Monday, December 28, 2009


It was Christmas Eve, babe:

Manc.: (bright-eyed, amused) So? Which Premiership manager d' y' reckon it is, then?

Shane: Is what?

Manc.: Y' haven't heard?

Shane: No.

Manc.: Some Premier League manager has been caught leaving a brothel - hasn't been named, though. When I heard, my heart sank. I just thought 'Pulis'.

A conversation ensues, in which I explain that I can't believe that it would have been the Manc's beloved Pulis, manager of Stoke City.

Manc's Wife: The article said he was wearing branded sportswear as he left the building - which was on an industrial estate.

Shane: Sounds a bit Midlands, could be anywhere, though.

An alternative festive game develops, in which we compare guesswork and thinking. Our collective intellectual might forms a pointless Poirot.

Shane: So from what you tell me, we can identify three characteristics of the punter... he's high profile, with a lot to lose - so he's a risk-taker. We can assume that he's able to be fairly amoral about paying for sex, or the sex economy. And we know that he's the sort of man who's willing to be out in public in branded sportswear.

We narrow the field to six or seven.

Manc.: So if you were a Premiership manager, would you have been ruled out yet?

Shane: Great question. Risk-taker - I can be. Amoral as regards the sex economy - tricky, but yes, I can be that. Out in public in branded sportwear?

Manc's Wife: That's the one, isn't it?

Shane: I wouldn't be out in branded sportswear - no way.

Manc.: That's the measure of a man, isn't it. Who'd be willing to be seen out in branded sportswear.

Shane: It's one measure, that's for sure.

I spend moments through the rest of the day wondering about how the story - such that it is one - will be played out elsewhere. In various football managers' households, in pubs and clubs, and in the 'wider press and public', I imagine many shrugging shoulders. Later, I notice in the Daily Mail coverage, a reference to the brothel as a 'Scene of Disgrace'. 'Disgrace' in what sense, I wonder.


Just 'done' five episodes of The Wire.

Feeling a bit light-headed.

It was a bit cold up north... weather, family, family, weather.

Brother's girlfriend, 'Sue-Ellen', was on good form... utterly deluded, but on good form.

Brother's silence speak volumes.

There was no obvious moment for opening up to Dad about his brother...

Moments of inaction confirm My Own Private Tradition.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Yesterday was a good day. A monkey on our back was cut right down in size, and though this was explained to The Boy (for he has felt it, as we all have), and although he gave his Mum a hug, I doubt whether he yet understands the collective weight that was unburdened. And nor should he, he is only eight years old after all.

But I was so pleased with him, and for him. I gifted him the Simon's Cat book - important, as I felt it was, to mark the day somehow. He was pleased and gave implausibly emphatic thanks.

Earlier in the day, his mother had spoken the words:

'No, you don't need to give me a moment, I'm going to cry through this anyway', as good news was detailed.

At bed time, The Boy and I flicked through about half of the Simon's Cat book, recognising many of the wry illustrations.

And after reading a couple of chapters of The Fire Thief, we chatted for a while. We talked about how when you're a child, it's hard to imagine who you might meet later in your life - which new friends you'd make between the ages of eight, and say... thirty four and exactly one half. This chat led to his explaining that Daddy would like to get married, and that he uses match dot com - for meeting new people and for setting up dates. Feigning naivety, I asked questions, listened, and suggested examples of what my profile might look like on match dot com.

The Boy: It'll find people for you who like the same stuff as you. So you put in things like... your favourite colour -

Shane: Green.

The Boy: Mm. And... what you like -

Shane: Chicken in gravy.

The Boy: (hesitantly) If you like.

Shane: Mm. But what if all of the other people who like chicken in gravy live in... Africa?

The Boy: You have to put in where you live as well.

Shane: Oh. Is it best to meet people who like the same stuff as you?

The Boy: Yeah.

Shane: Is that so that you can go to a restaurant that you both like?

The Boy: (sighs, rolls his eyes) Something like that. You can put the light out now.

Shane: Alright. See you in the morning.

The Boy: 'night.

He slept soundly. I didn't... the residual thought of what might have been.

The next week or two should see some relaxing of the mind, and the shoulders.


Monday, December 14, 2009


Context: A couple of years ago, I discovered that my Dad's missing brother had died more than twenty years earlier. My Dad didn't know this. I chose not to tell him. With that, I always end up daydreaming about the sharing that has not been, whenever I'm due to see my parents.

I discussed all of this, with Franglaise, at the weekend. He was a good one to be discussing this with - reluctant as he was to jump to any quick assertion about what would be best or inevitable. In the course of talking, I mentioned that my initial inclination - to tell - was opposed to that of my brother and sister. Wondering if that was still the case, I spoke to my brother. From which:

Shane: ...think about it, though - if you went missing - even if we hadn't been getting on or whatever, I'd still want to know if you had... y' know, died.

Brother: That would be different. You wouldn't need to be told.

Shane: But if we'd lost contact, how would I know?

Brother: Cos I'm considerate. Just to let you know I was alright - even if I thought you were a total dick, I'd post y' some dog shit every Christmas - just t' let y' know I was thinkin' of y'. So when the dog shit doesn't arrive, that's when you have to mourn 's, like.

Shane: (impressed) That's very creative.

Brother: Cheers.

Friday, December 11, 2009


The Boy is eight years old. He'll be nine in January.

Alex: Right, today at school, the teacher read part of a story then just stopped. And she said we had to write the rest of the story, but that we weren't allowed to write about anything that was violent. We had to describe how people were feeling.

Shane: Mm.

Alex: But I said to her, 'Well, Miss, this story might have to have a little violence in it, because my new character is going to be a boxer.' She laughed at that.

Shane: Good. Laughing is good.

Alex: Mm. But then, I asked her, 'Is it ok if I use footnotes?' And she laughed! I mean, what's funny about that?!

Shane: Did she say anything?

Alex: She asked how I knew about footnotes, so I told her. She said it would be fine.

Shane: That's good. I think there's a lot of adults who wouldn't know about footnotes, so she was probably surprised more than anything.

Alex: Mm.

Shane: Mm.

Alex: You know with footnotes, do you always have to start with number 1.

Shane: Yeah. Some people start from number one on each new page that has a footnote - one, one, one two, one, one two three, one, and so on, others will keep going up by one regardless of the page - one, two, three, la la la.

Alex: Mm. I only had one footnote.

Shane: That's fine. You only needed one footnote.

Alex: Mm.

Shane: Mm.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


As the festive period - are we there yet - rapidly approaches, I begin to imagine the brief foray into the Up North. I think of Boxing Day as Up North Day. Tradition has it that the day will be bitterly cold, yet the family will collectively haul frozen ass to some sporting non-event - maybe a football match, possibly a horse racing fixture.

This year, things could be a little different. Boxing Day morning will see me visit the ever-ailing maternal grandmother. As I explained to Birthday Colleague, earlier, a September or October death would have probably been the best thing that could have happened (I think I used the word 'convenient'), but that hasn't been the way.

I'm wondering whether some bracing outdoor walk, maybe a forest, or the coast, would be a better alternative afternoon 'trip out'. I think that would risk the further fragmentation of the clan, though. Siblings, and their plus ones, would likely miss the eleven against eleven, or the chance of a flutter. We also share the quiet humour of how unremarkable our Boxing Day sport can be, and I'd miss that.

This is what I've been wondering about.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Soft shit, I'm a bit of a soft shit.

Stanley Matthews Way is a road that takes pressure off the A50 through Stoke-on-Trent, close to the main football team's Britannia Stadium. It's a road that offers an escape to the south, towards Stafford. I often use it as a short cut when heading north for the University Quarter. Ordinarily, it's a massively unaffecting corridor, with its industrial units, anonymous modern office blocks ('To Let') and JCB markers of devastated grasslands by the Trent and Mersey canal.

Accelerating off a roundabout, heading north along The Way, all it took was the glimpse of a father and son, walking hand-in-hand, to produce an emotional spike. Within seconds I was past them, but I still had open road on which to ponder how utterly ridiculous I can be... all it was, was a man and a boy, walking. No. Big. Deal. Yet I manage to contrive something poignant and gorgeous, troubled and troubling from that. I mean really, what a fuck-up.

I didn't used to be like this. I used to go to lots of random football matches, in peculiar backwater places. Every minute of every day, I'd be doing something that was ultimately about what I wanted to do. I lived for no-one, but myself. Maybe I exaggerate a bit, but I'm sure there was none of this high-sensitive paternalist lark. But you know what, it's actually not only about paternalism. In that scene, where the boy and his Dad are just walking along, all casual and big coats, I think it's the possibilities of 'But where's Mum?' that pricks at me. Maybe they walk to meet her, as she finishes a shift at the factory, maybe they're off to spot lapwings, as Mum has Saturday morning to herself, maybe maybe.

I reach my destination, the local Tesco enormo-mart. It's as I'm scanning for tomato puree that I slide by a couple, both hollow cheeks and skin that's aged beyond their years. A young boy, gazing into the distance, sits in their trolley. And another emotional spike is thrust from within. By the time I locate the double concentrate, I'm tremendously distracted and realise that I need a break. I gently place the basket on the floor and leave the store.

I take a different route home.