Friday 29 June 2012

Men Versus Women (Part Two)

I have a problem understanding women sometimes and have tried to remedy the situation by highlighting what I perceive to be our differences, like in this old post: Men Versus Women.

However, despite all of that I am still a simpleton. If you had any doubts, here is further proof.

Mrs PM and I had a conversation when she returned home from work a few nights ago. She had had a bad day and wanted to let off steam and talk about it.

The gist of the conversation was this.

MRS PM: I’m so fed up.

PM: Well here’s what I would do. It’s not really your problem so take a step back and ignore it.

MRS PM: I can’t ignore it. I’m pissed off.

PM: Don’t be pissed off; I wouldn’t be. Here’s what you need to do…

MRS PM: I don’t WANT you to tell me what I need to do; I just want some sympathy.

PM: But I can sort this out for you. All you need to do is …


The next few minutes were spent with Mrs PM reading the riot act to me.

I had upset her and become a verbal punch bag simply because I had followed my natural instinct to address her problem – a suggestion to solve it.

That’s okay – I don’t mind being a verbal punch bag – especially for Mrs PM.

Nevertheless, what I really didn’t understand was that all I needed to do was listen to her, touch her hand, nod in agreement and culminate the exchange with a hug, a kiss and a few chosen words of sympathy.

Another woman would have achieved this perfectly.

In the end, I cast my insensitive stupidity aside and followed her and gave her the hug she needed.

I don’t know whether it is the same for other men but when anybody discusses any issues with me, my natural reaction is to try to solve their problems. I will listen intently until I understand what the problem is and then I will offer a solution, or at least offer my opinion based on how I imagine that I would deal with the situation myself.

It’s a natural thing for me as a guy. Whether other men think this way I don’t know – but it works for me.

Sadly it doesn’t seem to be the same for Mrs PM – or indeed a lot of other women.  Sometimes, a woman will want a solution, but the majority of the time, in my experience anyway, discussing the issue, expressing her innermost thoughts and getting everything out in the open to a sympathetic ear is all that she requires.

In the case above, Mrs PM knew what she needed to do; she just wanted to express herself and tell somebody how she felt.

And this is a fundamental difference between women and men in my opinion.

Am I wrong? Am I generalising too much?

Women say that men are shallow and switch off when the conversation takes a turn into deeper emotional territory. Men are unwilling to listen to the emotional journey that a woman wants to expose to the world; we see a problem and we try to solve it. The moment we find ourselves having to cope with deep inner feelings, we tend to switch off.

If you listen to the conversation between two men, you will see what I mean. It is peppered with phrases like:

“I would have done this”

“Why don’t you try …”

“I can help with that; here’s what you need to do …”

Whereas a woman will say things like:

“Oh that’s terrible.”

“Oh no! Tell me more.”

“How are you coping?”

I do sometimes find myself being sympathetic but the situation depends on whether I can do anything about the issue at hand. This is a subconscious and purely instinctive reaction. If I can help with a problem, and I mean suggest a way to sort it out, I will because that is what I would expect myself if the boot were on the other foot.

Sometimes a sympathetic ear is all that is required, or a hug.

Here I am, almost 50 years of age, and I am only just coming to terms with this seemingly obvious option. As a person who likes to solve problems, I should be able to recognise that the situation at hand is the problem that needs to be solved; Mrs PM had had a bad day and the solution to that was not to step in, grab a hold of the reasons for her bad day, wrestle them to the ground and stand triumphantly over them like a weird victor.

I am an idiot sometimes.

What I needed to do was to realise that the problem was Mrs PM’s frustration and her desire to get the feelings off her chest – and that to solve it, all I needed to do was to stop what I was doing and listen to her.

If she had asked “What would you do about it?” then I could have stepped in with my natural instincts.

Of course, all of this highlights once again that I am pretty dreadful at understanding the enigma that is woman.

But I’m still learning and I’m getting better. At least I think I am.

What do you think? Am I wrong? 

Anyway, Mrs PM is happier now, having sorted everything out herself, as I knew she would.

Next time, I shall be the most sympathetic person on the planet for the duration of her rant.

Who said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Even a stupid old dog like me…

Saturday 23 June 2012

Grumpy Old Cats

I am ruled by an unholy trinity of moggies. They are all black and they are all the same age.

I’ve discovered something else about them:

They are all older than me.

In human years, my three cats are all 10 years old – and no, I am not younger than that (though I wish I was). If you translate my cats’ age into feline years, all three of them are 57 years old.

And that explains a lot.

It explains why all three of them are as grumpy as hell.

As I get older, I see more and more nonsense to rant about and I have worn out many soapboxes as I have pontificated about the inane, the stupid and the ridiculous.  I lose patience with stupid people, anal people, jobs-worths, egomaniacs, pseudo-intellectuals, self-important arseholes, preachers, cosmetic punks and tossers.

 I tear my hair out about the way the world is becoming and I bellow at anybody who is willing to listen to who can’t get away fast enough when I unleash my soapbox.

I can imagine you now saying “Shut up you hypocritical Mancunian windbag!” but at the same time trying to picture a grumpy cat standing on a soapbox.

That’s silly; they do not stand on soapboxes and rant. Instead of ranting they each respond in their own special way.  Whereas I rant about the insanity of life, the target of their grumpiness is …


Yes – I drive my cats to grumpiness.

Each one behaves differently.

Jasper, the biggest cat, used to have a carefree existence and tolerate my attempts at baiting him. He would roll over and tempt me to stroke his tummy, before grabbing my hand in his paws and actually licking it making sure that I knew who was boss by digging his claws into my skin just enough to prevent me from pulling away without tearing my flesh. If I tried to pull away he would kick me with his back legs and gently bite me. It didn’t hurt and we had fun.

Nowadays he meows when I try to tempt him to attack me and stares at me as if I am piece of waste floating in a cesspit. The meow is grumpy; you have to hear it to believe it. I imagine him saying “Bugger off you great oaf! I’m trying to sleep.”

He also parks his fat arse outside our bedroom door in the morning and when we get up, we are greeted by an indignant meow that sounds like an old man saying “NOW!!!!!!”.

Poppy is terrified of everything but even she is grumpy. In the past she used to race around the house, fleeing from invisible pursuers with a high pitched “BBRRRPPP!!!!” noise. Whenever I entered the room, she would be away before I could say “Cat”.

Now she stays where she is, looking for an exit, and growls like a dog. Her ears flatten against her head and sometimes she actually hisses at me.


What’s going on?

Finally, we have our most recent additions, Liquorice the Hellcat. She is not scared of me at all and sits there watching me, like she watches prey. Sometimes, she is friendly and sits on my knee; the moment I move, though, she stares at me with a look that says “Do that again and I will take your face off.”

I don’t have much to compare Liquorice with in terms of what she used to be like, but she is showing lots of signs of utter impatience and sheer contempt with her life sharing a house with me.

She has her own chair in the lounge, which is next to a lamp; if I try to switch off the lamp at bedtime, she actually attacks me with a meow that is deep and menacing. She has also been known to stalk me, leaping out from behind a chair to attack my ankles – presumably because my antics make her want to tear me to pieces.

I’ve tried to remedy the situation, dear reader.

I no longer poke Jasper with my hands to get him to attack me; instead I scratch his ears, tickle his tummy and gently stroke him. He has actually started purring.

As for Poppy, I creep around the house, rather than (as Mrs PM describes it), stomping around like a demented elephant on crack! And now I can walk into a room with Poppy inside and she will allow me to stroke her gently or, if she’s feeling really generous, allow me the privilege of feeding her.

As for Liquorice, I simply let her walk all over me. This is not just to make her less grumpy; it is also a natural instinct to preserve my own life.

We are kindred spirits, my cats and I. I rant at my world, putting it to rights by hurling abuse at everything that is wrong with it. The cats treat me with utter contempt and tell me in no uncertain terms what they think of me, aided by growls, hissing, tooth and claw.

I have improved things and now they are less grumpy.

Is it too much to ask for the world to improve so that I can retire my soapbox too?

Sunday 17 June 2012

Heal My Spirit

I need help to understand something and I am hoping that there is somebody out there in Blogland who may be able to assist me.

I have come across a pamphlet and it has confused me. When I started reading it, my first reaction was:


Shortly after that, I started laughing.

And then I started thinking.

And now I am confused.

The pamphlet is a newsletter (I’m not going to tell you the source) that I initially thought was a joke. The problem is it is so well written that I believe it to be serious and, worse, after some research with my old friend Mr Google, it seems that people actually subscribe to the contents.

Before I go on, I am very sceptical about anything that is vaguely supernatural, even though I love that kind of stuff. I love the concept that we might be being manipulated by the stars, that the dead are watching over us and that there are beings out there that influence our lives.

The problem is, although I love the concept, I don’t believe a bloody word of it.

Regular readers might recall how I have mocked astrology and fortune telling in the past. It’s great if you believe that stuff, but I don’t and I apologise to any readers who aren't a grumpy old cynic like me.

Anyway, the pamphlet describes workshops, events and other therapeutic aids to helping the average person, like me, to achieve a higher level of spiritual fulfilment and heal myself.

Here are the items that made me swear, then laugh, then think:

Angelic Mediation

On paper this doesn’t sound so bad; I can understand how meditation can help. I have actually tried to meditate myself, when faced with the prospect of doing something that terrifies me, like public speaking. The night before I have to spend a week presenting a course, I lay in bed and allowed myself to drift away from my fear, on a journey through my imagination. And it worked.

In this case, however, the idea is to “connect with angelic light beings” and “receive healing messages from your guardian angel”.

Is that nonsense? I’m sorry, but I think it is. While I love the idea that I may have a guardian angel, my life experience tells me that I don’t. How could a guardian angel stand by and let me embarrass myself, allow me to make stupid decisions and not intervene when the shit hits the fan?

Laughter Club

I love a good laugh. I look in the mirror every morning and laugh at the image that stares back at me before I put on my specs and realise that it is me.

Laughter can be something that is therapeutic. When times are tough we embark upon “gallows humour”, laughing in the face of adversity, giggling at the bad fates that make our life hell. But you need something to laugh at.

I cannot for a second imagine that forcing yourself to laugh with a group of people is either possible or good for you. Anybody can force laugher, but it is only therapeutic if there is something genuinely funny to laugh at.

I personally would laugh at the people in laughter club because I think that their merriment is forced and therefore not genuine. If you want to laugh, switch on the telly and turn to the Comedy Channel.

Am I just being cynical?

Channel Archangels

I thought this was a TV channel servicing the bosses of your guardian angel. It’s not. Instead you will be taught how to converse with archangels.

Being brought up as a Catholic, I was always scared of the concept of archangels because these were the guys who had swords and slayed evil – God’s henchmen if you like. Gabriel is the most famous and he is the being who will be responsible for blowing a horn to indicate the end of time, the resurrection of everybody and Judgement Day – a pretty big thing to be responsible for if you ask me.

Would I want to converse with Gabriel? I don’t think so – I’d be pretty scared.

And I certainly wouldn’t get any spiritual fulfilment when confronted by a sword wielding archangel who would be responsible for raising me from the dead to face the wrath of God on Judgement Day.

Aura Photography

A rather strange woman once told me that she could see my aura. And while I was amused, I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t see hers. Apparently we all have an aura and some people can see them, others can’t.

And because I can’t, I am cynical about their existence. It’s like people who claim they can talk to the dead – because the vast majority of people cannot have a conversation with their ancestors, so-called mediums, in my opinion, exploit those who are desperate to contact loved ones who have passed over.

This annoys me immensely.

Aura photography is similar. Apparently you meet a man who takes your photograph and provides a two page document that contains an “intuitive interpretation of your aura” and your current location on your spiritual journey.

All for the price of £25.

Am I missing something here?

Past Life Therapy

We all have hangovers from previous lives apparently, where we made a commitment in a previous existence that still binds us in this life. Past life therapy is an attempt to free us of these obligations and allow us to live our current lives spiritually free of the past.

Again, I am fascinated with the concept that I might have been a Roman soldier or a great scientist. In reality, if there is any truth in this idea, then I was probably killed by being thrown from a cliff while covered in spiders and speaking to a crowd about the dangers of tarantulas, which may explain my fear of heights, my fear of public speaking and my arachnophobia.

Or it could be utter nonsense.

Over To You

I know that some readers may believe that the above examples of spiritual health therapy actually do have substance and really, I would like to understand why you believe that.

I am guilty of being a cynic, mainly due to my scientific background, which has led me to seek proof before I believe anything. The basis for scientific research is that unless it is proven fact it is still theory.

So do auras really exist? And can they be photographed? And what colour is yours? Are you, like me, still in the starting blocks, spiritually?

Have we all been reincarnated and led past lives? Were you a Roman soldier too? Did we serve in the same legion? Did you know General Maximus Decimus Meridius? 

Does your guardian angel protect you or do you, like me, stumble through life while your guardian angel tells his laughter group about your exploits?

Have you met an archangel? Was it Gabriel and did he give you any hint about when he was going to blow his horn?

To any readers who take this seriously, I apologise for my flippancy and with my hand on my heart, I am genuinely interested.

If you can convince me to have my aura photographed, I might just do it and let you know whether I am truly a spiritual amoeba.

Friday 15 June 2012

Stupid Cupid

Let me take you back in time, dear reader. I am opening the door to my time machine, and together we can go on a short journey to my past. On the way, I shall set the scene for you.

Mrs PM has a friend, who I shall refer to as S. Quite a few years ago, probably around the year 2000, Mrs PM and I had been together for about two years and I spent a fair amount of time going out with  her and her friends most of whom were her age. I was in my mid to late thirties and Mrs PM in her late twenties. At the time, I was revisiting my youth a little, but with a more mature head on my shoulders.

I found myself in night clubs, watching younger people with interest. Mrs PM’s friend S was a bit of a target for young predatory men and quite often they tried to chat her up. Sometimes, these guys would not take "No!" for an answer and on the odd occasion, usually it has to be said, with Mrs PM requesting me to do so, I would step in and whisk S away to join our group, rescuing her like a knight in unfashionable armour.

We are travelling to a time when this happened.

Picture the scene; Mrs PM and I and a group of people all having fun in a night club in Manchester city centre, called South.

It was not really my kind of place, like most night clubs if the truth is known. The music was pretty dire, as it was in 99% of the clubs, and it was so loud that in order to have a conversation, you had to scream into the ear of the person with whom you were talking.

I often wondered why I was partially deaf with a sore throat on the morning after these events.

To be honest, I wasn’t comfortable in night clubs even at that age. I don’t really know when the cut-off point happened, but suddenly I stopped seeing the point of these places. Maybe I just grew up. The problem was, I had a girlfriend who was eight years younger and loved dancing, so I was a somewhat reluctant visitor to these establishments. I tended just to use the opportunity to people watch and chuckle at the antics of the youngsters.

On this particular occasion, there were around ten of us, mostly women, it has to be said. S, was on the dance floor, when a predatory male appeared and started talking to her. I watched with interest, as did Mrs PM and her friends. Mrs PM started laughing at S, and I took that as a cue that perhaps S needed to be rescued.

So I acted. I walked onto the dance floor and tapped S on the shoulder, and beckoned her to join us. She hesitated and then followed me. I was glad to have helped.

If you are a regular reader, then you will know that I am clueless when it comes to women. In particular, I have no idea when a woman genuinely likes me as potential boyfriend material or whether she hates me. In my youth, I have been utterly convinced that women have been in love with me when in reality they just liked me as a friend. And I have had my heart ripped out as a result. Equally, I have been unable to spot when a woman genuinely wants more than just friendship.

And I have never been able to read women well enough to know their feelings for other men.

You can probably guess what is coming.

When S went back to the dance floor a little later, the same predatory male appeared immediately and started talking to S. As I watched, he started touching her shoulder and talking in her ear.

Like a dumb knight I marched back onto the dance floor and was about to intervene when a hand settled on my shoulder.

“What are you doing?” It was Mrs PM.

“Rescuing S,” I said.

“I don’t think she wants to be rescued,” she said.

I looked across at S and the guy and something had clicked. S liked him.

Now then, let’s move back into the time machine and head forwards a month or so.

It was S’s 30th birthday and she was having a big meal to celebrate. Mrs PM is a really close friend of S so we both ended up on her table. I found myself sitting next to Mrs PM on one side and a guy I didn’t know on the other side.

“Hi,” I said turning to the guy. “I’m Dave.”

“Hi,” he replied in a thick Australian accent. “I’m R,”

“You’re an Aussie,” I remarked.

“No shit,” he replied with a grin. I laughed. I liked him.

He was a fairly big guy, well bigger than me anyway and we started chatting.

Mrs PM on the other side of me, butted into our conversation.

“Don’t you recognise R, Dave?”

“No,” I said.

“This is R. He’s S’s new boyfriend. They’ve been going out together for about a month now. They met in South. Remember?”

I looked at him and a second or two later, I recognised him as the predatory male who had been pursuing S.

“Oh yes,” I said. “You were talking to S on the dance floor. I didn’t recognise you.”

He smiled.

And then Mrs PM dropped me right in it.

“Did you know that Dave tried to split you two up? He tried to rescue S because you were chasing her.”

I had a mouthful of beer when she uttered those words and I sprayed beer over the table in shock. I turned to R and tried to explain.

“Well er I, I, er, I er, I, …” I stammered,  thinking that this man was about to punch me in the teeth.

R just laughed and clapped me on the back.

“Not a very good rescuer, then, are you mate?” he said with a grin.

I turned to Mrs PM, feigning anger and said.

“Look, if you want to finish with me, just tell me. Don’t get this poor man to beat me to death.”

We all laughed at that, but the truth was, I was mortified. Of course, when S came to the table we all laughed about it again, my face growing a deeper shade of red as every joke passed.

Let’s pop back to the present day, now, dear reader.

So, what of S and R, I hear you ask.

S and R are now happily married with twins and living in London. Whenever we see each other, Mrs PM still insists on reminding all of us about my failed attempt to split them up. These days, I simply shake my head in embarrassment as it turns crimson, and apologise profusely to R, who simply smiles and says “No worries,”

It has become a standing joke.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down my memory lane.

And as you can see, I was more of a match-breaker than a match-maker. R and S are happily married despite my initial attempts to thwart their relationship.

What have I learned?

I need to have words with Mrs PM about how not to drop me right in the brown and smell stuff.

I really need to get to grips with human behaviour and body language.

Perhaps then I will no longer be a Stupid Cupid.

Tuesday 12 June 2012


Once more I have been tagged to complete a meme, this time by Kath at Blurb From The Burbs.

I have to answer 11 questions and then tag a further 11 people with 11 questions from my weird imagination

Well, being an anarchist, I will answer the questions but I don’t plan to tag anybody else (sorry Kath – I hope you don’t mind! I’m too lazy for stuff like that).

As usual, Kath’s questions are entertaining, and I hope I do them justice.

1. When and why did you start blogging?

I started blogging on Friday 21st March 2008 after agonising for a year or two about whether to bother. I have always liked popping my thoughts down and I had been doing so, on and off, for about ten years previously. It was only when a colleague of mine started a blog when he moved to South Korea on an extended business trip that I thought: well if he can do – so can I. I chatted about it with Mrs PM who urged me to go for it. And the result is this blog which has been trundling along in the blogosphere for just over four years now.

And the truth is, I wish I had started it sooner.

2. What is your middle name and why did your parents select it?

My middle name is George and it was a compromise. My great grandad, my grandad and my dad were all called George William and my dad wanted to prolong the agony by inflicting those dreadful names on me. I apologise to anybody who may be called George or William or have a loved one with thise names, but I hate them both. Thankfully so did my mum who, in no uncertain terms, told my dad “NO!!!”. Both liked David but my dad had to have the last word – so my mum agreed.

They should have asked me; I would never have chosen George. Thor would have been better.

3. Toilet paper folder or scruncher? Provide your reasons

Today, at work, in preparation for this, I asked the guys who share my desk whether they were folders or scrunchers and it has now gone down in folklore as arguably the worst question I have dared to ask fellow men.

Actually – that’s a lie; I wouldn’t dare ask a question like that to my work colleagues. Nevertheless, because I have been asked I shall answer – I think I am a scruncher but when in a public cubicle with somebody in the next cubicle I become a folder; folding is more subtle and makes less noise – and we all know that every human being on the planet hates other people to hear their noises on the toilet. And those that claim not to mind are liars.

4. What do you do at home when everyone else is out?

Usually I try to write a blog post or think about what I can write in a blog post. It also depends whether there is football on TV – if there is, I know that I can sit down and watch it without having to explain, once again, to Mrs PM why football is important. With Euro 2012 on at the moment, you can imagine that the tenth time of explaining why I want to watch Holland play Germany can get a little tedious.

5. You've been given five hundred bucks (two hundred and fifty quid, say) to spend on nothing useful and just yourself. What do you do with the cash?

It would either be £250 worth of CDs and books or a totally useless gadget – like an iPad or other similar tablet.

6. It's finally come true. One of your 'five celebrities you're allowed to sleep with' has walked into your kitchen and is up for it. Who is it?

Well this is a difficult question and with all of the gorgeous women out there the choice is extremely tricky. My current favourite is the Dutch rock singer, Sharon den Adel, so I will choose her.

She can serenade me with “Lost”, a beautiful song from the brilliant album, “The Unforgiving”.

7. Name one famous person (so that all our readers know who it is) that you think 'has their shit together'. Explain why.

I would suggest that Dave Grohl has his shit together. Dubbed the nicest man in rock, at the moment he can do no wrong. I love the Foo Fighters and long may continue “holding his shit together.”

8. What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

I am a bit of an optimist, if I discount work. But even then, I assume I’m going to get through the day and feel great at the end of it. At the moment it feels good to be alive, so what possible reason could there be for staying in bed?

Actually, thinking a little deeper about the question, Mrs PM or my alarm clock are the real culprits for getting me out of my pit.

9. Who would you like to smack in the face, publicly disprove all of their stupid opinions and freeze their bank accounts?

Easy – Simon Cowell. This man has done more to destroy music than any person I can think of. He is responsible for some of the worst TV, songs and “pop stars” in recent memory and he and his antics are killing music. He has a stupid haircut and wears stupid trousers and deserves to be locked in a cell for three months listening to Death Metal played at deafening volume.

10. Low slung jeans on boys - how do we eradicate this disease?

(a) Fill a water pistol with brown paint and spray their underpants in a strategic place.

(b) Scream “PULL YER PHARKIN’ TROUSERS UP!!” at high volume in front of all their mates.

(c) Pull their trousers down.

(d) Create a photo blog called “Fashion Dickheads” and fill it full of photos of these numpties.

11. Tell us about an invention for the home that we desperately need.

We need a machine for processing all cycles of changing dirty clothes into clean clothes. On Saturday morning, pop your dirty clothes in the machine and then sit back and wait until they are popped out the other end, clean, dried and ironed. The deluxe model will somehow pop them into the wardrobes and drawers too.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Introducing Tonto

I recently introduced you to Captain Chaos, a nemesis of mine who, along with Captain Paranoia, strives to make my life as chaotic as possible.

You can read about him here.

Well there is a third nemesis who helps to complete this unholy trinity; his name is Tonto.

The truth is that Tonto was not part of my life until 1998; that was the year that Mrs PM and I started our relationship.

Is that a coincidence?

No – because Mrs PM and Tonto are a partnership that cannot be broken. Wherever she goes, Tonto goes. She is possessed by Tonto.

And since he came into my life, he has started to haunt me too.

So who is Tonto?

Tonto is the entity that annihilates Mrs PM’s sense of direction. And he is starting to do it to me as well. Tonto is the creature who switches off Mrs PM’s brain turning her into the world’s greatest scatterbrain.

After a few months together I began to notice things. Things like Mrs PM’s sense of direction being virtually non-existent; things like Mrs PM’s forgetful nature; things like Mrs PM’s outstanding ability to excel in the scatterbrain department.

I have met many scatterbrains before, but Mrs PM is an excellent specimen.

Here is another example of a friend of mine who is also a scatterbrain.

Tonto is a constant source of frustration for Mrs PM.  I came up with the name, Tonto, as a joke, because the Lone Ranger’s faithful sidekick was meant to be an expert in tracking fugitives – the last person on Earth you would expect to get lost or forget anything. I talk about him as if he is a real person; it would be either that or accuse Mrs PM of being a massive scatterbrain. Personifying Mrs PM’s lack of sense of direction and her forgetful nature as an imaginary nemesis is quite an amusing way to think about it.

Here is a recent example of Tonto’s work in action.

Just before the jubilee holiday, Mrs PM brought her work laptop home because she was on call. Most of us had a four day break but Mrs PM had to work on the final day of the holiday. I didn’t, so I was looking forward to enjoying a lie in. She managed to leave the house without disturbing me too much and set off for her 23 mile journey to work.

Around half an hour later, while I was enjoying a lovely snooze, the phone rang. Bleary-eyed, I answered the phone. It was Mrs PM.

“I’ve done it again!” she said.

“Done what?” I replied.

“I’ve left my laptop at home. Can you bring it for me, to save me driving all the way back there?”

So much for my lie in, I thought. Tonto had struck again. The worst part of this is that it is not the first time it has happened. On other occasions, she has had to make a 46 mile round trip to retrieve her laptop. At least now, she could avoid that.

Tonto must have been chuckling away at another triumph but he saw another opportunity to strike. I had only ever been to Mrs PM’s place of work once, so I was unsure of the exact directions.

“Bloody hell! “ I moaned. “Alright – I’ll bring it in. Can you give me directions?”

“Bingo!” said Tonto.

And this is another area of his expertise – destroying Mrs PM’s sense of direction. To be honest, Mrs PM was frustrated at her own failure, so she was a little flustered. She barked a set of instructions to me and I wrote them down.

Now this is where Tonto had his moment; instead of following my instincts and looking up the directions using Google Maps – or even using the navigator on my phone to get a set of clear and concise directions to her place of work, I left the house and set off with just a few hastily written directions.

I was tired and Tonto had exploited that.

Suffice it to say, the instructions were not quite correct. Mrs PM had mentioned a couple of roundabouts, with the instruction “go straight on to the NEXT roundabout”. What she didn’t tell me was that in order to get to the next roundabout, I had to turn left; I carried straight on.

And I got lost.

I have to say, dear reader, that my language in the car, when I realised that I was lost, was the deepest shade of blue I had ever experienced. I was using expletives that I didn’t know existed.

When Tonto strikes, it infuriates me. I am enraged by my own stupidity for not double checking directions, for listening to and trusting Mrs PM when she has packed something, rather than just checking for myself.

Lost in deepest darkest Cheshire, I had to turn around and retrace my route until I worked out where I had gone astray. How I managed to find her place of work I will never know – it was trial and error all the way until I spotted the roundabout when I tried the left turn I had missed.

By the time I pulled up outside her office I was apoplectic. I picked up my phone and dialled Mrs PM.

“Where are you?” she said.

I’M OUTSIDE!” I yelled. I then launched into a massive rant about forgetting laptops, a lost chance to have a lie in, bad directions and getting lost. My soapbox was buckling under the strain.  Anybody who was watching me as I rocked back and forth in the car must have thought that I looked like a caged animal.

… AND ANOTHER THING …” I yelled before stopping abruptly mid-rant.

“Wait a minute,” I continued. “Are you LAUGHING?”

“No,” lied Mrs PM audibly chuckling.

“You ARE laughing,” I yelled. “Come down and get your BLOODY LAPTOP!”

A few minutes later, Mrs PM was at the car and I handed over the laptop with a look of fury on my face. Mrs PM didn’t dare speak; if she had she would have collapsed in a fit of laughter.

“Thanks,” was all she could say. “Tonto sends his regards.”

I didn't say a word - just allowed steam to come out of my ears.

I drove back home, gradually calming down. By the time I arrived back in Manchester, I was smiling to myself and cursing Tonto.

There are other examples of Tonto’s mischief and I will tell you about them in subsequent posts.

Suffice it to say that Tonto is a thorn in our side, particularly as we like to travel to places we don’t know.

And when Captain Paranoia, Captain Chaos and Tonto combine, the effects can be terrifying – but funny.

Over to you, dear reader.

Do you have your own manifestation of Tonto? Are you a scatterbrain who forgets things and gets lost?

I swear that I could claim that I didn’t have Tonto in my life until I met Mrs PM. And now he stalks me relentlessly.

Or perhaps I too and getting forgetful in my old age.

Monday 4 June 2012

The Queen (Elizabeth To Her Mates)

I have nothing against the Queen.

I prefer to think of her as a celebrity called Elizabeth Windsor, who happens to have inherited a lot of wealth and whose job it is to draw tourists into the country and place the United Kingdom into the limelight worldwide.

And that works for me.

My own personality type is such that I have a big problem with anybody who claims to be my better. I am certain there are really talented people out there in the big wide world who are better than me in some ways – I accept that. But these people are not worthy of me bowing to them or addressing them in such a way that makes me subservient to them.

And that goes for the Queen.

Don’t get me wrong; I would gladly go to Buckingham Palace and spend the afternoon sitting down with her and other members of the royal family, chatting about life, the universe and everything over afternoon tea.

I would not bow to her, though and I would want not refer to her as “ma’am”, “Your Royal Highness” or any other such terms.

I would call her “Elizabeth”. After all – that is her name is it not?

Elizabeth is Queen because she happened to be the daughter of King George VI, a man who himself was son of a previous King. And so it has been for centuries. She’s done nothing special – not really.

She is not better than me. She is just a person. I do not regard her as my ruler.

She is just a fellow Brit.

I have found the Diamond Jubilee celebrations a bit of a paradox; I like the idea that we should highlight the United Kingdom and show off to the world and all of the patriotism that goes with it, seeing people waving the Union Jack and celebrating everything that is British.

On the other hand, the focus of those celebrations is Elizabeth. The reason we are celebrating is because she has ruled for 60 years; we have been subservient to this woman for 60 years.

Elizabeth has been Queen all of my life. I have seen her face on stamps, coins and bank notes ever since I can remember. Hardly a day has gone by in my entire life when she hasn’t been in the newspapers, on television or brought to my attention in some other way.

It’s almost like she is a member of MY family.

Of course in real terms, she is a figurehead, these days. She has no real power, other than ceremonial and traditional. It’s not like, say, Tudor times, when a tyrant like Henry VIII ruled with a rod of iron.

Imagine living in England during the reign of Henry VIII? If he were to read any blog posts criticising the monarchy from the likes of a plebeian like me, I would find a number of royal soldiers on the doorstep of my hovel whose sole purpose would be to butcher me in the most painful way possible for being arrogant enough to dare to challenge the King’s right to rule me.

Thank goodness I live in the 21st century.

I can now tell everyone my feelings without fear of reprisal.

I have watched bits of the jubilee celebrations with mixed feelings. It’s great to see people celebrating Britain but I cringe with all the sycophancy that accompanies it. All news stations are biased, perhaps understandably so, and actually don’t tell the full story.

For example, with the camera on the Queen’s face, the commentator said something like:

“I’ve never seen the Queen looking happier; she is thoroughly enjoying this.” 

What I saw was the Queen looking quite stern, clearly not smiling – in fact she was grimacing at the rain that was threatening to ruin the spectacle of the flotilla of boats on the Thames.

And then the interviews with royalist spectators;

“Oh she’s WONDERFUL! I LOVE her; she’s done a magnificent job for 60 years. Long may she reign over us.”

And that sums up the problem for me. The Queen is the original “celebrity” for me, a person who shows up at various functions, cuts ribbons, makes the odd speech, smiles and waves, tells us all about what she thinks at Christmas and has her face on our currency.

I recently visited the Tower of London and saw the Crown Jewels and was kind of shocked at the opulence. Elizabeth is so wealthy, so utterly rich that it is almost obscene. She has done nothing to earn that wealth other than be born into it.

People like to remark about how the royal family do so much for charity but they could sell one of the crowns and then use the money to feed the starving in Africa – or even help the needy in their own country.

When I see people fawning over royalty, I see the same undeserving adulation as people who claim to love people like Katie Price and Kerry Katona.

As I said, I don’t hate the Queen at all; she was born into the role she has and she is obliged by the system to sit comfortably within that role until she dies or decides that she’s had enough, when it will all be handed over to her son Prince Charles.

What I am not comfortable with is the actual role itself and the concept of the monarchy in general. Maybe it is the anarchist within me; maybe it is the rebel who wants all men to be equal.

Power corrupts and people who have such power generally abuse it in some way. History is full of examples of this and my own country has an absolutely horrific history. Imagine Henry VIII on the throne now.

I’m not saying that the Queen would ever consider being such a tyrant. But I am willing to bet that in a conversation between us, she would not be even vaguely interested in my life – simply because she would regard me as such an insignificant person.

I, on the other hand, would be very interested in her life. I would love to spend a couple of hours listening to her true thoughts on the monarchy, the lives of ordinary people in Britain and so on.

You may think that this is not a worthy post for such a celebration of Britain but I don’t care really. As far as I am concerned, Elizabeth has fulfilled her role very well and will undoubtedly smash the record set by Queen Victoria to become the longest reigning monarch in UK history. In that respect she will have had to have endured the role and all it entails for longer than any of her ancestors.

And she probably deserves some recognition for that.

Well done Elizabeth.

Friday 1 June 2012

The Health and Safety Comedy Show

I wasted just over an hour of my life at work today.

It was called Health and Safety training. And I think, in order to pass it with a mark of 80%, all I needed was the IQ of a cat; and before you say it – yes, I know I can be stupid but even I am not that dumb.

The web-based course consisted of watching a few videos and then taking a quiz. I would have passed even if I hadn’t watched the videos – the questions were so simple.

In fact, as I watched it at my desk, with my earphones, I found myself chuckling. In order to illustrate how to be safe and healthy at work, they showed situations with people who had removed their brains and consequently stumbled about the place, driven by their own idiocy.

For example, in one scene, somebody had spilled a small amount of liquid at the top of a staircase. The video showed four people, whose combined IQ must have been less than that of a slug, sliding all over the place in full view of each other.

Idiot number one slipped over as idiot number two approached. As idiot one lay on the floor, idiot two gawped at idiot one and then slipped in the same place and fell down the stairs. At the same time, idiot three was coming up the stairs and when he reached the top having seen the other two idiots slip and fall, he too slipped spectacularly.

I had to answer questions like this:

It is OK to leave you laptop in your car with the window open while you pop into a shop. True or False?

It is OK to climb onto a chair with wheels at the top of a staircase in order to change a light bulb. True or False?

For a laugh, I have decided to publish my own ten point plan for morons as a primer for tests similar to the one I had to take. If you are so stupid that people wonder how you manage to dress yourself in the morning, this is for you.

(1) When making yourself a cup of coffee, do not under any circumstances plunge your hand into boiling water as this may cause pain and severe burning and may stop you carrying on with your work.

(2) Whenever you need to go to the toilet, do not wait at your desk until it is too late. You will wet yourself. Always go to the toilet when you know that you can get there without an accident. Such action minimises the prospect of people slipping in the trail of urine that you leave as you run in a state of panic to the toilet.

(3) Do not throw yourself down the stairs. First of all there may be somebody else coming up and as well as injuring yourself you may injure that person too.

(4) If you work on the first floor or above, do not leave the office by leaping out of the window. Even though this may seem to be the quickest way to exit the building, you will almost certainly injure yourself and anybody who is unfortunate enough to be walking beneath.

(5) If you see a fire, do not stand there pointing at it or attempt to warm up your lunch in the flames. You must leave the building – preferably not by hurling yourself down the stairs or out of the windows, as described above.

(6) Under no circumstances should you pour water into electrical equipment to clean it.

(7) However tempting it may be, do not hit your manager with a blunt instrument.

(8) Do not use your laptop while driving. You may crash the car.

(9) If there is a fire, do not stop to make a coffee because it may be cold outside.

(10) Hitting your colleagues over the head with a laptop will injure them. It may also damage expensive company equipment.

You may chuckle at that list but the training I received assumed that I had no common sense whatsoever.

The whole world has gone mad when it comes to Health and Safety. Here is an example from work; I’ve mentioned this before but this time I thought that photographic evidence was required to show normal people how absurd Health and Safety can be.

This notice is on the mirror in the gents toilet at work.

It’s a good job they told me – my IQ usually plummets when I’m in the toilet and I wouldn’t want to spread germs.

Actually, I had to be very careful taking that photo. Walking into the gents with a camera, no matter how innocent the reason, could have been taken the wrong way.

I hope nobody saw me.