Reelin’ In the Years 94: Have a Whiff on Me

A song with a venerable past and many variations on the title.

Very catchy, but not one of Mungo Jerry’s hits, though. It didn’t get much air time for some reason…..

Mungo Jerry: Have a Whiff on Me

There’s a video here of the band performing Have a Whiff on Me on TV but the picture quality is dreadful.

My Second Jay

While in Surhuisterveen we spotted a house with a viking ship for a weathervane. The house itself has a distinctive style. I like the railings on the balcony.

While manoeuvering to get a better shot of the weathervane than we had originally we saw a jay on the roof. My second jay! It’s perched on the thatch just above the window.

It moved to the edge of the roof and I got this shot.

Here’s a close-up of the weathervane.

What a great thing to have on your roof.

Was by Geoff Ryman

Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, 2005, 456p. First published 1992.

Was cover

As I posted in my review of the same author’s Air (or Have Not Have) I didn’t much take to Ryman’s earlier (short) works. I remember Colin Greenland at an Eastercon pointing this book out and saying, “You’ll have read this.” I shook my head and said I had a blind spot where Ryman was concerned. He seemed taken aback. When I saw this recently in a second–hand bookshop I thought I might give it a whirl.

Following her mother’s death a young girl called Dorothy, along with her dog, goes to live with her Aunty Em in Kansas. Any similarity to a well-known film (and slightly lesser known book) is entirely intended. Was is suffused with references to them. But this is no mere retread. Ryman takes the opportunity to illuminate life in late nineteenth century Kansas and so contrast his realistic approach to the smoothed out film version.

Dorothy Gael’s life in her new home is harsh – and unremitting. She does not get transported by a tornado to a more colourful world. Moreover, there are enough wicked witches in our own to suffice for anyone – and not only witches. Dorothy’s lack of understanding of her new environment only exacerbates her estrangement. The main focus of the book is on Dorothy’s experiences but there are chapters setting out Judy Garland’s life as viewed by herself as a child, by her make-up artist on The Wizard of Oz and by her mother after her success, with quotes at chapter heads from various sources commenting on the making of the film, the book on which it was based or the history of Kansas. Topping and tailing it all is the tale of a 1980s (HIV positive) actor trying to find traces of Dorothy Gael in historical documents.

Ryman’s imagining of Dorothy’s story has her surviving into the 1950s where, as a troublesome inmate of a home, she is befriended by a young man who goes on to a successful career in counselling (and one of whose later clients is the actor.) Dorothy tells him, “People are the only thing that can make you feel lonely,” and that Was is “a place you can step in and out of. It’s always there.”

Yet Fantasy comes to the book late. For the most part the tone is resolutely realistic and until very near the end any intrusion of the strange can be taken as imagination or illusion.

In what is perhaps a touch of overkill Ryman has The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’s author, L Frank Baum, encounter Dorothy while employed as a supply (Ryman uses the term substitute) teacher – but it does precipitate a further deterioration of Dorothy’s young life. After this, “Dorothy needed magic….. She began to have another fantasy… walking backwards through the years… back home… away from Is into the land of Was.”

As a re-examination of, a commentary on, the mythology of Oz, this is a fine work. It’s also a damn good read.

Ryman’s afterword, where he discourses on the relative utilities of realism and fantasy, of the necessary distinction between history and fantasy, is also worth a look.

Pedant’s corner. Apart from the USian in which the whole book was produced, it was page 246 before I came across an irritant – laying instead of lying, which occurred once more. Unusually, I didn’t spot any typos. This may be because the book is a reprint.

Dutch War Memorials

I didn’t expect to see War Memorials in out of the way places in The Netherlands. The country didn’t take part in the Great War but was of course invaded by Germany in 1940. The Dutch were unable to combat the Luftwaffe bombers – the centre of Rotterdam was destroyed – and surrendered to avoid destruction of their other cities. The fighting lasted seven days.

But then there were also the almost constant Allied bombing raids over Germany in the latter part of the war (the run-up to D-Day excepted) which flew over The Netherlands en route and on return.

It seems two such aeroplanes were shot down over or near Opende.

This view shows both memorials:-

The distinctive headstones of Commonwealth war graves can be seen. I assume these were erected after the war.

The inscription on the brick wall reads :-

In Memory of the seven heroes whose plane crashed in Opende, 15 Feb 1944.
The Residents of Opende

This is the other end of the memorial:

The aircraft was a Halifax bomber with seven crew, six of whom were Australian. It was shot down. The details are here.

Links to more information about the crew can be found on this webpage.

The other plaque on the site is for a US B 17, “Sky Queen” which came down on 28 Jul 1943.

More information about this crew is here.

In the nearby town (I would call it a town but by the Dutch definition it’s a village) of Surhuisterveen there is a War Memorial plaque on the other side of the clock tower from this view.

The inscription reads:-

In memory. To our local fallen in the war 1940-45.

Cup Luck

I see we’ve been drawn at home in the Cup.

Is this a reversion back to our usual cup draw luck? Rangers are the highest placed team (currently) we could possibly have got.

Still we beat a Tier 2 side at the same stage last year.

Three Dutch Football Grounds

On our first day in the Netherlands we went for a walk with my brother-in-law, his wife and their dog.

We stopped at a car park in Bakkeveen and I noticed this insignia on the building at the end of the road.

KNVB logo

It is of course the logo of the Netherlands Football Association.

The sign said KNVB Voetbaldegen Bakkeveeen 2010. I couldn’t see inside the ground because the trees/shrubs around it were in full leaf. See here for a Google Maps view with barer trees.

The club seems to play in the Derde Klaas League; Subdivision Sunday North. (Judging by the results listed on this website they don’t appear to be very good.)

Apparently there are two local leagues in the Netherlands, a Saturday one and a Sunday one – and they don’t talk to each other.

On the way up Holland from the ferry we had passed a stylish looking stadium. The good lady snapped it from the car window on the way back down. This is Den Haag’s home ground, the Kyocera Stadion.

On the way to Maarssen I had seen Heerenveen’s floodlights from the motorway. Their ground looked modern and stylish from that distance.

On the Saturday we strolled to the nearest village to where we were staying, Opende, and I spotted this football game going on at the premises of MFC De Veste, the sports club there.

That’s a tidy wee ground.

The Book of Souls by James Oswald

Penguin, 2013, 441 p including a short story, The Final Reel, which is rather abrupt.

The Book of Souls cover

This is the second of Oswald’s Inspector MacLean novels which he first electronically self-published before gaining a book contract at Penguin.

In a disturbing echo of the “Christmas Killer” murders whose perpetrator Inspector Tony McLean was instrumental in catching several years before, a succession of women is being found naked, with their throats cut, staked out under bridges over running water. A local journalist with a new book on the previous killings is suggesting the police got the wrong man, McLean’s superior Inspector Duguid keeps taking officers away from his investigation and McLean himself is forced to endure counselling. In addition to the murders McLean has a series of mysterious fires destroying old industrial premises around Edinburgh on his caseload.

The book is certainly readable if with some workmanlike prose at times – but then I’m not overly familiar with the modern crime novel so this may be what’s expected. I also felt that Oswald over-eggs the pudding a bit with the identity of the last potential murder victim.

As with Oswald’s first McLean book, Natural Causes, there is a tinge of the supernatural to the proceedings. The Liber animorum, the Book of Souls of the title, is said to weigh souls – and take over those found wanting. (My hang-up I know, but as an explanation for human depravity I have always found the supernatural a total cop-out.)

Pedant’s corner:-
One count of “sunk” for “sank”. “Ploiped” appears to be a coinage of Oswald’s but may only be a typo for “plopped.” “A half a dozen” has one “a” too many. “Happy Christmas.” (Where I’m from the greeting is “Merry Christmas.”) A judge bangs a gavel – not in a British court I’m afraid.

Friday on my Mind 103 and Reelin’ In the Years 93: Say You Don’t Mind

Ex-Zombie Colin Blunstone had a few solo hits in the 70s.
This was one of them. Unfortunately the video isn’t synched. (Perhaps he was miming in the first place, but it sounds like a live performance.)

Colin Blunstone: Say You Don’t Mind

The song’s writer Denny Laine (he of the early Moody Blues and of Wings) had recorded it in the 60s.

Denny Laine: Say You Don’t Mind

Maarssen, The Netherlands

Just to show I’ve been in the Netherlands this is a canal:-

The canal runs through the town of Maarssen, which is near Utrecht. The photo was taken from a traffic light bordered bridge over it which every so often opens up (along with warning noises and the necessary red lights) to let boats through.

We had gone to see the good lady’s nephew who lives in Maarssen. This nearby house was built in the 30s. Pity the main windows have been replaced:-

It has lovely stained glass in the gable windows, though.

Some of the modern houses in the street where said nephew lives have been built to mirror the deco styling of the 30s ones. Nice curve here.

Flat roofs, protrusions, porticos, porthole windows.

Good “reflection” here.

The theme is reproduced with variations.

Our nephew’s house is less deco, though.

The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi

Gollancz, 2014, 292 p.

 The Causal Angel cover

The third in Rajaniemi’s Jean Le Flambeur trilogy – see my reviews of The Quantum Thief and The Fractal PrinceThe Causal Angel also features the characters Mieli and Matjek Chen from the previous novels, the latter now as a young boy. Reversing their previous roles, here Jean is attempting to save Mieli, who is in the hands of the transhuman Zoku. The action ranges all over the Solar System – much of which has already been trashed or else is destroyed in the process. Any attempt at plot summary would be wasted.

While The Causal Angel shares a present tense narrative with the earlier books it felt too distancing here and the frequent shifts of viewpoint make the tale less intimate than, in particular, The Quantum Thief. Except in a few cases – most notably the necessity of Planck locks for life as we know it to exist – Rajaniemi still makes absolutely no concessions to the reader with regard to explanation. While quantum entanglement is more or less obvious and the overlapping of branes is easy enough to visualise, the concept of an ekpyrotic cannon does depend a little more on a knowledge of Physics.

Not a read for the faint-hearted or the technophobic.

Pedant’s irritants:-
The text mentions an aurora borealis near Saturn’s south pole, That would be an aurora australis, then; or just an aurora. The spelling of Iapetus warps back and forth to Iapetos.

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