An Astronomical Jewel

Taken for Astronomy Picture of the Day for 26/6/22, this is V838 Mon, the result of a sudden outburst from the surface of star V838 Monocerotis, a phenomenon never seen before.

Doesn’t it, though, look like the setting of a ring?

V838 Monocerotis

Something Changed 56: Secret Smile

This is simply because my youngest son used to like it.

Semisonic: Secret Smile

Masterpieces at the Queen’s Gallery Holyrood, Edinburgh

Last September we visited the Queen’s Gallery by Holyrood Palace. On that visit the facility was offered to convert the attendance ticket to one that allowed entry for a year.

Accordingly last week we took the opportunity to take in the latest exhibition there, Masterpieces from Buckingham Place, currently on view until Sep 25. Each of the pictures was captioned with the identity of the King, Queen or Prince who purchased it. Some of the paintings below appear on the Art UK website, others I photographed myself (allowed as long as no flash was used)

Given his fate it is somewhat ironic that Judith with the Head of Holofernes, painted by Cristofano Allori (1577-1621,) was bought by Charles I. Judith’s face in this painting looks remarkably modern to me:-

Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Artemisia Gentileschi (Rome 1593-Naples 1652) Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura.):-

Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, Artemisia Gentileschi

Andrea del Sarto (Florence 1486-Florence 1530) Portrait of a Woman in Yellow:-

Woman in Yellow, Andrea Del Sarto

Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606-Amsterdam 1669) Agatha Bas (1611-1658):-

Agatha Bas, Rembrandt

One of the most striking paintings of light in the exhibition was in this other Rembrandt, Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb. My photograph fails to do it justice:-

Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb

Parmigianini (1503 – 1540) Pallas Athene. For some reason this reminded me of the cyclist Laura (Trott) Kenny. Unfortunately my photograph has a reflection of the Gallery’s central light fitting:-

Pallas Athene

Gaspard Dughet (1615-1675) Seascape with Jonah and the Whale. There is a lightning flash across the upper part of this picture of which I tried to take a close-up, but it didn’t come out:-

Saescape with Jonah and the Whale

Jacob van Ruisdael (1628-1682) Evening Landscape, A Windmill by a Stream:-

Evening Landscape, A Windmill by a Stream

The information card for the above says “a single figure swathed in black walks away from us.” Examining the picture closely two (female) figures can clearly be seen behind the black swathed one! They are brilliantly conjured up too, with just a few dabs of paint. How could the writer of the description have failed to notice them? (Is it perhaps because they are clearly women?)

Figures Painted by Jacob van Ruisdael

There is a virtual tour of the exhibition here.

Johnny Graham

I have just noticed on the club website that Johnny Graham, midfield maestro of that famous Sons promotion team of 1972 has passed away. I can’t convey the sadness I feel at this news.

Johnny’s total of 385 games for Dumbarton FC is the most of anyone who has played for the club, as is his 99 cup ties.

As the club tribute says he scored 29 gaols for the side but assisted countless others. I well remember him scoring a beauty against Falkirk at Boghead in 1970. He got the ball at the edge of their box and flicked it over a defender’s head, whom he ran round to hit the ball on the volley into the net. Sublime.

He also had the unique trick of seeming to let an opposition clearance go over his head in midfield before extending his superb left peg back behind him and without being able to see the ball using the back of that foot propel it forwards again – usually to a team mate. I’ve never seen anyone else do that.

Johnny Graham: 30/12/1947 – 28/06/2022. So it goes.

At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Greig

Quercus, 2011, 324 p, including i p Reading and ii p Acknowledgements.

This non-fiction book is Grieg’s tribute to Norman MacCaig, one of that generation of Scottish poets which included Christopher Murray Grieve (Hugh McDiarmid,) Sidney Goodsir Smith, Sorley MacLean and Edwin Morgan, to whom Greig as an aspiring poet himself looked up. Not long before MacCaig’s death he laid on Greig a request that he catch for him a fish at the loch of the green corrie (which isn’t the loch’s real name) in MacCaig’s beloved Assynt in the western Highlands. But it is much more than a mere tribute. It is an appreciation of MacCaig’s poetry, a voyage into Greig’s past and present relationhips, and into the Deep Time which geologist James Hutton divined must be the case from his studies of the native rocks of that area and the changes which had been wrought on them, a threnody to the landscape of Assynt (and Scotland as whole,) a paean to friendship, a meditation on the usefulness – or otherwise – of literature, a celebration of what it means to be human. Anyone familiar with Greig’s fiction will recognise the affinities with it that this book displays, the same sympathetic observation of people and customs, the same sense of a writer exposing the human soul.

That disposition makes itself felt from time to time, “Most team games have their roots in warfare or fertility rituals – shinty dispenses with the fertility part,” a consideration of Deep Time with the present moment leads to a comparison with bifocal lenses, “the close-up and the long distance are true, while the middle distance is fuzzy and befuddled. Unfortunately that is where we live most of the time,” a reference to “the curious indifference of our English friends and partners to being English” indicates the vagaries of nationality. The culture of the western Highlands is illuminated via the thought that drinking is sacramental as long as it’s done in company, “what possible pleasure could there be in drinking alone?” Grieg touches on the importance of scale and size in making the Scottish landscape so alluring. The hills of Wales and the Lake and Peak districts of England are somewhat tame in comparison, “domestic,” while the Himalayas are too austere and grand. (As well as fishing, composing poetry and writing fiction Greig has mountaineering as one of his pastimes. How does he find the time to write?)

But it is literature that is a continual spur – and disappointment, a poetical apprehension of failure. “The word is an arrow that will always miss its mark. ‘The curse of literacy’.”

Pedant’s corner:- “A phantom pantheon of poets come trooping up these winding stairs” (a phantom pantheon comes,) “the short, direct terms that Low Dutch imported into English to such forceful effect” (surely Low Dutch exported these and English imported them?) missing commas before pieces of direct speech, “two core principals” (principles makes more sense,) sprung (sprang,) “born off downstream” (borne off,) “ropey weed” (weed like rope, used, I suppose, to distinguish from ‘ropy’ weed, weed that’s not good at being weed,) “Johnson‘s Baby Powder” (Johnson’s.)

War Graves, Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh (i)

Morningside Cemetery lies between Morningside Drive and Balcarres Street in Edinburgh. It contains more than a few Commonwealth War Graves. Most are from the Great War but some are from World War 2. I found too many for one post.

Private J Couper, Royal Scots, 29/7/1915, aged 21:-

War Grave Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh

Private D A Chisholm, The Black Watch, 20/10/1920:-

Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh, War Grave

Corporal D W Marwick, RAF, 23/8/1940:-

Edinburgh, Morningside Cemetery, World War 2 Grave

Captain W A C Taylor, RAMC, 25/8/1917, aged 44:-

Edinburgh, War Grave, Morningside Cemetery

Eng. Sub-Lieutenant E T Tylee, ‘HMS Nairana,’ 26/1/1919, aged 28:-

Great War Grave, Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh

Private J T Tully, HLI, 18/9/1918, aged 31:-

Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh, Great War Grave

Private W R Simpson, 5th Reserve Regt of Cavalry, 14/1/1915, aged 25:-

Edinburgh, Great War Grave, Morningside Cemetery

Private A M Kerr, Royal Scots Fusilier, 21/4/1920, aged 33:-

Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh, Great War Grave

Corporal F Black, 5th Battalion Royal Scots, Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles, 27/1/1915:-

Great War Grave, Edunburgh, Morningside Cemetery

War Dedication, Captain Archibald Craig Miller, Forth Royal Garrison Artillery, 3/10/1915, aged 33:-

War Dedication, Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh

Shandon War Memorial and Garelochhead Memorial Bench

Shandon is a village on the shores of the Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute (the part which used to be in West Dunbartonshire.) Garelochhead lies at the head of the Gare Loch.

Shandon’s War Memorial lies beside the A 814 between Rhu and Garelochhead and takes the form of a sandstone Celtic Cross. The inscription on the pillar reads, “And the leaves of thee were for the sealing of the nations.”

Shandon War Memorial

Great War dedication. “To the glory of God and in grateful memory of (names) who died on active service and of thirty-six men from the district who took part in the Great War 1914-1919 and returned in safety.” Below is inscribed, “Give thanks o heart for the high souls that point us to the deathless goals.”

Shandon War Memorial Great War Dedication

World War 2 dedication. “To the glory of God and in remembrance of the young men of Shandon who gave their lives in the Second World War 1939 – 1945.” Below reads, “The people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves.”

Shandon War Memorial, Second World War Dedication

War Memorial bench, Garelochhead, presumably for the 100th anniversary of the Great War. Situated in grounds of church:-

War Memorial Bench at Garelochhead

The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong

Picador, 2020, 391 p.

No question of cultural appropriation could possibly be held against Graeme Armstrong in this his debut novel. The Young Team is firmly rooted in his background and experience of growing up in a working class housing estate in Airdrie in the West of Scotland. The book is written in language steeped in those surroundings. Raw, visceral and confident, it is profoundly demotic and could be called dialect (some may even dub it slang) but is certainly far from the genteel prose of the usual literary novel. Yet it is also undeniably expressive, and capable of handling all the nuances of a novel.

The first person narrative follows Alan Williams (aka Azzy Boy,) member of the Young Team Posse gang, from the brash bravado of barely teenage youth, “Obviously, A’ve hud ma hole,” looking up to the previous generation of gang members, through young adulthood, the creeping influence of hard drug dealers and a more reflective sense of time passing, of putting away childish things, “Yi huv tae break free fae aw these demons n live tae the fullest yi kin.”

There are several accounts of violent confrontations with the Young Team’s rivals the Toi (‘defendin yir scheme’.) Here we might comment on the narcissism of small differences; one West of Scotland housing estate is much like another, to construct rivalries on the basis of which side of a road you live is an exercise in nit-picking, but nevertheless the thing that gives the Young Team – Wee Broonie, Kenzie, Azzy, Danny, Addison, Finnegan and Wee Toffey – a focus for living, for anticipating Friday night. Girls, while part of the extended gang, are peripheral to its main activities but still strange creatures, with their own motivations. Azzy holds a lingering torch for Monica Watson, a bright girl flickeringly receptive to Azzy’s charms but always destined to leave the estate and not willing to settle for less. (Late on in the book when the prospect of a new life beckons Wee Broonie tells Azzy, ‘Yi pure luv her so yi dae.’)

Music is a more constant companion. Many passages refer to the sound track to Azzy’s life.

In one brilliant descriptive passage Azzy expresses what it’s like to be at a rave. “Everycunt is yir pal in here. Maybe it’s cos we’re aw fuckin oot oor nuts on pills that we’re feelin the love. The ecktoplasmic euphorian fellowship wae our common man. Harmony wae aw humanity. A love the strangers next tae me n they love me back. Peace n love tae aw mankind. Utopian society,” where there is, “No a sea, but a fuckin ocean ae people aw bobbin n weaving, knitted together by sound, ecstasy and passion fur the tunes. … The crowd is a single entity, a cult, n our deity behind the decks,” and the effects of the drugs and adrenaline on cognition, “A’m pushin against the current, goin against the grain, The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. Pure random thoughts n mince n tatties in the brain.”

Azzy doesn’t ignore the down side of such indulgence, depicting the aftermath of imbibing a cocktail of drugs and alcohol – “A come down is beyond roughness. Stomach cramps, cracked lips, a white sandpaper tongue, a blocked nose, chest pains and feelings ae total run-down deterioration. Yi feel sad, depressed n on the verge ae total misery, cripplin longin and melancholy. It’s a confusin n paranoid pathos tappin intae hardwired emotional issues, fears and desperation ae aw forms. There’s nae escaping the ecstasy blues” – more terminal velocity than gentle drift back to earth. “Yi sink further doon than the place yi left fae. …. Ironic, in’t it? The place yi were so desperate tae escape wid noo be a near paradise.”

The indulgence eventually takes its toll and Azzy succumbs to panic attacks, forswearing drugs and seizing the chance of the always likely tragedy to move to Gateshead with Nicola, who’d always had her eye on him. When the inevitable happens and he comes back, “Aw the normal folk hud been driven oot ae the town centre, fadin one by one. The rest ir stuck here, forever wheelin roon this nightmarish carousel ae degradation that used tae be a proud n thrivin market town. Any dreams ae that huv vanished.”

Background is not so easy to avoid, gang culture sucks him in again, made more dangerous by the intrusion of drug cartels and the concomitant brutal enforcement of their will, culminating in a hospital vigil. “This is where it always ends. Sittin in a fuckin magnolia room, waitin.”

Azzy, like Armstrong, comes to the understanding that, “Our conditionin, two hundred years ae hard labour, made us believe this shite is aw there is fur us – our lot, the drink n drugs, anaesthetic n elixir tae this social nightmare. A didnae believe that.”

The content and language of The Young Team may not be to some readers’ tastes but Armstrong’s illustration of that conditioning, his use of a means of expression totally true to its origins, his depiction of characters normally dismissed by literature, is eloquent demonstration that their, his, language is as expressive – and nuanced – as any other, as capable and worthy of delineating the world.

Pedant’s corner:- Williams’ (x2, Williams’s,) “in elder cunts motors” (cunts’,) “bang tae rites” (rights,) “takin mare pills” (mare is usually spelled ‘mair’.) “A’m thinking A’ve just huv a brush wae death” (just hud a brush.) “The polis’ words” (polis’s.) “‘How yi hoddin up, son?’” (hoddin is usually spelled ‘haudin’.) “The rumours aboot developers building flats hus finally come tae pass” (huv finally come to pass.)

Fabrics at Hill House, Helensburgh

Original fabrics at Hill House, some by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh:-

Original Fabrics, Hill House, Helensburgh

Closer views:-

Original Fabric Samples, Hill House, Helensburgh

Hill House, Helensburgh Fabric Samples

Display room, Hill House:-

Display Room, Hill House, Helensburgh

Mackintosh style modern stuff for sale:-

Items For Sale, Hill House, Helensburgh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh ‘Rose’ design biscuits in café:-

Biscuits, Hill House, Helensburgh

Not Friday on my Mind 73 and Reelin’ in the Years 203: Black Magic Woman

One of Fleetwood Mac’s early singles from the Peter Green era, revived by Santana in 1970.

Fleetwood Mac: Black Magic Woman

Santana: Black Magic Woman

free hit counter script