Sons New (Now Old) Away Strip, 2019-2020

As seen at Galabank, Annan Athletic FC.

A fairly boring thing really, all white with black trimmings:-

Dumbarton FC New Away Strip, 2019-2020

Galabank

Just in case you (and I) had forgotten what a football ground looked like, these are pictures taken at Sons’ first game of last season, the League Cup tie at Galabank, home of Annan Athletic FC.

Ground as seen from road from town centre:-

Galabank As seen From South

Entrance:-

Entrance to Galabank, Annan Athletic FC

Annan Athletic Club Logo on Galabank’s gates:-

Annan Athletic Club Logo

Galabank From North. Ground is in background beyond gates at the left of the picture:-

Galabank From North

Pitch at Galabank, from northeast:-

Pitch at Galabank, From Northeast

From northwest corner looking south, showing pitch-side stand:-

Galabank From Northwest Corner Looking South

Northwest corner:-

Galabank From Northwest Corner

From southeast:-

Galabank From Southeast

From southwest corner:-

Galabank From Southwest Corner

Looking north:-

Galabank Looking North

South enclosure:-

Galabank South Enclosure

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

(And two other stories.) Folio Society, 1997, 295 p (including 11 p Introduction by Jeremy Hardy,) plus 12 p illustrations by Francis Moseley and 3 p Author’s Note.

 Heart of Darkness cover

This is one of a uniform Folio Society edition of Conrad’s works. Despite its title the book actually contains three stories, Youth, Heart of Darkness itself and The End of the Tether.

Youth
The fairly short Youth is one of those ‘as told to’ stories, by someone called Marlow to a group with knowledge of seafaring about his trip as a Second Mate on a ship whose charge was the Captain’s first, carrying coal to Bangkok from Newcastle. Before the ship can leave port it has to be caulked, then it is bashed by another steamer while still in dock and more repairs are required. On setting out the pumps have to be manned constantly and they are forced to turn back. It by now has such a reputation no crew can be found locally and men have to be fetched from Liverpool. The repairs are finally finished.

But, before she sets sail, the rats start to leave.

Heart of Darkness (In the list of 100 best Scottish books, but only Scottish because it was first published by Edinburgh based Blackwood’s Magazine.)

This long short story is another tale told by Marlow (this time accorded the first name Charlie) telling a ship’s crew in the offing off Gravesend of his trip as a steamboat captain up an unnamed African river – the Introduction says it’s the Congo but that is not in the text – to find the successful but rogue ivory trader Kurtz.

This ‘telling’ style is more obtrusive here than in Youth and erects a barrier between the reader and the text. The actual narrator regurgitating Marlow’s tales – both here and in Youth – is neither named nor makes much of an impression on the reader. The story is therefore rendered opaque (okay, it’s titled Heart of Darkness, a degree of opacity is perhaps required) but it makes disbelief more difficult to suspend.

Caught in a thick white fog near Kurtz’s station the boat is attacked with spears and a crew member is killed but blasts on the ship’s horn disperse the attackers. Marlow observes near Kurtz’s station a row of posts with severed heads on them. The natives seem to want to attack the boat again but Kurtz’s influence on them prevents that. When he is finally brought on board it seems to Marlow’s eyes that Kurtz has ‘gone native.’ He is in any case very ill and dies on the trip back.

(The) Heart of Darkness was first published in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1898/9 (a book containing all three stories in this volume appeared in 1902) and despite Marlow’s expressed disillusion with the trading company’s methods it is representative of the attitudes of the time, presenting the Africans as ‘others.’ Even the story’s title is emblematic of a disregard both for the land- and riverscapes and for the accomplishments and society Africans of the time had. However, Conrad was writing at that time and for an audience who had those prejudices.

The End of the Tether is much the longest story here. In it, ship’s Captain Whalley had made a fortune (and promised it to his daughter who in turn had married a no-hoper) only to lose it in a stock market crash, leaving him with only a ship called The Fair Maid to sell. The proceeds go partly towards his daughter but the rest he invests in a ship called the Sofala whose main owner is its engineer, famous for getting rid of Captains at short notice. The arrangement is to last for three years after which time Whalley will regain the stake he put in. The time is almost up when Whalley begins to show signs of losing his touch. The second mate comes to the conclusion that Whalley is actually letting his Malay helmsman direct the boat and tries to blackmail him. The truth is more nuanced than that.

Note. Modern sensibilities may quail at the use of the word nigger(s) and ‘Marlow’ also describes native Africans as savages.

Pedant’s corner:- “to come abroad” (to come aboard,) curb (kerb.)

SF Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times (v)

(This week’s edition for Judith’s meme at Reader in the Wilderness.)

These are all small-sized SF paperbacks. By small I mean the size all paperbacks used to be back in the day – before publishers realised they could charge a higher price for larger editions and they aspired to the status of hardbacks.

In our old house all my paperback SF was shelved in one room – on shelving specially built for the purpose. When we moved to Son of the Rock Acres there was no space for them in the house. Hence these are stored in the garage; to accomodate them they are double parked on each shelf, which is why they seem to start at Ballard and jump from Bester to Bishop, and Dick to Garnett.

Lots of goodies here: Eric Brown, John Brunner, Michael G Coney, Philip K Dick, Mary Gentle, Colin Greenland. If you look closely you’ll even see some Harlan Ellison peeping through at the back on the bottom shelf.

Science Fiction Paperbacks

Beneath the World, A Sea by Chris Beckett

Corvus, 2019, 283 p. Published in Interzone 282, Jul-Aug 2019.

 Beneath the World, A Sea cover

“The ground of one world is the sky of the world below” runs one of the myths and legends of the Submundo Delta, the most inaccessible place on Earth, the Delta Beneath the World. A place of magenta trees with spiral leaves and flowers with bright pink mouths, overhung by a huge sun and moon as if inside a magnifying bubble, and not really below the outside world, it can be accessed only from South America via a long boat trip on the (perhaps too obviously named) River Lethe, passing through the Zona de Ovido, the Zone of Forgetfulness, all memories of which disappear the moment you leave it. The Delta has no radio communication with elsewhere, aeroplanes which try to penetrate its airspace all crash.

Such a cut-off world is a staple of fantastical fiction of course – fairyland, hollow hills, parallel worlds, alien planets and so on – but Beckett’s vision is a fresh take on the sub-genre even if the Delta is a slightly recycled though embellished version of the Caramel Forest of the planet Lutania in the same author’s collection The Peacock Cloak.

The Delta’s local human inhabitants are called Mundinos, and are descended from a group tricked into going there by a Baron Valente in the semi-distant past, long enough ago for them to have developed their own gods in the benign Iya, whose idol adorns every Mundino household, and the less indulgent Boca. More recent incomers are scientists and adventurers or hippie types plus the odd business man on the lookout for profitable exploitation.

Following a UN decree that a Delta life-form known as duendes, grey long-limbed, frog-like flaccid creatures with black button eyes, (somewhat reminiscent of the goblins of Lutania’s Caramel Forest) and which may be the offspring of trees – with which they perhaps form a single dimorphic species – are ‘persons’ entitled to the protection of the law, police Inspector Ben Ronson has been delegated from London to investigate their endemic killing by Mundinos. Duendes can project settlers’ thoughts back into human minds, “‘Things already inside your head ….. become as powerful as things you normally choose to focus on,’” and build enigmatic structures called castelos. Despite their persecution the duendes keep intruding on Mundinos’ space.

What makes all this SF rather than fantasy is the attempt at scientific rationale. “‘There’s no DNA equivalent. No ‘animals’ or ‘plants’ in the delta,’” Ronson is told. “It seemed to him that it was just about possible to imagine that a completely different form of life might not only have a different chemistry and different anatomy, but might even involve the mind-stuff itself being configured in some manner unfamiliar to human beings,” while, “‘the trees and the harts and the duendes and so on aren’t competing against each other … any more than our blood cells are competing against our bone cells,’” but quite why the story is set in nineteen ninety is not clear. The Delta is obviously not quite of this world, making the tale an alternative history does not add to that.

Beckett also undercuts expectations. Despite the set-up what we have here is not a police procedural, nor a straightforward crime novel with a clear-cut resolution, nor indeed an action adventure. The author is more interested in the psychological aspects of isolation, the effect a strange environment has on human behaviour and particularly the influence the Zona might have on motivations and actions. Ronson is almost paralysed by the thought of what he might have done during those four days he cannot remember but is reluctant to consult the notebooks he compiled while in transit.

There are faint echoes here of other odd worlds, perhaps even a nod to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, there is a touch of Ballard in the detachment of many of the characters. We do not have the complete isolation that applied to the inhabitants of Beckett’s Dark Eden, nor the genetic paucity of that environment, and the existence of the duendes adds a distinctive flavour but at the end the nature of the enigma they represent is not unravelled. Perhaps Beckett intends to return to the Delta.

That might be a misstep, though. Beneath the World, A Sea is not really concerned with its backdrop. Instead it uses that backdrop to question how much a person can know of him- or her- self. While not in the highest rank – the characters indulge in too much self-examination for that – like all the best fiction it explores the nature of humanity.

The following did not appear in the published review.

Pedant’s corner:- “whose contents, she learnt, turned yellow and shrank as it dried” (as they dried.) “Their only child, wherever she went inside the house, she was surrounded by” (that second comma distorts the meaning and should be removed,) outside of (outside, just outside, no ‘of’,) “before continuing towards to the west” (either “towards” or “to”, not both,) “a posse of men and woman” (it’s possible only one woman was involved but it reads oddly,) “for hundreds of millions of year” (years,) automatons (automata,) “‘take it out in the duendes’” (on the duendes,) ambiance (ambience,) a tendency to use ‘her’ and ‘him’ where ‘she’ and ‘he’ are more grammatical, “for goodness’ sake” (if the apostrophe is there it ought to be goodness’s, best to leave it out altogether,) “‘she’ll always being able to support herself’” (always be able.) “There were also a number of” (there was a number,) “all the holes on the ground” (in the ground,) “‘a range of tawdry attractions are duly provided for them’” (a range of tawdry attractions is duly provided,) epicentre (centre,) “cheer fully” (was split over two lines without the necessary hyphen when “cheerfully” was meant,) “‘to see if Rico’s turned up If you run into him’” (needs a full stop after “up,”) “three young woman were smoking” (women,) engrained (ingrained.) “He had a mango in there He’d bought at the last village” (No capital H after “there”, ‘he’d bought’.)

Reelin’ in the Years 177: Only You Can. RIP Kenny Young

The song-writer and producer of 1970s band Fox died earlier this week. He also wrote Captain of Your Ship – a hit for Reparata and the Delrons in the 60s – Under the Boardwalk and some hits for Clodagh Rodgers.

A list of his hit songs is on Wikipedia.

The biggest of those in the UK were recorded by Fox. This looks like a Top of the Pops appearance.

Fox: Only You Can

Shalom Giskan (Kenny Young,) 14/4/1941 – 14/4/2020. So it goes.

War Graves and War Death Commemorations, Upper Largo, Fife

The kirkyard in Upper Largo (Largo and Newburn Parish Church, see previous post,) has two War Graves and two war commemorations.

To left. In memory of John Patrick Oliphant Russell, Captain, Royal Artillery, died of wounds in Italy, 7/9/1944. Buried at Gradara, Italy:-

War Death Commemoration Upper Largo Kirkyard 1>

Ralph Frederick Baxter, 2nd Lieutenant, Royal Sussex Regiment, killed in action, France, 25/9/1915, aged 18 and John Edward Baxter, 2nd Lieutenant, Scots Guards, killed in action in Italy, 16/10/1944, aged 19:-

War Deaths Commemoration Upper Largo Kirkyard

Serjeant T Simpson, Pioneer Coprs, formerly Royal Artillery, 10/8/1946, aged 46:-

War Grave, Upper Largo Kirkyard

Lower Inscription. In loving memory of Thomas Simpson, died 10th August, 1946:-

Lower Inscription War Grave Upper Largo Kirkyard

Lieutenant W A Freeborn, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS Victory, 31/7/1944:-

Upper Largo Kirkyard War Grave

We took a diffeent way home from normal and had this unusual view of East and West Lomond, Fife’s highest hills from the Star (Star of Markinch) road:-

Two Lomonds in Fife

Upper Largo, Fife

We’ve passed through Upper Largo in Fife countless times over the years on our way to and from St Andrews but had never stopped to have a look at the church or churchyard until June last year.

The church’s full name is Largo and Newburn Parish Church. Its oldest part has been there since 1623.

Largo and Newburn Parish Church

Largo and Newburn Parish  Kirk 1

Upper Largo Kirk, Fife

Spire and Part of Upper Largo Kirk

An ancient Pictish stone in the church’s grounds is kept behind bars (presumably for protection). The cross inscribed on it may have been added after Pictish times.

Old Stone, Upper Largo Kirk 2

Old Stone, Upper Largo Kirk

The design on the reverse is definitely Pictish:-

Pictish designs

Upper Largo is, as its name suggests, at a higher elevation than Lower Largo (which is right by the side of Firth of Forth, see posts passim.) From the church there are great views over the village and of the Firth:-

sea from Upper Largo church,

aUpper Largo and sea from Kirkyard

Piping at Markinch Highland Games

(Click on each photo to play video.)

At last year’s Markinch Highland Games it seemed there were pipe bands everywhere.

Either practicing:-

Pipe Band Practice, Markinch Highland Games

More Pipe Band Practice, Markinch Highland Games

Markinch Highland Games, PIpe Band Practicing3

PIpe Band Practicing, Markinch Highland Games

Or getting ready to compete:-

Pipe Band Competition, Markinch Highland Gamess

Everything is judged, from the clothing to the marching up, the start, the marching, the piping, the drumming. Isuppos even the drummers’ stick twirling.

Approaching Start Point:-

Markinch Highland Games, Pipe Band Competition Approaching Start Point

Here we go:-

Pipe Band Competition Start, Markinch Highland Games

Interzone 286, Mar-Apr 2020

 Interzone 286 cover

Val Nolan takes the Editorial and outlines how in his day job at Aberystwyth University he uses SF and Fantasy to help his students explore the genres’ pedagogical possibilities and delights. In Future Interrupted Andy Hedgecock ponders the creative impulse and suggests humans do this sort of thing because simply living isn’t enough. Aliya Whiteley’s Climbing Stories addresses the utility and pleasure of discovering the “Easter egg” (what’s wrong with the word ‘allusion’ by the way?) hidden in a film or piece of fiction. Book Zone starts with my reviews of Re-Coil by J T Nicholas (whose flaws and unexamined assumptions I point out) and Myke Cole’s Sixteenth Watcha which attempts to humanise military SF but to my mind falls short. Juliet E McKenna recommends The True Queen, Zen Cho’s not quite sequel to Sorcerer to the Crown, which succeeds splendidly on its own merits, and praises the brave writing choices. She also interviewsb the author. Val Nolan considers that Alastair Reynolds’s Bone Silence not only concludes the story arcs of the previous two books in his Revenger trilogy but enhances them, Stephen Theaker finds the anthology New Horizons: The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction edited by Tarun K Saint entertaining and stimulating and Sea Change by Nancy Kress a tense and enjoyable SF thriller. Duncan Lawiec says Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer stirs the subconscious, raising questions without asking them directly, making concrete the many worlds theory; but is also much more. Maureen Kincaid Speller worries that Rebecca Roanhorse’s use of Navajo myths and beliefs in the books Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts violates that culture’s well-documented protectiveness towards its heritage and, despite the fact they were fun to read, sees little except that background beyond the usual urban fantasy clichés.

As to the fiction:
In Cofiwich Aberystwyth1 by Val Nolan each segment has a Welsh language heading. Our narrator, Mila, is exploring for his vlog an Aberystwyth nuked some years before by crazed Brexiter Royal Navy mutineeers who were enraged that the Welsh Senedd was seeking independence from the UK. He has his own demons to contend with though.
Rocket Man by Louis Evans is the story of a US rocket pilot in a universe where navigational guidance systems are not reliable so interballistic missiles require humans to steer them. Every night he dreams of Moscow but by day he resolves that his mission is to miss. In time he finds his attitude is shared by his fellow US rocket men (and by those in the USSR.) A certain admiration is called for when an author takes the old injunction against stating ‘it was all a dream’ and turns it into a strength.
Organ of Corti2 by Matt Thompson follows a group of scientists through the deserts south of Madrid to investigate a series of huge towers resembling termitaries. The labyrinth they enter resembles the organ of Corti in the human ear and turns out to have been built by deliberately genetically modified ants, now gone rogue.
Carriers3 by James Sallis is a post-apocalypse story, the usual tale of mayhem and casual inhumanity leavened slightly by one of its characters being a medic.

Pedant’s corner:- a Coast Guards’ (here the Coast Guard is a single entity so “Coast Guard’s” – the file I sent had Coastguard’s as I had employed British usage.) b“I wanted to the book” (no ‘to’.) ca missing comma before and after a quote.
1“She fancied herself my producer, always been more comfortable programming the drones” (my producer, had always been,) “just as its inhabitants has left it” (had left it.) 2antenna (an ant has two of these, so, antennae [which was used later].) “The same acoustic phenomena repeated itself” either, phenomenon, or, themselves.) 3Written in USian, missing commaas before pieces of direct speech, “give them wide berth” (a wide berth,) “at city’s edge” (at the city’s edge,) “might of” (might have,) theirselves (themselves, the narrator does not show a tendency to carelessness with language elsewhere,) “from forest’s edge” (from the forest’s edge,) “by water’s edge” (by the water’s edge, apart from the incidences noted indefinite articles were not omitted elsewhere,) one missing opening quotation mark.

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