Sunday 19 July 2020

More From Facebook

Welcome to sunny Manchester in the north of England on lockdown day 118. Things are easing slowly but surely but it is a tedious process. I’m still working from home and it looks like I will be for the next few months at least. The good news is that the rate of new infections and deaths is very slowly falling and we are now at the stage in the UK where local lockdowns may be in force in the future. For example, Leicester is still under a much more strict lockdown than the rest of the country at least for a couple more weeks. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that this could happen to Manchester too – but so far we are doing okay here.
Anyway – enough waffle. Let’s answer some questions from Sunday Stealing
1. What's your favourite movie from your childhood and why?
Even as a child I loved Science Fiction films so I will go for a real weird one; Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. I loved the TV series as well as the films. I even read the books of the films. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was the best of the film series.

2. What is home to you?
They say that an Englishman’s home is his castle. Sadly, I don’t own a castle – though I would love to. Instead I have a three-bedroomed red-brick terraced house in a suburb of South Manchester which I share with Mrs PM and a nervous 18 year old black cat called Poppy. This is my home but I regard the city of Manchester as my home. 
3. Do you get emotionally invested in stories? (I'm asking about movies, books, tv shows, whatever medium you like your stories in.)
Definitely. Whenever I read a story, I am the hero. I become him (or her if the hero happens to be a woman) and feel their emotions, urge them to do the right thing and suffer when they inevitably do not and end up in a traumatic situation. I find myself questioning their choices sometimes and reprimanding them for what they have done. In movies I can actually get quite emotional and sometimes a tear falls down my cheek even in the oddest movies. The Elephant Man still tears my heart in two.
4. What is the most physical damage you've ever received without needing medical intervention (so no stitches or splints or anything)?
I don’t think I’ve ever been seriously damaged physically. I was once very stupid and was riding a bike with a passenger on the saddle. We were hurtling down a hill when I hit a pothole and we both went over the handlebars. I landed face first on the tarmac and my passenger landed on top of me. I thought that I had lost my two front teeth but thankfully all I did was chip one of them and had to walk home with an enormous fat lip. I looked like I had lost a street brawl with Mohammed Ali. That front tooth is now a crown. I was about 15 years old.
5. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Not very far I would imagine. If there were a televised sporting event called “Woodchuck wood chucking” I would definitely watch it.
6. Do you have any obsessions? Like Tv shows, or cats or something. Not addictions.
You are talking to somebody who suffers from a mild form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder so the answer is yes. My main obsession is music and I cannot sit in silence; I have to have some music of some form in the background. For example I am typing this with a song playing in the background. I like a lot of TV shows and movies but I wouldn’t say that my obsession stretches that far. I like to watch shows but I am not obsessed with any of them really. 
7. What question or questions would you like God to answer?
Will you please come to visit me to prove that you actually exist? Will you please allow me to compile a list of questions to ask you? Can I take a selfie with you to show the world?
8. Do you bite your nails?
I used to but I stopped in my twenties.
9. What do you like about the place you live, I mean your housing, apt, house, mobile home, etc.
My house is a bit like Dr Who’s TARDIS because it looks small from the outside but is a lot larger inside than you would imagine. It is deep rather than wide, with a lounge, a backroom, which Mrs PM calls my “man cave” but really doubles as a second lounge, my office and a dining room if required. The kitchen is fairly large too and we have two double bedrooms and a smaller one at the back of the house. We have a nice garden that gets the sun all day when it dares to peep out from behind the rainclouds. 
The mortgage has been paid off and I am happy with that as you can imagine. The house is in a nice area of Manchester with a tram that can whisk us into the city in about 20 minutes and everything we need is within reach. A 20 minute drive south takes us into the Cheshire countryside for walks so we have the best worlds; close to a city and close to the beautiful rural English countryside.
I am very content here.
10. What do you like about the city or town where you live?
Manchester is the (unofficial) second city of England. Officially that award goes to Birmingham (near to where I used to live) but Manchester is more vibrant and is certainly the capital of the north of England in many people’s eyes. The people are very friendly, unlike those in London who just walk past you avoiding eye contact. Here is a news report about a man who left Manchester and had trouble in London:

Seriously, though, Manchester is an amazing place and I would urge anybody from overseas to come and visit us just to see for yourselves. Bring your umbrella though.
11. Is there one place you have visited that you wish you could live there?
Hong Kong. I love the place and I try to get back there as often as I can. It’s a real shame what is going on there at the moment and my heart breaks every time I see the news reports about China stamping down on citizens’ rights.
12. What's your favourite cookie to snack on?
I don’t eat biscuits as a rule (or cookies to American readers). But I do quite like Dark Chocolate Hobnobs.

13. Are you a Apple person or PC type person and why?
I still own an Apple iPod but I am a PC person – or an Android person when it comes to phones. I am not a huge fan of Microsoft at all and the only real reason I buy Windows PC’s and laptops is because I know more about the operating system. Similarly with Android phones. There is much more choice in the Android world and Android itself is based on Unix which I use in my day to day work. Basically, I think that Apple products are overpriced for what they are.
14. What's your favourite things about the Zoo?
I’m not a huge fan of zoos because I feel sorry for the creatures cooped up inside them. Having said that, I am fascinated with the animals you see there, like elephants, tigers, lions, apes, monkeys etc.
15. Did you grow up in the country, city or small town and what did you like about it (or hate about it if you didn’t like it?)
I grew up in a fairly large industrial town called Walsall which is about 10 miles north west of the official second city in England, Birmingham. I liked the fact that it was close to Birmingham, about a 15 minute train ride away but the town itself was not the most exciting place to live. It was okay but I wasted no time leaving the area when I was able to do so. I occasionally go back there but Manchester is a far better place to live. 
16. What kinds of things were you into and do when you were growing up?
I was quite an academic kid and definitely a geek. I still am. I read an awful lot and my curiosity was never satisfied. I would constantly ask questions, particularly about scientific subjects. I devoured science fiction programmes and films and also escaped into my own little world, creating stories in room with action figures. I was deeply into music, as I am now, and would lie on the bed with my eyes closed listening to pop music and heavy metal, sometimes pretending that I was in the band. I also loved football as I still do and tried to watch as much sport as I could. We lived next to a park so I also spent a lot of time playing football with friends.
Not an awful lot has changed to be honest – apart from the fact that I don’t play football any more.
I am still a geek.
17 .Do you enjoy receiving letters or postcards more, and why?
I haven’t received a letter or postcard for years and years. With social media, such things have become obsolete. I do dabble in social media and it is nice to be pinged occasionally.
18. Do or did you know any of your great-grandparents? Tell me about them.
I never met them. I did a little research about them recently when offered their services for free for a short while to commemorate VE Day and discovered that on my mother’s side, my great grandfather was a brass worker, i.e. he made things out of brass. Walsall, my home town, is famous for its leather products and in the past the town was the centre of the saddle-making industry in England. This was the occupation of another of my great-grandfather.
19. Do you like to be outdoors? What is your favourite thing to do there?
I do like being outdoors, even when it is raining if I’m honest. These days, I generally go for long walks either around the local area or in the countryside.
20. Have you ever broken a bone or been badly injured?
No. I guess I’ve been lucky.
And finally. 
I discovered a video on You Tube that I want to share. It is a song by a man from my hometown of Walsall that highlights the accent.
 I can imagine that you think I have a clipped English accent. I guess I would describe it as a neutral northern English accent, having lived in Manchester for 36 of my 57 years. However, for the first 18 years of my life, you would struggle to understand what I was saying. Walsall is in an area of England called the Black Country, so called because it was one of the industrial centres of the country and the by-product of all that industry was black smoke and soot. 
So really I come from the Black Country, and we are also called Yam Yams because really, I guess, that is what our accent sounds like. Have a listen to this song and see if you can imagine me speaking like this. It’s called “Am Yow a Yam Yam” which roughly translated means “Are you from the Black Country”? 
By the way, a person from Birmingham is called a Brummie and although that accent is similar to the Black Country accent at least you can understand it.
If you can understand it then I take off my hat to you.
Good luck and I hope you enjoy it. 

Sunday 5 July 2020

How's the Weather?

We are still in lockdown in the UK but things are easing. Yesterday pubs, hairdressers and “non-essential” shops opened, meaning that we are heading in the right direction over here. Social distancing is still recommended and we are pretty good at being sensible here – except when alcohol is involved of course. 
I don’t intend to try going to a pub this week but I did take a walk yesterday to see what was happening. In the afternoon people were finally getting their hair cut and sensibly drinking a pint in pubs. However, as the evening wore on, especially in London, the news reported that people were being a little blasé with social distancing. 
Still, the good news is that the number of new cases is dropping now; we are in the realms of around 500 to 600 new cases per day (as opposed to 5000 to 6000 a few weeks ago). 
As much as we hated the restrictions, they do seem to be working. Let’s just hope that there aren’t any more spikes now some of them are being lifted.
In the UK, we seem to be obsessed with the weather and it therefore seems apt to answer a few questions about our favourite subject from Sunday Stealing
Shall we dive in?
1. Have you ever had a vacation ruined by the weather or did you just work around it?
Yes. A few years ago, we flew halfway across the world to go to Thailand, more specifically the island of Koh Samui. Sadly we messed up because as we landed we discovered that we were right in the middle of the rainy season. Had we travelled further north we would have been fine. 
I love thunderstorms and when they explode around my vicinity I watch them in fascination. You would have thought that I would have enjoyed several thunderstorms a day for the best part of a week. 
I didn’t. 
I watched the storm on the first day from the hotel balcony, trying to take photographs of lightning and failing. But when the storm continued day after day I was sick of them. One day when the rain stopped, we went for a walk only to have an hour’s respite before the next storm came. We sheltered in a bar for a couple of hours as the rain poured down so hard that the streets were flooded. In the end we walked back to the hotel in shin-deep water. Thankfully it was still very hot and I had shorts and beach shoes on so it wasn’t too bad. 
The whole holiday was a total disaster.
2. What small changes do you feel people could make to give the planet a fighting chance against global warming?
I would think that if people walked, cycled or even used public transport more then their individual carbon footprint would be reduced. We have seen the effects of lockdown in various countries on carbon emissions. There is a lesson to be learned right there.
3. Are you adversely affect by the weather, such as SAD?
Only in winter. I am generally a happy person but in January and February, when the days are short, cold and grey I feel less happy. This time of year is the best because the days are really long; the sun comes up at around 4am and sets at around 9:30pm. 
4. How is the weather where you are and have you seen drastic changes in it during your life time?
At the moment we are having a rather wet July. The sun is out but there are grey clouds. May this year was fantastic, with the sun shining and the temperature being in the high twenties most days. Summers in England tend to be warm but there is usually rain at some point. 
Over my lifetime I have seen some amazing changes in weather. In Walsall, were I was born and lived for 18 years, winters were quite harsh and if there was snow in the UK there was snow in Walsall. In Manchester, we rarely get snow – which is fine by me because I hate the stuff – but we do get more than our fair share of rain. In the last few years, I have noticed the temperature rising, culminating in a summer in 2018 where it hardly rained for three months and the temperature was constantly in the mid to high twenties, reaching the heady heights of mid thirties on a few days. 
That was odd. But every day we see records being broken in the UK, particularly with heat and rainfall. This is why is difficult to deny that there is something going on in terms of climate change.
5. Do you think we can stop global warming or is it too late?
I think that it’s too late but that we can take steps to mitigate it. Unfortunately I don’t see this happening unless we have regular COVID-19 lockdowns. One thing I hope is that the effects of the lockdown on the environment may actually wake people up and make them act differently. There are too many climate change sceptics around to make a difference. We can only hope that technology and the introduction of new ways of travelling and behaving in the future can do something. The trends do not support this though and I fear we are on a downward spiral, particularly when our so-called leaders do not believe it is a problem (and yes I am talking about the Orange Goblin in the White House, Bolsonaro in Brazil and Xi Jinping in China).
6. What could you do for an hour or so today that you would really enjoy doing?
Mrs PM has gone to see here mother for the first time since the lockdown and I have the house to myself. I will take the opportunity to do a little writing (I have rebooted my third travelogue, which is all about a trip to Japan about 7 years ago) before watching a football match on TV in a couple of hours. It will all be thoroughly enjoyable. 
7. What could you do for an hour today that might improve your life in the future?
I am looking forward to retirement and have been concentrating on working out when it is feasible to do so. I plan to spend a little time on this too hopefully. 
8. What could you do for an hour today that could strengthen or improve a skill you would like to be able to rely on?
As I said above, a little writing. The blog is good practice and also a little freewriting and attacking the travelogue will all help to get me into the groovy habit of writing and hopefully improve my technique.
9. What could you do for an hour today that would make your living space more pleasant to live in?
The living space is already quite pleasant. I’ve already put some washing in and cleaned up the kitchen after lunch. It took about an hour so that’s a good result.
10. What could you do for an hour today that would improve your relationships with loved ones?
Call them I guess. I could have gone with Mrs PM to see here mother but, being a hypochondriac, I’m still a little uncomfortable about taking advantage of the lowering of restrictions. I’ll get there but not just yet.
11. Do you like, dislike, or pay no attention to the wind?
I love the wind. There is no better feeling than climbing up a high hill on a windy day and getting a lungful of fresh untainted air. It’s totally exhilarating.
12. Do you have allergies or sinus made worse by the wind?
My only real allergy is hay fever and that is probably aggravated by the wind if I’m honest. Luckily, I only suffer in June and it has massively improved over the years, so much so that I no longer have to take medication for it. 
13. Have you ever been caught in a big wind (not a hurricane or tornado)?
Yes – many times. It is not pleasant if it is accompanied by rain though.
14. When was the last time you flew a kite?
I have never flown a kite nor do I have any intention of trying to do so. I think it is pointless – sorry.
15.Would you like to have the power of flight?
Of course (assuming that I could get over my fear of heights). Every time I see birds hopping around from tree to tree or just gliding around I am filled with envy.