I joined the Fabian Society recently, mainly so I’d get a vote in the Labour leadership election (I’m not rejoining Labour, at least for a while). So today I’m at the FEPS-Fabian New Year Conference 2020. Or #FEPSFAB20, as they’d like us to tweet.

I ate the last piece of our Christmas cake today. Christmas is now definitively over. If there was ever any doubt of that.

Who the What?

You probably want to know what I think of the new series of Doctor Who so far.

It got off to a really strong start with ‘Spyfall’ part 1. Not least with its genuinely surprising reveal at the end. And then part 2 followed up on it. Not everything made total sense, but what the hell, it’s Doctor Who. There were some complaints about the way the nazis and The Master were handled, and I get that. And it had the memory-wiping thing. But all in all, I found it a strong, promising start to the new season.

And then we got ‘Orphan 55.’

Oh dear. Oh dearie, dearie me. This was, for me — I’m not going to sugarcoat it — the worst episode of Doctor Who ever. At least in the modern era.

The story was confused and confusing, the direction was incoherent, the character motivations made no sense… Oh, and the message — admirable though it was, to say it was beating us over the head with a stick is to understate how heavy-handed it was.

I thought it must be a first-time writer and director. But no: it was written by Ed Hime, who wrote ‘It Takes You Away’ last season, which was very good. And it was directed by Lee Haven Jones, who directed ‘Spyfall’ part 2, just the week before.

So what went wrong? Hard say, but I’ve got to hope they pick things up again on Sunday.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yōko Ogawa (Books 2020, 1)

This is a sweet little story, exactly described by its title. The professor in question is an elderly mathematician who has had a brain injury that has left him with only 80 minutes of short-term memory. The housekeeper, therefor, has to introduce herself to him every morning when she arrives at his house.

She has a son who comes along sometimes, and there are maths puzzles and baseball.

It doesn’t sound like much from that description, and it’s very short. But it’s thoroughly compelling and enjoyable.

Christmas Day by the Lea (or Lee)

It’s our family custom on Christmas Day to go for a walk down by the River Lea (usually shown on maps with the addition “or Lee”, as both spellings have been used historically). Often it’s been cold and dreich and we’ve seen almost no-one. Two days ago it was a gorgeous sunny day, and there were hundreds of people out.

And some boats were moving:

Boat on the Lea 1 Christmas 2019

While others were just parked:

Boat on the Lea 2 Christmas 2019

And this is us; Frances, me, and our two young adults, who don’t normally like to be photographed, and who have never appeared here before:

Family Christmas 2019