment I am missing travel. I am absolutely dying to get on a plane and go abroad – anywhere will do! 

12. What could you make a sculpture out of that's in the room with you right now?

Nothing. I couldn’t make a sculpture if I tried.

13. Do you believe in the lost city of Atlantis?

I love anything like this and I dearly hope that Atlantis really existed. Many people believe that it is in the Mediterranean Sea or nearby in the Atlantic Ocean and was a progressive and technologically advanced civilization on an island that was destroyed by a tsunami. I think that this is possible and I hope that somebody finds it.

14. Have you ever read The Little Prince?

No. 

15. What fantasy book would you like to see made into a movie?

I would love the Hyperion Cantos novels by Dan Simmons to be made into a movie or a series similar to Game of Thrones. I loved the books (there are four of them) and I particularly love the Shrike, a very powerful creature that is about nine feet tall, has four arms with an exterior skin that is metallic and covered with sharp spikes and blades, including its four hands with sharp blades as speakers.

It is a phenomenal creature and I would love to see it brought to life in a series:

Imagine meeting that on a dark night?


Saturday, 11 September 2021

15 out of 5000


Welcome to an overcast South Manchester on day since the end of restrictions. It’s been a mixed week in terms of the Covid cloud hanging over us. On Monday and Tuesday I returned to the office where I had to endure an “induction” to tell me what to do in the office in terms of mask-wearing. I also took a lateral flow test the day before and it was an unpleasant experience that, thankfully, resulted in a negative test (as I knew it would). I am back in the office on Monday (only one day this time) and I have to test myself again (I’m not looking forward to that to be honest). 

I also went to my first gig since March 2020 – the Wildhearts – one of my favourite bands. And it was amazing. I think capacity was down but it was busy enough. We had to prove that we had had two Covid jabs or proof of a negative test before we were allowed past the threshold. The band and the crowd all needed the experience. I had a great time. Here they are:

On the flip side, I was supposed to be going to see the latest test match in the England versus India series in cricket on Sunday, but the whole match has been called off because the Indian cricket squad have several cases of Covid-19 in their ranks and cannot field a team.

I am disappointed with that because I was looing forward to a day of cricket.

Oh well – I guess I’ll have to answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

Let’s dive straight in, shall we?

1. Who do you take for granted?

I don’t take anyone for granted and I hope that nobody ever takes me for granted either. If they do, I usually deal with it, and I would expect the same if somebody thought I was doing it to them.

2. Short, knee, or ankle skirts? (if a man, have you ever worn kilts?)

Only Scotsmen wear kilts and they feel jolly proud of it when they do. As an Englishman I am referred to as “The Auld Enemy” as I support England in football matches when they play Scotland. This all goes back to centuries of old battles between the Scots and the English. There have been quite a few skirmishes in the past but nothing in recent centuries. We actually get along very well now, although some would probably like to be independent of the UK. 

If I were to wear a kilt in Scotland, I would probably be mocked. My Scottish accent isn’t good enough to pass myself off as a Scotsman. That said, I love Scotland and the people are fine upstanding citizens. Here is a photo I took of a Scotsman playing his bagpipes in Edinburgh. 



And very smart he looked too.

3. Do you wear a hat?

I only wear a hat when it is extremely sunny. I am blond (well with a bit of grey now) and I burn in the sun – even if the temperature is as low as 20 degrees Centigrade. I have a few hats that I will take on holiday, or if I watch a cricket match. My favourite is one I bought in Australia.

4. Who's your favorite cartoon character?

This guy:

5. Does break dancing impress you?

Not at all. I didn’t get it back in the da and I don’t get it now.

6. Are you a miracle?

We are all miracles. When you think about the chances of you and I being born and living out our lives in a rock floating in space, the odds are quite stupefying.

Enjoy it.

7. Have you ever eaten tofu?

Once or twice. It’s pretty bland if I remember rightly.

8. Does the moon have an effect on your mood?

Not knowingly. I don’t turn into a werewolf or any other creature when the moon is out. If I did, I am sure that Mrs PM would tell me.

9. Many people will say that the Harry Potter books are pure fluff with no literary value. Do you agree?

They are good stories (I have read them all) but they are really children’s books in my opinion and the writing reflects that. I think that they have literary value and will be remembered long after J K Rowling and I meet in the afterlife.

10. What are you doing next Wednesday?

Sadly, I am going to be working. I will be at home sitting exactly where I am now but performing specialist brainwashing on a variety of remote computers, some in the cloud and some not, and no doubt having a rant about the banality and stupidity of working life and office politics. I will no doubt have a couple of meetings and talk to the images of my team on my work laptop via Microsoft Teams where I will try not to rant. I guess my cats will make a guest appearance on these meeting, which they sometimes do. 

11. Why do so many people think Elvis is still alive?

Because they can’t deal with the fact that he died in 1977. Think about it; if he were alive, he would have just celebrated his 86th birthday. That in itself is believable but given that he declined rapidly in his forties, it is unlikely that he gave it all up for a life of anonymity. I think these people should just enjoy what he did and cherish his work.

12. Are your hands cold?

 Not at the moment. It is Autumn here and the weather is still relatively warm. I can put my hands in the freezer for a while if you want me to.             

13. Have you ever given blood?

Yes – once. And I almost fainted. I felt really ill and decided that the trauma wasn’t worth it. Also, I am squeamish when it comes to blood and seeing it flowing out of my body is too much.

14. What ScI-fi books do you read?

I am a huge fan of science fiction. I like anything weird and thoroughly enjoy a good space opera. I am currently reading one in fact:


15. Have you ever belonged to a sorority or a fraternity?

No – because I am not American.



Sunday, 5 September 2021

10 From 100


Welcome to a sunny and warm South Manchester on day 49 following our resident clown’s declaration of freedom from Covid-19. Infection rates are steady but rising ever so slowly, hospitalisation due to Covid-19 is steady and the number of deaths a day is still rising slightly. But the powers that be, as incompetent as they are, seem happy to allow it to continue as is, as we head in Autumn here in the UK. This time last year, the rates all climbed as the temperatures fell and the nights became longer. Unlike last year though, 88% of the adult population have had at least one vaccine with about 78% being fully immunised.

The coming week is a strange one for me. I am going into the office tomorrow for the first time since Macrh 2020, just for a couple of days, and today I have to test myself with the government supplied test. I don’t know how accurate it is but if I have Covid-19 it should yield a positive result. 

It is the first test I have done and, as far as I know, I haven’t actually had Covid-19. I certainly don’t think I have it, as I feel absolutely fine, with no symptoms whatsoever. But my company has mandated that we have to test ourselves twice a week if we are to return to the office, ergo I have to, even though I will be working part time in the office and part time at home from now on.

That is life, living with Covid-19 folks. 

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1.What's your favourite TV channel to watch in the middle of the night?

I rarely watch TV in the middle of the night. If I do, I will channel surf until I find something interesting or, most likely, just watch the news or a late night comedy show.

2.Which decade do you feel the most special connection to and why?

The 1980’s. I love that decade and have many fond memories of it. I entered the decade aged 17, still living at home in Walsall and studying for A-levels, having never travelled abroad and barely even travelled outside Walsall (if I am honest). I left the decade aged 27, married, with a university degree, a job in an IT company, having moved to Manchester and travelled abroad often enough to get completely bitten by the travel bug.

My life changed so much in that decade. 

I loved the music, the fashion, the movies, the TV and the entire lunacy of the decade – perhaps summed up in the following songs:


3.What is your favourite oldie/classic rock song?

As you can imagine, I have hundreds of them. Here is one of my favourites:

4.What Disney villain are you the most like and why?

I love Shere Kahn from the Jungle Book. He is just so cool and has an amazing voice (provided by George Sanders). 

5.Have you ever been a girl scout/boy scout?

No – thank goodness!

6.If you were travelling to another continent would you rather fly or take a boat?

I would fly, of course. A boat to the USA or Africa would take ages and even longer if I had to go further afield, like Asia or Australia. I’ve been on a cruise before and to be honest I got a little stir-crazy. It is much better to fly.

7. What are three of your favourite dog names of all time?

I have to dig into my past for dog names. I would feel like a traitor if I chose any names other than dogs I have owned or that have been owned by my family. Here are my three:

Paddy, Rinty and Beric.

8. How do you feel when you see a rainbow?

I feel it is time to quickly get my camera out and capture it. Like this one, I captured in Liverpool:


9. If you were in the Land of Oz would you want to live there or go home?

I would want to go home. It looks like a mad place to me, with witches, wizards, talking lions, talking scarecrows (we have one as Prime Minister and he has no brains either), talking and moving tin men and flying monkeys. 

10. What is the first word that comes to mind when you see the word:

Air: Music

Meat: Pork

Different: Eccentric

Pink: Elephant

Deserve: Merit

White: Snake

Elvis: Burger

Magic: Moment

Heart: Beat

Clash: Colour

Pulp: Fiction

I hope nobody is going to psychoanalyse me based on those choices and send the men in white coats around.


Sunday, 29 August 2021

Something on Sunday


Welcome to South Manchester on a sunny Bank Holiday weekend on day 42 since restrictions ended in the UK for Covid-19 (well 90% of them anyway). Bank Holiday weekend just means that we have a public holiday on Monday so we get a longer weekend. 

Here are some questions from Sunday Stealing with the dubious title “One Direction Asks” – I presume this is the over-rated “boy band” One Direction, so I am going to rebel and simply call this post “Something on Sunday” because I hate boy bands with a passion. Of course, if you like them or any other boy band then that’s fine.

Shall we dive in?

1. Are you a Jeopardy fan?  Who do you want to replace Alex Trebeck?.

Not at all. I’ve seen the show on trips to America in the past but that’s about it. I have no idea who Alex Trebeck is and wouldn’t recognise him if he said “Hi Plastic Mancunian! I’m Alext Trebeck – have you heard of me?”

2. What’s your favourite horror film?

That’s a tough one. I’m not a fan of horror movies but I quite enjoyed IT Parts 1 and 2 recently (because I have read the book too). I quite like a good science fiction horror – so I will say Aliens.

3. Are you a possessive person?

I’m possessive about objects I own and don’t want to get rid of, for example my CD collection. But when it comes to people, not at all. I would hate to be the target of a possessive person.

4. Who’s your idol?

Do you know, I don’t think I actually have an idol. There are lots of people out there who I respect but I wouldn’t say that I idolise them at all. 

5. List five things you can’t live without.

Number one on the list is oxygen of course and anything else that keeps my body ticking over.

In addition, here are five things that make my life pleasant:

Music, travelling, my house, my gadgets, money.

6. Where do you feel home?

I love travelling but I actually feel at home here in Manchester. There are a lot of places that I could live but my heart is still in this magnificent northern city and no matter how far I go I will always want to come back at some point.

7. What are your three best qualities?

I like to think that I am a nice guy, who listens, makes you laugh (intentionally sometimes but mostly unintentionally) and has a good heart.

8. Name three things that make you happy.

I would say Mrs PM, my friends and family and my cats.

9. What helps you when you’re feeling down?

Definitely music. If I feel a little down, which does happen occasionally, I just put on a suitable song. The actual song depends on the mood but something like this will always perk my mood.

10. Which big cities have you been to?

I’ve been to so many that I have lost count. Here are most of them:

Manchester (of course), Birmingham, London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, Rome, Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, Zurich, Geneva, Dublin, Valetta, Moscow, New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Tulsa, Richmond, Miami, Toronto, Vancouver, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Chiang Mai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Kyoto, Sydney, Brisbane, Guangzhou, Kunming, Muscat, Adu Dhabi, Dubai and Singapore. 

There may be more – and there may be some places that are cities but forgot about.

11. What’s your favourite love story? ( Book, film, etc. )

I’m not a lover of love stories (does that sound weird?). There is usually a lot of schmaltz, too much if I’m honest and I get bored because they are usually far too predictable. But Notting Hill made me laugh once or twice so I will reluctantly say that.

12. Talk about the best concert you ever attended.

I will have to say that my favourite band was Rush, who sadly are no longer a band because, sadly, they decided to call it a day shortly before drummer Neil Peart passed away. The last time I saw the band was the last time they visited the UK in 2013 and is to date the most expensive concert I have been to. 

In terms of being a spectacle it wasn’t the most explosive or exciting (that honour goes to German industrial metal band Rammstein who were incredible). Nevertheless, the music was amazing and they performed as they always did without a support, being onstage for over three hours (with an intermission). 

I was so sad when they called it a day and even sadder when Neil Peart died. But I am delighted that I saw them on their last tour of the UK.

13. What’s one thing you don’t ever want to change?

Apart from work, I don’t want to change my life at all. Once we can travel again (which is getting closer dear reader), that will see my life returning to normal. And that’s the way I want it to stay – preferably as a retired person.

14. What scares you?

I am scared of heights, something that has steadily got worse over the years. I guess if monsters and ghosts existed, I might be scared of those too.

15. What are three things you want to do before you die?

I am going to live forever. 

Well, if you are going to push me …

I want to go on a round the world trip – but I would be happy to visit Japan and Australia again, and a few countries that I haven’t been to yet, like New Zealand.

I want to write a novel or a serious book, rather than the crappy travelogues I’ve already written.

I wouldn’t mind trying to write a song. That would be fun.


Saturday, 21 August 2021

Sleepy


Welcome to South Manchester on day 34 of so-called freedom, on an unpleasant day with lots of rain. I narrowly avoided the rain this morning, the main showers starting about ten minutes after I had arrived home from my daily walk. Thank goodness.

Here is the usual Sunday Stealing post  called Sad and Sleepy. I decided to just call it Sleepy because I m not particularly sad at the moment – a little sleepy I guess but since it’s the weekend I will have a nice lie in tomorrow morning.

Shall we dive in?

1. Has anyone ever made fun of your taste in music?

People always make fun of my music. Most of them are lovers of terrible pop music (from all eras) or people who like classical music, jazz or similar tastes. I try not to tell people that their music is rubbish these days; instead I tell them that it is not to my taste. In return they tell me that the music I like is not music at all. Some say it is too noisy, that there is no tune, that the singers do not or cannot sing or that the musicians have zero talent. I have been called a musical dinosaur, tone deaf or contributing to the death of music by supporting such artists.

I do admit that some of the music I like is an acquired taste, but I genuinely believe that the musicians I like are extremely talented and exhibit virtuosity of the highest order. I tell such people that just because the powers that dictate people’s musical taste with an endless supply of banal and inane pop drivel don’t like my music because the artists are independent, talented and want to express themselves in a way that these evil music moguls don’t permit. 

My claims are substantiated because although the bands and artists I like don’t reach number one in the singles charts or get a lot of airplay on the radio, they still sell millions of records and sell out their tours. 

I will give anything a chance.

Even two songs as diverse as this:


What have I learned?

All life, it never goes away

You never will betray

When words have gone away

Remember Namaste

Remember – don’t let anyone tell you what music to like – but it does pay to expand your horizons. There is so much music out there waiting to be discovered.

2. Do you have pop-tarts in your house right now?

I have to say with my hand on my heart that I have never had a pop tart. So the answer is no.

3. Does someone owe you over twenty dollars?

Nobody owes me any money whatsoever. If somebody owed me $20 I would ask for £20 instead (which is a little more). That’s because you can’t spend dollars in the UK.

4. When was the last time you burned any part of your body?

I seem to remember that I picked up a saucepan with a metal handle and that burned. Why do they make saucepans with metal handles?

5. What kind of booze did you last take shots of?

I don’t drink shots. However, we visited a distillery in Llandudno, in Wales, a week or two ago and I tried a couple of shots of Welsh whiskey. I don’t like whiskey really so I asked the guide what he recommended for somebody who doesn’t really like it. The shot he gave me was, actually, surprisingly good, I have to say. It hasn’t changed my mind though to be fair.

6. If you could see any musician live, front row, who would you choose?

I’ve seen Devin Townsend live once but at the front, it was a little insane with a huge mosh pit forming around me. I would probably choose Steven Wilson as his music is a little more sedate and less prone to crowd eruptions.

7. If I gave you ten dollars, what would you spend it on?

I wouldn’t be able to spend it in the UK, as I said in question (3) because we use pound sterling instead. I could go to a currency exchange and get £7.34 for it and buy myself a beer or two at the pub. I would probably take it home and stash it away in my collection of foreign currency ready for my next trip to America.

8. Does / did either of your parents serve in the military?

Yes. My father served in the army for about three years in the late 1950’s. I don’t think he would have had he had a choice – it was mandatory in those days. I think he learned from his experience. 

9. Do you like sour candy?

I can honestly say that I have never had sour candy. It is a little bit of an oxymoron so to be honest I don’t think I would want to try it.

10. What do you do to stay awake when you’re tired?

I used to drink coffee but I have now given up caffeine because you cannot control how long it keeps you awake. These days, now I am older and wiser, I allow my body to dictate when I sleep. If I am at home and tired, I will allow sleep to take over and doze off. 

11.Do you wear your shoes around the house?

Only when I come into the house or just before I leave. 

12. Is there ever a time that you enjoy cold showers?

Yes – I like a cold shower when it is extremely hot. I was once in Oman and the outside temperature was about 38 degrees Centigrade and I stupidly decided to go for a walk. I didn’t last very long because the heat and the humidity conspired to start the process of cooking me alive. When I returned to my hotel room I was sweating so much that I could barely peel the T-shirt off my back. When I did, I simply stepped into a warm shower and gradually took the temperature down until it was absolutely freezing cold. That cooled me down very quickly and was thoroughly enjoyable. 

13. Are you good at filling silence in awkward situations?

It depends on the situation. If there are just two of us, I will try to kick start the conversation. I was once working in Russia with a colleague who was very quiet, so I tried to drive the conversation over dinner and in the hotel bar. It worked but it was hard work. If there is a large group of people I am more inclined to leave such things to somebody else.

14. Any TV shows you sit down weekly to watch?

Yes – quite a lot. Now the football season has started again, I usually watch Match of the Day on Saturday night and I watch the news on a daily basis. I tend to record most other programmes to watch at my leisure.

15. Are you one to sneak food into movie theaters?

Absolutely. I was very annoyed one time, as an adult with two young kids, when the usher (or whatever you want to call him – “jobsworth arsehole” was a phrase I had to stop myself from calling him to his face). The kids had a couple of bags of sweets and this arse wouldn’t let me take them in, leaving me no choice but to pay an exorbitant amount for their own sweets, drinks etc. Since that point I vowed to try to sneak in my own refreshments. And to that jobsworth arsehole I have this to say:

I have a 100% success rate you bloody idiot.


Sunday, 15 August 2021

Summer


Welcome to a rainy South Manchester on day 28 of so-called freedom from Covid restrictions. It’s August, it’s supposed to be summer, yet the rain is drizzling outside and the sun is nowhere to be seen, hiding behind the grey-white clouds that are drifting over my house.

Despite the gloom, it’s still reasonably warm and I just hope to see a little more sunshine before summer gives way to Autumn. The leaves on some trees are already starting to turn, which is s sign that summer is definitely receding. 

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What subjects lead you down a Wikipedia rabbit hole?

All sorts of subjects. I sometimes play that little game if I am looking things up and just follow links down and down to see where they lead me. One of my favourite subjects is music and I often look up old bands and artists to see what has happened to them. I also use Wikipedia to look up new artists and details about their music, like albums, songs etc. I quite like looking up historical facts too and details about other things I don’t actually know about and, following those links, can keep me entertained for ages.

2. How do you like to spend your birthdays?

I am rather weird when it comes to my birthday. I don’t regard it as a special day any more because it signifies that I am getting older. I also don’t particularly like being the centre of attention and I am quite happy just to go out for a meal or something with Mrs PM. The worst birthdays are milestone birthdays, for which I tend to do something different. For example, on my 40th birthday I went to Madrid for a weekend with some mates and on my 50th we visited Rome with some friends. The next milestone birthday is 60 and I have no doubt that I will pop off to another European city for a long weekend and, by then I would have thought that Covid will be under control.

3. Something you might take a little too seriously?

I have recently taken politics far too seriously, to the point where I have lost my temper over it. I have now decided to at least try to ignore it and not to get angry about the incompetence of the government we have had to endure since 2010, resulting in the UK becoming a laughing stock to the world. I still rant a little about Boris the clown – he deserves that much because he is a power-hungry malignant narcissist who is out of his depth. I will celebrate his inevitable demise and I welcome a time when I don’t have to see the scarecrow on my television. Until then, whenever I see the bumbling blustering buffoon, I shall take deep breaths and think of fluffy bunnies cavorting in a summer field of daisies.


4. Describe a time you made a good decision for yourself

Way back in 1999, I decided to take the opportunity of a three month secondment to Hong Kong. Mrs PM came with me and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was hard work and I already loved the city. Living there was completely different from just visiting (as I had many times previously) and I got to know the city well. We worked really hard with, sometimes, long and awkward hours but if I could do it again I would. We even found time to spend two weeks touring China in true Planes, Trains and Automobiles fashion. I love Hong Kong and since then I have taken every opportunity that has come my way to visit the place. I regard the city as an old friend and whenever we head to the Far East we always try to squeeze in a visit.

5. Something you’ve improved/gotten better at

I think my Spanish has improved recently, since I have been making more of an effort and, although it is poor, I can get the gist of written Spanish. I need to take it to the next level though and my aim is to do so as I close in on retirement.

6. What dish would you bring to a summer potluck?

I would probably cheat and buy something sweet for dessert.

7. What do you miss about Winter?

I don’t miss winter at all. It is cold, dark and miserable. I guess I quite enjoy Christmas and New Year, but I’m not keen on the build up to the big day with the pressure of buying gifts and arranging stuff. I quite like the parties though.

8. Share a summer memory

2017 was a bad year for me and at the end of the summer we went to C’an Pastilla in Majorca on a last minute deal to get away from it all, literally. I needed the break to get my head back in shape and remove the stress that had built up. We quickly adopted a relaxing routine. We would start the day with breakfast and then embark upon a leisurely six mile walk down the promenade to nearby Arenal and back, just watching the sea and listening to the waves lapping up on the shore before having lunch and relaxing by the pool, reading and listening to music. All of the stress from the previous months basically drifted away and it recharged my batteries completely and when I returned to the UK with a smile on my face and my head in exactly the right place.

9. Words you misspell or misuse the most

When I was younger I used to misuse the word “aggravate”. I would say things like “Stop aggravating me!” to mean “Stop winding me up!”

10. Things you love to do, that can only happen in summer

I love walking by the sea on a sunny day, and walking in the countryside, also in the sunshine. I also like travelling to Europe in summer. Okay, I can do those things in winter but they are typically more unpleasant due to the weather. 

11. How would you describe your sense of humour?

I have a strange, weird and sometimes dark sense of humour. For example, I love shows like Monty Python, which I regard as surreal but really intelligent. Here are a couple of examples:


12. Have you ever quit a job or career?

No. But I will be doing so in the next couple of years.

13. What are your favourite features of your cell phone?

I like just about everything about it. I can access the internet anywhere, it records my steps, I can take photos, I can measure my heart rate, it’s a torch, it’s a satnav, I can send messages and, most bizarrely of all, I can actually use it as a phone. 

And there are hundreds and hundreds of apps that I can download to make my life even easier. It is an amazing bit of tech.

14. What scents always make you hungry?

Cooking generally makes me feel hungry, particularly in a restaurant.

15. What are you working on right now?

This blog post. Actually, I am trying to write three things. The first is an autobiography, the second is a travelogue and the third is a novel. It is just a little bit of fun and I can imagine that none of them will ever see the light of day (as I am a crap writer) – but they keep me happy.


Sunday, 8 August 2021

Olympics and Stuff


Welcome to  a rainy South Manchester on day 21 since freedom day. It’s a bit weird actually because we have just returned from a long weekend to Llandudno, a lovely little seaside town in North Wales, about 90 minutes away by car, but where the lockdown rules are different from those we have in England. 

Just for the benefit of American readers, I live in the United Kingdom, which comprises four countries; England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (not the Republic of Ireland). We have a devolved government in that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can still make their own rules and each has a first minister, but they have to endure the same stupid clown that we do in England as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

So in Wales, they were still under stricter Covid-19 restrictions, meaning that social distancing was in force and pubs, restaurants etc. were limited in the number of people they could accommodate. In England, such restrictions stopped on July 19th.

However, we were there from Thursday to Saturday, and on Saturday (yesterday), they had their so-called “Freedom Day” and now they can open up as they did before the pandemic, although they do have slightly stricter rules than we do in England – they have to wear masks on all public transport and in shops – though not in places where food and drink are served. It’s optional in those places. Nevertheless we did see people wearing masks in restaurants when walking around and some places still had barriers up.

Anyway we had a good time despite dodgy weather at times, and now I am back just in time to contribute to this week’s Sunday Stealing just as the Olympics in Tokyo are about to finish. Let’s answer some silly questions shall we?

1.  What is the nearest book to you?  Your Kindle does not count.

The nearest book to me is one of two books I am reading at the moment. This year I have pledged to myself that I will read some old books from my dusty collection that are all to do with creative writing with a view to helping myself from being absolutely dreadful to one that is slightly less awful as the year progresses. This particular book is called “Three Rules for Writing a Novel” by an American author called William Noble. It is very interesting and I have had to resist using my marker pen to correct his use of words like “favorite”, “vacation” and “color” to the correct way (“favourite”, “holiday” and “colour”). 

Of course I am joking – I can tolerate such foibles in my American cousins.

2.  When was the last time you took a "me" holiday

I have just been to Llandudno, as I mentioned above, with Mrs PM and that was an “us” holiday, which are the kind I like best. When did I last take a “me” holiday? In all honestly I have no idea and I don’t know what a “me” holiday would entail. I am not averse to travelling alone if necessary (I have had to do so numerous times with work – but they are not holidays at all as work is involved). I think a “me” holiday would only happen if Mrs PM were away somewhere – and I think I would drive to a nearby seaside resort, book myself into a nice hotel and then relax with walks along the seafront, or sitting in a cafĂ© or pub overlooking the sea, with a good book and a beverage of my choice, watching the world go by. That is unlikely to happen for a while I have to say.

3.  How many telephone numbers do you have?

Quite a lot. I’m not going to count them – though perhaps I should go through them and remove those which are no longer necessary. With the advent of social media, I rarely use my phone as a phone these days. 

4.  If you could fix one thing in the public school system, what is the one thing you would do immediately?

Public schools in the UK are an oxymoron. They are not public at all; you have to pay fees for them and usually involve rich politicians, famous people and so-called celebrities sending their poor spoiled kids away to be educated. 

I would consider banning them completely. 

5.  What's your favourite Olympic event?

I have dipped into the Olympics briefly and I have to say that I quite like watching the indoor cycling events. I can watch most of the sports actually, except, bizarrely, football (or soccer to the American readers). Why? Because the UK doesn’t compete. As I mentioned above, we have four countries comprising the UK and in football terms we have individual teams for each nation; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The governing body, FIFA, would probably try to force us to compete in all competitions as the United Kingdom, if we were to enter a combined team into the Olympics – and none of the four nations would accept or allow that to happen. 

That said, we did have special permission to do this during the London 2012 Olympics – just because they were in the UK I think.

6.  Do you watch the Olympics?

As I said above, I dip in and out of them, rather than watching them religiously. I know that the UK did rather well, finishing fourth overall.

7.  Who is your favourite sports team player?

I can’t say that I have a current favourite. The football club I support, Walsall FC, have a largely new squad this season and it only started yesterday, so I will reserve judgement for a few months. 

My all-time favourite Walsall player is a guy called Alan Buckley who was a prolific goalscorer in the 1970s before becoming our manager briefly afterwards.

Here he is:

I was lucky enough to meet him as a kid and he signed my football programme for me. I still have it upstairs in the loft.

8.  If you could travel in a spaceship to any planet, which planet would you like to visit and why?

It would have to be a planet that supported human life and all the ones we know about, that aren’t Earth, cannot do that. I guess I would do a fly-by of Saturn because it is the prettiest but if I were to be transported to a fictional world it would probably Risa, in the Star Trek universe, which is a “pleasure planet”.

9.  When was the last time you sat in a church?

These days I only go to church for weddings and funerals, one of which is a pleasurable experience, the other being pretty damned awful (I hate funerals). The last time I sat in a church was in 2017 when my mum died. I hated it.

10.  Are there any aspects of blogging that annoy you?

From a personal point of view, I am annoyed with myself for not being as prolific as I was a few years ago. I wrote quite a few posts a year and I would like to return to that. I have had to push myself recently to try to produce more posts that are about life in general and my weird outlook on it. I like Sunday Stealing because it gives me a little push in that direction but I could really do with writing two or three posts a week that are more like essays, thoughts, etc.

I need to make a habit of it and I know that when I retire eventually I will be more inclined to do so.

11. Have you ever gone to a party and snooped in the medicine cabinet?

Never. Why would anybody ever do that?

12. Do you watch reality TV?

The only reality show that I can tolerate is the Apprentice – that’s the UK version with Alan Sugar rather than the American version with the Orange Goblin. The only reason I watch it is to see Sugar bring the egomaniacal arses that think they rule the business world, crashing down to Earth.

All other reality TV shows are awful and I would rather pull off my fingernails with rusty tweezers than watch them.

13.  How many people can you call who have known you since you were in school?

When I left school, I also left Walsall, my home town, and ended up in university at Liverpool. I never moved back and consequently lost touch with all of them over the years. There is one kid (a grown man now) that I keep in touch with via a message board that I pop onto occasionally – but that’s about it. I still keep in touch with quite a few lads from university though and we are having a reunion in September of this year.

14. Who, when, and where was your first kiss?

I kissed an Irish girl whose name I will not share – for her benefit more than mine. I remember it being very pleasant. I was about seven years old (as was she) and I discovered quite a few years ago that she had become a nurse and, at the time, lived on the south coast of England. 

15. You just got thrown out of your country.  Where do you want to become a citizen?

I am learning Spanish so I would probably opt for Spain. Although I could be tempted by France (as I speak a little French too). Both are beautiful countries and I am resisting the urge as we speak to start a massive rant about Brexit and what that scruffy half-witted, half-clown/half scarecrow who masquerades as our Prime Minister has done to my country.

I am breathing deeply and picturing bunny rabbits frolicking in a field of daisies, dear reader.