An Inauspicious Return To Writing Poetry After 20 Months Of Not Writing Poetry

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I haven’t penned a poem
Sine the year ended in eight
So, it would be quite unfair
To expect this to be great

Quality is not my goal
That would be a step too far
If anything, my aim is
To really lower the bar

To write poetry this bad
Is nothing short of a feat
You can’t replicate this dross
Don’t even try to compete

Don’t kid yourself that you could
Produce such appalling verse
You might think your poem’s bad
This is definitely worse

There is perhaps merit in
Consistent rhymes and rhythms
Which were at least on display
Until the final line of what, it turns out, is a really rubbish poem

Surely Monday the 13th is as bad as Friday the 13th? Or worse? Cos it’s Monday….

James Proclaims (4)

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It’s the second Monday in January and Christmas is now but a distant memory. Although my bank balance might disagree and pay day does seem to be a frighteningly long time away.

Also, my 17-month-old daughter, who is continuing to make impressive leaps in terms of her vocabulary acquisition and likes to make use of this skill at every available opportunity, is still regularly punctuating many a silence with a cheerful “Ho Ho Ho”. I taught her to say this in December and back then it was adorable, whereas now it is…

…no, it is still adorable.

Nonetheless we are working on new words and phrases and perhaps looking to phase out that little party trick.

Another of her favourite words is ‘Chocolate’. I suspect I taught her that one too. There is still a lot of it about and she’s decided that she’s a fan. Fortunately, she will be saved from childhood obesity because her father tends to scoff the lot.

To mitigate this inability to not eat the readily available calories that persist in my home, I am maintaining my gym regime. This is only a new thing insofar as I still can’t swim due to a much improved but still unresolved ear problem, but I have been attempting to improve my cardiovascular condition for a while now so no-one should be under any illusions that I am attending the gym in an attempt to fulfil a New Year’s Resolution. If that were the case I’d have definitely given up by now.

I’ve been back in work for a full week and I’m still keen to pursue early retirement. I just need to find a generous benefactor to pay for this. Currently none seem to be forthcoming, so the daily grind must continue.

Which means that any hope I might have had of reducing my caffeine intake is seeming increasingly fanciful. That is another daily grind that must continue. Although I appear to have recovered from my pretentious connoisseur phase during which I insisted on grinding my own coffee beans. There is no doubt that I enjoyed delicious coffee during that phase but it was somewhat labour intensive and, on balance, not really worth it.

Given that working for a living does seem to be a necessary evil for the foreseeable, I am considering changing employers. I have nothing against my current employers (well nothing that I would commit to writing on the internet anyway) but I would like an employer who will pay me more for doing my job. And January does seem to be the season for jobhunting when you work in the education sector. So, I am looking and indeed considering applying for several opportunities.

Whether I am successful in securing any of these opportunities remains to be seen. I tend to be quite good at getting myself onto shortlists for interviews but sometimes less good at getting myself onto the even shorter list of being the person who is actually offered the job. Although I do have a tendency to only put myself forward for jobs which represent an obscene pay increase so one would imagine that the competition is a little stiffer than it might be if I pursued more realistic opportunities.

Obviously if an obscene pay increase were my only motivating factor, I might be better off looking outside of the education sector, given that it is not a sector notorious for its high salaries. And maybe that would be a move worth considering. But I fear, at this stage of my career, I have rather put all my skillset ‘eggs’ firmly into the education sector ‘basket’. And I would generally feel happier doing a job I’m actually good at. It’s not a deal breaker though…

Call me hardboiled but, having just used the word ‘egg’ and having concluded last week’s post with some egg-shell-ent yolks, I appear to have poached the same idea this week. Perhaps because I’m feeling a little fried. I’m scrambling for ideas…

I’m batter than this. Omlettin’ you know it won’t happen again.

Please whisk coming back next week.

Xmas Epilogue or Yuletide Eulogy

James Proclaims (4)

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Today is January 6th and by any definition Christmas is now over. Except for all the masses of chocolate, wine and beer that appear to be in plentiful supply chez moi. This surplus is partly due to the fact that I was, for much of the festive period, quite unwell and indeed on medication, so I was less inclined to consume it all as readily as I might under normal circumstances. However, I did still consume a fair bit of chocolate and, once I’d finished with medication (circa New Year’s Eve), I also upped my alcohol intake so the remaining produce is partly still around because there was just a lot of it to begin with.

People that I know seem to be aware that I like all of the above consumables, probably  because I tell them this at every available opportunity. Consequently a lot of the gifts I receive tend to be of that ilk. And I receive a surprising amount of gifts for someone as curmudgeonly as I imagine myself to be.

It’s ok though; my New Year’s Resolutions, such as they are, did not include going on a diet. It wouldn’t work. I like food and drink too much to ever really be committed to not consuming it.

I’d rather exercise, which I am, once again, doing quite a bit. I’m not quite up to swimming, which is currently my preferred method of calorie burning, because a recent spell of consecutive ear infections has resulted in medical advice to avoid the pool for a few weeks. But I am going to the gym, which is fine. Not fun, but functional. Functional has the word fun in it. But they are not synonyms.

Today, though, I return to work after having had the last two weeks off.

As previously mentioned, I was quite ill for the last fortnight. As were my wife and child. We did our best to enjoy the festivities but my home was not a happy place. Still, I’d rather relive the last two weeks in perpetuity than go back to work.

Insofar as I have to do any job, I don’t especially object to my job but in truth I can’t imagine a scenario whereby doing any job would be better than not having to work at all.

Some people suggest that not having a job would be boring.

Those people are wrong.

I could happily fill my time without the need for a job. I’m not saying I’d contribute anything valuable to society, but I would be happy enough.

But for some reason my mortgage provider expects me to make ‘regular payments’ to them just because they once lent me quite a lot of money so I could buy a house. It’s extortion really.

But as no-one is prepared to give me money for sitting around in my Christmas onesie, eating chocolate and watching bad movies, I have had to pack up said onesie for another year and don a shirt and tie again. And it’s not even the ‘fun’ Christmas-themed tie that I ‘hilariously’ wore the week before Christmas.

But the chocolate-eating will continue. I have enough to last me until Easter and we all know what happens then.

And alongside the new influx of chocolate, there will be an eggs-cuse to crack lots of egg-cellent yolks, which I shell be egg-static about.

Too soon?

 

 

 

 

 

So You Say You Want A Resolution…

James Proclaims (4)

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Ah 2020. What a year.

I mean it’s obviously only just begun, but I have a feeling that 2020 will be a year like no other.

Call it 2020 foresight if you will, but I predict that the year to come will be one that changes everything.

But obviously not in a good way.

There appear to be quite a lot of mad people in charge of the world at the moment. More than is normal or sustainable.

Nations appear to be divided and political rhetoric is becoming increasingly divisive and inflammatory.

Oh and according to the Extinction Rebellion, who in spite of their name, all seem to be quite nice middle class people that we can trust, the environment is shot to pieces.

So, it seems only reasonable to assume that the world, as we know it, is going to end in 2020.

In which case it seems fairly pointless making any New Years Resolutions.

At least not the usual kind.

I mean I should still probably commit to some kind of personal growth, because if my devotion to bad action movies tells me anything it’s that there will be some kind of life post the apocalypse. It’ll be a kind of dystopic wasteland but life will go on.

And, on the off chance that I survive the forthcoming Armageddon, I’m going to need to be in better shape than I am now.

So in 2020 I’ll be hitting the gym. But not in some vague attempt to improve my fitness and health as might seems sensible for a man of my age. Nor is it some misguided, vanity-driven attempt to recapture my rapidly disappearing youth.

No, I’ll be hitting the gym so that when Judgement Day arrives, I can be the grizzled, cynical, but ultimately kind-hearted hero that the world needs me to be.

But, on the off chance the world doesn’t end, I will at least have improved my health and fitness. And possibly prolonged my rapidly disappearing youth.

And while I’m waiting for the End of Days, I might try and blog a bit more often than I did in 2019.

And possibly cut down on my caffeine intake.

And maybe do a bit of decorating because the old homestead is looking a bit shabby.

And perhaps watch a bit less TV and read a few more books.

But all of that is academic.

Because the end is clearly nigh.

Happy New Year Everyone!

 

 

 

The (Fairly Predictable) James Proclaims New Year’s Eve Review Of The Year That Was And Indeed The Decade That Was

James Proclaims (6)

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As this is very much the last day of 2019 it behoves me to write about the year that has just happened. But because 2019 ends in a ‘9’ it behoves me to write about the last decade too. There is always some debate that the new decade doesn’t start until the beginning of a year that ends in a ‘1’, but, even though the argument for that is underpinned by sound logic and fact, the reality is that we all consider the year ending in ‘0’ as the start of the new decade (or century or indeed millenium as appropriate). So to all intents and purposes, today is the end of the decade that may or may not have been known at the teens.

But since becoming a dad approximately 17 months ago, I can’t even remember what happened yesterday let alone recall anything of significance that happened in the last ten years.

It is, of course, customary for such a ‘review’ to focus on the wider world, but I’m not going to do that for two reasons:

  1. Other people will do a much better job of that than I could ever possibly hope to achieve.
  2.  It all seems to have gone downhill since 2010 and that decline seems to have accelerated since 2016.

So for those reasons, and also because I’m a bit narcissistic, this post will be all about me.

This is definitely the first decade in which I’ve been a proper ‘grown-up’ for its entirety . I was technically an adult for all of the noughties but, whereas I haven’t really been drunk on any New Years Eve throughout this decade, I saw in the year 2000 absolutely hammered and wandering the streets of Cardiff with nowhere to sleep until the first trains started running the following morning. And that was not unusual behaviour for the ensuing decade.

So I have made some personal progress.

Beyond no longer drinking irresponsibly (or at least not as often) there have been some other developments for me in the last ten years.

I started 2010 as an unmarried childless man. I was engaged to be married to the woman I am now married to, and we were living together, but we didn’t get married until August of 2010.

My daughter didn’t arrive for another eight years, but as eight years is less than a decade it is entirely accurate to say that the ‘teens’ (which I’m definitely calling them even if no-one else does) is when I became both a husband and father.

It’s also, just about, the decade that I went from being a directionless waste of space, career-wise, to having a definite career and indeed career-path. Admittedly it’s a career-path I don’t especially want to be on, but, having experienced the ‘wilderness years’ which largely describes the preceding decade, the wrong career-path is possibly better than no career-path at all.

It has allowed me to get a mortgage if nothing else. For indeed the decade to which we’re about to bid adieu is the decade in which I became a homeowner for the first time. Again, it’s not necessarily a home worth owning, but having been mistreated more than once by the rental market, I’m happier owning my ramshackle terraced house with all it’s dysfunctional plumbing than paying double my mortgage in rent for a tiny flat owned by a shady landlord.

As for 2019, it’s not been a vintage year really. I spent most of the first four months trying to complete my MA at the expense of pretty much everything else. Except my daughter who will not be ignored even for academic deadlines.

I succeeded in my academic endeavours, but have spent the remaining eight months trying to get back into shape after making some questionable decisions regarding diet and exercise during that feverish period of study. Since April I have been largely exercising at pretty much the expense of everything else. Except my daughter who will not be ignored even for a brutal and unforgiving fitness regime.

Nothing much else of a personal nature happened in 2019, beyond my daughter’s continued development which I notionally contribute to but to a much lesser extent than Mrs Proclaims and indeed the child herself whose desire to conquer each developmental milestone appears to be voracious. She had pretty much nailed walking by eleven months old and then subsequently attempted to destroy every possession of ours that wasn’t nailed down.

Talking seems to be her project du jour and she’s making excellent progress. She’s always been a chatterbox, but these days some of what she says actually makes sense. I expect she’ll have her own blog soon. And it’ll be much better than this one.

Speaking of this blog, it was halfway through the last decade that ‘James Proclaims’ became a thing. May 10th, 2015 to be precise. And 2019 appears to be the year I almost killed it off by barely posting anything.

But I appear to have rallied at the end of 2019 and December has actually been quite a productive month blog-wise.

It’s not all been good, but it has been something.

Which is often better than nothing.

And in 2020 I expect I’ll write more posts that are of questionable quality and worth.

But I can’t commit to that today.

Because that would be a resolution.

And we all know that resolutions come on the 1st of January.

So tune in tomorrow to see if ‘blogging more often in 2020’ makes the cut for my 2020 resolutions.

 

 

 

 

 

Hoping For A Twixmas Miracle

James Proclaims (4)

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As we’re roughly in the midpoint of that weird period between Christmas and New Year, known to some as Twixmas (and this is not because the only chocolates left in the mostly-eaten tub of Celebrations at this point are the rubbish Twix ones), I thought I’d take some time to reflect on the festive period so far.

It’s not been a vintage year in the Proclaims household. We’ve all been ill since Christmas Eve. My ear-infection appears to be improving thanks to the antibiotics I’m on, but I have subsequently caught Mrs Proclaims’ cold which is quite horrible and seems to have floored both of us. The littlest Proclaims is also still a bit under the weather, although her antibiotics have certainly helped her to bounce back considerably from the tonsillitis that had me taking her to A&E on Christmas morning. Indeed, were it not for the regular snot that she delights in rubbing on my Christmas-themed onesie (a fashion choice I make only at Christmas and one which I carry off with all the dignity you’d expect of an overweight forty year old wearing an oversized baby grow) and an intermittent cough, you’d imagine she was operating at full capacity.

She certainly seems to be wreaking havoc wherever she roams which is normally par for the course. She spared us this destruction on Christmas Eve and the big day itself, but she did cover me and the sofa in vomit. On balance that was probably worse.

Most of the time I go a little feral during the Twixmas period but this year I’ve really let myself go. I had been planning on having a very different sort of Christmas break. I’d been planning on doing lots of swimming, which I have been doing quite a lot since I finished my MA back in April. But an ear infection means you can’t go swimming. So I joined a gym. But I’m currently too ill to do that either.

I can’t drink alcohol at the moment – apparently that would not sit well with my medication.

I suppose that is some mitigation for the lack of exercise.

But there is still a lot of bad food around.

And I’m eating it.

They do say ‘feed a cold’.

But now my cold is currently so well-fed it probably has gout.

And it seems to be enjoying the lifestyle because it doesn’t appear to be inclined to go anywhere anytime soon.

Still, I expect I’ll be better in a few days.

Just in time to make some New Year’s Resolutions.

One of which will to never be ill again.

 

 

The Fifth Annual Christmas Message from James Proclaims

James Proclaims (4)

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Merry Christmas!

Yes it’s the big day once again and everyone everywhere is making merry!

Except for those that aren’t. Which is probably quite a few people. But let’s not trouble our consciences thinking of those less fortunate than ourselves. It’s Christmas for goodness sake! If ever there was a day for reckless self-indulgence then surely today is the day. I’m certain that’s the true meaning of Christmas. Either that or the adverts are lying to me. And that just seems preposterous…

As with most years (with the exception of last year) I’m scheduling this post to go ‘live’ at the same time as the Queen addresses the nation. It’s a friendly little rivalry that our beloved monarch and I share. She’s not aware of it of course but it still counts.

As usual the press have already leaked much of what the Queen will be saying, so you don’t need to watch her anyway. And, I’m not saying my security is better than Buckingham Palace, but no news outlet has released any spoilers for this.

The Queen will, if sources are correct, be lamenting a bad year for the royals. And my heart does bleed for them.

But we’re not having it all our own way chez Proclaims. I’m currently on antibiotics for an ear infection, Mrs Proclaims is nursing a very bad cold and is exhausted having been up for much of the night with our darling daughter. Who is more ill than both of us.

I took her to A&E this morning, where she was seen by a nurse who was dressed as an elf, but who lacked the cheery disposition of an elf. She then saw a doctor who, disappointingly, was dressed as a doctor but who had the cheery disposition of an elf. Fortunately we escaped with some more antibiotics and we don’t have to spend the whole day in hospital, but not the loveliest start to Christmas Day I’ve ever had.

Oh and just to add to the holiday cheer someone broke into my car a couple of days ago and stole my sat nav.

Ho Ho Bloody Ho.

Still it’s not all doom and gloom.

Seeing my daughter’s delight at unwrapping a Peppa Pig stuffed toy this morning was priceless.

And because she’s lacking her usual energy levels, the Christmas tree is still standing.

I’m sure she’ll rectify that once the meds kick in…

Anyway, wherever and whoever you are, I hope you’re having a brilliant Christmas!

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 24

James Proclaims (6)

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And so The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films comes to an end.

But what film could be lurking behind door 24?

Why it’s only the utterly brilliant 2019 superhero movie Shazam!.

When it comes to superheroes on the silver screen, there’s no denying that Marvel/Disney have had considerably more success in recent years than DC/Warner Bros and certainly the Marvel Cinematic Universe is far more coherent than the DC Extended Universe. That said, inconsistent though DC./ Warner Bros have been, on the few occasions that they get it right, they really get it right.

And with  Shazam! they got it spectacularly right.

Lighter in tone and eminently more fun than most superhero offerings these days, it still packs enough of a punch to keep action fans interested.

Given that the eponymous hero is a teenage boy who transforms into a an adult (Asher Angel and Zachary Levi do a remarkable job of convincing us that they are the same person) comparisons with 1988’s Big are inevitable, and it’s nice to see a little homage to one of the more memorable scenes from that film in this one.

Shazam! is immensely entertaining from start to finish and easily one of the best offerings within the DC Extended Universe alongside 2017’s Wonder Woman.

Score for Christmasishness

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In spite of its release in April of this year, Shazam! is about as Christmas(ish) as they come. Tinsel and baubles abound and there are multiple scenes with a cowardly (and foulmouthed) Santa. The final showdown between good and evil takes place in a Christmas fair and there is snow aplenty throughout the movie. Even the prologue at the beginning is set during Christmas 1974.  This is a movie that is virtually guaranteed repeat viewings every December.

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 23

James Proclaims (6)

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Time for door 23 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films, which, thankfully means we’re almost done with my delusions of film connoisseurship for another year.

Probably.

I have been known to throw in the odd film review that has nothing to do with Christmas in the past.

But it’s hardly a regular occurrence so once tomorrow’s entry is done and dusted I’ll be back to writing about …erm… whatever it is I normally write about.

Which is mostly nothing.

Or, as has been the case of much of 2019, I might not write anything at all. Which is the same as writing about nothing but with less words.

Back to today though and the penultimate entry in this years pointless cinematic Christmas countdown is 2005’s Crash.

Which is undisputedly a good film.

It won an Oscar for Best Picture for goodness sake.

And it has a fantastic ensemble cast.

Although, and maybe it’s just me, but it does seem a little bit trite at times. And heavy-handed with it’s core message.

Maybe it was more ground-breaking in 2005 than it seems to be in 2019.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worth a watch. There are some genuinely great performances and some truly affecting moments.

I just don’t think it’s as good as it thinks it is.

 

Score for Christmasishness

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Crash definitely appears to be set around Christmas. But I’m not at all sure why. It doesn’t need to be. It seemingly adds nothing at all to the movie and aside from when there are obvious decorations in the background, you could easily forget the time of year. But there are enough trees, lights and baubles to make it undeniably a bit Christmas(ish).

 

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 22

James Proclaims (6)

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2015’s Run All Night is the third (of four to date) collaborations between director Jaume Collet-Serra and senescent superman Liam Neeson.

Like all their other collaborations (Unknown, Non-Stop and The Commuter)  it’s a pretty ‘by the numbers’ action flic.

This is fine if you like that kind of thing.

Which I do.

Unfortunately, at times, Run All Night seems to think it’s a better film than it is and  it probably takes itself a bit too seriously at times. It could definitely do with an injection of humour.

But it’s a perfectly serviceable if somewhat derivative thriller.

 

Score for Christmasishness

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Despite the absence of anything remotely resembling joy, there’s no denying that this film is quite Christmas(ish). There are Christmas lights and trees aplenty in the background. Also Neeson dresses up a Santa at one point. Admittedly a creepy and intoxicated Santa, but Santa nonetheless.