Hope for the Future

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I didn’t get my mentorship. It wasn’t a surprise. In good news, they sent the e-mail nice and early, so I didn’t have to stress about it all day. Not that I would have, of course, because I already know how this is going to pan out.


What mattered more this morning was bettering my own standard.

I woke up at 7am with a mission.

I’d written an essay for today’s Internet of Words site that, frankly, I was less than enamoured with, far too similar in tone and outlook to the one produced a week before. I realise now that what works best in my four week format is a general essay on the book, and then a more detailed assessment of a portion of the subject matter, but seen through a wider lens. I have tried since the weekend to get a handle on what that view would encapsulate, and yesterday morning it came to me: time travel. So this morning I’ve taken a day’s worth of notes and a week’s worth of general research and produced something new pretty much from scratch. I’ve yet to do my re-read but honestly, I already know it is 1000% better than what I started with.

Today therefore is a resounding success, because I didn’t just stick with what was good. I created something better.


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Talking of creating something better… Bond 25 had better not be Diamonds are Forever or Die Another Day.

PLEASE DON’T FUCK THIS UP, SQUIRE.


Last night, the Real World crashed the party on Social media, and today lots of people will be REALLY cross. Be nice, and accommodate discussion. If your mental health won’t support remaining in public places, leaving’s perfectly fine. There’s plenty of us left to give the alt right, extremists and anyone else with stupidity running through their veins a run for their money. A smart person might even consider capitalising on current events.

I think I’d pay good money to see that happen.

Coming Around Again

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This is the blog post about Bond 25 that needs to be made, as the announcement popped up yesterday from Eon’s @007 Twitter feed confirming something is in pre-production. Booking a weekend in November 2019 might seem a bit previous, but considering what we’ve seen coming out of Comic Con over the last weekend, it makes perfect sense. This is to prepare the US market for a film which, one presumes, is going to have to be pretty damn special to follow SPECTRE, which effectively drew a line in the sand for everybody involved. If I believe the Internet, Daniel Craig has no soul and is doing two more films. I’m REALLY hoping he is finished with the role as was clearly the case at the end of Bond 24.

As was also true of Dr Who, this is a franchise in desperate need of a reboot.

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The chances of getting a woman in this job however are slim to non-existent. The canon doesn’t support it, and despite the likes of Gillian Anderson saying they’d play Jane Bond, I doubt the majority of the world will want to know. I can’t see Barbara Broccoli allowing her father’s legacy to be redefined in this way anyway: her love of Craig as Bond had as much to do initially with his physical appearance as it was about any ability to act. Bond is supposed to do something at a brain stem level to women that makes his behaviour somehow acceptable. Men just want to pretend they can get away with treating the opposite sex that badly whilst remaining insouciantly cool. Really, like it or not, this role goes to a man, because no woman could ever be that sociopathic and get away with being believable.

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Of course, nothing is stopping the next Bond being Iris Elba, or Dev Patel, except an awful lot of historical baggage. When reduced to only looking at white, heterosexual men, the field gets pretty samey. That’s the problem, all told. Everybody’s of a certain look, or a particular style, and then you’re comparing Tom Hiddleston to Craig or Tom Hardy to Roger Moore, which I’m sure neither would thank you for. Bond, like it or not, is a poisoned chalice: when you die as an actor, I’d argue what you don’t want is to have your family hear your media obituary contain the line ‘best known for his role as 007’ at any point. Anything and everything else you ever did as a professional is effectively sacrificed to commercialism, and that will hurt.

However, even though I’d like a minority interest Bond above white male, there’s probably a compelling argument at present to get Tom Hardy into the Aston Martin. If I believe the rumours that Christopher Nolan is interested in directing, Hardy’s a good fit (Bane in Batman, key role in Dunkirk) and clearly they’d work well together. The problem is, where you go when the criminal organization created solely to engineer your demise seems positively childish compared with the man running the US Government. The enemy remains crime families, sure, but honestly, truthfully, how the fuck are you going to create a believable plot for a Bond movie that’s not been done to death already? SPECTRE only worked as it rebooted the one villain we’ve not seen for decades because, of all things, a legal battle that prevented Eon from mentioning Blofeld existed.

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Whoever they get to play Bond, whether we keep going forward or its rebooted again, is being made to live in a world which his misogyny, plus treatment of the opposite sex has become frankly unacceptable. However sensitive and caring you make the man, he’s still a fucking dinosaur. It is going to take a monumental effort to produce anything based around current canon that won’t look outdated and ridiculous, or that doesn’t involve killing Madeline Swann before the opening title sequence, a la OHMSS. I tried to re-write the canon, but that only worked by making 007 part of an effective unit and one could argue as soon as you take away the ability for Bond to work alone, he’s not Bond any more anyway. Needless to say, I don’t envy the script team one iota. If they pull this off they really are miracle workers.

Until there are details and confirmation of who has the keys to the Aston Martin, all bets are off. Only with more details can we speculate on what happens next. I just hope and pray that the days of a Moonraker style film (with some ridiculous terrorist/cybercrime plot a la Mission Impossible) is not what everybody has to look forward to.

Please Please PLEASE let Bond 25 be a reboot.

Who Are You?

You remember that post from the end of June when I said there was no chance of seeing a female Doctor Who in my lifetime?

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier about being wrong in my life. Waking up this morning, to the first day when Jodie Whittaker is Doctor Who is… well, part of me still doesn’t believe it. My Twitter feed yesterday summed a lot of it up quite well, but if I’m honest this tweet is the real reason I’m celebrating:

That’s been me since I pretended to be James Bond, because all the women in his world were simply afterthoughts. Then I discovered Emma Peel, and I’ve sought out my own female heroes ever since… but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still aspire to be the men. The ‘problem’ here is not the gender of the people involved. It really does not matter one iota whether these heroes are men or women. The bigger issue, by a long way, is their sexuality.  That’s what detonated all those bombs yesterday, will cause wailing and trauma for months to come. As Doctor Who becomes a woman, NOBODY should lose their minds. The problem with the individually focused, me-cultured Social media climate we live in is that lots of people can’t separate gender from desire.

I lost a fair number of followers yesterday on the back of my joyous ranting. I asked one of them why this appointment was so galling: she cited the trouble coping with the fact that the Doctor has a grand-daughter. How was it possible to reconcile this fact now the man is a woman? This is, of course, using established conventions that you need one of each sex to reproduce and create offspring. It is the same convention that will imprint on men that the Doctor was their hero… except now, she’s a heroine. The man they looked up to and aspired to become is now someone they could find sexually attractive. That is going to be difficult for many people to cope with.

There’s a flip side to this that’s made me especially angry, and it is watching certain women complain you can’t have a woman in the TARDIS. They enjoy the idea of a man being in control. Capaldi might not have been the most visually appealing of Doctors, but you could always go back to the days of Matt Smith and David Tennant and pretend you were one being rescued, or you were the favourite companion they’d turn to after a long day of saving the Universe. How can you write fanfic when the 13th Doctor’s forcing you to become a lesbian?

All of these issues are underpinned by conventional notions of sexuality. Once one dismisses these, it does not matter one iota who plays what role. What then comes into play is whether your canon will support the change. When a female Thor was announced by Marvel, already established wisdom backed up the decision by stating that Thor’s hammer would only imprint on someone worthy of wielding it, and that choice was not gender specific. The path to gender fluidity in the Time Lords has been laid well in advance, placed into canon as far back as the transformation of Tennant to Smith.

‘The Doctors Wife’ establishes, IN CANON, the Corsair who (according to 11) ‘didn’t feel like himself unless he had (a) tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times. Oooh, she was a bad girl.’ It is another thing to thank Mr Moffat for, I suppose, apart from breaking the whole show apart and putting it back together in a modern, progressive fashion. You can choose to forget all this for the sake of non-canon sensibilities, of course, but anyone who offers shock and surprise that this could happen has really not been paying the right amount of attention.

You can’t complain now, because that’s your fandom, and you should know better.

I want to quickly mention 007 here. This is a Universe that, as it stands, won’t support anything other than a white, hetrosexual Bond, if you look at canon for guidance. Sure, the franchise has tried to reinvent itself (see my mate Roger’s excellent dissection on License to Kill and how changing this male lead’s not as simple as writing in some historical precedent) but even now with Mr D. Craig, Esq in the lead roll, that reinvention has only gone so far. Unless something radical changes in terms of how the lead man is portrayed, it is unlikely we will ever see change on the scale that now exists in the TARDIS. Personally I’d want to pair him up with an equal female agent as we did in Tomorrow Never Dies, but I’m not sure even that is possible at this stage. Some ideas, like it or not, just have to be left to die.

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There has also been, quite understandably, some comments on how the kerfuffle in the TARDIS could have been avoided if an actor of colour or from a non-white background had been cast. That is another large can of worms: it might help the Bond franchise reboot, on reflection, but I suspect would have caused similar levels of outrage in the TARDIS, which is ridiculous. This is 2017 and honestly, anyone getting upset at a TV show employing anyone in a lead role who isn’t white and male is on a hiding to nothing.

There are more important things to get upset about, and really this is not one of them.

 

This Woman’s Work

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Last weekend, I watched the last episode of the current season of Dr Who. I didn’t mean to, it just happened, and even though the whole season’s only been absorbed via synopsis, I stayed to the end and was rather glad that happened. The last 45 seconds was so far out of left field as to be a genuine surprise: I won’t spoil it as this is still relatively recent, but fans have a very interesting situation at play, knowing at the end of the Christmas Special we’ll see another regeneration. However, I’m sticking to the assertion that unless the show’s creators break the mould so firmly it is indistinguishable from what has come before, my time with the franchise remains pretty much done.

Then on Wednesday, I read this in the Guardian:

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Okay then, so is this really a possibility? Phoebe has been in a number of critically acclaimed drama series but is hardly a household name. That gives her solid credentials off the bat (in fact I am reminded of David Tennant coming from Casanova to the TARDIS) and now I’ve done some research, yes she’d be absolutely perfect. Reminded that Mr Capaldi used the f-word as Malcolm Tucker more than a few times, Ms Waller-Bridge using the c-word in Fleabag seems almost acceptable as part of the entrance exam. The problem, of course, is that BBC3 hit comedy is going to be filming a second season in November this year which might put her off the radar in terms of availability… but hang on, why am I even considering that this woman could be the Doctor?

At some point, one of these so very British, male-dominated bastions has to be stormed.

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If you’ve paid any modicum of attention to my writing journey, you’ll know I’ve had a go at redefining the 00 Section in my own way. That sea change is probably even further off long term than Who is, lets be honest, but the fact that actors of colour and race are considered and summarily dismissed shows that hey, at least in that regard I’m not alone in wanting change. The problem, undoubtedly, is the notion of canon and traditionalism: Who and Bond remain very much a product of the ages they were created in. That age, for many people, is not to be disturbed or altered in any way, shape or form. For 007, the notion of insouciant masculinity as attractive clearly still rings true, but sadly the form that now takes is becoming less and less palatable. Only when that is deemed unacceptable by mainstream media, then perhaps the wind will change. Don’t hold you hopes out, though.

With a rapidly ageing population, many of whom are resistant to change (and if the Brexit vote is any indicator very much against anyone trying to make them European) the suggestion that you could have a Bond who didn’t sleep with anyone unless it was absolutely necessary and maybe cared more about teamwork than working alone is going to be met with very short shrift. In fact, when I hear many men talking about a female Bond it is in the context of simply changing this misogynist man into a sociopathic woman. That’s not actually an improvement, fellas, it simply gives you a whole new wank fantasy.  Real, developmental change involves you thinking outside of the bedroom, or outside the TARDIS, depending on your point of view.

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Dr Who used to be a fairly asexual affair until the Moffat bloke got involved. Now sexuality is an issue, that makes the woman/man lead role shift even more awkward for the Who people. Except, watching the last episode of Capaldi’s Doctor, and the two Masters effectively flirting with themselves? There was so much potential subtext to be read into that episode: countless references to how women and men do things differently, that sexuality is largely irrelevant in just about anything once you gain the ability to look past the people involved. Honestly, of the two bastions of Britishness, Who seems the one more likely to crack first.

Now I have to hope it will come sooner than later.

For Your Eyes Only

It doesn’t seem like a year since Spectre was released: to be honest, it’s more like several years. 2016, as many people will attest, has not been kind. Losing Bowie at the start for me was only the start of a series of body blows, which culminated in the fucking travesty of Brexit in June. However, four months on, the shift of my country and the US towards a worrying variety of ‘conservatism’ could already be having some interesting ramifications, most notably in reference to Mr Craig’s (potential) ex-employment. [*] When I suggested writing this blog post a while ago it generated a fair bit of interest, and the more I consider the possibilities the stronger becomes the belief I could actually end up thanking THAT potential US presidential candidate for what he’s done to the World in the last ten months.

Could Donald Trump be responsible for redefining the Bond franchise?

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When Eon rebooted Bond in 2006 with Casino Royale a new narrative was born: fresh from gaining his License to Kill, 007 falls in love and watches first as that woman is revealed as a double agent before she dies, in a situation where Bond is unable to save her. This defines all his actions in Quantum of Solace and, to a lesser extent Skyfall. Only when he gets to fall in love again and disappear off into the sunset in SPECTRE is some completion bought to the story, but there’s still a cost. It’s not really Craig’s fault that he inherited shoes that had been discarded under so many beds, that Bond’s misogynistic and arrogant past was based in a decade where men could get away with being like this because that’s the way it had always been. Except that ‘attitude’ is still making news, as was demonstrated when the Washington Post got hold of a tape of Mr Trump treating woman as objects. I’ll admit that when I first saw the footage, realised that this behaviour’s really no different to early iterations of Bond doing what was needed to get the job done.

He gets away with it however for several reasons: mostly because fiction gets a far better deal than reality, but probably because an English accent and being fantastic in bed still allows you to get away with murder, plus believing in truth really helps. ‘How can I compare Trump to Bond,’ I hear you ask, ‘it’s like apples and oranges’: however, both come from trees, and require seeds to grow. Bond’s enduring appeal for a certain generation is that you get what you want as a secret agent, and in that regard as Trump seeing himself as a celebrity, the same remains true. Except once the misogyny is obvious it becomes both all-consuming and inescapable in a world where your main competitor for President is a woman. Once I’d considered the similarity I was forced to go back to SPECTRE in a new light, to see if I could redeem ‘new’ Bond in light of the revelation. This 007 is different to his predecessors, has undoubtedly ‘evolved,’ but the way the franchise is left knowing his history gives Eon a real problem moving forward.

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Bond’s relationship with Moneypenny becomes a metaphor of sorts in his redemptive process: she almost kills him, yet she remains his best friend, but that doesn’t stop him looking down her top in Skyfall or showing concern she has a boyfriend in SPECTRE. He’ll still try his arm, and hope she’ll be there for him, but when the first decent female fit in terms of compatability comes along with Madeline Swann he drops everything, steals his company car and buggers off, presumably to spend the next year furiously fucking and not answering his mobile when the office calls. If you ascribe the theory that Bond has changed, he’ll already have handed in his notice and never comes back. They can’t kill Swann again in the narrative as motivation because then it’s just Vesper Lynd all over again. Time might be a flat circle for some franchises, but with what Trump has now done to the popular consciousness in terms of highlighting casual sexism and control? It will be pretty hard to make this Bond’s modus operandi stand up as acceptable. Ironically, if the next 007 movie has to include Craig’s version of the agent, I’d suggest he marries Swann and they team them up in a Mr and Mrs Smith stylee, but already long term fans will cry fowl, because Bond works alone.

Except that doesn’t work in the modern world either. Only in the movies.

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Here’s the bigger issue: Bond’s ‘ethos’ only works if you don’t scratch the surface too hard. Craig made a big deal in interviews for SPECTRE that he’s aware of the limitations at play, that there’s only so much to be done if your central protagonist thinks as part of his job it’s acceptable just to sleep with someone to get what you want. Ironially when Mata Hari did that no-one considered it a sutable job for a woman, and yet female spies really are the better choice in so many situations when most of the people in power are men. However, this franchise; watch, car, suits are all selling to a group of people who really don’t need to be told this is the right way to live your life. ‘Men want to be Bond, woman want to sleep with him’ might be true for my generation (except for me, I’d be him and bed him) but the belief that you teach people this is acceptable human behaviour… it won’t work any more. The outcry in the press worldwide should be ample demonstration of the realisation that this is not the same World we live in. Times are changing. This is not just about a hetrosexual bloke with a gun, and that is the bigger significance. The white man’s importance matters only in relation to bigger societal shifts: claiming nothing can be changed, because canon says is no longer acceptable behaviour.

Like it or not, Trump’s actions may have finally forced time to be called on Bond’s progress.

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Women can be secret agents, and better than their male counterparts. It is no longer about pandering to a certain generation’s desire to live out fantasies that simply do not mesh in the modern world. I’m still of the opinion that the best way the franchise has to survive is to go back to Dr No and start again, refilming the stories with ‘modern’ sensibilities. Killing off Judi Dench at the end of Skyfall really was the beginning of the end, as was putting Moneypenny back behind a desk because we’re back to the 1960’s and it is as if the last fifty years never happened.

It’s no wonder we won’t get an announcement on Bond 25 until next year. In the current climate, I’m not sure there’s a future for him at all.

[*] He might still take it, but part of me really hopes he walks away and never looks back.

Seeing Things

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t like doing things by halves. Most definitely, I am an all or nothing girl. I totally grasp the notion of devotion too: the number of times I’ve fallen in love with people/ideas/inanimate objects and never had it reciprocated? Too many to count. When you play fast and loose with emotional favours, after a while you begin to grasp this sort of odd objectivity at how the process works. Allowing yourself to totally embrace someone or something is great, as long as you can see the entire thing being presented. In the case of rock star devotion (as a decent example) it is very easy just to be seduced by the onstage presence of your idol and not understand anything about the person behind the ‘image.’ If that person’s a total twat in reality? It is probably wise you don’t know a lot of the other stuff, but being blinded by almost total devotion to the person won’t ever end well.

Undoubtedly you’ll end up with your heart broken.

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I’m writing a set of essays for the fiction site, and as I try and get the first one completed, the subject of the inaugural letter keeps taunting me, not unlike his GIF above. You see, my idea of ‘devotion’ has altered quite a lot since my teens, and I can’t help but think that I’ve done myself a massive disservice in the last few years in how I subconsciously ‘attach’ myself to the idea of certain people’s personas. Having written two pieces of fiction with Bond at their centre, I’ve now come to the conclusion I fell in love with the character first. It has been the ability of the leading actors to maintain that attraction over the years that matters far more than the individuals themselves, and that revelation came as something of a surprise. I understand now that the visuals presented and the character portrayed are very different constructs, when it comes to forming the notion of devotion with both. Daniel Craig’s the first Bond I’ve actually considered as an actor BEFORE the character, and I think it is a measure to his ability and application to profession that there’s a redefinition in my mind of how this entire process works.

That’s no mean feat, and grants considerable kudos in my mind to the man himself.

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When you start subconsciously associating actors with roles, it does the individual a massive disservice, it occurs to me. That means that however varied and brilliant a career that person has, all anyone ever remembers on their passing is the most popular role. Even if this is at odds with what they really were away from the cameras, that becomes their epitaph. ‘They were probably best known as X in the production of Y’ might be great for your five minutes of fame in the blip of Human existence, but in the end living the life they had well should probably matter more, plus not just what happened in front of the camera. Here’s where things get really interesting from a writing point of view, that so many of the familiar faces and names of the last 100 years weren’t paragons of virtue, bore little or no resemblance to the characters that they became synonymous with. Yet still people don’t see past the image in their own minds. These people remain heroes, despite that being a long way from the truth.

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Then you get wildcards: the ex-addicts, reformed alcoholics and those who struggle with mental illness. Everybody loves a second chance, can use the lessons of their own lives and apply them to heroes they see on screen. The actress who yo-yos between fat and thin. The Woman who divorces her husband with grace, or strings him by the balls for being unfaithful. Magazines are full of gossip and salacious titbits from the rich and famous to allow us as mere mortal a chance to compare and contrast. All of this devotion to other’s fallibility teaches us the merit of thought and application in our own lives. Forgiveness matters too, yet few people grasp the significance of the emotion. How long is appropriate penance for the lover scorned? If you fall off the wagon, was it simply inevitable? If you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur does the birth of a daughter really alter your entire world view?

Sometimes, questions will never be answered when your heroes need to remain just that.

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The one thing I’ve learnt, and that is consistently apparent in whatever sphere I happen to be hanging in at any given point? People have very short memories. If something’s hugely popular, you’ll be back on the bandwagon whilst conveniently forgetting the reason why you jumped off. That’s fine, and as long as you’re lining the pockets of the people making the product, they don’t care either, whether that be movies, TV or gaming. Except eventually comes a realisation that if you want to make product with the widest possible scope and remit, you can’t have narrow minded, sexist and diversity-unfriendly heroes as your spokespeople. The way forward is with those who are prepared to embrace the fact they’re not actually the heroes either, that this is just a part being played and a job to be done. What you need isn’t personalities, but an ethos, and if you cannot change with the times? You’re in trouble. I suspect that’s why there won’t be a Bond 25 announcement this year because Eon Productions realise just how important Daniel Craig has become to the franchise’s evolution. Without a clear successor on the table either, maybe there’s more than just a male lead character to worry about going forward.

Devotion sometimes is the last thing you need to inspire in your fan base.

Running Scared

Those of you paying attention will notice a new page has appeared in my menu bar, and that there’s two new writing projects on the table under ‘Non Fiction’ in the Work in Progress area. I’ve never really considered working on projects outside the comfort zone of gaming before, and whilst you’ll see everyone and his bro opening up their gaming portal or starting a You Tube channel dedicated to some aspect of gaming or geek culture? I realised over the summer my underlying strength is the words, not the pixels. I may really love playing this stuff, but I now enjoy writing more, and that’s what is guiding my thinking going forward.

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‘Learning to Breathe’ will, I hope, help anyone who’s looked at the road to physical fitness and been unable to feel confident they can make it. It won’t just detail where I am with my own journey but is now going to cover the process I’ve begun, to learn to run successfully as an asthmatic. I know that a lot of my issues have nothing to do with my own level of fitness and everything to do with the voice in my head that says I’m not capable. I make no bones over the intensely personal nature of the journey either, but what I am now, like it or not, is tied into my level of physical fitness. I hope to make strides everywhere (no pun intended) and all the relevant posts will be stuck in a dedicated area for your perusing pleasure.

‘Letters to My Heroes’ isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, and you’ll find that on the dedicated writing site. I have, in my head, at least a basic list of those people, living and dead, who I’d like to ‘talk’ to as time goes on, to explain why they ended up positively impacting my life over the last 50 years. I’m sure some of you can guess the identities of a few of the early recipients, but when I start thinking about the business of heroism… well, there’s a lot here to cover and not simply the initial planned first set of twelve letters. I’m not trying to sound mysterious, but there are reasons, and they will be revealed as time goes on.

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I still want to spend a bit of time documenting my t-shirt collection, and that’s gonna appear under the ‘Favourite Shirts’ banner as I get around to pulling together pictures. At some point I’d also like to review all 24 Bond films too… and as I sense there may be a Bond 25 announcement on the cards sooner rather than later? It’s all content for the future. 

For now, there’s plenty planned, and I hope I can cover it all.