Posts Tagged ‘55 plus’

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, what with having a fair bit on my hands for most of the next week.

But since I have been thinking about time, I wondered about this blog, and past blogs, and…

…what I’d have been writing about on this day had I been blogging for the past fifteen years.

On some of them I was blogging, of course, because they took place during one of the countdowns I’ve done, or for other reasons. On some 19ths of July, I wasn’t blogging, but odds are I’d have been tweeting.

Slices of time. I’ve no idea why I’m writing this other than that it amuses me, and I’ve genuinely no idea what I was thinking about a year ago, or the year before that, or in 2009, say.

And that’s a good enough reason for me to want to find out.

So let’s take a look at what I was blogging about or tweeting about on this day back through the years.

(Note, if I didn’t actually tweet on the day, I’ll take the closest day I can find, ok? OK.)


19th July 2006:

Well, I was still on my former blog back then. And, I was on the second run of fast fiction challenges. My heavens, the second run, that takes me back. It was a story entitled I Have Air Conditioning, and it’s a weird little tale but one I quite like still.

Due to my ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts on Tuesdays, I’ve read a few of the old tales and it’s striking – to me, anyway – how brutal some of the language I used was. Looks like I went through a phase where I used adverbs very sparingly, and adjectives to quickly convey a tone as well as a description. I’m not sure whether I’d write the stories the same way again, but even if they might be a tad more polished now, I do like the rawness of them as originally written.


19th July 2007:

Ah, lurkers. Remember them? Livejournal was a great blogging platform, and this was in the days when people did, sometimes, reply to blogs, where there was a genuine interaction on occasion between those writing blogs and those reading them. And lurkers were A Thing, people who you knew read the blog but never ever commented. Which, as I say, occasionally irked. So, yes, this post – Lurkers… Delurk! – was designed, hopefully, to get lurkers to say ‘hello’, to introduce themselves and maybe, just maybe, get them commenting more often.

Sidebar: oops

I hit the wrong link while doing this and came across something I think it’s; worth mentioning.

I was hoping, when I started this, that one of the things this post would reveal to me, and possibly others, was the differences between a) blogging then and blogging now, and b) the different platforms. And this post from August 2007 – Quick favour needed… graphics – is firmly in the first of those. Because it’s a general ‘help?’ post, asking for advice on how to achieve a specific thing I wanted to do graphically.

We used to use blogs (and message boards) for things like this. I can’t imagine using the blog for it it now; I’d ask on Twitter instead. This is one of those things that I tcan honk is very definitely better now than then. On Twitter, you get quick responses, or one at all. And you end up with far more links to step-by-step instructions now as well.

(Looking at the post, and when it was written, just after I’d got my first iPhone, Looks like i was hoping to use the Gibbons designed hypotheticals logo as my iPhone 3G wallpaper. I must have taken the advice, and liked it, because I’m still using the logo as my iPhone 12 Pro wallpaper.)

Looking later, I find the perfect complement to the post immediately above. Remember I said we sometimes used blogs to ask for help? This post from August – Smarter… Better… Gooder… – was a follow up, thanking people for the advice for which I’d asked in an earlier post, this time about a new FTP application to use.

Remember that as well? Thanking people for their advice? Happens less on Twitter, and Twitter is the worse for it.

OK, back to This Day In History

19th July 2008:

This comes up every so often, and it’s worth sticking it in here since it was on the day itself. Worth a mention and then moving on… 13 years ago, I was writing about my fucked-up-foot.


19th July 2009:

Around this time, my lad had busted his hand, pretty badly. His tendon had snapped and he required a couple of major operations. Some wonderful artists sent him some wonderful artwork, with characters’s arms in casts or slings, to help him feel a little better. This was one of the posts containing one of the pieces of the art.


19th July 2010:

Another fast fiction, since I was then doing a 150 day run of them, this story entitled Sometimes We All Implode, a fun title to play with; a rather less fun story resulted.


19th July 2011:

I took a break from blogging during the first three-quarters of 2011; I really wasn’t in a fit state to blog. I was… ill, and a couple of stays in hospitals, including one for mental health. I really wasn’t well at all.

However, in July I was tweeting.

And I tweeted this.

And I was referring of course to this


19th July 2012:

So I kicked off this place on 1st October 2011, but I didn’t blog in July 2012, so instead…

Ah, the missions.

I used to hand out missions on Twitter before I went to bed.

I should get back to that at some point, I guess.


19th July 2013:

Ah, how nice. A blog post that I not only recognise but one i refer to on a semi-regular basis even to this day.

Budgie’s Law of Popular Television, y = x + 2

It’s my law and I still think it applies. Of course a law only really counts when other people quote it, and I was wholly and unreservedly delighted last year to see it in the wild.


19th July 2014:

No blog entry on the 19th in 2014, but a post on the 10th that’s worth highlighting. At the time, the government was saying that trades unions, when consulting their members on possible strike action, should have a minimum turn out for a strike ballot to be valid.

Not only was it incredibly stupid, and self-defeating, it was also woefully hypocritical.

And I said so, and showed why, in this post: Turnout fine again…


19th July 2015:

OK, now we’re getting a bit closer to ‘now’. 2015.

In July 2015, the Labour Party were in the middle of a leadership contest in which Jeremy Corbyn was the front runner. Hmm.

I’d already written earlier in July a post expressing my… disquiet on that, and how I was hoping in vain, it turned out – that the winner would be ABC: Anyone but Corbyn.

But the closest to the 19th? That’d be on the 15th, when I wrote about my despair at Labour generally and how it would be nice to actually have an opposition at the time. Opposition? What Opposition?


19th July 2016:

We’re back to Twitter for a bit, I’m afraid I didn’t blog in July 2016, and then took 2017, 2018 off before returning in June 2019 for the ’55 minus’ run which ran through the whole of 2019.

You get two tweets because I genuinely couldn’t decide which I liked more.


19th July 2017:

How some things never change. I still wonder.


19th July 2018:

How some things sadly never, sadly, change.


19th July 2019:

A blog entry! We have a blog entry!

I returned to blogging in 2019, with a countdown blog to my 55th birthday. I was about a month through it…

And on 19th July, I wrote one in a series of what later became the Ten Things series. 55 minus 29: One-offs, part 3… pilots Reading it now, it’s a fun piece, I think, and while I’m not sure if I’d include some newer shows now, but yeah, it’s nice that I still agree with myself from two years ago.


19th July 2020:

I was really not in the state of mind to write a blog this time last year. I had nothing to write that people weren’t already writing.

But I was tweeting about Wacky Races, apparently.


19th July 2021:

Well, there’s this blog entry…

See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a groan, a shrug, and a wince, here’s some much needed silliness.

Something a bit different this week; no videos; a couple of other things instead.

Starting with something I came across years ago and – at one point – I had it printed out in Olde English above my desk.

It’s fairly self-explanatory, and I suspect will spark some recognition among anyone who like me thinks one of the essential skills you learn online is to read fluent tyop.

An Owed to the Spelling Checker
I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh
My checker tolled me sew.
A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when aye rime.
Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule
The checker pours o’er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.
Be four a veiling checkers
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if were lacks or have a laps,
We wood be maid to wine.
Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know faults with in my cite,
Of non am eye a wear.
Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped words fare as hear.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud.
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaws are knot aloud.
Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas.
And why I brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.
—– anon.

And for those who prefer something about pronunciation?

I used to know this by heart, but it’s been a long time since then. Again, it’s anonymous, as far as I know, but worth sticking it here:

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead; it’s said like bed, not bead
For goodness sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear;
And then there’s dose and rose and lose
Just look them up – and goose and choose.
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I’d mastered it when I was five!
—– anon.

(Feel free to leave a comment below when your tongue has removed itself from the roof of your mouth and unknotted itself.)

This next bit has always amused me; as someone who’s met thorugh their career of friends more than a few ‘household names’, this rang so true. If you ignore the names of those in the piece below (an small piece in the Readers’ Questions and Answers slot in The Times), you could be reading about any two people…

Did Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington ever meet?

The fact that they met probably won’t surprise anyone. How they met and what happened might…

Nelson met the future Duke of Wellington in a room of the Colonial Office, where they were both waiting to see Lord Castlereagh. Nelson had no idea that he was talking with somebody of any reputation or importance, although Wellington recognised Nelson. According to Wellington: “He [Nelson] entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was almost all on his side and all about himself and, in reality, a style so vain and so silly as to surprise and almost disgust me.”

Nelson then left the room for a moment, apparently to find out who exactly he had been speaking with. When he came back, his manner was totally different. Wellington continued: “His charlatan style had quite vanished . . . and certainly for the last half or three quarters of an hour, I don’t know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more. I saw enough to be satisfied that he was really a very superior man; but certainly a more sudden or complete metamorphosis I never saw.”

And that’s it. No videos this week.

OK, one video, since the latest Star Wars has just been released.

One very silly video.


‪Darth Vader Feels Blue

See you tomorrow, as we approach the final days of this year, and the final days of this countdown.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a groan, a shrug, and a wince, here’s some much needed silliness.


Let’s start this week, with some more Road Runner. Enjoy.

Have some Gary Delaney, because… well, just because.

if you’ve not seen this before, from Duck Soup, or even if you have…

Ronnie Barker, with a poor… thingummy.

Johns Bird and Fortune; the Investment Banker interview

Mitch Benn has a message for those of you who, at this time of year, drink at the Bar Humbug…

See you tomorrow, with something else.,

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a groan, a shrug, and a wince, here’s some much needed silliness.


Let’s start this week, with the glory that is What’s Opera, Doc? If you haven’t seen this, you’re in for a treat. If you have, then you know what a treat it is. Enjoy.

Have some Stewart Francis being daft, just because why not…?

And here’s some Milton Jones, at the same veune

Ever ordered a large round of drinks? Yeah, me as well. Ronnie Barker shows us how it’s done.

Sir Humphrey explains to his minister The Five Standard Excuses in Yes, Minsitsr

Mitch Benn lays out the rules about celebrating Christmas before December.

But it is December now…

See you tomorrow, with something else.,

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a groan, a shrug, and a wince, here’s some much needed silliness.

Let’s start this week with some utter silliness, some unfettered silliness. Have some Road Runner.

Here’s some Emo Philips, just because why not…?

And here’s some Steven Wright, for the same reason

Rare that the opening scene of the first episode of a sitcom tells me I’m going to be hooked. Cheers managed it. Finest sitcom pilot I’ve ever seen.

How to keep a clean conscience in government? Sir Humphrey advises how


Mitch Benn has some advice for American families this week. How to talk to your pro-Trump relatives this Thanksgiving


See you tomorrow, with something else.

Yes, it’s Saturday, so a Saturday Smile

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with ‘How the hell do I know?‘, here’s some much needed silliness.

Peter Cook, with Experiences Down The Mine. I’d forgotten quite how clever, and good, this is.

And since we’re back in history, Bob Newhart goes even further back with a call from Sir Walter Raleigh, Introducing Tobacco To Civilisation

Here’s Rowan Atkinson, with How Shakespeare Should Be Done…

Want to know why the government will never ban smoking? Yes, Prime Minister explains why…

Two from Mitch Benn this week.

Mitch’s favourite film was, and indeed is, Blade Runner. Mitch was more than slightly worried about the sequel

Then he saw the movie…


See you tomorrow, with something else.

Oh, it’s Saturday, so it’s a Saturday Smile

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with ‘How the hell do I know?‘, here’s some much needed silliness.

Michael Spicer does ‘The Room Next Door’. Watch the attached and you’ll see what I mean. Gloriously original, and clever as hell.

Here’s Kate Lucas again, on dating…Not For Me


Here’s Rowan Atkinson, with The Three Wedding Speeches


It’s been done before, but here’s Yes, Prime Minister on who reads various newspapers…


I shouldn’t enjoy this The Blacklist as much as I do.


Mitch Benn has some advice for you, or rather for those who throw out one particular name for someone they don’t like: Shut Up About Hitler


See you tomorrow, with something else.

It’s Saturday, so yes, of course it’s a Saturday Smile

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the world has effectively said ‘yeah, we don’t know either, mate’, here’s some much needed silliness.

Not the Nine O’Clock News with a possible solution to football hooliganism.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever put this one up before, but even if I have, definitely worth a rewatch Classes


Here’s Monty Python, with Michelangelo


Some Yes, Prime Minister seems appropriate, since we’re all currently ydrowning in opinion polls…


I wasn’t aware that this was on YouTube, the full things, I mean, but since it is, enjoy.Blackadder: Back and Forth


A less silly one from Mitch this week, but equally important; I pull this out whenever there’s an election coming up, but it’s always relevant. Don’t be surprised if you see it again. This, from a couple of weeks before the 2017 election. Have you registered to vote? well, you should, shouldn’t they, Mitch?


See you tomorrow, with something else.

I’m running out of Saturday Smile titles; can you tell?

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the world has effectively said ‘yeah, we don’t know either, mate’, here’s some much needed silliness.

This has at least two titles that I’m aware of. I kind of like the album title of Comments Section. Anyway, here’s Kate Lucas.

The Two Ronnies Nuts, milord


Here are Stilgoe and Skellern with Mrs Beamish


Jonathan Lynne and Antony Jay always swore blind they invented things like ‘the standard Foreign Office response to any crisis for Yes, Minister and its sequel. I remain to be convinced.


Have a Minions mini-movie: Panic In The Mailroom


I’ve been waiting for this ever since I saw him do it in previews. This week from Mitch Benn, one of my favourites from his Edinburgh show and his new touring show: Ten Songs To Save The World: Moving To Scotland.


See you tomorrow, with something else.

I know, I know, but I’m running out of Saturday Smile titles; they’re going to get a bit weird, ok?

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the world has effectively said ‘yeah, we don’t know either, mate’, here’s some much needed silliness.

This shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does: The Doctor Who Theme if Ennio Morricone had arranged it

Nor should this Doctor Who/Star Trek mashup: Quantum Breach


A few months ago, I put up Liz Ryan’s version of Richard Stilgoe’s Joyce The Librarian. Here’s Stilgoe and Skellern with the definitive version.


This is rather lovely. Eric Idle rewrote his Galaxy song for a BBC2 promo


If I’d seen this before, I’d completely forgotten it. Here’s a Minions mini, The Competition


This week’s Mitch Benn, a newer song. I do like it when he has a bit of fun: Let’s Keep Boris There Forever.


See you tomorrow, with something else.

I know, I know, but I’m running out of Saturday Smile titles; they’re going to. get odd, ok?

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the world has effectively said ‘yeah, we don’t know either, mate’, here’s some much needed silliness.

The Two Ronnies as Jehosphat and Jones

Back in the day, BBC 1 would close down transmission around 1am, with a final few minutes of broadcast. Imagine that, no telly until the following day. Not The Nine O’Clock News, here, with something that will be instantly recognisable to anyone over the age of 40, and entirely unrecognisable to anyone under 35: Closedown


Armstrong and Miller here, with Wartime pilots


The wonderful Michael Flanders and Donald Swann with Have Some Madeira M’Dear


And here’s the wondrous Tom Lehrer with his Masochism Tango


I put up one YouTube video of one of Mitch’s songs, last week; here’s another. So here’s Mitch Benn, with Sir Ranulph.


See you tomorrow, with something else.

Housekeeping note: I’ll carry on with the numbering in the titles until Friday, when there’ll be a new numbering system kicking in. Those with memories of three years ago might recall the reason for the new numbering. If not, then you have a nice surprise waiting for you, don’t you?

The day will surely come when I’m too embarrassed by a Saturday Smile blog entry title to let it go live. As today’s entry title proves, this is not that day.

Long before I started the countdown blogs, every so often, on a Saturday, I’d put up some YouTube videos or some single panel editorial cartoons, or even some ‘funny newspaper headlines’… some silliness, anyway.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when we look at the world and ask ‘what the f—?’ here’s some more silliness.

While searching for something else this week, I came across this and it amused me. That’s as good a reason as any to include it here: If Doctor Who had been Remade in America

Ten years ago, on The Now Show, Marcus Brigstocke lamented that the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the UN Convention on Climate Change was so ludicrous, it was like it’d been designed by Dr Seuss, which gave him an idea…

Not often she does a flat out comedy song, but this one qualifies; Amanda Palmer and Black Death

Here’s Phil Pope, at The Distraction Club with his Rhyming Song

Once upon a time, there was The Ice Bucket Challenge. Everybody did their own video of it; I decided to do something a bit different with mine. Mister Budgie Gets Wet

Not often I made a YouTube video of one of Mitch’s songs, but when he did one about Michael Gove getting slammed for his ignorance as Education Secretary, I couldn’t resist. So here’s Mitch Benn, with Michael Gove Knows Better.


See you tomorrow, with something else.

55 plus 55: It’s about time

Posted: 11 October 2019 in 55 plus, writing
Tags: , ,

It’s January 2001. Where’s my fucking jet pack?” — Warren Ellis

Given how many stories in fiction involve time travel, a significant number set in the future, it’s telling how often writers get it wrong. Not ‘slightly off’. Wring. And I’m not even talking about the far future, thousands of years hence. No, we’re equally incompetent about the near future.

Sure, there’s the view that we readers and pedants should stop whining, that point best and most forcibly expressed by people using iPads and mobile phones, evidencing technologies that weren’t even imagined by most of us only a few years ago.

Two things to note there.

“…a few years ago.” It still boggles my mind that the first iPhone was released to the world twelve years ago, that the same week in June 2007 saw the resignation of Tony Blair and the release of the first iPhone.

And, of course: “…most of us…”

Years back, while setting up a new phone and bluetooth headset, something occurred to me out of the blue that, in retrospect, was incredibly obvious:

I could attach a small speaker to the tiny bluetooth device.

Further, my new phone allowed personalised ringtones.

And it had a voice recorder enabling me to record someone announcing their name and the phrase ‘calling budge’… and to use that sound file as a ringtone.

Oh… Oh!

Final step – attach bluetooth device to chest, wait to hear “Fred calling budgie”, tap the device and… Bingo! Star Trek Next Gen communicator.

Yeah, this was in 2006. I know it was then, because several friends, including the Mr Ellis quoted above, pointed me at the time to a hospital in Northern Ireland already trialling something more advanced. I wonder whatever happened to the system? A similar system appears to be more used today in some US hospitals.

But I was unaware of any of that when the bluetooth/speaker/ringtone/chest idea hit me. What about those people who spend their professional life thinking about such things?

Some fiction writers have made the telling of entertaining stories set in the near future their speciality. And guess what: they’re always wrong. That doesn’t make them bad writers though, unless they’re unconvincing in their inaccuracies. (And yes, it’s still just plain weird now that the world of Blade Runner doesn’t appear to have mobile phones.)

It does though remind me of the reply the great and magnificent science explainer-to-the-masses, James Burke, gave when asked why he concentrated on the past, rarely turning his attention to the consequences, connections and threads of the future.

“Why don’t I predict the future? I like to be right.”

Writers have been trying to predict the future in fiction via the means of “falling asleep for decades or longer”, or via “visits to the gods”, for thousands of years; the Japanese legend Urashima Tarōut dates from the eight century. And the absolute certainty that it’s guesswork of the most desperate type ain’t stopping us yet.

When I was a financial director, I used to tell my CEO that as a business, trading internationally, we should be able to produce a very good estimate of incomings and outgoings, or out business, for the next six months. between six months and eighteen months? Yeah, a pretty good guess can be made; some estimates will be right, some wrong, but neither will be hugely out. More than eighteen months? It’s crystal ball gazing, depending on so much that no one can realistically forecast: exchange rates; interest rates; tax rates; staffing; whether our counterparts in other countries do well, or badly; political stability, or otherwise…

And anything beyond three years? You might as well toss a coin.

There’s a tale told about the post-war aftermath of the late 1940s and early 1950s. I’ve no idea whether or not it’s true, but if apocryphal, it’s one of those stories that should be true.

The story is this: either President Truman or President Eisenhower (the story varies as these things tend to) gets the biggest brains in America to the White House; scientists, philosophers, and the like.

Their task is to predict for the president and his successors what will be the biggest challenges facing America through to the end of the 20th century.

And – so the story goes – turns out they were right on some things and wrong on others, astonishingly wrong on others.

They suggested that hypersonic aircraft would take passengers to Australia in two hours. But manned space travel wasn’t even seriously considered. Satellites might be possible, they apparently advised, but they would have very short lives, hence prohibitively expensive.

They’re supposed to have predicted the huge increases in cancers, but epidemics and AIDS didn’t even occur to them; neither did the huge increase in heart disease. They apparently predicted the acceptance by the masses of automation, and the massive increase in personal communication, but of course, it would be by telex.

(Burke mentions this in his book The Day The Universe Changed, about how any predictions, any understanding, relies upon the paradigms of the day; when the paradigm changes, so does everything else relying upon it. As an example, if you think that space is made of eggs, you design your instruments to search for omelettes. And if you don’t find them? instrument failure.)

Maybe those apocryphal Good and Great in the White House should have read Edwin Reynolds, who wrote in the Milwaukee Sentinel, Dec. 30, 1900:

“We may be able to carry apparatus on our persons which will enable us to communicate with another person similarly equipped, anywhere on earth, without the intervention of wires. We may be able to see persons at long distances as well as to talk with them.”

Teddy Roosevelt1901. A great year. Baseball’s American League declared itself a Major League, Clark Gable was born, and Teddy Roosevelt became President. And like their descendants 100 years later, newspapers and folks in general were debating the new century and what was likely to happen during it.

The Daily Register, in Mobile, Alabama lamented in 1901 that while it had been long predicted that man would learn to fly,

“he has not made any striking advance in the direction of his hopes…. Possibly, the 100 years of experiment teach us that we will never fly in the air as do the birds, or, if we do so, it will be merely for the pleasure of the thing.”

And the Chicago Tribune in the same year wrote

“The purely material may claim less attention and (greedily pursued riches) come to be less regarded.”

Ah, if only, eh?

In more recent times, the dystopic far future has been the predicted norm, while the near future has usually been portrayed as identical to the present, amended merely by slight advances in the field of technology.

Yet the experience of only the past few years suggests that, like those scientists at the White House, we don’t have a fucking clue what’s coming our way or how it’s going to affect us.

And in general, comics’ writers seem to acknowledge this by sticking technology in their stories that can’t exist yet, or won’t be commonly available for decades.

But they still get it wrong.

OK, we don’t have a Lex Luthor, a Tony Stark, a Shuri, a Riri Williams, a Reed Richards, an Angela Spica, or even a Bruce Wayne, though the latter would – as Bob Ingersoll pointed out some years ago – be in jail for breach of fiduciary duty to WayneTech stockholders.

The writers are not just wrong in the inventions and advances they predict, but in ignoring their larger effect upon society.

If we did have such men and women and their inventions, there’s no way the social environment of the richer nations would be remotely comparable to their current analogues in our world.

The 2008 Presidential election was the first to take place in the era of YouTube. Can anyone seriously argue the election process hasn’t changed markedly the past dozen years because of the availability of YouTube, instant video via smartphones and the like?

Alan Moore – in, of course, WATCHMEN – made it crystal clear that the new engines created by Doctor Manhattan had destroyed the old motor vehicle industry. That’s one of the few ‘wider implication’ stories, and it’s presented almost as a throwaway scene, something that of course would happen.

Does anyone think that the inventions created by Stark, Shuri, Richards, et al wouldn’t be available online? Hell, I could download 3D designs now. Notwithstanding the 1951 satire, The Man In The White Suit, what would clothes made of unstable molecules actually do to the fabric manufacturing industry? How would commercial aircraft design differ, with the existence of Quinjets and Fantasticars?

And why should it stop there? Back to James Burke, who at a Q&A session at the Royal Institution a few years back broke his self-imposed rule and predicted that nanotech ‘makers’, right out of TRANSMETROPOLITAN, would be available inside thirty years. And yes, they’d be phenomenally expensive… to start with. Until someone uploads the design specs to the internet. And within a decade after that, they’d be cheaper, a lot cheaper. Thing is – again, harking back to the social implications – economics and politics is, in a major part, the allocation of scare resources. What happens to politics and economics in the absence of scarcity?

There’s an online version of his talk available: I’d recommend it to everyone, without hesitation: Admiral Shovel and the Toilet Roll.

The responsibility of any storyteller is simply that – to tell entertaining stories. They owe no loyalty to their ‘fans’ (c.f. Neil Gaimain’s blog entry ‘George R R Martin is not your bitch‘) but only to their contracts, and the person they look at in the mirror: to deliver the best written stories they can.

But while any fiction requires suspension of disbelief, it surely has to maintain an internal integrity; ignoring the social and cultural implications of near future inventions – accurate or otherwise – serves no one in the longer term, least of all the reader.
The usual ‘something silly’ tomorrow; after this week, I suspect we need it even more than usual.

I was going to do a housekeeping note, but this whole thing is a housekeeping note.

I was going to do an ‘it’s Yom Kippur, so just fast well, everyone who’s fasting, and I’ll see you tomorrow.’

Then I was going to do a post about nothing much, another odds and sods post, but I didn’t.

I was going to do several things, and maybe comment on what objectively is an entirely trivial thing that’s occurred in the UK, but has fascinated most people, including me, this morning.

But then…

But then…

This happened: Germany: two killed in Halle attack. Bild reporting it was outside a synagogue, and a grenade was thrown into a Jewish cemetery.

And I got nothing.

Oh, I could write plenty on it, but nothing that others couldn’t write better and with more skill and depth.

I could write about how to give in to fear and anger is to give them what they want, but that’d be pompous at best, and hypocritical at worst. For my only reactions are shaking, and a physical ache; my foot was hurting like hell, and I’ve no idea whether it was made worse by it or whether I was just more aware of it. It’s hurting even more now, because I just had a hard, deliberately hard, half hour walk on it. I’ll pay for it later, but it’ll be worth it.

That’s not true, by the way; they weren’t my only reactions. I’m also scared, genuinely, wondering ‘where next?’ and ‘when next?’

And ‘when here?’

And yet some people still suggest synagogues don’t ‘need’ security, that Jewish schools don’t need security.

So, no matter what I was going to write about my fury, my fear, my guts churning, it wouldn’t be enough; it wouldn’t be good enough. It wouldn’t achieve anything beyond writing from anger or writing in fear, neither of which are a particularly good thing for me, or anyone else reading it.

Instead, something else.

Fifteen years or so ago, I pitched a dozen or so stories to Marvel, one of which was bought, written by me, drawn by superb artists, and saw print in X-Men Unlimited, my only Marvel work.

One of the other story pitches, one that never saw print, took place on Yom Kippur, and deals with an… attack, but not one like today’s. Well, not quite.

For no reasons other than it’s Yom Kippur, here it is, in pitch format (links for the non-comics readers). Sixteen years old, and I still like it, and it’s a huge regret that it never had the opportunity to see print as it should have.



Kitty Pryde prepares for Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement) and attends a local synagogue. She stops short as she sees a huge man walk into the temple and then he turns, greeting her with a broad smile. It’s Leonard ‘Doc’ Samson.

As they leave the temple that evening, Samson is attacked by the Abomination. Samson is weakened from having fasted all day… something the Abomination was counting on. (Only makes sense to me that even with his gamma irradiated body, he’d need more sustenance than a normal person to function, and that fasting for 25 hours would leave him weak; it would be at least 12 hours’ fasting by the time this story commences).

Kitty steps in and phases the Abomination, his fist passing through Samson, but her own fasting doesn’t allow her to hold him for more than a moment. It’s enough though, since the disorientation from being phased leaves The Abomination staggered, woozy, allowing Samson to finish him off with one hard accurate powerful punch.

Samson is enraged about being attacked on the holiest day of the Jewish year and is about to let a ‘head taking off’ punch go at the now unconscious villain… when Kitty Pryde halts him by uttering one of the prayers from the Yom Kippur service, asking forgiveness for the sins committed in rage…

Final panels: SHIELD taking Abomination away; Samson thanking Kitty; Nick Fury wishing them well over the fast; Kitty and Samson entering the synagogue, greeting someone out of shot, (obviously Ben Grimm.)

© Lee Barnett, 2003

Something else, tomorrow, when hopefully, I’m more together.

I’m going to keep going with the ‘stories from the vaults on Tuesday’ posts. People seem to like them, and with around 700 of the buggers in the vaults, I doubt I’ll run short for a while.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

I’ve put some clever stories up in the past, some horror tales, some sweet and loving, and some where I hope you can find some suspense.

Here, however, are two very silly stories, two absurd tales. I thoroughly enjoyed writing both.

I hope you enjoy reading both as well…

Title: What Love Means Today
Word: sangfroid
Challenger: Douglas Townsend
Length: 200 words exactly

The official representative of the state looked at the two of them. He smiled as he saw her nervously giggle at something the man had said, and then with delight saw her start to colour slightly. The young man responded by running a finger around his collar.

The representative always enjoyed it when they were so obviously ready and willing to commit themselves.

The mothers were busily chatting and surreptitiously eyeing each other’s dresses. There was a moment shortly after meeting, he knew, when they each decided who was the better dressed. And what was more, both of them would reach the same decision. Ah yes, there it was.

He saw the young man’s father pacing nervously, and on the other side of the room, the younger woman’s father looking without a care in the world, exhibiting a sense of sangfroid that would do credit to anyone.

He called them all together, and asked each of the younger people whether they were sure of their choices. They looked at each other, then at their parents, then together announced in the affirmative.

And as the parents pulled their sidearms, the representative of the state gave his blessing to the forthcoming feud.

© Lee Barnett, 2008

Title: Gargoyles, Grotesques and Glad-Rags
Word: taboo
Challenger: Bevis Musson
Length: 200 words exactly

He paused for a moment, entirely at a loss as to how to respond when he heard the handle on the heavy oak door twist with the inevitable creaking sound, remembered from childhood.

The door opening saved Arnoth from having to answer the marriage proposal as his father entered, absent-mindedly scratching the suppurating sore on his arm and whistling a popular song, a painful sound.

“Ah,” his father said, seeing Arnoth and the strange individual, only at that moment becoming aware of their being there and also that he’d interrupted them.

There was an awkward silence, broached after a minute or so by the creature coughing, an astonishingly quiet sound given its bulk.

“Father…” began Arnoth, in a vague attempt to explain the presence of the immortal being made from living stone, but his father merely waved his hand in an offhand manner, far more concerned about the obvious social faux pas taking place.

Arnoth looked at his love, dressed in the flowing golden ballgown, and then at his father, identically dressed, a social taboo of great embarrassment.

Arnoth wondered which of them would volunteer to change clothes first, and uttered a silent prayer that it would be his father…

© Lee Barnett, 2007

And here’s an extra special treat. After I wrote the story above, the person for whom I wrote the story, artist Bevis Musson, turned his considerable skill to the story, and created the art below.

(It’s one of my great regrets that he and I never got to work on a planned project we had, an original graphic novel that I keep promising myself I’ll return to sooner or later.)

Something else tomorrow…

55 plus 51: Odds and sods

Posted: 7 October 2019 in 55 plus
Tags: ,

Housekeeping: we’re now approaching the ‘time limit’ I set for myself to keep the ’55 minus/plus’ going, ’55 plus 55′. I’m genuinely unsure whether to drop it, and a bit scared – I’ll admit – that if I don’t have a daily countdown/up to use, I’ll skip a few days, and a few days more and then a few days more.

I don’t know what the answer is, but it does seem a bit silly to continue the numbering after 55 plus 55.

I don’t know. I’ll have a ponder.

Anyway, hello.

Not a long entry today, but an entry nonetheless. A mixture of odds and sods stuff. Something about London, something about the time of year, and something about the time of year. Yes, the repetition is deliberate.

I mentioned when I was in Edinburgh that I had a few favourite places at which to drink coffee. Whether it’s because I’m used to London, and I’ve had coffee at some many places, I don’t know, but I don’t really have a favourite place in London. At least not to drink coffee.

I have favourite places, but they tend not to be related to the consumption of coffee. And, let’s leave ‘friends’ homes’ out of it as well; it’d be unfair to them.

But here are three places I like in London, just for the hell of it.

Richmond Town Centre: Not a huge surprise, given that I lived there for so long, but yeah, I like Richmond as a place. Nice shops, it never seems too busy, and it has Richmond Green just off to one side of it. And I do like Richmond Green. Perfect place in the summer to spend some hours listening to music, or a podcast, laying on the grass, letting the world go by for a while. And, a nice place to write, surrounded by families enjoying themselves, children laughing, and just for s short while, you can forget the troubles of the world.

(I’d say Richmond Park is also ideal for letting the world go by, but you do tend to interrupted by deer every so often. Yes, honestly.)

Outside summer, the green and the park are less… inviting, I’ll be honest. I mean, it’s not that I don’t like autumn or winter, both places are distinctly less nice during the season. Colourful, sure. As nice? No.

OK, maybe a town centre is too big a thing to truly like.

How about a street? Regent Street, say, in Central London. The office of one of. my first jobs in London was in Regent Street and I kind of liked the street stratigraphy from the start. Not so much for the street itself but everything that was two minutes’ walk from it. I mean, ok, you have decent shops in Regent Street, yes. But most of them are far too expensive for me, or for my tastes, anyway. I’m quite happy with a nice warm overcoat; I don’t need one that costs £500. But at one end, you have the BBC, at the other Piccadilly Circus. Off to one side, you have Carnaby Street – not the fashion centre it once was, but still fun to wander through; off to the other, you have… wel, not mush. Some nice squares. You also have Oxford Street cutting across it with no embarrassment whatsoever. And you have Hamleys, half way down. Again, not the icon it once was, not even the icon of Regent Street (I suspect that’s the Apple Store, these days). And five minutes from Oxford Circus Tube, you have the third of my favourites… and after a town centre and a street, let’s take it smaller, much smaller, a room in fact.

The Phoenix Public House. Well, to be precise, downstairs at the Phoenix, where you have a comedy club cum dance area. Now, fair enough, it’s rare that it’s both at the same time, and with my views on my dancing, you can be forgiven for immediately knowing it’s the comedy that attracts me.

Once a month, first Tuesday of every month usually, The Distraction Club takes place there. And you know – or should know – how much I love that evening. Three hours, or near about, of musical comedy, however you wish – or the comedians wish – to define that. And every Monday, well nearly every Monday anyway, you have Old Rope, an evening when comedians old and new, famous and just starting out, try out new material. Dirt cheap prices, and you’ll get a load of comedy you will enjoy. Some you won’t, but that’s cool, that’s what the evening’s for. And especially when it’s helmed by Tiff Stevenson, you’re in for a fun evening.

It’s October, which means it’s chilly, and rainy, and the kids have gone back to school, and everyone is just waiting for the end of the month, and then the end of November, so they can start enjoying the Christmas season. That’s the rules,: no christmas celebrations before 1st December, nothing but Christmas celebrations after 1st December.

But yeah, it’s chilly, and rainy.

Have some pictures.





Oh, sometimes, though, if you’re lucky, you get a lovely bit of weather…



It’s also the time of year – see, I told you the repetition was deliberate – when it’s Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement.

It’s been a while since I’ve regularly celebrated and/or observed either, and indeed, regularly celebrated or observed any Jewish traditions other than yahrzeit for my late brother and father.

I’m not entirely sure why. And I’m not entirely sure I want to know why.

But then again, given that I’m genuinely interested in knowing why I do stuff, and why I don’t do stuff, you’d kind of think that I’d want to know.

Maybe a longer post on this is required. Maybe.

Yeah. Maybe.
The usual Tuesday tomorrow. And, hopefully, something more entertaining.

As part of my ‘hey, I finished the #55minus, so I can occasionally just stick something up here for the hell of it’, another set of questions and answers that I answered long ago on LiveJournal but would answer almost entirely differently now…

Here’s some questions and answers, from Eh to Zed…

Are you Available? It depends on what you want. To chat, usually. To meet, occasionally. To vent, mostly. To go out and have a fun time? Rarely.
What is your Age? 55. This should not come as a susprise.
What Annoys you? Intolerance, hypocrisy, me, stupidity, self-delusion, gullibility, lack of intellectual curiousity, lazy thinking, lazy writing… oh, so many, many things.

Do you live in a Big place? Location? Sure. I live in London. Residence? No, I live in a small flat.
When is your Birthday? 17th August. Every year, funnily enough. Well, ok, every year since 1964.
Does Beauty matter? Always; there’s not enough beauty in the world, but it’s there if you look for it.

Which Car would you own, if money was no object? Had to think about this one, because I’ve never really been what you’d call a ‘motorhead’, but then I realised that I’d love to drive any of the following: Aston Martin DBS, Ferrari Dino, Jensen Interceptor, Morgan. Though if money was no object, I’d be quite happy with a little runaround. I miss not having a car, I’ll be honest
Who’s your Crush? No-one that I’d be happy acknowledging, let alone admitting publicly.
When was the last time you Cried? Because I was hurt emotionally? A very long time ago. From sadness, a few months back, watching the news. From pysical pain, last week.

Do you Daydream? Not really, no.
What’s your favourite kind of Dog? A Australian Labradoodle named Rowlf, who belongs to/lives with my closest friends. I’m not really a pet person, until/unless I get to ‘know’ them, and sometimes not even then.
What’s your favourite Day, of the week? Don’t have one, really. Any day I get to see my lad, I guess.

How do you like your Eggs? Scrambled or with cheese in an omelette.
Have you ever been in the Emergency room? Oh yes, most recently within the past month or so.
What’s the Easiest thing ever for you to do? Think. That’s not always a good thing.

Have you ever Flown in a plane? A few times, yes. Not for some years, though. Which reminds me, my passport’s probably up for renewal in the next year or so. For the first time, I’m not entirely sure I’ll renew it. I mean, I should, I might need it, but it’s a cost I could do without.
Friends or Family? With the notable exception of Phil, the latter, every bloody day of the week. I’m not close to my family, the people I grew up with, for various reasons. I don’t wish them ill, genuinely, but everyone’s better off if we do not encounter each other again. Ever.
Have you ever used a Foghorn? No, but there seems something fundamentally wrong in not having done so.

Do you chew Gum? Very, very rarely.
Are you a Giver or a taker? Quite probably.
Do you like Gummy candies? No.

How are you? Irritated at such a stupid question. I’ve never forgotten the definition of a bore as being someone who, when you ask them how they are… tells you.
What’s your Height? Six foot.
What colour is your Hair? Grey/white with the occasional strang of what’s left of my brown hair.

What’s your favourite Ice cream? Banana. (Used to love melon flavour, but haven’t seen it in years.)
Have you ever Ice skated? Once, wrenched my knee and swore never to do it again…
Would you live in an Igloo for a bet? Not even if it would solve world hunger.

What’s your favourite flavour Jelly/Jam? Strawberry. Every time. I had a stay in hospital a few years back. The only edible thing I ate while there was strawberry jam on toast. (Wow, haven’t thought of that in ages…)
Have you ever heard a really hilarious Joke? Yes, several that have had me literally crying with laughter.
Do you wear Jewellery? Yes, a thin gold chain with an equally gold Star of David (a 21st birthday present). I used to wear a wedding ring; every so often, I’ll catch sight of my left hand and it’ll take a second to realise what’s ‘missing’.

Who do you want to Kill? Right now? No-one, but ask me again another time.
Do you want Kids? I’ve got one, thanks: a pretty amazing son named Philip. No intention of ever having another. (It’d be unfair for me – to the mother and child – to have another. Odds are I’d be dead before the kid was out of his or her 20s.)
Where did you have Kindergarten? Nursery? Luton.

Are you Laid back? Sometimes.
Do you Lie? Sometimes. (See immediately above)
Have you ever been to London? It’s been known. Well, that’s obviously silly. So, instead, let’s go with:
Have you ever been to Los Angeles? Yes, spent part of my honeymoon with Laura there. Loved the place.

What’s your favourite Movie? I bloody hate this question… I couldn’t narrow it down to one, so let’s go for one I can watch repeatedly: The Lion In Winter.
Do you still watch Disney Movies? Some of them, sure.
What type of Music you listen to? A very eclectic mix, everything from hard rock to ‘easy listening’, from muscial comedy to Clannad, from Glen Miller to Glenn Frey, from musical soundtracks to Chris De Burgh.

Do you have a Nickname? Heh.
Favourite Number? 1729. For the obvious reason.
Do you prefer Night over day, or day over Night? The former, definitely. Always been more of a night owl.

What’s your One wish? For Philip to be happy.
Are you an Only child? No, I’ve a younger brother, though we’re not in touch, and had an older brother.
Do you wish this was Over? Not particularly. And not as much as anyone reading.

What one fear are you most Paranoid about? I have my fears, but none that I’m paranoid about. My paranoias are old enemies, I’m resigned to them now.
Do you love the colour Pink? No, not at all. My only even faint liking for it was that it occasioned a nice story I wrote for the daughter of close friends; she loved the colour pink, and asked me for a story for her birthday, about the colour pink. So I wrote one for her.
Are you a Perfectionist? When I had a day job, about work, yes. Outside that, not really. By inclination and training, I like accuracy and it’s probably why I have so many problems with those in the real world who treat both accuracy and the correct use of information as disposable when inconvenient.

Are you Quick to fall in love or lust? ‘Love [or lust] at first sight’ type thing? No. Only ever happened a couple of times, and that immediacy was never a good thing in the long run. For me, or for them.
Do you enjoy pub Quizzes? On occasion, yeah. Not as a regular thing, though.
Have you ever rode a Quad-bike? No, but I think it’d be fun to try.

Do you think you’re always Right? Lord no – I’ve made so many mistakes it’s incredible. But once I’ve made my mind up on something, it takes a lot to change my mind. Unless it’s on a matter of fact. When I’m shown that I had a fact wrong, I’ll hold my hand up to it without protest.
Do you watch Reality TV? I loathe so called reality television with a passion that is terrifying to imagine. It’s the one genre of tv (as opposed to individual shows in a genre) I intensely dislike.
What’s a good Reason to cry? There are very few bad reasons.

Do you prefer Sun or rain? Light rain.
Do you like Snow? Yes, but I hate slush.
What’s your favourite Season? A cool, but not bitingly cold, spring or autumn.

What Time is it? Oh look at what time it was posted and then knock off a couple of minutes.
What Time did you wake up? Just after half-six this morning.
When was the last time you slept in a Tent? I don’t think I’ve ever slept in a tent.

Do you own an Umbrella? Actually, I don’t think I do, any more. I had one, but lost it in Edinburgh last year, and haven’t replaced it.
Can you ride a Unicycle? No, not at all.
Have you ever said someone was Ugly? Usually the bloke in the mirror.

What’s the worst Veggie? Brussels
Where do you want to go on Vacation? Again, money no object? New York, Bermuda, Antigua, Sydney, Skye, Edinburgh outside the Fringe.
Where was your last family Vacation to? I genuinely can’t remember. Haven’t taken a ‘family holiday’ in the past 20 years, unless you include taking Phil to comic cons, and even that you’re talking almost a decade or so back .

What’s your Worst habit? Way, way too many to mention here.
Where do you live? Abbey Road, about ¼ mile from the studios.
Who’s your hero? I don’t have one.

Have you ever had an X-ray? Lots of them.
How old were you when you first saw an X-rated movie? 15 or 16, I guess? No idea.
Favourite Xenomorph movie? Aliens. Much preferred it to the original, or the other sequels, despite its admitted faults.

Would you be friends with You? I doubt it, hugely.
What Year would you time travel to if you could? Temporarily? 2044. I think 25 years in the future is near enough that I wouldn’t suffer from much culture shock, but would still have enough of a ‘wow’ factor for me.
What’s advice would you give Younger You? How much younger? Teenage me? You WILL have sex at some point, I promise. Married me? Enjoy being married, while it lasts. Because it won’t. Me of a decade back? It’s ok to lean on others. Plenty of advice I’d give, but younger me would never believe Older me. because I wouldn’t believe Older me if he came back and gave me advice now.

What’s your Zodiac sign? Leo, but it’s utter bullshit.
Do you believe in the Zodiac? Of course not; it’s utter bullshit.
What’s your favourite Zoo animal? Not a huge fan of zoos.
OK, something more substantial tomorrow. Probably.

Yes, OK, even I’ll admit to a wince when I typed the title of this one…

Long before I started the countdown blogs, every so often, on a Saturday, I’d put up some YouTube videos or some single panel editorial cartoons, or even some ‘funny newspaper headlines’… some silliness, anyway.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when we look at the world and ask ‘what the f—?’ here’s some more silliness.

For no reason other than it came up in conversation this week… Not The Nine O’Clock News: Union Negotiation

Always surprises me how few people know that The Four Yorkshiremen sketch long pre-dated Monty Python and was originally from At last, the 1948 Show.

Ronnie Barker loved language; here’s his Cockney Rhyming Slang sermon

One of the all time classic examples of what can be done with a standard cartoon format Duck Amuck

And if we’re talking about classics, here’s Abbott and Costello: Who’s On First…?

And if we are talking about classics, I suppose it’s imposible not to have this on here: Victoria Wood, with The Saga of Barry and Freda. This is the original performace, I believe.


And from Mitch Benn, this week, if Dogs Ruled The World.


See you tomorrow, with something else.

Housekeeping: Got caught up with a load of tech stuff yesterday – all too complicated and boring to go into here, and would involve lots of whinging – so skipped posting yesterday. The tech issues – and my irritation – have both continued today, so I’m pulling out an ‘in case of emergency, break glass’ post.

Maybe because I’m getting older, maybe because I tend to like being in structured environments, but I like knowing what ‘the rules’ are. And having those rules applied fairly, sensibly and rationally.

Possibly, that explains why I always so enjoyed both Warren Ellis’s various Forums over the year – The warren Ellis Forum, The Engine, and Whitechapel – and what was my online ‘home’ for the first few years of my online life: CompuServe’s Comics/Animations Forum. You knew the rules, you saw them applied fairly, and I liked that.

I also liked the community that built up there. I wrote in detail about why I liked those place here.

I also like traditions, the ‘it’s May, so it’s…’, or it’s “February, so it’s…”

And even leaving aside the birthdays thing, my own year these days tends to have four of those:

  • if it’s January, then it’s this

  • if it’s February, then it’s this

  • if it’s August, then it’s this

  • if it’s the end of November, it’s this

One tradition that stretches back to CompuServe’s Comics/Animations Forum, which I haven’t done since I left the Forum, is the ‘draft’. For a start, the sports ‘draft’ is, if not uniquely American, very much not a UK thing. We don’t do it over here. So I was fascinated at first and then faintly bemused by the whole concept thereafter.

But the Comics/Animation Forum ran a draft, every April, a couple of ‘drafts’ in fact, to coincide with the start of the Baseball season over the pond.

The idea was fairly simple: everyone got to select ten heroes (and then, in a second draft, ten villains) that fit a theme that you’ve chosen, but have not disclosed. You pick one hero a day, but if someone else has beaten you to it, tough, you have to choose another one.

Digging out from old notes, here were the rules for the 2002 Drafts.

Rules for 2002 drafts

It’s time once again for the Annual Super-hero Draft.

Usual rules in effect: You are drafting a team of super-heroes (along the lines of a Rotisserie Baseball league). There will be 10 rounds (hence 10 heroes), one per day.

In fairness to those with limited access, rounds will only take place on weekdays and will be posted at roughly 10am East Coast time, my access permitting.

If you miss any round you can catch up by posting more than one pick at once.

Characters will be drafted on a first-come-first-served basis.

No duplicates are allowed (parallel universe versions are duplicates, successors are not—even where they started out parallel and became successors by retcon).

You may release already drafted characters at any time, at which point they become fair game.

The heroes draft much contain heroes, the villain draft must contain villains. This is the superhero draft; so try to keep it to superheroes. If someone wants to run a “really cool anti-heroes” draft or a “real world heroic people” draft, go right ahead.

If a team misses five rounds in a row without notifying the Commissioner, he will presume that the team has dropped out, and the team-members will be released.

The Commissioner’s decisions may be appealed once. If you disagree with a ruling, you may state your case and the Commissioner may reconsider, but he will not be drawn into an argument…final rulings are just that.

The Commissioner

What sort of themes did people come up with? Well, over the years there were themes such as “heroes that started out as villains”, “second generation heroes”, “heroes that wear flags as part of their costumes”, “villains that are relatives of heroes”, etc.

Now I’m not a sporty person, but this seemed fun and silly, and needed some thought if you wanted to do it properly… so I took part most years.

Here’s some I did over the years: Obviously, I’m revealing the theme upfront here – in the originals, I only revealed at the end, as the format required. So what follows below is effectively the final reveal.


OK, you can call Team Budgie’s drafts this year Small Heroes, since they’re named for the “Rabbi” David Small books by Harry Kemmelman.

  • The first novel is entitled “Friday the Rabbi Slept Late”, so I drafted The Sleeper.
  • As I said when picking my second round draft, Wally West (The Flash) at one time needed food and calories all the time because his metabolism burned them up so fast. That seemed to fit with the second in the series, “Saturday The Rabbi went Hungry”.
  • The third novel was “Sunday The Rabbi stayed home”. Who feels “more at home” every day of his life than The Human Target?
  • The fourth novel caused me some problems. I couldn’t see anyone that fitted “Monday The Rabbi Took Off” until as I said, I realised that Superman was available.
  • I originally tagged Wolverine for my fifth pick, “Tuesday The Rabbi Saw Red”, as in “seeing red”, i.e. being angry. Once that idea had bitten the dust, I realised that Cyclops was an even better choice, since he quite literally “sees red”.
  • My sixth pick was easy. “Wednesday The Rabbi Got Wet”. Does anyone need to know why I chose Fathom from the Elementals?
  • “Thursday The Rabbi Walked Out”. Well, so did The Envoy (David Harstein) walking out on The Four Aces in the Wild Cards Universe, not reappearing for 30 years and even then, under a fake identity. He was my seventh round pick.
  • Now things got a tad harder. My eighth round pick had to link to “Someday The Rabbi Will Leave”. Who leaves more often than Access, crossing between the DC and Marvel Universes like we cross the road?
  • The ninth round drove me nuts until I remembered the ultimate scene from CAMELOT 3000. Then Sir Percival became the obvious link to “One Fine Day The Rabbi Bought A Cross.
  • My final draft pick had to link to “The Day The Rabbi Resigned”. I couldn’t really think of anyone that was an “obvious” pick, until I realised that the new Robin (Tim Drake) has a new costume, complete with a new design of the letter ‘R’ on his costume. If that’s not a ‘re-sign’-ing matter, I don’t know what is…

I thangew.

Or another year:

  • Wally West, as The Flash dashes around everywhere: Dasher
  • Barry Allen was the fastest man alive, someone who knew how to do a Quick-Step: Dancer
  • Venus is a goddess of love: Cupid
  • And Luke Cage‘s “Sweet Christmas!” gives us: Father Christmas
  • There you go, people, Santa and his Reindeer.

When it came to the villains that year, by the way, I cheated… and used the same theme. Of course I cheated – they’ve villains!

  • Spiral, from the X-Men, did her magic by dancing: Dancer
  • From Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, Thunderhead: Donner (or Donder)
  • Electro is as close to Lightning as I could get: Blitzen
  • The Purple Man. OK, purple is close to red. I’m colour blind. Sue me: Rudolph
  • And it has to be the Grinch who is the counterpart to: Father Christmas
  • There you go, people, Santa and his Reindeer… again.

In other years, I used the titles of Sandman collections, the titles of the events in the Decathalon, the Bill of Rights, even the first ten verses of Genesis, Chapter One…

So why am I boring you with this? telling you about this?

Because on a day when I’m pissed of about tech, and with myself over not being able to get it working properly, I don’t think it does any harm to miss the silliness of such things, the community that both thought this was fun, and took part, and also admired the thought put into something entirely silly.

So, yeah, basically I miss CompuServe.
More silliness tomorrow, since it’ll be Saturday.

Well, that was fun…

It’d been ages since I’d done one of these, and seeing various friends do it, and my missing #ThisIsMyJam, I figured why not.

The rules were simple.

Basically, this:

So, since it’s kind of nice to have a permanent record of such things, this is what I chose:

DAY 01: A song with a colour in the title.

Plenty there could be, but this is the song that immediately sprung to mind.

Paint It Black | The Rolling Stones.



DAY 02: A song you like with a number in the title

Well, it’s repeated but it’s a single number.

Officially entitled “Win 1 Lose 1” | Mitch Benn



DAY 03: A Song that reminds you of summertime

Yeah, this… one of my favourite songs anyway. Was going to save this for later, but… naah.

Walking On Sunshine | Katrina and The Waves


DAY 04: A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget

A hard one. Because of painful memories? Or someone I occasionally & unexpectedly remember, and it always throws me, a lot.

For all sorts of reasons, though:

I Can Dream | Skunk Anansie


DAY 05: A song that needs to be played loud

What else?

Shout | Lulu


DAY 06: A song that makes you want to dance

OK, that’s just not fair. I mean, I don’t dance. At all. I just don’t.

So here’s one I did dance to, and still love: Laura and I started our marriage to it.

When You Tell Me That You Love Me | Diana Ross


DAY 07: A song to drive to

Hmm. Could be loads, depending on my mood. And usually, it’d be an audiobook anyway.

But let’s go for this one, always a good one to belt out loud in the car.

The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss) | Cher


DAY 08: a song about drugs or alcohol

Ok, one song jumps to the fore and, while this is far from the best version, you can never go wrong with The Muppets, esp with Peter Sellers as a guest.

Cigarettes and Whiskey


DAY 09: a song that makes me happy

My late brother sang and played the guitar, with more enthusiasm than talent, but he did singalongs with his 2 yngr brothers. Here’s one he liked playing, a lot.

Help Me Make It through the Night | Kristofferson/Coolidge


DAY 10: a song that makes you sad

Any songs that qualify are ones that remind me of a rough, or bad, time. Or at least just a rough time in my head, in my soul.

So, no details, but… yeah.

Alone Again (Naturally) | Gilbert O’Sullivan


DAY 11: a song you never get tired of

Kind of implies a long-loved song, a very long loved song. So something from way back.

Here’s something I’ve loved since the moment I heard it.

Georgy Girl | The Seekers


DAY 12: a song from your pre-teen days

Well, could be anything from pre-1977, but I’ll take this from 1969, which I remember falling in love with as a song the moment I heard it.

It’s Getting Better | Cass Elliot


DAY 13: a song you like from the 70s

Despite being destroyed by so many keyboard players over the decades, the original from 1973 still holds up for me.

Piano Man | Billy Joel


DAY 14: a song you’d love to have played at your wedding

Hmm. Two problems with this: (1) I’m NEVER getting married again, (2) I already had what my ex-wife and I opened the dancing to as Day 06.

But here’s one for you.

First Time Ever I Saw Your Face | Roberta Flack


DAY 15: a song you like that’s a cover by another artist

Plenty to choose from, because oft times I prefer the cover to the original.

Here’s one of them I really like.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside | Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews


DAY 16: a song that’s a classic favourite

I… have… no… idea… what… that… means…


A song that everyone likes? One that’s regarded by most people as a fantastic song? “Happy birthday”?



Mad About The Boy | Dinah Washington


DAY 17: a song you’d sing with someone on karaoke

Y’see, I’m worried, terrified, that if I say ANYTHING, Kirsty Newton will drag me up on stage for Kirsty’s Singalong when it restarts.

But OK:

Well, Did You Evah? | Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra


DAY 18: a song from the year you were born

OK, well, I’m lucky here. 1964 was a pretty good year for music.

Let’s go for a singalong one.

I’m Into Something Good | Herman’s Hermits


DAY 19: a song that makes you think about life

Most of the songs that I thought of were, frankly, too dark.

And then there’s this. I was going to go for the classic Jim Croce version, but no. This is too good not to include.

Time In A Bottle | Muppets


DAY 20: a song that has many meanings to you


This is a song that qualifies. And no, you probably don’t know most of the meanings it has for me.

Always On My Mind | Willie Nelson


DAY 21: a song you like with a person’s name in the title

So many it could have been, but I do like this one… especially the sheer fun they’re having performing together.

Rosetta | Alan Price and Georgie Fame


DAY 22: a song that moves you forward

‘Moves you forward’? I’m taking that as something I enjoy – when the foot allows – walking to.

Not a ‘song’ strictly speaking, but it’s my list. So there.

The Opening Theme from SHAFT | Isaac Hayes


DAY 23: a song you think everyone should listen to

Easy choice here, seriously… So bloody easy.

Alternative Right | Mitch Benn


DAY 24: a song by a band you wish were still together

Oh, easy.

The Philosophers’ Song | Monty Python


DAY 25: a song you like by an artist no longer living

Possibly my favourite of her songs, and I’m still upset she’s no longer around. And every so often, it hits again.

Things Would Never Have Worked | Victoria Wood

(Song starts about a minute in)


DAY 26: a song that makes you want to fall in love

I’ve tried not to cheat with this. BUT I’ve genuinely no wish to ever fall in love again, nor have anyone fall for me.

So, I’m cheating.

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ | Long John Baldry and Kathi McDonald


DAY 27: a song that breaks your heart

Every bloody time. (Although Jess Robinson’s version of this, impersonating O’Connor, also breaks my heart every bloody time as well.)

Nothing Compares 2U | Sinéad O’Connor


DAY 28: a song by an artist whose voice you love

Definitely one of those “heard one song by this artist, and immediately wanted to listen to everything she’s ever sung”.

A Night Like This | Caro Emerald


DAY 29: a song you remember from your childhood

Here’s something from February 1973, when I was eight, so I’m pretty sure it qualifies.

Avenues and Alleyways | Tony Christie


DAY 30: a song that reminds you of yourself

For so many reasons, it’s got to be something by my mate Mitch.

And this definitely applies, even it it’s SO inappropriately early, he definitely won’t like me using it.

Christmas Whether You Like It Or Not | Mitch Benn



Well, that was fun… A friend of mine, Al Kennedy, created a follow up, another 30 days… so you can either follow my choices, usually posted about 6pm UK time, on Twitter at @budgie, or wait a month and see what I picked…


Meanwhile, something else tomorrow…

I’m going to keep going with the ‘stories from the vaults on Tuesday’ posts. People seem to like them, and with around 700 of the buggers in the vaults, I doubt I’ll run short for a while.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word asked for, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Whenever I wrote the stories, I had a backstory in my head, what happened before, what happened next, who the characters are. The backstories aren’t necessary to write – if I’ve written the story well – to understand the story, but they’re there, in my head, so I have the characters nailed.

Rarely, only very occasionally, someone would ask what the backstory was. I was always happy to tell them, but those asking sometimes regretted asking.

One of these, I was asked about. You may guess which one; I won’t confirm.

(The second of these tales, by the way, was one of the only stories where someone used the same word as the title and the word to use. An interesting anomaly.)

I hope you enjoy both of them…

(Note: [via Livejournal] as the challenger merely means it was from a no longer current Livejournal user])

Title: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda
Word: oddity
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

I could have, you know. On another day, maybe even I would have.


Three years later, and I can’t get him out of my head.

From that first day in the student refectory, queuing up with people I barely knew, soaking in the sounds.

And there he was. Sitting alone, reading a novel; a shocking neon yellow cover with crimson lettering, an oddity among the conservatively coloured and labelled text books others had.

I’d noticed the book before I had looked at the person holding it. I saw eyes narrowed in concentration, the face betraying someone on the edge of adulthood; features still acknowledging their heredity.

He shut the novel and stretched his long arms out, yawning. Then he stood, placed the book in his bag, and aimed himself at the exit.

As he passed, he gave a cursory look in my direction and continued past.

He stopped at the door, then turned and gave me a dazzling smile…

“I could have, you know. Maybe even I would have… Maybe.”

“What’s that, babe?” he asks sleepily, stirring next to me in bed. I stare at him for a long moment, thinking that I could have ignored him that day…

© Lee Barnett, 2005

Title: Cold
Challenger: Del
Length: 200 words exactly

I’d been searching for her for three years when the telephone call came.

The ringing interrupted my shower and I turned the water off, grabbing for a towel as I stumbled through the room, drying myself as I went towards the telephone. My hand stabbed out and I pulled the receiver to my ear.

“Charlie?” came a voice I knew so well, moments before I could greet the caller.

“It’s me,” she said, unnecessarily. As if I could forget the gentleness of her dulcet tones. The voice continued, “I’m safe.”

Three years of not knowing, three years of wondering. Three years of hunger for her.

“I… I…” I stumbled over the words in surprise. All my plans, all my carefully worked out speeches. Gone, like they’d never existed, never been planned through the empty nights.

“Don’t try to find me,” she said. “I’m safe… at last. Safe from you.”

“Lisa, don’t go!” I cried, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I’ll never do it again.”

“Once was enough,” she said, sadness suffusing her words.

The phone went dead. It was cold in my hands.


Like a children’s game of hide and seek, I felt further away from her than ever.

© Lee Barnett, 2005

Something else tomorrow…

Small amusement to start today’s entry. One of the things I like about iOS, have liked since the very first iteration of it is keyboard shortcuts. They’re basically a way of typing a combination of letters which will then automatically resolve into a pre-written word, phrase or sentence. I have a few, but the three I’d always recommend to set up are: your email address, your phone number and… well, I’ll come on to that in a ducking minute, ok?

Being able to type ‘bbbb’ and have ‘’ automagically appear saves so much bloody time, I tell you.

I set up ‘::’ (two colons) as a shortcut for my mobile phone number and ’44:’ as the same number but in ‘international format’. Which is fine and dandy… right up until you need to type “55 plus 44:’ as the title of a blog entry. Heh.

Oh, and the third? Since I rarely need to type the word ‘ducking’, I set it so if I do type the word ‘ducking’, it resolves instantly to ‘fucking’. Which is great until I sent a tweet during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions asserting that ‘David Cameron was fucking the question’. Which may well have equally accurate, now I come to think of it…

Anyway, all that is what occurred to me just now as I started today’s entry.

(Thanks for the private messages I received regarding yesterday’s entry, by the way. A more personal post than many, I was genuinely unsure of the wisdom of posting it. I’m glad that, so far, I’ve not regretted doing so.)

So, what’s new today? Or rather, about what can I write?

How about stupidity? Not mine for once, but politicians’. It’s been on my mind for a couple of weeks, since I heard the redoubtable lawyer and legal commentator David Allen Green (who you may remember from the Twitter Joke Trial if for no other reason) comment a couple of weeks ago that the mark of Boris Johnson’s government has been its complete stupidity and incompetence in its attempts to prorogue parliament. It’s a fair comment. One can argue the toss over whether we have the worst politicians in generations, but, surely, one cannot argue against the position that we have the most incompetent?

I’ll come back to that in a moment, but I remember then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s budget in 2012. In that election, you may or may not recall, the Conservative/Lib Dem government reduced the top rate of income tax from the rate it had been at for a couple of years – 50% – to 45%, the rate it remains at today.

Now, despite the rate only having been at 50% for a couple of years, one of the last things Alastair Darling did as a Labour Chancellor, it was seen at the time, widely seen, as Osborne giving the rich a tax break, while stinging the poor. It was also perceived as making a nonsense – maybe fairer to say, making yet more nonsense – of the government’s claimed ‘we’re all in it together’.

Osborne claimed at the time that the additional tax rate brought in hardly anything (arguments in favour of, and against, this claim vary in both detail and credibility).

But I remember observing to a friend at the time that had Osborne said ‘in the next five fiscal years, we will reduce the higher rate of taxation by one percentage point in each fiscal year‘, he’d have almost certainly gotten away with it.

A reduction of one percentage point per annum? Yeah, there was so much else wrong with that 2012 budget (the ‘omnishambles budget’ as it became known) that I thought at the time, and still think, that it would have been relegated so far down the list of problems people had with the budget that it would have been at the end of page 37. As a footnote.

But Osborne wanted the appearance of something big – yes, appearance; he said the tax rate didn’t bring in much, remember? So he wasn’t giving much back at all – while risking, and then achieving lousy headlines and a gift to Labour.

Over the Atlantic, we had “stupid Watergate”, as John Oliver dubbed it (Watergate, if everyone involved had been a fucking idiot), and we now have Even Stupider Watergate… Trump et al couldn’t have been more incompetent in what they’ve done, how they did it, how they attepted to cover it up, and how they tried to cover up the cover up, if they’d gone out of their way to do all four.

And then there’s Boris Johnson, whose government’s incompetence in the attempt to prorogue parliament led the Supreme Court to conclude – 11 to nil – that not only was there not a good reason to prorogue parliament for five weeks, but that there was no reason at all other than to frustrate parliament.

And again, I’m struck by the incompetence and stupidity whereby had Johnson had gone for a three week recess and then a prorogation for a week or so, he’d have gotten the same effect he ostensibly¹ wanted: party conferences, no scrutiny in the chamber itself, no PMQs, and a Queen’s Speech into the bargain…

(¹I say ostensible because I’m not at all sure that that’s what he did want; I remember that the day after parliament had the prorogation-that-never-was, Johnson was due to face the Select Committee made up of all the Select Committee chairs… an appointment that prorogation made moot.)

Instead, he went for the big gesture, in which he’d effectively gain little, but risk everything… and it blew back on him, like a well-deserved bucket of shit.

Johnson continued his lack of competence, following half a dozen votes in parliament, of which he lost every one, not a single civil servant nor minister of the crown providing a witness statement – due to dangers of perjury, being slapped down hard by the Speaker of the House of Commons, by MPs, by the Scottish Court of Sessions and the bloody UK Supreme Court.

David Allen Green said, a couple of weeks ago:

It’s an observation I’d not considered before; now it’s one I won’t forget.

Y’know, I miss when politics was efficient, when politics was boring, was predictable, was… forecastable, with a reasonable degree of success.

I also wonder when was the last time that anyone could predict, say, the next 6 months in world politics with any reasonable chance of being correct. I’m not talking about individual events, here and there, but the major events, who would win elections, how politicians would ‘do’, etc. I mean, lots of people thought Trump would fuck it up, but surely they didn’t see scandal after scandal and fuckup after fuckup to this extent?

I reckon mid- to late-2015 was the last time.

Say August 2015.

I think late-2015 was when even (especially?) knowledgable folks went “Well, I dunno…”

You know what? I think I’ll stick with my own observation made since late 2016, but semi-regularly since then:

It’s Tuesday tomorrow, so the usual then…

This is being written on Sunday afternoon, and as soon as it’s done, I’ll post it.

I had no plans to write it, but I didn’t want to skip another day, and I’m not feeling that great, so you get this, a more personal thing than I’d usually write, and I may delete it afterwards.


The following has been quoted any number of times over the years, but there’s a certain fundamental truth to the opening to L P Hartley’s novel The Go Between:

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

Not only for the obvious reason: different mores, different cultures, different conventions, hell, different laws, but there’s a more personal aspect to it.

There’s also an element of, if I may adapt the lines:

The past was a foreign country; we did things differently there.

Of course, the reason we did things differently back then is because we were different then. I’ve different tastes now, different experiences; I’ve different ways of looking at the world. In the intervening years, the passing decades, I’ve hopefully matured… without necessarily having ‘grown up’ too much.

I recall being both in general less confident in meeting strangers, but on occasion, in the specifics, more confident. I recall knowing so much less, but thinking I knew so much more.

I remember being struck dumb by some women in my life, utterly thunderstruck, and wholly ‘lost’ in their presence. It’s been a very long time since that’s happened, and I’m genuinely unsure whether that’s a bad thing. Or a good thing. Or whether it means any damn thing at all.

Yes, of course there are some women I know who blow me away with their strength, their personalities. I don’t mean ‘scare’ me with their personalities, although that’s occasionally happened. I mean women who so impress with their personality, their talent, their strength that I’m genuinely in awe of them.

But being ‘lost’ in them… much as I can get ‘lost’ in a gorgeous pair of eyes; no, it’s been a very long time.

Back in the past, I could handle some stuff, some substances, that I know I couldn’t now. (And yes, I know that for a fact; the last time I imbibed something that was, let us say, less than legal, yeah, it didn’t go well. I wasn’t in danger or anything, but yes, I had a bad reaction and there was no reason other than lack of experience, and surfeit of age. My time of smoking anything, let alone that, is now well in the past.)

I’ve mentioned before, well, alluded to anyway, that I’ve had some mental health issues the past few years. It’s impossible, obviously, to know not whether that’s had an effect on the less attractive, the less helpful, facets of how I am now… but how much an effect it’s had. In all honesty, I think it’s probably merely enhanced those facets, stripped away some of the social cover that’s necessary – I use the word advisedly – to operate in any social way.

I mean, a friend more than a decade ago said that I’m ‘dangerously content’ in my own company, and certainly, the past few years, I’d have to be a fool not to acknowledge the central truth of the observation. Most of the time, at least. Occasionally, one in a while, it’s untrue, and it bites, hard. But for most of the time, for almost all of the time, it’s accurate.

Mind you, he could have said it two decades’ ago and it would still have been mostly true, although of course, twenty years’ ago I was married with an infant child.

The marriage ended in fact in 2005, and in name in 2015, four years ago. Laura and I never had a reason to get divorced before then, and we never really had a reason to formalise it then but there was no reason not to, either, our son being over 18 by then.

But since then, I’m always been mostly comfortable in the company of a small group, a very small group, of friends, I’m more comfortable when in the company of no more than four or five people. Any more than that and I start to get itchy, edgy… uncomfortable.

And in a group of a dozen, a couple of dozen? No. I tolerate it about as much as they tolerate me.

(Oddly, and I’ve never figured out why, I’m more ok in a large crowd when I don’t know more than a very few people. In part, I guess, because I can keep myself to myself; I’m not obliged to be social in a way I kind of have to be when it’s two dozen people I know, friends or otherwise. But, hey, pop psychology is stupid at best and dangerous at worst, especially when applied to one’s self, so who the hell knows?)

What’s brought on this less than attractive self-reflection is one of those confluence of events, one of those sets of coincidences that occur every so often: I’ve watched a half dozen tv shows, dramas, this week where one character or another had been undergoing psychiatric care, or rehab, or some form of care anyway, where/because they feel useless or bad, or depressed.

Obviously, it’s television drama, so I’m not expecting there to be documentary levels of veracity and truth and accuracy any more than the movie The Accountant was documentary-like in the skills your average auditor possesses. But in every case, or nearly anyway, the ‘patient’ (for want of a better word) was told ‘you have a right to be happy’ or ‘you deserve to be happy’ or even ‘you should want to be happy’.

And I imagine me being told those, and me not understanding it. At all. And even more, somehow me being at fault for being the one who doesn’t understand.

A right to be happy? Deserve to be happy? I find it impossible to comprehend either as a concept. (Not quite true; I find it easy to imagine in fiction, and impossible in ‘real life’.)

The desire for it, I get, kind of. But not really. I understand the ‘desire’ bit, not the ‘desire to be happy‘ bit, as if it’s something that’s in your control, as if desire = effort = achievement. Or even desire must lead to effort… which must lead to achievement.

Did I understand any of them at some point, though? Back in the past, back when ‘I’ did things differently? I don’t know.

And that’s something I’m once again unsure whether it’d be a good thing to know.
Something else tomorrow, something hopefully less self-serving, less introspective, and substantially more fun.

No desperation with the titles of these Saturday posts. not in the least…

Long before I started the countdown blogs, every so often, on a Saturday, I’d put up some YouTube videos or some single panel editorial cartoons, or even some ‘funny newspaper headlines’… some silliness, anyway.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after the week we’ve all had, we deserve much silliness; so here’s some more bits of silliness.


With the long and detailed Brexit court case we’ve just had in the UK Supreme Court, this seems entirely apposite. Not The Nine O’Clock News: Aleebee

As I get older and find myself occasionally reaching for the right word in conversation, I have more sympathy with Bert and Charlie as portrayed by The Two Ronnies.

When I was at school, corporal punishment was still allowed. I was never caned, but was threatened with it on one occasion, for some minor offence. (As far as I’m aware, my headmaster never actually caned anyone, but threatened it on regular occasions.) Anyway, here’s Roman Atkinson and Angus Deaton with Fatal Beatings

Dunno about a smile, but this is always worth watching. (And no, for the gullible among you, this isn’t something anyone actually made from farm equipment. Animusic

Victoria Wood was an utter genius, who died long before her time. So many songs of hers that I love. This one, however, may be my favourite: Things Would Never Have Worked


Mitch Benn, on the welcome and delightful disintegration into meaninglessness of UKIP. It’s quite sweary, as, of course, it should be. And though written before the Brexit Party’s creation, warns about it….


See you tomorrow, with something else.

55 plus 40: Keepers

Posted: 26 September 2019 in 55 plus, internet, social media
Tags: , ,

I got snowed under with something else today, and need to pop into the Apple Store this afternoon for an appointment. (I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my iPhone XR but I’m getting it checked out just in case.)

So, here’s some stuff from my ‘Keepers’ photo album, with no context at all. I’ve somehow got hundreds of odd pics, some I’ve taken, odd stuff from the internet I’ve collected.

Here’s just a tiny sample.

Something else tomorrow.




















































55 plus 39: Slices of time

Posted: 25 September 2019 in 55 plus
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, What with the week long run of Doctor Who related posts, and then a couple of ‘stories from the vaults’ yesterday specifically on the subject of ‘time’.

And I may complete this week’s posts with another couple of posts about ‘time’ or Doctor Who and then put the subject to bed for a bit.

But since I have been thinking about time, I also wondered what I’d have been writing about had I been blogging for the past ten years on this day.

Well, I wasn’t blogging on this day each of the past ten years, but I was probably on twitter.

So let’s take a look at what I was blogging about or tweeting about on this day back through the years.

(Note, if I didn’t actually tweet on the day, I’ll take the closest day I can find, ok? OK.)


…25th September 2009:

Well, the 26th to be precise. I chose this one because it’s a never ending ‘huh, I wonder…’ for me. Back then, I was on LiveJournal, running a thing I called budgie’s squawks, and I had something like 300 people following the blog; ‘friends’ in the terminology LiveJournal used. And, like many, most of them didn’t comment on the blog posts. OK, far more commented than comment here – not complaining, but it’s rare if I get any comments, let alone from multiple commenters.

But I’d often get comments on Livejournal… from the same couple of dozen people, so I asked, in that entry:

This is for people who don’t or at least only rarely comment in reply to entries.

Who are you…?

I’m curious.

(Also wondering who’s actually reading this blog, as opposed to who can read it.)

And I got responses; some folks were ‘hey, you remember me?’ and some were ‘I’m reading, but I never comment’.

It did the trick; people commented more often afterwards.

Ah, how times change.

25th September 2010:

I was in the middle of a long fast fiction challenge run: 150 stories in 150 days, one per day. no matter what, I would write one a day. Whether that story was written at 8 in the morning or half-eleven at night. One a day.

I was broken by the end of the run; hell, I was probably broken two-thirds of the way through it. But it remains one of the best writing things I’ve ever done. And I’m very proud of most of the stories in the run. This one? Well, I don’t know. Reading it now, it works as a story, and it’s a nice dark twist at the end, but I think I’d write it differently now, with less telegraphing – to me, anyway – of the eventual ending, in every sense of the word.

25th September 2011:

I’d finished the LiveJournal blog a month earlier; it wasn’t doing what I wanted any more, wasn’t giving me what I wanted any more, and a few things inside LiveJournal were beginning to concern me. I wasn’t so much taking a long break from blogging for a while – I’d done that earlier in the year, and it was the first seriously long break I’d taken from blogging since 2003 – but a new start was much needed, in tone, and in content.

So I kicked off this place on 1st October 2011.

And I said Hello, did a brief introduction, and moved on…

25th September 2012:

Took a much required break from social media and blogging from late August until mid October. (Main reason, though not the sole one, was because I was in the middle of a pretty comprehensive breakdown, was in hospital, and then back at the flat but still very, very not… right.)

So you get this, the last post I wrote before I took the break.

It was something I used to do on LiveJournal and tried a few times here but it never quite worked here; I think it needed the ‘community’ LiveJournal encouraged and wordpress never quite did in the same way. It was a ‘teach me something’.

To be more precise, it was me saying, and I’m going to reproduce the post because I really wish it had worked on the couple of times I tried it here:

Some years ago, there was a series of guide books to software entitled Tips, Tricks and Traps. Written distinctly with tongue firmly in cheek, the books purported to be merely a guide to the very important, nay vital things you needed to know in order to use a specific piece of software. Of course, the books were nothing of the sort – they covered everything from the very basic to the quite advanced.

They all ended up with three ‘lists of ten things’, which were essential reading. The first was “Ten Things you really do need to know”; the second was “Ten Things that it’s very helpful to be able to do”. The last was the genius bit: “Ten Things you’ll need beer for,” the idea being that with these things, it took too much time to learn how to do them, so it would be much easier to go to someone who really knew the software and say to them: “if I buy you beer, will you please do this for me?”

Now, I have no beer, but I sometimes get incredibly envious of the skills possessed by other people.

Time to address that envy, I think.

Teach me one thing about your job, or a skill you possess, something that the odds are that I don’t know. (Note, I’m not asking what skills you possess – I’m requesting that you teach me something about that skill…)

You want examples? OK, well, say you spend your professional life writing. Then tell me how you get over ‘writer’s block’. Or if you can touch type, what’s the hardest word to type, and how do you remember it? You’re a whiz at teaching others mnemonics? Then teach me some. Or if you write gags, how do you know what’s funny and what’s not? Or if you write web pages, did I know that by sticking <b> and </b> around a word, I’ll make it appear emboldened? (Well, “yes“, is the obvious answer to that one…)

Other examples people have taught me over the years include:
– how to feed a cat a tablet
– a sommelier explaining how he decides the description of a wine
– the key to cleaning up images for icons
– how to breed fruit flies
– the best way to corner at speed
– a teacher taking me step by step through the process of the “you’re about to be in trouble” stare
– how to design a room
– the placement of word balloons
– how to learn a really difficult piece of music
– to create a genuinely blind hem on a satin bridal gown or other formal outfit
– how to calculate the flow of bubble bath when you bathe
– how a cover teacher knows your name in class (when you don’t think they do)

Go on then – teach me something about your job, or a skill you possess.

But as I say, it never quite worked in the same way.

Ah well, moving on, and closer…

25th September 2013:

Have a tweet.

Ah, the missions.

I used to hand out missions on Twitter before I went to bed.

I should get back to that at some point, I guess.

25th September 2014:

Have another tweet:

No comment on that, other than that I still have them around in Dropbox, filed somewhere or other.

Anyway, moving on…

25th September 2015:

Hmm. congratulations, mr corbyn… and goodbye . No surprise that my twitter account and, occasionally, the blog became substantially more political and angry from this point on. I’ve written here and elsewhere what changed. No need to go into it in this entry. But yeah, things took a darker, and certainly less pleasant, tone.

25th September 2016:

We’re back to Twitter for the rest, I’m afraid and I didn’t blog in September 2016, and then took 2017, 2018 and most of 2019 off from blogging before returning in June 2019 for the ’55 minus’ run which extended into the ’55 plus’ run you’re now reading.

Erm, see what I meant earlier?

Let’s skip forward a year.

25th September 2017:

Oh, come on…

Maybe last year?

25th September 2018:

OK, yeah, that’s more like the me everyone knows, at least.

And now we’re at 25th September 2019:

Well, there’s this blog entry
Something else tomorrow…

I’m going to keep going with the ‘stories from the vaults on Tuesday’ posts. People seem to like them, and with around 700 of the buggers in the vaults, I doubt I’ll run short for a while.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

In keeping with the recent posts on this blog, here are two very different stories about time.

I hope you enjoy both of them…

(Note: [via Livejournal] as the challenger merely means it was from a no longer current Livejournal user])

Title: The Space Time Continuum
Word: cheesy
Challenger: Mary Picken
Length: 200 words exactly

As we consumed the cheesy nibbles, I grinned at the others.

Abraham was the oldest of the group. He was the earliest time traveller known, although it’s possible that there were others that we’d not yet met, not at this stage in our lifelines.

Tenses could get confused when dealing with time travel, let alone adding in the factor of alien races.

Take Zs3q⁴. Passing for human, just about, this was the second and sixth time we’d met: the sixth time I’d met her, but only the second time she’d met me. I knew that the next time she saw me, she’d have a new hairstyle, bright pink, and I’d be surprised at it. And she’d be astonished that I was surprised since it was, apparently, my idea. I was wondering at what point in this meeting I’d say something that acted as a catalyst.

We were sat in late twentieth Century New York, listening to music that to me was ancient, at least fifty years old. But Charley, used to the crooners of the 1950s, well, he kept complaining that you couldn’t hear the words.

I couldn’t wait to introduce him to the really quaint stuff, like punk rock.

© Lee Barnett, 2006

Title: See The Future
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

Two seconds old: the cry breaks the silence in the delivery room; I stare down at my son, this brand new person who has changed everything. The world is a different place.

Two days old: I look in the crib at him as he sleeps, and fill with pride as I see his chest swell, and then deflate, over and over.

Two weeks old: he’s bigger, but otherwise the same. I feel puzzled somehow, as if something more should be happening. He lifts his head briefly as if in reply.

Two months old: He smiles at me with precisely the same toothless grin as yesterday. Every other child, it might be gas, but he recognizes me. Of course he does.

Two years old: When the hell did he learn to run so fast? And who’s been giving him climbing lessons? I swear, if I have to get him down from the living room table one more time…

Two decades old: And he’s telling me I don’t understand – I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be young.

Two hours old: I stare at my grandchild in disbelief, this brand new person who has changed everything. The world is a different place.

© Lee Barnett, 2010

Something else tomorrow…

Figured, given the various times people read this blog, and the various time zones they’re in, it was only fair to give people a multiple-choice option.

Nothing at all to do with the specific subject matter of this Saturday Smile and that it’s a wince inducing reference to Doctor Who or anything…

Long before I started the countdown blogs, every so often, on a Saturday, I’d put up some YouTube videos or some single panel editorial cartoons, or even some ‘funny newspaper headlines’… some silliness, anyway.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

But yeah, if you’ve paid attention, you’ll have seen that I’m in the middle of doing a run of posts on Doctor Who, so I thought, what would be more fitting than to include – as part of the Saturday Smile that falls within the middle – some Doctor Who related silliness? Especially since Doctor Who is and should always be on Saturday evening.

So here’s some Doctor Who related silliness.

When Doctor Who returned in 2005, after a nineteen year absence from the television screens, other than the movie, Mitch Benn was ready. So, so ready, in fact that he had a warning for friends and family…

Now, lets be fair, I doubt there’s anyone who’s both a) reading this, and b) hasn’t ever seen this before, but this is always worth a rewatch: Comic Relief does Doctor Who

And since I repeated the previous one, I’m going to repeat this as well… this glorious piece of wonder is beautifully executed: Celebrating 50 Years of American Doctor Who

erm… There are no words.

So, Moving Right Along

Oh, It’s Bigger On The Inside

To finish off, Mitch Benn, once wrote a song entitled Be My Doctor Who Girl

But of course, he updated it for 2018:

See you tomorrow, with more proper (?) Doctor Who stuff.

(Part 1 here.)

OK, so when I left you, Jon Pertwee had just left and so we got

The Fourth Doctor – Tom Baker
Fourth Doctor.- Tom BakerUndoubtedly most people’s ‘true’ Doctor, their Doctor. OK, most people over the age of 30, anyways. Partly this was because he had the role longer than anyone else… on television, that is. Because if you’re looking at how long they actually held the role (in our time, not in terms of the show’s continuity) the First Doctor, the Eleventh, and especially the Twelfth all had longer time spans in their regenerations), then the Eighth Doctor wins it by a mile, having had the role from 1996 to 2005. He also spent the least time on screen, which would be weird… if it wasn’t Doctor Who.

But no, Baker took over as the Fourth Doctor in 1974, when I was ten years old, and was in the role until 1981. As I said, he wasn’t ‘my’ Doctor – that was Jon Pertwee – but his was the first in the role where I remember not only him getting the role, but it being A Thing who the ‘new’ Doctor was going to be. I clearly remember his first story, and could have a good stab at remembering every story of his tenure run. It was a golden age of Doctor Who that was never really repeated arguably until the Tennant years.

Part that was because everything seemed to come together: perfect companions for the Doctor as Baker played him. Harry Sullivan was drafted in because they didn’t know wether Baker could do the action stuff. When they realised he could, then poor Harry was sidelined. A pity because I always loved him as a character. But what made Baker’s run so good for me was a synergy of perfect stories for Baker, allowing him to play a range, a huge jump in the special effects, and plots that had a start, a middle and an end. Doctor turned up, sorted some stuff while in danger, and then pissed off. Just about perfectly done. But at the centre of it all, Tom Baker, who was obviously having the time of his life playing this character who could go from childish wonder to terrifyingly arrogant, from patronising to pathetic, from dangerous manipulator to court jester in the twinkling of an eye. And Baker enjoyed twinkling his eyes.

I don’t remember Hartnell or particularly Troughton, but Baker excelled in being underestimated by the baddies. Which made his inevitable triumphs so satisfying. He didn’t merely win, he did so by astonishing the baddies. Always fun to see.

I mentioned yesterday that Sarah Jane was the big sister so many boys wanted. We all loved her.

Then Leela came along in that leather bikini and we still all loved her but – and I speak only for myself as a very confused young 14 year old – it was.. different somehow and I was entirely unsure why. Yes, ok, I said, I was a very young 14 year old, ok?

But Leela returned Baker’s Doctor to a professorial type character, a teacher as much as an explorer, and given how he had been with Sarah Jane and others, it should have been a jolt. It wasn’t, it was an entirely natural evolution of Baker’s Doctor, and again – as much if not more down to Baker’s performance as to the writing. And, of course, Louise Jameson’s acting.

I suppose I have to mention K9, don’t I? OK, I’ve mentioned him. Happy now?

But my memories of Baker’s Doctor are simply: he loved doing it. He obviously loved doing it, every bloody minute of it. And it showed. I can’t think of anyone, again apart from Tennant, who so loved the job.

I have no idea whether he’d have enjoyed today’s almost necessary publicity that surrounds anyone in the role, the endless rounds of interviews, etc. Cons weren’t the thing they became but I don’t doubt he’d have loved meeting fans. But very bloody entertainment show, every Good Morning Britain, etc? I don’t know.

I met Tom Baker once. Years after he left the role. He just happened to sit at the table next to mine outside my regular coffee shop. I apologised for bothering him, thanked him for his work, said how much I’d enjoyed it. He was gracious,.as I’ve found most celebrities are in those circumstances. (Especially if you give them an immediate easy ‘out’ and say you know they’re very busy and apologise for bothering them, giving them the chance to politely tell you to leave them alone.)

Baker thanked me. Then started chatting. Almost two hours later, I was the one apologising as I had to go back to work. A lovely man, funny, smart, silly and genuinely thrilled that people enjoy(ed) his work

The Fifth Doctor – Peter Davison
Fifth Doctor - Peter DavisonThe biggest thing I remember about Davison getting the role was ‘he’s so young!’ Not from me; I loved the idea, the very young appearance, older Doctor… which they didn’t actually get right until Matt Smith, but more about that on Sunday.

But there was SO much fuss about Davison being so much younger.

But Davison’s Doctor was where I started not so much to fall out of love with Doctor Who but certainly I had less interest in it; it wasn’t must see as much as it had been.

I mean, I watched it every week, but it was becoming a habit, rather than something I actively looked forward to. I still liked Davison as the Doctor, but the stories seemed less important, less serious, less… big. That’s it. The stories seemed smaller.

And the companions didn’t help, to be fair. Any of the characters, taken individually, were fine. Even the annoying ones were annoying because they weren’t annoying enough to make them interesting for me.

And the show seemed a bit… tired.

It didn’t help that when Davison came in, I was 17; I’d discovered other interests. I was reading Doctor Who novelisations and I was enjoying them more than the show. I was getting ready to go to University, and I’d passed my driving test and… yeah. I was beginning to find my weekly dose of Doctor Who, at a fixed time (well, kind of) inconvenient.

Davison was ok, as the Doctor, and I still have friends who think not only was he hugely underrated in the role, but he’s their Doctor. Which is of course as it should be.

Every Doctor should be someone’s Doctor.

And so we come, inevitably, to the Doctor few admit to having as their Doctor.

The Sixth Doctor – Colin Baker
Sixth Doctor - Colin BakerWhat can I say about Colin Baker’s Doctor that hasn’t been said by others… who frankly should have had more respect and tact?

For me, it was fine. If by ‘fine’ you mean it gave me an excuse to stop watching. Which I pretty much did. I caught the occasional episode, but that was about it. I didn’t enjoy his performance, the stories, the dialogue, the acting, the set design, the companions or the obvious, painfully obvious, cuts in the budget.

Apart from that, and that fucking coat, everything was fine.

So, no, best to just say: if you enjoyed Colin Baker as The Doctor, good for you. I’m glad someone did.
Part 3 tomorrow.

(Five part blog entry, for length. Part two tomorrow, though, with part three on Friday, Part four on Sunday, and the final part on Monday… if all goes to plan.)

I can’t remember the first time I came across Doctor Who.

I mean, I’ve always felt a kind of connection to it, though, because I was born 17th August 1964. My due date, however, was 22nd August 1964. Walk back roughly nine months from that date and you get 23rd November 1963.

So my parents were obviously so affected by the broadcast of the first episode that… er, erm, er… they sought comfort from each other.

Or it could have been JFK being shot, I guess.

But despite my previous entries confirming that I watched anything on television as a child, I’m pretty sure, however, that it wasn’t on television that I first encountered Doctor Who.

It could have been in comics, via The Daleks in TV21

…or it could more likely have been that I’d heard of Doctor Who and possibly even seen it (before I remember), but either way, the first time I actually recall encountering Doctor Who, I was ill, in bed. Enforced absence from school, but devouring comics and books.

And a neighbour (an ‘auntie’, in old money) bought me three books to read.

These three:

Although, it’s fair to acknowledge, I tend to reverse the order of the final two in my mind, since I clearly recall reading them in the order:

  1. Daleks
  2. Zarbi
  3. Crusaders

I haven’t read the books in years, in decades, and I’m mildly curious, I’ll admit, to see if they stand up as novels. I remember loving the first book, quite liking the Zarbi one, and being faintly bored by the Crusaders but I suspect that had more to do with me wanting more scary aliens after the first two books.

So, yes, the First Doctor is the one I first remember encountering, although I don’t consider William Hartnell’s portrayal as ‘my’ Doctor, for the fairly obvious reasons that I don’t recall William Hartnell’s Doctor as the first I encountered.

The character in the novels was just “The Doctor” to me, an old man who travelled through time and space with some companions.

Heh. An old man. OK, he may have been hundreds of years old, but Hartnell was born in January 1908, which means when the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast, he was 55. the same age I am now.

Oh gods, I feel old.

To be honest, I don’t remember that much about the novels. I recall that the first was written in first person, from the POV of Ian Chesterton. (Which confused the hell out of me as a young child when I then saw the movie, about more of which later, because Roy Castle’s character was nothing like the Ian I read about in the book.)

But since Terrance Dicks – script editor for Doctor Who and the author of many of the Target novelisations – died recently, and it’s been a while since I’ve even mentioned Who in here, why not some thoughts on my experiences with the various incarnations of the character?

Why not indeed.

The First Doctor – William Hartnell
First Doctor - William HartnellI’ve not seen that much of Hartnell’s run. I’ve seen the odd episode, the odd story. (The BBC ran the first four episodes to mark the 50th Anniversary.) But I’d not seen any until we were long into his successors had taken on the role. I was two when he handed over to Pat Troughton, and my only real ‘memory’ of seeing him ‘live’ was at the end of his career/life when he did a cameo in The Three Doctors.

But he was very ill and I’ve seen far more of the First Doctor when he was played by someone else; by Richard Hurndall in The Five Doctors, and by David Bradley (both as William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time, and then as The First Doctor proper in Twice Upon a Time, the crossover with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.)

But yes, I’ve seen some. For what it was, it was great. Cleverly made, surprisingly adult, considering that it was aimed at children, but slow. My gods, it’s slow, compared to modern story telling. But there’s no way the show would have lasted without the great start. So everyone involved with the show deserved thanks. But since this is mainly about the performances, my belated thanks to Mr Hartnell.

The Second Doctor – Patrick Troughton
Second Doctor - Patrick TroughtonThe favourite incarnation of so many people just a few years older than me. He was my big brother’s Doctor. He is, I know, the favourite Doctor of some writer friends of mine. And lo, so there started the ‘whichever is the first doctor you encounter on tv, that’s your Doctor‘ rule’ Applied to Pat Troughton’s portrayal, as well as for almost every Doctor since. There are exceptions that test the rule, that breach it in fact, but as a general rule of thumb, it applies. Again, Troughton left the role (other than guest returns) when I was very young, when I was six, and again, I don’t remember seeing him play the role ‘live’ so to speak.

If the show wouldn’t have lasted without Hartnell’s performance in creating the role, no less would it have survived without Troughton convincing the audience that he was the same character, merely with a personality transplant.

Brilliant move. ballsy move.

The cleverest thing the show ever did, and yet the biggest risk the show ever took, was ‘the star can’t continue, so we get a replacement… but we tell the viewers it’s the same character‘.

And it worked. The viewers – kids and adults alike – accepted it. (Lord knows what Twitter would have been like at the time, had it existed, though…)

It’s the single specific reason why the show stays fresh… (let’s face it, many of the companions over the years are eminently forgettable) and yet for all the cleverness, for all the courageous risk taking, something else also started at that moment, which has evolved into the now ubiquitous online assertion that… the new Doctor isn’t as good as the last one, and never ever will be…

It was nonsense then, it’s nonsense now. Whether the character in his new incarnation, the new regeneration, is as ‘good’ as the previous actor/character…, that misses the whole point. I’ve tended to look at it as different moods, different facets, is all.

In fact the only time it doesn’t work for me is when the writers cram in the ‘I’m so much older now, you know when I was younger [ref earlier Doctor]’ stuff. Occasionally, it works. There’s a line in School Reunion when David Tenant’s Doctor says “I’m so old now. I used to have so much mercy…” It worked then because it was unexpected, and fit the scene. Often though, especially with Matt Smith’s Doctor? No.

The Third Doctor – Jon Pertwee
Third Doctor - Jon PertweeAh, now we’re talking ‘my’ Doctor. I kind of remember the very first appearance of the first Doctor, and Liz Shaw as his companion. I didn’t care that budgetary restrictions meant it was all set on earth. I loved the show. I loved everything about it. I loved this Doctor with all the action, with this arrogant school teacher attitude, the patronising because he was the smartest person in the room. I thought the Brigadier was fantastic, Sgt Benson was like a sensible big brother, and… oh, I loved it. And the Jo Grant came along and she was kind of like the girls my big brother liked, and I never understood why. And she was fun and silly and always getting into trouble, and The Doctor’s exasperation with her made her a bit loveable. But only a bit.

And then Sarah Jane Smith came along. Sounds harmless if you say it fast enough. And then Sarah Jane Smith arrived, and like so many boys I knew, I instantly fell a little in love with Sarah Jane. She was the big sister I never had, had never missed, but suddenly desperately wanted. She was lovely. And smart, and funny, and yeah.

That was when I started collecting the novelisations. That was when I couldn’t miss an episode. That was… that was when I fell in love with the show. The Daleks, the Ogrons, the Draconians, the baddies, the allies, Alpha Centari. The Master. Oh gods, the Master.

Roger Delgado’s eyes, that voice. Wow.

I didn’t care that the plots had holes you could drive trucks through. I didn’t care that some of the dialogue was ropey, that the special effects – especially the mattes – were even rosier. I didn’t even care that the ‘Whomobile’ was ludicrous (bring back Bessie!). I loved the show. Unreservedly.

And then the Third Doctor went to Metebelis III. And then, as my Doctor left the world, and the show, almost everyone else’s Doctor, the actor that personified the show for a generation, the Doctor that took the show to new heights, and new planets, arrived.

And we’ll talk about him tomorrow.