Saturday 25 March 2023


Welcome to a cloudy and slightly damp Saturday morning in South Manchester. It is quite mild at the moment and now that Spring has arrived the temperatures are bearable. The clocks go forward today and we get one hour less sleep and this will make my morning walk a little bit more interesting for the next week or two because hopefully I will see a couple of sunrises on the way.

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. Working on anything exciting lately?

I trust this question refers to life outside of work. One day I will tell you all about my job – but now is not the time (as I still work there).

In answer to the question, I am slowly working on two writing projects when time permits. The first is a set of memoirs from my boring existence on this spinning ball of rock. The second is a novel that I will probably finish but will almost certainly never see the light of day.

Of course, never say never, but at the moment these are just fun things to do.

I am also slowly learning the piano (very slowly actually) and that is quite exciting.

And of course I am slowly learning Spanish, which is also fun and exciting.

2. What was the highlight of the day today?

It is early in the day so nothing much yet. I went out for a walk this morning and had a cuddle with the cats beforehand. Mrs PM has gone away for a spa weekend with a couple of friends and so I am going out to the city for a couple of beers and meal later with a couple of friends, one who is the husband of one of Mrs PM’s spa friends. That should be fun.

3. What is your favourite thing to do on the weekends?

My favourite thing is not to work. My weekend now consists of Friday to Sunday since I am part time (semi-retired) and I love just being able to do whatever I choose to do on those days. On Fridays, Mrs PM is still working at home, so I usually try to catch up on outstanding tasks. I have amassed quite a list – from sorting out old stuff in preparation for changes we are making to the house later this year (not structural just decorating, relocation room functions etc.).

On Saturday and Sunday We try to do something interesting together, depending on the weather or just do nothing and be lazy. Whatever takes our fancy.

4. What are your favourite restaurants?

There are some good local restaurants and some good places in the city too. Here are a few in the city centre:

Yang Sing – Chinese restaurant

Little Yang Sing – Chinese Restaurant (sister of the Yang Sing)

Gaucho – Steak restaurant

East is East – Indian restaurant

Salvi – Italian restaurant

5. Do you follow any sports?

Yes indeed. I am a massive football fan but I support a team in the lower leagues; Walsall FC – the team from my home town. They are not very good but things are slowly improving. I like to watch Premier League football too.

I am a big fan of International Rugby Union and am currently smarting because once again England failed to impress in the Six Nations league (against France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy). I am looking forward to the World Cup later this year.

I love watching cricket. I don’t really follow county cricket but I do go to a few matches at Old Trafford either to watch 20-20 matches or to watch England. This year it is the Ashes – when England face Australia and I shall be going to watch that when it comes to Manchester.

6. What is your biggest fear?

I’ve mentioned this a lot recently – it has to be heights. I won’t go over this again.

7. What is your biggest regret?

I try not to have regrets. You should look forward rather than backwards.

8. When you were growing up, what was your dream job?

I honestly didn’t have a dream job. I kind of fell into IT because I excelled at Maths and sciences generally. Were I to look back now, it would be a writer and if I could have my time again I would have switched my allegiance from Maths to English and languages in general (French, German, Spanish etc.).

9. Do you say ‘sherbet’ or ‘sherbert’?

I say sherbet – I think. I haven’t had it for many, many years.

10. Have you ever had a paranormal experience?

I was thinking about this the other day. Shortly after my dad died I thought I had a visit from him in the early hours of the morning. You can read about it here:

Talking to Ghosts 

The other day I was thinking about the house I live in. It was built in 1903 and I am sure that somebody must have passed on in the 120 years of its existence. Therefore, if ghosts exist, then there must be one or two of them roaming around my own house.

And I have never seen or heard from one. Cats are supposed to be sensitive to spirits and none of the six cats that have shared our house over the last 21 years have, to my knowledge, informed us that a ghost is haunting us.

With the experience I had with my dad, I could have been dreaming. But then again maybe not.

I won’t find out for sure until it is my time to move into the next world – or oblivion if that happens.

That sounded quite negative. 

Let’s cheer ourselves up! I hope I do become a ghost because I would have great fun moving around without a body – it would be a good way to live forever (which of course I plan to do). If I do become a ghost, I will do my best to let living people know that I exist.

11. What is your favourite food at a cocktail party?

I don’t go to cocktail parties generally but I do like finger foods that are usually handed out as appetisers before eating a Christmas Parties and similar things. I quite like anything with cheese (surprise surprise) but most things will do. I avoid seafood because although I can eat it, Mrs PM is allergic to it so I avoid it in solidarity with her.

12. Who is a book character most like you?

I would like to say Jason Bourne or James Bond (or James Blond in my case).

It would probably be the geek who supplies James Bond with all of his gadgets. So, assuming Q exists in the James Bond novels, I would say him.

13. Do you read reviews before you go to movies?

I try not to because if they say the movie is rubbish it will ruin it for me. I have seen quite a few films that the critics have slated but that I really enjoyed. The answer is therefore no.

14. How do you feel about cilantro?

I speak English – I don’t speak American English (although it is the language I am most fluent in). I had to look up “cilantro” and I discovered that it is really “coriander”. And I have to say I absolutely love it. It is one of the many spices that make Indian food really tasty. I once found a coriander pesto in the supermarket and it was divine – but I have never seen it since.

As an aside, here are a few other words that Americans get wrong. I am here to educate my good friends from across the pond. Here goes:

Eggplant – This is called aubergine in the UK.

Granola – We call this muesli.

Arugula – We call this by its proper name – rocket.

Cookies – What is a cookie? I’ll tell you what it is – it’s a biscuit.

French Fries – first of all, these are chips. Second, they are not from France – they are from Belgium.

Jelly – Jelly is a wobbly dessert not something you spread on sandwiches. We call it jam.

Zucchini – In England we refer to it by its real name – a courgette.

Popsicle – What on earth is a popsicle? I will tell you – it is an ice lolly.

Chips – This has totally confused me in America. As I said above, we call “French Fries” chips so when I ask for chips in America and get crisps I am most disappointed!

Candy – Candy? What is candy? We call candy sweets over here.

There are other differences but I aim to educate. You can thank me by not giving me crisps when you offer me chips next time I am over there.

15. Have you ever cried in public?

Only at funerals. Actually, that’s not true. I have been know to shed a tear in the cinema when a movie has been merciless with my heartstrings.

Saturday 18 March 2023

One To Ten

Welcome to a sunny south Manchester in the wonderful country of England. Spring is here; my morning walk was very pleasant and at the end of my four mile trek through a couple of suburbs of this great city, I was quite warm and a little sweaty. Sorry about sharing that with you but the good news is that I had a shower on my return, followed by an omelette and a large cup of tea. 

I am as fresh as the proverbial daisy.

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. One song that describes my life.

There are several that could describe my life but I will try to focus on today rather than the past. 

I’ll choose a happy little tune from my two Scottish brothers, The Proclaimers. NOTE - they aren’t really my brothers but I do look like them:

2. Two things I wish I had more of in my life

Travel; and lots of money in order to pay for the travel.

3. Three ways I relax

I listen to music and I write, which is exactly what I am doing as I type. I also like to watch a decent TV show.

4. Four of my best accomplishments

  • Academically speaking, I have 10 ‘O’-Levels, 4 ‘A’-Levels and an Honours degree in Computational and Statistical Science. I’m very proud of that.
  • I have two wonderful sons.
  • I have travelled to 37 countries in the world and next month Morocco will make it 38.
  • Even though it scared me half to death, the fact that I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge is something that I can say that I have accomplished. A word of advice; if you suffer from vertigo and/or a fear of heights (not sure whether they are the same thing), do not even contemplate doing this. Where I found the courage I will never know. It will never ever happen again (and neither will anything like it).

5. Five things I am looking forward too

  • I’m looking forward to retirement in a year or two.
  • A little closer to now, I am looking forward to a trip to Morocco in April, as I said above.
  • In May I am travelling to Amsterdam with a couple of my old university mates for our first reunion in two years. There will be four sixty year old blokes wandering around the city, with me being the tour guide because I have been to the city so many times through work I know it like the back of my hand. It’s a wonderful city if you get the chance to visit.
  • Mrs PM and I are spending a week in Dubrovnik in Croatia in July. 
  • We are also travelling to Sicily in September for a week. I’ve put in a request to make sure that should Mount Etna decide to erupt, that it chooses a date after that.

6. Six things I am grateful for

  • I am grateful that I although I am sixty years old, I still look young for my age.
  • I am grateful for Mrs PM who keeps me sane and on a steady road, despite my weirdness.
  • I am grateful that I am winding down my career and that as such I have divorced myself from the office politics and shenanigans that go on in and around the workplace. I no longer care, though I remain committed to my job as any decent professional should. As my career draws to a close, I actually feel totally relaxed at work and I can choose when I finally decide to retire.
  • I am grateful that I am still quite healthy and able to do things like travel abroad and walk at least four miles a day.
  • I’m grateful for friends and family who stuck by me over the years.
  • I’m grateful for the life I have generally. I am sure it could have been worse or much better – but it’s been good so far and shows signs of improvement (age aside). 

7. Seven facts about me

The door to my life is actually ajar as far as this blog is concerned. I did want to remain anonymous when I started but people have discovered who I am. I don’t mind too much. Here are a few facts that I have shared in the past.

  • My real name is David – and I prefer to be called Dave. When people call me David, I think “what have I done wrong?”
  • My house is Edwardian, meaning that it was built in 1903, making it 120 years old. 
  • I am 5ft 11 inches tall, making me average height. In fact everything about me is average and I find it very easy to find clothes that fit. 
  • Mrs PM and I have been together for 25 years this year. Before that I was married for 10 years but it didn’t work out – we were just incompatible and it took a while for us both to work this out.
  • I am a total geek and am absolutely fine immersing myself in things like Star Trek, Dr Who, Marvel, DC, Lord of the Rings and most science fiction/fantasy tales. I gladly admit it and if, you are laughing, I say unto you: “Embrace your inner geek – because we are ALL geeks (just scared to admit it).”
  • I love progressive rock, heavy metal and other unfashionable music styles and have been to so many gigs that I have lost count. That said, my taste in music is eclectic because I am equally at home with some pop music, electronic music (particularly from the early 1980’s) as well as ambient electronica and classical music. 
  • I have met two fellow bloggers who have commented on this blog. So watch out for me on my travels because you never know.

8. Eight things I can see from where I am sitting

  • My Spotify Playlist on my laptop (currently playing this):

  • A porcelain South African Rugby Union player that I was bought as a gift in Johannesburg my one of the guys on the course I was giving there. I’ve kept, despite the fact that it was meant as a reminder that South Africa had beaten England in the Rugby Union World Cup Final earlier that year.

  • A Matryoshka doll (or nested dolls) that I bought in Moscow twenty or so years ago as a souvenir. We would have all the inner dolls out on display but sadly the cats tend to beat them up. 

  • A talking John Barnes figurine that I was given on St Patrick’s night several years ago. I got it free with my second pint of Guinness. Quite apt, really as yesterday it was St Patrick’s day when a lot of Guinness is consumed in the UK. Sadly the battery has gone so he no longer talks.

  • My new Samsung S22 Ultra phone (acquired in January). It is amazing and as well as taking the photos above, I have used it to take the best pictures of the moon that I have ever attempted.

  • A large scratch post that the cats love to use to sharpen their claws. 
  • Star(dust), the smaller of my two black cats, who is using the scratch post as climbing apparatus as I type.
  • A piping hot cup of tea.

9. Nine words I would use to describe myself

  • Weird
  • Caring
  • Immature
  • Amusing
  • Clever
  • Silly
  • Opinionated
  • Geeky
  • Friendly

10. Ten little things that make me happy

  • Sitting watching TV with either Ziggy or Star(dust) curled up next to me on the sofa.
  • Listening to music.
  • Watching football.
  • Having a beer or a meal with friends.
  • Strolling along a south European beach as the sun is rising or setting.
  • Strolling through the English countryside on a sunny summer day.
  • Exploring a foreign city.
  • Cheese on toast.
  • A good gig.
  • Saturdays.

Saturday 11 March 2023

More Pen Pals

Welcome to a sunny but cold south Manchester. Winter is back for an encore and it has been bitterly cold. Thankfully, we don’t get much snow at all here, and while some parts of northern England have suffered, all we’ve had to put up with is cold winds and sleet/rain showers. Unpleasant to walk in but hopefully things will start warming up again over this weekend.
Let’s dive in with some silly questions from Sunday Stealing 
1. Do you make new friends easily?
I used to find it difficult to break the ice because of shyness but these days I am much better. I’m okay at making new friends and I think being able to chat to people is key to that. I am a friendly and sincere chap – what’s not to like?
2.Which podcasts do you like at the moment?
I don’t listen to podcasts. I am tempted to listen to Spanish language ones to improve my listening skills but I haven’t managed to get around to that yet. 
3. One thing that immediately makes your day better.
On a school day, finishing work. Other days, it depends. I feel better today because Ziggy is hungry and he is currently perched on my desk next to the keyboard, purring and giving me head bumps to entice me into the kitchen. So, the cats I guess make my day better when they are being cute.
4. What app do you use most?
I use a lot of apps. Google Chrome is well used, as is Duolingo. I use Whatsapp quite a lot and now that I have embraced music streaming, Spotify is right up there. 
5. The friends who would have your back no matter what.
I don’t want to mention any names but they know who they are.
6. What is something you’ll never do again?
Having tried to overcome my fear of heights by climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Burj Khalifa, I have vowed never to go up high building ever again. This includes things like the Eiffel Tower as well. It’s a shame because I didn’t used to be scared of heights and climbed the Eiffel Tower twice in my youth with no qualms at all. The third time was terrible and a long time afterwards. I don’t really know why or how I developed this irrational fear – I have a theory. I’ve just decided to avoid the trauma from now on.
7. Something you practice often.
I practice the piano every day – my latest effort is “Joy to the World” which I have just about mastered. It’s slow progress but there is definitely progress. 
I also write every day and practice Spanish.
8. What gives you an adrenaline rush?
These days it is the simple things in life. In my youth I used to love fast rides, rollercoasters, sports, high buildings and all the things that lads loved. These days, a walk in the countryside will do the trick. 
I do get a massive buzz when my flight lands when I am going on holiday because I know that I will soon be able to explore another country.
9. How well do you do in social situations?
As I said earlier, I am much better in social situations. When I am with my closest friends I am, I’ve been told, quite a funny chap and I usually cast aside the introvert within to unleash the extrovert. In some situations, my shyness does return to bother me sometimes – it has not fully gone – and I try to combat it on the spot. 
So mostly I am good but sometimes I can be awkward.
10. Are you a light sleeper or a deep sleeper?
I am a light sleeper and it annoys me. A couple of nights ago, for example, one of the neighbourhood cats sneaked into our house and decided to make himself at home downstairs. He woke me up because he wears a little bell on his collar and, at 3:35 am (I remember the time) I was woken up by the cat flap and then the tinkling of his little bell as he prowled around downstairs. My own two cats were fast asleep in the back room. 
So I raced downstairs to chase him out. 
Thunderstorms wake me, as do police helicopters as well as two mice playing football with a pebble in my front garden.
In the summer, I will wake up at 4:30 am every day because it gets light at that time. 
Mrs PM says that I have transparent eyelids.
11. Do you get stage fright?
Yes – definitely. I hate public speaking and I have had to do it quite a few times, usually giving courses to people. 
12. Which family members are you closest to?
All of them.
13. How was your February?
February was good actually because we managed to get away to Tenerife for a few days. Of course it was still winter (and I hate winter) but the trip was a respite from the miserable weather.
14. What is your favourite candle scent?
Anything that Mrs PM chooses to buy.
15. One book that you would recommend as a "must read'?
I’m going to give you a couple that I have really enjoyed.
Stephen King – The Stand
Robert Ludlum – The Bourne Ultimatum
Blake Crouch – Recursion
James Herbert – The Dark
Iain. M. Banks - Matter
There are many more.

Saturday 4 March 2023

Pen Pals

Welcome to a cloudy South Manchester where the weather is going to get colder for the next few days. At the moment the sky is grey and cloudy but at least it is dry for once. I think my winter coat will have a couple more outings as winter has its last bite before returning at the end of the year.

Let’s dive in with some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What are your plans for March?

I don’t have anything specific. Mrs PM is working a lot this month, which will jeopardise our weekends somewhat so we won’t be going away anywhere. I’ve got a couple of gigs – the Black Spiders next weekend and Devin Townsend at the end of March. I am really looking forward to both.

2. Did you ever have or go to sleepovers as a kid?

I went to the odd one. I was never really that keen on them to be perfectly honest because I love my own bed and have always done so. 

3. Which books would you pick for a book binge?

I usually have a book binge when I am on holiday, usually buying a few before I set off. If I am going to do some intense reading, I usually go for a multi-book series space opera, like the ones that Peter F Hamilton writes. I recall the first books I read by him – the Night’s Dawn trilogy which consisted of three 1000 page plus novels with vast scope that I needed to keep reading one straight after the other to keep track of all the characters and the convoluted storyline. If I had read the first and waited for the second, I would have probably had to reread the first to get up to speed. 

It is best for me to just go for it all in one go. 

I love a good space opera.

4. What features do you love most about your home?

I love quite a few things. 

In the house itself, we have three bedrooms, which are reasonably sized, each of which can accommodate a double bed (even the smallest). It has a smallish lounge with a slightly bigger back room that leads into a good sized kitchen. We have a weather-proofed outhouse that we use for storage. It is perfectly fine for the two of us. 

In fact we are currently going through a spring clean as we are about to redecorate the back room, which is looking quite tired now. This will involve replanning how we use the middle bedroom and the back bedroom as well as replacing the furniture. It is currently my man cave (if such a thing exists) doubling as an office and a second lounge with my Playstation and a fairly large TV. However, we are going to turn the back bedroom into my new mancave by moving the Playstation and TV upstairs, replacing the double bed with a double sofa bed and moving the piano from the middle room into the back bedroom. The middle bedroom will double as a second office (since both if us work from home a lot – and it is definitely big enough to accommodate a desk with plenty of room to spare). 

House-wise, it could be a turbulent year but by Autumn hopefully it will all be finished.

I also love the location of our house. We are in South Manchester, close to an area with a lot of shops, bars and restaurants and close to a tram station to get us into the centre of Manchester in about 20 minutes. We are also fairly close to the countryside too – perhaps a 30 minute drive in most directions. 

Sorry – I waffled on a bit there but I do love my house.

5. Favourite songs from tv, movies, and video games

I watched Inception not so long ago and I love the music that accompanies it – like this one. 

It is truly beautiful:

I love Hans Zimmer and I need to explore more of his music.

There are so many TV shows that have great music but one recent show sticks in my mind – Peacemaker. I started watching this thinking it would be another DC superhero show but I have to admit it is one of the best – and funniest – shows I have seen recently. I absolutely loved it. The theme is really good and the dance routine that the stars go through is as funny as it is unexpected and sums up what the show is all about.

Games? Well I rediscovered this from playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I remember going to see them in Liverpool when I was at university. I loved it then and I love it now. A real throwback to the brilliant decade that was the 1980’s.

6. What group games do you like to play with others

I don’t really play group games. I guess the last one I played, quite a few years ago now, was Trivial Pursuit but I haven’t played it for a while. I usually did quite well because my ageing brain is full of absolute trivia.

7. How often do you try something new?

Not as often as I should. In recent years, I have started taking on new things and as I approach retirement I aim to do that more. Having said that, if you count travelling to a new country as “trying something new” I do that as often as I can. Last year I went to Denmark for the first time, this year it will be Morocco and next year it will be Malaysia – with a possibility of sneaking in a weekend break in one of the following new countries this year; Austria, Sweden, Poland or Estonia.

8. What type of sushi is your favourite?

I think that would have to be sashimi, in particular salmon sashimi. 

9. Do you prefer to relax or go on adventures during vacation?

I don’t really go on adventures unless you count exploring cities an adventure. If we go on a city break we usually spend most of the time exploring but if we go to the coast or a resort, we tend to split the exploration and relaxation. For example, when we go to Marrakech in April we will spend all of the time exploring but our trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia in June/July will be a little bit of both.

10. How do you prevent burn out?

I think I have a really good work/life balance. In my thirties, I had a minor health scare that turned out be totally stress related and I took the decision then to be more assertive when it came to this balance. These days, I do not let work get on top of me at all and I haven’t for years now. And I feel much better for it. 

Stress does still happen but I have learned to deal with it in a better wary, and I am happy to say that almost none of it comes from work – and nor would I allow it to.

11. Which colours look best on you?

I look like a ghost if I wear white or yellow so they are out. 

I just look like a weird alien if I wear orange.

I prefer blue, turquoise or teal but Mrs PM likes me to wear brighter colours like red or green. She says I look better – and she’s probably right. As she says “You don’t have to look at yourself!”, so I just let her decide.

12. Do you like brunch?

Yes but only at weekends. If I have a lie in, I usually go for my walk before breakfast and by the time I get back it is closer to lunchtime. So we have brunch, which basically means a full English breakfast with all the trimmings. We do this on holiday quite a lot too.

13. Trends you showed up late for.

All of them!

I don’t follow trends at all. When it comes to fashion, I sometimes accidentally follow trends because I buy clothes that happen to be trendy at the time. 

As far as technology is concerned, I tend to wait for new items to “bed in” for six months to see how good they really are before buying them.

Mrs PM follows trends, especially with fashion, houseware, etc. so again, I accidentally end up being relatively close to them. 

If I were young, free and single I would be absolutely hopeless.

14. What’s your favourite drink order?

It depends. In the winter I will order bitter or an ale of some kind (an IPA perhaps). In the summer, I tend to just drink lager because it is cool and refreshing. I avoid stout but occasionally have a Guinness.

15. Which clothes or accessories make you feel most confident?

I just like to be comfortable and that makes me feel more confident rather than being a sharp-dressed man. Things like weddings and other similar social events where I am expected to wear a suit or a penguin suit don’t really matter because every other bloke is wearing a suit too.

I didn’t like wearing a suit for work and thankfully now I don’t have to. There was an interim period where we had “dress-down Friday” and I felt much more relaxed on Friday in my jeans and T-shirt.