Ring Galaxy AM 0644-741

This lovely picture comes from NASA via the Hubble Telescope and Astronomy Picture of the Day for 28/7/21. The galaxy’s distorted shape is due to it having interacted with another galaxy (top right) which passed through it.

Ring Galaxy AM 0644-741

Last Winter in Balbirnie Park

In January we had a cold spell. Our walk down to Markinch to get the newspaper was made just a bit more hazardous. The short cut we had adopted during Covid times – over the path by Balbirnie Golf Club’s practice putting green – was very treacherous:-

Icy Golf Path, Balbirnie

The floods I featured earlier iced over completely.

Icy Balbirnie Park

Balbirnie Park Ice

Icy Balbirnie Park

Ice skaters/ice hockey players took advantage of the frozen pond:-

Ice Skaters

Ice Skaters, Balbirnie Park

Clyde 0-3 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Broadwood Stadium, 31/7/21.

Wow. I didn’t see this coming. It’s welcome all the same.

But it remains to be seen whether we’re actually any good (though comments on Pie and Bovril suggest we are managing to look like a football team) or whether Clyde were just gash.

The home game against Airdrie next Saturday will give me more of an idea about that.

It All Starts Again

Today Sons’ new league season begins. It doesn’t seem any time at all since the aggregate play-off win against Edinburgh City and of course we have had three games in the League Cup* already but this is the big one.

We kick our SPFL Tier 3** campaign off away from home against Clyde. What with the usual churn of players in the close season I have no idea what to expect.

At least with luck we’ll go the full 36 games this time unlike in the past two seasons.

Sometime during it I might even get to see us play in person rather than on a screen.

* Premier Sports Cup

** You can call it cinch League One if you wish.

Friday on my Mind 206: Western Union

This is a very typical USian mid-60s sound. I certainly hear echoes of the Monkees.

The sentiments of the song are a rewriting of Return to Sender though.

The Five Americans: Western Union

There Are No Ghosts in the Soviet Union by Reginald Hill

Harper, 2009, 363 p.

This is not my normal reading fare but the good lady knew I’d recently read Jane Austen’s Emma and wondered how I’d react to this author’s take on the characters from that book. Hill is the creator of the detective duo Dalziel and Pascoe about whom he has written twenty-four books. This is a collection of his shorter works and was originally published in 1987. That “Featuring Dalziel and Pascoe” is emblazoned on the front cover is a bit of a cheek. Only one of the six stories here does so and that tangentially at best. Also irritating is that all the story titles are rendered entirely in lower case.

there are no ghosts in the soviet union is a detective tale featuring Inspector Lev Chislenko. (I admit that my first thought with that name was of the famous Igor who played for Dynamo. Being questioned whether he is related to that footballer becomes a running joke through the piece.) Chislenko has been called in to resolve the case of a man being pushed into a lift and immediately falling through the floor, which remains as solid as it always was and there is no trace of him at the foot of the shaft. The obvious explanation is that the man was a ghost. Consequently ideological considerations beset Chislenko. “There are no ghosts in the Soviet Union,” is apparently the set-up line to a Soviet joke but also an assertion that he must find a way to uphold. The story is obviously intended as a satire on the Soviet Union – or at least on how Hill imagined the Soviet Union to be – but is equally applicable to any authoritarian regime anywhere. The resolution depends on Chislenko’s delving into the lift’s origins. It was manufactured in Chemnitz (renamed Karl-Marx Stadt after World War 2) in the 1920s and installed in a now demolished building elsewhere before being re-used in a money skimming scam. His investigations also bring him into dangerous contact with powerful figures in Soviet circles.

In bring back the cat! Joe Sixsmith is a balding West Indian (with a balding jacket) who has just begun his career as a private detective. He is called in by a Mrs Ellison to find her cat which has been missing for three weeks. In the course of his investigations all over one afternoon, he uncovers various family secrets and solves another case entirely, thus making his name. There’s an overt consciousness of racism to some of the exchanges. (Sixsmith was later to become the protagonist of another series of Hill’s books.)

the bull ring is set in the British military training camp at Étaples during the Great War. One of the instructors is excessively harsh on recruit Harry. For Harry’s own good he would say; but Harry doesn’t see it that way.

Dalziel and Pascoe do not appear as such in auteur theory. It is the actors who are playing them on a film set who do. The one playing Pascoe has long been on the way down as an actor and is now saddled with a tyro leading lady who is the director’s new wife. It also includes the bearded writer of the novel which is being filmed (we are, I suppose, meant to assume Hill is writing about himself,) who is becoming more and more annoyed at changes to the script. The story starts with a warning injunction, Nothing in this story is what it seems. You should remember that. The metafictional games in it do not lift it above the category ‘diverting’.

poor emma takes up twenty or so years after Jane Austen left off her tale of Emma Woodhouse and her misguided attempts at match-making. The intervening years have not been kind, though Mr Woodhouse continues, like a creaky gate, to, as we Scots say, “hing lang”. Mr Weston has died and his widow, in a sentence carved from early nineteenth century attitudes and would-be Austen impersonation “eventually declined into religion, to such an extent that it came as no surprise, though an incalculable shock to most decent people, when she embraced the doctrines of Rome.” Mr Knightley has neglected his affairs, indulging himself as a bon vivant and taken up a seat in Parliament (which allows him various other indulgences.) His brother John has lost the confidence of his legal clients and now runs Donwell Abbey on George’s behalf. The conflict comes from the wishes of both to protect that inheritance. All the main characters from Emma reappear, save Jane Fairfax, except for mention of her death. Her husband Mr Frank Churchill is involved in the dénouement. The Mr Knightley shown here is far removed from the one Austen portrayed and so too is Emma herself as she indulges in an action which that younger self would surely never have contemplated but which does have the effect of giving the tale a condign ending.

crowded hour concerns the invasion into her home by two armed men of a woman whose husband is somewhat obscurely rich and has absences from home. It begins, “At twelve noon there were three people in that house. By the time the clock struck one, two of them would be dead and the life of the third would have changed for ever.” The story lies in the journey that beginning implies.

Pedant’s corner:- “led him out in to” (into,) humourously (humorously,) “‘How’s you mother?’” (your,) smidgeon (smidgin; or, smidgen,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, “his legal practise” (the noun is practice, as used later, I note,) “a codicillary convenant” (covenant, surely?) “had showed” (this may have been an attempt at Austenism; ‘had shown’.)

War Memorials, Bergen

Memorial to the Battle of Bergen Harbour, 1/8/1665. (aka Battle of Vågen. The battle was one of those which should not have taken place but did. The local commander did not know that the English fleet had permission from the king (of Denmark-Norway) to capture Dutch ships sheltering in the harbour so opened fire from Bergenhus Fortress – the only time the fortress ever took part in a battle.

Battle of Bergen Harbour Memorial, Bergen

Memorial to Norwegian sailors of the Great War. Erected by their friends and admirers in Great Britain and dedicated to “that great company of true norsemen who though at peace with all men dared to defy the horrors and perils of war and in a rightful service endured fearlessly to the end”:-

Memorial to Norwegian Sailors of the Great War, Bergen

Memorial in Bergen to Skansens Bataljon Buekorps/Bow Corps. Falt I Krigen 1940-1945. Falt I Krigen means “fell in war.”

Memorial To Skansens Batalion, Bergen

Andromeda in Ultra-violet

This is from NASA via Astronomy Picture of the Day for 18/7/21.

The Andromeda Galaxy as seen in ultra-violet light. Compared to visible light images it really picks out the spiral arms but makes them look more like rings.

Andromeda in u-v

The House by the Loch by Kirsty Wark

Two Roads, 2019, 377 p.

 The House by the Loch cover

This is the story of three generations of the MacMillan family, grandfather Walter, his children Patrick and Fiona, and grandchildren Carson, Iona and Peter. But before we get into that, in a preface which signals that not all will be sweetness and light, we are shown Walter’s childhood memory of witnessing the wartime crash of a Spitfire piloted by a Czech Flying Officer, Frantisek Hekl, into Loch Doon in the Galloway hills. Subsequently Walter built a cairn to Hekl’s memory on a hill above the loch.

In the present day of the narrative, Fiona’s philandering husband, Roland, a successful architect who piggy-backed on her design aesthetic, has built on the shores of the loch a modern, hi-tech replacement for one of the two log cabins Walter had given his children. Patrick and his wife Elinor meanwhile, are content with the more modest lifestyle of a teacher and illustrator respectively. Occasional chapters give the history of Walter’s meeting with his wife Jean (Thompson) and their life together.

Coming down from their house in Ayr for holidays on the loch is an idyllic relief for Carson from her irritations with younger sister Iona which are, though, exacerbated at times by Iona’s idolisation of cousin Pete. The strains in Roland’s and Fiona’s marriage bear echoes of Walter’s with Jean though Fiona’s drinking is less of a fatal flaw then Jean’s. But lochs have their dangers and, when tragedy strikes, each of the characters is in some way to blame for it and all their lives are turned upside down.

Wark has the Scottish novelist’s eye for landscape and she handles character well enough but her prose sometimes leaves a bit to be desired as occasional phrases lean to the tin-eared or ill-considered. There is, too, a jumpiness to the sequencing, lending a feeling of skittishness to the text.

Pedant’s corner:- “Time interval later” count: high – including two successive sentences starting, “Ten years later.” Bonus points though for “amn’t I?” said by characters brought up in Scotland. I also note that the cousin raised in England says, “aren’t I?”
Otherwise; “a timpani” (timpani is plural; one of them is a timpano,) “walked away towards to his son” (either ‘towards’, or, ‘to’, not both.) “‘Are you, hell,’” (that comma removes the sense, which was, ‘“are you hell”’,) a sentence which started with ‘Within seconds’ and finished three lines later with ‘disappeared out of sight in seconds.’ The Black Narcissus (the film – and book it was derived from – was titled simply Black Narcissus, staunch (x 2, stanch,) Burns’ (Burns’s,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, “two candelabras” (as a word ‘candelabra’ is already plural; one is a candelabrum,) “until a torrent of tears forced their way through” (a torrent … forced its way.) “The sat drinking” (They sat,) “she saw pure white vapour trail” (she saw the pure white vapour trail.) In the Acnowledgements, “where the remains of Frantisek Hekl’s Spitfire rests” (where the remains rest.)

Bergenhus Fortress, Bergen

Bergenhus Fortress is one of the oldest stone built fortifications in Norway. The buildings lie between those of the Rosencrantz Tower and Haakons Hall. This page counts those as part of the fortress.

Courtyard from north:-

Bergenhus Fortress

East building:-

Bergenhus Fortress, Bergen

North building:-

Bergen, Bergenhus Fortress

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