The Goblet of Football

James Proclaims (4)

This post is about football, so it would be remiss not mention yesterday’s Fifa election, which Sepp Blatter, won, essentially unopposed. Again.  This despite much public outcry and allegations of corruption. This is the world governing body of a sport is it not? Because it felt a bit like he had held onto power in an oppressed totalitarian state having fought off a rebel uprising. His victory speech was more than a little incoherent, I felt. But he did remind me an awful lot of Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars films. Maybe that’s how he holds onto power. He’s actually a Sith Lord…

Anyway it’s the FA cup final today. It’s something of a marital cliché to suggest I’ll be watching it ‘if my other half lets me…’

But then she doesn’t really like football and I do, so out of courtesy I’m going to ask if she doesn’t mind ceding the television for the duration of the match and as I hardly ever ask, she’ll no doubt agree. We’re quite a functional couple in that respect.

I didn’t used to like football, because I’m not really very good at it. As a kid I was always the last to get picked at games. Even One-legged Jake got picked ahead of me, Which was particualrly embarrassing because he was my imaginary pirate friend…

Then again he does now play for West Brom…

As I entered my late teens, I began to realise that being able to do something well is not a prerequisite for being a fan of watching other people doing it. I’ve never been a particularly talented actor (though few can forget my turn as ‘First Bow Street Runner’ in a school production of Oliver! back in the mid-nineties) but I enjoy watching talented actors perform. I can strum a few chords on the guitar, but that certainly isn’t a prerequisite for buying tickets to see The Arctic Monkeys.

Football is entertainment. And sometimes it is exceptionally entertaining. Who can forget the classic FA cup final of 2006, when Liverpool beat West Ham, on penalties after each team scored three goals apiece during the game? Remember Stevie G’s thrilling equaliser in injury time? Well ok I didn’t really see that one. I’d only just started going out with my other half at the time and I was still trying to impress her. Not watching the FA cup final was part of my wooing strategy. Clearly it worked cos she married me.  But I digress; the 2006 FA cup final is a fine example of an entertaining football match even if I didn’t actually see it.

Of course there are examples of boring football games, but then there are examples of really bad plays and films too – Baz Lurhman’s ‘Australia’ anyone? That’s nearly three hours of my life I won’t be getting back.

I suppose football is more entertaining when you actually support one of the teams that are playing, but I think the FA cup final is one of those times when you can forego your usual loyalties and pick a team on the day. Today is Arsenal versus Aston Villa.

I’m going to be a Villa fan for the day, mostly because they’re the underdogs, but also because I’m in good company given that Prince William, Tom Hanks and Ozzy Osborne are all self-proclaimed Villa fans. I expect they’ll all be sitting together.

Another famous Villan is of course our beloved Prime Minister David Cameron. He loves the Claret and Blues. Indeed he loves Claret and Blue so much that he has affection for any team wearing those colours, which explains his ‘West Ham’ gaff during the election campaign.

I think people were overly harsh on him for that. He didn’t actually claim to support West Ham as such; he merely encouraged his audience to do so and given that he was speaking in South London at the time he was probably thinking of their geographical convenience. As I say, it’s the Claret and Blue that really matter to Cameron and West Ham are London’s best known team sporting those colours. It’s certainly no reason not to vote for him or his party. I didn’t vote for his party because I fundamentally disagree with everything they stand for, which is a much more sensible rationale.

He was particularly mocked by Piers Morgan for the mistake. Piers Morgan is famously an Arsenal fan, which is another reason I’ll be supporting Villa today. I’d rather side with a Prime Minister I didn’t vote for than Piers Morgan. Obviously Piers is an easy figure to hate, but he’s also the kind of person to respond on Twitter to a slight like the one I’m making right now.

And getting into a social media war of words with Piers Morgan is going to raise the profile of this blog immeasurably.

So come on Piers if you think you’re hard enough…

Parlons de la Voiture

James Proclaims (4)

I drive a 2007 silver Ford Ka. It is not the coolest car in the world.

Still I quite like it. I live in Reading after all, a town that is perennially beset with traffic problems, so even if I owned a Ferrari, I’d be stuck in the same slow-moving one-way system. Plus I couldn’t get a Ferrari onto the tiny patch of land that the estate agent tried to convince me was ‘off-road’ parking when I bought my house.

You couldn’t even give me a Ferrari, that’s how little I want one. (Obviously that’s complete nonsense; if you’re reading this and have a spare Ferrari that you’d like to give away then please do get in touch.)

Yes I’m very much a fan of my car, which I call the J-Mobile, on the basis that my other half and I both have first names beginning with J (see what we did there?). Technically it’s the J-Mobile 2. The first J-Mobile was a 2002 blue Ford Ka. It looked identical apart from the colour, to the extent that I was mercilessly mocked by my then students when I turned up to school one morning in my ‘new car’. They genuinely thought I’d bought it because I prefer silver to blue. Things like lower mileage mean nothing to secondary school kids.

To be fair, aside from significantly less miles on the clock and a suspension system that wasn’t shot, there was little to distinguish the two J-Mobiles at face value.

Nonetheless, the blue Ka had reached a point where it was more expensive to maintain it than it was actually worth so the scorn of my pupils was misplaced. But these are the same young people who subsequently decided I was quite cool because I wore a Superdry jacket and a Ralph Lauren polo shirt on a ‘dress down day’. Which is pretty superficial.

Then again, I wore those clothes specifically because I knew it would make the kids think I was cool, so who was the more shallow?

The kids of course, I was just trying to give myself an advantage in the dog-eat-dog world of secondary school maths teaching.

Anyway the current J-Mobile has a defect that the old one didn’t. It’s a small problem most of the time, but it is only possible to unlock the driver-side door from the interior, so you can only gain access to the vehicle via the passenger side. A minor irritation at times. Occasionally problematic when other cars park too close to the passenger door.

It has yielded one surprising positive. When my wife and I are travelling together, I always have to let her in first, so she can then let me in. It’s an entirely practical arrangement but it does make me look quite chivalrous.

Of Retail and Robins

James Proclaims (4)

The walk to my local supermarket is eminently pleasant. It’s a twenty minute stroll through charming green parkland, alongside a canal, complete with lock and canal boats, and at one point a dramatic river crossing, which incorporates a stunning vista of the Thames in all its glory.

It makes me feel a little guilty that I tend to get my groceries delivered to my door. Not that guilty though – however pleasant the walk to the place, the actual experience of navigating around Tesco Extra, is never less than gruelling and the delivery service is very convenient.

Also, if my shopping needs are so small that I’m able to carry the bags home without the need of my car, then I’m far more likely to pop to Waitrose. Not because of any middle class pretentions that Waitrose is a more pleasant experience. It rarely is, but it is quite a lot nearer to my house. Also they give you a free coffee if you have a ‘My Waitrose’ card, which is an added bonus. Although I was a little incensed when I discovered they’ve changed their coffee-giving-away policy to one where you now have to buy something in order to get the cup into which the free coffee goes. It’s now marginally less convenient than it once was and suggests a lack of trust between customer and retailer.

But then I realised that getting angry about stuff as trivial as that is indicative of someone who doesn’t have any real problems, so I congratulated myself on living a relatively trouble-free life and moved on.

This morning I awoke to discover that supplies were a little thin on the ground in my kitchen. It’s symptomatic of the fact that my other half and I are both teachers and it’s currently half term. We’re just a bit less organised than normal. With Reading Bridge being out of action at the moment, it was impractical to drive, but our grocery needs were such that we needed the options of the larger supermarket and so off to Tesco we went.

The walk was as pleasant as ever, and even the shopping experience was not overly horrific, given that it’s a normal working day for non-teachers and consequently there weren’t too many other shoppers. We also treated ourselves to a breakfast in the new “Harris and Hoole” coffee shop onsite. It’s much nicer than the cafe they used to have but it’s also quite a lot more expensive. It seems like Tesco are fighting the war against the discount supermarkets of Aldi and Lidl by appealing to a different consumer entirely. It’s almost as if Tesco now wants to be Waitrose…

But in Waitrose the coffee is free…

Nonetheless it was all quite pleasant and on the walk home, things took a turn for the idyllic, when I caught site of a little Robin Redbreast going about its business as if it were the central character in a children’s story. How utterly charming, I thought to myself.

But then I reflected – it’s the latter end of May and all of the maxims from my infancy, as well as a large number of Christmas cards that I’ve received over the years, would have me believe that the Robin is intrinsically linked with yuletide celebrations. Now I’m not stupid enough to think that Robins can’t exist at other times of the year, but I did wonder if the Robin is ever really likely to be seen in the winter months, or if it’s just one of those myths purported by popular culture.

So I did a bit of research and what I found out about the robin’s place in British folklore was truly fascinating.

Obviously I haven’t got the time to go into it all here. This is just a facile blog post about going to the supermarket. But why not look it up for yourself?

Coffee-Counter Culture

James Proclaims (4)

I’ve always been more of a coffee drinker than a tea drinker, which perhaps defies the British stereotype. It’s not uncommon though, and truthfully I’m not anti-tea or anything; I like tea too, I just prefer coffee.

I’ve drunk coffee for as long as I can recall; certainly my habit began in primary school. If anything my parents encouraged it, but you have to remember it was the eighties back then and they were preparing me for life as a yuppie.

It started out as instant coffee, bog-standard instant coffee at that, but as I got older my tastes became more refined and I went from Nescafe (or supermarket own-brand equivalent) to Nescafe Gold (or supermarket own-brand equivalent).

Nowadays, if I have to drink instant at all, I’m very much a Kenco Millicano man (or supermarket own-brand equivalent), but really I much prefer ‘real coffee’. My wife bought me a coffee machine for my birthday last month and it’s been in constant use ever since.  I wouldn’t say I’m a coffee connoisseur, because that would imply some sort of knowledge and expertise on the subject, but I am increasingly a coffee snob.

I also like availing myself of an ‘Americano’ from the various coffee outlets in Reading town centre en route to work of a morning. I have noticed there is something of a disparity in both price and quality. There are several venders who profess to sell the best coffee in Reading. It can’t be true for all of them but they do charge significantly more than those who don’t make such outlandish claims. I think it’s entirely possible to pick up a fairly decent sized cup of coffee for around a £1 -£1.50. At that price it’s a little morning luxury. However one retailer recently charged me £2.90 for what was admittedly a very high quality product. But it wasn’t so good that it was worth two cups of coffee from its neighbouring competitors. Plus the £2.90 coffee was served with a cocky swagger by an overconfident youth who thinks the job title ‘barista’ actually means more than just being the Italian word for someone who works in a coffee shop. There’s nothing wrong with working in a coffee shop but don’t oversell it. It’s probably something his mum constantly has to deal with.

“Marge, I hear your boy is a barrister, you must be so proud.”

“Well not exactly a barrister Vera…”

I have genuinely no idea why I’ve used the names Marge and Vera. But I digress…

The £1.20 I paid for what was actually just instant coffee from a kiosk in a town centre park a few weeks ago seems equally offensive on reflection. Because that’s a  40p cup of coffee at best. It’s a lovely park too, but I’ll be importing my coffee from now on.

Last word goes to the behemoth that is Costa Coffee. I don’t tend to frequent the high street giants like the afore-mentioned Costa or Starbucks – I’m pretentious enough to prefer my coffee to be ‘indie’, but occasionally needs must.

In these places the ‘baristas’ are encouraged to upsell you from a small to a medium. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into numerous times.

“Would you like a large or just a medium?” is the loaded question they ask. Sometimes I remember that there is a third, cheaper, option. Sometimes I go with the medium, which is inevitably larger than I need.

For some reason the other day I decided to go for a large. It was first thing in the morning so my faculties hadn’t all kicked in and it was post my £2.90 experience so in the context of that, the £2.40 that Costa were charging didn’t seem too bad.

I was presented with this monstrosity.

Costa

The last time I needed a two handled cup, even my liberal-minded parents thought I was too young for coffee.

Eggcellent Electricals (would egglectricals be stretching the pun too far?)

No-one enjoys a bit of washboard percussion more than I.

But apparently the washboard wasn’t created as a musical instrument. It’s actually, believe it or not, a device for doing laundry, but the invention of the washing machine has rendered it all but redundant in this capacity.

The world is full of such labour-saving devices. It’s why so few of us employ servants these days, unlike all those people in period dramas. It’s much better this way, because now I can choose to live in a small two bedroom house, rather than the much larger property that would be needed to accommodate all of my hired hands. And it might be less environmentally friendly but driving a small, second-hand car is much simpler than maintaining a coach and horses. Also I’m a little bit afraid of horses (and cows for that matter. And if I really think about it, I wouldn’t want to be locked in a room with a giraffe. It’s an unlikely scenario I grant you, the room would need pretty high ceilings for starters).

But labour-saving devices aren’t just about not needing servants. Technology has improved our lives immeasurably and I’m always amazed by the latest developments. Smartphones are brilliant. Now wherever I am in the world I can be frustrated by slow internet connections, and I’m never burdened by the necessity to actually have conversations with people who are in the same room as me. And I can take photos and upload them to social media instantly so everyone can know where I am and what I’m doing, whether they are interested or not.

Just looking around the room I’m in now, I can see loads of technological things that make my life better, such as a digital photo frame, which means I don’t have to look at the same treasured picture that I’ve lovingly picked out and chosen to display but rather hundreds of largely inferior photographs that alternate regularly, or would do if the device was actually plugged in. And I’ve got a shredder, which saves me having to individually rip up each of the highly confidential documents that I dispose of on a daily basis. Also in the room is an electric guitar, which is much more efficient than the old ‘manual’ guitar I used to own.

But even I, lover of technology that I am, was perplexed by the electric egg-boiler that my sister gave me for my last birthday. Boiling an egg is inherently easy. If, when describing a person you were to suggest that said person “can’t even boil an egg” you would be saying that that person is a bit inadequate, at least when it comes to culinary skills.

Eggboiler

So as labour saving devices go, surely an electric egg-boiler is all but pointless?

Oh how wrong I was. Yes I could manually boil an egg in the same amount of time if all I want is a RUBBISH boiled egg. The electric egg-boiler does my eggs exactly the way I want them every time. Maybe it’s going too far to say it’s revolutionised my life, but frankly it has revolutionised my life.

Now all I need is an electric toast butterer. And maybe an electric machine to cut the toast into soldiers for me as well.

Buffet Bliss

James Proclaims (4)

If you ask me what my favourite food is, on any given day I would probably give you a different answer. It’s really down to what mood I’m in at that particular moment.

I’m not really that discerning. The French would definitely not describe me as a gourmet (dictionary definition – a person who cultivates a discriminating palate for the enjoyment of good food and drink), they would more likely classify me as a gourmand (dictionary definition – one who is fond of good eating, often to excess).

Like all gourmands, I particularly enjoy accessing my food through the medium of buffet. I love a good buffet, because you get to have a bit of everything.

Or in my case, a lot of everything.

My mum lays on a good buffet. When I was younger, she always made wait until all the other guests had had an opportunity to get to the table first. She knew my plate-loading capabilities. I like to think I show a little more restraint nowadays. I’m probably deluding myself.

I attended a family gathering with an excellent buffet today. There was plenty of food to go around, arguably too much as there was no shortage of leftovers at the end.

It’s always a sign of a well stocked buffet, when even I am unable to make much of a dent.

But I gave it a good go.

Livid Leprechaun

James Proclaims (4)

Reading’s local rugby team is called London Irish. It’s a strange name for a team that is evidently not based in London, and has limited links to Ireland. Historically it had both of those things going for it, originally being set up as a club for Irish people who were living in London.  The name endures despite the move to Reading and the fact that although there are still Irish players playing for the team, there are many more English players and, as with all modern teams, there are a lot of other nationalities in the squad too. It has a huge local following in Reading but it does still attract Irish fans, in much the same way as I and my fellow Welsh exiles have an affection for the now Oxford-based London Welsh.

I naturally assumed that when I saw a man dressed all in green  and wearing a Leprechaun mask, walking across Reading Bridge today, that he was on his way home from a match. There could be no other explanation surely for such an outfit on a Sunday afternoon in May?

He seemed to be in quite a jovial mood until two youngish teenage boys tried to cycle past him.

“There’s a f***ing sign back there telling you to get off your f***ing bikes,” he yelled demonstrating more than a hint of an Irish accent.

It was an angry and unpleasant outburst and the two boys looked reasonably shocked by it, though admittedly they were not shocked enough to actually get off their bikes. The man in green did have a point. Reading Bridge is going through a period of renovation and is closed to traffic at the moment. It is open to pedestrians however. For cyclists there is a clear sign indicating that they are welcome to cross the bridge but only if they push their bikes across.

He did misquote the sign however. I checked and it says “Cyclist Dismount.”

To date I’d conservatively estimate that only about 75% of cyclists that I’ve witnessed crossing the bridge have followed that instruction. Perhaps the sign would have more impact if it did indeed say “Get Off Your F***ing Bike!”

Upon arriving home and anticipating that this little encounter might well be something I could write about, I did a bit of research (I won’t make a habit of it I promise) and I discovered that London Irish played their last game of the season eight days ago.

So now the only explanation for the man being dressed in green and wearing a leprechaun mask is his pride in his Irishness.

Irish people may well feel inclined to correct me but that doesn’t seem to be reason enough.

Glorious Gluttony

James Proclaims (4)

I went to the pub last night. I didn’t drink that much, but I ended up being a tiny bit drunk. Certainly I was drunk enough that when I went to the chip shop on the way home I bought a significantly larger amount of food than I would have had I not been imbibing alcohol.

Normally my other half and I split a large portion of fish and chips between us and it’s more than enough. Last night I bought a portion of fish and chips for my wife and a pie and chips for me and then I stole half of hers, which she was very good about (probably because unlike me, she wasn’t in the least bit inebriated).

Despite having her portion significantly diminished, my beloved managed to leave quite a lot on her plate, whereas I scoffed all of mine, which left me feeling a little bit ill. But it was really hard, in spite of this, for me not to then finish off all that she had left.

At this point I was almost turning green, but, alas, I had not just stopped at the chip shop, I had also popped into the Co-op, and bought a profiterole based dessert, which was clearly not needed.

But even though it would have kept for a few days if left unopened in the fridge, I insisted we have it (at this point I realise I may have been a little more intoxicated than I had first suspected). To be fair my spouse held her own for this course. Nonetheless 50% of what was quite a large chocolate and cream based pudding was enough to leave me virtually immobile.

I had just enough energy to stumble up the stairs to bed whereupon I collapsed in a gratified heap and slept it off.

So it was something of a surprise when I woke up this morning, not with a hangover, but a perplexingly empty stomach.

Un-SUIT-able

James Proclaims (4)

I only have one suit. It’s a really nice suit though.

I got married in it, so I really pushed the boat out and had it tailor-made. It is literally the most expensive thing I own apart from my house.

Since getting married in it I have worn it to numerous weddings, funerals, christenings and job interviews. I’ve had it for almost five years and it still looks awesome.

I’ve been wearing it for the last two days at what can only be described as the most arduous job interview I’ve ever done. I didn’t get the job but I was the sharpest dressed candidate there. Clearly they were looking for other qualities…

In my defence I only applied on the off-chance. It would have been something like a 50% pay increase and moved me five years further on my career path than I have any right to be. And actually the feedback I got was quite good. It was ultra-honest – I was told exactly what I did wrong and in great detail, so when my interviewer told me I was a good candidate in a strong field of candidates, just not the best on the day, I did feel inclined to believe her, because her subsequent brutal honesty demonstrated that she wasn’t trying to make me feel better in any way. Also there was a cull at the end of the first day and I survived so I clearly wasn’t the worst candidate. In fact out of the five who made it to interview I came at least third.

Nonetheless it’s never nice to give something your all and come up short. So I’m a bit down at the moment. I’ll get over it though.

What I won’t get over is another suit related moment I had recently. This time I was wearing my suit to a funeral. The funeral was in Kent and en route my wife and I stopped off in Maidstone for a break. While there we popped into Marks and Spencer whereupon I was mistaken for an employee. I was wearing my beautiful bespoke suit and someone thought I worked there. I’ve got nothing against people who work there but I’m pretty sure that even the manager of Marks and Spencer wears a Marks and Spencer suit. And no disrespect to that particular retail outlet, but even their really nice suits aren’t as nice as mine.

Maybe I shouldn’t be that offended, though, because it seems the people of Maidstone think I look like someone who works in retail. A few years back, when I actually lived in Kent, I was mistaken for an employee of (the now defunct) JJB Sports.

Indeed it appears as if the people of Maidstone think I have quite a successful retail career, because manager of Marks and Spencer has to be a step up from  JJB sports.

At least when I was in JJB Sports though, I was wearing trackie bottoms and a polo shirt, which would have made me look like and employee of a sports shop.

Whereas loads of people wear suits and don’t get mistaken for employees of Marks and Spencer.

And mine is a really nice suit.

Angry Artists

James Proclaims (4)

There’s this belief that anger and adversity produces the best art. I’m not certain who actually believes it, but it does seem to be a truism of sorts that is rarely challenged.

I have never achieved success in any of the arts apart from coming second in a short story competition of some repute when I was eleven years old.

I wasn’t massively angry when I was eleven – although I was a bit gutted that the kid who beat me was only eight. I must’ve beaten loads of other eleven years olds to come second but there was still some ignominy in being runner up to a much younger child.  She completely deserved to beat me; hers was a story of charm and precocious wit. Mine was an unashamed rip off of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

My life after the age of eleven, my secondary school years if you will, were full of anger and adversity and I achieved next to nothing in that time aside from a reasonable, though mildly disappointing, set of GCSEs.

But maybe I was never destined to produce any art of note. I have clearly got ambitions of writing, but if I couldn’t produce anything in my twenties when I was angry about loads of stuff (mostly misplaced anger about stuff that was pretty much my fault) then apparently I have no chance now I’m in my thirties and for the most part, relatively content.

Although I do write a lot more stuff now than I did then, so from a productivity point of view, I’m actually doing much better.

The nature of my current job means that I do meet plenty of people going through fairly genuine adversity and most of them are pretty angry about it, but none of them produce much in the way of quality art, whereas the successful artists that I have encountered have seemed to my eyes to be quite privileged, with only a set of ‘first world’ problems to moan about.

 Perhaps the overcoming of adversity is a natural path to artistic greatness, and I’m certain there are some great examples of this. I’d imagine though, that genuine adversity is far too much of a barrier for art to be produced at all in most cases.

Sunday Sorrows

James Proclaims (4)

When the Antique Roadshow theme song blasts out of my television I feel sick to my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against the programme. I don’t actually watch it with any regularity but if I do, it’s because I’m procrastinating in front  of the television rather than doing something more useful. But that’s the point, it’s on at a time when I’m likely to be procrastinating because it’s on on a Sunday evening, and Sunday evenings are generally a time that I feel a bit rubbish.

It’s been a problem for as long as I can remember.

From around 4pm, most weeks, the Sunday melancholy appears.

I’m feeling it now, as I write this.

I’m perturbed by it.

Not because I don’t understand why I’m feeling this way. I do. It’s entirely understandable and natural. I’ve enjoyed having a couple of days of relative downtime and I don’t really want to have to go back to work tomorrow. It’s nothing to do with my job. I’ve had jobs I hate, and jobs I quite like and my current job is one of the most enjoyable I’ve had. But it’s not better than a weekend. Weekends are brilliant, even the weekends when I don’t really do anything (sometimes they’re the best ones…). I’m always sad when the weekend has to end.

What perplexes me slightly is that I can’t be the only person who feels like this on a Sunday evening (and a quick Google search reveals that loads of people feel this way – which possibly renders this post a little redundant really) but the accepted idiomatic expression in general use is “that Monday morning feeling”.

Not “that Sunday afternoon/evening feeling”.

I understand why.  It’s a much better sounding expression and uses alliteration.

And Monday mornings are quite hard.

But for my money, Sunday evenings are much worse.

Mug Mugging

James Proclaims (4)

This is no ordinary ceramic mug; this is a mug that I purchased from the Manchester Museum gift shop in November 2006.

manchester mug

“Big Deal!” I hear you cry. Anyone could buy a mug from the Manchester Museum gift shop. Well anyone who pays a visit to the Manchester Museum could anyway.

True enough and certainly what makes this particular mug so special is not the fact that it was purchased from a museum that isn’t even the most exciting museum in its native city (it is worth a visit if you are in the vicinity, but there are more exciting offerings in England’s third biggest city). What makes this mug so special is what happened shortly after I purchased it.

The reason I purchased it was not because I was enamoured with the afore-mentioned museum (though as I say, it was acceptably diverting) but because I had only recently moved to Manchester and did not have a mug of my own to use in the horrible digs I was renting. Furthermore the reason I was even in the museum was because I was out with my girlfriend (who is now my wife for added context) and also her parents who were visiting her from Essex for the weekend. I didn’t actually reside with my girlfriend but I had moved to Manchester in order to be closer to her, and consequently spent every available moment in her flat which explains why I had no mugs of my own. As the visit to the museum drew to a close it became apparent that she did not have enough vessels to provide hot drinks for more than three people at any one time, so I decided to buy the above object to alleviate the problem when we all went back to her apartment, with the added bonus that I could take it back to my dingy room afterwards and enjoy hot beverages in my own abode for the first time since moving there.

The issue was duly solved and we all enjoyed a nice cup of tea before heading out for a reasonably priced meal on the famous curry mile.

Later that evening, I was making my way back to my own undesirable dwelling, in the less than salubrious Burnage, when I was accosted by two inebriated but fairly burly men. I was holding the mug in my hand, but it was in a small box and one of the men thought that rather than a simple coffee cup, I might instead be holding a satellite navigation system. Why he thought I would be walking the streets of Manchester alone at night with a sat-nav is anyone’s guess. Surely if I did own such an appliance then I would also own a car and I would have been driving myself home. Nonetheless he thought what he thought and so naturally decided it was probably worth stealing it off me.

“It’s not a sat-nav,” I protested opening the box to reveal my treasured objet d’art in all its ceramic glory, “it’s a mug.”

Obviously disappointed, he paused for a second before deciding that sat-nav or not, he was going to steal it from me. He tried to wrestle it from me but somehow (and to this day I’m still not sure how) I managed to ward off his attempts. His mate didn’t seem particularly interested in helping him and so rather than pursuing the matter further; he decided that it probably wasn’t worth fighting me over a mug, so hurling some choice expletives in my direction he sauntered off.

It was only when I had safely got back to my hovel that I realised that I had actually just been mugged for a mug. Which is a tremendous pun. On reflection I still have no idea what was I thinking when I fought back. At £2.99 it wasn’t hugely expensive as mugs go. It certainly wasn’t worth dying for.

Nonetheless, to this day it remains one of my most treasured possessions. This is partly because it gave me the ‘mug-mugging’ story, which always goes down well in the pub. It also serves as a reminder to choose my battles more wisely. Additionally it is something of a trophy because at the end of the day I did win that encounter.

Fundamentally, though, I love it because it’s the perfect size for a good cup of coffee.

Breakfast Is Brilliant

James Proclaims (4)

It’s always good to throw in an Oscar Wilde quote, as evidence of one’s own wit. It’s a strange vicarious thrill. I’m quoting Oscar Wilde, therefore I’m equally as droll as the celebrated 19th century playwright.

On that basis, and to prove my own wittiness, I shall quote him now.

“Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast” is something he apparently said. I know this, not because I’ve read ‘The Importance of being Earnest’, ‘An Ideal Husband’ and ‘Lady Windemere’s Fan’ (all in one handy ‘omnibus’ style tome) and indeed seen at least one of the above performed on stage, thus making me, indisputably an expert on Oscar Wilde. No, I am aware of this particular quote because it appears on a novelty cup and saucer I own (I think a gift from the same aunt who bought me the plastic lightsaber I mentioned in a recent post).

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Anyway, erudite and educated as I clearly am, I am certainly no genius first thing in the morning. Indeed there is something of the primate about me when first I stumble out of bed. So I can only conclude that anyone who is capable of being ‘brilliant’ at that time of the day must, as Wilde surmises, be exceptionally dull the rest of the time.

But one thing that is consistently brilliant at that time of day, is the breakfast itself. I love breakfast.

Obviously it’s a stupid word from an etymological point of view. Breakfast, as I recall being taught by an earnest teacher when in primary school (earnest by nature not Earnest by name, to avoid any Wildean confusion here) originates from the notion of breaking a fast. But it’s a bit of an overstatement to suggest that while I have been sleeping, I have been fasting. Fasting suggests a great deal more willpower than that which is required to lie horizontally on a comfortable mattress and loudly snore intermittently for six to eight hours. That takes literally no will power at all.

But in order to fully descend into cliche, which clearly is the only way to go when you start a missive with Oscar Wilde quotes, I firmly believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But it’s also the one with by far the most exciting options.

There’s the ‘Full English’ or variant thereof (known often as the ‘Full Welsh’ in my homeland – I couldn’t comment on what the Scottish or Irish would call it, they may have their own versions), you can go continental, with croissants, pains au chocolat and various other pastries. You can throw in American style pancakes, with bacon and maple syrup. Or, if dignity is not your thing, a cold slice of last night’s pizza.

Breakfast is wonderful and there are so many exciting options. I’m writing this using the free wifi in my local Wetherspoons pub having just eaten a breakfast wrap, comprising of bacon, sausage, a fried egg , a hash brown and cheese served in a wrap and very nice it was too.

Other breakfasts are available.

Jammy James

James Proclaims (4)

Once again I find myself to be the last person in the building as my colleagues have all departed for the day. Much paperwork to catch up on, and emails to reply to, have delayed my escape. The pain has been somewhat eased, however, upon inspection of the old ‘Celebrations’ tub from Christmas, that sits on top of the kitchen cupboard and now serves as a makeshift biscuit tin. To my delight, I found therein, the remaining spoils from Tuesday’s team meeting, which included but was not limited to, half a packet of Jammie Dodgers.

Alas (for my colleagues at least) they are no more…

Mistaken Machine

James Proclaims (4)

About to leave work at the end of a frankly mental day, my foot was half out of the door when I heard the phone ring in the office. As the last person in the building, I could have chosen to ignore the call and let the machine get it, but I decided to do the decent and honest thing and answer it. This meant a heroic and frankly herculean effort to run up a flight of stairs, but breathless, I got there in time.

“Good afternoon” I panted down the receiver only to greeted by a recorded message. Were this not irritating enough, the machine (which for my benefit seemed to be adopting the tone of a well spoken lady) informed me that it had tried to contact me multiple times about my mis-sold PPI and that I should now press five in order for the team to process my refund.

Given that anybody out of around ten people could have picked up that call, had they not all scarpered home before me, the machine did rather well to establish that it was me answering the phone at all, particularly as it didn’t bother to ask my name.

And if it tried to contact me all those times, why did it try my work number? Why not try me at home or on my mobile? Honestly if machines are that stupid I don’t think the dystopian futures of ‘The Terminator’ or ‘The Matrix’ are at all likely to happen anytime soon.

I didn’t press five. I don’t remember buying any Payment Protection Insurance. Actually, come to think of it, the machine must’ve thought I was someone else.

Maybe it thought I was Dave. I’ll ask him tomorrow

Darth by Chocolate

James Proclaims (4)

I love Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back is probably my favourite film of all time, but I basically love all of the films, even though I am fully aware that the ‘prequel’ trilogy, particularly ‘The Phantom Menace’ are objectively quite bad. I also love Star Wars Merchandise. I had loads of toys when I was a kid, although at some point during my teenage years, my parents saw fit to give them away to my cousin, possibly robbing me of a nice little ‘resale’ nest egg. Truthfully I probably wouldn’t have sold them and might still secretly play with them today if they hadn’t done that, so maybe they were doing me a favour.

Not that it has stopped me collecting all kinds of crap in my adult life (including some new toys…). Particular favourites are my Jedi Knight dressing gown, a Christmas Jumper on which Darth Vader proclaims to “Find Your Lack of Cheer disturbing”, and a plastic electronic lightsaber bought for me by an aunt who should know better. It lights up and you can choose between red or blue, which means you can choose whether to be a Sith or a Jedi (goodie or baddie to the non-discerning)

Other Star Wars merchandise that I own include an R2D2 eggcup, a Millenium Falcon bottle opener and a Storm Trooper Mug (which looks like a Storm Trooper’s head).

The most recent addition, though sadly already departed, was this awesome Chocolate Bust of Darth Vader, which my darling wife bought for me instead of an Easter Egg.

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Easter, was of course, over a month ago, but I have only just gotten around to eating it due to a whole ‘having your hollow milk chocolate decorated figure and eating it’ dilemma. I have now eaten it and thus sadly no longer possess it. It was delicious though.

The All-Important First Post

James Proclaims (4)

I’ve started numerous blogs over the years. They always start well. I usually post regular updates for a few days, sometimes even two or three daily. Then I miss a day, then a few days. This becomes a few weeks and then, really, the blog is dead; my passion runs out.

Eventually when the blogging bug bites me again, months or sometimes years later, and I return to my now neglected online journal, I find that I am embarrassed by the content, that I had been trying too hard to be funny, poignant or profound, and that my regular early posts, born though they were from enthusiasm, lack any real purpose and subsequently when I attempt to resume my internet diary, I find that my new material doesn’t sit well with that which is already there.

The only solution has been to delete the old blog and start anew. With renewed vigour.

“This time I will get it right,” I boldly claim, “ this time I will produce a blog worthy of note, an electronic series of missives designed to change the world, revolutionise the written word and simultaneously entertain and inform the people of the world.”

And then I miss a day…

Since 2006 I have abandoned several blogs and none has made it to more than a few months old. So maybe I’m not cut out for blogging. Maintaining an online journal requires the kind of dedication and commitment that I’m not really known for. I don’t really hold out much hope for this blog really, but I haven’t done one for a couple of years so it seems appropriate to try again – I’ve gone and paid for my own proper domain name this time so I might as well give it a proper go.

Nonetheless, it’s probably not the best portent for success that I recycled most of this post from the ‘first post’ of my last attempt at a blog…

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