I enjoy a good biscuit as much as anyone. Pre-pandemic, when I used to have to attend meetings in person, I always felt slightly less hostile towards the meeting organiser if there were biscuits available. Not that biscuits could ever truly redeem any meeting, but when they were available they could help to ease the pain a little.
And while I would never actively encourage visitors to Chez Proclaims, you can be assured that if you manage to dupe me into allowing you past the threshold of my house, then I will provide you with a biscuit. And it will be a nice biscuit. Something from the ‘Tesco’s Finest’ or ‘Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference’ range. Or maybe, if I’m feeling particularly generous, it could even be an offering from Marks and Spencer.
But probably not from Waitrose. Not any more. Not after what they did.
“But James”, I hear you cry, “surely Waitrose do some very nice biscuits?”
Oh yes dear reader. Waitrose do some exceptionally nice biscuits. Some of the best I’ve ever tasted. But you shall not find them in my house.
“But what have you got against Waitrose?” I hear you plaintively protest.
I have nothing against Waitrose. I like shopping there. Even during the pandemic, when going to the supermarket has often felt akin to diving for treasure in shark-infested crocodiles, only to find that someone has already taken the treasure and left some weird lentil-based pasta twirls in it’s place, I haven’t hated shopping in Waitrose. Apart from the cost, because it’s a little more expensive than other supermarkets. But I do like a lot of the stuff they sell, in spite of the mild inconvenience of not really being able to afford it.
But let’s get back to my problem with the biscuits.
It might seem like a little thing. I’m sure some people will call me petty. But those people would be wrong.
A few weeks ago I purchased a packet of chocolate-orange cookies. And they were absolutely delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed them. They were near enough biscuit nirvana.
The trouble was that they came in a packet of seven.
What kind of inhuman monster sells biscuits in packs of seven?
OK, I’m sure I’ve already got the mathematicians on board, but it is possible that some people might be lost, so allow me to explain in greater depth, why I believe this be such a heinous crime.
Seven is far and away the worst quantity to sell biscuits in because seven is a prime number. It is only divisible by one and seven.
This means that if you buy a packet of seven biscuits, it’s impossible to share them evenly with anyone else unless you are sharing them with exactly six other people and you all have one solitary biscuit each. And when does that happen? How often are there exactly seven people in a room partaking in biscuit consumption? It’s quite a specific scenario. And if that ever does happen, then, as I said, everyone only gets one biscuit each. And surely no-one ever only wants one biscuit.
Any other scenario and you can’t divide the biscuits evenly. Someone will end up with more than everyone else. And I’m sure that marriages have broken down over less serious matters than ‘uneven biscuit distribution’.
The other option is to scoff the lot yourself. But whereas the smaller prime numbers, two, three and even five are acceptable numbers for solitary biscuit consumption (five I’ll concede is at the limit of acceptability but hardly hedonistic), seven biscuits is really too many for one person to eat on their own. Of course I could easily put away seven biscuits in one sitting, but I shouldn’t and I resent Waitrose for putting me in that position.
Biscuits should be sold in even numbers because then you can always share them with another person. I can, however, accept a packet of nine because that can at least be split three ways. Little Proclaims is too little to be given an equal share of the biscuits at the moment but one day I might be glad of a packet of biscuits offering a convenient three-way distribution.
Eleven or thirteen would also be quite bad quantities for biscuits to be sold in, but when you get to that amount then it’s surely implicit that you would need to save some for another day. And anyway, thirteen is permissible on the grounds of novelty value because it’s the traditional ‘baker’s dozen’, so it’s really twelve plus a bonus biscuit.
No, the worst number to sell biscuits in is seven.
And I am absolutely correct to be angry about this.
My daughter’s increasing vocabulary is, I think, quite impressive. Even if we allow for a natural parental bias, of which I am happy to accept I am almost certainly guilty, I think Little Proclaims can say an awful lot for a twenty-month old. And thanks to a relentless effort on the part of Mrs Proclaims (with the occasional, far less competent, input from yours truly) she can say an awful lot in both English and French.
Obviously some of my daughter’s rhetoric can be a little prosaic; that, alas, is the nature things. But while I would probably find it unimaginably dull if an adult or adolescent spent five minutes telling me that something green is, in fact, green, I find it charming and quite compelling when my offspring does it.
She speaks as she finds, and indeed calls a spade a spade. Well no, that’s not true. She calls a spade a key. But in her defence that’s because the spade she is referring to is a small brightly-coloured plastic spade and the keys she is used to dealing with are large, brightly-coloured, plastic keys, so, in fact, do look rather similar. Plus she uses the French word for key when mis-naming the spade so as mistakes go, it could be worse.
She does call a rake a rake and again it is a small brightly-coloured plastic rake. Sometimes she attacks my face with said rake. I find this less charming if I’m honest.
Anyway, the point, if there is a point, is that my daughter can speak and also that my house is fairly full of brightly-coloured plastic toys.
Some of these toys, like the aforementioned rake, spade and indeed keys, are just inanimate bits of plastic that cost very little and bring my daughter an inordinate amount of joy. Frankly, when she’s not attempting to cause me physical harm with them, I’m perfectly happy with their existence.
Some other toys are more ‘interactive’. They talk, they play music, they make animal noises and they irritate me beyond belief.
But she loves them too, so as a good parent I tolerate them. A bit. Then I hide them.
In fairness, some of these louder toys have definitely contributed to her ever-increasing vocabulary and I shouldn’t discourage their use. Except when they are shredding my last nerve and then I think it’s probably ok to discourage their use a bit, and let her attack my face with a rake. Sometimes it’s the lesser of two evils.
Most of the interactive toys are fine though. There’s a stuffed toy called Violet that even knows my daughter’s name and sometimes sings about how she and my daughter “like to do everything together”. Although there are days when Little Proclaims enjoys the company of Violet, there are other days when she is completely indifferent to her, instead preferring to play with an inanimate plastic rake (she loves that rake) and I do feel that Violet can come across as a little needy and clingy on those occasions. Maybe I should re-programme Violet to sing about how she likes spending time with me. I’m sure I’d be a better friend than my daughter. I have no interest in plastic rakes. I wish there were less of them in the world.
Anyway, the loud toys are all well and good when my daughter is playing with them, but they can be something of a nuisance when she isn’t. She, being a toddler, doesn’t really tidy up after herself and so these toys lie in wait for me, like booby traps and, often when I’ve just got her off to sleep, I’ll accidently kick one and set it off and suddenly the room is filled with flashing lights and irritating music and my once sleeping daughter is wide awake again.
Or, when she is finally properly asleep, I’ll be sitting down to enjoy half an hour of watching TV or listening to music and I’ll sit on a toy and it’ll go off and ruin the brief oasis of calm and tranquillity I’ve created for myself. And once you set these things off, they never stop. You’ll think they’ve stopped and allow yourself to relax and then, seemingly apropos of nothing, they’ll start up again with their tiresome tunes.
But most of these toys do have an off-switch. So even the most persistent offender can be silenced.
All except for one.
And that is Nanny Plum’s Wand. It looks like this:
Now I didn’t know until I did a bit of cursory research for this post, but the character of Nanny Plum comes from a TV show called ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’ and it’s produced by the same people who make ‘Peppa Pig’. I watch a lot of Peppa Pig. My daughter loves the show, and I must confess I find it more tolerable than some of the other stuff she likes to watch. We’ve never watched ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’ but I imagine she would love that too and I probably wouldn’t hate it.
So I have no problem with the show that brought us this toy. It is the toy itself that drives me nuts.
Mostly because you can’t switch it off. And when you set it off by accident it is incessant. It just won’t shut up. It asks questions and if you don’t get the answer right, it keeps asking and asking and asking.
“Hold on though James,” I hear you cry, “surely, as an adult, you can easily answer the questions asked by a child’s toy?”
And yes, I do know the colour of a goldfish. And even though I have no knowledge of the show, I could surmise that Nanny Plum’s dress is probably purple.
But this question stumped me for a long time:
“What colour does an Elf wear?”
Because these are some of the elves I’ve come across in popular culture:
Now, I’m not saying this is, by any means, an exhaustive list of elves, but I think we can agree that a reasonable answer to the question above would be that “an elf wears green”.
But it turns out that in ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’ elves wear blue.
But if you don’t already know that, how could you possibly guess? If the answer isn’t green (the most obvious to people with no prior knowledge of Nanny Plum’s world) then it could feasibly be any colour. And my mind did not take me to blue.
So the wand wouldn’t shut up.
And I couldn’t turn it off.
Because there is no off switch.
If this was a toy that my daughter only took a passing interest in then it would have found it’s way to a charity shop a long time ago.
But she loves it!
Incidentally, we didn’t buy this toy.
It was given to us by another family who were having a ‘clear-out’. We get a lot of our daughter’s stuff via other families having ‘clear-outs’.
Mostly it works well and I confess, when we first got the wand it seemed quite generous, given that the little girl who was parting with it seemed to me to still be very age-appropriate for this toy.
But it didn’t take me very long to work out why her parents were quite happy to remove it from her itinerary of toys.
And suddenly it seemed a little less generous (although I don’t begrudge them this particular ruse because as soon as I feasibly can, I will also be ‘generously’ giving this toy to another child.)
Still I’d be tempted, for their daughter’s next birthday, to buy her the loudest and most interactive toy I can find.
Preferably with no off-switch.
But, if I think that plan through to it’s natural conclusion then we’d only get it back in a year or so.
There’s no getting away from it – this post is an absolute shambles. This is partly because I started writing it on the 27th August and didn’t finish it. I genuinely meant to finish it, but I didn’t. And the bit I wrote on the 27th August doesn’t tell the whole story, but now so much time has passed that I’m not sure I can write with the same sense of outrage, which gripped me at the time
I have found some other correspondence I wrote on the same day, which might help to fill in the story, albeit it’s tonally different.
So this is a post of two distinct parts and probably not the best way to announce my return to the blogosphere after quite a lengthy absence.
Then again, as will become clear, time is not something I have very much of these days so it’s pretty much a case of posting this or posting nothing.
Nothing might have been preferable.
But I’ve gone with this.
Part 1 – The Bit I Wrote on the 27th August 2018
I can’t remember the last time I put pen to paper. That isn’t to say it’s been a particularly long time – I regularly scrawl my childlike signature on various invoices and leave requests that I have taken neither the time nor trouble to read (signing off invoices for stuff I didn’t order and agreeing to inappropriate leave requests are among the myriad glamorous tasks that I get to enjoy in my role as head of the least illustrious department in the school that pays my wages) but it’s certainly been a while since I last put pen to paper in order to write anything memorable. Whether this particular effort is something that I deem ‘worth remembering’ is anyone’s guess, but it will be more interesting than my signature. I hope.
It has, of course, been a while since I blogged and there are numerous reasons for this, reasons that I will go into as part of this diatribe, though explaining my absence from the blogosphere of late is not the main objective of this post. Nonetheless my regular readers deserve an explanation for my lack of recent productivity – I owe both of them at least that much.
But all in due course, for I digress. I was lamenting my lack of practice at applying pen to paper. For I am doing that right now. I am using an actual pen (a novelty ‘Star Wars’ themed blue Bic biro no less) to scrawl onto some paper (a long-forgotten notepad I just discovered after rummaging through some drawers). By the time you read this (if indeed you are reading this) I will have converted my efforts into whatever typeface it is that I usually post these missives in.
But let it be known that the first draft of this banality was handwritten.
This was not through some misguided effort to ‘take things back to basics’. I’m not trying to rediscover myself as a writer by renouncing all the bells and whistles of the computer age.
No, this is through necessity. I cannot type at the moment for that option is not available to me.
To be clear, I hate writing by hand. It’s slow and (presumably through lack of practice) somewhat painful. Also, I can’t actually read my own handwriting. Alas it has ever been thus. Computers have literally moved me from a position of ignominy to a level playing field with regards legibility and it’s not a position I choose to give up lightly.
But in order to type (and not being in possession of an old-school typewriter) I do need electricity and that has been in rather short supply of late. Indeed, I am currently entering hour 25 of a power cut that has afflicted my entire street. This seems a preposterous thing to be writing in this day and age, not least because I live on a relatively main road in a large town in the South-East of England. The South-East! We don’t usually tolerate power cuts of more than an hour in this part of the world!
But the unthinkable has happened and we are, as a street, currently impotent. By which I mean without power. Not the other thing.
It is this lack of electricity that I wish to dedicate this post to, because it is rather on my mind. Not having electricity does render a lot of activities ‘off the table’. Including blogging by traditional means (for blogging by traditional means would be using a computer no?) so I am forced to write using actual traditional means, i.e. putting pen to paper. Of course, I will eventually need the power to return in order to render these handwritten words into the more easily accessible typed words that now appear on the screen of whatever device it is that you are using to view this post. Unless you are reading this directly from the notebook that I originally wrote these words into. In which case, good luck – my handwriting really is that awful.
I hope that the power will return today but my hopes are tinged with more than an element of cynicism. By their most recently revised targets, the electricity company did claim that the power would be back on an hour and twenty minutes ago. They missed that target.
This is just the latest in an impressive litany of missed targets and other abominations that have made, what should have been a merely unbearable power outage into an excruciatingly torturous affair.
I’ll get onto all of that in due course but first let me revisit, for the sake of the one reader that might actually care, the reasons for my recent absence from the blogosphere and explain why, after posting an impressive 200 posts in 200 consecutive days between November and May, I managed to post only once in June and then nothing at all until this rambling mess.
The short answer is that I have been rather busy of late. Indeed, here is a list of just some of the things that have been keeping me from blogging:
I watched most of the games in the FIFA World Cup.
I almost managed to catch up on my overdue paperwork that generally plagues my every waking hour while at work.
I started writing a novel.
I gave up on writing a novel.
I gave some serious thought to actually starting to do some preparation for the dissertation I need to write before the end of January 2019, which will mark the end of an MA course I have been doing on a very part time basis since September 2013.
I became a father for the first time.
I finally achieved my goal of watching all of the Star Trek TV Series and films ever made.
I finally painted the bathroom after years of claiming that I would paint the bathroom. (Top painting tip – if you let a room get into a particularly bad state then even the most amateurish paintjob will seem incredible in comparison to what was there before)
There may be some things that I’ve forgotten about that didn’t make that list but that does generally sum up where my life has been in recent weeks.
Now some eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that one item on that list does seem rather more significant that the others. Significant enough perhaps to merit an entire post dedicated to it. And rest assured I am planning on writing that post soon. It’s only fair to my regular readers that I go into a little more detail about the highs and lows of watching all of the Star Treks.
Ok, I suppose some people might consider the notion of becoming a dad for the first time as quite a big deal. I’m not sure that it is though. I didn’t really have to do very much. Mrs Proclaims did all of the heavy lifting on that one. I suppose I did make a small contribution at the outset, but honestly that was no hardship. And after that, while I was certainly there cheering Mrs Proclaims on from the side-lines, I really didn’t contribute anything else.
Nope there is very little effort involved in becoming a father. Actually being a father on the other hand – well 3 weeks in I can confirm that does require a little more of my time. Or all of my time…
Of course I have no intention of becoming one of those bloggers who constantly writes about parenthood. There are plenty of other bloggers who do that and do it with far more sincerity than I could ever muster. Nonetheless my daughter does now command the vast majority of my attention in the real world, so it seems inevitable that she will command some of my attention on these pages.
But I will still write about soup too.
Indeed, I can guarantee that soup will appear in this very post in just a few paragraphs time.
And although my daughter is certainly not irrelevant to what follows, this post is definitely more about power cuts than it is about parenthood.
Incidentally we are now entering hour 26 of the crisis as I begin this paragraph. I observe, through my front window, that there are some workmen attempting to resolve the problem with a similar urgency to that which Jeremy Corbyn employs when denouncing anti-Semitism. Or which Boris Johnson employs when apologising for insensitive remarks he has made in the press.
Which is of course to say no urgency whatsoever. However, I am thrilled to see that there are workmen there at all, for this has not always been the case.
But let’s not leap ahead in this tale of utter incompetence – let us return to the beginning of this underwhelming story. It’s a story which begins at approximately 1.30pm on Sunday the 26th August 2018. Having enjoyed the rock ‘n’ roll activity of removing some frozen soup (a quite pleasant leek, cauliflower and parsnip soup that I had made some days earlier) from the, then-still-functional, freezer in order to prepare heat it up on the, then-still-functional, hob, I was in the process of completing an activity previously unknown to me in my non-parent days, though it is now an activity as familiar to me as heating up frozen soup. I speak of the task that all new parents must master in the early days, which is that of sterilising stuff. I sterilise using an electric steriliser, but there are as many methods of sterilising as there are things that need to be sterilised. Whatever method of sterilisation one adopts, it remains an activity as tedious as it is pointless. Anyone with even the most rudimentary grasp of science must be aware that no matter how sterilised an object becomes in the sterilisation process, the moment it is removed from the steriliser it ceases to be sterile. Nonetheless, it is an important part of being a new parent and failure to properly sterilise everything is an unspeakable sin. I didn’t make the rules, but I am compelled to obey them and so sterilise everything I must.
Anyway, I had no sooner loaded and switched on the steriliser than the red light (the very light that indicates that sterilisation is underway) began to flicker. It isn’t supposed to flicker. I feared the worst – surely our relatively new, though by now quite frequently used, middle-of-the-range steriliser couldn’t be broken? It may be a relatively inexpensive piece of kit, but since the baby arrived it does rather feel as if my bank account is haemorrhaging money and I’d rather not have to replace it. Fortunately, at that moment and to my immense relief, every other electrical appliance in our home also switched off and it became clear that the steriliser was fine, and we merely had the minor inconvenience of the total cessation of our electricity supply for a period as yet unknown. I assumed that we’d be looking at a timescale in the region of 10 minutes or so. Perhaps that was a touch optimistic but the notion that this might be a problem that would endure for more than a few hours was unthinkable in my innocent little mind.
Oh, how naïve I was.
At first Mrs Proclaims and I were concerned with minor inconveniences. Clearly the soup I had just removed from the freezer would no longer be appropriate for lunch given that the electric hob required to heat it had been rendered useless. The inactive steriliser was not an immediate concern because we had no urgent need of its yet-to-be-sterilised contents. Not being able to watch TV was a tad irritating but our smart phones had ample charge so there was no pressing requirement for my wife and I to resort to conversation in order to pass the time.
At Mrs Proclaims’ request, I verified that the problem was an external fault rather than an issue specific to our house. I did this by checking the fuse box. In order to get to the fuse box, I needed to remove myriad items out of the way. Mostly bottles of wine if I’m honest. I was then able to see that the trip switch had not been tripped and that, at least according to my rudimentary understanding of how things work, the fault was very much an external one and we did indeed have a power cut.
Mrs Proclaims was not fully convinced by my expertise so I used my smart phone to check if a power cut had been listed on the electricity company’s website. It had not. I was therefore obliged to call the electricity company and speak to an actual person, which is something I strive to avoid if at all possible. However, the customer service adviser I spoke to was certainly affable enough and he did confirm that there was indeed a power cut, that someone would be out within the hour and that the power should be off for no more than a further three hours. Three hours without power seemed a little longer than I was expecting but nonetheless it also seemed like something we’d be able to cope with.
And indeed, had it just been three hours, we would certainly have coped.
But, alas, that was the first of quite a number of inaccurate predictions that the electricity company made.
End of Part 1
Essentially that brings us up to the end of what was written in my notebook. Once the power came back on I was keen to finish the post, but, even though sleep deprivation was not an unfamiliar state three weeks into parenthood, the power cut had left me even more fatigued than usual. Plus, although I am not usually someone who feels the need to write letters of complaint, the general incompetence displayed by the power company on this occasion did leave me feeling somewhat embittered and so rather than employing my energies on completing this post, I expended the little I had left in writing an email expressing my dissatisfaction. Fortunately, that same email can now serve to complete the tale. In a futile attempt at self-editing I have removed the rather lengthy preamble and conclusion that bookended the correspondence in order to slightly reduce the length of this already overly long post.
Part 2 – Excerpts From The Email Of Complaint I Wrote.
I will try to summarise my experiences as accurately as possible, there may be some minor errors with one or two of the timings, although I suspect my timings will still be significantly more accurate that some of the projected timings I have received from your organisation over the last 36 or so hours.
At approx. 1.41pm (according to your website) on Sunday the electricity supply failed in my street.
At 1.52pm, having verified that the fault was not specific to my property I called the 105 helpline to report the power loss. I was informed that you were aware of the situation, that someone would be investigating within the hour and that the current expectation was that power would be returned by 4.45pm. I was asked if there were any vulnerable people at the property and I advised that I have a 3-week old daughter, so obviously had some concerns about a sustained power outage but felt reassured that 4.45pm was a reasonable timescale and we would cope for that amount of time.
I subsequently received a text message to inform me that it was likely that power would now not be restored until 10pm. As I received this message at 4.42pm on a Sunday it was really too late for me to access any provisions to mitigate for the loss of power, particularly with regards sterilising bottles for my daughter’s formula, for which I normally use an electric steriliser. Other options – using the microwave or boiling water on my electric hob – were clearly not possibilities under the circumstances and my boiler was also offline due to the lack of electricity so we did not even have hot water with which to wash the bottles, which meant having to choose between feeding my daughter with non-sterile bottles or not feeding her at all. Obviously, we chose to feed her and did the best we could to mitigate with cold water and washing up liquid, but it was less than satisfactory, particularly as I had reported to your organisation that I had a very young infant on the premises and might therefore have expected to receive better communication.
Unable to use the facilities on our property to cook, my wife and I purchased a takeaway meal for ourselves at a cost of around £13. We did not obtain a receipt as I was unaware at this stage that you offer compensation upon the provision of receipts. I’m not especially bothered about reclaiming the £13, indeed I have subsequently had to spend significantly more than that in the last 24 hours as a result of the power outage, none of which I have retained receipts for – the money itself is not a motivation for the complaint although it should be noted that amongst other inconveniences I am out of pocket.
However, should the power have returned at 10pm I would have been irritated but not inconsolable. However, the power was not back on by 10pm, nor was it back by midnight as suggested by a later text message, nor was it back on by 1.30am, or 5am, or indeed 1pm today, all of which were expectations that your text updates might have led me to believe. Indeed, I didn’t receive the text messages about the 1.30am or 5am estimate until both of those times had long since passed as my mobile phone had rather given up, what with the lack of electricity at my property with which to charge it.
I did, however, receive a knock on the door at 1am from one of your engineers to ask me if electricity had returned to my property. It had not, and I’m slightly perplexed as to why he didn’t already know this information or why he thought it was appropriate to knock on my door at 1am. As it happens I was awake but there was no way he could have known that given that there were no lights on to indicate that fact (lighting being one of the numerous facilities in my property that are entirely dependent on a functioning electricity supply).
As people were continuing to work outside throughout the night and indeed were making a considerable amount of noise in doing so, I did anticipate that the power would be back by the early hours of this morning, particularly given the previously optimistic nature of the text predictions I had received from your organisation. As I’m sure you’re aware it was not. However, my grievances did not, alas, end there, because it was only this morning that I realised that the majority of the digging in the road the previous night had occurred directly in front of my property. This would not, of course, be an issue in and of itself – clearly I wanted electricity restored to my property and if digging was necessary then I have no objections but unfortunately no-one had thought to ask me if I might like to move my car, and so any plans I might have had to mitigate the inconvenience of not having electricity by driving to friends or family or simply driving to obtain provisions (such as pre-sterilised feeding bottles for my daughter – available for an extortionate rate in my local supermarket) were curtailed by the fact that I couldn’t actually get my car out of my drive and onto the road, what with the huge ditch that had appeared overnight.
I did manage to walk to the supermarket and obtain nutrition for my daughter that was safe for her to consume but it would have been a great deal easier to have been able to drive and it does seem to be rather adding insult to injury to deprive me of both electricity and the use of my car.
Having received subsequent erroneous predictions on my wife’s phone (with my phone still being out of action) of when the work would be completed, I also received a voicemail from someone called Rachel who apologised for the inconvenience I had experienced and suggested that the power should be back on by 2.50pm. I did not receive this voicemail until 5.38pm and it was therefore somewhat after the fact, but unsurprisingly the power was not restored by 2.50pm. It was temporarily restored at around 4.30pm for an hour or so. It was then subsequently cut off, although in a rare example of accurate communication from your organization, we were informed in advance of this, and then, finally, power was fully restored to us at 7.30pm.
As I write this it is 11.14pm and I still can’t remove my car from my property although it appears that work has now begun on filling in the hole so I am hopeful that I will have access to my car by tomorrow, although at this point I take nothing for granted.
End of Part 2
And so back to the present day. I received an apologetic (though fairly insincere) phone call from the power company and, some weeks later, a cheque for £75, which is apparently the going rate for a 30-hour power cut on a bank holiday weekend.
Tomorrow my daughter will be 12 weeks old and thus far nothing has quite matched the challenges of those 30 hours with regards my early experiences of parenthood (although the fallout from the first round of vaccinations was pretty horrendous).
Indeed, for the most part I’m really enjoying being a dad.
But it has left me with much less time for blogging.
Hopefully I’ll be able to manage a few more posts in the coming weeks but I think the glory days of posting every day are behind me for a while.
When I do post in the future, I will endeavour to not make everything about my little girl.
By anyone’s standards, Christmas is well and truly over for another year. I, alas, had to go back to work on the 3rd January, which seemed a little early given that it was very much within the 12 days of Christmas. I’m not sure it should really be legal to make people work while Christmas University Challenge is still being broadcast.
I watched that particular show avidly. Mrs Proclaims and I are fans of the main show anyway, although I find it perplexingly difficult to get the questions right. I find for the ‘celebrity’ Christmas edition though, they make the questions a bit easier so I’m able to feel artificially cleverer during the festive period.
It was with great pride that I saw my adopted town of Reading make it through to the final of the Christmas edition. It was with subsequent shame that I saw them fail to score a single point in said final. Technically I am both a current student and alumnus of Reading University (‘alumnus’ having already obtained a ‘professional’ accreditation from said institution and ‘current’ as I’m stumbling through my MA part time and at the slowest pace permissible) so the pride and shame of their success and ensuing failure was keenly felt. Continue reading James Complains About Eggs-tremely Early Easter Eggs
It’s the first Monday in September and like many teachers I’m obliged to go back to work after a six-week hiatus.
Obviously, I expect very little sympathy from the non-teachers out there. Clearly, it’s hard, if you don’t get six weeks off, to sympathise with anyone who hasn’t had to go to work for the best part of the summer (I mean it was definitely the best part of my summer anyway).
Fortunately, I know there are quite lot of teachers who read this blog.
So, it’s perfectly fine for me to have a moan about having to go back into work.
And regular readers of these pages will know I’m not a huge fan of the whole work thing anyway.
I’d much rather sit around in my pants all day watching box-sets and eating ice-cream.
But there are bills to pay.
And no-one is prepared to pay me to sit around all day watching box-sets and eating ice-cream.
So, to work I must go.
And to be fair, the education profession does allow me numerous holidays throughout the year when I can sit around watching box-sets and eating ice-cream.
Obviously, I don’t spend all my holiday time doing that. Mrs Proclaims tends to frown upon that kind of behaviour.
Also, it’s apparently not good for your health to spend most of the day sedentary whilst consuming large volumes of frozen sugar and fat.
Anyway, after a six-week break in which I haven’t exclusively sat around watching box-sets and eating ice-cream, I’m back to work today.
Normally I’d be dreading it.
And today is no exception
But it’ll be fine. I’ll struggle through the first few hours, as I remember that I’m contractually obliged to do stuff and not all of that stuff will be interesting, or even worthwhile. Some of it will, frankly, be a complete waste of time. At first, I’ll want to resist, but eventually I’ll settle back into the same, slightly numb, reluctant acceptance that this is my life until Christmas.
And that’s fine, because they pay me just about enough to meet my mortgage commitments, pay my utility bills, and do all the other essential things I need to do to exist.
And pay my Netflix subscription.
So, while it’s fair to say I’m reluctant about going back to work today, I do understand why I have to do so, and on balance, I can’t complain too much about having to work when I’ve just had six weeks off.
But the trouble with having to work is that it tends to get in the way of blogging.
It’s hard to maintain a blogging schedule and do all the stuff I need to get done in work.
Sometimes I manage it, but there are often times when I go missing from the blogosphere for weeks, even months, on end because I’ve got too much to get done in work.
So you’d think, with six weeks off, and an unstated but implicit understanding with my lovely wife that I would not spend all of that time sitting around in my pants watching box-sets and eating ice-cream, that I might’ve had time to pen a few missives for this blog.
To get me ahead of schedule.
You’d think I’d have at least written today’s post in advance of today.
And although I did technically write this last night, it was so close to midnight as to barely count.
And I certainly haven’t written anything else in preparation for the coming weeks.
I meant to get ahead during my time off.
But I didn’t.
So, this could feasibly be the last thing I post for a while
Which, when you consider the quality of this post alone, would clearly be a tragedy for all humanity.
So let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that I churn out another one of these soon.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I rarely write about work.
This is for a number of reasons, not least of which is that this blog is very much my escape from the daily grind so to dwell on the quotidian minutiae of my profession would seem to be in direct contradiction of that sentiment.
Also it might be a tad unprofessional, given that much of my job entails working with some fairly dysfunctional young people. It’s not that that doesn’t generate some amusing tales, quite the contrary, but to share those tales outside of the confidences of a few, well-chosen, colleagues might not be a brilliant long-term strategy for career enhancement.
Obviously I fully intend to give up my day job as soon my talents as a writer, comedian and all round entertainer are recognised by the popular media, but as yet such acknowledgment has yet to present itself in the form of a jaw-dropping book deal worth an obscene amount of money, or the chance to write, direct and indeed star in my own artistically-credible-yet-accessible-to-the masses sit-com.
This could be down to a lack of effort on my part to make such dreams a reality.
Although I tend to mock the whole idea of New Year’s Resolutions, January 2017 seems to have coincided with me ‘upping my game’ in blogging terms. I’ve been posting pretty regularly, a minimum of three times a week and on occasion four. Furthermore, although many of my blog posts have been in the form of bad poetry or bad art, Mondays have tended to be for a more considered, longer piece of writing.
That, people of the blogosphere, takes planning and effort.
I’m writing this in what can only be described as a foul mood.
Christmas now seems but a distant memory and, although I’m sure I enjoyed it at the time, the net result of the recent festive period is that I’m now poor and fat.
The return to the daily grind has left me so ridiculously tired that it’s frankly astonishing to me that I actually do work for more of the year than I don’t. How have I been coping all this time? I deserve some kind of an award for bravery.
I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that getting out of bed every morning last week was nothing short of traumatic. And yet somehow I managed to force myself up and out into the morning traffic.
A few days ago Mrs Proclaims and I returned from our summer holiday. On the whole it was a thoroughly pleasant city break that was, at times, charming, fun and intellectually stimulating.
Generally I enjoy most holidays and few things give me and my beloved more pleasure than poring over our old holiday photos and reminiscing. Our latest voyage has certainly contributed to the back catalogue of shared and cherished memories.
It has, alas, also served as reminder that holidays are fantastic things to look forward to, and great things to look back on, but the actual ‘live experience’ can be more than a little challenging, regardless of destination. Indeed some aspects of a holiday can be something of an ordeal. I often find that being a tourist makes me tolerate things that would, under any other circumstances, leave me more than a little perplexed. Continue reading James Complains About Holidays
Today there is a referendum on whether or not Britain remains part of the European Union. Today we as a nation decide whether to Brexit or not to Brexit. I wrote about it back in February. Back then it seemed like the distant future, but lo and behold, we’re here in the future. Continue reading James Complains About The Referendum
I do most of my shopping online. I’m not especially a cliché of masculinity that detests the idea of actually going into shops. I like going into shops and looking at stuff I might want to own. I’m very much a consumer in spirit and there are lots of things that I think, if I owned them, would make my life considerably better. Continue reading James Complains About Stupid Retailers
To label the space in front of my house as a ‘garden’ would be somewhat overselling it. A tiny patch of gravel does not constitute a garden. Equally, a few years back, when the estate agent tried to convince me that it was suitable for ‘off-road’ parking, I was also a little sceptical. But my little car does just about fit onto the miniscule plot of land, and the kerb has been dropped, so for insurance purposes I can claim it to be such, and thus I do.
The Iron Man comic books and films would probably have captured the imagination of the public a little less if his main super power was removing the creases from clothes.
But if someone offered to do that for me they would certainly be my superhero of choice.
Given the options of battling the forces of evil or making sure that my shirts are neatly pressed, I know I’d much rather take on a crazed megalomaniac and several well armed henchmen over battling with my crumpled laundry. Continue reading James Complains About Ironing
About a week ago Mrs Proclaims and I went to see Jurassic World. It was an odd thing for us to do as we were both relatively ambivalent about seeing the film when it first came out and going to the cinema is not something we do very often.
I often go on river cruises when I’m on holiday. I’ve been on river cruises in Paris (I technically lived in Paris at the time but so many years have passed that now it feels like it was just a really long holiday…) Amsterdam, Vienna, Boston (as in Boston – Massachusetts rather than Boston – Lincolnshire, although I do have the rare privilege of having been to both Bostons) and probably other places that escape my recollection for the moment. Continue reading James Complains About The Etiquette Of Waving When On A Boat
It’s a lovely Sunday afternoon as I write this. The sun is shining , the birds are quite possibly singing (I can’t hear any but it would seem churlish to rule out the possibility), and all seems right with the world.
You’d never know it to look at me but I’m reasonably fit. Not athletic you understand. I have no actual ability when it comes to sport, but when it comes to taking part there are few people as gifted as me at ‘making up the numbers’.
I’m even a member of a local gym. Sometimes I actually go there.
No-one loves an afternoon nap more than me. It’s a fundamental part of the working day as far as I am concerned…
I jest, of course- I’m a teacher, if I were to fall asleep at work I’d no doubt wake up with a very different hairstyle, a creatively drawn moustache and, in the same indelible ink, some choice expletives written on my forehead.
I think I’m often misrepresented as someone who doesn’t really like other people. I’m overly sarcastic and it’s been suggested more than once that I don’t suffer fools gladly. I suppose that’s true, I don’t ‘suffer’ anything gladly. Who suffers gladly?
But I’ve got nothing against fools who don’t make me suffer.
Before I begin this particular diatribe, I need to point out that this is part of the, now regular, ‘James Complains’ feature of this blog, so even though I’m not really that ill and I’m bearing up quite well, this feature is very much focused on my ability to whinge about things that don’t really matter. If it was called ‘James Copes Quite Well In Mild Adversity’ or ‘James Makes The Best Of It’ then, obviously the tone would be different. But as it’s ‘James Complains’ I feel duty bound to lament the current state of affairs.
And the current state of affairs is that I’m not well. I’ve been not well since Friday night. On Friday night I woke up with a really sore throat. It was so painful that I couldn’t sleep. It’s now Sunday and it has got a bit better, but I’m still not well, which means I’ve been unwell all weekend. Continue reading James Complains – About A Sore Throat
Friday’s post signalled an end to my Blogging 101 days. Technically there were some follow-up tasks to do on the weekend, but I’d already decided the course was over, so there was no going back. However the final task did lead me to contemplate what regular features I might run on this blog, and the suggestion that generated the most overwhelming enthusiasm was a feature entitled James Complains, where I complain about stuff.
I’ve bowed to peer pressure and this is the first entry into that particular series.
Now I have a notion why people think this would be a good idea. I do have something of a sarcastic edge to my writing at times (or all of the time) and I imagine the ideal scenario would be this:
I begin a diatribe about an aspect of society familiar to us all, I point out some fairly obvious failings about the ‘thing’ in question and then I get lots of responses in my comments like :
“This is so true, lol.”
“LMAO, this always happens to me…”
The post goes viral and I become an overnight internet sensation and I never have to work again.
Obviously, no-one wants that more than me.
Indeed there may come a day, when office workers click share and snigger in unison at one of my rants.
There may yet come a day when families bond over the clichés and truisms made slightly humorous by my clever play on the English language.
There may indeed come a day when I finally write something that has mass appeal.
But it is not this day.
This day I write about a shouty man.
Sorry went a bit Aragorn in Lord of the Rings there.
But the point is, this post isn’t going to go viral. But it is a valid complaint about something that actually happened to me about an hour ago.
So what happened was, I was walking along the Kings Road in Reading town centre when a man walking in the other direction, seemingly apropos of nothing, started shouting really loudly.
I mean really loudly.
I can’t really convey how loud he was on these pages. All I can do, which I will do in a moment, is write what he shouted in block capitals to convey a sense of loudness. But it won’t do it justice. He was loud. I mean he was LOUD (see? Block capitals convey nothing. I could try something else. How about, this?)
He was so loud that he made me jump. He was so loud, in fact, that he triggered my ‘fight or flight’ instinct. I sized him up ready to either run away, or punch him in the face. But I didn’t want to do either of those things. So I was forced to listen to the actual words coming out of his stupid loud mouth. This is what he said:
“I SAID…I SAID TO LESLIE…I SAID DON’T WORRY, I’LL FIND A SPACE UP THERE…”
Now I’m annoyed that he shouted so loudly that I had to at least consider whether cowardice or violence was the best solution. But I’m even more annoyed that I had to listen to the words. Because inevitably I pondered the words.
And truthfully I overthought the whole thing.
At face value, it seems as if he has seen a third party walking behind me, a third party who is in Reading for the same reasons as ‘shouty man’, and both ‘shouty man’ and ‘third party’ have had difficulties parking. ‘Shouty man’ is seemingly travelling with someone called Leslie.
That’s probably all fairly accurate. But it’s left me with lots of questions. The most pressing being, who is Leslie? Leslie is a name that tells you very little. You can’t even surmise whether Leslie is a man or a woman.
We do know that Leslie is more of a worrier than ‘shouty man’. But is Leslie someone who worries excessively, or was Leslie right to worry in this instance? We can surmise that as ‘shouty man’ is now out of his car, that he has found a space, but was it ‘up there’ as he reassured Leslie, or did it take them a lot longer to find a space? Where is Leslie now? He or she is not with ‘shouty man’. Is Leslie still in the car, keeping watch for traffic wardens as ‘shouty man’ has stopped illegally? Is ‘shouty man’ telling ‘third party’ that he hasn’t found a space, that he was as over-confident as he is shouty and there was no space to be found ‘up there’?
And I’ll never know the answers to any of these questions, because ‘shouty man’ decided to stop shouting and instead to talk at a normal volume as soon as I’d walked past him.