Queensferry Crossing (ii)

These photos were taken in March 2015.

Northern support pillar:-

New Forth Road Bridge 7

Northern cable stay tower:-

New Forth Road Bridge 8

Southern and centre cable stay towers:-

New Forth Road Bridge 9

Southern cable stay tower and support pillars:-

New Forth Road Bridge 10

Dumbarton 2-1 St Mirren

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 23/4/16.

Job done!

I hadn’t looked at the scores till about 5.40, was most pleased to see Livingston down 3-1 and us ahead, then thought would we hold out? I didn’t know at the time we’d had a late kick-off so the wait was even more agonising. It sounds like Garry Fleming’s goal was a belter, though.

But we’re over the line. Scotland’s top part-time team for the fourth season in a row and the longest stay of a part-time club in a ten team second tier extended. Congratulations to manager Stevie Aitken, his staff and the lads. It’s been difficult watching at times but when we win a game at this level it means so much.

The past two seasons have seen our lowest points totals in this league (36 at present vs 34 last season and 51 and 43 for the two seasons prior) but 8th position was always the target and it’s been achieved.

And a season when we beat St Mirren three times and Hibs twice (and counting??) has to be memorable. It’s a shame we couldn’t prise even a single point from this season’s champions though.

I can relax now until the end of July.

Dream London by Tony Ballantyne

Solaris, 2013, 347 p.

 Dream London  cover

London is changing, expanding upwards and outwards, shape-shifting. In this strange new city salamanders munch beetles, the Thames is miles wide, blue monkeys roam the treetops and roofs, and a woman can say, ‘I didn’t used to be a virgin,’ without sounding ridiculous. The inhabitants too are changing, “Dream London did something to the people here. It brutalised the men …. It was softening the women.” On its ever widening two rivers, the Thames and the Roding, sail- and steamboats ply the waters, one of the only means of access. The rail systems are a mix of steam and electric power. As well as drifting into the past technologically this London seems to have the sexual and social politics of the 1950s or earlier, “the women had to hope that some man would look after them” or were “on their knees as whores or cleaners.” In addition “‘Dream London likes its Asians to dress like this’ – ie “ethnically” – ‘and run curry houses,’” and smoking is endemic once more. Not the least of its oddities is an area known as The Spiral where you can look over the edge of a precipice to see a tower growing up from another city to meet it. Like a black hole Dream London is impossible to escape. Journeys to do so twist and turn and lead back to their starting points.

Unfortunately our narrator Captain James Wedderburn is something of an exploitative sexist and minor drug pusher. (Not to mention a bit of a fraud. In his army career he never made it beyond Sergeant.) At several points he is taken to task for exploiting his workers but still remains a relatively unsympathetic character even after he gets the chance to write down his new persona on a parchment on the Contract Floor of the Angel Tower and (SPOILER) doesn’t sell his – or rather his friend’s – soul. Captain Wedderburn by his own estimation is tall and good looking. “He has messy dark hair, a knowing grin and a tendency to talk about himself in the third person.” At first he is torn between two factions wishing to enlist his aid, neither of whom he is particularly keen to serve. These are the mysterious Cartel, which is backed by foreign governments keen to see the end of Dream London and willing to do almost anything to achieve this, and Daddio Clarke and his Maicon Wailers – whose henchmen have eyes in their tongues and count in their number big, burly Quantifiers and a particularly foul-mouthed six year-old girl called Honey Peppers.

In the early chapters Wedderburn is handed a scroll containing his fortune, a scroll whose predictions start to be borne out. “ I lived in a city where the buildings changed every night, where people had eyes in their tongues, where women turned into whores over three weeks. Was a scroll that told my fortune so fantastic?” There is also a nod to prior art with its mention of a slow glass camera – called a shawscope. A picture taken by this means shows London’s parks to be strong areas of indeterminacy.

In Wedderburn’s excursion to the Angel Tower on the Cartel’s behalf we discover that Dream London’s mathematics has no prime numbers. On the Tower’s Counting Floor Wedderburn comes to recognise the order one, red, two, blue, a feeling of setting out on a journey, three, a feeling of fulfilment, yellow, four, five, orange, six, cyan, seven, eight, green, nine, purple, ten, eleven, indigo, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, ochre, fifteen, olive, sixteen, chocolate, seventeen; which sequence also serves as Dream London’s chapter numbers. (Despite this, later we are told there are 98 squares in Snakes and Ladders Square, numbered from 2 to 99.) He later visits the tower’s Writing Room, where the changes are inscribed onto paper. (This bears similarities to the written city in Andrew Crumey’s Pfitz.)

This is an outright fantasy you would think, yet Rudolf Donati whose body has been separated into its component parts but is still alive (it make sense when you read it) says, “‘Dream London isn’t a fantasy, Jim, its science fiction.’” [I think I spot a riff on Star Trek here.] “‘What you see here, Captain, is what you get when science is explained by artists! Something which looks beautiful, but doesn’t make any sense.’” Cynthia, a woman Wedderburn meets on a train, was a member of a team who had been ‘looking for sub-atomic particles, but we were doing it using pen and paper. We wanted to describe things smaller than atoms. Things so small that you can know where they are, or where they’re going, but not both at the same time,’ which is of course a statement of the Uncertainty Principle. Ballantyne has found an elegant way to illustrate this fictionally in his account of Wedderburn’s train journey through London, never quite getting to where he wants to go.

The again all this could be an allegory of how life in the real London in our world has been transformed by oligarchs and financial interests. Wedderburn says, “‘when people talk about choices, it’s usually the people who are in charge who are setting the alternatives,’” and “‘all those people who earn a living off the sweat of someone else’s brow. Dream London bought and sold them all.’” Anna, the daughter of one of Wedderburn’s friends and despite her peripherality the most interesting character in the novel – at least until she fades somewhat towards its end – tells him, “The only thing Dream London fears is that we might ever join together to fight it. It wants us to turn in on ourselves, rather than having us reach out to each other.” Wedderburn’s friendly stalker, Miss Elizabeth Baines – to whom he was revealed in a fortune parchment to be her future husband – says, “‘Dream London wants every man to do nothing. To be weak-willed and selfish. What it doesn’t want is people who do what’s right despite getting paid no notice,’” and another friend Amit, “‘There were always enough people in London to resist its influence, if only they chose to do so.’” Note that “London”, rather than Dream London.

Towards the novel’s climax Wedderburn begins to feel hope when he hears, “The sound of so many people doing the same thing. Of people united to a common cause, and not expressing themselves freely.” This apotheosis of togetherness is a brass band, the culmination of a series of references throughout the book to music and musicians.

Misgivings about Wedderburn’s occupation and attitudes aside Ballantyne writes well and has had an intriguing vision. Though to have your narrator say of his escape from a dilemma, “I’ll skip how I did it though,” (on page 201) – even if he later reveals he did not in fact escape – is something of a hostage to fortune.

Wedderburn’s most serious revelation though is that, “I was nothing more than misdirection, a sideshow … the magician’s assistant drawing the eye whilst the real work took place elsewhere.” With Dream London Ballantyne certainly draws the eye.

Pedant’s corner:- “‘If the Cartel succeed’” (succeeds; but this was in dialogue.) “‘This was a half-hearted threat if ever I heard of one’” (if ever I heard one,) a brace of pheasants (the phrase is usually a brace of pheasant,) wharfs (wharves?) “to ensure that traveller’s return” (context implies travellers, plural,) “seeing her around her before” (around here,) Hieronymous Bosch (Hieronymus.) “There were a number of suits hanging” (there was a number of suits,) Miss Baines’ face (Miss Baines’s,) he didn’t give me chance to speak (a chance,) sat (seated; or sitting,) 839th (previously and subsequently all such ordinal numbers were superscripted, as in 839th,) “and a random selection of numbers were” (a random selection was,) Honey Peppers’ (Honey Peppers’s, several instances,) “as about authentic as” (about as authentic as,) your your, less (fewer; but it was in dialogue,) Moules’ (Moules’s.) “The sign … was written in a particularly curly font. It read ‘ . , .’” (contained no text in curly font; there was nothing on the page but ‘. , .’ A joke about Dream London?) “as soon as saw the place” (as soon as I saw the place,) “Never let it be said the Captain James Wedderburn” (said that Captain…,) lay low (lie low.) A group of drummers were playing (a group was: several instances of a group were,) a large crowd were waiting (a crowd was,) stood in a pool of light (standing,) a missing end quote, out back (is USian: at the back,) “‘It’s every man for themselves in the new world’” (it was dialogue but even so it should be every man for himself; as it was on the next line,) “I could use a man like you” (USian: I could do with,) “‘I stared at building’” (the building,) Baines’ (Baines’s,) much a of a problem (much of a problem,) then the screaming begin (began,) “‘their minds can’t find your way back to their bodies’” (their way back,) I had strode (stridden,) Honey Pepper (Honey Peppers,) the drummer sounded taps (taps is a US military signal, not a British one, and it’s a bugle call, not a drum roll,) “Miss Elizabeth Baines’shouse” (I note the different use of the apostrophe here compared to Baines’ above, and the lack of a space between Baines’s and house,) unphased (unfazed.)

RIP Prince

Another total shock. Another untimely death. Prince was even younger than Victoria Wood.

There was a lot going on in my life around the time he started to make his way in the music business so it wasn’t till the single Purple Rain that I really became conscious of his work.

There were rumours he was very prolific; Wikipedia lists no less than 39 studio albums 17 more of various stamp. There are also rumoured to be hundreds of unreleased tracks hidden away in Paisley Park.

Prince was very protective of his intellectual property so there’s no video in this post.

Hum Raspberry Beret to yourselves.

Prince Rogers Nelson: 7/6/1958 – 21/4/2016. So it goes.

Aberdeen’s Art Deco Heritage 3 (ii): The Beach Ballroom Again

I have mentioned the Beach Ballroom several times, but all of these refer back to my original post.

On the same day Sons played Aberdeen in the Cup quarter-final (over two years ago) I actually got round to taking photos of it myself.

Frontage:-

Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen

Entrance. Good glazing on the doors:-

Entrance to Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen

From entrance looking east:-

Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen

Frontage from east:-

Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen from East

East elevation from south:-

Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, Looking north from east side

North portion (Star Ballroom) from east:-

Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, North end from east

Star Ballroom entrance. Good detailing above door:-

Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, Star Ballroom Entrance

Easst elevation from north:-

Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, looking south down east side

West elevation from (south)west:-

Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, from west

Entrance block from west:-

Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen, South side from West

Victoria Wood

I was totally shocked to hear of the death of Victoria Wood. She always seemed so vital. And now she hasn’t had the chance to grow old.

She was a superb entertainer with lines that struck. Even yet when I walk through the cosmetic department of a high street chain (why are they always at the shop entrance?) I intone to myself – with appropriate nasality – “Hello, and welcome to the wonderful world of Sach…..er..el.”

I can’t say I remember her appearance on the talent show New Faces. The first time I really noticed her ability was in the TV showing of her play Talent, in which she starred along with Julie Walters her long time collaborator and friend, and its sequel Nearly a Happy Ending.

The sketch shows Wood and Walters and Victoria Wood as Seen on TV established her signature style, a coterie of actors (Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie) whom she would work with extensively, and her sublime parody of bad soap opera Acorn Antiques.

Not only was she a play and sketch writer, she could also play the piano, write songs and was a very good serious actress.

But perhaps her greatest achievement was the two series of the sitcom dinnerladies, a wonderful ensemble piece where all the characters got a share of the action – and the good lines.

With the possible exception of Bren’s mother in dinnerladies (so wonderfully played by Walters) she managed to treat all of her characters with compassion. No matter how flawed they might be they were living human beings with inner selves and anguishes.

Once seen and heard who could forget The Ballad of Barry and Freda, commonly known as Let’s Do It. “Bend me over backwards on me hostess trolley.” “Beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly.) Priceless. The week that was first aired it was also featured on the TV round-up show Did You See? hosted by Ludovic Kennedy. At its end Kennedy couldn’t control his laughter.

Victoria Wood: The Ballad of Barry and Freda

Victoria Wood: 19/5/1953 – 20/4/2016. So it goes.

War Graves, Edinburgh

These were both in New Calton Burial Ground, Edinburgh.

M Miller, Royal Scots, 5/8/1916, age 36.

War Grave, Edinburgh

There was an unusaul communal gravestone for seamen of the Merchant Navy Merchant Navy inscribed, “Five Sailors of the 1939-45 War, MV Atheltemplar, 1/3/1941.”

Communal War Gravestone, Edinburgh

On 1/3/1941 the Atheltemplar was attacked by Heinkel 111s off the Aberdeenshire coast. A total of 12 crewmembers died. This stone commemorates the five who were unidentified.

For Interzone 265

 Extinction cover
 City of Blades cover

Extinction by Japanese author Kazuaki Takano has landed on my doormat. This is for review in Interzone; to appear in issue 265, Jul-Aug 2016. Mr Takano is another author new to me.

Attentive readers may have noticed I have not yet blogged about City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett which I read in February. This is because a shortish review will be published in Interzone’s issue 264 (May-Jun 2016) along with the more usual length review of Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie.

Art Deco Interior

I took this photo in a museum, I think in Kirkcaldy Museum.
It’s an example of the linoleum made in the town being adapted to the then new Art Deco style laid out in the entrance to Barry’s linoleum factory.
That receptionist’s desk is cracking too.

Art Deco Interior

Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald

Everness Book III, Jo Fletcher, 2014, 397 p.

 Empress of the Sun cover

The airship Everness has jumped, more or less blind, through a Heisenberg Gate into a parallel world. Unfortunately it seems Everett Singh has made a mistake in his calculations as it is in immediate danger of crashing. “Yellow lights flashed. Horns blared. Balls* rang, klaxons shrieked.” The damage sustained means the airship and its Airish crew will be marooned for a while on a strange two-thirds gravity world peopled with lizard-like creatures. It is only when Everett recognises that the sun is descending straight downwards, not in an arc, that he realises the source of his miscalculation; they have jumped to a discworld, constructed from all the material orbiting its sun. Here the Chicxulub meteor never hit Earth and the dinosaurs have had millions of years to evolve and reconfigure the system. These inhabitants, who call themselves Jiju, are warlike, though, and periodically almost wipe themselves out. They are still knowledgeable and powerful enough to manipulate the sun: it moves through a hole in the middle of the disc, so that it illuminates either side of the world sequentially. Only Everett, in an explicit reference to Terry Pratchett, thinks of it as a discworld. To the Plenitude of Worlds it’s known the Wheelworld, but such are the dangers of the Jiju, contact has been avoided. Till now.

Everness’s crew is instrumental in allowing a Jiju, Kakakakaxa, to win her battle with her sister to be heir to their mother, the Empress of the Sun. In a fateful step Everett feels he has no option but to surrender his Infundibulum, which controls the Heisenberg Gates, to the Empress.

Meanwhile the deliciously vicious Charlotte Villiers is still scheming to procure Everett’s Infundibulum so that she will have dominance over the Plenitude of Worlds and elsewhere the Thryn Sentience-enhanced Everett M Singh from Book II tries to eliminate the traces of the Nahn he has brought to Earth 10 from E1, all the while pretending to be the original Everett, befriending Everett’s friend Ryun and forming an attachment to classmate Noomi. It is only in this third of the Everness series that McDonald begins to address the sexual politics and uncertainties of adolescence that have been latent in his scenario, but it’s done with sensitivity and as ever with YA fiction this does not interrupt the copious action to any great degree. There is too a cautionary note about how easy it is to be misled by superheroes. “… the real problems aren’t like that. You can’t solve them by hitting them. The real supervillains were ….. people in suits who met in rooms and decided things. ” We also get a sly nod to McDonald’s background with the phrase, “‘The Sunlords’ adversity may be the Airish opportunity.’”

What gives the Everness series a unique flavour is the Palari argot the Airish use, a light note amongst all the world-threatening plot happenings. I note both Everett and Everett M come to dislike the extremes they have been forced to by the exigencies of their situation, what those actions have turned them into, what they reveal about themselves, which is a timely metaphor for the journey into adulthood.

In not one, but two codas (which together suggest more books in this sequence may be forthcoming) we are shown what seems to be the source of Charlotte Villiers’s motivations and that Everett’s father Tejendra is alive and well somewhere in the Panoply of Worlds. I had thought the Everness books would end with this third instalment but if there were to be more to look forward to they wouldn’t come amiss.

Pedant’s corner:- * Balls rang (that must have been painful! Context suggests “Bells”,) “you certainly don’t want us enemies” (us as enemies,) wain (a Scots word for child) is usually spelled wean, “she had never struck ball like that before” (struck a ball.) “The two of them haunted the dead-ball line, directly behind Everett M in his net” (strictly speaking the dead-ball line is in front of the net,) “what the crew were running from” (the crew was running.) “They were only machine” (they were only machines,) “Mrs Abrahams the principle” (x 2, principal,) “But for you I would be me dead in the crechewood” (it would be me dead in the crechewood; or I would be dead in the crechewood,) Victorian terrace houses (the designation is usually terraced houses,) “was a endless droop” (an endless droop.) “Have you see anything of this Earth, …” (seen.)
Once again no doubt due to its main intended market there were USianisms:- hoods (as in cars; we say bonnets,) ass (though arse is used at least once,) diskworld.

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