Does anyone remember Hartley Hare?
The absolute roadkill of children’s puppets.
Does anyone remember Hartley Hare?
The absolute roadkill of children’s puppets.
I’ve been watching Springwatch. Those baby chicks are just like my kids. Always got their mouths open, always wanting feeding.
I think I should have gone down the cuckoo route.
The effect that The X Factor has had on the art of conversation. My nine year old daughter Millie and I, Saturday night, when the girl from Finland came on to sing:
Millie: “Is this the Polish one?”
Millie: “Is that her name?”
Me: “No, she’s Finnish.”
Millie: “But she’s only just started!”
The moment was almost upon us. After counting down the days, and all the hype, it was now time for the 50th Anniversary special The Day Of The Doctor. I was sat with my unenthusiastic wife Jen, who would rather be watching X Factor. Quarter of an hour to go, trying to wile away the time by browsing my Facebook feed, I learnt that Darren, an old school pal of mine who had moved from oop norf (Manchester) to darn sarf (London), along with his partner Laura, had somehow managed to acquire cheap tickets to watch it in the cinema.
Of course I took the posts personal. Every mention of the Whovians in fancy dress, how he made sure he didn’t sit behind the Sontaran as the massive potato head would obstruct his view. Being offering a jelly baby by a three foot cybermidget.
Consumed with jealousy?
As the clock wound down towards zero hour and my wife Jen sighed and plugged into her ipod?
You bet I was.
I tried to replicate the cinema experience, switching off the light, getting some chocolate, trying to ignore my wife singing along to The Dooleys. But, then, I learnt that
To pass those final, frustrating minutes before the show aired, I decided to swamp his newsfeed with relevant Doctor images. Just for my own amusement, you know. Maybe the vibration of numerous Facebook notifications would distract from his ogling of a Leela in a loincloth,a Romana in a rah-rah, with a surreptitious glance towards Laura from behind his green and red lenses.
The product of a juvenile mind, I thought that I would share them here with you. I should explain that references such as ‘chips and gravy’, are just a peculiarity of the north-south divide.
Just like your London buses, you wait hours to see a Doctor then five turn up at once.
Great atmosphere here, even Jen is getting into the swing of things
Tenth Doctor:”Cheap tickets, for the southerners, to watch in an obscenely comfortable cinema in 3D?”
Eleventh Doctor:”Yes, while those poor commoners oop norf have to watch it sat on the couch, squabling kids around their feet, wives that would rather watch that X Factor rubbish. We must do something timey wimey and wibbly wobbly.”
“Oi, you Cockneys-take those damn silly glasses off first!”
“I can barely watch, Pond. No gravy. Chips…without gravy.”
“Hello my Cockney Darlings! Time to kick some Dalek arse!”
Darren, when you said you got those tickets cheap, did you bother to read what it actually said on them?
Yes I know. I’m cool in 3D.
Unravel this one, Jeremy Kyle.
No Jen-don’t put your earphones back in. Let me run this by you again…
Darren, you haven’t have you? Laura please check and let us know. Don’t worry, they won’t be in 3D.
This is just up your street Darren. The London eye, I mean, not the erm, you know…
With this last photograph posted, I ran out of time. The programme started, and it was ‘fantastic’, to quote the above Doctor. With the mini episode before it-The Night of The Doctor, both Paul McGann’s and Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor were tied up nicely,providing continuity, and I just love how the ‘new Doctor Who’ acknowledges, references, and celebrates its own history. Has to be important for a show about time travel.
And for a long term fan like me, the surprise appearance, at the end of the episode, of my Doctor, the great Tom Baker, was the icing on the cake.
We only have to wait until Christmas now to see Matt Smith’s regeneration and the new Time Lord on the block.
Darren-what do you mean, you have tickets?
Jen-what do you mean, divorce?
Calm down Whovians, we are nearly there!
Eleven days to go. Here’s a taster.
Oh, go on then-for you lot who like continuity. Here is the first trailer, featuring the old Doctors. Continuity can be complicated though, especially when it comes to time travel.
Hold on to your fez.
We have heard rumours before-some missing Doctor Who episodes have been miraculously re-discovered. Sometimes they are rumours. Sometimes they are hoaxes, although how anyone can be so evil is beyond me.
You may have to humour me a little, but to Whovian geeks it is a big deal.
Then a newspaper reported that over 100-yes 100- long-lost episodes had been found in Ethiopia. It sounded like our Nag Hammadi watershed moment. But experience has taught us to take things with a pinch of salt. But the excitement was building.
Then came an announcement from the BBC: several missing episodes had been discovered, although the number claimed wasn’t accurate.
You had to feel for my wife, Jen.
Since the over 100 claim, I had been regaling her with the myths concerning the missing 106 episodes. How the BBC in their wisdom had wiped or destroyed many of the early stories featuring the first two Doctors, and ever since the rise of videos and dvds they had been searching high and low to reclaim copies. How some episodes have turned up on church fairs and in garages, and how some were located in the dust gathering vaults of overseas broadcasters.
In 1991 every episode of The Tomb Of the Cybermen, part of the Who Holy Grail, was found in Hong Kong. Finding a story in its entirety is fantastic, as it tends to be just the odd episode of missing stories that turn up, and even then it is a rare find.
There is a DVD, fittingly entitled Lost In Time, that gathers together various isolated episodes from stories that we have had to accept will never exist in their totality again.
Having initially read the ‘over 100 episodes’ claim, I admit that I may have casually mentioned this once or twice in conversation. I know I definitely spotted Jen’s eyes roll a couple of times. But I had to remind myself nothing had been confirmed officially. Try to keep a lid on it.
Being a long time fan of this great British instituion, my favourite Doctor was always the one who held the mantle when I was a kid-that great eccentric Tom Baker whose scalf was a sharp reminder to knitters everywhere to not get carried away.
Do you remember him Jen? Do you want a jelly baby?
These are the old ‘classic’ Doctor Who stories, before they were reinvented with the benefit of high budget special effects and made into short, fast paced stories for today’s generation of kids who don’t have the attention span to sit and watch six or seven episode stories. Back in those days I didn’t think there had ever been any other Doctors-the Doctor was Tom Baker. Who the hell had heard of someone regenerating?
Wasn’t that something that worms did?
I can still recall being knelt up in front of the tv on the Saturday that the Doctor fell from that dish at Jodrell Bank, and turned into Peter Davidson. Emitting a ten year old’s confused and high pitched “Who is that?” No pun intended.
I shared such stories with Jen. Cue deep sighs and rolling of eyes. She is a poet and she doesn’t want to know it.
For the sake of my marriage I kept things to a minimum. Tried not to speculate. No news is good news.
Then a BBC spokesman played things down, saying the 100 episodes in Ethiopia claim was ‘inaccurate’. But when asked if there were some episodes to be announced at a forthcoming press conference, admitted “There is a connection.”
Oh you enigmatic little…..
What the hell did that actually mean- inaccurate, but a connection. I couldn’t contain myself.
Jen they have found some new ones! Or rather new old ones! But if it’s not 100, how many? 90? Could we dare to dream, Jen, could we? Why couldn’t they just tell us which ones? Or was it just the country that was innacurate and not the figure? Why are you doing that thing again with your eyes Jen?
A press conference was scheduled for the beginning of the week-as the day approached my wife was conspicuous by her absence. The imagination went into overdrive-would they be Hartnell or Troughton stories? Great though the first Doctor was, the second Troughton is a close second to Baker as my favourite. Clips like this, featuring both Doctors so not to give the game away, added to the anticipation:
Unbelievably, no time was given as when the conference was taking place, so I intended to arm myself with the tv remote for teletext and my Ipad for Google search. I would have preferred a ‘breaking news flash’.
But then we were told by the BBC that they were ‘not quite ready’ and the press conference had been put back towards the end of the week. Not quite ready? In what way? And end of the week was too vague. When end of the week?
And then, came the comment
“We want everything to be ready for this announcement to excite fans so they will have to wait a few days longer. They have been waiting nearly 50 years for this , so a
I tried to rip open my cushions with my teeth. My dog scarpered upstairs, and Jen blocked my calls.
Somewhere, in the dark BBC corridors of power, a Machiavellian tyrant was rubbing his hands and chuckling ‘ that jackdaw guy will be ripping out his feathers!’
News then leaked that old Doctor’s companions Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling had been invited to help make the announcement, which indicated that the found episodes would indeed be from the Troughton period, as this was the Doctor that they had both worked with.
Finally, finally, the date of the reveal in which the episodes would be announced, and a couple of them screened, was given as Thursday, betwen 3.30pm and 7.00pm.
What the hell? A three and half hour window? Why could they not just give the damn time? Was I going to have to trawl the internet again for hours? Just how long was they going to string this out for?
Millie’s toy Winnie the Pooh was launched into the kitchen.
I made a mental note for when the time came: don’t create a scene while the kids are eating…keep quiet while Jen is reading. Time passed by. Several googles of ‘Doctor Who episodes found‘ was returning nothing but old news.
I boiled in silent frustration. The night wore on with nothing. Then:
The conference had been held, the episodes revealed but, the BBC had
“WHAT THE FUCKING HELL ARE THEY PLAYING AT??!!!!”
I apologise now for the language as I apologised then. Jen almost scalded herself with her cup of tea, the dog briefly levitated. Thankfully, thankfully, the kids didn’t wake.
I responded to Jen’s shrieked questions with a barrage of incoherent quick-fire staccato garble.
Someone who pulls the strings was really getting off on this.
But, this is the best bit- screw you BBC, this is the 21st Century! News leaked out through Twitter and Facebook. Your cold war capers don’t work anymore.
There were new episodes, Patrick Troughton ones too! There were nine, okay, not 100 as promised by that damn second rate journalist, but I think the confusion was that the amount of missing episodes in total numbered 106. But anyhow,new episodes, episodes long written off as lost to us, had been recovered. Regenerated even, from a tv station in Nigeria.
Episodes 1,2,4,5, and 6 of the six part story The Enemy Of The World was now complete as there was already episode 3 in the archives. And now the six part The Web Of Fear was missing only episode 3. As the audio soundtracks to all the Doctor Who stories exist, this last story would no doubt be released with the missing episode replaced by an animated one, as had been done with other stories that were missing just the odd episode.
I knew Jen was familiar with this trailer for a more modern Doctor Who story:
so in order to try and sell her a bit of enthusiasm for The Web Of Fear, I replaced the excitedly given line
“Dinosaurs, on a spaceship!” with
“Yetis, on the underground !”
She looked, then said “They look like fluffy teddy bears gone wrong.”
Deep breaths. Forget you heard it. Put the heavy PC down.
Never mind. I am already looking forward to my Second Doctor Night.
And the number of missing episodes now has fallen from 106 to 97.
There must be more out there. We have to keep looking
Jen stop doing that, you look like Marty Feldman.
It is that time of the year again when an attempt to vegetate in front of the television set may result in us being compelled to actually open the blinds and peer outside, maybe get out in the garden or, if we are truly touched by the adventurous spirit, get our boots on and seek out the more scenic parts of our country.
To get involved with the outside world.
Yes, Springwatch is back on. This programme, and its sister programme Autumnwatch, is partly responsible for a public increase of interest in our indigenous wildlife. We have also recently had a shorter-run Winterwatch, with a promised Summerwatch too this year. So that covers just about everything then.
We are nine episodes in, with live cameras and twenty four hour web cams set up in a variety of locations around the British Isles to document many different species of our wildlife, showing how they have faired through the winter months and the struggle they face to breed and survive among a changing world and predation.
We have been treated to, among many others, ospreys and otters, finches and foxes, warblers and weasels, dippers and dolphins, buzzards and bees. We have marvelled at feats of endurance and display, persistence and guile.
And among all this impressive footage, who do you reckon have been the villains of the piece?
That’s right, the jackdaws.
There is a bird box set up in a barn, and two jackdaws have nested there, raising two chicks. The parents are doing a masterful job of mucking in and spreading the load. No single parent or free loader in this set-up.
The problem is when the two parents are off foraging for food. In their absence, two other adult jackdaws have been entering the nest box and going about the process of systematically attacking the defenceless chicks. Time after time, day after day, they have come in and merciless pecked at the two cawing chicks, as they huddle together in the corner trying to find some kind of protection. It only ceases when one or both parents return to eject the invaders from the box. The problem is that they need to go and find food for the young ones, and as soon as they do the deadly duo come back in and the whole sickening spectacle begins again.
Over and over.
Viewers throughout the country have been horrified, dropping their digestives into their cups of tea as they reach for their phones to tweet their disgust
The theory given is that these two intruders are lower down the..ahem..pecking order in the jackdaw hierarchy, and want the nest box for themselves to breed in. They have even been bringing in nesting material of their own. Talk about cheek.
The one thing going for the chicks is their size. They are close to fledgling. If they had been younger it would all have been over with by now. And they are beginning to fight back themselves. Like bullied kids the world over, they have their tipping point.
I know that wild life is just that-wild life. Red in tooth and claw. I mean we have recently seen a young meadow pipit taken by a grass snake as the rest scatter from the nest in a desperate attempt at survival. But at least that was quick. The young jackdaws are being subjected to constant, prolonged attacks.
Having a front row seat to witness this violent drama has caused me to feel a little uncomfortable about the title of my blog. Do I really want it associated with such, well, animalistic thuggery?
And what would I change it to? What if I kept it along the wildlife line, but chose something nice, inoffensive, cute even?
What about a rabbit? Everybody loves rabbits. Rabbits are lovable. Cute? Check. Fluffy? Check. Not psychotic? Check.
Right then, I will have a blog name incorporating the word rabbit and something else, something that would not cause me to waiver after watching a single episode of Springwatch or Watership Down.
But before I could make that connection, a memory came to me. My Dad, saying very casually to my Mum:
“Rabbits sometimes mate with rats in the wild.”
I can’t for the life of me remember the context of that conversation, and I am convinced he was pulling her leg. But my Mum never ate rabbit again.
Now I have another vision. The horrific sight of those attacks on the poor, defenceless chicks has now been replaced by another, unwholesome image.
Rabbits mating with rats.
That’s it. I’m sticking with jackdaws.