Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Preparing for Travel

Tomorrow is the day of long journeys. First a 50 minute train ride into London, then across the city to a bus station, where I begin an 8 hour coach ride to Newcastle, and then finally, if that wasn’t enough, another 50 minute bus ride out to my hotel. A hotel that is six miles outside the city centre – despite being advertised as only three miles. Named and shamed: the Travelodge at Silverlink. So almost ten hours sitting down: I’ll need a good book. Or five. Consequently I’ve uploaded Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit to read, along with a collection of Keats’ poetry and a modern novel, Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. As I have an equal length journey back from Newcastle, I’ve Balzac’s epic cycle of novels and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to keep me going. I think the ten hours will go quicker than they otherwise would. And if I get bored of reading, I’ve a couple of audio plays from Big Finish on my MP3 player to keep me going.

I was supposed to read last night, but I got caught up in the writing until 10pm, and then, eyes heavy, I had a wasted couple of hours catching up with Being Human, Stargate Universe and The Chicago Code. I don’t usually watch that much TV in a day: some days I’ll happily go without at all (though living with my Mum, we’ve developed a routine of watching ITV’s quiz show The Chase, and next week we’ll be making appointments with BBC’s reverse Family Fortunes fun game show, Pointless). I’m on the first season of Being Human – it’s now on its third – and I’m finding it a lot fun, if at times a little obvious. Twists that are clearly meant to shock I could see happening three episodes off, and the relationship between the two central men reminded me, in the pilot, of Stuart and Vince from Russell T. Davies’s landmark Queer as Folk. It is a show with great potential, and from all I hear about later seasons, I think something worth sticking with. Stargate Universe, now sadly cancelled, is at times thrilling, at times maddening, and at times surprising. That the producers had worked out an overall arc for the show, allows them in their scripts to take risks previous incarnations of this show lacked. A shame that the US audiences didn’t take to it. And finally, The Chicago Code, which I began watching solely because the great Shawn Ryan was behind it, and I think The Shield is the best US show EVER. Better than The Wire, better than Mad Men (which is so artificial and emotionally empty I couldn’t get past the third episode), The Shield grew each year in operatic density, until the finale season ended with an episode so heart-breaking and thrilling I actually whooped at the tele. The Chicago Code, seeing Ryan back in copland, at first seems The Shield-lite – no cursing, less violence, more formal in its presentation – and its first ending with a similar stunt as ended the first episode of The Shield (though well done here as well), it is slowly growing into something that might just be very good. I like it best when it turns its eye from the case of the week, to exploring something of the American Dream (last week Delroy Lindo’s Alderman had some great speeches about why he went into politics, and we saw how Chicago evolved from rundown city, to great American city). More of that, and I think The Chicago Code could become one of America’s great series, as lauded here as it should be there.

I’m off to type up some work, and write some more, then an early night before the forthcoming weekend at Newcastle for The Story Engine. If you’re one of the writers going, look out for me, and do say hello.

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