Pitlochry, Pitlochry Dam, Loch Faskally, River Tummel

The River Tummel is dammed where it passes Pitlochry in the county of Perth and Kinross and the site houses a hydro-electric power station. The dam created the man-made reservoir Loch Faskally and the buildings are in the deco style.

Pitlochry Dam as seen from access road from the town centre:-

Pitlochry Dam

Loch Faskally from Pitlochry Dam (looking north-west):-

Loch Faskally from Pitlochry Dam

River Tummel (looking south-east from Pitlochry Dam.) Pitlochry Festival Theatre visible to the right:-

View South from Pitlochry Dam

Cartouche and window of building at Pitlochry Dam:-

Pitlochry Dam Cartouche

There is a fish ladder up the west side of the dam to allow salmon access up to their spawning grounds. When I was last there you could see the fish directly (if one was in the particular step with the window.) Now it seems to be a closed-circuit TV system. The photo below is of the upper platfrom: the fish ladder is to the right here:-

Pitlochry Dam Upper Pathway

Pitlochry Dam buildings from east side. Part of the fish ladder to the right:-

Pitlochry Dam Buildings

Pitlochry Dam Generator Building from south:-

Pitlochry Dam Generator Building

Pitlochry Dam + Generator Building:-

Pitlochry Dam + Generator Building

Pitlochry Dam Building from South:-

Pitlochry Dam Building from South

Pitlochry Dam window and cartouche from west side of the river bank:-

Pitlochry Dam Window and Cartouche

This Pitlochry shop has an Art Deco roof-line; good “stepping”:-

Pitlochry Art Deco Shop Roof-line

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

Penguin, 2007, 159 p. One of the 100 best Scottish books. Borrowed from a threatened library.

The 39 Steps cover

This is another story which, like Stevenson’s “Jekyll and Hyde” being familiar from film and television, people perhaps think they know.

In it, Richard Hannay begins as a bored ex-patriate in London who perhaps should have been careful what he wished for. His upstairs neighbour, who calls himself Franklin P Scudder, a man who refers to “the Jew” being behind the conspiracy he regales Hannay with, begs for shelter in Hannay’s flat for a few days till he can thwart said conspiracy. But of course Hannay returns to the flat one day to find Scudder dead and so has to flee under suspicion of murder. The majority of the novel then consists in Hannay being chased around southern Scotland in what is now Dumfries and Galloway getting into and out of various scrapes and predicaments which are sometimes evaded too handily, meanwhile solving the puzzle of the thirty-nine steps and disrupting the plans of his adversaries of the Black Stone. It all rattles along at a glorious pace without much pause for thought and incidentally allows descriptions of the landscape he flees through; a common Scottish authorial trait.

Unlike all three film adaptations I have seen – and the most recent TV one – there is not a woman companion in sight. Barring a wifie who provides shelter to Hannay one night there aren’t any women at all. It does, though, have the merit of being able to be read quickly.

I can only think that this creeps into that 100 best list for historical reasons. It has no literary pretensions. Buchan himself, in his preface (addressed to Thomas Arthur Nelson) refers to it as “the type of tale which Americans call the ‘dime novel,’ and which we know as the ‘shocker’”.

Once again the prose shows itself to be of its time: as in John Macnab, there are several unflattering mentions of Jews not in particular but as a type, and a “you’re a white man”, plus also here a Greek is referred to as a dago.

I note, too, a “minutes later” count of six or seven.

Pedant’s corner:- There were several editions at the library (they’re running a Buchan competition.) I chose this one because I liked the 1930s style of its cover. Yet the book was first published in 1915. Moreover the biplane is wrong. The text several times emphasises that Hannay is being chased by a monoplane. Buluwayo (Bulawayo,) Liepsic (context suggested Liepzig,) jiffey (jiffy,) – were these words spelled that way in the 1910s? – rung (rang,) whiskys (whiskies,) Karolides’ (Karolides’s.)

Not Friday On My Mind 37: Wait For Me Mary-Anne

Different spelling of Marianne. Different song.

Scotland’s 60s finest, Marmalade, with their second hit.

Marmalade: Wait For Me Mary-Anne

Alloa at Home

Well this is a surprise.

We haven’t been drawn in the cup against the highest placed league team possible.

(But neither have we drawn a lower league team.)

Instead it’s Alloa at home.

We play them away the next weekend too.

The Fires of Autumn by Irène Némirovsky

Vintage, 2015, 318 p. Translated from the French Les Feux de L-automne by Sandra Smith. First published by Éditions Albin Michel, Paris, 1957. Returned to a threatened library.

 The Fires of Autumn cover

The Fires of Autumn begins in the bosom of the modestly comfortable Brun family, in that pre-First Word War state of well-being that is soon to be shattered. Thérèse Brun marries her doctor cousin Martial but he is killed when a shell hits his first-aid post. Bernard Jacquelain joins up as soon as he can but the war drives any delusions from him. “The world is despicable. Men are stupid, cowardly, vain, ignorant…. I learned lessons in the war that I will never forget.” His attitude to women is coloured by his experiences, “Everyone said (women) had become easy since the war started. But he thought they had always been like that. It was in their nature: man was made to kill and woman to…” His sentence is not finished. After the war he begins an affair with Renée, wife of Raymond Détang, who in turn brings him into the world of commerce and connections. He also sets his eye on Thérèse but she is still of the old pre-war ways of thought, lamenting, “Men don’t chase after women who turn them down. There are too many other women, and they are far too easy.” Still, Bernard gives up the high life and settles down with her to a life of domesticity and three children. But, for him, boredom soon sets in. When ten years later he encounters Renée again they restart the affair and he re-enters Raymond’s world of corruption and greed. When that all eventually falls apart he finds, “Connections were all powerful in times of success, but weakest when it came to failure,” by which time his son, Yves, thinks of his father as “part of an evil set that out of spinelessness, blindness or deliberate treason is causing the downfall of France.” Here, Némirovsky writes that when it comes to failure, human nature puts up insurmountable barriers of hope. The sense of despair has to remove those barriers one by one, and only then can recognise the enemy and be horrified. In this context Bernard’s complicity in the shady deals whose consequence comes back to haunt him is perhaps a little too pat.

Though they are actually incidental to the narrative, The Fires of Autumn is a brilliant evocation of the effects of the Great War on France and the French and of the forming of the seeds of that country’s demise in World War 2. And those fires of autumn? In one of Thérèse’s dreams her grandmother tells her, “The fires of autumn purify the land; they prepare it for new growth. These great fires have not yet burned in your life. But they will.”

Pedant’s corner:- idoform (iodoform, x2,) once there was a Barnard for Bernard, Peach Melba is described as a “layer of smooth, warm chocolate” that “ covers a kind of hard stone of ice,” – that’s not like any Peach Melba I’ve ever seen, there is an opening quotation mark where no piece of dialogue follows, all powerful (all-powerful?)

Neptune’s Staircase

Neptune’s Staircase is a series of canal locks at Banavie near Fort William at the Loch Linnhe end of the Caledonian Canal which raise the canal to a level 20 metres higher.

Bottom Lock:-

Bottom of Neptune's Staircase

Canalside path and second lock:-

Neptune's Staircase 6

Third lock – full and overflowing:-

Neptune's Staircase 7

Top of Neptune’s Staircase:-

Top of Neptune's Staircase

Opposite angle of top of Neptune’s Staircase:-

Neptune's Staircase 4

Second top lock:-

Neptune's Staircase 3

Third top lock:-

Neptune's Staircase 2

The Moons of Pluto

As seen in a composite image from Astronomy Picture of the Day 26/10/15.

Pluto's Moons

Styx and Kerberos are pretty fuzzy and Hydra shows up as an odd shape but Nix is well delineated.

Charon of course has been photographed as a sphere.

Consider the Lilies by Iain Crichton Smith

Phoenix, 2001, 152 p including ii p preface by the author and vi p introduction by Isobel Murray. One of the 100 best Scottish books. Returned to a threatened library.

Consider the Lilies cover

The novel’s focus is on seventy year old, God-fearing widow Mrs Scott (who is only once referred to, by her neighbour Big Betty, as Murdina.) Mrs Scott is one day visited by the Duke of Sutherland’s agent Patrick Sellar and informed she will have to leave her house in a mutually uncomprehending conversation; uncomprehending partly because she speaks Gaelic and he English but also because each has no understanding of the life of the other. The intention is to have the inhabitants move to the coast and take up fishing. And so unfolds a story set in the Highland Clearances which took place mostly in the county of Sutherland in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Mrs Scott feels embedded in her home. “If you took (a potato) out of the earth before its time it would die.” It was where she tholed her mother’s illness till her death, married her husband (before driving him into the army) and brought up her son. “It isn’t easy for a woman to rear a boy. It’s easier when it’s a girl.” She decides to try to alleviate her confusion by first consulting the local elder and then the minister, but both are of no use and indeed seem, the minster in especial, to be in favour of the proposed change. In the meantime Big Betty has heard stories of those already cleared off the land further south finding no houses and no boats at their destinations and having to build their own.

It is only with the family of atheist (and stirrer-up of trouble via newspaper articles) Donald Macleod to whose house she is carried to recuperate after a fall that Mrs Scott finds compassion. He tells her, “To them we’re not people. That’s what we’ve got to understand. They don’t think of us as people,” and Smith articulates Macleod’s feelings as, “His hatred was not simply for those who were bent on destroying the Highlands, not simply for the Patrick Sellars, but for those interior Patrick Sellars with the faces of old Highlanders who evicted emotions and burnt down love.”

Restored to her own home and invited by the Duke’s agents to denounce Macleod, Mrs Scott realises, “There are far more defeats than victories, victories last only a short time and the defeats last for ever.”

In his preface Smith states he has not written a historical novel as he was “not competent to do a historical study of the period” but was interested primarily in the person of his main character. He mentions the problem of language – the displaced crofters would all have spoken Gaelic – and his conclusion that a clear, simple English would best encapsulate her mind. Yet while the Clearances are the ostensible subject of the novel (and probably account for the inclusion of this book in that 100 best list) I agree with Isobel Murray whose introduction argues that the real target is religion. Then again, in the traditional Scottish novel when isn’t it?

Pedant’s corner:- in the introduction “of of” (one of is enough) and a missing full stop. Elsewhere Mrs Scott finds a picture of her parents. The clearances took place in the era before photographs and a portrait would surely have been beyond a crofter’s means. As noted in the introduction there are other anachronisms to do with time scales. In this context I noted a mention of footballers. We also have “with bowl” (with a bowl.)

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

The castle stands broodingly on a promontory above Loch Ness just south of Drumnadrochit.

You can see a cruise boat on the loch in this one:-

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness


Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

From the National Trust of Scotland car park:-

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Smut: two unseemly stories by Alan Bennett

faber and faber Profile, 2012, 201 p. Borrowed from a threatened library.*

 Smut cover

The eponymous main character of The Greening of Mrs Donaldson is a widow who has a job at the local teaching hospital as a fake patient, presenting with symptoms of various ailments to aid the students in diagnosis. The medical tutor, Dr Ballantyne, is a laconic presence but incidental to the tale which involves the embroilment of Mrs Donaldson with a young couple she took in as lodgers to boost her income further. When they fall behind with the rent they come up with an unusual method of recompensing her. This story was reminiscent of one of Bennett’s Talking Heads TV monologues, the one starring Patricia Routledge, though Mrs Donaldson is a much less innocent character.

In The Shielding of Mrs Forbes everyone in the family attempts to prevent Mrs Forbes knowing of her son’s homosexuality. Mrs Forbes herself is very opinionated, “The Jews had holidays that turned up out of the blue and the Catholics had children in much the same way,” and prudish. (She tells her husband, “You’re too old to say ‘tits’,” to which he rather reasonably replies, “What age is that? When is the cut-off point?” only to be then told he lacked the brio for it at any age.) Not to mention snobbish. Her son Graham, she says, “does not work in a bank. He is in banking.” Mr Forbes dreads the thought of Graham leaving home to get married, but he, and Graham’s eventual wife have their own compensations in life. A story where everyone – even Graham’s blackmailer – has secrets, except perhaps for Mrs Forbes.

Apart from Bennet having a tendency to tell rather than show these two unseemly tales are delightfully written. I even laughed out loud a few times – which I’m not in the habit of doing when reading.

Pedant’s corner:- a missing question mark.

free hit counter script