Sunday 25 October 2020



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. What is your favourite spooky song

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

The words are scary:

What is this that stands before me?

Figure in black which points at me

Turn 'round quick and start to run

Find out I'm the chosen one

Oh, no

Big black shape with eyes of fire

Telling people their desire

Satan sitting there he's smiling

Watches those flames get higher and higher

Oh, no, no, please God help me

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

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

I've been here for so long

Don't even know what my purpose ever was

I don't even know where I belong

Through the years I've been waiting

Even time has lost it's meaning

Don't even know where I belong"

"Can't ever turn from this path

Don't even know what alternatives there are

Perhaps I wandered too far

I've been here for so long

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

I have no choice, but to carry on

Here it is:

2. What do you want etched on your tombstone?

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

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

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

Sunday 11 October 2020

Interesting Confusions

Welcome to another cold and sunny October day is South Manchester. I was 57 years old this time last week and now I am 58 – another year added to my life. I’m still very content though, despite the pandemic, and as the years march on I am looking forward to the day when I can tell my employers that I am calling it a day. That time is getting closer and closer.

Anyway, let’s not dwell on that for now; let’s answer some daft questions from Sunday Stealing instead. 

1. Can you cry under water?

I have never cried underwater but I think that it is physically possible, as shown by this poor lady:

I think you can also cry in the rain. But, as Mr David Coverdale says, “No one ever sees the tears when you’re crying in the rain” – I guess that can be extended to “crying underwater”.

Here is “Crying in the Rain” by Whitesnake – the original bluesy version.

2. What is the fattest thing you’ve ever done?

I would say that the fattest thing I have ever done is to eat an entire box of Lindor Swiss chocolates. I love them but my gluttony knew no bounds at that time. I remember it was Christmas and I was watching a film and just scoffed the lot. There was payback though because they made me feel sick.

These days I limit the amount that I eat – mostly by not actually buying them.

3. If you’re going to be arrested what do you want your crime to be?
It would be for beating up Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The punishment would be worth it. 
"I'm an incompetent clown! Call me BoJo!"

A creature that evolved from a frog!

Victorian Tosser

4. When they say dog food is “new and improved” who tastes it?
I would imagine that human beings have tasted it. There is a good chance that it is not really “new and improved” because that is just a marketing ploy to persuade you that the slop inside is better than it was. 
I tasted some dog food when I was a kid and it was utterly revolting. I looked at our pet dog and told him that I felt sorry for him. When I put the dish full of the slop in front of him, he devoured the lot at a rate of knots that suggested he had never eaten before. 
Trust me, dear reader, even “new and improved” dog food tastes absolutely disgusting.
5. What’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen?
Myself at 4am when I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. My hair was all over the place, my eyes were bloodshot and, for a second, I thought there was a monster in the bathroom with me until I realized that it was a mirror image of myself. 
6. Why doesn’t glue stick to its bottle?
Because of water. When the glue is in the bottle it is sealed and remains liquid because of the water. When you apply the glue, it is exposed to the air and the water evaporates, causing the glue to dry and harden and, well, stick the things together.
7. What historical event do you wish you’d witnessed?
I don’t think it’s an event as such, but I would have loved to have wondered around ancient Rome and just see what Roman life was actually like. I was taught Latin at school so I figure that some of that may have come in useful to interact with the people. 
8. Who has had the best influence on your life?
My dad influenced me in my early years but since then, I can’t put my finger on just one person. I tend to listen to people who are sensible and along the way I have learned the mantra that life is definitely worth living and that stress should be battled at every opportunity. A good work/life balance is essential and, in my opinion, mandatory. I’ve heard that from a few people so I will nominate them too.
9. Would you rather go into space or to Antarctica?
I would rather go to Antarctica. However, should teleportation be invented before I shuffle off this mortal coil, as used on a Star Trek transporter, then I would willingly go to space. 

10. Would you rather sleep with no pillow or no blankets?
It depends on the weather. If it were very warm then I would sleep with no blankets. If it were cold then the pillows could be sacrificed I guess.
11. What's your favourite rain memory?
I was in Trinidad and staying at a hotel on the outskirts of Port of Spain. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was bored. I decided to go for a walk around a park. Dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and trainers, I started wondering around. In the distance I saw a huge black cloud approaching over the hills and figured that if I started back I would avoid the storm. Sadly, I was about two miles away from the hotel and I realized with horror that the cloud was part of a massive fast-moving thunderstorm. The rain came within about five minutes and with the thunder and lightning it looked like the end of the world was suddenly upon us. I stood sheltering under tree with a young Trinidadian lad and seriously contemplated allowing Jesus to enter my life. 
The rain was so heavy that all of the crap from the tree simply fell onto us. The young lad apologized to me because he thought that my day was being ruined by this bizarre apocalyptic storm. I told him that I was here with work so it didn’t matter. In the end, I sheltered under that tree for about 20 minutes and the rain continued and, if anything, started to get worse. I worked out that I was about 20 minutes away from the hotel so I shook hands with the young lad, wished him luck and made the sacrifice of trying to get back to the hotel. He watched me as if I were a soldier embarking upon a suicide mission into no-man’s land.
The rain was probably the most intense I have ever been in. The temperature was still very warm, as you can imagine in the Caribbean, and my glasses let me down. Within minutes they were drenched and steaming up making it almost impossible to see. I felt like I was walking under Niagara Falls. 
Eventually I reached the hotel and walked into reception looking like a drowned rat. I walked up to the desk to ask for my key and the two female receptionists stared at me as if I were an alien that had just walked off a spaceship. 
“Can I have my key please?” I asked politely. 
They were struggling not to laugh as they handed over my key. 
“Oh by the way – it’s raining our there!” I said.
That was the catalyst. The two women howled with laughter, one of them gripping the reception desk so that she didn’t fall over. 
The other said “It’s not funny. I’m so sorry for laughing,” as she continued to roar with laughter.
I just smiled as the two women guffawed for Trinidad. 
When I got back to my room, it took me 10 minutes to peel my sodden T-shirt off my back and my trainers were so full of water that I had to empty them into the toilet. 
I looked at my face in the mirror and I was covered in dirt from the tree – I looked like I had had a swim in a swamp. No wonder the women were laughing at me.
I enjoyed that incident despite the trauma of the apocalyptic storm. I can still picture the laughter of the two wonderful receptionists, who were still struggling not to laugh when they apologised to me later in the day.
12. If you were elected president, what is the first thing you would do?
I would demand to see Donald Trump’s tax returns and throw the bugger in jail while he was being investigated.
13. If you had $3 to spend in the dollar store, what would you buy?
I would buy a pen and notepad. You can never have enough pens or notepads.
14. What’s the most annoying sound in the world?

15. What natural disaster scares you the most?
I was say a volcanic eruption. I am fascinated by the story of Pompeii and having visited the ruins and seen for myself the fossilised carcasses of the poor people who were caught up in the pyroclastic flow from Vesuvius the whole thing scares me to death.

Sunday 4 October 2020

Funny Questions

Welcome to sunny South Manchester, a place that is experiencing a Covid-19 spike because students are back at university and caused the rates to go up quite significantly in the city. There are several hundred in quarantine at the moment. The district where I live is a couple of miles away from the main area where students live and study and, thankfully, we’re not too bad but the counts for the city all count against us. We are already under additional restrictions and I don’t see them lifting any time soon, especially as the infections rates are rising in the whole of the UK generally. 

I can safely say that I am officially sick of this virus now, if you will pardon the pun. The year 2020 needs to be over as soon as possible and to take the coronavirus with it.  

Let’s lighten things up a bit with a few silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. If you could use a time machine to go back in time to fix one thing or go to the future to see what it is like which would you do?

I would definitely go to the future. The past is the past and it is over and, as a technophile I would love to see what new tech is available in the future. I would also be intrigued to know what is happening in the world or whether we have explored the solar system yet. Of course there is always the danger that I could materialise in a dystopian future, in which case I would come right back and start preparing for it. I think I would hop forward about 5 years at a time, continuing until things started to get bad. Hopefully they wouldn’t and I would witness a new age for humanity.

2. If all of a sudden there was a depression or there were no stores to buy food, clothing, etc. how would you manage?

I would head out to the countryside in search of food I reckon. Clothes? I’ve got plenty and I wouldn’t mind them becoming scruffy or out of date (I am not a dedicated follower of fashion).

3. Are you concerned with what other people think about you?

Not at all. I used to be but as I’ve grown older, I care less and less what people think of me. I am quite likely to ask why people think the way they do and have done so in the past, particularly when it comes to people judging me based on my political views. It says more about the person judging than me to be fair. I like to think that if people don’t like me for whatever reason then it is their problem not mine.

They are the ones missing out, not me.

4. How do you handle people you don’t like?

I like to think I am a nice chap and I just tend to avoid people that I don’t like. But, if I can’t avoid them I will still be pleasant. Life’s to short to be nasty.

5. What do you think of garden gnomes?

I believe that garden gnomes are plotting the downfall of humanity. They sit there in their gardens, trying to look innocent but when night comes and people are asleep, they wake up and gather together conspiring with each other. If you are unfortunate enough to own one or more garden gnomes, this is my advice. Get rid of them – you will be the first to suffer their wrath. They are loyal only to each other not to their “owners”. If you can’t get rid of them, I would suggest measuring the distance between each one and your back door – to see if they are moving closer. Failing that, install a CCTV system and watch them at night. The reason we don’t know about this is because people do not believe they could do this. I know, dear reader. I’ve seen them – particularly when I have had several pints of beer. Be warned. They are evil.

6. You’ve been given an elephant. you can’t give it away or sell it. what would you do with the elephant?

I would first build a shelter for it in my back garden and then charge people to come and see it. I would use that money to buy some land and transport the elephant there so that the creature had more room to wander about. Eventually I would acquire another elephant as a mate and then in due course open a zoo or an elephant sanctuary. And then I would have an army of elephants which I would use in the coming war with garden gnomes. Imagine the damage an army of elephants could do to garden gnomes?

7. How would you design a spice rack for the blind?

A spice rack for the blind would have to have something for a blind person to be able to identify the spices themselves using their sense of smell. Perhaps easily liftable lids to make it easier.

8. How lucky are you and why?

I have had some luck in my life so far but I wouldn’t say that I am lucky. If I were I would gamble more and I know for a fact that when it comes to such endeavours my luck runs out. 

For example, the very first time I went to a horse race, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or which horses would win each race, so I just blindly picked one. My plan was to spend a maximum of £5 on each of the 8 races. I lost the first one but picked the winner in each of the other 7 races. I won a total of £180, annoying everybody who was with me. I am a generous fellow so I paid for a large round of drinks in the pub afterwards. I have since been to about ten race meetings (we try to go every year) and my philosophy is still the same. However, I have never done as well as that first time and on only one occasion since have I broke even. The remaining times I have made a loss. I guess I’m not that lucky thinking about it. 

9. What’s your biggest kitchen fail?

We once had a dinner party and Mrs PM tasked me with making dessert. She provided me with a recipe and all of the ingredients and I set about the task. The result was disaster, so much so that I popped out and bought a replacement from the local supermarket. I’m not usually a bad cook but that particular dessert (I can’t recall what it was) exposed any limitations that I have when it comes to cookery.

10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in school?

I could write a book about embarrassing things that have happened. I would say one of them was when I was about 6 years old. I told the class that my dad was a fireman. He wasn’t. The teacher believed me and saw my dad when he came to pick me up and asked him if he could come into class in his fireman’s uniform and tell the kids about his job. My dad thought it was hilarious and I was made to look a complete fool in front of my schoolfriends. 

11. If you could kill off any character from a current television show, who would it be?

I always hated Neelix in Star Trek: Voyager as well as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation so they would have been the first to go if you had asked me in the 1990’s. No character has recently had such a negative affect on me since, I don’t think.

12 . If you could make a rule for a day and everyone had to follow it, what would it be?

I would wait until the next election day and make the rule that no person is allowed to vote for Boris Johnsons’s Conservative Party – but that they still had to vote.

13. Would you rather be a hobbit or an elf for 24 hours?

I think I would rather be an elf because hobbits are weird little creatures with weird feet. And I do not like feet.

14. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I did it to keep Mrs PM company and I thought that it would help vanquish my fear of heights. It didn’t. I was terrified for four hours. It is coincidentally the most stupid thing I have ever done.

15. Would your rather shoot spaghetti out of your fingers or sneeze meatballs?

I would rather use an army of elephants to help me vanquish the threat of garden gnomes.