The last half of March was an anxious time. He was due to arrive on Saturday 3 April, but I was going to be in Italy and I’d miss him. We had a wonderful time visiting the Colosseum, the Forum and Castel Sant Angelo. A morning in Ostia was lovely. We went early, before the crowds, and found ourselves sharing the ruins with birds and lizards. Then on to Sorrento by way of Monte Cassino, where we visited the Polish Cemetery. I happened to be reading Richard Holmes on Wellington during the journey. The visit and the book brought back all my loathing of war, of the pomp and ceremony and cool language behind which this most dreadful of human failings is cloaked.
From these saddening thoughts on to Sorrento where as we sat carelessly eating and drinking a procession of cloaked and hooded penitents passed by. To terrible Vesuvius next and a hot walk to the top of the crater, climbing up from the ordure that infests the area around the ticket office: the dog shit and litter, dust and fume-belching cars and coaches, the reeking toilets with no running water. Even more offensive to the senses was the volcanic tat on sale from listing stalls.
On to the tragedy of Pompeii. I wondered about the sort of world that was where people sold food, made clothes, sat in beautiful gardens, while others suffered, the soldiers and slaves, prostitutes and gladiators, beasts and birds. Not much different from our own. Is everything human built on blood?
And often pausing to think: he will have arrived by now. I wonder what he will be like. Will he spoil everything? Will he change it all so much that you will no longer recognise it? Is he too young? What will he wear? Will the wonder abandon you and nothing remain?
I’d recorded it, of course, and as soon as I could after we got home I sat down to watch it. Oh, the fluttering of those final few moments before it started! The introduction…the new credits…the re-arranged music...and there he was. The new Doctor Who. And he was fantastic.
I’ve grown up with Doctor Who and (to quote Charlie Brooker) I bloody love him. I know people who think it’s something that is left behind with childhood. I disagree. Good stories, good characters, wit, humour, and a sense of something greater than we are: why would we want to lose these things? As the Doctor said to Amy when she protested that she had grown up, “I’ll fix that”. And he did.
Read Charlie Brooker on Doctor Who at http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2006/apr/15/tvandradio.theguide