Archives » 2011 » January

Woolly Wolstenholme

I must have been one of the last to catch up with the news of the death last month of “Woolly” Wolstenholme, one of the founders of prog rock group Barclay James Harvest. I almost skipped the Guardian’s obituary page on Friday. I’m glad I didn’t now. (Though the picture does the band no favours, making them look like a bunch of effetes. Still, it was the seventies, a lot of bands looked like that then.)

BJH were one of the main purveyors of the branch of prog rock that took the adjective “symphonic” and Wolstenholme was perhaps the main driver of these leanings towards classical music.

They were famous notorious for touring with a live orchestra – though they gave that up pretty quickly as being too expensive.

While not providing the bulk of the group’s songs – John Lees and Les Holroyd did that – Wolstenholme’s contributions lent the band a distinctive tone.

The fullest extent of Wolstenholme’s classical extensions to their work is probably the track Moonwater from the Baby James Harvest album.

A more typical flavour of his songwriting can be gleaned from listening to Beyond The Grave from the album Time Honoured Ghosts or Sea of Tranquility from Gone To Earth though Harbour from XII (of which this is a performance by successor band John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest) is more folkish. I have a sneaking regard for Ra from Octoberon but haven’t found a net-playable version.

XII was the last BJH album to which Woolly contributed. It featured the track below, which seems to be the favourite of those devotees who have posted on You Tube.

Barclay James Harvest: In Search Of England

Woolly’s death is even sadder in that as a sufferer from depression, he took his own life.

Stuart John “Woolly” Wolstenholme. 15/4/47-13/12/10. So it goes.

Dumbarton 1-2 Brechin City

League goals against predictor:- 90

SFL Div 2, The Rock, 29/01/11

Well. The expected defeat.

At least we scored. But one wasn’t enough even for a draw. (Grindlay, Chisholm, Nugent, Gordon, McLeish, Carcary, McStay, McNiff, Gilhaney, McShane, Walker.)

Away to Airdrie United (the former Clydebank: no, I’ll not forgive them for taking over another club) on Tuesday night. Any chance of an away goal?

I shan’t be there but Alloa on Saturday’s a definite (if it’s on.)

Even if it’s off I’ll be in Alloa on a family call.

Kraken by China Miéville

Kraken utilises Miéville’€™s common setting of London, albeit a strange London. This otherness beside the familiar is a strand in his work evident from King Rat and Un Lun Dun through to THE CITY AND YTIC EHT.

This one started out as if it may have been written with a film or TV adaptation in mind – one with a potentially light-hearted take – but soon veers off down strange Miévillean byways which may be unfilmable. For these are the end times and cultists worshipping all manner of weird gods abound.

It begins with a kind of locked room mystery as a giant squid, Architeuthis, has been stolen – formalin, tank and all – from its stance in the Darwin Centre, a natural history museum where Billy Harrow is a curator. He helped to prepare the squid for show and is thought to hold the knowledge that might allow all those interested in its recovery to find it. The police fundamentalist and cult squad, the FSRC, is called in to help investigate the disappearance which becomes more involved when Billy discovers a body pickled (in too small a jar) in the museum’s basement. And these are merely the first strangenesses to be encountered in this book. We also have the consciousness of a man embedded within a tattoo, a tattoo which moves and speaks. Then there is the double act of Goss and Subby – two shapeshifting baddies from out of time (they shift other people’€™s shapes) – and weird sects, cults and mancers of all sorts.

Never short of incident and brimming with plot the novel is probably a bit too convoluted, with too many characters for its own good, and its one-damn-strange-thing-after-another-ness can verge on overkill. But this is an unashamed fantasy, a form to which I am antipathetic when it is taken to extremes; and Miéville is not one for restraint.

While Kraken sometimes skirts along the edge of comedy it never fully embraces it. There are too many killings and acts of violence for comedy to sit comfortably. I might have liked the novel better if it had. Its main fault is that it never manages to settle on which sort of book it is meant to be, straddling various narrative stools such as police procedural, one man against the odds, woman in search of the truth about her vanished lover, etc.

This may be a reason why it failed to make the award ballot for this year’€™s BSFA Awards.

Pedantic asides:- Miéville did make me think what the plural of quid pro quo might be. (To my British mind Miéville’€™s anglicised formulation “quids pro quo”€ would mean getting money for something rather than a mutual back-scratching.) Taking the phrase as meaning “€œthis for that”€ then the English plural, for the phrase as a whole, would be quid pro quos. For the Latin plural you would have quae pro quibus (these for those.) There are two other semantic possibilities; quid pro quibus (this for those) and quae pro quo (these for that.) Miéville also seems to think that “law”€ and “lore”€ are homophones. Not where I come from they aren’€™t. And the establishment is a dry cleaner’s, not a dry cleaners.

I believe Miéville’€™s next is to be set in space. It’€™ll be interesting to see his take on that.

Friday On My Mind 43: Day Time, Night Time

Forget the big hit Kites, which I believe the band disliked, this was a much better song.

“Looks good. Feels good. Walkin’ down the street. Everyone we meet says, ‘We should.'”

Simon Dupree And The Big Sound: Day Time, Night Time

And check out the song below. There’s a touch of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick And Tich‘s Legend of Xanadu about it. I wonder if this is where their songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley got the idea from. Or perhaps it was the other way around.

I like the way the first line of the chorus is just a full octave descending scale.

Simon Dupree And The Big Sound: For Whom The Bell Tolls

Dumbarton 1-2 Forfar Athletic

League goals against predictor:- 100

SFL Div 2, The Rock, 25/01/11

League goals for predictor:- 19.

Oh dear.

One step forward, two back.

And this against a team who hadn’t played in 66 days.

Who knows what might have happened if the game at Methil had been on. We could have been level on points with East Fife going into this one which would have helped confidence.

The thing is we have to score two goals to have any hope of winning a game because we always concede. (Grindlay, Devlin, Gordon, Nugent, Creaney, Gilhaney, Carcary, Geggan, Walker, Campbell, McNiff.)

I can’t see us taking anything from the Brechin game on Saturday either.

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 19 (i). St Andrew’s House: 1.

This ought really to have been one of the first of these posts but I didn’t get round to photographing the building till last Sunday. It belongs in Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage rather than merely Edinburgh’s because it is such a significant building (both architecturally and governmentally) housing as it does a fairly large proportion of the Scottish Civil Service.

Below is a view of the rear looking from North Bridge.

I took the photo from just beside the War Memorial which I featured yesterday. You can just see part of the roofs of Waverley railway station in the foreground. The tower at the top of the picture is actually on Calton Hill, the round structure to the left is in the cemetery adjacent to St Andrew’s House.

Here is the building in all its monolithic Stalinist glory.

From right:-

From left:-

The central frontage is a bit overbearing:-

Each of the pillars is surmounted by a statue:-

If you click on the above to enlarge it you can probably see the words carved into the stone just above the pillars. They depict six of the functions of the Scottish Office; architecture, statecraft, health, agriculture, fisheries, education.

Boer War Memorial, Edinburgh

On a sudden impulse we went to Edinburgh on Sunday morning. (Well the good lady wanted to return an item to a shop.)

It was a pleasure not to have to fight our way through crowds on Princes Street as we would have on a Saturday.

I had the camera along and ended up taking 46 photos.

This is the war memorial that stands on North Bridge (the one above Waverley Station.) The uniforms are of the South African War/Wars.

If you read the writing (click on the picture to enlarge) it’s not just to commemorate those wars but also engagements in Afghanistan (nothing changes, eh?) Egypt, Chin Lusha, Chitral and Tirah.

This bottom picture is of the plaque below the memorial. It commemorates the laying of the foundation stone of the North Bridge by some local worthy.

The West Wing, Series 5


The cliffhanger of President Bartlet’s daughter’s kidnapping which ended series 4 is swiftly resolved (in a highly unlikely fashion it has to be said, though it did conform to the conventions of narrative.) Then it’s back to business as usual with more unveiling of the intricacies of the US political system.

In an episode called Shutdown failure to agree a budget “on the hill” leads to governmental operations ceasing. (Why can’t they just carry on using a repeat of last year’s budget? Very odd.) There was a blatant filler episode called Access, a supposed fly-on-the-wall documentary about life in the West Wing under the Bartlet administration. We didn’t need this: we are/were flies on the wall already.

Notable by her absence in this series was Josh’s girlfriend, she of the undiscernible dialogue (who had been working for the First Lady in series 4.) This unexplained disappearance was peculiar. She was only the most egregious example of one of the irritants with The West Wing; either the sound is appalling or the actors too often are mumbling.

We have another cliffhanger series ending – this time to do with events in Gaza and Donna Moss facing a life threatening operation.

It’s still superior entertainment, though, and helps to pass the time on those nights when the fare on offer on British television is unappealing. (Which is to say, nearly every night.)

Another Review

I’ve received another book to review from Interzone (whose webpage I note has links to the short stories on the BSFA Award ballot that they published.)

The review book is a short story collection. It’s called Engineering Infinity and is edited by Jonathan Strahan.

The review is due on January 31st so I’ve my work cut out.

This Year’s BSFA Awards

This year’s BSFA Awards shortlist has been published.

Five novels have made it this year (I’ve read one) and four short stories (ditto,) five non-fiction pieces and six art works.

I didn’t make the list with Osmotic Pressure (I doubt I was nominated by anyone) but
I’ll look forward to reading the shorts I’ve missed so far: I assume the BSFA will send them out in a booklet as in the past two years. They’ll all likely be available on the web soon I should think – if not already.

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