Remembrance Poppies, Dunfermline

We quite often go into Dunfermline.

Late last October the town (Sorry, it’s a city now) was festooned with poppies in the run-up to Remembrance Day.

Carnegie Library, Abbot Street:-

Dunfermline Poppies, 2020

More Poppies, Dunfermline 2020

Lower High Street:-

Dunfermline Town Centre Poppies 2020

Carnegie Drive:-

Poppies on Safety Rails, Carnegie Drive, Dunfermline 2020

Dunfermline Roadside Poppy 2020

On main roundabout

Poppies on Roundabout, Dunfermline 2020

Appin Crescent:-

2020, Poppies, Dunfermline

None of the last tfour photographs was taken by the driver!

Spaceworlds edited by Mike Ashley

Stories of Life in the Void. British Library, 2021, 315 p, including 12 p Introduction.

Mike Ashley’s Introduction to this collection is in effect a short history of the earliest SF stories set in space habitats such as a space station, spaceship or generation starship, in any one of which the nine stories herein are set. Their first publications date from 1940 to 1967. Few are without (but in one case plays upon) the mostly unconscious sexism of their times. A theme common to that era of SF, the suffering of a technical problem which must be solved, crops up regularly, though some of the stories do concern themselves with psychological matters.
The eponymous umbrella of Umbrella in the Sky by E C Tubb is a space shield being built to protect Earth from a solar eruption due to the imminent arrival of an anti-matter stream. Our narrator is hired to find out why the work is progressing too slowly. This story invites the reflection that nothing ages as fast as the future. (Consider all those flashing panel lights and toggle switches in the original Star Trek TV series.) This story contains many references to people lighting cigarettes and smoking. In a space-faring environment!
Sail 25 by Jack Vance was originally published as Gateway to Strangeness. A grizzled, curmudgeonly veteran trains a group of recruits to operate a solar sailing ship (the type sometimes known as sunjammers.) He doesn’t make it easy for them.
In The Longest Voyage by Richard C Meredith the first human expedition to Jupiter is beset by problems. Scott Sayers is the only survivor, engine gone, in perpetual orbit round Jupiter. He has to find a way to cobble together some sort of propulsion system to get him back to Earth.
The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey was the first SF story to feature a spaceship operated by a human mind. This one, Helva, inspired by music, is able to sing. This is a love story, of sorts.
O’Mara’s Orphan by James White I first read many years ago in the anthology Worlds Apart way back in the 1960s. It is one of White’s “Sector General” tales, set on a habitat designed for dealing with the medical needs of a vast array of alien species. O’Mara’s orphan is the offspring of two Hudlarians killed in an accident during Sector General’s construction. He is given its care as a punishment for his supposed responsibility for their deaths.
Ultima Thule by Eric Frank Russell finds a spaceship with a crew of three men emerging from hyperspace into nowhere – beyond the known universe, with no apparent way back. Each man reacts differently.
What was apparently the first ever generation starship story, The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years by Don Wilcox has thirty-five people setting out on the voyage – two of them stowaways of a sort. The narrator is the odd – therefore unmarried – one out. His job is to be revived every hundred years to solve any problems that have arisen in the interim. Over the generations there are plenty of these as he morphs from potential saviour and god to despised ogre. Just about all the subsequent tropes of this sub-genre are in evidence.
Survival Ship by Judith Merril is another generation starship story. This one is set on the Survival, sent off with much fanfare to “Sirius in fifteen years,” carrying its load of Twenty and Four humans. That capitalisation – and mix – is the single most important aspect of both the voyage and the story.
Lungfish by John Brunner focuses on the difference that developed between tripborn and earthborn as a generation starship nears Trip’s End. Unusually in the stories here, where marriage (and presumably, monogamy) are unquestioned social arrangements, a character in this one reflects that “promiscuity had to be encouraged to ensure the mixing of all genetic factors.”
Most of these stories – if not all – are still immensely readable. And they can still evoke a sense of the strangeness and immensity of the universe and humanity’s insignificance by comparison, though some of them lean towards the “humans can do anything” standpoint.

Pedant’s corner:- In the Introduction; “in the same plane of Venus” (in the same plane as Venus.) Otherwise: “inside of me” (no ‘of’, just ‘inside me’,) “the death role mounted” (death roll,) “having just skirted a loose mass of asteriodal debris” (that is not how spaceship trajectories work,) Sayers’ (Sayers’s,) Isaacs’ (Isaacs’s,) “vocal chords” (vocal cords,) “the Horsehead Nebulae” (x 4. There is only one Horsehead Nebula,) Regulus’ (Regulus’,) insured (ensured; ditto insure/ensure,) “their mass and inertia was tremendous” (mass and inertia were,) a character allows water to boil off 2into the vacuum outside” (surely very wasteful,) “began to sag, and slip then was” (no comma needed,) “two volumes … showcases his …” (showcase,) “in behalf of” (on behalf of,) buncombe (x 2, usually spelled bunkum,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech (x 2,) “got to … go to…” (the sense implies ‘got to … got to…’ but this may have been an attempt to simulate textually the losing of consciousness,) “Sirius’ planet” (x 2, Sirius’s,) chlorophyl (chlorophyll,) “the men must practically be able to read my mind” (it was an individual; ‘the man must be able to’.)

Breamish Valley War Memorial

This memorial is in the village of Powburn, Northumberland, and is of relatively new construction, dedicated in 2018.

We often stop off in Powburn on our way down to or up from Northeast England as it has an antique centre and a good wee tea-room.

War Memorial from gate:-

Breamish Valley War Memorial

From green:-

Breamish Valley War Memorial From Green

Flag and memorial:-

Flag at Breamish War Memorial


Breamish War Memorial, Names

Emma by Jane Austen

Guild Publishing, 1980, 442 p, plus i p Contents, i p Note on the Text, ii p Chronology of Jane Austen. First published 1816.

There are supposed to be only seven types of plot employed in works of fiction. This novel falls into the last category, rebirth, or less pithily, the getting of wisdom, which, taking into account Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, is something of an Austen theme.

Emma Woodhouse starts off the book cock-sure of herself and of her capacities and continues to be so for a long time. She has to her satisfaction just made the match of her governess Miss Taylor to the long-widowed Mr Weston, whereon she presumes to guide her low-born friend Harriet Smith (the “natural daughter of someone,”) in her marriage choices, pointing her away from Mr Martin’s proposal to the prospet of Mr Elton, whose admiration of her painting of Harriet Emma misconstrues. Only old family friend Mr Knightley, who has known Emma since she was born, ever casts doubt on her judgement and actions.

While only a microcosm of the Regency world (the book was dedicated to the Prince Regent) Emma’s cast is fairly wide; though – an incident with gypsies apart – resolutely avoids contemplating the lower orders and Emma’s consciousness of the gradations of social status is never far from the narrative.

The text bears the marks of its time when leisured reading was the norm. Unfortunately that means there are some tedious conversations about nothing very much and a few overlong monologues. I suppose these could be argued to be revealing of character but they certainly slow the pace.

Emma herself is a frustrating main viewpoint character and not really very likable. She right royally messes up Harriet’s affections, is insufferably rude to Miss Bates at a picnic and is blind to Frank Churchill’s subterfuge. (To be fair, though, just about everyone else in the book is also misled in his case.)

There were only two instances of what one might call Austenisms. The first, “Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of,” certainly remains true of the latter circumstance. The second is not original to her, “Goldsmith tells us that when lovely woman stoops to folly, she has nothing to do but die; and when she stoops to be disagreeable, it is equally to be recommended as a clearer of ill-fame.” Austen adds about Mrs Churchill’s death, “Mrs Churchill after being disliked at least twenty-five years, was now spoken of with compassionate allowances.”

The familiarity of Austen’s novels via the innumerable instances of film and TV adaptations blurs and distances the text itself. The act of abridgement involved in adaptation narrows the scope for longueurs. Actors’ expressiveness can impart extra meaning. This may be why the book of Austen’s I liked best remains Northanger Abbey which she wrote as a spoof of the Gothic style of writing – a form now much less prevalent in the present day literary consciousness – and a book adapted to a much lesser extent.

Pedant’s corner:- the usual Austen spellings – stopt (though we also get ‘stopped’, wrapt (but there is a ‘wrapped’ later) dropt, chuse, extasies, doated, doating, doat, every body, any body, every where, foretel, your’s, her’s, our’s, hazle, recal, cellery, beet-root, Surry, fidgetiness, sopha, beaufet (buffet,) waving (waiving,) dulness, unexpensively, palateable, headach, scissars, Swisserland, secresy, plaister, ridicule (reticule.) Otherwise; quitted (quit,) “the Miss Martins” (the Misses Martin,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech (x 4,) “could sometimes act an ungracious” (as ungracious,) drank (drunk,) “‘I could have born anything’” (borne,) “the Bates’s” (it was a plural; Bateses,) “the Miss Coxes” (the Misses Cox,) “had entirely born down the first” (borne down.) “It’s tendency” (Its,) “she waves her right of knowing” (waives,) Madame de Genlis’ (de Genlis’s.)

Sons 2020 League Cup Schedule

I forgot to post them here when the club put them up but Dumbarton’s Scottish League Cup* 2021/22 group stage fixtures are:

Saturday, July 10 – St Mirren (H, 3pm)
Tuesday, July 13 – Stenhousemuir (H, 7.45pm)
Saturday, July 17 – Dunfermline Athletic (A, 3pm)
Tuesday, July 20 – Partick Thistle (A, 7.45pm)

Four games in ten days – it’s a bit like the hectic end to last season.

The first is just over a month away!

*Now known as the Premier Sports Cup.


On the way back up from Peterborough we stopped off at the village of Aldborough in Yorkshire.

There are Roman remains there but the English Heritage site was shut due to Covid restrictions so we couldn’t access them. Maybe another time.

Aldborough is one of those English villages centred round a village green. It’s slightly unusual in that the green still has a maypole.

Aldborough Maypole

Maypole, Aldborough, Yorkshire

The other part of the green has a lovely oak tree on it:-

Oak Tree, village green, Aldborough, Yorkshire

There was the obligatory church (St Andrew’s):-

Aldborough Church, Yorkshire

St Andrew's Church, Aldborough, Yorkshire

Another historical hangover is the presence of stocks:-

Aldborough Stocks, Yorkshire

The memorial you can see beyond the stocks in the photo above was erected on the 50th anniversary of an air crash where due to the skill of the pilot the aeroplane narrowly avoided Aldborough. All seven crew were killed.

Air Crash Memorial, Aldborough

This stone is just along from the memorial. It records where MPs for Aldborough and Boroughbridge were elected in the days before the Great Reform Act of 1832. Was Aldborough a rotten borough?

Aldborough Election Site

Scotland in Space

Creative Visions and Critical Reflections on Scotland’s Space Futures. Editors: Deborah Scott and Simon Malpas. Foreword by Ken MacLeod

Shoreline of Infinity/The New Curiosity Shop, 2019, 179 p.

Ken MacLeod’s wittily titled foreword “Steam me up Watty” (though he was not the first to it, Watt being apparently one of Birmingham’s finest, according to the Birmingham Mail) sets the scene for Scotland’s entitlement to a share in space endeavours while the editors’ Introduction explains the project’s genesis.

The main body of the book has three sections, each with a story specially written for the book, and academic essays complementing or critiquing the points it brings up.

Scotland and Mars has Pippa Goldschmidt’s Welcome to Planet AlbaTM!, set on the eponymous vistor centre next to a launch pad somewhere in the north of Sutherland, where tourists can experience a VR sensation of walking on Mars at a time when the first humans are actually on their way to the Red Planet. Narrator Ali is of Arabic extraction and spent some time working in the US. The story is about loneliness, rootlessness and fitting in. Alastair Bruce’s essay Mars: There and Back Again relates the hows and when of getting to Mars and the latest plans for that. Sean McMahon discusses what colour Mars really is. (Spoiler: not red – in fact it’s a mixture of browns, beiges and orange with the (very) occasional blue sunset or -rise.) Elsa Bouet in Red Journeys: ‘Welcome to Planet AlbaTM‘! and the Martian Literary Imaginary assesses Pippa Goldschmidt’s story and its themes among the history of Mars in fiction, Wells, Bradbury, Robinson et al.

Fringe in Space begins with Laura Lam’s story A Certain Reverence which is larded with Scottish words and usages. It’s narrated by Blair Orji. She is part of a Scottish contingent, either scientists or entertainers, to a tidal-locked planet orbiting Proxima Centauri b where aliens (who have already given humans access to all-but-light speed technology) are waiting to be exposed to Scots culture. In Life, but not as we know it: the prospects for life on habitable zone planets orbiting low-mass stars Beth Biller considers how we have identified such planets, their nature and how to tell if they are habitable. Tacye Philippson, senior Science Curator at National Museums Scotland, in Alien collecting: speculative museology, assesses what aliens might consider worth collecting from Earth and from Scotland in particular.

Scotland at the end of the Universe starts with Russell Jones’s story Far, in which an (almost literally star-cross’d) love story is blended in with an Inflation Drive which allows a newly independent Scotland to be transferred across the universe. The appearance of the story is notable for its layout which resembles that of modern poetry at times (unsurprisingly as Jones is a poet) but also for the brightly coloured illustrations of drinks glasses and what looks like microwave background images plus a few diagrams and the word ‘Yes’ rendered in blue in the font used for promoting that result during the 2014 Independence Referendum. In The Multiverse Catherine Heymans explains how cosmic inflation (which describes how the early universe must have expanded, its signature left as the cosmic microwave background,) violates Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity but how an Inflation Drive could indeed be a way of travelling faster than light – except for the problems involved in switching it off. Vatjaz Vidmar’s Of Maps, Love Stories and the Universe describes both fiction and science as kinds of maps delineating connectedness and that bonding in this way (as within or between atoms) may be the universe’s resistance to its own demise by heat death.

Colin McInnes’s Afterword notes that the first person to give a description of rocket propulsion (in 1861; well before Goddard and Tsiolkovsky) was a Scot, William Leitch, from Rothesay, and that Scotland is well to the fore in modern space technology, Glasgow now manufacturing more spacecraft than any other European city, a possible proving ground for the exploration of space both fictionally and in reality.

Pedant’s corner:- Jones’ (Jones’s.) “The tourists area” (ought to have an apostrophe; tourists’,) McFadyan (unusual spelling of McFadzean, though presumably pronounced the same way,) “Susan and me carefully wriggled through” (Susan and I,) a missing quotation mark before a piece of direct speech, “about half the diameter Earth” (of Earth,) Marts (Mars’s,) “one variant of these are ion thrusters” (one variant is – even if the ion thrusters are plural they are still the one variant,) Wells’ (Wells’s,) tinging (tingeing,) censors (sensors.) “Scotland’s always dead set on doing it on our own aren’t we?” (either ‘We Scots are always …aren’t we?’ or, ‘on its own, isn’t it?’) “because a shipful of dead humans arrive is likely” (because if a shipful it is likely.) The binary star of Alpha Centauri blaze in two, tiny pinpoints” (stars,) “as we bowed and rose back up, still panting. The humans…” (as we bowed and rose back up, still panting, the humans ….) “Only happened once a millenia or so” (once a millennium,) Anglada-Escud é (Anglada-Escudé,) electronic shocks (electric shocks.) “This class of exoplanet have temperatures…” (This class has …,) “metamorphised limestone” (metamorphosed, or, since this was marble, ‘metamorphic’,) a missing full stop (x 2,) “now the vote and die has been cast” (plus marks for ‘die’ but that ‘and’ makes the verb’s subject plural; ‘have been cast’,) sat (x 2, sitting,) “their owner” (x 2, each time it was a dog, so ‘its owner’,) Heymans’ (Heymans’s,) “using the same physics that can predict the original temperature of your cup of tea 13.8 minutes after you brewed it” (not ‘predict’, it’s already happened; ‘calculate’,) “very epicentre” (epicentre means off-centre; ‘centre’, if you must aggrandise it use the word ‘hypercentre’,) miniscule (minuscule,) the moon (the Moon.)

Reelin’ in the Years 189: Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. RIP B J Thomas

Sadly, another death. The second such post in a row. This time it was B J Thomas, best known for singing the song below which was used in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The song was actually released in 1969 but didn’t become a hi until 1970 (though even then only a minor one in the UK, and his only one.)

Still remembered fondly.

B J Thomas: Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

This is how the song was used in the film:-

Billy Joe Thomas; 7/8/1942–29/5/2021. So it goes.

Royal Anglian Regiment Colours, Peterborough Cathedral

On one of the side walls of Peterborough Cathedral are the colours of the Royal Anglian Regiment (the 2nd Battalion I think.)

Regimental Colours, Peterborough Cathedral

Peterborough Cathedral, Regimental Colours

War Memorials, Peterborough Cathedral

In St Sprite’s Chapel are these memorials (left) to members of the King’s School Peterborough (Scola Regia Petraburgensis) who lost their lives in World War 2 and (right) to members of St Peter’s Training College who died in the Great War:-

Peterborough Cathedral, World War 2 Memorial

Rolls of honour:-

Second World War Memorial, Peterborough Cathedral

There is also a memorial to Edith Cavell, the British nurse executed by the Germans in 1915 for helping Allied soldiers to escape:-

Edith Cavell, Peterborough Cathedral

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