The World Turned Upside Down

We were in the Northeast of England last week. We visited Tynemouth, Durham, Bishop Auckland and Sunderland.

Tynemouth was reasonably prosperous looking, quite a few eateries and with a bustling Saturday market, Durham was busy, as you would expect from a Cathedral city. Sunderland was a typical city – in its centre anyway. (I did pass the Stadium of Light but it was in the dark.)

The attraction of Bishop Auckland was the recently refurbished Auckland Palace/Auckland Castle former home of the Prince Bishops of Durham. As part of the entry ticket we were able also to enter both Auckland Tower centrepiece of the Auckland Project (though the tower itself was closed due to high winds) and the excellent Mining Art Gallery just over the road from the tower.

The town itself though was deserted (well, it was a Sunday in England) and very run-down in appearance, empty shops prominent.

I can therefore see why the locals might want change but how on Earth they think voting Conservative will in any way improve their lot is beyond me.

The Tories’ track record in aiding the working person is poor to say the least. And for a former mining area to vote Conservative is an act either of outstanding forgetfulness – or remarkable forgiveness. This truly is a topsy-turvy age.

If I go back in five years’ time I very much doubt the town’s fortunes will have recovered.

By that time we may also have witnessed the NHS even more in hock to private provision (if not sold totally down the river,) judges neutered, Channel 4 and Ofcom eviscerated, the BBC dismantled, Parliamentary constituency boundaries redrawn to favour the Tories even more and voters without photo ID disenfranchised. Not to mention the rise of the cult of Alexander de Pfeffel.

Is all that really what the inhabitants of Bishop Auckland and its neighbouring towns desire?

There’s also a clash of mandates with respect to Scottish independence to resolve. Or not, as the case may be.

And a one-sided trade deal with the US to endure.

Plus I’ve not even touched on the EU negotiations which might still be going on.

What’s to like?

Something Changed 29: Joyride – RIP Marie Fredriksson

Marie Fredriksson, half of Swedish pop/rock duo Roxette, died earlier this week after a long illness occasioned by a brain tumour from which she had seemed to recover but which unfortunately recurred.

Roxette’s œuvre was one of those which you recognise when you hear them but maybe can’t quite put your finger on fully. Or is that just my age? Their songs tended however to be accomplished and reasonably well-polished.

This one was a no 1 all over the rest of Europe but reached only no 4 in the UK.

Roxette: Joyride

Gun-Marie Fredriksson: 30/5/1958–9/12/2019. So it goes.

Exhibits at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune Airfield

See yesterday’s post.

Bomb dropped from Zeppelin. (Luckily for the citizens of Edinburgh where it dropped, it seems not to have exploded.):-

Bomb Dropped from Zeppelin

Model (in the shop) of a Sopwith Camel:-

Model of a Sopwith Camel

Real seat from a Sopwith Camel. It looks like a garden chair with its legs cut off:-

Sopwith Camel seat

Compare and contrast. A more modern ejector seat:-

Ejector seat

Hawk Training Aircraft:-

Hawk Training Aircraft

A Red Arrows XX308:-

A Red Arrows XX308

A New Zealand War Memorial. Inscribed, “In memory of the men from the Dominion who served in Scotland during the 1939 – 1945 conflict. Also in heartfelt remembrance of those who, whilst flying from Scotland’s sea and shore in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and Fleet Air Arm, made the ultimate sacrifice. ‘They watch over Scotia still’.”

NZ War Memorial

The 1930s were possibly the high point of aviation displays – exciting and new. This poster advertises one in Fife:-

Flying Display Poster

The Citadel by A J Cronin

BCA in arrangement with Gollancz, 1983, 347 p. First published 1937. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

This book has the dedication, “To my wife.” No name, just, “To my wife.” Of its time.

The Citadel cover

Cronin lived for a while in my home town of Dumbarton and was well-liked there. He had a long and successful writing career being best known for his “Doctor Finlay” stories which have been made into television series more than once. This is the first of his books I have read.

In it, newly qualified doctor Andrew Manson takes up his first post in the Welsh mining village of Drineffy only to find to his surprise that Dr Page, whose practice he has joined as assistant, is ill, therefore leaving the whole burden to him. It takes him some while to come to terms with his new existence, to overcome the hide-bound attitudes of others, and he bemoans the lack of recent knowledge amongst the elder doctors on the town. He then forms a pact with another young doctor to blow up the leaking sewer causing enteric fevers in the village. In a confrontation over isolation procedures for communicable disease he meets local schoolteacher, Christine Barlow. His dedication to his patients eventually leads to a confrontation with Page’s sister over an ex-gratia payment. He resigns on principle and seeks a post in Aberalaw, a few valleys away. This requires a married man, so his intended proposal to Christine is accelerated.

In Aberalaw there are still aspects of typical medical practice which he abhors but he has a chance to investigate the incidence and genesis of lung disease in anthracite miners. His paper on the matter is well received on both sides of the Atlantic. This leads to a brief spell at the Government Board overseeing mines, where his talents are misplaced.

His taking over a practice in a not too well-off part of London is the start of his ascent as he is gradually drawn into the web of venality and malpractice surrounding the higher elements of his profession there. Increasing affluence leads to an estrangement from Christine. His eyes are finally re-opened to the true state of affairs when he assists at an operation which is botched. The comeuppance he’s given for his misdemeanours is perhaps unduly harsh, though, as it is personal rather than professional.

Characterisations tend to be broad-brush and to a modern eye the conversations too long. Another historical note is that the text is pervaded with mention of cigarettes. You can almost feel the tobacco smell rising from the paper.

The book is to be commended for its main thrust, though, the indictment of the absolute racket that was private medicine. (And, no doubt, still is.) That people seek to profit from the gullible is a given of human nature but to do so from the ill is utterly despicable.

To those with sensitive dispositions I should mention that a character says, “‘He’s a white man,’” in that old casual usage, meaning sound, or reliable. Cronin probably thought it unremarkable.

Pedant’s corner:- signagure (signature,) “it was no mere slip of the tongue which has caused” (had caused,) doyleys (the usual spelling is doilies,) “her background previous to her marriage to Doctor Bramwell, had been” (needs no comma after Bramwell,) “caught he unguardedly fixing him” (caught her.) “There was also palms and a string orchestra.” (There were also palms and a ..,) marraiges (marriages,) ampule (ampoule is more usual,) “if I’d been the King of England” (Manson is a Scot; he would more likely have thought, ‘if I’d been the King’,) Rees’ (Rees’s – which appeared six lines later,) etctera (etcetera,) prtence (pretence,) “a county practice” (country practice?) cruciform (cruciform?) “at he could” (as he could,) “what an earth for?” (what on Earth for?) “he flung out of bed” (flung himself out of bed,) “tht night” (that night,) “at Vaughans’” (at the Vaughans’, or, at Vaughan’s,) Glyn-Jones’ (Glyn-Jones’s,) out-bye (out-by,) beieve (believe,)“could .. be inducted” (induced makes more sense,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, “a PS.,” Spahlinger (later [once each] Sphahlinger and Sphalinger,) “when we’re time” (when we’ve time,) “whiteheart cheeries” (cherries?) “there were signs of new life spring up” (sprung up,) “the crumped note” (crumpled,) “by Freddie’ gush” (Freddie’s,) Mr winch (Winch,) Rogers’ (Rogers’s,) wisteria (wisteria,) “more than usualy acrimony on her patchy features” (more than usual,) “ a stiff whicky and soda” (whisky,) “he isn’t so mart as Ivory” (smart,) “dity money” (dirty,) waggon (wagon,) “‘I’ve been thinking so much before you come in’” (came in.)

National Museum of Flight, East Fortune Airfield, East Lothian, Scotland.

I’d been wanting to visit the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune airfield, East Lothian, Scotland for ages. Last year we finally made it.

It has all the appearance of a Second World War airfield so familiar from films.

Buildings at National Museum of Flight

More Buildings, National Museum of Flight

National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Control tower:-

East Fortune Control Tower

However, the airfield was first commissioned as a Royal Naval Air Station. This was the gate:-

Former Gates of East Fortune Airfield

The airfield’s complement was tasked with protecting shipping in the Firth of Forth and preventing airship attacks on Edinburgh or the navy and its base at Rosyth :-

East Fortune History


Hangar, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Hangar Annexe, a Nissen Hut:-

Nissen Hut, A Hangar Annexe at East Fortune Airfield

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh

Home of The Spartans FC (and, temporarily, of Edinburgh City FC.)

This is only the second Scottish ground I have been to at which my younger son* has seen a game before me. He took in a Lowland League game a couple of years before the Sons made their first ever visit here for the 0-0 draw in the League Cup in July 2018 which is why I was there. That result more or less signalled the demise of Stevie Aitken as Sons manager. The chop finally came a few months later.

(*The other ground was McDiarmid Park.)

Ainslie Park approach from car park:-

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh

Entrance Sign for “The Spartans Community Football Academy”:-

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh, Entrance Sign

Administration and changing room block. Ground entrance to right:-

Ainslie Park Changing Room Block

Concourse and Stand:-

Ainslie Park Concourse and Stand

From southeast corner:-

Ainslie Park From Southeast Corner

Pitch looking north:-

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh, Pitch Looking North

From southwest corner:-

Ainslie Park, Edinburgh from Southwest Corner

Looking east from northwest corner:-

Ainslie Park Looking East from Northwest Corner

From northwest corner:-

Ainslie Park from Northwest Corner

Dundee, Dùn Dè, or is it Dùn Deagh?

Last summer we were in Dundee and when walking past the Railway Station I spotted this platform sign. It has ‘Dundee’ in both English and Gaelic. I couldn’t tell you when Gaelic was last spoken in Dundee on a daily basis.

Dundee Station Platform Sign

On coming back the other way I noticed that above the entrance to the station the sign has the Gaelic phrase, “Faìlte gu stèisean Dùn Deagh,” under the English, “Welcome to Dundee Station.”

Faìlte gu stèisean Dùn Deagh

My knowledge of Gaelic is not even hazy so is there a reason for there to be two spellings of ‘Dundee’ in Gaelic, Dùn Dè on the platform, Dùn Deagh on the entrance? Or do they just make it up as they go along?

There was an exhibition from the archives of the Dundee Publisher D C Thomson at Dundee’s McManus Galleries on at the time. D C Thomson were/are publishers of the comics The Beezer, The Topper, The Beano and The Dandy as well as Dundee based newspaper The Courier plus The Sunday Post – which gave us Oor Wullie and The Broons. The gallery was temporarily renamed The McMenace in tribute to The Dandy‘s denizen Dennis the Menace.

McMenace Galleries

Dundee is proud of the D C Thomson legacy. There is a statue of Desperate Dan and his dog in the city centre.

One of the exhibits was this montage of comic characters set against the backdrop of the Galleries:-

Bash Street Kids at McMenace Galleries

D C Thomson’s offices overlooked the playground of Dundee High School. The writers and drawers of The Bash Street Kids apprently took inspiration from the goings-on there!

Comic characters and Dundee High School:-

Bash Street Kids Outside Dundee High School

Scone War Memorial

Scone is a town just to the north-east of Perth in Perth and Kinross. The nearby Scone Palace was the historic crowning site for Scottish monarchs. A replica of the Stone of Scone (Stone of Destiny) lies in the Palace’s grounds.

A Celtic style cross on a tapering plinth, Scone’s War Memorial stands on a small promontory beside the cemetery to the south of the town by the A 94 road. This side has the dedication for the Great War.

Scone War Memorial

The revrse side bears the World War 2 dedication:-

Reverse, Scone War Memorial

Great War Dedication. Reads, “To the memory of the men from the Parish of Scone who to uphold liberty laid down their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1919.” Names A – Mi:-

Great War Dedication Scone War Memorial

Great War names Mo – Ro:-

Scone War Memorial Great War Names

Great War names Ru – Y:-

Scone War Memorial Great War Names

World War 2 dedication. “Also to the memory of the men of this Parish who laid down their lives in the World War 1939 – 1945.”

Plus one name for Iraq 2003:-

Scone War Memorial, World War 2 Dedication

Starfarers by Vonda N McIntyre

Ace, 1989, 286 p.

Starfarers cover

J D Sauvage has been appointed alien contact specialist on the starship Starfarer, soon to make its maiden voyage into interstellar space by magnetically latching onto cosmic string. In the meantime she is finishing up her work with genetically modified humans known as divers, who are able to communicate with Orcas (capitalised here.) Both the starship and the divers are threatened by the policy of the latest US government which is anxious to make sure the divers are not used as spies by the Mideast Sweep (a fundamentalist religion dominated political entity which has swallowed up not only the Middle East but also the former USSR) and wishes Starfarer itself to become a low-orbit military facility.

On the starship, a pair of huge contra-rotating cylinders only one of which is inhabited by humans, J D meets the members of the family partnership containing Victoria, Stephen Thomas and Satoshi. The family partnership is said to be a now outdated social arrangement, a loosely structured menage, not quite polygamy, with several members. Victoria, Stephen Thomas and Satoshi’s “family” had had a fourth member Merry, but she died.

The conflict here is between the starship’s crew and the US government – not the only but the main funder for the expedition. A minor conflict ensues from the activities on the ship of Griffith, a US government spy, sent to discredit the expedition’s aims. The programme, Grandparents in space, seems to him a prime example of its uselessness. However Griffith gets distracted from his mission by the presence on board of space pioneer Kolya Cherenkov.

Operations on the ship are overseen by a web AI called Arachne which is in direct contact with all on board. This seems a mundane extrapolation nowadays but in 1989 when this was published it was fairly visionary, (the presence of a back-up system of hardware perhaps less so.)

This edition has one of those ‘window’ covers which were popular at the time, depicting a spaceship and the Moon as through another spaceship’s viewport. Unfortunately its tag-line “They broke all the rules …” is a huge spoiler as it continues on the inside flap, “to explore the final frontier,” thus vitiating the book’s main outcome.

It is thirty plus years on of course, but once again I found on reading McIntyre that my memories of her prose from The Exile Waiting and Dreamsnake (evolved from the short story Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand) are not lived up to. Starfarers is certainly readable enough but not anything out of the ordinary.

Pedant’s corner:- earth (multiple instances; Earth,) J. D. (we had examples of ‘J. D.,’ but at the end of a sentence it was always ‘J. D.’ not ‘J. D..’,) “hyphenated double last names. Like Conan Doyle.” (Conan Doyle isn’t hyphenated, neither in the name of that author nor in this book’s text,) the moon (several times, the Moon.) “And I cooked the isotopes, so the dating will be consistent.” (‘Cooking the isotopes’ wold be incredibly difficult and looks beyond any technology on display here,) “font of wisdom” (fount,) “the United States’” (is now a singular entity, United States’s,) impoundment (impounding, as in seize legally, was what was meant; an impoundment is a dam,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech (x2.)

Dumbarton 0-2 Montrose

What the football gods give, the football gods take away.

We won 2-1 at their place earlier and were hanging on a bit towards the end. Since then they have really hit form so I wasn’t really surprised by this result which means they have leapfrogged us so we’re back down to sixth.

That makes next week at Forfar a must not lose.

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