Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Preparing to recross the pond

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about emigrating. Long ago life settled down into a regular form, became just the ordinary every day. Yes, there are still times I marvel that we live in Canada, that I tell which direction I’m driving by seeing the mountains on the North Shore, but I don’t convert dollars into pounds any more, trying to see if things are cheaper or more expensive. I don’t flinch from saying “pants” instead of “trousers”, and I no longer think “parkade” is a fizzy drink.

Soon we’ll head back to the UK for our second visit since we emigrated. This time we’ll be going back in the winter, with all the added unpredictability that brings. Will there be a sprinkling of snow that closes roads and railways? Having once shoveled my driveway clear three times in the same day, I’m inclined to roll my eyes at that thought. And we don’t get “real” snow here in the Vancouver area… Just ask someone from Winnipeg.

Our last trip back was a summertime thing, and we met friends on the beach in Bournemouth. We walked through parks, in London and Worcester. When I think of going back, those are the images that come to mind.

Weasels and pigeons in the park, Bournemouth

Weasels and pigeons in the park, Bournemouth

After a while out here the view of the UK becomes somewhat idealised, like this:

Younger Weasels and their Grandma in a very English garden.

Younger Weasels and their Grandma in a very English garden.

But we’ll be there for early nights, cold, brisk days. And probably rain. We’ll be spending almost every day going from one place to another so we can visit as many friends as possible, but we also have to set aside time so we can celebrate Christmas with the family we’ve been away from for so long.

The travel is, as ever, the part that bothers me the most. Our appreciation of distance has changed significantly. To illustrate, let me show you our last but one holiday : we went to Cardiff-by-Sea, Encinitas, by way of San Francisco. We drove, and it took a week or so to get there. It was fun (except for going through LA, obviously.) Here’s what that journey looks like:

Thank you, Google Maps!

Thank you, Google Maps!

You can see (perhaps) that that journey is 2197 km. If you need a translation, that’s 1365.153 miles, or a trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End and more than halfway back again. We did the journey home again in three days.

We won’t be traveling nearly as far in our trip around the UK, but our nomadic lifestyle prior to leaving the country means we have friends all over the place, and I look at the map of the UK Mrs Dim has pinned to the wall and the little flags stuck into it and I think….”How hard is that going to be?”

Four and a half years is quite a long time. It’s time for a child to be born and reach school age. It’s been time for one of our Weasels to reach High School and settle in. Middle Weasel is now in the top age group in her school. I’m on my third job, and am convinced the ancient curse has followed me to Canada (I worked for TVS – they lost their franchise. I worked for Peter Dominic’s – they went out of business. I worked at the Bell Hotel in Alresford – it looks like they did  a good job of rebuilding it after the fire. Here in Canada I worked for Canpages and they went out of business.) But I’m happy in my library job and hope to stay with it for a long time to come.

I guess the idea I’m circling here is that the only part of the UK we miss is the people. We moved every two years all the time we were married, and learned to place value on friendships, rather than places. We loved the old stuff like the Cathedral in Winchester, the Standing Stones in the Avebury Ring, or Roman ruins, or Iron Age Forts. We loved medieval towns and historical buildings, and we loved the modern parts of the country too, but they’re not why we’re going back. *

We’re going back to see our friends and family, and we’re only sorry we won’t be able to visit everyone in the time available. And of course, if it snows, we may not get out of the airport….

*There are certain factions within the family that maintain the ENTIRE reason for the visit is The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. If anyone from the BBC is reading this, we know the perfect person to co-ordinate a Doctor Who Exhibition in Vancouver – she already knows EVERYTHING about Doctor Who.

Doctor Wheasel - TARDIS not included.

Doctor Wheasel – TARDIS not included.

The April Bookshelf

Trotting off on a road trip to San Diego for the first half of April put quite a dent in my reading. Since we were packing all five of us and our gear into the one car, it seemed unwise to take up too much space with reading material.

Lucky for me I have a kindle.

The Steampunk Megapack

I’ve been reading this collection of stories on and off for a while now. Not because I couldn’t get into it, but because there’s SO MUCH in it. The first few tales are short stories, but before long the content is padded with entire novels – I really enjoyed re-reading Conan-Doyle’s “The Lost World” and experiencing “John Carter and the Princess of Mars” for the first time.

As with most of the collections I’ve read, not all of the stories were to my taste, which isn’t surprising. What was surprising and a bit annoying was that very few of the stories were genuine Steampunk. Though the term itself is only a loose classification, I really feel there does need to be an “alternate universe” feel to the setting. The basic idea of Steampunk is that modern technology, like electrical devices and gasoline-powered vehicles were not developed along the same lines, and that Steam Power achieved most of the same results. In addition, there’s usually more than a touch of Victoriana about the mannerism and the dress code, if not the time zone.

The majority of these stories were based in the right era and thus had the language, but hit none of the other checkpoints. Value for money, but not the product it’s claiming to be.

Behemoth and Goliath – Scott Westerfeld

I mentioned the first of Westerfeld’s “Animalistic Steampunk” trilogy last month, and this month I tracked down the next two in the series. I really enjoyed these books – partially for the plucky female lead, and partially for the excellently real, yet fantastic world they’re set in. I also give Scott credit for stopping World War One in his world. Good job, that man.

The Girl of Nightmares – Kendare Blake

Picked entirely because of the beautiful artwork on the cover, I found this was at least the second or third in a series. The story goes that a mystic group imbued a knife with the power to release the unquiet dead – to “kill” ghosts. Now, in the modern day, the wielder of the knife lives in America, and only “kills” the “bad” ghosts, plus he’s fallen in love with a dead girl, and wants to know if the knife can be used to rescue her from hell. Now, aside from the other practical issues here, what kind of mystic group goes to all that trouble then leaves their mystic warriors to their own devices for TWO GENERATIONS? Were they twiddling their mystic thumbs all this time?

I rushed back to the library to hurriedly NOT book out the other books in the series.

Shada – Gareth Roberts

When Eldest Weasel bought herself this book for her birthday, I was intrigued to note that it had Douglas Adams’ name on the cover. DA wrote three Doctor Who episodes for the Tom Baker era Doctor, but the third one was not one of his favourites, and was never completed due to strike action at the BBC. Now the scripts from that story, his notes and the knowledge of the books Douglas wrote later have been brought together to create this novel. It was very good, even though I spent a lot of time tutting and saying “Hitch hiker….Dirk Gently…Dirk Gently…Huh…” as I recognised bits and pieces here and there. Well worth the read if you are a fan of Adams, Doctor Who, Dirk Gently or all three.

Star Wars Omnibus “Menace revealed”

I couldn’t resist adding such a thick collection of Star Wars comics to my library list when I found out they were gathered together in one volume. This bunch includes a couple of tales about Jango Fett and Zam Wesell which changes my view of their working relationship as portrayed in “Episode 2” and a couple more  about Aurra Sing, the mysterious Jedi Hunter. The final few were simply advertisements for toys, being reprints of the short comics that came free with the vehicles and figures on sale, but I enjoyed the first stories enough to make the loan worthwhile.

4th Doctor Who anniversary story: The Roots of Evil – Phillip Reeve

There are some cracking authors in this anniversary series. I’ve been a fan of Phillip Reeve since picking up “Mortal Engines” on a whim and reading the whole series thereafter. Now THAT’s a series begging to be a movie AND  a computer game. I would pay good money to fly the Jenny Hanniver from Traction City to the Air Market… But that ‘s NOT what this book’s about. This is an adventure of the fourth Doctor, traveling with the wonderfully savage Leela and discovering an entire floating world made from a single, enormous tree.

Plain Kate – Erin Bow

When I began reading “Plain Kate” I really felt like I had stumbled across a good old fashioned children’s story. The world was recognisable, but old, the characters were simple, but believable and there was a touch of magic. Things got dark quickly, however, and I raced on through the book, waiting for the tide to turn and Kate’s life to improve.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll say it’s definitely worth the read. It’ll strain the heartstrings of even the toughest reader, and I would hesitate before offering it to any of the Weasels, since they all have such soft hearts. Mrs Dim is working through it now, and “enjoying” it.

Michael Vey: The prisoner of cell 25 – Richard Paul Evans

I’ve seen a brilliant map that someone has created, showing many of the lands from fiction as if they shared the same world: Middle Earth, Westeros, Narnia, Panem… I was thinking there should be a similar thing to show the many bunches of renegade kids with super-powers running about the place.

This book doesn’t have much new to say on the subject of being a kid with superpowers, but it was an engaging read and I found myself flying through the book to see if the villains get their comeuppance at the end. Rather than answer that question, I’ll just say there’s a second book in the series….

The Bughouse Affair – Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

I have to be honest, I picked this one up, assuming it to be another steampunk detective piece, but it’s not – it’s a period detective piece. If you’re a fan of San Francisco, or the 1890’s, or of books that feature cameos by Sherlock Holmes, then this may well be a book for you. Or maybe you just like central characters that say “Bah!” a lot. Sadly, I don’t fit into any of those catagories, and I also have a peculiar need for the title of a book to bear some relation to the content of the book. This book is entitled “The Bughouse Affair” and deals with burglaries, pickpocketing and Sherlock Holmes. NOT elementary.

From a Buick 8 – Stephen King

I’ve been a King fan for years, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read this particular book. It’s an interesting story, particularly if you’ve worked your way through the rest of the King canon, because what the book is about is a piece of a much larger story, yet you don’t NEED to know that other story to appreciate this one.

Troop D are keeping an old Buick in a shed, and it has a dangerous and strange history. When the son of a trooper who was killed in a roadside accident begins to ask questions about the shed, it’s time to tell the strange story and lay the ghosts to rest.

Apologies for linking all these books to Amazon.com, and not having the techno-savvy to allow the link from the picture to show the inside of the books.

I know some of my reviews are harsh, both here and last month, but these are the books that I stuck with to the end. They may not, in some cases, have made my favourite list, but they were engaging enough to hold my attention. There are books not mentioned here because I didn’t finish them.

And, of course, the other book I’ve been reading a lot in the last month is my own : The Great Canadian Adventure .  I’ve been putting this account of our first year in Canada together for the last couple of years, but a concerted effort this month has produced the kindle edition, complete with colour photographs and hyperlinks. I certainly haven’t seen another kindle book like it. Let me know what you think of it.

I DO have all the links for this one:

Amazon.Com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CKZQUX4
Amazon.co.uk : http://amzn.to/12WTomY
Amazon.ca : http://amzn.to/ZWv5XD

Suit up! It’s Vancouver Fan Expo time!

Fan Expo 053

If you’ve read much of this blog, you may know that last year’s Fan Expo was an interesting experience for me and my family, but one we only got to see from the outside. Nonetheless, the parade of costumed characters coming and going was impressive.

This year, to avoid being left out in the cold, we booked our tickets well in advance. Although I’d put together my suit of Mandalorian armour in time for Hallowe’en, it wasn’t quite right, and I stripped it down for a rebuild, which wasn’t done by the time Fan Expo rolled around. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it…

Mando costume

…Not appearing at this year’s Expo…

Eldest Weasel had rallied some friends and was flying the flag for Doctor Who, having transformed herself into River Song and her mates into the Doctor (11th) and TARDIS.

Fan Expo 031That left Mrs Dim and myself to herd the two smaller Weasels into the Fan Expo.

So, you need to arrive early, especially if you’ve booked photo shoots or signings or whatever. We rolled up around eleven and joined the “Saturday only” queue, which was moving along, and a pretty jolly affair. We chatted with the lady in front of us, proudly wearing her Buffy t-shirt because she would be meeting James Marsters shortly.

Fan Expo 022There were plenty of costumes to see in the lineup, but most were in the “Two Day” line, which wasn’t moving as fast as ours. We passed the Bunny-eared Master Chief on the way up Canada Place, and then back down it, and he didn’t seem to have moved at all….

Yes, the ears are funny, but that's an MA5B Assault Rifle on his back....

Yes, the ears are funny, but that’s an MA5B Assault Rifle on his back….

When we got to the door we had to pass an angry woman who’d been waiting a couple of hours with small children, demanding to be let in ahead of the queue because her photo shoot time was coming up. The guy on the door was apologetic but firm, explaining that there were over thirteen thousand people to organise.

We’d planned to make purchases and all kinds of excitement, but the reality was that we goggled. There’s not much opportunity for goggling in the real world these days, but at Fan Expo it was positively encouraged. Everywhere you looked were either amazing displays, like the Lego booth:

WP_002005

Middle Weasel goggles at the Lego Booth.

Or it was the endless stream of fantastic outfits roaming the crowded walkways.  Mrs Dim kept reminding me that they wouldn’t mind being stopped for photos, but my essentially English nature prevented me from stepping forward often enough. We were delighted to meet two of Ankh-Morpork’s finest Watch officers, Captain Carrot and Sergeant Angua, and they were delighted that we knew who they were. The two tiny weasels are considering being Nobby Nobbs and Cheri Littlebottom next year.

Carrot and Angua appear most often in the "Guards" book s of the Discworld, by Terry Pratchett.

Carrot and Angua appear most often in the “Guards” book s of the Discworld, by Terry Pratchett.

The standard of the costumes ranged wildly, from things people had clearly cut out of cardboard the week before, to outfits that were indistinguishable from the original movie costumes. The ratio of costume to regular folks was about 1:3, so if you’re considering a costume for next year, don’t worry about being the only one – there’ll be plenty of others.

After two or three hours of strolling and gawking we were hungry and overstimulated. We wandered out and across the road to a food court and saw the most amazing mix of costumed characters and regular Vancouvians sharing tables. We queued up for pizza in front of Arthur Dent and (another) eleventh Doctor, but just behind a Hobbit. She explained she’s gone for the Hobbit costume rather than her Trek outfit. Imagine having a choice!

Even Ghostbusters need a lunchbreak...

Even Ghostbusters need a lunchbreak…

We took our pizza outside to sit in the weak sunshine, where the gardens around the fountain were dotted with X-men, Sailor Moons, Whovians and people I still don’t recognise. Maybe they were just from Vancouver?

Jean Grey is having hair trouble, it seems...

Jean Grey is having hair trouble, it seems…

After lunch it didn’t seem like a good idea forcing the Weasels back into the crowds, so we walked back to Canada Place and watched the plaza fill with people. There were dozens of impromptu photo shoots going on, and we grabbed the chance to get photos of our heroes.

These Guildies may have been one short, but their costumes were spot on.

These Guildies may have been one short, but their costumes were spot on.

GLaDos - the best interpretive costume we saw all day. She was stopped dozens of times for photos in the space of ten yards.

GLaDos – the best interpretive costume we saw all day. She was stopped dozens of times for photos in the space of ten yards.

Who wouldn't recognise that hat?

Who wouldn’t recognise that hat?

As we finally headed back through the Convention centre to the car park, we found the big group costume photo shoot going on. Everyone was smiling and laughing while a huge Thor directed like he was arranging wedding photos:

“Now VILLAINS! Ok, now all the Spidermen at the front, Batmen at the back! Black Cat, can you and that other Black Cat lie down at the front there? Let the Ghostbusters through, please!”

From above it looks like chaos, but it was organised chaos. Well, fairly organised...

From above it looks like chaos, but it was organised chaos. Well, fairly organised…

We didn’t come away from Fan Expo 2013 with a lot of loot, but we’d seen some amazing costumes, been inspired all over again for next year (and Hallowe’en!) and we’d even taken some time to speak to the comic artists who are after all, the reason for the whole event. Middle Weasel was told “You have to do a million bad drawings to get a good one” and that’s good to remember in life no matter what.

Thanks for a fun day out, Fan Expo!

You never know WHO you'll meet there!

You never know WHO you’ll meet there!

Doctor Horrible meets his nemesis...or biggest fan

Doctor Horrible meets his nemesis…or biggest fan

Maybe next year Fan Expo needs to be bigger on the inside?

Maybe next year Fan Expo needs to be bigger on the inside?

Capn America