James Complains About Holidays

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A few days ago Mrs Proclaims and I returned from our summer holiday. On the whole it was a thoroughly pleasant city break that was, at times, charming, fun and intellectually stimulating.

Generally I enjoy most holidays and few things give me and my beloved more pleasure than poring over our old holiday photos and reminiscing. Our latest voyage has certainly contributed to the back catalogue of shared and cherished memories.

It has, alas, also served as reminder that holidays are fantastic things to look forward to, and great things to look back on, but the actual ‘live experience’ can be more than a little challenging, regardless of destination. Indeed some aspects of a holiday can be something of an ordeal. I often find that being a tourist makes me tolerate things that would, under any other circumstances, leave me more than a little perplexed. Continue reading James Complains About Holidays

Baking Bad

James Proclaims (4)

As I’ve stated previously, I enjoy a coffee on my way into to work of a morning. I’ve also shared the fact that I enjoy breakfast. Sometimes I combine these two pleasures and purchase both at the same outlet. I’m quite astute like that.

One of these outlets has a proprietor who reminds me quite a lot of Gus Fring off of the hit TV show Breaking Bad. Rather cleverly I’ve entitled this post ‘Baking Bad’ to reflect that. Although, to be completely honest, I’m not sure if the bread that is used to make my sausage baguette is baked on site. If I was to hazard a guess, I’d say it arrives on the premises par-baked and is finished off in the cafe’s own kitchen. But I couldn’t be certain. It’s probably not the most interesting facet of this story…

Anyway he looks like Gus Fring. Well, he looks like Giancarlo Esposito, the actor who plays the role. But he has the polite, calm, quiet and efficient mannerisms in his little coffee shop that Gus Fring displays when he is working in his own catering outlet on the show. What isn’t clear is whether, as on the show, the catering business is a front for an international drug empire. My gut instinct would be no. That would be a ridiculous tag to apply to a man whose only crime is looking a bit like a TV character.

However on Monday I popped in for my usual baguette and coffee and I found the proprietor chatting to a nondescript man. Well I say nondescript, but really I wasn’t paying him too much heed. He might well have had lots of describable features, but I was in my pre-breakfast primate state and aware of very little. I’d like to say he looked sinister, which would serve the narrative better, but that would probably be untrue.

Anyway, he didn’t appear to be ordering anything, but the proprietor, who we’ll call Gus to avoid any confusion, didn’t serve me as promptly as he might normally. He continued to talk to this other bloke who wasn’t buying anything. This was very much out of character for Gus, who normally has exemplary customer service skills. Nevertheless, the conversation continued for a  few moments after my arrival and then the man made to leave, at which point Gus handed him a large amount of money. I couldn’t see exactly how much it was, but it was a proper wad of cash and the notes I could see were fifties, so it was clearly not a small amount of sterling.

Admittedly, this is not, in itself, proof of criminal activity, but this is a bloke who looks like a criminal off of TV. If that money wasn’t laundered drug money then I don’t know what is. I mean I genuinely don’t know what is, I have literally no experience of money laundering.

Still reeling from this ‘unlawful’ activity, I placed my order, whereupon a different gentleman appeared. Gus pulled out a small bag from behind the counter and handed it to the man and the man then handed Gus a £50 note, saying “take twenty-five out of that”, which seemed a lot to be paying for a bacon sandwich. But maybe just the right amount for, oh I don’t know, illegal narcotics? Well ok, £25 is probably quite cheap for drugs. I wouldn’t know, and not just because my mum sometimes reads this blog, but because I’ve never done drugs in my life…

Now it is possible that the man comes in everyday and orders the same thing and that now he and Gus have an arrangement whereby he pays for all his breakfasts at the start of the week, which could feasibly be in the regions of £25. And to be fair, from first impressions, the bag could have contained a bacon sandwich. It was the right shape and size.

Nonetheless, two suspicious financial transactions in a short space of time by a man who looks like a TV criminal, sent me into a reverie of sorts. You know how that happens to people in films, when they sort of drift off into a dream and they can’t hear what the person in the room is saying to them? Well that happened to me for a few moments until I became aware of Gus’ mouth moving. I quickly roused myself from my trance.

“Er, I’m sorry,” I said.

“Would you like milk in your coffee?” he asked.

I nodded, and we continued the transaction in silence. He proceeded to keep me under his gaze.

“He knows,” I thought to myself, “he knows that I know…”

I took my baguette and coffee, which came to less than £5, (which renders my theory about the £25 being for a week’s worth of bacon sandwiches mathematically improbable, particularly when you note that the man had no hot beverage with his order.)

I made my way into work, munching on my baguette thoughtfully. If he really is an international drug lord, then was I now in danger, having clearly rumbled his criminal activities? I thought about some of the brutal acts carried out by Gus Fring on Breaking Bad. I wouldn’t want any of that stuff happening to me. Then I relaxed. I’m not a rival kingpin, I’m not an incompetent underling and I don’t work in law enforcement. I should be safe enough.

But I am a teacher, and before he became Gus Fring’s main supplier of Methyl amphetamine, Breaking Bad’s antihero, Walter White, was a chemistry teacher. Ok it didn’t end particularly well for either party, but they made a lot of money on the way.

So maybe there’s a business opportunity for me with my Gus. I’m not a chemistry teacher though. I’m a maths teacher who can teach French, (or a French teacher who can teach maths, depending on which job I’m applying for). That’s two subjects to Walter White’s one. That’s got to be a useful skill-set for any criminal mastermind to take advantage of.

I’m going to be rich!

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.