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, October 27, 2005


Ken just called.

Ken: Still on for the weekend?
Shane: Yep, should be fine. I'm fancying lower league football.
Ken: Okay-. Hold on a minute, I've got TimeOut here (pause for muffled leafing through magazine, muffled swearing). Oh, superb - you beauty!
Shane: Where?!
Ken: Barnet!
Shane: (sharp intake of breath)
Ken: Versus Rushden and Diamonds.
Shane: Fantastic.
Ken: Guaranteed classic.
Shane: Well-spotted Kenneth, well-spotted. And what else will old London town have in store for us?
Ken: A play.
Shane: Which play? (excitedly) The History Boys?
Ken: No, that's finished. Something at the Pleasance - to do with education - your sort of thing.
Shane: Er-, I don't think I'll be up for anything too heavy.
Ken: It'll be ok.
Shane: So what's it called?
Ken: I've sent you a link.
Shane: Good man.
Ken: The review is luke-warm, but we'll make up our own minds.
Shane: Right.

Upon opening the link and first reading the title of the play, I dropped a whole fig roll into my earl grey.

Well, you would, wouldn't you.

Though it does sound quite tame - damn Kenneth, damn him.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Late Saturday morning. Busy town centre. A four year old seems restless. We are committed to a town centre family-pub lunch that's to begin 30 minutes from now. A four year old has the potential to make it an arduous lunch.

Emma: Okay Alex, you can have three pounds to spend because I've-
Alex: Cool!
Shane: You've what?
Emma: I er-
Alex: I'm gonna buy a big truck with my money.
Emma: I don't think there'll be enough to buy a big truck - maybe something smaller - like a car.
Shane: -three pounds to spend because you've-?
Emma: I forgot to give him his pocket money for the last...
Shane: (laughing) The last?
Emma: Two months?
Shane: Excellent! You make me feel proud of you.

So, to Woolworths, and...

Horror of horrors - Woolworths is closed due to refurbishments. That leaves us scratching about for a child-friendly treat alternative.

Emma: Ah! Poundland! Let's see what they've got.

Inside store.

Alex: Oh cool Shane - look at these.
Shane: I don't think your mummy would let you buy that.
Alex: But why not?
Shane: Toy guns - not cool.
Emma: No, I don't want you buying any guns.
Alex: It's okay mummy - they're not real.
Emma: No - I know they're not real, I just don't think guns are very nice. Choose something else.
Alex: What about these?
Emma: Yes - swords and axes are fine.
Shane: (thinks) Hold on a minute - 'swords and axes are fine'?

Anyway, we leave Poundland with:-

1 weapons set (flimsy plastic sword and solid, though tattish, plastic axe)
1 power ball (luminous bouncy rubber ball)
1 pair of handcuffs (some kind of metallic material - surprisingly high quality I'd say - certainly 'robust' enough to hurt if applied too tightly)

Having left Poundland.

Alex: Shane, you and me can be the police.
Shane: Oh aye, definitely.
Alex: Mummy, you can be the robber.
Emma: You won't catch me!
Alex: We will!

Town centre pub. Busy.

Emma: Okay, I'll go and order. You boys play nicely.
Shane: You're okay, go on - we'll be alright.
Emma: I'll be quick.
(Shane and Alex larking about - in a moderate sort of way - at a table in the child-friendly area of the pub. Shane playing Dopey the Robber, allowing Alex the Policeman to catch him and 'cuff him.)
Alex: That's it - you're under arrest. You're not getting away.
Shane: Ah, come on - let me go. I didn't do the robbery.
Alex: Okay. I'll let you go when mummy gets back.
Shane: (Spotting a duff deal) Let me go now please.
Alex: I can't.
Shane: Why?
Alex: Mummy's got the key.
Shane: What!
Alex: She said she had to look after them in case we lost them.

Emma is amongst a throng at the far end of the pub. It would be unwise to let Alex venture off in search of her (the key) alone. And the reason that Shane won't venture forth with Alex in search of the key to the 'cuffs? Simple. Shane's left wrist is handcuffed to a table leg. The table leg is attached to a very big, very heavy, table. Why can't Alex or Shane use the simple escape switch on the 'cuffs to free Shane? Because when Shane just tried that the switch came off between the fore-finger and thumb of his right hand. How is Shane feeling at this point in the scenario?

Alex: Shane, your skin has gone white.
Shane: Really? (pause) Mummy will be back soon. She can unlock me.

And upon returning, seven minutes later (yes, seven!!!), she did. But before that, I was clocked as being handcuffed to a table by at least four people. Two youngsters were too far away and clearly too scared to pass casual comment, one old man commented 'Been caught I see', and one waiter asked 'Is everything alright sir?'

'Everything's fine' I replied, sweetly - of course.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


The British are said to be great at queuing. However! I have to report an incident of... deviant queuing.

Having wandered into town at lunch time (well, it is crazy cattle market Wednesday after all), I opted to take lunch from The Potato Man - a man who sells potatoes. From a well-equipped van. Many many potatoes. Doth he sell. Letting my mind wander back to the stunner who I'd acknowledged in the paper shop earlier (our's is an alternative farming community), I was interrupted. By a... slapping noise. Now paying more attention to the two people in front of me in the potato queue, I noticed that apart from their smoochy soppy frippy froppy queuing technique (they would delay my potato at their peril!), I noticed that Mr Soppy was occasionally (and quite unaware of himself) slapping the denim-clad arse of Ms Soppy. Her blushfulness suggested that she was a little more self-conscious, but again he idly slapped.




Gladly, The Potato Man's Chicken Curry is so fine that it would take more than an errant queuer to put me off my lunch. However, let me tell you that so distracting was this firm-but-affectionate slap-slap-slapping that had it not been for the restraining presence of Marie I would surely have stabbed Mr Soppy in the hand with the nearest blue plastic fork. Of this I am not proud, but my god, someone's got to draw the line when it comes to queuing for potatoes.

I know. This aggressive tone probably surprises you. In fact, I sense...


Monday, October 17, 2005


Idling on a Monday lunch-time, what better way to pass a few minutes than to accept the invitation from Bristol She-Queen Claire to share '20 random facts about you (me)'? No better way. Now, let's see...

1. I spent the weekend in County Durham.
2. Returning to the Midlands, I hassled Emma into driving part of the M6.
3. I did this (point 2) because Emma hates motorway driving.
4. I'm not sure whether this (point 3) makes me a bad person.
5. Last week I lunched with a person who once tried to split Emma and I.
6. Based in London, Luncher (L) is now 'in a happier place'.
7. I ended a 2002 thing with L after hearing an unpalatable fact re her past.
8. Recently, I was asked for the word that best captured my past year.
9. I chose the word (or name) 'Alex' (Emma's son). He teaches me much.
10. I hope Boy George is innocent.
11. I also hope that I win the National Lottery.
12. I don't play the National Lottery.
13. The first single I bought was 'Karma Chameleon' by Culture Club.
14. Aged 8, I knew there was something different about Boy George.
15. I couldn't work out what was different about Boy George.
16. Dad got concerned when, at the age of 8, I tied ribbons in my hair.
17. I liked listening to Mark Lawson's interview with Alan Bennett.
18. I've watched professional matches at about 30 football grounds.
19. My favourite football trip was AZ Alkmaar in Holland.
20. The trip to Cambridge United came a close second.

If you're feeling listful, consider yourself tagged.

Now, work. Indeed, yuk.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


(Beware: at 1,203 words, a long post)

Received a text, it read: ‘Am on the train, can you pick me up at 19:45? Ta.’ Sender: Ken.

I was not expecting him, as I’d already arranged to visit His Royal Kenniness later this month. So, presuming the fool to have texted me in error, I replied: ‘You fool, why would I need to know what time you’re getting off the train?’

He replied: ‘Because I’m coming to stay for two nights – bringing my work and laptop with me – won’t be a problem, honest. See you in an hour – Virgin-willing!’

At the time I was dining with Marie and Pete. News of Ken’s imminent arrival was greeted with:

Marie: Excellent!
Pete: Ah, a supplies surprise!* If you’re collecting him you’d better put that glass down.
Shane: Oh arse!

* Ken tends to win favour with the organic and free-range produce of the Ken Family Estate (we’re talking serious acreage - woods and lakes and so on).

So, Ken was collected and we drove up to the chateau. Greetings were greeted, backs were slapped, eggs and butternut squash were handed over, warmth abounded. Then, to the pub – a Georgian town centre place with quiet nooks and dusty crannies. A couple of drinks in, Ken produced a big document from beneath his large furry jacket, placed it face down on the table then looked at me.

Ken: Shane.
Shane: Ken?
Ken: I’ve been reading, and having (pause) A VERY BIG IDEA.
Shane: Is this about going to Africa again?
Ken: No no no, we agreed all that-
Shane: We did?
Ken: That’s right, we did. No, this is a MUCH bigger idea.
Shane: Right. Is this why you’re here?
Ken: No. Well, maybe, partly. I think I’ll be talking with Marie too, but I thought I’d better tell you first.
Shane: Okay. So what is it?

I had to ask, it would have been rude not to.

Ken: We’ve talked about having children before haven’t we?
Shane: (laughing) Not having them together we haven’t!
(A man at the next table is listening-in, Ken turns and proffers a smile)
Ken: Discretion please Shane, bit more discretion.
Shane: Sorry. ‘Having children’?
Ken: Mm. I’ve been reading this. (Hands document to me, I look at it)
Shane: You’ve been reading a report on… fostering and adoption in England.
Ken: Yes Shane, that’s right.
Shane: I know it’s right - I can read.
Ken: Don’t be grouchy – there is cause for celebration.
Shane: What?

I was no longer able to daydream in the direction of the Charlotte-Church-like bar personage. Kenneth the Foul Beast had fully distracted me. And induced a headache.

Ken: I think we should consider fostering, with a longer-term view to adopting!
Shane: (shaking head) Oh Kenneth, sweet ludicrous Kenneth - full of good intention. Before you get going, let me tell you that this already has the hallmarks of what could only be a completely - and utterly – and I really do mean utterly - ridiculous idea.
Ken: Wait, time is on our side! This is how I see it-
Shane: Three hours ago I was expecting a nice evening in with Kirsty Wark, and now I’m sitting in town with an oaf who’s trying to sell what I suspect is going to sound very much like happy-clappy co-parenting. My head really does not need this right now.
Ken: Shane, I believe that you have proved yourself with young Alex, although to be frank, that was never in doubt-

On reflection, I see this for the simple act of Kenneth buttering that it was.

Shane: Ta. (Smiling) You called him ‘young Alex’.
Ken: You’re welcome, and yes – that’s what you call him. (I laugh, Ken gives me a stern look – quite unKenny in fact) Do you know what proportion of adoptions occur between kids and parents who’ve already had a foster relationship?
Shane: (looks confused)
Ken: Er, actually, I can’t remember that one – but it was quite high. Might have been 30 or 40 per cent. Actually, that may be completely wrong.
Shane: You’ve clearly done your research.
Ken: The point is ‘one step at a time’.
Shane: (Pause: struggling to produce a mental image) Emma and Alex and Shane and Ken and Adopted-Fostered-Whatever Child – all one big happy family?
Ken: No. Bigger than that!
Shane: What?
Ken: I thought GayFranglais might want to join in too.
Shane: Dreamland Kenneth, you’re wide-awake in dreamland. And besides, I’m sure social services wouldn’t touch your version of… ‘family-planning’.
Ken: That’s not what Marie reckons.
Shane: How the-? Marie? You’ve shared this with Marie?
Ken: Not exactly. I just asked her some questions about families and adoption and stuff - by email, yesterday.
Shane: Did she know you were coming up tonight?

One is smelling a very large Marie-shaped rat. In fact, one is suspecting that she is using Kenneth’s foolish nature to entertain herself at my expense.

Ken: No. But she said that I should come up any time I felt like it.
Shane: Speak on.
Ken: Well I thought if it was a baby boy we could call him ‘Roy’-
Shane: -er, I think you've missed about 70 keys steps in the process.
Ken: I can tell that you're in no fit state to seriously discuss this.
Shane: Oh Kenneth. I feel... chastened.
Ken: Hmm.
Shane: So ‘Roy’ for a boy?
Ken: Mm.
Shane: Shirley for a girlie?
Ken: Don’t be ridiculous – Shirley? As if!
Shane: But Roy, for a boy, is ok?
Ken: Yeah.
Shane: What else?
Ken: Well that's what we need to discuss.
Shane: What?
Ken: Exactly how we will raise Roy.
Shane: Have I been spiked?
Ken: I know. It feels like a dream-come-true doesn’t it?
Shane: (laughing) You're insane.
Ken: No Shane, I’m not. I’m offering us all… (brace yourselves, he is searching for dramatic phrasing)

My amusement at the illogic and unreason of our hero is all that is sustaining me here.

Ken: I'm offering us all an alternative vision of the future!
Shane: Bravo Kenneth, bravo. Motivational pre-parenting. I like it.
Ken: Good. And besides, I know that you’re feeling wobbly about the idea of (whispers) pro-creating.
Shane: What?
Ken: Emma told me.
Shane: When?
Ken: Today – by email.
Shane: And how do you happen to get into that exactly?
Ken: I just told her what I’d been reading - said it was work-related. I think she thinks we talk about stuff like parenting. Assumed I knew already.
Shane: What else has she told you?
Ken: I now know what a urethroscopy is.
Shane: Pull! No! Punches!
Ken: You should have told me.
Shane: Why?
Ken: So I could tell everyone else.
Shane: Jesus!
Ken: (laughing) Relax old boy, we’re family, you’re safe with us.
Shane: This has got to stop.
Ken: What?
Shane: This... loose talk. It concerns me.
Ken: It’s alright - I’ll keep myself in-check when Roy's around.
Shane: Funny.

It's 11pm. Few people remain.

Ken: Shane.
Shane: Back to where we began. Yes?
Ken: I meant it.
Shane: Mm?
Ken: What I said earlier. I am looking into the whole adoption-fostering thing. I think you should too.
Shane: Time to go Kenneth, time to go.

It was an unusual way to end the day.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Thank you all for your comments and contributions to my hymn project. It was a difficult task trying to fit in the various suggestions - some made it, some didn't. But as you'll see below, it was a...

(To the tune of-)
(There is not a tune in the world that this could be put to)


Divine lamb, hit by a car
Heal soon, blessings surround you
Feel our compassion, eat some fair trade chocolate

Get well soon soon soon
Get well soon soon soon
Get well soon soon soon
God is strange, and mysterious, and might be a wo-man with righteous shoes-

We prayed at the church, it was happy clappy crappy
Made our insides shrivel, we felt quite sick
Questioned our faith, in church employment policy-

E-qual-i-ty -ty -ty
E-qual-i-ty -ty -ty
E-qual-i-ty -ty -ty
Even for tam-bour-i-nists-

There is deep deep foreboding, the lamb is unwell
Mountains of tension, broken suspension
Still no vet, God give us a sign-

A glint in his eye eye eye
Glint in his eye eye eye
Glint in his eye eye eye
Looks like woolly's gonna be okay-

The lamb has died, and the car's still damaged
Tears well up, we feel quite awful
Time ticks by, we must have lunch-

We can have lamb lamb lamb
We can have lamb lamb lamb
We can have lamb lamb lamb
And vegetables, Yorkshire puddings, and dessert - if we eat the other stuff first-

- Shane Wexford and The Comments Box Brothers and Sisters (2005)

Please forgive me. Normal service resumes later this week. Hallelujah.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


On Saturday we went to a wedding, in Middleshire. A church wedding. In a village. About 200 in attendance. Again, exchange of the matrimonials was between friends of Emma who had met whilst at university. Paul and Caitlin. I am 100% confident that they will stay together and be happy together. They're fine people. Solid people. Good people. Planners. Whiter than white. Middle class. Environmentalists. God's planet and all that. And I got to meet several of Emma's longer term circle of friends and it was all very pleasant. When we got to the churchy servicey marriagey bit, it kind of sounded like:

"Let's sing some hymns"

"Blah blah God blah blah church blah blah Jesus blah blah Goddy churchy Jesusy blah blah blah. Marriage blah blah. Sin. Duty. Blah blah. Oh. And love. Commitment. Behave yourselves. Regardless. You're in it for the long game. God's watching. He'll know. We are talking God here! So really do behave yourselves. Any objections? No? Do you? And you? Good. You're married"

"Let's sing some more hymns"

"Now you may go and eat, drink and dance to popular hits from the disco era, but don't forget - God's watching. Have a nice day"

I liked the church. I liked the people. But as much as I tried to open my head and heart I just couldn't get the whole 'him upstairs' aspect of the gig. It left me feeling that the focus wasn't so much on the marrying couple - and the earthly context in which they're living - as I felt that it should have been (NB/ do not begin with any of that 'God is among us, and in the heart of every man' stuff; I know - they called at my house, I bought the magazine). So what do I do with my feelings about the awry foci of the wedding? Well. What I don't do is go round discussing these thoughts with strangers (or even intimates) on Paul and Caitlin's wedding day. But when people make remarks and ask for comments I say gentle things such as:-

"I found the service fascinating - I don't often visit church"
"Made me wonder about how I would choose to get married"
"That God chap sounds like an awfully busy man", and,
"I have decided to write a hymn"

Indeed. If you can't beat them, join them!

Brothers and sisters, I've started scribbling, but it may take a few days. My next post will be the words to my first ever hymn. Really, it will be like an exaggerated poem. Probably won't dictate a tune to go with it, but will insist that is sung with the dignity and respect that all hymns should be sung - I learned this on Saturday. From my observations, I would also say that 'hallelujah' is a key hymn word. But beyond that, I could do with some help: So if you've any suggestions as to words, sentiments or hidden meanings that ought to feature in my hymn-in-progress, then please, do let me know.

It was an amen kind of idea.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Some months ago, probably around February or March, I noted that someone had landed on the Shane blog having used the search term ‘Shane Wexford’. Now, whilst this someone may simply have been an earlier visitor, or, an innocent teenager seeking an alternative yet equally handsome (albeit Irish) Shane who they’d met during a winter break in Cyprus, it seemed unlikely. This view was compounded as it was also noted - by Statcounter - that the searcher was located in not-so-big Midlands City. This raised suspicions that the Shane Wexford blog – which Emma had said she wasn’t going to read – had been searched for by she. At this time, precious few of the intimate circle had been informed of the Shane blog. So, one evening, whilst chatting on the phone, and kind of out of nowhere, I ventured:

Shane: So what did you think of the blog?
Emma: (pause, surprised) What?
Shane: The blog - you searched for it yeah? And read it. On Monday evening, just after 8 o’clock? (In retrospect, this may have sounded a bit mentalist)
Emma: No. I haven’t seen your blog.
Shane: Oh. It’s just that someone in Midlands City searched for it then and spent about half an hour reading it.
Emma: Well it wasn’t me.
Shane: Oh, right. It’s just that you’re the only person over there who I’ve mentioned it to.
Emma: Well it wasn’t me.
Shane: Any ideas of who it might have been then?
Emma: (pause) No.

I believed her. And I felt like 7000 different kinds of tit for boldly assuming that she’d read it. I pursued this no further, assuming that the reader was probably Emma’s younger sister (having heard of my blogging through Emma). Until last Sunday that is. At the dinner table at Emma’s parents house:

Emma: Will you blog about this weekend?
Shane: No, I don’t think so. I blogged about Crosby and Blackpool in the past (we’d ventured to each last weekend).
Emma: Oh – that’s a shame, it’s been a good one.
Shane: Mm. But there’s other stuff that I can draw upon.
(Enter Emma’s Mum – having heard none of our brief conversation)
E’s Mum: What’s that?
Emma: I was just askin’ if he was going to blog about this weekend, but he’s not.
E’s Mum: Oh, right. Have you ever looked at the blog?
Emma: No, though he did once accuse me of searching for it behind his back. Didn’t you?
Shane: Yeah.
E’s Mum: (pause) No, it was probably me.
Emma: Mum! You didn’t!
E’s Mum: I did – and you can get to view what other people have been using the machine upstairs to look at. It uses a ‘cache’ or something.
Emma: You didn’t! Oh my go-! (To me) She is awful. She’s done that before.
E’s Mum: I once found some pictures of… porn! - that someone had been looking at during the day.
Shane: Well it wasn’t me!
Emma: You didn’t!
E’s Mum: I did. It was quite a while ago.
Emma: Oh go-! So who was it?
E’s Mum: You’ll never guess.
Emma: Not Dad (winces)?
E’s Mum: Nooooo. (Laughs) He said just what Shane just said.
Emma: So?
E’s Mum: I knew it had been through the day, but I knew that me and your Dad would have been at work. So I checked my diary cos I was sure we’d had someone staying here at the time, and we did!
Emma: Who?
E’s Mum: Rosie! (a close friend of Emma)
Emma: Nooooooo!
E’s Mum: Yep. But, I mean, she was probably just curious or something.
Emma: But why would she?
(Emma is shocked, whilst I am inwardly laughing)
E’s Mum: She was young.

Of course what we’d done here was skip over Emma’s Mum’s quiet researching and reading of Shane Wexford. She did look awkward when she’d ‘fessed up – just prior to shifting our focus. To say that it felt spooky that she’d been… snooping – and in this case that is the word – would be an understatement. With Emma’s awareness of her Mum’s ‘interest’ in others’ affairs, I find it hard to imagine that this searching really would have come as a surprise.

While this feels odd, I am aware of this being part-related to the pseudonymification and the not-entirely-comfortable-in-doing the-personal-exposé-style-of-blogging that comes so naturally to many (but certainly not all). Thus, I am left pondering: Should this being 'checked-out' feel odd? If so why so, if not why not. And given that, as I say, it does feel odd, why does it feel so.

It was a strange situation.

Monday, October 03, 2005


A whirlwind left the office about 30 minutes ago. Marie - co-dweller, office-sharer and many things to many people - was having a stressy day. Into many pies hath she thrust her fingers. Occasionally, this finger-thrusting pie-orientation gets a bit out of hand - she is prone to booking weekends way in advance that later leads to the donning of so many hats in such short spaces of time that she ends up cutting a dizzy chameleon dash. About 5 minutes before leaving the office, she started to visibly huff and puff. At one point, I heard her bark at her computer monitor - generally not a good sign. This is all the more entertaining (I'm such a bad person), because I have so often heard friends and colleagues remark on how utterly on top of everything and in-control she is - which admittedly, she often is. It's just that, even plate-spinners have their limits. Upon hearing a sigh in amongst the frenetic whatnot, I dared to ask:

Shane: How are things?
Marie: Oh I don't know. Bad. Good. Soon-to-be good. I've got too much on at the moment - all my own fault. Though I can see things being lighter next week.
Shane: Good. What have you been doing?
Marie: Mostly dumping voluntary stuff that I've run out of steam with.
Shane: Right.
Marie: I've got too much on. October's now fully booked up, I've kept one weekend free in November, but gladly December isn't looking too busy at the moment.
Shane: 'At the moment'.
Marie: Yeah. I sent Soph' a stressy email this morning - usual piffle about how I'm going to start saying 'no' more often.
Shane: Got to work on being nasty.
Marie: Exactly. No more Mrs Nice-Guy...-ess.
Shane: Quite.
Marie: Told her that I've got to stop planning ahead as it's just putting me under too much pressure to travel (to see people). Need to consciously sit down and do nothing from time to time.
Shane: Sounds healthy.
Marie: Yeah. I'm gonna go up and see her in December. (Checks time) Oh fuck - how can it be that time already.

And she was gone. Soon after, I received a text. It read: 'Just realised how dim that last sentence must have sounded. Next time you see me make me sit down for 15 minutes.' One minute later I received another text: '...unless the house is on fire. And sitting on the toilet doesn't count!'.

Our's is a house of high culture.