Back in the early, twilight years of this blog, I wrote about my shoes. I wrote about how I only ever owned one pair at a time and how I only every wore Doc Marten shoes.

Some things change, over time. Some things don’t.

I still only ever own one pair of shoes at a time. I put them on in the shop when I buy them, bin the old ones, and on I go. That hasn’t changed. But I don’t wear the Doc Martens any more. I’d love to, but I just can’t make it work. I go through them too quickly, you see, and they’re a bit too expensive to be having three new pairs every year, which it how it was shaping up near the end. 

At first, I thought it was the fault of the shoes but, when I looked harder at it I came to conclude, as I often do, that it was all my fault. It all came down to the way at sit at my desk when I’m working. I tend to ‘perch’ a bit on my chair with my toes planted firmly on the floor but the rest of my foot bent back up. It’s much more comfortable than it sounds but it is very hard on the uppers of the old Docs. That’s where they started to fail and that’s why we had to part company. The new type of shoe I wear is black and nondescript and is not a million miles from the aesthetic of the Doc Marten shoe. Except, well, it is actually a million miles from the aesthetic of the Doc Marten shoe.

Another aspect of having only one pair of shoes is that I only tend to get the new pair when a crisis occurs with the current ones.

That crisis always takes the same shape. The rain comes in.

You never know you have a hole in your shoe until it starts to rain. That could be a proverb, I think, though I don’t exactly know what the point of it would be. It just sounds like it fits, doesn’t it? I was like that old song. I ran on for a long time, in nice dry weather, and I never even had a hint that it was new shoe time. And then, quite quickly, it became all too clear.

There are few things more instantly party-pooping than having a hole in your shoe when it’s raining. That damp foot seems to drain a level of optimism and goodwill out of the world. Your stride becomes a trudge. Your smile a little more forced.

Off to the shoe shop, post haste. They don’t have the shoes I wear now, not in stock. Would I like these, or these, or even these (which are exceedingly popular). No, no and no. I find myself unusually entrenched on the type of shoe I need. The same as last time. Accept no substitute. I recognise in myself a dogged need to not give any more ground on this matter. Life has taken away my Doc Martens from me, and I am ever-so-slightly the lesser man on account of that. I can’t allow it to chip away any further at my sartorial standards. The lady in shop confirms that, yes, she can order me a pair of the same shoes again but wouldn’t I like these ones instead? No. An order is placed. But it will take two weeks for the new shoes to come.

So now I face two weeks of wet socks.

Or the alternative, which is almost worse.

My eldest son went to a wedding, some years ago, and bought himself a pair of shoes which he never wore again. The shoes are my size and they’re there under his bed, although he’s in another city now. I try the shoes on. They fit. So I wear them to work. My feet are dry.


These shoes… they’re like skis. They are long and slender and they feel almost twice as long as my actual feet. I walk around in these winkle-picker monstrosities and I catch my toes on steps and I trip. I feel like a spiv, a ‘Flash Harry’. I feel like the guy with the small moustache in Dad’s Army. I will get you whatever you need, just at a price.

It's dry today, so I can wear my shoes with the holes in. Yes, there is a hole in each now. If it rains tomorrow, I will be in spiv mode again. Ducking and diving. Stick a monkey in my pocket…

God, I hope my new shoes come soon.


Yesterday was the day when I bring my aging car for its annual test to see if it’s roadworthy. We have letters to describe that test but I’ll spare you all of that because you probably have letters of your own, wherever you are, so you’ll know what I mean without my having to get too deep into it.

I washed the car. Well, the car wash did. I just stood to one side and read a few pages of my Agatha Christie while the machine got it done. Incidentally, the car wash machine has a memorable name. It’s either Jesus or Christ. I just can’t remember which.

I don’t like all this car test palaver. They make you wait in a little room with other people who all seem overwhelmed by a need to be over-chatty, as if that will somehow help their jalopy fare better out in the workshop. I generally go and stand outside and read a few more pages of my Agatha Christie and freeze my cojones off while the test progresses inside.

Here's the thing. This week’s thing.

When you first go into the test place, you are greeted with a hatch in a wall with a sliding glass screen. It is here that the car testing person will take your details and your car keys and your fee and bid you to wait. But there’s some other bidding to be done before you can get to that stage. The hatch is unattended because all the personnel are out in the workshop, testing cars. They’ll only come back in when they have a result for someone and when they need to get the next car to test. So there’s a note taped to the glass screen on the hatch. I can’t remember precisely what it says – hell, I can’t ever remember if it’s Jesus or Christ on the car wash – but here’s the general gist of it.

“Please take a seat and you will be called when we are ready for you.”

That kind of thing. It’s pretty unambiguous. I read it and I take my seat and my mind recalls another reason why I don’t like this process very much. It’s that sign. Well, no, tell a lie. It’s not the sign itself, it’s how everyone in the world seems to deal with it. Everyone, that is, except me.

I take my seat and wait to be called. Poirot’s case can no longer distract me. I know, all too well, what happens next.

A woman comes in. Don’t get me wrong, it could have been a man. It just happened to be a woman. I’m not even making that up for the benefit of the story, as I am sometimes wont to do.

This woman steps up to the hatch and near-sightedly reads the notice. Then she stands and waits at the glass. She peers inside. She checks the time on her phone. She shifts her weight from foot to foot.

The car test guy appears at the window.


“I’m here for my car test,” the woman proclaims, as if this was to be some kind of a surprise to anybody in the room.

What does the car guy do? Does he direct her to the sign (“Read the sign, lady.”) and exhort her to take a pew. Does he perhaps even gently reprimand her for not just taking the seat in the first place?

Does he?

To quote the late John Wayne: The hell he does.

He processes her.

While he’s doing that, a young guy arrives. He sees there’s a very short queue of one at the hatch and he gets in line. Guess what? He’s here for the car test. He gets processed.

Another person comes in… and another… and another.

During this gala of processing an elderly guy comes in, reads the sign, and sits down quietly beside me. He has a gentle air of compliance and despair about him. We sit and watch the busier, more important people parade past us.

“I am this guy beside me,” I think to myself, “I carry the subtle fragrance of other people’s boots on my back.”

Eventually, exactly at my appointed time. A car guy appears and rather annoyedly calls my name. I go to the hatch, bypassing a girl who is evidently in a dreadful hurry.

I am processed with kindness and good attention and I am processed at exactly my allotted time. I had, in fairness, arrived a little early, having set off early out of fear of possible traffic.

My car fails but that’s beside the point. It always does. I have a few small things to get attended to and then I’ll go back for a retest and that will be fine.

But the scene that played out bruises me a little. There is no reason that it should. I played my part in the smooth running of the test centre and I got looked after at the correct time and I got looked after well.

It’s just all those people who step in front of me, who ignore the signs. Well, they make me feel like a lesser person than I should be. I should be up there, getting all thick and confrontational with them. Possibly assuming a poor shadow of a New York accent.

“Hey, buddy, what’s the matter? Don’t you read so good? See the sign? You take a seat and they call you when they’re good-and-ready. Savvy?”

It’s not just that I would probably get hand-bagged and verbally assailed if I stuck my head up over the parapet like that. It’s more than that. It’s just not in my nature.

I am compliant. I generally continue to feel that being compliant is a pretty good thing. 

But, as I get older, I get to feel like maybe, just once in a while, it's not.

Reflecting on the Musical


I’m going a day early with the blog post this week, for reasons which will become evident.

On Thursday evening, at about 10.30pm, I was buzzing. Not literally buzzing, that would be disconcerting, but now I think about it, yes, almost-literally buzzing. I had just seen the Castlebar Musical and Drama Society musical production for this year and it had left me buzzing.

This year’s show is a production of ‘All Shook Up’ and, yes, I can almost hear you thinking about that because that’s the way I was thinking about it too.

“It’s a Jukebox Musical,” I was thinking, “loads of Elvis songs. It’ll be happy and clappy and I’ll see some of my favourite people up on stage and it will all be very well done and I will have a fair-old time.”

But it’s better than that.

It’s way better than that.

I’ve seen all the CMDS musicals bar one, (due to Covid). From Oklahoma, through Fiddler to White Christmas my expectations have always… well… not so much been exceeded as blown out of the park. So perhaps this year’s production is not the best production ever. Perhaps I’m too close to it to be objective, the buzz of it still lingering on a bit. Perhaps that’s it…

But I don’t think so, not really.

I think this year’s production is the best ever. A delight from start to finish. A fantastic cast. I’m not going to single people out but, by golly, there is talent up there. A great production and set. A Rockin’ band/orchestra. Directed, choreographed, designed, arranged, and managed to the highest degree. An uplifting experience.

I went expecting something really good and I got myself more than that.

A word about the ‘book’ or the play itself. As I said, it’s a Jukebox Musical. The songs get crammed in and the story generally bucks and swerves to apply some logic to the running-order. All of that, yes. But the writer, Joe DiPietro, here took it all a subtle notch further. Unexpectedly, the character who delivers all the Elvis energy is not even the central character to the story. He acts as an Agent Provocateur, shaking up the populace of a sleepy small town, in all the ways you might expect but in a couple of other unexpected ways too. Before the final curtain metaphorically falls (to a thunderous standing ovation) issues of race and gender and aging and social equality will have been probed and poked in clever little ways. It’s a Jukebox Musical through-and-through, make no mistake. But like that swivelling roustabout, it makes some nice moves.

So the reason for the early post is to tell you that there are just two more shows left and both of them are today (Saturday 11th March 2023). One is this afternoon and one is this evening. I don’t even know if there’s tickets, there shouldn’t be, but if there is, you could do a hella lot worse than to rock up to the TF here in Castlebar and then tell me I’m not wrong – that this is a great show.

This all got me thinking. What is it about a Musical that comes out of the local community to entertain us? Why does it work so well?

The first thing to say is that it doesn’t simply work so well. It has to be made to work so well. It has to be dragged, kicking and screaming along the theatre floor and thrown onto the stage on opening night with all the energy and professionalism and hope and faith that everyone can muster.

There’s an old perception that the community musical is a rather dusty old thing that you haul yourself to see out of a sense of duty and you gain some modicum of distraction by seeing your local butcher pretend to be a Siamese regent.

But it’s not that anymore, at least it’s now here in my place, where Castlebar, Claremorris, Ballinrobe, among others, move heaven and earth every year to stage the most outlandishly professional productions you could imagine. The most talented professionals are enlisted to bring whatever musical is chosen to the stage and it shows. Casting processes are tough and unbiased with the best person ending up in the best place. The result is invariably something to behold and, when it all clicks perfectly, as it has for Castlebar this year, it is little short of astonishing.

But here’s the thing I most wanted to say. The thing that got me sitting here typing on this sleety Saturday morning.

It’s the people. It’s really all about the people.

What I’m trying to say has is origins in that musty perception I referred to earlier, that it’s great to see the butcher asking you ‘shall we dance.’ But that’s not it… Let me think…

There is so much superb talent in the world, and all of it can’t make it to dance on the top of the pin. Not everybody can grace the Oscars, and the Emmys and the Grammys. Not everybody can fit up there. And you can have all the talent to take you there but it just never happens. That’s life. That’s Entertainment.

But this thing, this Musical Endeavour, it allows us to see and appreciate the literally world-class talent that lives in our towns and cities. The chartered accountants, the school teachers, the company managers, the sales assistants and yes, the butchers.

It’s not about someone getting up there and fulfilling some misguided ambition at the expense of a tolerant audience. It is all about very real and superb talent being granted a deserved moment in the limelight, with full orchestra and in glorious costume. It is a very, very good thing.

And we, the audience, we benefit from this too. We get to see something special, something successful and, what’s more, we get to see our peers, our colleagues, do it.

It is nothing less than a Communion. An instance of sharing. Talent and Appreciation of Talent, mutually exchanged and appreciated.

I mean, is it any wonder I was buzzin’?

Will Not Submit

One of the weaknesses I have come to identify in myself, as a writer, is that I will not submit.

And before I even get to that, I should give some mention of how very difficult it was for me to write that first sentence. I read it back and the cursor hovers over it, ready to pounce. My mind speaks to me.

“You can’t write that,” it hisses, “You can’t.”

But I have. Look at it. And I’m not going back now.

There’s only one word in it that gives me the shivers, that almost breaks me out in a flop-sweat. One word; ‘Writer.’

I find it hard to refer to myself as a writer, or even think of myself as a writer. It’s a sort of historic thing. When I was much younger, and I dreamed of making myself into a writer, I used the criteria of the day to define for myself what I would need to do to achieve that distant goal. It was never overtly stated or written down. There was no ‘Mission Statement’ per se. Just a corner of my mind that knew, without question, what had to be done.

Put as simply as possible. I would be a writer when somebody asked me to write something… for payment.

As I suggested above, this is quite an outdated yardstick now, in much the same way that a yardstick is also an outdated yardstick. I am fully aware that many books are published, films are made, plays are put on, without anyone ever asking the writer to sit down and write something, much less give them any money to do it. Following this very model myself, I have had over thirty different things – plays, short films, radio plays – produced and seen/heard, a number of them in multiple productions.

And still you’re not a writer, Ken?

Wait, wait, I am a writer. I wrote it down (eventually) in that first sentence up there. So, I know I am. Well, at some reasonable level, I know I am. There is still a real part of me that rails against the descriptor. It’s not Impostor Syndrome, at least I don’t think it is. I’ve just never got over the bar I set up for myself when I was a much younger man.

Now, finally, back to this matter of ‘submitting.’

I have stopped submitting stuff to people. That’s the weakness I mentioned right at the top. I write and write but I don’t send it out, I don’t show it round, not much anyway. I’m not sure why I stopped, a rejection letter or a failure to win something has never burned me that much. It stung a bit sometimes, sure, but not enough for me to pack it in altogether. And, in fairness, I got a few yeses in my day, I won a few things. Mostly, though, I tended to come second. I was pretty darned good at doing that for a while there.

I think I just got lazy. I like to write but I don’t get the same kick out of assembling a submission. So I don’t do it anymore.

Which is patently not true! The reason I am writing this is because I actually did submit something just this week. With the help of a creative friend, we got something in to someone that I think is quite tight and good. In fact, I think we may stand a fair chance at coming second. Plus there was some satisfaction found in the act of rounding it all up and getting it out the door.

Maybe some taboo has been broken. Maybe I’ll do some more submitting now. We’ll see.

Meantime, I will still struggle a bit to write the word ‘Writer’ in the required box.

As I think about it now, the only thing that really gives me comfort with my defining myself as a writer is my persistence. I don’t ever stop and I don’t ever expect to stop. In truth, I am driven to write. Why that is the case, well, it’s a bit of mystery. All I know is that, if I stop, I do not feel whole and, when I’m in the middle of doing it, I am often in a happy place.

I’ve think, somewhere along the way, a part of me has just defined myself in the act of writing. It’s as hard-wired as walking or talking or seeing. If I lost the ability to do any one of these things, I would still be me, but something intrinsic would have been lost and I would have fought and fought to try to cling on to it. That’s how the writing thing feels. And when I think of it in those terms, I become slightly more comfortable in calling myself by that name.

In that way, the first sentence of this piece, minutely altered, also becomes the last.

One of the strengths I have come to identify in myself, as a writer, is that I will not submit.