Sunday 29 November 2020



Welcome to a rather grey and miserable South Manchester in the North West of England. We are still in lockdown here in England but will be released on Wednesday into a Tier system that still sees us effectively in lockdown. The only difference is that shops and gyms will be open and I will be able to go the barber for a haircut. However, we cannot go the pub or a restaurant so effectively we have really been in lockdown in my part of the country for 261 days now. 

And I am bloody sick of it, if the truth be known.

We can “socialise” for Christmas though, which means that between 23rd and 27th December inclusive we can form a “Christmas bubble” (or perhaps better a “Christmas Bauble”) with three other households. 

All this means that my two sons can come to visit on Christmas Day – so that will be good.

The problem is that I haven’t seen my friends for so long now that I have almost forgotten what they look like in the flesh.

All I can say is that now there are three vaccines about to be unleashed I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly it will probably be another couple of months before we see the signs. I am so desperate to get out of the UK and travel somewhere that you wouldn’t believe it. 

Anyway – enough of COVID-19; I want to think of good things. 

I noticed that in America it was Thanksgiving last week so I couldn’t really answer the questions on that topic in Sunday Stealing because we don’t have it in the UK. But this week is different. So let’s answer some silly questions from this week’s Sunday Stealing selection

1. My biggest barrier to weight loss is...

My biggest barrier to weight loss is my love of food and drink. First of all, I should say that I am not a fat person, just slightly overweight. When I was younger I could literally eat a horse and not put on weight but ever since my mid-forties I have had to be more careful and now as I approach 60 years old, it is more of a struggle. I weigh thirteen and a half stones (about 190 lbs if you are American) and at a height of 5 feet 11 inches that gives me a BMI of 26.4. That puts me about 10 lbs overweight.  

2. What is your relationship with food like?

Excellent. I eat and enjoy most foods but I try not to over-indulge. I generally eat fairly healthily, avoiding burgers, pies, chips (fries), cake and other things that are supposedly bad for you. 

3. What was the last time you had fun that made you smile for a few days

I don’t think that has happened in 2020 due to this bloody virus. It was probably Christmas 2019. Actually, the arrival of Ziggy and Star has been a fun experience. As I type, they are racing around the house chasing each other.

4. What are triggers in your life that lead to eating?

When I’m hungry. Why else? 

Actually, I can see that there is a problem with things like “comfort eating” and, to be honest, this lockdown has been so desperately dull at times that there has been a temptation to just buy snacks and scoff them all day. 

In the early days of lockdown in April this year, we bought cakes, treats and biscuits (something we don’t normally do apart from at Christmas) and ate them to help cheer ourselves up. My weight increased and so in May or June we decided to stop doing it again and my weight has stabilised. Christmas is coming though so I imagine we will succumb to the festive spirit (as I usually do to be fair).

5. What inspires you to be healthier

I used to be really fit but in my mid-forties again I slowed down and actually stopped exercising until perhaps I was 47, at which time I decided to resume again but walking. 

Over the past ten or so years I try to walk every day and reach a monthly rate of a least 7000 steps a day. Last year I calculated that I had walked 1500 miles which sounds a lot but is actually quite easy (that was an average of 7500 steps a day). 

Walking at my age is a perfect way to stay active and I would love to increase that rate next year. It is a great activity that helps me clear my mind, gives me a good workout (depending on how fast I walk) as well as reducing stress. 

The healthier I am, the happier I am and that is inspiration enough.

6. Name two foods that you think are “bad”

I like to think that you can have anything in moderations, even food that is supposedly bad for you. It is perfectly fine to have deep fried food once in a while as long as it isn’t every day. 

The only food that I would say is bad is rhubarb and apricots. This is not because they are unhealthy. It is because they taste absolutely dreadful and make me wretch just thinking about eating them.

7. Are your expectations for yourself too high?

Not at all. I know what I want and what I like and what my limitations are. I occasionally step outside of my comfort zone (I should do so more often to be honest) but I certainly do not push myself to limits that I don’t expect to be able to achieve. 

8. Would you like more fun in your life?

At the moment, yes, because in this pandemic I am hardly having any fun at all. 

9. What is your one comfort food?

Cheese. I love cheese. I especially love cheese on toast. I try to limit my intake but if I am peckish, I will pop to the fridge and slice off a chunk of cheese.

10. How would you give someone encouragement?

I would talk to them and gently tell them that they can do whatever it is they need encouragement to do.

11. Do you get enough sleep?

I have been watching a few TED talks recently and I was particularly fascinated when the subject was sleep. 

My usual amount of sleep is seven and a half hours a night (almost timed like clockwork) but there are times in the past when I have either gone to bed to late or just had a poor night’s sleep and woken up feeling groggy, irritated and grumpy. The TED talks basically told me about how important sleep is because it gives your body the chance to cleanse, heal and clear itself down after a hard day. Consequently I have tried to go to bed earlier. The good news is that I have now started waking up before my alarm clock having had a great night’s sleep – still about seven and a half hours but sometimes longer. And I feel better for it. 

12. What activities make you feel more relaxed

As I said above, walking helps me to relax as does reading and listening to ambient music like this:

13. Where do you need to practice forgiveness in your life?

I don’t think I do need to practice forgiveness to be honest. I will forgive if necessary but I don’t tend to bear grudges.

14. What is one thing you have not done because of how you looked?

I’ve not entered a beauty pageant because I don’t look like a beautiful woman.

15. What would you like more of in your life?

I would like more freedom from coronavirus restrictions. More generally I would like more freedom anyway but only in terms of not being tied down to a career in the rat race. When I retire, I hope that freedom will materialise.

Sunday 15 November 2020

Something Different


Welcome to sunny south Manchester on lockdown day 247, 17 days into the full England lockdown with another 16 to go. I’m used to the restrictions now because since March 23rd, we in Manchester have only managed a couple of weeks of what you would call a less limited existence. The good news is that the infection rates are falling in the city, although in the rest of England there has been a slow rise as other parts of the country start to increase. But given the fact that it takes a couple of weeks for any change to be noticed, I expect rates to start falling countrywide in the next week or so.

Anyway – enough of that nonsense; let’s have a bit of fun with Sunday Stealing

This week I am going to show photographs based on the questions. I took them all (except for the ones I am in obviously). I hope you like them.

1. Something held together with ribbon, string, or rope.

Taken in Bodrum, Turkey as the sun was going down in 2011. Bodrum is a lovely little town and the harbour front is beautiful, particular at sunset. 

2. Something related to travel.

Taken in Dubai in 2012, this is the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, standing at 2717 feet tall (828m – heading towards a kilometre in height). It scared me half to death, both when we went up to about two thirds of the way to the top and also standing at the bottom looking up. I don’t want to go anywhere near it again – the vertigo I suffered was terrible. It is a beautiful building though.

3. Someplace people gather

Taken in 2019 at Old Trafford in Manchester where people gather to watch Lancashire and England play cricket. Over to the left you can see the tall buildings of Manchester city centre. This match was an Ashes test match against Australia.

4. Something cold/frozen

Taken on a glacier in Brewster, Canada in 2010. I am on the left, Mrs PM is on the right and in the middle is our tour guide who supplied us with a nip of scotch to help keep us warm in the blizzard conditions. All three of us were cold and frozen.

5. Something with a hole in it.

Taken in 1999 in Repulse Bay, Hong Kong. This is the Repulse Bay, a residential building that has a massive square hole in the middle, supposedly to allow dragons coming down from the hills easy access to the sea. Or perhaps it is there for feng shui purposes.

 6. Something striped

Taken in Salvador, Brazil in 2015. This is a lighthouse – and strictly speaking it is striped (although perhaps I am cheating a little).

7. An animal.

Taken in Kuranda National Park, Australia in 2005. In case you are wondering, the animal in question is not me, it is the koala I am holding.

8. Something cute.

Taken this afternoon. This is one of our new cats – Star – supervising me while I type this post to make sure that (a) I choose the right photos and (b) that I don’t make any spelling mistakes.

9. A food.

Taken in 2013 in Kyoto, Japan. This is an assorted dish of sushi and sashimi that we had for lunch on our last day in this beautiful city.

10. Something warm

Taken in 2014 in Nice, France. This counts as warm because it was a beautiful and warm day and this is the view of the coastline taken from Batterie Mont Boron.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Even More Random Questions


Welcome to sunny south Manchester on day 240 of the government restrictions due to the coronavirus. In England we are just over a week into our lockdown; pubs and restaurants are closed, we have been asked to stay at home and work from home if we can and we still cannot mix with other households. It’s really annoying me now. 

There is still hope for 2020 though because, as you have probably heard, the American public have voted to throw the Orange Goblin out of the White House. Well done America. Maybe 2021 will be a good year after all. I must add the antics of Donald Trump, bleating on about election fraud, are a new low for him. How low can he go? I suspect even lower. I just hope he concedes and does the right thing, but being the greatest example in the world of a malignant narcissist, I imagine that he won’t even do that.

In other news, we also have acquired two of the three cats that we are adopting. We drove up to Garstang yesterday to pick them up. They are both roughly four months old. 

The first is quite a large male who we have called Ziggy. He is quite shy and has spent most of the time hiding behind the sofa, popping out to eat, use the litter tray and explore the house. I am sure that he will get used to us and venture out more over the coming days. 

The second is a small female, who we have called Star. I know what you are thinking – yes there is a (sort of) Bowie theme going on here. Mrs PM liked the name Ziggy and I jokingly suggested Stardust and she said that she liked the name Star – so it stuck. Star is the opposite to Ziggy in every way. She is tiny and extremely curious. She is not scared of us at all and has wandered around the house, getting into every nook and cranny (so much so that we have had to make things safer for her). 

Some time in the next week or two we will be collecting the third cat, another female. I suggested Dusty for a name but instead we have opted for David Bowie. No – I’m kidding – she is going to be called Zoe (or Zowie) – thus completing the Bowie theme. 

Here are Ziggy and Star:

Ziggy (right), Star (left)

Shall we answer even more random questions from Sunday Stealing

Let’s hurl ourselves into this.

1. What’s something no one wants to hear but everyone should?

All politicians are liars – even those that you support and voted for. By their very nature they are borderline psychopaths whose sole purpose is to impose their views on absolutely everybody and they will stop at nothing to achieve that  - until they are found out.

2. What’s the most annoying animal you’ve ever encountered?

My sister’s dog is pretty damned annoying. She is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier who is the friendliest dog you will ever meet. She looks similar to this one: 

The problem is that she is a very strong dog and she basically leaps all over you and will gets over-excited. Whenever I visit her, I end up having to grip the animal by its collar and wrestle it into submission – which is not easy at all. If she escapes my grip, she will hurl herself at me and lick me all over my face. My sister can control her but she loves people so much that she loses her mind and ends up smothering them in affection.

3. How much does language affect our thinking?

I think language affects our thinking a lot, in terms of which words you use, how you choose to express yourself and even what language you use, if you are lucky enough to be a polyglot.

4. Do you prefer to watch movies in the theatre or in the comfort of your home?

It depends on the film to be honest. I prefer to watch big budget movies with explosive scenes, magnificent special effects and incredible action scenes in the cinema. For example, I am so pleased that I saw Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame in the cinema. 

Films with no action, more cerebral movies and comedies, for example, I am quite happy to watch them on my TV.

5. What topic could you spend hours talking about?

Music. I love telling people about the music I love, why I love it, what it means to me etc. and have bored Mrs PM many times with such one-sided conversations to the point where she has just told me change the record (if you will pardon the pun). 

6. If you could run away from it all and start fresh somewhere new, would you?

I would definitely do that I think. I am quite settled at the moment but my spirit of adventure isn’t dead at all. I would love to be able to spend at least a year travelling in search of a new beginning, particularly the way things are going here in the UK. Don’t get me wrong – I love the UK but the events of the last four years or so have tarnished my otherwise perfect image of the country that I call home. If I were to leave the UK, I think it would have to be for somewhere warm, peaceful and relaxing, where I could breathe fresh air, smell an ocean breeze and sip wine with Mrs PM as we watch the sun setting. 

7. What’s the most polarising question you could ask a group of friends?

Did you vote for Brexit or not?

I have given up talking about Brexit simply because it makes me so angry – even now four years after the event. The UK is split right down the middle on this subject, with friends and family members having fallen out over it. I got into an argument with a complete stranger in a pub last year because I asked one of my best friends why he was voting for Boris Johnson. “I’m sick of Brexit,” he said. “I just want it over with.” I am a remainer and I wanted Brexit stopped and we just started talking about it, when a man who I had never met, just butted into our conversation and told me in no uncertain terms that I was totally wrong. I was furious and told him that he was utterly wrong and also that he should keep his nose out of other peoples’ conversations. 

I could see others in the pub were interested and I can imagine that others wanted to join in. I was most furious with myself for reacting to him instead of telling him to mind his own business. In the end, my friends and I drank up and left for another pub and, on the way, I told myself that I was going to stop talking about Brexit because it is deeply polarising and a lot of the population are still angry about what has happened.

8. Do movies have the same power as books to change the world?

I think they do, but they have to be a good interpretation of the book. In my experience few books ever make it to the screen with the same impact because it is difficult to get the sense and depth of the message or the story in a book into a movie. There are exceptions but generally I think a book has more power to change the world.

9. What would you rate 10/10 ?

This incredible song from the genius that is Mariusz Duda, the man behind my current favourite band Riverside. Mariusz is from Poland and has a side solo project called Lunatic Soul. The song “The Passage” is the first single from his new album which will be released next week – available in all good shops.

10. What are you really good at, but kind of embarrassed that you are good at it?
I’m pretty good at embarrassing myself generally. I’m also very good at household chores, washing, cleaning, ironing, cooking etc. I’m excellent at saying things without thinking about them first. I can also make people laugh without really meaning to. I’m a good listener too and am quite able to let somebody pour their heart out to me.
11. Who do you go out of your way to be nice to?
I try to be nice to everybody, even people I don’t particularly like. Life’s too short.
12. What problems will technology solve in the next 5 years? What problems will it create?
Technology is always solving problems but in the next five years I think we will see the beginning of the end of our reliance on fossil fuels. Electric cars already exist but the technology is improving at such a rate that they will soon be the norm instead of the exception. I would also like to see driverless cars but I think that will take a lot longer to achieve. What problems will electric cars create? None – other than the possible issues charging them up and building a reliable infrastructure to do so. What about driverless cars? I think that’s obvious – they will need a hell of a lot of testing before they can be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.
13. What from the present will withstand the test of time?
I would like to think that lessons learned from the mishandling of the pandemic by various governments around the world. The UK and the US have been particularly inept dealing with it, even recently. The scientific advisors here urged the government to have a two week circuit break lockdown in September and even Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition, urged the same. What did Boris and cabinet of buffoons do? They completely ignored them and now, in November, when the infection rates starting soaring again they ended up having to impose a four week lockdown on us instead. They are clueless – absolutely clueless. But what would you expect with a clown as Prime Minister? Let’s follow America’s example and get rid of this arse!
14. What movie would be greatly improved if it was made into a musical?
Dear oh dear! None of them. I love music but I am not a fan of musicals.
15. What is something common from your childhood that will seem strange to future generations?

Music Centres

Black and White TV


Landlines and old phones

Reliant Robins (3 wheeled car)

Slide Rules

Sunday 1 November 2020

More Random Questions


Welcome to South Manchester, currently enjoying drizzling rain and light winds. It is also day 233 of restrictions and lockdown and now, Boris the Clown has finally decided that England will go into full lockdown again from Thursday for a month. He claims it will be to “save Christmas” but in reality, scientists have been urging him to do so for the past two months because of rising infection rates. 

The moron said in March that we will be “driven by the science” but when scientists, the leader of the opposition and various others urged him to do so in September, he ignored them because “Boris knows best”.

The problem is that he doesn’t know best – and he never has. He is just a fat scarecrow masquerading as a political leader.

Anyway, enough of that – let’s answer some random questions from Sunday Stealing.

1. What has been your favourite part of the year so far.

Are you serious? 

2020 has been a bloody awful year and will continue to be so right up until the very last second by the looks of it. It started in January and February, as all years do, and I hate those cold, bleak and dark months. In 2020, however, I guess that in those two months, I could go to the pub, see friends and family, go to gigs, go to shops and maybe even travel to somewhere warm. Sadly, I didn’t travel but I did go to a couple of gigs and actually meet and speak to people. 

So, with great reluctance, I will say that February was probably my favourite part of the year so far, because it was less dark and less cold than January, I managed a couple of gigs and I had optimism for the rest of the year until Coronavirus came along and vanquished the rest of the year.

2. Have you started Christmas shopping?

I usually do most of my Christmas shopping in November to get it over with. This year, it will all be online because non-essential shops are closed for a month. To be fair, I hate shopping anyway, so most years I do the same. Shops at Christmas are awful, full of people doing last minute shopping, with massive queues everywhere and loud Christmas music blaring out into your ears on a never-ending loop. Sadly we will still have to shop for food etc. – although we won’t need as much because I doubt that there will be a family gathering this year.

3. Do you like your handwriting?

My handwriting is just about legible and it is okay. Interestingly, I was looking in a cupboard upstairs and found a binder with my maths notes from school. My handwriting then was much better than it is now, but that was perhaps because we were forced to write with a proper ink pen (as opposed to a biro). It’s really not that bad now, If I’m honest, so I guess the answer is “yes”.

4. Song you could hear over and over and over again.

I’ve had a look at my list of songs on iTunes to see which ones I have played most since I bought my iPod a few years ago. I’ve selected this beautiful masterpiece from the multi-talented Steven Wilson. It is a progressive rock work of genius, clocking in at almost 12 minutes. But don’t let that put you off from listening to it. 

It is a peaceful song that starts off slowly and gradually builds up, with piano, acoustic guitar and vocal accompaniment. It is about an old watchmaker who married his wife Eliza but never really loved her. And then she dies and he thinks he is free of her but she comes back to haunt him as the bond they have is too strong to be broken even in death and he cannot rid himself of her even after she has died.

Here it is in its full melancholic glory.

5. A favourite quote.
“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares?... He’s a mile away and you’ve got his shoes!”
courtesy of Billy Connolly.
6. Last dream you remember
First, some background. After the death of our last cat, we have been a catless house for a month or two. Mrs PM is now ready to fill the cat void and we were going to wait until 2021 but she saw a story on a local Cat Protection charity site about somebody who dumped three black kittens in a carrier bag in an alleyway in a nearby town. They were covered in the own poo and quite poorly. They are recovering and now ready for adoption. We were so appalled by this act of cruelty that we have decided to take all three of them. They are black cats and are currently being prepared for adoption, which will take a short while (a couple of weeks).
It seems that people don’t want black cats because of superstitious nonsense. Nevertheless that is no reason to just dump three kittens in a bag.
Anyway, back to the dream. Last night, in my dream, my imagination told me that the three little rascals had come to live with us and were running around our house just being cats. One of them had no teeth but was trying to chew on my fingers and the other two were so quick that I couldn’t catch them.
A slightly mad dream – but I am really looking forward to filling our cat void again. 
7. Most expensive object you want to buy right now.
A huge holiday to the Far East. Realistically, when this Coronavirus pandemic has died down, we will take our holidays in Europe (that we had to cancel this year). After that, we will travel to the Far East again, perhaps Malaysia or Japan again (we haven’t decided). 
8. Describe your eldest family member.
I guess that would be Mrs PM’s dad. He is a really funny outgoing guy, aged 78, and has absolutely no shame. He will strike up a conversation with anybody about anything and usually he tries to do so in a stupid way. We’ve been on holiday with him a couple of times and each time he has embarrassed us. I just sit and watch him in action. 
In America, for example, we were on a boat trip and he asked a bemused group of Americans “Do you speak English? I’m not from this country!” which had a strange reaction. Some of them just laughed, and others just said “What? Of course we speak English. We’re American!” to which he replied “I didn’t know you spoke English over here.” – before laughing out loud. And of course, he had broken the ice and spent the rest of the trip acting as the comedian, making them all (and us) laugh at his antics.
He is a funny extrovert guy who is the first to stand up in the audience when somebody asks for a volunteer.
9. What has your weather been like?
Autumn has kicked in so the temperature has dropped a little. It is still quite mild and we have had a couple of stormy days, but today it is just a dull, featureless, grey day with drizzling rain. We have had some sunshine though and last week I enjoyed a walk at dawn with leaves turning into beautiful golden and red colours. 
10. Do you enjoy your job?
No. I am sick of my career (you may have heard me moan about it before). It’s not the company I work for – they are pretty good actually – but rather the job itself. I work in IT and have done for 36 years and now find myself in a niche area (which I will tell you all about when I retire). However, I am just bored – bored of the job, bored of the office politics, bored of the actual day to day grind. The people I work with are amazing and clever and it isn’t them; it’s the job itself, the procedures, the programming, the documentation, nature of the job. 
I can’t wait to retire.
11. What is your favourite everyday item?
My laptop. Without it I would be lost. It has all of my music and every bit of rubbish that I have ever written on this blog, as well as a load of other crap that I have written (including three travelogues, a half-finished novel, lots of short stories, etc.) as well as being the gateway to the world in terms of the internet. 
12. Are you currently obsessed with any TV show?
Yes – I’ve watched a couple of great ones recently. I will single out a mind-bending and very intriguing German drama on Netflix. I recommend it if you like weird stuff but you may need to have your wits about you to understand what is going on. I loved it – and don’t worry – it is all in German but dubbed on Netflix so you don’t have to read subtitles.

Also, I heard some great news last week. My favourite serial killer is back. Dexter Morgan is returning for perhaps one final series. I loved that show and can’t wait to see the new series.

13. Book you’d like to read before the year ends.
I don’t have any in mind. Ss far this year I have read quite a lot of post-apocalyptic thrillers and I need a change so I might go for “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari,  the follow up to “Sapiens”, which I found very interesting.
14. Describe Kindness.
Kindness is not leaving three helpless black kittens in a carrier bag on a cold autumn day in a town in Northern England. 
15. Describe your favourite candy in great detail.
I am not a huge fan of “candy” or sweets as we prefer to call them. I guess I will have to say Lindor chocolates. They are delicious but I rarely buy them because I will scoff an entire box. We will have some for Christmas but I will make Mrs PM ration them out.