Naming convention

Disclaimer before we begin: I’m not a real writer, I’ve never been published. I’m not an authority. I just have Opinions. Also, none of this applies to sci-fi or fantasy, where you can really just go crazy with names (although getting those right is a whole other post).

Names are important. The final act of Arthur Miller’s magnificent The Crucible hinges on John Proctor being unwilling, almost unable, to put his name to a confession because it would mean signing away its integrity. In the end, he chooses to hang rather than lose his name. It’s allegorical, of course, but the point stands. Names are important.
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A South Bank Story.

Now crunching wheels grind the concrete
Metal bones groan
The blasting surge of the Thames
Heard in silence.

And he, pausing,
an old man now
(by the standards of these things),
Stops and breathes.

He holds, not proudly,
The board he once rode.
One of many; a few shattered
And spilled him aslant on the slopes.

He is a phrase-book
Brought through time
To translate the thoughts of those
He knew here.

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A hive of activity

Sorry. Been busy.

Really have, too. Guardian Film Talk have banded and bonded and we’ve made something new, and GOOD, damn it, from the disaster which befell us. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? I’m impressed, anyway. At the time of writing, my first post on the new blog is ready to go. By the time anyone reads this, it’ll be up. God, I hope it’s ok. But don’t tell me what you think here, tell me over there. We need the readers. We need the love.

Elsewhere in life; usual ups and downs, sickness, tiredness, beautiful baby, it’s all good really. She’ll be two in May. Two! I can hardly believe that. Can you believe that? No, I didn’t think so. But there it is, it’s true. Soon she’ll have her own investment portfolio.



I’m self-publishing, not because it’s a vanity project but because I want a copy for my daughter and don’t care to hawk it round publishers in the forlorn hope of getting it one day, maybe, printed.

It’s a book of rhymes, called “Eleanor Kisses Crocodiles”.  I wrote the rhymes (with able assistance from my wife, especially on the “snake” page) about my daughter, and my Dad has drawn and painted the accompanying pictures.  I got the cover pic from him today.  It is amazing, it’s just beautiful.  I’m uploading the text as I type this, up to, and soon I’ll put together a proper cover, with words and stuff.

I’m actually doing this.  It’s a thing.  It’s going to happen.   I’m going to be published.  YES, BY ME.   I know.  But still.  It’s exciting, however it happens.



I don’t know why, exactly, but all I’m reading of late are ghost stories. MR James, if there are any left, but also Dickens, Hodgson’s Carnacki stories and I’ve just finished the splendidly creepy Dark Matter by Michelle Paver.  I wallow in them, I find them utterly compelling, fascinating and – fuck you, David Mitchell* – satisfying.

It’s probably the season, the long nights, the early dark.  It attracts ghost stories as a way to keep you indoors, huddled round the fire, talking of the things in the dusk.

So, hopefully, immersed as I am, I’ll produce that story I promised.

Meanwhile, here are some things which scare me.

Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad by MR James – you don’t know ghost stories until you know this backwards. Not that you’ll want to read it twice.

The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens – magnificently eerie short from Dickens, whose ghost stories deserve wider recognition than the regular trot-out of A Christmas Carol (as good as that is).

The Moon-Bog by HP Lovecraft – as with a lot of Lovecraft, not exactly spooky, but the atmosphere is unsettling.  His longer stories (The Dunwich Horror, say, or Shadow over Innsmouth) conjure a greater feeling of dread, and there is a sequence in Innsmouth which is genuinely heart-in-mouth terrifying.  But The Moon-Bog has stayed with me, for whatever reason.

The vampire of Croglin Low Hall – supposedly true story that simply scares the bejesus out of me.

*Though that whole article is confused bollocks. The fun is not in finding out what is the cause of the haunting but in following the increasing terror of the protagonist as they discover the cause.



I was working on this, but it has come to nothing.  Sorry.  I’ll try to get my shit together for Christmas.  Something spooky, misty.  Maybe. I PROMISE NOTHING..

The rain bounced violently against the window, perhaps anxious to be out fo the greyblack October sky.  Marchant stared out, his expression blank.

“Well?” he said, not turning round.

“Well,” said the little man at the desk, examining a small box. “It’s a lovely piece, in terms of craftsmanship. I couldn’t call it lovely in any other regard, though. The design is quite hideous.” He put the box down, distaste registering in the movement. The lacquered surfaces of the box gleamed in the firelight, cherrywood inlays dancing with flame.

“And the contents?”

“Couldn’t tell you,” shrugged the little man


Something of the Night Garden

This is an homage to the awesome Lore Sjoberg’s ratings.

Iggle Piggle

I can’t quite feel anything for Iggle Piggle, much.  I don’t dislike him, but I don’t like him either.  He’s a bit of a blank, isn’t he?  Oh, sure, he likes bridges and dislikes mucky patches, but don’t we all?  He likes Upsy-Daisy, but we never get a sense of how that relationship evolved.  Iggle Piggle lacks depth.  He carries that blanket around as a substitute for a personality, but I’m not fooled. Also his song is a bit of a half-arsed riff on the theme tune. C


I confess, I wasn’t much of a fan of Upsy-Daisy to begin with.  Too much singing and skirt-inflation, not enough… well, anything else.  But a few episodes recently have changed my mind.  She couldn’t decide if she wanted to sing or play with the ball, to ride the Pinky-Ponk or the Ninky-Nonk!  It was a masterful performance, and totally switched me round.  Her song is a pretty solid composition, too, and I frequently find myself singing it to my daughter.  B

The Pontipines/Wottingers

Oh, I really don’t get on with the Pontipines.  They’re kind of difficult.  Wooden, for a start, and so simply animated that it is hard to get any personality from them.  What do we have to go on?  They’re terrible parents and make odd millinery choices.  Mr Pontipine has a large moustache, like a retired colonel, and one can’t help but think the Pontipine children keep running away because he is a terrible authoritarian.  You don’t get that feeling from the Wottingers, who are definitely the happier family.  No moustache clinches it, also Mr Wottinger doesn’t have a hat which looks like a clothes peg.  But you see them about once every fifteen episodes, and those bloody Pontipines turn up all the time C-

The Tombliboos

Now you’re talking.  The Tombliboos live in a hedge, but not in a tramp way.  Their platform-filled, black-as-night house will no doubt be the setting for many a childhood dream, leading some people to wonder if they only dreamed it, did it ever exist?  But, you know, also they lose their trousers.  A lot.  The episode where they kept putting on each other’s trousers, then losing them on the Ninky-Nonk, then having to change behind a rock… I was in tears of laughter.  Genuine comic genius.  Trousers.  And Derek Jacobi’s delivery is perfect – “Tombliboos, are you wearing the right trousers?”  They are also excellent toothbrush advocates/propogandists, with some cracking rhymes (Tombliboos, form a line/Brush your teeth and make them shine)  Okay, not quite a full A because their Pinky-Ponk Juice antics are a bit dull. A-

Makka Pakka

Makka Pakka,
Akka Wakka,
Mikka Makka moo!

Makka Pakka,
Appa yakka,
Ikka akka, ooo

Hum dum,
Agga pang,
Ing, ang, ooo

Makka Pakka,
Akka wakka,
Mikka Makka moo

The Ninky-Nonk/Pinky-Ponk

Clearly, the Ninky-Nonk rules.  The Pinky Ponk is just so slow and ponderous, it takes forever for anything to happen and if the Tombliboos get on they’re just going to arse about with Pinky-Ponk Juice.  I do like the Ponk Alarm, though.  Good to have a safety device that goes parp.  The Ninky-Nonk is anarchic, has a lot of attitude for what is basically a bus shaped like a TARDIS being towed by a banana, and can climb trees.  What’s not to love?  Especially the trippy scale-factors.  Is it knee-high?  Is it truck-sized?  Is it small enough to go along a little branch?  It’s all of this!  Okay, Derek is a bit wary of it (“Oh no!  It’s the Ninky-Nonk!”), but he’s an old man, he’s probably worried about whether it’ll accept his Freedom Pass Oyster. Ninky-Nonk B+/Pinky-Ponk C+