Sunday 29 August 2021

Something on Sunday

Welcome to South Manchester on a sunny Bank Holiday weekend on day 42 since restrictions ended in the UK for Covid-19 (well 90% of them anyway). Bank Holiday weekend just means that we have a public holiday on Monday so we get a longer weekend. 

Here are some questions from Sunday Stealing with the dubious title “One Direction Asks” – I presume this is the over-rated “boy band” One Direction, so I am going to rebel and simply call this post “Something on Sunday” because I hate boy bands with a passion. Of course, if you like them or any other boy band then that’s fine.

Shall we dive in?

1. Are you a Jeopardy fan?  Who do you want to replace Alex Trebeck?.

Not at all. I’ve seen the show on trips to America in the past but that’s about it. I have no idea who Alex Trebeck is and wouldn’t recognise him if he said “Hi Plastic Mancunian! I’m Alext Trebeck – have you heard of me?”

2. What’s your favourite horror film?

That’s a tough one. I’m not a fan of horror movies but I quite enjoyed IT Parts 1 and 2 recently (because I have read the book too). I quite like a good science fiction horror – so I will say Aliens.

3. Are you a possessive person?

I’m possessive about objects I own and don’t want to get rid of, for example my CD collection. But when it comes to people, not at all. I would hate to be the target of a possessive person.

4. Who’s your idol?

Do you know, I don’t think I actually have an idol. There are lots of people out there who I respect but I wouldn’t say that I idolise them at all. 

5. List five things you can’t live without.

Number one on the list is oxygen of course and anything else that keeps my body ticking over.

In addition, here are five things that make my life pleasant:

Music, travelling, my house, my gadgets, money.

6. Where do you feel home?

I love travelling but I actually feel at home here in Manchester. There are a lot of places that I could live but my heart is still in this magnificent northern city and no matter how far I go I will always want to come back at some point.

7. What are your three best qualities?

I like to think that I am a nice guy, who listens, makes you laugh (intentionally sometimes but mostly unintentionally) and has a good heart.

8. Name three things that make you happy.

I would say Mrs PM, my friends and family and my cats.

9. What helps you when you’re feeling down?

Definitely music. If I feel a little down, which does happen occasionally, I just put on a suitable song. The actual song depends on the mood but something like this will always perk my mood.

10. Which big cities have you been to?

I’ve been to so many that I have lost count. Here are most of them:

Manchester (of course), Birmingham, London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, Rome, Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, Zurich, Geneva, Dublin, Valetta, Moscow, New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Tulsa, Richmond, Miami, Toronto, Vancouver, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Chiang Mai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Kyoto, Sydney, Brisbane, Guangzhou, Kunming, Muscat, Adu Dhabi, Dubai and Singapore. 

There may be more – and there may be some places that are cities but forgot about.

11. What’s your favourite love story? ( Book, film, etc. )

I’m not a lover of love stories (does that sound weird?). There is usually a lot of schmaltz, too much if I’m honest and I get bored because they are usually far too predictable. But Notting Hill made me laugh once or twice so I will reluctantly say that.

12. Talk about the best concert you ever attended.

I will have to say that my favourite band was Rush, who sadly are no longer a band because, sadly, they decided to call it a day shortly before drummer Neil Peart passed away. The last time I saw the band was the last time they visited the UK in 2013 and is to date the most expensive concert I have been to. 

In terms of being a spectacle it wasn’t the most explosive or exciting (that honour goes to German industrial metal band Rammstein who were incredible). Nevertheless, the music was amazing and they performed as they always did without a support, being onstage for over three hours (with an intermission). 

I was so sad when they called it a day and even sadder when Neil Peart died. But I am delighted that I saw them on their last tour of the UK.

13. What’s one thing you don’t ever want to change?

Apart from work, I don’t want to change my life at all. Once we can travel again (which is getting closer dear reader), that will see my life returning to normal. And that’s the way I want it to stay – preferably as a retired person.

14. What scares you?

I am scared of heights, something that has steadily got worse over the years. I guess if monsters and ghosts existed, I might be scared of those too.

15. What are three things you want to do before you die?

I am going to live forever. 

Well, if you are going to push me …

I want to go on a round the world trip – but I would be happy to visit Japan and Australia again, and a few countries that I haven’t been to yet, like New Zealand.

I want to write a novel or a serious book, rather than the crappy travelogues I’ve already written.

I wouldn’t mind trying to write a song. That would be fun.

Saturday 21 August 2021


Welcome to South Manchester on day 34 of so-called freedom, on an unpleasant day with lots of rain. I narrowly avoided the rain this morning, the main showers starting about ten minutes after I had arrived home from my daily walk. Thank goodness.

Here is the usual Sunday Stealing post  called Sad and Sleepy. I decided to just call it Sleepy because I m not particularly sad at the moment – a little sleepy I guess but since it’s the weekend I will have a nice lie in tomorrow morning.

Shall we dive in?

1. Has anyone ever made fun of your taste in music?

People always make fun of my music. Most of them are lovers of terrible pop music (from all eras) or people who like classical music, jazz or similar tastes. I try not to tell people that their music is rubbish these days; instead I tell them that it is not to my taste. In return they tell me that the music I like is not music at all. Some say it is too noisy, that there is no tune, that the singers do not or cannot sing or that the musicians have zero talent. I have been called a musical dinosaur, tone deaf or contributing to the death of music by supporting such artists.

I do admit that some of the music I like is an acquired taste, but I genuinely believe that the musicians I like are extremely talented and exhibit virtuosity of the highest order. I tell such people that just because the powers that dictate people’s musical taste with an endless supply of banal and inane pop drivel don’t like my music because the artists are independent, talented and want to express themselves in a way that these evil music moguls don’t permit. 

My claims are substantiated because although the bands and artists I like don’t reach number one in the singles charts or get a lot of airplay on the radio, they still sell millions of records and sell out their tours. 

I will give anything a chance.

Even two songs as diverse as this:

What have I learned?

All life, it never goes away

You never will betray

When words have gone away

Remember Namaste

Remember – don’t let anyone tell you what music to like – but it does pay to expand your horizons. There is so much music out there waiting to be discovered.

2. Do you have pop-tarts in your house right now?

I have to say with my hand on my heart that I have never had a pop tart. So the answer is no.

3. Does someone owe you over twenty dollars?

Nobody owes me any money whatsoever. If somebody owed me $20 I would ask for £20 instead (which is a little more). That’s because you can’t spend dollars in the UK.

4. When was the last time you burned any part of your body?

I seem to remember that I picked up a saucepan with a metal handle and that burned. Why do they make saucepans with metal handles?

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

I don’t drink shots. However, we visited a distillery in Llandudno, in Wales, a week or two ago and I tried a couple of shots of Welsh whiskey. I don’t like whiskey really so I asked the guide what he recommended for somebody who doesn’t really like it. The shot he gave me was, actually, surprisingly good, I have to say. It hasn’t changed my mind though to be fair.

6. If you could see any musician live, front row, who would you choose?

I’ve seen Devin Townsend live once but at the front, it was a little insane with a huge mosh pit forming around me. I would probably choose Steven Wilson as his music is a little more sedate and less prone to crowd eruptions.

7. If I gave you ten dollars, what would you spend it on?

I wouldn’t be able to spend it in the UK, as I said in question (3) because we use pound sterling instead. I could go to a currency exchange and get £7.34 for it and buy myself a beer or two at the pub. I would probably take it home and stash it away in my collection of foreign currency ready for my next trip to America.

8. Does / did either of your parents serve in the military?

Yes. My father served in the army for about three years in the late 1950’s. I don’t think he would have had he had a choice – it was mandatory in those days. I think he learned from his experience. 

9. Do you like sour candy?

I can honestly say that I have never had sour candy. It is a little bit of an oxymoron so to be honest I don’t think I would want to try it.

10. What do you do to stay awake when you’re tired?

I used to drink coffee but I have now given up caffeine because you cannot control how long it keeps you awake. These days, now I am older and wiser, I allow my body to dictate when I sleep. If I am at home and tired, I will allow sleep to take over and doze off. 

11.Do you wear your shoes around the house?

Only when I come into the house or just before I leave. 

12. Is there ever a time that you enjoy cold showers?

Yes – I like a cold shower when it is extremely hot. I was once in Oman and the outside temperature was about 38 degrees Centigrade and I stupidly decided to go for a walk. I didn’t last very long because the heat and the humidity conspired to start the process of cooking me alive. When I returned to my hotel room I was sweating so much that I could barely peel the T-shirt off my back. When I did, I simply stepped into a warm shower and gradually took the temperature down until it was absolutely freezing cold. That cooled me down very quickly and was thoroughly enjoyable. 

13. Are you good at filling silence in awkward situations?

It depends on the situation. If there are just two of us, I will try to kick start the conversation. I was once working in Russia with a colleague who was very quiet, so I tried to drive the conversation over dinner and in the hotel bar. It worked but it was hard work. If there is a large group of people I am more inclined to leave such things to somebody else.

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

Yes – quite a lot. Now the football season has started again, I usually watch Match of the Day on Saturday night and I watch the news on a daily basis. I tend to record most other programmes to watch at my leisure.

15. Are you one to sneak food into movie theaters?

Absolutely. I was very annoyed one time, as an adult with two young kids, when the usher (or whatever you want to call him – “jobsworth arsehole” was a phrase I had to stop myself from calling him to his face). The kids had a couple of bags of sweets and this arse wouldn’t let me take them in, leaving me no choice but to pay an exorbitant amount for their own sweets, drinks etc. Since that point I vowed to try to sneak in my own refreshments. And to that jobsworth arsehole I have this to say:

I have a 100% success rate you bloody idiot.

Sunday 15 August 2021


Welcome to a rainy South Manchester on day 28 of so-called freedom from Covid restrictions. It’s August, it’s supposed to be summer, yet the rain is drizzling outside and the sun is nowhere to be seen, hiding behind the grey-white clouds that are drifting over my house.

Despite the gloom, it’s still reasonably warm and I just hope to see a little more sunshine before summer gives way to Autumn. The leaves on some trees are already starting to turn, which is s sign that summer is definitely receding. 

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What subjects lead you down a Wikipedia rabbit hole?

All sorts of subjects. I sometimes play that little game if I am looking things up and just follow links down and down to see where they lead me. One of my favourite subjects is music and I often look up old bands and artists to see what has happened to them. I also use Wikipedia to look up new artists and details about their music, like albums, songs etc. I quite like looking up historical facts too and details about other things I don’t actually know about and, following those links, can keep me entertained for ages.

2. How do you like to spend your birthdays?

I am rather weird when it comes to my birthday. I don’t regard it as a special day any more because it signifies that I am getting older. I also don’t particularly like being the centre of attention and I am quite happy just to go out for a meal or something with Mrs PM. The worst birthdays are milestone birthdays, for which I tend to do something different. For example, on my 40th birthday I went to Madrid for a weekend with some mates and on my 50th we visited Rome with some friends. The next milestone birthday is 60 and I have no doubt that I will pop off to another European city for a long weekend and, by then I would have thought that Covid will be under control.

3. Something you might take a little too seriously?

I have recently taken politics far too seriously, to the point where I have lost my temper over it. I have now decided to at least try to ignore it and not to get angry about the incompetence of the government we have had to endure since 2010, resulting in the UK becoming a laughing stock to the world. I still rant a little about Boris the clown – he deserves that much because he is a power-hungry malignant narcissist who is out of his depth. I will celebrate his inevitable demise and I welcome a time when I don’t have to see the scarecrow on my television. Until then, whenever I see the bumbling blustering buffoon, I shall take deep breaths and think of fluffy bunnies cavorting in a summer field of daisies.

4. Describe a time you made a good decision for yourself

Way back in 1999, I decided to take the opportunity of a three month secondment to Hong Kong. Mrs PM came with me and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was hard work and I already loved the city. Living there was completely different from just visiting (as I had many times previously) and I got to know the city well. We worked really hard with, sometimes, long and awkward hours but if I could do it again I would. We even found time to spend two weeks touring China in true Planes, Trains and Automobiles fashion. I love Hong Kong and since then I have taken every opportunity that has come my way to visit the place. I regard the city as an old friend and whenever we head to the Far East we always try to squeeze in a visit.

5. Something you’ve improved/gotten better at

I think my Spanish has improved recently, since I have been making more of an effort and, although it is poor, I can get the gist of written Spanish. I need to take it to the next level though and my aim is to do so as I close in on retirement.

6. What dish would you bring to a summer potluck?

I would probably cheat and buy something sweet for dessert.

7. What do you miss about Winter?

I don’t miss winter at all. It is cold, dark and miserable. I guess I quite enjoy Christmas and New Year, but I’m not keen on the build up to the big day with the pressure of buying gifts and arranging stuff. I quite like the parties though.

8. Share a summer memory

2017 was a bad year for me and at the end of the summer we went to C’an Pastilla in Majorca on a last minute deal to get away from it all, literally. I needed the break to get my head back in shape and remove the stress that had built up. We quickly adopted a relaxing routine. We would start the day with breakfast and then embark upon a leisurely six mile walk down the promenade to nearby Arenal and back, just watching the sea and listening to the waves lapping up on the shore before having lunch and relaxing by the pool, reading and listening to music. All of the stress from the previous months basically drifted away and it recharged my batteries completely and when I returned to the UK with a smile on my face and my head in exactly the right place.

9. Words you misspell or misuse the most

When I was younger I used to misuse the word “aggravate”. I would say things like “Stop aggravating me!” to mean “Stop winding me up!”

10. Things you love to do, that can only happen in summer

I love walking by the sea on a sunny day, and walking in the countryside, also in the sunshine. I also like travelling to Europe in summer. Okay, I can do those things in winter but they are typically more unpleasant due to the weather. 

11. How would you describe your sense of humour?

I have a strange, weird and sometimes dark sense of humour. For example, I love shows like Monty Python, which I regard as surreal but really intelligent. Here are a couple of examples:

12. Have you ever quit a job or career?

No. But I will be doing so in the next couple of years.

13. What are your favourite features of your cell phone?

I like just about everything about it. I can access the internet anywhere, it records my steps, I can take photos, I can measure my heart rate, it’s a torch, it’s a satnav, I can send messages and, most bizarrely of all, I can actually use it as a phone. 

And there are hundreds and hundreds of apps that I can download to make my life even easier. It is an amazing bit of tech.

14. What scents always make you hungry?

Cooking generally makes me feel hungry, particularly in a restaurant.

15. What are you working on right now?

This blog post. Actually, I am trying to write three things. The first is an autobiography, the second is a travelogue and the third is a novel. It is just a little bit of fun and I can imagine that none of them will ever see the light of day (as I am a crap writer) – but they keep me happy.

Sunday 8 August 2021

Olympics and Stuff

Welcome to  a rainy South Manchester on day 21 since freedom day. It’s a bit weird actually because we have just returned from a long weekend to Llandudno, a lovely little seaside town in North Wales, about 90 minutes away by car, but where the lockdown rules are different from those we have in England. 

Just for the benefit of American readers, I live in the United Kingdom, which comprises four countries; England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (not the Republic of Ireland). We have a devolved government in that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can still make their own rules and each has a first minister, but they have to endure the same stupid clown that we do in England as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

So in Wales, they were still under stricter Covid-19 restrictions, meaning that social distancing was in force and pubs, restaurants etc. were limited in the number of people they could accommodate. In England, such restrictions stopped on July 19th.

However, we were there from Thursday to Saturday, and on Saturday (yesterday), they had their so-called “Freedom Day” and now they can open up as they did before the pandemic, although they do have slightly stricter rules than we do in England – they have to wear masks on all public transport and in shops – though not in places where food and drink are served. It’s optional in those places. Nevertheless we did see people wearing masks in restaurants when walking around and some places still had barriers up.

Anyway we had a good time despite dodgy weather at times, and now I am back just in time to contribute to this week’s Sunday Stealing just as the Olympics in Tokyo are about to finish. Let’s answer some silly questions shall we?

1.  What is the nearest book to you?  Your Kindle does not count.

The nearest book to me is one of two books I am reading at the moment. This year I have pledged to myself that I will read some old books from my dusty collection that are all to do with creative writing with a view to helping myself from being absolutely dreadful to one that is slightly less awful as the year progresses. This particular book is called “Three Rules for Writing a Novel” by an American author called William Noble. It is very interesting and I have had to resist using my marker pen to correct his use of words like “favorite”, “vacation” and “color” to the correct way (“favourite”, “holiday” and “colour”). 

Of course I am joking – I can tolerate such foibles in my American cousins.

2.  When was the last time you took a "me" holiday

I have just been to Llandudno, as I mentioned above, with Mrs PM and that was an “us” holiday, which are the kind I like best. When did I last take a “me” holiday? In all honestly I have no idea and I don’t know what a “me” holiday would entail. I am not averse to travelling alone if necessary (I have had to do so numerous times with work – but they are not holidays at all as work is involved). I think a “me” holiday would only happen if Mrs PM were away somewhere – and I think I would drive to a nearby seaside resort, book myself into a nice hotel and then relax with walks along the seafront, or sitting in a cafĂ© or pub overlooking the sea, with a good book and a beverage of my choice, watching the world go by. That is unlikely to happen for a while I have to say.

3.  How many telephone numbers do you have?

Quite a lot. I’m not going to count them – though perhaps I should go through them and remove those which are no longer necessary. With the advent of social media, I rarely use my phone as a phone these days. 

4.  If you could fix one thing in the public school system, what is the one thing you would do immediately?

Public schools in the UK are an oxymoron. They are not public at all; you have to pay fees for them and usually involve rich politicians, famous people and so-called celebrities sending their poor spoiled kids away to be educated. 

I would consider banning them completely. 

5.  What's your favourite Olympic event?

I have dipped into the Olympics briefly and I have to say that I quite like watching the indoor cycling events. I can watch most of the sports actually, except, bizarrely, football (or soccer to the American readers). Why? Because the UK doesn’t compete. As I mentioned above, we have four countries comprising the UK and in football terms we have individual teams for each nation; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The governing body, FIFA, would probably try to force us to compete in all competitions as the United Kingdom, if we were to enter a combined team into the Olympics – and none of the four nations would accept or allow that to happen. 

That said, we did have special permission to do this during the London 2012 Olympics – just because they were in the UK I think.

6.  Do you watch the Olympics?

As I said above, I dip in and out of them, rather than watching them religiously. I know that the UK did rather well, finishing fourth overall.

7.  Who is your favourite sports team player?

I can’t say that I have a current favourite. The football club I support, Walsall FC, have a largely new squad this season and it only started yesterday, so I will reserve judgement for a few months. 

My all-time favourite Walsall player is a guy called Alan Buckley who was a prolific goalscorer in the 1970s before becoming our manager briefly afterwards.

Here he is:

I was lucky enough to meet him as a kid and he signed my football programme for me. I still have it upstairs in the loft.

8.  If you could travel in a spaceship to any planet, which planet would you like to visit and why?

It would have to be a planet that supported human life and all the ones we know about, that aren’t Earth, cannot do that. I guess I would do a fly-by of Saturn because it is the prettiest but if I were to be transported to a fictional world it would probably Risa, in the Star Trek universe, which is a “pleasure planet”.

9.  When was the last time you sat in a church?

These days I only go to church for weddings and funerals, one of which is a pleasurable experience, the other being pretty damned awful (I hate funerals). The last time I sat in a church was in 2017 when my mum died. I hated it.

10.  Are there any aspects of blogging that annoy you?

From a personal point of view, I am annoyed with myself for not being as prolific as I was a few years ago. I wrote quite a few posts a year and I would like to return to that. I have had to push myself recently to try to produce more posts that are about life in general and my weird outlook on it. I like Sunday Stealing because it gives me a little push in that direction but I could really do with writing two or three posts a week that are more like essays, thoughts, etc.

I need to make a habit of it and I know that when I retire eventually I will be more inclined to do so.

11. Have you ever gone to a party and snooped in the medicine cabinet?

Never. Why would anybody ever do that?

12. Do you watch reality TV?

The only reality show that I can tolerate is the Apprentice – that’s the UK version with Alan Sugar rather than the American version with the Orange Goblin. The only reason I watch it is to see Sugar bring the egomaniacal arses that think they rule the business world, crashing down to Earth.

All other reality TV shows are awful and I would rather pull off my fingernails with rusty tweezers than watch them.

13.  How many people can you call who have known you since you were in school?

When I left school, I also left Walsall, my home town, and ended up in university at Liverpool. I never moved back and consequently lost touch with all of them over the years. There is one kid (a grown man now) that I keep in touch with via a message board that I pop onto occasionally – but that’s about it. I still keep in touch with quite a few lads from university though and we are having a reunion in September of this year.

14. Who, when, and where was your first kiss?

I kissed an Irish girl whose name I will not share – for her benefit more than mine. I remember it being very pleasant. I was about seven years old (as was she) and I discovered quite a few years ago that she had become a nurse and, at the time, lived on the south coast of England. 

15. You just got thrown out of your country.  Where do you want to become a citizen?

I am learning Spanish so I would probably opt for Spain. Although I could be tempted by France (as I speak a little French too). Both are beautiful countries and I am resisting the urge as we speak to start a massive rant about Brexit and what that scruffy half-witted, half-clown/half scarecrow who masquerades as our Prime Minister has done to my country.

I am breathing deeply and picturing bunny rabbits frolicking in a field of daisies, dear reader.