Friday 27 February 2015

Foo Fighters - The Meme

Self –indulgence is good and makes me feel happy. As the dark days of January and February are almost behind me, and we are edging ever closer to spring, combined with a very exciting March, I have decided that I will dedicate a post a month to a musical meme based on my favourite artists.

I know that you may cringe, dear reader, if you think my musical taste leaves a lot to be desired but hopefully you will carry on reading and expose yourself to a new slice of musical pie.

I’ve decided to journey through my music considering artists who have made an impact on my life, and whose albums fill my upstairs cupboard.

You may even learn a little bit about what makes me tick (or what makes me weird!).

This month’s band are the Foo Fighters.

1. How long have you been a fan?

I have been a fan since the beginning. The band rose from the ashes of Nirvana and, initially, I didn’t connect the two. 

A mate persuaded me to see Nirvana in Manchester and, since I had a couple of their albums I thought it might be a good gig. 

Sadly, Kurt Cobain committed suicide, which was an absolute tragedy, particularly at such a young age. 

Nirvana had achieved a musical paradigm shift and the pressure of fame finally got to him. I was really sad when I heard the news. 

Foo Fighters appeared a year later and I had no idea that the lead singer, Dave Grohl, was the drummer of Nirvana until I read it in a rock magazine. 

2. Do you remember the first song of theirs you heard?

The first song I heard was their one of their first singles, I’ll Stick Around and I loved it. I watched the video and thought to myself, that guy looks familiar but I couldn’t recall where I had seen him before. 

Nevertheless, I loved the song. It was similar to Nirvana in some ways but different enough to be a little more appealing to my taste. I bought their eponymous first album on the strength of that song alone. It is only when I looked into the band members that it clicked who Dave Grohl actually was – and I was delighted that he was not just a drummer; he could sing and play a decent guitar too.

3. What’s your favourite album(s)?

My favourite albums is Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace simply because it has some of my favourite songs by the band. It coincides with the first time I saw the band live and that was a special moment.

4. What’s your favourite song(s)?

Top five songs are:

At 5: Something From Nothing from Sonic Highways (2014):

I love songs that build up from a mild beginning to an extremely loud, fast sonic masterpiece. The first single from the band’s latest album does just that, reaching a fabulous crescendo just before it finishes.

At 4: Still from In Your Honour (2005):

This is a beautifully mellow song that is totally unlike any other track by the band. The acoustic guitar and haunting keyboard are simply mesmerising and Dave Grohl’s vocals are fantastic. This is a truly wonderful song that will appeal to many people. It has a lofty position in the chillout playlist on my iPod.

At 3: But Honestly from Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace (2007):

This is another song that slowly builds up from a beautiful acoustic start to a more traditional rock song. When I saw the band for the first time at the Manchester Arena, they seemed so far away on the main stage. However, they had constructed a smaller stage a lot closer to us and used it about half way through the show to perform a couple of acoustic numbers. This song was one of them and for me it was a highlight.

At 2: The Pretender from Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace (2007):

I absolutely love this song. The chorus is a complete earworm and I have embarrassed myself many times bellowing in the car while waiting at traffic lights. It’s one of those songs that are all encompassing and makes me forget where I am, particularly when the challenging:

I’m what’s left, I’m what’s right – I’m the enemy.
I’m the hand that’ll take you down and bring you to your knees.
So who are you?
Yeah – who are you?
Yeah – who are you?

That appeals to the anarchist in me.

At 1: All My Life from One by One (2002):

This is the song that has embarrassed me most in the car, causing me to be stared at and laughed at as I pull a face and scream:

And I’m On To The Next One

If you need an injection of pure rock – look no further than this song.

5. Have you ever seen them live? (How often?)

Yes – three times.

Dave Grohl is a great frontman and holds the audience in the palm of his hand for the entire show.

After the second time I saw them, I decided that sitting down was safer than standing up.

I watched them at Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester and I was so far away from the stage that I suggested to my mate perhaps we could get closer. He agreed – but it was a mistake.

The band started playing and a mosh pit erupted around me, quite literally lifting me off my feet and propelling me forward. I turned around in desperation and as I was carried towards the stage I looked around and saw my mate, who is about six inches taller than me, waving at me as the distance between us increased. It took me three songs to fight my way back to him. The other two times I have watched them from the safety of a seat and enjoyed the music rather than doing an impromptu tour of the audience.

6. Have you ever met them?

No – but Dave Grohl is one of the few musicians I would love to meet. He is one of my rock heroes.

7. Do you have a favourite era of their career?

No. The band continue to move from strength to strength.

8. Is there a song or album of theirs you dislike?

All of their albums are fine pieces of work but there are a couple of songs that I am not too keen on.

9. What do they or their music mean to you?

Foo Fighters are a band that appeals to a wide range of people of all ages and they keep me in touch with the youth. My eldest son loves the band and he is going to see them later this year. I have decided against it, based on cost but believe me I was sorely tempted.

10. Do you get annoyed when other people don’t like them?

Not at all. Foo Fighters are one of the most popular bands on the planet and even Mrs PM likes the odd song.

11. Which artist do you want them to collaborate with?

Dave Grohl has already collaborated with a couple of my favourite artists. The most notable is Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, another hero of mine.

Here is a song featuring Dave Grohl (drums and vocals), Josh Homme (guitar and vocals) and Trent Reznor (keyboards and vocals):

12. Are they underappreciated/unknown?

Absolutely not. They are massively appreciated.

13. Is there a song of them that everybody likes but you dislike?

Not really. Most of the songs they have released as singles have universal appeal.

14. Do people think you are too obsessed with the artist?

No. While Foo Fighters are one of my favourite bands, there are many more that I share my obsession with.

15. Do you preorder their new albums without having heard any music from it?

Yes – sadly I do. The good news is that when I hear about a new Foo Fighters album, I have usually heard the lead single from it – so I know what to expect. They haven’t let me down yet.

And Finally ...

Thanks again for allowing me to indulge myself.

I would apologise - but, hey, I enjoyed delving into my Foo Fighters collection so I don't care.

Sunday 22 February 2015

The Anarchist

I have a flaw.

Actually, I have many flaws but there is one in particular that sometimes annoys me but most of the time makes me feel truly alive and gives me a buzz unlike any other.

I am a bit of an anarchist.

The targets of my anarchist streak are those who have been granted a tiny bit of power and have tried to abuse it in order to control me.

A good way to illustrate this is the saga of “Dave versus the Night Club Bouncer”. Thankfully, I rarely visit such establishments these days but in the past I have many encounters with certain meatheads who have been given a little power and feel it necessary to abuse innocent people like me.

Okay , I’ve not always been innocent but at the start of the encounter I have usually been in a happy frame of mind and therefore tolerant of their power trip. It almost as if the fake tuxedo has turned them into an unreasonable henchman, whose ego has been inflated by a tiny bit of authority that they simply do not possess in their normal lives.

I can tolerate bouncers who are friendly and are genuinely there to stop trouble. What I hate and detest are those who, for some reason, do not like the look of me or cannot take any sarcastic banter from me when they question my suitability to enter their establishment.

A bouncer would, of course, beat the shit out of me if my behaviour were worthy of being forcibly removed from the premises; I have never let it get that far. My purpose has always been to point out to anybody in the vicinity (usually other punters waiting to get into the night club) how stupid the rules are and how the bouncer is in fact on a power trip, having been granted a miniscule amount of authority.

That’s really what my anarchist streak is fighting against – people who have been granted a small amount of power and abuse it in order to control me when they have no right to do so.

One bouncer, for example, once told me that I was overdressed.

Can you believe that?

How can you be overdressed for a shitty little night club?

This meatheaded moron was standing outside a nightclub dressed in a tuxedo and refused to allow me in because I was wearing a shirt and trousers instead of a T-shirt and jeans.

“Look, mate,” I said in a reasonable fashion. “I’ve just met my mates for a pint and on the spur of the moment we thought we’d pop to this club because we heard it was great. Come on – look at me? Do I look as if I’m going to cause trouble? I’ll just sit at the bar and chat with my friends.”

“You’re overdressed!” was his curt reply.

“Really? And why are you wearing a tuxedo? Aren’t you overdressed?”

“It’s not about me; I let in normal people. You are not normal; you are overdressed.”

“I tell you what – it’s the first time I’ve been refused entry because I’m overdressed. You’ve just let in three women wearing fantastic dresses and shoes but you won’t let me in because I have a shirt and trousers?”

“You’re overdressed.”

“And you, my friend, are an idiot. Look at me. I’m a scrawny bespectacled spotty little kid who is more likely to run away from a fight than start one. What possible harm could I cause sitting in a dark corner with my mates?”

“You’re overdressed.”

Once the meathead realised that other people in the queue were laughing at him, his reaction changed. The look on his face evolved from one of  blind stupidity to an air of aggressive thuggery as he slowly realised that his power was being threatened by a clever little anarchistic geek wearing glasses.

The only way he could reinforce his power was to use violence. That way he could control the rest of the queue out of fear.

Fortunately for me, he was a moron and the synapses of his acorn brain were slow to realise this, giving me and my mates ample time to make ourselves scarce before he turned into a raging meathead.

It’s not just bouncers that rile me.

One encounter I had was with local councillor in a car park. I had gone on a shopping trip and parked my car in a “Pay and Display” car park. The idea is that you park your car and pay for a ticket in advance. I guessed that my shopping trip would last three hours so I purchased a ticket for that length of time.

I overestimated the time. I managed to buy what I needed in just under an hour.

I arrived back at my car just as another guy was parking next to me. I was in a generous mood and as the guy was about to buy his ticket, I said:

“Hi mate. Listen, I’ve still got two hours left on this ticket. You can have it for nothing. It will save you wasting your money.”

Unfortunately, I was overhead by a rather posh and pompous arse who marched over and intervened.

“Excuse me,” he bellowed at me in a voice reminiscent of a teacher I hated at school. “Do you realise that I am a councillor for this town? You cannot give away a ticket like that. “

He turned to the guy to whom I had offered the ticket. “You need to buy your OWN ticket.”

He turned back to me with a look of authority that soured my mood. I had been happy and now the anarchist inside rose up like a demon.

I was livid.

“Er – excuse me,” I said in a voice that I hadn’t heard since being an obnoxious little teenager. “I wasn’t talking to you.”

I turned back to the other guy. “Do you still want the ticket? It’s free.”

“DID YOU HEAR WHAT I SAID?” bellowed the pompous arse.

“Yes,” I replied. “Talk to somebody who gives a toss.”

The other guy considered his position and was slightly intimidated by this jumped up little Hitler.

“It’s okay; I’ll get a new ticket," he said with a smile.

“Thank you,” said the councillor, enjoying his victory.

I was enraged. I launched into a tirade about overpriced car parks and pocket dictators, questioning his authority and his opinion about his inflated authority.

“The whole point of having rules is to follow them,” he replied in a condescending voice. “If everybody flouts the rules then there will be total anarchy.”

“In this case, the rules are created by greedy idiots,” I said. “Being a councillor doesn’t give you the right to tell me what to do or try to quash my generosity. You have ruined the day for two people. “

I shook the ticket at him.

“Oh – and by the way, it doesn’t say “not transferrable”. So you're wrong. And rest assured that if this situation arises again I will GLADLY give my ticket away to whoever I bloody well want to."

I asked for his name but he refused to give it to me.

I left the car park with mixed emotions. I was angry that my good deed for the day had been ruined by a pompous idiot on a power trip, but I was delighted with myself for standing up to his dubious authority.

Although this councillor was undoubtedly a more intelligent man than your average meathead, he was the same at a basic primeval level, i.e. he had been given a little power and was trying to use it to control me.

In my opinion we should all allow the anarchist within us to breathe a little fresh air. I want everybody to join me and stand up to these petty minded fools who use the tiny bit of power they have been granted to enforce their will on the general public.

Say no to councillors.

Tell bouncers they are idiots.

Go into the “10 items or less” queue with 12 items.

Sneak sweets into cinemas who stipulate “only food bought in the cinema can be consumed”.

There is more to follow on this touchy subject but in the meantime I simply want to ask:

Who’s with me?

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Food Fascists

(Take a deep breath Dave …)

If I had made a New Year’s resolution to give up being a grumpy old git who ranted for England, then I would have failed miserably.

I strive for happiness, dear reader, I truly do, but fate and the petty minded idiocy of people turns on the red mist machine and I find myself trapped in an incredulous rant.

I say again – maybe it is the cold winter months in Britain that aggravate the situation – but I’m not so sure.

“What has pushed your buttons this time?” I hear you cry.

The answer is; an email at work.

I won’t reproduce the email but the gist of it is:

It has been suggested that we get some vending machines but there are some people who think it will encourage unhealthy eating. So instead of getting them, we are going to put it to the vote. Please reply with “Yes” if you want a vending machine or “No” if you don’t.

Where do I begin with why this pissed me off so much?

First of all, let me just say that as far as vending machines are concerned, I can take them or leave them. I usually take enough food with me to work to get me through the day; usually a couple of sandwiches, a couple of apples, a banana, some cherry tomatoes and perhaps a couple of plums, nectarines or peaches.

Also, it is a tradition at work that when you celebrate a birthday, you bring in some treats for your co-workers, usually in the form of chocolates, cakes or whatever takes your fancy.

So why I am I so bloody annoyed about this email?

I'll tell you why. It's because there are a few people in my company who think that they can control those others who want a vending machine because of the stupid belief that a vending machine will encourage you to eat crisps, sweets, chocolates etc. and ultimately become a bloated monster unable to crowbar your blubbery body through the door.

What right have these people got to dictate what other people eat?

Why the flump should they care about a bloody vending machine?

Should we ban people from bringing treats in on their birthday for the co-workers to enjoy?

If the folks on my table want to eat crisps, doughnuts, cakes, bacon sandwiches or sweets then that is entirely up to them.

The worst thing, the thing that really winds me up, is that these people do not even know what is being sold in the bloody vending machine. It could be tea, coffee, soup or sandwiches. Vending machines sell a variety of wares.

“Oh – it’s a vending machine so it’s crisps, pop, sweets and blubber in a box. It will turn us all into fat bastards!”

I blame the "State of Fear".

My own television tells me of an obesity epidemic in Britain with people growing fatter every second of the day and making us the laughing stock of Europe. They show pictures of fat people walking around towns and cities, their bits wobbling menacingly towards the camera with the hidden message: “It’s an illness and one day you, dear everyday Brit, will succumb and spend the whole day eating burgers, cakes and chocolate until your trousers give up in shock and your blubber escapes for the whole world to see.”

And not content with targetting fat adults, it seems that they want to step up a gear with horrific statistics about children being obese. And, yes, they show fat kids wobbling to school just to illustrate the point.

The people who say things like “We don’t want vending machines because it will turn you all into hippopotami.” have just been brainwashed by the fear of a state of obesity.

Are we all school children for flump’s sake?

Can’t we make our own decisions about whether we want to stuff our faces with crisps from a vending machine? Or a bloody supermarket?

The truth is that if you are the kind of person who’s massive bulk is due to eating cakes, crisps and chips then you will bring all manner of unhealthy food into work anyway. Surely it is up to the person concerned what he bloody well eats.

I mean, what next?

Should fat people be banned from supermarkets in case they buy high calorie food?

Should supermarkets stop selling chocolate, doughnuts and cakes to people because they are unhealthy?

Should we close all fish and chip shops in the UK?

It makes me sick that people preach to me about how I should live my life, what I should eat and what I should drink, just because of their own silly views, their own perception of what the news and media are saying about obesity and (this is the thing that really annoys me) their own desire to control me in some subtle way,

I am not going to stuff my face and become a bloater; my kids haven’t and didn’t and most people eat what they bloody well like anyway, whether it be a supremely healthy diet or a normal balanced diet with the odd cake as a naughty treat.

I say to you people:

“Sod off! If I want a bag of crisps from a vending machine I will buy one. I will not come and ask your permission and I will call you a fool if you accuse me of eating in an unhealthy way.”

Guess which way I voted, dear reader?

Yes, that’s right. I voted for a vending machine.

Just to piss off these subtle dictators.

And when we get one I will enjoy every bag of crisps I buy from it (however occasional they are).

Rant over.

Sunday 1 February 2015

Our House In The Middle Of Our Street

In my wrap up post for last year, I suggested that I might try a couple of 30 day challenges, in order to have a little fun, learn something new or just make a couple of tiny improvements.

I have just completed two in a month.

I thought I would start with easy challenges, just to ease me into the concept and acclimatise me to the discipline required.

The first challenge was to walk at least two miles a day for 30 days. I usually go for a lunchtime walk at work just to get me away from my desk but I don’t usually force myself to walk as far as two miles, usually a little under. Also, I don’t walk every day at weekends.

This proved to be easier than I thought. Armed with an application on my phone and a pedometer to measure distance etc., I marched around the streets with my trusty iPod as a guide, pumping out decent well timed music.

When the snow came, last week, it was a little tougher but I completed the challenge with a 2.3 mile walk around Didsbury.

The pedometer proved to be extremely useful because it measured how far I walked during the rest of the day, rather than just on a two mile walk around the block – I was surprised to be honest that I actually walked probably twice that distance just ambling around the office, running up the stairs etc.

My second challenge was to dedicate an hour a day to learning Spanish. Again, this seemed relatively easy because I have been learning on and off for the best part of two years now, but this was tougher than I thought. Again, my smartphone came in very useful, allowing me to learn new vocabulary with a suitable application, and to read a Spanish web site whilst on a bus, at home on the settee or even on the throne.

Now that I am used to it, I will try to read a little Spanish and learn some grammar and vocabulary on a more regular basis.

So now to the next challenge: I am going to start improving my photography. I have an assistant for this one because Mrs PM is a keen and able photographer, so I will spend the next 30 days either taking photos or reading some of her books on how to improve my techniques.

“What has all this malarkey got to do with the blog post title?” I hear you ask.

Allow me to elaborate. I’ve taken a few photos from around my house this weekend and I thought I would share them. They’re nothing special but I hope that may change with a little practice and insight from Mrs PM and her books over the coming month.

Here they are with suitable captions.

There's a meerkat in our mug cupboard

I don't even drink spirits!!!

An English Rose

The Warrior who guards the gasfire

Flower and lamp

A chequered bathroom

A glimpse of my CD collection and, yes, it is in alphabetical order!

Cheshire Cat seems happy.


Some books - they are not all mine!

A boring cloudy day through a pretty window
Straight from the 1970's to our bedroom

And, of course, I can't take photos of our house without my three bosses.

Jasper has had such a busy day - he's exhausted!

Poppy is terrified - what on earth is the oaf pointing at me now?

Liquorice plotting her next attack from the comfort of her furry tube.

If you fancy letting me know what you think, please feel free.