Monday, 29 August 2016

Mr Squeamish


The other day, I sat down on my sofa with my evening meal and started watching a television programme that both Mrs PM and I really like. I started eating and watched the next scene – and almost retched.

I saw a man lying on an operating table with his chest cut open and a doctor probing the red mess inside.

“Oh for God’s sake!” I exclaimed covering my eyes. “I’m eating  my dinner!”

I kind of hoped that the doctor on the TV would turn to me and say Sorry Dave, we’ll move on to a more tasteful scene while you eat!”

Of course, he didn’t and I did my usual trick; I turned to Mrs PM and said “Tell me when it’s over.”

She just laughed, as she usually does and watched avidly, chomping on her food as if nothing odd was happening.

Deep down, I knew that the bloody scene on my television screen was not real and, in fact, was the product of the special effects department at the studio. Yet I couldn’t help myself. I waited until Mrs PM gave me the all clear.

There’s a deep irony here, dear reader, because a lot of the shows I like contain a lot of gore and blood and guts are frequently exposed. Yet each time I cringe inwardly and my stomach lurches because I simply cannot stand the sight of blood, real or otherwise.

I am squeamishness personified – I am Mr Squeamish.

I think if I were to injure myself I would pass out, not from shock, but from the sight of my own blood.

It’s embarrassing.

Many years ago, I had a blood test and, as the nurse, prepared my arm, she could tell that something was wrong.

“Are you okay?” she said.

“I’m a little squeamish,” I said.

“Most men are,” she said in a tone that was not meant to be mocking but somehow made me feel ashamed. I had to look away as she inserted the needle and drew out my lifeblood.

“There – it’s all over,” she said with a smile when she had finished. I felt like a child.

I’m not a big fan of needles, generally, and have similar experiences when I have to have a vaccination for trips abroad. One nurse actually told me off once because I was so tense that she was struggling to push the needle into my skin.

“Just relax,” she said, again as if I were a five year old. “The tenser you are, the longer this will take and the more it will hurt.”

It’s the same story at the dentist. My last major dental operation was to have a crown replaced and that experience was totally unpleasant, from the injection in my gum to the ripping out of the existing crown. I hate the sound of metal against metal or metal against enamel and I had to endure what seemed like an eternity as the dentist grinded his pliers against my crown in a desperate attempt to pull the thing off.

I also have a thing about eyes. My eyesight is terrible and many years ago I wanted to try contact lenses so that I could play football without being blind. The cost of a contact lens trial at the optician was £10 and I may as well have simply set fire to the note instead of handing over to the optician.

As soon as he went anywhere near to my eye, I flinched and pushed him away.

“Look,” he said in exasperation. “You have to let me do this.”

In the end, I turned as white as a ghost and felt extremely nauseous, so much so that he stopped immediately and offered me a glass of water.

“Are you going to be sick?” he asked, now looking concerned (probably more for the state of his consultancy room than for me).

“Maybe, “ I said trying desperately to hold onto the contents of my stomach.

Thankfully I survived and after five minutes I managed to pull myself together and walk out of the optician with his words ringing in my ears:

“You are too sensitive for contact lenses.”

Really he meant:

“You are too squeamish for contact lenses.”

Happily, I am not the most squeamish person I know. There is a guy at work who cringes at the very mention of the word “needle”. This weakness was exploited to maximum effect the other week. For some reason I mentioned the fact that the vaccination nurse had struggled to insert the needle in my arm because of the tense knotted muscles and he visibly looked shaken. I shall call him Mr Ultrasqueam.

“Just shut up,” he ordered.

“Why?” I asked.

“I pharrking HATE needles; they make me feel ill!” he exclaimed.

My desk buddies at work love this kind of stuff. When a member of the desk exposes a weakness, it is exploited with maximum prejudice and we all join in an attack, like sharks circling a drowning man in the sea.

Another desk buddy started laughing and told me in no uncertain terms that I was an utter wimp. He then went on to describe an operation that he had had in great detail involving needles, scalpels, a local anaesthetic and a very, very vulnerable part of the male anatomy.

He went into great detail including the mishaps. I won’t mention this in detail (in order to maintain the good taste element of my blog) but suffice it to say that Mr Ultrasqueam covered his ears with his hands and started shouting:

“For phark’s sake SHUT UP!”

There was blood in the water now and no mercy was shown. Other tales of needle mishaps and nasty operations were mentioned by other buddies and in the end the colour started draining from Mr Ultrasqueam’s face as he desperately implored us to shut up.

“I thought I was squeamish,” I said laughing, “but in my case I have to actually see the needle.”

“STOP MENTIONING PHARKING NEEDLES!” he screamed.

At this point we relented, in case he actually threw up. But it was hilarious.

A little later, when he had recovered, he said:

“If I EVER have to have even a minor operation, I will order them to give me a general anaesthetic so that I don’t have to be there when they start cutting and hacking.”

“You do know that they give you a local anaesthetic with a needle,” I said.

“STOP MENTIONING PHARRKING NEEDLES!” he shouted again.

I will remember this next time I am the victim of our wonderful banter.

In fact, I think I might start calling him "Needles"!

How about you, dear reader?

Are you as squeamish as Mr Squeamish (i.e. me)?

Are you as bad as Mr Ultrasqueam?

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Nailed



One of the many things I don’t understand about women is how they treat their fingernails and toenails. The thought of applying paint to my nails is as abhorrent to me as is the thought of plucking out all of the hairs in my eyebrows and then painting them back in.

It’s utter craziness.

Granted, as painful as plucking or waxing eyebrows is, applying a bright colourful load of goo to your nails seems painless by comparison.

Yet women still feel the need to do it.

So why am I talking about painting nails? Allow me to tell you.

Yesterday we made the short trip to the city of Chester to watch horse racing and gamble responsibly along with around 20,000 other people. This particular event was slightly different because it was Ladies Day. What that means I don’t know really, other than perhaps an attempt to entice members of the fairer sex to lose their money alongside their male chumps.

What I do know is that every single woman there made an extra special attempt to beautify themselves, spending more money on that than the entrance fee and amount they would lose on the horses combined.

There were eight of us, four men and four women. The men all wore jackets and ties and that was it. My preparation for the event was to dust off one of my two suits (the non-penguin one) and iron my white shirt. It took all of ten minutes in total and most of that was ironing the damned shirt.

Mrs PM on the other hand spent weeks preparing for this event. After two failed trips to buy a new dress, she finally managed to choose a superb, if not expensive one that made her look lovely. She also agonised over matching shoes and a new bag and eventually bought those as well. Last week she went looking for a fascinator. I didn’t even know what a fascinator was and I had to ask my good friend, Mr Google to assist.

Here’s an example of a fascinator:



Why they are called fascinators is beyond me.

While shopping for this, she spotted another dress that she preferred and bought that instead, returning the original dress a couple of days later. Worse, she couldn’t find a suitable fascinator and had to order one online. Worse still, she had to also return the bag and shoes she bought because they didn’t go with the new dress. And of course she had to hunt for replacements.

Had I been involved in all of this trauma, I think I might have torn all of my hair out in frustration but I made it quite clear from the offset that this was her problem and her problem alone and I would rather extract each hair on my body with a blowtorch than make numerous trips to women’s clothing shops waiting outside the changing rooms like a total muppet as I watched my will to live erode.


Thankfully, Mrs PM (and indeed all women as far as I can tell) are used to this crazy way of preparing for events and having spent most of her life in changing rooms trying on clothes that either don’t fit or she doesn’t like and her stamina is unbreakable.

The final touches for this event were painting her nails. Naively, I thought this meant buying a bottle of goo and painting it on her fingernails.

When she explained what was going to happen, I gaped like a lunatic.

“Two hours? TWO PHARKING HOURS to get your nails done?”  I said incredulously.

“Yes,” she declared. “They have to look perfect.”

Basically, she was going to pay money to a beautician to apply multiple layers of goo to her nails that would take two hours to complete and cost 55 English pounds.

“55 quid?” I gaped, amazed at how much more shocking that was. “Why don’t you set fire to the notes? It will be quicker and less of a waste of money.”

I was slapped for that one.

This traumatic experience is not as easy as it sounds. I’ve looked this up.

First you have to have your nails prepared which means cutting them, filing them and deciding what shape to have them. Surely the answer to that is “nail shaped”!

Next you have to remove your cuticles. I misread this at first and winced before I realised that women don’t have what I thought had to be removed. Apparently cuticles are dead skin at the base of your nails and you use a funny shaped stick to do the revolting deed.

At this point you can start painting. But this is not just a simple job; you have to apply a base layer and wait for it to dry for longer than it says on the tin. And then you have to apply two more thin layers, drying each of them under a UV lamp for two to three minutes – a pharking UV lamp!!

And that’s not all because after that, you have to apply yet another layer and zap that under a UV lamp for the same length of time.

Finally, this fiasco is completed by removing imperfections and applying a weird cuticle oil.



Mrs PM had this done to twenty nails – ten fingernails and ten toenails.

I never knew any of this and I am totally flabbergasted.

Of course, the worst thing is that this amazing artwork is only guaranteed to last two weeks when, presumably, keen women will want to return to the beautician to throw away another £55 and waste two more hours of their lives.

Mrs PM’s nails were and are wonderful (I have to say this, lest I have my cuticles removed with a rusty saw) and so did her three friends. In their case, the nails were decorated with patterns that must of (a) cost even more money and (b) taken much longer.


Of course, their nails were and are wonderful  too (I have to say this, lest I have the remaining parts of my anatomy removed with the same rusty saw).

In conclusion, I can only say two things.

First, I am no closer to understanding women.

Finally, I am so, so, so glad that I am a man.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Perfect Person


I recently saw a job advert and it made me laugh at its absurdity. The job wasn’t for anything special but reading the list of desirable performance and competency related requirements you would have thought that the position was for President of a major country. These weren’t requirements such as “Has experience of Microsoft Word” or “Has at least three years of experience managing a supermarket”.

I am talking about the personality and competency requirements or “What kind of a person are you?”

I read this list and started to score myself.

There were far more failures that successes and if I had been the interviewee I think I would have failed miserably had I been asked truthfully if I satisfied the competency requirements for the position. Furthermore, I think I would have had a huge cross through my name because I would have laughed my head off when asked the questions.

What these people are looking for is basically an alien/human hybrid – somebody like Mr Spock – although he would certainly fail when asked if he was a people person.


Worse, I don’t know anybody at all who would satisfy these requirements. I know for a fact that just about every person I have ever worked with wouldn’t.

And that’s not me being nasty to these people – they are human beings not machines. The have all the beauty and warmth that humanity has but also the deep failings.  Everybody is the same.

I suspect that the list of requirements was written by my old nemesis, Mr Motivator. Do you remember him?

He is the man who appears on the Apprentice claiming to be the best of the best of the best and who will give 250% to “get the job done".

He is the man who will work until stupid o’clock, fuelled solely by Monster Raving Looney strength coffee that is actually pure caffeine.

He is the man who will claim to be your best buddy and then brush you aside when the next opportunity to climb the corporate ladder appears.

He is the man who will buy a Porsche but never have time to drive it.

He is the man who will go on the most expensive holidays money can buy but spend the entire fortnight working and ignoring his long suffering family.

Yet there is a deep irony here, dear reader – because the truth is that not even Mr Motivator himself will pass all of these competencies. Yet he will almost certainly bullshit his way through the interview, claiming to be the best of the best of the best with excellence running through his bloodstream instead of blood.

The competency list is too long to reproduce here, dear reader, and I would hate to infringe any copyright laws. But I can give you a brief summary.

Basically they are looking for a robot with the interpersonal skills.

The person must actually thrive when the going gets tough and enjoy working every hour God sends without getting upset and, while working into those deep dark lonely hours in the night, will do so with a massive smile on his face, praising their boss at the same time and, when the smelly brown stuff hits the whirling cooling device will instantly be able to cope without making a single mistake.

The person will be your best friend and will make every effort to be your perfect temporary  spouse, because, don’t forget, you will be working so hard that you won’t have time to see your family.

The person will love their boss and the harder working the boss is the better because ultimately the person will strive to become just like their boss. 

The person will have a 200% grasp of all business practices and will be able to foresee any disasters and act before they occur. If, for some reason (perhaps being tired due to overwork) the person fails to see the looming disaster then he will be able to immediately react and fix it with a huge smile – even if it’s three o’clock in the morning and he has been working for eighteen hours fuelled only by a triple strength caffeine bomb.

The person will be so ambitious that his ultimate goal will be to rule the entire world.

The person will be the most benevolent human being in the world, caring for all the people he works with, even if they don’t meet his high standards.

And when it comes to conflict, the person will simply end a difference of opinion decisively, even if he is wrong.

The person will be totally creative and will redefine bullshit business terminology like “thinking outside the box” and “blue sky thinking”, perhaps even inventing a new term like “extra-terrestrial creativity” to be used from now on when trying to impress his so-called superiors.

The quality of the person’s decisions will be consistently brilliant. He will rarely be wrong and when he is, he will end the debate and move on.

The person will be the funniest man in the world. His jokes will be the best and the entire audience will spend most of their time laughing at him. Like this guy:



And that’s just for starters, dear reader. There’s lots more where that came from.

As I said, I would fail to get the job.

I didn’t want to stack shelves in the local supermarket anyway.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Biker




I have only ridden a motorbike once – I crashed it.

I was fifteen years old and I was in the back garden of a mate who was seventeen and had bought his first motorbike, a Honda 50.

I sat on it and twisted the throttle and it surged forward, uncontrollably, like a an angry mechanical horse. By the time my brain had realised what had happened, I had shot across the garden, narrowly missed a tree and crashed into a fence.

My speed was negligible in reality and the only thing hurt, apart from the fence, was my pride.

Since then, I have been very wary of motorbikes and have never been tempted to get one myself.

My dad had a motorbike and used to go to work on it every day. He loved it and never once came even close to having an accident. At the time, I was a small child and the thing looked huge to me. I was both fascinated and terrified by it. I used to watch as my dad rode down the street and disappeared around the corner. At night I could always tell when he was home thanks to the distinctive roar of the engine as it approached the house.

I know a few people who are motorbike enthusiasts and each one of them can turn their mood around by climbing onto their bikes and roaring off into the distance. Whenever the subject of riding comes up, their whole demeanour changes to one of youthful exuberance and I see the child within come to the surface.

They talk about their bikes as if they are people – in some cases, guys care more about their bikes than they do their wives and girlfriends. Their pride in their bikes is almost immeasurable.



I have never understood this, particularly when one or two have actually had accidents. Many years ago, a mate of mine came into work with a neck brace and a bruised face. He looked as if he had been in a fight.

I asked what had happened.

He told me that he was riding his bike at 70mph in the middle lane of the motorway when a car had hit him from behind. The driver of the car was a woman who had been to the pub at lunchtime and had a couple of drinks. She claimed that she didn’t see the bike. When she hit him, he was thrown off the bike and bounced into the first lane of the motorway before crashing into the hard shoulder. His bike followed him but thankfully didn’t hit him. More importantly, there were no vehicles in the first lane. If there had have been, he would have been killed.

“Oh my God,” I said. “Are you okay?”

“Yes - just a few bruises,” he said.

“I guess you will be selling your bike now and getting a car like the rest of us.”

“No way,” he said with a look of total bemusement. “I can’t wait to get back on my bike.”

Somebody else I work with had an accident on his bike and was, again, lucky to escape with a cracked rib and a few bruises. The thought of giving up his bike never once crossed his mind.

“I guess that’s the way my brain is wired,” he said.

I think I agree with that. My brain is wired in such a way that I will never ever buy or ride a motorbike. When I am driving on the motorway, these guys roar past me, their bikes tilting slightly and the same thought always crosses my mind: if you come off that thing you will be seriously hurt.

People have tried to explain the thrill of riding a bike in the country on a beautiful sunny day. The scenery is amazing and they become one with the bike as they push themselves to their limits. The speed of the bike, the wind, the curving roads and the scenery all combine to make the experience almost orgasmic for them. It switches something on in their brains, something that is almost primeval.

I don’t get it – I guess I never will.

Another mate has offered to take me out for a ride as a passenger, perched on the back of his bike.

“Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll take it easy. The last thing I want to do is ride quickly just to scare you. I want to stay in one piece too you know.”

I think he’s hoping that he can find the same primeval toggle in my brain and switch it on.

He won’t – and so far I have politely refused.

I’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy, another great TV show from America about a motorcycle gang and I get the same sense of primeval enthusiasm from each of the members. These guys ride Harley Davidsons, a great looking and legendary bike.


While they might be great to look at, they are ferocious animals. When I see one, I feel like I am watching a tiger in a zoo; I can marvel in the beast’s beauty but I wouldn’t go anywhere near it.

In fact, recently, I was going for my usual lunchtime walk when I heard the roar of a motorbike engine behind me. It was a Harley Davidson being ridden by, what I initially thought was a member of the Sons of Anarchy. As he swept past, I saw his huge bike, and his leather riding gear. Covering the back of his jacket was a huge logo not too dissimilar to that of the Sons of Anarchy. The difference was the words.


His jacket said Sons of Hell.

I would have loved to have spoken to the guy and ask him about his bike, his club etc. but sadly he disappeared in a receding roar of noise.

It’s probably the closest I will ever get a motorbike club.

My brain just isn’t wired that way.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Bring On The Dancing Girls



Regular readers will know that I love music. Some readers may even now that I in the past I have attempted to actually move my body in time to music, usually surrounded by people laughing at my uncoordinated efforts to keep time.

At the weekend I will find myself at a party where at some point in the evening I shall be asked to dance to a song I despise by the love of my life, Mrs PM.

Refusal is not an option so I will have to humiliate myself to the sound of whatever tripe the DJ decides to torment me with.

I hate dancing – that is the truth.

It wasn’t always like this.

When I was young and stupid, I thought I was the world’s greatest dancer.  I thought that “He’s the Greatest Dancer” was written about me.

In fact, I was more like a “Discotheque Wreck"!

I was born after the days when a man had to humiliate himself by asking a woman to share the floor with him in, holding her as they swept around the floor dancing a foxtrot or a waltz.

And I say thank God for that!

I was hopeless as an adolescent and young adult when it came to women. I was one of those spotty little twerps whose nervousness was almost a visible entity in its own right.

And I was ugly and thin with mad hair that was enough to scare away any females – even female baboons. My chat up lines consisted of the words:

“EURGGH!! MEURGGGH! Can I ERRR have a snog?”

This usually ended up with a minor bit of female contact – her hand slapping the glasses off my face!



When I was eighteen I found three things that I thought would help me on my quest; night clubs, beer and dancing. Sadly, as safe as they may seem individually, when combined on a Saturday night with an idiot like me, chaos ensued!

My dad always told me about how he would just ask a girl to dance. It involved walking up to a lady and asking her if you could put your arms around her and actually move your feet in a certain way in time to the music!

That terrified me!

The difference was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that people didn’t do that anymore. A man just danced on his own until a woman approached and fell for his wonderful techniques. At least that’s what I thought.

Usually I would go to a night club, with my best clothes on, having bluffed my way past the meathead bouncer on the door, and wait on the edge of the dance floor looking at the women dancing around their handbags each of them yearning for the good looking guys (which I wasn’t) and hoping they would be swept away like a princess being rescued by a prince.

I considered myself to be that prince – every single time I went to a club.

Would I woo here with my charms? Would she swoon at my good looks? In my mind’s eye I saw her almost collapsing in sheer delight as I stepped onto the dance floor like John Travolta before showing the entire night club how a man should really dance to “Night Fever”.

The truth is, in order to pluck up the courage to march on the floor, I had to drink a lot of beer. My addled brain then convinced me that I was Danny Zuko in “Greased Lightning" and, as my mates watched in absolute uproar on the sides of the dance floor, I would strut my funky stuff in front of every vaguely good-looking woman in that small well-lit area of humiliation.

It was worse than that. I was utterly convinced that all women were drooling over my body as I danced in front of them. I was so stupid that I even played hard to get by swinging my shoulder and turning away from a woman as she stared in utter disbelief at the acne-ridden drunk chimp wobbling next to her.

On other occasions I found myself almost alone in a pissed stupor, gyrating in a deeply disturbing way with a gurning phizzog that I thought said  “Bring on the dancing girls” but in reality had a similar effect to a skunk spraying the entire dance floor with its rancid stench.



It was only when a female friend at university told me how I really looked that I began to reassess my dancing skills.

“You look like a scarecrow who has just wet himself,” she told me cruelly. “No woman will dance with that! Even me – and I’m your friend!”

It was like a slap in the face.

Thankfully, she kind of taught me how to dance and over the next few years, I improved massively! Sadly, I was still a mess but at least I was vaguely in time and didn’t lurch around ogling all women in the vicinity like a colossal pervert.

I actually started to enjoy the music and voluntarily walked up without being pissed and on a lot of occasions with actual female friends who were willing to enjoy the music with me without fear of me turning into some kind of leering drunken animal.

In fact, I have even found myself dancing and surrounded by six very attractive women. The sad thing was, they were all friends who wouldn’t let me off the dance floor because the song playing was “Man! I Feel Like a Woman" and they found my total embarrassment absolutely hilarious.

Sadly, I have never evolved and the simple basic moves I used way back in my twenties are still the moves I would use now – and probably will use when Mrs PM drags me onto the dance floor on Saturday night.

And people still laugh at me!

"Who's that goon?"
I hasten to add, that all the night clubs I have mentioned above are your normal everyday disco type place that play dance music.

When I have ended up in a rock club, the story is completely different.

Regular readers will have gathered that I am a bit of a metalhead and when a favourite rock song appeared in such a venue (and I am not talking about token rock songs like “Living on a Prayer”, I am talking about air guitar shredders), I leapt onto the dance floor like a man possessed and shredded my air guitar as if I am Kirk Hammett, Ritchie Blackmore, Joe Satriani and John Petrucci all rolled into one.

The difference in this case was that there were few if any women on the dance floor and I was surrounded by similar drunk headbangers and one hundred percent engrossed in the music.

I don’t do that now – in fact I haven’t done it for a while. There have been occasions though – and here they are, including my impression of Slash!

"OH OH OH OH SWEET CHILD O' MINE!!"
Let’s hope they play “Paradise City” by  Guns’n’Roses on Saturday.

That’ll teach Mrs PM to drag me on the dance floor!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Bastille Day - Nice - 2016


I went on holiday to Nice to relax and extinguish residual anger.

I went on holiday to Nice because I had been there before and I loved it.

I went on holiday to Nice because I love France and I love French people.

I was delighted to discover that Bastille Day was right in the middle of my trip and that I would have a memorable day as a result.

It was memorable – but not for the reasons I expected.

The day started well. We woke up and had a stroll to a local café that served a lovely traditional French breakfast with croissants, pain aux raisins with coffee and jus d’orange.  After that we returned to the hotel and decided to have a lazy day by the beach.

Pretty soon we crossed over Promenade des Anglais and settled down on the beach, reading a book, enjoying the sun (under the shade of an umbrella in my case to protect myself from sunburn) and occasionally dipping into the sea to cool off.

That’s when the day started to go wrong.

A lifeguard on the beach saw a young man in difficulty in the sea and raced in to rescue him. Sadly by the time he had approached the man’s position, there was no sign of him. The lifeguard called the coastguard and very soon a couple of rescue boats appeared, searching for the man. After about twenty minutes, one of the divers spotted a body and dived into the water. They dragged the unconscious man to the beach.

It was too late.

Ambulances and police arrived on the beach and despite attempts to resuscitate the young man, the man was declared dead. A lot of people were upset and we saw an Italian woman consoling a French woman in their only common language – English. Neither of them knew the victim but the French woman’s grief got the better of her.

We were fairly far away from the incident but we were still pretty shaken by it.

In the evening, we stopped at a small bar to have a drink or two before following the crowds back to Promenade des Anglais to join in with the Bastille Day celebrations. The promenade was packed with people and families of all ages and although most of the people were French we saw quite a few other nationalities waiting for the festivities to begin.

At just after ten, all eyes turned towards the sea as the first of a spectacular series of fireworks lit up the night sky. I’ve always loved fireworks and the look of glee on my face matched that of the children nearby. I could hear gasps of amazement and whoops and cries of joy as the black sky became a cascading kaleidoscope of colour accompanied by distant explosions from the sea.

When the firework display stopped, there was a huge cheer from the crowd and lots of applause. Just to our right, a small stage suddenly burst into life with live music as the Prom Party started. For a moment we were tempted to stay and listen to the music and watch the people enjoying themselves. I suggested that we head back to the Old Town for a night cap and Mrs PM agreed.

We left the promenade and walked past our hotel with the crowds. A work colleague of Mrs PM’s and his wife were also in Nice that week and we had been out with them a couple of times already. We bumped into them just outside the Palais de Justice and had a quick chat about the fireworks.

Suddenly, a crowd of people came running from the direction we had been in, bumping into us and screaming as they ran past.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Mrs PM’s colleague,” but they are all running – so should we.”

Without thinking any further I grabbed Mrs PM’s hand and we ran into the Old Town with the crowd into the narrow streets. People in the restaurants and bars began to panic and as we ran, the proprietors began closing their doors. I looked around and there was no sign of Mrs PM’s colleague.

Eventually, after a few minutes, we stopped as people ran past shouting into their phones, some people crying, others looking terrified.

We passed some stairs that led to a main road and saw a lot of people on the steps staring down towards the promenade. Without warning, there were screams and everyone turned and ran down the steps toward us. One older man tried to leap from the steps over a wall and tripped, landing on his knees. Adrenaline must have been coursing through his body because he jumped to his feet and ran away. We followed the crowd further and stopped again trying to ask what was going on.

A young woman spoke to Mrs PM, who speaks very good French. My French is poor and while I only understood a little of what she had said, her gesture of a man shooting a gun spoke volumes. She switched to English and said “Don’t stay here! Run!”

I grabbed Mrs PM’s hand again and we found the main road and ran towards Place Garibaldi, where we had stayed on our last visit. Mrs PM rang her mum as we ran, but she wasn't in, so she left a message saying that something had happened in Nice but that we were okay – at least for now I thought!

When we reached Place Garibaldi, we noticed that the number of running and panicking people had slowed down and people were standing around, talking to each other and ringing loved ones. I looked for a policeman or somebody else in authority but all I saw were a few emergency vehicles shooting past, sirens blaring.

Mrs PM stopped a group of older people and asked once again what had happened.

The woman spoke in English and told us that a lorry had hit the crowd on Promenade des Anglais but, she thought, there was no danger. At this point we realised that we were about ten to fifteen minutes’ walk away from our hotel.  People were drifting towards the promenade area, slowly and at this point we assumed that there had been a tragic accident.

Mrs PM’s work colleague was staying very near out hotel and he sent us a message saying that they were back at their apartment.

“Come on, “ I said, “let’s hurry back.”

We walked as quickly as we could back the way we had come and thankfully there were no more hysterical crowds running towards us. We could hear sirens getting louder and eventually we reached our hotel.  On the way we saw no open bars, shops or restaurants and our hotel was in darkness. We entered the hotel and the foyer was full of terrified people who had sought shelter in the nearest refuge they could find.

We arrived at our room and saw a young woman on the corridor.

“Have you come from outside?” she asked in English.

“Yes,” we replied.

“Is it safe now? We have strangers in our room who are terrified.”

We told her what we knew and entered our room to watch the news and search the internet for any hints about what had happened. In the next hour or two the full horror of what had happened dawned on us.

A psychopath had ploughed into the Bastille Day revellers, deliberately running people over and shooting people until eventually the police had stopped him by shooting him dead. If we had decided to stay on the Promenade des Anglais and join in the party we may have been in the firing line.

We heard sirens late into the night and drifted into an uneasy sleep.

The next day, the Promenade des Anglais was closed and the police presence was very evident. We saw television correspondents giving reports from the promenade as well as soldiers walking around alert. We had seen soldiers before the tragedy so this was no surprise. To me, however, the police presence was increased slightly, particularly around the tourist areas surrounding the Old Town.

However, I was relieved to see people going about their daily business with an air of defiance tinged by a little sadness. My feelings were exactly the same, as were Mrs PM’s, and despite one or two calls for us to come home, we decided that we were going to stay and enjoy our final few days.

And we did.

We have not been put off by neither Nice nor the rest of France by this and I aim to return to both soon.

The one thing this episode has done has strengthened my resolve somewhat. While we weren’t directly affected, we were both close enough to the attack and, if we had decided to join the party or move closer to where the incident took place, things may have been different.

For three days we stood shoulder to shoulder with France.

We will continue to do so.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Therapy



Recent events have got me really angry. My normal grumpiness has become rampant and I have an urge to rant at everything I see on the news.

2016 has been, so far, a year I totally want to forget – and it’s not even over yet! I haven’t spoken to Mrs PM’s parents since Brexit because I know that I will say something to them that I regret, upsetting them, Mrs PM and even myself in the process. Mrs PM and her mum have already exchanged tense words resulting in Mrs PM slamming the phone down on her own mother.

My anger is building up so much that I am turning into Mr Angry, the person I mocked so mercilessly just a month or two ago.  As soon as I hear the news I start ranting. I have given up reading newspapers because they make me angry.

Grumpiness is one thing – rage is another and I am full of rage.

And I hate myself for it because this is not me – this is not the laid back guy I have known all my life.

I need a holiday and, thank goodness, I am off tomorrow to Nice, a beautiful city in the south of France.

And for that, I need to calm down before I set foot on French soil.

So to help me, I have been looking through some of my old photos to raise my spirits and try to forget names like David Cameron, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, the Conservative Party, Donald Trump, Brexit and, yes, bloody England – the country that I love but the country that has pissed me off more in the past few months than it has at any time in my life – even more so than when Margaret Thatcher’s reign of terror was at its peak.

With that in mind, I thought I would share a couple of those photos with you, dear reader.

I hope you like them.
Hong Kong at Night
Tokyo - Barrels of Sake
Budapest - Hungarian Parliament Building

Rio de Janeiro - A Famous Statue

Rome - The Spanish Steps
 
A Temple in Kyoto
Kyoto - Lots of Torii
Santorini
Prague - Performing in front of an Old Church

A Big Cathedral in Barcelona

The Great Wall of China
That's better. I feel much calmer now. I need to be in a good frame of mind for packing so maybe I should do that too.

I am making a promise to myself here and now - I will not watch the news between now and 6am tomorrow when I have to be at the airport.

I'll leave with you with a tune that reflects my new found calmness and coincidentally is by my favourite band from France.



Au revoir et à bientôt, mes amis.