Sunday 26 April 2020

Fill It In

In the UK we are now in day 34 of our lockdown and faced with the prospect of two or three weeks more at least. The good news is that the weather has been good so we have been able to sit in the sunshine in the garden and at least been given a tantalising glimpse of what normal life is like.

Sadly, today, the weather is starting to turn a little and the clear blue skies we have enjoyed are now filled with clouds and the prospect of rain later in the afternoon. So what better time to have a little light relief and answer a few silly questions on Sunday Stealing.

1. Right now I'm _____.

Right now I am listening to "(Don’t Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult and sitting down at my desk in the back room answering questions for Sunday Stealing. I have a cup of tea at my side in my special Game of Thrones mug (which I won’t share with you as it includes my name – very geeky – but to give you a brief idea of what it is like, it contains a picture of a dragon and text similar to “Lord Plastic of House Mancunian” – you get the idea).

2. _____ is my well-known quirk.

Trying to be funny is my well-known quirk. The weird thing is that when I actually really try to be funny, like telling a joke, I fail miserably. People say things like “Well it must have been funny at the time” or “Don’t give up your day job Dave” – yet when I am in normal conversation with people I can make them laugh with just a quick observation, a witty ditty or a massive rant.

3. Are you _____?

Are you as stunned as I am every time Donald Trump opens his mouth? This week has been an absolute nightmare for the Orange Goblin and I am still incredulous that this creature is President of the United States of America. Inject yourself with disinfectant? What on earth is he taking?

Mind you, we’re not much better in the UK. We have the Clown Prince of Buffoonery as our leader, a man whose attitude to the virus was so stupid that he went to a hospital full of people with COVID-19 and made a point that he would “shake their hands”. Guess what?  The bloody idiot caught it. I think he may be taking it seriously now he has been out of action for weeks.

The world is mad! MAD!

4. _____ first, then _____!

Beer first, then another beer. During the week I abstain from alcohol so that I can concentrate on work but at the weekend, five days of pent up frustration force me to open up my beer fridge and crack a couple of cans to relax. It is a high spot and I miss the pub immensely.

5. That's why _____.

That's why I am now a cynical and grumpy old git. Every time I switch on the news, listen to politicians or read newspapers I just want to rant and rant and rant. The news is bad but it also allows politicians to pontificate about their own agenda with speeches full of lies and interviews where they avoid answering the questions asked. Absolute charaltans the lot of them. And don’t get me started on newspapers …

6. _____ is one of my favourite tv shows ever!

Babylon 5 is one of my favourite TV shows ever. At the moment there are a lot of recent shows that are right up there (like Breaking Bad, Stranger Things) but I am currently rewatching the entire five series as I do my ironing every week (to break the tedious monotony of ironing my shirts) and I have to say I am still enjoying it despite the fact that it is now slightly dated.

Politics and intrigue in space all with aliens and monsters. Wonderful.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to _____, tomorrow my plans include _____ and Sunday, I want to _____!

Since today is Sunday, let’s talk about next weekend.

And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to enjoying a Friday night pub night in my lounge with Mrs PM, with a couple of beers and a pizza, tomorrow my plans include going for our daily exercise of a walk down by the rivers and a little writing, reading and watching TV and Sunday I want to go for another walk and do something fun in the house (as well as the mundane chores we have to do) before enjoying a lovely evening meal.

My life sounds so boring under the current circumstances.

8. If I could go anywhere on a road trip, I'd go to _____.

If I could go anywhere on a road trip, I’d go to the south of Spain via France. This would mean driving from Manchester to Folkestone and then through the Channel Tunnel and into France, visiting Paris and other lovely towns and villages, before heading south into Spain and the south coast via Madrid. I am thinking this might be something I really do when I retire.

9. _____ is something I don't understand.

Brexit is something I don’t understand. I am not going to dwell on our reasons for leaving the European Union because, quite frankly, I don’t know what they are. I have a history of ranting about this but recently I have tried to engage people who wanted to leave to find out if I was missing something. And not one of them can tell me why it is a good thing to leave, nor any benefits for us as a country. The pandemic we are suffering will seriously hit our economy and after that we have the prospect of a similar hit due to Brexit. The future is not bright for the UK and part of it is self-inflicted. I just don’t get it.

10. Thanksgiving makes me think of _____

Thanksgiving makes me think of Americans. I am British and we don’t have it so what else can I say?

11. _____ is the best way to relax!

Travelling is the best way to relax! I am not talking about the act of getting to your destination (which is far from relaxing) but when you arrive, there is nothing better than wandering around, taking in a new place and allowing yourself to mingle with people from another culture.

12. It looks like Autumn _____.

It looks like Autumn will be about six months away (as it is normally at the end of April).

13. _____ is one of my favourite healthy snacks.

Fruit is one of my favourite healthy snacks.

14. The smell of _____ makes me think of _____.

The smell of freshly mown grass makes me think of summer walks in the countryside.

15. When I am feeling lazy I _____.

When I am feeling lazy I watch a lot of rubbish on the TV.

16. When I look to the left, I see ______________.

When I look to the left I see my back garden.

17. ___________ are the room(s) that have the best view in my home.

The back bedrooms are the room(s) that have the best view in my home. From there I can see my own small garden and those of my neighbours.

18. _________ was done dirt cheap!

Dirty Deeds – of course. What else?

19. __________ is a responsibility that all qualified citizens must share.

At the moment (and perhaps always), trying to change our world for the better by creating a caring and sharing society is a responsibility that all qualified citizens must share.

20. If you have any __________feel free to share it with me.

If you have any decent ideas to break the monotony of lockdown feel free to share them with me.

Sunday 19 April 2020


It is day 27 of the lockdown and I am looking out of the window upon a bright sunny day with a few clouds in the sky. It is the perfect day to go outside and do something interesting – except we can’t. Apart from the walk that Mrs PM and I took down by the River Mersey this morning, we are now stuck inside for the rest of the day (though we maygo and sit in the garden for a while later).

What better way to spend the time than to answer some more questions from Sunday Stealing which seem to be quirky – a word that has been used to describe me in the past.

Let’s dive in and see just how quirky I am then, shall we?

1.   Did you become what you wanted to be when you grew up? Are you happy with your choice?

No. When I was a kid I didn’t know what I wanted to be to be honest. I did briefly consider being an actor after I was about to star in a musical play at junior school about Aesop and his fables. Sadly the play was cancelled but I had played the Prince in Sleeping Beauty and also the Gryphon in Alice in Wonderland. Then I wanted to be a singer – the problem was my voice then, as now, sounded like a cat being strangled.

I chose the easy way out – do something I was good at, rather than something I wanted to do. And now I am stuck with what was considered a very geeky career – doing daily battle with computers.

At first I was happy because to me it was easy. I never understood why people cannot handle computers – I still don’t. But now I am bored with it. It is a chore. I don’t challenge myself any more. Thankfully my career is nearly over (we are talking four or five years) so I shall rid myself of that particular burden.

Is it too late to do something new?

Judging by some of the famous singers and actors out there whose vocals are worse than mine and whose acting skills are so wooden, maybe I could have and still can do it.

It’s a thought but I prefer creativity. I enjoy writing and I am still learning – so I shall do that.

2.    Did man really go to the moon or was it a publicity stunt?

I love conspiracy theories and this is one of my favourites. The main story is that the Americans were so paranoid and desperate to better the Soviets that they filmed the entire moon landing in a studio to say “We did it – NER NER NERNER NER!”

I don’t buy it. I think the Americans got there. I do wonder why we haven’t been back for decades though.

3.    Given the opportunity to change one major aspect of your life (i.e. career, relationship, family) with no guarantee of the outcome, would you take the chance? Why?

As I said in question 1 I would change my career if I could. As I approach the end of it, I can start looking at alternatives but as hobbies. The good news is that if I fail or don’t like my choices, I can just move on without risk. I like that.

4.    Does money buy happiness?

Money certainly contributes to happiness. One of my passions is travelling and I am grateful to have been able to visit lots of places thanks to the money I have earned as a geek. So in a certain way the answer it yes. I wouldn’t like to be obscenely rich though if I am honest. I would end up giving most of it away to worthy causes and to help others.

5.    What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I sleep without my glasses so the first thing I do is reach over to my bedside table so that I can find them. Without my glasses I can’t see the bedside alarm clock so I don’t know what time it is. The only problem is that when I am groping around I end up putting my greasy fingers all over the lenses and for a while, until I have cleaned them, my vision is very foggy.

6.    What are we going to do when we run out of room to bury the dead?

I would guess that we will cremate people. What else would we do? Blast them into space?

7.    What is your greatest fear? Why? Is it rational or unreasonable?

I have a few irrational fears. Probably the greatest is a fear of heights. I never used to be scared of heights and I vividly recall being at the top of the Eiffel Tower and marvelling at how wonderful the view is. In the past three decades however, my fear has got to the point where I will avoid anything that is high. Stupidly I have tried to conquer my fear on several occasions and each time I have failed.

It is irrational I think because it is not dangerous to be at the top of a skyscraper – falling off yes but not if you are looking through a window. I just don’t get why it has happened. It’s madness.

8.    How do you feel about the exploitation of your private data in the digital age? Does it ever cross your mind or are you hyper-aware of the risks?

Working in the world of IT has taught me that your private data can be accessible. All it takes is a dedicated and capable hacker. Forget what you see in movies – it is not that simple. However, it is definitely possible and sometimes people can be their own worst enemies by using simple passwords, giving away details to people who ask via phishing emails etc. If you have your wits about you, you should be fine.

As far as social media is concerned, you should also limit the amount of personal details you publish online. I am very careful what I reveal. Okay as “The Plastic Mancunian” I am merely an anonymous blogger and dabble in social media as that alias but I still reveal very little about who I really am, who my family and friends are etc.  Some people know who I really am – and I don’t mind that – but generally I prefer the anonymity.

9.    You can be forgiven one debt. What is it? If you don’t have debt, then how did you do it?

I don’t have any debts, having paid off my mortgage a year or two ago. I did it by overpaying when I could. I would recommend it.

10.    Hot or cold?

I think I prefer to be hotter rather than colder – but not too hot.

11.    What is your favourite thing in the world (aside from family, friends, pets)?

Probably travelling abroad – something I can’t do at the moment and won’t be able to do for a while yet. I love getting away to foreign countries and trying to immerse myself into different cultures. If I win the lottery, the first thing I shall do is book a round the world ticket, travelling to as many countries as I can.

12.    You have to give up one of your five senses. Which one would you go without?

I wrote an entire blog post about this way back in 2011 – here it is.

I came to the conclusion in a roundabout way that if forced, I would give up my sense of smell.

13.    Do you believe everyone has a doppelgänger?

Yes. I have several. I look like these guys:

If you don’t believe me …

Here is another post I wrote way back in 2015 about my doppelgängers

14.    Likewise, does everyone have a soulmate or is it just a matter of proximity and circumstance?

Yes, I do – and not just one. I think proximity and circumstance have something to do with it. I reckon that if I were young free and single and decided to move to a foreign country I would manage to find a soulmate wherever I went.

15.    Imagine you have a theme song that plays every time you enter a room. What would your song be?

Now there’s a challenge! Wait a moment while I look through my collection of songs (it may take a while).

Hey, hey, hey
I'm back in your face like I've never been away
I'm back in your face and it's where I'm gonna stay
Like a runaway mack, like a union jack
I'm back

Sunday 12 April 2020

Coronavirus Part 2

We are now in day 20 of the Lockdown on Easter Sunday so it seems fitting to answer a few more questions from Sunday Stealing about the reason that we are in this situation – the Coronavirus.

Shall we dive in?

1 – What is something you are doing due to the pandemic that you normally don’t do? After the pandemic will you continue to so this?

Being a mild sufferer from OCD and a rampant hypochondriac I have been very carefully avoiding anything that could pass on the virus – like door handles, other people etc. Being in lockdown is a massive help to be fair although in the UK we can take daily exercise outside once a day. My exercise of choice is my usual one – a good walk. However, even that has been fraught with danger to Captain Hypochondria and Captain OCD. So I have been avoiding the periods of time when I think most people will be out and about.

My daily routine on a work day involves getting up at the crack of dawn (around 6am) and immediately going for a walk (about half an hour). I don’t even get into the shower first, effectively just cleaning my teeth and going straight outside – having got dressed of course (I wouldn’t inflict my undressed self on anybody).

My hair is, of course, an uncontrolled mess having not been beaten into submission by a shower so I walk our streets and the local park with a grim and stern look on my face (I am not the happiest person in the morning) in the hope that anybody else who might see me will avoid this weird looking angry alien with crazy hair. A win-win for all concerned.

The Plastic Mancunian on his Daily Walk

When I get home, Captain OCD urges me to wash my hands. I have done this so many times since the Coronavirus appeared that my hands look like they are made of leather. I have even resorted to using Mrs PM’s moisturiser to soften them.

Here’s a picture of my hands:

I will almost certainly start my day with a walk after this pandemic is over because it is the best part of the day to do so. I will also wash my hands more too – Captain OCD is winning that war.

2 - What made you happy, sad, or frustrated today? List, all big and/or small, as there may be some of one or all of these feelings!

I was saddened by the fact that we are three weeks into the lockdown and I see it lasting at least another three weeks.

I was frustrated by some irresponsible joggers once more struggling to understand the concept of social distancing during my walk.

I was happy to be home after an hour’s walk today to enjoy a little comedy on the TV while eating a well-deserved full English breakfast.

I am also quite content right now, writing this nonsense, drinking a large cup of tea and listening to this:

3- What is one of the first things you will do when the pandemic is over?

My eldest son and his girlfriend moved out a couple of days before the lockdown and we haven’t had the chance to see their new house. So I will almost certainly go to visit them – and then I will go to the pub to have a couple of beers with mates. Then I will look at booking a holiday somewhere.

4 – Are you an essential employee or do you know someone who is? Is this affecting you in some way?

I am not an essential employee but I do know three nurses who must be suffering at the moment. I feel for them every time I see news reports about what is happening at hospitals up and down the country.

5 – What are you doing to destress during this stressful time?

I’m not really that stressed to be honest with you. The greatest enemy at the moment is boredom. Obviously I have Mrs PM for company which keeps me occupied most of the time but I am also relying on the introvert within me to help relieve the ennui of being stuck at home. There is plenty of stuff to do, if I think about it, such as reading, writing, playing games, watching TV, trying to be creative, exploring the internet to find new music and revisit older music, as well as the more mundane things like cleaning, cooking, ironing etc.

6 – Have you tried any new recipes during this time? Please share your recipe if you want to.

No – I hate cooking. When it is my turn to do this, I rely on my basic recipes rather than trying not to poison Mrs PM and myself. However, Mrs PM has been trying out a couple of new things from her collection of recipe books, the best one recently being a Mediterranean chicken and chorizo dish which was very tasty.

7 – Have you always lived where you do now? If not, how did you wind up in the place you currently live?

No. I was born in Walsall, an industrial town in the West Midlands, about 11 miles north of Birmingham and lived there for 18 years until I went to university in Liverpool. I lived there for three years popping back to Walsall during the summer before moving to Manchester where I have lived ever since. This is why my blog alias is The Plastic Mancunian because I am not a true Mancunian even though I have lived here for 36 years.

8- Where is the last place you visited on-line?

I would say You Tube in order to embed “Long Live Rock and Roll” by Rainbow into this blog post.

9- What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?

Lots of people have said nice things all through my life so it is difficult to select a single one and elevate that to the position of “nicest thing”. I will tell you one funny thing though which was nice in a weird way.

I was in a pub in Liverpool with some mates about 15 years ago when a woman came up to me and grabbed my hand. She was a little inebriated and asked me if I was married. I told her I was in a deep and loving relationship and a look of sadness crossed her face. “That’s such a shame,” she slurred. “I would marry you tomorrow if I could. You are so gorgeous!”

I was shocked and my mates supported me by laughing their heads off. She turned to them and said “I’m serious!” before storming off.

My mates still mention it to this day saying "she must have had her beer goggles on when she said that!"

She may have been a little drunk but I thought it was a really sweet thing to say.

10 – Tell me about the last photo on your camera (phone or real camera or both!)

I took a couple of photos on my walk yesterday – the last one being this one of the River Mersey:

Sunday 5 April 2020


It’s lockdown day 13 in the UK and I think I know every square inch of my house now. It’s a bit weird getting up and then working in the comfort of my own home, with the occasional video conference to remind me that my work colleagues still exist. In fact, at the moment, I am quite busy so the day passes quickly so I am managing to cope without going stir crazy.

Weekends are a little surreal too. Although we are locked down, we can, at the moment, pop out for exercise and to walk the dog. So I have been getting up early to avoid any others out there and strolling around the neighbourhood and local park for half an hour or so before starting work.

I must say that joggers annoy me. I won’t rant about it now – I think I will save that for a post in a couple of days.

Anyway, it’s Sunday and therefore time for a few silly questions from Sunday Stealing.

Off we go …

1. Name a highlight of your day

A highlight for now, given the lockdown situation, is to venture outside for my daily exercise. As I stated above, I like to go early to encounter as few people as possible, which is actually quite easy since the streets are largely deserted. It reminds me of when I was a child doing my newspaper round, walking around deserted streets with my mind wandering off to all sorts of weird places as people sleep in their beds. The introvert within me feels extremely content during these walks.

2. What made you smile today?

Nothing yet. But last night, we had a Whatsapp video call with some friends of ours. We all had beer and wine and had a decent chat for a while as if we were out in the pub. It was fun.

3. What made you laugh today?

It is Mrs PM’s step-mother’s birthday today and this morning on the family Whatsapp group, her daughter, who is a policewoman, made a really funny video of her and her daughter singing happy birthday. It was hilarious. She is as mad as a bag of badgers.

4. Recall a time when you needed encouragement.

Probably within the last two years generally for everything. I have actually been quite disciplined trying to prepare myself for retirement in a few years’ time, looking for new and interesting things to do and ways to occupy my mind. It’s not been bad but I’ve needed the occasional word of encouragement from Mrs PM. I’m getting there.

5. What is a luxury you are thankful for

At the current moment, I am thankful for all of the things that keep me entertained at home, such as my laptop (writing, communicating, internet, music), smartphone (communicating, internet, games), PS4 (games, TV), smart TV (NetFlix, Amazon Prime, Sky), Kindle (reading) and my old iPod (music). There’s enough to relieve the boredom of lockdown.

6. Favourite childhood memory

We used to live next to a park and I remember hanging around with friends all day in and around the park, playing football, messing about and generally just spending the entire day outside, no matter what the weather was like. It was particularly good in the summer. We were rarely indoors. It was great.

7. Favourite song–and why?

I have so many favourite songs that I can’t pick one. However, I will endeavor to select one that I have been listening to a lot recently. Devin Townsend – Genesis.

Devin Townsend is an incredible artist who has crossed many genres from ambient rock, progressive rock to progressive metal.  With his last album, Empath, he mixed all of his styles together and, in the case of Genesis, into one song. The result is astonishing with ambient rock, choral music, dance, power metal, electronic pop, dance and tropical beach music all headlining at various parts of the song. The video is epic and quite amusing.

8. Where is your favourite place?  Why?

Outside the UK, I would say Hong Kong. It is a magnificent city with a culture of its own. It is also the place where Mrs PM and I got together so it also brings back wonderful memories.

9. What is your favourite scent

I don’t have one really but I quite like the smell of the English countryside in early summer.

10. What is your favourite topic to talk about?

My goodness. Music and movies, probably followed closely by sport. I also enjoy talking about politics but please don’t get me started because it tends to annoy the hell out of me (that’s why I have tried to avoid it in recent years as I watch my country fall apart).

11. What do you like doing so much that you lose track of time?

It usually involves sitting at a computer and writing and researching but also, reading. It is very easy to get lost in a good book.

12. If you had 5 minutes and the whole world was forced to listen, what would you say?

I would tell the world to unite and come together rather than trying to tear itself apart. The policies of isolation from some of our so-called world leaders (Trump, Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un, Bolsonaro) is pushing the world into a dangerous place. I would urge people to question their governments and actually consider the fact that the only thing that comes from their lips is a pack of lies.

13. Whose life do you envy the most, and why?

My own life back in 1981. I was just beginning on a wonderful adventure and I would love to do that again with the knowledge I have now.

14. What would you different with your education if you got a chance to start over?

I would focus more on English and foreign languages. I was good at both but better at science, hence the reason why I drifted down that path. I would perhaps have been able to expand my horizons and travel more had I been able to write and speak foreign languages, taking the science side of my mind down the path of hobbies and interests rather than a career choice. Oh – and I would have learned to play the piano and guitar too.

15. What would you do with your life if you had no fear?

I would probably be higher up the corporate ladder and making my own decisions about where I want to go rather than having to succumb to the constraints I have at the moment. I would have earned enough money to have retired now.

Who knows? I might also have ended up in politics and might be ruling the world now – which would be bad news people who annoyed me. I have a master plan that when I rule the world, I am going to build a spaceship and send it off to the deepest darkest depths of the galaxy manned by all of those people who have pissed me off – you know, people like Piers Morgan, Simon Cowell, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, the Kardashians, Kanye West  etc. I’ll make space explorers out of the lot of them and make our world a better place.