More Archæology on the Brough of Birsay

Later Norse Houses with 12th century church in background:-

Later Norse Houses, Brough of Birsay

12th century church. (See Pictish stone to left):-

12th Century Church, Brough of Birsay,

Edge of 12th century church complex:-

Edge of 12th Century Church Complex

12th century church remains:-

Brough of Birsay, 12th Century Church Remains

12th century church information board:-

12th Centrury Church Information Board

Sunken structure, possibly another Norse house:-

Sunken Structure, Brough of Birsay

North edge of archæological site, Brough of Birsay:-

Remains, Brough of Birsay

The Kar-Chee Reign by Avram Davidson

In The Kar-Chee Reign and Rogue Dragon, Ace, 1979, (192 p out of 381.)

The overall book, two novels in the one volume, is not a “proper” Ace Double as it does not have two authors and the second one isn’t printed upside down – and backwards – in relation to the first as in the classic doubles. It is also curious in that according to the copyright dates, 1966 and 1965 respectively, the sequel seems to have been published before the novel it is set after. Aspects of the setting and the occasional word choice (eg huntshoon as in shoes for hunting) made me wonder if Davidson had a Scottish background or connection but I couldn’t find one that was obvious.

The Kar-Chee Reign and Rogue Dragon cover

In The Kar-Chee Reign Earth’s resources have been depleted almost to zero, mainly due to its human inhabitants stripping it to make their voyages to the stars. All but forgotten by the diaspora, it has fallen to the Kar-chee – accompanied by their “dragons” – a species which specialises in extracting the last drop of resource from apparently worked out sources. They instigated violent earth movements, disrupting the land’s surface, changing the geography.

A small group in the new Britland – comprised from the new landmass connecting the former Western Isles, part of Ireland and the Isle of Man – survives without much contact with the aliens. But one day the aliens come and a few humans attack and kill them. This brings the dragons down on the settlement and the survivors flee on a raft. After exhausting most of the food they had brought on board they are rescued by a set of religious zealots who believe the Kar-chee are God’s revenge on humans for loose-living. Despite the strictures of their rescuers a few of them venture into a vast set of caverns and there do battle with the Kar-chee.

I must say this was better written than I had been expecting (I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Davidson before.) While plot is more or less everything in this type of tale (with a nod to setting) Davidson doesn’t neglect to give us character to sit alongside. While the chief zealot – and his wife – are pretty one-dimensional (then again, religious zealots tend to be so) others are complex enough to be getting on with.

Pedant’s corner:- the name of the aliens is spelled Kar-Chee in the title but Kar-chee in the text. Rowen (elsewhere Rowan,) dispell (dispel,) condescention (condescension,) gutteral (guttural.) “A pile of its timbers were stacked neatly” (a pile was stacked,) payed your own way (paid,) “buy the observation of the clouds” (by the observation,) “the ark-and the raft-group” (the ark- and the raft-group,) paniers (panniers,) painers (panniers,) afriad (afraid,) “there were a number of them” (there was a number,) Lors’ (Lors’s.) “And they silently followed them. All of them.” (And they silently followed him.) “The men’s face were grimed,” (faces,) “lay of land” (lie of land.) “It if can be done” (If it can be done.) “It was fixed into the wall of the pit firmly and on all sides were fixed into the wall of the pit firmly and on all sides were fixed the other struts,” (that second “fixed into the wall of the pit firmly and on all sides were” needs removed,) Lor’s (Lors’s,) racheting (ratcheting,) “the pattern of preceedings” (proceedings,) battless (battles.)

Spartans 0-0 Dumbarton

Scottish League Cup (Betfred Cup) Group H, Ainslie Park, 14/7/18.

And so it begins again. It only seems yesterday that we lost the play-off final yet here we are again, playing competitive football.

Well, I say competitive, but this had all the feel of a pre-season game. Given it’s mid-July and the World Cup hasn’t even finished yet that’s not so surprising.

We never looked in danger of losing a goal, though. But nor did we look much like scoring in the first half. Things improved in the second when we looked to raise the pace a bit and especially when Andy Little and Calum Callagher came on for Iain Russell and Ryan Thomson, both looking much livelier than the pair they replaced.

It was an odd sort of game not helped by the sunshine (football in Scotland isn’t meant to be played in such temperatures) and a clash between our new away strip’s red shorts and those of Spartans meaning we came out wearing the new black home shorts with the new away red shirts. We looked like a Brechin City tribute act.

And so to award the bonus point to separate drawn teams we went to a penalty shoot-out. We won. Only the second time I’ve seen us win one.

Another Sons fan gaily remarked afterwards that the last time we won a shootout (the one I saw) we went on to win the league. Early days, son. Steady on.

Still there were signs the new players were beginning to gel. I liked the fact that former (and new again) Son Ross Forbes kept demanding the ball in midfield. We also seemed to change formation a couple of times throughout the game. That’s a potentially good innovation.

And so my first visit to Ainslie Park passed off relatively quietly.

Archæology on the Brough of Birsay

The Brough of Birsay is an island just off the north-east coast of mainland Orkney. I blogged here about the causeway you have to cross to access the island.

It is also home to some archæological remains (as well as a Stevenson lighthouse which we didn’t visit.) The weather was fine when we walked across the causeway to the island but while we were there it started to rain and the wind was so strong the rain was coming in horizontally, so discretion prevailed over perseverance. Even so by the time we got back to the car we were thoroughly drookit.

There was some nice geology just where the path from the causeway meets the brough proper.

Rocks, Brough of Birsay, Orkney

The archæology on the brough comes from three distinct eras. First there was some Pictish occupancy. However this Pictish symbol stone is a replica, unfortunately. (Though there was such a stone found on the brough.)

Pictish Symbol Stone, Brough of Birsay

There is a better photograph of the symbol stone on Historic Scotland’s Birsay webpage if you click through the pictures.

As the information board says there was later Norse – in two phases – and ecclesiastical building on the island.

Brough of Birsay Information Board

Remains of Norse houses:-

Remains of Norse Houses, Brough of Birsay

A later Norse house:-

Norse House, Brough of Birsay

Another later Norse house:-

Later Norse House, Brough of Birsay

Birsay may have been the home of Thorfinn the Mighty.

Brough of Birsay, Norse Houses, Information Board

Reelin’ In the Years 151: Don’t Let it Die

An odd one this; record producer Norman Smith taking the mike (yes that’s the abbreviation for microphone used back in the day) himself apparently as a demo for John Lennon to consider but fellow record producer Mickie Most said he should release it as he’d recorded it.

A plea for wildlife conservation sadly still appropriate nigh on fifty years later.

For all its rough and ready qualities there’s something oddly haunting about Smith’s singing voice.

Hurricane Smith: Don’t Let It Die

Firs Park, Falkirk

This is sad viewing. The former home of East Stirlingshire FC now gone to rack and ruin.

I used to like going to Firs Park to see the Sons play there. It might have been utterly basic but it was a proper old style football ground.

It was certainly diminished by having that concrete wall built at one end of the ground behind the goal to stop the ball going on to the Retail Park’s access road but it’s really sad to see the state it’s in now.

I see the club has ended its rental agreement with Stenhousemuir at Ochilview to become tenants of Falkirk FC at the Falkirk Stadium. Imposing surroundings for the Lowland League even if Stirling University have been playing there too recently.

Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

The Reprint Society, 1965, 187 p.

Memento Mori cover

The cast of characters here consists of elderly people some of whom are in a home. While the driver of the plot seems to be the reception by some of them of telephone calls wherein the recipient is enjoined to, “Remember you must die,” the police can make no headway in discovering the culprit, whose voice is described differently by different people, and there is an indication that the whole scenario is due to hallucinations. Yes, one of the elderly is beaten to death during a burglary but this was opportunistic, the result of an overheard conversation revealing the victim would be home alone.

A lot is made of the past indiscretions of both Godfrey Colston and his wife, Charmian – the first’s known to his spouse (though he believes they aren’t and is subject to blackmail as a result,) the second’s not to her husband (at least early on,) with, respectively, Lisa Black and Guy Leet.

I’ve seen this book described as one of the great novels of the 1950s. Not for me it isn’t. It’s well written certainly, but in total felt a bit inconsequential.

Pedant’s corner:- “a old woman” (an,) Symons’ (Symons’s, we had “James’s” correctly,) “‘Gwen!’ she screams. ‘Gwen!’” (screamed, the rest of the paragraph is in past tense,) a missing full stop, a missing end quote right at the end of the last section.

Charon Then, and Then Again

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 6/7/2018, this is a picture of Pluto’s moon Charon (though which is primary and which satellite when one’s diameter is only twice the other’s is pushing it) taken by the New Horizons probe in its journey through Pluto’s system.

The inset shows the first ever indication of Charon’s existence – a grainy bump on an indistinct photograph from 40 years ago.


Alan Gilzean

So Alan Gilzean, whom Jimmy Greaves said was the greatest foootballer he had ever played with, has gone.

I never saw him play in the flesh, his time in Scotland being before I started watching football regularly and he was in any case in a different division to Dumbarton but he was a byword for accomplishment.

Before his move down south to Tottenham Hotspur Gilzean played for a great Dundee team, so great it won the championship of Scotland in 1962 and a year later reached the semi-finals of the European Cup. That was, of course, in the time when other Scottish clubs could compete almost on a level playing field with the two Glasgow giants. That success came in a remarkable 17 years when Hibernian (1948, 1951, 1952,) Aberdeen (1955,) (Hearts 1958, 1960,) Dundee (1962) and Kilmarnock (1965) became Scottish Champions. An incredible sequence: between the wars only Motherwell, in 1932, had broken the monopoly of Rangers and Celtic on the League Championship and subsequently only Aberdeen (1984, 1985) and Dundee United (1983) have performed the feat.

The power of money and the lucrative nature of European competition for the big two brought all that to an end. We’re unlikely to see anything like it again.

I’ve strayed somewhat from the point.

Gilzean was a great player, one whose movement on the pitch (from televisual evidence) was deceptively effortless looking, he seemed to glide over the ground in that way that only accomplished players manage to achieve. His scoring record isn’t too mean either; 169 in 190 games for Dundee, 93 in 343 for Spurs, 1 in 3 for the Scottish League and 12 in 22 for Scotland.

Alan John Gilzean: 22/10/1938 – 8/7/2018. So it goes.

Eight Keys to Eden by Mark Clifton

Pan, 1965, 171 p.

Eight Keys to Eden cover

On an Earth seemingly one political entity, long after a global conflict rendered the old powers otiose, decision making and problem solving has been delegated to a small group of highly trained thinkers called Extrapolators, E for short, whose jurisdiction is unquestioned save by elements of the planet’s police force. The plot kicks off when all communication with the colony known as Eden, suspiciously admirably suited to human life, is broken off. A junior (therefore not fully qualified) E named Calvin Gray is given the task of finding out exactly what has happened, a decision police chief Gunderson sees as an opportunity to bring the Es under police control.

Dogged by police interference and pursuit Gray travels to Eden where all evidence of human settlement has disappeared, the landscape being as it had before the colonists arrived. Any humans their devices can image are naked. On landing the party is approached by three naked humans and then the landing ship plus the rescue expedition members’ clothes also disappear. The communication breakdown was occasioned by every human artefact being removed by such mysterious means. Moreover any attempt by humans to manipulate the environment is now subverted. They cannot rub sticks together to make fire. They do not even leave footprints in the sand. The humans can survive as there is no problem eating and drinking provided no artificial means are employed in so doing. Plants, berries, raw fish are all fine. In addition in this new dispensation, people cannot concentrate on one thing for very long. The pursuing police ship nevertheless is able to image the scenes on Eden. The pictures of naked humans are seized on by Gunderson as evidence of immorality and the lever which will allow him to bring the Es to heel.

This is one of the areas where the novel shows its age. Gender roles and attitudes are firmly those of the late 1950s, their universality and infinite application unquestioned. Despite near enough instantaneous interstellar travel – the journey from Earth to Eden does take time but it is in the order of hours, not years – and the communication between Earth and the ships round Eden is depicted as having no delay, photographs require chemical processing and development, not to mention physical storage space.

Attempts at further landings to make arrests are prevented by an invisible barrier. However, E Gray proves up to his task, it seems Eden was a kind of lure to bring such an individual to the planet. Under the influence of the powers that control Eden he discovers that far from reality being a matter of equality in mathematical terms as in e = mc2 (here rendered as E = MC2) it is more fundamentally due to proportionality rather than equality. Merely finding the right way to think about it enables Gray to begin to manipulate matter.

It is the story that drives this. The characters are barely two-dimensional, their motivations simple, their interactions perfunctory. Almost as an aside Clifton implies that self-centredness is the basis of human attitude and behaviour – which is a dubious assertion at best. However, the sentiment, “any police officer will swear to any lie to back up another police officer because he might need the favour returned tomorrow,” is probably applicable anywhere, anytime.

Pedant’s corner:- hiccough (hiccup, any comparison to a cough is misplaced,) meteorolgist (metereologist, used correctly later,) chisms (context implies schisms,) “had men ever been able to settle their differences, had man been able to get along peacefully with himself, he might have developed no civilization at all” (it’s a mistaken notion in the first place since civilisation – note the “s” in British English – is entirely due to cooperation between humans; but context demands “never” for that ‘ever”,) “collar and hames rubs on their necks” (harness rubs?) “a flock of shore birds were busy” (a flock was busy,) laying (lying – used correctly a couple of times later,) “the way a herd of animals take shelter” (takes shelter,) “right were to look” (where,) “the top administrative brass were assembled” (the top brass was assembled.) “The both of them listened” (Both of them listened; or, the pair of them listened,) “he told himself that all wasn’t lost” (that not all was lost,) “but all was not lost” (but not all was lost,) innured (inured.)

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