Normal Consciousness Will be Established as Soon as Possible… Having an Episode…

Well, yesterday was not entirely wasted because I discovered why ‘Save the Cat’ is so-called. A kind fellow-writer on the Nano group informed me that it refers to a need to establish the hero’s character by having them do something kind – like saving a cat – right at the start of the story. Interestingly (and this sort of synchronicity happens a lot) the same thing was referred to in ‘Episodes’ which I finished watching last night. The ending is pure genius but I’ll come to that another time.

I even read a section of the original ‘Save the Cat Beats’, and concluded that there may be something to learn from it, so I may order a cheap copy of the novel version (the original is aimed at screenwriters.) Sometimes in life things can just keep throwing themselves at you until you pay attention, and since this weird, annoying and incomprehensible thing keeps throwing itself at me, I shall give it a whirl. I’ll keep you posted.

But that was yesterday – and this morning I woke up in a weird state, almost not knowing who or where I was. I can only describe it as Dr Who-like; a feeling of having been flung half-way across the universe and landing on some planet that is not Gallifrey. You know you’ve been here before but you can’t quite remember when; in the meantime it becomes a matter of urgency to harmonise your systems with those of this planet, to remind yourself of the spectrum of light that prevails here and to assume a form that can be recognised by other beings. These things are a matter of survival; without them you may be annihilated. Without them you won’t be able to breathe.

This sort of ‘synchronisation of consciousness’ usually happens in a matter of moments but today it took about an hour, and in the meantime I couldn’t concentrate on anything at all.


The other thing I was going to mention is the extent to which I ‘blank-out’ areas of my life. I guess we all have things we try to blank out because they influence us in ways we don’t like: such as advertising or propaganda when lots of us change channel or hit the mute button. Well, I seem to be hitting the mute button a lot lately; in fact I’m blurring the pixels on so many things out there, it’s hard to see where I’m going. For example, when I walk into a shop to be confronted by aisles of sweets and crisps I blank them out lest I’m tempted to buy some; or when I walk down the street and pass loads of coffee and burger chains I blank them out because I don’t want to patronise them, or when look something up online and the first six links are from Amazon. I do it with Facebook too, logging off and deleting the preview from my start screen so that I’m not tempted to go on there too much. It’s hard work.

Oh well. Have a Mcnice Mcday.

Kirk McOut

Good Ovoning

I bogin my blog post to you this ovoning on tho promiso that ovory fifth lottor of the alphabot has boon roplacod by tho lottor ‘o’. It was Tho Two Ronnios who startod this, way back in 19… and I thought it was timo somoono took it up again. It’s quito spoctacularly hard not to typo the fifth lottor of the alphabot as it is the most commonly used lottor in the Onglish Languago. I can’t find the original skotch so horo is a famous ‘Mastormind‘ skotch instoad.

I have now thankfully rediscovered the letter ‘e’ and can continue as normal. I generally watch ‘Mastermind’ along with ‘University Challenge,’ the latter being in my opinion the only quiz show on TV with any intellectual rigour. There’s a real pleasure in being able to answer a handful of questions on UC; however I’m not good against the clock so only usually manage half a dozen in the general knowledge round of ‘Mastermind.’ But the so-called ‘celebrity’ version leaves a great deal to be desired: not only are the ‘celebrities’ mostly complete unknowns to me, they display a quite startling level of ignorance. When asked for the name of the 17-year-old Swedish girl who is a prominent campaigner on climate change, the actor who plays Robyn in ‘Casualty’ (I recognised her at least) could only take a stab at ‘Sharon’? Not that she actually thought it was Sharon, just that this was the first name to come to her.It’s here, about 25 mins in.

Whilst the Xmas UC is now over (much more relaxed and fun than the usual version and featuring some people who are actually famous for something) the New Year TV hasn’t really kicked in yet, apart from ‘Dr Who’. I like Jodie Whittaker a lot and this series looks to be much better than the last. But there’s a good lineup for late winter and spring; some more of Killing Eve, yet another series of ‘Line of Duty’ (which I never quite got into) and best of all, more of the deeply nourishing ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ which I absolutely love. And while I’m waiting for all this I’m enjoying once again a trawl through ‘Episodes‘ on Netflix.

So that’s all good.Once again, I wish you a happy new year.

Kirk out

PS – just to show how hard it is, I went through this three times taking out rogue letter ‘e’s and there’s still one left. Can you spot it?

Writing Tips – Make Friends with Serendipity

I’m going to tell you a story.  Actually I’m going to tell you two stories – a tale of two tales, if you will – and it goes like this.

A couple of years ago I wrote a short story about a jumper, in which I used knitting as a metaphor for writing.  You can see the idea: each stitch is a letter, every row a line of prose, every colour a plot-line, and so on.  The story touched on the themes of miscarriage and Greenham Common and I was quite pleased with it at the time, but when I found it again I felt dissatisfied with it.  Something was missing.  I rewrote and rewrote but it still wasn’t right.  But what happened next was pure serendipity…

Image result for serendipity

image removed on request

As you know, I’ve been getting daily writing prompts in my inbox.  I set a timer for five minutes and just write without planning or forethought until the timer goes off, when I stop.  I’m allowed to finish the word I’m writing but not the sentence, and I’m allowed to read it through once but no more.

So here’s the thing.  Today’s prompt was ‘Where Did They Find the Lost Doctors?’ by which they presumably meant the lost episodes of Dr Who.  Then again, how you interpret the prompt is up to you, so I chose instead to imagine all the previous incarnations of the Doctor and to wonder where they are now.  I decided – or rather, my subconscious decided, since there’s no time for conscious thought – that they are all gathered on Gallifrey; all except Tom Baker who is wandering Earth in search of enlightenment.  The older Doctors are teasing Peter Capaldi about being replaced by a woman, and it’s beginning to make him grumpy.  They spend their time reminiscing and playing uber-pool with models of various solar systems.  When I was finished I thought maybe OH would like to read it and so I typed it up. 

Now, when I type up new stories I use a story template so I don’t have to set the font, spacing and margins all over again.  And sometimes it happens that another story is still lurking on the template instead of having been deleted after saving to the Short Stories folder.  No problem, I thought, I’ll just delete it once I’m  finished.  But I forgot; so OH received what he thought was one story but which was in fact two.

This is where serendipity comes in – because he actually thought it worked!  He said the first ‘Doctors’ bit seemed to fit in perfectly with the second part.  So maybe I’ve found the missing bit of my knitting story.

Serendipity!  Learn to recognise it when it comes: just because something is a mistake, doesn’t mean it won’t work.  Some accidents are happy, after all.

Some, on the other hand, aren’t; like spilling water on my laptop.  So while it dries out I’m using OH’s model.

Kirk out

Greenham’s Pleasant Land

If the name Greenham Common means nothing to you, you’re either younger than 30 or spent the 1980’s living under a rock.  Until a group of women decided to make it the focus of a protest, few people had heard of the USAF (nominally RAF) base in Berkshire where Cruise missiles were sited.  The rhetoric of these disgusting weapons was that they would ‘melt into the countryside’: the reality was that they were transported on our roads and housed a few miles from the town of Newbury and just over 50 miles from London.

Enter a group of peace activists who wanted to do something about this.  They felt the protest would be far stronger if it was women only; and they were right.  Like the suffragettes before them they wanted ‘deeds not words’ and protests which would catch the public eye: like the suffragettes they felt justified in damaging property and so women frequently cut the fence and entered the camp with the aim of disabling the missiles and although they were usually intercepted at least one woman ‘danced on the silos’.

The events that really caught the public eye were the large demonstrations: again, usually women-only, these involved surrounding the base, linking arms and singing and on several occasions bringing ribbons and yarn to decorate the fence (now known as ‘yarn-bombing’, the psychological benefits of which are well understood:)

There was an explicitly feminist angle to all this, which set the female, domestic, anti-war agenda against the aggressive masculine drive for war (ironically at the time the Prime Minister was a woman and one of the most belligerent leaders in modern times).  Some interesting ideas came out of the peace camp about better ways to live, and though some of them, like calling peace women ‘womyn’, seem a tad odd, I regret there are few spaces nowadays to live any sort of alternative life.

The opposition to the Peace Women was loud and furious, like opposition to the suffragettes.  They were accused of abandoning their homes and families, of being ‘unfeminine’, ‘witches’ and ‘woolly minds in woolly hats’.  Sound familiar?

Of course when it was all over and Greenham Common released into common land once more, the powers-that-be said the protests hadn’t made one iota of difference.

Well they would, wouldn’t they?

Did you see Dr Who last night?  Brilliant reconstruction of Rosa Parks protest – and nobody can ever say that didn’t make a difference.  Sadly some people seem to wish we had segregation back again:

It makes me sad.

On the plus side, here’s what Greenham looks like now:

Star Wars Episode 7 News | New Photos from the Episode VII ...

It makes me feel very peaceful, like when I think of the earth after humans have gone.

Kirk out

Doctor, Doctor; Can’t You See I’m Fuming, Fuming?

Well!  They’ve been and gone and done it now!  The fat is out of the bag and the cat is in the fire – and yes, I did mean to Spoonerise my metaphors in that way because the Whole Order of Things has Been Upset.  It’s women priests all over again; it’s Political Correctness Gone Mad!  How many more male strongholds will be feminised!  How can the Doctor, an intrinsically masculine figure, a repository of – well, maleness – I’m not sure how but he just IS because – well!  I mean, every time he regenerates he’s a man!  Isn’t he?  I mean, that proves it!  The Doctor is male, all right!  He cannot be female!  It just won’t work!  He’ll – she’ll – be crying all over the place, she’ll be all warm and fuzzy and not dangerous or eccentric because everyone knows women can’t be dangerous or eccentric – and the TARDIS WILL BE COVERED IN DOYLEYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Deep, calming breaths, deep calming breaths…


So, the news is, if you haven’t yet caught up with it, that the latest regeneration of Dr Who has been announced and it’s a woman; Jodie Whittaker, to be precise, of Broadchurch fame.  I have no idea if she’ll be any good , but in principle I think it’s great that they’ve gone this way.  I see no reason why the Doctor can’t be female: coming from Gallifrey there is no need for the character to confirm to any earthly genders (or colours, come to that) so it’s high time these boundaries were breached.  I look forward to seeing what she makes of it.

But never mind guys, there’s still one or two niches left for you.  After all, most MP’s, CEO’s, film directors, Head Teachers, rock musicians, Chief Constables, firefighters, surgeons, lorry-drivers, bus-drivers, train-drivers, bishops, scientists, engineers – are still men.  At least, last time I looked.  So you can’t be the Doctor for the next few years?  Never mind.  A man can still be Prime Minister.  In fact with any luck a man will be, very soon…

Kirk out

Dr Rebus Wishes You All Happy New Year

I hope you all had a good night last night and saw the new year in if that was your plan… sadly I have to report that around eleven I caved in and headed for my pit.  Not that anything exciting was happening – in fact I’ve rarely been so underwhelmed by a new year as I have by this one.  Which is not to say that I’m indifferent – just that I didn’t feel like celebrating.

I’ve been reading a book Mark got for Xmas, which I think I mentioned the other day.  It’s based on Neil Perryman’s blog  where he sets out to watch every episode of Dr Who and is joined by his wife.  Here’s the blog:

It set me thinking about my own possible book based on this blog – a blovel, if you will, or possibly a nog.  Or, since it would be mainly biographical, a bio-blog.  Or blography.  It also brought back memories of early Dr Who episodes.  Patrick Troughton was my first doctor and Tom Baker was (and is) my favourite, though David Tennant comes a close second.  I also like the current incarnation’s return to a sort of severity, though last week’s episode came too close to romance for my liking.  The Doctor doesn’t do romance.

I’ve also been watching something I bought with my Xmas HMV token (thanks Holly) namely a box-set of the Rebus series.  I had yet to see a single one of these and I was clear that I wanted the Ken Stott version, not the John Hannah ones.  And so far I have not been disappointed: Stott is very much my idea of Rebus, albeit softened a little.  However they have tampered with the stories a bit.  But very enjoyable.

Happy new year to all and may you find all you seek in 2016.  (Hint: it’s behind the sofa.)

Kirk out

Doctors and Patient

Well!  I have rarely seen an episode of Dr Who which bored me, but I have to say last night’s was 45 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.  Hm – how DO you get time back?  If I was a time lord (or lady) I guess I could go back in time and live it all again, like Hermione in the third Harry Potter.  You can buy those time-turner things on the internet and I strongly suspect they don’t actually do what it says on the tin, though if they did, we’d all get very tired.

Which was the precise subject of the episode before last, in which an app called ‘Morpheus’ could be implanted in the brain and override the need to sleep.  That was an excellent episode, as was last week’s in which Clara died.  But this week’s!  I couldn’t follow it and eventually I lost the will to understand and even to live.  The major problem was that the Doctor had no companion and therefore had to spend the entire 3/4 hr monologuing.  That was bad enough, but on top of that he spent 7000 years in hell (I know how he felt) having to repeat actions over and over until – well, I’d lost track by then so I don’t know exactly what he had to do but he had to do it and then he could get back to the Tardis which was encased in some kind of material harder than diamonds and ……….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  I sincerely hope next week’s story is better.

It’s been quite variable, I think, this season.  I’ve liked some episodes and hated others.  I wasn’t at all grabbed by the Zygons, though I did like Mark’s joke ‘let Zygons be Zygons.’

Apart from that I’ve been watching just about everything available on the iplayer.  For yes!  I have been quite poorly.  Two weeks ago I was prescribed both antibiotics AND steroids and after that I had to get another lot of antibio’s which I am just now finishing.  Then this week I’ll have to go for a chest x-ray just to check there isn’t anything else wrong.

Hey, ho.  That’s life I guess.  Incidentally, where does the idea come from about eternity being like a mountain of sand from which a bird removes a grain every thousand years?  I remember it from James Joyce but I think it’s a reference to something else.

TTFN.  I still haven’t been on Facebook…

Kirk out

A Perfect Branestawm

I have rarely, if ever, seen such a perfect, spot-on and generally whiz-bang, tally-ho and ram-jam lickety-split adaptation of a book as the Beeb’s recent Professor Branestawm. I loved Norman Hunters books as a child: illustrated by the illustrious, not to say splendiflicate Heath Robinson, they were children’s comedy classics, and this adaptation everyone and everything is perfect, from Harry Hill’s Prof with his seven pairs of glasses on his forehead to his housekeeper Mrs Flittersnoop spouting malapropisms and his best friend Colonel Dedshott of the Catapult Cavaliers (Simon Day) being thoroughly military all over the place.  There were squeedles of Pagwell-based fun including an exploding but ultimately fire-extinguishing automatic tea-maker, the wild waste-paper which brings photographs to life and oodles of other stories.
It was an excellent start to Christmas Day, though later on I thought the Dr Who episode was not the best.  The dream idea was a bit drawn-out, and it was somewhat light on action.

We did have a great day, however, with Peter coming over for a thigh of turkey while we had the traditional nut-roast with sausages; all accompanied by pots, parsnips, sprouts, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce and washed down by Rioja.  Then there was Prosecco to go with the pudding and mince pies.

Yesterday I did little but slump in front of the telly and eat cheese: I watched Victoria Wood’s prog; very funny and featuring just about every British actor still living:

then in no particular order, ‘Chicken Run’, a couple of ‘University Challenges’ in which I scored well over a hundred points, Rory Bremner’s review of the year – brilliant – and before deciding that my eyes were square and I’d better read a book instead, we all watched ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’. This turned out to be a cracker.  There’s an unusual role for Ewan McGregor as a civil servant asked to assist in a rich sultan’s project to dam a river, irrigate the desert and bring salmon from Scotland to populate it.  It sounds like a rich man’s folly, but all his – and our – assumptions are overturned in this understated and engaging film, the best feature of which is that the two protagonists are attracted to each other but maintain a respectful distance and do not instantly fall into bed together.

Apparently Ewan McGregor had to learn fly-fishing for the film.  There are some amazing shots of salmon leaping, and also a scene where he makes a fishing-fly, which reminded me of J R Hartley.  Now, who can tell me who J R Hartley was?  Anyone?  Ms Vanilla Rose, I bet you can.  Or Tottnm.  Come on now, no googling…

Kirk out

The Blind Leading the Deaf: Life on the iplayer

It was like an episode of Fawlty Towers last night in our house.  There was me trying to work my way through old episodes of Top of the Pops

including Chic (so-so) Elton John (great) Darts (awful) and the Barron Knights (cheesy but fun) when Mark emerged from taking his nightly dose of gloop.

‘I need some more sleep mix,’ I said.  ‘Have you got any?’

‘Mwffle-mwf-mwr-mog,’ he explained through a gobful of gloop.

A simple shake of the head would have sufficed, but he continued to try to convey further information by means of his nostrils, all the while making ferocious grimaces with his mouth firmly closed.

‘Mark!’ I said eventually in exasperation.  ‘I can’t understand a word you’re not saying!’

He laughed, spraying the table neatly with gloop.  Then he got out the tablet and started to type, handing it to me when he’d finished.

‘I can’t read that,’ I said.  ‘I need my glasses.’

I’m telling you, Fawlty Towers rode again.

Also on iplayer, we didn’t have to wait too long for the latest Dr Who.  And was it good?  Yes – I guess – but I thought some of it was a bit cheesy, and some a tad smartarse.  I didn’t go for the ‘Tardis hanging from helicopter’ trope, and the scenes with two or three doctors were a little uneasy.  I didn’t much like John Hurt either, which is unusual for me as he’s one of my favourite actors.

So… the highlight of the iplayer week is still my radio appearance:

1 hour and 12 mins in..

Kirk out

What Was That? That Was Your Life Mate…

Yesterday was terribly exciting: it started with an email sent on the off-chance.  I was listening to Saturday Live when they asked listeners for stories of things that had gone missing or been lost in their area.  Sounds like a job for SuperPoet! I thought, or something like that – so while my egg boiled I dashed off an email about the Bowstring Bridge, adding that a Respectful Pooh Song had also been written about it.  Ten minutes later as my egg was gently dripping from my soldiers, I got a call.  Could I tell them more about the Bridge?  I did.  And did I know who had written the poem?  I did, and it was me.  Could I give them a blast?  I could, and did.  Could I come on the programme later, say after the ten o’clock news?

Could I?

I think I could…

I spent the next half-hour on tenterhooks, wondering whether after all I’d be squeezed out for lack of time, putting increasingly tense updates on Facebook – and at ten oh five the phone rang.  It was J P Devlin himself, very friendly and chatty; he talked me through what we’d be doing and how many lines of the poem I should read.  I stayed on the line where I could hear the programme going on like a radio playing in the background.  Then they came to me.  I talked about the Bridge, how iconic it was, how individual and how much missed – and how it had left a gap in the environment.  ‘A gap which has been filled by a poem,’ he neatly segued.  And so I went into the now-familiar performance of the Ballad; they laughed at the rhyme Bridge/smidge – and that was that.  So apart from a frog in the throat it was fine.

It’s at 1 hr 12 mins in, after Charlie Higson’s inheritance tracks.

And so to the Vegan Fair which was less satisfactory.  They were running late and it became clear that poetry would be next to impossible in a room heaving with people all buying food and drinks and with no microphone.  The previous two singers were good but almost inaudible, and I wasn’t sure what I should do as I didn’t have enough songs for half an hour.  So I raised my voice and tried to get people’s attention – and the nearest tables did join in with the Ballad’s chorus – but after a couple of poems I just gave up and stuck with the songs.  Mark helped me on some of the songs, but I was still hardly audible and not well-received.  So that did not feel good.

Thanks to Jane and Ian, anyway, who did their best.

And so to Peter’s, where after yoga and dinner an entire cast of Doctors made their appearance.  Worth seeing?  yes.  Worth going to see?  Again, yes – but not worth all the hype.

And so to bed.

Kirk out