And so December is upon us and The Second Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films is officially underway. But just what is the film that’s going to kick of this year’s semi-seasonal selection of silver-screen spectacles?
Why it’s none-other than the sublime Submarine – Richard Ayoade’s 2010 directorial debut.
Ayoade is probably better known for his work in front of the camera than behind it, with a CV incorporating a range of acting, TV presenting and generally being pretty funny.
But though directing is not his main occupation (to date he has just Submarine and 2013’s The Double to his name), he is rather good at it.
Submarine is a quirky ‘coming-of-age’ comedy that is much better than that description would suggest. Craig Roberts is spot-on in the role of social misfit Oliver Tate, and the film charts his cinematically unconventional relationship with ‘occasional bully and part-time pyromaniac’ Jordanna (played to perfection by Yasmin Paige). The teenagers are the heart and soul of this film, which isn’t to say that the adults don’t get their moment to shine. Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins play their respective parts as Oliver’s troubled parents with understated pathos, and Paddy Considine has fun in his role as the (clearly ridiculous) self-proclaimed ‘mystic’ Graham, who threatens to disrupt their already dysfunctional marriage.
Submarine is genuinely funny, and although the majority of characters are emotionally and morally flawed, it is also rather heart-warming at times. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s definitely a film I’ll go back to periodically for repeat viewings.
Score for Christmasishness
It’s not overtly a Christmas movie, but the timeline of events seemingly takes places in the winter months, with the most significant plot developments taking place during the school Christmas holidays. Plus one of the most poignant (and uncomfortably funny) moments occurs while Oliver joins Jordanna’s parents for an early Christmas Dinner.
It certainly deserves to be considered a fairly Christmas(ish) film.
Last year I spent the build-up to Christmas by reviewing films that had a (sometimes tenuous) link to the festive season.
At the time I thought this was a clever and interesting idea, but the most basic of online searches reveals that this sort of thing has been done many times before and in most cases done better.
Nonetheless some people seemed to enjoy my incoherent and badly informed reviews.
And more to the point, I enjoyed writing them.
Not all of the films were as good as I remembered them being.
Some of them were awful.
But the quality of the films wasn’t really the point
It was the Christmasishness that was under scrutiny.
And I discovered that there were quite a few surprisingly Christmas(ish) films out there.
So many, in fact, that I managed to identify another 24 films to review this year.
And I already have another 24 lined up for next year.
And so far I’ve got 17 lined up for the year after that.
So, even though it could well be way of making a relatively unpopular blog even less popular for a month every year, this is potentially going to be an annual thing for some time to come.
And, given that content has been pretty sparse on these pages, since my darling daughter entered my life and decided that time I had previously spent writing inane posts about cartoons, morality and penguins would be better spent serving as her bed (because she’s perfectly happy to sleep on me but far less inclined to sleep anywhere else) then 24 posts about films that are vaguely linked to Christmas is probably as good as it’s going to get on this blog for a while. Also, one of the few activities I can do while my daughter is lying prone on my chest is watch films. If those films can be categorized unconvincingly as Christmas movies then so much the better
If you missed out on last years efforts and really have nothing better to do than go sift through some poorly written reviews, then these are the movies that made the cut:
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.
It’s been a while since I last blogged. Possibly that is due to a certain amount of blogging fatigue accrued during the ‘200 posts in 200 days’ marathon of blogging that preceded this latest hiatus.
Or possibly I had nothing to say.
Then again, having nothing to say has never been a particular barrier before.
So maybe it was blogging fatigue after all.
Anyway, I appear to have been inspired to post something today.
I’m not sure why.
Perhaps it’s the fact that the World Cup started today.
I always enjoy the World Cup, although I’m not entirely sure why. I wouldn’t class myself as an aficionado of football, or sport in general for that matter. I’m definitely something of an armchair fan though.
I’ve always been a big fan of armchairs.
But I do like watching sport a bit, even though I play very little sport.
The World Cup has attracted some controversy this year, what with it being hosted in Russia, a country with a questionable human rights record.
I’m currently watching the opening game. Russia are playing Saudi Arabia, a country with a questionable human rights record.
It’s hard to know who to support really.
Then again, that sentiment could be applied to the whole tournament.
My own beloved Wales will not be there, having failed to qualify, which is not an unusual state of affairs.
I usually default to supporting England, but they never do that well either.
To be honest though, I generally enjoy watching all the matches, regardless of who is playing.
Mrs Proclaims does not share my enthusiasm.
In that regard we very much conform to stereotype.
I’d like to think that in other ways we don’t, but I’m struggling to come up with any good examples of us defying stereotypes.
This post, the one you’re currently reading (if indeed you are reading this) is the 524th post to appear on James Proclaims. Which is not hugely significant in and of itself, but back on October 30th 2017, I had only written a measly 324 posts. On October 31st, I wrote a post about Halloween. Little did I know it at the time, but with that post I was embarking on a blogging odyssey. But I was, and I did and this, my 524th post of all time, is also my 200th post in 200 consecutive days.
It’s a journey which, as the mathematically more astute of you will realise, took me past the milestones of my 400th post and my 500th post, as well as my three year blogiversary. The end of April also saw me complete six months of consecutive blogging, which seems noteworthy for some reason, but probably isn’t.
It started out as me just trying to achieve the feat of writing 30 posts in 30 days throughout November, in an attempt to complete National Blog Posting Month (or NaBloPoMo). At the time I thought I’d struggle to even accomplish that, but now that looks like a miniscule achievement. As well as NaBloPoMo, I also wrote 24 Christmas(ish) themed film reviews in a sort of Advent Calendar throughout December, and in April I partook in the A-Z blogging challenge, writing mostly about the cartoons of my youth. The other 120 posts have consisted of slightly rubbish poems, even more rubbish doodles, some lamentably pointless reviews of 90s era movies and a few short stories, which aren’t nearly as clever as I thought they were when I wrote them. I’ve also introduced two never-seen-before features to my blog – the utterly inexplicable ‘James Explains’ and the entirely self-indulgent Magic Penguin stories, which are just a bit weird.
And I will continue to post many more unfathomable utterings to these pages for the foreseeable future. This is not the end of James Proclaims. I will proclaim again and I will proclaim soon.
But not tomorrow.
Because while I’ve enjoyed the last 200 days, I really do need to stop posting everyday. I have other things I need to do. They aren’t really things I want to do. A lot of them are beyond dull. But I’ve been putting them off for far too long. About 200 days if I’m honest.
For this has been the ultimate exercise in procrastination.
In the event that anyone is disheartened by the news that I will no longer be blogging on a daily basis then I would like to point out that no-one in their right mind should be at all bothered that a mediocre blogger decides to blog a bit less. But if that news still fails to console you, then rest assured, I’ll still be pedalling my prosaic prose in the blogosphere, just on a slightly less regular basis.
But probably still multiple times a week.
If, by contrast, the news that I’m not giving up blogging is the thing that disheartens you, then I would also point out that you really don’t have to read this stuff. No-one is making you. Unless you’re Mrs Proclaims, in which case I admit that I do make you read it, but you knew what you were getting into when you married me.
Anyway, the point of all this really is that in order to produce my 200th post in 200 days I had to write something.
So I wrote this.
Which is probably something of an anticlimax all things considered.
Welcome back to another James Explains, the place where I answer the questions that no-one else can.
Mostly because they weren’t asked those questions.
So I will answer them.
Because it would be rude not to.
Tragically Uncool has noticed the fairly regular posting of stuff on this blog of late and asks the following:
I got bored and abandoned my blog months ago. Where do you get the energy and inspiration to keep this up?
The truthful answer to this is that I blog more often when I’ve got other stuff I should be doing. The more I post on here, the more real-life work I’m avoiding. On the occasions I disappear from the blogoshpere, it’s never because I’m too busy, but more that I haven’t got anything I’m desperately trying to avoid doing. In recent months I’ve been alarmingly busy at work, and so the blog has blossomed…
Giggling Fattie didn’t think she was asking a question when she wrote the following (but she totally was so I shall answer it):
Every time I see one of these post I always want to comment but I never have any questions to ask! Why don’t I ever have any questions?!
Essentially you don’t have any questions because you already know everything you need to know. The only thing you apparently don’t know is that you know everything. Which is ironic. But thanks to me, you now know that too.
The six year old next door, we shall call him Sam…of course we will as that is his name…anywho, Sam asks: “how comes you write silly stuff?” good luck with that.
Is Sam talking about your blog or mine Suze? Because I know why I write silly stuff, but I have no idea why you write silly stuff. Unless it’s for the same reason I write silly stuff. Which it might be. In which case, I write silly stuff because I think it’s better for my general sanity if this stuff is written down rather than in my head.
Pete, takes advantage of the discount I gave him last week (see last week’s post if that makes no sense) to ask this:
Here’s my first discounted question – hang on, that means you will ignore it doesn’t it?
No Pete, no question is ignored on James Explains and I will answer this one too. By writing this.
But fine though all those other questions were, it’s Glen who has given us the conundrum of the day by asking this:
Do penguins topple over when they look up in fascination at a plane going overhead?
Of course they do Glen. And if they’re standing in a line (as I understand that all penguins do) then there’s a spectacular domino effect. It’s one of nature’s true wonders.
And that’s it for another James Explains. If you have a question that only I can answer then why not post it in the comments below?
As part of my never ending quest to be able to have my cake and eat it, and then have another slice of cake and eat that too, I have recently taken up swimming.
I mean I had swum before, I used to do it quite a lot as a child, and then for a brief period during my early twenties, but in recent years I have done very little pool-based exercise.
This is mostly because of a lack of pool in which to do that exercise.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of them about, but swimming pools often have erratic opening hours, which don’t fit in with my requirements.
Also other people tend to use them.
Which is a problem.
I love swimming. It’s probably my favourite way to burn calories. It doesn’t even feel like proper exercise – I find it quite relaxing, almost therapeutic, as I glide through the water, thinking about all the guilt-free cake I’ll be able to consume once I’ve finished.
But ideally I would always have the entire pool to myself.
I really don’t like sharing with others.
It’s a problem that I have in many areas of my life, but it’s particularly problematic with swimming pools.
I think it’s because, during the aforementioned period in my early twenties when I did quite a bit of swimming, I often had the entire pool to myself. It was a serendipitous combination of that particular pool having quite generous opening times and me having a low-paid job with antisocial working hours. I might have been stuck at work while others were in bed, but it did mean I had a lot of free time when others were working their more sociable 9-5s.
And the pool was often quiet when I was free.
And I got used to that state of affairs.
But these days I work the same hours as the vast majority of the rat race and so when I want to swim, others also want to swim.
And this means I have to share the pool with them.
If I could guarantee I would at least get a lane to myself, I could probably tolerate others in the pool, but even this modest luxury is rarely available.
So for most of my adult life I’ve exercised in other ways, even though I’d prefer to be swimming.
It’s my own fault, a character flaw I need to address, but one I struggle to overcome.
However I have recently discovered a not-too-expensive facility which doesn’t require a huge deviation on my journey to work, and at this facility, if I get the timing right, I rarely I have to share the swimming pool with more than one other person.
Unfortunately to get the timing ‘right’ I have to get there quite early.
As in 6am early.
Although this is clearly madness, in most respects there has been little in the way of significant change to my daily routine, but I have been starting my daily commute with a slightly different radio show playing in my car.
For the last few years my radio station of choice has been Radio 4, and I mostly listen to the Today programme on my way to work. This is a predominantly news-based show – Radio 4 does not play music. I don’t listen to Radio 4 because I particularly want to keep up-to-date with current affairs, it’s just the latest stop on a nomadic radio journey I’ve been taking since I decided I was too old to listen to Radio 1 anymore. I did continue listening to Radio 1 for a few years after I outgrew their target demographic (which is 15-29 I believe) but there came a point in my early thirties when I knew I had finally become too old – and that’s because it started to really get on my nerves. I tried Radio 2 for a bit, but while I find some shows on Radio 2 tolerable, it does try and be all things to all people which means it’s only occasionally in line with my particular tastes. As with all people who think they’re cooler than they really are, Radio 6 is probably my natural home, but that’s an exclusively digital station which can’t be picked up on my exclusively analogue car radio.
So Radio 4 it is for now. The Today show is perfectly tolerable, it never hurts to know what’s going on in the world, and, depending on what time I get out of work, the drive home usually offers up something interesting too.
But the show that’s caught my attention on my recent early morning drives to the swimming pool, is charmingly anachronistic.
It’s a short emission called Tweet of the Day. The first time I heard it, I presumed it was referencing the giant social media behemoth that so dominates the news these days.
But rather than offering up the latest moronities from the POTUS, or the pithy views of other social commentators, Tweet of the Day is a show about birds. Actual birds. And the sounds they make.
Which is really quite a nice way to start the day.