Richie Benaud

He of the clipped delivery has died.

Along with the long gone and lamented John Arlott, Richie Benaud was part of the sound of my childhood – at least when the cricket was on.

Benaud’s commentaries – especially his end of day’s play summaries – were always insightful and his voice was of course a godsend to imitators.

I remember reading once (in the late 60s or early 70s) that Benaud had witnessed – either as a player or commentator – somewhere around 70% of all the Test matches that had ever been played up to that point. Certainly well over half. In those days there were many fewer Test playing nations and the international schedule was lighter but it was still a remarkable feat and went a long way to explaining his deep knowledge of and love for the game of cricket.

The world always seems emptier when a figure who is redolent of a certain sphere of activity, who represents it in your mind – the first thing, the one above all else, I associated with the name Benaud was cricket – passes away. Present day players seem totally insignificant in comparison.

Richard “Richie” Benaud: 6/10/1930 – 10/4/2015. So it goes.

Live It Up 21: He Knows You Know

A bit of Prog devant la lettre I discovered tardily as my first introduction to Marillion was the later Punch and Judy. I soon delved into their back catalogue. This was track two on their first album Script for a Jester’s Tear and had given the band a no 35 hit in the UK in 1983. I like the way the last lines of the verses are different but rhyme with each other (as well as the “poison in your head.”)

Marillion: He Knows You Know

The Clarke Award for 2014

Hot from the BSFA website, here’s the shortlist:-

The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey (Orbit)
The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber (Canongate)
Europe In Autumn – Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
Memory Of Water – Emmi Itäranta (HarperVoyager)
The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August – Claire North (Orbit)
Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel (Picador)

I’ve read four of these! I’m delighted to see both Emmi Itäranta and Emily St John Mandel (who missed out on BSFA Award nominations) on this list.

Dunbar War Memorial

A simple Celtic cross but with a crucifix in the cross’s centre. The memorial is set on Marine Drive overlooking the harbour approaches. I believe it has been moved back from the cliff edges due to erosion.

This close up shows the inscription and some names from both wars.

The cross’s centre on the reverse view has a monogram. The names on the pedestal on this side are all for the Great War.

Neidpath Castle

The castle is just west of Peebles above the banks of the River Tweed. It looks very imposing from the far (south) bank.

This was taken from the north bank:-

An attempt at an arty shot through the branches:-

BSFA Awards for 2014 Announced

The winners were announced yesterday at Eastercon and are:-

Best Novel: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit)

Best Short Fiction: The Honey Trap by Ruth E. J. Booth, La Femme (Newcon Press)

Best Non-Fiction: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and the First World War by Edward James

Best Art: “The Wasp Factory” after Iain Banks by Tessa Farmer

Congratulations to all. Commiserations to all the runners-up.

A Different Top Ten Space Operas

In response to Gareth Powell’s list Ian Sales has posted his own. Typically of Ian his choices are idiosyncratic. I note he sneaks in more than ten too.

My strike rate here is much lower.

Judgment Night, CL Moore (1952)
Empire Star, Samuel R Delany (1966)
Valérian and Laureline, Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières (1967 – present)
The Children of Anthi and Requiem for Anthi, Jay D Blakeney (1985 – 1990)
Master of Paxwax and The Fall of the Families, Phillip Mann (1986 – 1987)
Take Back Plenty, Colin Greenland (1990)
An Exchange of Hostages, Prisoner of Conscience and Hour of Judgement, Susan R Matthews (1997 – 1999)
The Prodigal Sun, The Dying Light and A Dark Imbalance, Sean Williams & Shane Dix (1999 – 2001)
The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds, Scott Westerfeld (2003)
Spirit, or the Princess of Bois Dormant, Gwyneth Jones (2008)

Cowdenbeath 3-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Central Park, 4/4/15

Well this was dire. We started brightly enough but Mark Duggan flicked out at a cross instead of meeting it and could only just get his head to a rebound but was unable to turn it in. We then fell out of it.

Three at the back just didn’t work for us even though Andy Graham did a good impression of an attacking left back for a while.

They scored just before half time when the ball came back up after they had pushed three men up on our back three while we had the ball but lost it and others broke too. When Danny Rogers parried the first effort about three of theirs were on hand to tap in.

The second just after the break was almost a carbon copy. Again Rogers parried the ball but their player was again first to it.

We had lost all cohesion by the third but it has to be said the cross onto Colin Rhyming Slang’s head was a peach.

Given the relative incentives for the two teams this was always likely to be a win for Cowden but I had hoped that our safety might have produced a carefree performance rather than an error strewn one. (Though the pitch didn’t help with the errors: but the pitch was the same for both sides.) Maybe if we had scored first….

Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman

Pushkin Press 2013, 592 p. Translated from the Spanish El viajero del siglo by Nick Caistor and Lorenza García.

 Traveller of the Century cover

Traveller of the Century is the first novel by Argentinian born though long time Spanish resident Andrés Neuman to be translated into English.

Its protagonist, Hans, arrives by coach in the city of Wandernburg, somewhere on the borders of Prussia and Saxony, fully intending not to stay long. The city is strange, though. Apart from the constant changing between which of the two countries it belongs to (the setting is post-Napoleonic, there is a lot of moaning by the characters about the baleful influence of Metternich) its streets and buildings seem to realign themselves every night. So once again I find myself reading about a weird city (The City and the City, Pfitz) or altered borders (Europe in Autumn.) Neuman does not overplay this aspect of his novel however. The shifting topography is mere background, the city as it is. Hans finds himself lingering in Wandernburg (it is a difficult city to shake off) and becomes drawn into the lives of its characters; especially the literary salon held every Friday by Sophie Gottlieb and her father. The best friend he makes in the city is a lowly organ-grinder (who sadly does not have a monkey but rather a dog) living in a cave two miles outside the city. And there is a masked man who is attacking women at night.

Barring one two-line exchange on page 569 the dialogue isn’t marked out from the rest of the text in any way – neither by quotation marks nor by dashes – but rather is embedded within it (characters talking across or interrupting each other is rendered in parentheses, as are any actions of the speaker.) This idiosyncrasy does take some getting used to and, coupled with the lengthy discussions of philosophy, politics, economics, the merits or otherwise of Walter Scott’s novels, poetry etc in the scenes taking place in the salon, is one of the reasons it took me a while to settle to the book. Once in its stride however, the thrust of the story won me over. The love affair which we always know is inevitable between Hans and Sophie – despite her engagement to the wealthy Rudi von Wilderhaus – has a slow build up but gives Neuman ample scope to deal with two of the eternal literary concerns, love and sex. Sophie is a determined woman, opinionated in the salon, standing up to both father and fiancé in the matter of assisting Hans in his works of translation (a great excuse for the two to meet in Hans’s room at the inn,) and, a fact naturally kept concealed from father and fiancé but of course impossible to hide from Hans, sexually experienced to boot, an attribute which Hans rather appreciates.

There is a hint of mystery to Hans beyond his status as a traveller. He has books that look old but bear recent publication dates. It is only one of the many intriguing aspects of the book that his origins remain an enigma to the end.

In the salon we hear of Adam Smith that his “theories are capable of enriching a state and impoverishing its workers,” a fact proved many times over in the past two centuries, also – in a comment emblematic of the author’s referential approach – “These Argentinians are very restless, they are everywhere at the moment. They have a penchant for Europe and seem to speak several languages. They talk incessantly about their own country but never stay there.” Of Hans and his friend Álvaro we are told, “They spoke in a manner two men rarely succeeded in doing – without interrupting or competing with one another.” The novel might have been designed to test the statement that, “There are two types of people. Those who always leave and those who always stay put,” while Hans says to Sophie, “I feel as if time has stopped, but at the same time I’m aware of how fast it is going. Is that what being in love is?”

Not that it’s all serious stuff. We encounter a pair of semi-comical police officers, Lieutenants Gluck and Gluck (father and son,) tasked with finding the attacker. And what are we to make of the names thrown in as if at random of those incidental characters, Rummenigge, Klinsman and Voeller? I doubt it is laziness on Neumann’s part, as if he has only a limited knowledge of German names and merely utilised those he had heard elsewhere. Is it a subtly sardonic allusion, a joke at the expense of any highbrow readers, who will eagerly latch on to the salon discussions but perhaps miss this reference to German former footballers – and strikers at that?

Whatever my misgivings to begin with, Traveller of the Century is a novel not frightened of demanding effort from its readers but worth that effort just the same, one of those works that will stay with me for a long time.

Pleasingly, the translation seemed to be into British English but there were still a few entrants to Pedant’s Corner:- “And, yes, be able” (to be able,) there’s no need be so formal, the only thing he kept up all evening were…. (was,) neither of us like to waste time (likes,) from her there to her navel (from there to her navel,) laid for lay, do you take me for fool (a fool,) medieval, running towards to them, knelt down next to straw pallet.
I looked up Braille and water closet in case of anachronism. The first just about fits; however the second term wasn’t used in English till 1870. But the book is set in Germany and written in Spanish, perhaps the description was in earlier use in those two languages.

Reelin’ In the Years 102: My Brother Jake (RIP Andy Fraser)

A belated recognition of the passing of Andy Fraser, Free’s bassist.

It’s also an almost follow on to the “Jack” songs I posted over a couple of weeks not so long ago.

There’s some good mellotron on this too.

Free: My Brother Jake

Andrew McLan Fraser: 37/1952 – 16/3/2015. So it goes.

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