Tuesday 15 February 2011

Time Flies

I was born in 1962 and it seems such a long, long time ago – a really really really long time ago. When I was born, JFK was still President of the USA and Dr No, the first Bond film, was released.

I’m so old.

Recently younger friends have made me very aware of my age with cracks like:

You were ALIVE when England won the World Cup? REALLY?????

I’ve recently been going to a few quizzes and, with one exception, my team mates are children. When I say “children” I mean aged between mid to late 20’s and early 30’s.

I was recruited because there is an awful lot of crap that I have collected in my head over the years and it does come in useful sometimes. When it comes to the music round, I fill a massive gap. The youngsters quite literally don’t know anything about music earlier than 1995. Here’s a typical conversation:

PM: I can’t remember who sang “Downtown”. Was it Petula Clark or Dusty Springfield?

CHILD 1: Who are they?

PM: You are joking, right?

CHILD 1: No – do you know who these singers are?

CHILD 2: No. I’ve never heard of them. Are they bands?

PM: BANDS???????

One of these children didn’t recognise the Beatles – THE BEATLES for Pete's sake.

Of course, when it comes to the modern end of the music spectrum, I am utterly hopeless and this is where the children rise to the challenge. Between us, we clear up on the music round.

They are also amazed that I know stuff from the 60’s to the 90’s – not interesting stuff … WEIRD stuff.

My head is filled with this garbage because I was alive at the time and that hurts a little.

Once upon a time, I was child myself and I was a right royal pain in the arse to the older generation. When I was a young man starting work and thrust into an environment full of older people, I was merciless to them.

How old are you? 40? Bloody hell, shall I help you across the office?

I was ageist – ruthlessly ageist. And now, dear reader, all my puerile banter over the years has come back to haunt me and bite me on the arse.

I am an old git myself and subject to all manner of ageist jokes.

Whenever pensions are mentioned, the abuse hurled my way is relentless. I’m not even 50 yet but to these young whippersnappers I am a decrepit and grumpy old ogre.

“Cheaper insurance for you soon, eh Dave?”

“Are you going on one of those Saga holidays with the other pensioners this year?”

I get my own back, of course, by mutating their ageist remarks into a brand new species of abuse:

“What’s up with you? Has nobody changed your nappy today?”

“Want a lollipop, sunny boy?”

“Put your hand up before you ask me a question.”

What’s incredible about the inevitable trek towards the knacker’s yard is that it only seems like yesterday when I was a twenty year old student hurling gallons of beer down my gullet, dancing from dusk till dawn and chasing young women as if they were becoming extinct.

I have vivid memories of each decade of my life and I can barely believe that 48 years have flown by so damned quickly.

I remember the moon landing in 1969.

I remember Hey Jude being in the charts.

I remember Lost in Space and the original series of Star Trek

I recall the school disco dancing to Tiger Feet by Mud. I could even do the dance.

I have fond memories of watching Walsall beat Manchester United in the F.A Cup in 1973.

I remember every single Dr Who apart from William Hartnell.

I wore flairs.

I remember Elvis Presley dying.

We had a street party on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

How could I possibly forget having a massive crush on Linda Carter?

What about the rise of punk rock?

I remember when Michael Jackson looked like a normal human being.

I have vivid memories of Margaret Thatcher, the milk snatcher (aka Attila the Hen) and the rise of alternative comedy.

I remember Lady Diana Spencer marrying Prince Charles.

I remember Kevin Turvey.

I remember Space Invaders and Pacman.

I remember video jukeboxes appearing.

I had a mullet.

I recall shoulder pads and big hair.

I was married in 1988 – the year I lost my mullet.

I could go on into the 90’s but all of a sudden I feel quite old. It is quite incredible to me that I have somehow managed to stumble through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and that I survived the millennium bug and am still acting like a complete arse over ten years late in 2011.

When I look in the mirror, I still see that bespectacled blond kid of the sixties, clutching a Thunderbird 2 toy and flying it through the air with cries of “This is Virgil Tracy – THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!”.

The image of this young child with a strange, rampant imagination makes me remember what it feels like to be young. Mentally, I think I stopped developing at the age of sixteen; there is still a child within desperate to get out – just ask Mrs PM.

And it is that inner child that keeps me going. I still have puerile thoughts and act like an immature buffoon. I giggle at childish things and have been told on quite a few occasions to “grow up” – even by my own kids.

I don’t care. I simply believe that people should hold onto their inner child and never let that child go. The moment you do is the moment you admit defeat and allow yourself to slide inexorably towards pipe, slippers and Antiques Roadshow.

I shall endeavour to watch time continue to fly and enjoy myself without thinking of whether my activities are immature or not.

That is the key to happiness, I think.

Father Time might win in the end but I shall go down fighting.

By the way, the answer was “Petula Clark” – and of course I got it right.

Sunday 13 February 2011

Never Never

I am going to steal something again, dear reader, this time from Kath at Blurb from the Burbs. If you like a good chuckle, pop over there and read some of Kath’s entertaining posts.

Anyway, back to the item I am stealing.

The idea is a simple one; list ten things that you have never done. Kath, however, as extended this to include a further ten things that you will never do again and ten things that you want to do.

Because I have no qualms about stealing such things, here is my attempt at the challenge.

Ten Things I Have Never Done

1. I have never been skiing. I am a fairly well travelled person and have had ample opportunity to attach a couple of planks of wood to my feet and hurl myself down a snow covered mountain in freezing temperatures but I have never taken it up. A good friend of mine spent most of the 1980’s trying to persuade me to go skiing with him and his mates and I resisted, probably because I was a bit worried about the pain. I know of two people who have injured themselves on ski slopes; the first somehow broke his leg in an innocuous tumble and the other tried a ski run that was above his competence level and broke his arm quite badly. My sister loves to ski and another friend has tried recently to persuade Mrs PM and I to give it a go. Worse, my own 17 year old son is off on a school skiing trip to Austria and is there as I speak. Maybe I am just a coward.

2. I have never been to South America, Japan or New Zealand. All of these places are on my hit list, should I ever get the opportunity to do so.

3. I have never written a song. I would love to write something that other people could sing along to. It wouldn’t necessarily be a heavy metal monster; I would prefer to write a song with more mass appeal and meaningful lyrics. I love listening to songs with wonderful lyrics. I am handicapped, though, because musically I have very little talent.

4. I have never had any of my writing published. To be fair, I haven’t really written anything of any significance apart from the nonsense that you are reading now. Yes, I suppose in a sense it is published on a blog but it is not in a newspaper, magazine and it certainly isn’t a book. I would love to do that one day.

5. I have never successfully chatted up a woman. I have been chatted up a few times but all of my attempts to woo members of the opposite sex with whimsical assortments and cheesy compliments have failed spectacularly, and on occasion have turned a passive young woman into a violent harpy. Thank God I’m past all that now.

6. I have never been on or driven a motorbike. I have always considered them to be too dangerous, although they do appeal to the boy inside me at a primitive level.

7. I have never been arrested. I have been in a police car, but only because I broke down at a traffic light and the kind officer towed my car to a safe spot.

8. I have never done a parachute jump – and I never will. Putting my fear of heights aside, the prospect of leaping out of an aircraft thousands of feet up and relying on a nylon contraption to protect you from a horrible death, somehow never appealed to me.

9. I have never been to a ballet. I was tempted a few years ago, just to see what the fuss was all about but instead I went to an opera. And that was dreadful – absolutely totally and utterly dreadful. Sadly that has coloured my judgement so there is absolutely no chance of me ever attending a ballet.

10. I have never driven a sports car around a fast track like they do on Top Gear. This is something I would love to have a go at.

Ten Things I Will Never Do Again

1. I will never do anything as stupid as climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge again. Why on earth I considered the advice “leave your fear on the ground” to be sage I will never know. I now accept that I am terrified of heights and have given up trying to conquer it.

2. I will never allow myself to be persuaded to part with my hard earned cash to see a famous singer whose music I am not into. It still pains me to this day that I allowed myself to give in to my ex-wife’s demands to drive 100 miles to see Cher in Birmingham. It was utterly dreadful and it cost me an arm and a leg. The only saving grace was that she was only on stage for just over an hour. An hour too long if you want my opinion.

3. I will never eat rhubarb, prunes, apricots or any other hellish food that I don’t like ever again.

4. I will never fail to be positive. There have been times when I have succumbed to negativity but I find that if you are have a bright outlook on life then you are much happier generally.

5. I will never watch cheap talent shows like “Britain’s Got Talent” or “The X Factor” again. They are a curse and serve only to line the pockets of those who exploit the poor contestants and the audience who somehow become obsessed with these lame karaoke singers.

6. I will never stand with opposing fans at a football match involving Walsall again. When I first moved to Manchester, I used to travel to local towns to see my beloved team play and, more often than not, I would pretend to be a home fan so that I could make a quick getaway. There is nothing more painful than seeing your team being ripped apart while surrounded by adoring fans who are screaming for more blood. “We want six” is not a nice thing to hear when your team is 5-0 down.

7. I will never get divorced again. The whole episode was a real low point that was full of acrimony and pain. I was naïve and stupid and I will never allow myself to be that naïve or stupid again.

8. I will never grow my hair long again. I used to have long bushy hair in the seventies and in the eighties I styled it into a magnificent mullet which was erroneously sliced off by a stupid hairdresser. I would love long hair again but Mrs PM has told me in no uncertain terms that she would drug me and shave it all off should I ever try again.

9. I will never tell a woman that giving birth is as bad for men as it is for women. In fact, I said this to a roomful of pregnant women and my point was that it is mentally traumatic for guys who worry about the birth and their beloved lady’s wellbeing. Sadly, my little speech was not understood and one particular woman told me that I should try crapping a bowling ball – that way the experience might give me a small inkling of the pain involved.

10. I will never again remark on a woman’s appearance to Mrs PM. Quite a few years ago, we went to a pub that was loud and noisy and played music that I hated. “SHALL WE LEAVE?” I bellowed. “NO – IT’S GREAT HERE,” she replied. I looked around and said “WELL THERE IS ONE GOOD THING ABOUT THIS PLACE”. She looked at me surprised and said, “WHAT?” “THE TALENT!” I said. We were out of there before I could say “But I haven’t finished my beer yet” and I think to this day that Mrs PM hasn’t forgiven me.

Ten Things I Want

1. I want to win the lottery to allow myself to live my dream with no fear of the consequences.

2. I want to see as much of the world as possible. Earth is a huge, diverse and interesting place and I have only seen a fraction of it.

3. I want to escape the rat race as quickly as possible. It’s a dream but you can’t stop dreaming, can you?

4. I want to improve my fitness and at the same time lose those extra stubborn few pounds that are refusing to budge. I might have to resort to desperate tactics – give up beer and cheese for a while.

5. I want to improve my photography skills. I have taken a load of photos and most of them are okay – I just want to take them to the next level

6. Speaking of next levels, I want to improve “The Plastic Mancunian”. I am reasonably happy with the blog but being a perfectionist, I feel that I need to inject a little something to make it a little better. I will endeavour to do so over the coming months.

7. I want to be able to speak another language. At the moment, I am targeting French, but Spanish and German would be good too.

8. I want to write a book. Yes – I know – I should already have done so but I am at war with myself – and it’s a continuous and arduous battle. And my current workload doesn’t help matters at all.

9. I want nothing but the best for my two sons. My eldest lad is currently looking at universities and has just passed his driving test. My youngest lad is currently trying to work out what to do with his life. I will do anything I can to help them achieve their dreams.

10. I want to make Mrs PM happy. If she’s happy then so am I and I want to be happy – it’s nice.

Please feel free to have a go at this yourself – and let me know how you get along.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Gary Moore - RIP

On Sunday we lost another rock legend. Gary Moore, one of the world’s greatest guitarists died of a heart attack while on holiday in Spain.

He was 58 years old.

As well as playing guitar for Thin Lizzy on the momentous Black Rose album, he had a wonderful solo career, first as a rock guitarist and later, returning to his beloved blues.

I was fortunate enough to see Gary live in 1990 when he toured with his first blues album called “Still Got The Blues”. Initially I was disappointed because I expected him to play some of his rock classics, but as the concert progressed I was struck by how good a guitar player he was – in fact, one of the best I have seen.

It is a sad loss to the world of music and at such a relatively young age.

To help his memory live on in my own small way, I present to you my favourite songs featuring Gary Moore.

10. Led Clones – Gary Moore and Ozzy Osbourne

“After the War” is one of my favourite albums and features heavily in this top ten. “Led Clones” features the vocal talents of Ozzy Osbourne and one of my favourite drummers, Cozy Powell. The song bemoans the number of bands at the time who sounded like Led Zeppelin – hence the title. A great tune.

9. Thunder Rising – Gary Moore

“Wild Frontier” is my favourite album by Gary Moore and “Thunder Rising” is a magnificent rock anthem featuring Gary at his best. A wonderful excuse to get out your guitar.

8. After The War – Gary Moore

This is the title track to “After the War” and once again demonstrates that Gary could write a fabulous tune. Again it features the talents of Cozy Powell on the drums and offers you yet another excuse to haul out your air guitar.

7. Waiting For An Alibi – Thin Lizzy

This song is taken from the album “Black Rose”, one of the best albums by Thin Lizzy.

6. Midnight Blues – Gary Moore

When Gary Moore turned to the blues I was quite shocked but the album, “Still Got The Blues” is a superb album. My favourite song is “Midnight Blues” and is so solemn and tuneful that it brings a tear to my eyes, particularly given his passing. This is a superb song.

5. Take A Little Time – Gary Moore

Another powerful rock song from “Wild Frontier”. Time to get out that air guitar again.

4. Out In The Fields – Gary Moore and Phil Lynott

This was one of the last songs recorded by Phil Lynott and was quite sad just because of that fact. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful song featuring two absolute legends.

3. Friday On My Mind – Gary Moore

I love “Friday On My Mind”, particularly the version from “Pin Ups” by David Bowie. Gary Moore covered the song on “Wild Frontier” and turned it into a cracking rock song that surpassed both Bowie’s version and that of the Easybeats.

2. Blood Of Emeralds – Gary Moore

“Blood of Emeralds” is a masterpiece. It has a very Celtic feel to it, as you can probably guess from the title of the song. One of the best rock songs of the 1980’s. Sadly it nestled on the album “After the War” and, in my opinion would have made a superb single.

1. Over The Hills And Far Away – Gary Moore

“Over The Hills…” was the song that got me into Gary Moore. It was a single and I loved it from the moment I heard it. It is the first and best song on “Wild Frontier”. The album contains a longer version of this song with some blistering guitar.

Rest in peace , Gary – we’ll miss you.

Saturday 5 February 2011

Blog Survey

Today, I was going to steal another meme from Sunday Stealing but it was the third part of a massive 100 question effort. Laziness prevailed and I decided against it.

Instead, I found a blog survey, courtesy of Comedy Plus and decided to steal that instead.

Here we go:

1. If you have pets, do you see them as merely animals, or are they members of your family?

We have two black cats, a male called Jasper and a female called Poppy. They are brother and sister and are almost nine years old. Jasper is an enormous greedy monster who can barely crowbar himself through the cat flap; Poppy lives in a constant state of terror and is frightened of everything – including herself.

Mrs PM thinks of them as “her babies” so I guess that makes them part of the family. I know for a fact that I am the fourth most important creature in our house, behind Mrs PM and the cats. In fact, the cats rule, jointly and we are merely slaves, pampering them, feeding them and serving their every desire.

Who said that the world is dominated by mankind? If our house is anything to go by we live in a feline dominated world, with humans being merely subservient serfs.

I know my place.

2. If you can have a dream to come true, what would it be?

My dream is to escape the rat race and become a totally free agent. I hate being tied to “the man” and forced to answer his every whim simply to survive. There is nothing better than leaving work on a Friday knowing that I have two days free of this dreadful form of modern servitude. Of course, if you read my answer to question one, you will realise that the cats are my real masters; but I can cope with that. After all, I am bigger than they are and there are only two of them (unless you count Jasper as three cats – which you could quite easily do if you were very short sighted and saw him from a distance).

3. What is the one thing most hated by you?

Liars and selfish deceivers who twist the facts for their own gain. You see it every day when a politician blatantly tells lies on the TV in front of millions of people. And it’s not just politicians. You see it in the world of business, celebrity and other walks of life.

Crikey, I sound bitter, don’t I? I’m not really – I just like everything to be honest. And the world is not an honest place – and that bugs me.

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?

I would go to America because you can’t spend dollars in England.

Actually, I would take a year out and travel first class to as many weird and wonderful countries as I could and I would write about my experiences. I would, of course, make sure that loved ones were looked after and I would probably become some kind of weird philanthropist simply because a billion dollars is much more than I could ever conceivably spend.

I would also build a monstrous castle by the sea, somewhere near to Manchester, and live there in luxury.

I might also buy a few properties abroad.

Stupidly (and hypocritically) I would also buy Walsall Football Club and make sure that they won the Premiership.

5. What helps to pull you out of a bad mood?

That depends. Most of the time, it is the mere sight and sound of my beloved Mrs PM. However, if Mrs PM is the source of my bad mood, then I find beer and loud rock music blast away the negativity. Or something that makes me laugh, like a good bit of comedy.

6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?

That’s a difficult one. There is no better feeling than loving someone but you need to be loved to fully appreciate the experience. I would therefore say both.

7. What is your bedtime routine?

Turn off the TV. Make sure that the front and back doors are both locked. Tell Jasper to look after the house while I am asleep (difficult because he is asleep too – usually on the bed). Turn on the burglar alarm by stroking it fondly. Go to the toilet. Clean my teeth. Get undressed. Get into bed. Get out of bed and go back into the bathroom because I forgot to flush the toilet. Go back into the bedroom. Take off my glasses. Set the alarm. Wind up Mrs PM using a variety of irritating techniques. Get into bed. Read my book. Switch off the light. Go to sleep. Have weird dreams.

8. If you are currently in a relationship, how did you meet your partner?

I met Mrs PM at work and we worked together for a few months before we went to Hong Kong on a business trip together. That was around twelve years ago. We don’t work together any more.

9. If you could watch a creative person in the act of the creative process, who would it be? 

I would watch Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson at work composing the next Rush song.

10. What kinds of books do you read?

I love a good novel, particularly a decent horror story, a magnificent space opera, a good comedy, a Robert Ludlum-style thriller or anything that is weird.

11. How would you see yourself in ten years time?

I would love to have finished work and be enjoying the freedom I crave. In reality, I will be older and fatter and those grey flecks will have invaded more of my hair.

And I will probably still be working.

12. What’s your fear?

I am scared of heights and spiders. I am also terrified of Chinese toilets and public speaking – particularly when the two are combined.

13. Would you give up all junk food for the rest of your life for the opportunity to visit outer space?

I would love to see Earth from space but the prerequisites for space travel scare me to death. So, no – I would not give up junk food for a trip to space.

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married, but poor?

Ideally, I would like to be married and rich – but failing that, married and poor.

15. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

Open my eyes. Look at the alarm clock. Howl in anguish. Get up and head for the bathroom. Weigh myself. Howl in anguish. Get undressed. Go to the toilet. Weigh myself again in the hope that a full bladder and my T-shirt account for the extra pounds. Howl in anguish. Have a shower. Weigh myself for a third time to see if any dirt that might have accumulated and has now been washed off by the shower might account for the extra pounds. Howl in anguish. Leave the bathroom depressed and head back to the bedroom totally possessed by the grumpy monster within.

16. If you could change one thing about your spouse/partner what would it be?

I’ve said this before and I shall say it again. I would annihilate her musical taste and replace it with my own. I love music but the stuff she listens to (and forces me to listen to) is utterly dreadful.

Apart from that, she’s perfect.

17. If you could pick a new name for yourself, what would it be?

Clint Ironheart.

18. Would you forgive and forget no matter how horrible a thing that special someone has done?

It depends what the person did. However, I doubt they would be special any more.

19. If you could only eat one thing for the next 6 months, what would it be?

Cheese on toast.