Saturday 19 September 2009

50 Silly Questions

I will be away for around ten days from Monday 21st September as me and my good lady Mrs PM are flying off to the United States to visit Boston and Cape Cod. This will be my seventh trip to America but my first Boston.

If you happen to be in Boston or Cape Cod for the next ten days or so and see a dark blonde Englishman looking lost, looking confused in a car as he tries to get used to driving a car on the wrong side of the road again and sporting a short crazy haircut then it could be me, so please say hello. I will probably be in a bar at some point enjoying a bottle of Sam Adams.

And guess what? This is just the start of my invasion of America; Mrs PM’s dad has persuaded us to go on holiday with him next year to the west coast of America and Canada, taking in Calgary, Vancouver, Seattle and Alaska (amongst others). I really hope that I don’t bump into Sarah Palin.

So, dear American readers – you therefore have to suffer me twice in the space of nine months.
In the meantime, I thought I let you learn just a little bit more about me by answering 50 silly questions that I shamelessly stole from somebody else’s blog.

I didn’t steal their answers by the way.

See you in ten days:

1. What year was the best year of your life?

Probably 1984, my final year at university. The music of that year was excellent and I somehow managed to acquire an honours degree, a job and a girlfriend. Weird stuff happens sometimes.

2. One animal or insect that Noah should have left off the ark?

Wasps – without question. I hate the bloody things. I always have and I always will. Give me the power to wipe out one creature on this planet and these yellow and black buggers will cease to be.

3. Do you make a wish before blowing out your birthday candles?

I don’t blow out birthday candles any more. There are so many of them, that the cake would be a fire hazard and in these crazy days of excessive health and safety I would most likely be arrested for breach of a stupid rule; either that or pushing the birthday cake into the face of a health and safety officer.

4. Do you generally open your bills on the day that you receive them?

Yes. But then I ignore them for as long as I can.

5. How many pillows are on your bed?

One for me (one of those foam things that helps me sleep without cricking my neck) and two for Mrs PM. That makes three (I told you I was clever enough to add up).

6. Favourite ice cream flavour?

Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Chip Cookie.

7. What is the most dominate colour in your wardrobe?


8. Have you ever seen a ghost?

Possibly. Shortly after my dad died, I could have sworn that he was in my room. I woke up in the middle of the night and it was freezing cold (bear in mind this was August) and I couldn’t move. I then heard a voice in my head that said “It’s only me, Dave”. I have been spooked by it ever since – though it could have been a dream.

9. Would you rather go to a carnival or circus?

If I was forced to I would choose a carnival

10. Favourite meal: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

Dinner, definitely.

11. Your favourite fictional animal?

Donald Duck.

12. Have you ever flown first-class?

No. I’ve flown Business Class a couple of times (having crawled to the airline staff for an upgrade) but never managed to get beyond that.

13. Would you go on a reality show?

Most people who appear on reality TV shows are total arses who want to be famous for doing absolutely nothing. So the answer is no.

14. Are you more optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
Definitely optimistic about the future.

15. Pancakes or waffles?

If I have to choose, I’ll go for waffles.
16. If you could own a home anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I would own a house on or near to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. If I had the money to buy such a house I would almost certainly relocate there too.

17. Your favourite Soup of the Day?

Chicken and mushroom.

18. What site is a must see for all visitors to your city?

Manchester’s not exactly a tourist destination but there are many interesting things to see. I would probably go for the Museum of Science and Industry, simply because it is so interesting that you can spend an entire day in there.

19. Can you recommend a good restaurant in your city?

My favourite restaurant in Manchester is the Yang Sing, a superb Chinese restaurant.

20. You go to the zoo; What is the one animal that you want to see?

Lions; I love them but they scare the hell out of me.

21. Potatoes, rice, or pasta; Which is your favourite?


22. What is the best movie that you've seen this year?

Star Trek.

23. One of your favourite books when you were a child?

My granddad bought me a book called “Every Child’s Answer Book” because I was a painfully inquisitive child. It had answers to questions like “What is the largest number?” and “Why is the sky blue”. I think he did it go get some peace.

24. What in your life are you most grateful for?

Mrs PM and my two wonderful sons.

25. You are home alone and use the bathroom; do you close the door?

Of course – otherwise one of the cats will stroll in and laugh at me.

26. What is your favourite small appliance?

My toaster.

27. Salty snacks or sweet treats?

Salty snacks.

28. Are you usually a little early, a little late, or right on time?

It depends. If I’m meeting somebody in a pub for example, I’m usually about five to ten minutes late. If it is a movie or something like that I will be very early.

29. What is the most daring thing that you have ever done?

Taken on my fear of heights head on and climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. My fear of heights won. I will never do anything that stupid ever again.

30. Have you ever met someone famous? If yes, name one.

I’ve met Richard O’Brien, author of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

31. What was one of your favourite games as a child?


32. At what age have you looked your best?

I’ve never looked my best but I’ve looked the least unattractive when I was in my mid thirties, just before middle age started to set in, causing everything to start drooping. It’s all downhill from now on (quite literally).

33. One person that never fails to make you laugh?

Billy Connolly.

34. What was the first music that you ever bought?

Fanfare for the Common Man by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

35. If you could change one thing about your family life when you were a child, what would it be?
I would have loved a brother. I was outnumbered as a child by my two younger sisters. A brother would have levelled the playing field.

36. What is the one thing that you cook that always receives compliments?

I’m not a good cook at all (despite what Mrs PM says), but I can whip up a decent pasta dish.

37. From what news source do you receive the bulk of your news?

Usually the BBC (both TV news and the web site).

38. In the last calendar year, how many people have you told that you love them?


39. Who received your first kiss?

A girl called Brid. I was five or six years old.

40. The single most important quality in a mate?
Intelligence. An air-headed bimbo would be nice to look at but I need decent conversation and, frankly, the intricacies of soap opera plots would not be sufficient.
41. What do you value most in a relationship?

Humour. Mrs PM makes me laugh and I make he laugh too. The problem is that she actually means to make me laugh whereas I do it by accident.

42. Do you believe that you have a soulmate? If yes, have you already met?

Yes – Mrs PM.

43. Do you consider yourself well organized?

Not totally, but I’m getting there. My war against procrastination is in its early days and I am improving as a result.

44. On average, how many times a day do you look at yourself in the mirror?

Once in the morning to see what awful state my hair is in and then once after I have beaten it into submission. And probably once more before I go to bed.

45. Did you ever make a prank phone call?

Yes. I rang up a taxi firm and sent a taxi to a stranger’s house – just for the hell of it. I was sixteen and stupid.

46. What one quality do you seek in a friend?

Fun. You have to be able to have a laugh with a mate. I struggle with people who are too serious.
47. Have you ever killed an animal?

Yes – lots of wasps. Do I feel guilty? Not a chance!

48. When you were twelve years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An actor. I would still have a go if the opportunity arose (though I would struggle with my fear of public speaking).

49. Do you believe in an afterlife?

Tough one. I’m a Roman Catholic and as such, I was indoctrinated by the concept of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. I would like to believe that when we shuffle off this mortal coil, we drift away somewhere and live happily ever after. However, having a scientific mind, the idea of life after death is impossible to prove so I am therefore depending on the teachings of religion and faith. So the answer is really “I hope so” – though the thought of spending time in Purgatory repenting for my sins doesn’t feel like it would be a pleasant experience.

50. What would you like to accomplish with the remaining years of your life?

I want to write as many books as possible (I’m battling with one at the moment) and see as much of planet earth as possible, one little bit at a time. If I win that lottery tonight I will be ready to make a start as soon as I return from Boston.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

The Hypochondriac

I’ve had every disease and medical condition known to man.

Well, when I say “known to man” I really mean “known to me”. I’m much better now. Do you know why?

Because I used to be a hypochondriac.

When I was a young lad, my parents bought a book entitled “The Home Medical Encyclopedia” and foolishly left it lying around so that a stupid, young idiot like me could read it.

I opened the book and started to read and within minutes I had started to panic.

The title of the book should have been called “You Are Going To Die Painfully and Horribly Within The Next Two Days and Here’s How.” By the time my parents found me twenty minutes later, I was gibbering wreck.

“I’ve got scabies,” I cried.

“What?” yelled my dad. “Give me that. Why do you think you’ve got scabies?”

“I’m itching,” I wailed.

My dad then read the entry for scabies and started laughing.

“That so-called spot you have on your face is a zit, you idiot,” he laughed.

“But it could be a nest of insects and monsters burrowing under my skin,” I wailed.

He hid the book but, being a tenacious little sod, I found it and read it from cover to cover. By the time I’d finished I was convinced that I had malaria, sleeping sickness, chickenpox, smallpox and cancer. Not only that, I had a heart condition a brain tumor and a fractured skull. I was dying even though I could still run around like a deranged lunatic.

I swear that if somebody had told me that an alien virus was wreaking havoc in England, I would have been checking myself for symptoms. Imagine this:

“The symptoms include turning green and growing an extra arm. In the latter stages your hair will turn blue and you will start croaking like a frog. Death will follow when your brain explodes out of your ears.”

Most people would have laughed. I on the other hand would have believed that garbage and examined my skin convinced it was turning green.

Of course, I have never had any of the ailments that I read about in that evil book; it was all in my mind. My normally wonderful and reliable imagination had run amok and let me down magnificently.

The truth is that I wasn’t ill as a child and, in reality, I have hardly been ill at all. As a very young tot, I had measles and mumps but that’s about it. If you don’t count colds and flu and the odd stomach upset, I’ve had a relatively disease free existence.

Nevertheless it has been difficult to convince myself that I am healthy. When I was nineteen I humiliated myself at the doctor when I tried to convince him that a prickly heat rash was in fact a flesh eating virus devouring my skin. As I spoke to the doctor, I was desperately trying to stop myself from crying like a baby.

The doctor was professional and kind but I know that he was thinking “you bloody idiot, wasting my time”, even though I’m sure that’s what he was thinking.

I am so glad that I decided not to become a doctor; I would have spent the last twenty years in mental anguish every time I discovered a new microbe or virus. I would have been the world’s worst medic, with patients running screaming from my surgery as I chased them shouting:
“Bugger off! It’s ME that’s ill, not you. Look at me! I’ve got an alien virus that’s turning my skin green.”

Thankfully, I got over hypochondria after that to a certain extent, mainly because I forced myself to stop reading medical tomes. Ignorance was bliss.

I did have a little bit of a relapse when I bought my first home computer about fifteen years ago. And before you think I am a complete moron, I can confirm that I didn’t consider it possible to catch a computer virus that would erase my brain.

The cause of my relapse into hypochondria was the internet. As wonderful as the internet is, it introduced me to yet more diseases, conditions and syndromes and allowed my colossally vivid imagination to work overtime.

Whereas home medical books listed ailments in alphabetical order, the internet with all of its powerful search engines and splendid web sites allowed me my hypochondria to flourish.

For example, on one site I have found, you click on the symptom and it opens a door to a wondrous list of possible causes, most of which are harmless. The problem is that a lot of them are not. Through websites like this I have discovered many hundreds of new ways to depart this life in the most painful and unpleasant way possible.

If you click something as common as “headache”, you uncover 149 possible causes.
That’s enough to keep a hypochondriac gibbering for life. What can cause a headache? How about migraine, allergic rhinitis, flu, whiplash, stroke, depression, meningitis, brain aneurism, pneumonia, concussion and premenstrual tension and that’s just for starters.

Thankfully, years of self-induced panic and stress have taught me that my symptoms are probably due to my own stupidity and I am no longer concerned about illness. Perhaps I should be, but I know that the moment I start reading about diseases and medical conditions I will be back at the doctor’s screaming blue murder.

Mind you, as I get older, I have noticed that there are more odd aches and pains appearing. And my eyesight’s getting worse. And I’m slowing down. And swine flu is around. Maybe I should stop this post right here before I am tempted to look up the symptoms. Or perhaps not.

Be calm, Dave, be calm. There is no flu that turns you into a pig.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Men's Problems - Women

I like to live dangerously and this is probably as dangerous as it gets. If I haven’t alienated the female members of the human race already, I certainly could do after this post.

I want to talk about women, yet again, but this time I want to discuss how the fair sex can be a problem to men. As much as we love them, they can be a major headache for us - sometimes.

As I have said before, I really struggle to get my head around the female sex, but I know that I am not alone. In fact, I will go further and say that no man alive really understands women. Any man who claims to is a fibber, and a big one at that.

I have moments of delusion when the antics of Mrs PM and other women appear to make perfect sense. When such moments occur, I celebrate and say to myself: at last, finally, I know what goes on in the female brain. My euphoria is usually short lived because Mrs PM stuns me by reacting totally different to expectation, crushing my jubilation to an embarrassing pulp.

But it’s worse than that because understanding women is not the only problem for men; it’s the whole female package. What do I mean by that? Allow me to elaborate.

Like most men, I love to admire a beautiful woman. I do so subconsciously, my eyes driven by a primeval force that I can’t control. Most men are the same.

Many years ago, when I was a young idiot, a female friend and I were chatting when the conversation drifted towards a mutual acquaintance.

“He’s a nice guy,” she said, “but he is a total letch.”

“A letch?” I asked. “What do you mean? What’s a letch?”

“Well when he’s talking to me, he doesn’t look at my face.”

Puzzled (and stupid) I probed further.

“That’s a bit rude isn’t it? Or maybe he’s just shy. I’m a bit like that – I tend to look away sometimes when talking to people.”

“Oh he’s definitely NOT shy,” she said. “When he talks to me, he just stares at my boobs.”

“Ah!” I stuttered.

And my eyes were suddenly drawn to her boobs. I couldn’t help myself; I was a young testosterone-fuelled male, listening to a female complaining about a man who stared at her like she was an object of lust – and I was doing exactly the same. I tried to force my eyes upwards to her face but all I could focus on was her cleavage. It was as if I had two devils sitting on my shoulders.

“Cop an eyeful of those,” growled the demon.

“Look at her face; she will despise you,” said the angel.

In my defence, I couldn’t help myself. Any heterosexual man who claims that he doesn’t stare at attractive women is an absolute liar. That’s a bold statement but I consider it to be absolutely true.

In my youth, I would walk down the street analysing every single women who walked past me, eyeing each one up and down; her hair, her face, her boobs, her figure, her legs, her overall shape and imagining how wonderful it would be to be walking next to this attractive creature with my arm around her waist, smelling her wonderful perfume. My imagination sometimes ran amok.

Even though I was in a relationship, I simply couldn’t help myself. Having listened to my female friend complaining about lechers, I became self-conscious and forced myself not to stare. But sometimes (most times if I am perfectly honest) I failed spectacularly. When confronted by a hideously ugly bloke with his tongue dragging on the floor, leering like a starving bulldog leaving a trail of dribble behind like a monstrous slug, most women simply looked away. Others glared with venom in their eyes and violence in their thoughts.

Nowadays, of course, I don’t look like some manic sexually charged animal; however, I still appreciate a beautiful woman and although I am in my mid-forties I find myself occasionally appreciating the beauty of women in their twenties. It can be embarrassing though if my eyes rebel and drift up and down their bodies as they are talking to me. I try my best to look into their eyes – but that too can get me into trouble. The only thing that has changed since my youthful days is that I still find many women in their forties gorgeous as well.

You will often hear the old adage that says that men think about sex approximately every seven seconds. This is utter bilge; when I was young I never ever stopped thinking about sex; every young woman I met was a potential conquest. It was just a pity that I didn’t have the means to win those battles. If a woman were to somehow manage to get past my ape-like features, my “witty banter” poured forth like a wave of demented twaddle. I didn’t know how to talk to women so how could I make one love me?

Of course, as you have probably gathered, I managed to find myself a woman crazy enough to put up with me (something else I have never understood). Once I had overcome that barrier I was delighted. Something slotted into place within and I became a different person.

Thus, I moved from being an idiotic sex-crazed baboon to being a contented young man happy to settle down with a woman who loved me; and a new challenge arose and slapped me across the face.

Living with a woman is a massively rewarding experience and I wouldn’t change many things. I would however give anything to solve the particular problems that the experience of living together creates. They are not massive problems by any means but I do feel powerless to react. I’m an educated person who loves to solve problems; but I am frustrated because the solutions to these particular conundrums elude me.

Here are a few examples:

Why does a woman dress to impress other women instead of other men? I discovered this disturbing trait fairly recently. We were going out with a couple of friends and all of the women complemented each other on how they were dressed. Mrs PM had changed her clothes several times before going out and each time I said “You look gorgeous. What’s the problem?”

She confessed that she had to look better than her friends – or at least as good as them. As a man this was a completely alien concept to me. I would have gone out in jeans and a T-shirt if I could have done and I wouldn’t have cared one jot what my mates thought about my attire. Yet she, and all the other women were desperate to impress each other and not the guys who were there.

Why do two men chat to each other on the phone for about twenty seconds and women for about twenty hours?

Why does Mrs PM hide clothes that she doesn’t want me to wear? Mrs PM feels a desperate urge to approve any clothes that I buy. If, for some reason, I manage to escape to a clothes shop without her being present, and then buy something she hasn’t vetted, I can guarantee that if she doesn’t like it, she will remove it from my wardrobe and hide it somewhere. And she will lie to me as well.

Me: “What do you think of this shirt?”

Mrs PM (through gritted teeth):”It’s … erm … nice. Why did you buy it?”

Me: “I like it. Why do you ask?”

Mrs PM: “Erm no reason”

A week later you can guarantee it has gone missing.

Me: “Where’s that yellow shirt I bought last week?”

Mrs PM: “What yellow shirt?”

Me: “The one I bought last week that you said was nice.”

Mrs PM: “Yellow doesn’t suit you. Put on the blue shirt.”

Me:”You’ve hidden it haven’t you?”

Mrs PM: “No!” …”Yes! I hate it! It makes you look like an anaemic window dummy!”

Another bone of contention is doing stuff around the house. I’ve learned that little things really matter. For example, if a man spends the whole day decorating the room, he can suffer because he has only done one thing. Why for example, didn’t he do the washing up? This particular problem may not be true of all women, but I do know that if on a Saturday, I get up and spend two hours hoovering , cleaning the kitchen and loading the dishwasher, Mrs PM will be happier than if I spend three hours washing the cars. Why? Because I have completed three tasks instead of just the one.

I’m sure that not all women are like this but some, like Mrs PM, definitely are.

What about when you say the wrong thing? Mrs PM and I don’t argue very much at all but when we do it is usually because I have somehow put my foot in it by saying something I think is perfectly reasonable and totally truthful, yet somehow it pushes the anger button within Mrs PM’s psyche. The end result is that I am berated for something I simply do not understand; when I protest my innocence it is like trying to put out a fire with a nuclear warhead. The snowball effect has nothing on these arguments.

I’ve learned to shut up and let Mrs PM burn herself out. And then, most of the time, I can repair the damage with a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates or a cuddly toy.

See what I mean? Women can sometimes be so illogical that they give men an horrific headache.

Regular readers will probably be thinking:

“For heaven’s sake, Plastic Moron! Women aren’t that difficult to understand. Are you completely deranged? Are you just stupid? Will you please stop going on about women?”

To those people I say this:

I may be stupid but I need to understand women. The theme of this post implies that women are a problem for men. They are definitely not – not really - well sometimes.

What I am trying to do is to draw your attention, dear female reader, to the fact that we simply do not understand you and, that you simply do not understand us back.

We stare and gawp at gorgeous women because we love looking at the beautiful female form. Although some of us may be lechers, the majority are not but are driven by a primeval urge. Our goals are different from yours.

When we live with women, they think that we are lazy good-for-nothing emotionless imbeciles with no compassion who simply want to drink or watch and play sports. There is some truth in that but again we can’t help it. While a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates will make ladies happy, just letting a man go to the toilet with a newspaper for ten minutes will make him happy. While you want to spend three hours on the phone chatting to your best friend about emotional issues, we are quite happy to get a mate round and watch the big game with several cans of beer and testosterone-fuelled aggression.

When your man screams during a football match because his team have just conceded a goal, don’t scold him because he has spilled beer on the floor. Embrace him and make him feel better. Don’t ask stupid questions like “which team is winning?” or “who’s playing?” or “what a good goal that was. Was that your team?”

When your man hoovers the house, don’t scold him for not loading the dishwasher and filling the washing machine. He will do it next time if you thank him.

When a man stares at you in the street, it is because you are beautiful, not because he is a lecherous drooling baboon (even if I am – I can’t help it).

We should embrace our differences and try to understand each other.

If any women are annoyed by this post, please understand that this is not my intention. I adore women and I respect them with all my heart. Women are beautiful, kind, intelligent creatures and I love you all to bits. I have also ignored something a friend of mine once said:

“All women, without exception, are mad.”

He simply has bigger problems than me understanding the fairer sex. Don’t be too hard on him – he is a goon. That sentiment certainly does not exist on this blog (although it may seem the case sometimes).

I’m off now to watch the big game. I will require the following items:

A TV and a can of beer and a lot of patience (for when Mrs PM comes in and asks me why I didn’t dust when I hoovered earlier today).

Tuesday 8 September 2009

The Grilled Mancunian

I’ve been cooked several times in my life and I’m bloody sick of it.

Having blond hair and fair skin is seen by some as a blessing. Phrases like “blonds have more fun” may give the impression that we are rampant extroverts with a party animal mentality and can make any social occasion memorable.

Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that blonds are cursed. I won’t even begin to discuss the common myth that blond people are stupid. You’ve all heard the jokes:

How do you make a blond’s eyes twinkle? Shine a torch in their ear.

Actually, blond jokes are geared towards airhead blond women (at least that’s what people telling blond jokes tell me) so I like to think that people don’t consider me to be stupid just because of the colour of my hair.

How are we cursed then?

We are basically allergic to the sun (well excessive sun at least).

So does that make us vampires? In a way, it does. I’m not saying that I am an evil undead monster who sleeps in a coffin all day and then marauds around at night, attacking young female virgins and bleeding them dry. Last time I checked, a cross didn’t burn my skin and the closest I get to drinking blood is when I have a medium rare steak. Besides, I quite like garlic.

The sun has a similar effect on my skin as it does on your average vampire. I don’t burst into flames and crumble into ash. However I do cook, albeit very, very slowly.

When I was young, like most stupid youths, I considered myself to be indestructible. I would jump around like an idiot, climbing trees, throwing myself off walls and leaping into water from great heights. I was a moron (okay maybe I was a true blond in those days). And I actually thought that I could spend a whole day in the sun without getting sunburnt.

The first time I remember being cooked, I was on holiday in Bala, a lovely little town on the edge of Bala Lake in mid Wales. I was eighteen and four of us were discovering the glory of alcohol and more importantly freedom from our parents. It was my first real holiday with them and I was ready to take the next stupid step.

On that fateful day, we drove to the lake and hired a boat. It was a gloriously sunny day and, being a complete and utter bonehead, I chose to sail on the lake without a shirt. I still don’t know why I did this. Even my mates suggested that perhaps I should wear a T shirt. I wouldn’t mind but my physique wasn’t exactly worthy of parading to other sailors. I was so skinny that I resembled a living skeleton. Arnold Schwarzenegger I wasn’t.

What was I hoping to achieve? If any young women had seen my bony body they would have either fled in disgust or called an ambulance. Either that or tried to play me like a glockenspiel.

I stepped onto that boat looking like a milk bottle. I stepped off it, three hours later, looking like a strawberry milkshake with a blob of chaotic cream on top.

I burned really badly. When I pulled on my T shirt, I screamed like a little girl. There were tears in my eyes as we travelled back to the cottage. I didn’t sleep a wink for the entire night. My whole upper body felt as if it was infested by tiny microscopic devils pummelling my skin with pneumatic pins.

Worse was to come. I came to terms with my stupidity, thinking that the red skin would gradually become brown. It’s not so bad, I thought. At least in a week or two I will look like a tanned hunk and the girls will throw themselves at me.


My red skin began to peel. Having never seen this phenomenon before, I began to panic. My dad reassured me saying that it would be all over soon (as he struggled not to laugh). It was as if I was covered in layer upon layer of cling film. I peeled off great swathes of skin. I could have made curtains for the whole street out the skin. There was almost enough to create another human being. One time, I pulled skin off my entire torso and arms like a jumper.

As the initial pain diminished, it was replaced by a terrible itch all over the exposed and grilled area. I scratched and scratched and ripped off handfuls of skin. It was horrific – just like the incredible melting man. You’ve seen “The Fly” with Jeff Goldblum? That was a picnic compared to me.

And what was the colour of my skin after I had shed more coats than a rampant snake? You've guessed it - white!

Since then I have been very careful. I love to travel to very warm and sunny places and laze on the beach; now I sit in the shade and cover any exposed bits of my body in factor 3 million sun block.

Many people ask me why I bother going to hot places if I come back looking like a ghost. I love sitting in the shade watching people, reading, listening to music; the only difference is that I don’t have skin like leather with more wrinkles than a ninety year old man. My fair skin makes me look younger than my years and I am often mistaken for a man in his mid-thirties.

That said, I have accidentally been grilled a few times.

At the Monsters of Rock festival a few years ago, I foolishly neglected to take a bottle of sun block. As I watched the various rock bands, I was unaware that I was gradually roasting in the sun. The only problem was that the sun was constantly on my right hand side, so I acquired a rather lopsided burn; the right hand side of my face was red raw as was my right arm. My left hand side was milky white.

I looked utterly ridiculous for weeks.

Another time I was caught out was at a cricket match in Manchester. The sun was intense and I burned quite badly. I was wearing sunglasses and when I returned home, I looked at myself in the mirror; a red and white panda stared back at me.

Even though I am proud that I have milky white, fair skin that has preserved a semblance of youth, I am envious of those who simply look at the sun for seconds and turn a lovely bronze colour. In my youth it always seemed to me that bronzed men attracted the best women; of course in my case bronze skin probably wouldn’t help because a bronze baboon isn’t the most attractive beast on the planet.

So what is the worst place to fry? Well in my experience, the backs of the legs is a pretty nasty place because you simply cannot sit down. On one occasion I burned the bottoms of my feet – that was very unpleasant.

But the worst place? Well I’ll leave it to your imagination but suffice it to say I am glad that I am not a naturist.

Sunday 6 September 2009

An Englishman On Holiday

I am a proud Englishman and I am a proud Briton. I love my country and I love my island. I love the Welsh and Scots who share the island with me and I love the Irish who live on the neighbouring island.

However, there are times when I try my best to avoid other British people, something you may think is difficult considering the fact that there are 60 million of us crammed into an area of roughly 81,000 square miles (that’s 750 people per square mile).

It’s not the British people on the island that I worry about; it is a minority of my fellow countrymen who travel abroad.

A lot of Brits are perfectly sane people until they arrive at the airport to go abroad. Once they pass through customs and find themselves airside, a switch flips inside the brains of a few and they mutate into something that can be quite embarrassing - the British tourist.

Most people in the world let their hair down a little bit when they go on holiday (I have been known to once or twice). The only problem is that there are a few British people do so with added gusto. Of the remaining sensible British tourists, there is another bunch that are either naïve or live in a bubble of Britishness, making them behave like obnoxious arses.

For some people, common sense is tossed aside; our normal reserved nature is discarded in favour of a rampant drunken beast. Others simply forget that there is a massive difference between Britain and the rest of the world and approach other cultures in the same way as Godzilla would approach a city on a day he was feeling particularly destructive. To them, the rest of the world should be like Britain.

I have travelled to many countries and I am humbled by the differences between cultures. I embrace them and I respect them. I try to become part of them. If I travel to France, I try to speak French; if I travel to a European country where I do not speak their language, I use a phrase book to get my message across. I have travelled to many diverse countries, including many European countries, Thailand, Russia, Australia, South Africa, Canada, United States and China. In each country I have welcomed our cultural differences and tried my best to be an ambassador for my country.

Sadly, a few of my fellow countrymen are not willing to try to blend in and, worse, others contribute to the ever increasing bad reputation of “Brits abroad”.

The worst offenders I have seen have typically been in Europe. Great Britain is part of Europe, whether we like it or not (personally I love it) and in my humble opinion we should be thankful that we can pop over the sea and find ourselves in fabulous countries like France, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Norway. Travel a little further and we can enjoy Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and many others. They are quite literally on our doorstep.

So why do we have such a problem? Let me give you one or two examples of what I’ve seen and perhaps all will become clear.

I travelled with a group of friends to Palma on the beautiful island of Majorca, in order to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday. We had a few beers, we had a few meals and we visited some of the lovely places in and around the capital city. One day, we opted to go to Magaluf, mainly out of morbid curiosity. For those who have never heard of Magaluf, it is a seaside resort in Majorca that basically becomes little Britain during the summer months. Throughout that period, fleets of charter flights full of young nutters descend on this small resort with one aim: to drink as much alcohol as they can for as long as they can and cop off with as many members of the opposite sex as they can.. Young men and women mutate into the worst kind of party animals and turn the place into a throbbing drunken cesspit of debauchery. Those who avoid the place call it Shagaluf.

Our party took a couple of cabs to Magaluf after breakfast at the hotel and as we approached I was horrified to see a fish and chip shop with the bold claim “Fish imported from Britain”. I was stunned and remarked on this to one of my friends. The cab driver, with a look of sadness on his face, said “Magaluf is an English colony in Majorca. It is horrible.”

I was disturbed by this. We arrived there and found the place almost deserted, which amazed me. It was 11 o’clock and there were only a few people around. “Where is everybody?” I asked. And then it became clear; if you had been up all night partying then you would be in bed. Fair enough, I thought. You can lie in on holiday. But then I noticed the number of clubs and bars; and they weren’t Spanish bars – they were pubs – English and Irish pubs.

And even worse there were pubs boasting that people could watch their favourite soap operas there, beamed in on satellite dishes especially for those who have no desire to become part of a foreign culture, preferring instead to create a pocket of Britain.

“Don’t miss Eastenders or Coronation Street”, it claimed and there were people there watching TV. There was another bar that beamed episodes of “Only Fools And Horses” on an endless loop. People were actually sitting in there laughing at a British comedy show in a bar on a Spanish island.

At lunchtime, we decided to have a beer; we searched around the place for an authentic Spanish bar; we failed and opted to pop into a pub. I marched up to the bar and was greeted by a dark haired tanned barmaid, who I assumed was Spanish. The beers in front of me were all British. I scanned the taps and discovered a Spanish one.

“Cinco cervezas y una coke, por favour” I said in very bad Spanish.

“Which beer do you want?” came the reply is a Cockney accent. I pointed to the Spanish beer, disappointed that I hadn’t had the chance to converse with a Spaniard. The pub was owned and run by British people.

After beer and food we wandered around Magaluf and I saw very few Spaniards. All we saw were British people; if it wasn’t for the sun I would have sworn that we were in Brighton or Margate. I saw cafes and restaurants serving English food; fish and chips were everywhere and people were sitting in pubs watching their favourite TV programmes beamed in from Britain.

The plan had been to spend the day in Magaluf and visit a couple of bars in the evening. By 5 o’clock the party animals had risen and were preparing for another night out. We had had enough so we caught cabs back to Palma to seek out Spanish bars and restaurants ans immerse ourselves in Spanish culture once more.

As we travelled back I thought to myself; if you are going to come to Spain why the hell would you eat fish and chips? Can’t you live without crap TV for a week? What is the point of coming to Spain and demanding all the comforts of home? Why bother travelling all the way to Majorca just to sit in an English pub all day watching endless repeats of a British comedy show? You could stay at home and do that and it would cost you absolutely nothing.

On another occasion, I was working in Amsterdam with a Belgian colleague called Eric. We had selected a traditional Dutch restaurant for our evening meal and sat down prepared to enjoy some Dutch cuisine. As I read the menu and chatted with my Belgian friend, I heard a loud English voice from the other side of the restaurant and cringed.

“Excuse me! EXCUSE ME! Do you have any Worcester Sauce?”

My Belgian friend stared at me in shock. I shook my head in shame. The loudmouth hadn’t finished.

The restaurant was packed and we had been lucky to get a seat. Consequently the waitresses were very busy and couldn’t attend people as quickly as they wanted. However, this vociferous English goon continued.


I looked over and saw a middle aged man, now standing up, and waving his hands in the air like a demented windmill.

“He’s English isn’t he? Are all English people like him?” remarked Eric.

I watched the reaction of the other diners; some laughed at him; others shook their head in disgust; most were shocked and appalled.

Mr Loudmouth hadn’t finished. Clearly he thought he was being ignored so he walked over to the nearest waitress and, tapping her on the shoulder, butted in as she was taking an order.

“Do you have any Worcester Sauce?” he asked rudely, ignoring the couple at the table, his voice still annoyingly loud.

I was totally embarrassed; I was sorely tempted to stand up and say:

“Sit down and have some patience you obnoxious arsehole. You’re giving British tourists a bad name.”

I resisted, mainly because it would have made me look bad and possibly made him worse.

“I’m really sorry,” I said to Eric. “We’re not all like that!”

The waitress, clearly eager to get rid of this muppet, walked over to the kitchen area and rattled a few bottles looking for Worcester Sauce. She found one and handed it to him. Mr Loudmouth must have noticed that he now had a captive audience. Instead of slinking back to his table in shame he held up the bottle of Worcester Sauce in triumph.

“Lea and Perrin’s", he shouted. “The pride of England – guaranteed to add a touch of class to any meal.”

What an utter arse! He failed to realise that most Dutch people speak perfect English and that he had insulted their cuisine by insisting that it required an English sauce to make it worthy to eat. The same waitress returned to her customers and said something in Dutch; the people laughed and stared at the goon.

She then wondered over to our table. Mr Loudmouth had made me so ashamed that I was barely able to place my order for fear of being associated with the obnoxious idiot. I spoke very quietly and then added: “We’re not all like that you know!”

Eric laughed and the waitress smiled kindly.

My final example was again in Spain, this time on a trip to Madrid with Mrs PM. We were sitting at a restaurant and a man walked up and said to the waiter: “Do you sell fags?”

Now then, dear American readers, “fag” is English slang for cigarettes (I realise that it means something completely different in the States), so please don’t imagine that I am going to steer the post in a bizarre direction.

The waiter looked puzzled and said “Que?”


I stared at Mrs PM and she began to giggle. I was mortified.

“CAN I HAVE SOME FAGS?” his voice was getting louder as if the volume of his voice would somehow make the Spanish waiter somehow, miraculously, be able to speak English.

“FAGS!!!!!” he yelled, miming the act of smoking.

In the end, the waiter asked somebody who spoke English and the man walked away with a packet of cigarettes, muttering something about “bloody foreigners”.

As I said earlier, I travel to foreign places and embrace the culture; I am usually armed with a phrase book; I sample the local cuisine; I imbibe the local beer and wine; I visit places of interest and respect my foreign friends.

It’s a crying shame that a few British people adopt a superior attitude and simply refuse to mingle with interesting foreign cultures. Worse are the young thugs who go on holiday to get drunk and create mayhem.

One of my favourite bands, Thunder, wrote a song inspired by this last group called An Englishman On Holiday. I’ll leave you with the lyrics to that song, which, as funny as the lyrics are, sadly, do ring true.

Laying down in this Spanish bar; that last slammer hit me like a car
I've got the 6 a.m. Balearic blues, can't even focus on my own tattoos
I had a fight with this German guy, I saw him give my little girl the eye
While he was trying hard to be so cool, I hit him with a stool
Oh yes, alright, I'll be going all night
Gonna drink 'til they take me away, I'm an Englishman on holiday
Every year I get to do the same, I meet the boys and get on the plane
We like to sing and shout out "here we go"
'Cos they're the only words that we all know
We've got the loudest shirts you've ever seen
We're gonna take the beaches like a team
We've got so much duty free to drink, enough to float a ship
Oh yeah alright, I'll be going all night
So light the paper, get out of the way, I'm an Englishman on holiday
We never look for trouble at the start, but it always comes our way
We've got our pride and we just can't walk away
This morning I woke up inside a cell
They dragged me screaming out of my hotel
I don't remember what it was I did
But I've got this drummer banging in my head
I've got to get out 'fore I miss the plane, next summer I'll be back again
I'll be fighting for the Union Jack, if they let me back
Oh yes, alright, I'll be going all night
Gonna drink 'til they take me away,
I'm an Englishman on holiday...