When in St Andrews we don’t usually stray much beyond South Street and the bit of Market Street that has the most shops. Last time but one though we wandered down North Street and I noticed that the cinema, which is adapted from an old building, actually has a Deco style extension in behind it.
Lured by the promise of a book sale we also ventured into the part of Market Street that leads towards the Bus Station and came upon this combination of buildings, something to do with the University now – the Careers Office? – which has a deco style facade. The photo is a stitch of two.
Judging by the pictures on Google Maps it seems to have been refurbished recently.
A wealthy and powerful newspaper owner is murdered in a luxury house in Perthshire. The police have apprehended the four burglars responsible. But one of them has left a package with his lawyer, to be opened if he didn’t make a quick return to her office. And the security consultant Donald Lafferty, friend of journalist Jack Parlabane, dies minutes after uttering an oblique message to the assembled TV crews outside the police station where the suspects are being held. A tale of intrigue and conspiracy follows where skulduggery at the heart of government is revealed and unravelled. While the plot and its resolution is not entirely convincing the book is vastly readable with the occasional joke or reference thrown in to lighten things. I particularly liked, “I’m a man of stealth and haste.”
It is interesting that this was written in the dog days of the 1990s Conservative Government yet reads as well now as it might have done then; as if nothing has changed, which of course, in some respects, it hasn’t.
I have noted before Brookmyre’s usage “borne of” when “born of” makes more sense. He adds here, “up to high doe” (which gave me an image of a deer on a plinth) and “thrusted” as the past tense of thrust.
This was only Brookmyre’s second novel so a few infelicities are to be expected. But he has the increasingly irritating habit here of beginning every new scene in medias res and then flashing back to its beginning. He also feels the need to provide backstory for every new viewpoint character when they take up the narrative thread. While this is a timeworn literary technique it is no more than a form of info dumping.
The Country of the Blind is a Brookmyre. It does what it says on the tin. All well and good. Sometimes that is what hits the spot.
I turned over to the BBC news today and encountered bafflement. Gary Speed dead? Surely not? I’d seen him on Football Focus only yesterday and he looked in fine fettle.
Then it became curiouser and curiouser. It seems he took his own life – which is tragic, not least for his family.
The sense of shock in the football world at this news was admirably illustrated by the one minute’s silence called for at the Swansea City – Aston Villa game today spontaneously evolving into one minute’s applause.
Speed (helped by the emergence of some fine young footballing talent from the Principality) seemed on the verge of converting the Wales national team’s perennial also-rans status into something approaching success.
It would be a fitting memorial to him if Wales were now to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
I discovered today that SF writer Anne McCaffrey has died.
I mentioned her briefly a few months ago in my review of Legends.
I wasn’t over familiar with her work – her only book on my shelves is Dragonquest from the old Corgi Master SF series. I also have her contributions to Roger Elwood‘s uneven Continuum series – in which McCaffrey’s stories were better than most. But hers was a high profile name in SF circles in my youth.
She has been quite prolific, though but most of her woek has passed me by.
Anne Inez McCaffrey: 1/4/1926-21/11/2011. So it goes.
Coggeshall is a village on the road between Braintree and Colchester. We used to pass through it a lot on the bus to Colchester (and back) when we went of a Saturday to the big metropolis from the wilds of Braintree. At least it was on the main A 120 road then; like Braintree it too has been bypassed now.
Coggeshall had a reputation in Braintree as being inhabited by yokels – they told tales of “Coggies” in the same way others would of the Irish (or the Irish do of Kerrymen.) It’s barely three miles away!
We went on there after Silver End to see how much it had changed. Answer: not a lot. Mind you the minor road from Silver End to Coggeshall Hamlet (just south of Coggeshall proper) is the windiest thing I’ve ever driven on – like a sideways roller coaster. The road is called Cut Hedge Lane and skirts the edges of a farmer’s fields and there are no fences – nor hedges come to that – the fields start where the road’s edge is.
Coggeshall is still quaint, with Tudor style wooden framed houses of which this was the example most lopsided in appearance.
It’s not without some modern references, though. Someone had obviously been watching The Two Ronnies.
In Argentina in 1964 two young lovers, Franz Schmidt and Rebecca Czinner, children of German emigrés, decide to marry. When the two sets of parents meet, Becky’s father, Eli, a concentration camp survivor now blind, thinks he recognises something about Franz’s very affable father Rudi. Despite his reservations about all that the state of Israel represents and his past complicity as an economist with the Nazi regime, he contacts Jewish authorities in Vienna and Tel Aviv. The ramifications of this decision and of the continuing effects of the Holocaust both on individuals and on Israel are the backbone of the book.
Franz’s father disappears. His associates in Argentina reveal Franz’s father’s past to him and kidnap Becky and her friend in a bid to prevent Rudi’s transportation to Israel. It is too late, a trial date is set and the girls are set free. The love story here is a twentieth century variation on Romeo and Juliet but any animosity between the two families can barely be described as such.
The bulk of the book is set in Israel to where Franz has gone to support his father and try to understand his past actions. Becky joins him to avoid their relationship falling apart. They fall into the orbit of an Israeli journalist who speaks out against the trial. In a rather unlikely coincidence which stretched credulity, another journalist covering the trial turns out to be the former husband of Becky’s mother and the lover of a boy whom Franz had an affair with at school.
The inevitable outcome results and in a coda the lives of the main characters thereafter are described through the medium of Becky’s English cousin Gareth of whom up to then we had never heard.
The Holocaust is a sensitive subject and while Massie treats it obliquely he is clearly attempting to deal with serious issues. In this respect it is unfortunate that he renders the sentence Arbeit Macht Frei under which Franz’s father was photographed during the war with an “s” at the end of its first word. His control slips at times too. This humdinger of a sentence leapt out at me. The evening was spread out peacefully as they left the hotel, and looked for a taxi. This, with its strategically placed comma, can only mean, “The evening looked for a taxi.”
If I was to sum this up in one phrase it would be, densely written but flawed.
Due to being at the game on Saturday and a family night out the same evening I more or less missed the sad news of the death of Basil D’Oliveira.
It’s not given to many sporstmen to affect materially the social organisation of their native (or any other) country – even inadvertently – but that is what Basil D’Oliviera did.
I remember him as a composed batsman, an elegant stroke maker, but it is his contribution to the unwinding of the apartheid regime in South Africa that will be more commented on. There had been protests against that system before but it was the refusal of the then South African government to countenance his membership of an MCC touring party with the certainty that the “coloured” D’Oliveira would have played in Test matches in the country of his birth – albeit for England – that crystallised for many the iniquity of apartheid and its eventual downfall through various sporting boycotts and isolation. For D’Oliviera seemed the epitome of the cricketing ideal, sportsmanlike and dignified on the field, and his banning by the regime an act of extreme petty spitefulness.
His actual age may have been older than many sources quote as he may have given the impression he was younger than he was in order to be chosen to play for England. His wiki entry quotes a source for this.
Basil Lewis D’Oliveira: 4/10/1931-19/11/2011. So it goes.
On the way out of Silver End we passed another Art Deco house so of course I had to stop to photograph it.
This is Wolverton, also on Boar’s Tye Road.
It’s nice that the plants outside the door reflect the house’s symmetry – even if the climber doesn’t.
The balcony, with its W motif, is a nice touch and the gatepost (see below) is exquisite.
The housing estate I mentioned in my last Art Deco post was built by Francis Henry Critall for the workers at his window factory in the village.
This more stylish house was for one of the factory managers to live in. I presume the other biggish Deco house in Boar’s Tye Road (see my last Art Deco post,) though not quite as elaborate as Wolverton, was also for a manager.