Saturday, 29 October 2016

Proactive Washing

The other day I had a surreal conversation with Mrs PM.

It went like this.

Mrs PM: I want to weight myself but I can’t.

PM: Why? You’re not scared are you? You look fa… OWWW!!!! Why did you thump me?

Mrs PM: You know why, you arse!

PM: I was going to say, you look fabulous!! What did you think I was going to say? Anyway - why can’t you weigh yourself?

Mrs PM:  Oh! Thanks! The batteries have run out on the scales and we haven’t got any more.

PM: Yes we have. I bought some, remember? I’m proactive. As I’ve always said, it’s better to have stuff in than nothing at all.

Mrs PM: You’re not proactive! I’m the proactive one out of the two of us.

PM: Then why didn’t you buy the batteries? When I bought them two weeks ago, you said “Why have you bought those batteries? We don’t need them!”

Mrs PM: No I didn’t.

PM: Yes you did. I’m surprised you don’t remember. You remember things that I said eighteen years ago. OWWWW!!! What’s that for?

Mrs PM: I’ve just remembered what you said to Susan in 2001!

PM: See? I don’t remember that! In fact, I’m not even sure who Susan is!

Mrs PM: It shows that I’ve got a good memory and that you are a stupid arse!

PM: What did I say?

Mrs PM: Well if you don’t remember, I’m not going to tell you.

PM: What does that even mean?

Mrs PM: It means that you are an arse!

PM: By the way, did you know that women make great archaeologists?

Mrs PM: Why?

PM: Because they love digging up the past. OWWW!!! What was that for?

Mrs PM: Sexist pig!

PM: It was a joke.

Mrs PM: I’ll remember that!

PM: I bet you will. Pity you don’t remember saying what you said about the batteries.

Mrs PM: That’s because I didn’t say it.

PM: Yes you did. Did you know that those batteries are also used for other things like the TV remote control, for example?

Mrs PM: Really? I thought you were just hoarding batteries. You hoard other stuff.

PM: No I don’t. I’m proactive. When you’ve just shopped, you leave things off the list because “we don’t need it”. And then we run out. I’ve always said it’s better to have too much than not enough. We nearly ran out of toothpaste last week you know.

Mrs PM: Yeah – and we’ve got food that’s past its sell-by date because you bought too much.

PM: Nonsense – and when I say that I mean you saying that you’re proactive.

Mrs PM: Okay smartarse! Tell me why you’re proactive and I’m not.

PM: Well besides the batteries and the toothpaste, I’m proactive with the washing.

At this point I have to pause because Mrs PM burst out laughing and I watched in puzzled astonishment as she struggled to control herself.

PM: What’s so funny?

Mrs PM: Proactive washing? What the hell is that?

PM: Look at the washing basket and you’ll see.

Mrs PM: It’s empty.

PM: Exactly.

Mrs PM: You are deranged. What the hell are you talking about?

PM: I’ve done the washing before the washing basket filled up and started overflowing with dirty shreddies and socks!

Editor’s note – “shreddies” are what the Plastic Mancunian calls his underpants for reasons that I don’t want to go into. Suffice it say, it’s not a pleasant name when you think about it.

Mrs PM: So proactive washing is making sure that the washing basket is empty?

PM: Duh! Yes!

Mrs PM: I thought you meant that proactive washing is making sure that the washing never gets dirty. I’ve got a wardrobe full of clean clothes if you want to be proactive about it. You can wash all my clean clothes BEFORE they get dirty. That way, the washing basket will never ever have anything in it.

PM: What are you talking about?

Mrs PM: You! You’re an idiot!

PM: Well I’ll remember that!

Mrs PM: No you won’t!

PM: Yes I will! I’ll write it down in my next blog post.

Mrs PM: And let the world know exactly what an idiot you are. Proactive washing! Have you heard yourself?

Maybe I will review the conversation and not post it after all. I don’t want to look daft to the world. I also don’t want the world to know that I don’t understand women. Looking back, I still can’t understand why I was thumped three times during these exchanges. It also makes people think that I rarely win these fun exchanges with the love of my life. The truth is I rarely do.

I think I’ll consign this draft post to the “also rans” folder on my computer.

“Proactive washing” indeed! 

What a stupid idea! 

What a stupid title for a blog post.

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