Filling the space

I did another 10k this morning…

…and managed a similar pace to Saturday, which I was very pleased about! I feel as though my daily training since the start of the year has sped me up in what seems to be a permanent way. I’ll just keep plugging away and see what happens.

I have most definitely filled up the routine extra time afforded by the lockdown now, to the extent that I’m not sure how I’m going to go back to regular life when this is all over. I’ve written before about how it’s going to be a slow process out of lockdown for me – I won’t just be jumping back into a routine of multiple classes and groups and meetups per week, because I think I would find that overwhelming. But the thing is that I’m not sure I ever want to go back to that busy routine. All of the individual things were meant to be fun, but taken together, they made life a bit stressful. As such, I think there are things to which I won’t be returning – things I’m going to have to learn to let go of. I don’t know which things yet. The only thing I know I will definitely be going back to post-lockdown is parkrun – it’s free of charge, it’s helpful for my running improvement, and I love it to death.

In short, my big takeaway from this year is that there’s no point spending time and money on things that cause me stress, just because I feel that it’s something I SHOULD do. As such, I’ve stopped buying all the magazines I’m not getting round to reading, including breaking my decade-plus streak of buying Doctor Who Magazine (that was a wrench… but I’ve just not had time for Who fandom for a good two or three years. I haven’t even watched the most recent series yet, which would have been unthinkable when I was in my twenties). I no longer attend every vintage fair in Newcastle just because it’s on (this is something I discussed in my personal style post the other day). I stopped going to Pilates and dance classes last year – I enjoy those things, but they’re just not a priority for me any more.

Learning to let go is something I’ve always found difficult, and something I discussed a lot in my counselling sessions earlier this year. I am a consummate hoarder, not just of physical possessions but also of memories and identities and personal connections.

(If somebody de-friends me on Facebook, I hold a grudge like you would not believe – because why would we want to lose each other from our collection of contacts? Collections are to be grown, not ‘culled’! We may not have anything in common now, but we did once, and why would you want to move on from that? Why would you want to let go?)

My identity as a Doctor Who fan is one of those things I’m struggling to let go of, hence why I am trying not to think about having broken my magazine-buying streak. My identity as a goth is another. I became goth in my teens, made all my university friends and met my future husband in the goth and rock society, spent my twenties in various states of consciousness at goth clubs and gigs and festivals, and then… I last went to a scene event in August 2018. I only still wear my old goth band t-shirts and hoodies because they’re comfortable. It’s been years since I last listened to the music – I prefer ’80s pop and soundtracks and synthwave now. I got sober, and so I don’t really like spending time in pubs and clubs anymore, and I think it’ll be some time before I can brave a festival again.

‘You do still wear a lot of black, though,’ my counsellor said when I mentioned this to her. I suppose I do – some habits are hard to break, and it’s a practical colour. It’s just… I just don’t feel drawn to that particular aesthetic anymore, and while I’ve still got a lot of friends in the scene, I don’t see myself wanting to go back to the events, and I don’t think I can really call myself ‘goth’ these days, and I’m not sure I want to.

Accepting that fact requires a big shift in thinking, though. Just like accepting that these days I’m a casual Doctor Who viewer at best, and accepting that there are some old acquaintances I’m never going to see or speak to again (and that I probably won’t miss them), and accepting that I really need to chuck out those manky old Ikea cushions I’ve been hanging onto since 2002.

I’ve never yet been capable of making that big shift in thinking. But it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that it’s a necessary process.

I’m videogaming again tonight. In recent months I’ve occasionally felt a bit sheepish about mentioning that every day – like it’s a bit sad to be spending all my time videogaming, even if lockdown does provide me with the perfect excuse. But it’s what makes me happy at the moment, and that’s all that matters.

Newcastle Town Moor
I ran on the Town Moor today for the first time since the final pre-lockdown parkrun. It felt strange, even though I’ve often done solo runs there before. While I was enjoying parkrun touristing in the months before coronavirus happened, I think that I will be back at my home parkrun on the Moor when it’s time for the great parkrun return.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Yasunori Mitsuda – ‘Where It All Began’
Nina Nesbitt – ‘Stay Out’

Music Video Monday: recent chart catchup

A few more longstanding chart hits with only-recently-released videos to look at today.

Meek Mill and Drake – Going Bad

It’s mainly the standard mansions ‘n’ bling, with a bit of cigar smoking and racehorse betting for good measure, but there are some nice trippy elements such as a random car crash that doesn’t actually seem to affect anyone in the video.

Lauv and Troye Sivan – I’m So Tired

This video mainly involves the two singers hanging around diners and streets and on top of cars being depressed and single. There’s also a lot of happy couples hanging around for contrast.

Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved

And a bonus video for today – an extra video has been released for Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved, following the singing-in-a-train-station one from a few weeks ago. This one doesn’t feature Lewis, but it does feature his second cousin once removed (and Twelfth Doctor) Peter Capaldi, playing a widower whose wife’s death has enabled a young mother to receive a lifesaving heart transplant. It’s as emotional as it sounds. Lovely video.

I expect that next week’s video will be an ’80s one. Videos in the ’80s were the best, even if they didn’t have Doctors in them!*

*I’m not digging out Doctor In Distress. That was an exception to the ‘videos in the ’80s were the best’ rule.

TV Review: Doctor Who: Resolution

We’ve had a New Year special episode before – The End Of Time part 2 back on New Year’s Day 2010 (nine years ago! that’s mental!) – but this is the first year since the series came back that there’s been no Christmas Day episode (to much grumbling from certain quarters of fandom), so this is the one festive episode we get.

After a prologue, where we get some backstory about medieval warriors dividing the body of a defeated monster into three parts and burying it at opposite ends of the earth, the episode starts off with a couple of archaeologists, Lin and Mitch, who’ve ostensibly come in to work on New Year’s Day but are really there hoping for a date with each other. It’s cute, but it’s better once their new find awakens and transmats the buried other parts of itself to make itself whole again. The two of them notice it’s missing and Lin goes off to hunt for it, finding a squid-like creature. Meanwhile, the Doctor and companions arrive and escort Lin and Mitch out of the premises (no psychic paper necessary for some reason).

Lin, freaked out, goes home, where it’s revealed that the squid creature she found is controlling her body and actions. The Doctor, meanwhile, conducts some tests and realises it’s a Dalek (which will be no surprise to anyone who’s watched the series before).

The Dalek-controlled Lin goes on the rampage, killing a couple of police officers, a slightly dim security guard (poor guy!), and a farm worker. Meanwhile, the Doctor and friends, including Mitch, track Lin down to the barn – she’s managed to fight off the Dalek, but the Dalek has constructed itself a makeshift casing and escapes after a showdown with the Doctor.

With help from the slightly unlikely figure of Ryan’s negligent dad Aaron, the Doctor and co manage to destroy the Dalek’s casing. Unfortunately, it then latches onto Aaron and threatens to kill him unless the Doctor reunites it with its Dalek fleet. She tricks the Dalek by sending it into a vacuum in space, nearly losing Aaron with it in the process until he’s saved by Ryan.

There’s a nice happy ending with Aaron and Ryan starting a better relationship, Lin and Mitch getting together, and the Doctor, Graham, Yasmin and Ryan flying off into space for more adventures…probably in 2020, so we might have another festive episode before that.

Characterisation-wise, the best bit of this episode is the arrival of Ryan’s dad Aaron, who was an absent but important figure for the whole of the 2018 series. Obviously this has notable repercussions for Ryan, as he feels at first he can’t forgive his dad but then becomes closer to him as a result of the adventure. This subplot provides some great moments for Graham too – in the absence of Grace, he’s able to provide some fatherly advice to Aaron.

I love Mitch’s reaction to the TARDIS! No matter how many characters do the ‘bigger on the inside’ thing, it never gets old in my view.

I also think it’s cute that the Dalek part gets awoken by UV light. That’s worth remembering. Another point that should be noted is that it’s still the case that people on Earth don’t know who the Daleks are. After the giant overblown Dalek invasion during the RTD era (The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End) where the whole Earth witnessed everything, there was some vague handwavy stuff in the Moffat era where the crack in Amy’s room ate everyone’s memories, or something, and so since then nobody in contemporary episodes has known about Daleks, except when it’s convenient, or if they’re Adelaide Brooke remembering the 2008 invasion in the 2059-set The Waters Of Mars, which was an episode released before the handwave.

A very interesting point is that when the Doctor tries to contact Kate Stewart at UNIT, the telephone operative says that UNIT are on suspension, pending review, due to funding cutbacks. I’m looking forward to seeing if this is overcome at some point!

There’s another cute moment (well, by ‘cute’ I mean by Doctor Who standards – there is also a lot of gratuitous death in this scene) where the army show up to intercept a ‘drone’, then have to run away when they realise it’s actually a Dalek. Another funny, if slightly unnecessary, scene is where the Dalek drains the whole of the UK’s internet and we cut to a dim-looking family horrified at the idea that they’ll actually have to talk to each other.

On the whole, this episode gave me a bit of an odd, discordant feeling – it just felt a bit too lighthearted for a ‘Daleks are going to destroy the world’ story. I did enjoy it though, and I’m a bit sad that the next series is such a long way away! I’d hoped that under Chibnall we might return to yearly series, especially seeing as the series episode count has been cut (again) from twelve to ten, but apparently it’s not to be.

As such, for the rest of 2019 I’ll be rewatching classic episodes instead!

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.

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!

TV Review: Doctor Who: The Witchfinders

I was a bit dubious about this one, ’cause I thought it looked like a bit of a grim, depressing historical, but it was actually really enjoyable.

The Doctor and friends arrive in early 17th century Lancashire to find witch trials happening on the orders of a suspicious landowner called Becka, the widow of the previous landlord.  Things get worse when King James shows up on his own crusade against witchcraft and has no time for the female Doctor, meaning she ends up getting tried as a witch.  The strange happenings turn out to be the work of some aliens (the Morax) imprisoned under Pendle Hill, who were released when Becka tried to chop down a tree that was blocking her view (it was actually a lock).  The Doctor eventually traps them again and releases the bodies they were possessing.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here.  The Doctor starts off by stating her very firm rule not to interfere with history (a nice callback to The Aztecs!) then immediately breaks it by trying to rescue an accused witch.  It’s also fascinating how the writing manages to elicit some sympathy for Becka, rather than just making her a straightforwardly evil villain.  King James is AWFUL, but wonderful to watch!  He’s played brilliantly by Alan Cumming – conniving and camp with a crush on Ryan.

This is the first time we’ve seen the Doctor actually suffering from not being taken seriously in female form, despite the fact that this series has already visited Earth’s past a couple of times.  It’s welcome that it’s finally been addressed, but it’s a bit overdue.

I love that they set the episode on Pendle Hill, the home of English witchcraft!  I’ll remember the aliens buried under the ground next time I’m running up the hill during Pendle parkrun.

Graham has all the best lines, as usual (‘Ezekiel.’  ‘Tarantino.’), but it’s yet another episode that’s very light on the companion characterisation for Yasmin and Ryan.  Somehow, I don’t think that’s suddenly going to change at this point in the series.

Back to the present day next time!

TV Review: Doctor Who: Kerblam!

I’m finally catching up with my reviews of the most recent Doctor Who series in preparation for the New Year’s Day episode!

The Doctor and friends go undercover at the distribution centre for the Kerblam! company, which is a brilliant takeoff of Amazon.  They discover that the employees are disappearing, and at first it appears to be the work of the creepy company robots that are everywhere, but it turns out to be a plot for an attempted terrorist attack to protest against robots taking over human jobs by a disgruntled employee who has faked his way into the workforce.

There’s a lot of really cute touches in this episode:

  • The Doctor tells her companions not to be ‘robophobic’ when they point out that the robots are creepy.
  • The last time Ryan had an employee leg tag was when he used to work at ‘Sportstack’, which is a nice sly dig at Sports Direct.
  • Humans are only employed at all because the company has to meet a 10% quota of ‘organic’ workers!
  • It’s explained that humans were too busy staring at their phones to notice the robots gradually taking over their jobs.
  • The deadly gas that’s going to kill everyone is contained in the bubble wrap within the Kerblam! packages…’cause nobody can resist popping bubble wrap, right?

It’s another episode that’s fairly light on characterisation.  Graham and Yasmin get some nice moments where they bond with the human employees at Kerblam!, but on the whole, there’s not many opportunities for the companions to shine here – it’s the Doctor’s episode, really.

A historical episode next time!

A creative Sunday

Geth was out boardgaming today, so I took the opportunity to get lots of stuff done:

  1. I finished putting all the stuff I need to scan and shred over the next few years on the new shelves in the study, so we can access the bedroom again.  I also got all the CDs onto shelves.  The study’s not UNmessy, but you can at least move through it easily now.
  2. I got another 4,000 words written on my NaNo novel.  I’m up to 44,000 now!  Two more days at this rate and I’ll have an officially winning novel, although it’s going to be nowhere near done at 50k and I’m serious about aiming for 120k now.
  3. I picked up a book I found in the study the other day called Recorder From The Beginning, which was the book my primary school recorder group used to learn the instrument (so I’ve had the book since the start of Primary Three in 1991), and played it all the way through using my tin whistle (well, nearly – it’s all super easy until the last three pages and then it suddenly gets difficult!).  I want to learn a new instrument or two soon – hopefully in 2019 – and (badly) playing my old ones is helping me to get motivated.

Looking at the last few weeks, I have actually been really productive, but I’ve not FELT productive because I’ve been procrastinating on all my boring daily tasks like housework and accounting and getting through my various lists of music stuff I want to listen to.  Definitely time for a giant to-do list update tonight.

Doctor Who was great tonight!  Strictly was not, because I’m really upset that Danny and Amy went out.  I’m going to go sulk about it for a week.

OOTD 11th November 2018
OOTD: comfy Sunday outfit. T-shirt Cyberdog (originally early 2000s, thrifted from Geth 2014), belt H&M (2017), tights Primark (2017), boots Carefree (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Rita Ora – Your Song
Duran Duran – Serious
Duran Duran – Meet El Presidente
Duran Duran – Rio
Abba – Lay All Your Love On Me
Duran Duran – Come Undone

TV Review: Doctor Who: Demons Of The Punjab

Another great historical episode!  It seems to be a real strength this series.

On being given an old broken watch by her grandmother Umbreen, Yasmin asks the Doctor to take her back to 1950s Lahore to find out the story behind it.  The TARDIS instead drops them in 1947 rural India during the Partition, where Yasmin finds that Umbreen is about to marry Prem, a man who’s not her grandfather.  They encounter a group of aliens, the Thijarians, whom the Doctor initially believes to be a race of assassins, but it soon transpires that the ‘demons’ have given up assassinating following the destruction of their planet and are now travelling the universe in order to provide witness to lonely deaths, seeing as they couldn’t do it for their own people.  The actual villain in the episode is Prem’s brother Manish, who has become prejudiced against Muslims and leads a group of similarly prejudiced Hindus to drive out Umbreen and her Muslim mother, resulting in Prem being killed soon after marrying Umbreen.

Characterisation-wise it’s a really strong episode for Yasmin.  Apart from a few wilful moments near the start, I really appreciated that she listened to the Doctor about not interfering in her own history (in contrast to Rose’s irritatingly stupid actions in Father’s Day back in 2005).  Ryan and Graham were really playing the support role this week, which has tended to be the case this series – I wouldn’t say that Chibnall’s Doctor Who has yet disproved the long-running viewpoint that three companions makes for too crowded a TARDIS.  At least we’re not having people getting captured or taken ill for the course of the story, like we did in the Davison years.  Graham is always gold – Bradley Walsh’s performance is just lovely, and the writers are doing really well with his dialogue – but Ryan felt like a real spare part during this episode.

Similarly to Rosa, the episode was really thought-inspiring and made no bones about a difficult period of history, although the controversial role played by the British in the Partition could have been dwelt on more.

We’re now more than halfway through the series – there are five episodes to go – and after thirteen years of getting used to the tight and complex series arcs of the RTD and Moffat eras, I’m feeling a bit strangely adrift given that there doesn’t seem to be any series-spanning story going on at all.  It’ll be very interesting to see if this continues, and if the final episode could just be – gasp! – a normal, regular episode, with no multiverse-threatening doomsday shenanigans.  That would be a hell of a departure for 21st century Doctor Who.

The trailer for next week was a bit confusing, so I don’t really know what’s going on in that story, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it when it arrives.

Quiet Sundays are the best

I’ve settled into a nice routine the last few weekends, and today’s quiet Sunday gave me the opportunity to get another 4,000 words done on my NaNo novel, taking me up to 16,000.  I feel as if I could keep this going and end up with 120,000 words this month if I had to, but I don’t think I need quite as many words as that to finish the novel!  We’ll see.

Other than that, I had my usual nice Sunday TV evening of Doctor Who and the Strictly results, and we’ve now got triathlon TV on in the background.

OOTD 4th November 2018
OOTD: this is still the comfiest dress ever. Dress Triumph (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018), belt H&M (2017), tights Primark (2017), boots Carefree (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness
George Michael – Jesus To A Child
Duran Duran – White Lines
The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays