Saturday 30 April 2022

More Firsts

Welcome to a very pleasant South Manchester, a warm and sunny day. We are well into spring now and summer is calling so my mood is getting better each day.

Shall we answer some daft questions from Sunday Stealing

First Job:

My first job was delivering newspapers for the local newsagent. I used to have to be up at around 5:30 am to collect the papers and stuff them through letterboxes at a time when I should have been asleep so that the recipients could crawl out of their pits and read the daily news as they slurped their morning cup of coffee.

I loved it though. I was walking the streets when everyone was asleep. There were no cars about and depending on the time of year it was lovely. You could actually hear birds singing when dawn broke as winter turned into spring and autumn turned into winter. In fact, that’s one reason why I go for a four mile walk at 6am now – it reminds me of that time. And the peace and serenity are wonderfully fulfilling.

Not when it is raining though. That is very unpleasant.

First Favorite Politician:

I have never had a favourite politician. I hate them all. Somebody once said “the desire to be a politician should stop them from ever being one.” I guess for a while I had hope in the late 1990’s when Tony Blair became our Prime Minister until he, too, proved that he is as bad as the rest by dragging us into the war in Iraq. 

First Record/CD:

My first single was this one:

I am sure you will agree that it is a wonderful piece of progressive rock.

My first vinyl album was Donna Summer’s greatest hits, mainly because of this song:

I absolutely love this tune – synthesisers and the fantastic voice of Donna Summer.

My first CD was Wild Frontier by Gary Moore:

Again – a magnificent album full of Celtic rock anthems.

First Sport Played:

Football – always football (that is “soccer” for American readers). I am as blind as a bat but I love football. I have no skills but I love football. Despite these handicaps I somehow managed to play from the age of about six until almost 40 in various guises. Now I am just a spectator.

First Concert:

The mother of a schoolmate of mine used to work at the Birmingham Odeon and somehow managed to acquire a handful of tickets to see Cheap Trick there way back in the late 1970s. I had never heard of them but they weren’t bad.

The first gig I actually paid for was in 1981 at the Empire in Liverpool where I saw Gillan:

First Foreign Country Visited:

The starting point for my love of travel was the Netherlands, just across the water from the island I live on. I arrived in Amsterdam and I loved the place so much I have been back many times – in fact I am planning to return this year for a university reunion.

First Favorite TV Show:

I think that has to be Dr Who, a show that is still on at the moment (I watched a brand new episode on Easter Sunday).

First Favorite Actor:

That’s a tough one. I loved Jon Pertwee who played Dr Who when I first used to watch it, but I also loved Lee Majors, aka the Six Million Dollar Man. I was just a kid. I think really when I think about it, the first actor whose films I would see religiously has to be the wonderful Clint Eastwood. I loved the Man with No Name and Dirty Harry.

First Favorite Actress:

That would be Linda Carter, the original Wonder Woman. I had such a crush on her you wouldn’t believe.

First Girlfriend/Boyfriend:

My first girlfriend was called Christina and we went out together for about a year. I often wonder where she is now.

First Encounter with a Famous Person:

Now this might not be a person you have ever heard of but I met Alan Buckley, the lengedary striker for my favourite football team, Walsall. TO me he was and remains an absolute legend. I met him in Mansfield. We arrived at Mansfield Town football club just as the Walsall team coach was arriving. I had a programme in my hand and my dad gave me a pen. I raced to the coach as the players were getting off and the second one I encountered was Alan Buckley, who very sweetly gave me is autograph on the programme.

I still have that programme today – and I treasure it.

First House/Condo Owned:

My first house was a three bedroomed semi-detached house in Altrincham, a small town about ten miles from Manchester. It was very small but I loved the fact that I actually owned property.

First Film Seen:

That could be any one of the following:

The Jungle Book

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Help! (with the Beatles).

First Favorite Radio Station:

That would be BBC Radio One, which played all the latest pop songs, culminating in the Top 20 show on Sunday evening where we would hear the count down of the “Hit Parade” as they called it back in the 1970’s. I owe that station a lot.

It still exists today but it is absolute rubbish now. One of the drawbacks of getting old I reckon.

First Book I Remember Reading:

I think that would be one of the following two by Enid Blyton:

The first serious novel I read was “The War of the Worlds” by H.G.Wells – still and incredible novel even today.

Saturday 16 April 2022

More Silly Questions

Welcome to a beautiful sunny and warm day in South Manchester. I know I have a tendency to bleat on about the weather but today is genuinely a nice day. The sky is blue with scattered white clouds and the sun is shining. 

Also, our wonderfully inept Prime Minister, a hybrid between man and scarecrow, has surpassed himself this week. His government was responsible for creating laws about gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning that we were all stuck at home and couldn’t see our friends and family except via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. 

The problem is that he has been caught doing exactly what he warned us not to do; yes – he is so arrogant that he broke the laws that he enforced upon us all. He was seen at a party on his birthday (that he claims wasn't a party).

And the police have been involved and agree that he broke the law. 

So he has been fined along with his own chancellor, making him the first sitting Prime Minister to have ever broken the law.

And the police are still investigating other parties in what has become known as “Partygate”. There is a good chance that he will be fined again because there are at least two or three other instances when he has broken his own law.

Will he resign?

Not at the moment. He is stubbornly refusing to go. 

Get the popcorn out folks; the next couple of weeks could be interesting.

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

And these questions are very silly.

1.    What’s the weirdest smell you have ever smelled?

It is almost certainly something generated in a chemistry laboratory when I was at school. Things like chlorine, which is quite nasty, and hydrogen sulphide, more commonly known as stink bomb gas, which reeks of rotten eggs. A lot of the things that we created (or extracted) had weird smells.

 2.   What would be the hat to end all hats? What could you wear on your head that would make people stop what they are doing and stare in awe and amazement?

It would have to be a beer hat. A hat that can accommodate cans of beer and allow you to drink them as you walk. Something like this:

 3.    What is something that everyone looks stupid doing?

That moment just before you sneeze, especially if you are trying not to actually sneeze. It is not a good look. And before you ask, no, I am not going to post a picture of myself about to sneeze. I will post a picture of this guy instead.

 4.   In 40 years, what will people be nostalgic for?

Music because music is always nostalgic. To me it is a time machine that can take you back to a moment in time. 

Forty years ago I was at university and this song takes me right back there. 

And they are from Manchester too.

 5.   How do you feel about putting pineapple on pizza?

I don’t get why people are weird about putting pineapple on pizza. I love pineapple and when I have had a “Hawaiian” I have loved having pineapple nestling amongst the melted cheese.

 6.   If animals could talk, which would be the rudest? 

Cats – without a doubt. Their contempt for humanity is legendary and they would be quite offensive to their owners, both rude in the way they spoke and also full of expletives when you didn’t leap up immediately to feed them when they demanded it.

 7.   What’s the best type of cheese?

All types of cheese except stilton are brilliant. Oh, also apart from a horrific cheese I once had in Switzerland that tasted and smelled of rotting old socks (or how I imagine they would taste). 

If pushed I would go for a Double Gloucester, Red Leicester, a mature English Cheddar, a lovely Brie or Camembert. Forget it – I love all cheese except the ones I mentioned. 

 8.   Where is the strangest place you’ve urinated or defecated?

What a question. I think everywhere I have visited has had to have toilets. So – let’s think.

The Vatican, the Kremlin, underneath Niagara Falls, an aircraft at 36,000ft, on the Great Wall of China, and lots of strange places like that.

 9.    In one sentence, how would you sum up the internet?

 The internet is very useful, totally addictive, absolutely necessary but potentially very dangerous.

10.   Which insect could you happily do without seeing for a good long time?

Wasps. I hate them with their yellow and black striped bodies, their dreadful buzzing and their vindictive stings as well as the fear they introduce within me. I am one of those people who flies into a mad panic when one of the little buggers is buzzing around me. I wave and scream like a madman. I hate them.

11.  What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever worn?

Well if you head back to the 1970’s I used to wear flared trousers – but they were fashionable so that doesn't count. 

You could perhaps say that when I wore Kiss makeup for Mrs PM’s photography course. Like these two photos.

Or when I dressed up as Ozzy Osbourne for a charity fancy dress at work.

Or maybe when I pretended to be Slash from Guns'n'Roses at a wedding?

All good fun – I don’t get embarrassed easily these days. Good job, eh?

12.  What’s the weirdest thing a guest has done at your house?

We had a Christmas pub crawl at work and a workmate stayed at our house. The following morning, he had already gone when we woke up. Our Christmas decorations were in the room he had stayed in and we had them ready to put up in the house. Except when I walked out of the room, I found that he had put them up – but all over the staircase. When he had done that I have no idea because I was amazed I didn’t hear him.

I asked him why he did it later and he said “because they were there and it seemed like a good idea!”


13.  Is cereal soup? Why or why not?

Of course it’s not. That is probably the silliest question of them all.

14.   What is the sexiest and least sexy name?

The last Stag Party (or Bachelor Party for Americans)  I went to, a few years ago, was in Amsterdam and in traditional British fashion we were forced to wear T-shirts with our porn star names on them. What was odd about this was that the Stag was a policeman so there were a few coppers on this too – and I have to say they are bloody animals when they are let off the leash. I could (and probably should) write a blog post about the experience so maybe look forward to that. 

Anyway, the future groom’s porn star name was “Dirk Nasty” but I have to say that I thought mine was better. 

It was “Jake Sin”.

Sexy, eh?

Least sexy name? For a bloke it would have to be Arnold Rimmer.

15.   What fictional character is amazing in their book / show / movie, but would be insufferable if you had to deal with them in mundane everyday situations?

Probably the above mentioned Arnold Judas Rimmer from Red Dwarf.

Saturday 9 April 2022

More Thought Provoking Questions

Welcome to a sunny South Manchester. The weather is cold – we even had wintry showers yesterday – but the trend for the temperature is going in the right direction. Enough about the English weather (something that typically gets a bad press worldwide but can be quite beautiful).

Let’s dive in with some thought-provoking questions from Sunday Stealing

1. Do you own your things or do your things own you?

I own my things – with two exceptions. The exceptions are Ziggy and Star(dust) my two cats who own me. In fact, as I type, Star(dust) is sitting on my desk staring at me with a look of total disdain because, in her mind, it is time for her lunchtime food. It is however, forty minutes too early and she is going to have to wait. 

I know the drill. She will watch me for a while, then she will lie down and start to attack my fingers as I type, playfully at first and then with a little more aggression. That said, she isn’t violent at all. The last thing she will do is just flop on my keyboard. In fact she managed to do that a month ago, resulting in me sending a half complete email to my manager at work. 

I told him that the cat sent it for me and he thought I was losing what remained of my marbles.

Oh – the flopping looks like it is coming gfu/E’LGHQHGEHBGGILKHW43 WTO’WGJ’W

Yes – she flopped onto my keyboard and I thought I would leave the contribution for you to enjoy. 

I shall add Star(dust) to the writing credits for this post. I think I will feed her now.

2. Would you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones?

I would probably go for not being able to make new ones. The reason is that I have cameras that can record those new memories, recording images and videos from now on that I will at least be able to look at in the future. You can’t do that with the past if you don’t have the photos. 

It would effectively make technology the new means of making new memories.

3. When you are 80-years-old, what will matter to you the most?

I can’t predict the future but I hope that when I am 80 years old, that I will be physically fit and able to think like I do at the moment. It’s only two decades away so I reckon that as long as I am fully compos mentis and can walk around it will be pretty much the same as today.

4. What do you have that you cannot live without?

Lots of things – my house, my phone, my glasses, my health and all the other things that contribute to my peace of mind and my life. I could make a list but it would be long and boring to read.

5. When you close your eyes what do you see?

Not a lot because my eyes are closed. However, usually closing my eyes leads me to start falling asleep or at least meditating somehow. And that leads to my mind’s eye opening and me catching a flight into my imagination, which, as you can envisage, is a very weird place to be. 

6. What sustains you on a daily basis?

Food and drink, of course, like everybody else.

7. What are your top five personal values?

Honesty – I try to be honest with everyone and I hope others are honest back.

Kindness – There is nothing more powerful than an act of kindness. I wish I could be kinder myself.

Empathy – I try to be empathic and put myself in the position of other people. It doesn’t always work but when it does it really helps.

Trustworthiness – My favourite people are those that I trust and can rely upon. I try to be trustworthy myself.

Humility – I regard myself as a humble person and as a result I think I can handle stress in a better way. I’m humble and happy as a result.

8. What personal prisons have you built out of fears?

In the past I was a very shy person and it stopped me doing a lot of things. This changed when I left home for university and had to face those fears; I forced myself to join in things despite the fact that they were outside my comfort zone. Effectively I managed to break out of the glass prison of shyness; glass because you can see what you are missing. While some of those prisons still exist, I am much better at breaking out of them now. I have a really big hammer.

9. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?

Travel the world. Okay – yes I have travelled to a lot of countries, 36 and counting. But there are 195 countries in the world so the percentage is about 18%. I see that as something that I can improve upon. 

10. If you haven’t achieved it yet what do you have to lose?

Absolutely nothing. And I am chipping away at this target slowly but surely. As time goes on I will have more time to see more countries and we are certainly planning to see a few more over the coming years. If I win the lottery in the meantime it will accelerate things – that’s for sure.

11. What three words would you use to describe the last three months of your life?

Hopeful, exciting and positive.

The next three months should be even better. 

We have booked a trip abroad to Spain in June. It will be almost three years since I have left the UK - three years too long. 

12. Is it ever right to do the wrong thing?  Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?

The answer to both is yes. There are situations where, for example, it might be a good thing to do to tell somebody a home truth and other occasions where it might be better to keep somebody in the dark. There are examples where I have done both in the past.

13. How would you describe ‘freedom’ in your own words?

To be honest, I don’t think that anybody is really free. I used to think that maybe we were free here in the UK but recent political events have proven otherwise. For example, in 2015, I was free to move to any country in the European Union and live there with no visa and no hassle. Since 2020 that is no longer the case; I have effectively had part of my freedom taken away from me.

I believe that the UK is one of the most “free” countries in the world, if not the most free. I know that the US prides itself on its “freedom” but, like the UK, this is jingoistic sometimes. 

Take US gun laws for example. Americans are free to bear arms but this ends up in disaster when some nutcases are free to commit mass murder.

I would therefore define freedom at the political level as an illusion.

True freedom on Earth doesn’t exist.

Wow – that sounded really deep and negative. I’m sorry about that – normal service will be resumed in the next question hopefully.

14. What is the most important thing you could do right now in your personal life?

Retire. I am 20% of the way there and now that I don’t work Friday I am much happier.

15. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

Travel writing probably. I don’t think I am a good enough writer but if I could convince somebody to let me travel the world as a job and write reports about where I had been I would be a lot happier. I may even postpone retirement to do so. To be honest, though, I would prefer to do it under my own steam because the idea of still having to report to somebody who is telling me where to go and what to do isn’t the most ideal situation. I have had people telling me what to do since 1984 and I am fed up of it.

I like the idea of being my own boss.

Sunday 3 April 2022

Weird Librarian

Welcome to a sunny but cold Sunday afternoon in South Manchester. 
Let’s dive straight in with some silly questions from Sunday Stealing, shall we? 
1.    When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?
The very first thing I thought was “Who the hell is that?”
Then I remembered that it was my reflection and I put on my glasses. My second thought was “What the hell happened, Dave?” 
Of course I know the answer to that question – AGE happened.
2.    What shirt are you wearing?
I am wearing an old checked shirt that I have for a couple of years now, so it is probably drifting towards the end of its life.
3.    Do you label yourself?
I know who I am, so I don’t need to label myself.
Oh – you mean do I try to put myself into a generic subgroup of people?
If that’s what you mean then I guess I could, if I wanted to, label myself as a member of any one of the following groups:
  • Weirdos
  • Geeks
  • Grumpy old men (in my case trying to rid myself of grump)
  • Late middle-aged white British males
  • Men who suffer from bad hair days every single day of their lives
4.    What does your watch look like?
I have two watches. The one I am wearing at the moment is a free (and cheap) FitBit style watch that I acquired from my company and tells me the time, records my steps, records my sleep, guess at the distance I have walked and how many calories I have burned. To be fair, I am toying with the idea of buying a proper smartwatch but I am struggling to justify it to myself, even though I love gadgets. The truth is, I will end up getting one I reckon.
My other watch is a long service award. It is quite expensive and I tend only to wear it if I am going to a posh party or restaurant or something like that.
5.    What were you doing at midnight last night?
I was reading a book. I watched Match of the Day and then went to bed and I usually read a few pages until I nod off, which I think I probably did at just after midnight.
6.    Last furry thing you touched?
That would be Star(dust), one of my two black cats.
7.    Favourite age you have been so far?
I reckon that it would be 20, when I was at university. I loved that time of my life and I was able to be the immature little kid that has always lived inside me. I can’t get away with acting like a kid now.
8.    What is your current desktop picture?
It is a picture of a sunrise that I took back in 2005 in Port Douglas, Australia. I had taken an overnight flight from Hong Kong to Cairns and arrived at the hotel at about 5am, an hour before breakfast, so we had no choice but to take a walk along the beach as dawn was breaking. It was magnificent and I am so glad that we did. The beach was empty apart from a couple of dedicate fitness fanatics who were running up and down in the early hours to avoid the heat that would come later. 
I have it as my desktop on my home laptop and my work one too because I love sunrises and sunsets and when they are over a calm ocean it is even better. I feel at peace whenever I look at it.
Here is the photo but I have added a couple of similar ones that I took at the same time that I have also used.

9.    If you had to choose between $1,000,000 or to be able to fly what would it be?
It would definitely be $1,000,000 but I would prefer £1,000,000 because it is worth slightly more. The reason? I am scared of heights and being able to fly would be a curse.
10.  The last song you listened to?
Tye Dye on the Highway by the legendary Robert Plant:
11.  What time of day were you born?
I was born at 4am in the morning apparently. I don’t remember it at all.
12.  Where did you live in 1987?
I lived in a small three bedroomed semi-detached house in Altrincham, a small town about seven miles south west of Manchester.
13.  What do you do when vending machines steal your money?
The temptation is to attack them but I am a pacifist so I usually stand there staring at them in disbelief for a few minutes before thumping them in the hope that the money will be dislodged and give me whatever it is I had paid for. And then I walk away either in disgust, to a person who might be able to help me or like a complete lemon if people are watching and chuckling.
14.  Would you move for the person you loved?
I think I probably would but it would depend on where they wanted to go. 
15.  Name three things that you have on you at all times?
My glasses, my phone and my clothes.
16.  What’s your favourite town/city?
In the UK I can only say that my favourite city is Manchester. Worldwide it is Hong Kong.
17.  What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
I bought a chicken shawarma at a kebab shop during a break between two bands at a gig I went to last Saturday night. I rarely use cash these days but I always have some with me – just in case.
18.  When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
I haven’t written a letter using a pen for years and years. I simply can’t remember. It was probably in the 1980’s.
19.  The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear?
I went to a wedding in deepest darkest Lancashire a couple of weekends ago and I decided to buy a new blue suit (chosen of course by Mrs PM). I also bought some new tan brogues and a light blue shirt to match. I wore an old red tie though.
20.  Does anything hurt on your body right now?
The only pain I have is a minor irritation on my finger where Star(dust) scratched me a couple of days ago while I was playing with her. I deserved it completely.