Archives » 2009 » July

Bobby Robson

I was sad to hear of the death of Bobby Robson.

He was one of the last of the links with a time when football was the people’s game rather than the plaything of media moguls and moneyed oligarchs.

I don’t remember him as a player but his career as a manager surely marks him as one of the best.

What he did with Ipswich Town – though failing to match the League Championship that Alf Ramsey managed there, he surpassed Ramsey’s achievements with an FA Cup win and the Uefa Cup and sustained Ipswich in the top division for a goodly length of time – was a measure of how great a manager he was, given that, even then, a provincial club was at a huge financial disadvantage compared to those from big cities.

He also had success in foreign parts (winning championships in Holland and Portugal and cups in Portugal and Spain) not a common claim for British managers.

In nigh on thirty years as a manager his teams finished lower than sixth only eight times.

Through it all, he seemed to be a thoroughly decent man, a quality somewhat lacking in the game these days.

Bobby Robson, 18/2/33 -31/7/09. So it goes.

Kirkcaldy’s Art Deco Heritage 6. Bennochy Avenue

This is that rarity, a detached house in the Deco style, in Kirkcaldy.

Bennochy Avenue Front View

Note the white rendering, flat roof(s) and cylindrical staircase. The windows seem to be original still.

Here’s the view from the right, where it looks a bit more boxy.

Bennochy Avenue from right

This side view shows a long narrow window. This looks to have been “poked out” with modern double glazing. The one on the opposite side wall is similar.

Bennochy Avenue vertical side window

I don’t know if the front windows are subject to a preservation order, but they look like original Critall ones to me.


Brief one, this. Again, mainly for our transatlantic cousins.

Not in a moment. For a moment.

Dundee’s Art Deco Heritage 3. Murraygate (II and III)

Two more Art Deco buildings in Dundee’s Murraygate.

First is Marks And Spencer’s, right out of the Art Deco period.

M and S Murraygate Dundee

The second is now under the Topshop/Topman umbrella but was formerly a Burton’s.

Former Burton's Murraygate Dundee

Compare the style with the Burton’s in Kirkcaldy. See another view of this Dundee building here.

Lots more Burton’s buildings are pictured in this collection.

A Feast For Crows by George R R Martin

Bantam, 2006

This is a nigh on 1,000 page fantasy novel, fourth in a series called A Song Of Ice And Fire. In the main I dislike fantasy novels and series both – not to mention books resembling doorstops. Martin, however, wrote a fair few short stories and novels in his early career that I greatly admired (even including a vampire novel, Fevre Dream, and I cannot usually take vampire stories seriously) so I was prepared to give his fantasy a go. I still resisted starting off reading A Song Of Ice And Fire as Martin hadn’t completed the cycle and I didn’t want to be kept waiting too long for the conclusion. When this fourth volume came out the fifth was promised soon, so I embarked on the first, A Game Of Thrones, and was immediately enthused.

This is a fully envisioned world. This feels real. You could call the setting a default mediaeval one but there is a grittiness to this and an attention to detail that sets it far above most fantasy novels. Every named character, even minor ones, even ones we meet only fleetingly, has an extensive back story and a fully fledged psychology. The environments and habitats described are also convincingly delineated and differentiated.

It’s a cruel, nasty and vicious world to be sure. There is so much killing, rape, pillage and worse that it makes you wonder whether Martin’s world will run out of people to suffer these outrages or take part in the various battles, conspiracies etc but then this is what happens when the dogs of war are let slip and anarchy is loosed upon the world.

It is possible that Martin is reworking the Wars Of The Roses in a fantasy setting. (There is a set of warring houses, one of which is called Lannister, a crookback prince, battles galore, with various crowns changing hands, betrayals and shifting allegiances; there is strife within as well as between families.) If he is, for an American to be doing so is remarkable but (to my limited knowledge of those times) he has strayed far from that template. The scope of A Song Of Ice And Fire is enormous.

So much so that at times the detail can be overwhelming. How Martin keeps track of who is who among his assorted Kings, Lords, Ladies, Bannermen, Knights, Squires, sellswords, bandits and smallfolk is a miracle as it can be confusing to the readers if they do not pay enough attention. A helpful cast of characters listed by Royal House is appended to each book. This is one of the few occasions where such an affectation may be justified.

Each section has a different viewpoint character, some of whom are antagonistic to each other. Martin manages to make all of their internal musings believable and even to engage our sympathies with them all, despite their conflicts, as the unfolding story is revealed through their individual activities and interactions. His technique echoes that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, not in that he reveals the meat or meaning of a scene at the start, but that he grows it towards the climax. In A Feast For Crows this more often than not twists the story in a new direction.

The setting of A Song Of Ice And Fire is largely inimical to Martin’s female characters, of course, but, as is natural for our less hide-bound 21st century times, he gives his readers a fair few strong ones, some of whom kick against the prejudices inherent in their world.

There are some suggestions in the text that this may actually be Science Fiction rather than fantasy, that people arrived on this world some time in the distant past from elsewhere and wiped out the original inhabitants. Phew! Fantasy prejudice saved. However; here be dragons! (I’ve always wanted to write that.) The dragons, though, are merely mentioned in A Feast For Crows. We met them earlier in the series but there is so much here that their story and that of some characters encountered in earlier books have been held over for volume five. There are also: a profusion of religions, reanimated corpses and apparently supernatural weirdnesses of other sorts. (In previous volumes we had direwolves with a telepathic link to particular humans and wights who can only be killed with obsidian.) So maybe not SF then.

Four years on we are still waiting for publication of the fifth book, whose content Martin has significantly foreshadowed in A Feast For Crows. Martin has been subject to criticism and even abuse for this delay. I’m not surprised he is experiencing difficulty, the number of corners he has potentially painted himself into.

As far as I’m concerned Martin can take as long as he likes to finish; or not as the case may be. I want the rest of the series to be as good as the first four offerings. He needs time to make sure it/they are. If it/they never arrive we’ll all just have to make up our own fitting endings. And we’ll still have a feast in the books already printed.

Dumbarton 0-1 Morton

The Rock, 26/7/09, Challenge Cup

Losing 1-0 to a team in a higher division isn’t a bad result. But we were at home and have done quite well in such circumstances in the past.

I suppose the only surprise was that it wasn’t Peter Weatherson that got Morton’s goal. He usually scores against us.

Attendance 1,102? Did they not undercount today then? (According to home regulars they frequently do.)

Looks like we need to develop a cutting edge, though.

Less Than Delighted

Speaking of supermarkets, I am of course the sort of person who feels like taking a marker pen to amend those notices at the “quick” tills for those who have only a handful of purchases.

The signs ought of course to read, “Fewer Than X Items.” (Insert whatever number applies.)

Fewer, because “items” describes a plural quantity. For example; fewer accidents would be a boon.

If supermarkets had fewer notices with mistakes like this I would find myself with less to moan about.

“Less” ought only to be used with singular nouns (as in “more haste, less speed”) or in expressions like this post’s title, or my previous sentence.


I mentioned Procol Harum a few posts ago. When I wrote about America by The Nice I said, under the influence of a programme I’d seen on the history of the form on BBC 3 or 4, that it seemed that was where Prog Rock began. However it is arguable that Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale, with its debt to Air On A G String, is a truer progenitor.

Among other reasons, A Whiter Shade Of Pale is famous for the opacity of its lyric. I confess to a soft spot for the follow up single, Homburg, (based more on Sheep May Safely Graze) where the lyric is not quite so opaque. The verses are a shade apocalyptic but not the refrain.

Verse 2 runs like this:
The Town Clock in the market square stands waiting for the hour,
When its hands they both turn backwards and on meeting will devour
Both themselves and also any fool who dares to tell the time,
And the sun and moon will shatter and the signposts cease to sign.

SF/fantasy imagery or what?

But then we get a refrain dealing with (a lack of) sartorial elegance.
Your trouser cuffs are dirty and your shoes are laced up wrong,
You’d better take off your homburg cause your overcoat is too long.

Utterly bizarre.

I couldn’t find a version where the first few notes are not omitted.

Not Fifteen Books

Ian Sales on his blog mentioned a while back a meme that is going about, where you list the fifteen books that influenced or affected you most and have stayed with you. I don’t know if I can come up with fifteen off the top of my head but here are some.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
The Man In The Maze by Robert Silverberg
The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
Winter’s Children and Hello Summer Goodbye both by Michael G Coney
Lanark by Alasdair Gray
The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner by James Hogg
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke
Pavane by Keith Roberts

The Herbert is there because it was the first Dune book I read (out of the local Public Library, when I devoured any yellow jacketed book in the SF section.) I didn’t know when I picked it up it was a sequel. It still made sense, and is a better novel than Dune anyway. So is Children Of Dune; but the later ones are increasingly forgettable.
The Man In The Maze made me realise what SF could be and do. Silverberg has written books even more impressive but I was on the verge of stopping reading SF till I read this. So Robert Silverberg is to blame for my continuing involvement with the genre.
The Left Hand Of Darkness just blew me away.
All the Michael G Coneys from around that part of his career are superb as I remember. Lump in Mirror Image, Syzygy, Charisma, The Girl With A Symphony In Her Fingers* (aka The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch) and Brontomek! to that list.
Lanark, while being a masterpiece by anyone’s definition also let me know it was actually possible to be Scottish and still get literature of a speculative bent into print.
Confessions Of A Justified Sinner is the prototypic Scottish novel. Jekyll and Hyde, your inspiration was surely here – also, in many senses, my story “Dusk,” despite the fact that stylistically I was more attempting to echo Silverberg. But if you live in Scotland that streak of fatalistic, Calvinistic gloom just gets to you.
2001. Amazingly, I read this before I saw the film. Sense of wonder plus. (At the time.)
Pavane opened up for me the delights of Altered History.

*This, I read only a few years ago, though.

I see the total comes to eight; fourteen if you count all the Coneys. But then I haven’t enumerated all the Silverbergs, nor the Le Guins. And now I think about it there ought to be a Roger Zelazny in there somewhere; any from He Who Shapes, This Immortal, Isle Of The Dead or Doorways In The Sand.

Now, if there were a meme for books that stayed with you for all the wrong reasons!….


This one is mainly for our transatlantic cousins – but I’ve noticed it creeping on to supermarket labels/notices here.

Regular means occurring at intervals. Even intervals.
It doesn’t mean “normal,” it doesn’t mean “less than jumbo sized.”
It means “every so often.”

How regularly do you think I might have to say this?

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