Daily Archives: Wednesday, 26th Jul 2006

A relaxed day

After all the walking over the last couple of days, I decided to have a bit of a rest today. So, I took it easy this morning, and just went to Tesco’s for some supplies, then came straight home.

This gave me the time to finish reading a book and watch the extras on a Doctor Who DVD. And to write about those things, too.

This morning’s weight was the same as yesterdays, which I’m happy with for now.

Now here’s an interesting thing – my motivation for writing all this senseless stuff does seem to vary a lot. For instance, for most of last month, I really couldn’t be bothered at all, and in fact at one point I contemplated taking an actual break from it. But this month, I’ve been posting more than I have for ages. With a reasonable chunk of July still to go, I’ve already done more than in any month since January (and that was another full month).

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll be going to North Tyneside…

The Fourth Bear – Jasper Fforde

Last year, I mumbled something or other about Jasper Fforde’s last book, The Big Over Easy. Despite that, he’s come back with a sequel, and it’s at least as bonkers as the last one. Regular readers will know that in my, errr, book, there are few higher words of praise for, err, books.

Some time has passed since the Nursery Crime Division’s (NCD) triumph in the Humpty Dumpty case. Since then, there was the unfortunate incident with Red Riding Hood, and Jack Spratt and his team are back to their normal state of being derided and sidelined. When the Gingerbreadman, a psychotic mass-murdering cake (or is he a biscuit?) escapes, Jack is told it’s not his case, even though characters like the Gingerbreadman are usually NCD business.

Meanwhile, there are mysterious explosions occurring, Goldilocks is missing, and Jack has to admit to his wife that he’s a PDR (Person of Dubious Reality).

Can it all be connected to missing, presumed dead, scientist Angus McGuffin[1]? Is it true what they say about what bears do in the woods? Is it right to arm bears? Will romance blossom between DS Mary Mary and alien PC Ashley?

All these questions may be answered along the way. Expect more wordplay, puns that even I would think twice about employing, and knowing use of every cliché in several large books.

Is this plot device 26?

Lots of fun, madder than a large collection of Gingerbreadmen, and highly recommended.

And for long-time Fforde fans, the word is that this time next year, there will be a new Thursday Next book. And there will be another NCD story after that. Woo and indeed hoo.

And over the next couple of months, expect new books from Robert Rankin and Terry Pratchett. :grin:

[1] Hitchcock fans may wince now :wave:

Aberfeldy – Do Whatever Turns You On

And here it is – the follow up to Young Forever. This album came out earlier this month – I downloaded it from Napster at the time, but I hadn’t got round to listening to it until I was reminded of its existence when I saw them playing outside the Sage on Sunday.

So, what’s the new one like, then? Well, for the most part, it sounds a lot like the last one – there might be a bit more prominent use of guitar on some tracks, but overall the style is more of the same. And that’s a Good Thing in this case.

It’s early days, but tracks which are gradually burrowing into my brain include Uptight, 1970s and Whatever turns you on.

I could babble on about lyrics and the like, but let’s just say that this is enjoyable music that’s growing on me more with each listen. Give it a try – you might enjoy it.

Doctor Who – The Hand of Fear

Well, it seems the BBC are doing their best to preserve the sanity of Doctor Who fans who are staring into an abyss labelled “how long till the Christmas special????”. Yes, they seem to be trying to increase the frequency of DVD releases from the classic series[1]. And here’s the latest – one with a special place in the hearts of many fans of a certain age, as it sees the departure of Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). Yes, her, as seen in School Reunion earlier this year.

First shown in October 1976[2], The Hand of Fear stuck in my memory for several reasons, but mainly because unless my memory is even more faulty than normal, I missed the last episode. I’ve no idea why, but I remember reading about Sarah’s departure in the papers afterwards, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually see it. And in those days, there was no BBC3 to show a repeat the next day, and video recorders were still in the “primitive” and “expensive” categories. So back then if you missed something on TV, you missed it. Somewhere in the intervening years, I may have caught it on UK Gold, but I don’t remember it. So at least part of this DVD was effectively new to me, which has to be a Good Thing.

After a prologue in which some mysterious aliens make a big fuss about “obliterating” someone called Eldrad, followed by some images intended to indicate the passage of a lot of time, the story proper opens with the Tardis materialising in a quarry. Wait, hold on… It was something of a cliché that every alien planet looked remarkably like a quarry[3], but this time, it’s an actual quarry. The Doctor and Sarah arrive just in time for some blasting, which results in the Doctor being slightly dazed and Sarah being buried in a pile of rocks.

Sarah is rescued quickly enough, but in the rocks she has found what appears to be a fossilised hand – a hand that must have been there for something like 150 million years…

The hand is wearing a ring, and this appears to have a very strange effect on Sarah. Taking the hand with her, and zapping anyone who gets in her way (the ring gives off a lovely blue blast), she goes to a conveniently located nuclear power station. There, she seals herself and the hand into a dangerously radioactive chamber, all the while saying “Eldrad must live”. The hand begins to regenerate and move around in a manner familiar to people who watch the right kind of horror movie.

After that, things get more interesting. Lots of fun involving a nuclear reactor not exploding, nuclear missiles not destroying the power plant, and the mysterious Eldrad. Is Eldrad an evil destroyer or just misunderstood? You’ll have to watch to find out. :tongue:

After settling things with Eldrad, the time comes for the Doctor and Sarah to part. Sarah initially gets a bit fed up and announces that she’s leaving (she doesn’t really mean it, but she’s trying to make a point). While she’s packing, the Doctor receives a telepathic summons from his home planet, Gallifrey. He has to return, and as outsiders are not allowed, he can’t take Sarah with him. And so he takes her home, and she leaves the Tardis.

The Doctor’s last words to her are “until we meet again”, which sets us up nicely for their meeting in School Reunion.

Extra features this time round include:

  • Changing Time: a 50 minute “making-of”, which dives around a bit, as it looks at the casting of Lis and Tom, and focusses on the relationship between the Doctor and Sarah. Lots of chat from the stars (Tom in excellent form, I’m pleased to say), supporting actors and people involved with the production.
  • Swap Shop: a clip from a 1970s Saturday morning TV show presented by Noel Edmonds, featuring an interview with Tom and Lis. And kids phoning in to ask odd questions.
  • The ubiquitous on-screen production subtitles
  • Other bits and pieces

All good fun. This one is a four-part story on a single DVD. Shop around, and you should be able to get it for under £10, which is a bargain.

[1] Someone in Doctor Who Magazine worked out that at the current rate of release, it would take around 18 years to issue DVDs of all the surviving stories.
[2] Which makes me old, I think :???:
[3] Blakes Seven did the same thing. Only it was blatantly the same quarry in successive episodes…

South Tyneside Walk – Google Maps

Those nice people at Google Maps have improved their images of this part of the UK. You can see some quite detailed views of yesterday’s walk here.

What you should see is an overview of the route I walked, starting at South Shields near the top, and ending at the bottom – look for the “A183” marker just by the River Wear. The walk was along the cliff-top path, well away from the road for most of the way. If you zoom in, you can see the path clearly. You can also see the lighthouse, which shows up clearly once you zoom in a bit.