"That's fighting smart sir. Don't get me wrong I give him a fair wage... if he lives." -- Adam, 'Heroes'

TV Watching the whole of the second series of Heroes today (all eleven episodes – it was raining outside) I could certainly see the concerns that some fans, tv reviewers and creator Tim Kring himself had with the first half of the season. Though there were enough exciting incidents to keep the viewer interested, not least the sight of Hiro falling in love in feudal Japan, the pacing seemed all wrong and unlike the previous series, in which the disparate stories all seemed flow in and out of one another, more than once the plotting seemed rather random and diffuse. Reveals such as Nathan Petrelli’s none mortality were thrown away and the death of Candice, a previously relatively important character albeit played by a different actress hardly milked for its worth.

Yet, like the fog of drowsiness we all have in the morning, by episode seven and the flashback, the series snapped back into consciousness and found a new sense of purpose. Though Adam Monroe was something of damp squib in villainy terms (not helped by actor David Anders apparently being directed to simply play a different version of Sark, his deliciously complex spy from Alias) the show returned to doing what it does best – demonstrating that not everything you thought you knew was right, that there are people who don’t have superpowers in the world and the importance of family, father and son, father and daughter and siblings; also some interesting ruminating on the sacrifices a generation often makes for the next.

Of the new characters, the brilliant Kristin Bell is the greatest addition as electric though unhinged Elle and makes me hope that Veronica Mars the series that discovered her is released on dvd over here soon. Similarly who thought Stephen Tobolowsky could be quiet so nasty? He’s a perfect counterpoint to HRG, neither entirely bad, both working for what they believe to be honorable reasons. I’ve also a soft spot for Dana Davis’s Monica Dawson though it’s a shame that by the conclusion she was relegated to being a fairly standard damsel given that she’d learned kung fu; hopefully she’ll be kept on and given more to do next season. About the only new character misstep are the Herreras; though Maya’s origin scene once revealed was pleasingly horrific, her arc, once she’d had intersected with Syler and the awe of Zachary Quinto’s performance (filmed, apparently all in one go due to Vulcan duties) her impetuous was lost.

Not everything is perfect with the series. Perhaps we’re attuned by comic books to expect more daring do, but having seen the heroes collect by the close of season one, it’s a shame to find them so scattered again by the close of this series. There’ll never be a movie budget smack down, yet the resolution here was constructed around persuasion and words rather than proper heroics and rather too much throwing of people into walls. I just wish it was more smartly written in places, all to often foregoing humour in favour of exposition, never quite noticing the inherent ironies in some of the situations. Perhaps I’m too attuned to the writing of Sorkin and Whedon and expect everything to have their deft rhythms.

Still this was hardly a rubbish season and didn’t flat line like the second series of Friends or the fifth in The West Wing and like those shows there were enough moments of charm to suggest that a proper rival is possible. I’ll still be there for season three, coming this Autumn, in step with the US, which means that the UK will have enjoyed many, many episodes this year. Will Nathan survive? Nothing conclusive in the closing moments either way. A news report suggested he’d been shot but surely an infusion from his brother should do the trick. Will Nikki survive? For all we know, she’ll reveal some hitherto unseen power or Peter will pop in at an opportune moment. In this series, anything is possible.

Superlambanana-on-and-on #3

Liverpool Life I've just spent the past few hours attempting to put together a bus itinerary for the next stage of the consecutive Superlambanana hunt next Wednesday. Here's how far I've got:
From 77 – 78:

Walk down (or get 15) to Queens Square. Get the 20 bus to junction of Boundary Street and Stanley Road next to Common Justice Centre (Courts?).

From 78 – 79:

Either walk from here or jump number 56 bus round the corner.

From 79-80:

Walk to St Anthony’s Church, Scotland Road catch a 27 bus back to Queens Square. Then catch a 14 to Wavertree, PICTON ROAD/B.R.RAIL MAINTENANCE DEPOT, Walk to: SPOFFORTH ROAD,LIVERPOOL.

From 80 to 81:

Walk to Wavertree Technology Park station

From 81 to 82:

Walk to: Wavertree Technology Park, WAVERTREE BOULEVARD catch number 11 bus to Crosshall Street then walk to Sir Thomas Street then catch 53a to Hugh Baird College

From 82 to 83:

Walk to Walk to: Bootle, BALLIOL RD/STANLEY ROAD catch an 81 to Queens Drive/Holly Lodge walk to Jolly Miller then catch 15 to Alder Hey

From 83 to 84:

Walk. Or Walk to: West Derby, EATON ROAD/EAST PRESCOT ROAD catch 15 bus to Kensington, WEST DERBY ROAD/BELMONT RD then walk to Newsham Park, SHEIL ROAD/WEST DERBY ROAD

From 84 to 85:


From 85 to 86:


From 86 to 87:

Walk to: Walton, PRIORY ROAD/WALTON LANE then catch a 68 to Old Swan, PRESCOT ROAD/GREENFIELD ROAD then walk to Old Swan, PRESCOT ROAD/ASHTON STREET to Dovecot catch a 10 to Liverpool, Lord Street/merchants Court Lc

From 87 to 88:

Catch 61 bus from Paradise Street to Roby Road/Bowring Park.

Oh this is getting silly…
Locals will already notice the fatal flaw in the plan. It's insane. At least to attempt in one day and busing between destinations. The problem is the perennial problem of the numbers on the map not having much of a relationship with the geographic location. Some of those trips take up to an hour, assuming the bus is there on time and I've been able to walk between places. Either I'm just going to have to decide to happy with photographing them all in whatever order wherever I find them or spend the next four weeks criss-crossing Liverpool on public transport. Grrr. I wonder how much the taxi fares would be...
TV Kate Orman still thinks the last season of Doctor Who ended on a cliffhanger: "I'll tell you another thing that was weird and inconclusive - blue suited Doctor's srs, srs reaction to staying with Rose. Not relief or crazy euphoria, not even a smile. Something's off-balance there."
Politics James Reynolds on China's queuing day: "I went to a Beijing subway station. Queue monitors pointed people towards various lines on the platform. There were groups of people queuing up reasonably well (it wasn't a strict one-behind-the-other queue, more of a kind of ordered clump). [...] I walked straight past everybody, and stood in front. Nobody behind me said anything. I felt horrific. A few seconds later, a queuing monitor came up to me and politely asked me to get to the back of the line."
Politics Hank Williams on the new racism: "Today, racism’s definition is so circumscribed, that for many it is almost impossible to find a valid use case. For many, it would require calling a black man a nigger or saying, I hate black people, or doing something equivalently overt. Of course, for some, even the use of the word nigger does not warrant the racism label, since black people use it amongst themselves. It’s not fair, defenders say, to give a word to black people that white people can’t use."
Music Meanwhile, Joe Queenan doesn't much like modern classical music either: "When I was 18, I bought a record called The New Music. It featured Kontra-Punkte by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima by Krzysztof Penderecki. I was incredibly proud of myself for giving this music a try, even though the Stockhausen sounded like a cat running up and down the piano, and the Penderecki was that reliable old post-Schoenberg standby: belligerent bees buzzing in the basement. I did not really like these pieces, but I would put them on the turntable every few months to see if the bizarre might one day morph into the familiar. I've been doing that for 40 years now, and both compositions continue to sound harsh, unpleasant, gloomy, post-nuclear. It is not the composers' fault that they wrote uncompromising music that was a direct response to the violence and stupidity of the 20th century; but it is not my fault that I would rather listen to Bach. That's my way of responding to the violence and stupidity of the 20th century, and the 21st century as well."
Quiz I'm a modern, cool nerd apparently.

The whole fruit

Dance Why rush-hour commuters will be tangoing in London tonight: "Smiling also occurred, but only when absolutely necessary. Cars whizzed past, their occupants unaware of the tango dancers lurking amid the usual pedestrian melee - a line of cyclists was in danger of domino-ing, though, when a rider caught sight of us. Some passing musicians decided to join in – certainly entering into the spirit of things, but utterly confusing the dancers who, still plugged into their iPods, now had two different rhythms to choose from."
Also: Big Dance Liverpool

So fresh they're ....

Commerce When Sayers announced they'd be closing a range of their bakeries in Liverpool a couple of months ago, they carefully listed which they'd be and when so as not to create uncertainty amongst their staff and customers. It seems to have been the larger spots including the venerable old restaurant half way down Bold Street (which is strange because it was always busy when I passed by).

It in the US, Starbucks, though a much larger company, have 'fumbled' a similar move with no one really knowing which shops would be closing leading stress amongst their barristas -- both because of the uncertainty of their employment position and the constant, repeated barrage of questions from coffee lovers trying to find out if their local caffeine hit outlet will be leaving them.

One poster to the Starbucks Gossip blog has found an ingenious way of finding out his job is in jeopardy:
"I have been with the company for a couple of years. I along with everyone else have been on pins and needles wondering about the fate of my store. While on the internet today I just had a crazy idea to look for commercial property for sale in my home town. Guess what I found..... a picture and a listing for my third place......waiting for a phone call. Really sad that respect & dignity are lost on www.....they become only words"
Slowly but surely, I'm loving Starbucks the company less and less. Good job their coffee is still so tasty.

The Sound of Promundrums

Music The excellent Proms issue of BBC Music Magazine was published today which means there’s just a week until the festival. I’m very excited but also strangely reticent. It would be very easy for me to decide to listen to everything again, but to some extent that seems like it would betray last year’s personal achievement, make it less special somehow. Also, I just don’t want to be in the position of listening to some random noise, sorry avant-guard, at half eleven at night, or a whole day’s worth of some opera I’ve only a tangential interest in. Listen to all of the music I have in the intervening months has certainly helped to develop my tastes and they’re predictably mainstream.

Still, there’s a folk day and Bach day and Carolin Widmann playing Stravinsky, and plenty of Mozart. Reading the Proms line-up is a different experience this year since I know many of the performer names and have a broad notion of the music to expect in each concert and understand why certain composers have been gathered together. I bought the programme on the publication date but haven’t looked at it until now, not wanting to spoil the surprises. On every page there’s something amazing, Requiems and Passions, Rhapsodies and Masses. New director Roger Wright has clearly wanted his first programme to be as inclusive as possible and every major composer seems to be represented.

Even Murray Gold. A Doctor Who prom! I’ve known about this for months of course, and that there would be a special episode in the middle. It’s an exciting opportunity for Gold though to have his music heard in one of the centres for classical music and to my ears certainly deserves it. Say what you like about the sound mix used on the episodes, but the past four years of the programme have produced some of the most memorable television spot music ever, as good as many film composers (if not better in some cases). No word as to which themes will appear in those forty minutes before the apt choice (if you know the series) of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man though surely Martha’s theme should get a look in given Freema Agyeman’s presenting the shebang…

Perhaps that’s why Charles Hazlewood (pictured) has decided to go for the David Tennant look this season. Good to see one of my criticisms of last year’s coverage has been heeded – the knowledgeable BBC Four presenters are being used on the BBC Two broadcasts this time instead of otherwise unseen interlopers from Classic FM with Suzy Klein and Hazlewood heading up the shows on the second best channel (though he’s being bumped for Clive Anderson(!) for the last night). No sign of the magical Angellica Bell whose random presenting style and pronunciation of the Promundrum word always livened up an interval last year, though Radio 3’s Sara Mohr-Pietsch will be appearing on screen for the first time. On the basis of all that, it seems to me the best option is to promise myself all of the televised Proms and as much else as I can fit in without becoming too obsessive.

Sugababes in Beatles wigs

Today is Beatles Day in Liverpool, though walking around today, other than their music blaring out of the fake diner in Bold Street I couldn't find much evidence, which is a shame. The idea was or rather is that Liverpudian's buy a Beatles wig and wear it on this date in a kind of Red Nose Day gesture with proceeds going to charity (Alder Hey children’s hospital and a community centre in memory of Rhys Jones).

I didn't see anyone in the wigs out and about but there are going to be concerts in the likes of the Cavern, so perhaps there'll be a sea of mop-tops there instead. For now, this rather brilliant picture of the Sugababes from the Liverpool Echo more than makes up for my disappointment. Judging by the look on Keisha's face, another change in the group's line-up can't be too far away.

Sushi, Lamb, Tempurabanana Table 5 now!!

Only the second banana visited and already there were signs of vandalism with that must have been its hat removed, with just a supporting stick and some glue to mark its place. I was passing SuperStudentlambanana this morning, beloved of graduates, and its hat's been ripped off too since I was last there to take a photograph (to be revealed soon). I understand these are in the wild and will have nature to contend with. But it's disappointing that vandalism is already taking place, just a few weeks into the show, especially since at the end they're going to be auctioned off to charity.

Fashion All things considered I'm quiet impressed with Katie Grand, editor of Vogue Magazine, who comes across as quite down to earth in this interview and very far from the kind of dragon you usually hear about:
"But of course it meant that Grand was then on the treadmill of having to find a celebrity for every cover, which introduced her to the horrible business of 'celebrity-wrangling'. She'd never had to do it before, 'and you end up in these great big pickles - one was so bad I was just crying all the time. A friend had instigated a shoot with a big, big Hollywood celebrity, but it was never in writing - and it should have been - that it had to be a cover. So I sent off this email saying, "Really great pix but we've gone with a different cover". And just got the biggest tirade back. The fallout was horrendous and it was a big Hollywood agent who will never work with us again and at the time I was just desperately trying to explain to someone, without sounding like a complete idiot, "I'm really sorry, no one told me how to do this". It was a hard way to learn and now I'm really careful that everything is in writing and we work with an agency for all of our celebrity stuff.'"
Which sounds like the kind of catastrophic failure I'd end up making on my first day. Not that its happened yet (!?!).

"He never said that, and wearing a wedding dress is not gonna change his mind." -- Izzy, "I Could Never Be Your Woman"

Film It would be interesting to find out exactly what went wrong with Amy Heckerling’s I Could Never Be Your Woman. Slamming straight to dvd in most of the world, this May to December romance with a satirical wink towards the politics of US network television seems unfinished, with poor pacing, stilted editing and irritating shot choices. Heckerling previously directed the flawless Clueless and underrated Loser as well as the cult Fast Times at Ridgemont High so obviously has some idea of what a proper film looks like. Having created all of those films, could she really have decided that this was finished or did the studio fire her?

Though Michelle Pfeiffer sparkles as usual and has some convincing chemistry with her on-screen pubescent daughter Saoirse Ronan, Heckerling somehow manages to make Paul Rudd (playing her toy boy) seem like the least charismatic actors around, employing almost every unspeakable cliché imaginable to indicate their romance. She the older woman, he’s a young buck, so it uses The Graduate as a point of comparison even to the point of having Rudd say glibly at one point: “Mrs Robinson, I think you’re trying to seduce me.” Oh do sod off. And just what is Tracey Ullman doing there as a kind of imaginary conscience for Pfeiffer dishing out advice apparently with the glow of a desk lamp following her around?

One of the other chief irritation is that since it was partially shot at Pinewood, so a raft of our comedy actors drift through in a series of minor roles. Look there’s David Mitchell playing an English comedy writers! Steve Pemberton as the studio censor! Sarah Alexander using an admittedly pretty decent American accent as a conniving secretary! Graham Norton playing Pfeiffer’s gay best friend and camp fashion designer! Even rent-a-face Mackenzie Crook sits on screen for a few minutes as a rude producer and with Ed Byrne appearing fleetingly as a delivery boy, it starts to look like a pilot for the new series of Carry On films. I know all of this sounds intriguing, but don’t. Really don’t.

Unpredictably, about the only point of interest is for Doctor Who fans since Yasmin Paige, Maria from The Sarah Jane Adventures oddly plays Ronan’s best friend and sings along to a cover parody of Alanis Morissette’s Ironic, which is admittedly one of the few genuinely funny scenes. There’s also a slow pan across the cover of Cult Times advertising the return of the Cybermen in Season Two. Though quite what that magazine is doing amongst the fashion mags on Pfieffer’s table in LA is anyone’s guess. Other than that it’s a godawful drift through a world were an unfunny Saved By The Bell knock-off appears in prime time (at least until its cancelled) and Henry Winkler still goes through life doing Fonz impressions.
TV Incidentally, since I'm on the subject, during last week's episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor was called back to Earth using the telephone number 0770 0900461. Some bright sparks have registered it and so 07700900461.com is a fan site filled with videos. Other domains are still available.
Elsewhere Of course I've got Doctor Who on my mind. When I got back from the surgery, I spent hours crafting this review of Saturday's bloody amazing episode. Some people seem to have interpreted it as me saying that if you didn't like Journey's End, you're not a proper fan, even though they'd have to be a proper fan to feel that way. Typical sentiment from someone called Marie:
"Not fair. I didn't like it, and I don't mind that some people did, but it's really out of line to attack me as some kind of joyless moron just because we don't share the same opinion. I love Christmas, and Journey's End ruined Rose's story arc. Compatible sentiments. So there."
I wasn't trying to be that mischievous and I agree that Rose's arc has had a rather surprising 'conclusion' (though given Billie Piper's remarks in Doctor Who Confidential we still might not have seen the last of her). All I was trying to say was that it's the non-hardcore who seemed to have enjoyed it the most and that some people whose comments I've read online seemed to be micro-reviewing or focusing on the bits they don't like at the expense of the much more exciting wider picture It's like saying Hamlet's rubbish because Osric's a bit of a tart.

Journey's End.

TV  Christmas. I love Christmas. The annual build up, buying presents, putting up the decorations, the real tree, Christmas Day, opening presents, even the anti-climactic Boxing Day because you know you the cycle will begin again in January with the sales. Some people don’t like Christmas. They don’t like the hassle of the shopping, think decorations are pointless, buy a cheap plastic tree because they can’t be bothered watering ‘a proper one’, the inevitable disappointment of the actual day which can only be solved through the juice with the even more depressing prospect of the following bank holiday knowing that your misanthropy is set to continue. I think the world can roughly be split between people who like Christmas and those who don’t and with the exception of those who’ve a decent reason (family bereavement at around that time, religious conviction), I don’t think I’ve ever gotten along with people who don’t like Christmas.

Which is the only way I can really understand the reaction to Journey’s End, which has polarised fandom more than any episode this series. I'd hoped to come here and join in the celebrations of a job well done by everyone at Upper Boat. Here is a photo of me banging my head against the table (not really) on Saturday night as I read the comments in the reaction thread here and elsewhere online. Once again, everyone seemed to have missed the point, become oh so very serious and forgotten one very specific thing, even though it's reiterated over and over to the point of cliche, and somewhat more articulately by John last week.

Doctor Who isn’t just made for us fans. It never was. Well apart from that moment in the early eighties when John, Nathan and Turner tried it and got everything catastrophically wrong.

It’s for kids and we’ve grown up and forgotten (well, I say ‘we’ I mean you). Remember how exciting it was to see The Five Doctors, all of those different versions of the same man together on screen at the same time, the ones we’d all read about but not seen in Target novelisations. It didn’t matter what the story was, we didn’t notice flaws, and though the script teased us nine year olds by keeping them apart for most of the story, when they finally met it was magic. I think you’ve already worked out what I’m going to say – Journey’s End is as it should have been, nu-Who’s The Five Doctors, this time with all of the Doctor’s companions fighting together, many for the first time.

Like The Five Doctors, these meetings were imperfect – something Russell T Davies seemed to acknowledge when he had Sarah Jane introduce herself to those of the Doctor’s friends she’d not been acquainted with yet in much the same way she did beside to Rassilon’s tomb. After a couple of season’s build-up we didn’t get to see the meeting between Rose and Martha, just some comments over a viewscreen and the glimpse of a hug in the Tardis console room. Jack and Mickey were unbelievably happy to see one another considering they’d last met briefly in Boomtown and Rose didn’t find out that it’s her fault that Jack can’t die. But kids really don’t care about all of that – they fill in the blanks – it gives their imagination something to play with.

Since I am in the process of reviewing the fan reaction more than the episode, I should note that I also simply don’t understand how anyone can say that ‘Rose/Jacqui/Mickey was wasted’ as though every character in a drama has to be a function of the plot (tell that to Shakespeare and Robert Altman). Isn’t it just nice to have them along for the ride? Davies need not have brought back all of those characters; he could have told yet another rather linear story featuring a timelord and companion that might have been just as exciting. Instead, he decided to repay viewers for their four years of viewing in a way that few series care to, and give the kids a big Christmas present in the middle of the year as we saw them collectively guiding the TARDIS towards victory (which is actually more than anyone did in The Five Doctors).

Kids love spectacle. When that fabulous shot of the Tardis pulling the Earth through space aided by Mr Smith and the Rift, both of which have a functionally similar place in their respective spin-off series, the last thing in a child’s mind are tectonic stresses, the gravitational positioning of the rest of the solar system and the structural integrity of buildings. And it just doesn’t matter. This is fantasy and like the secret conversations, there’s clearly going to be some unseen exposition to explain it. How boring would the scene be that explained it though (as seen too many times in Star Trek), a point acknowledged when Donna confused the Daleks using her typing skills and some of the Doctor’s knowledge, the stream of poetically meaningless technobabble economically and amusingly demonstrating that some interesting reprogramming had occurred in her brain.

There’s also people like my mother who hasn’t watched an episode before, yet after seeing the final twenty-five minutes, explained she’d been in buckets of tears and said ‘Isn’t Bernard Cribbins great?’ And he was. It might well have been the best performance he’s given and deserves an award which he inevitably won’t get because Catherine Tate will. Even Mum understood the tragedy of Donna’s loss of self, her degeneration. That people have been so upset by this cruel and unusual approach to a companion leaving is a tribute to Tate, the various writers and directors who made sure that we care about this temp so much.

The loss of a companion is rarely satisfying. With the obvious yellow tabard wearing exception, they tend to just walk away or marry someone who isn’t the Doctor, so how surprising and special to see Donna leave and have it mean something, an expression of how important our life’s experiences are and how our acquaintances have the capacity to change or help us to become someone else. Sure there’s a selfishness to the Doctor’s action since it means that he won’t see another of his friends becoming a soldier in the way that Davros to deliciously explained. As shown Donna isn’t given much of a choice as to whether she’d rather die with her memories or exist as the person she was without them. But he’s also fulfilling his ongoing promise to always bring them home, assuming they have a family waiting for them.

I’ve spent the past week fielding questions about whether David Tennant is leaving and it’s those people who tuned in on Saturday night to find out if a beloved actor had been lost to theatre. They didn’t care about photos of the Christmas special, that historically we’ve all known months in advance who’d be playing the role if there was to be a change and that nothing is kept secret any more. They're very pleased that Tennant’s still here, at least for a year or two. It was a bizarre cliffhanger anyway, because the character of the Doctor’s life wasn’t threatened and already in a process of renewal. It was a cliffhanger based on the continuance of an actor in the role, one of surprise, exciting for reasons related to the production and unrelated to the actual narrative.

And yes, it was made for us fans. Those of us who remember Sarah-Jane meeting Davros on Skaro and who like Donna has become a more inquisitive character through her association with the Doctor. The funny moment when the similarity between Gwen and Gwyneth was randomly noted and a whole pile of other stuff listed at the Wikipedia. We revel in Julian Bleach’s recreation of the Dalek creator and the gut-wrenching monologuing in which it seems as though he’s spent his life working towards creating the very experiment suggested to him by the Doctor in Genesis of the Daleks about snuffing out the whole universe and when he finally incontrovertibly gets one over on the increasingly mislabelled ‘last of the timelords’.

But finally, egotistically, it was made for me, for the instants when I cheered and cried and laughed throughout that hour or so. I loved every moment of it, even the bit in Bad Wolf Bay and like Christmas I'm not sure I could get along with anyone who didn't, the kinds of people who describe it as 'appallingly bad' or some such apparently because it didn't fulfill their impossibly high expectations. Christmas is never as brilliant as you expect it to be, but I still love it for all that. Similarly, Journey's End isn't above criticism, it's just the vitriol and I've seen makes me wonder if I watched a different programme. Predictably the reviews by professional journalists and the people who don't take the show quite so seriously have been overwhelmingly positive.

At the close of my review of Rose in 2005 I said: “I keeping asking myself why I'm so excited about a new television series when there is still lots of other really good Doctor Who going around. It's about hope. It's about the fact that if enough of the right people care about something, and enough of those people are in the right position to doing something about it, wonderful things can happen. If that doesn't make you choke up, you must be an Auton” and that is still true four seasons later.

"The heart is a resilient little muscle." -- Mickey, 'Hannah and Her Sisters'

Life I went to see my GP this morning. I haven't been inside a surgery since 1997 when I registered after moving back home from university. I don't like anything to do with medicine and like religion I've tried very hard to stay away from all of that unless it was strictly necessary. Like Woody Allen and his brain in Hannah and Her Sisters, for many a year I've worried about some spots which have been on my shoulders since the late nineties. Recently, at least in the past fourteen months, they've changed shape and felt a bit itchy and I've assumed the worst. Unlike Woody though, I've not been trying out various faiths though I did sing along a bit during Songs of Praise the other week.

Anyway, my concern reached critical mass. I'd begun to suspect every ache or pain, bit of indigestion or muscle spasm was connected whatever was clearly killing me. If you do think you have something wrong with you, whatever you do don't Google anything, it just makes you feel worse. Here's some advice. Google Images in particular might be good for finding nice pictures of Freema Agyeman, but everything else could give you nightmares. And did (don't click, it's scary). I was even having thoughts that I might not see the Moffat era of Doctor Who. That's how serious it became. I decided I needed to talk to someone about it.

Having come the decision I was fairly nervous all through last night unable to think about much else and this morning I certainly couldn't eat breakfast. I was also, shall we say, regular, which is also something which happens when there's something impending. You have to call the phone line at 8:20 in the morning to try and get an appointment for that day. There's no pre-booking on the NHS. just as Tony Blair discovered on that Question Time Election Special. I presume it's to deincentivise the time wasters, but a real pain (if you'll pardon the expression) for the rest of us. A slot was eventually found for 10:20.

The surgery is a modernist brick affair and as inhospitable as can be, with its brown fixtures and no lighting. Behind the glass screen there's a black and white photograph of a pier drifting off into an ocean of the kind which often appears on bereavement cards which hardly put me in the right mood. There are children shouting at each other and for the sake of it and a little girl who's ailment seems to be an inability to walk around without falling over furniture. There are also people who are regulars, all know each other and are sharing news about what's happened since the last time they were here. I secretly hope I'll not be joining them, especially since, well, I don't seem to have quite as many things to talk about as they apparently do.

Eventually my name's called and I find the room of the doctor. Whom I thought I'd never met before. Until it turned out that I went to school with him. He remembered me more that I remembered him, but we both knew enough of the same people to reminisce. It's actually much easier to speak to someone who you're at least vaguely acquainted with than a total stranger and he examined my spots. He hummed, he hared, he said he wasn't really a skin specialist. Then he said that despite that, he is trained to note anything which is life threatening, which these are. Sorry, aren't. They're just points were the skin have become mounds. They're not worth treating and though I could get steroids pumped into them to reduce the swelling they're not life threatening so what's the point?

I thanked him. shook his hand, wished him well and left. Frankly, I feel like a weight's been lifted. I should have visited years ago and done away with the not knowing. If you have something similar you're concerned about I'd urge you to do the same. If it had been something serious them at least I would have been able to deal with it, and now that I know it isn't I can just get on with things. I also know a bit more about my body, I can accept a bit more of my image. And I can look forward to series five of Doctor Who with great interest.