Wednesday, March 25, 2009


This past weekend, Emma and I headed south on a long ago booked trip. In the here and now, the timing wasn't great.

As we made for the station, the city rose to clear blue sky. That afternoon, the Britannia Stadium would bounce to men, women and children singing 'Delilah', a song that features the line 'I put my dick in her hand, and she laughed no more'. Where to begin, where to begin... Perhaps best to not begin at all.

The paltry offerings in the station's Virgin Lounge ensured that we were at the platform well before the 10:12 to Euston rolled in from Manchester.

What would our trip feature. Healthy-living and broadsheet analysis?


Approaching midday, Tottenham Court Road was as clear as the Potteries had been. We made our way directly towards Monmouth Street, off Shaftsbury Avenue, in the hope of an early check-in. Staying at the Radisson Edwardian Mountbatten ensured that this trip into the capital - my second in three days - could pass without need for bus, tube or taxi - a quiet victory for good planning (and liberal dolings of sterling). In terms of cultural tastes, this was very much World of Emma, just shy of Wince of Shane.

In the thrall of the techno-snacks, I forgot to take pictures of things like the main fixtures and fittings of the gaffe. But instead, I did get a sign on the discreetly located 'Interactive Minibar'.

Touch those Pringles and They Will Know.

Saturday afternoon was spent in and around Neal's Yard - small boutique shops - green teas, sitting in the sun, sauntering. That was after we'd taken lunch in Covent Garden - some bistro in a cellar - good food, but really not the day to be underground.

Back at the hotel, brief lounging, a change, and out for dinner - to Soho's Bocca di Lupo. I'd remembered Matthew Norman's review. This paid dividends.

Sitting at the bar, overlooking the main hubbub of food preparation area, good choreography came to mind. Welcoming the ethos of good, simple food, prepared well, Emma opted for a red prawn risotto.

I chose the grilled sea bream.

And then, the main event:

Priscilla - Queen of the Desert, at the Palace Theatre.

This was our first visit to this theatre. I knew that we were heading for good seats, as we headed up the stairs to Dress Circle Row A.

The curtain hid an incredibly clever, albeit mechanically simple set. Reviews have not made enough of this - despite their generally holding the show in high regard.

Though no further shots can be shared (I'm sorry, I dared to forget myself), all praise for costumes, cast, script-updating and direction is justified - a big successful production. No sneering rejoinder to be added, here. Whereas Abba were heavily referenced in the screen version of Priscilla, Kylie was now the wholly lauded - an entirely bearable shift - especially with Mamma Mia (((shudder))) playing just round the corner.

Overlooked in many of the reviews - something that is easy to understand amid such high campery, has been the matter of Priscilla being underscored by two fairly weighty relationship dramas. Within the first 5 minutes of the show, I was welling up at the clearly signposted Father-Son denouement that we were headed for - Jason Donovan's Tick (Mitzi) is off to meet his son for the first time. His drag act trio's provision of a stage show for his wife's (yes, wife's) resort hotel is the hook for the group's road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs. That's the story. But also, the ageing drag queen - Tony Sheldon's Bernadette - charts a course that is, at its heart, about accepting oneself, showing trust in others and redirecting the lifecourse. As I write this, I'm feeling partisan. For reasons that I can't fully unpick, or neatly clarify, Priscilla is a production that touches me.

During the interval, Emma waxed lyrical about the show - the scale of production, its values, the audience. This was all pleasing - the whole trip was very much a one-off, designed to please. Smiling, she then queried:

'Does it not make you feel even a bit gay?'

Amused, puzzled, appalled, I gently queried.

'What do you mean?'

'I mean, the whole thing. It's fairly amazing, isn't it.'

'The costumes, the dancing, the set design, the dialogue, the easy affection and charm, the barbed wit - garish, but all attractive. I'd love to be able to sing and move like some of those people on stage. But as for wanting to put specific bits of my body anywhere near any other men's bodies - even those men's bodies, well, that's a kind of gayness that doesn't appeal. But thanks for asking.'

Seemed a reasonable enough response. She wouldn't have asked if she'd have thought there was the possibility of any other kind of answer.

At the standing ovation, I noticed the four occupants of one of the boxes - two men (in their 30s, together), and two older women (both in their 60s). I gauged a mother and friend, plus son and his partner. The son figure hugged both of the ladies, whilst partner leaned in to ensure that a good evening had been had. It looked like an important moment.

Dodging the boas, the mincing and the people like us, we strolled back to the hotel, and thus turned into the straight that would lead us back to the West Midlands.

Sunday breakfast was as it should have been - hearty, if a little too neat.


Only 5 / 10, for presentation there.

Shane's (Part I):


I didn't picture the rest - what kind of weirdo goes around taking pictures of his breakfast.

Back out into the streets, Emma managed to turn the short walk back up to Euston into a mini research exercise. Over-riding my disdain for such gross opportunism, I played along as best I could.

Obscene, unsightly, gratuitous and ghastly - the lot of them.

If there is a grindstone, then now, we are very much back at it, but still we may daydream (a link for added non-gayness).

The word from above is that (work) things should get easier in late June, and at such a time, then this kind of trip should occur more casually. If they don't, then I shall just have to bugger naff off on my own.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Throughout Friday, I witnessed attempts at being 'funny for money'. Yes, Comic Relief. With many a motivation good and proper, it's hard to be (publically) critical - try as I might.

Let us turn back the clock.

It is evening, almost 9pm. We are wound-down, following a tough week. We are watching BBC One. Alex is curled into his mother's arms, and I'm wondering about the costs and multiple revenues of this television production.

A genuinely moving short film ends with the narrator stating:
'It is your continued support that enables Comic Relief to keep on helping these children of alcoholic parents'.

Contemplative silence. Broken, thus:

Alex: What about chocaholic parents?

Emma: (stifles laugh)

Shane: Hmm. I don't think it's quite as tough for those with chocaholic parents.

Alex: Mm.

It's the funniest thing I've heard all day. I promptly donate.

(I did also enjoy the short film from Outnumbered. Claire Skinner, as the mum, is really good.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Yes, alarm.

Shane: Blah blah blah workish blah blah blah.

Emma: Mm. Or maybe, something a bit more Web 2.0?

Shane: 'Web two point oh'?

Emma: Mm. (pause) What?

Shane: Where did you learn to speak like that?

Emma: Like what?

Shane: 'Like Web 2.0'.

Emma: I read things.

Shane: Well, what are you on about?

Emma: Y' know, new technologies, new media, new ways of communicating - Facebook, Twitter, 3G technologies -

Shane: Whoaaaaaaa! Just calm down for a minute, there!

Emma: - You know you're going to have to.

Shane: Och och och and och!

Emma: Am I right?

Shane: Maybe.

Especially spurred on, I think, by Stephen Fry's everywhereness and his prosthletising about the many merits of Twitter, people who I would not have imagined playing along with such sports, have been. (*whispers* And yes alright so maybe it does look a bit fun). But do I really want to start something that I really don't think that I'd sustain? And isn't it all just going to turn out a bit Facebook. And - most pertinently - what is it that people are getting out of all of this? I mean, really getting out of it. Apart from the warm glow of feeling connected - in an acceptably mundane sort of way. I mean, apart from that, what is it?

I'm feeling archaic, like a bit of a dinosaur, like the sort of person to whom the idea of public lists of his friends or 'followers' would feel odd. What about the uncouth and the deranged - the ones not on the list? Now, if Jesus were alive today... well, 'whale of a time', he'd lap it up - fish to water, duck to pond, Hart to Hart. But I'm not Jesus.

(blog posting interruptus)

I've just watched a short film, 'Twitter in plain English', on the Twitter site. It was... it was... it was really nice - when Carla discovered that Steve had a passion for baseball, and when she discovered that Julia was reading a new investment book, and when everyone - yes, everyone - discovered that Carla - herself - had a new passion for Van Halen!

Too good, just too good. I felt all warm inside. I want that feeling. I want that feeling that Carla had.

Perhaps when I've got a moment one weekend.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Home-time: a two minute walk from the front door to Alex' school.

It's blowy, not quite a gale. The hedge reminds me that it needs cutting back. 'I know, I know', my eyes tell it. Wisps of litter - toffee crisp, regal, lotto - pirouette down the road. This heralds the main act: The Considerate Drivers - the ones who ignore the parking notices. Whirring past, there's good reason in those darkened windows. I ponder the kinds of mindset, lifestyle and plain idiot that will again overlook instructions to not block children's sight-lines. Having passed the turning for the canal, I'm well-placed in today's 3:15 chase. Fat dawdling women lumber up ahead, we call them 'The Coats'. They'll bunch up at the first gate, for single-file procession down the ramp. Better for me to take an outside line - hit the main gate, approach the waiting area from the far side - avoids the crush - social, psychological. The tall thin woman with the pushchair, she takes the same course. I wonder whether the tiredness in her general air - that same tiredness that she's been carrying for at least four years now - is just about the kids. I once asked her about her previous life: 'Scientist'. You could have knocked me down with a chocolate-bar wrapper. Waiting, the Chinese man - older than he looks - is in his usual spot. I like him. He once tried to convince me that everyone should try EuroDisney, 'at least once, just for experience'. I meant to nod - polite, like; but all I could do was crunch my neck in a bit - tortoise-like. Within earshot of the school, the excited clatter of putting-away-time slaps me awake. It's the sound of brace brace for Act I Scene I of the next 12 days. The scientist proffers a smile. I raise a half-smile. I imagine an anthropological study of school drop-off/pick-up times, I see a mainstream film of lives that cross but don't cross - people you know but who you don't know, it all feels so transient. A bell cuts through my reverie.

I just received an e-note to say that my American friend, Gene - OldHorsetailSnake, has died. I never met him. This, I regret. A lady called Vicki writes, '...politics, the environment, his running fashion commentary and his love of dung beetles were regular themes'. A natural born educator exits blogstage right.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


A ten minute drive from the southside to the city centre.

Pulling up at traffic lights, I clock two bikers in the rear view mirror. Driving side by side, they're coasting to a halt. I notice that they're chatting. Assuming that it's a man and a woman - partners, lovers, petrolheads - it's an image that strikes me as quite mundane, but beautiful all the same. As they halt, I notice that it's two men. The lights go green and I take a right, up Stoke Road (above).

Passing the college, a couple of young women look like they've just left one of their Beauty Therapy classes. The uniforms may be crisp, but the deep orange trowelings of their own make-up brings to mind the young man who said that he'd be joining a construction course. 'Make-up'. Make what up. The objective of this course, is for you to become expert in helping other people to look minimally idiotic. There will be occasions when this proves to be an objective too far.

Through Snowhill, it makes a pleasant change to note a lack of emergency service vehicles.

Curving towards the city centre, the junction with College Road ahead to my right, I note St Marks church. There's a bus shelter with a shatterproof plastic 'window' in it. Therein, there's a great big hole. I think a wordy thought about 'holy' and a possible photograph - one that I won't return to take.

Thick traffic, where to park, time to concentrate.