Falkirk 0-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Falkirk Football Stadium, 24/2/18.

Well it wasn’t a defeat, but it wasn’t a win and realistically, while for them it was a mustn’t lose, for us it was a must win.

And it could have been a lot worse. They hit the woodwork four times.

I’ve been resigned to the playoffs for weeks now. We’re not going to make up nine points, not to mention sixteen goals, in the twelve remaining games.

What’s really killed us though is that Brechin haven’t been taking points off the teams above us. The tenth placed side in our previous seasons in this division all managed that sometimes. Without that it’s a hard grind for a team like us.

Given the almost inevitability of us finishing ninth I’d have liked to see us play with a bit more ambition. When we did get forward in the last ten minutes or so we looked like we could have troubled them at the back. Still, I have to admire they way we defended. We might have ridden our luck a little but it was dogged.

Loanee Liam Burt certainly made a difference when he came on – as he did in Oswestry – and we looked sharper with Mark Stewart up front or in wide midfield. Sam Wardrop at right back also makes an enormous contribution. We badly missed him when he was out through injury.

Froxy didn’t make it on. I suppose Stevie Aitken thought that in a tight game his lack of defensive ability could have hurt us. I know he won the semi-final for us but he had a very poor clearance thereafter which almost gave them an equaliser. In a sense he’s a luxury player for us.

I still hope we have a more positive attitude on Tuesday night against Inverness though.

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Orbit, 2017, 443 p

 Provenance cover

This novel is set in the same universe as Leckie’s highly successful “Ancillary” books but this one is in a far-off corner well away from the Imperial Radch fiefdoms though a Radch ambassador makes an appearance at one point.

In an attempt to impress her foster mother Netano, and so improve her own chances of succession rather than have that bestowed on her foster brother Danach, Ingray Aughskold has travelled at great expense to the planet of Tyr Siilas to try to extract Pahlad Budrakim from a state of imprisonment known as Compassionate Removal. Budrakim is the son of the Prolocutor, an elected official on Ingray’s home of Hwae. Netano is a former Prolocutor who will be seeking re-election soon.

Pahlad is delivered to her in a suspension pod but Tic Uisine, the captain of the ship Ingray has paid to travel home in, is unwilling to carry any passenger without that person’s express approval. When the pod is opened its occupant denies being Pahlad but after some toing and froing agrees to go on the ship.

On arrival at Hwae they become embroiled in a diplomatic contretemps with the ambassador of the Geck – a race in contact with the mysterious Presger who are an incipient menace to humans. Though he has all the necessary papers the Geck believe that Tic Uisine has stolen his ship from them (more than one in fact) and want him for restitution.

Meanwhile the Omkem, from the next interstellar gate to Hwae, are manoeuvring to gain access to Byeit, the system one on from Hwae with whom Omkem used to have gate access before a revolution on Byeit broke the link.

Hwae society has an exaggerated respect for vestiges, each household seems to have its own repository of such things, called a lareum. Hwae’s most venerated object is a copy of its original independence document kept in the system Lareum. (I liked the use of this word, with its echoes of a Latin term for Roman household gods, for a vestige repository.) However it turns out that “copy” may be the precise word. Provenance you see. Though does that actually matter if everyone agrees that what the document represents is all that counts?

A bunch of Omkem soldiers invades the Hwae Lareum, taking schoolchildren hostages in the process, and Ingray offers herself instead. There is also some byplay about the disturbance of a possible vestige site and the death of an Omkem ambassador.

Leckie throws personal pronouns about with abandon. Unlike in the Ancillary books she does not use she exclusively. Ingray is a she, Danach a he, but others are designated e. This indeterminate pronoun necessitates the use of em and eir as possessives, plus emself and eirself. From a British perspective a phrase such as, “she told em,” reads a little awkwardly at first as plural.

Leckie also makes much of Ingray’s full skirts and her uselessness with hairpins. The text is also riddled with information dumping – a lot of which is unnecessary, Leckie telling us about her universe because she can’t resist doing so. There is far too much of Ingray’s inner monologue and a degree of prurience about sexual relationships straying very close to, if not over the border of, Becky Chambers territory. Yes, the narrative has a chatty style but at times it seemed as if Leckie might be being rewarded for a high word count as whatever strengths she may have, economy isn’t one of them. See Pedant’s corner for an example.

Provenance is on the BSFA Award short list this year for best novel. I’ve not read any of the others yet but I think it’s safe to say it won’t be my number one.

Pedant’s corner:- Sat (sitting.) “‘They are disquieting, aren’t they.’” (is missing a question mark,) “since she’d waked” (woken.) “One small child turned their head to look at Ingray. Sniffled. Opened their mouth.” (what’s wrong with “one small child turned its head? Opened its mouth?) “‘Does she.’” (Again, missing the question mark,) “and besides, both Dicat and Chenns very probably knew what they were doing. She would only be in the way, and, besides, she’d caused this, it was her fault that Nicale was hurt” (like so much else in the book this needs a damned good editing; get rid of at least one of the “besides”, and either the “she’d caused this” or the “it was her fault” as they both tell us the same thing.)

Something Changed 4: Hello

A song packed full of cultural references from around 1990.

I especially liked the line, “Leslie Crowther, Come On Down.”

The Beloved: Hello

BSFA Awards for 2017

The shortlists for the BSFA Awards for last year went live while I was traipsing about down south.

They are:-

Best Novel

Nina Allan – The Rift (Titan Books)

Anne Charnock – Dreams Before the Start of Time (47North)

Mohsin Hamid – Exit West (Hamish Hamilton)

Ann Leckie – Provenance (Orbit)

I have read the Leckie (and will post a review on Saturday.) Two others are in hand.

Best Shorter Fiction

Anne Charnock – The Enclave (NewCon Press)

Elaine Cuyegkeng – These Constellations Will Be Yours (Strange Horizons)

Greg Egan – Uncanny Valley (Tor.com)

Geoff Nelder – Angular Size (in ‘SFerics 2017’ edited by Roz Clarke and Rosie Oliver, Createspace Independent Publishing Platform)

Tade Thompson – The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Tor.com)

I’ve read none of these so far.

Best Non-Fiction

Paul Kincaid – Iain M. Banks (University of Illinois Press)

Juliet E McKenna – The Myth of Meritocracy and the Reality of the Leaky Pipe and Other Obstacles in Science Fiction & Fantasy (in ‘Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction’ edited by Francesca T Barbini, Luna Press)

Adam Roberts – Wells at the World’s End 2017 blog posts (Wells at the World’s End blog)

Shadow Clarke Award jurors – The 2017 Shadow Clarke Award blog (The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy). The 2017 Shadow Clarke jurors are: Nina Allan, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Victoria Hoyle, Vajra Chandrasekera, Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Jonathan McCalmont, Megan AM.

Vandana Singh – The Unthinkability of Climate Change: Thoughts on Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement (Strange Horizons)

Best Artwork

Geneva Benton – Sundown Towns (cover for Fiyah Magazine #3)

Jim Burns – Cover for ‘The Ion Raider’ by Ian Whates (NewCon Press)

Galen Dara – Illustration for ‘These Constellations Will Be Yours’ by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Strange Horizons)

Chris Moore – Cover for ‘The Memoirist’ by Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)

Victo Ngai – Illustration for ‘Waiting on a Bright Moon’ by JY Yang (Tor.com)

Marcin Wolski – Cover for ‘2084’ edited by George Sandison (Unsung Stories)

Dumbarton 0-1 Morton

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 20/2/18

Unfortunately the euphoria didn’t last long. Down to Earth with a bump.

It was always going to be hard playing a league match so soon after Saturday’s exertions.

And we’ve got a glut of fixtures to cope with. Two games a week for the immediate future.

I hope everybody gets back fit sharpish.

The New Saints 1-2 Dumbarton

Scottish Challenge Cup*, Semi-final, Park Hall Stadium, 17/2/18

I was at Oswestry!

This is a boast that may be overtaken in a month or so’s time. Or not as the case may be.

Whatever, I was there when the mighty Sons played their first national cup semi-final in 44 years and reached their first national final for 106 years. It’s historic stuff.

Mind you I couldn’t see us achieving that heady goal at any time during the first half. We started poorly and allowed them to play from the outset. They were neat and tidy, passed the ball well, hit the bar with their first attack and continued to look threatening without managing to test Scott Gallacher in goal. I don’t know what the first half possession stats were but we didn’t have much of it that’s for sure. We barely crossed the halfway line and when we did failed to muster any sort of threat on their goal.

I thought it was all over when they scored early on in the second half. Their winger got past stop-gap left back David Smith (a midfielder turned into a makeshift right-back last season) and put in a low cross which from where I was sitting Scottt Gallacher seemed to spill and it fell to the scorer.

The game changed after around the hour mark when Calum Gallagher and Iain Russell were replaced by Mark Stewart and Liam Burt and we started to play.

Still the equaliser was a surprise as we had looked toothless even when we got the ball in their area. It was beautifully worked though with Kyle Hutton winning the ball in midfield before strolling forward and feeding Danny Handling who made space for himself and fairly thumped it past the keeper.

In a hairy moment Scott Gallacher made a one-handed stop for a header after a corner just before the ref whistled for an infringement.

Then. Froxy.

He replaced scorer Danny Handling and slotted into right midfield. I’d watched him at the half-time kick-about and he didn’t look fit to me, but sometimes he doesn’t have to be fit.

It was a free kick given for a foul against Christian Nade (his legs have gone; I don’t know how he lasted the full 94 minutes) – the first he’d got all game despite their centre half being all over him at times. I thought it was too central but Froxy is Froxy, that left foot is something else. Bang. Top left corner. Cue delirium.

It felt like very late on but there were still about ten minutes to get through before the final whistle and I nearly had heart failure when Scott Gallacher had to juggle a shot that must have swerved in the air.

Considering that due to injuries we also had to play a centre half at right back and our midfield wasn’t at its strongest this was an amazing result.

We had only two shots on target in the whole game but they both hit the back of the net. That’s football.

Here’s a video of the scenes after the final whistle. Click on the picture to get to video:-

Sons' Victory Celebrations At Park Hall Stadium Oswestry

*Irn Bru Cup

Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald

Gollancz, 2017, 390 p, including i p derivation of Wolf Moon, i p map of the Moon’s nearside, iii p Glossary, iv p Dramatis Personae and ii p Lunar Calendar.

 Luna: Wolf Moon cover

Not long into this second of McDonald’s “Luna” sequence of novels, the rolling city of Crucible, surmounted by solar mirrors focusing the sun’s rays into the enormous smelter for which it is named and beneath which its inhabitants live, the source of the power and influence of Mackenzie Metals, one of the Five Dragons (the families which effectively control everything on the Moon,) meets the end which we have suspected it would since the moment McDonald introduced it in the previous book Luna: New Moon. Software hidden in its controlling programming is activated to misalign the mirrors; with catastrophic results.

At first surprisingly, McDonald makes very little of this potential set-piece, certainly much less than he did the destruction of Boa Vista, the city of the now fallen Corta family, in the previous volume. But then, the focus of his Luna books is, or seems to be, that particular family. Corta Hélio, their firm which mined the helium-3 which powered the fusion reactors which keep Earth going, is now no more, its functions taken over by the Mackenzies. A few of the Cortas have survived, notably Lucas, who has enlisted the help of the Vorontsovs (the clan in charge of the Dragon which transports cargo between Moon and Earth) and made the dangerous decision to accustom himself to Earth gravity to travel there and prepare the way for his revenge. The narration, in that urgent present tense which permeates a lot of modern SF, also follows Robson Corta, a ward of the Mackenzies, lawyer Ariel Corta, Lucas’s son Lucasinho, and Wagner, one of those “wolves” who are affected by the Earth’s phases. A significant addition to the cast is Alexia Corta, Queen of the Pipes, who keeps the water supply flowing in her Brazilian township till she inveigles herself into Lucas’s orbit and becomes his right-hand woman.

MacDonald’s decision almost to underplay the fall of Crucible becomes understandable as it sets the scene for what can only be described as total war between several Moon factions. Certainly a great deal of mayhem is involved. Almost as an incidental the Eagle of the Moon dissolves the Lunar Development Corporation before he himself is deposed. Along the way MacDonald subtly slips in references to previous works of speculative fiction, “The company of wolves wheels on,” “Earth is a harsh mistress,” “The bone clocks.”

A neat touch is Lucasinho’s contention that in a society where just about everything can be printed and recycled, cake is the perfect gift as it has to be hand-crafted. Admittedly he was saying this in extremis to distract his young companion from impending doom but it was a welcome light-hearted aside.

McDonald’s Luna does not present as an appealing place in which to live. Its people are for the most part even less appealing. It was ever thus with pioneers.

Pedant’s corner:- USianisms intrude -ass for arse, curb for kerb, shit for shat – yet we have manoeuvre. “‘Oh can I?’ Dr Volikova and again Lucas heard the amusement in her voice,” (has a “said” missing,) “Death is nothing. Not even not nothing,” (not even not nothing? “Not even nothing” is more parsable,) as in the previous volume the “2”s of CO2 and O2 are rendered as here in normal type and not as subscripts CO2, O2, lip-sticks (lipsticks.) “None ask to see the lip-gloss-smeared bruises.” (None asks,) “insisted that that Lucas Corta would inherit” (only one “that” needed,) “‘I think you should go back to you seat,’” (your seat,) “‘That’s there a Corta left to ask?’” (That there’s a Corta…) “was she doing it all?” (doing it at all.) Elamentals (Elementals,) “in Ariel’s’ entourage” Ariel’s,) “a third squad of hired blades secure the doors,” (a squad secures the doors,) “the maids’ uniform,” (it was one maid so maid’s.) “Jinji brings down a personnel capsule down” (only needs one “down”,) “the pod AI warn” (the AI warns,) “Communications seems to be down” (communications is plural, so “seem to be down”.) “Foods shortages” (Food shortages) “He feel sick” (feels,) “‘And you are withered old scorpion’” (a withered old scorpion.)


Plockton is a lovely village on the shores of Loch Carron, in the Ross and Cromarty area of the Scottish Highlands.

Its appearance may be familiar to some due to it being used in the filming of the TV series of Hamish Macbeth.

Despite its small population and remoteness it is served by a railway. The Inverness-Kyle of Lochalsh line.

Panorama from road access to the seashore:-

Plockton Panorama

The jetty at Plockton:-

Jetty at Plockton

The water was incredibly clear:-

Sea Water at Plockton

The small island of Sgeir Bhuidhe lies just offshore:-

Plockton, looking out to Sgeir Bhuidhe

Duncraig Castle is on the far shore. The castle has its own railway station! (I believe the owner would only allow the railway to be built across his land with that as a proviso):-

Duncraig Castle from Plockton

Reverse panorama:-

Plockton Reverse Panorama

Enceladus Backlit

From Astronomy Picture of the Day, for 15/2/18, another wonderful photograph from the Cassini mission to Saturn, this one showing the moon Enceladus outgassing plumes of ice.

At bottom right of middle just below the edge-on rings of Saturn can be seen the small moon Pandora.

Enceladus backlit

Lochalsh War Memorial

I missed this when I was there but the photograph below popped up on a flickr group I belong to. It was taken by Allan MacIver.

The war memorial is apparently in a lay-by near the village of Reraig just outside Kyle of Lochalsh.

It is inscribed “For King, Kin and Country, for Freedom, Truth and Justice. In affectionate and grateful remembrance,” and also with a Gaelic inscription of a Bible verse, “Gus am bris an la agus an teigh na scailean.” (Until the day breaks and the shadows fall away).

Lochalsh War Memorial, near Reraig, Highlands of Scotland, 2013

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