Archives » 2009 » April

Scotland’€™s Art Deco Heritage 10. Kelvin Court, Anniesland, Glasgow

Kelvin Court

Kelvin Court West Building

These flats are the nearest equivalent Glasgow has to the building ITV used for Poirot’€™s apartment in the TV adaptations (Florin Court, Charterhouse Square.)

They are on the right after you pass Anniesland Railway Bridge on the way from Dumbarton into Glasgow along Great Western Road. I passed there many a time on my way into the city when I was living in the West.

Kelvin Court Front Entrance

This is a close up of the front entrance of the western Building.

There is a similar entance at the western end of the frontage.
Kelvin Court Front Entrance West

The last photo is of the Eastern building.

Kelvin Court East Building

But how many of the flats inside still have internal Art Deco aspects like those in the ITV Poirot series? (Which were in any case probably mocked up in a studio.)

A picture of Kelvin Court taken in 1955, from the other side of the bridge, is at The Glasgow Story. The Ascot Cinema (no 11 in this series) nowadays lurks just to the left after the bridge but it didn’€™t when this photo was taken.

There are some Flickr photos of Kelvin Court here and here.

Also a composite one on the Scran website.

More From The East Coast Writers’€™ Group

I think I’ve mentioned my writers’ group before. I believe its full title is the Edinburgh and East Coast Writers’€™ Group. Its offshoot performance arm, Writers’ Bloc, I’ve mentioned many times.

Anyway, fellow group member Andrew J Wilson has a story in the latest H P Lovecraft’s Magazine Of Horror. If horror’€™s your bag you might want to check it out. Though, as another group member Zornhau says, this story is more like a Borstal style Harry Potter with overtones of horror.

It’€™s available as a free download.

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

Vintage, 2007

The story of the manuscript of Suite Française is remarkable. That Némirovsky completed as much of it as she did in the aftermath of the German invasion of 1940 – she was a Russian émigré of Jewish origin living in France but never took (received?) French citizenship – is an achievement in itself; that it managed to survive the turmoil of the war years is a minor miracle. Nevertheless it still lay unread in a suitcase for sixty years as the author’s two daughters found the memories of their mother it evoked too painful to contemplate.

There are two appendices, the first relating to Némirovsky’s plans for the whole work, the second giving some of her correspondence with her publishers and also that of her husband and publishers with various authorities subsequent to her transportation to Auschwitz in 1942 (a fate her husband also suffered a few months later; perhaps as a result of so much inquiring after his wife.)

The first part of the book, Storm In June, is not so much multi-stranded as diffuse. There is an almost scatter shot approach to the narrative where various characters are highlighted, left, picked up again, left again and returned to in no particular coherent order and with very little in the way of plot to sustain it. To an extent this must mirror the confusion of the refugee exodus attendant on the German breakthroughs in 1940, the misery of which is admirably demonstrated in the text without dwelling too much on gore and death.

In the second part, Dolce, the focus is tighter – on the small town life of Lucile Angellier, whose husband is a prisoner-of-war in Germany, and her relationship with the German officer billeted on her mother-in-law’s house, in which Lucile lives. Here Némirovsky eschews the obvious story line (physical consummation of the friendship which of course develops) though another female character is shown with a different attitude towards the German soldiers.

The complexity of interactions between the occupiers and the occupied is well drawn; there is no black and white on either side, the humanity of both is laid out – venality, capriciousness, acts of kindness are not restricted to one nationality. I assume this is how it really was in the early days of the occupation, when hopes of a quick end to the war were high, before it became clear the conflict would drag on and the Germans would lose. It is certainly far from the picture familiar from war films and TV productions set in occupied France. Dolce ends with the dispatch of the billeted German regiment to Russia on the widening of the war in 1941.

Throughout these two finished parts of Suite Française there is an intermittent emphasis on class differences in French society, an illustration of the enmities present in pre-war France which, we are left to infer, perhaps led to the defeat, and are obviously still alive. Class is not quite such a uniquely British obsession, then.

On the evidence of these two parts, Némirovsky had an unusual approach to narration with regard to point of view. This frequently shifts within chapters, within scenes even. This is one of reasons why Part 1 was so diffuse but it occurs also in the more focused Part 2. It lends the narrative a strange air, as if we are following a drifting film camera as it ceases to track one character and shifts to another, then abruptly swings back. This sort of changing of viewpoint is one of the cardinal sins aspiring writers are firmly warned against and yet Némirovsky just about manages to get away with it.

Given the circumstances in which Suite Française was written these are harsh criticisms. The complete work with its possibilities of editing and re-drafting may have negated them.

Appendix 1 makes it clear that the author’s intentions were to put emphasis on the quotidian, to have the war and its horrors off stage, highlighted by the interactions of her characters.

The five part work Némirovsky contemplated may well have been a masterpiece, but it was not to be. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that Storm In June and Dolce on their own merit such an accolade but they do represent a fine work nevertheless.

Dumbarton 4-0 Forfar Athletic

The Rock, 26/4/09

We’re in the driving seat now! And three strikers scored.

I was actually more worried about this than the Cowdenbeath game last week and I was worried enough about that.

Forfar play Cowden next. I hope their manager (Dick Campbell) gets them back up for that game as, if Cowden don’t win, we could more or less clinch it – taking our good goal difference into account – with a win ourselves next Saturday. (Note to self: chickens not yet hatched.)

I just wish we didn’t have Elgin to play then. Games against bottom of the league teams are where Dumbarton sides tend to trip up.

It’s going to be a long week. (As this one was.)

Is There Anybody Out There?

I’d just finished looking at my blog’s stats for today – which made me feel a bit like this post’s title – and clicked over by accident to Yahoo’s news page and discovered this.

I’m obviously (as are we all) now living inside a Science Fiction novel.

Tell me when the aliens land.

J G Ballard

I discovered this morning that the sometime Science Fiction writer and chronicler of the late twentieth century, J G Ballard, whose semi-autobiographical novel The Kindness Of Women I wrote about a few weeks ago, has died. Eulogies are apparently all over the blogosphere.
His early experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese in wartime Shanghai flooded indelibly through his work; images of wrecks, ruin and abandonment abound. An air of the inevitability of decay hangs over nearly everything he wrote. (The word”already” is a Ballardian trademark.) Here it should be noted that as a road map of where as a civilisation we may be headed this aspect of his work may be all too predictive.

Yet to me his writing always seemed to be quintessentially English; it represented a kind of über Englishness in the way that possibly only an expatriate could express. His stories somehow embodied the stiff upper lip and also the “hanging-on in quiet desperation” that Roger Waters of Pink Floyd described as the English way. Yet they dissected alienation and elevated its description to an art from.

Having said all that it nevertheless remains true that pretty much all of his works plough a similar furrow. I know this will be sacrilege to his admirers but to read one Ballard novel is more or less to read them all. The crucial affect is of detachment, events are described matter-of-factly, as if they do not really impact on the character whose point of view we inhabit at the time.

His obsessions, Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedy assassination, car crashes, the nuclear bomb, urban blight, were those of an Englishman of a certain age. In that respect he was more a man of his time than he was one ahead of it.

He is undoubtedly, however, one of the major writers in English, and of world literature as a whole, of the second half of the twentieth century.

And the novels of his that were published as Science Fiction are indissolubly part of his canon, covering the same concerns, and equally as worthy, as those that were not.

J G Ballard 15/11/1930-19/04/2009.

So it goes.

Jonathan Ross, Recidivist

I happened to be listening to Radio 2 when Jonathan Ross’s Saturday programme on that station came on yesterday. (I know, but Sounds Of The Sixties had just finished.)

Before Ross spoke there was broadcast the official announcement of the adjudication on the Ross/Brand Sachsgate affair – which said the BBC had been fined £150,000 over the to-do and gave an email address to see the whole judgement.

Ross’s first words were to the effect, “Why do you never have a pen when you need it? Did anyone get that email address? I can’t read enough of that.”

He then proceeded to play The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum by The Fun Boy Three.

Has Ross learned nothing? The clear implication is that the ruling was given by lunatics. It hardly shows contrition, nor any amendment of ways.

This is like Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor making their rude gestures. It compounds the original offence.

There are two defences. One is that Ross did not intend to imply any such thing and that the song he played was a mere coincidence. Except he commented to that effect after it had finished; thereby only increasing the suspicion he knew exactly what he was doing. The other defence is that he himself was the target of the lunatics reference and then, the implication is that the BBC is mad to allow him to remain on air. (Which it obviously is, in either case.)

Jonathan Ross? Jonathan Tosser, more like.

Here’s The Fun Boy Three anyway.

Cowdenbeath 0-0 Dumbarton

Central Park, 18/4/09

Another clean sheet but this was a tension filled game.

I’d have taken the draw before the start, and at the beginning of the season the position we’re in now with three games to go, but this was two points lost.

Stevie Murray’s penalty was saved early on and we didn’t take advantage against ten men for the last fifteen or so minutes.
Paul Keegan had a chance to open the scoring even before the pen, running in on the keeper, but lobbed it wide. That would have settled us.

I liked the look of Kieran Brannan when he came on. He gave us some mobility up front. In Chissie’s two minutes replacing Keegan before he was shifted to the right he won more balls in the air than Keegan had all game up to then.

We never looked like losing a goal, though. It was a bit like the game up at Montrose about a month ago except this time the opposition’s sole speculative strike from outside the box ended up in our keeper’s arms rather than the net and we played better, actually having a few efforts on goal (though none their keeper had to save, admittedly.)

Since Stenny play both Annan and Forfar before the season ends (and therefore it isn’t possible for all three of them to get past us) we’re definitely in the play-offs at the least.

But we could have been in the driving seat.

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 9. The Ascot Cinema, Anniesland, Glasgow

I finally got over to Glasgow and took some (not very good) photos.

Former Ascot Cinema, Anniesland, Glasgow

This is a former cinema now very sympathetically converted to flats.

The Art Deco/modernist styling of the conversion can also be seen in this second photo.

Ascot Cinema from the East

A better picture than either of mine is on Flickr. It helps that that one was taken in sunshine!

You can read about The Ascot’s history as a cinema at the Scottish cinemas and theatres project website. There are some nice pictures there of the building lit up at night. The historical photos there show that the orange pillars are a relatively new embellishment! They are effective, though. The foyer looks great in the black and white photos.

More information is available at The Glasgow Story where the original configuration of the roof line can be seen.

There is another good picture of the update at Cala Finance.

Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds

Gollancz, 2006

Galactic North is a series of shorter works (up to novella length) set in Reynolds’s Conjoiner/Demarchist/Ultra universe usually called Revelation Space; all galaxy-spanning hard SF tales with space operatic flourishes.

Aside:- Reynolds’s Conjoiners are humans enhanced by nanomachinery so that they are linked together (at shortish distances) in a hive mind. One of the problems I have with this idea is that they do not seem to behave appreciably differently from normal humans. I understand that to convey the essence of such people to Reynolds’s readers has great difficulties but they are not differentiated enough for me.

The stories in Galactic North are ordered to follow the chronology of the Revelation Space future not that of original publication. Unusually for a book of short stories the dates of their previous appearance are not given.

As is endemic to a lot of hard SF there is a good deal of info dumping and here we are also too often told things rather than shown them. The title story itself is particularly prone to this and could possibly have been expanded into a novel. It feels far too cramped in its allotted length. Also noticeable was that several of the plots involved quests of some kind.

A Spy In Europa, Grafenwalder’s Bestiary and Nightingale were more focused on character than the others in the book but all three verged rather too much into horror at their denouements.

Reynolds can spin a yarn and is capable of the gosh-wow, sense of wonder moment which SF aficionados like so much but too often in Galactic North the idea behind the story is its driver and the characters are there merely to illustrate it.

Reynolds is capable of reining in this tendency – he does so in the novels Century Rain and Pushing Ice and the reading experience is more satisfying as a result.

If you like Space Opera for its plots I’d recommend this book. If you prefer stories based more on character it’s not for you. Try Century Rain or Pushing Ice instead.

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