Saturday 22 October 2022

Dare to Tell

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

Well it is now official. 

The UK is the laughing stock of the world. 

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

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

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

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

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

This will be three leaders in a year!

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

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

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

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

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

1. What type of day are you having? 

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

Was there anyone who "made your day"?

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

Are you liking how you look today? 

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

Have you ever eaten a bug? 

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

Are you vegetarian? 

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

When was your last paycheck? 

15th October. 

How many pets do you have? 

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

Here they are:

What kind of toothpaste do you use? 

I use Colgate cavity protection. It tastes reasonable. 

Are you closer to being rich or poor? 

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

What was the last gift someone gave you? 

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

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

Do you appreciate that person? 

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

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

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

Do you like picnics? 

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

What book are you currently reading? 

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

What song did you last listen to? 

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

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

How many tabs are open on your computer? 

Just the one – with the questions from Sunday Stealing.

Are you a very stressed out person?

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

Saturday 8 October 2022

Memory Vault

Welcome to a sunny South Manchester. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. What is your favourite genre of fiction?

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

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

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

3. Do you choose a book by its cover?

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

4. Where do you do most of your reading?

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

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

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

6. How many movies are on your TBW list?

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

7. What's your favourite genre of movie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. How many songs are on your favourite playlist?

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

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

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

I’m going to have a lot of fun.

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

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

12. And Finally ...

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

First – this was number one in the UK:

This was number one in the US:

And finally this was number one Down Under:

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

Saturday 1 October 2022

Autumn Meme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Favourite autumn holiday: 

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

2. Best thing about autumn walks:

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

3. Favourite autumn chore: 

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

4. Least favourite autumn chore: 

Cleaning up leaves. So annoying.

5. Best change in the home: 

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

6. Best tree in the autumn: 

Any tree whose leaves turn red or orange.

7. Autumn ritual: 

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

8. Most frustrating thing about autumn: 

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

9. Favourite autumn decorations: 

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

10. Favourite clothing: 

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

11. Traditional autumn candy: 

I rarely eat sweets (candy). 

12. Favourite sound: 

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

13. When does autumn begin for you?

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

14. What is your favourite aspect of autumn? 

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

15. What is your favourite autumn memories?

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

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

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

17. What's your favourite autumn food?  

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

18. What colour is autumn?

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

19. What does autumn smell like? 

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

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

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