The Day The World Fell Down


David Bowie has died peacefully after an eighteen month battle with cancer. The Man Who Fell To Earth is now back amongst the stars. Say hi to Major Tom for us on your way to write new, beautiful duets with Freddie Mercury please. Love you Ziggy, Duke, Jareth, David… each and every one of your many incarnations will be sadly and dreadfully missed.

Posted in 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

RIP Kindle


Today, my third generation Keyboard Kindle (yes, one of the original ones that you hardly ever see any more) finally gave up the ghost. The unit itself is absolutely fine, but the battery has finally crystallised and will never take – much less hold – a charge again. Dom has taken it apart, but the possibility of a new battery doesn’t look terribly hopeful from where I’m sitting.

kindle-keyboard-11

Adios old friend

This Kindle has seen me through some tough times and so it has sentimental value. Yes, I get attached to inanimate objects, why do you ask? It’s made disabled travelling possible for me (try wrangling a suitcase that won’t close properly because of the books, a book and your handbag under your arm and a walking stick all at once: it cannot be done); it’s lightened up many a car journey; it’s helped me to dream the time away in hospital or GP waiting rooms, been to numerous book club meetings with me and even kept me sane on ICU in 2014:

Waiting To Be Admitted 2014

What drips and monitors? I’m reading; I don’t care!

As bulky as this old thing was, I’m really quite upset. I wanted a Paperwhite anyway, but I wanted a second Kindle rather than have to upgrade because my faithful friend for more than half a decade turned up its digital toes.

Farewell old buddy. Thank you for everything: you will be remembered fondly.

Posted in 2016, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

From Wine Stains To Tea Stains


It seems that, yet again, this blog is taking a new turn. Appropriate, I suppose, since it’s the new year and everything, but still not quite what I had planned when I began writing here three years ago. I was going to review my year (which was mostly good when you piece it all together coherently, as opposed to taking it as a jumbled mish-mash of random events) but, instead, I come here with a confession: Continue reading

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Lights In The Darkness: Why We Can’t Give Them Our Hate


dark

“I swear, Gemma: you’ll be killed by your own kindness one day”.

She always used to say that, did my Nan. Always with a shake of her head, and the benevolent smile I remember so vividly. When I was growing up I wanted us to house the homeless, fly starving people in from Ethiopia so we could give them our food (we were never short for vegetables, thanks to a large allotment rented from the local council) and I somehow just knew that it was wrong for same-sex love to be illegal (I still remember the image on the news, during the “Gay Riots”, of two women holding up a large sign with the slogan “Legalise our love”). I cried over dead bumble bees and lost dogs, and joined in my school’s Save The Children campaign with relish, when I wasn’t donating tinned goods to churches, and then knocking on doors to deliver these little food parcels to the elderly. My Nan and I would always add our own home-baked cakes as a little extra something, too.

And yet, while she shook her head in consternation at times, and struggled to teach me that I can’t fix everyone and everything, it was my heart that was one of the things she most loved about me. I don’t know if she realised that, to me, being kind was just the way it was. I learned it from her, after all. My grandmother: the kindest, sweetest woman on the planet.

Nan

The fiesty Welsh farm girl who shaped who I am today. Everybody loved her

I don’t know what my Nan would have said about the recent and horrific events in France, but she would care. She would care that innocent people died; she would care that an atrocity has been committed. She would want me to care, and – if she is somewhere that she can still see me – she would know that I do. It’s France that I want to talk about, but I want to avoid the politics. This is just me, with my feelings, opinions and thoughts. Continue reading

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Falling Off The Wagon


Red, Red Wine...

Red, Red Wine… Stay far from me

I was coasting along quite nicely, not a care in the world. I honestly didn’t notice it happening, until I finally noticed that it had happened. Because that’s how it always works.

I forgot that I’d been using stabiliser wheels to keep me on an even keel and to stop me from swerving, or careening into a hypothetical brick wall which would literally break my body again. Because I’m too good at doing that. I’m too bloody good at forgetting and falling flat on my face. Continue reading

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It’s All About M.E.


M.E., CFS, Yuppie Flu, Chronic Exhaustion. Call it what you will; you still never really expect it to happen to you. You’re fit; you’re healthy; you’re active. It’s something that happens to other people.

Except for when it does happen to you. I believe that the NHS took back every last drop of blood they gave me when I had my transfusion, and some blood tests were repeated on numerous occasions, just to make certain. I’m everybody’s favourite pincushion – because I don’t make a song and dance out of having my bloods taken. Heck, I’ll joke about Daleks with you while you’re relieving me of yet more of the red stuff (this has actually happened); it doesn’t bother me because blood tests can save lives. A blood test is what saved my own life last year when my liver began bleeding into my stomach. Plus I’m just that used to it.

All of the results were conclusive. There is nothing physically wrong with me that can be treated. Therefore, CFS. Which there isn’t really any treatment for aside from painkillers. Which I am not supposed to take because of my liver. Joy. Continue reading

Posted in Acceptance, Adapting, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, CFS, Chronic Exhaustion, Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain, Exhaustion, Getting On With It, Health, Life, Pain, Surviving, Tarantulas, Terry Pratchett | Tagged | 8 Comments

Doctor Who Rewatch: Robots of Sherwood


Disclaimer: In 2013 I reviewed the second half of Series 7 for The Hairy Housewife and fully intended to do the same for Series 8 last year. Unfortunately, it proved impossible. Life and work and caring responsibilities called and at my lowest point, I was about five episodes behind everyone else. After speaking recently with Gemma, she thought it would be cool for me to do a re-tread of Series 8 to tide blog readers over until Series 9 airs. So that’s what’s happening. Every week I’ll re-watch and review an episode for this blog. Feel free to join me! Oh, and there will be spoilers.

Welcome back to another round of Maureen trying to swallow Mark Gatiss scripts on Doctor Who. I’ve said in multiple places that he isn’t my favorite writer for the show and truly, I am terrified of him taking over after Moffat. Robots of Sherwood was thankfully less awful then dreck like The Idiot’s Lantern and less boring then Cold War, but it still suffers from the mismatched tone and the slightness that has plagued every one of his Who scripts except The Unquiet Dead. I’m not saying that it’s not OK to have a bit of light hearted fun every now and again, but it isn’t what I prefer and particularly not in a potential show runner. In hindsight, Robots of Sherwood was one of the most comedic episodes of Series 8. Unfortunately, it is also remarkably average.

So what happened for those who need memories refreshed? Clara asks The Doctor to take her to see Robin Hood. After much snipery and ridicule, he obeys without much believing anything will come of it (nice set up for what happens in Dark Water, Moffat and Gatiss). The two find themselves in scenes lifted straight out of BBC Robin Hood (Still bitter about what you did on that one BBC) with bonus asides to Prince of Thieves etc, including having to save themselves from the evil Sheriff. It turns out he’s in cahoots with some metal robots who are after gold to power their ship to The Promised Land. Chaos ensues.

I liked that this episode started by furthering The Doctor’s personality yet again, with the re-occurring series motif of The Doctor scrawling equations across a TARDIS blackboard. This Doctor sees himself as a bit of an intellectual: the erratic and grumpy and half crazed Einsteinian Professor. This Doctor stops bad things happening because he’s ‘just passing the time’ after all. He’s also cruel, as he was last episode in Into the Dalek. This time he callously tells one of Robin’s men, ‘if you were real, you’d be dead in six months.’ The Doctor doesn’t believe in Robin and his gang’s existence and so he believes he has a free rein to do and say whatever he wants without consequence. Clara doesn’t agree:

The Doctor: When did you start believing in impossible heroes?
Clara: When did you stop believing in impossible things?

Clearly, this Doctor needs a dose of Alice in Wonderland, who believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast! Eleven would have done so, but then, this Doctor is a reaction to the studied lightness of Eleven.

The episode also cleverly juxtaposes two legends side by side: that of The Doctor and that of Robin Hood. The two play constant games of one-up-man-ship – from Robin and his sword vs The Doctor and his spoon over a river, to the extended jibing in prison (Robin calls The Doctor ‘a dessicated man crow’ for example), to the exchange as The Doctor finds the alien ship – but the end result is the same. It doesn’t matter that both The Doctor and Robin are flawed heroes: the first sometimes callous and cold and unkind, the second full of false swagger and hubris, as long as we believe in them hard enough they transcend truth and become… legend.

Robin: History is forgotten. Stories make us fly… If we keep pretending to be [heroes] perhaps others will be in our name… may those stories never end.

As so often happens in modern Doctor Who, the quote is also a meta reference to the fans. In believing in The Doctor’s story long enough and hard enough, we have sustained it and kept the dream alive. At the same time, we are reminded of why The Doctor’s story matters… because he was moved by the plight of the oppressed and of the weak, so stole a TARDIS, just as Robin found the plight of the oppressed and the weak too much to bear so stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

Robin was told by Marian to stand up and be counted, but he was afraid. In Series 8, it is Clara who tells The Doctor to stand up and be counted, but deep down, underneath the crotchety mask, he is afraid (next week’s Listen attests to this). The Doctor is flawed and so the show turns to Clara to become a hero in The Doctor’s name, as Gretchen did last week, bringing us to a second ongoing Moffat series theme – The Doctor as enabler with companions as ordinary people made heroes through The Doctor’s friendship and extraordinary circumstance. It seems that Clara Who is truly underway. Luckily, Jenna Coleman is an excellent actress. Her scenes with The Sheriff (an odd knock-off of Richard Armitage’s Guy of Gisbourne in that black leather) are especially good as she tricks The Sheriff into revealing his story:

Sheriff: Tell me your story
Clara: But I do not have one… I was lying

She also speaks for the entire audience when she pronounces, ‘does your plan involve the words sonic and screwdriver?’ to The Doctor. To many times it does, we all say.This time it’s all down to Clara and all in a smoking hot costume and hair style too. (Aside: I enjoyed the return of name monikers with Prince of Thieves and Last of the Time Lords. It’s not Moffat Who without them. Thanks Clara.)

Where the episode becomes truly unstuck is in the final twenty minutes with the alien threat of the week taking on a bigger role within the story. Their reason for invasion isn’t particularly complex, and nor is the way Clara, The Doctor and Robin get rid of them. The ending cops out with a half hearted theme about working together and an improbably shot golden arrow, but at least the alien story does serve to get Missy’s Promised Land name checked for the week. Some of the acting was sub par (The Sheriff and the captured woman especially) even if I did get to play spot that actor with Master Quail (He played Sir Hector in Hallmark’s Merlin which is in my top 5 film list of all time) and the tone changed from thoughtful and melancholy under a veneer of frivolity to silly deux ex machina before returning briefly to more thoughtful again as The Doctor and Robin discuss the difference between history and legend. Aside from giving Clara further chance to shine and establishing Tweleve, nothing much to see here.

Robots of Sherwood: 5/10 inky stars

I know that this ranking is very low compared to how I ranked episodes in Series 7. In hindsight, I would probably re-rank the second half of Series 7 as this episode is infinitely more entertaining than Cold War or Nightmare in Silver for example. Unfortunately, it is still distinctly average, and as I am ranking out of 10, I feel that 5 is the right score for exactly average

Posted in A Madman With A Box | Tagged , ,

Sir Terry Pratchett – 1948-2015


My husband and I also had the pleasure of meeting Sir Terry, or – as our set of friends (AFPers) knew him – Sir Pterry. I met my husband right after he and a mutual friend had been to a CCDE, where another friend’s wonderfully insane Rottweiller had cuddled Sir Terry and left her usual muddy trademark: his t-shirt stopped reading “Less Dead Than Dickens” and read “Less *pawprint* than *pawprint*”. Our mortified friend got a smile of great amusement in return.

My first Discworld Convention was nervewracking. Amazing costumes everywhere, important people everywhere… then later somebody began a jam session in the bar. As I broke into my favourite “Summertime” I was joined by a rich baritone to my left, and when I looked around my voice faded in wonder; the baritone was Terry.

I’m not going to petition Death to bring Terry back to us; I only ask that he take good care of him.

Goodnight good Sir, and thank you for the Soul Music.

Sarah Cawkwell's Blog



It was my extraordinaryprivilegeto meet Sir Terry Pratchett (or just ‘Terry’ as he was then) several times during the course of my late teenage and young adult years. Each one of those meetings was extraordinary for different reasons. Each memoryof those meetingsisprecious, even more so in the wake of his death.


Not long after the publication of ‘Equal Rites’ Terry[1] was signing copies at the local bookshop in Crawley. He was not really a household name at this point and a small trickle of people came up to him and got their books signed. I had read his previous works and in a twist of annoying fate, had purchased my copy of ‘Equal Rites’ a week before, down in Chichester whilst at college. Being an impoverished student, I asked him if he wouldn’t be offended if I got him to sign something else…

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I stand quietly


As an autistic adult woman and the mother of an autistic son, whose life is impacted so much more than mine, I cannot read this without weeping.

#istandquietly

Dirty, Naked and Happy

I stand quietly while you do somersaults on the bed as you aren’t being naughty, you are just trying to get your out of sync body under control.

I stand quietly by the toilet door every time you need to go, and come with you around the house, and sometimes even just across the room, because I know you can feel truly frightened when you are not near me.

I stand quietly at the supermarket checkout while everyone stares at you barking like a dog and blowing raspberries on my arms to cope with the buzzing lights.

I stand quietly while you tell the baffled shop owner that you are looking for shoes that feel hard like splintered wood because your skin can’t bear soft things.

I stand quietly when the attendant gives us scornful looks when I ask for the key to the disabled toilet because the hand dryer…

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Re-Watch: Doctor Who Into The Dalek Review


Disclaimer: In 2013 I reviewed the second half of Series 7 for The Hairy Housewife and fully intended to do the same for Series 8 last year. Unfortunately, it proved impossible. Life and work and caring responsibilities called and at my lowest point, I was about five episodes behind everyone else. After speaking recently with Gemma, she thought it would be cool for me to do a re-tread of Series 8 to tide blog readers over until Series 9 airs. So that’s what’s happening. Every week I’ll re-watch and review an episode for this blog. Feel free to join me! Oh, and there will be spoilers.

Into The Dalek tells the story of soldiers who ask The Doctor to go inside a Dalek to find out what is making it malfunction and become ‘a good Dalek.’ (Aside: Was the Dalek called Rusty as an in-joke reference to RTD’s fandom nickname? Inquiring minds want to know.) We are also treated to a bonus companion who never was, Journey Blue, and the deepening of Clara’s relationship with Danny and with The Doctor. Now that Twelve has been established, the second episode also serves to deepen his characterization as a grumpy old man reminiscent of One. The Doctor is rude to Journey Blue, even in the face of her brother’s death (And his sister isn’t [dead]. You’re welcome), is callous when people die inside the Dalek, and (in one of the few bum notes of series 8 and this particular episode) tells Clara that she looks old and ugly. It is a change from the young magic man Eleven. However, there is continuity too. Namely, that The Doctor always cares about being a good man, and always feels conflicted about soldiers and warring.

It’s interesting that this episode contains so many important themes which resurface in a big way in the finale. Though the episodes are nothing alike, I was reminded of The Beast Below. The Beast Below established Series 5’s fairy story vibe, the importance of dreams and belief to Amy and her relationship with The Doctor and Eleven’s true character – he doesn’t interfere in people or planets unless there’s children crying. Similarly, Into the Dalek establishes the soldier theme, including The Doctor as soldier, and the importance of trying to be something rather than worrying about if you are or are not that thing all of which is addressed in Death in Heaven. As a fun aside, the scene where Clara and The Doctor slide down the Dalek’s feeding tube and land in digested bodies has a lot in common with The Beast Below when Amy and The Doctor fall into the beast’s stomach.

Anyway, for every good Dalek-centric episode (Dalek, Asylum of the Daleks, Day of the Doctor etc) there are rubbish ones (Victory of the Daleks, Evolution of the Daleks/Daleks in Manhatten etc). Though Into the Dalek is by no means perfect, it is at least an interesting Dalek episode. The main reason for this is its exploration of the soldier theme which is to become so important in the finale. Danny Pink is introduced as a Maths teacher with a background in soldiery (Is it coincidence that both Journey Blue and Danny Pink are soldiers with color last names?). We see Danny teach PE military style and then teach Maths to questions of, ‘Have you ever killed anyone who wasn’t a soldier?’ (this comes back to bite Danny in Dark Water). Danny is a different kind of soldier. Clara says as a joke in response to his assertions of morality, ‘Ah, you shoot people and then cry about it later.’ There is a moral dimension to being Danny’s kind of soldier, and presumably Journey Blue’s too (though The Doctor doesn’t learn this until Death in Heaven). He mistakenly says ‘crying is for civilians… we cry so you don’t have to,’ except we know that this isn’t true, because Danny the soldier man does cry, even if only on the inside, and we see it happen as he is questioned in his classroom.

This Doctor is a contradiction and an enigma. He doesn’t like soldiers, to the point of telling Journey Blue, ‘I think you’re probably nice. Underneath it all I think you’re kind. You’re definitely brave. I just wish you hadn’t been a soldier,’ but at the same time he needs confirmation from a flummoxed Clara that he is indeed a good man, and not, as the Dalek tells him, a good Dalek, a good hater, a good soldier, a believer of beauty in hate. Moffat reminds us again why The Doctor needs humans. The Doctor needs his humans to remind him why he isn’t like a Dalek.

Clara: I’m his carer.
The Doctor: Yeah, she cares so I don’t have to.

The Doctor says he does one better and saves souls as well as lives, but he is only able to do this because of human companions like Clara. It is for this reason that I agree with Moffat and think that the companion story is so vital to Doctor Who. Clara reminds The Doctor that the point isn’t that there was a Dalek and it malfunctioned so appeared good. The point was that for a single moment in time, The Doctor believed that there was a good Dalek. Or to put it another way, it doesn’t matter if you are or are not a good person, what matters is that you believe in becoming a good person. There is so much awesome in Clara being a teacher. Not only does she teach an English classroom in the show, she is the audience’s teacher too:

Clara: I don’t know.
The Doctor: I’m sorry?
Clara: You asked me if you were a good man and the answer is, I don’t know. But I think you try to be and I think that’s probably the point.
The Doctor: I think you’re probably an amazing teacher.
Clara: I think I’d better be.

This episode shows us that The Doctor has changed. He is old and grumpy and acerbic and irritable and touchy on the subject of soldiers, but he is still trying to be a good man. Ultimately, he is still a mad man with a box gallivanting around space and time trying to do his best. Gretchen reminds us of this, even as her sacrifice also reminds us of why The Doctor comes back for humans every single time:

Gretchen: Is he mad or is he right?
Clara: Hand on my heart – most days he’s both.
Gretchen: Gretchen Alison Carlisle. Do something good and name it after me.
The Doctor: I will do something amazing. I promise.
Gretchen: Damn well better.

Into The Dalek is a surprisingly complex and interesting Who adventure which firmly sets up themes for the rest of series 8.

Into The Dalek: 8/10 inky stars

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