Falkirk 1-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, The Falkirk Stadium, 18/9/21.

Gosh. This is getting to be like the old days when we were good (and beat Falkirk regularly.)

Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be joint top of the table seven games in.

We would have been top on goals scored had we not lost one in the eigth minute of injury time!

Amazingly we are comfortably top scorers in the division. (Mind you, on goals against we would be fourth bottom.)

We’ve also won more times than anyone else.

Long may it continue.

I wasn’t at the game but from the stats Falkirk seemed to have the bulk of the possession. Gratifying we only conceded the once then. Kalvin Orsi and Callum Wilson (his first for the club) got the goals. Maybe Orsi is a striker after all.

War Graves, Wolsingham, Weardale, County Durham

Wolsingham is a small town in Weardale, County Durham.

The local building material looks to have been a lovely stone, similar to Cotsworld stone but a bit darker.

These terraced houses were quite olde-worlde

Old Building, Wolsingham

St Mary’s and St Stephen’s church stood back up a side street off the road through the town:-

A Church in Wolsingham

St Mary's and St Stephen's Church, Wolsingham

There were two war graves in the churchyard.

Leading aircraftman F Langdale, Royal Canadian Air Force, 27/4/1943, aged 24:-

War Grave, Wolsingham, Weardale, County Durham

Private J H Jackson, Royal Army Medical Corps, 13/9/1920, aged 43:-

Wolsingham War Grave

Live It Up 82: Ashes to Ashes

Despite the 1970s being Bowie’s break-through decade (his first No. 1 Space Oddity in 1969 was something of a false dawn and for a time he had looked to be a one-hit wonder) he didn’t have a No. 1 in that decade, having to wait till 1980 for this song to be his second to top the UK charts, helped by a distinctly weird video, which was made to look like it had been filmed on another planet and whose lyric referred back to Space Oddity and gave a fresh angle on that earlier song

For myself I think it was the sound of a mellotron in the mix that made it.

David Bowie: Ashes to Ashes

Hold up the Sky by Cixin Liu

Head of Zeus, 2020, 333 p.

撑起天空, variously translated from Chinese by John Chu, Carmen Yiling Yan, Joel Martinsen, and Adam Lamphier. Reviewed for Interzone 289, Nov-Dec 2020.

 Hold up the Sky cover

In his foreword to this collection Liu says that until recently SF had been foreign to China, peripheral to the sweep of its history but the changes in the country have made the future ever more apparent and pressing, thereby creating more interest in the genre. The question he is most asked is what makes Chinese SF Chinese in nature, but he does not consider his writing to be about anything other than humanity as a whole. Which would be, of course, what makes it widely readable.

Liu’s stories here (spanning publication from 1985 to 2014) usually have echoes of Wells and Stapledon in displaying temporal or cosmological grandeur. He has no lack of ambition in his speculative ideas but sometimes that detracts from the capacity for emotional engagement with them. He has a fondness for portraying big (though not necessarily dumb) objects, but also a tendency (see *) to inelegant nomenclature – which may be a problem of translation of course – and a slight awkwardness with structure. Almost without exception, though, his stories deal with mind-expanding concepts.

Still, the leading one, The Village Teacher, (乡村教师,) appears strangely old-fashioned to Anglophone eyes and the contrast between the tale of the dying title character inculcating Newton’s three laws in his pupils and its intersection with a millenia-old galactic war between the forces of the Federation of Carbon-Based Life* and those of the Silicon-Based Empire* is fairly stark.

To alleviate environmental and population pressures The Time Migration, (时间移民,) is carried out using cryogenics. Stops at 120, 620 and 1,000 years hence proving unsuitable for various reasons, sights are set for 11,000.

In 2018-04-01, (2018年4月1日, – a future date when Liu wrote it) Gene Extension – which actually cuts out the bits that cause ageing rather than inserting anything – is possible but expensive. Our narrator is triggered by an April Fool joke involving digital nations to commit the fraud that will ensure he has the means to benefit.

Fire in the Earth, (地火,) is about the first project to gasify coal underground for use as an oil substitute and the disaster attendant on that endeavour. The story would work without its coda but arguably that’s the only thing that makes it SF.

In Contraction, ( 西洋,) Professor Ding Yi has constructed a unified field theory which predicts the imminent moment when the universe’s expansion will stop and its collapse begin, but only he truly understands the implications. The premise is far from new (Philip K Dick’s Counterclock World springs to mind) but the story ends with a neat, if obvious, typographical way to illustrate it.

Mirror, (镜子,) postulates the invention of the superstring computer – of infinite capacity. This has allowed simulations of evolutions of universes from different Big Bangs to take place, including of course our own. Liu lays out the implications of such knowledge for human relationships.

Despite its subtitle (An alternate history of the sophon,) Ode To Joy, (欢乐颂 ,) does not mention that concept, familiar from Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, at all. Instead a huge ultra-thin mirror appears in Earth’s sky on the day the UN is to be closed for good: a mirror that can turn radiation from nearby novae into music.

Full-Spectrum Barrage Jamming, (全频带阻塞干扰,) is set during a war between a Russia newly returned to Communism and NATO (a war whose cause seems relatively trifling but has to be accepted for story purposes.) NATO’s electronic warfare capability outmatches the Russians who have to resort to the full-spectrum barrage jamming of the title. Depletion of the jamming network leads to a desperate measure in response.

Sea of Dreams, (梦之海,) is almost emblematic of Liu’s style. An ice-ball dubbed the low-temperature artist* arrives on Earth professing interest only in art and proceeds to convert the planet’s oceans into ice-cubes, which it suspends in a ring surrounding the planet (the titular Sea) before leaving humans to deal with their altered world.

Cloud of Poems, (诗云,) has faint echoes of Clarke’s The Nine Billion Names of God in its account of a human telling what is effectively a god that its poetry will never surpass that of the human Li Bai. Its attempt to do so involves programming every possible permutation of the formal rules of Chinese poetry composition and constructing them in a 100 AU diameter model of the Milky Way.

The last story, The Thinker, (思想者,) is the most successful here at integrating the science and speculation behind it with the experiences of its characters and making the reader feel them. A male brain surgeon and a female astronomer meet by chance at an observatory where she is studying the energy fluctuations from stars. Over the years that follow they, almost by accident, make a discovery about interstellar communication.

The following did not appear in the published review.
Pedant’s corner:- “in a pinch” (at a pinch,) “smoking sulfuric acid,” (the technical term is ‘fuming’ sulphuric acid, Liu also describes the smoke as yellow; that sounds more like fuming nitric acid,) “Order of Victories are worth the most” (should be “Orders of Victory are worth the most” but that was in dialogue,) however ‘Order of Suvorovs’ wasn’t, (Orders of Suvorov,) “gunpowder smoke” (gunpowder? From modern munitions?) “lakes of mercury” (on Mercury the planet. Yet the surface temperature is stated to be 1,800 degrees Celsius. The element mercury evaporates at 0C at 1 atmosphere pressure. In a vacuum – or near vacuum such as exists on the planet Mercury’s surface – and specifically mentioned in the text – that would occur at a much lower temperature,) Comanches (is the helicopter’s name spelled differently to the First Nation tribe’s? Commanche,) “1.0 gees” (1.0 gee, or, better, 1.0 G. It would still be ‘gee’ even if its value was greater than 1, since a measurement’s abbreviation subsumes its plural, eg 6 A, or 20 N or 3 m,) “changing from the dark red to orange” (no need for that ‘the’.)

War Memorial, Lanchester, County Durham

Lanchester is a small village in County Durham. We visited there because it features in a Book of British Villages which we have.

Its War Memorial is in the form of a wall on the village green:-

War Memorial, Lanchester, County Durham

Closer view:-

Lanchester War Memorial

There was a Great War 100th anniversary vintage memorial bench nearby:-

War Memorial Bench, Lanchester

War Memorial, Stanley, County Durham

Stanley is a town in County Durham.

I took a wrong turning there and ended up going down a street called Shield Row where I spotted this memorial in front of Shield Row Community House.

Given the uniforms the figures bear (Great War infantry and Royal Flying Corps) and its fresh look this would seem to be a Great War 100th anniversary construction.

A War Memorial in Stanley, County Durham.

Ruin’s Wake by Patrick Edwards

Titan Books, 2019, 413 p.

It is the year of the Quincentennnial of the Hegemony, an authoritarian state set up by The Seeker after a civilisational collapse known as the Ruin, a society where everyone knows the sun (called Ras) orbits the Earth as the true cosmology of the heavens has been lost even the word ‘planet’ has been lost; but some tech is still left over from the old time.

In the wintry wilds of the north Professor Sulara Song is investigating an archaeological site that may contain an artefact from before the Ruin; at a strip mine on a frozen steppe a man called Cale receives bad news about his son, Bowden; in the city, Kelbee, sold by her father to be the wife of a defender of the Hegemony known to the reader only as the Major (but after a promotion as the Lance-Colonel,) is little but a drudge and sex-slave, allowed outside the house only to work at the lowest grade in a garment factory.

Song’s experiences are given us in the form of journal she writes – and hers is a voice that is wry and compelling – Cale’s and Kelbee’s stories are told in the third person and their personalities therefore come across less sharply. All are actual or potential foes of the Hegemony; Song since the artefact threatens to undermine its foundation myth, Cale as a former comrade of the revolutionary known as Brennev, Kelbee through her growing connection with Nebn who befriends her one day when he comes to the factory to repair a piece of equipment.

The revelation of the underground artefact’s capabilities reads, though, like an interpolation from a different book. (Then again, after regression followed by five hundred years of stagnation any sufficiently advanced technology would seem like magic.) Even knowledge of its facilities represents a threat to the Hegemony’s belief systems and therefore its control of the populace. For unlike the citizens of the Hegemony, kept separate, individualised yet subject to group orthodoxy (as is the ideal for all dictatorships,) “Our ancestors had tinkered with themselves, with the brain itself, back before the Ruin. Every new-born child inherited its parents’ ability to connect with the data corpus, not limited by proximity.”

Perhaps because it was his first novel Edwards is not quite as in control of his prose as he is in his second book, the excellent Echo Cycle, which I reviewed for Interzone, nor is his focus as tight. There is a sense here – especially in the hierarchy of the Hegemony (its head Fulvia arc Borunmer, though the first woman in that post “since… well, ever” is a typical vengeful dictator,) even the existence of the ‘Free City,’ Aspedair, supposedly the only entity on the planet that is not under the Hegemony’s sway, is not an entirely original concept – that he is feeling his way into writing, exploring other people’s scenarios than his own, conforming to a template, that he has not yet found his own voice.

Ruin’s Wake is still very readable though, and Edwards’s portrayal of human relationships and interactions is convincing.

Pedant’s corner:- Time interval later/within time interval count: 17. Otherwise; maw (it’s not a mouth,) sprung (sprang,) “the situation appeared to be diffused” (the situation was not spread out, it was resolved; defused,) “the thick pile of blankets that served as a bed” (earlier on there had been a mattress in the room,) “the light coming under the jamb” (this use of ‘jamb’ appears twice; a door’s jamb is at its side, not its bottom-most part,) snuck under the door jambs (sneaked, and see previous comment,) “the volume of the whole chamber 1,985 metres cubed and the surface area 947 metres squared” (1,985 cubic metres and the surface area 947 square metres. I didn’t bother checking the figures,) “Syn grabbed length of rope” (a length of rope,) sat (x2, sitting,) “the music swelled to a crescendo” (no it didn’t; it swelled [crescendoed] to a climax.) “Which was the truth she wondered” (is a question, so needs a question mark.) “Where would those boys would be now” (remove the second ‘would’,) dove (dived,) “a deep sob wracked her body” (racked.) “None of the people … were armed” (none … was armed,) “darkened by oxidisation” (the verb is ‘oxidise’ the noun is ‘oxidation’,) “it fit snug” (it fitted snugly,) “What struck her most were the looks on the aces” (what struck her most was …..) “He was stood in the wrong place” (standing in the wrong place.) “None of the guns were trained on him” (None … was.) “He was stood in front of her” (standing.)

Chester-le-Street War Memorial

Curiously this War Memorial was only dedicated in 2015. It certainly has the look of one only recently constructed. It is situated in the town’s Market Place set off from it by replica artillery shells. Information about the town’s original War memorial is on this webpage.

This side has representations of a World War 2 soldier and sailor plus two Royal Navy ships and a Spitfire.

War Memorial, Chester-le-Street

Closer view:-

Names and Dedication, Chester-le-Street War Memorial

Names and dedication:-

Names, Chester-le-Street War Memorial

The reverse view is emblazoned with a Lancaster bomber and poppies replacing the Spitfire:-

Chester-le-Street War Memorial Reverse 1

Detail. One Great War name, one World War 2 name, 2 post 1945 names:-

Detail. War Memorial, Chester-le-Street,

Dumbarton 5-0 East Fife

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 11/9/21.


What a contrast to the last few seasons.

This was our biggest league win for ten years. (Curiously that one was also against East Fife, 6-0 at their place in our last promotion season.)

Mind you there wasn’t much sign of it in the early stages where both teams didn’t threaten much. But then we got a free-kick which was flighted in by Connor Duthie and headed towards goal by Ryan McGeever. It looked to be going wide but ex-Son Scott Gallacher in the Fife goal palmed it out straight to Ross MacLean who gleefully stuck it away.

For a spell towards the end of the half East Fife had a lot of possession but their best – their only – chance came from a free-kick. Sam Ramsbottam looked beaten but the ball crashed off the bar and out.

Just before half-time a Callum Wilson corner saw Gregor Buchanan get a free header yards out. 2-0.

Things meandered round for a bit second half but we put the game to bed when another Callum Wilson delivery was met by Buchanan again despite the attentions of the defence.

Two more goals from set-pieces gave the result a welcome gloss, Ryan McGeever was left all alone in the box to put away Kalvin Orsi’s knock-back from a long corner before Eoghan Stokes headed in from a beautiful delivery from fellow sub Joe McKee following a short corner to him.

If you can be churlish about a five-nil victory here comes the churl. We didn’t score from open play. Indeed we didn’t create a chance from open play except for Ross MacLean’s dribble and shot from a narrow angle which hit the post.

That’s curmudgeonly though. It was such a delight to watch a Sons second half performance with absolutely no trepidation.

They won’t all be like this though.

Falkirk away next week. I never thought we’d be heading there next Saturday above them in the table. (Even if it is only on goal difference.)

Art Deco in Chester-le-Street, County Durham (iii) Former Woolworths Plus

Very Art Deco former Woolworths, Chester-le-Street. Now a B&M bargains:-

Art Deco Former Woolworths, Chester-le-Street

Also in Chester-le-Street this shop, now an M & Co:-

Art Deco Building, Chester-le-Street

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