Sunday 27 March 2022

Pinterest Part Two


Welcome to sunny South Manchester, where we have bright blue skies, peppered with white clouds and a lovely temperature for a nice three mile walk down by the river in the morning. 

News this week – I’ve bought a piano and have already started to teach myself how to play the thing. I knew it would be hard and I am currently trying to get my brain communicate with the fingers on my left hand and right hand. I knew this would be tricky and I was right. I will persevere though and hopefully have a lot of fun on the way. I can vaguely read music, having played a trombone in my youth, so the music theory side of things should give me a minor head start.

Also I discovered yesterday the tragic news that Taylor Hawkins, drummer of the Foo Fighters, has died at the young age of 50 while on tour in South America. The Foo Fighters are one of my favourite bands and I may just write a tribute post to for Taylor later this week. 

Rest in Peace.

In the meantime, I’ll distract myself with some questions, as usual, from Sunday Stealing

1. Are you living a meaningful life.

I think so. I wrote a series of six posts about “the Meaning of Life” way back in October through to November 2015 where I covered the weirdness of life. Have a read if you are feeling bored. 

If you look at a template for what is a “meaningful life” I have ticked a lot of the boxes and probably done a little more in some cases and less in others. I’m quite happy where I am at the moment and as I approach the next phase, which is winding down to retirement, I am looking at starting a few other things, for example taking up the piano, in preparation for that as well as looking for potential new hobbies, or taking existing ones up to a higher level. 

I hope when I shuffle off this mortal coil I will have been able to say that it was meaningful as my soul leaves and embarks upon the next journey, through the stars to try to find out if L. Ron Hubbard was telling the truth about aliens. Only kidding – I plan to live forever!

2. What’s the one thing you cannot live without?

Mrs PM. She’s been my rock and my best friend for almost 24 years now. She somehow puts up with me and my weirdness and makes me feel vaguely human.

If you are talking about objects then I guess that would be my smartphone. 

3. When is it acceptable, if ever, to break the law

I would only think that it might be acceptable to break the law in order to save somebody or prevent them from dying. It’s a difficult one though. The truth is, I have probably broken the law inadvertently, mainly because there are some crazy laws around that we don’t actually know about. I know that, for example, in England, believe it or not, it is illegal to be drunk in a pub. And I have broken that one definitely.

4. What do you want your final words to be

“Onwards and upwards”.

5. What do you think are the five most beautiful things in the world?

I’m not going to talk about people here because people aren’t “things”. Here are some off the top of my head (there are many more I can think of).

A sunrise or sunset over the sea on a beautiful sandy beach.

Iguazu Falls (both in Brazil and Argentina).

Paris in summer.

The Amalfi coast in Italy.

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

6. What makes you feel empowered?

I don’t really like the word “empowered” because it has kind of been abused. At work I was told that we, as team members, were “empowered” to make our own choices. Now call me an old cynic if you like, but I immediately took this to mean that it put you in the firing line should something go wrong. I often see people, particularly in the cult of celebrity, claiming to feel “empowered” – and to be honest, I struggle to understand what they mean by that.

The way I see it is that I am a human being – my OWN human being – and I can choose to do and say what I like if I have the urge to do so. In that way I am “empowered” just to be myself and be the master of my own destiny. 

I do not see myself as a celebrity would see himself/herself and abuse the word to increase their status in the world of fame by empowering themselves to go on a “journey” to a “better place”. 

We are all living our own lives and so should it remain.

7. Which is more important–what you say, or how you say it?

Both are equally important in my view.

8. Do you live to work, or work to live?

I definitely work to live. If I had enough money stashed away, work would be the first casualty.

9. How do you think the world will change in 10 years? 50? 100?

If I am being optimistic, I would like to see the world come together as a global community, embracing each other’s cultures and having the ability to just be good to one another. I hope to see amazing technological wonders and a general improvement on where we are at the moment.

If I am being realistic, then I suspect we will have lots of ups and downs over the next 100 years. I still think that technology will improve but politically, we seem to be in a bad place that will get worse before it gets better.

If I am being pessimistic then I think that global warming will rear its ugly head, growing over us like a huge malevolent cloud that we will no longer be able to ignore. Given recent events, I suspect that we may see another pandemic (after all the last one before Covid was 100 years ago), and the sabre rattling of Russia and the lunacy of places like North Korea mean that war will not go away but be walking alongside us like an evil companion.

I hope the optimist in me is correct.

10. What is something you’re certain you’ll never experience?

I will never ever ever EVER jump out of an airplane with a big rag on strings attached to my back (commonly known as a “parachute”).

11. What one responsibility do you wish you didn’t have?

Household chores.

12. What is something you’re embarrassed that you’re so good at?

I am good at maths and excellent at telling computers what to do. Consequently, I look like a geeky nerd and I sound like one sometimes. A female friend once told me that she was initially scared to talk to me because (in her words) “I looked too clever”. Thankfully she overcame that particular obstacle and soon realised that I am a weird human being who can sometimes be extremely stupid.

13. What’s the one thing you most want to achieve before you die?

I would love to have a book published (if I could write) but also, as I said above, be able to play a piano reasonably well. I will attack those and more as I meander through what remains of my life. 

14. What’s something that offends you?

Politicians lying and using their status to change the world for the worse. This is personified magnificently by a man called Vladimir Putin at the moment.

15. What makes you most angry about the country?

The fact that we left the European Union under a tissue of lies and those who voted to do so were influenced by the most horrific human beings in the United Kingdom, people like Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson amongst others. 

I must not rant (I’ve done well so far this year).

Sunday 20 March 2022

Swap Bot Part Two

Welcome to a very sunny and reasonably warm Sunday afternoon in South Manchester. Spring is definitely in the air and we will soon be able to hopefully spend a little more time outdoors. On Friday we went to a wedding in deepest brightest Lancashire, at a hall in the middle of the countryside on a beautiful day that enabled to sit outside briefly in the sunshine with a glass of champagne as the bride and groom were photographed in an ideal location. 

It was lovely.

Anyway, it’s Sunday now so I am going to answer some silly questions courtesy of Sunday Stealing

Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. Do you like sushi?

I love sushi and I also love sashimi. I had tried it before we travelled to Japan, but once there I had lots of it. In Kyoto, we went to a restaurant that specialised in sushi and sashimi and the idea was that we would have a mixture, rather like tapas. Our selection was good and we ended up in a weird conversation with two drunk businessmen who happened to be sitting next to us. It was weird because they were drunk but more importantly because they could only speak about ten words of English, that’s eight words more than we knew in Japanese. In the end, he bought us his favourite sushi as a gift, and we returned the favour by buying him and his friend a beer in return. He tried to persuade us to go with him on a bar crawl around the old town in Kyoto. I knew this because he showed us the area on his phone, pointed to his beer and said two of the words he knew: “You come”! We had to politely refuse – but the sushi he bought was divine.

2. What colour is your car?

My car is a strange kind of silver colour. It isn’t silver exactly because I have parked next to a car that I consider to be silver and it definitely doesn’t match. It’s probably got a bizarre name like “goblin silver” or “paean silver” or something else that is pretentious and wholly inaccurate.

3. What is your favourite thing about the place where you live?

I live about five miles south of Manchester city centre with great transport links into the city itself and enough close by to keep me entertained. If I fancy a little greenery and nature, there is a great area within walking distance or I can drive south into Cheshire in about half an hour. There are great links to other cities from Manchester itself and we live reasonably close to Manchester Airport for when we eventually go travelling again. 

4. Are there brands of certain items that you will ONLY buy that brand? i.e. paper towels, ketchup etc.

I guess so. It depends on what it is I suppose. With more expensive items like laptops, tablets and phones I am very selective in what I buy. When it comes to household stuff, I don’t really care. Same goes for food but there are certain things I always buy because I like the taste.

5. Are you allergic to any food? Animals? Plants? Medicines?

I don’t think I am allergic to anything other than the pollen that gives me hay fever in June. Ah – I've just realised that I am actually allergic to pine trees. I used to have a couple in an older house and one hot summer’s day I decided to trim the. I had a T shirt on and went right in there with the sheers. When I came out my arms were both red and itchy with a weird looking rash. It dissipated after a few hours but the next time I did it the same thing happened.

6. Have you ever been stung or bitten by an animal?

I’ve been bitten and scratched by just about every cat I’ve ever owned. That is mostly my fault for provoking them. I have been bitten twice by dogs when I was a child – unprovoked, I might add. 

7. Do you have a favourite bird? Do you feed the bird at your house or the park?

I don’t really have a favourite bird. That doesn’t mean that I dislike them – I just haven’t bothered investigating them. We do have a bird feeding contration on a tree in the garden but I am aware that squirrels are probably more likely to eat the food and that cats are likely to get involved if we aren’t careful.

8. What would you recommend binging on Netflix or similar?

Mrs PM got hold of Disney+ for six months free with her phone company so I have been catching up on the Marvel series – all of which I love. I’ve also watched The Mandalorian which was quite good (I usually prefer Star Trek to Star Wars). 

I am currently watching the last season of The Expanse on Amazon, which is amazing. 

Also, we are currently watching Vikings and I have to say that if you haven’t seen it then just dive in. It is brilliant. 

9. What is your proudest achievement?

For proudest, read “stupid” – climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

10. Do you have or are you from a big family?

Not really. 

11. What do you do for exercise?

I used to play football and swim as a younger man but these days walking is my main form of exercise. I try to walk at least 7000 steps per day and the good news is that so far this year that average is currently at around 8000. 

12. What would be your favourite breakfast? (You didn’t have to cook it yourself.)

I love a full English breakfast but I don’t eat them that often. The last one I had was on Saturday morning in the hotel we were staying in after the wedding.

13. Is there an item that you really want but cannot afford?

A round the world ticket. To be honest I can afford it but the additional costs such as spending money, hotels etc. would make it really expensive. One day …

14.  What was the farthest distance you made for your holidays?

The farthest I have been is Australia. The furthest from Manchester is probably the city of Sydney where I did that stupid thing I mentioned in question 9.

15. Are you afraid of speaking in public?

Yes. And the sad thing is that I have had to do it several times as part of my job in the form of training courses. I have done them in America, China, South Africa, Switzerland and even Russia. You might think that means that I have overcome this irrational fear but I haven’t. The best thing to do is to practice and make sure you know what you are saying and then, try to focus on one or two people in the audience rather than all of them. And the first fifteen minutes is the worst. Once you get past that hurdle it gets better. 

Sunday 13 March 2022

Friendly Questions

Welcome to a slightly overcast South Manchester. The cloud is a light grey and it is fairly bright and it is quite clear that we are starting to warm up in the UK as we approach the beginning of spring. I like this time of year as it signals the end of winter. The sorry looking trees are beginning to sprout their new leaves, flowers are starting to open and the birds seem a lot happier. If you are lucky enough to be walking around dawn, the birds’ songs are more joyful and louder as the sun rises around this time of year. 

It's very pleasant. 

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What emotion do you experience the most?

That’s a strange and difficult question. It depends. When I am at work, I experience a mixture of frustration and annoyance which mutates into happiness as the end of the day approaches. I am usually quite content on workday evenings before repeating the cycle again. At weekends I am mostly happy. 

I think generally I am quite a happy chap.

2. What embarrasses you most in front of other people?

I am lucky really in that I feel quite comfortable being embarrassed. I have spent most of my time on this blog pointing out my flaws, telling all of you wonderful readers (both of you) about embarrassing things that have happened to me. Such is my self-deprecation on this blog that you probably think I wander around Manchester like a deranged, mad-haired and half-blind fool being laughed at my fellow real Mancunians (as opposed to Plastic ones like myself). I have told you all about my mad hair, my poor eyesight and my baboon-like features. I have told you about times when I have embarrassed myself in public, like mistaking a fellow diner for a waitress in a restaurant, saying and doing stupid things at the most inopportune moments and generally having people chuckle at my numerous faux pas. 

The truthful answer to the question is “not much” to be honest. I have lived with embarrassment most of my life and I regard it as an annoying but amusing old friend. 

3. What do you love most about yourself?

I think I can be quite a funny guy when I want to be and under that odd persona that I have described in my answer to the above question, I am a nice guy – deep down.

4. Who has influenced you the most?

Lots of people have influenced me both within and outside school and work. They are too numerous to mention and picking out just one person would be unfair to the rest of them.

5. What would you like to change about yourself?

My hair, my appearance and my age. 

6. If you could do one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I would like to travel for the rest of my life. If I ever acquired a life-changing sum of money, that is what I would do. 

7. If you had the option of adopting a baby fox of baby koala, which would it be?

There are quite a few urban foxes in our area and I often see them trotting around the streets when I go for my 6am walk around the neighbourhood. They are cute but usually a little skinny and clearly wild. Since they are related to dogs, I think having a baby fox, it might be possible to keep it and train it as you would a normal dog. I have seen a fox cub and they are quite cute. Koalas are also cute and I have actually held one (back in 2005):

To be honest though, I think they would be better off in their own habitat.

8. If you had to be on a reality show, which would it be?

I hate reality TV shows with a passion – except one. The only one I really like is the UK version of the Apprentice, which is full of arrogant, egomaniacal “entrepreneurs” who consider themselves to be the most amazing people on the planet. The truth is that more often than not, they are basically full of crap and not very good at all. 

Therefore I would go onto the Apprentice to basically try and expose them for what they truly are and also (and I would love to do this), just call Lord Alan Sugar by his first name, as he insists on being referred to as “Lord Sugar” by the candidates. That said, I do like Alan Sugar – he can be quite funny. 

If you have never seen the UK version of the Apprentice, just watch the ten minute video of Apprentice disasters below. It is hilarious.

9. If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be?

Hong Kong. I love the place. I worked there on an off for a few years and then spent a few months there to finish off. If we ever head across to the Far East we always try to pay a visit to the city. It is like seeing an old friend.

10. How many bones have you broken?

I am quite lucky in that I have never broken a bone. Watch me break something now.

11. What do you fear about getting older?

I like my frame of mind as I get older. I am enjoying life a lot more these days. I’m not too happy about things starting to sag, droop and fading to grey though as they inevitably will as the years pass.

12. How do you relieve stress?

I allow the introvert within me to take control. I usually immerse myself in my own little world, focusing on anything that will distract me from the source of stress. For example, I will just do something that feels good, like listening to music, go for a walk, watch a bit of TV, read a book or something similar. It usually works.

13. Are your feet the same size?

Yes – I have boring feet. 

14. 100 kittens or 3 baby sloths?

I love cats so I would almost certainly take on the 100 kittens – just as long as I had a bigger house with a big enclosed garden that didn’t allow any other creatures into it. 

15. What do you want more than anything else in life?

Retirement. I have taken the first steps by reducing my working hours to four days instead of five from April. I’m still not sure exactly when it will happen, a couple of years probably, but it will be great when it happens. 

Saturday 5 March 2022

From Kwizgiver


Welcome to a sunny but chilly South Manchester.

It’s time for some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. How long have you lived in your current residence?

We have lived in our current house for 20 years in May. It is a three bedroomed terraced house, originally built in 1902 and we don’t plan to move again, although that decision isn’t cast in stone.

2. What changes have you made to it since you got there?

We’ve made a lot of changes. We bought the house from an older couple whose heads were still in the 1970’s. The lounge had wall cladding and a kind of weird stone fireplace. We ripped that all out, took off all the wallpaper, replastered the entire room and have now redecorated it a couple of times. The previous occupants seemed to prefer living in the room at the back of the house, from which I am typing this post. We opened up the whole room, replastered it and redecorated it. We have also completely replaced the kitchen and bathroom and turned an outhouse attached to the house into a weatherproof storage room. All of the bedrooms and the hall and stairs have also been replastered and redecorated a couple of times. We have new secure external doors and double glazing throughout.

But we haven’t finished yet. We plan to redecorate the bathroom, kitchen and back room (when I say “we” I mean Mrs PM) in the next couple of years.

3. What surprised you about living in your place or in your neighborhood?

I kind of came full circle and that is quite surprising. When I first moved to South Manchester in 1984, I lived fairly close to where I live right now. Eventually, I moved to a little town about eight miles away called Altrincham, where I lived for the next 15 years or so. And then fate brought me back to the same place and I have lived here ever since.

4. If someone were considering moving in next door, what would you warn them about?

The only thing I would warn them is that they are moving in next door to a weird person, i.e. me.

5. If you have to move in the next 45 days, what are you definitely not taking with you?

The kitchen.

6. What are you currently reading?

I am reading two books currently.

The first is Atomic Habits by James Clear. I read somewhere a couple of years ago that it takes about 60 days to form a habit. I can tell you that this is absolutely true and I have spent the last four or five years exploiting this mindset to great effect. For example, I write every day in a weird little journal, I practice a little Spanish, I go for a walk and have done a couple of other things. This book came across my radar last year so I thought I would read it to see if I can learn something new. The truth is that I have. I hadn’t considered using this technique to break bad habits for example. It’s a good book and I do adopt some of the ideas already. I would recommend it.

The second is a third and final part of a science fiction space opera by Peter F Hamilton called The Saints of Salvation. I love a good space opera.

7. What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished the second part of the space opera above, called Salvation Lost. 

8. What do you think you’ll read next?

I have a couple of books that I plan to read. I think my next novel will be one that I was given for Christmas called Elsewhere by Dean Koontz. I usually buy Kindle books but this one is a proper paperback. It’s been a long time since I read anything by Dean Koontz to be honest. I’m looking forward to it.

9. When did you take the road less travelled?

Recently when I decided to reduce my working hours to four days a week, which starts in April. It is a fairly brave decision to make but I am glad I have done it.

10. Did you ever participate in a talent show?

Only accidentally. Many many years ago I was in an audience for a tacky show in a hotel in Yugoslavia (now Croatia). We didn’t plan to stay – we were just killing time until we went out for dinner. The compere decided that we should have a “Mr Universe” competition and I was unwillingly dragged into it. I am the polar opposite of a “Mr Universe” and, to be fair, so were the other six victims. We them had to do some strange rituals, like running into the audience to “rescue” a damsel in distress. I was eliminated in round three after I had taken off my shirt and “posed”.

In my head I had to consider myself looking like this.

In reality I looked more like this.

11. When did you most recently strike out?

Not sure what “strike out” actually means but if it means what I think it means then see my answer to question 9.

12. Where do you go to find yourself?

The mirror. I’m always there.

13. What do you have mixed feelings about?

Politics. I am totally disillusioned with it at the moment and lately I’ve decided to try to distance myself from the subject in its entirety. Nevertheless, I sometimes can’t help being sucked back into it, especially when I watch the news.

14. What did you most recently add to your collection of something?

I recently bought the latest album by Dream Theater called “A View From the Top of the World” to add to my still expanding CD collection. Progressive metal at its best.

15. When did something most recently stir you to tears?

I’m not a man who cries often to be honest. I have been known to shed the odd tear when watching movies though I can’t really recall when that last happened.