Raptors at Gardening Scotland 2016

One of the outdoor displays at Gardening Scotland 2016 was of various birds of prey. There’s actually a place near where I live where someone keeps birds of prey. I’ve seen a bloke walking in Markinch with an owl on his arm. I have also seen them being displayed in a shopping mall in Kirkcaldy.

I think this is a long-eared owl:-

Long-Eared? Owl

A Falcon?:-

Falcon?

Barn owl:-

Barn Owl

This looks like a female lesser kestrel:-

Lesser Kestrel

Bonsai at Gardening Scotland

One of the exhibits I was most taken with at Gardening Scotland at Ingliston in June was the display of bonsai in one of the buildings on the site.

Bonsai Gardening Scotland 2016

This “landscape” with “trees” was delightful. That circular wooden stand behind has a kind of Art Deco look too!

More Bonsai at Gardening Scotland

More “trees”:-

Bonsai Again Gardening Scotland 2016

A framed “tree”:-

Framed Bonsai Gardening Scotland 2016

These plants were trained in a kind of zigzag effect:-

Trained Bonsai Gardening Scotland 2016

Remembrance at Gardening Scotland 2106

Just to continue the gardening theme….

The good lady is a keen gardener and had always hankered to visit Gardening Scotland at Ingliston. This year we finally got it together to see the show.

There weren’t many show gardens but one of them was in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme:-

Great War Show Garden, Gardening Scotland 2016

Side view:-

Show Garden at Gardening Scotland 2016

Another was on behalf of Erskine Hospital which cares for injured veterans of British wars. I only got round to this photo as the garden was being dismantled:-

Erskine Veterans' Show Garden, Gardening Scotland 2016

Friday on my Mind 143: Garden of my Mind

More psychedelia. Why not?

During this I keep expecting the lead singer to follow the pause with “Is it tomorrow or just the end of time?”

I think the group’s name was perhaps a bit of a mickey take.

The Mickey Finn: Garden of my Mind

Queensferry Crossing (vi)

Photos taken on 3/6/2016.

North and central cable stay towers from South Queensferry. First Forth Road Bridge to right:-

New Forth Road Bridge 24

South cable stay tower:-
New Forth Road Bridge 25

Southern approach pillar and cable stay tower:-
New Forth Road Bridge 26

Gap between southern approach pillar and cable stay tower portion – still unfilled 7 months later:-
New Forth Road Bridge 27

First Forth Road Bridge with Queensferry Crossing behind:-
New Forth Road Bridge 28

Northern approach pillar – section now joined to north cable stay tower section:-
New Forth Road Bridge 29

Northern cable stay tower from North Queensferry:-
New Forth Road Bridge 30

Central and southern cable stay towers from North Queensferry:-
New Forth Road Bridge 31

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Phoenix, 2005, 506 p, plus i p summary, i p about the author, ii p “For discussion”, x p “A walk in the footsteps of The Shadow in the Wind” including ii p maps. Translated by Lucia Graves from the Spanish La sombra del viento, Editorial Planeta, 2002.

The Shadow of the Wind cover

Well, this all started out promisingly enough with ten year old Daniel Sempere being taken by his father to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books to pick one out for himself, to keep it alive. This conceit hinted that the novel would be one of those books about books and the importance of the word like The Name of the Rose, especially since Daniel is told, “Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens,” but the novel soon veers off into more conventional unravelling a mystery territory.

The book Daniel picks is titled The Shadow of the Wind by one Julián Carax. Daniel reads it and is enthralled, wishing to find out more about its author and any other books he may have written. But Carax is an elusive creature. Very few of his books (most of which sold in pitifully small numbers) survive. In addition a mysterious man going under the name Lain Coubert, a character in Carax’s Shadow of the Wind, is going around buying them up – in order to burn them. Already we are in a recursive situation, a loop which is in essence claustrophobic. Too many of the characters in the book are bound up either with Daniel, Carax or both.

Daniel’s first infatuation is with the blind Clara, quite a few years his senior. Their (necessarily) chaste relationship – and her entanglement with her piano teacher – is somewhat reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez but as if off-key, though paradoxically, given Marquez’s magic realism, none of this aspect of Zafón’s novel feels natural. It appears forced, occurring only at Zafón’s will. Other backstories read like information dumping and there are too many parallels between Carax’s life and Daniel’s; between his friend Tomás Aguilar and Carax’s, Jorge Aldaya, between his first lover Beatriz Aguilar and Carax’s, Penélope Aldaya.

As an example of an authorial misstep Zafón has Daniel tell Bea about Carax’s The Shadow of the Wind that, “This was a story about lonely people, about absence and loss, and that that was why I had taken refuge in it until it became confused with my own life,” inviting us to draw a parallel that had been obvious long before. Yes, Daniel’s friend, Fermín Romero de Torres, is a memorable character but the villain of the piece, Inspector Francisco Javier Fumero, tends to the cartoonish, his obsession with Carax insufficiently founded – at least to me. There are, too, frequent recapitulations of the story to other characters. The Aldaya mansion on the Avenida del Tibidabo, though, is a gothic enough creation, along with the statues in its grounds.

Attempts at background verisimilitude also fall down at times. An old quack’s “sole remaining wish was for Barcelona’s football team to win the league, once and for all, so that he could die in peace.” This is an odd observation for someone to make in 1954 as Barcelona had most recently won La Liga in season 1952-3 and also the one before. Again in 1954 a restaurant manager apologises for poor service by saying, “‘But s’afternoon, it being the European Cup semi-final, we’ve had a lot of customers. Great game.’” The first European Cup semi-finals did not take place till 1956. Similarly there is a mention of the League Cup – but the La Liga Cup did not start till 1984 (and only lasted four years.) Did Zafón perhaps have the Copa del Rey in mind?

Still, “‘Mysteries must be solved, one must find out what they hide,’” and I suppose this is what keeps us reading but while it may be true that, “People tend to complicate their own lives, as if living weren’t complicated enough,” I’m not sure I agree with the assertion, “‘When we stand in front of a coffin, we only see what is good, or what we want to see.’”

Set where and when it is The Shadow of the Wind could not avoid touching on the fallout of the Spanish Civil War but it does so only tangentially. It is eminently readable but in the end it doesn’t manage to achieve the stature that the author is clearly striving for. Quite simply in this book Zafón is trying too hard.

Pedant’s corner:- “a couple of nuns …. mumbling under their breath” (ought really to be breaths,) polanaises (polonaises; this correct form is used later in the book,) “froze the blood in my veins” (really? Especially when followed on the next page by “my blood froze,”) the Barcelós apartment (Barceló’s,) for goodness’ sake (goodness’s,) automatons (okay it’s acceptable in English – as well as automata, the plural from the Greek,) “none of the drawings were more than rough sketches” (none was more than a rough sketch,) faggotry (a USianism,) “‘It’s my fault,’ I said. I should have said something…’” (missing open quote mark after “I said.”) “An act of charity or friendship on behalf of an ailing lady” (‘on the part of’ is meant,) “which violated at least five of six recognized mortal sins,” (shouldn’t that be “five or six”? – and violated here seems to mean committed,) morgue (mortuary,) with sudden heartfelt hug (with a sudden,) catlike smile the smile of a mischievous child (a missing comma after the first smile,) garoted (garrotted,) Jacintaʻs vision (has a backward, and upside down, apostrophe,) “so that he can have a brain scan” (a brain scan? In 1954?) Barnarda (her name everywhere else in the novel is Bernarda,) passion (passion,) a benzine lighter (the term used in English is cigarette lighter,) “and whose specialty was Latin, trigonometry, and gymnastics, in that order,” (that’s three specialties.)
Plus points for “not all was lost”.

Edinburgh’s Art Deco Heritage 11 (ii): The White House (Craigmillar Roadhouse) Interior

My original post about this building is here.

Last May we stopped in there for a coffee and a cake.

The internal doors:-

Art Deco Internal Doors

Door and ceiling detail:-

Art Deco Door and Ceiling Detail

Doors to café:-

Cafe Doors

Main room one angle:-

Main Room, Craigmillar Roadhouse, Edinburgh

Main room second angle:-

Opposite View of Main Room, Craigmillar Roadhouse

Main room third angle:-

Third View, Main Room, Craigmillar Roadhouse

Red room. This was where we sat down:-

Red Room, Craigmillar Roadhouse

Red room other angle:-

Red Room Opposite View, Craigmillar Raodhouse

Stairwell:-

Stairs, Craigmillar Roadhouse

Upper floor (i):-

Upper Floor, Craigmillar Roadhouse

Upper floor (ii):-

Upper Floor with Window, Craigmillar Roadhouse

Exterior detail of side doorway:-

Art Deco Exterior Detail

The Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read

This is a list which was published in 2005.

Again those in bold I have read. 11 out of the 20. Most of the rest are on my “to be read” list for this year.

Driftnet by Lin Anderson
Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark*
Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin*
Buddha Da by Anne Donovan*
Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie*

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
Boswell’s Edinburgh Journals
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Selected Poems of Carol Ann Duffy
Greenvoe by George Mackay Brown*
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Lanark by Alasdair Gray*

The Missing by Andrew O’Hagan
New Selected Poems by Edwin Morgan
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks*
Young Adam by Alexander Trocchi*

Waverley by Sir Walter Scott
The Cone-Gatherers by Robin Jenkins*
Divided City by Theresa Breslin

Again we find Sunset Song and Trainspotting; the two constants in such lists.

Kindred by Octavia E Butler

headline, 2014, 320 p. First published 1979.

Kindred cover

The novel is narrated by Dana Franklin, a black woman who lives in California in 1976 with her white husband, Kevin. One day she has a dizzy spell and comes to herself in a strange environment and just in time to save a young white boy, Rufus, from drowning. Threatened with a gun by the boy’s father, in fear of death, she is as suddenly returned to her 1976 home. She barely has time to wash herself before suffering another dizzy spell and is thrown back again to Rufus’s bedroom, where she puts out a fire. Rufus is older. His speech leads her to question him and she discovers she is in Maryland in 1815 or so, on a slave plantation and works out Rufus is her ancestor, yet to beget her great grandmother. There is no mechanism given for Dana’s ability to travel in time, it just happens. The only connection seems to be the genetic one. This makes this aspect of the novel fantasy rather than Science Fiction.

There are several more instances of journeys back and forth through time, on one occasion Dana is accompanied by Kevin as he is holding on to her at the time. They are separated when Dana is drawn back home after being whipped for teaching a slave to read. On her next return they meet up again but Kevin has spent five years in the past while only days have passed for Dana.

The set-up allows Butler the opportunity to portray the life of slaves and the attitudes of slaveholders in some detail. Quite how close that is to the real experience is a good question. Words on a page cannot truly convey the experience of being whipped, for example. The whole truth may well have been too incompatible with readability though, a delicate balance for the author to achieve. The compromises and accommodations the slaves have to make simply to survive, the jealousies, hierarchies and resentments among them are well delineated though.

The book of course is a commentary on how the past history of the US still has resonance – even now, almost forty years after the book was first published – the victimisation of women, sexual dynamics, and race as a construct.

Butler’s characterisation is excellent but the episodic nature of Dana’s encounters with Rufus – she is only drawn back to his time when his life is in danger – means his development into a typical slave-holder is also disjointed. His attraction to Alice Greenwood is problematic, though. While it is necessary for the story to work logically his initial scruples over forcing himself on her (even after her enslavement) seem a touch unlikely.

History is a complicated web. Family history perhaps more so. Butler reminds us that in the US it is also contentious.

Pedant’s corner:- apart from being written in USian there were – remarkably – only two things I noted: insure (ensure; do USians employ insure in this sense?) hung (hanged; but it was in dialogue.)

Best Wishes for 2017

Happy New Year to you.

(Though I must confess I haven’t felt less optimistic about the prospects for a new year in my entire life.)

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