The Journey to the East by Herman Hesse

Peter Owen, 1970, 91 p. Translated from the German Die Morgenlandfahrt by Hilda Rosner.

This is one of those pieces of fiction which tend not to be produced by English language writers. It is an account of a journey through Europe supposedly to the East (though we never in fact get there) but also through time: the narrator (H H) encounters various historical characters, in the Middle Ages and the Golden Age, during his wanderings.

The book begins with H H’s reflections on the Great War, shortly after it ended. (On his journey an interlocutor who has written a book about the war tells H H that no book “‘could convey any real picture of the war to the most serious reader, if he had not himself experienced the war.’”)

H H joins the League, a secret organisation whose makeup and dealings he is constrained by vow not to reveal. Despite this he is attempting to write down just those – without breaking his oath not to do so. His great experience, the journey to the East, was, “a constant pilgrimage towards East, towards the Home of Light. The goal was not only the East, but the home and youth of the soul.”

He describes various aspects of the journey, a stop at Bremgarten, meetings with those people from history, an incident in the Morbio gorge. This last involves an attendant called Leo whose disappearance from there is the central point of the (very short) book. All the League remnants seem to think Leo has taken some of their belongings with him but later H H has access to their written accounts of the time and they remember things differently to him. He becomes separated himself from the League and all its members to the extent that he begins to believe it never existed – till he is rejoined to them and finds his lonely sojourning and despair was a test. At his trial for such apostasy the head of the League tells the court, “despair is the result of each earnest attempt to understand and vindicate human life. Despair is the result of each earnest attempt to go through life with virtue, justice and understanding and to fulfil their requirements.”

This, then, is an allegory; of a spiritual and ethical journey. As a consequence, it has few of the usual consolations of fiction, but makes up for it with gravitas.

Pedant’s corner:- “From the castle’s turrets of Bremgarten” (an inelegant translation? From the castle turrets of Bremgarten? From the turrets of the castle of Bremgarten?) “as if each one endeavoured to conceived as lost” (to conceive as lost,) “the time was not that ripe for that” (another inelegancy, ‘the time was not ripe for that’ would do fine,) dissention (dissension.)

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

During that brief time when lockdown was lifted last year we were able to go to Edinburgh and visit the Royal Botanic Garden there, using a pre-booked and timed ticket.

As she’s keen on gardening and gardens it’s one of the good lady’s favourite places.

Planting by hothouses:-

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

Monkey puzzle trees (araucaria):-

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

Path with acer:-

Edinburgh Botanics Gardens, Acer

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, Scotland

“New Zealand ” section:-

"New Zealand" Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

Path in Botanic Garden:-

Path in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

Bridge over burn:-

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, Scotland

Waterfall from bridge:-

Waterfall in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

Waterfall video:-

Waterfall in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

Burn from bridge:-

Burn in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

The gardens are worth a visit at any time of year.

Four Moons in One Frame

With bonus rings.

Another great picture from the Cassini Probe, taken from Astronomy Picture of the Day for 4/4/2021.

Four Saturnian Moons

The most obvious moon is the bright Dione, hovering on the centre of the frame, with shadowy but much larger Titan in the background. Titan is the tenth largest object in the Solar System bigger than the planet Mercury.

To the extreme right of the rings is Pandora, a moon which shepherds Saturn’s F ring.

Just in the gap in the rings (the Encke gap) is Pan, only 35 kilometres across but which keeps the gap free of ring particles.

Cove Rangers 1-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Balmoral Stadium, 10/4/21.

Back to business as usual then. Dumbarton nil.

I wasn’t expecting anything from this game though.

Tuesday’s a big day for us even though we’re not playing as both Forfar and Clyde have a game then.

Then the big one on Thursday night, when we play Clyde at their place.

(But we could be four points behind them by then.)

Edited to add: It seems from a photo on Twitter (click to enlarge picture) that the ball didn’t cross the line for their goal.

Also from Pie and Bovril that we were as woeful as usual so we didn’t deserve to take anything from the game anyway.

Gilbert and Edgar on Mars by Eric Brown

PS Publishing, 2009, 93 p.

On leaving a meeting with Bernard Shaw and H G Wells at the Athenæum, G K Chesterton is bumped into by a small man who subsequently asks him to sign some of his works. On crossing the threshold of the building to where he is led Chesterton realises he has been mistaken for Wells, but before he can correct his companion he finds to his initial confusion, he has been instantly transported to Mars.

Very shortly thereafter he is busted from the room where he is confined by a man with a US accent. This is the Edgar of the title (whom we later find is, of course, Edgar Rice Burroughs.)

As is the way of conceits such as this we soon encounter one John Carter, plus Professor Challenger and a depiction of a caged man who might as well be Tarzan and, we must impute, Burroughs’s inspiration for that character. To go with the conceit here we have a cod Edwardian literary styling in the prose. There may well too be some Chestertonian references which I missed but I know Brown is familiar with that writer’s œuvre.

The plot revolves around the Six Philosophers, the Jabbak Kathro – an ancient race from when Mars was lush and green but whose star faded once the dry times came and who now live only with their minds. They had long ago invented a device called The Dream Crystal to read the contents of others’ minds, abducting people from Earth for the purpose before giving them an amnesiac and sending them back. “The crystal takes the imagination of the subject .… and makes it apparently real.” They have run through Earth’s playwrights and poets and now have a taste for adventure stories, hence their intended abduction of Wells.

The enjoyment in reading – and I assume writing – pieces like this lies in the ambience and allusions rather than the plot. Brown manages it all with entertaining ease.

Pedant’s corner:- “Time interval later”/“within time interval” count: 23. Otherwise; “his bulk seemed not to possess its erstwhile laggardly mass” (it would have the same mass, what it woudn’t have is the same weight,) “none of which were easily recognisable” (none of which was…,) Edgar addresses Gilbert as ‘chum’ which I do not think is a USian usage, nought (naught,) Wells’ (Wells’s,) gunnel (it’s spelled gunwale,) fullness (my dictionary gives both spellings but I have usually encountered only ‘fulness’,) Edgar asks Gilbert if he is “some kind of pinko Commie” (which is an anachronism,) prioll (prial,) “a haberdashers” (a haberdasher’s.)

Reelin’ in the Years 187: Is She Really Going Out With Him?

Joe Jackson’s first hit. From 1979.

Joe Jackson: Is She Really Going Out With Him?

Dumbarton 2-1 East Fife

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 8/4/21.

Well. Two goals.

Count them.

Two goals – and we had a penalty saved. Who’d have thought it?

In one game we have increased our goals tally in the league by 33.33%.

It helped that we scored early; a Ryan McGeever header from a Ross Forbes corner. Typical that my live-streaming feed froze momentarily and I didn’t see it, just heard the commentators go tonto. (I did wind back the feed after the game and saw how thumping a header it was.) McGeever had another close effort – with his foot! – a few minutes later which crashed off the bar and a second free header in the second half where he was way off with his direction.

Thereafter it was not quite like Groundhog Day. We did look to be more on the front foot than in recent games even if East Fife had more possession. They didn’t do a lot with it though – except for Scott Agnew’s delivery at corners which I knew would catch us out in the end, and did. Thankfully that came too late.

Our second goal was a neat through ball from Ross Forbes and a shimmy past the defender by Adam Frizell before he buried it emphatically.

I was still figuratively biting my nails. We’ve cocked up so many games since the restart.

Pity that Clyde also got a win.

On to Cove on Saturday now.

Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole

Angry Robot, 2020, 336 p. Published in Interzone 286, Mar-Apr 2020.

Sixteenth Watch cover

In a crowded field how do you attempt to make your military SF stand out from that crowd? Well, if you are Myke Cole you make your story about a cinderella service, the Coast Guard (which seems to be two words in the US and in whose ranks Cole has served himself.) “COASTGUARDS IN SPACE!” is a good tag-line after all, even if it might not seem to promise much in the way of battle scenes. Fans of this particular sub-genre need not worry though. There’s plenty of the usual mayhem associated with the form in these pages. Cole is careful to get some of this in early in a prologue where viewpoint character Coastguard Commander Jane Oliver is called into a confrontation between US and Chinese miners of Helium-3 on Lacus Doloris on the Moon, in which two of her crew, Kariawasm and Flecha, plus her Navy frigate commander husband Tom, are killed. This is a future where the US is (naturally) a major power on the Moon with its main rival being China. Mention is made of Russia but its presence is very much off-stage in this book, whose title derives from the days of the International Space Station and refers to the sixteen sunrises experienced there every Earth day. The sixteenth watch has come to mean any assignment in space.

As a result of the Lacus Doloris debacle Oliver was put out to grass in a training capacity back on Earth. The book proper begins when Oliver is recalled four years after Lacus Doloris to help the Coastguard in a tussle for influence over the course of events on the Moon. The navy is leaning on the (slightly flaky, insistent on quarantine against space sickness which doesn’t exist) US President to allow it free reign in policing the border between its economic zone on the Moon and that of the Chinese, using its superiority in Boarding Action, an inter-service reality TV competition broadcast once a year to large enthusiastic audiences, which the Marines have won several years running, as evidence for its suitability for the task. The Coastguard’s high command is anxious to counter this as they regard the Navy as far too gung-ho and liable to start a war. They see a possible Coastguard victory in the forthcoming Boarding Action as the perfect antidote. Oliver is given the job of training the crew along with the carrot of promotion to Admiral. Of course feathers are ruffled, her unconventional methods provoking confrontations both among the crew and with the Navy, the Marines and her own commanders. Complicating all this for Oliver is her relationships with her son Adam, off doing his own thing on Earth, and daughter Alice, now working on the moon and expecting her to retire there.

Cole is at pains to emphasise that the coastguards’ main mission is not fighting (though they will – and do – when they have to) but to save lives. Oliver is determined not to make the same mistakes as before as well as to avoid accidentally provoking a war. Even four years on the events on Lacus Doloris still hang over the thoughts of several of the characters. Pictures of the dead Kariawasm and Flecha are on the wall of the training ship and implicit comparisons are drawn about relative abilities. In a hard-boiled service this almost morbid angst is surely somewhat unlikely and probably counter-productive.

Cole does seem keen either to appear right-on or else to niggle the (presumably) main readership of military SF. The Navy’s 11th fleet flagship is named the USS Obama, the Marines’ toughest operative is a niqab and hijab wearing hulk of a woman, characters, Oliver especially (despite her military sang froid and competence,) display emotion and sentimentality with surprising alacrity. Yet the book is still crammed with military jargon and acronyms – so much so that Cole has felt the need to include a Glossary.

The above would-be humanising touches and reflections on the ethics, responsibilities and effective strategies for leadership aside, in the end we have innumerable puffs of mist as spacesuits are punctured by weaponry and – surely precious – atmosphere is (deliberately or otherwise) vented to vacuum from ships, the same old high body count, the same old recounting of deaths of combatants – and non-combatants. Military SF, doing what it says on the tin.

The following did not appear in the published review.

Pedant’s corner:- In the Author’s Note; “at the end of the this book” (either ‘the’ or ‘this’, not both.) Otherwise: Aries’ (Aries’s, several instances) “folded over their back” (their backs,) autocannons (the plural of cannon is cannon, therefore ‘autocannon’,) “a single antennae” (one of them is an antenna,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech (x 6,) cox’sun (cox’n, innumerable instances.) “The only thing that came close were their two children” (the only thing was, or, the only things were,) “off the roof one of the government habs” (off the roof of one of the government habs.) “She turned back the class” (back to the class,) Elias’ (Elias’s,) kindergartners (kindergarteners,) a missing opening quote mark at a chapter heading, “the bottom the of the screen” (the bottom of the screen,) “in and endless loop” (in an endless loop,) “someone of the other end of the line” (on the other end,) “as the silenced stretched” (silence,) “dancing down bow” (only sensible if ‘down bow’ is a naval term,) O-TRACEN (elsewhere always OTRACEN,) a question ended with a full stop instead of a ‘?’,) “on the whole installation” (in the whole installation,) “Ho folder his arms” (folded,) Kariwasm (x 2, elsewhere [-1] always Kariawasm,) “enormity of the task” (it wasn’t a dreadful or despicable task, just a daunting one, so enormity is not warranted as a description,) “between themselves at the enemy” (and the enemy,) “let alone being able” (the rest of the sentence was in past tense, so, ‘been able’.) “Oliver would see” (could see,) “lay of the land” (lie,) Okonwo (elsewhere [-1] always Okonkwo,) conturbernium (elsewhere always contubernium.) “‘There’s a only one surefire way’” (no ‘a’ needed,) imposter (impostor, please,) “onto the top the of his head” (no, ‘the’ needed,) “comfortable in dear to her” (and dear makes more sense,) a missing comma at the end of a piece of direct speech, Pervez’ (Pervez’s,) “‘to let you do your way’” (to let you do it your way’,) “a work bench someone had clearly been checking autocannon loads” (a work bench where someone had clearly been checking autocannon loads.) “This is was right call” (This was the right call,) “in in” (only one ‘in’ needed,) “when the clocking was ticking away” (when the clock was,) “the crowd … were” (was,) “to make the squint even against the glass’ glare dampeners” (to make them squint even against the glass’s glare dampeners.) “‘We’re are learning’” (We are learning,) Kariaswasm (Kariawasm,) “to wonder if maybe wasn’t going to speak” (if he maybe.) “Earth was a glowing green-blue wedge …shining nearly as bright as a star” (from Moon orbit? Much, much brighter than a star, surely?) Santos’ (Santos’s.) “I takes Oliver a full thirty seconds” (rest of passage is in past tense, so, ‘It took Oliver thirty seconds’,) Baskins’ (Baskins’s, x 2,) “as the gained on the runner so rapidly, it looked as if” (as they gained so rapidly it looked as if,) “when the immediate dangers was past”(either ‘danger’ or ‘were’.) “Protocol forbid her” (forbade.) “‘I could give a fuck about’” (context demands, ‘couldn’t give a fuck about’ rather than ‘could’. Do USians really use the inverse?) “‘Welp’” (context implies ‘Well’, x 2.) Oknonkwo (Okonkwo,) “‘I need you work with the team’” (I need you to work with the team,) “‘I tell you too’” (to,) “the impact of the team’s effectiveness” (on the team’s effectiveness.) “‘Doesn’t hurt when I breath’” (breathe,) “she could she the” (she could see the, x 2,) “two hospital corpsman” (corpsmen,) “and turns back to him” (turned,) pollenating (pollinating,) “looked at Each of the crew’s faces” (each,) “as the she fired the bow thrusters” (no first ‘the’ needed,) “‘Turret’s clear!’ He radioed a moment later’” (‘Turret’s clear!’ he radioed a moment later,) “in a pinch” (at a pinch,) “court marital” (martial,) “had originally been surrounded what must have been” (had originally been surrounded by what must have been,) “her antennae was intact” (antenna,) a missing end quotation mark. “‘Ma,am,’” (Ma’am,) “where a broad bandage swatched his abdomen” (swathed,) the Obama (elsewhere Obama, CO2 (CO2,) “where’d she’d been” (where she’d been.) In the Glossary; “on the moons’ surface” (Moon’s.) “Artificial generated by” (Artificial gravity generated by.)

The Back Burn, Balbirnie Park (ii)

The old Balbirnie Estate had some extensive grounds. About half of these were converted to a golf course. The rest makes up what is now Balbirnie Park.

The back burn runs from the upper part of the former estate – now sold off for housing – between the golf course’s 18th fairway and green before wending through the wooded area of the Park.

There are some exposed tree roots on the burn’s banks in the upper estate:-

Back Burn + Tree Roots

Part of the burn is very shaded:-

Back Burn, Balbirnie Park

We often take a walk through the woods and beside the burn. There are three wooden bridges over the burn after it passes the golf course. This is one of them:-

Back Burn Bridge, Balbirnie Park

Close-up. (The wooden superstructure on this has recently been replaced):-

Back Burn Bridge, Balbirnie Park

The burn:-

Balbirnie Park, View from Back Burn Bridge

View from Back Burn Bridge, Balbirnie Park

The Gates of Eden – A Story of Endeavour by Annie S Swan

Read Books, 2008, 319 p. First published 1893.

This is a facsimile reprint (presumably via photocopy) reproducing the original in all its aspects – including illustrations at each chapter heading and one of Swan opposite the title page – of an edition published in 1893 by William Briggs. The title page has the writer’s married name (Mrs Burnett-Smith) after her author’s credit.

I would not have picked this up (my previous reading of Swan left the impression of her as an adequate talent but not worth seeking out) had it not been lent to us by a friend since part of it is set in the nearby village of Star (aka Star of Markinch.) I am therefore familiar with the local places mentioned, Star (Swan has her characters refer to it as the Star,) Markinch, Kennoway and the Lomond Hills. Swan actually lived in Star for two years but in her biography said she didn’t much like the place. However, “it did give her two books.” Of which I assume this is one.

It is essentially the tale of two brothers, Alexander (Sandy) and Jamie Bethune, whose mother had died in childbirth. Sandy is apparently favoured academically and his father sets him down for the Church. James is designated to keep his father’s holding at their croft. His better education, eventually graduating from University at St Andrews, leads to Sandy having a high opinion of himself and coming to look down on his young adult sweetheart, Mary Campbell, whose broad Scots manner of speaking he thinks will ill become him in his first charge at Lochbroom where he is in any case captivated by Beatrice Lorraine, the daughter of a widower recently moved to a big house in Lochbroom.

Meanwhile James is taken under the wing of the local schoolmaster and taught Latin and literature but it is only once the boys’ father has died that James strikes out on his own, seeking a job on a newspaper in Edinburgh to work his way up. His attendance at St Giles leads to its minister, Doctor Kinross, inviting him to his home and befriending him. It turns out that Kinross and Lorraine are brothers-in-law and James too meets Beatrice but recognises a deep sadness in the Lorraines’ lives.

What follows is fairly predictable, Sandy proposes to Beatrice, who turns him down, James eventually gets a job in London whereupon Beatrice asks him to seek out her disgraced brother, whom her father has sworn never to see again.

The Gates of Eden is a reasonably typical Victorian novel, overly sentimental at times, not too taxing, and one where virtue is rewarded. Even Sandy comes to his senses. It has the style and cadences of its origins but some people may have difficulty with the very broad Scots of the inhabitants of Star. There are, too, occasional interpolations by the author which tend to break the suspension of disbelief.

And once again we have that intimation of the Scottish character of yore, “she belonged to a stern, undemonstrative race, who deemed any exhibition of the finer feelings a sign of weakness.”

Pedant’s corner:- cotttage (cottage,) “‘these sort of gatherings’” (strictly speaking ‘sorts’ but it was in dialogue,) ““Lux Benigna”” (later rendered as ‘Lux Benigna’,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, “insolvable problem” (Victorian usage? – insoluble/unsolvable,) a missing full stop, a missing ‘close quote’ mark at the end of a piece of direct speech.

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