Pastoral Letter #2

This week, gentle and not-so-gentle readers, has been so full of bureaucracy, assignments, meetings and a rare spell of trying, unsuccessfully, to relax that I should apologise for my lack of posts. I’m also typing this rather gingerly after discovering one of the perils of psychogeography. Yesterday was so stunningly bright and unScottishly clement that Mrs McShandy and I went on an extended daunder and ended up lobster-pink. A pair of flame-grilled flaneurs, to be precise. It wasn’t in vain: we stumbled on a strange cycle-path that ran parallel to Salamander Street – the mythical salamander’s mystical properties might have come in handy – and walked between a graveyard and the back of advertising hoardings we’ve driven past countless times. After a greasy-spoon lunch in Portobello, we meandered back by Craigentinny, and came across the most bizarre piece of architecture: the kind of thing that makes psychogeography such a worthwhile endeavour.  Craigentinny is mostly made up of bungalows, the rather sweet kind with little porches, which always remind me of ignored seaside towns. It’s the kind of place where the gardens are a mixture of immaculate neatness and colour; paved over extra parking; and the occasional novelty ceramic item (usually a strange mixture of concrete wildlife and concrete fantasy: owls, cats, goblins, dragons). As we sauntered down one particular road, I noticed, in the distance, a building obviously towering over the bungalows – but one with no windows, it seemed. When we managed to wend our way to it, it transpired to be a massive mausoleum, commissioned for the mortal remains of William Henry Miller, the MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, who died in 1848.

You cannot see the bungalows from here

One side has a fresco relief of Miriam and Moses, the other depicts the Red Sea consuming the chariots of Pharaoh. It was designed by David Rhind, who lost out to his mentor Pugin for the commission to design the Houses of Parliament, but did design the Bank of Scotland in George Street. It looks like a damn crack in the nature of reality: it shouldn’t have been there or then. The really curious thing is that rumours circulated that the beardless, treble-voiced, unmarried MP Miller, who had the equally curious habit of measuring books he bought to make sure they would form neat parallels, had commissioned the tomb (he’s there, forty feet down, in a stone lined coffin) because he was actually a she.  

Anyway, we then watched Doctor Who while slathering ourselves with any unguent or lotion we could find. Even that fun didn’t make the episode any less crud. Now, I’m not going to complain about the Silurians looking so different since there was a throwaway line to justify it. Or nit-pick that reptiles rarely have such obvious mammary glands. I reserve the right to be off-pissed at the script, which managed not to grasp the characters as established, vacillate between hectic and languid, needed to tell us everything twice, and was generally charmless and pedestrian and could easily have been a rejected episode of Torchwood. I will not refer to “The Hungry Earth” as anything other than “Captain Jack Licks The Big-Titted Lizards of Hotness” from now on.

Finally, the return of the Silurians made me remember reading the Doctor Who magazine when I was seven or so. They had a “Monster File” which the new series has danced around: Daleks, Cybermen, The Master and Sontarans were all there in the first ten issues, and I’m tempted to say were the first four featured meanies. The Silurians / Sea Devils / Eocenes / Homo reptilis were there too. The others, as far as I can excavate that memory, were the Ice Warriors, the Yeti (“The Great Intelligence”, killed off by RTD), the Autons / Nestene Consciousness, (RTD made the right call on that one) the Zygons (or the pseudo-Slitheen as we call them: at least the Zygons didn’t fart) and Omega. Take your bets now: Omega as villain for Season 5 and Ice Warriors in 2011?

If nuWho has a problem, it’s the inability to create great new monsters. But urWho has a whole lot that could be “remagined”…

The Voord: Russell T Davies could have done so much with this...

The Meddling Monk: not to be played by James Corden in the future

The Quarks: a fridge and a disco-sphere...

The War Chief... or before we thought up the Master

The Celestial Toymaker... yeah, before we thought of the Master again

It's a Tythonian, but least said is soonest mended


1 Comment

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One response to “Pastoral Letter #2

  1. KirstiW

    Great to see some Edinburgh-based psychogeography! Reminded me of Chris Dooks’ Polyfaith tour of the city - – featuring photos of ‘Allah’ in Arabic built into the brickwork of houses at the Jewel and Japanese script on a street in Morningside.

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