Doctor Who โ€“ Series 12, Episode 9 โ€“ โ€œAscension of the Cybermenโ€

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The penultimate episode for this series – and it’s a two-parter! There’s been plenty of anticipation online for this one, so it was a bit of a bummer that I wasn’t able to watch it live – I’m writing this, the day after, having successfully avoided any spoilers online. ๐Ÿค”

SYNOPSIS: It’s the aftermath of the Great CyberWar. The Doctor and friends arrive in the far future intent on protecting the last of the human race from the deadly Cybermen. But, in the face of such a relentless enemy, has the Doctor put her best friends at risk? What terrors lie hiding in the depths of space? And what, where or who, is Ko Sharmus?
This episode was written by showrunner, Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Magnus Stone.

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We’re off! It’s a good start! To say this episode moved ‘at pace’ would be an understatement! Not even time to pop to the loo. It was certainly an action-packed episode from start to finish, and it had me on the edge of my seat (but nowhere near the back of the sofa) from the off!

And, just when this series didn’t need any more unanswered questions (the Internet is still on fire from previous episodes that referenced ‘The Timeless Child‘ and the not insignificant appearance of another Doctor) – we had a curious parallel storyline going on that appeared to have nothing to do with the main narrative! I still have no idea as to how this minisode, set in Ireland, fits into the bigger picture, but it will obviously become clear by the end of next week’s final episode.

Best cliff-hanger ever too! ๐Ÿ˜œ

VERDICT: For me, that was probably the best episode of the series – maybe even the whole of JW’s tenure so far. It all felt very ‘Who’, and for once, the companions the ‘fam’ all had a significant role to play. I haven’t said this in a while, but, I’m really looking forward to next week’s (extended) episode! ๐Ÿ˜

Doctor Who โ€“ Series 12, Episode 8 โ€“ โ€œThe Haunting of Villa Diodatiโ€

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Another pre-credit sequence – after last week’s, that’s two in a row! ๐Ÿ‘

SYNOPSIS:
Lake Geneva, 1816. Lord Byron and the Shelleys prepare for a night telling ghost stories, but their villa proves to have ghostly presences all its own.
This episode was written by (newcomer to Who) Maxine Alderton.

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A great story tonight with an unusual mix of light humour and genuine suspense. Structurally, a perfect three-act affair with a nail-biting climax! ๐Ÿ˜€

For once, the story didn’t feel too preachy, nor the abundance of companions, too many! With an old established foe returning to create havoc, who (without giving too much away with what’s to come) links perfectly with next week’s penultimate two-parter.

If I had just one criticism, the character Mary Shelley’s initial encounter with said foe, could have been dwelled-on a bit longer – it was all a bit underplayed for something that was to shape the future of Shelley, as an author.

VERDICT: A superb episode that set the scene perfectly for the forthcoming final two episodes of this latest series. Good acting all round, with just the right amount of SFX and CGI. There’s a lot to wrap up in what’s to come, but after seeing tonight’s, I’ve got a renewed confidence in that it’ll all come together very nicely. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Valentine Meal 2020 โฃ

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The Attic Restaurant, Lutterworth


It’s Valentine’s Day!! Usually, either I cook the meal, Ann cooks the meal, or we share cooking duties with David and Valerie and get together as a foursome.

So, with cards, flowers and gifts on display, by way of a change for this special day, the four of us left our kitchens behind and headed off to The Attic Restaurant in Lutterworth for lunch! ๐Ÿ˜. David and Valerie had already eaten there on more than a few occasions, so we knew we were in for a treat!

Apart from the howling gale in the car-park, it turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. The service was spot-on, and the food delicious! We were seated with a great view across the Golf Course and looking at the weather conditions, we agreed we were definitely in the better place! It was still blowing a gale outside and it looked pretty cold too judging by the number of beanies being worn by the brave golfers!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

The Menu impressed us! I opted for the Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup followed by the Braised Short Rib of Beef (definitely melt-in-the-mouth!)

Whilst Ann and David managed to muster-up the necessary will-power, Valerie and I succumbed to the temptation of a Pud (just!) – in the shape of White Chocolate and Cranberry Bread & Butter Pudding.

Two hours later, all that was left to do was pay the bill, head home and try not to fall asleep during the journey! ๐Ÿฅฑ We just caught the school traffic as we got nearer to base, but were home just after 3.30pm.

A great restaurant experience! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Happy Valentine’s Day!
โค๏ธ ๐Ÿ’š ๐Ÿงก ๐Ÿ’™

Mival-lous

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A boys’ get-together today! ๐Ÿ‘

I drove over to Stamford to meet up with ex-business colleague and film producer: Eric Mival. We’ve kept in touch ever since Eric shot a corporate video for Sainsbury’s (that I was responsible for) back in the late 80s.

Our venue of choice was, of course, the iconic George Hotel in the town – and more specifically, The York Bar.

The George Hotel from The York Bar

We haven’t seen each other since August, 2017, and it was good to catch-up with each other’s news!

The focus of our conversation was around Eric’s semi-autobiographical book: Cutting Edge: My Life in Film and Television (get it from Amazon HERE). For me, the enjoyable read had ticked a lot of boxes – my love of the process of film-making AND the fact that Eric had worked on a lot of programmes of my youth including Doctor Who, The Strange Report and of course, the iconic, The Prisoner (amongst many more!). I knew we’d have a lot to chat about, but with the food and service its normal high standard, the time just flew by!

A slightly torturous journey home though, where a major accident on the road to Stamford just after Collyweston caused miles (and miles) of traffic congestion. Luckily, I skirted around the back roads and was home just after 2.30pm (just 10 minutes later than my original ETA).

See you next year Eric! ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ‘

Doctor Who โ€“ Series 12, Episode 7 โ€“ โ€œCan You Hear Me?โ€

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I found last week’s episode – Praxeus, had a lot of potential, but its oh-so-predictable ending and the not-so-subtle message about the environment spoilt it (although most of the critics seemed to disagree with me, so it shows how much I know!). So, with only two more episodes to air this season, there’s a lot to do to get me back on track.

SYNOPSIS:
From ancient Syria, to present day Sheffield, and out into space, something is stalking the Doctor and her friends. As Graham, Yaz and Ryan return home to see friends and family, they find themselves haunted by very different experiences.
This episode was written by Charlene James and Show-runner, Chris Chibnall.

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OK, that’s a first (for this series): a pre-opening credit sequence! It confirmed that this episode was going to be a scary one! Sofas at the ready!!! ๐Ÿคฃ

With the credits over, the narrative settled down, now piling a heavy dose of mystery on top of the already creepy storyline. So far, this is easily the Doctor’s most nerve-shredding escapade so far! But it was also very bleak!! Best not to watch this one then if you’ve had a bad day! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

We’re now exactly halfway in, and it’s still holding my attention – even though I had no idea where the episode was heading. The mystery remains! ๐Ÿ™„

And who is the bald guy and what’s he doing with his fingers? He looks very menacing, and reminds me of my old English Lit teacher!!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Thirty-five minutes in, and there’s a short reference to the ongoing story-arc for this series: “The Timeless Child” – just long enough to keep the Interweb buzzing until next week’s episode! ๐Ÿค”

Only fifteen minutes to go, and I’m still trying to work out what’s going on (in a good way!), and that suits me perfectly. I just love a good mystery!! ๐Ÿ‘

Safe to say that by the final act, this creepy and bleak tale was resolved, although surprisingly, just like some first-dates, the climax came earlier than expected! Consequently, it felt like this week’s was going to finish 10 minutes early! Those remaining minutes were used to great dramatic effect though, and we got to learn something very significant about one of the Doctor’s companions. Deep and meaningful stuff! ๐Ÿค”

VERDICT: That’s more like it! Yes, this felt very ‘Who-like’ – plenty of mystery, some spooky bits with genuinely menacing characters. ๐Ÿ˜Š And best of all, you’ll never stick your fingers in your ears again! ๐Ÿ™„

Play: Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Bottom’s in the Air!


We drove over to Stratford-upon-Avon today – to The Bear Pit – to see Second Thoughts‘ penultimate performance of 2020’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a perfect excuse to leave a bit earlier to give us time to get some retail therapy in the town!

We chose the matinรฉe performance at 2.30pm, and it was about 90% full. We ran into Ian and Ann who’d just returned from Australia and India. I’d studied the Play at school, and in spite of the excellent performance this afternoon, the story today was as impenetrable as it was when I was as a fresh-faced teenager! ๐Ÿค” OK, I got the main plot, but is it me – why is one of Shakespeare’s most popular Plays so tricky to follow? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Performed in the Round

On a more positive note, being performed ‘in the round’ in contemporary costume with a very simplistic set made it a much more immersive experience ๐Ÿ˜

Overall then, not one of my fave Shakespeare Plays, but the contemporary twist on the Bard’s original, with its tweaks to the scenes and dialogue, supported by a really enthusiastic cast, made it a memorable performance.

Celebrating Sainsbury’s!

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A short tale of how, many years ago, one person influenced the career paths of three others – and today’s reunion! ๐Ÿ˜

The Back-story

In 1972, I joined Sainsbury’s at their flagship store – Central Croydon as a Saturday Student – working Friday nights and all-day Saturday. By late 1974, I was still uncertain as to what sort of job I wanted, after leaving school, I started my first proper full-time job with them.

Trouble was, Mum and Dad’s plan was for me was to do a ‘posh job’ – first choice: join the Civil Service, or maybe a Bank (job-for-life in those days!) or an Accountancy practice. But, in true Palmer fashion, I rebelled, and they weren’t impressed at all!! ๐Ÿ™„ They felt I’d deserved something ‘better’ after going to a Grammar School, better certainly than ‘working in a shop’!!! In spite of acquiring an appreciable bundle of O-Levels together with two A-Levels and already passing the entrance exam for the Civil Service, I really felt JS might be the better more enjoyable career for me ๐Ÿ˜. From my side of things, I’d thoroughly enjoyed the physical and mental challenge of it all, having worked through the Summer Holidays at JS pretty-much full-time. A great working atmosphere, fab teamwork and lots of interaction with people.

Sainsbury’s Whitgift Centre Croydon
ยฉ Sainsbury Archive

At the time, Central Croydon was their largest (but small by later standards) in the newly built ‘Whitgift Centre’ (Branch ‘332’ since you asked) off Wellesley Road – and one of the first stores to open there (Boots, next door, being the first). Opened in JS’s centenary year of 1969, the management there were all hand-picked, as being the best in the company. The store went on to become a ‘pass-through’ for rising stars of the organisation, and in turn, that always created a fantastic buzz about the place. Yes, it was hard work… really hard work… but exceptionally rewarding!

Ken, in later years, as Regional Manager

During that time, I got to know a certain Grocery Manager, Mr Ken Barden, then in his mid-20s, really well. And as expected, he went on to command some very senior positions across the brand.

My Early Years

‘Rewarding’ it certainly was! From a humble Saturday Student earning less than 30p per hour, I joined the trainee management scheme (a recommendation by Ken) briefly at ‘332’ and then onto their store in Orpington (Branch 747), and completed the scheme in a record 11 months. Mum and Dad finally came round, and supported me all the way from there! Phew! ๐Ÿฅฐ

Next stop? Into junior management in Bromley (Branch 464) and after about a year, I joined the Area Training Team on secondment. My two-year secondment lasted around 4 years (!!!) and then came the BIG promotion. I was appointed Area Training Manager based in Romford (house move and divorce adding to the mix!). And finally, a spell at head office managing the company’s customer care programme and liaising with all the other training departments across the organisation.

Leaving JS

The unrivalled grounding that JS gave me in terms of training and development, provided me with a great insight into the importance of ‘people skills’, leading me to shed a tearful farewell in March 1989 – to start my own business training others in guess what? Yes, ‘people skills’.

Finally, the Reunion

By coincidence, Ann, and our good friend Sally, had learned, through separate casual conversations, that they too, having all worked for this mighty food retailer, had also crossed paths with Ken at different times. He had strongly influenced their career path too! – what are the chances ehh??

So, fast-forward (in my case 45 years!) and today was to be special in a number of ways. Although we’d all lost touch with Ken many years ago (although Ann and I had seen Ken briefly in the intervening years at a JS ‘do’) the three of us decided it would be good to catch up, with a view to reminisce about those heady days working for the champion of food retailing – and most of all, to thank him for pointing us in the right direction. We all realised, without his influence, we wouldn’t have been where we are today, nor enjoyed our careers so much!

I tracked Ken down through Facebook, and we all agreed to meet up at his, and then on for a spot of lunch. After a quick coffee and a natter, meeting Carol, his wife and their dogs and cats, we headed off to the Pub for 1pm!

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Pub so busy! The food was excellent, but for once (for me) that didn’t matter at all! We had so many years to catch up with, individually and collectively and I don’t think we stopped talking (and laughing) for the whole time we were there! And surely, it was a good sign that we didn’t leave the Pub until just after 3!

What a fantastic day! We’re certainly going to do it all again sometime with Ken – there are so many more stories and experiences to share! We dropped Sally back at hers and headed home.

Happy memories! ๐Ÿ˜