Thursday 31 December 2015

A Musical 2015

After last year, I didn’t think that 2015 would improve in terms of musical discoveries and new material but the truth is that it has been an awesome year.

There have been discoveries, rediscoveries and lots of new recordings. I spent a lot of money on music this year and could have spent a lot more.


Arena are a British progressive rock band and, thanks to a free CD on a classic rock magazine, I had two songs by the band in my collection. At the start of the year, I decided to check the band out a little more thoroughly. I now have three albums by the band: The Visitor, Immortal and Contagion and I have to say that they are all excellent albums, particularly Contagion which has a superb driving rock song called Witch Hunt, the highlight of three brilliant albums:

Way back in the early 1980’s Gary Numan was one of the most popular pop stars of the time, and has influenced a lot of fellow artists over the years including Nine Inch Nails, one of my favourite bands. In 2015 it came to my attention that he was still active when I caught an interview with him. I discovered that he had released an album in 2013 so I searched for it and had a listen. I was amazed. The album, Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) is a triumph, dark, brooding and expresses the feelings of a mind in the deep throes of depression. Here is a brilliant song from the album called Love Hurt Bleed:


Thanks to a chance search on Google, I found a collaboration between one of my favourite artists, Steven Wilson and a Polish artist I had never heard of called Mariusz Duda, who is the lead singer and bassist of a Polish progressive rock band called Riverside, who are absolutely magnificent.

I now have their first three albums, Out of Myself, Second Life Syndrome and Rapid Eye Movement all of which form a concept trio called the Reality Dream Trilogy. This band are and will be massive in my collection and I am amazed they are not more widely known in progressive rock circles. Here is a beautiful song called Conceiving You from the best of the three albums, Second Life Syndrome:

Old Favourites with New Material

A lot of old favourites have released new material this year and here are the cream of the crop. First, Joe Satriani, my favourite guitarist, is back with a cracking new album called Shockwave Supernova. Here is a great driving rock song from the album called On Peregrine Wings:

Old favourites Whitesnake also released a new album this year. Rather than writing new material, David Coverdale, the lead singer, went back to his days with Deep Purple and recorded cover versions from his time with the band in an album called The Purple Album. To be honest, I am pleasantly surprised at the result; he has brought them into the 21st century and they are superb. Here is their version of my favourite Deep Purple song with Coverdale at the helm:

Muse also returned with a great new concept album called Drones. The thing I like about Muse albums is that there is always one absolutely driving classic rock song on each album that I can use to drive Mrs PM up the wall with. Drones is no exception and that song is particularly annoying because it contains a lot of swearing. Here is the song, called Psychoreader discretion is required:

Psycho was very nearly my song of 2015 – but two pipped it to the post.

The band I discovered last year, Nightwish, released a brand new album this year called Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and it is a symphonic metal masterpiece. The band has a new female lead singer called Floor Jansen who has an absolutely amazing voice, able to reach operatic levels and deep growling heavy metal snarls. The last track of the album, The Greatest Show on Earth is a magnificent 24 minute symphonic metal epic, complete with orchestra that would fit snugly into a classical music connoisseur’s collection. If you fancy something new, look it up on YouTube – you won’t be disappointed if you like classical music with a hint of majesty and a generous helping of heavy metal. My second favourite new song of 2015 is called Yours Is An Empty Hope – a down to earth heavy metal opus backed magnificently by orchestral arrangements. Get your air guitars and violins out:

What can top that, I hear you cry. Sadly, for Nightwish, Steven Wilson also released a new album in 2015 called Hand. Cannot. Erase. This guy is a genius and I was lucky enough to see him live earlier this year, performing the album in its entirety. The album tells the deeply sad story, based on fact, of a young woman who was found dead in her flat and despite being popular, nobody missed her for three years.

The album is a triumph and, as the concept suggests, deeply sorrowful and thought-provoking. Perhaps the most poignant song on the entire album is a song about a woman who uses her daily household routine to keep her sane after suffering a real tragedy in her life. When this song was performed live, the beautiful animation you are about to see was played on a screen at the back of the stage and I am sure that there were a few years shed at the end of it. The song is called Routine and is a beautiful, yet deeply tragic song. Prepare to have your heart strings well and truly tugged:

I’m really looking forward to 2016 as it promises to be even better. New albums are due from Steven Wilson and Dream Theater and I have already discovered a new artist that will almost certainly feature heavily on my playlist when I next visit a music shop.

Here’s to a musical 2016 and I wish every single reader a wonderfully Happy New Year.

Monday 28 December 2015

Goodbye 2015

Don’t the years just fly by? It seems like only yesterday that I was waving goodbye to 2014, and now here I am showing 2015 the door as it heads off into the sunset of the past.

I’m starting to feel old.

Anyway, tradition dictates that I simply must summarise the past year with a meme that I stole some time ago.

This could be a long one – so here goes – dive in with me:

1.What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

I travelled to South America for the very first time, visiting a country that is absolutely huge – Brazil, As part of that trip, I also spent six hours in Argentina too.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

2015 was a very good year for achieving some of the things I have procrastinated about for the past few years.

Firstly, I took it upon myself to take up a few 30 day challenges and I completed every single one of them. Here are some of the highlights:

(a) Improve my photography (completed January).There is still a long way to go but I have learned lot of technical stuff.

(b) Creative writing (completed March). All I did was read a book about the subject. I just need to put it into practice.

(c) Learn basic Italian (completed April). I did this because we visited Bologna in May. I learned a few choice phrases and some basic vocabulary, which I have since forgotten.

(d) Japan travelogue (completed August). The travelogue is still incomplete but at least I put a massive dent into this unwritten travel diary for our visit to Japan a couple of years ago. Another 30 day challenge may just complete it.

(e) NaNoWriMo (completed November). I actually wrote over 50,000 words of a novel that I have had in my head for the past couple of years for National Novel Writing Month. And I won. The problem is that the novel will end up being about 80,000 words and is, in its current form, full of major plot holes and is in fact rubbish. However, I hope to have completed it by the end of January, to set about rewriting huge swathes of it later next year. This particular challenge is the best of them all.

I also actually cycled to work one day this year. Can you believe that??? No – neither can I!!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A couple of guys at work became fathers but they didn’t actually give birth themselves.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?

I visited friends in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in April.

The Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi
In May, I went for a weekend away to Bologna in Italy with a group of friends.

View of Bologna from the roof of our hotel
In June, we visited Prague in the Czech Republic to celebrate Mrs PM’s mum’s 70th birthday.

A busy square in Prague

Also in June, I visited Beijing in China for a week with work, where I gave a training course.

Finally, in October, I visited Brazil for the first time and also popped across to Argentina for the day.

A famous statue in Rio de Janeiro
6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

I won several major battles in my war with procrastination this year so I would like a bit more willpower to gain the upper hand.

I think it’s achievable.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 22nd sticks in my memory because my beloved football team, Walsall, reached Wembley for the very first time in the Johnson Paint Trophy Final. I travelled to London with Mrs PM and my eldest lad and the atmosphere was fantastic.

The score at this point was 0-0 - so I was happy (briefly).
Sadly, we lost the game 2-0  – but at least I was there.

My eldest lad graduated from university on 10th July.

Like father like son?
Meeting old friends in a night of drunken debauchery in Liverpool on November 14th.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Without a doubt, writing at least 50,000 words of a novel.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Finding just enough willpower to cycle to work more often (i.e. more than once!)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing whatsoever apart from the odd cold. In fact, I've just recovered from two particularly nasty ones that waited until I had finished work for Christmas before unleashing themselves onto my poor old body!

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I didn’t buy any gadgets this year. I would probably say that the holiday to Brazil was worth every penny.

 12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

As usual, I award Plastic Mancunian Knighthoods to those heroes who dedicate their lives to helping others without wanting the plaudits that many more famous people crave.

I salute you all - you know who you are.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

There are too many to mention. But I will.

Kanye West, as usual for declaring himself the biggest rock star on the planet at Glastonbury and then performing like an old has-been (who was never any good anyway).

Katie Hopkins for still being in the news and on TV despite the fact that she is attention-seeking little Miss Nasty.

Sepp Blatter for doing his best to destroy FIFA and football in general and then acting as if he has done nothing wrong. Finally (hopefully) his ban from having anything to do with football will remain. The sad thing is that he still thinks he is innocent.

Donald Trump for starting out as an outrageous clown and then proving that he is a bigoted idiot, I honestly worry about the possibility of this nutcase gaining any form of power.

There is also so much evil in the world but I don’t want to go into that. Nor the hypocritical politicians who continue to use and abuse us all.

 14. Where did most of your money go?

Mrs PM’s had to buy a replacement car after it suddenly died and, as mentioned above, the holiday to Brazil, as well as kids and mortgage.

 15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My first trip to South America and Brazil; it didn’t disappoint.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?

I will discuss this in more depth in a later post in due course. However, this is probably the song that weill remind me of 2015. Steven Wilson is a genius in my view, and his music is sublime and magnificent. Every song on his latest album Hand. Cannot. Erase. is perfect. However, the title track is probably the most accessible and, for once, more of a pop masterpiece than a progressive rock masterpiece.

Judge for yourself:

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

Happier, slightly fatter and perhaps a little richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish I had cycled more. Having dusted down my bike, removed the cobwebs and actually rode the thing to work, I put it back to gather dust again. Whoever thought that having national cycle to work day in September, just as the weather is descending into dark wintry horror, needs to be sacked. If the day had been in the middle of April, I would have taken it up – honestly.

And yes, I will try to cycle in April 2016.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

I wish I had gone to work less. Sadly, I have to work to live and sadly that is something I can do nothing about.

20. How will you spend New Year's Eve?

Exactly the same as last year.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?

I am already in love – so yes.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

Of all the hours I spent watching TV this year, I reckon that my favourite was – and still is – Dr Who. Yes, I am a sad geek.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Hate is too strong a word but all of the people I disliked last year are still disliked this year.

24. What was the best book you read?

I quite enjoyed Hunter by James Byron Huggins, not a brilliant book by any means but an enjoyable romp.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I will reveal all in a later post.

26. What did you want and get?

I wanted a kick up the arse to force me to write a chunk of a novel. Somebody or something gave me that kick.

27. What did you want and not get?

The power and means to quit my day job.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

Avengers: Age of Ultron but honourable mentions must go to SPECTRE and Terminator Genisys.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I am now 53 years old. I spent my birthday exploring Salvador in Brazil.

30. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Sorry to mention it again, but actually attempting to write a novel.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?

I reduced the length of my sideburns last month. Does that count? Also, I have been lazy for a couple of weeks and I now have a bit of a beard. Sadly, it is irritating and I can't see it lasting until 2016. Bizarrely, Mrs PM approves of it (apparently because beards are fashionable at the moment).

32. What kept you sane?

Mrs PM – apart from when she played her music.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

There are a lot of attractive female celebrities but nearly all of them are too young for an old git like me.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Lunatic extremists and the ongoing hypocritical antics of the current party in power in the United Kingdom.

35. Who did you miss?

Nobody leaps to mind.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Again, nobody leaps to mind.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.

Coca Cola is a disgusting sugar-filled sickly drink that doesn’t even taste nice – but it is a great hangover cure.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

It's a thousand pages, give or take a few
I'll be writing more in a week or two
I can make it longer if you like the style
I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer
Paperback writer

Those are the ideal lyrics but the truth is more like my own version:

It’s a thousand pages if I finish it
And if the truth be known, it’s a pile of shit
But I’ve had a go and I’m proud of it
Even though I know that I’ll never be a paperback writer
Paperback Writer

Saturday 5 December 2015

Top Ten Christmas Songs

Christmas is approaching and radio DJ’s will push aside their terrible playlists in favour of the same old Christmas songs that we hear at this time every year. Supermarkets and shopping malls will turn up the volume loud and play the same songs. Every pub will crank up the volume of their jukebox and play endless streams of Christmas dirges.

And worst of all, I will have to endure these songs at every Christmas party I go to, starting tonight.

I may sound like Scrooge in his deepest humbug moment but the truth is that most Christmas songs are dreadful.

However, I am not Scrooge really and there are a few of these seasonal ditties that I actually like. So here, for the benefit of readers who love their Christmas songs, are my top ten seasonal offerings.

10. The Pretenders – 2000 Miles

A Christmas song doesn’t have to be a happy clappy affair and that’s the main reason I like this song. It combines the seasonal feel with a hint of melancholy. Also, I like Chrissie Hynde’s voice.

9. Jonah Lewie – Stop the Cavalry

Continuing the theme of melancholy, Jonah Lewie’s song didn’t go down well in Walsall in 1980 with a guy I knew who was in the army. The line “Wish I was at home for Christmas” brought it home to his fellow soldiers who were away for Christmas. That said, I’ve added this to the list because it was played in every pub I went into in December 1980. I had just turned 18 and this was the first time I had the taste of true party atmospheres in the run up to Christmas. It holds a special place in my heart for that reason.

8. Queen – Thank God It’s Christmas

I’ve always loved Queen and when they finally released a Christmas song, I knew it would be a bit special, with the elements that make their songs memorable with a hint of the theatrical that the band loved to inject into their songs. Again, there is a hint of melancholy in the tune. I like that.

7. Elton John – Step Into Christmas

Now it’s time for a happier song with no hint of melancholy whatsoever, from the time when Elton was actually good, in the 1970’s, just to prove to you, dear reader, that I don’t just like songs with a dark and sad undertone. This song is a lot of fun.

6. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bell’s End)

Talking of fun, let’s take a little bit of cheesiness, add a little naughtiness and a good dose of rock and the result is this daft little song from The Darkness, complete with schoolboy choir, electric guitar and a little innuendo. This is my kind of Christmas song.

5. John Lennon – Happy Xmas (War is Over)

I always get goosebumps when I hear this song, particularly at a time when there is trouble in the world. The message is absolutely clear and sums up exactly what Christmas should be about, people coming together with joy and happiness and not, for once, trying to blow each other to bits.

4. Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas

Apparently this song was written as a protest to what Christmas has become over the years and was not really intended to celebrate Christmas but to point out how marketing has over-commercialised it. I don’t care; this is an epic progressive rock masterpiece and exactly what I would have expected from my favourite musical genre.

3. Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

Let’s get serious now. Way back in the early 1970’s, when I was a kid who really looked forward to Christmas every year, one of my favourite bands at the time were Roy Wood’s Wizzard. Their music had a distinct 1970’s feel that I still feel nostalgic for.

This song whisks me back in time to December 1973, when I was an innocent 11 year old.

 In my last post I described the inner youth within me and how I loved to unleash him on the world. This song, releases the child in me, stirring that excitement about waiting to tear the Christmas paper off all of my presents and tuck into a beautiful Christmas dinner. Another song has a similar effect …

2. Slade – Merry Christmas Everyone

There is no song that epitomises what Christmas meant to me as child, more than this wonderful song that was released at the same time as the previous one from Wizzard. Noddy Holder, the lead singer of the band, is from my home town of Walsall so it has a special significance for me. And what Christmas would be complete without Noddy screaming:


Actually, I suggested some alternative lyrics to the song a few years ago. You can read them here.

1. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York

A Christmas song with swear words? Whatever next? When I first heard this song many years ago I thought it was a work of genius and I still think so to this day. I love songs that stir a little emotion, particularly at this time of year, and this one does just that, stripping down the cheese factor to a bare minimum to produce my favourite Christmas song of all time.

And Finally …

I hope you like my choices, dear reader. I will almost certainly post again before Christmas but if I don’t get chance to, I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas. If I do get chance to, then you will be lucky enough to get a second “Merry Christmas” in due course.

Lucky you.

Now over to you.

What are your favourite Christmas songs – and why?

Thursday 3 December 2015

The Meaning of Life - Time After Time

You will be pleased to know that this is the last post in the current series mirroring Karl Pilkington’s “The Moaning of Life”.

I think that this post needs a soundtrack – so here’s a good song to listen to while reading it.

Three weeks ago, I had a university reunion in Liverpool, the first one for twelve years and this included a man I hadn’t seen since leaving university in 1984, over thirty years ago.

Initially it was a surreal experience, seeing a bunch of blokes that I had been so close to. When I first met these guys I was 19 years old and, being young men, we were all desperate to make our mark on the world with a cocktail of alcohol, stupidity and a general sense of indestructibility that meant we were willing to do anything.

Of course, by the end of university we had matured slightly and were more prepared for life.

The problem is that when we all got together between 1981 and 1984, we did all of the stupid things that young men do.

Fast forward to a cold and rainy lunchtime November in 2015 at Lime Street Railway station in Liverpool.

I arrived first on a local train from Manchester and clutching a steaming coffee, I awaited the intercity train from London. Two of the guys got off the train and I recognised them immediately, a little greyer and a little chubbier but still the same guys I knew so well. I’ll call them Sam and Colin (to protect the guilty!).

We were expecting two more later, one from Birmingham and one from Liverpool  - this was the guy I hadn’t seen for over thirty years. I’ll call them Oscar and Andy (again to protect the guilty!).

Sam, Colin and I decided to be tourists and explore the city. I have been back to Liverpool often; after all it is only about 35 miles from Manchester. Sam married a Scouser (person from Liverpool) and he came back fairly regularly to visit family.

Colin had not been back to Liverpool since he left in 1984.

Oscar turned up an hour later. He had lost his hair completely apart from some grey bits at the sides. We didn't mention it.

The four of us spent the afternoon visiting the Tate museum, to avoid the heavy rain before having an afternoon snack in a coffee shop where we chatting about what we had all been up to, including, jobs, family, kids etc. over cups of coffee and tea. It was all very sophisticated.

We checked into our hotel and, as I was unpacking and freshening up for a mice meal, I was struck by one thing. Thirty years ago we were like rampant animals making fools of ourselves and acting as if we were indestructible.

Now, the four of us were talking about careers and kids, visiting museums and being totally sensible.

I felt a little sad; it was almost like being out with their dads.

Shortly afterwards, Andy rang and we arranged to meet him in a city centre pub that we had frequented as students.

It was still there and hadn't disappeared like a lot of the pubs from that time.

Andy turned up and he too hadn’t changed. It was really strange chatting to a guy I hadn’t seen for so long.

I looked at my watch as I supped that first beer. The time was six o’clock.

And this was the point that the sensibility disappeared.

“One more?” 

“Yeah – one more!”

Before I knew it, the alcohol had woken something up inside of all of us. We were sensible enough to find a restaurant but that’s about it. The rest of the evening descended into party time as five middle aged men wandered around the city centre, refuelling on beer, and becoming more and more boisterous. As more alcohol was imbibed, the years were stripped away and we became five young men again.  The dads were gone and my mates from the early 1980's were back.

I loved every second of it.

Tales of old were told and we guffawed like teenagers as we recalled the scrapes we got into all those years ago. Oscar's lack of hair was the main topic of raucous conversation for about twenty minutes. Don't worry - he gave as good as he got.

Thankfully, our ageing bodies protested enough to keep us in check – or at least I thought they had. We had wobbled out of the famous Cavern Club, where the Beatles used to entertain the Liverpool crowds, and into an Irish bar and somehow found a table where we could sit down. Before long, a barman came over and told us that the pub was closing. I checked my watch.

“It’s three in morning!” I yelled, although I think the words came out as “Ish three clocksh!”

We staggered back to the hotel and again I was saved by my body urging me to quaff as much water as my stomach could take before going to bed.

The next morning, we met for a late breakfast and, all a little fragile, made a pact to do exactly the same next year.

The whole episode made me think about time.

Although our bodies age around us, the deep inner core of our being remains. As we get older, our outlook on life changes but deep down inside all of us, the young person who wanted to unleash himself on the world, with a seemingly unlimited amount of energy, who existed all those years ago is still there.

The fire of my youth is definitely still  present under the sensible old git that I have become – and I’m delighted about that.

I can find him and I intend to take him out every so often for a breath of fresh air (though perhaps next time I will avoid using alcohol as the transport mechanism).

We can’t win the war against time – but we can win the odd battle - and have massive fun with our small victories.

How about you, dear reader?

Is there a young version of you hiding inside you?

Can you find him or her?

If so, how do you do it?

Sunday 29 November 2015

The Meaning of Life - What a Waste!

If Mrs PM had her way, she would clear our house of a lot of my stuff. To her, I am a hoarder and my stuff is surplus to requirements and therefore needless mess that should either be sold or thrown away.

We’ve discussed this and the bottom line is that it simply is not going to happen.

However, the difference between our philosophies on the subject of household clutter has got me thinking. Over the years, we all buy and collect lots of things, some of which we hang on to for years – in some cases most of our lives.

Take music for example.

I have a large collection of CDs but I also have quite a few old vinyl records. The problem is that I don’t have a record player and I don’t intend to actually get one either. My records are really my own family heirlooms.

I still have the very first single that I bought with my own cash, earned from my very first job as a newspaper delivery boy, purchased at the age of 13 years old. That single will never get played again, unless I sell it to a record collector.

When I see it, I see a piece of my own childhood. I am reminded of a spotty bespectacled blonde kid running all the way home from Walsall town centre back home full of enthusiasm and excitement. Nowadays, I buy CDs online and I feel that same buzz of excitement when I get home and find the parcel on the floor.

Every record and every CD is like a milestone in my life and I simply cannot part with them – just yet anyway.

It’s the same story with books, although sadly Mrs PM has had her way with those. I now only keep reference books. I’ve allowed Mrs PM to purge my paperbacks because they don’t really mean that much to me. Besides, I have a Kindle and can keep them all electronically.

Earlier this year, my mum moved from her house to a flat, mainly because she is getting a little frail and a big house is too much for her. Consequently my sisters and I had to have a big clear out for her.

It was amazing. She’s now 76 years old and she is definitely a hoarder – or should I say was a hoarder. As she’s got older I think she has started to care less about all the trinkets and keepsakes that have cluttered up her house.

My sisters wanted to be ruthless but I was the voice of reason and tried my best to check with mum what she wanted to do with things. I was surprised when she said “I don’t want that now. I’m surprised I still have it.”

She kept the things most dear to her and the rest was discarded. She now lives in a small clutter free flat and I swear there is a spark in her eye that has been reignited.

When I looked in my old room, I found lots of battered old books dating from the 1930’s and 1940’s that my grandad passed onto her. I remember devouring them as a kid and it was really weird reading them again. In fact, as a child, I had defaced a couple of them, scribbling in the corners. There were worthless and falling apart, yet a part of me wanted to bring them home to Manchester and put them in the loft.

Mrs PM would never have allowed that.

I also found a few old things of my own, including school books from my sixth form and notes my university course. I made an exception with those and chose to bring them home, where they now reside in a cupboard in the back room.

I may never use them again (they are so out of date) but they did spark great memories of that time back in the early 1980’s. In fact, when I look at the maths notes, it’s almost like they are written in a different language. There are pages and pages of handwritten formulae, theorems and their proofs, equations, derivations and graphs and I wonder now how I managed to get my brain to understand them.

I must have been very clever in my youth as an undergraduate. I’m certain that if I spent some time revisiting them I might well make sense out of them again. I have no plans to do that at the moment; it just reminds me of what a bright kid I was.

Mrs PM, on the other hand, is as intelligent if not more so than I am – but she disagrees with my need to keep my notes. To her they are rubbish and she has discarded hers and sold all of her university books with absolutely no remorse at all.

She’s happy with her choice but I think it’s sad.

One day I may think differently and change my mind, just like my mum has.

For now, I will bask in my stuff and enjoy it – even those embarrassing CDs I bought in the 1980s, containing songs like this:

I don’t care what you think – I love it.

How about you dear reader?

How many keepsakes do you have buried in yourjunk drawer or in your loft?

Are you a hoarder who can’t bear to part with things?

What worthless trinkets do you have that reignite your nostalgia?

Saturday 21 November 2015

The Meaning of Life - Body Shock!

Are you happy with your body, dear reader?

As far as I am concerned, the answer is yes – and  no.

In my lifetime, I’ve spent hours looking at myself in the mirror and thinking to myself:

“I must have really annoyed God”

Other times I’ve stared at my reflection and thought:

“Not bad, Dave.”

I hasten to add that on these occasions I was almost certainly drunk.

One of my least favourite parts of my body is my hair, something that I have moaned about in many a blog post. I often wonder why I have been fighting a running war with the hair on my head and body ever since the day that first tuft sprouted out of the top of my head.

The hair on my head is a parasitic entity whose sole purpose is to make me look like a complete and utter goon. It is unmanageable, bushy and sculpts itself into shapes that I cannot comprehend, even when it is short.

The hair on my face is strategically placed to cause maximum embarrassment should I ever choose to grow a beard of moustache. My ears are full of hair and so is my nose.

My hair is like a virus, spreading to parts of my body that should not contain hair.

I won’t describe the rest of my hair (in the interests of good taste). Suffice it to say that if I allowed my hair to grow unchecked, it would end up like this bloke:

My eyes are useless. I am as blind as a bat and have been since birth. As a child when I looked at myself in the mirror, I used to scare myself. All I saw was the blurred image of the abominable snowman.

Okay, there are some good bits of my body. I’ve never really been fat (despite describing myself as such on this blog) but I could be thinner.

My bum is, apparently, quite attractive to the opposite sex. Mrs PM (and others) have told me on occasion. I don’t understand why and how women can find that attractive at all.

Also, I have young features – which is probably the best part of all. It means I have been able to act like a young idiot despite being an old git.

Would I change anything?

Yes, I think I would. I would definitely change my hair and my eyes. I’d probably make myself a little taller, too.

I’m Mr Average when it comes to height but to be a few inches taller would be a bonus, particularly at crowded rock concerts. The tallest man in the entire audience usually manages to stand right in front of me and I have to drop hints like pouring beer down his back (not really – bit the temptation is sometimes overwhelming). In fact, when I rule the world I will make sure that all the tall people stand right at the back of the concert hall and the shortest people at the front. Anyone who blocks the view will be made to face away from the stage for the entire duration of the gig to see how they like it.

I would like to be fitter, though. I used to be very athletic, regularly playing football, swimming and going to the gym. I never really wanted to have the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger – I think some of these meatheads with their blown up bodies look absolutely ridiculous.

These days I try to go for a power walk at least five times a week but I don’t do anything more than that.

I did actually cycle to work once this year, on National Cycling Day. The problem was the while I enjoyed it, the fools chose September, just as summer had finished and the days were getting colder and darker. If they had chosen a day in April or May I would have possibly tried cycling again, knowing that weather would improve and the days would get longer. I may even have cycled all summer.

I will aim to push myself for a 30 day cycling challenge in April next year – hopefully.

One thing is for sure, dear reader. I would never ever EVER volunteer to have plastic surgery to make myself look better. My hypochondria is a good thing under these circumstances because, ultimately I would fear the surgeon making a complete mess of my body AND catching an horrendous disease as a result of the surgery.

I am absolutely amazed that some attractive people have chosen to try to improve themselves and either turned themselves into fish or this:

What was Michael Jackson thinking?

In the end he looked like an alien attempt to clone his younger self.

I felt sorry for him in the end. Why on Earth didn’t anybody tell him? I’m sure I would have advised against all of the surgery he put himself through.

I may be imperfect but if I tried to improve myself I’d probably end up looking like this:

No thanks!!!

Over to you dear reader. 

Are you happy with your body?

What parts, if any, would you change?

Have you ever considered plastic surgery or do you think it’s a crazy idea?

Thursday 12 November 2015

The Meaning of Life - How To Live Your Life

Every day there is somebody telling me how to live my life, mostly in a subtle manner but on some occasions, the message is blatant.

To those people, I say this.

“Leave me alone! It’s my life not yours.”

Of course, I don’t have total control. To start with, I am governed by the laws of the land. For example, I can’t break into a rich man’s house and steal all of his money. I can’t strip off all of my clothes, paint myself purple and prance in the centre of Manchester screaming “Look at my dongle!”

In both cases, I would be arrested immediately.

I hasten to add I have no desire whatsoever to do either of those things.

Other forms of control are more subtle but nonetheless still exist.

For example, in order to be able to do the things I like to do, I have to conform to society’s expectations. I need money therefore I need to work. When I work, I have to conform to the terms and conditions of my employer otherwise I run the risk of being sacked.

Work is the bane of my life and I would gladly free myself of the shackles if I could.

The day I win the lottery is the day my freedom begins. Failing that, I have to wait another fourteen years before I can retire. I can’t wait. I just hope that by that age I’m not a doddery old codger who can barely walk without gasping for breath.

That’s why I want to get a lot of stuff done now - while I still can. And I don’t want anybody to tell me what to do or how to do it.

I’m amazed by adrenaline junkies who actually want to risk their lives to get a buzz. I would never try to tell them what to do and what not to do but such dangerous pursuits are not for me.

Anything involving falling from a great height, whether tied to a bungee rope, a parachute wrapped in a rucksack or metal frame with a lot of plastic sheeting is far too risky for me to try. I would be so scared that I probably would probably croak due to heart failure before the adrenaline kicked in.

I just don’t get it. Life experiences are fantastic and I applaud them. But if there is even the slightest chance that I would end up on the ground as an unrecognisable red splat then it’s not for me.

I’ve always had goals of sorts, but what surprises me most is that most of them didn’t materialise until I was older. If, for example, I had decided that I needed to write a book at the age of 18 I would have actually done so by now, changing my plans and studying English or journalism instead of messing around with computers. I might even have even written a few books.

Instead, I find myself writing a blog, which I started at the age of 45 and only now, eight years later, am I actually attempting to write a novel as part of NaNoWriMo (my latest 30 day challenge).

If I had been bitten by the travel bug at the age of 18, I would have seen a lot more of the world than I have.

If I had learned to play a piano or guitar at the age of 18, I could have been a member of a rock band by now, travelling, writing and enjoying the fruits of my creative juices.

My life would probably be so different. That said, I wouldn’t go back and change anything because I would never have had two great kids and met Mrs PM.

Still, it’s never too late to live my dreams. I’m happy enough and I can still realise some ambitions – just as long as they don’t involve heights, danger and pain.

And as long as nobody tries to tell me which goals to choose, I will remain happy.

Equally, I would never tell anybody else what to do either.

The truth is, I still want every day to be the perfect day and my feelings are summed up by this rock song from Skin, a great British rock band, who had some success in the mid 1990’s:

Over to you, dear reader.

Are you an adrenaline junky or have you ever been one?

Are you happy with the way you live your life?

Have you any regrets?

What are your ambitions?

What is your Perfect Day?

Saturday 7 November 2015

The Meaning of Life - Who Am I?

I know myself completely and there is no human being on the planet that is exactly the same as I am.
At the time of writing, the population of Earth is 7,379,260,713 but this is changing every second. People are being born and dying every single second. The population is increasing because the number of births is over twice as big as the number of deaths.
You can monitor the numbers for yourself by visiting this page.   
I am still overawed by the fact that I am completely different from the other 7,379,260,712 human beings with whom I share this world.
 Isn’t that amazing?
Statistically speaking, there must be somebody out there who is the same age as I am, looks like me and acts like me with the same philosophy on life, the same skills and the same logical mind. The curious part of me would like to meet that person but, to be honest, I think it would scare me a little bit. 
I kind of like the idea that I am unique. 
Nevertheless, sometimes I ask myself who I really am. 
I can answer the easy questions, such as my name, age, nationality, description and even some of the more difficult questions about where I have been, what I have achieved, what I still want to achieve. I can also talk a lot of nonsense about my own philosophies and opinions on a variety of subjects, both banal and controversial. 
Does that tell people who I am? Well, I guess it does partially.
Mrs PM knows me more than anybody else on planet Earth and if asked, I’m sure that she would claim to know me inside and out. 
But she’s wrong and I think she knows that.
For example, she reads this blog and quite often expresses amazement at the things I write. On my post about mosquitos, she wrote a comment on the blog saying:
“I had no idea all of this was going through your mind!”
I think she reads the blog to learn more about the person she lives with. 
Equally, I know a lot about Mrs PM but I would never claim to know everything about her. 
Every person , no matter how much in love they are or how open they are with other people, keep part of themselves hidden to protect them. Imagine for a second how terrible it would be if you were in the same room as a person who could read your mind completely.
It would be absolutely unbearable.
That’s one reason I would love to able to read people’s minds, particularly those I know. My curiosity would know no bounds. What are people really thinking? Are they telling the truth or brilliantly concealing their true thoughts and intentions?
Actually, thinking about it, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a good idea to delve into the inner mind of your friends. You may discover something you don’t like about their thoughts. Perhaps it’s best to maintain an air of mystery.
You may feel that you have an insight into who I am, dear reader, thanks to the tripe that I continue to write on this blog. You certainly know that I am a 53 year old man called Dave who works in IT, lives in Manchester, likes rock music and is keen on travel. I may have revealed other things about myself inadvertently but that was almost certainly more by accident than design.
I masquerade as a guy who calls himself Plastic Mancunian, a cyber-identity that initially I wanted to use to remain anonymous, until a couple of work colleagues spent the time searching for it. In fact, they used their knowledge of me to actually find the blog because even though I wanted to create a different persona on the blog, I couldn’t help revealing who I was, albeit with a little subtlety. 
No matter how much I tried to remain anonymous, I was betrayed because I allowed the Plastic Mancunian to become a caricature of Dave, the ranting old git, allowing my true self to be revealed in the rambling posts.
That was a shame. I really wanted to remain anonymous so that I could allow the anarchist within me to surface and take on a persona of its own.
The colleague who finally exposed me apologised but I’ve forgiven him because ultimately I’m proud of my own little corner of cyberspace. 
I said earlier that there are people in the world who look like us. Having done a little research, apparently there are seven such people in the world and they are known as twin strangers
There is actually a website you can use to find your twin strangers and some of the examples they have are amazing. 
I am contemplating having a go myself. There must be a Plastic Mancunian Doppelganger out there.
In the meantime, here are a couple of my celebrity lookalikes (according to friends, colleagues and cheeky buggers). 

A Plastic Mancunian called Dave

Keith  "Cheggars" Chegwin

Jerry Springer

Charlie and Craig Reid (aka The Proclaimers)
Garth Algar
Joe 90
Benjamin Button

Do you think I look like these guys?
As Mrs PM says, I do have two clones in the world – my sons are the spitting image of me – poor buggers!

The Clone Show (presented by Mrs PM)
How about you, dear reader.

Do you consider yourself to be unique?

Would you like to meet a person who thinks exactly the same as you?

Who are your lookalikes (celebrity or otherwise).

Saturday 31 October 2015

The Meaning of Life - Paint It Black

In 2013, I watched a funny programme starring Karl Pilkington called The Moaning of Life, where he travelled the world seeking inspiration for the meaning of life in key areas, such as happiness, kids and death.

Karl Pilkington is a straight talking funny man whose perception of life in general is rather weird, so weird in fact that he is genuinely funny. The show inspired me to write about the meaning of life from my own perspective mirroring the subjects tackled by Karl.

This is the man at is weirdest best - simply trying to promote the book accompanying the first series:

See what I mean? He can't even talk about his book without flying off at weird tangents.

Anyway, now he’s back with a second series where he continues to give us his view of life with new subjects. Again I have decided to join in and offer my views on the same subject.

The first post discusses something that I have mentioned before (and ranted about):


Regular readers may consider me to be an unsophisticated barbarian when it comes to the arts, mainly because I have written a few posts about my views on contemporary art, the people who produce this art and the people who claim to understand and appreciate it.

These people are wrong.

It’s true that I am a stubborn old git but my opinions on art are just my own. While I may mock the pieces of crap that hang on the walls of museums of contemporary art, I genuinely have praise for paintings and sculptures that, in my opinion, say something to the world.

For example, I love paintings of real things,, such as landscapes, oceans, storms and sunsets, particularly if these images have been captured in the past. I find that they give me an insight into life back then and I can imagine the painter sitting in the English countryside, using his skill to capture a specific moment in time for future generations to enjoy.

Here’s an example or two by J.M.W.Turner:

Joseph Mallord William Turner ‘Crossing the Brook’, exhibited 1815

These are fantastic paintings.
I feel rather sorry for J.M.W. Turner to be honest because, sadly, his name has been used (or should I say abused) in modern times. His name has been given to an annual contemporary art competition that genuinely makes me wonder about the sanity and intelligence of certain elements of my nation. 
The Turner Prize is awarded to a so-called visionary young artist (under the age of 50 – so its ageist as well) for their new works of art.
However, the art is utter nonsense. In fact, it’s worse than that – it’s absolutely shit!
The Turner Prize shows everything that is wrong with art. These days, it has been captured and held captive by the pseudo-intellectual brigade, who refuse to accept genuine art because, in their words:

“It’s been done before!”

I could vomit in a bucket, throw the contents onto a canvas, empty the contents of a filthy cat litter tray on top of that, spread it around with a garden rake, throw in a few packets of cat food for good measure, leave it to dry and then hang it up on a wall with the title “Cat Chores Gone Wrong” and I am sure that some pillock out there in the world of contemporary art would start gushing over it, claiming it to be:

“The most exciting cosmic, trans-species interactive amalgamation in the myriad multiverses”.

I might just do that, actually!
But of course, art is really any form and while I may mock a pseudo-intellectual, I am certain that he has his reasons for spouting pseudo-philosophical crap about a vomit stain hanging on a wall.
I find beauty in many other art forms, such as music, video and the wonders of Mother Nature. To be perfectly honest, I prefer photography to painting, simply because when a camera captures an image, it is real. In the minute moment that a camera clicks, a picture of a moment is preserved, whether it is a moment of beauty or tragedy. 
For me, like a Turner landscape, we have captured a moment in time that can be preserved for our future generations to enjoy, contemplate or simply fantasize about. 
I would love a person from two hundred years in the future to see a photograph that I had taken and just spend a few moments trying to imagine what was going on at the time. 
Another art form that is close to my heart is music. Music is personal and, like a photograph, can have a special meaning for a person. I still maintain that a catalogue of personal music can act as a unique time machine for a person. Whenever I hear certain songs, my mind searches my memory banks for a specific moment, selects it and brings into my thoughts so that I can relive what is probably a cherished memory, either of a specific instance or a special month or year.
In that respect, music gives meaning to life and the good thing about music is that, like a fantastic statue, a beautiful photograph or an oil painting of an ancient landscape, we can think about our lives, past lives, history and the future all at the same time.
I’m not sure that a vomit stain hanging in the Tate Gallery would have such a profound effect.
I’ll leave you with two songs from my vast collection that are very special to me for reasons that I may elaborate on in future posts:

How about you, dear reader. 

Are you a fan of art?

What art do you enjoy?

Do you think that a lot of contemporary art is rubbish?

What does "art" mean to you?

Tuesday 27 October 2015

The Most Dangerous Creature In The World

When people are asked to think about dangerous animal, they normally consider big vicious animals with huge teeth or massively poisonous snakes or spiders.

The truth is that the most dangerous animal in the world is in fact a tiny barely perceptible little vampiric bastard that is responsible for more illness and death than any other creature.

This little monster is responsible for transmitting disease to over 700 million people every year, resulting in over 2 million deaths.

Can you believe that?

This demonic blood-sucking little fiend is the mosquito and has terrorised me for the last month or so, as well as several times in in my recent lifetime.

Regular readers will know that I am a barely recovering hypochondriac and I have recently fallen off the wagon and spent hours fretting over potential illness. My trip to Brazil meant that I had to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever, a disease spread by these damned insects, and that in itself caused me major mental problems, convincing myself that I would catch the disease before my feet left the shores of Britain (you can read about it here) .

In the past, going to places like China, I have had to take malaria tablets to protect myself against another disease spread by mosquitos. Worse, the bloody tablets made me feel ill anyway with the list of possible side-effects being almost as terrifying as catching the disease itself.

I travelled to Brazil armed with enough mosquito repellent to thwart a vast swarm of the little buggers. If you haven’t used mosquito repellent, let me tell you that it is one of the most revolting substances ever stored in an aerosol can.

First, I had to smother myself in high factor sun screen to protect my delicate skin from the powerful rays of the sun. On top of that, I then had to spray all of my exposed skin with mosquito repellent. 

There are three other things you need to know about mosquito repellent.

First of all, it absolutely stinks. If you want to go out at night time and wear something that makes you smell nice, forget it. My paranoia informed me that the people would probably keel over as I walked past due to the stench of this foul liquid protecting me against blood-sucking mosquitos.

Second, mosquito repellent is nasty stuff. The warnings on the can tell you not to spray it near your lips and eyes because it will cause a lot of irritation. I speak from experience. One night, I was a little overenthusiastic and some of the foul substance hit me in the face. I could feel it on my lips. I was in the bathroom, swearing and cursing as I vigorously removed all traces with copious amounts of water.

Finally, this stuff ruins your clothes. Again, in another bout of overenthusiastic squirting, I managed to spray loads of it all over my shorts, leaving a nasty little stain that made people think I had had an accident on the way to the toilet. I also managed to spray some onto my black leather watch strap, resulting in a black stain on my skin that I had to scrub for hours to remove.

After a week and a half in Brazil, of covering ourselves in this crap, we were delighted to report that no insect had bitten us.

However, something happened that caused the hypochondriac within to surface with maximum prejudice.

There is a disease called Dengue Fever which is prevalent in the tropics, including South America. Brazil has had many problems with it over the past few years. It is spread by a variety of mosquito called aegis aegypti

Worse, this disease is incurable.

We arrived in Búzios at the end of our holiday for a relaxing couple of days by the sea and quickly fell into the routine of lazing in the sun. Sadly, we were so free of stress that we forgot to spray ourselves with mosquito repellent.

The result? We woke up on the first morning with a few bite marks on our legs.

Mrs PM thought nothing of it.

I, on the other hand, mutated into The Hypochondriac, and instead of calmly reading a book by the pool, I spent hours searching the internet on my phone looking for symptoms of Dengue Fever trying to calculate whether the little bastards  that had bitten us where in fact mosquitos or some other nasty little blood-sucking critters.

Within hours I had become an expert on Dengue Fever – and I didn’t like what I read. The chances of catching it were slim (only 250,000 cases out of 180 million people in Brazil), and even if we had been bitten by a mosquito, the chances of it being an aegis aegypti were even smaller.

What's more, the aegis aegypti would have to be infected with Dengue Fever anyway as the disease is spread when the mosquito bites a person infected with the disease. Furthermore, it was spring in Brazil and peak mosquito time is in the summer (December to March).

At university I studied statistics as part of my degree and all of my common sense was telling me that the bites were totally harmless and the chances of catching something nasty were very slim. Logic was thrown out of the window by The Hypochondriac.

The thing is that Dengue Fever is like a really nasty bout of the flu, with added

For the rest of our stay in Brazil, we saturated ourselves in mosquito repellent (I virtually SHOWERED in the stuff) and we weren’t bitten again.

Mrs PM took it all in her stride and enjoyed her time without worry.

I tried to but I struggled to silence the voice at the back of my mind trying to convince me that I was doomed to Dengue Fever.

Thankfully, the bites have disappeared and the incubation period over so I will not succumb to Dengue Fever.

However, my fear of mosquitos is now instilled and I know that in order to eliminate that fear, I have to soak myself in an obnoxious liquid, allow a nurse to stab me with a needle full of an unspeakably vile substance or take tablets that I know will make me ill.

All this because of a tiny buzzing, six-legged little horror that the eye can barely perceive – the most dangerous creature in the world.

I want to go on record right now to reiterate the fact that mosquitos, like wasps, are right up there in the list of creatures that I would eliminate from planet Earth if I were given omnipotent powers.

And, like wasps, I will endeavour to eliminate them one at a time, whenever the opportunity arises.

At least then I will never accidentally spray mosquito repellent in my face again.