Sunday 29 January 2023

Pinterest Part Three

Welcome to a cloudy and dull South Manchester. January is almost over and I am delighted because, as regular readers will know, I hate January and February. I won’t go into this now but it is a relief that days are getting longer and the weather is improving (although February is to come and that can sometimes bite me on the arse as I look forward to spring).

Without any further ado, let’s dive into some silly questions from Sunday Stealing.

1. When did you last sing to yourself

This morning. I was listening to the latest single by Riverside. Here it is:

2. If you’re male, would you ever rock black nail polish? If you’re female, would you ever rock really, really short hair?

Last time I looked I was male. And the answer is that I would never wear nail polish at all, black or otherwise. I am a fan of rock music and while I have seen guys wearing all manner of weird things, I have never been tempted myself. 

3. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

That’s a difficult question and I don’t like to blow my own trumpet at all. By nature, I am not a person who boasts about anything really; I am quite modest. I guess I have accomplished a lot of things but there are people who would say “call that an accomplishment?”. Here are a couple to consider:

My two kids.

I have travelled to lots of countries and I plan to add more to that list. 

I am comfortable and happy as a grumpy old 60 year old.

That will do. I am sure others have accomplished far more than I have.

4. What is the first happy memory that comes to mind, recent or otherwise?

Going abroad for the  first time last year after the pandemic was a fairly significant happy memory. There are many others but after being locked down for so long and managing to escape being stir-crazy constantly, I was delighted to finally get away.

5. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living?

I would want to know how I was going to die and take steps to avoid it. Wouldn’t everybody?

6. Do you have a bucket list? if so, what are the top three things?

I’ve posted about bucket lists before. I don’t have one but I basically went through each item on one person’s bucket list to indicate whether I had done it or whether I would do it. I have considered creating one when I retire and have more time to actually achieve them but I’m not sure that I want to commit to doing it. Things may change though. 

Off the top of my head, here are three things I shall consider:

Write a novel. I am currently chipping away at a novel on my day off each week. It is in its infancy and quite amateurish but it is evolving. It will take some time to produce the first draft and then lots and lots of time to rewrite most of it (for being crap basically). Who knows? I may even self-publish it on Amazon. 

Travel to as many countries as I can. This is a work in progress. Last year I added Denmark to the list of countries I had visited. We are going to two more in the next two years: Morocco in April and Malaysia sometime in 2024. 

Make an album and release it on Spotify. I am teaching myself piano and am making fair progress. It is quite hard but I am getting there slowly. For me this is like a project. As soon as I can play and invent simple tunes, I am thinking of buying a synthesiser and exploring producing new instrumental tunes. A friend of mine recently “released” an album on Spotify and I listened to it yesterday. It gave me the idea of possibly doing that myself. It is not necessarily going to happen – but if you don’t have a goal (however difficult) how can you grow? That’s a good philosophy to embrace, I reckon.

7. How do you feel about tattoos and piercings? 

I don’t mind other people having them but I would never have either. 

8. Do you feel you had a happy childhood?

I had a tricky childhood but it was happy I think. I come from a working class background and I managed to find my way out of that into a more comfortable lifestyle and without the support of my family that would never have happened. 

8. When did you last cry in front of another person?

I can't remember but I probably blubbed watching a cheesy movie in front of Mrs PM.

9. Who in the world would you most like to receive a letter from and what would you want it to say?

I would like to receive a letter from King Charles III telling me that I had been knighted for just being an all round great guy. And then I would write back saying "Thanks -  but no thanks."

10. What is your night time routine?

Usually, I watch a little TV first and when I feel tired I will lock up, floss, brush my teeth and read in bed until I start to doze off (usually within about fifteen minutes). I will then remove the cats from the bedroom (so they don’t wake us in the middle of the night) and hopefully go to sleep. 

11. When was your last 3am conversation with someone, and who were they to you?

I can’t recall when I was last having a conversation at 3am. It will almost certainly been with Mrs PM though.

12. If you were about to die, and you could only say one more sentence to one person, what would you say and to whom?

I would say “See you in your dreams” to Mrs PM.

13. What is your opinion on brown eyes?

My mum had brown eyes as did my very first proper girlfriend. I love them. 

14. Pick a quote and describe what it means to you personally.

I will cheat and list a few:

“If an earthquake were to engulf England tomorrow, the English would manage to meet and dine somewhere among the rubble, just to celebrate the event.” – Douglas Jerrold

“The English are not happy unless they are miserable.” – George Orwell

“In the bible, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights- they called it a disaster. In England, we call it summer! – Unknown 

“Well, you’ll be glad to know that scientists have finally explained why we’ve been enduring this rather long spell of disappointing weather. Apparently…we live in Britain.” — Hugh Dennis

"The sun doesn’t live in England; it comes here on holiday when we’re all at work" - Benny Bellamacina

"Being an England supporter is like being the over-optimistic parents of the fat kid on sports day" - John Bishop

They are funny and tell me that we love a bit of self-deprecation in England. That’s why I love my country.

15. What would you title the autobiography of your life so far?

I have started one. It’s called “Insignificant Memoirs!”

Saturday 21 January 2023

Grammar School

Welcome to South Manchester on a sunny but very cold day. It snowed last week and the temperatures have dropped to below freezing and a lot of the snow has frozen, leaving certain areas of the pavement quite treacherous if you are walking around in dodgy shoes. I wear walking boots so I am fine for my morning strolls. 

Today’s Sunday Stealing is all about “High School” and since I live in the UK and went to a grammar school, there will be a little editing to anglicise the post and alter the Americanisms (I usually do this anyway – changing favorite to favourite for example). 

I am English after all.

Shall we dive in?

1. You are  back in grammar school... what are you doing after school lately?

Let’s say that I am in the sixth form for the next few questions; the year is 1980 and I am aged 17, studying for my A-Levels in Physics, Chemistry, Maths and the pot pourri that is “General Studies” (where you dive into weird and wonderful subjects such as religion, art, the ascent of man, history and various other odd tangential weirdness). 

At the moment, I help out in a newsagent so I receive the newspaper delivery at the shop and gather the newspapers for the paper kids to take out. If somebody doesn’t turn up, I help out with the delivery (for an extra couple of quid). 

As soon as I get home from school I will go back to the newsagent and help out in the shop and maybe collect money from customers who have their papers delivered. I will then do some home study and a bit of homework, eat and join my mates in the park. 

Oh – that’s right – I had a steady girlfriend then so I will spend some time with her too.

2. Do you do homework early or late? Do you really study?

The grammar school is supposedly the best in Walsall and is driven by academia. A huge percentage of the pupils end up at university and that is what is expected of me. In other schools, the cool kids are those who can fight well or are brilliant at sports. At my school the cool kids are the clever ones. I don’t particularly want to be cool but I am clever and I want to succeed (even though at this time of my life I am a complete arse). So, yes, I do study and I do my homework on time.

I have fun though. I’m not a complete nerd.

3. (a) Do you go to the games? Football? Basketball.. what is your favourite to attend?

Yes – I am a huge fan of my local football team (if you are American – that is “soccer”) and I am a season ticket holder, meaning that I attend every home game.

3. (b). Do you go to the dances? Prom? (what'd you wear?)

Back in 1980, we don’t have proms in the UK. That is an American thing. However, if we leave 1980 for a short time – then, yes, the “prom” has started happening in the UK. 

I don’t like the idea of them to be honest. Too much pressure. But I can’t remain as an old fuddy duddy for long. If the kids love them then so be it.

4. Lunch!  What are we having today?   What is your favourite lunch?

School dinners in the UK have a reputation for being disgusting but nutritious. Personally I think they are overcooked and we are fed terrible things like prunes, damsons, rhubarb and other foul desserts. Some are okay but it seems that the minister in charge of school meals is a complete sadist. 

If I had ruled the world back in 1980 I would have forced him to eat the gruel himself. 

Sometimes, however, I do go out to get some fish and chips because in the sixth form we can do that. 

5. What kind of music do you like the best?

Back in 1980 it is heavy metal and hard rock. Some pop bands are okay but my musical taste has evolved to the point where I love it loud and heavy. My hair is long too and I feel like a rebellious arse.

Here is a sample of what I listen to.

6. Does the radio play in your car and if so what station or kind of music plays?  Does music play in your home often?

I don’t have a car but my mate does. We are both into the same kind of music, which is lucky but his taste isn’t quite as heavy as mine. However, we are both huge fans of this album – and for me this particular song:

At home, I have a music centre (a combined radio, record player and tape deck) that my dad passed onto me when he upgraded. I listen to heavy metal and drive my parents up the wall with it. They are forever telling me to turn the volume down.

My dad thinks that music is dead – I tell him it’s the future. 

7. What do you think of the music played in restaurants or stores? Do you find it relaxing or annoying?

It’s basically pop music so, as a rebellious arse, I hate it. 

8. What part has music played in your life? What kind of music played at your wedding or at parties you have been to?

Let’s move back to the here and now. Music has played a massive part in my life and I am almost obsessive with it. I l always have music on in the house unless I am watching TV. I listen to music on my walks unless Mrs PM is with me and I even listen to relaxing ambient music while I am working. 

Now I have Spotify, I am exploring new music and old music that I have missed on the way.

Music is exciting and nostalgic and I always feel happier when listening to it. 

I’m not keen on the music I hear at weddings though I have to say; it is usually safe popular music and as such I find it boring.  There are occasional gems that I may even get up and try to dance to but they are few and far between. 

I have been known to actually ask for some decent rock music at a wedding but the response is always the same – it’s either “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi or “Sex on Fire” by King’s of Leon.

Sometimes I despair – I really do.

9. Is the farm for you? How about a ranch, a village or a city? Which is your choice and why?

I am a city man but as I get older, I find that occasionally I like to escape to the countryside where you will find farms and cute villages. I think I would find a farm or a country village a little boring at the current moment but as I get older that may change. 

10. A short auto trip for the weekend with friends or a long vacation? Where would you go?

Both. We are planning a weekend away in a lodge soon with some friends near to Delamere Forest in the Cheshire countryside but I have to say that I prefer escaping further afield. We are planning some travelling this abroad again this year – Morocco (a new country for me), Croatia and Spain are definite, with Italy a possibility. We may also go to the Canary Islands in the next month or two and I may also get to Amsterdam for a university reunion in May (as it didn’t happen last year). 

11. The quiet life at home with a cuppa and TV or  a good book or a night out with friends? Which sounds good today?

Well I will do all three to be fair. After I have published this, I will sit down and have a cup of tea and watch some TV before going into Manchester to meet some friends for a couple of beers and a meal. When I get back I will read for a while before going to sleep. 

12. You have a choice of  dinner and a movie or a game of cards and snacks at the neighbours. Where are you going tonight?

Like I said I am going out with friends tonight – no movie though. I don’t play cards but we pop to the neighbours for a chat and some fun sometimes.

13. Is there a hero or character on TV, in a book or a movie .. or even on all three, that you are especially like? What do you find attractive about them?

Nope. I am too boring to be a hero. 

If you can think of a “hero” who is fairly competent with computers, is quite numerate, like decent rock music and travels a bit then that would be the man. 

Answers on a comment please.

14.  Was there a book that was better in movie form? How about a movie you thought didn't live up to the book?

Typically in my experience, the book is better than the movie and I think it Is a rare thing to find a movie that is better than the book from which it came. I always found Thomas Harris a little difficult to read so the movies were generally better than the books in terms of enjoyment. In particular, Hannibal (the book) had a terrible ending – so the movie is far better. 

As I said, there are a lot of movies that are nowhere near as good as the books. 

Most books by Stephen King are better than the movies made from them for example.

15. When you choose a book, program or movie which subject it is most likely to be: science fiction, mystery, romance, comedy, documentary, etc.? What draws you to a particular book or movie?

It is most likely to be science fiction or a political thriller like those written by the late Robert Ludlum (the creator of Jason Bourne). I also read the odd horror story and I like a good comedy. 


Saturday 14 January 2023

Some More Favourites

Welcome to a changeable South Manchester. I can see blue sky and both white and grey clouds with a threat of rain later. 

Before I go on, I just want to raise my glass (well cup of tea at the moment) to the legendary guitarist Jeff Beck who died this week. Rest in peace:

Shall we move onto some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What is your favourite accent?

My own accent is “neutral” English with a hint of Black Country and a soupçon of Mancunian. It is a lot better than the one I had when I lived in Walsall which was pure Black Country – or “Yam Yam”. It wasn’t pleasant to listen too (so I am told).

Here is a taste of the accent:

I’m not actually sure whether I have a favourite accent. I am not a fan of cockney or Welsh and I struggle to understand the Scottish accent sometimes, particularly that in Glasgow. 

I quite like Southern Irish and the North East accent. I am surrounded by Mancunian accents as you can imagine and that is just like white noise to me. 

I will say Southern Irish – as I recall a young lady once trying to chat me up in a bar in Dublin while Mrs PM was at the bar – also being chatted up by a different bloke. 

2. What is your favourite animal?

I love cats and dogs. I would be quite happy to have both a dog and a cat together but Mrs PM favours our feline friends more. I am happy with that. 

3. What is your favourite band?

My favourite band is no more. It was Canadian progressive rockers Rush and sadly they ceased to be just before the untimely death of their legendary drummer Neil Peart. Their music has been with me at key moments in my life and always will be with me in future. Here they are at their best.

And now it is time to move on and taking up the throne is probably Polish progressive rockers Riverside who have a new album out next week. Here they are:

4. What is your favourite childhood book?

I remember reading War of the Worlds when I was about eleven years old and I loved it ever since. It is one of the few books I have read a couple of times.

5. What is your favourite colour?

I like blue but I think my favourite colour is probably teal – a kind of bluey green.

6. What is your favourite drink?

My favourite non-alcoholic beverage is tea, which I take decaffeinated and with just a splash of milk. 

My favourite soft drink is probably apple juice, though I usually add a little orange juice to give it a little kick.

My favourite alcoholic drink is probably Timmy Taylor’s Landlord, although I will happily drink lager and other ales. I also like red wine – and I can quite happily drink white wine too.

7. What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

I don’t eat much ice cream to be honest but I do recall that Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is really nice.

8. What is your favourite place on the planet?

There are too many to list. I am quite happy here at home in South Manchester but you can’t beat walking along an unspoiled beach as the sun is going down either in the south of Spain or the South of France. Hong Kong is my favourite city outside the UK.

9. What is your favourite sandwich?

I am a man of simple tastes so I am happy with a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich. I do like smoked salmon and avocado too occasionally.

10. What is your favourite swear word?

A great word to express your distaste is a word that I think is only used in the UK (though it might be used in Australia too). That word is:


It basically means “rubbish” as in:

“You are talking complete and utter bollocks!”

“What a load of old bollocks!”

11. What is your favourite thing to wear?

I am quite happy wearing jeans and a T-shirt usually. 

12. What is your favourite food to eat on a rainy day?

I guess if it is raining I would go for something more homely like a casserole or a pie.

13. What is your favourite food to eat on a sunny day?

I guess on a sunny day I would eat something lighter like a salad. That said, it is sunny now but it is the middle of winter so I think I would stick with the same as the answer to the previous question. 

14. What is your favourite number?

I don’t have a favourite number. If you force me to pick one I will go for 8 because I was born on the 8th.

15. What is your favourite snack?

I have several favourite snacks; cheese on toast, cheese and biscuits, cheese and onion crisps, flame raisins and almonds, dry roast peanuts, Granny Smith’s apples, nectarines, plums, satsumas, oranges, bananas – the list goes on.

Sunday 8 January 2023

If ...

Welcome to South Manchester, where the weather is typically changeable. I got drenched on my walk this morning – absolutely drenched. And now, three hours later, we have a clear blue sky and sunshine. 
Go figure.
For 2023 I am going to try to return to my old style blog posts where I write drivel about whatever bizarre thought pops into my head (and there have been a lot of those I can tell you). However, I will still be answering silly questions from Sunday Stealing  – so here goes with the first one for 2023.
It’s called “If …” and I can’t help thinking about Telly Savalas talking in a rather odd hit single from the 1970’s. 
If a picture paints a thousand words
Then why can't I paint you?
The words will never show
The you I've come to know
It was an odd single – because he just speaks. What’s that about? Who bought it? Not me that’s for sure.
Shall we dive in?
1. If you could change the ending to one movie you have seen, which one would it be, and how would you reshoot it?
I have a problem with some action movies where the good guy wins against the odds. I’m talking about films where the bad guy is hugely clever, far more intelligent in fact than the so-called hero who has to perform superhuman feats in order to defeat the villain in what I regard as a lazy way. 
Some James Bond films are guilty of this and sometimes I would like the bad guy to actually defeat Bond. It is the same with some superhero movies. I was absolutely delighted with Avengers: Infinity War because Thanos had to win given how powerful he is. 
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Avengers: Endgame too but I would rather Thanos had escaped. The one good thing about Avengers: Endgame was that the heroes were never the same and one of them actually died. 
That’s my kind of film.
2. If you were to select a food that best describes your character, what food would it be?
I would say cheese. There are different varieties, most of them are brilliant but one or two of them are an acquired taste (step forward stilton). Like cheese I think I have a fairly good character that people can enjoy and keep coming back for more but occasionally I become stilton or a similar foul tasting cheese and annoy and irritate people. Not too many hopefully. 
3. If you could cure any disease, which would it be?
Ideally I would cure them all. Whenever I watch Star Trek, I relish the days in the future when people can be cured of anything and everything. I think if I had to choose it would be those diseases that can kill people and are largely incurable.
4. If you had to describe the single worst thing a friend could do to you, what would it be?
I think it would have to be something like appear friendly but then say terrible things about me behind my back. I’m quite open with people and if a friend, or indeed anybody, has a problem with me for whatever reason then I would rather they tell me to my face instead of spreading malice when I am not around. 
5. If you could be a contestant on any game show, which would you like to be on?
One without a live TV audience that wasn’t really a vehicle for the host. I am quite good at quizzes and I think I would do fairly well on a lot of them. However, a favourite is a British word quiz called Countdown where the aim is to make the longest word from nine letters chosen in turn by each contestant, as well as solving a numerical puzzle occasionally. You have to be really clever to be on there. 
I will say immediately that I will never ever appear on a game show.
6. If you could choose the music at your own funeral, what would it be, and who would play it?
I wrote a post about this:
I love “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” – and it would be a little tongue in cheek.
7. If you had to spend all of your vacations for the rest of your life in the same place, where would you go?
I would say Hong Kong but I would like to be able to travel around a bit. I reckon that it would have to be Spain because I love the country and I can speak a little Spanish. I would avoid the places ruined by British holidaymakers though.
8. If you could ask God a single question, what would  it be?
Can you come to my house and convince me that you exist please?
9. If you could eat one food in any quantity for  the rest of your life with no ill effects whatsoever what food would you choose?
I think the answer to that has to be cheese again. I love cheese and I do eat it in moderation because vast quantities of the stuff aren’t good for you. If I was told that I was allergic to cheese, it would be quite annoying.
10. If you could have a year any place in the world, all expenses paid, where would you go?
Okay – that would definitely have to be Hong Kong. I love the city and, given that all expenses would be paid, I would stay in the Peninsular Hotel in Kowloon. I have already spent well over a year of my life in that city, the longest stint being 3 months, so I know that I could live there for a year – at the very least.
11. If you could forever eliminate one specific type of prejudice from the earth, which would it be?
I would eliminate all prejudice. There is far too much of it. Things are changing in the UK on the surface and I welcome that, but deep down there are still some people who privately hold some horrific views. 
12. If you could own one painting from any collection in the world but were not allowed to sell it, which work of art would you select?
It certainly wouldn’t be a contemporary piece of vomit hanging on the wall of a modern art museum that makes pseudo-intellectuals wet themselves with glee. I hate all of that stuff. To me it isn’t art; it’s a con.
I would probably go for a classic work of art that is a picture of something as opposed to an abstract piece of bilge. Something like John Constable’s “The Hay Wain”.

13. If you could ask a single question of a dead relative, what would it be and of whom would you ask it?
I couldn’t ask one question to any of them. I would want to ask thousands to them all. 
14. If you had to choose the best television show ever made, which one would you pick?
I can’t pick just one. There are too many. I will say that I have just finished the very last episode of The Walking Dead – which I loved. Here are a few of my favourites:
  • The Walking Dead
  • Dexter
  • Babylon 5
  • Dr Who
  • Star Trek (in all of its forms)
  • Sons of Anarchy
  • Game of Thrones
  • Fawlty Towers
  • Blackadder
  • Stranger Things
  • The Boys
  • The Expanse 
There are just too many …
15. If you could write letters to only one person for the rest of your life, who would receive them?
I don’t write letters and in fact have rarely if ever done so. I guess the answer is Mr Nobody.