The September Sessions – 6 of 9

Hello art fans, it’s once again that time of the week when I try to pass off something my toddler drew with her washable felt-tip pens as actual art. Often people like to write critiques of said ‘art’ in the comments section.

It’s basically the same joke every week and yet somehow it remains one of the most popular things on my blog.

This week I bring you the sixth instalment (out of nine) of the seminal ‘September Sessions’, the drawings my daughter produced at the start of September when she was a bit ill. Not very ill but slightly too ill to take out in public due to current perceptions of the dangers sneezing and coughing.

Instead she stayed home and did a lot of drawings. This is one of them:

Just Call Me Mr Milestone

James Proclaims (4)

In recent weeks I have passed quite a few significant milestones in my life. The milestones are, of course, metaphorical. I haven’t passed any real milestones. Or possibly I have when I’ve been out and about, but if that is the case I haven’t really noticed. In real life, actual milestones are a somewhat dated concept. We mostly have Sat Navs for that now.

But metaphorically, as we travel along the journey of life, which we mainly do by getting older and not dying, then we use all kinds of milestones to help us gauge how well we are doing. And this is important; how we could we really understand how unremarkable most of us are without these various milestones to crush our spirits every now and again?

Although occasionally, hitting a milestone might actually be a sign that we are doing things quite well. For example, earlier this month I posted my 200th post in 200 consecutive days on this very blog. This is the second time I’ve achieved 200 consecutive days of posting without a break but last time it resulted in me immediately having my longest ever period of ‘not posting anything’ since I started this blog. This time around, I appear to have continued the streak, so I’m now enjoying what is officially my longest ever period of blogging daily. Admittedly this would only really be an achievement if everything I posted was actually good. But some of it probably isn’t that good. Although it is also possible that all of it is not good.

But I didn’t start writing this post to brag about my peerless blogging skills. I’m certainly not saying I’m the greatest blogger who ever lived. That’s really for other people to say.

In fact, I have also achieved a couple of pretty significant milestones outside of this blog, where, as it turns out, I am a real person.

The first significant milestone was brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago, when I was presented with a certificate that claimed, with some conviction, that I have been employed by my current employer for five years. No-one was more surprised than me to discover that I have been gainfully employed in the same place for five years. But I have. Which means that my current job is the job that I’ve had for the longest out of all the jobs I’ve ever had. And actually by quite some distance.

I suppose there is some honour in achieving the ‘five years long service’ certificate, but it’s not that much of an accolade. It doesn’t really say that I’ve been an especially valuable employee for the last five years. It is really only evidence of the fact that I haven’t been so bad at my job that anyone has felt compelled to fire me. And actually, given that I have actively been seeking a new job since early 2019, it’s mainly evidence of the fact that I haven’t been very good at finding a new job. To be fair, I haven’t been very actively seeking a new role, but I have been to four interviews since January 2019, the last of which was a week ago, and each time I have managed to not be offered the job. I haven’t especially deserved to be offered the job in any of the four cases (either due to there being more qualified candidates or my own rather spectacular self-sabotaging) but it’s hard not to take these things personally. Not that I’m at all bitter about the experiences but I didn’t want the stupid jobs anyway.

Nonetheless, it was with a tinge of regret that I received my five-years-long-service certificate. Although I was touched that they remembered. I’ll keep it. But I probably won’t frame it.

However, the main milestone I achieved recently was this weekend just gone. I opened my front door on Sunday evening to receive my weekly grocery delivery from Tesco (other supermarkets are available) and with my delivery I also received a card.

Now it is not unheard of for Tesco to give me a Christmas card with my delivery, but even though the supermarket shelves are already full of seasonal fare, Tesco would normally have the decency to not give me a Christmas card in October. So I was perplexed as to what the motivation for sending this card could be.

And then I opened it and I felt so stupid. How could I have forgotten that such an important and seminal moment was imminent in my life? Perhaps the worldwide pandemic had caused me to take my eye off the ball. After all, supermarket deliveries were quite hard to come by for a few months. Nonetheless I still feel like a fool for having forgotten about this forthcoming milestone.

I opened the card and read the following words:

“Congratualtions on reaching your 250 shop”

I can only imagine that it meant to say “Congratulations on reaching your 250th Tesco home delivery”.

Still, it was an emotional moment.

How many people can truly say they have had 250 Tesco home deliveries?

I’m part of an exclusive club now.

I even have a clubcard.

Although I had that anyway. I don’t think the Tesco Clubcard is actually representative of any kind of club membership.

Although the first rule of Tesco Club is that you do not talk about Tesco Club…

Anyway, some pretty impressive milestones passed there I’m sure you’ll agree.

And which gives me the most pleasure?

The Tesco one of course. It came with 250 extra Clubcard points. Those things have a transferrable cash value.

Every little helps.

A Poem About My Cynical Relationship With Poetry

There are some who may not know it
But I don’t claim to be a poet
And though I sometimes write in verse
I can think of nothing worse
Than reading poetry I wrote
That would really get my goat
So if you ask me to read this
I’ll choose to give it a miss
Though it won’t stop me writing more
And continuing to bore
Anyone who reads my blog
Persevering with the slog
Of reading poetry this bad
Because it makes me glad
When my blogging stats increase
And that’s why I’ll never cease
To produce underwhelming rhymes
It’s a reflection of our times
That when my self-esteem hikes
It’s due to getting extra likes
And the poems I compose
Get more likes than my prose

Yet Another Poem About

This a poem for Monday
Although I wrote it on Sunday
It is not an especially fun day
It’s not my scheduled run day
It’s never been my ‘eat-a-bun’ day
Though it’s often my ‘make-a-pun’ day
But I do really hope that one day
I wake up not hating Monday

A Poem With A Consistent Rhyme Scheme Throughout But Little Else To Recommend It

I sat down at night
In artificial light
That was slightly too bright
And I tried to write
But I was not erudite
And try as I might
I just couldn’t quite
Get the words right
I was probably a sight
As if I’d had a fright
I was as high as a kite
After four cans of Sprite
And some wine that was white
Which was a delight
But gave me an appetite
So I had a bite
As I tried to ignite
A muse that had taken flight
As if out of spite
There was no metaphorical knight
To save me from my plight
It was a bit of a fight
But writer’s block I did smite
To produce something to recite
Though it’s not dynamite
Indeed it’s really quite trite
And a little bit sh..erm..shoddy?

A Poem About Healthy Eating

Muesli? You amuse me
Why would I eat that?
I’m as healthy as a lion
Albeit one that’s fat

I have no need to change
My diet is just fine
Next you’ll ask me to give up
My daily breakfast wine

It’s not like I’m inactive
I skip, I jump, I hop
I burn those excess calories
On my way to the chip shop

So I’ll pass on the lettuce
And anything that’s green
Although I do enjoy
An apple flavoured jelly bean

In any case, of five a day
I’m rarely ever shy
I’m pretty sure it all still counts
If it’s served up in a pie

The September Sessions – 5 of 9

Here we are, once again, at the bit of my blog that is devoted to the showcasing of ‘art’ produced by my two-year-old daughter. I assumed that this particular series would have petered out some time ago, but it appears to be still going strong and these posts are, seemingly, amongst my better received offerings, which perhaps says more about the rest of my output than I care to dwell on.

Anyway, we’re at the half-way point of the seminal ‘September Sessions’, the 5th of the 9 pieces produced by an unwell Little Proclaims early in September, when she couldn’t go to the park as per most weekends due to my fear of the inevitable mass hysteria that might ensue if you take a sick child out in public at the moment.

It is very much in the spirit of the rest of her work:

A Daddy Daughter Poem

The following is something that Little Proclaims and I came up with a few weeks ago. It’s more of a performance piece really. I’m not sure it translates to the page too well. But I’ve transcribed it anyway, because content is content. You’ll have to imagine the performance but if it helps, imagine the lines ending in a question mark are being spoken by a slightly overweight, exhausted, 41-year-old man and the lines ending in an exclamation mark are being shouted enthusiastically by an adorable, but somewhat energetic, two-year-old girl.

Bunny! Bunny!
Bunny! Bunny!
Bunny! Bunny! Bunny!
Daddy, I like some sweets!
Daddy, I like some sweets!

James Complains About A Man Buying Potatoes (But Not Specifically Because He Was Buying Potatoes)

It’s Sunday morning as I write this (though I think it will likely be Tuesday before I post it) and I am, to put it mildly, quite irritated. Possibly I’d go so far as to say I’m angry. And frankly my state of vexation is over something so petty that I should be able to rise above it.

But I can’t. And I doubt I ever will. Although the moment that has put me in this mood was a matter of a few seconds, it will continue to haunt me for many months, possibly years to come. Oh, I’ll get over it. But every now and again the moment will wander uninvited back into my thoughts and I will, if only for a few moments, once again be a mass of seething rage.

But let us go back in time, to the hours that precede the event in question, for it was turning out to be quite a pleasant morning. Little Proclaims and I were out and about for our usual weekend morning jaunt. Boredom has dictated that rather than heading to the playpark across the road, we drive to different parts of Reading and find almost identical playparks. It’s mainly my boredom that has dictated this, but Little Proclaims appreciates a different swing every now and again too.

So today we ventured to a part of town that I’d not actually been to for a couple of years. It’s quite a nice middle class bit of the world, albeit with facilities that are somewhat dated. An example of this would be the outdoor exercise equipment. The very existence of outdoor exercise equipment rather speaks to the ‘well-to-do-ness’ of the area and it’s still in pretty good condition, which would definitely be indicative of the socio-economic status of the neighbourhood. Nonetheless the inspirational/motivational celebrity quotes on the machines do rather suggest that they have all been there a while given that they include one by Bill Cosby. I imagine it’s been some time since anyone felt massively inspired by him.

Little Proclaims had a lovely time on the swings and running around aimlessly in a new park, but it was a little cold and the time came when she was ready to depart. On the way back to the car we spotted a near-empty coffee shop and, feeling slightly indulgent, we went in. I had an overpriced americano and Little Proclaims made do with the provisions that I had wisely packed for her in advance – I’m not averse to buying her food from a café but she’s nowhere near reliable enough with her eating habits to justify the cost. She was happy enough with her own supplies and very much enjoyed the ambience. In particular, she was very taken with a big clock on the wall, and repeatedly exclaimed to the small number of other customers, “look, a big clock!”

My coffee finished, we relocated the car and set off for home. En route we were to drive past a branch of Marks and Spencer. It is one of the ones that mostly sells food and not much else. I happened to have an M&S gift card with some credit left on it, and knowing that we needed something for lunch, it seemed like a reasonable place to stop. Obviously, given its prices, M&S is not a habitual lunch-buying venue, but if you have an M&S gift card, then buying food is quite a good use of that card, because M&S food is rather lovely.

Little Proclaims quite likes walking around a shop and it’s quite nice to be able to give her the opportunity. Still, she can be a bit of handful, and once my basket was full of what we needed, I was somewhat overwrought. Perhaps that explains why what happened next put me in such a bad mood.

We made it to the tills. I was wearing a face mask as per UK law. Little Proclaims, being two, was not. I was carrying her in one arm and a basket of food in the other. I stood in line. The man in front of me turned around and said the following words to me:

“Will you step back?”

Of course I did. I was mortified that I might have crossed the implicit boundary of Covid safety.

Except that, once I’d reversed the mere three centimetres that it was actually possible to step back, I realised that I hadn’t in fact crossed any such boundary.

I may indeed have been slightly closer than the two metres we were all trying to stick to back in the early months of the pandemic, but I was well over the current 1m+ guideline that UK law currently stipulates. Plus I was wearing a mask. And there really wasn’t anywhere else for me to stand within the confines of the layout of that particular store.

But here’s the thing. There was loads of room in front of the man. If he was really that uncomfortable, all he had to do was take a step forward, rather than insisting that I try to step into non-existent space, overwhelmed as I clearly was with an energetic toddler trying to free herself from my one-armed grip.

And he didn’t say please. Even if I was in the wrong (and the more I assessed the situation, the less I thought I was actually in the wrong) it would obviously have been the innocent mistake of a slightly harassed parent. So a ‘please’ would have been entirely appropriate. Even if I had been so far in the wrong as to remove all doubt from anyone’s mind, had I actually been stood, maskless and breathing directly into his face, then I still think it would be the done thing to say please. We’re British for goodness sake. Manners are kind of our thing.

But he didn’t say please and frankly he didn’t really ask nicely at all. I felt like I was being admonished by someone who thought he was somehow superior to me. And nothing winds me up more than people who think they are better than other people.

Anyway, there was someone in front of both of us in the queue so we both had to stand there for quite a while and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that he, not I, was the one who had broken the accepted etiquette of polite society. And when there was even more space in front of him, to the extent that he could clearly move a long way forward and give me back some of the space I had relinquished, he didn’t bother until it was actually his time to pay.

And he kept looking at me, as if further admonishing my antisocial behaviour.

Now I’m not really an antagonistic sort of person. Indeed I would say I’m quite an affable guy. I don’t much like being around other people but I’m always very nice to other people when I have to be around them. I’m almost too easy-going. People tend to take advantage of my good nature. Most people would not know I have a dark side. But if you ask my parents, my siblings or my long suffering wife, they would all tell you that I do have more than a bit of a temper. And while my colleagues generally enjoy an easy ride working alongside me, those poor souls who have pushed their luck in the past would also acknowledge that I can, on occasion, demonstrate a level of petulance that is rather unbecoming. I am sometimes mistaken for a door-mat, but anyone who has tried to cross that particular threshold has generally found themselves metaphorically flat on their face.

Also, while I would never resort to violence, I do think I would probably be quite good at violence if the mood took me. Not compared to people who are professionally violent of course (boxers, military personnel, hardened criminals, chiropractors etc.), but to the average person I think I would be quite a scary proposition. Certainly compared to this man.

But I’m an educated and civilised sort, so I obviously wasn’t going to do anything improper. Also I had my two-year old daughter with me and it didn’t seem appropriate to seek any retribution really. And even if I were inclined to verbally or physically assault a smaller, older man then M&S just wouldn’t be the place to do it. There are security cameras for one thing.

Still, I think I showed great restraint. And you might be thinking that I’m over-reacting and actually he didn’t do anything that bad, so allow me to further describe my nemesis to you.

Firstly he wasn’t in M&S buying indulgent treats, which is surely the only reason anyone goes in to M&S. He was in there buying a bag of potatoes and only a bag of potatoes. Why would you go into M&S to by ‘just potatoes’? The sole reason for doing that is because you are too privileged to realise that potatoes are the same wherever you buy them and quite a lot cheaper in other shops. You only go into M&S to buy ‘just potatoes’ if you think you are too good for other supermarkets.

Also, while he was older than me, he wasn’t actually that old. Not old enough for anyone to seriously consider him to be amongst those that are particularly vulnerable to the virus. And while we can never really know anyone’s personal circumstances, if he is genuinely vulnerable or lives with someone who is vulnerable, then why was he in a shop buying only potatoes? Why wasn’t he doing a bigger ‘once-a-week’ shop or getting his groceries delivered? It’s not actually that hard to get delivery slots at the moment and no-one could ever need potatoes so badly that they would risk their lives to get them if they had adequate supplies of everything else. So he definitely wasn’t telling me to step back because he was worried. He was telling me to step back because he thinks he’s the boss of everyone.

And, because I was behind him in the queue, I was out of the shop in time to see him get in his car and flout the one-way system in the car park as he drove away. So clearly rules are only important when they suit him.

And what car was he driving?

A sodding Audi.

I did not punch this man in his smug entitled face, and for that I deserve a medal.

A Sunday Poem

According to 80s hit ‘Manic Monday’
(Performed by The Bangles but written by Prince)
Sunday is a ‘fun day’

Perhaps when juxtaposed with Monday
Sunday is a fun day
But I spend most of Sunday
Worrying about Monday
So it is not a fun day
Anymore than Saturday is a fatter day

Although I tend to eat quite badly on Saturdays
So Saturdays probably are fatter days
But Sundays are not fun days
Unless followed by a Monday which is not a work day
Then Sundays can be fun days

Perhaps if I had a sundae on a Sunday
Then it would be more of a fun day
Even if followed by a ‘Manic Monday’
But by the arbitrary rules I live by
I have would be more likely
To have a sundae on a Saturday
Because that’s my fatter day

The September Sessions – 4 of 9

I almost didn’t manage to post anything today, which would have been a shame, given that I’m only a day away from matching my best ever consecutive daily blogging streak. Given that I’ve been tending to use Thursdays as a day to showcase my toddler’s scribbles and pretend that they are art and given that I have a backlog of her masterpieces from the seminal ‘September Sessions’ (a weekend early in September when she was unwell and therefore, due to Covid-times, unable to expend her vast amounts of energy in the local park and instead had to make do with her washable felt-tips for entertainment), it would seem ridiculous not to be able to post today.

So I’m posting this. Number 4 in the series. I think it lives up to its predecessors.

Blank Verse About Why I Don’t Really Like Blank Verse

‘Tis time to try my hand at writing verse
The kind that lacks a rhyme but still attempts
A rhythmic beat maintained by counting sounds
A form as prevalent as it is dull

Iambic pentameter without rhyme
Might be akin to cake without icing
Or birthdays without any cake at all
Perhaps as bad as birthdays on work days

Free verse lacks rhyme sometimes but has few rules
You can write anything you like with it
Blank verse is less free and often boring
It’s why I hated poetry at school

Though teachers often would (perhaps still do
You’d think I’d know for I work in a school)
Compare blank verse to rap to make it cool
Although they failed to be that convincing

Still my recent quest to write poetry
About different types of poetry
Would not have been complete without blank verse
Even though blank verse is quite hard to like

Blogging The Candle At Blog Ends

James Proclaims (4)

At first glance the title of this post looks like it might be a clever play on a fairly common idiom. But it isn’t really that clever and it doesn’t bear up to much scrutiny. Nonetheless, as the title of a fairly pointless post about my current blogging stats, it serves a purpose.

That I’m blogging about blogging stats is also hard to justify. It’s just something that I’ve been doing on the first day of the month in recent times. Back on July 1st I was celebrating the fact that, according to the four key strands of blogging success as dictated by our supreme blogging overlords, the Gods of WordPress, June 2020 had been my most successful blogging month since August 2015. Of course, August 2015 was something of a freak month, an outlier, a beacon of shame casting a shadow over all of the much much less successful months that followed. So I assumed June 2020 was just another aberration.

But lo and behold, on August 1st, I was celebrating the fact that July 2020 was now my most successful month ever. Having two bumper stat harvests in consecutive months was unheard of over here at Proclaims Towers and I began to believe that maybe, just maybe, all my blogging dreams were starting to come true.

And then came September 1st, and as I looked back on the preceding month, I realised I had broken the record again in August. And there was really no more denying it. I had made it. I was in the blogging big leagues. Nothing could stop me from ascending to the highest echelons of the blogosphere now.

Except that in September, UK schools reopened for the first time since the end of March. And, as I work in a school, life suddenly got a lot busier. Obviously I like to claim that I never really stopped working during the pandemic. And I didn’t, not even during the school holidays. But it’s hard to deny that I didn’t really work as hard when the schools were closed as I have done for the last few weeks. Frankly I’m exhausted. And maintaining a daily blogging schedule has required me to burn the candle at both ends quite a bit (oh, wait, now the title does seem quite clever). But by mainly writing poetry about poetry for much of September, I appear to have kept my blogging streak going.

Nonetheless, my September stats have suffered. They were not as good as August. Or July. It would be easy to get quite despondent about this change of fortunes. But if I’m honest, although I have posted every day, I have been phoning it in a bit. I haven’t been great at replying to comments on my posts. And I’ve been very remiss at visiting the blogs of other people. Given the reciprocal nature of blogging (I’ll like your posts if you like mine. Even if I don’t actually like your posts…) it’s only natural that my blogging stats have slipped a little.

But September 2020 was still my third best month of all time in terms of the stats. And it’s also the month that I finally broke through the glass ceiling of 1000 followers, which has literally been an ambition of mine since before I even knew what a blog was. So in many respects, it’s fair to say that my ascension to blogging greatness is still on course.

Now, I know that some of my regular readers take a somewhat cynical view of blogging stats. And I used to feel this way too.

Back when I was a loser.

But now that my stats are soaring, I have seen the light.

Stats are more important than anything else in the world.

The September Sessions – 3 of 9

In recent times I’ve been posting my two-year-old daughter’s artistic endeavours on my blog on a Thursday. But this week I’ve switched to Wednesday. This is partly because today is the last day of September and while I still have six more pieces from ‘The September Sessions’ (which, for the uninitiated, is a series of nine drawings that my toddler produced primarily over a weekend at the start of September, while she was feeling a bit under the weather and I couldn’t take her to the park for fear of inducing mass hysteria in a currently, understandably, germophobic public), I thought it might be nice to squeeze one more into the month after which they are named.

Also, of late I’ve been tending to use the first day any given month to write a kind of ‘state of the blog’ post, in which I focus on the meaningless stats that claim to tell me whether or not my blog is popular. I may or may not do this again tomorrow. I don’t know; as I write this I haven’t written that post yet, although by the time you read this, I may well have written tomorrow’s effort, as I always like to be a few days ahead with my blog posts where possible.

It’s Saturday afternoon as I write this and Little Proclaims and I have had a very active morning. I mean, we went to the park, fed the ducks and she went on the swings, which is what we do every Saturday, but this morning we went to a different park to the one we normally go to. She went on a different swing and we probably fed different ducks. Although one duck looks pretty much the same as any other as far I’m concerned.

She is currently napping as I write this, but she is due to wake up soon. She’s normally cranky after a nap but a little run around our overgrown garden normally perks her up. I might have a can of beer. And then we’ll have our usual Saturday night meal of pizza. This is a typical weekend at Proclaims Towers and frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Anyway, back to the art. Which is this:

%d bloggers like this: