Modern Deco Styling

These are flats on the corner of Steel Street and Saltmarket, Glasgow. There is some deco influence here:-

The Tower of Empire by Night

Another colourised postcard of Thomas Tait’s Tower of Empire by night, at the Empire Exhibition, Scotland, 1938. (See a previous one here.) This shows off well the illumination of the upper canopies plus has the Moon in the background.

For Interzone 258

 Beta Life cover
 Impulse cover

My review of Beta-Life for Interzone 257 was sent off at the end of January. The issue should be out soonish.

Now arrived for review for Interzone 258 is Impulse by Dave Bara. Book one of “The Lightship Chronicles” apparently. Mr Bara is new to me. There’s an Ancillary Justice/Sword feel to that cover – which is a fair amount to live up to.

Hibernian 3-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Easter Road, 21/2/15.

Painful. That’s the word I would have used at half-time to describe our performance. Nothing that happened in the second half changed it.

We looked utterly toothless. Our set-up was strange (what’s new this season?) – the absence of Darren Petrie from midfield, as last week, was baffling considering his debut at Falkirk. Also not starting was new loanee Chris Duggan.

Hibs dominated throughout. While the two first-half goals came from poor defending and the third was a deflection we also had Danny Rogers to thank for good goalkeeping and that Hibs clearly relaxed and didn’t force things once the game was won.

The substitutions were odd too. Fair enough Dylan Easton being replaced by Chris Turner but why take off Mark Gilhaney rather than Archie Campbell? Gils could have taken up his usual position on the right where he is generally effective. And perhaps they ought to have been made at half-time rather than after Hibs had scored again. And Darren Petrie for Scott Linton with nine minutes to go?

It is painfully obvious that Chris Turner isn’t half the player he was in his first two half-seasons. Since his injury he’s lost pace (and that was never his strong suit) and his confidence looks shot.

This was 3-0 going on a total doing.

Before the game, considering we had lost our last two home games to Livi and Cowden, I was looking at the fixture list and wondering where the points are going to come from. After it I’m deeper in gloom than ever.

The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark

Penguin, 2008? (a later reprint of the 1966 edition,) 143 p.

The Girls of Slender Means cover

This is the tale of the young ladies of the title, residents at the May of Teck Club, opposite Kensington Gardens, in the summer of 1945, taking in both VE and VJ days; or to be more accurate, it is the tale of Nicholas Farringdon, “anarchist” and writer, who is introduced to the club by the secretary of the publisher he is trying to get to buy his book The Sabbath Notebooks and who forms an attachment to another resident, Selina. The story is framed by the news of Farringdon’s death as a missionary in Haiti and perhaps explains why he tended up taking that path. 1945 is described in the first and last sentences as long ago, yet was only 18 years before the book’s first publication date. Still, the intervening 18 years might have seemed like a lifetime in those less eventful post-war days.

The book feels a slight work. It is barely more than a novella and while it has a tragedy at its core (not a spoiler as Spark herself tells us so early on) there is not really much more to it.

For such a lauded writer I find Spark curiously unsatisfying. She tends to tell us about her characters rather than reveal them and has a propensity to overuse the repetition of phrases. While emphasis on Joanna’s recitation of The Wreck of the Deutschland is warranted by the plot other such instances are not. And I hate the spelling “connexion”.

Reelin’ In the Years 99: Arthur of the Britons

Arthur of the Britons, starring Oliver Tobias, was an agreeably gritty early 1970s TV series made by the Welsh ITV company Harlech and broadcast in the children’s “hour.” The theme was written by prolific film composer Elmer Bernstein. I always thought it had similarities to the theme of my mother’s favourite soap Emmerdale Farm (which only became Emmerdale in 1989.)

Arthur of the Britons theme tune

The Chalice of Death by Robert Silverberg

In “The Chalice of Death,” Planet Stories, 2012, 91 p. First published as Lest We Forget Thee, Earth, 1958, as by Calvin M Knox.

Lest We Forget Thee Earth cover
 The Chalice of Death cover

This book is (dis)graced by one of the most execrable covers (right) it is possible to imagine. I felt ashamed buying it. Still, I suppose it reflects the times in which the story was first published – though the original Ace Double cover (left) is more restrained. Silverberg is of course one of my SF immortals and the book contains two other early works of his which I shall get round to later. Not that his early stuff is necessarily of great quality; he fairly churned it out. It was only when he came back to the field in the late 1960s that his genius shone through. It is to him, specifically his The Man in the Maze, that my continuing reading of SF beyond that date is due.

In The Chalice of Death, Earth, once the centre of a great galactic empire, has been lost in the mists of time but nevertheless Earthmen act as advisors to the rulers on many of the planets. Hallam Navarre acts as one such to Joroiran VII on the planet Jorus. His rival advisor, the Lyrellan Kausirn, takes advantage of a minor slip to lever Navarre away from influence. As a result Navarre is sent by Joroirdan to locate the eponymous chalice, in the hope it will grant eternal life to the ruler. Since it doesn’t exist that represents a problem. Navarre and his companions, one a half-breed Earthman, the other, Helna Wistin a (female) advisor to the ruler of Kariad, nevertheless find Earth within a chapter or so and a vault there where survivors from the time of supremacy have been kept in suspended animation over the millenia. They hatch a plot to revive Earth’s fortunes and the remainder of the story follows that process.

On even the most cursory examination most of this falls apart. Since we only meet two actual full blood Earthmen (which is the generic term adopted throughout) it is difficult to see how the race has managed to propagate itself over the years – still less for individuals to accede to their positions as advisors. The slightly unsavoury assumption that Earthmen (it’s got me at it now) are intrinsically better than the universe’s other inhabitants was also unexceptional back in the 1950s. And it was amusing to find Navarre using a slide rule for a calculation. But none of this is the point. This is pulp adventure stuff and can only be read as such. No pretentions to characterisation need apply; nor any consideration of literary merit. I read it as a would-be Silverberg completist, without high expectation. I wasn’t disappointed. Nothing could dim my memories of Silverberg’s glory period.

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 13: Union Street

Art Deco style shop in Union Street, Glasgow:-

Detailing round the windows:-

The roofline has good touches:-

On the corner of Union and Argyle Streets lay the location of the famous meeting place known as “Boots’ corner” but Boots is long gone and this Union Street facade has now had “Mackintosh” embellishments added. Mockintosh, if you like:-

The detailing has typical Mackintosh square elements with sinuous biologically inspired lines:-

As do the window surrounds with the addition of also typical elongated rectangles:-

The elongated rectangles and sinuous lines are prominent in the bay window too:-

I can’t remember exactly which street this was in but it’s a fine building too, with hints of deco:-

The Guinea Stamp by Annie S Swan

Bibliobazaar, 2008, 298 p.

 The Guinea Stamp cover

Anyone with even a passing interest in Scottish literature knows the source of this book’s title, a title which jumped out at me from the shelves of a local library. And there the quote lay at the bottom of the title page, the affirmation that position in society is no indicator of moral probity.

The rank is but the guinea stamp,
The man’s the gowd for a that.

When George Fordyce, here, in conversation with his mother, refers to this quote as “that Burns rot” it adds confirmation to what we already knew, that he is the villain of the piece.

Mind you, that title page also has a subtitle A Tale of Modern Glasgow. Given that the novel was first published in 1892 and is set in the 1880s it hardly applies now.

The centre of the book is Gladys Graham, newly orphaned daughter of impecunious painter John, taken in by her skinflint uncle Abel, and transported from her Lincolnshire home to live in his dingy warehouse in Glasgow where she meets his assistant, the steady Walter Hepburn. She slowly softens Abel’s heart and on his death he bequeaths her both a large country house – the ancestral seat of the Grahams – near Mauchline in Ayrshire, plus a fortune to go with it.

It is almost impossible to read this sort of stuff without imagining parallels with Dickens. Not that we see any of him, but what we are told of Gladys’s father says he was Micawberish, her uncle is plainly Scrooge and Walter a mixture of Pip and Oliver with a bit of Bob Cratchit thrown in.

Gladys’s inheritance of course inserts obstacles to her destiny. Her new status certainly does not allow her to remain living in the warehouse with Walter. This throws her into the orbit of society types. It is here that she meets George Fordyce, to whom her indifference presents a challenge to be overcome. Any thought of contact with Walter and especially his wayward sister Liz is to be abhorred. But Gladys’s early poverty has imbued her with a keen sense of herself and of her purpose. She resolves to help the less well off.

When accused by Abel of impudence Liz replies, “Some folk ca’s the truth impidence, because they’re no accustomed to it.” Liz later disappears and Walter fears the worst, “The innocent must suffer for and with the guilty always. There is no escape,” he says and as Gladys’s chaperone, Miss Peck, tells her, “Women are the burden-bearers and the scapegoats always.”

The prose is of its time, but even then it may have appeared overwritten, now it seems dreadfully so. There is a high degree of telling rather than showing and Swan adopts the technique, not so much of foreshadowing, as of outright telling us what is to pass later. There is, too, a touch of melodrama to the proceedings and that title, whatever the twists and turns along the way, always has us in its tram-lines.

Pedant’s corner:-
There are some antique spellings such as waggon and chaperon plus we had, “in which the Fordyce household were concerned.” A household is singular. Gladys’s first intended chaperone, Madame Bonnemain, is said to be from Shandon on the Gairloch. That would be the Gare Loch. Gairloch is a completely different place.

Colonial Pavilions at the Empire Exhibition 1938

Here are two more of my collection of postcards of the Empire Exhibition, Scotland 1938.

The first shows three of the Colonial Pavilions, part of the South African building on left – one of the few “traditional” structures present (rather than the deco/moderne that dominated the Exhibition) – then New Zealand and finally Canada. As ever Thomas Tait’s Tower of Empire is in the background.

This next one is captioned wrongly. It shows the South African and New Zealand Pavilions and not Australia.

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