Saturday, 19 June 2021

Love Me Some Surveys


Welcome to sunny Manchester on day 462 of restrictions. Shall we dive straight into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing?

Let’s do this.

1. Ignoring nutrition, could you live off veggies for the rest of your life?

Absolutely not. Don’t get me wrong; I love vegetables and eat them all the time but I am also part carnivore and I love meat. I simply could not imagine life without steak, chicken, bacon, sausage, pork, lamb or the other lovely meats that I have not mentioned. 

I applaud those people who have decided to become vegetarian or vegan (even if a small percentage of them are trying to be “right on” and “cool” and use their vegetarianism as some kind of badge of honour – and these people do exit, dear reader, because I have met them) but it simply isn’t for me, I’m afraid.

2. Elaborate on a way you have volunteered?

I volunteered to go to America once with work. Does that count?

I will almost certainly do some volunteering when I retire.

3. Can you walk in heels, or do you feel awkward in them?

Of course I haven’t. I’m a man. And I have asked many women why they cripple themselves by wearing heels that allow them to walk only two hundred yards in complete agony, or that render their feet a complete mess when they can prise them off their body. Like this woman:

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

Not these days. I tend to record shows on Sky to watch later and watch other shows on Amazon/Netflix as and when I feel like it. I guess I watch the news a couple of times a day (while trying my best not to rant).

5. Will you tell someone if there’s something in their teeth?

Absolutely – and I would expect people to do the same for me.

6. Do you ever actually make your bed?

Of course I do. The only times I don’t are when Mrs PM beats me to it. Actually, even when I stay in a hotel, I tidy it up a little before leaving the room.

7. Do you make an effort to eat healthy?

Usually, yes, apart from weekends. From Monday to Friday I eat a lot of fruit, salad and fish, alongside my evening meals. At the weekend, though, I will usually try something that is supposedly “bad” for me. 

It is a question of having a balanced diet. 

I rarely eat cake and dessert though – I save those for a rare treat.

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

I don’t drink spirits so I don’t usually have shots of anything. My tipple of choice is beer, although I sometimes enjoy a glass or two of wine. 

I think the last “shot” I had was tequila at a leaving party in a pub for woman who worked on my team. She insisted that I have one with her, so I grimaced, took it and then reverted back to beer.

9. What’s something you want to purchase next time you’re at the mall?

I haven’t been to a shopping “mall” (or shopping centre as we call it in the UK) for over two years now. That was to buy clothes and I guess that if I were to go again when restrictions are lifted, clothes would be at the forefront of my mind.

10. What were you doing at 10:00 this morning?

I was walking by the River Mersey, approximately half way through my four mile morning walk. The sun was out, dogs were jumping into the river (much to the disgust of their owners), joggers were jogging, cyclists were cycling, walkers were walking, magpies were cackling, clouds were drifting, trees were rustling and I was listening to (I think) some Megadeth on my iPod. 

11. What do you miss the most about your past?

My youth. I would love to have my young slim, energetic body back. My current older body isn’t too bad for its age, but there are signs that it has been used – like the odd wrinkle, the odd ache and nowhere near as much energy as I had when I was twenty years old. I still look young for my age and nobody would describe me as fat but sadly, now, it is harder to lose weight and recover from the excesses of life.

12. Last time you were really happy?

I am really happy at this moment in time. It is a sunny and warm Saturday afternoon, there is football on TV in approximately half an hour, I am going to an Indian restaurant with Mrs PM and her dad later this evening and tomorrow I am meeting a couple of mates to watch a 20-20 cricket match. What is there to be sad about?

13. Did you get a full 8 hours of sleep last night?

Not quite. I went to bed at half past midnight but was woken up at 6 o’clock this morning by two hungry cats. I managed to doze off again for an hour or so but I gave up and got up. I usually only need seven to eight hours a night anyway so I will probably catch up tonight.

14. Have you spoken to your mother or father today?

No – unless they are ghosts and were listening while I was talking to the cats.

15. Are you good at filling awkward silences?

It depends who I am with. If I know somebody really well, silences are not awkward generally. However, if it is a person I have met for the first time, I will try to talk when such silences occur. I am quite good at filling such moments with inane questions and idiotic horse droppings.


Saturday, 12 June 2021

LEP


Welcome to sunny South Manchester on day 455 of Covid restrictions. Euro 2020 has started (a year later due to the pandemic), so it will be wall to wall football for the next few weeks. I can’t wait. 

Without further ado, let’s dive straight into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing.

1. Describe your phone lock screen

It is a boat on the shore of a tranquil turquoise lake – a beautiful tranquil image. I would claim credit for it myself if I could, but sadly I don’t want to mislead you. It came with my phone and of all of the ones supplied, I liked it best. Here it is:


2. How often do you journal?

I journal every day and have done since 4th November 2018, when I started what is known as freewriting. Basically I just let my thoughts wander and put them down on paper (well in a computer document) without any proof-reading or grammar checks. It’s become a daily habit and one that I can no longer break. 

So what do I write?

Any of the following:

Thoughts, writing exercises, pseudo-diary entries, ideas and all manner of garbage. Nobody will ever read it because it is total rubbish – but within there are fledgling ideas, plans and several nuggets of gold scattered around. 

It works for me and it is fun.

3. What’s your favourite thing to teach others?

The only time I really teach anybody is at work and I regard it as part of my job even though I am not a trainer or teacher really. If we have new starters I will teach them about our software and also assist guys and girls in other teams whenever they need to know about the system.

I don’t like doing it but it has to be done. I wouldn’t call it a “favourite thing” either. 

I have tried to teach Mrs PM to appreciate decent music – and failed miserably – apart from some nuggets on our joint playlist - read about it here

4. How do you like to spend Sundays?

 During the day, I try to catch up on household chores and, during the football season, I will watch a game from the Premier League. Sunday night is movie night and we relax in front of our TV watching a suitable joint movie. Unlike our music taste, Mrs PM and I tend to like the same kind of films. 

5. What would you describe as your kryptonite?

 I have a few, I think. I have a tendency to procrastinate, even though I am improving on that score (by forming and sticking to habits).  

I am also a little shy, although much better than I used to be, and I still struggle internally when meeting new people. I used to be terribly shy and avoid socializing when I was a kid and really university brought me out of my shell. Since then, I have been thrust into many situations where I have just had to deal with shyness and try to cast it aside. 

This is the one thing that has worked really – just talk to people and they will talk back to you. I still suffer slightly but these days I can walk into a crowded pub on my own, order a beer and sit down alone at a table and drink it. When I was 18, the thought of doing that would horrify me. 

6. A TV show or movie you thought was really bad

The Twilight saga. I have ranted about it before on this very blog. If you are interested you can read it here.  

7. Do you know your mail carrier?

Of course I do it is the Post Office. 

8. Which regional foods are your favourite?

 I think I answered this question last week. If you didn’t read the post, I shall tell you again – Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Italian – in fact I like most food but the only one I struggle with is Thai.

9. What was your life like 20 years ago?

Twenty years ago, we were living in a two-bedroomed apartment and were looking for a new house, which we would purchase the following year. I was a mere 38 years old and not looking forward to my 40th birthday at all. I was working on a project in America and flew a couple of times to Atlanta, which was quite enjoyable. I think I was quite a happy chap even then, as I am now.

10. Crafting hobbies that you’d like to learn or improve

I’m not really good at anything that involve crafts so I guess I would actually have to find something. I might be tempted to try my hand at painting – like this guy, Bob Ross. He had a show on the BBC in the 1980’s and 1990’s called, simply, “The Joy of Painting”. I never watched it at the time, but I caught a rerun of it a few months ago and have watched a few episodes now. Basically, he talks with a really soft voice and then paints a masterpiece in front of my eyes in half an hour. It is strangely alluring. 

Here is a small trailer:

11. What is your favourite type of YouTube videos?

I watch a lot of music on YouTube and also clips of so-called “unexplained” things, like aliens, UFO sightings, ghosts, conspiracy theories about people turning into lizards and weird stuff like that. 

I guess I am a little weird aren’t I? Here is an example:

I love this kind of nonsense.

12. Describe your surroundings

I am sitting in the back room of my house, my “man cave” (as Mrs PM describes it). I am sitting at my desk typing on a computer and, at the same time, listening to the song “Caprice” by “The Wildhearts”. Ziggy and Star(dust) are wondering around ready to ask me for their lunch and as I look through the window next to me, I can see that the sun has come out and that it is quite warm outside. 

13. You're making a Time Capsule to be opened in 50 years.  What 3 things would you put in it?

Five CDs containing my favourite songs (created on my laptop – I would never put a CD from my collection in there). 

My old smartphone (something that I should have disposed of really)

A copy of each of my travelogues.

14. Something you learned recently that resonated with you

We are supposed to be released from lockdown on June 21st. Sadly, the Indian variant of Covid is causing the infection rates to rise in the UK and rumour has it that our Clown Prime Minister, aka (Worzel Gummidge) is going to postpone it until July 19th. 

15. Songs that get stuck in your head often

Here are a couple of earworms from my collection. I apologise in advance if they stick in your head:

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Let's Go To Dinner


Welcome to a warm and sunny South Manchester on day 448 of Covid-19 restrictions. The weather has improved dramatically and we can now look forward to at least three weeks of lovely warm sunny weather to raise our spirits and help us to make the most out of this dreadful pandemic. Added to that, the European Championships start next Friday and I can look forward to a couple of weeks of international football (that’s soccer for any American readers). 

I have been making the most of the easing of restrictions by seeing friends and tonight Mrs PM and I are visiting a lovely local Italian restaurant for a cosy meal for two. 

That will be nice. 

Shall we dive into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. When is the last time you went out to a meal with someone special? Tell us about it.

Well – as I said above, I anticipate that the meal tonight with Mrs PM will be special. However, we met a couple of friends two weeks ago and after a quick drink in a bar in the city centre, we all went to a lovely restaurant where we chatted about life, the universe and everything. It was special because it was the first time we had been to a restaurant since late summer of 2020 and the first time we had seen those guys for well over a year – perhaps closer to two years. 

2. Show us a picture of your favourite cuisine.

I can’t choose so here are four of my favourites (in no particular order).

Chinese 

Indian

Italian

Mexican

3. What is the funniest thing a man/woman has said to you lately?

I share a lot of banter with the guys at work and, during one meeting, one member of my team said to me:

“Dave, I’ll bet you love wearing a mask to bars now. You probably stand more chance with women because the mask covers most of your face.”

4. What makes a gentleman a gentleman in today’s dating world? Are there any left?

What do you mean “are there any gentlemen left”? Of course there are – and I am one of them. I don’t have to date because I am in a loving relationship but if I did I know that I would be the perfect gentleman. I AM the perfect gentleman. 

How very dare you!

5. Is there anything you won’t tolerate when out to dinner with your significant other?

I am with Joey from Friends on this.

There are exceptions; for example I am happy to share Chinese food and, sometime, Indian food – but nothing else. I would prefer than Mrs PM orders a plate of chips for herself and only eat a couple than steal mine.

She knows this – even though she frequently tries to humiliate me about it. I don’t care – I am who I am.

6. What type of ambiance do you enjoy in an eating establishment?

I like a fairly busy place with a little light music in the background, with friendly attentive staff. Of course, the food has to be good too. There are a lot of very good restaurants like this in Manchester.

7. Tell us about the worst public dining experience you ever had, whether it be a date or with your family.

Here’s a good one – not the worst but quite funny.

I was in a restaurant in Zurich with a work colleague and we were about to eat pizza. The food was very nice but the two guys on the next table were very drunk and very loud. Their banter and conversation were harmless and they didn’t butt in and talk to us but their voices were so loud that we could barely talk to each other. They were speaking German so I didn’t fully understand what they were saying (I speak only very limited German). However, one of them stood up just as my pizza arrived. The waiter put my pizza on the table and, next to it, a large glass of German beer. The drunk guy stumbled into our table and knocked the entire glass of beer over my freshly baked pizza and partly over my lap.

To be fair to him, he was mortified. 

He started apologizing profusely in German and I had to say “Ich spreche nur ein bisschen deutsch.” (I only speak a little German). He switched to English and said “I’m so sorry!” 

He then ran after the waiter and called him back and spoke rapidly in German. He basically told the waiter to take my food back. 

“I have ordered it again for you, my friend,” he said. “I will pay for your meal!”

“There’s no need,” I said. 

But he insisted. 

Meanwhile, my work colleague was struggling not to laugh out loud. 

Sure enough, a fresh pizza and another beer arrived and then the guy kept talking to me, apologising over and over again. 

Eventually he got the message and stopped talking and sure enough, he paid for my pizza, despite my protestations. 

So, I guess it ended okay.

8. What is the lamest or rudest thing a man/woman has said to you lately?

Nothing recent – but I got into a discussion over Brexit with some friends a couple of years ago and a bloke decided to intervene in our conversation to tell me that I hated the United Kingdom because I disagree with Brexit. Thankfully, the guys I was with all rounded on him and told him, in the sweetest possible way (not really), to go back to his wife, to enjoy his meal and not to be such an arsehole and butt into other people’s conversations.  

9. Are you a good tipper?

Tipping is not mandatory or expected in the United Kingdom, but I do tip if I have enjoyed the meal and the waiter has been half decent. Generally if you tip in the UK the tips are all shared out at the end of the night.

Of course, I have been to America where tipping is expected and, to be honest, I always feel a little odd when I am over there. I once saw a waitress take the bill payment and the person left without leaving her a tip. She returned to the table and basically lost the plot and threw every single one of her toys out of the pram. 

“What did I do wrong?” she complained to anyone within earshot. “I don’t do this for fun you know!” before storming off.

She was our waitress too. I did leave her a tip of course because, despite the outburst, she was sweet and friendly to us – and I did enjoy the food. But I still felt a bit odd. 

10. Do you ask for doggie bags when you leave food on your plate at a restaurant?

Only in America. The amount of food that you are served there is incredible. 

On one occasion I was working in Atlanta but had the weekend off. I popped into a local restaurant and ordered what I thought was a small burger, fries and a coke. When it arrived I was stunned. The burger was enormous and the amount of fries that came with it was enough for about three people. And then came the coke – a huge bucket of the stuff. 

I didn’t know what to do. I tried my best to eat as much of the food as I could but it totally and utterly defeated me. Thankfully, I was staying in an aparthotel so I asked for a doggie bag and took it with me. The coke also came with me when I left and it lasted most of the rest of the afternoon. 

I had the remains of the burger and fries back at the hotel later – thank goodness my room had a kitchen.

11. What is your pet peeve about restaurants and dining out in general?

I don’t like really expensive restaurants that charge the earth for food but only provide you with enough to whet your appetite. That really boils my blood and I avoid such establishments like the plague.

12. Do you prefer to order yourself or do you ever let your significant other order for you?

I absolutely prefer to order for myself. Why on earth would I let anybody else order for me? I will listen to recommendations of course but ultimately it is my choice.

The only exception to this is in China. Whenever I have worked in China, I have usually dined with the Chinese guys I am working with and allowed them to order the food, having told them what I will and won’t eat. Things I won’t eat include insects (and anything related to insects such as larvae), spiders, scorpions, dogs, offal or anything that comes from inside the animal’s head. That said, I have never had a bad meal in China – the food over there is absolutely brilliant – much better than most Chinese food in the UK – and whenever I go there it is the one thing I look forward to the most.

13. Describe your most intimate romantic dinner ever. (fantasy or real)

Café Deco on the Peak in Hong Kong without a doubt. It was a beautiful restaurant with amazing views of Victoria Harbour. Sadly, I have just discovered that it has closed which is an absolute shame. When I worked in Hong Kong for three months in 1999, Mrs PM and I used to go there often for a lovely romantic meal while enjoying the amazing views.

The food was international and always wonderful. 

Cafe Deco

I will miss the place when I next manage to get there.

14. Do you enjoy piano bars?

Not really – mainly because I don’t like the music. I have stayed in quite a few hotels in the world when travelling with work, and when I sit in the hotel bar and there is a guy playing the piano, it generally annoys me because the music is not really the kind I like, particularly if the singer tries to emulate people like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or any of those old-time singers. 

Give me a bar playing rock music any day.

15. If you could go anywhere in the world for dinner, where would it be and who would you be with?

I would go to Hong Kong with Mrs PM and have a chinese meal somewhere in Wan Chai. I would have chosen Café Deco if it was still there.


Saturday, 29 May 2021

Journal Buddies


Welcome to a warm South Manchester where the weather has finally improved and we are preparing for a week of sunshine and warmth. It seems that summer has finally arrived. We are currently in day 441 of the restrictions and vaccinations are progressing in the UK at pace with over 70% of adults having had at least their first jab and over 40%, like myself, now fully vaccinated.

We are about three weeks from the date that our Clown Prime Minister, a man who doesn’t know his arse from his elbow, has earmarked for lifting all restrictions.

Sadly we have a problem that may make that date slip. The Indian variant of the virus is now spreading in a few places, one in particular – a town called Bolton that is about 20 miles away from where I am at the moment.  Infections are high there but thankfully the pressure on hospitals isn’t too bad, the only people who are patients are those who haven’t been vaccinated yet.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that infections will ease again and that by the end of June we will be fully free.

Let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing.

1. When do you feel the world will stop?

I think the world will keep turning until something catastrophic happens, like the sun exploding or throwing it’s toys out of the pram to go supernova. Or perhaps if a huge asteroid smashes into our planet and knocks it out of it’s orbit to send it spiralling into the sun. I know two things about this. First of all, although I plan to live forever, I won’t be around to witness such events. Second, it won’t happen for billions of years. I think we will all be fine. 

2. What is your personal motto?

Life is fun. Enjoy it while you can.

3. What is the greatest gift you ever received?

I would probably say the gift of life itself. I am here and that is thanks to my parents.

4. Who is a leader who inspires you?

I am not inspired by any leaders because no matter how good they appear to be, they have arrived in their position of leadership treading on people on their way to the top. I don’t trust any of them.

5. What irrationally annoys you more than anything else?

James Cordon. For some reason he totally irritates me to the point where I refuse to watch any shows that have the unfortunate and dubious pleasure of him being the host or being a guest. America – you can keep him.

6. What small thing can always bring you a bit of joy?

My two cats. They are not small now though. 

7. What is your favourite thing to do on a lazy day?

I like to read book, watch a bit of TV listen to some music or write down some thoughts in my terrible freewriting journal. Or perhaps write a blog post.

8. How often do you take risks?

I am quite risk averse so rarely. Usually if I take a risk I have to really think about the pros and cons of doing so in order to decide whether the risks are acceptable or not. Sometimes they are but mostly they aren’t.

9. Write about your happiest memory.

I have lots of happy memories, most of them from before this terrible pandemic. There are too many to single out just one (as I am a naturally happy chap). 

10. How long do you think it will be before we see a female president?

In the UK and worldwide there are and have been quite a lot of female leaders. In the UK we have had Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May as Prime Minister, both of whom were odious people that I am glad to see the back of. I am quite impressed by Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister. We could do with somebody like her in charge over here. 

As for America, I tend to watch their political antics from afar but the impression I get is that it will be while before they elect a female president. They came close with Hilary Clinton I guess but instead chose a corrupt orange goblin instead, something that still amazes me to this day.

Hopefully they will get one sooner rather than later and the fact that there is a female vice president is a good thing.

11. Do you think it’s important to be part of a community?  Why? Why not?

Yes indeed. People need to cooperate and communities can bring people together.

12. What piece of modern technology are you most grateful to have.

Everything that connects me to the outside world, like my smartphone and my laptop.

13. Do you feel anonymous on line?

I felt quite anonymous as the Plastic Mancunian. I was hoping to stay completely anonymous until a determined person at work discovered my blog. Consequently there are people who know who I am and read the rubbish that I write. Since then, I have let slip a few choice snippets about myself and popped a few photos on the blog too. It’s fine – although I am tempted to reinvent myself as a totally anonymous blogger again. That said, of course anyone who is determined enough can track anybody down – so it may be pointless.

14. What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have never gotten around to.

To learn a new musical instrument. I am tempted to do so when I retire in a couple of years’ time. Watch this space.

15. What would life be like without the internet?

From a work perspective it would be bloody annoying. I remember the days when the internet was in its infancy and my desk at work was full of technical text books and manuals. These days I can look up anything on the internet and it makes my job much easier as a software engineer.

From a personal perspective it would be annoying because I use the internet constantly from learning Spanish to posting drivel on this blogs, as well as exploring the world, arranging travel (remember that - travel?), buying things, arranging my life and many other things.

Basically, as Americans say, life without the internet would suck.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

The Alternative Eurovision Song Contest - 2021

 


Greetings from a wet South Manchester on a day where I usually answer a few silly questions. Today I am going to do something slightly different. 

Last night out of boredom Mrs PM and I watched the annual European tradition that is the Eurovision Song Contest. Part of me hopes that one day this nonsense will just cease to exist; that Europe collectively will see that this ridiculous spectacle is, at 65 years of age, something that should be retired. 

Sadly, it looks like it is going to go on forever. 

We watched with total disbelief as 26 acts, including one from my own country, performed mainly dreadful songs in a spectacular stage show, with an audience that was there despite Covid-19 restrictions. The whole thing lasted for about four hours and was won by an Italian rock song. 

The UK excelled itself this year by coming last.

All the way through I asked myself “Why are you watching this, Dave?” but I was strangely drawn to it. I just don’t know why. The standard of some of the songs is dreadful, both the writing, the style and the over-the-top stage production and costumes. 

Having slept on it, I think that I have managed to put my finger on why it appeals to people. 

(1) It is so ridiculous that people watch it just to laugh at the songs and the acts performing them. One year, for example, it was won by a bearded woman from Austria.

(2) People have Eurovision Parties where they invite people round to collectively mock the show and play games based on who is performing and also try to guess which of the dreadful songs is likely to win.

(3) Predicting which countries vote for which other countries is fun – for example eastern European countries all vote for each other and Greece always votes for Cyprus and vice versa.

(4) There are a lot of mad people in Europe.

Five years ago, I decided to host my own Eurovision Song Contest on this very blog. Oday I am doing the same. Please don’t panic; I am not going to showcase 26 dreadful songs. 

On the contrary – I am going to showcase 9 brilliant songs from all over Europe, including (incredibly) Israel who also take part, as they have done for quite a number of years now, even though they are not part of Europe.

So, without further ado, I present to you The Plastic Mancunian’s Alternative Eurovision Song Contest 2021. I hope you enjoy the songs.

Ireland – Enya – It’s in the Rain

Let’s kick off with a beautifully haunting song from the incredible Enya, representing Ireland. 

Israel – Blackfield – Blackfield

Blackfield is a band comprising Aviv Geffen from Israel and one of my favourite artists, Steven Wilson. This is a beautiful song.

Poland – Riverside – River Down Below

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of Polish genius Marisuz Duda and his band Riverside. Here is another recent beautiful song from the band.

France – Jean Michel Jarre – Equinoxe V

Let’s step back in time to the 1970s for the French entry. This is a masterpiece from the great Jean Michel Jarre.

Norway - Röyksopp – The Girl and the Robot 

Here is a glorious bit of European dance music from Norway. I can take or leave dance music (mostly I choose to leave it) but I really like this song.

Finland – Nightwish – Slow Love Slow

Imagine you are in a smoke-filled jazz club; close your eyes and listen to this amazing song from Nightwish, a band who are normally purveyors of symphonic metal. This song is completely different from their normal fare – and real genre-crossing masterpiece. 

The Netherlands – The Gentle Storm – The Shores of India

Anneke van Giersbergen is one of my favourite female singers. She has a wonderful voice and here it is in full flow with a great song from The Gentle Storm.

Sweden – Opeth – Closure

One of my musical discoveries of last year is a Swedish prog rock outfit called Opeth who have been around for years. This is one of my favourite songs by the band.

UK – Steven Wilson – Follower

Of course the UK has to have an entry and I have selected one of my favourite songs from his latest album – a nice mix between dance and rock music.

And finally ...

I hope you enjoyed this little collection. They are far better had the 26 songs I had to endure last night. Trust me.


Saturday, 15 May 2021

Days of Gratitude


Welcome to another rainy South Manchester as the UK is being tormented by a slow-moving ridge of low pressure that is making the weather really (and annoyingly) unsettled. Couple this with day 427 of Covid-19 restrictions and the frustration mounts even more. 

Still, I am nothing if not positive and, having now had my second Covid jab, I am looking forward to a hopefully more enjoyable summer.

Shall we dive into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

I think so – here we go.

1. Name something in the room you are grateful for.

I am actually grateful for the room itself. I am currently sitting in what we call “the back room”, which serves many purposes which I shall try to list here and now:

(a) It is known as the “Warrior’s Arms” and in the dark winter months of lockdown it became the second designated pub in our house. Now that the weather is getting better we tend to sit in the lounge (“known as the Black Cat”) because it is light and airy whereas this room gets less sun and is more cosy in the winter months.

(b) It has been my office for the past 15 months. Due to Covid restrictions I have been working from home and will continue to do until September when I will return to the office on a part time basis.

(c) It is my entertainment room or my “man cave” as Mrs PM refers to it (despite the fact she spends time here too). I have a PS4, a large TV and music from my laptop played through a set of decent speakers as well as the place where I write stupid posts like this one. 

All in all – a great room.

2. Recall a favorite memory you are grateful for

Off the top of my head? A wonderful, entertaining and eventful evening in Wan Chai in Hong Kong  in 2013, two days before Mrs PM and I travelled to Japan for the first time. We had such fun, starting with a wonderful Chinese meal, followed by visits to a few bars and slight over-indulgence on both our parts. I love Hong Kong.

Here are some pictures:

A little progressive rock

Mrs PM and her pet baboon

Let's all dance on the bar

3. Who helped you today?

Mrs PM gave me another lockdown haircut today and trimmed my beard. This may be the last time she does this because I may venture to the barber next time.

4. What possession makes your life easier?

My smartphone. When I am out and about or travelling or whatever, it is there recording my step count, providing internet access and all that entails, as well as being a backup Kindle and countless other things. I hate to say this but I would be lost without it. 

5. What’s the best thing that happened today?

We are visiting friends later today so that will be the best thing when I look back tomorrow.

6. Name something in nature that you are grateful for.

Oxygen. Without it we wouldn’t be here.

7. What painful experience helped you grow?

All of them. I like to think that you can learn from such experiences, as bad as they are at the time. 

8. What is your best skill?

I am very good with most technical things. I interact with computers as part of my career and am pretty good at telling them what to do. For example, yesterday I created two servers in the cloud and configured them both not only to talk to each other but to shake hands and generally get on with each other, having each other’s backs should one of them decide to fail or become ill. I am not mad enough to given them human characteristics – I’ve just done so to illustrate what I achieved. After all, really what I have done is made sure that a lot of ones and zeroes are in the right place out there in cyberspace. 

9. What person in your past are you most grateful for?

Everyone who has ever been or continues to be my friend or a member of my family. I am not singling out any one person as that would be unfair. 

10. What risk are you most grateful for taking?

Every time I have had the courage to do something that scared the hell out of me. I am not that brave but on some occasions I have taken the metaphorical bull by his horns and decided to go for it, sometimes against my better judgement. I am risk averse so every time I take a risk it is a big thing for me. And sometimes they have paid off – not always though. I won’t elaborate.

11. Name something/someone that makes you feel safe.

My burglar alarm, double-glazed lockable windows and highly secure front and back doors. Every Englishman’s castle has to have defences. To be fair, I don’t live in a dangerous place (quite the opposite actually) – but better to be safe than sorry.

12. Name a challenge you have overcome.

Public speaking. I went through a phase of having to do training courses a few years ago. Some people perform public speaking for just a short while – an hour maximum – but for each course I gave, I had to do it for seven hours a day for five days. 

I have given course in England, of course, but also in the United States, Russia and China amongst others. The last one was about four years ago in Beijing, China in this amazing building:

I don’t have to do it now thank goodness because I hate public speaking, despite the fact I have done it so many times.

13. What small things are you grateful for today?

My cats, who watched avidly as Mrs PM cut my hair. I sensed that the question “What the hell is she doing to him?” was asked as they discussed the event. It was amusing watching them watch us.

14. What smell are you most grateful for?

The smell of bacon. We usually treat ourselves to bacon on Saturday and Sunday mornings either with a full English breakfast or just as a bacon sandwich. The smell of bacon cooking is one of the greatest smells on the planet and I have vegetarian friends who sometimes reconsider their life choice when they smell it. 

15. What is your proudest accomplishment

I am a humble man and I don’t like to boast. But there have been a few. 


Saturday, 8 May 2021

Musical Maniac

    

Welcome to a very rainy South Manchester on day 420 of pandemic restrictions. The weather outside is dreadful – cold, very wet and windy. I really hope that the weather improves as we approach summer. We seem to be in a cold spell at the moment with winds flying down from the north and lowering the temperature even further. 

The only thing to do is to escape into a bunch of silly questions from Sunday Stealing. The title of the post is Music Maniac and that is exactly what I am – but sadly none of the questions are about music. I will still answer them but I will offer a song at the beginning that you can listen to while reading. 

Don’t worry – it is not a progressive metal monster. On the contrary – it is a beautiful ambient song from the album Moon Safari by French duo Air (this one featuring Beth Hirsch)– one of my all time favourite albums. So press play, relax and (hopefully) enjoy my silly answers.

1. Five problems with social media

What an opening question. I could spend hours answering this. I will aim for brevity but I can’t promise anything.

  • People are over-using social media to the extent that they don’t do anything else – and it is not necessarily their fault. I am as guilty of this as anybody. In my case, I can sit there looking at my phone and not doing anything more useful – it contributes to my procrastination. I have decided to reduce my exposure to social media recently so that instead of wasting time on my phone I actually do something meaningful instead.
  • Relating to this, social media is a bit of an oxymoron because it can make people anti-social. I hate it when I am trying to talk to people and they decide to get their phones out. There are times when I want to say “Just put your phone down!” when this happens. To be fair, people around my age are less inclined to do that. I have an example from a year or two ago (apologies if I have told you this before). I was in a pub and on the table next to me were about five young people sitting in silence and all engrossed in the contents of their phones. One of them reached for his beer and noticed that he had run out. “Anyone want a drink?” he asked and his friends all placed their orders. The guy walked to the bar, returned to the table with them and then they all continued with their phones and not saying another word. I hope that’s not the future.
  • Some people are obsessed with the cult of celebrity or the latest political cause. Others are obsessed with themselves and spend all day posting about how amazing their mundane life is. I have a friend on Facebook who posts his “thoughts” on a weekly basis in a little video. I can understand it in a lockdown but he has been doing this for years. He also posts details of what he is having for his dinner and what he is watching on the TV. I’m not interested. I don’t want to live my life vicariously through him.
  • The concept of fake news has been born from social media. The world is going mad with it. People like Donald Trump rode this particular tsunami of misinformation and spread all manner of crazy propaganda. He’s not the only one guilty of this. Little tribes of nutters have appeared on social media including, to my everlasting amusement, the cult of Flat Earth. There are more Flat Earthers out there now than there ever were, thanks to bullshit spread as gospel. 
  • I hate trolls – or keyboard warriors as I prefer to call them.  These are vile people who prowl social media and post abhorrent insults to people just for the hell of it. The infest the world of bloggery too and I have had to deal with a couple in the past. As well as that all manner of terrible groups of people have found a medium to spread their hatred throughout the world. And this last point is arguably the most disturbing reason why social media has a problem

So much for brevity – sorry about the long answer.

2. A place you would like to live, but have never visited

I would like to live in a Scandinavian country like Sweden, Denmark or Norway because the people are friendly and they are meant to be amongst the happiest places on the planet, something I could embrace with joy. Also, as a fair-haired man myself, I think I would fit right in.

3. Someone who fascinates you and why

This is a strange one. I am quite fascinated by the actor Tom Cruise. I think he is a great actor and I do generally like his movies (although he has made some turkeys). This isn’t the reason I am fascinated with him though. He has everything – looks, the ability to act, he does his own stunts and is the same age as I am – yet looks so much better. Sadly, he is a nutter. He is so deep in the world of Scientology that David Miscavige will do anything to keep him there and, given how successful he is, I cannot understand why he hasn’t realised that his “religion” has ruined his life.

Listen to this bullshit from 2004. 

I would like nothing more than to sit down in a bar with Tom Cruise and ask him about this.

4. Do you have tattoos?  What are they and why?

No, I don’t have tattoos. I would never have a tattoo.

5. A book you love, and one you didn’t.

I’ve recently read a fascinating novel by Blake Crouch called Recursion, which fascinated me. It is a mind-bending science fiction novel that needs a lot of thought to follow it. If you like movies like Inception and Tenet then you will love it. If those movies blew your mind into submission then it might not be for you. I loved them and I loved the book. It would make a great film.

I made the mistake of reading a free Kindle book last year that the first in a series set in a post-apocalyptic world with Zombies – there are loads of these out there. I thought it would be good – it was terrible. I finished it but I’m not sure why. I discarded it pretty quickly and I won’t tempt you to read it by giving you its title or author.

6. A fruit you dislike, and why

Damsons because they taste revolting.

7. Two words/phrases that make you laugh

“Bollocks” is a British word that I use quite often because I find it funny. It is a swear word but it sums up things perfectly in many ways. If you think something is terrible you simply say “That’s bollocks!”. If you think somebody is lying you can say “He’s talking bollocks!” – see what I mean? Perfect.

I also love the word “abomination” and use it regularly because it sums up my feeling that something is so bad that it simply should not exist. I chuckle inwardly whenever I say it or hear it. For example:

“White chocolate is an abomination.”

8. A quote you try to live by

“Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.”

Thank you John Cleese.

9. Something you miss

I miss my parents.

10. Three weird traits you have

I wrote a post about this last week. I will refer you to that. Here it is

11. What you wore today

I am wearing a shirt than makes me look like a lumberjack and a pair of blue jeans. 

12. Word/phrase you use constantly

“What are you doing?” – I say this to the cats when they are being mischievous.

13. One thing you’re excited for

The end of the pandemic – and I think I am in good company with 95% of the rest of the world on this.

14. Your feelings on ageism

I am an old git myself so I am against it. In the past I have seen a lot of ageism, particularly in the workplace, where people have been “let go” or simply not been employed because the powers that be have branded them as “too old”. 

These days, certainly in the UK, we are well on our way to severely reducing ageism in the workplace. Personally I want to retire but I would like to think that if I change my mind then I could easily walk back into another job based on my experience and ability and people wouldn’t see my age as a barrier. 

After all, the older you get the wiser you get and I have nothing but respect for people who have been on this planet longer than I have.

15. Three interesting facts about yourself

I have been to 36 countries – around 18% of the planet. I haven’t finished yet.

I am a (flawed) Roman Catholic.

I can play a trombone (though not for over 40 years).