Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Mr Polite

I’m running out of ways to say “I’m sorry!”

I’m also running out of ways to say “Thank you!”

You see, as a British person, I am cursed with over-politeness, an ailment that has conditioned me to say “Thank you!” even when no thanks are normally necessary and “I’m sorry!” when I do not need to apologise.

My condition is so far gone that I end up looking for the translations of “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” into the native language of any country I visit.

I can say “I’m sorry” and “Thank you” in 352 different languages.

Just last week, I was in Nice and I found myself saying “Je suis désolé” to an absolutely clumsy bonehead who walked out of a shop without looking and barged straight into me, stamping on my foot in the process.
I wanted to say:

“You clumsy blind dickhead! Why don’t you watch where you’re bloody well going?”

But my brain forced me to say:

“Excusez-moi, monsieur. Je suis désolé!”

as if the entire episode had been my fault. I was the injured party having had my big toe crushed by a whopping great hoof clad I a brightly coloured French designer shoe, while having an elbow rammed into my midriff.

The man simply ignored me.

My worst fear is following a person down a really long corridor with approximately one hundred closed doors. If he is just a couple of yards in front of me, he will end up holding each door open for me and I will have to say “Thank you” in a variety of ways, so as not to appear to have a limited vocabulary as well as being impolite. And of course, living in Britain there is a very high chance that the person concerned will be British too, which means that he has to think of numerous ways to say “That’s OK!”.

Can you picture that scene, dear reader?

1st door

“Thank you!”  “You’re welcome!”

2nd door

“Thanks!”    “That’s okay!”

3rd door

“Cheers!”   “No problem!”

4th door

“Ta mate!”   “No worries!”

. . .
. . .

85th door

(OH MY GOD - NOT ANOTHER DOOR!!) “You’re so kind!”
(FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!)  “Any time!”

By the time we both reach door 100 we will inwardly want to kill each other while at the same time smiling politely and rifling through our mental thesauruses desperate to find yet another way to continue this pathetic charade.

It seems to me that when you are born in Britain, you suddenly lose all common sense when it comes to politeness.

Why is that?

Surely, politeness needs to be meant, and British people are so good at portraying a front of courtesy that I don’t trust any of them – myself included.

I know for a fact that inwardly each person is churning when they apologise for something – especially out of politeness when it was not even their fault.

BRIT1: I’m sorry!

BRIT 2: No, I must insist that it is my fault.

BRIT1: You are so kind but I have to apologise for it.

BRIT2: You are so gracious – and that’s wonderful but it truly is my                  fault.

What is truly meant is:

BRIT1: You clumsy great oaf! What do you think you are doing?

BRIT2: If I weren’t in a public place I would punch you in the face for                that you dickhead!

We are even polite when it comes to paying for meals – as illustrated in this clip:

While we are sometimes genuinely sincere, there are occasions when we may not actually mean what we say. Here are a few examples. You can generally judge by listening to what we say and looking at our faces for tell-tale signs that we may be disguising our true feelings behind a façade of courtesy:

What we say:
Yes, the wine is fine!
What we probably mean: 
This wine is horse piss!

What we say:                     
With all due respect …
What we probably mean: 
You’re a bloody idiot …

What we say:                     
Keep in touch!
What we probably mean:  
Don’t keep in touch!

What we say:                    
Call any time
What we probably mean: 
For God’s sake ring me before you call!

What we say:                    
It’s all my fault!
What we probably mean:  
It’s your fault you absolute arse!

What we say:                     
Oh are you sure you’ll get this round of beers? I don’t mind getting it.
What we probably mean:   

What we say:                     
That sounds like a good idea.
What we probably mean:  
Are you insane? It’s a bloody stupid idea.

What we say:                       
I’m so sorry!
What we probably mean:  
I'm not sorry at all!! You’re a clumsy great oaf!

Actually, I’ve just realised that if you are not British, you may read this post and no longer trust me or any other Englishman ever again when he is genuinely being sincere and polite. What you need to do, as suggested above, is to judge the situation from body language.

For example, when Monsieur Oaf did his best to merge his elbow with my chest while at the same time trying to flatten my foot, my voice (through gritted teeth) said “I’m sorry, that was totally my fault” while my entire body screamed said “I ought to punch your lights out for trying to kill me and not even acknowledging my presence you totally ignorant arse.”

If he had apologised I would, of course, have bought him a glass of wine and smiled sincerely.

I will conclude by saying:

Thank you so much, dear reader, for taking the time to read this post.

I am genuinely sorry if I caused any offence.

And you can tell from my body language that I am telling the truth.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Nice la Belle

I was tempted to call this post Nice is nice but to be honest I thought that would be a little corny and I wanted to express my true feelings about this fabulous French city from where I have just returned.

The city is actually called Nice La Belle, which is French for Nice the Beautiful and having just spent a week there, I am of the opinion that it is a very fitting name.

We were located in an old traditional apartment very close to Place Garibaldi, which is a central location very close to the city centre, and more importantly, to Vieux Nice (old Nice), the old town, an almost labyrinthine area of narrow streets full of tiny and extremely quaint shops, small traditional French cafés as well as restaurants and bars and even a traditional old market.

I was accompanied, of course, by Mrs PM but also my eldest son Stephen and his girlfriend.

Our apartment was ideally situated, just a short walk from a supermarket and a wonderful bakery that enabled us to buy fresh bread,  pain au chocolat and pain au raisin to enjoy for breakfast every day. I also indulged myself with French ham and, naturally, some delicious camembert.

Being based in Nice, we were able to visit a couple of other local famous locations on the Côte d'Azur, namely Cannes and Monaco, which I will dedicate a separate post to a little later.

Being with the kids, there was more emphasis on relaxing by the beach but Mrs PM and I had some influence, persuading them to explore the local area and sample the delights of southern France while at the same time allowing them to persuade us to spend time at the beach and the extremely inviting Mediterranean Sea.

Spending a day on the beach was quite expensive; we had a choice of staying on the public beach or renting a sunbed and parasol with mats to allow us easy access to the sea. SInce the beach was full of pebbles rather than golden sand, we opted for the more expensive option as it was far more comfortable and we were right next to a restaurant with waiters serving drinks to your own sunbed next to the sea. It was a temptation we simply couldn’t resist.

I did learn a valuable lesson while on the beach:

Remember to take your wallet out of your pocket when walking into the sea.

Yes I was that stupid. I walked into the Mediterranean Sea with a wallet full of Euros and Pound Sterling as well as a credit card.

Isn't it funny how you only realise your mistake when you are floating in a beautiful turquoise blue sea? Talk about shattering a peaceful moment.I had to dry out my wallet and my Euros on the sunbed for an hour having made a complete arse of myself in front of my chuckling family – and no doubt quite a few fellow sun worshippers.

And I wasn't allowed to forget my error.

The beach area we chose was adjacent to the old town, which allowed us to pop to lovely little cafés for a light lunch (that sometimes wasn’t always that light) so at least when my money had dried out, I could drown my sorrows (while suffering merciless piss-taking at the hands of people who are supposed to love me).

The old town is delightful and when we ended up visiting the area every night for our evening meal, consisting of typically delicious French cuisine accompanied by a baron of French beer and/or a glass or two of fantastic wine.

Mrs PM led the way with her command of French but by the end of the week, the rest of us had gained enough confidence to test out our own skills. The kids basically copied the words Mrs PM spoke, whereas I, claiming to know a little more French, was a little braver sometimes attempting primitive conversation (on my part at least).

I only fell foul of my lack of vocabulary a couple of times, usually when the polite French people spoke back to me at the speed of light, prompting me to shrug in the characteristic Gallic fashion with the words “Je suis désolé; je ne comprends pas” before allowing Mrs PM to bail me out.

I did okay though.

The people of Nice were extremely friendly, something stereotypical Brits do not associate with our friends from across the English Channel. Basically I have always found most French people to be extremely accommodating, with the possible exception of certain Parisians with whom I have had trouble on just about every visit. A lot of French people outside the capital also feel the same to be honest. The extremely funny taxi driver who took us back to the airport remarked upon the fact a lot of Parisian tourists who come to Nice look down their noses at the local people. So it’s not just us. In fact, given that certain Londoners are also extremely arrogant, I can sympathise with them.

One other thing I noticed about Nice was that there is quite a noticeable Italian influence. Of all the other nationalities we encountered during our week, there were a lot of Italians there; in fact some of the street names in the old town were in both French and Italian. I didn’t realise just how close the city was from the Italian border. In fact it is only around 15 miles to the border from the old town.

We certainly enjoyed more than our fair share of Italian ice cream.

On our final day, we walked to Parc de la Colline du Chateau, a park that overlooks the old town and the Baie des Anges for some breathtaking views of the city in the glorious sunshine that we had enjoyed for just about all of the week (apart from a rather spectacular thunderstorm one day which we fortunately just missed and forced us to sit in a restaurant for a little longer than we had anticipated – allowing me to enjoy an extra baron of Kronenbourg!).

Sadly, we are back now but I wonder whether we traversed a weird space vortex on our trip back to Manchester. The temperature in Nice was a very pleasant 27 °C and back in Manchester today the temperature is exactly the same. I think we must have brought back a little bit of Nice with us.
I leave you with a few photographs of the city.

Stephen and his girlfriend make a new friend in the old town
Place Garibaldi
Shopping in the old town
Like father like son (yes - we were in big trouble)
Mrs PM ordered cactus for dinner
Nice from Parc de la Colline du Chateau
Old town market
A quaint little shop
I think we might return in the future because Nice is, as the name suggests, very beautiful. I recommend it.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Musique De Détente

It seems like ages since I’ve had a holiday. My trips to Oman in December and May simply do not count because that involves lots of work, virtually no sightseeing and little free time.

Thankfully, we are off to France on Tuesday, a visit to Nice and the surrounding area with, of course, Mrs PM and this time my eldest lad, Stephen, and his girlfriend. We aim to take in places like Cannes and Monte Carlo as well as some time relaxing by the beach.

I can speak a little French but thankfully I won’t have to humiliate myself too much as Mrs PM speaks the language extremely well, having studied it at university, during which time she spent a year in Toulouse.

I will write a more detailed post on my return but in the meantime, I thought I would leave you with a couple of songs that I like to listen to when relaxing on the beach in the sunshine (well to be brutally honest I will almost certainly be under an umbrella and covered from head to toe in high factor sun tan cream lest I end up like this ).

The songs are all really what I would class as chillax music, chillax being a word that seems to have been invented to combine the words chill and relax – a tautology that is perhaps unnecessary but kind of sums up that feeling of drifting away with the heat of the sun, the cool breeze and the gentle lapping of waves on a beach.

All the songs are beautiful in my opinion.

I hope you like them too.

Enya – Caribbean Blue

This song by Enya sums up perfectly the feeling of being on a beach holiday. Whenever I hear it, I imagine sitting on a hill overlooking a beautiful cloud free sky over a lapis blue sea with the waves crashing on an untouched and unspoilt beach.

Air – Redhead Girl

While this song doesn’t conjure an idyllic image of a beach in the sun, the beauty of the music helps to soothe my troubled mind. It’s one of those songs that erodes stress and allows me to put my worries into a crate and cast it adrift onto a sea, hopefully never to be seen again.

Porcupine Tree – Sentimental

Steven Wilson is, at the moment, my favourite musician; he is the brains behind Porcupine Tree and has released, one of my favourite albums of the last couple of decades. While he is really a progressive rock superstar, he has written some incredibly mellow and moving songs in recent years. This song is simply wonderful and again is a stress killer.

Madonna – Swim

Shock! Horror! The Metal-loving Mancunian has posted a Madonna song. I don’t care! I love the album Ray of Light simply because it has some great songs, most of which are smooth peaceful numbers that are extremely delightful. This song is one that makes me think of floating on my back on a gentle sea. How more relaxed can you get than that?

 Morcheeba – The Sea

The song does exactly what it says on the tin. Play the song and you will see exactly what I mean and the reasons why I love it. I kind of want to leave my soul by the sea. Maybe one day I will.

Empire of the Sun – We Are The People

Picture the scene.

Mrs PM and I sitting in a pub with me ranting about the dreadful pop music that landlords insist on playing at a volume so high that we can barely hear ourselves think. I was in mid rant when the next song came on – this very song in fact – and I simply closed my mouth in shock.

“Oh I suppose you hate this one too,” said Mrs PM.

“No,” I said, “this is bloody brilliant!”

This is one of those rare songs that cross the vast divide between my taste and Mrs PM’s taste, and that is a magnificent achievement itself.

Joe Satriani – The Golden Room

Joe Satriani is my favourite guitarist and he is technically flawless. He’s not a bad songwriter either. While this song is slightly less mellow than the previous offerings, the Indian percussion adds an exotic flavour to the wonderful guitar and it is this combination that allows me imagine travelling through weird and strange landscapes.

Moby – Rushing

This song is simply beautiful and absolutely dripping with positivity. I challenge anyone to listen to this and not feel better by the end of it.

Steven Wilson – Deform To Form A Star

This is Steven Wilson’s second contribution to this post, this time from his second solo album rather than from Porcupine Tree. As a solo artist, he has expanded beyond the constraints of the band and this song is a fine example of his unrestrained genius. Deform To Form A Star is an absolute masterpiece. Listen to it and feel your traumas dissipate with each note.

Nine Inch Nails – Find My Way

I think this song sums me up, perfectly.

Trent Reznor has definitely mellowed over the years from the angry young man of the late 1980’s. The change is evident in Find My Way, a song from his most recent album, a hauntingly beautiful song that is a guaranteed stress killer.

At the age of 51, I am still trying to find my way although I am getting much closer as I get older so this sums me up pretty accurately.

I simply love he song and it inspires me to make a greater effort to find my own way.

And Finally …

C'est ça! I hope you find the songs agreeable and I would be interested to hear which songs you would recommend to add my chillax playlist.

Au revoir and see you in a week or two.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

If I Could ...

It’s been a while since I’ve stolen a meme so I think I need to be a thief again. This particular meme was stolen by Pandora at Princess Pandora – Queen of Denial, who is solely responsible for leading me astray, having stolen it herself.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense; let’s dive straight in.

Travel anywhere, where would it be?

I would take a round the world trip taking in places old and new. I would bypass Europe on this trip because it is so close and I go there often anyway. So it would be a flight from Manchester to Hong Kong, with a quick visit to Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia then off to Japan via the Phillippines and South Korea. From Japan I would fly south to Australia and then to New Zealand. From there I would head east again to Chile and a tour of South America calling in at Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay, before heading north to call into Mexico. Finally I would head to Cape Town and fly north towards home via Egypt.

Meet anyone, who would it be?

I think it would have to be the three members of my favourite band, Rush. I would chat to them about their music and history and how they have managed to produce fantastic songs like this:

Also, I would hopefully persuade Alex Lifeson to teach me to play the guitar.

Bring anyone dead back to life, who would it be?

I think that would have to be my dad – just to let him know that I have done okay. 

Be anyone for a day, who would it be?

I think I’d like to be an actor currently filming a blockbuster movie. When I was a kid, I always fancied treading the boards – it’s sad to say that I would probably have been too overcome with stage fright to actually do it. 

Get anything for free for the rest of your life what would it be? 

Free concert tickets for any band that took my fancy – complete with backstage passes so that I could meet the band.

Change one thing about your life what would it be? 

My chosen career. In fact, I would leave the rat race completely and relish in the freedom it brings.

 Have any superpower what would it be? 

I think I’d like to be able to teleport anyway – and anywhen! Imagine being able to go back in time and watch historical events? Or pop to the future and see life in the next century?

That would be fantastic.

Be any animal for a day which would you be? 

A bird of prey, for the simple reason that they have the freedom of the sky without fearing any other creature. 

Date anyone who would it be? 

Mrs PM- of course!

Change one thing about the world what would it be? 

I would eliminate extremism of any kind and banish all extremists to a huge island with no escape, with a view to letting them all argue the toss with each other for the rest of their miserable lives. I am sick of reading about the opinions of nutters around the world who try to impose their crazy notions on the peaceful majority. It would also have a great side effect – no more war.
A simplistic view but I reckon it would work.

Live in any fictional universe which would you choose? 

I think that would have to be the Star Trek universe. I would start by transporting to all of the places on Earth that I wanted to visit without the pain of having to spend hours getting there – and finally I would boldly go where Captain Kirk has gone before.

Eliminate one of your human needs which would you get rid of? 

I think that would have to be sleep.  We don’t live long enough as it is but wasting seven hours a day is a bit of a sick joke. That said, there are few better feelings than being in a comfy bed about five minutes before sleep is due.

Change one thing about your physical appearance what would it be? 

My hair! No question. 

Change one of your personality traits which would you choose? 

I would eliminate my shyness. People who know me are amazed to discover that I consider myself shy but the truth is I have been battling this particular trait since I was a young man. I have had many victories and I am much less shy than I was – but there are occasions when it catches me unawares and all I want to do is crawl under a rock. 

Be talented at anything instantly what would you choose? 

That’s easy; to be able to play the guitar as well as Joe Satriani:

Forget one event in your life which would you choose? 

I don’t think I would forget any event, even a bad one. Such things make you stronger as a human being. I wouldn’t be me if I could just forget something bad.

Erase an event from history (make it so it never happened) which would you choose? 

That’s a tough question because without such significant events, the world wouldn’t be the place it is now. If pushed, I would have to go for one of the most significant recent events, the attack on the America on September 11th 2001. There have been so many repercussions because of this event – none of them positive.

Have any hair/eye/skin color, which would you choose? 

I’m told that I have lovely blue eyes – it’s just a pity they are useless. I can’t imagine being anything other than blond, so I would probably just return the colour of my hair to the time I was a kid.

Be any weight/body type, which would you choose? 

I am Mr Average when it comes to height and body type. I would maybe try to remove the flab that has appeared over the last ten years and replace it with a more toned upper body. I would probably make myself a few inches taller so I could see over everybody at a stand up concert.

Live in any country/city, where would you choose? 

Hong Kong.

Change one law in your country, which would you change? 

I would make the weekend longer. I would rather work longer hours from Monday to Thursday and have Friday, Saturday and Sunday as weekend – oh and double the amount of holidays we get.

Be any height, which would you choose?  

See above – maybe 6’5’’.

Have any job in the world, which would you choose? 

A travel writer. That would combine my love of travel and writing.

Have anything appear in your pocket right now, what would it be? 

A cheque for 10 million pounds.

Have anyone beside you right now, who would it be?

Mrs PM and my two sons.