Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wonder

I've previously linked to the following, but I feel that it's a really good note on which to close 2008. Thus, featuring a one-eyed fatty, a punch in the nose and a hat rack fire - 'ave it - probably my most favourite (short) blog post of all time.
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I wish she'd write more.
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Now then, resolutions, resolutions...
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Wakefield

For those of you who I know in actual real-life human being form, this is not for you. If you have not received a real Christmas greetings card, then it's because I disagree with your views on football.


To the rest of you - Uncle Willy, Aunt Nilly and all - rejoice! I created this delightful sketch for you. See. I care. Really. I do.

I hope I don't offend anyone this Christmas.

I hope my car doesn't breakdown. I've got to drive 170 miles from 3pm on Christmas Day. In 2006, part of the M1 was blocked, so I had to drive through Wakefield. Have you ever been to Wakefield? On a Christmas Day? It was weird. I hear that they pronounce 'The Westgate Run' as 'Westgate Run'.

Baubles is an unusual word. Doesn't sound 'pretty'.

Until and through 2009, relax and be good to yourselves.

And don't forget, the best blogs are those with the seamless narratives.

Pah!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wall

So there I am...


...laptop, Christmas tree, digital central heating controller yet to be afixed to the wall (small white box, left of image) - the epitome of Creative Professional at Large. Following a cursing Friday, I was coarsing through Monday - like nobody's business, or rather - like my business. As I'm calling and emailing The Great and The Good - in order to bring about a most handsome project, I bash out yet another email, to confirm The Vision. Cutting to the chase, I set about mentioning that, 'In a nutshell, the meeting is about...'. Reviewing my fine Visioning, I am aghast to note a typo - a typo that speaks of choppy waters, of contingencies, of... a darkening Vision? It reads:

'In a nuthell, the meeting is about...'

Nuthell?! Most unseemly. My continuing problems with the 'S' key on the laptop, yields a vision of allergic reactions, of working with loonies, of squirrels unwell.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Working

Chicken tikka on granary, an earl grey and a tin of ginger beer:


From the museum cafe, I noticed an office worker taking a stroll during a smoking break. Before the boarded-up, pagoda-like, red-brick building, she paused and took in its frontage. It would have been just over a decade since I sashayed my way around that same space, ultimately falling into the arms and later the bed of H - an attractive woman, the next year's muse.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Westward

At the top of Broad Street, Hanley.


Heading for the city centre, and the purchase of a fountain pen, I turned to my left.

Shane: Wow! Look at that sunset*.

Alex: Cool! If I had my sketchpad and good pens, I'd sit on (pointing) that bench and draw it.

Shane: I bet it would be good too, your drawing.

Alex: Mm.

(* Mine is not the most sophisticated of cameraphones)
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Waist

Bumble, fumble, whimsy and flimsy. This month's profile image:

Posted as a discreet blog-post, as the above image was only appearing in miniature through the profile page. A profile page link to this page should get around that.
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Friday, December 05, 2008

Wow

Two Saturdays ago, taking lunch at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Alex ate and then began ferreting about the cafe for something to engage him. After a minute or so of drifting about, he excitedly returned to Emma and I, having found a 'mystery note', secreted in the grill of a radiator.


The note read:


'Romantic words.
Deeply.'

It's not possible to say whether the writing is that of a child or an adult, and it's not that I want to know either. But what a find... 'Romantic words. Deeply.' Gorgeous.
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Monday, December 01, 2008

Wonkish

For those who dropped by - fleetingly or otherwise - during my November of haiku, I thank you. I liked the regularity of form of those posts, though some were hugely, grimly, contrived. I won't post every day this month, though I am going to stick to a standard form. One image from everyday life, plus a few related words - that'll be the standard for December. And so:


'Shoes, Jewellery, Handbags, Accessories'... it's What Women Want (WWW), apparently. As I shuttled through Burslem, a couple of months ago, the OMGness of this shop's name and pitch left me so stunned that I would later resort to using the abbreviation 'OMG', publically. Mm. Exactly. I must have been in a hurry - hence the wonky shot. Wonky... what a wonderful word wonky is. As is wonkish (the broad meaning of which I didn't know until a moment ago). Of the minimal shopping for Christmas gifts that I'll be doing this year, I regret that none of the women who I'll be buying for will be entreated to the little luxuries that WWW offer.


I'd be doomed!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

#30: Temerity

Inconspicuous
A quiet wordy work-out:
Back to prose-posting
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Friday, November 28, 2008

#28: Tryers


Grey urban desert
Fracturing pub football calls
Parkland oasis
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

#26: Tornado

Whistle fizz and pop
Catherine Wheel, a real sparkler
What would her Mum say?
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

#25: Tursdale

Small stony terrace
A motorway's quick cold cut:
Escape to the coast?
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Monday, November 24, 2008

#24: Tolerance (Overheard #8)

You'd leave the city?
In light of a far-right win:
Line drawn - house for sale
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

#22: Trees

The kingfisher rests
A swan beats short sharp ripples
The angler dozes
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

#20: Train (Overhead #7)

A Derby-bound train
An actor's lost his ticket -
'Just shut-up and pay'
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

#19: Too

Too much love will kill
Too much hate will devastate
Too much cake will bloat
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

#18: Trippin'

All you've ever felt
It's never just a baby -
Even when it shines
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Monday, November 17, 2008

#17: Think

Beyond the jetty
Look far out - across the lake
Must take time to think
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

#16: Trapped

Early dark, cold nights
And the city's wrapping up
But where does she go?
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

#15: Treat

I want a teapot
Yes, for Christmas - hand-painted
The design's your choice
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Friday, November 14, 2008

#14: Towering

Really? She said that?
'You're a fat twat, and that's that' -
Sounds like you fucked up
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

#13: Turquoise

Chipped, dirtied and raw
Varnish, the stable girl wore -
Shades of Friday night
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

#12: Tat

Can you hear that -
A kind of scratching rat-tat
Is it next door's cat?
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

#11: Tension

I don't want to work
I want to watch 24:
Jack versus the world
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Monday, November 10, 2008

#10: Tango

I can't dance, I won't
You can't make me, just don't try
Would wild flailing count?
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Sunday, November 09, 2008

#9: Think

Maybe that could work
Betwixt, between, wry daydream
Look - but never touch
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

#8: Transport

Clapped out, it won't go
A carburettor laid low
Do not mention 'bus'
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Friday, November 07, 2008

#7: Tick-Tock

Put your shoes on - now
None of that 'I'm not going'
Where have my keys gone
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Thursday, November 06, 2008

#6: Tea

What's for tea, darling -
Or, what would you like, my love?
See - I am learning
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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

#5: Touch

The old man drinks much
At heart, he's a gentle touch
Sadly, he's failing
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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

#4: Ticket

A season ticket:
Disappointment many times
Same again next year?
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Monday, November 03, 2008

#3: True

Welcome to our town
Culinarily, we've grown
Look: Pie Minister!
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Sunday, November 02, 2008

#2: Tease

A relationship
Forged through a haiku ding-dong
Disgorged: right and wrong
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Saturday, November 01, 2008

#1: Tiny

It had been a very pleasant evening of creatively-tasked partying people, in Stoke-on-Trent and Preston, all linked-up by Skype. Someone, somewhere between Jeremy Paxman and Alan Partridge, got a little carried away. (Blushes). My own creative task had been to write a haiku poem that referred to the evening. Thus:

Cleavage from Preston
To tiny garden people
:
Gallery open!


Mentioning to the party's host that I'd once begun a romantic relationship through haiku, but that that was in the past, the host insisted 'You should get back to it - do more'. Not really wanting to ask why, I mumbled something about thinking about it. And so:

I'll be making a greater than average - though hugely concise - number of imperfect posts through the month of November.

Unlike the central 17 syllables above, for the rest of the month, there'll be no explanations.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Swim


With Emma working (brow-furrowed, silence-requiring, tense), Alex and I agreed to remove ourselves from the homestead.

Shane: Put the goggles in the bag and we'll clear off.

Alex: I'm gonna wear the goggles.

Shane: Yeah, I know. Put them in the bag.

Alex: No, I'm gonna wear them now - over my hat.

Shane: (thinks 'You're seven...') Ok.

Driving to the pool, we gave marks out of ten to anything and everything - cars, joggers, the sky, place names, trees - all so very wholesome.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Simplicity

This past weekend, Redders and I embarked on a great football day trip. Scanning the football fixtures, there was one that jumped out. For those of you who know football, you will already have guessed that I'm referring to Walsall versus Hartlepool United, in Football League One.

We took seats that proferred the best view of the action - high above the other three stands, the Floors-2-Go Stand delivered as classy a vantage point as its name suggested it would. Sitting amongst the pie-eating home fans, I was discreet in my desire to see the away team leave the West Midlands with all three points.

15 minutes into the game: Walsall 2 - 0 Hartlepool United

It looked like a long and (Dictionary Heads look away) disgruntling afternoon lay before us.

As the final whistle sounded, the scoreline read:

Walsall 2 - 3 Hartlepool United

A superb second half from the north-easterners, and a hearty drive back up the M6.

How to celebrate, how to celebrate? Er... Ah!...

Not my regular crumble dish, but I quite liked watching the colours of raspberries, strawberries and apples bleed into one another following some deft culinary handy-work. I know, party animal or what!

That was Saturday.

Sunday - as is the case with Sundays without Alex (with his Dad and the extended paternal family) - took the form of 'Which tasks am I behind with?', 'What can I realistically get done today?', 'Shall we go out for lunch?', 'Yes, what a good idea - let's go there - that's far away and that would eat up all time to work', and finally, regretably, 'Soon the silence will be broken and the 50 hours of respite (Fri 4pm - Sun 6pm) will be over'.

As tiring as Alex can be, it is little things - such as finding oneself embroiled in a highly competitive 'Pumpkin Carving Contest' at 7pm on a night before school, that the pleasant silliness of much that should be childhood strikes home. It is also at such times, that what we are managing - with our non-nuclear set-up, jars with much that I hear about during the week - other people, other places.

Good fortune, dear reader.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Startled

Seven year olds tend to respond well to the suggestion of competitions and races and the opportunity to rub others' noses in the dirt of defeat.

Morning:

Shane: Alright, young hound. It's a race - you've got to get fully dressed and have your teeth brushed before I'm speed-showered and dried.

Alex: (considers) Shane. (smiles)

Shane: Yeah?

Alex: Go!

I dash up the stairs, into the bathroom, gown off, shower on - hot hot hot, and I'm in.

Soapily, I hear a speed-scampering towards the unlocked bathroom door. Alex bursts in - now only half-pyjamaed (for he too is racing) and carrying Jim the cat (surely an impediment to speed-dressing), but, what's this - a flush of the loo and...

Shane: (something's not right) Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh!!!!!

A running laughing boy (plus one startled cat) exits the room.

Seven year olds will remember - and utilise - facts such as When the loo is flushed, then the adjacent shower will run cold for five to ten seconds.

Shane: (calling, shivering) That is the purest evil!

Alex: (calling) Loser!*

I blame the parents.

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* I may have lost the race, but the moral victory was undeniably** mine.

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** Does not take into account the views of seven year olds.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sentosa

Early indications are that online searches for any of the named performers will land searchers here. Thus:

Note to first-time visitors: Welcome! You may find some of the performer and photographer links (below) to be useful.

Note re photographs: None are my own, and none were taken at the Scarlet Fever Burlesque show at The Leopard, Burslem, on Saturday 4th October 2008 (the event to which the post relates). However, the images show some of the performers who we bore witness to (and of whom images were most easily located). I have copied, pasted and credited (as far as was possible) from publically available online sources. If any of the images are your's and you'd rather they be removed or differently credited, then let it be known (in comments, below).

So, to The Leopard, Burslem, for an evening of burlesque.



It was interesting to overhear someone comment that they'd briefly crossed paths with Sentosa Sparkle at a series of burlesque workshops a couple of years ago. In this comment, there was the shape of a green-eyed monster, for Sentosa did sparkle. She really did, oh how she did. In fact... actually no, no, I will keep this mild - not wild, neat, sweet and rather discreet. But my, oh my. Sentosa's first routine adhered to a fairly straight forward cheerleader format - you know, the loss of a red dress, a couple of carefully located pom-poms, and a gilt-edged look that provoked guilt-edged daydreaming.

Photo: Candee Photography

Given the composite performance that Ms Sparkle did present, it seems incongruous that she could be a relatively novice performer. Yet, online searches suggest that that is how it is. If you're within a hop, step and jump of Manchester, then this may be of interest. From where do these performer people emerge?...

A matter of little concern, I'm sure, to Miss Ditzy Diamond - one of several of the performers who had a familiar air to them - the sort of people who you think you might have seen in a music video, or at Boots the Chemist, or somewhere in between. Ms DD delivered a performance which was light, airy, and enormously popular - there were shades of Marilyn Monroe in there, too. And unless I was much mistaken - it has been known, this voluptuous performance seemed to provoke something of a glint to the eye of at least one Decadent Gent.

On the matter of the Decadent Gent - the sometime introducer, filler and rabble-rouser, I'll be frank: I didn't know what, or how to make what, of his performance. He twirled his cane with relish, he seemed to know what he was doing, he did a job - all good. But, his ice-cream seller get-up occasionally felt out of kilter. Counter-intuitively perhaps, I imagined his to be one of the trickier roles of the evening - 'Keep them happy 'til the next turn is ready' - a matter not helped by the crowd and the venue being all new to this game.

Reading interviews with Scarlet Fever, and from glancing over her website, it's clear that the longer-term future for this performer/producer is in the hosting and production of events - and why not. 'She's got an amazing figure', commented Emma - who I remembered had avidly followed the birth of this performer. On this occasion, in the wilds of northern Staffordshire, Scarlet gave a performance that seemed a little fleeting, albeit well-rehearsed. As a hostess and bringer of people together, top marks. The matters of Scarlet's family being in the audience, her husband helping out, and the occasionally blurred distinction between audience and performers, all made for a relaxed 'Not to be taken too seriously' evening - which was quite charming, really.

And for charm, then we might also refer to The Advocates of Deception - a pair who struck me as 'Two nice lads from the West Midlands' - magic! Despite playing to a very intimate room, their first on-stage appearance should have been on-mic'. That said, they learned, and second time round, they hit the mark comedically, magically and with can-of-soup-dependent sleight of hand. Also, for their black shirt, black waistcoat and red tie apparel, they scored sartorially, too - very AC Milan, very Shane Wexford.

Intriguing, vampish, gorgeous - Suzie Sequin, I liked a lot - really a lot. And for her 'balloon' performance (with chains... 'Mind your nipples!', I thought), she presented the most glittery and visually engaging* performance of the evening (and no, that's* not a euphemism).

Photo: Air Adam

I spent some time trying to guess at how experienced a performer Ms Sequin was, and what the particular detail or quality was that determined whether audiences would gauge a 'professional' or a 'convincing novice'. Erring towards the former, this performer seemed consumately at ease, and very well-rehearsed - a really important detail. On a slight side note, it is interesting how the mind does tend to wander at the hypnotic impact of the breast jiggle.

Just as the crowd were being lulled into the rhythm of a series of burlesque tease performances, there came The Chantilly Belles - theatrical, artful, funny. This duo began with a Fox and Hounds sketch - voiceless throughout, that saw jodphurs put to very good use. Miaow. Regretably, I missed their second sketch, but judging from the whooping and hollering that could be heard throughout the venue, I guessed that they'd gone down a storm second time round too. The one in the jodphurs almost crashed into me as they exited this second time. Soon after, I imagined that there could have been worse scenarios than such a being-crashed-into. And so, as happens, things moved on.

'Anna Fur Laxis - she was really good - my favourite', said Emma. Meanwhile, to my right, Benji simply slavered. Both were fair and reasonable responses.

Photo: Richard Clifton

I got the impression that every detail of Ms Fur Laxis' performance had been drilled - rehearsed, reviewed, tweaked. Every expression, every twist, and every turn was from a broad repertoire of tried and tested moves. As this performer exited the stage for the final time, the lovely gay boys to my left entered into a conversation that began with one commenting, 'You've got to admit, that was sexy...'. I can think of no better or incredible endorsement.

From Candee Handful, the audience were struck - dumb-struck, let us say - by her carousel horse act - itself only a very distant cousin of The Chantilly Belles' equine-related piece. Now, dear reader, I will tell you that I laughed. I laughed quite a lot. You see, for someone to so energetically ride their way through such a performance art piece - with great sounds and horsey visuals - before such a naive audience, well, it felt so brave, so wrong, yet so right, so funny. Expressions were variously glazed, amazed, incomprehending, shocked even. In retrospect, perhaps this had something to do with Ms Handful wearing a horse's head (not a real one) throughout. Whatever it was, upon being unclad of the head - revealed to the crowd - an air of relief spread through the room. The lady before us had earned her reception.

Throughout the evening, through DJ Telster, the tunes and accompanying music had bumped and grinded, spun and twirled along. And for not being of the young hipster mould of DJ, Telster was all the better for it.

An interesting final credit in the programme, but from my vantage point a very important one, was for Tempest Devyne. As the other performers variously tottered and trotted, sidled and sauntered, there seemed to be a maid - just off-stage - lending a hand in the management and preparation of performers. Said maid was the subject of the one - and only - line of quick and filthy wit from the Decadent Gent - something about him being used to her working at that level, as she crouched (at front of stage) to avoid crowding him out. Here, I cannot review Tempest as an on-stage performer, however, if her role was in-part that of provider of practical, moral and psychological support, then good one her. I imagine that to the less experienced burlesque performer, the act of getting up on stage and, as one of our party put it, 'Whopping out your whaps', must call for a particular kind of mental frame. From the middle distance, I took Ms Devyne to be the embodiment of the group ethic that spanned the show.

Favourite moments of the evening: Chatting with the two gay chaps to my left (our paths had crossed previously, though we'd never spoken); the lustrous curls, curves, shimmers and shakes of Sentosa Sparkle; the vampiric hint of Suzie Sequin; and the monocle-clad Benji the Fellow Fencer, to my right.

Forgiveable room for improvement: The table service system (it didn't flow, and seemed under-prepared for) - an easy-to-remedy detail, I'm sure.

'Really?' moment(s) of the evening:- Being approached (thrice, by different people - all sound of mind and warm of heart), to have it suggested that a role such as that occupied by the Decadent Gent - introducer, link-man, rabble-rouser - might be something that I would be good at. Every such suggestion was politely dismissed, but they did get me thinking: What would my burlesque name be?

So there you have it, burlesque au Stoke-on-Trent: an exercise to be repeated. December 13th, in fact.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sparkle*

Back in July, lunching at The Leopard (a spiritual home, of sorts), I picked up a flyer for a 'Scarlet Fever Burlesque' evening of cabaret. As improbable as it seemed, Saturday 4th October 2008 would see a flutter of performers descend upon - or ascend to - the mother town of the Potteries, Burslem.

Last night, in the company of around 120 fellow purveyors of the dark arts - all seated at candlelit tables, receiving table service, and dressed in our finest and occasionally minimalist (lots of black, lots of red), I bade witness to the first burlesque club night of the Scarlet Fever residency at The Leopard.

Background note: The evening's host had previously been the subject of a reality TV programme, 'Faking It'. Therein, Sharon Pallister (as was) succeeded in p[assing herself off as the professional burlesque performer, Scarlet Fever. In convincing a small audience of performance experts of this, the triumph was founded on an intensive introduction to burlesque. Through the process, mind, body and spirit were transformed - without chemicals, without self-help books. At the heart of this story was the matter of personal confidence, which is why it is easy to view Scarlet as a beacon of something - hope? change? nipple tassles? - for the everyman, woman and wannabe, who just needs to believe.

And so, with a growing enterprise in burlesque teaching and performance, and a reputation, Scarlet handed over to DJ Telster - a middle-aged man named Terry, I suspected, for the evening's entertainment to begin.

I shall follow this post with details and images of the evening's performers, namely The Decadent Gent, Sentosa Sparkle, Miss Ditzy Diamond, Suzie Sequin, The Chantilly Belles, The Advocates of Deception, Candee Handful, Anna Fur Laxis, Tempest Devyne, and Scarlet Fever herself.

In my review (probably Thursday), I will be firm but fair - supportive throughout - much in the spirit of what I heard and saw last night.


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* You'll have to forgive any formatting ugliness and / or inconsistencies. Mozilla / Firefox and Microsoft Office are transpiring against my efforts. Bloody listening to bloody people and their bloody suggestions about getting away from Windows Explorer. Och!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Spooks

On a theme similar to that of my previous post, all written in a spirit of ‘Well there you go’ – really not maudlin at all:

I noted a recommendation to onesentence.org. Liking what I read - its background and flavour of playful opportunism, I had a punt at writing a one sentence story. Thus, I submitted:

I could not have imagined that she’d ever think of me, until StatCounter showed me otherwise.

Tags: Relationships, Memory, Technology

Hello TK.
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Update (14:59, Sunday 5th October 2008): That was probably a slightly cruel post, but it did yield a short friendly email - no bad thing.
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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quake

I saw a ghost.

Invited to a football match, I drove over to Redders' house - from where we would walk to the stadium. Indicating right, to turn up Very Steep Hill, I noticed a couple of people crossing the road – chatting, laughing, entrusting this Peugeot driver to be in not much of a hurry. Slowing down, I noticed that the one on the right was Her.

'Calm', I said to myself.

They – She - passed. I drove on.

At the house of Redders, I left the car and we headed off. At my mention of the ghost, he speculated that perhaps She would be at the football match. This, I ignored.

At the football, Redders introduced me to a colleague of his, who remarked:

'Your accent, it’s a bit like you’re from the north east… but posher.'

Amused, our attentions turned to the football, though Redders had been right. Thinking about it – about Her, she would be at the football.

I thought about sending a friendly text message, 'Hello. Spotted you earlier near Very Steep Hill. What are you making of the match?' kind of thing. But I didn’t. After all, apart from that series of calls and messages that came my way when She went through that Tough Time not so long ago, the last time we exchanged words, I was 'a cunt' - a perspective that is not so easy to raise, challenge or even maintain, when the labeller is going through a Tough Time.

For much of the rest of the day, a hint of sadness scratched at my proper day off.

How different could things have really been.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Querulous

There are times when a particular word or phrase will jump out of a speech, a story or a poster display, and it will stick in the mind for some moments.


On Wednesday morning, for example, I listen to a discussion regarding the kind of learning that should have emerged from these times of credit crunchiness. A person who understood The Issues spoke about people having to simply live within their means. An especially lucid volley of criticism was reserved for ‘Loyalty Card’ schemes. For much of Wednesday afternoon, that term – Loyalty Card – sat just beneath my consciousness. That would have had something to do with only having heard the term for the first time about, say, five years ago.


Early evening, Wednesday, and the Boy Wonder and I are sitting in the vet’s reception with a rather forlorn Jim (cat, nothing too serious). As Alex is taking an interest in other people’s sick creatures – I can hear him chatting to some other cat-keepers, my eyes wander. And they land – abruptly - upon the kind of phrase that will cause a man to experience sleep disturbance.


‘Worming Loyalty Card’


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quashed (Overheard #6)

Writing up notes from meetings and project work, I sat in a local coffee-shop-cum-garden-furniture-store (it works - just about).

Male Brummie: (unclear) (reading) (transcribed with accent) '-they absorb sow-lar loight enerjay during the daiy, and will e-mit a sowthing grayn glaw at noight' - sounds good, that does.

Female Brummie: (with accent) Floies!

Smiling, I focused on my notes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quick (Overheard #5)

Awaiting the arrival of the artist, Anna Francis, I idled in the lounge of the North Stafford Hotel. Just within earshot, I recognised an accent - a friendly accent - that recalled home.

Female, 50: What we’re working towards is a situation in which we’re not creating clones, but we are working with the same technique to get the information as quickly as possible, then we end the call.

Female, 35: Yeah. (pause). There’s been situations in which I’ve had to deal with all kinds of profanities and I’ve, well, I’ve not known what to do.

Female, 50: We have guidelines about dealing with that. There is no way in which you should have to listen to profanities – get the information, end the call.

Though I didn't know the exact nature of their business, it didn't really seem to matter. With hardened phrases, the accent had lost its appeal.

Anna walked in, and so I stopped staring daggers at the mangler of the cherished lilt.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Quantization

Last week, my young friend mentioned that he and his classmates had had dance practice. In terms of physical education, some teachers prefer to deliver dancing lessons as opposed to potentially competitive sports. At the moment of my hearing that the routine was being choreographed to Michael Jackson's Thriller, it's fair to say that the teacher's star rose.



I spent the tail-end of Friday evening watching the final moments of this year's Big Brother series. A young woman, Rachel Rice, won. From what I've seen and heard of this year's series, it was a win for niceness and moderation and the merits of self-control. As the programme closed, a montage of clips was played, the backing track to which was gorgeous. It's highly unusual that a first-hearing of a song or piece of music really grabs me, but this did. From a search based on the lyrical extract 'Throw those curtains wide', I learned that it was 'One Day Like This', by Elbow:



As you may infer from this post, I've been on YouTube. The next, final piece of music is a hugely uplifting oldish favourite, David McAlmont and Bernard Butler's 'Yes':



Tum-te-tum-te-too, a very good week to you.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Questions

Once upon a long ago, a friend suggested that we 'Go to that church on the hill, just to see what it's like', and so we did. Not being au fait with the church, I sat there, interested, but ultimately removed from what I heard. During some kind of communion thing, an old man walked amongst the audience, the congregation. 'Come on', he cajoled, 'Come on and join in - it'll make you feel good!' To me, this seemed a simple game. About to step forward to play along, my friend - formerly familiar with churchly fare - pulled me back. 'Freaks', she whispered.

A Post Box is reopened, restarted, recharged. Now a weekly thing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Limp

Tomorrow, I'm going to an exhibition in Long Eaton, near Nottingham. I'm really looking forward to it. Crudely, oh so crudely, I've been telling a few people about it. I have an interest in one of the 12 exhibiting artists - we might be looking at the next mediocre thing. [UPDATE: A really good experience. What to say, where to begin. So good, so very good. I feel all warm inside.]

Also, I hurt my leg playing football today. It's just a muscular thing, but it bloody well hurts when I (try to) walk. I'm prevaricating about going to one of those out-of-hours 'walk-in' health centres. Perhaps they should be called 'ill and injured centres'. See, I could do with some crutches - just for a few days, but it's not as if I'm bleeding to death or anything. So maybe I'll just wait. Until later. When the drunks are fouling up everywhere. [UPDATE: Eureka! A couple of hiking poles just happened to be lying around the house!]

I was in Southwold, Suffolk, earlier this week. The southern end was, well, posher than the north. There were people with double-barrel surnames all over the place. And there were loads of famousish people at the Walberswick Village FĂȘte. It was good to be in East Anglia for a short spell. For a moment, it felt like I was exorcising the ghost of something, someone, that didn't quite work. (((Shudder))).

If that Australian party girl - Sarah - gets kicked out of Big Brother later this evening, I'll win some money. [UPDATE: She wasn't, I didn't.]

I'm rather crushed that Nicole Cutler won't be returning to Strictly Come Dancing. She was the one that I was going to marry.

Ho hum, ho hum.

My leg hurts. [UPDATE: The pain is easing, though it gets stiff awfully easily.]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Living

Every now and again, I'll listen online to old episodes of favourite radio programmes. The quotation below reminded me of some things that I've been reading and thinking recently - about serious writers, who variously over-write and who experience writers' block.

Plots are everywhere - plots, themes, characters, one-liners. Beautiful sentences are waiting for you to pluck them out of the air. They’re all around, they just need to be channelled to you in some way. If you’re gonna cut yourself off from life, you’re never gonna find those plots and those characters, so the writer has to be dedicated to living’.

(Ian Rankin, from the BBC World Service's 'World Book Club', Broadcast: August 2006)

I like the idea that the term 'writer' can be interpreted quite broadly. In making decisions that shape our present and future experiences, do we not all write our own lives.

Good day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lovers (Overheard #4)

On a train, a conversation is overheard:

GeordieYouth#1: D’ y’ ever listen t’ Radio 1?

GeordieYouth#2: Aye, now an’ again, like. Why?

GeordieYouth#1: Right, they’ve got this nurse comes on, gives people advice – stuff t’ do wi’ re-la-tion-ships. Why she was gannin’ on last night about summat that just sounded right weird – reckonin’ that if peoples’ – lasses – are ganna be, y’ knaa - (more discreetly) gannin’ doon an’ that, they should be wearin’ a (confused) gum shield!

GeordieYouth#2: (thinks) Sounds a bit mad, that like.

GeordieYouth#1: Aye, I knaa.

(a quiet contemplative moment passes)

GeordieYouth#2: Are y’ sure it was a gum shield?

GeordieYouth#1: Aye, I think so.

GeordieYouth#2: I’ve heard of a den-tal dam

GeordieYouth#1: Aye! That’s it!

GeordieYouth#2: (sighs) That’s nowt like a gum shield, y’ daft twat.

GeordieYouth#1: So what is it then?

GeordieYouth#2: Ask your lass, man! Y’ makin’ ’s feel queer, here.

GeordieYouth#1: Ah, aye.

Further down the carriage, a woman passenger fails to suppress a snigger.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Liberty

This would have been a podcast, but it was just too long for my one-minute limit. So:

LIBERTY

Alone, I’d driven up to Lancashire – to join the birthday celebrations and all-round celebration of the life of my old friend John – a most wry, energetic and sporting man in his 50s. Of the 60 or so people at John’s party, I was in a minority of one for not being tied to any of the work-related, LGBT or tennis networks that made up the rest of the gathering. Such a minority of oneness had come as a surprise, and it cast me as some kind of (comfortable) social novelty - I was free to float, chat, entertain and be entertained as people variously caught my eye as interesting, attractive or simply ‘game’ - Shane the social butterfly (rather than impartial observer). Past midnight, with the gathering winding down and wending away, I noticed a couple – a man and a woman of around 50 years of age – looking very relaxed and sober, as others about them flitted and unsteadily faltered away. I approached the couple, querying how they knew John.

The connection proved to be loose and work-related. Teasingly, Jim and Nina made quiet passing reference to ‘our church, in Blackpool’. These two tiny details were enough to make me want to know more. Later, as I learned that birthday boy John did not know Jim or Nina very well, he explained that he’d never had the chance to interrogate them in the way that I had. Amused at this perception of my approach to getting-to-know-you, I explained to John what I’d learned – and so unfolded the reason that I would remember these far from mild people.

In 1998, Jim – ‘in business’ (I didn’t ask which) - had read a newspaper account of the death of a professional footballer, Justin Fashanu – a 37 year old gay man who had committed suicide. There was the suggestion that Justin had been unable to find the support that he needed from either family, friends or his church. In Jim’s words, ‘There was just something about that article – that story – that really moved me; to this day, I’ve kept the cutting of it in my wallet’. For Jim – who’d been brought up in a football-mad family, feeling so moved proved to be a calling to action. Aided by his wife, Nina – a nurse by profession, Jim resolved to return to church and to do all that he could to ensure that there would be no other stories such as Justin’s. This return to church was not going to be so straightforward though, for this was not to be about finding a church that would simply provide a small quiet corner for those unfortunate gay people, this was going to have to begin from ground zero – from learning of what it would mean and require to provide a free and accessible spiritual and worshipful space for gay people and the broader LGBT community. Two slight problems, however: one - neither Jim nor Nina had any experience in running a church, and two – and not so insignificantly – at that time, this couple knew no gay people. There followed a year of visits, friendship-building and learning from the MCC – the Metropolitan Community Church (of Manchester), and from this, the first gigantic steps in ultimately making their home a space for others. Moving from the sedate, northern tip of Blackpool, to a more central – noisier, busier, grittier - location, Jim and Nina would give ministry from their own home. And so, Liberty Church Blackpool was born - and it grew, and the rest is a history that continues to be built – on foundations that I find to be hugely admirable.

As I have mulled over what I heard from Jim and Nina, I have come to feel that the particular impact of their story and their life changes lies in the fact that they were provoked into social action. So, I ask myself, were their depths of feeling and responsiveness things that we might all be capable of? If I wanted to, I could refer to ‘God’s calling’ or some such – but I’ll not do that – at this time, I don’t need to as I try to make sense of their actions – actions that were compassionate, humanistic reactions unfolded through the structuring and language of the church.

As Jim and Nina said goodbye and left the party, I turned to John and asked of a third person – a man in his 30s - who had joined them as they exited. At this, John chuckled, ‘Ah yes, Billy’s from their church. I asked him earlier if he’d had a good evening, to which he practically knocked me off my feet - told me that this was the best party that he’d ever been to - to which I thought ‘Wow!’, then he added that it was also the first that he’d been to sober – I think Nina and Jim have been helping him with that’. This felt like a neat epithet to go with the people – the life-changers - who I would remember, and who I’d spent the latter part of the evening talking to… or interrogating, you might say.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Lost

Now then, my Dad! An occasional cause for concern and subject of my writing, my Dad comes from a different era – an era when terms such as ‘Working Men’s Club’ (WMC) did not sound so anachronistic, an era when the term ‘job for life’ did not sound so implausible, an era when three-part lists were not so overused. I have written previously of my Dad’s sibling relationships, such that they were. I would also have mentioned that I know little of his parents (deceased) and the home-life of his childhood. Where there have been brief anecdotes from his early years, they hint at him being surrounded by roguish pals, with the backdrop of a put-upon mother and an alcohol-soaked father. Some years ago, in the heat of an argument, my mother was brave enough - or perhaps foolish enough - to make some comparison between my Dad and his father. Whilst shocking, direct and possibly useful, that juxtapose also struck me as being a little below the belt. Still, it caused no long term harm. The nature of my Dad’s background meant that in adulthood, he seemed to have implicitly forged a new kind of familial foundation amidst a group of people who came together as companionable drinkers in our local WMC – of different generations, these people often struck me as being closer to my Dad than maybe his real family (including wife and children) were. Through my childhood, I regarded this as something of a problem – the kind that I could do nothing about. Hop, step and tripping into my adult years, I began to wonder whether those relations were more complex than I’d originally understood. Where am I going with this - maybe somewhere, maybe nowhere.

Recently, the decline of clubs and pubs has been well-documented, as a nation’s drinking habits and licensing laws shift. There is no longer smoking in public places, and it seems that to run a successful pub or club, then a more diverse (possibly foody) enterprise must unfold. Where supermarket prices of beers and spirits hugely undercut those of ‘the local’, it becomes clear that there will be losers (closures) – and so there have been. And thus, I worry a bit – what would be the response of my father to his second ‘family home’ closing – no more opening hours, no more after hours. For working class men of the north, there will be none of the touchy-feely, none of the dropping round for a coffee and a chat. There will be grunts and gruffness and the eschewing of concern, there will be unarticulated feelings and a sense of ennui. I find myself, over the course of a quarter of a century, having done a complete u-turn in how I feel about ‘the club’. I want it to stay – ugly and unchanging and locked in the past as it has forever been, giving men with responsibilities reasons to stay out longer then they should, providing ‘second homes’ where maybe they are more needed than it is easy to accept.

I remember puzzling at the upset that my Dad showed when an old old man, John, from across the road – a club regular and good friend – died. John and his wife, Agnes, would deliver Christmas and birthday presents for my siblings and I, and they’d be lumped with boxes of imagination-free chocolates too. As pleasant as all that was, I didn’t really get it. Several years after the death of John, I realised that he’d been a bit of a Dad to my Dad, with Agnes adding a quiet grand/motherly touch – club people, family people.

Loose

I know that it was a while ago, but to those of you who went here and chipped in, thank you very much – the collected responses make for really interesting reading (I wouldn’t just say that). To those of you who haven’t yet dropped in, the door remains open.

+ + + + +

I went overseas with some people; for some it was a holiday – good thing. Returning home, I knew that I needed a break…


Then I headed off again, with just Alex and his grandpa, no Emma (on an alternative personal mission). Alex – a happy boy – adventured (such is our way); Emma’s father – a good man - did some quiet cementing (such is his way).


I still need a break.

+ + + + +

I have a podcast that I’ve been ‘working on’ (about a rarified kind of conversation), but at over six minutes long it is fearfully too long – so it’ll have to be overhauled, or simply posted as text (later in the week). In the mean time, I’m about to lob a sentimental something. Watch out!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Favoured

A friend of mine would like you to read this. Your helping to get the ball rolling would be much appreciated… but please note, there is to be no reference to anything Shane-related. There is no Shane.

Friends, thank you.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Out

Hello and how do you do.

This was a far from typical past weekend, one that I feel has left a mark on me. Listfully, the weekend featured:-

A late though quiet Friday night – unwinding from a noisy week. [0 miles]

A 5:20am start on Saturday – Emma, Alex and I joined Emma’s Dad for a 2 hour walk through the Manifold Valley, as he carried out a ‘bird count’ – a voluntary undertaking for the British Trust for Ornithology. Driving to the Manifold Valley, I saw my first wild owl (a young tawny, sitting on a fence post). This made me happy. [54 miles return]

A Saturday afternoon school fete… with a difference. Canalside Primary serves a multi-racial and largely deprived part of town. Friends invited us along and so, anticipating much of the usual tombola, cake and ‘guess the name of the teddy’ pomp of such occasions, it was a breath of fresh post-industrial air to find something quite… Other. Worthy of note was the frankly bizarre ‘children’s martial arts’ (very young children invited to ‘pad up’ – gloves, body armour and head-guards – in order to batter seven bells out of each other), the food stall (especially the lentil curry) and ‘the stocks’ (children lobbing soaking wet sponges at their teachers and teachers’ assistants… a fun exercise which neatly took on the hue of a wet t-shirt contest as the afternoon wore on). [10 miles return]

A Saturday evening trip up to Lancashire for a birthday party at the Ley Inn, near Chorley. I was in a tiny minority for not being a part of any of the work-related, tennis-related or LGBT networks of the birthday boy, my old friend Franglaise. However, this ensured freeness, flightiness and mutual peculiar interest with fellow guests. It was good. [128 miles return… by 3am Sunday]

A Sunday morning trip to the Strawberry Moon festival (the likely cause of Glastonbury not selling out this year). There was music and art and making…

And temporary tattoos…


And sunshine and big downpours and Tittesworth Reservoir at its most buzzy and busy. Highlight: Alex storming up a rather large climbing wall. I sensed the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Leaders (climbing instructors) were genuinely impressed at the little man’s confidence and ‘can do’ attitude, ‘Make it harder next time’, he was heard advising one instructor. (Note to self: humility?!)


All followed by…
.
A late Sunday afternoon transition to Rudyard Lake, near Leek. An open day at the scout hut allowed free access to sailing boats, canoes and the like. By now, I was feeling a little worn. But the sun shone and our fellow waterfolk were all good eggs – including a really nice reprographics man who I’d crossed paths with (briefly) some months ago - he remembered me and my BadLads. [44 miles return]

Sunday evening watching the European Championships football final, in which Spanish agility, creativity and hair gel triumphed over Germany.

Now, there’s no reason why any reader should be interested in any of the above, however, within this morass there is the seed of something rather large. One conversation this past weekend will stay with me for a very long time, and it is that that I shall make the subject of my next podcast.
.
And with that, I really must work.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oswald

I met my old chum Ken, as he passed through the Midlands on a work-related mission. There was catching up to do and work to discuss.

New to me, the pub seemed humble. New to me also, Ken's hair appeared nothing short of lustrous - it had been a while since our last get together, such is our way. The pub landlord - a happy man - struck me as someone who had been struck, his smile not overly populated with teeth or the golden glow of good health. Still, Ken and I rolled the foody dice and placed an order.

With lunch gone (though not quite off), caught-upness having been achieved, and a work plan hatched, I rose to make for the loo. Rather suddenly, Ken seemed to become discomfited. 'That sandwich', I assumed. But no...

Ken: Ah.

Shane: You ok?

Ken: Yes. You going to the loo?

Shane: Yeah, I think we should go separately though.

Ken: No -

Shane: What?!

Ken: - no - I mean, yes - not that.

Shane: What?

Ken: Well, I remembered, er, you have to go out the back to get to them -

Shane: No problem.

Ken: - no, er, there's a sign -

Shane: There usually is.

Ken: - but it's a bit, well... you'll see.

I went to the loo and en route I spotted the sign:


Returned:

Shane: Well there you go.

Ken: Mm.

Shane: Nothing to wake the mind like some old skool racism, eh. The brewery must be proud.

Ken: It used to hang out front.

Shane: Mm. Back yard discretion a measure of progress?

Ken: Too generous - the landlord nearly just coughed a lung up into the peanuts on the bar.

Shane: Grab your handbag, dear, we're leaving.