An American Whovian in London

How we were greeted at our first B&B!

How we were greeted at our first B&B!

As I mentioned before, I’m back from my 17-day holiday with my friend Sandy in Great Britain, and let me tell you, I didn’t want to come back! We had such a wonderful time, and really wanted to buy a house there and demand that our husbands pack up our places in the States and move out. Sadly, neither of them have passports, so that wasn’t an option. Our trip started in Bath, then went through York and Edinburgh, spending 2-3 days in each of those locations, before ending in London for 6 days, and here’s how it went, from the point of view of a Doctor Who fan (I still hate the term “Whovian”).

Your first question is probably why we didn’t visit Cardiff, the location of the BBC studios where Doctor Who is filmed, since we started off so close to it (we landed in Bristol, and Bath isn’t that far away). Well, the original intent was to tour Cardiff and Wales for that very reason, but about a month after we made the plane reservations, the Doctor Who Experience announced that it would be closed for the entire month of September, removing a very big target for visiting Cardiff. It would have cost $1000 per ticket to change the plane reservations to October, so we decided instead to visit Scotland instead of Wales. We’ll visit Cardiff on our next trip.

Can you tell which lane(s) lead away from the camera and which lane(s) don't?  And yes, the car was straddling the line, not switching lanes.

Can you tell which lane(s) lead away from the camera and which lane(s) don’t? And yes, the car was straddling the line, not switching lanes.

The very first thing we noticed when we arrived in England is that British drivers are crazy, and that doesn’t even count the side of the road they’re on. I think this was partially the fault of being in Bath, where real estate is extremely limited and so the roads are very narrow, to the point where the drivers will drive into oncoming traffic to get around things; it wasn’t quite as crazy in the other cities we visited. I think the worst part was watching cars on two-way streets crossing over oncoming traffic to street-park on the opposite side of the street (yes, facing the wrong direction). Similarly, motorcycles and bicycles will go wherever they want. Of course, when we mentioned to a native that we thought driving in England is insane, he was surprised, saying that the stereotype is that British streets are far saner than the rest of the world.

But beyond that, Britain was simply splendid. Bath, York, Edinburgh, London, and Cambridge (which we visited on a day trip) were all beautiful, though each with very distinct personalities. Bath, with its bathstone buildings, has a very unified look, with an air of Regency England. York feels very medieval within its city walls; outside of that, it’s modern. Edinburgh has very comfortable, small city atmosphere without being far from the rugged nature that Scotland is so famous for. London, of course, is a huge city, but incredibly simple to get around in due to its great Underground and bus system. Cambridge, interestingly, doesn’t have that university town feel. Its campus is spread out among the houses and town, rather than being centralized like American universities, probably due to the fact that it’s been developing for hundreds of years, and so you don’t have that concentration of students in specific places. It’s hard to describe: it feels like an old residential town with something more.

In all of these places, and in the places in between as we rode the train, you simply encounter ancient buildings and huge cathedrals, which is something completely unheard of in the states. There’s just nothing that old and historic, because the United States’ history doesn’t stretch back that far. It was an amazing feeling walking among buildings that had been there for hundreds, and in some cases, over a thousand years. One of the most impressive was the York Minster, a cathedral that was begun in 1220, to replace the old minster that had been standing there since 1065. This probably doesn’t matter to people who grew up in Europe and live among such history every day, but to me, you could actually feel the time in Britain.

The people also felt very different in Britain. First, in all of the places we visited, they were far more polite and helpful than Americans. Yes, that’s a stereotype, but it fit well. Strangers helped us carry our suitcases up and down stairs in the railway stations. They helped us decode the Tube map, gave us directions, gave us advice on etiquette (it took us the entire time to figure out that you have to ask for the bill in restaurants, not just wait for the waiter to bring it to you automatically). British people also on average dress better than Americans. There were very few people wearing t-shirts of any kind, even on weekends when out shopping or relaxing in the park, where they’d wear collared shirts and jumpers, and lots of plain black. Lots of people wore full suits, wool coats, and scarves, which was interesting because we thought it was rather warm and were walking around in shorts.

I found the t-shirt thing very interesting: there was very little display of fandom anywhere. I never once saw anyone wear anything with a Doctor Who logo or image, and very little of any other brand, maybe one Game of Thrones shirt, one Superman logo shirt, and one Big Bang Theory shirt. There was one group of teenagers walking along the Tower Bridge who had a number of what looked like band t-shirts among them (I didn’t recognize a single one), but they might have been foreign tourists, as all other groups of students we saw wore uniforms. In the US, brands and logos are everywhere: superheroes, TV shows, movies, athletic brands, etc.

I've added the phrase "use by" to my vocabulary.

I’ve added the phrase “use by” to my vocabulary.

One of the coolest events was that we were in Edinburgh on the day of the Scottish Referendum, in which the Scots voted on whether or not Scotland should become an independent nation. It was wonderful being there during such a historic event. Each side was lobbying for itself, of course, but on the whole, the debate was civil, and people on opposites sides of the debate stood next to each other and stated their views without haranguing each other. And after the votes were counted (85% voter participation!) and the results were announced, both sides went back to their lives and their work without animosity. It was beautiful to witness.

(On the other hand, two days later in London, I handed a Scottish bank note, 20 pounds sterling, to a cashier, and she turned to her coworker and asked, “Do we still take these?”)

One of the activities I enjoyed the most was touring minsters. I love architecture and history, and there is so much of both to see. We visited the Bath Abbey, St. Michael’s in Bath, the York Minster, St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Westminster Abbey, Southwark Cathedral, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It just amazed me how people hundreds of years ago designed and built these structures, and that they’ve survived this long. Southwark Cathedral is of particular interest to Doctor Who fans, since it’s supposed to be where Dr. Lazarus fled to in “The Lazarus Experiment,” though, of course, the episode was actually filmed in Wells Cathedral in Somerset. I found Southwark Cathedral prettier on the outside than the other cathedrals because it’s constructed of two types of stone, instead of only one, so that its walls are black/gray outlined by beige, giving it a unique look.

A fan's dream come true.

A fan’s dream come true.

I did have to do some geekery while in the UK, so we visited the Forbidden Planet megastore in London (after getting quite lost in Soho – we found that getting lost is even more fun than following the beaten path), and I was not disappointed. On the ground floor, one whole wall was dedicated to Doctor Who merchandise, and then another wall had DW t-shirts. But the real treasure was in the basement, where they have the media. In addition to all of the DW DVDs and blu-rays (and I mean all of them, classic and modern), they had the novels, comic books, non-fiction reference books, and – be still my beating heart – the Big Finish audios. If it weren’t so much easier to buy them at home and download them, I would have bought stack of them. Sadly, the one thing that I was looking for that I can’t download, the Gallifrey series, was out of stock.

Yes, I will ride this bus.

Yes, I will ride this bus.

There’s plenty more I could say about the trip, but if I said everything, it would take days of writing and all the space that WordPress allows on its servers. I had a wonderful time and didn’t want to come home, and I really love Great Britain. Oh, another thing that makes Britain great: David Tennant everywhere! (Ok, we happened to be there just before the premiere of his new movie, but it made us both pretty happy to see buses with his picture appear out of nowhere.)  Anyway, I’m looking forward to visiting again sometime soon (next couple of years), and this time, Cardiff better be ready. I’m thinking Wales, England, and Ireland next time, and after that, branching out to the rest of Europe. I just have to put my nose back to the grindstone to afford the next trip. Sigh.

 

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And I’m back!

Hello! Just popping in to say that I’ve returned! Where was I? On a tour of the UK with my best friend (I’ve mentioned her before as Sandy, of Carl and Sandy, the friends who I got into Doctor Who). We spent 17 days exploring Bath, York, Edinburgh, Cambridge, and London, enjoying every single minute of it! Unfortunately, I also managed to catch a cold on the last day we were there, and I’m currently rather befuddled, so I’m going to sign off now and come back later with a post about the trip and other things. See you soon!

Busy busy busy

Just thought I’d check in here and say that life’s been pretty busy, and will probably stay busy until the end of September, which means posts will be few and far between. Not so busy that I can’t watch the new series, and I’m eager for tonight’s episode! But I’m not abandoning this blog in any way. See you all whenever I can.

Doctor Who and my life

So, I haven’t posted here in a week and a half. I hadn’t really noticed, having been really busy this past week, both at work and at home. It’s summer, which has meant a lot of parades and concerts for the bands that I’m a member of, and that just took over my life for a little bit. So, even when I wasn’t at work, my time has been dedicated elsewhere.

Too lazy to go find new pics, so here's an old one.

Too lazy to go find new pics, so here’s an old one.

Of course, we are also coming into the home stretch of the long dry season of no Doctor Who. The last new episode was broadcast over seven months ago, and the long-awaited Series 8, with Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, arrives in eleven days (thirteen days if you’re like me and are going to wait to see it in the theater). For quite a while, there has been a dearth of Doctor Who-related media, official or fan, on the Internet, because, if there’s nothing new to see, there’s nothing new to talk about. You can see this in the drivel that doctorwhotv.co.uk posts – their articles are usually pretty inane, but they’ve devolved to simply babble, such as “Is it time to introduce a new theme song?” (Really? Someone actually took the time to write this article?)

I have to admit that I haven’t really been taking part in the lead-in to Series 8. First, I am avoiding all spoilers, even general hints of “is this Doctor going to be darker” and all that stuff. But second, there really isn’t anything happening nearby. The World Tour isn’t coming within 1000 miles of my home, and I’m honestly not interested in the actors themselves. Couple that with my fear of spoilers and there’s nothing new for me to see. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting.

What is both exciting and meaningful to me, though, is that this month is the first anniversary of my introduction to Doctor Who. One year ago this month (sometime in the middle of it), my husband sat down and popped in “Rose,” and in five minutes, I was sitting beside him, absolutely hooked on this TV show. I’ve talked before about why this show captivated me so much: the Doctor is exactly the hero that appeals to me, solving problems with his mind instead of his fists, dedicated to what he feels is right, and ready to sacrifice himself for others. He’s alien while still remaining someone we can relate to. Some Doctors embody this hero for me better than others, but they are all the Doctor, no matter which one I’m watching. And there’s just this incredible draw to the idea that there’s man out there who’s looking out for us, trying to defend the universe, all by himself or with a couple of friends.

More importantly, though, Doctor Who has changed my life in quite a number of ways, I’d like to think for the better though I can imagine many people would think for the worse. At the very beginning, I became completely obsessed with the show, watching the episodes as soon as I could get my hands on them and poring over Tardis Data Core for backstory and information at all other times. I’ll admit here that I spent quite a bit of time at work sneaking peeks at the wiki, but only because no one at work reads this blog. I had a blast putting together my Fifth Doctor costume and my husband’s Fourth Doctor costume for Halloween, which taught me a lot about how to look at outfits and duplicate or approximate them. And of course, I started this blog, which, at least back then, I was writing in almost every day.

As the months wore on, there was less obsession, though I still think about the show every day. But there have been some major changes in my life because of it. First, before I got into this fandom, most of my life was devoted to playing computer and video games. Now, I don’t have a problem with that at all: I believe that games are as valid a source of entertainment as anything else, maybe even more so as they teach critical thinking, logic, tactics, strategy, and (depending on the game) manual dexterity. But since Doctor Who, I’ve barely played any games at all. I do miss them, but I find that my activities centered around Doctor Who have been far more fulfilling.

Reinette was almost as fascinating a woman as the real Madame de Pompadour.

Reinette was almost as fascinating a woman as the real Madame de Pompadour.

And what are those activities? Well, for one, after watching “The Girl in the Fireplace” for the first time, an idea popped into my head of a story that wasn’t told during that episode, and I sat down and wrote it. And then it happened again after “The Day of the Doctor,” and since then, I’ve written about 25 short stories, one novella, and one novel (ok, so it’s just shy of 40,000 words, but I’m going to call it a novel), all of them Doctor Who fanfics. This amazes me, because I’ve never written any fiction before this (not counting those things you have to write in English class). Not a single one. But the Doctor Who universe, with its plethora of wonderful characters, brilliant storylines, and infinite possibilities, invites me to explore it by exercising my own imagination and creating my own stories. That’s how I view it: I’m visiting the Doctor and his companions and exploring the universe with them by writing. I’m actually creating, something I’ve never done before – not through writing, or music, or art. I’m not claiming that my writing is any good (and it really isn’t), but I’m actually doing it, and all because of this TV show.

Another such activity is music. I’ve played music for a while – I was in band in high school, and about three years ago, I picked up my instrument again and joined a community concert band – but I’m not much of a musician. (It really all comes down to my lack of aesthetic sense. I can read music and can become technically competent, but I don’t feel the music as a real musician needs to. Same with my writing, and what little art and crafting I’ve done. And my fashion sense. I’m worse than the Doctor, the way I dress.)  I enjoy playing music, but it’s never gone beyond that. Enter Doctor Who and the music of Murray Gold. I find myself listening to the background music, trying to learn how it fits with what’s going on on-screen, how it’s put together to evoke emotions. I’ve tried my hand at arranging a couple of Doctor Who pieces for concert band, not for performance (because it’s illegal to perform copyrighted material without permission), but just to learn and to explore the music. And doing this spurred me to learn more about music theory and arrange simpler pieces for practice.

The other major change in my life due to this TV show takes a bit of exposition. Doctor Who introduced me to the wonderful David Tennant, who previously I had only seen in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (and that movie completely wasted his appearance, gutting the character he played down to a caricature). His performance as the Tenth Doctor led me to seeking out his other works, many of them absolutely brilliant (Broadchurch, Casanova, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing), and he’s become my favorite performer. Ok, yes, I admit it, I’m a fangirl. I could go on about DI Alec Hardy for hours (yes, he’s my favorite of Mr. Tennant’s characters, above the Doctor, if you can believe it).

This promo pic is outside the building in Sydney, BC that was converted into the police station set.

This promo pic is outside the building in Sydney, BC that was converted into the police station set.

So last March, I found myself with a bit of time off from work (read: laid off, but that’s no longer the case, if you’re wondering) and I joked to my husband that I should hop a train up to Victoria, B.C. to see if I can watch the filming of Gracepoint, the American remake of Broadchurch, in which Mr. Tennant is playing the Alec Hardy equivalent, Emmett Carver. With a very serious expression, he said, “Yes. Do it. Go.” I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a completely silly suggestion, to run off by myself to a foreign country (yes, it’s just Canada, but still…) just to see if I could catch a glimpse of Mr. Tennant. But my husband insisted. He told me, “You love Broadchurch. You love David Tennant. You want to travel. Go.” So I did. Two days later, I hopped a train up to Seattle, took the ferry to Victoria, and spent four days exploring the city (it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been in – it would be wonderful to retire there). I did get to see a little bit of the Gracepoint filming, and while I didn’t get to meet Mr. Tennant, I did see him multiple times: he passed in front of me four times, only ten feet away, and I got to hear his glorious Scottish burr in person as he discussed things with the director.

But the main point here is this: I would have never ventured to Canada, traveled alone, explored a new city, if it hadn’t been for Doctor Who. That trip taught me a lot: how to look after myself, how to approach people and ask for help, and just how wonderful new experiences and places are. If you think about it, that’s what the show is about, isn’t it? I want to travel and explore more, and plan to, when I can get more time off of work. I never would have done this without Doctor Who: it took the combination of Mr. Tennant, my husband encouraging me to go, and the ideal of exploration and new experiences that the show itself promotes to start me on this new path, and I thank all three of them for this.

So, if anyone ever tells you that it’s a bad thing to be obsessed about something you love, tell them that it’s all about how you channel that love, how you use it to grow and develop. I’m using my fandom to explore new paths in my life, new creative outlets, and it’s introduced me to new friends (VTEC, I’m looking at you! As well as a number of other people I’ve met on my Victoria trip and through the fanfiction sites). As with anything in this life, it’s not what it is that determines its value, it’s what you do with it.

Lull

Even in Lego, this scene makes me sniffle.

Even in Lego, this scene makes me sniffle.

Life’s been a little low on the Doctor Who quotient the past few days. After watching “The Day of the Doctor”, I completely forgot about “The Time of the Doctor” (because I’m not very fond of it) and my husband, while he likes it, didn’t feel like subjecting me to it, apparently. I’ve been wanting to watch some Third Doctor episodes, to finally get a good feel for him and to watch the Roger Delgado Master for the first time, but we’ve been busy with a number of other things. Now that we have a bit more time, we started watching the Harry Potter movies again, so that’s kind of gotten me off track again.

We have watched “City of Death” and “The Happiness Patrol,” and I’ve listened to the Fifth Doctor audio “Loups-Garoux,” but I haven’t felt like sitting down and writing a review on them. I’m not sure I’ll get there, so here are some short statements on them.

  • “City of Death” (Fourth Doctor/Romana II) was fantastic. The story is great – one of the best ever – but what really floored me in this episode was the dialogue: snappy, brilliant, and eccentric.
  • “The Happiness Patrol” (Seventh Doctor/Ace) was surreal, as in, “What was the writer on and where can I get me some of that?” But I enjoyed it quite a bit, possibly because it was so out there. I think the point of it (the main character forcing everyone into her vision of “happiness”) has been rehashed a lot in other works since this one and has become a bit banal, but it still works even viewing it now.
  • “Loups-Garoux” (Fifth Doctor/Turlough) was a good enough audio, though I’m really not fond of spiritual/animalistic themes in Doctor Who, which I view as a science-based sci-fi. (The science is incredibly dodgy, but a lot of the point of the universe is that it’s based on science, even when the science looks like magic). I very much enjoyed getting to see more of Turlough, and was pleased to see him exhibiting his usual self-preservation, but putting his life on the line when someone he cared about was endangered.

Next up in the audio queue are some Charley Pollard audios – her introduction, as well as the two audios about the fallout from her being saved from death by the Doctor.

I leave you now with a fantastic video by bookshelfproductions on YouTube: a recreation of “The Day of the Doctor” in Legos. Watch it: you won’t be disappointed.

Just my luck

I probably never mentioned this, but my best friend and I are planning a trip to England in September. It’s the first trip out of country for both of us (well, that’s not quite true; I went to Victoria, BC in March, as a dry run of using my shiny new passport), and we both are very excited. Our itinerary includes London, Bath, and, of course, Cardiff, since we’re both fans of Doctor Who.

You might know where I’m going with this.

I found out yesterday that the Doctor Who Experience announced that it will be closing its doors for renovation, to change the Experience so that it reflects the Twelfth Doctor instead of the Eleventh Doctor as the current Doctor. When are they doing this? Starting September 1, and going for six or more weeks.

That’s right. The entire time we’ll be in England.

That’s pretty much ruined my weekend. I really really wanted to see the Doctor Who Experience. I don’t know what to do. We might be able to adjust our plane tickets for some other time, when the Experience is open, but that might be expensive. I expect that instead, we’re going to just cut Cardiff out of our trip altogether and choose somewhere else to go (maybe Scotland).

Sigh. Just my luck.

OMG! FDR! BBQ!

fdr-dtPaul McGann, in a talk to the Cambridge Union Society, mentioned that production just started on a sequel to the Five(ish) Doctors Reboot! If I wasn’t at work right now, I’d be squealing.

Oh. Em. Gee.

(Okay, enough with the silly fangirly jargon. I’m too old for this. Except I am so totally a fangirl.)