Archives » 2011 » October

Jimmy Savile

I was at the game at Stirling on Saturday. The weekend coincided with the birthday of my younger son and I didn’t get home till later than usual.

As a result I hadn’t much time to think about the demise of Jimmy Savile.

Savile was certainly one of life’s one-offs. Instantly recognisable, among his lesser achievements was one I have noted before. He invented bling. No-one else on TV had his flamboyance yet there was an edge of irritation attached to his appearances, to the forced jollity, to the smugness he displayed on Jim’ll Fix It. (By the way, they weren’t “Jim’ll Fix It” badges. That was the name of the show. The wording on each medallion – and how Savilesque were they? – was “Jim Fixed It For Me.”) For all his hail fellow well met bonhomie you always felt that you never came near to the real man.

Yet he raised £30,000,000 pounds for various charitable causes (£12 million for Stoke Mandeville National Spinal Injuries Centre alone) and is said to have contributed 90% of his not insubstantial annual income to charitable trusts. That’s not a bad claim to fame.

He may have pioneered aspects of disc-jockeying and been a leader in parleying that endeavour into a wider media career but it was as if he pushed the world away. The TV interview he gave Louis Theroux offered the vision of someone not at all at ease with himself and his devotion to his dead mother strayed well beyond the admirable into the deeply strange. Whatever secrets actually lay behind the mask he presented to the world we may never know.

Perhaps it was appropriate he was born on Halloween.

James Wilson Vincent Savile: 31/10/1926 – 29/10/2011. So it goes.

Edited to add (17/10/12):- With the recent revelations of his abusing children and hospital patients that Halloween birthdate is even more spooky.

Stirling Albion 0-1 Dumbarton

SFL Div 2, Forthbank Stadium*, 30/10/11

At half-time I feared the worst. We’d had a barrowload of chances, Pat Walker one-on-one with the goalie and the goalie saved it, Brian Prunty and Walker two on one defender where Prunty elected to shoot instead of playing Walker in, plus a few other efforts but nothing to show for it. Stirling had looked poor. That sort of thing usually leads to one ending.

Sure enough Striling came out more brightly in the second half and had more of the ball but didn’t fashion much by way of chances.

Then out of nothing Scott Agnew hit a shot which seemed to get a deflection on its way past their keeper and delight ensued.

But there was still trepidation to come. Stirling had two good efforts one inches (if that) past. From where I sat the header looked goal bound but it edged past the post and Stephen Grindlay made a great save on a one-on-one.

Then a great move saw Prunty played in but his shot went just wide.

A welcome three points even if Stirling were the poorest side I have seen for some time.

The referee by the way was atrocious. He gave us four fouls all game (two more were given by the assistants.) He failed to see a challenge on James Creaney it was so late (the assistant did) but didn’t book the guy. He yellow-carded Kevin Nicoll for a challenge but two minutes later didn’t even give a foul for an exact copy tackle on Scott Agnew.

As I recall this was the ref who gave Andy Rodgers an utterly ridiculous penalty for The Shire against us way back when. Maybe he doesn’t like us for some reason.

*Apparently its now the Doubletree Dunblane Stadium but who could be bothered?


Cambridge is a curious mixture of mediævality and the modern. Plus you take your life in your hands walking about the place. People on bikes whizz around almost silently. We nearly got knocked down several times. So many bikes are there parked in one spot I heard one woman say to her companion, “Well my bike’s in there somewhere but I can’t tell where.”

It was morning when I took this, and raining slightly – not many takers for the punts.


King’s College (entrance below left) is impressive, but you can’t get back far enough to photograph it all. See below right for the chapel.

Entrance to King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge. Right Side

Access to the river is also restricted by the various colleges’ grounds.

On a lane down to the river we saw this unusual vertical sundial – well, actually four vertical sundials, one on each compass point of the tower I suppose.

Vertical Sundial

This is from the footbridge over the Cam that we were able to cross. More empty punts – though if you look hard enough you’ll see one being poled just beyond the right arch of the bridge.

Bridge over Cam , Cambridge.

Friday On My Mind 63: The Skeleton And The Roundabout

Speaking of Jeff Lynne, his first brush with fame came with The Move’s Birmingham contemporaries The Idle Race.

One of my schoolmates raved about The Skeleton And The Roundabout though it didn’t trouble the charts much; and nor did other Idle Race tracks.

If you listen closely you’ll hear that the singer actually pronounces the unusual (for a song’s title) word in the song’s title “skelington.”

The Idle Race – The Skeleton And The Roundabout

4 Saturnian Moons

Astronomy Picture of the Day for 26/10/11 was this stunning view of four of Saturn’s moons, one (Dione) pictured in relief against the background of another (Titan.)

Saturn’s rings jut into the picture and the shepherd moon, Pandora, can be seen as an extended bright blur beyond their tips. In the ring gap (the Encke Gap) you can just make out an inner shepherd moon, Pan, whose presence keeps the gap free of ice particles.

This sort of image is just brilliant. It gives me the famous “sense of wonder” associated with Science Fiction.

Better Read Than Dead

Don’t forget the Writers’ Bloc tenth anniversary special tonight.
At the Canon’s Gait, 232 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8DQ.
Time:- from 8pm.
Admission:- £4.00, £2.00 concessions.

Pickerel Meeting

On one of our two nights in Cambridge I had agreed to meet up with Eric Brown who lives nearby.

He arranged for other SF writers from the area to join us. They were Chris Beckett, Una McCormack, Philip Vine, BSFA chairman Ian Whates and Rebecca Payne, most of whom I had not met before. The six of them have semi-regular meetings in the Pickerel Inn in Cambridge.

The good lady and I had a meal in the Pickerel before everyone else arrived. Our plates groaned. So many peas were heaped on them we must have been served about half a kilogram between us.

I had meant to take some pictures of the gathering but such a good time was had by all that I forgot.

(No. I wasn’t drunk. I had to drive back to the hotel.)

Not The Old Vicarage, Grantchester.

After Newmarket we headed just south-east of Cambridge to the not very well sign-posted village of Grantchester.

“Stands the church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?”

As you can see from the church clock in the photo below we arrived an hour too early.

Grantchester Church Clock At Ten To Two.

I looked for the Old Vicarage but even though there was a Vicarage Lane the houses’ identities were being closely guarded. Jeffrey Archer (yes, Jeffrey Archer) bought the Old Vicarage in the 1980s. If he still lives there perhaps it’s a blessing I didn’t find it.

I did find a new(er) vicarage right beside the church. Hardly iconic.

New? Vicarage.

I was, however, delighted to see the War Memorial in the churchyard of St Andrew and St Mary.

War Memorial, Grantchester.

I was even more delighted to see Rupert Brooke’s name there.

War Memorial, Grantchester, Close up.

Brooke greeted the Great War with some enthusiasm, in sonnets such as Now, God Be Thanked Who Has Matched Us With His Hour and The Soldier.

Brooke didn’t die in battle. He developed sepsis from a mosquito bite on his way to Gallipoli and was buried on the island of Skyros in Greece. So some corner of a foreign field is forever, if not England, then at least Grantchester.

He was a casualty of the war, though, as he would not have been in the Aegean but for that.

Passing the Green Man pub I saw a sign saying “Grantchester Meadows.” I followed the path down and took this photo.

Grantchester Meadows

This was because Grantchester has another famous son, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. The song Grantchester Meadows from the 1969 album Ummagumma, though written and performed by Roger Waters rather than Gilmour, was, I presume, inspired by this.

Pink Floyd – Grantchester Meadows

Unlocking The Air and other stories by Ursula K Le Guin

Harper Collins, 1996, 390p.

Unlocking The Air cover

This collection of short fiction comprises 18 stories first published in the pages of, among others, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Ms., Playboy and Omni, plus some otherwise uncredited. They range in length from 3 to 37 pages. I read quite a few of these on my trip away but was not taking notes and so have not commented in depth. Despite the mainly non-genre organs where they first appeared all have an air of otherness about them, of things not quite explicable.

The most Science-Fictional, Ether, OR, appeared in Asimov’s. It is narrated sequentially by the various inhabitants of a town that can shift its location.
The title story, Unlocking the Air, is one of Le Guin’s Orsinian Tales and relates the story of a revolution in that fantasy middle European country. Daddy’s Big Girl is a near fairy tale about a girl who keeps growing. The Poacher takes as its subject matter a well-known fairy tale but approaches it, in typical Le Guin fashion, at a considerable tangent.

Le Guin’s typical compassion and sympathy for her characters are evident throughout.


After Stamford we stopped at Cambridge for two nights.

Despite seeing signs saying Lincoln City FC stadium on the way in to that city I never caught so much as a glimpse of Sincil Bank. The only football ground I did see on the trip was the Abbey Stadium, Cambridge United’s home, as we headed out of Cambridge the first morning along Newmarket Road.

I only took two photos in Newmarket. One was of the War Memorial, which has a lovely setting in a square surrounded by trees.

War Memorial, Newmarket, Suffolk.

Newmarket itself could be described as a one horse town. I have never seen anywhere so dedicated to the one activity. Not only are there two racecourses, the National Horseracing Museum and the Jockey Club Estates Limited, but on the road out east there are training areas for horses on either side of the road and bridle paths running at the back of the pavements. There was even one road crossing dedicated to horses. Horses are Newmarket’s raison d’être. It seems to prosper with it, though.

The other photo was of this quite imposing deco style building.

Art Deco style building in Newmarket, Suffolk.

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