Friday 30 December 2022

Goodbye 2022 - Part 3

Welcome to South Manchester where the weather is a little odd and changeable. The sun is out but at the same time, the sky is full of grey clouds, meaning that it will almost certainly rain a little later. 

I usually only do one summary post about the year that is about to finish but Sunday Stealing has another set of summary questions – so welcome to part 3. Shall we dive in?

1. What song will always remind you of last year?  Doesn't have to be a song released last year.

As I have said, my iPod died in September while I was on holiday in Greece forcing me to think about what I want to do with music. I embraced Spotify and a whole new outlook on music. I found myself listening to old and new albums that I probably wouldn’t have listened to. I have discovered a couple of new artists and explored the back catalogues of old favourites. 

A song that reminds me of the year? Well to be honest there are about 300 of them. Here they all are:

Only kidding – I will select this one that I particularly like. It is “Kill or Be Killed” by British prog superstars Muse from their latest album released earlier this year. This is Muse embracing their heavier side with a song that kind of reflects the topsy-turvy year it has been for the UK.

2. What do you wish you would have done more of?

I’m quite happy with what I managed to do in 2022 to be honest. I’ve already made plans for 2023 so let’s see if they come to fruition.

3. What do you wish you would have done less of?

Again, I think it was a good year for personal stuff; in terms of personal stuff it was a well-balanced year.

4. What was your favourite new TV program? Movie? Album/Songs? Or if you didn't pick up any new ones, what are you still watching/listening to? Any recommendations?

TV Programme – Stranger Things and The Boys. Both absolutely brilliant.

Movie – I would probably say The Batman – but there were a lot of others that were equally good.

Albums  - This year saw the release of the first Porcupine Tree album for years, called “CLOSURE/CONTINUATION”, as well as a new album by Devin Townsend called “Lightwork”. Here is a song from each.

5. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you? Did you feel differently? 

I am now 60 years old. On my birthday itself I went out with a few friends but I also saw my two lads a day or two before. We went to Copenhagen a little later and I guess that was slightly birthday related too. Physically I feel the same – and mentally too (an eighteen year old in a old man’s body).

6. What political or social issue stirred you the most? 

Where do I start? The Conservative party led first by the clown, then by an incompetent buffoon and now by a multimillionaire who does not relate at all to anybody in the UK apart from people with equal amounts of wealth. 

The downfall of Boris Johnson was brilliant to see but he was replaced by somebody who was actually worse – Liz Truss. She basically almost destroyed the economy in her brief 45 day reign. Now we have a man who is better than both but still shares the same ideals that have led to the UK becoming a laughing stock internationally. 

This is Boris the buffoon at his most stupid:

And here is the incompetent idiot who replaced him:

And this is the current incumbent:

God help us!

7. Who was the most interesting new person you met?

Most of the new people I met were interesting in their own way. I am not going to single anybody out.

8. What changed at your job?

I am now working part time and winding down to retirement in the next year or two. 

9. What changed in your home? 

We had the bathroom refurbished – and thank goodness we went on holiday while that happened.

10. Describe how a relationship changed. 

My relationship with my two cats changed. They now rule my life with a rod of iron.

11. Do you think you are still the same person that you were at the beginning of the year?  How so?

Apart from having entered my seventh decade on this planet, yes, I think I am largely the same person.

12. Summarize the year in three words or less. Bonus points for doing it in one word. Explain. 

Crap but improved.

Saturday 24 December 2022

Goodbye 2022 Part 2


Welcome to a pleasant and sunny South Manchester on Christmas Eve. I know last week I said that I wouldn’t post anything before Christmas but I have a couple of hours before we have to depart to Blackpool so here goes. 

We’re off to see the in-laws today and returning tomorrow to go to my eldest lads for Christmas lunch – the first in his new house. Both my sons will be there alongside me eldest lad’s girlfriend and her parents. 

It should be fun.

Here are some more end of year questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What did you do last year that you had not done before? 

I travelled to a new country, Denmark. We spent a couple of days in the capital, Copenhagen. The climate is similar to that of the UK and we went in October so it was quite autumnal. It was expensive but we had good fun there. 

I also dropped a day at work.

2. Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions/goals for the year and will you make/set more for next year?  What are they? What are your new ones?

Yes I did – largely. I continued learning Spanish and I got a chance to practice when we travelled to Estepona earlier this year. It helps that Mrs PM can speak a little Spanish too and we tried our best to chat to Spaniards in their own language – that is until they started speaking to quickly to us. 

I also started learning the piano and I can now play some very simple tunes. There is still a long long long long way to go. This is very beginning of a bigger project that will lead into retirement involving synthesisers and laptops in the future.

I have continued to write every day too – most of it is total and utter garbage but if you don’t do it, how can you expect to improve?

I aim to continue everything in 2023, travel to another new country (probably Morocco) and revisit Europe – Spain in particular. 

There will be a few other ones too - I am still thinking about them at the moment.

3. What was the best book you read this year?  How many did you read?

I read quite a few books this year. I enjoyed a couple of books by Matt Haig and Dean Koontz – they were probably my favourites.

4. Did anyone you know die? Or have a serious illness/injury?

Not this year, thankfully. 

5. What places have you visited? 

We travelled to Denmark, Belgium, Spain and Greece this year. It was brilliant because it is the first time I had travelled since the pandemic began. 

Next year I really want to make up for lost time and go travelling again. As I said above, we are planning to go to Morocco (a new country), Croatia, Spain and probably Italy. Also, we were planning a university reunion abroad earlier this year but that fell through. It is likely to happen next year and our planned destination is a city I know really well – Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

6. Any new pets? Lost a pet?

No – we still have our two hilarious cats, Ziggy and Star(dust). They are two years old and as I type they are chasing each other around the house like lunatics. They are really funny.

7. What would you like to have next year that you lacked this year (doesn't have to be a physical thing i.e. love, job security, peace of mind...)? 

I just want 2023 to be a peaceful and pleasant year. 2022 was not one of my favourites years but things are improving again. 

8. What date from last year will remain etched in your memory and why? 

Probably 8th October because that’s the day I turned 60.

9. What was your biggest achievement last year?

Getting out of the country for the first time in three years was a bit of an achievement. Continuing hobbies and plans by making them habits, in order to avoid procrastination. And basically still smiling in the face of some adversity in the first couple of months of 2022.

One other thing: I think I will manage an average of over 8000 steps per day this year which is more than I did last year. I am pretty close to having walked 1500 miles this year, which I should complete by New Year’s Eve.

10. Did you get sick or injured?

I caught Covid-19 in July and it coincided with the hottest days ever recorded in the UK, which I guess was a bit of a blessing in disguise. To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I just felt very weak and had a splitting headache that thankfully was relieved by paracetamol. It lasted two days really and on day three I felt much better. The problem was that I tested positive for ten days which meant I was effectively locked down again – as was Mrs PM who also had it. Even so, I have had a flu and Covid-19 jab this winter too. I think I will be immune for a while hopefully. 

People are still getting it in the UK but thankfully it is nowhere near as bad as it was and barely makes the news these days. 

11. What was the best thing you bought? 

I bought a new tablet which is fantastic when travelling. 

I also bought an electric piano and I think that is my favourite gadget – okay it is a musical instrument but it is also a gadget in my view. 

I also now subscribe to Spotify and it is opening up all sorts of music that I have either ignored or never encountered. I am not just talking about new artists and new albums; there is lots of old stuff out there that has not crossed my radar. 

12. Where did most of your disposable income go (money leftover after you pay for food, medical care, basic clothing, transportation and shelter)? 

Most of it went on holidays, clothes and the gadgets I have mentioned above.

And finally ...

This really IS my last post before Christmas - so once again Merry Xmas one and all. 

Saturday 17 December 2022

December Plans

Welcome to a dull and rainy South Manchester. We’ve just had a cold snap where the temperature reached a low of -10 degrees Celsius – most unpleasant. Now it is getting warmer and with it comes the rain. 

This is how mad weather is in the UK. Last Monday it was -5 degrees Celsius in Manchester and next Monday it is forecast to be 14 degrees Celsius. 


Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. My plans for December 

We are half way through December now so there are only about two weeks left. In those two weeks, I have just two days of work left in 2022 (my last day is on Tuesday). Most of the Christmas celebrations associated with work have happened already. Next week will be a quiet one I think until Christmas Eve. We are going for a meal with our neighbours on Thursday and on Christmas Eve itself we are off to Blackpool to see Mrs PM’s parents. We return on Christmas Day and are off to North Manchester to spend the rest of the day with my youngest lad, my eldest lad and his girlfriend and her parents. It should be fun. After that I will be going for a couple of beers with a couple of mates and then we will be spending New Year’s Eve with some friends.

2. How energized I feel at this point in the year 

I am usually quite tired in the winter and December is the most energised that I ever feel because of Christmas and the general feeling of euphoria for the festive season. I always look forward to the Christmas break from work and that also helps to give me a break until the worst two months of the year, January and February, when it is dark and cold and there is bugger all to look forward to apart from spring.  

3. The best things about the holiday season 

I enjoy the social aspect of this time of year and the break from work. We usually get together with family and friends and the general excitement is enough to keep me happy, despite the cold and short days. 

4. Something that changed my perspective on life 

Quite a few things that have happened have changed my perspective on life. Most recently, the loss of my sister made me reconsider my priorities and led to my decision to go part time slightly earlier than planned. But I generally do examine my life on a fairly regular basis anyway and my immediate plans for things like retirement are still in place and on schedule.

5. What I seem to get the most comments about 

I assume you are talking about the blog here. The most commented posts I think are the ones where I have been slightly controversial. The biggest by far is when I basically declared that Shakespeare is rubbish. At the time, I didn’t think it would be that controversial and I was pleasantly surprised that some people who love the bard commented to discuss things in a civil manner. The purpose of the post was not to be critical for the sake of being critical; it was to tell people why I genuinely think that he is overrated. 

Here is a comment that I particularly liked:

Great post. Not just an "I hate Shakespeare post" but a worked out argument. Still I disagree with you, but then, I would, being a fully paid up writer of the 55% explanations!  So much did I enjoy your post, I have blogged about it at The Shakespeare Standard. There's a link to the rebuttal. You'll find that you're in good company on the plots (one Vladimir Nabokov shares some of your view) but you might like to have a go at a Six Word Shakepeare and cut down on those notes!

One or two keyboard warriors attacked my views - but I have a thick skin so I can take it. Here is one of them:

I found this drivel by accident. I'm just amazed that there are people out there like you, very many people in fact, who wear their ignorance and foolishness so proudly. I thought I was reading the ramblings of some over-opinionated teenager until I saw what an old fart you were.

You can read the post here, if you like.

Shakespeare is Rubbish 

6. The changes I’ve made to my style 

Again I assume you are talking about the blog. I haven’t really made any changes to my style which is to be honest, self-deprecating, slightly controversial but above all try to be funny (which I fail miserably at mostly). I think some of my early posts were a little amateurish and now they are still amateurish but slightly better. 

I don’t really care whether people like my blog or not. I like it and that’s all that counts.

7. What gets in the way of my success 

Procrastination and laziness. Over the past few years I have taken on both of these negative qualities and I think that I have improved and (almost) overcome both. 

Also shyness and the willingness to sit in my comfort zone have been a hindrance in the past too but I feel that I am winning the war with those two nemeses too.

8. News sources I trust the most 

What news sources can you trust these days? Almost all of them are biased and a lot of them are full of lies. 

I tend to watch the BBC news and read the BBC news website. They are driven to be impartial and that can be infuriating, especially when it comes to things like Brexit and Boris Johnson. 

Recently a newsreader was suspended for saying that she was “gleeful” that Boris Johnson was not going to try to run for Prime Minister again:

Another BBC presenter recently got into trouble for saying that when covering Brexit they could find thousands of experts who thought it was a terrible idea, but they had to be impartial and find those who said it was a great idea – and they could barely find any with that viewpoint.

It’s difficult to trust any news source these days but I think BBC is one of the better ones.

9. Fictional characters that would easily fit into my life 

Are there any fictional characters who love progressive rock music, are massive fans of Walsall football club, love to travel and like a beer or two while at the same time being a total geek?

I don’t know of any. Do you?

10. My relationship with spirituality 

One of scepticism. 

I don’t mind people being religious as I think it can give comfort. If you are person who regularly goes to church, practices a religious faith and reads the Bible on a regular basis then keep on doing it if it makes you happy.

I won’t do those things. I spent the first sixteen years of my life as a Roman Catholic indoctrinated by guilt, led to believe that the Bible was the source of all knowledge, even though it contradicts itself. I pointed this out to a Jehovah’s witness on my doorstep once (I actually like talking to them) and was told that Satan planted dinosaur bones in the Earth to sow doubt into the minds of non-believers like me. It was an interesting if not flawed perspective.

As for non-religious spirituality, I don’t really know what it is – and this makes me sceptical. People feel “spiritual” if they want to “grow” personally and become a better person – at least that’s what I think it means. Religion is something that achieves this because you become closer to God. And those who aren’t religious obviously feel that they want to adhere to their own values and grow as that person.

The problem is that those values are different for every single person in the world and if you are not being led by religion, how do you define them? People are only experts in their own happiness and fulfilment – not mine.

That’s why I am sceptical. For me, I just want to be happy not follow a doctrine created by another person that tells me how to be happy in their probably flawed view. 

Deep answer there and worthy of a more thought and a proper blog post. 

Apologies for that. 

11. How I feel when I’m being retrospective 

I look back at the past with happiness mainly. There are some bad times but mostly I get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I look back over my life. I listen to music a lot and older songs take me back in time to those places and occasions. 

I love it.

12. My thoughts on AI technology 

I work in IT and although I don’t personally use AI software, I know people who do. Now if you are a science fiction fan you will no doubt be afraid of AI because of stories like The Terminator, where in the future, we go too far with AI and machines become self-aware and rebel against their creators, i.e. us, with maximum prejudice. 

All AI is at the moment is the ability for software to resolve problems on its own with reasoned logic. There is a lot of it about at the moment, for example with software that recommends things for you to watch or buy based on past experience, for example when you log onto Amazon and it offers you things that are similar to things you have bought in the past.

It is all very clever and is getting better. 

The bottom line is though that all of this was written and created by people like me, and has limitations based on the algorithms that have been programmed into it. 

But if can be abused and that is, if anything, the scary thing. 

Will machines become self-aware in the future and try to rid the planet of mankind (like in the Matrix and the Terminator)?

I doubt it. It’s all science fiction and if like me you are a huge fan of science fiction then you can believe anything.

13. The odd/weird things I do when nobody else is around 

That’s a personal question but I am all for a little self-deprecation (see above). Basically if I am alone in the house and I have some decent music on, I will sing along with it very loudly and sometimes even pick up my air guitar and play along with the song as if I am the guitarist. To something like this:

I have done this in public though (in the past) – so people know about it.

Yes - I am a complete idiot, aren't I?

14. What I do when I can’t sleep 

I usually pick up my Kindle and carry on reading. It works 95% of the time. But it is a rare occurrence. The last time it happened was when I accidentally had a caffeinated coffee in the evening (I don’t drink caffeine these days).

15. The winter/holiday season tasks I enjoy

We’ve just been to the supermarket to get in provisions for Christmas. I don’t normally like shopping but this particular shop is not too bad. Apart from that, nothing sticks out as being an enjoyable task.

And finally…

Since this is almost certainly my last post before Christmas, can I take this opportunity to wish everybody, who is unfortunate enough to stumble onto this random set of words, a very Merry Christmas.

May Father Christmas (or Santa Claus if you prefer) bring you everything you need to make you happy.

Saturday 10 December 2022

Goodbye 2022

Greetings from a very cold South Manchester. Winter has well and truly arrived with temperatures plummeting to -5 degrees Celsius and lower in some places. And this morning I woke up to snow. I hate snow but it looks cute from the windows of my warm house. That said, I have been outside wrapped up completely to trudge the snow-covered streets and parks for my usual daily three to four mile walk. 

Today I will just spend the rest of the day at home watching the World Cup quarter finals, which involve England, who are playing the World Champions France. 

I suspect we won’t beat them – but I hope we do.

This week’s Sunday Stealing covers the year 2022 – which has been a mixed year for me. I usually have an end of year summary so I shall bring that forward this year and dive in. 

Care to join me?

1. Wintertime comfort foods, habits, hobbies 

As you may have gathered from my introduction, I usually maintain my walking regime during the winter months, but I tend to spend more time indoors. I hate winter I have to say; it is cold, wet, dark and miserable. December is bearable because of the Christmas fun that we have but once we settle into January and February there is nothing left to look forward too but spring – and that can’t come soon enough for me. 

We usually eat wholesome stodgy food during this period – soups, casseroles, stews and that kind of thing. I usually maintain my habits (and I have a few) – there is no reason not to. I shall be glad when it is over – bring on March I say.

2. Favourite seasonal/holiday music and songs 

I usually listen to the same music during the winter period but of course it is Christmas and everywhere you go, you hear seasonal songs, carols and ditties. 

Here’s an unusual one from one of my favourite bands. Crank it up!

3. The people I want to spend more time with next year 

I aim to spend more time with my family next year. I lost my sister in 2021 and it has made my remaining sister and I much closer so I will aim to spend more time with her and her other half. They live in Harrogate which is about 80 miles away. I also have family in Walsall (where I was born) so I will aim to see them more too. We actually all met in Sheffield last weekend and it was good fun. 

4. How much I could change my life in one year if I focused 

I think I have changed a bit in the last couple of years. I think if I focussed on one thing for a year I could actually do it. I would have to be interested though. I have some plans for 2023 so we will see if I have improved this time next year.

5. The valuable lessons I learned this year 

It’s been a year of highs and lows. I have realised that I love travelling still, having managed to get abroad, after the pandemic, four times to Spain, Belgium, Greece and a new country, Denmark. I aim to reach five next year, all in Europe before spreading my wings further afield in 2024.

The big decision this year was to go part time and I have never looked back. It is great working four days a week now and I used the extra time sorting out my sister’s affairs and while that is continuing even now, it seems that purely focussing on things I can achieve a lot (see last question). 

My retirement plan is still on schedule and I will spend 2023 looking for new hobbies and activities to try when it eventually happens. 

6. How I’d describe 2022 in 10 words 

A year to forget. There have been a lot lately.

7. My favourite reads of 2022 

I’ve reacquainted myself with a favourite author from a decade or two ago – Dean Koontz. I’ve read three by him this year.

I also read an old classic too – Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I read Atomic Habits by James Clear – a book I would recommend. I have been trying to create positive habits for a while now and while there was a lot of overlap with the book, I learned a few more tricks.

I also read a couple of science fictions epics by another favourite author, Peter F Hamilton, and a couple of quirky sci-fi novels by Matt Haig. 

It’s been a good year for books.

8. Best movies I saw in 2022 

I enjoyed The Batman – even though Robert Pattinson was playing the Caped Crusader. To be honest, I didn’t get to the cinema this year. I will change that next year I think. 

9. Favourite TV shows/episodes of 2022 

I’ve enjoyed a few things this year. Stranger Things was absolutely brilliant, as was Squid Game. I’ve also enjoyed the Marvel series such as The Falcon and Winter Soldier and Hawkeye. I enjoyed Star Trek Discovery, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Picard

Also, right up there, was The Orville, Seth McFarlane’s homage to Star Trek.

I also enjoyed The Mandalorian even though Star Wars isn’t really my thing. 

Dr Who was also good this year, featuring the last few specials with Jodie Whittaker playing the Time Lord.

And last but not least, I watched the whole of Line of Duty – a BBC series about corrupt police officers. Well worth it if you like that kind of thing.

10. Memorable experiences from 2022 

Travelling for the first time in two or three years was the best, even though I caught Covid-19 from my weekend in Belgium. It was great to go to foreign places and I hope to do more of the same next year.

Catching Covid-19 was quite memorable. To me it was like having a mild form of flu but with a splitting headache. I caught it on the hottest days of the year – a record breaking 40 degrees in the UK – so we were stuck in the house – probably a good thing. I felt better after two days but given that I was still testing positive I had to self-isolate with Mrs PM (who also had it) for about ten days. 

I also returned to watching cricket too, seeing a test match, a couple of 20-20’s and a new thing called The Hundred.

I also turned 60 this year – so I am officially an old git!

There are probably more but I can’t recall them all. 

11. Three people I enjoyed spending time with this year 

All of my family and friends. I won’t name them individually – they know who they are.

12. How I handled challenges this year 

I was more driven this year. Things have to be done, so I just did it. Some things were good, some things were bad – but just grab that bull by the horns and try to wrestle it to the ground. Sometimes you can do it.

13. What I’m leaving behind in 2022 

My 50’s and full time working.

14. How I changed most from beginning to end of the year 

I think I am a stronger person than I was at the beginning of the year, mainly because, as I said, I have had to attack things that are out of my comfort zone. 

And I am also officially an old git. 

15. What I want to tell myself before the New Year

2023 will be a much better and more interesting year. I actually believe that.

Sunday 27 November 2022

More Silly Questions


Welcome to a dull and boring South Manchester with a cloudy grey sky and fairly mild temperatures for the time of year. At least it isn’t raining.

Let’s dive straight into some very silly questions from Sunday Stealing, shall we? 

1. What mythical creature would improve the world most if it existed?

There are so many incredible mythical creatures that exist in folklore and picking just one to unleash on the word in order to improve it is a big ask. Most of them would cause chaos either on a global scale or certainly in the area where they were unleashed. 

Regular readers will know that I am fascinated with vampires, for example, but the ultimate endgame for such creatures would be to turn the whole world into vampires, something that wouldn’t be a good thing for humanity at all.

The same could be said for werewolves. 

Dragons might be good but if you have watched Game of Thrones or read ancient myths you will know that they would pretty much destroy the world.

You might be able to use a gorgon, perhaps, as a deterrent to crimes of any kind. If you murder somebody, you have to look into the gorgon’s eyes and become a statue. Harsh but perhaps fair.

I quite like the idea of having a Kraken in your navy as a deterrent against war. Can you imagine a World Leader screaming “UNLEASH THE KRAKEN!”? 

It could lead to that country dominating the world, sadly. 

I guess I would choose something safe that wouldn’t harm people but charm them. I think the obvious choice is therefore the introduction of unicorns or maybe centaurs.

2. What inanimate object do you wish you could eliminate from existence?

That’s an interesting question. I think it would have to be cigarettes and anything else you can smoke, like cigars, pipes etc. One of the best policy decisions in the UK was when the smoking ban was introduced. 

Apologies if you smoke – I have never done so – apart from the time I tired it when I was 20 years old and drunk (I tried it because I was drunk actually). I promptly threw up and decided then that I was an idiot for trying it and that I would never ever try it again.

3. What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?

It would have to be a piece of horrific abstract art. I am not a fan of contemporary art at all and when somebody tries to convince me that the amateurish splat on a piece of canvas that is adorning the wall of their living room, I just node and say “very nice”. I would never say “What’s wrong with you? How much did you pay for that weird splat of vomit on your wall? Are you mad?”

I don’t like hurting people’s feelings. 

I just stay quite. 

But I have seen some horrible art in people’s houses. 


4. What would be the absolute worst name you could give your child?

There are few Christian names that I could give a child which would be laughable given what my surname is. I won’t go there. However, they are insignificant compared to some of the weird names that so-called celebrities have chosen to give to their children just to be unique (or in my view pander to their own weird tastes). Here are a few:

Moxie Crimefighter

Moon Unit

Bronx Mowgli


Fifi Trixibelle

Audio Science

X Æ A-12

Diva Muffin

Pilot Inspektor

Future Zahir

Poor kids. Stupid parents.

5. What would be the worst thing for the government to make illegal?

Beer and music. Actually given the stupidity of the current mob in charge of the UK, I wouldn’t put anything past them. At the moment, for example, they are trying to pass a bill to seriously restrict protests.

6. What are some of the nicknames you have for customers or coworkers?

I work with a good friend who happens to be Scottish and he calls me Dilbert because in his eyes I look like him. I disagree but there you go. In retaliation, more than anything else, I call him Hawkeye. I have never heard him utter the stock Scottish phrase “Och aye the noo!” but my name for him is a representation of that (“Hawkeye the New!” – get it?).

I have had other names for customers like, “The Smiling Viper”, for a man I had to work with who had a menacing smile (that he thought was charming) when he was having a go at you. 

7. If peanut butter wasn’t called peanut butter, what would it be called?

Mrs PM would call it “abomination” because she hates peanuts and cannot understand why somebody would make a sandwich spread out of them. 

To be honest, I think it is a bit weird and I don’t eat it – though I have had it in the past. It seems to be more an American thing and they have some weird food I have to say (sorry dear American readers – but you do). 

For example “peanut butter and jelly sandwiches” – that is totally weird and something that I have resisted trying myself. In the UK we don’t call it “jelly”, we call it “jam”, but whatever it is called “peanut butter and jam” also sounds like it tastes totally wrong. 

To answer your question, I wouldn’t call it “abomination” like Mrs PM – I would call it “peanut spread” or something like that.

8. What movie would be greatly improved if it was made into a musical?

I don’t really like musicals if I’m honest. It seems crazy to me that characters can just burst into song and dance around to keep the story going. If I were walking down the street and saw a group of people having a conversation in the form of a song and dancing around like lunatics, I would probably call the police.

I would have to pick a movie that I think is utterly terrible to turn into a musical but, quite frankly, it couldn’t be any worse, could it?

Let’s go for “Love, Actually” – one of the worst films I have ever seen. Adding music couldn't make it any worse.

9. What would be the worst “buy one get one free” sale of all time?

It would have to be something horrible, like extracting a tooth. 

“We’ll take out the rotten tooth and then remove a healthy one at no extra cost!”

10. What is the funniest name you have actually heard used in the real world?

I once received a letter from a Mr Snowball that made me laugh. We also have a local weather reporter in the North West of England and her very apt name is Sara Blizzard.

We also had a contractor working with us for a while and while his name wasn’t funny, I had to resist making jokes to him – his name was Phil Collins (after the famous singer/drummer from Genesis). 

I also like the names of some famous actors – like Edward Woodward (Or as I used to say when when I was a kid – Ed Woodwoodwood) and Rip Torn. I also like the name of the crooner from the 1970’s called Englebert Humperdinck. There have been some great names in rock like Philthy Animal Taylor, Rat Scabies, Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten – okay they aren’t their real names but they are quite amusing.

11. What sport would be the funniest to add a mandatory amount of alcohol to?

Are you talking about adding the alcohol to me or the people taking part in the sport? 

If it is me, then it would have to be golf – the most tedious spectator sport. Just a bunch of weirdly dressed people hitting a tiny white ball with an odd shaped bat to get it into a tiny hole. Being forced to watch that while drunk might make it more enjoyable and less tedious.

I imagine that golf would also benefit from making these odd players quaff enough alcohol to make them do daft things while trying to hit the ball with the golf bat. 

Yes – golf for both please.

12. What would be the coolest animal to scale up to the size of a horse?

It would have to be an animal that doesn’t eat meat (in case they realise that we could be a new thing to try on their diet) and it would have to be limited to having four legs, thus ruling out all insects and spiders.

I guess a hamster would be a safe option.

13. What set of items could you buy that would make the cashier the most uncomfortable?

That’s an odd question because I am sure that cashiers would be used to selling the wares in their shops no matter how odd they are. Even in something like a sex shop – they would be used to accepting cash for all of the potentially perverted items in their inventory.

I guess it would be something like an odd book in a bookshop – something like “How to be a stalker” or “Do it yourself gender change”.

14. What is something that you just recently realized that you are embarrassed you didn’t realize earlier?

Too many things to list here. Mispronunciation of foreign words, mishearing song lyrics and being caught out when singing them loudly, and mostly saying something I thought was true in front of my kids and then finding out it was totally wrong – children never forget – even when they are 26 and 29 – and they love to remind you in front of people about how stupid you are.

15. What are some fun and interesting alternatives to war that countries could settle their differences with?

It would have to be something benign, like a game of football, a quiz or a silly content like “It’s a Knockout” or “Jeux Sans Frontiers”, a very silly show from the 1970’s. Here is a clip from the international contest that featured, the UK and some of our European neighbours. Don’t ask what is going on – but it is quite amusing and we could solve a lot of international issues by resurrecting it, I feel.

Sunday 20 November 2022

Hodgepodge Part Two

Welcome to a sunny but cold South Manchester in November. 

This month really is miserable, isn’t it (unless you live Down Under of course) but I am pleasantly surprised by the blue sky and sunshine today I have to say. 

One good thing about November is that it drifts into December so there is an element of Christmas cheer about the place. For example the Christmas Markets are in full swing in the city centre. Mrs PM and I went into the city yesterday and had a wander around the markets. The whole city centre was packed full of shoppers and people just mooching about. We enjoyed it.

Anyway, Christmas is a month or so away – there will be more of that to come later, I don’t doubt. 

Shall we answer some daft questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What’s your favourite childhood memory?

I’m not sure to be honest. Leaving school was great – though I wasn’t a child then (I was 18). I guess it would have to be one of the holidays I took with the family in England and Wales. In those days, international travel was reserved for those with a lot more money than we had, so we ended up at the traditional holiday resorts such as Brighton, Blackpool, Skegness, Rhyl, Minehead, Bournemouth and other places like that. Basically we would go away for two weeks at a time and spend quality time with our parents and actually dare to walk into the freezing cold sea off the coast of England. 

Summers in the UK can be quite hit and miss because of the weather – but when it is hot, it can be really hot and at such times, especially in the 1970’s the beaches would be full of people. 

I’ll pick our second holiday to Brighton because I remember we met an Italian family and we got on famously.

2. Do you sing in the shower?

I have been known to on occasions, usually when there is nobody home. Sadly, the neighbours can probably hear my renditions of classic rock masterpieces, which is making me feel a little self-conscious actually. I wonder why sometimes they have a puzzled look (with a slight snigger) when we chat.

3. What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

I would say a trip to Australia from Mrs PM’s mum. It was her 60th birthday and she and he other half wanted to travel with seasoned travellers, i.e. Mrs PM and I. Australia is an expensive place to get to and so we politely refused – but they insisted and Mrs PM decided to accept. Basically she paid for the flights and some of the accommodation and we tried to pay her back on the trip – at least some of it. 

It was a great holiday and of course I want to go back again. I will do one day if I can, now that we can afford it more easily.

4. Do you prefer being indoors or outdoors?

It depends. During the summer or on holiday I spend a lot of time outdoors. Now in November it is colder and more rainy so being outdoors is less pleasant, which means that during the winter I tend to stay in more (though I do go for a 4 mile walk almost every day, whatever the weather).

5. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?

I spoke to somebody at the bank last week. It was a tedious chat.

6. What do you keep in your bag or handbag?

I don’t own a handbag but I do have a rucksack that I take to work. It contains my work laptop, an umbrella, a couple of notebooks, my work pass, a few pens, a set of headphones and a few other bits and bobs, including an exploding umbrella (a small one that opens up magically when you press a button). 

7. Can you knit?

Absolutely not. I may strive to be creative but knitting looks difficult and extremely tedious (apologies if you love knitting).

8. How many hours do you sleep each night?

I sleep seven and a half hours on average. Last nightf or example I went to bed about midnight and I woke up naturally between at 7:45. I can get by on less if required but I usually catch up by falling asleep in front of a football match on TV.

9. Who is your role model?

I don’t have a specific role model at the moment. I do look at other people I know and analyse their strengths. For example, I have a few friends who can just walk into a room and make people laugh, even if they don’t know them. I sometimes try to emulate that myself with varying degrees of success. Basically if I know somebody with a trait that I would like to improve in myself, I try to learn from them – even at my age. 

10. Who was your first ever pen pal?

My only pen pal was a German girl whose name I have completely forgotten. I tried writing to her in German and she wrote to me in English. It worked for a while but I got bored of doing it as it became a chore.

11. What has been your favourite job so far?

I have been in IT for 38 years now so you may think that my chosen long term career is my favourite job. 

You would be wrong. 

While I was at university, I had three stints being a postman, delivering letters and parcels around Walsall. I have to say that I loved it. The introvert within me was delighted walking around the streets with a bag full letters and parcels. It was very peaceful and relaxing (apart from walking quite a lot – but I was really fit in those days so it was no hardship).

12. What is your favourite go-to recipe for mid-week meals?

I hate cooking but I can actually cook. When I do cook I usually go for something that is quick – I would say chicken pasta. It tastes good too.

13. How often do you eat in a restaurant?

Fairly often. We tend to go once or twice a fortnight, usually on Friday or Saturday. Today we will be having Sunday lunch in a restaurant, washed down with a pint or two of the finest ale the restaurant has to offer.

14. Are you close to your family?

Physically no. 

My nearest relative, my eldest lad, lives in North Manchester. The rest of my family are scattered with some living in Walsall, others in and around Blackpool and also in Harrogate and Whitby in Yorkshire. We can get to each other within an hour or two if necessary.

However, we are all very close as a family. We all get along really well and to be honest we don’t see them as often as we should. I think I will be seeing all of them at some stage over the Christmas period.

15. Which phone app could you not live without?

The ones I use most are Chrome, Duolingo, mail, Whatsapp, Googlemaps, You Tube, Google Calendar, my camera, and the various banking apps, oh – and my habit app, and notes. All of those really.

16. If you could afford to volunteer full time for a charity, which would it be?

I don’t know to be honest. There are a lot of worthy causes out there and choosing one would be difficult.

17. Do you have any siblings?

Yes – I have two sisters. Sadly, one of them passed away last year, which was a total shock. It has brought me and my other sister a lot closer (we were close anyway). 

18. Who is your favourite YouTuber?

I don’t do influencers or any of that nonsense. I guess it would have to be Jonathan Pie who is a comedian pretending to be a newsreader who gets caught off guard when no longer broadcasting, during which time, in the foulest language possible, tells us what he REALLY thinks of the news. I’ve actually seen him live and he is hilarious. 

Here he is talking about the resignations of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. 

Be warned – if you don’t like strong, bad language please do not watch them. 

19. Have you ever been a bridesmaid or a groomsman?

I assume by groomsman you mean “best man”? That’s what we call them over here in the UK. No, I haven’t been a best man – and I’m quite pleased about that. There is a lot of pressure to be funny at the wedding speech and I have never fancied that.

You will be pleased to know that I haven’t been a bridesmaid either.

Sunday 13 November 2022

Swap Bot Part Three

Welcome to a sunny south Manchester. It’s November and the weather is actually not that bad. Usually at this time of year it is cold as the first signs of winter appear. At the moment, though, it is reasonably warm, so much so that I have been walking outside in my summer coat during the day.

I would like to add my congratulations to the England T20 cricket squad who this morning won the T20 Cricket World Cup, beating Pakistan in the final by five wickets. It was a very interesting match to watch and it now means that England are the current holders of both one day international World Cup trophies. 

Well done, boys.

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. If you could witness any event from history, what would it be?

I’m not really a religious person but I think I would like to go back in time to see who Jesus was and what he really did. I am a Roman Catholic by baptism, though not practicing (for the last 44 years at least) and so I was indoctrinated into believing that this man was indeed the son of God and performed miracles like they were part of every day life. 

I would just like to be an observer of this to judge for myself. I think it would be really interesting. And if indeed he did perform these miracles, I would love to chat to him about it. 

2. What do you think about conspiracy theories?

I absolutely love them – the more bizarre the better. With the advent of the Internet, such theories are exploding all over the place. Here is a list of my ten current favourites:

The Earth is flat – this one makes me howl with laughter.

The moon landing was fake.

The Earth is hollow.

We are being ruled by a secret group of lizard people.

Covid-19 is a hoax – I’ve had Covid-19 – I know it isn’t a hoax.

Humanity is a race that was planted on Earth by an alien species.

JFK was assassinated by the US government.

Scientology beliefs are real.

We are all living in the Matrix.

3. Do you like cartoons? Do you have /had a favourite one?

I used to really like cartoons as a kid. Nowadays, the only one I watch are repeats of the ones I used to watch as a kid if I see them and, of course, the Simpsons, which is really an adult show masquerading as a children’s cartoon.

Here is an example of my favourite cartoon as a kid:

and of course now:

4. What did you most dislike in school times?

Most of it. I was very clever and went to a really good school but I hated the discipline because it was more prominent in my school. Don’t get me wrong, I had some good times there but I won’t look back on those days with fondness. I much prefer my time at university which was absolutely brilliant.

5. How do you think the end of the world will look like?

It’s difficult to say but recent events are making me think we are seeing the start of it:

The Covid-19 pandemic, a nutter in Russia walking ever closer to a line that we should never cross by invading a foreign country while having a huge stash of nuclear weapons and finally most if not all nations on the planet ignoring the signs of global warming.

I hope I am wrong of course. I don’t think the end of the world will be a quick event; it will be a slow drawn out catastrophe that happens over a decade or so.

6. What sounds are in your opinion relaxing? The sound of the sea? Traffic? Vacuum cleaner? Combine harvester on the field? Some kind of music? Birds singing?

I love the sound of the sea and I am always relaxed when I walk along a shore. Also, ambient music really works for me (I sometimes listen to it while working). Something like this:

7. Which would you take: The well-worn path or the road less travelled?

It depends. Most of my life I have travelled the well-worn path but occasionally I have used the road less travelled. The past five years, however, for me have been the latter, which has its ups and downs. I don’t think I can help it.

I guess I will say at the moment and for the foreseeable future, it will be the road less travelled.

8. What was the last thing you read?

I’ve read a few Dean Koontz books this year, rekindling my relationship with his books (I  used to read a lot of his novels in the 1990’s and 2000’s. The latest one I read was this one:

9. What is one thing that has stumped you so hard you won't ever forget it?

It has to be the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. We are now paying the price and I simply can’t work out why we did such a stupid thing.

10. What are you interested in that most people aren’t?

I like a lot of obscure music by bands that a lot of people haven’t heard of and being a total geek, I like a lot of weird and wonderful books, shows and movies that people would raise an eyebrow at.

11. What’s something you really resent paying for?

We in the UK are constantly ripped off. Everything is more expensive and I hate paying the extra price for things like petrol, music etc. compared to other parts of the world. 

12. What did you think was cool when you were young but isn’t cool now?

I had a mullet in the 1980’s that I absolutely loved. It was removed by accident (here is the story of how it happened).

These days the mullet is mocked mercilessly. I still love that style.

13. If you could choose a different time period and place to be born, when and where would it be?

I think it would have to be in the future. Given that I am a technophile, constantly fascinated with technological improvements, development and evolution, I really want to see where we are in say 100 or 200 years – or even further in the future. 

I would like therefore to be born in the year that time travel is invented or discovered and let’s take it from there. I would still like to be in the UK (if we haven't self-destructed by then, of course).

14. Do you think cats have any regrets?

HA HA HA HA HA. Of course they don’t. All the cats that I have owned walk all over me like I am a piece of rubbish festering in a gutter. Regrets? Not a chance.

15. What question do you hate answering?

I don’t mind answering any question. I’ll have a go at answering any question. Of course, being a human being, I may choose to answer it truthfully, exaggerate a bit, exaggerate a lot or just tell a downright lie.

Go on – try me!

Saturday 5 November 2022



Welcome to a damp and overcast South Manchester on November 5th, the day when we in the UK burn an effigy of a man called Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. He failed but for some reason we still celebrate this fact.

Most bonfires will have an effigy of poor Guy Fawked. However, in Edenbridge, they have decided to burn an effigy of Liz Truss instead. I guess in a way you could argue that she tried to destroy the UK in her brief and disastrous stint as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Liz Fawkes

Personally, I would have three effigies; Truss, the Clown and a man who was once described as a “haunted pencil”, a man called Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man with traditional values, but sadly traditions that were popular in Victorian Britain. 

A haunted Victorian pencil

Thankfully, Rees-Mogg has now been relegated from the cabinet into the obscurity of the back benches where he can hopefully keep his horrendous views to himself.

Anyway, as I said, today is Bonfire Night and there will be loads of bonfires throughout the United Kingdom and lots of firework displays to accompany them. I shall not be attending any myself but there will be armies of people doing so, despite the potentially terrible weather.

Anyway, if you want to read about the gunpowder plot that gave birth to our tradition, here is a post I wrote about it back in 2009. 

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1.    Have you ever written to a celebrity?  Did they respond?

I once tweeted Joe Satriani to say that I loved his new album, which at the time was Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards. I don’t think he replied.

 2.  Do you read letters immediately, or wait until ready to reply

I don’t get letters these days from anybody other than banks, or other people expecting to me to part with my money. I usually read them as soon as they arrive and, once I have dealt with them, I add them to the paper recycling bin.

 3.   My preferences when it comes to reading

I am weird, so I like weird books. My favourite genres include science fiction, and anything of that ilk. I used to really like horror but I am less into such books these days, reading only the occasional one. I also like a good thriller, especially if it involves spies and conspiracies, like the works of Robert Ludlum, the man who created Jason Bourne.

 4.   What I'm least likely to change my mind about.

Politics. I am fairly stubborn in my beliefs and when it comes to watching and listening to people whose views are opposite to mine, I grant them the courtesy of listening and trying to understand them, but I struggle. 

For example, when the UK committed a colossal act of self-harm by leaving the European Union, I was and remain beside myself in anger because I simply cannot understand why there would be any benefit. What is most frustrating is that those who voted to leave simply cannot justify why they did so or even list any advantages of doing so. 

I am still angry about it after all these years, especially when I travel to the EU and now have to justify why I am entering their country, when before all I had to do was show my passport. 

In the interests of keeping myself calm, I rarely engage with people about Brexit these days. I prefer to walk away or just insist upon changing the subject.

 5.   The topics I would get wrong about during trivia

I am very good with music unless it comes after the year 2000, in which case I am absolutely useless. Anything to do with art also bamboozles me (mainly because I am not a fan of art and tend to avoid it). 

I am not bad at quizzes because I have a weird ability to retain useless information. Mrs PM is quite astounded when we watch a TV quiz because I can answer a lot of the questions. I don’t fancy ever going on a TV show though.  

 6.   What I'm hopeful about right now? 

Given the economic crisis in the UK and the war going with Russian nutcase Vlad the invader, I struggle to have hope about anything.

There are signs though. The current UK government are in a mess and their position in the polls is low enough to suggest that they will be turfed out when the next election comes around. 

I just hope that Putin either changes his mind or is overthrown before things escalate more.

 7.   Philosophies I've learned/embraced from others.

I’m always fascinated by rampant extroverts and either consciously or subconsciously picked up some of their traits. I have also tried to become more tolerant as the years go by, because, as some people have told me, there is nothing you can do about things anyway so there is little point trying to change people’s minds. 

In the interests of harmony, I avoid such conflicting debates these days. 

Life is too short.

 8.   What makes home feel like home?

I love the feeling that when I get home, I can enter a place that is basically full of everything that makes me feel comfortable and secure as soon as I close the door. There isn’t one particular thing but effectively I can shut out the outside world and become that introvert again.

 9.    Talents and skills I like to cultivate

 I always want to learn. I have worked in IT for almost 40 years and the very nature of that career requires me to learn the latest and greatest new technologies. I apply that same philosophy to life outside work too. For example, I try to improve myself by acquiring (or at least trying to acquire) new skills. 

I am learning Spanish at the moment and have been doing so for a few years on and off. I would love to be able to learn other languages too and improve on my French German and, dare I say, English too.

I am also trying to teach myself the piano and progress is definitely being made. I always thought it would be impossible to coordinate my left and right hands and I seem to be slowly learning to do just that. I am hoping that this will become a good project for when I retire. I would love to invest in a synthesiser for example and use my laptop to create some music of my own. 

And of course, I always try to improve myself as a human being – as I have alluded to above.

10.   What makes my heart race

Lucy Verasamy makes my heart skip a beat. She’s a weather girl on ITV and I must admit that I struggle to remember what the weather is going to be like once her bulletins have finished.

Of course, my heartbeat increases when I go on my daily three to four mile walk as well.

11.  What power means to me

These days it is almost synonymous with abuse. When you look at some of the leaders we have had in the world recently like Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Kim Jong-Un and of course Vladimir Putin, to name just a few, I honestly despair. 

We have had such people in power in the past of course and you rarely find decent leaders.

As I have said before, when I become World President all of these people and many many more will be put on a fleet of spaceships and dispatched into deepest space on a mission to find a new planet to ruin. 

You might say that is an abuse of power but I disagree. 

12.  Some of my comfort hobbies.

I like to write – even though the words I write are absolute gobbledygook. In the thousands of paragraphs of utter garbage, I occasionally find a couple of gems. It’s like prospecting for gold.

13.  Last time I was pleasantly surprised

On my 60th birthday, there was a whip round at work and I received some cash and a birthday card signed by some of my colleagues. I was pleasantly surprised by that I have to say, mainly because I tried to keep a low profile.

14.   How was my October 2022?

As I mentioned above, it was quite good. I turned 60 (which was not that good) but I got to visit a new country – Denmark – on a brief city break to Copenhagen.

15.   Those who inspire my growth

There are far too many people to mention. I find inspiration in most people I meet and talk to, no matter who they are. Even in the case of somebody like Boris Johnson, he would inspire me to be nothing like him.

Saturday 22 October 2022

Dare to Tell

Welcome to a cloudy South Manchester with a hint of blue sky and some sunshine later. 

Well it is now official. 

The UK is the laughing stock of the world. 

Having shot ourselves in the foot by leaving the EU, the most recent Prime Minister, Liz Truss, tried to impose her stupid economic plan on the UK even though people told her what would be the fallout.

The result? Mortgage rates have shot up, interest rates have shot up and the stock market plunged. The pound collapsed and fell to its lowest level ever against the dollar. The whole world watched in disbelief as we started to self-destruct. What did she do? She sacked her chancellor, a man who instigated her plans and totally agreed and she replaced him with another man who has openly criticised her and completely U-turned her policies.

Her party has fallen apart and unfortunately has two years left before the next election can turf them out. 

And now, this week, she resigned as Prime Minister, after a mere 45 days – making her the shortest ever serving Prime Minister in British history. 

So now we have to look for yet another new leader – well when I say “we” I mean approximately 150,000 members of her party. 

This will be three leaders in a year!

Understandably there is the beginning of a outcry demanding a General Election. They won’t call one because at the moment, the polls suggest that her party, the Conservatives, will be annihilated; most of the lunatics in her party just want to hold on to their jobs – albeit by a thread. 

And guess who is stepping up to put himself forward for the job? None other than the clown prince of dumb scarecrows, the cheating, lying sack of shit that is Boris Johnson. 

You can’t make it up. They reckon that three people will stand – Rishi Sunak, who lost to Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt, a mad uber-Brexiter, and the idiot who caused the chaos in the first place, Boris Johnson.

I swear that if that clown is chosen, I will seriously consider retiring next week and leaving the country.

Watch this space. I will distract my raging mind with some silly questions, as usual from Sunday Stealing

1. What type of day are you having? 

So far it is not bad, despite the economic chaos that is set to ruin the UK. I had a slight lie in this morning and enjoyed an omelette for breakfast accompanied by a huge cup of tea. I am off out with a few friends for a meal as the last celebration of my 60th birthday, which incidentally continued last week with a visit to the lovely city of Copenhagen in Denmark (another new country). I think today will be a good day as long as I don’t watch the news. 

Was there anyone who "made your day"?

Mrs PM always makes my day as do my cats. I was woken up by a hungry Ziggy and I found him rubbing his head against mine just before a purring Star(dust) approached and flopped next to me. Always good to be woken up by cats (as long as it isn’t too early of course). 

Are you liking how you look today? 

I look the same as I usually look – a mad-haired old baboon wearing a polo shirt and jeans. I may make an effort when I go out later by putting on a shirt.

Have you ever eaten a bug? 

I have been offered bugs in China and I flatly refused in the politest way he could. However, I think I might have accidentally swallowed a small insect on a couple of occasions in my life. It had no adverse effects and I think my antennae actually suit me. I love the blue hue too. 

Are you vegetarian? 

Not at all. I love meat. I do have the odd meat free day though where I eat fish instead of meat (though some vegetarians argue that fish is meat too). 

When was your last paycheck? 

15th October. 

How many pets do you have? 

I have two black cats called Ziggy and Star (though I call her Stardust). They are about two years old and basically rule our house. At the moment, Stardust is sitting behind me on the arm of the sofa watching me and listening to my music and Ziggy is at the bottom of the garden watching birds in a nearby tree. 

Here they are:

What kind of toothpaste do you use? 

I use Colgate cavity protection. It tastes reasonable. 

Are you closer to being rich or poor? 

I am definitely not rich but I am not poor either. I guess that I sit in what we in the UK call “the middle class”. I was born into a working class family but thanks to university and a decent career I have climbed a couple of rungs of the class ladder.  

What was the last gift someone gave you? 

That would be for my birthday a couple of weeks ago where I received a few gifts from friends and family.

One of my mates simply bought me a Milky Bar because I look like this guy:

Do you appreciate that person? 

You mean those people? Absolutely. I love them all.

Did you talk to anyone you didn't like today? 

I haven’t been out yet so no. My guess is that I will talk to a few people later when I am out but I am pretty sure that I will like them all. 

Do you like picnics? 

Not really. I did have a good picnic about twenty years ago on the bank of the river Thames with a mate of mine in Richmond but that was a one off because it was a beautiful day and we had a fair amount of wine as we sat watching the boats heading too and from London. I often see people having picnics in the local park and I can’t say that I’m tempted to do it myself.

What book are you currently reading? 

I’m reading “The Other Emily” by Dean Koontz. It’s an odd story but typical of Dean Koontz, a man whose books I have enjoyed for the past forty or so years. 

What song did you last listen to? 

I listened to Devin Townsend’s recent superb new single called Moonpeople:

His new album is out in November. It sounds like it will be up to his usual standard.

How many tabs are open on your computer? 

Just the one – with the questions from Sunday Stealing.

Are you a very stressed out person?

Not these days. I used to be but when I was in my thirties I decided to try to eliminate stress from my life. It has largely worked, although it happens occasionally. 

Saturday 8 October 2022

Memory Vault

Welcome to a sunny South Manchester. 

Today is a special day that I have tried to brush under the carpet but failed. Yes – it is my birthday and, worse, it is a significant one. 

I have just entered my seventh decade. I am 60 years old today.

I don’t look my age and I certainly don’t feel it. My ageing body has slowed down over the years but I still feel quite spritely for my age and I am fairly active. 

I share my birthday with Bruno Mars, Chevy Chase, Jesse Jackson, Matt Damon, Sigourney Weaver, Paul Hogan, Sadiq Kahn (current mayor of London) and Ursula von der Leyen (current president of the EU) amongst others. 

Somebody at work told me that yesterday was the birthday of the nutter in Russia, Vladimir Putin – thank goodness I don’t share a birthday with him – too close for comfort though. 

Later today I am going to a beer festival with friends in Sale (which is about five miles from where I live) and then we are going to an Italian restaurant. Should be good. 

Anyway, let’s answer some daft questions from Sunday Stealing.

1. What period of history is your favourite to read about?

I’m not really a history buff but I am fascinated with a couple of eras in history. 

The first is the Roman Empire. At school I learned Latin – which at the time I thought was totally pointless – and as part of that we delved into Roman history. I found it fascinating and I still do. Latin actually helped me a lot because many words in English are derived from Latin and also, it uses noun forms that are similar to German and it helped me get to grips with German grammar. Also some Latin phrases are still in use today and as a child I used to attend Catholic masses which for the first few years of my life were in Latin. Hard to believe these days but it is true.

I am also fascinated by Vikings having watched the brilliant series of the same name. 

Finally, I love the time of Henry VIII, arguably our maddest king. 

2. What is your favourite genre of fiction?

It used to be horror but these days it is science fiction. Most of the novels I read these days are space operas or books involving elaborate and complex science fiction concepts, such as time travel, parallel universes – and of course your typical alien invasion novel (for example The War of the Worlds). 

That said, I like a good thriller or espionage book, like those written by the creator of Jason Bourne, Robert Ludlum. 

And I still read the occasional horror book (Stephen King for example). 

3. Do you choose a book by its cover?

No. I choose a book based on the synopsis on the back of the book. 

4. Where do you do most of your reading?

I don’t read much during the daytime unless I am bored. Most of my reading occurs in bed or if I am travelling. On a recent trip to Greece I ploughed through a massive space opera whilst sitting by the pool. On Thursday we are going to Copenhagen and I will read while flying and in the airport and, of course, when we return to the hotel after a busy day exploring the city. I am really looking forward to it because it is a new country. 

5. Without looking, guess how many books are in your TBR pile. Now, look. Were you right?

There are three books on my Kindle right now that I am waiting to read. I don’t need to look. 

6. How many movies are on your TBW list?

Probably about twenty. There are some classic movies that I want to watch that I have never got around to (like Schindler’s List).  

7. What's your favourite genre of movie?

As with books, I love science fiction movies and also those involving super heroes. Yes, I am still a child at heart when it comes to movies. I also like comedy films and thrillers.

8. Do you still go to see movies in the theatre?

Yes, although we haven’t been for a few months. I think the last one I went to see was Spiderman: No Way Home which was brilliant.

9. You have $10,000 and no strings or obligations for one full day. Where do you go and what do you do?

I would first go the bank in order to change it into pound sterling, hoping that Liz Truss’s attempts to destroy our economy haven’t caused our currency to crash through the floor. The exchange rate today is $1.11 to the pound, which is not very good at all. That would give me £9009. 

Since it’s my birthday, I would spend it on things just for me – electronic gadgets mainly and then I would take what is left and go out for a lovely meal with some close friends.

10. How many songs are on your favourite playlist?

Since I have recently embraced Spotify, I have just been going through my CD collection recently in order to create a playlist of “liked” songs in order to reproduce the list of songs I have iTunes in Spotify. I have a lot of music and it is taking time but as I plough through the thousands of songs I have on CD I am also researching new stuff that is related. I am about 70% through my collection and the size of the playlist is 7000 songs give or take a few hundred. I imagine it will exceed 10,000 at the end. 

And then I will start creating other playlists for specific use and also exploring new music thus making my list of "liked" songs absolutely huge. 

For example I will create a walking playlist containing upbeat pop and rock songs, a progressive rock playlist for long drawn out self-indulgent prog masterpieces, a mellow chill out playlist for listening to while I am working, a heavy metal playlist for when I want to clear the cobwebs from my head and many others too (70’s pop, 80’s pop etc.).

I’m going to have a lot of fun.

11. What method do you use to listen to music (Spotify, iTunes, Pandora...)?

As I said above, I have just migrated to Spotify but I also plan to buy an mp3 player to accommodate my CD collection. I plan to use Spotify mostly but to also use my mp3 player when on an aircraft or travelling when I can’t get a signal. I know that I can download songs with Spotify but I would rather use that storage on my phone and tablet for more important things. 

12. And Finally ...

I’ll leave you with three songs that topped the charts on my birthday. 

First – this was number one in the UK:

This was number one in the US:

And finally this was number one Down Under:

When I listen to all of them (and I recognise all of them) I feel quite old.

Saturday 1 October 2022

Autumn Meme

Welcome to South Manchester where autumn has kicked in and, although the weather is still reasonable, the temperature is dropping and more rain is coming. The nights are drawing in and my 6am morning walks are in the dark. The good news is that I usually catch a decent sunrise at this time of year, if the clouds decide to dissipate enough for me to see the sun.

Talking of autumn, let’s look at this week’s Sunday Stealing, which is entitled “Fall Meme”. I assumed that it was all about falling over, something I haven’t done for years, and only then when I was slightly inebriated. I assumed that it would be about how many times and how spectacularly you have fallen over in the past.

But then I realised that by “fall”, my American friends mean autumn. 

I’ve never really understood how “fall” has managed to stick around across the pond as a replacement for the season after summer. Yes, strictly speaking the leaves do fall from the trees at this time of year but to call the whole thing “fall” is perplexing to me, a simple Englishman. 

I will of course answer the questions but, being the pedantic English person I am, I will extend my spelling corrections from beyond “favorite” to “favourite” and “color” to “colour” to include the change from “fall” to autumn”.

I apologise for this but I am slightly OCD when it comes to English. I annoy Mrs PM constantly but particularly so when watching American programmes on TV – especially when somebody says “math” instead of “maths”!

I will stop babbling now – let’s just answer the questions, shall we?

1. Favourite autumn holiday: 

In the UK we don’t have any official holidays during autumn. The last public one is in August and we have to wait until Christmas before the next ones. That said, there is nothing to stop us from going on holiday during this season. In fact, in some ways it is better because in southern Europe it is still warm but not oppressively so like it can be in summer. We have just been to Greece, just at the start of autumn and I am going to Copenhagen in a couple of weeks, where the weather will be similar to that of the UK.

2. Best thing about autumn walks:

I walk between three and four miles every day if I can and, as I said, this is usually in the early morning on a school day. At this time of year, if the weather is right, I can watch the sun rising as I stroll. I love sunrises and sunsets. Also, in autumn, the temperature is usually cooling to a point where it is ideal for walking and added to that, as the weeks go on, the leaves on the trees change colour before they fall off the branches and that can look quite beautiful.

3. Favourite autumn chore: 

I have no favourite chores at any time of the year so there is nothing I can say to this one.

4. Least favourite autumn chore: 

Cleaning up leaves. So annoying.

5. Best change in the home: 

My favourite season is summer and autumn marks the end of that period, with darker nights as winter approaches on the horizon. Nothing changes at home apart from the energy bills start to increase and it gets darker earlier. These are not good changes. I do like the fact that the football season arrives though, which means watching more games on TV.

6. Best tree in the autumn: 

Any tree whose leaves turn red or orange.

7. Autumn ritual: 

I don’t have an autumn ritual. Maybe starting to consider where we will be travelling to the following year.

8. Most frustrating thing about autumn: 

I think I answered that above. Autumn marks the end of summer for another year. 

9. Favourite autumn decorations: 

We don’t have any decorations for autumn. All that comes when Christmas arrives.

10. Favourite clothing: 

I am guessing you mean “favourite autumn clothing”. Again, I don’t have any. I tend to change from T-shirts and polo shirts and start to wear shirts instead and even jumpers towards the end of the season. I have no favourites.

11. Traditional autumn candy: 

I rarely eat sweets (candy). 

12. Favourite sound: 

There are no particular sounds of autumn that leap out as a favourite.

13. When does autumn begin for you?

We usually head to southern Europe in September (lockdown permitting) and for me autumn starts when we return from that. 

14. What is your favourite aspect of autumn? 

My birthday is in autumn so I guess that I can say that it a fairly good aspect of the season. The problem is that it means I am a year older and since my mid-thirties I have stopped counting them.

15. What is your favourite autumn memories?

My favourite memories of autumn are when I am out of the country in a warmer place. If we head east or south on a long haul trip it will either be in spring or autumn. Sadly there isn’t one this year but we have plans for that in the future. 

16. What do you like to drink in the autumn?  

I drink the same in autumn as I do the rest of the year typically.

17. What's your favourite autumn food?  

I eat pretty much the same food all year round. I guess in autumn though we tend to start eating more soup, casseroles and warm stodgy food that we don’t eat in summer.

18. What colour is autumn?

Autumn is a red/orange colour with the leaves from the trees and the sun rising in the morning when I walk.

19. What does autumn smell like? 

In the earlier stages, autumn smells a bit like summer but as it progresses and the leaves start to accumulate on the ground, this dissipates into boring dampness. Thankfully there are still traces of summer at least for another couple of weeks.

20. If you could go anywhere in the autumn, where would you go?  

Somewhere warmer. It would be southern Europe (France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Malta) or further afield to the far east.