‘Working’ From Home

James Proclaims (4)

man-1459246_640

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)

zap-4335586_640
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)

boombox-2138198_640
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

 

 

 

 

 

Issues With Tissues (And Other Toiletries)

James Proclaims (4)

panic-1393619_640

The world has gone mad and I, apparently, have joined them.

For today I visited no less than nine supermarkets in a bid to get supplies for the seemingly inevitable period of self-isolation that awaits me.

I have no symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of writing, and indeed know of no-one personally who does. The chances of me contracting it eventually would seem, based on the various media outlets from which I obtain information, to be inevitable. Those same sources would lead me to believe that the chances of me becoming a ‘confirmed case’ in the next seven days to be highly unlikely.

So why the panic buying?

Well, pretty much because everyone else is.

A week or so ago, it all seemed like a bit of a joke. Who would imagine people would be in such a frenzy to buy toilet paper and soap? These are surely things that no supermarket ever runs out of.

And while it was frustrating not to be able to buy my favoured brand of the aforementioned items (which would usually be the cheap supermarket brand in both cases) I was able to purchase acceptable alternatives and roll my eyes with indignation at the overreactive loons who had depleted the shelves.

But a week on and the world is a very different place…

And you can’t get soap or toilet paper for love nor money. Well to be fair I haven’t tried purchasing anything with love. But my money is definitely failing to avail me of these things.

And so on a quest I went.

And by trawling through the various retail outlets of the Berkshire town in which I reside, I was able to get what I needed. Indeed I may have ended up buying slightly more than I needed by the end of my journey. Which makes me feel hypocritical, but at the same time the moral high ground could get very messy without toilet paper.

I couldn’t get pasta though. This is fine because I can live without pasta. I’m slightly perplexed why the British public at large have suddenly become such avid consumers of the stuff. I appreciate that it’s the sort of food that could come in handy during an extended period of time stuck at home, but there were plenty of other items still widely available that would do the same job.

Plus I received an unsolicited email from the founder of Deliveroo today assuring me that it will be business as usual for that organisation. So we’ll all be able to order Nando’s to our hearts content should self-isolation be truly necessary.

Despite the likelihood that most people won’t get the virus for some weeks, efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus are happening now and are impacting on many of us. There has been no sport this weekend to speak of, and many other events look set to be cancelled. I work in a school and, although we’re all set to go in tomorrow, the contingency planning for the inevitable closure has been very much a focus of the week just gone, and I’d be surprised if we don’t follow the example of literally every other country on the planet and close the schools very soon. And I’d be lying if I didn’t see some personal benefits to that particular state of affairs. I wouldn’t exactly be ‘off work’ because I have plenty of paperwork to keep me occupied for any amount of weeks that the gates might be shut but it would certainly be a change of pace.

Any lowering of stress levels as a result of a slightly lighter workload would obviously be mitigated by the crippling fear of getting sick. I’m not that worried about myself really. I do have a number of underlying respiratory conditions, which might make infection a more complex scenario for me, but I’m still unlikely to be among the most vulnerable. Like most people though, I know and care deeply about a lot of people who would be among that group so I do understand the current levels of hysteria.

It’s fair to say that COVID 19 is no laughing matter.

Which is a shame because I have thought of some jokes about it.

Given the seriousness of the whole affair it would probably be inappropriate to finish this post with such a joke.

Not like in the good old days of COVID 18, when you could laugh at anything.

 

 

Fin de Saucisson

James Proclaims (4)

croissant-24393_640
We’re now in the last week of February 2020 and I have clearly missed my goal of making sure I post something on this blog every Monday.

By failing to write anything at all this month.

Until today.

Then again, the ‘posting every Monday pledge’ was when I was still subject to EU regulations, whereas now we’ve got our country back I’m free to post as little or as often as I want.

Although if I’m honest I would like to post something every week and my failure to do so in February is really a personal failing rather than as a result of Brexit.

Also, the EU don’t really care about my blog.

Which is another reason I’m glad to see the back of them.

Oh yes I may once have been a certified ‘remoaner’ but now we’re actually out I’ve seen the light. Britain post-Brexit is just so much better in every way imaginable.

Except for the fact that everything is largely the same.

But it would be churlish to suggest that Brexit wasn’t the best thing to ever happen to this country just because it was preceded by three years of economic uncertainty and massive social division and that it was predicated on lies and no small amount of racism.

Because now that it’s here it’s just brilliant.

Obviously I was slightly alarmed to discover that I can no longer speak French. I don’t speak a lot of French anyway, what with not having travelled abroad since the glorious decision back 2016 to reclaim our sovereignty, but occasionally I like to practice. But on the 1st February morning the words literally choked me.

And when I popped out to get my morning croissant that day I was met with blank uncomprehending stares in my local supermarket, who offered me a bowl of porridge instead.

Porridge!

And when I tried to get hold of some German sausage I was met with equal incomprehension and no small amount of innuendo.

Obviously, none of the above is true. Although I would always exercise a certain amount of caution when using the term ‘German sausage’. Context is key I find.

Anyway, it’s the end of February, more or less, and this is the only thing I’ve managed to write.

This is, admittedly, not fantastic.

But it’s still more than I managed to write in February 2019.

So this, believe it or not, actually represents progress of sorts.

It’s amazing what counts as achievment when you set the bar low enough.

And The Bells Weren’t Ringing Out For Brexit Time

James Proclaims (4)

big-ben-4329233_640
In the ‘real world’ there is a man called James who looks a lot like me and who some people might describe as reasonably intelligent. He even has a real job and some very real responsibilities.

And that man can create the impression that he knows about stuff like politics. He can hold conversations with other reasonably intelligent people about current affairs and no-one would imagine that he is mostly regurgitating soundbites that he heard on Radio 4 on his drive into work. And few would deduce that he only listens to Radio 4 to paper over the cracks of his ever-depleting understanding of just what is going on in the world.

To be fair, he did once have a solid enough grasp on things. He had a worldview that was underpinned by a moderate level of education, an occasional glance at the more left-wing broadsheets and a circle of pseudo intellectual friends who spouted the same kind of well-meaning liberal postulations that he did.

In his younger days you might even have described him as an idealist. Driven by a misplaced righteous anger, he wanted to make the world a better place. But to be fair, he also wanted to get drunk so beyond a few inebriated debates in the pub, he never really did anything to actually make the world a better place. But he meant to get around to it one day.

As he grew older, he became more moderate in his views. He was still fairly left-wing in principle, but more pragmatic and certainly less angry.

Then Brexit happened and he realised that actually he was both quite annoyed and worried about that.

But then it just went on and on and on and on and actually, even though he was still quite irritated by the whole thing, he was also a bit bored by it.

Then he became a father for the first time and forgot there was actually anything else happening in the world beyond his daughter.

But Brexit was sort of still happening. But it also wasn’t happening. And people seemed to still be getting excited about it and angry about it, often at the same time. And some people thought it could still be stopped, and maybe it could be, but the people who tried to stop it were quite bad at convincing people that it needed to be stopped. And the people who wanted it to happen were also quite bad at making it happen because none of them could agree on what it actually was. The only thing they agreed on was that it was the will of the people. And they were wrong about that too, because it was really only ever the will of some people.

And then there was an election. But that was nothing new because there had been a lot of those. But this election meant that the people who really wanted Brexit to happen could actually claim to have some kind of mandate. But really, they only got that mandate because the people who didn’t want Brexit to happen were largely incompetent and couldn’t get anyone to vote for them. Not even the people who mostly agreed with them.

And so, this week Brexit will finally happen. And the people who really don’t want it to happen will all sigh and feel a bit sad but know there’s really nothing that they can do to prevent it.

And those that want it to happen will moan because they think everyone should be celebrating and will be annoyed that some people won’t be. And they’ll be especially annoyed that Big Ben won’t be bonging, even though, due to ongoing repairs it was always logistically unlikely to happen.

And even though people are claiming that Brexit is now done it obviously isn’t. So, it will still be in the news all the time and people will still be talking about it and the division that it has caused will continue and no-one is really going to be happy.

And although the UK will cease to be part of the EU officially this week, nothing much is actually going to change until the end of the year.

And though January is nearly over it is still really the beginning of the year. So the year ahead seems like it will be quite an unpleasant affair all around.

And even at the end of the year there’s no guarantee that anything will really have been sorted out.

And as James ponders this all with a grim resignation but also a kind of pathetic apathy, his eye turns to his 18-month old daughter who is currently sifting through an old photo album in which there are numerous pictures of him from back in the days when he could still afford to go on holiday.

And as she gleefully points out, time and again in her newly acquired vernacular, “that’s my daddy!” he ponders the irony that she is ignoring the very real presence of her daddy in the room in favour of these 2D images of his younger self.

But, he reflects, though the politics of today might mean that the tomorrow his daughter will know might have tougher challenges than perhaps it should, her very existence means that, in his own way, he has contributed to making the world a better place after all.

Most Melancholic Monday

James Proclaims (4)

boy-1296150_640
Today is Blue Monday and therefore officially the most depressing day of the year. This is based on actual scientific fact and not a slap in the face to those people who are actively campaigning to raise the profile and reduce the stigma of mental health.

I actually wasn’t feeling that bad when I woke up this morning but then I remembered what day it was and got my act together. I’ve been suitably morose since around 7:45 this morning and can only apologise for the inappropriate levels of good humour I was experiencing in the preceding 90 minutes or so. Obviously, the fact that 7:45 is roughly when I arrived at work is of no relevance to my sudden dip in mood.

Actually, all of the above is a lie. I’m writing this on Saturday and in a delightful mood. I’ve scheduled this to appear in the blogosphere on Monday morning because, after a poor 2019 in blogging terms, I’m attempting to reignite my blogging mojo by having a regular blogging day. And that day is Monday.

I don’t know why.

I’m not saying I’ll only blog on a Monday (last week I also posted a bad poem on Thursday) but the aim is to post something every Monday as a minimum.

Even if that something is a meandering post vaguely, but not really, about a made-up day, which serves no purpose other than encouraging people to feel artificially miserable.

It’s all content after all. And I hope, in some small way my content makes you feel content.

But if you’re feeling content on Blue Monday then you’re getting it wrong.

So, go away and do something that makes you feel unhappy.

Fortunately, by the time this is published I will be in work and, Blue Monday or not, it seems unlikely I’ll be in the most joyful of moods.

But rest assured, I will be honouring the day by not just feeling forlorn on my own, but actively trying to make others feel despondent.

It’s the least I can do.

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

pen-4702531_640

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Proclaims (4)

cat-156520_640.png

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

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

…no, it is still adorable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please whisk coming back next week.

Xmas Epilogue or Yuletide Eulogy

James Proclaims (4)

chocolate-2696873_640

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those people are wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

Too soon?