Friday 7 June 2024

Darkness


Welcome to a dull and cloudy South Manchester. It’s windy and the threat of rain hangs in the air. Has summer arrived yet?

The UK election trundles on with claims, counter claims and, in some cases, total lies. I am already sick of it and we have to wait another couple of weeks before it is all over. It’s going to be painful.

Here are some more silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1.  Are you afraid of the dark?

I have been in the past, but only when I’ve watched something scary on TV. When thoughts about the scary programme or film fade from my memory my fear of the dark fades with it. Some of the programmes that have triggered my scotophobia are:

Dracula – a British horror film made in 1958, starring Christopher Lee as the count.

The Exorcist – still to this date the scariest film I have ever seen.

Salem’s Lot – a made for TV miniseries based on the Stephen King book and starring David Soul.

Paranormal Activity – a found footage film about a supernatural entity in a young couple’s house.

Rec – a Spanish horror film about something horrible hiding in an apartment block.

These days I am totally fine in the dark – unless I hear a strange noise …

2.  Can you curl your tongue?

Yes I can. Is that a weird thing to do?

3.  Can you wiggle your ears?

No I can’t. Is that weird? 

4.  Did you ever participate in a talent show?

Absolutely not. I have no talent whatsoever. 

5.  Do you have any piercings or tattoos?

Not one. The thought of having a piercing or a tattoo makes me cringe. 

6.  Do you prefer Mac or PC?

I prefer a PC because I have been using them for work for over thirty years and I am very familiar with Windows and how it has evolved since its inception. I’ve hear good things about Macs but I tend not to buy Apple products as they are overpriced.

7.  Do you still have our wisdom teeth?

Yes – but the haven’t emerged yet. One of them is parallel to my jawbone and hasn’t moved at all. My dentist says that I will probably know when and if it decides to move but says there is no need to take any action at the moment. 

8.  Do you watch cartoons?

The only cartoon I watch these days is The Simpsons but I don’t watch it on a regular basis. 

9.  Have you ever been hospitalized?

No, thank goodness. I hate hospitals. 

10. Have you had braces?

I assume you mean for my teeth (as opposed to the things that are meant to keep trousers up). The answer is yes – I have had two. The first one was to straighten my back teeth and wasn’t actually visible. But it was painful and I hated it. The second one was to straighten my front teeth and that was clearly visible and very uncomfortable.

11. Were you ever a Girl or Boy Scout? (Or a brownie)

No. That was a privilege I never had. 

12. What is one food you refuse to eat?

Rhubarb. I hate the stuff. It makes me physically sick and I feel quite nauseous just thinking about it. How anybody can stomach rhubarb is beyond me. 

13. What's the most expensive item of clothing that you own?

That’s a good question. It is probably my black tie suit. Quite a few years ago now, I went to a black tie event and hired one but then a couple of more came up so I decided to splash out and buy one, to save money. I’ve had it a while now and, incredibly, it still fits me. 

14. What's your favourite foreign food?

The best food I have eaten on my travels is Chinese food in China itself. The Chinese eat a lot of bizarre food but as long as you know what you are eating it is incredible. I was working there and we were taken to lunch in what looked like a cheap restaurant and, as the guest, I was asked to select the food for everyone. The strange thing was that this wasn’t from the menu itself. I was taken into the kitchen and asked to select the food. I had no clue what I was doing and I turned to my host and said “I have no idea what to pick.” He asked me what I didn’t like and I told him that I didn’t want any insects (which they do eat) or any “delicacies”, i.e. anything strange. In the end, we selected traditional meats such as pork, chicken and beef with his choice of vegetables and rice etc. He walked over to two chefs who were slaving over a couple of huge woks and told them. 

When the food came I was a little worried but I needn’t have been. We had loads of delicious dishes that were simply amazing. And because the owner of the restaurant wasn’t used to Westerners, he came out and asked me directly if I had enjoyed the food (via my colleague as an interpreter). I had nothing but praise. 

And I can say with my hand on my heart, all the trips I have had to China (about seven in total) the food is the best bit. It is not like the Chinese food you get in the UK – it is so much better. 

15. Who's your favourite fictional character?

That’s a good question. I like Jason Bourne from the original Robert Ludlum books. I would recommend all three books, even if you have seen the movies, because they are different stories and so much better (even though I love the movies too). 

 I also like Harry Keough, the protagonist in Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series of books. Harry Keough can communicate with the dead and learns things from them, giving him ultimately, the ability to teleport. And he needs of these abilities because he ends up fighting the most horrific vampires ever created. 


Friday 31 May 2024

Still Swapping


Welcome to a pleasant South Manchester. The sun is shining and the sky is blue but peppered with white clouds. The forecast is good for the next week or so too. Maybe summer is arriving finally.

It’s election time in the UK and on July 4th we get to hopefully vote out the Conservative Party that has slowly decayed this country for the past fourteen years. Knowing my luck, they will somehow manage to wangle their way into the hearts of the nation again. I sincerely hope not. On 5th July we may welcome a brand new Prime Minister with a new party in power.

Talking of elections, this morning’s news mentioned that Donald Trump has been found guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up an affair with a porn star. It doesn’t amaze me that he is claiming that this is an elaborate political plot to undermine his presidential campaign – that’s what he does because he lives in Cloud Cuckoo land. What does amaze me is that he can still stand for president with a criminal record – and that there are people who will still vote for him. 

What a choice Americans have – two octogenarians, one of whom is as mad as a bag of badgers and one who looks like he will keel over at any moment. 

This year will be interesting.

Shall we answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1. If you like art, who is your favourite artist and why?

I generally don’t like art. I think most contemporary art is just rubbish and I avoid such museums because I can’t bring myself to see huge slabs of vomit hanging from the wall and being talked about by pseudo-intellectuals who claim to “get it” and then start to talk gibberish about what the “artist” had in mind when he was painting it. I suspect that the “artist” in many cases was either very intoxicated or under the influence of a very strong hallucinogenic drug. 

The art I do like is the older normal stuff, like landscape paintings from Turner or Constable. Things like this from Turner:

Or this from Constable:

I have to shout out to Bob Ross, who I have watched painting mini masterpieces on The Joy of Painting. I first watched this programme a couple of years ago and I was absolutely fascinated with what he was doing. His voice was so relaxing as he talked us through how he was achieving the effects he was creating. I was mesmerised and I still watch the odd programme when I spot in the TV listings. 

I am going to go for it. Bob Ross is my favourite artist, because I have watched in awe as he has painted some wonderful landscapes purely from his own imagination. And he was brilliant at describing how he does it. 

2. If you were able to learn any three skills or talents instantly and with success, what would they be? 

I would want to be able to play the piano like Jordan Rudess. 

I would want to be able to play guitar like Joe Satriani:

I would also want to be able to be a brilliant writer of novels. 

I can dream, can’t I?

3. If you were to live in Ancient Times, where - in what country - would you want to live in?

I would choose ancient Rome. At school I learned Latin for five years – I used to be able to speak it and read it – it didn’t help me much because nobody speaks Latin apart from a few weird scholars. Latin certainly helped learning other languages, specifically German where the grammar elements are similar. 

However, one unintended benefit was to learn about Roman culture and I was fascinated by it. The course we did was based around a Roman family living in Pompeii in the weeks leading up to the eruption of Vesuvius. We were told about Roman customs, lifestyle and basically how advanced they were. They certainly stamped their authority on England and even today you can see what they left behind in various places like Chester, York and quite a few places besides those. 

Here is Monty Python’s view on what the Romans gave us all:

Apparently you can learn Latin on Duolingo. I might try to refresh my knowledge when I retire. 

4. What is something you’re embarrassed to admit to liking? Whether it be a guilty pleasure show, or unusual hobby, etc.

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you like it you like it. Why feel guilty about it?

We have a daytime TV show in the UK called “Homes Under the Hammer” where people buy houses at an auction, houses that are typically in a bad state, and then transform them and either sell them, rent them or move in. It has many things I hate about daytime TV but there is something about it that I like and when I catch it on TV, I usually get sucked in and end up watching it. 

And people laugh when I tell them. Why? It’s a great show. I guess that is a “guilty pleasure” – as is this song, which is not something you would associate with a prog-loving metalhead. I don’t care – I love it.

5. What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

Probably doing the night shift from 10pm until 6pm at an edible oil manufacturing plant on Liverpool docks in the middle of winter. The things you get to do as an IT engineer are amazing but can be quite taxing.

6. What is something that you wanted to do as a child that you would still like to do now?

I always wanted to be in a rock band and part of me still does. The problem is I can’t play any instruments well enough and my singing voice has been likened to a cat being strangled. 

7. What do you hate being judged for more than anything else?

When I am tired or I need some alone-time, there have been times when people have had a go at me for not wanting to go out and do something exciting. I do love going out and socialising or doing other thigs with mates but there are times when I just want to be at home in my own space doing mundane things like watching TV or reading. People should respect that – I know I try to.

8. What is your life’s mission?

At the moment it is to retire and pursue hobbies that I actually enjoy. I am sick of work now and I want more free time for my own selfish purposes. It’s happening very soon. 

9. If everyone walked around wearing warning labels, what would yours say?

Weirdo. 

I know people don’t think that I am weird, but I can be – and I think everyone should embrace their inner weirdo. I know I do. 

10. At what age did you first feel like you were an adult?

At the age of 19 when I left home to go to university. I think while I lived with my parents I was still dependent on them and, because I didn’t have a full time job (I was still at school) I felt like a child.  When I left home, I was on my own. I had to look after my own money, shop and cook for myself and basically, looking back, I felt that my three years at university were kind of like a job. So much changed during those three years and I feel that I actually grew up and stopped being the obnoxious little git that I had been up to that moment. 

11. When did you not speak up, but wish you had?

There have been many occasions during my working life when I have had to bite my tongue when dealing with co-workers, managers and customers. More recently, in the past ten or fifteen years, I have definitely changed in that regard. And now as the end of my career approaches, I speak my mind more than I ever have – basically because I no longer care. It’s kind of liberating, actually. 

12. What is something that makes your skin crawl?

Insects and spiders. I am not afraid of insects at all but I really don’t like them. If I catch one crawling on me I become animated trying to rid myself of the six-legged beast. Worse are spiders.

Have you ever walked through a spider’s web? There are few things worse than trying to pull the web off your face and what invariably happens is that you take the spider with it, which means that later you discover a spider crawling on your neck. Yeeeeeuuuuurrrrrggggggghhhhhhh!

13. What was the last thing to give you butterflies in your stomach?

I went to see my current favourite band last week in Manchester city centre. That band are called Riverside and they are a Polish progressive rock band. They were supported by a French rock band called Klone who I have also seen before and they too are amazing. 

Here are Klone (this song is simply beautiful):

And here are Riverside:

14. What's your favourite type of media to work with? (Paint, clay, pens etc.)

I am a terrible artist. I like to write but I do so on my laptop rather than using pens. If pushed I would say pens. 

15. What question do you hate answering?

This one. 

Also, “When are you going to grow up?”


Friday 24 May 2024

Swap Shop

Welcome to a rainy South Manchester. I’ve been away for the past couple of weekends. First we stayed at a lodge in Cheshire near to Delamere Forest with some friends from Chester and for the past two weekends we have travelled to and from Menorca, an island off the east coast of Spain.
It was nice to get away and especially nice to go back to Spain (my second trip of the year). We stayed in Ciutadella on the west coast of the island, which is the former capital and a traditional small Spanish city with an old town and lots of lovely old buildings. Best of all, Menorca is a quiet island and the number of British tourists was small, which allowed us to immerse ourselves in Spanish culture and also practice my poor Spanish. I’m quite pleased that I actually managed to crack two jokes in Spanish on the spur of the moment and make two people laugh. I think (hope) they were laughing at my joke but it is possible they were laughing at my poor Spanish. 
I like to think they weren’t. 
Let’s answer some silly questions from Sunday Stealing.
1. Have you ever been stung or bitten by an animal?
I’ve never been stung by an animal but I have been bitten more times than I can recall. I am usually a target for gnats, which are tiny biting insects in the UK and I find myself constantly trying to avoid bigger biting insects abroad. This sadly means that I have to wear mosquito repellent in such places and, not to put to fine a point on it, the stuff bloody well stinks. Mosquitos tend to appear at dusk and in the past, that has been the time I have been going out to eat and have fun, something that doesn’t appeal when you stink of mozzy repellent. No wonder mozzies are repelled by it. 
In the past I have been bitten by dogs, which is very unpleasant, but only once or twice. 
And of course, cats have bitten me. Anyone who has read this blog a few years ago will have heard tales of my psycho cat, called Liquorice, a mad cat that we took from our friends who were moving abroad. She was lovely but she had a fiery temper and attacked everybody. She used to sit on my knee and I dare not touch her in case she suddenly turned on me. 
2. Do you have a favourite bird? Do you feed the birds at your house or park?
I don’t really have a favourite bird. Parrots are fun and peacocks are nice but they’re not really something I think about. 
3. What is the last thing you said to somebody before replying to this email?
“Do you want a cup of tea?” 
4. How do you get yourself ready to sleep at night?
I usually just read my book until I start to doze off. 
5. When was the last time you wrote a proper letter?
Define a “proper letter”. 
The last letter I wrote was to a solicitor about my sister’s flat that we are currently selling. 
The last letter I wrote to a friend was about seven years ago. I had lost touch with an old university friend and after trying to search for him on social media I couldn’t find him – hardly surprising because he has a very common name. The last time I had seen him was about twelve years earlier and we were trying to organise a university reunion (our first for five years). I had his previous home address and his phone number but the number was no longer valid. So I wrote to his address with my contact details. It turns out that he had moved house but the new occupants had his new address and forwarded my letter to him. And we had our reunion – we have had one every year since. Our next one is in October in Budapest, Hungary.
6. What is the worst injury you have ever sustained?
I’ve never really been injured. When I was at school, I was often battered and bruised after playing rugby – a great game to watch but a dreadful game to play in. I had a hockey ball smashed at my shin from point blank range as a kid too and that stopped me from playing sports for about two weeks – it really bloody hurt. 
As an adult, I have twisted my ankle playing football and running.
Thankfully, I have never broken any bones. Please don’t let that happen to me now I’ve said this. 
7. If you could choose your career based strictly on what you think would be fun instead of your qualifications/salary/etc., what would it be?
I would be a travel writer. This would combine my love of travel with my inept but enjoyable attempts at writing. 
8. You can live on another planet, which one and why?
It would have to be one that Star Trek classed as a class M planet because otherwise I would probably not be able to survive. If I were Superman I would probably choose Saturn or one of its moons because the night sky would be incredible.
9. What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?
I don’t eat ice cream much – though I did have some in Menorca. The favourite one I have had recently is Häagen-Dazs Cookie and Cream. We’re going to Nice in France in summer and in the old town there is an ice cream shop that sells the best ice cream ever (well it is close to Italy). I will definitely try a few of them there. 
10. What do you think of tattoos? Do you have any?
I don’t have any tattoos because when my sagging skin sags more, the tattoos will sag with it. Also I don’t fancy sitting there for hours while they are applied to my skin. 
I am happy for people to have them but not so much on the face or all over their body. I have a friend who is gradually adding really elaborate tattoos to his back, chest, arms and legs and his latest one is very artistic (as are the rest). Not for me though. 
11. Are you very active or do you prefer to just relax in your free time?
I like to balance being active and relaxing. On our recent holiday, we had breakfast and then spent the entire morning until early afternoon exploring or going for a long walk. After lunch we would continue for a short while and then spend a couple of hours relaxing. 
12. If you could bring back one TV show that was cancelled, which one would you bring back?
Probably Babylon 5 – but there are rumours that it is returning in one form or another. 


13. Do you prefer to watch movies in the theatre or in the comfort of your own home?
It depends on the film. If it is a huge blockbuster then I love going to the cinema to watch it because you feel like you are immersed in the story completely. Otherwise I am happy to watch them at home. 
14. If you opened a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?
Given that I hate cooking, the chances of me opening a restaurant are almost non-existent. However, if I were expected to cook it would just be simple food like a Sunday lunch. If I were allowed to hire a chef I would go for Chinese or Indian. 
15. What do you think is a common thing that is shared between countries despite language barriers?
Football. Most nations on the planet love it, even America (where it is much less popular and is known by the word “soccer”). The World Cup is a major event which occurs every four years. This summer it is the turn of the European Nations cup which is in Germany. It starts in June and I will watch as many matches as I can for four weeks. 
COME ON ENGLAND!!!

Friday 26 April 2024

Not Far Enough?

Welcome to a sunny but cold South Manchester where the temperature dropped back to zero overnight and, thankfully, has recovered a bit. It’s sunny and it looks like there will be some rain later. Typical April weather – short sharp showers. 

We’re nearly in May though and heading towards summer, my favourite time of the year.

Here are some silly questions from Sunday Stealing

1.    What's the best thing to inherit other than money

In my opinion, property. I guess you could say that if you inherit a house then really you are inheriting money but to some people it isn’t that way because they may choose to actually move into the property they inherit. Inheriting jewellery or things like that are the same I guess because sometimes the item of jewellery can be worth money too as indeed can anything else. 

2.    What one  thing would you most like to happen tomorrow?

I would like it not to rain. 

We are meeting some friends in an outside setting and although it will be cold I think it will be perfect if it doesn’t rain. But, as I said above, we are in April and the chances of rain are always relatively high no matter what the weather forecast says. We shall be prepared. 

3.    Who is the person with whom you've been most infatuated?

I don’t get infatuated with people; I think it’s unhealthy. I’m not infatuated with anyone famous and certainly not anyone I know. 

Mrs PM would be the closest I guess if you are demanding an answer.

4.    In what part of the day does time go slowest and fastest?

It depends on whether I am at work or not. When working, the mornings always seem to drag on and on. I look at my watch expecting the time to be midday, say, and find that it is only 10:30.

Weekends seem to go too quickly because before I know it I am back at work.

5.    Whose thoughts would you most like to read?

The truth is I would like to be able to read the thoughts of my two cats. I wonder what makes them tick and what is going on in their heads. 

If you are demanding that I specify a human being, I would struggle butI would probably pick our Prime Minister at the moment, Mr Rishi Sunak, who hopefully won’t be Prime Minister much longer.

When he decides to finally call a General Election my dearest wish is that he and his corrupt, incompetent party are kicked into touch with maximum prejudice be the electorate.

 Sadly he is running scared and is waiting for the polls to shift in his favour – which I don’t think will happen. He’s running out of time because he has to call the election by the end of 2024.

I would like to know what he is really thinking and when this election might be. 

6.    Who is the person you'd least like to touch?

Piers Morgan. I wouldn’t even want to be in the same room as him.

7.    What is the best quality you inherited from your parents?

My dad was a really calm and laid back man and I think I am probably more similar to him. I try not to let things phase me and I like to approach things with a smile and a bit of humour. He was the same. 

My mum was a different person who could be stubborn, dogged and determined and I think I have inherited a little of that myself. Some people may think that’s a negative quality but sometimes can be a positive thing. 

8.    Who is the friend you most often disagree with?

I have disagreements with a lot of friends and these disagreements are usually over trivialities. There are one or two though that support the current government and when the subject of politics comes up, there is scope for escalation. We choose to simply not talk about politics, other than perhaps joke about it.

9.    What's the best ritual of your daily life?

Doing my “daily duties” as I like to call them. Basically I have a few habits that I follow every day: walking, writing something, learning Spanish, playing piano and usually reading something. 

10.    What is the most useful job you've ever had?

I guess my current job is the most useful one I have had. As I have said, when I retire finally I will open up about what that job actually is. It is very interesting if you strip away the crap like office politics and all of the other things that make me sick of it. 

11.    In which year of your life did you change the most?

That would be in 1984. 

It was my final year of university and in that year, I applied for jobs, studied hard for my final examinations, passed those examinations which got me my honours degree in Computational and Statistical Science, travelled to Europe with a couple of mates using Interrail for a month, moved to Manchester and started my first full time job and then moved in with the woman who would become my ex-wife. 

A lot changed that year. 

And Big Brother was nowhere to be seen apart from in a movie starring John Hurt. 

12.    What's the best thing you've ever gotten for free?

A trip to Australia. 

Well when I say “free” it wasn’t really but it was a lot cheaper thanks to the generosity of Mrs PM’s mum. 

She turned 60 that year and she said that she had always wanted to go Down Under and she asked us to go with her because Mrs PM and I were “seasoned travellers”. I told her that we’d love to but it was too expensive at the time for us. So she offered to pay for all flights and some of the accommodation. 

Mrs PM took her up on the offer and I felt guilty about it so we did spend a lot of money on them regardless. We went via Hong Kong (of course) and returned via Singapore, visiting Port Douglas, Cairns, Brisbane before driving from Brisbane to Sydney over a period of about eight days. It was the trip where I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge so it was a momentous one for me. 

I wrote an account of the trip and presented it to her as a gift after we had returned. 

One day we will go back to visit our Australian buddies but this time under our own steam. 

Look out Aussies – I will be back hopefully. 

13.    What is the thing you are best at?

I’m really good with logical and mathematical stuff. My job demands it. I am one of those weird geeky guys who gets maths and actually, in the past, has voluntarily solved maths problems FOR FUN. I’m good with computers too (you would have hoped so since I’ve been dabbling with them for over 40 years) and this is a by-product of my mathematical and logical mind. 

I am so sad that I am thinking about rekindling my relationship with maths when I retire. 

Yes - I am truly a geek.

14.    What was the luckiest moment in your life?

Meeting Mrs PM. 

No contest.

15.    What is the single most important thing you have ever learned?

Be yourself, enjoy life and don’t take it too seriously. And as a bonus – don’t let ANYONE get you down.







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.