The Amazing World of Si Hart

Amazing insights into my mind as I battle against the inefficient world of the library, moderate a message board, write Doctor Who audio adventures and try and stay sane!

Sunday, November 30, 2008


The weekend began at 4.45am yesterday morning when the alarm went off. It was cold and dark and foggy, and we stumbled out of bed to head out to Stanstead and then onto a plane all the way to Belfast.

It's Tim's 30th birthday and he invited us to join him in Belfast to celebrate. Having not been, and it being my weekend off work, we agreed, and I'm ever so glad we did, as aside from one smallish hiccup yesterday (and the one to do with the booking of the tickets, which we don't mention) it's been a great weekend.

I don't know what I was expecting Belfast to be like if I'm honest. I've heard lots about it, both from my good friend David (who I managed not to see yesterday alas, due to not being very good at planning and him not turning on his mobile) and of course from the news reports down the years related to the troubles. I suppose I expected a city that was somewhat rundown after all the years of fighting and tension, but what we found was a modern, vibrant, regenerating city- not afraid to face up to its past, but one that seemed to be looking ahead. In fact it seemed far better for that than several other UK cities I've visited.

Of course the Troubles cast a long shadow over the city, and today we took a tour out to some of the infamous sites in Belfast's history- both Protestant and Catholic. It seemed quite odd to reflect that not too long ago we'd hear about The Falls Road and the Shankhill Road as violent places, not really imagining I'd ever take a tour round them. I didn't feel entirely comfortable with it to be honest- no-one else seemed to feel it, but maybe it's because I'm older and so I remember a bit more about it all.

It's not really my place to comment on the rights and wrongs of the past_ I understand very little about it , but seeing the murals on both sides commemorating their "heroes" was a bit odd- a bit of a glorification in the wrong place, as was the memorial to the IRA members who were killed in the troubles- a commemoration of terrorists. It just seemed wrong to me.
And it's not really over in any solid way,as the 30ft high wall between the two areas testifies. I wasn't expecting that and the gated entrances between the areas that are still closed each night really brought it home. The driver said that if they took the wall down there'd be trouble on the first evening. I guess the hatred between the two sides is too deep seated to truly go away quickly. Sad but true.

Anyway, none of that stopped it being a good weekend. Thank goodness! We came to celebrate and celebrate we did. Or at least we just did what we normally do in a different place! Went to the pub, chatted and laughed a lot only in Belfast. Good pubs though- great beer (I particularly liked the Smithwicks in White's Tavern) and some great food too. Luckily we had Tim's cousin Mike,who lives int he city to guide us round. That helped us a great deal. It was a shame though that Steve succumbed to the drink before we went for dinner, as we missed out on the meal, but it did give me an excuse to get a much earlier night than everyone else, which was much needed at that point if I'm honest.

We got a good tour of the city centre earlier on, as we arrived before everyone else. We went up on the wheel in front of the city hall and although it was foggy and I didn't feel comfortable at the top, the views were good. The Christmas Market was also worth a visit, although we didn't buy anything there (except a Wild Board burger which was ever so tasty) as we'd no way to get it home. St George's market was great too, with a massive selection of thing to eat and some stores seeing out of the ordinary stuff. Again it was a shame we couldn't really buy anything there to bring home.

It was very cold though. It didn't really rise much over freezing point yesterday and there was already a penetrating frost when we headed back to the hostel last night at 9.50. It was just as cold today too and my feet are still cold even now. Good thing I bought some new thermal gloves and found my scarf. I really needed them!

Our trip was rounded off today with lunch at The Crown, the oldest pub in Belfast, with it's wonderful snugs. I had the Irish Stew, which was ever so tasty. I love Irish Stew. I think we might be having champ at home sometime soon too.

So happy birthday Tim, and thanks to everyone for a great weekend.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

45 Years of the Doctor Who Theme

This time 45 years ago an institution was born. I've written at length about how much I love Doctor Who, so I won't go on about that again, well not all of it anyway.

Instead I'd like to celebrate one of the most iconic things about the show: the theme.

There are many TV themes. Some are really memorable, some are annoyingly hummable (I'm looking at you Van De Valk), some are terrible, and then there are the instantly recognisable ones that endure. Doctor Who is lucky enough to have the last of these, a theme you recognise right from the moment it starts. There's the dum-di-dum bass line and the ooo-wee-ooo melody line that combine to form something we all know and love. Great stuff.

But it's the way it was made originally that makes it for me. The original arrangement by Delia Derbyshire is still hard to beat. Even 45 years later it sounds like nothing else ever made, because there are very few other pieces of music assembled in quite the same way. And assembled is the right word, as it was painstakingly pieced together bit by bit by tape loops of recordings of noted generated by wave oscillators, white noise generators and the much loved Radiophonic Workshop wobbulator. The bass line was formed from a plucked string again looped along with a wave oscillation loop. These were all then run round the Radiophonic Workshop, at various speeds to create the right pitch and eventually when all the elements were right they were played together to build the theme up from nothing. There was no multi-track recording available so it really was a series of tapes played at the same to time to create the theme! It all sounds so primitive, but it created something truly timeless. Something that stand up well today and something that was entirely unlike anything heard on TV in 1963.

As I've mentioned before, I recently bought The Radiophonic Workshop retrospective. The first CD starts with some of the earliest work from the workshop, very bleepy, primitive sounding soundscapes and ticking sound checks to go with the BBC clocks. Then, we hit 1963 and the Doctor Who theme is one of the tracks and it's such a huge leap from the others. Light years ahead- taking all the things they've done so far and refining it to such a degree that it stands head and shoulders above the other tracks on the CD, even the much later ones. Not many TV themes do that.

The theme has been rearranged a number of times, with great and not so great success, but it still endures to this day. We all have our opinions on which arrangements have worked better than others, but I think most people agree it's very difficult to better that original arrangement.

So let's raise a toast to Delia Derbyshire and Dick Mills for realising one of the most iconic pieces of music ever heard on British TV.

Happy Anniversary!

Monday, November 17, 2008

8 positive things

It's easy to sit here and feel a bit downhearted because it's a miserable day outside and I'm feeling very, very tired. I'm also feeling a bit unwell tonight. I've been overdoing it. Anyway, I'm not going to write a miserable blog. Instead I shall write a list of good things that have happened recently:

1. I went to the cinema today with my Mum. Some people might think that's pretty tragic, but it was good. We both wanted to see a certain film and neither of our partners wanted to see it, so we went together. It was good because with Mum's shifts I don't often get to spend a lot of time with her, so it was nice to see the film, have some lunch and catch off. She's off to Vietnam with Adam in a couple of weeks time and I hope they have a wonderful trip.

2. We went to see Mamma Mia. It was wonderfully entertaining in a pretty awful kind of way. It shouldn't have worked. It shouldn't have been so much fun, considering Pierce Brosnan can't sing (and he had to sing!), that the storyline is pretty lightweight and they have to cram in loads of ABBA songs... but it did. I thoroughly enjoyed it, laughed along with it, loved the Benny and Bjorn cameos and of course adored the music. And Meryl Streep really can sing, thank goodness.

3. The recording was good. The plays seemed a little more talky than other recent ones, so we all had to concentrate a bit more than usual. I was really impressed with Emma and Jason who are new to this and threw themselves into it was loads of enthusiasm. The plays will be a joy to hear when they're done. I'm still chuckling about what a drunk Mrs Thompson whispered in my ear just before they left! Oh my!

4. The Radiophonic Workshop has brought me much joy of late with the magnificent releases of archive material. The stuff on A Retrospective is marvellous, although as the review in Record Collector mentioned it does get less exciting in the late 80s and the 90s. Still the period between 1970 and 1983 is magnificent and wonderful and the stuff I love best. I can't describe what it is that I love most about it or indeed why I love it all so much. I don't suppose anyone else understands. The only person I've ever been able to share this with really was Dan, who set me on this course. I hope he's got it and is loving it too.

5. Many Happy Returns. Although the reaction to it was rather muted I really love it. It's somewhat big headed to champion your own work, but I'm really quite proud of it. It's silly and inconsequential in just about every way, but the fact that it was written in two days, recorded on the third and produced in less than a week and turned out as well as it did, well I'm really rather proud of that. So there!

6. I did a "turn in the road" with no prompting for the first time today. It's been a bit of a stumbling block for me the last few weeks (well since we started doing them really) and so I was feeling very proud of myself this morning. It's funny, people told me that parallel parking or the reverse round the corner were going to be the difficult things, but they seem to have come easily to me. This has been my tricky one.
In other driving related news, I've booked my test. February. Oh my.

7. Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd is a new discovery and I love the 23 minute title track. Rather different to their other output with the rather discordant orchestra playing on it, but I'm loving the epic qualities the track has.

8. I've lost weight since September. The belly is slowly beginning to go. Hooray.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Many Happy Returns (Children in Need Special)

In the summer we at Planet Skaro were challenged to make a special audio adventure for Children In Need... we had the perfect story in the can ready (It was made specially for my good friend Si's birthday).

So here it is!

Many Happy Returns

"We thought we'd get a surprise for you."
"And here I am!"
"OH NO!"

Rob and Nick are taking the opportunity in a quiet moment between their adventures to explore the TARDIS. Deep in the corridors lies a dusty old wooden control room, the perfect venue for a little surprise they have planned for the Doctor.

Will they be able to pluck Simon and Garfunkel out of their time stream and pop them down in the TARDIS? How will the Doctor's running repairs to his beloved ship affect their plans? What's
wrong with the Cloister Room? And who is having the perfect cuppa? Rob and Nick grapple with a little time problem, but just what have they brought to the TARDIS...#

You can download it here:

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's probably long past the time I should have updated this blog, but life (and Peggle) keep getting in the way.

Things have been busy. We had a great weekend with Muz and Nicola which seems like ages ago now, went to see The Hooisers in Reading, Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf with the Bracknell group, RTD and Ben Cook at the National, had the annual November PS Meet... got tired, bickered about how busy we are... same old stuff!

Russell T Davies was as lovely as he seems on the TV. I was very impressed. The interview was fine and honest, and he was ever so friendly as when we met him and got our books signed on Friday night. I was really impressed that he remembered a friend of ours who'd met him a couple of weeks before; it's quite rare, especially with the amount of fans he must meet. And he eagerly signed a copy of his New Adventure, Damaged Goods for us too- hinting that it might be linked with the Christmas Special- The Next Doctor in some way, which is rather intriguing...

The PS Meet was great fun, as always. Possibly I was a little too drunk to have appreciated as much as I would usually, but the atmosphere was tremendously friendly as always and it really is one of the highlights of the year. It's sort of a shame we don't have longer to spend with everybody, as there's never enough time to catch up and chat to everyone as much as you'd like. We're thinking of perhaps staying over in London next year so that we don't have to rush off to make the last train. That might help.
Highlights include a gossipy chat with Joe Lidster and Simon Guerrier, the cheer when Paul Monk arrived (well he is The Doctor after all!), seeing Andrew Clancy looking so well and having a good chatter about things with him, Me and Steve being encouraged by Jason and Emma to get married so they can come to the party!, finally meeting Brendan Jones after many years of chatting to him online (he's much smaller in real life) and raising over £200 for The Children's Society selling our CDs! Fantastic!
And The Golden Hare beer I was drinking was very tasty indeed!

yesterday was a recovering day. It was nice having Pip around though- hope he wasn't too bored!