Gerd Müller

Sadly Gerdy Müller, one of the best strikers I’ve seen play football, (never in person though, though only on television,) has died.

With Bayern Munich and the West German national team he won every competition going. He scored 51 times in 31 appearances for TSV 1861 Nördlingen before joining Bayern (then not in the West German top flight!) for whom he bagged 566 goals in 607 games and an incredible 68 in 62 appearances for his country. That record speaks for itself. Despite not looking like a typical footballer, squat and a bit ungainly looking, he had great pace over short distances and a quick mind for the chance to shoot at goal. He was so good he was nicknamed Der Bomber. He finishe dhis career in the US at Fort Lauderdale Strikers, again averaging more than a goal a game.

In those days chances of seeing a player of a foreign club were few and far between – possibly highlights of a European tie involving them and a Scottish or English club or just, maybe, the final of the European Cup. Even European championship games weren’t routinely on domestic TV.

So it was in World Cups where these exotic foreign stars were revealed to us.

In the 1970 World Cup in Mexico Gerdy got a singleton and two hat-tricks in the group stages to set up their quarter-final against England.

I didn’t see that game live (I was young and foolish) but I heard the early score.

When I got home – not knowing the result – I said to my dad, “England 2-0 up?” A nod.

“2-2 full-time?” (hopefully.) “Yes.”

“3-2 Germany after extra time? “Yes.”

“Gerdy Müller?” “Yes.”

Maybe it was wishful thinking (even in 1970 Scots had got fed up with 1966 and all that) but somehow I knew what the outcome would be and that Der Bomber would make the difference.

Mind you, if I had watched the game maybe I would have been less sanguine. By all acounts (or is that English acounts?) England were bossing it till Alf Ramsey took off Bobby Charlton to save his legs for the semi. Then Franz Beckenbauer took over the midfield. Whatever, poor Peter Bonetti, stand-in keeper after Gordon Banks caught a stomach bug, got the blame. West Germany lost that extra time thriller of a semi 4-3 to Italy, but Gerdy scored twice.

Four years later it was a different story. (England didnae make it cause they didnae qualify. Oh sorry, that line came four years later.) Gerdy scored only once in the first group stage but got two in the second, helping West Germany to the final where they played the Netherlands, Johan Cruyff and all.

Their brand of football made Holland most neutrals’ favoured side and they even took the lead from a penalty in their first attack. But after another penalty evened things out Gerdy scored the winner in a home World Cup for West Germany, forever sealing his legacy.

Gerhard (Gerd) Müller: 3/11/1945 – 15/8/2021. So it goes.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Tinder Press, 2020, 384 p.

 Hamnet cover

Is there anyone who reads who does not know that Shakespeare had a son called Hamnet, who died as a boy, a name immortalised a few years later in the play titled Hamlet? This is not a spoiler in any case as in a short preface O’Farrell tells us as much, and that Hamnet and Hamlet were the same name, entirely interchangeable in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

In its writing this novel has echoes of Wolf Hall, whether that be because of the Tudor setting, or that Hamnet’s grandfather is quick with his fists, or a kind of linguistic obscurantism. In Hilary Mantel’s novel Thomas Cromwell was often denoted cryptically as “he,” Here characters are sometimes described simply as “a boy” or “a woman” and Hamnet’s father is never referred to by name, only as, variously, “the Latin Tutor,” “the husband,” or “the father.”

This distancing is quite deliberate on O’Farrell’s part as the novel’s focus is not on the son, (who dies two thirds of the way in anyway,) nor indeed is it on the husband and father. This is the story of the wife and mother, Agnes, pronounced Ann’yes and so liable to be misheard as Anne. It is a beautiful piece of imagining on O’Farrell’s part, evoking life in Tudor England utterly convincingly, illustrating the fluctuating balances of power within families, rescuing Agnes from the sidelines of history, revealing her as a vibrant, complex character in her own right. In it she also manages to provide a better explanation than the usual one for the playwright’s famous bequest – as an act of love.

In part I the chapters mostly alternate between the goings-on in Henley Street, Stratford, in the run-up to Hamnet contracting his fatal illness (where there is actually a fair degree of attention paid to Hamnet,) and the earlier life of his mother and father, how they met, got together, married and had three children. Despite Agnes having the gift of (second) sight, Hamnet’s twin Judith comes as a surprise, is then given up for dead on arrival after him, but subject to Agnes’s frantic efforts to keep her alive and her constant worry thereafter. Agnes is also a dispenser of herbal remedies. There is a passage written from the point of view of a hooded kestrel in an apple store which is quite beautifully done and also a diversionary chapter on the mechanism of how Hamnet may have caught bubonic plague, beginning with a flea in Alexandria, the plague bacillus eventually transferring to England via a glassmaker in Venice. Though never emphasised as such, interplay between the characters suggest the seeds for what was to come in the plays. Part II by contrast deals with the aftermath of Hamnet’s death and its chapters follow the story linearly. Grief is a difficult sense to communicate in fiction but we see its expression in all of the family and feel it through them.

Use of the present tense can be alienating but O’Farrell’s deployment of the device is superb, keeping the action contingent, reminding us that to the characters the events she shows us were happening in the here and now, there was still the possibility of an alternative outcome. It brilliantly conveys Hamnet’s distracted state of mind as he scurries about the empty house (usually so full of people) seeking help when his twin falls ill. O’Farrell is tremendous too on Agnes’s experience of childbirth. I doubt a man could ever have transmitted the sensations, feelings and worries so effectively. Throughout, the author is totally in control and the final scenes, as Agnes hurries off to London to ask her husband why he dared to use his dead son’s name in a play, are magnificent. The play, after all, has kept that name alive.

Hamnet is a wonderful novel. How it was left off the Booker Prize long- and shortlist last year is beyond me. It did, though, win the Women’s Fiction Prize and the Dalkey Literary Awards and was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize.

Pedant’s corner:- epicentre (used, wrongly, in the sense of absolute centre,) “the dark maw of the ground” (it was the opening of a grave; not a stomach, then, therefore not a maw,) stoved in (stove in, or, staved in,) “that all is not as it should be” (that not all is as it should be.) “She sits up nights” (she sits up at night,) hoofs (in my youth the plural was always ‘hooves’.)

Queen’s Park 3-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Firhill Stadium, 14/8/21.

Ah well, I knew it was too good to last.

Down to Earth with a bump.

And our goal difference is down to zero.

Just once, I’d like to finish a season with us having scored more goals than we lost.

Fire in Free-Fall

Fire is an odd, complicated chemical phenomenon. When in orbit round Earth it becomes even odder.

In a gravity well gravity shapes the flame to the familiar cone-like contours we can see flickering, ushering oxygen to the bottom of the fire, the product gases rising from the flame due to their lower density.

In orbit, when bodies are in free-fall (not “weightless”: the gravity is still there, only cancelled out by forward movement round the Earth, the link calls that situation microgravity) there is no bottom to the flame; oxygen is attracted from all sides and the fire becomes spherical.

Thsi image is from Astronomy Picture of the Day for 10/8/21.

Fire in space

I wouldn’t have liked to try that out, even if it is in a controlled environment. Fire in a spaceship must be like one on a sea-going vessel; the crew’s worst nightmare.

Something Changed 47: If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

I would wager there haven’t been many songs written in English about the Spanish Civil War.

Still fewer have been chart hits.

This one made number 1 in the UK.

Sadly its message is even more relevant today than it was in the 90s.

Manic Street Preachers: If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

Dumbarton 2-3 Rangers B

Scottish Challenge Cup,* Round One, The Rock, 11/8/21.

A rather ignominious result, this. I didn’t watch it even though it was a home game since I don’t agree with the concept of B teams playing in Senior competitions. The vast majority of lower league teams’ fans don’t and won’t attend these games.

Someone on Pie and Bovril posted the picture below (credited to Pix by Pedro) claiming to show the attendance tonight. Look at the empty spaces. Despite the suggestions made by proponents of B teams that fans of top division clubs (OK the Old Firm) would boost crowds the evidence strongly confirms that they do not. Old Firm fans only care about their first teams. Quite rightly.

The Rock, 11/8/21

We were apparently 3-0 down at one point before striking twice late on.

It is another in our very unprepossessing set of results in this competition. We rarely venture beyond the first round and despite the run to the semi-final in the season of Froxy still have the worst cumulative record of any club ever to take part in it.

I suppose it means there will now be no distractions from the league until the Scottish Cup comes around and as far as I know we sustained no injuries, which is a small mercy, and a few players who had been out got a bit of game time in.

But playing the game on a Wednesday means we will have one fewer day to prepare for the fixture away to Queen’s Park on Saturday.

*SPFL Trust Trophy

Glister by John Burnside

Jonathan Cape, 2008, 263 p.

Begin with a warning. In a prefatory chapter, someone, who has passed through the Glister, is remembering the story of his life, again. In that story his name is Leonard and he remembers John the librarian saying to him, “When it comes to reliability, it’s not the narrator we should be worried about, it’s the author,” but Leonard himself tells us it’s not the author either; it’s the story that is unreliable.

Be that as it may, it is Leonard’s recollections which take up the bulk of the book. He grew up in a coastal town somewhat cut off from the rest of the world – outside influences do intrude, there is a Spar shop and references to television (curiously to Dr Kildare and Richard Chamberlain, which seems a bit out of time with the rest of the narrative) – a town once home to a chemical plant, whose contamination blights the lives of those who worked there, and perhaps even those who stray or rummage onto its former grounds or into the so-called poisoned wood, but people stay and put up with it all. (Not Leonard’s mum, though, who, unable to cope with her situation, pissed off when his father took ill leaving Leonard to take care of his dad.) But the town has a bigger problem. There have been disappearances of children, teenage boys, over the years, unexplained disappearances which cast a pall over everyday life.

Leonard lived in the Innertown, the most deprived and blighted area, distinguished from the Outertown where the big houses are. The Innertown has the same claustrophobic feel as the village in Burnside’s earlier novel The Devil’s Footprints and the hellish residue of the plant bears echoes of the Corby he described in Living Nowhere. Leonard’s story is given in the first person but other sections are written in the third and describe incidents to which he was not a witness. (These may still be him writing from an omniscient viewpoint, however; remember the unreliability of story.) They include Morrison, the local policeman, who seems to have got his position without in any way training for it, the local big man Bryan Smith (who levered Morrison into his job so as to have a hold over him,) Morrison’s alcoholic wife, Alice, recluse Andrew Rivers, and Leonard’s girlfriend, the precociously sexually adventurous Elspeth.

Morrison is conflicted by his knowledge of finding the dead body of the first boy to disappear, his enthralment to Bryan Smith (who got his henchman Jenner to deal with it) and his duty as a policeman. Towards the end he reflects that “the soul is wet and dark, a creature that takes up residence in the human body and feeds on it …. possessed of an unhuman joy that cares nothing for its host, but lives, as it must live, in perpetual, disfigured longing.” Alice senses her husband’s confusion but is mired in her own difficulties. Rivers has kept all the reminders of his dead father and is alert to the possibilities his behaviour has of being misunderstood. Elspeth is a spark of life but seems to be perpetually randy. The mysterious outsider Leonard calls the Moth Man, supposedly conducting a survey of the flying insect population of the contaminated area but also taking the opportunity to explore the nooks and crannies of the disused chemical plant and possibly with a darker involvement in events, with a hint of the supernatural, flits in and out of Leonard’s story while occasionally providing him with brews of a strange tea. Of his non-exclusive, on both sides, relationship with Elspeth, Leonard muses that romance is for older people, not adolescents.

Despite the realistic depiction of Leonard’s encounters with John, Elspeth, the Moth Man and the members of the small teenage gang led by Elspeth’s ex-boyfriend Jimmy van Doren, there is an overhanging feel of Science Fiction or fantasy to proceedings. This prefigures the ending, the manifestation of the Glister, which, while possibly explaining the disappearances does not do so fully but is nonetheless satisfactory.

At one point Leonard tells us of “the sense I have of a story all disjointed and out of sequence.” The novel is not like this at all. Burnside writes supremely well. I wasn’t overly satisfied by the ending even though it is in accord with what preceded it, but in all other respects Glister is gold.

Pedant’s corner:- “maybe ony a few minutes” (maybe only a few,) cargos (this plural used to be spelled ‘cargoes’,) unimagin-able (not at a line break, unimaginable,) ditto “separ-ate” (separate.) “It has to with Leonard” (It has to do with Leonard.) None of the others see me go (sees me go,), Rivers’ (Rivers’s,) “when she come across” (comes across,) a missing start quotation mark.

Educational Attainment

I heard on the radio this morning that the gap in examination results between Public (aka private) school pupils in England and those in state schools had widened. As you would expect the Labour Party had apparently bemoaned this difference.

A BBC reporter then relayed the UK Government gloss on it, to the effect that when you “drilled down” into the results then those from selective schools and “academies” showed the same trend as private schools.

How convenient I thought, that this information mirrored what their adherents would have the general public believe about the effectiveness of such schools.

Then it occurred to me, that in a system now solely dependent on teacher assessment this increase is entirely what you would expect from institutions more likely to suffer parental pressure – or employer pressure on teachers – than the average state school. Because what exactly are parents of private school pupils paying for? (Better results certainly, as well as access to old boy networks.) A similar expectation no doubt exists for selective schools and the so-called academies.

Another explanation than the effectiveness of individual schools presents itself. That the results from “normal” state schools are more likely to be genuine and the teachers in those schools less likely to have bent to any pressure from parents, or their employers, than those whose jobs are perhaps less secure.

Dysart Harbour

I have posted photos of Dysart harbour before.

The harbour from the edge of Ravenscraig Park in April 2021.

The main building is the former Harbour Master’s house. St Serf’s Tower and the red-tiled roofs of the white painted houses of Pan Ha’ lie behind.

Dysart Harbour, Fife

Dysart Harbour looking over to North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock:-

Dysart Harbour

War Grave at St Andrews Cathedral

By the side of St Andrews Cathedral in St Andrews There is a cemetery. In March this year I noticed a Commonwealth War Graves here sign so popped in for a look

There was one war grave, of Great War Private S Findlay, Labour Corps, 9/8/1917, aged 36.

War Grave, St Andrews Cathedral

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