shewhomust: (Default)
That summer feeling, where doing not very much still fills the day from end to end, with plenty of breaks for reading or poking about the internet. Time slips by, yet nothing seems to have happened - or at least, nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, rounding up a few things -

Last Friday we went to a wine tasting at Majestic wines. We'd dropped in the previous day, in search of rosé, and since the tasting was of rosé, and the price of the ticket was redeemable against buying wine, and we weren't doing anything else, it seemed worth a try. We weren't sure what to expect, but we caught the bus, in the pouring rain, and were welcomed into the shop by Mike who had served us the previous day and was our 'wine guru' for the evening, busy putting out chairs for the six customers. That made it one of the smallest tastings I've ever been to, and definitely one of the least formal (we were not - quite - rowdy, but we may have come close). Mike had put together half a dozen wines from six different countries at a range of prices (and showed us, with evident regret, the Bandol which his budget wouldn't cover). The hit of the evening was a Côtes de Provence in a fancy square bottle, which I thought pretentious and not very interesting, certainly not justifying its price. I was disappointed in the Chapel Down (and I wish I'd been taking notes, because I don't remember why), intrigued by the Muga, which had the flavour of Cava but without the fizz, could have done without the Route 88 White Zinfandel (pink sugar-water) and of the six preferred the Breganze Pinot Grigio, an easy-drinking blush. But I didn't like any of them as well as the La Serrana we had bought the previous day, deep raspberry red with a surprising tannic grip, and how can they possibly sell something drinkable at that price? After which we caught the bus home to a takeaway pizza and a bottle of decent red. A fun evening, good company, I'd do it again.

We've been enjoying Doctor Who. The series began while we were away on holiday, so we've been watching on catch-up, and were following along a week behind transmission. On Saturday we watched the last two episodes back to back in one feature length extravaganza - and I'm glad we did, because I would have found the cliff-hanger irritating and the second part dragged out. As it was, I didn't feel it earned its extra lenth, but that was less obvious since we'd chosen to watch at extra-length anyway. The series as a whole has been very uneven, which I suppose is what you get if you have different authors for different stories. and there have been bits of dialogue (usually when the Doctor has to say something particularly high-minded) when I've just thought 'no!' but I tend to blame the writer rather than the actor. Overall, I've enjoyed Peter Capaldi's Doctor, and I'm sorry we have entered its end-game. Nardole was fun; Bill was fine, though the University setting was one of the more alien worlds the Doctor has visited. Initially I greeted the rehabilitation (or not) of Missy as a pretty threadbare plot device (I still don't buy the idea that the Master is the Doctor's oldest, bestest friend, he just happens to be evil) but it grew on me. She gets all the best lines...

We were at the Lit & Phil last night for the launch of Peter Mortimer's book The Chess Traveller: the proposal was that Pete would start from a randomly selected point and proceed from there by bike to a sequence of other randomly selected points, at each of which he would engage a total stranger in a game of chess. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, of course, and the sections Pete read out were very funny about what did go wrong - as always with Peter Mortimer, I'm half amazed at what he achieves and half baffled how he gets away with it. But looking forward to reading the book.

At the market this morning I bought a red hat. Nothing special, and not expensive, just a floppy sun hat with a wide brim, in a strong deep red, lined with dark green. Only later did I realise that I was already wearing purple (with which it doesn't go). No-one can say they had no warning...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We have booked a holiday. It's not a particularly long or exotic trip, but I'm pleased about it - and it's quite soon! We are taking a couple of weeks in April to visit the borders of Belgium and Germany: a combination of places we've never been and wanted to, and places we've enjoyed and wanted to revisit, plus a wild card.

The plan is to take the ferry (in a couple of weeks time) from Hull to Zeebrugge, pay a quick visit to Bruges and then spend a few days in Ghent. Then a detour down to Bouillon, to admire the castle (as recommended by [ profile] jemck), and into Germany to visit Trier, with time to wander the Moselle valley if we are so inclined, and Aachen. The wild card is Utrecht, chosen because it looks interesting and because it is well on the way to the ferry post of Amsterdam, from which we can take an overnight ferry all the way back to Newcastle. It's all booked up, so we've got to go!

Naturally, as soon as we have a holiday booked, two things happen: neither is a disaster, in fact both are agreeable things which will await our return or longer. Nonetheless, great timing. The first is that the BBC has announced that the new season of Doctor Who will start while we are out of the country; the other is that a leaflet fell out of the Guardian colour supplement advertising holidays in Atlantic Canada (this one, in particular), and it does look very tempting (they even put a picure of a puffin in the brochure, just for me). But there will be other years...

ETA: via the same issue of the Guardian, this time the Travel section, an article about walking the Fundy Footpath points to the website of the Atlantic Canada tourist board.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
The current series of Doctor Who started while we were in France, so we are lagging behind, but fast catching up.

The initial two-parter took me by surprise, but, thanks to [ profile] poliphilo, we were prepared for the next one, and made time last night to watch episodes three and four (Before the Flood / Under the Lake) back to back. I enjoyed this story a lot, especially the first three-quarters, after which it collapsed into the sort of unearned emotionalism which had spoiled the first two-parter for me. Genuinely unexpected developments and lots of smart lines, plus fun with time paradoxes, for this I'll forgive any number of plot holes.

Two questions, though:

If we need to be reminded that the TARDIS takes care of translation, and that its failure to translate the sigils is mysterious and significant, what are we to make of its failure to translate sign language?

And the Fisher King? Really, we (the writers? no, the characters, surely?) have decided to call him the Fidher King? Because why, exactly?
shewhomust: (dandelion)
I have celebrated Christmas by catching a cold. I resent this all the more because I did the same thing last time we were away from home, in New England. It isn't a fun thing to have yourself, and it can't be a fun thing to have in a guest, and I wish it would go away. I had an early night last night and a long hot shower this morning, and feel better, but still snivelling.

[ profile] valydiarosada cooked a turkey, and while it was in the oven we drank champagne and opened our presents, which were many and very acceptable. Then [ profile] valydiarosada grappled the roast potatoes while I dealt with the sprouts and the parsnips. Neither D. nor [ profile] valydiarosada likes parsnips, but there were two in the vegetable box, and [ profile] durham_rambler regards them as God's own vegetable, and I like them fine from time to time, and these were particularly good parsnips.

All of which adds up to a very traditional Christmas dinner. We accompanied it with two bottles of Château Musar, one 2007, the other 2005. (Since I didn't diary last year's two bottles of Château Musar, we have been unable to recall their dates, but I won't repeat that mistake.) Neither of them had that overcooked fruit flavour which I had started to find, and not like, in Château Musar: the 2007 was full, fruity and spicy, the 2005 almost unctuous in its richness, with just enough spice at the finished to stop it being over-rich. We had enough of it left after the main course to feel that a little cheese was in order (especially as some cheese and crackers had been discovered under the tree), and when the decanter was empty we moved on the the Mission port which [ profile] durham_rambler and I had bought at the vineyard in Amador County: not port, without the complexity of port, but sweet and smooth and almost creamy. All these rich fruit flavours had satisfied any craving anyone might have had for Christmas pudding, so we agreed to save that for another day, and retired to the sofa with coffee and chocolate and television.

Doctor Who was actually better than I expected: my heart sank when I heard that it would have Father Christmas, but he wasn't too painful, and I enjoyed his elves. There was a twist towards the end which I thought was emotionally exploitative, ran counter to the logic of the episode and spotlighted an aspect of the Doctor / companion set-up which it might be better not to look at to closely, but I won't spoiler the story by saying more.

The only other news is that in the few days we have been here in Ely I appear to have become more frightning to the cats. On our first evening, Amber actually deigned to walk across my lap on her way somewhere. Now they both scatter at the sight of me. Since one of their preferred nesting places is the rug outside the bathroom, they do quite a lot of scattering.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Ely cathedral

Three days of sunshine: short days and not warm, but sunny while they lasted. Correspondingly, our excursions have been brief. On Christmas Eve, as I said, a quick visit to Ely, on a bus driven by Santa Claus: when he stopped for a cigarette break, we got out and walked down to the river, then back across the meadow to the cathedral (saving a proper, fee-paying visit for a more leisurely occasion) and home. Then across the fens to Whicken for lunch.

We ate our Christmas dinner in the evening, so there was time to go out in the afternoon to Bottisham, which is where [ profile] durham_rambler's father always said his family came from. We didn't find any obvious evidence of this, but a pretty church, some attractive buildings (with plenty of scope for discussing what their original purpose might have been), plenty of people walking purposefully between the different stages of their Christmas. Under D.'s direction, we took the scenic route home, through more pretty villages with thatched cottages and tall churches catching the low sun (Swaffham Prior has two chuches adjacent to each other, one with a striking octagonal tower). We bumped down narrow lanes across the fens, all right-angled corners and little bridges. There are windmills everywhere: some to grind corn, says D., but some to power the pumps which raise water from the drainage ditches and pour it into the rivers - the Cam and the Great Ouse.

This morning I accompanied D. to collect the newspaper, and a guided tour of the immediate locality - the building which is a barn from one side and a medieval chapel from the other, the distant view of the cathedral, the two medieval hospitals which a now a very private house, shielded from profane eyes by a high wall and an even higher hedge. They do serious hedges in these parts: it's very windy, says D., which may explain why a farm standing alone in a vista of fields is surrounded by a high square of hedge, but not why it is so neatly trimmed.

A not unduly leisurely lunch meant we were late going out this afternoon, to Rampton this time, where we noticed a yew tree so savagely clipped it looked like a giant darning mushroom. Also more thatched cottages, a thatched church and 'Giant's Hill' a moated mound which is all that remains of an Anarchy castle (I hadn't met this use of the word, for a castle built during the conflict between Stephen and Matilda). The sky faded from sunshine to dusk with no perceptible sunset, and the field of leeks (probably) which I had noticed on the way out glimmered silver grey.

In other news, I was disappointed in Doctor Who: all that build-up, all that sound and fury, all those faces from the past and - what? No logic, no plot, just emotional manipulation. And not enough Peter Capaldi.

I have started re-reading Mary Poppins. [ profile] sartorias, [ profile] gillpolack, [ profile] ookpik - and [ profile] nineweaving, please join us - ready when you are!
shewhomust: (Default)
If you want to know why Van Gogh painted a monster at the window of the church at Auvers, why would you go to Arles (location of that café terrace) in the south of France, which he had already left when he painted the church, which is in the north?

This bothered me. I know that in the scale of things Whovian, it's a minor inconsistency, but it bothered me in a way that other things didn't. The Doctor decides to indulge Amy, who is a big Van Gogh fan by taking her not to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam (which has the largest collection of his work) but to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris: well, they have some fine examples too, and besides, Paris! The monster spoiler; as if you cared - )

At one level, this installment lost me as soon as it wheeled on Bill Nighy as a passing art expert - oh, don't get me wrong, he was wonderful, and I enjoyed the business with the bow ties. But thinking "Good grief, that's Bill Nighy" does rather throw you out of the story. Nor did I believe the 'Greatest. Artist. Evah.' judgement he was doling out. We all love our Vincent, but the assessment of his position (as gathered from a quick trawl through Google) is closer to 'greatest Dutch painter since Rembrandt' and 'one of the greatest Post-Impressionists'. Isn't that good enough? Does he have to win the Greatest Artist competition, too?

It was fun. But I'm still waiting for the Doctor to stop messing about and fix the crack in the universe.
shewhomust: (Default)
Monday's Guardian has an interview with Russell T. Davies (tucked away for some reason in the Media section). It contains few surprises, but this pair of paragraphs had me boggling:
He is not a man to shy away from controversial comments, and says Tennant's eventual replacement should not be female. "I am often tempted to say yes to that to placate everyone but, while I think kids will not have a problem with [a female Doctor], I think fathers will have a problem with it because they will then imagine they will have to describe sex changes to their children.

"I think fathers can describe sex changes to their children and I think they should and it's part of the world, but I think it would simply introduce genitalia into family viewing. You're not talking about actresses or style, you're talking about genitalia, and a lot of parents would get embarrassed."

I used to cherish the hope of seeing Miriam Margolies take over the rôle, and I'd come to terms with the fact that it wasn't going to happen. But as reasons go, that's bad one. "Because I don't want to," works better.

But no, Russell T. would love to. It's just that all the dads (who explained Captain Jack without blushing) begged him not to embarrass them. They have no trouble explaining time paradoxes, and the Doctor's general ability to regenerate is child's play.

But it seems that when the Doctor regenerates into a whole new person, new body, new personality, new style, new mannerisms, there is actually one part of him that doesn't regenerate, one small but important part that stays constant...

Do I believe this? No, I think it's a load of genitalia.
shewhomust: (Default)
Four episodes in to the series, and already I have to concentrate to remember which is which; must be time to fix those thoughts on paper.

Two disclaimers, to begin with. The first I share with just about everyone else, it seems: I thought Christopher Ecclestone was terrific, and his playing of the Doctor was a large part of what made Doctor Who unmissable. He was always going to be a hard act to follow.

The second may be no more than a reflection of the times of my life when I was and wasn't watching Doctor Who: I watched it from the beginning, with William Hartnell's grandfather figure, through Patrick Troughton (still my own favourite, on the basis of vague but fond memories) and then intermittently during the tenures of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. Since then, I might catch the odd episode, but whole Doctors have passed by unseen. Meanwhile, I have grown older, and the Doctor has grown younger - and it isn't David Tennant's fault, but he takes this to extremes.

It isn't just that I was so very much younger when my concept of the Doctor was formed, of course: he is a Time Lord, incredibly old and incredibly powerful. At the origin of the "companion" rôle is a recognition that this may be a little forbidding, and the audience had better be given someone younger to identify with, a kid sidekick, Robin to the Doctor's Batman. Naturally, we speculate about the relationship between the Doctor and his travelling companion(s), but this is a game played on the margins of the script; I don't want to see it acknowledged overtly (pre-slashed, as it were), I want to feel that I am piecing together a story which is hidden, unravelling a secret which is - however slightly - a guilty secret, a breaching of the barriers between two characters who are different in every way possible: age, background, species (and traditionally gender too, though I wouldn't insist on that one).

This worked fine with Rose and the Ninth Doctor: Christopher Ecclestone's dry, sardonic manner contrasted beautifully with Rose's exuberance, and made him seem older and her younger than the actual ages of the actors (no, I have no idea what those are). As has been said about someone else, "She gave him sex appeal, he gave her class" (OK, in this case she humanised him, but you get the drift). With the Tenth Doctor and this is probably the point at which it's safer to draw a veil over any potential spoilers )
shewhomust: (Default)
Somehow we manage to be technophiles without being early adopters; perhaps because once we have the measure of a toy, we like it too much to abandon it just because a newer toy is now available. But eventually our video recorder died, and we went out last week and replaced it with a hard disk recorder / dvd burner / player. We had a deadline: we needed to be able to record the last episode of Dr Who.

I was taken by surprise by how much I have enjoyed this series. I must have watched the programme regularly through the first two or three Doctors, but not since: whole Doctors went past without my catching a single episode. And I never saw Queer as Folk. So I was untouched by the pre-broadcast excitement. But from the first show I was hooked by the sheer entertainment value of the thing, by how funny it was. What follows is not written from the standpoint of any great expertise (I haven't even seen all the episodes yet, though I'm hoping [ profile] samarcand is going to help me out here), but for what it's worth:
Spoilers, mainly for the last episode )
But if it were up to me, I'd still cast Miriam Margolyes as the Doctor.

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