Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Some assignments

Big Finish have announced my Sapphire and Steel play, The School. Nothing more to say just yet, but woo! As well as writing up that these last few days, I’ve also had fun coming up with odd stuff to extend the-thing-that-was-short. And begun another thing that’s due in by the end of the year.

But a pitch I really liked has been turned down (albeit kindly, and with good reasons). Bah.

My copies of History of Christmas arrived on Monday, and am simply delighted (though I’ve had a typo pointed out already, dammit). Hopefully, it’s a broad range of stories with something for everyone. The ideal Christmas present, in fact. Go buy, go buy.

I’ve also seen the covers for the almost-at-the-printers Parallel Lives and Something Changed. But you’ll just have to wait for those. Bwah ha ha. I also have a fat wodge of Benny stuff to read through and edit.

And still unpacking. And sorting out tedious flat-stuff. And cleaning up cat-sick…

Went to see Harry Potter last night in the Ritzy, which we’ve not been to since the glamorous days of the diva. Fab, scary and funny, and the best one yet. The Dr was thrilled by Snape tugging his cuffs, and even found Fiennes delicious as a monster. There’s a bit, though, where he looks like he’s on fire, which puts him into her same special category as Rochester, Vader and the English Patient.

Top Xmas treat from Radio Times.The brother’s better-half is also taken by the new Dr Who, even when he’s so splendidly evil. And Droo has got the cover of the Xmas Radio Times! This can’t all be happening, can it? Beginning to suspect I’m really in a coma…

Dr’s not so bothered by Kong, due to her weird fear of monkeys. (No, I know Kong’s a great ape, not a monkey. Argued that one myself. Doesn’t matter.). Also, the wondrous original made her cry.

So I’m off to see it with my boss this weekend at a press theeng. And I don’t even have to write anything up. Hooray!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Nature’s way of keeping meat fresh

Call me a colds magnet. Full of snot and shakes and bleurg, which has cost a lot of money this week in undone work. Just what I need right now. And I’m not sure whether the new pad is cold, or whether it’s just me shivering anyway.

Parents visited on Tuesday, and once we’d shifted all my old tat indoors, Dad and I took a stroll round Crystal Palace to see the sights: the ugly, Stalinist sports centre, the fat dino-monsters, and the rusty music stage.

We chatted about how the place has changed in the 30-odd years since he last mooched round it with my toddling elder siblings, in the days before me. Like Greenwich Park, you can forget you’re in London – because the hills and trees surround you with greenery. Flat, open spaces like Clapham and Peckham are just glorified roundabouts. But this is home.

Also pointed out how the ruins of the Crystal Palace’s sculpture gardens resemble the ruins of antiquity – such as the asklepion on Kos, thought to be home to Hippocrates.

Asklepion on Kos
Crystal Palace at, er, Crystal Palace

(Many years ago, I pointed that one out to the Dr. And not the other way round. Think it gets a mention in one of her papers.)

Also asked about the monocyclist. Yes he was real, and worked with my Dad in the late 70s. An American and a medievalist, too. Explains everything.

The Dr had prepared suitable stew for the evening, and we nattered our way through several bottles of booze. Kitchen works then. And having people round for tea makes it real. Like I said, this is home.

Finally finished watching Blackpool, which we missed last year. It’s excellent, and like Second Coming should be required reading for New Show. Kept me guessing to the end – especially the last-minute red herring about Steve’s grown-up son. What a very wonderful thing.

Also watching Droo commentaries, and surprised (in Doctor Dances) by Steve Moffat saying no one noticed what’s possibly my favourite line from the whole year: the Doctor’s stark, rationalist view of creation. So I’ve made it today’s heading.

(“Creation” is an odd word. It tends to get used to mean “origination” – i.e. things made from new. But the Latin “creare” means, I think, “growth” – i.e. development of something already there. Is that right, clever readers? Does “Creationist” then actually mean, er, “Evolutionist”?)

Still not got round to writing up my notes in response to Phil’s godly nonsense. But Moffat’s got him in just six words. Hah!

And two things to celebrate:

Official word that my uncle is getting married on 17 December. Hooray! Too little notice and too little cash to get over to snowy Detroit, but we’re promised some kind of bash this side of the pond next year. ‘Bout bloody time. His soon-to-be father-in-law is a Droo fan, though. Surely worth pausing for thought…

And History of Christmas has been seen in the building. Ooh!

Monday, November 21, 2005

“I’ve been moving so long…

...The days all feel the same,” as philosophic hairy-persons Supergrass would have it.

Movers were cool and quick, and we discussed how London is not like Brazil. The cat was all out-of-sorts, refusing to get into his catbox for travelling, and forging a particularly stinky, liquidy poo as protest. He chirped up, though, when the Dr came home from work, and seems sorted since we rebuilt the sofa.

Made our way to B.’s in the evening for toasties, booze and lovely, lovely Dr Who. Cor, Tennant’s it, isn’t he?

Fell asleep contented and cosy, then had to trek home. What’s happened to the air? I boasted in Sweden of our Indian summer… I think it’s now colder here. Too bloody cold, and a hundred pages into Fifty Degrees Below, I’m finding the weather plain scary. Perhaps the Ice Warriors were right about the effects of global “warming”.

On Saturday I clattered down to the olds’, while the Dr awaited deliveries. Had a cathartic afternoon binning my GCSE, A-level and degree notes, stuff slaved over half a life ago. Filled a bin-bag with paper for recycling, and two bags of more generic rubbish. I’m hard and ruthless, me.

Then back into town for fine wine with Liadnan and other chums, who’d got four hours’ head start. Not a problem.

Yesterday, R. escorted me to Barking, where I signed some things for people who’d come to see Van Statten, Gwyneth and the Gelth. Saul Murphy – who’d never done a signing either – was amazed by a fan who knew he’d been in Empty Child (for a moment, in the nightclub), as well as inside an Auton and Adherent. And some folk glower if you write comments as well as your name… But lots of ego-ballooning fun, and some people even claimed to like the book.

Back home, where the Dr reciprocated for B. with spicy Mexicana, and we cooed at the extras on the Season 1 DVD. Especially wowed by Mark Gatiss’s video diary, which is chock-full of tantalising insight into writerly process. Yes, it was long and consuming work, but I’m all the more envious now… Billie’s diary is fun, too, and though the menu takes some sussing, this is a package that even makes storyboards engaging. Hooray!

Fell down the road to join chums in what’s now our local, though we were already suitably oiled. To my great embarrassment, work needs doing on something I’ve wrote. Have a wheeze how to fix things, and the Boss seems happier. But dammit.

Into work this morning, and it’s alarmingly quick from the new place. Just time for Frank to learn his mystery woman’s name, and I had to pack the book away again.

A world of emails to work through, though I’ve got some more writing work, of a spooky sort. Announcements in due course.

Tomorrow, while the Dr and my mum are pampered in style, my dad is hefting the keepables to our new pad: boxes of stories written when I was 10, beloved books and ornaments, and three bin-liners full of Droo stuff. Plus £100 of cat-toy to compensate for the loss of the little sod’s garden. He’ll probably be sick on it.

Fed up with cardboard boxes, and the flat is piled high with Things Needing Sorting. The Dr has been working wonders, but we’re dog-tired and craggy, and now I hear the new washing machine won't play.

And this is just Monday…

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Radio silence

About to unplug the computer, so this may be the last from me for a bit. Stop that cheering.

Play was top last night – full of dead babies, a hanging, a drowning, and the reporter from Aliens of London dribbling blood and seeing visions. Cool. Also some Handel and jokes.

During the interval, some wide-eyed schoolkid came over and asked if I knew if it was going to be like this. Obviously saw me as someone who wouldn't normally find themselves in a theatre (looking so cool and young as I do), but just the sort to appreciate freaky violence...

Looks like something I pitched in September might get picked up. Which’d be nice. Got notes to write up for some other pitchy things, plus a short story due in at the end of December.

And little Huw is jealous. Naw. Though it's not "Reggae", it's "Moose".

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Whistling through the house

Discussed my trouble writing about music (think it’s cos I like tunes to zone out to), left Sin’s at half six (UK time) last night, and got home just after 1 this morning. Blimey, I’m tired. The Dr has been extremely busy, and most of our life is now stowed away in boxes. My turn now.

Done a few bits of work promised elsewhere. The boss has agreed to let me do something a bit different with the blurb for The Settling, which I’ve just delivered. Woo.

Listening to the new Kate Bush album, which is nice enough to work to (the Dr tells me the second CD is where the cool stuff’s at, though).

Tonight we’re off to see Coram Boy at the National, tomorrow it’s work plus the rest of the packing. Friday moofing, hopefully done in time to see new Dr Who. Saturday I’m meant to pop back to the olds to sort some stuff, racing back for Liadnan in the evening, and scribblings on Sunday.

Somewhere, sometime there’ll be sleep. And maybe the welcome-home snog that remains overdue.

My co-writer for this postMy co-writer for this post

No, not you, needy cat who won’t leave me alone for five minutes. You happy I’m home, then?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Like Sliding Doors...

“…but several shades more complex and interesting.”
Joe Ford’s kind, spoilerific review of Time Travellers is nice. As were The Settling’s cast. Clive Mantle is brilliant - and my mum’s terribly envious I got to meet him. Another member of the cast lives next door to where I met the Doctor. Weird. Blurb will follow soon – about to write it now.

Game was fun yesterday, though I rather backed myself into a corner by being “just the driver”. Imagine Han Solo, only Luke hasn’t convinced him to care… Difficult to make a conspiracy thrilling when my motivation is not to care. Kudos to G. for making it work despite this.

Dead early this morning I stumbled through some stuff about the English language with 72 Swedish kids. Not sure if they looked bored ‘cos they couldn’t understand me, or because they could. Best question was “Why should we learn English?”

Hmm… well, it’s a well-spread language and world leader and blah. But what seemed to go down well (if not with the teachers) is that you don’t need a lot of English to be understood. I mean, Sin speaks – and teaches – English with a thick Burnley accent, and half the time I’ve no idea what he’s saying. Aaaaah.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sin's victors

Greetings from chilly Sweden. The Deniz birthday proceeds well, though the central heating, eating and drinking means I am quite dozy. Staying up nattering till 3 and 4am has not helped.

Still, my team won the games yesterday - due álmost entirely to one good hand of Top Trumps. Learnt lots of top facts and made new friends. Much discussion of Star Wars - like is Tack mentioned on screen - and our host's godawful taste in tunes.

Am not very good at Quoridor. Nor at Swedish keyboards which have odd ö and ä and å keys where I want apostrophes and things. Sörry about odd accents and stuff. Gah.

Tomorrow I am Star Wars role-playing. Not rped for years and years, but think I recall the method. Am going to be a Mon Calamari, of course.

Missing the Doctor, though she has been keeping busy doing painting and house chores. Wonder if there's anything left to drink...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Out, just out

Loads to cram in tonight…

Lively do on Tuesday, Gaiman discussing the intrinsic joy of stories, and how without them – and asking “what if?” – we’d all still be mooking about the African savannah, waiting for animals to drop dead so we could eat them.

Gothier, freakier audience than for Fry, and a much better quality of question. Notably, there were no stalkers, or “me and my opinion” bores. The nearest was a bloke politely enquiring if he might get a second question… Naw.

I’d heard many of the stories before through the blog, but it’s fun to hear them out loud, and with someone beside me who doesn’t know, for example, of the melty-eyed Muppets in Hampstead.

Gaiman also talked about the use of blogging; keeping the brain limber, engaging with ideas. See, it’s not merely for parrying real work. Honest.

Lenny Henry, who was there to read from Anansi Boys (which he’d got the ball rolling on a thousand years ago by muttering that horror never has any black people in it), laughed at a question about whose universe would get used if Gaiman and Joss Whedon teamed up. Gaiman laughed back: Henry’s a comic-reading geekboy, bad as the rest of us, and all-too-versed in other people’s universes…

(Not sure “universe” – meaning entirely everything – is the right word, ‘cos you can’t have more than one entirely-everything. Nor is “parallel” the right term either. “Parallel worlds” tend to be the same but different, where one choice made the place go a different way. But parallels don’t intersect… “Branches” is probably best, and cf. chapter 9 of my bloody book.)

Gaiman lives a really enviable life as an author – it’s endearing how little there is that he doesn’t like or isn’t interested in. Or, at least, how little he’ll say that’s not keen. Really inspired by his enthusiasm for all manner of anything. “Research” is an excuse to poddle round LA looking at graveyards, a “block” (not a term he likes, he was keen to explain) means beach-time in Barbados, puzzling things out…

Dead envious of Henry, too, who’s read Miracleman #25. Bastard!

There was all kind of name-dropping, as Gaiman’s loved by Tarantino’s mum, wrote some of his book in Tori Amos’s spare house, and couldn’t judge what Angelina Jolie is really like because he had her wearing an all-over, blue, gimp-sort-of suit for reasons of smart CGI…

Yes, I thought. That’s the sort of writerly schmoozing I’d like to get at some day. And then spent yesterday with Sylvester and Sophie and… well, fab actors to be announced soon… Maybe speak of that another time.

After recording yesterday, I fitted a curtain rail and then watched the brilliant Much Ado… Really very lovely indeed. And well done B. for top Toad in the Hole, fruity booze and good cheer.

Much drunken natter ‘bout the Government being whupped. Really, this should have happened at the start of the year – and only didn’t because the other parties dropped the ball. As was said while the Terrorism Bill clogged the Lords, it’s depressing when the only effective opposition in this country is that there Jeremy Paxman…

Ignoring hangovers, today the Doctor got doctored officially, and got to shake hands with Eric Hobsbawm. Finally, school is over. Another graduate, taking her baby with her up on stage, sums up Birkbeck’s zealous championing of the part-time student, juggling research with a full-time life. Bain’t easy. I couldn’t have done what the Doctor did, and am full of awe and pride and amazement.

Looked pretty fit in her hood and felt hat, too.

After cheap fizz and canapés (I had almost three) we and the parents did Persia (v. good, full of detail, and Neil McGregor’s audio-commentary is well-worth picking up), and then tea. Lots of chatting about not much in particular. My dad’s read Time Travellers, and thinks it okay.

Then home, shagged out, to finish chores, pay more money out on new house, decide which questions are to be asked of my team this weekend, pack, snog the mrs, sleep.

Sweden tomorrow morning. Maybe without email (!), hence clearing the decks of stuff now. More Wednesday next week if not sooner.

But a mate has a blog that’s worth reading, and my review of a film is now up.

Out of here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Happy happy happy

This week is proving rather good. The BBC loves me. I spent a fun day with Dr Who today, and will report on that and last night and things soon. And tomorrow the Doctor becomes, er, a Doctor. I am all skippy.

Oh, and like you care, but this is my 100th post.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sliced genius

Fun night in the pub last night, seeing chums I’d not seen since, ooh, the weekend. Nabbed a copy of Skillz magazine too, and have spent this morning nursing hangover and trying to get the free radio to work.

Know nada 'bout these new-fangled games – though at one-time deft on Chuckie Egg and Galaga – and have long since wiped the games on my PC for eating up too much of my life. Yet the mag, with insights into snot, explosions and cheatz, had me laughing over my tea. Well done indeed, Mr Joff Brown, editor.

Also rung round places to get the Big Move in motion. Top men with van booked, telephone set up (though we’ll be without landline and – the horror! – broadband for ten days), and the Doctor is sorting various other bits. Buzzing with finally getting things sorted.

Gaiman tonight, shouting tomorrow followed by Toad in the Hole. Proud husbandry Thursday, Persians and tea. And Sweden on Friday, where I’m captaining a team of chums I’ve not met, and am booked to talk to 72 Swedish teenagers about how English works. Lummy. All go, innit?

Right. Shoes and off to work.

ETA: Thing I've just learnt. If you click "Save as draft" and then realise that's not right and click "Publish post", Blogger saves your post, and then publishes a blank one. Gah!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Based on a true story

As chums might have spotted, I like a good yarn.

That doesn’t just mean stories about space-Guardianistas grappling with weird, scary monsters (though those are good too), but anything simply well-told. Growing up, mealtimes were always a story-telling contest with my siblings. Family get-togethers still are, plus a fight for the roast potatoes.

Thing is, I’m now never sure which titbits of knowledge rattling round my brain have any basis in truth.

Anyway, this odd story (which came via Gaiman, who we’re seeing tomorrow) made me think of a story I used to hear a lot when I was little.

In the early 1980s (I guess) this bloke rode round Winchester on a monocycle.

He was – it makes the story better – quite a crazy-looking devil, and not the most careful of cyclists. Monocycles are zippy things and not always easy to control. Whether or not he actually ran anyone down, he eventually wound up in court.

The court listened to the tales of mayhem done and assessments of possible risk, and came up with an elegant solution. The bloke, they decided, couldn't ride his monocycle on public roads because he didn't have a bicycle bell.

And yet this didn't deter the bloke. He just got himself a pair of handlebars – just the handlebars mind, not attached to anything – and stuck a bell on them.

So you'd sometimes see (though I never did) this crazy-looking bloke, zipping about on his monocycle, orphan handlebars stuck out in front of him, frantically ting-a-linging.

Ha ha!

Sadly, Google couldn’t help me verify details, and it’s been so often retold to me, and likely embellished each time that I may have got key bits of it wrong. Will check with parents and see if they remember.

And it’s only typing this up that all seems a bit too much like David McKee's (brilliant) "Mark and the monocycle".

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Shopping list

Things I bought yesterday:
  • 50x curtain hooks
  • Kashmiri woollen rug
  • Step ladder (5 steps)
  • Haddock, chips and mushy peas x2, plus one pickled egg
  • Day's travelcard, zones 1 and 2
  • Booze
  • Washing up liquid, bin liners, squeedgees, poo paper, milk, biscuits
  • Tape measure (quite a funky one)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Obligatory cat post

A chum complains that, despite nearly 100 posts, this bain't be a proper blog 'cos it doesn't boast cat snaps. Very sincere apologies to you all. To remedy this, here's what I had on my phone. Apologies for the murky quality, but they're what I had on my phone.

28.10.05 - Forgot to shut the office window when I popped out to get milk. Yes, that's his silly tail.21.10.05 - Slut cat allows O. to pay due tribute.27.09.05 - Failed attempt to sign birthday card for M (he's sat on it).10.05.05 - Naw...28.08.04 - The historic, first ever meeting with grass.28.08.04 - Bravely daring to step outside for the first time ever. He sat on this step for about two hours.14.07.04 - Our new arrival, already strutting about like he owns the place.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Homo, ner

A fun night’s pubbing last night, with all sorts of gossip and discussion, and people telling me I am clever. Meant to head off early and do housework, but accidentally made it to the end. So yes, feeling better.

The Doctor arrived back from her conquest of Washington DC first thing this morning. I’ve got presents – America (fab!), and a some light reading on DHTML by Jason Cranford Teague (whose surnames feature in Chapter 9 of Time Travellers, fact fans).

The Doctor slept until 1, then we went out for lunch. During which I had a call to say we’d completed on buying our flat. It’s taken forever, and only a fortnight ago it looked like it wouldn’t happen at all. But it has!

Happiness and joy now abound in our house, and champagne.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Benny and the jets

Big Finish have announced what I've been up to for the last few weeks. Parallel lives (no link yet) and Something changed are at proof stage, and I'm now working on the scripts. Blurbs and details should be forthcoming, and I've already seen a wondrous draft of the Something Changed cover.

(The brilliant Adrian Salmon has also recently set up his own Yahoo! Group, Visual Ade.)

In other news, got the Episode III DVD yesterday, and watched it with curry, I. and B. Delighted to see a Mon Calamari in the deleted scenes - but is it the sainted Ackbar? And why wasn't he in the rest of the film?

(Answer: Ackbar's too much of a dude to let the bad guys win on his watch. He was probably off somewhere, saving orphans with his bare gills.)

The cat was mesmerised by the film's first half hour. I think the Jedis' whirling spacejets appealed to his predatory instincts - and at one point he attacked the TV. Little sod runs out of the room at the Dr Who theme, so this behaviour can be considered an improvement.

Also unearthed a copy of something I wrote in late '99, guessing what Episodes II and III would be like on the basis of Episode I. Gratifying mix of the frighteningly prescient and the god-awfully wrong. Plus some jokes. Thought I'd lost this ages ago, and when B. has kindly scanned it, I'll post it up here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Crafty writing

Discussion in pub last night of the word "folk". I reckon it means "a bit rubbish": cf. folk music, folk tales, the folk tradition. M'colleague B. argued that it also means people, but I countered (wittily, lithely) that it does when it's means "people are a bit rubbish". For example, the expression, "There's nowt as queer as a bit rubbish people."

And yet, though I'm suspicious of anything arts and crafts, I love Eric Gill's work and his immaculate Sans typeface - and really wish it was one of the HTML fonts. Bought a very good biography of Gill for the Doctor last Christmas (with the message, "Freak-boy! Just your type."), which is boggling, revelatory, and full of great detail.

“[Gill, Johnston and Pepler] had an evening ritual, since all were in the habit of writing late-night letters, of meeting at the post-box (just before the midnight post, that long-lost rendezvous). Johnston’s daughter, when a child, has described how long it took them to get home again to bed, where their three wives, the ‘letter box widows’ as they called themselves, awaited them. They would often go on talking about art and mass production, or maybe faith and reason, until 2 or 3 am.”

Fiona MacCarthy, Eric Gill, p. 67.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Fully booked

Golly, I've been reading Little, Big for more than a month. Apart from Neal Stephenson, this never happens.

Admittedly, I have had lots of other things to read and write - which has taken priority on bus and train journeys, and at evenings and weekends. Also, though, I think the book loses its way a bit in the late-middle. Having set up the marvellously weird and happy family and house, it then spends most of "Book Five" in the city, with Auberon the younger being miserable and drunk and delusional. It's a whole chunk - unlike the rest of the book - that's not fun to read. And staring out at the shops and shoppers on the Walworth Road kept taking precedence.

Anyway, seem to be through that mire now, and into the last 100 pages. Things are hotting up, and (again like Neal Stephenson) there's the feeling that a plot has been going on behind my back all along...