Reflections On The Recent Lockdown By A Man Who Might Be Slightly Inebriated

James Proclaims (4)

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It will be Monday when I post this but, as I write, it is Saturday afternoon. Little Proclaims and I spent much of this morning doing our usual weekend daddy-daughter activities, which mostly consists of feeding ducks and jumping in puddles. I join in with the duck/goose/swan feeding as Little Proclaims, while content to hold a piece of stale bread and shout at the associated waterfowl, is rather less than proactive in actually dispensing the bread to the beneficiaries. I tend not, as a rule, to jump in puddles due to not possessing the appropriate footwear. And not being a toddler. It’s more about the footwear though…

As of the 4th July we have, of course, been permitted to return to playparks, so that too featured this morning. Little Proclaims has very much enjoyed this renewed relationship with the swings, slide and roundabout but by far her favourite activity in the playpark at the moment is to run around aimlessly while shouting excitedly. We go out early and are alone in the park so I try not inhibit this expression of unbridled joy, unless she looks as though she’s about to do something that will result some kind of mishap. Which does happen quite often…

Little Proclaims is now enjoying a much deserved afternoon nap and I am sitting in front of a televised football match that I have fairly limited interest in, drinking some very nice beer, which I purchased for a bargain price at the supermarket and which is making me question whether I will ever return to the pub. I suppose I would like to socialise with the small number of people that I consider friends again but frankly the beer is just as good, and significantly cheaper, at home and I wonder if I really need to go the pub to see them. Maybe the ‘new normal’ will present us with lots of new opportunities to get together, which won’t involve imbibing alcohol in a claustrophobic environment on a Friday evening. Probably not, the world does seem intent on making the ‘new normal’ as much like the ‘old normal’ as possible. Then again I’m sure the ‘old normal’ had plenty of activities that weren’t ‘the pub’. I just didn’t pay them much heed. Perhaps I should stop waiting for the world to change around me and just be a bit more proactive. That does sound like a lot of effort though.

I’m also feeling fairly reluctant to get a haircut. Having rejected Mrs Proclaims kind offer to trim my locks during lockdown, I now have quite the mop. If work, which in my case is based in a secondary school, were operating as usual I’d probably feel more inclined to sort it out, because teenagers can be quite cruel, but there are so few of them there at the moment that I feel I can hang on, particularly with the six-week summer holiday coming up. No doubt by the time September rolls around I’ll be desperate for a trim but I feel I can let things play out for a little longer – who knows, I may decide to opt for an entirely new look at the end of all of this. Maybe a new hairstyle is what I’ve been waiting for to kickstart my journey to being a new and better me.

Or maybe I’ll just be the same person but with different hair.

I expect around the end of August I’ll cave in just have my usual haircut anyway. The non-descript but easy-to-manage look that has served me so adequately for all these years.

I should at least be a slightly fitter version of myself as a result of all of this. My thrice-weekly run has now increased to four-times a week. The main result of adding an extra run per week seems to be that I’ve become much much slower on all of my runs, but as the notion of going for four runs a week was unthinkable only a few months ago, I’d still have to count this as progress.

The swimming pools are due to open soon. No doubt with lots of rules that make it far more difficult to access them, but I should still be able to add swimming back into the mix in some way. I’d like to imagine I’ll stick with the running too, not least because the gyms are also re-opening so there should be less runners about in general, which might mean I can stop getting up at 5am to avoid them.

That said, Little Proclaims does like an early start so it’s unlikely to be the end of my 5am alarm calls…

Being the parent of a small child and still largely having to go to work did mean that lockdown wasn’t the life-altering experience for me as it was for many. Still, I did acquire a little more time as a result of it and I wonder if I really made the most of it.

I’ll have to do better during the next one.

 

Dog

It’s that time of the week again, when I present one of my not-very-good doodles, which my almost-two-year-old daughter has subsequently embellished with her washable felt tips, and then I pretend it’s art. But the collaboration doesn’t end there, because by far the best bit of these posts for the last two weeks has been the comments section, as people try to out-do each other with their own interpretations of the ‘work’. So, no pressure people, but if the comments section isn’t full of more pretentious nonsense this week then I’m going to look like a bit of a fool.

Last week we offered you ‘Cat‘, a disturbing, visceral, yet poignant piece that, in many ways, presented a pessimistic view of the world.

This week, Little Proclaims has opted for a lighter more playful tone and, in many ways, a direct contrast to ‘Cat’ but just as one cannot have the light without the dark, so too we cannot have ‘Cat’ without ‘Dog’.

So here is ‘Dog’

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Ducks Versus Puddles (Round 2)

James Proclaims (4)

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Last week we explored the efficacy of ducks (or more accurately geese, which aren’t ducks) at hindering my morning run, in comparison to puddles. That round went to puddles. Let’s see if ducks (and associated waterfowl) can level things up this week.

 

Prior to current world events, I would often take my daughter to one of the many playparks that we’re lucky to have within walking distance of our home. She’s quite an early riser, so we were often able to get to the park before other people and would frequently have use of the facilities for a good hour before anyone else arrived.

Which was great for me, because the one thing that has not been a hardship during the pandemic is staying away from other people. Little Proclaims is generally more sociable than her father but lacks any kind of boundaries or social etiquette (which I understand is fairly normal for a toddler) so she did enjoy having the run of the park without me constantly having to restrain her. She loved the swings, the slide and the roundabout, but her favourite activity, if it had been raining, which it does quite a bit in the UK, was to jump in puddles.

Indeed she loves jumping in puddles so much that, when we were adopting a pretty strict ‘stay at home’ regime during lockdown, she would often fill her little plastic watering can, from the sand and water table my parents bought her for her birthday, and create little puddles in our garden to jump in. Even better was when she could convince me to get out of the camping chair, I’d mistakenly thought I could relax in while supervising her, to get the big watering can and make some really big puddles for her.

March and April involved me being at home a lot more as I initially tried in vain to work from home for two weeks and then we had the Easter holidays, which were still observed notionally by schools, although ironically less so than in years when schools were open as normal. As a result, Little Proclaims and I spent a lot of time in the garden. And even though I returned to working in school at the end of April, I was only able to work on-site for the duration of the ‘school day’ which in reality represents a fraction of the time I spent in my office pre-pandemic so the garden fun was largely able to continue most afternoons. Things have slowly crept back to, if not quite normal, then ‘still quite busy’ at work and the hours I can access the site have increased as more of my colleagues and more students have also returned to the school.

But it has still felt important to continue to make time in my day to have fun with my daughter. Pre-lockdown I was in danger of becoming ‘the boring parent’, certainly on weekdays. I probably remain the ‘more boring parent’ because Mrs Proclaims applies the same level of intensity towards parenting as she does to pretty much everything, which means that Little Proclaims is phenomenally entertained by her mother, to the point that both are often exhausted by the time I get home. Nonetheless, I would still like to think that my daughter enjoys my company as much as I enjoy hers. Then again, if she enjoys spending time with me only half as much as I enjoy spending it with her then she’s still having a great time.

As lockdown has gradually eased (rightly or wrongly), though we’ve still been inclined to remain Chez Proclaims for the most part, the little one and I have ventured out for a walk most afternoons. We can’t yet access the play parks because, understandably while it is absolutely fine to gather in large numbers and drink alcohol in our local parks, it is clearly not safe to play on the swings, so Little Proclaims and I have had to make do with going to see the ducks. Some days, if we have any leftover bread, we even feed the ducks.

Obviously, as with ‘Round 1’ of Ducks versus Puddles, when I say ducks, I really mean the various associated waterfowl that frequent the bit of the Thames near where we live. But that does include ducks. And Little Proclaims does think of them all as ducks. Or sometimes canards, because as I’ve mentioned before, my daughter is quite good, for an almost-two-year-old, at speaking French.

But she doesn’t call them waterfowl. And never geese, despite the fact that the geese outnumber the other birds by a considerable amount. It’s almost as if a parental figure has taught her to call them ducks…

Anyway, she likes these little outings a lot. I often take her out when she wakes up from her afternoon nap. My child, much like her father, is not the loveliest of people when roused from slumber. She can be a little cranky post-nap and while I theoretically sympathise, because ‘morning me’ is best avoided by all, I’m never been sure how to help her snap out of her mood. But one mention of ducks and she’s a different child, straining at the leash to get out. It’ a literal leash too, because Little Proclaims is so mobile that I’ve long since given up on taking the pushchair, so she mostly gets where we’re going under her own steam. But because she has all the road safety awareness of a toddler, I have to employ the use of reigns. These come in the form of an owl-themed rucksack with a helpful cord for me to hold onto. She likes wearing the rucksack, so she doesn’t object to this limitation, and when we eventually get to a nice open field I let her run free, which she loves.

The ducks and associated waterfowl are always a source of fascination for her, and, unlike her pater, who would happily avoid the hissing velociraptor-like geese, she’s quite content to get close, unaware that there might be any danger, which apparently there isn’t, because the geese, seemingly realising that their bluff has been called, retreat more quickly at the sight of a small child in the afternoon than they do at the sight of a large man running slowly in their direction in the morning.

A couple of weeks ago I would have been quite confident in telling you that my daughter’s favourite activity at the moment is going to see (and sometimes feed) the ducks.

But then it rained for a few days and all of a sudden there were puddles galore on our outings, including a veritable ‘festival’ of puddles in a local, currently not well-used, car park that we happened upon. And I’ve never seen her happier than running and splashing in those puddles.

She still likes the ducks, but I’m pretty sure that she prefers the puddles.

There have been two key indicators:

  1. She happily walked through a pack of velociraptors – sorry flock of geese – the other day, completely oblivious to them as she made her way to, what wasn’t even that impressive, a puddle.
  2. When I coax her away from the ducks in order to return home, she sometimes objects a little. When I try and take her away from the puddles, I’m met with full toddler meltdown, the kind which draws judgmental stares from the general public, and I have to literally carry her kicking and screaming all the way home.

So, at the end of round two, the ‘entertaining my daughter during lockdown’ round, puddles are very clearly the winners.

Which means that in the clash of the titans that was ‘Ducks versus Puddles’, Puddles have actually won the series comfortabley 2-0.

And as I can’t think of any more rounds with which to assess them, then I can categorically state that puddles are better (or much much worse depending on your perspective) than ducks.

I imagine we’ve all learned something today.

 

I Am Your Father

James Proclaims (4)

Don’t be fooled by the title of the post – unless you are my almost-two-year-old daughter, I am not your father. And I’m pretty sure you’re not my daughter because, precocious though she appears to be, she can’t yet read. To the best of my knowledge anyway.

But today is Fathers Day and, as of August 2018, I am a father, so I get to celebrate today. Celebrations appear to largely consist of ‘doing what we always do on a Sunday’. Which is fine. I generally like Sundays.

Obviously there is still, notionally at least, a worldwide pandemic, rendering many celebratory activities largely off the table.

Although my understanding is that the pandemic is basically over. I mean it’s obviously not over, but having made such a colossal mess of everything, the UK government appears to be in the process of sweeping the evidence under the carpet and pretending like nothing ever happened.

So I suppose we could do something to celebrate Fathers Day after all. But I’m still relatively new to all this – it is, after all, only my second Father’s Day and last year I was very much at the ‘rabbit-trapped-in-the-headlights’ stage of my parenting adventure so I can’t recall what, if anything, we did to mark the occasion.

So far today, Little Proclaims and I have enjoyed breakfast together, as is our way on a Sunday morning. Mrs Proclaims joined us this morning, but often on a weekend it is just  the little one and me, while my much-cleverer-than-me wife gets on with studying for her PhD. While eating breakfast we watched a bit of the Disney film ‘Moana’, but, as Little Proclaims currently has the attention span of a lively toddler, we only ever get through twenty-minutes at a time.

After breakfast, I was showered with Father’s Day gifts. They were notionally from my daughter, but I suspect she was aided a little by Mrs Proclaims. It was a good selection, and included things to eat that are bad for you, which is my favourite kind of gift. I did my usual Sunday 4 mile run this morning (as opposed to Tuesdays and Thursdays when I only run 3 miles – I really do go the extra mile on a Sunday), so I’m feeling virtuous and like I probably deserve to eat bad food.

I also got a card, and a really cool Star Wars T-Shirt (to add to my Star Wars T-Shirt collection) as pictured below:

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The card (outside)

 

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The card (inside)

 

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My new favourite Star Wars-themed T-Shirt

Helicopter

It’s been a little over two years since I troubled the blogosphere with one of my not-very-good drawings. But, though my artistic talents have not improved in that time, I have acquired a new fan of my doodles.

Little Proclaims is quite keen on drawing too, although much of her work appears to be from a more abstract school of art.

Lately though, she has been in a collaborative mood, or perhaps aware of the limitations of her still-developing motor skills, she has become frustrated that she can’t quite create the images she wants.

Her solution is therefore to get me to draw pictures for her. She seems to have far more faith in my ability than is merited, but as I regularly used to post my inane doodles on this blog prior to my daughter’s arrival in this world, I can hardly claim that I don’t also hold a slightly inflated view of my own talent.

Anyway, the game appears to be that she asks (or rather demands repeatedly until I cave in) that I draw something and then she adds her own interpretation to the piece. I expect this will be a ‘thing’ in our lives for some time, and given than I employ absolutely no quality control whatsoever in terms of what I’m prepared to post on this blog, it was always likely that I would use this daddy/daughter activity to generate content.

And lets be fair, it won’t even be close to being the worst thing that I post this week.

So without further ado, I give you our latest masterpiece, which is simply entitled:

Helicopter

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My Toddler Thinks I’m An Idiot

James Proclaims (4)

teddy-2012851_640I think I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but wife and I are attempting to bring our daughter up to be bilingual.

This stems from our own love of languages – both of us have an undergraduate degree in French Studies. Indeed, that is how we met in the first place.

Having said that, there is little comparison between Mrs Proclaims and I in terms of our mastery of other languages. I scraped through my undergrad course, with what many people refer to as ‘the drinkers degree’. Which, in my case, would be a fair summary. Mrs Proclaims not only secured a First on that particular course (and quite comfortably as I recall) but very quickly obtained an MA in eighteenth century French Literature and is currently working on PhD on nineteenth century French Literature. She’s completely fluent in French, highly competent in Spanish  and a few years back studied Latin, in her spare time, for fun.

Of course I can speak French perfectly well, and were we in a bar in Paris, I could competently order a round of beers. That’s mostly what I spent my time in Paris doing. But my French was never as good as that of my wife and in the ensuing years (and it’s been more years than I care to admit) since we left our undergraduate days behind us, though I have occasionally dabbled as a French teacher, I have mostly pursued occupations which have had very little to do with the language and consequently the gap in our ability has increased.

Nonetheless, I have been very much a part of developing my daughter’s vocabulary in French and as well as speaking to her in French, I frequently read her books in French and watch cartoons with her in French.

In these corona times, she has been deprived of access to toddler groups and the like and consequently has probably been exposed to more French than English, given that we do use the language a lot at home. We’ve noticed that she has a definite preference for speaking the former. Which is pretty positive as I have no doubt that once the ‘new normal’ kicks in and she’s exposed to more English through the medium of ‘just living in England’ that things will balance out.

But had I any fears that Little Proclaims was developing her French at the expense of her English, I need not have worried.

Because my daughter has clearly noticed the difference in competence between my wife and I. Just the other day, Little Proclaims and I were out for a walk and an aeroplane flew overhead.

She looked up in wonder and excitedly exclaimed “Avion!”

Then she looked at me, with pity in her eyes and calmly translated for me.

“Plane.”