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.