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Luss

Luss is a village on the shores of Loch Lomond in the west of Scotland. It’s about twelve or so miles from Dumbarton.

It was the village where most of the outside shots for the Scottish Television (STV) soap opera Take the High Road were filmed.

Luss from the village pier:-

Luss, from Loch Lomond,

Part of Luss from the other side of the pier:-

Luss From Loch Lomond

Luss Church:-

Luss Church, Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

In the churchyard there is a Viking hogback stone:-

Viking hogback stone, grave, Luss, Loch Lomond

Just up from the church there is this curious bridge which seems to cross a small inlet of Loch Lomond:-

Loch Lomond, Bridge,Church

Loch Lomond Bridge, Luss

near Loch Lomond, Luss, Scotland, trees

In the village itself there’s this cottage with (shallow) cat slide dormer windows:-

Cat Slide Cottage, Luss, Scotland

The Loch Lomond Arms is at the top of the road down to the pier:-

Loch Lomond Arms, Luss

Dumbarton Rock and The Rock

On our visit to the town last March we also had a look in Dumbarton town centre. The Artizan Shopping Centre has seen better days. That day many of its premises did not have tenants. Covid can only have made that worse.

Some of the empty units had been brightened up though by having huge photographs of Dumbarton Rock pasted onto their frontages. These are crops of the photos I took of those huge photos.

Dumbarton  Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Dumbarton  Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

The Rock is a beautiful sight, isn’t it?. And that’s a lovely sky.

This cracking shot of Dumbarton Rock and Dumbarton Football Stadium (aka The Rock) was posted in 2020 in a blog I follow:-

Dumbarton Rock and The Rock

And this view was in a newsletter from Dumbarton FC:-

The Rock and the Rock

Municipal Buildings and Boer War Memorial, Dumbarton

In March last year we were over in Dumbarton again – no doubt for a football match.

However we also took the chance to have a look at the old Municipal Buildings which date from long before local government reorganisation in the 1960s – at a time when the town had a Town Council.

Arch and Municipal Buildings, Dumbarton:-

Memorial Arch and Municipal Buildings, Dumbarton

The plaque attached to the arch describes it as one of the tower arches of St Mary’s Collegiate Church, founded 1450. The arch was moved in 1850 to make way for the railway station and again in 1907 to its present location:-

Plaque on Memorial Arch at Dumbarton Municipal Buildings

Boer War Memorial, Dumbarton, Municipal Buildings behind. The memorial is inscribed, “Erected by the citizens of Dumbarton in memory of those who left the burgh to fight for their country in South Africa and who laid down their lives during the progress of the war 1899-1902.”:-

Boer War Memorial, Dumbarton

Dumbarton Football Stadium

I’ve posted Footy Adventures’s video of Dumbarton Football Stadium from Dumbarton Rock elsewhere.

Now, in another video (posted on 7/1/21) he took advantage of the club granting him access to the ground (well there was no-one else around) and he’s very enthusiastic about the place.

He waxes lyrical about the surroundings but bemoans the fact the fans can’t see the Rock when they’re seated in the stand.

However from the stand there is a very good view of the range of hills known locally as the Long Crags but whose formal name is I think the Kilpatrick Hills, which also overlook the town and are scenic in themselves.

Posting this means I probably don’t need to inflict my own photos of the Rock on you all.

The First Kings of Scotland:

Dumbarton Rock, Dumbarton Football Club and Dumbarton Football Stadium

Someone on the football forum Pie & Bovril posted this video as seen on You Tube and made by a user called Footy Adventures.

It had great views of Dumbarton Rock and The Rock. Not to mention the town and surroundings.

The video does have an advert for a company selling replica shirts embedded in it though.

PS. I can confirm that from Annbank (over the River Clyde,) Dumbarton Rock does look like a recumbent elephant.

SF Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times (vii)

This meme started with Judith at Reader in the Wilderness but has now been taken up by Katrina at Pining for the West.

Science Fiction Books Again

This shelf is the last containing SF books I have read. These start at Connie Willis and finish with Roger Zelazny – to whom all bar Silverberg and Le Guin bow down – but also incorporating my copies of the old Spectrum SF magazine (I have six copies of issue 2 because I had a story in it – I also had one in issue 3 but only got four copies of that) and 17 issues of Galaxy Magazine. [Edited to add. I forgot my four copies of the Destinies collections are in there too.]

In there is also my John Wyndham collection.

The 20 books following I had read (from Dumbarton Library it must have been) before I bought copies to keep and have housed them separately from my other SF ever since.

Then you’ll note two copies of a book called A Son of the Rock, plus a Zelazny collaboration.

Murdo, The Life and Works by Iain Crichton Smith

Birlinn, 2001, 285 p, plus xiii p Introduction by Stewart Conn.

 Murdo, The Life and Works cover

In my review of his collection After the Dance I mentioned Smith’s very-unScottish deployment of humour. This is most evident in the pieces presented by his Murdo persona, which is, as the book’s title implies, very much to the fore here.

Murdo, the Life and Works is divided into three sections Murdo, Thoughts of Murdo and Life of Murdo.

In the first, Murdo has given up his job at a bank in order to write a novel about a man who has given up his job at a bank in order to write a novel. Every morning he stares at the blank piece of paper in front of him and out of the window to look at the White Mountain (which he tells himself one day he must climb,) throughout the day he fortifies himself with cups of tea and every evening the sheet of paper is still blank. When he ventures outside the house his encounters with others tend to the bizarre, his behaviour beyond eccentric. His wife’s parents think she should leave him, while she herself thought she had understood him when they married but is now not so sure. At one point Murdo ruminates that, “Those who approach most closely to the condition of the animal are the ones most likely to survive. And Woolworths. Woolworths will live forever.” How wrong he was in that last assumption.

The second contains a multitude of diverse snippets of Murdo’s thoughts and writings – notes, letters, manifestos, poetry and observations – replete with wordplay and allusion and including some of his tales of Free Church adherent and private detective Sam Spaid who strides down the mean streets of Portree (and sometimes travels as far as Inverness.) Some of these animadversions appeared in After the Dance. There is also an account by Murdo he gave of a talk on the humanity of Robert Burns as revealed by the text of To a Mouse.

A preface to the third section says that Smith used the word Murdo instead of I in the autobiography which follows to distance himself from his memories as outlined there – including some of Dumbarton. Of course Murdo must contain aspects of Smith himself but as Murdo these are undoubtedly exaggerated. Many of Murdo’s opinions have certainly been adopted by Smith for comedic or satiric purposes. This section also contains Murdo’s reminiscences of the Scottish literary scene and its characters.

In contrast to his days staying there Dumbarton, says Murdo, is “much improved” principally because it now has a Sue Ryder shop (plus other charity shops.) Murdo scours the shelves of these, as of those elsewhere, in search of books.

As an illustration of a certain kind of Scottish discourse at one point one of his interlocutors, when asked about availability for some project or other, says, “‘I don’t know about Tuesday. That’s my Hate the Catholics night.’”

Note for the sensitive; this contains the word ‘dagoes.’

Pedant’s corner:- ‘Bridge over Troubled Waters’ (a common misprision, the song’s title is “Bridge over Troubled Water”,) “smoothe away” (smooth,) fifth equals (strictly that should be fifths equal,) “The Comunn Gaidhealach have even produced” (has even produced,) “by the bye” (by the by,) corn-beef (corned beef,) “barely bree” (barley bree,) “in the the brine” (only one ‘the’,) Harris’ (Harris’s,) Holmes’ (Holmes’s,) aquaducts (aqueducts,) an opened parenthesis never closed (x 2,) “the world of the army was not Murdo’s work” (not Murdo’s world makes more sense,) “didn’t consider Donalda threat” (didn’t consider Donalda a threat,) “jelly fish” (jellyfish,) jsut (just.)

Hey! A list!

I’ve just discovered through Ian Sales’s blog that the BBC has produced a list of “100 Books that Shaped our World.” It’s as idiosyncratic as any such list always is.

Ian has started a list of his own (with different criteria) of which you can see the first instalment via the link above. Nina Allan has also published her own list.

I doubt that I could go up to anything like 100 on the books that shaped me and my reading so I’m not even going to try except to say my love of Science Fiction was engendered by reading the SF of Captain W E Johns and Patrick Moore out of the children’s section of Dumbarton Library (in the basement, accessed via an outside door) and, once I’d graduated to the adult floor, the yellow covered Gollancz hardbacks.

Two exceptions.

I was about to give up reading SF when I read Robert Silverberg’s The Man in the Maze. It’s not his best but it’s one from the 1960s, in the “revival” stage of his career after he came back to SF and wrote stories the way they ought to be done – as distinct from the less considered works he’d written in the 1950s. It made me realise that SF could be literature.

So too, in spades, did Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.

Of the BBC’s list the ones I’ve read are in bold (19.) If I’ve read one or part of a series it’s in italics (2.) Some others here are on my tbr pile.

Identity
Beloved – Toni Morrison
Days Without End – Sebastian Barry
Fugitive Pieces – Anne Michaels
Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Small Island – Andrea Levy
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
White Teeth – Zadie Smith

Love, Sex & Romance
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Forever – Judy Blume
Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Riders – Jilly Cooper
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
The Far Pavilions – M. M. Kaye
The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
The Passion – Jeanette Winterson
The Slaves of Solitude – Patrick Hamilton

Adventure
City of Bohane – Kevin Barry
Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
His Dark Materials Trilogy – Philip Pullman
Ivanhoe – Walter Scott
Mr Standfast – John Buchan
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The Jack Aubrey Novels – Patrick O’Brian
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien

Life, Death & Other Worlds
A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
Astonishing the Gods – Ben Okri
Dune – Frank Herbert
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis
The Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett
The Earthsea Trilogy – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Sandman Series – Neil Gaiman
The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Politics, Power & Protest
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman
Strumpet City – James Plunkett
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore
Unless – Carol Shields

Class & Society
A House for Mr Biswas – V. S. Naipaul
Cannery Row – John Steinbeck
Disgrace – J.M. Coetzee
Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
Poor Cow – Nell Dunn
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – Alan Sillitoe
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne – Brian Moore
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

Coming of Age
Emily of New Moon – L. M. Montgomery
Golden Child – Claire Adam
Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
So Long, See You Tomorrow – William Maxwell
Swami and Friends – R. K. Narayan
The Country Girls – Edna O’Brien
The Harry Potter series – J. K. Rowling
The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ – Sue Townsend
The Twilight Saga – Stephenie Meyer

Family & Friendship
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
Cloudstreet – Tim Winton
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

Middlemarch – George Eliot
Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin
The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë
The Witches – Roald Dahl

Crime & Conflict
American Tabloid – James Ellroy
American War – Omar El Akkad
Ice Candy Man – Bapsi Sidhwa
Rebecca -Daphne du Maurier
Regeneration – Pat Barker
The Children of Men – P.D. James
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
The Quiet American – Graham Greene

Rule Breakers
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
Bartleby, the Scrivener – Herman Melville
Habibi – Craig Thompson
How to be Both – Ali Smith
Orlando – Virginia Woolf
Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

Psmith, Journalist – P. G. Wodehouse
The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – Audre Lorde

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Titan Books, 2016, 429 p.

 All the Birds in the Sky cover

This, Anders’s first novel, is a blend of Fantasy and Science Fiction which starts off reading like YA fiction but soon enough makes clear that it deals with adult matters too. Patricia Delfine very early in her life realises she is a witch when birds begin to talk to her and she can talk back. She also has a conversation with a speaking tree – The Tree. In school her path crosses that of Laurence Armstead, a so-called techno-geek, who invents for himself a two-second time machine for travel only into the future, and later builds an AI he calls CH@NG3M3. For both of them schooldays are a kind of purgatory, as they are picked on and bullied. Their home lives are little better, both using the other as a means of convincing their parents they are out doing what is desired for them rather than what they wish for themselves. Mixed in with all this is an assassin called Mr Rose who gets a job as counsellor at their school in order to monitor their activities. Despite appearing intermittently in the novel Mr Rose’s function is not really clearly defined.

Later the children’s lives diverge as Patricia finds the company of other witches (whose old division into Healers and Tricksters was patched over many years before.) She is always being warned by them of the dangers of Aggrandisement. It seems just about anything she does can be interpreted in this way. Laurence is recruited by Milton Dirth to work on his project to build a wormhole machine to take humans to another planet. In the background there is a large degree of environmental degradation which makes this construction seem worthwhile and in daily life an electronic device called a Caddy somehow engineers people’s lives to be better through apparently serendipitous meetings and the like. How all these things are connected and Patricia and Laurence’s coming together in adult life are central to the story.

There are some observations on human nature. In one of their conversations Laurence says to Patricia “‘no matter what you do, people are going to expect you to be someone you’re not. But if you’re clever and work your butt off, then you get to be surrounded by people who expect you to be the person you wish they were.’”

Oddly, despite the novel being written in USian I noticed the British usages, “a total wanker,” “for some emergency nookie,” and “one intense wank fantasy.” In addition I was delighted to see the phrase “head for the Dumbarton.” (The Dumbarton is a bridge over San Francisco Bay – the southernmost. Its name derives from Dumbarton Point, itself named after my home town.)

Though it has some flaws, All the Birds in the Sky is overall an impressive debut.

Pedant’s corner:- epicenter [sic] (it was a centre,) a missing comma before a quotation mark, a capital letter after a colon, “none of the computers were connected” (none .. was connected,) “‘to lay low’” (lie low,) Patricia at one point is said to have reasonably fullish breasts but later they are described as small, “Here’s what Isobel said to Laurence, just before the earthquake hit” is a poor – a dreadful – way to start a flashback.

Dumbarton 1-2 Clyde

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 28/9/19.

Oh dear.

OK, we held the league leaders to a draw at their place last week (and I note they still remain undefeated) but the balance of the play was well in their favour.

And again we lost a lead – albeit this time only one goal. But then today we lost the winner. And once more two second half goals conceded.

We don’t seem to be able to keep a clean sheet. That always makes things difficult. My perennial close season hopes of a positive goal diiference at the end of the season for the first time in ages have long since gone out of the window.

The three teams we have beaten are all below us – and two of them caught up a bit today. This doesn’t bode well.

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