Who’s The Doctor? Doctor Who?

It’s been a Doctor themed weekend.

On Friday, I sent my wife a text while she was at work.

I’ve got a lovely surprise for you when you get home.

She peppered me for clues, but I stood firm:

Wait until you’re home.

And so eventually, shift completed and finished for the week, Jen arrive home.

“Okay,” I said. “Close your eyes.”

She did so. I’m not sure what she was expecting, but she asked “Is this going to change the way I look at the world?”

“This is going to change the way you look at the bedroom.” (In hindsight, perhaps she was now expecting something a little risqué.) “Okay: open your eyes.”

I placed into her hands:


“What’s this?”

“A signed photograph.”

“Who’s she?” She couldn’t see past the loincloth-wearing Leela.

“It’s Leela,” I replied, then, theatrically: “with the Fourth Doctor!”

“He looks like Leo Sayer gone wrong.”

“What?! He’s the greatest ever Doctor! The great and eccentric Tom Baker!  Soon he will be, whisper it, dead. He’s in his eighties now. I wanted one with Sarah Jane, but as she’s died they are hard to come by, so Leela is the next best thing.”

“And how exactly will this make me look at the bedroom differently?”

“I’m thinking of putting it on the bedroom wall.”

“You’re bleeding  not!”

I think she’ll come around with time, no pun intended.

Anyway . . .

You may have heard the news that the new Doctor was to be unveiled on Sunday afternoon, immediately after the men’s tennis final. The identity of Doctor number 13 had been a closely guarded secret, so for us fans it was a big deal.

And Jen had arranged a trip into Manchester for the whole family on that very day . . .

We were sat in Starbucks, and I kept tuning into FB. I also had someone lined up to message me as soon as the world knew who the Doctor was to be. But, just in case it slipped by on someone else’s watch, I kept tuning in. I updated, and my mobilised army of Whovians were making comments which I was relaying to the family.

“The final is still going on.”

(Jen didn’t bat an eyelid.)

“Federer is two sets up so it may not be long.”

(My son: “Roger Federer is the new Doctor?”

“David Tennant is at Wimbledon! He’s in the crowd!”

(My daughter: “Tennant’s coming back?!”)

“They could be doing the reveal there, on court!”

(Jen: “I want the toilet.”)

“The match is over!”

(Jen: “Who won?”)

“Who cares! It’s imminent!”

My informers told me that there was a lot of analysing and backslapping going on, so I began surfing the web for signs of any leaks.

Nothing.

To pass the time, I took a photograph of Jen, wrote ‘Meet the new Doctor’ and posted it on FB. A friend saw the caption, but the photograph took ages to load. She told me that she was having palpitations, and then when Jen appeared she commented that, much that she thinks Jen is lovely, she felt slightly gutted.

I update again, this time categorically denying the rumour that I was the new Doctor on account that, with the kids finishing for the summer, I simply didn’t have the time.

Jen had had enough and decided that she was going to pop into a local store with the kids. I said, unnecessarily,  “I’ll wait here. I’ll text you as soon as we know who it is.”

“Don’t bother.”

Off they went, and on I searched, making sure my phone wasn’t on mute.

And then I heard and was stunned, the announcement coming straight out of left field.

Immediately I found the advertisement that had revealed all on BBC.

The new Doctor was Jodie Whittaker. The first female Doctor.

I never expected it to be a woman-I knew it was coming, the Master being regenerated as Missy had served to soften us up to the idea a bit, but I thought it wouldn’t happen until Doctor #14.

Although before it actually happened I was a little unsure, I have to confess that I’m now quite excited to see what Jodie does with the role. It will be fresh and, even though each new Doctor brings to the show a clean start, her appointment has shaken things up.

And some of the long-term fans couldn’t take it. The Doctor is a thousand year old alien that changes his face, but being a woman appears unacceptable.


Surely, with the strong female leads in the Star Wars and Game Of Thrones franchises, it was just a matter of time until a woman donned the mantle. And come on-once the Doctor even had a tin dog and that was fine!

Jodie released a statement:
Jodie Whittaker says: “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet. It’s more than an honour to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.” She added: ‘‘I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one’
Some weren’t listening though. Among those venting their spleen and vowing never to watch again, there were many supportive comments. I liked this one:

‘This story reminds me of a profound moment in 1988 on the last day of my senior year at Holland Hall. Craig Benton (one of my all time favorite teachers) challenged us with a riddle:
“A father and his son are in a horrific car crash. The father dies instantly. The boy, in critical condition, is transported to the hospital needing immediate surgery. The doctor upon entering the O.R. exclaims, “I can’t operate on this boy he is my son!” – How is this possible?”

Our class of 63 students who were headed to The Who’s Who of prestigious colleges were completely stumped. Not one of us realized the doctor was the boy’s mom.’
Jen arrived back: “It’s a woman isn’t it?!”

“How do you know?”

“We heard a girl in the shop telling her Mum.”

My daughter beamed: “It’s a girl.”

My son scowled: “It’s a girl.”

And there it was-the whole, Whovian reaction. In microcosm.

Let’s give her a chance, yes?

 

 

*For another Whovian themed post where you may feel further sympathy for my long suffering wife-see here:

https://cityjackdaw.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/when-a-nerd-turns-manic/

 

 

 

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Mongrel Nation

My annual St.George’s Day post. Ancestors. Parade Day in Manchester. Celtic Saints. African Ancestry. Genetics. Connections. A couple of flags.

Happy St.George’s Day to you in England and the great diaspora.

City Jackdaw

St. George’s Day again. I tried to reblog my original post that I did on this day, two years ago, but think that I can only reblog a post once? Anyway, the highlighted, following title should take you to it. It is about St.George, St.Aidan, Ancestry, History, DNA, and what it means now for me to be English, or rather, British, or rather, African. Go figure. Mongrel Nation.

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On This Day: My Mother The Cow

On this day is remembered the Irish saint Máedóc of Ferns, born around 558. According to Irish legends, when a boat could not be found to take the infant Aedan (Máedóc’s original name), across the lake where St.Kilian waited to baptise him, the boy was floated to shore on a slab of stone.

The font at St Mogue’s in Bawnboy is said to be made from part of the stone. Will come in handy if ever the churchyard floods.

He studied at Clonard Abbey, the famed school of St.Finnian. When many people came to seek him out, desiring to be his disciples, he fled to Wales to study under none other than St.David. These saints do seem rather clicky, don’t they?

Along with St.Cadoc (another name drop there) Máedóc was said to have exterminated an army of Saxons or Irishmen in a narrow valley by rolling stones upon them.

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The monastic site at Clonmore is in ruins. Here some cross fragments and carved stones have been collected together.

He was noted for his benevolence and hospitality (though perhaps not to Saxons or Irishmen). At one point, a man pushed him into a lake to see whether he would lose his temper, then, when he meekly got back out of the lake the tormentor confessed his guilt and apologised.

A humble, forgiving soul, eh? Don’t bet on it:

He was well known for his curses. Once, when he was grinding flour, a local man begged for some meal. After being given some, the man disguised himself as a blind man and returned to beg for more. Annoyed, Máedóc cursed him that the generations of his descendants would never lack for a blind member. Sins of the father and all that.

When a notable figure slew his own father-in-law, he attempted to accommodate the saint, only for him to curse that the man’s right hand would wither to a stump. When the man begged for a penance, Máedóc directed him to pray for forgiveness at the tomb of Brandubh in Ferns. The man did so, and a spectral voice from the crypt forgave him.

Miraculous. Marvellous. He still lost his hand though.

Many more stories abound concerning this seventh century figure. Once, fetching ale for his fellow monks, old butter fingers broke a jug. Making the sign of the cross over the broken shards, the jug repaired itself and he continued along the way. As a former teenage glass collector, I can tell you there is definitely a market for this kind of trick.

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Stained glass window of the Saint in Enniscorthy Cathedral.

I like the story about the time wolves devoured one of the calves at the monastery, the mother cow being inconsolable. Máedóc blessed the head of his cook and told him to offer it to the heifer. The cow licked him with its great, rough tongue, and from that moment ‘loved him like a calf’. Oh, how that cook must have leapt for joy whenever he heard it lowing mournfully in the barn. Think I’d have preferred a withered stump.

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One thing I love about the tales of these Celtic monks is their affinity with, and connection to, the natural world. Perhaps there is a moulding here of both the native pagan and early Christian faiths, back in the melting pot of these islands. There is a nice tale of  Máedóc reading one day in Connaught, and a hunted stag in desperation took refuge with him. By a miracle, the saint rendered the stag invisible, and so the pursuing hounds ran off.

In art the figure of a stag remains this saint’s emblem. A visible one, of course. An invisible emblem wouldn’t be much of an emblem, now, would it?

Aeddan, forever known as Máedóc, died on this day in 632, (or in an alternative account 626) and is buried on Lough Melvin’s shore in County Leitrim. Give him a thought before you turn out the light tonight.

 

 

Arthur

Thought I would reblog this after a discussion on here with another blogger about Arthur.

City Jackdaw

I love learning about the various legends, myths, folklore and traditions of the British Isles.

No story has endured, or captured the imagination, as that of King Arthur. The image that holds today is the romanticised, medieval invention-the good  King and his chivalrous knights of the round table, based in the fantastical court of Camelot.

I have read a few books about Arthur, and he seems to have been claimed by just about everybody-the Welsh,the English,the Scottish, even the Croatians. It reminds me of how you can read countless books about Jack the Ripper- every learned author goes over the same material and then pushes a different suspect as the final unmasking of the unidentified killer.

I have just finished reading another book on Arthur-Christopher Hibbert’s King Arthur. I agree with his conclusion, shared by many, that the legendary Arthur that we are acquainted with today is based upon a real…

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Orkney Odyssey #2: From The Air

Two flights take me there: Manchester to Aberdeen and then Aberdeen to Kirkwall. From the Rainy City, to the Granite City, to Kirkjugavr (Norse meaning Church Bay).

This takes me back to the school bus, once more the backseat boy.

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A sudden flash of the sun catches me unawares.

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Didn’t last long, back to surfing the shadows of the north.

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Somewhere below lies the Orkney archipelago, a scattering of around seventy islands.

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“Beyond Britannia, where the endless ocean opens, lies Orkney.” Orosius,  5th Century.

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I have just started reading a book by Adam Nicholson called Sea Room. Aged just 21, Nicholson inherited three islands, the Shiants, five miles off Harris. He describes his book as a love letter to them. On the front cover it says ‘the story of one man, three islands and half a million puffins.’

I showed it to my wife. I cannot begin to tell you how excited she looked.

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Nicholson described his book as an attempt to tell the whole story in as many dimensions as possible:

geologically, spiritually, botanically, historically, culturally, aesthetically, ornithologically, etymologically, emotionally, politically, socially, archaeologically, and personally.

 

I can relate to all of this when I think of Orkney.

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And so we descend, as though through differing strata of time.

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In a great expanse of sea, the islands rear up, green, yellow, and moated.

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This is my core place-the place where, in my absence, I often return. Picking up a George Mackey Brown novel, I am transported back, walking again the besieged coast, reconnecting with the remnants of unknown lives. When I see the weather forecast, I see the tiny marks off the coast of Northern Scotland, and feel once again the wind on my face, hear the whisper of a long dead tongue.

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When I think of Orkney, there is a particular feel that goes with it. It is not a foreign country, with a strange culture or alien way of life. It is not that far away, in travel time.

But somehow, it is different.

For my first visit, I packed my thermals and my waterproofs, expecting to have to brave the elements to get the most out of my time there. I got sunburnt in the first few hours. Locals assured me that this was not the norm.

Returning to Kirkwall airport, after three days, to depart once again for home, an ominous bank of fog followed in our wake.

Blind to omens and portents, I did not know then that I would be returning later that year, in the depths of dark December.

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Orkney Odyssey #1: Of Vikings and Saints

I think that I may have mentioned once or twice before that Orkney is my favourite place. It is the remoteness, the history, the wildlife, everything. Even the weather.

In 2011 I visited twice, but I have not posted about it before as I lost all of the photographs that I had saved onto the memory card of my phone. Grrr!!! However, though I went there alone the second time, on the first visit a friend accompanied me, and I have only recently acquired copies of some of his photographs that I can use. It seems that he too has lost some of his photographs. Conspiracy theories, please?

Intending to do an intermittent series of Orkney themed posts, I thought it would be appropriate to start with St.Magnus. I love reading all the old stories connected to the British Isles, be they history or folklore, Christian or Pagan, and today is the feast day of St.Magnus.

Sometimes it’s all about the timing.

St.Magnus

St.Magnus’ story is recorded in Orkneyinga Saga, beginning in 1098.

The Orkney earldom was divided between two brothers, the Earls Paul and Erland.

The King of Norway, also named Magnus but more memorably known as Magnus ‘Barelegs’, arrived unannounced in Orkney and unseated the two joint-ruling earls, making his own illegitimate son Sigurd as overlord of the islands. Paul and Erland were sent to Norway, where both would die before the winter had ended.

Leaving Sigurd to rule, the King then left on a raiding expedition, taking with him 18 year old Magnus, the eldest son of Earl Erland, and also Haakon, the son of Earl Paul, two cousins who often disagreed. Raiding down the west coast of Scotland, as far south as Anglesey, the story goes that Magnus would not join in the fighting with the Welsh. He chose instead to remain on the ship, singing psalms, as arrows passed overhead. The angry King already disliked Magnus, considering him a coward.

Magnus was said to have later left the ship, one night slipping overboard, to stay somewhere in Scotland, remaining there until the death of King Magnus in Ireland in 1102.

Back in Orkney, Sigurd Magnusson had returned to Norway to become joint ruler there, and here in the islands  Magnus’ cousin Haakon was now the Earl. After some representations to the Norwegian throne, Magnus was granted his Earldom, both cousins ruling, as their fathers had done before them, in an apparent period of peace between 1105 and 1114.

But all good things come to an end.

Magnus was said to be the more popular of the two earls, being pious and a man of peace and authority, while Haakon was warlike and no doubt envious of his cousin’s popularity among the people.

Discord grew between them to the extent that, around 1117, followers of the respective leaders arranged a reconciliatory meeting at Easter, bringing them together on the island of Egilsay.

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The agreement was that both men would bring two ships with a limited, and equal, number of men.

Magnus arrived first, awaiting for his cousin in prayer. When he spied his arrival, complete with eight ships, he must have known what this betrayal of their agreement must have meant. Magnus refused to allow his men to defend him, trying to settle the matter peacefully. Wanting to avoid his cousin being saddled with the guilt of killing him, he made him three offers. He would make a pilgrimage to Rome or Jerusalem, pledging never to return to the Orkney Isles; he would be imprisoned for the rest of his life; or he would be blinded, maimed, and caged forever in a dungeon.

It is said that Haakon was willing to accept the final one of the three offers, but his advisors insisted that his cousin had to be put to death.  Rather than carry out the act himself, Haakon ordered his standard bearer, Ofeig, to kill Magnus, but the warrior refused. Haakon angrily then ordered his cook, Lifolf, to do the deed. Lifolf wept, but Magnus comforted him:

Be not afraid for you do this against your will and he who forces you sins more than you do.”

Magnus knelt before him. Not wanting to suffer a beheading like a common criminal, he asked that he be struck hard on the head, and told the cook that he had prayed to God for him to be forgiven for this act.

Magnus’ skull was cleaved in two by the blow.

A man stands before you, Magnus.

He is poor. He’s in tears.

The axe shakes in his hands.

The spring morning is very cold.

Put your coat-of-state about him, Magnus.

 

Quick-let the silver cord be loosed.

 

The dark waters rise up into my soul.

Here’s your ship of death, Magnus.

Those bright ones? They ferry you over to the Feast.

 

-from Tryst on Egilsay,

George Mackay Brown

Initially buried on the spot, in what would be the first of three resting places for him, and denied a Christian burial, his corpse was later taken to be buried at Birsay after pleading from his mother.

Then the usual phenomena associated with saints began to occur-miraculous events and  healings , a light appearing above the grave. A cult soon developed among the islanders, and as he grew in popularity soon Magnus was declared a saint by the Bishop of Orkney.

Earl Haakon, now sole ruler, went on to make pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem, becoming a peaceful and popular earl.

In 1129 Haakon’s son Paul, was overthrown by the nephew of St.Magnus, Kali Kolson. This new Orkney earl took the name of Rognvald. No doubt politically savvy, he sought the divine assistance of St.Magnus, and promised the people that if he succeeded in his attempt to regain the earldom he would build a great stone church in Kirkwall, on the mainland, and dedicate it to his uncle-the now revered St.Magnus.

This was how St.Magnus Cathedral was founded.

This is a carving, found within the Cathedral, of Rognvald holding the model of the building in his hands.

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I have visited St.Magnus Cathedral, which now holds the remains, or as they like to put it-  the relics, of both St.Magnus and the (now) St.Rognvald.  I will include surviving (!) photographs in a later post. For now I will leave you with this photograph taken of the red coloured cathedral rooted in the distant heart of Kirkwall.

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Kirkwall photograph by D.Bates