Wednesday, 15 January 2014

It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Snake.

Wicker Snake rises triumphant in front of the BARDIS. There's a sentence I never thought I'd type.

Lemur Lady: Look what I just found in the street! Someone had put it outside their house for the bin men.
Significant Otter: Er....
LL: It's a wicker plant holder in the shape of a SNAKE! I mean, at first I nearly walked past it because I thought it was meant to be some kind of tulip or something but then I went back to look and it's definitely supposed to be a snake. Look, it's got little wooden fangs. Thank goodness I went back to check.
SO: Thank goodness.
LL: I bet you've never seen a wicker plant holder in the shape of an actual snake before, have you?
SO: That is true. I have not.
LL: Can I keep it? It's HORRIBLE.
SO: It is. It is kind of hideous.
LL: I KNOW! It's revolting! I love it!
SO (giving in to the inevitable): Where are you going to put it?
LL: I dunno. I thought maybe the garden. Because I think perhaps the dead plants in it might be diseased so we should probably not have it in the house.
SO: Wow. This gets better.
LL (beaming): Who would throw this kind of thing away? Ssssh, Wicker Snake. You're safe now.

And this, friends, is why our house is full of tat.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Why Doctor Who Makes The World A Better Place

For me, this past few days have been like Christmas. Only better, because Christmas happens every year and you can never guarantee whether the telly’s going to be any good, whereas this weekend we had The Day of The Doctor – the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who.

I have been a fan of all things sci fi since I was tiny. Some of my earliest TV memories are of watching The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy and Sylvester McCoy fighting daleks. I clearly remember being asked at age 7 what I wanted to be when I grew up and my answer was ‘Ace’. Although to be fair I also wanted to be Long Distance Clara the lorry driver from Pigeon Street so I was nothing if not fickle.

My childhood Doctor Who memories begin and end with the Seventh Doctor, as of course the series was plunged into hiatus until 1996, by which time I was well into my career as a teenage geek and watched with passionate interest, wearing my Red Dwarf t-shirts, while Paul McGann pitted against an eye-rollingly  camped up Eric Roberts as the Master. I was immediately smitten. I knew hardly anyone else who had watched it and had no real frame of reference  but it rekindled my vague, Davros-tinted memories and by the time the series was properly rebooted in 2005 I was an ardent lover of all things Whovian. Like any relationship, we've been through our good times and bad times - I loathed and detested the Ponds but continued watching anyway because you don't walk out of a 50 year relationship just because it gets a bit rocky. "I'm watching out of loyalty", I said at the time, something that baffled my non-fan friends.

In 1996 when I watched Paul McGann in the first Doctor/companion clinch, it was still pretty uncool to be a Doctor Who fan. On Saturday, 10 million people watched the special (not counting repeat viewings and timeshifting), and it was simulcast to over 90 countries. 3D cinema screenings all over the UK sold out within hours, and social networks have been buzzing with excitement for months – not just the niche forums, either. It's mainstream now, and that's just wonderful.

It is a glorious time to be a nerd. And I truly believe that the rise and rise of Doctor Who is a Good Thing for everyone. It’s not just a TV programme. It’s more special than that. So without further ado:

My Top Five Reasons Why Doctor Who Makes The World A Better Place

1.      It’s made by fans, for fans

      When Russell T Davies brought Doctor Who back in 2005, he ended a 16 year hiatus since the last ‘proper’ series. But the Doctor hadn’t been idle in that time; he was saving worlds and battling bad guys in audio adventures, books, magazines, and – importantly – in the hearts and minds of one of the most loyal fandoms of any show, ever. Many of those fans now work on the series. David Tennant was famously inspired to act by watching Doctor Who as a nipper, Steven Moffat relishes writing for a show that he has grown up with, and the incoming Doctor, Peter Capaldi once wrote to the Radio Times in praise of an episode in 1974. You only have to look at the number of ex-stars who turn up for conventions and wax lyrical about their time on the show to see how fondly it is remembered. "It's the best job in the world" is a quote that can be attributed to several actors lucky enough to pilot the TARDIS. Tom Baker once said that he loved playing the Doctor more than he loved being himself.  The affection and humour with which this 'little show that could' is made transcends cheap props, dodgy effects and quarries in Wales and shines through the screen. 

2.       The Doctor Makes People Better

While that other great British stalwart, James Bond, shoots and kicks his way to victory, the good Doctor will always strive to show his enemies the error of their ways rather than destroy them. Granted, occasionally he’ll whip out some Venusian Akido but that was really just to make that velvet coat whoosh around in a satisfying manner.

 He’s been given the chance to wipe out the Daleks more than once but ultimately stays his hand.  

"But if I kill, wipe out a whole intelligent life form, then I'd become like them. I'd be no better than the Daleks."

He always finds the best in his human companions, too. Donna Noble might be ‘just a temp’ and Rose Tyler may be 'just a shop assistant', but to The Doctor they are brilliant; he looks below their mere workaday definitions of success and sees their cleverness and compassion, their bravery and determination. Nobody is ‘just’ anything to the Doctor. 

"It was a better life", says Rose, "and I don't mean all the travelling and seeing aliens and spaceships and things, that don't matter. He showed me a better way of living your life." If we look at the world and our fellow humans like the Doctor does, anything is possible. The Doctor has an infectious enthusiasm about the wonders of the universe, a boundless curiosity in heading forth into the unknown carrying ‘a teaspoon and an open mind’, that is free of dogma and leaves you believing that even the sky doesn’t need to be the limit. We’re all fantastic in our own ways and so is the human race. Right down to whoever it was that invented edible ball bearings for cakes.

3.     Because SCIENCE, bitches!

The Doctor is clever. I mean really clever. Properly clever. And he just loves exercising that grey matter. He’s a scientist, a professor, an historian, an engineer. He wears glasses. Forget hipsters, the Doctor has been rocking geek chic since before most of Shoreditch was born. Here is a role model for swots everywhere – you don’t have to be good at sport (except, arguably, cricket) and you don’t have to hide your books on astronomy from the cool kids, because The Doctor makes it cool to know things! Way back in the 60’s, a generation of schoolchildren were checking books out of the library on Roman Centurions because they wanted to know more about where the Doctor had been. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London saw a surge in visitor numbers when an episode was set there in 2007. A role model who encourages kids to learn about the world rather than shoot chunks out of it with Uzis – that’s a powerful and glorious thing.

Some incarnations have even been rather fanciable – imagine that! A sex symbol that can calculate quantum mechanics! Beat you to it, Professor Brian Cox.

Because licking things is also Science.

4.       It’s just so damn BRITISH.

There’s something beautifully British about Doctor Who. Yes, there’s the police box, the Brigadier, the eccentric clothing, but what makes it so completely recognisable as coming from these rainy islands is its sense of humour. Moments of pomposity are punctured with self-deprecation – in the 50th anniversary episode a spectacular Reservoir Dogs –style entrance of the three Doctors is deflated by a ‘sorry for the showing off’ put down. The Doctor can laugh at himself – sometimes literally, as in John Hurt’s relentless piss-taking of his successors in the same episode ("They’re not sand shoes!") .This is a character who can save the world in his pyjamas, with a satsuma, while quoting from the Lion King. After being revived from near-death by a cup of tea.  A programme that will devote a chunk of precious airtime to putting Tom Baker in a Pythonesque Viking costume just to get a laugh before sending him back into the TARDIS to change. A show that can include the line “Don’t say that, that’s like saying ‘this is going to be the best Christmas Walford’s ever had’” without worrying about whether it will translate on BBC America.
The omission of Doctor Who from the opening ceremony of the London Olympics caused ructions that could be measured on the Richter scale, because it’s as much a part of our national identity as James Bond, tea and scones or the Last Night Of The Proms. And I love it for that.

Very Arthur Dent.

5.       Bernard Cribbins.
       I'm just leaving that one there.
No explanation necessary.

    And, if you're still unconvinced, here's bonus number six:

6. Because any show that can inspire this sort of shenanigans at a wrap party is one that deserves to last another 50 years.

   Happy 50th Birthday, Doctor. We love you, no matter what face you wear.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Creatures of the Night - A Short Story

With apologies for the dreadful teenage schoolgirl quality of the writing. This was in my head and wanted out and there was nowhere else to put it.

Names changed to protect the guilty.....


Ben sat on the steps of a London house, sheltered in the doorway.  A cool breeze scampered past, trailing familiar night-time smells of chicken bones, cigarettes and the faint far-off whiff of a fox doing its rounds of the neighbourhood dustbins.

His steady gaze took in the darkened street. The blue glow of televisions seeped beneath curtains, the steady thump-thump of some generic r-and-b track escaped through the open upstairs window of a teenager sent to bed hours ago, and the hissed tones of a one-sided doorstep argument on a mobile phone momentarily caught Ben’s attention before melting back once more into the general white-noise of the city.

He stood and stretched, feeling the hard ground cold beneath his bare feet. He had spent countless nights this way. He was as much a part of this secret moonlit life as the fox, the insomniacs and the rat that his eyes now fell upon, its tail slipping behind the rubbish bag as it scuttled by in search of tasty scraps.

Slowly, silently, Ben stretched one long leg in front of another and made his way down the steps. Despite his scruffy outward appearance, he had the natural lithe grace of a dancer, and his soft tread made no sound as he crept towards the rodent’s dark hideaway. His senses were taut as piano wire, the level intensity of his eyes such that his head barely moved on his shoulders as he rounded the corner. 


With half of its small body buried in an empty tin, the rat's twitching rear end made an oblivious target to Ben’s experienced hunter’s eye.  No flicker of doubt played across Ben’s face. Not the slightest whimper of conscience. He was hungry. It had been an impossibly long time since he last ate. Perhaps this unfortunate creature was an unorthodox meal, but what might incite horror in others was an everyday truth for one with such constant, gnawing need as Ben. 

In a flash of fur and blood, the rat was his. Clamping his jaw on the neck of the struggling critter, Ben felt bones crack and crunch beneath his teeth. A moment later, a last desperate convulsion, and the creature hung, limp, from his grasp.

Ben turned and carried his prize back up the steps. He sat, calmly licked a trickle of warm blood from his lips, and turned his cold stare back upon the street. Satisfied that nobody had witnessed his crime, he began to gorge on his unwholesome dinner.

He heard a soft noise behind him. Jealously guarding his food, Ben risked a glace over his shoulder. It was his sister, another creature of the night like himself.

She sniffed the death in the air, registered his kill and settled herself a respectful distance from him, her beautiful amber eyes quietly surveying the street as his had done only minutes before.  With her willowy frame and copper-coloured hair she was able to twist others to her will, but Ben gave no quarter to her beguiling powers. She was family, but they had not spoken in years.

Her presence diminished Ben’s pleasure in his meal. Taking hold of the rat once more, he lifted its mauled corpse and strode past his sister. He would enjoy this kill alone, indoors.  A small ‘click’ sounded as the magnet on his collar activated the catflap.

With the rat in his mouth and blood on his furry white paws, Ben headed for the bedroom. Perhaps The Staff would appreciate his trophy.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Time management skills

I have recently been taking a bit of a self-enforced sabbatical from my creative endeavours to sort out the bit of my life that actually brings in the cash - the boring, day job side. I recently read an article which said that, when self-employed, it is important to take a good look at your time management. It suggested drawing a chart of how you divide your working day. This seemed like an eminently brilliant bit of procrastination, so instead of doing work I made this:

This is a very simplified version, of course. I actually do much more. Like drinking tea.
They were right. I now see where I'm going wrong. From now on, I'm going to cut right down on the baby sloth videos. Sorted.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

In which Significant Otter and I try to sort out my exercise regime

Me: Now I'm working at home I'm not cycling to work anymore and it's making me fat and lazy. I think I might have to join a gym or something awful.

SO: What gym are you going to join?

Me: I have no idea. I don't even know where there are any. Or what happens at them. I thought of maybe doing 'spinning' lessons, but then I discovered that it's not just aeroplaning around a big room with your arms out until you fall over. It's just a fancy word for exercise bikes.

SO: And they stick your feet to the pedals so you can't stop.

Me: WHAT??? F**k that. That sounds awful. Plus I can't do classes. I'd have to speak to strangers - sweaty ones - and they might even want to have coffee afterwards or something and you know I'm not great at interacting with other people on my own and not freaking them out.

SO: True. What about jogging round the common?

Me: Jogging's boring. Plus I have bad knees. Probably.

SO: Cycle to Sainsbury's instead of taking the car?

Me: Are you kidding? There's a massive hill on the way back. It'd be knackering.

SO: So you wouldn't have to do it as often.

Me: Yeah, but every time I did do it I'd have to stop for a little cry at the top. And I could only carry, like, one apple back from the shop at a time. Not that I buy apples. But I would have to if I was fit.

SO: Swimming?

Me: I'm really bad at it. And people tut at you if you want to do widths because you get scared doing lengths when you get to the deep end and can't put your feet down. Plus I always want chips afterwards because swimming makes me really hungry. I think a gym might be the only way. Gym machines are kind of like computer games but with physical stuff, right? Like Wii Fit?

SO [losing the will to live]: Yes. Yes that's just what it's like. Shall we just get you Wii Fit?

Me: That is a brilliant idea. Except I can't do any of the really energetic stuff because we have downstairs neighbours.

SO: You could do them in the day while they're out.

Me: They're in all day. I know that now, because they keep saying hello to me in the garden. I can't go in the garden now in case I see them and I have to make small talk. I wait for them to go out before I go to put the laundry on the line.

SO: I think the exercise is the least of your problems.

Friday, 21 June 2013

I'm a lonely soldier. But I like it.

I am writing this from my bedroom. I am not in bed - in fact, I am up and cleaned and dressed despite it being barely noon. But I am sitting in here to write because the rest of the house is so hideously messy and cat-hairy and in need of housework that if I go out there I will never get anything done due to the sheer, paralysing, deer-in-headlights horror of the Clean All The Things list. I won't actually clean anything, either. I'll make tea, or come across an important magazine article that needs reading, or play with the cat because it looks lonely (translation: "Wake UP, Doug. Play with me. Please?"). Only the other day I ended up doing my tax return in a supreme bout of championship-level procrastination whereby it somehow became a better option than whatever small, less complicated task I was supposed to be doing.

Procrastination and housework avoidance are just one a few of the issues I have come up against since becoming a full-time work-at-home person a month ago. Due to a very amicable redundancy, I switched from going to an office to sit at a desk (procrastinating), every day to being self-employed, doing much the same work, sitting on a cat-filled sofa (procrastinating), every day. And I have to say, on the whole, I'm enjoying it. I find that I actually get more work done in less time, as I'm more painfully aware of the tasks I need to complete every day. And while I do procrastinate wildly, I do eventually Get Shit Done, partly because I feel like I need to justify my time and prove that I'm not just stroking kittens (I am), drinking tea (I am), and wearing pyjamas (usually).

I find myself trying to fit more into every day because I'm not constrained by the 9-5. Popping out for a loaf of bread becomes a trip to Sainsbury's followed by Ikea followed by oh I might as well stop for some cake followed by Hobbycraft followed by oh well it's not that far to that nice fabric shop in Tooting I might as well do everything at once seeing as I'm oh dear it's 6pm and I haven't actually done anything of any worth. And I will have invariably forgotten the bread.

Internet social networking, which was once a horrible, dreadful time-sucking vortex of pointlessness, becomes a veritable boon for the home-worker. Deprived of water cooler moments in the office (we never actually had a water cooler. Who does, really?), my social interaction is reduced to 140 character tweets about how many cups of tea I've had or long, entertaining conversations on Facebook with fellow procrastinators about how we really should get off the internet and do some work. The world of craft is fantastic for this - Facebook is populated by dichotomous agoraphobic socialites working away on their solitary artistic pursuits, stopping to post a picture of a tangled bobbin, a cat eating their knitting, or an anecdote about the post office queue (a rare outing and one which often necessitates the first Outdoor Clothes of the day).

Then there are the more complicated issues of fending for oneself all day, alone. No longer able to run across the road for an Americano, this week I had to learn how to use the coffee grinder, something which is normally the task of the Significant Otter. This occured:

Not pictured: floor. With coffee.

Honestly, I feel like Bear Grylls in the wilderness. Only I'm not drinking my own pee. Yet.

Friday, 24 May 2013


The national press may have gone quiet on the Badgerocalypse front but they have missed out on today's important development - we now have an artists impression of the attack of the 50ft badgerzilla from hell which may or may not also be a zombie:

Thanks to our artist-on-the-scene Little Black Heart for this hard-hitting reportage. We can only imagine the atrocities she must have witnessed in the pursuit of the truth.

You can see more of Little Black Heart's awesome work here and follow her on Facebook here

Don't have nightmares, now.