The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 19 August 2011


Having just moved house, I thought it would be sensible to stay with the same internet service provider, Virgin Media. I'm not quite sure what madness possessed me to do this, given that last time I moved, they deleted my email account without warning - including the entire contents of my 'inbox', emails which I hadn't had the chance to download, including dozens of messages relating to work.

They told me that there was broadband available at my new flat - this was one of the things I checked before moving, as it would be a deal-breaker - and informed me that it would be installed on 17th August.

About four or five days before the 17th August, two blokes from Virgin Media turned up at the flat to check the broadband connection and declared that all was well.

On the 17th August, another bloke from Virgin Media turned up at the flat and declared that actually there wasn't a broadband connection available at all and that one would have to be fitted. He then contacted some colleagues to fit the broadband cable and left, promising to return later that day to finish the installation.

Three more blokes from Virgin Media then turned up at the flat and - without calling to let me know they were there, or even ringing my doorbell - began trampling over the lawn and ripping up my neighbour's rose bush in search for a broadband cable that didn't exist. Realising their mistake, they then put in a broadband fibre optic cable, connecting it to the Virgin Media box up the road. They then left the other end of the cable dumped on the lawn and then vanished without another word.

The first guy, the guy who had promised to return, did not return and has never been heard from since.

Wondering quite what was happening, the next day I called Virgin Media, and eventually got through to a helpful lady at the call centre called Kim, I think, who was quite rightly appalled by their incompetence. She told me that they wouldn't be able to finish the job until September 2nd. I pointed out that the fibre optic cable they'd left on the lawn would almost certainly be damaged by the rain by then, assuming it hadn't been stolen, and that perhaps their staff should actually finish the job now, as they had said they would when I first notified them; at no point did anyone tell me that the job would take longer than expected until I phoned up Virgin Media to find out why they hadn't finished it.

The helpful lady said she'd get an area manager to call me back later that day with a view to getting the installation fitted at an earlier date. Nobody did call me back.

And now today, I've spent approximately two hours on the phone to Virgin Media trying to chase up this mythical area manager - which has cost me over £40 as I'm using a mobile phone, as Virgin Media didn't install my telephone either.

I started with Laura, who was very helpful, then got put through to Joe, who informed me that all he could do was appraise me of the installation date. I commended him on his excellent installation-date-appraising abilities and then got put through to Anush, who transferred me to a phone queue for a manager which then eventually hung up on me before I was put through.

I should point out this took two hours; at every step of the way, I had to inform the customer service people of the situation,. Each of them informed me that it was impossible for a company of Virgin Media's size and means to be able to finish installing a broadband connection before September 2nd; I might as well be asking for a bottle of unicorn juice. That was the earliest possible date, I was told. Before being put on hold for twenty-odd minutes listening to Your Song by Ellie Goulding and One Week by the Barenaked Ladies until either they hung up on me or I got put through to someone else.

The latest person I spoke to, Siobhan, promised me that an area manager would call me back. I pointed out to her that I'd been given precisely the same promise yesterday and nothing had happened. So far today, I haven't been contacted by an area manager. I'm not holding out much hope.

UPDATE 20 AUGUST: I was never called back.

So there you go. It seems to be standard Virgin Media policy for them to leave a job half-finished, dumping cables on lawns and leaving wall-sockets open, and for their employees to then leave without so much as a word as to when it might be completed. They will not bother to contact their customer but instead, when their customer contacts then, do everything they can short of anything that which might constitute fulfilling their contractual obligations.

I should make it clear that all the call centre people have been as helpful as they could, bearing in mind they had no direct responsibilty nor ability to resolve the situation. I feel it is the company itself which is displaying both incompetence and contempt for its customers.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Stories Of Old

Back at my parents’ house, at the bottom of a cupboard, are four A4-sized exercise books, one red, one blue, one yellow, one green. Back in 1987, when I was 13 years old, I filled those books with ideas for Doctor Who stories. Not in prose, but as Doctor Who Magazine archive-style synopses and scripts, all featuring the then-current line-up of the 7th Doctor and Mel.

I didn’t stop writing Doctor Who stories, but at some point after I’d filled up the exercise books my dad got a word processor, an Amstrad PCW9512 (which had many wonderful features, including letting you close documents without saving them). And it was on this word processor that my writing continued. But alas those stories were saved to discs that have long-since been lost.

So far I haven’t had to resort to looking through the four A4-sized exercise books for ideas; most of the stories are pretty devoid of any originality, and are basically exercises in working out how to structure a plot. One or two are quite fun, though, and may yet see the light of day. Possibly forming the basis of an excellent Big Finish Lost Stories box set.

The titles of the stories should give you a general idea of the subject matter. They consist of the following:

Amusement World
Circling Time
Death On Arbamsta
The Bellatrix Confederation
The Burning Plague
The Burning Thieves
Cathedral Of Mutants
The Clockwork Butler
Conflict On Thuso
The Dawn Of The Black Sun
The Deimos Incident
The Deszidius Conflict
Dive To Trow
The Exterminators
The Flamers Of Time
Fortune's Gatherings
Harvester's Return
The Hibernators
The House Of Fear
Kingdom Of Durarbi
Madradach Landing
The Mind Harvest
New Earth
Nihus Thirty-Six
Out Of Death
The Possessed
The Price Of Rescue
The Relics Of Helmur
Return Of The Madness
Revenge Of The Daleks
The Spartans
Spirits Of The Sand
Voyage To Destruction
World Of Deception
Zooks And Flizzy

Sunday, 7 August 2011

I Read You Like An Open Book

A couple more plugs for things I’ve written, because that is why I am here and why you are reading this fascinating blog.

Thing one is that the audiobook of my Doctor Who novel Touched By An Angel has now been released on download, available directly from AudioGO. I have no idea whether or not it will ever be released on physical CD, so you might as well download it now rather than wait. I was lucky enough to attend part of the recording so I can assure you Clare Corbett’s reading is absolutely excellent. The emotion of the story was all there, heartfelt but beautifully understated. Hearing it, I felt the occasional lump in the throat.

Plus, as an exciting bonus, the audiobook corrects a few typos in the original novel (what do you mean, ‘a few?’) and corrects two very insignificant continuity errors, one which wasn’t my fault regarding the name of a Chinese restaurant, and one which was entirely my fault but which fortunately nobody has noticed so I’m not going to say what it is. I’d have to be a complete idiot even to mention that it was there in the first place.

I would say rush out and buy it, but with downloads you can buy it without so much as having to elevate a buttock from the comfort of your computer chair.

And the second thing I have to plug is the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine, which features the third and final part of the story Apotheosis, with wonderful artwork by Dan McDaid beautifully coloured by James Offredi. But is it really the end of the story? Or is it merely the beginning of something bigger? Well, it’s clearly the latter, as it leads into my spectacular four-part ‘season finale’, The Child Of Time, which begins in Doctor Who Magazine later this month. I’ve seen some of the artwork, by Martin Geraghty, and it would be no exaggeration to describe it as Earth-shatteringly fantastic.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Into The Museum

August is going to be a bit of a quiet month for me, blog-wise, as I’m a bit busy with stuff. Imagine me as Neville Shunte from the Monty Python sketch, but instead of making train noises, humming the Doctor Who theme and wearing a multicoloured scarf. Because that would be an entirely inaccurate mental image.

Anyway, I have a few things to plug. First up is barely a ‘me’ thing at all, more of a recommendation. And what I’m recommending is a visit to the Cartoon Museum to see their exhibition of Doctor Who in comics from 1964-2011. I think it’s about a fiver to get in. I was lucky enough to be invited to the gala opening and was so impressed with what I saw I will be going back again, as a punter, for a proper long look.

Fortunately for me, the exhibition concentrates largely on my favourite form of Doctor Who comics, those published in Doctor Who Weekly, Doctor Who Monthly and latterly Doctor Who Magazine, by Marvel and latterly Panini. There are loads of lovely pieces by the legendary Dave Gibbons and the no less mythical John Ridgway, with most eras of the comic strip covered very thoroughly, all the way up to the present day. Which is where I come in – the Museum has on display the original pencil artwork by Roger Langridge for my Planet Bollywood! comic strip, plus a couple of pages of artwork by Martin Geraghty from the story The Golden Ones. I felt very proud and had my photo taken. It’s a pity there’s not any examples of artwork by Rob Davis or Dan McDaid there, but it seems churlish to quibble when presented with such a surfeit of riches.

It’s very illuminating, seeing the original artwork for things. I’d always assumed most artists worked on A3, with their work being shrunk down to magazine size, but Roger Langridge works on A4, and even pencils in all the shading (where other artists will just draw an outline and write ‘x’ to indicate lots of black.) You can also see how important the inking and colouring process is to a strip; the skill is in bringing out the best of the original artwork, adding more texture but without overwhelming it. David A Roach and James Offredi are the guys who ink & colour the current Doctor Who Magazine comic strip and both do a fabulous job.

It was also fun, at the opening, to actually meet Martin Geraghty, who is currently drawing my next story for Doctor Who Magazine, and who I’m pretty sure I hadn’t met before, or if I had met before, it was at a party where I met so many people I didn’t remember any of them. I like to think this makes us like the legendary collaboration between Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun on Charley’s War, where the writer and the artist never met, but now we’ve blown that comparison by actually meeting.

Speaking of Pat Mills, he’s going to be discussing his work on the Doctor Who comic strips at the Cartoon Museum on the 4th October, along with Scott Gray and, er, me. It will be like that Frost Report ‘class’ sketch but with ‘class’ replaced with ‘talent’. I know my place.

But please, come along. And if you’re in London, definitely visit the Cartoon Museum anyway, it’s well worth it.