Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Rob's Random (Drawing) 5...

Something a little bit different this week. I’ve really not had all that much random stuff on my mind, so instead of a Random 5 Thoughts I’ve come up with a Random 5 Drawings I’ve discovered while wandering the world wide webternet. Some of them are comics, some are political cartoons, some of them are concept art, but all of them are entertaining in some way. Click on the titles and feast your eyes. Anyway, enjoy, and I’ll be back next week with another bushel of barmy thoughts.

1. Sherlock Holmes: Combining two of my favourite things – Sherlock Holmes and Comics – comes this preview of, well, a Sherlock Holmes comic. Honestly, I’m not sure why there aren’t more graphic novels featuring the Great Detective. Dynamite’s Sherlock Holmes #1 is out next week and judging by the preview it’s worth a gander. There’s some really nice artwork here and it does a beautiful job of capturing 1890s London and the look of Holmes and Watson.

2. The Road: io9 have a peek at the gallery of beautifully bleak concept artwork for The Road, based on Cormac McCarthy’s Booker Prize winning novel of the same name.

3. Peter Brookes (The Times): Peter Brookes is my favourite political cartoonist and his ability to come up with beautifully drawn, funny and sharp cartoons is astounding. With Swine Flu spreading through the news faster than it spreads around the world, here’s a great cartoon that encompasses both the virus and how it’s taken the focus from Labour’s recent Budget unpopularity.

4. Dilbert: I was going to pick only one Dilbert cartoon but I find them all so funny that I couldn't pick just one. Just head over to the Dilbert site and gorge on the comic strip goodness (Dogbert asking Dilbert if his wealth intimidates him is a great one). You can see the most recent and also the most popular strips and enjoy lots of other Dilbert-related things. I've spent hours on this site.

5. Darwyn Cooke: My favourite comic book artist and writer, I'll read anything with Darwyn Cooke's name on it. I couldn't pick just one of his drawings, so the link will take you to a Google gallery featuring some of his best stuff out there.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

"It's the End of the World as we know it, and I feel Swine..."

The Big Bad Wolf stopped at the Straw House and listened to the sounds from inside. Suddenly he didn't feel the desire to 'Huff and Puff'...

According to today's news you and I and everyone we know should mindlessly panic because of a potential Swine Flu pandemic. On Sky News there has been dramatic music, computer graphics, worried-looking experts and news readers giving it there all to scare the living daylights out of you. 'Pigs will kill you!!!' apparently. In the end I put on a DVD (Devil Wears Prada - people who know me well will understand why) because I was getting angry at the seeming enjoyment the news was taking in covering every single worrying detail about how a piggy virus that has killed 80-something people (out of a country of something like 25 million. And compared to that number I wonder how many people died on Mexico's roads or passed away from Cancer in the past week?) could, possibly, maybe, perhaps, kill untold millions. It was as though they were getting off on the fetishism of scaring people with what could happen and not what is actually occuring. I've now decided not to pay attention ot the news. I mean, we've seen this all before with SARS and Bird Flu. I remember being told by the print and TV media, who love to indulge in a bit of doomsday talk, that half of us would be killed by SARS or sneezing birds and the rest of us would have to live in hermetically-sealed bunkers. Years later, we're still standing and eating the chicken.

If/when the Swine Flu death numbers start getting worryingly big (I'm talking about hundreds of thousands across the entire Earth), then I'll start to pay attention. But for now the news can sit and swivel. Under a hundred people have died and many who have suffered from it have lived. And this is out of a planetary population of 6 billion. The human race isn't going to end just yet my friends. I'm not going to get dragged into the scaremongering and neither should you. Millions of people die every day from far more virulent and vile dieases that have been around for much longer but aren't as 'dramatic' to cover. So just switch off the news, sit back with some sausages, and take it easy. After all, it's Sunday.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Proving a lot of things can happen in a small space, and featuring the rare Random 6th, it’s Rob’s Random 5...

As usual my ‘Random 5’ went up earlier this week, but then some of my friends and I heard some sad and very tragic news and it made me think certain parts were unsuitable for use this week. Not because they were tasteless or inappropriate, far from it, no, it was just because I didn’t feel like talking about them in the wake of what had happened. I may be being overly-sensitive, but it didn’t feel right or respectful in the immediate week.
Anyway here is the (only marginally) revised ‘Random 5’...

1. Limited Edition: News today that there’s a new 'machine-atron' called the ‘Espresso’ that can print an out of print, limited edition copy of a book (as well as a normal in-print book) in under five minutes. Very nifty. Very nifty indeed. And I hate it already. It’s the tip o’ the iceberg. How long until you go into a little room called a ‘Bookshop’ and ask for a copy of the latest Richard and Judy recommended book and have it printed off there and then? I mean, I don’t believe that the ‘Espresso’ will destroy the bookshop as we know it, at least it won’t for a good few decades, but I believe it’s going to take the fun out of one of the most pleasurable pastimes on the Earth: book-shopping. Whenever I go down to York I love to set aside a few hours to look round the city’s fantastic antique and second hand bookshops (really, every city should have them and have ten of them at least), looking for rare or unusual books – stuff bound in odd leather or paper or plastic coverings and with cover illustrations that evoked a different, lost age. Last year I found a great book called the ‘Collins Adventure Annual’; a musty children’s book from the fifties with pages as thick as cardboard. It’s long out of print. You’d have to scour attics and bookshops and charity shops across the land to find another, which is why I was so pleased when I found it. Its cover – a panoramic scene of Cowboys and Indians racing across a Western plain - was torn and a little faded, and the book smelled like my granddad, but I loved it because it was so old and rare and (most importantly) because it had been read: passed down through bookshops and pawed through by people eager to read its adventurous (and I must admit, uncomfortably racist by modern standards) stories. But no matter. It was a book that had lived. A book that had been read by someone else, enjoyed by someone else. A book that had survived the past fifty years intact. I love it for that. It cost me £15. Money well spent. And when I open the pages I can tell, feel, smell its life. And I worry that the ‘Espresso’, with its technology, will take away both the joy of trawling through antique and second-hand bookshops for hours and the thrill of finding and holding that old, slightly worse for wear (and possibly very rare) book. A book that has survived decades to reach your hands and eyes and will last for so many more. It would be a shame if we lost those things in our ‘throwaway society’. I’m all for progress, but not at the cost of our past. Keep the old bookshops, and keep the ‘Espresso’ at bay.

2. Lady Gaga: Honestly, is there a more pointlessly annoying pop star/freaky clotheshorse around at the minute? That’s all I have to say on the matter.

3. The Bacon Sandwich: According to a book called ‘The Bible’ (I think that’s how you pronounce it) God made the world in six days and on the seventh he rested. What it doesn’t tell you is that on the seventh day he created the bacon sandwich, possibly his finest of all makings (pizza doesn’t count because that was of course invented by Lucifer after he’d been out on the lash and needed a quick and tasty snack to soak up the booze. He would later go on to fall from Heaven into Hell and there invent the most unholy of foods: the kebab). Anyway, back to the point: the bacon sandwich is the perfect food. No other combination of food matches it in terms of deliciousness (crispy bacon, soft white bread, lashings of sauce), versatility (you can eat it for breakfast or lunch or just as a snack), portability (take it anywhere! ) and sociability (everyone loves a bacon sandwich, be they prince or pauper, rich or poor. Unless they’re vegetarian. In which case they can go jump). And it’s ideal hangover grub. Yes, the bacon sandwich is unbeatable. Only one question: red sauce or brown?

4. A Joke: This is my favourite joke of all time. It’s quite a famous one so you’ll most likely know it:
Two hunters are out in the woods in the middle of nowhere when one of them is savaged by a bear. The other hunter manages to shoot the bear dead and then calls the Emergency Services.
“Help me! My friend’s been savaged by a bear and I think he’s dead!” he tells the operator.
“Alright, calm down,” the operator tells him, “First, make sure your friend is really dead.”
There is a long pause and then the operator hears a gunshot. The hunter’s voice returns over the phone.
“Okay, done that. Now what?”

5. ‘Sans Comic Sans’: I found out this week that Comic Sans is the most hated font in the world. Apparently it’s overused and in all the wrong places – from flyers to children’s toys to banners to beach towels. Something about it annoys a surprising number of people (surprising in that I’m surprised anyone can be angry at a font). There’s even a movement to ban it and its ubiquity (no, I’m not putting up a link for it. If you hate Comic Sans that much you can go look for it yourself). Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a totally random cause as much as the next geek, but surely there are better things to do in your brief life than go around complaining about a font of all things. A font! Protesting against that is just wasted energy. It’s like King Cnut sitting on the beach yelling at the tide. And there are plenty of other, more useful things you could do than organise movements against typography; worthwhile things such as spend time with friends, learn a new language, take up dancing, or even make a bacon sandwich. And what about Wingdings? Why isn’t there a movement to get rid of that? There are 3 versions of Wingdings and they’re all bloody useless!

And (for this week only) the Random 6th: All about the Actions: In the time you have you can think of the world and everyone in it however you wish. That’s the gift. You can dream of anything, however beautiful or cruel. You can imagine anything: tales of truth and stories made of song. You can think whatever you want to about anyone on Earth. You can make as many Random 5’s of your own as you wish. But what matters, at the end of your bit-part on the planet, is what you do, how you act, the way you hold on to the people you choose to hold on to. It’s all about the actions, not the thoughts. Thoughts are no good to anyone but you. So put them into motion now.

Take care. See you all next week.

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Bigger Picture...

This is the ginormous put-together of the four previous comic cartoons I've done and hopefully I'll add another two to it over time, plus change a couple of things that aren't quite right (like the placement of the stick men and the clouds, but over all it's come out quite well.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Another piece...

If you check out this blog occasionally you'll know I sometimes put up a one-off comic-strip page cartoon that serves no other purpose than being pretty random. But, I do have a plan of sorts whenever I draw these because I eventually plan to put them all together into one ginormous comic strip page that'll be poster-sized. I've already done four (there were five but I didn't like the way I'd drawn one of them) and this is the latest section. It's a re-drawn version of the first comic strip page I drew (the original didn't look right when put next to the others). I'm pretty proud of the bottom two panels in the left, where one of the vampires moves out of their sepia-film world (if you've ever seen the film 'Nosferatu', I used that as a guide) to get the blood in the full-colour panel, in what is a bit of a 'Pleasantville' moment. Took me ages to figure out how to get that right and even now I'm still not quite satisfied with it so it'll likely be re-jigged.
Anyway, I'm putting the first four pieces of the comic strip puzzle together and will have it up tomorrow in what will hopefully be an impressive piece of comic-strippery.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Fire up the DeLorean and set the co-ordinates for half past weird, it’s time for Rob’s Random 5...

1. Purple Tentacles: It was a story written by Chris that made me think (and also not want to sit on the toilet for a week, but that’s another story) about purple tentacles. They’re somewhat of a signature in my cartoons, specifically whenever I draw any ‘group’ pictures, there’s always a couple lurking in the background, but it was only after reading Chris’ story and subsequently drawing him a cartoon featuring a purple tentacle, that I realised this and how much I draw them. I’ve been drawing them for years and years in my cartoons without ever really knowing why (I haven’t checked on the blog but I reckon there but be about ten cartoons that feature a tentacle of some variety, maybe more). Perhaps it’s just because they’re easy to draw and I’ve got quite good at drawing them that they’re so prolific (even the aliens I draw always have tentacles, although that’s a 50s B-Movie/Kang & Kodos tribute more than anything). But more than that, looking around there seem to have been a lot of purple tentacles recently: including Futurama’s ‘The Beast with a Billion Backs’, Doctor Who, and the first episode of the recent Red Dwarf special. Now Chris’ story. If Watchmen had featured its graphic novel ending I’d be sure there was a conspiracy afoot. I wonder; are all these tentacle appearances a sign or portent that some massive pan-dimensional space octopus is coming for us? Or have I just been watching too much TV? (Incidentally, the cartoon I did for Chris, just as a bit of fun, is below the Random 5, but if you haven’t read his story, 'Bzzzz', you won’t get it, so go read it now at http://www.nevertooserious.wordpress.com/)

2. Unnecessary Facebook Albums: Honestly, really, I don’t care about another album of your umpteenth Saturday night out in Durham or Newcastle or wherever I really don’t. If you and your family or friends had a nice get-together after months of being apart, or a birthday, anniversary, wedding, or holiday to somewhere nice, or you took a few photos of some beautiful scenery, that’s fine. Absolutely fine. Albums of stuff like that are great. I have a few of them myself. We all do and they’re lovely to look at and to remind you of a good time. But do not bore me with mundane shot after shot of you and your ‘bezzie mate’/other half in your kitchen, warming up your stomachs with cheap cider before you go out, take more unnecessary photos, get pissed, take more photos, and come home, vomiting and singing ‘Lady Marmalade’, all while documenting it in snap after sordid snap. Just put it away. I was out on Saturday with a few friends and on the table next to us, a group of fake-tan and mascara-plastered women who were old enough to know better were taking shot after shot of each other kissing the air, laying across the table, lifting their already short skirts provocatively as they hugged each other and pouted, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for all the people on Facebook who, the next day, would have to see the product of what looked like an amateur photo shoot for that glossy cage-liner Nuts magazine. ‘Phew’, rant over. Sorry about that. Now on with number 3...

3. Who killed the Pipe?: I think everyone should have a pipe. Not to smoke, but just to look cool. Alright, it’s not cool right now, but if enough people did it then it would be. The pipe is a style icon waiting to be brought back. If George Clooney was spotted with a pipe then everyone would be after one. When did the pipe go out of style anyway? They used to be so popular. Everyone from government scientists to wing-commanders to professors to ad executives used to have them. They were everywhere in films and society. And then suddenly they went out of fashion, round about the late 1960s. Everyone started smoking cigarettes, which are bad for you and don’t look half as classy as a pipe (seriously, look at pipe-smoking Pierce Brosnan in Mars Attacks! And tell me he doesn’t look cool). The pipe was no longer seen as the thing, and for that I blame Big Tobacco. And Hippies. Granted, Juno bravely tried to bring the pipe back into mainstream cinema but its valiant effort just wasn’t enough. The pipe is now only the preserve of old salty seadogs, the reverend at my old school, and kooks like me. But with two Sherlock Holmes movies being made and out next year the pipe is poised for a comeback. So be prepared! Pipe up and get ready to enjoy the fashionable resurgence of an icon.

4. Pirates’ Plundered Reputation: Pirates – sea pirates, not shady folk in covered markets selling illegal DVDs of X-Men Origins: Wolverine - were once seen as cool. They were rogues; quixotic figures living swashbuckling lives of adventure and excitement in films and books. Even the Muppets loved them, making the classic Muppet Treasure Island. But in recent months the perception of their picaresque lifestyle has been challenged by modern day pirates. The uncool kind of pirates. The news has extensively covered the Somali pirates’ audacious and violent attacks on ships and holding crew hostage, and every time I hear news of this happening I can’t help but think ‘They’re just sea-thugs, they’re not pirates’. Pirates at least had a code of honour. And now it’s like the public knowledge we have of them, however false and romanticised it may be, is being defiled by this new generation. Blackbeard didn’t have a fleet of speedboats and men armed with AK-47s and rocket launchers. He did things the old fashioned way, with canon and sabre and cat o’ nine tales. These modern fellas can’t call themselves pirates because they’re not keeping the pirate tradition: they don’t have an old wooden galleon, a swarthy crew or a man with a wooden leg and eye-patch. Nor do they have plenty of gunpowder and hard tack. They don’t even sing sea shanties. You can’t be a pirate if you don’t sing shanties. The Somali pirates are just ocean thugs. So sod off false pirates, and leave our memory of high-seas piracy to Long John and his boys, because I can’t see the Muppets making The Muppet’s African Coast Hijacking...

5. The Things Left Undone: A nice bit of segueing here, rounding off a list with another list. There’s a great TV show (formerly a Radio 4 show) called I’ve Never Seen Star Wars, in which a celebrity tries everyday things that they’ve never done before but which loads of other people have. Stuff like, seeing Star Wars or reading Great Expectations or listening to a Pink Floyd Album or tap-dancing. Last week actor Hugh Dennis went down a coal mine, read a Jeremy Clarkson book, and ate road-kill (including Badger casserole, blackbird pie, and Otter Risotto aka ‘Risotter’. Yum.). It’s a really great format and it got me thinking about five things I haven’t experienced that loads of other people have. I’m still working on the list, but it includes watching Lawrence of Arabia, going up in a hot air balloon and trying crocodile meat (washed down with monkey-picked tea perhaps?). What would your list be?

And here's the cartoon I did for Chris...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

'Mice to meet you'...

'Three Blind Dates'

'Nuff said really.

Peas Off...

I hate colouring in. I'm rubbish at it. That's why I always colour my cartoons on the computer: it makes the cartoon look more polished and the colours neater and more vivid. But I found myself far from my computer the other day and with only my pen and pencils, so I had to put them to use in coming up with this. I sketched it out, went over it in ink and then quickly, very quickly, coloured it in just to get the feel of it rather than make it look good.

Monday, 13 April 2009


I saw the template for this blog and because it reminded me of how my desk often looks I fancied using it. I'm still playing around with it, and I'm not sure about the grid lines on the paper, so it might suddenly change back or change to something different...


Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Tonic Water, Talking Animals, and Robots infiltrating your Past...it can only be Rob’s Random 5

This week's selection of Predominant Random Thoughts is heavy on nostalgia: for food, cartoons, and the days when the news didn't go out of the way to terrify you...

1. Carrots & Tonic Water: Throughout all of April I’m dieting in order to look good for a string of upcoming events and just generally be healthier than I currently am. Off the menu for the entire month is all wine and beer, chocolate, crisps, ice cream... basically all the bad and tasty things you can think of. I eat pretty healthily at mealtimes anyway, so it’s just cutting out the junk snacks and booze. Even soft drinks have been purged, and now I find my tipple of choice being slim tonic water and my snack of choice being the humble raw carrot (honestly, I was in a room full of people with wine the other night and there I was with my tonic & ice and carrot looking like Bugs Bunny recovering from alcohol addiction). Over the weekend in between meals I blasted through three bottles of the stuff and ate an entire big bag of carrots, so it’s fair to say they’ve been on my mind a fair bit lately, for whenever I feel peckish there they are, saying ‘We know we’re boring Rob, but really we’re all you’ve got...’. Eliot was right: April is ‘the cruellest month’...

2. The Nostalgia of Transformers™: Everyone knows that the Transformers cartoon was created purely to sell Transformers, but I didn’t realise just how brilliant and potent a marketing scheme it was (and still is) until I was watching some of the original cartoons. Because as I was watching my third episode I had the sudden urge to actually go out and buy some Transformers. I think more than anything it was a desire for nostalgia of me being five years old, playing on the living room floor making my Optimus Prime and Astrotrain (Astrotrain was exceptionally cool: a space shuttle and a steam train. Wow!) battle as Swindle, Blackout and Brawn egged them on (Inferno the fire engine often hung around in the bathroom because for some reason he was a popular bath-time toy. He quickly rusted.). I get the same feeling whenever I see Lego, because that too was such a massive part of my childhood, and it’s the same for other people and certain toys of their era. I know grown-ups – people with jobs and wives and lives and friends - who still buy Transformer toys and it’s not because they want to keep them in their boxes and then sell them on in years to come – it’s because the childhood nostalgia that surrounds them is just so powerful that it reminds them of what it was like to be young...and because giant robots that turn into jets and tanks and cars are unbelievably cool. I’d love to have some Transformers. Anyway, in the end I didn’t buy any. I switched off the TV and the subliminal messages soon stopped. The memories kept on going though...might have to venture into the attic for rusty ol’ Inferno.

3. Sudoku: I tried Sudoku for the first time ever last week, and while I’m still not a major fan of it I quite enjoyed the one I did. It’s the pure logic of it that I like, and the fact that you don’t have to know jack about maths to do it (because honestly, who does maths for fun? Not even Stephen Hawking). But it’s no crossword for sure. I think it’s because it only uses nine numbers and it’s so logical that it feels a bit, well, robotic. There’s a bit more creativity involved in solving a crossword. Plus, you can shade in the boxes if you mess up.

4. Bad News, Worse: Every time you turn on the news or open a paper you’re reminded by a man in a suit that you’re poor, or that you’re overweight, or that you should drink or smoke less, or that you’ll die of cancer if you don’t eat enough pomegranates, or that if you eat too many pomegranates more pomegranates will have to be flown over, causing global warming and polluting your atmosphere and flooding your house that’s about to be repossessed anyway because you’re so poor from the global recession and paying for all that bloody fruit you’re told to eat. Well, the news can quite frankly go fuck itself, because I’m tired of it telling me what I should be doing and how fucked I’m going to be regardless of whether I do it or not. The media has a habit of blowing everything out of proportion. For example, yeah, there’s a recession and yeah it’s hard for everyone, but constantly reminding people of how bad it is does the economy and our consumer faith in it no favour. And cherry-picking the stories of the minority who’ve been really badly affected by the financial crisis and putting them on display as something resembling the average experience of the man in the street is not only misleading it’s wrong and detrimental to the economy. The same exaggeration can be applied to any number of stories. Remember when we were all going to die of SARS? I’m sick of bad news being blown out of all proportion. The world is hard and miserable enough already without us being made to think that you and the entire Human race are going to be killed off in the next decade by bird flu or financial crises or beef or aspirin. For a really good, level-headed view and review of the news, check out Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe.

5. The Wind in the Willows: Nostalgia seems to be on the menu this week. More than any other TV show in my childhood, even more than Thomas the Tank Engine or Transformers, I loved the animated Wind in the Willows series. It was quality stop motion animation, well-written, had a great voice cast (David Jason as Toad!) and was bloody brilliant. I was reminded of it the other day when I was re-reading the book so I thought I’d hit YouTube and see if there was any trace of it on there. And lo and behold there was! Lots of episodes of it actually, so I spent the afternoon watching some of them. Some of the episodes are taken from the book, and most of them are completely original, but they’re all magnificent. They’re quaint and innocent and exist in a soft and cuddly world where lemonade and cake make everything better. It’s a crime that they’re not still showing this on TV, especially as it won a BAFTA and an EMMY. If you’ve never seen it before, or you fancy taking Toady’s motorcar for a spin down Memory Lane, there’s a clip here and plenty more to be found on YouTube.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

A Humpty Dumpty Joke (but Gary Larson still has the best one)

"She opened the door, and even before the Policeman had chance to speak Mrs. Dumpty knew something had happened to her son..."

Oh Humpty Dumpty, you above all others are the easiest public domain character to make fun out of. There have been so many Humpty Dumpty jokes that if you stacked them all in a great pile it would be the exact size of the wall the unfortunate Egg fell off. I tried to take a different angle to the whole thing by using the TV and movie cliche of the policeman turning up on the doorstep, hat under arm, to deliver the bad news to a relative. I like to think that after hearing the bad news Mrs Dumpty faints, falls over and shatters just like her son.
And as we're in the run up to Easter you can bet that there'll be more yolks n' jokes on this blog in the coming days...
And if you like Humpty Dumpty and his whole unfortunate incident, you should definitely check out Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy, which examines Humpty's death in the manner of a hard-boiled detective story.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Concept Art

The very definition of 'jaw-droppingly good'...

Thursday, 2 April 2009

All About Eve...

Ahh, Garden of Eden jokes are a dime a bushel, so I'm not claiming that this is a particularly original cartoon, but I've had it rattling around in my head for a while now and I wanted to get it down on paper.
It's also the first cartoon I've drawn with several different punch-lines in mind. Originally Eve was going to ask if the apple was organic. Then I had the idea of the snake offering her a banana first rather than an apple. There was also a brief idea of the snake trying to get her to eat the apple by disgusing it in various forms - pies, cakes, tarts, jelly and juice. But I finally set on the idea that Eve, or anyone for that matter, would much prefer chocolate to an apple. I mean, I'd definitely be more tempted by a bar of Cadbury's than an apple. Mind you, as Alan Partridge also noted, I'd also be a bit freaked out by a talking snake offering me food...

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Rob's Random 5

This is the start of a new weekly blog section in which I highlight the five things I’ve been thinking about most recently. It’s a nice chance to clear my head and it sort of ties into the whole cartoon theme of the blog because sometimes some of this stuff ends up influencing me in my cartoon creations. (Plus it means I can have a rant about something if need be).

1. Exploding Lamps: My lamp exploded the other night. I turned it on, there was a loud bang, a ton of big sparks, and the bulb rocketed about two feet in the air (no exaggeration). Also the metal screw-cap part of the bulb is fused to the inside of the lamp. I don’t know what caused this all to happen but it gave me the shock of my life and means I now have to get a new lamp. It also makes me wonder if I should alert Q-branch. I could just imagine James Bond using a killer lamp. Of course, such a thing would be useless if his enemies were wearing bulb-proof jackets...

2. Stars: All the lovely spring weather has made for clear but not too cool nights, meaning plenty of opportunity for stargazing at Smedley Towers. Because there aren’t many streetlights out in the countryside you don’t get that awful orange-brown haze in the sky, so your view is excellent. I love, love, love to look at stars and this past week I’ve spent hours doing nothing but staring into the night sky rather than go to sleep. It’s seriously, soul-bendingly beautiful and a great way to relax and forget about everything else. Not enough people look up at the stars.

3. Oatibix with Chocolate and Raisins: I eat cereal straight out of the box, so for me its merits rely on several factors: whether you can pick it up without half of it careering out of your hand and onto the floor, whether it tastes good without milk, and whether or not it’s any good for me. Chocolate and Raisin Oatibix ticks all those boxes. Honestly it’s freaking delicious! And wholegrain! And did I mention how delicious it was? I cannot get enough of the stuff right now. I particularly like to eat it while reading No.4 on the list...

4. Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Holmes never says, in any of the 60-something stories he appears in, “Elementary my dear Watson”. That’s one of the many facts I’ve learned while reading his adventures. Really, I am currently addicted to the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Ordinarily I don’t like crime fiction, and I still wouldn’t read any other crime novels, but Sherlock Holmes is the original and best. Surprisingly, a large proportion of Holmes stories feature fairly small and unusual – but always intriguing - crimes, such as ‘The Redheaded League’, ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’ and ‘The Blue Carbuncle’, and it’s only occasionally you’ll get a murder, which is refreshing for a detective story. They are all extremely readable and entertaining and I’d recommend them to anyone who hasn’t yet picked one up (although, if you have an aversion to the word ‘singular’ you should probably stay away as it crops up at least once in every story). The fact that ITV 3 are currently showing the Sherlock Holmes television series starring the fantastic Jeremy Brett is an added bonus. That man was born to play the great detective, and the stories are really well served in translation to the screen.

5. Doctor Who – Planet of the Dead: I’m a big Doctor Who fan. I started watching it when I was little and it was only Sunday morning repeats of John Pertwee fighting rubber dinosaurs and Roger Delgado (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoT65yRCiaw). But whatever era it’s from I love the show, and it’s always good news when a new episode comes along. The trailer for the Doctor Who Easter Special, ‘Planet of the Dead’ (fantastic title) was released yesterday and wow it looks amazing. A London double-decker bus stranded in an alien desert, a giant fly in a boiler-suit, flying manta-ray/piranha-esque creatures, weird sand, David Tennant (my 2nd favouritest Doctor) on fine form...it looks like it’s going to be another great adventure in the lead up to the 10th Doctor’s regeneration later this year. And the Doctor’s little ‘That planet is nothing’ speech sent a chill down my spine. Cannot wait, especially as Lee Evans is also part of the cast. I must admit, after seeing the trailer I’m now looking forward to this slightly more than the also brilliant Skellig as part of my Easter Holiday viewing. Sorry Mister Almond!
Here's the trailer for it: