Days Out · Geek Stuff

Blogdate 2013.

Well, I completely and utterly failed at blogging every day in October didn’t I? I must admit, once I’d missed a couple of days I did think about just slinking away until it was November and then reappearing as if I hadn’t been away. But that’s not my style, and I have read some great books so have a couple of great Recent Reads posts to write.

The one thing I have been completely remiss in is not blogging about my visit to the Magical Books exhibition at the Bodleian Library, so that’s what I shall do now. Sadly it’s finished now so I can’t encourage everyone to go, but I can instead recommend everyone keeps their eye on what’s coming up exhibition wise, I’m sure they’ll all be equally worth the visit.

I first heard about the Magical Books exhibition on a email discussion group and thought it sounded brilliant. This was the description:

The Bodleian’s exhibition takes as its theme the work of some of the foremost modern exponents of children’s fantasy literature, members of the group of writers informally known as the ‘Oxford School’: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Philip Pullman. From its unique holdings of these authors’ papers, the Library will display a selection of Tolkien’s original artwork for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; C.S. Lewis’s ‘Lefay notebook’ and his map of Narnia, and manuscripts of novels and poems by Alan Garner, Philip Pullman and Susan Cooper. Also featured in the exhibition will be some of the books and manuscripts that contain the myths, legends, and magical practices on which these Oxford-educated authors freely drew for inspiration. This historic material is housed in the Bodleian where the Library scenes in the Harry Potter films were shot.

I visited last Sunday along with lovely friends Emma, Liz and Mark. After a wonderful lunch at Bill’s (their gluten free menu offering probably justifies a blog post of it’s own) we found the Bodleian and went in.

Being perfectly honest when we first walked into the exhibition my heart sank. The room it was in was far smaller than I’d imagined, we’d all travelled a long way for it – were we going to be leaving disappointed? After a quick glance around the room I spotted the display cases were numbered, I located number 1 and walked over.

Display case number 1 absolutely, completely made the journey worth it. Amongst the various documents it contained there were two pages Tolkien had created for The Book of Mazarbul – written, coloured and then burnt with his own pipe. Standing there looking at this piece of creative process, thinking of the man who had committed so entirely to his works, I couldn’t have felt more inspired. A couple of cases later came the maps, hand drawn maps of Middle Earth, Narnia and Lyra’s Oxford. I’ve always had a thing for maps in books, I think it was probably this map

Picture from here
Picture from here

found in the front of the Milly-Molly-Mandy books I adored as a young child that established this love affair.

The rest of the exhibition was equally wonderful, we learnt that Alan Garner has the most beautiful handwriting, that without Beatrix Potter we may not have had C.S. Lewis, and got to look at all manner of beautiful illustrations that ranged from the since to the comparably recent.

Since visiting the exhibition I’ve found my thoughts returning to it frequently. They have produced a lovely looking book which I shall definitely be adding to my bookshelves at some point in the future, I will only be able to look at photos of the wonderful pieces we saw but that will be enough to remind me of the inspiration the visit gave me.

Geek Stuff

Photo Love

A very quick post this evening, my job did end up running over into today so I’ve got 4 days worth of stuff to catch up on this evening if I have any hope of tomorrow’s plans being possible.

Soon after beginning my mission to read All The Things I saw this post from the Anglophenia blog and knew I needed to share it. They have six new images from this autumn’s An Adventure In Space And Time, the drama from the upcoming season celebrating all things Doctor Who.

Photo from BBC America
Photo from BBC America

This picture of David Bradley as William Hartnell is wonderfully exciting, I was thrilled when his casting was announced – I’d never have thought of him myself but he seems like pretty brilliant casting to me. It looks good and knowing it has been scripted by Mark Gatiss makes me think it’s really going to be a great watch.

Geek Stuff · Life


Just a quick post today – I’m off to Stratford shortly for a day of browsing the shops, finding out what the Mop Fair actually is, and watching Richard II at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

I’ve been prompted to write this post because the TED app had an update to load. I have watched a few TED talks and loved every one I’ve seen, but it’s such a vast resource that I know there must be many gems I haven’t discovered. So I’d love your recommendations for the talks I absolutely must watch. They can be on any subject at all, I’m always keen to learn about anything.

Geek Stuff · Life · Scouting

Time for a catch up.

I’ve been away from home for the last three weekends, so blogging has pretty much gone out of the window. I’m just starting a new module with uni, this one has an exam I have to sit on 25th June so I thought I’d have a blogging catch up before I got too stuck in to the world of Management of Organisations.

One of the cave paintings done before the Beavers arrived.
One of the cave paintings done before the Beavers arrived.
Earlier in May it was our sleepover with Beavers. We try to do at least one sleepover a year, but last year was a difficult one and we didn’t get one fitted in. When we started to look forward to this summer’s district sleepover (150 Beaver Scouts from all across our district) we realised that none of our young people had done a sleepover. We thought we should have a group one as preparation – for most of them it was their first overnight stay without a parent and we thought that might be a bit daunting at the district level.

We had an absolutely brilliant time, we called it Dinotopia and had lots of dinosaur themed activities. I love doing sleepovers, they’re absolutely exhausting (I managed about 4.5 hours sleep at this one) but they’re just the best fun. All of the young people enjoyed it too – I did the post-sleepover evaluation with our 2 youngest and 2 oldest attending Beaver Scouts and they were wonderfully enthusiastic with their feedback. The district one is just 6 weeks away and we’ve started planning another group one for November.

The following weekend was the Asylum 10 convention – a Supernatural convention. We’ve been trying to attend an Asylum for a couple of years (there are two in the UK every year) but the dates have never worked out. They did this year so we booked and headed to Birmingham for what we hoped was going to be a fantastic weekend. It turned out to be incredibly mixed, we’d never attended a convention run by Rogue Events before and in comparison with the events we’ve attended that are run by Showmasters or Starfury the organisation was pretty poor. We did hear over the weekend that they were 20 staff members short, so that probably does explain some of the difficulties but definitely not them all.

My biggest problem was with the signing side of the convention – by the time my group was called (groups were called in reverse order meaning that people who booked last got to go first) the 10×8 photos to get signed had sold out for a number of the guests meaning I went without a number of the signings that I wanted. By the end of Saturday the stress caused by the lack of organisation had left us all worn out and sure of the fact we’d never do another event organised by Rogue.

On the Sunday we had no signings left to do so we could spend the entire day in the main hall listening to the Q and A panels. Every single attending cast member was brilliant, when the day started with Misha Collins playing a game of Twister with some Castiel cosplayers we thought it was going to be good. The afternoon was my personal highlight, there was a complete lack of respect for the schedule from the actors – people stayed and joined in the next panels or just appeared and joined in, and the result was complete and utter chaos in the most entertaining way. By the time it was all over I’d definitely moved from my never doing another Rogue event to probably doing next May’s, the announcement of Jim Beaver has helped with this, and the advance knowledge that I shouldn’t expect to get any signings that I want so that any I do get are a real bonus.

I finally saw Something Special this weekend and was introduced to the wonderful Mr Tumble. [Image from here].
I finally saw Something Special this weekend and was introduced to the wonderful Mr Tumble. [Image from here].
Finally, this last weekend I went to visit friends and their lovely baby. I saw them in February when he was about 3 months old, the difference in him now as an almost 6 month old was huge. It was so nice to see them all, spending a couple of days watching CBeebies, playing games and getting baby cwtches was just what I needed after a stressful week. We ended the weekend by all visiting more friends and having a day filled with scrummy food and lots of chat. I certainly feel like my batteries are recharged and I’m ready to face this next study challenge.

Book Stuff · Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

Lost in Space.

I’ve been trying to blog for over a week now, I went last Saturday to see The Effect at the National Theatre and it was just so good that every time I try to blog about it I get completely and utterly stuck. So I’m going to put that off until at least tomorrow and instead ask you lovely people a question.

I’m going to Starfury’s Serenity Forever convention in September, a 10th anniversary celebration of Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. I really love both shows so am looking forward to the convention, and am getting myself organised to rewatch both series over the next few months. I had this gorgeous book


as a birthday present, it’s over 500 pages of scripts and facts and stories, so that will add lots to my preparation.

It’s left me thinking though about the fiction I read. I can’t remember the last book I read that was set in space, and this is something I want to change. This is where you come in – I’d love recommendations of books set in space, whether wholly or partly set on spaceships, it doesn’t matter whether they’re new books or classics, MG (aimed at 8 – 12 year olds), YA or adult, I just want to pull together a list of books I can read and enjoy. So please leave me a comment with your suggestion.

Days Out · Films · Geek Stuff · Theatre Stuff

A varied weekend.

This weekend was pretty busy, with a cinema trip and two theatre visits, all for completely different things and all utterly brilliant in their own way.

LincolnFor starters came Lincoln. Whilst I enjoy films I have a huge number of gaps in my film knowledge / experiences, so this was my first ever experience of seeing Daniel Day Lewis in a film. I was very, very impressed by him and by the film overall. I hadn’t read much about the film but had seen mentions of “Sorkin-esque moments” – having finished watching The West Wing last week I was thrilled by the similarities between the two, I hadn’t expected the film to focus so strongly on the political machinations of passing the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The story the film tells is hugely interesting and I was impressed by the way I was still tense and fretting over the vote even when I knew the outcome.

MNGThe middle piece of weekend entertainment was the local pantomime put on by the Monday Night Group. They put on a panto every year and raise thousands of pounds for local community groups. The show was very entertaining, it was a little odd seeing people I’d been at school with and not seen for more than 10 years appearing on stage, but they were all very good. The panto was Jack and the Beanstalk, they put in lots of modern twists and references and had more audience participation than I can remember seeing at any other pantomime. There were plenty of youth groups in the audience meaning the laughs were loud and long – everyone left having had a brilliant time.

RockyHorrorLast but by no means least was a trip into Birmingham to see the 40th anniversary tour of The Rocky Horror Show. I’d seen the film many years ago but never seen the stage show, whilst I was really looking forward to seeing it a small part of me was also wondering what the experience would be like. We didn’t dress up, the combination of it being a matinee (albeit one that started at 5.30pm) and the middle of winter made the idea of costumes unappealing – having now seen the audience and the wide variety of costumes we will definitely give it a go next time, though we will also choose a performance in the summer! The show was brilliant, every member of the cast was excellent, and the audience was an absolute hoot. I had no idea about the level of audience participation – when the whole place joined in with The Usherette singing Science Fiction / Double Feature it was a bit of a surprise, so when they all joined in with the dialogue it was a real surprise. The high level of interactivity meant that it was one of the funniest theatre experiences I’ve ever had.

I think this is one of the most varied weekends I’ve had in quite a while. Next weekend has some range to its plans already but I don’t think it’s going to match this one!

Geek Stuff · TV Stuff

5 Reasons I’m Loving… Wizards Vs. Aliens.

Picture from the official Wizards Vs. Aliens website.

Today sees the final episode of this first series of Wizards Vs. Aliens, the BBC Wales produced children’s tv show that currently has me eagerly tuning in to CBBC every week. If you haven’t heard about it here’s how the BBC describe it:

Tom Clarke is a 16 year-old schoolboy with a secret- he and his family are wizards! Tom was happy using the odd spell to finish his homework or score the winning goal- until the Nekross arrived. A race of Magic-eating aliens from the planet Nekron, the Nekross have come to Earth to drain the planet and all of its wizards of every drop of Magic…

The only people who can stop the Nekross are Tom and his best friend Benny. Benny is a scientific genius, and the boys soon form a close friendship as they use a combination of Magic and science to fight the Nekross threat. Tom is also aided by his wizard grandmother Ursula, his dad Michael, and by the Guardian of the family’s Chamber of Mysteries – the irascible hobgoblin Randal Moon! Together they defend the planet from the Nekross’ evil plans.

I thought I’d share the top 5 reasons I’m loving the series in the hope that I might convince you to give it a go.

Tom1. The Wizards. The wizards in this show are really cool, Tom in particular makes you realise how useful it could be to have a little magical ability. I like the way there are limits on magic and strict rules surrounding it – this definitely makes for more interesting viewing. Annette Badland as Tom’s slightly scatty grandmother is wonderful, a nice contrast to her appearance as calculating Slitheen Margaret Blaine in Doctor Who.

Wizards Vs Aliens2. The Aliens. I do love a good villain and the Nekross certainly fit the bill. Their mission is simple yet dastardly, and each week they come up with a new way to try and make it succeed. Lexi is one of my favourite characters played brilliantly by Gwendoline Christie, and Brian Blessed is perfect casting for the voice of the Nekross King.

Benny3. The Unenchanteds. This is the name given to non-wizard humans. Benny in particular proves on more than one occasion than being an unenchanted does not make you useless, he’s a science whiz and has plenty of skills that come in very handy. He’s also a geek and comes out with lines that make me want to applaud. Okay so yes I do applaud them. Benny’s definitely the character that jostles with Lexi for top of my favourites list.

4. The Writers. Wizards vs. Aliens boasts a very strong group of writers, the stories are written by Phil Ford, Joseph Lidster, Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman. Like many I had grown to love their work through the episodes they wrote for Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s been wonderful to watch more from them – the stories are funny, and warm, and explore some moral issues nicely, all wrapped in this cool concept of wizards battling aliens.

5. The Opening Credits. Last but by no means least I have to mention the opening credits for the show. They have a lovely old school feel to them, and make me really happy every episode.


As I said at the beginning of the post today is the final episode of the series but all of the previous episodes are still available on BBC iPlayer so there’s still time to catch up. Why not give it try?

{All pictures and quote taken from the official BBC Wizards Vs. Aliens site}

Geek Stuff

New Doctor Who homeware? Yes please!

I was very excited (and my bank balance very worried) to see news of the new Doctor Who homeware range that’s being launched. The Doctor Who Home range is going to be sold by the BBC’s online shop and Selfridges later in the year, it’s made up of tableware and stationery – two of my favourite things!

I’ve got my eye on these notebooks:

Image from Design Week.

This teapot:

Photo from The Doctor Who Site.

And this pack of notebooks for starters:

Photo from The Doctor Who Site.

I’m also keen to see some of the products that I haven’t seen pictured yet like the apron and the set of mugs (though I assume that will be the same as the set of espresso cups, just mug sized). The Doctor Who Site has two posts featuring more of the range here and here, and Design Week also has a post devoted to it here though you have to ignore the inaccuracies it contains!

Geek Stuff

How Do You Use Yours?

Image of iPad.
Photo from JaredEarle.
Ever since the iPad was first announced I’ve wanted one, I can clearly remember having a conversation with a friend just after the first press conference. Two years have passed and I’ve seen more and more people using them in more and more ways and I’m still turning a distinct shade of green.

I’ve been thinking about them a lot in recent weeks (I do have a tendency to obsess a little over gadgets), I have attended two sessions run by Bev Humphrey and been wowed by some of the things that she’s demonstrated as part of these sessions. I’ve sat next to people at conferences and been impressed with how they’ve been using their iPads. They’re not cheap though so I definitely can’t justify buying one at the moment but I have a zero birthday coming at the end of the year so there are possibilities in the not too distant future. The question that I’m trying to answer at the moment though is whether I really want one for the right reasons and will use it lots, or whether actually I’m coveting one because I’m a bit of a gadget magpie. I have had my iPhone for 18 months now and I adore it and use it lots, so I think I can see ways that an iPad would be a useful addition to my life.

So I’m turning this over to you, I know lots of you have iPads and I’d love to know what you think of yours – How are you using it? What apps can’t you live without? Has the shine worn off after a while or do you still use it as much as always?

Geek Stuff

Been away.

I’ve been away for the weekend at the joint School Libraries Group, Youth Libraries Group and School Library Association conference Lighting The Future. I’ll be blogging more about that at some point this week once I’ve gathered my thoughts and had a good night or two’s sleep, but whilst I was away I was also one of a number of bloggers taking part in the brilliant Sister Spooky’s Geek Week.

The whole week has been filled with a brilliant range of posts about all things geek, I’ve enjoyed reading each and every one. My contribution was posted on Friday afternoon, I waffled on about Leverage and why I was a geek for it and thought other geeks would appreciate it. You can find it here and you can find all the posts here under the geek week label. It’s well worth a browse, there’s even a post by a Hollywood star!