So, 2020 has arrived in the guise of a beautiful morning. I’m going to a football match this afternoon, then tonight there’s a new Doctor and a new Dracula. Not a bad start for any geeky, gothic, football fans out there. And I reckon there’ll be pizza.
It was just a typically random conversation, walking into Manchester from where we’d parked the car.
“So, after the Dutch student leaves we’ve then got a Korean one?” asked my wife.
“Isn’t their leader a bit of a bugger?”
“That’s North Korea. This girl is from South Korea.”
She thought on it a little. “Do you know any Korean words?”
“How about Japanese?”
I’m not sure how she thought that would be of help, but answered “I know they greet each other with ‘Konnichiwa’.”
She looked at me in amazement. “How can you possibly know that?!”
I like her to think that I’m multi-lingual, so instead of explaining that I used to watch Shogun back in 1980, I tried to give an enigmatic shrug: “I pick things up.”
After traipsing around the shops for an hour or so we called into Chiquito for something to eat. We’d timed it right-early enough to avoid it being packed out, but not too late to miss a convivial, Christmas buzz about the place.
I nodded sagely. “Arriba arriba, andale andale.”
She dropped her fork. “And what does that mean?!”
“See how quick I am, watch me go!”
(I’ve just discovered it actually means something like ‘get up get up, let’s go let’s go’. Close enough.)
I didn’t mention Speedy Gonzales, just a casual “I just picked it up.”
After basking in her admiration for a while, I nipped to the toilet to secretly Google translate something romantic, a painting on the stairs caught my eye.
This could be the Tardis, the nerd in me thought. Maybe a little battered from the explosive power of Capaldi’s (soon to be) witnessed regeneration.
Then, next to it: This could be the Tardis, given some TLC from the (soon to be) new Who incumbent Jodie Whittaker. Is that sexist of me? Thinking that the first female Doctor in the show’s history might start off with a bit of a spring clean?
I’ve tried not to go on too much about the impending Christmas special, knowing how trying I can be on my wife’s saintly patience, although with just four days left my excitement was building. I’d been trying my best not to ruin her Christmas though.
Remembering the mission that had brought me to this stairwell, I did a sneaky Google translate and returned to the table. I took Jen’s hands in mine, gazed into her eyes and whispered softly:
“El nuevo Doctor, ella viene!”
“I know,” she smiled, lovingly. “You picked it up.”
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:
“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.
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.”
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:
These are two of my children, filmed a couple of years ago doing an improvised ‘Exterminate’ song. (Yes, they are Whovians like their father.)
This is the only video that they have posted onto Youtube, and go crazy every time they get a like or a share over there. If any of you guys can do that, take pleasure in picturing me here in Manchester reaching for the paracetamol!
You may want to turn the volume down a touch. See you on YouTube.
I am a guy who regularly concedes that he can become a little obsessive about his interests and pursuits. I have tried to reign things in a little, and be a bit more discerning about the things that excited me during 2015. There has been a lot, but here are some of my eclectic highs:
Go Set A Watchman.
Yes, I was aware that it was not a bonafide sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. And neither did I think it was a ‘new’ novel, either. But this did nothing to temper my excitement about the publication of this book. For big fans of TKAM like myself, it was, at long last, something else to read by Harper Lee. Come on! Treat it as a stand alone novel and leave Atticus up there on his pedestal.
The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion For Vampire Lovers
Like Watchman, this was not a new book. But nor was it published in 2015, either. A definite highlight of the year was the unexpected discovery that I made, in a second hand book store, of a signed copy of this book. How thrilling to get my hands on a book signed by the Hammer Queen herself, offering ‘lots of fun & millions of fierce little bites-always !!’ Though I may have to change my name to Charlie.
The Northlore Series Volume One:Folklore.
Okay, I know I’m not exactly non-partisan about the following two books, but how could a banner year for me not be a highlight? In addition to a poem of mine being included in this anthology, called Mara, My Love, my first published fiction featured in the form of a short story, entitled And The Snow Came Down. Volume Two is to follow.
The next stage in my publishing journey was my very own poetry collection, published in December by Nordland Publishing. I was, and am, very proud to be featured as one of the Songs Of The North poets. After getting my hands on my very first solo collection, my appetite has been whetted!
In September I fulfilled a long held ambition to visit Sweden, spending four great nights in the capital, Stockholm. Next in my sights is Malmö, including a journey over the Öresund Bridge to Denmark to meet up with an old school friend. I may have to wait until 2017, though. Christmas cleared me out.
Speaking of the Öresund Bridge, I was much excited by the return to our screens of the joint Swedish-Danish crime series, Broen. I love this programme, one of the best things I have seen on television for a long time, and had been counting down the days until Season Three debuted in the UK. In the plethora of crime dramas that seem to dominate our television sets at the moment, I don’t think there is any character more interesting and intriguing than that of Swedish police officer Saga Norén, played by Sofia Helin. This season lived up to the standards set by the previous two, and for the first time we saw a vulnerability in Saga. In no time at all I found myself drawn in again, both fearful and rooting for Saga. Now in my greed I want a Season Four!
As an unashamed Whovian, I have been a little disappointed with some of the writing for Capaldi’s Doctor, (even though I do like his portrayal of the Time Lord), but the 2015 Christmas special was a highlight. Whereas some episodes have been too convoluted in a seeming attempt to be ‘clever’, this was a straight, enjoyably old fashioned adventure romp. River Song is a delight, and that moment (pictured) when she recognises the Doctor (who she had only known during Matt Smith’s tenure) for who he really was, was profoundly moving. But then I’m just a sentimental softie at heart.
Star Wars The Force Awakens.
The nerd in me was counting down, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t be disappointed. I wasn’t. The moment when Han Solo and Chewbacca unexpectedly emerged onto the screen again for the first time, well, yes, the sentimental softie escaped again. I loved the film, but something occurred in it that I am biting my tongue not to say. Somehow I have managed to avoid venting my spleen as I’m mindful of spoilers for those who have not caught the film yet. BUT IT RUINED MY WHOLE DAMN CHRISTMAS! My wife, who hasn’t seen the film and cares not a jot about spoilers, told me several times to get over it as it was ruining her Christmas too. You will have to see it to discover what upset me so, or call back to Jackdaw in a month or so. There has been a great disturbance in the force.
Many times over the last eighteen months or so (since I first started using it) I have complained about my favourite group of all time not being available on Spotify. I discovered some great new groups on there, but I was unable to fall back on my default musical love. Then suddenly Beatles fans everywhere were granted an extra Christmas present by the news that the Fab Four were now available for streaming. Oh how I have already plagued my poor, beleaguered wife and children! Doing the pots, doing anything-every single Beatles album was accessible. And now I’m thinking of playlists 🙂 Here’s to 2016. You’ve got a lot to live up to.
My little lad James is a big four today.
He will be starting school in a couple of weeks. He seems too small-he qualified by just four days, so will be one of the youngest in his class. If he had arrived on his due date then he wouldn’t be going until next September. That would be another twelve months of devoting himself to my distraction.
Like boys the world over, he can be obsessive about the things that he likes. I won’t go into all of the presents that he got, now lying across our toy strewn floor, but let’s just say that he will be exterminating his sisters and reversing my polarity all day.
To paraphrase a fellow Mancunian, he’s not twistin’ my melon man. He’s reversing my polarity.
A few of my recent posts have been a little time-oriented.
I came across a quote a while ago in a book, and now I can’t find who it was that made it, or exactly what it was, verbatim. But it was something along the lines of how we cannot appreciate the present because we are too caught up thinking about the past, and planning for the future.
Or was it re-living the past and fearing the future?
If only we could learn to live in the eternal now, letting nothing pass us by. Opening our senses to the full, letting life flood us as it is happening. If we could but appreciate and experience all the good things that are occurring, and attempt to deal with the bad, so that they can be dealt with and filed away. Not hinder us, tearing us this way and that. Splitting us asunder from the present.
I know I speak like a naive idealist. But it would be good.
Of course another meaning for the word present is gift. I like that. An ongoing moment of opportunity that is given to us with grace.
All of us live in context, shaped by the time and place and circumstances that we find ourselves in. No matter where we may travel to, whatever strange and exotic shores we may find ourselves on, we take this shaping with us. All played out on our inner landscape. We are all made up of past experiences and current stimuli. I think what we need is a certain amount of acceptance.
Every view we hold, every opinion we develop, all have their point of origin. Our self-source, if you like. Even the genius is not an anachronism-that blinding flash of insight still has a source. A fertile ground from which it suddenly sprouted.
But what about the future, that distant, unknown destroyer of dreams? If you could somehow pierce its sanity-saving cloak, would you want to? Or would knowing of future events absolve us of both action and responsibility? Those of you who are Doctor Who fans will know that the Doctor often speaks of fixed points in time. Would those fixed points be malleable, be subject to change? I’ve no idea! But I do know that the Doctor always has his hands full trying to save an imperilled universe, and is usually up to his eyes in paradoxes.
There are many scientists and physicists that talk about such things in a way that is beyond me, that makes my confounded eyes glaze over. You could always seek out their books if you are actually that intrigued.
This here is just a rambling set of questions provoked by my quest to locate a quote that I’ve temporarily lost. Everything is temporary!
And I think the main question is: if you could see into the future to discover what life holds in store for you, would you want to do it? With all the ramifications involved?
Well, would you?
Oh Norma Jean, if you only knew.
Well as conversations go, I couldn’t see the problem.
The end of the year seems to make all of us into philosophers and analysts, and my wife was in suitably reflective mood. Looking back on 2013, she considered the highs and the lows, the blessings and the challenges. She paused when thinking of loved ones lost. She talked of the things that she had found trying, the uncertainties of life that caused her to worry, but also the successes that brought her great joy. She talked of our growth as a couple, and as a family, the way our children were continuing to blossom, and looked forward to greater opportunities for us all in 2014.
Then she asked me to give my perspective on 2013.
“Well, the most emotional parts was Agnetha Fältskog coming out of exile, and Tom Baker appearing at the end of the Doctor Who anniversary special.”
It was when I saw the look on her face that I began to falter.
“Erm….” (where was I? Oh yes-emotional) “James Herbert dying too….I loved his books when I was younger.”
She seemed to be waiting for something else, but I couldn’t fathom what, and as the silence grew between us, she then said, in a very clipped fashion:
“And what about plans for 2014?”
I didn’t feel, exactly, that she was testing me, but I did begin to feel uncomfortable, and thought that the best policy was honesty:
“Well, I am expecting City to win the league.”
Best Wishes to you all from North Manchester General Hospital. Hope the year is a good one for all of us single people.