Story Magic – and a Rocking Horse Tardis?

As we left Topping & Co (see previous post), we noticed the display in the window of Philip Pullman’s latest novel, The Good Man Jesus, and the Scoundrel Christ. You could almost feel the disturbance in the air around those black and white volumes; the anticipation of the stir which, no doubt, would soon follow their appearance.

Which is exactly what the world needs writers for.

Since that first glimpse of the book in Topping’s window, the newspapers and television have indeed been buzzing about it. So much so, I can hardly keep up with it all; but others’ reactions, and the many interviews with Philip Pullman, have definitely piqued my interest. Philip Pullman’s description of the novel as being a story about stories also draws me to it. I agree with him that stories are absolutely central to who we are. Human beings need them. The magic and the weave of storytelling; the process and the power of stories in the cooking pot of the mind – it all fascinates me. I’ve also very much enjoyed all I’ve read by Pullman – especially His Dark Materials, which when I read it several years ago, was so vivid and vitally alive for me – it was like a lived experience.

It wasn’t until we got home from Topping’s, and I checked out the shop’s website later in the evening, that I learnt that Philip Pullman was due to talk about his new book at a Topping & Co. event in Bath that very night…

It felt like a rather spooky crossing of paths – especially as I’d just finished reading The Tiger in the Well, the third in Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series – and am due to begin the fourth, The Tin Princess very soon. These gripping tales combine rip-roaring adventure with a life-affirming, humane rootedness that both inspires and captivates. These are books full of characters to really love. Who, for instance, wouldn’t want a friend like Jim Taylor?

Which brings me to another crossing of paths, of sorts, when just a couple of days after our trip to Bath, we welcomed Matt Smith as the new, eleventh incarnation of the Doctor…

Picture of Doctor Who Magazine and books

Matt Smith was already a favourite in our household, due to his sparky portrayal of Jim in the TV adaptation of the Sally Lockhart Mysteries. Now, he looks set to be someone who it will be a real privilege to journey with in Time and Space. Matt Smith was born to be the Doctor. He oozes eccentricity and heart.

We dearly love David Tennant’s Doctor, he is such an amazing, intuitive actor, with huge emotional intelligence, and Christopher Eccleston was superb in the role. The Russell T. Davies era will always be treasured in this family – and now it looks as though the magic is not only set to be safe in the hands of Steven Moffat, Matt Smith and the new Doctor Who team – but will continue to flourish and fly. 

I love Steven Moffat’s storybook – or ‘fairy tale’ approach, as he called it, in an interview in The Guardian recently. I love the spooky quirkiness of the worlds he has created in past episodes he’s written. And I’m intrigued by the deeply interesting relationship he has set up between the Doctor and his new assistant Amelia Pond (even her name is ‘fairy tale’). I love that wonkiness of time, and of weight of influence, that exists between them at the cusp of their adventures together; like scales where one dish overflows with years of make-believe, baked-into-the-soul childhood obsessions – and the other balances a few hours of ‘still cooking,’  kindness to a valiantly coping child; whilst all the time there is a meeting of potential – and an intuitive bond at work between them .

In Steven Moffat’s fairy tale approach, I think we may well have the television equivalent of the magic library hidden in rocking horse attics. Talking of which, I see from the new series trailers, that the Doctor and Amy will be riding real horses in a future episode. Horses in adventure is always good. It was horses in books that spirited me away on many of my earliest adventures into the magic of stories…

Picture of horse and pony stories

Can’t wait to be carried away in the newly refurbished Tardis later tonight, when episode two, and its journey into the eleventh Doctor’s story, begins…

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