Saturday 30 April 2016


In the UK we have a motoring organisation called The Automobile Association (or AA for short). A man who works for them had a day off and had used that time to drive to the country and go for a walk, effectively in the middle of nowhere. 
He passed a public phone box and at that moment, it started to ring. Feeling curious, the guy decided to answer it, only to find that the person on the other end of the phone was somebody he worked with at the AA. 
The caller had meant to ring the guy’s mobile phone number but had mistakenly dialled the guy’s staff number instead. And that staff number just happened to be the same number of the phone that our hero was walking past at that precise moment.
What are the chances of that happening?
I love stuff like this, however hard it is to believe. Statistically it would be nearly impossible for the phone call to happen at that precise time given all the variables and scenarios that could have happened.
It’s mind boggling.
Sadly a coincidence on that scale has never happened to me. That said, a couple of things have happened in recent years that have surprised me. Here are two of them. Names have been changed, as usual, to protect the guilty.
A couple of years ago, Mrs PM and I decided to have a long weekend in London. Mrs PM wanted to be a total tourist in our capital. We took Friday off work and checked into our hotel on the south bank of the river Thames at about lunchtime.
We strolled to Tower Bridge and mingled with other tourists taking photos of one of London’s most iconic sights before crossing it and having a late lunch in a nearby pub. After that, Mrs PM decided that she hadn’t seen the Crown Jewels so our next destination, just over the river, was the Tower of London. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking around one of our most historical buildings, culminating, at the end, in a queue to see the Queen’s jewellery box. 
After that, we were about to leave when Mrs PM told me that she just needed to answer a call of nature. I decided to try too because it was a fair walk back to the hotel. Of course, public toilet etiquette dictates that men are not supposed to talk to each other or look at each other while doing the business, so in my blinkered cave-like world I just answered the call as quickly as I could. 
On the way out, I walked behind another man and a thought entered my head: “that guy in front looks just like Ben from work.”
I was unsure so I didn’t say anything. When we left the loo, the guy walked over to his wife and kids who were waiting for him. It was Ben after all.
I had taken a day off, come to London, decided to visit one of the thousands of attractions in that city at precisely that time and decided to relieve myself at exactly the same moment as him.
I stood waiting outside the ladies toilet for Mr PM and watched Ben and his family walk towards me. I stared at him with a huge grin on my face. I don’t think I have ever seen a better double take in my entire life.
He glanced at me, glanced at his wife and then stared straight back at me, with recognition dawning on his face.
“What the PHHAAARKKK are you doing here?” he asked incredulously. Just at that moment, Mrs PM came out of the ladies and I saw my second favourite double take. Mrs PM saw Ben, looked at me and then stared at Ben and said “What the PHHAAARKK are you doing here?”
The second coincidence also involved a work colleague who I shall refer to as Walter. On our desk at work, whenever Walter goes on holiday to the sun, he makes it known to the entire desk, gloating for weeks in advance until the week before when he steadily becomes insufferable! To him, a holiday is a way to totally destress with absolutely no reminders of work. For the period of his holiday he can totally relax and cast away all of his work woes, popping them into a little box so that he can enjoy himself. 
A couple of years ago, he had just booked his holiday and walked around to my desk to gloat. 
“Guess where I’m going on 20th August?” he said with a grin. 
“Who cares?” I said. 
But then I remembered. 
“Actually, we’re going away that week too,” I said with some satisfaction. I showed him my calendar with the week clearly highlighted in yellow to indicate “Annual Leave”
His face dropped and he returned back from gloat mode to normal mode. 
“Going anywhere nice?” he asked. 
“Turkey,” I replied.
His face dropped further.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Turkey’s a big country,” he said. “Where exactly?”
“I think the place is a little town next to Bodrum called Gumbet,” I said. 
His face was a picture and I wish I’d had a camera.
“Don’t tell me you are going to Gumbet that week too,” I said. 
Of course he was!
I had already ruined his holiday because if he bumped into me while enjoying a relaxing time, it would remind him of work and raise his stress levels. 
What followed for the next few weeks was the best period of winding poor Walter up that the entire desk has ever enjoyed. He stupidly let slip the name of the hotel he was staying at and I pretended that we too were in that hotel. We were in a different one.
“Maybe we’ll be in the room next door,” I suggested. “We can go the beach together and enjoy the sun in our speedos!” 
What he really feared was me telling his missus all sorts of funny things about him – I had never actually met her at that point.
I think, to be  honest, he thought the entire thing was a massive wind-up and that I wasn’t going on holiday to the same place at all – that is until the day that Mrs PM and I were sitting at a table on a beach in Gumbet, enjoying an evening meal. I saw Walter walk past and shouted:
His exact words were: “OH PHHAAAARRKKK!! Oh I mean – Hi Dave!”
Of course, I didn’t drop him in it at all and told him that we had no interest in stalking him on his holiday. That said, we did meet up a couple of times for drinks and had a good laugh.
Of course now, he refuses to tell anybody where he is going on holiday just in case. But you can’t fool fate and I am sure it will happen again, no matter how impossible he thinks it is. 
I really hope so!
Personally, the only coincidence I really want to be part of now is that the lottery balls drawn tonight match the lottery balls I have selected.
It could happen!
And now over to you, dear reader. 
Have you experienced any weird coincidences?

Sunday 24 April 2016

Top Ten ABBA Songs

I have had my musical taste questioned many times but the most recent attack came from a work colleague who suggested that my favourite music genre is basically just ripping off ABBA, which of course it isn’t.

This all stems from the discovery that one of my current favourite artists, Steven Wilson, produced an album of cover versions, one of which was an ABBA song.

Regular reader may know that in the past, I may have mentioned that I kind of grew up with ABBA. When I was a young impressionable kid just about to become a teenager ABBA were the biggest pop band in the world. And I have to admit that I was a fan – and I guess part of me still is. Nobody can deny that their music was influential (just not on progressive rock and progressive metal) but in the world of pop music, it was up there with the best.

And I had a massive teenage crush on Agnetha Fältskog (which hormone-filled lad didn’t at that age?).

My musical taste is fairly wide and ABBA reside proudly on my iPod alongside many more bands that some might say are an acquired taste.

Without further ado, therefore, I present my top ten ABBA songs, knowing full well that everybody likes them (even those cynical work colleagues who deny it).

10. That’s Me

My best mate as a teenager was also a fan and owned the ABBA album Arrival which featured this song. He used to play it all the time and for a while became firmly entrenched in my head as a pleasant earworm. And on the rare occasions I have heard it since, it has once again taken up residence, taking me back to the mid-1970’s with a smile.

9. Lay All You Love On Me

Towards the end of their career, ABBA embraced a more electronic sound, as was the trend at the time. It appeared in the charts in the period between my leaving school and starting university. By this stage my musical taste had changed significantly, flipping between heavy metal and electropop. My fascination with ABBA was over, but this song appeared and took me back to those years when I liked the band and fitted in with my tastes at that time.

8. Knowing Me Knowing You

As mentioned earlier, my best mate loved the album Arrival and this was by far his favourite song on the record. It’s a great song but I can’t help thinking about Alan Partridge when I hear the chorus. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a spoof presenter/reporter (and arguably the worst in the world) with a show called Knowing Me Knowing You and whenever he appears he yells “AHA!” at the top of his voice.

7. I’m a Marionette

I didn’t normally take much notice of B-sides and it wasn’t often that they were better than the A-side. My sister bought The Name of the Game and this was on the B-side. I remember she played her single while I was there and then turned it over to give the flip side a spin. “That’s a much better song,” I said. She disagreed and never played it again. I actually took it to my room and popped it on my current mix tape at the time. It’s a bit of a darker song, with a nice guitar piece in the middle, which probably explains why I preferred it.

6. Mamma Mia

As a rule, I prefer the rockier ABBA songs and Mamma Mia was one of the first I heard after they had won the Eurovision Song Contest. I have to confess that I have never seen the dreadful musical to which this song gives its name because to me it is an abomination to take ABBA’s music and turn it into a sleazy story peppered with their songs. I know it’s incredibly popular but there is no way I would waste my money or time on it. What a terrible, terrible idea. Anyway, rant over – the song is good!

5. Waterloo

This is the song that started it all. I hate the Eurovision Song Contest now but in the past, I actually used to watch it avidly (well until about 1978 anyway). ABBA won the competition with this song way back in 1974 and this was their big introduction to the rest of Europe and the world, in fact. It remains my second favourite ever winner – behind the more controversial Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (which I will spare you). Mind you, just take a look at those costumes in the video,

4. S.O.S

This is another earworm for me, a song that burrows into my head and stays there for a while, to the point where I find myself humming it. In fact, as I type I am humming the chorus. It’s a great little song.

3. Voulez-Vous

I’m a little puzzled as to why this song wasn’t a bigger hit, as it was certainly better than most of their other high chart entries. It’s a great dance song and at the time of its release it usually had the effect of filling the dance floor. It coincides with the time I first started venturing out into the world of the night club and remained a favourite of quite a few that I frequented around that time.

2. Eagle

Eagle is a beautiful and epic song. In fact, of all the songs they have released, this is the closest to being progressive, with a fantastic orchestral keyboard sound and a great little guitar solo (around the 3:10 minute mark). It’s a very uplifting song and always puts me in a great mood. I guess I need to start listening to it at work.

1. So Long

As a lover of rock music, I had to pick what I consider ABBA’s rockiest song as my favourite. You would expect nothing less, I guess, dear reader. Again, this was one of the first songs I heard after Waterloo and, strangely it was never released as a single in the UK. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that you have not heard it, dear reader. I also apologise for being a bit of a letch; Agnetha is particularly lovely in this video – it’s probably what started it all off, to be fair.

And finally …

I hope you liked my selection , dear reader.

I am sure you are a closet ABBA fan.

Feel free to let me know your favourites – particularly if you are the work colleague who inspired this post (you know who you are!).

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Speak English!

Recently I have been struggling with the English language. Certain groups of people have taken it upon themselves to make me look like a fool by speaking a language that sounds like my mother tongue but in fact is far from it.

I have stared at these people, either in the flesh, or on my television set, as they abuse the language I have spoken all my life and, basically, speak meaningless nonsense, masquerading as English, in an attempt to make me look and feel like the dumbest person on the planet.

Don’t get me wrong; these people are using English words and constructing sentences and, strictly speaking, if you analysed their sentences you would find that they were in fact speaking English.

The problem is that their sentences make no sense at all.

They are talking bullshit!

For the past ten years or so, I have been paranoid, thinking that I am devolving and gradually turning into a total cretin. However, thinking about it, I have become aware that the language I speak fluently is being abused by certain groups of people like businessmen, politicians and youngsters who have taken my language and mutated it into a new and sometimes unintelligible load of gobbledygook.

The problem is that other people in the same group actually understand what is being said, so I have often found myself looking blankly at them as if they are speaking Russian. To them, I look like the village idiot and really, what I should be saying is “Speak English! You are making no sense whatsoever.”

I am not the only one. Other clever people have noticed this disturbing trend.

I’ve found myself in meetings and at presentations listening to people who use phrases that make no sense whatsoever.

For example, here is a sample presentation with the thoughts going through my head:

Presenter: Going forward, we have to make sure that we are all on the same page.

PM: Are we supposed to be reading a book?

Presenter: I’m sure you all realise that we have to address the elephant in the room.

PM: How rude! I’m not fat!

Presenter: The helicopter view is that we need to make maximum use of our greatest assets and some of those assets are here today. We need to leverage our potential and grab the low hanging fruit.

PM: What are you saying? Are you asking me to fly into the office in a chopper and pick fruit? I didn’t even know we had any apple trees.

Presenter: Nevertheless, we all need to touch base on this one.

PM: Baseball this afternoon anyone?

Presenter: To maximise our business and climb the strategic staircase, we must look under the bonnet. 

PM: I thought we all worked in retail, not an upstairs garage.

Presenter: And for that reason we need to downsize. We will be looking for some volunteers but from the rest of you, let’s put on a record and see who dances.

PM: Party time.

Presenter: Anyone who wants to discuss this can touch base with me offline.


PM: What on earth were you talking about?

Presenter: You fired! Bye!

I’m not saying that such bullshit is spoken in my workplace, but I have noticed an alarming increase in such nonsense.

It’s not just business.  Politicians infuriate me with their bullshit or simply revert to gobbledygook in an attempt to cover their tracks with a string of nonsensical jargon. Either that or they repeat the same drivel ad nauseam. Everybody knows it yet they still do it – and worst of all – they get away with it.

Interviewer: Are you going to admit that you are wrong and that you lied to the House of Commons about the tax increases?

Politician: Let me refer you to my earlier statement. We, as a government, are totally committed to making sure that the working families of the United Kingdom are rewarded.

Interviewer: By paying more taxes?

Politician: The fiscal machinations of the governmental departments are designed, unequivocally and exclusively to promote the advantages of the diligence of our dedicated citizens who reap the rewards of full time employment. 

Interviewer: What does that even mean? You lied to the House, didn’t you? Working families will be much worse off.

Politician: The figures show that our policies have led to the most successful government in years, unlike the last government who were a disaster.

Interviewer: But …

Politician: Will you let me answer the question? My point is that we have increased spending in the NHS by 3% in this term.

Interviewer: What’s that got to do with you lying in the House?

At this point I would love the interviewer to throw down his microphone and slap the politician in the face with a large fish while screaming:


One thing that really annoys me about politicians trying to bamboozle us with inane rhetoric is that they basically think the rest of us are stupid. As they lie to our faces, refuse to answer questions or smile in the most insincere manner possible, they secretly believe that we are stupid enough to buy what they are saying.

Of course, there is the dim possibility that they are sticking to a prewritten script in order to save themselves from being caught out and forced to resign for actually baring their true soul to us.

Finally, we have the youth of today whose “urban” speak is like a foreign language. It comes from rap, I guess, but to me it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Thankfully, here is the very funny Doc Brown to give me a helping hand:

Mind you, I’m a bit of a hypocrite myself. I originally come from Walsall, a town near to Birmingham, in an area known as “The Black Country”, so-called because of the heavy industry there, pumping vast quantities of soot and smog into the atmosphere.

It is the area that gave us Judas Priest and, most famously, Ozzy Osborne and Black Sabbath, as well as Led Zeppelin.

I used to speak in Black Country slang as illustrated by this jolly little video.

Did you understand it?

Thursday 7 April 2016

The Look

I love The Walking Dead and so does Mrs PM. We were watching the exciting and disturbing climax of series six on Monday night and when it finished, my beloved said:

“What are we going to do without The Walking Dead?”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “There’s a spin off starting next week.”

“Really?” she said, looking very excited.

“Yes,” I continued. “It looks at the issue from another angle. Have you seen the Hitchcock film called The Birds?”

“Yes,” she said.

I now had her full attention.

“Well, it’s a variation on that theme. Instead of people dying and coming back to life, the problem is all about birds. It’s a post-apocalyptic drama about people dealing with Zombie birds.”

“Wow,” she said.

“It starts next week. It’s called The Squawking Dead!”

“OH PULEEEEAASEEE!” she shouted.

I started laughing as, once again, I had proved that there is no such thing as a lying face and a lying voice, the apparent features she uses to detect whether I am fibbing to her. It’s a rare thing to catch her out and when I do, I don’t let her forget it (see here for more examples where I have failed misreably).

“There is no such thing as a lying voice or a lying face,” I declared triumphantly.

And then she responded with The Look!

Most men know what The Look is. It is the expression on a woman’s face that tells her man, without words I might add, that he has stepped over the line and has lost so many Brownie Points that he is bankrupt.

The Look has several intensities depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime committed. On a scale of 1 to 10, this was about a 2 out of 10 – mild irritation. Mrs PM was disappointed that The Walking Dead had finished and irritated at the fact that I had exploited her momentary weakness and struck a comedy blow.

Really, she was pissed off because I had caught her totally unawares!

In case you don't know what I am talking about, here are some stock images of The Look!

2 out of 10 - You might just escape unscathed

4 out of 10 - Be warned
6 out of 10 - Now you are in trouble!

8 out of 10 - Lock yourself in the cupboard and pray
10 out of 10 - Run for the hills 
I have never achieved a 10 out of 10 (or at least I don’t think so).To be honest if I were to reach that lofty pinnacle, I would probably be out of the house and down the road when the eruption took place.
Sometimes, I see The Look in other women, particularly in social situations, when their oblivious husbands/partners have overstepped their bounds. Usually this involves showing off, saying something that was meant to be kept a secret or basically being an arse in front of her and friends, resulting in, in her eyes, ritual humiliation.
It’s quite funny, really, because the man will continue acting the dick, or mouthing off and she will smile as if she is enjoying his antics. He will be oblivious to her feelings and continue to entertain his friends. She will smile – but not with her eyes. 
And then, she will wait until there is a lull and her beloved man looks at her. That is when she will strike with The Look and he will immediately know that he is in trouble.
I’ve seen it many times and it can go one of two ways.
If he notices The Look, he will stop abruptly and change the subject and spend the rest of the evening trying to rectify the situation, cuddling his woman, telling people openly how much he loves her etc. etc. 
It won’t work. 
Women have long deep memories and the moment she gets him on his own he will feel the full force of her wrath. The 4 out of 10 look of annoyance will escalate, potentially, to a 6 out of 10 look – if he’s lucky.
Worse, if he fails to notice The Look and continues down to the next level of Hell, then woe betide him when they get home. 
I have seen both situations.
Worse, I have BEEN in both situations. 
In my defence, I thought I was being clever and funny – when in reality I was almost certainly being a dick.
However, there is one situation that all men struggle with. And I will bet that it has happened to each and every male reader with a significant other (don’t deny it, guys! You know I am telling the truth). The situation to which I refer is when you arrive home and get The Look as soon as you see your lovely lady.
This is the worst situation of all. At least when you are a dick in front of your friends, you have an idea about why you are in trouble - and you have no idea why
You may try to delay the inevitable by saying “Hi beautiful” or another similarly shallow attempt at making things right. You may panic, walk straight out of the door and run to the nearest pub to get drunk.  At least when the inevitable tempest occurs, you will have an idea about what you did wrong.
“What have I done now?” is the usual response but that won’t help either. 
Women are irrational beings and will say:
“Well if you don’t know, I am not going to tell you,” and then walk away leaving the environment in the house frostier than a snowman’s underpants.
Thankfully, Mrs PM is the kind of woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and she will tell me in no uncertain terms the exact reason why I am a dick and what I did to incur her wrath. Mostly, it will be something insignificant and through an insincere cloud of apology I will do my best to rectify the situation even if I am deeply puzzled about why I am in the wrong.
Tact is my middle name – at least until Mrs PM reads this post.
By the way, I also tried to crack the same joke about The Walking Dead to my eldest lad.
Before I had even begun to describe The Squawking Dead he simply said:
“This is going to be a crap joke, isn’t it?”
Maybe that says something about the difference between men and women.