Monday 28 June 2010

I Think Therefore I Rant

On December 31st 2009, at approximately 23:58, I stared into the eyes of my beloved Mrs PM and said to her:

“My New Year’s Resolution is clear to me: I will not rant in 2010.”

Actually, to be honest, it was probably blurted out at high volume with a lot of slurring and a couple of I love you’s thrown in for good measure and punctuated by the odd belch and hiccup.

However it came out, the sentiment was there.

I was having a great time and I was sick and tired of climbing onto my soapbox. I had convinced myself that I could refrain from blowing my top I was absolutely certain that I would manage to spend 365 days in blissful harmony with the world around me, surrounded by whistling birds, butterflies flitting past my head. I would smile all the time, knowing that I had subdued my grumpiness.

I would adopt the great mantra sung by the legendary Louis Armstrong:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you.

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

My high hopes lasted approximately 365 minutes.

On New Year’s Day, I switched on my TV, watched the news and with seconds my soapbox was out, I had mounted it, and I was lecturing Mrs PM on everything that was wrong with the world.

I tried, dear reader; honestly I tried.

All of this proves that I have a problem; I am convinced that I am surrounded by petty minded imbeciles, bureaucratic morons, stubborn buffoons who refuse to budge and half-wits at every turn.

Some people may say that I am a half-wit and I would agree that sometimes I can be. But as I get older, the world to me seems to be descending into absolute farce at every conceivable opportunity in every single walk of life, from politics to sport, from music to entertainment, from work to travel.

There is breath-taking arrogance throughout the world; evil exists everywhere; stupidity is rife.

Everywhere I turn there is somebody or something determined to make my life difficult or determined to push the button that ignites the flame that converts me from a mild mannered human being into a psychotic ranting animal.

And I’m fed up of it.

Take today, for example.

My work colleagues absolutely love to push the rant button and do so at every opportunity. Most of the time, I breathe deeply and let their taunts ride over me. Occasionally, though, they catch me unawares and I lose control of my senses and rant like a madman. Today’s rant was an absolute belter and half the office stopped work to enjoy my blustering tirade. I entertained the office for a good ten minutes and had most of them falling on the floor with laughter.

You see, dear reader, although I rant, I do so in a light-hearted way that makes people laugh, hence the reason why they are so keen to do it.

WORK COLLEAGUE 1: There’s an email just come in from HR – another belter. Let’s wind Dave up.

WORK COLLEAGUE 2: Crikey – he’ll blow his top. Quick get the popcorn out.

WORK COLLEAGUE 1: Hey Dave. Have you seen the latest missive from HR?

PM (sighing): What now.

WORK COLLEAGUE 1: There are new rules about washing your hands.

PM: WHAT????????????

And so it begins.

Normally I don’t particularly have a problem with HR at all but my work colleagues love to illustrate the most bizarre edicts that come out of the human resources office.

One thing I have a problem with is the name: “Human Resources”.

What on earth happened to “Personnel”? The name “Human Resources” makes me feel like I am a number and not a free man. I am a “resource” to be thrown at a job instead of the expert that will get the job done with maximum efficiency. I feel violated – it’s like I don’t matter at all.

I don’t want to pick on HR at all because ultimately they are victims as well. There is a dark cloud looming, dear reader, and I would love to know who or what is responsible for it. It is like something out of a horror novel – an almost physical entity that touches life as we used to know it and mutates it into absurdity.

Anybody who doubts me, please answer these questions:

What is so special about a person who happens to have won Big Brother? What talent do they possess? The person was unknown when he went into the house and while he was in there did nothing other than try to be controversial, failing miserably. Why on earth should anybody care about anything they ever do? Why are tabloids obsessed with these people?

Talking of tabloids, why do they insult my intelligence with stories about people who I don’t care about and are not worthy of even a passing thought? Why do they build people up and then shoot them down in an instant? Why do they invent terrible nicknames for people, for example, Wayne Rooney becomes Roo or Wazza and we are treated to “intelligent” attention grabbing headlines that substitute the word Roo for You – for example I Only Have Eyes For Roo and Roo Blew It and Rool Britannia – I HATE them. And why do tabloids just print lies? How can they get away with it? Am I alone?

And what about politicians? We have a general election here in England, a party gets elected and then fails to deliver their promises. How can they get away with lying? They should be held to account and punished. Imagine if it were my workplace? If I lied about something so important I would be sacked.

And then you have footballing cheats. Brazilian Kaka sent off because an Ivory Coast player ran into him and then pretended that he been pole-axed by a sniper’s bullet. And what of the goal that Frank Lampard scored against the Germans that was clearly over the line yet ignored despite the video evidence? And what about the goal scored by Carlos Tevez against Mexico that was clearly offside and seen by the entire crowd, all the players and officials and the teams, including Tevez himself and the linesman who didn’t see it? Did the referee watching the screen change his mind? Did he bugger! And what have FIFA got to say? No video technology and no video referee! The arrogance is breath-taking!

And then we have Katie Price and all other famous people who have an army of fans simply because we are privy to watching their exploits on reality TV shows. I take my hat off to Katie Price, Paris Hilton etc. because somehow they have managed to convince armies of fans that there is a point – I just cannot see why they are so fascinating. Am I alone?

Do people take their brains out when watching Saturday night prime time entertainment shows? How can people sit and watch shows like “The X Factor” without throwing a lump hammer through the television? The bulk of these people have no talent whatsoever – how and why do they and people like Simon Cowell get away with convincing us otherwise? It is beyond belief.

Talking of music, whatever happened to good decent music? From the bowels of X Factor we get “Jedward”, two totally talentless twins who destroyed everything they attempted to sing. Don’t take my word for it – watch this:

Even Simon Cowell hated it. What on earth is going on? Is Louis Walsh insane? Britain was obsessed with these talentless kids – they have balls but no talent whatsoever. How can they shine on prime time TV and how can they get a record deal? The world’s gone MAD!!

Still with the music scene – why should a rock singer tell me what to think? Bono makes me cringe every time he opens his mouth to speak. Great singer, great voice – STICK TO SINGING! A mate of mine went to see U2 once – they were his favourite band. When asked if he would see them again he said: “No! I didn’t want to pay all of that money to be bollocked by Bono!!”

I want to eat meat. I like meat. Meat is good for me and it tastes great. I do not want to be told by a vegetarian that I am some kind of homicidal maniac just because I like bacon. Vegetarians have their views – I respect that. But please do not tell me what to do! It is perfectly natural for human beings to eat meat – get over it. Am I the only carnivore in the world who thinks like this?

I could go on but I fear that this post will turn into a book so I will stop for the time being. I do worry though because such nonsense infuriates me, despite my best efforts to stay calm. I am getting better, honestly, but things catch my attention, catch me off guard and light the blue touch paper.

The world is insane.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Here are a few choice rants from a friend of mine at work who, like me, despairs at the state of the world.

He was the inspiration for a blog post from 2008 called Radio Grump FM.

He despaired so much that I had to immortalise some of his frenzied and explosive outbursts for the world to see. I think they are funny – perhaps you agree. If you don’t agree, it doesn’t matter. But I am not alone.

A bit of background before I share his wisdom with you. He is a software engineer, like me, who has a particular gripe with Microsoft.


(1) Just how thick are these people? I think somebody opened up their heads when they were kids, scooped out their brains and then filled them full of shit!!

(2) I can’t believe they wrote Microsoft Word and then didn’t bloody test it. Maybe it was just tested by a blind man in a dark cellar.

(3) You like Lorraine Kelly? Well that’s 4000 million years of evolution pissed up against the wall!!!

(4) (When woken up by a massive thunderstorm) I looked out of the window and I’ve never seen rain and wind like it. I was beginning to wonder whether I should go out and find Jesus and let him into my life.

(5) You want me to carry on testing this afternoon? Hopefully by then I will have found a spoon to gouge out my eyeballs.

(6) If somebody came up to me and said “I can’t do that because my moon’s rising in Uranus” I’d just punch them!

(7) Yes, there's something controversial about the MacBook Air - It's overpriced SHIT!

(8) Money may not buy you happiness but it will buy you a much better class of misery.

(9) Talking is the only thing that keeps me sane. If I didn't talk I'd have to stand up, pull my zip down and piss on the keyboard.

(10) I think I'll have to phone the bus company lost property service. "Has anyone found a will to live? I had it when I was on the bus this morning but since being at work I've discovered it missing".

(11) I'm going so mental looking at this that I'm thinking of impaling my eyeballs with this Bic biro.

(12) Whoever came up with that idea can't even be fecking sentient.

(13) Is there such a thing as a book called "Idiots Guide To Java" or is that intrinsic to the language?

(14) You can learn to nail you knackers to the table from the internet if you want but that doesn't mean to say it's a good idea.

(15) I'd better get on with some other work before I kill somebody.

(16) This system works on a wing and a prayer – which is not good if you’re an atheist.

(17) Who let these people loose on the human race?

(18) Fecking wankers – the lot of ‘em! I wouldn’t trust them with an Etch-a-Sketch!

(19) These people have definitely been reading Dilbert too much and using it as a manual.

(20) Teaming is not a bloody word, you arses!!

Anyway, I’ve had enough of this nonsense.

Maybe if we all took stock and looked at the idiocy and arrogance in the world we could collectively do something about it. Until then any attempts by me to contain my furious frustration will be totally futile.

Please feel free to let me know what infuriates you. Have you got a soapbox? If so, what makes you stand on it and rant to the world?

I can see a book coming out of this. Maybe I should divert my frustration into something creative.

The problem is that people wouldn’t take any notice of it – until I become World Leader that is.

Then they’ll be sorry!

Saturday 26 June 2010

The King of Pop - Top Ten Michael Jackson Songs

It’s just over a year since Michael Jackson died, so I was wondering whether it is safe to talk about him yet. There are a lot of people out there who believe that he was some kind of messiah and won’t hear a word said against him.

Do you want my opinion?

I think that Michael Jackson was an absolute nutter ... and at the same time a genius.

I don’t want to dwell on his controversial life because I don’t know the detail – it is largely speculation anyway. I do know that he transmuted from a normal black guy into a weird caricature of his former self.

Ultimately I felt sorry for him – I still do. Why? Because he was such a talented artist, deserving the title “The King of Pop”. He could write, sing and was a terrific dancer.

This post is a sort of tribute to the best thing about Michael Jackson – his music. Like everybody my age or thereabouts, Michael’s songs pepper my life, the words and notes reminding me of key episodes in existence – particularly the early material.

I therefore present to you, dear reader, my favourite Michael Jackson songs, which may surprise those who think I am a blinkered heavy metal heathen with tunnel vision and dreadful taste in music.

I actually do like a fair few songs by the King of Pop.

(10) Bad – My wedding was a superb day but also an uncomfortable day. I was the centre of attention and way out of my comfort zone. Through the whole day, I was pursued, along with my ex-wife, by relatives, friends, strangers and a very dogged and determined video cameraman. Everywhere I turned there was a video lens poking in my face; at one point I tried to move away and hide at the edge of the dance floor, which was as stupid as it was pointless because lots of people wanted me to dance. The song blaring in the background at this point was “Bad” and when I look at the video now and see a very young Plastic Mancunian (aged 25) I can only laugh at my embarrassment and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t “Bad” at all – just lost like a fish out of water.

(9) Leave Me Alone – There is something about this song that I really like and it is not just the funny self-deprecating video. At the time, the press was full of all sorts of bizarre stories about Michael Jackson and I applauded him for appearing to take on his critics, even if perhaps there was an element of truth in the weird accusations.

(8) Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough – Before I fell in love with heavy metal and rock music, I was a fan of seventies disco music (please don’t laugh – I am baring my soul here). My sister was a huge fan of “Off The Wall” and bought the album mainly to compete with my loud headbanging music – we had competitions with music played at increasing volumes in our respective rooms. We must have driven our parents nuts. However, when she played “Off The Wall” I used to turn the volume in my room down just to listen to “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” because it reminded me of the music I liked a few years earlier. Please don’t tell my sister.

(7) Billie Jean – My university was dominated by superb pop music. I spent a lot of the time prowling around pubs and clubs in search of a girlfriend and became enthralled by the most popular music around. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was ubiquitous and top of the pile in terms of air play was “Billie Jean”. Every single night club and dance floor was serenaded by the cries of “Billie Jean’s not my lover” and, keen to attract the attention of fair maidens, I tried foolishly to moonwalk while singing the lyrics. Instead of looking like the King of Pop I was more like the King of Plop, resembling a total arse as I drunkenly wobbled around with a twisted impression of Michael Jackson that, I imagine, made women run a mile.

(6) The Way You Make Me Feel – I simply love this song and have made a complete arse of myself dancing to it on many occasions. It is a great pop song that makes my pathetic dancing feet twitch even today. You can imagine what I must look like these days trying to strut my funky stuff to this – that’s right – I look like a middle-aged bag of angry badgers. I must confess, though, that I love the woman in the video. Nice.

(5) Thriller - I will never forget the day I first saw the video for Thriller. We had been to the pub on a Friday night and had returned with fists full of fish and chips. As usual we congregated around the TV hoping to kill some time watching crap TV. We turned on Channel Four just in time to see the first showing of Thriller. For the first two minutes of the video we howled with laughter at Michael Jackson saying “you know I’m not like other guys”. We were merciless – “Yes we know that!” What wags we were. And then we all, as one, dropped our half-eaten chips on the floor, in total shock as the King of Pop turned into a monstrous werewolf. We paused only long enough to laugh when the werewolf knocked over a tree and watched the rest of the video in total silence, plucking our chips off the floor and eating them like popcorn. At the end of the video we applauded citing the video as the greatest music video we had ever seen. In fact, it still sends shivers down my spine today – the song’s pretty good too.

(4) Dirty Diana – Occasionally, Michael Jackson has produced a minor gem and in my opinion, “Dirty Diana” is just that because, not only is it a great pop song, it is tinged with menace and has a mean guitar to give it a harder and rockier edge. I have been known to play my air guitar to this song, again making myself look like a total pillock in front of friends and strangers, all of whom have subsequently denied all knowledge of knowing me.

(3) Can You Feel It – Can you feel it indeed. This song still gives me goosebumps, reminding me of when dance music was actually quite good and not the utter bilge it devolved into. Michael Jackson and his brothers produced a classic here and it still stands the test of time. And yes – you’ve guessed it – I have caused much amusement wobbling drunkenly in vague time to this song – too many times to mention.

(2) Beat It – Like “Dirty Diana”, this is a fabulous pop song with a terrific harder edge and featuring a wonderful bit of guitar work from Eddie Van Halen. During my early years at university, I played air guitar to this in my room, in the pub, in night clubs and on the street. Actually that last one isn’t true. “Beat It” represents my finest memories at university and whenever I hear it, my mind is transported back to those fabulous times, when I was a young buffoon fumbling his way through life (as opposed to the old buffoon I am now).

(1) Earth Song – Casting aside the messianic images in the video, and ignoring the fact that Michael Jackson at this point was becoming a bit of joke, I regard “Earth Song” as a musical masterpiece. When I first heard it I was dumbstruck. It is simply beautiful and is one of those few songs that brings tears to my eyes. This was the last great song he performed.

Well folks, that’s it. I hope you agree with my choices.

Farewell Michael – sorry its a year late.

I am certain that I will be embarrassing those around me, trying to emulate your fantastic dancing skills in future . Try not to laugh – I can’t help being a talentless, malcoordinated bucket of arse.

Saturday 19 June 2010

Killer Cats (Part Two)

Have you ever had a moment when you are convinced you are dreaming even though you are awake? I had such a moment earlier this week.

I was watching a World Cup clash between Argentina and South Korea. Jasper, our big fat lazy black cat, had squeezed his massive bulk into his favourite box and was snoring like a wild lion.

I’ve never understood why cats are fascinated with cardboard and paper. I can entice Jasper onto my lap by putting newspaper across my legs. You can guarantee that he will climb aboard and start clawing the paper as he strives to get comfortable.

He is equally fascinated with boxes and will attempt to climb into any box no matter what size it is. His current favourite is a small box that is barely big enough to contain his big fat arse – here’s a photo of him in it:

And boy does this cat snore. On a couple of occasions, when I have been foolish enough to allow the cat into our bedroom, I have been woken up by the sound of a snoring leviathan. In my dreamy state I have shoved Mrs PM, thinking it was her, only to be punched in the arm, before realising that the noise is in fact emanating from a black lump at the end of the bed.

Anyway, back to the tale.

You now have a nice picture of the scene in my living room. I was alone in the house, watching the football with only my fat cat for company.

It was at this moment when I thought that I had transcended a peculiar plane into a crazy parallel universe.

I saw something in the corner of my eye that made me glimpse away from the screen towards the curtains. I shook my head in disbelief.

A mouse was climbing the up the cloth in full view of Jasper.

I had never seen a mouse climb before and the sight of the little creature hauling its tiny body up my curtain was almost surreal. Within a minute, it was on the window ledge, looking around as if it owned the place and was surveying its kingdom from the summit of its mighty throne.

I watched for almost a minute in total disbelief before deciding that I was going to save the mouse and return it to the wild. Thanks to Sky+ I can pause live TV, so I stopped the game to allow me to rescue the mouse.

I wondered how the creature had managed to get into the house and concluded that one of our cats must have kidnapped it and released it in the lounge. You may remember that this has happened before when Poppy, our other black cat, brought a live mouse into the house, took it upstairs and dropped it onto Mrs PM who was asleep in bed (read about it here – Killer Cats).

The poor creature must have been hiding somewhere waiting for the opportunity to escape from its feline captors, preferably with its life intact.
I sprung into action – and grabbed my camera and took a couple of snaps. Here they are:

The mouse, meanwhile, thought that it could leap through the window and hurl itself into the front garden. Sadly, the glass prevented it from doing so and it spent a couple of fruitless minutes hurling itself at the glass. I learned something else – mice can jump – and mice are stupid.

I was fascinated and watched the antics of the little beast as it explored its options. Eventually, it gave up and I learned something else; mice can get angry.

Having battered its tiny little nose against the glass for a couple of minutes, it howled in frustration. Thankfully, being a small creature, the howl was just a squeak and it continued to make noises, noises that were just loud enough to wake Jasper.

One minute Jasper was snoring, the next he was looking up at the window in the direction of the enraged rodent.

I had to act.

I grabbed Jasper and tried to haul him out of his beloved box. Sadly, he is so fat that he was totally wedged into the box and all I managed to do was lift up the box as well. After a few seconds wrestling with the cat, I managed to extract his bulk and carry him to the kitchen, where I unceremoniously dumped him outside through the cat flap.

He stared at me through the glass and I sensed he was saying:

“You bloody great oaf!! I was having a fabulous dream about food. How do you expect me to look after this house if you won’t let me have my pre-nap snooze? I need as many snoozes as I can during the day so that I have the energy for my main sleep in the evening. You utter git!”

I then had to decide how to catch the mouse – and hatched a plan.

In the kitchen I found a plastic sandwich box that was big enough to accommodate a rodent in ample comfort for the small trip I had planned for it. I would walk into the lounge, put the box over the mouse, slide the lid under the box and then carry the box out to the front door where I would release the mouse back into the wild. This plan had the added bonus that the cat would not be able to reacquire the mouse since we never allowed him out of the front door.

As I approached the lounge, I remembered that we had two cats and I didn’t know where the other one was. I peeped into the lounge and saw the mouse still considering its options on the window ledge. Poppy, our second cat, usually slept upstairs in one of the other two bedrooms, so I locked the mouse in the lounge and searched upstairs for Poppy. She was, as expected, asleep in the back bedroom. I carefully locked her in before returning to the lounge.

The mouse had gone.

“Oh crap!” I thought.

I put the sandwich box on the settee and began to check behind the curtains. There was no sign of the mouse.

Disappointed, I decided to continue watching the game. I picked up the camera and had a quick look at the photos I had taken, chuckling at my efforts, when the mouse reappeared.
This second encounter taught me that mice are very, very fast.

As I was looking at the camera, the mouse, which had now climbed down from the window ledge, shot across the room like a big furry bullet. The little creature ran straight towards me and across my bare feet, causing me to drop the camera and, at the same time, accidentally taking a picture of the ceiling and my shocked expression.

The mouse is responsible for this comedy photo:

I had left the lounge door open and the mouse zipped straight out the door, heading for the back room and the kitchen.

At that point, I heard a massive commotion with the sound of tiny claws scrambling on a wooden floor.

“Crikey,” I thought, “I didn’t think a mouse could make that much noise.”

That’s when it dawned on me. It wasn’t the mouse that made the noise at all.

Jasper had returned and was waiting for the mouse as it escaped from the lounge.

“No!” I screamed as the cat ran towards the back door. I was determined to rescue the mouse so I pursued the cat through the kitchen. Jasper burst through the cat flap and sat outside with the mouse in his mouth. I didn’t realise that my fat cat could be so fast.

Sadly, the back door was locked and the key wasn’t around so all I could do was watch as the cat dropped the mouse and started playing with it. The mouse lay still.

It was over. Here's my murderous moggy with the poor ex-mouse:

I had failed.

My fat killer cat had struck again.

Eventually, bored because the dead mouse wasn’t playing any more, Jasper crept back in and crowbarred his mass into the box for his second pre-nap snooze, oblivious to the trauma caused by my failed attempt to rescue the mouse.

I found the key and carefully picked up the dead mouse by its tail with some kitchen towel. I found a little spot for it in the back garden and buried it, saying a little prayer for the little creature whose life had been cut short so violently by my mad moggy.

As wonderful as cats are, the episode reminded me once more that our two loveable little pets are in fact monstrous killers. One minute a cat can be sitting on your knee, purring and being cute, and the next it can be prowling the undergrowth looking for a creature to kill.

Still, at least the mouse is immortalised on this blog and, thanks to you dear reader, his memory will live on for a while at least - and of course it gives you a chance to see another photo of my ugly mug.

Sunday 13 June 2010

The Penguin

Those of you with a nervous disposition should stop reading now.

Those brave fools who have chosen to continue, be warned: there is a photograph of me at the end of this post.

Why have I chosen to do this now, after a couple of year’s blogging?

Mrs PM thinks that the image you are about to see is “nice” and has encouraged me to share it with the world. I think she must have an ulterior motive.

Personally, I have a problem with the picture. It’s nothing to do with the fact that it might leave any readers distressed. The problem is that I look like James Bond – not the real James Bond, obviously.

Imagine if you will Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond, otherwise known as “James Blond”, a very good looking man (so Mrs PM says) with a lot of sex appeal and a “magnificent body”. I wouldn't know!

Consider what would happen if this James Bond caught a nasty virus that mutated his hair into an uncontrollable mop of straw.

Imagine him ageing twenty years and letting his superlative body transform into a blubbery mess.

Add into the mix a flock of rabid parrots bent on savaging his handsome countenance, followed by botched reconstructive surgery performed by an inebriated Z-list cosmetic surgeon who is high on crack.

Add a pair of spectacles stolen from Harry Hill.

Finally, imagine 007 giving up his vodka martinis in favour of several gallons of Monster Gut Wobbling Brown Ale and Guinness.

You now have “The Penguin”, i.e. me.

Why am I calling myself “The Penguin” (as opposed to an orang-utan in a suit)? Allow me to explain.

I’ve never understood why I certain functions demand that guests dress up like a dog’s dinner. In short, I have a problem with “dress codes”.

As a young buffoon in his twenties, I used to hate dressing up in order to enjoy a night club experience with my friends.

“Why can’t I just wear jeans?” I used to wail.

“Because the bouncers won’t allow you into The Ritz, you moron,” my friends would reply.

In the 80’s, we used to go to The Ritz, a cheesy night club where foolish young dolts like myself would end up on the odd Saturday night, the aim being to we could drink ourselves stupid, dance into the wee small hours and at the same time trying to attract the attentions of any female drunk enough to take an interest in us. Beer goggles were the order of the day and some of us had a modicum of success (even me). There were numerous other similar establishments whose doors were manned by Neanderthals with the IQ of a retarded slug. These creatures were known as bouncers and had one single instruction: “No jeans!”.

Most of them dressed in tuxedos and bow ties and, to me at least, looked like gorillas. None of them had necks and were blessed with the charm of an angry grizzly bear. Diplomacy was absent (most had never heard of the word let alone being able to spell it).

Being a bit of an anarchist, I used to challenge these people by purposely wearing jeans.

Meathead: You can’t come in.

PM: Why not?

Meathead: No jeans.

PM: Why can’t I wear jeans?

Meathead: No jeans.

PM: Hello! Is there anybody in that colossal bloody skull of yours? Why can’t I come into your establishment with jeans?

Meathead: No jeans.

PM: Do you think that jeans turn me into a hooligan who is going to destroy this crappy night club?

Meathead: No jeans.

PM: So if I go home and change into my best trousers and shirt and then return here, will you let me in?

Meathead: Yes

PM: Why?

Meathead: No jeans.

On one occasion, I actually went home, changed into clothes that satisfied the dress code and then returned. And the meathead bouncer refused to let me in, because I had had the nerve to question his mantra in the first place.

Looking back, I was an idiot because I could have ended up on the receiving end of a savage beating. My problem was that I simply wanted to challenge these idiotic rules; I was an anarchist and I hated bullies – I still do in fact.

Weddings and funerals had the same effect. There is an unwritten rule that all those attending weddings must wear suits and ties (apart from the ladies of course). I have complied simply because I respected the decisions of the bride and groom and didn’t want to offend them. When I got married way back in 1988, I actually suggested to my ex-wife that we defy tradition and turn up with jeans, trainers and T-shirts. You can imagine her response – suffice it to say that I almost ended up dumped before the wedding took place.

Funerals too are similar. Not only must you wear a suit, out of respect; you must also wear black. I hate funerals because they are such awfully depressing events. I can to a certain extent understand that we are mourning the loss of a loved one, but surely a funeral could be seen as a great way to celebrate the fabulous life of the person. Why wear black? Wouldn’t it be better to talk about how wonderful the dear departed was and enjoy great stories and memories? Of course, people will be sad but it would be nice to recall happier events and make the occasion a colourful one.

Maybe I am just weird in that respect, though I have heard of funeral attendees being urged not to wear black and to try to make the event a celebration of the person’s life. These days, particularly at football matches, when a famous icon dies, like Sir Bobby Robson for example, we no longer have a minute’s silence before football matches; instead we have a minute’s applause. I welcome such sentiments and I would love my funeral to be an event that involved laughter as well as the inevitable tears. Maybe some of my crazy blog posts could be read out by friends.
Another aspect of dress code that annoys me is the written rule that employees of companies must wear suits.

Why must we wear suits?

I am a software engineer, somebody who sits in front of a PC all day trying to persuade computers to behave themselves. I sometimes have exposure to customers but the majority of the time I am working like an angry beaver, swearing at my screen and pummelling my keyboard like a man possessed, cursing my own incompetence and questioning the parenthood of the software.

I feel comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt, as do most of my fellow employees; why should I have to wear a shirt and tie? Most of the time, I have absolutely nobody to impress. It is craziness personified. Recently, thankfully, my company has relaxed the dress code – but not sufficiently in my opinion. We are allowed to “dress down” on Fridays, paying a suitable sum to charity. However, there is a “dress down” dress code, which means that, for example, I cannot wear a football shirt and, strictly speaking, I am not allowed to wear a T shirt with the logo of a rock band on front, for example. Why not? It is utter madness. Sadly it is typical of the corporate nonsense that surrounds us all.

Am I alone with these anarchistic views?

Anyway, back to the Penguin.

In the past couple of years I have been invited to a couple of events that require “black tie”. The first was a New Year’s Eve ball and when Mrs PM mentioned it to me, I said (like a total idiot):

“I’ve got a black tie, I think. If not I’ll pop out and buy one.”

After Mrs PM had stopped laughing, she explained to me, as if I were a five year old child, that “black tie” meant a tuxedo, bow tie, frilly shirt, cufflinks, cummerbund and trousers with silk braids.

“What the hell is a cummerbund?” I asked.

“One of those pleated black sashes that blokes wear around their waists.”

I had never heard of one and I simply do not see the point of them - unless it disguises beer guts.

I wanted to just wear a normal suit but Mrs PM forced me to dress up like a fat penguin for the first time. Rather than buying a suit, I rented one, convinced that this would be a one off.
It took me ages to get ready for this ball; I was so slow that Mrs PM beat me by a good hour and sat there tutting as I struggled with my bloody cummerbund and bow tie.

Unfortunately, I have been invited to several more of these balls since, the last one being on our recent cruise. This particular formal night was worse because had I refused to wear black tie for the formal evening I would probably have been forced to eat burgers on the deck because the dining rooms were instructed to only allow penguins.

Rather than renting a tuxedo for such formal evenings, I have invested in a penguin suit complete with all the trimmings and can now dress up like a slob in a tuxedo whenever I want to. I’m not happy about it but it is cost effective and Mrs PM insists that we continue to attend these formal events.

Consequently, my anarchistic tendencies are much less powerful these days, thanks to Mrs PM savaging any attempts at non-conformity and revolution by threatening to reshape my head with a cricket bat. I abhor violence so I tend to submit to her wishes.

Anyway, below is a picture of me, wearing a tuxedo on the cruise and once again I apologise to those of a nervous disposition. If you have nightmares you can blame Mrs PM.

Assuming you have returned from the toilet and are still reading, I can tell you that, while I do look like a fat and decrepit version of 007 in the picture, I did try to make a stand by wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt under my shirt until Mrs PM spotted Eddie’s insane face staring out and made me take it off.

Foiled once more by my missus! I would have got away with it had it not been for that pesky Mrs PM.

Thankfully she didn’t spot my Deep Purple underpants – so the moral victory is mine.

Bring on Batman – the Penguin is ready for anarchy!!

Thursday 10 June 2010

Three Lions On A Shirt

Last week, in Canada, I had a chat with our American coach driver, a very nice chap called Larry from Seattle. The conversation went something like this:

PM: So, Larry, are you looking forward to June 12th?

Larry: Why? What’s happening on June 12th?

PM: It’s the big game.

Larry: What big game?

PM: Larry, the World Cup starts on June 11th.

Larry: Oh, you mean the soccer World Cup?

PM: Yes.

Larry: So what’s happening on June 12th?

PM: The big game.

Larry: Oh – Are England playing?

PM: Yes … against …?

Larry: Who?

PM: Against the USA!!!

Larry: Oh! I didn’t know America had qualified.

PM: WHAT?????

Larry simply didn’t know that the USA had qualified for World Cup and that they had been drawn in the same group as England. And he wasn’t a special case by any means. The majority of Americans are simply not interested in “soccer” and have little or no idea that their nation are competing in the world’s greatest sporting event. Most Americans are preoccupied with baseball, American football and basketball.

The conversation continued:

PM: So will you be watching the game?

Larry: No.

I was amazed. Larry understood the basic rules of football (or “soccer” as Americans call it) but had no interest in the sport whatsoever. He went on to explain that although many Americans play “soccer”, the other three major sports are simply too popular.

He had heard of David Beckham though.

Unlike America, England and most other countries are in the throes of ecstasy counting down the seconds until the big kick off on June 11th.

In England, the cross of St George is being attached to cars; pubs across the country are being decorated with huge flags and signs urging punters to watch every single game on large high definition screens while supping vast quantities of ale; work places are preparing for mass exoduses every day so that fans can get home or to the pub to watch as many games as possible.

Mrs PM has resigned herself to becoming a football widow for the next four weeks as I prepare to watch as many games as possible, altering my schedules to accommodate the games.

Some weeks ago, Mrs PM arranged something for June 12th, unaware that this was the day of England’s first game. Her plan was for us to visit friends in Congleton so that we could go for a meal in the town centre and perhaps enjoy one or two beers in a pub. The conversation went something like this:

Mrs PM: We’re going to Congleton on June 12th. It will be nice to see M and S and go for a meal and a few drinks.

PM: June 12th? The World Cup starts on June 11th. You can’t make any plans during the World Cup.

Mrs PM: But it’s the only date that the four of us can make.

PM: Let me look at the fixture list.

Several seconds pass

PM: NO WAY!!!! England are playing the USA. Absolutely no way!! I want to be watching the game with beer and not in some restaurant having a meal. Have you checked with M? He will want to watch the game too.

Mrs PM: He’s a rugby fan.

PM: He is also a football fan.

Mrs PM: I’ll call S.

PM: I’ll bet S hasn’t checked with M. He will feel the same.

Two minutes later …

Mrs PM: OK – the plan is for us to go to Congleton and watch the England game at their house.

PM: Have they got a big telly?

Mrs PM: Yes

PM: And will there be beer?

Mrs PM: Yes.

PM: And can we drive there in between games?

Mrs PM: Yes.

PM: Good – we’ll go.

Mrs PM: I HATE football!!!!!

Similar situations will occur all over England. Unfortunately, however, in Scotland it will be somewhat different.

Scotland have failed to qualify for the World Cup and, rather than supporting their more successful and more illustrious neighbours, they will be supporting A.B.E. i.e. Anybody But England.

There is a fierce rivalry between England and Scotland in terms of football that is a little difficult to explain. When I say “rivalry”, what I really mean is a “jealous hatred of England by bitter Scottish fans”.

Why do most Scots hate England? Well I guess “Braveheart” might have had something to do with it, with our rather nasty historic rivalry but I think the real reason is much simpler to explain.

England have won the World Cup and Scotland haven’t.

And the Scots are as jealous as hell.

Until recently, I had a little bit of a soft spot for Scotland. As a child I remember watching Scotland’s exploits in the World Cup and I actually supported their efforts. Scotland, as I saw it, were part of the United Kingdom and therefore worthy of my support behind England.

Sadly, most Scottish fans do not think this way and absolutely detest England, choosing to support whoever England are playing. You can guarantee that on Saturday June 12th, 90% of Scots will become Americans for the day, making up for the fact that 90% of Americans will not be interested. Then on June 18th, the Scots will become honorary Algerians when Algeria play England – and so on.

It’s sad really. I have tried to understand it by talking to a wee Scottish friend of mine who, like his compatriots, thinks this way. I call him Hawkeye (from “Hawkeye the Noo”), the reason being that he calls me Dilbert.

Hawkeye hates England so much that he has actually turned me against Scotland. As I said earlier, I used to cheer the Scots (unless they were playing England) but Hawkeye has simply turned me against his country. And believe me, he never misses a chance to throw salt in the wounds.

Here’s an example:

During the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, England were playing Brazil in the quarter finals. England took the lead through Michael Owen. I was tempted to send a text message to Hawkeye, asking him what he thought of the goal – but I thought better of it. I foolishly believed that my wee Scottish chum would secretly be wanting England to progress to the semi finals.

Sadly I was wrong – so very wrong.

Brazil equalised and then scored a bizarre winner as Ronaldinho took a chance and scored directly from a free kick. The final whistle went with Brazil winning 2-1, dumping England out of the cup. Within two seconds of the referee removing the whistle from his mouth, my mobile phone chirped and I read a text message from my Scottish friend that simply said something along the lines of:



I was gutted and I almost – almost – texted back with a message full of anger and expletives.

I think that was the turning point when I decided that I would no longer support Scotland in any way, shape or form. Scotland deserved nothing but contempt and I would now support A.B.S. - Anybody But Scotland.

In the intervening eight years, I have mellowed somewhat and secretly wish the Scottish football team well despite the hatred and vitriol that comes from this bitter wee Scot (although I will never tell him that).

I aim to get my revenge hopefully, because if England do win the World Cup I will never, ever, ever, ever let him forget it. I will sing to him constantly:

It’s Coming Home, It’s Coming Home, It’s Coming – Football’s Coming Home.

Getting back to June 12th, for the benefit of any Americans who have stumbled on this post, I implore you to take an interest in the game on June 12th and to support your country against the mighty England. I think that now is the time to embrace football and make the following name changes:

(1) Rename “Soccer” to “Football”
(2) Rename “American Football” to “Padded Rugby” (because that is effectively what it is).

By all means, watch baseball etc. but find time in your schedule to watch football too. It’s a fantastic game worthy of your interests.

To any Scots reading this post, please try to put the bitterness behind you. England are worthy of your support – just because your football team wins nothing it doesn’t mean that your destructive jealousy should get the better of you. By supporting England, at least you might have some moments of pleasure.

And finally, to the other nations in the World Cup, I extend my best wishes (unless you are Germany, Portugal or Argentina – and you know why). I even want Australia to beat the Germans on June 13th (though I hope that England beat Australia later in the unlikely event that Australia can qualify).

I’ll leave you with a couple of England anthems, which I dedicate to my wee Scottish friend, Hawkeye, and I really hope that his good lady wife, a true football supporting English woman, will carry out her threat to paint the flag of St George on his roof, and hang England bunting in every single room of his house.

Come on England!!!!!!!

We’re gonna score one more than you!!

Tuesday 8 June 2010

I'm Once, Twice, Three Times A Fatso

When I’ve been scared or worried in the past, people have offered me advice:

“Grow up, you sad arse!!”

“Why don’t you just grow a set?”

“Try typing How To Get a New Spine into Google.”

“Be BIG!!”

I’ve taken one of those valuable recommendations on board in the past two weeks – “Be BIG!”

Unfortunately, I have taken it quite literally; I am now twice the man I used to be. Let me explain.

I have just returned from a two week holiday to Canada and America. Mrs PM’s father suggested the trip to us last year. Mrs PM was adamant that we should go, so we did.

We spent a week on a coach touring the Canadian Rockies and a week on a cruise ship visiting a couple of places in Alaska. It is this latter part of the holiday that I want to focus on today.

I had never been on a cruise before and nobody warned me about the dangers until the day before we embarked.

The tour guide on the coach hinted that there would be a lot of food. Of course there will be a lot of food, I thought – it’s an American cruise ship. Unfortunately I didn’t appreciate exactly how much food there would be and, worse, I didn’t realise that it would all be free – absolutely totally free (when I say “free”, I don’t mean that the holiday company gave away the grub – the price of the cruise included the food) and absolutely totally freely available.

When I arrived in Seattle and saw the size of the cruise ship, I kind of got my first inkling of the gulf between my expectations and the reality of the situation. The ship was huge; it had 16 decks, several restaurants, even more bars, a fully seated theatre, two nightclubs, several swimming pools, a gym, a tennis court, a jogging track, a library, an art gallery, several shops, a casino, a spa, a simulated golf course, at least 2500 passengers and at least 1000 crew members.

It took me the whole day to explore the ship – it was like a floating town.

The cabins were smaller than your average hotel room – but only just. The one assigned to Mrs PM and myself had a double bed, a wardrobe, a desk, a TV, a bathroom with sink, toilet and shower and a safe. The shower was, shall we say, cosy but it was perfectly adequate for a slim person like me and my good lady.

On previous trips to the States, I have applied a measure of willpower and self control to my consumption of food. The sheer volume of food that you can acquire in America is colossal. In a restaurant, you can ask for a small portion and you still end up with a meal that would feed the population of a small country.

Take last year, for example. Mrs PM and I found ourselves in a restaurant in Boston and, feeling like a little piece of home, both opted for “Fish and Chips”. The meal, when it arrived, was gargantuan. It looked as if a trawler had been dispatched to the Atlantic Ocean and a day’s entire catch had been dumped on our plate. I have never seen so many chips in a single place. They were piled so high that there was snow on the peaks and I swear I could see a couple of skiers navigating the slopes.

Back on the cruise ship, I wandered around with my little guide, identifying the bars, restaurants and other interesting places and began to notice something strange; there were one or two people who, and I’ll be kind to them here, looked like walking whales. These guys were enormous.

Upon seeing them, my mind drifted back to the cosy shower in our cabin and a vivid scene began to form in my warped imagination; the walking whale trying to crowbar his bulk into a tiny shower.

I began to have serious doubts about the ability of these walking leviathans to crowbar their bulk into the bathroom, let alone the shower. One guy in particular was enormous. I suspected that he contributed to swaying of the vessel on the open sea, such was his bulk. Had he leapt overboard, the rest of the passengers would have mistaken him for a humpback whale.

My imagination began to work overtime. I began to wonder how this man would manage to have a shower. Here’s what I came up with:

(1) He strips naked in his cabin - I apologise for the image that this may conjure up but, believe me, I have had to live with this image for days now and I see no reason why you, dear reader, shouldn’t suffer with me.

(2) He asks his wife to wrap a rope around his colossal belly – this gives a whole new meaning to the question “How long is a piece of rope?”

(3) His wife pushes him into the shower with the aid of a crowbar, leaving the two ends of the rope outside the shower – perhaps she asks the crew of the ship for help.

(4) When the man has finished washing his bulk, the woman hauls his soapy arse out of the shower using the rope – again she might ask for help with this task.

I thank my lucky stars that I am not like this whale-human hybrid. I can still picture the distressing image of this man wearing shorts and a T-shirt that was a little too small for him, allowing part of amazing gut to spill over and say “Hello” to everybody. His legs were enormous and wobbled as he walked. I have rarely seen anybody so fat that their legs actually wobble.

I saw him on several occasions over the course of the cruise, once dressed in a suit. I wondered where he managed to find a shirt to cover his enormous belly – “Tents’R’Us” perhaps?

Unfortunately, the temptation to emulate the ingestion feats of the walking whale proved almost impossible to resist. Why? Allow me to explain.

On the first day of the cruise, we arrived at the restaurant in the evening and enjoyed a very rich four course meal with all the trimmings. I was stuffed. I felt like I had eaten a horse. As we left the restaurant I asked Mrs PM’s dad whether the meal was typical.

“Yes,” he replied. “There is so much food that you won’t know what to eat first.”

He wasn’t wrong. Breakfast the next day, for me, consisted of:

A melon slice, half a grapefruit and an apple, followed by a whopping plate full of scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns, two slices of toast and a yoghurt all washed down with two glasses of grapefruit juice and two cups of coffee.

As I ate this massive breakfast, one thought ran through my head – this food is paid for and I’m bloody well going to eat as much of it as I can.

Mrs PM, on the other hand, was sensible and suggested that we eat carefully. However, when I was wondering around the ship, I spotted a pizza outlet and simply couldn’t resist a big slice.

At lunch, the buffet was enormous and I helped myself to sandwiches, meat, vegetables, chips and cake with lashings of coffee and Sprite.

In the evening we indulged ourselves once more with a massive four course meal washed down with beer and wine (thankfully the beer and wine weren’t free, otherwise I would have taken full advantage of that).

And so it went on. Every day I had a massive breakfast, followed by a snack and a massive lunch with yet another four course meal in the evening. Had I wanted, I would have been able to get up in the middle of the night and helped myself to yet more food from the night menu.

At one point, I saw the walking whale eating. He was sitting at a table on deck next to one of the swimming pools, with a massive plate full of pizza and a cheeseburger and fries at the side. And this was at four o’clock in the afternoon, just a couple of hours before the evening meal.

And there were other people eating similar copious amounts of food.

And, worse, as the cruise went on, I realised that I, too, was eating far too much.

It was six days into the voyage when my greed finally hit home.

After a couple of days, Mrs PM had mentioned that I was eating too much and that, if I had a big breakfast, perhaps I should skip lunch. She was, as usual, very aware of the side effects of stuffing your face, and had been restrained in her consumption of food. I, on the other hand, had been a idiot, convinced that I was svelte even at the tender age of 47, and that I could eat as much as I could when I was 21. I actually started to listen to her and take heed when disaster struck.

The ship was struck down with an outbreak of Norovirus.

Norovirus is a particularly nasty little bug that basically gives victims eight hours of agony with vomiting and diarrhoea. And it is highly contagious. The captain and his crew enforced a high level of sanitation when this happened, making sure that the whole ship was napalmed with every conceivable bug killer every hour of the day as well as making sure that every passenger washed their hands repeatedly, particularly at food outlets. Every restaurant had hand sanitiser fluid, an alcohol based liquid that destroyed all germs and passengers were forced to clean their hands before entering anywhere that food was present.

Unfortunately, despite the precautions, Mrs PM fell victim to the Norovirus and, after eight hours of hideous noises in our little bathroom, was confined to the cabin for a further 48 hours. Incredibly, I wasn’t confined at all and was free to roam the ship, which I did. I wasn’t alone because I had Mrs PM’s dad and his wife to keep me entertained. Alas, Mrs PM’s dad didn’t care whether I mutated into a bloated mass of flab and when I began to consume lots of food, he didn’t warn me of the consequences of my over-indulgence. Mrs PM wasn’t there to make sure that my eating habits were constrained. Consequently I welcomed the freedom, driven not by common sense but some weird concept about value for money.

So I ate. And I ate. And I ate. And I ate.

In the meantime, Mrs PM, a prisoner in the cabin, was allowed to eat only bland food during her quarantine, food which was so unappealing that she lost her appetite.

I am still puzzled by the fact that Mrs PM was quarantined and I wasn’t. During the quarantine period, a “hit squad” of cleaners came twice a day and napalmed the cabin with detergents and chemical bug killers and I was requested to wash my hands every ten seconds. By the end of the quarantine period, we had the cleanest cabin on the ship and I had the cleanest hands on the planet.

Even more incredibly, I didn’t fall victim to the virus at all. I remained in full health for the duration of the cruise and ate accordingly.

After six days, my greedy excessiveness came back and slapped me in the face because I had to wear my penguin suit for the second of two formal evenings on the ship, the first evening being on my first full day.

How did my greed slap me in the face? My trousers were too tight, telling me that I had added unwelcome inches to my waistline.

Thankfully, I was able to make the necessary adjustments but such was the shock that I took a closer look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t like what I saw. My belly, already increasing with age, had had a visible growth spurt and my boobs seemed bigger.

I am not a whale by any stretch of the imagination but my pot belly has definitely grown, nuking all my previous attempts to beat it into submission.

Damn you, cruise food, damn you!

Damn you, will power, damn you!

Damn you, bloody Norovirus, damn you!

Mrs PM has now put me on a diet. I have returned home and Jasper, my overweight fat bloater of a moggy, is now my kindred spirit. We cry into our empty plates each night.

Looking back, I should have known better.

Anyway, apart from over indulgence and Norovirus, the holiday was amazing and I shall, in due course, be posting lots of photos on The Plastic Mancunian’s Eye as well as mentioning a few other choice observations in future posts.

In the meantime, Mrs PM, now fully recovered, will be keeping me in check. She’s just gone out to do some shopping. Hopefully a crowbar and a rope aren’t on her list.