As it is now a firmly established tradition that I write a Christmas message on Christmas Day, I shan’t eschew that responsibility and let down the odd person who might actually care. It’s true that the person in question is exceptionally odd, but it feels wrong to disappoint them.
Normally I write this in advance of the big day and schedule it to go ‘live’ at the same time as the Queen’s Speech goes out to the nation. Which is 3pm the last time I checked.
This year I didn’t get around to writing it beforehand, because life has been a little more busy lately. Mostly because I became a parent for the first time this year.
So I didn’t get to go head-to-head with Her Madge this time. Which is probably for the best. She’s getting on a bit and she doesn’t need the added pressure of going up against me any more.
An upside of me writing this on the day itself is that I can actually tell you what kind of Christmas I’m having, as opposed to the usual speculation.
And, as it happens, I’m having a good one. As the time of writing I’m sitting next to the Christmas tree, wearing a paper crown and feeling slightly inebriated after drinking a few glasses of a sparkling wine that is Italian in origin but not prosecco. I’m ok with it not being prosecco, because I have no idea whether I like prosecco any more than I like any other kind of sparkling wine. As long as it tastes nice and leaves me feeling seasonally cheerful then I’ll gladly drink it and this stuff is certainly doing the job.
Mrs Proclaims and I have just enjoyed our festive feast. As Mrs Proclaims is a pescatarian, we don’t have turkey. Instead I knocked up a side of salmon, which is a reasonable alternative, in that it tastes great but more pertinently, there are usually leftovers, which can be consumed later in sandwich form (this is an essential component of a Christmas dinner in my view). I presented it with all the traditional accoutrements, such as roast potatoes (which I normally do well, but I slightly overcooked them this year) parsnips (which I absolutely nailed) and sprouts (which you basically can’t get that wrong, although it could be argued that sprouts are, by their very nature, wrong). I don’t want to blow my own trumpet but it was a pretty good effort and I’m now feeling suitably stuffed. Like the turkey we didn’t have.
Baby Proclaims is enjoying her first Christmas. I mean she has no idea that it’s Christmas, but she seems to be in good spirits. To be fair she’s often in good spirits. Except, on occasion, between the hours of 1am and 3am. I find her less endearing at those times (but still pretty endearing). In Christmases past Mrs Proclaims and I would have long since opened all of the presents, but this year we’ve not managed to get to them yet. This is partly because having a four and half month old infant is quite the distraction, but also because most of the presents appear to not be for us, but for our darling offspring. They look really nice all wrapped up and Baby Proclaims appears to be in no hurry to open them so we’ve left them in their ornamental state for a little longer. In the background Chris Rea is singing about driving home for Christmas. He’s already done that a few times today. Slade, Wizzard and Wham have also popped up the playlist more than once.
I’ve no idea what the rest of the day has in store for me, but I imagine that Baby Proclaims will dominate much of it as is her way. She looks really cute in her festive outfit though so I expect I’ll be able to tolerate her. I might also have some Christmas pudding.
If you are reading this on Christmas Day, then I hope you’re having a great one. If you’re not reading it on Christmas Day, then I still hope you’re having a nice day, but I will need some pretty compelling evidence to explain why you didn’t make reading my blog the centrepiece of your Yuletide celebrations.
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.