Spain 0-2 Chile

World Cup Group B, Estádio do Maracanã, 18/6/14.

This is the way the world (Cup) ends. For Spain at least. Not with a bang – and barely a whimper.

The signs that were there in the Confederations Cup last year that Spain’s time was coming to an end are now manifest. Their defensive frailty in the Holland game was underlined here. How they miss Carles Puyol. I don’t think a defence with a Puyol in his prime would have collapsed in such a way. And the wisdom of selecting Iker Casillas in goal has to be doubted.

With this result we seem to have reverted to situation normal for Spain at World Cups. Implosion.

Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed the facial resemblance between Diego Costa and Fernando Hierro?

Fernando Hierro
Diego Costa

Fort William Art Deco

The town is cut off from Loch Linnhe by a dual carriageway. We walked along it the first evening and saw the Imperial Hotel. Lovely curved area with balcony above. Nice stepping on the roof line.

There are other decoish buildings on the High Street.

Could this once have been a Woolworths?:-

The next one looks flat-roofed. Windows have been altered:-

Mountain Warehouse. Minor Deco at best:-

Fort William (An Garasdean)

Our destination was Fort William (or, as the signposts have it, An Garasdean. No prizes for working out it’s Gaelic for garrison.) The first thing I noticed on entering Fort William proper was the rounded extension to the hotel here.

The Bank of Scotland building on the High Street:-

A shop called Aroma – more likely 60s or 70s than deco:-

Rear extension to Edinburgh Woollen Mill, off High Street:-

The Moon King by Neil Williamson

NewCon Press , 2014, 338 p.

The Moon King cover

Disclosure. I have known the author for a considerable number of years and he has been writing short stories – and getting them published – for all that time. He is one of nature’s good guys with many strings to his bow. (Strictly that should be lots of keys on his piano.) The Moon King is his first novel.

The book is tinged with subtle touches of Scottishness and is a curious beast, a blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy – with equal facility in both aspects. There is a machine at the heart of the plot but what it controls is strange indeed. Creatures made of water stalk its pages but can be neutralised by scooping the water from them. The world in which it is set has discontinuities with our own but is recognisably Earth-like. Its characters are all too human, though.

The city of Glassholm lies on an island. Its ruler and founder, the seemingly immortal Lunane, saved his followers by somehow tethering the Moon in an orbit that holds it above the city. The Moon’s cycles of day and night are reflected in the city’s calendar – the months are divided into wax days and wane days – and influence not only the people’s moods (Full is a day of abandonment and revelry, the heady behaviour it engenders referred to as Fullishness, Dark a time of mayhem and danger) but also the rate at which decay and rot occur.

Anton Dunn wakes up the day after Full and discovers the Palace staff think he is the Lunane. Gradually he discovers that he has indeed become the face of the Lunane, his mind and body taken over as his engineering expertise is needed. For things are beginning to fall apart on Glassholm. Unprecedentedly, a murder has taken place on Full – and the tethered Moon is beginning to stray. Anton is one of three viewpoint characters, the others are Lottie Blake, an aspiring artist whose overbearing mother is the leader of a religion, and Jonathan Mortlock, former cop and now member of the Palace guard.

Glassholm is populated with well-drawn characters. Even the minor ones feel as if they have an existence beyond the page. Lottie’s Aunt Ruby is an especial delight. This aspect fell down slightly when Dunn ventured beyond the city and met with the remnants of the indigenes the Lunane usurped when he took over the island – but that was the section where fantasy intruded most and it may have been my tendency to look on that less generously which made me feel this. The Lunane’s Palace is refreshingly exotic. Though it inevitably has faint echoes of other large fictional buildings it has a distinctive topography.

Williamson has his characters occasionally employ those impeccably Scottish terms of endearment for, respectively, a woman and a younger man, hen and son. Other artfully deployed Scotticisms were muckle, wersh, skite, puss (pronounced as in bus and meaning a person’s face,) skelped, semmet – (though Williamson spells it simmet, the way it is spoken,) close (for the entrance passageway of a tenement block,) wee, “so it does” at the end of a spoken sentence (though that may be an import from Ireland,) loup, clout for cloth and cried for called or named. The fantastical nature of the story means that many readers will be unaware that he has not just invented these words – as he has others; in SF it’s almost obligatory – but, for a Scot, it’s an unusual delight to see them in such a setting.

The Moon King has the touch of an author with a vision, who knows what he is doing and has the ability both to engage the reader and to create believable characters. If the secret locked below the Lunane’s Palace is a shade too fantastical for my tastes, that doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

At the book launch at Eastercon Neil inscribed my copy, “Please enjoy this Lunacy!” I did, and it isn’t.

Strathfillan War Memorial, Crianlarich

This stands at the junction of the A 85 and A 82. As you’re coming along the A 85 from Lochearnhead you can’t see it as it’s hidden by the railway bridge and the trees of the memorial garden. It was only on the way back that we spotted it.

The memorial is dedicated to the men from Strathfillan who gave their lives in the Great War. I couldn’t see any names for WW2. I don’t know if Crianlarich has a WW2 memorial located elsewhere.

Lochearnhead

Just after the A 85 turns right in Lochearnhead you can find this rather decrepit old garage in the thirties style which has hints of deco in the stepped frontage – and flat roof.

The photo below is of Loch Earn from Lochearnhead. Just a glimpse through the trees. The loch is much more visible from the A 85 as you drive along it.

Not Friday On My Mind 20: Never Comes The Day

Tuesday Afternoon was followed as a single by Voices in the Sky (with its flute flourishes and distinctive vocal from Justin Hayward) which, like its follow-up, the hard-driving perennial favourite Ride My See-Saw, featured on the next LP, the even more pretentious concept album, In Search of the Lost Chord. That was the first Moody Blues LP I bought – possibly my first ever and there’s barely a dud on it – with the possible exception of the spoken passages and the final track OM. Its standout is the Ray Thomas song Legend of a Mind embedded within the House of Four Doors sequence with its classical pretensions placing the group’s output firmly in Prog territory.

By this time the Moodies were firmly established as my favourite band.

Then we had this song – later to feature on On The Threshold of a Dream – which I remember in its review of the single the NME referred to as “beautifully constructed.” Here the group plays it live.

The Moody Blues: Never Comes The Day

Lochearnhead War Memorial

We’ve been away again.

There’ll be some Art Deco buildings – or 30s style at least – coming up and, of course, War Memorials.

This is Lochearnhead War Memorial, by the road at the end of Loch Earn where the A 85 turns right to go on to Crianlarich.

A very dignified design, a stone rectangle embossed with a Celtic style cross. There are six names from the Great War, two from World War 2.

Red Deer Close(ish) Encounter

Three photos taken from our back bedroom window.

Again the good lady nicked two of them first.

By the time of the third I’d opened the window and the hind was well aware we were watching her.

Balfarg Henge

One of the strange delights of our new home is that Son of the Rock Acres is within walking distance (a couple of hundred metres or so) of an ancient stone henge. Two stones survive from the original outer circle of Balfarg Henge. The posts show where other stones once stood.

There is a central stone also remaining but that is flat. The modern posts follow the original circle. You can also see the ditch which formed the outer perimeter in the photo below and the fact that the henge is now surrounded by houses.

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