Monday, October 27, 2008


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


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


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.


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.

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

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

Thursday, October 09, 2008


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


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.

* 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


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 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.
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.