Independence by Alasdair Gray

An Argument for Home Rule.

Canongate, 2014, 130 p.

(This was published in 2014 in the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum as a companion piece to Gray’s earlier book Why Scots Should Rule Scotland. I bought it a year or so ago in a second-hand bookshop and took it along on our recent Baltic Cruise.)

 Independence cover

There are many differences between Scotland and the more southerly parts of the British Isles. The geology differs between Scotland and England and land usage is more problematic – one of the factors which led to the Romans withdrawing from what they called Caledonia to behind Hadrian’s Wall. Different attitudes to education (deriving from a desire in mediæval England to keep the lower orders in their place, whereas the Scots valued an educated populace especially after the Reformation in order that the people could read the Bible for themselves) persist to this day. Gray says, “When writer in residence at Glasgow University I was amused when a lecturer in English from Oxford or Cambridge told me, ‘It is amazing that someone of your background knows as much about literature as we do.’ Many Scots friends thought my learning considerable; none thought it strange I had it.” The prospect of a generally poorer standard of living due to agricultural factors led many Scots with a good education to venture abroad.

This book is not an argument that only “indigenous” Scots ought to be allowed to have positions of influence here. Gray is clear about the difference between what he calls settlers who wish to make their lives in Scotland and colonists who will sweep in (and out again) in order to promote their careers. He gives examples. Glasgow European Capital of Culture hired English administrators who did not organise any festivals or exhibitions featuring local or even Scottish authors or artists since they were mostly ignorant of anything good that had been made here. At least two such appointees announced they knew little about Scottish culture but “looked forward to learning about it.” Any such ignorance of English culture on the part of a Scottish administrator wishing to work in England would be laughable – and is difficult to imagine. Nor does Gray ignore the fact that many Scots did very well indeed out of the British Empire.

There is the occasional further barb, “one of those who were then reviled as middle men, and since Thatcher’s time have been praised as entrepeneurs“.

Gray’s argument is well set out but I doubt, in these times, it would convince any who are of an opposite persuasion.

Pedant’s corner:- CO2 (CO2.) “The warlike Irish kings left these monks in to promote their religion in peace” (no “in”; or else, “left these monks in peace to practice their religion,”) Charles’ (Charles’s,) the Scots parliament accepted it and were denounced” (the Scots Parliament accepted it and was denounced,) Burns’ (Burns’s.) “The Jacobite invasion of England by a mainly Highland force, which hoped to succeed with English support, but finding they retreated back to Scotland” (but finding none they retreated.)

Murray Gell-Mann

For those of you who haven’t heard of him Murray Gell-Mann was to the forefront in the field of elementary particle Physics in the mid-twentieth century.

He died on May 24th and his Guardian obituary is here.

It was Gell-Mann who named the building blocks of hadrons as “quarks” after a sentence from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. He also dubbed the classification system for hadrons as the “eightfold way” in a nod to Buddhism.

Who says scientists aren’t widely read?

Murray Gell-Mann: 15/9/1929 – May 24/5/2019. So it goes.

Daughter of Elysium by Joan Slonczewski

Avonova, 1994, 525 p.

 Daughter of Elysium cover

Raincloud Windclan is from the planet of Bronze Sky where women are called goddesses, and have the dominant role in society. She has come to Elysium with her family to avert a confrontation between its inhabitants and the apparently aggressive planet of Urulan. Elysium is a city established on the water-world of Shora but separate from the raft dwellers of that world familiar from Slonczewski’s previous novel A Door into Ocean. Raincloud’s husband Blackbear is a scientist set to investigate the possibilities of restoring fertility to Elysians, whose “children” – known as shonlings from the crèche-like shons where they are brought up – are artificially generated since Elysians’ longevity treatment has modified their chromosomal DNA and conferred sterility. By treaty with the Shorans, though, the numbers of Elysians are meant to be kept steady.

Elysian society is attended to by genetically modified creatures known as sims, and artificially intelligent servants much given to intoning, “Please refer any fault to…”

There are, then, several conflicts built into this scenario as well as, in the persons of the Blue Skyans, a contrast with the gender norms of the time when Slonczewski was writing. Raincloud is an adept practitioner of martial arts, which gives her honorary male status in the eyes of the Urulite Ambassador to Elysium. Later, on Urulan itself, subjected to an attempt to murder her companions she muses, “Men were supposed to be wholesome nurturing creatures, not predators.”

While it is gratifying to a Chemistry graduate like myself to read of acetyl and methyl groups and glucosamine in an SF novel and there is a concentration on domestic life usually absent in such genre works this one is marred by excessive information dumping. Another flaw is that we don’t meet the indigenous inhabitants of Shora till well through the book. The enmeshing of all the elements of the set-up into the plot and its resolution is well-done though.

Pedant’s corner:- dumfounded (dumbfounded.) “Did not ‘death’ equate ‘shame’ in the Urulite tongue?” (equate with,) unsubstantially (insubstantially.) “Her breasts peeped out cheerfully beyond her bare back and shoulders,” (is some anatomical feat,) nanomanipulaters (nanomanipulators.) “What would Public Safety think, he wondered” (needs a question mark,) “either she was growing up – or just saving her spit” (??? Is this a USian phrase?) syllabi (I prefer syllabuses, it’s not originally from Latin.) “His chest was crossed with ropes of milky gems set in good Blackbear stared” (???? ‘… set in gold’ and a missing full stop?) “A number of long-necked reporter servos were on hand” (a number … was on hand,) “until the Gathering sent their messengers” (until the Gathering sent its messengers.) “Raincloud though it very likely” (thought it,) “took things in stride” (in her stride, please,) “‘except prone’” (the context demanded ‘supine’, not ‘prone’,) “who had woken at last and began to wail” (the ‘had’ carries over, so ‘who had woken at last and begun to wail’,) “‘none of the worlds we deal with are as safe as Elysium’” (none is as safe.) “None of the Guardians were allowed to leave” (none of the Guardians was allowed to leave.) “None significant were found.” (None significant was found.)

League Cup Fixtures

The dates for the four* games Sons will play in next season’s League Cup have been announced.

July 13th Annan Athletic away,
July 17th Morton away,
July 20th Queen of the South at home,
July 23rd Motherwell at home.

It’s an odd sequence; with two away games followed by two home ones.

*We won’t be going beyond four.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Nyhavn is a reminder of old Copenhagen. Once down at heel, now apparently resurgent and full of eateries and such.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen 1

Nyhavn, Copenhagen 2

Nyhavn,Copenhagen 3

Paul Darrow

I was sad to see that Paul Darrow has died.

As Avon in the BBC TV SF series Blake’s 7 he provided the grit in the oyster which turned it into a pearl. (There wasn’t much TV SF about in those days in the UK – Doctor Who apart – so we were grateful for what we could get.)

There’s a hint of Davros in some of Darrow’s delivery of his lines in this compilation of Avon’s put-downs.

Paul Valentine Birkby (Paul Darrow): 2/5/1941 – 3/6/2019. So it goes.

Barred Spiral Galaxy M95

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 29/5/19.

M95. A beautiful barred spiral galaxy.

M95

Copenhagen Waterfront

From Havnegade.

A Bridge:-

A Bridge, Copenhagen Waterfront

Another Bridge. (The Standard Restaurant is to left here):-

Another Bridge, Copenhagen

Old Warehouse:-

Old Warehouse, Copenhagen

Art Deco in Copenhagen

Undoubtedly Art Deco, this is a restaurant called The Standard, on Havnegade, Copenhagen.

Art Deco Building on Havnegade, Copenhagen

Definite deco lines plus rounded gables, not to mention the tower clock:-

The Standard, Havnegade, Copenhagen

Reverse view:-

Reverse View, The Standard, Havnegade, Copenhagen

Modern Architecture, Copenhagen

Just by way of contrast. Elgiganten:-

Elgiganten, Copenhagen

Deco? There’s rule of three in the smaller windows certainly:-

Elgiganten, Copenhagen from left

As in the Netherlands there was a profusion of bikes. The photo also shows another picturesque lamp standard:-

Bikes and Lamp Standard, Copenhagen

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