Game of Thrones: final episode live blog

I predict that in ten years time we won’t remember, and perhaps won’t care, about the ending of Game of Thrones, but today it’s two am on Sunday and I’m exhausted and excited and full of the maltesers I bought for eating during the episode but scarfed down while I was waiting and HERE WE GO!

  1. Grey Worm’s gone seriously off-piste. But if you were the second man on death row, would you really stay on your knees quietly watching Jon walk away? One “Help us!” and I reckon we’d have SnowWormBowl right here right now.
  2. I’m so sorry but I don’t feel a thing for Tyrion finding Jamie and Cersei under the pile of rocks. I don’t think any actor could have made me care at this point – it just seems such a banal ending for them. Wouldn’t it have been cool if he’d dug up just the golden hand – and neither Jaime nor Cersei was there? An unsolved mystery – were they living happily ever after in Naarth or were they quietly killed off on their way out of the city…
  3. Don’t these people have an administration? How can Tyrion be the “hand” of the queen and not have any staff? When Dany says “take him” and a couple of unsullied march him off, what are they planning on doing with him? Do they even have a cell to put him in? On a more positive note, where is the victory celebration – did they not make a plan for what they would do if they won??? Who is quartermaster in charge of feeding and watering the Dothraki horses, what happens to the bodies after Grey Worm slits people’s throats, who’s taking care of the wounded? Do they not have cholera in Westeros? Their civil service is all very unsatisfactory!
  4. I have to say I’m a l i t t l e bit bored by all this duty/love stuff going on right now. Where’s Sam? What’s happening with Sansa and Brienne? Is Ghost living happily ever after Up North with Tormund?
  5. There’s really no point Tyrion urging Jon to “choose”. He could “choose” to make a try for the Iron Throne, sure, but he’s in the middle of Dany’s troops. She has the Dothraki and the Unsullied and – ooh! Dragons!
  6. There’s still an hour to go: there’s no way she’s going to sit on the Iron Throne and live happily ever after. Come to that, what the hell is she doing wandering around i the snow on her own anyway (yes I know it’s ash and not snow) Maybe I spoke too soon about the dragon? Maybe Drogon will go over to John and she’ll get kebabbed the minute she sits on it?
  7. OH MY GOODNESS HE STABBED HER MID KISS I did not see that coming. For a good guy, he’s got some very strange rules about what is and isn’t permissible. Dragon going to fry his ass next?
  8. Well I suppose that pretty conclusively answers “who’s going to sit on the Iron Throne next”!
  9. WTF???
  10. I mean, seriously, WTF? I didn’t know we had a king, I thought we were an autonomous collective???
  11. Sam! Sam invents democracy! Yay! Stop laughing at him, you bastards!
  12. Robyn Arryn grew up a bit didn’t he? How long have they been making this episode anyway?
  13. Um… why would they need a Night’s Watch again, given the wall is down, the Free Folk are all living happily ever after in the North, and the Night King and all that went with him have gone? Oh Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, they’re not going to turn Undead Jon into the next Night King, are they?
  14. I was hoping she’d turn the page and find Jaime had left a “Ser Brienne of Tarth” page ready for her
  15. GHOST!!!!! Squee the Direwolf. And they all lived happily ever after. The end.


The Odeon cinema in Sheffield City Centre has had a revamp, so that it now has comfortable reclining seats and lots of leg room. Well yes, but the “less seats and extra space” (fewer, dammit) clearly weren’t tested on actual fat people. Because, although the posh new seats look – and are – wider than the previous seats, the extra width is negated by the ridiculous tables that have been added. Somewhere to put the drinks and snacks they want to sell you, yes, but somewhere that you can’t revolve out of the way of the seat while you sit down in it? No – it’s like sitting in a very tight booth in a restaurant. It might look cosy but it actually digs into your belly and reduces the space you have to sit down.

Oh, and the controls that move the footrest up and down are squished into the side rest underneath the table, so that every time you move, your hip pings against the controls and your feet go up or down…


We were there to see a subtitled performance of Tolkien. We began with adverts and bad sound… and no subtitles. But they were only adverts, right, and if the advertisers can’t be arsed to subtitle, well, I can’t be arsed to buy what they’re selling.

Then we had trailers. Trailers “carefully selected for this performance”.

OK… the first one was for an Andre Rieu live streamed concert. It didn’t have subtitles. Nor did the other three, for Yesterday or for Rocketman (the other was for Downton Abbey and didn’t have dialogue so we’ll let that one off). Dear Odeon, if you “carefully selected” three musicals, without subtitles, for a deaf and hard of hearing audience, you’re probably doing it wrong.

The movie itself, I have to report, had excellent sound quality and I could probably have made sense of it without subtitles, but the subtitles were a lovely experience; clear, timely and, as far as I could tell, accurate (and, thank all the gods, actually synchronised with the performance rather than lagging behind like the Two Ronnies’ “answering the question before last” sketch as they often are on tv.)

I query the “cellar door” conversation which, for me, would have benefited from the first usage being spelled “Celador” or “Sellador” in the subtitles so that you understood Tolkien was talking about the sound rather than a literal door but that was perhaps angels on a pinhead. Otherwise, this was my first subtitled movie (I use subtitles on the tv all the time) and I predict it won’t be my last.

The film itself? I have to say it wasn’t helped by my being in the middle of re-reading Testament of Youth at the moment.  Both have a quartet of doomed public schoolboys wasting their youth and losing their lives in the chaos and mud of the trenches of first World War France. Tolkien’s “fellowship” and the fantastic elements of the film – flamethrowers to dragons, smoke to demons – stand up neither to the realistic nor the fantastic. I found my mind wandering: did WWI troops really use flamethrowers into enemy trenches (how did they get them across no man’s land? Why didn’t the people in the trenches just shoot the operators?) Were the pools of water in no man’s land really the lurid red of blood? (Weren’t they less heroically brown with filth?) And did Tolkien himself really have a batman called Sam Hodges/Gamgee?

If the whole of his life was shaped by his love for his wife/elven queen, why were the women in his work so…

Actually, the trouble with this film was that it made me want a really good biography of Tolkien and a re-read of Lord of the Rings instead.




Every time I type the word “Eastercon”, my computer autocorrects it to “Eastern”. Which is becoming annoying, as I have typed it quite a few times lately, both looking for the website to make sure it really was going to take place in Harrogate (and not Halifax or Huddersfield, which apparently I also have mentally filed under “interchangeable”) and posting status updates when I was there, on Facebook or here, where I repeated the information I’d put together for the “Small Business for Creators” panel.

So. Eastercon. Also known, this year, as Follycon. I haven’t been to an sf convention for a few years. I have never found fandom to be this encompassing, welcoming presence people write about, but that’s because I’m horribly shy and it’s that horrible kind of shyness that makes you look like you’re horribly arrogant. But I think I’ve finally reached a comfortable old age, where I’ve re-learned the insouciant “go to the panels that interest you and retreat to your room if nothing else happens” manner of my youth. As it happened, there was a lot of “something else” happening, including hanging out with Clarion mates and other Sheffield fen, as well as people I know better in cyberspace. I also seem to have got over the weird disconnect I felt after Farthing folded, when I went, ever so briefly, from being Popular Person People Wanted To Hang Out With (because I was an Editor, and people who write stuff want to hang out with editors, because they might, you know, buy their stories) to Utter Nobody again. Trust me, you notice!

As far as Harrogate is concerned, it might as well have been Huddersfield or Halifax from my point of view, as my achilles tendon went “ping” for absolutely no reason a couple of days before the con, so I was limping a fair bit more than usual and absolutely not up to anything more strenuous than walking from the Premier Inn across the gardens to the Majestic. Nor was I up for tackling the stairs down to the dealers’ room and art show. However I can’t talk about Follycon without mentioning the bloke from the hotel staff who drove the golf cart that took me from the level access entrance to the ground floor round to the level access entrance to the lower floor. He was enjoying his job WAAAAAAAY too much, and the trip I took was definitely in the category “scream if you wanna go faster”!

I did a couple of panels on Sunday. Fiction about fiction was on “stories that answer, retell or continue previously-published stories by another author”. Tanya Brown and I were there as fanfic authors and Jeff Noon and Ramsey Campbell as, well, I suppose pros who have done the same thing but with work out of copyright. I enjoyed the panel immensely, and I had at least one line that someone instantly tweeted! (“Fanfiction is an artificial construct of capitalism”) All my fellow panelists gave thoughtful and thought-provoking contributions and Lee Harris did sterling work moderating. It was one of those panels where you walk away thinking you did a collectively good job (rather than where you walk away wanting to kill the other panelists, your audience or indeed yourself). The Small Business for Creators panel later was in one of the smaller rooms upstairs and scheduled against several other things I’d have liked to listen to, so when we gathered in the greenroom I was sorely afraid the panel was going to outnumber the audience. However it was remarkably well-attended in the circumstances, and people were really keen to talk about tax/get tax advice: I don’t think I’ve been on a panel before where people were actually taking notes as I spoke! Congratulations to Francesca Barbini of Luna Press Publishing for thinking of the idea and for moderating it so well.

The only “purely Harrogate” experience I had over the weekend was having coffee with my elderly godfather and his wife who live in Harrogate and whom I hadn’t seen irl for an embarrassingly large number of years. I had arranged to meet them for coffee in the Majestic on Friday morning, and we went round to the bar area just before it properly opened, only to interrupt what was clearly a serious conversation between some of the con committee and the hotel staff. I apologised for interrupting but explained my godparents were visiting and the hotel reception had said we could get coffee there, and was that the case… One of the committee members was in “hit the roof” mode and said no, the con had the whole hotel so there shouldn’t be anyone else there. I said I hadn’t realised that and should I go buy them a day membership, and you could actually see them regrouping and rethinking what they were saying. Reader, we had our coffees and catch up, and without buying day memberships. So, thanks, Follycon, not just for organising a great convention but for this sliver of kindness as well.  Good job!


Critical Friend

It has been a while since I went to any kind of corporate training event and I’m afraid I’d just forgotten what they are like.  I have always been a bit of a coffee snob and it’s been a long time since I have accepted a cup of coffee from anyone I thought might make me instant.  If there’s a choice of hot drink, I’ll have coffee if it’s real coffee, otherwise tea, and I’d rather have a glass of water than an instant coffee.

So it was unfortunate that I arrived half an hour early for my Induction Day (as a new member of my local hospital trust’s team of governors) and found there was a neatly-laid tray with a hot water flask and a choice of teabags and … sachets of instant coffee.  Ah well: tea it is.  Next time, I’ll remember to put a coffee bag in my handbag (you know about coffee bags, of course?  They’re like giant teabags containing coffee grounds, supplied in individual foil sachets.  Protip: be careful opening the foil sachet they come in, as it’s easy to tear the inner coffee bag if you’re over-enthusiastic!)

The induction day proper began with us having our photos taken so we could be issued with photo id badges and I’m afraid I marked myself out as Instant Awkward Squad by asking for my photo to be taken three times before I was satisfied I wasn’t going to have to wander round with my bald patch showing for the next three years.  (Bad hair days always happen at times of maximum inconvenience!)  And then we had to complete the Disclosure and Barring Service checks (you know, the thing that used to be a criminal record check).  We’d been pre-warned and I’d already queried the list of documents to be provided as it didn’t correspond with the list I found here on – like I said, Awkward Squad!

Just take a moment, by the way, to look at that last link, and the documents the government thinks it’s appropriate to ask you to produce to prove your identity.  A passport or driving licence?  Well OK, but it’s not compulsory either to drive or to travel abroad and one can be a perfectly legitimate citizen without having either.

But look at the documents listed under “Group 2b: Financial and social history documents”: mortgage statements?  Bank and credit card statements? Utility bills?  Literally all my financial dealings like that are transacted online, and printing out a bank statement is hardly a guarantee of authenticity!  How long will it be before the system catches up with the twenty-first century and offers to verify your id by letting you log on to your internet banking in their presence and show a transaction then and there?  Or uses one of those verification methods that mobile phone companies use like “here’s 5p: log onto your bank and make an electronic payment of 5p into this account…”

That wasn’t, however, the issue on Thursday morning, unfortunately.

The person who was taking me through the checks was typing like a demon and it was all going swimmingly well… until we came to hit “send”, when there was an error message which said my postcode was entered in two different fields and did not match.  And of course sod’s law meant that the one which was still open to editing was correct, and the one which was a typo meant… yes, the poor lass had to go through and type the whole thing again!  As I said to her, not only will they have me down as a troublemaker but also as a criminal!

One final thing before I got my ID card and was officially inducted – the system also offered up an error message because my title is Ms and I had declared I’d never had another surname.  Please! I’ve been insisting on Ms since 1974!  It’s not an unprecedented title, it’s a title intended to be as uninformative as Mr, and it doesn’t designate divorce.  As the little old lady with the protest sign said, “I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit”

Government ID service, get your act together!

Hospital trust… I’m not a troublemaker, honest: just a critical friend!  (Unless I am denied access to coffee, of course…)


Tommy at the Crucible theatre, a musical based on the Who’s concept album/rock opera and its later incarnation on film, is a solidly, hornswogglingly, joyously G O O D production.  God knows I’d love to hear the Who perform at the Crucible, my platonic ideal of a perfect venue, but absent that the musical is the closest you’re going to get.  The pounding bass that makes your breastbone vibrate, soaring voices that sound like angels screaming? Yep, all that.  If you like rock opera, if you like The Who, if you have a soul, you’ll enjoy Tommy.

And the casting!  Great flying spaghetti monster, but it’s a glorious thing to have a cast that is actually joyously diverse.  Yes there are actors who are deaf, who are blind, who use wheelchairs, who have different limbs.  Yes, they comes in different shapes and sizes and colours and why the hell shouldn’t they, and why the hell don’t ALL musicals have signing as well as singing and dancing, and subtitles as well as programmes?  For a minute or two you go “woah!” and then they sing they dance they scream rock music at you and you go “woah!” again but this time it’s not because anyone in the cast is different but because everyone in the cast is goooooooooooooood.

So far so amazeballs.  How does Tommy work as a show (and I’m going to assume that you already know the plot of  Tommy-the-rock-opera).

First of all, Captain Walker keeps appearing to Tommy and it is he, not Tommy, who wants you to “see me, feel me, touch me, heal me…”  Which is all very well, and the actor is sexy as hell and has a fine voice, but it makes no sense for Tommy to be haunted by the sort of ghost of his father, rather than striving to break through the traumatic block in his own mind wanting to be heard and healed himself.

Then there’s Sally, who is a minor character in a single track on the original but has a major role in the musical.  It’s pleasing that she now has agency, and it kind of fits into the timeline that she knows Tommy from a child and her parents run the church where the youth club that they all meet in is located.  But, but but… at the end of the plot she gets a new scene entirely made of cheese where she has to sell us the idea that Tommy’s messiahood (is that even a word???) is all fake.  Maybe there weren’t enough actors left over to do “we’re not going to take it” and still stage a credible riot?

Then there’s the Gypsy, the Acid Queen, who gets one faaaaabulous number in the original (remember Tina Turner in the movie?)  Here’s she’s an ageing drag queen albeit one with a faaaabulous voice, and they decided to give her a second number in the second half.  I mean, of course, obviously once Tommy became famous she’d have turned up wanting to sell her story to the tabloid papers.  But giving her a second number unbalances the piece somehow: I’m not sure how but if it comes to me I’ll update this.

There we are then.  It was a glorious, amazing, absolute joy of a production.  I went with someone who was a Tommy virgin who enjoyed it almost as much as I, a veteran of the album, live, film, blah blah blah versions also loved it.


…well, except I’m free.

“I’m free.  I’m free!  And freedom tastes of reality.”

That’s the line.  Great flying spaghetti monster, you don’t ask this cast to sing it with the tone deaf tin-eared bludgeon of a rewrite that they used.  You just don’t.

“I’m free.  I’m free!  And freedom lies here in normality.”  It does?  Fuck that!


No, I didn’t love it.  I mean, I enjoyed the heck out of the scenes in thermywhatsitsface, where all the Amazons were jumping around and fighting and what not, of course. Although even in those scenes I had a certain amount of ice in my heart.  You know the kind of thing.  Who does their laundry?  Why are they all the same age?  What do they feed the horses?

It’s when they leave thermywhatsitsface and wind up in WW1 that it gets annoying.  I mean, the woman has lived all her life on an island full of muscular effective autonomous women.  Why doesn’t she walk into a room full of male generals and wonder where are the women? (Wouldn’t it have been neat if there had been a solitary female secretary in the room taking notes and she’d gone straight to her?)  Why does she wander off through the western front accompanied by a man in a kilt, a man in a fez and a man in the wrong movie altogether?  (Wouldn’t it have been neat if she had picked up a suffragette, a VAD nurse and a lady despatch rider instead?)  And why oh why wasn’t the woman in the mask the secret bad guy all along?

Yes, yes: if you like the kind of summer movie where pretty people beat seven bells out of each other using buses and other handy implements then I’d rather watch one with a hero who’s a woman than one with a hero who’s a panther or a hero who’s an ant.

Because in the end THAT was the problem.

Being a woman, for Wonderwoman, is as significant as being rich is for Bruce Wayne or being an occasional rage monster is for Bruce Banner.  It wasn’t the superhero movie that finally recognised women are people: it was the superhero movie where being a woman was the hero’s schtick.

Week two

The first week of the writeathon went pretty well.  On Monday I worked on what I used to call the Groats novel and I’m now calling the Taxpunk novel, a near-future what-would-the-world-look-like-with-a-different-economic-system novel that I’ve been taking in bits to my writers group for the best part of a year now.  I have lots of bits but I haven’t found the voice of it yet or found how to stitch my bits of plot together.  However I had a binge re-read of Paul Gallico a couple of weeks ago and I think it might work in a twinkly, people are fundamentally OK, slightly sentimental mode and I certainly had no problems throwing words at it in that register.

Tuesday I put some words onto my prospective non-fiction book, a handbook of government consultation and how (not to) do it.  More of that later, maybe.

Wednesday I had set aside to work on short stories, in particular one that I’d already taken to the writing group: they thought it was ready to go but I wasn’t so sure.  Turned out it needed pruning, not expanding, so I worked on it a bit and then threw some more words at the taxpunk novel to make my quota for the day.

Thursday was the fantasy novel of which I already have several chapters and I got past a passage where I was previously blocked, yay me.

On Friday…. well, that was set aside for PhD work and that’s a whole other blog entry.  Or indeed a three volume novel.