Suns and Mothers (Short Trips: How the Doctor Changed My Life).

Prose  A simple story that echoes the TV Movie, this has a teenager borrow the TARDIS key from an unconscious Doctor, stumble into the blue box and find himself possessed by aliens which initially manifest as a pair of glowing eyes.  The How the Doctor Changed my Life anthology was the result of a Big Finish competition for new writers and Einar Olgeirsson (who shares his name with an old Icelandic socialist politician) seems like a worthy choice.  His Eighth Doctor is spot on and he more than fulfils the brief.  Olgeirsson later self published a couple of books on Amazon although I can't find any other online activity (across his blog, Twitter and Facebook) since 2018.  I hope he's OK.  He's a good writer.

Placement: The Puccini reference probably drops this early into the Greenpeace gap.  

The Wickerwork Man (Short Trips: Farewells).

Prose  It's Summerisle in suburbia, as the Doctor investigates an alien infiltration in Levenshulme in a story which ends, and I don't think this is a spoiler given the title, with a giant wooden effigy being torched.  In someone's back garden.  I've said this before, but god I love Paul Magrs version of Doctor Who, that sweet spot between folk horror, parochialism and camp in which haunted dolls infested with alien hornets terrorise a pier in Cromer or as this the case here an apocalyptic evil attempts to conquer the Earth through the medium of patio furniture.   

The story shares many structural similarities to Rose which premiered a year before this was published, although its not clear how deliberate that is.  Told in the first person through the eyes of twenty-two year old Peter, the Doctor slowly encroaching on his otherwise boring life, meeting his parents and introducing him to the TARDIS.  But this Eighth Doctor seems more absent minded than guarded and unafraid of domestic.  But you could imagine this being a jumping off point for a whole series of stories in a similar vein as Peter becomes more sure of himself and his sexuality while fighting monsters across space and time.  

Placement:  In the chaos of the Greenpeace gap.  The Doctor mentions he has a few irons in the fire which would fit with the version who's buzzing around the universe right then.

The Sotheby's Folio (189)

Books  Perhaps the biggest surprise about Sotheby's, the auction house with branches throughout the world is that you can, at least at their New Bond Street outpost, just wander in off the street.  The job of the impeccably dressed security person on the door would seem to be to stop someone in a crumpled t-shirt and ill fitting jeans, sweating profusely having walked further than he needed to in attempting to find the place, from entering.  But he ignored me as I stepped through the doorway past the diamond tiara twinkling in a display case and into the part reception area, part restaurant filled with people eating gnocchi which looked like they cost as much as my daily salary.

Still feeling as though someone would halt my progress at any moment, I cautiously  followed the signs to the darkened gallery area and towards a room which looked like it might house the treasure which I'd come to see.  At which point a hand was immediately unfurled by a security person to bar my way.  Here we go.  But I looked properly and saw I was about the stray into the jewellery section and for obvious reasons backpacks are prohibited.  So I asked instead where the thing I'd come to see, the Shakespeare First Folio, was as the guard duly gave me directions through another couple of rooms and I relaxed.  This was all fine.  As is so often the case in London, nobody cares.

Sure enough, in one of the larger rooms in the gallery area, on the far wall in the wooden cabinet (as you can see in the accompanying photograph was a Shakespeare First Folio).  I feel comfortable talking about it in the past tense because by now it is already being prepared for its flight to New York, where, as this Guardian article from last week describes, it'll be up for auction.  The price tag in the label indicates that its valued between $1.5m and $2.5m which made it (having glanced at some other labels in the same room) by far the most expensive item on display but there it sat unnoticed amongst the much lesser valued Henry Moores, Bridget Rileys and Ben Nicholsons.

The cabinet and accompanying wall carving go unexplained.  Do they come with the book or have these been added by Sotheby's to add a bit of drama to the display?  Perhaps they were created by one of the previous owners as a form of reverence of the kind usually reserved for religious texts.  Much as a devout person might open a family bible on special occasions, might there have been a Shakespeare fan who would reverently unlock the case now and then to flick through the pages and gaze on his words before shutting the lid and return to the Penguin paperbacks they use on a daily basis.  Like the Bible, Shakespeare's Folio seems to have as much power as an object as the words it contains.

The reason for making this pilgrimage was because this is one of the rarest of the Folios, being one of only twenty or so which are still in private hands.  With a provenance which stretches back to the early 17th century (as outlined in the article) and sure to end up in a vault somewhere, this would be my only chance to see it.  Of course, all of the folios look roughly the same.  Sotheby's opened this edition to the first page of Twelfth Night, perhaps because on the opposite side after the conclusion of All's Well That Ends Well, there are some illegible handwritten notes which help to identify this particular copy from the others.  But these books were designed to be identical (despite typesetting errors) and I've already seen a few.

Nevertheless, I have a list and with so few on public display in the UK anyway, it's always worth having a look, if only for the surrounding experiences.  Had it not been for this book, I might never have been to Sotheby's and realised that apart from the book, that its possible to gaze at various museum level paintings and sculpture by the likes of Henry Moore, Bridget Riley and Ben Nicholson that most likely will never be available again to the general public (outside of exhibition loans).  Perhaps in the next few years I should make an effort to see more of them and hopefully somewhere were I won't feel quite so out of place.  Which proverbially says more about me than it probably does about them.

Updated 22/07/2022:  The Folio sold for $2m which means it was the most expensive item in the room that day.