Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sydney rocks!

We are now in Sydney, and have had a nice time wandering about and looking at things. The Botanical Gardens (the green bit to the left of the bridge and opera house in the pics) is chock full of all kinds of different and exotic trees. And they are chock full of bats!

You'll have to wait till the Dr gets her film developed for pics as they were too far away for my mobile. But cor it was like the trees were ripe with fat, black and burnt fruits. And then they'd yawn and stretch their bin-bag-like wings. And they look all russet and hairy and would probably be nice to cuddle...

Then on to the Domain (the green bit behind the Botanical Gardens) and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The building itself is a lot like the Art Gallery in Edinburgh, and housed some fun archaeologically-correct stuff by Alma-Tadema and his mates as well as some fun contemporary and aborginal artworks.

Theo Cowan's top whiskersI was especially impressed with this fella in the entrance lobby, and asked special permission of one of the staff to take his picture. As te staff fella said, it was almost as if he'd been sculpted to have his picture taken on a mobile. And them whiskers are sure something to aspire to.

We meandered into Hyde Park, enjoyed the buses and signs to Lewisham, Sydenham, Croydon, Dulwich and Chiswick, and I suggested that a fountain-sculpture of Theseus presenting his meat and two-veg while about to stab the minotaur was all a bit Torchwood, being all blatant sex and monsters. The Dr days there's quite a lot of that in antiquity, and I now have visions of spin-off show Torchwood 2000 BC.

Down Market Street and along George Street, we stopped off to take a pic of the Dr in front of Challis House. Apparently this long-bearded bigwig bequethed lots of cash to local educational somethings. The Dr was rather pleased.

Like Melbourne, there's the same two-tier feel to the place; heavy, blocky Victorian and later building in the shadow of brand spanking new skyscrapers. The Dr kept thinking it looked like Manchester, and the colonies also look like Britain's trading posts in Bristol and Edinburgh and what of London wasn't bombed. You have to remember that it's not that Oz was built in the image of Britain, but that all these colonial towns and cities were influencing each other. Bristol and Edinburgh, London and Manchester are all a brick-and-mortar dialogue with the rest of the world.

Or maybe I have sunstruck myself.

Thence to the Museum of Contemporary Arts, just a stone's throw from our hotel. Lots of aboriginal bark paintings and some depressing documentaries about just how well the native population has been shafted by us Westerners in the last 200 years.

Yesterday we did a wine tour which was entirely splendid; with just me, the Dr, A. and J. being driven round by the helpful Neil, who chatted and advised and bent the whole day around our unhelpfully faffy whims. Started at the Chandon estate and drank fizz. I'd assumed that any French-owned wineries in the Yarra Valley would date from the nineteenth century, with refugees from the phylloxera epidemic that ate up European grapes. Turns out this place only opened in 1985, part of a general expansion into the southern hemisphere (Brazil etc.) and all related to demand.

Drove round a few places and tried all kids of lovely stuff. Many growers have been able to see the affects of climate change on what they're producing; atypical weather in recent years that's unheard of in a century of records. Last year's harvest was badly damaged by completely unexpected hale! It also means that some vineyards are having to rethink what grapes they grow.

Boules!The oldest vineyard in the Yarra Valley is a nineteenth century escapee of ignoble rot. Yaring had lots of nice stuff, but by that point we were rather well oiled and instead tried some Boules outside in the sun. I even managed to win one of the three games I played, no doubt due to the genetic heritage.

He's too young to smoke anyhowOh, and one last pic. This is typical of the full-body horrors to be found on the packs of cigarettes over here. None of your big-type Helvetica, just screaming bloody nightmares.

You may need something nice to look at after that. And Brilliant-Looking by Candlelight has an all-squeeing post about The Pirate Loop, with fun pictures and joy and everything. Which is nice.

There's also exciting news from T. and I. back in Blighty. But I do't think we're meant to mention it yet until Everyone Has Been Told. So we have raised a glass of fizz to them but kept our lips firmly sealed...

Sunday, February 24, 2008


It is a bit grey and cold here in Melbourne today. I am in an internet caff in St Kilda - and the locals queue up to tell you that there was no such person as St Kilda, so it's all a bit of a paradox.

On Friday we went to Melbourne Gaol, which is a pretty harrowing experience and devoid of happy endings. The gaol is based on the panoptic model of Pentonville (as are many of the older prisons in the UK), with the idea being a) securing the maximum number of prisoners with the minimum number of guards and b) breaking the prisoners down by means of isolation tactics. A lot of the time as an inmate, you're not sure if you're being watched - the same principle on which a lot of CCTV works.

We were delighted to find the anti-masturbation gloves that had apparently become a highlight of the tour after a Billy Connolly programme. But mostly each of the open cells described the girsly life and despatch of an executed inmate, usually with a cast of their dead bonce. Again and again the inmates were non-English speaking, and/or convicted on the most scrappy circumstantial evidence. Several of the convictions have since been over-turned.

Worse was realising that the prison's official flagellators and executioners were other inmates. Ned Kelly was hanged by a convict imprisoned for flooding a street with sewage and other public nuisances. This meant that the hangings could be rather botched; the whole point of hanging is, done right, it causes immediate death. Getting it wrong either leads to a slow garotting and asphixiation, or can tear the head clean off.

So was using inmates to do the dirty work a way of not getting your hands dirty, or a way of making the prisoners complicit in the system?

We then went on a tour of the jail cells used up until 1995, with a bolshy actress dressed up as a policeman being very strict. She divided us from people we were with, so we explored the cells with strangers. She called us "it" if we stepped out of line, and she alluded to all sorts of gruesome miseries that had happened in the cells. Again, it's all about authority breaking down the individual, but also you pick up very quickly how to play the game. Do as you're told, don't make yourself noticed, and you might survive...

Needed some beer after all this institutional stuff, and hooked up with some buddies later on. I have also done a lot of reading, which I shall write up another time. Pip pip.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yet to see the upside-down moon

Hello from sunny Melbourne. It rained yesterday, which was good as I ended up having some urgent rewrites to do on something as yet unannounced.

What did get announced on Saturday was that I am writing for the new audio Blake's 7 series. Mine is about the adventures of Jenna Stannis prior to her meeting Blake. I sat on a panel with producer Andrew Sewell, new Blake actor Derek Riddell (from Ugly Betty and Dr Who versus ninjas and werewolves) and moderator Andrew Cartmel.

In fact Saturday was a VERY long day, with no end of panels and signings and just chat. The Dr was a bit impressed by how hard everyone works at these things, and she's already talking about how next year we'll go visit San Francisco, so I think she enjoyed herself too.

Met a whole bunch of people who I'd only spoken to on email, and am doing that again tonight. Ian Mond and Dave Hoskin are both Strains I have employed. Now it's their turn to buy me beer...

Off to the Museum of Immigration first, and have some other museums tomorrow. On Monday we are going up the Yarra Valley on a tour of wine. Mmm. Wine.

I have experimented with the sink and watched water swirl backwards. but still haven't seen the upside-down moon. Oh, and Australian money is brightly coloured and made of plastic.

Right. Off to have breakfast now...

Friday, February 15, 2008

LA la la

Hello from sunny but breezy LA, where I have a few minutes before my first showbix panel. Yesterday we went to Universal Studios, which was fun but rather heavy on selling Merchandise and Brand. The rides were exciting but mostly quite quick, and I don't think they'd have been worth long queues. Luckily, it was pretty quiet and uncrowded.

Scooby!The Dr got chatted up by Donkey out of Shrek and had a cuddle with Scooby-Doo. Will try to load up some images soon. I was made to have my picture taken with SpongeBob, and went on plenty of rides. We couldn't peak down the street from Desperate Housewives becase it was being used, but the other sets and streets on the backlot were fascinating.

Met some old chums and plenty of new splendid people. The Dr's just back from a trip to the Getty Museum, wowed and excited about that. "I actually teared up," she says. "How sad is that?"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Kitsch 'n' sink

Hello again. It's been a while, hasn't it? I can tell by the length of your hair.

I am almost entirely out the other side of a very busy period, and 20 pages of script from my HOLIDAY. Having not been real for months and months, I'm now getting rather excited. I've not been south of the equator before (or, I think, any further down the planet than Egypt), so 10 nights in Australia and three in Johannesburg is really An Adventure. Connections depending, I shall keep you up to date with my movements.

I am bashing out these words on my funky new MSI PR210 notebook, which I bought specially for the trip. It's a sleek and disturbingly unheavy lovely, though I find I keep missing occasional keys. The compromise was between something small and light for trekking about, but with a keyboard that still fitted my fingers.

After much fangling about, I've also got the wireless wossnames to work. (The technique seems to be to restart your computer continually for two hours until all the wossnames have loaded.) And I'd thought the laptop would latch on to the wireless thing itself, but it needs drivers and a ZyXEL router thing that looks like a USB memory stick.

This means I'm now sat in our rooftop kitchen, the unexpected sunshine rather nice on my back. As well as what remains of the as-yet-unannounced script, I've also had a chance to look over the novel that I'm intending to write while I'm away. Or at least, to break the back of.

It's a thriller that's not a tie-in to anything else, and I gamble that if I mention it here, people will ask me about it. And that pressure will mean that rather than just thinking through the clever plot mechanations, I might actually get the thing done.

Along with the wireless wossname, I've also signed us up to Virgin Media, which has all been going swimmingly. The Dr and I took great delight in watching Ashes to Ashes last night via the Telly On Demand gizmo. Laughed like fool - and was terrified by the clown! What with Torchwood and that Dot episode of EastEnders last fortnight, didn't telly get all good?

We then continued the retro 80s vibe by watching the first episode of Survival. "Weird," concluded the Dr. Though she thought the scraggy black cat (that some friends of mine till insist is called Shomi) was so like our own that I must have chosen him on purpose. Honestly, no. But we do seem to have the only cat ever who really likes having his fur brushed in the wrong direction.

If Shomi is Shaggy, asked m'colleague Scott Andrews, "Does that make Sophie Aldred Velma or Daphne?"

I think Sylvester McCoy would be Velma.