Monday, 1 March 2021

Introducing Mariusz Duda

 


If you haven’t heard of Steven Wilson or Devin Townsend then there is a very good chance that you may not have heard of Mariusz Duda either.

Mariusz is from Poland and fronts a band called Riverside, a very talented progressive rock outfit also from Poland. I discovered the band while searching for new music a few years ago.  If you were to ask Mariusz, he would probably say that Riverside are not a progressive rock band at all. He would perhaps prefer to say that they have a style of their own and that the progressive rock genre have embraced them as one of their own simply because their music is rock and different. 

I would say that they are a rock band but they are more than that in my view; they explore different styles within the genre. Some of their songs are simply beautiful, others being harder and heavier, yet more being progressive epics of the order of 10 to 15 minutes and they have also dabbled with ambient music.

Mariusz is the singer, bass guitarist and leader of the band and main songwriter, and as well as that he has a solo project called Lunatic Soul where he can experiment with different styles of music, some of which is very interesting. He can play guitar, bass guitar and keyboards.

So far Riverside have produced eight albums one of which is slightly more experimental. All of them are absolutely brilliant and on top of that, Mariusz has produced seven Lunatic Soul albums and a purely electronic solo album that doesn’t fit into the scope of Riverside and Lunatic Soul.

I was privileged in 2018 to see Riverside live in Manchester supporting the album “Waste7and” a concept album set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland as the title suggests.

Here is a sample of the work of Mariusz Duda, both with Riverside and Lunatic Soul.

Riverside - Conceiving You – from Second Life Syndrome (2005)

When I said that Mariusz Duda can write beautiful songs, there are fewer that are better than this stunning song from Riverside’s second album. I like a few rock ballads but this one is right up near to the top.

Riverside - The Night Before – from Waste7and (2018)

Equally beautiful is The Night Before, a haunting piano driven song from the latest album by Riverside. It is particularly poignant because it is meant to represent the feeling of safety and comfort the night before something terrible happens. Another masterpiece.


Riverside - Towards the Blue Horizon – from Love, Fear and the Time Machine (2015)

This song illustrates everything I like about Riverside, starting off quite mellow and gradually developing into a grand progressive rock song, not too heavy and retaining a great melody throughout and even reminiscent of Porcupine Tree at the 5 minute mark (check it out if you are a fan of the band).


Riverside - O2 Panic Room – from Rapid Eye Movement (2007)

A slightly heavier and more disturbing song with a video to accompany it (that in fact I have only just seen for the first time). The bass guitar is prominent throughout and if you listen carefully you can hear Mariusz also using his voice as another instrument. 


Riverside - Celebrity Touch – from Shrine of New Generation Slaves (2013)

This is Riverside at their most commercial – a straightforward rock song, again with a slightly disturbing video. The song is about the pitfalls of being a celebrity, desperate for attention.


Lunatic Soul – Navvie – from Through Shaded Woods (2020)

With Lunatic Soul, Mariusz experiments with different kinds of music. Here he tries his hand at folk rock with Navvie from the most recent album. Every Lunatic Soul album is different and different again from Riverside.


I believe that Mariusz’s next project will be a new Riverside album and he has indicated that it will a heavier offering, which I welcome with open arms. I am certain it will still be quite diverse and I look forward to seeing them again should when this damned pandemic finally ends.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Senior Life

Welcome to a sunny South Manchester on day 350 of lockdown restrictions. I had my first Covid-19 vaccination this week and it was a piece of cake. I turned up 15 minutes early and was directed through the vaccination centre and, before I knew it, a nurse had me sitting down in a chair and a needle containing the Pfizer vaccination was plunged into my left arm. I then had to wait for 15 minutes before being unleashed back into the wild with, hopefully, my body starting to build its resistance to the coronavirus. 

I am therefore a very happy chap. Spring is in the air, the worst two months of the year are almost over, it’s warming up and we have a rough timetable back to normality in the UK. 

Let’s  answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What is the farthest you have ever travelled?

Regular readers will know that I have travelled a lot in my life to various places including Europe, North America, South America, South Africa, the Middle East, East Asia and Australia. The furthest I have travelled has to be Sydney, Sydney Australia. 

The distance between Manchester and Sydney is 10,560 miles as the crow flies. 

That’s a long way.

2. Who did you date while in high school?

I didn’t go to High School. I went to an all-boys grammar school and obviously that stifled my ability to get myself a date. Outside school, I was a short, spotty little git and I had no success with woman. Thankfully at the age or about 16 or 17 I started to grow and my spots disappeared and I managed to convince a young lady to go out with me for an entire year. I was still at school and I kept my romance and my schoolfriends apart. 

I often wonder what happened to her.

3. What is one of the worst trips you've ever taken? What went wrong?

Quite a few years ago, Mrs PM and I booked a trip to Thailand, the beautiful island of Koh Samui. Unfortunately, we messed up the timing of the trip because we didn’t realise that we would arrive and stay in the middle of the rainy season. 

It poured down from the day we arrived until the day that we left, with relentless thunderstorms pouring the entire contents of the Gulf of Thailand onto the island. I lost count of the number of times we took a chance to go for a walk and ended up looking as if we had dived fully clothed into the sea. The road outside our hotel was flooded and I waded across it to get into the hotel and seek sanctuary in the hotel room. We spent a lot of time in bars, as you can imagine in order to try to squeeze some enjoyment as we were deluged by apocalyptic thunderstorms. 

I have never been so relieved to board the plane home. 

I will go back one day – outside of the rainy season.

4. How do you like to spend a lazy day?

The lockdown has provided lots of lazy days in the past year. I will read, write, play computer games, listen to music, watch TV and play with the cats. 

5. How old were you when you found out that JFK had been assassinated? How did it affect you?

I was one year, one month and two weeks old. I was not affected by the assassination in the slightest. 

Since then, though, I have to admit to being intrigued about the conspiracy theories surrounding the murder. I particularly liked a book by Stephen King called 11/22/63 (or in UK terms 22/11/63 – I have never understood why Americans use that weird date format). In the book, a man discovers that he can go back in time and stop the assassination. It was a very good book that was also turned into a mini-series starring James Franco. 

I would recommend them both.

6. Who has been one of the most important people in your life?

There are loads of important people in my life. However, the most important is Mrs PM, of course. She is my soul mate.

7. What is one trait you would most like to improve in yourself?

Procrastination. I have been waging a war on this debilitating trait in my life for a few years now and I am actually winning, thanks to things like creating habits and using rewards to make sure that I deal with things in a timely manner. It does work and it is the kind of thing that I recommend that people try at the beginning of a new year. You can get into the habit of doing anything if you try and this is Captain Procrastinator’s worst enemy.

8. Did you date someone in college?

Well, I had a couple of dates but I was shy and useless. I did meet my future wife at university but we didn’t get together until after I had left. The marriage didn’t last, sadly, but that’s life, I guess. 

9. What was your dream car?

I have never had a dream car. I regard cars as a means to get me from A to B. Some are better than others but I regard them as an expensive luxury. I would never be tempted to by a super car or anything that costs more than my house. That said, I would like to have a go at driving such a car around a safe track.

10. Did you have a family member you wish you'd gotten to know better?

Not really. There are a few people on my mother’s side of the family that I didn’t really know, mainly her cousins and their kids. We rarely encountered each other to be honest.

11. Tell me about your greatest gardening success.   

I hate gardening with a passion. My dad was a very keen gardener and turned our back garden into a huge vegetable patch, which he then spent hours tending to and dragged me into helping him, even during the summer when my hay fever was at it’s worst. It is the one thing that I didn’t like about him, as he tried to turn me into the keen gardener that he was. He grew so many vegetables that we couldn’t eat them all and he ended up giving a load of them away to friends and family. 

I did have success because he used to get me to plant various things and then take over responsibility for nurturing them over the weeks. I can’t recall specifically what I grew, but it involved things like potatoes, onions, sprouts, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, parsnips, turnips, leeks etc.

I guess one of those. 

Now, Mrs PM enjoys doing a little gardening (flowers and plants as opposed to vegetables), which is fine by me. I have been known to help on the odd occasion that she needs some heavy lifting or digging – but I avoid it as much as I can.

12. What was your Dad like when you were a child?

My dad was amazing, apart from his love of gardening.

13. What is the best job you've ever had?

Actually, while I was at university, I was briefly a postman in between the terms and I really enjoyed it. It was quite satisfying strolling around the streets delivering letters and parcels. I still enjoy walking now and I think that if I were tempted to work again after I retire, I might consider it as a part time option if I get bored (which is unlikely).

14. What are your favourite songs?

I could write a book on this. But I will give you three examples of my current favourites:

15. If you could choose any talents to have, what would they be?

I would choose to be a good writer capable of writing a decent set of novels instead of churning out the nonsense you are reading right now. 

I would also choose to be able to play a guitar like Joe Satriani and keyboards like Jordan Rudess. I would also love to have the ability to write and sing decent songs.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Coronavirus Part 3


Welcome to a cloudy South Manchester on day 344 of restrictions. It looks like we are going to go for a complete year under some form of restrictions before things get better. We are still in full lockdown in the UK but there is talk of slowly lifting them over the coming months. With vaccinations in full flow, it shouldn’t be too long hopefully.

This week’s Sunday Stealing once again tackle the topic of Coronavirus so let’s just dive in head first shall we?

In the past year have you–

1. Gone without a bra (Plastic Mancunian & Bud may skip this one!)

I won’t skip the question because I think you all know the answer. I can safely say, with my hand on my heart, that I have gone without a bra for the past year. In fact I will go further – I have never ever worn a bra. I hope you didn’t think that I had.

2. Skipped making your bed.

No. One of us always makes the bed (usually the last one to get out of it). 

3. Ordered groceries to be delivered

I am not a fan of having groceries delivered because, more often than not, the supermarket messes up the order. They either substitute things with inferior versions, completely forget an item or completely mess things up. Mrs PM would order groceries to be delivered if it was up to her but I moan so much when they mess things up (every single time) that we actually make the journey there. Also, I often remember things when I am in the supermarket that I would have otherwise forgotten. Covid or no Covid – it is better to go to the shop.

4. Cooked a real meal

Absolutely. Mrs PM in particular has been experimenting with new recipes and she actually enjoys trying new things out. Last week, for example, she made pizza for the first time. I was absolutely astounded by the result – amazing.

5. Spent the day in pyjamas?

No. I like to get dressed as soon as I get up, lockdown or no lockdown. Besides, I usually start the day with a at least a 50 minute walk and I don’t fancy being seen in public in pyjamas.

6. Skipped shaving your legs

I can say, with my hand on my heart, that I have never shaved my legs. One thing I did shave was my beard. On Januarys 1st, I shaved it off because I was fed up with it but, on Mrs PM’s insistence, I have grown it back again.

7. Spent hours on Instagram or Pinterest

In 2020 I took a photo a day but didn’t put anything onto Instagram. In 2019 I added a photo to Instagram every day. This year I haven’t taken many photos or added anything to Instagram, but I think I might pop some of the better ones from 2020 on there. My photos are usually of things and scenes rather than people. 

As for Pinterest, I occasionally dabble but not often to be honest.

8. Eaten in a restaurant

Yes. In summer, were subject to restrictions but pubs and restaurants were open (though under strict rules of social distancing and other precautions), which allowed us to have a couple of meals out. It is one of the things I miss most.

9. Skipped washing your hair.

In the early days of the lockdown, before I bought some clippers and allowed Mrs PM to cut my hair, it grew quite long. Regular readers know that I hate my hair, especially when it is long and one of the only ways to bring it under control and make it more manageable was to skip the occasional day washing it. If I wash it and it is long it explodes outwards but if I just wet it, I can keep it flat. 

Now Mrs PM cuts it fairly regularly to keep it under control so I wash it every day.

10. Not folded the laundry

I always fold the laundry.

11. Worked a puzzle

I work in IT so I am confronted by puzzles every single day of the week. Outside of work I do like to have a go at puzzles too, like crosswords for example. So yes, I have “worked a puzzle” (although I have never heard that phrase before; it must be American).

12. Had Zoom calls

Yes – most recently last night with my two sons. Of course we have regular meetings at work too (although we use Microsoft Teams instead of Zoom).

13. Written letters.

No. I haven’t written a letter for decades. I have sent emails though. 

14. Binge watched a TV show

Yes – and I continue to do so. I am currently trawling through “The Expanse”, “Mayans MC”, “Travellers” and “Lovecraft Country”.

15.Gone barefoot

Only in the house. I'm not a fan of feet - even my own.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

February

Welcome to a cloudy wet South Manchester on day 329 of Covid-19 restrictions. The good news is that vaccinations are going well. Currently 10,971,047 people have had their first dose in the UK with a further 505,993 having had their second. Apparently, they will get around to me sometime in the next two months, but we shall see. We are already hoping to catch some live cricket in late June or early July but we shall see. I fear that a trip abroad may not happen until later in the year (if at all) but I shall be watching developments with interest.

I guess it’s time to answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

I am being rebellious and calling this “February” rather than “January Part 2” because January is over (thank goodness) so I want to look forwards. 

Let’s dive in, shall we?

1.  Can you eat with chopsticks?

Of course I can. Having spent more than a year of my life in Hong Kong and eight weeks of my life in China, I have to use them really. It’s not difficult to be honest. I was taught by a guy from New Zealand with whom I was working, way back in 1995 in his favourite restaurant in Wan Chai, Hong Kong and by the end of the meal I was a master. Whenever we go to a Chinese or Japanese restaurant we always use them. 

2. Could you tell real money from counterfeit?

I certainly could in the United Kingdom. In China, however, I was unfortunate to have somebody give me a counterfeit note and it was only when I tried to spend it that I discovered that it was fake. I tried to get rid of it for two days in Beijing and failed miserably – it was worth about £10 I think. What amazed me was that everywhere I tried to spend it had a counterfeit note detector from a taxi driver to a stall on a street selling food. I pleaded innocence when confronted but eventually just gave up and threw it away.

3. What do you think about school uniforms?

I hated wearing a school uniform, particularly a school cap in my first two years in grammar school. It’s weird to see that the uniform is still the same today as it was back in the 1970s. 

4. What ancient civilization would you most like to visit?

Romans, without a shadow of a doubt. At school, I was forced to study Latin for five years but one of the good things about it was that we were given an insight into the Roman way of life. The course books told the story of a family in Pompeii, consisting of a banker called Caecilius, his wife Metella, their son Quintus and their cook Grumio and servant Clemens. 

I have had a taste of what life was like having visited Pompeii itself, which is brilliantly preserved (as tragic as its story is). I have also been to the Colloseum and Forum in Rome, which are also incredibly well preserved. 

I remember thinking, as I was walking around the streets of Pompeii, how I would like to jump in Dr Who’s Tardis and pop back to a time before Vesuvius destroyed the city and just spend an afternoon strolling around with a little cash and some pigeon Latin to help me chat to the locals.

5. What would make a great new Crayola color?

Teal – it may already exist, I don’t know. 

6. If an art project is created with the intent of getting rich and famous, does that cast doubt over its significance as a work of art?

I am a huge sceptic when it comes to the world of art, specifically contemporary modern art. In my opinion, people who produce the garbage that hangs on the walls of modern art museums or the ridiculous sculptures and other rubbish are simply ripping off the pseudo-intellectuals who are crazy enough to pay money for them. The artists who compete for the Turner Prize are definitely doing so for the money and fame and they produce ridiculous works of art that make me question the sanity of the people who laud them.

I wrote a post some time ago about this and produced two "works of art" to prove how stupid it was. 

If anybody wants to buy one of my masterpieces (called “Naughty Cat” and “Plastic Man”), please send me £500,000 (for each one) and I will gladly claim that they are significant as works of art – just to make you feel good about buying the pieces of crap.


7. What do you get in trouble for the most?

Ranting probably. I don’t get into trouble as a rule but sometimes at work I sit and listen to ridiculous nonsense coming from Human Resources and Senior Management and struggle to contain myself. And then something pushes me over the edge and I rant mercilessly about it. 

I have found myself at odds with certain managers as a result and, to be honest, I don’t care. For example, many years ago I told a bunch of new starters that our Quality System was a waste of time. What I didn’t know was that the Quality Manager was standing behind me listening to every word that I had said. 

I stood by my words though because at the time they were ridiculous. 

There is a lot of corporate nonsense that irks me today, not just with my own company but generally. One day, when I am free of the shackles of work, I may spill the beans when there will be no comebacks.

Put it this way – I can see why Dilbert appeals to people.

 

8.  Do you blow your nose in public?

Yes – if I need to. The alternative is worse – I’ll leave that to your imagination.

9. If all the nations in the world are in debt, where did all the money go?

Greedy Bankers and the pockets of people like Jeff Bezos and Larry Ellison.

10. Is it as easy to make you happy now as it was when you were a child?

Absolutely – probably easier because now I am in control.

11. Who knows more...you, or your parents?

My parents thought they understood me – but they didn’t really.

12. What instrument would you like to be famous for playing?

The guitar – no question.

I would love to be able to play as well as this guy.

13. Would you have sex with a stranger for one million dollars?

I would only do that if I weren’t with Mrs PM or anybody else because such an act would seriously damage a relationship. 

14. Are you completely in control of your body?

Yes – apart from when I am asleep, I guess, because I am unconscious the whole time and usually wake up in a different position from when I went to sleep.

15. What is the coolest web site you know of?

The Plastic Mancunian of course. And you are cool for reading it.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Introducing Devin Townsend

Who here has heard of Devin Townsend? If you have read my blog before you will have seen me expressing my admiration for this talented musician and singer. Like Steven Wilson, you never know what you are going to get with Devin; his style ranges from ambient mood music all the way through to extreme metal via progressive rock. He is from Canada has been making music prolifically since the 1990s. 

My first encounter with Devin Townsend was way back in 1993 when he joined Steve Vai’s eponymous band as the singer. At that time I actually saw him perform live when Vai supported Aerosmith. He was a young man with an incredible vocal range – and he still has that range today. After a stint with another favourite band of mine, The Wildhearts (when I probably saw him live again), I lost touch with him and I had absolutely no idea what he did in the intervening years. That was until 2014 when I was mooching about on You Tube and encountered a crazy song called “March of the Poozers”.

I absolutely loved it and I recognized the name. I did some research and was absolutely astounded to discover that he had a huge back catalogue, a lot of which is now nestling in my CD collection.

As I said, he has been prolific, producing some incredible albums with incredible songs. I was stunned to find that he is a fan of Enya too – which given some of his music, his outstanding. He can sing powerfully but tunefully on ambient songs, almost operatically, powerfully with a colossal rock voice and he can scream effortlessly like the most menacing rock God. He has incorporated layers of music in a classic “wall of sound” no matter what the style is, including, lately, orchestras and choirs.

He can also play a mean guitar and has a sense of humour that is quite catching, especially when you see him live.

There is just so much music to choose from, so I shall try to show all of his styles, starting with the more ambient material.

Fly – from Ghost (2011)

Ghost is a very calm and atmospheric album, full of soothing songs that you can relax to, if you want to chill or simply ponder the meaning of existence. This is the first song on the album.

Divine – from Epicloud (2012)

Here is a lovely little ballad called Divine, another one that shows the softer side of Devin Townsend. When you hear the remaining songs in this collection you may wonder how this is the same artist.

Why? – from Empath (2019)

Why? Is an incredible song that sounds like it belongs in a musical. In my opinion, it shows off Devin’s normal (non-screaming) vocal range perfectly. It’s almost operatic in places with an accompanying orchestra and, really, not like nothing else he has done. Brilliant nonetheless, with a quirky and funny animated video too. What’s not to like?

Stormbending – from Transendence (2016)

I like great full sounding rock and this is a great example of what I like to think of as an epic progressive rock song, bursting with powerful guitar, potent drums and keyboard wizardry. The song is also accompanied by an impressive and ambitious video.

Addicted! – from Addicted! (2009)

Addicted! Is my favourite album by Devin. It is mostly heavy metal with a couple of more accessible rock songs too, and if I am in the mood for something that I can whip out my air guitar too, I sometimes choose the title track. Here it is in its full glory performed live.

Namaste – from Physicist (2000)

Do you want get faster and heavier? Did you think that was possible? Here is Namaste. I think it answers the question. 

And can he be more extreme? Yes he can – perhaps a little too extreme even for me. If you are curious check out the band Strapping Young Lad that he was in. Somebody I know likened it to listening to a set of bricks in a washing machine.

Actually, with Devin, I’ve seen a couple of You Tube videos with vocal coaches analysing his vocal range and technique and almost all of them are impressed by the way he shifts from ranges and screams effortlessly.

If you like what you have heard – or just even some of it – check him out. 

You may be surprised.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Animals


Welcome to a cloudy but bright South Manchester on day 323 of restrictions. We are approaching the year mark with coronavirus and I know that here in England we will be locked down until the end of February at least. Our infection rates are dropping, as you would expect in lockdown but I think we have a while to go yet before things start to drift back to normal. 

At least the worst month of the year is almost over. This time next week it will be February, another bad month, but at least the weather will start to improve and the days will start to get longer. And as long as that is happening my mood will improve (not that it is too bad at the moment despite the circumstances).

So – let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing, today’s theme being animals.

1.   What is your favourite animal and why?

To be honest, there aren’t many animals that I dislike. I am fascinated by them. In terms of animals that I can keep as a pet, I would have to say dogs and cats. It is difficult for us to keep a dog at the moment because they are quite demanding if you have a full time job, even when working from home. We had dogs when I was a kid and cats too. However, we had to constantly take the dog for a walk – which I used to love doing – but there were times when he had to stay inside while we were all out – and he hated it.

Cats on the other hand are independent and don’t really mind being left alone – in fact sometimes they demand it. As I type, Ziggy is fast asleep on the sofa behind me and I trust he will be there for at least the next hour or two. 

Given that we can’t really have a dog, and that Mrs PM loves cats, we have had cats for the past 20 years. I can’t see us having a dog now – which is a bit of a shame. 

2.   Are people animals? What separates humans from animals?

Yes – of course we are animals. We are intelligent animals but animals nonetheless. Some people talk about humans being above animals because animals are savage, but when you consider some of the things we have done over the centuries, can you really tell the difference?

3.   Which animal is the most dangerous?

Anything that can kill you is dangerous. There are many that I would class as dangerous; snakes, sharks, big cats chief amongst them. Sharks are pretty bad and I think we have to thank our lucky stars that there is no such thing as a land shark. We would all be in trouble.

"I am having a few people for lunch!"

4.   What should you do if a bear approaches you?

I would be shocked because we haven’t had bears in England since medieval times. Consequently, we haven’t had any advice about what to do if confronted by a bear. I would probably just have an embarrassing accident.

5.   Do you like dogs? Why do people call the dog, man’s best friend?

As I said in question (1) I love dogs and dog’s actually generally love me too. Unlike cats, dogs are totally loyal; you become their pack leader so they will stay with you as your trusted friend for as long as you are there for them. 

My old dog Paddy was a beautiful creature who would run beside me in the park when I took him for a walk as a kid. Can you imagine a cat doing that?

Note – it is only possible to herd cats when food is involved. When Ziggy and Star are hungry, they follow me about the house like lost sheep. And when they get their food they simply bugger off to do their cat things, which includes plotting the downfall of humanity.

I know my place.

6.   Do you enjoy going to the zoo? Some people consider zoos to be cruel environments for animals. What do you think?

I must admit I am a bit torn about zoos. I love the opportunity to see wild creatures that I would never normally see, like elephants, lions, tigers, snakes, etc. but I can see the downside. I once went to a zoo that had a huge tiger – I was quite shocked at his size to be honest. All he did was prowl inside his enclosure, unable to be the same creature that he would have been in the wild. I felt quite sorry for him, to be fair.

7.   Where is the best place to see animals in your country? In the world?

It depends what animals you want to see. We don’t have many dangerous creatures in the UK unless you count the Beast of Bodmin Moor or the Loch Ness Monster. 

We have a couple of Safari Parks which allow you to drive through a vast space containing creatures in the wild, which is better than having them cooped up in a zoo. I reckon these are the best places and I believe you get them all over the world. 

8.   Are you a vegetarian? What makes some people give up eating meat?

Absolutely not. I love meat and will continue to eat it. I have spoken to vegetarians and the main reason they give up meat and animal products is because they disagree with killing creatures for food. I can sympathise with it. One of my vegetarian friends put it really quite nicely: “I just can’t bring myself to eat anything that has a face”.

9.   Which animal is most helpful to humans?

I guess you would have to say horses, off the top of my head. They are big strong animals that have been and can be very useful for a variety of things, such as providing transport and strength for things like farming tasks.

10.  If you could be any animal (besides human), which animal would you like to be?

I would be one of those giant tortoises that live for 250 years. Or possibly the Loch Ness Monster. If I were the monster, I would have a lot of fun, I can tell you.

The Plastic Mancunian reincarnating in Scotland. "Hoots Mon! Just call me Nessie!"

11.  Who would win in a fight between a tiger and a lion?

That’s a tough question. They are both big cats and I think that it would be a closely fought contest.

12.  What do you think about hunting animals? Would you like to try it?

I do not like hunting animals for sport. Those trophy hunters who fly to Africa to kill elephants and rhinos just so that they can pose next to the corpses of these magnificent creatures sickens me. Here in the UK we have had to suffer similar arses who rode through the countryside, with an army of dogs, chasing a poor fox. When the dogs catch the poor creature they rip it to shreds. It is inhuman and thankfully was banned in the UK in 2005, although I believe there are posh, rich nobs who want to bring it back. 

To all of these people, I would suggest that they should consider the boot being on the other foot. How would you like to be hunted in the jungle and then shot just so that some arsehole could pose with your corpse? How would you like to be hunted across the fields of England by a pack of dogs and then ripped to shreds when they caught you in front of a baying crowd of arseholes?

Think on; if I become world president, I might just put you through that terror.

13.   Books like “Watership Down” and “Animal Farm” give animals human characteristics like human thoughts or language. Is this how you think animals really are? Or are those really just stories about people?

They are stories about people. I read Animal Farm and found it all a bit strange, if I’m honest. I know the message that George Orwell was trying to portray and it really only applies to humanity.

14.  Some animals are endangered due to illegal poaching. How do you feel about this issue?

I think I covered this a little in question (12). Sometimes these people don’t want to pose next to an elephant to say how great they are at hunting; they want to butcher the elephant for it’s ivory so that they can sell it. I feel exactly the same way about them. Hunters and illegal poachers beware if I become world president.

15.  If we can bring an extinct animal from the past back with genetic engineering, should we do it? Which animals should we bring back?

Dinosaurs – without a shadow of a doubt. I realise that we would suddenly be lower down the food chain but if we could find a huge island that is isolated, why not create our own Jurassic Park? If we did that, I would insist that people wouldn’t visit; instead we would bring them to the public eye using strategically placed cameras scattered throughout the island so that we could observe them. I would just love to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex.   


Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Introducing Steven Wilson


I think it’s time to return to writing proper blog posts and I will start with a couple of self-indulgent missives that will hopefully introduce you to a couple of contemporary musical heroes of mine. Over the years there have been lots of heroes, most of whom you will have heard of. I want to talk about the more obscure ones.

I’m going to start with a man who has been labelled the most famous musical star you have never heard of, a man who has managed to get Elton John to appear on his new album due out on 29th January. 

I have talked about him before and dedicated an entire post to his former band, Porcupine Tree, that he disbanded in 2009. As well as Porcupine Tree he has been involved in other musical projects over the years, including the bands Blackfield and No-Man, However, I am going to concentrate on his so solo work that he began in earnest after the demise of Porcupine Tree.

So who is Steven Wilson? 

He is a multi-instrumentalist and singer from the town of Hemel Hempstead in the south of England and has had a career in music since the late 1980’s in various guises. 

The style of music is broadly progressive pop and progressive rock and his influences range from Donna Summer to Pink Floyd, via Kate Bush and David Bowie. His latest album, released on Friday,  will be more of a pop album in the style of early 1980’s electronic music with some dance thrown in; quite a bold move in my opinion.

I have been a fan ever since I discovered Porcupine Tree on Spotify about ten years ago – just as Steven Wilson was about to release his first solo album. I love Porcupine Tree and I greeted his solo work with a little trepidation because he used it to free himself of the shackles of being a band. Porcupine Tree had adopted a heavier style and with his solo work it was a good opportunity for him to experiment. And I have loved his solo work perhaps more than Porcupine Tree, the musical styles being far more varied over the years.

So far, he has released five solo albums, one mini-album and his sixth is about to hit the shops.

The album “Hand. Cannot. Erase”, Steven’s fourth album, is a true masterpiece and is right up there as one of my favourite albums of all time. I have only seen him once and it was the tour associated with that album, which he played in its entirety in one of the best gigs I have seen.

When he’s touring, Steven has a band with him, but he is very talented musically. He can play guitar, piano, keyboards and sing and, judging by his newest album, he is fine with electronic instruments too. 

One of the reasons I love him is because he has a great ear for a melody and his style is such that you never know what you are going to get, for example, rock, pop or even jazz. 

Here is a sample from his albums so far and hopefully you will see what I mean.

Harmony Korine – from Insurgentes (2009)

Insurgentes is an album full of wonderful songs and in places is a little bit spacey in places, which is something I love. To me, it seems like he was trying to find a new sound after Porcupine Tree. However, as you will see, no two albums by Steven Wilson are the same.


Deform to Form a Star – from Grace for Drowning (2011)
Steven’s second solo album is a bigger affair, with a variety of styles and is more experimental than Insurgentes with elements of jazz. I have to say that I am not a huge fan of jazz, so as good as this album is, I prefer his first. He stayed with his progressive style with a monster of a track called “Raider II” which is a cool 23 minutes long. Don’t worry, the song I have chosen is not that one – it is much better in my opinion.


Drive Home – from The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) (2013)
The third album holds a special place in my heart. I played it to death when I was away from home on several business trips to Oman. I listened to it a lot on the long plane journey and when I was alone in in my hotel room in the evening after dinner. There are still elements of jazz in one of the songs but I can forgive that because the remaining songs are amazing. The theme to the album is ghost stories and each one tells its own tale. When I look at my iTunes playlist, the song below is top of the pile. The reason? It is a hauntingly beautiful song and the guitar solo at the end (around five minutes into the song) and courtesy of Guthrie Govan is breath-taking.


Routine – from Hand. Cannot. Erase (2015)
Hand. Cannot. Erase. is my favourite Steven Wilson album, a concept album based on the true story of a woman who died in her apartment in London and nobody missed her for two years. A truly sad story. In my opinion this album made a lot of people aware of his existence and I was lucky enough to see him live in Manchester – a truly great concert. The song I have chosen is Routine which is a very sad song, illustrated by the equally sad video. I hope you like it.


Permanating – from To the Bone (2017)
In an almost complete shift, for his fifth album, Steven Wilson drifted into the realm of pop music. I wouldn’t say that it was completely pop but the influences were there. The theme of the album is truth but that is largely irrelevant. There are a couple of good rock tracks on there but songs like Permanating have made some of his fans think again about his music. Steven Wilson described it as his “Abba moment” and I don’t mind because we all like a little bit of Abba. In fact, commercially this is his most successful album, racing almost to the top of the charts (it reached number 3 in the UK) and earned him an interview on BBC 1 Breakfast, something that he probably thought would never happen.


Personal Shopper – from The Future Bites (2021)
So where does Steven Wilson go next? The answer is electronic dance, with a macabre undertone. The new album The Future Bites is out this week – and of course I will add it to my collection. He has managed to acquire the services of none other than Sir Elton John for the first single – all about the love and perils of shopping. Elton John doesn’t sing – he speaks. I think some die-hard fans may question where Steven Wilson is heading musically with his new release but having heard a couple of the songs already, it does appeal to me (though I have to admit I would prefer something a little more rock oriented). See what you think of the rather macabre video.


I have a ticket to see him in Manchester again in September this year (virus permitting). I really hope things are back to normal by then.

I hope you like what you have heard.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Miscellaneous Questions

 

Welcome to a snowy South Manchester on day 317 of Covid-19 restrictions. I woke up this morning to see a fairly heavy snowstorm dumping its wares on the streets of the city. We don’t usually get a lot of snow here so it is a bit of a surprise to be honest. We went for a small walk and I am pleased to say that the snow has now stopped and is starting to melt. You may think I am being miserable but I hate snow and when it arrives, I can’t wait to see the back of it. If the temperature rises or it starts to rain, then the snow will disappear. Let’s hope so.

I am going to return to writing silly posts sometime next week, a return to the bilge that I have been writing since 2008, when I first decided to start pouring my nonsense into cyberspace. There are 809 posts out there in the name of the Plastic Mancunian, not including this one, so there is plenty out there to enjoy (or not as the case may be).

In the meantime, I shall continue to answer silly questions for Sunday Stealing.

Shell we dive in?

1.Which is more romantic: an expensive, glittering bouquet OR flowers that were handpicked as they grew beside the parkway?

I have to confess that I have no idea. I am a man and I have never understood the appeal of receiving flowers, whether a huge glittering, arranged bunch of expensive flowers or a sad bunch of wild flowers lovingly picked from a roadside. What I do know is that a bunch of flowers is pleasing to the female of the species and as such I know that I can accrue a houseful of Brownie Points by presenting such to the women in my life. I would hazard a guess that an expensively arranged bunch are more appealing and so that is what I would buy.  

2.Do you know yourself well enough to understand why you feel the way you do?

Absolutely. I question my feelings all the time. For example, at the moment I starting to come out of the January blues because the days are getting longer and we are edging towards the end of the worst month of the year. I feel this way every year at this time and it is a combination of being far away in time from the summer, the cold days and even colder nights and the sheer boredom of not being able to do anything exciting. To be honest, the current lockdown doesn’t make a difference because I would be doing nothing anyway in this month. Conversely, when I am happy, I know exactly why and being happy is my usual frame of mind even in the current circumstances.

3.Which do you do more often: let movies, songs and books put your feelings into words for you or put your feelings into words by yourself?

I regard certain songs as being full of poetry; some words written by certain songwriters can express my feelings far better than I can. The same goes for books and films; the people who write them are generally very good wordsmiths, far better than I am at articulating feelings. 

That said, I do have my moments and, sometimes, I can make people laugh or think with a phrase or sentence that my weird mind has somehow constructed and exposed to the world. 

4.Do you believe celebrities when they are endorsing a product?

Absolutely not. For example, I love Mr T and (I may have said this before) I would love to have a SatNav with his voice. Can you imagine that?

“Turn left, fool!” 

“Quit your jibber-jabber and make sure you turn right in 100 yards.”

As much as I love him, I can’t believe for one second that he eats Snickers on a regular basis – if at all.

5.What kind of movies do you wish were made more often?

I can’t get enough science-fiction and superhero films. You may think that is sad but I am a geek and I don’t care. There have been a plethora of them over the last few years but I want more. More Star Trek, more aliens and more Marvel/DC. Bring it on.

6.Does fashion matter to you?

Absolutely not. 

In fact I think fashion is a ridiculous thing that can some people into arses. Some people want to be seen wearing the latest clothes, no matter how expensive they are or ridiculous they look, just to get one up on their friends. 

“Ooohhh! Look at my Gucci shoes. They cost £500 – I am soooooo pleased with them.”

Me? I just buy and wear what I like, although Mrs PM does have a say. But even then I won’t buy an overpriced T-shirt just to please her. 

7.Should politicians be held to the same legal standards as everyone else?

Absolutely. For example, in my opinion, Donald Trump should be investigated and tried for some of the things he has done in his tenure of the White House, particularly his alleged tax-dodging and his alleged incitement of a mob of nutters to move on the Capitol Building.

8. If you became president, whom would you invite to sing at your inauguration?

I would invite lesser known artists that I love, like Riverside, Devin Townsend and Steven Wilson. 

Oh – and the Foo Fighters because Dave Grohl is the nicest guy in rock. And Nine Inch Nails too.

9. Do you try to write/say what you are feeling in a true and simple way?

Yes – how else can you let people know?

10.What is your worst daily habit?

As I said in last week’s questions, I love the night and the day and if I could, I would give up sleeping so that I can enjoy as much as I can. Consequently I have to force myself to go to bed sometimes so that I can get enough sleep to be refreshed the next day. It is a habit that I can achieve on school nights (Sunday to Thursday) but I usually stay up too late at the weekend and am annoyed with myself for getting up later on Saturday and Sunday.

11.If you had your choice which one TV show would you have cancelled?

Mrs Brown’s Boys. 

You may not have heard of it if you are outside the UK but this so-called comedy show is prime time on Saturday night and Christmas day. It has also spawned a chat show of sorts called All Round to Mrs Brown’s.

It was recommended to me by my step-sister-in-law who is a very intelligent woman, a detective constable in the police no less. “It’s the funniest show on TV!” she proclaimed. I watched it for about ten minutes before I switched it off in disgust. It was not funny at all. 

Mrs Brown is played by an Irish comedian called Brendan O’Carroll who dons a wig to become the titular woman. 

I just don’t understand why it is so popular.

12.Do you like the taste of sweet or salt?

Anarchy prevails – both!

13.Are you very precise about what words you use to describe your feelings and thoughts?

I think so. Why wouldn’t you be?

14.What do you feel the most guilty about?

I try not to dwell on such things. The past is the past and people need to move on.

15.Do you meditate? 

I have to confess that I have tried mindfulness, which is a form of meditation. It does help but the problem is that I don’t do it often enough. I find that it helps on those rare occasions when I can’t get to sleep.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

A to Z

 


Welcome to an overcast South Manchester on day 310 of Covid-19 restrictions and just into the third week of lockdown number three in England. I’ve been out for my walk in the rain and my head is clear enough to partake in Sunday Stealing’s A to Z questions

Let’s hurl ourselves into this.

A - Annoyance:

I have several things that annoy me – I shall tell you two of them. The first is the fact that I still have to work for a living. I am fed up with my career and the fact that I can’t leave just yet is annoying. The day is coming within a couple of years though; I just need to be patient.

The second is the current UK government, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson in particular. He is an incompetent egomaniac who is responsible for Brexit (a colossal mistake that has made us a laughing stock worldwide), a terrible reaction to the pandemic that has left us sitting in fifth place in the world in terms of deaths and filling his cabinet with nasty sycophantic yes-men who are the personification of ineptitude. They are a perfect illustration of the Peter Principle.

B - Bestest Friend[s]:

Mrs PM is my best friend but there are a few guys out there who are amazing friends (you all know who you are).

C - Car:

Yes – I have one. I am not really a car person so as long as it gets me from A to B without any bother then that is fine. It is just a normal everyday four door family hatchback.

D - Day or night:

Can I say both? Of course I can (my rebellious streak is still there, folks). It’s a pity that we have to sleep because I would be very happy pottering around for 24 hours if I could.

E- Easiest person to talk to?:

That has to be Mrs PM. Nevertheless, once I get to know somebody, I can talk for England. In that sense, I find almost everybody I know well quite easy to talk to (if they can put up with me of course).

F - Favourite Month:

It’s a toss up between May, June and July. I will go for June because by that time, summer has kicked in and, if the weather is good, it is a great month. The days are longer and the whole country seems to be happier.

G - Gummy Bears or Worms:

Neither. I’ve heard of gummy bears but I have no idea what worms are. 

H - Hair Colour:

My hair is a light brown with streaks of grey at the side. I used to be blond but as the years of passed it has become darker. I fully expect it to be grey in a few years.

I - Ice Cream:

I rarely eat ice cream to be honest but I do like it. We always go for some when we are in Italy or France. In Nice there is a great ice cream store in the Old Town area and I have some every day when we are there. I love Nice – I miss travel.

J - Jewellery:

I don’t wear jewellery – in fact I don’t think I own any. I did wear a neck chain when I was in my twenties – I’m not sure why – perhaps they were fashionable for men at that time.

K - Kindergarten:

It is a German word that literally means “garden for children”. 

L - Longest Car Ride:

That would be when we drove from Brisbane to Sydney in Australia in 2005. I remember as we were leaving Brisbane I saw a sign saying that it was 1000km to Sydney. We obviously didn’t drive it all in one go – it took six days in total. Mostly we stopped at places on the way but there was one day in particular when we seemed to spend the entire day on the road. I enjoyed it but that was the time I realised just how huge Australia is.

M - Most missed person:

My parents. I lost my dad in 1981 and my mum in 2017. 

N - Number of Siblings:

I have two younger sisters, aged 56 and 53. They are both extremely strong women and we always have a lot of fun when we are together.

O - One regret:

What – just one? I have many regrets but I am genuinely quite content now that my life has settled. I will say perhaps not learning more languages. I can speak passable French and a little German and I have spent the last couple of years trying to teach myself Spanish. When I retire I intend to put that right. I aim to try to learn Spanish to fluency.

P- Part of your appearance you like least?:

My hair. I think I have said this numerous time on this blog and dedicated at least one post to it. As a reminder, my hair is a sentient creature that hates me. I control it by keeping it short because if it is long, it is totally unmanageable. At the moment, in lockdown, Mrs PM is cutting my hair every few weeks with some clippers that I bought for that purpose. I have to say that clippers are brilliant and I used them on New Year’s Day to take off the beard that I had spent six months growing. 

Mrs PM then said “You look weird without a beard; I think I prefer you with it.” 

So now I am growing it back – just for her. And, like my hair, it is actually growing back quite quickly. Maybe having a beard and then saving it off is the best way to grow a beard quickly. It took six weeks last time; I think it will take about four at the rate it is growing back. 

I only hope that I don’t suddenly start hating my beard; I aim to keep it short and well trimmed.

Q- Quote:

“Be crazy, be silly, be weird. Be whatever, because life is too short to be anything but happy.”

R - Reality TV Show:

I hate them as a rule. But I do like the UK version of “The Apprentice”. I love to see arrogant egomaniacs shot down in flames.

S - Shoe:

I have two pairs of shoes, two pairs of boots, a pair of walking boots, a pair of walking trainers, a pair of everyday trainers, a pair of beach shoes, two pairs of summer sandals and a pair of slippers.

T - Time you woke up:

This morning, I was rudely woken up by Ziggy who parked himself on my pillow right next to my face. He was purring like a car engine. The time was 08:30 (I usually have a bit of a lie in at the weekend). Approximately three minutes later, Star noticed that my foot was hanging out of the duvet cover and decided to attack it. I was downstairs feeding them at 08:34.

U - Unpredictable?:

One of the things I am going to try to do in 2021 is to be more unpredictable. Mrs PM may or may not like that – we shall see. It will have to wait until we are released from lockdown and Coronavirus restrictions, sadly.

V - Vegetable you hate:

I am not a fan of artichokes, parsnips or turnips. I can eat them but I really don’t like them.

W- Worst Habits:

Where do I start? Okay – it is procrastination and I am winning the war slowly but surely. 

X - X-Rays:

The only X-rays I have had have been at the dentist. It was interesting discussing them with him afterwards as he pointed out how he was using them.

Y - Year you were born:

I was born in 1962. Harold McMillan was Prime Minister and it was the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to President Kennedy before dying later in the year. Also born in the same year were Evander Holyfield, Demi Moore and Jodie Foster.

Z - Zoom:

Where to? Oh – you mean the software? Yes – I have used it quite a lot in the last year but then again I have also used similar applications such as Microsoft Teams, Lifesize, Slack, Whatsapp, Skype and even Facebook for the same purpose.


Saturday, 9 January 2021

January

 

Welcome to a cold but sunny day in south Manchester. 

What a week it has been. First of all, the new variant of the coronavirus is starting to run riot in the south of England and creeping up north, causing our Clown-in-Chief, Boris Johnson to perform so many U-turns that he must be truly dizzy now (I’ve always thought he looked dizzy to be honest). Finally, he decided (yes folks – he actually MADE a decision) to put the whole of England under full lockdown. 

So we are back to where we were in April and May last year and this time it is cold and dark. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter to me because January and February are bleak months anyway and I am still deeply entrenched in my lockdown routine (for the 301st day) to keep me sane. 

We are now in a race between the virus and vaccinations. In the UK we now have over a million people vaccinated. Despite the lockdown, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (and I hope it isn’t a speeding train).

The other night I was about to go to bed when Mrs PM said “Shall we just turn over to the news channels? Something’s happening in America.” I turned over to the BBC News Channel and saw that a mob of lunatic Trumpists had invaded the Capitol Building, having been goaded to do so by the Orange Goblin himself. I flicked channels to CNN and a couple of European news channels and it was all over the headlines. 

And now that it has all calmed down over there, the Orange One has had his Twitter account permanently closed, leaving him to stew in his own juices in the White House for what remains of his Presidency. 

It’s all very difficult to believe what has happened. I would be interested to hear what any American readers think of it all. 

I asked for an exciting 2021 and the world has obliged but sooner than I thought.

Time for some questions, courtesy of Sunday Stealing

1. What are your plans for January?

I don’t usually plan anything for January other than trying to consolidate my New Year changes. This year I am planning:

To continue writing rubbish, every day in my Freewriting journal (as I have been doing for just over two years now).

To step up my Spanish by effectively starting again with a free online course that uses memory techniques to help you to recall what you have learned.

To study creative writing more.

These plans will last for 2021 – if I can win the war against procrastination. If I treat them as daily habits they are much easier to achieve (you only have to pursue such things for 66 days straight for them to become habits apparently – it does seem to work I have to say).

2. What do you want to see happen in 2021?

I think the entire world agrees with me when I say that I want Covid-19 to be largely eliminated worldwide. 

Anything else good that happens will be a bonus. 

3.  What would you give a 5-star rating?

I am currently watching a show on Amazon Prime called “The Expanse” and it is amazing. I would give that 5 stars. I am on Season 2 and am totally hooked:

It is the closest thing to my favourite science fiction show, Babylon 5, that I have seen.

4. Do you have writing goals for 2021?

See question 1. I am also going to try to increase my output on this blog. Sunday Stealing is great fun but I want to try to return to some of the older-style ridiculous nonsense that I have contributed to The Plastic Mancunian over the past 12 years.

5. How do you feel about memoirs?

It depends who it is. I have read a couple of autobiographies and quite enjoyed them (especially “I Am Ozzy” by Ozzy Osbourne – it is hilarious). 

I have (sort of) started a memoir, basically something that my sons could read in the future. It began as a few notes way back in 2011 and I really need to revisit it. When I have tidied up the Japan travelogue, I may take a look. It is tentatively called “Insignificant Memoirs”. 

6. If you could join any musical group who would you choose?

I would choose a progressive rock or progressive metal group. Or try to team up with a genius like Devin Townsend, Steven Wilson or Mariusz Duda.  I am toying with the idea of writing a couple of posts introducing the world to these guys in the near future. 

I just wish I had the talent to do something like that. I can only offer my vocals at the moment and they are awful (I would have to use one of those machines that retune your voice).

It is times like this that I wish I had chosen to learn to play a guitar when I was a kid. 

7. What are your favourite genres across all media?

Science fiction (including super-heroes) and spy thrillers (Like James Bond, Jason Bourne, Mission Impossible etc.). All of my favourite films, books and TV series fall into those two categories mainly.

8. What candle scents are your favourite?

I don’t have any favourites. If it wasn’t for Mrs PM I wouldn’t bother buying them. They are pleasant though I have to say.

 9. How well can you mimic other accents or voices?

I’m not brilliant to be honest. I have lost my Black Country accent but I can revert back to that to amuse people who don’t know what it sounds like. As a reminder, it is something like this:

I can (kind of) do a Mancunian accent – but I have to say that I don’t have one. Mine is more neutral these days (and bizarrely regarded as a bit posh in both Walsall and Manchester). Here is a Mancunian accent:

I can do bits of a Scouse accent too (that’s the Liverpool accent like the Beatles in their early days) and I can go a neutral generic American accent (or at least I think I can).

My youngest son is very good at accents I have to say. His funniest is a Russian accent. He arrived one day at my house and when I opened the door, he said “Hello, bring me some vodka and women” in this accent and I almost fell over laughing. I wish I had his talent.

10. What books are on your TBR list in 2021?

I don’t have any in mind. I am considering “Ghost Rider” by Neil Peart and a book about retirement. I would love to read a decent space opera. At the moment I am reading Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, so some non-fiction books like that are also a consideration. 

11. When do you decide it’s time to upgrade/buy something new?

In terms of technology, when there is a better model out there that has been tried and tested. For example, I wouldn’t buy the latest smartphone until it had been proven. I’ve seen people wasting money on the latest tech and then regretting it because it is buggy and full of problems.

With other things like clothes, usually when things start to wear out.

12. Why is your favourite colour your favourite colour?

I think my favourite colour is teal, a blue-green colour. There is nothing better than seeing a warm southern European sea that colour when the sun is setting. It makes me feel at peace and calm.

13. Who understands you the best?

Nobody understands me but me. Apart from me, the person who understands me most is Mrs PM but even so, I sometimes frustrate her.

14. Do you write letters?

Not any more. I send emails all the time as part of my job but if I want to get in touch with mates it is usually via my phone (Whatsapp, email, texts).

15. How do you keep going when times are hard?

Times are tough at the moment so I am right in that mindset.

Get yourself a routine and try to look for the positives in the situation. I have managed to cope with the last 300 days with these two important things in mind.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Goodbye 2020 - and Good Riddance

 


Welcome to a very cold South Manchester and a slightly later than normal summary of what happened in 2020 in the life of the Plastic Mancunian.

I have a set of questions I usually use to summarise the year, but I thought that this year I would use the questions supplied by Sunday Stealing instead (though there is some overlap). 

All I can say at the start is that I want to kick 2020 into the annals of history as a truly terrible year. We all know why but it does need to be said.

Without further ado – let’s dive in.

1. First things first, did you have a good year?

I had a terrible year. It was fine until the beginning of March, which is the time when I usually start getting over the boring winter period and look forward to a bright, warm and wholesome spring, summer and autumn. Instead of euphoria and optimism, we were subjected to a pandemic that is still going on. All plans that I had disintegrated and were cast to the four winds. 

Here in the UK, as with other parts of the world, we have been confined to our houses, unable to travel, unable to go to the office to work and unable to socialize with friends and see family. 

Of course, it is worse for those who have been victims of the virus and I feel for all of those people taken prematurely from us in 2020.

To add insult to injury, the UK has finally cut ties with the EU. We have a terrible trade deal but a deal nonetheless – it could have been so much worse. The architects of this travesty should be ashamed of themselves and all of them need to prepare themselves for a trip into deep space when I become World President – because that is where they are going to end up, special passengers on the spaceships I intend to build for them. 

The one gold nugget in the sack of turds that was 2020 is that the USA finally got rid of the Orange Goblin. Good riddance.

2. What was your favourite article of clothing this year?

This would be a weird question any year because I am not a dedicated follower of fashion. In 2020, though, it is totally irrelevant because the only items of clothing that I have bought are two pairs of jeans, neither of which I have worn yet. 

3. What song sums up this year for you?

I have lots of depressing songs that can sum up 2020 for me but instead of that, I am going to show you an uplifting song from 2020 that makes me feel more positive for 2021. This is a song by the symphonic metal band Nightwish. It is called “Music”, something that has helped me cope with the tedium of being locked down.


4. What was your favourite movie of the year?
I haven’t been to the cinema this year because of lockdown. However, I have seen a couple of films released in the early part of 2020 that made it onto Sky Cinema. Probably the best of those is “The Invisible Man”:


It was a creepy thriller and I enjoyed it.
5. Did an actor/actress catch your attention for the first time this year?
Not really. 
6. Favourite new TV show?
We binge watched Stranger Things, a really weird but highly enjoyable show.


7. Did you make any big permanent changes this year?
Not at all, unless you count not going out, not going on holiday, working from home and being bored out of my brain.
8. What was one nice thing you did for yourself?
I grew a beard for the first time in my life. Does that count? I am fed up of it now so it is coming off tomorrow in fact. Hopefully that will signal good things ahead.
9. Did you develop a new obsession?
Due to boredom and the inability to go anywhere, I bought more CDs this year than I have done for a long time. Nothing else leaps to mind to be honest.
10. Did you move?
No – but my son and his girlfriend did, just before the lockdown hit. They lived with us and had been trying to move out for a while and just managed to move into a rented house a fortnight before we were locked down. And thank goodness they did because otherwise we would have all been working from home for months and on top of each other. 
Now they have saved up enough money for a deposit on a house and got the keys in December. The house needs some work and they will be hopefully moving into their first proper owned home in March, at which time I hope this pandemic is beginning to fade.
11. Did you get a pet?
Yes, we acquired two black kittens called Ziggy and Star. We were going to take in their sister too but she was ill and needed more time to get over her illness. The three kittens were abandoned in an alley and left to die so for the first month or so they were quite ill. Ziggy and Star recovered and now the third one has too. However, the owner of the cat charity fell in love with her and asked if we minded whether he kept her. In the end we decided to leave her with him and his other cats. We know she will be well looked after. 
It’s great having kittens again and they have made the end of a terrible year enjoyable. Here they are:

Star performing her famous balancing act

Ziggy helping me to write software

12. Do you regret not doing anything?
Yes – I regret not going on holiday to the Canary Islands in January. Mrs PM’s dad asked if we wanted to go for a week but I had run out of holiday and so I couldn’t go. Mrs PM went and had some winter sun in a dark month. If I had known what was going to happen, I would have taken unpaid leave to go.
13. Do you regret doing something?
Not really – there hasn’t been much to do.
14. Did anyone/thing make you so mad it stayed with you for days?
Boris Johnson and his government. His handling of the pandemic has been so bad that a totally incompetent village idiot could have done better. And to top it all, now that we have split from the EU, he is trying to sell it as an opportunity when everyone who isn’t a frothing-at-the-mouth Brexiter knows that we will be worse off. 
Words fail me.
15. Did you lose anyone close to you?
We lost Poppy, our cat of 18 years. She had mouth cancer – and it was a very upsetting time for us and for a while we were a cat-less house. Ziggy and Star have helped to make the loss easier to deal with.
Here is Poppy:



16. Who was important to you this year but wasn’t important last year?
Nobody leaps to mind.
17. Who wasn’t as important to you this year as they were last year?
Again, nobody leaps to mind.
18. What was the best moment of the year for you?
I would say that it was the Delain concert I was lucky enough to get to in February before the shit hit the fan.
19, What was the worst?
Everything from March onwards.
20. What have you learned about yourself this year that you didn’t know in the years prior?
I have learned that I can grow a beard and that I can adapt to circumstances. I may have moaned about 2020 and the pandemic but by setting up a routine I can cope with it all. I have also learned that I need to escape quite often; I have missed holidays and just being able to go somewhere on a whim. I also realise that I have missed my mates – all of them.
21. What do you wish for others for the coming year?
A swift end to this pandemic so that all of us can get back to normality.
22. What do you wish for yourself?
I need a positive year and I need to get out there, so I really hope that this happens. By this time next year, I want to be a lot happier and also be a better person, which I can and will achieve in 2021.