Thursday 24 May 2012

I Think We're In Didsbury

It’s time to open the door to my life just a touch wider, dear reader, so that you can take more of a peek into my life.

You can probably guess that I live in Manchester – but which part?

Well I’ll tell you.

I live in a suburb about 4.5 miles south of the city, called Didsbury. In reality it comprises Didsbury Village, West Didsbury and East Didsbury. I live close to Didsbury Village, an area of shops and pubs that is dissected by Wilmslow Road, one of the main arteries out of the city centre.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I have discovered an entertaining video that shows the world what Didsbury is like.

Well sort of…

Actually, it takes the piss out of people who live there.

Didsbury is considered a nice area to live and the house prices reflect this. Mrs PM and I moved here 10 years ago and were lucky enough to get our house just before the housing market exploded. We couldn’t afford to buy a house here now, that’s for sure.

A former work colleague, who has now retired, has lived in Didsbury for years and he bought a massive house for a relatively cheap price a couple of decades ago before the place became so popular; and now his house is worth a small fortune. And he moans about the number of German cars that are appearing on his street and the fact that his neighbours are solicitors and doctors.

That is the perception of Didsbury; that it is full of posh, well-to-do Yuppy-type people, who eat brie and rocket sandwiches. Of course, there are some people like that and you do see them, but most of the residents of our little suburb are perfectly normal.

There have been a few famous people living here, though. For example, John Thomson, seen here hosting Jazz Club on The Fast Show:

I’ve seen him a few times strolling around the village.

Also, comedian John Bishop lives here – and I’ve seen him enjoying a coffee in one of the village establishments:

The video was made by a mate of a friend of mine at work and it has been viewed enough times to make the local newspaper.

It is a mickey take of people, like me, who live in Didsbury and there seems to be a feeling that people who live here will not like it because it contains a few “home-truths”.

For example, according to the video, there are no real men in Didsbury and most people are shallow high-flying yuppies who drink cappuccino in pubs, go on protest marches and spend what little free time they have at yoga classes.

Am I offended?

Absolutely not; on the contrary, I find it hilarious.

I am not like that at all.

What’s more, all of the people mentioned in the video actually exist in one form or another. And that’s what’s most funny about it.

So sit back, relax and watch “I Think We’re in Didsbury”. There are photos of the village, West Didsbury and some of my favourite shops and pubs, just to give you a flavour of where I live.

I hope you enjoy it as much as Mrs PM and I did. Beware - it has a swear word in it.

By the way – I do not make patchwork quilts and have never used moisturiser in my life.

My yoga teacher advised me against such pursuits.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Introducing Captain Chaos

I have three nemeses (four if you count my hair).

I’ve introduced the first, a certain Captain Paranoia who has been with me all through my life convincing me how useless I am, how nobody likes me and how I will inevitably end up alone in a pit of misery and despair. I tend to ignore him these days.

Today I will introduce mysecond nemesis; Captain Chaos.

His aim, as his name suggests, is to make my life as chaotic and unpredictable as possible, a kind of walking version of Murphy’s Law.

Often, he is accompanied by my third nemesis, called Tonto (I will explain in a future post) and together they wreak utter havoc. And when Captain Paranoia joins in, you can imagine what happens. Apparently all three of them are planning a big get together on December 21st of this year to bring about the end of the world.

But let’s not worry about that just yet.

I’ve just been on holiday to Spain and on the morning of our departure, Captain Chaos chose to spend the day with us.

It all started at 4:45 am.

Being a careful man, I set the alarm for this time so that we could leave the house in plenty of time to get to the airport for our flight to Spain. I’m usually fine when it comes to getting up, but on that day the influence of Captain Chaos began from the very second I awoke.

My usual sense of timing somehow failed me, and I took my time, having a leisurely shower. Mrs PM, a woman who is generally always late – unless I step in and hurry her along – waltzed around the house without a care in the world, slowly making coffee and packing last minute things. I had things to pack too and after my shower, I got dressed and I too drifted around the house like a happy little hamster.

And then I looked at the clock.

We needed to be in a cab by 5:45 am. It was 5:40.

“SHIT!” I said, as Captain Chaos watched with a grin.

“What are you doing?” I shouted to Mrs PM.

“Feeding the cats.”

“Have you called a cab?” I asked.

She didn’t respond but a voice told me she had heard me. That was the voice of Captain Chaos.

I finished packing and checked my list. I hauled our suitcases downstairs to find Mrs PM cleaning out the litter trays and leaving a note for our cat-sitter.

“Where’s your passport?” I asked.

“In my in-tray on the desk,” she replied.

I looked. It wasn’t there. I had my passport safely stashed in my rucksack.

“It’s not there,” I said. “WHERE IS IT?” I was getting a little frustrated.

“I don’t know,” she said, suddenly panicking.


We both frantically started turning the place upside down looking for her passport. Captain Chaos watched and laughed. After about ten minutes of searching, she eventually found it in one of the first places she had looked.

Captain Chaos had taken it – I’m sure of that.

“Right,” I said. “Where’s this bloody cab?”

“When did he say he would be here?” said Mrs PM.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “You rang for one.”

“I thought YOU were going to call for one,” she said.


A frantic phone call and a despairing ten minute wait later, we were finally on our way to the airport, a full twenty minutes behind schedule.  But Captain Chaos wasn’t finished yet; he had prepared the groundwork for his next surprise.

We arrived at the airport and found our way to the check-in desk, only to find an absolutely enormous queue.


We had tried to check-in online (as we usually do) but the website had crashed just as we were reserving our seats. We thought we weren’t checked in, so we joined the queue.

I must have checked my watch about 300,000 times in that queue and eventually we arrived at the desk.

“Have you got your boarding cards?” asked the check-in lady.

Captain Chaos smirked.

“We couldn’t check in,” said Mrs PM. “The website crashed.”

“I need to call the supervisor,” said the woman. “There’s a problem.”

Captain Chaos laughed.

After ten more minutes (during which I felt an explosion building up inside), she returned and said “Right, it’s sorted out. I’ll just check for seats.”

“Check for seats?” I asked myself, relieved but still wary.

“There aren’t any free seats,” she said wrinkling her brow.  Captain Chaos was now on the floor rolling about laughing.

NO SEATS???” I shouted.

“Hang on,” she said – and disappeared again.

I spent the next five minutes trying to control the raging inferno that was building within.

And then Captain Paranoia turned up, giving a high five to Captain Chaos before whispering “You’re not going ANYWHERE mate!”

The lady returned and said “I’ve freed a couple of seats.”

I was delighted and stuck two fingers up at the two Captains.

“Look at the time,” whispered Captain Paranoia. “You’ll never get through security in time.”

When we finally got our boarding passes and waved goodbye to our suitcases, we had to rush through security, where there was an inevitable queue.


We were looking forward to a leisurely breakfast airside but that went out of the window, when Mrs PM was “randomly” selected for the body scan.

We finally made it airside and I had barely five minutes to make a quick visit to the toilet.

“I’ll see you at gate,” I yelled as I rushed off.

Such was the nature of my call to Mother Nature that I had to find a cubicle. And the only one left was the one whose previous occupant had exploded.

The toilet bowl was home to the most disgusting mess I had ever seen – and it wouldn’t flush away. 


I had no choice. I had to use it. I was desperate.

Thankfully, I managed to flush some of it away when I had finished but as I left the cubicle I found a queue of men waiting to use it.

I just ran – I ran as quickly as I could (although I was tempted to shout “IT WASN’T ME – IT WAS THE BRUTE WHO USED IT BEFORE ME”), with the echo of a guffawing Captain Chaos ringing in my ears, accompanied by the echo of the words of the man who had entered the cubicle after me.

MY GOD!!!!!! WHAT KIND OF MONSTER ARE YOU?” was all I heard – and I hope he didn’t think that I had done it but I am absolutely certain he is convinced that I was a disgusting feral human being with a MASSIVE bowel problem and absolutely NO IDEA about toilet etiquette. I just hope I don’t bump into him again. The sight in that cubicle is something that will stay etched on his mind forever – I know I can still see it in my nightmares.

I lost sight of Captain Chaos after that and we managed to get away with no problems apart from having to pay an exorbitant amount for a revolting cardboard breakfast and a cup of coffee that looked like it had been brewed in a cesspit.

Sadly, Captain Chaos accompanied us on our holiday; I saw Captain Paranoia waving goodbye to him as the plane took off.

He met Tonto there. I will tell you about that some other time.

I have many examples of how Captain Chaos has caused me huge problems in my life.

Have you met him too?

Sunday 20 May 2012

The Pseudo-Intellectual's New Clothes

I have just read something that has made me rant mercilessly to Mrs PM and the cats. In order to escape me, Mrs PM has left the house and the cats have run to those little hidey holes in the house that are Plastic Mancunian proof (behind their litter trays).

I need to let off steam, so unfortunately, dear reader, you are my metaphorical punch bag to allow me to get this off my chest.

Regular readers will know that I have a big problem with pseudo-intellectuals, particularly those who love contemporary art and accuse me of being an unimaginative moron who lives in a box.

I have posted about such buffoons before (read about it here and here) but yesterday, I read something that takes this to an even more ridiculous level.

There is an exhibition about to start at the Hayward Gallery in London that will “set imaginations on fire”.

I can guess that you might consider this to be an intellectually challenging exhibition featuring the most amazing new pieces of contemporary art that will quite literally blow you away in a cascading and exponentially developing miracle of thought-provoking rapture (sorry about that, dear reader – I stole those words from a pseudo-intellectual who had just looked up the words cascade, exponential, miracle and rapture on a web site about philosophy).

The cost of this exhibition is £8, a paltry sum, I’m sure you will agree, for something that will give your imagination the mental equivalent of a screaming orgasm.

What do you get for your £8?


Absolutely nothing.

Nada! Nichts! Rien! Niente!


Yes, that’s right; the world of contemporary art has stooped to depths lower than even a total cynic like me could imagine.

They are exhibiting NOTHING!!

Allow me to elaborate.

You will see Invisible Sculpture, a “work” by Andy Warhol; an empty plinth, which, apparently, the man stepped on for a brief moment.

You can also feast your eyes on 1000 Hours of Staring; a blank piece of paper (yes you read that correctly – A BLANK PIECE OF PAPER) that the artist, a certain Mr Tom Friedman, stared at on and off for a period of five years.

The same artist has another exhibit and I’ll bet you can barely contain yourself about this one. It is called Untitled (A Curse) and features an empty space which has supposedly been cursed by a witch. That’s right, dear reader – AN EMPTY SPACE!!

How about an empty room by Yoko Ono, where the viewer is encouraged to “conjure up artwork in their minds”? I’m sorry but the blogging equivalent of that is for me to post something called Nothing and let you, dear reader, imagine more of my inane bullshit. Surely that’s MY job as a blogger.

It sounds like a complete joke – but they are serious – totally and utterly serious.

The director of the gallery has said (and I am not making this up): 

“I think visitors will find that there is plenty to see and experience in this exhibition of invisible art”.

He also added: 

“From the amusing to the philosophical, you will be able to explore an invisible labyrinth that only materialises as you move around it, see an artwork that has been created by the artist staring at it for 1000 hours, walk through an installation designed to evoke the afterlife, and be in the presence of Andy Warhol’s celebrity aura.”

Yes – this pseudo-intellectual mad man actually uttered those words to a national newspaper. And, of course, he had to mention philosophy (what pseudo-intellectual nonsense would be complete without the word philosophy?)

The world has gone crazy; totally and utterly crazy. If this is supposed to be the height of intellect in the world then we, as a species, are doomed.


Actually, that’s not true. The people who will undoubtedly flock to this so-called exhibition are the pseudo-intellectual fools. I could get the same experience staring at my wall and unleashing my sick and sordid imagination to picture an epic war occurring on the plaster.

And it wouldn’t cost me a bloody thing.

The traditional story of The Emperor’s New Clothes has never been more relevant to the rubbish that most modern art is. The parallels are there for everybody to see.

I am almost tempted to gate-crash the exhibition and stand there in every room stating the bleeding obvious.

“There is nothing here. There is nothing worth seeing. There is actually nothing to see. This is an empty room.”

Alternatively, I could pay my £8 and walk in totally naked and say “What do you think of my new outfit? It is straight from the imagination of Rene Descartes; it’s called the Invisible Suit”

Would they DARE to throw me out?

I could even charge them for their own set of Descartes clothes - £500 a pop. Do you think I’ll get away with it?

I’ll finish with some good news; I have created for you a piece of invisible art that will save you from going to the exhibition. It is in the frame below and it is simply called The Pseudo-Intellectual’s New Clothes.

And it costs exactly what it shows.


Thursday 10 May 2012

A Real Bucket List (Part 5)

Well, dear reader, this is it; the final part of the Bucket List I stole of an unsuspecting victim on the internet.

I would like to thank that person for providing me with inspiration for a few posts.

And without further ado, here are the final 20 items from the list:

81. Be able to handle: your tax forms, Jehovah's Witnesses, your banker, telephone solicitors.

As said in my “alternative”bucket list, I actually enjoy talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The last couple who came to my door were reading extracts from the Bible to convince me that the Big Bang didn’t happen. The quotes had nothing to do with the discussion at all. And I was told that Satan placed the dinosaur fossils to prey on our weaknesses. I had to laugh, but I wasn’t condescending at all. In fact, they left with a smile and said that it was a nice change for somebody to talk to them rather than telling them to piss off. As for bankers and solicitors, that’s more difficult.

82. Give to a charity -- anonymously.

I do that – actually I don’t because the hospice that I donate to every month knows my name. I would rather give it anonymously though and I guess I do when Mrs PM forces me to take my old paperbacks to the charity shop every so often.

83. Lose more money than you can afford at roulette in Vegas.

I am very careful when it comes to gambling and when I was in Las Vegas I was extra careful. Mrs PM had been there a week earlier when she went to a conference and I couldn’t let her go alone. On her first night she won $200 on the roulette and then later, she won some more. I went there prepared to lose a small amount per day and stuck to my limit. Mrs PM on the other hand, because of her wins, managed to come out in the black. Personally, I think gambling is a complete waste of time if you think you can become rich from it because the odds are stacked against you; being a student of statistical analysis I have absolute proof of this. The banker always wins in the long run, whether it is roulette, black jack, poker, one-armed bandits or horse racing. Still, it can be fun if you are careful and are prepared to allow the banker to win a tiny amount. I don’t think I am prepared to lose a large amount of money at roulette anywhere, let alone Vegas.

84. Let someone feed you peeled, seedless grapes.

I will ask Mrs PM to do this on my 50th birthday later in the year.

85. Kiss the Blarney stone and develop the gift of gab.

I would LOVE to have the gift of the gab on a permanent basis. Sometimes I can be extremely charming and captivating but most of the time I try to hard and end up looking like an arse. If you have the gift of the gab, dear reader, and are willing to give me any tips, then I’m all ears.

86. Fart in a crowded space.

This is one of the easiest things to do. All you need to do is let go of a real stinker and look around horrified, wrinkling your nose in disgust. Try it – it works.

87. Make love on the kitchen floor.

The kitchen floor is made of stone and extremely cold – so the answer is a definite no!

88. Go deep sea fishing and eat your catch.

Does catching a trout in a river in Wales count? Actually, it wasn’t me who caught the trout but a friend of mine. I did cook it and we shared it between four of us – there was hardly any really. I felt quite bad about it but my excuse was that I was only 18 and it seemed like an adventurous thing to do for four young lads staying in a cottage in the middle of nowhere.

89. Create your own web site.

I have done this, dear reader. You are reading it.

90. Visit the Holy Land.

Anything that involves travelling is a definite possibility, even to a place like the Holy Land.

91. Make yourself spend a half-day at a concentration camp and swear never to forget.

I presume by this you mean visit Auschwitz or something like that. To be honest, this is a possibility. As I get older, I am more fascinated by history, particularly evil bastards like Hitler, and I think that visiting a place like this would be as fascinating as it was distressing.


92. Run to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

I’ve climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty but I have a feeling that you can’t do it these days. When I climbed the statue (from the inside I hasten to add) it would have been impossible to run up to the top. To get there, we had to walk up a spiral staircase that was intertwined with another one coming down and it was so crowded, full of fawning Americans, that I would have had to have shoved them out of the way. Basically, I slowly climbed up, walked across the crown, looked out of the tiny windows and then walked back down. It was slightly disappointing but from the outside it looked spectacular.

93. Create your Family Tree.

At the weekend, Mrs PM and I went to a leaving party in Liverpool and were kindly given a lift back from one of her work colleagues. As Mrs PM fell asleep in the back of the car, I chatted to this married couple and he was busy researching his family tree. In fact, the couple were so serious that they had paid money to one of the better known ancestry web sites and actually made a lot of progress. I was slightly inspired to be honest and this might actually become a future hobby, when and if I get fed up of blogging or retire.

94. Catch a ball in the stands of a major league baseball stadium.

The closest I will ever get to doing this is to catch a cricket ball that has been whacked for six by a rampant English batsman. In fact, I am going to see England versus the West Indies towards the end of May in Nottingham – so I’ll let you know if I succeed.

95. Make a hole-in-one.

Golf is utter rubbish. Not a chance.

96. Ski a double-black diamond run.

That’s funny. I would have to learn to ski first. Not a hope in hell.

97. Learn to bartend.

I really should have done this when I was younger. It would have opened up a whole world of part time jobs when I was a student. Instead I was a postman or just plain lazy. I guess it’s never too late and if I get sacked or have an “American Beauty” moment, I could give it a go.

98. Run a marathon.

In my youth I could possibly have done this. I used to be in the school cross country team and as I ran and settled into a rhythm, the thought of doing a marathon seemed an achievable goal (although the furthest I ever ran was probably only about 6 miles). I think I’m a little too old now.

99. Look into your child's eyes, see yourself, and smile.

I have looked into the eyes of both of my sons and seen myself. I’ve laughed and cried at the same time because this is such a wonderful experience. My sons will probably say that they have looked into my eyes, seen themselves and thought “Oh my God! Is THIS what I am going to TURN INTO? AAARRGGHH!!!”

100. Reflect on your greatest weakness, and realize how it is your greatest strength.

I have lots of weaknesses and I know exactly what they are. I don’t really see why or how any of them could be my greatest strength. Perhaps having the openness to talk about them on a blog like this is a strength – but in reality I only do it for cheap laughs.

Well that’s it, dear reader. Once again, please feel free to let me know which of the above items you have achieved.

I am off to Spain on Saturday and can’t wait, so next week will be all quiet on the Plastic Mancunian front.

If I manage to cross any more items off the list I will let you know.

I don’t plan to challenge my fear of heights again though – or my fear of nasty creatures.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

A Real Bucket List (Part 4) - and Post Number 400

I’ve just realised that I have reached two blog milestones; I have been blogging for 4 years (well in March anyway) and this is my 400th post.

I was going to do something special but instead I will just continue with the Bucket List. Besides, I want to complete it before I go to Spain on Saturday and time is running short.

Without further ado, here are items 61 to 80 on the Bucket List I’ve stolen.

61. Go wild in Rio during Carnival.

Rio is on the list of places that Mrs PM are both desperate to visit so this is a definite trip for us to take. I imagine that Rio during Carnival will be expensive and the hotels will be fully booked up and it may be a struggle to get there without some serious planning. Nevertheless, I think this is a genuine trip I want to make before my maker tells me its time for bed.

62. Spend a whole day reading a great novel.

When I am on holiday, I like to explore the local community and wander off exploring. However, I also enjoy sitting by a swimming pool, or on the beach, reading a good book and when I get the opportunity to do so, I grab it with eager arms. Sitting by a pool, watching the stress evaporating, with a bottle of beer by your side and a good book is a great way to spend a lazy day before exploring some more. So yes, I have done this (usually on holiday).

63. Forgive your parents.

I’ve nothing to forgive them for. Job done!

64. Learn to juggle with three balls.

Believe it or not I’ve tried to teach myself to do this on quite a few occasions and failed miserably and spectacularly. It’s bloody difficult - and pointless, when I think about it. I think I’ll give this one a miss.

65. Drive the Autobahn.

Give a flash German Porsche, a bright sunny German day and an Autobahn strangely devoid of traffic and I’m there!

66. Find a job you love.

I’ve been trying to do this for years. There are aspects of my job that I love; problem solving, seeing the fruits of creativity in action and travelling to witness this first hand. But there are so many things that make me furious about my job. One day I will – and this is not something I want to do to fulfil some weird Bucket List fantasy – I want to do it for my own sanity. I am nothing if not optimistic and this particular item is one thing I definitely hope to achieve.

67. Spend Christmas on the beach drinking pina coladas.

If I lived in Australia I would do this every Christmas. Sadly I don’t. Nevertheless, Mrs PM and I are planning to go to a warmer place for a week between Christmas and New Year this year. I might give that a go then.

68. Overcome your fear of failure.

That is easier said than done, my friend. I have come to terms with my limitations over the years but failing still hurts. I am improving and that maybe due to the fact that as I get older I care less about screwing something up.

69. Raft through the Grand Canyon.

I’ve flown over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter and on a scheduled flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta. Does that count?

70. Donate money and put your name on something: a college scholarship, a bench in the park.

I’m not sure why somebody would want to put their name on something like this other than for an ego trip. Am I weird thinking this? Would people really care about a park bench that said “Donated by The Plastic Mancunian” or “The Plastic Mancunian Scholarship”? I would prefer to remain anonymous I think.

71. Buy your own house and then spend time making it into exactly what you want.

I am living this particular dream as I type. We’re almost there.

72. Grow a garden.

I hate gardening. I hate gardening with a passion. From an early age, my dad loved gardening and turned our back garden into a mini farm, growing every vegetable that would survive the weather in Walsall. It was a big job and he needed help – so he enrolled me as his slave. He had me digging, weeding, planting and every other dreadful chore involved in maintaining a garden. I also suffer from hay fever and for one whole month every year I suffer from an unnatural allergy to pollen. If I could find out which pollen it might help but in the UK in June there is so much to choose from. I still don’t know. I will leave the gardening to Mrs PM. She can cross this one off her own list.

73. Spend three months getting your body into optimum shape.

I did that when I was around 39 to 40. We moved into our current house and Mrs PM dragged me to a gym to get fit. I ended up with my own training regime designed by a young muscular bastard who. I’m sure, gave me nasty disciplines to overcome to get rid of the excess fat on my body. It did work and I kept it up for a few months before boredom kicked in. In fact, I think it was about three months and during that time my upper body did change shape. Sadly it has all gone back to the way it was, like a balloon that has all the air replaced with jelly. My limited gym membership was also quite embarrassing at times – you can read about it here

74. Drive a convertible with the top down and music blaring.

I will do this – and the music will be good, solid driving rock!

75. Accept yourself for who you are.

I did that a long time ago – and now I spend most of my time blogging about it.

76. Learn to use a microphone and give a speech in public.

I am terrified of public speaking. I am also terrified of heights and regular readers will know that I am an idiot who tries to overcome that fear by climbing unfeasibly high buildings and bridges. It may therefore come as no surprise that I have used a microphone and given a public speech. In fact, I have done it on several occasions in Britain, Switzerland, China, South Africa, America and Russia. You see, as part of my job I have to make the odd presentation and give training courses. Sadly, because it is part of my job, I can’t really refuse – so I bite the bullet and do it. I have (kind of) overcome the fear a little – it still scares me but not as much. You can read about one such episode here

77. Scuba dive off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Do you know that I had the chance to do this and completely lost my bottle? What is this; a “Tell the world how scared you are” list? I am scared of spiders and insects and jellyfish and Australia has the worst of all of these in the world. Is every creature in Australia poisonous? Suffice it to say that when I heard about box jellyfish and irukandji, my arse went. I refused to put on a stinger suit and dive in the water to become jellyfish lunch. Mrs PM was much braver and I watched Mrs PM snorkelling in perhaps the greatest area of natural beauty in the world, while I stood like an utter coward from the specially sited platform. So, dear reader, here is another post that might interest you which describes the monsters that stopped me from achieving this particular item

78. Go up in a hot-air balloon.

Right – this is beyond a joke now. Should I rebadge this, my 400th post, “I AM A COWARD AND HERE’S WHY?”. No chance – not a chance in HELL. I will never, ever go up in a hot air balloon because I am terrified of heights (sob!).

79. Attend one really huge rock concert.

Now we’re talking. I have attended countless really huge rock concerts. I have seen some of the biggest rock bands and artists on the planet in massive arenas. Here are a few of them: AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, The Foo Fighters, Metallica, Rush, Whitesnake, Marilyn Manson, Aerosmith, Guns’n’Roses, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Alice Cooper, Queen, Rammstein, Def Leppard, Motley Crüe, Nine Inch Nails, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Meat Loaf. And I haven’t finished yet.

80. Kiss someone you've just met on a blind date.

I’ve never been on a blind date but I’ve kissed women I’ve only just met in my youth. Most of the time I got my face slapped. In fact, ALL of the time I got my face slapped. Still, I was a young foolish teenager at the time and stopped doing such stupid things – eventually.

So dear reader, over to you. Are you as big a coward as I am? Have you achieved any of the above 20 items?

Monday 7 May 2012

A Real Bucket List (Part Three)

I tell you what – this is quite a Bucket List. If you were to decide to try everything on this list you may have to start at the age of 20.

Anyway, continuing with items 41 to 60 (out of 100):

41. Shower in a waterfall.

I haven’t done this but it would be a nice thing to attempt on my next travels should I find a suitable place. I wonder whether I can count getting soaked at Niagara Falls? Standing directly underneath the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara might be a dangerous thing. However, you can get close either by standing at a special viewing platform underneath the falls or sailing on a little boat called “The Maid of the Mist”. I’ve done both and here are a couple of photos to prove it.  I would urge you to try it if you get a chance.

42. Ask for a raise.

Too bloody right! And yes, I have done it. Don’t get me started on this because I may take up the entire post ranting angrily about office politics, incompetence and bloody-minded arrogance.

43. Learn to play a musical instrument with some degree of skill.

I can play the trombone (read about it here ). Well, when I say “play” I last packed the instrument in its case when I was 16 and rebellious and have never attempted to play one since. I wouldn’t mind having a go but it may take me a few months of practice to get to be able to play something meaningful again. I think my favourite piece of music that I managed to play was “In The Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg. Here it is done properly:

44. Teach someone illiterate to read.

Does teaching your kids to read count? Actually, I assisted teaching my kids to read rather than actually teaching them myself. Given the opportunity, I would definitely do it though

45. Be one of the first to take a flight on the new Airbus A380.

If I ever decide to fly to Dubai from Manchester I will do this. Earlier this year I flew to Abu Dhabi rather than Dubai because that’s where our friends live. By the time I get to do it again I will not be “one of the first” sadly.

46. Spend a night in a haunted house -- by yourself.

If ghosts exist, I may have actually seen one (read about it here ). I still remain sceptical about the existence of ghosts despite the evidence. If I did see a ghost then I guess, I may actually have done this. However, I wasn’t alone in the house so I guess it doesn’t really count. I’m not sure that I would want to spend the night in a house that was haunted though because although I love horror stories I prefer to read them than experience them first hand. I might consider it if Mrs PM were with me – and a film crew. But the moment that Derek Acorah turned up I would simply punch him in the face for being a charlatan. In fact, that, might be a genuine item to add to a bucket list. Or better still, if ghosts really DO exist, I would come back and haunt Derek Acorah, who I am almost certain has never met or conversed with somebody who has passed over.

47. Write down your personal mission statement, follow it, and revise it from time to time.

I’m not one for mission statements; I find them irritating and full of utter crap. They are just a way for a company, for example, to lie about what they aim to achieve. Mission statements and business bullshit go hand in hand and to even consider doing that on a personal level fills me with anger and irritation. I think its fine for people to have ambitions but to write them down is a little over the top. I mean, I have ambitions but I am realistic enough to know that I may not achieve them. Writing them down won’t make a difference. I know what you are thinking, dear reader – “Wait a minute, you bloody hypocrite! You’ve posted your ambitions on this blog – isn’t that a mission statement of sorts?” I guess some people could see it that way but in reality I am just opening up and letting you know what I want to do. The difference between that and a mission statement is that with the latter I am telling myself and you that I WILL do it – I WILL succeed – I WILL prevail. In reality I probably won’t. It might work for some people – but not for me because at the end when you have failed in your quest, you feel worse. In fact, isn’t a Bucket List a bit like a mission statement in that regard?

48. See a lunar eclipse

I saw a lunar eclipse in Manchester a few years ago along with thousands of other Mancunians. It’s nice to have crossed this off the list.

49. Spend New Year's in an exotic location.

I will achieve that this year. Mrs PM and I are thinking of heading to the Canary Islands for New Year. In the past I have welcomed in the New Year in New York in Times Square, but it was hardly exotic (in that the temperature was -10 °C with a wind chill factor that lowered the temperature even further).

50. Get passionate about a cause and spend time helping it, instead of just thinking about it.

Sadly I haven’t really got the time to get involved with a just cause; life is too complicated at the moment. I am not ruling out the possibility of doing this in the future though. We’ll just have to see what happens.

51. Experience weightlessness.

If that involves leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, you can forget it. I know that it is possible to achieve this in an aircraft but it doesn’t really appeal to me that much.

52. Sing a great song in front of an audience.

Does karaoke count? And do ten people count as an audience? I vowed never to inflict my voice on the general public (though I have done accidentally in the past – read about ithere ) and was very reluctant to do so at a party in London. Sadly, I had had a couple of beers and “Smoke on the Water” was available for me to destroy – so I did. Actually, it didn’t go down that badly. I could never stand in front of a vast audience and sing though; the humiliation would be unbearable.
53. Ask someone you've only just met to go on a date.

I have always been too shy to do this and thankfully at the moment there is no need for me to ever consider doing this again.

54. Drive across America from coast to coast.

I have driven from coast to coast in Florida but I am guessing that the author means driving from the West Coast to the East Coast (for example Los Angeles to New York). I would definitely consider this if I won the lottery; on my round the world trip, when I reach San Francisco, I will hire a car and drive to New York. You heard it here first – and that is NOT a mission statement – I may change my mind.

55. Make a complete and utter fool of yourself.

I’ve been making a complete and utter fool of myself almost religiously for the past 40 or so years. And there is plenty of scope to do this in future too.

56. Own one very expensive but absolutely wonderful business suit.

Why? Why bother? Your normal everyday off the rack business suit is perfectly fine for most occasions. I guess, when Her Majesty decides to knight me for services to blogging I might consider it – but only if I have won the lottery and can afford to go to Saville Row and spend an obscene amount of cash on a pointless garment.

57. Write your will.

I’ve done that. It’s upstairs.

58. Sleep under the stars.

I did that in Portugal in 1984. We arrived in Vila Real de Santo António in Portugal to catch a ferry to Ayamonte in Spain. Sadly, we arrived at around 2am and the ferry had closed for the night. We had nowhere to stay so we found a small area with benches where we could sleep. I remember looking up at the stars as I tried to get comfortable and while it was not the best place to sleep, it was pleasant enough. I woke up at dawn (as I am a very light sleeper) leaving my travelling companions snoring away as curious locals walked past with a smile, and watched the sun rise over Spain across the Guadina river. Another item crossed off the list methinks.

59. Take a ride on the highest roller coaster in the country.

When I was younger, I used to love roller coasters. However, in 1989, I rode one in Los Angeles that destroyed my confidence. I was visibly shaking when I stumbled off it and I have only ever been on the odd one since. I will cheat a little here because I rode the biggest roller coaster at the time in England (before they built “The Big One” in Blackpool); it was at Alton Towers. A cheat, I suppose, but at the time it was a valid claim.

60. Learn how to complain effectively -- and do it!

Mrs PM and I went to Thailand a couple of years ago and flew with Air France. On the way back, we arrived totally jet-lagged in Paris at around 5am, hoping to get an easy connection to Manchester only to find that Air France pilots had gone on strike and our flight was cancelled. We managed to get a flight back at around 5pm which meant spending hours at Charles de Gaulle airport. We were so tired that we really didn’t want to go into Paris (we had been there a few time anyway). We arrived back in Manchester totally exhausted and our baggage was delayed, just to give us an extra kick in the teeth. I was livid. I immediately wrote an email to Air France, expressing my disgust and asked as my final question, what they were going to do about it “before I took it further”. I received a reply a few days later and Air France had offered us free flights worth a couple of hundred Euros. We used them to visit Boston in the US, the following year. I was delighted and proud that I had complained and will definitely do it again.

Once more, dear reader – have you managed to achieve any of the above items?

Sunday 6 May 2012

A Real Bucket List (Part Two)

In my last post, I gave you my thoughts on the first 20 items of a Bucket List (read it here).

Here are the next 20 items.

21. Be a member of the audience in a TV show.

I’m not really sure that I want to do this unless it is a genuinely good show. The older of my two sisters, Julie, has done this and she said that it was a dreadful experience. The show was a comedy light entertainment show and it kept stopping and starting over and over again. And it wasn’t actually funny at all; it was one of those dreadful Saturday night shows that I hate, so I could see why she didn’t like it. I think I might just ignore this one.

22. Put your name down to be a passenger on the first tourist shuttle to the moon.

No way. No chance. You have not got a hope in hell of getting me inside a metal shuttle that will be shot towards the moon at high velocity. If I were able to put aside the immense explosion that is necessary to combat Earth’s gravity as well as the intense heat, I would struggle to ignore the fact that in space, there is no air whatsoever – none at all. There is just too much scope for meeting Death sooner. I would actually love to see planet Earth from space but being blasted into space is something I am simply not prepared to do.

23. Send a message in a bottle.

If ever I get shipwrecked on a desert island, I will do this – providing that there is a bottle, some paper, something to write with and, of course, a lid for the bottle.

24. Ride a camel into the desert.

I saw a camel in the desert on the road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai earlier this year. If I get the chance to go back to the Middle East I might actually try to do this.

25. Get to know your neighbours.

I have always got to know my neighbours in every house I’ve lived in. To me it seems like a natural thing to do, particularly now, as I live in a terraced house. To be honest this is a strange item for a Bucket List – a bit like “talk to a person”. Obviously the person who wrote it lived in a cave in the middle of nowhere and getting to know his neighbours involved trekking for miles.

26. Plant a tree.

II have planted quite a few bits of foliage over the years, ranging from flowers to vegetables. At some point I must have planted a tree; I can say with certainty that Mrs PM has done this because she planted a cherry tree in our back garden a couple of years ago. I can take a little credit because although I didn’t do the deed, I was with her when she bought it and actually loaded it into the car. With a little bit of cheek, therefore, I can cross this one off the list, I feel.

27. Learn not to say yes when you really mean no.

I’m getting better at this. The problem is that I am quite a nice guy (I don’t want to blow my own trumpet too much) and sometimes I allow people to abuse my good nature. Furthermore, I have a tendency to exaggerate my own ability to complete a task, resulting in my agreeing to do things that I really shouldn’t do. As I get older, though, I am less inclined to please people for the sake of it and I am more aware of my limitations. I will probably manage this just two seconds before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

28. Write a fan letter to your all-time favourite hero or heroine.

I have been sorely tempted to do this since the advent of Twitter. In fact, I have tweeted Joe Satriani, complimenting him on his last album (within 140 characters of course). I also left a comment on the official Rush website quite a few years ago, when they were in a hiatus, urging them to come to Manchester when planning their next tour. The did and I went – but Geddy Lee didn’t say “It’s great to be back in Manchester and I’d like to thank Dave the Plastic Mancunian for asking us to play for you tonight”. I still reckon that my little comment helped in some small way, though.

29. Visit the Senate and the House of Representatives to see how Congress really works.

This is obviously written by an American and I have no desire to visit the Senate. I’ve been to Washington DC and seen the White House and the other government buildings – but that’s about as close to the machinations of American politics that I want to get to. What’s more, I have no desire to watch a debate in the Houses of Parliament in London either. I would end up screaming “You’re ALL just a bunch of egomaniacal liars” at all of them. I think this is a firm NO!

30. Learn to ballroom dance properly.

When I was 15 my Mum taught me to waltz so that I could go to a dance. I’m not sure why my parents wanted me to go to this dance because at the time I was totally and utterly disinterested in such things. She perhaps thought that it would be a good thing for the future. The truth is that I have only used this “skill” a couple of times in my life since then. That said, I did go to a couple of dance lessons with W, where I learned basic moves to a couple of other dances. Also Mrs PM and I had a couple of Salsa lessons and somehow managed to convince a few friends at a Christmas Party that we were pretty good dancers. We aren’t – we just blagged it. I guess I can cross this one off as well.

31. Eat jellied eels from a stall in London.

I have eaten an eel stew in China and it was one of the most disgusting concoctions I have ever tried. I ate about a fifth of it before giving up (I honestly thought I was going to throw up). So imagine how I would feel being asked to eat arguably the most disgusting foodstuff ever to come out of England. They only eat jellied eels in London as far as I know – and they can bloody well keep them down there. The look awful and I imagine that they taste worse. Another definite NO!!

32. Be the boss.

I have flirted with boss-hood on a few occasions and I didn’t feel comfortable with it. The worst thing was that it lifted me above the technical aspects of my job and that’s one of the only things that keeps me interested at work. I have also had a few run ins with “bosses” in the past as well and to have to deal with an arse like me from the other side is not something I would like to have to do on a daily basis. I would however, like to be my own boss – and one day that may happen. And then I can cross this one off the list.

33. Fall deeply in love -- helplessly and unconditionally.
Been there, done that, bought the T shirt – and am still there.

34. Ride the Trans-Siberian Express across Asia.

Now we’re talking. I would love to do this. I’ve been to Russia and China but this journey also takes in Mongolia. It might be on the list of things to do when I win that elusive lottery. A definite possibility.

35. Sit on a jury.

In the UK, if you are called for jury service then you have to do it, by law. I await the call with dread because it isn’t really something I want to do; rather it may be something I HAVE to do.

36. Write the novel you know you have inside you.

I’ve actually started a couple of novels but as any budding writer will tell you, this is a really difficult thing to achieve, particularly if you have a full time job and suffer from severe procrastination. I have been sorely tempted to have a go at the “Write a novel in a month” at National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is that you write every day for the month of November. I need something to force me to do it and I think with a bit of discipline I might be able to get the bulk of a novel down in thirty days – as long as I don’t keep going back to edit it as I write. I’ll let you know in October whether I am going to have a go – as I do have at least five weird novel ideas buzzing around in my head.

37. Go to Walden Pond and read Thoreau while drifting in a canoe.

I had to look this up. Basically I think the idea is travel to Massachusets and read “Life In The Woods”, a book written by American Henry D. Thoreau whilst floating on Walden Pond. I imagine this is meant to be a spiritually uplifting experience. A possibility – I guess.

38. Stay out all night dancing and go to work the next day without having gone home (just once).

I did this in 1985. I had been working for about six months when a friend of mine from university popped over to Manchester for a job interview that he wasn’t really interested in. I arrived home from work and the two of us and a new work colleague I had recently become friends with, popped to the local pub for a beer or two. Before we knew it, we had met some girls and went back to their house for an impromptu party that lasted until the early hours of the morning. It was too late to go to bed, so we caught a taxi home, got changed and then went to work. I was absolutely shattered as the day wore on and ended up falling asleep in an isolated area of the building under the pretence of writing software. It was fun but I would never do it again.

39. Drink beer at Oktoberfest in Munich.

In 1983, four of us met up in Munich while travelling around Europe and spent two days at the Oktoberfest. It was an amazing atmosphere and yielded a couple of crazy experiences for me. It was my first experience of drinking from a beer stein, having a race to see who could drink the beer fastest ( a very big mistake) and the first time I had slept rough. The latter experience came about because there were no free rooms in the Youth Hostels of Munich. I was woken up by a German Officer who hauled me up with the words “AUF! AUF!”  I was badly hung over and almost threw up. The second night we managed to find a room and this time took it easy, enjoying the friendliness of the locals and savouring the atmosphere and even chatting with them in pigeon German. A good experience all round.

40. Be someone's mentor.

I’ve been called on to be a mentor at work on a couple of occasions now and can sometimes be a rewarding experience – sometimes it can be a pain in the arse though.

Over to you, dear reader. How many of the above 20 items have you achieved?

Saturday 5 May 2012

A Real Bucket List (Part One)

In my last post, I invented my own Bucket List with the help of my good friend Mr Google (read about it here ).

While I was researching that post, I encountered a few “real” bucket lists and began to consider whether I had managed to achieve any of the items on such lists.

And I was quite surprised.

I have picked one at random, listing 100 things to do before you die. Most of it is bollocks but it did tweak my interest enough to inflict yet more random thoughts on you, dear reader. I shall do this over the next few posts, because the list is just too big.

Without further ado, here are the first 20 items on the list:

(     (1)  Attend at least one major sporting event: the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the U.S. Open.

I have attended quite a few sporting events in my life, some of which have been “major”, others that have been minor but far more significant to me – for example seeing my beloved Walsall beat Manchester United in the F.A. Cup in 1973. I have seen many football matches, involving massive English clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton, Manchester City and many others. As well as that I have seen Australia kick Great Britain’s arse at Rugby League and watched England play Australia and most other nations at cricket. I’ve also seen the England football team play a few times too as well as watching Germany v Italy in Euro 96. I think I can safely cross this one off the list.

(2)    Throw a huge party and invite every one of your friends.

W, my ex-wife, threw a surprise 30th birthday party for me but didn’t manage to invite every one of my friends. I also married W, of course, and most of my friends were there too. I can’t say that I can cross this one off the list, though, because not every one of my friends attended either event. In fact, I’m not sure that I want to do this as I am not comfortable being the centre of attention; so I’m not going to attempt this one.

(3)  Swim with a dolphin

I have a friend who has done this and to be honest it might be worth trying if I get the chance.

(4)  Skydive

Regular readers will know that I am terrified of heights; in fact, I would probably expire the moment somebody threw me out of the plane. This is a definite NO!

      (5) Have your portrait painted

Through the miracle of technology, I can paint my own portrait (well – doctor a photo anyway). How about this?

      (6) Learn to speak a foreign language and then use it.

I can speak Australian and American fluently. I can speak French well enough to order food and ask for directions and have a very basic conversation. I can speak German and Spanish well enough to ask for very basic things.  I can speak very basic Latin so I could in theory ask a Roman where the forum was if I were to travel back in time.  I can order beer and say “Thank You” and “Hello” in Dutch, Mandarin, Cantonese and Russian. I can cross this one off the list too, methinks.

(7) Go skinny-dipping at midnight in the South of France

I will almost certainly visit the South of France again in my lifetime but I do not want to inflict my naked body on the French – or anybody else for that matter. The cats are still in a state of constant fear that I will choose to walk around the house naked. I think I will give this one a miss.

      (8) Watch the launch of the space shuttle

I’ve seen the space shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center and witnessed everything involved in propelling it into space. I guess that doesn’t count in terms of achieving this particular bucket list item. Instead I will say that I have experienced it vicariously, thanks to this song by Rush:

      (9) Spend a whole day eating junk food without feeling guilty

When I was a poor student I had very little money and often ended up eating crap from places like McDonalds and KFC. I don’t do it now, thankfully. Another one crossed off.

      (10) Be an extra in a film

As a child I wanted to be an actor and part of me still does.. Being an extra would be the next best thing and, to be honest, this is something that, perhaps I could do with a little bit of effort. Also, it would give a Hollywood megastar the chance to meet the Plastic Mancunian. Lucky them.

      (11) Tell someone the story of your life sparing no details

About six months ago, I started thinking about what life was like when my grandparents were kids and it got me thinking about future generations. With that in mind I actually started writing an autobiography of sorts called “Insignificant Memoirs”. Bizarrely I have plugged away at it bit by bit and there are a few chapters now. I think it might be very interesting for my lads and any further offspring to read in years to come – if I can keep it up that is. And it will be “warts and all” too.

      (12) Make love on a forest floor

I am scared of most creatures that have more than four legs. The prospect of getting in any state of undress near to the homes of spiders and flies fills me with revulsion. I know there are people out there who want to be “at one with nature” but to me, the thought of a spider getting involved, even as a spectator, would make me unable to concentrate on the task at hand. This is therefore a big NO!

      (13) Make love on a train

Again, risking any member of the public seeing me half undressed and fumbling around on a train has no appeal whatsoever. Another big NO!

      (14) Learn to rollerblade

I can ice skate a little bit. When I say “ice skate” I mean I can whizz around an ice rink in a state of perpetual peril praying to any higher power that is listening that I don’t fall over and brain myself on the ice. I have rollerskated in the past and that is so much more difficult; I was covered in bruises. Yet another NO – unless I can sneakily persuade you that ice skating somehow counts.

      (15) Own a room with a view

When I worked in Hong Kong for three months, I stayed in a hotel that overlooked the fantastic skyline and every morning I had a magnificent view of Hong Kong in all of its glory. Sadly, it cost an arm and a leg (which the company of course paid for).  Unless I win the lottery, I will have to content myself with watching cars drive up my street.

      (16) Brew your own beer

When I got married, my work colleagues had a whip round and bought me a home brewing kit. It gathered dust in the garage for around six years before I finally got rid of it. I love beer but having tasted other people’s home brew, I prefer to leave this particular task to the professionals. That said, when I retire, I might have a go – just to pass the time of course.

      (17) Learn how to take a compliment

I love compliments, particularly from women. In my youth, I used to think that if a woman complimented me, all she really wanted to was drag me upstairs and ravage me. Sadly, this was never the case and I made a complete arse of myself on several occasions. Nowadays, of course, I know different and I love being complimented by women on those rare occasions when it happens. I guess this means that I can take a compliment.

      (18) Buy a round the world air ticket and a rucksack and run away

This is my dream – and hopefully it will happen. The only thing I would change is the rucksack – I prefer a suitcase.

      (19) Grow a beard and leave it for at least a month

This is a tricky one, if you are a woman. I have actually grown a beard so technically I have crossed this item off the list. However, I hated having a beard and it was extremely embarrassing to have one. You can read about it here. And before you ask, there are NO pictures to prove that I had a beard. I wouldn’t want to inflict yet more trauma on myself.

      (20) Give your mother a dozen red roses and tell her you love her

 I have given my mother flowers in the past and told her that I love her. They weren’t roses but I won’t tell if you won’t.

Over to you, dear reader. How may of the above 20 items have you achieved?