Thursday 30 October 2008

Trick Or Treat? Humbug!!

I was going to post a short work of fiction, a scary tale in preparation for Hallowe’en – but then I thought to myself, why?

I hate Hallowe’en. I hate it with a passion.

Now I don’t want to sound like a killjoy here, or somebody who hates kids having fun, but I really wish that we would just leave the Americans to celebrate this day.

The holiday has taken off in recent years in the United Kingdom, to the point where our shops are now full of scary paraphernalia such as witch costumes, lanterns, pumpkins, monster outfits, pumpkins, vampire outfits, face paint, pumpkins, fake blood, more pumpkins, more bloody pumpkins and finally even more pumpkins.

As a fan of ghost stories, horror novels and horror films, I am all for sitting in a candlelit room, telling scary tales or watching terrifying movies on the box.

What I positively hate is the commercialism that surrounds it.

Tomorrow night is going to be a nightmare, and not because it is scary. Our streets will be full of kids dressed as vampires and monsters, roaming round with bored parents in tow, begging for sweets with the threat of punishment if you fail to hand over the chocolate bars. If I stay in I will be subjected to a knock on the door approximately every ten seconds for the entire evening. If I am stupid enough to answer it I will see five year old children dressing up as vampires and ghouls saying “Trick Or Treat”. I will then say “Go away” and find my house covered in eggs the following morning.

Why do kids dress up as monsters anyway? Most are too young to watch films containing vampires and witches. I remember as an eleven year old kid pestering my dad to allow me to watch a horror film. I must have been a real pain in arse because he finally gave in and allowed me to watch “Dracula” starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I was so excited I almost peed my pyjamas. I watched the film and then peed my pyjamas. I have never been so scared in my entire life. I spoke with a stammer for ten weeks. I didn’t get a wink of sleep for an entire month. I quite literally avoided cemeteries for ten years. My dad certainly taught me a lesson. He asked me about a month later if I wanted to watch “Dracula Has Risen From The Grave”.

“Has he risen from the grave?” I stammered. “Yes,” he replied. I spent the next fortnight under the duvet with a crucifix, a torch and a telephone directory trying to find the number for Professor Van Helsing.

So why do kids dress up as creatures they would be terrified of? Why do we do have this ritual? Who bloody started it? Businessmen who want to exploit people, that’s who. It is far too commercial and yet another way to extract cash from my pocket for a meaningless purpose (other than to make them rich).

I don’t mind it being celebrated in America or Canada, where it has been traditional for decades. But in the UK it should stop forthwith.

When I am President of The United Kingdom I will ban this holiday immediately. Anybody who opposes me will be locked into a crypt in the most haunted cemetery in England. If people want blood-curdling terror, I will show endless repeats of the Vanessa Feltz Show on TV.

In fact, that’s a thought. Given some of the shows and celebrities in England, if you want to scare the children just let them watch any TV show with Jeremy Kyle, Trinny and Susannah, Bonnie Langford, Anthony Worrell-Thompson, Gillian McKeith, Jamie Oliver or Tim Westwood. That should give them sleepless nights for months.

Hallowe’en! What a royal pain in the buttocks! Dracula would turn in his grave. So would Frankenstein’s Monster. I’m sure that Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and all other evil entities escape to avoid the legions of children roaming the streets. It must scare them to death.

I’m glad that’s off my chest. I’m now off back to my coffin for a well earned rest before rampaging through the streets of Manchester with my vampire friends in search of adults hiding in their homes.

Or maybe I’ll just hide in the pub.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Fat Cat

I have just broken some horrifying news to Mrs PM. Jasper, the biggest of our cats, is actually a little too big.

A few months ago, Jasper was able to leap up onto the table, despite his bulk. Today, however, we watched as he thought about leaping onto the table before lazily climbing on to the chair and then struggling onto the table.

Once there he stared at us as if to say “OK then! Where’s the food?”

I couldn’t remember when we last weighed him. It was a few months ago and he was 14lbs; I recall saying then that he should be on a diet. Seeing his struggle to get onto the table I decided to weigh him again.

He was 17lbs. Mrs PM was aghast.

Consequently, Jasper needs to go on a diet. If he were our only cat, that wouldn’t be an issue. The problem is we have three cats, one of which is scared of anything that moves and another which demands food but, due to hyperthyroidism, doesn’t gain weight, despite his appetite. In the past we have watched over the cats as they eat making sure that Jasper doesn't take over and scoff the whole lot. And that has worked; Jasper has lost weight.

Recently we have lapsed and the results are there for all to see. Jasper has been cleaning up after the other two cats like a feline hoover, sucking up the scraps and converting them into body fat.

I need to take charge. Mrs PM is far too soft.

From now on I am going to overthrow my feline masters and make sure that they only eat when I allow them to. This is going to be hard on Poppy (the scared one) and Spike (the demanding one) but I see no other option.

The days of pandering to their every whim are over. Here is my plan:

(1) All cats will be fed in the morning before we go to work and in the evening when we return.

(2) Jasper will be locked in the lounge until Spike and Poppy have eaten their fill. They will be allowed to eat as much as they like.

(3) We will then free Jasper and give him his ration. Spike and Poppy will be removed from the equation. Jasper will be given less food.

(4) Jasper will not be allowed to have any biscuits or dry food or treats of any kind. He can miaow to his hearts content but I will not submit.

While this strict regime may work in theory we have a couple of problems to overcome.

(1) Mrs PM are going on a two week holiday on 2nd November, leaving the cats in the care of our neighbours. I know what will happen. They will come in the morning and put down food for three cats – and Jasper will be lurking, waiting to vacuum the entire lot into his oversized maw. My only hope is that Spike will stand his ground and keep Jasper at bay. I fear that Poppy may starve, though she does have a tendency to stand up for herself when hungry. Despite my hopes, I fear that Jasper may weigh more on our return. If that is the case then I we will just have to impose a stricter regime.

(2) Mrs PM is too soft. When Jasper is hungry he sits and stares at her with doleful eyes and miaows. She can resist but I wonder for how long. I need to be strong and authoritative and take on the cat in a battle of wills. Unfortunately my track record in this challenge is pretty poor. Jasper usually wins.

The good news is that this time Mrs PM is on my side – I feel therefore that together we can win and turn Jasper into the slimline moggy that he was at a year old. It will be tough though, especially since Christmas is coming, a time when the cats benefit from our own over-indulgence.

With strength, perseverance and a little cunning I can turn our house into a fat-fighting feline boot camp. I will prevail. I will even resort to calling him names; I’ve started already:


Jasper will be thin again. Either that or we’ll have to get a new catflap.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Strange Places To Live - Part Three - Australia

I’m on a roll now. Not content with laughing at mad place names in Britain and America, I can now reveal to you that those lovely Pommie-bashing Aussies from down under (who are insanely jealous about how much better at sport we are than them) have an equally fantastic sense of humour and, judging by the list of place names below, are very happy to laugh at themselves. After all, if you can’t laugh at how poorly our Antipodean friends did in the recent Beijing Olympics what can you laugh at? I’m only kidding, guys – I love Australia!

Anyway, back to the point of the post. Here are some fantastic place names in Australia. Again these place names are genuine – please feel free to shove the name in Google Map to confirm:

Bong Bong
Broken Head
Chinaman’s Knob
Come By Chance
Foul Bay
Grong Grong
Humpty Doo
Kurri Kurri
Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya Hill
Middle Intercourse Island
Monkey Jacket Creek
Mount Buggery
Mount Speculation
Nobby Beach
Nowhere Else
Rooty Hill
The Entrance
Wagga Wagga
Wangi Wangi
Wee Waa
Wet Beaver Creek
Wuk Wuk
Yorkey's Knob

Once more, I hope you agree that these are wonderful names. And of course, as much as I enjoy taking the pee out of Australians, I think that they are wonderful people. I loved every minute of my three week visit to Australia in 2005.

I can’t wait to visit again. I think Manly is the place where I was born to be – Nowhere Else will do. Maybe Punchbowl will also be worth a visit as well. Kurri Kurri appeals too, and obviously if I have too much of that, Innaloo may provide some relief. There are certain places I may avoid though – Foul Bay and Chinaman’s Knob leap to mind. I can seek solace in Tittybong though.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

A Strange Place To Live - Part Two - America

I have an announcement to make: Americans also have a sense of humour. I didn’t doubt this for an instant because some of my favourite comedy shows come from across the pond. However, I have always thought that Americans take themselves far too seriously and just don’t get our wacky British sense of humour.

But I may be wrong.

For every crazy town in Britain, there is an equally crazy town in the United States. Listed below are some of my favourites. The names may not be as funny as our British triumphs but they are amusing nonetheless. I would also like to add that these place names are genuine – if you don’t believe me then try popping them into Google Map:

Bald Knob, Arkansas
Bangs Beach, Maine
Beebeetown, Iowa
Boring, Maryland
Butztown, Pennsylvania
Christmas, Florida
Climax Springs, Missouri
Crapo, Maryland
Dead Horse, Alaska
Dickey, North Dakota
Dwarf, Kentucky
Eagle Butte, South Dakota
Earth, Texas
Elephant Butte, New Mexico
Experiment, Georgia
Fertile, Minnesota
French Lick, Indiana
Frostproof, Florida
Hell, Michigan
Hippo, Kentucky
Hookersville, West Virginia
Hot Coffee, Mississippi
Humptulips, Washington
Looneyville, Texas
Mollies Nipple, Utah
Monkeys Eyebrow, Kentucky
Mudd Butte, South Dakota
Mud Lick, Kentucky
Normal, Illinois
Paradox, New York
Santa Claus, Indiana
Slaughter, Louisiana
Tightsqueeze, Virginia
Tingley, Iowa
Toad Suck, Arkansas
Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico
What Cheer, Iowa
Whiskey Dick Mountain, Wisconsin
Why, Arizona
Whynot, Mississippi
Wide Awake, Colorado

Fantastic names – I’m sure you will agree. Next time I fly across the pond I may attempt to visit some of these special places. I’m particularly intrigued by French Lick, Hookersville and Tightsqueeze. I think I may avoid Toad Suck, Elephant Butte and Boring. And I’m having second thoughts about Why. But then again, Whynot?

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Rules For Men

What makes a man a man? How do men believe that they should behave? How do women think that men should behave? Why don’t I stop asking stupid questions?

I’m curious about people. I’m that kind of weirdo. And I like to watch and learn from the way other people behave. Sadly, there are two distinct types of people; men and women. I do not understand women but I do, at least to some degree, comprehend the component parts of the typical behaviour patterns of your average male. I do have a head start – I am a man myself (or so I’ve been told).

I’ve been investigating how the world (the female world in particular) perceives the male form and have once again scoured the internet for guidance and added some items of my own (based on my own pitiful experience). Here are a few of the more important rules that will allow you, as a man, to live a happy and fulfilled life:

Never ever, ever, ever, ever speak to another man in a public toilet. If you meet somebody you know just nod to them but do not under any circumstances whatsoever make eye contact.

Do not ever even consider wearing a sarong. You will be laughed at by other men. I know David Beckham did this (almost certainly under duress or under the misguided idea that he would be an innovator) but he did not pull it off. Every single man in England laughed.

If your car breaks down and you are not a mechanic, open up the bonnet and stare at the engine nodding sagely, particularly when the breakdown truck arrives.

What happens on the stag party stays on the stag party. Never ever, ever take a camera to a stag party. Never ever tell anybody who was not there any details of what happened.

Do not share an umbrella with another man.

Never cry at a film in the company of other men. When in the company of women it should be encouraged unless there is another man present or one of the women is your sadistic sister, the kind who will tell your mates.

Never ask another man what his star sign is. You may be killed.

The only permissible question at a football match is “What’s the score?”

Do not ever ask any other man to explain the offside rule,

Do not ever buy Christmas or birthday cards for other men.

Never let a woman touch the TV remote control.

Do not under any circumstances wear sandles and socks. In fact, if you really want my advice, give the sandles a miss altogether.

Do not allow a beard to grow more a centimetre in length.

Avoid shopping with women. It will end in tears.

Never shave when drunk (I speak from personal experience).

Work to live – not the other way round.

If a man buys you a beer accept it – even if it is horrible.

Never ever drink cocktails containing umbrellas.

Never tell another man he is “flying low”.

Never talk to your wife/girlfriend/partner about relationships involving your mates.

Never drive a pink or orange car. Do not ever, ever, ever drive a fluorescent green car (again I speak from experience).

There is no reason for men to watch any of the following TV programmes: “Desperate Housewives”, “Strictly Come Dancing”, “The X Factor”, “Wife Swap”, “Big Brother”.

Never, ever, ever, ever allow the lady in your life to persuade you to see a boy band in concert.

If your lady wants to watch the big game with you, do not allow her to ask a single question other than “What’s the score?”. If you do, you will not see the rest of the game.

There are many more rules that I may post later. I have made mistakes (too many to mention) but have tried to abide by the above rules. I know for a fact that if you inadvertently break one of the above rules you will only do it once.

I’m off now to watch Manchester United v Celtic – and Mrs PM will be watching “Desperate Housewives”. Guess who will watching on the portable TV?

Saturday 18 October 2008

A Strange Place To Live

One of the millions of things I love about Britain and British people is our uncanny ability to laugh at ourselves and our surroundings. We have a bizarre sense of humour, something that has been developed over centuries.

I live in a place called Manchester, which is a fairly sensible name for a city. There are, however, many rather bizarre towns and villages scattered throughout the United Kingdom with names that are far from sensible; in fact I would say they are crazy. Whoever conceived these names over the years must have had an eccentric idea of what constitutes a good name for the place that they live in. Or maybe our maybe our ancestors simply wanted to give their communities silly names as a joke.

Listed below are genuine names of British towns and villages. I can imagine that you will not believe that they exist but I swear that they do. I have discovered some on the internet but I promise you that I have actually been to or through these some of these places. If you don’t believe me, pop the name into Google Map.

Asick Bottom
Barton In The Beans
Besses o’th’barn
Bishops Itchington
Great Snoring
Horsey Windpump
Lower Dicker
Lower Slaughter
Nether Wallop
Once Brewed
Pity Me
Pratts Bottom
Spital In The Street
Upper Dicker
Wyre Piddle

I often wonder why how these names came to be but it is probably more prudent to simply enjoy them and ask no questions. I’m off now to visit a friend in Pity Me though I will avoid Ugley, Pratts Bottom and Splott because I’ve heard traffic around there is dreadful. I may drive through Lover though just to see what it’s like.

Friday 17 October 2008

What Is Love, Anyway?

Today’s post is a minor diversion from my usual inane mutterings.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs recently where people elucidate their feelings about the mystery surrounding love. It’s not the kind of thing I would normally write about or even hold a conversation about to be honest. However, some of the beautiful things I have read in the past few weeks have inspired me to attempt to explain what love means to me.

As a man, this may prove to be difficult because as a rule men aren’t very good at talking about romance or the "L" word. When guys get together we rarely talk about our relationships. We are happy to talk about work, football, cricket and cars but as soon as the subject of love comes up, a strange shroud of discomfort descends and all concerned quickly revert back to chatting about the big game next week. I used to be married and when it fell apart I found that I couldn’t talk to my friends because they really didn’t want to know – or if they did, they could offer no advice and were reluctant to be the shoulder that I needed. Furthermore, I didn’t know how to talk to them. Don’t get me wrong; they were aware of how I felt but thought that the problem could be solved by a hearty slap on the back and another pint of the landlord’s famous ale.

That was a long time ago,

Now, however, if I were to tell my male friends how much I love Mrs PM, the subject would be changed as soon as is humanly possible, even as quickly as the next sentence. Therefore I don’t talk about love to guys. And guys don’t talk about love to me.

Women on the other hand talk about it all the time. I don’t want that to sound like I am generalizing but that is my understanding based on conversations I have heard and from what Mrs PM has told me. Just the other week, I was in a pub and I couldn’t help eaves-dropping a conversation between two young women who were discussing their partners over a bottle of wine. I didn’t know the two women but the conversation was compelling; I immediately realised that each of them was very keen to sing the praises of their men and do so in great detail. It made me feel slightly ashamed because I know that two men would never do that. They may chat about women, their partners even, but it would not be so open and emotional. There are some exceptions I sure but I am convinced that’s the way we are.

Back to the subject in hand: allow me to go against the grain and talk about what love means to me.

Love is impossible to describe and furthermore it can be difficult to differentiate between the various aspects of love. For me, my relationship with Mrs PM has evolved over the ten years we have been together.

When we first met, there was an immediate bond. I knew fairly quickly that this wonderful woman was the fabled “one”. Until that moment I was sceptical about people I had heard talking about “the one”. Mrs PM was my soul mate and when we first got together I was swept away on a tsunami of obsession. She occupied my every thought and for a short time I was worried that I was a victim of infatuation. When I was with her I was deliriously happy; when we were apart I pined for here like a man lost in the wilderness.

As the months went by, the obsession faded and something more meaningful took its place. I was still delighted in her company and I missed each moment apart but I came to terms with her absence, looking forward to the time we would be together again.

Over the years, we have in many ways become even closer. To describe Mrs PM as my soul mate is an understatement. She is witty (far wittier than I am), intelligent (far smarter than I am) and she understands me more than I do myself. We talk for hours about everything. I would do anything for her – indeed I have humiliated myself just to make her happy on several occasions (read about it here. I am happy to support her when she needs a shoulder to cry on simply because when she is down I am too. I am a verbal punch bag when she needs to let off steam.

Without Mrs PM I would be an empty shell. When I am returning from a business trip my heart is filled with a strange fuzzy warmth when I think about seeing her again. She is my best friend.

After all this time together, my feelings are as strong now as they ever were. In November we are returning to Hong Kong, where our relationship started to celebrate our tenth anniversary. I can’t wait; neither can Mrs PM.

Normal blogging service will be resumed in the next post but I hope that in the meantime you get an understanding of what love means to a forty six year old Mancunian. I’m sure many men feel the same way – but just don’t like to talk about it. Maybe we should open up a little more.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Radio Grump FM

At work the other day, a fellow grumpy old man and I were discussing how miserable the world has become. For an instant we both forgot that we were supposed to be being productive, as demanded by our so-called superiors, and ranted about the state of the world and the general feeling of misery. Before I knew it I was ranting about how much Carol Kirkwood’s morning chirpiness annoys me (read about it here) and we both agreed that modern DJ’s should have to pass an IQ test, a humour test and play decent music instead of talking crap.

Another guy who was eaves-dropping suddenly said:

“You two should bloody well start a radio station of your own. Call it Radio Grump FM”.

Everybody laughed at the joke, except me. Why? Because I think that it’s a bloody good idea – and so does my fellow grumpy old man.

Pretty soon we were discussing how we would put the world to rights on our very own radio station.

Gone would be mindless inane chitter-chatter. Instead we would discuss how we would rid the world of everything and everyone that made us grumpy in the first place. Both of us have a list of people we would like to exile to Siberia (if the Russians would allow us to soil their land with people like Jamie Oliver, Vanessa Feltz and Jeremy Kyle) and we both have firm ideas about how we would rid the world of red tape, stupid rules, bad music, awful television, irritating jobsworths and ideas that immediately lower the IQ’s of those who have to partake in them.

But most of all we would love to talk about them to the entire United Kingdom for a start and then, when our country embraces us as national heroes, we would set about conquering the world. I know for a fact that the whole world is irritated by the same ridiculous nonsense that we have to put up with here.

The whole country would be on a high listening to us because, as we solved the world’s problems, we would play decent music on a regular basis.

There would be no rap, hip hop, boy bands, girl bands, dance music, r’n’b, pop music and definitely no reality TV singers. Instead we would play uplifting loud rock music that you could crank up in your car and make a complete arse of yourself to.

Imagine the pleasure of hearing how we would put Tim Westwood in a padded cell and force him to listen to Metallica until he stopped talking with a stupid accent? Imagine your delight as we described a world where it was a crime to be Simon Cowell or Piers Morgan? Imagine our plans to put Victoria Beckham and Paris Hilton on trial in order to make them justify why they think are celebrities worthy of a nanosecond of our attention?

And just imagine what we would dream up for the likes of George W Bush and all those greedy, arrogant and incompetent bankers who have made such a big mess of the world? Imagine putting all the world leaders in the Big Brother house for two years and forcing them to listen to each others awful speeches and lies?

Imagine a world without call centres?

I’ve already selected the first ten songs I would play:

  1. The Pretender – The Foo Fighters

  2. Knights Of Cydonia – Muse

  3. The Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin

  4. American Idiot – Green Day

  5. Revolution – Judas Priest

  6. Revolution Calling – Queensryche

  7. Brutal Planet – Alice Cooper

  8. The Fight Song – Marilyn Manson

  9. Links 2 3 4 - Rammstein

  10. Stick It Out – Rush

I think its a winner - who's with me?

Of course, I do realise there are people out there who don’t think like me. So in order to allow a reminder of how it used to be, I would allow Carol Kirkwood to read the weather – as long as she was angry about it.

Sunday 12 October 2008

Stupid Questions

Questions like “If a tree falls down in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” really wind me up because it enables pseudo intellectuals to start pontificating about philosophy, paradigm shifts, the meaning of life and all the baggage and bull that comes with it. I really don’t like pseudo-intellectuals. I wish people would just talk to people without attempting to impress people with big long meaningless words, phrases and ideas.

I prefer stupid questions that make people laugh. I’ve had a trawl of the internet and come up with a few favourites:

Is sexual harassment a work a problem if you are self-employed?

Are you telling the truth if you lie in bed?

What do fish drink?

Do pilots take crash courses?

If I gave you a pencil, could you draw a blank?

Who killed the Dead Sea?

How do you write zero in Roman numerals?

If bees live in an apiary where do apes live?

If I save time, when do I get it all back?

If nothing sticks to Teflon, how do they get Teflon to stick to the pan?

Why isn’t there mouse flavoured cat food?

If there were a spelling mistake in a dictionary, who would notice?

Why is it necessary to nail down the lid of a coffin?

Why is a boxing ring square?

Why don’t you ever see the headline “Psychic Wins Lottery”

Why do your feet smell, yet your nose runs?

Why do they build cars that go faster than the speed limit?

Why do kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Why aren’t there ever any guilty bystanders?

Why are violets blue and not violet?

Where is Old Zealand?

When people lose weight, where does it go? And why can’t anybody else find it?

What was the best thing before sliced bread?

What is “soft liquor”?

If you swallow your pride, what does it taste like?

What do sheep count when they can’t sleep?

Where in the nursery rhyme does it say that Humpty Dumpty is an egg?

Why is Greenland called Greenland when it is covered in ice?

What would cheese say if you took its picture?

If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?

By all means try to answer the questions if you are a pseudo-intellectual. I’d be interested to hear from you. I won't laugh.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Sarah Palin - Go Home

I don’t really like to talk about politics but for once I am going to make an exception.

Politicians wind me up. They always have done and they always will do. I cringe whenever I watch them on TV.

The politician irritating me most at the present time is Sarah Palin, closely followed by her grandfather, John McCain.

When she first appeared on the scene, like a flash from a genie’s lamp, I thought “mmm – she’s nice!” I’ll bet John McCain did as well.

Since then, however, she has grinded me down. As she has revealed herself more and more, she has irritated me more and more. She is becoming like an anagram of her name – “A Plain Rash”.

I don’t follow American politics as a rule and I don’t profess to understand what the hell is going on, but as the verbal sparring finds its way onto our TV screens in the UK it is difficult to ignore it.

Here are some of the things that annoy me about her.

(1) John McCain selected this woman as a running mate having only met her once. Why? Is it because she is a woman? Was the decision taken out of his hands? I have no objection to a woman as a politician but there is something so fishy about the whole thing that American cats must be bewildered.

(2) She is a hunter – or so she says. I loathe hunting.

(3) She has the most irritating voice in American politics. Dogs run around like demented sheep when she’s on the TV.

(4) If John McCain is elected president then this woman will be next in line if anything happens to him.

(5) She thinks that she is a typical American “Mom” but she is not like any American mothers I have met.

(6) She says “nucular” instead of “nuclear”.

(7) John McCain recently criticized Barack Obama for lacking experience. And he thinks that Sarah Palin has more?

(8) Genealogists have recently unearthed evidence to suggest that Sarah Palin is a very distant cousin of our very own Princess Diana. Is this a publicity stunt or what?

(9) Sarah Palin has very little experience of foreign affairs, which is where we would come in if fate conspired to make her President. She apparently only received her first passport in 2006. Being close to Russia does not make her an expert in foreign affairs.

(10) She claimed that Barack Obama fraternizes with a known terrorist. From what I understand, this link is very tenuous, mainly because Obama was a child when the terrorist attacks occurred and that Obama lived in the same neighbourhood as the man. Sounds a bit desperate to me.

I will be glad when all this is over and hopefully Sarah Palin will go back to Alaska and stay off our TV screens here in the UK.

I apologize for this minor diversion. Politicians bring out the worst in me. I’ll have to add to my collection of chill pills in preparation for the UK elections in 2010. Don’t get me started on Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Embarrassing Moments - Restaurants

Eating out in a restaurant is a truly enjoyable experience, and an activity that I participate in as often as I can. But such is my life that there have been moments of pure embarrassment. I have two tales of woe for you today and in both cases I was a complete arse.

When I started out on my adult life at university I had led a very sheltered life. My parents were not keen on eating in sophisticated restaurants. Furthermore they weren’t keen on eating in any restaurants whatsoever. So when I arrived at an Indian restaurant as a na├»ve nineteen year old, I had no clue what I was letting myself in for.

Of course, as is traditional in British culture, Indian restaurants are a challenge to all young men who have been enjoying a night out. It is a ritual we all go through several times in our lives; we quaff a gutload of beer and then challenge each other to eat the ripest and hottest curry on the planet.

On this, my first visit to an Indian restaurant, beer had flowed all night and all of us were rather boisterous having imbibed several pints of ale. My memory of the night is hazy but I do recall sitting down and looking at a menu full of exotic Indian dishes, none of which I had heard of. I didn't know a Bhuna from a Rogan Josh. I had eaten curry before as my dad used to cook it regularly. I quite enjoyed it. What I didn’t know was that my dad’s curries were rather mild.

“What shall I have?” I asked innocently.

“Try a Madras,” said one of my so-called friends.

By the time my meal had arrived I was ravenous. Several pints of ale had stimulated my gastric juices to the point where I was willing to eat the tablecloth. So when I was presented with a dish of Chicken Madras I attacked it with gusto.

I think the delay was around two seconds.

“AAAARRRRGGGGHHH!” I cried and was so shocked by the burning sensation that I somehow (don’t ask me how) managed to snort Madras sauce up my nose. My entire nasal cavity and mouth were on fire. I felt as if I had snorted lava. Of course being under the influence of alcohol, a substance that increases reactions exponentially, I mutated into a desperate dervish, whirling around and howling like a crazed cat. I was blinded by tears of agony and stumbled around gasping for breath. I may have been breathing fire.

My so-called friends shrieked with laughter as I miraculously managed to totter to the nearest waiter pleading for water to relieve my anguish. The other restaurant patrons were hardened curry eaters and screamed with laughter (they were also drunk). Even the waiter was laughing as he handed over a jug of ice cold water. I think I drank the whole lot in one go.

Next day I suffered. Boy did I suffer. I had a hangover and I could taste and smell the Madras all day, giving me a constant reminder of my traumatic experience. I didn't realise just how much curry burned. When comedians joke about putting toilet paper in the fridge they are not kidding. I wanted to fill the toilet bowl with liquid nitrogen.

It took a while for me to pluck up the courage to eat Indian cuisine again.

Some years later I was in Amsterdam on business with a friend and colleague called Paul. Both us were willing to try something fresh and exotic so we opted for an Ethiopian restaurant. Ethiopian food proved to be quite unique and also quite spicy. By this time, thankfully, my palate for piquant food had evolved and I relished the dish. A wonderful Ethiopian waitress brought our food; she was wonderful, with dark brown and smooth skin, wearing a white blouse with a black lace tie and black skirt. She was delightful as were the other lovely waitresses – all dressed in an identical uniform.

About half way through the meal, I was aware that something was missing; I needed a refill for my empty beer glass.

“Fancy a beer?” I said to Paul. Before he could answer, I waved my hand in the air at the nearest waitress.

“No,” said Paul looking around.

Ignoring him I continued to wave and eventually attracted the attention of the waitress.

“Don’t!” pleaded Paul looking suddenly rather perturbed

“It’s okay,” I said. “You don’t have to have one.”

He shook his head in exasperation as the waitress approached the table.

“Can I have a beer?” I said. “What do you want, Paul?”

Paul said nothing. he simply put his head in his hands.

“You want a beer?” said the sweet waitress. “I can get one for you if you like.”

“Yes please,” I said.

She walked to the bar spoke to the barman and pointed to me.

“You idiot!” said Paul.

“I’ve only had one,” I said. “I’ll be alright.”

It was then that I noticed something odd. The waitress walked over to a table and sat down. I also noticed something else. She wasn’t wearing a tie and her blouse was a different style from the other waitresses.

She was a customer just like me.

Another real waitress bought my beer as my face reddened enough to set fire to the tablecloth.

I had to swallow my pride. I stood up and walked over to the poor woman who I had cajoled into going to the bar on my behalf.

”I’m so so sorry,” I squarked. “I mistook you for a waitress. I … I … I ….”

“It’s alright,” she smiled as her fellow diners sniggered at my expense.

I bought her a drink to prove that I wasn’t an ignorant arse (just a stupid buffoon). Paul, being a good friend and colleague spent the remainder of the evening telling me what a moron I was. He delighted in telling the tale to complete strangers in bars and of course, my work colleagues upon our return to Manchester. Thanks, Paul!

Sadly, I haven’t learned from these mistakes. There are other incidents that make me want to crawl into a hole and seek sympathy from woodland creatures. I will save those for another post.
In the meantime, Mrs PM is taking me out for a pleasant meal tomorrow night as a belated birthday celebration. Let’s hope she realizes what she is letting herself in for. There’s plenty of scope for embarrassment in the old dog yet.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

46 Years Young? Yeah Right!

The inexorable slide towards fifty continues, bringing with it more jowels, another chin, a further inch around my gut, possibly a grey hair, another millimetre of receding hairline and ageist jokes from my younger friends.

Yes – I am forty six years old tomorrow.

So why do I act like a seventeen year old? Why do I feel like a teenager trapped inside an old man’s body?

Middle age is a pain in the arse. I no longer have an excuse to get away with the things I love doing and my body is rebelling against me.

Take rock music for example. I adore rock music but when I go a heavy metal concert I find myself surrounded by kids who are old enough to be my own son. I don’t go to them as much as I used to.

If I drink a beer too many the hangover really does kick me in the skull. Waking up with a massive headache, upset stomach and no energy is bad enough. But when you feel the same the day afterwards, something is very wrong. “But I only had four pints” I find myself wailing.

My dress sense is rapidly vanishing and I find myself browsing around the slipper section of department stores. Thankfully Mrs PM stops me before I buy something totally embarrassing. I can no longer shop for clothes alone. I dread to think what I would buy if allowed to go out on my own.

My memory is fading. I swear that I have been introduced to a man recently and within an hour had completely forgotten his name. How can you have a conversation with a person while you are desperately trying to remember whether his name is Fred or Gladys?

More and more parts of my body ache if I over-exert myself. I ache in places that I thought it was impossible to feel pain. My back is starting to hurt more regularly. I’m turning into a wreck.

And I’ve discovered that my very first optician lied to me. At the age of eight, I was told that I was extremely short-sighted.

“Don’t worry,” the liar said. “As you get older, your eyes will improve.”

I could always read books with or without my glasses. Now I have discovered that I am becoming more long-sighted. If I am wearing my glasses I cannot easily read the newspaper. What is going on? I will have to wear bi-focals or vari-focals or even two pairs of glasses.

I’m falling apart.

I’ve talked before about embarrassing hair but at least I’m not bald or grey. However, hair is sprouting out of parts of my body that I thought should remain hairless forever. My ears are so hairy that I have to shave them. That’s right, I shave my ears. And what possible reason is there for hair to suddenly start growing out of your nose at the age of forty? It’s embarrassing. When I go for a haircut I don’t want to say “short back and sides and while you’re on take an inch off my nose hair.”

I said that I felt young but am struggling to be understand the younger generation. My fifteen year old lad tries his best to keep me informed but is exasperated by the fact that I don’t understand what he’s saying to me. I try to keep my hand in by playing on their consoles with them. Just last week I was utterly humiliated playing a racing game on the Wii games console called “Super Mario Kart”. My fifteen year old son beat me repeatedly. I needed to massage my bruised ego so I challenged my other son, aged twelve. He walloped me repeatedly. I couldn’t face this. My pride was being mauled. I challenged them both to a fighting game. I was beaten to an absolute pulp by both of them. It was a massacre. The figure on the screen was kicked, punched, battered, bruised and bleeding. And it was me. My lads even tried to give me a chance. And I still lost. I was humiliated. And I kept dropping the Wii controller. My wrists hurt for days.

I don’t know who the hip new generation of pop stars are. I don’t understand the appeal of hip hop, rap, trip hop, dance, trance, garage, house. I don’t even know why music is named after buildings. In the eighties it was just rock and pop.

I used to love going to the pub on a Friday night. Now I find myself having a quiet drink until about eight o’clock at which time the landlord turns the music up to a volume that shatters glass and introduces the fogies like myself to hip hop, trip trap and blup blop. The youngsters descend on the place and I can’t hear myself think. So I go home, put on my slippers and watch BBC2.

Actually, although most of the above is true, I actually do like being older. I am happy with my life and my body, despite it’s constant urge to kick me in the teeth. I am forty six years old tomorrow but I look ten years younger so I can, for the time being, get away with pretending to be young when I want to. I just suffer for a day or two afterwards. Still, its worth it. I am young at heart and will probably be one of those old aged pensioners still trying to “strut my funky stuff” to Abba at the seventies revival disco at the old folks home (as long as my hip will allow me to).

I’ll finish by saying that being older does have its benefits. People expect me to moan – so I do. People expect me to be sensible – even though I am not.

And I can’t wait to get my own back on my two lads when they eventually get married.

Picture the scene: I will be fifty something dancing to Kajagoogoo’s “Too Shy” on the dance floor watching my sons cringe with embarrassment.

And I will be thinking: “Serves you right for kicking my arse at Wii Boxing”.

Monday 6 October 2008

Grumpiness - The New Black

I regard myself as an upbeat person, somebody who thrives on being positive. I strive to be happy in my life. I endeavour to face the day with a smile, laugh as often as I can and try to make those around me happy.

So why does everybody accuse me of being a grumpy old sod?

Those closest to me tell me that I am getting worse with age. In my twenties I rarely moaned at anything. Now in my forties, those closest to me inform me in no uncertain terms that I am becoming like Victor Meldrew, arguably the grumpiest comedy character ever to set foot on our TV screens.

When accused of being a grump, I usually retort: “Utter rubbish! I am positivity personified.”

Sadly, however, the evidence against me is devastating and I can’t argue with it.

Let’s take a normal working day.

In the morning I wake up at around 7 o’clock to listen to the news. I used to wake up to a music show where the resident “humorous” DJs try to cheer up their audience with “witty” anecdotes and observations. That’s a bad start. How can you be positive about two imbeciles who would rather talk utter bilge than play decent music. Mrs PM has forced me to change radio stations simply because I spend ten minutes swearing at the radio. A typical outburst is “For *&$*’s sake, shut the $£&* up and play some %$&*ing music!!!!”

The DJ’s have now put me in a bad mood. I am tired and I want to go back to the sanctuary of sleep and I have been wrenched from blissful dreams by two people whose combined IQ would make earthworm seem like a professor of quantum physics. Come on, I mean tell me. Why do radio stations employ the most annoying people on the planet to present their shows? These people are their own biggest fans and love the sound of their own voices. These brainless twerps are not even funny. I wouldn’t mind if they were. All we hear is the sound of their high pitched moronic drivel and then, most annoying of all, the sound of their laughter at their own dim-witted jokes.

So, having started the day on a low, I march to the bathroom to prepare for the day. I have to shave and shower. When I look at myself in the mirror I see a monster with mad hair and sunken bloodshot eyes. Under normal circumstances it would take a makeover expert six hours to make the creature in the mirror appear to be even vaguely human. I have around fifteen minutes. You can imagine I have not done a very good job by the time I return to the bedroom to get dressed.

Later it is time to enjoy “BBC Breakfast”. I sit there munching a bowl of cereal while watching stiff presenters, who are again trying to be funny in their own stiff way and failing miserably. At least they are speaking with a degree of intelligence instead of babbling like the DJs. But why do they insist on trying to be funny? Is it to cheer us up? It doesn’t bloody work. I want to hear the news. Don’t try to be funny shortly after you have just told me that yet another bank has collapsed and that I may end up living in poverty in a year’s time. I grumble during the news but worse is to come. Usually on BBC Breakfast at around a quarter to eight, we get the weather forecast. I look out of the window and see that it is raining again. And there standing in the Blue Peter garden is Carol Kirkwood, a chirpy Scottish weathergirl who has taken far too many happy pills

“Helloooo!!!” she will shout. “It’s gonna be raining here in Inglind, Scotlind, Wales and Irelind and it’s great. It’s wonderful.”


Who needs this kind of stuff first thing on a cold winter’s morning?

I’m not picking on Carol Kirkwood – I just want her to feel as miserable as I do. If I see her later in the day I am quite happy with her presentation skills.

And then of course it is onto work. Now it only usually takes me around fifteen minutes to drive there but by the time I arrive I have encountered enough buffoons to fill Wembley Stadium. I have to negotiate the school run; drivers who let other cars in when I am behind them; drivers who do not let me in; cyclists who drive at 2mph in the centre of the road; bus drivers who drive at 2mph; lorry drivers who inexplicably stop on a main road and block traffic for as long as possible; traffic lights that stay red for ten minutes, wait until a queue of two hundred cars builds up and then switch to green for ten seconds, allowing one daydreaming driver to kangaroo through before turning red for another ten minutes; people who beep their horns for no reason; motorcyclists who avoid traffic queues by driving down the centre of the road overtaking all of the congested cars and looking very smug about it and finally, the worst of all, pedestrians who walk straight out in front of the car safe in the knowledge that you will slam your brakes on so as not to be arrested for running them over. And then these people have the balls to swear at me for narrowly missing them.

By the time I arrive at work I am fuming. I arrive at my desk and I have a crisis to deal with before I can even switch on my desktop. When I finally do that I discover that I have a thousand urgent emails to deal with. I walk to the kitchen to get a cup of tea and encounter a boss or manager who says something like “have you done this yet? Have you done that yet? What are you doing drinking tea when you should be working?”

I get back to my desk and listen to smug Manchester United fans boasting about the latest conquest and the workload piles up. I hear people laughing at the fact that Walsall aren’t in the Premiership and the workload piles up. I hear managers and other people say things like “We need to think outside the box” and I want to pour my boiling hot tea over their crotches and the workload piles up. Somebody comes up to me and says “Can you give me an accurate estimate?” What in the name of all that is sane is an “accurate estimate”? A bloody estimate is a guess so how can it be bloody well accurate???? The workload piles up.

At lunchtime I read the BBC website and rant at the news. Others start talking about reality TV shows like Big Brother causing me to take out my soapbox and embark upon a fifteen minute rant about how awful television is these days.

Somebody comes up to me during my lunch break and says “Are you on your lunch? I just have a question about this report.”

“No,” I reply. “I’m not on my lunch – why do you think I am halfway through this giant bloody sandwich? Is the fact that I am spitting chunks of semi-chewed cheese over your shirt a hint?”

During lunch the workload has piled up and another two hundred emails have arrived, each one more urgent than the last one. I doggedly attack the work and finally decide to leave late in the afternoon just as Mr “Think Outside The Box” says “Oh, can you just do this little piece of work before you go?”

Two hours later, I sneak out of the office and hit the rush hour traffic where I encounter the school run, cyclists, motorcyclists, slow-moving buses and lorries, brain-dead pedestrians, psychotic traffic lights and other manner of road using imbeciles to put me in a fantastic mood when I arrive home late.

And then I have to face Mrs PM who says “What kind of day have you had?”

Of course I want to lie and say “Fantastic!”

But I don’t. I launch into the biggest rant of all. I have a super duper deluxe high tensile soapbox for such occasions.

At the end of the rant, Mrs PM is no longer speaking to me so I have to make amends by cooking the evening meal. I positively despise cooking.

By the time I have settled down to relax, Mrs PM announces that she wants to watch Big Brother. What choice do I have but to go to bed and fall asleep reading.

Next thing I know, the alarm goes off and I am woken up by two moronic DJs laughing at their own unfunny jokes – and the cycle goes on.

Oh dear!

The above words are not just devastating, they have the constructive impact of a thermonuclear device.

Facing my own grumpiness and posting about it is quite therapeutic though (I am desperately searching for positivity now) and although this is one of my longer posts I have typed it at record speed barely lifting my fingers from the keyboard to draw breathe.

The older I get, the more I feel I need to change the world. It’s not too late (see? Positive again) and by standing on a turbo-charged soapbox I can, in my own little way, change the impact of grumpiness into a force for good.

If it gets rid of moronic DJs I will be happy.