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


Waves crashing on the shore



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?


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.