Monday 25 February 2019

Winter walks

Just a few photos from a couple of walks we took at the weekend, around the beautiful
Westonbirt Arboretum and the tiny Gloucestershire village of Huntingford. Although it's technically still Winter, there was a definite feeling of Spring in the air...

Saturday 16 February 2019

Third Doctor sketch by Mike Collins

A couple of weeks back James and I went to the 2019 True Believers comic con in Cheltenham where I picked up this lovely Jon Pertwee sketch from ace comic book artist Mike Collins. I've met Mike a couple of times before and he's a lovely, talented guy who's always happy to chat with fans. I've meant to buy some of his artwork before but never quite got round to it, so I was extremely pleased with this sketch he did for me. It was great to watch him working and see this unique piece of artwork take shape. James and I also sat in on an art workshop Mike conducted where he gave us a few pointers on drawing Spider-Man. This was a lot of fun and the great man said my pitiful Spidey sketch was "really good"... which made my day :-)

As a bonus, here's some more wonderful artwork ( which the observant among you may have noticed as this blog's header image ), a print James bought from Dylan Teague. Isn't it lovely?

Sunday 10 February 2019

The Dandy Warhols at the O2 Institute, Birmingham

By sheer coincidence my most recent glimpses of those Rock 'n' Roll Bohemians, the Dandy Warhols, have all been in cities beginning with "B"  -  Bristol, Barcelona and, a couple of weeks back, the fine city of Birmingham. ( We had hoped to get to Berlin to see them on this tour but it wasn't to B... sorry, "be"... ) This was the Dandy's 25th anniversary tour so it was an absolute must. Sarah and I braved the snowy, sub-zero January weather and drove up to Brum, where we were stopping the night in the glitzy surroundings of a Travelodge next to the Bull Ring. ( Okay, it really wasn't that glitzy. Hopefully the band were staying somewhere a bit nicer. )
The O2 Institute is a lovely venue, yet another of those old, converted theatres we seem to end up in, with some pretty ornate furnishings and a huge arch above the stage. After watching support band Juniore ( a French synth-pop trio who looked cool but had left all their tunes on the other side of the Channel ) we met Borrowed Time superstars Glenn and Cliff who were also there for the promised "massive concussion of rock 'n' roll"...

With this being the band's Silver Anniversary tour, they reached back into their past and dug up a few songs that the more rabid fans ( like Glenn ) knew well but which weren't familiar to more casual fans like me and Sarah. Which was fine, except a lot of these songs were of the drone-y persuasion which made the set sag a bit in the middle ( a metaphor for 25 years? )  -  this, coupled with the strangely muted sound, meant it wasn't the best Dandy's gig I'd seen but it still had some fine moments.

Old faves like Godless, Boys Better, I Love You and Bohemian Like You ( of course! ) were all as immaculate as ever and they did a full-band version of Every Day Should Be A Holiday  -  a song usually just performed solo by Courtney and very welcome in this version. Of the recent material, STYGGO caused a mass singalong, Motor City Steel from the new album was a cheesy, infectious earworm and another new song even gave Zia the chance to do some Country-fied lead vocals. Awesome! Here are Cliff and Glenn adding their voices to the sound of the crowd...

The band were on fine form with the sound bolstered by the addition of a trumpet, which was perfect for Godless  -  even though we all " ba ba ba -ed" the trumpet parts anyway, as standard. Courtney gave a rambling monologue about curries ( well, it was Birmingham ) and loads of balloons were released over the crowd during ...Holiday. Which was nice.

And then it was over and we stumbled out into the freezing Birmingham night. Sarah and I went off to find some sustenance and ended up in a lovely Greek restaurant called Santorini which seemed to be the only eatery still open and turned out to be a very chilled and friendly place which served massive portions of food. We made it back to the bar over the road from the Institute where Zia was on the decks in her guise of DJ Rescue. We didn't stop too long but did see all of the Dandy's turn up and chat with the fans  -  I spoke very briefly to Brent and Zia and then we went back to our hotel. Glenn and Cliff went in search of their car ( they weren't too sure where they'd left it ) after taking the obligatory selfie with Zia...

Sarah and I spent the next day in Birmingham which was interesting because we hadn't been there in a loooong time. It was bloody cold but we had a nice time. Here are some random photos...

Sunday 3 February 2019

Things I Didn't Blog About In 2018 Part Two: Doctor Who Catch-up

Sorry, 2018  -  I'm not done with you yet. In a suitably time-warped kind of way I'm still dredging you back up from the temporal vortex to try and atone for my pitiful attempts at blogging during your titular twelve months. And this, er, time I'm looking at the last six episodes of Doctor Who, starting with:

Demons Of The Punjab ( by Vinay Patel )

After the tedious Tsuranga Conundrum had driven me to distraction the previous week I was really hoping for something with some more substance. Well, any substance really. Luckily this story set during the Partition of India delivered that, and how. The Doctor and her friends travel back in time to 1947 so Yaz can meet her beloved grandmother as a young woman. Unfortunately they land right in the middle of a cataclysmic event as India is being partitioned and Pakistan created with dire and violent consequences.
This episode was one of the highlights of the series for me  -  very well scripted and acted, with a sweet love story at its heart and some suitably gorgeous visuals. Although Rosa earlier in the series had also tackled the dangers of messing with history, this story was sufficiently different to get a pass from me for that slight redundancy.

Kerblam! ( by Pete McTighe )

An episode which could very well have been titled "Kerblamazon!", this was Who-style social satire, much in the vein of Seventh Doctor stories like The Happiness Patrol or Paradise Towers. And, like those stories, it was only partly successful. The concept of dodgy goings-on in a space-based delivery company was fine, with its skewering of modern day businesses who exploit their workers and don't pay their taxes, but the execution was mostly toothless. I think it could have been much darker and sharper but it ended up being just about average, demonstrating again that the new regime are more comfortable with Earth-focused stories than with intergalactic escapades.

The Witchfinders ( by Joy Wilkinson )

Another trip into the past, in this case to 17th century Lancashire, and a village in the midst of a witch frenzy. This was a terrific episode, Doctor Who tackling tea-time Folk Horror, with some bleak, wintry vistas and a suitably chilling alien menace. It also featured two of the best guest performances of the series from Siobhan Finneran and Alan Cumming as, respectively, a witch-obsessed landowner and a very camp King James. So far in its short run the Chibnall era has seemed very squeamish in terms of horror in the subject matter but this episode went a long way to redressing the balance.

It Takes You Away ( by Ed Hime )

A very strange episode, this, which may have benefited from being a two-parter, as the story changed narrative gears at least twice in its 50 minutes. ( I hope longer stories do return in future series so we at least see the return of the show's emblematic cliffhangers. ) The Doctor and friends went to the aid of a young, blind girl trapped in a cabin in a Scandinavian forest, surrounded by monsters. Although, that's how it seemed at first. The story turned out to share some ideas with Shyamalan's The Village before developing twists and turns involving a dimensional portal, Kevin Eldon in some very Star Trek-style "bumpy forehead alien" makeup, and a sentient universe in the form of a talking frog. It was that kind of a story. The mad concepts in this episode made it very divisive but I loved the audacity of it, giving us the kind of madness only Doctor Who would dare. And there was a brief return for Sharon D Clarke, in some lovely scenes with Bradley Walsh, which added a very poignant, er, dimension.

The Battle Of Anskoor Av Kolos ( by Chris Chibnall )

The series finale which didn't really feel like a finale. Nu Who fans have become used over the last 13 years or so to epic finales where the "arc plots", be they involving a Bad Wolf or a crack in time or a returning Time Lord / Lady, all come together and hopefully tie up dangling plot threads.
( Although, in Moffatt's case, some of these threads were never tied up. Just how did Rory escape from those Silence-infested tunnels? Huh, Steve? ) This year's was more of a stand-alone with the main "resolution" being that of Ryan and Graham's relationship issues.
But, saying that, this was still an enjoyable story which saw the return of Tim Shaw, some impressive glimpses of an alien planet, complete with spaceship graveyard, and a pleasing debate on the morality of executing ( or not ) genocidal alien monsters.

Resolution ( by Chris Chibnall )

The new Year's Day special gave us a return to Sheffield and a return of the show's quintessential villains, the Daleks. Only, this time it was a single Skarosian mutant which had been entombed on Earth for centuries and, after being awoken by some hapless archaeologists, went on the hunt for a new body. This was a cracking episode, very old-school, with plenty of action, stunts and special effects and some classic confrontation scenes between the Doctor and her oldest foe, this time in armour desperately cobbled together in a scrapyard. Daleks en masse and powerful can often be boring ( which is why Davros was created ) but a lone, vulnerable Dalek is always the scariest and most dangerous. Chibnall wisely realises this and pulled out all the stops for this thrilling story. Although it was disappointing that the 21st century Who tradition of a Christmas Day episode seemed to have come to an end, this New Year's Day special is hopefully the start of a new tradition.
Of course, the biggest disappointment is that we will have to wait until 2020 before we see the next series. Where's that Tardis?

I'll leave the final words to the Doctor herself:
"Keep your faith. Travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you. Constantly."

Soundtrack: Songs In The Key Of Life by Stevie Wonder


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