Saturday, 22 October 2016

The City Life

My last post eulogised about the English countryside. I think it’s only fair to do the same for my adopted home city of Manchester.

Manchester is in the north west of England, not far from the Welsh border, about 35 miles east of Liverpool, 90 miles north of Birmingham and 200 miles north west of London.

I have lived in Manchester since 1984, that’s around 60% of my life. I was also born in a large town called Walsall, near to Birmingham, the second largest city in England, spending 18 years of my life there, before spending 3 years living in another magnificent city, one that you might have heard of called Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles and countless other bands.

What I mean is that city life has been good to me over the years and I simply love the vibe in all of them.

I often visit London too, as I have friends who live there and it is a short two hour high speed train journey away (I wouldn’t drive as that would take hours). In fact I’m heading that way next month for another university reunion.

Living in Manchester is fantastic, for the choice of restaurants and pubs in the city, as well as being served by the busiest airport outside London, a mere fifteen minute taxi ride from my house. It means that I can get away and enjoy travelling to foreign places should I so desire. There are hospitals nearby as well as sporting arenas. Manchester is home to two of the biggest Premiership football teams in the world, Manchester City and, the richest and most famous club, Manchester United. As well as football, there is a famous old cricket ground which is a venue for test cricket, as well as other sporting disciplines like rugby (both league and union).

We have the National Cycling Centre for those who like to ride their bikes at speed on a big circular track as well as speedway.

The city also contains lots of theatres and venues for one of my main passions – music. I have seen every one of my favourite bands in the city either in the enormous arena or one of the many other smaller venues around the city. 

We even have a Hard Rock Café.

I could go on, but instead, I thought I would share some photos of Manchester, plus one or two from London and Liverpool, in particular to give any foreign readers a taste of what it’s like to live in an English city.

I hope you like them.

Beetham Tower - the tallest building in the city

New and old Manchester together

Manchester Town Hall

New and old Manchester - I love Manchester

View from Beetham Tower

Another view from Beetham Tower

Yet another view from Beetham Tower

The Final view from Beetham Tower

The Liver Building, Liverpool as seen from the famous Ferry Across the Mersey

John Lennon statue outside the Cavern Club/Pub

You may recognise this bridge in London

Had I been alive in Henry VIII's time I might have ended up here waiting to have my head separated from my body

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Country Life

I live in Manchester, the third biggest city in England and, while I love the place and love city life, I sometimes forget about the rest of the country. Places like Manchester, Liverpool, London and Birmingham are sprawling metropoles, built up and beautiful in their own way.  The city is full of life, with every single activity you can think of resting gloriously at the end of your fingertips. The city is bustling full of people from all walks of life. City dwellers are rarely stuck for something to do.

City life is definitely not boring – that’s why I love it.

Yet there is a part of me that seeks tranquillity and as I get older, I find myself thinking about more serene pastimes and thankfully there are places close by where I can enjoy that side of life too.

Such was the case on my birthday a week or so ago. Mrs PM and I decided to explore an area of England that we had only ever seen through the windows of a car as we drove through it on our way from one city to another.

This time, I wanted to sample country life, the polar opposite of city life.

I have sampled this before, visiting areas like North Wales, the Lake District and the Peak District but I had never visited the Cotswolds, an area in the southern part of the Midlands, that covers six counties. It is located just south of Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, in the north stretching as far as Bath in the south west and Oxford in the east. The maps below give you some idea of where it is.

I had been to Bath in the south but spent most of the time in the city itself rather than exploring the countryside. We chose the north part of the Cotswolds and a little town called Chipping Campden, with a population of just over 2,000 people situated 135 miles south of Manchester (around two and a half hours in the car).

Our accommodation was provided by a small hotel on the main street, which also doubled up as a pub and restaurant.

The first thing I truly noticed here was how calm, relaxing and peaceful it was. We had arrived fairly late and after the sun went down we went for a short stroll around the small town to get our bearings.

It didn’t take long.

The pubs and restaurants were housed in beautiful buildings made of a honey coloured stone that perfectly illustrated the stereotypical small English country town, complete with thatched cottages.

It was wonderful.

The next day we drove from Chipping Campden for a walk from the even smaller town of Broadway to Broadway Tower, a ramble through the Cotswolds countryside, a distance of around five miles. The weather, for once, didn’t let us down. I was expecting rain but all we had was a typical cloudy and slightly cold day but not one single rain drop ruined our walk.

On the way we saw magnificent views of the English countryside as we climbed to Broadway Tower, the second highest point in the Cotswolds. We stopped for coffee just before we arrived at the tower and listened to a conversation amongst a lively group of pensioners who were walking to keep fit. I was amused because they were all country folk and quite posh, discussing party politics and evangelising about the current Prime Minister and her ministerial appointments in a way that you would never hear on the streets of Manchester.

The view from Broadway Tower itself was wonderful and it wasn’t so high that it would trigger my fear of heights.

After the tower we walked back to Broadway, where we found small shops selling traditional country items, in particular tweed clothing that you would rarely seek in the cities. Moreover, to validate the twee image of the town, some of the people were also dressed like traditional country folk. We even saw a group of Morris dancers.

Later, in the evening, we had a hearty meal in a different pub in Chipping Campden before retiring for the night.

The next day, we enjoyed a full English breakfast served by a waiter who personified the traditional image of an Englishman, complete with polite comments and even a wry smile at one of my jokes, which exposed his true mask after trying to portray himself as formal with a stiff-upper lip.

I almost said “Caught you,” but opted against it after a level one look from Mrs PM.

Later we embarked upon a slightly smaller walk in the countryside surrounding Chipping Campden, passing some very nice and very large houses that probably served as country retreats for rich people living in the Birmingham and South Midland area. We walked past farms, through fields, along country lanes and public footpaths passing other walkers who greeted us with a pleasant “Good morning.”.

It was so peaceful and serene with clean country air, hardly a car in sight and a relaxed gentle atmosphere around the place.

Part of me wanted to stay, to become a member of the country folk and abandon the city forever. When I thought more about this, I realised that deep down I am a city man and I would have to say goodbye to this delightful area of England. The city offers so much more and I would miss that. Yet as I get older, I think I also need to immerse myself in the countryside more, spending weekends away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the hassle of work life. Such trips serve a perfect purpose; to calm me down and make me appreciate fully the country I live in.

Here are some photographs that hopefully give you some idea of what I am talking about.

A cottage in Chipping Campden


Broadway Tower 
Just to prove that Broadway Tower is British

Spiral staircase in a turret

Dry stone wall

Strangely carved bushes

Chipping Campden Town Centre

A church in Chipping Campden

A lovely view of English countryside

I hope you like them.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Birthday Boy

Well folks, it’s that time of year again – another birthday on Saturday October 8th.

I’ve had 53 of these buggers before and this will obviously be my 54th – and to be honest I’ve stopped counting them or getting excited by them – mainly because I know that there won’t be another 54 of them. It would be nice, but I might not remember who I am or what I am supposed to be doing.
So what am I doing for my 54th birthday?

Mrs PM is taking me down to Chipping Camden in the Cotswold’s for a relaxing weekend, walking in the wonderful English countryside, sampling excellent British food and supping British ale (or maybe a continental lager or two too).

I might even treat myself to something nice.

I will try to enjoy my birthday – honestly. Mind you, it’s a struggle. But it is another year, another year older and a little closer to 60 years old. The good thing is that I am also a lot closer to retirement too, which I am really looking forward too, although in reality I have to wait another ten to twelve years before I can finally kick my job into touch.

I keep asking Mrs PM if she will let me retire soon and look after me – but she refuses telling me that I am in the prime of my life and look like a 44 year old. “Why retire?” she asks me.

She doesn’t understand.

Anyway, enough of this nonsense.

I’ll leave you with a few rock songs from my six decades so far. I love these songs and they would be great at a party!

 I hope you enjoy them.

See you on the other side of 54.

1960’s – Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love


 1970’s – Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us


 1980’s – Aerosmith – Rag Doll


1990’s – Rammstein – Du Hast


 2000’s – Devin Townsend Project – Bend It Like Bender


 2010’s – Nine Inch Nails – Copy Of A


Friday, 30 September 2016

Half-eaten Kebab

Have you ever been drunk?

I have – quite a few times, but thankfully not in recent years. Don’t get me wrong – I do like a pint or two but these days I tend to take it easy so that when I do drink I know I can wake up in the morning feeling reasonably fine.

Sadly, in my youth I was easily led and I thought that I was indestructible, especially when it came to the demon drink. I was rarely so drunk that I couldn’t remember anything but I have been in that position in my youth.

When you are in such a terrible state, weird thoughts go through your head, the biggest one being “I’ll be fine! I can handle another pint!”


If you are drunk, that is the thought that you should totally dismiss because deep down you know for a fact that when you wake up in the morning your head will feel like Satan himself is hitting it with a lump hammer, your mouth will feel like you have just eaten the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag and your stomach will feel like it is about to explode in a tsunami of half-digested food.  If you have the strength to crawl to the toilet your entire world will spin like a demented spinning top and you will almost certainly be uttering the Hangover Mantra which is:


Of course when you are in the throes of alcohol-fuelled ecstasy, you have lots of bad ideas. Logic doesn’t seem to enter into your thoughts. If you were sober then you would almost certainly say to your brain “You want me to do WHAT?? No bloody chance!”.

But when you are drunk, your response is “WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!”.

Before I go on, there is something that any foreign readers must understand. Pubs and drinking are a massive part of British culture (and to a lesser extent Europe too). For example, when I have been to the US, I have been amazed that hanging out in a bar for an entire evening seems to be frowned upon – certainly more so than in the UK where such behaviour is commonplace.

So what good ideas have I encountered when drunk that are really terrible ones?

Have another drink

This is bad because, as I said above alcohol gives you the illusion of indestructibility. In this state you think you are utterly fine until the first light of day brings you back to reality with an enormous crash.

Go for a curry

Indian food is massively popular in the UK and drunk guys will flock to Indian restaurants after a night out because they think that it will satisfy the alcohol-fuelled hunger. Now the problem with a post-drink curry is that first of all Indian restaurants offer even more booze to add to your already saturated brain but worst of all, the bravado of being drunk means that you will almost certainly select the hottest curry on the menu because you think it is a fantastic idea. It isn’t because a hangover with a curry nestling in your stomach is not a good idea. Remember, a really hot curry burns twice; once on the way in and once on the way out.

Chat up a woman

I have fallen foul of this “good idea” many times and have been ritually humiliated. Worse, on one occasion I was out with workmates, including a female friend of mine. While in a pub, she started talking to a lovely young blonde woman who happened to teach her daughters ballet. Sadly, my mind told me to complement this vision of beauty. I walked up to her, in front of my female friend and a lot of workmates and said (I am not making this up): 

“First of all, I’m not coming on to you at all. But having said that, can I just say that you are ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!!” 

Thankfully, she took it in good stead and said a polite “Thanks” before blanking me out completely. What followed was a tirade of abuse and piss-taking from my work colleagues and, worse, from my female friend who later said “What the phark are you on?” I am still reminded of this even to this day and it happened about twenty years ago!

Buy a kebab

 If you don’t go for a curry, you go for a kebab. Britain is filled with kebab shops, some better than others. When sober, I would never have one because I prefer healthier food. Yet when drunk, it has almost become the law. Kebab shops in the UK are filled with drunk people from around 11pm to much later and I am amazed that people know what to order. One of the problems is that your average kebab is huge and you are incapable of eating the entire thing. This has three possible consequences (and I have seen all three). 

Number one: you leave the half-eaten kebab on the sofa and crawl to bed, only to see it the following morning when your stomach is too delicate to deal with a now rancid stinking half-eaten mess. 

Number two:  Put the half-eaten kebab in the fridge to be finished off for breakfast. This is so wrong because the last thing you want to see when you go to the fridge to get a can of coke to help your hangover, is a half-eaten kebab stinking out your fridge with half-eaten fries that you felt you couldn’t do without. 

Number Three: you fall asleep while eating the kebab and wake up three hours later with your head resting in a mound of spicy meat, fries and rancid salad covered in spicy sauce.

Thankfully, I have grown up a bit and while I still drink, I no longer allow myself to have stupid ideas. That said, I have been known to indulge in a curry or a kebab but, thankfully, with a relatively sober head.

I’ll finish off with a song about a hangover from my collection. Check out the lyrics because they sum up most of the stuff I’ve said in this post.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Ghost Hunter

Do you believe in ghosts?

I don’t really but I have had rather a spooky encounter in the past that could have been a ghost (I’m still not 100% convinced but you could judge for yourself – read about it here).

Maybe there is something in it – maybe not. My feeling is that if ghosts really do exist then at some point we all must have seen them or at least felt their presence. The house I live in is over a hundred years old and I am certain that at least one person must have died in it during that time.

Yet I have never felt, seen or heard a ghost in my house – and neither has anybody else that I have known of. In fact, none of my friends, acquaintances or work colleagues have had an encounter with a soul from the afterlife either.

If ghosts really exist then this is a weird thing. I read an article surmising that for every living person today, there are 15 dead people, which means that, potentially, there are 105 billion ghosts wandering the earth. Whenever we walk the streets of our towns and cities there are 15 spooks also wandering the streets for each of us.

I sometimes watch weird videos on YouTube featuring all manner of creepiness, ranging from aliens, to lizard people, ghosts to demons, yet when I watch supposedly genuine images of ghosts caught on camera, I cannot help but chuckle because, to me at least, they like elaborate hoaxes. I’m pretty sure that your everyday psychic would disagree with me, suggesting that not only have these spirits allowed themselves to be caught on camera, they are also able to communicate with certain special people, like a psychic, a person who claims to be able to perceive a different wavelength of reality and as a result can talk to ghosts.

They are lying, dear reader. However, I don’t want to drift into telling you that all psychics are charlatans (deep down you know that already). What intrigues me about the videos you see on YouTube is that they are very well done, so well done in fact that you can barely see the cracks in some of them.

One of the best of these videos is from my adopted home city of Manchester. The video contains CCTV footage from a number of cameras scattered around an office in the city and the security guards on duty flicking between the cameras as spooky things were happening.

Here it is:

Now I loved watching this and, almost as much, liked reading the comments on it. What struck me is that it was recorded on the night of 1st November 2012, that is Hallowe’en night. It is very well done and could, I think, convince anyone who is even slightly gullible. Since then a Ghost Hunter has debunked the film as a hoax.

What’s more interesting is the term “Ghost Hunter” because until I read that article, I thought that a Ghost Hunter was a figment of the imagination of authors and writers who wrote scary fiction about ghosts.

I am amazed that there is a Ghost Hunter in Manchester – in fact there are possibly more.

People exist who actually go out to find ghosts or at least deal with situations where people think they are being haunted.

While I love this kind of spooky nonsense, I don’t think I would want to go out in search of them, just in case I actually discovered that spooks really exist after all.

But if you had a heart of steel and fear is not part of your DNA, how would you set about becoming a Ghost Hunter?

First of all, you probably need the equipment. And it is not cheap.

Here’s an example of what you would need:

An accelerometer to measure even tiny vibrations in objects.

Video recorders and cameras (obviously – though I am not convinced that ghosts can be photographed), including special infra-red equipment to detect weird stuff in the infra-red spectrum.

Sound recorders to detect abnormal sounds.

Spectrum analysers to detect energy out of the normal perceivable ranges.

Thermal cameras to detect changes in temperature.

Various other essential equipment such as X-ray and UV scanners.

Obviously, you also need to be totally laid back, methodical, patient, confident and, most importantly of all, not prone to squealing like a little girl should you ever see an actual ghost.

Of course, if you can talk to the ghosts when you find them, that might be a bonus but, since nobody can talk to ghosts, that is just a little wishful thinking.

Finally, you have to have an open mind and not be, like me, a totally cynical sceptic.

I know that I may be mocking what could potentially be a fulfilling, if not totally weird career path and for that I apologise. To be honest, if there are any genuine Ghost Hunters out there, please leave a comment and I will read it with an open mind.

In the meantime, if I feel that there is a ghost in my house, I might just hire these guys:

Over to you, dear reader:

Do you believe in ghosts?

Have you ever seen a ghost?

Monday, 19 September 2016

The Madness of Art

I read something on the internet last week and I didn’t initially know how to react. It is about a painting.

Here’s a summary of what I read:

The painting by Nua On, who made his debut In November 2013 following several years of development of his special painting style, begins as bold medium length strokes in many directions and has progressed to incorporate dabs of paint, using a sensuous colour palette of Winsor Violet, Lavender and Silver.

The painting was for sale at the princely sum of almost 500 American Dollars and with it, you get a Certificate of Authenticity together with a biography of the artist and a photograph.

Now when I read this, I thought the words were describing a budding new artist, trained to master his or her art and trying to make a living selling their so-called masterpiece to gullible pseudo-intellectuals. The painting itself was dreadful, a mishmash of daubs that would have had contemporary art critics, wetting themselves with glee and uttering nonsensical sentences to describe what was going through the artist’s head as the brush strokes were applied with words like:

Nua On demonstrates the inner conflict of the mind perfectly, fusing irony and metaphysics in a manner that represents the love affair of souls, destined to meet but finding themselves travelling apart in an ethereal medium of flame and liquid with only their thoughts of the emptiness of atomic division to hint at their ultimate purpose. As Socrates once said: Be as you wish to seem. I cannot elucidate these feelings more humbly.

I imagine that the naïve pseudo-intellectuals will rush to buy this mess at the bargain price offered and spend hours reading the inspirational story of the artist while gazing into his eyes on the photograph and struggling to contain their orgasmic urges.

But there is something I haven’t told you about this painting, dear reader.

It is special.

The artist looks like this:

I swear I am not making this up, 
Nua On is a fucking elephant!! 
I wonder whether the poor creature signed the back of the painting by dipping it’s enormous foot in a bucket of paint and slopping it onto the canvas.
I know that I have basically said that the painting is utter shit but, having been dragged around the Tate Modern in both Liverpool and London, I can safely say that it is actually better than some of the garbage hanging on the walls in those museums that was painted by human beings.
This is yet another example of how mad the art world has become. Everybody likes art but now what seems to have happened is that these nutcases are thinking even more outside the box in their quest to appear intelligent and cultured, praising pictures painted by other species and, presumably, trying to get into the heads of the giant wrinkly pachyderms that painted them.
To those pseudo-intellectual fuckwits, I have this to say.
The people behind this enterprise are really clever and I am amazed that there are pseudo-intellectuals actually thick enough to be conned into buying this shit.
There is always somebody out there trying to exploit stupidity and, to me, this is just another example.
It’s crazy. But it’s worse than that! Paintings by other creatures are available to buy.
I kid you not!
So what other these other animals paint?
I promise that I am not making this up. 
You can buy paintings by turtles, tortoises, snakes, skinks, cheetahs, tigers, jaguars, gorillas, orangutans, chimps, grasshoppers, worms, millipedes, sea lions, penguins, rhinos, hippos, dolphins and whales.
In the case of the smaller creatures that cannot hold a brush, they have to have their bodies or at least parts of their bodies, dipped in paint before making then slither or crawl along the canvas.

I would love to see what happens if a tiger suddenly objected to being forced to paint.

It also makes me wonder about copyright. Surely a painting is owned by the artist, not the person that is forcing the poor creature to apply paint to canvas in such a humiliating way. Could Nua On challenge me if I were to reproduce his art on my blog? No doubt there is a lawyer out there who would try to take me court, saying that his elephant rights are being violated and exploited by a ruthless blogger.
The more I delve into the world of contemporary art, the more amazed I am about how absurd it is. They never cease to amaze me with new conceptual ideas for the pseudo-intellectual community to preach about.
The madness of art is exploding exponentially.
Still, at least if you are a philosopher, you can be happy in the knowledge that your wise words will be taken completely out of context by a moron trying by using them to describe the thoughts of an elephant as he splashed paint onto a big slice of paper.
I’m not a philosopher by any means but I am thinking about starting my own contemplative genre of that discipline, dedicating my own words to help pseudo-intellectuals to gush over artwork created by humans and animals alike.
Taking this a step further, I might actually consider being the agent for my cats, encouraging them to dabble in the world of modern art so that I can exploit pseudo-intellectuals and make myself - er sorry - my cats very rich.
That may not be such a good idea because either the cats would rip my hands off or, more likely, Mrs PM would beat me to a pulp.
So, Nua On, you are safe from the challenge of cat art for now. But I will write a few quotes for the pseudo-intellectuals to use to describe your work. 
I can’t wait to read your biography!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Guilty M'lud!

Whenever I return from a holiday or from a pastime that I enjoy, there is always a feeling of guilt deep down inside me that threatens to ruin the memories of the fun I have had.

It shouldn’t be this way, dear reader.

I blame politicians and control freaks
We need to stand up against this outrageous manipulation of our feelings as these people try to control us by pointing out the bad things in life.

Are you with me?

When I go on holiday it is like the steam valve on a pressure cooker has been released and the true me escapes into the world like dog let off a leash.

I eat too much, drink too much and sleep too much.

I spend my time either being lazy and relaxing or embracing new cultural experiences.

I make rude gestures at Mr Motivator, the corporate bastard who tries to dominate my life.

I ignore advice from governmental arseholes who think that they know what is best for me.

And when I set foot back in my own home, part of me feels guilty , even if I have only been away for seven days, because:

I have over-indulged on food that is going to make me fat and unhealthy.

I have drunk more beer than I should have with little regard for the consequences.

I have wasted part of the day because I went to bed at 1am, got up at 10am, having spent too much time sleeping and just lying in bed with a good book.

I have spent time on a sunbed reading or listening to music while watching the sea gently lap up onto a golden beach, when I could have (and in certain people’s eyes should have) been doing something productive.

All thoughts of work have been dispelled and I have dreamt about leaving and burning all of my bridges with Mr Motivator.

I have done exactly what I wanted.

The current guilt-laden culture of living really pisses me off. Why? Because ...

I am made to feel guilty because I have a full English breakfast on a Saturday morning. 

I am made to feel guilty because I choose to spend three hours binge-watching Sons of Anarchy instead of going outside to do something more active.

I am made to feel guilty because I want to go for a long walk at my own pace instead of killing myself to run a 10K race.

I am made to feel guilty because I leave work early to relax instead of choosing to stay behind for four hours listening to Mr Motivator’s bullshit.

I am made to feel guilty because I have an extra beer on a Friday night.

I am made to feel guilty because I sometimes want to some “me time”.

I am made to feel guilty for sleeping in at the weekend.

I am made to feel guilty not getting over-excited when I read the latest banal post on Facebook.

I am made to feel guilty because I choose to go to a rock concert instead of an opera.

I am made to feel guilty because I tell people why I do not like things.

I am made to feel guilty because I no longer send Christmas cards or Valentines cards. 

I am made to feel guilty for being happy.

I am made to feel guilty for swearing when I’m pissed off.

I am made to feel guilty for having fish and chips!

I am made to feel guilty about going on holiday.

I am made to feel guilty for not working hard enough by Mr Motivator and politicians who praise “hard-working families” without actually knowing how fucking hard people DO work.

I am made to feel guilty by refusing to give money to charities, even though I give money to other charities.

I am made to feel guilty for going out when the BBC hand over their entire Friday Night schedule to a charity telethon.

I am made to feel guilty for watching football. 

I am made to feel guilty about sneaking food into the cinema because the bastards try to rip me off with overpriced and oversized portions of crap.

I am made to feel guilty about having a big cream bun!

I am made to feel guilty for telling people “No”!

I am made to feel guilty for doing exactly what I want to do and not what other people want me to do to “fit in”.

I am made to feel guilty for playing video games at the age of 53.

I am made to feel guilty for spending my own money on things I want.

Well, dear reader, there are many reasons other things that people try to make me feel guilty about and to be brutally frank I’ve had enough!

I think I need to make a change and stick two fingers up to the establishment on certain occasion.

The fightback starts here!

I am NOT GUILTY M'lud!

Now PISS OFF and leave me alone!

Are you with me, dear reader?