Saturday, 25 March 2017

Inside My Head


I am weird.

What do you mean:“I know”?

No – really – I am. The persona you see on this blog is that of a confident arse who loves to be the centre of attention, happily dealing with all the shit that is hurled in his direction, beating it aside with a big stick while saying:

 “Is that all you’ve got? Come on – gimme some more.”

The reality is something slightly different. No – come on, Dave, let’s be honest  - the reality is totally different.

Deep inside me there is an extrovert buried alive within all of the neuroses that I keep hidden from public view. The extrovert does manage to free himself every now again surfacing on this blog far more than he does in real life.

The reality of the situation is that the introvert is more prevalent, as is the shy monster.

I therefore consider myself to be an introvert with extrovert tendencies and a streak of shyness.



In my head, the extrovert and the introvert are locked in an eternal battle for domination, with the introvert being the dominant species. The shy monster is a free radical that tips the balance in the favour of one or the other depending on many other factors such as stress, depression, euphoria, alcohol, grumpiness, tiredness etc. and with all of my fears and shortcomings also joining in the melee alongside my ego, you can imagine that it gets pretty messy in my head.

Hence the reason why I think I am weird.

My daily mood, and the way people see me on a day to day basis, is governed by one of the main two protagonists and how they have fared in their latest internal conflict.

The introvert may have hurled a paranoia bomb at the extrovert and rendered him useless, turning me into a neurotic mess.

The extrovert might have exploded a rapture grenade in the faces of the shy monster and the introvert and turned me into a rampant livewire.

I can do nothing about it.

Sometimes I wake up full of the joys of spring and attack my day with a huge grin on my face and a deep desire to run up to the nearest person and inflict myself upon them.

Can you imagine a gawking loon with mad hair grinning at you with a grotesque grin on his face?

Other days, my neuroses dominate and I find myself wanting to bask in my own weirdness – like now as I write this semi-serious character assassination of myself.

Deep down we’ve all got these beasts roaming around in our minds. I know a rampant extrovert and his neuroses surface when he finds himself on his own or when he’s not the centre of attention. There is not a hint of shyness in his body. However, he sometimes struggles at social events where everyone is focussing on somebody else – for example at a wedding, when he is upstaged by the bride and groom.

He wants to shout “Look at me! Look at me! ME! ME! ME! I’M OVER HERE!!!!!” but he can’t.

Bizarrely the introvert feels slightly more comfortable in those situations. I think everybody needs some “me” time where they are on their own and can bask in their own company. I also know at least one fellow introvert and people like that generally sometimes expose themselves to social gatherings where they are surrounded by people. The difference is that they effectively “show their face” for a short while, turning up late and leaving early so that they can spend time alone later.

I’m not that bad. I love social gatherings with friends and, sometimes I love being the centre of attention – albeit briefly – before returning home later to enjoy my own company.

Note – when I say “my own company” I really mean “with Mrs PM” because she is the only person I allow into my own little world. My introvert nature includes her and I am totally happy spending my “me” time with her by my side.

That said, I can also enjoy total isolation, like now, as I type this post with only Devin Townsend’s music and a sleeping fat cat for company.

The one thing I have confused in the past are introversion and shyness. I used to tell people that I was an introvert when really I meant that I was shy. It’s only when I was at university that I discovered the difference between the two thanks to somebody who explained that liking your own company isn’t shyness.

I don’t think introversion can be beaten. Shyness can – and I am in a position now where I have almost conquered this little beast. Sadly, when I need to be alone, shyness becomes prevalent again and I am less willing to engage with new people because I want to be alone.

If you are shy, the best thing you can do is just talk to people. As uncomfortable as that sounds, believe me it works. The way I see it is that people will judge you whether you like it or not. Not every stranger is a hostile person and most people will engage. Moreover, that person may be as shy as you.

In my opinion, if a person doesn’t like me, it’s their loss because ultimately I consider myself to be a nice guy. The truth is that the vast majority of strangers are also nice people and will love talking to you. If I am feeling confident and able to talk to a stranger, I find that they will almost always talk back.

Certainly if they are an extrovert, the chances are you won’t be able to shut them up.

In conclusion, I don’t know whether having a dominant introvert beast in my head is a good thing or not. I’m certainly very happy as an introvert but I also love it when the extrovert pops up and allows me to take on the world.

Finally, dear reader, over to you.

Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Or a bit of both?

Are you shy or can you talk to anybody? 

Friday, 24 March 2017

A Strange Family


Some people might consider me to be a bit strange but as far as I know my family history is a normal one. Of course, that might not be true and I may uncover some weirdness in my ancestors when I eventually get around to tracing my genealogy.

However, I doubt I will find anything as odd as the family that supposedly rule our country – the Royal Family.

People in Britain, either love them or loathe them. I’m indifferent to them if I’m honest.

Given our history, I find them fascinating in their eccentricity. Here are some odd things perhaps you never knew about the Queen and her clan.

Judge for yourself which one is the oddest.

(1) The Royal Family don’t have surnames. The Queen’s name is Elizabeth II and while she is supposed to belong to the House of Windsor, apparently nobody calls her Elizabeth Mary Alexandra Windsor.  When Kate Middleton married Prince William, she lost her surname (how careless) and became “Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge”.

(2) The Queen has won thousands of awards. Apparently Elizabeth has been awarded well over 380,000 honorary awards – for doing what I don’t know. I would imagine that smiling isn’t one of them because these days we rarely see her smile.

(3) It is illegal for anyone of her subjects to stand within 100 yards of the Queen when not wearing socks. I would love to see the powers that be enforce this law. Also, if you misuse a postage stamp containing the image of the Queen, it is considered an act of treason. I suspect this is why the Post Office has now made stamps sticky enough to apply to the envelope without licking it. Thank God for that! That sticky stuff on the back of stamps tastes disgusting.

(4) King Charles II decreed that there must be at least six ravens in the Tower of London because, he thought, that if they fly away then the monarchy will implode and fail and Britain will collapse in a heap of raven shit. I think politicians are doing a good job of trying to break Britain without these bloody ravens – but we won’t descend into politics at this stage.

(5) The Queen is the Duke of Lancaster, rather than Duchess. This is because Queen Victoria regarded a Duke as superior to a Duchess therefore gave herself (and all of those who would follow her on the throne) that masculine title.

(6) The Queen has two birthdays – her actual birthday in April and a made up (and more traditional one) in June. Lucky her!

(7) The Queen is not legally obliged to have a passport or driving license. She is the most travelled person in Britain, I guess and I have seen photos of her behind the wheel. I wonder who taught her to drive. I imagine that he was forced to pass her even if she was a terrible driver.

(8) It is illegal to die in any Royal building. That means the Tower of London isn’t a Royal building because Henry VIII had an absolutely amazing time butchering people there by proxy. It does make me wonder about what would happen were an MP to die in the Houses of Parliament. What can they do to him? Give him a jail sentence?

(9) The Queen no longer has any real power. These days that is up to the government or as she refers to it “my government”. When we go to war it is the Prime Minister who declares this – not the Queen. She has no say on the matter.

(10) The Queen owns all swans on the River Thames. These swans are actually marked with a ring. Moreover she owns all swans in open water in the UK – but perhaps it’s too difficult and dangerous to catch the nasty hissing buggers. Even more strangely she owns all sturgeons, dolphins and whales in British waters. So if a whale pops into our waters on its way to a holiday somewhere else, for that brief period of time, it is the Queen’s pet.

(11) Apparently the Queen can fire the entire Australian government. I doubt whether this is still true but she must have been sorely tempted to exercise this right when Tony Abbott was the man in charge down under. Sorry – shouldn’t do politics!

(12) The Queen is immune from prosecution. I suspect if she were to beat up Piers Morgan in a fit of rage (who wouldn’t want to do that?) she might be forced to abdicate. If she did that she would go up in my estimation.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, folks. I’m sure if we delve deeper we can uncover even more weirdness and eccentricity.

I need to be careful though – as one of her “loyal subjects” I might end up in the Tower of London for this post.

 I’ll have to learn how to cook raven pie!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Rise of the Alternative Fact


In the good old days, a fact was a fact. A fact could walk down the street with its head held high and tell everyone around that it was the truth.

In recent times, however, facts are being challenged by something that is getting stronger every single day.

We are led to believe that facts are no longer facts. We are told that the facts we know and love are now lies.

Never before has a simple fact been persecuted so much. Never before have so many people declared war on the fact, promoting lies and half-truths as the new fact and even giving these evil pretenders to the throne a new moniker – the “alternative fact”.

So what is an “alternative fact”?

Put simply, it is a lie - nothing more; nothing less. Just because it has the word "fact" in its name, doesn't make it the truth.

These “alternative facts” are sadly now becoming the norm and people are ignoring real facts in favour of these imposters because it helps them get ahead.

Such people believe that by repeating the “alternative fact” over and over again, people will actually start to believe them. The real facts do not support their arguments or views – therefore they have to invent “alternative facts” and try to convince people that their weird view of the world is true.

Here are some “alternative facts” that have crossed my radar in recent times.

No planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.

We all saw what happened. We all saw at least one aircraft fly directly into the building on that fateful day. Yet some people actually believe that the government or some shady evil organisation used digital composting to fool us all into believing that the aircraft hit the building – even on the amateur footage from the streets below.

The world is flat. 

I’ve actually written about this preposterous notion before. You can read about it here.

Scientology is a religion.

One day I will write a post about Scientology – or maybe a book.

Donald Trump’s inauguration as President was the most attended ever.

Sorry – it’s oompa loompa time again. This is one of many "alternative facts" we will see in the next four years. The photos prove it for goodness sake.

They are all nonsense.

Mind you, this got me thinking. I have recently come across a few so-called facts that are not really facts at all but are universally held as truth by most of us. People, including myself, have taken them as gospel for years and years - but they are all lies.

I apologise, dear reader, because I am about to shatter some illusions. The following “facts” are false:

When you flush a toilet in Australia, the water rotates in the opposite direction to that of a toilet flushed in the UK.

Incorrect! The water rotates in the same direction on both sides of our planet.

A Black Hole is a hole in space. 

Wrong! It is a hugely dense object with a massive gravitational pull.

We only use 10% of our brains.

Nonsense! We actually use all of our brain at various points in a typical day.

Electrons orbit around the nucleus of an atom.

Garbage! When I took A-Level chemistry, my teacher told me that most of the stuff we had learned for the past five years was simplified or untrue. Electrons are actually clouds of negative charge that ripple and flow around the nucleus.

Caffeine dehydrates you.

Rubbish! The dehydrating effects of caffeine are more than balanced by the water that accompanies it.

Bulls hate the colour red.

Bullshit! In fact bulls are probably infuriated by the cape because it is the thing that is moving the most.

There is no gravity in space.

Horsecrap! Gravity is everywhere, even in the void of our solar system. What do you think keeps our planet in orbit around the sun?

Adam and Eve ate an apple from God’s forbidden tree.

Blithering baloney! The bible, if that is to be believed, doesn’t mention apples at all; it simply states that they ate the “fruit” of the tree. Probably a pear, actually – because they are foul and disgusting.

Goldfish have a three second memory.

Poppycock! Apparently the memory of a goldfish lasts for a couple of months (mind you – I do wonder how they know this!).

Bagpipes are Scottish!

McBullshit! I particularly like this one – these wailing dirge machines originated in the Middle East.

Ninjas wore black.

Drivel! A true ninja has to blend in. If he or she wears a black ninja costume in the centre of Manchester, he is likely to attract too much attention. Ninjas really wear everyday clothes to blend in so they can attack you when you least expect it.

So you see, dear reader, “alternative facts” are on the rise especially given recent political events.

And I have one last “alternative fact” that will blow your mind.

I am not plastic, nor am I really a Mancunian (though I have lived in Manchester for over 30 years),

My name is Dave, though.

And that's a fact.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Mindfulness


At the start of this year, my company tried to inflict a New Year’s resolution on all of us. Some people reacted badly - others embraced it.

I was somewhere in between and I don’t blame them. After all, a healthy and happy work force is a good work force.

The Managing Director tasked HR with encouraging us all to be healthier in 2017 in four ways – diet, physical health, mind and finance (although finance was a little bit weird in my opinion).

For diet, we were encouraged to eat healthily and they even provided fruit every Monday and brought in nutritionists to chat to anybody that was interested about the benefits of eating good stuff. I wasn’t interested in this because I actually eat very healthily, in my opinion (apart from the odd burger, full English and beer or two).

For finance, we were encouraged to look after our cash and assets with a newsletter pointing out the long term benefits of savings, spending wisely and generally not blowing all of your cash on stupid things. Again, I wasn’t interested because I think that myself and Mrs PM are okay at the moment. Besides, if they want to improve my financial well-being they can bloody well give me a massive pay increase for having to endure some of the shit I have to endure.

For health, various people who exercise were asked to give seminars about their chosen discipline, including kayaking, rock climbing, marathon running and even pole-dancing. Groups of people clubbed together and took on a challenge of trying to walk in excess of 10.000 steps a day, competing against each other for fun. I walk two and a quarter miles every lunchtime of every working day and I am proud to say that I think I walk the most during a working day. HR were very interested in this and asked me to take a group of people on my walk at lunchtime.

I politely refused. Why?

Because the whole point of my going for a walk is to escape work. I pound the streets around my office with tiny little jukebox blasting out pop, rock and heavy metal, to allow me to enter the zone of contemplation and drift into my own little world, expunging, temporarily at least, any work related issues that may induce stress. It works for me and the last thing I want is a group of people bitching about work to further ruin my day.

However, the final topic – the mind – intrigued me.

HR arranged a seminar, inviting a woman to tell us all about mindfulness. This was the only seminar I attended. I am fascinated with the power of the mind and the ability and capability of certain people to use their mind to escape and control other physical attributes. Having been a victim of stress many years ago, and having delved recently into things like hypnosis (for fun initially) I was keen to open my mind to new techniques to support my positive outlook this year.

When I started looking at hypnosis, my purpose was to write a mocking blog post about how stupid people were if they thought that listening to somebody appeal to their subconscious mind would in any way help them to escape their vices, or change their behaviour. When I actually tried it, I was amazed that the effect of being hypnotised can actually vaguely work. Not that I do this now, of course, but I no longer mock those who believe in at as an alternative therapy.

The same principle applies to mindfulness, which is a similar concept. Basically, mindfulness is a form of meditation. The woman who presented the seminar gave us an overview of mindfulness and told us that she had actually used it to help her get through a major health scare a few years ago. She had been diagnosed with cancer and thankfully she is now fully fit again. To help support her mind during those trying times, she used meditation techniques and this helped her cope.

Again, I had a healthy scepticism about it but opened my mind to the possibilities. It wasn’t until we actually tried meditating that I was surprised. She asked us to sit up straight, focus on our breathing and allow our minds to wander, quelling any other thoughts and allowing our minds to settle and drift. There were about twelve of us in the room and I suddenly found myself just listening to her as she guided us through thinking about our own bodies. What struck me was the clock in the room. That may sound weird but I have been in that room many times and never sensed the clock. All I could hear was the gentle ticking. After a few minutes, she spoke again and asked us how we felt. It was almost like being hypnotised and I actually felt really good.

Mindfulness had taken me to the same zone that I enter when walking at lunchtime. It was the same as listening to a favourite song and allowing the gentle melody to take you on a journey through your own imagination.

I actually loved it.

And you are reading the words of a man who, in the past, has taken such things with a pinch of salt and only feigned interest when using it as ammunition to mock people on a medium such as this.

Actually, the key thing is that you don’t have to go away and hide to give this a go – and you can achieve a calmer demeanour in as little as two minutes.

There was a little bit of Buddhist nonsense attached to it, which I have dismissed, but the principle is sound and I would recommend giving it a go, particularly when news about Brexit or Donald Trump appears on your telly box.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Weird Books


I’ve always wanted to write a book - a novel, a travelogue or something that is loosely based on the inane crap you are reading at this moment. If I manage to get something published, one of the first things I will have to do is give it a title. You can rest assured that it will be decent title, an appropriate title or a vaguely amusing title. It certainly won’t be in any way weird, inappropriate or even offensive.

Yet some people have actually written either books with strange titles or with wholly unsuitable, politically incorrect or just plain bizarre titles. Worse, the contents of the books, I imagine are equally tasteless and improper.

I thought it would be amusing to share some of the books I have found on the internet with you.

How Green Were the Nazis?

Adolf Hitler plunged the world into war, destroyed half of Europe and committed genocide on a scale that will cause tremors of horror for years to come. He is the most hated man in history. But, hey – I’m sure he loved his plants and when he ordered his marauding armies across Europe, I’m sure that he avoided destroying forests as they killed innocent people. I wouldn’t know – I haven’t read the book.

How To Survive a Garden Gnome Attack


There’s a house down the street that had a single gnome in their garden just five years ago. Now there are over thirty of the little buggers. They are massing for attack, I tell you. I’ve been down to the house and put notes through their letterbox warning them about this. Surely they know that gnomes are a war-like species that hate humanity and breed like rabbits. I’ve never seen the owners of the house. Maybe they are giant gnomes. Unfortunately I don’t know what to do if they decide to rise up and invade. I haven’t read the book. 

Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them


If the gnomes do attack then a tractor might be a good weapon to crush the little blighters underfoot. Therefore if you have an old tractor, it is best to make sure that it is in perfect working order and to do so you need to find an old tractor enthusiast to help you. It might just save your life. How? I don’t know – I haven’t read the book. 

Learning To Play With a Lion’s Testicles: Unexpected Gifts from the Animals of Africa


Let me just say this: there are no creatures on God’s earth who own testicles that I would like to touch let alone play with. If I were so inclined (and I am not I AM DEFINITELY NOT), then a lion would be WAAAAYYYYY down the list of animals whose plums I would want to fondle. Imagine the gravestone? “Here Lies A. Nutter. Savaged By An 800lb Lion For Groping His Balls”. It makes me wonder whether there is a way to sneak up on a giant man-killing cat. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t read the book.

Does God Ever Speak Through Cats? 


If my cats are anything to go by, the answer to this question is easy – NO! My cats treat me with no respect – unless they want food. If indeed God really is speaking to me through my cats then he is telling me that I am a slave, an oaf, a huge scary mad-haired ape, the source of all his food and an insignificant moron. I would guess that one thing a cat may say is "Do not ever ever EVER play with my testicles." Did the author include this? I don't know - I haven’t read the book.

My Darling My Hamburger


You would be forgiven for thinking that this is the story of a pervert who is in love with a Big Mac. Apparently it’s just a love story for young adults – although my mind is boggling about where the hamburger comes into the tale. My mind is boggling about the concept of “playing with your food” in this context. But I wouldn’t know – I haven’t read the book.

Natural Bust Enlargement With Total Mind Power


I now have a black eye because of this book. Why? I asked Mrs PM to buy this to see if it really worked. It was a simple enough question and her response was a violent punch in the face. I feel like writing to the author, suggesting that he writes another book called “How To Get a Black Eye With Autosuggestion” using his previous book as a tool. Mrs PM now thinks the remaining 90% of my mind is a cesspit of pure filth. Is this true and does the author warn against such speculation? I wouldn’t know – I haven’t read the book.

Teach Your Wife To Be A Widow


Given that I was lucky only to get a minor injury from the last book, perhaps I should have suggested this book to Mrs PM instead. Mind you, she probably knows – especially since the moment before her spontaneous and unexpected moment of extreme violence, I received a factor 8 look (if you don’t know what I am talking about, read this). I think she knows how to be a widow already. I don’t – I haven’t read the book.

Reusing Old Graves



Call me mad but when I finally do shuffle off this mortal coil I don’t want to share my final resting place with anybody else - apart from Mrs PM of course. If ghosts do exist then the previous occupant of an old grave would be totally angry if he or she suddenly had a squatter hanging around after decades of solitary bliss. Perhaps the sequel to this book would be “How To Deal With Grave Squatters” or “How To Share a House With Somebody Who Died In The 19th Century”.  Does the author even consider the possibility of forcing a grumpy old bastard like me into their afterlife? I don’t know – I haven’t read the book.

What’s Your Poo Telling You?


Call me weird if you like but if I had just answered a call of nature and I heard a gurgling voice from beneath me saying “You shouldn’t have had that chicken madras last night” then I would be out of that bathroom like a rocket. Worse, this is another book title that is likely to lead to violence. Imagine walking up to a woman in a bar and saying: “Hi! My name’s Dave. What’s your poo telling you?” I wonder whether the book mentions the risk of being beaten up? I don’t know – I haven’t read the book.

And finally…
Rest assured, dear reader, that when I finally pull my finger out and write a book, the title will be not be as bat-shit crazy as the ten above. 
Actually, that might not be a bad title: Pull Your Finger Out


What do you think?

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Quest For Positivity


I just want to reassure you all that this post may initially appear to be a political ranting mess from the mind of an angry Plastic Mancunian.

It isn’t.

It is about positivity.

First of all, let me say this: Donald J Trump is an incredible man.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly.

“Why would you say this?” I hear you cry. “You’ve said horrible things about him on this very blog.” 

That is true. Here are some of the things I have said:

“I mean look at the guy! He has mad hair and a mad attitude.”

“He's like a walking parody of a politician, an idiot who allows his mouth to utter his thoughts without going through his mental firewall.”

“I am a lot younger than the oversized oompa loompa with mad hair currently residing in the White House.”

I stand by those things – I think “the Donald” is as mad as a bag of badgers. Yet the reason I think he is incredible is because he seems to be getting away with it and has conned a lot of people – somehow. I would like to add that he is also a comedian.

The Plastic Mancunian of 2016 would have ranted and raved like an insane lunatic about the antics of the man who is leading America into a deeply uncertain future. However, I want to thank my quest for positivity for making me step back and remove negative thoughts about Donald Trump and also Brexit.

In the case of Trump, I watched the highlights (or should I say lowlights) of his totally embarrassing and deranged press conference last week and I actually laughed.

There was no anger. What is there to get angry about?

His lies were exposed (again!) and most of the western world were and remain incredulous that this man has the balls to say what he says.

That is why he is an incredible man. Everything he says is incredible and his outrageous lies are so breath-taking that they are hilarious.

So instead of dragging my soapbox out of retirement, I have been watching marvellous comedians, satirists and political commentators from both sides of the Atlantic, ripping him apart.

I have had a great time.

A positive outlook also helped me cope with a potentially disastrous family exchange on Sunday.

Before I continue, let me just fill you in on a few things you need to know.

(1) Mrs PM’s mum is a rampant Brexiteer, which means that she gets really, really angry because we haven’t left the European Union yet.

(2) I am the complete opposite and Brexit was the main contributor to my ranting negative angry persona in 2016.

(3) Mrs PM’s mum and I have had several arguments over the years, one in particular over lunch in a nice restaurant where I totally belittled her in public. Mrs PM and Mrs PM’s other half told us both off for being so stubborn and humiliating them in public.

(4) I avoided Mrs PM’s mum for almost five months in 2016 because I knew that the moment she brought up Brexit I would erupt like a human volcano and say lots of things that I would regret.

(5) Mrs PM’s mum’s political views are the polar opposite of mine.

(6) The only political similarity between Mrs PM’s mum and I is that we both have been known to stand up and bellow at political programmes on the television.

(7) Until today, Mrs PM had ordered her mum, that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should she mention Brexit in front of me.

(8) Apart from politics, Mrs PM’s mum and I get on really, really well and we have been on holiday together quite a few times.

(9) Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a rampant Remainer last week urged the people of the UK to rise up and fight against Brexit, causing every single Brexiteer in the UK to bellow their hatred of, in their words, “this arrogant delusional undemocratic arsehole”.

(10) Mrs PM’s mum hates Tony Blair.

On Saturday night we stayed at her mum’s house in Blackpool and went out for a lovely Chinese meal. Afterwards we went to the pub for a nightcap before returning to her house to retire for the night.

Now picture the scene:

I came down in the morning to see Mrs PM’s mum with a face like thunder. She was sitting on the television watching a political programme where the interviewer was asking a politician about whether Tony Blair could and should attempt to derail Brexit. The politician was talking and Mrs PM’s mum slapped the sofa in anger and looked like a coiled spring, ready to launch into a tirade of abuse about Remainers.

She knows my political stance and glared at me with the words “I AM SO WOUND UP!”.

Her face dared me to speak, challenged me to rant about Brexit. She had prepared herself for a confrontation with a Remainer, and there was one standing in her lounge - ME! The good time we had had the night before was a mere memory in her eyes.

The 2016 version of the Plastic Mancunian would have embraced the fight and unleashed my true thoughts about Brexiteers to her. He would have told her what he thought of her views and he would have insulted her with words that he would later regret. He would have pointed out her narrow-minded hypocrisy and upset everybody.

I somehow found something within to calm the situation. I wanted to be positive and non-confrontational. I knew that trying to point out why I hated her views would be as futile as leaping off Blackpool Tower in the hope that I would sprout wings and glide over the Irish Sea like a seagull.

I sat next to her and said, as calmly as possible:

“I am equally wound up but my views are the exact opposite of yours. Let’s find something else to watch.”

She looked at me in a puzzled way and then also found something within. Her face softened and she remembered where she was and who was in front of her.

“Do you want some tea and toast?” she said, finally realising that I was a guest in her house.

“Yes please,” I said. "Remainer tea, with Remainer milk and toasted Remainer bread with Remainer butter.”

I nudged her and grinned.

She smiled back and said “We only serve Brexit breakfast here.”

By this time I had flicked over the channel and Frasier popped on the TV.

“Have you ever seen this?” I said, swiftly changing the subject

“No, “ she said and then got up to make my breakfast.

Her other half then came in and said, “She’s been ranting all morning.”

But now she had stopped. I got my lovely toast and a fine cup of tea. The subject was forgotten and not mentioned again, even though , deep down, the anarchist within me wanted to destroy her argument in a furious verbal attack.

I regard that as a small victory for positivity.

The future is bright.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Bicycle Race



I have an Australian friend who currently lives in London and is a keen cyclist. As I may have mentioned, London during the rush hour is horrific for commuters and, rather than facing day after day of crowds and frustration, he prefers to cycle to work, which not only allows him to clear his head but also keep himself fit; a good thing for somebody who is marginally younger than me.

I will call him Rocky to protect the guilty.

I don’t want to generalise about Australians, but Rocky is a typical Aussie bloke and that’s one of the reasons I like him so much. Conversations with him are amazing and funny.

We visited Rocky and his wife a couple of weeks ago and I was chatting to him about my terrible procrastination when it comes to cycling. And, of course, he was blunt.

“Bloody hell, mate. It’s only FOUR MILES! Get on your bike!”

Of course, he’s right and I really should take his advice. When he said this, I chuckled and said, “You’re right. I have cycled to work before and it’s just a small pootle for somebody like me.”

For those of you who have never heard of the word pootle, it’s a British word that means to travel in a leisurely fashion taking your journey easy and relatively slowly. That’s the way I would pedal to work because I am not competitive and, at my age, racing everyone and everything would be very tiring and also mean that I arrive at work sopping wet, flooding the office with dripping sweat. I would be an even more repulsive creature than I am at the moment.

Rocky takes a different view.

“I’m a MONSTER on my bike,” he claimed when I explained what “pootle” means. “There’s NO WAY you would find me doing that. I go FAST, man. I try to overtake everybody else I see on a bike. It’s like a race and I want to win.”

I can picture him racing along the streets of London, overtaking slower cyclists with a defiant and competitive grin on his face.

However, he told me a story where he came unstuck.

During his normal journey, he spotted another cyclist in the distance travelling at roughly the same speed. Rocky allowed his competitive demon to take control and increased his pace to catch up and overtake the man in front.

At first, he started to gain ground but after a few minutes, the man’s speed also increased and Rocky didn’t like this. The distance between them grew wider and, rather than being sensible and giving up, Rocky became the monster that he had mentioned earlier.

“I pedalled like a bloody DEMON,” he said. “All the time I was watching him and it looked like he wasn’t even trying.”

Rocky pedalled even faster to catch what was now becoming his nemesis and every time he thought he was closing the gap, the man in front surged ahead again.

By this stage, Rocky was distraught. His entire focus was on one thing: defeating this man.

Thoughts started going through his head. Was this man Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome or Peter Sagan? Was he trying to beat an Olympic athlete or a Tour de France winner?

Eventually, Rocky had to reduce his speed. Desperate in defeat he watched the man pull away again, with seemingly no effort.

Rocky was now quite angry with himself. If you are competitive you probably know why. Winning is everything and if you fail to win then you are less than a human being and a total failure. I think all men are competitive to a certain extent but I have come to terms with my flaws over the years (having failed spectacularly on occasion). When I lose I accept defeat and move on.

Rocky struggled – he really struggled.

And then fate stepped in.

Rocky, now cycling much slower, turned the corner and saw in the distance a red traffic light. Waiting there was his nemesis.

“Right,” thought Rocky to himself. “Now I’ve got you.”

Rocky found some inner strength and pushed himself to get to the light before it changed to green. He wanted to see who had beaten him. He wanted to talk to his new nemesis and find out why he had lost.

After a minute or two he pulled up alongside the cyclist and, to his horror, saw that the man was a little chubby and clearly, in Rocky’s view, not as fit as Rocky himself. The nemesis had hardly got any sweat on his face. Rocky on the other hand was gasping for breathe red faced and wild with frustration.

“Bloody hell, mate!” Rocky said to the man. “What are you? Some kind of machine? I’ve been trying to catch you up for the past couple of miles and you look like you’ve hardly broken sweat!”

The man looked at Rocky as if he were an idiot.

“I’m riding an ELECTRIC BIKE mate,” he laughed.

“FOR PHAARRKKS SAKE!” screamed Rocky.

He felt like a complete idiot.

So did I.

Why? Because when he mentioned the electric bike, I sprayed the table with beer because I had been in mid sip. A mouthful of beer and a guffaw do not mix.

“Yeah,” said Rocky laughing as beer dripped down my chin. “That’s exactly how I felt.”