It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like… No, My Mistake – It’s Looked Like This For A While…

James Proclaims (4)

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And so today is the last day of November.

Which is a good thing, because November is rubbish.

But tomorrow is December.

And December is better.

Because it means that Christmas is coming, and Christmas is good.

That said, Christmas has been very much on the agenda for a while now. I think my ‘office’ Christmas party was being discussed as far back as June, and certainly large sections of major retail outlets have been dedicated to festive fare for more than a few months now.

Throughout November innumerable towns and cities have turned on their Christmas lights. The John Lewis Christmas ad has been launched to the usual misplaced fervour of excitement, although this year it seems to be the subject of controversy on the basis that they nicked the idea off a children’s book. I thought that stealing the work of others was par for the course in advertising, but people are upset because the John Lewis advert is meant to be its own artistic endeavour for some reason. I suppose it has been a Christmas ‘tradition’ since 2007 so you can understand why people are upset.

Perhaps, more controversially, some people are claiming that this year’s Debenhams Christmas advert is better than the John Lewis one anyway.

So basically, Christmas is ruined already.

Although, now I think about it, the only John Lewis Christmas ad I can even remember is the one that had the penguin in it and apparently that was way back in 2014, so clearly, I haven’t been paying much attention to them anyway.

The penguin ad was pretty cool though.

Or was it?

I can’t actually remember.

But penguins are always cool, so it must’ve been ok.

Anyway, the point is that Christmas is almost upon us.

And, once December arrives, the Christmas cacophony just gets louder and louder, be it retailers who want to deprive me of my last few pennies, or everyone wanting to know what my plans for the festive period are (I don’t have any – I never have any, beyond eating lots of food and watching lots of telly and maybe, if push comes to shove and I really have no alternative, spending time with other people).

The 1st December also brings with it the magic of the Advent calendar. I always get a chocolate Advent calendar. I’ve had one every year for as long as I can remember.

Actually, that’s not true – I can remember when I was a small child having to make do with a picture-based Advent calendar, like a chump, but at some point I was upgraded to chocolate and I haven’t looked back since.

I’d genuinely be upset if I didn’t get one this year.

I’m 38.

Anyway, these days there are lots of other kinds of advent calendars available as retailers try to make us part with even more of our hard-earned cash. You can get beer, prosecco and even Lego Advent calendars to name but a few.

I’m not sure how I feel about any of those.

I’m happy with a daily bite of, often poor-quality, chocolate.

I’d certainly be disappointed if presented with the Kellogg’s Variety Pack Advent calendar, which I saw in a supermarket yesterday. Cereal variety packs are for summer staycations, not for counting down to Christmas and frankly, even if every door was Co Co Pops it wouldn’t be great but you know that some doors are definitely going to be Corn Flakes. Corn Flakes have no business in an Advent Calendar!

Still the Advent calendar craze is the inspiration for the next adventure on James Proclaims as, starting tomorrow, I will dazzle the blogosphere with a daily review of a film.

A film that is a bit Christmassy.

I’m calling it The James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films.

To qualify the film (or TV special in some cases) has to have some link to Christmas. It also has to be something I plan to watch in the next few weeks (or have already watched so many times that re-watching it is unnecessary) which would rule out a number of films that other people seem to really enjoy around this time of year.

Like 2003’s ‘Elf’. Because although I have seen it, I don’t remember enough about it to write a review of it, but I do remember enough to know that I didn’t really like it that much. I know other people like it, but those people are wrong. Having said that, I did enjoy the 2014 cartoon-musical version of it voiced by Sheldon off of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and Mark Hamill off of ‘Star Wars’, but I won’t be including that either.

Worry not though, for that still leaves plenty of Christmas(ish) films to choose from.

Indeed I’m still not sure how I’m going to get it down to just 24 films.

But I will.

So get ready for a feast of festive films.

Yule Love it!*

 

 

 

*Bonus points if you can recall which Christmas Film that particular line is from.

Let’s All Just Take A Moment to Acknowledge My Momentous Achievement

James Proclaims (4)

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This month I have derided, mocked and otherwise made-fun of various November ‘traditions’. Many of my posts this month have been mock-ups of potential novels in an affectionate sendup of National Novel Writing Month, while I have also derided (at times with a touch less affection) such November notables as Movember, Black Friday (and it’s even stupider sibling ‘Cyber Monday’) and World Sandwich Day.

All the while though, I have been participating in the bloggiest of all the November novelties. For I have been ‘secretly’ participating in National Blog Posting Month (or NaBloPoMo) for which the goal is to produce a blog post for every day of November. That’s thirty posts in thirty days.

As a writing challenge it’s much easier than NaNoWriMo, but it’s still no mean feat I can tell you.

I haven’t been this productive on my blog since I did the same challenge two years ago.

Back then I swore I’d never do it again, because it’s really hard think of sufficient things to write about in order to produce that many posts.

Out of desperation I did stupid things during my 2015 NaBloPoMo challenge, such as writing a post on November 5th saying I couldn’t think of anything to write about. This was ludicrous for two reasons, firstly the ‘I can’t think of anything to write about’ post is all well and good later on in the month but using it up on day 5 was throwing away a potential lifeline very early on. Also, it was Guy Fawkes Night, so I should have just written about that. You’ll note I did not make the same mistake this year and Mr Fawkes very firmly had his place within my 2017 November challenge.

Anyway, today marks the day that I have achieved the thirty posts in thirty days challenge. It’s a day before the end of November because I posted on the last day of October.

Because that was Halloween, which seemed an obvious thing to blog about when trying to generate lots of content.

However, in the spirit of this being a November-specific challenge I will post something tomorrow too.

It will be an explanatory post about what will be happening on this blog during the month of December.

Because I’m extending this blogging party right up until Christmas and possibly beyond.

Do try and contain your excitement.

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 12

James Proclaims (4)

As November draws to a close, so too must my series of not-novels that I won’t be writing for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

If you’re actually participating in NaNoWriMo, and you haven’t yet given up, then worry not – you still have another two days to hit the coveted fifty-thousand-word count. Also, I salute you, I don’t think, in previous years when I have tried to do NaNoWriMo, that I ever made it past day 15, and even that year I’d really started to fade quite badly by around day 8.

But for my little series lampooning the modern novel, this is the twelfth and (for the time being) final contribution.

To be honest I’m amazed I’ve managed to churn out this many.

When I came up with the concept at the start of the month I only anticipated producing five. But it seems that, while I’ve oft struggled to find the requisite inspiration to produce my own novel, I seem to have no difficulty in finding the inspiration to mock the novels of others.

I’m not sure what that says about me as a person.

Probably nothing good.

But I’ve quite enjoyed it.

Particularly the fact that some people have told me that they would actually buy and read some of these nonsensical novels.

To be fair, they’d probably all sell a lot better than the kind of introspective, self-indulgent lament on modernity that would inevitably be the focus of any novel I might actually be bothered to produce.

And high sales figures is the motivation behind today’s, final, entry into the collection:

Dan Brown

What’s that?

You were hoping for an action-packed thriller starring everyone’s favourite ‘Symbologist’ Robert Langdon? You wanted a slightly incoherent plot underpinned by historical inaccuracy, written with questionable grammar and sentences like “the tall man picked up the big red book”?

You wanted conspiracy theories, implausible dialogue and easy-to-spot plot twists?

Sorry, you won’t find any of that here.

This is a slow-moving piece of high-brow literary fiction about the ruminations of a retired postal worker as he comes to grip with the passing of time and the ever-changing state of the world around him. ‘Dan Brown’ is the eponymous hero of the story, not the author. The author is me. James Proclaims. Surely that’s abundantly clear if you look at the cover of the book?

DAN Brown

No, you can’t have your money back.

A Slightly Confusing Metaphor To Illustrate How Utterly Redundant Cyber Monday Is As A Concept.

James Proclaims (4)

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Sometimes I like to think of Black Friday as the ‘bad guy’ in a second-rate action flick. He’s over-the-top and stupid, but poses a genuine threat to our hero – ‘Captain Common-Sense’.

Oh no! How will Captain Common-Sense survive that unbeatable deal on headphones? How will he remember that he already owns a perfectly good pair of headphones? Headphones that he barely uses anyway. With deals that good, surely, he’s going to be tempted to part with his hard-earned cash on another frivolous purchase. Curse you Black Friday!

Of course, if the movie runs true to form, Captain Common-Sense beats the temptations of Black Friday and wins the day.

And although it’s a genuinely dreadful film, the battle between Black Friday and Captain Common-Sense does well enough at the box office to merit a sequel.

And the sequel is vastly inferior to the already-bad original.

Because in an attempt to make a bigger, more compelling bad-guy, the studio massively misjudges what made the first film popular, which was that, although kind-of inane, Black Friday poses a genuine threat to the wallet of Captain Common-Sense because his deals are ‘for a limited time only’. That’s where the jeopardy is.

So, given that Captain Common-Sense has now prevailed, for any kind of sequel to work, the bad-guy needs to be a bit different.

Not exactly the same but with a different name.

And as far as I can see, the only difference between a ‘deal’ on Cyber Monday as opposed to a ‘deal’ on Black Friday, is that the Black Friday fake deals are available online and in-store, whereas Cyber Monday fake deals can only, by definition, be online. So Cyber Monday is exactly the same as Black Friday, only not as good.

And given that Black Friday is already pointless, Cyber Monday must therefore be worse than pointless.

And on that note…

Happy Cyber Monday everyone!

Let’s Make A Day Of It

James Proclaims (4)

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I enjoy a made-up-day as much as anyone. This month alone we’ve observed ‘World Sandwich Day’, ‘World Television Day’, ‘World Toilet Day’, ‘World Kindness Day’, ‘Beaujolais Nouveau Day’ and the ever-ridiculous ‘Black Friday’.

And those are just the ones I’ve mentioned on this blog. I missed the opportunity to cover ‘Hug-a-Bear Day’, ‘Spicy Guacamole Day’ and the truly oxymoronic ‘Use Your Common-Sense Day’ which are apparently also November ‘events’

But today brings a rare treat, for whoever organises the ‘World Days’ has made a double booking. That’s right, November 26th allows us to celebrate two different causes concurrently (well three if you count International Aura Awareness Day, but I’m afraid that might be a step too far for me)

Although there is a slight conflict of interests.

For today is apparently ‘Anti-Obesity day’ and, simultaneously, ‘World Cake Day’.

It does cause something of a quandary.

How can I support both days?

My only conclusion is that I must eat all the cakes, to save everyone else from obesity.

You’re welcome.

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 11

James Proclaims (4)

Back by ‘popular’ demand, here is my eleventh suggestion for a novel that I could have attempted to write during the annual novel-writing festival that is NaNoWriMo.

But to be clear, I’m not writing any of them.

Because they are not good ideas.

And today’s ‘not good idea’ is the following:

Children Of Dystopia

Are you a young adult (or do you fit into the incredibly vague parameters of what might qualify as a young adult)?

If the answer is yes, then maybe you’d like ‘Papier Mache Gorillas’, one of my earlier efforts at a potential YA novel. Or maybe you’d enjoy ‘The Golden Socks’ a magical children’s novel that should appeal to all ages.

But if they both seem a little too saccharine for your tastes, then maybe you’d prefer something a little darker.

If so, does the idea of a dystopian world appeal? One where troubled teens do battle for some hard-to-define reason? Perhaps where many of the main characters meet violent and disturbing ends at regular intervals?

Perhaps you like your fiction bleak, humourless and set in a nightmare version of the future, a sort of ‘1984’ for young people but nowhere near as inciteful or reflective as Orwell’s masterpiece.

Despite the carnage and brutal loss of life, some of the main characters will make it to the end of the novel and there will be the beginnings of a romance forming between two of the central characters, but don’t get too attached, because there will be more death, destruction and trauma in the ensuing sequels, before the trilogy of novels concludes with the toppling of the antagonistic and corrupt authority figures and an ensuing, albeit vague, sense of optimism. Nonetheless any survivors will be so traumatised that there’s no conceivable way they can ever hope to recover any semblance of joy in their lives.

Enjoy it all again as the trilogy gets made into a series of films, although you’ll no doubt be infuriated beyond all level of reason with the inevitable plot changes that will be required to make the big screen adaptation of a such a convoluted plot even remotely possible.

The Lone Planet

Happy Black Friday Day

James Proclaims (4)

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Well, here we are again, at the culmination of the Black Friday celebrations. After an exciting ‘Black Friday Week’ in which the deals were, quite literally, too good to be true, we arrive at the day itself.

Black Friday Day.

Surely everyone’s favourite day of the year.

A magical day.

I’ve already bought five new TVs this morning alone.

It’s just a shame I’ve got to go to work, or I’d have probably bought another one.

To go with the sixth new sofa I’ve purchased.

Two years ago, I wrote about what a bizarre concept Black Friday is, particularly the preposterous way we have appropriated it here in the UK.

I’d have been totally fine with us appropriating Thanksgiving, which as far as I can tell is a bit like Christmas but in November.

I could get on board with that.

But Black Friday without a preceding Thanksgiving is lamentable.

Obviously because I wrote about it two years ago, there’s no point in me rehashing the same arguments – they haven’t changed so you can read them again by clicking here.

Did you read it?

Don’t I make a compelling case?

So why is it still going on?

Can someone please sort this out?

Or at least make the supposed ‘deals’ actually worthwhile?

I don’t want to be having this conversation next year.

It needs to stop.

I’m Still Not Entirely Sure What It’s All About…

James Proclaims (4)

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Is that the correct greeting today?

I don’t know. I’m British. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving over here. Or I don’t anyway. I can’t speak for all British people (unlike many Brexiteers who think it’s perfectly fine to speak for all British people all of the time…)

But I’m not familiar with anyone celebrating it over here.

I don’t think we even know what it is.

I wrote a blog post about how I didn’t really know what it was two years ago.

I still haven’t bothered to find out.

And I still haven’t tried Pumpkin Pie.

I don’t know if it’s even possible to get Pumpkin Pie in the UK without learning how to make it myself. And I’m not going to do that.

I mean maybe I’d bother to find out about Thanksgiving if my boss would allow me to honour my US heritage and have the day off.

But he won’t.

And there’s no way he can possibly know I was lying about having US heritage.

But if you are someone who knows what Thanksgiving is and actively celebrates it, then I really hope you’re having a good one.

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 10

Have I really come up with ten of these?

Well no, as it happens I’ve come up with eleven.

But this is the tenth.

The eleventh is coming soon.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Let’s just enjoy number ten.

For it is the wonderful:

Quest Fallen

If you like Sci-Fi and Fantasy, then you’ll love this. I mean if I ever write it obviously. Which I won’t.

But which is it?

Sci-Fi or Fantasy?

They aren’t the same thing you know.

Aren’t they?

Really?

In that case it’s probably safer to say it’s Fantasy because there won’t be anything remotely scientifically credible in it.

Or maybe there will be.

I don’t know.

 I don’t even know what it’s about. But there will be unpronounceable names. Of both people and places. And battles. And strange creatures.

And probably far too much about the politics of the made-up world in which it is set.

And not a single hint of anything resembling humour.

Because this is a serious genre and should be regarded as such.

Quest Fallen

The World Is Watching

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Apparently today is ‘World Television Day’.

I don’t know why we need a day for that.

Don’t get me wrong, I like watching TV as much as anyone, but is it really worthy of its own day?

Evidently so, for today is that day.

It’s not even one of those frivolous ‘made-up-for-the-sake-of-it’ days like ‘World Sandwich Day’.

This has the backing of the United Nations. This is their baby. So, it must be about more than ‘Downton Abbey’.

I did briefly look at the UN website to see if I could work out why today is ‘World Television Day’.

But, about two lines into the explanation, I got bored.

So, I turned on the telly instead.

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 9

Here I am again with another idea for a book I’ll never write.

Where do they keep coming from?

I don’t know.

Maybe it’s a gift I have.

In which case, it’s quite a rubbish gift.

Still, if that’s my place in the grand scheme of things then who am I to argue?

Today’s non-contribution to the world of literature is:

Papier Mache Gorillas

This is one of those tales that views tragedy through the lens of hope.

There’ll be plenty of bittersweet humour.

Expect to laugh and cry in equal measure.

I expect it’ll be marketed towards ‘Young Adults’  (whoever they are).

But really anyone can read it.

Critics will describe it as “incredibly uplifting” and “deeply moving”.

It will be both of those things.

And not at all cloying, mawkish and a little bit conceited.

monsters

James On ‘The Toilet’

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There are many arbitrary calendar dates that have been requisitioned for commercial or charitable reasons dotted throughout the calendar.

There’s someone at my place of work who likes to email everyone on a quotidian basis to let us all know which particular ‘day’ it is.

It’s annoying.

I genuinely wish she would stop doing it.

On the other hand, no-one enjoys lampooning such ‘dates’ more than me. I’ve already ridiculed (in the most affectionate of ways) World Sandwich Day and World Kindness Day already this month and I plan to mock many more in the future.

So, when I discovered that today is officially ‘World Toilet Day’ I thought all my Christmases had come at once.

After all, what is funnier than a toilet?

Nothing, that’s what.

If you need proof of the comedy of the commode, read this brilliant piece I wrote about the time I got locked in a toilet.

Or this witty parable about how I once needed the toilet quite badly but couldn’t go because of a fire alarm.

Hilarious, aren’t they?

But on closer inspection, World Toilet Day is nothing to be made fun of. The whole purpose of it is to raise awareness of the fact that there are many places in the world where people don’t have access to adequate toilet facilities.

Which, I suppose I knew if I really thought about it, but then again that’s the point – it isn’t something I think about.

That’s partly because the media is saturated with horrible things. Things I want to pretend aren’t happening, because if I really stop and think about just how many dreadful things are occurring daily, the world over, then I’d probably go crazy.

Still, the idea that, in 2017, there are so many people who have to survive without adequate sanitation is quite a sobering thought.

And, actually, something I should be more aware of.

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 8

Another day, another horrendously bad idea for a novel.

A novel I won’t be writing.

In honour of my continued non-participation in this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Although one person’s idea of a bad novel is another person’s idea of a ‘must-read’.

It’s all subjective really. There’s probably no such thing as bad or good.

It’s all just shades of grey…

Probably about fifty of them if we’re honest…

Which brings me onto today’s effort…

 Mr Whippy

Basically it’s an unashamed rip-off of Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a book I’ve never actually read. Mrs Proclaims has read it. She described it as “one of the worst things ever written, yet strangely unputdownable”.

Which sounds like a recipe for success if ever I heard it.

And there’s no denying that it did quite well.

Obviously I can’t copy it word for word and just change the title.

So I’m going to copy it word for word, change the title and change the character of ‘prominent businessman’ Christian Grey (I got that bit off the blurb) to ‘prominent ice-cream van driver’ Walter Whippy.

Then I’m going to sit back and watch the money come rolling in…

Mr Whippy (1)

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 7

Ok people, you know the drill. This is the bit of my blog when I tell you about a novel that I’m definitely not writing in order to fully ‘not participate’ in this year’s NaNoWriMo.

There’s a hint of Scandinavian whimsy about today’s effort as I present:

The Old Man Who Did Something

It’s essentially about an old man who does something. Probably something quite ordinary and mundane.

But in doing that thing he will doubtless make the world a better place in some sort of abstract way.

And everyone will feel uplifted.

Which can only be a good thing.

TheCircusJelly

Have A Vin-Tastic Day

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Today is Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

It’s a day when the wine makers of the Beaujolais region in France would like you to sample their latest ‘vin de primeur’ or ‘vin de l’année’.

A ‘vin de primeur’ is a wine that is meant to be drunk the year it was produced. It’s not going to improve with age – today is as good as it’s ever going to get.

If you’re not a wine connoisseur, a Beaujolais Nouveau is a great place to start your journey to pretentious wine snobbery (a place I like to call home) because it’s quite easy on the palate.

If you are a pretentious wine snob, then Beaujolais Nouveau is still a bit of fun.

When I lived in Paris, back in my mid-twenties (which is now a scarily long time ago) Beaujolais Nouveau Day was kind of a big deal.

Of course, it’s just a ‘made-up’ day driven by commercial reasons to sell lots of wine.

But on the plus side it’s a day when we’re all encouraged to drink lots of wine.

Regardless of whatever else we might have planned that day.

If you have a job interview, will be driving a heavy goods vehicle, or like me, you’re teaching secondary-aged children to speak French, you should plan to do so under the influence of Beaujolais Nouveau*.

 

 

*All of those things are bad ideas. Don’t do them. Even though, in the case of the French lesson, it could be argued that it’s culturally relevant…

A Beacon Of Convenience

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Before Mrs Proclaims and I moved to Reading, we spend a year living in an overpriced flat in High Wycombe. High Wycombe is in Buckinghamshire, which might give people the impression that it’s a well-to-do sort of place.

It isn’t especially.

I never like to speak ill of a town – it’s possible that someone reading this is rather fond of High Wycombe.

I, alas, am not.

I’m sure there are lots of things to admire about the place, but Mrs Proclaims and I struggled to find much that we liked.

On the other hand, we genuinely love living in Reading and before we moved here we had no particular reason to imagine that we’d feel that way – I suppose some places are just a better fit for certain people than others and we certainly find Reading to be a better fit than High Wycombe.

Part of the issue was the flat that we lived in was at the top of a massive hill. After years of living in rural Kent we’d kind of been looking forward to the freedom of being able to walk into the town centre as and when we chose to. But, although we didn’t live that far from the town centre, the hill made a casual walk in a bit problematic. I mean it was doable, but it was quite a workout. Mrs Proclaims and I are no slouches when it comes to exercise, but I cannot overstate how ridiculously huge this hill was. And steep. Even walking into town, on the downhill stretch was quite a challenge – walking home, back up the hill, was insanely hard.

And High Wycombe town centre is perfectly adequate, but really not worth the kind of pilgrimage that seemed to be required to get there on foot.

And if we were going to get in the car anyway, then Marlow was just as easy to get to from our flat and quite a lot nicer.

But there was something we did quite like about living in High Wycombe.

It wasn’t the excellent commuter links, though relatively easy access to the several major motorways was quite helpful in allowing us to escape the town for more desirable locations – and there are a lot of lovely towns and villages besides Marlow in the surrounding area.

No, it was the Motorway Services located a mere five minutes’ drive away on the nearby M40.

The Beaconsfield Services.

Beaconsfield itself is the kind of town that genuinely fits the Buckinghamshire mould. It is very pleasant, easy in the eye and home to many people who could never be accused of poverty.

I doubt too many of Beaconsfield’s residents are too bothered about the nearby motorway service station that falls under their ‘jurisdiction’.

But they should be because, as service stations go, it is genuinely a wonder.

Ok, I am being a little facetious – obviously Mrs Proclaims and I did not fall in love with a motorway service station. Nonetheless, in the realm of ‘motorway convenience’, Beaconsfield Services are really quite good.

They have a higher than average array of eateries (including a Nandos for goodness sake! And a Patisserie Valerie!) There is even a Wetherspoons pub. Which is madness when you think the primary function of a service station is as a rest stop for motorists and drinking alcohol while in charge of a car is generally frowned upon in polite society.

Reading is not particularly far from High Wycombe and we often find ourselves driving past the town when we are journeying elsewhere. If such a journey requires a rest stop, we still choose Beaconsfield.

We were there a few weeks ago, on the way back from a concert at Wembley Arena. Even though it was late we were able to avail ourselves of the facilities – Beaconsfield Services are conveniently open 24/7.

So, if you find yourself commuting along the M40, or even along the northern half of the M25, you could certainly do worse than stopping at Beaconsfield.

Although there is a dark side to this motorway haven.

Last year we stopped there, and we saw a robin.

A robin that had clearly been sustaining itself on the myriad leftover junk food in the bins.

And it was quite a bit rounder than I think robins are supposed to be.

A fat robin is a tragic site indeed.

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 6

If I were taking part in NaNoWriMo, I’d almost certainly be on track with my word count and winging my way towards a commercial and critical success.

Instead I’ve chosen to affectionately lampoon the whole thing by sketching out ideas for novels I will never write.

Because they are bad ideas.

Today’s worthless would-be work is the following:

You had me at Cello

Everyone loves a ‘rom-com’, don’t they? So, I imagine they also love the literature equivalent – I think it’s known commonly as ‘chick-lit’ although to my untrained eye that does seem sexist as terminology goes. I’m already a little out of my depth here.

On with the story then and this would essentially be centred around a cellist in an orchestra (hence the extremely clever title), who, despite being attractive, and clearly successful (I imagine it’s not easy to become a professional cellist?) has worrying self-esteem issues that instead of addressing in an appropriate and sensitive way, we’ll use to create lots of uncomfortable and highly comic scrapes for her to get herself into. Although in reality, in the broader context of the world we live in, she’s probably quite privileged and all her problems would fall very much into the category of ‘first-world problems’.

Let’s also say that she’s ‘second cellist’ (do they have multiple cellists in orchestras?) and she has her eye on becoming ‘first cellist’ when her mentor (a loveable and wise old person) retires, early in the story. Instead she is overlooked, despite her obvious talent, for a new orchestra member, who is in every way her polar opposite (except they are both cellists – let’s ignore that minor point). He’s also really attractive though.

Initially there’s a kind of sang-froid between them, but eventually, after a number of hilarious mishaps fuelled by their rivalry, they fall in love. Maybe she becomes ‘first cellist’, but in a way that allows him to step aside graciously and retain his dignity.

Let’s throw in some other clichés too. Like a kooky best friend – probably a percussionist in this tale.

And a happy ending that, when all is said and done, is probably a little ‘too happy’ to be even remotely credible.

MyPrayerJournal (1)

My Kind Of Day

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Today is ‘World Kindness Day’. It’s also ‘Kindness Day UK’. It’s something of a coincidence that both events seem to be happening on the same day. It makes me wonder why there’s even a need for ‘Kindness Day UK’. Why can’t we just all participate in ‘World Kindness Day’?

Is it something to do with Brexit?

Perhaps I’m being unkind to the organisers of ‘Kindness Day UK’. Which is ironic, because I’m not generally an unkind person, so for me to choose to be so on a day when the very opposite of that is being encouraged is borderline preposterous. Particularly as I’m being unkind to a movement that actively wants to make the UK a kinder place, even if just for one day.

Anyway, what’s it all about?

Well it’s all about being kind.

For a day

Through random acts of kindness.

Like giving a stranger a chocolate bar (although not a child, because in that scenario, you are the stranger and smart children always say no to strangers, even on ‘Kindness Day UK’)

Or smiling at people (which is a suggestion listed on the ‘Kindness Day UK’ website) but not in a weird creepy way that makes people feel uncomfortable. It’s not as easy as you think. My advice is to use a mirror to practise first.

Or tolerating the woeful customer service provided by your utility company, even though it’s really irritating that you’ve been kept on hold for twenty minutes only to get through to a department that can’t explain to you why they’ve overcharged for your electricity and then, when you get transferred to someone who might be able to help, you get cut off, only to have to ring back and be kept on hold for another twenty minutes.

So, whatever else you do today, be kind.

You can be as mean as you like tomorrow though.

A Short, Inadequate Post About Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Sunday, the nearest Sunday to Armistice Day, which was yesterday.

Up and down the country, and indeed all over the world, there will be services to remember those who died in military service during the First World War, as well as those who fell in subsequent wars.

It’s a sombre occasion, and if I usually have a cynical predisposition towards many aspects of the world we live in, I’m inclined to put that cynicism aside today. Remembrance Sunday means different things to different people, and I have my own reasons for observing it. I don’t particularly need to share those reasons here.

That said, I’m often concerned by the attitudes of certain sectors of society towards the day. There are too many people who take the view that remembering people who died in conflict is somehow linked to patriotism. It isn’t and shouldn’t be.

People die on all sides during wars.

There’s a memorial in the chapel in one of the colleges at Oxford*, which honours the students who fell in World War 1. I imagine such memorials exist across the many universities that lost a generation of students to that global conflict. What I find poignant about this particular memorial though, is the fact that not only are the British soldiers listed, (in horrifyingly vast numbers) but so too are a small number of German soldiers who had been studying at Oxford prior to the outbreak of war. I don’t know if there are other examples of that kind of thing, but I found myself genuinely moved when I saw it.

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of where you come from, and I’m sure I’m as partisan as anyone in my own way.

But when it comes to war, nationality is no barometer of tragedy.

 

 

 

 *For the sake of clarity, I did not study at Oxford – I just live near the place and have, for various reasons, had occasion to visit some of the colleges over the last few years. I mention this so as not to be mistaken for one of the ‘out-of-touch’ liberal elite. You know, the kind of bleeding-heart liberal that would probably have written the thing I just wrote...

Artificial Armistice Anger

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Today is the 11th November or Armistice day. It’s 99 years since the end of the First World War –  at the time regarded as “the war to end all wars”.

There have, of course, been many other significant wars since, so the intense devastation and huge loss of life did not, alas, lead to the cessation of global hostilities.

I am not especially qualified to discuss the various issues surrounding military conflict – it’s a complex issue. I think most people would agree that war is a bad thing, some people may believe there are times when war is unavoidable, others make take the view that war is never justifiable.

It isn’t for me to comment on really – I have my views, but I don’t believe that my views are sufficiently well-informed to air them on a blog that is, for the most part, meant to be light-hearted and fun.

An in-depth discussion on the morality of war would seem out of place on these pages.

But there is one issue surrounding the Remembrance Day commemorations that often leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable.

It’s the issue of whether to wear or not to wear a poppy.

I have no objections to wearing a poppy myself – it’s a fitting symbol for remembering the fallen from the First World War and it seems a reasonable extension that it should be used to remember the fallen in all world wars.

It’s also reasonable that proceeds from the poppy appeal go towards supporting veterans of more recent conflicts.

I have no intrinsic problem with The Poppy Appeal – indeed I am actively in favour of it in most respects.

However, these days there does seems to be a bizarre notion that anyone who chooses not to wear a poppy is somehow unpatriotic or disrespectful.

Surely, if there is a point to any conflict it is supposedly to maintain our freedom.

And freedom surely means having the choice not to wear a poppy.

It’s a freedom that certain sections of the mainstream media seem to conveniently forget about when constructing artificial outrage.

And such artificial outrage surely flies in the face of what the poppy is supposed to represent.

We should feel free to wear a poppy today, be it as an act of remembrance or to show solidarity with veterans of conflict.

But we should also feel free not to wear a poppy if that is our preference.

To be fair the artificial outrage does not limit itself to non-poppy wearers. Princes William and Harry are on the receiving end of the wrath of one particularly hateful publication today for choosing to go to a rugby game over attending this evening’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Now I’m certainly no royalist, indeed my feeling about the British Royal Family are firmly indifferent. I mean I’d imagine we’d be more than OK without a Royal Family, but William and Harry are generally inoffensive as it goes.

And to be fair, it seems a particularly odd criticism of military veteran Prince Harry, who is famously quite active in his charity work for veterans of conflict, to suggest he is somehow being disrespectful by not attending an event, which the writer of the article even admits that ‘he may still end up attending after the rugby’.

But what do I know about such things?

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 5

Hello people that are reading this, and welcome to the fifth of my ‘novel’ ideas for novels that I almost certainly will never write, except in the unlikely event that someone comes across this post and wants to read the finished work so badly that they are prepared to give me a stack of cash to write it.

But that won’t happen, so the fifth novel I won’t be writing is this:

The Dividend Yield

It’s a thriller set in the murky world of finance. It’ll be a rollercoaster ride of revenues, and an adrenaline-fuelled journey through investment opportunities.

Basically, it’ll be a cliché-ridden chronicle, probably with a murder or something at the centre of it. There will be various ‘set-pieces’ such as the main two protagonists (an unlikely pairing who have been thrown together in improbable circumstances and who despite their clear differences can’t help but feel a growing sexual tension) sneaking into a building to get information and then having to make a daring escape. There will be a twist at the end that you’ll probably work out in the first few pages of the book.

There will be a paper-thin plot that will be entirely predictable and lots of pages needlessly going into minute detail about economics, so as to turn what would have been quite a slim volume into a much thicker tome and thus give the purchaser the illusion that they are getting value for money, because nothing adds value to a reading experience than extra words. Even if some of those extra words are boring.

It’ll be made into a film starring one of either Matt Damon or Ben Affleck. It won’t be a very good film, but it’ll be vaguely watchable and reasonably cheap to make and should, consequently, make a decent return at the box-office.

The Darkness Of The Light (1)

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 4

Hello lovers of fiction and welcome to the fourth instalment of books I won’t be writing for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I won’t be writing them partly because I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo, but, in the case of these particular novels, I won’t be writing them because they are genuinely dreadful ideas.

That’s the  preamble over with. Now, without further ado, today’s disastrous notion for a novel is the following:

The Golden Socks

More of a children’s tale this one. Cos they often do well don’t they.

Magic and mystery, adventures galore, child protagonists that are possibly orphans but at the very least have some kind of parental difficulties that may or may not be central to the plot.

Is this a light-hearted ‘good versus evil’ romp, with cartoonish characters and an ill-judged notion of what constitutes poverty and privilege, with some gratuitous Latin thrown in from time to time in an effort to create the illusion that the derivative and clichéd plot (though still undeniably entertaining) is more intellectual than it actually is? Will there be some kind of wise mentor figure that dies? Will other peripheral characters occasionally meet their end in an attempt to create the an artificial air of darkness?

Yes, you can expect all that and more.

Plus, there will probably be a comedic talking animal. Or loveable goblin. Or maybe a talking shoe.

MyPrayerJournal

A Truly Tremendous And Amazing Year. Like, The Best Of All The Years. A Great Great Year.

Happy Trumpiversary everyone!

Ok so it’s not actually been a year since the great man took office, but it is a year since he shocked the world by winning the presidential election, and, for some of us in the UK, managed to compound the trauma of Brexit.

Gosh the liberal elite were shown a thing or two in 2016, weren’t they?

Anyway, it’s been a year since that happened and I think that’s cause for celebration.

Because, despite predictions to the contrary, the world hasn’t ended.

Yet.

I mean it’s a much scarier world and Armageddon is obviously just a matter of time, but I, for one, am grateful to still be alive at this juncture.

This time last year I made the bold prediction that there was no way that once Trump took office he could sustain the same level of infantile, objectionable behaviour he had shown during his campaign, cos surely, he would have to tone it down a bit once he was actually in charge of stuff.

I may have slightly misjudged that one…

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Not NaNoWriMo – Part 3

Hello literature fans, I’m back with the third of my ‘novels that I definitely won’t be writing’ in honour of my non-participation in NaNoWriMo.

Today I’m taking things to the dark side as I present:

The Scary Gardener

Horror always does quite well doesn’t it?

And even if it’s a genre I don’t particularly enjoy myself, I’m certainly happy to cash in on its popularity.

As with my other non-novels, I haven’t got quite as far as thinking up a plot for this particular oeuvre.

But it’s going to be genuinely scary. And probably feature some sort of a gardener.

I’m out sure whether I’m going to go for a more subtle form of horror and slowly build up the tension in a predominantly real world setting which features a gardener who is a little bit sinister or go for a full-on theatrical over-the-top piece with a supernatural gardener and horticultural horrors such as tree that eat people.

Hold on!

Trees that eat people?

I’m scaring myself as I write this!

A sure-fire hit if ever I heard one.

The Tale of the Mistaken Twin

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 2

Hello fellow Internet-users. I’m back with more evidence as to why I really shouldn’t participate in the year’s National Novel Writing Month with another idea for a novel that no-one should ever write.

The title of this non-idea is as follows:

The Darkness Of The Light

This ‘clever’ sounding title is my attempt at literary fiction. I don’t really know what it would be about but the title alone should be enough to tell you it’s going to be really intellectual. I mean how can light be dark? Clearly there is some sort of personal tragedy at the heart of this tale. Perhaps by sharing in the protagonist’s misfortune and consequential stoic optimism we can learn something about our own lives and relationships.

I don’t know.

It all sounds a bit pretentious to be honest.

But it should still sweep to the top of the bestsellers on a wave of critical acclaim and word of mouth before everyone realises it’s actually a bit over-rated and derivative.

But seriously, how can light be dark? My mind is literally blown by my own genius…

The Darkness Of The Light

Remember Remember the 5th of November

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It’s the 5th November, a day when we, in the UK, celebrate by going to watch things burn and explode.

Some of us call it Bonfire Night, which makes sense because there’s often a bonfire. A bonfire, for those of you that don’t know, is a controlled outdoor fire, often but not exclusively used for the disposal of burnable waste. However, we aren’t all amusing ourselves with the burning of waste on the 5th November, though if you have any burnable waste to dispose of, it can be quite a convenient occurrence.

No, Bonfire-Night bonfires are a kind of celebration.

We’re celebrating someone called Guy Fawkes. That’s why it’s also sometimes called Guy Fawkes night. But we aren’t celebrating his massive achievements. We’re celebrating his failure. Which I quite like. It’s nice that history isn’t always about the winners.

Actually, Guy Fawkes is kind of a winner because even though he was part of a failed terrorist plot, he wasn’t really the mastermind behind the whole thing, yet it’s his name that history remembers. He’s way more famous than Robert Catesby who was the actual architect of the foiled plot.

Although to be fair, even though most people know the name Guy Fawkes, I doubt that many people know much about the actual gunpowder plot. I vaguely remember being taught a bit about it in primary school, but it hasn’t come up much in recent years. There was a BBC drama about it this year starring the bloke who plays Jon Snow on Game of Thrones. He was playing Robert Catesby rather than Guy Fawkes. I don’t know who was playing Guy Fawkes. I expect if I had watched it I would know. I would also know more about the Gunpowder Plot and why we have Bonfire Night. But I didn’t watch it. I might see if it’s still on the BBC iPlayer. But I probably won’t.

Anyway, I don’t really know much about the history of Bonfire Night, but I do know we have bonfires. And fireworks. And for some reason treacle toffee. I have no idea why we have treacle toffee – maybe Guy Fawkes really liked it. Probably not. I like it though, so I’m not complaining.

I always used to go and watch fireworks as a kid. I always think of it as the first sign that ‘Winter Is Coming’ (sorry couldn’t resist the obvious Game of Thrones reference) because it was always really cold on Bonfire Night and it was probably the time when the gloves and scarves came out for the first time.

I don’t tend to go as much to firework displays these days. I’m not especially avoiding them, but I don’t find them as compelling as I did as a youngster. I don’t think it’s particularly a sign that I’m getting old, I think the novelty of fireworks had worn off by the time I hit secondary school in truth.

I still like the toffee though.

If you find it hard to remember when Bonfire Night is, there’s a handy rhyme that can help to remind you.

It goes like this:

Remember remember the 5th of November…

Actually, that’s all of the rhyme that I can recall, which is perhaps ironic. Nonetheless it’s the only line you really need to remember the date.

I’m sure I could have googled the rest of it, but I couldn’t really be bothered. It didn’t seem that important.

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 1

Two days ago, I explained that I would not be participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo to the aficionado). This is mainly due to time commitments but also partially because I can’t really think of anything I’d want to write an entire novel about.

I did speculatively play around with some ideas for novels I might write though, and I thought I might share a few of those on this very blog  intermittently over the next week or so.

Because if this blog has a point (and I like to believe that it does) then surely it is the sharing of whatever useless nonsense is floating around in my head at any given moment.

So, without out further ado the title of my first novel idea is as follows:

 

The Girl Who Ate A Pie

Now it is possible I’ve missed the boat on this one, but there was definitely a phase of the most successful novels having ‘Girl’ in the title. So, I figured if that still is a ‘thing’ then I’ve already got a bestseller on my hands before anyone has even read a paragraph.

I’m not entirely sure what the premise would be, but essentially there would be a girl, and at some point, she would eat a pie. The pie may or may not be significant. I’d like to think the pie would be quite important though. Most of the ‘Girl’ books centre around some kind of mystery and what’s more mysterious than a pie? Is it a steak and kidney pie or a chicken and mushroom pie? Does she have it with chips or does she opt for mash? Is it even a savoury pie, or could it be a fruit pie (in which case why is she eating it with mashed potato? Cos seriously that’s gross).

See you’re hooked already.

Hollywood are already casting for the lead role in the rushed-to-screen-and-shameless-cash-in movie adaptation.

The Girl Who Ate A Pie

Are You Filling Bready?

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Apparently today is ‘World Sandwich Day’.

Well, to be fair it only seems to be a major retailer of submarine-roll based meals that is declaring it to be a global event. This particular company is trying to push the day on us Brits for commercial reasons. Presumably with a view to selling more sandwiches. I think it is actually a US invention, known as ‘National Sandwich Day’ over there (perhaps one of my US-based blogger friends could enlighten me as to how big a deal it really is).

I don’t object – I’m as much of a fan of the noble sandwich as anyone and it was, if rumours are to be believed, invented here in the UK by one of our treasured aristocrats in the eighteenth century so that he could eat with one hand and simultaneously continue gambling with the other.

Inspirational stuff.

I’ve never tried the eating/gambling combo myself, but I’ve been known to eat a sandwich and blog at the same time. I might even be doing that right now.

Anyway, in honour of the day I shall be consuming all of my meals in sandwich form. It’s fine for breakfast – a bacon butty is always a treat.

I’ll also enjoy my tuna and cucumber rolls for lunch.

I’m less certain how I’m going to get this evening’s leek and potato soup to stay put between two slices of bread.

But I’ll give it a good go.

November Novelties

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Yesterday I wrote about how growing a moustache is something you can do to help you get through the atrocious month that is November.

But if moustache-growing is not your thing then another November hobby you could try is novel-writing.

For November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is affectionately known.

It really should be known as InNoWriMo, because it’s very clearly an international affair these days, but it started in one country, presumably, and the name ‘NaNoWriMo’ had already caught on before anyone realised that the whole world was playing.

Basically, the goal is to write an entire novel in a month. That’s a minimum of 50,000 words apparently and the goal is very definitely quantity over quality. The idea is to throw off your writing shackles, ignore your overly picky internal editor and just get on with it.

Unlike Movember, which leaves me a little cold, the idea of NaNoWriMo is totally the kind of thing I would do.

But I won’t be doing it this year.

Because failure is not something I enjoy and the two times I’ve tried NaNoWriMo I’ve utterly failed to stick with it beyond a few days.

And this year I’m struggling to keep up with the general stuff that life is throwing at me, so trying to write a novel, even a bad novel, in 30 days seems a little bit beyond me.

But everyone else should totally do it.

Even if those people who’ve misguidedly decided to also grow a moustache.

Because growing a moustache and writing a novel are not mutually exclusive.

Imagine how good it would feel to have written an entire novel and grown a moustache by the end of this month.

Movember Madness

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So it’s November, a month that is genuinely hard to love.

It’s cold, dark and miserable. It’s like December but without Christmas.

Yes there are fireworks, but that’s pretty much it, and they’re all done and dusted before the end of the first week.

Thankfully there are ways to survive November, to help us all to hang on until the bright lights and commercial excesses of December sweep into view.

One way is to grow a moustache. Now clearly this isn’t something everyone can do – there are certain biological limitations at play here. But if you are able to grow a moustache, then November is the time to do it.

The only rule seems to be that you have, rather wittily, got to change the first letter of the month and spend the next 30 days referring to it as Movember. Then you can start growing a moustache at your leisure.

Remember to point it out to everyone, whether they are interested or not. Remind them that not only are you a bit of a ‘character’ for doing this, but you’re also an awesome human being because you’re growing it for charity.

It’s obviously helpful if you can remember what charity it is that you are doing it for – although that doesn’t appear to be the most important aspect of the whole enterprise.

Like every previous ‘Movember’ I’m not going to participate this year, but several times this month people will mistake the facial hair that I acquire due to my usual lethargic approach to shaving as a sign that I fully endorse ‘Movember’.

I don’t.