Sunday 31 July 2022

Sunday 5

Welcome to a sunny Sunday afternoon in South Manchester. 

I am now free of Covid-19 – well the truth is that the symptoms only lasted for about three days and they were relatively mild but it took a further five days to get a negative test result. At least I can actually go out now and I have managed to watch England beat South Africa in a One Day Cricket International and also go to a musical festival featuring tribute bands playing the songs of AC/DC, Kiss, Metallica, Megadeth, Thin Lizzy and many more. 

That was yesterday and it was fun.

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1) What one event from your lifetime would you change if you could, and why?

That’s a difficult one because if I changed one thing earlier in my life then I wouldn’t be the person I am today. 

There have been many embarrassing things that have happened to me through the course of my life that I would probably want to forget but each one has made me a better person and I get to joke about them on this stupid blog. I probably wouldn’t change any of those either.

I guess the answer therefore has to be none.

2) If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be and how old would your younger self be when they got it? Do you think your younger self would listen?

I would tell him to just go and start talking to strangers. People are brilliant and I am quite happy to chat to strangers these days. For example while we were queuing up to get entrance into the music festival yesterday, I started chatting to the two women in front of me in the queue and it was fun. 

Would my younger self listen? 

Absolutely not because he was shy and I think he would probably rather have removed his own fingernail than chat to a stranger in a queue. I would tell him that his efforts would ultimately be rewarded in his thirties anyway so it would happen eventually.

Again, in relation to question one – perhaps it would be better for him not to listen to me.

3) Would you be any good on Survivor?

I had to look this up and the answer is that I would almost certainly not be any good. I would be okay with puzzles but anything else would be dreadful. So no – I wouldn’t bother even considering it.

4) What's a safety rule that's very important to you?

Don’t dive into anything without knowing what the consequences might be. Mrs PM is quite impulsive and she feels her life is better for it – but I am the opposite. Mrs PM accuses me of being indecisive but I feel that is a good thing. I have to weigh up the pros and cons and then I know I will be fine whereas impulsive people sometimes get stung. 

It works for me anyway.

Also if you have two black cats, always have the torch on your smartphone ready to use when you get up in the middle of the night to answer a call of nature. 

5) What would you like to say to people in the future?

Don’t blame me for the consequences of Brexit. I didn’t vote for it.

I’m sorry that we were too selfish to look after the planet.

I hope it’s not too hot.

Boris Johnson really was a complete arse and electing him as Prime Minister was the stupidest thing the UK ever did (apart from Brexit).

And don’t get me started on Donald Trump …

6) What's your favourite dish to bring to a summer cookout?

I guess by “summer cookout” you mean a barbecue. The obvious answer is sausages, burgers and steaks – and of course beer because you would only have a barbecue on a hot day.

7) How much time have you spent outdoors this week?

I always start my day with a three to four mile walk at about 6:20 am and it takes me an hour or so and I really enjoy it because it is quiet. Sadly this week it has rained a fair amount and I have had to work so from Monday to Friday not a lot of extra time was spent outdoors. However, yesterday I spent the whole day at an outdoor music festival in north Manchester so I was outside from about 10am to 11pm. I may well pop out for another stroll this afternoon as it is quite pleasant outside.

8) Where do you set your thermostat?

I don’t set the thermostat – I leave that to Mrs PM. I just adapt to the temperature that she wants to. It makes life easier for me. Happy wife, happy life.

9) How did you learn to swim?

I took lessons when I was about five years old back in Walsall, the town where I grew up. I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer but I do like to dabble when I go on holiday.

10) How do you avoid overheating?

A couple of weeks ago we had a three-day heatwave in the UK that shattered all previous records all over the country. In the south of England, we recorded 40.2 degrees Celsius (104.4 Fahrenheit). In Manchester the previous record was 33.9 degrees Celsius (93.0 Fahrenheit) but last Tuesday we reached 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit).

As you can imagine, the weather in Manchester isn’t usually extreme so we don’t normally need air conditioning and we don’t have swimming pools. We just had to open all the windows and try to drink lots of fluids. We are lucky because we live in a house that was built in 1903 and the sun is omnipresent at the front of the house, leaving the back of house cooler. The garden gets a lot of sun though but we weren’t stupid enough to go out into the blazing heat. 

While I like high temperatures abroad, here in the UK we aren’t really prepared for such extremes – and I hope that is something that we rectify soon. 

Of course, when I am on holiday in a hot climate, I either jump in the pool or switch on the air-conditioning. It’s easy.

The highest temperature I have ever had to endure was in Muscat, Oman where the peak was 46 degrees Celsius  (115 Fahrenheit). 

I just stayed inside with the air-con.

11). What are you going to do this weekend?

This weekend is almost over. Next weekend, however, we are driving across the country to the small seaside town of Whitby. Whitby is famous because Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, lived there and wrote his famous novel, inspired by the small port.

Consequently Whitby has taken on board the Dracula themes and as well as, supposedly, having the best fish and chips in the UK, there are lots of vampire related memorabilia and Goths descend on the place in late October. 

You can even stay in a vampire themed hotel. We won’t be doing that.

Dracula Experience Whitby

Goths in Whitby

12) What’s your favourite way to spend time?

Travelling and exploring new places, spending time with friends, writing nonsense like this, listening to music, watching football, trying to teach myself the piano, reading and many other things. 

The football season started yesterday and my team, Walsall, won 4-0! Great start.

13) What’s the most useless thing you own that you would never get rid of?

I regard all my possessions as being wonderful and not useless at all. I am in a constant battle with Mrs PM who thinks I am a hoarder but at least she does let me keep my old crap.

14) Have you started planning your next vacation?

We have booked a trip to Greece in September but we are also considering going to a new country in October – a city break in Copenhagen, Denmark. We will start talking about this next week I reckon. 

We are also considering a longer trip to another new country, Malaysia either next year or the year after – but the plans are very much in their infancy. We will of course pop to Hong Kong on the way home too.

15) Are you very active, or do you prefer to just relax in your free time or is it one and the same to you?

Physically I am fairly active. As I said above, I like to go for a fairly big walk every day and we like to have some kind of activity at the weekend – even if that means relaxing. Personally I like to relax too and I unleash the introvert within me at least a couple of hours a day to simply spend time on my own and enjoy my own company. 

Saturday 16 July 2022

Travel Questions


Welcome to a very sunny and hot South Manchester as we prepare ourselves for a heatwave that will almost certainly smash the record temperatures in the UK. The current record stands at 38.7 degrees Centigrade (101.6 degrees Fahrenheit) which occurred in Cambridge in 2019. 

On Monday and Tuesday, the temperature in London is predicted to exceed 40 degrees Centigrade (104 degrees Fahrenheit) – something that is unprecedented in the United Kingdom.

This will be the pinnacle of two weeks of madness in both my life and that of the United Kingdom. Let’s start with my country. 

We all finally had enough of the clown/scarecrow hybrid that was masquerading as the Prime Minister and so, finally, it turns out did his own party. The government started resigning en masse and a week ago last Thursday the idiot finally resigned, although he still seems to be Prime Minister because he is trying to cling on to power like the lying leech that he is – at least until September – though I hope sooner.

This means that his Conservative Party are having a leadership contest to find the next liar who will take his place. All of the candidates (there are currently five of them) have in the past supporting the clown and now, in their campaign speeches are claiming that they are going to “fix” Britain. 

Britain is broken in their eyes (understatement of the century) and they claim it has nothing to do with their party or themselves. The idiots have been in power for TWELVE YEARS! They bloody well broke it – especially with Brexit. 

It makes my blood boil.

It is little consolation that Boris Johnson, the worst Prime Minister we have ever had, has now gone because I want his party to go too. I could go on with my reasons but I won’t bore you anymore.

On a personal note I have been to Belgium – Bruges and Brussels – and I thoroughly enjoyed it – until, that is, I came back with a little gift – Covid-19.

Yes – that’s right! Having successfully avoided Covid-19 for two and a half years, it has caught up with me finally. I tested positive on Monday of this week and now, on Saturday, I feel a lot better, but still have a cough and am still positive. This is annoying because I am now going slightly stir crazy. 

I felt rough on Monday and Tuesday but I have improved a lot since then and all I want to do is go out. I can’t – which means I will miss a cricket game tomorrow (also annoying). I have to wait for two clear days before I can join the land of healthy people again.

Back to the temperatures, it seems that in Manchester the record we have had is 33.7 degrees Centigrade and on Monday/Tuesday that will reach 36 degrees Centigrade. So maybe it is a good thing that I can’t go out (I wouldn’t anyway because I will be working from home anyway – despite Covid-19 if I still have it).

Phew – after all that – shall I answer some questions from Sunday Stealing

1. To which countries have you been?

(Deep breath):

Argentina, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Czechia (formerly Czech Republic), France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Macau, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Oman, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom (of course), United States of America, Vatican City and Vietnam

2. Which countries would you love to visit one day?

Whether I will be able to do so I don’t know – but here is a list off the top of my head:

Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Cuba, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea and Sweden.

3. Have been on a trip this year or have one planned for later?

Yes – I have been to Estepona in Spain and Bruges and Brussels in Belgium (hot off the press). The plan is to go to Greece in September and possibly Amsterdam in October/November.

4. What kinds of transport do you prefer to travel by? (train, car, plane,...)

I am not a huge fan of the actual travelling part of travel – i.e. getting there and getting home – but if you were to push me I would say train travel is best because it is quite relaxing.

5. Do you get yourself a souvenir to take home? If yes, what do you like to buy?

I used to buy fridge magnets but when we had a new kitchen, Mrs PM refused to allow them on the fridge – so there was no point collecting them any longer. I’m slightly disappointed to be fair but I guess it’s a good thing given that they are really overpriced tat.

These days the experience becomes memories and photos and that is enough.

6. Do you like to try local food? Can you recommend anything or advise not to try something?

Oh yes – unless I hate it. I am not a huge fan of That food so I had problems in Thailand itself, especially when we went for a Thai banquet in Bangkok. I managed to pick at the food and find something that was okay but the truth is that I was still hungry afterwards and had to have a street snack on the way home. 

I’m not a fan of seafood generally (especially shellfish) and people tend to warn me against that especially in hotter eastern Asian countries – I’ve seen some people suffer from them in the past. More often than not, though, the food is good. I will warn that in China and Japan you have to be careful what you eat – not because it is bad, but because you don’t know what it actually is. 

For example, in China I accidentally ate jellyfish thinking it was something else, and they love insects and pets too. My recommendation is that you take a phrase book into the restaurant and show them the food you want (for example, beef, pork, chicken etc.) and they will find something that matches for you. If you are not in a tourist area in China you will be presented with a menu in Chinese and waiters/waitresses who do not speak a single word of English. Your phrase book is your best friend.

7. Do you book your travel online or classical in a travel agency?

We usually book online these days. 

8. Name three things that you cannot go anywhere without and have in your suitcase.

I assume that you don’t mean clothes, passport for example (i.e. essentials). 

Phone, books and music. 

9. Tell about a funny travel experience you had.

I’ve shared a couple of these in the past – let’s think of another one. 

Ah yes – America.

I love America but I think that there are some Americans who don’t really know too much about the United Kingdom – but they think they do.

I was in a house in Cleveland at a party and I was constantly being asked questions by the good folks at the party and some of the questions were rather weird. Here are some of them:

“Do you have microwave ovens in England?” - The answer of course is, yes! We invented the computer and the internet, you know.

“Have you ever met the Queen?” - The answer of course is no. There are over 67 million people in the United Kingdom and she is just one of them.

“I went to London once and met a guy called John Smith. Do you know him?” – See previous answer.

“Why do English people sing in an American accent?” – Actually, that is a good question for which I was unable to provide a meaningful answer.

“Can you explain the rules of cricket to me?” – Yes:

The Rules of Cricket

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.

Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out.

When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.

Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.

When both sides have been in and all the men have got out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

Do you understand now?

10. Tell about a bad travel experience you’ve had.

We were robbed in the middle of the night on a cruise on the Yangtzee River. In the same cruise, we had a rat in the room who destroyed all of our toilet paper and lived in the walls. To cap matters, Mrs PM had a stomach bug too. All three problems were resolved but it was an unpleasant few days.

11. What kind of accommodation do you usually stay in when you go on trips?

We usually stay in a half decent hotel. 

12. Have you ever traveled alone by yourself? Did you like it? If not, would you want to try it?

I have never been on holiday on my own but I have travelled to foreign places on business. Perhaps the most boring was a trip to Moscow in the middle of winter, where I stayed in a town about 40km from the city in temperatures of -20 degrees Centigrade with just myself for company. I did manage to get to Moscow itself at the weekend and explore the city armed with long johns, three layers of clothes, hat, gloves, big boots and a coat that doubled my weight. I had a lovely meal in a Mexican restaurant before I had to go back – but it was quite good to explore the snowy, icy city on my own.

I prefer company though.

13. What is the first thing you do when you arrive at your destination?

Usually we dump our stuff into the hotel room, get changed quickly and get out exploring.

14. What kinds of activities do you like to do when you are traveling?

We like to explore, relax and sample the local customs and food. Sometimes we can be like stereotypical tourists and I don’t mind that. Mrs PM is braver than I am and usually tries to drag me off the beaten track to see more of the hidden country.

15. How do you like to spend your vacation? (on a cruise, backpacking, etc)

I’m not a big fan of cruises because I get stir-crazy and I think that the people on the boats are targets for overpriced trips that can be a little too touristy for my liking. I tend to prefer doing my own thing. Ideally a trip would involve exploring a new city with some relaxation involved too. I think my backpacking days are over – I’ve done that a few times in the past and it is tiring; I am too old now and want my own comforts.

16. Do you like to travel in your own country? If yes, can you recommend a place?

I love travelling in my own country. For those who haven’t been to the UK I would recommend:

London, Chester, York, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, The Lake District, the Peak District, the Cotswolds, Warwick (for the castle), Stratford-upon-Avon (for Shakespeare lovers), Cornwall, Liverpool, northern Scotland, North Wales and of course Manchester (if nothing else because I live here). 

I would also recommend Northern Ireland but I’ve never been there myself. That will change.

Sunday 3 July 2022

Summery Things

Welcome to South Manchester where the weather is warm and cloudy with sunny intervals. I’ve actually just been abroad for the first time since 2019.

Mrs PM and I travelled to Estepona on the south coast of Spain. It is a resort that is more Spanish and less full of tourists and while there were a few fellow British people there, it is largely unspoiled by the mob-handed people who travel to Spain expecting it to be just like England. We were able to practice our Spanish, enjoy Spanish life, go for long walks and relax by the sea.

I have missed this.

And not content with travelling to Spain, we are off to Brussels and Bruges on Thursday where we will be exploring the two cities, sampling Belgian beer and chocolate and generally doing what we do best when abroad. It’s been decades since I went to Belgium last; in fact I wouldn’t say that I visited the country really – the only time I spent there was a few hours as a student, travelling through the country on train on our way back from Germany. We spent two hours waiting for a ferry from Ostend. It will be good to actually sample the true Belgium this time.

I can’t wait.

But for now, let’s dive into some silly questions, as usual from Sunday Stealing

1. Favourite thing to do during the summer?

As you can see from my introduction, I love to travel and we try to get away at least twice during the summer. This year we have been to Spain and we are going to Belgium next week and Greece in September – and I may be visiting Amsterdam again with my old university pals in October.

Other than that, I like to enjoy the weather, watch cricket, enjoy a cold pint of beer in a pub garden and explore the English countryside. We have a couple of trips around England planned too. We are off to Whitby soon and also for a weekend in York. No doubt we will head to places locally too.

2. Favourite cold food/dessert/drink that gets you through the summer heat?

I love a cold beer in the summer. Failing that I will drink water and fruit juice too. I used to eat a lot of ice cream as a kid but I only eat that rarely these days – though I still like it. And you can’t beat a good barbecue – we have to watch out for rain though in the UK because although the weather is generally good, we can be hit by short sharp showers that appear without warning sometimes. It’s best to keep an eye on the sky. This is one of the reasons we British people talk about the weather so much.

3. Gone to a drive-in movie

I have been to a drive-in once and it was somewhere in the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles. I wanted to see Star Trek V: The Final Frontier but my now ex-wife preferred K9 – so we ended up watching that (much to my annoyance). It was a good experience but I prefer the cinema. We have never had drive-in’s in the UK; the weather is usually too unpredictable (see – talking about the weather AGAIN).

4. What are you planning to do this summer?

I think I answered this in question 1.

5. Did the pandemic ruin any summer plans? If so, what?

It destroyed my summer plans in 2020 and 2021 completely. The holidays we have booked this year are the ones we were planning in 2020. We may well head off to Asia next year or the year after.

6. Rode on any water mobile (jetski, ferry, boat, etc)

I have been on a jet ski once – which Mrs PM was driving with me clinging on for dear life at the back. It was fun but I don’t really fancy driving one myself.

I have been on countless ferries and boats and even a couple of hovercraft – a local one in Hong Kong from the New Territories to Hong Kong Central and an “international” one from Hong Kong to Macau.

7. Gone to a summer camp

No. This is a largely American thing I think.

8. Been to any Asian country (if not, where would you go and why? if yes, where was your favourite?)

I have been to Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. My clear favourite is Hong Kong – but that is really part of China now. I think I have to say that as a large country, Japan is my favourite overall. It is such a wonderful, diverse and interesting country, that is strange, friendly, scenic, futuristic and brilliant. I want to go back as soon as I can.

It would be lovely to explore some other countries too. Our next destination that way will be Malaysia but Mrs PM is currently trying to sell Cambodia and Laos to me. I think I will probably agree if we can go to Japan after that.

9. Been to any African country (if not, where would you go and why? if yes, where was your favourite and why?)

I have been to South Africa with work and unfortunately got stuck in Johannesburg, which is most definitely not the safest city on Earth. I loved the food – I had the best steak I have ever had in my life – and the people I worked with were funny and friendly. It’s a shame I didn’t really have time to explore places like Cape Town – but maybe in future.

As for other countries - we will almost certainly go to Morocco at some point and I wouldn’t mind going to Egypt.

10. Been to any North American country (if not, where would you go and why? if yes, where was your favourite and why?)

I have been the United States many times and also Canada. In America, I have been to New York, Boston, Cape Cod, Washington DC, Atlanta, most of Florida, New Orleans, Tulsa, Richmond, Williamsburg, Seattle, Alaska, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Cleveland. Possibly some other places in Virginia and North Carolina too.

I think Canada is what happens if you cross the UK with the US. Canadians seem to have a similar sense of humour to the weird humour of the UK and I always feel like I am in an American city populated with British people talking with a funny accent.

I love both countries and we will no doubt head across the pond at some point in the future.

11. Been to any South American country (if not, where would you go and why? if yes, where was your favourite and why?)

I’ve been to Argentina for eight hours and apart from that I have only ever been to Brazil. I was stunned about how huge the place is. We spent three weeks there and the food was vast; I was used to huge portions in the US but Brazilians can give them a run for their money when it comes to food. Of course, we went to Rio de Janeiro – an incredible city that is lovely but also quite dangerous. I loved Iguacu Falls – they are better than Niagara Falls in my opinion.

Will we go back to South America? I am tempted to go to Argentina again – we were only there to see Iguacu Falls from the Argentinian side. I hear that Buenos Aires is a wonderful city.

12. Been to any Australian country (if not, where would you go and why? if yes, where was your favourite and why?)

Yes – I have been to Australia and I absolutely loved the place. It is enormous and we visited the east coast only. I discovered just how big it is because we drove from Brisbane to Sydney stopping off at a few places on the way and it took days! It was a proper road trip.

Earlier I said that Canadians are just like British people but Australians are even more so. I love those guys and there is a bit of a rivalry between us. I am known as a Pom and I was called one several times, especially when I mentioned that England had just won the Ashes at cricket.

“Bladdy hell! Just what I need – to find myself in a bladdy lift with a gloating Pom!”

I love them!

I want to go back but this time get across to New Zealand too.

13. Gone to a festival/fair

Yes – I have been to loads of them. Not so many these days but I do like them.

14. Gone to an amusement park

I’ve gone off amusement parks because there is nothing to do if you don’t want to be terrified by rides that basically try to turn you inside out. I avoid them these days.

15. Binge watched 5 different TV show series (what were they)

I’ve done this recently and I love doing it to wind down. Here are five I would recommend:



The Expanse

The Boys

Stranger Things