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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Reign Of Terror

Doctor Who Rewind
The Reign Of Terror

This final story of series 1 of Doctor Who broadcast back in August 1964, it's another historical six part story, this time set in the midst of the French Revolution. Unfortunately, two episodes are missing from the BBC archives, but they have been re-created on the BBC DVD by using animation.

At the beginning of the last story the TARDIS lands in a wooded area, that the crew mistake for England.

The Doctor is not in a good mood after Ian has insinuated at the end of The Sensorites, that he had no control over the TARDIS. How dare he! This is Doctor Who after all.

It's only when the crew come across a box full of clothes (or costumes) in an old farmhouse that they realise they are not in England but in France during the 18th century. The farmhouse is being used by counter revolutionaries in an escape chain. There are fake papers, bearing the signature of Robespierre. Who, in case you didn't know, was the chief orchestrator of Government during The Reign Of Terror (a period of violence that occurred after the onset of The French Revolution - incited by conflicts between rival politically fractions. Marked by mass executions (by guillotine) of enemies of the revolution).

So as in previous historical DW stories the crew are aloud to dress for the part, conveniently the box of clothes provides the correct sizes for all the Doctors companions! This being the French Revolution though, the frivolity doesn't last long and they find themselves held at gunpoint by two counter revolutionaries who knock the Doctor unconscious.

Before long revolutionary soldiers surround the farm, kill the two anti revolutionaries and capture Susan, Barbara and Ian. Meanwhile the Doctor goes unnoticed as the soldiers set fire to the house and march off to Paris with the prisoners, bound for the guillotine.

Luckily for the Doctor a young boy saves him from being burned to a crisp. Hartnell then sets of in pursuit of the girls and Ian by taking a very long walk to Paris. This filmed walking sequence incidentally, is the first outside film to be featured in Doctor Who.

So begins what is, for the most part a story full of intrigue, betrayal and twisty turny plot twists. I lost count how many times during the six episodes Barbara, Ian and Barbara are captured, prisoned, escape and then get recaptured again.

The Doctor's little walk to Paris is interrupted by a brief spell as part of chain gang, working with a road maintenance crew. The boss man is a ghastly fellow and the Doctor takes an instant dislike to him, deciding to help the con men escape. As in Cave Of Skulls (when the Doc nearly brains a stone age man with a rock, the doctor wastes no time in tricking the official and hitting him with a shovel. Good old Hartnell, always ready to help.

When finally arriving in Paris the Doc wanders into a clothing establishment and finally gets in one the dressing up lark. Choosing to take on the garb of a regional prison officer from the southern Provence, sporting a rather silly hat which has somthing like an oversized ostrich feather sticking out of it.

Strangely everyone ignores the grotesque feather and treats Hartnell as real official. This gives Hartnell the chance to saunter around the place ordering this and that, and basically exerting his authority over everyone else. No change there then from any other DW story!

The Reign Of Terror has to be one of the darkest Doctor Who stories of the early years. Even for a children's programme this had to be hard going. What with the deaths, the horrible dirty prisons, and Susan becoming ill. There's not really that much to smile about.

Not only that, but the production of this story was fraught with problems. Most of the filming was done at BBC's Lime Grove studios, which was one of the regular DW recording studios. It was notoriously small and cramped for a show like Doctor Who which required multiple sets. This made filming uncomfortable, impractical, and in some cases downright dangerous.

Several times during the production of Doctor Who recordings had to be stopped as the water sprinkler system was tripped due to excessive heat in the studio. This infuriated William Hartnell no end.

Back in those days filming was done in much longer sequences or takes, as opposed to shorter ones. A sequence could last 7-8 minutes before there was a natural break. To give the appearance of depth and space backdrops had to be used. And in some shots in Reign Of Terror, you can clearly see the join in those crude paintings.

The director of Reign Of Terror, Henric Hirsch was under tremendous pressure to keep to the filming deadline. He was relatively inexperienced in working in TV and found it difficult to deal with the conditions, the out of order shooting schedule and William Hartnell's lack of respect for him paid its toll.

This all came to a head during the filming for the third episode, when Henric collapsed up in the gallery. Verity Lambert was called to draft in another director for the day. Luckily Henric was well enough to continue with episode four and shared some of the Director responsibilities with production assistant Tom Combe. It also helped that Hartnell then lay off him a little too.

Two missing episodes of Reign of Terror and have been replaced with animated alternatives. These were produced by Big Finnish,(the company that produces the new Doctor Who audio adventures) and are pretty faithful to the black and white originals.

Overall, as an historical story Reign Of Terror is an amusing jaunt through the French history books, and , while it may not always be a hundred percent accurate, it does give an insight into the people and themes of the times.

Again, both music and set design play close attention to detail and really bring the story alive.

And while this story was being recorded, behind closed doors, meetings were taking place about the very future of the show. The powers that be had decided to give DW just four more episodes before it was taken off screen for good.

Verity Lambert told the BBC she needed time to come up with a fitting finale to the story. More episodes were needed. And guess what, more episodes is just what they got.

In the next Doctor Who Rewind we start series 2 with a giant problem.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Sensorites

It feels like I've been trapped in the Sensephere for weeks now trying to get this DW serial watched. I started just before going to Russia, I managed a couple of episodes while there and i finished the remainder when I returned.

Among DW fandom this particular serial doesn't get much kudos. It's a shame as the basic story arc and idea for the Sensorites is ok. But it is let down by a meandering plot and the poor the laugh out loud costume design of the Sensorites, who have what looks like toupees stuck to their chins. There faces are actually masks that cover the entire face, and they all look pretty much look like chimps with shrivelled skin, and the chin toupee. It's a bit confusing when you are trying to work out who is who. The only identifier really is their voices.

The Doctor and TARDIS crew encounter the chin toupee wearing aliens when the TARDIS lands on a space ship (from the future) which is unable to leave the Sensorites region of space.

All the occupants of the space craft are under the influence of the Sensorites, who have an ability to bring on a kind of hypnosis in them. One member, John - is so effected by the power of the Sensorites that he is literally losing his mind.

Obviously, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan are able to resist the Sensorites powers, even when they materialise inside the craft and swipe the whole locking mechanism of the TARDIS from under their eyes.

It turns out they have been preventing the ship and its human occupants from leaving because of a worrying encounter previously with other humans. This encounter ended badly when the Humans tried to leave the planet in a rocket, which exploded.

Bargaining with the Sensorites the Doctor persuades them to let him, Ian and Susan visit the Sensephere. There, they meet with the elders and administrators. The later of which are not convinced that Human/Sensorite society is such a good idea, and plot to kill the dishonest unworthy humans.

Meanwhile, Ian gets poisoned by drinking some rather suspect water from the aqua duct, which launches Hartnell on a quest to find a cure, and the source of the poisoning.

Hartnell is hindered at every step by the untrusting Sensorite who has it in for Humanity, but he does eventually pin point the source of the nasty water to an aqueduct, where it is said, lurk nasty monsters.

Eventually Ian gets better and joins the Doctor to search for who ever has been poisoning the Sensorites with the deadly nightshade.

By this point the bad Sensorite has worked himself up the power chain to become the esteemed second elder and has supplied the Doctor and Ian with, both weapons (that are useless) and a map of the aqueduct (that gas been tampered with).

With Barbara and Susan using the Sensorite telepathy technology, they are able to safely guide Ian and the Doctor out of the Aquaduct.

But not before they meet the vicious monsters, who turn out to be non other than the remains of the previous humans, who, are convinced they are embroiled in a war with the Sensorites.

The Doctor convinces the disheveled humans to come up to the surface and stop the war with the Sensorites.

To be honest, the conclusion to the story is a bit if an anti climax and could have been made more of.

There are some funny moments throughout though. John, the character who is slowly going mad with the Sensorite control over his brain, really does overplay his part. I think he must have been going for a BAFTA or something. His hair too is fantastic, looking as mad as he does.

William Hartnell gets to wear a cape at one point, as his coat is damaged when he is attacked in the aquaduct. He relishes the chance to wear the cape and has a laugh and joke about it with his companions in a rare lighthearted moment.

And, when the Doctor and Ian are being threatened by the remaining Humans in the aquaduct, Hartnell hands Ian the rolled up map for protection! I mean, what's he going to do with that? Show the Humans where to get off I suppose.

Again, the positives of this story are both the set designs, which look surprisingly good, and as always, the music from the Radiophonic Workshop - from the high pitched wail of the Sensorites telepathic power to the manic percussion of the menacing dark damp aquaduct. It's inspired stuff.

Until recently, the writer of this story, Peter R Newman remained pretty inconspicuous as no one really knew much about him, apart from his other claim to fame, writing a film for Hammer Films called Yesterday's Enemy. The Sensorites was his only DW writing outing and his last for TV as he struggled with writers block up until his sudden death in 1975.

The very end scene of the story has Hartnell snapping at Ian for making a lighthearted remark about his ability to get the TARDIS to go where he wants it. Hartnell practically threatens to throw Ian out at the next stop.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind we reach the end of series one in of all places, Paris in the French Revolution.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Russian Journal 2013 - Day 15

Day 15 - Back to Blighty.

It's home time for me. The end of another year's visit to the mother land.

I'm glad to say that this year has been a lot better to cope with than previous years when we have remained in the country house for the duration.

The holiday in the south has been something I think all of us needed. Max got a seaside holiday which provided adventure, swimming and an abundance of ice cream. My wife and her Dad got much needed sun and rest. And I got, apart from the pleasure of seeing them happy, different surroundings, sun, a chance to swim in the sea everyday! Something I haven't and wouldn't probably attempt in the UK. And I got a bit of a rest too. At least I can say with confidence that this year I really did have a holiday to remember. I think we all did.

Despite the horrible start with missing the flight. All forgotten now. And the nasty return to Moscow and awful weather there, I think the between bits were great. As good as any seaside holiday to Spain.

I will miss Small Treadwell in the next few weeks but am sure he will continue to enjoy his iced diet and to watch the episodes of Doctor Who that I've left for him on the iPad during down time. For me now, two weeks holiday from my family. Some would say a godsend. It is in a way. But as they say, you never fully realise how much you depend and miss someone until they are not there!

Glad to report that both plane journey and drive from Manchester to Birmingham was without incident. In fact driving down the motorway and looking on those rolling English hills while listening to some excellent folk music on BBC Radio Shropshire's Sunday Folk programme brought a tear to the eye and made me realise just what I love about England. Gawd bless her.

Right, where's the chippie and the ale!

Russian Journal 2013 - Day 14

Day 14 - Moscow stay over.

Not much to put into words about today. We rose late, still feeling weary from the previous day.

We ate breakfast and prepared ourselves for the drive to the family country house.

On the way there Vladimir wanted us to see the progress that's been made to the recently acquired town house, located just on the outskirts if Moscow (about a 30 min drive from the centre). It's on a brand new houses estate in surrounded by a forest setting but close enough to the city to be an easy alternative to having a datcha located way out in the middle if nowhere. The work on the interior fittings in the house has been on-going now for well over a year. Builders have changed hands several times. The house itself has three stories, with a total of five bedrooms, three small bathrooms, a large lounge, medium sized kitchen and a small back garden.

It's got a very modern forward looking feel, I've never seen so many spot lights in one house. On the walls and built into the ceilings. I think Vladimir will need to keep a stock pile of spare bulbs. The rooms all sport fitted cabinets and wardrobes. At the moment the kitchen is just being fitted.

The ETA on completion is sometime during the winter. It should make a hell of a difference to all the family. It will allow them all, three generations to comfortably live under one roof. To not have to be under each's feet.

It will make caring for my wife's grandfather a lot easier as he will have his own room with his carer.

The setting of the estate is pretty plush. Parks for the kids, a lake and on site shops. At the end of Main Street (where the house is located) there is a plush fountain. Now, not every street can say it has that.

After giving our blessing to the house we climbed into the car and headed for the datcha.

Normally at this time of year in Moscow the weather is very hot and sunny. But, uncharacteristically this year, things have been a lot wetter and colder. This is ironic of course as the UK is having a bit of a heat wave at the moment. So, I think we picked the right year to go south for a couple of weeks and at least we had the sun one way or another.

We hit yet another traffic jam on the way to the country. It has to be said that for driving a car in Russia you need an infinite amount of patience. Unfortunately this seems to be lacking in most drivers as the liberal use of the horn is a constant. In fact I've seen normal driving practices get horned for no apparent reason. I guess it's a nervous psychological habit, an itch that has to bee scratched as it were.

We arrive at the country house. It's drizzling. The sky is grey and stormy. My wife is bitterly disappointed at this. She has a love for this place which I don't really understand but even she dislikes it here in the rain. Everything becomes muddy, damp and tiresome. And trying to entertain a small boy when he can't get out and ride his bike or play will be difficult in the next couple of weeks.

We re-acquaint ourselves with the place. Ira's mums ducks, the family hound, a full breed husky dog called Wonder. The two cats. And, it seems an old friend. A friend which I thought I would never again have to meet!

Yes. The dreaded outdoor toilet!!! The indoor fitted one, had become blocked, meaning a visit to the devils hut us necessary.

Luckily for Max he's allowed to use the potty but not for me. I still sometimes have nightmares about that hole in the ground. The first few years I visited the datcha I became adept at learning to hold my breath for long periods so I didn't have to smell the awful ammonia drenched stench of that place.

Now I am out of practise, so while at the datcha (thankfully only one day) I will have to limited my visits to the toilet as much as possible. And pooing. Well, that's completely out of the question.

We eat. We drink. We play with the dog. Max rides his bike.

Max is really being spoiled by his grandparents, they have brought him a new bed. One of those shaped like a racing car, sporting four wheels. Complete with spider man bed covers to boot. He obviously loves it.

We drink and eat more. The talk turns to the new house, a discussion about the decoration. I am asked my opinion and decide to sit on the fence in order to avoid an argument. "Everything's great", I say.

I sneak off unnoticed and go to bed. Tomorrow will be another long day.

Russian Journal 2013 - Day 13

Day 13 - Road To Nowhere

Our flight back to Moscow was at around 2.30pm so we had a lazy sleep in and gradually started gathering our possessions together for the journey back.

Having taped everything in sight with his orange tape, we were at last ready to get going. We took a ride to the small Gelendzhik airport, taking in our last views of the town which had been our home for the last 10 days. The unstoppable flow of people to the beach was continuing just as on any other day.

When got into the airport we discovered our plane had been re routed to another airport at Anapa. The reason given was that the winds were to strong to attempt a landing. The upshot if this was that we would have to travel by bus to this airport.

Ira told me that the distance from Gelendzhik to Anapa, Krasnodarskiy kray, Rossiya was around 60 miles. Could be worse I thought. The air company then gave out free portions of kiddie drinks to each passenger as the bus was likely to be hot and my optimism grew that the journey would be short. I mean, little kiddie drinks - can't be far thought I. How wrong I was.

We were called outside in the scorching sun to await the bus that would whisk us away. It was hot. We waited. And waited. And about 20 mins later the bus turned up. A relic from the bygone era of buses. We boarded it and took our seats. The air con didn't really seem to so anything at all, except circulate the already stale air.

About fifteen minutes into out journey we hit a traffic jam. Tailgate to tailgate. Nothing was moving. This was bad. Really bad. There was nothing else to do but sit and slowly lose the will to live.

There were drawn curtains on the bus that kept the sun out of our eyes. Every time I drew them back during the journey we seemed to be passing some kind of building site. Or driving down some country lane in the middle of nowhere.

Our journey started at around 2.00pm and continued on well into the late afternoon. The bus was stuck in traffic for at least two hours before we managed to break free and start to make any progress. We past small villages, fields, and towns and didn't seem to be heading in any particular direction. I was beginning to question the whole story of too much wind in favour of, being hijacked and taken on a magical mystery tour to our deathly end.

We drained our kiddie drinks rations. We sang songs about the Russian revolution, we compared stories about who had been on the worst bus ride ever. And then the silence fell. As everyone willed the driver to find the air field. Come on. There must be a runway around here somewhere?

I peeked through the curtains. Another building site passed through my vision. Was I beginning to hallucinate now? Was this in fact the airport disguised in my mind as a collection of concrete mixers and JCBs?

No. It wasn't. We plod on. Through the middle of someone's dream datcha plantation. By this point we should have all been familiar with one another. Having shared this experience of travel torture together.

But we were still strangers, riding on into the night on our never ending quest to find a plane that could take us back to civilisation.

The lady with the bandage on her leg, the suspicious man who wore a black suit three times to big, and who paced up and down in the airport, travelling with the man in the Hawaiian t-shirt who looked like the guest star of a TV cop show that permanently resided in a late night re-run.

Three hours into a journey that should have taken an hour at most we managed to break free of the traffic. We never found out what caused it. We still had quite a ways to go it turned out though, and didn't arrive at Anapa airport until around 7pm. Over four hours on a bus.

As there were two bus loads of passengers for the flight we had to wait for the other bus to arrive before could board the flight. This meant another wait in the airport of two hours.

Eventually, drained, tired and dazed we boarded the plane to Moscow Domodevodo. Flight time around two hours, we touch down at around 11.30pm, get a taxi to my wife's parents flat, and end our momentous day of travel at about 12.30pm. It's been a bastard of a day.

It seems all are travel plans are jinxed and plagued by problems.

Sleep comes easy for us all this night.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Russian Journal 2013 - Day 12

Day 12 - Last day Gelendzhik

We've spend our last full day here in Gelendzhik at the beach, trying to entice a not very enthusiastic small Treadwell into the waves. I think he's now pretty bored with the sea. Tried to keep him entertained with Snakes & Ladders, Ludo and Connect 4 but it's been hard work. He's been restless and very badly behaved toward his grandad. Who's advances are met with screams of "Nit Nit." It's a different matter how ever when grandad mentions the word, "ice cream", (which has pretty much bean Max's staple diet since we arrived). Max will follow Vladimir anywhere for an Ice cream. It's quite comical to see Max walking behind Valdimir (keeping a safe distance of ten paces or so) while maintaining his grandad's every move. Vlads the Russian equivalent of the Pied Piper.

We've been reading today about the bad weather in Moscow. Seems when we go back tomorrow we can expect rain and cold. While in the UK the heat wave is continuing with record temperatures, and will do into next week!

This evening we took Max for a couple of rides on the fare. Both racing orientated. First a mini quad bike that he rode around an extended track and then, on a smaller track with a mixture of vehicles and contestants racing around after one another. He whipped all the ruskie kids and sailed home in first place. We were all very proud.

We then watched our last Black Sea sunset and headed for a slice of pizza or two before heading back to the apartment.

Tomorrow afternoon we fly back to Moscow. Our Russian holiday is nearly at an end. It's been great to have a change of scenery during this trip and experience this culture. As it goes beach holidays are not really my cup of tea but this break has served it's purpose. It's been, for the most part, relaxing, different and enjoyable. I probably couldn't do this every year, but as a one off, it's been great. And much better then the alternative.

I probably won't be able to update the last few days of the journal (Days 13,14 and 15) till I get back to the UK. So expect then sometime next week.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Russian Journal 2013 - Day 11

Day 11 - Wind and Waves

Our aim to get up early this morning didn't quite work out. I awoke from a weird dream about 9.00. In this dream I was living in a different house with many rooms. One room had a mysterious past. Unearthly goings on had been going on there. Well, one day I descended down into this lost room and opened it up to find a series of cadavers. Cadavers who started to talk to me about how they had been killed. They told me not to tell anyone else or something unsavoury might be attracted to the house. I agreed but over a period of time just couldn't resist telling everyone I met. And inviting them down to the room for a chat with the dead people.

For some reason, the next thing I remember I this dream is I'm a member of Manic Street Preachers!! And we are performing a huge outdoor gig somewhere. Well, not far into the set I get bored and wonder off looking for my dead friends. Instead I find a TV that is showing an old film. In the dream I recognise the film as one I've known for a long time. It's a creepy unnerving chiller about a house where all the occupants are murdered mysteriously under very weird circumstances. I come to realise, while watching this film that its actually set in the very house that I live in! Yikes.

It's at this point that I wake up but there was something very familiar about that film. I swear I know it.

With Tales Of The Unexpected over. I ate my breakfast, watched a morning episode of Dr Who with the lad and we were ready to roll.

We took a taxi from Gelendzhik to Praskoveyevka (the place we had visited a couple of days ago by boat). The taxi ride took about 30 mins.

Today was a bit blustery but still scorchingly hot. So the sea was not so clear as our previous visit due to silt and sediment being disturbed by waves breaking in the shore.

After a swim. Me, max and Vlad headed down to have a closer inspection of the stone monolith that towers over the shore line up the coast. It's called "Sales", for the very reason that its thin and looks like a ships sail. Seeing it up close really does give you an idea of the scale if the thing. There is a little whole just up from the bottom and if you feel adventurous you might like to climb up the conveniently placed tree trunk to this window and sit there and have your photo taken. If you fall though, you might end up splitting your head open on the rocks below.

For lunch Ira took me and small Treadwell to a safe bet. A save bet from contracting food poisoning from any of the private eateries on the beach. I'm sure they are all fine and Ira is just being over cautious. The safe bet is a government funded canteen which serves standard Russian fare. That being, soup and then today, pork and pasta with salad and a warm glass of dried apple juice with sugar. Not very appetising prospect, suffice to say that me and Max left hungrier then when we arrived.

Next we rested a while, then Me, Ira and small Treadwell went to see the "Sail", second time around it had lost none it's grander, even when you are carrying a four year old on your shoulders for the entire journey. More photos were duly taken.

Later on Vlad's school of swimming continued with little Max. It's an on going programme of master classes given by the man, to the boy, in which carefully constructed lesson plans are related to Max in order for him to progress in a safe and familiar way.

Sessions usually start when Vlad tries to entices Max to go for a dip. "Come Max come!" Max, being sensible usually declines, "Nit Nit!!"

On this occasion I take Max into the sea. As the waves are bigger than normal I gently ease him in a step at a time. He had a floatation ring so he's not going to sink. He's enjoying it. He likes the waves. He's laughing.

Vladimir, then determined to give Max the benefit of his years of swimming excellence crashes into my softly softly approach by grabbing Max and thrusting him into an on coming wave. Vladimir's tough tough approach then consists of pushing Max further and further out into the sea.

Max is distraught. He's calling out. He struggles to get ashore. The waves are pretty big for him and they crash over his head. He's not happy. I quickly head over to help him and doing so fall onto a sharp stone on the sea bed cutting my knee.

All in all a pretty successful attempt from Vladimir at giving Max some kind of sea swimming phobia for the rest of his life.

I know it's a different generation and methods differ but you would think old Vlad would get the message when it just doesn't work after the tenth attempt.

With us all swam out. We pack up and grab a quick kebab from one of the beach eateries before catching a bus back to Gelendzhik. The journey is pretty shaky at 45 mins and one change, but it gives you a real appreciation of the terrain.

Tomorrow is our final full day. So we best make the most of it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Russian Journal 2013 - day 10

Day 10 - Aqua Power

Two full days of Black Sea action to go before flying back to Moscow for a couple of days. Then home to the UK for two weeks minus small Treadwell, oh, and the wife.

Today we went to the beach in the morning. In the afternoon we took a bus to the nearby Aqua Park.

It's a big place with a smaller children's area and pool with several slides, plus two other larger pools with much bigger slides for adults. Both Vladimir and I did the highest slides which really rockets you down at a pretty scary velocity. You hit the water before you know what the hell is going on. Usually making half a tonne of chorine shoot up your nose.

Small Treadwell really wanted to do the big slides with me but the age limit is ten years and older. I can see why to be honest. He enjoyed the smaller area though and was kept entertained elsewhere by seeing Grandad's big belly hit the water when he came down one of the slides.

We stayed a couple of hours and then took the rather hot and sticky bus ride back to town.

I don't think I've ever been as sun tanned as I am now. Today my thighs suffered the most and as I write this from bed I can feel the soreness of the red skin.

We aim to get up early tomorrow and go back to Praskoveyevka by bus. Vladimir wants to saviour that wonderful clear water one more time before we leave. He's feeling a bit feverish tonight so I really don't know if we'll make it.

Russian Journal 2013 - Day 9

Day 9 - Whisky & Baked Beans.

We woke early this morning and attached our sea legs, as today we were going out into the wide blue yonder.

I was slightly nervous at the thought of getting on a boat with Vladimir as the last time we were on a boat, things didn't turn out too well. We were in Scotland on the Isle of Skye taking a boat trip to look at the black mountains. When we arrived at the port Vlad and my wife went climbing on some rocks while I took the walk to the mountains. When I came back the tide had come in preventing them both from descending safely and the boat had to rescue them. Hence my concern this time around.

Vladimir had checked out the times of the sailings the evening before but still felt the need to roam around the sea front checking out routes and prices.

Eventually the deed was settled and we boarded a boat along with a hundred or so others for a mystery location. The boat travelled out through the bay of Gelendzhik and turned left up the coast of the Black Sea. Our destination being a stretch of coast not far from Praskoveyevka (see map).

On the way we passed the lighthouse, the creamy cliffs that look like they should be part of a gigantic meringue, and a strange rock outcrop called "The Sail" that rises up out of the sea and is wafer thin with a little tiny whole in it.

The journey took us about 35mins. On arrival at the beach near Praskoveyevka it was immediately apparent
that the quality of the sea water was superior to any other we'd swam in. The water here was completely clean, clear and warm. You could see the huge smoothed shaped stones of the sea bed quite clearly from the surface.

The beach itself although again stoney was, compared to the main sandy beach of Gelendzhik, clean and uncluttered. I think there is a way to get to this beach by road but it seems the boat trips bring in the main majority of beach dwellers.

We had an hour and a half to make the most of the beach here, before the return trip. So we quickly got in the water. What a joy to swim in such beautiful sea. I've never had the chance to experience this kind of sea before. I felt positively healthy just getting into it.

After a quick dip Vladimir wondered off in search of some information about buses between Gelendzhik and Praskoveyevka, he arrived back and started going on about re-locating to this place from Gelendzhik? He'd seen some apartments were available here and had a mad idea that it would be better for us to move.

With only three full days left of our time here I really didn't see any point in moving now but Vladimir was his usual insistent self. Ira went to view the said apartments with him, after I refused.

Fifteen minutes later they return. I ask how it went. Ira told me it was not worth mentioning. I ask what kind of state the apartments were in, she described them in one word, "apocalyptic".

A couple of days ago at the beach Vladimir chatted up a couple of ladies in their senior years. He's a bit of a charmer with the ladies is old Vlad. Anyway by some form of coincidence or something, these three ladies turned up on the same boat trip. I think there was a bit of forward planning here by old Vlad. I think he had ulterior motives.

We spent what little time we had left there by swimming and soon the boat was on the horizon and docked up on the beach ready for boarding.

On returning to Gelendzhik we headed back to our apartment for a rest. One thing about staying in such a warm humid place to take into account is how much it zaps your energy. So regular rests are a necessity.

We have a spot of lunch and retire for a rest. Vladimir heads out to the shops while we watch Doctor Who on the iPad. I'd pre loaded the iPad with DW's before our trip so we'd have some entertainment during downtime.

Vladimir returned armed with a bottle of Russian Whisky and a large bottle of baked beans? I wonder where this could be leading and come to only one conclusion. Anglo-Russian bonding time is here again.

Yes, the baked beans - soaked in that yummy tomato sauce represent Britain in all its mad eccentric goodness while the Ruskie Whisky represents, well, erm, the ability of Russians to consume large amounts of alcohol.

The bonding ritual, began with Vladimir arranging the seating, and then the standard beckoning, "N-i-c, please!"

I knew what was coming. I prepared my mind and body for it. Made a silent prayer to the god of binge drinking and baked beans and took my place at the table. Vladimir poured the entire contents if the large bottle of beans into a single plate, and prepped to spoons. Thank god. I thought we were going to share a spoon!

A huge hill of beans rose before me. I gulped. Vladimir poured to portions of Whisky into two glasses. I'd say the measure of which equalled perhaps a quadruple. Beans and Whisky. A brand new experience. We chinked glasses and I downed the Whisky, took a couple of gulps of Pepsi and then a mouthful of cold beans. Mmmmm. Strangely it seemed to work.

The bonding had begun. As I consumed more whisky my hunger for more beans grew and grew. We threw a couple of pieces of bread into the mix. Beans on toast, minus the toast. We had another couple of double whisky's, it was like we were old friends sharing our last meal.

By the time we reached the final baked bean we were both a lot closer.

As Ira had come down with the dreaded sickness that me and Vlad had had, she stopped home while we took Max to the beach for more swimming fun.

In actual fact Vladimir fell asleep on the beach and I swam with Max. I suppose Russians just can't handle their whisky.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Russian Journal 2013 - Day 8

Sun, Beach & Doctor Who

Today pretty much panned out as our other days have, so nothing really significant to report. Nothing and no one got lost.

It was slightly cloudy so the temperature was a bit lower and it felt pretty muggy.

Went to the beach, tried to keep Max entertained. Swam. Lunched at the apartment.

Rested while watching Doctor Who. Back to beach for more of the same.

Walked down the sea front in the evening. It's a bit like Blackpool minus the rain, cold and grey sea.

Back at the apartment I Watched a classic Doctor Who.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Russian Journal - Day 7

Day 7 - Lost and found

Had a restless night. Woke up in early hours feeling nauseous and sick. This could only mean one thing. Today was going to be my obligatory designated sick day. It happens every year. For one whole day I have stomach issues in mother Russia.

Today of all days. Bad timing indeed as it is none other than my birthday. I'm entering my 44th year on planet earth.

Vladimir was feeling rough yesterday with similar symptoms. The only thing we have had the same was maybe some suspect beer. Personally I think it had something to do with the salmon pie we ate last night but I have little proof as Ira has not been struck down, yet.

I decide to stay in bed and leave the others to goto the beach.

I spend a thoroughly horrible couple of hours trying to sleep and fight off the temptation to vomit.

When the others arrive back i try and join them in a spot of lunch, which is soup and some kind if minced meat thing. I don't get very far.

I'm persuaded to join ira, mac and Vlad for the beach afternoon session. The warm fresh sea air might do me good.

We catch the usual taxi (our 78th) to the beach Vladimir likes. We alight and just as the taxi is pulling away I realise something is missing. Something small, oblong and perfectly formed.

My iPhone has fallen out my shorts pocket in the taxi. My heart is in my mouth when I realise. I shout to Vladimir and Ira. Quick as a flash Vladimir springs into action and hails a cab back to the apartment, so that he can contact the taxi company.

Meanwhile I start thinking the worst. This really is the worst thing that can happen. But no, it isn't, there's more to come.

While we are walking down the steps to the beach, both preoccupied with the iPhone incident, Small Treadwell seems to have escaped our vision. We scan the beach and the last place he was found, but nothing.

We start panicking, calling out to him. People on the beach illicit us some devilish looks. We run up and down the beach frantically.

I'm still feeling rather nauseous, and now I'm feeling positively sick. My heart is racing, nasty thoughts tumble through my mind. Where the hell is that boy.

Ira speaks with someone on the beach and then shoots off up the steps and along the main walkway. I presume someone has seen him, and give pursuit. I'm feeling completely out of energy, sweat is poring from me. I'm sure I'm about to have a heart attack or something.

We run about a quarter of a mile down the walk way and there, in the distance, sitting on the stone wall by the exercise machines, is a little boy looking decidedly like small Treadwell.

He's not even crying. Or looking worried? He doesn't even see us coming. We give him what for and make sure he knows he's done wrong. Why the hell he decided to wonder so far down the beach is beyond me.

Severely reprimanded, we go back to where the whole sorry business started. The whole beach seems to be looking in our direction as we arrive back. A man with a bullhorn sits at table with a female and asks Ira what happened. Eventually the boy-hunt is called off. The helicopter told to return to base and everyone returns to there sunbathing or swimming or people watching. I, wait for the ground to open up and swallow me whole.

Soon after I hear Vladimir calling me and out of his pocket he produces my phone. I almost kiss him. Everyone around seems puzzled that I'm more pleased to see my iPhone rather than my son.

So within the space of 15 minutes I've lost both my phone and son and then re-gained them back.

I spend the rest of the afternoon chilling out and recovering from the ordeal. Max, unscathed by the events soon returns to his normal naughty self.

Later in the evening, back at the apartment I am treated to a bacon pork and potato slice thing with salad. Followed by a cake which resembles Mount
Vesuvius, and champagne. Vladimir, it seems has still got the old magic.

After an after dinner walk down by the sea front, through the fairground, we return home and think about how much worse things could have been on this eventful Birthday...

Like, how the heck would have I continued these journals with no iPhone?

Russian Journal 2013 - Day 6

Day 6 - Kabardinka

After a disturbed night of waking up in hot sweats, I finally succumbed to morning around 9.30. Ira and Vlad had already visited the shops and cornered several fresh fruits for our breakfast paper plates. Yes more improvisation.

Today Vladimir, on another recommendation, wanted to visit another town up the coast (about 30 mins drive) called Kabardinka. Our driver, Sergi, who is not a taxi driver, but someone who is staying at the same apartment as us and happened to bump into Vladimir, have become firm friends (well perhaps not friends but acquaintances),has agreed to take us.

Kabardinka seems like a thriving tourist town. Even more so than Gelendzhik. The main town centre is packed with souvenir stalls selling various cheap novelty items. Keyrings, fridge magnets and Sea shells - there all here. One elusive item I have not seen yet though is the good old fashioned stick of rock. Despite asking in every establishment I could, no rock was forthcoming. Though I was offered Coal, Quartz and piece of concrete! The search continues.

The route we took to the beach took us down a very pleasant thorough fare, decorated with fountains, flower beds, eateries and shops. A little slice of paradise in the South of Russia.

When we reached the end, the bay if Kabardinka open up before us. Beautiful calm blue sea, pebble beaches strewn with swimmers and sunbathers. Electro beats echoing over the speaker PA system, shops selling yummy food, and, a pier (that seemed to be closed).

We decided to move further down the beach, as the main part had far to many browning bodies occupying it. A ten minute walk and we found a less busy beach with a sandy sea bed no less.

The swimming area itself was perfect for kids as it was quite shallow quite a way out. Further on, in deeper water there was a stone wall which rose up out of the sea, and which could be used as a resting point before the return swim back to the shore.

We spent pretty much the whole day here, swimming, roaming around and trying to entice young Treadwell into the water, the quality of which was probably better than Gelendzhik.

Vlad dived off of the stone wall with his snorkelling gear, in the hope I guess of finding some long lost oceanic ship wreck. But returned alas empty handed.

Lunch was simple. Pancakes freshly made at a local food establishment. Very nice too.

Later in the afternoon Vladimir started to feel unwell, which he blamed on some dodgy home made wine he tasted this morning. So we packed up around 4pm and took the long walk back through town to meet Sergi again.

After a salmon and rice dinner that the apartment administered. We retired to watch Doctor Who before bed.

One more thing, the crickets here sound even more aggressive than the ones in Gelendzhik. It's like someone's playing the maracas to a Latin American beat over and over again.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Russian Journal 2013 - Day 5

Day 5 - Taxi Sir?

We start today's entry with a Vladimir fashion update. The man about town himself, the pensioner who refuses to slow down, the brain that is constantly ticking over ideas and opportunities, the talker and charmer himself, the man who has an answer for everything, the silver haired fox from Moscow was today wearing a close fitting pair of pea green nylon shorts with a sleeveless dark green top, sandals and to finish the look off his El Capitaino hat. This thrown together formation of styles and textures will be available from all leading branches of Primark.

As i write this i'm lying in bed. It's late and its been a long day. Before I close my glimpses (see Star Trek Voyager Episode Nemesis) lets recap the days events...

We woke to another scorchingly hot day. Breakfast was swift and then to the beach. Our taxi was imminently due but Vladimir insisted on going to buy Max an ice cream. You can guess what happened. The taxi arrived and we ended up waiting several embarrassing minutes while Vladimir was selecting either a double choc chip or a Strawberry Swirl?

Eventually Vladimir arrived, climbed in the car and climbed our again. He'd forgotten something. Another five minute wait and he emerged. By this time the taxi driver was non to pleased.

We drove to the beach and alighted the taxi. I'm not much of a strong swimmer but I've been getting along ok in the sea, in fact it's very enjoyable. Again we received turned heads and double takes from Russians who have had time to bronze themselves.

Back to the apartment and our lunch was awaiting. Meat and veg soup (Russians usually make it fairly watery) but it was fine. That was followed by potatoes and veg hot pot (without the pot).

After a short rest in which me and Max watched the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas Special, we again hot footed it for the beach. Vladimir Had realised at this point that his mobile phone was missing. Another taxi was called and we again found ourselves at the beach. A quick scout around, and no phone was found. Where, prey, had Vlads phone gone?

Meanwhile, in a taxi cab uptown. The driver, who just happened to be this mornings unhappy recipient of Vlad's happy go lucky personality found the said phone. Well, he must have giggled, and chuckled to himself at this twist if fate (I'm sure there's an ice cream called that!). He held in his hands the phone of that annoying man who had cost him a couple of fares by wasting his time. I can see the sinister grin on his face now and the shaking clenched fist of his victory.

Meanwhile we finish up at the beach and call another taxi (our 43rd overall) to take us back home...

...sorry fell asleep. A short rest and yet another taxi is called. Vladimir talks to the taxi company and discovers that the taxi driver has his mobile and are willing to return it. For a small fee!

Now, I would have thought that that driver would take full advantage of this situation and ask for a fairly substantial reward for the phone. But no, his price was only £3. I was a bit disappointed with this to be honest. But really if you sold the phone it would probably fetch less.

So, we are waiting for the taxi to take us to the cable car ride (Vladimir was recommended by a fellow sun worshiper at the beach that we go there), one taxi turns up, and then, another taxi turns up. The first taxi is taking us, the second has Vladimir's phone. Vladimir has to pay a ransom to get it back. By doing so he delays the other taxi, as he has to step inside the apartment to get some change. Are you following this?

The whole farce could have been inserted into The Benny Hill Show, and it wouldn't have been out of place. In fact Vladimir does have more than a passing resemblance to Mr Hill. Which is scary.

So, after all that confusion what we really need is some clarity. Clarity and forward thinking. We take the taxi to the cable car ride. On the way we go past the cable car ride. Eh? Where's this taxi taking us then?

Turns out it's taking us to the Safari Park. (Which was also recommended by the same lady on the beach - boy does she have a lot to answer for). Vladimir wants to check the prices for the park. It's £20 each and we all agree that it's a waste if time. We only want the cable car. Which we passed five minutes ago!

We hot foot it across the road bridge. As always Vladimir is a hundred metres in front. He's found a bus which goes back the way we came. He shouts to us to quickly come. Me and Max are lagging behind. Max is far to busy with another ice cream that Vlad has bestowed upon him. I pick him up and scarper down the stars to the waiting bus. We squeeze on and off we go. After five minutes the bus stops. It's very apparent that this is not an official stop, as when we alight, it's into a waiting ditch. I'm sure Vladimir is behind this. He's told the driver to stop purposefully so that the moody English man can take a dive.

We cross a busy road and walk the remainder of the way to the cable car ride. At last we arrive. All this could have been avoided by a little forward planning. How about the Internet for instance?

The cable car ride is worth the wait though and is pretty spectacular. I thought they would be closed cars but instead they are like ski lifts. It's pretty hairy stuff. Glad it's not too windy. We wait in line and small Treadwell and large Treadwell take one car while Ira and Vlad take the other. The ride takes about ten minutes. On the way up we are serenaded by music blasting out of the speaker system. Something sounding very much like Richard Clayderman. I think the idea is that this will lull us into a feeling of serenity and safety while we are dangling hundreds of feet in the air. But it's effect only riles me. I mean, surely there could be better choices of music than this. How about Stairway To Heavon, Learning To Fly, or Free falling (well perhaps not that one). I decide to have words with the operator at the top and offer my services. But then I realise the operator will in fact be a big Russian male with biceps the size of small houses. I decide against the idea.

When we reach the top the views are amazing. You can see the entire horse shoe shaped bay of Gelendzhik and the Black Sea beyond that. Children might like to take the opportunity of having their photo taken while sitting on a cunningly placed stuffed ram! I kid you not.

Also at the top is a fare. Which has children's rides, food and free entertainment in the form of dancing children's costumed characters and competitions. While we were there one character, a female with large fake bosoms picked an unsuspecting playmate from the crowd (a young teenager) and started dancing rather suggestively with him. Eventually she ripped of her top to reveal her breasts (though not the real ones) and continued the dance.

After small Treadwell had had popcorn and ice cream and a go on the bouncy castle, and the big wheel, it was getting dark and things were about to turn very nasty.

What had been a joyous happy place began to turn into a scene from a Hitchcock movie as the crescent moon rose over the peaks of Gelenchick, so it became a matter of escaping from mosqueto mountain.

They were relentless, blood seeking missiles aiming directly for the jugular. We joined a line for the cable car ride down to safety. The whole queue were doing the mosquito two step. A free style dance incorporating the slap of the legs and involuntary arm spasm. We all looked like a very bad 80's body popping dance troupe who had come last place in the Worst Body Popping World Championships.

Eventually we were on our way down. Descending into the darkness of dusk. It was really quite serene and relaxing. And our musical accompaniment for the decent? Well of course, it was the theme tune to the x-files! Doh, what else!

Another taxi was hastily called (our 78th) and we called into a nearby pizza place to refresh our stomachs. By this point it was way past young Treadwells's bedtime. Another taxi ride and we were delivered home, our eyes heavy with the sea air and contentment of another day well spent.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Russian Journal 2013

The good ship Vladimir.

Today's antics started around 9.30 when small Treadwell awoke. He'd made it through the night next to his grandad.

Ira and Vlad had stepped out to get some essentials for breakfast. That being fruit, cognac. In the spirit of improvisation and a low budget we are free styling our meals. For today's other two meals we tried out the homegrown food of the apartment where we are staying. Lunch was a soup followed by rice and mince cutlet thing. And dinner was an aubergine skin filled with something, god knows what. But it was fairly tasty.

Today panned out much like yesterday. The walk to the beach takes at least 45 minutes due to Max's protests and complaints of being tired. We usually end up carrying him. An ice cream usually helps him along though. Today Vladimir decided he wanted to try the bus so we waited and waited for one and when it arrived it was packed. So we thought, hey, we'll just walk. Vladimir however had other ideas and wanted to wait and wait. Despite our enthusiasm to just walk he just decided that is what we were going to do.

I realise now that this really isn't my holiday. Yes, well in a way it is, but I really haven't had a say in where we a staying, where we go or what we eat. That's all been decided for me. Yes, some good choices have been made and I can't complain but again this is pretty much Vladimir's ship and I am just along for the ride. I let him pretty much get on with things because to resist would take up far to much energy and time. I just can't be bothered.

Max is coping pretty well at the moment but has been getting away with some pretty horrendous behaviour. It's no good trying to administer any kind of punishment when grandad is buying him ice cream on demand. Today Max was again enjoying being in the sea, which was a little colder than yesterday.

Sometimes I feel like I'm in on of those summer On The Buses films with Reg Varney, but transplanted to Russia. We got some right old looks from some of the natives today when we unveiled our pasty white foreign bodies. And when I was shouting at Max for throwing pebbles and various other things. One guy was just constantly staring in our direction.

My birthday is looming in a few days and I'm dreading any kind of attempt from Vladimir at entering me into a frenzied state of happiness. I don't like a lot of fuss. I like to remain incognito. If he's planning a trip to the local nudist beach he can forget it.

Tomorrow the plan is to get up early and get some pre noon rays in before the suns radiation gets so powerful it takes the first layer if skin off within five minutes.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Russian Journal Day 3

Rain and shine.

Last nights five hours sleep was more like two. Having been in bed 10 mins we heard Max cry and then a knock on the door. "Don't you want to sleep with Grandad?" I asked him. "No, he smells", came the reply.

So a night of very uncomfortable and broken sleep began.

This morning we were woken up to the sound of torrential rain. Yes rain. What the hell? Apparently there's been a lot if it about. It's warm enough though which is the main thing. Unfortunately though, I never thought to pack my bloody wellies!!!

A taxi came to collect us and we hastily sped across Moscow in a taxi, heading for Vukrvo airport, listening to the in car radio playing such 80's luminaries as Pet Shop Boys and Simply Red and erasure

One thing is for sure. Vladimir is not going to lose his bags today. Last night he mummified them in bright orange tape as a security measure. If anyone does make it into his bags they'll probably sue him for becoming colourblind in the process.

Our bad luck seems to have followed us from the UK as the flight to gelendzhik (the black sea resort) was delayed by an hour due to a fault with the plane. Not sure what the fault was but eventually we were aloud on.

Ira's family seem to have a strange tradition or ritual before any long travel, everyone has to sit down for a few seconds. I don't know why. Maybe the length of time you sit makes a difference to the amount if luck you have in getting to your destination. If so, we should have stayed longer this morning. An hour would probably done it. I must check I'd this is a wide spread ritual or just in my wife's family?

The flight to gelendzhik took about two hours from Moscow and once airborne was without any incident.

The small airport we landed at was just off the coast of the Black Sea. And a short ten minute taxi ride took us to our small two room flat in a large apartment building. We only have a double bed and a double sofa bed, so someone is going to have to sleep with Vladimir. At the moment it looks like this will be Max but tonight will be test. I don't hold out much hope, but to be honest he's going to be pretty shagged out after today's early rise, flight and then sea swimming. He loves the sea and can't keep out of the water despite having to use floats.

We must be the whitest people here. I bet if you looked at this beach from space you would be able to pin point me, Ira and Max by our Pale white skin. I look like a bloody albino compared to some of the red blooded Ruskies. I must be ill.

We didn't go to the busiest part of the main beach, which is sand. The rest of the beach up the coast is pebbles but there were less people. Gelendzhik sits in a huge bay which is kind of enclosed from the sea. Tree green mountains flank on either side and rise up in the rear. From what I've seen so far the main attractions include an aqua park, a zoo and beach activities. There's also a cable car ride which goes up into the mountains.

It's definitely not Blackpool, no Punch and Judy, no donkey rides and no deck chairs. And no one with a hanky knotted in four corners on there head. It remind me a lot of Miami. The sea air, the muggy atmosphere and the warm air even in the evening.

After a good swim, we left the beach and went for something to eat. We were recommended a simple eatery by the owner of the building we are staying in. Serving a mixture of pizza, steaks and other English like meals. Makes a refreshing change from goulash.

Small Treadwell by this point was struggling to keep his eyes open. He's had two pretty horrible nights sleep, as have we, and it's caught up with him. We just about got him back to put him in bed. I hope he sleeps soundly and doesn't get spooks by grandad's snoring.

Russian Journal - Day Two

From Manchester With Love

Not the best of nights sleep. The plumbing in our hotel is awful and every time someone goes to the toilet or uses the taps a loud boat like horn rises up from the pipes. Not only that but the hotel deliveries seemed to be made directly onto the back if our room. Plus the air con seemed to be snoring for most if the night.

We woke up and decided to go for breakfast, which at least, was plentiful and full. Max is back to his chirpy self and is fleeting around the place talking to himself the whole time. I think he managed one piece if toast and a bit if bacon. He tried the sausages, which were some kind of Cumberland variety and instantly puked them up before us. Some American guests looked on with distain.

Next Ira tried to call the Jet Parks customer service people in order to launch a complaint about our not bring able to find the car park yesterday, despite there bring directions and a rough map on the web site. Even threatening them with a letter to Watchdog didn't will them with fear. I think Ira is on to a losing battle there.

Meanwhile I was on the net trying to book tickets to the doctor Who 50th Anniversary event in London on 23rd November. Well, got to get the priorities right. Tickets secured it was time to go and try the airport again.

As the hotel offer a free transfer service to the airport (probably to make up for the noisy pipe work, we took advantage if it. One at the airport we joined the queue at the EasyJet desk and checked in our bags.

Everything was OK this time. And a couple of hours later we are on the plane heading out of Manchester airport.

Max was predictably fidgety on the plane. But somehow three and a half hours later with arrive in Moscow. Ira's dad greets us and Max is once more reunited with his grandad, Vladimir.

Back at the family flat we eat a much needed meal of chicken and potatoes and hastily get ready for tomorrow's next adventure. On the TV news we see a report about a train that derailed going to the south of Russia yesterday. Not necessarily the same one we would have taken but the crash would have no doubt had an effect on our journey. I hope the plane fares better.

Discussions around tomorrow's journey begin and what time we should get up? Vlad airs on the side of caution and suggests we rise at 5.30am, which even by my standards is the middle of the night, and as the flight isn't until 10.45 I think we have a bit more leeway. Lucy (my sister in law) suggests 7.00 as we need to get to the airport by 9.00. Apparently it's a smaller airport on the other side of Russia. I do hope it's not one if those old rickety planes that Vlad has hired from a friend of a friend. We'll probably get there and find out Vladimir is the pilot.

Max has a strange idea to sleep with his grandad tonight! Lets see how that goes. The flat is full tonight. Great grandad is in one room, Ira's sister Lucy and mum on the sofa, Vladimir in another bedroom and me and Ira in Lucy's room.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Russian Journal 2013

Day 1: It's all begun horribly wrong.

I'm sitting here writing this at the Etrop Grange Hotel just a mile from Terminal 1 at Manchester airport. Later on tonight we are supposed to be boarding a train bound for the south of Russia. I have this niggling sixth sense feeling that we may not make that train.

Everything was going so well. We leisurely made our way to Manchester yesterday and booked into one of Lenny's Inn's a couple of miles away from the airport. We laughed gleefully at the amount of fluffy Hares that roamed around the nearby grounds. I don't think I've ever seen so many Hares in one place since, well, since I cried the last time Watership Down was on TV.

That short lived optimism and excitement of adventure seems so far away now. At least 24 big ones.

Our problems started when we left our digs this morning and drove to find our long stay car park. We needed Jet Park 3, but and found 1 and 2 almost immediately. My wife had programmed the Sat Nav with what she thought was the post code of the parking lot, but what actually the head office of the whole outfit in the airport. When we realised this we changed direction and headed back the same way. We went back to check in another direction. Nothing. So we went back to Jet Park 2 and tried to ask someone for directions. By this time I'd found the correct post code and programmed the Sat Nav. We started again and very soon I realised, by comparing my phone map and the Sat Nav that we were again going in the wrong direction. What the hell. We swiftly turned around and I guided Ira from the map on my phone. We eventually found Jet Park 3 but the automatic number plate gate control seemed to not work for us, so Ira had to call them and give the booking reference number before we were granted entry.

We then had to go to the overflow parking area right at the end of the car park to find a space. Quickly jumped our and waited for a bus to the airport. This took several minutes and by the time we reached the airport I was around 7.10.

We were told we'd missed the last chance for dropping our bags, which EasyJet state is 40 mins.

After some initial upsets and disbelief we accepted our fate. That we'd have to catch a flight tomorrow afternoon, that we'd need to book a hotel for the night, and that we would not be making the train for our journey to the south of Russia. Holy crap.

We eventually re-booked, amd it conveniently left us out of pocket to the tune of £180 and we set back to the task if find a hotel. We decided on Entrop hotel near Jet Park 1. Again fate just wasn't on our side, as our payment was being processed online the ipad froze up. We tried to call the hotel to see if we could book it over the phone. No one answered.

We took a chance and walked the half a mile or so to the hotel, wheeling our suitcases behind us in the blazing heat of the sun. Luckily the hotel did have rooms.

We've spent the rest of the day licking our wounds. Poor small Treadwell has been running a temperature too. Probably too much sun combined with the early start this morning.

We visited the local park near the hotel earlier, greeted the cannabis users and watched a dog paddle in a lake filled with trash.

Across in Russia. Air tickets to the Black Sea have been purchased for Tuesday. Thankfully we won't have to endure the drive there, which would not have been pleasant.

We are all hoping the gods of travel look down on us tonight and take pity on us. We don't need any more monetary sacrifices on this trip.

Tomorrow as they say. Is another day. Our flight is at 1pm. Alarm clock set for 4am then!

Camped out in the garden of Etrop Grange Hotel, Manchester.

Doctor Who Rewind - The Aztecs

Finally Barbara and Ian make it back in earth. Ok, it's 15th century Mexico and human sacrifices are plentiful, but you can't have everything can you?

Having landed inside inside an Aztec tomb, Barbara emerges from the TARDIS and mistakenly thinks she's in some kind of High street Jewellery boutique, trying on all manner of sparkly wears that have been placed with the remains of the high priest Yetaxa.

When the one way tomb door is found and Barbara emerges from it to find herself in the middle of a thriving Aztec civilisation she is immediately mistaken for the reincarnation of Yetaxa and idolised as a god.

Any self respecting person would take full advantage of this situation by exploiting it to the max, by getting the old Aztecians to bestow gallons of wine, food and riches upon them. But not Barbara. She sets herself a mission. To rid this sick civilisation of sacrifice. To raise it out of its bloody darkness and into the light of a new dawn.

Not much then. But the Doctor is strictly against it. He's been around some and knows that meddling with history can get you into all kinds of trouble. Er, but isn't that what he does every week? Seems like its ok when he gets to kidnap innocent members if the public and whisk them off through time and space, or nearly murder cave men, but when anyone else has an idea of doing something half decent he stamps all over it. And for good reason to.

The implications of changing the course of Aztec history would be catastrophic. I mean, we wouldn't have been treated to Mel Ginsons cinematic masterpiece, Apocalypso. Mmmmm. I think Barbara was right.

Apart from changing the course of history, there are more pressing matters at hand. The TARDIS is trapped in the tomb and the crew have to find a way to get that door open. It's decided that the best way forward is to split up and work on a solution.

Ian, being the action man that he is, goes off and joins the Aztec military, having to prove himself first by fighting with the strongest warrior, Ixta. Ian appears to have had some prior training in some kind of ancient martial art, focusing on the thumb as its weapon of choice. With his victim in front of him Ian literally gives him the thumbs up. We don't know what kind of foul move Ian pulls here, as it is out of shot, put the result is impressive. Ixta is rendered helplessly paralysed. Ian it seems, is full of surprises.

Barbara's Aztec Ali, and someone whom she see's as representing the hope of a future sacrifice-less society, is the high priest of knowledge, Autloc. He is a wise open minded soul who is willing to entertain the possibility that driving a steak into a persons chest and extracting their heart is, on the whole, not really pertinent to a wholey healthy and loving relationship to his fellow man, or woman.

But, as is always the case, nothing is ever easy. There is an anti-Autloc type character in the shape of the high priest of sacrifice himself, Tlotoxl. Someone whom you might go to if you fancied, say, a dozen minced heart and brain sausages. He's a grubby little fellow who is a cross between the hunch back of Notre Dame and Dave from The League of Gentleman. Tlotoxl creeps about the place plotting and scheming with all the gusto of a pantomime villain. In fact several times while he was on screen I had to resist the temptation to boo and hiss at him. The dastardly devil.

If all this isn't enough, Susan and The Doctor have their own sub plots to deal with. Susan is studying the Aztec religion very well when suddenly she finds herself promised to the next man facing sacrifice, when the moon eclipses. She refuses the offer of becoming a wife and widow in the same day.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is trying to find out exactly how the Tomb door is opened when he accidentally becomes engaged to an Aztec lady called Cameca. This is after they share a cup of hot chocolate. Something to do with an old Aztec custom. It's all played out with great sensitivity by William Hartnell. And we begin to see a warm side to the Doctors nature. Not to mention a vulnerable one. What's hinted here is that the Doctor isn't impervious to the odd romantic approach. He's not so cold as we thought him, and this is enforced in the final scene when we see him, first of all, leave a gift that Cameca has given to him behind, before entering the TARDIS. But he decides otherwise and picks up the gift and pockets it. A momento of a love which never had the chance to flower.

Don't think i'll be taking a break from DW while away in Russia over the next few weeks. I've packed the next three stories. Thats commitment for you. So,next time on Dr Who Rewind we pay a troubled visit to the Sense-sphere.