Friday, July 31, 2009


Seahouses, Northumberland.

Unassuming and lo-fi, a place for the occasional Sunday afternoon out, when I was a kid - (whispers) when Dad was capable.

A couple of decades later, I could see more to Seahouses than I had done as a child. It stood as an invite to slow down, unwind, recharge - not a place of noise or garish colour, full of slateish greys and deep seaweed greens. It was, perhaps, a bit rude of us to go intruding on those who might call the town home.

But then again, if one's freedom can be bought (temporarily) for the small yet alluring sum of a bag of bacon bits, then perhaps the onus should be on a little more fishy self-restraint. Still, no harm done.

From our digging and sand-piling, The Boy and I turned a tad artful. A few days earlier, we'd stopped off in Durham for breakfast, and to watch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (not quite as dark and doomy as I'd imagined, pleasing for Jim Broadbent's Professor Horace Slughorn and Evanna Lynch's Luna Lovegood, overall quite restrained - a breathing space before the final chapter, the filmically two-parted final chapter). I suspect there were echoes of The Dark Lord, clouding our direction, as we got down to our sand-etching.

The Boy's work (above), and my own (below).

Try as he might, The Boy's sea-beckoning did rather fall a bit flat.

But lo and behold, when that tide turns, it does race in across those sandy Northumberland plains. And thus we did bear witness to the inglorious destruction of our work. It was gradual, it was wet, it was what we'd wait for. Which reminds me of something, well, elsewhere, that I read recently. Each unto his and her own in this wee family of t' 'net. Back in the land of wholesome goodness, and my, see the creation come a-tumbling down:

It turned out to be a more relaxing week than I'd imagined it would be. Emma was with us for much of it, which helped. My family dropped by to join us for some puffin-spotting - not overlooking the razorbills, guillemots, shags, arctic terns, seals and more, about the Farne Islands. It was good.

The Boy and I caught (and were rather pathetically scared by) a pipefish - well how was I to know that the damned thing would wriggle out of the bucket?! The Boy was impressed (and amused) at my delicate flick of said specimen, back into the harbour. And so it goes.

That was all a week ago. The Boy has been with the paternal clan, in Abersoch, this week - he gets about. I miss him. But his Dad timed their trip well, very well indeed... Emma grinds on, with what she must.

So, this week, I have been sustained by Wallander, Taking the Flak, Psychoville, and by the silly silly game that is XpertEleven. Couldn't quite bring myself to write (like, proper big really selfish stuff) or get out much.

As I write this, trickle-down grind reaches me, and so to it must I turn. Must I. I must.

Hope you're catching some summer... relaxation, that your bearing is positive, and that you (the visible, and the quiet ones) are well - simple but effective, seems reasonable enough.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The Bed-time Blues.

Shane: It's late - you really need to brush your teeth now.

The Boy: But I'm not tired.

Shane: But you still need to brush your teeth.

The Boy: I'm hungry!

Emma: (fails to withhold snigger)

Shane: Look! It's li-ke... past nine o'clock.

The Boy: It's li-ke... a biscuit.

Shane: No! And don't be cheeky.

The Boy: Ohhhhhhhh.

Shane: I'm out of patience. I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I need you to brush your teeth and get into bed.

The Boy: Should I get you a biscuit, too?

Shane: Brush your teeth!

We are less than one week from the official summer not-a-holiday. Many events, many places, await. As a family unit, we are ill-prepared. As a family unit, as for so many others right now, we're having a tough time - a crunchie time - nothing to do with credit, though. Friends and family ask delicate questions and they invite us to hang in there. Some promise change. The audacity of hope - that's how it feels, that's what I hear.

Parting at the school gate earlier, The Boy chirruped, 'Shane! This time next week! Puffin Cottage!' 'That's the spirit', I thought. Got to work towards that same frame of mind - hope springs internal.

He did brush his teeth, and he did sleep well. No biscuits.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Such a lot going on, such a lot.


I find myself talking to a couple of actors - a married couple, nice people. And they're telling me about how he has to do a parachute jump as part of a film project that they're working on. He strikes me as the sort of chap whose likeliest form of exercise would be the run to beat closing time at the off-licence. I can tell that he didn't wash his hair this morning. She washed her's, though.
Neither of which hair observations are related to jumping out of aeroplanes, but there you go.

We talk about their funding and about timescales. And then, dimly, distantly, I recall:

: I think the strangest thing about parachute jumping was watching the ground get further away through the space where there should have been a door.

: The aeroplane doesn't have a door?!

: No. It felt stable, though - tiny but stable. Bit breezy.

: No door?!

: (to Him) You didn't have to agree to it. Say you've changed your mind.

: Thing is, after a day of training, I had such absolute faith in the people training us, that I felt very few nerves - it was just about doing what they'd said to do. And actually, the movement, as you come down - putting on the brakes - the side-to-side - kind of swinging down in great graceful arcs - even if you were a big ball of fat, it could feel like the most elegant thing you'd ever done.

: (mildly amused eyes)

: (murmurs)

: Assuming the straps aren't digging into your arse, of course. There was one jumper - a woman -

: Yeah. I've heard it can be a bit uncomfortable.

: It's like fastening your shoe laces. Too tight - loosen off a bit. Too loose - tighten up. The whole thing can be fairly profound... I'm not a scientist, but I found the stuff to do with movements of warm air - the thermals that'll lift you right back up as you cross over a heated runway - to be absolutely fascinating. Got to play with the brakes - the toggles - a bit as you're coming down, though - to get the measure of them, to trust them for the landing.

Her: Mm.

Shane: Mm. Wouldn't want to brake too early and go smack-down on your face.

: (frowning) You're not helping.

: (thinks sideways, thinks about this chap being an actor) When I was a kid - through the teenage years, up to about twenty - I hated public-speaking. I mean hated - panic attacks, nausea, no belief. I ended up realising that it had to be dealt with and that only I could do that, otherwise I'd be really pissed off with myself - so I just flooded it. Any opportunity, I stepped up and spoke - I became a Master of Illusion - scared shitless for the first few goes but got away with it - quickly felt the circularity of the whole thing - fake confidence, get away with it, breed real confidence. But the nerves that I had to handle to get through that, I promise, they were off the scale compared to the jump 'plane going up.

: (raised eyebrows)

: (thinking) Yeah, but you see, public-speaking versus jumping out of an aeroplane - there's only one of them that...

: ...could kill y'?

: Yeah.

: Mm. Strange, isn't it. Like I said, the whole thing can be quite profound.

This felt like a rare kind of conversation - one of those where you don't really know the person or people who you're talking to, but you sense that there's something slightly deeper going on - there's a... a puzzled warmth. It felt good. They said I could be in their film.

Okay, so I did ask to be in their film - which isn't cool, but I was joking. I was, really. But they weren't, I could tell. I'm not an actor, I don't want to be an actor, but I'll be in a film - it's something to tick-off. There are more important things to tick-off, but it'll be something.

I'm going to Morecambe tomorrow. I've never been to a Morecambe, before.