Saturday 24 September 2022

Trapped in a Room

Welcome to a cloudy but still slightly warm South Manchester, the day after we have returned from a week’s break in Greece. It was really good with lots of sunshine, great food and total relaxation. I feel energised.

There was one casualty though; my trusty iPod has developed a fault, causing me to make a momentous decision. 

I am going to join the youth and subscribe to Spotify.

It’s a really difficult decision as I have a lot of CD’s upstairs (and if you are reading this Mrs PM, I am definitely keeping them). I am going to buy a cheap mp3 player to use for my daily walks and on my travels when I can’t get internet access (like flying for example) but everything else will be Spotify.

I am also going to invest in a new smartphone as my current one is cracked. The protective contraption I bought for it fell apart and became useless. I threw it away, only to drop my phone and crack the screen in my own house about a week later. That happened when I had Covid-19 a couple of months ago. 

I’m not too bothered because it was due to be replaced anyway.

Back to music – it is the end of an era. I will buy no more CD’s and rely on Spotify’s enormous collection to listen to new albums and expand my horizons into that vast database of songs. What I am going to do though is to produce a series of posts next year highlighting my fifty favourite albums from my collection of CD’s, using them as an excuse to drift into any thoughts associated with them. Self-indulgent I know but it will be fun for me.

Anyway – for now, let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing. 

1. If you were trapped in a room with the person who asked this for 24 hours, what would you do? The answer cannot be romantic or sexual. 

I would spend eight of those hours sleeping. In the remaining sixteen, I would simply chat to that person. What else can I do? Given that this period would be sixteen hours I would try to learn as much about him or her as I could. I hope it’s not you dear reader because you would be bored to death listening to me drone on for hours on end.

2. If you could learn any language instantly, what would it be? 

Spanish. I am trying to learn it at the moment and I am quite enjoying it. At school I studied French for five years and I can still get by with that. French would be my second choice. I also studied German for three years and of the three languages I claim to be able to speak, it is my weakest (mainly because it is the hardest). 

I can also sense that some readers might suggest that I learn English. If you are thinking of leaving such a comment, my reply will be “Don’t be naughty!”.

3. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

I would be completely bored reading just one book for the rest of my life no matter how interesting it is. I think it would have to be one of these vast science fiction space operas that are in multiple parts and stretch to thousands of pages. 

4. Favourite song lyric? 

I have several favourite lyrics and it depends what mood I am in. These keep cropping up:

Nine Inch Nails: 

I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel


Some are born to move the world

To live their fantasies

But most of us just dream about

The things we'd like to be

Sadder still to watch it die

Than never to have known it

For you, the blind who once could see

The bell tolls for thee


Like a blindman, I can feel the heat of the sun,

But, like a blindman

I don't know, I don't know,

I don't know where it’s coming from

Spinal Tap:

When we die, do we haunt the sky?

Do we lurk in the murk of the seas?

What then? Are we born again?

Just to sit asking questions like these?

5. Favourite album? 

That is one of the most difficult questions you could ask me. I have been looking at my CD collection recently as I said above and trying to get the list down to one hundred and then to fifty. I managed fifty finally but I can’t get any lower than that.

Here is one that you will read about from that fifty should you choose to do so. It is called “Hand.Cannot.Erase.” by Steven Wilson. Here is the title song from it.

6. Which time of day would you say is best for you work-wise?

Definitely first thing in the morning. My mind is at its sharpest and slowly deteriorates as the day goes by. I tend to attack the most difficult things at the start of the day, those problems that require the most thought and analysis. I tend to leave the more mundane crap to towards the end of the day. 

7. What do you think people assume about you from first glance?

How did that chimp manage to escape from the zoo and buy clothes?

8. Favourite city that you haven’t visited? 

How can you have a favourite city that you haven’t visited? Surely you need to visit a place for it to become any kind of favorite.

I guess you mean, what city that you haven’t been to is the city you want to visit next?

Well that’s easy. I’m going there next month. Copenhagen in Denmark. I think I will enjoy it. 

9. If you received $10,000 but had to give it away, what would you do with it? 

I would give it to a local charity, one that helped people who are struggling in these times of crisis, partly due to the pandemic, Vlad the Invader’s war, Brexit and Liz Truss’s mad budgetary plans that occurred yesterday. The UK is in a right mess at the moment.

10. What is one book you wish you could get all your friends to read? 

A lot of my friends have a completely different taste in fiction books to me and would not be interested in any of them. I might try to persuade them to read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear though. I had already adopted the concept of habit forming when I came across it, and it takes this concept and runs with it. 

I have found it quite helpful.

11. What is one movie you wish you could get all your friends to watch? 

Again, a lot of my friends don’t share my taste in films either. I would probably recommend something like Inception and tell them that they need to watch it when their brains is at it’s sharpest.

12. If you could create one thing, what would it be?

I would create a novel or a progressive rock masterpiece. I need talent to do both so it’s unlikely.

13. If you could play any musical instrument, what would it be? 

I think it would be a guitar. I am currently trying to teach myself a piano but only because guitars are more difficult.

14. What is your favourite item of clothing?

I don’t really have a favourite item of clothing. I dress for the occasion and just pick clothes that suit whatever it is I am doing - or should I say Mrs PM chooses them.

15. What is your favourite card/board game?

I’m not a huge fan of card games or board games. I usually get coerced into playing the odd card game at Christmas but I don’t really enjoy them. 

Saturday 10 September 2022

A Tale of Two Elizabeths


Greetings from South Manchester on a cloudy day with hints of sun and blue sky. 

I am going to answer the usual Sunday Stealing questions (see later) but first I thought that I would talk about two ladies called Elizabeth who have made quite an impact to the UK this week. Apologies in advance for the rambling post – you can skip to the questions if you like.

First, the Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth has died at the age of 96. She was known as Queen Elizabeth II and had a good innings both in terms of her age and also in terms of her reign, being the longest serving monarch in our history. She was on the throne for 70 years celebrating her platinum jubilee earlier this year. She was even working up to two days before her death on Thursday, accepting the resignation of Boris the Clown as Prime Minister and asking his successor to form a government the same day. More about that later.

She has been queen my entire life and it will be odd for us in the UK as now we have a new monarch, her son King Charles III who is king now but will be formally crowned in due course. Our new coins, notes etc. will bear his face and name alongside many other things and the transition will be gradual with many things like post boxes still bearing the ER insignia for a while, I imagine, rather than CR that will come soon.

So what do I think of all this? 

Regular readers know that I am not a royalist at all. With my hand on my heart, all I can say is that I am ambivalent to the Windsor family. I don’t hate them but I don’t love them either. When they appear on the news because one of them tripped up and fallen over in public, I tend to switch it off. To me they are just celebrities, born into the role and not people that I have the remotest interest in, a bit like reality TV stars. I have said that if I had met the queen, or if I ever meet the king, I would not follow etiquette. To me they are just people – not any better or worse than I am.

But now the UK has gone mad. The flagship TV channel BBC 1 has had wall to wall coverage of this news story, shelving all programmes since it happened (including today – Saturday) with 24 hour news about the queen and tribute after tribute from famous people all over the UK as well as politicians and tearful members of the public. There is not one bad word about her or her family. 

Most if not all celebrities and politicians have to praise her, or say how utterly fantastic she was, lest they are alienated and cancelled for saying anything bad or even hinting at any criticism. They are positively falling over each other to express their grief and praise. 

People who have never met her are pontificating all over the news and crying as if she were a member of their own family. 

She was arguably the most famous person in the world but I don’t understand it personally. Royalists reading this may frown at best upon reading these words – others will condemn me. I don’t really care. She was just another person to me – a famous one admittedly – who was a part of British culture. 

She has been part of my life at a distance for my entire 59 years on this island called Great Britain, so as I said above, it will be weird without her on the news all the time but I am not mourning her loss as royalists want me to. I just want the over-the-top coverage to stop now and for us to get on with life. We have enough problems in the UK without having to stop everything for one passing. 

I do hope she rests in peace and my thoughts are with her family but that is all.

Actually, one more thing will change. The National Anthem of the UK is called God Save the Queen. This, and the lyrics, will change to God Save the King. That will take a little getting used to.

This leads me onto the next Elizabeth I want to talk about. 

On Tuesday of this week, Queen Elizabeth II’s last major duty was to finally accept the resignation of the King of Clowns, Boris Johnson. Good riddance to the incompetent buffoon who was the worst Prime Minister that we have had in my lifetime (and possibly ever). His replacement is the second Elizabeth in this post – Elizabeth “Liz” Truss, the third female Prime Minister we have ever had. 

To say that Liz Truss is out of touch is a massive understatement. She may not be quite as bad as Boris Johnson (let’s face it – Ronald McDonald would have been a better Prime Minister) but her leadership campaign exposed her as being another bad leader. She already had a massive U-turn and refused to do an in-depth interview with a high profile BBC political journalist saying that “she didn’t have time”. 

The truth is that he probably would have torn her apart.

All she had to do was to convince 140,000 members of her party that she was up to the job – that’s 140,000 people deciding the future Prime Minister. I think that if a Prime Minister resigns, we should have a General Election because Liz Truss basically told this elite group of people what they wanted to hear.

You may think that I am getting ahead of myself in criticising her but her policies fill me with no confidence and she actually praised her predecessor. 

Anyway – here is a video of what we might have to suffer from her.

God help us!

Okay – now to the questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What flavour Popsicle is the best? 

In the UK, we call “popsicles” ice lollies and I used to love one that was around in the 1970’s called an Orange Maid – it is apparently still around today though I haven’t had one for about forty years. These days I tend to eat chocolate covered ice cream lollies called Magnum. Delicious.

2. Do you have a DVR feature with your cable? 

I have Sky TV which comes with a box capable of recording any program on any channel. What I tend to do is record entire series and watch them at my leisure and at the moment there is a lot of stuff to watch, including movies, documentaries, gigs and normal TV series. It’s so easy to use.

3. How many drawers does your dresser have? 

We have a couple of dressers scattered about the house. Two have four drawers and the biggest one in the second bedroom has six drawers (but is largely used to store non-clothing items.

4. Is your closet a mess? 

We don’t have a closet as such, just a cupboard under the stairs. Is it a mess? Partly. When you open the door you see some stuff on the floor like the vacuum cleaner and other similar household bits and pieces and some shelves that are neat and tidy containing all manner of files and books. To the left we hang coats but at the back it is a bit of a mess – mainly because it is difficult to get too. To be honest we should sort it out because we don’t actually know what is in there.

5. Have you ever solved a Rubik's Cube? 

I have never owned a Rubik’s cube even when everybody else seemed to have one. I have had a go at them but ultimately it would have wasted too much of my time, so I guess the answer is no.

6. Describe your favourite pair of pajama pants: 

We call them pyjamas in the UK – pronounced the same but spelt slightly differently, just like all of the American spellings I usually correct when answering these questions. We also call them jim-jams (well I do anyway because I am weird).

I just bought some new ones actually as winter is approaching. They are officially called “leisure wear” but I use them as pyjamas. One is black and the other a dark blue. Both are very nice and very comfy.

7. What colour is your wallet? 

My wallet is black. I like black wallets.

8. Do you find flea markets and thrift shops enjoyable? 

I don’t find shopping enjoyable so I am hardly likely to favour flea markets and thrift shops above any others.

9. Have you met amazing people online? 

I’ve met one fellow blogger once, a very sweet and funny Australian lady called Kath who has moved to Geneva, Switzerland. I caught up with her when I was working there. She actually wrote about the experience. You can read it here

I would be quite happy to meet other bloggers. 

10. Would you be happy if I coloured a picture for you? 

Sure – why not?

11. What show do you think 'made' the 90's? 

For me it was the science fiction epic Babylon 5. I absolutely loved it. I love Star Trek but this is much better (something that almost alienated me from a few die-hard trekkers I know). Here is a taste of what it is like:

Rumour has it that they are rebooting it. That will be amazing if it is true.

12. Are you happier now than you were last year? 

Personally I’m not sure. Certain events have unfolded over the course of the last twelve months both personal and otherwise that have challenged my usual content self. That said, the outlook now is on the up and I feel (hope) that next year will be better.

13. What are you currently drinking?

I am drinking a huge mug of decaffeinated tea. I prefer caffeinated (or full fat) tea but over the past few years I have all but eliminated caffeine from my diet. I feel better for it.

14. Do you trust people easily? 

I approach people positively and I hope that I can trust them but to be honest it depends on the person. I like to think I am a good judge of character and so far my trust has usually been well placed. I tend to avoid toxic and aggressive people although I will always be my usual friendly self, even to them.

15. What are you looking forward to in the next three months?

The first thing is my trip to Greece on Friday. Mrs PM and I are travelling to Zante for a week of relaxation and I can’t wait. 

We have also managed to slip in a weekend to country I have never been to before. Next month we are travelling to Copenhagen in Denmark for a long weekend. I am really looking forward to that because I have heard that the Danes are brilliant people. 

There also may be a university reunion in November, another trip abroad, this time to a city I have visited many time – Amsterdam. If that comes off, I will have been abroad five times this year. 

Of course three months includes Christmas, usually a busy time, and we have a couple of things planned with family and friends that should be good.

Saturday 3 September 2022



Welcome to a slightly dull South Manchester. The weather has been nice recently but it looks like it may actually rain later today. I guess as summer is effectively over and we welcome autumn, we have to expect a little rain now and then. 

Today’s Sunday Stealing  talks about movies – or films as we tend to call them in the UK (personally I use both terms). 

Shall we dive in?

1. Best movie you saw during the last year.

That’s an easy one: Spiderman: No Way Home. I love super hero films (I’m still basically a kid at heart) and Spiderman has always been right up there as one of my favourites, from the days when I used to watch the Spiderman cartoons in the 1970’s. I knew most if not all of his nemeses and in this movie, not only did they bring the best ones back, I though bringing back Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield to join Tom Holland was a brilliant idea. And we had Dr Strange thrown into the mix too. 

If you haven’t seen it, I thoroughly recommend it.

2. The most underrated movie.

I cheated on this a little because I have to say that if I genuinely like a movie, I don’t care what other people think. I don’t really know what constitutes an underrated movie – so I looked up a list of what films Google thinks fall into this category. Of all the lists that I saw, one film popped out immediately – The Dead Zone – based on the novel by Stephen King. I remember seeing the film at the cinema when it was released in 1983 and, if you are not familiar with the story, Christopher Walken plays a man who has a road accident and wakes up from a coma five years later with the ability to see a person’s future just by touching them. Of course, Stephen King is one of my favourite authors so it was fairly obvious that this story would be right up my street.

3. Favourite love story in a movie.

I don’t really like romantic movies. It’s not because I am not a romantic person; I just think that it is usually just contrived and artificial. That said, I guess love can be a motivator in some movies so I reluctantly accept that it plays a part. Regular readers will know that I particularly don’t like romantic comedies – apart from one, which is Notting Hill – not because of the love story, but because of the characters that surround the two main ones. I will therefore reluctantly nominate that one.

4. The most surprising plot twist or ending

I’ve seen a lot of movies with plot twists and I love them. I would have said The Sixth Sense apart from I spotted the plot twist about halfway through the film. The one I didn’t see coming was The Usual Suspects – so I will say that one.

5. A movie that makes you really happy.

I’m not a big fan of so-called “feel good” movies. Again I find them a little artificial. I am a little weird so give me a great action flick and I will be happy. Let’s just pluck one out of there (there are so many to pick from) – Terminator 2: Judgement Day – a bloody great film.

6. A movie that makes you sad.

I have been know to cry at movies. I try to be all masculine and macho about it and hide my emotion, but my entire body lets me down – from my heartstrings to my brain and ultimately my eyes as tears flood down my cheeks. 

“I’ve just got hay fever”, or “there’s something in my eye” are two excuses I have prepared in case I am spotted in this fragile state. Please don’t tell anyone.

The film that brings out the worst response like this has to be The Elephant Man. It’s just so sad.

7. Favourite made for TV movie

I am going to include mini-series when it come to “made for TV movies” and again I am going to select one based on a Stephen King novel. The film in question is Salem’s Lot, which I saw in the late 1970’s and starred David Soul (Hutch from Starsky and Hutch) and James Mason. 

It scared me half to death and I loved it. I still get shivers down my spine thinking about it.

8. A movie you’ve seen countless times.

There are hundreds of films I watch over and over again. Mrs PM rarely does this and questions why I do it. The answer is, honestly, that I just love them – even though I know what will happen. So let’s pick one. I’m going to go for Inception because I think it is just brilliant.

9. A movie with the best soundtrack

I think for this I am going to select The Warriors, one of  my favourite cult movies of all time. The music fits in perfectly with the movie. The theme from the Warriors is just amazing. Here it is:

“Who are the Warriors? I want ALL … the Warriors. Send the word!”

10. Favourite classic movie

How do you define a classic movie? I’m going to cheat and pick two. The first, and oldest, is Way Out West featuring the legendary Laurel and Hardy:

The other classic movie I love is Some Like it Hot with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon and, of course, Marilyn Monroe. 

11. A movie that you hate.

There are lots of movies that I hate and the ones I hate most are those that I went to see based on the hype but left me stone cold.

One such movie is Dead Poets Society which I thought was rubbish, even though I love Robin Williams. Another is Independence Day, which despite the big budget and some great special effects, is hilariously terrible.

12. A movie that changed your opinion about something.

I don’t think any movies have changed my opinion about anything. However, there are a few that have intrigued me because they are through-provoking. Being a geek with a very vibrant but weird imagination, I look at sci-fi with a totally open mind and I think the main concept behind The Matrix was incredible, i.e. that although we are living what we think is a normal life, the truth could be a nightmare scenario. I just love that idea.

13. A character you can relate to the most.

I am going to pick a marvel superhero, not because I am a superhero – rather because I know how this guy feels. Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk is a scientific guy who prefers to stay out of the spotlight but will always be there to help if required. Of course, I wouldn’t like to become a towering colossal giant green anger monster – that’s not me at all – but everything else in terms of how he deals with his condition, I do kind of relate to.

14. A movie that is a guilty pleasure

I don’t like the term guilty pleasure because you shouldn’t feel guilty about anything that brings you pleasure. As I said above, if I like a movie I don’t actually care what people think or whether they agree with me. 

I guess what I am looking foe here is a movie that is universally known as “not good” that I thoroughly enjoyed. I am going to go for Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Timecop. Again, I love the concept if it means having to deal with the muscles from Brussels in the starring role, that is a small price to pay.

15. Favourite movie based on a book/comic

There are lots of them. I am going to cheat again and pick two because the movies go together: Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame – both brilliant movies.

16. A movie that disappointed you the most

Star Wars Episode i: The Phantom Menace – the less said about that the better.

17. A movie from your favourite actor/actress

I don’t really have a favourite actor or actress. I appreciate that there are some brilliant actors out of there but I just watch movies for the movie itself, not who is in it. 

I will pick two based on actors who are good.

The first is Goodfellas, starring Robert de Niro who is a great actor.

The second is The Silence of the Lambs because it stars Jodie Foster who is a great actress.

18. Favourite movie from your favourite director.

Again I don’t have a favourite director so I will pick a movie by a director who is good.

I’m going to go for Inglorious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino.

19 .Favourite action movie

I love action movies and it is hard to pick a favourite from that huge list. I’ll select one that I saw recently: Mission Impossible: Fallout

20. A movie you wish more people would have seen.

Cult films tend to be a niche that you only hear about by word of mouth and I assume that such films don’t tend to get the number of viewers that you would expect. I’m going to select my favourite film that is broadly labelled as a cult film. That film is 300. I love it.

This is Sparta!

21. Favourite documentary

I am fascinated by cults, in particular, Scientology. I have seen various documentaries about this particular cult but the only one that is a movie is Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

22. Favourite animation

I have to go back a few decades for this. When I was a kid, my mum took me to see The Jungle Book and I have loved it ever since. 

23. Most hilarious movie you’ve ever seen

Without a doubt, this is The Life of Brian, a controversial film that is actually still banned in a few place. At the time, it was released, lots of cinemas simply refused to show it, hailing it as blasphemous. The reality is that it simply makes fun and, as a Catholic, I don’t find it blasphemous at all. There are some brilliant jokes in it and I had to go and see it a second time because I missed so many jokes the first time because I was laughing so much.

24. A movie that you wish you had seen in the cinema

I tend to go to the cinema to see most movies that I want to see. There are a few that I have missed due to one reason or another and ended up having to see them on the TV some years later. To be honest, I can cope with that unless it is a full blown action movie or one that is filled with special effects that look much better on the big screen. 

Of all the ones I have missed, I think Starship Troopers is the one I most regret not seeing at the cinema. 

25. Your favourite movie of all time.

That is a truly difficult question that I can’t answer. I could perhaps list my top 100 movies but even that would be tricky. I am therefore going to cheat and simply not answer this one.