Inverkeithing, Fife

Just before the first Covid lockdown we visited with a friend the ancient town of Inverkeithing in Fife. We’d passed through it many times, even making purchases there. However we’d never taken a really close look. It has some interesting features.

Inverkeithing Mercat Cross:-

Inverkeithing Mercat Cross

Mercat Cross, Inverkeithing

Inverkeithing Mercat Cross Plaque

A short history of the town:-

Inverkeithing History

This is the lintel mentioned in that history above. The inscription reads, “God’s providence is my inheritance”:-

Lintel in Inverkeithing. From 1688

Lintels like this were commonly placed above the doors of houses built for newly married couples, usually with their initials and the date of the marriage. This one is more elaborate than most. “IT. BT. Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that built it.”:-

A Marriage Lintel, Inverkeithing

For a time the explorer David Livingston lived in the town – in Moffat Cottage:-

Moffat Cottage, David Livingston's House, Inverkeithing

Plaque on David Livingston's House, Inverkeithing

Murray Walker

I’ve just seen on the news that Murray Walker for so long the voice of motor sport on British television has died.

I remember his distinctive voice commentating on Motocross (formerly known as motorcycle scrambling) in the 1960s on the BBC’s Grandstand; itself sadly long gone.

It was as a commentator on Formula 1, though, for which he was best known, for both the BBC and ITV in a stint lasting over twenty years. After his retirement the sport somehow never felt the same. Shockingly, that commentating retirement was itself twenty years ago.

He was one of those few characters associated with a particular sport whose fame and personality allowed them to transcend it.

Graeme Murray Walker: 10/10/1923 – 13/3/2021. So it goes.

Radiant State by Peter Higgins

Gollancz, 2015, 286 p.

“For centuries the Vlast had wiped histories away. The stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen created unpersons out of lives and made ruined former people the unseen, unheard haunters of their own streets.”

Higgins’s Russian inspired Wolfhound Century trilogy (I have previously reviewed the first and second instalments) is a commentary of sorts on the relatively recent history of that country. While adopting a mad whirlwind of a story arc of its own, a mix of realism and fantasy, it also has roots in Russian myth and folklore. The sentences quoted above could be a complete description of the setting if the fantasy elements were ignored but they are integral to Higgins’s vision. The three books are also unmistakably about Russia itself even if Higgins is writing about a Russia that never actually existed.

In the first part of Radiant State the Vlast Universal Vessel Proof of Concept is about to blast off for space. Literally – it is propelled by the detonation of atomic bombs beneath its pusher plate – though the actual propellant is the bombs’ casings of angel flesh pulverised to plasma by the explosions. The poor human occupants of Proof of Concept are however destined never to return to Earth. The ship, as its name suggests, is a prototype for a project to hurl the Vlast to the stars and domination of other planets.

Characters familiar from the previous two books reappear, Visarrion Lom, Maroussia Shauman, Elena Cornelius, Eligiya Kalimova. Josef Kantor – in the guise of Osip Rhizin which he had adopted in the previous book, Truth and Fear, where he saved the Vlast from defeat at the hands of its traditional foe The Archipelago – is now head of state, overseer of a vast apparatus of repression and control. “Rhizin had tens of thousands of security officers but trusted none of them because he knew what kind of thing they were and knew they must themselves be watched and kept in fear.” In the sidelines, lurking under a mountain, is the remnant of the supernatural creature Archangel, waiting to be loosed from its bonds. The main thrust of the plot, though, is Lom’s search for proof that Rhizin is Kantor and of the nature of the acts which brought him to power and keep him there.

If I found the fantastic portions overdone (I nearly always do) they are very well written, sometimes even understated, which is all to their good. In the realistic scenes Higgins is utterly convincing. His writing, while not straightforward, is almost without flaw. This is surely how it is to live in a totalitarian society. Even minor characters read as if they are real people, in all their complicity.

My only reservation is about how relatively easy it is in the end for Rhizin to be overthrown. But then again Lom has what is in effect supernatural help. Notwithstanding that, it is refreshing to find Rhizin’s removal from power taking place with no violence involved.

This trilogy just got better and better as it went on – not a usual comment on the form.

At one point Higgins uses the impeccably Scottish word smirr, at which I rejoiced, but it was in the phrase “smirrs of mist.” Technically smirr isn’t actually mist, its droplets are too large. Instead it is an extremely light, but persistent, rain; lighter than drizzle, but much more penetrating.

Pedant’s corner:- “memorising layouts and procedures she already knows by heart” (if she already knows them by heart she has already memorised them. I think Higgins meant she was reinforcing her knowledge.) “More than one of them wants to see failure today” (‘more than one’ is plural, hence, want to see.) “‘And always we have always driven them out’” (has one ‘always’ too many,) a missing full stop, Cornelius’ (Cornelius’s,) sunk (sank,) “come here very morning” (every morning,) pantoufflard (pantouflard?)

Friday on my Mind 201: That’s What Love Will Do – RIP Trevor Peacock

Trevor Peacock, who was best known as an actor (particularly as Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley, died earlier this week.

However he was also a songwriter, with several hits to his credit in the early 1960s, though they were performed and sung by other people. Mrs Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter was a no 1 in the US for Herman’s Hermits, though it wasn’t released as a single in the UK.

This one was a No 3 in the UK. It is a very “early 1960s” sound, from a tiny bit before my time.

Joe Brown and The Bruvvers: That’s What Love Will Do

Trevor Edward Peacock: 19/5/1931 – 8/3/2021. So it goes.

Coaltown of Balgonie War Memorial

Coaltown of Balgonie is a small village near to where I live. Desopite its proximity I had not photographed its War Memorial till last year.

The Memorial takes the form of a stone cross, with unusual floral ends on its arms and apex, atop a stone pillar. It’s set off Main Street (the B 9130) beside Victoria Hall.

Coaltown of Balgonie War Memorial

War Memorial, Coaltown of Balgonie

Dedication, “To the glory of God and in memory of those who went forth from Balgonie Colliery and Estate and gave their lives for their country 1914-1919.”

Dedication, Coaltown of Balgonie War Memorial3

The names are set on the other four sides of the base. All are for the Great War.

John Adamson – William Christie:-

Names, Coaltown of Balgonie War Memorial4

R H Delehunt – W Hargraves:-

Coaltown of Balgonie War Memorial Names

John Haxton – George Wishart:-

War Memorial, Coaltown of Balgonie, Names

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

Full title: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher and Other Stories Fourth Estate, 2014, 252 p.

The ten stories this collection contains are all exquisitely written, in them every word counts. Mantel shows her mastery of the short story is as good as her novel writing.

Sorry to Disturb is narrated by an Englishwoman living in Jeddah as her husband works there. One day a man in import-export rings her doorbell, lost, asking to use her telephone. This is Ijaz, who returns next day to thank her and thereafter calls regularly – nothing untoward but he seems as lonely as she is. Her loneliness is not eased by her female neighbours. Her state of mind is illustrated by the fact that Ijaz may well be a figment of her imagination, though that is not the only possible interpretation of the text.

In Comma a woman remembers her childhood friendship with a girl her mother considered unsuitable and the pair’s clandestine visits to the grounds of the local big house.

The Long QT describes the moment a man starts to dally with another woman and the unexpected effect this has on his wife.

Winter Break describes the taxi journey a woman and her resolutely anti-children husband take from their destination airport to their holiday hotel. What it is about, though, is not seeing what’s in front of you.

Harley Street is narrated by a female receptionist in one of the premises there, where the doctors are all nicknamed for their specialty – and who to a man (and woman) all hold their patients in contempt. It is more concerned however with the relationships between the ancillary staff.

Offences Against the Person tells of the interactions between the daughter of a conveyancing solicitor, taken on as a junior clerk in his office one summer when she is seventeen, with his main secretary, Nicolette, soon to be the cause of her parents’ marriage break-up.

How Shall I Know You? examines the trials and tribulations of a jobbing writer asked to speak to reading clubs – the seedy hotels, the usual questions, the tiresome small talk afterwards – but is more concerned with the employee at the hotel where she stays on one visit, a young woman with a facial deformity but a kindly disposition despite her treatment at the hands of the regulars.

The Heart Fails Without Warning anatomises the relationships within a family where the elder daughter is anorexic.

In Terminus a woman sees her dead father in the carriage of a train on a parallel track. At the terminus she tries to find him, fails, yet nevertheless gains a sort of contentment.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: August 6th 1983 is an account of the intrusion by a gunman intent on killing the PM into the home of a woman expecting a plumber to call on the day Margaret Thatcher is to leave the private hospital the back of which the woman’s bedroom overlooks. He seems to be an IRA man. In reply to something the woman says he replies, “‘You’re right. They’re Englishmen,’ he said, sadly. ‘They can’t remember bugger all.’”

Note to the sensitive: at one point a character says, “White nigger, isn’t it?”

Pedant’s corner:- “whether the house is quiet as I left it” (‘quite as I left it’ would be more usual but quiet does make sense in context,) sunk (sank,) typically there are missing commas before pieces of direct speech which begin within a sentence, “computer disks” (I stll rebel at spelling ‘disc’ with a ‘k’,) “against front window of bookshop” (against the front window,) “a row of … were marked out” (a row was marked out,) sat (sitting.)

Luss War Memorial

I posted about Luss a couple of days ago.

Its War Memorial lies in a small enclosure beside Pier Road. It is a simple stone cross with embossed sword atop a hexagonal pedestal.
The dedication reads, “In grateful memory of the men of this parish who gave their lives in the Great War 1914-19,” with added below, “and in the war 1939-1945.” Second World War names lie after the ‘and’ of the World War 2 dedication, Great War names are on the two hexagonal sides flanking it.

Luss War Memorial

From west. Great War names on facing side of hexagon:-

War Memorial, Luss

From east. Great War names on facing side of hexagon:-

Luss War Memorial from East

The Odyssey Effect by Phillip G Cargile

Fulton Books Inc, 2020, 280 p.

Dexter Ruyac is a space war veteran whose family have aged in relation to him due to relativistic time-dilation effects while he was saving Earth in military service many light years distant. Dexter is 37 by his timing, but his wife is now 61, his son 29, and daughter 27. He now has no relationship with them. As a result he is somewhat bitter. He has nevertheless joined the police as, in 2127, “Police officers were still needed in society.” (I note that the time scale here is troublesome. 2127 is only 100 years or so from now, so hardly allows much scope for such a galaxy-spanning scenario to play out.)

The novel starts with Dexter being called to a murder scene, a murder which seems to have been carried out by someone with non-human capabilities. It is not long before Dexter discovers that drone workers called artificials, mindless clones developed to mine planets in the Vesta system for a substance named dycornum, (“used for fusion reactors” – and which may as well be magical given the properties ascribed to it,) have managed to evolve into intelligent beings, superartificials, and have come to Earth to mix with humans. After encountering them, Ruyac feels his protect and serve ethos extends to the artificials. However, an official on the World Court, Earth’s governing body, claims that artificials are not sentient but a danger and believes that in time they will replace humans through interbreeding so is trying to destroy them using “Combative Organic Battle units,” cybernetic hit squads whose members were created to help prosecute Earth’s wars in space.

Ruyac’s service background and the changes on Earth between now and the book’s time are laid out in blizzards of info-dumping in the first few pages but have little to do with the book’s plot. (More such incidental info-dumps outlining the setting’s contemporary social or architectural arrangements are liberally sprinkled through the book. Some involve characters saying to others “as you know” before providing us with the background.) Staples of the detective genre – an inter-departmental jurisdiction wrangle, our detective going rogue – also make their appearance. Through all of this the characters’ inner lives never really blossom; they are there primarily as plot enablers.

My preference is for stories where characters are the driving force. The Odyssey Effect is more concerned with plot, incident, and action scenes. As such, a lot of it is told to us rather than shown. The default position in so many recent SF books of violence being the instrument of plot resolution is unfortunately also to the fore here.

It has to be said that his publisher, Fulton Books Inc, has done Cargile no favours whatsoever. There are no signs here of the text having been copy-edited or even proof-read before publication, (an absolute minimum obligation of a publisher to an accepted manuscript,) which sadly detracts from the reading experience.

Sons’ Achievement Equalled

I see that Celtic’s failure to win today means that Rangers are now Scottish Football Champions.

So Dumbarton’s achievement of winning champioships at the top four levels of Scottish football (the last being in 2009 when we won the then Third Division of the SFL) has been matched.

Rangers fans will no doubt say they did this in 2016 when they won the second tier for the first time having previously won tiers 3 and 4 in 2014 and 2013 respectively.

However those three lower league wins all came subsequent to their administration and reformation as a new club and some would consider they do not add to the 54 championships Rangers FC won prior to their financial melt-down but that this is in fact their first as overall champions of Scotland.

There is no doubt now, though, that they have equalled Dumbarton’s record.

Congratulations to them.


Luss is a village on the shores of Loch Lomond in the west of Scotland. It’s about twelve or so miles from Dumbarton.

It was the village where most of the outside shots for the Scottish Television (STV) soap opera Take the High Road were filmed.

Luss from the village pier:-

Luss, from Loch Lomond,

Part of Luss from the other side of the pier:-

Luss From Loch Lomond

Luss Church:-

Luss Church, Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

In the churchyard there is a Viking hogback stone:-

Viking hogback stone, grave, Luss, Loch Lomond

Just up from the church there is this curious bridge which seems to cross a small inlet of Loch Lomond:-

Loch Lomond, Bridge,Church

Loch Lomond Bridge, Luss

near Loch Lomond, Luss, Scotland, trees

In the village itself there’s this cottage with (shallow) cat slide dormer windows:-

Cat Slide Cottage, Luss, Scotland

The Loch Lomond Arms is at the top of the road down to the pier:-

Loch Lomond Arms, Luss

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