It began as a blog about completing a thesis, it became a blog about everything but completing a thesis, it ended with a complete thesis.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


My pal Ken is in Africa at the moment. He's on a trip that's been 95% holiday 5% work. He's emailed a few times and texted too. I've known him for about 5 years. After touring for about a month or so, he's ending with a couple of academic conferences. Of course he's not allowed to whine about them as they're in bloody South Africa, and for someone from Milton Keynes that's like... well... South Africa! With real animals and everything.

Without saying so I knew the trip would be good for him - in giving him a generally lifting kick up the arse. You see, to some people, London (his base) can deaden the head. I have witnessed rather than experienced this; maybe it's to do with the way the pollution gets up your nose and turns your snots black. It was a shock when I first noticed this phenomenon - with my snots, not anyone else's - a brief occurence, but gross nonetheless. Anyway, last night my mobile phone, my 'cell' - if you will - rings. On screen it says 'Ken Mobile'. So I answer.

Shane: Bloody hell!
Ken: Hello there, just thought I'd call you from South Africa
Shane: I'm having my tea, can you call me back
Ken: No
Shane: Ok, cool - hello...

So we chat. Of course he evidenced all of the positivity that I'd imagined, and it was good to talk. He also impressed me with a mini political rant related to his witnessing deep material poverty juxtaposed with lavish conference hosting. Couldn't quite say what the impact of this observation was having on him, but I think it's fair to say he was looking at his own situ in a different light, the term 'makes you realise how fortunate you are' was voiced. At all of this I thought to myself 'How can you not recognise that you're so fortunate from your base in London? Why a trip to Africa for this to register?' The term 'blind to the homeless' sprang to mind. However, I didn't sour things by raising this. I sensed he was now beginning to miss home, a bit. Towards the end of our chat he surprised me with a comment.

Ken: I've thought of you a few times since I've been here
Shane: You're only human (thinking 'Please - not inter-continental gay love interest')
Ken: (amused) There's been a few situations like going into villages and stuff - off the beaten track of the other tourists, after we've been kind of warned about having to take care in unfamiliar places - even if you know you're not hassling anyone - where you can still feel a bit nervous - especially if you can't talk the lingo or understand a word they're sayin'. Well, on a couple of occasions when I've been thinking 'Oh fook me, what have I done?' or 'Oh mighty shitey, where the pissin' 'eck am I, ou est la exit?' I've found myself muttering 'What would Shane do (in a situation like this)?''
Shane: (moved) That's er-, that's... a very kind thing to say
Ken: Whoaaa-, hold on a minute, I said fuck all about following what you'd do, I just said I'd asked myself what you'd do
Shane: Ah yes, I see, quite wise
Ken: Damn right, I wouldn't want to end up in some brief encounter situation Congolese jail stylee with me desperately flicking through my phrase book looking for 'Please no, prettier men will be along soon'
Shane: (laughing) You are of course... a shit
Ken: Thank you darlin'
Shane: You're more than welcome. And by the way, what was it that I would have generally done in these dicey situations?
Ken: Just talked to people y' know - got to know them.
Shane: Mm.

This was a very well-timed call, featuring a wonderfully ill-veiled compliment. I'm so glad that dear Ken wasn't attacked by tribesmen/strung up by Afrikaner Party militia/tricked into a costly tryst with a Namibian lady of ill repute/sold poisonous magic beans at a Gaborone market.

I love The Angel of the North.

Friday, June 24, 2005


[Driving to a work meeting with Emma]
Emma: Ed (Alex's father) called earlier today, he said that Alex had a good weekend last weekend.
Shane: That's good.
Emma: Yeah. (pause) I asked him if Alex ever mentions me when he's with him.
Shane: Yeah?
Emma: Mm. He said he mentions you and me.
Shane: You mean he said 'you and me' as in Ed and you or he said 'you and me' as in you and me?
Emma: As in you and me. He tells Ed things that we've done, y' know.
Shane: Yeah, good.
Emma: It is good. He's not yet said anything like 'I want to go back to Mummy's house' - so it is good. He likes going to his Dad's cos he gets to see his cousin, Ollie - that's always a winner.
Shane: Yeah, with Ollie being older, Alex probably looks up to him.
Emma: Definitely. Ollie had made Alex a picture that said stuff like 'Alex is the best cousin in the world' on it. All very cute.
Shane: Sounds good.
Emma: Yeah.
Shane: Did you tell Ed that we'd been to Blackpool?
Emma: Yeah.
Shane: Did he laugh?
Emma: He didn't laugh exactly, but he did ask why.
Shane: (irritated) And?
Emma: I just said that we'd been to your Mum's after the work trip up north, and that we chose to split the return journey in half as there was a play that we wanted to see in Blackpool.
Shane: Mm. Given that you said he was into one-upmanship he probably thought to himself that this is too easy when he heard reference to Blackpool.
Emma: I don't know. Maybe. But it would only be himself that he's competing with. I'm not interested in that. It's not one-upmanship to me. He did say one other thing that was a bit 'urrrgghhh'.
Shane: Mm?
Emma: He doesn't like Alex (aged 4) saying 'Oh my God'.
Shane: Okay-.
Emma: I tried to explain to him that it's just an excited exclamation - he doesn't say it in anger or anything y' know. I mean I say it and my Mum says it - he said that he'd got it off my Mum, but his response was that Alex still understood the concept of God - I said 'What!'
Shane: (bemused) He thinks that Alex understands the concept of God?
Emma: I know. I explained that there was nothing blasphemous about the way Alex was using it, but that if it offended him he would have to at least give Alex something different to say.
Shane: Yeah. D' y' think it was Ed's mother who was offended by 'Oh my God'?
Emma: (pause) No, I think it probably was Ed.
Shane: Mm.

This conversation left me thinking that it suggested that Ed and I had very different ways of reading Alex and conveying 'values' - which was an interesting point to ponder for the remaining 8 minutes of the journey.

[Returning from the work meeting]
Emma: Y' know when we were at your Mum and Dad's last week?
Shane: Yeah.
Emma: It was amazing how your Mum and Dad were so at ease with Karen's (brother's girlfriend) nieces.
Shane: Yeah, it was good. Very natural.
Emma: I know. And your Dad - the way he got up and went over to Sadie (aged 16, serious physical and mental disabilities - physical stature of a 5 year old, unable to talk or sign) and started interacting with her.
Shane: Yeah, it was good.
Emma: And your Mum - just chatting away with Ellie (aged 11, sister of Sadie) - like she'd known her forever.
Shane: Yeah.
Emma: Looking at your brother and Karen, with the girls, any outsider would have definitely thought they were a family.
Shane: Probably.
Emma: It certainly made me think that your Mum and Dad are looking forward to becoming grandparents.
Shane: (pause) Probably.

This conversation ended leaving me thinking 'bloody hell' for the remaining 6 minutes of the journey.

Number of children that I've liked the idea of having* at different times in my adult life: 0, 2, 4, and 'many'.

* And not always biologically born unto Shane.

Last night, I coined the phrase 'Oh my monkey' as an excited exclamation for Alex's take-up in replacement of 'Oh my God'. The boy laughed, and got it immediately. He giggled his way to bed parroting 'Oh my monkey! Oh my monkey!' All very cute.

I love ginger beer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Last week, Emma and I had a chat about portraiture - as y' do. I listened as she explained why she would like a series of three or four portraits of herself, staggered over many years. The set would be an interesting heirloom for young Alex. And, to Emma - experiencing the pictures in many future 'here-and-now' moments - they would convey the stories, feelings and much more associated with each and the collection. All of this was explained without sounding vain - quite an achievement. Emma's sitting for portrait #1 will take place in July. On the back of such middle-brow whatnot, it was I who would determine last weekend's plans...

And so, to Blackpool* we went. Doing all that I could to minimally offend Ma Wexford and the Northern Clan, we departed after a flying visit on the back of Friday's far north work trip. Visiting Blackpool was to be a first for Emma, and about a seventeenth for me. The thing that tipped the determining balance for me was this image. Say what you like about it, but to me, it was gorgeous. Not alluring. Not exotic. Probably not even 'nice' to a lot of people. But to me, still gorgeous. Whilst in Blackpool, we walked along the full length of the promenade (about 4 miles), rode a big wheel on the central pier, and rode a really quite small 'rollercoaster' called 'The Mouse' (I think) on the south pier. That was Sunday morning and early afternoon. The previous day, on the other hand, was a whole different story...

Driving into the town at 4pm on a very hot and sunny Saturday afternoon, the streets were highly crowded with people who were in town to get pissed and were doing a damn fine job of it. Having checked in to our hotel - a decent place at the north end of town - we were on the street side-stepping the vomitous, the 'jay-walking', the rude, the lewd, the most orangely fake-tanned, the tastefully tattooed majority, the police, and the occasional bemused family who had thought that Blackpool could still serve the 'family holiday' fraternity. Their discovery: 'not any more, it can't'. From this we went for an Indian meal - very good it was too - biryanis - and then trogged off to the gorgeous Grand Theatre for a cringe-worthy farce called 'Just Desserts'. The theatre was only at about 40% capacity but the audience of middle aged Coronation Streetists were pleased. (When I was a kid, Ma Wexford took brother and I to the same theatre for sell-out shows by the cream of British forgettable entertainment, Pa Wexford would babysit sister at the hotel bar.) Emma and I were glad to have gone along too - for many varied but mostly voyeuristic and research reasons. From the theatre we returned to the street, and negotiated a quick and safe return to our for-one-night-only Blackpool layer. Emma's impression of Blackpool at the end of Saturday evening was captured beautifully with the phrase 'It feels like the sort of place where you might see someone die before your very eyes'. At this, I laughed, but recognised the truth in it.

* A few years ago, it emerged that Blackpool was aspiring to become the 'Las Vegas of the north'. On Saturday, a local newspaper story in the town ran along the lines of 'local councillor says that another sex shop opening on a Sunday won't do the town's image as a 'family resort' any good'. I think that's all the context that you need.

All that said, it was a good weekend.

Last week, Mercury emailed me and said that due to a problem caused by Venus fucking up Saturn's power-steering and what with there then being no-one available to collect Pluto from the station, that this week the horror-scopic content of the Shane blog would have to be replaced. Thus, we have an innovation. Behold:

If you are in the UK: Sun bathe, and acquire unusual 'tan lines'. The Brazilians are into this, apparently.
If you are in Europe (not inc UK): Come over for tea. But leave your email and blog 'smilies' at home.
If you are in North America: The time for your modelling career is upon us. Act now, it's portfolio assembly time.
If you are in Central/South America: Please forward any interesting recipes. And no kidnapping!
If you are in Austral(as)ia/Oceania: Dye a hare red.
If you are in Africa: Encourage people to name newborns 'SirBob' - all one word.
If you are in Asia:... Perverts! I have no idea who 'Shahida Mini' is, and let me tell you - whether you're searching for 'porn pictures of...', 'sex movie featuring...' or the unending 'big tites', you will not find them here! AND, it is 'big TITS' - no 'E' - see?
If you are in Antarctica: You are not. You are a lunatic. Get help or start taking the meds again. Yeah?
If you are in Oxford, England: Never mind, eh.

Oh, what the heck, here's one for you persistent guys in the Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Syria, Egypt... (.)(.) - they're as tites-ish as I can do I'm afraid... Heh! Let's go crazy: (.)(.) (.)(.) (.)(.) (.)(.) (.)(.) (.)(.)

I do love the idea of making this blog thing WORK.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


At the time of writing this, our local Member of Parliament is sitting about 6 feet away from me here in the office. She seems like a nice lady. And she's just thrust a large plate of posh biscuits at me - and she's not even electioneering! What a woman.

Had a good PhD supervision session on Monday. Felt like a viva voce examination. The questions came thick and fast. The answers came - which is good enough for me. At one sub-profound moment, whilst ranting about disingenuous authorship, I blurted "I mean! What the fuck!". The supervisors smiled, we then moved on to the next question.

Here's a link to a BBC article giving a brief summary of who and what the Michael Jackson trial jury were. I imagine that for any person in their early 20s (as three of the twelve were), to find yourself sitting in official judgement of such an elder must seem a little odd. I just hope those kids have old heads on them young shoulders. I also wonder if being part of a news story at the centre of such a media frenzy would change these folks' experiences of day-to-day living, and their senses of who and what they are. Shamone. *Moon walks to the next point*

How odd. Just saw the local MP again, this time at the vets' surgery - as in veterinary surgery rather than ex-military personnel's surgery. MP cooed at the chateau's two new kittens ('CharlieDimmock' - all one word, and 'Thud'). MP did not thrust posh biscuits at me. Thus, she has gone right down in my estimations.

This week, starrily, your song lyric spliced personal motto is:-

Capricorn: You gotta wrap your fuzzy in a big red bow. [Scissor Sisters]
Aquarius: You can't hurry love, though you can avoid... [Phil Collins]
Pisces: I've got the brains you've got pet ducks. [Pet Shop Boys]
Leo: Whoo hoo. [Blur]
Virgo: Pretty girl beware of his implantable defibrillator. [Shirley Bassey]
Libra: Just beat it, but do mop up. [Michael Jackson]
Scorpio: You're a real dead ringer for Donald Trump. [Meatloaf]
Sagittarius: Woke up this mornin', got myself some toast. [Alabama 3]
Aries: Drove my chevy to Grimsby. [Don McLean]
Taurus: I've never been this far away from Holmfirth. [Kaiser Chiefs]
Gemini: Oh, you, look, so, beau-ti-ful, Bernard. [U2]
Cancer: Don't you forget about brie. [Simple Minds]

Heading towards a white-knuckle weekend (starting early Friday). Work and family stuff in the far north.

I love chopped logs. *Wonders if there could be such a thing as an unchopped 'log'*

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Relationships - like hill farms - will always have their peaks and troughs. Where it is claimed that a relationship is troughless, I say "bullshit". Where it is claimed that a relationship is peakless, I say "Time to Say Goodbye". Emma and I have had a month or so of intense hill farming - organic of course. We'd both been storing up irritations that had to be aired at some point, and so they were. It felt heavy whilst the airables were being aired, but it felt good after airing had been done. Am I making sense?... No?... Then I'll continue. A month ago, if I'd been asked for a prognosis of Shane-Emma I'd have sighed and taken a telling pause before answering. Now, it feels better. The key to moving things forward was that we spoke to one another - so profoundly mature that I had to pinch myself. [Just wanted to float a line or two re Shane-Emma as it felt like a long time since I'd mentioned us in the 'We wanna be together' sense.]

I am weak. I am about to 'out' myself... It's just two weeks into this year's Big Brother and I already know the names of the various characters. I even had a bet on who would win: like the party-piece of my old friend the stripper - Spotty Tracey - it was a rash act.

I think I impressed Emma's whole family last weekend, when in retrieving young Alex's errant frisbee I lithely climbed a rather large tree - even if I do say so myself. But more - I proved to be a hero in the Frank Spencer mould when it became clear that the tree was quite rotten - a large branch creaked, snapped, and a moment later I was hanging from a lower branch by shredded trousers. Not cool. Really not cool. No matter how many ways I look at it, not cool. Alex was highly amused that I scratched my arse. How 'sweet'.

Despite some people getting confused last time out, and imagining the divine starry directions of Mystic Shane to be negotiable (I know!), let us try again. This week, it's all about Jew Pitter. See...

Capricorn: You cannot hide from the chiropodist.
Aquarius: I love Hugh. Do you?
Pisces: I once loved a ewe. Did you?
Leo: I love you. You should too.
Virgo: You ought to buck up your ideas, matey!
Libra: Embrace a Belgian, wish them well for Europe.
Scorpio: Out yourself - but not with regards to sexuality.
Sagittarius: And what will be your contribution to this?
Aries: Move to Hollywood, Northern Ireland.
Taurus: Cause havoc in a china shop, or China.
Gemini: Become a Michael Jackson Tribute Artiste.
Cancer: Tell it like it isn't.

I love it when I don't destroy things in the kitchen.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Some blogs I like because they make me smile, some I like because the prose reads 'like treacle' (to nick a line from The Crying Game), some make me think, and some are very rich seams of good comments. Those who come across as natural bloggers - who write in exactly the manner that I imagine that they think and talk - are particularly impressive. Claire is one of these. Recently, she posed 6 questions Shanewardly and asked that at least 5 be answered. In the words of The Chemical Brothers, here we go...

1. What do you research, and why that path...other than the PhD?!

I'll not answer the first part (anonymity).

Why this broad path? Influences include:- Watching my sister grow up, getting arrested "for a crime that I did not commit" (many moons ago) (((shudder))), listening to a couple of academic tutors, believing them, getting my hands on a couple of influential books early on in my studies, believing questions to be as interesting as answers, and returning to education at what felt like the right time (1997, age 22).

2. Have you ever been given a nickname that you just couldn't stand, and what is it?

No I haven't. However, whilst working in a factory in my home-town in the mid-90s there was a chap who gave me the name "Lah-de-dah" (as in posh) (NB/ you really don't have to be very posh to be considered posh where I come from). By this time my accent had already softened a lot, and however hard I tried I just couldn't talk in high-speed north-easternisms. I also tended to wince at some of the tabloid newspapers. I remember making the guy almost wet himself with laughter after he'd asked for my views on a particular Page 3 image. I think it was my use of the term 'pendulous breasts' wot did it. I think that without trying he and I amused one another.

3. If you could go anywhere in the world for however long you wanted, where would you go and why?

Tough question. I'd go to the USA and spend a year touring in a big camper van. The USA would suit the geo-anorak in me, and I'd like to re-visit a few places in New York state. I think there's a lot to America that we don't hear of - I'd choose Mundane America over Media America any day. I know there are people who would avoid the USA for political reasons, however, I think if we look hard enough we could all find shit on our own doorsteps.

4. You're going to be stranded alone for 12 months, you get to take 5 items with you...what do you take? (I'm going to answer this in desert island terms)

A radio (the most important thing by a country mile)
A huge ream of paper
Pens (I'm assuming that a laptop with internet access would be a no-no)
Don Quixote (3 pages per day - read 'em and wipe!)

5. What's the most annoying song you've had stuck in your head this week?

None this week. KT Tunstall's song about 'Other Side of the World' has been a pleasant enough head-ditty. I'm also liking Eels and the Kaiser Chiefs. I do remember once sitting in an exam and having T'Pau's 'China in Your Hand' stuck in my head. That was bloody awful.

6. If you could be famous, what would you be famous for?

Writing a play or novel that both entertained and made a politically-engaging contribution to cultural life. I think Willy Russell's Educating Rita is an excellent example of such a thing. I'll leave ending war and poverty to someone else.

Claire, thank you.

If anyone would like to be 'tagged', please email me (see profile) to let me know, and I'll fire 6 questions at you.

(Shane and Alex (4) watching a TV programme in which a baby rhino is treated by a veterinary surgeon)

Shane: Y' know, y' don't get rhinos in this country
Alex: Yeah y' do
Shane: Really?
Alex: Yeah
Shane: (pause for thought) Where?
Alex: Chester zoo
Shane: (smiling) Ah yes

There's. Somethin'. Happenin'. Here...

Capricorn: Eat pie, or if you're into numbers, eat pi.
Aquarius: Give a dog a bone.
Pisces: Give a neighbour a bone.
Leo: Give in to temptation.
Virgo: Create a religion. Let David Hasselhoff be your God.
Libra: Whilst a friend drinks milk, make them laugh so much that it comes out of their nose.
Scorpio: Whilst a lover drinks milk, make them reach such a peak orgasm that...
Sagittarius: Claim to have seen Jesus in Totnes. Sell Totnes on eBay.
Aries: Become a model for a life-drawing class.
Taurus: Only eat eggs this week. This will help with your 'trouble'.
Gemini: Here's an idea: cosmetic surgery on your bottom. Sit on it for a while.
Cancer: Dark eye make-up, and all will be well.

I love the smell of basil - the herb, not the bloke off Fawlty Towers - though I'm sure he'd smell ok.