Wednesday, June 29, 2005

First sight of Christmas

Just this second received my contributor copies of A Day In The Life, which is a nice, chunky volume. Looking forward to reading it.

Even more excitingly, there's an add in the back for something else:

A short story collection edited by

ISBN 1-84435-149-1

Christmas is a time for many things. For family and old acquaintances. For giving, for receiving, for feasts and celebration. For huddling round the warmth of the fire, sheltered from the dark and the cold outside.

And the monsters.

It's also the busiest time of year for the mysterious Doctor, whether he's caught up in the violence of ancient Rome, taking Leonardo da Vinci on a day trip to the stars, or popping in on the very first Christmas on the Moon.

Spend Christmas with the Doctor. If you dare.

Featuring stories by Marc Platt, Jonathan Clements, Eddie Robson, Joseph Lidster and many more!

Monday, June 27, 2005

No tea, Harry

A wiser man than me recently ticked off my pronouncing the 't' in 'often'. It's meant to have a glottal stop, he said.

Reckon 'glottal stop' should 'ave a glo'al stop, 'an all.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

It can't be done

Locals Marc Kelly and Nick Walters at the Clifton Suspension Bridge, August 2004Lyrics to a song about the building of Clifton Suspension Bridge, from Great!, Bob Godfrey's Oscar-winning, animated musical biography of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

'It can't be done, you haven't a chance, there isn't a possible way.
The chains will bend, the girders snap, the bridge will blow away.
What's more we can't afford the price - it's rather high you see.'
And he replied, 'It's great, you fools. And I am IKB.'

'It can't be done, you haven't a chance, there isn't a possible way.'
Since he was born they've always said, 'It can't be done today.
Just wait till they invent the car or electricity.'
And he replied, 'It can be done, and it'll be done by me.'

'It can't be done, you haven't a chance, there isn't a possible way.'
That's what his nurse and his mama and teachers used to say.
'They'll never go under the Thames,' they said. He said, 'Just wait and see.
Just give me a rope and a little piece of wire and I'll do it after tea.'

The House of Lords to spoil his plans consistently tried.
They said, 'His engines will not run on gauges seven feet wide.'
When Wellington was rather old he heard of Brunel's boat.
He said, 'If you build it with iron the thing will never float.'
Brunel said, 'You're the iron duke. It's clear you're all at sea.
The ship will sail, you bet your boots, or I'm not IKB.'

Saturday, June 25, 2005

King of the hill

A king stands on the grassy peak of a hill, at some point between the Romans sodding off and the Normans sodding on. From this vantage, he has a great view all round. He can see his lands, his wealth... and the enemy army down in the valley before him, preparing to wage war.

The king is surrounded by his closest, most loyal, most able men. Around them are their best men, and so on and so on, the king's army commanding all the hill. Each concentric ring is another rank of soldiery, the outer bands full of peasants and farmers paid housecarls, even idle men here by accident of fate. Some out at this range might not even know the king's name.

Housecarls from the Bayeaux TapestryAround the perimeter of the king's defences, men with shields jostle up close, creating a protective wall. They will be the first to engage the foe, the first to die. And because of this, they are fiercely proud. They might be well-paid, but it can never be enough.

The king looks out, over the heads of his army, down on the enemy mustered below. He feels safe on his hilltop, surrounded by his garrison. He is restless, sure the land under the enemy's feet rightly belongs to him. He might even be a bit bored.

'Let's show 'em what we are, then,' he says.

The men beside him nod, and pass the order outwards. Word makes it through the ranks, leaking through to the proud shield-bearers on the perimeter. The shield men take up the call. They get the message, and yelling it for all they're worth, they charge.

At best, these men will be decimated and their king will win the day. At worst, every one of them, and every one of the men behind them, is dead. Their first wave will be crucial, and they have to believe that the rest of the king's men are close behind them, with them all the way.

'We're leading this,' they say to themselves as they break against the enemy's own wall of shields. 'We're leading this,' as they fight and hack and die, smashing themselves and the king's message against the unyielding foe. 'We're leading this,' they say, as they fall, broken bodies trampled into the mud by their own comrades.

Their names will not be remembered. These men are fodder, for all the king cares. All that matters is that there are people so willing to carry his word into the fray.

Today, they would be his advertising agency.

Hot and cold

The fifth Dr Who turns upIf IMDB and my maths are correct, then Peter Davison was 29 when he sat up on his elbows and looked a bit bewildered.

So, as of today, I am the same age as a Dr Who.

Obviously I'm feeling old, because a birthday isn't a cause for excitement so much as a cue to philosophise. About Dr Who, anyway.

Davison is now (counts on fingers...) 54. So next year, the dashing young Doctor with the pleasant, open face will be the same age as William Hartnell was, when he first got the gig. I had to do the counting a few times over, to convince myself that really is the case.

Anyway. Splendid, easy birthday with breakfast in bed followed by a surprise trip to Tonbridge Castle. It's been recently done up, and the audio-guide round the place was exactly right, with plenty of (admirably brief) contemporary sources giving vivid, sometimes funny accounts of how the whole thing worked. Just my cup of tea, and the Doctor approved at a professional level, and all. Boozy long lunch followed, and we never did get to Tunbridge Wells. Mmm.

Absolutely sweltered though - and England seems far stickier than Italy. On the way home, we stopped off for shopping, and the sky was clearing its throat as we left Sainsburys. Being rained on at the end of a hot day is bliss.

Did very well for loot this year, and am already enthralled by The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - a gift from the Baldrick-in-law. Good castle, good book, good booze, and the good Doctor recommends snuggling down in front of Star Wars tonight.

Probably doesn't get much better than this, does it?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Overcoming opposition

Just back this afternoon from some days in Italy, where I helped nice people clear what was once a compost heap and will soon be a workshop. Bit tanned, very bitten, much better for not seeing a computer all week. Mmm, nice.

While there (well, while getting there and back, to be honest), I finally read NHS plc, which my dad has been raving about (and for which I swapped him Paxman's excellent The Political Animal). As the old man promised, it's an extraordinary, damning and horrifying study and everyone should read it.
'New Labour's chief tactics were to denigrate the existing public services and tout the imaginary superiority of market-based services in other countries; to add fuel to public discontent by aggravating and highlighting exisiting points of stress; to muzzle internal critics; to dismiss and/or contaminate scientific evidence; and, finally, to attempt to discredit, marginalise and intimidate anyone bold enough to point out what was really happening.'

Allyson M Pollock, NHS plc: the privatisation of our healthcare, pp.194-5.

Have passed it on to the Doctor.

Also zipped through one of the funky, hardback ninth Doctor Who novels, which was something of a contrast. Loved it, loved how it felt just like the TV show, loved this bit in particular:
'Freddie grinned. The grin froze, then faded as Rose leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks," she said.
He was rubbing the cheek as he walked away, glancing round embarrassed.
"I only kissed him," Rose said.
"He's a boy," the Doctor told her.
"I thought that's what they were for," she grumbled, following him down the street.'

Justin Richards, Dr Who - The Clockwise Man, p. 130.

In other Droo news, A Day In The Life is now out, and includes Dr Who meeting a chap called Brimmicombe-Wood. Which is kind of funny now, what with the Doc's new, weird teeth and all... Stories for Christmas are trickling in, and there's some other stuff I hope to be able to boast about soon...

Off to do washing up now. And maybe have a shower and a shave - currently doing a good impression of a hairy, stinky farmhand.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Long live the apple-bong!

Oh, the urban dictionary just get's better and better. A chum sends me this listing :
Chief Guerrieri of the Toke-a-lotta-weed Tribe
All hail Guerrieri, and long live the apple-bong!
Guessing it's not related to the wine, which the Doctor and I drank quite a lot of having booked our wedding. And when we took my folks out soon afterward. And when we had a big dinner, the night before the hitch itself. Ah, happy days...

Off to Italy tomorrow for a much-needed holiday. I shall not be looking at a computer for a whole five days. Hooray!

It'll all be old news by the time I get back, but see how nobly I have not got involved in discussions like the one Phil's been having. Happy to report that the Fear Forecasters were delighted with the thing.

And you know what? So was I.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I know what Bad Wolf is

I love Dr Who.

It'd be ungallant to reveal anything before the episode has been shown, but hooray for another whole year of Billie, and hooray for Season 3.

Spoilers, if you want them, provided by the Times.

An apprentice in knackerness

During recording of The Coup last summer, the Brigadier* asked about the derivation of my surname. It's French for 'warrior', but AIUI it's more specifically the hired-help a king might call in when facing some kind of barney. So it's the same sort of thing as a mercenary, or a ronin... or a freelancer.

My elder brother has just told me it means something else entirely in Irish slang.
[...] a Dublin knacker/scumbag/scanger!!
Usually a young person or even a kid i.e. an apprentice in knackerness!!! ;)
that little gurrier tried to rob my mobile!

Off to the press screening of Parting of the Ways tonight at BAFTA, and already jittering with excitement. The Doctor, aptly, is coming too. And admits she's might even be looking forward to it. Full report tomorrow.

[* Actually, of course, the Brig is now General Sir Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart. He asked about the knighthood, too, and what he'd done to deserve it. More than enough, I reckon.]

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A name for my pain

Went to see Batman Begins at the IMAX last night, to review it for Film Focus. No Catwoman. Hardly any women. But cool, though.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Two hours before we met

Something Changed is in. Done. Delivered. 84,883 words. Details of authors and the blurb will be forthcoming.

Oh, and apparently the authors for History of Christmas get announced in Dr Who Magazine, in just over a week. Woo!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Believe in a thing called love

'A hippie is a Countercultural with political rationale. A crusty is an aggressively or else helplessly unhygienic ditto: with extra righteousness or extra nuisance value, depending on your point of view.'

Gwyneth Jones, Bold As Love, p. 372.

Reading this at the moment, based on it having won the Arthur C Clarke Award (always a good recommendation). It's an odd but engaging read: a near-future England where rock-and-roll is getting into bed with the government. Not so unlikely, considering Live8, I guess. Wonder what my old tutor, George McKay, makes of all this... Is it sleeping with the enemy, or a reasonable demand for the impossible?

Bold as Love by Gwyneth JonesAnyway, the book. Ax Preston is the dictator-elect, and also guitarist with 'The Few'. His mate Stephen/Sage/Aoxomoxoa spends his whole time hidden behind a 3D mask that makes him look like the living dead. And both are in love with Fiorinda - a teenage girl with a *really* messed up past, who might just be a witch. There's a war with the islamic community, there's the festival site in Reading getting washed away in a storm, there's a girl being kidnapped by ne'er-do-well immigrants, there's all sorts of fights and drugs and explosions... All good, exciting stuff, with good characters and surprises and that sort of thing.

But there's very little in the way of the mechanics of politics. We never really get to see how decisions are made, or how grievances sorted. It all kind of ambles along under Ax's forever vague catchphrases:
'Be good to each other, It's the ecology, stupid. Positive interference, start from where we are, the natural environment of people is people, if we can just get through this part...'

Ibid, p. 387.

The rock stars - as in their music, so in their politics - try to do their own thing, and just kinda hope people'll follow them. Which, for the most part (i.e. bar some explosions), handily they do...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

You were my brother...

Revenge of the Sith is better the second time round. Went with two of the brothers and the Doctor - who was shocked by the all-out violence, but didn't cry at the end.

Since I knew what was going to happen this time (well, I kind of knew last time, just didn't know how), it was easier to pull back from the eyeball-popping spectacle and spot stuff I'd missed. And enjoy it all the more because I wasn't constantly trying to keep up.

Oh, and Obi-wan claimed he couldn't possibly go fight Darth Vader, because Annakin "was like a brother". He obviously doesn't have real siblings. Mine never paid for their tickets. They will die, they will die.

Monday, June 06, 2005

We wuz... too late!

A quite scary glut of years ago, back when I believed in that sort of thing, I used to be an altar-boy for this bloke. Which, er, means I can claim one degree of separation from the new pope. Oh yes.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Dr Who is afraid?

A week to go, and I still have entirely no idea what Bad Wolf might be, though surely it's not what Popbitch thinks (highlight to read):
Dr Who fans are in a froth on the internet about a big twist in the series. Each episode has contained references to Bad Wolf - graffiti,posters etc which, they say, will turn out to be the name of a reality TV show that the Doctor, in Truman Show style, doesn't know he's been starring in all series.

Weirdest thing is that Popbitch is even bothered, as if Dr Who plots matter. You know, matter to normal, everyday folk and not just us social inadequates who drink too much. Just last week I manfully resisted leaping in to the following discussion, overheard somewhere I work:

  1. "Why was an American (Captain Jack) in London prior to Pearl Harbour?"
    (It was patiently explained that Jack is really from the 51st century, that he's a time agent, and that "his story keeps changing". Oh, and it's since been pointed out to me that "there were American volunteers prior to that".)
  2. "Was William Hartnell the one in black and white?"
    (General consensus: yes, but so was Jon Pertwee, who had a double-act with Brigadier Somebody).
  3. "Was William Hartnell the one my mate fancied?"
    (General consenus: probably. Peter Davison was too weak).

Friday, June 03, 2005


The Doctor's experiments with her camera continue, and here is a splendid shot of Pierre Vivant's traffic light tree sculpture at Canary Wharf.
Pierre Vivant's traffic light tree sculpture at Canary Wharf.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Clash of the Titans

Blackadder on last night, with Stephen Fry as the Duke of Wellington, blathering about Nelson being up in the Arctic. Bah.

Wellington and Nelson did actually meet, just the once. This from Philip Guedella's The Duke (pp122-3):

'One day he had a strange encounter in "the little waiting-room on the right hand" of the old colonial Office in Downing Street. Another visitor was waiting there already - a sad-eyed little man, "whom from his likeness to his pictures and the loss of an arm" Sir Arthur promptly recognised as Nelson, home from the sea and happy in a few weeks of Emma Hamilton and "dear, dear Merton." The Admiral began to talk and, as Wellesley recollected drily, "entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was almost all on his side and all about himself, and in, really, a style so vain and so silly as to surprise and almost disgust me." (Sir Arthur was unlikely to be captivated by the manner which, when expressed in an excess of stars and ribbons, had elicited from John Moore the pained comment that their wearer seemed "more like the Prince of an Opera than the Conqueror of the Nile.) Then, suspecting something, the sailor left the room, learnt the identity of the spare military man, and came back transformed. All that the General "had thought a charlatan style had vanished, and he talked of the state of this country and of the aspect and probabilities of affairs on the Continent with a good sense, and a knowledge of subjects both at home and abroad, that surprised me equally and more agreeably than the first part of our interview had done; in fact he talked like an officer anda statesman." So the French marched to Austerlitz, and the first broadsides of Trafalgar came faintly up the wind, as Nelson and Wellesley sat talking one September day in a room off Whitehall. Lord Castlereagh was busy; and they talked above half an hour. The talk stayed in Sir Arthur's memory; and after thirty years he judged that "I don't know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more," adding the shrewd reflection that "if the Secretary of State had been punctual, and admitted Lord Nelson in the first quarter of an hour, I should have had the same impression of a light and trivial character that other people have had, but luckily I saw enough to be satisfied that he was really a very superior man; but certainly a more sudden and complete metamorphosis I never saw." They never met again.'

(It's the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar this year, with stuff going on and that.)

The Wake

Hello. This is my blog. Not sure exactly what I'm going to use it for, though. Possibly nothing.

Tra la la.