Leixões, Matosinhos Principality, Portugal

I had only heard of Leixões before through the football team bearing that name, actually part of a wider sporting club. Leixões is however the port for Porto.

Like Avilés, Leixões has an architecturally interesting building by the dockside.

This photo from distance was actually taken when we were leaving port:-

Portside Building and Leixões

There was a metal sort of walkway or loading way leading out from the building:-

Portside Building Leixões Walkway

See in this photo how the loading way’s roof bends over to become its wall:-

Portside Building Leixões

That curve can be seen here and the building as a whole:-

Portside Building Stitch

Views from dockside:-

Dockside Building Leixões

Portside Building Leixões

Dockside Building, Leixões

Part of the structure is supported by these leaning pillars:-

Leixões Dockside Building Supports

I believe the building may house art exhibits at times. There was none when we were there though. Interior:-

Leixões Dockside Building Interior 1>

Dockside Building, Leixões, Interior 2

From Matosinhos beach:-

Dockside Building and SS Black Watch

Creating a Fictional World

Two articles caught my eye in Saturday’s Guardian Review.

The cover piece was by Naomi Alderman and discussed feminist Science Fiction with reference to its warning nature and the threat recent political events present to the potential of women being treated on an equal basis with men. Of particular interest here was the revelation to me of part of the background to Ursula Le Guin’s childhood where her parents had taken in the last survivor of the Native American Yani people about whom Le Guin’s mother wrote a book. The implication is that exposure to other ways of thinking than what otherwise surrounded her opened up perspectives which Le Guin was able to transform into her fiction. Margaret Atwood too spent parts of her childhood outside the comforts of civilisation, while Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr) travelled in Africa as a child coming into contact with various groups. Alderman uses the example of her own novel The Power to illustrate that the nature of a utopia/dystopia is dependent on viewpoint.

Further on there was an odd piece by Scarlett Thomas on her conversion to the delights and magic of children’s fiction.

What got me here was the sentence, “But it turns out that creating a fictional world is a very complex act” in a “who knew?” context.

Well, duh. Only every Science Fiction or fantasy writer who ever tried it.

Behind the sentence’s remarkable blindness presumably stood Thomas’s previous implicit view that such creators are not real writers and anything fantastical does not warrant serious attention.

Still, it seems she’s got over that now.

Leaving Ferrol

The bunkering finished and the Black Watch eventually set off some hours late.

Ferrol harbour outlet:-

Ferrol Harbour Outlet

On the starboard side was this collection of houses:-

Houses by Seaside near Ferrol

This was a different (small) harbour on the port side as we sailed. Mugardos?:-

Another Harbour near Ferrol

The estuary narrowed for a bit on the way out and there were old fortifications on each side of the estuary.

To port side:-

Fortification to Port Side, Ferrol Estuary

To starboard was the Castle San Felipe (Castelo San Felipe):-

Castle San Filipe, Near Ferrol

Castle San Felipe slipway:-

Castle San Filipe, Slipway

If you look carefully at this photo you should see some gunsmoke coming from the castle. As a “greeting” to the ship there was a guy in mediaeval costume firing a blunderbuss or some such thing:-

Castle San Filipe, Gunsmoke

Castle San Felipe:-

Castle San Filipe 4

Looking back to port side fortification, pilot boat following the ship:-

Fortification, Ferrol Estaury

There was a third fortification on the starboard side a bit further out from Ferrol. Pleasure boat in foreground:-

Third Fortification, Ferrol Estaury

The pilot boat zoomed a little closer after we’d made it past the narrows:-

Pilot Boat

This quarry was the last sign of human activity before the ocean:-

Quarry near Ferrol, Galicia, Spain

The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie

Picador, 2012, 59 p

 The Overhaul cover

Winner of the 2012 Costa Poetry Award, shortlisted for the 2012 T S Eliot Prize.

35 poems, most one pagers, one six pages, the rest two. 2 are eftir Hölderlin (as is one in Jamie’s later collection The Bonniest Companie). Hölderlin seems to be one of her favourite models. Most poems here are in English with the odd Scots word but some are entirely Scots. Nature, or those working in the outdoors, is an inspiration for many and there is an abiding seriousness to her poems, though she is not beyond essaying a pun for a last line. An odd quirk was that some poems had missing full stops at their conclusion, as if they’re unfinished. Understandable enough for those two entitled Fragment 1 and Fragment 2.

I most enjoyed Excavation and Recovery with its evocation of deep time partly because I have seen (in Perth and Abernethy Museums respectively) the log boat whose archaeological recovery it partly describes and a depiction of the dig process.

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts

Gollancz, 2010, 330 p

Yellow Blue Tibia cover

Emblazoned across this book’s cover is ‘Should have won the 2009 Booker Prize’ – Kim Stanley Robinson. Rather a large claim to make and considering the novel spends some time mentioning and discussing Science Fiction and the existence or not of aliens – an automatic disbarment one would have thought – a forlornly hopeful one at best. (I note a certain amount of possible mutual back-scratching going on here as Roberts praised Robinson’s latest novel in his recent Guardian review.)

Yellow Blue Tibia, unusually for a piece of Western SF, is set entirely in the Soviet Union and starts when a group of Soviet SF writers is invited to meet comrade Stalin and asked to come up with a scenario of alien invasion to provide an enemy for the state to rally the people against. Their concept of radiation aliens becomes fleshed out but then they are told to forget the whole thing and never mention it again to anyone. Narrator Konstantin Skvorecky, former SF writer and veteran of the Great Patriotic War, recalls this from the perspective of the glasnost and perestroika era of 1986 when he once again meets a member of that original group, Ivan Frenkel, and weird things begin to happen.

The novel contains several nods to works of SF, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy etc, and frequent discussions of the form, ‘the worlds created by a science fictional writer do not deny the real world; they antithesise it!’
But what are we to make of this exchange?
“‘Communism is science fiction.’
‘And vice versa.’
‘I can think of many American writers of science fiction who would be insulted to think so.’
‘Perhaps they do not fully understand the genre in which they are working.’”

Frenkel is attempting to convince Skvorecky that UFOs are real, are in effect all around us, that in accordance with the scenario dreamed up by Stalin’s conclave of SF writers an alien invasion is under way. Skvorecky is initially sceptical, “‘Marx called religion the opium of the people… But at least opium is a high-class drug. UFO religion? That’s the methylated spirits of the people. It’s the home-still beetroot-alcohol of the people.’” To help persuade him Frenkel has Skvorecky meet two US Scientologists, James Tilly Coyne, and Nora Dorman – with whom Skvorecky falls in love mainly, it seems, because she is well-proportioned. In the end, though, Skvorecky tells us, “There are no secrets in this book… it is drawing your attention to that which is hidden in plain view all the time.”

Supposedly comedic interludes are provided by Saltykov – a taxi driver who has a condition, an extreme form of Asperger’s syndrome – and cannot bear contact with another man. He continually harps on about this and repeatedly says, ‘Do not talk to the driver. It’s a distraction.’ Roberts making one of Saltykov’s utterances, ‘I like to keep my engine clean. It’s a clean machine,’ is, though, certainly an authorial allusion to Penny Lane. Then we have the rather plodding KGB heavy, Trofim, who dogs Skvorecky more or less throughout.

This is the first time on reading Roberts that he has made me laugh. This came during an exchange in Chernobyl’s Reactor 4 (the aliens are apparently intending to blow this up, Skvorecky to find the bomb) when Trofim says, “It’s fallen in the water!”. But then I suppose, strictly speaking, since it’s a Goon Show quote (“He’s fallen in the water” – audio sample here, towards the bottom of the page) it was actually Spike Milligan making me laugh.

Skvorecky leads a charmed life, surviving many threatening situations, not least with Trofim. The UFO hypothesis suggests his survival is due to the superposition of states, of what Roberts dubs realitylines.

So why Yellow Blue Tibia? Apparently “yellow, blue, tibia” approximates to a phonetic declaration of “I love you” in Russian, a phrase which Skvorecky teaches to Dora. Unfortunately the book states that the tibia is a bone in the arm. The tibia is actually in the leg, along with the femur and the fibia; the bones of the arm are the humerus, the radius and the ulna. This is a pretty egregious mistake to make when the word tibia is in your book’s title.

It is undeniably all very cleverly done but again there is that distancing feeling attached to Roberts’s writing. Skvorecky claims to be in love with Dora but as a reader I couldn’t really feel it.

Apart from that could Yellow Blue Tibia have won the 2009 Booker Prize? Given the literary world’s prejudices – even though some of its denizens have taken to appropriating the tropes of the genre – never.

And should it have? In a word, no. Look at the short list.

Pedant’s corner:- for you next appointment (your,) paleoarcheological (palaeoarchaeological,) a stigmata (stigmata is plural, the singular is stigma,) a missing opening quote mark, sat (seated, or sitting,) “the spindle-wheels of the cassette again began turning again” (only one “again” required here,) span (spun – which appeared later,) “covered with the chocolate brown patches” (these patches had not previously been mentioned; so “covered with chocolate brown patches”,) a missing full stop at the end of a piece of dialogue, “we spent out energies” (our energies,) sprung (sprang.) “‘What am I suppose to do now?’” (supposed,) liquorish (liquorice. This is the second time I have seen liquorish for liquorice in a Roberts book. Does he really believe liquorish is the correct spelling?) “‘She was the middle of’” (in the middle of,) cesium (caesium, please,) trunk (of a car; previously “boot” had been used,) “‘Use you fucking head.’” (your,) “The air around me was less atmosphere and more immersion, or preparation was of a multiple spectral shift.” (????) “when accounts … becomes more frequent” (become. )

Not Leaving Ferrol

The harbour side, Ferrol. Lovely paving and trees:-
atrees at port

You can see the SS Black Watch in the background here berthed at Ferrol. That beardy bloke got in the photo again:-

Ferrol Harbour

Getting up on deck some time after we got back I could hear the sound of pipers again, coming from the quayside. I assume these were the Galician variety:-

Galician Pipers

I took some video. Click on the picture to take you to it. Galician pipes have a less strident sound than the Scottish variety:-

Pipers, Ferrol, Galicia, Spain

There was a delay to our departure because of what at first I couldn’t make out from the ship’s PA. I eventually cottoned on they’d said they were “bunkering”. I was amused that the same word is still used even though the ship won’t have coal bunkers but oil tanks instead.

It was a beautiful warm day and the ship put on an impromptu deck party, complete with six piece band.

impromptu deck party

My cynical self had the thought that they did this to push sales of sangria to offset any excess berthing fees arising from the overstay.

Chuck Berry

Reading his obituary and a piece in the Guardian’s G2 brought home to me how important Chuck Berry was to the development of rock and roll and the music that followed it.

His heyday was in the 50s so I had kind of missed all that by being too young. I must have been aware of him somewhere in the background via the paltry amount of rock music on the radio in those times but I didn’t really come into contact with his music till the mid to late 60s when some of his singles were in the pile beside the record player at a youth club I went to. It’s therefore No Particular Place to Go and Memphis Tenessee I remember most particularly. It wasn’t actually till years later that I discovered No Particular Place to Go was a reworking of a 1957 song, School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell).

Not the least of his accomplishments was to irritate Mary Whitehouse with his ding-a-ling. (Well, it seems it was Dave Bartholomew’s ding-a-ling, but it was Chuck who annoyed Whitehouse.)

His personal life may not have been unblemished but he certainly has an impressive musical back catalogue, and that’s only the singles.

So here are those two Berry singles the second in a later live version.

Chuck Berry: No Particular Place to Go

Chuck Berry: Memphis Tenessee

Go Johnny go! Tell Tchaikovsky the news.

Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry: 18/10/1926 – 18/3/2017. So it goes.

Art Deco in Ferrol

There wasn’t much deco in Ferrol. We found two nice squares and this one, the Plaza de Espaňa, had a deco building on it:-

Plaza de Espaňa, Ferrol

A Banca:-

A Banca, Ferrol

Close-up showing deco detail on rounded corner:-

A Banca Close-up

Balconied Deco:-

Art Deco Building in Ferrol

More Art Deco, Ferrol:-

More Art Deco, Ferrol

Buildings in Ferrol

On the way in to Ferrol from the ship we passed an area known as Arsenal Militar. A mannequin recalled Spain’s military past. Here’s a photo with some beardy bloke beside it:-

Soldier Mannequin

Ferrol seems to be laid out in a grid pattern though the streets are not wide. This was at siesta time when the streets emptied:-

asiesta time

A square in Ferrol:-

Old and New

The building to the left of the square in the photo above has an odd mixture of architectural styles. See the glass gable-end:-

Odd Mix of Architectural Styles, Ferrol

It was also hard by what may be a memorial to Spain’s colonial wars (if I can trust my reading of the Spanish inscription.) It was in the middle of a busy road so I didn’t linger long:-

Colonial War Memorial, Ferrol

You know you’re not in Calvinist Scotland any more when you come across a statue like this in an otherwise perfectly normal street. (Hooded penitents are apparently a big part of Holy Week celebrations in Ferrol.):-

Hooded Penitent Statue, Ferroll

Asimov’s Science Fiction January/February 2017

Dell Magazines

Asimov's Jan-Feb 2017 cover

Sheila Williams’s Editorial hails Asimov’s 40th year of publication, Robert Silverberg’s Reflections solicits two cheers for Piltdown Man, James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net: Ask Me Anything compares various digital assistants, in On Books1 Paul di Filippo reviews eight books (including one I have reviewed for Interzone.) I was under the impression that Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station was a fix-up novel. di Filippo writes about it as if unaware of this.
As to the fiction. In Crimson Birds of Small Miracles2 by Sean Monaghan the father of a daughter with a terminal brain disease takes her and her sister to see Shilinka Switalla’s artwork, a flock of robot birds doing murmurations, as these excursions seem to help her. This story had an illustration of a strange attitude to wealth. The father has a good business, can afford increasingly complex prosthetics for his sick daughter, can take his children to various different planets but reckons he could never be rich in the monetary sense. Yet he quite clearly is.
Tagging Bruno3 by Allen Steele. On Coyote, a moon in the system 47-Uma, a former soldier is roped in to act as guide on a project to tag an indigenous bird-like species (boids) dangerous to humans but under threat of extinction due to human hunting activity. It goes quite well till the expedition encounters a flock which turns the tables on them.
Still Life with Abyss by Jim Grimsley is set in a project researching the only individual in all the multiple universes who has never caused a fork in time.
In Fatherbond by Tom Purdow, new arrivals on a colony planet begin to work against the entity which seeks to restrict their actions. (It’s tempting to read this as a metaphor for the pre-Revolutionary government of North America which forbade expansion westwards, the desire to overthrow which ban -rather than the confected protest about taxation – being the true reason for the War of Independence.)
Winter Timeshare4 by Ray Nayler shows us the annual meeting of two people who inhabit bodies (dubbed blanks) for their one holiday each year which is always in Istanbul, whose surrounding hills are the location for sending volunteers on a one-way trip to space. Despite their purchasing power blanks are resented by the “normal” locals. For a reason not particularly obvious the job of one of our protagonists involves simulating the Peloponnesian War.
Two young girls in the LA area in Lisa Goldstein’s The Catastrophe of Cities investigate strange houses wherein they glimpse oddly shaped people and passageways lead elsewhere. They drift apart on puberty, one seemingly dropping out of existence. In much later life the other seeks her out.
Robert R Chase’s Pieces of Ourselves5 is the tale of a survivor of a terrorist attack on a moon base who may have assimilated character traits as a result of her experience.
Jack Skillingstead’s Destination6 features a man who has not been outside the confines of his gated work community since being plucked from his childhood home after displaying high aptitude being told by his bosses to take part in the game Destination, essentially a mystery tour by taxi. Outside is not what he thought.
The Meiosis of Cells and Exile by Octavia Cade is structured around the life of Soviet biochemist and neuroscientist Lina Stern. On a train to exile in Dzhambul her body buds sequentially (or else she hallucinates) three of her former selves, the Academician, the Child, and the Scientist. Each is equated with a function of the blood-brain barrier.
Starphone by Stephen Baxter is set in a post ocean-rise world where flood refugees are kept inside domes. Some teenagers plan a short escape to test the Fermi Paradox by making an Allen Array with their mobile phones.
In Blow Winds, and Crack Your Cheeks7 by John Alfred Taylor a couple celebrates the last time it will be safe to witness a storm at their island home. The damage it causes is still substantial even though the hurricane’s eye passes thirty miles out from shore.
Robert Reed’s The Speed of Belief8 is a tale of three entities, two immortals with bioceramic brains, one normal human, on their way to a planet where the rivers are sentient. I really couldn’t make much of this. Perhaps I was too tired when I read it.

Pedant’s corner:- 1 again di Filippo uses stefnal for science-fictional – it still looks odd to me, “compare that man to somewhat callow fellow” (to the somewhat callow fellow.) 2a dark red button-front jumper (a dark red cardigan, then?) base reliefs (bas-reliefs, I think,) 378.2 inches (how can you decimalise a non-metric unit?) “a small red crosshairs” (a implies singular, crosshairs is surely plural; there was “a green crosshairs” later,) “Carbon testing of boid skeletons had shown they could live as long as thirty-five years” (leaving aside the question of whether 14C would exist on this world at all, unless the carbon testing is somewhat different from on Earth it could do no such thing; 14C dating only yields the time elapsed since death,) a missing end quote mark, sole causality (casualty.) 4Bosporus (I only ever saw Bosphorus when I was young,) causal (casual was intended.) 5 “started at her intently” (stared.) 6 “an approved media” (it was one of the social media; so medium.) 7grille (grill, used earlier in the story.) 8 “with every sort of creatures” (creature.) “But the dense native air was heavily oxygenated, and the bedrock had been scorched clean of its forests and soil.” (This is stated to have been done by wildfires. The oxygen would have to be remnant then as there will be nothing to replenish it,) “carefully tailored frame: The long body” (no capital at “the”.) “Mere notice what was different” (noticed,) forbad (the usual form is forbade.)

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