Monday, October 31, 2005

Visually-impaired spots

A day editing, and learning how to do an á on a Mac...

Something you notice editing (which you might not just from writing) is other people's blind spots. Lots of people join up some words, like "anymore" and "allover", while the Doctor is good at separating words like "how ever" and "further more". It's refreshing to know other people make the same sorts of basic error as I do.

Those who've proofed my stuff will know I mix up the homophones you're and your, and their, they're and there. I think this is because I hear the words rather than see them. I've also a gift for transposing numbers.

The thing is to be aware of your own blind spots: if you're checking for them yourself, they're no longer a weakness. Though that implies you re-read what you're writing before sending it in.

Which, editing other people's stuff, you realise isn't what all authors do.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

I feel unusual

Wimped out of most of the larking this weekend, ‘cos of feeling like shit. Woke up yesterday with what I thought was a hangover, only far beyond what a few ales should bring on. Despite yacking my guts up, aspirin, Coca-Cola and the good cheer of chums, I still felt miserable and unfunny by the afternoon.

Perhaps I’m getting old, I thought. And then a chum pointed out I had temperature reminiscent of a firestorm. Now think it’s some sort of Horrid Cold – the first of the season. Joy.

Fell home in a bit of a blur, and slept for the rest of the day – bar two excursions to the garden, returning toads the little sod brought in. And R., who I put up in exchange for floor space in Swansea, had to brave the taxis and 363s of South London all on his own. Weird thing about Horrid Colds and Flu is that you look better than you feel, so he probably thought me a right old wuss. No change there, then.

Slept most of today as well, though watched some telly and Star Wars. The Doctor rang from the States, and everything there has gone brilliantly. A well-received paper to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, no less. She mighty fine, that one. And the sonic screwdrivers she bought for her fan-mate’s kids have gone down a treat. So well done J., who sourced them.

Feeling miserable and missing her, I then did all the washing up I have not done since she left. And put some washing on. I even thought about hoovering.

No trick-or-treaters this year – unless I just slept through them. And the cat seems less freaked by the fireworks. This strikes me as like that bit in horror movies when it’s just too quiet.

Time Travellers has been seen in bookshops, and two paid reviewers tell me they’ve received their copies – so all on tenterhooks now. Meeting tomorrow to finish another book-shaped project, which will get announced in due course. The Settling has been cast, and my mum is delighted. Also – though it’s again got to be announced officially – I seem to be doing a book signing. Gosh.

Phil has typed up his talk on the Spirituality of New Show, and after all my nagging him, I now need to go and read it. So that I can then hack apart his claims for the naïve, superstitious flimflam they must be.

I think I am feeling a bit better…

Friday, October 28, 2005

Cabbage cleans the blood

5,561 usable words written today and sent in, linking together something that’s due to be announced any day now. Woo!

Last night, splendid fellows took me to see What have you done today, Mervyn Day?, with live music by St Etienne. We also had pizza and beer. The film is really interesting, with all sorts of facts and perspectives on the Lea Valley – like no one actually calling it that. And plastic and petrol and the Labour Party were all invented where the Olympic Park will now be. Proper social history, like. Not sure about the blood, but the splendid fellows passed on that cabbage might help with cancer.

It’s been ages since I last saw live music, and this was a corker. Recommend A Good Thing, which is out as a single on Monday. Sarah Cracknell still has the voice of an angel, and looks just as magnificent as she did when I first fancied her in my teens. The Barbican, though, is not built for dancing.

(Probably a good thing as far as my splendid fellows were concerned.)

Have heard from the Doctor, who has arrived, is tired and is missing the cat. Little sod brought me two toads today.

Having done my chores, off now to have some tea, and thence to the pub to begin a weekend of very serious, sober and spiritual reflection as part of a writers conference.

No, really. That’s what it is.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Lies, damn lies

A couple of weeks ago, I signed this blog up to Site Meter, partly 'cos of being curious, and mostly 'cos it was free. And very easy to do, too.

If you're feeling nosy, you can look up my stats (there's also a link at the bottom of the page), and even play with trends and locations and wossnames like that. 17 visitors a day, though, is actually not all that bad.

My current favourite is the "Countries" tab. I think I know who the Finnish and Canadian visitors might be. But Singapore?

And Saudi Arabia?

Well, whatever it is you were looking for, I hope you weren't too disappointed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dancing with planks

To see Stephen Fry last night, talking about his new book on poetry. It seems - having heard his excerpts and read up to chapter one – like exactly the sort of thing that would have made my teens very different.

Had the same feeling last year about Bryson’s unravelling of science and Wilson’s vivid, teeming history; books that opened windows in my head. They had me wide-eyed and delighted, buying more copies for everyone’s birthdays, muttering, “Now I get how it works…”

That said, had they been around as I started my A levels, I’d probably not have read them anyway. Studiously ignored the much-spoken of Ways Of Seeing for years. No idea why – it’s quite brilliant.

Fry had lots of interesting things to say – especially so, since they reached through to this entrenched prosodophobe. I’d been coming round to the idea, though, that poetry might have some value. An evangelical chum put some rude and funny verse my way. Then William Goldman compared screenplays to poetry as an exercise in concise writing, nuggets of meaning that can’t be said in any fewer words. Which has been useful in all sorts of ways.

I’ve written scripts of one sort and another, stories and pitches and blurbs, and then there’s the ever-concise copy that pays the rent. But never poetry. Lyrics, a bit. Bits of stories. But a great deal of what clutters the notebooks I’ve been keeping since my teens is bits of phrasing, execrable puns, shufflings and reshufflings of words. And though I bought Fry’s book for the Doctor (as something to take to the States tomorrow), I found myself leafing through it last night until 1 in the morning.

On the value of poetry, Fry cited Wilde, that all art is useless. But he then goes further: that the unnecessary embellishments of life are what make it worth living. We can subsist on food pills and concrete tower blocks, but it deadens us, erodes our social abilities and empathy. Instead, we – the lucky ones – have wine and music and painting, things that rise above the okay, the that’ll-do, the (and it is a pejorative) mediocre. I’m wary of using the term “art”, but by care of our “craft”, we can make stuff we do that much better.

Which is a cosy idea, but not new. It made me think of the Parable of the Talents, where there’s an inherent, moral obligation to make the most of what we’ve got. (Jesus, of course, taught morality through stories, which is why the Bible still has great moral value, without our having to believe any of it’s literally true, or that the main character is still alive.)

So Fry’s point seemed to be that making the most of the language we use – mucking about with top words like “plank”, “Bonobo” and “spoon”, then revising, cutting, rethinking the arrangements – makes for a better existence.

That playing is important. I remember Robert Harris talking about writing Pompeii (on the South Bank Show, I think). He’d done his research, he’d plotted the book out. The actual writing was just a series of “solutions” to get him to the end. But I hate the idea of just joining the dots. The last month of writing The Time Travellers was miserable because I knew where the thing was going, and I was shackled to this predestined end. So I came up with ways of doing things differently, to try and surprise myself (and keep me awake). Even the very last chapter is full of stuff I came up with right at the last minute.

(Though whether that actually keeps it fresher and more interesting, isn’t my decision. We’ll see soon enough…)

Afterwards, there were questions (and yes, the inevitable non-question from someone, going on about who they were and then making some judgment on all that had been said. You have to have one of these at any Q&A. If the organisers ask people specifically not to do this, you get loads of them).

Fry’s answers were longer, more rambling, more expansive – which made me think that he must have prepared his talk. It had been more concise, more structured, more sure. It was, for his efforts (and though I think rambling has value of its own) better.

No questions about Fry writing Droo (I was too cowardly). But a chum sent me this brilliant piece of balanced, unbiased reporting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Parallel lines

Today, Microsoft Word didn't recognise "microsite". Since I'm hot-desking at work and the defaults aren't my own, it automatically changed it to "crosstie".

This, as well as not being helpful, was not a word I'd ever heard of before. So I looked it up.

Oh, it's sort of from "tie across", and is an American word for sleepers (the things that hold railway tracks in place).

It doesn't, as I'd thought, rhyme with "frosty".

Monday, October 24, 2005

Power over the sea!

Went to the Trafalgar 200 wossname in Trafalgar Square yesterday, which was fun - especially when a bit of scenery caught fire during the big finale. Looked like it might do damage to the newly repointed National Gallery...

The whole thing was a big advert for the Royal Navy, with lots about its core values (courage, care, killing baddies...). But it was free, and the rain held off, and the final column-in-lights was cool. Overall, we learned that Nelson had a big willy, the Royal Navy still has that big willy, and you could have a big willy too, if only you signed up.

In other news, Joe Ford has written some very nice things about Lost Museum - at least, nice about me. (NB the full review contains SPOILERS.)
"I am full of hope for Simon Guerrier’s upcoming first Doctor novel, after listening to this story I expect it will be a real winner. Three things leapt out of me here, his excellent grasp of established characters; the ability to tell a satisfying self-contained story and the inclusion of some unique ideas. Most regular Doctor Who audio would be lucky to get one of those right, here Guerrier achieves a remarkable feat of squeezing it all into fifty-five minutes."
The shortness of the play (they're usually 65 minutes or more) is entirely my fault; the script was the wanted 70 pages, but it's meant to be fast and furious from the start, and I didn't compensate for that. Did the same thing with The Coup...

Oh, and I get a mention in this review of A Day In The Life. I'm simply "boring". Which will come as no surprise to readers of this blog...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Small, far away

Oceans of time ago, I dragged a mate to an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery to see “Full Moon”, Michael Light’s vast and remastered photographs from the Apollo moon missions. Although the accompanying book is well worth picking up, it can’t capture the wow factor of seeing lunar landscapes blown up huuuuuuge.

One of the oddest things about the pictures is the non-effect of the moon’s puny atmosphere. (It does actually have one. “Just the Apollo missions to the Moon increased the atmospheric density by a factor of 10,” as Mark Kidger explains.) Your traditional landscape shows aerial perspective – the blue-green blurring of distant hills in the distance. But the moon’s mountains remain pin-sharp, and since they’re also very much larger than anything down here, the real life moon looks like bad CGI.

At first, you’d think this obvious, cheap special effect would lend itself to the NASA never landed on the moon stuff. But not when you think about it; an “earthly” perspective would give away the scam.

Chuck's grandmother-in-law, all done with his thumbsAnyway. Having been dazzled by alien vistas, our ticket also got us in to a showing of portraits by Chuck Close, who I’d never heard of. Yes, I am a philistine.

Close’s portraits are huuuuuuge. They’re based on photographs, with the subject usually staring down at you from above. Reproductions in books and online don’t really do them justice – it’s the sheer bloody scale of them that’s amazing. The close scrutiny of the near and everyday made a great contrast to the moon snaps, and both muck about with the border between art and science. Which is nice.

Got to see Close speak last night at the NPG, as part of their self-portrait thing. He was candid about the mechanics of producing his work, and made some interesting links between his slow, one-cell-at-a-time method (which can surprise him even though the “bigger” picture turns out like he’d planned), and the same incremental steps in writing a novel. As he said, with each portrait based on a photo, it’s the “means” he’s interested in, not the “ends”.

It seemed to me that what's changed in his heads over the years is more interest in process, and an ease with showing his working. Precise airbrushing has been superseded by “wrong” colours, wild, whirling marks and a freedom close-up on the canvas that makes the portrait, only comprehensible from the far side of the room, all the more brilliant.

I also really liked his unpretentious style. A portrait of his grandmother-in-law, all done in his own thumbprints, had been hailed for "the intimacy of his having touched every detail of the face." No, said Close, he’d just been thinking how to make his work forge-proof.

Er… golly. Lots on art, and nothing at all on the new Boards of Canada album what I accidentally bought yesterday. Will have to do something about that sometime.

Friday, October 21, 2005

P-L-A-Y, playaway-away-way

Been to see two plays this week, which is something of a record. On Tuesday it was Mike Leigh’s "Two Thousand Years", about a guardianista family battling with itself.
“For the first time, the National Theatre has commissioned Mike Leigh to create an original play. Following his usual methods, Leigh has been working with his team to explore characters, relationships, themes and ideas.”
We went, to be honest, because the thing we’d booked for got cancelled, and I had entirely no idea what to expect. I’d not been in the Cottesloe before, and it’s a small, intimate place – one I didn’t really fit into.

Though I still had my doubts as the play began, it soon proved utterly mesmerising. The thing’s surprisingly contemporary, the characters discussing Katrina as well as the situation in Iraq and the West Bank. In fact, I now realise, over the summer the NT were advertising just “a new play by Mike Leigh” without any details of what it might be about…

Another thing that struck me (and still without giving anything away because you should go see it) is that some of the scenes are very short. In some cases there’s just one line, or even someone saying nothing at all, and speaking some development with a look. It punctuates the longer, more involved scenes. And it never occurred to me, what with the practicalities of staging it, that theatre could do stuff like that.

By turns political, funny, silly and deeply moving, “Two Thousand Years” is also really well observed. I recognised elements from my own and other people’s families. One to take the parents to.

Henry Irving as Matthius in ‘The Bells’ (from the collection of Miss Evelyn Smalley)Then, last night, we took O. to see “Henry the Great” by Nicola Lyon, in which five actors (including Donald Sinden and Dr Who's Richard Briers and Penelope Wilton) narrated the life of actor Henry Iriving. The pink and green striped ties – on the stage and in the audience – showed the play’s debt to Irving’s beloved Garrick Club (where the play was first performed last week).

(Also spotted Michael Kilgarriff in the audience. Smart red tie, not the tatty pink-and-green, I noticed. "That man was a Giant Robot," I told O. "Good-o," he replied, so paralysed with delight he looked bored.)

Again, I had little idea what the thing would be like, and it proved a really good hour of top facts and good jokes, culled from multiple sources (such as Ellen Terry’s autobiography). Two favourite examples:

Irving’s Hamlet was believed definitive, but Walter Collinson (Irving’s own tailor) much preferred his Macbeth. Which was odd, Irving thought, because that performance had been so derided. So, he asked his tailor, why the Scottish play? Collinson replied, “You sweat much more in that.”

At his height, Irving was making money through advertising – his face appeared selling beer and crackers and so on. His profile as Hamlet even appeared on the packaging of pills, the slogan, “To Beechams, or not to Beechams.” (Cue terrible groan from audience).



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The cooking fat just jumped on the keyboard. Best go see to the little sod’s needs.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Necessary detail

Went to see Serenity again with a brother last night, who was surprised to really enjoy it. Guess over the years he’s had to put up with more than enough shit from me... But he jumped at all the jumpy bits. And at thing that weren’t that jumpy. Wuss.

Definitely stands up to repeated viewings, though. Knowing where the wild plot is tumbling, you see how Whedon has packed in all the needed details early on: the reavers, Mr Universe, the relationships of the crew. It’s a deft and concise bit of writing. Git.

Since we just missed the 6 pm showing, we killed some hours before the next one getting soaked, eating steak, and generally just chatting ‘bout shit. Outside, the London Film Festival was apparently just under way, though we couldn’t see across Leicester Square for the rain. My review of The Constant Gardener, though, is now up at Film Focus.

Spent today working through the producer’s notes on The Settling, though he seems largely happy with it. Woo. The "audience won’t have a clue who Stafford and Castle are", he says. And he’s right. Revised script sent back in, though there may be some work still to do.

The cat has been racing in and out of doors all day, and I had to chase the Evil Grey Cat out of the kitchen at one point. The EGC makes this terrible, whingey mewling at the best of times, and my own little sod seems only to fight back when you’re watching. It’s been weeks since I last threw a glass of water over EGC, which probably explains why he’s all cocky again.

As-yet-announced scribbling work now awaits, and then off to commemorate the centenary of Henry Irving’s funeral.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The roof of the world

Wikipedia's This morning I went to a meeting, met some nice people, agreed some things about work, and stared dazedly out of the window. We were on the top floor of 1 Canada Square, and the view – as I’d predicted for Time Travellers – is breath-taking.

It’s odd to look down on the Millennium Dome, the anorexic Thames Barrier, and the tiny scrap of runway that is City Airport, with planes bundling down on to with alarming speed and ease. On clear days, they say you can see Cambridge and the Chilterns...

I like my job.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Blearing

My eyes have gone funny, having spent the afternoon copying out faded, photocopied, tiny print from six or seven years ago. Well, my fingers were doing the actual copying, but my eyes were keeping close watch.

Odd day yesterday, with some very good news that promised also to be rather expensive. Only Barclays couldn't do a transfer of the wanted amount via the Internet. So I rang them.

"It needs to be paid in one go," I said.

"Well," said the helpful, friendly man. "You could do it in installments over the week."

Nor could they do a transfer of wanted amount over the phone - even after going through security checks and questions. So, though I was freelancing in an office, I trooped off to see them in person, at the place round the corner. Which was swarming with lost looking souls. Spent 20 minutes in the queue, to find they can't do a transfer of wanted amount at the counter. Queued to see a personal banker, to discover they can't do a transfer of that kind after 3 pm. It was 2.58 by their own clock.

"But by the time we've filled in the form..." said the smiling, friendly lady.

Gah!

Was at the bank as they opened this morning, and this time the transfer was one the counter could do. Spent some time filling in a form, only to be told it was the wrong bit of paper for transferring sums to another bank. But by half nine, all was done. Of course, the form had to be faxed off to somewhere and then processed from there. But by now it should all be done.

Should be. They said they'd ring me if there were any problems.

They said.

Still don't really believe this is happening. But when all transactions have been made, I will admit what it is I am spending my money on.

Then, last night, to the pub to discuss work-type things. As a result, I am now swamped in projects of one kind or another. And some very exciting ones, too. There will be, as ever, some announcement some time. But drank two bottles of fizz with the Doctor to celebrate.

Hmm. Realise none of the above is actually very revealing. But at least an air of mystery makes me seem interesting.

And now back to washing up sauncepans.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hoot crowd

Torchwood at the BBC Dr Who websiteSo it's not another Bad Wolf. Already, of course, there’s talk among Droo authors about which things they’ve written this new show will be like, or whether it might mean More Books. My own mercenary first thought was, "definitely no UNIT year two, then..."

The UN objected to the acronym UNIT anyway, as detailed in Droo’s magazine. Had a go coming up with other things it might stand for. Best so far is "You know it’s top secret".

Speak of which... The office continues to debate the new James Bond. Is he suitably dishy? Should he be blond? Can he act the right way? Wasn’t he once some bum northerner?

I reckon Craig is an excellent choice, and an excellent actor and all. It’s odd to criticise him as 007 based on his previous work. Sir Sean had a dark past of odd film roles; Brosnan played terrorists in Long Good Friday and Fourth Protocol; Dalton owed "everything to Flash"; Lazenby's acting career prior to OHMSS had consisted of hefting crates. Only Sir Roger Moore had a suitable background as the Saint and Lord Brett Sinclair. Oh, and Niven, too.

It is surely a Good Thing to have an able and versatile actor, who might just bring something new to the dour silhouette Bond can be.

Like every Bond flick since ever, this new one is promised to be darker, grittier, more real and more like Fleming’s books. I assume we’ll soon hear how Vesper Lynd is a new kind of Bond girl, not like the ones who just melt when he looks at her, and able to handle her own. And Le Chiffre is a new kind of villain, un-camp and with a proper MO...

In all this effort to be more like the books' sexist, misogynist dinosaur, they’re also saying they’re ejecting regulars like John Cleese and Moneypenny – though the later, er, is in the book:
"What do you think, Penny?' The Chief of Staff turned to M's private secretary who shared the room with him.

Miss Moneypenny would have been desirable but for eyes which were cool and direct and quizzical.

'Should be all right. He won a victory at the FO this morning and he's not got anyone for the next half an hour.' She smiled encouragingly at the Head of S whom she liked for himself and the importance of his section.'"

Ian Fleming, Casino Royale, p. 23.

The first bit of skirt in the Bond books, and note she’s a new kind of Bond girl, not like the ones who just melt when he looks at her, and able to handle her own...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Speculative fiction

Crap things writers do:
  • Whinge about writing.
  • Miss deadlines.
Apologies for being guilty of the former to talk about the latter…

Deadlines are good; I don’t ever miss them. If there’s a deadline, the work gets done.
  • Show off the whole bloody time.
Partly that’s to do with having employed people myself, and dealing with the fall-out when stuff comes in late – if at all. It’s also probably to do with just showing off.

(With Time Travellers nearly on the shelves, I’m suddenly much happier about the thing, having hated the last couple of months actually writing it. Was delighted to escape, lolloping off to edit other people's stuff and write scripts. Scripts and anthologies involve other people, so there’s more showing off to be done. At least in the immediate. But now, having 288 pages written by me – and me alone – is something I’m already dining out on…)
  • Go on and on about some "great idea", rather than actually writing it.
Writing on-spec, on the other hand, I’m just rubbish at. Having cleared the decks a bit a fortnight ago, I fully meant to get up to my eye-balls writing up all kinds of projects that occasionally grace my notebook. Stuff that isn’t Who-related, too.

And has any of it got done? Of course not.
  • Find ways not to write, then grouse about not getting stuff written.
Anything else is much more absorbing. I’ve abandoned the housework, deleted computer games, avoided mailing lists, banned TV during the day… and I can still stare at the wall for hours…

What’s worked in the past is promising stuff to chums: “I’m writing a thing on-spec, and if I get it to you on Friday, could you look it over?” Not even at that stage yet, though. Hum ho.

Pitches, though, I can do. Pitched a whole raft of stuff to various souls this week, and have been asked to write up a few of them. Pitches are good because they’re showing off again. Keep it brief, make it different, leave enough space for the bosses to add their own stuff… and you might just win some new deadlines.
  • Fill up blogs and webpages with self-indulgent old tosh like this.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Unfortunate taste

So, as promised, those lions.

The Ghost and the Darkness is not the most brilliant of films and certainly not as good as William Goldman’s script, which I happened across first. It was going for a pound in a Greenwich bookshop and, when I finally read the thing, proved utterly mesmerising. Haunting, epic, funny and terrifying… You can understand Goldman’s despair (in the excellent Which lie did I tell?) at Hollywood’s failure to properly realise “Jaws directed by David Lean”.

The story is pretty simple, and based on real events. At the end of the nineteenth century, Prime Minister (and uncle) Bob Salisbury had to apologise to the Lords for delays in building a railway through Kenya. It seemed, he said, that two lions had appeared in the Tsavo area and, “conceived a most unfortunate taste for our porters.”

In charge of the construction was a chap called Patterson (played, in the film, by Val Kilmer), and it’s his job to get shot of the man-eaters. Goldman fleshes out the story expertly. I’d misremembered as Patterson’s own a brilliant bit where, sitting alone in his makeshift treehouse, he learns that lions climb trees…

Still, Patterson’s version is glorious, boy’s own stuff:
"The hunter became the hunted; and instead of either making off or coming for the bait prepared for him, the lion began stealthily to stalk me! For about two hours he horrified me by slowly creeping round and round my crazy structure, gradually edging his way nearer and nearer. Every moment I expected him to rush it; and the staging had not been constructed with an eye to such a possibility. […]

I kept perfectly still, however, hardly daring even to blink my eyes: but the long-continued strain was telling on my nerves […]

About midnight suddenly something came flop and struck me on the back of the head. For a moment I was so terrified that I nearly fell off the plank, as I thought that the lion had sprung on me from behind. Regaining my senses in a second or two, I realised that I had been hit by nothing more formidable than an owl, which had doubtless mistaken me for the branch of a tree […]

The involuntary start which I could not help giving was immediately answered by a sinister growl from below."

Lieutenant Colonel JH Patterson, DSO, "The Man-eaters of Tsavo and other east African adventures".

The lions are now on display at Chicago’s Field Museum, and last summer I dragged the Doctor along to see them. She was born not far from Tsavo, museums are her thing, and anyway, I wanted to see them…

They weren’t at all what I’d expected, to be honest. Put back together from the rugs Patterson had made from their skins, the two lions are smaller and a bit more battered than they were in real life. But the thing that really surprises is that they’re not anything like the lions in my head (and in the film). Goldman named them “Ghost” and “Darkness” because of their manes.

Tsavo lions, however, are maneless.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Christmas cover

Dr Who & the History of Christmas

Stuart Manning is jolly clever, isn't he?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I think we're beginning to materialise

I have made a Dr Who book and it is real.

Just this minute received 20 copies of Time Travellers, and have no one but the cat at whom to grin inanely. Guess the thing will start appearing in shops over the next three or four weeks...

Have already promised copies to more than 20 people, though.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I love the news

Vieing for the top-slot on the telly at the moment:

1) 20,000 dead in an earthquake.

2) Old plasticine lost in fire.

Admittedly the latter includes Morph, Chas and Gillespie, but it's not really the same, is it?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Hc svnt dracones

A fun night last night, arguing through the details of A Project. We also had chips and covered a range of topics probably best not repeated here (though perhaps something on New Dr Who and religion some time soon...). The gate-crashing Doctor enjoyed herself, too, fetching drinks and generally making herself useful. Wifes are good.

Icthyosaur at Crystal PalaceTo clear the cobwebs today, we fell up the hill for curry in Sydenham with S., and then the three of us went off to see monsters. It was a beautifully sunny afternoon, so the place was full of chirpy kids and families, and there were heron and ducks to coo at, too. Having spotted differences between the cumbersome brutes towering before us and modern science's wiry, birdie dinosaurs, we staggered up the hill for an afternoon pint, and accidentally fell into the small and tawdry museum.

There's some fascinating stuff in the cases, and the footage of weird stage acts is fun, but there's so much more that could be done with that place. The shop's not even got DVDs(!) Still, once the Doctor had begun perusing the bookshelves things began to get expensive. I bought a biography of Henry Cole - amongst other things, inventor of the Christmas card, and something of a hero. Also forked out for a lavishly-illustrated heavyweight on the Albert Memorial, which the Doctor fell in love with. Had to explain on the way home that it is not, in fact, cool. Still, there's apparently lots in it she didn't know about the eminent Victorian bloke she wants to write her own book about.

With my beer and some crisps, I will now be draft audience to a talk on Salman Rushdie. Husbands can be good, too.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Not just a comedy

Lost Museum has got 5 stars from Doctor Who Review. "It excels on every level," they say. Hooray!

That said, they also gave 5 stars to the previous Benny play:
"The Kingdom of the Blind is another triumph for Jacqueline Rayner. If only she could write all the Bernice plays."

Doctor Who Review: Kingdom of the Blind

Yes, if only.

MuggingAs requested, I have sent Tom at Dr Who’s Magazine a picture of myself. The Doctor vetoed me sending any silly ones, which made finding something quite a challenge. Even when I'm actively not mugging like a loon, I still look like I am. (This may just be an excuse, though.)

Too unshipshape to manage Liadnan's birthday last night, which I only found out about last minute anyway. Glad he's taking it so well, and not slipping into a miasma of despair and glum poetry.

Woolly divaOh, and received word that my friend the PVC Diva has set up a secondary LJ wossname, Thrifting Divas, for "them that likes charity shops and thrifting." Didn't realise she LJ'd in the first place, so have spent a happy time catching up with all her news.

I like charity shops, but only really for books. Too much a ridiculous shape to fit most cast-off clothes.

Off to the pub tonight, but It Is Work. If I keep repeating that, maybe I'll believe it.

Friday, October 07, 2005

I must be unwell

"Much of the story of Fitzrovia is of talent blighted, promise unfulfilled and premature death through drink."

Michael Bakewell, Fitzrovia – London's Bohemia, p. 5.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

We've got lions

Plus-oned the Doctor in to see The Constant Gardener last night. As well as rather liking that Ralph Fiennes, she was born in Kenya and knows much of its politics and whatnot from her parents.

Having "Nairobi" in her passport can cause problems. One week before 9/11, I took her on a day-trip to Paris (I had a full-time, proper-type job back then) where we quaffed wine, looked at nice windows and art, were dismayed by the response to a fire alarm, and staggered back to Gard du Nord a bit pished.

The Doctor continued ahead through passport control while I struggled with my bag. She got stopped and had her bag searched. The officious squit scrutinised her passport and asked "Why were you born in Nairobi?"

"That's where my mum was," she replied, bless her. Humour is bad in these situations.

Anyway, by this time I had turned up, figured there was a bag-searching thing going on, and had helpfully plonked my satchel beside the Doctor's, the flap wide open to show off my poor choice in books. The squit glanced at this, then at me.

"Is she yours?" he asked.

"Oh yes," I said, helpfully.

He nodded. "You can go."

The Doctor fumed all the way back to Waterloo. (Good name for our link to France, that. And you see a pub called "The Wellington" as you come out the exit, too).

I talked about the book of Constant Gardener a couple of months ago, and will one day enthuse here about Tsavo's lions. In the meantime, this should be the Kenyan national anthem. Forget Norway.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Less is more

Long day of writing which hasn't produced very much. Have decided against most of what I've managed. The Thing is, on reflection, much better as it was...

Started three or four different attempts at a blog entry, too. Even dared to just paste in an old fanzine article from years ago. Reading the thing again (to take out people's names), what I remembered as witty and literate turned out to be rather lame.

Guess it's a good thing that I can see when my writing's a bit shit. Hum ho.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Circuits and rings

People get weirdly proprietorial about weddings.

The Doctor and I (hitched 18 months ago) planned something entirely easy and hassle-free, and were both amazed by how difficult a few people wanted to make it. We've since burned bridges with people who weren't able to just turn up and have a good time, but there were all sorts of questions about venues and guests and food and music and last-minute changes to attendees... We spent months only dealing with people who couldn't (or wouldn't) come, and sorting out stuff that weren't working.

A month before the wedding, all that changed. I rang in from my glorious, surprise stag bash in Budapest to see how the hen night had gone. We were both wide-eyed and excited to discover that most of our chums were really up for the party. And that – disparate and unlikely a gang as our mates might be – it might all just work out fine.

As it did, too. Ours remains the best wedding I’ve ever been to.

Anyway, watched Panorama last night, and even the Doctor (who stalked round Windsor Castle on our honeymoon, muttering "Parasites!") felt sorry for Charles and Camilla. Practical decisions about venues and guests were headlined in the press as shocking conspiracy. Painful compromises, to ensure things were done "properly", were lambasted as gross impropriety. And then the Pope went and died...

The weekend was fun. On Saturday, the Doctor experimented (successfully) with home-made pizza, and we watched I Heart Huckabees. I didn’t know much about the film – reviews I can remember either loved or hated it, without really explaining why. We loved it, and the Doctor was quick to spot the debt owed to Barthes and the exploration of meaning. I especially loved the wild silliness of it – such as the small kid away in the back of one scene, playing basketball and sporting a cavalier beard and moustache. The sex scene is daft and dirty and wonderful, too. Laughed and laughed from beginning to end, and had to watch the free-wheeling music video twice.

Yesterday, a gaggle of manly, tough men took G. go-karting for his birthday. Meant a fair bit of deviousness, plotting and hanging-around, but the driving was brilliant.

Yeah, I could do this - unlike when I went target shooting last year – deftly over-taking m’colleagues at 50 mph, and no bumps or crashes or facing-the-wrong-ways to lose me points. More practised drivers of cars fared less well. Perhaps they were too worried about knocking their vehicles about. Me, I was perfectly controlled and all over the place. In fact – unheard of for me and physical activity – there was some debate afterwards about whether I came first.

(I deferred, of course, to the chap who signs my cheques...)

Oh, and it was a year ago on Saturday that I got commissioned for Time Travellers. So I've spent exactly a year beavering away from one Dr Who project to the next. Suddenly I've no Who-related deadline looming (immediately, anyway), and I've actually time to write Other Things.

Which is good, because there's this idea I've got...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What have I got in my pocket?

A leaving do last night for M. - who's not actually leaving, just not being full-time any more. M., who teaches and runs tours about art stuff, is always good for odd morsels of story. We chatted about the Courtauld, and its glorious "Don Quixote and Sancho Panza" by Daumier, which I fell in love with on a school trip half my life ago.

M. told me that in the 1830s, Daumier covered a court case as part of his politicising against Louis-Philippe's government (he'd already been to prison for drawing Louis-Philippe on the toilet). As now, drawing was not permitted in the court room. So Daumier spent the court case with his hands in his pockets, which he'd stuffed full of clay. Just by touch, he created busts of the principle characters...

Top fact! Admittedly, couldn't corroborate this story online (though I didn't google very hard). Will probably have to read a book or something. Golly.

(I was also spellbound by "Ratapoil" when I saw it in Washington last year. Brilliantly creepy, it's just the right size to walk off with under your arm, too.)