(By Julie anne Johnson from Cheltenham, UK (Terry Wogan°○●○•°) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
Ah right, well then, settle down by a nice fire, attracted by the prospect of a second custard cream, as we attempt to pay tribute to young Sir Terry of Wogan, the man off the TV. And radio, you say, with some justification.
Sir Terry Wogan was a TV institution in the UK for fifty years. As he himself said in his farewell address to the radio, people had grown up listening to him, and their children now had children of their own. So mum first heard him pre-BBC, and now I'm a dad. Weird thing, time.
(I could carry on in Terry style, but it would be pastiche, and the man deserves far better...)
Gene Wilder was an actor of supreme comic timing, who became known to millions of children first and foremost as Willy Wonka. That his Wonka was not the one in the head of the writer is well known, but then, contrary to many expectations, I'm not sure Johnny Depp was either. And anyhow, in this case of Roald Dahl vs the viewing public, Wilder appears to have the overwhelming support of a few billion to one.
BBC weather girl who directed two documentaries about terminal cancer after her own diagnosis. Before I Kick the Bucket is poignant, informative, and actually quite funny in places, and highly recommended.
French poet, historian and the man who translated Shakespeare into French. He was winner of the French Academy’s highest prize in 1981.
“Mr. Bonnefoy (pronounced bun-FWA) burst onto the literary scene in 1953 with “On the Motion and Immobility of Douve,” a long poetic sequence that revolved around a mysterious female figure, Douve, whose shifting guises invoked the powers of death and rebirth and poetry itself. The work has often been compared, in impact, to the publication of Paul Valéry’s first column of verse, “La Jeune Parque” (“The Young Fate”), a generation earlier, in 1917. “It was a stunning achievement, a work of extraordinary technical mastery, playing with the traditional alexandrine, the 12-syllable line, but subverting it,” John T. Naughton, the author of “The Poetics of Yves Bonnefoy” (1984), said in an interview. “Readers sensed that a new voice had come on the scene, and that a new generation was coming to prominence after the war.” By 1978, when his collected poems were published, Mr. Bonnefoy’s position as France’s most important poet, and one if its most influential men of letters, was secure. After Roland Barthes died in an accident in 1980, Mr. Bonnefoy was elected his successor to the chair of comparative poetics at the Collège de France, making him the first poet to join the institution since Valéry in 1937.”
William Grimes, Yves Bonnefoy, Pre-Eminent French Poet, Dies at 93, New York Times 5 July 2016
(Michael's note: I knew Prince for a few songs - love Gold - but wasn't really a fan. I know lots were though, but no worries, you're in the hands of the superb Mr Arnold for his reminisces about the Artist formerly known...)
was Prince and he was, undoubtedly, funky.
The song benefits from one of George Martin's ingenious studio devices: recording specific parts at different tape speeds. Though McCartney handles the piano chords on "Good Day Sunshine," Martin — an accomplished keyboardist who contributed to a number of Beatle recordings — is responsible for the slowed-down honky-tonk piano solo that follows the abbreviated second verse.The result is a peppy break that sounds organic even though it's the product of tape-manipulation trickery. Martin's nuanced approach to recording technology — using it to serve the music, not as a gimmick — is arguably his biggest contribution to Revolver and everything that followed. "George Martin [was] quite experimental for who he was, a grown-up," said McCartney.”
Elvis Costello, on “Good Day Sunshine”, 100 Greatest Beatles Songs, Rolling Stone magazine, 19 September 2011
“She worked as a counsellor in the early 1970s and began writing fiction, winning £1,000 in a BBC competition for a TV play. In 1972, her husband, sister Joyce and mother died, and Denise found herself having to sell her jewellery, including her wedding ring, to feed herself and her son. The following year, despite her anxieties over what people might think, she married Jack Tomlin, the widowed father of her son’s best friend, and in the process acquired four stepsons. But the north-east in the 70s was a hard place to live – his business also collapsed, and Denise, Jack and their five children lived in sub-standard housing. Determined to build on her earlier writing success, Denise began producing short stories, television scripts and novels. Her first novel, Nurse in Doubt, a hospital romance, was published by Mills & Boon in 1984. The trilogy that followed, The Land of Lost Content (1984), A Year of Winter (1986) and Blue Remembered Hills (1987), was set in a fictional Durham pit village, Belgate, and reflected her love for the north-east. The last of her 20 novels, Don’t Cry Aloud (2015), looks at forced adoption, an issue she had encountered as an agony aunt.”
Suzie Hayman, Guardian obit 4 April 2016
Stage actress who became better known to TV audiences for her role as Julie Cooper in Eastenders.
“Having created the role of Tanya (for which she received an Olivier award nomination) in Catherine Johnson’s Abba musical Mamma Mia! at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1999, she graduated to leading lady Donna the following year and remained with the show until 2004.In 2006 she was seen as Phyllis in Follies (Royal Theatre, Northampton) and on tour as the Baroness in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, reuniting with Catherine Johnson in 2009 to play the mother in her disturbing exploration of incest and child abuse, Suspension, at the Bristol Old Vic Studio.The same year she appeared in Oklahoma! for Chichester Festival Theatre and White Christmas at The Lowry, Salford.” Michael Quinn, The Stage obit, 8 March 2016
Irish footballer who played over 200 league games for Derry City from 2003 to 2012, and won the Irish Cup twice with them. He suffered a brain tumour in 2010, but returned to play football, including a ten goals in fifteen games stint at Glenavon before his cancer returned.
“The word legend is often over used to describe people but in Derry City circles Mark Farren was a true legend.The clubs all time highest goal scorer in the league of Ireland Mark, was an inspiration both on and off the pitch. Mark also played with Finn Harps, Monaghan United and Glenavon, but it is with Derry City that he really made his mark both on the field of play and in the supporters’ hearts. Off the pitch Mark also worked with the Football in the Community group at Derry City, coaching many young people and instilling in them a love for the game and the principles required, at times, to turn their lives around.”
Derry City official website
(Justin Hoch [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
“Rickman was one of those actors who brought something
special to every film he did — you never got the sense that he was trying to
merely get the job done. My usual trick when interviewing actors was to go out
of my way to take them seriously — even if the movie or show wasn't all that
great, you had to respect their professionalism. Rickman was the only case
in which this didn't work for me. Not to take anything away from the other
actors, but it was clear with Rickman that he expected quite a bit more. And
of course I walked out of the hotel with miles and miles of respect for the
man, whose reputation, at that point already massive, only grew.”
Matthew DeBord, Alan Rickman was the toughest actor I ever interviewed – and
the smartest, UK Business Insider, 16 January 2016
I mean, there are people I'd have liked to spend more time on this year, who got a bit lost in the shuffle, because there's over 500 of these...
Year End Memoriams for January 2016 (and a few from 2015 we only found out about once New Year had passed...)
As with years passed, we take the time to remember those who have left us in the previous twelve months.
(Note - All quotes are italicised and sourced to their authors, except Telegraph obits, as they don't credit their own writers. As in previous years, this is a non-profit memorial with quotes used strictly for critique purposes.)
So, in recent years I've been aiming to expand my cooking capabilities. I come from a long line of good cooks, and I had wondered if I had the cooking genes hidden away. Well, so far, I've yet to kill anyone with my food, and I've advanced from switching on a microwave, to actual meals. Most of which seems to settle around what Sadie likes.
The final twenty-five! It's the final countdown! (Oh great, now Shim will be singing Europe for days...)
Anyhow, a whole bunch of stories from The Big Five (James, Benson, Blackwood, Hartley and Burrage) fight out for the top spot, alongside one or two tales by lesser known writers which should be far better known.
The top slot won't be a surprise to anyone who knows me, but there are some fantastic stories in this final list which I heartily recommend.
There was a radio DJ once, possibly Tiger Tim, who said of the band Big Country that "listening to their music was like someone had opened a window on a drafty day". Blackwood's writing has much the same effect, steeped in the culture and climate of his locations, and so ethereal, that our characters are haunted by the gloomy outdoors long before any spirits appear. Here we never see a ghost, and indeed, we never get a character's name, and yet the anxiety and trepidation build. Our two men take a trip down the River Danube, and find themselves by the Austria/Hungary border. Now this area takes in Slovakia as well, but we're most likely talking about the area running along the border of the two countries south of Bratislava.
At these times, I am reminded of the warning words of one M.R. James:
"What tosh, by the
way, critics do write. Here I find a passage quoted from one Loveman(2)
who says "In Poe one finds (it*) a tour de force, in Maupassant a nervous
engagement of the flagellated climax. To Bierce, simply & sincerely,
diabolism held in its tormented depths a legitimate and reliant means to
the end". This appears to me to have no meaning."
M.R. James, in letter to Nicholas Llewellyn Davies, 12 January 1928, reproduced by Jack Adrian and reprinted by Rosemary Pardoe.
There was a problem with writing up a countdown of the M.R. James Collected Ghost Stories. It was akin to open Pandora's Box, when I mentioned it to Mandy, she said "Yeah but he's not your favourite writer, is he?" She Who Must Be Obeyed is of course right, and I alluded to it earlier, but then this made my rather list orientated brain wonder how a ranking of *all* the great short horror I've read would look.
Jon Kaneko-James suggested that I do some Hallowe'en style writing, and, being out of practice due to ill health, I've reverted to the list. It been the October month, I was thinking about ghosts, as you do, and thinking about ghosts drags me, as usual, to M.R. James.
“I assume, of course, that the
writer will have got his central idea before he undertakes the story at all.
Let us, then, be introduced to the actors in a placid way; let us see them
going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with
their surroundings; and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put
out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds
the stage. It is not amiss sometimes to leave a loophole for a natural
explanation; but, I would say, let the loophoole be so narrow as not to be
Its funny how time moves so quickly. After all, December
2015 gave us twelve years since Bob died, and some of the family asked how long
it had been near the time, so I said “twelve years” and that was their
response. “It’s never twelve years!” He seemed the most alive of all of us.
It’s also fair to be a pendant, and note that it’s actually
been twenty-five years. That’s when I recall dad taking mum to the gates of St
Helens in Shawlands. Of Bob himself – the most alive of all of us, you know –
in his smart, dark blue jacket and black trousers. He was smiling, I remember,
despite the fact it was his own personal loss. But I never counted that one,
because I was far too young to remember my Uncle Tommy. And, if he was my
grandfather’s brother, well, he must have been ancient to my four year olds
brain! He was fifty-four, which doesn’t seem so ancient these days, but one can’t
really call it my first family funeral, as I never attended it, and it was for
a person I don’t recall.
You know one of the things I really like about Doctor Who?
It's the little things. In episode one of Terror of the Autons, we see a Time
Lord character. He appears for less than five minutes. It's the only thing I
know the actor from. But he takes the part with extra gust and is great for it.
Lovely little cameos like that.
Terror of the Autons is where the things we all know and
love about the Pertwee start to come together. We already had UNIT and The
Brigadier, but now we see the débuts of Jo Grant, Mike Yates and The Master.
Truly the Pertwee era is born with this story. It is the story of The Master,
who wishes to bring the Nestene back to Earth, for reasons unexplained.
In 2010, I interviewed Duncan Lunan. A lot has changed since then: both of us have gotten married for a start! Some mutual friends have left, a Sarah has arrived, and Mr Lunan has had, I'm glad to say, something of a career renaissance. The piece this was for was to be the typical article length, but, as you'll see, Duncan provided the younger (and, dare I say, somewhat untactful) interviewer with a treasure chest of memories and insights going back fifty years. With his own permission, I re-print the entire thing here.
Previously published by Whotopia magazine in 2008.
light-hearted look at some of the great misnomers of Classic Who fandom
fandom is diverse. Yes I know, of all the entrances in all the fanzines, that
may well hold the record for the most obvious opening ever written. But it's
true, you know. I know two seven year olds – actually, I'm related to them –
who were inducted into the way of Who via playground chats and David Tennant.
And I know my mother, who can vaguely remember An Unearthly Child from
its first broadcast. And then, of course, there was my late lamented
grandfather, Bob, who had seen with his own eyes every missing episode, and who
would use to playfully wind the rest of us up by going “Fury from the Deep
lost? Shame, that was a fantastic piece of television.” And the diversity of
fandom, from the very young to the very young at heart is what makes the whole
thing so great.
It might be rather out of date, but it does profess my love for the tragic pro-wrestler well, and is a good example of my writing from a decade ago. A decade ago? Bloody hell, tempus fugit.
Owen Hart died, of that there was little doubt. An
unenviable few witnessed it; countless others felt the effects of this moment.
On the 23rd May 1999, at roughly 9pm ET, the youngest of the Hart
brothers was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital in Kansas. The facts are simple enough. His
character of The Blue Blazer was supposed to make a superhero like entrance
from the rafters, but something went horribly wrong. The harness failed. The
man fell 50ft to the ring. The PPV was held up. Jim Ross assured everyone that
what was going on in the ring (not shown to television audiences) was not a
kayfabed incident, that this was real and Owen Hart was in serious danger. Nevertheless,
this was wrestling! Surely, no matter how bad the situation looked, Hart would be
on RAW laughing at everyone with Jeff Jarrett and Debra McMichaels as usual.
Only it was not to be.
If you look at the history of the supernatural fiction, from recorded
beginning to the current day, it becomes clear that there was a peak of some
magnitude during the Victorian era. This stretches from A Christmas
Carol in the 1840s, until beyond the death of Edward VIII. In this
eighty-year time period, supernatural fiction sold like hot cakes. The people
lapped them up. Every writer known to the language tried their hand at one:
some, like Dickens, tried often, and some, like Le Fanu, were genre
specialists. And they sold, and they were highly regarded for their craft, and
the subject was frequently a best seller. All of the greatest writers of the
supernatural all come from within this time period of 1840-1920.
I’m an English writer, and by saying that of course I mean I’m Scottish. Except whilst I’m a Scottish writer, I’m not a writer of Scottish. I still write in the English language, and yet I’m no nearer English than I am Latvian. This whole business of semantics is rather complex: I gather it was all deliberately so. As a writer, you know not only does it make no sense at all (this English language) but worse, it’s all been set up to deliberately confuse you! So, in order to completely confuse myself, here I am musing about being an English writer from Scotland concerning the Irish muse whilst humming the Latvian national anthem.
Previously published in Winterwind magazine, 2013. A social experiment I couldn't get away with nowadays as a dad...
With Those Less Fortunate
A few years ago now, I remember being surprised by the news I would not be allowed to visit friends at Dungavel Detention Centre. The reason for this (or at least, the reason they seemed to wish to imply) was simple. As I refer to myself as a writer in public, I might well go ahead and write about the conditions. A brief check with the arrangements at Barlinnie prison assured me that I could speak to friendly prisoners in that fine establishment with the suitable arrangements. (None of my honoured friends have yet found themselves in that place of abode, so that is a matter of principle just now and not one put to the test!) And this makes sense: after all, the children of torture victims who seek asylum in the UK are much more dangerous than our rapists and murderers. Which is why, of course, we keep these people in Category A and B prisons.
Previously published in 2013 in Winterwind magazine. Somewhat timely with the recent, brilliant, BBC adaptation of And Then There Were None.
[Warning – Whilst efforts to be maliciously spoiling have been kept to a minimum, there will be the odd spoiler ahead. Of course, the writer is curious about needing a spoiler warning for things that are older than his parents, but is reminded of the time he was told off online for giving a spoiler to Hamlet, a mere 400 plus years after its first performance! So, be wary. ]
rumbling over the Clyde into Central Station, used to see fine buildings lining
the river on either side. Not any more. Right next to the railway, on the
corner of the Broomielaw and Jamaica Street, is a huge and -- to me -- deeply
shocking hole in the urban fabric. What has disappeared in the last few months
is a series of buildings of the sort that gives Glasgow its unique character.
How can such destruction still go on? This was the site of the old Paisley's
department store, long closed and derelict. Now I know that these buildings
were not just dilapidated but in a dangerous condition. They were victims of
the recession in that a scheme to rehabilitate them had foundered.
Nevertheless, they were special, and every effort should have been made to keep
them standing. Naively, I had assumed that these forlorn, grey-painted facades
would eventually be restored -- until the bulldozers suddenly moved in."