Saturday 23 September 2023

Swap That Bot!

Welcome to South Manchester on a slightly cloudy but sunny day, with the threat of a couple of showers later. I’m just squeezing in a post today before my holiday to Sicily. We are flying tomorrow morning (Sunday) to say hello to Mount Etna, one of the tallest active volcanoes in Europe. I’ll try to keep it calm during my visit.

I have to pack later today before watching England play Chile in the Rugby World Cup. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

The silly questions are courtesy of Sunday Stealing

 1. What you did you do today?

While we are away in Sicily, we are having some work done on the house. We have a builder coming in, a guy we have used many times in our 21 year occupation of our house. He can do anything; he’s a builder, plasterer, carpenter, plumber, decorator and all round genius at what he does. He will be sorting out a few things for us and then painting and hanging up wallpaper. In preparation for his numerous visits next week, we have had to take up our old carpet and clear the room of all furniture, most of which is being replaced anyway. My desk is gone and I have temporarily relocated to the kitchen, where I am now typing this while listening to Deep Purple. 

I have spent the morning, pulling up and rolling carpet and underlay, something I also did yesterday as well as dismantling and removing old furniture.

I am quite tired but raring to go on holiday. 

After writing and publishing this post, I shall start packing, have a practice on the piano and then watch the rugby before relaxing for the rest of the evening.

 2.  What are the must-sees in your area?

I live in Manchester and there is a lot to see and do. Next year sees the 40th anniversary of my move to the city and I love the place. 

We have lots of museums including the Science and Industry museum, the Imperial War museum, the National Football museum and lots of art galleries if that’s your kind of thing. 

We have two Premier League football clubs each with a huge stadium. Manchester United are arguably one of the most famous football clubs in Europe, if not the world but now we have Manchester City battling for that title. The rivalry is intense – I don’t support either but I have been to both stadiums numerous times.  

Manchester is historically a leader when it comes to music and we have lots of music venues around the city, from tiny venues to theatres and a huge arena. Also the sports stadia are used for concerts. All this means that the city is a magnet for some of the world’s most famous bands. I have seen loads of them over the years. My next huge one is the Foo Fighters next year although I have a couple of others lined up before that. 

We also are the home of Lancashire Cricket Club and we have international cricket matches every year. 

Basically, whatever you like or love, you can see it in Manchester, be it theatres, sport, music, history, museums or good food and drink.

I don’t work for Manchester Tourism – honestly.

 3. What is your favourite quote?

Here’s one of them from Winston Churchill. A woman accused him of being “disgustingly drunk”. His reply was:

“My dear, you are ugly, and what's more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly."

4. What was the last thing you cooked or ate? 

I cooked an omelette this morning for breakfast and then I ate it.

 5. What is something you learned from your grandparents?

I used to sit with my mum’s dad who used to live next door and spend hours poring through his vast collection of books. He used to patiently explain things to me and answer all of my most stupid questions. 

One Christmas he bought me a book called “Answers to the most difficult questions”, which satisfied my young inquisitive mind. It was geared towards young children and had questions like “Why is the sky blue?” and “What is the biggest number?”. 

I loved it. I wonder what happened to it?

 6. What makes you happy?

Going on holiday to a place that I have never been before. I’ve been to Italy but never Sicily. You can imagine how happy I feel at the moment with the prospect of going there tomorrow.

 7. What is your best travel memory?

I’ve got too many to list here. Visiting the Kremlin in Moscow, living in Hong Kong for three months, spending three days in Rio de Janeiro, New Year’s Eve in New York City, the hills of San Francisco, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge (though it almost scared me to death), walking along the Great Wall of China, visiting Japan, going into the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, Wandering around Chiang Mai in Thailand, having a coffee in a café in Paris, visiting the colosseum in Rome and many more. 

Those are just off the top of my head.

 8. What’s the weather like today?

I usually introduce my posts with the weather. Since I started writing it has become more cloudy and it looks like it may rain. It doesn’t matter – we’re not going anywhere today. We’re too busy.

 9. Share an interesting fact that you’ve learned

The current king, King Charles III (or Charlie-boy as I prefer to call him) is the oldest monarch to ascend to the throne in the UK. His mother Queen Elizabeth II, was the longest reigning monarch in the UK at 70 years.

 10. What is your favourite book, movie or band!

Favourite book? I don’t have one. I have lots of books that I love.

Favourite Movie? Too many to mention but I love the last two part Avengers movies - Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

Favourite band? It is probably Riverside at the moment (as Rush are no more).

 11.  Write your favourite poem or haiku?

I don’t have one, but I used to be able to recite the Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll so I will say that one.

 12. What is a local festival or tradition from your area?

Chinese New Year is always a lot of fun in Manchester. We have a fairly big Chinatown in the city and when New Year arrives, the city is taken over with parades, dragons and lots of people eating Chinese street food.

 13. What was the best thing you learned in school?

I learned a lot of interesting stuff in Physics and Chemistry but one of my favourites was about the Doppler effect. We even learned the equation to work out the frequency of the sound waves.

If you are unfamiliar with the Doppler effect, here it is:

Saturday 16 September 2023

Pinterest Part Five

Welcome to a cloudy but rain free South Manchester. The heat of last week has almost gone but there is still a little left to make it a reasonably pleasant day. Sadly, the garden furniture will have to be put away later today in preparation for more autumnal weather as we descend inexorably towards my least favourite season, winter. 

I’m not too bothered really; I get a final taste of summer next week in Sicily.

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What is your favourite book?

I don’t really have a favourite book, if I’m honest. There are several novels that I have really enjoyed (and that I have mentioned previously on this blog) but there isn’t one that sticks out as my number one.

Maybe when I have written my own novel, I will elevate that to be my favourite book.

2. Are you afraid of the dark?

I used to be afraid of the dark as a kid, but only when I had watched a horror film or read a horror story. It was a transient thing and the longest I had the fear was when I saw The Exorcist – which made me sleep with a small light on for two or three days. I was 19 years old at the time too – what an idiot I was.

More recently I watched two films that reminded me of that feeling. The first was Paranormal Activity which really spooked me – but I was fine when I went to bed. The second was a Spanish horror movie called REC, which I watched alone in the house on a Saturday night at 9pm in winter (Mrs PM was away visiting her mum) with all the lights out - to try to get into the atmosphere of the film. That did make me a little spooked as you might expect so I switched the light on when it had finished. Thankfully I was fine. 

3. Are you mean?

Ah – is this “mean” as in unpleasant or “mean” as in tight-fisted? I’ll answer both.

Mean (unpleasant) – I like to think that I am the opposite of mean. I hate it when I upset people, even people that I am not particularly fond of. I am not a “people pleaser” per se, as I will stand my ground even if it pisses people off. And I love to make people smile or laugh. It makes me feel good when that happens.

Mean (tight-fisted) – Definitely not. I have found that some people who are quite wealthy are quite miserly, their mantra being “there’s a reason why I am wealthy – I don’t spend my money!”. The way I see it, certainly at my age, you can’t take it with you when you shuffle off this mortal coil, so why not enjoy it? That doesn’t mean that I will just blow it all like a lunatic without thinking of Mrs or the kids. Nevertheless I am not going to let it sit in a bank when I can spend it on travelling and other fun things. And I will always be one of the first at the bar when I go to the pub, rather than sitting back (like some people I have known).

4. Is cheating ever OK?

Not really. I think if you cheat in an exam, you are fooling and hurting yourself because ultimately it will come back and bite you on the arse.

5. Can you keep white shoes white?

I don’t wear white shoes these days because you can't keep them white. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s it was quite fashionable to have white trainers (sneakers if you are American) and it was a bugger to keep them clean. I had to buy a white polish of sorts and paint them every so often to try to remove black scuff marks. And it didn’t work. I once had a trendy pair of white shoes in the 1980’s and they were even worse to keep clean, which meant that I only wore them on special occasions. I’m happy with other colours these days.

6. Are you currently bored?

On the contrary. I am very busy at the moment and I don’t have time to be bored. I am very busy at work. We are having the back room, hall and stairs decorated and in preparation I am going through my stuff and trying to be ruthless with it. I am not a hoarder but I do have hoarding tendencies and it is quite difficult. We have had the loft boarded up and made accessible as a storage space so I have been up and down there in recent works, storing my stuff in storage boxes. I have almost finished and it has been fun and cathartic. Mrs PM is happy because there is less clutter in the house and she hasn’t crossed the line telling me what I have to get rid of. In fact, it turns out that she has hoarding tendencies too. “I’m not throwing that away,” she says. “It’s sentimental!” – “Exactly,” I reply. 

I am therefore keeping most of my junk – which isn’t really junk – just sentimental stuff. 

Sorry for the tangent but there is a lot of other stuff to do too – so I am definitely not bored at all. 

7. Would you change your name?

Definitely not. I love the name, Dave. My middle name is George and I used to hate it. Bizarrely I have come to like it in the past few years. My dad’s name was George so it is a kind of reminder of him.

8. Do you like the subway?

I love the subway. 

You get to see a lot of interesting people and it can be fun to just watch them going about their daily business. If I lived in London I would travel everywhere on the Tube.

In London, people tend not to talk to other people. I don’t really know why. This means that when you are travelling alone on the Tube you just see people staring into space or just reading their phones or books.

 In Manchester we have a light railway system called Metrolink and strangers sometimes do speak to each other. 

If you can read the Metrolink map, you will some great Mancunian place names that still make me chuckle, like Crumpsall and Besses o’ th’ Barn. 

9. Who’s the last person you had a deep conversation with?

It was probably Mrs PM and it was probably about the house. 

10. Dumbest lie you’ve ever told?

I tell jokey lies all the time to try to make people laugh. I don’t recall any absolute whoppers or even any stupid ones. Ah – perhaps in my early days as a Roman Catholic. Let me explain.

When you are a Catholic you are supposed to go to church regularly and confess your sins to the priest. I remember when I was forced to do this by peer pressure (mostly from my mum), I would sit and wait for the priest to call me in. 

And then I would lies through my teeth to the man.

“Bless me father for I have sinned. It’s been two weeks since my last confession.” – LIE – it had been at least a month.

“I have broken my sister’s doll.” – LIE – I couldn’t think of anything naughty that I had done.

“I have told lies.” – TRUTH – I’ve been lying since I have been in this confessional box. I always used to make that the last confession because I figured that if I confessed to telling lies then the priest could absolve me of the lies I told when I entered the confessional box.

He would them tell me that as a penance I would have to say the Hail Mary ten times and the Our Father ten times. I would say each one once and then go home – and I would never confess the fact that I had not said my penance last time I was there. 

What a naughty boy I was. And so was comedian Dave Allen.

I dread to think how long I would be in the confessional box were I to go now.

11. Do you sleep with your door open or closed?

We close the door to stop the cats from waking us up at three o’clock in the morning.

12. Favourite month?

Probably June because it means summer is here and we usually go abroad during that month.

13. Dark, milk, or white chocolate?

Definitely dark chocolate. White chocolate is an unnatural abomination that should not exist.

14. Tea or coffee?

Definitely tea. I do like coffee though and I drink it once or twice a week on average. Usually when I go abroad I choose coffee because tea in any place apart from the UK and Australia is like dishwater.

15. Night or day?

Both. I would love to be able to stay awake 24 hours a day but sadly I can’t. 

Saturday 9 September 2023

Magical (?)

Welcome to an unseasonably warm South Manchester. After a disappointing rain-filled July and a similar August, the first week of September has proved to be very warm and sunny. Today I went for my daily walk and I was very hot when I got back. I was quite sweaty (but I guess none of you needed to or indeed wanted to know that).

As I look out of the window, I can see my two cats basking in the sunshine, something they haven’t been able to do for weeks. Enjoy it while you can, I say to them, because soon Autumn will kick in and we will decline gradually towards winter.

Mrs PM and I get a respite soon though because two weeks tomorrow we will be jetting off to Sicily for a week. We will be staying fairly close to Mount Etna, a volcano that is still active and has had a few minor eruptions this year (apparently it happens all the time). I shall be sending soothing thoughts to the volcano for the next fourteen days to calm it down. 

I’ve stayed near an Italian volcano before; a few years ago we went to Sorrento and we could see Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples. We also visited Pompeii where you can see first-hand how catastrophic a volcanic eruption can be. 

I’m scared of heights but I’m not scared of an active volcano. That’s how weird I am.

Anyway, enough of this bunkum. Let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. What’s the best beach or lake day you can remember?

I’ve had a few good ones. We went to visit some friends in Richmond near London and had a wonderful picnic on the banks of the River Thames on a very sunny and pleasant Saturday afternoon. That was good.

As an eighteen year old, myself and three mates went for a weekend in Wales, staying in a remote cottage owned by the parents of one of the lads. It was about a mile from Lake Bala and we spent the whole day on the shore, venturing out onto the lake in a rowing boat that was just big enough to accommodate us all. 

I have been to so many beaches that I can’t select any one of them to stand out more than the others.

2. Describe your ideal picnic lunch

I am happy with a few nibbles, a couple of sandwiches and a either a chilled white wine or a lovely red. If there’s beer, it’s a bonus.

3. What flowers are in your bouquet?

I have no preference when it comes to flowers at all – so take you pick.

4. Silly ways to pass the time during a snowstorm

Well being out in the snowstorm is probably the silliest thing to do in a snowstorm. 

I know – I have been in several. I used to love snow as a kid but now I hate it. I remember one school day in Walsall when we had an absolutely horrendous snowstorm. It was so bad that the roads very quickly became unusable and the school was forced to close. I had to walk home – a distance of about two miles – in a blizzard that was so bad I could barely see where I was going. Worse, the snow made my glasses unusable so I had to take them off and find my way with Mr Magoo style vision. Thankfully there were no cars because the roads were impassable and I was with a couple of mates who helped guide me to my front door. I have never been so happy to sit in front of a warm fire. 

5. The most beautiful house you’ve ever visited.

There are quite a few stately homes in the United Kingdom as you can imagine and some of them are huge and amazing. It would have to be one of those I guess.

6. Best place you ever dined.

When Mrs PM and I spent three months working in Hong Kong, she persuaded me to go for an early meal at the Felix Restaurant in the Peninsular Hotel. This hotel is the most expensive in Hong Kong and has some suites that have their own butler and cost an eye-watering amount of money to spend just one night. The hotel has a fleet of Rolls Royces and only the so-called elite and super rich stay there. I was a little reluctant because company expenses wouldn’t stretch to that amount. The good news was that the early evening menu and it was a bit cheaper – but it was still expensive to me. 

The views of the city were amazing:

The food was excellent I have to say but I am sorry, that I have to lower the tone a little. Yes, I am going to talk about the toilets. They were impressive and from the urinal I could see Kowloon and it looked like I was relieving myself from the roof. Here’s what I mean:

7. How many layers to your ice cream sandwich

I’m happy with just one – maybe two if I am feeling greedy.

8. Pretty things which are faux patent leather

I imagine that you are talking about fake leather clothes and shoes. 

I have to say that I wouldn’t wear anything leather myself apart from a jacket or shoes. I have to say that I do like leather boots, jackets and skirts on ladies, especially the kind that they wear to rock gigs. I don’t care whether it is real leather or fake, if I’m honest.

9. What is the best way to eat chocolate.

Via your mouth. 

That’s obvious, isn’t it?

10. Describe your unicorn’s special magic

I wouldn’t own a horse so why would I own one that had a horn? 

Unicorns do not exist and there is no such thing as magic. Harry Potter is a fictional character. 

I did see a ludicrous question once on a philosophy exam at university. It was this:

“There is a planet that is identical to Earth but populated only by unicorns. Discuss.”

I would LOVE to answer that question.

11. All the fruits in your fruit salad

A selection from these:

Apple, grapefruit, orange, pineapple, kiwi fruit, peach, plum, grapes, melon, mango. 

I know that some of those don’t go, which is why I suggested a selection.

12. Describe the soil, grass, trees, flowers and rocks in your magical forest.

Magic doesn’t exist. The logical progression to this fact is that magical forests do not exist either. 

13. The lyrics which move you the most are:

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?

I know, for I told me so

And I'm sure each of you quite agrees

The more it stays the same, the less it changes

And that's the Majesty of Rock

The Mystery of Roll

The darning of the sock

The scoring of the goal

The farmer takes a wife

The barber takes a pole

We're in this together... and ever

14. What are the best sauces in the world?

I like HP Sauce on a full English Breakfast but I wouldn’t have it with anything else.

To be honest, I like most sauces so it’s a tough one to select.

15. Write a haiku about nature 

I have never written a haiku in my life so this is a first. 

Be kind to me.

Earth is beautiful

Nature makes that possible

Please don’t ruin it

Sunday 3 September 2023


Welcome to a sunny South Manchester where we find ourselves at the end of a summer where it rained a lot in July and August, yet now as September begins, we have high temperatures all week and not a hint of rain.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks and two weeks ago we were in London to see Abba Voyage, where avatars of the band performed their greatest hits. I have to say it was pretty spectacular and, being an Abba fan all those years ago, it took me back in time to the 1970s and 1980s. 

Here’s a taster of what it was like:

There were loads of people dressed up in glitter and 1970’s gear and it was very entertaining. The gig  was expensive though but I think it was worth it. We took the opportunity to see some friends too and have a big walk around the city, from Kensington to Hyde Park via Portobello Road market and Notting Hill.

It seems that every time I go to London, I do something different – and I have been loads of times. It’s an amazing city – but you need lots of time to explore it. I’ve had years and I still don’t know it that well.

Anyway, enough of that. Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. Did you ever have a commercial you really liked?

I don’t watch adverts these days but in the past there have been some great ones. First, I am a huge fan of Mr T and so I found this one particularly good:

This is also a good old classic that I like:

And finally, this one – a skit of a more famous advert:

2. How did you learn to ride a bicycle?

With some difficulty. I fell off a couple of times but I got the hang of it eventually. To be honest I have never been a fan of bikes because I always feel quite vulnerable when sharing the road with other bigger vehicles. It’s not good when a double decker bus overtakes you slowly on a main road. 

I have now actually sold my bike because it was just gathering dust. I probably won’t cycle ever again. 

3.How did you celebrate your 21st birthday?

I was at university and I didn’t really want to do anything big so I just invited a couple of friends over to the digs I was staying in at the time. Sadly, one of the other guys I lived with took it upon himself to invite a load of people that I didn’t know and so after about an hour I started getting bored in my own party. We lived close to Liverpool city centre so I decided to abandon my own party with five of my closest mates and go to local student dive that we often frequented, where we could have more fun and dance to music. In the end, we left that place and returned home in the early hours to find the party had dissolved – so we resurrected it again with just the six of us. I can’t recall much else about the party other than there is a picture of me drinking vodka out of a kettle spout. 

It was a good night – I think.

4. What fascinated you as a child?

I was fascinated by dinosaurs, space travel and aliens. To be fair, nothing much has changed in that regard.

5. What was one of your favourite playground games?

We used to play a game called British Bulldog and I think eventually it was banned at our school because it was deemed too dangerous. 

Basically, one kid is selected to stand in the middle of the playground while all the other kids lined up at one side. The kids then have to run to the other side of the playground and the kid in the middle has to stop somebody from getting across using whatever means necessary. That kid’s victim then joins the kid in the middle and the game is repeated until eventually there are more kids in the middle than there are at the side. The winner is the last person to successfully make it other side without being caught. 

The reason it was banned was because we used to play on a concrete playground and kids got injured when they were rugby tackled to the ground. There were always a few cuts and bruises when the game took place.

There was a variant in the swimming pool called Sharks. The principle was the same except the kid in the middle of the pool had to try to dunk kids as they swam to the other side of the pool. I preferred the pool version, although it wasn’t pleasant if you weren’t a strong swimmer.

6. What things matter most to you in life?

I’m quite content at the moment and all of the things that make me happy are the things that matter most, such as friends, family and fun. Current hobbies also matter like, reading, writing, listening to music, trying to teach myself various things like the piano and Spanish. Oh, and life wouldn’t be complete without Ziggy and Star(dust), my two bosses.

7. If you had to go back in time and start a brand new career, what would it be?

I would probably have tried to have a career in writing. I think at the time I could easily have chosen subjects that allowed that happen so rather than pursuing the maths or science based career that I am on now, I would have followed a path that led to a university course on writing or journalism or something like that. I would still be interested in science though so writing about science may have been a way of satisfying the scientist within.

8. What do people get wrong about you?

People think that I am younger than I actually am, which is a good thing. 

Also, some people think that I am a rampant extrovert because I can allow that version of myself to surface from time to time. Deep down, though, I am more introverted and shy and I like my own company. 

9. Do you believe that people can change? Why or why not?

Yes. This relates to the last question really. As I said, I am quite shy but over the years I have forced myself to combat that particular characteristic. For example, I can pluck up the courage to talk to random people when the need arises, something that I really used to struggle with in my youth. 

I think the turning point came at university when I was just surrounded by people that I didn’t know. When I arrived, I sat alone in my room on that Sunday when I could hear lots of people meeting and greeting each other in the distance. Somehow I found the courage to just go out and start talking to random people even though every fibre of my being screamed at me to go back to my room. 

I won that battle and decided to wage a war on shyness. I still haven’t won the war, but the enemy is fast retreating now. I may win by the time I’m eighty years old.

10. What is some of the best advice your mother ever gave you?

My mum basically taught me how to cook and fend for myself before I left home for university. I used to help her doing household chores, including cooking, and although I hated it, she told me that I would one day need to have these skills. She was, of course, right and I hit the ground running when I left home, thanks to her.

11. If you could see into the future, what would you want to find out?

I would want to know what new technology exists. I am a huge technophile and I love the gizmos and gadgets that have come into existence over the course of my life. When I compare the technology that existed in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s with that of today, progress has been incredible and I would love to see what exists in another 50, 100, 150 or 200 years. That is what I would use a time machine for. 

Come on Dr Who – pay me a visit.

12. How has your life turned out differently than you imagined it would?

Not really. I always thought I was clever enough to have a decent career and that I would be probably be quite comfortable as I got older. And that is kind of what has happened. 

13. What is the longest project you have ever worked on?

I worked on a project at work from its inception to completion and beyond (supporting it). The project  lasted about six or seven years and took me to Hong Kong. When I retire, I will tell you all about it. 

14. What have been some of your favourite restaurants through the years?

There was a great restaurant in Hong Kong called Café Deco that was situated on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong with a stunning view of the skyline from above. Sadly it is now closed which is a real shame, as we always tried to eat there on visits.

There is a great local Nepalese restaurant within a ten minute walk that we both love. 

In Manchester city centre there is a great Chinese restaurant called the Yang Sing, which has an equally good sister restaurant called the Little Yang Sing.

There are a couple of local Italian places that are pretty good too.

15. What is one of the best shows you've ever been to?

The Abba Voyage show I mentioned at that start of this post is right up there. It was weird because we were watching Abba as they were.

I go to a lot of shows and gigs and some of the highlights include:

Rammstein – the mad German Industrial Metal band that have brilliant pyrotechnics and special effects. Like these one:

I also love bands like Nine Inch Nails when they are live:

I saw a great gig earlier this year – Porcupine Tree at Castlefield Bowl in Manchester. It’s a weird place because it’s open air and cradled in the Castlefield area of the city but with trains constantly passing at the side. The last song of the gig was ironically called Trains. Here’s what happened.

You can probably see me somewhere if you look closely (I haven’t found myself yet it has to be said). 

And Rush – of course – my favourite band:

There are simply too many amazing shows and artists out there to mention in such a short post – but I hope you have some idea.