Clarke Award 2020

I seem to be a few months late in noticing this. I couldn’t have been looking hard enough, though I posted the shortlist here.

The winner was The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell.

It’s on my tbr pile. I’ll probably shift it up the list now.

Tynemouth Priory and Castle (i)

Tynemouth Priory and Castle are the most prominent (former) buildings in Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear.

It stands on a promontory overlooking the mouth of the River Tyne:-

Tynemouth Priory

On our first visit, in June 2019, we did not enter the premises.

Tynemouth Castle as seen from Tynemouth town. The Priory is unseen behind the castle in this view:-

Tynemouth Priory, from Tynemouth

From northwest, Priory to left:-

Tynemouth Priory from Northwest

Plausible Deniability?

As soon as I saw the footage where T Ronald Dump said he wanted no violence and that none of his supporters should commit any (far too little and too late a disclaimer) my bullshit-o-meter hit overdrive. Am I being overly cynical or is this just part of his playbook? He clearly meant not a word of it. Nothing about his demeanour suggested a belief in what he was saying. In fact his body language said the exact opposite – which I think his followers will pick up on; indeed that it was designed for them to do so.

For I suspect that the only reason he said those things was not to display contrition (it didn’t) nor acceptance of his election defeat (it didn’t) nor even somehow to ameliorate his inflammatory conduct and speech (it couldn’t) but so that if there is any violence, whether in Washington DC or elsewhere, on Jan 20th, the day of the Inauguration of the next Presdent of the US, he can then say that it has nothing to do with him and therefore the assault on the Capitol on Jan 6th (and on democracy itslef) was nothing to do with him either.

Markinch War Memorial 2019

Markinch War Memorial and Bench just after Remembrance Day 2019:-

Markinch War Memorial and Bench

Closer view:-

Markinch War Memorial 2019

War Memorial Crosses, Markinch, 2019:-

War Memorial Crosses, Markinch, 2019

Something Changed 41: Wake Up Boo

This became one of my elder son’s favourite songs when it was released. (He was somewhat precocious about liking music.) It is a great joyful piece of pop.

I had heard the song myself but it was some time before I realised what the band’s name was and made the connection to To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Boo Radleys: Wake Up Boo

Perth Academy War Memorial

Perth Academy’s War Memorial is on the wall of the school hall.

Long View, War Memorial, Perth Academy. The boards above the War Memorial give the names of the various people who were Dux of the school over the years.

Long View, War Memorial, Perth Academy

The Latin inscription to the top of the memorial itself, “Academiae Bertyhanae Olim Cives Bella Caduci Omnia et Ipsos Pro Patria Dederunt,” I think translates as, “To the citizens of Perth Academy who gave up their precious lives in battle.” In 2019 two “ghost” soldiers were on the seat in front of the memorial:-:-

Perth Academy War Memorial 2019

Close View. Great War Names above then, “Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori.” “MCMXXXIX-MCMXLV” above the lower board – for Second World War.

Perth Academy War Memorial Close View

Soldiers’ Information, beside Perth Academy War Memorial:-

Soldiers' Information, Perth Academy War Memorial

Flowers of the Forest project details:-

War Memorial, Perth Academy

Flowers of the Forest display, Perth Academy:-

Flowers of the Forest, Perth Academy

The Hidden Face of Titan

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 9/1/21 here is a view of Saturn’s moon Tiatn that you would never see if you were somehow be able to be on Saturn itself.

Titan is tide-locked to its primary and so always presents the same face to it. Its reverse side however was however visible to the Cassini probe.

Since Titan has an atmosphere its surface is not seen directly but the fuzziness around its edges – seen against the thick line of Saturn’s rings and the planet itself beyond – shows the atmosphere’s thickness relative to the satellite.

Titan from Cassini

The further adventures of Sherlock Holmes The Martian Menace by Eric Brown

Titan Books, 2020, 343 p.

 Sherlock Holmes The Martian Menace cover

I have mentioned before that the detective story/crime fiction isn’t really my thing – nor Shelock Holmes for that matter. This however is by my friend Eric Brown who, although he has written in the crime genre, started off in the SF field and this certainly counts as Science Fiction. It is, as its title suggests, a mash-up (I was going to say curious mash-up but that is its whole point) of the work of H G Wells and Arthur Conan-Doyle. As is the way of such things we have many references throughout, starting early with the presence of Mr Herbert Wells himself – here a scientific liaison officer in the Martian Embassy to Great Britain and an aspiring writer whose output is deemed too fanciful to appeal to the public – and his love interest, Cicely Fairfield, whose writing efforts have been more successful.

This is a world where the Martians of War of the Worlds have returned, complete with their signature tripods and nightly cries of “Ulla, ulla,” and armed with antibodies to Earthly pathogens, transforming life on Earth with technological advances. This is a good brand of Martian, who came in peace, having overthrown their acquisitive predecessors. Or so they say. Some people on Earth doubt this story and there is an active political resistance to the Martian influence. Among their number are George Bernard Shaw and G K Chesterton.

Holmes, having established his credentials by solving the case of the murder of the Martian ambassador two or so years before the main plot of this tale begins – albeit by concealing the identity of the true culprit – is invited to Mars to investigate the murder of Delph-Aran-Arapna, one of the finest Martian minds of the era. Curiously no reference to this creature can be found in any of the Martian literature which Holmes has read. (The great detective has of course made himself fluent in Martian.) Our narrator, as is customary, is Dr Watson, who in an anti-Martian public meeting has made the acquaintance – or rather by design been made her acquaintance – of a Miss Freya Hamilton-Bell, a prominent member of the anti-Martian faction.

The journey to Mars having been made (also making his appearance here is a certain Professor Challenger,) Holmes and Watson are soon contacted by Miss Hamilton-Bell and told of the Martians’ plan to replace well-known or powerful men from Earth (or mostly men) with simulacra – with all the attributes, memories and brain-power of their originals’ but controllable at a distance – as a means to taking over Earth and eradicating humans entirely. Fortunately there is an underclass of Martians who were recently at war with the dominant aggressive faction who are able to help.

Unsurprisingly in a series of novels trading on the Holmes mythos, Professor Moriarty – indeed a whole series of Moriartys as the Martians have cloned his body multiple times – is a pivotal figure. More surprisingly he is less of an antagonist to Holmes than the reader might have thought.

All first-person novels (all novels, perhaps?) are an act of ventriloquism but that act is surely more difficult if the voice being simulated is not of the author’s own devising. Brown has made a good fist of the mash-up, capturing the stilted, repressed, awkwardnesses of “Watson’s” style and character, but also made it more accommodating to a modern audience. (Words like antibodies, pathogens and feisty seem unlikely for the 1910s. The agency of Miss Hamilton-Bell as active and important in the anti-Martian movement seems also to be a more modern note – but then again the book is set in the age of the suffragettes, who could be an unruly lot – though they are unmentioned.)

Holmes fans might hanker for more of the supposed deductive reasoning powers of Conan-Doyle’s hero (which are used sparingly here) but the Wells influence, the flavour of the scientific romance, is more to the fore. Brown is primarily an SF writer after all.

An enterprise like this is surely not meant to be conceived as a serious work of fiction and should not be read as such. As an entertainment, though, it succeeds admirably.

Pedant’s corner:- “Time interval later” count: substantial, plus variants such as “in due course” etc. Otherwise; Cicely (the real-life Miss Fairfield was named Cicily,) nought (naught,) maw (it’s a stomach, not a mouth,) smidgen (I prefer ‘smidgin’,) cannister (canister,) imposters (I prefer ‘impostors’,) cicatrise (cicatrice.) “The content of their originals’ minds have been reproduced” (The contents of their originals’minds,) “nine pence” (ninepence,) “the two Miss Fairfields” (the two Misses Fairfield.)

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 13 (v): Perth Academy Building

In November 2019 we visited Perth Academy to attend its annual Remembrance Service.

Perth Academy’s history goes back to 1696 (or 1542 depending on which part of the text you read in the link above.)

The present building has Art Deco styling – not surprising as work started on it in 1930 and the school moved in in 1932.

Courtyard:-

Perth Academy Building

The clock tower is a prominent feature of the Academy building and can be seen from many parts of the city:-

Clock Tower, Perth Academy 2

The yellow painting of the windows accentuates the horizontals and verticals, as does the chimney tower:-

Part of Perth Academy

Deco style evident in doors, windows and the columns going off to the right:-

Wing of Perth Academy

Chimney tower and wing of building:-

Perth Academy Wing

Suspended

I was looking forward to actually seeing a Sons game again tomorrow.

However today’s suspension of Scottish football below its top two tiers means that it will now not be until February 13th when the home game against Montrose is due – or just possibly the 9th if the Cup game against Huntly is scheduled for then – that I will have that pleasure.

With the coronavirus now spreading at a higher rate than ever I suppose this was an inevitable decision. People’s safety must be the main priority.

It’s still a blow to morale, though.

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