Donating Directly

Okay, since several of you generous people wanted to know how to donate directly to the cause, here are the details:

You can either send a cheque to:

Prof. John Hermon Taylor
St George's Hospital Medical School
Jenner Wing
Cranmer Terrace
London ,
SW17 ORE.

Please mark the rear of your cheques " RLB0057 " Payable to: " St George's University Of London ".

Or, if you want to send money to the Paypal account:

http://www.paypal.co.uk account: jhermon@sgul.ac.uk .

All funds go only for the vaccine. Gift Aid Certificates are available.

And thanks again for so getting behind this.

For Sale: A night out with the writers of Doctor Who

Mark Millar, the comics writer, has been holding a series of auctions in aid of the fight to cure Crohn's Disease, a debilitating condition from which he suffers. As part of that effort, me and Steven Moffat have got together to offer the highest bidder in the auction below a night out in London with as many of the current and old Doctor Who writers as we can drag along. Plus, the winner gets a signed 'Father's Day' script.

Here's the auction site:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290002223238

Do go have a look.

A Geek at the World Cup

My geek genes mean I can’t normally get excited about football. West Ham vs. Middlesborough on some winter afternoon bores me perfectly. But I get a kick out of the World Cup. Probably because it’s a summer thing. Summer thing beats sporty thing, like paper wraps stone. In summer, I get all Age of Aquarius, strip to as little as possible, stay up late needing no sleep, and am able to write entire TV shows in two days, with pollen hitting my nervous system like crack. I swear, the sight of a big full moon on a summer night will one day just make me come.

Downstairs neighbours: that’s what the noises were.

So, as Wimbledon is to most of the British public and tennis, so the World Cup is to me and football. I read everything, listen to everything, and have the kind of sudden, amateur, guy in the kung fu movies who’s there to get his head kicked in by the bad guy, arriviste knowledge on the subject that can really piss serious footie lads off.

My local lads have been very kind. I’ve entered the Portwell Bar’s World Cup contest, which involves predicting the scores, and another local game on the same basis. I’m five points off the lead as of tonight, but doing better than I thought I would. On the day of England’s last first round match, all the dice fell the right why and I predicted all four matches right. 8000-1, Guy tells me, and for the sort of money I often bet, I could now be a millionaire.

I’m sure he told me that in a spirit of happy encouragement. I never realised I could sob so long and so hard into a pint. Or that the pint would taste so interesting afterwards. All that pollen.

So I’m enjoying the heroic efforts of the Aussies and Japanese, the national anthems nobody can sing, and the ones with the big singalong choruses (doesn’t La Marseillaise just make you want to be French? All that and Audrey Tautou!), the genius of Brazil and Argentina, the way national events like the Togo players’ revolt and the background of racism in French football affect what happens on the field…

But lately, as the weather’s turned awful, and I’ve had a long cold that’s dragged me back to winter and reminds me of last summer’s bronchitis in Ireland, the World Cup’s become rather bitter too. It’s the sheer spite of Australia’s last minute loss, that filthy Portugal/Holland game, but most of all –

It’s the way the British media treat the England manager and team. Sven seems to me to be doing the best he can with limited resources. He’s got us to the last eight of the World Cup with very few alarms along the way. We haven’t set the field alight, but we’ve done the job, and we’ve often looked superior. A sane summing up would be: ‘England team lose important striker to injury, but make steady progress, with hopes for improvement’.

Instead of which, I can’t listen to Radio 5 anymore, because there’s always someone calling for Sven to be sacked, or for him to implement whatever correspondent’s own obvious strategy, which varies vastly from expert to expert, and is seemingly formed by mob opinion, changing daily.

It’s telling, I think, that the players who’ve come in for most criticism are Beckham and Hargreaves, neither of whom play in England, so thus don’t have an army of partisan fans to speak up for them. The criticism of Beckham, especially, seems insane. He links everything we do on the field, he sees where others go and drops footballs in their path. Especially mad is that the criticism continued after the most recent match, won by his single goal, after which he vomited from sheer continued effort. ‘I wouldn’t have played him,’ boasted one BBC pundit, with a straight face. Nobody replied ‘well, then we would have lost’. A recent ITV interview with injured striker Michael Owen gently invited him to join in the criticism of his manager. He displayed apt loyalty in the face of that.

It’s interesting to note the way the criticism is framed too. ‘He’ll never drop Beckham,’ is the repeated phrase. (Football punditry is built on repeated phrases. The new ‘game of two halves’ is ‘to be fair’, sometimes six or seven times in an interview, which started appearing after Eric Cantona karate kicked a spectator, and professed fairness became important.) Not ‘I think he should drop Beckham’, note. Because to say that out loud would require bravery.

Luiz Felipe Scolari was the F.A.’s first choice for the next England manager, and briefly took the job, until his answerphone filled up with noxious material from the English sports press. So he decided against. And the journos celebrated because now they were sure to ‘get a Brit’. Rather than someone good.

That’s the most concrete example of what’s wrong with English journalism, and what’s wrong with England. We’re afraid of failing, so like a nation of spoilt children, we declare that we’re going to fail before we even start, so we can nod wisely when we do. At the next World Cup, I fully expect our manager, if he’s British through and through, to declare after we go out that we were trying to lose, actually, and the ball is ours, and we’re taking it home.

This is why the Aussies think we’re mad. I hope that summer comes back, and my head clears, and England suddenly decides to put its heart on something and think something is good again. Because at the moment, we’d really hate it if we won the World Cup.

Doctor Who Top Trumps

It’s a result of my fanboy programming: I’m always a bit more pleased by contributing something small to Doctor Who than I am by writing full-on for the show itself. For instance, that line of mine from the novel Love and War in Moffat’s ‘Girl in the Fireplace’, or the sentence or so of cosmological info I provided that made its way into ‘The Satan Pit’. In that spirit, I was overjoyed to find my babies, the Reapers, in the new Doctor Who Top Trumps pack.

I was a huge fan of Top Trumps when I was a kid. I still have my England Cricketers pack from 1976, when one could pit Brian Close against Bob Willis. Weight or Pints Drunk At Lunchtime should have been one of the categories. There was, at the time, also a rather odd pack of Doctor Who trumps with Tom Baker on the cover. Half of the cards were monsters, and half were historical figures (and, okay, one was Sherlock Holmes), which allowed one to see how
Annie Oakley vs. the Daleks would turn out. Often rather better, actually, than one might immediately assume. I assume they chose Annie Oakley because they wanted a Wild West figure, and a woman, and couldn’t quite rid themselves of the mental picture of Doris Day’s Calamity Jane glaring, hands on hips, at the might of the Sontaran battle fleet.

The new Who trumps are saner, but only slightly. The descriptions have been written anonymously by someone who knows what they’re talking about, but the categories are as delightfully odd as always. Height, for instance, has rarely been an issue in televised Doctor Who. Kids haven’t been hiding behind their sofas because of how tall things are. At least, not since Chris left. It does give the Dalek Emperor an advantage, but the TARDIS is forced to play fair (2.75m). But has someone actually gone round measuring, perhaps specifically for this pack, figures as diverse as Billie Piper, Penelope Wilton (1.70m) and Simon Pegg, down to the centimetre? ‘Hold still for a moment, Billie. It’s for Top Trumps. Okay, that’s… one point six… three… metres. Cheers.’ Intelligence and Courage are reasonable as categories, although it is interesting to note that Jackie Tyler is only slightly more intelligent than the small boy zombie whose only topic of conversation was whether or not one was his Mummy. Someone has put some suspiciously serious thought into the fine detail of the intelligence rankings (Doctor: 50; Captain Jack: 42; Rose: 38; supposed genius Adam 37; Mickey: 29; Jackie: 25…) which suggests that there was either a production meeting about this (‘No, it is work, this is important, it’s for Top Trumps’) or that Helen Raynor was given them as homework. The Slitheen are one point more courageous than the Autons, which opens up whole areas of Speculative Top Trumps Philosophy: can it be said that mindless automatons are courageous at all?

Darkness is another puzzling stat. Can it honestly be said that the Doctor and Rose have none, but the TARDIS has ten? Jackie has twenty five, so when she pops into the TARDIS, does it shiver a little at her presence? Monster Rating seems to refer to how unusual things are, which means that even K-9 gets a two. But does the poor old Face Of Boe really deserve an eight? He’s got a darkness of twenty two as well, which we haven’t seen on screen, but might just mean that in billions of years he’s lived a little. Though not as much as Jackie.

One aspect of the older Who trumps remains, a sole historical figure in the shape of Madame De Pompadour, who can outwit a Werewolf, outdark the Doctor, and outcourage Captain Jack, but if you’re going for height, you’d better hope the other side is playing K-9.

Announcements:

Comics writer and top chap Mark Millar is organising a series of auctions in support of the research effort to cure Crohn’s Disease, the debilitating condition from which he suffers. The auctions will appear on ebay every Monday, and I’ve contributed a couple of items for later on. The first auction gives you the opportunity to have the lead in Mark’s next Marvel comics project named after you. Worth a punt, surely? And please spread the word to any and all fan communities you hang out at: future auctions will feature items related to Doctor Who, Lost, and many more of our favourite things. Here’s the link:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=6639038702

A Blog a Day: Friday

As the band Modern Romance once observed, nothing ever goes the way you plan. They must have known what being a freelancer is like. As it turned out, yesterday was about being on the phone all day with Robin edits, so it was a relief to get an e-mail from Russell saying sorry he hadn’t phoned. I did manage to do a few pages of the other thing, though, Caroline auditioned (we don’t know how successfully yet) for a place as a backing singer in that funky big band, the cricket was surprising, my fantasy cricket mailing list was full of fun chat (more about them at a later date), and I came home to find… oh no…

Living TV started the new season of Veronica Mars without me. Previously, on Paul Cornell’s Life: Veronica Mars is my favourite show of all time. Being a modern sort of DVD box set watching, no TV listings magazine needed (‘cos they don’t give us the video plus code for The West Wing) couple, we weren’t aware that it was about to suddenly reappear at the far more sensible time of 8pm every Thursday. The first season played every night at 6pm, with a warning beforehand that said ‘this series may contain scenes unsuitable for young people, your guess is as good as mine why we know that and we’re still putting it on now’.

It’s a show about bullying, so, you know, target audience here. Veronica is a teenage girl at an American high school, which, weirdly, feels as horrific as a real high school would be, with rampant racism and class boundaries. Her Sheriff Dad made the mistake of arresting the most powerful man in town for the murder of that man’s own daughter, Veronica’s best friend. He failed to make the case stick, lost his job, became a pariah, and his daughter, formerly miss popular, suddenly had a table all to herself at lunchtime, until she was joined by the black kid, the Hispanic gang members, her new peer group. Her attempts to get back in with the popular kids led to her being raped. Now her Dad’s a private detective, she’s learnt from him, and she’s going to use those skills to find out who killed her friend and bring down all those who hurt her. It’s witty and fun on the outside, absolutely terrifying in the centre, and at the end of season one, the mystery is resolved. Joss Whedon loves it so much he’s in season two. Above all, this is the show with an episode about a weird cult at the end of which Veronica decides said cult is a lot better than the town she lives in.

The theme tune is the Dandy Warhol’s ‘We Used to be Friends’, also my ringtone. At least I can catch the repeat on Sunday.

A Blog a Day: Thursday

The English use time the way they use space, everything piled up against each other with the boundaries overlapping. I’m thinking especially of summer, the way we slam everything from Wimbledon to Glastonbury to two Test Series, a World Cup and a flower show into what, when you look back at it, is just a few weeks, but at the time, like a school summer holiday when you’re ten, feels like a lifetime. My days are packed now in exactly that way, gloriously busy. Yesterday, I was Robin plotting, back and forth, with the lovely Melissa Gallant, Tiger Aspect’s London-based script editor, and I’m tempted to say all day, but I also sent off the plot for part two of the Who, and did a few pages of the other thing. And went to visit Dad, and sat in the evening outside the bar, looking at the blueness of the night sky, and I’m not stressed at all. I feel instead that I’m doing what I always wanted to do, being used to the fullness of my ability. Because it’s summer, that feels possible, and great.

And over my shoulder as I work there’s County Cricket on TV. Why I love it so: the announcement that John Crawley and Nick Pothas have just passed the record for highest fifth wicket partnership by Hampshire against Nottinghamshire, established in 1930 by Lord Tennyson. And televising it does remind one that four day cricket in two divisions these days is actually an exciting game.

And I think I’ve found my Dalek! Today, more other thing, more Robin plotting, and a scheduled call from Russell about the Who plot. I think I could do with Saturday watching the football in the open air.

A Blog a Day: Wednesday

So I didn’t go to Wales, because Julie called and said everyone thought I should get on and map out part two, go to script with it, and then we’d do the next set of notes on the whole thing, which is encouraging. The really lovely thing is that so far I haven’t been set any sort of deadline: it’s a good feeling to be trusted to deliver when it’s ready. This will change as the production approaches. So I popped down the bar for a couple, and we watched The Thin Man Goes Home (1944). I must blog at length on these wonderful movies, the place where all the ‘husband and wife detective’ tropes are invented, but while our wisecracking, horny, serious drinker leads were in place as always, this one showed definite signs of tiredness, especially in its treatment of Myrna Loy, the female lead. She’s normally glorious, in charge, holding her own in her upper class, monied way in her husband’s low life drinking dens and gambling joints. Here, suddenly, five movies in, she’s all home and hearth and making silly misjudgements (although she does nick the killer by deliberately starting a pool room brawl). This is something that often occurs to me, that sexism rises and falls, that feminism’s advance is not steady progress. This is also the movie, pedantically, where the makers just shrug and equate the lead with the name ‘the Thin Man’ (the victim of the murder in the first movie), just when William Powell really can’t live up to such billing any more. I must blog at length on this stuff when we’ve finished the run. Myrna Loy made Hitler’s personal death list, don’t you know. Here’s some info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thin_Man_%28film%29

I’ve been asked by the anime company ADV to provide some cover quotes for their titles, so I must also blog about anime again soon. Also in my inbox was a lovely note from ‘father of fandom’ Keith Miller, who ran organised Who fandom when Jon Pertwee was the Doctor. And I’m still looking for a Dalek for the Faringdon Arts Festival. But today is about work, with Robin detailed notes, Who plot writing, and more pages of that which cannot be named. I’ll see you tomorrow.

A Blog a Day: Tuesday

As it turns out, it’s Robin notes today, with a Who meeting at Cardiff in the evening. To my disappointment, it’s at the BBC Wales studios, not the new facility they’re calling Camelot, which my imagination has turned into Russell’s futuristic Fortress of Welshness. ‘Here’s where we keep… the dra-gon’, Helen will say one day. Probably. 'Look, in that case, is that... Ivor the Engine?!' And I’ve now gained a new deadline on the project I cannot yet talk about in public, and really want to. I’m surprisingly unstressed, and pleased to be busy. I’m really enjoying all three projects, so it doesn’t feel like work. And Dad is now home, so that’s stress-reducing too. I’m trying to run every day this week. Debbie at the Chinese restaurant always notes that she sees me go past, and does a good impression, puffing her cheeks out and moving her arms like a womble on a step machine.

Here’s a link shamelessly nicked from Chris Roberson’s page, Star Trek’s Mr. Spock shows us round his place, MTV style. Very funny animation with action figures:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBXal1GAA4A&dpos=2

Oh, and the new link to the right is what I've been listening too lately, courtesy of Last FM. Designed to provoke conversation, it's only been informed by one morning of ITunes thus far, so it won't be representative for a while yet. When you start to see Right Said Fred, you may well mock.

Now, I have five pages of… stuff… to write this morning. See you tomorrow.

A Blog a Day: Monday

Right, seven quick blogs in seven days! Hungover this morning. Last night’s Fifteen Minute Club in Faringdon was mighty, and ended back at the Bar, with a guitarist we’d dragged back with us. Those wishing to hire a fifteen piece rhythm and blues band need look no further than:

http://www.boogie-me.co.uk/interest.htm

While here’s further proof that Faringdon’s music scene is growing:

http://britpopuk.com/

Today I’m waiting for notes on the second draft of my second Robin Hood episode. Dad gets out of hospital today, so I’ll be off to see him tonight. Taking Mum over to visit has reacquainted me with the pleasures of Devizes, the most Wiltshire place on Earth. A sign on the side of a van revealed that it’s home to, I kid you not, ‘Blake’s 7 Satellite TV Installation’. Rather like the porn movie Rude Lesbian Nurses, there’s a world of difference between the intent of that title and what it actually conjures up. I ought to find a phone number, so those of you who want people in bacofoil and leather to clamber around on their roofs striking poses will know where to go. Not everyone may survive the installation. ‘Is it an old wall?’ they’ll ask. (B7 fan joke. Ahem.) I always love to hear Paul Darrow’s voiceover work these days, particularly on Killer Squid a documentary about… well, the trouble is, the squid are only a foot long. ‘They live… to… kill!’ as the Darrmeister put it. But really ‘they live… to… kill… shrimp!’

Anime we’re currently watching: Full Metal Panic Fumoffu. Splendidly mad. Only in anime would there be a rom com sequel to an action-packed original. It’s like Clint Eastwood walking around in Four Weddings. That last word of the title is the noise our hero makes when in some sort of cute animal costume, which hasn’t, as of week three, actually appeared in the show yet.

Anyway, that’s me for today. Big serious blogs to come: why I write so much about traitors; why ‘Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End’ is the best thing the Beatles ever made; why Doctor Who’s celibacy is an issue for fandom; the gorgeousness of the original Star Trek. You can vote if you want!