Girls in Their Married Bliss by Edna O’Brien

Penguin, 1982, 158 p.

 Girls in Their Married Bliss cover

Being a further installment of the lives of the two Irish friends introduced to us in The Country Girls and explored again in Girl with Green Eyes.

This book finds both of them married but, as its title sarcastically suggests, not entirely – or at all – happily. Unlike the previous two books in the series which were seen entirely from Kate’s point of view, here there are first person sections narrated by Baba, complete with her idiosyncratic spelling and grammar – in which frustrations with what she sees as Kate’s inadequacies are expressed. The other, third person, sections adopt Kate’s viewpoint. She is married to the Eugene Gaillard she took up with in the previous book and has a five year-old son, Cash. Baba married a “thick builder” who knew almost nothing about women when he met her – and still doesn’t. His money is welcome, though. Their marriage is childless at the start of the book.

Neither of the ‘girls’ acts in what you might call a mature manner even if Baba does have the thought, “People liking you or not liking you is an accident and is to do with them and not you.”

The trilogy could be seen as an illustration of the influences of background on behaviour and the harm a lack of a rounded education can do but this one seems to have devolved into a book about not particularly likeable people acting less than creditably – and muddling through with greater or lesser success.

It is though by modern standards incredibly short.

Pedant’s corner:- Gaeltacth (Gaeltacht,) “less that” (less than,) occasional missing commas before or after a piece of direct speech, a cleaners’ (a cleaner’s,) “Kate slung towards ..” (slunk?) “had looked … and drank from” (and drunk from,) plimsols (plimsolls,) connexion (connection.)

Dumbarton 3-2 Peterhead

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 4/5/21.

Never underestimate the ability of a football club to put its fans through the wringer. 1-0 up, drawn back level, then 2-1 down and into despair, before 2-2 and then an injury time winner. The lead in this changed hands twice. That doesn’t happen often.

But where did this effort come from? We looked good early on, scored when we were on top, Jaime Wilson on the shoulder of the last defender (but in our own half!) running onto the through ball and putting it past the keeper with an early shot.

Then we fell out of it. Perhaps there was thought of holding onto the lead but the way we had been playing up to then we could and should have scored again.

Instead we were our own worst enemies failing to clear the ball properly before losing it and our defensive organisation. Admittedly Sam Ramsbottom had anotehr very good save just before that.)

The second half was mostly woeful, though, the tin lid being put on it when we lost the ball at our penalty area level and a looped hanging cross lured out Ramsbottom who couldn’t claim it and it was headed in.

There then seemed to be a grinding inevitablity to things and a limp surrender to relegation (okay, to the play-offs,) was unfolding. Then a Ross Forbes corner was hammered into the net by Morgyn Neill’s head (why had Forbes played all those short free-kicks earlier?) and the unlikeliest of comebacks was on.

Urgency had become the order of the day. As in the Forfar game last week the manager threw the kitchen sink at it with two late substitutions.

Fulfilled in fairy-tale fashion in the first minute of injury time when Ross Forbes hooked the ball into the area almost without looking. Jaime Wilson did not look favourite but he threw his head at the ball and buried it.

That’s the first time in the league this season we’ve scored more than twice and also the first time we’ve come from behind to score. It’s the first time we’ve gone behind and not lost.

I suppose that supplies some reason for hope if we do end up in the play-offs.

But that fate depends on how Clyde get on on Thursday.

Art Deco Style at Bletchley Park

A lot of the buildings used during the Second World War in Britain had elements of deco style. Not surprisingly, the era had not really passed when the war began.

So it wasn’t entirely unexpected that when I rolled up at the car park at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, home of the WW2 British code-breaking effort, last September, the first buildings I saw were in that flat-roofed, Critall-windowed mode.

Buildings by car park. These are the sorts of things you see at former WW2 airfields:-

Wartime Buildings? Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park, External Building

This submarine model beside the road from the car park to Bletchley Park presumably commemorates the code-breakers’ role in winning the Atlantic war:-

Submarine Model, Bletchley Park

This is a more modern building in that wartime style but I don’t think it’s part of Bletchley Park:-

External Building, Bletchley Park

These modernised ones were all inside the Bletchley Park museum site:-

Bletchley Park Building

Modernised Building, Bletchley Park

Modernised Wartime Buildings, Bletchley Park,

One of the internal exhibits was this photograph of the impeccably Art Deco Hollerith Factory where the calculating machines known as Bombes, which tried out the variations of the intercepted Enigma messages to get a code match were manufactured:-

Art Deco Hollerith Factory Photograph, Bletchley Park,

Hollerith building and interior:-

Hollerith Factory and Interior

Crescent of Earth

Only 24 people have ever had the chance to see a view like this – or photograph it. The 24 astronauts of the Apollo Programme who made it to the Moon and back.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 29/4/21, a digitally restored photograph of the whole of planet Earth from its nightside, the last picture of its kind so far to be taken by human hands.

Crescent of Earth

Cosmic Queries by Neil deGrasse Tyson with James Trefil

Star Talk’s Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going. Edited by Lindsey N Walker

National Geographic, 2021, 311 p, including i p Author’s Note, i p Introduction, ii p Acknowledgements, iv p Further Reading, iii p Illustrations credits, vii p Index and i p About the Authors.

Modern Physics can be a daunting and impenetrable subject to those unfamiliar with it (even to those who study it or for whom it is their life’s work.) Quantum mechanics is especially difficult. Richard Feynman once said that nobody understands it.

This book is an attempt by the authors to explain modern Physics concepts to (I assume) the general reader in ten chapters exploring our place in the Universe, how we know what we know, how did the Universe become what it is, its age, what it’s made of, the nature of life, whether we are alone in the Universe, how it all began, how it will end, and what does nothing have to do with everything. I would say it succeeds admirably. Footnotes or headnotes are cleverly disguised by setting them off with yellow lines so that they do not appear to be footnotes or headnotes, as are occasional examples of Tyson’s dated and timed historical tweets on various subjects. (My favourite, “Don’t Give up on us yet. Americans are inching towards the metric system.”)

Tyson and Trefil adopt an informal style, the feeling is as if they are having a conversation with the reader. As far as I recall there are only two equations rendered as such, that for Hubble’s law and of course Einstein’s most famous. (Another Tyson tweet, “You Matter. Unless you multiply yourself by the speed of light squared. Then you Energy.”)

The book is gorgeously illustrated with both historical and modern diagrams/pictures and photographs. One of these is a quite stunning “plan” view of the Milky Way showing its prominent spiral arms and the sun’s place in it.

Striking to the British reader is that temperatures are always quoted in Fahrenheit (before the Celsius figure is given in brackets.) This just seems very backward to someone from a country where the former temperature scale – and the imperial weights and measures system – was superseded around sixty years ago.

The text is a lucid summing up of present knowledge via a trawl through the past – though possibly overtaken by the confirmation of an unexpectedly large wobble of muons which may mean there are at present four forces working on the universe rather than three. This is how science works though, knowledge continually being tested against experiment, and explanations for the detected phenomena updated as a result. I cannot say whether someone lacking a background in Science would find Cosmic Queries as readable as I did but it would certainly act as a good primer for anyone eager to explore the subjects. My copy was very tightly bound, however, making it necessary to hold the pages firmly to keep them open.

I thank National Geographic for sending me this book for review.

Pedant’s corner:- “the world’s first federally funded research institute” (this was in Denmark, as far as I know never a federal country. Elsewhere than in the US ‘state funded’ would have been the appropriate phrase, but then ‘state’ means something different in the US,) “on hearing of the new device, Galileo immediately improved the existing design” (I think Galileo had to get his hands on one first rather than just hearing of it, before he could improve it,) spacecrafts (the plural of spacecraft is spacecraft,) antennas (whatever happened to antennae?) sprung (sprang,) “was the first show that” (the first to show that.) “Gold is the element of choice in this experience for how thin it can be hammered” (in this experiment,) “that only about a 10th of one percent … bounced back at him” (should be ‘that about a tenth of one percent’ – the surprise was that any at all bounced back,) “10-3 second”, “0.001 second” and “0.000001 second” (10-3 seconds, 0.001 seconds and 0.000001 seconds,) the text refers to zero gravity (zero gravity does not exist; there is always something exerting a gravitational pull, ‘zero gravitational potential energy with regard to Earth’ was meant,) “far enough away that Earth is no longer trying to pull it back” (ditto. Earth is trying to pull it back, it’s just moving too fast for Earth to do so,) William of Ockham (was always spelled Occam in my day but Ockham is now widely used.)

Star Shredding Animation

From You Tube via Astronomy Picture of the Day for 27/4/21.

An animation of a star being shredded by a black hole.

Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

The reason we visited Ceres in September last year was to take a look at the Fife Folk Museum.

Entrance as seen from bridge over the Ceres Burn:-

Forecourt, Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

Inside the museum there is a small section devoted to crime and punishment, including an old prison cell:-

Cell, Fife Folk Museum

Beside this are two notices relating to trials and punishment:-

Fife Folk Museum Notices

This second one mentions jougs, a kind of stocks:-

Notice, Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

On the outside wall at the other side of the building to the entrance is an old doorway beside which is an example of a joug:-

Doorway and Jougs, Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

The carved motto above the door reads, “God bless the just.”:-

Fife Folk Museum Lintel, Doorway and Jougs

Clyde 2-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Broadwood Stadium, 1/5/21.

Expletive deleted.

This was the very definition of a “must not lose” game – and we lost it. And also allowed the goal difference margin to collapse to only one in our favour.

Clyde will now know what they have to do to avoid the relegation play-off spot when they play East Fife on Thursday.

I would not be at all surprised though if we won on Tuesday against Peterhead. It’s the sort of thing we do.

Also, and I may be doing them a disservice here, but Peterhead, being safe, may have downed tools. (After all, they did lose to Forfar today.)

It would only prolong the agony.

If we don’t win that one of course then we’ll be in that relegation play-off ourselves – and I do not fancy our chances.

Live It Up 78: Holding out for a Hero – RIP Jim Steinman

The man who wrote Bat out of Hell and so was partly responsible for thrusting Meatloaf onto the world has died.

Despite not having much success on his own account Steinman had a few strings to his bow. As well as composing he was also a record producer and contributed not only to Meatloaf’s career but also to Bonnie Tyler’s, producing her two highest charting UK albums and writing her two biggest hits in the UK, Total Eclipse of the Heart and this one, Holding out for a Hero.

Bonnie Tyler: Holding out for a Hero

James Richard (Jim) Steinman: November 1/11/1947 –19/4/2021. So it goes.

Michael Collins

One of the most important cogs in the Apollo 11 team which made the first Moon landing (way back in 1969, 52 years ago!) has died.

While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin flew down to the Moon in the Lunar Module, Eagle, Michael Collins stayed in Moon orbit in the Command Module, Columbia, keeping the whole mission together, orbiting the Moon alone – the supposedly loneliest human in the universe – thirty times before the Lunar Module returned Armstrong and Aldrin to Columbia.

Having started his career as a fighter pilot and going on to be a test pilot Collins was a veteran of Gemini 10 where he became the fourth human to space walk and the first to do it twice but retired from NASA in 1970 very soon after his most historic mission.

Michael Collins: 31/10/1930 – April 28/4/2021. So it goes.

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