Sunday 26 January 2020

Winter Questions

January is the worst month of the year and it is almost over, thank goodness. I guess it is apt that this week’s Sunday Stealing questions are about winter.

Let’s dive in shall we?

1. How do you get past the grey skies during winter?

I am looking out of the window as I type this and can see typical British grey skies hovering above a sodden garden with drizzle in the air to keep the moisture to a maximum. I went for a walk earlier this morning and the drizzle settled on my glasses, hindering my vision somewhat, in what is a seen as a stereotypical grey day for Britain. How do I get past it? I try to be positive by thinking about how I am going to escape it in the coming months. Very soon, I shall be jetting off to a much sunnier climate – I don’t know where yet but I know it will be much better than the miserable views I have had for the past few weeks.

2. Do you like snow? Why or why not?

I’ve answered this recently. No – I don’t like snow at all. In the UK we are usually totally unprepared for it, despite the fact  that it will probably appear soon. Usually it snows sometime in the winter, as early as December but more often than not in January or February. The good news is that so far we have not had any this winter in England at least. The further north you go, the more likely it will be so poor Scotland can always guarantee some snowfall every year.

I don’t like it because usually it is accompanied by cold weather that ends up freezing it underfoot leaving treacherous conditions both for walking and driving. We are so unprepared for it that traffic comes to a standstill, people in remote towns and villages are snowed in and when I walk outside I have to quite literally get my skates on. Horrendous stuff.

3. What are your favourite activities to do during the winter?

My favourite activities are staying inside a cosy house with a roaring fire and winter food or sitting in a cosy pub with a fine winter ale. Why? Because outside it is usually cold, wet and miserable. However, see the next question.

4. What does a perfect winter day look like to you?

Sometimes in the winter the weather is governed by a ridge of high pressure that clears away the grey skies and rain and allows the sun to shine in a bright blue sky. Usually it is absolutely freezing too. Nevertheless, the conditions are usually perfect for a decent walk, wrapped up with a big warm coat, gloves, a hat and smile.

5. What are your favourite meals/food you enjoy eating during the winter?

My diet doesn’t change that much during winter – apart from Christmas of course. Usually we are more likely to cook a stew or a casserole at this time of year. I usually eat more soup too.

6. What is your favourite winter holiday and why?

I don’t tend to go on holiday in winter. I have done in the past but usually to somewhere far warmer and sunnier than the UK. I once went to Oman in December – sadly it was with work – but we managed to sit outside in the morning for breakfast, which was very pleasant. I think if I could afford multiple holidays per year, I would jet off to somewhere hot at this time of year.

If you are talking about Bank Holidays, I guess the only one we have is Christmas – so it will be that.

7. What is your favourite pizza flavour and toppings.

We were talking about winter and we now fly off at a tangent to talk about pizza. How strange. Okay – I’ll go with it. I would say anything meaty and cheesy – a meat feast or cheese feast. Or possibly even a meat and cheese feast if such a thing exists.

8. What are some items in your daily bag/ backpack.

Looks like we are definitely moving away from winter now. The only bag I take anywhere with me is my work rucksack. It contains a laptop (plus accessories), a phone charger, an Ipod and its charger, my spare spectacles, a notebook, several pens, business cards, tissues and, sometimes, my Kindle.

9. Your favourite snacks.

Apples, bananas, flame raisins, plums, nectarines and, less often, sour cream and onion Pringles.

10. Some foreign countries that you would like to visit.

I have been to lots of foreign countries and, believe it or not, there are one or two that I would love to visit. These include: South Korea, New Zealand, Egypt, Poland, Mexico, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

11. What things that remind you of home.

Rain, football, pubs, English countryside, green fields, cricket, Northern hospitality, music, tea, bangers and mash, Sunday lunch and our sense of humour.

12. If you have one, some items from your Amazon Wishlist.

I have a couple of Amazon vouchers to spend in the coming weeks and I plan to spend it on music and books.

13. What was your favourite Christmas gift?

Probably the Amazon vouchers because I can use them to buy what I want rather than things that people think I want.

Sunday 19 January 2020

High School - or Grammar School Really

Good news – my foot has fully recovered and I am now able to resume my walks. All it needed was a little rest and a bit of ice.

It’s Sunday so let’s answer some more silly questions from Sunday Stealing.

Let’s dive in.

Your high school graduation class of: 1981

1. Did you marry your high school sweetheart?

I went to a Grammar School for boys so, sadly, I didn’t have a “high school” sweetheart. I did have a girlfriend about that time but, no, I didn’t marry her.

2. Type of car?

I didn’t learn to drive until I was 23 so I didn’t have a car at school. Besides, they cost money to run and I had better things to spend my cash on.

3. What kind of job?

I worked in a newsagent at the time, doing odd jobs for the owner of the shop like serving customers, stock taking, sorting out newspapers for delivery, delivering the newspapers, collecting payments for the delivered newspapers and other menial tasks. The owner actually tried to persuade me to give up school and work for him full time. As you can guess, I didn’t take him up on his generous offer.

4. Where did you live?

I lived in Walsall, a town about ten miles north of Birmingham.

5. Were you popular in school?

Not really. Most of my mates were from outside school because I wasn’t really keen on the overall feel of the school. I had friends at school but I didn’t hang around with the so-called “popular” kids – they were arses.

6. Were you in choir/band?

I was in the school orchestra and brass band. I played a trombone.

7. Ever get suspended? 

No – but I had a lot of detentions for being an arrogant little git.

8. If you could would you go back? 

Absolutely not. I would probably return to the school to have a wander around the buildings but going back would be a bloody nightmare.

9. Still talk to the person that you went to prom with?

We didn’t have proms, although this American tradition has started happening in the UK now.

10. Did you skip School ?

Actually, I don’t think I did. Although I hated school I recognised its importance and I embraced the academic requirements with reluctant enthusiasm.

11. Go to all the football games?

I didn’t go to any of them. My school was seen as a place for academic excellence and we had to pass an exam to be admitted to it. Consequently, the sports that we played were different from other local schools, so for example, instead of playing football (that’s soccer for Americans), we played Rugby Union and cricket.

12. Favourite subjects?

I enjoyed a lot of subjects actually because, although I was a bit of a rebel, I was actually quite good at most of them. I loved Maths, Physics and Chemistry and I quite enjoyed French and German too.

13. Do you still have your yearbook?

We didn’t have a yearbook. What I did have was something we called “The Green Book” which appeared once a year and contained lots of information about the school, including a list of names of the teachers and their subjects, the kids and what classes they were in and various other bits of totally useless information. I kept the very last one I had.

14. Did you follow the "original" career path?

I think I did – sort of. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was in sixth form and preparing for university and decided that really I should do something that involved my best subject – maths. So I opted to be a computer programmer because I thought there was a future in it. I was correct and I am still working in the industry today. If I could go back, I would have chosen something else though.

15. Do you still have your class ring?

We never had a class ring. I don’t know what such a thing is.

16. Favourite teacher? 

My favourite teacher was a maths teacher who taught me throughout my school life. He even used to call me by my nickname (which was Snowy). A very pleasant man.

17. What was your style?

We all had to wear the same uniform. It was quite strict and if you failed to adhere to it, you were in big trouble.

We wore a dark grey blazer with the school badge on the pocket, with a white shirt and a horrific red, white and green tie. A grey jumper was optional (depending on the weather). We also had grey trousers and black shoes. First and second year students had to wear a terrible green, red and yellow cap when walking to and from school. Why? I have no idea and it used to get me in a lot of trouble because I refused to wear the bloody thing.

In the sixth form the dress code was relaxed ever so slightly. Instead of the horrific tie of the first five years, we wore a green tie with the school badge at the bottom. I still have my sixth form tie. We could also wear different coloured shirts as long as they were light in colour.

So basically I looked terrible and had no style whatsoever.

18. Favourite Shoes?

We just had black shoes as I said earlier. Boring black shoes.

19. Favourite thing to eat for lunch?

We had the option of eating the pig swill they served for lunch but we were also allowed to bring sandwiches too. I chose the latter because my mum always made brilliant ones.

20. Favourite band?

I listened to a lot of music during my time at school. I would say it was probably Rainbow, Nazareth, Rush, UFO, Black Sabbath or Whitesnake.

21. High School Hair?

My chemistry teacher called me “the boy with the chrysanthemum head” in front of the whole class when I was 16. Can you imagine the uproar and the humiliation I had to endure after that?

Regular readers will know that I hate my hair and between the ages of 16 and 18 it was probably the worst it has ever been. My hair is very thick and it was long. Here is a photo of me when I was about 12 – and it grew and grew after that into a bushy mess – a bit like a chrysanthemum.

The Boy with the Chrysanthemum Head

Spot the difference

22. How old when you graduated?

I was one of the oldest kids in the year so I was 18 years old, which meant that I could celebrate in the pub.

Tuesday 14 January 2020

Neil Peart

Another one of my musical heroes has gone and this is one of the saddest of them all. Neil Peart died on January 7th 2020 at the age of 67 from brain cancer.

Neil was the drummer of my favourite rock band, Rush, who retired a few years ago after a wonderful career spanning 40 years. While a lot of people may have heard of the band, their songs rarely received the airplay they deserved. Yet this magnificent trio of legends, Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee had a huge cult following and regularly embarked on stadium tours all over the world to huge audiences of fans just like me.

I was lucky enough to witness their legendary stage performances four times, from the first time in 1983 in Birmingham at the National Exhibition Centre to their final British tour supporting their last album, Clockwork Angels, in 2013 at the Manchester Arena.

The band have been part of my life since the late 1970’s with their unique and influential style of progressive rock and for almost all significant life events, there is a Rush song or Rush album that can take me back to those moments in time.

Neil Peart was the drummer of the band and also the lyricist, producing poignant and profound words for songs with subjects that people wouldn’t necessarily write about normally. From the age of around 18 I would always get really excited whenever Rush announced a new album. Their discography includes 19 albums and they all raced into the album charts in many countries.

According to Wikipedia, they are an impressive third behind only the Beatles and the Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum records by a rock band. Yet, sadly, many people have never been exposed to their music. They were almost the most famous band that people didn’t really know.

Rolling Stone magazine placed Neil Peart as the 4th greatest drummer of all time behind only Ginger Baker, Keith Moon and John Bonham and as well as being a virtuoso with one of the biggest drum kits I have ever seen he was also a part time writer, producing three books later on in his life about his travels.

All of this gives me an opportunity to show off just how brilliant Rush were. I present to you below a song from each of the last five decades showing how the band evolved and what they meant to me at that time.

1970’s – Closer To The Heart from A Farewell To Kings (1977)

This was the very first song by Rush that I heard. At the time I was just getting into heavy metal and rock music, as were a lot of my old pals from school, and the albums A Farewell To Kings and the magnificent 2112 used to do the rounds as people bought the albums and lent them to their mates to record onto tape. I borrowed A Farewell To Kings and recorded it onto a battered old tape but eventually I actually bought the album because I enjoyed it so much. The song itself was a fan favourite and also actually made it into the UK singles charts.

1980’s – Mystic Rhythms from Power Windows (1985)

Rush became my favourite band in the early 1980’s when I saw them live for the first time. They were prolific releasing seven albums in the decade. I could have chosen any one of the songs from the albums of that decade because I love them all – no exceptions. I chose Mystic Rhythms for two reasons. First of all, it showcases what a great drummer Neil Peart was. Second, I was commuting down to London from Manchester every other week, because of a long distance relationship with my ex-wife and the album Power Windows was my constant companion on my old Sony Walkman, keeping me sane on the journey there and back and across the mayhem that was the London Underground. I hated that commute but the music kept me sane and allowed me drift of into my own little world as I endured the tedious two and a half hour journey there and back and the chaos of London on a Friday evening.

1990’s – Nobody’s Hero from Counterparts (1993)

Counterparts is the album that coincides with the first of my two lads being born. I used to play the album at a low volume in the middle of the night as I took my turn trying to get my baby to sleep and Nobody’s Hero was particularly good for relaxing and rocking him to sleep. There are a couple of more heavy songs on the album and my main goal was to get him to drift off to this particular song. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but I didn’t mind too much because it meant that I could listen to the entire album. It sounded as good at 3am as it did at any other time of the day. Coincidentally, the follow up to Counterparts was called Test for Echo and that was released in1996, the year that my second lad was born. That, too sounded pretty good at 3am.

2000’s – Secret Touch from Vapor Trails (2002)

Neil Peart had a double tragedy in the late 1990’s, losing his daughter in 1997 in a car crash and his wife 10 months later from cancer. The way he dealt with the pain was to take a huge sabbatical and travel 55,000 miles on a motorcycle, writing about his experience and the healing process in his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. At the time, I thought that the band was finished and I would never see another Rush album again. However, after a period of about four years, Neil announced to Geddy and Alex that he would return to the band and the result was the 2002 album Vapor Trails.

I have chosen the song Secret Touch because it is possibly the only song by Rush that Mrs PM has admitted to liking. I was listening to it a few years ago, and she came up behind me and said “Who’s this? I quite like this one.” I almost fell off my chair because Mrs PM has been very vocal in expressing her displeasure for the music I listen to. Of course, it has given me an excuse to play the song more often when she is around.

2010’s – Headlong Flight from Clockwork Angels (2012)

Clockwork Angels is the final album by Rush and is also one of my favourite albums by the band. It also coincides with the last time I saw them live. Headlong Flight is a monster of a song and when I look at my iTunes application on my laptop, this song is my second most played song since I first installed it. I think the album is magnificent and for me, it is like stepping back in time to the late 1970’s and 1980’s when I played their music all the time. I’m glad that I can play it on my laptop because I would have worn the CD out by now. I have to admit to trying to persuade Mrs PM that this song is worth a listen to but she is not impressed.

I am glad that Rush finished on a high but I am sad they retired soon after, due to Neil Peart suffering from arthritis after decades of pounding the drums.

A Drum Solo and a Speech

I’ll leave you with a drum solo from the master himself just to show how utterly brilliant he was. Also, the Rush acceptance speech, including Neil,, when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rest in peace Neil and thank you for the music.

Sunday 12 January 2020

The Food Meme

I’ve hurt my bloody foot thanks to going on two massive walks last weekend in my old walking boots and have spent the week hobbling around like an old man. So frustrating. It’s a form of tendonitis, I am told, and the cure is just to rest it and use a bit of ice occasionally. It is working and yesterday I went for a short walk with no obvious side-effects. But it has meant that I have been unable to escape the office at lunchtime and have been at the mercy of inconsiderate people interrupting my lunch at my desk with work questions.

How dare they when they can see I am eating and reading the news.

Hopefully I will be able to go out tomorrow and return to normal.

In the meantime, here are some food questions from Sunday Stealing. 


Cheese – any day of the week. I love chocolate too but I would much rather have a chunk of cheese.


I’m not a fan of either but if I had to choose, it would be strawberries.

03. COFFEE or TEA? 

Definitely tea. That said, I do like a cup of coffee occasionally.


Well I am English, so it has to be an English muffin.


I am not a fan of pancakes – I don’t see what the fuss is about. French toast it is then.


I like both but cream cheese has the edge.

07. RICE or PASTA?

Again, I like both but I love Italian food, so it has to be pasta.

08. CAKE or PIE?

It depends what type of pie. I will go for pie I think.


I imagine this means beef mince or turkey mince. We use both but I think I prefer beef.


Definitely hamburgers.


Jelly is one of those words that has been abused by Americans. For British people, jelly is a dessert. What Americans call “jelly”, we call jam. After all that, I prefer marmalade.


I have worked a lot in Switzerland and America and I have to say that Swiss cheese is so much better.


These days I rarely drink “soda” (or pop as we call it in the UK). I will have to say no pop.


Iced tea is an abomination. I tried it once in America and it tastes like weak stewed tea. Bloody disgusting. Lemonade is far more quaffable.


I like both but I prefer grapes.


Neither. Both are utterly disgusting.


So this is the second time pancakes have turned up. Definitely waffles but I am not keen on those either.


Whole grain bread but if I am making toast then white bread.


I love both and I almost always have them together.


Neither. They both look and sound (and probably taste) disgusting.


I don’t eat cereal these days but if I had to choose it would be cold cereal.


Ketchup any day of the week. The only mustard I can tolerate is French mustard. I hate to say it but English mustard is an abomination.


Mustard again? Based on my answer to the previous question, I think you know the answer: mayonnaise.


Oh I see where we are going here. The winner of the three way final is ketchup.


Green olives. The green olives you get in Spain and Greece are the best on the entire planet.


I like both.


I think I prefer plain barbecue.


I love eggs. Either will do.


What the hell are egg replacements? What a weird concept. I imagine that they are a man-made abomination for weird people who claim not to like eggs but like “eggy” things. EGGS! Bloody egg replacements! What is wrong with the world if such a thing exists? (Or should that be “eggsists”?)


I am a full blown carnivore. I think that answers your question.


Chinese take-out. Pizza is good too but I much prefer Chinese food.


I would say a deli sandwich but I like sushi too.


Both sound absolutely horrific. I guess they are an American abomination.


Neither. I am not a dessert person.


Neither. I am not a dessert person.


Neither. I am not a dessert person.


Honey is disgusting. It is far to sweet and has a horrible after taste. Maple syrup is only slightly better. The truth is neither but if forced, I would reluctantly choose maple syrup.

Sunday 5 January 2020

The Queen's Meme

The Christmas decorations have now gone and New Year is here. I have been drawn kicking and screaming back into the rat race and now face the bleakest two months of the year.

But all is not lost. I have decided to attack this new decade with renewed optimism and, after all, it is the decade I will finally retire. That isn’t going to happen for a few years yet, but I can safely say, with my hand on my heart, that by 2029 I will no longer be a rat running in a pointless race.

So let’s start the year with a load of silly questions shall we? Here is The Queen’s Meme from Sunday Stealing.

1. January usually has ample amounts of snowfall in parts of the world. Did you ever make snow cream as a kid?

There may be some snow in Manchester in January if we are totally unlucky but one of the benefits of living here is that it’s location is such that if there is snow in the rest of the UK, we either don’t get any at all or just a light covering – which is fine by me because I hate snow. Having said that, we have had some heavy snow in the past few years on the odd occasion so you never know.

As for snow cream – I have never heard of it and I had to look it up. Apparently it is a dessert. So the answer is no, I have never made snow cream or even eaten it.

2. January is one of the months with 31 days. What are you going to do with that extra day?

I will probably be a rat running in a pointless race.

3.  What is your favourite magazine?

To be honest, I rarely read magazines. However, I plan to do more of that in 2020. In the past, I have bought and read Classic Rock magazine and Classic Rock – Prog Rock – so I will say those. Ask me this next year and I will probably have more.

4.  If you live to be 99 years old, what would you like your life to be like in that last decade??

I think it will be fabulous. First, I will be delighted that I have lived that long and I imagine that my poor old body will not be too keen on taking long walks as I do now – so I guess I will spend my time listening to rock music, watching a lot of TV and still trying to master the art of writing.

5. The great world of Wikipedia tells me that scientists claim 99% of all documented species are extinct. Which remaining species in the 1% category would you really like to see extinct.  And which species in the 99% category would you like to bring back?

That’s easy. In the 1% category I would like to eradicate all species of wasp and any other similar insects that sting humans for fun. Bees I can cope with as they serve a purpose. Wasps are vindictive, pointless little bastards. Oh – and mosquitos too.

In the 99% category I would bring back all dinosaurs, particularly the Tyrannosaurus Rex. I would recreate Jurassic Park on a huge island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I have always been fascinated by them.

6. On January 14, 1986 motorists were required for the first time to wear seat belts? Do you always buckle up? Why or why not?

Yes, I always buckle up. Two reasons. First, I don’t want to be hurled through the windscreen in the unlikely event that I crash the car at 70 miles per hour. Second, it is the law in the UK and I would hate to be arrested.

7. Why did the cow jump over the moon?

I imagine she jumped over the moon because she saw a cat with a fiddle.

8. What happened to Question 8?

It went to the toilet. I am sure it will be back later.

9. Have you said anything in the last 24 hours that you regret?

Yes. I said to Mrs PM; “What shall we do today?” Within minutes I was scubbing the toilet.

10. Have you ever written anything on your blog that you wish you could take back?

No. I have in the past had a few negative comments from keyboard warriors and trolls because of slightly controversial posts but I stand by what I wrote. In particular a post about how rubbish Shakespeare is courted a lot of controversy, as did my criticism of the Twilight Saga. I stand by what I said. Shakespeare IS rubbish – and the Twilight Saga is even worse. Utter verbal bilge – both of them.

11. Are you the blabber or the blabbee? Tell us your most embarrassing blabbermouth moment.

I’m not really a blabber or a blabbee but I have been known to put my foot in it a couple of times.

I think possibly my most embarrassing moment was when I aired my views on the Quality Manager and the entire Quality Department at work. I went into a full blown rant about how pointless the nitty gritty of some aspects of the Quality Control procedure was, having been forced to rewrite a document in a certain style that, in my opinion, added nothing at all. I questioned the role of the Quality Manager himself and called him a pointless jobsworth who had to justify his existence by incorporating petty little rules just so that he could remain as an employee of the company.

At the end of the rant I saw that my colleagues were trying their best not to laugh, so I thought I had done a good job of expressing my views. Then I heard six words that swallowed me up into the abyss of embarrassment:

“Dave, can I have a word?”

I turned around and saw the Quality Manager with his arms folded and a face like thunder.

I then had to sit in a room with the pillock as he explained to me how we as a company benefit from his Quality rules. I felt like a five year old being told off by a teacher for a minor misdemeanour.

I decided that it might be prudent to agree with him, rather than unleashing my inner anarchist.

People still talk about the incident today and it happened over 20 years ago.

12. How important is a cell phone in your life?

Very important, though I rarely use it as an actual telephone. To me it is a portable computer and I use it for countless other purposes.

13. A "cuisine" is typically influenced by and named after geographical regions and cultures. Pretend your blog is a country. What is the name of your cuisine? 

Manchester tart served in a plastic container.

14. You are the Blog Paparazzi! Which blogger's real photograph are you most interested in getting?

I’m not interested in that sort of thing.

15. Are you always on time or just a tad late?

I usually aim to be five or ten minutes early (much to Mrs PM’s annoyance).

16. Can you think of a time when you were late for something and it was REALLY a big deal?

The only time this has happened to me it was definitely not my fault. I was flying to Johannesburg in South Africa from Manchester via London Heathrow. The flight from Manchester was delayed by an hour so I had to run from one terminal to another to catch my onward flight. If you have never been to Heathrow, it is one of the biggest and most frustrating airports in the world and, of course, I missed my connecting flight. I had to spend the night in a hotel at the airport and catch the equivalent flight the next day.

I can’t even begin to describe how angry I was.

17. If you were on your way to work and had five minutes to get there, would you stop in the road to rescue a crossing turtle?

If there was a turtle crossing a road in Manchester, I would stop the car, and try my best to take a photograph of the creature, along with everybody else who was amazed at seeing a turtle crossing the road in Manchester. I would then arrive at work late and spend the first ten minutes showing people the photograph saying “guess what I saw crossing the road this morning?”

18. When you are having a really good day, what usually makes it good?

Really good days involve travelling somewhere, either exploring a foreign city, walking along a beach with a camera and Mrs PM as the sun is going down or having a lovely meal with Mrs PM and a beer or two.

19.  What is the most annoying Christmas song?

That bloody awful Mariah Carey song that I have had to put up with for the past month and a half.

20. You are Snow White. Which dwarf is your favourite and why?

I was called “Snow” and “Snowy White” at school because back then I had very blond hair so there is a surreal element to this question, apart from the weirdness of imagining myself as the real Snow White and picking a dwarf! I guess if I were forced to choose a favourite it would probably be Grumpy because he is the most like me.