Friday 8 December 2023

We was getting nowhere

For the first time in a long time, I watched a Doctor Who episode twice.  I used to do this regularly on writer Stephen Moffat's episodes; in fact it usually took at least three watches for me to figure out his plots.  I'm a bear of little brain.

For "Wild Blue Yonder", the second of Russell T Davies' bridging episodes leading up to the intro of the next Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa (whose Rwandan first name is pronounced something like "Shooty" - he's another sexy Scot), the plot is easy enough for me to follow, but I had to go back to check a particular moment.

If you haven't seen the episode and want to avoid spoilers, stop reading.  (But I'm really pleased you're here!)

"Wild Blue Yonder" reminds me strongly of "Midnight", a Tennant episode from his third season,  In WBY, there are also formless malevolent beings who are using enfleshed beings to manifest themselves and take over - in this case, the Doctor and Donna, who have crash-landed on a marooned space-ship hovering in nothingness on the edge of nowhere, due to an accident involving coffee.

As promised, the special was scary, and provided a nice illustration of the advanced acting skills of Tennant and Tate.  Predictably, the Resident Fan Boy was particularly impressed with Catherine Tate's performance, while I admired Tennant's dramatic acrobatics.  Years ago, he switched seamlessly between the frenetic Doctor and the repressed John Smith in "Human Nature/Family of Blood" (my very favourite DW episode).  Here, he transformed himself by adopting the empty-eyed black stare of a predator. Brrrrrr.

Next episode is predicted to be one of Russell T Davies' world-gone-ape**** extravanganzas.  I tend to not quite like those.  We'll see.

When watching the previous Doctor Who special episode "Star Beast", I was startled to hear Donna declare that her grandfather Wilf was alive and well, because I knew Bernard Cribbins had died in the summer of 2022. In fact, I'd screen-saved this rather wonderful re-imagining of the Sergeant Pepper album cover, illustrating Cribbins' career, which went so far beyond Doctor Who:

And then (this is another spoiler - you've been warned), "Wild Blue Yonder" drew to a close, and there was Wilfred Mott, in his wheelchair.  It was the only scene Bernard Cribbins managed to film, a few weeks before he died at age 93.

Which left me with this earworm (composer Ted Dicks and lyricist Myles Rudge).  I've had worse.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Furby or not Furby

Iphis texted me this week.

Have you seen the new episode of Doctor Who!!

Had I seen the new episode -- who does he think I am? (Okay, let's not go there...) I cheerfully replied that I had seen it at the earliest opportunity.  I hadn't planned to, but the Resident Fan Boy had tuned in to  Disney Plus at the moment of release, and I just happened to return from the coffee shop at the same instant.  I sat down to watch a few minutes, and, of course, ended up watching the whole thing, and was late for Demeter's breakfast call.  It was David Tennant, after all, narrower than ever, and now with a deeply lined brow.

Iphis was, I suspect, especially excited about Russell T Davies' carefully inclusive story.  (If you haven't seen the "Star Beast", and wish to be surprised, you might want to stop reading about here - and I thank you for reading at all.)

"Star Beast"'s plot turns upon a number of circumstances, one being the fact that an important security office uses a wheelchair, and a major one being the gender identification of Donna's daughter Rose.  It's the inclusivity that, no doubt, thrilled Iphis and, undoubtedly, irritated and infuriated a certain cohort of Whovians. They're just going to have to suck it up, as I'm sure this is how Russell T Davies intends to continue.  

I understand this week's episode (which begins in less than an hour, as I type this) is supposed to be very scary and not particularly child-friendly, and the finale of this David Tennant three-parter will be over-the-top crazy, which is usually where RTD leaves me behind.

"Star Beast", with all its modern sensibilities, is a bit of the gentler, family-friendly outing, and even features a Furby-like creature called The Meep.  Sounds precious, doesn't it?  (You know you're in trouble if a creature is voiced by the not-at-all reassuring Miriam Margolyes.). The plot reminds me strongly of "Smith and Jones" from Tennant's second season as The Doctor.  You've been warned.

I plan to head out to Demeter before this morning's first broadcast of the apparently terrifying next Doctor/Donna outing - mainly so she gets breakfast, rather than brunch, but also so my hands don't shake the tray.

Friday 1 December 2023

"He didn't carpet-bomb Cambodia"

Shane MacGowan and Henry Kissinger had pretty well nothing in common, except for dying within twenty-four hours of each other.

Because I'm a Canadian, and therefore blocked from news organizations on social media, I learned about the demise of MacGowan from actor Christopher Eccleston, who posted his picture on Instagram.  My heart sank, because I was rather a Pogues fan.  (I was rather surprised to hear that Henry Kissinger wasn't dead already, to tell you the truth; he was 100 years old, after all.)

Someone on Twitter - I continue to refuse to refer to it by its rather Teutonic rebranding - was nonplussed, not that either of the men had died, but that MacGowan had received rather more coverage and longer articles.  The wags were quick on their keyboards: "He wrote better songs."

One of them, and my personal favourite, is "Haunted" which was first recorded in 1986 with Cait O'Riordan.  Some years after getting kicked out of the Pogues for his legendary benders, MacGowan re-recorded the song with his friend Sinéad O'Connor (who later would report him to the police when she witnessed his taking heroin, but they were still friends when O'Connor died earlier this year.) 

You were so cool, you could have put out Vietnam.

Another tenuous link to Henry Kissinger?  (Nah.)

Saturday 25 November 2023

Squirming squirrel


An unfamiliar movement caught the corner of my eye, as I sat in the living room, doing something else. It took a moment to realize that it was a black squirrel squirming through the dead leaves in the concrete well that constitutes our "patio". It moved on its belly in an odd serpentine pattern, and I noticed that one one of its legs was injured.

I called the Resident Fan Boy, as I watched in growing horror and despair.  The creature was attempting to leap out over the wall, which is roughly thigh-high (for us humans) at one end and knee high at the other.  

The RFB and I consulted the internet and discovered, that for injured squirrels in our province, the institution to call is the BC Animal Helpline (1-855-622-7722).  There was also a suggestion to line a cardboard box with old towels.

"We don't have a box," declared the RFB, who had left a message on the helpline.  (It was the weekend -- of course.) Without a word,  I marched down to our condo building's recycling room, found a flattened small container, reassembled it, and returned, where the RFB was on the phone with someone who had evidently called him back.

They wanted a video, so we scribbled down the email address.  By this time, the squirrel had retreated to a corner by the lower wall, a curled-up fluffy mass of defeat and exhaustion.

I opened the sliding window, and stepped out, closing the screen quickly behind me, although our cat was napping and missing the entire show, which he would have found engrossing.

"The tail is covering the head," I called to my husband.  "They'll want more action than this."

"They suggested scaring him."

"Isn't he terrified enough?"

I took a couple of steps forwards, my phone in video mode.

In a flash, the squirrel sprang over the lip of the wall, and, still moving on his belly, disappeared over the garden soil, farther and faster than I would have thought possible, out of reach and out of our responsibility.

I wondered if he would be able to climb, or whether a predator would get him.

Squirrels die every day, of course.  We just don't witness it.  I was relieved to not have to watch.

The RFB called the helpline to update them.  I suppose we should donate...

Sunday 22 October 2023

Piecrust promise

Double Leo Sister and Jolly Not-So-Green Giant Brother-in-Law had descended into Victoria from their up-Island home to have an early Thanksgiving dinner with us the Friday before the long weekend, using up the last of the piecrusts I'd stashed in the freezer.  

On the Sunday, I had a lovely block of "alone time" while the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter went out for lunch.  It was then that I discovered that I was out of shortening, so resigned myself to making all preparations on Monday.  I was in bed when the RFB approached me to quietly ask if I were making pies at all.  Apparently, younger daughter had observed my lack of preparation, and had made an equally quiet and anxious inquiry.

Younger daughter lives somewhere on the autism spectrum, which despite the rainbow-like terminology, is a very concrete and literal place.  Holidays must be made manifest and occur on the appropriate day, which, in our case is the holiday Monday.  (Many Canadian families have the meal on the Sunday, to allow for travel time.)

I, of all people, know the importance of making holidays tangible in our house, so rose early to make the dough and chill it, before heading out to set out Demeter's breakfast.  Home to roll out seven piecrusts: two for the counter, five for the freezer.

After another trip across the street and down the block to pull together Demeter's lunch, I returned to make the filling from pumpkins from last year's Hallowe'en, mashed and waiting in the freezer.

To further realize and cement Thanksgiving, I'd assembled a playlist for daughter's Spotify account, and put it on while I worked, knowing she'd hear it from her bedroom.

A Disney version of "Turkey in the Straw" drew her out, and I explained what I'd done.  She seemed chuffed. (Other tracks included:  "Thank You Girl" (Beatles), "What a Wonderful World" (Louis Armstrong),  "Eat It" (Weird Al), "All Good Gifts" (London cast of Godspell), "Get Happy" (Judy Garland), "Happy" (Pharrell Williams), "Food, Glorious Food" (original cast of Oliver!), etc.

We eventually sat down to a simple supper (attended by Demeter, of course) with our traditional sides of Caesar Salad and garlic bread, followed by pie, glorious pie.  And younger daughter was relaxed and happy - even chatty, by her standards.

It's important to keep piecrust promises -- perhaps because they're so easy to break.

Monday 16 October 2023

Fingernail shadows

A tsunami of sickles on a street near us
The first partial solar eclipse that I remember occurred on a warm summer afternoon years ago.  Our neighbours in our Edmonton neighbourhood had a small rectangle of smoked glass, and about half a dozen children took turns peering at the strange image of a black circle biting into a bright orange one.  (Not a recommended medium today!)

It was the only indication that anything was different about the afternoon.  The sun continued to shine brightly -- except that I noticed the shadows made the sidewalk appear to be paved with cloudy cobblestones.

It wasn't until I was a parent myself, on a bitterly cold and cloudless Christmas Day, my first in Hades, that I realized what I had been seeing hadn't been a childish fancy.  The midday light reflected through the latticework of our porch on to the pitiless smooth snow, a strange cluster of half-discs. 

Not long before we finally escaped from Hades, another partial eclipse swung by us on a summer's afternoon.  I tried a colander, to no avail,  but wandered to the front of our house, where tiny crescents were scattered amid the shadows of the leaves on our front walk.

So, on Saturday,  I set the timer on my phone, and wandered home from the coffee shop, scanning the ground for sickles. About two minutes before the eclipse was scheduled, I spotted what I was seeking in the centre of a quiet street, and frantically gestured to an older lady strolling up the sidewalk.  She told me, in an accent faintly tinged with Eastern Europe, that a neighbour from her building had already shown her the view through a "screen" - I didn't dare ask - and that it was "once in a lifetime" for her; she'd never seen an eclipse.

Next, a family with two young boys meandered by, but the kids were too young to be impressed, and their parents, though polite, were reserved, when I pointed out the odd shadows on the grass. 

Undaunted, I headed back home, following a trail of sun-bows, and, ahead of me, a young woman was holding up her camera to the sun.  A friend had just alerted her to the event via text.  I pointed to the shadows behind her, and she exclaimed in astonishment, and starting snapping pictures.

Stopping at the path leading to the entrance of our building, I used my phone as well - to phone the Resident Fan Boy, telling him only to "come out --- now".

By this time, a matter of less than ten minutes, the fingernails were rapidly thickening into something less delicate, more ordinary.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Pescatorean precipitation

Even in our charmed corner of the world, the erratic shifts in the rhythm of the year's weather rock us and scar us.

I walk down Chester Street, where the ancient plane trees arch in knobbly nobility.  This summer, the sidewalks and neighbouring verges are littered with scraps of bark, roughly the size of business envelopes.  Occasionally, I'm witness to the plummeting of some of them, clipping the pavement, and - so far - not my head.  It's probably only a matter of time.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a stranger sight at my feet: about half a dozen tiny iridescent blue fish scattered across the concrete.  It was a hot Sunday morning, and the flies were already arriving.  I carefully picked my way between them, wondering where on earth they'd come from.

The Resident Fan Boy, on his way to church earlier, had witnessed the fish-fall.  He told me he heard a splatter, and caught sight of something falling from a cherry tree.  He thought for a fleeting moment that a bird had had stomach trouble - then he saw the fish, and nothing else.

They festered for a day or so, getting stomped and crushed, while attracting more insect life.  I found other ways to cross and walk, until a thundering hailstorm scrubbed the sidewalk clean -- while setting off several more wildfires up-Island.

I'm praying for a less biblical September.

Monday 11 September 2023

Wild horses

On the morning of the Resident Fan Boy's birthday, I pack away my journals after taking my coffee cup to the baristas' sink.  I swing my packsack on to my back and step out into the shade of the coffee shop patio.  The early September morning is cool, but the sunshine bounces off the trees and buildings across the street on to the naked body of a tall, thin young man, prancing and rearing like a mustang as two police officers attempt to handcuff his hands behind his back.

It is an arresting scene, in every sense of the word, surreal and silent, except for the sound of his bare feet beating against the side walk, as he jogs on the spot, tossing his shaved head.  I hear his expelled breath each time he falls to his side in vain resistance.  His forearm is bleeding.

Not one person behind me speaks.  They sit transfixed at the patio tables with their untouched lattes.  I am also rooted to the spot, not knowing where to look, my way blocked.

The officers get him as far as their car, parked in the middle of the north-bound lane;  he's dropped down on his side again, and I hurry down the block to pick up a prescription for Demeter.  The lights on the squad car flash red and blue behind me, and I pass more people, some becoming aware of the drama.

I say nothing about this to the pharmacist, and, making my way back, I see more police vehicles, and about a dozen officers gathered in the decks that the coffee shop erected for more outdoor seating during the pandemic.  The naked man is now in the back seat of the police SUV; someone is leaning to speak to him through the window.

A young woman, who had been further down the sidewalk when I started out, now stands quietly by the curb, gazing intently with the air of one bearing witness.

I continue up the hill, as people appear in shop doorways, murmuring to one another.  There's a corn cob in the centre of the sidewalk, with two of its fronds scattered to the edges.  I pick it up and place it on a bench, not knowing what else to do.

It's not until I get home and sit on my couch, gazing out into the street, that I realize how upset and miserable I feel.

Thursday 3 August 2023

Be careful what you wish for

Sometimes I rise in the morning, make my preparations, and stride out into the morning, emanating energy. 


On those mornings, I cudgel my brains for what I've done differently, and I never have an answer. 

It's on a morning such as this, that I take my accustomed place at the coffee house and tackle my journals and correspondance. (I also fall down social media rabbit holes, but let's not go there right now.) 

Perhaps it's my energetic aura that draws a young woman to stand by my table. 

"May I interrupt you?" she asks, as I look up quizzically from the webs I've been weaving. 

"I want to be like you when I'm older." 

I swallow my befuddlement at this, and manage a grin. 
"Be careful what you wish for!" (Gawd, she has no idea...) 

She says something about being on an eccentric path already.

Great. I'm exuding eccentricity as well.

Monday 1 May 2023

And if you saw him now

It's not like I didn't see this coming.

But on this spring evening, after stumbling across the news, I head towards bed sadly, remembering so many songs.  Many will have their own favourites.  

This one happens to be mine.
The old man has come home from the forest.