Soup Safari #49: Carrot and Coriander at Deli Marche.

Lunch. £2.80. Deli Marche, Central Library, William Brown St, Liverpool, Merseyside L3 8EW. 0151 233 3069. [Receipt rule invoked due to camera lacking power at venue. Photograph taken at home.]

The Interstitial Zone of Validity.

Travel Sometimes I've sometimes wondered about is whether there's much crossover between local travel rover tickets, if there are interstitial stations or places of crossover which allow one to move validly from one piece of card with a date on to another.

I've found the North West.

It's at Newton-Le-Willows.

Here's the Merseyside Merseytravel All Areas Saveaway (price: £5.10) validity map:

And here's the Wayfarer Manchester rail (price £12.00) validity map:

So between them you can travel across a fair amount of the North West for £17.10 for a whole day.  Provided you move between them through Newton-Le-Willows.

My Favourite Film of 1992.

Film  The film I originally chose for 1992 was Like Water for Chocolate, Alfonso Arau's magical realist, culinary take on Romeo and Juliet based on Laura Esquivel's 1989 novel. I've always said that watching Like Water For Chocolate on the night it was released in the UK was the moment when I knew that my life long romance would be with the cinema. It was at the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds in a sold out performance. I was so wrapped up in the film and its love story that I began shouting at the characters on screen so loudly, the person sitting next to me got angry and told me to sush (which of course they were right to). This is something which hadn't happened before. It taught me that cinema has the power to transport, and a hundred moments of laughter and tears since have confirmed it.

Except although the film is dated 1992 on the imdb, it wasn't released until late 1993 in the UK and Groundhog Day has well and truly absorbed that slot. Perhaps my second choice would have been A Few Good Men but one of the rules of this list is that I'm only allowing myself one film per director and I don't think I'm spoiling anything to say that a Rob Reiner film is already upcoming. Peter's Friends is nullified due to an earlier Brannagh. Almost Famous invalidates Singles for Cameron Crowe. There's Sneakers, I suppose, but my favourite Phil Alden Robinson is really Field of Dreams and that can't appear either because of the aforementioned Reiner opus. Reservoir Dogs almost made the list, but again Jackie Brown's my Tarantino of choice and there went Contact (with Pulp Fiction's potential place taken by Love and Other Catastrophes in this oh so personal list). My Disney allowance went to The Lion King so out goes Aladdin.

All of which route talk looks like an apologia for Toys, because it's Toys, but it really shouldn't. I love Barry Levinson's Toys. But more than that I love the Toys soundtrack which I may well have heard before seeing the film, during a visit to a friends house. He told it was the only cd he and an acquaintance had during a car ride across the States and how must that have gone as they piled through the desert accompanied by Enya's Ebudae?  But my memory is foggy about the chronology because we actually watched Toys on a VHS hired from the video shop on Lark Lane in Liverpool at around the same time.  Whatever.  The point is, of all the soundtracks I've owned, apart from Lost in Translation, Transformers: The Movie, Queen's Logic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, St. Elmo's Fire, Ten Things I Hate About You, Guardians of the Galaxy and Singles (amongst others), it's Toys which I know inside out and back to front.

Frankly there's nothing more 1992 (in this context) than a soundtrack which front lines Tori Amos, Wendy & Lisa, Grace Jones and Enya not that any of them had much creative control other than their vocals with Hans Zimmer and Trevor Horn & Bruce Woolley (The Buggles no less) on lyrics and music.  But the results are magnificent, Tori, in the year of the deadly personal Little Earthquakes providing a vocal on a multi-track, militaristic satire on how capitalism has co-opted very communist approaches to worker loyalty, The Buggles parodying their old MTV schtick in The Mirror Song and the penultimate track is a Grace Jones Christmas song nonetheless (and probably Eurovision entry) Let Joy and Innocence Prevail, with its mesmerising spoken word bridge, "And one night, asleep / She dreamed she saw her husband fall / In a great white cavalry charge / And waking in tears / She saw the candle burning in the window / She still had hope." Sob.

I joke, but yes, sob.  But most especially, sob, in the final track, that damned final track and the second because that's when it first appears.  I've posted The Closing of the Year on the blog a few times during the festive period, as it appears in the closing moments of the film.  It beats me every time.  Every time.  I'm listening as I type this and there are tears in my eyes.  How do I explain it?  Some of it is to do with it being the most Christmassy of tracks, tubular bells jangling through it, the insistent rhythms of the reindeer hooves pounding through snow.  But it's mostly the lyrics.  "If I cannot bring you comfort / then at least I bring you hope / for nothing is more precious / than the time we have and so / we all must learn from small misfortune / count the blessings that are real / let the bells ring out for Christmas / at the closing of the year."  Even just reading that has just led to a water droplet escaping my eye socket in a desperate attempt to get away from the soggy nostalgia of my brain.

Why can't Wendy and Lisa and the children's choir (and eventually Seal) (yes, him too) singing with them bring hope but not comfort?  When I first bought my own copy, from a charity shop in Headingley while I was at University, I thought that lyric was "home" which only made it worse, especially in that moment when I was at my most homesick.  As you might imagine, either way at this moment, it's simply heartbreaking.  Do you have many songs like this which are essentially automatic cries?  Nizpoli's another one as I've previously discussed.  A recent BBC Four compilation about one hit wonders dropped an acoustic version of that in at the end like a final assault and I was inconsolable.  But I can listen to The Closing of the Year.  I want to listen to it because I want to be reminded of those lyrics.  Is it because I want to be reminded that I have emotions?  Oh here we go again.  Perhaps I should have stuck with Like Water For Chocolate.  After all.

Soup Safari #48: Tomato, Red Pepper and Paprika at Giraffe.

Lunch. £4.95. Giraffe, Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, CH65 9JJ. Tel: 0151 357 3704. Website.

With Lucie Miller: Season One.

Audio Having slept several times in between, I'd entire forgotten that when this first series of "The Eighth Doctor Adventures" was broadcast on BBC7, Charley's departure itself hadn't yet been released.  We didn't know why Eighth was in such a taciturn mood at the start or how the two joined together narratively.  What we could hear was that this was a bold new, slightly more accessible approach to the character influenced by the new television series, with shorter, punchier episodes and a contemporary companion in the Ace/Sam/Izzy/Rose mode.  This was also the surprising tinsel on a Christmas tree which that year included The Runaway Bride, two episodes of Torchwood and the first episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures (which was broadcast just an hour ahead of this), all of which I was busily reviewing for Behind The Sofa.  My first original pieces about this series are still there in which I'm unbelievably harsh on stories which having heard again I've dramatically reappraised.  I almost didn't link back to them, but then realised someone would ask why I haven't. So ...

Anyway, having forgotten the chronology I can now see this bold new direction for the character was actually written and recorded a full year before Absolution and The Girl Who Never Was which themselves were recorded two years after their predecessor Memory Lane which means those final two stories of the earlier era were actually a sort of authentic recreation of a format which was already done.  There wouldn't technically have been anything to stop Big Finish running both in parallel (which is something which has happened with the other Doctors) but perhaps they'd sensed themselves that Charley and certainly C'rizz had run their course with Eighth and it was time to give them a send off.  Though he'd return to the monthly releases with Mary Shelley later anyway.  And Charley for the anniversary.  In any case,  it's a curiosity that if you are listening to these stories "in narrative order" that order bares just as little relation in terms of Paul McGann's work as those other actors.

But it does also explain the Eighth Doctor's attitude at the end of the previous era.  His dismissal of C'rizz's death is almost Capaldi-like in its harshness which is why Charley is quite cross about it leading to her initial decision to go a different way.  It seems out of character for someone who'd previously given up his habitation in a universe in order to save one of his friends and especially bizarre if you've followed him through the novels and comics.  Except in franchise terms it's really nothing new.  Unlike some shows which will spend whole season explaining why a character is leaving, in Doctor Who they will just up and go in the space of a couple of minutes and even when killed off the adventure just continues and on the majority of occasions for production reasons.  But the format is flexible for us to rationalise it as a way of reminding us that the Doctor is an alien and doesn't react to things the way we do.  The fact that we can also understand his attitude to C'rizz certainly helps (even if I'm not sure I wanted him to die horribly) (um).

So in project terms we can assume this series happens not too long after The Girl Who Never Was though there's a big enough gap for someone to fit in some solo adventures or with another companion in the future.  In theory there's nothing to stop the comics appearing here but as I've suggested before, there's something nice and simple about viewing the era as novels then comics then audios and that's especially true now that we're effectively listening to the Doctor's run up to the Time War and presumably the older version he becomes in Mary's Story.  Plus Big Finish seem to mean for them to run one after the other.  Gallifrey's also the same version from the previous run of audios and features a character who would retrospectively be written into those audios too which as you know is a constant barometer in these discussions, no need to rationalise anything there.  Anyway after nearly ten years I've finally reached the Eighth Doctor's penultimate narrative epoch.  As it stands.

Hello Lucie.  Having been a follower of the good 'ship Charley, her being one of the reason I became a fan again, when I originally heard this series back in 2007, I wasn't entirely convinced by Lucie, partly dismissing her as simply, as I've already suggested above, another iteration of the Polly/Jo/Ace/Sam/Izzy/Rose paradigm, the young contemporary girl.  Which she is.  But there's an alchemy at work here in which she comes across as being more realistic than usual in her vocabulary and attitude, an evolution of the form.  Slang and not just slang, realistic slang; she's from Blackpool and sounds like it, not just in her accent but how she expresses herself (which isn't always true of Clara who has to remain legible for the international market).  Northerners are so rare in Doctor Who, it's simply refreshing to have one of us in the programme and as a main character who's just as brave as the Doctor, if not moreso.

Blood of the Daleks

Boom. One of those story ideas which is so innovative it's surprising the television series itself hasn't attempted it yet, Steve Lyons's script highlights just how good Doctor Who can be when it's simply going about the business of being Doctor Who. What if someone tried to copy the Daleks? You would think they'd be quite pleased that another species is nodding in agreement but quite rightly, and consistently with the new series, they're not happy that the original is being polluted by this inferior version (rather like the Transformers).  As the first story of a new format this is a corker too, setting up all the necessary mysteries whilst simultaneously also telling a thumping story with introduction of the Headhunter prefiguring the Missy interjections from the first Capaldi season.  Who is she and who does she work for?  Back in the day, Anita Dobson and Kenneth Cranham would have been considered the big signings (and still are), but look (or rather listen), it's Agent Carter Hayley Atwell in the year of The Line of Beauty and Fear of Fanny bringing real, cold menace to her role of as a kind of nuDavros.

Horror of Glam Rock

Cribbins! Stubbs! Gately! Buckfield! In a script about the glam era written by Paul Magrs. If you needed a demonstration of how this BBC 7 related series notionally apes the new series whilst at the same time doesn't forget its roots in the wilderness years it's the decision to include this as the third episode in a version of the franchise which is supposed to be attracting new and curious younger fans. Breaking the Wittertainment six laugh rule within the first five minutes, the evocation of the period is so perfect you can almost smell the stale tobacco on the telephones in the service station and taste the tea which the Doctor describes as resembling copper. There's an unexpected level of black humour as some of the deaths are treated in a lighthearted manner which is unusual even for the audios but just about manages to get away with it. My original review was a bit grumpy because I didn't deem this as experimental as The Scarlett Empress, but with a bit of age and experience I can appreciate that writers change their style and interests depending on the media and can see now this is fabulous.

Immortal Beloved

Stumble. To be fair to the writer, Jonathan Clements, he's really trying to create a mood piece with Shakespearean elements but there's still a disconnect moment, not unlike the Doctor's unintervention during Time Heist, when the Doctor could and should be using his wits to intervene during a murder which essentially occurs in order to provide a plot twist and the reasoning provided is that his understanding of the situation is about two steps behind the listener. But there's an overall sense throughout, as sometimes happens, that the Doctor's being dragged along by events having initially changed history by the fact of his initial appearance. Plus there was the unfortunate coincidence of New Earth and Blood of the Daleks also covering body swaps in the same year, though arguably this is the more interesting attempt of the three.  What essentially saves this is Lucie, whose force of will and authentic vocabulary sound entirely counter to anything else happening in the play including the Doctor and it's clear that even in the less reliable plays, she's going to be the highlight.


I said last time Eddie Robson's one of my favourite audio writers and although this isn't quite Memory Lane, he still manages to fit acres of plot, enough to have filled six episodes in the classic series, into fifty minutes.  Much of that has to do with recognising that familiar character types are often an important part of plot-based storytelling, especially in this franchise, and that sometimes the drive to subvert these elements can work against the story.  Robson says this was a rushed rewrite of someone else's script and although there are some obvious similarities with a particular episode that was on tv in 2006 (which he might not have been conscious of), it certainly doesn't show - I certainly didn't guess the mid-story twist which is always a danger if you're a Doctor Who fan who's seen, heard and read a lot of Doctor Who.  As ever Lucie has some stonking lines, one of which I giddily said along with her.  I spent most of it thinking the character of Drew was played by Tom Hiddleston.  It's actually Ben Silverstone who was the star of Get Real.

No More Lies

When this was originally broadcast (I'm listening to this series from my original 2006 off-air recordings), the announcer felt the need to explain that the adventure was beginning in the middle but that the listener hasn't missed anything.  It's a clever tactic utilised less than you'd think in Who which allows writer Paul Sutton to set up the antagonism between the Time Lord, Lucie and Nigel Havers's delicious antagonist before shifting gears and convincingly turning him into a tragic figure, albeit of moral ambiguity.  After just a few plays McGann and Smith have developed an easy chemistry to the extent that all the jokes about Lucie's bum at the beginning don't feel out of place and work within this format's shift towards contrasting her very contemporary approach to life with his archaism (prefiguring the Eleventh Doctor era somewhat).  Project note: return of the Vorticaurs with a reference to Ramsey!  I spent most of it thinking the character of Gordon was played by Roger Allam.  It's actually Tom Chadborn who played Duggan in City of Death.  Ooh a cliffhanger.

Human Resources

Brilliant. The first series ends with a proper, full on, new era style finale with all the epic scope of its television cousin's attempts and in a lot of respects better than some of them. Beginning with a spot-on parody of office life which plays to writer Eddie Robson and Sheridan's comic strengths before throwing the Doctor's own heroism back in his face. Useful treatment of Cybermen too, making fun of the usual confusion as to exactly which is supposed to be their home world and the reveal of the location of the office is a bonkers delight.  But it's Katarina Olsson's Headhunter who really shines, as expected a cross between Missy and River Song, stealing every scene she's in.  We have absolutely no idea whose side she's on and constantly surprises the listener.  Oh and it's also the first appearance for CIA operative Straxus who would later appear but I've already heard in The Light at the End and for the Shinx, the alien race from the first Sixth Doctor and Charley audio, The Condemned.  Onward to "season two".

Soup Safari #47: Roasted Gammon and Carrot at Philpotts.

Lunch. £5.15 (soup and sandwich offer, £4.50 for take out). Philpotts, Exchange Passage W, Liverpool, Merseyside L2 3QT. Phone: 0151 227 9099. Website.

Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots, Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions and Geta Brătescu at Tate Liverpool.

Art Monday morning I was invited to the press view for the major new shows opening at Tate Liverpool this week. Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots investigates the period just after he became one of the most famous artists on the planet and shifted from his familiar multi-layered, multi-coloured drip paintings into his lesser known and lesser appreciated black "pourings" and began experimenting once again with something glancing towards figurative painting.  The exhibition features the most of this type of painting ever shown together with some which have never been seen in the UK before.  Twinned on the top floor with this is Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions in which an artist profoundly influenced by the abstract expressionists curates a group show collecting work which expresses his own ideas about form and US history,  Then on the ground floor, there's a retrospective of Romanian artist Geta Brătescu's work, focusing on her use of the line in various media including sewing and collage.

But I want to talk to you about clocks, specifically two identical clocks which are displayed above the exit from the Glenn Ligon exhibition, easily missable by visitors thinking about visiting the gift shop, the cafe or catching the bus home.  Through all of the above, despite seeing Pollacks originally owned by Rockefellers and rare art shorts by the now film director Steve McQueen, this was one piece I became fixated about and I knew would be what I'd be writing about here.  These are two circular wall clocks, potentially of the sort that would hang in an office or kitchen with circular black frames, with alphanumeric digits, minutes and seconds hands and "sodium" branding on the face.  The label says they're one of a series of three and a quick bit of research finds this explanatory pdf (on how to create on in your own at home!) which explains that they were all shop bought, with a signed label on the back then transforming them into artist entities (oh and that there are actually four including an artist's proof).

My first reaction on seeing them was "OK what's the thing with the clocks."  Then I read the label which says (and I hope Tate don't mind me simply quoting this here but I don't think I could paraphrase this as well):  "The clocks in this work reference time, living and life partnerships.  Both clocks are set to the right time at the start of an exhibition and then allowed to run their course.  Like any long-term relationship they may run in synch, out of synch, or one or the other may cease altogether.  Identical, the clocks may allude to same-sex relationships, Gonzalez-Torres conveys profound and devastating ideas through the lightest, most effortless and inviting means."  Which is I think you'll agree profoundly, profoundly moving even if you're someone who hasn't been in such a relationship but at least observed them from a far or in the same household.  You know that they will have problems, which like clocks can sometimes be temporarily repaired, but all relationships end even when the participants don't have a choice in the matter.

One of the key phrases in the note, "the clocks may allude to same-sex relationships" expresses quickly the even more poignant background to the piece that the artist was potentially offering a conceptual portrait of himself and his life partner Ross Lawcock who died from the AIDS epidemic not long after the piece was created.  Gonzalez-Torres himself died of the disease not long afterwards in 1996.  It's almost as though whenever the piece is displayed its tell the story of their lives and because the behavior of the clocks can and will change, sometimes offering alternative versions and realities.  Such is the power of the best conceptual art, to apply complex, autobiographical ideas on otherwise everyday, humdrum objects.  I'm also reminded of Henry Clay Work's song My Grandfather's Clock written in 1876 and covered by Johnny Cash as well as the flash game Passage, in which the player simply walks from left to right experiencing the rich tapestry until s/he reaches the inevitable.

What's to stop us creating our own version at home?  Not much.  The exhibition note goes on to explain that in "the year Gonzalez-Torres died, Ligon emulated this piece, hanging two shop-bought clocks side by side on his living room wall.  His homage still hangs in his studio."  In 2002, artist Tobias Wong produced a version of the work Perfect Lovers (Forever) in which he utilised radio controlled clocks which always keep time creating an artificial immortal love (Wong himself then died in tragic circumstances creating new layers of meaning to that version).  I did consider it, popping into Argos on the way home.  But for various reason I have a phobia about ticking clocks, and two tocking out of sequence on the wall would be difficult and also, at least right now, fraudulent.  But metaphorically I already have this digital alarm clock, as pictured, which I was given on my eighteenth birthday and despite knocks and parts disintegrating still rings a real bell to wake me up each morning, twenty-two years later.  If only I could get it to tell the right time.

Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots, Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions and Geta Brătescu at Tate Liverpool run from 30 June – 18 October 2015. Entry fees apply.