February books

Non-fiction 4 (YTD 8)
The Last Manchu: The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China
A Buzz in the Meadow, by Dave Goulson
Ties That Bind: Love in Science Fiction and Fantasy, ed. Francesca T. Barbini
Goodbye To All That, by Robert Graves

Non-genre 2 (YTD 4)
Sugar and other stories, by A.S. Byatt
Three Daves, by Nicki Elson

SF 13 (YTD 23)
The Kappa Child, by Hiromi Goto
Koko Takes a Holiday, by Kieran Shea
Ring Shout, by P. Djèlí Clark
The Autumn Land, by Clifford D. Simak
The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin
Bold As Love, by Gwyneth Jones
Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, by Gary Wolf
Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold by Māori Writers, edited by Witi Ihimaera and Whiti Hereaka
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, by T. Kingfisher
Who Framed Roger Rabbit, by Martin Noble, based on the screenplay by Jeffrey Price & Peter Seaman

Club Ded, by Nikhil Singh – did not finish

Ivory’s Story, by Eugen M. Bacon
Science Fiction: The Great Years, eds. Carol and Frederik Pohl

Comics and photo books 3 (YTD 5)
My Father’s Things, by Wendy Aldiss
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Old Friends, by Jody Houser
A.I. Revolution vol. 1, by Yuu Asami

5,400 pages (YTD 10,900)
13/22 (YTD 21/41) by women (Aldiss, Barbini, Byatt, Elson, Goto, Jemisin, Jones, Hereaka, "Kingfisher", Bacon, C Pohl, Houser, Asami)
8/22 (YTD 11/41) by PoC (Puyi, Goto, Clark, Jemisin, Ihimaera/Hereaka, Singh, Bacon, Asami)
0/19 rereads – thought I had read Bold as Love before, but I think it was just the opening chapter in Interzone.

Titus Alone, by Mervyn Peake
Chasm City, by Alastair Reynolds
The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Coming soon (perhaps)
Mostly Void, Partially Stars, by Joseph Fink
"Sandkings", by George R.R. Martin
Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, by Nick Mason
Romeinse sporen: het relaas van de Romeinen in de Benelux met 309 vindplaatsen om te bezoeken, by Herman Clerinx
Foucaults Pendulum, by Umberto Eco
Kaleidoscope: diverse YA science fiction and fantasy stories, eds Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios
Worlds Apart, by Richard Cowper
Le dernier Atlas, tome 1, by Fabien Vehlmann, Gwen De Bonneval and Fred Blanchard
The Serpent Sea, by Martha Wells (2012)
The Consuming Fire, by John Scalzi
Riot Baby, by Tochi Onyebuchi
Splinters and the Impolite President, by William Whyte
In the Days of the Comet, by H. G. Wells
City of Blades, by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Complete Short Stories Of Guy de Maupassant
Wonder Woman: The Golden Age, Vol. 2 by William Moulton Marston
Comic Inferno, by Brian W. Aldiss
Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins
"Stories For Men", by John Kessel

Posted in Uncategorised

Whatever Happened to Patience Kershaw?

I am grateful to Ian for bringing to my attention the case of Patience Kershaw, a girl whose testimony to the Antony Ashley-Cooper's Children's Employment Commission (Mines) has been adapted and set to music, performed by many including The Unthanks:

It’s good of you to ask me, Sir, to tell you how I spend my days
Down in a coal black tunnel, Sir, I hurry corves to earn my pay.
The corves are full of coal, kind Sir, I push them with my hands and head.
It isn’t lady-like, but Sir, you’ve got to earn your daily bread.

I push them with my hands and head, and so my hair gets worn away.
You see this baldy patch I’ve got, it shames me like I just can’t say.
A lady’s hands are lily white, but mine are full of cuts and segs.
And since I’m pushing all the time, I’ve got great big muscles on my legs.

I try to be respectable, but sir, the shame, God save my soul.
I work with naked, sweating men who curse and swear and hew the coal.
The sights, the sounds, the smells, kind Sir, not even God could know my pain.
I say my prayers, but what’s the use? Tomorrow will be just the same.

Now, sometimes, Sir, I don’t feel well, my stomach’s sick, my head it aches.
I’ve got to hurry best I can. My knees are weak, my back near breaks.
And then I’m slow, and then I’m scared these naked men will batter me.
But they’re not to blame, for if I’m slow, their families will starve, you see.

Now all the lads, they laugh at me, and Sir, the mirror tells me why.
Pale and dirty can’t look nice. It doesn’t matter how hard I try.
Great big muscles on my legs, a baldy patch upon my head.
A lady, Sir? Oh, no, not me! I should’ve been a boy instead.

I praise your good intentions, Sir, I love your kind and gentle heart
But now it’s 1842, and you and I, we’re miles apart.
A hundred years and more will pass before we’re standing side by side
But please accept my grateful thanks. God bless you Sir, at least you tried.

The original testimony is gripping.

My father has been dead about a year; my mother is living and has ten children, five lads and five lasses; the oldest is about thirty, the youngest is four; three lasses go to mill; all the lads are colliers, two getters and three hurriers; one lives at home and does nothing; mother does nought but look after home.

All my sisters have been hurriers, but three went to the mill. Alice went because her legs swelled from hurrying in cold water when she was hot. I never went to day-school; I go to Sunday-school, but I cannot read or write; I go to pit at five o'clock in the morning and come out at five in the evening; I get my breakfast of porridge and milk first; I take my dinner with me, a cake, and eat it as I go; I do not stop or rest any time for the purpose; I get nothing else until I get home, and then have potatoes and meat, not every day meat. I hurry in the clothes I have now got on, trousers and ragged jacket; the bald place upon my head is made by thrusting the corves; my legs have never swelled, but sisters' did when they went to mill; I hurry the corves a mile and more under ground and back; they weigh 300 cwt.; I hurry 11 a-day; I wear a belt and chain at the workings, to get the corves out; the getters that I work for are naked except their caps; they pull off all their clothes; I see them at work when I go up; sometimes they beat me, if I am not quick enough, with their hands; they strike me upon my back; the boys take liberties with me sometimes they pull me about; I am the only girl in the pit; there are about 20 boys and 15 men; all the men are naked; I would rather work in mill than in coal-pit.

(The Commission comments: This girl is an ignorant, filthy, ragged, and deplorable-looking object, and such an one as the uncivilized natives of the prairies would be shocked to look upon.)

The Ashley Commission reported in 1842 so presumably took evidence in late 1841 and early 1842. The 1841 census records a 15-year-old Patience Kershaw living with her mother and eight siblings in Plough Croft Lane, Northowram, near Halifax, Yorkshire. The oldest of the boys is 20 rather than 30, but one of the sisters is named Alice and the youngest is four. All of the children except the youngest are recorded as working. So I think we have her; given other evidence that we will come to, I think the 1841 census got her age wrong, the Commission got the age of her oldest brother wrong, and one of her five brothers was staying elsewhere on census night.

The 1851 census records her age as 26. Now she is living in Ovenden, 6 km from Northowram, with 35-year-old William Horsfall. Both of their professions are given as wool combers.

In the 1861 census her age is given as 37. Now her profession is given as House Servant and her status as Lodger, still living in Ovenden but now with 42-year-old Henry Shaw, a saddle cover weaver, and his three children; the 14-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl are working, the 5-year-old is not. We can make our own guesses about Patience's relationship with Shaw.

Edited to add: Over on Facebook, Carmen Chaproniere points out that the household listed immediately before William Horsfall and Patience Kershaw in 1851 is a Henry Shaw, with his wife 25-year-old Ellen, 11-year-old sister-in-law Alice Horsefield, and three small children. However, I find this same family a bit further north in Denholme in the 1861 census, with a few more children in the meantime. There’s another Henry Shaw, aged 32, living in Ovenden in 1851 with his wife Maria, brother Edward, and children Sam (4) and Sarah Jane (1), which exactly fits the chap living with Patience ten years later. And there are unfortunately lots of Maria Shaws born around 1826 who died in and around Halifax between 1851 and 1861.

On 15 March 1869, Patience Kershaw, age given as 43, is buried in the graveyard at Stanley, near Wakefield, about 30 km east of Ovenden and Northowram. She had been an inmate of the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum when she died.

It's not a long story, but it is a sad one.

There's another Patience Kershaw in Lancahire, who lived from 1825 to 1889, but Kershaw was her married name so I don't think she can be a viable option.

Edited to add: These documents are not difficult to find, and unsurprisingly I am not the first or even the third person to hunt them down. Denise Bates has one extra data point: Patience was admitted to the Halifax workhouse in 1867, two years before she died in the asylum near Wakefield. She also has another line about her from the Secretary of the Commission:

A deplorable object, barely removed from idiocy. Her family receiving £2 19s 6d a week.

It’s entirely possible that Patience had a learning disability, but was clearly able to express herself well.

Edited to add, again: Digging a bit deeper, William Horsfall died in 1858 and is buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard in Halifax. As for Henry Shaw, he married Hannah Snowden in 1864, three years after he was recorded living with Patience, and three years before she went to the Halifax workhouse.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Whoniversaries 28, 29 and 30 February

i) births and deaths for 28 February

28 February 1912: birth of Mervyn Pinfield, who was Associate Producer for Doctor Who from An Unearthly Child (1963) to The Romans (1965) and also directed The Sensorites (1964), Planet of Giants (1964) and The Space Museum (1965).

28 February 1969: birth of Murray Gold, composer of New Who music from 2005 to 2017.

ii) broadcast and production anniversaries for 28 February

28 February 1970: broadcast of fifth episode of Doctor Who and the Silurians. The Silurians release a deadly virus to wipe out humanity.

28 February 1976: broadcast of fifth episode of The Seeds of Doom. The Krynoid gets larger and larger, and the surrounding vegetation is under its control.

28 February 1981: broadcast of first episode of Logopolis.

28 February 2005: filming of Christopher Eccleston’s part of the Ninth/Tenth Doctor regeneration scene.


i) births and deaths for 29 February

29 February 2012: death of Dennis Chinnery, who played Albert C. Richardson (the first mate of the Mary Celeste) in The Chase (First Doctor, 1965), Gharman in Genesis of the Daleks (Fourth Doctor, 1975) and Sylvest, father of the twins in The Twin Dilemma (Sixth Doctor, 1984).

ii) broadcast and production anniversaries for 29 February

29 February 1964: broadcast of “The Singing Sands”, second episode of the story we now call Marco Polo. As the travellers press on through the desert, Tegana destroys their water supply.


date specified in-universe as 30 February

30 February [sic] 1983: birthdate of Bamri Aygon, one of the missing people in the 2008 Torchwood episode Adrift.


Eight months down, four to go. I hope you’ve been enjoying this. It’s a pleasant distraction in tough times for me.

Megaliths of Western Belgium – blog post with maps and extra pictures

As you will know if you follow me on social media, I did a grand tour of the menhirs and dolmens of western Belgium on Monday, accompanied by J, my partner in crime. Here they are in the order that we visited them, with maps and a couple more pictures as well.

1) The first place we stopped was the museum in Velzeke, which reportedly had had a broken menhir in the grounds in 1993. The museum was closed and there was no trace of the menhir. My cousin Michael, who lives nearby, recommends the museum for a future visit.
2) Next was the fake dolmen of Jolybos / Bois Joly, a nineteenth-century folly which adorns the Hogerlucht cemetery North of Ronse near Tournai. This was the one and only occasion where the GPS let me down; you can actually park quite close to it, but we were ill-informed and wandered through a bit of nature reserve before finding the cemetery. The correct co-ordinates are 50.765089, 3.608481 so if you use those you'll probably be OK.
3) Our first real antiquity was nearby, the dolmen known as Peetje en Meetje, where apparently the capstone was placed on top only relatively recently but two of the supporting stones are genuinedly ancient and, unlike many, still in their original location.

50.75993, 3.49318

4) Not a megalith, but none the less fascinating: the Roman-era Tumulus du Trou de Billemont, near Tournai. The access road is particularly poor and it may not look like much (and someone had shot up the explanatory sign), but it has reconstructed Merovingian tombs just outside, and you can actually get inside and look at the (reconstructed) burial chamber.

50.57092, 3.46171

5) Very near the Tumulus du Trou de Billemont is the peak of the trip: Belgium's largest menhir, the Pierre Brunehault, 4m x 3m x 60cm, framed by four poplar trees, on a gentle rise near a Roman road. Hugely satisfying.

50.52606, 3.41583

By this point it was already lunchtime, so we grabbed what we could from a supermaket and admired the lovely old train station of Hollain.

6) Over to Mons now, for Le Polissoir de Saint-Symphorien in the square of the Mons suburb of the same name, after having been moved about a bit. I am sceptical that it was *just* for polishing flints. (Also, we were amused by the Filles de la Sagesse next door.)

50.43795, 4.00709

7) Not very far away are the Menhir(s) d'Estinnes, casually on a rural street corner, apparently once buried in a field and then dug up again (a story we hear about a lot of these). The bigger one does look like the usual menhir, the smaller one looks more like it's just a rock, but of course you don't get many of those in Belgian soil.

50.4157, 4.1029

8) La Piere qui Pousse, in Haulchin also not far from Mons and close to Binche. Like its neighbour at Saint-Symphorien, it has been placed in the main square, surrounded by what is currently a rather unkempt garden.

50.38381, 4.08188

9) Moving down south of Binche, there's an interesting cluster about half way between Beaumont and Chimay. First, on a rural road leading to the French border, just off a crossroads, the Pierre qui tourne de Sautin – actually two stones, one of which has broken and been cemented back together again; we are assured that one is the Pierre-qui-Tourne and the other a polissoir. Nearby is a menhir-style memorial to two French resistance fighters killed by Germans in 1944.

50.15216, 4.21582

10) Rouge de Rance. Modern rather than ancient, but really striking. In the middle of a roundabout in Rance (between Beaumont and Chimay). A tribute to the centuries-old red marble mined in the area. Probably the biggest of the stones we saw (though doesn't count as a megalith due to not being old enough).

50.1435, 4.2686

11) The Pierre qui Tourne de Baileux. Farthest south and east of any of these, near Chimay. In splendid isolation on a poor-quality track. The farmer did look at us a bit quizzically, but he surely must be used to megalith fans.

50.03883, 4.40671

12) Finally, up to Charleroi, or at least that part of the world, for the Dolmen du Mont de Viscourt, aka La Pierre du Diable. Gave us a true Spın̈al Tap vibe. Reconstructed in a carpark in Clermont village square. My Irish soul slightley rebels at these ancient monuments being moved from their original sites, but if they are put somewhere they will be seen, maybe it's not so awful.

50.25945, 4.31606

13) Nearby is the least impressive of the ancient menhirs we saw that day, the Menhir de Cour-sur-Heure, which frankly is not trying very hard, just sitting in someone's garden. Intriguing markings but they are probably natural. Leans at a jaunty angle. A bit small. Again we got quizzical looks from the farmer.

50.300543, 4.379977

14) But we ended on a relatively high note, the Pierre de Zeupire. Tucked behind a restaurant, 14 km SE of Charleroi, but pretty big, and presumably still in its original location. A bit overgrown, but atmospheric.

50.32916, 4.34833

All of these are pretty accessible, and the less crazy committed could break them up into several day-trips from Brussels; all of them are near cities and towns with more things to offer than menhors. And thanks to J for being a great travel buddy.

Posted in Uncategorised

May 2010 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days I've been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I've found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

The big event of May 2010 was the British general election, which brought an end to 13 years of Labour government and installed the Conservatives, initially in coalition with the Lib Dems (remember them?) and later more or less on their own. It was a game-changer for me in that I spent election night punditting in the BBC studios in Belfast with Mark Devenport, an experience I wrote up here:

I got mentioned here and here in the BBC's online coverage too.

I actually had a whole week in Ireland, because the BBC asked me to turn up for rehearsals on the Sunday before the election, which was on Thursday. I spent the days in between exploring places associated with my ancestor Sir Nicholas White in the south-east. That's a project that is basically on hold because of the Hugos.

I read 22 books in May 2010:

Non-fiction 4 (YTD 25)
The Pensionnat Revisited, by Eric Ruijssenaars
Teach Yourself Irish, by Diarmuid Ó Sé and Joseph Shiels
Half-Life of a Zealot, by Swanee Hunt
Ever Since Darwin, by Stephen Jay Gould

Non-genre 3 (YTD 23)
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
Out, by Natsuo Kirino
Rookwood, by William Harrison Ainsworth

sf 8 (YTD 40)
Cordelia's Honor / Shards of Honor + Barrayar, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
Quidditch Through The Ages, by J.K. Rowling
The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Women of Nell Gwynne's, by Kage Baker

WWW: Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

Doctor Who 4 (YTD 28, 31 counting comics and non-fiction)
The Murder Game, by Steve Lyons
The Final Sanction, by Steve Lyons

Apollo 23, by Justin Richards
Transit, by Ben Aaronovitch

Comics 3
Captain Britain and MI13: Vampire State, by Paul Cornell
Blood Upon The Rose: Easter 1916, by Gerry Hunt
Het Aïda Protocol, by Yannick Laude, Marco Venanzi & Michel Pierret

Page count ~5,800 (YTD ~37,100)
7/22 (YTD 29/125) by women (Hunt, Kirino, Baker, Rowling, Priest, 2xBujold)
2/22 (YTD 11/125) by PoC (Kirino, Hosseini)

It's always a pleasure to return to Bujold's opening Vorkosigan stories, which you can get here, and Lord of the Flies, which you can get hereOut, which you can get here. The worst book of the month was Victorian potboiler Rookwood, which you can get (for free) here.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Whoniversaries 27 February

i) births and deaths

27 February 1946: birth of Tom Chadbon, who played Duggan in City of Death (1979) and Merdeen in The Mysterious Planet (1986), and also various Big Finish roles including Harry Sullivan's younger brother Will in the second Sarah Jane Smith series.

27 February 1976: birth of Nikki Amuka-Bird, who played Keryehla Janees, aka Beth Halloran, one of the Sleepers in the 2008 Torchwood episode Sleeper, and Helen Clay / the Glass Woman in Twice Upon a Time (Twelfth Doctor with First Doctor, 2017).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

27 February 1965: broadcast of "Escape to Danger", third episode of the story we now call The Web Planet. Ian escapes and joins with Vrestin of the Menoptera; the Aniums forces the Doctor to help it.

27 February 1971: broadcast of fifth part of The Mind of Evil. The Master and the Doctor together try to subdue the Keller Machine, and UNIT raids the prison to retake the missile.

27 February 2009: broadcast of A Day in the Death (Torchwood), the one with undead Owen and Richard Briers as the dying guy with the alien device.

Posted in Uncategorised

Friday reading

Titus Alone, by Mervyn Peake
Chasm City, by Alastair Reynolds
Goodbye To All That, by Robert Graves
Science Fiction: The Great Years, eds. Carol and Frederik Pohl
The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Last books finished
Club Ded, by Nikhil Singh – did not finish
Three Daves, by Nicki Elson
Ties That Bind: Love in Science Fiction and Fantasy, ed. Francesca T. Barbini
Ivory’s Story, by Eugen M. Bacon

Next books
Mostly Void, Partially Stars, by Joseph Fink
Sandkings, by George R.R. Martin

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Whoniversaries 26 February

i) births and deaths

26 February 1932: birth of Michael Goldie, who played Jack Craddock in The Dalek Invasion of Earth (First Doctor, 1964) and Elton Laleham in The Wheel in Space (Second Doctor, 1968)

26 February 1938: birth of Tony Selby, who played Sabalom Glitz in The Mysterious Planet (Sixth Doctor, 1986), The Ultimate Foe (also Sixth Doctor, 1986) and Dragonfire (Seventh Doctor, 1987).

26 February 2018: death of Peter Miles, who played Dr Lawrence, the obstructive director of the Wenley Moor nuclear research facility, in Doctor Who and the Silurians (Third Doctor, 1970); Professor Whittaker, the inventor of time travel, in Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Third Doctor, 1974); and most memorably Davros’s sidekick Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks (Fourth Doctor, 1975).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

26 February 1966: broadcast of “Bell of Doom”, fourth episode of the story we now call The Massacre; first appearance of Jackie Lane as Dodo Chaplet. The Doctor and Steven flee Paris as the massacre goes ahead, leaving Anne behind; but is Dodo, who stumbles into the Tardis in 1966, her descendant?

26 February 1972: broadcast of first episode of The Sea Devils, the one with the guest appearance by the Clangers. The Doctor and Jo visit the imprisoned Master, and investigate attacks on nearby sea forts.

26 February 1977: broadcast of first episode of The Talons of Weng Chiang. The Doctor and Leela land in Victorian London where they get mixed up in the investigation of a series of brutal murders.

The Autumn Land and other stories, by Clifford D. Simak

Second paragraph of third story (“Contraption”):

“I never saw such a trifling young’un in all my life,” she’d shrill at him and then she’d go on to say that she’d think he’d have some gratitude for the way she and Uncle Eb had taken him in and saved him from the orphanage, but no, he never felt no gratitude at all, but caused all the trouble that he could and was lazy to boot and she declared to goodness she didn’t know what would become of him.

I got this back in 2014 because the first story, “Rule 18”, was up for the Retro Hugos that year. I didn't like it, but kept the rest for later consumption, and I liked all the others more. The two best stories are the third, “Contraption”, and the title story which comes last; both are classic Simak tales of rural America being confronted with the alien and adapting. The others are all interesting enough, drawn from different phases of Simak's career. Passionate introduction by Francis Lyall, who I regret to say I had not heard of but clearly knows his Simak. You can get it here.

This was the shortest unread book of those I acquired in 2014. Next on that pile is Worlds Apart, by Richard Cowper.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

  • Thu, 09:59: Just a quick note that the planet Mercury is visible before sunrise for the next week or so. We have clear skies forecast for Sunday morning here so I’ll try and see it then. A little tricky to spot this far north, easier if you are further south. https://t.co/cIA0bd3wxt
  • Thu, 10:45: RT @ChairmanYaffle: Businesses fear escalating state-originated cyberattacks https://t.co/3NuKqHmiyo

Posted in Uncategorised

Whoniversaries 25 February

i) births and deaths

25 February 1997: death of Arthur Hewlett, who played rebel scientist Kalmar in State of Decay (Fourth Doctor, 1980) and doomed passenger Kimber in Terror of the Vervoids (Sixth Doctor, 1986).

broadcast anniversaries

25 February 1967: broadcast of third episode of The Moonbase. The Cybermen take over the base, but Polly works out a way of killing them with nail varnish remover.

25 February 1978: broadcast of fourth episode of The Invasion of Time. Leela and the Shobogans combine with the Doctor to destroy the Vardans; but the Sontarans have landed.

Posted in Uncategorised

Koko Takes a Holiday, by Kieran Shea

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Across the gleaming, sterile expanse of her dojo-esque office chamber her assistant, Vincent Lee, braces on his feet. Lee is twenty-three, groomed and polished to CPB junior executive standards, and quite unaccustomed to delivering such bad news so early in the day.

One of the 2015 Clarke Award submissions which failed to grab us at the time, but I felt worth coming back to. It's a brisk action story of mercenary-turned-brothel-keeper Koko, who dscovers the hard way that her former friend and colleague is trying to have her killed, and teams up with an ex-cop who is facing up to his own end-of-life decisions to sort things out. Pacy and engaging, if not really my kind of thing in general. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2014. Next on that pile is Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Whoniversaries 24 February

i) births and deaths

24 February 2019: death of Graeme Curry, who wrote The Happiness Patrol (Seventh Doctor, 1988)

ii) broadcast anniversaries

24 February 1968: broadcast of fourth episode of The Web of Fear. Lethbridge-Stewart (*sigh*) leads a sortie to the surface but returns battered to the base as the only survivor; and the Yeti break in, with the possessed Travers.

24 February 1973: broadcast of first episode of Frontier in Space. The Doctor and Jo land on a space freighter and are accused of being Draconian spies; the freighter is attacked by Ogrons but the crew think they are Draconians.

24 February 1979: broadcast of sixth part of The Armageddon Factor, ending Season 15; last regular appearance of Mary Tamm as Romana. Princess Astra herself is the last segment of the Key to Time; the Doctor assembles it, and the Black Guardian attempts to trick him into giving it to him. But the Doctor disperses the segments across the universe again.

24 February 1984: broadcast of second part of Planet of Fire. On Sarn, the Doctor is captured by Timanov and Peri by the Master (but she escapes).

24 February 1993: broadcast of sixth part of The Ghosts of N-Space on BBC radio; final appearance of Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. The Doctor and Sarah enter N-Space where Sarah redeems Louisa and the Doctor defeats Vilmio, and the Brigadier's uncle's castle is saved.

Posted in Uncategorised

Sugar and other stories, by A.S. Byatt

Second paragraph of third story (“The July Ghost”):

He picked a long, bright hair off the back of her dress, so deftly that the act seemed simply considerate. He had been skilful at balancing glass, plate and cutlery, too. He had a look of dignified misery, like a dejected hawk. She was interested.

Stories from early in Byatt's career; I have previously read Possession, which I loved, and Babel Tower, which I did not. Two of these are ghost stories, most of them demonstrate a talent still coming together. I particularly liked the first one, “Racine and the Tablecloth”, about feminist liberation through boarding-school essays, and the last two, “Precipice-Encurled”, an exploration of Robert Browning à la Possession, and the clearly autobiographical “Sugar”. All very digestible. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book by a woman and my top unread non-genre fiction (excluding the two ghost stories). Next on those piles are Serpent Sea, by Martha Wells, and The Complete Maupassant.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Whoniversaries 23 February

i) births and deaths

23 February 1918: birth of Bill Strutton, writer of The Web Planet (First Doctor, 1965) and the novelisation Doctor Who and the Zarbi.

23 February 1928: birth of Bernard Kay, who played Carl Tyler in the story we now call The Dalek Invasion of Earth (First Doctor, 1964), Saladin in the story we now call The Crusade (First Doctor, 1965), Inspector Crossland and The Director in The Faceless Ones (Second Doctor, 1967) and Caldwell in Colony in Space (Third Doctor, 1971).

23 February 1935: birth of Gerry Davis, script editor of Doctor Who from The Celestial Toymaker (First Doctor, 1966) to part 3 of The Evil of the Daleks (Second Doctor, 1967), co-writer of The Tenth Planet (First Doctor, 1966), The Highlanders (Second Doctor, 1967), and Tomb of the Cybermen (Second Doctor, 1967-68), and sole credited writer of Revenge of the Cybermen (Fourth Doctor, 1975).

23 February 2009: death of Laurence Payne, who played Johnny Ringo in The Gunfighters (First Doctor, 1966), Morix in The Leisure Hive (Fourth Doctor, 1980), and Dastari in The Two Doctors (Sixth and Second Doctors, 1985).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

23 February 1974: broadcast of first episode of Death to the Daleks. The Tardis lands on Exxilon, suffering a power drain, with Sarah in a swimsuit; the Doctor finds a stranded earth ship, Sarah is captured by the natives and the Daleks arrive.

23 February 1982: broadcast of fourth episode of The Visitation. The Doctor and friends pursue the Terileptils to London and destroy their base, leading to a much bigger conflagration.

23 February 1983: broadcast of fourth episode of Terminus; last regular appearance of Sarah Sutton as Nyssa. The Doctor shuts down the engine and Nyssa stays behind to help the Lazars; but the Black Guardian is still angry with Turlough.

23 February 1984: broadcast of first episode of Planet of Fire; first appearance of Nicola Bryant as Peri. Kamelion (remember him?) reappears for the first time in eleven months and brings the Tardis to Lanzarote, where a young woman in a bikini is rescued by Turlough.

23 February 1985: broadcast of “A Fix with Sontarans”, a Doctor Who segment of Jim’ll Fix It with Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, Janet Fielding as Tegan and young Gareth Jenkins saving the earth from, well, Sontarans. This mini-episode has been purged from history after the dreadful revelations about Jimmy Saville. The scripted bit ends with Tegan calling: “Doctor! Look at the screen! It’s monstrous!” to which the Sixth Doctor replies in horror, “It’s revolting!” And Jimmy Saville’s face appears. Utterly chilling, given what we now know. Gareth Jenkins is now director of advocacy with a major health charity.

also 23 February 1985: broadcast of second episode of The Two Doctors. The Sixth Doctor, Jamie and Peri pursue the Sontarans and the Second Doctor to Spain, where the anthropophagous and hungry Shockeye captures Peri.

23 February 2020: broadcast of Ascension of the Cybermen.In the far future, the Doctor and her friends face a brutal battle across the farthest reaches of space to protect the last of the human race against the deadly Cybermen. And what’s with Brendan, the abandoned baby who grows up to join the Gardaí?

Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake

Second paragraph of third chapter:

But no. There were no scales or wings at all

When I last reread this in 2011, I wrote:

The second book of the famous trilogy, in which the evil Steerpike's plans to dominate Gormenghast Castle are resolved in vicious single combat with Titus Groan, the 77th earl. When I first read this, at least a quarter of a century ago, the two scenes that really stuck in my mind were the grotesque deaths of Deadyawn the headmaster, killed in a bizarre incident where his wheelchair intersects with a deadly schoolboy game, and of the twin aunts of Titus and Fuchsia, locked away by Steerpike to die in isolation. I was surprised on rereading by quite how early in the book both events come. For the rest of it, Peake's obsession with disability as a marker for moral iniquity is rather dubious (the 'Thing', an unspeaking girl who represents freedom, is the acme of physical and spiritual perfection, while Barquentine, Deadyawn and indeed Steerpike are mutilated and evil). But it is a gloriously baroque description of life in a very peculiar place, and it gets pretty intense in the final chapters, when the castle is flooded and the Countess and Titus stalk Steerpike through the rising waters.

As with the previous volume, and for the same reasons, a Bechdel technical pass; Fuchsia talks to her nanny again, and the demented twins burble at each other, without men necessarily being mentioned. They are all dead by the end of the book.

Note on the first book, revisited: It's slightly odd that the first volume of the trilogy is actually the one in which Titus figures least, though it bears his name.

This time around, as previously mentioned, we’ve been taking it at a chapter a day (with a break for Christmas, so almost three months; and I finished it a few weeks back). This rather brought home the odd pacing, with nothing much happening in the middle for many (mostly short) chapters. And the improbable physics of the catastrophic flood are more difficult to ignore when you don’t take it all in one go. But the final showdown between Steerpike and Titus is every bit as good as the two earlier bits, and there’s also the dramatic revelation of Steerpike’s responsibility for the death of the twins. However, it would make very little sense to a reader who has not already read the first book. You can get it here.

Posted in Uncategorised

My tweets

Posted in Uncategorised

Whoniversaries 22 February

i) births and deaths

22 February 1975: death of Peter R. Newman, writer of the story we now call The Sensorites (First Doctor, 1964).

22 February 2011: death of Nicholas Courtney, who played Bret Vyon in The Daleks' Master Plan (First Doctor, 1965) and Colonel, later Brigadier, Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart from The Web Of Fear (Second Doctor, 1968) to Enemy of the Bane (SJA, 2008), the longest-running character on TV apart from the Doctor himself

ii) broadcast anniversaries

22 February 1964: broadcast of "The Roof of the World", first episode of the story we now call Marco Polo. Trapped in the snow, the time travellers are rescued by Marco Polo, who however impounds the Tardis.

22 February 1969: broadcast of fifth episode of The Seeds of Death. The Doctor and friends get back to Earth and discover that the Ice Warrior' pods are disabled by water.

22 February 1975: broadcast of first episode of The Sontaran Experiment The Doctor, Sarah and Harry discover that a bunch of South African astronauts are battling a mysterious alien foe who turns out to be a Sontaran.

22 February 1982: broadcast of third episode of The Visitation. The Terileptils plan to destroy humanity, and do destroy the sonic screwdriver.

22 February 1983: broadcast of third episode of Terminus. The Doctor realises tha the ship's fuel dump actually caused the Big Bang.

22 February 2002: webcast of second part of "Planet of Blood", the third episode of Death Comes to Time. Horrible slaughter discovered by the Doctor and Antimony in London; meanwhile Ace is undergoing mysterious training and there's a time lord played by Stephen Fry. (I found it all a bit confusing.)

22 February 2010: broadcast of The Fall of the House of Gryffen, seventh episode of the Australian K9 series. Darius, Starkey, and Jorjie spend a spooky evening at Gryffen's mansion.

Posted in Uncategorised

April 2010 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

The highlight of April 2010 for me personally was a school reunion in Belfast, 25 years on from our A-levels. I wrote a long piece about it at the time:

Not all of my group of close friends made it, but two did.

I was possibly a bit tipsy when talking to the classmate who is probably most famous in Northern Ireland, now a TV weather forecaster.

I had some other excitement on the trip too, but the party was a personal highlight for me.

Later in the month I went to Southern Sudan (now South Sudan) for a third time, with my colleague L (who now runs the Whitlam Institute in Sydney). We were stuck in Addis Ababa for two unexpected days on the way out, and to make matters worse this was the week of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, so it was not at all clear how we would get home. (A colleague got home to the USA from the UK by going overland to Madrid and flying from there.) Eventually we made it to Juba just as the ash clouds were beginning to clear over Europe. The best part of the trip was meeting the famous Dan Eiffe

The end of the month saw me in Belfast again, but that story is for next time.

I read 30 books in the 30 days of April; I have reclassified some of them since my first record.

Non-Fiction 3 (YTD 21)
Untold Stories, by Alan Bennett
Triumph of a Time Lord, by Matt Hills
The Twilight of Atheism, by Alister McGrath

Fiction (non-sf) 5 (YTD 20)
The Great Dinosaur Robbery, by David Forrest
One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing, by John Harvey

Unauthorised Departure, by Maureen O'Brien
Njal's Saga
The Hanging Garden, by Ian Rankin

Poetry, plays, religious literature 4
The Emperor's Babe, by Bernardine Evaristo
Double Falshood, or, The Distrest Lovers, by William Shakespeare et al
The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
The Koran

SF (non-Who) 9 (YTD 32)
The Vor Game, by Lois McMaster Bujold
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
Seasons of Plenty, by Colin Greenland
Impossible Things, by Connie Willis
The Lives of Christopher Chant, by Diana Wynne Jones
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin
Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett
Stress Pattern, by Neal Barrett jr
Judge Dredd, by Neal Barrett jr

Doctor Who etc fiction 7 (YTD 24, 27 counting comics and non-fiction)
Nightshade, by Mark Gatiss
Kursaal, by Peter Anghelides
Sick Building, by Paul Magrs
Doctor Who Annual 1970
The Forgotten Army, by Brian Minchin
The Runaway Train, by Oli Smith
Short Trips: The Centenarian, edited by Ian Farrington

Comics 2 (YTD 2)
Fables vol 12: The Dark Ages, by Bill Willingham
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman
Page count ~8,900 (YTD ~31,300) including a notional 100 for The Runaway Train.
6/30 (YTD 22/103) by women (Evaristo, O'Brien, Bujold, Willis, Jones, Jemisin)
2/30 (YTD 9/103) by PoC (Evaristo, Jemisin)

I'm going a bit overboard on recommendations and disrecommendations this time.