Deep Space Nine s05 e22: Children of Time


A valley, in Time

Except for one minor flaw, at the end, created by TV’s insistence on spelling everything out, this was one of the best DS9 episodes I have seen, a bubble-story taking place in a bubble-environment, presenting a simple, yet beautifully complex moral question.

Returning from the Gamma Quadrant (I understand, for the last time until the ultimate finale), the Defiant, carrying all the senior staff, is eager to get home but is distracted into a detour by Jardzia Dax’s insatiable curiosity about a nearby planet screened by quantum fields. Sisko agrees a look, but on the way through the barrier, half the ship’s functions are knocked out and Kira takes an electrical discharge through the chest.

But this is nothing compared to the ship being hailed, immediately, by representatives of the 8,000 strong community below, representatives who know the Defiant‘s crew only too well. Their names are Yedrin Dax and Miranda O’Brien. They, like everyone else on this planet, are the descendents of the crew of the Defiant which, less than two days from now, will be thrown back in time 200 years, and be marooned on this planet.

It’s a simple, beautiful set-up, with a deadly edge. For once, it is a purely science fiction idea, of the kind rarely seen in DS9 which, for all its sophistication, is still basically space-opera.  And it carries with it a terrible choice. We know the Defiant will leave, that everyone will survive, as surely as we know that there are still four more episodes this season.

But in this fractal time-line, this isolated bubble in the Universe, it crashes back to the planet and the crew must make a life, using only the relatively limited technology that survives with them. And the electrical discharge that hit Kira kills her within weeks, for lack of the sophisticated infirmary on DS9.

In the two hundred years that have passed, the unwilling colonists have built an idyllic world, in beautiful country, and make no mistake, the valley in which this is set in beautiful and I immediately wanted to go there and go walking there. They have become a community, at one with each other. All the senior staff have extended families of descendents. Worf and Dax got married. There are Klingons here, not all of them biologically so, but all honouring Worf, Son of Mogh. There are Siskos and Bashirs, and even O’Briens, though the Chief, with a wife and children he longs to get back to, holds himself the furthest off these heirs, just as his original iteration did.

Even Yedrin Dax is the Dax symbiont, merged with another Trill: he is still Sisko’s friend and mentor, still the Old Man.

And it has Odo. The same Odo, now better able to control his shapeshifting so that he looks a lot more like Rene Auberjonois than he normally does. An Odo who has waited two hundred years to see Kira Nerys again, and to tell her, after all this time, that he loves her. Which disturbs her greatly. Even more so than the knowledge that she can visit her own grave and pray over it.

It’s an idyll. But it’s an idyll dependent upon a tragedy, the crash of the Defiant, the tearing away of these people from the lives they knew, the responsibilities they faced, the people they loved, like Jake Sisko. And it depends on Kira Nerys dying.

But Yedrin has a plan, a cunning plan, to get all around this. If carefully plotted, the Defiant‘s passage of the Barrier can create a Quantum duplicate, in effect two Defiants, one to stay and one to go home. It’s a beautiful construction that satisfies two impossible alternates. And we know it can’t work for where would there be a story, where would there be a shadow? And it can’t work: Dax figures it out, confronts Dax, who admits he’s only trying to ensure history repeats itself, out of overwhelming guilt at being responsible for the whole thing in the first place. Yedrin is trying to ensure that all his people, his community, his life, will still come into existence, instead of winking out forever, a closed loop, if the Defiant gets away.

Everyone is affected. The episode, without bogging anything down, makes time to show everypne’s reactions to this enclosed community, to get to know and understand these people, to see themselves in them, to really understand that these are our children and our children’s children. And to absorb that escape, returning to their own lives, means killing them. All of them.

In the end, even O’Brien comes over, once he’s unbent himself to plant with another Molly O’Brien. They will do it. They will let themselves crash. They will ensure that history is repeated exactly. Even though it can’t be, since this time the crew go into this with their eyes open and in full knowledge, that originally they didn’t possess, ensuring that their actions cannot replicate what once occurred, but that’s a subtlety too far for a TV show.

Except that, at the last moment, the decision is taken away from them. The auto-pilot, so precisely calculated, veers past the anomaly and through the barrier unscathed. Do Not pass Go, Do Not pass into the past, Do Not detect 8,000 life-forms on the planet below.

How? The course has been tampered with, history has been altered, irreversibly, but by who? The obvious candidate in Yedrin Dax, a last-minute change of heart, and the makers admit that in an older version of Star Trek that would have been the solution. But you and I who have been watching this episode with our eyes and ears and, most importantly, our hearts open, know where to look, and it is here and not the fact that, temporally speaking, the whole idea couldn’t work due to latterday foreknowledge, where the story’s one true flaw comes. We have to be told. It has to be made explicit. It has to be thrust in your face, where it cannot but have consequences that we will never experience because it will never be alluded to again.

Because it was Odo, of course. The older Odo, the more open Odo, the Odo that can tell a Kira who has literally stepped out of his memories that he loves her, and who is prepared to sacrifice himself and 7,999 other lives for hers when she has taken a decision in accordance with her religious beliefs that her death to facilitate their lives is her Path.

What consequences this has, if consequences there be, which I suspect there will not, for Kira and Odo in the present will have to be seen. Given how everyone has reacted, prepared to sacrifice themselves in their natural instinct to protect their young, the only human response would be indescribable guilt.  And given that Odo has been able to spill the beans because Odo linked with him, I would be expecting character swings as the two hundred years of now non-existent experience remains accessible to him. Which we’re not going to see, though I now have some nascent ideas for my own fiction arising out of this.

But if I were giving out ratings to these episodes, I would be awarding ‘Children of Time’ something like A-very-slightly-minus, or 9++ out of 10, because it was so very good, in a way that is only possible with a longstanding series in which we are sure of the characters already but which cannot be fully realised if they are to be the characters of which we are sure next week.

Which has a hard act to follow.

The Anaesthetic, wearing off…


Nostalgia is the engine which drives this blog, or so it mostly seems, but not all of the past is a playground to visit.There are places I would seriously rather not revisit, and the Dentist, for my first extraction since 1979, is one of them.

I can’t remember, last time round, whether they did it under General Anaesthetic or by Injection. I suspect the latter: I have an unsurprisingly clear memory of sitting in the BBC TV room at Alexandra Court in the evening, feeling the numbness in the right side of my face, lips and jaw slowly shrinking , and knowing that as soon as it vanished, pain was going to come in its place.

But I’d really rather just be switched off and brought back when it’s all over and the dentist’s fingers are not inside my mouth any more. That way, there wouldn’t be the metal things in my mouth, the gripping and clawing that’s going on that I can’t feel, except as the sensation of pressure, the realisation that my crumbling molar with the exposed nerve is not giving up it’s place on my lower right jawline, and then suddenly everything is withdrawn, it’s out, it’s over, and I can be hustled out because the next patient is ready.

So that’s why we no longer get General Anaesthetics. It’s not a Health and Safety concern over knocking the patient out completely and maybe sometimes completely really meaning completely, it’s to avoid the boring bit of waiting for him or her to wake up, and then to come around, and be able to not only stand on their own two feet without dropping but also move them in a direction of their own choice. No, if you keep them awake through it, that massively cuts down the delay in shooting them out, with their traumas.

That the armrests of the dentist’s chair don’t bear the imprints of my clutching fingers until the end of time, or at least the next office rebranding, is not for want of effort on my part. In truth, the whole thing was a pretty ordinary, almost dull experience, and I was home before 10.00am, having restocked on painkillers. But all of this was before the anaesthetic wore off…

Postscript: Boy, did I get away with it! I was convinced that pain, major pain, was coming. So I put one of the gauze thingies in my mouth, pressed it down into the unexpectedly wide cavity, and bit down. Kept it there for a good two hours, maybe as many as three, whilst my brain went somewhere else, I dunno, maybe Miami. And when I removed the saliva and blood-soaked thing, I was almost back to full feeling, and whilst there’s an underlying soreness there, and one or two phantom moments of conviction that the blasted things is still there, I am now several hours into post-anaesthesia and I am still not in pain.

Doesn’t seem right, somehow. Don’t tell me I can’t even rely on being shit-scared of Dentists either.

Uncollected Thoughts: Justice League


justice_league_poster_1

The first thing is, getting to East Didsbury from Reddish on a Sunday afternoon. That wasn’t as bad as you might think: the 203 was late, naturally, but I had time to buy the paper and more or less get straight onto the 23A. On the other hand, this Cineworld, being newer, bigger, flasher than dear old comfortable Stockport is an arsehole. You can’t buy your tickets from a human being, it’s got to be a machine and mine is fucked up. Still, the one I am led to for a second go, by a human being, coughs up my ticket and doesn’t even ask for proof of age  over my senior person concession.

Having said that, Screen 4’s bigger than anything I’ve recently been at in Stockport, plus it has banked seats. I’m about two-thirds of the way up, in an aisle seat. The background music is Take That (one of Mark Owen’s: I am very well-trained) to be followed by Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’. No disrespect to anyone but the leap in quality is immeasurable.

I’m one of five when I sit down, which is a massive improvement on Monday but still a disappointment for a big budget film on a Sunday afternoon on it’s third day. Half an hour of trailers etc. later (yup, Karen Gillan looks just as good and, hey! a new Ardman/Nick Park: one for 2018 already), we have swelled to an unmanageable 28, the unmanageable one being the two-year-old toddler sat almost directly in front of me.

Oddly, for there is literally nothing here to spark such a recollection save the day of the week, I’m transported back to a Sunday morning a great many years ago, when my Dad took me to the Cartoon Cinema for a non-stop round of Warner Brothers cartoons, all Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. They were on a loop. You came in when you arrived, you left when you recognised when you came in. I had a whale of a time, as you can imagine. What on earth’s brought that back I can’t possibly imagine, but I haven’t found that memory for a very long time.

The film? Oh yes, this is supposed to be about the film, isn’t it? By my tally, this is the fifth time I’ve been to the cinema this year, and they’ve all been films based on comics. Four superheroes, two each DC and Marvel. For the life of me, I don’t know how to respond to this film, nor how to rank it even among this year’s quintet.

It really is strange how much I feel nothing about this film, and I the oldest in the cinema, certainly the only one actually on this planet when Brave & Bold 27 was published, somewhere maybe round the time my Dad took me to the Cartoon Cinema. I’ve waited a lifetime to see this film. But, well, no.

Actually, it started slowly, introducing the cast, one-by-one, with special reference to the newcomers: Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg. It was ponderous to say the least, and in my head i also gad the word ‘portentous’.

But after that, any kind of critical appraisal drained off, and I just sat and watched it. It did not disappoint and it did not enthrall. The performances were decent: no-one stood out as either terribly impressive or terribly awful. It was neither slow-paced nor fast-paced (although the Zack Snyder tradition of ultra-slow motion to show just how clever the CGI stunt is has not merely gotten old, it’s whiskers are completely white).

The story was neither a coherent progression nor a series of disjointed fragments, though it leaned in both directions. It was neither too short nor too long, but that doesn’t mean to imply it was the right length, just that it felt you could have taken scenes out and put other scenes in and the film would have neither suffered nor improved by it.

It was just what it was, a film without any personality whatsoever. I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t hate it, I wasn’t bored by it, I… got nothing from it, not even the sense of something rotten and malodorous to the core that pervaded Batman vs Superman. It was just bland. And it was still better than Batman vs Superman.

There were a number of things in the film that I could comment upon viz-a-viz their relationship to the original source, but I can’t be bothered, except in one case. The villain, Steppenwolf, was taken from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World series’ (there was even a one-off mention of Darkseid, one of the most awesome characters ever created: guys, when you get to the one that brings him in, you gotta be aiming and reaching a galaxy higher than you’ve been doing to date). The film revolved around one of Kirby’s most potent symbols, Mother Box. But it perverted it, reversing its purpose 180 degrees. Don’t do that again.

And so it was. The film ended up not even being ‘Meh!’ or being a waste of time. Stick to TV, DC, when it comes to films, you have no idea.

Kenny Dalglish


I have never liked him. A lot of it is that he played for and managed Liverpool, but at least half of it is that I just don’t like him. It happens like that sometimes.

There was an interview with him in the Guardian yesterday, on the eve of the premiere of a film about him, a film I won’t be going to see. In many ways, responding to the questions, he was the Dalglish I simply don’t like. But the subject came to Hillsborough. I learned, for the first time, that his then-15 year old son Paul was on the Leppings Lane End, though thankfully he was unhurt. Then they asked him about ‘closure’, in the light of the long-overdue exoneration of the fans from the decades of lies by the Scum newspaper. And he said this:

“I don’t know what closure would be for us,(…) As long as we’re living we will support the families. So … we wouldn’t have a closure. I wouldn’t have a closure. At least the families have been totally exonerated. The families have been punished doubly by losing their loved ones and by spending the rest of their lives trying to get justice and solace.”

I am still not going to like him. But the responsibility he took when that happened was unflinchingly to be admired, and this admission that there can never be a point at which he can put this behind him… I am relieved to admit that I cannot imagine what that must be like. But it changes and enhances my respect for Kenny Dalglish, and I can only hope that one day he can discover a kind of piece that comes without leaving this life behind.

And my implacable hatred for all the bastards responsible, and those who still wriggle to avoid the consequences of that responsibility, grows even hotter.

 

How to be Inconsequential: or, The Weekly Doonesbury


Then…

Once upon a time, my children, there was a daily American newspaper strip called Doonesbury, written and drawn by Garry (‘G.B.) Trudeau. It grew out of a Yale college strip called Bull Tales and was first offered to American newspapers as a college strip in 1970. It quickly married its hip, wordy humour with a primarily liberal socio-political bent, and became increasingly popular, not just for its humour but for its willingness to go into some very serious issues. In 1981, the Guardian started printing it in the UK, and I started reading the Guardian. Despite two attempts to drop the strip, both leading to instant and overwhelming protest, it runs there to this day.

My own involvement with Doonesbury doesn’t predate the strip’s arrival in the Guardian by much. My increasing interest in American commercial and political issues in the very late Seventies kept leading to mention of Doonesbury: for instance, “There are only three major vehicles to keep us informed as to what is going on in Washington: the electronic media, the print media, and Doonesbury, not necessarily in that order.” That was said by President Gerald Ford on the occasion of the strip becoming the first ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

So I got curious. Then, out of the blue, the strip’s second retrospective collection, Doonesbury’s Greatest Hits, appeared out of nowhere in Wilshaws, Manchester’s supposedly second best bookshop, but to me much more preferable to Sherratt & Hughes. 516 dailies and 80 colour Sundays for £2.95 was well worth a pop and I laughed myself silly.

Thus began a long and satisfying relationship. The strip was still based at Walden College in those days, around the central quartet of Mike Doonesbury (the title character, a mid-Western liberal loser), Mark Slackmeyer (New York Jewish radical), B.D. (football jock and staunch Republican) and Zonker Harris (Californian pothead). But it had expanded dramatically with characters in other spheres who could take a week’s worth of strips anywhere: Joannie Caucus (ex-housewife, feminist and lawyer), Rick Redfern (Washington Post reporter, Joannie’s partner), Honey Huan (former translator for Mao Tse-Tung, now ever-willing and perpetually naive sidekick) and Trudea’s most infamous creation, Uncle Duke, originally based on Hunter Thompson but one of the world’s greatest mavericks.

Picking up new collections at various comics marts, and the odd old one here and there (I would not get a complete set until the eBay era) was great fun, reading Doonesbury daily was great fun. Trudeau was sharp, accurate and inventive, and even when he’d skewer Democrats and other liberals, he still always felt like he was coming from the same place I did, even if that was from the other side of the Atlantic.

Not all that long after I started getting my fix daily, Trudeau did something no newspaper strip cartoonist had done before him: he took a sabbatical. This was heavily criticised, Charles Schultz called it ‘unprofessional’. Trudeau took almost eighteen months off, partly to work on a stage-show, Doonesbury: the Musical, based upon the college characters’ graduation from Walden College, but also to prepare his ground for the strip’s resumption in the run-up to Reagan’s re-election, as adult characters, functioning in the ‘real’ world.

Mike went from hapless college loser to decidedly unconvincing advertising copywriter, married now to performance artist J.J. (aka Joan Caucus Jr), Mark to National Public Radio, B.D. to third-string quarterback in LA and his girlfriend, cheerleader Boopsie to minor starlet (third girl in shower in Porky’s 2).

And over the decades it ran and ran. New characters appeared, courses ran smooth or jagged (I am not even going to try to think of summarising Duke’s career, but for several weeks in 1982 he daily made me sick with laughter when he chartered his drugs-running boat out for a sightseeing cruise to the Falklands Islands War). Characters aged, married, divorced, had children who, over twenty years, grew to become characters themselves (Joannie and Rick’s son Jeff has become a figure of loathing to me, with Zonker’s nephew Zipper his crony, but Alex Doonesbury has been a delight from start to finish, and Sam, B.D. and Boopsie’s daughter was showing every sign of growing up to be a perfectly drawn young woman when…)

It’s been a long strange strip, to quote the tag-line for the twenty-fifth anniversary collection, which of course gave way to the mammoth slip-cased fortieth anniversary collection some years ago. One of the beauties of the strip has been that, since leaving college, the characters have aged realistically – I won’t say grown up, not in certain cases – as well as having remained pertinent and on the money almost all the time.

But I said ‘When…’, didn’t I? Having established the concept of sabbaticals, Trudeau and others who found the idea of periodic breaks from the daily treadmill to refresh the creative mind to be attractive, managed after several years to establish the idea of contractual breaks, regularised at four weeks per year, to be taken at the cartoonist’s discretion. Some would take a month off, Trudeau would just take one week off per quarter. Frustrating, yes, to pick up Monday’s paper, recognise the strip and see it headed ‘Doonesbury Flashback’, and be deprived of a week of fresh lines, situations, gags and energy, but a small price to pay for such high levels of humour.

But this lasted to 2013. Abruptly, Trudeau’s syndicate announced another hiatus to allow him to work on the Amazon streaming TV series Alpha House, a political comedy created by him. Originally intended to run from June to early September, the break was extended into November. Trudeau resumed duties but only until early March 2014 when, to accommodate Alpha House‘s second season, he announced he would only be doing Sundays for the foreseeable future. Despite the show’s cancellation in 2014, the return to dailies remains unforeseeable.

That’s three and a half years now, and counting. Trudeau once commented that ‘political cartooning is a young man’s game’ (he is now 69) and I am cynically resigned to the assumption that at that age he doesn’t want to leap back into the daily grind. But if that’s so, and even bearing in mind that the strip is only three years away from reaching that great landmark of fifty years, I would still rather he cancelled Doonesbury rather than allow it to continue as the increasingly meaningless thing it is.

One strip a week, among an official character list of 24 people, is pretty well redundant. As time went on in Doonesbury, the strip slowly evolved into a mixture of its satire and the kind of character-driven comedy that all the best, long-lasting ensembles eventually must mimic. Caricatures they may have been, in their inception, and to greater and lesser extents, but you cannot record the multiple progressions of a range of people without their turning into some form of living person.

There was no better example of this than the sequence which began in 2004 and featuring B.D. Of the central characters, B.D. had always been the closest to a cartoon throughout. Given no other name in the strip (he was originally based on Yale Quarterback, Brian Dowling), B.D. was the conservative, the jock, the unrealistic blowhard who was never seen without his football helmet. After graduation, the helmet kept changing, especially as B.D. kept going back into service as an Army Reservist (he’d volunteered for Vietnam in the early Seventies, to get out of finishing a term paper). The unreconstructed male, the blue-collar rightwinger, the joke.

And one Monday morning, the strip began with a black panel and a shout of ‘Hey!’. Then two panels of B.D.’s buddy Ray, sweating, desperate, telling someone to stay with him, then shouting for a medic, then another black panel, calling B.D.’s name, shouting ‘Hey!’ again, but louder. The next day’s opening panel made it even more plain: ‘You’re not dying here, man! Not today!’ But with typical Trudeaus expertise, the third day revealed things subtly. B.D.’s hurt, he’s in a medevac chopper, they’re removing his helmet! There he is, in the final panel, grimacing, his hair on show for the first time ever. And, with no fanfare or attention drawn to it, in the bottom corner of the panel, his left leg. Gone.

It was one hell of a risk, taking a cartoon like B.D., and crippling him, putting him through a devastating war injury like that. It could have been a disaster. Instead, slowly, surehandedly, Trudeau unravelled B.D.’s story over literally years. The physical recovery. The mental deterioration. The gradual acclimatisation to therapy. The horrors revealed. Trudeau, without foresaking humour but without ever once demeaning for a second the reality of what he’d done, turned B.D. into both a real human being, and a kind of Every-Soldier.

It was a sequence that was eventually extracted into three special books, all published for charity. And Trudeau used this initial story to look at two other military figures whose own stories unfolded slowly, over years: Megan, the Specialist traumatised by sexual exploitation from a superior officer, and Toggle, the young driver and heavy-metal freak, left with aphasia after his own bombing.

These were extraordinary stories, told with an incredible attention to balance between the humour (not always black) that could be found and the reality of lives thus affected. They were so affecting because they could unfold so slowly, every day another little snippet, another step or moment.

This is an extreme example, both in terms of how personal a story Doonesbury could tell, and how pointed it could be about the life we live today, but it was utterly dependent upon the strip being daily, giving us another piece, another sliver, day in, day out. It was an intrinsic part of what made Doonesbury matter, even if only as an entertainment – which over forty plus years is not to be sniffed at.

What’s Megan doing now? I dunno. She’s not been seen since the dailies stopped. Or Toggle? He met Alex Doonesbury, they fell in love, married, had twins. Been in two, maybe three strips since, each time about the twins. Mike? Still married to Kim, still living on Puget Sound, presumably still has his own business? Mark? Still on the radio. Zonker? Still growing artisanal marijuana with Zipper. Jeff? Still don’t care.

The point is that all we ever get is snippets, frequently tuned to what’s going on in the world, like today’s strip, which features Rick at a press conference, asking questions about things I don’t understand and I can’t even see where the punchline is supposed to be.

It’s like Discworld, except that Trudeau’s not dead yet. Everybody’s still there, and every now and then they jump through a hoop. But I don’t know them any more, and I am sick and tired of impersonal snippets every six to eight months, of people who we’re supposed to be watching move through their lives the way we do.

Doonesbury used to be essential. Now it’s meaningless. And it did it all to itself. And I’m tired of it.

Now

Post-Wainwright Walks: Causey Pike to Ard Crags


Causey Pike

The post-Wainwright period proved to be considerably shorter than the years of steadily accumulating summits in pursuit of completion. Part of it was a shift in work commitments, reducing the opportunities to get away, a lot of it was the unexpected joining of my life to someone else’s, and more or less ending the ability to go off on my own whenever I felt like it, because I no longer felt like it. And some of it was that the drive that had kept me focused on the ‘prize’ was no longer the same, because I had been there.
At first, I concentrated upon places I hadn’t been in literally years. It had taken me twenty-six years to visit each of the 214 Wainwright’s, but with some judicious choices of routes, I managed to achieve the proud record of having stood at the summit of every one within the previous ten years, and to keep that status up for about eight months before my other commitments started to cause my record to slide.
Looking back now, it amazes me that I hadn’t swept up that small handful of fells I’d only climbed in adverse weather conditions. True, High Stile, and to a lesser extent Seat Sandal were relatively recent, but Sale Fell and Dodd would have been ideal for family expeditions, once I had one, especially as the latter had had its summit stripped entirely of trees since my visit in the rain.
I’d climbed Causey Pike in the early Eighties, one of my first expeditions when I ventured into the fells on my own, and my first ever walk in the North Western Fells. It had been a dull day, a little cold, and I had returned via the inner wall of Coledale, catching the rain at the end of things.
This time, a sunny Saturday of driving up from Manchester in the grand tradition of things, I was planning a somewhat artificial walk: Causey Pike and Scar Crags to Sail Pass, but returning by a sideways slip onto the parallel Knott Rigg/Ard Crags ridge, that I’d also climbed in the Eighties, on that occasion by following the Newlands road to gain the former fell at Keskadale Farm.
This meant a road walk of about half a mile between the start and end of the walk so for once I played smart and tucked my car into a small roadside quarry at the foot of Rigg Beck, where my route of return would debouch, and walked round the base of Causey to start. There was an offroad path, above the tarmac, for most of the way, making the stroll rather pleasant.
I remember those fresh Saturday mornings, the difference in the air from Manchester, the knowledge that I had no responsibilities to anyone, except to get myself back safe and sound, and on the walk ahead I had no fears of difficult situations. All that I had to do was to enjoy myself.
Naturally, I was taking the same approach, by Rowling End. The first time round, it was a test of ability: I was still a novice walker, inexperienced at walking alone, my background that of family caution, the easy, unexciting option, the dull way up.
This time I was without trepidation. I’d done it before, and I had much more serious climbs under my belt. So I ploughed merrily onwards, surprised to find the walk that less enthralling when I knew it to be so much more feasible. Instead, I had the amusement of realising that I could look down into the little quarry where my car was parked, and keep an eye on its safety even as far as Causey’s summit.
Though what good it could possible have done me if I’d been witness to a theft from 2,000 foot above it, I have no idea.
I was at least bolder this time in making a direct attack on Causey’s highest point, the bobble at the very top of the ridge. I’d chickened out originally, casting to the right to find a way around and up, but now I scrambled like the best of them, up and over and there to the top.
Beyond the serpentine end of Causey Pike’s extended summit ridge, there’s nothing remotely exciting all the way to and over Scar Crags. It is nothing more than a whaleback top, a broad ridge, a bridge between more exciting fells at either end, and when you’re casting Sail as a more exciting fell, you know that the bar has fallen very far.
This was long enough ago that the path remained untouched. I have now seen horrifying and ugly photos of reconstructed paths on Scar Crags’ back, elevated causeways sweeping backwards and forwards in curves that elsewhere might be entitled to be called graceful but which, on the back of an honest Lakeland fell, are hideous in their excess. Surely the ground beneath cannot have been so badly damaged that this was necessary?

Scar Crags

I hadn’t stopped first time because I’d had the clouds threatening just behind me, and I wasted no more time this time because there simply wasn’t anything to stop for, like Brim Fell in the Conistons. So it was down, easily, to the unofficial Sail Pass, and a change of direction.
Twice from here I’d turned back east, to return to Newlands, but this time I took the opposite branch, descending at a gentle and grassy angle onto a quiet and attractive space between the two ridges. It was too broad and grassy to be a defile, too wide to be a col or a pass. It was just a valley head with valleys and backs leaving it in opposite directions, under the twin walls of Sail behind me, and the Knott Rigg/Ard Crags ridge before me.
As I’ve mentioned, I am not and never have been a camper, but once more I could imagine pitching a tent in this place, to one side of the path, and waking in the early morning to the sun pouring down.
There was no orthodox path across the divide. I took a line on an outcrop along the ridge towards the hidden Knott Rigg, and started towards it, at an angle across the fellside that, as far as I could mange it, would involve only incremental climbing at worst, as the skyline dropped down to greet me. Once I reached the ridge, there was nothing but an easy forward and upward walk to Knott Rigg.

Knott Rigg from Ard Crags

All the hard walking was behind me now, left behind at Causey Pike’s summit. I strolled to Knott Rigg, admired the view, reversed my steps to where I had joined the ridge, and strolled on. Ard Crags is smaller, with neater lines, and the path wound up following the crest in a tight little groove. The well-defined top offered excellent views across Newlands, and there was an even better ridge ahead, first descending to, then following the crest of Aiken Knott, a walk of glorious openness.
Ideally, this ridge would persist to the very end, but a fence crossing the ridge from side to side forces a surprisingly long descent towards Rigg Beck, on the left, crossing a flank that, after the delights of most of the walking so far, seemed surprisingly drab.
There’s a path on the other side of the beck, wide and easy, making for an unstrenuous end to the walk. The first time I followed this down, I kept turning around to gauge the view back to Ard Crags, looking for that shot which Wainwright had used for the opening page of his chapter, where Ard Crags appears in isolation, as a triple-topped pyramid. This time I knew that, with typical irony, the view is only a hundred yards or so upstream from the car park, and can be viewed with unfair ease after a stroll in open-toed sandals, or even flip-flops.

Ard Crags

Despite having been out of my sight for the last two-thirds of the walk, my car remained untouched, and I was my usual assiduous self about getting into trainers again, even though this had been far from a punishing, or even tiring day.

A day in the Lakes 2017


Julian Cooper

It always begins with the Twitch. That’s the paranoid fear of missing a bus,  a train, a connection, the impossible-to-eradicate response to no longer being in control of my travel and my destiny, of being reliant on public transport. Last year’s debacle was the ultimate reinforcement.

So this year I’ve taken precautions. Not only am I going out an extra quarter hour early, I’ve booked a Day Return ticket: no being tied to specific trains.

Which is why the 8.00am bus turns up at 8.00am this year, not 8.25am as it did 52 weeks ago. True, at certain points in the journey progress is as turgid as it was then, but I am getting off at Piccadilly Station with twenty-five minutes to spare before my train is due: time to burn.

Not that I can afford to relax completely. The Glasgow train is due at 9.15am, but the 9.07am Liverpool train on the same platform is delayed to 9.14am, which will throw my train back, and I know from two years back just how tight the connection is at Oxenholme. Nothing I can do about it from here.

It’s grey and damp in Manchester, but what do I expect if I insist on doing this in November? I read two contradictory weather forecasts yesterday, one promising rain and cloud all day, the other a dry, sunny afternoon.

From Preston, little glimpses of blue start to emerge and the day grows brighter. I’m hemmed in at a table seat, with an Asian mother/daughter pair in the aisle seats and a young Chinese woman opposite me with an Apple Macbook and the urge to encroach on my part of the table. This leaves me very little room to move my arthritic right knee, which is serious, or to tackle the Guardian puzzle page, which isn’t but which is nevertheless irritating. I’m glad for my mp3 player and my old-fashioned, ear-covering headphones for blocking off Mum’s nonstop barrage of words.

Miraculously, two of them get off at Lancaster, leaving only daughter, diagonally opposite, in place. My knee is very glad.

Suddenly, we’re on the shore of Morecambe Bay and I’m twisting in my seat to look across the sparkling water to a south Lakeland skyline. I have to be quick, but I identify the bulk of Red Screes, looming over Kirkstone, and further back and further in there’s a glimpse of a shady Langdale Pike or two. It looks good here, but I suspect that by Ambleside that’s all going to change. On this point, I will be gloriously wrong.

By Oxenholme, it’s all auburn and gold. The Ill Bell range stands out proudly and the nearer foothills are sharp and precise. The connecting train is waiting for us, only a quick dart across the platform. Amusingly, daughter changes with me, though only as far as Kendal.

At least now I can look forward without cricking my neck, and it’s as clear and light as August. Oh to be arriving here by car, two hours ago, my boots waiting on the back seat! (Yeah, and a fresh knee and hip too). We sail past the mouth of Kentmere, with both ridges showing well, then the Wansfell Pike/Wansfell ridge crackles the nearer skyline. And then, as we come over that last brow, there’s the perfect skyline, from the Old Man, across all the Conistons, to Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the Langdales, with the pale glitter of the lower reaches of Windermere away to the south.

There’s a bus at the stop outside Booths when I emerge but it’s bound for Dungeon Ghyll, and I want to get up to Grasmere. That’s only a quarter hour wait, and though it’s cold, it’s lovely, and the air is Cumbrian air. A lady, seeing me scribble down the original draft for this, thinks I’m an official and asks me when the Kendal bus is due.

A Grasmere return ticket enables me to see the most I can reasonably see in the time I have. I’d considered Coniston this year, but the buses are two hours apart, and Coniston’s too small for two hours if you’re not hitting the fells.

The driver recommends a Central Lakes Dayrider, which costs the same as a Grasmere return but is so much more flexible. I take a seat upstairs on a double-decker, which feels out of place up here, and doesn’t improve the views all that much, since the road is tree-lined nearly all the bloody way! Maybe next year, get the bus to Keswick: I haven;t been across Dunmail Raise or seen Thirlmere in years.

This is by far and away the best November weather I’ve ever had, and the Langdale Pikes are so well-seen that I could almost swear I can pick out the line of Jack’s Rake, across Pavey Ark. We descend to the lake-shore, where Windermere is blue and rich with whitecaps. I can see Jack’s Rake! There are streaks of white on its face, one at the crucial angle. What if I’d taken the bus down to Bowness instead, and the steamer to Waterhead? That would have been glorious.

Now the Fairfield Horseshore rises majestically over Ambleside. Fairfield itself is dark, suggesting it might not be so good Patterdale way, but I’m not in Patterdale, nor am I going there, so I can afford to say, so what? and anyway, by the time we’re at Ambleside Bus Station, even that’s gone.

Curiously, the fells looking so attractive doesn’t fill me with frustration. I’ll be in Grasmere early enough to tackle Helm Crag and be back for the train home, if I’d got my boots on, but I know my knee won’t take it, and I’m resigned to it.

Arrival at Rydal Water opens up the Grasmere skyline. Automatically, I look for Loughrigg cave, but the sun’s in my eyes over the ridge and I can’t make it out. Then it’s Grasmere and Helm Crag fronting it, with a bar of cloud turning the Lion and the Lamb into a silhouette.

And at last the Village, and I can leave the bus at the Golden Jubilee bus stop, and just luxuriate in being there. It’s still only a quarter to twelve: on a normal working day, I wouldn’t even have begun to prepare for work yet.

The first place I always go in Grasmere is the Silver Jubilee bus stop (nice of the Queen to last long enough for the Village to have a matching pair) to check the times of buses back. These are on the half hour: I can either burn round in forty five minutes or stroll and have my lunch here.

The second place I always go in Grasmere is the Heaton Cooper Studio. It’s been expanded sideways now, and includes a cafe, but it’s still the same. I can’t wander round without seeing so many prints I want to buy that I would lose sight of the walls of my pokey little flat if I did, followed rapidly by losing the flat itself when I couldn’t pay the rent. I’m delighted to see there’s been a reconciliation with Julian Cooper, the contemporary generation, and my absolute favourite: two years ago, there wasn’t even a card to be seen. I’m unable to resist a painting of Striding Edge, in card form.

Next on the obligatory list is Sam Read’s Bookshop. I’ve been coming in here for over fifty years, and indeed I bought my Lord of the Rings hardbacks here, at a discount, or rather the first two because the dustjacket on the third was badly scratched. I was prepared to pay full-price for a clean copy in Manchester, despite the booksellers’ offer of a generous discount to take the last one – virtually unsellable on its own – as well. Selfish little sod that I was, I stuck to my guns.

A bookshop like this always makes me want to buy something, even though I don’t have room for the books I’ve already got, and that includes three from my birthday pile I haven’t even read yet. There’s loads of fascinating paperbacks and I would buy one if I could find one I thought would fascinate me more than once.

After that, I walk down to the Tea Rooms on the beck, where I partake of coffee, a tuna melt pannini and a slice of Victoria Sponge that’s a hypoglycemic attack in itself and is bloody delicious. On of these days, I’ve got to get up here in summer, when the terrace overlooking the river is open, where my sister and I used to peer down, looking for tiny fish darting in the water below. There probably aren’t any today: there are a dozen ducks sunning themselves and splashing with the abandon of a bunch of Brits in Ibiza.

I may have been coming here for over fifty years but the Tea Rooms date back far longer. There are blown-up monochrome photos inside, one of Victorian customers sedately sipping, the men all in straw boaters and sensible hats, the maids in ankle-length pinafores. Though they’re not sat on the terrace either.

At the moment, it’s occupied by ambitious crows, swooping and perching. Or they may be ravens, or blackbirds, I dunno. Not magpies, anyway, which is a relief as now there’s no risk of a secret never to be told. But they feel like crows, which reminds me of Ted Hughes, the only writer I studied at school where I’ve voluntarily bought other books by him. I did him for ‘A-level, just when Crow was coming out. I’m full of the past today, aren’t I?

I set off back through the Village. The crows have gone and there’s now just a solitary duck, sedately paddling along under the far bank, below the church, steaming upstream until he is lost to sight. The party’s moved on.

The 599 is already there, nearly twenty minutes ahead of schedule, which gives me time to wander up to Ben’s Toybox, which claims to have more jigsaws than anywhere else in the world. That’s another if-only: the money, the time, the room. But I could tackle a 1,000 piece jigger just now.

The bus is one of those half-open topped double-deckers. Despite this beingthe back half of November, I sit in the open. The moment we’re under way, it starts to get proper cold, but Hell’s Bells, what am I here for if not this sort of thing?

The sun’s still at the back of Loughrigg Fell, so I still can’t see the cave. Sweet Rydal is a golden glitter. All too quickly, we’re at Ambleside, where I wander up the main street. I’m sorry to see that one of the two long-standing bookshops stands no longer: it had shrunk to half-size when I was here in 2015, ad now that half is something called Herby Jack’s: I do not enter. Thankfully, Fred Holdsworth’s bookshop is still there. The same compulsion grips me and this time I give in: another of John Sutherland’s Literary Puzzles books, this time focusing on Dracula.

I add it to my gently bulging shoulderbag and retreat to a bench on the track behind Bridge House to write up another tranche of my day. Whilst I do so, an incredibly fearless robin hops all around me, even perching on the arm of the bench, and eyeing me. He’s angling for a bit of bread or something, but all I have on me at present is an unopened bag of Fox’s Glacier Fruits, which I doubt will satisfy him. When I tell him that if i did walk all the way to a bun shop, I wouldn’t walk all the way back here anyway, he looks hurt and flies away. But hope springs eternal in the human breast, and it obviously animates redbreasts as well, because he’s back again before I’ve done.

By now, the warmth is starting to go out of the air, though I am sitting on the shady side of the beck. My robin chum flies off when I stand up. I stroll down past the Spar, where once worked an absolutely stunning young woman, who I privately nick-named The Sexiest Girl in the Lakes (there was also a Sexiest Woman, but she was over in Coniston, and that’s a different story).

I got down as far as Zeffirellis, which brought back memories of a two-night break and a meal/cinema deal for the two of us, involving Curse of the Heaving Bosoms (actually, it’s Golden Flower, but if you’ve seen the film, and I recommend it if you haven’t, you’ll get what we meant). That’s one memory too many so I come back and ensconce myself in the Ambleside Tavern, with a pint and a comfy chair in the window, and dig out Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which has been my long-distance train journey reading book for about three years now: it’s a long book, and I don’t make that many long journeys by train.

A long slow read, a long slow pint and some decent Motown on the sound system. Nice.

There’s usually some woman who catches my eye on these Lakes days, and she’s waiting for the bus. She has short, dark-reddish hair, and narrow, black-rimmed glasses that emphasise her eyes. She sits down immediately in front of me. She looks intelligent, someone you can have a conversation with, someone with strong opinions. She gets off outside the hotels on the lakeshore.

We go from light to dark in the space of the drive from Ambleside to Windermere. There’s time before my train, nearly ninety minutes. I can catch the one before it or I can go fora coffee in Booths‘ cafe. even though I know it will give me problems with the bus when I get to Piccadilly Station after 8.00pm, I go for the coffee.

It doesn’t last me that long, but I have the book to occupy me, and finally, not long after getting on the train to Preston, it is over. How many journeys has it taken me? Buggered if I know.

The ticket inspector advises me that if I change at Oxenholme, I can get on a quicker train to Preston, and an earlier one to Piccadilly.  It’s pitch-black, I have my music, I decide not to bother with the additional hassle. This proves to be a mistake: we sit motionless for nearly ten minutes at Oxenholme, and another five at Lancaster, meaning that I miss the connection at Preston. The next Manchester train’s twenty minutes: it’s delayed arriving and sits there for nearly ten minutes before leaving.

This is now a joke, made worse by having no idea of where we are or what progress, if any, the train is making.

At long last, we reach Piccadilly. There’s a further surprise at the bus stop: a 203, waiting and about to pull out. I am on it like the proverbial rat up a drainpipe. That’s one for me at least.

But this fragmented and seemingly interminable journey home is merely a minor blot on a day that was far better than I could have expected, which could hardly have been better save by fitting in a jaunt onto the fells, or a sympathetic companion. Maybe next year, eh?  Yeah, right after the Euromillions win… Home tired, back knacked, knee protesting, but content. That’ll do.

American Gothic: e03: Eye of the Beholder


Would you buy a southern town from a man with a face like this?

The third episode of American Gothic ended at a still point, a rest point, leading me to think that, from next week onwards, the show will revert to the single episode progression that I remember. This was about finally setting in place a status quo ante that holds off Sheriff Buck’s immediate desire to get hold of his illegitimate son, Caleb, and enable the series to focus on the battles to come.

There was no follow-up to last week’s cliffhanger, but then, need there have been? Can a ghost, a spirit, an angel, whatever Merlyn Temple may be, be crushed to death by a falling tree? Of course not: so we start by Caleb and his cousin Gale getting a lift to the hospital to see Dr Matt. It’s all nice, and light, and friendly, even if the lift is coming from Sheriff Buck.

Gary Cole is playing this role beautifully. Publicly, he’s every bit who he appears to be: the town benefactor, everybody’s friend, the God-fearin’ man doing his duty by his own. It’s an integral part of the deliberately slow, heat-dampened southern town. But it takes only the slightest change of emphasis for that role to be overlaid by the manipulator, the controller, the power-broker: only enough for those inside the loop, such as the audience, to see him for what he is. Cole, with his buttoned up shirts, his ever-present vests (waistcoats to you and I), is the picture.

This third episode is structured around the forthcoming hearing to grant temporary custody of Caleb, now he’s lost his family. Buck’s got the judge in his pocket, but he’s taking no chances by having his only two rivals blackened. Caleb’s cousin Gale, the crime reporter, is dragged into addressing the class about her career by Selena Combs, who then relates the tale of Gale’s two weeks undercover in a crack-den at the hearing.

But Buck’s attempts to discredit Dr Matt are more powerful and more vicious.

The episode goes heavier on Buck’s seeming black magic powers than any before it. A patient undergoing routine surgery at the hospital suddenly erupts ina violent fit that only Buck can calm: he’s had a violent reaction to the anaesthetic because he suffers from epilepsy, which Matt and his anaesthetologist Dan Truelane (guest star Michael Burgess) have both ‘overlooked’. That information was not in the patient’s records before Buck entered the theatre, but it is now.

And Buck starts to pressurise Dan into blackening Matt’s character at the hearing. His vehicle is Dan’s new bride, Sheryl (N’Bushe Wright), to whom he gives a wedding gift, an ornate mirror, which rapidly obsesses her, turning her into a writhing, lurid, sexually charged seductress. When Dan smashes the mirror, Sheryl is horrifically disfigured, losing her right eye in a shattered face.

Dan still tries to do good by Matt but what Buck forces out of him is nothing but the truth. That Matt is a (recovered) alcoholic. That his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash, caused by his driving drunk.

Two down, only one candidate left for the Judge.

But not so. Caleb’s return to school is interrupted by that other supernatural factor, his sister. She leads him to a quiet house in town, a silent house full of African masks and figurines and a doll dressed like Merlyn whose eyes have rolled inwards and which he mustn’t touch. It’s a boarding house, run by a calm woman named Loris Holt (Tina Lifford), who accepts Caleb’s presence without surprise (she is not the sort of woman to be surprised by anything).

She gets Caleb to help around the house, to help in making soup, and to take a bowl of this soup to a house down the street. We don’t know whose house it is, not then, that’s the stinger that had me laugh aloud when it was produced as the rabbit in the hearing. Judge Halpern, in Lucas Buck’s pocket, awards temporary custody to the only remaining candidate, Loris Holt. It was a mighty fine bowl of soup.

So Caleb finds a home, where Merlyn can find him. Loris accepts another border, Dr Matt. And there are two more nods to Buck’s powers. The Judge was free to go against Buck’s requirements because he has advanced prostate cancer, not that that stops his abrupt death that night, just as a crow caws at his window.

And though he’s been set back, Buck shows he is not (necessarily) mean or petty by telling Dan that, because he told the truth, he will not be punished: Sheryl’s eye and looks reappear. Dan wants to run, but Sheryl refuses.

So, as I said, we have a set up, a base upon which to work. The real series, if you like, begins next week. But already American Gothic has worked on many levels. It’s a good, solid television horror story, not reliant upon gore or overt monsters, but on a central, powerful figure, and a central, powerful concept: will Lucas Buck be able to corrupt Caleb Temple?

Stay tuned.

On Writing: It’s All in the Mind, you know


Everyone who writes writes a different way. I don’t just mean style or technique, but the way they approach the act of writing. Mine is very instinctive. I don’t plan ahead, I don’t structure, I rarely produce synopses. I find myself to the opening line and follow that to where it goes, and I find myself saying things I didn’t know I thought, or that I couldn’t possibly have written without all the words that come before them.

I’ve spoken of this many times. The work, the real work of writing, for me, is done in the subconscious, in an area of my mind to which I have no conscious access, over which I have little or no influence.

Case in point: the Gene Wolfe blog published earlier today. Writing about Wolfe is difficult, because he is so good and so clever, and I constantly feel inadequate reading him. It’s actually a couple of weeks since I re-read The Urth of the New Sun for the purpose of blogging it. During that time, I’d made a number of attempts to get my thoughts down on paper, explain my reaction to the book, sometimes managing no more than a couple of paragraphs at a time. It wasn’t going well.

I’m currently off work for ten days, my traditional birthday time-out, a chance to just switch off, do nothing, recharge. It’s also a lot of time in which to tackle writing that gets put off when I’m working 1.00 – 9.00pm five work days a week, and I’m finding the unaccustomed opportunity to write without having a deadline to go to work or to bed to be very useful.

The Wolfe blog was on my list of things to do this week. Tuesday was Deep Space Nine Day, and it was a good episode and gave me a lot to think about. I had a buzz in my head, the kind of sensation that I now easily identify as meaning that I have words there, words and the mental energy to use them, persist with them, concentrate.

So I started the Wolfe blog. From scratch. Ignored everything I’d already written, started from the same opening point but in new words, and just let my sense of engagement, my subconscious, pull me through. You’ve read the outcome earlier.

It conveys all the things I thought whilst I was reading the book, my reservations about why I found it so much easier to pick up and put down to do other things. And this after not just DS9 but also completing the latest of the Lone Pine books I’m re-reading so I can revise the series of blogs I posted on them earlier this year.

I knew I had the flow just waiting to be turned out. I knew that these Lone Pine rewrites are equal parts re-writing and editing, and that the energy I felt was more suited to a flow of words, not the finnicky work of piecing existing work together.

And I was right.

This is my way of working, as it’s evolved over the years since 1994, when I first started to write my response to Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch that became the first completed piece of extended writing I first achieved: twenty years on from first trying to put words together and finally feeling like I knew what I was doing. You may call it winging it, and to some extent, that’s what I do. But the odd thing is that I can only wing it once: once they’re out of my head, I can’t reproduce them.

So when I feel the energy, when I feel fecund, as I call it to myself, I try to take advantage. If you’re interested in the process of writing, you may recognise something in this, or you may be aghast with horror and think that nothing of the slightest worth could ever possibly come from this kind of thing.

Maybe you already think that nothing of the slightest worth has ever come from my pen and this just proves it to you. But this is how I work. And if you’re one of those who, as I was twenty-odd years ago, plans and prepares and synopses the hell out of it, maybe trying throwing caution to the wind one day and see if that gives you something you haven’t had before. And if it doesn’t, then you can damn me.

The Lord of the Rings Redux


The shouting has already begun, and it’s going to go on for a long, long time.

My cards are on the table: I have loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings since first starting in in 1973, and it has been one of the biggest influences on my reading habits. I have the pretty much complete Tolkien ouevre (this does not include Mr Bliss, The Father Christmas Letters or some of the most recent reconstructions but it does include the entire History of Middle-Earth series in hardback, all First Editions). I saw the Ralph Bakshi animated Lord of the Rings (first half) the day it came out, despite being on holiday in Wales at the time, I have seen all the Peter Jackson films and I unashamedly like The Hobbit trilogy. And, guess what, last time I looked, not a single page of the book had changed.

No, you can call me a Tolkien fan, and I’m not bothered about what the means to you.

Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it had secured the rights to do a The Lord of the Rings TV series. It is intended to be ‘multi-season’. And it is not another adaptation of the book: it will tell primarily untold stories from the period between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The response has, frankly, not been good. This piece of shit… sorry, whimsy and wit from the egregious Stuart Heritage in the Guardian, not to mention the BTL comments, seems to be typical. Condemnation, right out of the gate, assumptions of malign intent, a conviction that before anyone has done more than sign the contracts it will all be shit: well, I could understand it if we were talking about Heritage’s next thousand articles, but the one thing everyone seems to have overlooked in the rush to heaps coals and execrations on the heads of everyone involved is, it hasn’t happened yet. No scripts have been written, no actors auditioned. The Tolkien estate approves of it.

Ok, I’m a fan. I’m naturally well-disposed to the idea. And as has already been pointed out BTL, the life of Aragorn has got a lot of meat in those barely hinted at appendices.

Some things are obvious: this is nakedly a bid for the Game of Thrones market, and whilst it’s clearly arguable that it may have been better to go for a less familiar ‘property’, The Lord of the Rings is very much the kind of story that could achieve GoT levels of success.

And whilst I’ve never watched GoT, I work alongside loads of people who do, and they seem to be impressed.

So, as I tend to think at moments like this, why don’t we just calm down, wait for the thing to be made, and then kick it’s arse if it’s fucking crap. Because, trust me, that’s what I’m going to do if it is fucking crap. Until then, I have no idea what it’s going to be like. And I’m not rushing to judgement.

I’m surprised that I have to point things like this out to people (no, I’m not. Sigh.)