Friday 11 August 2023

Pens and Pals

Welcome to a strange South Manchester where we are gripped and enthralled by a strange phenomenon. I can see it now – a bizarre bright orange thing in the sky radiating warmth upon us. This is good because I am going to watch cricket today and the forecast is not rain – not one drop.

I may even scare the other cricket spectators by wearing shorts. 

In the meantime, let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing (even though it is in fact Friday). 

1. Things I would do first if I won a billion dollar lottery

The first thing I would do is organise a round the world trip, first class with the best hotels. I would make notes about my experiences with the aim of writing a massive travelogue. 

Then I would return to Manchester and buy a house or two in Spain, Italy and France.

I would of course make sure friends and family were comfortable and give some money away to charities and worthy causes.

And then I would plan another round the world trip …

2. Something I probably spend too much money on

Holidays I would say. 

During my normal mundane existence, I don’t spend that much money. Of course, I pay bills, buy food, buy clothes etc. but huge purchases are rare. 

Having said that and as I have mentioned before, we are having some work done on the house in the next two months, this involves fixing flooring, new carpets, painting, new desk, new sofas and other bits and bobs and that will cost some money.

But with the prospect of a trip to Malaysia next year as well as a holiday to Italy this year and perhap more, it is definitely holidays.

3. How I feel about the dentist

It is a necessary evil. I am not the biggest fan of the dentist but I go every six months for a visit to the dental hygienist and the dentist himself to make sure that my teeth are not going to all fall out. It is never a pleasant experience but it doesn’t scare me like it scares some people.

Here is a post I have written on the subject.

Fear (Part Four – The Dentist) 

4. Foods I am most picky about

I am slightly picky about bananas. They have to be perfect without even one blemish and also they are better if there is a slight amount of green on them. Anything else and I will not eat them. I was horrified by a guy I used to work with who would leave them until they were brown before eating them. YEEEUUUCCCHHHH!!!!

I am a little picky about certain vegetables too. I have to be in the mood to eat courgettes (zucchini in American) and I will only eat sweet potato if it is fried like chips. I only eat parsnips at Christmas and even then I am not too keen on them.

Cheese I love but I am not keen on any that contain blue veins – like stilton. Yet, bizarrely, I love blue cheese sauce.

Go figure.

5. Internet friends / penpals I want to visit in person

Every single one of you. 

I have met two readers of my blog and they are as great in person as they are in blogland. 

So beware – if I am visiting your country or city, I will be on the lookout for all of you.

6. My healthiest habits

I walk every morning, usually a distance of about four miles. My current average number of steps for this year so far is 8843 (4.36 miles per day) which, if I maintain it, will mean I have walked almost 1600 miles this year. What a geek I am.

On schooldays, I eat very healthily. I have fruit for breakfast and a salad for lunch. 

If I have the choice of walking I will usually do so rather than going in the car. I will always try to use the stairs instead of a lift. 

I have been tempted to start running again (I haven’t done so for years) and my next door neighbour thinks perhaps I should. But at the age of 60 I think I prefer just to walk. I have run in the past and I know that it can put a strain on knee-joints and hips. I'm happy to walk.

7. Easiest, low effort foods and snacks for busy days

I have a problem. If there are crisps, cakes or anything unhealthy in the house then I will be drawn to them like the proverbial moth to the flame. Mrs PM is the same and that’s why we try not to buy such things apart from for special treats or occasions.

What we do buy, snack wise, is fried fruit and nuts (usually flame raisins and almonds) and we both love cheese so cheese and biscuits is something we have fairly often. 

For busy days, a sandwich (or “butty” as we call them in Manchester) is a good low effort snack that we probably have most of all.

8. Where I go in summer to unwind

Abroad. As regular readers will know, I love travelling and try to go abroad as often as time, work leave and money will allow. 

That said, I also like to travel in the UK too. Next week, for example, we are travelling to London primarily to see the recent Abba concert but also to meet an old friend who lives there and do some sight-seeing if we have time. 

Also, watching cricket is a good way to relax and that is exactly what I am doing today.

9. My comfort books, tv shows, and movies

Comfort books? Whatever novel I am currently reading. I have just finished a trilogy of horror stories, something I have read less and less over the years. It is a genre I have missed and I will have to explore the subject again. And yes, I realise, dear reader, that finding comfort in reading stories designed to scare people to death does sound weird. But if you haven’t already noticed, I am a weird person.

Comfort TV shows? It has to be a bit of comedy. I love a stand up show or a funny comedy show, particularly an old one. For example, we are currently watching reruns of Frasier, one of my favourite US sitcoms, but I will also watch things like Blackadder, Red Dwarf, Bottom or other decent British comedies that make me laugh.

Comfort Movies? Anything where I can turn my brain off and enjoy them. I love action movies like the Mission Impossible series, any super hero movie, a decent science fiction movie or, as I hinted above, a great comedy film.

10. A list of good things

Mrs PM, music, football, anything that makes me laugh, friends, family, beer, travel, a good book, a sunrise or a sunset over a calm sea, a weird looking sky, my cats, pubs, sleep, a nice cuppa, a lovely meal, a walk in the countryside, a walk through a strange new city, a walk on the beach, writing this blog, reading anything, a strong breeze on a sunny day, a good wine, a sunny summer day in England, people who think they are boring but are in fact the exact opposite, a rock concert, Manchester, writing generally, Walsall winning a game and so on.

There are far too many good things to list on a blog like this.

11. Favourite places to take photos

I love taking photos of sunsets and sunrises even in places like Manchester where (as I hinted above) sometimes the sun hides behind clouds. Here is a Manchester sunrise taken earlier this year at about 6:30 am.

And here is a sunset in Tenerife taken in February this year:

12. The routines and habits I stick to most

I have a set of what I call “daily duties” which I try to perform every single day:

Read something – anything. I tend to split my time between a novel and a book that is out of my comfort zone (usually non-fiction).

Write something - anything. I have a junk journal in which I write every day and is usually in the form of freewriting, which is basically just writing anything, whether it be brilliant (which it isn’t) or most likely just inane thoughts and bullshit. Either way it works for me. But I will never let anyone read it because it is absolutely rubbish.

Learn Spanish. I have been trying to teach myself Spanish for a few years now and I try to practice every single day. It has helped and I feel comfortable trying to communicate my needs in Spanish speaking countries.

Play piano. Playing piano is difficult – very difficult – but if somebody asked my to play a little tune – I can actually do it – as long as I have played the tune before and vaguely got it right. I am playing very simple tunes from a teach yourself book. I can play this believe it or not (this isn't me by the way):

13. Topics I’d love to learn more about

I would love to learn more about playing a keyboard instrument (as I said above). My aim is too eventually buy a synthesiser and explore the weird and wonderful realms of electronic music. I think it will be a good retirement hobby.

I am also a science geek and I am fascinated by anything to do with the universe, planets, the big bang etc. Another potential topic for study when I retire.

There are many more.

14. This time last year ...

I went for a meal with my eldest son and his girlfriend and was looking forward to a cricket match at the weekend. 

15. Favourite memories of someone I’ve lost

I lost my sister two years ago. She was two years younger than me and was taken so suddenly. 

She was clever and witty and brutally honest with me. If I were doing something daft or stupid she would be the one to tell me in no uncertain terms that I was an idiot. She lived in Walsall but we would talk for hours on the phone, trying to sort out the world’s problems. I am certain that if she and I had taken over the world together as joint rulers, planet Earth would be in a much better state. 

And she loved to tell stories about me in front of people; as a world leader I would have been at her mercy.

I miss her.

Saturday 5 August 2023


Welcome to a rainy South Manchester. I am supposed to be watching cricket later today but it looks like it will be a total washout because at the moment we are being soaked by a storm that is likely to last most of the day. 

You wouldn’t believe that we are in the middle of summer.

I may as well answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1.  What do you have hanging on your walls?

I have pictures hanging on the walls, all of which have been picked by Mrs PM. Here is an example of one of them:

If it were up to me I would choose differently but that would involve shopping and agonising over pictures so I am happy to let Mrs PM do what she wants. The saying “Happy wife happy life” applies perfectly in this situation.

2.  Have you used an outrageous excuse to get out of jury duty?

I have, so far, managed to avoid Jury service (as it is called in the UK). And thank goodness. I don’t fancy sitting in a court room listening to a trial and then having to deliberate with strangers about somebody’s fate. 

In the UK it is mandatory if you are called up and I believe there is little you can do about it unless circumstances are extreme. Hopefully they will keep passing my by when choosing people.

3. Where do you like to go shopping (not for groceries)

I don’t like shopping at all and when I do, I do it online – even for clothes. We have two major places where you can shop here in Manchester. The city centre is a shopper’s paradise and there are lots of crowded shops, especially in and around The Arndale Centre, a huge shopping mall. Also, there is a place called the Trafford Centre which is a self-contained huge shopping mall about seven miles outside the city centre.

Both are horrible crowded places, but the city centre has lots of other things that can distract you from shopping. 

If you forced my hand it would therefore be Manchester city centre but it is unlikely as I will do it online.

4. What was the last movie you saw in a movie theatre?

I saw The Flash

I love a good superhero movie. I enjoyed it.

5. If you wrote a note and put it in a bottle to throw out to sea, what would the note say?

It depends where I was. If I were trapped on a desert island it would probably say “Help! I am trapped on an island (just like Robinson Crusoe). If I were on holiday I probably wouldn’t write such  a note. 

6. What decision have you made in your life that you regret?

At my stage of life I am quite happy and that is a result of the decisions I have made so far. Changing any one of them might have led to a different and potentially less happy life. I am going to be boring and say none.

7. What is in your junk drawer?

I don’t have a junk draw. However, there is stuff that Mrs PM might call “junk” in the house. She thinks I am a hoarder. I’m not and I have proof. 

In the next month or two we are having the back room and stairs redecorated, with a new carpet, new sofas, new flooring and lots of potential upheaval that I am not looking forward to at all. As part of that exercise I have been sorting out my “junk”. One of the things we have done recently is to have the loft boarded with a membrane to hide the roof and a new hatch and ladder to make access easier. I had a load of football programmes up there as well as old school notes and university notes. I aim to write a blog post about it soon. 

To cut a long story short, I am in the process of sorting it all out as well as other stuff like old photos, old records and old personal stuff and then put it all up in the loft, which is now clean and quite spacious. 

The bulk of it is now boxed up and is sitting up in the loft – in four storage boxes – yes that’s right just four reasonably sized storage boxes. 

Hardly hoarding when there is room up there for about forty or fifty of these boxes. 

I reckon I probably need four or five more when I empty the cupboard under the stairs. 

And I have thrown away some stuff too. 

It will be a lot tidier and less cluttered in the house by Autumn. 

8. Have you ever gone to a high school reunion?

No I haven’t. However, I have reconnected with two guys I have known since the age of about five and went through junior and senior school with. I haven’t seen them since 1981. I found a reference to an old school photo on Facebook and one of the guys commented:

“Do you remember Plastic Mancunian? Look at his magnificent hair in this photo?” 

The photo was taken in about 1976 and shows me with a huge mop of blonde hair. I laughed and commented back and now we have reconnected. One guy still lives in Walsall but the other is an artist in Cornwall. 

These guys are probably my oldest friends (even though we haven’t seen each other for over forty years). 

It would be good to see them, especially the artist as he was probably my best friend in junior school.

As for university, we have a yearly reunion – this year it was in Amsterdam. I always love them because even though we are all 60 years old, we devolve into the people we were back in 1984 and have a great laugh.

9. Would you rather receive the GOOD news or the BAD news first?

Definitely the bad news first. I like to think that every cloud has a silver lining. 

10. What are your top 3 pet peeves?

Where do I start!

Peeve number one: Our current government. We have had thirteen years of Conservative rule and this bunch of charlatans have taken us out of the EU, crippled people with austerity, screwed us all with their reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, treated us like idiots with incompetent Prime Minister after incompetent Prime Minister, created a cost of living crisis, almost destroyed our economy and are now leading us down a path towards isolationism under a jingoistic flag of “we’re British – we will prevail!”. We will get a chance to get rid of them next year and I can’t wait.

Peeve number two: Work. I get paid to work but I am fed up of my career. It has served me well and given me the opportunity to travel a lot. There are reasons that I won’t go into now and the bottom line is that I can’t wait to retire. It’s almost time. 

Peeve number three: The cult of celebrity and TV personalities who seem to have been infected by a weird virus that makes them seem perpetually happy. We’ve had a few recent “incidents” where some of these people’s egos have made them think that they are far more important than they actually are, incidents that I don’t care about but that make national news. I don’t care about these people, I don’t care what they did and I don’t want to hear about them constantly. When I watch the news and there is a war in Ukraine or a cost of living crisis I expect to be told about that, not some egomaniacal celebrity who has done something dodgy to upset another egomaniacal celebrity. I would name these people but I don’t want to give them even more publicity, no matter how small. I just wish they would go away.

11. Are there famous people from where you live?

Yes. I have seen a couple of them in my local area on one or two occasions. I don’t know exactly where they live (and I don’t want to know really) but I have seen them in pubs and restaurants. 

12. What kitchen gadgets do you use most?

The cooker, the microwave, the kettle, the toaster and the dishwasher (not really a kitchen gadget but it lives in the kitchen so to me it counts). 

13. Who was your elementary school best friend?

We don’t have elementary school in the UK but I looked it up and our equivalent is called junior school. As I said above, it was the guy who is now an artist living in Cornwall. We went to the same senior school too but after we left we lost touch with one another. It’s good to see what he is up to at the moment. And he hasn’t changed that much from what I can gather. One day we may meet again but given that he lives almost 350 miles away in a rural area of England, it seems unlikely. But you never know. It would be fun to catch up.

14. Choose an animal and tell us 4 things about that animal.

I am going to choose Star(dust) the smaller of our two cats. 

First, she is really friendly and often flirts with the neighbours. She often goes into their houses (even though one of them has a small dog). Earlier this year that same neighbour had a builder doing some major work in their kitchen and the builders all though that Star(dust) was their cat because she would pop in and just watch them while they worked.

Second, she is not scared of anything. Mrs PM calls her a tyke, i.e. a cheeky and mischievous creature. She will go anywhere and explore anything. We have had to buy a fire guard to stop her from climbing the chimney. 

Third, she has what Mrs PM calls a “ghost miaow”, i.e. she miaows but makes no sound. When she does make a sound it is really high pitched. 

Fourth, she is adorable and loves to lie by my side when I am watching TV. When she does, she almost melds with my leg and purrs really loudly.

Here we are together.

15. What is your favourite pizza topping?  What do you never want on a pizza?

I like meaty pizzas, the more variety of meat the better. 

I’m not a fan of spicy pizzas so I try to avoid jalapenos.