Orkney Ferries

We made the crossing to Orkney from Gills Bay in Caithness via the Pentland Ferries’ catamaran the Pentalina. It skelped along at a fair pace:-


Landfall was at St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay, the third largest settlement in Orkney:

St Margaret's Hope,  South Ronaldsay, Orkney

Closer view of the town:-

St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay Closer View

This is the Northlink Ferries’ ship Hamnavoe in Hoy Sound on its way from Stromness to Scrabster:-

Hamnavoe in Hoy Sound

This video (click on picture to get to my flickr to play it) shows the Hamnavoe steaming through Hoy sound with Hoy in background. Unfortunately I zoomed in and as a result the focus went awry:-

Hamnavoe in Hoy Sound

Collected Poems by Carol Ann Duffy

Picador, 2015, 583 p, including indexes of titles and first lines.

Duffy’s Selected Poems was one of the Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read. I’m counting this compendium of 10 of her books of poetry as a reasonable substitute. Looking at that Scotsman list I see I have now read five more on it than when I made the original post.

 Collected Poems cover

The book contains poems from nine of Duffy’s previous collections, Standing Female Nude, Selling Manhattan, The Other Country, Mean Time, The World’s Wife, Feminine Gospels, Rapture, The Bees, Ritual Lightning, plus her, as the blurb has it, “much-loved”, Christmas Poems.

Standing Female Nude I have already read. As for the rest:-
From Selling Manhattan we have the embedded metaphor of a poem written as if by a ventriloquist’s dummy, revelation of the stories that roil beneath the surface in a Model Village, Absolutely deploys an impolite word to great effect, Yes, Officer conveys the plight of an accused person, Politico references Glasgow’s coat of arms to deplore the betrayal that was the city’s industrial decline, Mouth, With Soap the purposelessness, in the grand scheme of things, of minding your language, Correspondents and Telegrams relate love affairs carried on through different communication media, and for personal reasons I loved the Jane Avril Dancing fragment of Three Paintings.
In The Other Country, Originally reflects on the experience of losing a part of your identity when as a child your family moves elsewhere while Too Bad seems to be about a hitman. Poet For Our Times rather wonderfully rhymes poet with show it and Serbo-Croat.
In Mean Time, the poem Litany expresses the enduring memory of the shame of speaking outside the bounds of politeness. Stafford Afternoons the lack of surprise in encountering a flasher. Prayer evokes the lyricism of the names from the shipping forecast.
The poems from The World’s Wife are brilliant reimaginings of myths, fairy tales and figures from history from the female viewpoint. Mrs Darwin, Frau Freud, Mrs Sisyphus and Mrs Icarus are particularly biting.
Feminine Gospels contains what its title suggests. Beautiful is about famous women throughout history, and how they were treated. The longest poem, The Laughter of Stafford Girls’ High, might as well be a short story.
Rapture’s poems are mostly about love; fine on an individual basis but faced collectively begin to merge into one another. However, the sentiment “Falling in love is glamorous hell” seems about right and “When did your name change from a proper noun into a charm?” captures that ecstatic first flush perfectly.
While some of the poems in The Bees do concentrate on or refer to that insect many do not. Three – LastPost, New Vows and Premonitions – reflect on the possible consolations the reversal of time could bring. The first of those and The Passing Bells derive inspiration from the work of Wilfred Owen. Big Ask examines the evasions those in power practice to avoid embarrassment.
Ritual Lightning must have been a very small volume when it was published on its own, with only 17 or so poems. Liverpool is a reflection on the Hillsborough tragedy, Birmingham demonstrates that extreme Islamophobia is no newcomer to these shores, White Cliffs’s “something fair and strong implied in chalk/what we might wish ourselves” shows up the distance between actuality and sense of self, Pathway is a remembrance of the poet’s father, while The Crown’s last three words, “not lightly worn,” are more a modern day desideratum than a historical truism.
The “much-loved” Christmas poems turn out to be five in number. The 11 page long Mrs Scrooge is of course inspired by A Christmas Carol and reworks that in a reversal. The always joy-dispensing Mrs Scrooge has outlived her husband but still encounters the three ghosts. It derives much of its impact from a pun. The Christmas Truce is a pretty much unadorned celebration of that peaceful interlude in The Great War’s first winter, Wenceslas encourages the charitable impulse, Bethlehem imagines the scene at that first Christmas, Dorothy Wordsworth’s Christmas Birthday does the same for 1799.

Pedant’s corner:- hung (hanged, x3,) Orpheus’ (Orpheus’s,) Goldilocks’ (Goldilocks’s,) span (spun,) “iCallaos! iCallaos! iCallaos! iQuedense!” (those “i”‘s in front of Callaos and Quedense should be upside down exclamation marks,) lay down (laid down,) lay (laid,) homeopathy (homoeopathy,) Señora Devizes’ (Devizes’s,) mistress’ (mistress’s,) leucippotomists (I have no idea what this means,) reindeers, x2 (the plural of reindeer is reindeer.) Colly-Flowre (a deliberate archaism no doubt.)

Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney (i)

Panorama from road:-

Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney

Entrance and Cross of Sacrifice from road:-

Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney

Graves (WW2):-

Graves at Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney

More WW2 graves:-

Graves at Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy, Orkney

Johannes Thill. Despite the fact more German sailors and one soldier are buried elsewhere in the cemetery this grave stands in splendid isolation well away from all the others. It can be seen in the background to my photo of the HMS Vanguard Memorial (previous post):-

Johannes Thill, Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy

A German Soldier. The other Germans in the cemetery were all sailors:-

A German Soldier, Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy

A Norwegian Seaman (Norsk Sjømann) called Ivar Jacobsen, 1941:-

A Norwegian Sailor (Norsk Sjømann)

HMS Vanguard Memorial

One hundred years ago today, on 9th July, 1917, just before midnight, HMS Vanguard, a St Vincent class dreadnought, suddenly blew up while at anchor in Scapa Flow, Orkney. 843 of the 845 men on board died.

This memorial to the ship and those who died in the explosion lies in the Royal Naval Cemetery at Lyness on the island of Hoy, Orkney, which we visited on our recent visit there.

HMS Vanguard Memorial, Lyness, Hoy

Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg

Titan Hard Case Crime, 2012, 213 p. Content first published in 1959, 1960 and 1962.

 Blood on the Mink cover

The author is my second favourite writer of SF and I read this one for the sake of completeness. Silverberg is not widely known for his crime novels but he knocked a few out in the last dying days of the pulp era when that market for Science Fiction had dried up. Pulp crime was not long in following but that wasn’t Silverberg’s fault. He is incapable of writing anything that is less than readable but this has the vices of its idiom in its lack of ornamentation, of its time in its casual sexism and of its place in an equally casual attitude to the use of guns.

Narrator Nick is a law enforcement agent whose speciality is in subduing his own identity and impersonating less major criminals in order to get to the main players. The plot involves the distributor of very good forgeries of five and ten dollars bills and the discovery and release from bondage of the engraver who made the plates for their manufacture. None of the characters lifts beyond the functional – or typical – but the plot is well-honed and provides the action its intended readership presumably craved.

The two accompanying short stories used to pad out this paperback are from the same era and in similar vein. Dangerous Doll riffs on the counterfeiting game and, as its title suggests, features a femme fatale, while One Night of Violence sees a travelling salesman get caught up in a gangland shootout. In this story I did wonder what on earth the “video set” in a late 1950s hotel lobby might have been.

Pedant’s corner:- bollixed (the British “bollocksed” is much to be preferred,) Klaus’ (Klaus’s, several instances,) Chavez’ (Chavez’s, ditto,) a missing full stop, Kleinjeld (elsewhere always Kleinfeld.)
Plus points for fitted – USian fiction usually has fit as a past tense.

Playing for the Sons; Home 3-3 Away

Dumbarton Football Stadium – aka The Rock, 8/7/17.

I never thought I’d play for the Sons. I fantasised about it but knew it was not a possibility. I have dreamed about it. In a dream once I played half a season or so and scored a few times. Well, there’s dreams for you.

But yesterday I did so vicariously; by the medium of Sonstrust “Play for the Sons” Day. (The relevant article, dated 9 July 2017, was second on their site at time of writing.)

I didn’t play, but my younger son did; in the Sons home side. (He’s one of the trim ones, in the front row.)

Sons Home side

You have no idea how irrationally excited I was by seeing him on the hallowed turf. And in the white kit. It would have been something of an anti-climax if it hadn’t been in a home strip.

It was a surprisingly good game even if littered with the errors to be expected from perhaps not very fit amateurs, and played in a joyful spirit. Even the standside linesman entered into the playfulness with some visual responses to comments from the stand.

Sons Away ran away with the first half. Sons Home midfield tended to overcommit in attack and several times they were spare at the back before finally being caught out after a through ball wasn’t cut out. Their second was beautifully worked though. The third merely underlined Sons Away’s dominance.

Sons Home made a tactical switch for the second half which made things much more even. The turning point though came when Sons Home manager Paddy Flannery brought himself on as a sub. He didn’t at first make much of an impact but after a few minutes began to dominate the midfield and eventually threaded through a great ball to set up Sons Home’s first. That might have been it but after an award just outside the area Flannery stepped up to float a magnificent free kick over the defensive wall into the top corner. That wasn’t something I thought he had in his locker. The equaliser came through a penalty which the linesman saw clearly – unlike the ref.

There was still time for both keepers to make amazing saves, Sons Home got a great reactive hand to a header from a corner and Sons Away managed to block a goal bound effort with his foot.

So, the classic game of two halves. Only it was more like a game of one half then the last sixth.

And not only did my son get to play on the pitch, he also shared it and a dressing room with the legend that is Paddy Flannery. Dreams barely get any better.


Stromness (the name is derived from the Norse Straumsnes [headland protruding into the tidal stream]) is Orkney’s second biggest town but that doesn’t mean it’s big. It has just under 2,200 residents.

It has a brilliant Art Gallery called the Pier Arts Centre with several works by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Stanley Cursiter among others. Well worth a visit – and it’s free.

Stromness Museum does have an entry charge but the ticket gives you entry for a week. It is also interesting with exhibits covering Stromness’s sailing hostory and from the Grand Scuttle of 1919 but also many examples of stuffed animals etc that may nowadays be frowned upon.

Here’s a view I took of North Stromness from the hills above:-

North Stromness

In this one most of the town is hidden under the brow of the hill but part of the harbour can be seen with Scapa Flow in the background beyond:-

Stromness from North-east

Both in the previous photo and the one below of Stromness from the south the Northlink Ferries ship ferry Hamnavoe can be seen docked at the terminal. (The picture on the link is no longer accurate. The ferry company has a newer livery now.) Quite often when we walked down into the town along by the harbour the Hamnavoe would be there. Hamnavoe is an old name for Stromness, meaning peaceful harbour.

Stromness from South

Looking south from Stromness, Scapa Flow in left distance:-

Looking South from Stromness

The High Street and those leading off it are very narrow. High Street:-

High Street, Stromness

This one is quite cheekily named Khyber Pass:-

Khyber Pass, Stromness

Star Rider by Doris Piserchia

Women’s Press, 1987, 221 p. Another I didn’t catch up with at the time of publication.

Star Rider cover

In Star Rider humans have differentiated into different strains, jaks and dreens. Narrator Lone, or Jade as she becomes, is a Jakalowar (jak.) Along with her dog-ancestried mount Hinx she can teleport easily across space. This is an ability which seems to be mixed in with a sort of telepathy/awareness called jink. All jaks are searching for the lost planet of Doubleluck, finding which would make their fortune. Jade is dogged by Big Jak, who knows where Doubleluck is and wishes to stop her finding it. He traps her but they are attacked by dreens and Jade is imprisoned, without Hinx, on a planet called Gibraltar. Separation from a mount normally makes a jak go mad but Jade manages to stay sane. This middle part of the novel is tonally somewhat at odds with what came before and what is to come. Eventually Jade persuades a dreen mount to let her jink, escapes, finds Hinx again and heads for old Earth where she uncovers Doubleluck inside a mountain. She is chased there by the dreens, whose leader Rulon wants to force her into marriage but who are eventually overcome in a sort of space battle and Jade then reveals to the victorious jaks her ability to jink to other galaxies, a jak goal for millennia.

The twists and turns of the story don’t seem to follow much logic and the text is occasionally embellished with unusual syntax which either I got used to as the novel progressed or, more likely given my attention to the minutiae of text, Piserchia tended to forget about. Neither are the characters very memorable; Piserchia’s focus is more on ongoing plot, with the occasional feminist aside. I would hazard Star Rider is not among the best SF from the 1970s.

Pedant’s corner:- sat (seated, x2.) “As for us humans, we looked at the ground” (I agree “as for us” is the normal phrase but“humans” is the subject of that sentence so it should be “we” humans,) “had showed him” (shown.) “Matbe everything in it was a predator, which meant that everything in it was also a prey,” (not “a” prey, just prey,) grill (grille – is grill a US spelling for this?) “Was sewed up” (sewn,) a missing full stop, abolishment (abolition,) “he removed ten appendixes” (the plural of appendix is appendices,) “there were plenty of game and plant life” (there was plenty,) laid down (lay down.)

Friday on my Mind 153: Charles Brown

I had a comment this week on the post I made about my absolute favourite 1960s single, Rupert’s People’s Reflections of Charles Brown, to the effect that airplay for it had actually preceded the release of Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale but a hiatus in its own resulted in “Reflections” losing out.

In my post I noted a previous version from which “Reflections” had been adapted. The comment reminded me to try to source that single again. And I have succeeded.

So here is Charles Brown as by Sweet Feeling, a much more psychedelic effort than “Reflections”.

Sweet Feeling: Charles Brown

The song was actually the B-side of All So Long Ago, which I append here:-

Sweet Feeling: All So Long Ago

More Orkney

We had hired a cottage in (well, up above) Stromness for a week.

This was the view northwards(-ish.) Stitch of two pictures:-

View From Cottage, Stromness

The cottage complex. Ours was one of the middle ones. it was very well appointed. Other people came and went through the week:-

Holiday Cottage in Stromness

View south from cottage:-

View South From Cottage

Orkney is quite far north and so the nights never really get dark in summer. The second evening we were there (Sunday 4th June 2017) I took this one of the western sky very late on:-

Evening Sky, Stromness, Orkney

This was just after midnight the next night, so early morning of Tuesday 6th June, 2017. Looking north:-

Midnight Sky, Stromness, Orkney

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