Much Like A Stopped Clock, He Was Right Occasionally. Although Not As Often As A Stopped Clock…

James Proclaims (4)

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I used to have a boss. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call him Brian. He wasn’t called Brian, but he wasn’t a bad guy and I’m about to do something of a character assassination on him. He deserves it for being a rubbish boss, but not for being a rubbish human. I mean, I don’t think he could ever be described as one of life’s winners (I’m not certain I could ever claim that with any conviction either, but in the league table of life, I would definitely place higher than poor Brian) and it would seem wrong to use his real name. Much like kicking a puppy is wrong. Even if they have just done something unpleasant on the carpet.

His heart was mostly in the right place.

Sadly, his brain rarely was.

I’ve had a lot of bosses I’ve hated more, but that was mostly because they were genuinely horrible people. Often, they were not too bad at their jobs though. Which made them reasonable bosses.

On balance I’d rather have a boss that I dislike personally but who is good at their job.

Poor Brian was bad at his job. So bad at his job that he didn’t hold onto it for very long.

In the interests of full disclosure, when Brian was asked to vacate his position, it was me that was asked to fill it. There was, however, no Machiavellian manoeuvring on my part. Brian’s downfall was of Brian’s own making. I didn’t really want the job to be honest. It wasn’t that good a job. But it was marginally better-paid than the job I had been doing so I agreed to step into his shoes temporarily, and then somehow ended up staying in those shoes for quite a while. They were, ultimately, not hard shoes to fill.

It may seem boastful to say that I did a much better job than Brian, but to be fair Brian was so bad at his job that a poorly trained monkey could have made a better fist of it. As a moderately well-trained monkey, it was quite easy for me.

I’m not saying I was anything other than adequate, but I was at least able to leave on my own terms when I did decide to move on.

Brian made mistakes that were just unfathomably stupid. And he did this multiple times a day.

And the trouble was, this was a role in which the lives of some pretty vulnerable children were affected. So, although he was more of a bumbling idiot than an evil despot, the results for these young people were still quite bleak as a result of some of his actions.

Therefore, Brian had to go.

But to give him his due, he did get one thing right.

In the toilets of the place we worked, he insisted on putting up a poster with some quite detailed instructions on how to wash your hands properly.

“Come on Brian,” his colleagues (including yours truly) protested, “that’s a bit over the top isn’t it? No-one’s about to carry out surgery. Surely we don’t need to be quite so explicit with the hand-washing message?”

But, in these troubled times, it’s now abundantly clear that Brian was entirely correct with regards his zealous attitude to hand-washing.

And I hope that wherever he is now, and whatever he’s doing, he can reflect on that fact with some satisfaction.

‘Working’ From Home

James Proclaims (4)

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When last I blogged, I did so from my office in a very much still open, though poorly attended, school. That same day the government decided to close schools, although they did give us the remainder of the week to keep things ticking over, which was nice of them. It was not at all challenging with most of the staff already ‘self-isolating’ and the added bonus of having to manage the behaviour of some now very disaffected year 11 students who had just been told that the exams they’ve spent their entire secondary education working towards, would now not be taking place.

And then on Friday, we closed the gates indefinitely (I mean I didn’t help with the closing of the gates, the people who usually close the gates did the closing of the gates) and all staff, bar the few who have been requisitioned to continue working with the children of people who find themselves included on the government’s list of ‘key-workers’ (which is a list that is open to interpretation and could include more or less anyone who has a job), have been instructed to work from home. Which I started doing in earnest yesterday.

Working from home does present some challenges. My current role doesn’t involve any teaching (though I feel I should point out that I am a fully-qualified and vaguely competent teacher and should the need arise I’m as capable as anyone of boring a room full of teenagers on a range of topics) so, unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t have to learn how to deliver lessons remotely to our students. Which is a relief, because it seems like something I would be quite bad at. Not that the vast majority of pupils will necessarily be availing themselves of any online learning opportunities that are provided. And not just because they can’t be bothered (though that will be true of some) but more likely because I work in the kind of school where social disadvantage is prevalent and a lot of the students won’t have access to the internet.

And actually, for a lot of those students, the lack of access to an education is the least of their worries. Schools are far from perfect institutions, but they do provide a place of safety and a continuity that is going to now be absent from the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people in our society.

But, under the current circumstances, it’s hard to argue that closing schools wasn’t the right thing to do. And it’s hardly the only thing that’s impacted on our lives as we all wake up to daily to what appears to be an ever-worsening crisis.

And working from home, in the sense that I can do a lot of my paperwork from home, is hardly the biggest inconvenience, all things considered. Indeed, it seems like an opportunity to catch up on said paperwork, given that I rarely get any of it done when I’m at school.

Despite not actually teaching, I do still work with students quite a lot when I’m at school.

I also have to attend a lot of meetings.

Many of which appear to about other meetings.

Without these other demands on my time, you’d imagine I’d be tearing through the paperwork at home. However, it turns out that working from home is not without its difficulties.

My wife and daughter might seem like the most obvious distractions, but actually Mrs Proclaims and I have managed to be come to an agreement about how we’re going to manage this unheralded state of affairs and we do have one room in the house that can function adequately as a home office. I have custody in the mornings, while she has custody of our not-undemanding toddler (which is even more challenging  without the usual plethora of toddler groups, which have helped my wife maintain some sense of sanity for the last nineteen months since our offspring entered the world). We switch roles in the afternoon, so she can work on her PhD while I manage the childcare. Which works in my favour as this incorporates my daughter’s nap time, but, it does allow me to attempt to continue working while she sleeps and try to complete what is essentially a full day’s work.

I’m sure as time goes on, we’ll all get on top of each other, but I think that, despite living in a house that is very much smaller that would be ideal, we can make it work for the most part.

No, the problem with working from home is…

…well it’s me.

I’m quite good at working at work. There really isn’t much else to do there.

But working from home presents so many opportunities to not work at all.

And I’m not very good at ignoring them.

So yesterday I accomplished very little of what I set out to do.

And I almost felt guilty about that.

Fortunately by around midday I’d received a flurry of emails from people who needed answers to questions that they believed I could clarify.

I admire their faith in my knowledge but I could not answer their questions.

What I could do is consult a database that they also had access to and tell them what they could have easily found out for themselves.

It was, for a few hours, like actually being in work.

Because a lot of my days are spent telling people stuff they could easily find out for themselves.

It’s not how I meant to spend my day, but it definitely was work and so my guilt was appeased.

Today, however, I must do better.

Although, as I have spent the first part of my ‘working day’ writing this, I would say the signs are not particularly promising…

 

 

 

Most Melancholic Monday

James Proclaims (4)

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Today is Blue Monday and therefore officially the most depressing day of the year. This is based on actual scientific fact and not a slap in the face to those people who are actively campaigning to raise the profile and reduce the stigma of mental health.

I actually wasn’t feeling that bad when I woke up this morning but then I remembered what day it was and got my act together. I’ve been suitably morose since around 7:45 this morning and can only apologise for the inappropriate levels of good humour I was experiencing in the preceding 90 minutes or so. Obviously, the fact that 7:45 is roughly when I arrived at work is of no relevance to my sudden dip in mood.

Actually, all of the above is a lie. I’m writing this on Saturday and in a delightful mood. I’ve scheduled this to appear in the blogosphere on Monday morning because, after a poor 2019 in blogging terms, I’m attempting to reignite my blogging mojo by having a regular blogging day. And that day is Monday.

I don’t know why.

I’m not saying I’ll only blog on a Monday (last week I also posted a bad poem on Thursday) but the aim is to post something every Monday as a minimum.

Even if that something is a meandering post vaguely, but not really, about a made-up day, which serves no purpose other than encouraging people to feel artificially miserable.

It’s all content after all. And I hope, in some small way my content makes you feel content.

But if you’re feeling content on Blue Monday then you’re getting it wrong.

So, go away and do something that makes you feel unhappy.

Fortunately, by the time this is published I will be in work and, Blue Monday or not, it seems unlikely I’ll be in the most joyful of moods.

But rest assured, I will be honouring the day by not just feeling forlorn on my own, but actively trying to make others feel despondent.

It’s the least I can do.

Surely Monday the 13th is as bad as Friday the 13th? Or worse? Cos it’s Monday….

James Proclaims (4)

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It’s the second Monday in January and Christmas is now but a distant memory. Although my bank balance might disagree and pay day does seem to be a frighteningly long time away.

Also, my 17-month-old daughter, who is continuing to make impressive leaps in terms of her vocabulary acquisition and likes to make use of this skill at every available opportunity, is still regularly punctuating many a silence with a cheerful “Ho Ho Ho”. I taught her to say this in December and back then it was adorable, whereas now it is…

…no, it is still adorable.

Nonetheless we are working on new words and phrases and perhaps looking to phase out that little party trick.

Another of her favourite words is ‘Chocolate’. I suspect I taught her that one too. There is still a lot of it about and she’s decided that she’s a fan. Fortunately, she will be saved from childhood obesity because her father tends to scoff the lot.

To mitigate this inability to not eat the readily available calories that persist in my home, I am maintaining my gym regime. This is only a new thing insofar as I still can’t swim due to a much improved but still unresolved ear problem, but I have been attempting to improve my cardiovascular condition for a while now so no-one should be under any illusions that I am attending the gym in an attempt to fulfil a New Year’s Resolution. If that were the case I’d have definitely given up by now.

I’ve been back in work for a full week and I’m still keen to pursue early retirement. I just need to find a generous benefactor to pay for this. Currently none seem to be forthcoming, so the daily grind must continue.

Which means that any hope I might have had of reducing my caffeine intake is seeming increasingly fanciful. That is another daily grind that must continue. Although I appear to have recovered from my pretentious connoisseur phase during which I insisted on grinding my own coffee beans. There is no doubt that I enjoyed delicious coffee during that phase but it was somewhat labour intensive and, on balance, not really worth it.

Given that working for a living does seem to be a necessary evil for the foreseeable, I am considering changing employers. I have nothing against my current employers (well nothing that I would commit to writing on the internet anyway) but I would like an employer who will pay me more for doing my job. And January does seem to be the season for jobhunting when you work in the education sector. So, I am looking and indeed considering applying for several opportunities.

Whether I am successful in securing any of these opportunities remains to be seen. I tend to be quite good at getting myself onto shortlists for interviews but sometimes less good at getting myself onto the even shorter list of being the person who is actually offered the job. Although I do have a tendency to only put myself forward for jobs which represent an obscene pay increase so one would imagine that the competition is a little stiffer than it might be if I pursued more realistic opportunities.

Obviously if an obscene pay increase were my only motivating factor, I might be better off looking outside of the education sector, given that it is not a sector notorious for its high salaries. And maybe that would be a move worth considering. But I fear, at this stage of my career, I have rather put all my skillset ‘eggs’ firmly into the education sector ‘basket’. And I would generally feel happier doing a job I’m actually good at. It’s not a deal breaker though…

Call me hardboiled but, having just used the word ‘egg’ and having concluded last week’s post with some egg-shell-ent yolks, I appear to have poached the same idea this week. Perhaps because I’m feeling a little fried. I’m scrambling for ideas…

I’m batter than this. Omlettin’ you know it won’t happen again.

Please whisk coming back next week.

Mind Over Body

James Proclaims (4)

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As I’ve mentioned in one or more of my previous ponderous posts, I’m currently in the process of attempting (but not really succeeding) to write the dissertation bit of my MA.

In truth it’s not actually my MA.

Not yet.

I need to write a dissertation first.

I also have a full-time job, because I haven’t yet worked out a way of not having a job and still being able to pay my mortgage.

Even for someone who is motivated and academically inclined, writing a dissertation alongside having a full-time job is quite hard.

And it would certainly be a stretch to describe me as either motivated or academically inclined.

I’m not stupid (or possibly I’m so stupid that I don’t realise that I’m stupid) but academia and I have never really gotten on too well.

Occasionally I have shown the potential to be an academic. Throughout school, my undergrad days and even at times on this MA course, I have demonstrated that, when I put my mind to it, I can achieve grades at the more impressive end of the scale. However, these flashes of brilliance are all too often followed by mediocrity and in truth I’m far more likely to flirt with grades at the less impressive end of the scale. I normally do enough to pass, but quite often I do ‘just enough’.

Throw in a new(ish) baby (not literally obviously – I’m still a relative novice at this parenting malarkey but I’m given to understand that throwing a baby is not generally considered wise. Especially if bathwater is involved apparently) and time is a commodity I don’t have much of.

I do enjoy looking after my daughter. She can be a little demanding, often in the early hours of the morning, but she’s mostly delightful and for someone who hasn’t actually mastered the art of speaking, she has quite a lot to say, and she says it with such feeling and passion that I’m not sure actual words would add much to her soliloquies.

In order to be able to do my job to an acceptable (but rarely  exceptional) level and to be able to grind out a dissertation (that will achieve the minimum pass mark) by April, and to be able to enjoy the company of my daughter (and sometimes my wife, although in truth Mrs Proclaims are currently operating on a shift pattern with regards childcare and are rarely conscious and in each other’s company. We do enjoy a regular verbal exchange at around 3am when debating over who gets the honour of listening to our offspring’s latest early-morning orations) something has had to give.

And that has very much been exercise.

Not that I’ve ever been any more athletically inclined than I am academically inclined. But I generally do try and keep fit enough that my tendency to indulge in foods that might be considered insalubrious do as little damage to my long-term health as possible.

I’m not sure, even at my fittest, that I’ve ever really managed to get the balance of diet and exercise entirely geared towards optimum wellbeing, but in normal times I do enough good to at least mitigate the bad.

At the moment, though, the balance is swaying very much towards the bad. In attempting to secure a qualification that I don’t really need (and at this point I’m not even sure I want) I am sacrificing the short-term health of my body for the long-term benefits of my mind.

Although it’s not really clear that having an MA will bring any benefits to my mind.

Other than the fact that, assuming all goes well, from April onwards I’ll able to smugly boast to anyone that will listen that I have an MA.

When all is said and done, it’s not actually that much of a boast.

Nonetheless, and in spite of a total lack of comprehension as to what it is I’m bragging about, I’m sure that my daughter will greet the news with her usual infectious enthusiasm.

 

 

 

Quality Of Life

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Neville rubbed his eyes wearily. It had been a long day of meetings. Meetings about progress, meetings about strategy, meetings about personnel, meetings about finance, meetings about data and at one point, Neville was fairly certain, there had been a meeting about meetings.

The majority of these gatherings had followed a similar format. They began with a review of the objectives set at the last meeting. Next came the acknowledgement that none of those objectives had been met. This was followed by a minor witch-hunt as individuals tried to pin the failure to meet their assigned objectives onto other people. This, in turn, led to some robust ‘conversations’ as the accused refuted the blame and tried to apportion the liability elsewhere. Ultimately there was a consensus that most of the failings were probably the fault of those reckless souls who hadn’t bothered to turn up to the meeting. Each conclave would end with a new set of objectives (or more accurately the re-stating of the last set of objectives) despite the near-certainty that none of these targets would be met by the time the next meeting rolled around.

But now the working day was finally over and Neville had a few hours of reprieve. He knew he probably should do some preparatory work for tomorrow’s meetings, but, as he was more than certain that no-one else would do so, he felt that any endeavours on his part to make the  following day’s assemblies anything more than a complete waste of time, would be an additional waste of his own time.

Neville had better things to do with his evening. There little enough of it, once his arduous commute home was taken into account, so he was certainly not inclined to spend it reading through the interminably dull, and predominantly out-of-date, reports that would be erroneously quoted by equally ill-informed colleagues in the various discussions he was due to partake in during the following day.

No, Neville’s time was his own and he planned to spend it, as he did every other night.

This entailed settling down on his sofa, sticking on a boxset, and consuming a moderately-priced Pinot Noir until he could see the bottom of the bottle or he passed out.

Whichever came first.

Distractions

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Tim looked longingly out of his window. The sky was blue, the sunlight was reflecting brightly off the white wall of the convenience store across the road and the trees that lined the more affluent streets at the far end of his own were swaying gently in the breeze. There was still something of a chill in the air, but the few visible clouds did not seem to be carrying any portent of rain. It was, in short, a lovely day and Tim longed to be outside, strolling along the river without a care in the world.

But the sad reality was that Tim did have a care in the world. Indeed, he had several. The pile of manila folders on his desk was testament to that. He had a mountain of paperwork to complete by Monday and it was not going particularly well. It wasn’t really that the work was hard, but there was a lot of it.

Looking around the room, he could also see several DIY jobs that were outstanding, and this, his home office, was hardly the priority. A quick tour of the rest of the house would reveal significantly more jobs, of greater importance, that he had yet to tackle, some of which were now approaching a level of, not exactly urgency, but certainly precedency.

Elsewhere in his abode were smaller matters that needed to be tackled. He recalled a letter demanding that he renew his driver’s license, had he done that yet? There were unpaid bills that he was more than able to settle, but they had slipped down the list of importance. He wasn’t sure he could even locate them at the moment, although he was sure that his creditors would be in touch again if he didn’t get around to dealing with them soon.

But today Tim had resolved to get up-to-date with work stuff. After all, he needed to maintain his income in order to pay said bills and buy the paint needed to redecorate. Not that his job was in any particular danger, but the paperwork had got out of hand recently and it was matter of professional pride for Tim to be no more than four weeks behind on his admin.

He glanced out of the window again. It was an especially nice day.

Perhaps a quick stroll would be fine. It was looking like a long day of crossing ‘t’s and dotting ‘i’s was ahead of him, maybe it would do him good to clear his head first.

After all, he thought as he donned his jacket and laced up his shoes, the folders would still be there when he got back.

Coping With Stress

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It’s best not to ponder
All of your fears
That way lies madness
It’ll all end in tears

Beating stress is quite simple
A doddle in fact
Just forget all your woes
And you’ll have it cracked

There’s no need to focus
On tasks uncompleted
If you attempt to achieve them
You’ll end up defeated

Far better instead
To try to unwind
Ignore all your worries
Forget daily grind

For if all your duties
Have got out of hand
It’s better to bury
Your head in the sand

And one certain way
To ensure you’ll feel fine
Is to take all your problems
And drown them in wine

Something About Nothing

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A few weeks ago, in order to maintain a regular blogging schedule, I committed to regularly writing short posts about ‘not very much’, instead of longer posts that pretend to be about ‘something’ but aren’t really about anything.

Since making that pledge, I have written anything much.

So the plan didn’t work.

And now I’m reduced once again to writing about how I’ve failed to produce any meaningful content for this blog, aside from a couple of poems, one of which was a Haiku that I wrote ages ago and the one I posted yesterday, which was about Bovril.

Bovril!

Who writes poetry about Bovril?

Anyway, I’m really just posting this as confirmation that I am still alive.

I have just been occupied with lots of stuff lately.

Some of that stuff is work related and it genuinely makes me sad that I have to spend good blogging time working on paperwork that no-one is ever going to read but nonetheless needs to be completed so that I can answer honestly when people ask me if I’ve done it.

I’m not above answering dishonestly about completing paperwork and I have employed that strategy many times in my life to get people off my back, but it generally is prudent to complete it anyway, at some point, because even though most of the time no-one bothers to read it, it only takes one excessively keen and enquiring person to start probing for the whole house of cards to come tumbling down.

I feel there are some of these overzealous vultures circling at the moment so I’m being particularly careful to “dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s” in my professional life.

However, all work and no play would make James a dull boy so I have also been quite busy filling potential blogging time with other fun stuff.

I could write about that fun stuff here.

But I won’t.

Because that might create the illusion that I lead a vaguely fulfilling existence.

Which might even be the truth if I really think about it.

But I think a sense of satisfaction with my lot in life would be setting entirely the wrong tone for my blog.

There’s Always A Bright Side

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It’s already five past eight
I’m running rather late
I overslept this morning
Ignored alarm clock’s warning

Had no time to eat my toast
Now coffee is the most
I’ll consume before my break
So I’ll be hungry but awake

And the traffic will be slow
But I’ll just go with the flow
There’s no point in getting stressed
(Did I remember to get dressed?)

It’s not been the best of starts
But I’ll try not to lose heart
If I can just survive the day
Then there’s always Beaujolais