Saturday 23 October 2021

Moshing in the Mosh Pit


Welcome to a cloudy but dry south Manchester on day 97 since our resident clown lifted all restriction due to Covid-19. 

At the moment I am working back in the office two days a week but last week a person who, thankfully doesn’t sit near to me, tested positive for this wretched virus. By all accounts he is okay but I have taken a lateral flow test just in case – and thankfully I am still fine.

I won’t be going into the office next week because I am making my second trip to London this year on Thursday for a long weekend of being a tourist with Mrs PM before visiting a couple of friends down there. I don’t want Covid-19 to ruin that.

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. First thing you wash in the shower?

Woah! That’s a personal start isn’t it? Do you know, I don’t actually know what I wash first – hang on – let me think. It’s probably my hair because I have to get the useless unmanageable mop under control after a night that has morphed it into weird shape. 

2. What colour is your favourite hoodie?

I don’t actually own any hoodies. I do own three coats that have hoods: a blue summer jacket that claims to be waterproof but isn’t, a truly waterproof jacket that is so good at its job that it makes me sweat when I wear if for a long walk and a huge thick winter coat that is perfect for those cold, dismal, dark and depressing winter months (that are approaching too fast for my liking). 

3. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again?

Of course I would. I don’t give kisses lightly and if a person gets a kiss, they usually deserve another.

4. Do you plan outfits?

Absolutely not. I just open my wardrobe and pick up the first thing that takes my fancy. Actually, having said that, sometimes if I am going to a posh party or something like that, I may plan to wear my penguin suit.

5. How are you feeling RIGHT now?

I am feeling terrific and looking forward to an enjoyable day. 

6. What’s the closest thing to you that's red?

Embarrassingly, this book.

7. Tell me about the last dream you remember having?

It’s an odd recurring dream that is the result of my body telling my sleeping brain that it needs to heed a call of nature in the middle of the night. Whatever dream I having is invaded by the concept that in my dream I have to go to the toilet urgently. This usually manifests itself in a toilet appearing in my dream that I simply cannot use because there is something wrong with it. For example, if I am dreaming that I am working in an office, the toilet appears in the middle of the room in full view of everyone who is working. Obviously I can’t use it because there is no way I can expose myself in front of all my colleagues. So I wake up and have to go in reality.

Odd, aren’t I?

8. Did you meet anybody new today?

Not today, no, because so far I haven’t been out of the house yet. 

9. What are you craving right now?

I’ve just had some lunch so the truth is that I am not craving anything. I wouldn’t mind another cup of tea, though.

10. Do you floss?

Yes – otherwise my dentist tells me off. Whenever I go to the dentist I feel like a naughty child who has been summoned to see the headmaster for doing something unspeakable. My dentist is a young bloke and I always feel a little weird when he asks me how often I floss and then tells me off for overbrushing and all of the other things I do incorrectly. The strange this is that at the end of the examination, he always says “Your teeth are fine. Keep up the good work!”

Odd, isn’t it?

11. What comes to mind when I say cabbage?

Yeuch! I’m not a big fan of cabbage if I’m honest, particularly that dark green veiny abomination below.

It looks like something out of an alien horror movie, doesn’t it?

The white variety is edible though and I do try to eat it because, supposedly, it is good for your health. At least that’s what my mum used to tell me.

12. Are you emotional?

I can be. The problem is that I sometimes show emotion over the most mundane and innocuous things, like a TV program, or a great song – like this one. 

13. Have you ever counted to 1,000?

No – why would I ever do that?

14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?

I do a bit of both actually. 

15. Do you like your hair?

Not at all – and equally my hair hates me. Regular readers will know this. My hair is short at the moment but even so it is an unmanageable mop. When it is longer it becomes a sentient being that taunts me mercilessly, especially when I wake up in the morning. I swear I can hear it saying “Good luck trying to get ME under control!”

If you don’t believe me, please read this cringeworthy account in a post I wrote back in 2008:

Bad Hair Day 

Saturday 16 October 2021

This Side of the Pond

Welcome to a cloudy south Manchester on the east side of the pond on day 90 since our clown Prime Minister removed almost all Covid-19 restrictions. 

Today we are driving to Chester to visit some friends. It’s a lovely little city that isn’t too far away (about 30 minutes) and is a haven for foreign and domestic tourists alike. I particularly like the Roman Walls surrounding the city centre and you can have a lovely walk around them. They were built by the Romans in 75 AD so they have been around for a long, long time. 

We won’t be walking around the walls today; instead we will be visiting a pub or two and having a nice meal.

In the meantime, let’s answer some silly questions that originate from the west side of the pond, on Sunday Stealing

1. What's something you've recently accomplished solo?

I’ve been trying to teach myself Spanish for a while now and I reckon I could live in a Spanish town or city and make myself understood for the essential things in life. Having a deep conversation with a Spaniard would be very difficult though – and in that sense I haven’t really accomplished the task yet – far from it in fact. What I really need to do is go to a class and actually start having conversations with Spanish people. There are a couple of places in Manchester where I can do this but finding the time at the moment is difficult. It will happen when I retire though. 

This is really an ongoing self—improvement process.

2.  What's one product you use that never ever fails?

There are quite a few things that never fail – like the TV, the microwave oven, my iPod. You watch – all three of the items I mentioned will fail miserably now.

3. Have you found your place in the world? Where is it?

I think so. I am very happy to spend the rest of my life here in Manchester, travelling apart of course. If this question doesn’t really mean a physical place, then I guess I will find that too when I retire. I’m currently in a place that I am fed up of when it comes to my career – but once that’s over, I will be seeking a new place that hopefully I will find fairly soon.

4.  Worst movie you ever saw?

I would say that Sharknado is probably the worst but it is so bad that it is brilliantly funny. If you haven’t seen the film – here is the trailer.

Believe it or not, they have made five sequels and the names kind of tell you that it is very tongue in cheek:

Sharknado 2: The Second One 

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens 

Sharknado 5: Global Swarming 

The Last Sharknado: It's About Time

The worst film I have seen that is meant to be serious is Lincoln. I watched it on a long haul flight because it won so many Oscars but it was truly awful and it bored me to tears. I would rather watch all the Sharknado movies than have to endure that again.

5. What's the last fun thing you did?

We went to visit my eldest son in Prestwich, North Manchester last night to see how he and his girlfriend are settling in, in their new house. They have bought a house that needs some work and they are slowly chipping away at it. Every time we see it, there is a massive improvement. It will be great when they have finished it. We went out to a restaurant and had a fun time with them.

6. What's your favourite Italian dish?

I love most Italian dishes but I will put forward lasagne as my favourite for now. Ask me next week and it will be something else.

7. Have you ever been to France? Any desire to visit there, and if so what would site or city would you most want to see?

I have been to France many times and I love the place so my desire to visit there is still ever-present. I speak French well enough to make myself understood, which is almost essential really, particularly in Paris. 

I am lucky really because Mrs PM speaks French really well and can easily hold a conversation with a French person. She lived in Toulouse for a year, while studying for her degree at university.

I have been to a few cities, including Paris, Bordeaux, Monte Carlo (which is really in Monaco but let’s not split hairs), Cannes, Nice, Lyon, Calais, Collioure and Antibes as well as a few northern towns. My favourite city is Nice – it is beautiful and is a great base for exploring the area. 

We will definitely go back there in the near future.

8. Have you ever been to Disney, any of the parks at all? Are you a Disney superfan or something less than that? They're open right now so tell us, would you go if you had the time/money/a free trip?

I have been to Disneyland in Paris and California as well as Disneyworld in Florida. 

I am not really that big a fan of Disney; I like the cartoons but I can take or leave them. To be honest, Disney is huge now and has engulfed lots of other franchises such as Star Wars abnd the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have to admit that my favourite of those franchises is the Marvel Cinematic Universe – I absolutely love the movies. 

Would I go to one of the parks now? Probably not – I’ve been there, seen that and done that. 

9. Your favourite place to go when you want to be quiet as a church mouse? Would those who know you well describe you as more church mouse or perhaps more like mighty mouse?

When I want to be as quiet as a church mouse I would just stay home in the room I am in at the moment. It’s not exactly quiet because I always have music on when I am in this room but it works for me when the introvert inside takes over (as it has now). 

I think people who know me well would describe as mighty mouse (if that is the opposite of a church mouse) because I can be quite loud when I want to be. When I am in the mood to see people (which is often) I unleash the extrovert within and love to have a good laugh with people – even in the office with work colleagues. I struggle to take things seriously and even when work is demanding I like to provide some light relief from time to time by just acting like a complete pratt.

10. Do you bake your own bread? Last time you had hot out-of-the-oven homemade bread? What's your favourite kind of bread?

I have never baked my own bread. The last time I had hot-out-of-the-oven bread was when Mrs PM tried to make some during lockdown. She did a good job to be honest. The best hot-out-of-the-oven bread I have had was at a small bakery shop in Nice, France. We were staying in an apartment and we popped there every morning for bread, croissants, pain aux raisins and when feeling naughty, pan au chocolate. They were divine.

My favourite kind of bread? I love thick white toasty bread – but I eat all kinds really.

11. What's something you might say is 'the greatest thing since sliced bread'?

Smartphones. I love them. It is like having your own portable computer and I would be lost without it.

12.  Share with us five little things you're grateful for today. Small blessings. One catch-they all must start with the letter T.





Travelling to Chester

13. Tell us where you were and something about what life was like when you were 20- 21.

I was a student at the University of Liverpool and living near to the centre of that wonderful city. I love Liverpool and it is close enough for me to go back and visit it on a fairly regular basis (it is about 30 miles to the west of Manchester). Being a student I was sharing a place with seven other guys so we had a great life with lots of student-related fun being pursued. Of course, I was also studying hard and left university with a Bsc Honours degree that has set me up for a great life since. 

My three years in Liverpool were probably the best years of my life.

14. What's on the menu at your house this week?

We will probably have a traditional Sunday lunch on Sunday but for the rest of the week, I imagine that there will be steak, salmon stir-fry, chicken pasta, perhaps a curry, maybe meatballs and possibly something a little more special on Friday.

15.Something you recently purchased where a coupon was involved? Do you regularly shop with coupons? 

I can’t remember the last time I bought something with a coupon if I’m honest so the answer is that I rarely shop with coupons. 

Saturday 9 October 2021

Journal IBuddies

Welcome to a cloudy but unseasonably warm south Manchester on day 83 since restrictions were lifted. The weather is cloudy but it is pleasant.  

It was my birthday yesterday so Mrs PM and I are venturing into the city later to have a couple of beers and an Italian meal.

My date of birth makes me a Libran, the same star sign as Margaret Thatcher who was born on October 13th. The fact that I share the same star sign as that horrible woman, for me at least, destroys the very idea that people with the same star sign have the same traits, foibles and behaviours. 

Anyway, I could spend the entire blog post talking about how much I disliked Thatcher but in the spirit of beauty, congeniality and fun I will desist and chat about some silly questions, as usual from Sunday Stealing

Let’s dive in …

1. Who is your favourite singer?  What do you like about him or her? 

I have many favourite singers and in the interests of harmony I am going to single out two – one male and one female. It is difficult for me to select my favourites and if you were to ask me tomorrow I might select different ones. 

Anyway – today’s male singer is Devin Townsend. He is a Canadian singer whose genre of choice is mainly progressive rock/metal but also sings ambient rock too. Why have I chosen him? Because his voice range is spectacular, from low soothing ambience via plain rock singing to the ability to scream like the best screaming rock singers. I love the guy. Here is a wonderfully eccentric song that incorporates, ambience, choirs, Hawaiian, rock, metal and even a little dance and shows his vocal range as well as showing what a fun guy he is. The video is amazing and funny.

The female singer I am going to pick is Charlotte Wessels, a Dutch symphonic metal singer, formerly of the band Delain who has now started a solo career. She has an incredible voice and is at home singing metal as she is singing anything else. I have seen her live a few times now with Delain and her voice is as incredible on stage as it is in the studio.

Here she is in action and you will hopefully see what I mean.

2. Write about your first memory of going to the doctor.

I was about seven years old and I had an ear infection. I remember screaming all night because my ear felt like it was on fire and the doctor took a look and immediately diagnosed the problem. I was given penicillin and it cleared up really quickly. The relief was immense.

3. Write a poem about writing poems.

A poem? As long as it is just the one ...

Poetry is tricky; I’ve tried it many times.

The words can be found quickly. I just can’t find the rhymes.

It’s stories that I want to write. I’ll never be a poet.

Prose is king in my mad world; if only I could show it.

4. Write a poem about vacations.    

What – another poem? Are you serious? Okay – here goes.

I want to go on holiday, I’m bored here stuck at home.

A trip to France or Germany, perhaps even to Rome.

A visit to a foreign place can truly make me whole

Such journeys really cleanse the mind and liberate the soul

5. What is something interesting that no one knows about you?    

So after two poems, you want to get personal now? Is that it?

Okay – let me think. I can say “hello”, “thank you” and order a beer in the following languages:

English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, American, Australian, Czech and Portuguese. 

6.Why is it so important to help other people in need?   

The way I see it is that if something bad happens to me, then I would expect somebody to help me. It’s human nature. For that reason, I will always try to help people if I can because you never know when you are going to need help yourself.

7.Would you rather finish a project early or do it at the last minute?  Why?    

I would much rather finish a project early. My work is subject to deadlines and I always strive to complete it before then so that I have time to polish it – or maybe make some progress on the next chunk of work that will have its own deadline. 

People who leave things to the last minute suffer more stress in my experience. I hate stress.

8. If you had three months left to live, what would you do?     

I would travel the world if I were fit enough to. Or if I wasn’t fit to travel I would do my best to brain dump my thoughts into a book.

9. If you could be a flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be?  Why?    

That is a surreal question – the kind of question that would be asked at an interview to get into Oxford or Cambridge university. Also it is the kind of question that a pseudo-intellectual would revel in because it may make people believe that he is a smartarse.

Me? I refuse to answer it.

Oh, go on then.

I would be vanilla because I have pale skin, light hair and I also like the flavour.

10. What is the hardest thing about being a kid?

Not being an adult. When I was a kid I always wanted to be grown up because I was sick of people telling me what to do “for my own benefit”. Every adult tried to boss me around whether it was my parents or teachers or the old woman down the street who though that she was my boss because she was older than me. 

Since I was a kid I have had a problem with people telling me what to do but now I can simply refuse or at least decide for myself whether their goals meet mine. 

11. Would you rather be tall or short?  Why?    

I am about average height for a male at just under six feet tall and that is pretty good. The answer is therefore tall because you can see more. There is nothing worse, for example, than being at a gig when the tallest person in the building decides that he wants to stand in front of you. I have had some interesting chats with taller people under such circumstances and most will allow me to stand either just in front of them or just to their side. 

Equally, I am always happy to let a shorter person stand in front of me as long as it doesn’t impair my view of the stage.

12. What is the greatest challenge facing people in our world today?    

Global warming. There are people who think that it is a myth and continue to turn our world into a toilet. Personally, I think that it is too late – we are attempting to shut the stable door after the proverbial horse has bolted. 

It doesn’t help that we have world leaders who are complete climate change sceptics. Boris the Clown, for all his faults, at least has the wherewithal to realise what is happening and has set some targets. 

And thank goodness the Orange Goblin is no longer in power. We just need to get rid of people like Bolsonaro in Brazil.

13.What is the scariest experience you’ve ever had?    

I would say climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was my own fault. I am scared of heights and still I did it. I must have switched my brain off. Three hours I had to endure this torture – a torture that I stupidly volunteered for and actually paid money for too. 

What a stupid bloody idiot I was.

I’m glad I did it though – I will never do anything that stupid ever again.

14. Write a poem about music.    

Not another poem please! Oh go on then!

A song from many years ago, with lyrics built to last,

Can conjure up old memories from the dim and distant past.

A melody’s a mind machine that draws things back through time

Remembering a life gone by, a feeling so sublime.

15. Write about a favorite memory of something you did with your best friend.

My best friend is Mrs PM and all my memories with her are brilliant ones. She shares my passion for travelling so the best memories involve visits to weird and wonderful countries, such as Japan and Vietnam amongst many others. The best ones are always in Hong Kong because that’s where we got together.

Sunday 3 October 2021

Facebook Questions


Welcome to South Manchester on day 77 since Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. I’ve taken my fifth Covid-19 test this morning because I am now going to be working in the office two days a week and my company insists that we self-test – even though we aren’t necessarily supposed to tell them the result. It’s a weird idea if you ask me but it is good to test just to make sure. 

The test, like all of the others, was negative - so I don’t have the virus, by the way, in case you were wondering.

I didn’t take part in Sunday Stealing last week as I had a university reunion in London, and spent most of the weekend strolling down the South Bank visiting a few sites and popping into a couple of pubs. It was good to see these old mates of mine again. One guy came across from the US to visit his family and took the opportunity to see us. I’ve known these guys for 40 years now and I regard them as my best mates. Sadly we don’t see enough of each other but it is always fun when we do; it’s just like we are still at university. 

Anyway, let’s answer some more silly questions from Sunday Stealing. Don’t be misled by the title; these questions have been stolen from Facebook but aren’t about it.

1. Do you like bleu cheese? 

I love all cheese apart from blue cheese, although having said that, I quite like blue cheese sauce. To me, blue cheese looks inedible and, having tasted it, I can confirm that it tastes almost as bad as it looks. 

2. Coke or Pepsi? 

Neither. I have tried the brown fizzy sweetly revolting drink a lot  over the years and I really don’t like the taste of it. Both Coca-cola and Pepsi, to me at least, taste very similar. To be honest, I don’t really drink pop (for American readers, what you call soda, we call pop) because it is too sweet and sickly. If I feel really thirsty or have a mild hangover, I might just try a Sprite or 7-up but Coca-cola and Pepsi are near to the bottom of the list. The worst fizzy drink I have had is a Scottish drink called Irn Bru – it is utterly revolting. Oh – and root beer – oh – and Dr Pepper. All of those drinks are utterly disgusting.

3. Do you own a gun?

I live in the United Kingdom so the answer is a resounding no. I am curious about the American obsession with guns. It seems that it is easy to get a gun over there and is the right of all Americans to “keep and bear arms” because it was written in a document back in 1776. 

I am always appalled by the number of mass shootings that occur over in the US and the power that the NRA seem to have. The easiest way to stop these mass shootings is not to arm “the good guys”; it’s to make difficult to get a gun in the first place. 

Things like this hardly ever happen in the UK. There is a reason for that.

4. Hot dogs or cheeseburgers? 

Cheeseburgers. I like hot dogs but cheeseburgers are one of my many food weaknesses. It involves cheese and a burger – what’s not to like?

5. Favourite type of food?

I love so many different types of food that I cannot pinpoint one in particular as my favourite. I’m not keen on Thai food but I will try anything else. 

6. What do you drink in the morning? 

I usually start the day with a fruit juice and a cup of tea. 

7. Can you do a 100 pushups? 

I used to be able to when I was young and fit. I could probably do 100 push ups now but it would be in groups of five with a gap of ten minutes between them. I may have a go later just out of curiosity.

8. Tattoos? 

What about them? 

No – I don’t have any tattoos and I will never get a tattoo. They are two permanent and I am not a fan of them. Besides, as I get older and my skin starts to droop, the tattoo would become a parody of itself.

9. Do you wear glasses? 

Yes. Without my glasses I am like Mr Magoo. I could probably find my way around but it would be difficult. I can actually read without my glasses and in fact I prefer to do that – I have to hold the book right up to my face though. My lenses are really expensive as they are varifocals and specifically made for somebody who sits at a computer screen all day. To make matters worse, I suffer from astigmatism too.

10. Phobia? 

I am scared of heights and spiders. I am not fond of any insect if I’m honest. Anything with four legs or less is fine – anything with more can get out of my house.

11. Piercings? 

I don’t have piercings. I have never understood why people do that to themselves. The funniest piercings I saw were on a barman in rock club we used to have in Manchester. It was full of weird and wonderful people and played rock and metal music for people who hated the more conventional clubs. As I was ordering my beer I looked at the barman and thought that there was something wrong with his moustache. On closer inspection, it was because he has about ten large studs on his upper lip giving himself a metal moustache. 

That must have hurt.

12. Can you whistle? 

I can whistle with just my lips but I can’t do that weird whistle where you put your fingers in your mouth.

13. Surgeries? 

I’ve never had any surgery. I think I am quite lucky in that respect because I am a massive hypochondriac and would always fear the worst.

14. Like gambling?

Gambling can be fun if you are sensible with it. I’ve been to horse racing events and had a plan to enjoy it. 

There are usually seven races and the minimum you can bet on a race is £5. If you decide to just bet the minimum, no matter what, then the most you will lose is £35. What some people do is look at their winnings and decide that if they win a race or two the they will increase their stake on the next few races. They will probably lose it all. 

I once had one good meeting in Chester. Mrs PM and I were with friends and we decided to bet separately on the first race. She won and her £5 bet returned her £20. I lost, and suggested that we pool our resources as she seemed to be luckier than me. She refused thinking that she might be on a lucky streak. So I bet for myself on the remaining races. 

I won every single one. Out of all of our friends, Mrs PM was the only one who won a race apart from me and that was the first one. Instead of putting say £20 on the next race after I had won, I stuck to my £5 maximum. 

I ended up winning close to £200. 

After the race meeting, we went to the pub and I bought a round on my winnings and Mrs PM and the rest of them looked at me with frustrated and envious eyes. 

That was a one off. Every other race meeting I have been to, without exception, wins have been few and far between and the best I have done since is to just break even. If I counted that first race meeting where I won £200, I have lost money on the rest and probably lost that £200.

That’s what I mean – they will get you in the end – but if you are prepared to lose just a small amount, it can be fun. 

For casinos, and I have been to one or two, it is best to walk away if you win big. Just stop or be prepared to lose just a small amount.

Ultimately you will not win. The odds are stacked against you in any form of gambling. As long as you know that you can enjoy it.

Sorry for the rambling answer.

15. Do you like to dance?

Yes – sometimes. I am not a bad dancer – I can maintain the beat – but these days I just mess about and act a little silly while dancing. That said, I haven’t danced for about three years now.