Sunday 21 April 2024

Too Far?

 


Welcome to a very sunny April day in South Manchester. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the temperature is pleasant. The trees are blooming as are the flowers. Spring is definitely here. 

Let’s answer some more silly questions courtesy of Sunday Stealing

1.    What was the best toy you ever owned?

I’ve owned a lot of toys over the years but the ones I loved most were those that allowed me to enact major stories that my weird imagination conjured up. For example, I had a robot that buzzed, beeped and walked and made noises as if it were firing death rays from its chest. This coupled with an army, ranging from World War 2 British and American model soldiers, characters from Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds, as well as various other soldiers from British history (like civil war soldiers, Saxons and Vikings), cowboys and Indians from the Wild West, allowed me to stage battles and wars in my own bedroom using a variety of props. 

It was epic, I can tell you. 

2.    When in your life have you felt the loneliest?

I’ve had bouts of loneliness over the decades, usually when doing something brand new or life-changing. The loneliness has stemmed from being thrust out of my comfort zone and surrounded by strangers, especially when I was younger. I struggled to combat my shyness and realised that I had to do something – and I usually did. I still feel lonely from time to time (everybody does) but it is a rare occurrence these days.

3.    What is your strongest emotion

I would say that it is anger. I rarely get angry and I always try to walk away before it builds up. If I feel myself getting angry, I try to take a step back. It usually works and I can honestly say that I haven’t been really angry for years now. 

I avoid arguments, especially petty ones, and I try to reason with the other person. If they continue to escalate things I just walk away. That works a treat. 

Of course I can’t control certain things that make me angry like the antics of politicians but even now I largely just step away. At the end of the day there is little I can do about it, so why bother? 

4.    When were you the most disappointed in yourself?

I’ve done okay over the years and although I’ve disappointed myself I try to think positively and not dwell on such things. I think it is best to move on from past failures think about the future. I do sometimes still disappoint myself, usually when I fail to do something constructive in the day, like losing a battle against procrastination. 

5.    Which law would you most like to change?

In the UK there are loads of ridiculous laws that could do with a review, too many to mention in one post. 

6.    Who is the person you have hated the most in your lifetime?

I try not to hate people. If I really don’t like a person, I try to completely avoid them. “Out of sight out of mind” is a mantra worth following.

Sadly that is difficult when it comes to public figures who regularly appear in the news. Current people who I really struggle with are the architects of Brexit for example Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg, but in the case of Boris Johnson, he only supported it to oppose then Prime Minister David Cameron, which means he deserves more contempt than most. And of course there are the right-wing nutjobs that make up the extreme part of the Conservative Party like Suella Braverman and Liz Truss, the failed Prime Minister who seems to be becoming more a frothing lunatic as time passes. 

Internationally, people like Valdimir Putin, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un deserve a mention. 

Surely – SURELY – Donald Trump cannot become the president again. 

Come on America … sort it out. 

7.    What has disappointed you the most?

In terms of UK events, Brexit was so disappointing that I ended up being very angry about it. I am still angry deep down but I try not to think about it. 

World politics disappoints me on a daily basis, particularly when it involves war. 

8.    What's the best possible attitude toward death?

I aim to live forever. 

Actually, joking aside, that’s the best way to look at it. Death will happen to everybody so the best thing to do is to try not to think about it and enjoy your life. If you worry about your inevitable demise, it may actually bring it on sooner. 

Life is there to enjoy – so try to do it. 

9.    What's been the longest day in your life?

A day is measured from the time you wake up to the time that you fall asleep. 

With that in mind, it is one of the following (I’m not sure which).

A time in Zurich when I had to upgrade a computer system and I put in an 18 hour shift that started after I had been up for 8 hours already. 

A flight back from Kunming in China to Manchester, that took me via Beijing and Amsterdam, with at least a three hour wait in both airports. I cannot sleep on long-haul flights. When I boarded the flight in Amsterdam for Manchester, I finally fell asleep and I don’t recall the take off at all, only being awoken when the aircraft touched down in Manchester about 40 minutes after take-off. 

 10.  What is the biggest coincidence in your life?

There have been a couple. Here is one I wrote about a couple of years ago:

A couple of years ago, Mrs PM and I decided to have a long weekend in London. Mrs PM wanted to be a total tourist in our capital. We took Friday off work and checked into our hotel on the south bank of the river Thames at about lunchtime.

We strolled to Tower Bridge and mingled with other tourists taking photos of one of London’s most iconic sights before crossing it and having a late lunch in a nearby pub. After that, Mrs PM decided that she hadn’t seen the Crown Jewels so our next destination, just over the river, was the Tower of London. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking around one of our most historical buildings, culminating, at the end, in a queue to see the Queen’s jewellery box. 

After that, we were about to leave when Mrs PM told me that she just needed to answer a call of nature. I decided to try too because it was a fair walk back to the hotel. Of course, public toilet etiquette dictates that men are not supposed to talk to each other or look at each other while doing the business, so in my blinkered cave-like world I just answered the call as quickly as I could. 

On the way out, I walked behind another man and a thought entered my head: “that guy in front looks just like Ben from work.”

I was unsure so I didn’t say anything. When we left the loo, the guy walked over to his wife and kids who were waiting for him. It was Ben after all.

I had taken a day off, come to London, decided to visit one of the thousands of attractions in that city at precisely that time and decided to relieve myself at exactly the same moment as him.

I stood waiting outside the ladies toilet for Mr PM and watched Ben and his family walk towards me. I stared at him with a huge grin on my face. I don’t think I have ever seen a better double take in my entire life.

He glanced at me, glanced at his wife and then stared straight back at me, with recognition dawning on his face.

“What the PHHAAARKKK are you doing here?” he asked incredulously. Just at that moment, Mrs PM came out of the ladies and I saw my second favourite double take. Mrs PM saw Ben, looked at me and then stared at Ben and said “What the PHHAAARKK are you doing here?”

11.  What's the oldest you'd like to live?

As I said above, I plan to live forever.

Realistically though, I am 61 years old and I do not even concern myself with death. When it comes, it comes. 

12.    Who is the most amazing woman you know personally?

Every woman I know is amazing. Mrs PM is the most amazing though.

13.    What was your best experience in school?

I didn’t really like school but leaving with a load of qualifications counts as something on an achievement, I guess.

14.    What's the most meaningful compliment you've ever received?

That’s a tough one. Some customers have asked for me by name and also I’ve been told a few times that I’m a “go to person” when it comes to resolving certain types of problem. 

15.    What is the most you've spent on something really stupid?

I’m very careful with money and I tend not to buy stupid things. That said, back in the day, I’ve done things like buying DVDs on impulse that I have only watched once or twice before putting them in the loft. I should sell such crap items to be fair, to show Mrs PM and that I am not really a hoarder for starters. 


Friday 12 April 2024

How Far?


Welcome to a bright but cloudy South Manchester, where it is quite pleasant in terms of temperature and again it isn’t raining. I’ve just seen a hint of sunshine too.

Let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1.    What have you been the most ignorant about in your life?

I’ve been ignorant about a lot of things. Who hasn’t? 

I’m not that clued up on money for example. I know enough and I am very careful and slightly frugal but I have realised whenever I have spoken to a financial person that, really, I am pretty ignorant about it. 

Politics is another one. I know what I believe as do a lot of people, but when you scratch the surface of how politics actually works, it is a quagmire of complicated nonsense. 

And that is just the UK. Every single country has their own way of dealing with politics and it is a complex nightmare. 

To be honest, as far as politics is concerned I think that I have reached the peak of my tolerance for it. When I was younger I didn’t care and, as the years have gone by, I have slowly become more and more outraged. Now, I decided to step back from the fury that politicians incite and I am feeling better for it. Don’t get me wrong – they still make me angry but in the grand scheme of things, I’ve realised that my younger self had the right idea. 

2.    What in the world would you most like to see protected?

I am quite shocked sometimes when I realise how much humanity is slowly turning our world into a toilet. The Amazon rainforest is slowly being eroded by lunatics in Brazil and the effects of climate change caused by such acts of ignorant thoughtlessness are starting to come and bite us all on the arse.

What makes me laugh (in a sad way) is that countries get together and agree to various measures but then fail spectacularly to meet them while at the same time standing on their soapboxes claiming they are more eco-friendly than everyone else. 

In the UK we have a net zero policy and I am amazed that ignorant people are claiming this is a bad thing. 

Let’s protect everything in nature that might help us to resolve these issues. I won’t hold my breath though because there are too many ill-informed conspiracy theorists who shout too loud. 

3.    How do you waste  the biggest chunk of time each day or week?

I’m not sure I waste time. When I am not working, I try to do things that are either productive, necessary or just fun. 

Some people may argue that spending an hour on my PS4, cursing at my ineptitude on FIFA when my team is losing 3-0 because of my incompetence or throwing down the controller in disgust when my sprite has been killed again due to my lack of coordination and skill, is a total waste of time. It isn’t – it is fun as is watching something on TV – or just sitting there paying with the cats. 

Don’t let Mr Motivator (as described here) get you down folks. Have fun and do what you want. 

4.    Who is the scariest person you've ever known?

I don’t think I have ever met a truly scary person. I’ve worked with people who have used anger to try to get me to work longer, harder or whatever but I tend to find such people funny - which is bizarre. 

We had a teacher at my school who most kidswere scared of. He taught French and his whole demeanour was terrifying for some kids. He was a brilliant teacher but he immediately worked out who the troublemakers were and parked them right in front of his desk during lessons so that he could keep an eye on them. 

He never yelled; he used psychological methods and in a couple of cases reduce spotty 15 year old teenage boys to tears in front of the entire class. 

He once made me stand up in class and tried to humiliate me and make an example of me using these techniques. To be fair I deserved it because I was being an arse. But when he started, his whole demeanour, voice and mannerisms combined in a way that I found hilarious. 

As he was talking, I had to lower my head to hide my huge grin. I had to pretend to cough to cover my little yips of laughter. In the end he gave up and asked to speak to me at the end of the lesson. Of course, when I saw him at the end of the lesson, I found myself on my own with him and I ended up getting one of my many detentions but as he was telling me that I was wasting my talent, being immature and that I had to buck my ideas up, I really struggled not to laugh at him again. 

I did like him though. He got me through French.

5.    What was  the job you enjoyed the least?

One day I will write about what I actually do and have done over the years. I work in IT and I have had to apply my knowledge to other disciplines, one of which involved me working shifts in Liverpool with a couple of guys who didn’t like my company at all. 

There is nothing worse than trying to work at 4am with a couple of angry arseholes doing their best to micromanage you while at the same time telling you that your product is rubbish, full of bugs and not fit for purpose, when the truth was that they simply don’t understand the system because it is new.

It was a long time ago and I was just a young lad (about 24 years old) so I just took it. If these two people tried that right now, they would be shocked by my reaction. Experience does have its benefits and I have managed to acquire certain skills to deal with such people. But at the time, it was not enjoyable at all for my younger self

6.    What thing about your family are you the most proud of?

Well I was the first person in my family to ever go to university by virtue that I was the eldest child. Both of my sisters followed me (one of them as a mature student) and all three of us have/had rewarding careers. This has now progressed because my two lads have followed me. We’re quite clever. I’m proud of that.

7.    What kind of power do you want most?

(Puts silly head on) I want to be World President. I would make some real changes and regular readers will know that I would plan to build a spaceship to send all of the worst human beings on a one-way space exploration trip.

If we are talking super powers, I would like to be able to become invisible, teleport or be able to speed up and slow down time. Or all three.

(Takes silly head off) I don’t really want power of any kind. I’m quite happy being Mr Ordinary.

8.    What's the best piece of advice you ever received?   

“You are clever enough to go to university and have a great career. You have to go for it.”

My dad told me that at the age of 16, as did several teachers who I have made fun of in this blog. I thank them for making me see sense.

9.    What's the  thing you  know the most about?

I know quite a lot of things (some of which astounds even me) but as my career comes to an end, I would have to say that I know a lot about how to make computers tick. I have a logical mind and it is wired such that things like maths come relatively easy to me. 

That said, there is a whole universe of stuff that I know absolutely nothing about. 

10.    When were you most moved by a ceremony?

That would probably be a wedding but it depends who is getting married of course. I’ve been known to have a tear in my eye for such occasions.

There is a big one coming up next year – my eldest son is getting married in September 2025. I imagine that will be quite an emotional ceremony. 

11.    What is the best gift you ever gave to someone?

I don’t really know. I’ve given money to both my lads of course so I will say that. I wonder how much it was? 

12.    What is the cruellest thing you've ever suffered?

Life can be cruel when somebody is taken away from us before their time. Whenever I lose a close member of the family I spend time reflecting on how cruel life can be sometimes.

13.    What's the single nastiest thing you've ever done to someone?

I’m not a nasty person by nature but when I got divorced there were probably some recriminations. That was a long time ago now and my ex-wife and I are quite civil to each other now.

14.    What problem do you think is most common among friends your age?

Realising that they are now old gits and not as young as they were. There is still an element of trying to behave like 20 year-olds (and I am guilty of this too) but we soon ask ourselves what the hell we are doing and then fall back on acting our age (well sometimes). 

15.    What is the strongest craving you get?

I only crave things when I am hungry – and then it is basically food. I’m getting hungry right now actually.


Friday 5 April 2024

TV Tan


Welcome to South Manchester on a mixed day, weatherwise. Basically it is raining with occasional sunny intervals, which is typical weather in April. 

Time for silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1.  Name a TV series show or shows in which you have seen every episode at least twice:

There are a few but the one that leaps to mind is a typically British comedy show, set in space, called Red Dwarf. It is about a huge mining ship called Red Dwarf, which is 3 million years in the future somewhere out there in the universe after an accident that killed the entire crew except an absolute space bum called Dave Lister. Dave is the last surviving human being and is joined by a hologram of his dead bunkmate called Arnold Rimmer, a cleaning droid called Kryten and a creature that evolved from Dave’s cat, as well as a senile computer. It sounds bizarre but it is hilarious.

Here are a couple of clips. 



2.  Name a show or shows you can't or would not miss:

There are quite a few around to be honest. I’m a geek so there are a lot of sci-fi shows like Dr Who, whatever the latest Star Trek series is (looking forward to the last season of Discovery) plus some recent gems like The Boys and Reacher. There’s some good stuff out there at the moment.

3.  Name an actor or actors that would make you more inclined to watch a show:

None. I don’t really care who is in the show to be honest as long as it isn’t any one of those mentioned in the next question.

4.  Name an actor or actors who would make you less likely to watch a show:  

There’s a comedy series over here called Gavin and Stacey and I have never watched a single episode of it because it has James Corden in it. I was tempted to watch the Friends Reunion but when I found out he was involved I decided against it. 

And of course it goes without saying that any TV programme that involves Piers Morgan will never be shown on my telly box.

5. You're having a lovely dinner party for friends and family.  What will you serve for appetizers, main course and dessert?

Whatever Mrs PM decides to make. If I were the host and she wasn’t around, there would be a good chance that the food would be delivered because what I would serve would be rubbish or perhaps I wouldn’t have the will to spend ages in the kitchen (I can actually cook but I really don’t like to). That said, we have a soup maker so I would have a go at making a soup, followed by either a pasta dish or steak, followed by cheesecake (brought in of course) and some cheese and biscuits with a variety of cheeses from the local cheese shop.

6. Snow storm!  You've got house guests and you're all stuck inside for the night. What do you prepare for dinner.  Will you watch a movie? Which?

See above. I would probably put on a comedy to raise spirits, like Monty Python’s Life of Brian, A Fish Called Wanda or Shaun of the Dead.

7. We are going into New York City for the weekend. Where do you want to go?

I’ve been to New York City twice in my life and I’ve seen quite a few sights, like the Empire State Building, Wall Street and Times Square. If I went again for the day, I know that the city is full of skyscrapers and, being afraid of heights, I would avoid climbing such places. I’ve never really spent that much time in Central Park so I would probably start the day with a walk there, depending on the weather. The first time I was there, I took a boat ride all around Manhattan and I really enjoyed it – I think I would do that again. I would probably go for a walk around Greenwich Village as well. In the evening I would pop to Chinatown for a nice meal to finish off the day.

8. You are going to night school.  They offer courses in writing short stories, painting, piano  or guitar lessons, simple home repairs, baking, and gardening. Which do you pick  (or make up one of your own)  and why?

This is a possibility for me when I retire and I would choose one or more of the following: Piano lessons, Spanish and creative writing. 

9.   Ever been to a Drive In Theatre? Would you like to see Drive In Theatres make a comeback? 

I have been to a Drive-In in Los Angeles way back in 1989, just to cross it off the list of “things to do in America”. What I didn’t realise at the time was that they were fading into obscurity. The people we were staying with had to think about whether there was one in the vicinity. There wasn’t but we found one close enough to make it worthwhile. There were two films on and sadly my ex-wife who was with me at the time did not want to see Star Trek V: The Final Frontier so we had to compromise with Tom Hanks in Turner & Hooch. 

It was a bizarre experience with the sound coming through the hire car’s speakers and I spent a fair amount of time watching the other patrons in their wide variety of cars and vans. I do recall buying a huge bag of popcorn and a giant coke. It was fun in a weird kind of way but I would much rather sit in a proper cinema. 

Still, I crossed it off the list. 

And I think it is probably something that should be left to fade into obscurity as a thing of the past.

10.  Should towns provide community entertainment like bands in the park, fireworks on the 4th, community picnics or is the cost just too much?

Well I wouldn’t have fireworks on the 4th July in the UK because people would walk around with bemused expressions on their faces. However, I would be happy to see bands in the park or community picnics. We do this kind of thing in the UK. In my local neighbourhood we have a an annual festival in one of the local parks and there are quite a few others scattered about the various districts of the city. I’m all for attempts at brining the community together as long as the event isn’t crap (which alas sometimes they are). 

11.  What would you change about your town if you had the power?

I live in the third biggest city in England and it is a city with a lot of satellite towns such as Bolton, Rochdale, Oldham, Altrincham, Bury,  Salford, Wigan, Stockport and Sale and it is easy to get from one place to another with generally excellent public transport. The problem is that this transport mostly goes directly into the city itself and if you want to get from, say Altrincham to Stockport the transport links are not as good. They’re not bad but they could be better. There are apparently steps to improve this. 

12.   How often do you find yourself shopping for groceries?

We typically grocery shop once a week but occasionally we pop to the shop to get something that has run out. 

13. Do you have a favourite night time snack?

Occasionally I have cheese and crackers if I am feeling peckish but it is a rare occurrence really.

14,  Do you buy in bulk and what kinds of tips do you have to save money on grocery shopping?

I don’t really buy in bulk that often but I do say to Mrs PM that for some things it is better to have too much rather than too little. Obviously this doesn’t apply to perishables. 

15. Let's have a picnic in the park.  What foods are we packing and will we cook anything there or is it all prepared ahead of time?

For me a picnic in the park doesn’t really involve cooking things beforehand. I would want to eat snacks, such as sandwiches and crisps (chips in America), with a few other bits of finger food. It would be nice to have a beer or wine too. 


Friday 29 March 2024

Easter Bot Swap


Happy Easter and welcome to South Manchester on a cloudy and changeable Good Friday. I’ve seen the sun this morning and we are due a brief thunderstorm in the afternoon but after that the weather will calm down. 

Let’s dive into some questions from Sunday Stealing

1. Do you believe in the unknown and mystics?

I believe there is a whole universe of things we don’t know about that perhaps can be explained by science that we have yet to discover. However, there is a weird “unknown” that is more to do with the spiritual aspect of things we don’t know - and this is where I have a problem. 

Mystics claim to have an insight into such things but I simply don’t believe any of them. As a person who loves anything scientific, I find it really hard to understand how a so-called mystic can have such insights yet they can’t actually prove what they say; they rely on people to take their word for their weird claims. 

I apologise to people who believe this nonsense, but I am cursed with the need to see proof. I think that some mystics do actually believe in their own ability to transcend our supposedly one-dimensional lives into a more spiritual realm – but to me it is just the thing that I do when I am trying to sleep, i.e. set off on a journey through my own vivid and weird imagination. To me it is just a state of mind; I can achieve inner calm using mindfulness and I can also lie there in bed forgetting my woes by inventing stories in my head and allowing my subconscious mind to take over and send me to sleep.

I am not a mystic and I don’t believe anybody who says that they have achieved spiritual enlightenment by allowing themselves to transcend into the realms of the unknown. To me it is mumbo jumbo. 

However, if any mystic has proof then I am all ears. 

2. How do you tell time? Do you use a watch or your phone and why?

I only wear a watch when I go out. I am at home and the moment and watchless. That said, I do check the time on my phone  as well. 

3. How do you stay cool in the summer?

I wear shorts and a T-shirt. 

Summers in the UK are actually really pleasant when it isn’t raining. The highest normal temperature we get in Manchester is about 30 degrees Celsius, though we smashed the record a year or so ago when the temperature reached 37 degrees here in Manchester and over 40 degrees in London. 

I also turn down the temperature on the shower so that the it is much colder. 

We’re lucky in our house because it is quite cool so coming in from a hot day we get instant relief. 

Cold drinks with lots of ice also works. 

4. Egg yolk or white?

I like both.

5. What is your current on-repeat song?

Since seeing the Stranglers a week or so ago, I have been playing this song a lot (from their latest album). It is a great song called Breathe. 

6. What is your favourite sound in the world?

I like a lot of sounds, including:

A baby laughing

Thunder

Waves crashing on the shore

Wind

Music

7. What's the must-have-items in your bag?

I don’t carry a bag, I’m a bloke. 

Nevertheless I do have a rucksack for work that contains my laptop and all the trimmings required for it but that’s about it. 

8. When you're dressing up, which one you put on first: pants or tops?

That’s an odd question. I usually put pants on but sometimes I don’t.

9. What is the one thing you wish you could take back?

Nothing immediately leaps to mind, but I know that I have said a few things in my youth that I have regretted, usually in a red-mist moment. Many things are said in the heat of the moment and these days I am more careful about what I say. 

10. What is your pet peeve?

What is my pet peeve? I have several. Here are a few:

Politicians that do not answer questions.

Traffic jams.

People who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet. 

People who talk with their mouths full.

People who don’t flush the toilet – and yes there are some horrific monsters out there.

People who live for arguing.

Dirty kitchens.

Business bullshit.

People who talk and make noise in the cinema.

The tall person who always stands in front of me at a gig.

Long queues and people who try to queue jump.

I could do an entire post about this. 

11. Have you ever been ashamed after buying something frivolous? What?

Not ashamed – but annoyed. I am usually careful not to buy trinkets and useless objects and I rarely do so. However, a couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted a smartwatch. I didn’t need one and I don’t have any use for one. To me they are an expensive waste of time. I succumbed to the hype in a moment of madness.

Before my rational mind took charge, I had in my possession a cheap smartwatch. I regretted buying it within a week. It was cheap, cheap-looking and had a battery that lasted barely a day. It had functions which, on paper, looked useful, like a pedometer, a heart monitor and various other things. But they were hopeless and inaccurate. The accompanying app was hopeless too and drained the battery on my old smartphone. 

Pretty soon it stopped charging properly as well and now it is gathering dust in a drawer upstairs. 

What a waste of money.

12. What dessert would you eat even if you were beyond full?

At Christmas time I can always find room for a mince pie. 

13. Sweet or spicy?

These days, spicy. I used to love sweet food but I seem to have lost my sweet-tooth. 

14. Which website do you visit most often?

That would probably be the BBC web page – or possibly You Tube. 

15. Which countries/states have you visited and which one did you like the most?

I’ve visited 38 countries: Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, Oman, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vatican City and Vietnam. I would also count Hong Kong and Macau but they are now special administrative regions of China so I guess they don’t count. 

In the US I have visited the following states:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington. I have also been to Washington DC. 

The countries I have enjoyed most are Japan, Iceland and Spain, though every one in the list above is amazing – even China and Russia.

As for states, I really enjoyed Alaska and New York but they are all great in their own way. 




Sunday 24 March 2024

More Bot Swapping


Welcome to a sunny South Manchester. We’ve just returned from a weekend in Liverpool, home of the Beatles and the alma mater of both Mrs PM and myself (although at different times). I realised that it has been forty years since I left the place and it was weird to go back. We wandered around the university area for old times’ sake and realised how much it has changed. I’ve been back to the city many times in those forty years and I love the place – well worth a visit I have to say.

Shall we do the usual silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. If you could witness any event from history, what would it be?

Two things leap to mind. 

The first is to go to Pompeii a month before the volcano erupted and flattened the place. I love ancient Roman culture and I believe that before it was destroyed, Pompeii was considered a place where the more wealthy Roman citizens lived and hung out. Obviously I would leave well before Vesuvius erupted but I think it would be quite an experience to see Roman life.

Secondly I would pop back to try and have a chat with Jesus. Being brought up as a Roman Catholic means that this man’s life was carved into my mind as a child via constant masses and indoctrination from Catholic priests and the teachers at the Catholic Junior school I attended up to the age of ten or eleven.

I would like to just sit down and ask him a few questions and see what the man was like. It would be extremely interesting I think. 

2. What do you think about conspiracy theories?

I love conspiracy theories, the more bizarre the better. I particularly love the Flat Earth Theory and I would love to have a conversation with a true Flat Earther. 

I also love the whole conspiracy surrounding Roswell. In fact that would be a third thing that I would go back in time for (see question 1) – to see what happened in Roswell. 

I find it amazing that people like David Icke exist. I think he is as mad as a bag of frogs but spending an hour in his company would be fantastic. I particularly love his “truth” that we are under the control of inter-dimensional lizards. 

It’s fascinating, disturbing, funny and interesting all at the same time.

3. Do you like cartoons? Do you have /had a favourite one?

Yes – I like the old cartoons like Tom and Jerry, The Pink Panther and Wacky Races. 

In terms of modern ones, I love the Simpsons. I’ve recently been watching South Park which is disgusting but also really funny. 

4. What did you most dislike in school times?

I went to a Grammar School where the whole package was geared towards making yourself a success both for your benefit and also the benefit of the school. Don’t get me wrong, I owe that school everything but the overall philosophy of the place was something that irritated me. It didn’t help that I was an unpleasant spotty adolescent with an anarchistic streak that got stronger as time progressed. I found myself at odds with the school traditions and I often clashed with teachers. I could have handled it in a better way, I think, and sometimes I cringe when I look back at myself during that time. 

I guess the teachers and the school had to cope with a lot of arses like me (we were all driven by crazy hormones) but somehow they got me through it. 

Despite moaning about the school, I am eternally grateful to all the staff who had to put up with me.

5. What sounds are in your opinion relaxing? The sound of the sea? Traffic? Vacuum cleaner? Combine harvester on the field? Some kind of music? Birds singing? ...

I find the sound of the sea crashing onto the a beach incredibly relaxing. Whenever we go to a seaside resort I try to find time just to sit there listening to the sea. I am at my most relaxed late at night when the crowds have disappeared, just listening to the sea with perhaps some mellow music in the background. 

6. What was the last thing you read?

I read a quadrilogy of science fiction novels about space assassins. It was good fun, although they didn’t really live up to the literary prestige that perhaps people would expect a well-educated geek to enjoy.

7. What is one thing that has stumped you so hard you won't ever forget it?

I don't understand how the British tabloids manage to get away with what they get away with. Some of the things these so-called “newspapers” write is incredible and bordering on libellous and a lot of the things they write come from dodgy sources. There have been allegations of phone-hacking and all manner of nefarious tricks just to “get a story”. 

I cannot understand how some of them are still in circulation. 

8. What are you interested in that most people aren’t?

Progressive rock and progressive metal is one such thing. Most of the bands I like are obscure and while I praise them, a lot of people say “Who are they again?”.

9. What’s something you really resent paying for?

The additional booking charges on concert tickets or as I like to call them, the “rip-off fees”. In the past we would be offered tickets for say £20 and then they would say that there is a booking fee of say £5 meaning we would pay £25. And then postage comes on top of that. 

These days I can buy a ticket online and get it sent to my phone at no cost and they still charge a “rip-off fee”. 

How on earth can they justify it?

10. If you could choose a different time period and place to be born, when and where would it be?

I wouldn’t change it. I think I’ve been really lucky in terms of avoiding wars (so far), reaching a wonderful peak in the 1980’s (still my favourite decade) and not being saddled with debts because of circumstance. When I look back I have been very lucky and I think the time I was born was perfect. 

11. What's one question you would ask Superman?

Why are you here talking to me? You’re just a comic book hero.

12. What's your favourite smell? What's your least favourite smell?

Off the top of my head, I love the smell of cooking food, especially bacon. 

I hate the smell of hospitals and all things associated with them. Let’s face it – I hate hospitals. 

13. How do you feel about cars becoming fully autonomous and having no steering wheel, breaks, or accelerators?

I read something once about special tracks and roads being created to ensure that such vehicles will be a lot safer and the risk of accidents would be severely mitigated as a result. I would welcome that because technology can go wrong for multiple reasons. 

Being a technophile though, I hope it happens sooner rather than later. 

14. What are your favourite books and authors?

I love anything quirky and weird, like science fiction and horror. I also love espionage novels like those written by Robert Ludlum, the creator of Jason Bourne. 

My favourite authors are Robert Ludlum, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Peter F Hamilton and Blake Crouch. There are too many to list them all. 

15. Have you had a reading or palm reading done?

No. 

I don’t believe in such things. Like everything, I would love to have proof that such things are in any way real and can actually be based on something tangible.  

But as far as I can tell, there is no proof whatsoever. I am far to skeptical and I would need concrete proof. I think that is the scientist in me objecting. 


Sunday 17 March 2024

Sunday Mode


Welcome to a cloudy spring day in South Manchester with the ever present threat of a little rain later. 

On Friday night Mrs PM and I went to see The Stranglers, a punk band from the late 1970’s, who changed their style as time progressed. They are now touring to celebrate their 50th anniversary and I have to say it was a great gig. They are one of the bands that both Mrs PM and I like, which is incredible given the chasm that exists between our tastes. If you have never heard of them, here is an old song and a new song that shows how they have changed.

First, an old punk song called 5 Minutes from 1978:

This is one from 2021 called White Stallion:

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing?

1. What ONE thing would you change about your life? How would your life be different?

The one thing that I would change will be changing in due course, when I retire. It will be a significant event and I am not absolutely sure how my life will change. I do know that I will no longer have to work and that will be the best thing. While I really like my colleagues, I am completely fed up of working within IT as well as all the baggage that surrounds it (office politics etc.). 

I am hoping that I will expand my horizons (not sure how yet) and any remaining stress and pressure will be significantly reduced. There is some trepidation there, sure, but I think I will be a happier man.

2.  What is the hardest thing you have ever done? Why was it hard for you? What did you learn?

Trying to beat my phobias. I read that the only way to conquer your fears is to confront them head on. With all due respect to whoever said that, I disagree. Some people may succeed but I have failed miserably. It was hard and I wanted to just run away. Even low exposure is horrible. 

I tried to conquer my fear of heights by climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Berj Khalifa in Dubai, the Eiffel Tower, the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai and the CN Tower in Toronto. My fear of heights has developed over the years (my theory is that it is due to my eyesight – I may be completely wrong) and I figures that if I managed to enjoy going to the top of the Eiffel Tower when I was 20 and the top of the Empire State Building in New York when I was about 28, I could overpower this ever worsening phobia that started to really develop in my 30s. I was wrong. 

I have learned that I will never go anywhere near a high building again. Mrs PM wants us to go to Kuala Lumpur when we got to Malaysia next year. 

“Let’s go up the Petronas Towers” she said. 

I have told her that I am not going anywhere near them. I will sit in a café while she climbs them.

My other fear is public speaking. I don’t intend to ever do that again either.

3. Write about the most glorious moment in your life so far.

When I compare myself to other people, I don’t think I have had that many moments that can be described as glorious. Perhaps achieving things counts, like getting an honours degree, or having children or having successes at work (which I may elaborate on some time in the future). 

I’m quite happy in my mediocre glory-free life.

4. Write about a moment you felt brave.

When I reached the bottom of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (as I said in question 2). That to date is the scariest thing I have ever done in my life.

5. What made you happy today?

It’s a dull Sunday but being woken up by a hungry cat who uses his head to nudge you from your slumber is always a happy little event.

6. What did you dislike most about growing up?

I wasn’t a happy child, I don’t think. I was shy, small and a little timid until I hit puberty when I turned into an obnoxious little brat. I am sure there were moments that I was a good kid but when I think of some of the things I used to say and do, I cringe.

7. Write about five activities you love the most and why you love them.

I love travelling because, at the time of writing, it is the only real thing that enables me to get out of my comfort zone. I am not an adventurous person by nature but when I travel I am far more willing to do things that enlighten the soul than I am stuck here in the UK. Every trip is an adventure and I can’t wait for the next trip.

I actually also love writing. While I’m not very good, I find that expressing my thoughts in words is also good for the soul. In some ways it can be very therapeutic.

Going to see live music is excellent. As I said, we were at a gig on Friday night and I always love to see people that can create music. I envy their talent and whenever I struggle with the piano, I realise just how good these guys are. 

Going out with friends is something I love because it helps me escape from the real world. It’s fun and therapeutic.

Listening to music. As I am writing this I am listening to Fool in the Rain by Led Zeppelin and I am moving my shoulders in time with the music. Again, music is very therapeutic.

8. Do you have an embarrassing moment that still makes you cringe?

Oh yes – absolutely YES!

Too many to mention. In fact I just wrote about one of them in my daily freewriting journal-type thing. I don’t want to repeat it here because it is too embarrassing. 

9. What has been your best trip so far?

That’s a difficult one. I am going to say my trip to Japan simply because I had always wanted to go there – and we made a cheeky stopover in Hong Kong too. Japan is a weird and wonderful place and I am so enamoured by it that I want to go back. I just have to discuss it with Mrs PM. 

10. What traits (physical or personal) do people notice when they meet you for the first time?

You would have to ask other people. From my perspective, I hope I come across as a friendly enough guy, if people can break down the initial shyness barrier. That said, these days I am far more likely to greet people with a warm smiling face than I used to be when I was really shy. It is much easier to talk to people these days as that particular fear is dissipating. For example, when in Germany, Spain or France, I now try to actually approach people and talk to them in their own language, which I would never have dreamed of as a younger man. 

If you are ever unfortunate enough to meet me you can judge for yourself but I will do my very best to be friendly and make you smile. 

11.  Is social media a blessing or a curse?

It is both. 

I love the fact that you can communicate with people all over the world. For example I am currently plucking up the courage to try to engage Spanish speaking people to try to improve my Spanish skills. Also, something like Facebook has enabled me to connect with old school friends and people who have moved away.

The curse side of it is that it enables lunatics, psychos and nasty people to spread their bile to the world. Worse, it has fuelled the concept of fake news so these day s you struggle to know what is the truth and what is bullshit. It can be divisive and make celebrities out of total arses. Donald Trump leaps to mind.

12. What is your greatest hope for your future? What steps can you take to make it happen?

Let’s go back to retirement. I hope that when I retire I have enough to keep me busy and leading a happy life. I think I will be fine as I have enough interests to keep me going, such as playing the piano, learning Spanish, writing, etc. 

I just wonder whether these things will be enough or whether I need to do more. For example, I plan to attend Spanish classes (as I am largely teaching myself at the moment).  Also since Mrs PM is younger than I am and has no plans to retire for a few years yet, I realise that I will be doing things in a solitary way for a while. 

I think I’ll be okay though. You will read about my exploits I am sure.

13.  What did you struggle most with today?

Nothing really. I decided on a longer walk today (about five miles) but, as is typical, the heavens opened about three miles in. Thankfully I had a brolly with me. I hate walking in the rain though. That was a bit of a struggle I suppose. 

14.  Name the biggest priority in your life right now

Working out what I am going to do in retirement. 

15. What are 5 things you wish others knew about you.

Well, I wear my heart on my sleeve and speak my mind so some people judge me on that without knowing what I am really like. What you need to know about me (which I have alluded to above) is:

I can be quite shy. This is a subconscious thing and if I appear reticent, I genuinely don’t mean to be. I can’t help it. This is a battle I fight whenever I meet new people but if I am aware of it I can make that difference. It must work because people genuinely are surprised when I tell them. “You’re definitely NOT shy, Dave” they say. I am happy when they say that.

There are a lot of people who I know who have never seen this blog and don’t know that I have one. While I enjoy writing it, I am still not that comfortable with people who know me reading it. I don’t advertise it to people I know.

I’m honest. I believe we have lost some honesty in the world but I still cherish it.

I love being with people but sometimes I need to service the introvert within.

I can be quite funny – usually by accident.

 

Friday 8 March 2024

Bye Bye Winter


Welcome to a dull and cold South Manchester where it is not raining. It’s my day off today and I have just jet-washed my car.

Let’s answer some daft questions from Sunday Stealing

1.  What is your favourite thing about winter?

The end of it. Winter is almost over and the weather is starting to improve. There are buds on the trees, spring flowers are starting to bloom, the magnolia in my front garden is also starting to bloom. Days when I have to de-ice the car have gone for a few months and there is little or no chance of snow from now until the end of the year.

Actually, my answer above isn’t quite true because I like Christmas and New Year. 

2. What is your favourite winter sport?

Football is played in winter; does that count? I guess the question relates to specific winter sports, i.e. those in the Winter Olympics. The truth is I don’t have one but I quite like to watch things like bobsleigh and luge. The luge in particular looks extremely dangerous and exciting. It is a sport I would never attempt no matter how exhilarating it seems.

3. What is the best winter treat?

All of the food that you get  around Christmas time. There are a lot of foods that you only eat at that time, like mince pies, turkey and brussels  sprouts (obviously not together). Christmas is the only time of the year that I eat cake and chocolate regularly. 

4. What is the earliest time in the year it ever snowed where you live?

We don’t get much snow in Manchester. We did get a single downfall late last year but that was it. If it’s going to snow it will usually be in January. A few years ago we did have an arctic couple of weeks in January here. It snowed heavily and temperatures really plummeted leaving conditions outside quite treacherous. Thankfully that is a rare event here.

5. What is the best way to stay warm in the winter?

We usually have the heating on in winter and can boost the temperature with a blast from our gas fire. We have one in the lounge and another in the room we are in at the moment. Of course, layers help too. I have about four really thick woolly jumpers that keep me cosy around the house. 

6. What are your favourite things that are paper?

Books of course. 

I read books on my Kindle these days but I still have a collection of reference books and a few hardbacked books on the bookshelf in the lounge and scattered around the house. I have a few in the loft too. 

My prize one is a large Bible that I inherited from my Grandad on my mother’s side. It is leather bound with gold edged pages and published in the 1950’s. My grandad was a strict Roman Catholic so he cherished it. He passed it one to my mum who has passed it on to me. My own sons are not Roman Catholics but I will probably pass it onto my eldest lad because it is a nice book and possibly will increase in value. 

7. What are your favourite things that are cotton?

I have a few cotton shirts. I imagine it is one of those. 

8. What are your favourite things that are leather?

I have a leather jacket that I wear to rock gigs sometimes. It is getting on a bit now (like me) so I may replace it sooner rather than later.

9. What are your favourite things that are floral?

I actually do not think that I possess anything that is floral. I certainly do not have any floral clothing. To be honest, I’m not a fan. Mrs PM has floral items though.

10. What are your favourite things that are wood?

I would say that this is the wooden furniture we have scattered throughout the house. 

11. If you think your house is haunted, what should you do?

There is a weird part of me that would be excited if my house were haunted. I would be scared I think but it would definitely confirm that there is some form of afterlife. If my house were haunted I would try to capture evidence and post it out there as proof. 

Maybe I would consider bringing in experts of the scientific variety. The big problem with that there are too many charlatans out there and I wouldn’t trust a single one of them.

12. When should you investigate a strange noise in your basement?

I am grateful that I don’t have a basement. 

Horror films and books usually use basements as a place where nasty things appear, so I would be a little worried if I had one. I think if I were alone in the house and I heard a strange noise in the basement, I would make sure that it had a lock and I would investigate next day. Either that or I would make sure that the cats were around to confirm whether or not there was anything supernatural down there. Cats are alleged to be sensitive to such things. 

13. How do you know if an abandoned building is safe to visit?

Usually such buildings have a sign that says “Dangerous building” or “Do not trespass”. I wouldn’t tempt fate unless I knew it was safe. 

14. How do you decide whether to solve a problem as a team, or split up and go it alone?

I work in a team and we tend to be very helpful to each other. We all have similar skills but some of us specialise in certain areas. I think if a problem or area of work falls into my area of expertise, I would go it alone. However, I would also do so in other areas but I would seek assistance if I came up against a tough problem and a different team member could resolve it quicker than I could. 

15. Where do you store your knives and where would you look if one was missing?

We have kitchen knives and if there is one missing I would check the dishwasher, because that is where it is likely to be. 


 

Friday 23 February 2024

I've Got a Rocket

 

Welcome to a sunny South Manchester where the weather is changeable. It waited until I went for my morning walk before deciding to rain. When I left the house there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Somebody must have sensed that I had not brought my umbrella because approximately half way through my walk (about two miles in) the heavens opened. I was drenched and, as fate would dictate, as I approached home, the sun came out again and the clouds disappeared. 

Typical, eh?

Today I am going to a rather strange gig for me with Mrs PM. We are going to see Alison Goldfrapp and while I am normally into progressive rock and heavy metal, the gig tonight is more electronic pop with a hint of dance – definitely more Mrs PM's cup of tea than mine. But, hey, it’s good to expand your horizons once in a while and I do like some of her songs. 

Here’s an old one that reminds me of what I will do when I become World President. 

My plan is to build a huge spaceship and incarcerate all the odious people in the world on it, telling them that they are pioneers looking for a new planet for us to populate in the future. The truth is that I just want to rid planet Earth of these people in the most humane way possible. 

Alison Goldfrapp has the same idea. Here is Rocket:

Ohh, I got a rocket

Ohh, you're going on it

Ohh, you're never coming back

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. Have you ever smoked cigarettes?

I have tried to smoke cigarettes three times in my life. Once at the age of 16 when I coughed and spluttered and said “Why would anyone DO this?” The second time was about a year later when I succumbed to peer pressure and said the same thing. 

Those two times, I just sucked the smoke into my mouth and immediately blew it out. 

The final time was when I was 20 years old. I was out drinking at university with a bunch of mates and we went to a night club. I was drunk so I took up the offer of a cigarette. After a puff, my mate informed me that I needed to inhale it fully into my lungs. So I did …

… and promptly threw up. 

The effect of the nicotine and alcohol conspired to make me really dizzy and I ended up going home immediately in a cab vowing never ever EVER to go anywhere near a cigarette again. 

And I haven’t.

2. What do you think of hot dogs?

I like them but to be honest I rarely eat them. I think the last time I had one was at the cinema because I was ravenous and about to watch a long film. 

3. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?

Lots of alcohol.

I’m only kidding. I usually have a cup of decaffeinated tea and a mixture of orange and apple juice (about 60% apple and 40% orange). 

4. What's your favourite piece of jewellery that you own?

I don’t own any jewellery. I used to wear a neck chain when I was a younger man – I though it looked cool. I never replaced it when it broke. 

5. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?

As I said above, I love a cup of decaffeinated tea. I also drink black decaffeinated coffee (an Americano if you want Starbuck’s terminology). 

When I am in a pub in the evening I usually drink beer. In the summer I will have lager but in winter I tend to drink ales). 

6. Like to travel?

Anyone who has ever read this blog knows the answer to this question. I love travelling. In fact we have just planned our next three trips and will be booking them soon. We are going to go Menorca in May sometime as it is the only Balearic Island we haven’t been to. For Mrs PMs birthday in August we are going to return to Nice in the South of France (we love that city). Finally in September sometime we are going to head off to Greece (not sure exactly where yet). 

7. What should you be doing right now?

It’s Friday and I don’t work on Fridays anymore. I am certain that my company would tell me that I should be working today but that’s just tough for them. I have completed all of my daily duties today and we are off to a concert tonight so who cares what I should be doing? I don’t.

8, Your phone rings. Who do you want it to be?

I want it to be the lottery company to tell me that I have won millions of pounds. 

9. Do you like to ride horses?

I have ridden small horse in the past once or twice. But I do not fancy riding a full sized horse – they are huge, fast and temperamental. 

I am slightly fearful of them if I’m honest. It all stems from a football match I was at in my youth when there was a crowd of us leaving but the police decided to disperse the crowd for reasons unknown to any of us. A rather angry policeman decided to force our hand by charging into the crowd in an expletive filled rant ordering us to move. The bloody thing was huge and I feared that it might just run me over. Thankfully I just ran and the thing didn’t chase me. 

I have seen them since in fields and I think they are gentle creatures so I’m not really scared of them anymore. But riding one? 

No thanks.

10. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener?

It depends who I am with. With my close buddies I am more of a talker. Otherwise I am a mixture of both.

11. What's in your pocket right now?

My phone. 

12. Last thing that made you laugh?

I caught a video of the late great Sean Lock, a British comedian, doing a monologue. It was very rude and very funny. If you haven’t heard of Sean Lock, just take a look at some of his stand-up routines on You Tube. He was hilarious – and is sorely missed.

13. How many TVs do you have in your house?

We have three. There is a Smart TV in the lounge, another older model in back room, which is a backup TV but the one that I use to play video games. Finally we have a small one upstairs that I watch while ironing (I need something to help relieve the tedium of this monotonous chore). 

14. Who's your loudest friend?

It is probably a guy from work who is outrageous and hilarious. He is great company and always makes me laugh. I have some stories about him but I will keep them to myself for now. 

15. Favourite sports team? (If you don't have one, just state that ...)

That would be Walsall Football Club, a lower league team from the EFL. I have supported them all my life even though I don’t live there anymore. 

Here they are beating Wrexham earlier this season (Wrexham are the club that Ryan Reynolds bought a couple of years ago). Walsall are playing in the red (we won 3-1).


Friday 16 February 2024

Music Was My First Love


Welcome to a dull and rainy South Manchester, a far cry from this time last week which found me strolling along the promenade next to Playa de las Canteras in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. 
It was sunny and warm, the sea was turquoise and there were lots of Spanish people around, which enabled me to at least try to speak to Spanish waiters and shopkeepers in their native language. It was a good place, which was a cross between a beach holiday and a city break. 
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a fairly big city in its own right and, unlike Tenerife, the other island in the Canaries that I have been to, it is not full of British people. This means that in bars and restaurants people are less likely to speak English. 
In fact I was quite proud of myself having had a mini conversation with the taxi driver who dropped us off at the start of the holiday. It was fun. And we will be planning our next jaunt to Europe this weekend – probably back to Spain.
This week’s Sunday Stealing is about a subject that is close to my heart – music. Just the right thing to put me in a good mood for the weekend. 
Let’s dive in shall we?
Name a song that...
1. You enjoy, in another language.
My music collection has quite a few songs in different languages: German, Gaelic, French, Finnish, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Russian – even Latin (thanks to Enya). Since I feel a little self-indulgent I will give you two songs in different languages. 
This is Air singing “Mer du Japon” (Sea of Japan) in French, their native language:
And this is a strangely subdued Rammstein singing “Ohne Dich” (Without You):

2. Recently introduced you to a new singer
Thanks to Spotify I am exploring new music all the time and one band that is currently pushing my buttons is a band that has been around for a long time but is new to me. They are The Pineapple Thief and their singer is a guy named Bruce Soord. I have only just really started exploring their back catalogue and so far I love what I hear. This is a song called “Demons”:

3. You listen to energize
If Mrs PM and I are getting ready to go out, to a pub or a restaurant, all I can hear from upstairs is her dance music blaring out. So I compensate by reverting to my love of heavy metal. These days I listen to more progressive rock but when I want to get into a great mood I will listen to something much heavier. Something like “Master Passion Greed” by Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish. This is one of my favourite heavy metal songs and if they ever wrote a Heavy Metal theme tune for a James Bond film – this would be it. If you aren’t a fan of Metal listen to it from about 5 minutes 11 seconds. Symphonic Metal at its best.

4. Is your favourite song from a musical.
I hope this one counts. I did see Jeff Wayne’s War of the World performed live. It had a full orchestra, a large rock band with multiple keyboards drums and guitars, all conducted by Jeff Wayne himself and even featuring Justin Hayward, the original singer. I loved it – one of the best shows I have ever been to complete with screen and animations and a giant Martian fighting machine. It also had a hologram of the Narrator, voiced by the brilliant Richard Burton.
This is “Eve of the War” from the original 1970’s album “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds”.

5. Reminds you of an old love
My ex-wife and I shared some taste in music and she quite likes melodic rock. We have a local Manchester band called Dare who started out in the late 1980's and the lead singer used to be in Thin Lizzy. He formed his own band called Dare who were very good (and still are) and when I bought the album she fell in love with it. 
Here is a song from the album about Manchester - and it is called "The Raindance" for obvious reasons. 
Note - the keyboard player in this band is the now famous British physicist Professor Brian Cox (he no longer plays for them of course). 

6. Make you think of one of your children
When my kids were babies and struggling to sleep, I used to get up with them in the middle of the night and try to gently coax them back into the land of slumber. It took time but one of the things that really helped was music, especially slower and tuneful pop music. This song was a favourite and worked – and I also love it. 
This is “Hello (Turn Your Radio On)” by Shakespears Sister:

7. Makes you smile when you hear it.
I have driven Mrs PM up the wall recently with this brilliant song from Muse. The chorus is such an earworm and I love singing along to it. The entertaining video also features the wonderful Terry Crews. I’d just like you to imagine me sitting opposite Mrs PM listening to this and singing along while she is simply rolling her eyes.
I have a massive smile on my face as I am listening to it now. 
This is “Pressure” by Muse:
Don’t push me (OH AH AAH)
Don’t push me (OH AH AAH)
Let me get off the ground (Don’t push me)
To you I’m no longer bound (OOH WEE AAH)
Don’t stop me (OOH WEE AAH)
Don’t choke me (OOH WEE AAH)
I need you out of my head (Don’t push yeah)
You’ve got me close to the edge (Don’t push yeah)

8. You love but is quite unknown
My taste in music is such that most people haven’t heard of a lot of the bands and artists I love and therefore they haven’t heard a lot of the songs by those artists. I will plum for a song by my current favourite progressive rock band from Poland called Riverside. This is a beautifully laid back song with a great title – “Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?)”. 

9. That annoys you.
There are lots of songs that annoy me and have done for many years. Some are extremely popular too – and I just don’t get their appeal. Here’s an example:

10. That your parents used to listen to.
This is one of the reasons I ended up playing the trombone:

11. From your early years of childhood
This is the first song that I remember liking. It is an amazing song and I still love it. It is of course “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys.

12. That has a colour in the title.
I can't write a post about music without mentioning one of my musical heroes - Mr David Bowie.
Here is "Blue Jean":

13. That needs to be played loud.
Heavy Metal sounds much better loud. 
I went to see Alice Cooper once and they were supported by Motörhead. When Motörhead played the first song, they claimed that the volume was too low – so they turned it up. And it was deafening. Thank goodness I had my ear defenders with me. Thankfully for Alice Cooper the volume was restored. Here is “Overkill” by Motörhead. It does sound good loud (but not too loud). The first lines are:
Only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud
so good I can't believe it, screaming with the crowd

14. That is perfect for a road trip.
For driving it has to be a good bit of guitar with a driving beat – hard but not too heavy. Something like this excellent tune, “Lifestyle” by the brilliant Joe Satriani:

15. That reminds you of yourself.
I can’t talk about myself without reminding you of my two Scottish brothers, The Proclaimers. And this song is a wonderful happy up-beat pop song and kind of sums up my journey from the rat race towards retirement. Yes, folks, I’m on my way from the misery of work to the happiness of retirement. 
This is “I’m On My Way” by The Proclaimers.
I have been told that I am the third Proclaimer – well certainly in looks anyway.

Friday 2 February 2024

Me Me Me


Welcome to South Manchester in a crisp and sunny day with blue sky and clouds. January, the worst month of the year, is now over and we are in February which will be a good month, not least because the Six Nations rugby union tournament is about to start, my first gig of the year is happening tomorrow night and our first trip abroad of 2024 starts on Tuesday. 

Here is Florence Black, the band I am going to see on Saturday night.

Exciting times and the year will only get better.

Let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing, this week about me me me.

 1. What three words best describe you?

I think other people would pick lots of different words to describe me but I am on the inside and as such am totally aware of the person that I am. That means the three words I would use are:

Content – I am happy with my current life and what the future holds. I know there will be ups and downs but generally I am content.

Nice – Somebody once told me: “Nice guys aren’t nice if they have to tell people that are nice.” I totally disagree with that. I think that some people don’t appreciate it when you are a nice guy. I may not always show it but I care a lot about people and things and I simply don’t understand anyone who doesn’t. I think that makes me a nice guy.

Realistic – I have moments of optimism and moments of pessimism and that largely comes from the mood that I am in. However, I tend to try to step back and look at things realistically because if you can take your mood and emotions out of the equation, you get a clearer picture of things.

2. What makes you unique?

Am I unique? 

I know for a fact that I am not the only “Plastic Mancunian” for example as there are a lot of people in this great city I live in that don’t actually come from here. I may be the only person who calls his blog The Plastic Mancunian.

I have a name that is fairly common; I share it with an actor, an author, a photographer and many other people. There are lots of people who look like me, for example, The Proclaimers. 

I am a bit of a weirdo – and the UK is full of weirdos. 

Perhaps my taste in music might be unique in that I like a wide range of genres – but even then I have met lots of people who share 90% of my taste. 

Perhaps I am the only 61 year old person, born in Walsall in October 1962, who went to Liverpool University to study Computational and Statistical Science, before moving to Manchester and living here for about 40 years. And I am the only male human being who lives in my house. 

Okay – that’s probably one thing that makes me unique. Maybe there are other things too. 

3. Who is someone important in your life?

There are lots of important people in my life but as, usual, I shall single out Mrs PM who is my soulmate and is mad enough to have put up with my antics for over 25 years now. Personally I don’t know what she see in me – but there you go. I am delighted that she sees something. 

4. What is something that always makes you laugh?

Things like this:

5. Who is someone who can always cheer you up?

Sorry to be boring about this but Mrs PM can usually cheer me up. She’s funny and clever and makes me laugh.

6. When was a time you were really proud of yourself?

There have been a few occasions when I’ve made myself proud. Sometimes little things like finally managing to play a tricky tune on the piano, to doing something that I really shouldn’t have achieved like climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge despite being terrified of heights.

7. What is something that is difficult for you?

Doing anything that is creative in the world of art. 

I cannot draw, paint or sculpt anything. Whenever I watch an artist at work I am in awe of them - as long as they are not creating something that looks like a dog’s dinner or a piece of vomit hanging on a wall under the banner of “modern art”. I am talking about people who paint landscapes that look like landscapes not those charlatans who splash pain haphazardly on a canvas and then claim that the mess that has been produced is actually meant to be something and that people should pay millions of pounds for it. 

I’ve read that people can be trained to draw. That is something I might actually try to do – just to see if they can make somebody like me create something. I very much doubt it.

8. What three places would you love to travel to?

I would like to go to the three Scandinavian countries that I haven’t been to: Sweden, Norway and Finland. I have been to Iceland and Denmark and I really enjoyed them both. We almost went to Sweden last year but ran out of time. Maybe this year? They’re not too far away from the UK.

9. What is a fun memory you have with your best friend?

Well I’m going to be boring again and tell you that Mrs PM is my best friend (though I do have a couple of really close mates too). Every time Mrs PM and I go back to Hong Kong we have an amazing and fun time. We both love the place. We are heading there next year on the way back from our trip to Malaysia and I already know it will be fun.

10. If you could have dessert for breakfast, what would you eat?

Dessert for breakfast? Yeuchhh! I rarely eat dessert so that sounds likes something weird to do even for a weirdo like me. 

I guess I could possibly manage a fruit cocktail I guess (because I do actually eat fruit for breakfast fairly often). 

11. If you published a book or wrote a movie, what would it be about?

It would be a science fiction epic that involved an indomitable alien force invading planet Earth and the aftermath of that invasion. I am not talking a nonsensical load of rubbish like “Independence Day”, it would be more like “War of the Worlds”, which is one of my favourite books/films. Yes, I know it’s been done to death but I love stories about alien invasion and I also love post-apocalyptic science fiction too – so the book would have elements of both.

12. Which is easier, maths or English?

Maths is definitely easier. 

I am okay with English but I am one of those lucky(?) people who can resolve mathematical problems with relative ease. To be honest I am a little out of practice so it would be good to revisit the subject. 

I took my maths O-Level a year early because I was so good and managed an A (the top grade). I then repeated that success with the advanced mathematics O-Level a year later and also I passed maths A-Level with the top grade too. 

It was only at university that maths started to get a little harder and I managed to drift away from the subject in my second year there – having passed the exams though. By my third year I was purely working with computer science and statistics (though both still required maths really). 

I loved maths so much that I used to do past exams for fun. Yes, I was that sad geeky kid who was at home solving differential equations and immersing himself in trigonometry and calculus. 

I should rekindle that love really.

13.What three things make you the happiest?

A couple of beers with mates down the pub.

Travelling anywhere abroad, especially to new places. 

Relaxing in the company of Mrs PM and the cats. 

14. What is an event in your life that has shaped who you are today?

Many things have contributed to the person I am today and it’s difficult to judge which could be the most important one. 

Perhaps graduating from university which set me off on a career in IT. 

Or agreeing to travel to Amsterdam and Munich with one of my old university friends way back in 1983 – which ignited my love of travel. 

There are more – but those two will suffice.

15. Which is more important, being kind or being honest?

That’s a difficult one. I would say kind because sometimes it is necessary not to be absolutely honest with people, mainly to protect them. Being kind is always a good thing. 

What am I talking about? I will say both because it’s my blog and I can.


Friday 26 January 2024

Assorted Pens


Welcome to a bright, sunny and cold January day in South Manchester. 

We had a bit of a battering from two named storms this week that caused a bit of damage in various places in the UK, the wind taking down roofs and trees while certain places were flooded. Things seem to have calmed down now, thank goodness. 

Best of all, the worst month of the year is almost over and this week we drift into February (the second worst month of the year). Winter is still here but it is slowly departing to usher in a warmer and far more enjoyable season. 

Let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing shall we? 

1. What are your plans for February?

Despite what I anticipate will be crappy weather, February is a good and busy month. 

The best thing of all is our first trip abroad this year. We are travelling to Los Palmas in Gran Canaria in about a week and half. This will give us a little bit of sunshine and warm weather to alleviate the dreariness of a UK winter. It’s the first time I have been and it will be a bit of a mix of things to do. It will be part city break and part relaxation (Las Palmas is a big city with long stretches of beach apparently). We will be able to explore the city, go for long walks and also chill out by the beach if we so desire. Best of all I will get to practice a little Spanish. I will be able to understand menus and a lot of things written down and I should be able to make myself understood. I anticipate my main problem as being able to understand what people are saying back to me. 

I also have three gigs in February too. Two rock gigs featuring a Welsh rock trio called Florence Black and an American band called Fozzy. The final gig is with Mrs PM. Our tastes in music are different and we have a joint playlist that shows the overlap. One of the artists that features fairly heavily are Goldfrapp and we are going to see Alison Goldfrapp together. Here she is:

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

Yes – one or two. I wasn’t that keen on them to be perfectly honest with you. 

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

I would probably pick a few books in the style of Robert Ludlum, the guy who created Jason Bourne. Also on the list would be a massive elaborate space opera, a decent set of horror stories (though I read less of these now), and maybe a little fantasy or general science fiction. A couple of thrillers wouldn’t go amiss and to relieve the tension perhaps a few comedy novels similar to those written by Tom Sharpe. 

That would keep me busy for a while.

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

It’s perfect for the two of us now that the kids are no longer here. I live in a three bedroomed mid-terrace house that was built in 1900 and it has lots of period features like high ceilings, picture rails etc. 

The bedrooms are all big and each one can easily accommodate a double bed – something that more modern three-bedroomed houses struggle to achieve. For example the first house I bought claimed to have three bedrooms but you could barely fit a small single bed in there – we turned it into a study because that is all it was useful for. 

The lounge is bright and we get the sun all day. The backroom where I am at the moment has just been redecorated and it serves several purposes. It has a TV with a playstation and two sofas so it works as a man cave for me, a second lounge and it is also my office. 

The kitchen is fairly big too. 

The back garden isn’t too big but there is enough room for us to have a table and chairs and in the summer we get the sun most of the day too. We also have a weather-proof “out-house” attached to the house at the back which is really a storage space. Mrs PM wants to do what other neighbours have done and knock through from the kitchen into it to create another room. Our neighbours are doing this as I write and the cost and trauma seem to me at least to be unnecessary for the benefits we will enjoy. The neighbours are much younger than us so they will appreciate it much more. 

So what is the best bit part of the house?

All of it. I love it and we don’t plan to move.

5. How often do you try something new?

The truthful answer is not often enough. Whenever I travel, I like to go somewhere new, preferably a new country. When I am abroad I am far more willing and able to try something new, but when it comes to breaking out of my comfort zone to try a new pastime in the UK I never seem to get around to doing it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried a few new things in recent years like bombing around Delamere Forest on a segway (which was an experience I can tell you). Maybe it is just about not having enough time but really that sounds like a poor excuse because the reality is I do have time. Maybe things will change when I retire because I do get bored. 

6. What type of sushi is your favourite?

I like most sushi and sashimi. One of the highlights of Japan was going to a sushi restaurant in Kyoto for lunch. Everything we had was divine.

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

It depends what you mean by “adventures”. To me, relaxing on holiday is spending an hour or two on the beach or swimming pool but we soon get bored of that and we typically walk around, popping into bars or coffee shops to escape from the heat in places where it is boiling hot. 

To me an “adventure” is going to explore a whole country where we do the whole “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” experience, which I have done in China, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, USA, Europe, Brazil and will be doing next in Malaysia in 2025. Those holidays are special and (related to question 5) we tend to try new things sometimes by accident. 

It’s a mixture really; Long travel holidays can be tiring but fun whereas I always feel totally recharged after a relaxing city break or beach holiday.

8. Which colours look best on you?

I really like wearing black but I don’t really do it that often. I look okay in most colours apart from orange, yellow or white, the latter two making me look like a ghost.

9. Do you like brunch?

I prefer to have breakfast and then lunch a few hours later but I am quite happy having brunch too. Usually brunch for me is a huge breakfast and it is usually something we rarely have in the UK but have quite often abroad.

10. Do you get stage fright?

Definitely. 

I read somewhere that even the bravest people fear public speaking and I can totally see why. The thing is I have had to do it a few times at work, giving courses in the UK, South Africa, Switzerland, Oman (bizarrely)  and the USA as well as a couple in China and Russia via interpreters. When a lot of people fear speaking in public they typically only have to do it for an hour or so. If you are giving a course like the ones I had to, you have to stand up all day (for six or seven hours) for four or five days. You may think that you will get used to it and after the initial shock, it does get a little easier I have to admit. But then the fear returns for the next one. 

It is a rather bizarre phobia, I have to say, because I often talk to a bunch of people in meetings, in pubs etc. Yet when it comes to teaching about 20 Russians about an IT system, it seems like the most difficult thing in the world. I know the technical details of course but the fear comes from standing there and talking to these guys. 

The good news is that those days are over now as I don’t give courses anymore. I am certain that there will be another time when I have to do it again – I hope not – but I will be able to cope after the initial shock.

11. Which podcasts do you like at the moment?

I don’t really listen to podcasts but I have come across a couple recently about progressive rock that were quite entertaining. It is something that I want to get more involved in. 

12. One thing that immediately makes your day better

Not working. Today is Friday and I am off work as I am every Friday. There is nothing better than going to bed the night before knowing that you don’t have to get up early to either work from home or go into the office (which I have to do once or twice a week now). 

13. Which family members are you closest to?

All of them. I am singling nobody out because I love them all. 

14. Something you practice often

Spanish and the piano. 

For Spanish I do Duolingo lessons every day (my streak is 972 days). In addition to that I am reading “Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal” (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone). I read it in English but then I thought It would be a challenge to read it in Spanish too. I bought it last year and didn’t really bother with it so this year I decided to read some of it every day – and I have. I still have to look up a lot of the words but it is getting easier, particularly as I gradually start to get the hang of the grammar). I am also watching what is described as a “telenovela” called "Destinos", which is geared towards teaching speaking and listening skills. There are 52 episodes and although I don’t watch it every day, I am about 20% of the way through it. 

I also practice the piano every day. I am teaching myself and progress is slow but I am slowly getting there. Hot off the press, I managed to get through this one today for the first time. I still make lots of mistakes but I am far better than I was when the piano was first delivered.

My aim is just to have fun with the piano though how amazing would it be to be able to play like Jordan Rudess?

15. Are you a light sleeper or a deep sleeper?

I’m a light sleeper and I hate it. I usually manage to get a good 6 to 8 hours sleep every night but I do wake up if, say a hedgehog sneezes in next door’s garden. Mrs PM is a really deep sleeper and I am so envious of her. 

A few weeks ago, for some insane reason, a Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter decided to fly over the area where we live at about 1am but at a height of just 3000ft. I woke up as soon as I heard the thing when it was miles away and I lay gradually hearing the thing get louder and louder until it flew above our house where it made enough noise to wake the dead. “What the f**k IS that?” I said aloud and peered out of the window thinking it was a UFO. I saw lights go on in the street so other people heard it too. We found out what it was because it made the local newspaper the thing was so loud. In some cases people complained that their house “shook”.

And the next morning, I said to Mrs PM – “What about that bloody helicopter?”

“What helicopter?” she said. “The bloody thing hadn’t woken her up at all.

I am so envious!