On the last day of the year

On paper, it’s been a very fruitful 2018. I hit my target weight and have run a lot of races (including two half marathons) and have got more writing done this year than I’ve ever managed before, partly due to the daily writing habit that this blog has encouraged. My business also had another good year of growth.

Unfortunately, my mental health has seriously deteriorated this year, and is now probably at its worst since I was in my late teens. I don’t talk about it much on here but I have really been struggling recently. As such, I have very mixed feelings about the last year.

I hope 2019 will be less ambivalent. For me, and for everyone else.

Now I’m off to go eat as many slices as possible of Dad’s famous Hogmanay pizza. I’ll be back tomorrow to celebrate this blog’s first birthday!

OOTD 31st December 2018
OOTD: semi-dressed-up Hogmanay outfit! Top David Emanuel (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

AJ Tracey and Notes – Butterflies
Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf
Dua Lipa – New Rules
Ellie Goulding – Starry Eyed

2018 Ciders #75: Thundering Molly

Well, I had to finish 2018 on a memorable cider! What a great name.

Thundering Molly
Thundering Molly.

This one had a slightly strange chemical toffee taste straight out the bottle, but it tasted much better when poured into a glass!

Well, I didn’t manage 100 unique ciders in 2018, but 75 is not bad. I’m going to be logging something completely different in 2019, so stay tuned!

TV Review: Top of the Pops Christmas and New Year

I actually got around to watching the festive episodes of Top of the Pops this year! Since 2006, when the weekly show got cancelled after more than four decades, they only show new episodes at Christmas time – all other showings of TOTP are classic ’80s episodes on BBC4 (which, frankly, is better, but it’d still be nice to have a modern weekly show). However, presenters Fearne Cotton and Clara Amfo do a very good job of imitating the classic style of TOTP presenting, and thus make it come across like TOTP is something that happens all the time! If only it were true.

The Christmas episode had a good selection of artists performing various hits, although there were one or two artists doubling up, which breaks the DJing rule! The New Year episode (which was shown on the 29th of December for some reason), meanwhile, was more focused on new music for 2019 that’s not been in the charts yet. Most of it was a bit dull, but there were a few gems in there that I’ve added to my Spotify playlist – Girlfriend by Christine & The Queens was a particular favourite.

It’s a shame it’s only on at Christmas these days, but the BBC4 ’80s episodes will keep me nicely occupied until next December!

Semi-flying Sunday post

An early post today, ’cause Geth and I are boardgaming with friends in the evening. In the meantime I’m enjoying my books and music! Also looking forward to Hogmanay tomorrow.

OOTD 30th December 2018
OOTD: it’s my favourite jumper again. Jumper Carlo Colucci (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2017), jeans Vivid (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Killers – Mr Brightside
Cast of The Nightmare Before ChristmasWhat’s This?

2018 Ciders #73: Sheppy’s 2017 Vintage Reserve

Dad brought back some more Sheppy’s from the West Country earlier in the year for me to drink over Christmas. Most of them were ones I’d tried previously this year, but one was new to me.

Sheppy's 2017 Vintage Reserve
Sheppy’s 2017 Vintage Reserve, with bonus unimpressed Geth in the background.

This cider is 7.4% vol and it tastes it! It actually tasted a little too strong for me. It’s still got that nice Sheppy’s flavour though.

TV Review: Doctor Who: The Battle Of Ranskoor Av Kolos

It’s the last episode in the series…but it’s not like any other ‘series finale’ we’ve seen since Doctor Who came back in 2005.

The Doctor and friends answer a call from a planet emitting nine distress signals, and find a psychotropic field affecting people’s mental state.  Protecting themselves with neural neutralisers, they rescue Captain Paltraki, who doesn’t know who he is, and find he’s being blackmailed to bring back an artefact by someone who’s captured his crew.  It’s the Ux religion (which consists of two members, Andinio and her apprentice Delph) doing the blackmailing – they worship a being they call the Creator, who turns out to be Tzim-Sha, the Stenza warrior the Doctor and friends fought all the way back in episode 1.  The Doctor brings back the artefact and confronts Tzim-Sha, who sends the Ux to transmit his Earth-capturing signal – he’s already captured multiple planets and wants to add Earth to his collection.  The Doctor and Yasmin break the connection and persuade the Ux to help them, while Graham and Ryan rescue the crew and send them back to their ship with Paltraki.  Graham stays behind, tempted to kill Tzim-Sha, but realises it’d be better to imprison him forever.  The Ux travel on with the crew, and the TARDIS team depart.  End series!

There’s some nice characterisation here with Graham’s desire for revenge against the creature who caused his wife’s death, and his eventual change of heart.  His relationship with Ryan has also been a really nicely done process over the course of the series.  I also love the fact that the two of them, working together, manage to imprison Tzim-Sha, despite the Doctor’s conviction earlier in the episode that he’d be too powerful for them to take on.  Unfortunately, Yasmin is a bit of a spare part in this episode, just as she was in episodes 8 and 9.  I do like all three companions, but this series really has suffered from the ‘crowded TARDIS’ problem that the show had during the Davison years, with the writers seemingly running out of things for them all to do.  Furthermore, I don’t feel like I really know the characters like I did previous companions – Graham is a great character, but Ryan and Yasmin still both feel a bit thinly sketched to me.

The return of Tzim-Sha is pretty much the only bit of narrative continuity we’ve had this series in terms of alien threat, and after thirteen years of arc-heavy series from RTD and Moffat it’s honestly felt completely disorientating, and made for a strangely sedate final episode.  What do you mean, the fate of the whole universe isn’t at stake?  Where’s the big epic face-off against the Daleks/Cybermen/Master?

And that’s the other thing – there hasn’t been a single returning alien species or character this series, other than the Doctor herself.  The last time that happened was the 1978-1979 series, which was the one with the Key To Time arc.  We’re talking forty years ago, when Tom Baker was still the Doctor.  I’m not saying you absolutely need the Daleks and the like for Doctor Who to feel like Doctor Who, but so much has changed for this series that it would have been nice to have had the odd nod or cameo (the polarity reversal in episode 9 was appreciated, but pretty much the only example!).

Still…no spoilers, but it looks like the New Year’s Day episode might be a bit more of a treat for the fans.  I’m so looking forward to it.

The quiet days of Christmas

I really appreciate this week in between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, because it means I can have some quiet time to get on with things by myself. I spent today catching up with radio and TV shows I’d been wanting to watch.

Hoping for similar tomorrow!

OOTD 29th December 2018
OOTD: I love this comfy vintage jumper. Jumper unknown brand (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Whitney Houston – Saving All My Love For You
Savage Garden – I Want You
Climie Fisher – (Love Changes) Everything
Ava Max – Sweet But Psycho

TV Review: Doctor Who: It Takes You Away

In the penultimate episode of the series, the Doctor and friends arrive in 2018 Norway to find Hanne, a girl trapped in a house and apparently abandoned by her father.  Fighting their way through a dangerous cave called an antizone, the Doctor and companions track Hanne’s father to a parallel reality called a Solitract, which is luring people from the main Whoniverse reality by imitating their loved ones.  After the Doctor and friends reject the Solitract’s tricks, the Doctor persuades it to let her go and accept its fate of being on its own.

We finally have an interesting bit of characterisation here – Ryan doesn’t believe Hanne when she says her father would never abandon her, presumably due to his experience with his own dad.  He later explains to Yasmin that he’s no good with kids, although Hanne does warm to him by the end of the episode.

I like the use of the classic ‘avoiding getting lost in a maze through use of string’ trope!  Unfortunately, the Doctor and co meet up with Ribbons, who is a classic creepy fantasy type monster (complete with beltful of dead rats) and thus feels out of place in the Whoniverse.  Naturally, he cuts the string, causing extra trouble for the Doctor.

When we finally come across Erik, Hanne’s dad, he comes across as the most neglectful father ever and I wanted to throw things at the screen!  However, it soon becomes apparent that he’s been bewitched by the Solitract, which has produced an imitation of his late wife Trine.

When the Doctor’s party arrives, the Solitract immediately sets about playing the same trick on Graham, which means we get the welcome reappearance of Grace and some lovely character moments when Graham finds himself having to make the choice to lose her all over again.

The Doctor explains that the antizone is preventing the Solitract from touching other realities, though not why it’s taken the form of a weird fantasy cave!  We also get some good old-fashioned polarity reversal when the Doctor finds she can’t get back through the mirror portal.

On the whole I enjoyed this one – I was expecting it to be a bit of a filler episode, but it was quite good.

Series finale next time…although in Chibnall’s arc-less Who, I’m not sure they can really be called ‘series finales’ anymore!