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.