Sunday 30 August 2020

Live Journal

Welcome to day 160 of the lockdown that may not be a lockdown any more but possibly might be depending on how you interpret what a lockdown is. We are still under additional restrictions in Greater Manchester but areas around us are being freed from those restrictions. Sadly, not Manchester though. 

I am a little tired because we have been for a 7.5 mile walk earlier this afternoon in Derbyshire, in the Peak District. We are allowed to do this, bizarrely, as long as we socially distance and don’t visit anybody in their homes or gardens. It’s a bit weird if you ask me but then having a clown as a Prime Minister is also very weird.

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday that usually marks the end of summer so I am not in work – which is excellent. But it is Sunday so I will answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing, as has become the norm for a Sunday afternoon. 

Let’s take the plunge.

1. Who is the hottest celebrity you can think of?

I would say the there are three. Here they are.

2. Do you ever get so nervous that you can't even think?

Not really. One of my main fears is public speaking and I have had to do that several times as part of my job, when I was asked to spend a week giving training courses. As you can imagine, if you are training people then you have to be able to think so I had to find a way to face the fear and think when asked sometimes difficult questions.

3. Do you sing when there is no music?

Absolutely and sometimes in front of others, who are either irritated, embarrassed or think I am a buffoon.

4.Who was the best political leader in history and why?

That’s a really difficult question because I have a big problem with political leaders generally. I certainly cannot name one from my own country because in my experience they are all arses – even the ones representing the party I support. I am going to have to stick with one from my own country though and select Sir Winston Churchill because, first, I wasn’t born when he was Prime Minister and second, because against all odds, he was victorious in World War 2.

5 If you could dance with anyone in the world right now, who would it be and what song would you dance to?

I would dance with Mrs PM, of course, but I would have to select the song because generally I hate her music. 

Perhaps this one because we both like Zero 7.

Yes indeed – a man who likes progressive rock, progressive metal and heavy metal also likes ambient electronica. Mrs PM is quite pleased that we do indeed have an overlap. 

6 Finish this sentence your own way. There are two types of people in the world...

There are two types of people in the world those who feel empathy with other people and those who don’t. I would qualify that statement but it would inevitably lead to a rant about Brexit, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and all of the other ridiculous votes that have occurred in the last five years. Breathe deeply Dave – breathe deeply. Think of bunny rabbits frolicking in a field of daisies …

7 What have you saved since elementary school?

I had to look up what “elementary school” is. It is the equivalent of junior school in the United Kingdom. To be totally honest with you, I haven’t saved a single thing since junior school to my knowledge. I have the odd thing that dates back to that period but nothing to do with school sadly.

8 Have you ever won an award?

Yes I have but nothing major. 

9. Do you feel more connected to the sun or the moon?

I love the sun and I love the moon so I would say both. I am not really a spiritual person so any connection I have with those two heavenly bodies is non-existent.

10 Do flaws make people interesting to you?

Absolutely. I am a deeply flawed person myself and I also believe that most if not all people are. I have met people who think that they are perfect and I regard it as a challenge to expose their flaws (to myself of course – I am not a nasty person). People who admit their flaws up front are my kind of people.

11 Who is your favourite historical figure?

I’m not really into history that much but I have to admit that I am slightly fascinated with King Henry VIII, one of our most famous kings of England. When he was king, he was desperate to emulate the previous monarchs and because he was slightly mad he went about it in the most bizarre way, ruthlessly wiping out those that he perceived as his enemies as well as taking on religion and the Pope himself. He divorced two of his six wives and killed two more. Of the other two, one of them died and the other survived. He was a true maniac.

12. White bread or wheat bread?


13. Do you usually do things fast or right?

I prefer to do things right. I am a bit of a perfectionist, if I’m honest.

14. Are you or have you ever been in a band?

Yes indeed. I was in the school brass band and briefly in the school orchestra and even more briefly a jazz group. I played a trombone.

15. Here are 4 statements about me. Only one of them is true. Which one is it?

(1) I was an extra in an episode of Dr Who.

(2) I have been inside the Kremlin in Moscow and had an argument with a Kremlin guard.

(3) I am related to a very famous British person but I never tell anybody about it because I don’t want them to try to get me to meet him. 

(4) I am a Scientologist but too embarrassed to tell anybody.

16. Would you wear a thong bathing suit in public?

Absolutely not. I look bad enough in my swimming shorts.

17. Have you thought about death today?

No. I rarely think about death if I’m honest.

18. What is your favourite breakfast?

A full English breakfast. I don’t eat them very often because they are notoriously fattening. Typically they consist of sausages, bacon, fried eggs, beans, mushrooms, toast and lashings of HP sauce with fruit juice and a huge mug of tea.

I did have one this morning I have to confess mainly because the 7.5 mile walk helped to eliminate the extra pounds it will have added.

19. Are you the life of the party?

I can be but it depends how many people I know at the party. Let’s talk about extremes. If I know absolutely nobody them the answer is a definite no. I will attempt just to chat to a couple of people (I am deep down quite shy) but not the life and soul at all. If I know everybody then I will do my damnedest to chat to and entertain as many people as I can. 

20. If you hit an animal with your car would you get out to try and make sure it was okay?

Of course I would. I love animals. I think the exceptions might be if it were a rat or a snake or something like that.

21. When do you get your most peaceful and satisfying sleep?

I try to get a full peaceful night’s sleep every night but I usually fail on Friday and Saturday, mainly because I may have had a beer or two and I tend to stay up later. From Sunday to Thursday I go to bed early and aim to get a full eight hours, which I do most nights. Sleep is really important and I have been delving into it recently just because I heard an interesting talk on the effects of sleep deprivation. We all need a good night’s sleep.

22. What thought gets you out of bed in the morning?

Carpe Diem – even if it is a work day. Let’s get work out of the way so that I can relax. At the weekend I just want to be awake and do something.

23. What are you a member of?

I’m not a member of anything really. I think this will change over the next year or two as I start to cast one eye on retirement.

24. Name one place you refuse to ever go.

The ladies toilet. I did it once and got into trouble. My reason was a valid one though. Many years ago when I was a very young lad I was at a nightclub with friends and one of them was a young lady who had had a little too much to drink. The rest of the party were men.  The young lady looked a little green and told me she was going to the toilet. After a while, she didn’t return so I stupidly decided to go and check on her because nobody else would. I stood outside the ladies toilet and asked women who were coming and going if they would go in and check to see if my friend was okay. Most of them were drunk and thought that I was trying to chat them up or something. To be fair, I had had a few beers so I wasn’t exactly sober myself. Fuelled by Dutch courage, I had had enough of waiting so I just walked in and called her name. I heard her groan and she said that she would be coming out. Sadly there was a woman who objected to my presence and went to fetch the Meathead bouncer. I was a bit annoyed so I just stayed where I was. Then the bouncer came in and I was amazed to see that she was a woman and also, I guessed, she had the ability to hurl me out of the door – she was a big woman. 

I tried to reason with her and said “My friend is very ill” and thankfully, at that exact moment she left the cubicle and told the bouncer that I was just looking after her. The bouncer softened slightly but told me in no uncertain terms that I was violating the rules. I agreed and apologized and she let me off as long as I left the toilets immediately – I did. 

One of my mates took the young lady home and we stayed out. Of course, my mates were merciless and I had to endure the remainder of my time in the club being the butt of their jokes. 

There is no justice in this world when you are a young lad.

25. When (and if) people (or animals) go to heaven, do they become angels?

I doubt it. I can’t imagine myself becoming an angel if I end up in heaven. It would be nice to have wings but I am scared of heights so I wouldn’t be able to use them. As for animals – are you joking?

Sunday 23 August 2020

What's to Eat


Welcome to day 153 of the lockdown in Manchester in the north of England. Actually, I’m not that convinced that strictly speaking we are locked down now. In Manchester we have the additional restrictions but in the rest of the country, people can gather is social bubbles, go to the pub etc. and schools are planning to reopen in September. We still won’t be able to go to concerts or football matches because of the ban on mass gatherings but we can largely come and go as we please.  
Mrs PM planned a couple of birthday celebrations with friends and family this last week but they had to be cancelled because of the additional restrictions. Nevertheless because we are still allowed to go to the pubs and restaurants here, the two of us were able to still go out having reduced the number of people on each reservation. 
So she had a good week and, sadly, I have to dive back into the rat race again tomorrow and return to work (albeit from the comfort of my own home). 
It’s Sunday so it must be time to answer a bunch of silly questions on Sunday Stealing
Let’s dive right in shall we?
1. How old is the oldest expired thing in your refrigerator?
I don’t have expired things in my fridge. I am very careful (some may use the word “squeamish”) about food that may or may not have gone off. There is no way that I will allow anything to be used after its “sell by” date. To be honest, I’m a little squeamish about things that have run past their “best before” date too. 
2. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done on a date?
I hate to disappoint you but I don’t do weird things on dates (or at least when I used to date – I haven’t been on a date for about 40 years when I think about it). Actually, something leaps to mind. When I was 18 I had a girlfriend called Christina (Chris for short). My dad was going to take my mum to see a crooner called Frankie Vaughn on a kind of dinner date. For some reason, known only to him, he decided that Chris and I should come too. The only way he managed to persuade me was by promising to pay for our dinner and the tickets. I tried to tell him that I was a young fan of heavy metal and that Frankie Vaughn was so far away from my musical taste that it may as well of been from the Planet Tharg. He even went so far as to go round to Chris’s parents house to ask them if it was alright. So there I was, with Chris and my parents, eating a three course meal and listening to Frankie Vaughn croon away. It was the most bizarre experience I have ever had and I still to this day cannot fathom what was going through my dad’s head when he urged us to go. If you haven’t heard of Frankie Vaughn, here he is in his full glory.
3. What animal most closely resembles your eating style?
It depends how hungry I am and where I am. If I am in a fancy restaurant, I eat delicately like a cat. If I am on my own in front of the TV and am absolutely ravenous I eat like a dog that hasn’t eaten for a week.
4. Have you ever sent someone a text you didn’t mean to?
Not to my knowledge. 
5. If you could learn any language fluently, which would it be?
It would be Spanish. I am currently still trying to teach myself Spanish and am in a position where I can understand basic written text and make simple requests. I really need to pursue it more seriously but at the moment it is quite difficult to find the time.
6. Would you rather be bald or covered head to toe with hair?
I would rather be bald. I despise my hair, as you may know, so to be covered from head to toe in the stuff would be an absolute nightmare. Mrs PM quite likes my beard though and doesn’t want me to shave it off, so I have to keep and maintain that too. It is fine though because it isn’t as crazy as the uncontrollable mop on my head.
7. Do you think you’re brave?
I think I can be. If I saw somebody in trouble I would definitely wade in to help but when it comes to simple things, like removing a big spider from the house or going to the top of a tall building, I am a total coward.
8. What horror fiction character scares you the most?
Demons and anything relating to the Devil. The films that have scared me the most involve demonic possession (the Exorcist for example). I like the tongue-in-cheek versions such as the TV show Lucifer but a full on horror movie about Satan would mess with my head and give me sleepless nights. 
9. What food do you crave more than any other?
Probably cheese. We always have cheese in the house and I love it on snacks such as a Ham and Cheese butty (sandwich to American readers) or cheese on toast. A cheese feast pizza is a joy to behold.
10. Which holiday would you erase from the calendars, if you could?
I wouldn’t because I like holidays. However, there was talk of having a Brexit Day holiday and if that ever happens I would want to erase that, simply because as a nation it is the single most stupid thing we have ever done – and that includes electing Boris the Clown as Prime Minister.
11. What’s the most clever word you know?
When I was studying Chemistry A-level I recall a chemical compound that has an amazing name and for some reason, even 40 years on, I still remember it. The word is “2,4-Dinitrophenylhydrazine” and its chemical formula is C6H3(NO2)2NHNH2. It is an organic chemical, based on a benzine ring, and the naming convention perfectly describes what the molecule looks like. 

As far as the English language is concerned, I know a few clever words but then I suddenly go off them when they are abused by being incorporated into business-speak or simply misused. Words like “procurement”, “paradigm”, “leverage”, “synergy”, “incentivise”, “infrastructure”, “ecosystem”, “ninja”, “consume” and “triage” really wind me up when abused and misused in business speak.
As I work in IT I know quite a few so-called clever words that are used in my field, such as “asynchronous”, “synchronous”, “heterogeneous”, “homogenous”, “hexadecimal”, “algorithm”, “decompression”, “database” for example. 
There are some rarely used words that I genuinely like the sound of, such as “onomatopoeia”, “mellifluous”, “euphoria” and “plethora”. Plenty to choose from there I reckon but I will stick with my chemical compound, “2,4-Dinitrophenylhydrazine”.
12. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I am a hypochondriac (another good word) so I try not to think about it. I’m not particularly scared of dying as long as it is quick. The worst thing would be a long drawn out painful death at the hands of a very nasty virus. You can imagine how I feel about that at the moment.
13. What do you collect that nobody knows about?
I collect music CD’s and I have a collection of football programmes. I don’t go to football matches much these days, preferring to watch them on TV, but if I do go, I will always buy the programme. 
14. Have you ever eaten only candy for dinner?
No because I am not a fan of candy or as I prefer to call it, sweets.
15. Have you ever taken anything illegally across a border?
I’ve not done it on purpose if ever. I have been to countries where you are not allowed to take currency in or out and may have inadvertently had a few coins or notes on my way out.
16. Have you ever blown your nose in anything other than a tissue?
Yes – that’s what handkerchiefs are for.
17. Are you a good time manager?
I’m not too bad these days. I used to be terrible and it was pointed out to me by a former boss as my only real weakness. So I read a book on time management and now I am relatively okay.
18. Has life been hard on you?
Not at all. I’ve had ups and downs but if at the age of 17 you told me that at 57 I would be a reasonably successful member of the IT community with two sons, a woman I love and my own home I would have been happy with that. I’m fine.
19. What is the absolute worst song in the world?
This is one of the worst songs I have ever heard and not just because it is straight out of the terrible Stock, Aitkin and Waterman music factory. It basically slags off all of the music I like in favour of “Jacking” whatever the hell that fad was. In fact, the opposite is true. At the time, this song was in the charts and being played on every radio station, the music I like and liked rarely got airplay. And this is still the case today. What a load of old tosh it really is, the tune and the words. It is a true abomination.
Here it is in all of its ugliness.
I would rather spend three hours listening to Frankie Vaughn that listen to this utter drivel. There are worse songs but this one holds a special place in my hate list. All people responsible for it from the writers to the performers are on the space ship that will contain all of the people I want to banish from Earth. Happy galaxy travels, Reynolds Girls. Thankfully, this is a one hit wonder and no more singles were released by them. 
20. What is your culinary specialty?
I would say that it is some form of pasta. I can knock up a decent pasta dish very quickly and easily.

Sunday 16 August 2020

From Friday Five


Welcome to day 146 of the lockdown in Manchester, in the north of England. We still have additional restrictions for another week at least but things in the rest of the country are easing up. Apparently we can go to the casino now. I’m sure gamblers will be delighted by that. Personally I don’t gamble so it doesn’t make a difference to me. 
I am taking a week off work starting from Monday, mainly to celebrate Mrs PM’s 50th birthday on Tuesday. I overheard her telling a work colleague last week that “you are only 50 once” and then she added “Thank God!”.
I completely disagree with that sentiment. I would love to be 50 again. As I march inexorably towards 60, I look back on the day I was 50 with envy. I would love to be 18 again, if I can be honest. I would change a few things I can tell you. That said, I am still content with life at the moment despite my creaking bones and advancing years. 
But enough about that nonsense. Let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What makes it easy to talk to someone?
It helps me if the person is friendly and funny. I find that if a person is generally interested in what you are saying and is actually listening to what you are saying then you can have a great conversation. I try to do that myself. There is nothing worse than somebody talking at you rather than to you. I once had a conversation with a guy at a wedding who basically spent half an hour telling me how brilliant he was. Whenever he let me speak (which was rare) he topped whatever I said, telling me that he had done something better, bigger or even made a bigger mess of it than I had. When he left to get a beer, his wife, who was sitting next to him, leaned over to me and said 
“Did you manage to get a word in? I’ll bet you’ve never met somebody as brilliant as my husband.” 
She chuckled and rolled her eyes. 
“Is he always like that?” I said. “With EVERYBODY!” she laughed.
I tried to avoid talking to him for the rest of the night. His wife, it turned out, was far more interesting to talk to.
2. Have you ever had a great conversation with a complete stranger?
Yes indeed. The guy from question 1 was a complete stranger as was his wife, for example. I am a little shy (though not as bad as I used to be) but I just bite the bullet these days and can chat to anybody really. It depends what mood I am in though. If somebody else instigates the conversation I am happy to oblige.
3. Do you like to argue?
Not at all. I like to debate, which is different. I tend to walk away from arguments or just stop answering. Conflict is not something I like as a rule.
4. Some people like to talk about things, and some people like to do things. Which are you?
I think it depends on what the things are. For example, I love to talk about travel and I love to travel. I can happily talk about my travel plans (subject to coronavirus restrictions) but usually I will stick to those plans and actually do it.
5. Who is easier to talk to – men or women?
Men but only because I am still a little shy around women. A conversation with a man is completely different. Women tend to engage in deeper conversation, I have found, and want to know details, feelings, emotions and thoughts. Men tend not to talk about such things. 
I do love talking to women though, particularly close female friends.
6. What is your favourite place?
I have been to a lot of amazing places and they are all special in their own way. I love the city of Hong Kong so I will say that.
7. What is your favourite place in your home?
The lounge and the back room are both equally my favourites. The lounge enables me to relax and watch TV to wind down and the back room, where I am now, is the place the introvert within me like most, as it provides music, an office and an escape room for me. 
8. Would you most want to live in a city, a suburb or the country?
I think I would have to say a suburb. I live in a suburb of South Manchester and it has perfect access to the city centre and the countryside. It is the best of both worlds.
9. What is special about the town you live in?
I’ve talked about the city I live in so I will focus on the area I live in, which I like to think of as a small town within the city itself. It is about five miles south of the city centre and has most things that I need within easy reach. It is a nice area and sought after by people who move to the city. The people are friendly, the pubs are great, the shops are nice and there are various other facilities such as a cinema, a bowling alley, supermarkets, gyms, parks all within walking distance. Also it is easy to get to other parts of the city both by public transport and by car. It is relatively close to two local towns, Altrincham, where I used to live, and Stockport. 
10. How much time do you spend in nature?
I like to go for country walks away from the hustle and bustle of the city but I don’t always get the opportunity to do so. I probably should spend much more time in the country and we aim to rectify that to a certain extent this coming week by visiting some of the local countryside in Cheshire and the Peak District, all of which are nearby.
11. Do you make up a dinner plan for the coming week?
I think we do actually, which is a little sad. Sometimes perhaps we should be a little more spontaneous in that respect.
12. Do you make up a grocery shopping list and stick to it when shopping?
We have a notepad on the kitchen table and add things to it during the week as we think of them. Just before the weekly shop, we take a look just to see if we are running out of things. In that way we are quite organised.
13. What is one thing that you always buy, but never write down on a list?
Fruit, milk, cheese, ham, fruit juice, cat litter, vegetables, bread, fish. There are other things I am sure but that is the list off the top of my head.
14. Is there anything that you always think you are out of and come home with it to discover you already have a year’s supply on hand?
For me, usually it is men’s toiletries. I often don’t add things like shampoo to the list, for example, and when I get to the shop I think “Have I got enough shampoo or will I end up having to use whatever Mrs PM has bought?” The thing is with Mrs PM’s shampoo, it has to be a specialised shampoo that accommodates whatever whim she has with her hair at the time. In the past, when I have been in the shower and noticed that I have no shampoo and struggled to read her shampoo bottle wondering whether it will be fuel for my unmanageable hair and allow it to become even more uncontrollable than it already is by adding extra body to hair that has so much body that it could freely give it away to loads of people. 
And so I buy shampoo for myself, get home and discover that I already have six bottles and have to face Mrs PM who now thinks that I am some kind of shampoo pervert. 
15. Do you get your groceries delivered?
No – and for the simple reason that they always ALWAYS mess up the order. They substitute things that have run out of with poor replacements and cock it up to such an extent that I have a sweepstake to guess which thing will be wrong. I am certain that they use online grocery shopping to get rid of stuff that nobody would normally buy. 
“Oh, I’m sorry sir, the soft and fluffy toilet roll that you ordered is out of stock. We’ve substituted it with our own brand called Sandpaper Roll which is about a tenth of the price and made out of paper that is so rough it may take your skin off. It still does the job and you’ll be pleased to know that we have plenty of that in stock.” 

Sunday 9 August 2020

Extraordinary Penpals


Welcome to day 139 of the lockdown in Manchester. We are still under additional restrictions with the situation being reviewed every week. The timing of this is terrible because next week Mrs PM and I are off work for a week to celebrate her 50th birthday on 18th August. We had planned a few birthday get-togethers but sadly it seems unlikely that any of these will be allowed. Thankfully at the moment, restaurants and pubs are still open so we will be able to pop out for a meal and a beer in a socially distanced environment. It won’t be the same without friends and family there but I guess there is nothing we can do about it so we may as well just accept it.
The weather is quite pleasant today and we have already been for a five mile walk in the sunshine. After I have written this post I shall sit in the garden with Mrs PM to enjoy what is left of the sunshine.
Shall we dive in with some Sunday Stealing questions? 
Actually, the theme of Extraordinary Penpals is quite a good one. I dabbled with penpallery when I was a kid, writing to a German girl for a while, mainly to practice my German. It was quite tough – she wrote in English and I wrote in German and it kind of fizzled out. My German nowadays is poor but I am slightly better at Spanish and French. Penpallery might be a good thing to get into now because of modern technology, social media and the internet. Perhaps when I retire.
Enough idiocy - let’s get on with it.
1. What are your plans for August?
I mentioned them above  - take a week off work and try to have some fun for Mrs PM’s 50th birthday. Apart from that – nothing different from the lockdown routine we have been repeating like Groundhog Day since lockdown began at the end of March. Of course, we have more freedom and there are more things we can do but it isn’t good. 
2. Review the first half of 2020
HA HA HA HA HA! The first half of the year has been a total disaster thanks to this nasty coronavirus that seems to want a place in our lungs. As I said above most days have been like a nightmare version of Groundhog Day. I have had to cancel two holidays, one to Italy and one to Spain, as well as abandon plans to travel to Belgium for a long weekend in Brussels and Bruges, and ended up basically confined to my own house, unable to see friends and family apart from via Zoom or Whatsapp on a laptop or phone. Walking has been a treat but boring because I have tramped the same routes over and over, avoiding other people, their dogs, joggers and cyclists and treating everybody else and being treated by everybody else as if we are all zombies in the middle of an apocalypse. I’ve been called a “stupid bastard” by a 70 year old woman who thought I was violating the social distancing rule when I was almost 15 feet away from the paranoid old dear. I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from reacting (I am a nice guy but I don’t like being sworn at by a total stranger even if it is an old woman).
To summarise: the first half of 2020 has been utterly crap and that incident with the old woman sums it up nicely.
3. A place you’d go if money were no object
I would travel the entire world. In my heart of hearts I think I can still do this, visiting as many countries as time and money will allow, even if I have been there before. 
Watch out world – I’m coming to get you hopefully.
4. Who was your childhood best friend
I guess it was probably my old mate Wally (not his real name). We were best pals from the age of about 10 to 19 and we drifted apart when I moved away from Walsall to Liverpool.
5. The city or town you love most
I would have to say in the UK it is my adopted home city, Manchester (or the Kingdom of Mancunia as I like to think of it). 
Outside the UK my favourite city is Hong Kong. I think I have mentioned this a number of times.
6. How do you spend hot days?
It depends where I am. At the moment in the UK, I like to go out for a walk or sit in the beer garden of a pub or sit in my own garden. 
If I’m abroad it depends again where I am. I will for example stroll around a foreign city or if I am by a beach I will spend some time on the beach or in a convenient swimming pool.
7. Are you a skilled cook or baker?
I have baked simple things with the kids when they were younger, such as cakes and biscuits and mince pies at Christmas. I wouldn’t say I was skilled but I can follow a recipe. 
The same goes for general cooking. I can do it but I don’t like doing it.
8. One thing you wish you could currently do.
9. A time when you learned your lesson
At university, I went through a period when, due to circumstances, my relationship with one of my mates became strained over a period of a month. He really liked a female student and confessed to her how he felt when one of his other friends played a practical joke on him by sending a Valentine’s card to him from her. She was a sweet girl so she promised him that they would be really good friends even though she wasn’t interested in him. There as a big event coming up when she would have the opportunity to invite him to a ball as her guest. He was convinced that his little confession and her guarantee that they would be close friends meant that he would be invited.
She invited me instead. I know why and it wasn’t because she fancied me. We were good buddies and she had asked me the previous year if she could be my guest to another ball because she really wanted to go. We had a good laugh and she felt that because I had taken he, she would reciprocate. 
My mate went ballistic and in a heated exchange, he urged me to tell her that I couldn’t go in the vain hope that she would ask him instead. I refused and told him to grow up. Our relationship soured and I went to the ball with her as a platonic friend. 
For the next couple of weeks after the ball, he was very short tempered with me and I got really pissed off with him. Other niggly things made it worse and by the end of the four week period it had got to the point where I had to react. 
I found myself slagging him off to a group of friends (for Americans that means “Bad-mouthing him”) and I went a bit too far, telling them he was pining for this girl so much that he was making a complete dickhead of himself. 
What I didn’t know was that he had overheard me.
The other thing is that we actually shared a house too – so you can imagine the tension. 
It all came to a head when he exacted his revenge.
I woke up one Saturday morning to the sound of somebody banging the front door. When I opened my door, I was confronted with a massive bin full of water that had been propped up on a chair leaning against my door.
It fell and emptied its entire cargo into my room, in a tsunami that was shocking because (a) there was so much water, (b) it was freezing cold, (c) it soaked my clothes that I wore, (d), it soaked my newly laundered clothes that were in a basket that I hadn’t put away yet, (e) it filled all of my shoes that were by the door. 
Water gets everywhere and everywhere was soaked. I knew immediately who had done it. I ran to his room and hammered to door screaming his name, telling him I was going to kill him. He had gone out.
He came back about 6 hours later and I saw him and just said “You utter bastard!”. “What?” He said trying not to laugh. “Come with me,” I said. He followed me to my room and sniggered as soon as he saw a tiny amount of water on the carpet outside my door. I opened my door to reveal the full horror of the prank. 
I was ready to punch him but his reaction stopped me in my tracks.
He saw the deluge, saw the soaked carpet, saw my shoes hanging to dry alongside my other clothes, saw my bed tipped up so that I could clear out all the wet detritus underneath it and he laughed. He laughed so much that he couldn’t stop. He fell on the floor and gasped for breath, rolling around in such mirth that, he later told me, he almost wet his pants. 
I saw his laughter and started laughing at his laughter.
Our feud was over. 
We mentioned it again on a university reunion last year and we all laughed at it again. 
We are still best mates but I learned to be very careful when you are thinking of talking about somebody behind their backs.
10, What consistently makes you laugh
British comedy. We are the funniest people in the world.
11. Routines that bring you calm and peace.
I like to listen to calming ambient electronic music like this:

12. Who annoys you the most?
I don’t know where to start. 
The human frog that is Nigel Farage, the human weasel that is Dominic Cummings, the clown we have as Prime Minister, Piers Morgan, the Orange Goblin in the White House, and many others.
13. Describe some of your favourite household items.
My CD collection, all of my gadgets, my bed and my cat. 
14. What have you gotten better at?
I am trying to mellow as I get older and try to listen to people to listen to their view on things in a bid to understand them better. 
15. Share a random memory.
I think I probably wrote too much for question 9 so I will allow that question to double up as a random memory too.
16. How many pairs of shoes do you have?
Not many.
17. Who do you go to for encouragement?
Usually Mrs PM.
18. References you make that others don’t get.
I am always quoting comedy shows – I seem to have a good memory that kind of thing.
19. What are 10 things you consider essential for you?
Phone, iPod, laptop, Kindle, clothes, shoes, glasses, passport, WiFi, beer, 
20. Is there any accent you wish you had?
Not really. I can do a passable impersonation of some accents. I guess a southern Irish accent might be a good thing to be able to impersonate – it is quite difficult though.

Sunday 2 August 2020

Upstream Life

Welcome to lockdown day 132 in Manchester, UK. On Thursday at midnight, the government imposed more restrictions on various places in England, including, sadly, Greater Manchester. The reasons for the increased restrictions is that the infection rate is creeping up again. In Greater Manchester there are areas where the rate is unacceptable. Where I live is okay but, being a city, it is easy to get from the places in the north of the city with a higher rate to my area, so the government has imposed the restrictions on the whole city.
This now means that we can’t go to another household, either to their garden or inside the house. Yet we can go to the pub as a household but not to meet another household in that pub. So if I go to a pub and see somebody in that pub who I know, do I have to leave? Or do I pretend that I don’t know him?
I’m a bit surprised that they didn’t close pubs and restaurants. 
Also, I have had a second lockdown haircut, thanks to Mrs PM (even though the barbers are open I ‘m not quite ready to go there for a haircut just yet). I also trimmed my beard because one of my bosses referred to me as “Grizzly Adams” on a company briefing session. I reacted by saying “You’re only jealous because I have more hair on my beard than you do on your head”, which caused a lot of amusement and probably burned a little bridge. 
I don’t care; if you can’t take it, don’t give it, I say. I don’t care if you are a member of the “senior Leadership Team” or not. 
Honestly, it won’t matter because I have known the guy in question for about 30 years. I did enjoy the comeback though.
What else is there to do on a lockdown Sunday but answer some questions from Sunday Stealing
Let’s dive in.
1. Name 5 people you admire and why
I am full of admiration for a lot of people I know. You won’t know them at all so I will talk about 5 people you might be aware of instead.
(a) Barack Obama – I usually try to ignore American politics and I don’t care who the President is. He is the leader of another country so why should I be interested? There are two exceptions. The first is the Orange Goblin currently living in the White House and I have absolutely no respect for the lying malignant narcissist. The other is Barack Obama who I have a lot of respect for because not only did he win two elections as a black man against the odds, he also wanted to do the right thing for his country and I felt like America was changing for the better during his 8 year tenure. Sadly, it has all gone pear-shaped now.
(b) Sir David Attenborough – He has been around my entire life, leading documentaries about the world around us and always trying to pass across the message about how we should look after our planet because it is a wondrous place. Recently he has highlighted the plight of the oceans and the harmful effects of climate change. A true legend.
(c) Sir Bobby Charlton – When I was growing up as a kid, Bobby Charlton was the footballer we all wanted to be. He played for Manchester United (okay – that’s a problem but I will forgive him) and he was in the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. A few years ago, i caught a flight to Zurich for work, and when I boarded the plane, the great man was sitting in the second row. I almost had an accident and was torn whether to just ask him for his autograph or just give him the privacy I knew he would want. I chose to just nod and smile at him – he smiled back. 
(d) Dave Grohl – known as the nice man of rock, Dave Grohl always surprises me when interviewed as being a nice down to earth guy. In Cesena, Italy, 1000 musicians played a massive version of Learning to Fly and he rewarded them by taking his band to the town and playing a 27 song set to them – and he was recovering from a broken leg having fallen off the stage some months earlier.
(e) John Cleese – I love John Cleese and he has been making me laugh all of my life, from the early days with Monty Python as well as Basil Fawlty and A Fish Called Wanda. He is still funny even now when interviewed. No other reason – he just makes me life.
There are more that I admire but these are the ones that immediately leapt to mind.
2. When was the last time you did something adventurous?
Every time I travel it is an adventure. I guess the last time I did something adventurous when travelling was a trip to Vietnam where I fired a gun for the very first time. I was terrified of doing so but I managed it. Sadly I didn’t hit the target. The whole trip was one huge adventure.
3. You felt you got older when _______
I would say when I had finished university and moved to Manchester and started work. I opened my first pay packet and saw the amount of tax I had paid to Margaret Thatcher’s dreadful government. I realized then that I was no longer a young idiot having fun in university and now had to join the rat race that has haunted me for the past 3 years. It was time to grow up.
4. What one thing that could happen today would make you extremely happy?
I would suggest that perhaps might be the total elimination of the coronavirus that is causing the pandemic we are all enduring. As far as I am concerned 2020 is written off now and I just hope we can get back to normal in 2021.
5. An experience you don’t want to go through again.
A pandemic that restricts my life.
6. One decision you made that changed your life completely.
The day that Mrs PM told me how she felt about me in Hong Kong. I decided to run with it and I have never looked back.
7. How do you participate in saving the earth?
I don’t really do as much as I should. For example, under normal circumstances I will willingly travel to distant places on an aircraft that is spewing out noxious fumes. My car still runs on petrol when really it should be electric or at least a hybrid. The infrastructure for electric cars is improving in the UK and I will one day buy one, that’s if I don’t just give up on my car and embrace public transport first. Actually, I do use public transport when I can and I also recycle. I could do more.
8. A gift you would like to get on your next birthday?
Enough cash to retire would be nice.
9. Things you miss about your childhood?
I miss the freedom that I had as a kid. I was very active and basically had a great time playing in the adjacent park. I wish I had had a pedometer then because I am sure that I would broken all records walking and running around – that’s all I seemed to do. I also loved the innocence and naivety that I had back then; as you get older, you realise that life is not as simple as you think and that is why I am a grumpy old cynic now.
10. The greatest invention?
The computer, which is the basis for every bit of technology we enjoy at the moment, such as smartphones. And they have kept me in a job for 36 years.
11. Your favourite super hero
The Incredible Hulk, closely followed by Spiderman, Batman and Superman. I think Wonder Woman is wonderful too but that is because I have a crush on the actresses who have played her.
12. Your views about veganism
I have no problem with veganism. I used to work with a vegan and I had an interesting discussion with him about his beliefs. That was in the early 1990s before the popularity of veganism rose. Most vegans I have met are fine people but I believe there are a few militant vegans out there. I’m glad I haven’t met one of those yet.
13. If you could be anything else in the world, what would you be?
A writer – if I were good enough. I would probably be a travel writer which would give me a great excuse to see even more of the world (as if I need an excuse).
14. How did you parents meet?
I’ve only heard my mum’s side. She told me that she was having a picnic with lady friends in the Arboretum in Walsall (a large Victorian park close to the town centre). My dad walked past with some of his pals and they gate-crashed the picnic to try to chat up the women. It worked in the case of my dad. My mum was about 17 and my dad was 19. The rest is history.
15. Your morning routine.
On a normal workday …
I get up at 6am and immediately have a shower. I get dressed, feed the cat if Mrs PM is still in bed, and then drive to the office.
On a lockdown workday …
I get up at 6am and immediately go for a 30 minute walk, usually with Mrs PM. I come back, have a shower, get dressed and start work in the place were I am typing this now.
On a normal weekend …
I get up any time between 7am and 9am (depending on what time I went to bed), have a shower, have breakfast and decide on a plan for the day.
On a lockdown weekend …
I get up any time between 7am and 9am (depending on what time I went to bed), go for a longer walk with Mrs PM (usually an hour or so), return, have a shower and breakfast and decide on a plan for the day.