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.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Ken: Y' remember Zoe?
Shane: Zoe? Mm... nope.
Ken: Well she's done alright for herself - she's been offered a job in S.A.
Shane: Who? What? Where?
Ken: Zoe - you met her when we did the Reading festival one year - the one where Eminem did that double act thing with Marilyn Manson-
Shane: Oh-, that was shit.
Ken: Yeah it was.
Shane: (pause) Zoe. Didn't you and she-
Ken: Yeah - long time ago - we don't talk about that.
Shane: Right - yeah.
Ken: Well anyway-
Shane: She was fit.
Ken: She is, was. Anyway, she's got herself a job in South Africa.
Shane: Good one. Doing what?
Ken: Something to do with film. I think.
Shane: Fit Zoe has got herself a job - in South Africa - that's 'something to do with... film'.
Ken: Yeah. (pause) Whoaaaaaaa - not porn. Just something to do with culture and tourism or something. Poncy stuff. Your sort of thing. You'd get it if she explained.
Shane: Mm, right. Hold on - poncy?
Ken: She says we can go and visit!
Shane: Bournemouth?
Ken: Not Bournemouth you tit. South Africa! We can visit her in South Africa.
Shane: Kenneth.
Ken: Mm?
Shane: What the fuck are you talking about?
Ken: She says that I should go and visit her, and that I should take someone else out there too.
Shane: Kenny. I hardly know her. And besides, I don't think she meant me.
Ken: But she liked you.
Shane: That's not what I meant.
Ken: What?
Shane: I think she meant something else.
Ken: You're making no sense.
Shane: I think she probably meant that you should take a... a girlfriend - if you had one.
Ken: But I don't have a girlfriend.
Shane: Yes, I know that.
Ken: I'm not sure that I want a girlfriend.
Shane: Well don't get one.
Ken: (pause) No, I won't.
Shane: Ok.
Ken: (pause) I thought we could go next August.
Shane: 'We' Kenneth, what is this 'we'? Go on your own again - you'd get more out of it that way. Personal adventure and all that.
Ken: I didn't mean that I wanted you to go as my girlfriend.
Shane: No, I know that. Bloody good job too.
Ken: Your brother maybe, but not you.
Shane: Are you being funny Kenneth?
Ken: Can't I tempt y'?
Shane: What? Homosexuality or Africa?
Ken: (far too long a pause) Africa.
Shane: (pause) I don't think that I could just about drop everything and piss off-
Ken: -like we used to?
Shane: Mm.
Ken: Sleep on it. I think you'd love it. Emma would understand. Fuck it - she'd be welcome too. And the boy.
Shane: Expensive.
Ken: Mm.
Shane: Kenneth.
Ken: Mm?
Shane: (pause) You dirty temptress.

It was an idea that would require strategic marketing.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Stills was overrated. Nash was never in it. So Emma and I drove up to Crosby. To see this. This I said (scroll down). This! Or maybe even this.

Backdrop to the place was wonderfully functional. Wind turbines, busy shipping lanes (passenger and cargo), high rise residential blocks, docklands, and general Liverpudlianisms. With not even a hint of Beatleage in sight, gladly.

Whereas Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North is an impressive stand-out feature on a hill near Gateshead (north east of England), this work is different in that it is not as high impact in a singular unitary fashion. Whereas The Writer on Parliament Hill or the Angel are basically one big 'fuckin' 'ell', 'Another Place' (Gormley's Crosby installation) covers a much broader space and invites onlookers to walk amongst its 100 life-sized (or Anthony-sized) figures. As with the Angel or The Writer there is not the scope for building serious immediate spin-offs (enterprises) around it. So, for now, the ice-cream men have it. However, the impact in terms of cultural profile or the esteem-laden rub-off that the locals experience is HIGH. Take this piece of dialogue - between Shane and a local Man - as a for instance:

Shane: Hi there, pretty impressive eh?
Man: Oh, there's plenty more - one hundred they reckon.
Shane: Right. Excellent.
Man: Aye.
Shane: You from round here?
Man: Walton - just over-
Shane: Yeah.
Man: Just brought the grandbairns out y' know.
Shane: Mm.
(Man checks that grandbairns haven't just gone belting into the sea - that would be dangerous)
Shane: We came up just to see this.
(Man looks at us as if we're 'strange')
Shane: Have you noticed whether there are more people visiting here now?
Man: Oh aye, no, there's always plenty of people up here - nice beach, oh aye definitely - more people, no.
Shane: Right.
Man: Where are yous from then?
Shane: Midlands City.
Man: Aliens.
Emma: Yeah, that's it. (More quietly) Come on Shane.
Shane: Yeah anyway, nice talkin' to y'.
Man: Mm?

Absolutely. Feelgood coarsing through that Man's veins.

After an hour and a bit of feeling the art, we got back into the Yellow Lupo and headed up the A565 for Southport - a childhood holiday haunt for Emma. At this point I clicked into the most relaxed I'd felt in bloody ages. We knew we were not really very far down the coast from Blackpool, but when she pointed out the Blackpool Tower on the horizon to the north by north west, my oafish northern heart leapt. A surge of childish 'I wanna go on the 'Big Dipper''. The taste of candy floss. Dozens of lager louts spewing into the gutter. My grandfather beating me and Brother Wexford at pitch and putt. Then, Emma spoke.

Emma: It would seem wrong not to do fish 'n' chips really.
Shane: I concur.
Emma: Let's walk.
Shane: Let's.
Emma: To the chip shop.
Shane: To the chip shop.

And so it was. With mushy peas.

It was the shape of romance.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Arvon IV

Saturday 17 September, 2005.

Day 5 (or 6)

Remainder of Thursday was good - nailed characters and structure of what I was after (a play for 5 actors called 'Fall-out from the Hot Banana'). Got to bed last night at 1am after finishing the structure for the piece. Had managed to talk to both Emma and Alex at 6pm - both well it seemed. Evening session was very good - a quick trawl through the commissioning process - insider BBC information was useful there.

Today (Fri): saw one of the tutors - she was impressed by the synopsis and characters notes I'd written for 'Fall-out...'. Was asked to read parts for seven other people in this afternoon and evening's readings. I took the roles of a young traveller, two homeless men, a dead teenager (in flashback), a holiday-maker (discovering a dead body - as y' do), a student, a squash player, a DJ, and a talking microwave oven. Indeed. Was good fun. I'd written some dialogue for Fall-out this morning - got a bloke (mid-40s) and a woman (mid-50s) to read the main parts for me. Was told that I 'write really well as a man writing for women - which is rare' and that the dialogue was 'excellent' and that 'it all rang true'. Unrelated to writing (I think), I was told by a 71 year old woman from Shropshire that I spoke 'with the gravitas of a much older man'. I'm taking this to mean that I've had a good week. Would have liked to know more about some of the participants, then again, maybe it's more interesting not knowing their full life stories (that's not meant to sound harsh). Anyway, to adapt a Frank Sinatra line...

It was a very good week.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Arvon III

Thursday 15th September, 2005.

Day 4

No diary entry last night. Had a late finish (11pm) to the guest tutor's evening session - an entertaining scout through radio and screenwriting from a woman called Sue Teddern. Was useful looking at a script of her's (a five-part radio serial called 'Making Hay') then listening to an episode. Writing style was broadly comedy-drama. She was a good advert for 'being yourself' - few airs, fewer graces, witty, candid, admirably unself-conscious.

Phone call to Emma last night was a bit heavy - adjusting to Alex's new school regime, handling changes in him, looking ahead to balancing work/PhDing, tiredness and my interrupting an episode of Lost. Challenging.

Was writing character notes until 2am. At around 1:30am my phone got one bar of signal which was enough for a text from brother to be patched through. Saying all that needs to be said about brother, it read: 'How is Shropshire? Where is Shropshire?' The Shrewsbury Board of Tourism (S-BoT) would be appalled.

Up since 8am today. Had the most disorganised session so far, and the subject... 'structure'! Told one of the tutors that our meeting this afternoon can be cancelled as writing time is more important to me at the moment. She was ok about this. Seems that Friday will be a day for sharing scripts that are in development.

There are a few really impressive old people (70+) on the course - lively minds and engaging storiers too. Going to try to call Emma now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Arvon II

Tues 13th September, 2005.

Day 2

A big first full day. Had been given a writing exercise yesterday evening for sharing with the group at 11:30 this morning. That session was forgiveably 'fluid' (ie badly time-managed). Seven out of the 14 shared their pieces (3 characters, 3 short scenes, based on 'There's been a death'). I wasn't intimidated by anyone's writing, but some of their ease/comfort in 'acting' made me wince. Later discovered that most readers/actors had been shatting themselves. Reassured. Team-cooking was interesting - I started peripherally (chief onion and cabbage chopper-and-fryer) but moved to centre ground as I realised that my fellow chefs couldn't co-ordinate cooking timings. Dinner was good. Glad to have got the cooking out of the way. No one poisoned. After dinner we returned to reading our pieces. I went first. Feedback was useful - critical in the most useful sense. Was glad that subtext/subtlety had been spotted (by a woman from the USA and a woman (70ish*) - 'I'm Maggie when I'm writing, Mags when I'm painting' - from Leeds). Can already identify my writing 'style', especially clear in comparison to capable others. Chat with tutor this afternoon was useful. Was interesting that in terms of critiquing a short radio piece I'd written recently, she made points that echoed problems that I've felt with my academic writing. She was good when I started firing questions at her. She mentioned a couple of names who would most likely be the best targets for 45 minute radio plays. All in good time.

Was good to hear of Alex's first day at school. I hear that it was a shared knowledge of Power Rangers that was bringing kids together. Sweet. Power down...

(* Later found to be 74)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Arvon I

Tuesday 13th September, 2005.

Day 1

I'm in bed. Drove down to The John Osbourne Arvon Centre ('Hurst Mill Farm') in Clun, Shropshire, this afternoon... fresh from a PhD supervision meeting and Crazy Golf at the Leisure Park. Alex (4) croqueted his way round the course, Emma was on good form. I would have liked to have been around for Alex's first day at school tomorrow (9 hours and 20 minutes from now). Hopefully school will prove to be a rich highly tappable social scene for him. Could take the pressure to stimulate off la famille. Anyway, Arvon...

First three people that I saw when I got here were:-

1. Female, mid-60s*, middle-class clothing/style - seemed 'quiet'/shy/scared of me. Pleasantries exchanged.
2. Female, mid-50s, driving posh car, seemed ditsy/airheaded. Introduced self and enquired as to she.
3. Female, 30ish, soon established that she was cover for one of the centre directors. Introduced self and enquired as to she.

(* Later found to be 71)

Then! I saw a man at a distance of about 20 metres, and I almost blurted out (based on my spying his hair-do) 'Fuck - he's got writer hair!' So glad that I didn't make such a gaff. But the hair was thespish.

First whole group gathering was conveniently soon after I landed - basic house-keeping stuff, just prior to this I spoke to writer hair man - bit spooked by his having been an Arvonist of many years, though it seemed uncouth that he laboured to make the point that he'd been on a tutorless 'Writers' Retreat' with Arvon - emphasising his being a writer. Was reminded of Patrick Marber's use of the label 'writer' as a pejorative in the play Closer. I understood.

The people here all seem decent. Have already identified four or five of the group of 14 tutees (11 female, 3 male) who I'm most interested in. Have broken the ice with all but one so far. Tutors have already started laying on the 'insider knowledge' - am picking up stuff at the business end of things.

As advised by Marie, I'm wisely getting my 'team cooking' duty out of the way as soon as possible - tomorrow. Will be cooking with:-

1. Female, Shetland Islander, approx 45.
2. Female, Worcs, approx 50-55.
3. Female, Shropshire, approx 60-65.

Oh! And there's no mobile phone reception and no internet! Shropshire cold turkey what!

It has begun.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


The North Pole was closed, therefore, I've been here, doing this.

I kept a politically-correct (ish) diary of the experience for sharing with a couple of interested folk. I'm going to make those diary entries the next few instalments of this blog. Will let them leak (or seap) out at a rate of one every two or three days, starting tomorrow (Monday).

I love being surrounded by steep forested hills.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Went to a wedding last weekend. I met the marrying couple, Dawn and Tim, through Emma – that was September 2004. Saw them again November and December 2004, and February 2005. Highly likeable people, both sharing the same sense of humour, neither taking themselves or each other too seriously. A match made in Hull. Before this, the last wedding that I attended was about 10 years ago. I didn’t think people got married anymore. Clearly I was wrong.

The wedding ceremony, dinner and party all took place at a city centre hotel here in the Midlands. In attendance there was to be a handful of people who I already knew, but about 100 or so who I didn’t know. Being, in effect, a ‘plus one’ at such an occasion felt a bit odd. However, there must have been plenty of us ‘plus ones’, and to everyone’s credit it wasn’t possible to tell who were the old friends and who were the new.

Now, I had to keep telling myself that I had to just go with the flow, not think too much about this ‘getting married’ malarkey, and be positive. Also, recognising that I could end up cogitating too much about what this was all about, Emma also suggested that I ‘go with the flow, not think too much about this ‘getting married’ malarkey, and be positive’. We were thinking (but not too much) as one. In the way that children are likely to get bored at such occasions (thus colouring pens and paper are thrust at them), Emma cleverly found a ‘task’ for me. She herself was on usherly duties. Whilst flitting about being Mr Sociable I had to keep a keen ear open for any one-liners that stood out, for whatever reason – funny, poignant, uplifting, whatever. This was in order that images and words from the event could later be mixed to create a montage of Dawn and Tim’s big day. Good one, Emma. So I got scribbling. Here are a handful of one-liners, some I heard direct, others were relayed to me:-

‘Burning the hotel down with hair-straighteners would not be a good idea’ (Friend Jo, to Shane, in her hotel room prior to events)

‘We saw Tim at breakfast – he’d been for a swim and was stuffing his face; one of his best men was hung-over and had been practicing his best man speech ‘til 4am’ (Lucy, a friend)

‘Here we are in the city centre, surrounded by places where Dawn grew up – drinking; memories – perfect; we’ve got laser quest over there in case people get bored later’ (Tim, privately to Shane)

‘How are you feeling, Tim - serene?’
‘Serene isn’t the word, I’m thinking of relocating to the toilet’ (Tim, responding to Emma’s sister)

‘You still can’t get married on football pitches – shame that’ (The Registrar)

‘You look beautiful’ (Tim, privately to Dawn – lip-read by Shane as Dawn joined Tim for the ‘Do yous’ and ‘I dos’)

‘Does anyone know what you do with a cravat?’ (Best man 1, to Emma, wedding morning)

‘My Dad’s best friend is here - Bob’ (Mal, another ‘plus one’)

‘This is just so publicly emotional – it’s fantastic’ (Sara, wife of a best man)

‘He’s a smashin’ fella’ (Dawn’s aunt, to a friend)

‘I guess you don’t know who I am, do you?’ (Emma’s Dad, to Tim)

‘We didn’t know whether it would sound any good - the guitars being put through the disco, but she sang really well didn’t she?’ (Dawn’s uncle, guitarist; also referring to Tim’s sister, singer)

‘We like to think of them as our very own celebrity couple – a bit like Anthea Turner and Grant Bovey really’ (Best man 1)

‘I’m Tim and Dawn’s posh friend’ (Best man 2)

‘It was leaving the house this morning – that’s when it got me’ (Dawn’s mum)

‘I didn’t realise that everyone else was like that (crying)’ (Dawn’s mum)

‘I’m going to hide behind a pillar to have a smoke, let me know if my mum or dad come’ (Emma’s sister, aged 26)

And my personal favourite, Lucy inviting our ‘cripple’ friend Jill, to dance:

Lucy: ‘Dance Jill?’
Jill: ‘I’d rather eat my own hand’

Now, given my initial reserve and anticipation of feeling somewhat removed from the whole thing, let me tell you that on no fewer than about 10 occasions did I well up, big time. Tears didn’t quite roll, but I was moved – a lot. Because of the ‘family histories’ of both Tim and Dawn, it was the case that the whole event was loaded with emotion in addition to the standard fare emotion of such an occasion. Seeing and hearing ordinarily ‘cool’, ‘easy-going’ and ‘light’ friends getting watery-eyed and speaking publicly with voices cracking under the emotional weight of the day would have challenged even the coldest among us to keep it together. I was surprised and glad at how I experienced the whole day. I was also surprised, but a little less glad, at how I danced to the B-52s’ ‘Love Shack’.

Weddings eh!

I love a happy ending.

Am going to be away for almost a fortnight, will be back.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


A Cheshire blesspoppet invited me to do one of those meme things. I accepted. Thus:

7 things that I can do:-

- Ask good questions
- Listen
- Bore you senseless
- Give orgasms
- Indeed
- Not you sir
- Do big hard mental arithmetic sums really quickly

7 things that I can't do:-

- Fart on demand
- Ride a unicycle (I tried, it hurt)
- Watch soap operas
- Know what's 'best for me'
- Ignore people who I care about
- Pretend to like mushrooms
- Imagine what Shane Wexford would look like

7 things that I find really attractive about the opposite* sex:- (What? All of them?)

- Wit
- Flirtation
- Sharp mind
- Tits
- Legs
- The older/smarter look
- Colgate smile

* Opposite, same, whatever works for you

7 things that I say the most:-

- Say that again
- Not good
- Indeed
- I'm not sure that that's a good idea, Alex
- Emma, Alex has...
- I tried to stop him but...
- Am I in trouble?

7 books that I love:-

- The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry
- The Dancer Upstairs by Nicholas Shakespeare
- These
- two
- really
- stand
- out

7 things that I plan to do before I die:-

- Do all that I can to dodge the bus
- Revisit upstate NY
- Score a goal in an 11-a-side football match (it's been a while)
- Sing my kind of song in public
- Produce a play
- Get older
- Get wiser

I know that memes are an acquired taste - not a taste that I'd wish to heap on anyone. However, if you could bear being 'tagged', then please, consider yourself so - and let me know. Would be interested to read your responses, whoever you are. Go on, 'ave it.

I love Paris (the place).

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I feel bad.

I'd just spoken to Brother Wexford (I on the mobile, he on his landline) about the misfortunes of Middlesbrough FC (I mostly laughing, he mostly cursing his season ticket holder status). I'd also mentioned that our young sister, Sister Wexford, had been trying to recruit me into a campaign of wresting Brother from the clutches of his smothering ladychum, Karen. I assured Brother that sister was told to leave him to make his own decisions. Our phone chat ended convivially. 'Ta ta' said I, 'That sounded a bit gay' said he 'See y''. We put our phones down. I poured a glass of Rosé - fuel for my evening's working.

A moment later, a double bleep. '1 message received'. In its entirety, the message read:

'Got a new phone number it is xxxxxxxxxxx. Made a mistake putting in some code, so got a new sim card with new number'. 'Hmm, is probably forgetful Brother again - the oaf!' thought I. I replied:

'Thanks for that. New number duly noted. Shane. ps/ Who the fuck are you?' I wasn't feeling very literary.

A moment later, a double bleep. '1 message received'. In it's entirety, the message read:

'It's your Mam'. 'Hmm, I just wrote the word 'fuck' to my mum - that's not gonna go down too well' thought I. I replied:

'Ah. Probably shouldn't have sworn just there'.

A moment later, a double bleep. '1 message received'. In it's entirety, the message read:

'No. You shouldn't'.

I'm off to Tesco to buy a Flake, though I will have to take my foot out of my mouth before I eat it.

I love Flakes.