Saturday 28 February 2009

It's All Over The Front Page - You Give Me Road Rage!!

I want to attach a huge gun to my car. I’m not talking about the kind of gun that fires bullets. Instead this gun (or as I prefer to think of it “paint bazooka”) will fire huge globules of paint, mainly at cars whose drivers piss me off – that would be most cars then. I want this gun to sit on top if my car and to automatically rotate on my voice command and eject a massive blob of paint in a direction of my choosing and onto any adjacent car that causes me to descend into road rage.

I am normally a very placid and laid back guy, a man who tries to smile in the face of adversity. I am relaxed and, apart from the odd rant, I am a happy chap.

However, put me behind the wheel of a car, ask me to reach my destination quickly, throw in a little traffic congestion (just for a laugh) and then fill the roads with moronic drivers and pedestrians and you will see me mutate into a monster, a little like the Incredible Hulk but without the muscle and green transmogrification.

Why does this change occur? I don’t know. I’ve asked myself this question repeatedly. I am a very patient fellow and can normally cope with most situations. Yet put me into the middle of a traffic jam with inconsiderate arses on either side and I want to crush, kill and destroy.

A deep primeval rage surges from within and I become a ranting monster; I turn into “Road Rage Man”, the Mr Hyde to my normal Dr Jekyll.

So what annoys me about driving? Well under normal circumstances – nothing! It is the stupidity and selfishness of others that annoys me. Driving on at the weekend is sometimes a pleasurable experience and I sing and smile as I pootle along the roads without a care in the world. It’s when those thick drivers encroach on my happy driving experience that I lose my temper.

Here is a list of things that truly make me mad:

(1) Tail-gating: Joking aside, tailgating is one of the most dangerous bad habits that any driver can have. I sometimes wonder whether certain drivers take their brains out as soon as they enter a motorway slip road. When the motorway is busy, what usually happens is lane one is full of lorries and lane two is full of cars overtaking those lorries. If I drift into the fast lane to overtake those cars, I usually find myself behind a steady stream of other cars all travelling at the same speed. So when Mr Tailgater looms up behind me, there is usually absolutely nowhere to go. The lane inside is busy and full of traffic with little or no space to move into and in front there is another car, a safe distance away, who is the same distance behind the car in front of him. So when Mr Tailgater approaches my car, driving less than a foot behind me at 70mph, flashing his lights to try to force me over, I tend to lose my rag. Mr Tailgater typically drives a top of the range BMW and is a high powered businessman – you know the kind; the kind of man who screws up a company then escapes with a golden handshake. Well if you are reading this and you tailgate I have one thing to say to you: STOP IT!!!!!!

(2) Hogging the middle lane: Mr Hogger probably considers himself to be a safe driver. In the UK it is illegal to undertake, particularly on a motorway. So why does Mr Hogger continue on his merry way, driving at 60mph in the middle lane when there is absolutely no traffic in the slow lane? Now I’m sure Mr Hogger would argue that he his perfectly within his rights to do so and he may even say that he is travelling in the middle lane to save him from pulling out again when he encounters the car on the inside lane that is about a mile in front of him and in most cases travelling faster than him. I say to you, Mr Hogger, that you are driving dangerously. Why? Well, there are people like me who probably aren’t as sensible as I am who will lose their tempers with you. And to teach you a lesson, they will undertake and gesticulate at you, or they will shoot out behind you, crossing two lanes, and then cut you up as they return to the slow lane. But you probably won’t even notice will you? So if you are reading this and you hog the middle lane: PULL OVER!!!!!

(3) Sunday Afternoon Driving: Mr SAD is usually an old person who owns a car that can break the land speed record but drives it like it is a milk float. He is usually a pensioner and wears a hat in the car. WHY DO YOU WEAR A HAT???? Furthermore, Mr SAD will drive in a 30mph zone at 20mph ALL THE TIME. Why? When you are driving in a conurbation there is only one lane so people have to pull out facing the oncoming traffic to overtake you. If it is busy people can’t do this so you hold up traffic. And again, those with less patience than me will pull out and risk a collision with oncoming traffic – I’ve seen it happen – I’ve been the oncoming traffic. So if you are reading this: DRIVE FASTER AND TAKE OFF THE BLOODY HAT!!!!!!

(4) Dithering: Picture the scene. You want to turn right onto a main road (for Europeans and Americans this will be left). The traffic on the main road is fairly busy but there are gaps. At the front of the queue to turn right is Mr Ditherer. This careful driver takes an absolute eternity to pull out. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been stuck behind Mr Ditherer. I’ve wasted probably a year of my life screaming in frustration as I’ve watched him dither for what seems like an eternity. Even when cars have slowed down on the main road and flashed to allow him to pull out, he has dithered and dithered – and I have wasted another five minutes of my life. Three cars could have drifted out and he sits there dithering. So if you are reading this Mr Ditherer: TAKE YOUR TEST AGAIN!!! YOU CAN FAIL FOR DITHERING!!!!

(5) Bad Parking: Have you ever parked at a supermarket and returned to your car to find that somebody has parked right next to the driver’s side leaving about a millimetre for you to open the door and get in? Do these people have no sense of distance? Mr BP is either totally inconsiderate or just hopeless at parking. I have to go round to the passenger side and climb in usually injuring myself on the gear stick as I clamber into the driving seat. One time, I returned to my car to discover that Mr BP and his brother had parked either side of me. I am not making this up. I could not open either door and had to open the hatchback door and climb in through the back. Mr BP is also incapable of parking his car in an empty car park, usually straddling two places. This is fine until the car park fills up and you are driving around looking for that elusive last spot. So if you are reading this and you are a bad parker: PRACTICE AND HAVE SOME CONSIDERATION!!!! THE CAR PARK IS USED BY OTHER DRIVERS!!!!

(6) Extreme Road Rage: OK I may sound like a hypocrite here but I suffer from passive road rage – i.e. I rant and rave in the car and my screams of frustration are usually drowned out by Metallica or Judas Priest. However, there are certain people who take it a little too far and either bang on their horns or actually get out of their car and use threatening behaviour. I have encountered such a person who quite literally exploded because I didn’t pull off the second the light turned green. He drove right up behind me, shaking his fist, beeping his horn and flashing his lights. So if you are that person and are reading this: CALM DOWN!!!!! YOU WOULD HAVE SAVED ALL OF TWO SECONDS IF I HAD MOVED THE MICROSECOND THE LIGHT TURNED GREEN!!!!

(7) Failing to Indicate: The purpose of indicators is to tell other drivers where you intend to go. If you want to right you indicate right and if you want to go left – guess what? Yes that’s correct – you indicate left! You do not indicate left to go right or vice versa. One mistake that Mr Directionless makes is that he assumes other drivers are psychic! We are not. If you do not indicate, we do not know where you intend to go. The number of people who fail to indicate and then move without looking astounds me. Do they have a death wish? Mr Directionless, I implore you: USE YOUR BLOODY INDICATORS!!! I CANNOT READ YOUR MIND!!!! AND LEARN WHICH DIRECTION IS LEFT AND WHICH DIRECTION IS RIGHT!!!!!

(8) Dazzling: There is nothing more irritating than driving on a dark country road at night time and then having Mr Dazzler loom up behind you with his lights on full beam. Worse than Mr Dazzler is his friend Mr Lorrydazzler. Lorries have higher headlights so they illuminate the inside of my car entirely and blind me completely, as well as giving me a terrible headache. Mr Dazzler: TURN OFF YOUR BEAMS!!!!!

(9) Overtaking Lorries: On the motorway, lorries tend to travel slower than other vehicles. Sometimes they overtake each other, but when they do, they do so extremely slowly. A huge articulated lorry struggling up a hill on the motorway will be travelling at less than 50mph in the slow lane. So if another articulated lorry decides to overtake him travelling at 51mph, it will take an absolute eternity, cause congestion and give Mr Tailgater the chance to intimidate people like me. To the drivers of lorries: PLEASE DON’T OVERTAKE ON BUSY MOTORWAYS BUT IF YOU MUST, WAIT UNTIL THERE IS NO HILL!!!!!

(10) Stupid Pedestrians: I am particularly annoyed by youngsters who walk out in the middle of the road very slowly as I sit there waiting for them. I’m talking about teenage kids with attitude problems who glare at me as I glare at them. They assume that I won’t move and run them over. Believe me lads, the temptation is almost unbearable. And those pedestrians who are in the middle of the road as you turn left or right. They are usually crossing the road but appear like startled rabbits as you approach them, wandering whether they should move or go back. They end up standing there like idiots, waiting for me to run them over. JUST MOVE!!!

(11) Cyclists: I have cycled on a road and am aware that traffic can be very dangerous for cyclists. I try to be careful so that I don’t end up smeared over the bonnet of a car. However, there are cyclists who think they are invincible and weave in and out of slow moving traffic. Worse, there are cyclists who ride in the middle of the road oblivious to the queue of angry drivers behind them. Even worse are those idiots who cycle at night wearing no reflective gear and without lights. There are numerous occasions when I’ve only noticed these pillocks at the last minute and had to slam on my brakes to avoid crashing into them. Other cyclists pull out to get round parked cars without checking how many faster moving vehicles there are behind them. A message for cyclists: IF A CAR HITS YOU BECAUSE OF YOU STUPIDITY YOU WILL BE INJURED. IN A FIGHT BETWEEN A CAR AND A BIKE, THE CAR WILL ALWAYS WIN!!!!

(12) Finally, the most annoying people of all. These people make me furious even when I am not in a car. Picture the scene; you’re walking down the street when you suddenly start to feel the ground shake. You look around expecting to see buildings moving and then it appears about half a mile away: the dance car, usually driven by a complete arsehole. As the car approaches, the incredibly loud thumping scares local creatures and shakes houses to their very foundations. You see the driver, usually a young buffoon, moving his head in time to the dreadful dance music played at a volume that would make Ozzy Osbourne’s ears bleed. As the car passes, you see that he has a complete sound system occupying the rear of the car, with speakers that Metallica would think twice about using for a concert at Wembley Stadium. I can only surmise that these morons are deaf. If you are in a car it is much worse – because you can’t escape them. I have driven along listening to heavy metal at a fair volume and had one of these loons behind me playing music so loud that I have heard it above my own. No volume in my car is loud enough to drown out the sound of the dreadful crap coming from their car. When I arrive home I am deaf myself. I have two things to say to these guys: TURN THE BLOODY MUSIC DOWN!!!! PLAY SOME ROCK MUSIC INSTEAD!!!!!

That’s’ enough for now – I’m losing my patience just reliving the episodes of my life where I’ve encountered road rage.

I need to take a chill pill now as I am quite worked up. Breathe deeply, Dave, breathe deeply. It’s Sunday tomorrow – I could go for a nice drive. And if I encounter anybody in a car wearing a hat I might just cover his car in red paint fired from my new multi-directional paint bazooka.

Friday 27 February 2009

Facebook: Friend or Foe?

I heard an interesting conversation between a group of strange students on a bus last night. I was returning from a Metallica concert in the city centre when six students stumbled on board, slightly the worst for wear. There was one very opinionated and very loud young woman, four rather strange geeks and another weird woman.

I honestly had to stifle chuckles as these young people discussed everything from favourite pizza toppings to the arrogance of a bloke they had just met; well to be fair it was the opinionated woman who was discussing the bloke, the others were more interested in whether pepperoni was suitable for vegetarians. In fact, as the conversation continued, it turned out that the opinionated woman considered ALL men to be arrogant, apart from the four geeks who thought that pepperoni grew in a field; she presumably just considered them to be idiots.

I wondered whether I was that thick as a student.

Anyway, at the end, the quieter woman left the bus and said:

“Phone me tomorrow!”

One of the pizza loving geeks said “I haven’t got your phone number”.

Then the woman replied

“It’s OK! Talk to me on Facebook”.

“WHAT???” I screamed. “Why the bloody hell don’t you just arrange to meet over a coffee????? Have you never heard of social interaction????”

Actually, that’s a lie. I wanted to scream this question to them but, being a coward, I didn’t. Besides, I didn’t want to be subjected to a tirade of abuse from the opinionated woman for being arrogant.

I’ve asked myself: is the world going crazy? Since Facebook came online and became available to the masses, young people have changed. Nobody seems to talk to each other any more. Youngsters spend their entire days engrossed in Facebook. One young lad I know told me that if you are young and you don’t have a Facebook account then you are a nobody. “It is as essential as having a mobile phone” he said.

I do actually have a Facebook account myself. Before you stop reading and say “You bloody hypocrite!” let me elaborate and defend myself.

I have a Facebook account because Mrs PM enrolled and sent me an email requesting me to join as well. I had never heard of it so like a gullible mug I signed up and Mrs PM became my first friend. I forgot about it for a while and gradually young people at work started talking about it.

“I’ve got 32 friends” I heard one say.

“Well I’ve got 61 friends” challenged another.

“I’ve only got one friend” I said miserably.

Later that day, I arrived home and checked my email account and discovered two Facebook friend requests from the two guys at work who (presumably) had felt sorry for me. I was delighted so I accepted them. I took a step down that slippery slope towards obsession with Facebook. For a short while I started seeking out people, starting with those at work, and requesting their friendship. And as I acquired a couple more friends, people started requesting me to take movie quizzes, asking me to take pizza compatibility tests, challenging me to become a pirate or zombie. Others started throwing sheep at me and buying me cyber presents. I have been poked and super-poked. People have flirted with me; I’ve been asked to take personality tests and quizzed about how dreadful I am in bed.

I asked myself what was going on. I stopped actively using it.

Since then, friends have drifted in and now I have a pathetic 42 friends, all but one or two are youngsters. Furthermore, most if not all of my Facebook friends have many more; one guy has 563. I know this lad is popular but I wonder whether he can actually name all of them.

I have a bunch of close friends who are my age and not one of them has a Facebook account.

“Why bother?” asked one guy. “If you see your mates every day, is there any point talking to them on this stupid Facebook thing?”

I think he has a point.

However, I do see a benefit. My sister, who lives around seventy miles away, requested me as a friend so that I could see what is going on in her life and vice versa. She is a more active member than I am so she posts photos all the time. It does give me an interesting insight into her life. Friends who live far away can communicate quite easily and therefore it does in a way have a useful purpose.

Before I sign off, one thought does occur to me. As I have read blogs, I’ve noticed that bloggers out there also have Facebook accounts and also, use sites such as BlogCatalog to provide a form of social community for bloggers. On BlogCatalog (the only blogging network site I actively use) I have over 150 “friends”, none of whom I know but a lot of whom are kindred spirits. The reason I use this particular site is because it has allowed me to discover other bloggers from around the world and through this medium I have encountered several excellent posts on all manner of subjects. To me this is more rewarding than something like Facebook. It also enables me to promote my inane ramblings to the world at large as well as being informed whenever favourite bloggers post their latest stuff.

Bizarrely, I also have a MySpace account (as “Plastic Mancunian”) where my “friends” are my favourite rock bands, allowing me to see what they are up to and get information on new projects. This blog is also promoted there as well.

I will not completely ditch Facebook. I have been tempted but, as long as there are people out there who I don’t see regularly or who live far away, I will maintain my vague interest. Nevertheless I will remain reactive rather than proactive - unless of course I open another account as my online persona. I’ve tried to remain anonymous on the web (though there are people I know who read this blog regularly) but perhaps I could use Facebook for more nefarious and mischievous purposes. Instead of throwing a sheep at a guy who sits opposite me in the office, I could throw a whale at a blogger in Malaysia.

I think Facebook has opened a brand new door for me …

Sunday 22 February 2009

Chat Me Up

If you are a female reader, please let me know what you think of the following chat up line. If you are a male reader you will almost certainly require your vomit bucket.

Hi beautiful. Do you have a license for those eyes?

When I was a young man (I’m talking eighteen to twenty two), I was on the prowl for a girlfriend. With my hormones rampaging through my body I was desperate, absolutely desperate, to succeed with a woman – any woman at almost any cost. And I would go to extraordinary lengths to get a date or a snog (even a peck on the cheek would have done). I used to look at myself in the mirror and see a shining Adonis staring back at me. I mean, what was there not to like? I was relatively tall; I was normal; I had blond hair (styled for once); I was intelligent; I was funny; I was handsome.

Sadly, my hormones lied to me. In reality I was a gawky, spotty, bespectacled arse with bad hair and the dress sense of a blind gorilla. Most girls would (and did) run away.

As I marched through the pubs and clubs of Liverpool I looked at every woman who dared to look back at me and smiled my greatest smile. My eyes told these ladies “Hey Baby! Today is your lucky day. Not only am I THE most attractive man in this dump, I’m also AVAILABLE!”

It didn’t work. It never worked. I didn’t understand why. I wanted the most attractive women in Liverpool. No – that’s incorrect. I wanted the most attractive women in the world.

But I was useless.

In the end, I sought advice from a friend who seemed have hypnotic control over women. He could walk into a club and chat to a woman and within about fifteen minutes they were smooching on the dance floor. How did he do it?

Well he had one advantage over me; he really was good looking. I was a spotty little pillock. His advice was:

“What you need to do is make them laugh. The best way to do this is to break the ice with a chat up line. When you’ve done that, they are like putty in your hands.”

The chat up line he mentioned above was one he used. I watched him – it worked. Another one was:

Have you got any smelling salts? You’re making me swoon.

The best one I heard him use went something like this:

Him: Hello! My name’s Judith! What’s yours?

Girl: Judith????

Girl laughs out loud. He puts on his saddest face.

Him: Please don’t laugh. My mum likes the name Judith. It’s Biblical.

Girl: I’m sorry. Is your name really Judith?

Him: Yes. Can I buy you a drink?

Girl: Yes

And off he went. I tried this approach. The conversation went something like this:

PM: Hello! My name’s Judith. What’s yours?

Girl: PISS OFF!!!!!

In the end I never succeeded in chatting up a woman. Ultimately the women in my life have chased and caught me instead. I wondered why I bothered humiliating myself. So now I wonder, would a corny chat up line work?

Here are some of the best that I have stolen from the internet. Guys – get those buckets ready:

If being sexy was a crime, you’d be put away for life.

Do you have a plaster? I’ve cut my knees falling for you.

Do you have a map? I’m lost in your eyes.

I’ve lost my phone number. Can I borrow yours?

I think the alphabet’s in the wrong order. For a start, U and I should be together.

Excuse me, do you mind if I stare at you for a minute? I want to remember your face in my dreams.

Can I borrow 10p? I want to phone up my mum and tell her I’ve just met the girl of my dreams.

Are you OK? I’m sure it hurt when you fell from heaven.

There’s something wrong with my eyes. I can’t take them off you.

What’s your star sign?

Hi. You don’t know me but I dreamt about you last night and thought it only fair to introduce myself.

Can I have my heart back please?

If you walk away now, I’ll die with a broken heart.

Would you touch me so I can tell my friends I’ve been touched by an angel?

I bet you're tired of hearing pickup lines, when words can't be compared or express the true nature of your beauty.

Believe it or not, I have actually been chatted up a couple of times. What do you mean “LIAR?” It’s true, I swear. Here are a couple of lines used on me:

I’ve been watching you. You’ve been standing there for ages and nobody’s chatted you up yet. Mind if I try?

Can I have a dance? Please don’t say no. I’d be devastated.

Please feel free to let me know your favourite chat up lines.

All this stuff is in the past for me thankfully and, to be honest, the thought of playing the field after such a long time fills me with absolute terror. I wouldn’t know where to start.

Nothing’s changed there then!!

Friday 20 February 2009

Bad Beard Day

A while ago I posted about the trauma that my hair has caused me since the day the first hair broke skin on my head (read about it here). Today I am posting about my failed efforts to grow a beard.

I do not have a beard. Why not? Because I look like a complete and utter arse; because I scare other human beings; because my cats would throw themselves on the gas fire in terror; because Mrs PM would probably drug me and shave it off. I think you get the picture – I would be a weird beard!!

I remember being supremely proud when I spotted the first hair sprouting out my chin at the tender age of fifteen. I felt like running outside and screaming “I can grow a beard; I’m a man!”

The fact that the said hair was about one millimetre long and so blond that it was only visible with a high powered microscope didn’t deter me. I was proud of that little hair. Eventually, it grew a little longer and other hairs followed on my chin and upper lip. They were still invisible to the naked eye but I knew they were there; I could feel them bursting forth. To others they were undetectable; to me they were like Giant Redwood trees.

I let them grow. I was a late developer and my voice was so high pitched it could shatter glass but at least I had a beard (or a patch of bum fluff as my dad called it). As my voice deepened, my facial hair became more noticeable and I had to take the plunge. My dad told me that I looked ridiculous; I had several very soft blond hairs protruding from my face by now. It was time for my first shave.

My dad was very helpful. He watched me as I applied the shaving foam and picked up my first razor (called something like “Gillette Bum Fluff Removal Kit”). He smiled as I lacerated my chin; he patted me on the shoulder with paternal pride as the blood gushed out of my face. I saw a tear in his eye as he handed me bits of toilet roll to stem the flow. He applauded me as I left the bathroom looking like a reject from “The Mummy”.

Thankfully my facial hair was unlike the huge blond forest on my head; it grew very slowly. I only had to shave once in a blue moon and was thankful that the scars managed to heal before I attacked my face with the next razor.

By the time I started university I was shaving regularly (once a month). My fellow students envied me. An Indian friend of mine, already losing his hair at the tender age of nineteen, had to shave every two hours and had a permanent five o’clock shadow. I would have loved a five o’clock shadow.

Then came that fatal day when I decided to experiment with my facial hair. I decided to grow a beard. I felt like a rebel as I missed my shaving day not once but twice. My beard (and I use the word “beard” in its loosest form) was pathetic. I went to the pub with my mates and the subject was discussed.

“Dave, what’s that on your face?”

“Dave, the bottom half of your face looks weird. Are you wearing make up?”

“Beard? What beard?”

Fuelled by alcohol and feeling let down by my friends I decided to return to my room and shave the beard off in the morning. However, being drunk, I foolishly thought “No time like the present”. I shaved and went to bed.

I awoke the next morning and my pillow looked like a bloodbath. I panicked for a full three minutes before the memory of my return from the pub stumbled into my thumping head. Oh no, I thought. I hadn’t had I? Oh yes I bloody well had! With rising panic I looked in the mirror and almost screamed in terror. The lower half of my face was totally lacerated; I had hacked off each and every hair and about a pound of flesh with it. The cuts were separated by dried shaving foam – I hadn’t even washed the bloody soap off (and believe me; it WAS bloody).

My friends were sympathetic and suggested (behind the giggles) that I audition for a part in the latest zombie film.

I began to shave regularly again when the wounds were healed but in my final year at university I decided to go out with a bang; I would graduate with a beard. This time, I ignored my friends and stopped shaving. My beard came on beautifully (or so I thought in my stupidity). It itched like buggery but I was proud of it. I stroked it and fondled it. I was now a proper man. My friends encouraged me.

And then I overheard a conversation.

“Doesn’t Dave look like an arsehole?”

“Yeah! And he thinks that wispy bit of fluff on his face is a beard!”

“Let’s see how long we can keep this up. He actually thinks he looks great!”

And then the final insult:

“Do you want to know what the funniest thing about his beard? It’s GINGER!”

They laughed uproariously. I hated them! I shaved it off immediately (sober this time). And do you want to know the thing that hurt most? I walked into the room afterwards and not one of them noticed that I had shaved – even when I pointed it out.

Common sense prevailed for the next six or so years. I bought myself an electric shaver and removed the foliage from my face daily. Then, in a moment of madness, I stopped shaving. The excuse I used was laziness. However, part of me was curious to discover what my beard would look like after all this time.

It grew fairly quickly; it was very thin on my cheeks and bushy underneath on my neck. I looked ridiculous and my ex-wife begged me to get rid of it. A new set of mates (those who hadn’t seen the previous effort) ridiculed me mercilessly.

“Dave, we’re your mates. Trust us! You look like a stupid geek!”

That was enough! Another beard bit the dust. And so it was for another eight years.

Since then I have grown only one more beard. In 1999, Mrs PM and I were working in Hong Kong and had the chance to spend two weeks touring China. We didn’t fancy hauling heavy suitcases around such a huge country so we decided to travel light. That meant sacrificing many things, including a razor.

After a week my ginger beard had returned. We travelled around tourist areas but at times we ended up in towns where the local Chinese people had rarely, if ever, seen westerners. My blond hair caused fascination – but my beard drew a huge amount of attention. The local Chinese people pointed at me and actually laughed – a whole nation of people thought that a blond pale man with a light ginger beard was hilarious. In bars and restaurants, people stared at me as if I were an alien. I almost bought a razor but resisted. We arrived back in Hong Kong and the guys I worked with (who also had never seen me with a beard) howled when they saw me. Another beard bit the dust soon after.

Thankfully common sense has now prevailed and I have chosen never ever to grow another beard (intentionally that is). If I had a beard now, every day would be a bad beard day. At least, with the aid of a razor, I have total control over my facial hair and my beard will never again see the light of day. Besides, the thought of being drugged and having my face lacerated by Mrs PM fills me with dread.

Monday 16 February 2009

Birthday Wishes

Well, it’s finally happened – I’ve been tagged. I’d like to thank Bingkee for this amusing bit of fun. And please visit Bingkee here because her insights on American life are fascinating.

My birthday was in October last year (as described here) and I received nothing that I’d wished for (apart from Mrs PM’s gifts). I mean what can a 46 year old man get for a birthday gift? Socks? Hankies? Walking stick? To be honest I’ve stopped celebrating birthdays because with each one I get closer to the people in those advertisements that say “Are you aged 50 to 85? Do you want life insurance?”

I used to make fun of old people when I was younger, saying cruel heartless things and buying them things like “Just For Men”. I have written poems that are cruel. I’ve ribbed people mercilessly, saying terrible things about the small amount of hair they have turning grey and requiring walking frames to dance. I’ve been heartless.

And now it is payback time. I am constantly the butt of jokes for younger friends who revel in my trauma:

“How old are you? You old git!”

“How long is it till you retire?”

Youngsters are astounded that I was alive when JFK was assassinated, England won the World Cup and Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I remember the Beatles singing “Hey Jude” and the Beach Boys singing “Good Vibrations”.

But I have a huge advantage over many my age: I have the mind of an eighteen year old and can give as good as I get. I see life through teenager’s eyes and I approach it with fun in mind but the maturity of a grumpy old git. And I love being this age.

And now, thanks to Bingkee I can now put forward my ten birthday wishes as I slide inexorably towards 50:

(1) I want a new car; not just any new car. The kind of car that makes women swoon and men grind their teeth in envy. It has to wake up the neighbours when I turn the ignition. It has to scare the local wildlife. It has to be so fabulous that other cars stop and let me pass. It has to have a sound system so brilliant that only pure rock music can ever be played on it. I’m not sure that the car I see in my mind’s eye has been invented yet. Come on car manufacturers – you have approximately 8 months to pull your fingers out. And I want it as a gift – so think of me when you get the blueprints sorted out.

(2) I want the winning lottery ticket as a birthday present. I’m not asking for much - £20,000,000 will do – just enough for Mrs PM and myself to fly around the world first class.

(3) I want free tickets to see any rock band I like on their next tour.

(4) I want a house; not just any house. I want a castle on a hilltop overlooking the English countryside in an area close to Manchester. It must make the Queen of England green with envy.

(5) I also want a chateau in France. I want President Sarkozy of France to be green with envy.

(6) I am fed up politicians telling lies. I want all politicians to be permanently rigged up to a lie detector that gives them an electric shock whenever an untruth passes their lips. The bigger the lie, the bigger the shock.

(7) I would like somebody to tell me: what is the point of Paris Hilton and other rich celebrities who have achieved fame without talent?

(8) I would love to live to a ripe old age, still be able to find fun in life and most importantly of all, annoy youngsters by pretending to be blind and deaf. I would also like Mrs PM to live to that ripe old age (though sadly I have a seven and a half year head start on her – not that she’s going to catch up – unless time travel is invented – I’m babbling now).

(9) I want Walsall Football Club to win everything – absolutely everything.

(10) Guitar lessons from Joe Satriani.

I believe that the rules state I’m supposed to pass this on to ten other bloggers. However, I want to cheat (because I am a lazy git). I invite ANY bloggers who stumble on this page and want to list their ten birthday wishes to do so and simply let me know (via a comment) so that I can read them.

Apologies if this breaks the rules – I just think it’s a nice idea to allow a little self-tagging. Of course, if nobody rises to the challenge I shall nominate people.

And once again – thanks to Bingkee for allowing me to reveal more of my weirdness (and apologies once more for my laziness).

Saturday 14 February 2009

100 Posts and 100 Useless Facts

This post is a milestone – I have made it to 100 posts and (I think) I am still going strong.

I’ve had a quick browse of all of my posts so far and it’s plain to see that I am a real weirdo.

When I first started this blog I didn’t actually know what I wanted to write but as the months have drifted by I have found myself posting about all sorts of nonsense, usually because something has popped into my head.

So what have you all learned about me from my blog, apart from the fact that I am strange?

You know about my lack of understanding of the female sex, my bad hair, my inability to sleep, my futile efforts to wrest control of my house from three cats, my views on Britishness, my views on Sarah Palin, 200 of my favourite songs and some of my fears as well as many other bits and pieces of odd trivia.

So what am I going to post about now? Well, I’ve decided to reveal a little more of myself. Don’t worry – I’m not going to post any photos of my ugly mug! Listed below are 100 facts about the idiot who calls himself “The Plastic Mancunian”.

For those of you who actually know me, please don’t laugh!

For those of you who read my posts regularly but don’t know me, hopefully it will go some way to explain why my mind works the way it does. If not, then maybe the next 100 posts will help – or confuse you further.

1. I have visited 23 countries including USA, China, Russia, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Thailand, Barbados, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and most of Europe.

2. I have written two personal travelogues; one for a trip to China in 1999 and one for a trip to Australia in 2005.

3. The most impressive natural phenomenons I have seen are Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon.

4. One of the most scenic places I have been to is Yangshuo in China.

5. My favourite city in the world is Hong Kong.

6. My second favourite city outside the United Kingdom is New York.

7. I hate Thai food.

8. My favourite band is Rush. I have seen them four times (and it is still not enough).

9. I have seen many rock bands live including Rush, Nine Inch Nails, Def Leppard, Joe Satriani, Iron Maiden, Queen, Guns n’ Roses, Marilyn Manson, Black Sabbath, Meat Loaf, Whitesnake, Rammstein, Bruce Springsteen, Queens Of The Stone Age, Motorhead, Deep Purple, The Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver, Ozzy Osbourne, Tenacious D, Aerosmith and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers ... oh and Alice Cooper.

10. By the end of April I will have added AC/DC, Metallica, Judas Priest and Megadeth to that list.

11. I used to play the trombone.

12. I suffer from hay fever

13. I have been inside the Kremlin but got into an argument with a Kremlin guard on the way in (so almost failed miserably).

14. I have climbed the Great Wall of China

15. I was very impressed by Pompeii but disturbed by Mount Vesuvius.

16. I am scared of heights but have climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the CN Tower and the Oriental Pearl Tower.

17. My star sign is Libra so I’m an indecisive, gullible, flirtatious, self-indulgent romantic.

18. I am short sighted and becoming more long sighted as the years pass by. My optician lied to me aged eight: “You’re sight will improve!” the liar said. I’m still waiting …

19. I am divorced and have two boys aged 16 (in June) and 13 (next week).

20. My sons regard me as “Embarrassing Dad” but think that I am funny.

21. I have lived with Mrs PM for almost 11 years. She is the one.

22. I am right handed.

23. I play computer games occasionally (yes even at my age!). My sons constantly kick my arse, particularly at Super Mario Kart.

24. I hate being late.

25. I swear a little bit too much.

26. I speak a little German and a little more French. I plan to learn French to fluency when I can find the time. Mrs PM can speak French. I would be able to speak a little Latin, if it hadn’t died with the Romans.

27. I am a Roman Catholic but haven’t been to church since the age of 16. My mum and I almost fell out over it.

28. I am a huge fan of space operas and horror novels. I also like spy thrillers, gritty crime thrillers and huge adventures.

29. I have blue eyes.

30. I hate gardening. Hay fever doesn't help.

31. I would own a dog if I didn’t have cats. I will own both when I retire. I like to think of myself as both a cat person and a dog person.

32. Rhubarb makes me feel physically ill.

33. I own several hundred music CDs.

34. I have held a koala.

35. I am trying to be an amateur photographer.

36. Beer is my favourite tipple but I also like wine. I don’t drink spirits.

37. Salmon in my favourite fish.

38. I hate modern art though I do appreciate classical paintings and sculptures.

39. I am a huge fan of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and own a box set of their DVDs. If I could travel back in time these two guys would be the first I would visit.

40. The funniest man I have seen live is Billy Connolly.

41. I am a huge fan of comedy; my favourite shows include Red Dwarf, Black Adder, Monty Python, Black Books, Father Ted, Peep Show and the Office. From across the pond, I like the Simpsons and Frasier.

42. I would love to retire to the South of France.

43. I love cheese – a little too much.

44. I love Mexican, Italian and Indian cuisine but am happy with most other dishes.

45. I avoid the sun because I turn into a lobster when exposed to it.

46. I do not understand the fascination with reality TV; I would ban it if I had the power. The one exception is the Apprentice (UK and US versions). I love to see pompous pseudo-entrepreneurs shot down in flames.

47. I am the world’s biggest procrastinator.

48. My favourite colour is blue.

49. I have never broken a bone. Watch me break something next week now!!

50. I almost lost one of my front teeth when I was 15. I now have a crown. I went over the handlebars of a bike and cracked it on the tarmac.

51. I play Guitar Hero on the Wii and jump around the room like a man possessed, particularly to "Knights Of Cydonia" by Muse.

52. “Aliens” is possibly my favourite science fiction film.

53. I am a huge fan of "Star Trek" but am definitely not a “Trekkie”.

54. I think that “Babylon 5” was better than “Star Trek”.

55. My football team is Walsall but I have a grudging respect for Liverpool. I don’t get to see Walsall much these days (sadly).

56. I hate winter but survive by cuddling up with Mrs PM on the sofa.

57. I can’t sing but do so frequently in private (and accidentally in public).

58. I have two younger sisters.

59. I hate politics and almost all politicians. I consider them all to be liars.

60. I want to visit Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, Mexico and Scandanavia.

61. I used to have a major crush on Madonna. I don’t now.

62. I cry at films (e.g. “Ghost”, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn”) but don’t like to admit it (D'OH!!!).

63. I’m actually quite shy; people don’t believe me.

64. I love going to the pub.

65. I hate hip/hop, rap, dance music, R’n’B and anything that involves boy bands and girl bands.

66. I would love to be able to play a guitar.

67. I am my own worst enemy and my own biggest critic.

68. I am extremely intolerant of people who try to take advantage of others.

69. I am a huge fan of early eighties pop bands like A-ha, Tears For Fears and Depeche Mode.

70. I have a friend who is about to have his first novel published. I am insanely jealous of his achievement and will be promoting his book on my blog very soon.

71. The house I live in is over a hundred years old.

72. If I were to win the lottery I would travel the world first class and write a book about my experiences.

73. I read whenever I can.

74. I have met three of the members of one of my favourite rock bands: Thunder.

75. I hated history at school but am suddenly developing a deep interest in medieval English history. I am particularly fascinated by Henry VIII.

76. I work in IT.

77. I have a science degree.

78. I would have loved to have been an actor.

79. I hate shopping.

80. I am quite a good cook but I hate doing it. I avoid it whenever I can.

81. I love sitting down and watching people.

82. I have been told that I am a flirt. I don't think I am.

83. I am outspoken and opinionated, something friends find amusing (causing them to provoke me whenever they can).

84. I have had numerous nicknames including “Snowy”, “Bagpuss”, “Flossy” and “Hair Bear”. Possibly the most bizarre is "The White Shaft".

85. My hair is a source of constant annoyance to me but men my age are jealous of it. Strangley, women like it.

86. My favourite fruit is grapefruit.

87. Favourite non-comedy TV shows at this precise moment are “Heroes”, “Lost”, “Dr Who”, “Battlestar Galactica”, Dexter” and “Torchwood”

88. I’ve been told that I have a wicked sense of humour.

89. I snore (apparently).

90. I have never smoked.

91. I have a problem with authority. People need to earn my respect not demand it.

92. I love Tom and Jerry cartoons from the 40’s and 50’s and the Pink Panther cartoons from the 70’s.

93. I have held a snake but won’t go near spiders.

94. I actually like to chat to Jehovah’s Witnesses on my doorstep and have challenged a couple of them them to convert me. Not one of them has or will ever succeed.

95. I am a hoarder and Mrs PM dare not throw anything out without checking with me first.

96. Coffee makes me hyperactive and I avoid it whenever I can.

97. I am fascinated by Derren Brown and would love to meet him so that he could teach me how to do the things he does.

98. I look like a goon when I grow a beard. I’ve done so three times in my life and been ridiculed mercilessly. I will never grow a beard (intentionally) again. I may even post about my exploits with facial hair soon.

99. I want to write a novel and will do very soon.

100. My real name is Dave.

I will reveal more about myself in my next post in a response to a tag from a fellow blogger.

Here’s to the next 100 posts.

Thanks for reading the drivel that has dripped out of my brain and onto the internet so far and a huge thanks to those who have taken the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Valentine's Day Massacre

I have to say that the post you are about to read is my most controversial yet. I am shaking as I type.

A day that I dread is approaching and an uncomfortable confrontation is imminent. That day is Saturday 14th February, a day that causes a rift between my good lady and myself. I loathe Valentine’s Day.

Let me explain. I have a problem with authority and hate being told what to do by anybody, including Mrs PM, my mum, my boss at work, the British Prime Minister and even the Queen herself. I am more likely to call the Queen “Liz” than “Your Majesty”.
I also hate being ripped off.

As Valentine’s Day approaches I find myself at odds with a faceless monster somewhere in the world who is trying to shame me into doing something that I disagree with and wasting valuable time and money for something that is manufactured solely to extract as much cash from my wallet as possible. I am being dictated to and told that I must:

(1) Waste my money on a pointless Valentine’s Day card.
(2) Waste my money on red roses that double in price at this time of year.
(3) Waste my time trying to book a romantic meal for two in a restaurant that will almost certainly be fully booked.
(4) Waste my money paying double prices for the “Valentine’s Day” special in the above restaurant if I am (un)fortunate enough to get a table for two.

I can imagine that people reading so far are divided.

The women are thinking “You callous unromantic arsehole! You should be ashamed of yourself.”

The men are thinking one of three things; “You na├»ve idiot!” or “Well said mate!” or “Shall I call an ambulance now or do you think you can escape the violent hoards?”

Last Friday I was chatting to a few friends about how I despise Valentine’s Day when one of the women present said the following to me (and I am not making this up).

“Listen, love, you had better stop right there, right now! If I was your missus I would have killed you twice because of the things you’ve just said. I’m not your missus but if I hear any more I will actually kill you on [Mrs PM]’s behalf!”

And I looked into her eyes as she spoke and saw pure venom. She meant every single word. That’s what Valentine’s Day does; it turns women into monsters.

If any women are still reading this and looking for the “Post A Comment” button so that they can describe the ways that they wish to disembowel me, I beg you to just listen to what I have to say.

First of all, I hate being told that I have to be romantic on February 14th and I hate being made to feel guilty because I choose to rebel. I love Mrs PM and I will in my own time (and on numerous occasions) buy her a gift to show my love, buy her flowers for no reason, take her to a fabulous restaurant for a wonderful meal and pay the bill without a care in the world. My very nature, as dictated by my star sign Libra (if you believe that sort of thing), is that I am romantic.

When I was a child, I loved Valentine’s Day because I understood it to be the one day of the year that I could buy a card for a girl that I fancied in order to impress upon her that she had a secret admirer. The whole point was that it was anonymous. There was something special about giving and receiving the card. Why? Because you had absolutely no idea who it was from.

That’s the way it should be.

Last year I tried to persuade Mrs PM that buying a card was defeating the object of Valentine’s Day because she would know who the card was from and so would I. What happened? I ended up buying a card and signing it. I received a card signed by Mrs PM – what was the point? I bought roses that cost me an arm and a leg. What did I get? Nothing!

I was partially successful; I persuaded Mrs PM to go out for a meal the day AFTER Valentine’s Day so that we could avoid the overpriced “lover’s menus”.

This year I have finally won a decisive battle. I have successfully worn Mrs PM down; we will not be buying each other cards and I will not be buying flowers. However, we will be going out for a meal.

If any women are still reading then please understand that throughout the course of the year I will buy Mrs PM flowers, I will take her for a romantic meal and I will tell her that I love her. What’s more I will do so on many occasions.

No faceless, manipulative marketing people are going to tell me what to do on Valentine’s Day.

And please, do let me know what you think. Mrs PM is actually reading this as I type. I hope she is going to use that saucepan she is holding for cooking.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Things My Cats Have Taught Me

I came across a blog post that inspired me. I have to say, that I laughed out loud when I read it because the author had written a serious article about what he has learnt from his cat. It really was deadly serious and, of course, business related. This person gave the world several lessons that he had picked up from his moggy that he could apply to his business life. Laugh? I nearly had an accident.

To counter that, I’ve decided to tell you all what I have learnt from my three crazy black cats.

First, I have learnt how to use a litter tray. Unsurprisingly, the one used by my cats was a little too small for me, so I adapted a baker’s bread tray for the purpose. Moreover, it cost me a small fortune in cat litter and Mrs PM started complaining (and not just about the cost of kitty litter).

Moving on: at first, purring and excessive affection caused Mrs PM some alarm; she thought I had gone mad. However, sitting on her knee and rubbing my face against her hair actually had some effect before she experienced the litter tray fiasco. I had the advantage of being bigger than Mrs PM so it was difficult for her to throw me off her lap. I also tried this tactic at work to win favour; unfortunately my work colleagues reported me to the HR department.

My cats also taught me that I can get Mrs PM to cook my dinner all the time by constantly and relentlessly howling in anguish whenever I am hungry. Initally, she was reluctant but, after weeks of indefatigable perseverance I got a result: she started beating me with a rolling pin. I almost reported her to the RSPCA.

Cats can climb very easily. I have tried this. I taped some nails to my fingers and toes and tried to climb the tall tree at the bottom of our neighbour’s garden. Sadly, my neighbour caught me and set her dog on me. And that’s the next lesson – dogs don’t like cats! I barely escaped with my leg intact. But persistence is my middle name, so I tried climbing the tree in our garden. Unfortunately, it couldn’t take my weight and I almost pole-axed myself on the fence.

Cats are also great hunters and I have tried this with a little tuition from the three cats. The big advantage that cats have over their human slaves is that they can see in the dark and are extremely fit and fast, whereas I can barely see past the end of my nose and am totally unfit and so slow that I struggle to outrun old people. But I am nothing if not determined and resourceful. I can tell you that crawling around in the garden on all fours in the middle of the night with a torch attached to your head armed with cheese and bird seed can actually allow you to catch mice and birds – or so I’ve been told. I was out there for four hours and caught nothing but a cold.

Cats like to give gifts to their loved ones. My three moggies bring us decapitated mice and half-eaten birds all the time. Mrs PM never scolds them. Sadly, she didn’t take too kindly to me depositing a half-eaten haggis on the bed at three o’clock in the morning.

Another dubious cat trait is the disgusting habit of eating grass, usually enough to make them throw up. I have to tell you, grass tastes disgusting and I’m not surprised they vomit all over the carpet. It had the same effect on me and Mrs PM was not best pleased. She thought I’d been drinking.

Finally, struggling to cope, I decided to try my hand at singing like a cat. My three usually do this at four in morning. I have to say, serenading the neighbours with screeching howls just before dawn is therapeutic. It also helps with your fitness as you flee from the neighbours’ dogs.

So what have I learned? Well Mrs PM has thrown me out of the house. At first I thought it was because of my litter tray, but the haggis and vomit were apparently the final straw. My neighbour reported me to the police and, in my haste to escape by climbing a tree, I ended up falling down and breaking both my legs. When lying there on the ground, I was set upon by a nasty police dog who presumably mistook me for a moggy.

Of course, the contents of the above post are totally and utterly untrue. Mrs PM hasn’t thrown me out and I am not currently sitting in a hospital bed under police supervision, with the men in white coats waiting with a straitjacket to cart me off to the vet. Nor am I meowing and purring and chasing small wild creatures around the garden.

As absurd as it sounds, this post makes more sense than the original “what I have learned from my cat” post that I read. I would provide a link but I wouldn’t want the author to think I was ridiculing his efforts to equate the world of business with the workings of the feline mind.

After all, I’ll bet he never took his litter tray into an important meeting; he probably left it outside.