Positively Pessimistic

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Restriction to your home is not
The worst kind of jail
You can still pretend to work
If you can access your email

But it’s easy to find reasons
To not be very cheerful
When it seems that you’re increasingly
Encouraged to be fearful

It’s appears that times are dark
And possibly quite bleak
It’s hard to know what month it is
Let alone what day or week

And when you venture out
It’s worse outside than in
Attempts to buy toilet paper
Always end in your chagrin

You try to stay upbeat
But optimism’s hard to sell
When the contents of the half-full glass
Have a funny smell

Cautionary Tales

James Proclaims (4)

As the parent of a small child, I’m not unfamiliar with a children’s story or two. My daughter has a voracious appetite for literature. I mean quite literally, as I’ll often find her nibbling on a book.

Although she does appear to be growing out of that phase and enjoying books for their content too.

And I like reading them to her.

To be honest, I’m increasingly becoming a fan of books that are aimed at younger people. They have a lot of advantages over the books I normally read.

For starters, there are significantly fewer words, which means that when I pick one up and start reading it, I generally do always finish. This, alas, is not always the case for the books that are aimed at someone of my age.

Also there are pictures. It’s so much easier and more fun to read a book with pictures in it. Why does that stop when you get older?

Mainly though, I like books aimed at little children, because they are, for the most part, hugely entertaining.

Some make me laugh out loud.

Check out the ‘Oi Frog’ series of books by Kes Gray and Jim Field and I guarantee you will laugh multiple times.

Other favourites (of mine, though my daughter generally likes them too) would have to include ‘Wonkey Donkey’, ‘There’s a Monster in your Book’ and ‘Superworm’.

It occurs to me, however, that some of the books that I read with my daughter might have a slightly irresponsible message in these corona-times.

So I’ve taken the liberty of updating some of the ‘classics’ in order to make them more compliant with a world of social-distancing and ‘self-isolation’.

We’re Not Going On A Bear Hunt

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We’re not going on a bear hunt
We’re not going to catch a big one
What a beautiful day
We’re quite scared

Uh Uh! Government Advice!
Alarming, disarming government advice!
We can’t go over it
We can’t go under it
Oh no!
We’ll just have to stay in and self-isolate!

The Tiger Who Didn’t Come To Tea

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Once there was a little girl called Sophie, and she was having tea with her mummy in the kitchen.

Suddenly there was a ring at the door.

Sophie’s mummy said, “I wonder who that can be,

It can’t be the milkman because demands for that service have resulted in them refusing to accept new customers.

And it can’t be the boy from the grocer because you can’t book a home delivery slot for love nor money

And it can’t be Daddy because he isn’t a key-worker, so he’s already at home.

We’d better open the door and see.”

Sophie opened the door, and there was a big, furry, stripy tiger. The tiger said, “Excuse me, but I’m very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?”

Sophie’s mummy said, “I’m sorry, but due to the government’s policy on social-distancing, we can’t have anyone around for tea.”

The tiger nodded and said, “of course, I completely understand.”

And he left.

The Socially Responsible Gruffalo

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A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.
A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good
But because the fox was adhering to advice on social-distancing, he didn’t interact with the mouse and instead returned promptly to his underground house.

And the same thing happened with the owl and the snake.
So the mouse didn’t meet anyone
Until he happened upon the Gruffalo

But the Gruffalo and the mouse also adhered to social-distancing etiquette
So they didn’t speak to each other.
And both also promptly returned to their homes
Once they’d had their daily allocation of exercise.

 

 

Pandemical Positives

James Proclaims (4)

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No-one loves a pandemic more than me.

Then again, no-one loves a pandemic less than me.

Because, presumably, no-one loves a pandemic.

Except possibly toilet-paper manufacturers.

But, on the whole, it’s fair to say that this whole pandemic malarkey is pretty bad news.

Nevertheless, if you can shake off the never-ending panic and crippling fear for a few moments, then there are one or two positives to be taken from the current situation we find ourselves in.

If you can ignore the agonizing pain of hand-washing-induced eczema caused by your ever-diminishing supplies of hand-soap, then you may yet find a reason or two to be cheerful.

Yes, in amongst the terrifying realisation that you’ve invented a new mental health condition that combines all the worst parts of claustrophobia, agoraphobia, enochlophobia, nosophobia and OCD, there could still be a silver-lining hidden amongst the gathering clouds of doom.

The British media might have you believe that the positives come from a camaraderie that is beginning to develop between us all. A sense that we’re all in this together. There was a moment on Thursday evening when many of us stood in our doorways and applauded the workers of the NHS. I’m normally cynical about such things but I’ll concede it was a much-needed moment of solidarity and actually genuinely heart-warming.

Still, I’ll feel even better about my fellow humans when I begin to see plentiful supplies of loo roll on the supermarket shelves.

And important though NHS staff undoubtedly are in this crisis, I personally feel that anyone who currently works in a supermarket is also deserving of our national gratitude. Because, although I’m avoiding the big stores as much as possible, when I have been forced to cross the threshold of one, I’ve found the staff to be universally  helpful, polite and friendly, which, in the current circumstances, is nothing short of heroic in my view.

The news, despite being mostly apocalyptic in tone, is interspersed with the odd bit of light relief. I enjoyed the story of the man who, deprived of his opportunity to run this year’s London marathon, opted to run the entire distance in his back garden. Although, the makeshift finish line, crafted by his son did seem like a frivolous use of toilet paper, all things considered.

For me though, the greatest positive is my family.

Deprived of actual contact with our parents and siblings, Mrs Proclaims and I have never been more active on social media. The daily videos of our nieces and nephews being ridiculously cute, comically crazy or, most often, a combination of both has been nothing short of delightful.

It’s probably sad to say we’re seeing more of them ‘virtually’ now then we ever managed in reality before all of this started.

And being trapped in a house with my own wife and child has actually been only beneficial. Of course Mrs Proclaims and I have our moments of discord, but we always did. I believe that’s called marriage.

But I think spending more time together has actually been good for us.

And, while I like to think I’ve always been pretty good at making time for the littlest ‘Proclaims’, the enforced additional time at home has helped me to connect with her on a whole new level and in the bizarrest, most unexpected of situations, I occasionally find myself feeling happier than I have in a long time.

Although I’m not sure my daughter shares the sentiment.

One of the more pretentious aspects of our parenting is that we’re attempting to bring our daughter up to be fluent in French. Mrs Proclaims and I speak French (she far better than I) so it seems like the least we could do is pass on that skill to our child.

And she’s developing quite well in that respect, having a vocabulary in both English and French that is pretty impressive for a toddler just shy of being twenty months old.

But one of her favourite French expressions at the moment is the following:

“Aux secours!”

Which roughly translates as:

“Help!”

And she only says it when I’m around.

 

 

 

 

 

Much Like A Stopped Clock, He Was Right Occasionally. Although Not As Often As A Stopped Clock…

James Proclaims (4)

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I used to have a boss. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call him Brian. He wasn’t called Brian, but he wasn’t a bad guy and I’m about to do something of a character assassination on him. He deserves it for being a rubbish boss, but not for being a rubbish human. I mean, I don’t think he could ever be described as one of life’s winners (I’m not certain I could ever claim that with any conviction either, but in the league table of life, I would definitely place higher than poor Brian) and it would seem wrong to use his real name. Much like kicking a puppy is wrong. Even if they have just done something unpleasant on the carpet.

His heart was mostly in the right place.

Sadly, his brain rarely was.

I’ve had a lot of bosses I’ve hated more, but that was mostly because they were genuinely horrible people. Often, they were not too bad at their jobs though. Which made them reasonable bosses.

On balance I’d rather have a boss that I dislike personally but who is good at their job.

Poor Brian was bad at his job. So bad at his job that he didn’t hold onto it for very long.

In the interests of full disclosure, when Brian was asked to vacate his position, it was me that was asked to fill it. There was, however, no Machiavellian manoeuvring on my part. Brian’s downfall was of Brian’s own making. I didn’t really want the job to be honest. It wasn’t that good a job. But it was marginally better-paid than the job I had been doing so I agreed to step into his shoes temporarily, and then somehow ended up staying in those shoes for quite a while. They were, ultimately, not hard shoes to fill.

It may seem boastful to say that I did a much better job than Brian, but to be fair Brian was so bad at his job that a poorly trained monkey could have made a better fist of it. As a moderately well-trained monkey, it was quite easy for me.

I’m not saying I was anything other than adequate, but I was at least able to leave on my own terms when I did decide to move on.

Brian made mistakes that were just unfathomably stupid. And he did this multiple times a day.

And the trouble was, this was a role in which the lives of some pretty vulnerable children were affected. So, although he was more of a bumbling idiot than an evil despot, the results for these young people were still quite bleak as a result of some of his actions.

Therefore, Brian had to go.

But to give him his due, he did get one thing right.

In the toilets of the place we worked, he insisted on putting up a poster with some quite detailed instructions on how to wash your hands properly.

“Come on Brian,” his colleagues (including yours truly) protested, “that’s a bit over the top isn’t it? No-one’s about to carry out surgery. Surely we don’t need to be quite so explicit with the hand-washing message?”

But, in these troubled times, it’s now abundantly clear that Brian was entirely correct with regards his zealous attitude to hand-washing.

And I hope that wherever he is now, and whatever he’s doing, he can reflect on that fact with some satisfaction.

Pandemically Proverbial

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Home is where the heart is
Which is useful because it’s also where the rest of me is
All the time now
And I like to be where my heart is
I need my heart
To stay alive
Indeed I’m not quite sure how I managed to cope
When I was allowed to leave my home
If my heart was always there

They say keep your friends close
And your enemies closer
But that seems like really bad advice at the moment
Current government guidance is to keep both very far way indeed

There’s no time like the present
Although yesterday was quite a lot like today
And I have a strong feeling tomorrow will be quite similar too
So, there are some times that are a bit like the present
In the current climate, it seems like a lot of times will
Be very much like the present
As we never leave our homes

And two heads are not better than one
When attempting to social distance
One head is the optimum number of heads
To do that effectively

And to that end,
If you can’t beat them,
Under no circumstances should you join them
And you should absolutely not
Bite the hand that feeds you
Unless that hand has been washed
For at least twenty seconds using soap
Or at the very least a high alcohol hand sanitiser
But soap is better
And I for one will only be biting hands that have used soap

Yes, home is where the heart is
And there’s no place like home
Not that any of us will ever get the chance to test that sentiment
Anytime soon

Don’t Panic!

James Proclaims (4)

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In these unusual times, you do start to reassess your values and priorities and begin to focus on what’s really important.

And for the people of Britain, what’s really important appears to be toilet paper. It’s one of the cornerstones of our national identity apparently.

I had eschewed the supermarkets in recent days but ventured forth last night and the situation regarding hand soap and the aforementioned loo roll still seems pretty bleak, and it’s concerning that this is still the case in what feels like quite a long time after restrictions were imposed on how much of this stuff you can actually buy in any one visit.

For now we’re holding out at Chez Proclaims, but I fear we will run out of these staples of British life long before the supermarkets are back to being adequately stocked. I might have to sneak into the school that employs me (which is still currently operating, seemingly for the benefit of one solitary student – a preposterous figure in it’s own right, but more so when you realise that in my school it translates to less than 0.1% of the entire student body) to steal some of the toilet paper from there if the situation doesn’t improve soon.

Fortunately food seems to be less of an issue. Milk seems a little problematic (how and why are people stockpiling milk? Surely it’ll go off long before it can be used? Unless people are taking up new hobbies in this time of social-distancing. Like making their own yogurt?) but we’ve been able to get what we need, and the rush on fruit and veg seems to have abated a little, so while tinned stuff seems hard to come by, there seem to be sufficient supplies of food to live off. And we never ate much tinned stuff before this all started so I’m not sure why I’d want to start now. Then again, the dire situation in the supermarkets might have been caused by panic-buying but those of us who didn’t join in are the ones who feel pretty stupid at the moment so maybe I should reassess my policy on tinned produce. In the interests of full disclosure, I did join in with the panic buying a little bit (not exactly a shock revelation given that I already wrote about doing just that in this post), but only insofar as I’d have enough stuff to last a potential two-week period of self-isolation and I’m going to run out of that stuff fairly soon, without showing the slightest hint that I might have COVID-19.

So it’s all a bit irritating really.

Particularly if I now get COVID-19.

Admittedly if I do get COVID-19, perhaps a lack of loo roll would not necessarily be my primary concern. But I imagine it would still be a bit of a concern.

On a positive note, the supermarket I did dare to venture into (along with Mini-Proclaims) was a Waitrose, (I just wasn’t brave enough for Aldi) and they have adopted a social-distancing policy of restricting the numbers of shoppers inside the store at any one time. It was mildly irritating to have to queue outside initially (and because the people in the queue were all standing the requisite two metres apart, I initially mistook them for slightly antisocial loiterers and tried to walk into the shop without queuing. The manager corrected my mistake with the exemplary courtesy that you’d expect of a Waitrose employee but it was mildly embarrassing until I observed several other shoppers make exactly the same mistake as me) but it didn’t take too long and then, once my daughter and I crossed the threshold, there were so few other people in there it really was the nirvana of shopping experiences.

Except for the lack of toilet paper obviously.

 

 

‘Working’ From Home

James Proclaims (4)

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When last I blogged, I did so from my office in a very much still open, though poorly attended, school. That same day the government decided to close schools, although they did give us the remainder of the week to keep things ticking over, which was nice of them. It was not at all challenging with most of the staff already ‘self-isolating’ and the added bonus of having to manage the behaviour of some now very disaffected year 11 students who had just been told that the exams they’ve spent their entire secondary education working towards, would now not be taking place.

And then on Friday, we closed the gates indefinitely (I mean I didn’t help with the closing of the gates, the people who usually close the gates did the closing of the gates) and all staff, bar the few who have been requisitioned to continue working with the children of people who find themselves included on the government’s list of ‘key-workers’ (which is a list that is open to interpretation and could include more or less anyone who has a job), have been instructed to work from home. Which I started doing in earnest yesterday.

Working from home does present some challenges. My current role doesn’t involve any teaching (though I feel I should point out that I am a fully-qualified and vaguely competent teacher and should the need arise I’m as capable as anyone of boring a room full of teenagers on a range of topics) so, unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t have to learn how to deliver lessons remotely to our students. Which is a relief, because it seems like something I would be quite bad at. Not that the vast majority of pupils will necessarily be availing themselves of any online learning opportunities that are provided. And not just because they can’t be bothered (though that will be true of some) but more likely because I work in the kind of school where social disadvantage is prevalent and a lot of the students won’t have access to the internet.

And actually, for a lot of those students, the lack of access to an education is the least of their worries. Schools are far from perfect institutions, but they do provide a place of safety and a continuity that is going to now be absent from the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people in our society.

But, under the current circumstances, it’s hard to argue that closing schools wasn’t the right thing to do. And it’s hardly the only thing that’s impacted on our lives as we all wake up to daily to what appears to be an ever-worsening crisis.

And working from home, in the sense that I can do a lot of my paperwork from home, is hardly the biggest inconvenience, all things considered. Indeed, it seems like an opportunity to catch up on said paperwork, given that I rarely get any of it done when I’m at school.

Despite not actually teaching, I do still work with students quite a lot when I’m at school.

I also have to attend a lot of meetings.

Many of which appear to about other meetings.

Without these other demands on my time, you’d imagine I’d be tearing through the paperwork at home. However, it turns out that working from home is not without its difficulties.

My wife and daughter might seem like the most obvious distractions, but actually Mrs Proclaims and I have managed to be come to an agreement about how we’re going to manage this unheralded state of affairs and we do have one room in the house that can function adequately as a home office. I have custody in the mornings, while she has custody of our not-undemanding toddler (which is even more challenging  without the usual plethora of toddler groups, which have helped my wife maintain some sense of sanity for the last nineteen months since our offspring entered the world). We switch roles in the afternoon, so she can work on her PhD while I manage the childcare. Which works in my favour as this incorporates my daughter’s nap time, but, it does allow me to attempt to continue working while she sleeps and try to complete what is essentially a full day’s work.

I’m sure as time goes on, we’ll all get on top of each other, but I think that, despite living in a house that is very much smaller that would be ideal, we can make it work for the most part.

No, the problem with working from home is…

…well it’s me.

I’m quite good at working at work. There really isn’t much else to do there.

But working from home presents so many opportunities to not work at all.

And I’m not very good at ignoring them.

So yesterday I accomplished very little of what I set out to do.

And I almost felt guilty about that.

Fortunately by around midday I’d received a flurry of emails from people who needed answers to questions that they believed I could clarify.

I admire their faith in my knowledge but I could not answer their questions.

What I could do is consult a database that they also had access to and tell them what they could have easily found out for themselves.

It was, for a few hours, like actually being in work.

Because a lot of my days are spent telling people stuff they could easily find out for themselves.

It’s not how I meant to spend my day, but it definitely was work and so my guilt was appeased.

Today, however, I must do better.

Although, as I have spent the first part of my ‘working day’ writing this, I would say the signs are not particularly promising…

 

 

 

Becoming The Hero I Was Born To Be

James Proclaims (4)

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Despite the fact that we’re now all living in a world that is eerily reminiscent of the beginning of every Zombie movie ever, it’s nice to see that we British are displaying our usual ‘Dunkirk’ spirit.

Obviously I wasn’t around at the time of Dunkirk, and my historical knowledge may be a little sketchy here, but I assume that Dunkirk was the last time we ruthlessly and shamelessly elbowed each other out of the way in a desperate attempt to get to the last packet of loo roll on the shelf.

Many people are now ‘working’ from home. Sadly I am stuck ‘working’ in work, because I work in a school and schools, despite being notorious germ factories, are still open. In spite of the implication of the inverted commas in the last sentence, I am doing some work, but most of the kids are at home ‘self-isolating’ or ‘social distancing’ so they aren’t here and there is, therefore, rather less to do.

A lot of staff are also not here, and I could legitimately not be here, given that my asthma puts me into the category of the ‘most vulnerable’ and those of us in that category have been told we can go home. But my asthma is pretty well-controlled, and frankly it’s pretty easy to ‘social-distance’ yourself in a near-empty school so I’m still here.

Although I do ordinarily work with children on a day-to-day basis, it’s been years since I did any actual teaching and my main job is paperwork, meetings and managing other people. With all the meetings cancelled and rather fewer people to manage, I do now have time to focus on the massive pile of paperwork I’ve been ignoring for…

…well forever.

And I might even get some of it done.

But as my blog has been bereft of content in recent times, I thought I might also write this.

The current crisis doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon so I imagine my blog might well experience a bit of a revival. It’s hardly a silver-lining to the particular cloud we’re under but possibly some might view it as an aluminium lining?

There aren’t too many obvious upsides to the Coronavirus epidemic. In one of my more frivolous moments I did wonder if, because it originated in bats, some of us might contract it and develop Bat-like superpowers. I could be a real life Batman.

Obviously mere moments after having that thought I was overcome with remorse and regret. How could I, in a time like this, allow myself to entertain such a stupid and juvenile idea?

I was so disgusted with myself that I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror.

Everyone knows that Batman doesn’t have the ‘powers of a bat’. Although he dresses up like a bat, his powers stem from being incredibly wealthy and presumably having some significant mental health issues.

In the unlikely event I were to establish bat-like superpowers as the result of contracting the coronavirus, it would be more akin to Man-Bat, a known adversary of Batman.

And no-one wants to be Man-Bat.

So I don’t think there are any upsides to COVID-19.

Except for the aforementioned Dunkirk spirit.

And I’ll need some of that, when I head off to the supermarket later to kick pensioners out of the way in my quest to get hold of some more pasta twirls.

Alphabetical Albums

James Proclaims (4)

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Two years ago this blog was positively thriving. Between November 2017 and May 2018, I wrote a post everyday for 200 consecutive days.

I write a lot less these days.

I would like to write more, but the time to do so is rather less available.

Because my 19-month old daughter has been occupying a lot of that time.

I could, and probably should, write about her. She certainly gives me enough material and indeed I do plan to write about some of her exploits in the near future.

Much as I love her however,  this blog has always been primarily about me. It’s my little space on the internet for my own little brand of narcissism.

But it’s no good having a blog if you never actually, y’know, blog.

So I need to start producing more content.

This is my second post in two days, so I’m heading in the right direction, but I’d need to produce another 198 to match my record.

I feel that may be stretch at the moment.

But part of how I achieved that previous double century was by taking part in blogging challenges and adhering to specific themes.

And one such challenge was the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Which does exactly what it says on the tin.

In April 2018 I wrote about my favourite cartoons from the eighties, because for me the eighties was all about watching cartoons.

This year I thought I might look at another period of my life. The ensuing decade in fact, when my life was less about cartoons (although obviously still a bit about cartoons) and more about music. Mostly listening to music if I’m honest, as I have nothing in the way of actual musical ability. I did own a guitar in the nineties but I couldn’t play it very well. I believed I might get good at playing the guitar and go on to be an international rock star.

I did not.

But I did listen to a lot of bands.

I also went to a lot of gigs.

So this year’s A-Z challenge will be entitled:

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young

Tune in on April 1st to see which indie album beginning with A that I liked to listen to when I was young.

A to Z Challenge 2020: 2009-2020