Whitletts War Memorial

Our trip back home from Dumfries and Galloway took us through Ayr. Whitletts is an area to the northeast of the town. Its War Memorial is in the form of a Celtic Cross on a square plinth.
The cross’s pillar is inscribed with the words, “A tribute of honour and gratitude to the men of this parish who gave their lives for home and freedom in the Great War 1914 – 1919.” Below that are names for The Great War. On the base of the plinth it says, “Lest we forget.”

Whitletts War Memorial

Reverse. (Great War names):-

Whitletts War Memorial Great War Names

The other two sides bear the names for World War 2. Why there was a piece of wire entangled round the plinth I do not know.

World War 2 Names Whitletts War Memorial

Whitletts War Memorial, More WW2 Names

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Titan Books, 2016, 429 p.

 All the Birds in the Sky cover

This, Anders’s first novel, is a blend of Fantasy and Science Fiction which starts off reading like YA fiction but soon enough makes clear that it deals with adult matters too. Patricia Delfine very early in her life realises she is a witch when birds begin to talk to her and she can talk back. She also has a conversation with a speaking tree – The Tree. In school her path crosses that of Laurence Armstead, a so-called techno-geek, who invents for himself a two-second time machine for travel only into the future, and later builds an AI he calls CH@NG3M3. For both of them schooldays are a kind of purgatory, as they are picked on and bullied. Their home lives are little better, both using the other as a means of convincing their parents they are out doing what is desired for them rather than what they wish for themselves. Mixed in with all this is an assassin called Mr Rose who gets a job as counsellor at their school in order to monitor their activities. Despite appearing intermittently in the novel Mr Rose’s function is not really clearly defined.

Later the children’s lives diverge as Patricia finds the company of other witches (whose old division into Healers and Tricksters was patched over many years before.) She is always being warned by them of the dangers of Aggrandisement. It seems just about anything she does can be interpreted in this way. Laurence is recruited by Milton Dirth to work on his project to build a wormhole machine to take humans to another planet. In the background there is a large degree of environmental degradation which makes this construction seem worthwhile and in daily life an electronic device called a Caddy somehow engineers people’s lives to be better through apparently serendipitous meetings and the like. How all these things are connected and Patricia and Laurence’s coming together in adult life are central to the story.

There are some observations on human nature. In one of their conversations Laurence says to Patricia “‘no matter what you do, people are going to expect you to be someone you’re not. But if you’re clever and work your butt off, then you get to be surrounded by people who expect you to be the person you wish they were.’”

Oddly, despite the novel being written in USian I noticed the British usages, “a total wanker,” “for some emergency nookie,” and “one intense wank fantasy.” In addition I was delighted to see the phrase “head for the Dumbarton.” (The Dumbarton is a bridge over San Francisco Bay – the southernmost. Its name derives from Dumbarton Point, itself named after my home town.)

Though it has some flaws, All the Birds in the Sky is overall an impressive debut.

Pedant’s corner:- epicenter [sic] (it was a centre,) a missing comma before a quotation mark, a capital letter after a colon, “none of the computers were connected” (none .. was connected,) “‘to lay low’” (lie low,) Patricia at one point is said to have reasonably fullish breasts but later they are described as small, “Here’s what Isobel said to Laurence, just before the earthquake hit” is a poor – a dreadful – way to start a flashback.

Kirkoswald War Memorial

Kirkoswald is just south of Maybole in Ayrshiire, Scotland. Its War Memorial is a granite Celtic cross on a square plinth.

This side is dedicated to the Great War 1914 – 1919. “Erected by public subscription in memory of those from this district who fell and as a token of gratitude to those who served in the cause of honour and freedom.” Then, “Those who fell.”

Kirkoswald War Memorial

Reverse. Inscribed, “1939 – 1945. Lost in Action.”

Reverse of Kirkoswald War Memorial 2

Unusually this memorial also includes the names of those who served:-

Kirkoswald War Memorial: Those Who Served

"Those Who Served" Kirkoswald War Memorial 4

Dumbarton 1-1 Falkirk

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 16/11/19.

It seems we wuz robbed.

I wasn’t at the game but switched the radio on about 4.15 for Sportsound on Radio Scotland. I was informed that we were 1-0 up with ten minutes to go and thought – Falkirk will score. A bit later the programme went over to the Rock for “developments.” Even the reporter at the ground thought Falkirk’s penalty was controversial.

Of course their taker banged it in.

I commented to the rest in the car (none of whom care about football) that if we’d been playing Forfar the penalty would most likely not have been given. C’est la vie.

Seeing as how they thumped us 6-0 at their place earlier this season and our home record against them is poor lately I’d have taken a draw before the game though.

All in all it wasn’t a bad day even if it’s always disappointing to lose a goal so late.

It’s the Cup next week. I’d like to go through of course but a Cup run might be a luxury we could do without.

Interzone Again

Interzone 284 cover
Skein Island cover

Interzone 284 has arrived. This issue contains my reviews of Automatic Eve by Rokuro Inui and of the short story collection Incomplete Solutions by Wole Talabi.

My next review for the mag will be of Skein Island by Aliya Whiteley, which came today. Ms Whiteley has had several stories in Interzone over the past few years and took over the mantle of SF/writing columnist in Interzone when Nina Allan gave that up.

Something Changed 28: Don’t Marry Her

Another of those Beautiful South songs with a barbed lyric. See my comments on Song for Whoever.

For single release and radio play the line in this which reads, “Don’t marry her, have me,” was changed from something altogether more fruity, as was the euphemism “Sandra Bullocks”.

Part of the lyric always annoyed me, though. “Take the kiddies to the park,” doesn’t scan. “Take the kids to the park,” would.

The Beautiful South: Don’t Marry Her

The less work-friendly, more earthy, version of Don’t Marry Her can be found here.

Jelly Roll by Luke Sutherland

Anchor, 1998, 411 p. One of the 100 best Scottish Books.

 Jelly Roll cover

When a book’s epigraph is the passage from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus which ends in, “Why this is hell, nor am I out of it,” as uttered by Mephistopheles, you know its contents will not be an unalloyed bundle of laughs. Jelly Roll has its lighter moments but the subject matter is indeed serious.

The novel starts when Glasgow jazz band The Sunny Sunday Sextet’s saxophonist, Malc, who is a bit of a psychopath, decides, for domestic reasons, to stop playing with them. The ensuing discussions among the band’s members – in uncompromising Glasgow dialect – relate to whether to give up altogether or find a replacement, and even if doing the latter would be a wise move given Malc’s likely reaction. The prospect of a tour of the Highlands and Islands has the potential to sway things. The group’s drummer Paddy introduces narrator Roddy Burns (whose tipple is the unlikely Bailey’s) to his sister’s boyfriend Liam; who plays like a dream. He seems the perfect answer, young, gifted and ……. black. Embarrassments ensue when he comes along to the next band practice as Roddy has somehow neglected to mention that last fact to the other members. He thinks they are being racist and they think he is, precisely because he didn’t mention it. Liam’s response is to ignore any tension. It turns out this is his strategy to cope with the harassments he habitually has to endure because of his skin colour.

The novel then jumps forward in time to describe incidents occurring during the tour, taking in a roll-call of Scottish towns – Blairgowrie, Dunkeld, Crieff, Fort William, Inverness, Portree, Ullapool – which are usually described by an italicised gazetteer entry. (Ullapool’s is a touch harsh. It merely says herring 1788.) It is obvious we have missed something in the interim. A later return to events which occurred after Malc rejoined the band, with Liam as a supposed backing saxophonist, fills in the gaps. Malc is an unreconstructed racist, as his dubbing of Liam as ‘Banana’ emphasises. His tendency to violence and to pick fights is displayed in several scenes, including the plot’s fulcrum. Not that Malc is alone in his racism or indeed his violence. The band’s reception at one of the venues develops into a rammy due to elements of the audience taking exception to Liam’s appearance.

I assume the book gains its title from Roddy’s penchant for “jellies” (diazepam.) When I first read the blurb on the back I declined to buy it thinking it would not be for me but given my wish to complete that “100 Best Scottish Books” list (at least all the fiction on it) I subsequently could not ignore a charity shop copy at a very reasonable price. I was pleasantly surprised – depictions of violence notwithstanding: there is a lot more going on in Jelly Roll than I have commented on. Its appearance on the list may be due to its highlighting of racism (in his youth Sutherland was the only Scots-African in Orkney) but it is certainly better written than some others which are on it.

Pedant’s corner:- the speaker grill (grille,) sunk (x3, sank,) sprung (sprang,) peninsular (peninsula,) “another thing comin” (another think,) whinging (to me ‘whingeing’ is the better spelling,) duffelcoat (duffel coat,) “to fall back onto” (fall back on to,) span (spun,) the watersedge (the water’s edge,) lungeing (conversely, lunging,) “seemlessly into the cultural fabric” (seamlessly,) twinging (twingeing,) Hawkins’ (Hawkins’s,) doppleganger (doppelganger,) “‘Ah’m ah fuck?’” (‘Am ah fuck.’) “fob us of” (off,) windowledge (window ledge,) Dunkin Doughnuts (I believe the company spells it Donuts,) “a hand held short” (hand held shot,) snuck (sneaked.)

Pinwheel in Space

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 6/11/19.

The Pinwheel Galaxy

The Pinwheel Galaxy is more properly designated M101.

Here it is seen in an amalgamation of colour-coded photos taken in X-ray (purple,) ultra-violet (blue,) visible light (yellow) and infra-red (red) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope respectively.

Given it looks like a spinning Catherine wheel firework they should have posted this a day earlier.

Then again, they’re USian, they probably wouldn’t know the significance of the 5 November in the UK.

Girvan War Memorial

A tapering stone obelisk on a square plinth, this War Memorial stands on an expanse of grass by the side of the Firth of Clyde on the south approach to the town. This east facing side of the obelisk is inscribed Maubeuge, 1918, Cambrai, Flanders 1917, Arras.

Girvan War Memorial

North face. Column inscribed Somme, Loos, Ypres, Marne, Mons:-

Girvan War Memorial North Face

West (sea facing) aspect. Pedestal inscribed with the names of the naval actions at Zeebrugge, Jutland, Falkland, Coronel, Heligoland:-

Girvan War Memorial Sea Facing Aspect

South face. Inscribed for campaigns outside Europe: Palestine, Salonica, Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, Africa:-

Girvan War Memorial South Face

Great War plaque, “The tribute of the poeple of Girvan to those of her sons who gave their lives in defence of their country’s righteous cause in the Great War, 1914 – 1919”

Girvan War Memorial Great War  Plaque

World War 2 plaque, “The tribute of the people of Girvan to those of her sons who gave their lives in defence of their country’s righteous cause in the World-War 1939 – 1945.” Three additional names below:-

Girvan War Memorial, World War 2 Plaque

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 57: Girvan

From Glenluce we travelled up the Ayrshire coast, heading home.

On entering Girvan I spotted this building. The various verticals and horizontals, the “rule of three” in the windows, the canopy and the stepped roofline all make this building shreik Deco.

Art Deco Building, Girvan, Ayrshire

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