Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Special Hair Service


So there I was, sitting in one of my least favourite places in the world, staring at an amorphous blob in the mirror.

The place was my barber shop and the reason that I was staring at a pale blurred alien-type creature was that it was the time when I had to get my hair cut.

I hate having my hair cut – worse I hate my hair full stop (regular readers will know this).

One of the reasons my hair gets into the sorry state it was in on this particular occasion is that I delay and delay having it cut until I can’t bear my hair any longer and having it removed is better than it taking over my entire head.

Even when my hair is short, it is unmanageable. It is like a wild sentient mop of curly spaghetti that refuses all attempts to get it to behave itself.

When I get up in the morning, I dread looking in the mirror because I wonder what shape it has assumed overnight. A lot of the time, Mrs PM will just smile and say:

“Look at your hair.” 

She will chuckle because that is usually my cue to start a humorous rant about how awful it is. She will watch as I try to tame it with a brush before going into the shower to get the big boys on the job (shampoo and water).

However, there have been occasions when I have been in such a hurry that I have showered, towel dried my hair, got dressed and left the house without having brought it under control.

I arrive at my destination (usually work) and wonder why people are sniggering at me.

 “Is that a wig, Dave, or have you picked up an alien on the way to work?”

Worse, I then have to go to the bathroom and try to tame the mess on my head with a little water and my fingers and usually I end up making it ten times worse – and this is even when it is bloody short!

You would think that I would be used to it after 56 years of pain – but no! I’m not. Every day is a challenge – every day my hair finds new ways to hurt and surprise me by mutating into something inhuman and horrific.

I can sense your next question, dear reader.

“Why don’t you just shave it off?”

Believe me I have considered it. The problem is that some people actually like it. These strange people are members of the opposite sex who on occasion have actually said things like:

“Your hair is lovely and thick!””

“I wish I had hair like yours!”

Mrs PM will not allow me to have it short – she prefers it as it is (for some crazy reason).

So why do I hate having my hair cut when in reality it makes my unmanageable mop more controllable?

Several reasons:

(1) I hate waiting for anything. My local barber does a pretty good job and I feel loyal to them but if I time it badly, I end up having to wait behind quite a few people. The magazines available are all men’s magazines full of cars, weight-lifters, pictures of semi-naked women or all three so I have to read my phone.

(2) While waiting, I have to check every bugger who comes in. If the place is really busy I have to make sure that none of them queue jump when one of the hairdressers says “Who’s next?”. So I can’t really concentrate on my phone at all.

(3) When I finally sit down I am throttled by the gown they make me wear. I see pictures of handsome men with magnificent hair and super trendy hairstyles and I know if I asked for one of those I would look nothing like them – just a stupid old git with a mad haircut. So I ask for my usual style – which is a bit dull but it works.

(4) When I am asked what I want, I have to take my glasses off – hence staring at an amorphous blob in the mirror. I can’t see myself at all – in fact I am so paranoid that I am not 100% convinced that the person I am staring at is actually me or somebody in the building next door peering at me.

(5) I can’t see what they are doing with my hair. I have asked for my usual style and then he or she has set to work lopping off my locks. First my hair is so unmanageable that it has to be drenched with water which, despite their best efforts always ends up in my face or running down my neck. Even if the barber were to shave all of my hair off, I would have no clue. If I ended up with a weird Mohican I would be oblivious.

(6) I have to have an inane conversation about holidays, work, football or all three. That’s not so bad but when I talk to somebody I like to look at them and without my glasses the barber is just another amorphous blob wandering around me. I can’t even tell whether the barber actually has eyes.

(7) When he or she has finished, I will be asked what I think and no matter how bad it looks I will invariably say “Perfect!”. To be fair, they usually do a grand job but I am still haunted by the memory of the mad woman who cut off my mullet in the 1980’s – I still have nightmares about it.

At least when my hair has been cut I have a couple of weeks when I can jump out of bed and mock my hair telling it to do its worst.

That’s right, dear reader – I talk to my hair.

My next visit to the barber will be in a couple of weeks when I have to queue up with everybody else wanting a wonderful style for Christmas.

It’s either that, or spend the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year doing battle with my mop armed only with wax and a lot of patience.

What a choice!

I really hate my hair!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Skinny Jeans


So there I was in the changing rooms in a men’s clothing establishment about to try on a pair of jeans. This is something I have done  many times before, usually with great success because I am average in every way – average waist and average regular trouser length.

I don’t want to scare you all by getting into too much detail but suffice it to say I had to take off my shoes and trousers in order to try on the new pair (try not to picture me in my shreddies, dear reader – you can’t unsee an image like that).  After all, it would be pointless trying to haul a pair of jeans over another pair wouldn’t it?

Not even I am stupid enough to do that.

The exercise was supposed to be straightforward; I pull on the new jeans, check that they fit my slightly expanding waistline, check that they are not too long or too short and see if they actually look good on me, rather than making me look like an abnormal alien creature.

It all sounded too simple – until I actually attempted to get the things on. Being an old coot, I didn’t really check them well enough. There seemed to be an extra dimension – a “fit”.

I had heard of things like “boot cut”, “loose”, “straight”, “tapered”, “slim” and “skinny” and I knew my limits.

Sadly, a malicious, evil and possibly incompetent buffoon had mixed up the jean “fits”. I can imagine the evil sneaking satanic swine swapping the trousers, putting the “boot cut” on the “tapered” section, the “slim” on the “tapered” section and sniggering as his victim took the wrong pair.

The jeans themselves had no warning of what was to come – no sign that said “wear these jeans at your own risk”.

I had picked up what I thought were “tapered” jeans. There was no sign to tell me otherwise – only the price tag, the waist size and the leg length.

I thought I would slide my leg in easily.I was wrong – horribly wrong.

My pushed my foot in expecting an easy slide to the hole at the end of the leg and it got stuck so suddenly that I stumbled and almost overbalanced, hurtling forward towards the curtain before I managed to reach for the wall.

Imagine if I had lost my balance completely and fallen out of the room in my underpants?  No – please don’t do that.

I was so relieved that I managed to lose a little more common sense.  I know that new jeans can be a little stiff but I was determined to win. Part of me thought that my leg had grown so thick in my old age that even tapered jeans were a struggle to peel on.

Reason gave way to more stupidity. I was overcome by a sense of competitiveness that is unusual for me; I would pull these jeans on if it killed me, if nothing else to prove that I wasn’t just getting bigger in my old age. The denim would slacken as I wore them, I figured. I didn’t consider that I would look ridiculous in tapered jeans that were too tight.

I had to sit down.

I have fairly big calves anyway (I do a lot of walking) and once I had got my foot past further in, I had to apply immense force to peel these bastards onto my leg.

“Stop it,” screamed an inner voice. “They don’t fit.”

I ignored this inner voice of reason and persevered, groaning as I hauled the leg of the jean over my knee and upper thigh.

“Are you okay in there?” came a voice from outside.

“Yeah,” I said thinking that I sounded nonchalant.

I tried the next leg and the struggle was possibly worse. I found myself standing there with a pair of jeans halfway up my upper thighs. With more crazy resolve, I pulled the jeans the rest of the way, somehow managing to slide them over my arse.

I looked at myself in the mirror; I was bright red and sweating like a pig that had just run a marathon.

I managed to fasten the trousers at the front and button them up – but it was hard, dear reader. I could feel my circulation being cut off and I won’t even describe the feeling around my nether regions.

I turned around and I looked like a sack of potatoes perched precariously on two thin branches.

At least they weren’t those low slung jeans that don’t cover your underpants; that would have been far worse.

There was enough room to walk around a little in the cubicle and I tried, dear reader, I tried. These bloody jeans actually squeaked as I moved and I let out at least two involuntary high-pitched squeaks of my own.

The pain of walking around in these satanic jeans focussed my mind.

“What the bloody hell are you doing?” I asked myself.

With much relief, I sat down to take the things off but in a moment of manic madness I realised I had forgotten to unfasten them.

How I didn’t squeal is a miracle to me. I had to stand up again.

It took me ten minutes to peel the bastards off – it felt like they had been superglued to my legs.

Eventually I got them off and with much relief I put my old ones back on again. I left the changing room, still red with the effort of extricating myself from their clutches and, as I handed them back to the man looking after the changing room, he smiled knowingly.

“A bit too skinny for you?” he asked.

“Skinny?” I asked. “I got them from the tapered section.”

He looked at me as if I had gone mad. “Can’t you tell?” he asked sniggering.

I was so embarrassed that I left the shop in shame.

As I wandered around trying to recover from the humiliation and assault by a pair of skinny jeans, I noticed that a few young lads walking around the shopping centre were wearing them.

These things had nearly castrated me and here were young 20 year old males with skinny legs walking around in jeans that were around four times too small for them.

And I swear, dear reader; every one of them squeaked!


Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Useless


Sometimes I feel useless and when I do, I try to think of things that are more hopeless than I am to make myself feel better.

For example, a Tyrannosaurus Rex is a fearsome creature that was King of the Dinosaurs but this terrifying giant lizard with huge claws and ferocious teeth had a major design flaw – tiny arms.

When I feel useless, I just imagine this horrific creature trying to make a bed.

In fact, it’s worse than that. With those tiny little arms, the Tyrannosaurus Rex would be quite limited if the species had thrived, gained intelligence and managed to fit in with society.

Sorry to bring the subject matter down to the toilet again, but a T Rex on the toilet would have a problem trying to reach the loo roll, wouldn’t he?


How crossing a river? I don’t know whether a T Rex could swim but if he had to use a boat, he would have a big problem with the oars.

What about fashion? How would he mange to put on a hat? Or a pair of trousers?

And what if he wanted to keep fit by doing push ups? Those tiny arms would be a massive hindrance, don’t you think?


In fact, something as simple as drinking a glass of water would prove a little too much for this terrible lizard.

Okay – so I’m picking on a long extinct reptile, but you get my drift, I hope.

I certainly wouldn’t want to meet the one that would be offended by what I have just written.

I think I’m safe though because even if a T Rex could read, he would struggle to find my blog on the internet because he wouldn’t be able to type on the keyboard -  even if he were far more intelligent than I am.

Nor would he be able to use a smartphone because it would be so far from his head that he wouldn’t be able to use it.


I think I’m safe.

I no longer feel useless.

I just hope I never meet one.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Let's Do Europe



“Let’s do Europe!” is a phrase I have heard quite a few times, mainly from Americans but also from other nationalities, including people from my own country.

Last week I was in a restaurant in Porto, Portugal, and I heard a variation on the words again from a young American couple on an adjacent table.

“I can’t believe we’re in Europe,” said one of them. “I’ve always wanted to do Europe and here we are.”

I’m not criticising them, far from it in fact. I am delighted that these young people have taken the time to leave the confines of the United States and venture out to, in my opinion, the most exciting and varied continent on the planet.

The only minor quibble I have is that it is pretty much impossible to “do Europe” unless you are very wealthy and spend many years travelling around each country in turn and within each country visit as much of it as you can.

I have lived in Europe all of my life and I have barely scratched the surface – and I have travelled a lot. In fact, I can also say that I have not “done” the UK either – and I live here.

My travel map for Europe looks impressive to people but the truth is that is isn’t really.

For example I have never been to Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden or Ukraine.

When you compare the list to the places I have been (Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and Vatican City) it looks like I have seen less than half of the continent.

One of the countries I have spent a lot of time in is Spain and I have barely scratched the surface of that vast and wonderful country. I have had conversations with people in the past who claim to know Spain “like the back of their hands” and yet base their knowledge on a few two week package holidays to the Balearic Islands (having never even been to the mainland!).

“So do you speak Spanish?” I have asked.

“No – there’s no need. They all speak English!”

Wrong.

Try travelling on a train from Seville to Madrid and see how many people speak English. In fact, just wander around either of those two cities and see how far you get without a few basic words or a phrase book.

It’s a similar story with other continents of course. For example I have been to the United States and Canada quite a few times and I simply cannot claim that I know either of those countries. Sure, I can speak English and have been to a few big cities like Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC and Toronto but if I were to tell an American that I have “done” the United States he would, quite rightly, laugh at me and tell me how wrong I am.

I’ve been to Australia too but I would need two decades at least to fully explore that huge place – I was there for just over two weeks!

Similarly with Asia – the biggest continent of all. I have spent eight weeks of my life in China yet every time I have been back, the place never ceases to amaze me with its wonderful quirkiness, beauty, customs and traditions. I learn something new each time I visit.

What I would say to anybody who wants to “do Europe” is this:

Yes – I agree – you should do Europe – again and again and again! 

Keep coming back and seek out new adventures. 

Eventually you will get to know the place. 

Mind if I join you?

Monday, 3 September 2018

Stan and Ollie - Top Ten Laurel and Hardy Shorts


Last week, Mrs PM and I were sitting in a small cinema watching a short movie. The rest of the audience were a mixed bunch; a middle-aged German couple sat just in front of us, to our right was an older couple and to our left were a young family with two young kids aged about 12 and 10. There were others too but the one thing we had in common  - we were all chuckling and laughing.

We were in the Laurel and Hardy museum in Ulverston in the Lake District. As is usual with the Lake District, the weather outside was horrible which gave me an excuse to persuade Mrs PM to visit this small homage to Stan and Ollie, after all this time, still my favourite comedy double act.

The previous day had been glorious and Mrs PM and I had climbed the Old Man of Coniston the twelfth largest mountain in England! What a shock that was! I was still aching! Part of me was pleased that the weather had taken a turn for the worse on our short break to Coniston for the holiday weekend and it gave me the opportunity to tick something off my list – visit the birthplace of Stan Laurel.

The museum itself is quite small and gives an overview of the life of the dynamic duo, focussing slightly more on Stan. My father loved them too and he introduced me to them as a child. As I walked through the door and started reading about their lives, I felt a light twinge of emotion, remembering my dad guffawing over their stupid antics.

The museum was quite busy and also had props and souvenirs from their many memorable films as well as merchandise, copies of letters and lots of other interesting information.

And, of course, they were showing and endless loop of their amazing films.

As we left back into the pouring rain, I thought I would pay homage to these funny guys by offering you my ten favourite Laurel and Hardy talking shorts. Their silent films were amusing but when sound was introduced, it opened up a whole new level of comedic opportunity to the guys, which they took to like the proverbial duck to water. As well as their usual slapstick, they were able to use sound to enhance their humour even further.

I still love it today.

So, without further ado, here are my top ten Laurel and Hardy short films.

10. Scram!

Stan and Ollie are vagrants and are ordered by a judge to leave town. On their way, in the pouring rain, they help a drunk who offers them a room for the night. Sadly, it isn’t his house - it belongs to the judge. Inevitably, mayhem ensues when they inadvertently get the judge’s wife drunk.

You can watch it here.

9. The Chimp

When the circus goes bust, Stan and Ollie are left with a flea circus and a chimp. Confusion reigns when they try to sneak the chimp into a boarding house.

You can watch it here. 

8. Any Old Port

On shore leave from a whaling voyage, Stan and Ollie get a room in a boarding house, run by a pure thug played by Walter Long who tries to force a young woman to marry him. Stan and Ollie thwart his plans and in the aftermath, Ollie convinces Stan to enter a boxing match to raise the money they left behind. Guess who Stan’s opponent is?

You can watch it here.

7. Laughing Gravy

In the middle of a terrible, cold dark and snowy winter, Stan and Ollie try to hide their dog, Laughing Gravy, from a landlord who doesn’t allow pets in his rooms. Of course, their attempts are totally unsuccessful.

You can watch it here. 

6. Dirty Work

Stan and Ollie are chimney sweeps who end up at a mad professor’s house. As Stan and Ollie do their best to wreck the house, the professor invents a rejuvenating potion. Of course he wants a human guinea pig.

You can watch it here. 

5. One Good Turn

A kind old lady offers vagrants, Stan and Ollie, a meal. They offer to do a favour in return and overhear a villainous landlord threatening to throw the old lady out of her home and onto the street. Stan and Ollie decide to raise money by selling their one asset – a car – but things don’t go quite according to plan.

You can watch it here. 

4. Helpmates

Ollie wakes up after throwing a wild party in his wife’s absence and has to clean up the mess before she gets home. There is only one man who can help him out of his predicament – Stan! You can guess what happens.

You can watch it here.  

3. The Laurel and Hardy Murder Case

The late Ebenezer Laurel has left a lot of money and Ollie sees a chance to live in luxury by convincing the executors of the dead man’s will that Stan is the heir to his fortune. Of course, there are dastardly shenanigans afoot involving murder.

You can watch it here. 

2. Them Thar Hills / Tit for  Tat

Two films, one a sequel to the other, where Stan and Ollie come up against Charlie Hall in two tales of escalating retaliation. The first tale involves Stan and Ollie accidentally getting Charlie’s wife drunk (played by the ever-present Mae Busch). In the second movie, Ollie tries to make amends but fails and a similar bun fight occurs.

You can watch the them here and here. 

1. The Music Box

Stan and Ollie are delivery men who have to take a piano to a house. Sounds simple, eh? Not so – the house is at the top of a huge hill accessible by a long staircase. Stan and Ollie won an academy award for this hilarious movie.


You can watch it here.

And finally …

I hope you agree with my choices. These two funny guys were way ahead of their time and still make me laugh today.

I am pleased to say that everyone watching the film in the museum agreed with me.

Are you a fan of Laurel and Hardy?

What are your favourite short films?

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Shiny Happy People


Usually when I am on a flight, I hear from the captain and the flight crew during the course of the flight. These fine people speak to the passengers in a professional and informative manner and we all understand what they say and are happy, informed and reassured.

Some flight companies adopt a slightly different approach. I recently returned from a holiday in Croatia with one of them (I’m not saying which).

Rather than letting the flight crew speak, we were subjected to messages pre-recorded by what I can only describe as “shiny happy people”.

The messages alternated between a man who seemed high on euphoria and a women totally immersed in rapture. I can kind of sense why these recordings exist and what they are meant to achieve but I get the feeling, looking around at my fellow passengers, that their goals weren’t quite met.

The airline is a budget airline that is striving to get people in the mood for their holiday while at the same time trying to raise their spirits about the two and a half hour flight ahead. It worked better on the journey out but not so well on the journey back.

I heard one guy say “What do they mean welcoming us home as if it is the best thing since sliced bread? I don’t WANT to come home! I was on holiday and I want to STAY THERE!”

It didn’t bother me too much because deep down I prefer happy people to miserable buggers (even though I can be a bit of a miserable bugger myself sometimes).  However, it got me thinking – always a dangerous thing.

What if the plane had a fault and both engines failed? What would happen as the aircraft started to dive towards the sea? Do they have a pre-recorded message for that?

Happy Man:  “Hey holiday makers! We hope you are enjoying our AMAZING flight but we do have a slight problem. Nothing to worry about but the aircraft is now plummeting towards the Atlantic Ocean as a rate of knots.”

Happy Woman: “Yes – the water is REALLY WARM at this time of year and to make sure that you fully enjoy it, please BRACE now! If you don’t know how to BRACE, our WONDERFUL flight crew will help you. IF you hear your fellow passengers SCREAMING, rest assured that they are screams of EXCITEMENT at a plunge into the warm wonderful water!”

Happy Man: “And after impact we will do our very best to get any survivors out of the aircraft as quickly as possible!”

Okay – that’s a bit extreme, I admit, but there are a lot of shiny happy people around, particularly on the radio and our telly boxes.

I no longer listen to the radio, apart from the news channel when I wake up, but in the past I recall overly happy DJs laughing at – well – nothing - in such a forced way that I thought they were all having a seizure.

I know things haven’t changed because this morning I saw an advert for the breakfast show on a local bus with pictures of demented looking DJs guffawing at something that was out of shot with a line that explained that their show was a mixture of music and “banter”. 

I assume that "banter" means lots of in-jokes from the DJ team that result in bouts of hysterical laughter at their own expense that the general public don't really find funny at all, especially while stuck in traffic, driving to a mundane job on a miserable, cold, dark Manchester Monday morning in the middle of January.

Similarly light entertainment programmes on TV are full of presenters who seem to have taken some form of drug to make them laugh hysterically at dull items and equally dull celebrity guests that I have never heard of as they try to plug their latest projects.

I am sure that you are now reading this thinking “You miserable bastard! Why don’t you just lighten up?”

The truth is that I provide my own form of entertainment on a daily basis at work by ranting mercilessly about things like reality TV, music, politics and shiny happy celebrities, causing joyous merriment amongst my co-workers as they realise that I am just a cantankerous old git who doesn’t understand modern culture.

And they are right.

But at least their laughter is genuine.

I’ll leave you with the song that inspired the title of this post.

I’m the grumpy git peddling at the start of the video.

Please don’t laugh.


Monday, 16 July 2018

Bull in a China Shop


So there I am sitting in a quiet place, minding my own business, and enjoying the silence as I read, contemplate life and take a nice quiet journey around my weird and wonderful imagination.

And then you hear something approaching in the distance; the Bull in the china shop.

Note - I use the word “bull” just because the phrase sums this person up perfectly but it is not necessarily male.

Let's call this person Bull.

First the voice – either a shrieking high pitched cackle or a deep booming laugh – before Bull appears and shatters the tranquillity in the noisiest way possible.

Bull shouts rather than speaks.

Bull laughs so loud that windows shake and glass struggles not to shatter.

Bull sits right next to complete strangers and invades their personal space even when he has never met them.

Bull slams doors.

Bull orders noisy food to eat and slobbers and crunches his way through the food.

Bull finds it impossible to stay still.

Bull finds it impossible to stay quiet.

Bull has to talk to people in his vicinity even if he doesn’t know them.

Bull thinks he’s the most popular person in whatever room he is in.

Bull moves things around with so much noise that he disturbs everyone and everything in his path.

Bull is usually a clumsy oaf.

Here is an example of Bull:



I don’t mind people who are talkative and funny and loud sometimes, but Bull is something else entirely - always loud, rarely funny and totally annoying – the kind of person who comes into a room and wants to simply take over, even when the room is quiet – for example a restaurant.

When Bull sits on the adjacent table in a restaurant, your enjoyment of the meal plummets.

Even when total privacy is required, Bull can invade your space.

Take for example if you are in a public toilet cubicle and Bull comes in. You hear him march in, slamming the door and cringe as he goes into the cubicle next to you, slamming the door of course. There is no subtlety – he groans, belches, farts throws himself onto the toilet as if from a great height, snorts, groans, makes as much noise as he can and in the worst case, starts talking on his phone.



Worse – he starts talking to YOU!

I have had the misfortune of sitting next to Bull on flight from Europe to Manchester.

The conversation went something like this:

Bull: WHAT ARE YOU READING?

PM: I’m sorry? 

Bull: I SAID WHAT ARE YOU READING?

PM: “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson.

Bull: OH – I LIKE BILL BRYSON BUT THAT BOOK IS BLOODY SHIT! I DON’T KNOW WHAT HE WAS THINKING WHEN HE WROTE THAT GARBAGE. HOW FAR THROUGH IT ARE YOU?

PM: I’ve just started it.

Bull: WELL IF I WERE YOU I’D LEAVE IT ON THE PLANE. WAIT UNTIL YOU GET TO THE PART …

PM: I’m sorry – I’m enjoying it so far. I’ll make my own judgement. Do you mind if I carry on?

Bull: YOU MUST BE A BIT WEIRD IF YOU LIKE THAT BOOK. IT’S NOT EVEN FUNNY!! 

PM: Thanks for that. I’ll be the judge of that.

Bull: NOW HERE’S A GOOD BOOK!

PM: I’m not interested really – I just want to read this.

Bull: WELL THIS ONE IS MUCH BETTER THAN THAT PILE OF CRAP! HERE – TAKE A LOOK!

And so it went on – and on – and on – and on! By the time I had left the plane (the longest two hours of my life) he had told me his entire life story, why he was so great and why I was so weird and had no decent taste in books. Not content with bellowing in my ear for the entire trip, his elbows kept nudging me as we both ate and most of his meal ended up on the back of the seat in front of him.

I’ve seen Bull on a train too – thankfully annoying somebody else. In the UK we have quiet carriages where people are asked to be quiet so that others can read or work in peace. Personally I don’t travel in them because I listen to music and the noise of the headphones can annoy others. Bull shouldn’t travel in them either – but once I saw Bull thrown out of the quiet carriage because, unsurprisingly, he was making far too much noise and totally irritating everybody else. Bull then sat in a seat close to me and told the entire sorry tale to a perfect stranger who wasn’t interested at all but was being polite.

“I JUST STARTED TALKING TO THIS WOMAN AND SHE TOLD ME TO BE QUIET! I KNOW IT’S MEANT TO BE SILENT IN THERE BUT IT WAS LIKE A BLOODY LIBRARY – HOW BORING! ANYWAY, SHE COMPLAINED AND THE GUARD ASKED ME TO SHUT UP AND LEAVE! I DECIDED TO JUST GO! I LIKE TO TALK TO PEOPLE – DON’T YOU? THEY SHOULD CALL IT THE BORING BASTARD CARRIAGE! ANYWAY – WHAT’S YOUR NAME? I’M BULL AND I’M A REALLY FUNNY GUY. OH SORRY - I'VE SPILLED MY DRINK ALL OVER YOUR  BOOK. IT 'S SHIT ANYWAY!"

And so he went on – and on – and on! Thankfully, I could drown his voice out by listening to some rock music. I pitied the poor guy he had inflicted himself upon.

I don’t mind friendly people and I am willing to chat to anybody as long as they are pleasant, quiet, interesting and stop talking when I have had enough and want to read or listen to music.

Bulls don’t do that – they are relentless – they can’t take a hint even when it is blatant. They enter a room like a Bull in a China Shop!

Have you ever met anybody like that? 

How do you deal with them?

I think most British people are too polite and that is why Bull thrives in the UK.

I’m too nice to tell them to just SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Maybe I should do just that.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Pros and Cons of Growing Old



It’s taken me a while to admit it but, at the age of 55, I am a middle-aged man. In just over four years’ time I will achieve the aim of having been on this planet for 60 years. And at that time, I guess I might also have to admit to being an old man.

I don’t really have a problem with that. A couple of good friends of mine have recently turned 60 and seem to be embracing this new era in their lives with gusto. They are excited about the prospect of retiring and one of them is absolutely delighted with the news that she is about to become a grandparent.

It seems that growing old is great, but not all people agree.

Anyway, to balance the two views, I thought I would prepare a list of the pros and cons of growing old based on a little research and my own philosophy on life.

CONS

(1) Your body starts to let you down.

My eyesight has always been terrible. I used to be short-sighted but now I have to wear varifocals because I am struggling to read. Nobody warned me about that. Also, I have to look forward to illness, deafness and bits of my body that were firm starting to succumb to the effects of gravity and drooping like a water starved flower.

(2) You are not as good looking as you used to be.

Every time I look into the mirror I am convinced that I am becoming uglier. I was hideous to start with and now, with greying hair and wrinkles appearing, I look worn out. Mind you, older people probably think I look fine because their eyesight is getting worse.

(3) Fashion for the elderly is absolutely awful.

The other week I was shopping for a new shirt and wandered into Marks and Spencer. Why, I don’t know – perhaps my ageing brain told me to because I am almost an old git. I looked around the department labelled “Men’s Fashion” (the word “fashion” used in its loosest possible way) and immediately walked out again. The clothes were awful. The only people browsing were old men wearing similar clothes. What person decided that once you get old you should wear clothing that is so dreadful it actually ages you even more?

(4) You start to feel out of touch with young people.

These days I find myself ranting at young people who have no knowledge of the things I used to love when I was their age. They love it and wind me up even more (apparently I am really funny when I rant). When I ask them about their passions and loves they bamboozle me with music, TV programmes, games and all manner of things that I have never heard of. When it comes to youth culture I am totally clueless.

(5) You start going to more funerals than weddings.

Old people are always talking about people who are seriously ill or have died. The cloud of death seems to hover over them and becomes a major topic of conversation. I am a hypochondriac and when I hear that old Bill from up the road has died I have to seriously stop myself from browsing the internet to find out about what killed him. When I am old, all talk about diseases of the aged will be banned.

(6) You start to forget things.

I used to pride myself on having a fantastic memory. Nowadays, it is worse. I am not that bad but I do find myself forgetting simple things. It is infuriating.

(7) You start to slow down.

When I was younger I used to run everywhere, bound up and down the stairs and play sports for fun. These days, I look at young people jumping around, running about and hurling themselves into energetic pastimes with envious eyes. I simply cannot keep up.

PROS

(1) You will be free to do what you like.

I can’t wait until retirement  and I am already making plans. At this moment in time I have no idea what I will do to occupy my time but I don’t care. I will find something. I can write a book, learn a new language, join a club, travel – anything really. By the time I retire I shall have a grand plan and be as rampant as a man in his sixties can be.

(2) You care less about what people think of you.

I used to be a sensitive soul but over the years, I have become immune to people who have insulted me or taken the piss. I usually make fun of myself such is my contempt for my own sensitivity. If someone were to say to me “Why are you going home early? You’re turning into a boring old fart!” I would say “Yes I am – and I am bloody proud of it!”

(3) You are wise.

Older people have had a lot of experience and can generally help and advise anybody. I do this all the time with my two lads and many other young people I know and work with. I have been asked to join a quiz team because of the amount of trivia I have stored in my brain.

(4) You are able to watch your kids grow up.

I have two great boys and am lucky enough to have watched them grow into young adults with minds and personalities of their own. I regard them both as mates as well as sons and we get along famously. I look forward to seeing them have their own families (though I’m not ready to be a grandparent myself yet).

(5) You may be better off.

I quite like the idea about getting pensioner discounts because I am an old git. Sadly I have to wait another few more years before I can enjoy free travel, discount cinema tickets etc.. Also, given how long I have been running the irritating rat race, I would hope that I will be reasonably well off in my twilight years. Thankfully Mrs PM is younger than me by a few years so we should be okay and she can look after my decrepit old body (don’t tell her I said that).

(6) Your experience can stand you in good stead.

Whatever I choose to do when I finally retire, I fully intend to start writing down my thoughts and life experiences more prolifically. Whether the Plastic Mancunian will survive and become a medium for my rants is yet to be decided – but I shall scribble things down for my kids and family to read in the years after I have finally shuffled off this mortal coil. Even now, I like to tell youngsters about things I have experienced – and it’s fun.

(7) You can be as grumpy as you want.

The phrase “grumpy old git” is there to be embraced. I have been practicing for years and am very good at it. “What are you moaning about now?” is a question I am asked a lot. There is so much – just picking up a newspaper can set me off even now. What do you imagine I shall be like it 20 years?

AND FINALLY …

As I said earlier, I have a few years to prepare for being an old man and I hope to embrace the pros listed above while minimising the cons.

I think I can do that … if I’m not too tired and can remember.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Risky Business


When people ask me whether I am willing to take a risk, I tell them that I am very risk averse. I am one of those annoying people who spend ages making decisions in order to minimise risk (that's according to Mrs PM anyway).

Recently, however, I read an article that may have changed my opinion of myself.

The article states that the average Briton takes ten risks a week. As I read the headline, I wondered who these amazing people were. Logically, because I am so risk averse and rarely take any risks at all, there must be thousands of my fellow countrymen who hurl themselves into risk filled situations every single day of the week.

I wanted to know what these people did. I imagined that some of them threw themselves out of aircraft, climbed mountains without the aid of a safety net or asked a policeman if his head was shaped like his helmet.

I wanted to know these people.

And then I read the article.

Foreigners may think that British people are boring stuffy people who keep a stiff upper lip and tut loudly when somebody pushes to the front of a queue. If this article is true then the boring description is also true.

Of the 40 typical “risks” that Britons take, I take 35 of them on a regular basis.

35!!

You may now consider me to be some kind of daredevil, a man who laughs in the face of fear, messes up the hair of terror and pulls down the trousers of danger.

You may think I am Superman on steroids!


You are wrong.

Here are just five of the so-called “risks” in the list.

Turning up at the cinema without a ticket.

Staying up until after 11pm on a work night.

Leaving the house without an umbrella or coat.

Leaving the house with wet hair.

Pressing the snooze button on the alarm.

Are these risks?

Really?

Now I think the opposite. If I am risk averse (and I am) then there must be people living in the United Kingdom who do absolutely nothing, people who always leave the house with a coat no matter how warm it is outside.

“I don’t care whether the weatherman said it will be hot and sunny all day; this is Britain – it’s bound to rain.”

I have to ask myself how these so-called experts came to this conclusion. I don’t recall being phoned up by a mad market researcher and asked a bunch of stupid questions to determine what kind of weirdo I am. I can only imagine the conversation:

PM: Hello.

Market Researcher: Do you go outside without a coat at least once a week?

PM: What?

Market Researcher: Do you go outside without a coat once a week? Or maybe you go out with wet hair?

PM: WHAT??

Market Researcher: I’m sorry. I just want to find out how risk averse you are.

PM: I’m very risk averse. Who are you again?

Market Researcher: A market research assistant. How do you feel about going to a restaurant without booking a table first? 

PM: I do all of those things.

Market Researcher: Wow! I’ve called Superman. And I’ll bet you drink coffee just before you go to bed.

PM: Sometimes, why?

Market Researcher: (muffled) This is GREAT! Hey chaps – I’ve got a great one here. What? No – I’ll bet he doesn’t do that.

PM: Do what? Who are you taking to? 

Market Researcher: Just my colleagues. Can I just ask (gulp) have you ever (I’m a bit scared to ask this) sat in reserved seat on a train to London?

PM: Yes.

Market Researcher: A seat that was reserved for somebody else? 

PM: Yes – I just move when they come.

Market Researcher: What a BADASS you are.

PM: This phone call is over.

Market Researcher: Such a BADASS! Nobody would dare slam the phone on me. We’re British – we are …

PM: (slams down the phone).

It makes me wonder whether all the junk cold calls we receive are just dumb market researchers ringing us to find out how boring we all are. And how risky is it to actually answer those calls? It must be because sometimes I do and I tell them to stop phoning me about an accident I never had, or mis-sold insurance for my mortgage.

Anyway, having read the article I now know that I am a risk seeker. It is official. I take more risks every week than your average Brit.

I am a TOTAL BADASS! I use American slang in my blog posts! I just don’t care!

I listen to heavy metal in my car and, sometimes, I sing out loud.

I sometimes decide, on the spur of the moment, to have a sandwich for lunch instead of a salad. Do you know anyone like that?

I even, sometimes, actually spend money on things I want rather than things I need. How risky is that?

To quote the late great Rik Mayall: “I am a rider at the Gates of Oblivion and I am on the last freedom moped out of Nowhere City!”

Are you impressed with the new me?

Monday, 4 June 2018

The Butterfly Effect


Welcome to the next post in the series about the end of the world – this time concentrating on another silly thing that people believe. This one involves time travel.

Time travel is a concept that fascinates me and has done ever since I was a young boy reading yet another H.G.Wells novel – “The Time Machine”.



I have read several novels and watched a lot of movies that involve time travel and, of course, my favourite science fiction series is Dr Who, where the main protagonist has a machine that can travel back and forth through the ages.

Sadly, as much as I love the concept, there are usually gaping holes in the stories and plot lines. I can forgive most of them but sometimes struggle. Even the simplest ideas can be burdened with anomaly, paradox and contradiction.

I have written down three ideas for time travel novels and each one would be difficult to write, If I were to suddenly become a brilliant novelist overnight I would still struggle with the convoluted plot in each one of the three and would be constantly on the lookout for the inevitable gaping plot holes that would almost certainly occur frequently throughout the storyline.

One day I will have a go but it will be a scary undertaking.

So what has time travel got to do with the end of the world?

If you have ever seen a movie called “The Butterfly Effect” you will know what I am talking about. There are people living on the same planet as you and I who actually believe that the world could end because of the Butterfly Effect.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain. The Butterfly Effect basically relies on the existence of time travel as a real technology and phenomenon.

Imagine if time travel were possible. If I were to travel back in time and I accidentally stepped on a butterfly, killing it instantly, the effects of that one careless act could theoretically cause a massive chain reaction building up over the intervening years that would ultimately cause a chaotic event that could wipe out humanity and/or the entire planet.

It’s difficult to imagine the death of a butterfly causing such a catastrophe but if you think about it in bigger terms the possibilities are endless, particularly if a human being’s life was accidentally taken instead.

The reason most people dismiss the Butterfly Effect is that it really does rely on the existence of time travel. As much as I love science and the concept of time travel I know that this is impossible. If time travel were possible, surely history would be full of time travelling tourists heading back in time to witness history as it happened. If I could get my hands on the means to travel through time I would almost certainly head forwards in time to see what was going on in the coming centuries rather than going over old ground.

And what would happen if, say, a time traveller with a conscience decided to go back and kill Hitler for example?


The chances are that the resulting turbulence on the time line could prove fatal for the traveller. If World War II never happened, his grand-parents may not have actually met and he would immediately cease to exist as he extinguished Hitler’s life. Or the death of Hitler may end up resulting in the death of a brilliant scientist who ultimately produces the cure for a terrible contagion that wipes out humanity before he has found  the cure.

Brain-bending stuff, eh?

And what if the time traveller had met a younger version of himself? Surely he would have remembered such a momentous occasion in his past life. And would meeting a past version of yourself cause the entire timeline to explode in a paradoxical explosion like the ending of the movie Timecop?

These days,  time travel paradoxes are explained by alternative realities, so that if you were to go back in time and change history, then history as we know it would be preserved while the alternative history caused by you stepping on a butterfly would in fact just be an alternative reality that we would never experience. This was explained in Back to the Future Part II and it blew a lot of people's minds.



Thinking about this makes my brain hurt!

Anyway, enough of this nonsense – and that is what the Butterfly Effect is. The world will not end because of time travel because time travel is impossible.

Even Stephen Hawking agreed with me. He famously held a cocktail party for time travellers from the future, the theory being that in future if time travel becomes possible then any future traveller would accept the invitation, step back in time and attend the party.


Nobody turned up.

If I am wrong and there is a budding Dr Who out there, please feel free to come and visit me any time – assuming this blog stands the test of time and future time travellers are able to read it.

It would make a great story if it happens.

I'll write a post about it.



Saturday, 2 June 2018

Aliens Are Coming


I’ve discussed a few realistic ways in which the world could end so I think now it is time to get a little silly and talk about some of the more crazy things that people believe about the end of humanity.

Let’s start with something that is close to my heart: alien invasion.

I love science fiction, particularly involving aliens (the stranger the better) and avidly watch TV programmes and movies featuring weird and wonderful creatures from another planet blowing Earth to smithereens with maximum prejudice.

My favourite book is “The War of the Worlds” by H.G.Wells, just to reiterate this.

What a total geek I am.

I don’t care.

The big question for people like me is: do such aliens actually exist?

In my opinion there are some people living on this planet that may actually be alien – they certainly resemble stereotypical extra-terrestrials. I don’t want to fuel any conspiracy theories but there are some odd people walking about. Could these people be the initial wave of invaders, sent here to prepare the way for the army of monsters to follow? Could they be sent to initiate control so that when the invaders arrive we are subjugated with minimum resistance?

It’s possible when you think about it. Shape-shifting aliens could already be here conquering us passively by making themselves celebrities and gathering vast armies of fans  having already hypnotised the most gullible amongst us so that only those immune to their charms will have to be conquered.

How else do you explain Oprah Winfrey and Lady Ga-Ga?

Such aliens would also want to know everything about us. Consider how people love to post every intimate detail about themselves on social media with no worries at all about the consequences of their actions. Imagine an alien (or aliens) possessing all of this information about us?

Step forward Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook.

Seriously, though, there are lots of famous people who believe in the existence of extra-terrestrials. The late great Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the most intelligent people ever to have lived often spoke about what would happen if human beings were to encounter aliens. He wasn’t very positive about the possibility. He said two things that interest me:

“Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach. Who knows what the limits would be?” 

“Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”

That’s kind of scary, isn’t it?

If you think about it, there are countless trillions upon countless trillions of planets out there in our universe. How arrogant are non-believers in thinking that we are the only intelligent life form in the entire universe?

Yet at the same time there is the Fermi Paradox. Enrico Fermi, a famous physicist, stated that given the age and size of the universe and the trillions of planets out there, then it stands to reason that some form of intelligent life must have managed by now to use technology to create spaceships that can traverse vast distances and visit, and possibly conquer, most if not all of the known universe.

So where is everybody? Where are these aliens? Hence the paradox.


Of course, Fermi’s question might be answered by alien believers who, joking aside, are convinced that aliens really have landed on Earth and are walking amongst us. If you look on YouTube you will find thousands of videos ranging from aliens caught on camera to UFO’s whizzing about in our skies. Also, there are others who think that we have already been invaded and that the so-called ruling elite are in fact alien shape-shifters controlling us all.

I knew it! Donald Trump is an alien! That explains a lot.

Realistically though, if there are belligerent aliens out there, then surely it would have been easier to invade centuries ago before we developed the technology to fight back. An alien invasion fleet would have encountered little resistance from Neanderthals, ancient Greeks, Romans, medieval peasants and even early twentieth century people.

The “War of the Worlds” story illustrates just that – the army of Martians in H.G.Wells’ book wiped out a large percentage of nineteenth century England with little or no effort.

There is additional speculation that humanity is in fact an alien race and that we ourselves were planted here to populate the planet after the dinosaurs were wiped out. When you think about it, it is possible that we were deposited here as a primitive colony all those centuries ago.

I like the idea that perhaps you and I, are aliens who successfully conquered Earth.

It explains a lot.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Super Volcano


A few years ago I was sitting at a café in Sorrento overlooking the Gulf of Naples in Italy watching the sun set. As I watched the golden sky, my eyes drifted across the water to the city of Naples.

Towering over the city was one of our planet’s most impressive natural structures almost as if standing guard like a silent sentinel.

Vesuvius 

Vesuvius From The Air
Unfortunately Mount Vesuvius isn’t exactly a sentinel, more of a dormant threat. It’s easy to admire nature’s handiwork but when the people who live around the Gulf of Naples see the volcano, surely they must wonder whether the volcano will ultimately destroy them just as it did centuries ago in perhaps the most famous volcanic eruption man has ever witnessed.
On August 24th AD79, the area saw the power of the volcano when it erupted and hurled molten rock, ashes, stones and noxious volcanic ashes into the atmosphere, with the nearby cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum being totally destroyed by pyroclastic surges. 
I visited the remains of Pompeii and I can only imagine how terrifying this assault of nature was. You can still see the remains of bodies of people who  were killed in the disaster in positions that showed the agony the people must have suffered in their last moments.

Add caption
Mount Vesuvius is an impressive sight and you can only wonder what would happen if a similar eruption were to occur today. In fact, there have been eruptions in the 20th century, both causing significant damage and killing people.
What is even more frightening is that relatively speaking Mount Vesuvius is just a normal volcano. There is something on our planet that can wreak havoc on a global scale – a super volcano.
Super volcanoes are huge and while they erupt far less frequently than their smaller brothers, when they do erupt, chaos ensues. Typically super volcanoes only erupt every few hundred thousand years.
Thank goodness for that.
However, we are actually overdue such an eruption. And that is very bad news.
How does a super volcano compare to a normal volcano, I hear you cry?
In general, a normal volcano hurls about a cubic kilometre of matter. A super volcano erupts over anything from one thousand times that amount to five thousand times that amount (and I think that experts are only guessing because we haven’t experienced such an event as human beings).
How many of these enormous monsters are out there, I hear you scream?
I did some research and discovered that there are twelve of them!
TWELVE!
One of the most famous ones you might have heard of is the Yellowstone caldera in the United States. Here are some facts about it.
The Yellowstone caldera measures 35 by 45 miles.
It last erupted 630,000 years ago and experts say that we shouldn’t get another for at least 30,000 years. Let’s hope not.
The Yellowstone park contains 60% of the world’s geysers.
There are 1000 to 2000 earthquakes per year in and around Yellowstone.
So what would happen if a super volcano were to erupt? Taking Yellowstone as an example, an eruption would be a complete and utter disaster that would cause some serious damage, although scientists are convinced that such an event wouldn’t necessarily lead to life on Earth being wiped out. It is thought that the last eruption led directly to the Ice Age.
Here’s what would happen.
Anybody in the vicinity would be killed. 
Any surrounding cities would be destroyed. 
The resulting ash cloud would be huge and falling ash would choke people in a huge radius when it fell back to Earth. In the case of Yellowstone, all the US states surrounding Wyoming would be devastated.
The ash cloud would cause global temperatures to fall by at least 20 degrees, with the long term effect of slowly killing vegetation and plant life, something we as humans need for our own food and the food of the animals we breed to nourish us, leading to widespread famine on a global scale.


The good news is that scientists are constantly monitoring volcanic activity throughout the world, so the eruption of a super volcano would not come as a massive surprise. The question is, even if scientists were to predict that a super volcano would erupt in a year, what on Earth could we do about it? 
The short answer is nothing, but world governments might be able to take steps to mitigate the effects on humanity, though to me personally, I’m not altogether sure how we would prepare. 
Let’s just hope that we’re not around when it eventually happens – and believe me it will.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Getting Warmer ...


We live in an amazing period in human history, a time when huge leaps in technology and science have provided the human race with advances that could not even be imagined several hundred years ago. That’s if you don’t count reality TV of course!

We are able to drive around in vehicles that make our individual countries much smaller places. The world too is getting smaller as we fly from country to country, in achievable time frames. If I want to travel to America I can board an aircraft at Manchester airport in the morning and land in New York eight hours later and have dinner in a fancy restaurant in Manhatten with time to add some graffiti to Trump Tower should I feel the need to do so (and I do, dear reader, I really do).

I can even get to the other side of the world in a day or so to give me an opportunity to discuss ball tampering with Aussies and get some tips.

For people who don’t like travelling, communication with the rest of the world technology comes to their aid too. My eldest son has just come back from Sydney, Australia and I managed to exchange several messages with him via an application on my smartphone in real time almost instantaneously, offering translation services like use of the word “dunney” and the phrase “fair dinkum”. He has posted photographs to make me jealous and I can express my envy in seconds.

This very post will cast out into cyberspace and can be read instantly by anyone in the world with access to a computer, tablet, smartphone and a strange masochistic streak.

As a race we are so proud of our achievements but sadly there is a cost – and we need to do something about it.

Technology is driven by electricity and in order to generate the copious amounts we demand and require we need to burn fossil fuels, as we do if we want to travel a small distance in our cars or fly to any destination in the world.

Sadly, burning fossil fuels generates carbon dioxide, or CO2, and the consequences of this are affecting the planet we call home. Carbon dioxide and other pollutants collect in the atmosphere and are basically turning Earth into a giant greenhouse. Sunlight and solar radiation should reflect off the surface of the planet and escape into space but, just like a greenhouse, these gases absorb  the sunlight and radiation and trap the heat, thus making our planet warmer.



If you have ever been in a greenhouse on a sunny day you will know exactly what I mean.

In theory we could achieve balance with plants because they absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen. Sadly, we are significantly reducing the number of plants in the world through farming and deforestation, in some cases burning them, which in turn generates even more carbon dioxide.

It is a battle that the earth is losing.

Global warming sceptics, amongst them President Donald Trump, dismiss the idea of climate change due to human intervention as a myth. However, there are mountains of proof out there.

For example, all but one of the 16 hottest years in recorded history have occurred since the year 2000.

Think about that for a second.

Given the demand for electricity, travel and fossil fuels generally is it any surprise, especially since the human population of the world is also increasing rapidly – currently a staggering 7.6 billion people?

So what are the effects of global warming? And could it cause the end of the world?

We will face several challenges. If we carry on down the road we have embarked upon.

The level of the seas will rise, leading to coastal flooding which will include some major cities around the world. We may even lose the ice at the North Pole during summer months in a hundred years or two.

The weather will also be adversely affected with more extremes, stronger and more powerful hurricanes, severe snowstorms and flooding, something which will potentially lead to plagues and disease (a bad thing for a hypochondriac like me).

Paradoxically, other places will suffer droughts leading to famine and starvation.

The oceanic ecosystem will suffer too. As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, its pH will drop making it more acidic and harmful to marine life.

For those who doubt that global warming is an actual thing (I’m talking specifically to people like Donald Trump), here are some other proven and alarming facts.

As of 2017, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are at their highest for 650,000 years.

The average global temperature is up by almost one degree Centigrade since 1880.

Arctic summer sea ice has declined by 13% per decade since the 1980s.

The global sea level has risen 7 inches in the past century.

What can we do about it?

We can stop listening to the Oompah Loompah in the White House for a start.

Sadly, you and I, dear reader can only contribute in a tiny way by reducing our carbon footprints and, perhaps using our own footprints to get to our destinations instead of jumping into our cars. As a race we need a technology leap that sadly isn’t being achieved as fast as we actually need it.

Even with countries aiming to reduce their emissions with targets, the global temperature will still rise – only more slowly.

Our fate is in our own hands. At the moment we are turning our planet into a toilet in a greenhouse.

I have hope though. I think the world is slowly becoming aware of the problem – too slowly if you ask me – but then again people like Donald Trump won’t be in power for too much longer to bleat about global warming being a myth.

Mind you, he’s so orange that perhaps he think it’s his own natural skin colour.

We could all end up looking like him.

The future of mankind?
And that should give us all the kick up the arse we need.


Monday, 2 April 2018

Contagion


My name is Dave and I am a hypochondriac.

For that reason, and that reason alone, the end of the world scenario that terrifies me most is the threat that we as a race could all be wiped out by a supervirus.

Imagine, if you will, a TV news announcement that describes a potential nasty bug that is spreading from person to person in numerous countries with no hope of recovery. From that point on, I would be totally and utterly convinced that the virus was in my system even if it hadn’t reached the shores of the United Kingdom yet.

In the past, I have been slightly perturbed when newscasters have mentioned benign bugs that are nasty but not lethal, even when they are confined to the deepest parts of Africa, say.



A few years ago there had been an outbreak of the deadly respiratory disease called Sars and it had surfaced in Hong Kong. Thankfully, the authorities had it under control eventually and it was then that my project manager asked me to go on a business trip to the city.  I read that the authorities at the airport were screening people as they came and left using thermal cameras in an attempt to detect elevated temperatures in travellers. I wrestled with my inner hypochondriac who told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to catch the disease even though it was under control. Normally I would have been over the moon to visit my favourite city outside the United Kingdom – but not this time.

Deep down I knew that I would be safe but that didn’t stop the hypochondriac inside whispering to me constantly through the flight: “You will catch Sars – that’s if you don’t have it already.”

The temperature in Hong Kong in the summer is quite a lot higher than the UK and you feel it the moment that you leave the aircraft. Such was my paranoia that I thought the thermal cameras would identify an elevated temperature in me as I walked towards immigration.

Of course, I was being utterly stupid and I passed through without a problem. My trip lasted three weeks, during which time I became an expert in the symptoms of Sars. Every time I felt slightly below par I was convinced that I had succumbed to the disease – even a few weeks after my return to Manchester.

I know that I am an idiot for allowing myself to accede to such moronic paranoia but I can’t help it. I wish I could.

Thus, if I were to ever catch a news report telling me that a deadly disease was spreading across the world, wiping out everybody who came into contact with it, I would probably worry myself to death months before the infection claimed me.

I would be an expert and would probably use all of my money to travel to the remotest part of the world, avoiding all contact with civilisation on my way, so that I could sit there in splendid isolation away from any human beings who might pass on the deadly virus to me.

That’s how irrational my inner hypochondriac is.

The perfectionist in me wanted to do some research into the possibility of humanity being wiped out by such a virus so I have had to silence the hypochondriac.

And thank goodness for that because I have discovered that it is highly unlikely that a pandemic could cause the extinction of the human race. Over the centuries, there have been several nasty little blighters that have tried their level best to take us all out – things like The Black Death, Ebola, various flavours of flu, Sars and HIV.

The good news is that there are steps in place to contain such outbreaks and the organisations and institutions that are responsible for this are damned good at what they do.

Yet, as I watch programs like “The Walking Dead” where a virus has wiped out all but the hardiest of humanity and turned them into flesh eating Zombies, I can’t help but think that maybe such a thing could happen. In fact, in the show, every human being actually has the disease anyway so that when you eventually die, you come back to life as a cannibalistic corpse whose sole  raison d'ĂȘtre is to munch on the living.

How nice is that?

My deepest fear is that there is a malignant virus living dormant in every human being ust waiting to be activated and murder us in the most horrible way possible. If I shove this thought aside for a moment (very difficult now it is in my head) the truth is that humanity would find a way were such a supervirus to suddenly appear – even if it were man made. Some form of humanity would survive and find a way perhaps living in a remote part of the world, like the top of a mountain range, the deepest part of the Australian Outback or an African desert. It wouldn’t be pleasant but we might survive.

And if you do live in such an inhospitable yet safe part of the world, get ready to meet me. I’ll be there the moment the first cases of the outbreak are reported.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Nuclear Holocaust


Whenever I see Donald Trump, two thoughts come to mind. The first I have ranted about on this blog so many times that I am not going to elaborate – basically the man is not fit for the office of President of the United States.

The second is a corollary of that sentiment – this man has the power to launch nuclear weapons at anybody who pisses him off.

While this seems unlikely, I think his words might just spark other lunatics to do just that – Kim Jong Un for example, a man who lives in fear of being toppled either by his own people or external forces. The recent war of words with the USA made me consider what would happen if Kim Jong Un were to launch an attack. Trump said he would be met with fire and fury like the world had never seen before.

Happy days, eh?

Equally, we have Vladimir Putin, a so-called democratically elected leader of a huge country with a nuclear arsenal that could annihilate most of Europe and the USA. Recent events in my own country, the poisoning of one of his own former spies on British soil, lead to retaliatory measures from our own government which were made with the barely veiled warning – “Do not threaten a nuclear power”.


The UK is also a nuclear power, with a smaller nuclear arsenal so we could retaliate and trigger World War 3.

With all of these threats looming, and other slightly mad and dictatorial leaders trying to acquire nuclear weapons, the future isn’t looking too good.

Some people say that owning nuclear weapons makes it unlikely that a nuclear holocaust will ever happen for fear of the devastating reprisals. But I say that it only takes one nutter to do something stupid and there are a few of them knocking around.

If World War 3 were to kick off, the initial attack would result in the annihilation of many major cities, wiping out the residents of those cities immediately.

The population of the world would be severely reduced and if you think the survivors would be lucky to escape then think again. Any towns and cities in the vicinity of the numerous detonations would not escape unscathed, simply because the aftermath of being close to a nuclear explosion would almost certainly eventually prove to be fatal. The survivors would almost certainly envy those killed immediately.

Residual radioactive material would be thrust into the upper atmosphere with winds spreading this over a great distance as it gradually fell back to Earth upon unsuspecting people who think they are safe.

Some people would die quickly while others would live longer but eventually succumb to the devastating effects.

Any people still surviving the nuclear fallout will still have problems. When a bomb explodes in the city it will hurl tons of debris into the atmosphere, so much in fact that it will block sunlight. Imagine this happening for numerous cities bombed across the globe; the amount of crap blasted into the atmosphere will be immense and the winds will also scatter this over great distances causing what is known as a nuclear winter. The global climate would be severely affected for at least a decade with soot being distributed over great distances by our wonderful winds.

For those who survived that there is also the prospect of a nuclear famine. A nuclear winter would affect agriculture for any survivors ultimately causing massive food shortages amongst the few people remaining.

The bottom line is that if there were a full scale nuclear war then we as a species and our animal colleagues will almost certainly face the prospect of total extinction. Of course it depends on how many weapons are used and the number of places that are annihilated.

If Putin or Trump or any potential psychopath thinks that unleashing a nuclear holocaust to save his own country then he is severely mistaken.

If you are interested, and have a morbid curiosity, you can simulate the effects of a nuclear detonation on your city using something called NUKEMAP (you can find it here). This gruesome web site allows you to specify a city and the size of the bomb and find out the extent of the fireball radius, the air blast radius and the thermal radiation radius.

Living only 5 miles from the centre of Manchester, I would be killed almost immediately if any bombs were to drop – a blessing in disguise I guess because I wouldn’t know what hit me.

Equally disturbing is MISSLEMAP which allows you to check the range and accuracy of the weapons of mass destruction in the world (you can find it here).

Again the UK is fully in range of anything launched from Russian soil so again I am right in the firing line.


Basically, my opinion is that if one or more nutters start a nuclear war then we are fucked even if we are lucky enough to be on a remote island at the time.