Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Poetry Interlude, may become a Thing...

I'm under the impression I don't much like poetry - witness this post here.  (This is partially the fault of Alias Troubadour, for writing lots of very clever clever poetry that was not, I think meant to communicate and share, as much as be a stimulating mental puzzle, which is another thing entirely; I'm not big on crosswords either - so I was under a false impression as to what poetry was in his hands.  As ...themselves, they were all what he wanted them to be, and lots of people enjoyed them very much.  Of course, the ones of his I always loved best were the ones I understood - hate to feel stupid! - the love poems.)

Then again, sometimes I am slapped in the face by a poem, like this one here, which I had to post up, speaking to the wildness inside.  And this one, remember this one, quite recently, speaking to peace??
This happened again today, and its so good I am putting it below.  I quite forgot I love Pablo Neruda.  I have been Buddisting and Quakering it a lot recently (yes, they are now words) due to stress and attempts to manage it.  I have yet again come to realise some of the best communications humans manage is when they are not talking, not trying so hard.  Turns out Depeche Mode had it right all along; and, interestingly, it is the Official Stanley and Wendy Song from right at the beginning (I'll put that at the bottom, to perversely follow Neruda!).

"Keeping Quiet" by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

—from Extravagaria (translated by Alastair Reid, pp. 27-29, 1974)

Monday, 22 February 2016

Snapshot Observations: Sleepers in the Underpass

Crossing in the subway, near Hyde Park about a week and a half ago.  Coming across the oddly intense private moment of a man and woman sleeping wrapped tight in each others arms, partially covered with a dirty green sleeping bag, partially with damp cardboard boxes.  Just at the side in the middle of the distance between one exit and the other.

The rough glaring strip lighting, the harsh blue white tiles smeared with some kind of grease on the walls.  Sandy coloured stones, granite flecked floor, smelling strongly of wine and urine.  Wet all along the edges of each side, small tunnel drains cut next to the wall, filled with grey murky water, bits of black in it.  Hair, fluff, something else.

There they were, hair matted together and greasy, arms tightly round each other, faces to the artificial and unflattering light, covered in a layer of sleep sweat as if they'd been asleep for many hours while people went past.

I did stop for a moment, because I thought they might be dead.  But when I saw them breathing and my own heart started up again with a big turn, I just watched them for a moment.  Out in the open with no walls to hide their unconscious and so private intimacy.  Faces slack and trusting.  It was as if every single person going through was intruding.

I wondered what they'd wake up to.  I wondered how they'd got there, long term or short term, together or seperately.  I wondered if they had fallen downward through life to meet, or together, or at different rates.  Whether they were old friends or new.  Whether they were drugged or just so exhausted.  Some of the people coming through the tunnel were talking so loud it seemed like they might be drugged.    Clip cloppy shoes.  Noisy lorries overhead.  Not even REM eyes, so still, just breathing.

And I thought - I feel like a voyeur.  I can't use them in a story, I can't work with this for my own ends.  I'll get clouded by pity at their circumstance or judgement at sad 'choices' (that I am purely imagining with no knowledge); or anger at the NON-choices, that led them here.  Me writing about them in any more depth will be nothing but a political pamphlet or an exploutation of them to make some sort of point.

Maybe at some point I could do the sleeping couple justice.  But for now I can only record them.

That is when I saw several grey black mice running over their still feet and through the sleeping bags, around them.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Copacetic - is and isn't

I learned this rather excellent new word at work, 2 weeks ago.  I shall explain it presently.

Firstly, an observation that has surprised me a bit:  I don't seem to have any actual friends at work and I've been there 3 and a half months now.  I know I make much cake and three course dinner of how grumpy and miserable I am/can be as a person, but I'm also friendly, hopefully disarmingly/ amusingly upfront, and approachable. (These are things I have been told, not just trumpeting.)   I can be good company.  I can make eye contact without being creepy (I am told!).  I've always found it easy to be social one on one, whilst more or less hating social situations (as they are contrived and therefore painful - I'm not sure if I am imagining spontaneous and freeflowing as better...).

At work, whilst I am incapable of 'work face', or front, I can definately present a certain part of myself predominently: the friendly, helpful, efficient part.  So, anyway, been doing that.  And paying attention to the way people act in this environment.  Which is to say friendly, much biscuit providing, and amongst people who have known each other a while, lots of joking and bantering.  Yet, while I'm there, though I do my best to blend whilst allowing me to be me (far too troublesome and exhausting to aim to be someone else, or some other idea of myself...its exhausting enough to be genuine while following all the rules of the phone conversations, not scripted as such, but heavily directed).  So.  being me, but not too much so.

And yet.  I get the overwhelming feeling that I am being, for the most part, tolerated.  If I am infront of someone's face, they will talk to me, because it seems to have been decided that I'm basically alright, if a bit obviously angsty...and occasionally manically anxious.  You know, within the confines of my partition.  I definately do make people laugh with my observations when theres less of us together.  But if I wasn't there, I don't think it would matter, I don't think anyone would feel anything was lost.  Sometimes they are joking about, a team consisting mostly of boys (and I do mean boys, not men, mentally), and I'll look up from a call and smile, and ask "what are we laughing about?" and the answer is a further part of a joke they are already having, so it makes them laugh more, but I don't get it.  I'll smile along, and go back to the phone (we're never long off).  Or I'll make a silly jokey comment myself, and sometimes there's a smile, an answering chuckle, a reply, sometimes not.  We're all pretty busy and you never know when the phone will ring, its pretty constant.  But - there's no connection.

Even my supervisor.  I sit right next to her, she's the one I speak to the most, to ask questions.  And she jokes a little.  She too has the sense of humour of someone not totally at ease in the company she's in.  There's a lot of her we don't see.  I reckon privately, in her home life, she flows totally fine.  This is the restraint of someone who knows they are a supervisor and not a foot soldier anymore.  There's a seperation even if you act like there isn't.  Though she does the best job of bridging it of any boss I've ever had: no airs at all, no entitlement whatsoever.  I've only seen her *tell* someone to do something once, and that was delivered more like a mum than a boss.  Because she is genuinely shit hot at her job and has all the knowledge (promoted off the floor), we all genuinely respect her.  She's no idiot promoted beyond her abilities, like so many managers.  She's clever, very slick indeed linguistically - and kindly.  Markedly keen to motivate and not criticise.  And yet.  Its clear she's a friendly approachable supervisor, and not a work friend.

There are definately people in my work place who have friends, and I'm not one of them.  I have put out feelers - the only person I thought really might work out has just left!  Maybe everyone else is a slowburner.  Who knows.  But its been making me feel odd.

Now: that is all NOT copacetic in the slightest, not at all.

Isn't it a brilliant word??  Sounds like maths or Latin or something most definately important.  It means: In Excellent Order.  All working really well.  Not status quo, its way beyond status quo.  It's not neutral, or alright, or pretty good.  It's everything going/ working A1.  I'm unceratin whether it goes as far as Voltaire's Candide with "all being for the best in the best of all possible worlds" - but its close to that.

What definately WAS copacetic was Fluffhead's birthday party not yesterday, but the Saturday before.

I have only ever thrown 2 parties.  Both disasters.  One for friends, where all the many and different groups I mingled with back in college were put together all in one room for the evening, and hung about the edges making what Fry would call 'evils' at each other all evening.  There was this big gap of nothingness in the middle of the room, where people could have been dancing or talking or snacking etc...and weren't.  MORTIFYING.  I had no idea how to get them to mix, and retreated to the kitchen (my usual part strategy anyway).  Then there was the birthday party I threw for Fry when he was just turning 5.

Back in the days when McDonalds parties were all the thing.  I gave out the invites in plenty of time - but on the day only 2 children about of a possible 25 showed.  And Fry was popular, cheery and sweet.  It was awful and strange and I felt dreadful for him...thankfully, he was small enough to simply think I had hired a very big room for him and 2 of his friends to play in, and was oblivious to the scale of the upset.  That was a mercy.  But I felt like a Terrible Bad Mother; it was my fault somehow, and I had done *something* wrong in the process.


Whereas, bearing in mind this degree of stress, I organized Fluffhead's first ever party down to the smallest thing - I even had contingencies for things not working (e.g. if there was a lull after the Bouncy Castle section when the children had gone upstairs to the food room and eaten, if things then went all flat, I had planned games, pass the parcel and musical statues; loads of layers of small gifts wrapped in newspapers...even though this too had stressed me out, as I am certain shops are more mired in the whole girls-pink-dolls and boys-blue-cars, trains, anything active than even when I was small - and what on EARTH are Shopkins anyway????).

I outsourced the venue, got friends and family to help with the food - The Prince produced the World's Best Ever Minions Cake (which disappeared in a very quick three or so minutes feeding frenzy).

I still managed to get in a state of stress on the day, even though I was mellow about it right till the day before - partly cos I had planned it SO far in advance (booked the venue last September); and I was nicely distracted by angsting about work instead.

However, on the day, all children except 2 that were expected came.  Only 1 left early due to injury.  (Yes, kids get injured at parties, all that tearing about and throwing themselves at stuff.)  All the mums were lovely.  The children bounced and ran happily for the Bouncy Castle Hour.  They actually ate the food provided (which is not always the case).  Joyfully, we had too much food, and plenty for the grown ups to eat too (also not always the case).  The things that really ensured the second half of the party went well though, were the Minions Cake (seriously, we had 2 cakes, both chocolate and vegan and exactly the same, except one had the minions icing and one didn't - and one got hoovered and the other *I* finished later)...and the BALLOONS.  A mum friend and I had observed from visiting several other parties, that the number of balloons is really really important.  Have none, or LOADS.  Nothing is more tragic (in this limited context) than a child streaming with tears cos another child nicked their balloon.  Truly.  And helium balloons went down very well with the big children, who could run and pull them after and chase - there was a mad stampede of children racing around the edge of the room with the balloons, which I christened the Balloon Frenzy section of the party, and an absolutely golden sign of a parties success, children happiness wise.  The older ones screamed about insanely pulling them behind; and the younger children ran slower near the edges with regular balloons - meaning they could play catch with them and kick them and biff them - and no balloon would float up to the celing and get lost -  another terrible tragedy to witness (contextually, once again).

I decided long ago that the key to a successful Fluffhead party would be a bouncy castle, plus this sort of balloon insanity.  Here, the Prince stepped in again - a canister of helium, meaning all children could have more than one balloon, and lots of colours to choose.  No arguments.

The facepainter went down really well too, which was a total whimsy on my part - I met her at another party, and my inner child wated MY face painted so I booked her for Fluffhead.  But the queue was so wonderfully long I did not get my wish - as the party reached its end, she was still sitting there, her cake untouched, with a remaining queue of children, even as parents were starting to herd up their children to leave.  The Balloon Frenzy section of the party had ended up so intense and longlasting that it had pushed the cake till right near the end, and made the lull-filling games a non event.  The children ran; the mums ate the ice cream provided for the children who were by now full of cake; and I walked about chatting and smiling manically and being rather overexcited.

Fluffhead fell in love with the fancy candle thing The Prince had bought to go on the cake - a singy - flower petals opening type thing from China, which drove us insane when we got home for the next week, where it intermittently lived in the outhouse so we could have respite from its tinny Happy Birthday notes.  Until its battery died.  Fluffhead fell asleep in mum's car on the way home, smearing his Batman face.  Happy.

THAT WAS COPACETIC.  The whole thing.

Interestingly, the next day I had a terrible migraine and was in a fearful bad mood, whcih persisted for 3 days after that.  I felt shaky, nauseous, ill at ease.  I look back at that afternoon andit definately went well: children happy, mums seemed happy.  I was happy.  Stanley was happy.  Fluffhead was happy - without waking that line of about to be tantramous for more than a few minutes.

That all definately happened.  A definate good day.  And not just in my head, but observably.  All WAS copacetic.

And yet.  It doesn't cancel the memory of Fry's sad non-starter party.  My strange mood the next day, and migraine...I wondered if it was a massive stress/ adrenaline comedown.  I have no idea how long they can last.  Or whether I am (bad-) habitually so used to feeling anxious, uneasy and saddened, that I KNOW I had a perfect time for a short while there, but that I can't quite process it, because it doesn't quite fit in my slightly mournful off kilter vision of the world?  Its not going in the usual folders.

I don't think I have a Copacetic Head Folder.  Or maybe I was just getting a bug.  Which, again, would not be copacetic.

But that room, that day - that definately was.  Few things in my whole life that I remember have gone as unadulteratedly well as that day.  At least I have something to begin my Copacetic Head Folder with...

Monday, 8 February 2016

Doctor Who Books Read and Heard, Part 20! (what a venerable series this is turning out to be...)

This next post was sposed to be a Tom Baker Special.  This isn't quite ready yet, so have a regular Dr Who post, followed quite soon, by a small departure - A Peter Capaldi books post will be next - because I like his Doctor but haven't really liked his era on TV as yet, so thought I'd see if the books so far associated with him were better.  They were.  So that soon to come.  But now - Regular Scheduled Classic Who continues...

 This post: treats from the eras of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 8th , Doctors. 
A note on order.  Target Originals are not read in order of publication (which was all over the place), but in order of each Doctor, and each Doctor is read in order of their stories broadcast on TV.  However, I jump about in terms of which Doctor I read at any given time.  The Virgin New Adventures for Sylvester will be read in order; as will the BBC 8th Doctor series (as though they had been on TV, see?  I’m trying to get an arc flavour).  The BBC Past Doctors series and the Virgin Missing Adventures are simply read in terms of which one I fancy next, as they are stand alone adventures slotting in-between the TV ones.
Oh, and in case you forgot, I’ve taken to recording which books I read that are actual paper copies, and which are Kindle or other electronic.  I’m being social historical for my own benefit. I want to see how long it is before I just plug books straight into my brain, how many years before I’m a reading cyborg.

As always with these rambly reviews: OFTEN LARGE SPOILERS ON ALL BOOKS IMMINENT!!!!

1.    Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep, by Victor Pemberton (Target Original)
(2nd Doctor.  This is a tough one to review.  As one of the semi missing episode stories, its acquired even more of a cult following than it might otherwise have had; with the iconic moments surviving colouring people’s view of how great it must have been as a story: the scary dark teeth and open mouth of Oak and Quill, the screaming!  I did enjoy this: a good, solid story, beautifully of its time in its writing and execution – that is to say, wonderfully mixing up great moments of melodrama with great moments of complete low key understatedness.  Victoria’s exit, for example.  The build up was nicely done, her unease, her increasing quiet stress, her wish to just keep still and stop moving, specially to scary places all the time.  The way Jamie wanted to say more to her but didn’t.  This was all beautifully done, so quietly and without any extra unneedful angst.  It was clear from what was there, needed no further explanation.

It is odd, reading back these comments as I write – I find myself often noting how wonderful it is that the earlier Who books – and it goes for my Bond reading marathon too, similar time period – are not over emotional.  I am a somewhat depressive creature myself, quick to over emote, especially in a sad way, quick to over empathise, or take offence or generally overdo it.  I think it’s for this reason that I appreciate not being soaked in emotions as much of modern TV does.  At the same time – I would never have us return to an era where we, any of us, couldn’t speak or examine our feelings, or discuss or confide, at length if necessary.  I just feel, in modern TV mostly, less so in film and less so in books – that a sort of glorification of the more extreme emotions of allsorts goes on, and makes any of us who feel or crave to more regularly feel, the quieter less see-saw emotions, to be somehow lacking.  I sink easily; I need not to be belaboured!  That is why the emotions in these books – clear as bell though they are, but not enumerated slavishly and adoringly over and over, but quietly and matter of factly, affect me almost moreso than today’s deluging.  It’s possible to feel very strongly, quietly.  No less noble, or more real than a shriek from elsewhere.  Both modes count.  Anyway…I keep saying this sort of thing, so thought I’d better see what I was repeating, before moving on.  There we are.

This is of course, one of the classic base under siege stories, where they are of course accused of sabotage the minute they appear.  I loved the visuals in this story, not just the strange accounts of the frothing of the weed creature, but moments like Jamie being trapped on the table and pulled back into the corridor by the Doctor.

I liked the pacing, the way they lose touch with the rigs one by one, so that the danger gets ever more claustrophobic, not immediately at critical pitch.  I liked the way it was set close to our time but not quite clear when – there were recognisable helicopters described; there were North Sea pipelines…it seemed like it could have nearly been the 60s.

What I did find odd, was the description of the weed creature – it didn’t strike me as furious at all.  Intransigent, ubiquitous, rambunctious, maybe.  But I guess those words make for a ridiculous and uncatchy title?!  The creature was interesting, a sort of symbiotic parasite, a gestalt creature, similar to Quatermass 2.  Its drive to life was its most obvious characteristic.  It wasn’t so much defensive, as expansive – but without menace or character: it just WAS.  The odd thing here is, I found it less believable as a parasite, than say, the Krynoids, later.  Not sure why. 

The one thing I wanted to say that will annoy people, was that I wish Malcolm Hulke could’ve written this – it would have changed the story’s slant a little, added a bit – there would have been a sub-commentary about exposing corporate hypocrisy [via fiery redheaded female characters simply made for this purpose in Pemberton’s writing!].  It doesn’t really need this political or ecological angle, I just felt it would have added to an already good story.  But anyway:  a classic, and I can see why. I felt very sorry for Van Lutyens and Mrs Harris – I was relieved that they returned to their normal selves at the end.  This was  a kindly touch, by Victor Pemberton.  ACTUAL BOOK.)
2.   Doctor Who and The Zarbi [‘The Web Planet’, when on TV], by Bill Strutton (Target Original)
(1st Doctor.  This was one of those genuinely fearsome books that almost derailed my entire marathon!  I had such trouble finishing it.  It was…just my own personal opinion, but as a read for me [and as a watch], this is – just awful.  No pace, bad acting from almost everyone, finding it impossible to care about the fate of anyone much at all.

I really wanted to like this better as a book than as a serial, but it was almost worse.  I was hoping that all that failed in the ambitious ideas of the serial, would be corrected and elaborated on in the book, but it felt just the same.  Very contrived, very stilted, very of its time in its morals and dilemmas, and very unstimulating altogether.  Which is annoying, as so many alien creatures all in one story, with their politics and layers of intrigue could have been so good.  The antlike Zarbi, controlled unseen by the Animus; the Menoptera, woolly bee like moths [who annoyed me more than any of the other creatures, no sure why – maybe it was just a hangover of being unable to forget the TV realisation of them with their strangely ineffectually waving arms and sibilant dialogue…I couldn’t seem to see them differently in my mind].  And the Optera, the little underground grubs that were stereotypes of Mexican bandits in speech, that seemed something of an afterthought, and more to give Barbara something to do.

The usual plot device of separating everyone just felt hugely obvious here; and the very uneven and episodic nature of the story just didn’t work as well as it did in something like Keys of Marinus, where very separate stories sat next to each other but seemed happy to do so.  The book felt opaque.  I didn’t know where it was going [and on TV this persisted till episode 4 or so], and I kept wandering off to read other things, as I wasn’t really held at all.  Not even Ian and Barbara could save it for me, which is most unusual, they being among my favourite companions!

I often have disagreements with friends about Hartnell’s acting and the consistency [or not] of his portrayal of the Doctor.  I like Hartnell’s portrayal and its inconsistencies very much.  But even he annoys me in this story, what with his secretiveness about the ring and its use as a power source, it seemed unnecessary and childish. Not to mention that he and Vicki are mostly irrelevant here anyway, being mostly shut in a room, and making the useful discovery that the Zarbi are afraid of spiders.  Oh dear.  I just didn’t enjoy this.  We’ll leave it there!  Except to say…this might work well as an animation?  It would overcome any technical problems, and the oddness of the story would seem less so I think, in a drawn world.  ACTUAL BOOK.)
3.  Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice, by Stephen Baxter
2nd Doctor, with Jamie and Zoe. To begin with I was a bit irritated by the Scots robot, who was not adhering enough to what my idea of a robot should be; but by the end of the book I was quite won over by the character and was no longer seeing him as a robot as such, and the reasons why are well explained. 

This is a quite a showcase adventure for Jamie, who spends most of the novel separated from the others, and helping a renegade band of teens escape from servitude and from a rebel colony, while the Doctor and Zoe try to unravel the motivations of a mysterious lifeform called The Blue Dolls.

This is a typical base under siege scenario for Troughton, and fits in well with that part of his era.  It took me a while to get into, but once I did, it was very well characterised, both the main 3, and the subsidiaries; though this novel was mostly about Jamie and Zoe – and not in the annoying way of New Who, where the Doctor semi gets lost, simply that they get a good amount of ‘screen time’, and their characters are more well rounded by the end – Zoe has a very sweet scene where she is talking to a small child and has to calm her from fear and stop being so logical, it’s a telling scene; and Jamie manages to rise to his role as sudden protector for a bunch of teens not that much younger than himself in a very satisfying way.  The Doctor shows his kindness and wisdom here, always curious, always trying for peace.  Enjoyable.  ON KINDLE.)
4.   Doctor Who: The Scarlet Empress, by Paul Magrs (BBC 8th Doctor series)
(Took me ages reading this to realise I was reading a proper 18th century style picaresque novel, in the style of Voltaire’s Candide, for example.  It was all about the journey, the travelling – think Lawrence Sterne, the rambling, the sudden intense detail, whether any of it proves relevant or whether it’s just there for its own account, because it was fun to write and the author hopes you’ll agree when reading.  This was a long and very rambly fairy tale with no particular moral.  A huge cast of unlikely characters – old lady empresses in jars; a bearded lady with an army of bears; alligator men slowly changing back to their original form; glass spiders merging with other creatures. 

And of course, the advent of Iris Wildthyme, the female Timelord, who goes around the universe having almost exactly the same adventures as the Doctor, only slightly different [at one point she describes the entire 5 Doctors Anniversary Story, but with notable small changes] – it’s as if she’s the Doctor in another dimension, next door.  It’s impossible to tell if her stories are true, though it seems like they aren’t, though why she would make them up when she must have her own adventures is a strange matter too.  As is the Doctor not being too cross with her about it.  Her TARDIS is a red 22 bus, with a Putney destination.  It too seems stuck in its current form.

Once I flowed with this story and stopped waiting for the point [which did not arrive], all was baroque, slightly surreal and quite dandy.  I started to really look forward to whatever odd thing would nonsensically happen next before I went to sleep at night.  Just had to put my expectations of a coherent beginning, middle and end to one side.  That done: very enjoyable book.  Lastly: could see the author had massive fun writing this, very playful indeed.  Will keep an eye on his offerings.  ACTUAL BOOK.)
5.   Doctor Who: The Janus Conjunction, by Trevor Baxendale (BBC 8th Doctor series)
(Very good indeed.  Now here was what you want when you are after a coherent beginning, middle and end!  This story had echoes of Apocalypse Now, with Zemler hiding in the shadows being a quietly mad, insane military recluse.  The story also had quite lovely visual echoes of Ambassadors of Death with fully space-suited astronaut men, who dared not take off their helmets or their peeling radioactive skin will just dissolve and they will die.  Overall, this was a very visual story, I could picture everything described very clearly, and emotionally.  I felt attached to all the characters.  Zemler’s men in particular, knowing they will die soon, and slowly melting, basically [their cells not holding together anymore] – leaving wet footprints of skin, eyes gradually exposed to the bone, skin sliding down faces: this was quietly quite a horrifying picture, described matter of factly.  The amount of pain associated with such a death…I spent a lot of time making faces at the book.  And yet, for all this, it wasn’t depressing, it was riveting.  Lunder, Julya, the other Menden characters, determined to defend their planet – the whole story felt very human and made much sense.

There is however, a very interesting thing that happens in this story.  We can blame subsequent events in new Who on this story here, I think.  Sam actually dies.  Remember how some points are sposed to be immutable, and people dying are usually one of them?  The Doctor sternly says ‘no we can’t go back and save so and so that’s not how it works’?  Remember?  Well, in this story, he merely remarks that’s “it’s frowned upon” and promptly goes back in time to save Sam before her horrific and very sad death of peeling skin radiation sickness.  And it’s all very quiet and that’s that.  Major continuity hurdle.  I wonder if it will have consequences in later 8th Doctor stories?  It had better do, because though I was quite pleased when he brought her back – I quite like how her character has grown and developed, the whole point of the time travelling and the TARDIS as imagined since the start has appeared to be that saving people from dying when they definitely already did, is not done.  Otherwise it’s a magic wand, and you’d have no real stories to tell anymore.  It would be backwards and backwards forever, a queasy paranoid journey to endlessly stop things from happening.  So this action has to have consequences, or…I’ll be frowning and thinking this was major cheating.  No wonder no one can stay dead in new Who…Anyway, I enjoyed the story of the dark eclipsed world of Janus, and its poor spider inhabitants.  Well recommended.  ACTUAL BOOK.)
6.   Doctor Who: Salt of the Earth, by Trudi Canavan (Time Trips Short Story series)
(3rd Doctor and Jo.  Set in Australia in about 200 years from now.  There’s ‘bad salt’ that does bad things to people and animals; a crashed spaceship that gets nanobots into Jo, who is infected with the salt.  She manages to avert disaster, stopping the creation of anymore salt statues, by a sort of mental equivalent of ‘reverse the polarity’ suggested by the Doctor.  It’s a good example of a story showing the Doctor and companion being needful of each other, neither one totally to the fore, changing about, and both necessary.  I had doubts about this to begin with, mostly because it started off by focalising a dog and I wanted a person, but I became quite attached the dog and he had his part in the story too…ON KINDLE.)
7.   Doctor Who: Loneliness of the Long Distance Time Traveller, by Joanne Harris (Time Trips short story series)
(3rd Doctor.  A perfect little English village.  Too perfect and too much a figment of a child’s fantasy.  That’s where Jon Pertwee finds himself when he’s trying to get back from Metabelis 3, and as he is dying.  This is what happens on the way back.  Characters out of Happy Families, with people as functions: a milkman, a grocer, a policeman, a baker.  No one can leave, and everyone must be HAPPY at all times, in an orderly way.  Safety and predictability are slowly killing the people trapped in the village.  If you rebel, the toys come and get you, and they have teeth.  This is a strange and very sad little story, full of quotes from Goethe.  About sadness, loss and the death of child, slowly.  I was quite snuffly by the end of it.  The child is given a greater extension of life, momentarily, in the end, by joining briefly with the TARDIS and being in effect told many stories of the Doctor’s adventures, all at once.  Instead of being cheated of her small life; it’s as if she borrowed many more lives, in her mind.  This is odd, quick, very sad and memorable.  ON KINDLE.)