Saturday 19 December 2020

Christmas Questions


Welcome to sunny South Manchester on a mild but sunny Saturday afternoon. Lockdown still continues with Manchester in the highest tier, although our rates have fallen dramatically and we are below the average in England, which is being buoyed by a rather larger increase in the south east of the country around the London area.

I have now finished work for the year and can enjoy a leisurely two week break, within the confines of the restrictions of course. Now it is time to relax and enjoy what I can of the Christmas and New Year period without the spectre of work to haunt me.

I am writing this on Saturday it isn’t really Sunday Stealing – but who cares? Let’s have some fun with a Christmas theme.

1. What’s your favourite thing about the holidays?

Given that Christmas falls in December, four days after the shortest day of the year (which is on Monday), the weather and the darkness do not really appeal. It is usually a cold, dark, damp and unpleasant time of the year. This year aside, it is usually a good time to meet friends and family and generally have a fun time with get-togethers and parties, over-indulging on food and drink and generally having a great time. This year will be different because of the restrictions but I will do my best. Of course the best thing of all is no work. I love that.

2. Do you send out Christmas cards and if so how many do you send?

I no longer send any Christmas cards. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I am a miserable Scrooge-like old git; it is because Christmas cards are a waste of paper, a waste of time and a waste of money. We still get them but I never return them. I prefer to talk to people or see them rather than just wasting a bit of card. 

3. Be honest: holiday newsletters. Love ‘em or hate ‘em?

I hate them. They are usually a way of telling the story of the last year and they are too impersonal for me. I would never bore anybody with such a thing.

4. Be honest: photo cards. Love ‘em or hate ‘em?

The same as newsletters. 

5. How soon do you start shopping?

I hate shopping but Christmas shopping is even worse. The shops and stores are usually crammed full of people and the queues are massive. I return home after such trips feeling stressed tired and in need of a stiff drink. These days, I just shop online. So much more relaxing. For Christmas, I like to get it all done by the end of November.

6. Real or fake tree?

I like the smell of real trees but they are an absolute pain in the backside to maintain. They shed their needles all over the place – even the ones that are “guaranteed not to shed their needles”. And when you finally take them outside they deposit the rest of them all over your house. 

So we have a fake tree. They are less messy and much more cost-effective.  

7. When do you put up your tree?

We usually put the tree about two weeks before the big day, but this year, given the circumstances, we put it up on 1st December.

8. When do you take down your tree?

We usually take it down the day after New Year’s Day. 

9. Describe your typical tree (size, decorations, type)

The tree is about 6ft 3inches and you can see it here.

This year the tree has a dual purpose. It is a Christmas decoration and a plaything for my two kittens.
10. What do you top your tree with?
A star.
11. Do you put Christmas lights outside your house?
No – maybe I am a little odd in that respect but I think it is a pointless exercise.
12. Is there a wreath hanging on your door?
Normally, yes there is, but we haven’t bothered this year – not sure why to be honest.
13. Do you hang up stockings?
Not any more. The kids have grown up an left home.
14. Your favourite Christmas Movie(s)
I like Die Hard – and yes, despite what people say, it is a Christmas movie.
I also like Scrooged, with Bill Murray. 
Finally, I love It’s a Wonderful Life – I shed a tear every time I see it.
15. Be honest: A Christmas movie you hate
Love, Actually? Is supposed to be a Christmas movie – it is bloody awful. I could write an entire blog post on how dreadful it is. 
16. Favourite Christmas Song(s)
Here we go (in no particular order):





and from my home town of Walsall:

17. Be honest: If I hear this/these Christmas songs again I will throw up

I am not even going to post them – just look them up if you don’t know them (which I seriously doubt).

Wham! – Last Christmas

Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You

Cliff Richard – Mistletoe and Wine

They are ALL awful!

18. Give or Receive?

Both. That is the point, surely?

19. Eggnog or Mulled Cider?

I have never fancied eggnog. It looks like vomit. 

I also like cider – but it makes my stomach churn if I have too much of it. I will say Mulled Cider (I a small glass).

20. Ham or Turkey?

Can I say both? Of course I can.

And Finally …

Since this is a weird Christmas and this will be my last post before the day, I will sign off by wishing you all the best Christmas possible and a Happy New Year. 

I will leave you with some alternative lyrics that I posted waaaaayyyyyyyyy back in 2009 (my second year of blogging). These are my own alternative lyrics to Jingle Bells. 

Merry Christmas.

Dashing to the shops every single bloody day

Join another queue, pushing people out the way

I need to buy so many presents and a lot of trash

I need to win the lottery cos I’ve just run out of cash

Oh Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to throw your hard earned cash away

Oh Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to throw your hard earned cash away

Eating lots of food and drinking lots of beer

I am getting fat again, much fatter than last year

The weather’s looking nice; I think it might have snowed

And if I eat another thing I think I might explode

Oh Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to double the amount you weigh

Oh Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to double the amount you weigh

Listening to the Queen and watching crap TV

Playing silly games with my entire family

Everybody’s tired and one or two begin to snore

But later we will have to eat and drink again some more

Oh Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to fall asleep on Christmas Day

Oh Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to fall asleep on Christmas Day

So a Merry Christmas to the readers of this post

I like to raise my glass and to propose a toast

To everyone in Blogland; every woman, every man

Here’s to a fun-filled holiday from The Plastic Mancunian

Oh Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to stuff your face on Christmas Day

Oh Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to stuff your face on Christmas Day

Saturday 12 December 2020

COVID Questions

Welcome to South Manchester on a grey rainy day. Autumn is over and winter has effectively started which means short, grey and cold days that are normally buoyed by Christmas parties and celebrations as we head towards the big day. This year is different; no parties and the only celebrations are going to be a small one on Christmas Day itself. 

Still, the end of the pandemic is nigh as people are starting to be vaccinated here in the UK. They have started to vaccinate NHS staff and care workers and those over 85, the most vulnerable people and the people who care for others. 

Also, and this is true, the second person to be vaccinated was a guy called William Shakespeare from Warwickshire, the county were Stratford-upon-Avon is. Straford-upon-Avon is of course the birthplace of the bard. I am not making this up. I thought they were starting with the oldest people but I didn't know that we had a guy who was 456 years old. 

In other news, I have taken a chance and booked a gig ticket; I plan to see Steven Wilson in September – a little risky because we don’t yet know what will happen in 2021. Nevertheless I am going to take the risk because the worst that can happen is a postponement to a later date or a total refund if it is cancelled completely.

Talking of pandemics, the questions from Sunday Stealing are all COVID related so let’s launch ourselves into that COVID space, shall we?

1. Day 1 of serious isolation behaviour:

The company I work for had the foresight to close the office before the UK-wide lockdown occurred on March 23rd of this year. I began working at the desk where I am typing this on 16th March and have been doing so all year. The first thing that I did was get into a routine, a habit that I have kept up throughout the 274 days (so far) that we have had to suffer lockdowns and restrictions. And to be honest it has kept me sane. The good news is that with the advent of three vaccinations (one approved already) I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully I don’t have to put up with this for much longer. I am ever the optimist.

2. First trip you had to cancel.

We planned a trip to Palermo in Italy to celebrate Mrs PM’s 50th birthday with friends. We have another friend who was 60 this year and our trip in June was to celebrate both. We cancelled it, but this is just a postponement because as soon as normality is resumed, we will rebook the same trip.

3. Other trips cancelled     

Mrs PM and I had planned a trip to Brussels and Bruges but we shelved that idea as soon as the pandemic struck. We had also booked a trip to Estepona on the south coast of Spain; that had to go. Also, we were planning to go to Mykonos in Greece in September. Fortunately we hadn’t booked that so we just kissed it goodbye.

4. Last trip out of town before isolation.   

That depends what you mean by “out of town”. Our last trip abroad was to Skala in Kefalonia in Greece in September 2019. After that, we stayed in the UK apart from a trip to Blackpool at Christmas to see Mrs PM’s parents and to Delamere Forest near to Chester for a weekend away with friends in February.

5. Farthest from home since isolation.

In July and August, our restrictions were lifted enough for us to be able to visit friends in Chester (about 40 miles away) for a weekend. We have not been anywhere else.

6. Last Meal sitting in a restaurant before Isolation.   

There is a good Italian restaurant within walking distance of our home and we were allowed to eat out in October (just after my birthday) before the restrictions became really tight again. We had a very good meal. It was just Mrs PM and I (as we haven’t been allowed to socialise with other households since the end of July).

7. How many books have you read?

During the pandemic I have read about 15 books. 

8. First event you didn’t attend due to virus.

I was scheduled to see Whitesnake and that was cancelled fairly soon into the lockdown. 

9. Date and event of last over 200-person event.

I managed to see Delain in February. They are a Dutch symphonic metal band whose latest album, Apocalypse and Chill is one of the albums of the year.

Here they are in their full glory. 

10. Last live music event.

See previous question. However, I also saw the Wildhearts a week before Delain, a British rock band I have loved for years. Here they are:

11. Things you are eating more of since isolation.

At the beginning of the lockdown Mrs PM and I decided to relieve the boredom with cake and biscuits (cookies to Americans) to “treat ourselves”. The problem is that we don’t normally eat a lot of fattening food and, within a few weeks, I noticed the weight creeping on. So we stopped it. And now we eat normally, apart from the odd indulgence.

12. Things you are eating less of since isolation.

Nothing – as I said above, we are eating normally.

13. What restaurants have you gotten take-out meals from?

We’ve eaten Indian, Chinese, Italian and even ordered fish and chips to be delivered (something we have never done before). 

14. Have you found yourself bored in isolation?

Yes, as I said above. And I am still bored. We can go out and go for walks etc. but we can’t socialise, go to the cinema, go to the theatre or travel – the things that keep me going. What is keeping me going is the fact that I can now see an end to this – plus a little bit of inventive fun that I will mention in a more relevant question below.

15. Have you gained or lost weight?

I am exactly the same. As I said above, I gained weight at first and now I have stabilised. I actually weight slightly less than I did on January 1st of this year.

16. Do you drink alcohol?

Of course – I am British – alcohol is a way of life.

17. If so, more or less in isolation?

I have probably consumed more in lockdown to be brutally honest. However, I don’t drink on what I term as “school nights”, i.e. Sunday to Thursday inclusive (although I sometimes have a cheeky beer on Thursday). 

18. What entertainments have you explored?   

Mrs PM and I usually pop to the pub for a couple of beers/wines on Friday nights. Of course in lockdown, you can’t do that so we have basically created three pubs in our own house. The lounge becomes “The Black Cat” – named after our love of black furry felines. The room I am in becomes “The Warrior’s Arms” named after our Chinese Terracotta Warrior. Here he is:

In the summer, the back garden became our third pub, “The Cat’s Head” but that is closed now because of winter.
We have also binged-watched quite a few TV series.
19. Gotten into anything new?
Not really. I have spent a lot of time exploring potential new pastimes in preparation for retirement in a couple of years but not actually taken anything up yet. I plan to change that is 2021 when I am unleashed on the world again.
20. Have you done crosswords? Board games?  Jigsaw puzzles?
No. I like crosswords but board games and jigsaws are too dull for me. Mrs PM loves jigsaws though and has an app on her phone/laptop where she can spend hours with jigsaws. I just don’t get it. I would fall asleep within minutes. That said, I guess a jigsaw is a good thing to cure insomnia.
21. Have you cleaned out some cabinet, drawer, closet, etc. thoroughly?
Yes. We have cleaned out the cupboard under the stairs, the cupboard in one of the spare rooms and I have tidied up and cleared out my work area. 
22. Are you spending about the same amount of money?
Not really – we are spending less on average because there is nothing to spend it on. We can’t go out, it’s pointless buying new clothes and we can’t book any holidays. I guess one good thing about the lockdown is that I am actually saving money.
23. Done Zoom, Facetime, etc. meetups?
Yes. We have had many quizzes and chats. I quite enjoy quizzes and I have 58 years’ worth of useless trivia in my head, which means that I am very good. We have a quiz every Friday with work to end the week and I have won seven out of the last twelve of them. 
24. Had a social occasion with a small group of people you consider safe?
We only did this in July when the restrictions were eased. We had a couple of nights out with some close friends and, as I said above, visited some other close friends in Chester. I miss them all and I can’t wait to see them again.
25. Did you vote? In Person? On Election Day?
No because we didn’t have an election here in the UK. However, had I been an American citizen living in the US I would have made a special effort to vote the Orange Goblin out of office. Good riddance Donald Trump – the one good thing to pop out of this miserable year.

Sunday 6 December 2020

Best Things to Talk About


Welcome to a grey but dry day in South Manchester. England is now free of lockdown and back into a tiered system. Sadly we are tier 3 so really the only difference between the lockdown and the situation we are in now is that we can go to the shops. It’s still crap if I’m honest.

Rather than wittering on about Covid-19, I shall just dive into questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What is the craziest, most outrageous thing you want to achieve?

I might have mentioned this before but I want to go on a trip around the world, visiting as many countries as I can and write a travelogue about my experiences. I have already written three travelogues about trips to China, Australia and Japan and I plan to pen another one about my experiences in all of the other countries I have visited, including the good old UK too. I don’t think these travelogues will ever see the light of day – they are too personal – but they are good to reread and remind myself of these wonderful places. 

Will I get to achieve it?

Who knows. It’s still on the bucket list.

2. Have your parents influenced what goals you have?

Not really. My dad basically pushed me to achieve the best academic qualifications I could but didn’t have any specific goals. He just wanted me to be the best that I can be. I think he would be proud. 

3. What is a fashion trend you’re glad went away.

Most of the fashion from the 1970’s. Big collars and big trousers with big platform shoes. It was horrific.

4. What word or saying from the past do you think should come back?

I probably use a few phrases that are out of fashion, probably from my youth.

How about:

“Hunky dory” – fine or OK.

“Pardon my French” – an apology (of sorts) if I accidentally swear.

“Strewth!” – an exclamation of frustration.

Or perhaps some things my parents used to say to me:

“I’ll wipe that smile off your face!” – a veiled threat.

“I wouldn’t change it for all the tea in China!” – I love this and I am not going to change it or give it away.

“Am I talking to a brick wall?” – are you ignoring me.

5. What do you bring with you everywhere you go?

I’m sad to say that it is my smartphone. I never thought I would come to rely on this gadget and when mobile phones first appeared I used to mock people who relied on them. And now I have become one of those people. I do not use it as a phone; it is a step counter, a language learner, a book, a connection to the internet and countless other things. 

6. Is there such a thing as a soul?

I guess there probably is and I would define it as the essence of a person. If you try to see beyond the physical appearance of a person, you can truly see them – and I think you are seeing their soul. Some people are just beautiful – not necessarily physically beautiful but just wonderful to be with, kind, considerate, funny and charming. Equally, others can be attractive but when you see past the outer beauty you can sometimes see unattractive traits. 

I like to think of this inner person as the soul, if that makes sense.

7. Is there life after death?

I would like to hope so. I was raised a Roman Catholic, guilty from the moment I popped into this world, and I was indoctrinated with all of the teachings, including Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. I was told that when I finally shuffle off this mortal coil I will stand before God and be sentenced to eternity in Heaven, Purgatory followed by Heaven or eternal damnation in Hell with Satan and all of his demons force-feeding me rhubarb while listening to Piers Morgan serenading me with acid jazz.

I would like to be reincarnated as another human being please, if that’s possible and I have a choice. 

Or maybe even just let my spirit roam the Earth and witness the future of mankind through the eyes of a ghost. 

8. Do you think there will ever be a third world war?

Sadly, I think there might be but it will be over in a flash – literally. 

9. What smell brings back great memories?

My mum used to bake pies, especially at Christmas. The smell of baking reminds me of her delicious pies.

10. How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a nice guy, whose heart was in the right place and made people laugh. 

11. What kind of music are you into?

I could write a book on this subject but put simply, I like ambient electronic pop music, new age,  1970’s dance music, early 1980’s electronic pop music, blues, blues rock, heavy blues, soft rock, AOR, hard rock, heavy metal, progressive rock, progressive metal, classical music (not opera) and other odd songs from other genres. I don’t like country music, hip hop, modern dance music, manufactured pop music (boy bands, girl bands) and anything created by arses like Simon Cowell.

Here are two examples of the music I like.

12. What is the biggest surprise of your life?

That I can grow a beard. Past attempts have been a disaster so I thought I would try again during lockdown. Mrs PM likes it (bizarrely). However, it is coming off in 2021. 

13. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A proper Sunday lunch. 

14. Where is the most awe-inspiring place you have been?

I have been to many awe-inspiring places and it is really difficult to choose amongst them. I could list them all but that would be another huge list.

I will choose The Great Wall of China simply because it is the first thing that popped into my head.

15. Describe your life in six words

Looking forward to the next chapter.

Sunday 29 November 2020



Welcome to a rather grey and miserable South Manchester in the North West of England. We are still in lockdown here in England but will be released on Wednesday into a Tier system that still sees us effectively in lockdown. The only difference is that shops and gyms will be open and I will be able to go the barber for a haircut. However, we cannot go the pub or a restaurant so effectively we have really been in lockdown in my part of the country for 261 days now. 

And I am bloody sick of it, if the truth be known.

We can “socialise” for Christmas though, which means that between 23rd and 27th December inclusive we can form a “Christmas bubble” (or perhaps better a “Christmas Bauble”) with three other households. 

All this means that my two sons can come to visit on Christmas Day – so that will be good.

The problem is that I haven’t seen my friends for so long now that I have almost forgotten what they look like in the flesh.

All I can say is that now there are three vaccines about to be unleashed I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly it will probably be another couple of months before we see the signs. I am so desperate to get out of the UK and travel somewhere that you wouldn’t believe it. 

Anyway – enough of COVID-19; I want to think of good things. 

I noticed that in America it was Thanksgiving last week so I couldn’t really answer the questions on that topic in Sunday Stealing because we don’t have it in the UK. But this week is different. So let’s answer some silly questions from this week’s Sunday Stealing selection

1. My biggest barrier to weight loss is...

My biggest barrier to weight loss is my love of food and drink. First of all, I should say that I am not a fat person, just slightly overweight. When I was younger I could literally eat a horse and not put on weight but ever since my mid-forties I have had to be more careful and now as I approach 60 years old, it is more of a struggle. I weigh thirteen and a half stones (about 190 lbs if you are American) and at a height of 5 feet 11 inches that gives me a BMI of 26.4. That puts me about 10 lbs overweight.  

2. What is your relationship with food like?

Excellent. I eat and enjoy most foods but I try not to over-indulge. I generally eat fairly healthily, avoiding burgers, pies, chips (fries), cake and other things that are supposedly bad for you. 

3. What was the last time you had fun that made you smile for a few days

I don’t think that has happened in 2020 due to this bloody virus. It was probably Christmas 2019. Actually, the arrival of Ziggy and Star has been a fun experience. As I type, they are racing around the house chasing each other.

4. What are triggers in your life that lead to eating?

When I’m hungry. Why else? 

Actually, I can see that there is a problem with things like “comfort eating” and, to be honest, this lockdown has been so desperately dull at times that there has been a temptation to just buy snacks and scoff them all day. 

In the early days of lockdown in April this year, we bought cakes, treats and biscuits (something we don’t normally do apart from at Christmas) and ate them to help cheer ourselves up. My weight increased and so in May or June we decided to stop doing it again and my weight has stabilised. Christmas is coming though so I imagine we will succumb to the festive spirit (as I usually do to be fair).

5. What inspires you to be healthier

I used to be really fit but in my mid-forties again I slowed down and actually stopped exercising until perhaps I was 47, at which time I decided to resume again but walking. 

Over the past ten or so years I try to walk every day and reach a monthly rate of a least 7000 steps a day. Last year I calculated that I had walked 1500 miles which sounds a lot but is actually quite easy (that was an average of 7500 steps a day). 

Walking at my age is a perfect way to stay active and I would love to increase that rate next year. It is a great activity that helps me clear my mind, gives me a good workout (depending on how fast I walk) as well as reducing stress. 

The healthier I am, the happier I am and that is inspiration enough.

6. Name two foods that you think are “bad”

I like to think that you can have anything in moderations, even food that is supposedly bad for you. It is perfectly fine to have deep fried food once in a while as long as it isn’t every day. 

The only food that I would say is bad is rhubarb and apricots. This is not because they are unhealthy. It is because they taste absolutely dreadful and make me wretch just thinking about eating them.

7. Are your expectations for yourself too high?

Not at all. I know what I want and what I like and what my limitations are. I occasionally step outside of my comfort zone (I should do so more often to be honest) but I certainly do not push myself to limits that I don’t expect to be able to achieve. 

8. Would you like more fun in your life?

At the moment, yes, because in this pandemic I am hardly having any fun at all. 

9. What is your one comfort food?

Cheese. I love cheese. I especially love cheese on toast. I try to limit my intake but if I am peckish, I will pop to the fridge and slice off a chunk of cheese.

10. How would you give someone encouragement?

I would talk to them and gently tell them that they can do whatever it is they need encouragement to do.

11. Do you get enough sleep?

I have been watching a few TED talks recently and I was particularly fascinated when the subject was sleep. 

My usual amount of sleep is seven and a half hours a night (almost timed like clockwork) but there are times in the past when I have either gone to bed to late or just had a poor night’s sleep and woken up feeling groggy, irritated and grumpy. The TED talks basically told me about how important sleep is because it gives your body the chance to cleanse, heal and clear itself down after a hard day. Consequently I have tried to go to bed earlier. The good news is that I have now started waking up before my alarm clock having had a great night’s sleep – still about seven and a half hours but sometimes longer. And I feel better for it. 

12. What activities make you feel more relaxed

As I said above, walking helps me to relax as does reading and listening to ambient music like this:

13. Where do you need to practice forgiveness in your life?

I don’t think I do need to practice forgiveness to be honest. I will forgive if necessary but I don’t tend to bear grudges.

14. What is one thing you have not done because of how you looked?

I’ve not entered a beauty pageant because I don’t look like a beautiful woman.

15. What would you like more of in your life?

I would like more freedom from coronavirus restrictions. More generally I would like more freedom anyway but only in terms of not being tied down to a career in the rat race. When I retire, I hope that freedom will materialise.

Sunday 15 November 2020

Something Different


Welcome to sunny south Manchester on lockdown day 247, 17 days into the full England lockdown with another 16 to go. I’m used to the restrictions now because since March 23rd, we in Manchester have only managed a couple of weeks of what you would call a less limited existence. The good news is that the infection rates are falling in the city, although in the rest of England there has been a slow rise as other parts of the country start to increase. But given the fact that it takes a couple of weeks for any change to be noticed, I expect rates to start falling countrywide in the next week or so.

Anyway – enough of that nonsense; let’s have a bit of fun with Sunday Stealing

This week I am going to show photographs based on the questions. I took them all (except for the ones I am in obviously). I hope you like them.

1. Something held together with ribbon, string, or rope.

Taken in Bodrum, Turkey as the sun was going down in 2011. Bodrum is a lovely little town and the harbour front is beautiful, particular at sunset. 

2. Something related to travel.

Taken in Dubai in 2012, this is the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, standing at 2717 feet tall (828m – heading towards a kilometre in height). It scared me half to death, both when we went up to about two thirds of the way to the top and also standing at the bottom looking up. I don’t want to go anywhere near it again – the vertigo I suffered was terrible. It is a beautiful building though.

3. Someplace people gather

Taken in 2019 at Old Trafford in Manchester where people gather to watch Lancashire and England play cricket. Over to the left you can see the tall buildings of Manchester city centre. This match was an Ashes test match against Australia.

4. Something cold/frozen

Taken on a glacier in Brewster, Canada in 2010. I am on the left, Mrs PM is on the right and in the middle is our tour guide who supplied us with a nip of scotch to help keep us warm in the blizzard conditions. All three of us were cold and frozen.

5. Something with a hole in it.

Taken in 1999 in Repulse Bay, Hong Kong. This is the Repulse Bay, a residential building that has a massive square hole in the middle, supposedly to allow dragons coming down from the hills easy access to the sea. Or perhaps it is there for feng shui purposes.

 6. Something striped

Taken in Salvador, Brazil in 2015. This is a lighthouse – and strictly speaking it is striped (although perhaps I am cheating a little).

7. An animal.

Taken in Kuranda National Park, Australia in 2005. In case you are wondering, the animal in question is not me, it is the koala I am holding.

8. Something cute.

Taken this afternoon. This is one of our new cats – Star – supervising me while I type this post to make sure that (a) I choose the right photos and (b) that I don’t make any spelling mistakes.

9. A food.

Taken in 2013 in Kyoto, Japan. This is an assorted dish of sushi and sashimi that we had for lunch on our last day in this beautiful city.

10. Something warm

Taken in 2014 in Nice, France. This counts as warm because it was a beautiful and warm day and this is the view of the coastline taken from Batterie Mont Boron.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Even More Random Questions


Welcome to sunny south Manchester on day 240 of the government restrictions due to the coronavirus. In England we are just over a week into our lockdown; pubs and restaurants are closed, we have been asked to stay at home and work from home if we can and we still cannot mix with other households. It’s really annoying me now. 

There is still hope for 2020 though because, as you have probably heard, the American public have voted to throw the Orange Goblin out of the White House. Well done America. Maybe 2021 will be a good year after all. I must add the antics of Donald Trump, bleating on about election fraud, are a new low for him. How low can he go? I suspect even lower. I just hope he concedes and does the right thing, but being the greatest example in the world of a malignant narcissist, I imagine that he won’t even do that.

In other news, we also have acquired two of the three cats that we are adopting. We drove up to Garstang yesterday to pick them up. They are both roughly four months old. 

The first is quite a large male who we have called Ziggy. He is quite shy and has spent most of the time hiding behind the sofa, popping out to eat, use the litter tray and explore the house. I am sure that he will get used to us and venture out more over the coming days. 

The second is a small female, who we have called Star. I know what you are thinking – yes there is a (sort of) Bowie theme going on here. Mrs PM liked the name Ziggy and I jokingly suggested Stardust and she said that she liked the name Star – so it stuck. Star is the opposite to Ziggy in every way. She is tiny and extremely curious. She is not scared of us at all and has wandered around the house, getting into every nook and cranny (so much so that we have had to make things safer for her). 

Some time in the next week or two we will be collecting the third cat, another female. I suggested Dusty for a name but instead we have opted for David Bowie. No – I’m kidding – she is going to be called Zoe (or Zowie) – thus completing the Bowie theme. 

Here are Ziggy and Star:

Ziggy (right), Star (left)

Shall we answer even more random questions from Sunday Stealing

Let’s hurl ourselves into this.

1. What’s something no one wants to hear but everyone should?

All politicians are liars – even those that you support and voted for. By their very nature they are borderline psychopaths whose sole purpose is to impose their views on absolutely everybody and they will stop at nothing to achieve that  - until they are found out.

2. What’s the most annoying animal you’ve ever encountered?

My sister’s dog is pretty damned annoying. She is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier who is the friendliest dog you will ever meet. She looks similar to this one: 

The problem is that she is a very strong dog and she basically leaps all over you and will gets over-excited. Whenever I visit her, I end up having to grip the animal by its collar and wrestle it into submission – which is not easy at all. If she escapes my grip, she will hurl herself at me and lick me all over my face. My sister can control her but she loves people so much that she loses her mind and ends up smothering them in affection.

3. How much does language affect our thinking?

I think language affects our thinking a lot, in terms of which words you use, how you choose to express yourself and even what language you use, if you are lucky enough to be a polyglot.

4. Do you prefer to watch movies in the theatre or in the comfort of your home?

It depends on the film to be honest. I prefer to watch big budget movies with explosive scenes, magnificent special effects and incredible action scenes in the cinema. For example, I am so pleased that I saw Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame in the cinema. 

Films with no action, more cerebral movies and comedies, for example, I am quite happy to watch them on my TV.

5. What topic could you spend hours talking about?

Music. I love telling people about the music I love, why I love it, what it means to me etc. and have bored Mrs PM many times with such one-sided conversations to the point where she has just told me change the record (if you will pardon the pun). 

6. If you could run away from it all and start fresh somewhere new, would you?

I would definitely do that I think. I am quite settled at the moment but my spirit of adventure isn’t dead at all. I would love to be able to spend at least a year travelling in search of a new beginning, particularly the way things are going here in the UK. Don’t get me wrong – I love the UK but the events of the last four years or so have tarnished my otherwise perfect image of the country that I call home. If I were to leave the UK, I think it would have to be for somewhere warm, peaceful and relaxing, where I could breathe fresh air, smell an ocean breeze and sip wine with Mrs PM as we watch the sun setting. 

7. What’s the most polarising question you could ask a group of friends?

Did you vote for Brexit or not?

I have given up talking about Brexit simply because it makes me so angry – even now four years after the event. The UK is split right down the middle on this subject, with friends and family members having fallen out over it. I got into an argument with a complete stranger in a pub last year because I asked one of my best friends why he was voting for Boris Johnson. “I’m sick of Brexit,” he said. “I just want it over with.” I am a remainer and I wanted Brexit stopped and we just started talking about it, when a man who I had never met, just butted into our conversation and told me in no uncertain terms that I was totally wrong. I was furious and told him that he was utterly wrong and also that he should keep his nose out of other peoples’ conversations. 

I could see others in the pub were interested and I can imagine that others wanted to join in. I was most furious with myself for reacting to him instead of telling him to mind his own business. In the end, my friends and I drank up and left for another pub and, on the way, I told myself that I was going to stop talking about Brexit because it is deeply polarising and a lot of the population are still angry about what has happened.

8. Do movies have the same power as books to change the world?

I think they do, but they have to be a good interpretation of the book. In my experience few books ever make it to the screen with the same impact because it is difficult to get the sense and depth of the message or the story in a book into a movie. There are exceptions but generally I think a book has more power to change the world.

9. What would you rate 10/10 ?

This incredible song from the genius that is Mariusz Duda, the man behind my current favourite band Riverside. Mariusz is from Poland and has a side solo project called Lunatic Soul. The song “The Passage” is the first single from his new album which will be released next week – available in all good shops.

10. What are you really good at, but kind of embarrassed that you are good at it?
I’m pretty good at embarrassing myself generally. I’m also very good at household chores, washing, cleaning, ironing, cooking etc. I’m excellent at saying things without thinking about them first. I can also make people laugh without really meaning to. I’m a good listener too and am quite able to let somebody pour their heart out to me.
11. Who do you go out of your way to be nice to?
I try to be nice to everybody, even people I don’t particularly like. Life’s too short.
12. What problems will technology solve in the next 5 years? What problems will it create?
Technology is always solving problems but in the next five years I think we will see the beginning of the end of our reliance on fossil fuels. Electric cars already exist but the technology is improving at such a rate that they will soon be the norm instead of the exception. I would also like to see driverless cars but I think that will take a lot longer to achieve. What problems will electric cars create? None – other than the possible issues charging them up and building a reliable infrastructure to do so. What about driverless cars? I think that’s obvious – they will need a hell of a lot of testing before they can be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.
13. What from the present will withstand the test of time?
I would like to think that lessons learned from the mishandling of the pandemic by various governments around the world. The UK and the US have been particularly inept dealing with it, even recently. The scientific advisors here urged the government to have a two week circuit break lockdown in September and even Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition, urged the same. What did Boris and cabinet of buffoons do? They completely ignored them and now, in November, when the infection rates starting soaring again they ended up having to impose a four week lockdown on us instead. They are clueless – absolutely clueless. But what would you expect with a clown as Prime Minister? Let’s follow America’s example and get rid of this arse!
14. What movie would be greatly improved if it was made into a musical?
Dear oh dear! None of them. I love music but I am not a fan of musicals.
15. What is something common from your childhood that will seem strange to future generations?

Music Centres

Black and White TV


Landlines and old phones

Reliant Robins (3 wheeled car)

Slide Rules

Sunday 1 November 2020

More Random Questions


Welcome to South Manchester, currently enjoying drizzling rain and light winds. It is also day 233 of restrictions and lockdown and now, Boris the Clown has finally decided that England will go into full lockdown again from Thursday for a month. He claims it will be to “save Christmas” but in reality, scientists have been urging him to do so for the past two months because of rising infection rates. 

The moron said in March that we will be “driven by the science” but when scientists, the leader of the opposition and various others urged him to do so in September, he ignored them because “Boris knows best”.

The problem is that he doesn’t know best – and he never has. He is just a fat scarecrow masquerading as a political leader.

Anyway, enough of that – let’s answer some random questions from Sunday Stealing.

1. What has been your favourite part of the year so far.

Are you serious? 

2020 has been a bloody awful year and will continue to be so right up until the very last second by the looks of it. It started in January and February, as all years do, and I hate those cold, bleak and dark months. In 2020, however, I guess that in those two months, I could go to the pub, see friends and family, go to gigs, go to shops and maybe even travel to somewhere warm. Sadly, I didn’t travel but I did go to a couple of gigs and actually meet and speak to people. 

So, with great reluctance, I will say that February was probably my favourite part of the year so far, because it was less dark and less cold than January, I managed a couple of gigs and I had optimism for the rest of the year until Coronavirus came along and vanquished the rest of the year.

2. Have you started Christmas shopping?

I usually do most of my Christmas shopping in November to get it over with. This year, it will all be online because non-essential shops are closed for a month. To be fair, I hate shopping anyway, so most years I do the same. Shops at Christmas are awful, full of people doing last minute shopping, with massive queues everywhere and loud Christmas music blaring out into your ears on a never-ending loop. Sadly we will still have to shop for food etc. – although we won’t need as much because I doubt that there will be a family gathering this year.

3. Do you like your handwriting?

My handwriting is just about legible and it is okay. Interestingly, I was looking in a cupboard upstairs and found a binder with my maths notes from school. My handwriting then was much better than it is now, but that was perhaps because we were forced to write with a proper ink pen (as opposed to a biro). It’s really not that bad now, If I’m honest, so I guess the answer is “yes”.

4. Song you could hear over and over and over again.

I’ve had a look at my list of songs on iTunes to see which ones I have played most since I bought my iPod a few years ago. I’ve selected this beautiful masterpiece from the multi-talented Steven Wilson. It is a progressive rock work of genius, clocking in at almost 12 minutes. But don’t let that put you off from listening to it. 

It is a peaceful song that starts off slowly and gradually builds up, with piano, acoustic guitar and vocal accompaniment. It is about an old watchmaker who married his wife Eliza but never really loved her. And then she dies and he thinks he is free of her but she comes back to haunt him as the bond they have is too strong to be broken even in death and he cannot rid himself of her even after she has died.

Here it is in its full melancholic glory.

5. A favourite quote.
“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares?... He’s a mile away and you’ve got his shoes!”
courtesy of Billy Connolly.
6. Last dream you remember
First, some background. After the death of our last cat, we have been a catless house for a month or two. Mrs PM is now ready to fill the cat void and we were going to wait until 2021 but she saw a story on a local Cat Protection charity site about somebody who dumped three black kittens in a carrier bag in an alleyway in a nearby town. They were covered in the own poo and quite poorly. They are recovering and now ready for adoption. We were so appalled by this act of cruelty that we have decided to take all three of them. They are black cats and are currently being prepared for adoption, which will take a short while (a couple of weeks).
It seems that people don’t want black cats because of superstitious nonsense. Nevertheless that is no reason to just dump three kittens in a bag.
Anyway, back to the dream. Last night, in my dream, my imagination told me that the three little rascals had come to live with us and were running around our house just being cats. One of them had no teeth but was trying to chew on my fingers and the other two were so quick that I couldn’t catch them.
A slightly mad dream – but I am really looking forward to filling our cat void again. 
7. Most expensive object you want to buy right now.
A huge holiday to the Far East. Realistically, when this Coronavirus pandemic has died down, we will take our holidays in Europe (that we had to cancel this year). After that, we will travel to the Far East again, perhaps Malaysia or Japan again (we haven’t decided). 
8. Describe your eldest family member.
I guess that would be Mrs PM’s dad. He is a really funny outgoing guy, aged 78, and has absolutely no shame. He will strike up a conversation with anybody about anything and usually he tries to do so in a stupid way. We’ve been on holiday with him a couple of times and each time he has embarrassed us. I just sit and watch him in action. 
In America, for example, we were on a boat trip and he asked a bemused group of Americans “Do you speak English? I’m not from this country!” which had a strange reaction. Some of them just laughed, and others just said “What? Of course we speak English. We’re American!” to which he replied “I didn’t know you spoke English over here.” – before laughing out loud. And of course, he had broken the ice and spent the rest of the trip acting as the comedian, making them all (and us) laugh at his antics.
He is a funny extrovert guy who is the first to stand up in the audience when somebody asks for a volunteer.
9. What has your weather been like?
Autumn has kicked in so the temperature has dropped a little. It is still quite mild and we have had a couple of stormy days, but today it is just a dull, featureless, grey day with drizzling rain. We have had some sunshine though and last week I enjoyed a walk at dawn with leaves turning into beautiful golden and red colours. 
10. Do you enjoy your job?
No. I am sick of my career (you may have heard me moan about it before). It’s not the company I work for – they are pretty good actually – but rather the job itself. I work in IT and have done for 36 years and now find myself in a niche area (which I will tell you all about when I retire). However, I am just bored – bored of the job, bored of the office politics, bored of the actual day to day grind. The people I work with are amazing and clever and it isn’t them; it’s the job itself, the procedures, the programming, the documentation, nature of the job. 
I can’t wait to retire.
11. What is your favourite everyday item?
My laptop. Without it I would be lost. It has all of my music and every bit of rubbish that I have ever written on this blog, as well as a load of other crap that I have written (including three travelogues, a half-finished novel, lots of short stories, etc.) as well as being the gateway to the world in terms of the internet. 
12. Are you currently obsessed with any TV show?
Yes – I’ve watched a couple of great ones recently. I will single out a mind-bending and very intriguing German drama on Netflix. I recommend it if you like weird stuff but you may need to have your wits about you to understand what is going on. I loved it – and don’t worry – it is all in German but dubbed on Netflix so you don’t have to read subtitles.

Also, I heard some great news last week. My favourite serial killer is back. Dexter Morgan is returning for perhaps one final series. I loved that show and can’t wait to see the new series.

13. Book you’d like to read before the year ends.
I don’t have any in mind. Ss far this year I have read quite a lot of post-apocalyptic thrillers and I need a change so I might go for “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari,  the follow up to “Sapiens”, which I found very interesting.
14. Describe Kindness.
Kindness is not leaving three helpless black kittens in a carrier bag on a cold autumn day in a town in Northern England. 
15. Describe your favourite candy in great detail.
I am not a huge fan of “candy” or sweets as we prefer to call them. I guess I will have to say Lindor chocolates. They are delicious but I rarely buy them because I will scoff an entire box. We will have some for Christmas but I will make Mrs PM ration them out.

Sunday 25 October 2020



Welcome to sunny Manchester on day 216 of our lockdown due to Coronavirus. And yes, it is lockdown now as we are riding the crest of the Second Wave.

In the UK, the government has introduced 3 tiers of lockdown and here in Manchester we are the highest tier – Tier 3. The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, had a massive row with the government about a rescue package to assist those who would be affected in terms of job losses and livelihood and it lasted ten days making headline news here in the UK.

Of course, in the end, the government, led by Boris the Clown, imposed the rules anyway and now we are under lockdown, not quite as bad as we were in March and April, but bad enough. 

In Manchester we have been restricted since the end of July and personally I am totally used to it now. I haven’t seen friends in the flesh since July, which is deeply annoying. 

In Tier 3 we cannot go to the pub – unless that pub serves a “substantial meal”. We can still go to restaurants but they have to close by 10pm. And we can’t go with friends, only those members of our household. Basically, Mrs PM and I are only allowed to go out together. Of course, being Manchester, certain pubs are trying to find a way around the “substantial meal” restriction by serving things like beans on toast for £2.

Maybe next week, I will wonder around our locality to see where I can and can’t go. 

As you can see, the theme for this week’s Sunday Stealing is “Halloween” or “Hallowe’en” as it should be written. In the UK we are ambivalent about this “holiday” – it is something that our American buddies celebrate with gusto. Here, we don’t really care, despite various companies trying to push it with cards, costumes, sweets etc. 

Due to the pandemic, it will be a damp squib this year regardless but usually I ignore the door when the kids come around with their “Trick or Treat” nonsense. It’s not that I am a miserable old git; it’s more about the fact that I consider it an American tradition and therefore don’t want to be involved in it.

Anyway, this is the theme for Sunday Stealing so for the duration of this post I shall summon enthusiasm for All Hallows’ Eve and dive in.

1. What is your favourite spooky song

I have narrowed this down to two. The first is the title track from the first album by the British Heavy Metal band Black Sabbath. The song is called Black Sabbath as well. It is a very scary song and if you listen to it in bed at night all alone, it can freak you out.

The words are scary:

What is this that stands before me?

Figure in black which points at me

Turn 'round quick and start to run

Find out I'm the chosen one

Oh, no

Big black shape with eyes of fire

Telling people their desire

Satan sitting there he's smiling

Watches those flames get higher and higher

Oh, no, no, please God help me

It scares me because anything to do with Satan does that to me. Here is the song in it’s full glory.

The second is by a British Progressive Rock band called Arena, and is called The Butterfly Man. It is about “something” which creeps up behind innocent people and steals their souls to add to his or “its” collection – a soul hunter if you like. Once collected you are damned to a dark eternity as expressed by the lyrics:

I've been here for so long

Don't even know what my purpose ever was

I don't even know where I belong

Through the years I've been waiting

Even time has lost it's meaning

Don't even know where I belong"

"Can't ever turn from this path

Don't even know what alternatives there are

Perhaps I wandered too far

I've been here for so long

Don't even hope for an end to all of this

I have no choice, but to carry on

Here it is:

2. What do you want etched on your tombstone?

I plan to live forever, so I won’t have anything on my tombstone. 
Okay – if you’re pushing me, how about:
“Here Lies Plastic Mancunian – He Came; He Saw; He Laughed”

3. Who is your favourite horror movie villain
I used to love horror films but these days I rarely watch them. I will go for a recent one that I have seen  - Pennywise from It.
4. Have you ever seen a ghost?
I think I might have – but I’m not sure. It was a surreal experience just after my dad died. I have written a blog post about it in the past. To be fair, I’m not 100% convinced that it was a ghost.
5. Do you prefer gore, thrillers or supernatural movies?
I am more a fan of supernatural movies because in general they are more scary. I watched a gore movie that I absolutely hated because it was not only disturbing but also full of gore just for the sake of it and it put me off such movies completely.
Give me a good sci-fi or superhero movie. 
6. What is your favourite scary book?
The one that scared me the most was “The Dark” by James Herbert. I loved it and at the time I was living alone as I had just moved to Manchester and was finding my feet. I read this book at night time in a small flat in the dark and it genuinely got my heart racing. 
Here is a brief description from wikipedia:
Beginning in a small suburban street where an empty house is haunted by a malevolent, sentient darkness, the scope of the story expands as the darkness escapes and begins to engulf the city.
A very scary book – that I probably need to read again to be honest.
7. Have you ever had a tarot card reading?  Was it accurate?
Not a chance. I don’t believe in such things.
8. Are you superstitious?
No – not really. I have little foibles but nothing that I would count as superstitious.
9. Have you ever used a voodoo doll?
Not at all – it is utter nonsense. Great for stories though.
10. Have you ever participated in a seance?
Only once and it was a joke played by two mates at school on Hallowe’en. One of them lived in a fairly big house with a big cellar and his parents were out. We went downstairs to the cellar and there were little gaps in the walls that were accessible from the outside and the two of them had rigged up an elaborate series of “shocks” all triggered by a string pull from outside. 
As we started on the Ouija Board, the lad outside tugged the strings and things started falling over, culminating in glasses smashing. He then ran inside and put on a sound effects record of ghosts and creaking and similar spooky noises. We fell for it, until one lad saw the guy outside creeping around and sniggering. 
All in all, I would say it worked but I actually found it fascinating until we knew what was happening. 
11. Have you ever heard voices when no one was around except you?
As described in question 4, I may have seen the ghost of my dad – and when I did, I am sure that I heard the words “It’s only me, Dave!” – but I may have imagined that.
12. What is your favourite Halloween candy?
We don’t have them here in the UK – or at least we never used to have them. If we do now, I am unfamiliar with them.
13. What was your most memorable Halloween costume?
I haven’t got one because I have never dressed up for Hallowe’en.
However, I once went to work dressed as Ozzy Osbourne who portrays himself as “The Prince of Darkness”. Does that count? Here I am as Ozzy:

14. Do you like going through haunted houses (not real ones)?
No – they are a pointless experience.
15. If someone dared you to spend the night in a haunted house (a real one) would you do it?
Yes I would – as long as the person who dared me to do it was with me and we stayed up all night exploring the house with just a torch. I could go for that.