Two Today

I know I’ve not yet commemorated Chuck Berry. I’ll do so on Friday.

The news came today that Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse, has died.

Dexter had at one time the distinction of being the author whose books were most donated to charity shops. (At least in England. In Scotland Ian Rankin fills/filled that role.)

Norman Colin Dexter: 29/9/1930 – 21/3/2017. So it goes.

Looking at the news coverage of the death of Martin McGuiness I did wonder whether the UK was the only country in the world whose media reacted with such an emphasis on his terrorist past rather than his conversion to peacemaking and power sharing. Sinner that repenteth and all that.

(In this context I note Norman Tebbit’s characteristically pungent comments on McGuiness’s death. Anyone would think that Tebbit had never done anything in his life that warranted citicism. Some of the policies he supported as a government minister caused grief to tens – hundreds – of thousands of his fellow citizens – and perhaps the premature deaths of some of them. The tone of his comments suggest he feels McGuiness’s adoption of peace was not genuine. Well, Ian Paisley had much more reason to suspect McGuinness of duplicity yet managed to find common ground. Paisley’s son explicitly acknowledged the change in McGuiness’s attitude. Fair enough Tebbit’s wife was severely injured by the IRA so he has a pressing reason for his contumely but she wouldn’t have been in that hotel if she wasn’t his wife. Then again Tebbit has never been known for acknowledging the viewpoint of his political opponents.)

Whatever, McGuiness was one of the most prominent Irishmen of his times.

James Martin Pacelli McGuinness: 23/5/1950 – 21/3/2017. So it goes.

Ferrol, Galicia, Spain

Ferrol, or El Ferrol, in the province of A Coruña, Galicia, Spain, was known for forty-four years as El Ferrol del Caudillo as it was the birthplace, in 1892, of dictator Francisco Franco. Curiously, in some sort of political karmic equalistion it was also the birthplace of the founder of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), Pablo Iglesias, in 1850.

The town is a mixture of ancient and modern with the older parts near to the harbour.

This is a stitch of three photos taken from the ship at berth:-

Ferrol from Ship's Berth

Ferrrol has been a shipbuilding town since the time of the early Bourbon kings of Spain, capital of the Spanish Navy’s Maritime Department of the North. This looked like an aircraft carrier:-

Aircraft Carrier in Dock at Ferrol

Another naval ship:-

Naval Ship Docked in Ferrol

These buildings were hard by the harbour:-

Sea Front Building, Ferrol, Galicia, Spain

Older Fortification and Newer Buildings, Ferrol

Interzones 269 and 270

 The Stars Are Legion cover
Interzone 269 cover

Interzone 269 arrived today.

It contains my review of The Mountains of Parnassus by Czesław Miłosz.

A few days ago I received The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley.

That review is due soon for Interzone 270.

Divided City by Theresa Breslin

Corgi, 2006, 236 p. One of the Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read.

Divided City cover

One night Graham (surname never specified) is taking a short cut – against which his parents have repeatedly warned him – on his way home from football training when he witnesses a gang chasing and stabbing a young lad whom they call “asylum scum”. Graham comforts the wounded boy, Kyoul, uses the mobile phone Kyoul has dropped to call an ambulance and accompanies him to the hospital then slips away but not before Kyoul asks him to take a message, and the phone, to his girlfriend Leanne. This leads to Graham almost by accident involving another boy from training, Joe Flaherty (who is of course from across the sectarian divide to which the book’s title mainly refers) in finding Leanne’s house. She is grateful but has kept her relationship with Kyoul from her own parents and so asks them to visit Kyoul for her. This strand of the book where they find common purpose off the training pitch is intertwined with the background of both footballers.

Graham’s Granda Reid is a proud Orangeman who wants Graham to march in the big Orange Walk which is coming up. Graham’s parents have always resisted pressure to make him take part when he was younger saying he should make his own mind up when he is old enough. However, this is the year he must do so. Joe’s family members are equally committed to upholding their Catholic traditions.

But this is where Divided City is too diagrammatic. Nearly every domestic conversation in the book centres on sectarianism and how the “others” mistreat “our” side.

There were other infelicities. The football training is for a youth team to be known as Glasgow City which is about to take part in an inter-cities youth competition. Here credulity becomes strained. If both boys were as good at football as the novel tells us they’d most likely already be attached to a club and probably not allowed to play for anyone else. Another unconvincing aspect is that Leanne is said to be “not yet sixteen” but she met Kyoul who had wandered in off the street at one of Glasgow University’s school open days and both ended up looking at a stand where they were each wondering what courses they would choose and struck up a conversation. Fifteen is rather young for such a trip. Also, the first time home ground of Rangers is mentioned it’s by a supporter, who calls it “Ibrox Park.” A fan would just say “Ibrox”. Similarly we get “the Celtic Parkhead stadium”. Then there is the description of an Old Firm game where the phrase “unleashed a stinging right kick” is used. It’s called a shot, not a kick. Later one fan is enjoined to ‘Watch the play’. It would be ‘Watch the game’.

Granted the dilemma of an asylum seeker from a ‘White List’ country, deemed to be safe but which isn’t, may need elucidating to a wider audience, yet while the novel is even-handed enough as between Protestant and Catholic viewpoints I struggled to see for what audience this could have been written, whom it was intended to educate. The book’s cover is emblazoned with the phrase “Carnegie Medal winning author” implying it’s for young adults. But young adults in Glasgow will know about sectarianism, those elsewhere likely not care (Northern Ireland excepted.) The incidental illustration of the usual parental restrictions on adolescent comings and goings do not expand the scope. Divided City’s earlier chapters reminded me of a certain kind of not very good Science Fiction which doesn’t trust its reader to make the connections, so too much is spelled out. And there is an overuse of exclamation marks. I would submit that YA readers deserve better.

There is a good novel about sectarianism – and/or football – in Glasgow out there. This isn’t it.

Pedant’s corner:- “the dark openings of the tenement building mawed at him” (the openings stomached at him?) the local senior boy’s club” (boys’ club, I think,) refers to winning the League Championship (it’s just “winning the League” not League Championship,) Rangers’ (Rangers’s,) ‘How are we going to do that without getting caught.’ (Needs a question mark, not a full stop.)

Hibernian 2-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Easter Road, 18/3/17

I’d have taken this result before kick-off, but given we were twice in the lead and all three teams below us managed to win, it somehow feels more like two points dropped rather than one gained. It was a great performance by the lads just the same, every single one of them putting a shift in. There’s no doubt Hibs are a better team with better players but they failed to carve us open anything like consistently and we deserved the draw. The occasion was also livened up by the “Swiss Sons” – on their annual visit – keeping up their usual bouts of chanting; some in a language which I could not decipher.

Hibs had a lot of possession first half but not much in the way of efforts on goal to show for it whereas we had two Andy Stirling shots; unfortunately he snatched at them and they went wild. He it was though who was the subject of a wild swipe by one of their defenders. From where I was way up the other end it looked about two yards outside the box but the ref gave a penalty. I have since seen a still photo on Pie and Bovril which seems to show the contact was made inside, so fair dos. We don’t often get freebies from refs anyway. Big Christian Nade stepped up and slotted it home. We navigated the rest of the first half with not much problem. During half time I offered the opinion that Hibs could, just possibly, be given a soft penalty.

The expected onslaught at the beginning of the second half didn’t quite materialize and we had a fair bit of possession but they did gradually ramp it up. Alan Martin made a great save from a thumped effort but they eventually scored when a cross seemed to be knocked on to Daniel Harvie by Martin’s touch and rebounded into the net.

We might have expected there to be only one way traffic from then on but we did occasionally sally up the park and a long ball was met perfectly by Nade to guide it into the path of Robert Thomson whose movement had taken him into space and he swept it past the keeper (whose positioning seemed to me to be too far to the left of his goal; but hey-ho.)

Then drama. The predicted soft penalty for Hibs duly arrived but Alan Martin made a magnificent save. A lead still to defend. Unfortunately a long ball to the edge of our box resulted in a mix-up between an attacker, David Smith and Alan Martin where Martin failed to collect the ball when he might have been favourite. I’ve seen fouls against the keeper given on such occasions but 2-1 up at Easter Road against Hibs? Perhaps too much to hope for. Despite Smith’s efforts the attacker managed to get it into the net. We survived a barrage of corners throughout and made it to the end with Hibs not ever really looking likely to score again.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that while he’s still a presence Nade’s legs have gone. He can still hold the ball up but if opponents crowd him he doesn’t often get it away to a team mate. He’s a nuisance to defenders still though.

Days like this, a draw away at a big club, beating the odds, are what makes being a fan of a wee team worthwhile. They don’t come round that often and are relished all the more when they do. It’s just a pity that the overall reward was slipping a place in the league. Next Saturday’s game at Ayr assumes greater importance now.

Waverley by Walter Scott

Or: Tis Sixty Years Since.

The Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels, Edinburgh University Press , 2012, 368 p, plus 90 p Essay on the Text, 38 p Emendation list, 2 p list of end-of-line “hard” hyphens, 26 p Historical Note, 98 p Explanatory Notes, 21 p Glossary, i p Dedication, vi p General Introduction to the Edinburgh Edition, and iii p Acknowledgements. One of the Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read.
See my review of The Heart of Mid-Lothian for the intent behind the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels.

Waverley cover

This is the one that started it all off for Scott in the prose sense and was also the beginning of the historical novel in the Western tradition. Its title has resounded down through the years, giving its name to a whole series of Scott’s novels, to Edinburgh’s main railway station, to a kind of pen nib (They come as a boon and a blessing to men, the Pickwick, the Owl and the Waverley Pen,) a class of GWR locomotives and to the last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world.

Our hero, Edward Waverley, English and heir to an estate there, is encouraged by his uncle to take up a commission in the army. After arriving with his troop in Scotland he receives leave of absence to visit an old friend of his father, the irredeemably Jacobite Baron Bradwardine of Tully-Veolan. Events and an indisposition contrive to keep him there beyond his commanding officer’s pleasure, an unfortunate circumstance as this is 1745 and historic events are afoot. His troop has shown rebellious leanings and this along with his absence leads to his commission being revoked. At the same time comes news his father has been disgraced and removed from his government post in London. The friendship Waverley has struck at Tully-Veolan with Fergus Mac-Ivor (also known as Vich Ian Vohr, the latest of his line to accede to this honorific,) Waverley’s change in circumstances and the interference in Waverley’s affairs by one Donald Bean Lean, delivers him into the company of Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobite Army now in Edinburgh. Waverley’s presence as an English adherent is a boost to the Prince’s cause, as it promises more such support.

As a member of the Jacobite Army Waverley takes part in the Battle of Prestonpans – or Preston as it is usually described by Scott (except when Jacobites call it Gladsmuir,) where he saves the life of a Government officer, Colonel Talbot, who knows his father well. Waverley goes all the way down to Derby and back up before he is separated from the retreating army during a skirmish at Clifton south of Penrith and makes his way to London to try to reinstate his reputation with the paroled Colonel Talbot’s help.

I would not advise anyone to start their reading of Scott’s novels with this book. In addition to his usual long-windedness, here it is more or less obvious that Scott is here feeling his way into the writing of a novel. In the last chapter “A Postscript, which should have been a Preface” Scott informs us he had at one time abandoned the book but some years later came across the papers again and went on to complete it, an interval which could not have helped. Later novels of his are more approachable but in Waverley there are many longueurs in the early passages and too much of a rush towards the end. That Scott himself makes the point in the text, “earlier events are studiously dwelt upon, that you, kind reader, may be introduced to the character rather by narrative, than by the duller medium of direct description; but when the story draws near its close we hurry over the circumstances,” does not render this imbalance any less marked. Certain of the characters are fond of Latin tags; which was to be a recurrent trait in Scott’s works. Some names are also clearly jocular, there is a Laird of Killancureit, and a pair of lawyers, Messrs Clippurse and Hookem.

Waverley is, though, necessary reading for anyone interested in the history of the Scottish novel.

Pedant’s corner:- By my reckoning, when Waverley was first published in 1814 it was more like seventy years since the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, not sixty. The narrator’s comment that the novel was being written in 1805 would make more sense but the Essay on the Text reveals that may have been an insertion by Scott’s publisher, a man notorious for being overly literal, but also that Scott’s original subtitle was actually ‘Tis Fifty Years Since’. That abandonment of the project only to take it up again, could account for some of the slippage.
I found I could skate over Scott’s 19th spellings – eg dulness, chuse, expence, centinel, whiskey, stupified, extacy, cieling – and once again we have the archaic sunk, sprung, sung, rung for sank, sprang, sang, rang.
Otherwise: “resumption of his commission” (resumption is here used in the sense of revoking,) the English flag (this must actually have been the Union flag,) feodal (feudal, possibly due to a misreading of Scott’s handwriting.)
In the essay on the text:- there are a number (there is a number.) “There are number of surviving anecdotal records.” “… two female Scottish writer” (writers,) and an opened parenthesis which is never closed. In the Historical Note:- events relating the 1745 rising (relating to the,) of Highlands (of the Highlands,) the visits the (then visits the,) raising of the ‘the Standard’ (raising of ‘the Standard’,) epicentre when centre was meant, “there are a number” (is,) “another body of MacIvers were” (another body was.) In the Explanatory Notes:- to the ‘the Seven Lovers’ (to ‘the Seven Lovers’,) Latin literally (several instances) – and French literally (once) – (there is no need for “literally” to be italicised, it’s not in a foreign language,) Domincan (Dominican,) Lindor is is not (only one “is” necessary,) Great Britian (Great Britain,) “in opposition the Engagers” (to the Engagers,) Janazaries (usually Janizaries or Janissaries,) fiar price (fair price?) insignium (the Latin singular of insignia is insigne – neuter of insignis – not insignium,) medieval, Lillibuero (Lillibulero, as elsewhere,) the Jacobites army (Jacobite or Jacobites’,) enaged (engaged,) Abbotford (Abbotsford,) “refers to indecisive battle” (to the indecisive battle,) one the seven (one of the seven,) hung (hanged.) In the Glossary:- Latin, short for (Latin, short for,) all the words glossed are in bold except the entry for een, the Scots word for eyes.

Blog Maintenance

My blog administrator tells me some sort of update operation is taking place on 16th-17th March.

No more blog posts till the 18th then.

Ferrera Park, Avilés, and Seaside Sculpture

Thee is a lovely park in Avilés, called Ferrera Park. It was well used by people strolling or jogging and had that essential for a park – water; in this case a pond by which there were not only geese but a black swan.

Black Swan, Ferrera Park, Avilés

Off to the side was a nice parterre garden:-

Garden in Ferrera Fark

Complete with fountain:-

garden in park 7 fountain

You know you’re not in Fife anymore when you see a tree like this:-

Tree, Ferrera Park, Avilés

Just behind the parterre garden was this painted building:-

Painted Building by Ferrera Park, Avilés

The sculpture is called Avilés and seems to be by an artist called Benjamín Menéndez:-

As the SS Black Watch left we passed this striking sculpture. It’s by Benjamín Menéndez and is called “Avilés”:-

Sculpture, Avilés

Face-on view:-

"Avilés"

This interesting rock formation stick sout into the Ría Avilés estuary:-

Rock Formation, Ría Avilés Estuary, Spain

Further out where the estuary meets the Atlantic we could see loads of surfers riding the waves into Playa San Juan de Nieva but they were a bit too far off to photograph.

Art Deco in Avilés (iv)

Corner Deco:-

Corner Deco, Avilés

More corner deco:-

More Corner Deco, Avilés

La Voe de Avilés. “Rule of three” in the middle of the balconies. Good railings; and that compass dial above the door is a neat touch:-

La Voe de Avilés

Balconied Corner Deco:-

Balconied Corner Deco, Avilés

A more moderne style. Springfield:-

Moderne/Deco, Avilés

There’s a stunning mural of a ship and castellations at upper level here. Art Deco “rule of three” on the corner. I think this was the Play House Cinema:-

Mural, Avilés

Pan from Cassini

Nasa’s Cassini probe has produced an intriguing close-up view of Saturn’s moon Pan.

This photograph is today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Pan from Cassini

Pan orbits inside the the Encke Gap of Saturn’s A-ring but is an odd object indeed.

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