Monday, June 30, 2008


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


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:


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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The One-Minute Wednesday (podcast?) will return - possibly on a Thursday, or a Monday - they'll be better, shorter, and will feature guests. Right now, I'm not making time to edit audio. In fact, I'm in a personal blogging lull. On the work front, one project is being turned into a blog.

We is busy, like.

For now, in the style of the great Trainspotting publicity materials, life is:

Get up. Don't shave. Sort boy. Nod at strangers. Email people. Call people. Visit people. Frown. Listen. Talk smart. Repeat thrice. Pick up messages. Re-arrange diary. Write stuff. Dodge bullets. Think big thoughts. Dodge clowns. Miss football. Consolation swim. Read to child. Stroke cat. Stasis. Go to bed. Repeat.

Normal flightiness will resume soon. Just felt like a general blah, or moan, was in order.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Impossibly Early o'clock:

(boy comes bounding into bedroom)

Alex: Happy birthday Shane!

Shane: Aaarrrggghhh.

Alex: Come on, get up! We've got presents for you.

Shane: Ugh. Ok.

(I get up and I head for the bathroom)

(The boy had meant for me to head downstairs with him - immediately)

Alex: Where are you going? You don't need to brush your teeth yet! You haven't got any plankton on them!

I smile. A good start to another year.

Sunday, June 08, 2008



I wander down the stairs, fully expecting Emma to greet me with her usual zesty, springy, sprightly charm.

Shane: Morning, my lovely.

Emma: There has been a death on the patio.

Shane: Heaven forefend! Mouse?

Emma: Mm, I think so. All gone but for a leg, a bit of blood and… an organ.

Shane: Ach, the organ of poppable squidge – possibly a stomach.

Emma: Mm.

Shane: And how does Jim seem?

Emma: His usual dopey self…

Emma: …Not sure that he should claim the kill, though. Might have been one of the neighbouring cats. Would you get rid of the organ.

Shane: That wasn’t a question, was it?

Emma: Be a hero.

Shane: I’ll do it now.

Out on the patio, hearing the distant unfolding of a nearby school’s Fun Day (there’s no room for fun in the ordinary school day), I see the potential for some degree of home-based learning.

This is the umpteenth organic ‘sack’ that I’ve had to dispose of, and as the cat would sympathise, its texture I find most disturbing. There is a definite squashiness to it – though I’d never fully explored this.

Gathering up the organ on a small stick, I place it on a small wall and gently press the sharp point of the stick against it again. A moment later:

Emma: You ok?

Shane: Ahhhhh, that is as close to being sick as I’ve been in a long while.

Emma: (amused – note the loveless lack of concern) What’s wrong? What did you do?

Shane: I… I made two incisions into the organ –

Emma: (amused) You popped the sack of squidge?

Shane: Yes.

Emma: Idiot.

Shane: It would seem so.

Emma: What happened?

Shane: Well, nothing after the first careful incision, but then, it popped after the second cut. Stuff that looked like a combination of humous and cream cheese oozed out, in the way that toothpaste slowly oozes out of those completely rubbish pump-action toothpaste dispensers.

Emma: Y’ know, much as you love Springwatch – and admire you for it we do, I don’t think you’re ready for this sort of thing just yet, eh.

Shane: What d’ y’ mean?

Emma: Well, Bill Oddie and Simon King and gorgeous Gordon Buchanan, they wouldn’t wretch at the contents of a small mousepart, would they?

Shane: Well, I don’t care about them. (thinks) I only care about Kate Humble. In fact, I think I love her.

Friday, June 06, 2008


Last week, at the end of my Foil Fencing class, I got to duel with the only group member who I’d not previously battled with – a short young woman, who seemed to be a broadly happy person. Following our regular instruction in technique and theory, and with good humour abounding, I pointed at the young woman from afar and… she knew. We had what proved to be an unusually tricky battle, this opponent’s target area (the torso) being much smaller than previous opponents’. This reminded me of childhood football when some kid would move the jumper-goalposts in a bit – just not sporting. Anyway, we duelled and I… well, I won – not that that was important of course. We shook hands, removed masks, saluted our instructor and left the arena.

ShortBird: You were good – fast.

Shane: (unthinking – oh so stupidly unthinking) Mm, and you were inconveniently short.

ShortBird: (a bit shocked, I saw the jaw drop) That’s not really a compliment, is it.

Shane: (counter-shocked, I suspect ShortBird could hear me scratching about for a recovery one-liner) …And wily. Yes, very wily… like a… tiny wily firework.

She seemed offended. Our motley half dozen fencers left the building. I noticed a young man – boyfriend presumably – waiting for ShortBird in the car park.

Before this week's class, I felt that it was important to have some positive interaction with ShortBird – though I wasn’t in the mood for apologising for her having shortist issues.

Last night, on entering the sports hall, I noticed ShortBird chatting to Daniel – a quiet man with an untrusting gaze, and a similar age to me, one redeeming feature being that he had previously laughed at the right moment when I’d made self-deprecating remarks. ‘Now’ I thought, ‘strike early – get in there, be positive, show ShortBird that you think she’s ok and be nice to young Daniel too’. I had no right to think of Daniel as especially young, but it felt airy and jaunty and carefree and light – just what you want before trying to stick a steel spike into someone.

Shane: (approaching, to each, consecutively, with a nod and eye contact) Young hound, young hound.

Daniel: Alright, Shane.

ShortBird: You calling me a dog?!

Shane: (unbelieving) …

ShortBird: Only kidding. (Amused) I think I might have been a bit sharp with you last week.

Shane: (thinking ‘PMT) Is that a bit of fencing humour, right there?

ShortBird: Eh?

Daniel: (laughs) Sharp – swords, good one.

Shane: Mm. Thanks, Dan.

ShortBird: Oh yeah, sharp – fencing, good one.

Seamless, these interactions are, truly seamless. The term ‘my people’ springs to mind.