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, November 29, 2005

A baffling conversation in which the Ken I never knew is revealed... or at least hinted at

So, nothing was ‘doing’ with Gabriela, Ken was irritable and I was knackered. Fair to say the next 48 hours were looking like a long 48 hours. That said, I wasn’t going to give the cretin an easy time. In anger, he’d used the f-word, something was clearly up. Like I said earlier, ‘Euro brush-off’ was the obvious answer. I’d soon find out.

After food at a posh pub in Pimlico, we said ta ta to Ian and Foxy, and headed tubewards… with Gabriela. The term ‘almost gooseberry’ sprang to mind. The atmosphere between the three of us was a little awkward. I was guessing that her slightly numb expression was about feeling uneasy in the almost intimate company of Ken (post brush-off). I took Ken’s apparent sleepiness to be a crude veil of his feeling like a bit of a Ken. Gabriela left the tube one stop before us and at this point Ken woke right up.

Ken: D’ y’ think she was upset?
Shane: She seemed distant
Ken: I felt like a bit of a shit
Shane: Don’t – she’s the one who should be feeling like a shit
Ken: Why?
Shane: She comes at you with all of her Italian charm, then leaves you high and dry. Does it need anymore explaining?
Ken: Yes
Shane: Don’t make a victim out of her
Ken: She was amazing
Shane: Kenneth, be not a fool – sorry to put it like this but I am tired – she dumped you, therefo-
Ken: Eh? No she she didn’t
Shane: Look, I wasn’t having a go, there’s nothing wrong with you – nothing seriously wrong – it's just that she’s clearly one of those people who likes the idea of being able to string along-
Ken: No, y’ don’t get it – I told her that (pause)… I wasn’t ready for… anything serious
Shane: (Astounded) Uh?
Ken: What?
Shane: You blew her out?
Ken: God no – we didn’t even snog
Shane: No. I mean you gave her the brush-off?
Ken: Oh, yeah, I suppose
Shane: (Perplexed) Unbelievable – just unbelievable
Ken: She was – is – really nice
Shane: What’s wrong with you?
Ken: You said there was nothing wrong with me
Shane: I was wrong, I’ve changed my mind
Ken: It wasn’t right, she is amazing – gorgeous, clever, funny – but my head just wouldn’t have been in it
Shane: Quoi?
Ken: I saw Zoe on Friday
Shane: Uh?
Ken: We’ve been emailing a lot
Shane: Zoe Who We Don’t Talk About In The Sense That You And She Once Did Something That We Don’t Talk About?
Ken: Yeah
Shane: Oh (pause)… what’s that got to do wi- whoooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Ken: Yeah
Shane: But she’s off to Africa
Ken: Yeah
Shane: You’re not planning to see her again are you?
Ken: Not in the near future
Shane: (Shocked) I’m… shocked
Ken: Me too.

And after a moment’s quiet:

Ken: I read a lot about hedonism a few years ago, I just never believed in it.
Shane: And this relates to?
Ken: I’m thinking of just - y’ know –
Shane: (Pause) Nope
Ken: - just relaxing and… letting things go a bit
Shane: (Pause) You’re not the real Kenneth, what have you done with my Kenneth?!
Ken: (Laughing)
Shane: I have money; I am able to pay a small ransom. I demand Kenny be returned.
Ken: How much have you got?
Shane: Approximately eight pounds, a travel card and several papers on research methods
Ken: Get me a double brandy at the Coronet and we can discuss terms from there
Shane: Okay, but you'll have to prove to me that he's alright!
Ken: The brandy first!

Ken's version of hedonism was yet to materialise as I left London, however, reports of the past weekend speak of 'clubbing' and 'excess'. Fair to say I am left a little confused by this turn of events.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A minor outburst - most unbecoming of Kenneth, the oaf.

So, the deal was that I’d land at Kenneth’s early Sunday afternoon, we’d then trog down to Tate Britain. There, and really - ‘what chance of this!’ - we’d bump into none other than the pleasantly gadding-about Ian and Foxy Chloe, and Gabriela! Hurrah what! But no…

A Kenneth-shaped text lands (as I’m on the train!… oh so many expletives deleted), and it says: ‘Have headed off to the gallery, meet you down there at 4pm, hope your bags aren’t too heavy…’ Yes, it was brief and it was flat. I immediately called him to find out what was happening. Couldn’t get through. Peeved – it’s fair to say – I headed straight to the gallery, half-thinking ‘I hope I don’t interrupt anything!’ (((Shudder)))

I land at the gallery an hour early, and deposit bags at the cloakroom (indeed, a glad tiding). Still, Kenneth is unreachable. Okay-. So I text Ian, and ask where they are. Not around, but meeting us at the gallery at 4pm is the answer to where he and Foxy are (at 3pm). The shit. So, without a Kenneth (and related entourage) in sight, I do the Turner Prize thing. Speaking of which:-


Simon Starling – most intellectually engaging.
Darren Almond – most beautiful / relaxing.
Gillian Carnegie – straight-edge subculture.
Jim Lambie – colourful, but without hooks.

I’d plump for Starling or Almond, though I think that it’ll go to Carnegie – one in the eye to the mockers of the Turner Prize normative radicals.


Anyway, like a scene from some modern adaptation of that classic western… er-… Shane?… we have four guns blaze over the horizon - or at least into the Tate café area - at exactly 4pm. All seem well and chatty, having coincided on the walk from the underground station (exactly who originally walked with whom is not clear). I note that Kenneth has a slightly distant look (beyond the standard oaf look). Maybe the others didn’t spot this, but I did. As it was my first meeting with Gabriela, I had to ensure that I didn’t seem blithely disregarding. Kindly, she seemed a chappess around whom ‘blithe’ would rarely be the spirit. Captivating. Anyway, mentioning that I’d done the show already, they say they’ll quickly skip round then we can grab food before Ian and Foxy head off for an evening drive back to Cornwall. As they all depart exhibitionwards, Kenneth makes a polite nose-powdering excuse for hanging back. Soon, he privately confers:

Ken: There’s nothing doing with Gabriela.
Shane: Ah. What happened?
Ken: Nothing happened. There’s just nothing doing.
Shane: Why?
Ken: (Irritated pause) It’s just not right. There is no big ‘why’.
Shane: What does that mean?
Ken: Fucking hell! There’s just nothing doing, ok.

Indeed, ‘Step away from the edge’ thinks I. Kenneth stomps off exhibitionwards, and I’m left guessing ‘Euro brush-off’. As I'd be around for a further 48 hours I decide that we can return to this moody blue later, and so we did…

Monday, November 21, 2005

There was a crisp winter mist over the lake, a heron made flight from the water's edge.

On Saturday, I learned of a bereavement that had befallen a friend. That mystery of modern blog science, the Hoss Gene, is a landmark in my view of the blogosphere. Like the several others who I call upon, the flavour of Gene's writing is wry, dry and rapturously warm; most fundamentally human. It was saddening to consider the sense of loss that would be experienced by Betty's kith and kin.

I mentioned this bereavement to Emma as we walked by this lake (pictured) on Saturday morning. Recalling the endeared tone of my previous comments about the old guy, Emma commented, 'I hope he's alright'.

'Yes' I replied, as my mind turned to the likely wisdom that Feelgood Haines would impart at this time.

Thoughts, and familial strength.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Just received a text from Ken.
He'd read the last post.
And was thrilled.
Though he claimed he'd not be going anywhere near Tate Britain on Sunday.
'Oh bugger' one might think.
But no.
For I replied...

'But Gabriela and Foxy Chloe will be TB'ing on Sunday. Won't you join me Kenny? For a not-so-chance encounter...'

He replied...


He will be TB'ing on Sunday.
I fear he may act decisively before then.

Oh bugger.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Small world

About four years ago, I introduced my two most poles-apart pals to one another. It was a case of:

"Cornish Ian(1) meet Ken(2)"

(1) wonderful chap, churchy, met him in 1993, chartered accountant, farming background
(2) wonderful chap, oaf, vegan, met him in 2000, multiply pierced (previously), tattooed, researcher**

** a surprising image of Ken?

I had wondered if Ian and Ken would take one look at each other, immediately clock ‘a freak’, and leave a big awkward silence. Gladly, they did not. They got on - like the proverbial house. Since then, their paths have crossed on two occasions - a football trip to Crewe, and a football trip to Brentford. Sophistication nil, glamour nil. But again, the boys got on well. And since then they’ve often asked of one another.

Earlier this evening, I took a call from Ian. After opening pleasantries he says:

Ian: Anyway, there's news - I’m getting married.
Shane: (Thinks ‘Oh god, must say the right thing’) Bloody hell! Congratulations! The fox-hunter, I presume?
Ian: (Pause) Yes. Her name’s Chloe.
Shane: Of course it is. That’s excellent news.
Ian: Ta.

Standard questions and answers re making proposals, informing families, brother being best man and so on...

Shane: Fantastic! And will there be-
Ian: There’ll have to be a stag-do.
Shane: (Thinks ‘Oh god no – please not a big night out in Falmouth) And?
Ian: Well, I reckon we should have a bash at the three peaks!
Shane: Oh, you star! I knew you’d come up with something good. Y’ know, we’ve got so much in common… in fact, it is I who you should be marrying, not Chloe. I say dump her and marry me!
Ian: (Awkwardly) Ah yes, very funny. Shane-
Shane: Yes?

And from a slightly distant, more echosome corner of the room:

Chloe: You can jolly well fack awwwff, he will not be marrying you - or anyone else!
Ian: We’re on the speakerphone old boy.
Shane: Ah. I was only kidding. (And louder) Anyway, I wouldn’t marry him - he’s shit in bed!
Chloe: He wasn't half an hour ago!
Shane: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrggghhhhhhhhhhhh! Too much information!!! (They laugh)
Ian: There was one other reason for calling actually.
Shane: Yes?
Ian: Y’ know your pal Ken?
Shane: Yes.
Ian: Where does he work?
Shane: He’s been working at New University since the summer. Why?
Ian: Does he still live up near Holloway?
Shane: Yes. Why?
Ian: (Away from phone) Told y’ – that’ll be a tenner. (To phone) I – we - think he’s been dating a friend of Chloe’s.
Shane: What’s her name?
Chloe: (Closer) Gabriela. She’s Italian.
Shane: He has! Small world what!
Ian: (Amused) Definitely. Though I hear he’s toned down his appearance.
Shane: Yeah, a bit. What have you heard about them?
Chloe: I’m not sure about Ken, but I can tell that she’s smitten. She told me that they went out on Saturday evening and that she ‘laughed louder than ever’.
Shane: That would have been the bit where he lowered his trousers. (Ian belly laughs)
Chloe: Don’t be cruel. You’ve got to help us move them on to the next level.
Shane: 'The next level'?
Chloe: You knowwwww-
Shane: Oh Jesus, I’ve just eaten!

And so it came to pass that the conspirators did hatch a plan, the subtlety of which was quite remarkable. Their daring would begin at around 4pm on Sunday 20 November, 2005. And it would begin here:

...and all around Kenneth and Gabriela's innocent, and not so private, viewing of this.

Hee hee hee hee hee hee heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


I made my (approximately weekly) call to Kenneth.

Shane: Good evening Kenneth.
Ken: Hello chum, how's it going?
Shane: It's going well, this week I 'ave been mostly getting to grips with feminism.
Ken: Really?!
Shane: Was quite interesting.
Ken: It's funny you should say that-
Shane: It is?
Ken: It is.
Shane: Why? Discovered your feminist credentials?
Ken: (surprised) Aren't you a feminist?
Shane: Er-, I don't know, hadn't asked myself that.
Ken: Why not?
Shane: (ponders) Other peoples' politics?
Ken: Poor Shane, very poor. We'll put that down to tiredness.
Shane: Thank you dear.
Ken: You're welcome. Anyway, as I was saying-
Shane: Mm?
Ken: -it's funny you should mention feminism. Y' see, I've been dipping into that sort of stuff too.
Shane: Is this the build-up to an unoriginal joke?
Ken: Not at all. I've been reading about 'power and the vagina'.
Shane: Of course you have Kenneth, of course you have. And without wishing to regret asking, what have you learned... about power and, or, the vagina?
Ken: Well, basically speaking - no offence, Sharon Stone did better than Madonna and Demi Moore, but none of them quite got there.
Shane: Got where?
Ken: I don't know, I was just, er, reading for gist.
Shane: Okay. So where did De Kenneth Profundis come from?
Ken: (pause) I've got a new friend.
Shane: Yee-eesss?
Ken: We've been having lunch together. A lot.
Shane: Eating is important. Say more...
Ken: An Italian.
Shane: Okayyyyyy...
Ken: Her name's Gabriela.
Shane: A-haaaaa...
Ken: She's classy.
Shane: Her feminism certainly suggests that.
Ken: Yeah - she's a postgraduate student.
Shane: Nice one Kenneth.
Ken: Yeah.
Shane: So Ken's got himself a classy brainy Italian bird... one who's encouraging him to read about Hollywood totty.
Ken: (bashfully) Well, I haven't quite got myself an Italian bird-
Shane: -Heh! Steady-on there with your hard-core feminist rant Kenneth. Bite not the Shane who calls you.
Ken: Oh yeah, sorry, lost control for a moment. Yeah, anyway, we're getting on well.
Shane: Sounds good, mustn't rush these things. (pause) So what's next for Kenneth and the classy Italian, Gabriela?
Ken: (pause) I'm takin' her to Walthamstow on Saturday.

The Ken done good. Ish.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Body - Part II: Blind

So, like I was saying, I'd been pondering where or how a sense of non-abusive shock (or edge) could be generated around the body. It occurred to me that Marie would find this an interesting topic of Monday evening conversation. So, I sat on the pondering, until later.

Monday was to be a day of working in the office, at home (an annex of the main house). I use the term 'main house' for exaggerated posh effect - this amuses me. Anyway, Marie, also working out of the office, reminded me:

Marie: You didn't forget that I've got those people coming this afternoon, did you?
Shane: (pause) Which people?
Marie: The Very Important People - about the project - confidentiality and all that? Remember? I did mention it.
Shane: Hold on - why is the office so clean and tidy?
Marie: There are some Very Important-
Shane: Are the Very Important People coming today?
Marie: Yes.
Shane: Aaargghhh yes. I almost forgot.

So, respecting confidentiality and all that, I took my stuff into the house (the main one) and settled into reading and making notes on the settee in the front room. An hour or so later, taking a sneaky peek from the kitchen window, I spotted that the Very Important People had arrived in an Impossibly Posh Car. I returned to the academic settee. Far too comfortable for comfort, I gauged my own potential to fall asleep - that wouldn't be productive. So, to wake myself up, I thought 'I know, I'll take a cool shower'. Then, stupidity reigning, I thought 'Oh sod that, I'm sure a warm bath would be much better'. So up the stairs I did trog, and a bath was had.

Later, I found Marie pottering over a smouldering grill-pan.

Shane: Ah. How's things?
Marie: Recently extinguished.
Shane: Mm, I see. And the Very Important People? They were ok? Nothing too intense?
Marie: (pause, at which Shane begins to feel a tad uncomfortable) Well, they were very sweet-
Shane: Good.
Marie: -considering.
Shane: Considering what?
Marie: Well, just as we sat down around the big table, Barbara (VIP#1) let out a mini... er-...
Shane: Fart?
Marie: No, not a fart - that wouldn't have been so bad.
Shane: Oh my god - she shit!
Marie: No, don't be ridiculous. She let out a mini... shriek.
Shane: Why?
Marie: Well, it would seem, dear Shane, that from the seat that is side-on to the office window - at the back-
Shane: Yee-eesss?
Marie: -upon glancing up and over her left shoulder-
Shane: (picturing it) Yee-eesss.
Marie: Barbara - and she was very good about this - said it didn't happen very often, well, er... she copped a load of you.
Shane: (confused pause, with rather a sinking feeling) Wha-?
Marie: You have to ensure that the slats of the blinds are fully closed. If they're not, from below outside, it's possible to see into the bathroom.
Shane: (pallid) What did she see?... Barbara - the Very Important Person.
Marie: We saw you towelling yourself down... and 'singing'?
Shane: (mortified) Oh god. Oh double-god - Erasure - Drama! - on repeat.
Marie: Mm, (enjoying this) how are you feeling right now?
Shane: A little pale.
Marie: You look it.

And there it was. An answer to how the body could be used to shock, without cause for reference to notions of abuse (including 'of the self' - I'm so very glad to say). I regret that Marie's Very Important Barbara and my slightly damp arse, back and full frontage had to combine to provide the context for this 'shock', but at least it gave Marie the opportunity to recount a similar blinding gaff made by Pete last summer. On that occasion, the innocent victims of exposure were next door's chickens. Well, you don't get snakes in these parts of the Midlands, so they were bound to be scared.

...just one psychological drama after another...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Body - Part I: Smudge

So, at the weekend, Ken and I went to the theatre, where we saw John Cooper’s ‘Education of a Lapdancer’ (‘proper review’ here). In a nutshell, it goes like this:-

Family living in London – father Chris, daughter Claire, step-mum Marie, Claire’s boyfriend Billy.
Chris (a teacher) and Marie (a GP) are tired, as is their marriage.
Chris has been visiting a lapdance club. There, he has become a regular of a Romanian dancer, Ileana. He tells her that he’s researching for a novel and invites her for a drink. She takes his card.
Chris gets suspended from his job due to an aggressive outburst.
Ileana passes Chris’ details to Sorin, an East European businessman.
The unfolding story sees Chris become embroiled with Sorin in some shady money-laundering facility for a people-smuggling operation.
Along the way, Sorin impacts on all members of Chris’ family:-
Billy becomes a messenger for Sorin.
Sorin shags Marie.
Chris shags Ileana (who tells Sorin, rendering Chris blackmailable).
Sorin gives Claire the number of his dance club – where she gets a job.
The upshot of all this is that:-
Sorin is shot dead by other dodgy businessmen.
Chris and Marie split-up.
Chris ends up with a bag of cash that was Sorin’s, but that the authorities remain unaware of.
Outcome: Chris has shifted from respectable teacher to someone who questions and acts against the capitalist notion of meritocracy – he is unconvinced that a formal education and ‘playing by the rules’ is in the best long-term interests of individuals… What will get a person (say, Ileana or Claire) further in life: a GCSE or a G-string?

The ‘resolution’ to the play is awkward. Having rejected legitimacy and the meritocracy for himself, Chris then seems to endorse it by spending a chunk of the acquired cash on providing a 3-year formal education for Ileana (indeed, ah bless). That said, it was a timely play and it raised pertinent social and education questions. I remained fully-engaged throughout, as did Ken.

Unsurprisingly, there were scenes that were set in a lapdance club. Thus, we – the audience of about 60 – got to see gyrating, sliding and spinning. Ileana (played by Kate Steavenson-Payne) was a little stiff, which is more than could be said for me. Less-than-exotic was the moment when, leaving the stage, I noticed the great dusty grey smudge on her arse - the price of unpolished boards. Maybe it was because of the very staginess of it, maybe it was because of the socio-political drag that I sensed, maybe it was because I was with Ken, whatever it was, I was immune to Ileana's stuff, oh yeah.

Journeying back to the Midlands on Sunday afternoon, I pondered ‘nudity on stage’. In the past, I’d experienced more explicit and in-your-face uses of the body for theatrical/artistic expression, but I now came to wonder where or how a sense of non-abusive shock (or edge) could be generated around the body. I knew that the answer would be about context, but yesterday afternoon, when I became an answer to this, it did come as a surprise.

Part II to follow.