Monday, April 28, 2008


Emma’s sister had a baby. She and her husband made it. Now, they are the epitome of happy, tired, loving people. I had not been looking forward to meeting them in the form of ‘new family’. Over the past three and a half years there have been occasions – some momentary, some lasting months, during which said sister and husband have been nearby and have had the capacity to offer help where Emma and I could have done with help – usually in the sphere of child-minding, more generally in the sphere of showing any interest in their nephew – beyond providing ill-considered gifts to Alex. Politely, I had raised this with them. Some months later – months since now, it yielded one evening of babysitting. Alex is seven years old. Before yesterday, I did not wish to see these people in ‘being generally clucked at and cooed around’ mode. Bluntly, I felt some loathing. They would be awash with support and active interest, having bothered themselves virtually nil to demonstrate the same. Last Christmas, their level of disinterest in our little man bordered on the grotesque (according to the objective Shane Determines Social Grotesquery Instrument). Thus, I retained residual feelings that made me feel neither good, nor proud, nor attractive for feeling such feelings – privately or publicly.

Yesterday, I met the new family. With Emma and her parents, I spent three hours with them.

As father of the newborn carried the child upstairs for a nappy change, I followed him, to simply talk and observe him in a most unlikely mode. All was relaxed, and by now mechanical – he knew what he was doing, though he seemed to appreciate a small suggestion regarding how best to lay the child down. With the clucking and cooing left downstairs, he asked me a question that I’d imagined being asked at some point soon:

New Father: So, do you think – I know that you treat Alex like he’s your own - but do you think you’d like to have children of your own?

I unfolded a brief answer that mentioned that perhaps this was the sort of thing that I should best talk to Emma about (she would like more children, biologically), that I felt no deep-seated desire to extend the Wexford genetic line (he laughed) (I wasn’t joking), that there had been previous musings around fostering and adoption – albeit in a previous life, but that nothing was fixed nor certain. He listened, seemingly genuinely interested. During this time, he had been in nappy-changing autopilot, with me sitting on the edge of a bed some three to four metres away. I can’t quite say whether it was the depth and profundity of the question that I’d been asked, the fear of the consequences of exploring this further, the utter raw beauty in watching the new father do his thing (I think it was mostly this one), or perhaps some olfactory shock as the old nappy was undone, but I could not help two tears silently rolling out of my eyes as we calmly chatted.

Shane: It’s a big deal isn’t it, I’m sure I’d be crying every day for weeks if he was mine. It’s beautiful.

New Father: Yeah, I know.

Shane: Believe it or not, dear New Father, there are tears rolling out of my eyes right now.

New Father: Really?

Shane: Yep, it’s pathetic.

New Father: No it’s not. I was just in awe for days.

Gladly, this managed to not feel awkward. We talked on.

Back downstairs, with a glint in her eye, Emma asked what I thought of the baby - recognising that I’d taken an interest by following father and child upstairs.

Shane: It’s good. They (the parents) know what they’re doing.

Though I haven’t unpacked the mental mechanics of it, nor do I plan to, all of those earlier feelings of loathing have gone, dissipated through the smell of Sudocrem. This makes me glad, though it makes me feel awkward. Emma knew that I wasn’t looking forward to yesterday, but I couldn’t say why – to have snappily burst the euphoric family bubble with one pithy yet flawed statement and feeling would have been wrong. I know that there's something to do with self-learning in here, but right now it's just beyond me. No doubts it'll hit me later.

* * * * *
Update: I get it now - I was being a miserable, moody, unforgiving git - not a good thing.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I received an invite from Bittersweet.

The worst of it was that he couldn’t keep to the position in which he had started, under the white rock. A man who is fighting a dozen enemies at once must take his chances wherever he can; must dart in wherever he sees an enemy’s breast or neck unguarded. In a very few strokes this may get you quite a distance from the spot where you began.

- Sentences 6, 7 and 8 from page 123 of young Alex’s copy of C. S. Lewis’, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, published by HarperCollins (ISBN: 0-00-775498-1).

A meme, you see.

The Rules being:-

I Grab the nearest book
II Turn to p123
III Locate the fifth sentence
IV Post the next three sentences – presumably sentences 6, 7 and 8 – to your blog
V Tag 5 others (say, all semi-regular readers here)

I’m fine as far as parts I-IV go, but as with my great reluctances towards seeking sponsorship funds from even the nearest and dearest, drinking alcohol ‘to be sociable’, and spreading venereal diseases, I’d rather not tag anyone. Instead, I’ll say ‘If you want to play, then do so and let me know so’. I would be glad to read any of my occasional droppers-in’s responses to this.

There, I played along nicely. Now can I have a biscuit?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Every now and again, just for the heck of it, Alex and I will pass comments, converse, argue, and be generally silly, through the art of song. This evening, the youngster earned top marks for a superb riposte. Driving through a small town in Staffordshire, I made an observation.

I see an attractive woman – about thirty five years old, dressed smartly, walking under the weight of many many flowers.

Shane: ♫ Looks like it’s someone’s birthday today- ♫

Alex: (immediately, joyously) ♫ Or maybe someone has died! ♫

* * * * *

Unrelated: If you have 1 minute, I really like this. I think it's exciting.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I am in a work meeting – a big one – lots of people, lots of people who are after lucre, some of whom seem more desperate than others to draw down public funds in order to get out there and CHANGE things.

A chap who I don’t know is cack-handedly trying to make a point about people (out there, the great unwashed) not always making the most of their time in the evenings (trust me, it is relevant to the meeting). Rather rashly, with a slightly demented look in his eye, he casts his gaze about the room, and stops at me.

Chap: …Like, for instance – I don’t know your name –

Shane: Shane.

Chap: Shane – can I use you to illustrate a point?

Shane: Yes, but be gentle.

Others: (a murmur of amusement)

Chap: Cheers. (To everyone) Let’s take Shane, for instance – still a youngish man, ha, got something about him, the world’s his oyster! (To me) Now, if I asked you what were you doing at, say, eight o’clock last night, what would you say?

Shane: (contemplative intake of breath) You’ll have to give me a moment here. (a moment passes) Eight o’clock – I would have been in the garden.

Chap: Ah, right. Bit late for gardening isn’t it? Would have been getting dark by then.

Shane: I wasn’t gardening. I was hiding behind a big bush.

Chap: (puzzled)

Shane: We were playing hide and seek. Emma – my partner - was on, and I was hiding in the garden – behind the big bush.

Others: (that murmur again)

Chap: Okay-

Shane: It wasn’t weird or anything – our boy, Alex, he was up the tree - so it wasn’t like I was out there alone or anything.

Chap: Yeah, okay.

(silence fills the room)

Chap: Shane, this example isn’t working – but thanks anyway.

Shane: (nods)

The chap drones on - effortfully, but his moment is gone. A shame really, had he used the person to my left – the woman who I know would have loved to have been playing hide and seek or some such, then I’m sure that whatever he was driving at would have been struck home.

I sit back, and remain mildly engaged as the meeting draws to a close. During this last twenty minutes, one or two people who don’t normally have much to say to me seem to be eyeing me with something… Interest? Suspicion? Intent? Who can say. It feels a bit odd though.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I can’t believe that I didn’t think of this sooner.

Sometimes, things just fall into place.

We have paints in the shed, and a good camera, and I’m willing to put my body forward if it’s to be for the greater economic good.

If Carla can do it, and if Sue can do it, then why not Shane (1).

We will have that holiday in Mallorca!

(1) A rhetorical question.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Interruption (Overheard #1)

Emma: So what are you working on today?

Shane: Reading policy documents and getting my head into data.

Emma: So you’re at home all day?

Shane: No. I’m gonna do some of that at the museum’s café - I need to have a look at that place. We might be taking some of the young rowdies up there.

Emma: Mm. Good luck with that.

A quick jaunt around the museum presents me with more ceramic work than even the most ardent enthusiast could process in one visit, a load of industrial landscape photography, a load of other ‘bric-a-brac’ and finally, the café.

Earl grey (£1.05) and a small plate of biscuits (28p) before me, I settle onto a comfortable sofa, in the quietest corner – out of sight, out of mind, papers out, snug behind. I get down to reading. Fifteen minutes pass before the jolting hollering:

Waitress (gritty, mid-50s): (calls out) Where’s me rubber?

Maintenance worker (male, 40s, confused): Y’ wha’?

Shane (male, 30s, an innocent): (thinks) Oh deary deary me, no – I am here, you are not alone!

Waitress: Me rubber! For me fridge!

Maintenance worker: Oh, right. I’ll get y’ it.

Shane: (thinks) For her fridge, of course. What a filthy mind I have.

An inconsequential hollering, I return to my reading.

Monday, April 07, 2008


This is what it looks like when I tell myself that I will not blog through the month of April.

It is the end of the weekend - Sunday, around midnight. Downstairs, I am working, as I have been for the past four hours. Emma began Alex’ bed-time routine at around 8pm – bath, then a book chapter (we are close to the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). I assume that Emma has taken herself straight to bed as she has not been down to utter sweet goodnight nothings to me in the way that romantic, affectionate people would do. In fact, there’s been nowt, not a jot. But then, surprisingly, footsteps on the stairs. And soon, looking bleary-eyed, Emma enters the room.

Emma: Uh.

Shane: Hello?

Emma: I can’t sleep. I’m stressed. It’s all work.

And we talk for a while and we amuse ourselves with how rubbish we can be – though really, I should have been getting on with my work. And after a further while, it occurs to me that maybe Emma's stress is dissipating, as she laughs and challenges me and mocks my workstation. Perhaps without saying so, she has taken what she had wanted to take from this late night visitation. She is ready to return to bed, and I must work on.

Emma: I’m gonna go back upstairs now.

Shane: Okay.

Emma: Maybe I will be able to wee my anxiety away.

Shane: That would be good.

The moment passes, a nice moment.

And now, I wonder, had her batteries simply run out.