Saturday 26 June 2021

Getting to Know You (Part 2)


Welcome to a sunny South Manchester on day 469 of Covid restrictions and, apparently, three weeks away from all restrictions being lifted, according to the abomination that is a product of when Pennywise the Clown had a relationship with Worzel Gummidge. I want to believe Boris Johnson but every time he opens his mouth, a lie comes out. The man hasn’t spoken the truth since he was born.

I may be wrong, of course. For once the scarecrow/clown hybrid might actually be telling the truth. 

We shall see.

In the meantime, let’s dive into a few silly questions from Sunday Stealing

(1) Do you like or dislike surprises? Why or why not?

I had this discussion with a few friends the other week and, in truth, it depends on what the surprise is. For example, on my 30th birthday, I arrived home to find that I was the victim of a surprise party. I use the word "victim" because that’s what I felt like. My house was full of people, both friends and family, and all of a sudden I was hurled into a place that was far outside of my comfort zone; I was the centre of attention and I remained the centre of attention for a good six hours. I was the host of a party that I didn’t want, it was in my house and, unbeknownst to me, a lot of them would be staying for the night. Don’t get me wrong – it was fun – but my comfort levels were on the floor. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t go to bed when I wanted to and I had to entertain friends who I hadn’t seen for a while, some of whom had come a long way.  I have told Mrs PM in no uncertain times that she is not allowed to do that (to be fair it was my ex-wife who surprised me the first time).

However, some surprises are good. If for example somebody were to buy me a holiday, or tickets for a concert or football match, I would love it.

(2) In the evening, would you rather play a game, visit a relative, watch a movie, or read?

I usually read last thing at night or when relaxing during the day, so in the evening I think would just love to watch a film. In fact, we usually designate Sunday night as movie night although we do watch them other nights too, especially in winter.

(3) Would you rather vacation in Hawaii or Alaska, and why?

I’ve been to Alaska and I loved it. It seemed so remote and the scenery was beautiful. I would definitely be tempted to visit again. I have never been to Hawaii, but I think it would be an incredible place to go to. 

The answer is therefore both of them.

(4) Would you rather win the lottery or work at the perfect job? And why?

I would rather win the lottery because I don’t think that there is a perfect job for me and, to be quite honest, I am fed up of being part of the rat race. I am fairly close to escaping the shackles of career and I can’t wait. I do have a plan if I am lucky enough to win a colossal amount of the lottery and it involves travel writing as I fly across the world. 

(5) If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?

I would travel back to the year 1984, when I was in my final year at university in Liverpool. I loved that time of my life and to live that again, just once more, would be incredible. I wouldn’t change a thing.

(6) Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?

I guess there is nothing because I can tolerate days with just necessities – as long as it is just for a day that is. For example, one time I was on a business trip in a remote hotel about 50km away from Moscow, on my own in the middle of a bleak winter where the temperature outside was 20 degrees below freezing and the snow was piled up almost to my own height, with nothing to do apart from eat from the same menu I had eaten from the previous night, and work boring days in an office with very friendly Russians who spoke limited English. It was the same for three solid weeks and I only had the necessities. I also coped with it admirably because on weekends I was able to catch a fast train to Moscow and explore the city. For the remaining five days of those weeks all I had was an office, snow (lots of it) and a hotel room, the same menu, a Russian beer, and Russian TV, which I didn’t understand. I was fine. 

I guess I can survive a day without most non-essential things (having survived fifteen on that particular trip).

(7) How many pairs of shoes do you own?

Probably about ten, made up of shoes, boots and trainers. 

(8) What would you do if you won the lottery?

As I said above, I would book a round the world trip, first class of course, armed with a laptop and notebook and write about my exploits. 

(9) What form of public transportation do you prefer? (air, boat, train, bus, car, etc.)

I love the train. I have travelled by train throughout the UK, Europe as well as China, where I spent the entire night on a “soft sleeper” travelling overnight from Beijing to Shanghai. I promise you, sleeping on a train is easier than sleeping in your own bed because the gentle noise of the train roaring along the tracks is soothing and sleep comes really quickly. 

(10) What's your favourite zoo animal?

I’m not sure that I have a favourite. It will be one of the following: big cats, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, apes, rhinos and hippos – off the top of my head, of course. I will probably think of something else if you ask me tomorrow.

(11) If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?

I’m not sure that I would change anything. I am very happy where I am and I fear that if I did change something, no matter how small, I could lose what I have now.

(12) How many pillows do you sleep with?

I only sleep with one – a memory foam pillow. Any more and I start to struggle with neck problems.

(13) What's the longest you've gone without sleep (and why)?

I would imagine that would be on a long-haul flight. I simply cannot sleep on a plane – unless I am in business class which sadly I have only managed to achieve two or three times. Travelling east is definitely worse for me. Last time we travelled east, we arrived in Vietnam without our luggage and it didn’t arrive until midnight. We were so jet-lagged having had little or no sleep on the plane, that we didn’t know what time it was and I recall wandering around Hanoi in a daze and having to stay up so that we could get our luggage when it finally arrived.  To be fair, the advice is to hurl yourself into the next time zone rather than trying to catch up on sleep and so, when the luggage arrived at midnight we immediately went to bed and awoke some twelve hours later feeling more refreshed than we would have, had we retired earlier. 

(14) What's the tallest building you've been to the top in?

The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which stands at a height of 2722 feet (that’s over half a mile). Regular readers will know that I am terrified of heights and I was terrified even looking at the monstrosity from below, let alone going to the top of the bloody thing. I did learn one thing from the experience – I am never ever EVER going to go anywhere near to the top of such leviathans again.


(15)   What are your hobbies?

I am a huge fan of football and watch it whenever I can (I used to play once upon a time too). I also like international cricket and rugby union. 

I love music and go to gigs whenever I can. In fact I have two lined up next year when, hopefully this pandemic will be over. 

I love to travel, so as you can imagine, the past year or so has been deeply frustrating for me. 

I quite like to write, even though I am not brilliant at it. I find the whole concept of getting words and feelings down on paper therapeutic and cathartic and one day, perhaps when I retire, I will take it more seriously. 

I am trying to teach myself Spanish and have been doing so for a few years now. I can understand the gist of written Spanish and really need to take it to the next level and speak with natives. Whenever I listen to Spanish natives I am aware that I simply cannot understand them (they speak too quickly and they use idioms and vocabulary that are beyond me). Even so, I can do simple things like ask for directions, order food etc. My aim is to go to a proper Spanish class when I have more time (i.e. when I retire).

I love reading, particularly weird science-fiction novels. 

I think that’s enough for now – there are more. 

Saturday 19 June 2021

Love Me Some Surveys

Welcome to sunny Manchester on day 462 of restrictions. Shall we dive straight into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing?

Let’s do this.

1. Ignoring nutrition, could you live off veggies for the rest of your life?

Absolutely not. Don’t get me wrong; I love vegetables and eat them all the time but I am also part carnivore and I love meat. I simply could not imagine life without steak, chicken, bacon, sausage, pork, lamb or the other lovely meats that I have not mentioned. 

I applaud those people who have decided to become vegetarian or vegan (even if a small percentage of them are trying to be “right on” and “cool” and use their vegetarianism as some kind of badge of honour – and these people do exit, dear reader, because I have met them) but it simply isn’t for me, I’m afraid.

2. Elaborate on a way you have volunteered?

I volunteered to go to America once with work. Does that count?

I will almost certainly do some volunteering when I retire.

3. Can you walk in heels, or do you feel awkward in them?

Of course I haven’t. I’m a man. And I have asked many women why they cripple themselves by wearing heels that allow them to walk only two hundred yards in complete agony, or that render their feet a complete mess when they can prise them off their body. Like this woman:

4. Any TV shows you sit down weekly to watch?

Not these days. I tend to record shows on Sky to watch later and watch other shows on Amazon/Netflix as and when I feel like it. I guess I watch the news a couple of times a day (while trying my best not to rant).

5. Will you tell someone if there’s something in their teeth?

Absolutely – and I would expect people to do the same for me.

6. Do you ever actually make your bed?

Of course I do. The only times I don’t are when Mrs PM beats me to it. Actually, even when I stay in a hotel, I tidy it up a little before leaving the room.

7. Do you make an effort to eat healthy?

Usually, yes, apart from weekends. From Monday to Friday I eat a lot of fruit, salad and fish, alongside my evening meals. At the weekend, though, I will usually try something that is supposedly “bad” for me. 

It is a question of having a balanced diet. 

I rarely eat cake and dessert though – I save those for a rare treat.

8. What kind of booze did you last take shots of?

I don’t drink spirits so I don’t usually have shots of anything. My tipple of choice is beer, although I sometimes enjoy a glass or two of wine. 

I think the last “shot” I had was tequila at a leaving party in a pub for woman who worked on my team. She insisted that I have one with her, so I grimaced, took it and then reverted back to beer.

9. What’s something you want to purchase next time you’re at the mall?

I haven’t been to a shopping “mall” (or shopping centre as we call it in the UK) for over two years now. That was to buy clothes and I guess that if I were to go again when restrictions are lifted, clothes would be at the forefront of my mind.

10. What were you doing at 10:00 this morning?

I was walking by the River Mersey, approximately half way through my four mile morning walk. The sun was out, dogs were jumping into the river (much to the disgust of their owners), joggers were jogging, cyclists were cycling, walkers were walking, magpies were cackling, clouds were drifting, trees were rustling and I was listening to (I think) some Megadeth on my iPod. 

11. What do you miss the most about your past?

My youth. I would love to have my young slim, energetic body back. My current older body isn’t too bad for its age, but there are signs that it has been used – like the odd wrinkle, the odd ache and nowhere near as much energy as I had when I was twenty years old. I still look young for my age and nobody would describe me as fat but sadly, now, it is harder to lose weight and recover from the excesses of life.

12. Last time you were really happy?

I am really happy at this moment in time. It is a sunny and warm Saturday afternoon, there is football on TV in approximately half an hour, I am going to an Indian restaurant with Mrs PM and her dad later this evening and tomorrow I am meeting a couple of mates to watch a 20-20 cricket match. What is there to be sad about?

13. Did you get a full 8 hours of sleep last night?

Not quite. I went to bed at half past midnight but was woken up at 6 o’clock this morning by two hungry cats. I managed to doze off again for an hour or so but I gave up and got up. I usually only need seven to eight hours a night anyway so I will probably catch up tonight.

14. Have you spoken to your mother or father today?

No – unless they are ghosts and were listening while I was talking to the cats.

15. Are you good at filling awkward silences?

It depends who I am with. If I know somebody really well, silences are not awkward generally. However, if it is a person I have met for the first time, I will try to talk when such silences occur. I am quite good at filling such moments with inane questions and idiotic horse droppings.

Saturday 12 June 2021


Welcome to sunny South Manchester on day 455 of Covid restrictions. Euro 2020 has started (a year later due to the pandemic), so it will be wall to wall football for the next few weeks. I can’t wait. 

Without further ado, let’s dive straight into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing.

1. Describe your phone lock screen

It is a boat on the shore of a tranquil turquoise lake – a beautiful tranquil image. I would claim credit for it myself if I could, but sadly I don’t want to mislead you. It came with my phone and of all of the ones supplied, I liked it best. Here it is:

2. How often do you journal?

I journal every day and have done since 4th November 2018, when I started what is known as freewriting. Basically I just let my thoughts wander and put them down on paper (well in a computer document) without any proof-reading or grammar checks. It’s become a daily habit and one that I can no longer break. 

So what do I write?

Any of the following:

Thoughts, writing exercises, pseudo-diary entries, ideas and all manner of garbage. Nobody will ever read it because it is total rubbish – but within there are fledgling ideas, plans and several nuggets of gold scattered around. 

It works for me and it is fun.

3. What’s your favourite thing to teach others?

The only time I really teach anybody is at work and I regard it as part of my job even though I am not a trainer or teacher really. If we have new starters I will teach them about our software and also assist guys and girls in other teams whenever they need to know about the system.

I don’t like doing it but it has to be done. I wouldn’t call it a “favourite thing” either. 

I have tried to teach Mrs PM to appreciate decent music – and failed miserably – apart from some nuggets on our joint playlist - read about it here

4. How do you like to spend Sundays?

 During the day, I try to catch up on household chores and, during the football season, I will watch a game from the Premier League. Sunday night is movie night and we relax in front of our TV watching a suitable joint movie. Unlike our music taste, Mrs PM and I tend to like the same kind of films. 

5. What would you describe as your kryptonite?

 I have a few, I think. I have a tendency to procrastinate, even though I am improving on that score (by forming and sticking to habits).  

I am also a little shy, although much better than I used to be, and I still struggle internally when meeting new people. I used to be terribly shy and avoid socializing when I was a kid and really university brought me out of my shell. Since then, I have been thrust into many situations where I have just had to deal with shyness and try to cast it aside. 

This is the one thing that has worked really – just talk to people and they will talk back to you. I still suffer slightly but these days I can walk into a crowded pub on my own, order a beer and sit down alone at a table and drink it. When I was 18, the thought of doing that would horrify me. 

6. A TV show or movie you thought was really bad

The Twilight saga. I have ranted about it before on this very blog. If you are interested you can read it here.  

7. Do you know your mail carrier?

Of course I do it is the Post Office. 

8. Which regional foods are your favourite?

 I think I answered this question last week. If you didn’t read the post, I shall tell you again – Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Italian – in fact I like most food but the only one I struggle with is Thai.

9. What was your life like 20 years ago?

Twenty years ago, we were living in a two-bedroomed apartment and were looking for a new house, which we would purchase the following year. I was a mere 38 years old and not looking forward to my 40th birthday at all. I was working on a project in America and flew a couple of times to Atlanta, which was quite enjoyable. I think I was quite a happy chap even then, as I am now.

10. Crafting hobbies that you’d like to learn or improve

I’m not really good at anything that involve crafts so I guess I would actually have to find something. I might be tempted to try my hand at painting – like this guy, Bob Ross. He had a show on the BBC in the 1980’s and 1990’s called, simply, “The Joy of Painting”. I never watched it at the time, but I caught a rerun of it a few months ago and have watched a few episodes now. Basically, he talks with a really soft voice and then paints a masterpiece in front of my eyes in half an hour. It is strangely alluring. 

Here is a small trailer:

11. What is your favourite type of YouTube videos?

I watch a lot of music on YouTube and also clips of so-called “unexplained” things, like aliens, UFO sightings, ghosts, conspiracy theories about people turning into lizards and weird stuff like that. 

I guess I am a little weird aren’t I? Here is an example:

I love this kind of nonsense.

12. Describe your surroundings

I am sitting in the back room of my house, my “man cave” (as Mrs PM describes it). I am sitting at my desk typing on a computer and, at the same time, listening to the song “Caprice” by “The Wildhearts”. Ziggy and Star(dust) are wondering around ready to ask me for their lunch and as I look through the window next to me, I can see that the sun has come out and that it is quite warm outside. 

13. You're making a Time Capsule to be opened in 50 years.  What 3 things would you put in it?

Five CDs containing my favourite songs (created on my laptop – I would never put a CD from my collection in there). 

My old smartphone (something that I should have disposed of really)

A copy of each of my travelogues.

14. Something you learned recently that resonated with you

We are supposed to be released from lockdown on June 21st. Sadly, the Indian variant of Covid is causing the infection rates to rise in the UK and rumour has it that our Clown Prime Minister, aka (Worzel Gummidge) is going to postpone it until July 19th. 

15. Songs that get stuck in your head often

Here are a couple of earworms from my collection. I apologise in advance if they stick in your head:

Saturday 5 June 2021

Let's Go To Dinner

Welcome to a warm and sunny South Manchester on day 448 of Covid-19 restrictions. The weather has improved dramatically and we can now look forward to at least three weeks of lovely warm sunny weather to raise our spirits and help us to make the most out of this dreadful pandemic. Added to that, the European Championships start next Friday and I can look forward to a couple of weeks of international football (that’s soccer for any American readers). 

I have been making the most of the easing of restrictions by seeing friends and tonight Mrs PM and I are visiting a lovely local Italian restaurant for a cosy meal for two. 

That will be nice. 

Shall we dive into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. When is the last time you went out to a meal with someone special? Tell us about it.

Well – as I said above, I anticipate that the meal tonight with Mrs PM will be special. However, we met a couple of friends two weeks ago and after a quick drink in a bar in the city centre, we all went to a lovely restaurant where we chatted about life, the universe and everything. It was special because it was the first time we had been to a restaurant since late summer of 2020 and the first time we had seen those guys for well over a year – perhaps closer to two years. 

2. Show us a picture of your favourite cuisine.

I can’t choose so here are four of my favourites (in no particular order).





3. What is the funniest thing a man/woman has said to you lately?

I share a lot of banter with the guys at work and, during one meeting, one member of my team said to me:

“Dave, I’ll bet you love wearing a mask to bars now. You probably stand more chance with women because the mask covers most of your face.”

4. What makes a gentleman a gentleman in today’s dating world? Are there any left?

What do you mean “are there any gentlemen left”? Of course there are – and I am one of them. I don’t have to date because I am in a loving relationship but if I did I know that I would be the perfect gentleman. I AM the perfect gentleman. 

How very dare you!

5. Is there anything you won’t tolerate when out to dinner with your significant other?

I am with Joey from Friends on this.

There are exceptions; for example I am happy to share Chinese food and, sometime, Indian food – but nothing else. I would prefer than Mrs PM orders a plate of chips for herself and only eat a couple than steal mine.

She knows this – even though she frequently tries to humiliate me about it. I don’t care – I am who I am.

6. What type of ambiance do you enjoy in an eating establishment?

I like a fairly busy place with a little light music in the background, with friendly attentive staff. Of course, the food has to be good too. There are a lot of very good restaurants like this in Manchester.

7. Tell us about the worst public dining experience you ever had, whether it be a date or with your family.

Here’s a good one – not the worst but quite funny.

I was in a restaurant in Zurich with a work colleague and we were about to eat pizza. The food was very nice but the two guys on the next table were very drunk and very loud. Their banter and conversation were harmless and they didn’t butt in and talk to us but their voices were so loud that we could barely talk to each other. They were speaking German so I didn’t fully understand what they were saying (I speak only very limited German). However, one of them stood up just as my pizza arrived. The waiter put my pizza on the table and, next to it, a large glass of German beer. The drunk guy stumbled into our table and knocked the entire glass of beer over my freshly baked pizza and partly over my lap.

To be fair to him, he was mortified. 

He started apologizing profusely in German and I had to say “Ich spreche nur ein bisschen deutsch.” (I only speak a little German). He switched to English and said “I’m so sorry!” 

He then ran after the waiter and called him back and spoke rapidly in German. He basically told the waiter to take my food back. 

“I have ordered it again for you, my friend,” he said. “I will pay for your meal!”

“There’s no need,” I said. 

But he insisted. 

Meanwhile, my work colleague was struggling not to laugh out loud. 

Sure enough, a fresh pizza and another beer arrived and then the guy kept talking to me, apologising over and over again. 

Eventually he got the message and stopped talking and sure enough, he paid for my pizza, despite my protestations. 

So, I guess it ended okay.

8. What is the lamest or rudest thing a man/woman has said to you lately?

Nothing recent – but I got into a discussion over Brexit with some friends a couple of years ago and a bloke decided to intervene in our conversation to tell me that I hated the United Kingdom because I disagree with Brexit. Thankfully, the guys I was with all rounded on him and told him, in the sweetest possible way (not really), to go back to his wife, to enjoy his meal and not to be such an arsehole and butt into other people’s conversations.  

9. Are you a good tipper?

Tipping is not mandatory or expected in the United Kingdom, but I do tip if I have enjoyed the meal and the waiter has been half decent. Generally if you tip in the UK the tips are all shared out at the end of the night.

Of course, I have been to America where tipping is expected and, to be honest, I always feel a little odd when I am over there. I once saw a waitress take the bill payment and the person left without leaving her a tip. She returned to the table and basically lost the plot and threw every single one of her toys out of the pram. 

“What did I do wrong?” she complained to anyone within earshot. “I don’t do this for fun you know!” before storming off.

She was our waitress too. I did leave her a tip of course because, despite the outburst, she was sweet and friendly to us – and I did enjoy the food. But I still felt a bit odd. 

10. Do you ask for doggie bags when you leave food on your plate at a restaurant?

Only in America. The amount of food that you are served there is incredible. 

On one occasion I was working in Atlanta but had the weekend off. I popped into a local restaurant and ordered what I thought was a small burger, fries and a coke. When it arrived I was stunned. The burger was enormous and the amount of fries that came with it was enough for about three people. And then came the coke – a huge bucket of the stuff. 

I didn’t know what to do. I tried my best to eat as much of the food as I could but it totally and utterly defeated me. Thankfully, I was staying in an aparthotel so I asked for a doggie bag and took it with me. The coke also came with me when I left and it lasted most of the rest of the afternoon. 

I had the remains of the burger and fries back at the hotel later – thank goodness my room had a kitchen.

11. What is your pet peeve about restaurants and dining out in general?

I don’t like really expensive restaurants that charge the earth for food but only provide you with enough to whet your appetite. That really boils my blood and I avoid such establishments like the plague.

12. Do you prefer to order yourself or do you ever let your significant other order for you?

I absolutely prefer to order for myself. Why on earth would I let anybody else order for me? I will listen to recommendations of course but ultimately it is my choice.

The only exception to this is in China. Whenever I have worked in China, I have usually dined with the Chinese guys I am working with and allowed them to order the food, having told them what I will and won’t eat. Things I won’t eat include insects (and anything related to insects such as larvae), spiders, scorpions, dogs, offal or anything that comes from inside the animal’s head. That said, I have never had a bad meal in China – the food over there is absolutely brilliant – much better than most Chinese food in the UK – and whenever I go there it is the one thing I look forward to the most.

13. Describe your most intimate romantic dinner ever. (fantasy or real)

Café Deco on the Peak in Hong Kong without a doubt. It was a beautiful restaurant with amazing views of Victoria Harbour. Sadly, I have just discovered that it has closed which is an absolute shame. When I worked in Hong Kong for three months in 1999, Mrs PM and I used to go there often for a lovely romantic meal while enjoying the amazing views.

The food was international and always wonderful. 

Cafe Deco

I will miss the place when I next manage to get there.

14. Do you enjoy piano bars?

Not really – mainly because I don’t like the music. I have stayed in quite a few hotels in the world when travelling with work, and when I sit in the hotel bar and there is a guy playing the piano, it generally annoys me because the music is not really the kind I like, particularly if the singer tries to emulate people like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or any of those old-time singers. 

Give me a bar playing rock music any day.

15. If you could go anywhere in the world for dinner, where would it be and who would you be with?

I would go to Hong Kong with Mrs PM and have a chinese meal somewhere in Wan Chai. I would have chosen Café Deco if it was still there.