A new home

After almost 19 years of blogging on Livejournal, and almost 15,000 entries, the time has come to move to a dedicated WordPress site, managed by the amazing Damien at Elucidate. I have archived all of my old entries to the new site (or rather, Damien has); and I hope to import all comments and tags as well. I don’t plan to delete my Livejournal, and I will crosspost to it once I work out how, but I have a strong suspicion that it won’t stay up for much longer.

This is still a work in progress, and I hope to improve the look and feel of the blog over the next weeks and months as I get to grips with the power of WordPress. Already I feel it’s something I probably could and should have done years ago. Look forward to hearing from you all.

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Saturday reading

Current
The Monk, by Matthew Lewis (a chapter a week)
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
CBT Workbook, by Stephanie Fitzgerald
A Modern Utopia, by H. G. Wells

Last books finished
A Master of Djinn, by P. Djélì Clark
Terrorism In Asymmetric Conflict: Ideological and Structural Aspects, by Ekaterina A. Stepanova
Marco Polo, by Dene October
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
Demons and Dreams: Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror v. 1, eds. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
She Who Became the Sun, by Shelly Parker-Chan
The Halls of Narrow Water, by Bill Hall
Mort, by Terry Pratchett
Never Say You Can’t Survive, by Charlie Jane Anders

Next books
The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century, by Amia Srinivasan
Half Life, by Shelley Jackson

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Stardust: film and novel

Stardust won the 2008 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, beating the first season of Heroes, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Enchanted and The Golden Compass. It was way ahead at nominations stage and while it had a closer run on the final ballot, it was ahead on every count. I have seen none of the other finalists; from the long list, I have seen the Zemeckis Beowulf and Vadim Jean’s Hogfather, and would confidently put Stardust way above both.

It rates 6th on one IMDB ranking but only 28th on the other. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Transformers are both ranked ahead of it by IMDB users but were way down the Hugo ballot. No Country for Old Men won that year’s Oscar.

Lots and lots of crossovers with Doctor Who and with previous Oscar and Hugo winners. The one actor who ticks all three boxes is however invisible here: Ian McKellen is the narrator, having previously been Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films; he would go on to be the voice of the Great Intelligence in the 2012 Eleventh Doctor story, The Snowmen.

Here after appearing in two Oscar winners is Peter O’Toole as the dying King, having previously been the tutor of The Last Emperor in 1987 and Lawrence of Arabia in 1962.

The bishop is played by Struan Rodger, who had been the voice of the Face of Boe in the Tenth Doctor stories Gridlock (2006) and New Earth (2007), went on to be the voice of Kasaavin in the Thirteenth Doctor story Spyfall (2020) and appeared on screen as Ashildr’s butler Clayton in the Twelfth Doctor story The Woman Who Lived (2015); but many years before was also Sandy McGrath in Chariots of Fire.

Rupert Everett, who plays Secundus, the first prince to be bumped off, was Marlowe in Shakespeare in Love.

David Walliams, who is Quintus, another dead prince, here, played the cringing alien Gibbis in the Eleventh Doctor story The God Complex.

Mark Williams is the man-who-is-really-a-goat here, was in both Shakespeare in Love as Nol and in several Eleventh Doctor stories as Rory’s father.

Spencer Wilding, one of the pirates, has played several roles in Doctor Who but is heavily masked in all of them.

Last but definitely not least, Robert de Niro is Captain Shakespeare here; we have previously seen him in two other Oscar winners, Mike in The Deer Hunter and the young Don in The Godfather II.

For once, I had actually seen this in the cinema when it first came out. It is great fun, even if all of the speaking characters are white and almost all of them are slim and beautiful. Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer do convincing English accents. The cinematography is lovely, the acting spot-on, and the script sufficiently funny that we almost accept the skeeviness of much of the plot – that our hero forcibly abducts our heroine in order to trade her, as property, to buy his way into a relationship with the woman he thinks he wants; and how come Una can’t rule Stormhold in her own right as the only surviving child of the old King?

Robert de Niro completely steals the show as the cross-dressing pirate airship captain, making us wonder why we care about these young folks, just about managing to rise above the stereotypes. I really enjoyed watching it again.

The second paragraph of the third chapter of the original novel is:

The eighty-first Lord of Stormhold lay dying in his chamber, which was carved from the highest peak like a hole in a rotten tooth. There is still death in the lands beyond the fields we know.

When I first read it in 2007, I wrote:

A very enjoyable fairy tale by Gaiman. As ever I find myself spotting similarities with Sandman (in this case, the supernatural siblings, and the half-human heir), but I felt he had rung the changes here rather effectively, and the story combines lovely incidental detail with a good sound (if traditional) plot. Great fun.

I had forgotten just how different it is from the film. It’s darker and sexier, as you would expect from Gaiman; the fallen star breaks her leg as she lands at the start of the story, and is disabled for the rest of the book; there are many more diversionary adventures and no big fight scenes; the pirates play a much smaller role; and of course it feels more English than you get from the Scottish and Icelandic filming. I still enjoyed it though. You can get it here.

Next up is WALL-E, followed by Slumdog Millionaire.

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Tower, by Nigel Jones

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Blatantly ignoring the sacred rule of holy sanctuary, Henry [II] had Hubert [de Burgh] dragged from a chapel in Brentwood, Essex, where he had taken refuge. The fallen nobleman was placed on a ‘miserable jade’ with his legs tied under the nag’s belly and ‘ignominiously conveyed to the Tower’. Here, where the constable had so recently commanded, Hubert was clapped in chains and thrown into a dungeon. The old man — he was in his sixties — stayed until pressure from the Church made Henry change tactics. He returned Hubert to the chapel, but placed guards around the building to ensure no food was brought in. Hubert was literally starved out, and a blacksmith summoned to clamp the old warrior back in irons.

I bought this when we actually visited the Tower in 2017, partly out of general interest but mainly because I wanted to get a little more on the gruesome death of my ancestor and namesake, Sir Nicholas White, while a prisoner in the Tower of London in 1592 (or possibly 1593).

It’s a rollicking good book on British political history between the construction of the Tower in the eleventh century, and its transformation from security asset to tourism spot in the nineteenth century, and how that affected the building – most often of course as a prison and place of execution for those who had fallen out with the state, but also as a centre of administration, in particular as the location of the Mint.

But the gore is the point. Two kings of England were murdered there in the late fifteenth century (Henry VI and Edward V). Two of Henry VIII’s queens were executed there (Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard). Thomas More ends up there. So does Samuel Pepys, for a while. Unfortunately Jones doesn’t mention either Sir John Perrot or my ancestor who was brought down in his wake.

I’d hoped for a little more. A book about the exercise of state coercive power and government-sanctioned violence could surely have interrogated these concepts a bit. There’s also a whole city outside the gates which underwent its own transformations – there are a couple of moments when the two intersect (the Peasants’ Revolt; the Great Fire) but otherwise thebook treats them rather separately. So it’s a good starting point, but I’m going to have to dig further.

You can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2017. Next on that pile is The Revolution Trade, by Charles Stross.

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A Norman Legacy, by Sally Harpur O’Dowd

Second paragraph of third chapter:

There is a record of King John of England staying with Balthazar [Whyte] at Ballymorran Castle, one of the homes of the Whyte family, in July 1210 on his second expedition to Ireland.

Sally is my fourth cousin once removed; her mother was from the de Burgh Whyte branch of the family (like Lady de la Beche, Amy Dillwyn and Gladys Sandes) and her first cousin once removed works in Brussels (C, sister of K and mother of F2). This is a slim book (160pages) which pulls together the basics of the Whyte family history, which theoretically goes back to the Norman invasion of Ireland, and goes through our common ancestors to the present day.

It’s a labour of love, and while I disagree with some of the statements (there is, in fact, a Kingsmeadow House in Waterford; also, rather than dating from 1752, the “de Burgh Whyte” surname doesn’t seem to have been used before the 1840s), I found some new material too. There’s not a lot to say about the more obscure ancestors, but Sally bulks it out well with information about the genealogies of the women they married, which in most cases is as firm (or as nebulous) as what we have on the Whytes.

The most interesting suggestion is that my 8xgreat-grandfather Andrew Whyte/White, son of the Elizabethan Sir Nicholas White and father of the seventeenth century Sir Nicholas White, died in the service of the Crown in 1599, despite having previously fallen under suspicion for papistry. I need to dig into this more, but there seems to me to be an indication that he was spying on Irish exiles in, wait for it, Leuven. His father had died a prisoner in the Tower of London just a few years earlier.

Probably the most famous person directly mentioned here is Keith Kyle, a fairly prominent lefty British journalist of the later twentieth century, who married Sally’s older sister; here he is reporting from Brussels sixty years ago this month on the UK’s first bid to join the EEC.

As I said, a labour of love. You can get it here.

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The Sun is Open (and Type Face), by Gail McConnell

Third page:

our house was on a street that 
slanted at the bottom a 
carriageway you didn't cross 
four lanes all going fifty to 
a roundabout nearby the dog 
next door was Honey 
a lab as old as me who loved 
to lie on the just 
cut lawn and sniff her tail 
going in the afternoon sun

I like to track the winners of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize because of my own past association with it, and was really interested to see that earlier this month it went to a book of poetry, The Sun is Open, by QUB-based writer Gail McConnell. In fact the 119 pages of text are one long poem broken into chunks, playing with text and with font colour, processing the writer’s reaction to going through a box of her father’s things, long after he died in 1984 at 35, shot dead by the IRA while checking under his car for bombs, in front of his wife and his then three-year-old daughter.

Gail McConnell barely remembers her father and has no memory of that awful day, but of course it has affected her whole life, and the poetry captures that disruption and the effect of engaging with her father through a box of personal souvenirs, most notably a diary and a Students Union handbook from his own time at QUB. There is some incredible playing with structure – quotations from the box are in grey text, documents are quoted in fragments to let us fill in the blanks, at one point the page fills with vertical bars to symbolise the prison where her father worked. It’s provocative and unsettling, and meant to be. You can get it here.

This moved me to seek out an earlier poem by Gail McConnell, Type Face, which you can read here. It’s funnier, though the humour is rather dark; the theme is that it explains her reaction to reading the Historical Enquiries Team report into her father’s murder, and discovering that it was written in Comic Sans. The third verse is:

‘Nothing can separate me from the Love of God
in Christ Jesus Our Lord’. Nothing can, indeed.
I am guided by Google, my mother by Christ.
Awake most nights, I click and swipe.
I search and find Bill McConnell Paint and Body.
Under new management!!!!! Northeast Tennessee.
Where is God in a Messed-up World? Inside the Maze.
(My phone flashes up a message like a muse.)
Straight & Ready: A History of the 10th Belfast
Scout Group. (35) (PO) (IRA)
– for more and a photograph, push this link>>
the maroon death icon on CAIN.ulst.ac.uk
You visited this page on 06/02/15.
And here I am again.
And in The Violence of Incarceration
(Routledge, 2009), eds. Phil Scraton
and Jude McCulloch (page thirty-three), he
‘oversaw, but later denied in court, the brutality
of prison guards, [and] was executed by the IRA
on the 8 March 1984.’ (He’d been dead two days
by then.) Execute. Late Middle English:
from Latin exsequi ‘follow up, punish’.
There’s a listing on victims.org.uk,
‘an [sic] non-sectarian, non-political’ nook
complete with Union Jack and Ulster flag
campaigning pics, the Twitter feeds and tags,
a calendar and videos. Powered by WordPress.
And then there’s Voices from The Grave (and this
one’s hard to bear, though can I say so? I don’t know.
I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.)
I won’t write down the page. But something in me,
seeing that crazed portrait – something’s relieved.

Really good stuff, and very different in presentation from The Sun is Open. Both are recommended.

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July 2016 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

July started with my personal Brexit bonuses as I gave talks on the subject in Birmingham and, more exotically, Portland, Oregon. Pleased with this picture of one of the Cascades, probably Mount Rainier, from the plane.

On the Portland trip I started off with a couple of days in Washington, taking in a Chinese TV interview on the issues of the day.

I also had work trips to Belgrade (not as enjoyable as usual) and to Dublin (more fun), and we finished the month in Loughbrickland at the start of our holiday.

Thanks to various daytime travels, I read 30 books that month.

Non-fiction: 9 (YTD 29)
Fanny Kemble and the Lovely Land, by Constance Wright
The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, by Cliff Stoll
Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
Boy, by Roald Dahl
Empire of Mud, by J.D. Dickey
Between structure and No-thing: An annotated reader in Social and Cultural Anthropology, ed. Patrick J. Devlieger
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, by Svetlana Alexievich
Tove Jansson: Work and Love, by Tuula Karjalainen
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Fiction (non-sf): 5 (YTD 19)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons, by Jeff Kinney
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, by Jeff Kinney
Tales from the Secret Annexe, by Anne Frank
A Delicate Truth, by John le Carré
Holes, by Louis Sachar

sf (non-Who): 9 (YTD 56)
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
The Secret History of Science Fiction, ed. James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel
Gráinne, by Keith Roberts
Corona, by Greg Bear
Islands in the Sky, by Arthur C. Clarke
The Sands of Mars, by Arthur C. Clarke
Earthlight, by Arthur C Clarke
Galileo’s Dream, by Kim Stanley Robinson
Doctor Dolittle in the Moon, by Hugh Lofting

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 26)
Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury, ed. Paul Cornell
The Algebra of Ice, by Lloyd Rose
Dead Romance, by Lawrence Miles
Lethbridge-Stewart: Beast of Fang Rock, by Andy Frankham-Allan

Comics: 3 (YTD 17)
The Divine, by Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka
Invisible Republic, Vol 1, by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman
Bétélgeuse v.5: L’Autre, by Leo

7,500 pages (YTD 40,100 pages)
6/30 (YTD 47/139) by women (Wright, Alexievich, Karjalainen, Frank, Rose, Bechko)
2/30 (YTD 10/139) by PoC (Miranda, Coates)

The two best of these were about race and America, the Hamiltome, which you can get here, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and me, which you can get here. I bounced off the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but you can get it here.

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Queens of the Crusades, by Alison Weir

Second paragraph of third chapter:

His [Henry II’s] father, Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, was a vassal of the King of France and had been nicknamed ‘Plantagenet’ after the sprig of broom — Planta genista — that he wore in his hat (the name was not adopted as a royal surname until the fifteenth century). Henry II and his sons founded the Angevin royal dynasty, but the county of Anjou was lost to England in the thirteenth century, so modern historians have come to use the surname Plantagenet for them and their descendants, who ruled England until 1485.

A good chunky book about the queens of England from Eleanor of Aquitaine (Henry II) to Eleanor of Castile (Edward I), including therefore also Berengaria of Navarre (Richard I), Isabella of Angouleme (John) and Eleanor (here Alienor) or Provence (Henry III). Weir has already published entire books about two of these (the first of the Eleanors and Isabella) and they rather dominate the narrative; in particular, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who is everyone’s favourite of course, dies on page 186 of a 400-page book.

As narrative history it feels fairly complete. I am much more familiar with Eleanor and her children than with the second half of the story, and it filled in some gaps in my knowledge; in particular, I had no idea that Berengaria of Navarre had quite an interesting career as dowager queen, living another 30 years after Richard I was killed. The details of Henry III’s hapless reign were also largely new to me.

However, it would have been interesting also to interrogate the role of women in medieval politics. All of these queens were sometimes able to exercise legal authority and issue their own decisions; at other times they were not. What was the difference? What were the expectations of women in public life at that time? Weir does describe how the queens are portrayed in art, but without a lot of context for us to see how this compares with the portrayal of other women, or indeed men.

So, a slightly old-fashioned book, but full of interesting stuff. You can get it here.

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The Eighth of March 2: Protectors of Time

A set of three plays from Big Finish all starring women from the Whoniverse – in fact, all bringing women characters together from the TV shows who did not meet on screen, or only met once – produced for International Women’s Day this year (they did the same in 2020, but I don’t seem to have reviewed that box set, though I enjoyed it too).

The first of these, Stolen Futures by Lizbeth Myles, is a sequel to the enigmatic Fourth Doctor story Warrior’s Gate, directed by Louise Jameson, following Lalla Ward’s Romana and John Leeson’s K9 as they start to liberate the Tharils from oppression, with Big Finish stalwart John Dorney and Louise Jameson’s ex David Warwick in the cast. It may not make much sense to you if you don’t remember Warrior’s Gate, but I do remember Warrior’s Gate and I really loved it; a strong concept and a strong script.

I’m apparently in a minority in not loving the middle play, Prism by Abigail Burdess. It brings together Georgia Tennant as Jenny, the Doctor’s Daughter, and Michelle Ryan as Lady Christina de Souza, in an adventure with a large, possibly very large diamond. I had some difficulty following the plot and the two leads are very similar to each other in character and voice.

But I felt we were cooking on gas again with the last of the three, The Turn of the Tides by Nina Millns (like Abigail Burdess a new writer for the Whoniverse). Here we have Katy Manning’s Jo Jones (nee Grant) and Anjli Mohindra’s Rani Chandra reunited, in the Amazon, with a UNIT character who I confess I had forgotten about, facing global catastrophe. It’s very much in tune with the times and also a nice nostalgia moment for Jo and (vicariously) Sarah Jane Smith.

Anwyay, all three are recommended, and you can get them here.

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Saturday reading

Current
The Monk, by Matthew Lewis (a chapter a week)
Flicker, by Theodore Roszak
Demons and Dreams: Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror v. 1, eds. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
A Master of Djinn, by P. Djélì Clark

Last books finished
I am the Master, by Peter Anghelides et al
The Island of Missing Trees, by Elif Shafak
The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by Simon Bucher-Jones
Doctor Who – Marco Polo, by John Lucarotti
The Pilgrimage of Egeria: A New Translation, by Anne McGowan and Paul F. Bradshaw

Coming next, perhaps
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
Mort, by Terry Pratchett

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The brief cinematic career of Sally Seaver (1928-1963)

In my genealogical researches, the only relative on my father’s side to have made even a minimal impact in the entertainment industry who I’ve found is Sally Seaver, my third cousin, the second oldest of the great-great-grandchildren of William Charlton Hibbard and Sarah Anne Smith (she had an older sister, Janet). Born in 1928, two weeks before my father (her father Talcott Seaver was his second cousin), she had a brief career in Hollywood; she was announced as the female lead in the 1950 Kim, starring Errol Flynn and a very young Dean Stockwell, but that didn’t work out and the part went instead to Laurette Luez.

Sally then had four very small parts in films in 1952-1953:

In Aladdin and his Lamp (1952), she is credited as a dancing girl, but does not actually dance;
In Skirts Ahoy! (1952), she is one of a large number of extras in the women’s naval training station scenes;
In The Merry Widow (1952), she is one of many girls at Maxim’s under the spell of Fernando Lamas as Count Danilo;
And finally in Off Limits aka Military Policemen (1953), she is one of many women fighting for the affections of Bob Hope, as “Maddy”, her only speaking part.

Here they are.

I do see a bit of a resemblance with my aunt Ursula, who was herself at one time a professional singer.

Sally died in 1963, aged only 35. She was married four times, and I am in touch with her son Michael from her first marriage, her only child, who helped me identify her in these scenes. I actually made contact with him through myheritage.com – the only person who I’ve got to know through that site. Michael is the oldest of the 3xgreat-grandchildren of William and Sarah Hibbard; my niece S, born more than sixty years after him, is the youngest and likely to stay that way.

(click to embiggen)

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Unofficial Doctor Who Annual 1987, ed. Mark Worgan

Second paragraph of third section (“Rogues: The Battling Time Lords”, by Rob Levy):

While planning Season 8, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks decided to give Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor his own proper archenemy. Using the Sherlock Holmes/Professor Moriarty template as a guide, they birthed the Master, a mysterious antagonist that was the antithesis of the Doctor in almost every way.

Another of the unofficial Doctor Who annuals for the years when Old Who missed out, this time featuring the Sixth Doctor and (mostly) Peri and (sometimes) the Ainley!Master. Shorter than the Unofficial 1972 Annual. Two successive stories feature carnivorous plants, which is a bit of an editorial slip. The one I liked best was “A Weaponised Personality” by Christopher Swain-Tran. Out of print.

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Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, by Mark Blake

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The year of 1966 would be a causal one for rock music and popular culture as a whole. The Beatles released Revolver – an album filled with exotic sounds that reflected the group’s LSD experiences – Cream, rock’s first so-called super-group, began inventing heavy metal; while Jimi Hendrix wowed London’s clubland with his dazzling, pyrotechnic approach to playing the electric guitar. In London, a collision of fashion, art and music was slowly taking effect, and would peak during the following year’s so-called Summer of Love.

Inspired to get this by the V&A exhibition a few years back. Starts with an in-depth account of the Live 8 reunion, which I read while rewatching the actual event. It’s more comprehensive and detailed than Nick Mason’s book, but less funny; it does address some points that Mason doesn’t, notably how the band handled rapidly becoming rich but also looking at the importance of the Cambridge roots (which Mason wasn’t part of) and the art that went with the albums and concerts (which Mason wasn’t as interested in). Very detailed, but didn’t quite sing to me. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2019. Next on that pile is The Harp and the Blade, by John Myers Myers.

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June 2016 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

The major development of June 2016 was the Brexit referendum, which of course went the wrong way. I wrote to over a thousand British friends in the days immediately before, pleading with them to vote Remain; I led with the likely impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland, which really was not too hard to foresee. Shell-shocked the day after, I wrote this reaction with a colleague, most of which turned out to be right. I am still resentful and angry about Brexit, though I am also pretty clear that it will not be reversed any time soon. What a shame.

My major trip of June 2016 was to Northern Ireland for my great-aunt’s 100th birthday. She is still going strong and will turn 106 next month. (Sadly her oldest daughter, on the left here, has since passed away.)

I had two work-related trips as well, one at the start of the month in London, where I took in a Comics Museum exhibition of the work of Doctor Who illustrator Chris Achilleos:

And one at the end of the month to Barcelona.

It was also the month of the Belgium/Ireland match in the European Championships; out local pub allowed space for our Irish neighbours and us despite the general Belgitude.

Despite everything I read 22 books that month.

Non-fiction: 3 (YTD 20)
Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, by Marc Aramini (not finished)
SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police, by Vox Day (not finished)

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss

Fiction (non-sf): 5 (YTD 14)
Selected Stories, by Alice Munro
The Unicorn Hunt, by Dorothy Dunnett
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
Dark Horse, by Fletcher Knebel
The Commissioner, by Stanley Johnson

sf (non-Who): 10 (YTD 47)
Space Raptor Butt Invasion, by Chuck Tingle
The Builders, by Daniel Polanski
Perfect State, by Brandon Sanderson
Slow Bullets, by Alastair Reynolds
Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
Nethereal, by Brian Niemeyer (did not finish)
Traitor’s Blade, by Sebastien de Castell

The Hidden War, by Michael Armstrong (did not finish)
Frankenstein Unbound, by Brian W. Aldiss
Peter & Max, by Bill Willingham

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 22)
Short Trips: 2040, ed. John Binns
Loving the Alien, by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry
The Mary-Sue Extrusion, by Dave Stone

Comics: 1 (YTD 14)
The Unwritten Vol. 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, by Mike Carey

6,200 pages (YTD 32,600 pages)
2/22 (YTD 41/109) by women (Munro, Dunnett)
1/22 (YTD 10/109) by PoC (Dumas)

Enjoyed re-reading The Count of Monte Cristo, which you can get here, and Dark Horse, which you can get here; best new read was the Selected Stories of Alice Munro, which you can get here. Several awful books in the Hugo packet, thanks to Puppy infestation; no names, no publicity.

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My TV appearances this month (so far)

BBC Northern Ireland elections special, part 1:

BBC elections special, part 2:

Second bite:

I was in the radio studio for Part 3. Here’s Part 4:

And more:

And Part 5 the next morning:

And finally:

And more:

Al-Jazeera on Northern Ireland:

And also Al-Jazeera on Sweden and Finland joining NATO:

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Thursday’s Child: One Woman’s Journey to Seven Continents, by Maralyn Rittenour

Second paragraph of third chapter:

When he married Hilda, she wanted everything for her two sons, and she exerted her all-powerful influence to detach my father from his family and his regimental friends, starting with his only child. She believed, wrongly, that having been on the other side during the war, she would not be accepted by his family. He sent a letter, which I received just as I was leaving for Switzerland and my mother and stepfather for Singapore. He wrote that he never wanted to see me again, that I preferred my mother and was only interested in his money. He had already paid for the year in Switzerland but would not give me another penny. Under English law at the time, it was perfectly legal to abandon a child of sixteen unless he or she was physically or mentally disabled. Everyone, including his family, assumed this was a temporary aberration, being infatuated with his new wife, and he would come to his senses before long. [Spoiler: he didn’t.]

Maralyn is my second cousin, the third oldest (second oldest living) great-grandchild of our Whyte great-grandparents, born in 1938. I only remember meeting her once, but I’ll certainly get back in touch after having read this very entertaining memoir. My parents, aunt and grandmother get passing mentions; she writes a lot more about her own family, the MacDermots, and other relatives who we both knew and know.

Having been disinherited after her parents’ divorce at the behest of her stepmother, Maralyn worked at a variety of jobs, starting with nannying for her uncle who was the British Ambassador in Indonesia, culminating in a series of semi-diplomatic roles in New York and then retirement in the Hamptons. She has been married twice; her first husband died dramatically in a canoeing accident, her second much later in life of natural causes.

She has clearly kept a diary, or at least good records, of everything that has happened to he since she was a teenager. The theme of the book is supposedly her travel to various parts of the world, including Antarctica, and indeed she has a sharp eye for detail, especially nature and landscapes and the things that happen to you on a long sea voyage, but the heart of the book is really her own friendships and family relationships.

Obviously I got this out of personal interest, but I think it would be an entertaining read even if you are not related to the author. You can get it here.

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Carnival of Monsters, by Ian Potter (and Robert Holmes, and Terrance Dicks)

Next in the series of Black Archive monographs on Doctor Who is the second story from Season 10, where the Doctor has been liberated by the Time Lords from his exile on Earth and is once again able to travel the Universe. I missed it on original broadcast, but devoured the Target novelisation as a kid, and also enjoyed the re-showing of the TV story in 1981. When I came back to it in 1987, I wrote:

I’ve tended to rather rush through writing up the Pertwee stories I have been watching, as they are much of a muchness, but this is different. I remember back in 1981 when it was re-broadcast, we really wondered why – surely there were other, better Pertwee four-parters out there? The Terrance Dicks novelisation is only average. It seemed as if Carnival of Monsters had been chosen mainly because it followed on in continuity directly after The Three Doctors. Spoiled as we were by the Hinchcliffe and Williams years, Carnival of Monsters did not seem all that special.

I must say that now it does. The 1973 season was probably Pertwee’s second best (after his first, the 1970 season) and Carnival of Monsters is surely the best story in it – followed by Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks, which are both OK but not spectacular, and ending with  The Green Death which is also a good one, particularly because it gets rid of Jo. The one thing that lets it down is the visual effects, rather a lot of dodgy CSO being used. But if you can shut your eyes and pretend you are still six during those bits, the rest is fantastic – Robert Holmes at his very best in the script, Michael Wisher in pre-Davros days as the main villain, Ian Marter in pre-Harry Sullivan days as a minor character, a real feeling of several different completely alien cultures (the two classes on Inter Minor and the Lurmans), and an absence of the blatant padding that mars so many Pertwee stories. A special shout to Cheryl Hall, later the girlfriend of Citizen Smith, as showgirl Shirna.

And there’s a couple of serious reflections in there too – the MiniScope itself is a futuristic development of the zoo, and gives rise to a rather caricatured discussion of conservation versus entertainment’ more seriously, Inter Minor is clearly a communist totalitarian state, threatened to its very foundations by any influence from the outside. [2022: I would not describe it as “communist” now.] Michael Wisher’s character Kalik is the conservative brother of the unseen president Zarb. It’s nicely observed, although not all conservative backlashes end with the leader of the hardliners being eaten alive by a Drashig. Shame.

When I came back to it again for my Great Rewatch, I wrote:

And Carnival of Monsters takes us to an alien planet, with one of the great Robert Holmes scripts: he specialised in having a couple of characters whose dialogue informs us all about their world, and here he does it twice over, with Kalik and Orum (and to an extent Pletrac) revealing Inter Minor to us, and Vorg and Shirna representing the outside world. The idea of a closed and bureaucratic society dealing with the decadent entertainment possibilities of its neighbours is a rather good one. The first episode is especially good with no apparent connection between Inter Minor and the SS Bernice, until Vorg’s hand removes the Tardis.

Michael Wisher is excellent as the villainous Kalik. Maybe they should bring him back to, I dunno, play a mad scientist who invents the Daleks. I love Cheryl Hall as Shirna as well, though admittedly more for her costume than her acting. The Drashigs rather let it down though. And I noticed a continuity goof: as Jo flees from being thigh-deep in the marsh, her trousers dry instantly (and her close-fitting pockets don’t seem to contain the bulky set of skeleton keys).

Rewatching it now, I was impressed by the theatricality (in a good way) of the story. The scenes on Inter Minor all take place around the MiniScope. Cheryl Hall, only 22, is really impressive in a generally good cast. I did twitch at the racism of the S.S. Bernice sections, but it’s reasonable to say that this is counterpointed by the Inter Minor setting, which is not a communist state but an authoritarian racist apartheid society. I loved the line, “Give them a hygiene chamber and they store fossil fuel in it”!

The second paragraph of the third chapter of the novelisation is:

‘My dear fellow, do you really think that’s necessary?’

When I reread it in 2007, I wrote:

A good Robert Holmes script, turned into an average Terrance Dicks novel. I remember seeing this one in 1981 during the “Five Faces of Doctor Who” repeat season; wonder how well it would stand up to re-watching now?

In Dicks’ defence, I would say that he adds some extra bits of background colour to make Inter Minor more fully realised than it was on screen. I enjoyed returning to both the story and the book. You can get the book here.

I’ve greatly enjoyed Ian Potter’s Who-related fiction – several audio plays and a couple of short stories – and was curious as to how he would approach the task of writing up this story. He’s done a great job. I will quote the body of the first chapter in full, because it’s a good statement of how writing about Who can work at its best.

One of the great things about Doctor Who is that it is constructed by many hands for many audiences. It was built to entertain viewers of different ages and consequently has to work on several levels at once to engage them all. That gives us a lot to latch on to.

Carnival of Monsters (1973) is a story all about levels, but it’s not the vision of an auteur with a single story or underlying message to relay. It’s a show full of episodic set pieces having fun with us and with itself that also happens to be a story full of messages.

Once we get into critical analysis of any work of art, we inevitably open ourselves up to the accusation that we’re seeing things in the work that ‘aren’t there’. Our own expectations, prejudices, historical perspectives and personal contexts will always colour our responses and interpretations. I happen to think that’s fine. That’s viewing for you – you bring yourself to the show. I also make no apology for the fact that the discussion of the programme you’re now reading will end up longer than either the programme’s script or its novelisation, and will probably take longer to read than the programme takes to view. There’s always more in a script than is on the page, more in a production than ends up on screen, and more than one way to reinterpret it in print.

Some of the things I hope to explore in this brief look at Carnival of Monsters will be ideas that were quite deliberately placed there by one or more of the show’s many creators. Some will be things that may have slipped in without the creators’ knowledge. Some will have arisen simply through the circumstances of the production, or the climate of the time. Others are perhaps more visible now than they were then. I hope you’ll forgive me missing out or under-emphasising any aspects that interest you.

The second chapter records the extensive source material available about how the show was made. Part of the script was used for Malcolm Hulke’s book on TV writing, including the classic stage direction “‘A STREAM OF INCOMPREHENSIBLE BUT OBVIOUSLY REVOLUTIONARY GOBBLEDEYGOOK.”

The third chapter looks briefly at the soundtrack. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

The great triumph of the soundtrack is [Brian Hodgson’s] unearthly Drashig roars which combined treated versions of Hodgson’s own voice, his corgi bitch, an Australian butcherbird and, as Barry Letts recalled it, a squeal of car brakes. Whether deliberately, to help blend the elements, or just as result of slowing down tapes, the roar also has a curious long reverb, suggestive of a large echoing space. Perhaps the one weakness of the Drashig sound effects is that this reverb remains constant whether the Drashigs are in open country, within the SS Bernice hold, or roaming the Inter Minorian city.

The fourth chapter looks at the logistical considerations that led to the S.S. Bernice sections being on film and the Inter Minor scenes on video.

The fifth chapter looks in depth at the theatricality point I made earlier, for good and ill (mostly good), and how the editing process contributed to the final effect (more than usually so).

The sixth chapter looks at how the editing process affected the plot, with a few loose ends left dangling (most of which I must admit I did not notice on any of the four times I watched it).

The seventh chapter looks at Robert Holmes’ potential inspiration for the story. The one taproot text that is (plausibly) identifies is Frederik Pohl’s “The Tunnel Under the World”. Potter also makes the interesting observation that Holmes saw military service in Burma in the second world war, and therefore would have had first-hand experience both of the Raj and of the bubbling marshes that feature in so many of his stories – a really interesting point that I had not thought of before.

The eighth chapter looks at the extent to which the story is commentary on TV, on Doctor Who and on itself.

The populations of Inter Minor and the SS Bernice are not massively dissimilar: both locations feature a pair of male and female travellers, a handful of authority figures, and about six non-speaking characters who do all the work for them and mostly end up as disposable foot soldiers for the elite. The extent to which this is the writer drawing a deliberate parallel or devising drama for each recording block with similar available resources is up for debate, but Holmes definitely seems to repeatedly invite us to draw connections between the worlds.

The ninth chapter looks briefly at the political satire in the script, with reference to Britain’s relations with the EU and to pandemics.

The tenth chapter looks at the story’s approach to racism, both on Inter Minor and the Raj, and packs a lot of things to think about into a few pages.

The eleventh chapter looks at the story’s unusual use of vertical perspectives in filming. (Actually this did not completely convince me.)

The twelfth chapter looks at language, specifically the language of the chickens, and Polari.

The thirteenth chapter looks at the extent to which the story resets the narrative of Doctor Who as a whole.

The fourteenth chapter looks at the story’s longevity and popularity, especially the Drashigs.

The fifteenth chapter tries to establish the dates on which the story is set, at length.

An appendix, as long as the main text, compares the early and final versions of the script. Unfortunately in the electronic version of the book we can’t see the struck through text which indicates deletions.

This is generally very good, breezy and enlightening, and you can get it here.

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The Goddess Nehalennia

The goddess Nehalennia was worshipped in ancient Roman times by the people of the Schelde delta; what is now Zeeland in the Netherlands. She is always depicted with a basket of fruit and/or loaves, and a dog. Nobody knows why.

She had been largely forgotten by history until 1645, when a massive storm shifted the coastal dunes revealing a lost temple near the town of Domburg. Dozens of votive plaques to Nehalennia were found, all showing her with her dog and her basket of apples. It is thought that sailors threw them overboard, or otherwise dedicated them, at the start of a voyage to pray for safety.

The many votive plaques were stored in the church in Domburg. One night in 1848 the church was struck by lightning, caught fire and collapsed, destroying the ancient limestone within. (I am not making this up.) Only one of the ancient tablets to Nehalennia survived, because it had been lent to scholars in Brussels and had not been returned following Belgian independence. The sole surviving tablet is now in the Cinquantenaire Museum, and I went to see it with little U at Christmas time.

Since 1970, more tablets to Nehalennia have been coming to light a bit further along the coast at Colijnsplaat, where local pagan enthusiasts have now built a small Roman-era-style temple to the goddess, which I visited last September.

It includes both a genuine Roman Nehalennia tablet and a more modern vision of the divinity.

Local pagans use the building for weddings and other celebrations. It is good to see the memory of a powerful woman being revived and venerated, even if she probably never existed.

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Saturday reading (late)

Current
The Monk, by Matthew Lewis (a chapter a week)
I am the Master, by Peter Anghelides et al
Flicker, by Theodore Roszak
The Island of Missing Trees, by Elif Shafak

Last books finished
Queens of the Crusades, by Alison Weir
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers
A Norman Legacy, by Sally Harpur O’Dowd
Tower, by Nigel Jones
The Pilgrimage of S. Silvia of Aquitania to the Holy Places (circa 385 A.D.), trans. John H. Bernard, with an appendix by Sir Charles William Wilson.
The Sun is Open, by Gail McConnell
The Pilgrimage of Etheria, trans. M. L. McClure and C. L. Feltoe
Signs and Symbols Around the World, by Elizabeth S. Helfman
Light from Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki

Next
Demons and Dreams: Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror v. 1, eds. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card


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The Northern Ireland Protocol: or, Now Look What You Made Me Do

It’s been a while since I have written at length about Brexit, but the most recent developments have driven me to put some electrons together on the topic. By way of introduction, I participated in a televised manel discussion on Al-Jazeera on Wednesday with Duncan Morrow of Ulster University and Graham Gudgin from Cambridge, which you can watch here:

Also very importantly, the excellent Brexit Witness archive has published a wide-ranging interview with Andrew McCormick, one of the best of the mandarins in the Northern Ireland Civil Service. I do recommend reading the whole thing, but Tony Connelly of RTE has published a summary here.

The other recent development, of course, is the Northern Ireland Assembly election. I wrote about the raw numbers last weekend; there is some necessary analysis which will come now.

To begin at the beginning. The Brexiters lied from the start about the effect of Brexit on the Irish border. Here is a BBC story from February 2016, four months before the referendum, featuring Boris Johnson stating that Brexit would leave arrangements on the Irish border “absolutely unchanged”. This was clearly untrue; taking back control of the UK’s borders was a constant theme of the Brexit campaign, and it was and is ridiculous to say that this would have no practical consequences on the UK’s only land border.

It seems however that this only slowly dawned on Whitehall after the referendum result. When the EU insisted that citizenship rights, financial obligations and arrangements on the Irish border should be sorted out as part of the divorce deal, the British initially found the first two much more difficult to swallow. Many in London seemed to believe that Chancellor Merkel of Germany would tell the Irish to accept whatever deal suited the British for the sake of future car exports, thus completely misunderstanding the weight of individual member states in the EU system, not to mention the politics of the German car industry.

Part of the myth spread by Brexit secretary David Davis is that the Irish government drastically hardened its line on sorting out the border when Leo Varadkar took over from Enda Kenny as Taoiseach in 2017. Again, this is untrue, but I categorise it as a misunderstanding rather than a lie; what actually happened in 2017 was that the UK actually started paying attention to the fact that Dublin had a view (to say that London was actually listening would be a step too far).

There is no need to rehearse at length the agony of Theresa May, who eventually realised that the hard Brexit to which she had committed herself at the start of the process would be disastrous if implemented on the Irish border, but failed to take her party with her, let alone the DUP. Johnson, having replaced her as Prime Minister with the help of the DUP, then (to my surprise) agreed a deal with Leo Varadkar including a special status for Northern Ireland which became the Protocol.

To remind you: the Protocol keeps Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market and customs union, in order to avoid customs checks on the land border. But since the UK has “taken back control”, this inevitably means that somewhere there must be customs and other checks on goods which might travel from the rest of the UK to the EU, and if the Border is to remain open, that means that those checks take place in the Irish Sea, between England, Scotland and Wales to the east, and Ireland and Northern Ireland to the West. The great sitcom Parlement spoofed these discussions rather well:

The question is, how did we end up with a situation where Boris Johnson claimed to have an “oven-ready” deal with the EU before the 2019 election, and now repudiates the Northern Ireland Protocol, one of the core planks of that deal? The UK government’s defenders make various arguments. Some say that the EU has been too tough in implementing the rules (which in fact have not yet been implemented in any meaningful sense). Some (including the then UK chief negotiator, David Frost) say that the deal was negotiated too quickly (after three and a half years, which does not really seem too short a time to prepare).

Dominic Cummings, who was Johnson’s chief of staff at the time, says that he and his team always intended to renege on “the bits we didn’t like” after it had been signed and the December 2019 election won, but he does not think that Johnson himself actually understood it. I am inclined to agree with those who think that Johnson was being actively mendacious rather than ignorant or stupid; he famously assured Northern Irish business leaders that they should throw any new forms in the bin, even though that is clearly what his deal would have required if he had had the slightest intention of implementing it.

The UK now threatens to unilaterally disapply the Protocol starting next week, provoking a trade war with the EU at precisely the moment that the West needs to be united in support of Ukraine. It is alleged that the new arrangements have made life worse in Northern Ireland (though the government’s own economists report that thanks to the Protocol, Northern Ireland’s economy is outperforming the rest of the UK’s). The EU is blamed for creating the trade barriers which the UK demanded and agreed to. The UK, now keen to sign trade agreements with the rest of the world, is about to tear up its biggest agreement, with its closest and largest trading partner. Not hugely smart.

Why do this? I ask again. My view is that Conservatives in general, who are genuinely and deeply emotionally attached to the Union, cannot bear the thought of implementing a trade and customs frontier inside the UK. Johnson assured them in 2019 that it would be all right, no matter what might actually be written in the deal, and they believed him, despite his track record with the truth. So I predict that the Johnson government, however long it lasts, will not implement the Protocol in any meaningful way.

On top of that, the consequences of fighting with the EU are largely positive for the Conservatives. It keeps Brexit going and puts Labour in a difficult position. Sure, there are economic consequences, but they are lost in the static of post-pandemic recovery and the effects of the war in Ukraine, and will be most felt in Northern Ireland where the Conservatives do not stand anyway. Few Conservatives care about the damage to the UK’s international reputation – they are all foreigners, after all. The strategy is in fact to fight rather than to win.

There is very little appetite in Brussels, Dublin or other capitals to give the British what they currently say they want. This goes right back to the early days of Brexit, when the EU was very alert to the potential for the UK to undermine the Single Market. In addition, the UK’s July 2021 Command Paper on the Protocol ambitiously rewrote the recent history of the relationship to an extent that was unrecognisable outside Westminster and further undermined trust. The tactics of escalation have failed to convince other capitals that the British are serious about finding solutions. It’s also noticeable that the current escalation is coming from the UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, who clearly has ambitions to be the next Conservative leader, an election that must come sooner or later, and also needs to put her own previous pro-Remain baggage behind her.

The actual situation on the ground in Northern Ireland is barely relevant to Conservative decision-making. The DUP do have an outsized influence with the Tories because they have the largest delegation at Westminster, and their MPs are well networked with the Conservative back-benchers; Sinn Fein are not there at all, the SDLP have only two MPs, one of whom is the party leader, and Alliance have only one, who is the party’s deputy leader. But one should not exaggerate this factor; it did not help the DUP when the 2019 deal was passed, over their loud objections about the Protocol.

So, the last part of this post is about Northern Ireland, where the DUP last week paid the price at the ballot box for their strategic mistakes of the last few years. I wrote briefly about Arlene Foster’s leadership when she resigned; it’s worth adding that the DUP’s pledge to punish the Northern Ireland institutions, by not allowing a government to be formed until the Protocol has gone, has a real whiff of Blazing Saddles. Yes, it is a functional political problem that Unionists as a whole do not accept the Protocol; but Stormont has very little to do with that, and Westminster is where the battle actually is. (Unlike almost everyone else, I’m therefore actually rather sympathetic to Jeffrey Donaldson’s stated intention to remain an MP for the time being.)

That brings us to the other side of the DUP’s policy choices. There is a very strong perception among non-Unionists that the real reason that the DUP do not want to reinstate the Northern Ireland Executive is that Sinn Fein would get the position of First Minister, thanks to the rewriting of the rules at the behest of the DUP in 2007. Personally, I share that perception, though I will be glad to be proved wrong. If I am right that the UK government is about to escalate the situation with the EU, we will soon see if the DUP is actually prepared to accept the result of an election that it did not win. (For more on the election, see the very interesting analysis by Lee Reynolds.)

The DUP is under threat from Jim Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice, which snatched a quarter of their 2017 votes away on 5 May (though remarkably failed to win any seats); Allister is very clear that Sinn Fein should not be allowed in government at all, and that the DUP would be stooges for enabling them to lead it, and the voters who defected to him from the DUP presumably feel the same. But if Northern Ireland is to have a long term future at all as a society, power-sharing is essential – as my father recommended in 1971.

A brief personal parenthesis: Both Jim Allister (when he was an MEP) and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (when he was a member of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly) have been personally helpful to me in the past, knowing full well that I disagree with them on a lot of things, so I want to state on the record that I respect and salute their professionalism.

But if you are attached to the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – and I am not – you will need to start selling the case for the Union better; as Lee Reynolds puts it, “The declining politics of birth and disappeared politics of push must be replaced by the politics of persuasion.” Crucially, you will need to show that Unionism accepts election results even when it doesn’t win; non-Unionists have had to accept that for a century.

We’re not yet at the stage where a border poll has become an immediate prospect, but we are not all that far away either. I wrote three years ago (scanned here) that voters in the convinceable middle, who historically have conditionally supported the Union, can foreseeably be persuaded to join a united Ireland, if three things happen:

  1. Brexit turns out badly (✔)
  2. Unionism continues to be worse than Nationalism at appealing to its own core vote and not engaging with the centre (✔)
  3. There is a better offer on the table from Nationalists (currently quite far from being achieved, and in particular the need for Nationalists to find a convincing narrative on health services is even more acute after the last two years).

Nothing is certain in politics, but the current direction of travel is clear, and the DUP and the Conservative Party are doing nothing to stop it.

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The Limbless Landlord, by Brian Igoe

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Thence they had a long (over 200 miles) journey by road to Chalon-sur-Saône, whence they took a steamer down the River Rhone to Avignon, which should have been much more comfortable. The swift flowing Rhone can be quite exciting to sail down, and this trip reportedly took thirteen hours. That would be an average of 16.8 knots!

Way way back in 2008, I read and reviewed four biographies of the fascinating Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh, an important Irish political figure of the third quarter of the nineteenth century, who notably was born with only stumps at his shoulders and hips instead of arms and legs. A bit more recently in 2012 I wrote a shorter piece about him for the BBC. I’ve also written up the one book that he wrote, and a novel based on his life. Brian Igoe sent me his own biography of Kavanagh to look at back in 2015, and I’m sorry to say that it took me until now to actually read it.

Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh

I complained of the four previous biographies that 1) none of them is particularly good, 2) none of them looked at Kavanagh’s political career in much detail (he ended up leader of the Irish Unionist MPs in the House of Commons) and 3) none of them looked at his religious beliefs. Igoe’s biography is certainly better than the other four, and looks at Kavanagh’s politics in detail, and at least gives more than passing notice to his religious practice, so I think I’d recommend it as a starting point to anyone wanting to explore Kavanagh’s life.

I felt that Igoe is particularly good also at looking at Kavanagh’s family circumstances, a younger son of a landlord family, a class that was already dying out, doing his best to stand up for his ideal of an old-fashioned, conservative Ireland in changing times. And to be honest, Ireland was a pretty conservative country until quite recently; had he lived to see Irish independence (he would have been 91 in 1922) he would probably have accommodated himself to it as he accommodated himself to other inconveniences in his life.

Igoe’s style is a bit breathless, and there are one or two moments where I winced at a truncation of the historical record. But he sticks close to the historical facts, as far as they can be determined from the record, where other recent biographers have taken the truncated figure of Kavanagh as a canvas to project their own fantasies onto. Really, the truth is extraordinary enough. You can get it here.

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May 2016 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

I had a lot of fun travel in that month. It started with a trip to Northern Ireland for the 2016 Assembly election, which was actually not all that exciting as only seven seats out of 108 changed hands; we did not know what was about to hit us. (Funny to come back to this memory after last week.)

Though the studio experience had its dramatic moments.

Anne, F and I had a lovely cultural trip to the Netherlands for her birthday, including the Escher museum in The Hague.

And I also visited Georgia for a Liberal International conference, with country excursions.

Back home, I managed to persuade B to come out for a walk in the centre of her town.

I read 23 books that month.

Non-fiction: 3 (YTD 17)
How Loud Can You Burp?, by Glenn Murphy
A History of Anthropology, by Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Finn Sievert Nielsen
Not the Chilcot Report, by Peter Oborne
How Loud Can You Burp? History of Anthropology Chilcot

Fiction (non-sf): 5 (YTD 9)
Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
The Quarry, by Iain Banks
Walking on Glass, aby Iain Banks

Cyprus Avenue, by David Ireland (theatre script)
Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones
Lila Quarry Walking on Glass Cyprus Avenue Mister Pip

SF (non-Who): 7 (YTD 37)
Banewreaker, by Jacqueline Carey
George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, by Lucy Hawking
George and the Big Bang, by Lucy Hawking

Godslayer, by Jacqueline Carey
The Ragged Astronauts, by Bob Shaw
Quantico by Greg Bear
The Last Man, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Banewreaker Cosmic Treasure Hunt Big Bang Godslayer Ragged Astronauts Quantico Last Man

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 19)
Short Trips: Monsters, ed. Ian Farrington
Heritage, by Dale Smith
Where Angels Fear, by Rebecca Levene and Simon Winstone
Lethbridge-Stewart: Mutually Assured Domination, by Nick Walters
Monsters Heritage Angels MAD"

Comics: 4 (YTD 13)
Bételgeuse v.4: Les Cavernes, by Leo
Adolf, An Exile In Japan, by Osamu Tezuka
De maagd en de neger, by Judith Vanistendael
Chroniques de Fin de Siècle 3: Chooz, by Santi-Bucquoy
Cavernes Adolf Maagd en Neger Chooz

6,300 pages (YTD 26,400 pages)
8/23 (YTD 39/97) by women (Robinson, Carey x2, Hawking x2, Shelley, Levene, Vanistendael)
1/23 (YTD 9/97) by PoC (Tezuka)

The best of these was a reread, Walking on Glass by Iain Banks, which you can get here; followed by Mister Pip, which you can get here. The worst were Santi-Bucquoy’s disappointing Chooz, which you can get here, and Shaw’s Ragged Astronauts, which you can get here.

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Full Circle, by John Toon (and Andrew Smith)

Gradually working through the excellent Black Archive series of short monographs on Doctor Who stories, I have reached another Old Who story which I watched on first broadcast. When I rewatched Full Circle in 2008, I wrote:

Imagine if you were a 19-year-old fan and submitted your script idea to Doctor Who and it actually got accepted… again, I was surprised by how good Full Circle actually is, bar Matthew Waterhouse. Quite a sophisticated plot, both in terms of rebels vs establishment and in terms of the scientific hand-waving; and lots of nasty tension involving threats to Romana and the Tardis. The Gallifrey stuff at the beginning does seem a bit bolted on, and it’s one of the drawbacks of this season that it is dealt with a bit inconsistently.

When I came back to it in 2011 for my great Old Who rewatch, I wrote:

I think this may be a recurring theme in this post, but Full Circle was also much better than I remembered. This month’s DWM ran an interview with author Andrew Smith, who was only 18 at the time the story was made, and thus a cause of immense envy to all Who-watching teenagers such as myself (both then and also now, though I am no longer a teenager). Smith admits that the story underwent considerable massage by script editor Christopher Bidmead, but of course that actually helps to give it a certain unity of style with the rest of the season.

Rewatching it this time, I was not quite as satisfied in some ways – the science behind the plot doesn’t really make a lot of sense even in its own terms, and for a supposedly hard science script it draws on horror movie tropes to an extent that I found uncomfortable. However I particularly enjoyed Paddy Kingsland’s incidental music, and it was also interesting to see James Bree, recently escaped from Secret Army, in one of his three Doctor Who roles, as well as George Baker, who was Tiberius in I CLAVDIVS.

The second paragraph of the third chapter of the novelisation is:

Amid all the relieved, frightened, and numbed faces, Nefred and Garif, overseeing the boarding operation, perceived Halrin Login, Keara’s father. Login was a respected man, a wise man destined perhaps one day to be a Decider.


When I first reread it in 2008, I wrote:

Hmm. Smith is of course determined to give his own script a fair wind, but the end result is not very special; it is one of those rare occasions when the book doesn’t quite do justice to the special effects of the original series. Of course he gives us a bit more background to the Alzarians and their origin – or not – on Terradon, but if anything it rather confuses the picture.

Coming back to it now, I think this was a bit harsh of me. Smith does the descriptive bits perfectly adequately, and does his best to add colour to the background, without spoiling it by trying to add realism to the pseudoscience. You can get it here (for a price).

John Toon’s Black Archive essay on Full Circle is largely about the intellectual ideas behind the story. I’m coming to realise that while this is a perfectly valid approach, I find the Black Archive volumes giving the inside scoop on the creative choices made in the production of the story much more interesting. This is partly because I have previously dealt with the history of ideas in my own career, and moved on, and partly because often (as in this case) Doctor Who slightly muffs the landing for big philosophical debates.

Anyway, it’s a perfectly decent book as this very good series goes, and it won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Professional Production/Publication in 2019.

The first chapter makes the intriguing argument that rather than thinking of the Nathan-Turner era of Old Who, we should think of the Bidmead, Saward and Cartmel eras, the script editors being much more important thant he producer in terms of content; and that Full Circle is the point where the Bidmead era really begins, after two stories at the start of the season which were leftovers from the previous regime.

The second chapter takes us through theories of evolution, which as previously mentioned is something I have done before; my Ph D supervisor was Peter Bowler. So I did not learn much from it.

The third chapter explains the Gaia hypothesis at some length, and reflects on its impact – or lack thereof – on the story line. I had forgotten that Lovelock’s book came out only the previous year, 1979. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

Lovelock used the name ‘Gaia’47 to refer to this system of chemical feedback loops, partly because it had all of the convenience and none of the ugliness of an acronym, and partly to make the idea more relatable for his readers. The downside of this is that the reader might too easily suppose Lovelock was depicting the Earth itself as an intelligent being, personifying it by naming it in this way. In his preface to the 2000 edition of the book, Lovelock insists that he was simply exercising poetic licence for the benefit of his non-scientist readers, but not all of his readers drew a distinction between the poetry and the science. In the decades that followed its publication, Gaia was scorned by the orthodox scientific community and hailed as a visionary text by the New Age contingent of the environmental movement.
47 The name of an ancient Greek goddess personifying the Earth; as Lovelock admits in his opening chapter, the name was suggested to him by his neighbour William Golding (Lovelock, James, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth p10).

The fourth chapter points out that most of the “science” in Full Circle is pretty magical.

The fifth chapter tries (largely unsuccessfully) to find a social critique in the story’s presentation of progress, both evolutionary and scientific.

The sixth chapter looks at the importance of Adric being a teenager, and the presentation of teens and kids in Who at the time, while omitting any assessment of Waterhouse’s performance in the role.

The seventh chapter, one of the best, looks at the Marshmen in the context of cinematic monsters and finds much inspiration from the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

An appendix makes the slight point that it’s interesting when fans start to get involved with the production of the show.

Full Circle will never be one of my favourite stories, and I’m afraid this isn’t one of my favourite Black Archives either; I wanted more info on how the story was actually made, and way certain things were done or not done in the course of production. But John Toon is entitled to write the book he wants, which may not be the book I want. You can get it here.

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Stucwerk, Hechtwerk van het Kasteel te Boxmeer, by W.V.J. Freling

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Toch zijn er in het 18e eeuwse deel van na de verbouwing van 1782-1784 nog sporen van een eerdere verschijningsvorm te vinden. De vleugel waar de ridderzaal nog aanwezig is, stamt uit het begin van de 17c eeuw. Aan de hand van oude tekeningen is er een reconstructie van het oude kasteel en van de laat 18e eeuwse vorm gemaakt. Van beide verschijningsvormen zijn maquettes gemaakt die op het kasteel aanwezig zijn.Nevertheless, in the 18th century part of [the building], after the 1782-1784 renovation, traces of an earlier appearance can still be found. The wing where the knights’ hall survives, dates from the early 17th century. A reconstruction of the old castle and its late 18th century form has been made on the basis of old drawings. Models of both versions can be seen at the castle.

This is a really short book about the stucco ceilings at the Castle of Boxmeer in the Netherlands, which the custodians kindly sent me after a phone query. I had hoped that it might be yet more work of the great Jan Christian Hansche, based on a reference in a Dutch source. However, most of the stucco in Boxmeer seems to date from after his time. There is a cryptic signature in one of the ceilings which looks like “Hen. Hansche” or “Ger. Hansche”; but my Hansche had two daughters and a son who like him was named Jan, so it doesn’t even seem to be the same family. I’ll hope to get up there and make my own assessment, but it’s not a priority.

people: jan
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Best Novella Hugo, 2022

As with Best Short Story and Best Novelette, I’m not going to record my own preferences, just the fact that I’ve read this category. I will say that I thought these were all really good, and whoever it was that said that sf is at its best at novella length had a point. (I’ll also add that during eligibility research we found that several were just the merest shade under the 40,000 word limit for novellas!)

Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Her father, a little subdued and worn out after his day at the clinic where he worked, sat across from her. He was a big man, with square shoulders and square hands, and always carried the faintest scent of fur and sweat on his skin. He wasn’t the only large-animal veterinarian in the area, but he was known as the best, and his ability to coax even the furthest-gone foal into eating had saved a lot of horses since he’d opened his practice. Regan’s riding lessons came at a discount because the owners recognized that having the local vet’s only daughter utterly in love with their horses was the opposite of a bad thing.

Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Nyrgoth Elder was seven feet tall, gaunt, clad in slate robes that glittered with golden sigils, intricate beyond the dreams of tailors. Lyn imagined a legion of tiny imps sewing that rich quilted fabric with precious metal, every tiny convolution fierce with occult meaning. His hands were long-fingered, long-nailed; his face was long, too: high-cheekboned, narrow-eyed, the chin and cheeks rough with dark stubble. His skin was the sallow of old paper. He had horns. In the old pictures, she’d thought they were a crown he wore, but there they were, twin twisted spires that arched from his brows, curving backwards along his high forehead and into his long, swept-back hair. She would have said he was more than half monster if she hadn’t known he was something half god. He was the last scion of the ancient creators who had, the stories said, placed people on the world and taught them how to live.

Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard. Second paragraph of third chapter:

It burnt. The tea burnt. Soggy tea leaves caught fire right in the throne room, in full view of everyone else. Not just in her nightmares or in her bedroom.

The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente. Second and third paragraphs of third chapter:

When I remember hunting my name, I mostly remember the places I slept. It’s a real dog to find good spots. Someplace sheltered from the wind, without too much seawater seep, where no one’ll yell at you for wastreling on their patch or try to stick it in you in the middle of the night just because you’re all alone and it looks like you probably don’t have a knife.

I always have a knife.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Dex realized, slowly, still naked, still dripping, that the robot wanted them to shake its hand.

A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Primrose’s castle is about a thousand times better. The stone is smooth and cool beneath my tennis shoes and the torch brackets smell of oil and char. My dress isn’t polyester and plastic; it hangs heavy on my shoulders, literal pounds of burgundy velvet and gold thread. I try to walk like Primrose, a glide so delicate it suggests my feet touch the earth only by happenstance.

NB this last includes some gorgeous interior illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

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Northern Ireland Assembly: final results #AE22

SF25038829.0%+1.1%27±0
DUP18400221.3%-6.7%25-3
Alliance11668113.5%+4.5%17+9
UUP9639011.2%-1.7%9-1
SDLP782379.1%-2.9%8-4
TUV657887.6%+5.1%1±0
Green164331.9%-0.4%0-2
Aontu127771.5%+1.5%0±0
PBP97981.1%-0.6%1±0

(And two Independent Unionists, an increase of one)

Unionists 37 (-3)
Nationalists 35 (-4)
Others 18 (+7)

Calculating total vote tallies between the sides is complicated by minor parties and candidates, but the headline is that Unionists and Nationalists are not far apart. I had previously said that if Nationalists outnumber Unionists at a Stormont election, there are grounds for the Sec of State to call a border poll. That threshold is not clearly met in terms of votes, and clearly not met in terms of seats won.

Ten seats changed hands in the election. Alliance gained nine – four from the SDLP, two each from the DUP and Greens and one from the UUP; and the DUP lost another seat in North Down where a former party colleague retained his seat as an independent.

SF did not gain or lose any seats, but became the largest party as the DUP tally fell. They missed out on two potential gains by poor balancing of their candidates, in East Londonderry and Upper Bann, and the UUP might also have had a chance of retaining both seats in East Antrim with better balancing.

The closest result was in Foyle, where the DUP survived a UUP challenge by 95 votes. That’s on the final count; the closest decisive elimination was in East Londonderry, where Alliance candidate was eliminated 15 votes behind the SDLP and his transfers then elected her.

For the TUV to get only one seat despite vote share of 7.6% is remarkable – proportionally that should have given them at least six! But they had great difficulty in attracting transfers. Conversely the DUP’s total of 25, while disappointing for the party, is about six more than would be proportionally expected from a 21.3% vote share.

Constituencies listed below in (rough) order of increasing Nationalist and decreasing Unionist vote share.

Lagan Valley

Jeffrey Donaldson DUP12,626
Robbie ButlerUUP8,242
Sorcha EastwoodAlliance8,211
Paul GivanDUP5,062
David HoneyfordAlliance4,183
Lorna SmythTUV3,488
Pat CatneySDLP3,235
Gary McCleaveSF2,725
Laura TurnerUUP1,607
Gary HyndsInd735
Simon LeeGreen648
Amanda DohertyPBP271
DUP34.7%-6.6%2
Alliance24.3%+10.7%2 (+1)
UUP19.3%-5.9%1
TUV6.8%+3.8%
SDLP6.3%-2.1%0 (-1)
Sinn Féin5.3%+1.3%
Green Party1.3%-0.8%
PBP0.5%+0.5%
Others1.4%

SDLP lost to Alliance by 643.56 votes on the last count, a gain that was not unexpected.

North Down

Alex EastonInd9,568
Andrew MuirAlliance6,838
Stephen DunneDUP6,226
Connie EganAlliance5,224
Alan ChambersUUP3,825
Rachel WoodsGreen2,734
Jennifer GilmourDUP2,068
John GordonTUV1,574
Naomi McBurneyUUP1,342
Déirdre VaughanSDLP727
Thérèse McCartneySF687
Ray McKimmInd604
Matthew RobinsonCons254
Chris CarterInd72
Alliance28.9%+10.3%2 (+1)
DUP19.9%-17.6%1 (-1)
UUP12.4%-9.1%1
Green6.5%-7.2%0 (-1)
TUV3.8%+3.8%
SDLP1.7%-0.1%
SF1.6%+0.1%
Others25.1%1 (+1)

Alliance took the Green seat by 2500.82 votes, one of two seats gained by Alliance from the Greens.

Strangford

Kellie ArmstrongAlliance7,015
Michelle McIlveenDUP6,601
Stephen CooperTUV5,186
Harry HarveyDUP4,704
Mike NesbittUUP3,693
Peter WeirDUP3,313
Nick MathisonAlliance2,822
Philip SmithUUP2,535
Conor HoustonSDLP2,440
Róisé McGivernSF1,607
Maurice MacartneyGreen831
Ben KingInd118
DUP35.8%-4.2%2 (-1)
Alliance24.1%+9.1%2 (+1)
UUP15.2%-4.8%1
TUV12.7%+9.3%
SDLP6.0%-1.9%
SF3.9%+1.1%
Green2.0%-0.3%
Others0.3%

Alliance won the last seat by 249.77 votes ahead of the TUV, Mathison taking the fifth seat despite having started in 7th place. This was the TUV’s best chance of a gain, but they were simply too transfer-repellent.

East Antrim

Gordon LyonsDUP6,256
John StewartUUP6,195
David HilditchDUP5,662
Stewart DicksonAlliance5,059
Danny DonnellyAlliance4,224
Oliver McMullanSF3,675
Norman BoydTUV3,661
Roy BeggsUUP3,549
Siobhán McAlisterSDLP1,200
Mark BaileyGreen754
DUP29.6%-5.6%2
UUP24.2%+1.5%1 (-1)
Alliance23.1%+7.1%2 (+1)
SF9.1%-0.8%
TUV9.1%+5.0%
SDLP3.0%-1.1%
Green1.9%-0.2%

TUV were 2076.4 behind DUP for last seat. Good balancing from Alliance who took one of the UUP’s seats despite starting with fewer votes. This was the only UUP seat lost in the election.

East Belfast

Naomi LongAlliance8,195
Joanne BuntingDUP7,253
David BrooksDUP6,633
Peter McReynoldsAlliance5,820
Andy AllenUUP5,281
John RossTUV3,087
Brian SmythGreen2,302
Mairead O’DonnellSF1,369
Lauren KerrUUP1,282
Karl BennettPUP970
Hannah KennyPBP500
Charlotte CarsonSDLP484
Eoin MacNeillWP72
Alliance32.4%+1.0%2
DUP32.1%-5.5%2
UUP15.2%+2.1%1
TUV7.1%+4.9%
Green5.3%+1.7%
SF3.2%+0.3%
PBP1.2%+1.2%
SDLP1.1%+0.5%
Others2.4%

UUP got the last seat by a pretty massive 3988.96 votes ahead of the Greens.

North Antrim

Robin SwannUUP9,530
Philip McGuiganSF9,348
Jim AllisterTUV8,282
Mervyn StoreyDUP6,747
Paul FrewDUP6,242
Patricia O’LynnAlliance4,810
Matthew ArmstrongTUV2,481
Eugene ReidSDLP1,919
Bethany FerrisUUP856
Paul VeronicaGreen343
Laird ShingletonInd66
DUP25.7%-15.0%1 (-1)
TUV21.3%+5.2%1
UUP20.5%+8.0%1
SF18.5%+2.7%1
Alliance9.5%+4.1%1 (+1)
SDLP3.8%-3.5%
Green0.7%-0.4%
Others0.1%

Alliance took the last seat by 288.45 votes ahead of the DUP, possibly the least anticipated of the party’s gains. NB that O’Lynn is the first woman elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly from North Antrim, even going back to 1973 and 1982.

South Antrim

Declan KearneySF9,185
John BlairAlliance7,315
Pam CameronDUP6,899
Steve AikenUUP5,354
Trevor ClarkeDUP4,943
Mel LucasTUV4,371
Roisin LynchSDLP3,139
Paul MichaelUUP2,821
Róisín BennettAontú657
Lesley VeronicaGreen539
Andrew MoranInd262
Jerry MaguirePBP251
DUP25.9%-7.8%2
SF20.1%+3.8%1
UUP17.9%-2.9%1
Alliance16.0%+3.5%1
TUV9.6%+6.4%
SDLP6.9%-2.6%
Aontú1.4%+1.4%
Green1.2%0.0%
PBP0.5%-0.7%
Others0.6%

DUP got last seat by 1878.25 ahead of SDLP. Another case where if the TUV had been more transfer-friendly, they could have been in contention.

Upper Bann

John O’DowdSF9,242
Jonathan BuckleyDUP8,869
Liam MackleSF7,260
Diane DoddsDUP6,548
Eóin TennysonAlliance6,440
Doug BeattieUUP5,199
Darrin FosterTUV4,373
Dolores KellySDLP3,645
Glenn BarrUUP3,367
Aidan GribbinAontú571
Lauren KendallGreen459
Glenn BeattieHeritage128
SF29.4%+1.6%1
DUP27.5%-5.3%2
UUP15.3%-5.3%1
Alliance11.5%+6.2%1 (+1)
TUV7.8%+5.8%
SDLP6.5%-3.4%0 (-1)
Aontú1.0%+1.0%
Green0.8%-0.3%
Others0.2%

Nationalists won only one seat out of five despite 36% of first preferences, as Alliance took the last seat by 376.07 votes ahead of SF.

East Londonderry

Caoimhe ArchibaldSF6,868
Maurice BradleyDUP6,786
Alan RobinsonDUP5,151
Kathleen McGurkSF4,500
Claire SugdenInd3,981
Cara HunterSDLP3,664
Chris McCawAlliance3,338
Jordan ArmstrongTUV2,959
Darryl WilsonUUP2,625
Stephanie QuigleyInd1,503
Gemma BrollyAontú1,095
Russell WattonPUP933
Mark CoulsonGreen347
Amy MerronPBP347
Niall MurphyInd181
Billy StewartInd82
DUP26.9%-6.6%2
SF25.6%-0.2%1
SDLP8.3%+0.3%1
Alliance7.5%+3.1%
TUV6.7%+4.2%
UUP5.9%-0.8%
Aontú2.5%+2.5%
Green0.8%+0.1%
PBP0.8%-0.4%
Others15.1%1

A lot of people, myself included, had written the SDLP off here based on first preferences, but they kept their seat. The decisive stage was the penultimate count, when the Alliance candidate was eliminated being 14.56 votes behind the SDLP; his transfers then elected her comfortably by 1666.56 votes ahead of SF.

North Belfast

Gerry KellySF8,395
Carál Ní ChuilínSF7,932
Phillip BrettDUP6,329
Brian KingstonDUP4,844
Nuala McAllisterAlliance4,381
Nichola MallonSDLP3,604
Ron McDowellTUV3,335
Julie-Anne Corr-JohnstonUUP2,643
Mal O’HaraGreen1,446
Fiona FergusonPBP1,059
Billy HutchinsonPUP762
Seán Mac NiocaillAontú640
Stafford WardInd489
Lily KerrWP168
SF35.5%+6.1%2
DUP24.3%-7.8%2
Alliance9.5%+1.1%1 (+1)
SDLP7.8%-5.3%0 (-1)
TUV7.2%+7.2%
UUP5.7%-0.1%
Green3.1%+1.4%
PBP2.3%-1.5%
Aontú1.4%+1.4%
Others3.1%

SDLP lost their seat to Alliance by 991.21 votes.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone

Jemma DolanSF9,067
Colm GildernewSF7,562
Áine MurphySF7,379
Tom ElliottUUP5,442
Deborah ErskineDUP5,272
Paul BellDUP4,255
Adam GannonSDLP3,836
Alex ElliottTUV3,091
Rosemary BartonUUP2,912
Matthew BeaumontAlliance2,583
Denise MullenAontú927
Dónal Ó CofaighCCLab602
Kellie TurtleGreen335
Emma DeSouzaInd249
Derek BackhouseInd128
Emmett KilpatrickPBP103
SF44.7%+2.6%3
DUP17.7%-12.1%1
UUP15.5%+3.9%1
SDLP7.1%-2.7%
TUV5.8%+4.3%
Alliance4.8%+2.1%
Aontú1.7%+1.7%
Green`0.6%-0.4%
PBP0.2%+0.2%
Others1.8%

The last seat was decided by a 508.12 vote margin between the two DUP candidates.

South Belfast

Deirdre HargeySF9,511
Edwin PootsDUP7,211
Paula BradshawAlliance6,503
Matthew O’TooleSDLP5,394
Kate NichollAlliance5,201
Clare BaileyGreen4,058
Stephen McCarthyUUP3,061
Andrew GirvinTUV1,935
Elsie TrainorSDLP2,030
Luke McCannAontú806
Sipho SibandaPBP629
Neil MooreSocialist353
Paddy LynnWP139
Elly OdhiamboInd107
Alliance24.9%+7.2%2 (+1)
SF20.3%+2.6%1
SDLP15.8%-3.6%1
DUP15.4%-5.5%1
Green8.6%-1.2%0 (-1)
UUP6.5%-2.5%
TUV4.1%+2.5%
Aontú1.7%+1.7%
PBP1.3%-0.4%
Others1.3%

Alliance took the Green seat by 911 votes.

West Tyrone

Nicola BroganSF8,626
Maolíosa McHughSF6,658
Tom BuchananDUP6,640
Declan McAleerSF6,343
Daniel McCrossanSDLP5,483
Trevor ClarkeTUV4,166
Stephen DonnellyAlliance2,967
Ian MarshallUUP1,876
Paul GallagherInd1,682
James HopeAontú657
Carol GallagherPBP354
Susan GlassGreen252
Amy FergusonSocialist171
Barry BrownInd119
SF47.0%-1.1%3
DUP14.4%-6.0%1
SDLP11.9%-2.3%1
TUV9.1%+7.1%
Alliance6.5%+3.6%
UUP4.1%-4.2%
Aontú1.4%+1.4%
PBP0.8%+0.8%
Green0.5%-0.4%
Others4.3%

SF got the last seat 2707.36 votes ahead of TUV.

Newry and Armagh

Conor MurphySF9,847
Cathal BoylanSF9,843
Liz KimminsSF7,964
William IrwinDUP7,577
Justin McNultySDLP6,217
Keith RatcliffeTUV5,407
David TaylorUUP3,864
Jackie CoadeAlliance3,345
Gavin MaloneInd3,157
Daniel ConnollyAontú1,189
Ciara HenryGreen314
Nicola GrantWP160
SF47.0%-1.3%3
DUP12.9%-4.9%1
SDLP10.6%-5.8%1
TUV9.2%+9.2%
UUP6.6%-6.7%
Alliance5.7%+3.1%
Aontú2.0%+2.0%
Green0.5%+0.1%
Others5.6%

DUP got last seat 2892 votes ahead of TUV.

Mid Ulster

Michelle O’NeillSF10,845
Keith BuchananDUP8,521
Emma SheerinSF8,215
Linda DillonSF8,199
Patsy McGloneSDLP5,144
Glenn MooreTUV3,818
Meta GrahamUUP2,191
Claire HackettAlliance2,138
Alixandra HallidayAontú1,305
Patrick HaugheyInd877
Sophia McFeelyPBP179
Stefan TaylorGreen137
Hugh ScullionWP107
Conor RaffertyResume13
SF52.7%0.0%3
DUP16.5%-2.8%1
SDLP10.0%-3.0%1
TUV7.4%+4.9%
UUP4.2%-4.9%
Alliance4.1%+2.1%
Aontú2.5%+2.5%
Green0.3%-0.2%
PBP0.3%+0.3%
Others1.9%

The SDLP took the last seat by a 3446 margin over the TUV.

South Down

Sinéad EnnisSF14,381
Cathy MasonSF9,963
Patrick BrownAlliance6,942
Diane ForsytheDUP6,497
Colin McGrathSDLP6,082
Harold McKeeTUV3,273
Karen McKevittSDLP3,006
Jill MacauleyUUP2,880
Rosemary McGloneAontú1,177
Noeleen LynchGreen412
Paul McCroryPBP205
Patrick ClarkeInd134
SF44.3%+5.7%2
SDLP16.5%-8.6%1 (-1)
Alliance12.6%+3.5%1 (+1)
DUP11.8%-3.9%1
TUV6.0%+4.7%
UUP5.2%-3.2%
Aontú2.1%+2.1%
Green0.7%-0.2%
PBP0.4%+0.4%
Others0.2%

The last seat was decided between the two SDLP candidates by a margin of 3859.17 votes.

Foyle

Pádraig DelargySF9,471
Mark H. DurkanSDLP7,999
Ciara FergusonSF5,913
Gary MiddletonDUP4,101
Ryan McCreadyUUP3,744
Brian TierneySDLP3,272
Sinéad McLaughlinSDLP3,189
Shaun HarkinPBP2,621
Rachael FergusonAlliance2,220
Emmet DoyleAontú2,000
Anne McCloskeyInd854
Colly McLaughlinIRSP766
Elizabeth NeelyTUV499
Gillian HamiltonGreen215
SF32.8%-3.8%2
SDLP30.9%-0.9%2
DUP8.8%-4.6%1
UUP8.0%+4.3%
PBP5.6%-5.1%
Alliance4.7%+2.2%
Aontú4.3%+4.3%
TUV1.1%+1.1%
Green0.5%-0.1%
Others3.5%

In the longest count of the election, leading to the closest final count result, the DUP retained their seat by a margin of 95 votes over the UUP.

West Belfast

Danny BakerSF9,011
Órlaithí FlynnSF6,743
Pat SheehanSF6,373
Aisling ReillySF5,681
Frank McCoubreyDUP4,166
Gerry CarrollPBP3,279
Paul DohertySDLP2,528
Gerard HerdmanAontú1,753
Dan MurphyIRSP1,103
Donnamarie HigginsAlliance907
Jordan DoranTUV802
Linsey GibsonUUP474
Stevie MaginnGreen307
Patrick CrossanWP193
Gerard BurnsInd192
Tony MallonInd129
Declan HillInd26
SF63.7%+1.9%4
DUP9.5%-0.5%
PBP7.5%-7.4%1
SDLP5.8%-2.8%
Aontú4.0%+4.0%
Alliance2.1%+0.2%
TUV1.8%+1.8%
UUP1.1%-0.1%
Green0.7%+0.1%
Others3.8%

The DUP lost to PBP by 532.40 votes.

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Saturday reading

Current
The Monk, by Matthew Lewis (a chapter a week)
Tower, by Nigel Jones
Queens of the Crusades, by Alison Weir
I am the Master, by Peter Anghelides et al

Last books finished
Carnival of Monsters, by Ian Potter
Thursday’s Child, by Maralyn Rittenour
Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, by Mark Blake
Unofficial Doctor Who Annual 1987, ed. Mark Worgan

Next books
Flicker, by Theodore Roszak
Demons and Dreams: Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror v. 1, eds. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

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The world in 2022

Back at the start of the year a number of people were citing an article by W.L. George published in the New York Herald in 1922, predicting what life would be like in the year 2022. Today is exactly the centenary of the essay’s publication, on 7 May, so here it is in full, along with my comments.

What the World Will Be Like In a Hundred Years, by W.L. George

THERE is a good old rule which bids us never prophesy unless we know, but, all the same, when one cannot prophesy one may guess, especially if one is sure of being out of the way when the reckoning comes. Therefore it is without anxiety that I suggest a picture of this world a hundred years hence, and venture as my first guess that the world at that time would be remarkable to one of our ghosts, not so much because it was so different as because it was so similar.

George’s caution is reasonable but he’s basically right; the physical infrastructure of the human landscape in Europe and America is not so very different today, with some significant changes which we’ll get to.

In the main the changes which we may expect must be brought about by science. It is easier to bring about a revolutionary scientific discovery such as that of the X-ray than to alter in the least degree the quality of emotion that arises between a man and a maid. There will probably be many new rays in 2022, but the people whom they illumine will be much the same.

Again broadly right in principle, though our changed understanding of “a man and a maid” is actually one of the more profound shifts of the last hundred years.

From which the reader may conclude that I do not expect anything startling in the way of scientific discovery. That is not the case; I am convinced that in 2022 the advancement of science will be amazing, but it will be nothing like so amazing as is the present day in relation to a hundred years ago. A sight of the world to-day would surprise President Jefferson much more, I suspect, than the world of 2022 would surprise the little girl who sells candies at Grand Central Station. For Jefferson knew nothing of railroads, telegraphs, telephones, automobiles, aeroplanes, gramophones, movies, radium, &c.; he did not even know hot and cold bathrooms. The little girl at Grand Central is a blast child: to her these things are commonplace; the year 2022 would have to produce something very startling to interest her ghost. The sad thing about discovery is that it works toward its own extinction, and that the more we discover the less there is left.

In 1822 Jefferson was still alive; and it’s an interesting challenge – is George right that the century from then to 1922 saw more change than the century since, at least in what was then the industrialised world? It’s open to debate.

It does not follow that, scientifically, the year 2022 should fall to be amazing. I suspect that commercial flying will have become entirely commonplace. The passenger steamer will survive on the coasts, but it will have disappeared on the main routes, and will have been replaced by flying convoys, which should cover the distance between London and New York in about twelve hours. As I am anxious that the reader should not look upon me as a visionary, I would point out that in an airplane collision which happened recently a British passenger plane was traveling at 180 miles an hour, which speed would have brought it across the Atlantic In eighteen hours. It is therefore quite conceivable that America may become separated from Europe by only eight hours. The problem is mainly one of artificial heating and ventilation to enable the aeronauts to survive.

Here George is too cautious. Eight hours is about right for the standard flight from Europe to America; but he did not foresee that planes would replace passenger steamers on the coasts as well as elsewhere, and indeed trains and surface transport for all but the shortest hops.

The same cause will affect the railroads, which at that time will probably have ceased to carry passengers except for suburban trams. Railroads may continue to handle freight, but it may be that even this will be taken from them by road traffic, because the automobile does not have to carry the enormous overhead charges of tracks. Certainly food, mails and all light goods will be taken over from the railroads by road trucks. As for the horse, it will probably no longer be bred in white countries.

Rail has not completely died, but it’s on life support; freight on the other hand has helped keep it going. The comment about horses is very telling. They are simply no longer used for industry in any country, but remain important as a leisure resource and also in some security/military situations.

The people of the year 2022 will probably never see a wire outlined against the sky: it is practically certain that wireless telegraphy and wireless telephones will have crushed the cable system long before the century is done. Possibly, too, power may travel through the air when means are found to prevent enormous voltages being suddenly discharged in the wrong Place.

Not quite true; we could likely manage without visible wires, but the legacy is strong, and we have not yet cracked the transmission of significant amounts of electricity without something to carry it.

Coal will not be exhausted, but our reserves will be seriously depleted, and so will those of oil. One of the world dangers a century hence will be a shortage of fuel, but it is likely that by that time a great deal of power will be obtained from tides, from the sun, probably from radium and other forms of radial energy, while it may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed. If it is true that matter is kept together by forces known as electrons, it is possible that we shall know how to disperse matter so as to release the electron as a force. This force would last as long as matter, therefore as long as the earth itself.

George is very near the mark here, except that it turns out that there is more investment in renewable energy than in nuclear. What he misses is that environmental concerns, rather than supply issues, are driving the shift from fossil fuels.

The movies will be more attractive, as long before 2022 they will have been replaced by the kinephone, which now exists only in the laboratory. That is the figures on the screen will not only move, but they will have their natural colors and speak with ordinary voices. Thus, the stage as we know it to-day may entirely disappear, which does not mean the doom of art, since the movie actress of 2022 will not only not need to know how to smile but also how to talk.

Films with sound were only five years away when George wrote this. The rise of cinema certainly hit live theatre, but not fatally; people still love the idea of going out for a cultural event. On the other hand, he completely misses radio and television as cultural developments.

One might extend indefinitely on the number of inventions which ought to exist and will exist, but the reader can think of them for himself, and it is more interesting to ask ourselves what will be the appearance of our cities a hundred years hence. To my mind they will offer a mixed outlook, because mankind never tears anything down completely to build up something else; it erects the new while retaining the old; thus, many buildings now standing will be preserved. It is conceivable that the Capitol at Washington, many of the universities and churches will be standing a hundred years hence, and that they will, almost unaltered, be preserved by tradition.

George is half right here. Most of the interesting public buildings of 1922 in Washington do indeed survive; most have been expanded, but the core remains. New York is a different matter; the record for the world’s tallest building was broken three times in Manhattan between 1909 and 1913, and the urge to build big towers has transformed cityscapes on every continent.

Also, many private dwellings will survive and will be inhabited by individual families. I think that they will have passed through the cooperative stage, which may be expected fifty or sixty years hence, when the servant problem has become completely unmanageable and when private dwellings organize themselves to engage staffs to cook, clean, and mend for the groups. That cooperative stage will he the last kick of the private mistress who wants to retain in her household some sort of slave. In 2022 she will have been bent by circumstances, but she will have recovered her private dwelling, being served for seven hours a day by an orderly. The woman veto becomes an orderly will be as well paid as if she were a stenographer, will wear her own clothes, be called “Miss,” belong to her trade union and work under union rules.

One of George’s biggest misses. The invention of the washing machine in particular transformed housework from the 1950s onwards, while on the other hand cooking for oneself has become a matter of pride. Full-time domestic service is now the preserve of the very rich, and while many people outsource their cleaning, it’s not as organised or as unionised as George expected.

Naturally the work of the household, which is being reduced day by day, will in 2022 be a great deal lighter. I believe that most of the cleaning required to-day in a house will have been done away with. In the first place, through the disappearance of coal in all places where electricity is not made there will be no more smoke, perhaps not even that of tobacco. In the second place I have a vision of walls, furniture and hangings made of more or less compressed papier mache, bound with brass or taping along the edges. Thus instead of scrubbing its floors, the year 2022 will unscrew the brass edges or unstitch the tapes and peel off the dirty surface of the floor or curtains. Then every year a new floor board will be laid. One may hope that standard chairs, tables, carpets, will be peeled in the same way.

Again, a miss; George doesn’t seem to have concerns about the massive waste of raw materials which his scheme would involve.

Similar reforms apply to cooking, a great deal of which will survive among old fashioned people, but a great deal more of which will probably he avoided by the use of synthetic foods. It is conceivable, though not certain, that in 2022 a complete meal may be taken in the shape of four pills. This is not entirely visionary; I am convinced that corned beef hash and pumpkin pie will still exist, but the pill lunch will roll by their side.

Another miss; people like eating interesting food, and the possibilities have expanded way beyond corned beef hash and pumpkin pie since 1922.

But at that time few private dwellings will be built; in their stead will rise the community dwellings, where the majority of mankind will be living. They will probably he located in garden spaces and rise to forty or fifty floors, housing easily four or five thousand families. This is not exaggerated, since in one New York hotel today three thousand people sleep every night. It would mean also that each block would have a local authority of its own. I imagine these dwellings as affording one room to each adult of the family and one room for common use. Such cooking as then exists will be conducted by the local authority of the block, which will also undertake laundry, mending, cleaning and will provide a complete nursery for the children of the tenants.

The rise of tower blocks was a good call, but the communalisation is a miss – privately owned apartment blocks do have a management strucrture, but in general people turn out to value privacy.

Perhaps at that time we shall have attained a dream which I often nurse, namely, the city roofed with glass. That city would he a complete unit, with accommodations for houses, offices, factories and open spaces, all this carefully allocated. The roof would completely do away with weather and would maintain an even temperature to be fixed by the taste of the period. Artificial ventilation would suppress wind. As for the open spaces, if the temperature were warm they would exhibit a continual show of flowers, which would be emancipated from winter and summer; in other words, winter would not come however long the descendants of Mr. Hutchinson might wait.

Again, a miss; the costs and risks of weather-proofing an entire city significantly outweigh the advantages. The largest domes in the world are sports stadia, and the next largest are industrial facilities; residential domes have not taken off.

The family would still exist, even though it is not doing very well to-day. It is inconceivable that some sort of feeling between parents and children should not persist, though I am of course unable to tell what that feeling will be. I imagine that the link will be thinner than it is to-day, because the child is likely to he taken over by the State, not only schooled but fed and clad, and at the end of its training placed in a post suitable to its abilities.

This prediction would have looked more credible in the 1950s than now. The nuclear family is probably less nuclear than a hundred years ago, but the state has rather backed off directing people’s employment destinies.

This may be affected by birth control, which in 2022 will be legal all over the world. There will be stages: the first results of birth control will be to reduce the birth rate; then the State will step in, as it does in France, and make it worth people’s while to have more children: then the State will discover that it has made things too easy and that people are having children recklessly; finally some sort of balance will establish itself between the State demand for children and the national supply.

A valiant stab in the right direction. Of course birth control was a social revolution; but any shortfall in the workforce is fixed not by having more children, but by the more immediate solution of facilitating immigration.

Largely the condition of the family will be governed by the position of woman, because woman is the family, while man is merely its supporter. It is practically certain that in 2022 nearly all women will have discarded the idea that they are primarily “makers of men.” Most fit women will then be following an individual career. All positions will tip open to them and a great many women will have risen high. The year 2022 will probably see a large number of women in Congress, a great many on the judicial bench, many in civil service posts and perhaps some in the President’s Cabinet.

Here George is more on the right track – if anything, already a little behind the times, as women were already government ministers in the Soviet Union (not to mention Countess Markievicz). The second woman in the U.S. House of Representatives took office in March 1922; women became governors of Texas and Wyoming in 1925; the first woman in the US Cabinet, Francis Perkins, took office in 1933. It is a slow process which is far from complete, but it has gonme quicker than George seems to have expected.

But it is unlikely that women will have achieved equality with men. Cautious feminists such as myself realize that things go slowly and that a brief hundred years will not wipe out the effects on women of 30,000 years of slavery. Women will work, partly because they want to and partly because they will be able to. Thus women will pay their share in the upkeep of home and family. The above suggestion of community buildings, where all the household work will be done by professionals, will liberate the average wife and enable her out of her wages to pay her share of the household work which she dislikes.

One of George’s better predictions, apart from the community buildings.

Marriage will still exist much as it is to-day, for mankind has an inveterate taste for the institution, but divorce will probably be as easy everywhere as it is in Nevada. In view, however, of the improved position of woman and her earning power, she will not only cease to be entitled to alimony, but she will be expected, after the divorce, to pay her share of the maintenance of her children.

Again, a better prediction, though of course alimony remains a feature of many divorces.

As regards the politics of 2022. I should expect the form of the State to be much the same. A few rearrangements may have taken place on the lines of self-determination; for instance, Austria may have united with Germany, the South American republics may have federated, &c., but I do not believe that there will be a superstate. There will still be republics and monarchies; possibly, in 2022, the Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Norwegian kings may have fallen, but for a variety of reasons, either lack of advancement or practical convenience, we may expect still to find kings in Sweden, Jugo-Slavia, Greece, Rumania and Great Britain.

One can debate whether the European Union is a superstate in the way that George meant… it is ironic that the surviving monarchies of 2022 include three of the four that he expected to have ended, but only two of the five that he expected to last!

On the inside, these States may hays slightly changed, for there prevails a tendency to socialization which has nothing to do with socialism. Most of the European governments are unconsciously nationalising a number of industries, and this will go on. One may therefore presume that in 2022 most States will have nationalized railways, telegraphs, telephones, canals, docks, water supply, gas (if any) and electricity. Other industries will exist much as they do to-day, but it is likely that the State will be inclined to control them, to limit their profits, and to arbitrate between them and the workers. We find a hint of this in America in the anti-trust acts: a hundred years hence the tendency will be much stronger. It is worth noting as an international factor that by that time purely national industries will almost have disappeared, and that the work of the world will be in the hands of controlled combines governing the supply of a commodity from China to Peru.

Again this is a prediction which was closer to the mark a few decades ago. Nationalisation has risen and fallen, and the private sector thrives. And George misses that the point of anti-trust acts is precisely to prevent combines from gaining control of the supply of anything.

Unfortunately these international relations through trade are not likely to have affected political conditions. There will still be war. The wars of that period may he a little less frequent than they are to-day, and be limited by arrangements such as the Pacific agreement, the agreement between Canada and the United States of America to leave their frontier unfortified, &c., but it will still be there. I suspect that those wars to come will be made horrible beyond my conception by new poison gases, inextinguishable flames and light-proof smoke clouds. In those wars the airplane bomb will seem as out of date as is to-day the hatchet. War may ultimately disappear, but this lies beyond the limits of this article and even beyond those of my mind.

Alas, George is spot-on here.

As regards the United States in particular, it is likely that the country will have come to a complete settlement, with a population of about 240,000,000. The idea of North and South, East and West, will have almost disappeared: by that time the American race will have taken so definite a form that immigration will not affect it. The American from Key West and the American from Seattle will be much the same kind of man.

But this is another miss; regional diversity remains very strong in the USa as elsewhere, and George has completely missed the issue of race as we understand it (and frankly as most people of his day would have understood it).

That is to say as regards race, but I feel that mentally the American of 2022 will have enormously changed. He is to-day the most enterprising creature in the world, and is driven by a continual urge to rise, to make money. That is because the modern American lives in a country that is only partly developed, and where immense wealth still lies ready for him to take. In 2022 that will be as finished as it is to-day in England. American wealth will then be either developed or known, and all of it will belong to somebody. There will be no more opportunity in America than there is in England to-day. Those Americans will know that it is practically certain that they will die much in the same position as the one in which they were born. Those Americans will therefore be less enterprising and much more pleasure loving. They will have rebelled against long hours; the chances are that in 2022 few people will work more than seven hours a day, if as much.

It’s probably true that Americans and Europeans live more similar lives in 2022 than in 1922. But…

The effect of this, which I am sure sounds regrettable to many of my readers will, in my opinion, be good. It was essential that the American race should be capable of intense labor and intense ambition if it was to develop its vast country, but one result has been haste, overwork, noise, all of which is bad for the nerves. In 2022 America will have made her fortune and will be enjoying it as well as she can.

…alas, the absence of social infrastructure has made life in the USA a lot more precarious for a lot more people than is the case in most parts of Europe, even in non-pandemic times, and this is a point that George consistently misses.

I think that she will he a happier country than she is to-day. The appeal of wealth will be less because wealth will be difficult to attain, so those Americans to come will be producing in art and literature infinitely more than they are producing to-day. To-day, in fiction, America leads the world by sincerity, faith and fearlessness, but the American novel of significance is a novel of revolt against the thralls of money, of convention and of puritanism. In 2022 American literature will be a literature of culture. The battle will be over and the muzzle off. There will be no more things one can’t say, and things one can’t think. No doubt there will be in 2022 people who think as they would have thought in 1922, or even a little earlier, but a great liberalism of mind will prevail.

Another miss, in general.

It is not my business to congratulate the future, and I have no desire to do so, as it is impossible to say a thing is good or bad; all one can say is that it exists. But in case some of my readers feel repulsion when they contemplate my lunch pills or my nationalised railroads, to those I would say that they are perhaps unduly anxious. This world takes care of itself: it has been doing so for hundreds of centuries and is still spinning: the world will take care of itself in 2022: that in its chief occupation. More than that, I feel convinced that though the world may lose graces, it will develop other graces, that on the whole, and as time goes on, mankind grows more intelligent, more amiable and more honest.

The future will be difficult; what does that matter? So was the past difficult; difficulties did not prevent its turning into a tolerable present.

Sadly, George died in 1926, aged 43, and did not see much of the future that he speculated about in such detail.

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April 2016 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

As previously noted, I started the month at my sister’s in Cluny, visiting a nearby castle where her daughter dressed up.

I had two business trips to London, on the second of which I met up with one of my favourite Moldovan politicians, who I had last seen when she was Foreign Minister; meantime she had been acting prime minister for six weeks in 2015.

Back home, little U got confirmed.

With the ongoing Brexit doomscrolling, I read only 15 books that month.

Non-fiction: 3 (YTD 14)
Legacy: A Collection of Personal Testimonies from People Affected by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, by BBC Northern Ireland
JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner, by Richard Marson
1491, by Charles C. Mann
  

Fiction (non-sf): 1 (YTD 4)
The Folding Star, by Alan Hollinghurst

SF (non-Who): 5 (YTD 30)
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis
A Princess of Roumania, by Paul Park
Whispers Under Ground, by Ben Aaronovitch
Gorgon Child, by Steven Barnes
    

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 15)
Short Trips: Life Science, ed John Binns
Prime Time, by Mike Tucker
Beige Planet Mars, by Lance Parkin and Mark Clapham
Lethbridge-Stewart: The Schizoid Earth, by David McIntee
   

Comics: 2 (YTD 9)
Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe
Het Spaanse Spook, by Willy Vandersteen
 

6,000 pages (YTD 20,100 pages)
1/15 (YTD 31/74) by women (Chambers)
1/15 (YTD 8/74) by PoC (Barnes)

The best of these were Legacy, which you can get here, and 1491, which you can get here. I bounced right off A Princess of Roumania, which you can get here, and Bitter Seeds, which you can get here.

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Northern Ireland elections today

I’m in Belfast ready to comment on the election results as they come in tomorrow. I think John Taylor, now Lord Kilclooney, caught the mood of anticipation very well last week:

We’re seriously in the zone where it is generally considered likely that the DUP will come second to Sinn Féin in terms of votes and seats; and where it is questionable whether there will be more Unionists or more Nationalists in the new Assembly. The overall context is that polling predicts that both SF and the DUP will lose votes, but that the DUP will lose crucially more.

My one anecdote of the election comes from the parents of a friend from Sandy Row, a Loyalist area of central Belfast, who kindly gave me a lift from the airport last night. They told me that they had not seen a single canvasser from any party during the campaign. I have been critical of Unionists for reaching out only to their traditional voters and ignoring the potentially persuadable centre; but if traditionally Unionist voters are also being ignored, Unionism is in worse trouble than I realised. My friend’s father, once a regular DUP voter, was discreet about his voting intention today, but I noted that the only local candidate for whom he had a good word was Matthew O’Toole of the SDLP.

I want to throw one more set of data into the mix: who won the last seat, and who missed out, in each of the 18 constituencies in the 2017 election?

The interesting thing is that when you look at the Unionist/Nationalist marginals in 2017, Nationalists won almost all of them and there is not much left to pick up. The only two that are at all likely are Strangford, where the SDLP have been runners-up at every Assembly election since the Good Friday Agreement, and East Antrim, where SF start a bit farther off (but managed to win one out of six in 2011 and 2017). In both cases, the DUP look more vulnerable than the UUP, so a loss will affect the race for biggest party as well as the race for designations. Strangford and East Antrim are the two that I shall be watching most keenly tomorrow from that point of view.

2017 was a very good election for Nationalists – SF voters were motivated by Arlene Foster’s very ill-judged “crocodile” comments, and the SDLP, more by accident than design, did much better than the UUP out of their electoral alliance. The result was that in six seats where on previous electoral records one could have seen the glimmer of a chance of an extra Unionist seat, the last MLA elected was a Nationalist, some way ahead of the Unionist runner up. Those seats are West Belfast, Mid Ulster, West Tyrone, Newry and Armagh, Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Lagan Valley. To stem the tide, Unionism would need to look like it could make gains in several of them, and in a good year that should be possible; but this does not look like a good year.

The last seat in 2017 was contested between two Unionist candidates – in fact two DUP candidates in each case – in East Belfast, North Antrim and South Antrim. That tends to suggest that in those seats at least there is room for more slippage in the overall Unionist vote before a currently held seat is seriously at risk. The same is true on the other side where two Nationalist candidates were chasing hard for the second Nationalist quota in East Londonderry and Upper Bann, the SDLP winning in one case and SF in the other. In East Londonderry, it’s worth watching whether UUP transfers again help the SDLP over the line (or indeed whether they will be needed).

Within Unionism, the DUP is likely to be further eroded by Jim Allister and the TUV. Polls have them just at the level where they might make a breakthrough, or might be disappointed with just one or two gains. What gains they do make are likely to be directly from the DUP, further eroding their chance of being the largest party. Also on this point, watch Alex Easton, challenging his former DUP colleagues in North Down, Northern Ireland’s most volatile constituency.

I have not said much about the SDLP or UUP, because in this election they are really barometers for the dissatisfaction of the committed Nationalist or Unionist voter with SF or the DUP respectively. It seems fairly clear that SF will slip a bit less than the DUP because their narrative is a bit more coherent. There’s also the case of Fermanagh and South Tyrone where the SDLP were unlucky at an early stage of the 2017 count, and can hope for that luck to turn. But the UUP-SDLP transfers that made a difference in a couple of key seats last time may not be as readily available in 2022.

The centre ground will provide yet more interesting dynamics for the election. Of the 18 last elected MLAs in 2017, none were Alliance (or People before Profit). Two were the two Green Party MLAs in South Belfast and North Down, both of them elected well ahead of Unionist runners-up, so it’s a reasonable assumption that all of the centre ground seats held in 2017 will survive into 2022. In addition, People Before Profit are snapping at Unionist heels in Foyle. And most interesting of all, Alliance came closer than I for one expected to depriving Nationalists of a seat in both North Belfast and South Down. I can imagine a situation where Nationalists gain in, say, Strangford, but lose a couple of seats unexpectedly elsewhere, leaving the two sides on level pegging.

On a slightly different note, I have trawled Twitter and other sources, including an excellent series of posts on Slugger O’Tooler by Michael Hehir, to calibrate expectations of gains and losses in today’s vote. You will note how few potential Nationalist to Unionist shifts are listed.

Encouraging, but as expected
(failing to gain these seats is a poor result)
Disappointing, but as expected
(retaining these seats is a major triumph)
Alliance gain North Belfast from SF
Alliance gain South Down from SDLP
Alliance gain South Belfast from Greens or DUP
Alliance gain East Antrim from DUP or UUP
SDLP gain Fermanagh S Tyrone from SF
Ind U gains North Down from DUP
SF lose North Belfast to Alliance
SF lose Fermanagh S Tyrone to SDLP
DUP lose Strangford to Alliance, TUV or SDLP
DUP lose North Down to Ind U
SDLP lose South Down to Alliance
UUP lose East Antrim to Alliance or TUV
A good dayA bad day
Alliance gain Lagan Valley from SDLP
Alliance or TUV gain Strangford from DUP
Alliance gain Upper Bann from SDLP or DUP
UUP gain Newry and Armagh from SF or DUP
TUV gain East Antrim from DUP or UUP
PBP gain Foyle from DUP or SF
SF lose West Tyrone to UUP or Alliance
DUP lose East Antrim to TUV or Alliance
DUP lose East Belfast to Green
DUP lose Foyle to PBP or UUP
SDLP lose Lagan Valley to Alliance
SDLP lose Upper Bann to Alliance or SF
Greens lose South Belfast to Alliance
An exceptionally good dayAn exceptionally bad day
SDLP gain Strangford from DUP
Alliance gain North Down from Greens
SDLP gain West Belfast from SF
UUP gain West Tyrone from SF
UUP gain North Belfast from DUP
Greens gain East Belfast from DUP
SF lose West Belfast to SDLP
SF lose Newry and Armagh to UUP
DUP lose North Belfast to Alliance or UUP
DUP lose North Antrim to Alliance or TUV
DUP lose South Antrim to TUV or UUP
DUP lose Upper Bann to UUP or Alliance
Greens lose North Down to Alliance
ExtraordinaryCatastrophic
Anything elseAnything else

I don’t often agree with John Taylor, Lord Kilclooney, quoted at the top of this post. But he has 30 more years of observing and participating in Northern Ireland elections than I do, and won his first one before I was born (and I’ve just turned 55). So I take his sentiment seriously in this case, and I rather agree with it. It’s going to be an interesting day tomorrow.

And according to the current BBC schedule you can watch me at the following times:

Tomorrow: 1215-1300; 1330-1800; 1900-2200; 2230-late

Saturday (if they are still counting) 1000-1300.

Edited to add: With 4.25 million registered voters for Scotland’s local government elections today, and 1.37 million in Northern Ireland for the Assembly, is this the biggest ever set of elections on the same day using the Single Transferable Vote in UK history? I have considered the Irish local government elections of 1920, and the simultaneous elections for the House of Commons of Northern Ireland and the Second Dáil / House of Commons of Southern Ireland in 1921, but I think that the total Irish electorate then was less than the sum of Northern Ireland and Scotland today. Not to mention the large numbers of uncontested seats, and the questionable extent to which those could be described as “UK” elections!

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The Man from Yesterday, by Nick Walters

Second paragraph of third chapter:

‘Stir your stumps, breakfast’s up.’ Bill grinned down at her.

Another very good installment in the series of Doctor Who spinoff stories featuring the earlier career of Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart – in this case re-introducing his father, who falls out of a timewarp into 1970 having been missing since the second world war. I think this is tremendously effective as a gimmick – certainly I still have dreams of long-dead relatives turning up out of nowhere with no particularly good explanation of what they have been doing for the last few decades. There’s bad humans and not-as-bad aliens involved, and quite a decent sense of place for the desolate farmlands and coastline of East Anglia. Another good ‘un. You can get it here.

The Man from Yesterday
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