England 0-0 Scotland

Euro 2020, Group D, Wembley Stadium, 18/6/21.

Well. The first thing you have to say is that Scotland deserved at least a point. It was a great performance by the players – perhaps unlucky not to get the win. But for that you have to put the ball in the net. We were never convincing about the ability to do that.

A win against Croatia ought to see us through. But they’ve got quality in midfield and upfront and it will be a very difficult game. The other thing that worries me is that they’ve never beaten us. That run has to end sometime.

And we know how this goes. Scotland put in a gallant effort and somehow still contrive to muck it up.

On Tuesday evening Croatia will burst our bubble with about ten minutes to go. Watch through your fingers.

Live It Up 79: Bette Davis Eyes

It wasn’t till I started researching this that I realised this distinctive song (particularly the cracked vocal) was part written by Jackie DeShannon. See here and here. It is Kim Carnes’s version that is most familiar to people in the UK, though. The song remains Carnes’s only hit here.

Kim Carnes: Bette Davis Eyes

Jackie DeShannon’s version is, by comparison, much more conventional.

Jackie DeShannon: Bette Davis Eyes

Landscape Painted with Tea by Milorad Pavić

Penguin, 1992, 343 p. Translated from the Serbo-Croatian Predeo slikan cajem (Prosveta, Belgrade, 1988) by Christina Pribićević-Zorić.

It is all but impossible to imagine a book like this being written by an anglophone author – not even those of African or Asian heritage. Experimental works are not unknown to the anglophone tradition but I would submit there is nothing to match this. At times it bears a similarity to magical realism – odd things happen and the bodies of some of its characters are subject to even odder anatomical configurations – but it manages to transcend even that. It is all but unsummarisable.

The novel as a whole is separated unevenly into two Books of which the shorter, Book One, A Little Night Novel (whose final passage is rendered entirely in German,) has each of its chapters prefaced by a passage printed in italics relating the history of a group of monks who wind up in the Monastery of Chilandar and are themselves divided into two groups, solidaries (otherwise called cenobites,) and solitaries (aka idiorrhythmics.) More or less failed architect Atanas Svilar (aka Atanas Razin – his origins, like those of many others here, are complicated,) travels to the monastery to try to find out what happened to his father who had fled there to avoid the Germans’ attentions during World War II. Svilar’s beliefs about himself changed by his trip, he takes a new (though old) name, plus his childhood sweetheart, Vitacha Milut, from her husband and daughters and goes to the US where he achieves fame and fortune as a pharmaceutical magnate.

This bears only a prefatory relation to Book Two, A Novel for Crossword Fans, where the monks and the monastery are forgotten but which still follows Svilar, though it focuses more heavily on his wife, and which is decidedly bizarre. This has four Sections of varying lengths denoted 1 ACROSS, 2 ACROSS, 3 ACROSS, 4 ACROSS containing chapters headed 2 DOWN, 1 DOWN, 5 DOWN, █ DOWN, 4 DOWN, 6 DOWN etc. In other words, crossword clues. (The █ DOWN chapters are apparently necessary to the whole book to bind it together, since without them, as in an actual crossword, the crossed words will fly apart.) But instructions on how to actually read this assortment, this new way of reading a book, are only given on pages 187-190, which is to say 88 pages after Book Two begins and so are, for all practical purposes, useless as the reader (unless forewarned) will have already read up to that point linearly. This same chapter at the last informs us that, “All readers of this book are entirely imaginary. Any resemblance to actual readers is coincidental.” Take that fiction fans.

Then, at the whole book’s end, there is an index containing all the words required for the solution but, as in all indexes, it is in alphabetical order and so requires further elucidation. This index is followed by two lined pages for the reader to write in for him- or herself the denouement of the novel or the solution to the crossword, and finally, printed upside down, we have the solution itself.

Not a straightforward read then, but for puzzle solvers an intriguing prospect. But what’s it all got to do with landscape painted with tea?

Svilar had a set of notebooks comtaining details about dwellings, residences, houses and summer houses lived in, worked in or visited by Josip Broz Tito, general secretary of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, and whose covers were landscapes painted with tints from different types of Camelia sinensis – tea – showing those various buildings and their surroundings.

Throughout we are treated to incident upon incident of a magical realist bent, oddness upon oddness, plus addresses to the reader, but are also supplied with plentiful aphorisms such as, “‘All sexual acts are in some way connected, in some way they interact,” attributed to Svilar, as is, “‘All births are similar, and every death is different,’” which is yet another of those attempts common in literature ever since to echo Tolstoy. “People who are afraid of life leave their families belatedly and reluctantly and are disinclined to start their own,” and “People who are afraid of death stay with their families briefly and go into the world quickly and easily, leaving one another,” are in a similar vein.

A few of Pavić’s sentences are beyond enigmatic, though, “Their road, as all roads, did the thinking for them even while it was empty,” “… only a bird on a branch can understand silence. Man cannot,” though one does reflect life in a country where thoughts have to be circumscribed, “after so many decades, when only the clocks still tell us the truth,” though “Time can harm the truth more than lies,” is more widely applicable. Some are singular, “No undelivered slap should ever be taken to the grave,” but, “October has never come as often as this year….” a saying in the Minut family, is repeated several times.

Then there are the metafictional comments, “Critics are like medical students: they always think a writer is suffering from the very disease they happen to be studying at the time,” … “a writer is like a tailor. Just as the latter, when tailoring a suit, covers up the shortcomings and defects of his customer, so the writer, when tailoring a book, has to cover up the defects and shortcomings of his reader.”

These defects in the reader do not put off Vitacha Milut. We are told, “And so Vitacha Milut, the heroine of this novel, fell in love with the reader of her book.” “‘The heroine of a novel in love with the reader!’” she herself writes. “‘When has that ever happened?’ you will say, and you will not be wrong,” with a few lines later, “ ….isn’t it all the same whether you first fall in love in a book or in life? ….. Why do you think that only you have a right to the book, but the book has no right to you?”

In a comment which could be designed by Pavić to defray criticism he has Atanas reply to the writer of his testimonial (ie part of this book,) “It’s not just one story that’s escaped me from your book, but several,” and adds, “Anyone who reads finds in books what cannot be found elsewhere, not what the writer shoved into the novel,” and goes on to say in effect that you can find any story in the text of a book if you look hard enough.

Sometimes a reader may wish not to have to look hard but the experience is usually better when that requirement is there. As the above all indicates, Landscape Painted with Tea may not be immediately accessible but it is a remarkable work and would certainly bear rereading.

Pedant’s corner:- bureaus (bureaux, please,) the Ukraine (Ukraine, no ‘the’,) “off of” (just ‘off’, no ‘of’ required,) Bosporus (usually Bosphorus,) Skoplje (Skopje.)

New Season’s League Fixtures

Sons’ fixture list for next league season is on the club website. Oddly we begin and end against the same team, Clyde.

Apparently our division is to be known as cinch League One.

I’ll be sticking with SPFL Tier 3.

Kelty War Memorial

Kelty‘s War Memorial stands beside Station Road.

A greatcoated soldier with slung rifle on a square plinth.

Kelty War Memorial

Dedication, “To the glorious memory of the men of Kelty who gave their lives in the Great Wars 1914-1918 and 1939-1945,” plus Second World War names:-

Kelty War Memorial Dedication

East aspect. Great War names:-

Kelty, War Memorial, Great War Names

West aspect. Great War names:-

Kelty War Memorial

Scotland 0-2 Czech Republic

Euro 2020, Group D, Hampden Park, 14/6/21.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

This is how it goes with Scotland.

No luck, their keeper making at least three very good saves – the one where he prevented the sclaff from his own defender going in being superb – hitting the bar, losing goals at the wrong times – though there’s never really a good time to lose one – with one of them a brilliant piece of execution from the sort of forward player we lack.

I refused to express any hopes for a good outcome before the game but hope nevertheless stirred early on. Fatal, fatal.

Still, it would be just like us to get a result* against England on Friday now.

Then a plucky display against the Croats before going out on goal difference again.

*Not a win obviously.

1930s/Art Deco Building, Kelty

Kelty is a former mining village in Fife.

Incidentally their football team recently won promotion to the SPFL.

These photos were taken in October 2019 though.

On Main Street there’s a 1930s/Art Deco bank building. Horizontals, verticals, flat roof. The glazing looks updated but has kept the 30s style:-

Art Deco Bank, Kelty

Kelty, Art Deco Bank

Side of Art Deco Bank, Kelty

Lassodie War Memorial

Lassodie is a village that no longer exists. When the pits which were its main employment – and reason for being – closed, the land was cleared of housing. A condition of the original granting of mineral rights, apparently.

Nevertheless it has a War Memorial, which lies beside the B912 between the villages of Kingseat and Kelty in Fife, near Loch Fitty.

Lassodie War Memorial 2

Dedication. “Erected in grateful remembrance of the men of this village who fell in the Great War 1914-1918,” with below the “grow not old” lines from Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen.

Lassodie War Memorial Dedication and Names

The Second World War dedication is inscribed on the southern side of the memorial. “To the glory of god and in memory of the men of Lassodie who fell in the 1939-1945 War.”

Lassodie War Memorial, World War 2 Dedication

Situation. In fenced off square by B912 between Kingseat and Kelty:-

Location, Lassodie War Memorial 4

In Limbo by Christopher Evans

Granada, 1985, 286 p.

Along with four companions – only ever described as Riley, Treadwell, Sinnott and Wright – Mike Carpenter has been confined to Limbo, a soulless, windowless (the cover image is wrong in this respect) prison of sorts, where they are under constant surveillance. None of the five has any idea why they are being held in this way as, to their knowledge, they have not committed a crime. Under the more or less constant scrutiny of the guards/attendants their days are spent in PT exercises, games such as snooker or chess, reading newspapers and watching TV. The food is bland but not unwholesome (though at one point they suspect it is being adulterated by laxatives.) Occasionally they will be hauled before the person in charge, a man named Naughton, who will berate them for any misdemeanours they have committed. Some relief for Carpenter is provided by interviews with Dr Dempster, a female medic who looks after the inmates’ welfare. In the nature of such an unresolved existence a couple of the five try to form an escape committee but Carpenter sees this as futile. His reflections on the constrained life and his comparitive boredom lead to him trying to invent slogans for his companions but also one for himself, It doesn’t help.

The author’s history as a Science Fiction writer (his previous novels had been The Insider and Capella’s Golden Eyes and he went on to write Aztec Century and Mortal remains) might incline the reader to the view that the incarceration is part of a psychological experiment of some sort and that the experiences in Limbo are real. Against that the realistic tone of the narrative and the mundane nature of the confinement argues for something a bit less exotic. This is heightened by the slow morphing of the storyline into a recounting of Carpenter’s memories of his life before Limbo, memories which gradually begin to take up more of the narrative space. These deal with his drifting from school to University and then from job to job but more particularly with his relationships with the sexual interests in his life, from his unrequited passion for schoolmate Gail through his experiences with his women lovers, Veronica, Karen, Eleanor and Penny (not to mention one night spent with the enthusiastic Cicely,) all of which were unsatisfactory in one way or another. In this reading his four companions in Limbo may be aspects of Carpenter’s own personality.

It would be thoughtless of a reviewer to reveal which – if either – of these two possibilities is borne out but In Limbo is very well written. Evans has a flair for depicting character and circumstance and the novel’s resolution does follow the logic of what has gone before. I’ve read a lot worse. A lot worse.

Pedant’s corner:- “a fresh batch of magazines and periodicals were delivered” (a fresh batch … was delivered,) “the gate is strait” (straight?) “like Saul on the road to Tarsus, he would experience a blinding moment of revelation” (Saul came from Tarsus. His blinding moment was on the road to Damascus,) “that of Veronicas” (if that’s a possessive it should be ‘Veronica’s’, but it’s redundant; the phrase ought to be simply ‘that of Veronica’,) “Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principle” (Heisenberg’s.) “At the interview he old the” (he told,) “eight gin and sodas” (grammatically ‘eight gins and sodas’ – or even ‘eight gins and soda’,) falderal (folderol,) “gin and tonics” (see ‘eight gin and sodas’,) “a newsagents” (newsagent’s.)

Something Changed 45: Bitter Sweet Symphony

One of the sounds of the nineties. Except for the strings, of course, which were sampled from a 1960s orchestral recording of The Rolling Stones’ The Last Time (which itself draws on This May be the Last Time by The Staple Singers) and were subject to a lawsuit.

The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony

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