Wednesday, January 30, 2008


From: Emma
Sent: 30 January2008 10:40:33
To: Shane
Subject: Alex drawing


I just scanned this to send to Lily. Alex did it and stuck it on his wall last week. One of his bedtime drawings.

It has actual willy and balls!! Where did that come from?

Shocking and amazing in equal measure.


From: Shane
Sent: 30 January 2008 13:29:11
To: Emma
Subject: Re: Alex drawing

'...actual willy and balls' - you're not wrong. One for the gallery on Art Attack? Or a submission to some kind of science/art contest? '...and see the consistency of them there lumps of poo - 'twas a healthy monster diet, that is for sure'.

I see your monster-willy drawing and I raise you a picture of a cat in a fruit bowl.


And that was as intellectual as today got.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Local University were hosting an event.

What with talk of low morale and so on, one had to wonder about the signage.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Looking back as we filed out of the room, the artists seemed to have been left a little stunned, if not shaken, by their experience.

I turned to Ms Utterly Unflappable, who explained:

U.U.: I think they were disappointed.

Shane: Why?

U.U.: We found it too easy.

Shane: But it was playschool stuff.

U.U.: I know that, you know that, most of the others know that - but we were meant to be intimidated and closed. As professional artists, they would have reacted to our self consciousness by preaching about how they go about freeing up their imaginations in order to be creative. Thus, they would rescue us from our dry, grey, stagnant, dull-as-dishwater selves. Shiny Happy People all round.

Shane: Mm.

U.U.: We were too good. It left them with nothing much to say.

Shane: They’ll get over it.

U.U.: In time.

Shane: It’s a bit odd though, isn’t it. I mean, all we did was make models out of sugar cubes for nearly an hour.

U.U.: Shane! It was more than that! Didn’t you hear - we were devising small scale installations, inspired by the work of Turner Prize winning artist, Rachel Whiteread. What we most certainly were not doing was ‘making models out of sugar cubes’.

Shane: No, of course not.

U.U.: Your group had gusto - you had a good group.

Shane: Mm. The Cumbrian Two have to take credit for much of it – they were very funny.

U.U.: Probably good for them to give their sheep a break for a night or two.

Shane: Harsh.

U.U.: But true.

Shane: Harsh.

U.U.: Yes, you had the best group. Who’d have thought that a sugar cube Nigella Lawson could be so beautiful, yet challenging at the same time. (pause) Our’s was a much more sensitive affair.

Shane: I noticed.

U.U.: The Welsh Counsellor Woman was adamant that we focus on relationships, but it got rough – we had to explore issues – really raw stuff -

Shane: - the processed sugar.

U.U.: Mm. She got offended when PolicySpeak Bloke dropped a couple of lumps into his tea.

Shane: No doubt you intervened.

U.U.: I let them know that I thought the whole session was a cunting waste of public money [sic].

Shane: Discreet.

U.U.: Not really – the airier-fairier one overheard.

Shane: - which might part-explain why there’s at least one dishevelled-looking artist back there right now.

U.U.: (pause) You’ll find no shame here.

Shane: A fine line between sweet and sourpuss?

U.U.: At this time of the month - yes!

Friday, January 18, 2008


Some mornings, young Alex is a very slow starter. Other mornings, he’s as sharp as a butterfly, ready to sting like a bee.

Shane: (bleary-eyed) Morning.
Alex: (whilst watching TV) Morning, Shane. Shane, I have some advice for you. If you ever have to stroke a snake, do not stroke it underneath its head. Ok?
Shane: Ok.
Alex: You’ve missed a good programme, here.
Shane: Mm. Sounds useful.
Alex: Yeah, it is.

Sleepily, I ate cereal, then showered. Fully lathered and slip-slide clean, Emma made an appearance at the bathroom door.

Emma: Shane.
Shane: Yeah?
Emma: You’ve got to be careful of which books you’re leaving lying around. I know you were enjoying going through the Banksy pictures with Alex, but I’ve just heard him flicking through that book and reading out loud ‘fuck pigs, fuck pigs’.
Shane: Ah.
Emma: It’s probably the first time he’s heard or read that word.
Shane: Yeah, ok.
Emma: He asked me, ‘What does ‘fuck pigs’ mean’?
Shane: What did you say?
Emma: I just said I didn't know.
Shane: Ok.

As I was drying off, I wondered whether it really would have been the first time that the young one had come across the f-word. Somehow, I doubted it.

Words, eh.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I answered the door, and in bounded Jo. After gushing in the general direction of Emma, I settled our visitor with a glass of wine, a poppadom and a comfortable chair. Jo anticipated moving house in ‘roughly three weeks’ – a staggeringly quick shift, I thought, whilst observing a minutely raised eyebrow from Emma. And so, with new neighbours on the horizon, I was keen to learn more.

Shane: So, our neighbours-to-be – should we brace ourselves for noisy parties - drink, drugs, debauchery – that sort of thing.
Jo: Oh, I don’t think so – they seemed quite settled, really.
Shane: Ah well, we’ll have to look elsewhere for that sort of thing.
Jo: (stunned look)
Shane: Joke.
Jo: Oh! I was gonna say!
Emma: Just ignore him.
Jo: Oh no, you’re fine – Keith’s brother’s got a very dry sense of humour – I often can’t tell whether he’s being serious or not.
Emma: I know what y’ mean.
Jo: Men, eh!
Emma: Mm.

A comfortable pause.

Shane: And so what about your buyers – you mentioned that he seemed like quite a character?
Jo: Oh yes – they seemed ever so lovely. He’s some kind of vicar – in a prison!
Shane: Really?
Jo: Ye-es, but not a proper prison – one for younger men - teenagers, he said.
Shane: Interesting.
Jo: Yeah, I thought so – but I couldn’t imagine him as a vicar, never mind in a prison!
Shane: So he's a chaplain?
Jo: That was it - chaplain! I kept thinkin’ of Charlie Chaplin after he mentioned it.
Shane: Don’t suppose you know where exactly he’s working, do you?
Jo: That’s why they’re moving – it’s that one over… that one just off the Barton Road.
Emma: One of your’s.
Shane: Mm.
Jo: You know it?
Shane: I did some work there last year.
Jo: Well there you go! You might know him then.
Shane: I don’t think so, but I imagine we’ll know some of the same people.
Jo: That’s good. But I should warn you – his wife says he’s very accident-prone – so you’ll have to be careful with him.
Shane: I’m sure we will be. And what is it that his wife does?
Jo: Well, she said – I nearly laughed when she said – you must never tell her that - but she said, that she was a writer! I mean, can you imagine a ‘writer’ living anywhere around here?
Emma: (smiling) Y’ never know.
Jo: (wistful) Y’ never know. (pause) So what were you doing at the prison, Shane?
Shane: Just helping out with a group of their lads – listening, mentoring, writing.
Jo: Writing?
Shane: Mm.
Jo: (puzzled) Good… good. Y’ should get on then.
Shane: I’m sure we will.

I shall be listening out for the removals lorry.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Winter though it may be, I elected to tidy up the garden… and then mess it up by devising a brick-and-stick sculpture thing. Then, contented, there came a voice - a very rare communication from across the fence:

Jo: I say, Shane!
Shane: (turns) Hello.
Jo: We’ve accepted an offer.
Shane: Oh, wow. (rises from grass level, approaches fence) Will you be rich?
Jo: No – but it looks like we’ll be moving very soon.
Shane: Really?
Jo: Mm – lovely couple – he seems like a real character. They’re probably just a bit older than you and Emma – no chain, and they’ve got the money! I tell y’, it’s a weight off.
Shane: Yeah. And it is absolutely definitely happening?
Jo: Oh yes, I’m – we’re - very confident.
Shane: Well… blimey! Very pleased for y’.
Jo: Yeah. (sighs)
Shane: Yeah. (doesn’t quite know what to say)
Jo: (seeming a bit fidgety) I feel like celebrating!
Shane: Right, yeah. It’s a big deal.
Jo: Yeah.
Shane: Is Keith in?
Jo: No – he’s working ‘til late tonight.
Shane: Ah. Well, Emma’s just cooked a huge curry and we’ve got loads of bottles of wine that we’re never likely to get round to drinking – if you’d care to come round?
Jo: I would! Can I leave my slippers on?
Shane: Absolutely – let’s live a little!
Jo: I’m on my way.

Shane hurries into the house.

Shane: Jo and Keith next door have sold their house – again - Jo just told me and she said that she felt like celebrating, so I said she could come round and eat curry and drink wine with us.
Emma: Okay-. When?
Shane: Right now.
Emma: But the house is a total mess and… Jo hasn’t been in this house in… she’s hardly spoken a word to us since Keith came round to complain about Jim shitting all over his garden.
Shane: But they’re moving and we have to be friendly and not mention that it feels a bit weird.
Emma: It may be a time to drink wine.
Shane: Yeah, but not too much. She said that the chap of the couple who are buying their place is ‘a real character’ and I need to know what she means.
Emma: ‘A real character’?
Shane: Yeah.
Emma: Should be interesting.

There came a knock…

Friday, January 04, 2008


I met up with old pal Marie. She jolted me, in the way that a proper writer could and would:

Marie: You still blogging?
Shane: Yeah – not as regularly as I used to, but yeah, I am.
Marie: Funny that – cos I had a look earlier and it’s been about, what, three weeks?
Shane: Spying!
Marie: No – just keeping an eye on you.
Shane: Spying!
Marie: No, that would be what Emma is for.
Shane: Meaning?
Marie: Never mind. So, what happened to the piggery poem?
Shane: (wistfully) Do you think T.S. Eliot ever had conversations like this?
Marie: I expect so.
Shane: I’m doubting it.
Marie: I’m guessing piggery didn’t happen, then?
Shane: You are a harsh critic.
Marie: I haven’t criticised you yet.
Shane: Yet.
Marie: Let me guess –
Shane: Here we go!
Marie: Let’s see – ‘piggery’ – ‘bigamy’ – no, too much of a stretch. ‘Hickory’, ‘chicory’ – not likely, too bland, and not quite rhyming enough. Piggery... ‘Wiggery’?
Shane: No – but I like that.
Marie: A-ha... ‘jiggery’?
Shane: Very good. The stanza would have been ‘Let’s get jiggery, Down in the piggery, Said Martha to Mo’.
Marie: (laughs) Ridiculous! But very T.S. Eliot, I must say.
Shane: Thank you.
Marie: So, Martha and a Mo getting frisky in a piggery?
Shane: Almost. Mo would have said ‘No thanks’, at first –
Marie: Mo being… a man?
Shane: Yeah.
Marie: Gay?
Shane: No.
Marie: So...?
Shane: I don’t know – I hadn’t done any character development. They’d have got it on somewhere - there was something about a river, but I couldn't remember it all.
Marie: I would like to say that I’m sure that that is a loss to literature… but I can’t - probably for the best, eh.
Shane: Mm.
Marie: Was there a theme for January’s blogging, then?
Shane: I thought I’d just do a bit of dialogue.
Marie: The old familiar.
Shane: Yeah.
Marie: Which, from what I've seen, could mean that…
Shane: If that’s alright with you.
Marie: I shall look forward to it.
Shane: Ta.
Marie: And if you want my suggestion, just stick to writing what you know best.
Shane: What’s that, then?
Marie: That's for you to say.
Shane: Hmm.
Marie: Schools? Your art stuff? Favourite books or films? Music? Actually no, not music. One hundred and one ways to prevaricate? You'd be quite good at that.
Shane: You're too kind.
Marie: You could try short stories - different genres, different styles, different voices. Or maybe spend January trying to work out what it is that you know best – that would be the blogging way, wouldn’t it.
Shane: Mm?
Marie: Navel-gazing.
Shane: (amused) Sometimes.
Marie: Ninety five per cent of times. But please, anything but football.
Shane: You give me much to think about.
Marie: In that case, how about blogging about a month of snap decisions?
Shane: (pause) Sounds risky.
Marie: Not a good start. Snap decisions - yes or no?
Shane: No.
Marie: Ah.
Shane: Worked well whilst it lasted.
Marie: Mm.
Shane: I'll come up with something.
Marie: You do that.
Shane: Did I mention what I'd asked for for Christmas from my sister?
Marie: No.
Shane: I asked for a short story - limited to 1000 words, with the title 'White'.
Marie: Good idea.
Shane: Mm.
Marie: And?
Shane: She promises that it will be delivered within a fortnight.
Marie: But it's January the fourth already.
Shane: Mm, she shillies, she shallies.
Marie: Wonder where she gets that from.
Shane: Mm.

To the porcine enthusiasts, I ham-fistedly failed you and I was found out. My apologies.