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Niki Lauda

One of motor racing’s greats, Niki Lauda, has died.

Though he only won the F1 World Championship three times, his talent was acknowleged as being of the highest quality.

His courage in coming back from a horrific accident in which he almost died at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring to race again only 40 days later was incredible. Arguably though, his withdrawal from the final Grand Prix that year in Japan, where the weather conditions were appalling, took even more courage as that year’s World Championship was on the line. As a result his great friend and rival James Hunt won the Championship – by one point. Lauda’s team, Ferrari, was not best pleased.

It marks Lauda’s resolve that he made that decision and still came back to win the World Championship the next year – and again seven years later.

Andreas Nikolaus (Niki) Lauda: 22/2/1949 – 20/5/2019. So it goes.

Not Friday on my Mind 56: There’s a Kind of Hush – RIP Les Reed

Songwriter (well, tune writer: he collaborated with lyricists to complete his songs) Les Reed died last week.

Writing for the likes of Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, Reed was never the most credible with the rock crowd but he helped create a formidable catalogue of notable songs of the 1960s.

It’s Not Unusual, The Last Waltz, I’m Coming Home, Delilah and I Pretend all made No 1 or 2, not a bad achievement for anybody – even if these were mostly bought by Mums and Dads.

Then there’s this song from 1967 (lyric by Geoff Stephens,) and later recorded by The Carpenters.

Herman’s Hermits: There’s a Kind of Hush

Leslie David (Les) Reed: 24/7/1935 – 15/4/2019. So it goes.

Stevie Chalmers

Barely a week after the sad demise of Billy McNeill comes news of the death of his Lisbon Lion teammate Stevie Chalmers.

But Chalmers wasn’t just a teammate. He was the scorer of that goal. Not the best, not the most spectacular, not the most intricate, but perhaps the most precious goal in the history of Scottish football. It was the foot of Chalmers that deflected the course of Bobby Murdoch’s shot into the Inter Milan net and so made sure that Celtic would become not only the first (and so far – and likely forever – the only) Scottish, but also the first British (and first North European) team to lift the European Cup.

Bill Shankly is reported to have said to Celtic’s manager that day, Jock Stein, when they won the trophy, “Jock, you’re immortal.” Well, so too is Chalmers; or at least his memory is.

Looking at his Wikipedia page I see Chalmers turned out for the Sons of the Rock (for one game; as a trialist. Looks like we missed a good one there.) Our loss was Celtic’s gain. He ended up the club’s fifth highest ever goalscorer.

Thomas Stephen (Stevie) Chalmers: 26/12/1935 – 29/3/2019. So it goes.

Billy McNeill

The word legend is bandied about very frequently in football circles usually about players who have not really done much to deserve it.

Today, though, came news that someone who truly warrants that accolade has died.

Billy McNeill will live in history as the first British man to lift the European Cup. The whole 1967 Celtic team can be described as legends – that was an incredible achievement, to win that trophy previously only acquired by teams from southern Europe, with players all born within a tewnty mile radius from the stadium of the club for whom they were playing. It was almost inconceivable at the time. It is utterly impossible now.

McNeill himself always came across as a gentleman – though doubtless the centre forwards he played against may have a different perspective. He presented as articulate and thoughtful in interviews.

Such a pity that his later years were blighted by dementia. I don’t suppose all those years heading a heavy rain-soaked leather football can have helped in that regard.

Not that I wish to end on a sad note as his life and achievements ought to be celebrated.

But words are inadequate.

William (Billy) McNeill: 2/3/1940 – 22/4/2019. So it goes.

Gene Wolfe

And they keep coming. (I suppose, really, that should be going.)

Yesterday, via George R R Martin’s Not a Blog, I learned of the death of Gene Wolfe.

I have been an admirer of his work ever since his novel The Shadow of the Torturer, the first of his sequence set in Urth, with the overall title The Book of the New Sun.

This was followed by Soldier of the Mist set in ancient times, whose hero, Latro, can not remember things from one day to the next, and two more books with the same protagonist.

Two other series, The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun, appeared in the 1990s and early 2000s along with two books related to each other The Wizard and The Knight.

Many stand alone novels were published before, during and after these series books.

I have 24 of Wolfe’s books, 20 novels and 4 collections of his shorter work, but have not yet read them all. (So many books to read, so little time.)

Ursula Le Guin was a great admirer of Wolfe’s writing, calling him “our Melville”, (our in the context of the SF and Fantasy field.)

The last of his novels to be published, A Borrowed Man, 2015, I had the privilege of reviewing for Interzone. I had the impression that was to be the first in another series of books, which sadly are now probably lost for ever.

I’ve got those unread ones to look forward to though.

Gene Rodman Wolfe: 7/5/1931 – April 14/4/2019. So it goes.

Vonda N McIntyre

I was sad to read today of the death of Vonda N McIntyre.

She first came to my attention with the short story Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand – a Nebula Award winner in 1974 and which formed the first part of her later novel Dreamsnake which won the Hugo and Nebula for best novel in 1979. The stroy was unusual in that its protagonist was a healer rather than a fighter. It was immediately obvious McIntyre’s writing was up there with the best the genre had to offer.

Looking at my records I find I have six of her books (including one short story collection.) One of the novels, The Entropy Effect, was in the Star Trek franchise, and much better written than it probably needed to be.

I reviewed her 1986 novel Superluminal here.

In all she won three Nebulas and that Hugo.

She may not have been prolific as a writer and not so prominent latterly as she was at the turn of the 1970s/80s but she is undoubtedly one of the most noteworthy SF authors of the late twentieth century.

Vonda Neel McIntyre: 28/8/1948 – 1/4/2019. So it goes.

Memorable Weekend

I had a wonderful weekend, thank you for asking.

My eldest son tied the knot. (Literally; it was a part of the ceremony.) He and his now wife tailored things very much to their own preferences.

Like his younger brother’s nuptials nearly three years ago now – blimey, though things in the wider world haven’t improved any in the interim and they looked bad enough back then – there was beer involved.

Not that the piss-up was in a brewery this time, rather it was in an old farmyard. But beer there was. Made by the happy couple’s own fair hands.

Beer bottle

Very nice stuff it was too. And there was some left over. I took two bottles home which will need to be drunk before it goes off….

And the mighty Sons of the Rock won at Stranraer, moving from bottom to third bottom and leapfrogging our hosts in the process.

Our first win anywhere since early December and our first away since August. Not to mention going against our truly abysmal record at Stranraer as a whole.

This is one of those results which might rekindle hope. I’ll merely temper that with the observation that the two teams below us both have a game in hand on us with the result that one of them would go above us whatever the result of that game if it were to take place right now. So in effect we’re ninth and by no means out of the relegation woods.

And there’s a tough run of fixtures coming up against teams in the top five.

Freddie Glidden

I see from the club website that former Son Freddie Glidden has died.

His years playing for the club were slightly before my time but I remember my eldest brother reminiscing about him. I recall the word “uncompromising” was implied.

We could do with a bit of that right now.

Frederick Glidden: 7/9/1927 – 1/1/2019. So it goes.

2019

Happy New Year.

Well, I say happy but – apart from my eldest son getting married in February – I can’t see much cause for celebration this new year. Sons are pretty ropy this season (with only the Cup run helping last season to be anything like bearable) and Brexit looks like making life for most people in the UK more arduous then it need have been.

Happy New Year anyway.

Busy Day

I had a busy day yesterday.

Firstly I had the great honour of laying a wreath on behalf of the Community Council at the local War Memorial.

Then in the afternoon it was off to Cellardyke (where we have not-quite-yet relatives) for the Quiet Citizen’s Walk round the town past the houses of the fallen from the Great War poutsid eof which present residents were standing before joining the procession.

The walk ended up at Cellardyke Town Hall where a short talk was given on Cellardyke’s war dead. Unlike in the rest of the country most fishing town’s servicemen enlisted – or were conscripted into in the navy, their boats converted to minesweeping and anti-submarine duties and many sunk as a consequence. So it was with Cellardyke.

Actor Clive Russell who loives in the town recited Ewart Alan Mackintosh’s poem In Memoriam.

Then, in what was a moving detail, a succession of townsfolk who had been allocated a dog-tag with the name one of the dead came on to the stage to give the name and surrender the dog-tag to a total of 62.

There followed another walk to the Cellardyke (Kilrenny) War Memorial for the laying of wreaths and a piper’s lament.

Is it just me being Scottish or is there something more universal about the fittingness of the sound of the bagpipes played in memoriam?

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