August Books 17) King of Morning, Queen of Day

17) King of Morning, Queen of Day, by

Had been on the lookout for this for a while, partly because of now knowing the author and also partly because of my general interest in sf and fantasy set in Ireland. Finally picked it up at Worldcon, and, folks, it is good.

Mind you, I spent some time grinding my teeth during the first section, portraying an eccentric astronomer in County Sligo in 1913, because it was completely unrealistic given what was really going on in the Irish scientific community at the time. But I eventually caught myself on. King of Morning, Queen of Day was published in 1991 and presumably written in 1989-90, whereas the only decent book on the Irish scientific community of the early 20th century wasn’t published until 1999 and indeed the author didn’t even start researching it until late 1991, as I have good reason to know. So it seems unfair to blame for not having read up on a subject that hadn’t been written about yet.

There was, of course, a famous real observatory in County Sligo, built by the Coopers of Markree Castle in Collooney a few miles south of ‘s fictional Edward Garret Desmond, and I’m sure that he had it in mind. The Coopers had built what was at the time the largest refracting telescope in the world (the largest telescope in the world was the reflecting telecope of the Earls of Rosse at Birr Castle, a hundred miles or so to the south), and discovered an asteroid as well as various other less exciting breakthroughs (it does tend to rain in County Sligo).

I once went to Markree, shortly after I moved back to Belfast in 1991, and with a crowd of fellow enthusiasts searched the ruins (with full permission of the then owners) for what we could find. The telescope is long gone, having been flogged to Hong Kong before the second world war and now located in the Philippines – , you may wish to verify this). We were at least the third or fourth raiding party to have visited the site, but nonetheless I was lucky enough to find a couple of dozen original pages of Tycho Brahe’s designs for his observatory on the island of Hven, published in the early 17th century. I still have them, and one of these days will post transcripts either here or (more likely) to my website.

I also once had an unexpected stay in Sligo town a few years later. My friend K and I were on our way to a stag weekend in Achill Island, and my car broke down just over the border. Ten miles earlier and it would have been back to Enniskillen and a fairly easy journey home; but as it was it was a long wait until we were dragged to Sligo and discovered we were stuck there until Monday. We stayed in the youth hostel, rented bikes, did Yeats’ tomb (I still have the t-shirt) and Lissadell. has put his fictional observatory pretty close to the Drumcliffe cemetery where Yeats lies, so I found it pretty easy to buy into the sense of place.

Indeed, I think this is one of the things I like about his writing, and the writing of many of my favourite authors; the strong sense of place. King of Morning, Queen of Day is set very firmly in three distinct times and places: Sligo (mainly, with a bit of Dublin) in 1913-14; then Dublin (with a little bit of Slieve Gullion and nearby places) in the 1930s; then Dublin again in 1989. All three settings are richly imagined and in fact re-imagined, with an interleaven of creatures breaking through from the Otherworld. The other thing that springs out is that all three central characters are women, indeed three out of four generations; Emily is Jessica’s mother, and Jessica is Enye’s grandmother. uses female main characters a lot, and IMHO generally does it pretty well.

The three sections are somewhat different in presentation. The first bit combines diary entries, letters and newspaper cuttings a la Dracula, with the best bits being Emily’s engagement with the Otherworld (mapping her father’s engagement with the aliens from another planet he imagines to be approaching Sligo). The second section leans (a little self-consciously in places) on Ulysses and Waiting for Godot. The third section seemed to me to be pretty straight narrative, though no doubt there are nuances I missed. I loved the character whose real name was Anne-Marie, but her Ulster accent meant everyone called her Omry. Anyway, I liked it.

One final point of trivia. The middle section has a disparaging reference to Errol Flynn. At the time the Professor of Zoology at the Queen’s University of Belfast was his father, Theodore T Flynn. Not a lot of people know that.

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Worldcon question

I see Cheryl Morgan’s roundup from Worldcon includes this comment:

I’ve also heard a few complaints about Chris Priest. I’m not exactly happy about what happened at the Hugo ceremony myself, seeing as it was on my watch, so to speak. But having talked to a number of people who know Chris better than I do I’ve been reassured that he was trying to make jokes. Unfortunately it seems that his particularly dry British sense of humor doesn’t translate very well, and he came over to many people as being deliberately rude.

I completely missed whatever this refers to. Can someone refresh my memory? (Unless it was his joke at the closing ceremony about ?)

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Balkans today

As it happens I’m in an internet cafe in the middle of Pristina at the moment. I’m afraid Roger Cohen’s article is fairly accurate. The only extra I would add is this bit

When two Serbs were killed last weekend in a shooting in Kosovo, Kostunica and Boris Tadic, the Serbian president, rushed to issue statements of outrage. In essence, their message was that the incident demonstrated how far Kosovo remains from the basic standards Europe and the United States demand of any community with ambitions to self-governance. They had a point.

From my conversations with international officials here, it’s not clear at all that Albanians, let alone “terrorists” were behind the killings last weekend. The two survivors are not being allowed to talk to the police by the Serbian leadership. Meanwhile the Serbs living in the area where the incident happened have requested increased patrols by the (mostly Albanian) police. Needless to say none of this is reported in Belgrade.

Sure Yugoslavia could have gone a different way; but only if Milosevic had had a different policy, or if he had never come to power.

(Whoops, meant to post this as a reply to

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August Books 16) A Mirror for Observers

16) A Mirror for Observers, by Edgar Pangborn

First published in 1954, set in 1963 and 1972, so as usual we can be slightly amused about predictions made about the future which is now the past. But actually this is a rather gripping book. There is a small group of Secret Guardians keeping watch over humanity’s scientific and moral development (they happen to be from Mars but that is almost incidental). There is a renegade faction that wants to wipe out (most of) humanity to make Earth their own. For reasons not made completely clear, the conflict between the two focuses on a teenager in 1963 small-town Masachusetts and his piano-paying neighbour. There is a dramatic denouement halfway through the book, and we leap forward nine years, to the final struggle between the two in New York, against the background of unpleasant extremist US politics and biological warfare.

Yet the fundamental take of the book is very optimistic about human nature, and the message is a very moral one; not all fans are Slans. It almost reads like a 1950s reaction against today’s libertarianism – perhaps I’m just not well enough read in the sf of the period – was this the height of van Vogt and Heinlein? I thought one peaked earlier and the other later. Interesting stuff, anyway.

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Small world

Went to Tetovo in Macedonia yesterday for a meeting with Ali Ahmeti, the leader of the guerrilla uprising of 2001. Since last seeing him, I have read the memoirs of Kosovo guerilla leader Ramush Haradinaj in which Ahmeti plays rather an interesting role in the 1996-98 period. I asked him about his relationship with Haradinaj, who was briefly Prime Minister of Kosovo at the start of this year before being carted off to the Hague on a war crimes indictment; but he was feeling understandably coy, and said only nice generalities.

Today, sitting over lunch in Pristina, to my great surprise Ramush Haradinaj came to sit at the next table (he’s out on bail). I showed him the picture I’d had taken yesterday of me and Ahmeti. He grinned and said, “Ah yes, my great friend!” But refused to say any more.

I think I know enough anyway.

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I’m just over half way through this trip and finding it very tiring. I had two days non-stop driving coming back from Ireland, followed by four intensive days at work, followed by the last four days being pretty intensive in Macedonia. Just arrived in Kosovo about an hour ago, here today and tomorrow, then back to Macedonia on Thursday to fly home. Taking Friday off.

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Off again

Am off to Macedonia in the morning. In beautiful, beautiful Ohrid until Sunday, Monday in Skopje, Tuesday and Wednesday up north to Kosovo, and Thursday flying home from Skopje. And I’m taking tomorrow week off work.

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Have got up early to try and get on top of work before departing to the Balkans tomorrow. Had actually been awake more or less since 4 am; slept very badly, as is often the case when a) early start for work looming and b) very nice dinner last night and c) B also awake and banging around noisily. She’s now come downstairs to join me, and is hiding under her duvet on her favourite chair watching me.

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Top 10 Friend Matches

srk1 & kennedybak 302
lauriemann & davidstewart 220
lauriemann & pnh 194
dace_holenfor & natural20 188
ianmcdonald & pnh 188
mevennen & ianmcdonald 175
james_nicoll & kradical 175
james_nicoll & davidstewart 173
deannawol & alarielle 171
synan & james_nicoll 161
Enter your LJ username to see how your friends match:

Obvious reasons why the top pairing makes a lot of sense. As far as I know the others are completely fictional but amusing to contemplate!

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Warms the cockles of yer heart

Evaluation form as completed by my departing intern:

How did you find out about the Crisis Group internship program?
On the website.

During your internship what tasks were assigned to you?

Administrative tasks – maintaining schedules and contacts.
Daily – keeping informed on news from Bosnia, Serbia/Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, and the other regions Moldova+ Caucasus.
Research – research on Macedonia name issue; research on visa facilitation for Western Balkans.
Advocacy – accompanied Nicholas to advocacy/research meetings/conferences; then eventually conducted them on my own.

Did you receive adequate feedback from your supervisor on tasks undertaken?

Did you experience any problems working with other members of the office outside of your primary team? No, NEVER.

What did skills did you learn during your internship?

In one word I learned how to be professional. This includes:
being a more efficient researcher; benefits/importance of organisation; the importance of good office relations, the value of preparing fully for meetings – fully understanding both the topic as well as the people with whom one is meeting, and especially the importance of presentation and confidence (especially for me, as I look very young).

What did you enjoy most about your experience with Crisis Group?

First of all, always being treated as an equal, and never as a subordinate intern, by everyone in the office.
Mostly, having been given the trust and responsibility to contribute to Crisis Group and sometimes on behalf of Crisis Group (advocacy meetings).
Many other internship programs treat interns (both in terms of interaction with and as well as duties given) as subordinate secretaries willing to do anything. Never once did anyone treat any interns in this manner, nor do the interns in this office do menial tasks.

What did you enjoy least?

The smell from the refrigerator!!!

How could the internship program be improved?

With Nicholas – there is nothing to be improved, it is perfect.

How can this feedback form be improved? ??? Its fine as it is.

One satisfied customer, anyway!

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Portadown News: The End

Only yesterday morning I posted an entry praising the Portadown News; now, sadly, Newton Emerson has announced that he is shutting up shop to concentrate on work he actually gets paid for. Shame, but also somehow inevitable. My favourite single issue was I think the election special from 2001, extracts reproduced here behind the cut tag.

Headcount 2001

It’s the Portadown News election special!

The ballots have been printed, the speeches have been written, the alcopop bottles have been filled with smuggled petrol. Yes – election fever has gripped Portadown. Once again the good people of our beloved town ask that all-important question: “Are there still more Protestants than Catholics?”

To guide you through the difficult decisions that lie ahead, namely: “What kind of Protestant or Catholic are you?” we’ve asked the candidates to summarise their positions.

David Tremble
Ulster Unionist Party
Portadown holds a special place in my heart. After all, I wouldn’t be party leader if I hadn’t caused all that trouble at Drumcree back in 1995. Now piss off.

Marvin Currie
Democratic Unionist Party
The message I’ll be taking to Westminster is: “Pope John Paul is The Antichrist”. Once the English understand that, their whole attitude to Ulster will change.

Aoife Rotter
I’ll be continuing our policy of saying nice things on TV, while secretly plotting the downfall of civilisation. Tiocfaidh Ar La!

Brendan Puppet
Sinn Fein
I’ll ensure that the Catholic people of Portadown never again feel intimidated by their Protestant neighbours. Intimidating Catholics is our job.

John Hogan
I’ll be having some friends around for a meal, then watching the results on Newsnight. You’re not invited.


Tom Belgium
Worker’s Party
After the all-Ireland socialist revolution, there’ll be peace and jobs for everyone. Also, Christmas will be the way it was when you were little, and it will only ever rain at night.

Barbara Menary
Women’s Coalition
You don’t need a dick to succeed in Ulster politics. You just need to BE a dick.

How to Vote

Peaceful political participation can be confusing for many people in Portadown, and the proportional representation system only complicates matters. The Portadown News has compiled this handy cut-out-and-keep guide to voting in Northern Ireland:

  1. As you approach the polling station, accept all leaflets offered to you. These people will remember your face.
  2. Say hello to the policeman or ‘community representative’ guarding the door.
  3. Point at any UN Observers present and shout “Shouldn’t you be in Zimbabwe?”
  4. Show your identification to the nice old lady.
  5. Receive your ballot, noting with alarm the unique serial number printed on the bottom.
  6. Enter the booth, and savour the illusion of power.
  7. Write ‘1’ beside the candidate who has threatened you most recently.
  8. Write ‘2’ beside a moderate candidate, so you can kid yourself you’re not really as bigoted as everyone else in this town.
  9. Write ‘3’ beside the Women’s Coalition candidate, because they could use a bit more talent on ‘Newsline’.
  10. Think to yourself: “That’ll change the fucking world, eh?”

Note: Sinn Fein voters should repeat this procedure until their bus leaves for the next constituency.

‘Jesus votes DUP’ – claim
by our religious affairs correspondent, Helen Brimstone

Jesus would vote DUP claims Ken Elliot, High Priest at Portadown’s Bethany First Presbyterian Church. The controversial claim was made during Mr Elliot’s
Sunday sermon.

“The signs are clear, to the righteous,” screamed Mr Elliot from his pulpit. “Jesus was unemployed, lived with his mum, hung around with his mates all day talking politics, and was always getting into trouble with the Romans. Clearly he was a DUP supporter.”

However a spokesperson for the Electoral Commission has denied Mr Elliot’s claims. “Mr Christ has been removed from the voting register,” she told us, “as he has been dead for 1,972 years.”

US fact-finding mission
by our American correspondent, Brad Cheeseburger

Arizona Senator Mick O’Malley is back in Portadown for another election ‘fact-finding’ mission. Speaking to our reporter yesterday, the Senator outlined the facts he hopes to find.

“The main facts I plan to find concern British human rights abuses, RUC brutality, and harassment of Sinn Fein community representatives,” he explained. “I may find some other facts, but those are the ones I’m really interested in.”

Senator O’Malley has a long history of fact-finding in Northern Ireland. His previous discoveries include:

  • Republican paramilitaries don’t sell drugs
  • RUC patrols regularly kill and eat children
  • Queen Victoria personally ordered the potato famine

By complete coincidence Senator O’Malley is himself currently campaigning for re-election in Arizona, under the slogan: “O’Malley Electrocutes More Blacks”.

Other great moments include:

Vatican sends Holy Water Cannon
by our security correspondent, Roger Base

Security sources have welcomed the arrival of a Holy Water Cannon from the Vatican City.
“Spraying Holy Water on Orangemen is pretty much like spraying ordinary water on them,” admitted RUC officer Bill Mason yesterday. “But it will really annoy them, and that’s the main thing.”

And when Roy Keane wlked out of the Irish World Cup team in 2002:


World Cup Crisis!
by our sports correspondent, Ed Balls

Ireland is in shock this week at the news that a premier league footballer is an arrogant prick.

“It’s turned my whole world upside-down”, one distraught Dublin fan told our reporter yesterday. “Never in all my life did I imagine that a man getting £5.2 million a year to kick a ball around would act like a spoilt child.”

However leading sociologist Dr Penny O’Guardian believes there may be a deeper explanation for the terrible scenes of distress witnessed around the Republic this week. “What’s really upsetting people,” she claims, “is that there’s no obvious way to blame this on the English.”

And finally the interpretation of the d’Hondt system:

Well, I’ll be looking out for his columns and other articles when I can; difficult from here, but worth a try.

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Fannish rating (higher than or !)

Elite Reader
You have a Geek Lore rating of 80%
Sure, fans aren’t Slans, but you’re definitely something special. Your
knowledge of speculative literature has to be pretty damned impressive
to achieve this score. Long may you flip those pages!

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Geek Lore

Link: The SF/F Opening Lines Test written by winternight2 on Ok Cupid
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Just in case you were in any doubt about it, I made it home safely (and so have unlocked the previous entries about my travels this month). It’s 400 km from Loughbrickland to Kidderminster, not counting the ferry. It’s 560 km from Kidderminster to here, not counting the Channel Tunnel. I drove all of it.

The biggest excitement of the journey was that F’s first milk tooth came out just after we got to France. (He turned six four weeks ago.) Then of course he dropped it on the incredibly messy floor of the car. So, there was much scrabbling about after we’d got home to try and find the missing incisor. Eventually after many daring feats of engineering among the back seats, I found it. The tooth fairy will therefore visit our house tonight. I suspect the going rate these days is a euro per tooth.

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Music meme

Inspired by here (1986) and here (1988). The rules are as follows:

  • Go here.
  • In the search box in the upper right hand corner, enter the year you graduated from high school. The first item returned should be the top 100 songs from that year.
  • Cut and paste them into your journal.
  • Bold the ones you like.
  • Underline your favorite.
  • Strike through the songs you loathe.
  • Italicize the songs you’re pretty sure you’ve never heard of.

I confess I didn’t recognise many after the top 25, so that’s all you’re getting.

Of course these are the American hits, so there’s some transatlantic bias here:

1. Careless Whisper, Wham!
2. Like A Virgin, Madonna
3. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham!
4. I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner
5. I Feel For You, Chaka Khan
6. Out Of Touch, Daryl Hall and John Oates
7. Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears
8. Money For Nothing, Dire Straits
9. Crazy For You, Madonna
10. Take On Me, A-Ha
11. Everytime You Go Away, Paul Young
12. Easy Lover, Phil Collins and Philip Bailey
13. Can’t Fight This Feeling, REO Speedwagon
14. We Built This City, Starship
15. The Power Of Love, Huey Lewis and The News
16. Don’t You (Forget About Me), Simple Minds
17. Cherish, Kool and The Gang
18. St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion), John Parr
19. The Heat Is On, Glenn Frey
20. We Are The World, U.S.A. For Africa
21. Shout, Tears For Fears
22. Part-Time Lover, Stevie Wonder
23. Saving All My Love For You, Whitney Houston
24. Heaven, Bryan Adams
25. Everything She Wants, Wham!

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Glorious or not?

Ken MacLeod has done me the honour of replying to my last post at length, and deserves a final reaction from me – though I don’t think we can really push this argument a lot further.

Ken in red; me in black.

In the previous post I referred to the Iraq-based Iranian MEK and the KLA as ‘jihadists’. A couple of emails have flooded in to call me on this. And yes, in this instance I can only put my hands up and say this was unjust and I retract it. Thre is plenty to be said against both organizations but calling them jihadists only confuses things. Fair enough. My holiday is almost over, so I might just add a small point on this – the original claim was that the US and its allies keep on backing on-side jihadists: the Iranian MEK, the KLA, the Chechen freedom fighters (the beasts of Beslan). The charge that the “Chechen freedom fighters” are jihadists has better grounds than the same charge against the KLA (I know little of the Iranian group). But they have received almost no support from the US and its allies, as far as I am aware, to the point of the international community studiously looking the other way when the Russians bombed supposed Chechen bases in Georgia three years ago.

But anyway, to the main points. Here’s Ken again:

No fair-minded person could dispute that in England the various laws against Catholics and Dissenters were prolonged by popular prejudice and Anglican interest well beyond any point where they could be justified by reasons of state; nor that they were an instrument of oppression against the majority population of Ireland. So in fact they did not protect the bourgeois revolution for “centuries”. I’m glad we have sorted that out. In that case the main assertion that I objected to, the idea that there might be some useful lesson from the Penal Laws of how to deal with today’s jihadists (other than “don’t make the same mistake”) falls.

To say that they ‘worked’ in England wasn’t on my part any considered historical judgement, merely to note that the auto-da-fe never became one of the crowd-pulling entertainments of London. Well, the public strangulation, disembowelment and dismemberment of Catholic clergy, often Irish, usually on trumped up charges, certainly was a crowd-pulling public entertainment under Elizabeth I, James I, both Charleses and the Commonwealth. While it can reasonably be said is that state violence against religious opponents was on a smaller scale in Britain and Ireland than it was in Spain (and there were many Catholic countries – for instance, the Papal States! – where state violence against religious opponents was also on a smaller scale than it was in Spain), it certainly was far from unknown. (The argument that Catholicism means you automatically get the Spanish Inquisition is surely about as valid as saying that Communism means you automatically get Stalin’s purges.)

Maybe they weren’t needed. The Jacobite conspiracies were real and produced two uprisings. Possibly with a less severe repression against Catholicism the uprisings would have met with more success. Or, perhaps, since we’ve entered the realms of the counterfactual, had there been less repression against Catholics, the risings might not have kicked off in the first place?

Nicholas makes two points which I hope he won’t take offence if I call debating points. The first is that the immediate occasion of James II’s overthrow was his Declaration of Indulgence. The second is that the Pope was on the same side as William of Orange. Interestingly, neither point is really disputed below.

Now nobody, from Macaulay to the author of the Catholic Encyclopaedia article cited, allows that James was a sincere convert to toleration. He had been, right up until that point, a relentless persecutor of Presbyterians and other Dissenters. The Declaration of Indulgence was indisputably unconstitutional. James had no authority to annul laws, however odious, that had been passed by Parliament and accepted by the courts. It didn’t take long for the Dissenters to be persuaded that the risks to them from an arbitrary Catholic monarchy far outweighed whatever temporary relief it might bestow. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was hot in the memory. (If, to take up the Allende analogy, the (counter-factual) constitutional Marxist president of a neighbouring state, say Argentina, had withdrawn previous solemn guarantees and used great violence against the Argentine middle classes, and Allende was in the meantime busy promoting hard-line revolutionaries to positions of power, Pinochet would have been even more widely hailed than he was.) Indulgence was a tactical manouevre, and as Macaulay shows it was recognised as such in widespread debate at the time.

My counter-factual speculation is this: If James II had succeeded in drawing Catholic and Dissenter into a pincer movement against the Established Church and the limits placed on the monarchy, it is doubtful to say the least that he would have established religious pluralism. (And, let me say again, the Catholic Encyclopaedia produces no supporting argument for this.) More likely there would have been a Catholic monarchy (now with a guaranteed succession) and a immense increase in Catholic power in the state. That after all had been his consistent course and aim. He had used his limited prerogative to place Catholics in every key position he could. What he would have done with an unlimited prerogative was expected to be more of the same. He might not have reversed the Reformation or even aimed to but there is no doubt at all that most of the population would have suspected him, with good reason, of such a design. James might well have had to rely on aid from France to hold power. A second Civil War seems a likely consequence. Defeat for the Protestant majority would have meant national subjugation; victory, a massacre and expulsion of Catholics. It is as well for England that it was spared either.

I was preparing a somewhat ill-tempered and indeed ill-informed riposte to this (grumbling that, among other things, it doesn’t fit awfully well to complain about James II acting unconstitutionally when the manner of his removal from the throne was equally unconstitutional), but find to my shame that has posted a long piece which illustrates my total ignorance of this period of history. (And Ken’s too.) I would like to ask , or indeed anyone, to recommend to me a decent history of England, Scotland and Ireland in the seventeenth century.

Such a history would certainly not be by Macaulay, the archetype of historian as political propagandist rather than objective analyst. I came to history late in my academic career, and in a Cambridge department under the founding influence of Herbert Butterfield; so I’m a little stunned to find anyone in the twenty-first century taking Macaulay seriously.

That the Pope celebrated William’s victory at the Boyne may for a moment nonplus an opponent who has never heard of this (and we’ve all met them), but it won’t wash as a serious historical argument. The Pope was allied with the other European powers, Catholic and Protestant, against the overweening ambition of France. That does not at all affect the point that William’s victory advanced the Protestant interest, and that his defeat would have favoured the Catholic interest. The Orangemen are no more deluded on that than the Irish Catholics were who supported James.

No, I’m afraid that’s not really good enough. Sure, you can make an argument about the interests of Catholics in England, or Scotland, or Wales; but if you believe that there was such a global phenomenon as “the Catholic interest” (a concept that I frankly doubt had much validity then, if ever) you really can’t go on to argue that you (or James II, or Louis XIV) know better than the Pope what the Catholic interest was!

Was the Glorious Revolution a Good Thing? I’ll try to emulate Nicholas’s candour and admit that I come to it from a perspective of having heard from childhood of the sufferings of the Covenanter martyrs, and later finding the same martyrs extolled in Marxist and Liberal histories. All the same, I find that I agree with the final ‘nuance’ of the Catholic Encyclopaedia:

But on the other hand we can now realize that the Revolution had the advantage of finally closing the long struggle between king and Parliament that had lasted for nearly a century, and of establishing general principles of religious toleration in which Catholics were bound sooner or later to be included.
These achievements seem glorious enough.

Hmm. I confess my only exposure to the Covenanters was in an article I read a few years back comparing their ideology and tactics to those of the unlovely Loyalist paramilitaries in late twentieth-century Belfast, which didn’t really endear them to me. No doubt if I start reading a bit more about the period, my mind will be broadened.

As for celebrating, Catholic Emancipation was eventually enacted in 1829, which is 141 years after the Declaration of Indulgence would have granted the same rights, had it not been reversed by the Revolution; and indeed 138 years after the post-Revolution government promised to protect those rights in the Treaty of Limerick, a promise which was rapidly broken. I hope you’ll forgive me if my celebration is somewhat muted.

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Now, this really *is* a good idea

Do the quiz, fill in your answers (being much more frank than you normally would dare to be), and then press “reload” to scramble the questions but keep the old answers! (Thanks to and .)

The Random Question Meme!

An array of completely random questions about my friends!

What does think of America’s involvement in Iraq?
Probably not.
What will be like in twenty years?
Not the ones she chose for WorldCon!
What historical figure does most remind you of?
No idea; I don’t really understand her posts.
Is hiding under your bed right now?
Actually I think we’re pretty much on the same wavelength, though I think about it more than she does.
What do you find admirable about ?
Neither. Both are destined for greater things.
If and were superheroes, which one would be the sidekick?
As far as I know she’s gay, so I think it’s unlikely to happen.
Have you ever seen naked?
She writes about almost everything in her life, but not that. However I imagine that maternity bras may come into it.
What do and have in common?
Have only seen her once, and then it was short.
Doesn’t have anything better to do?
Discuss precisely what she means about her views of sexuality.
When was the last time you talked to ?
Well, me obviously!

This is by . You can find your own completely random questions here.

Do you feel enlightened now?

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August Books 15) The Black Tor

15) The Black Tor, by George Manville Fenn.

Picked this up partly because I had vague memories of praising the author to the skies and partly because I felt I should read at least one ancestral book after spending three weeks in the ancestral home. (Last year it was The Revolution of America, by the Abbé RaynalBevis.

I was on the lookout for homoerotic subtexts (having only the vaguest memory of what actually wrote) and well, yes, they are there aplenty. Most notably, the one point of plot resolution that genuinely surprised me is that, rather than either or both of the young heroes becoming romantically involved with the other’s sister, as I had expected, the book ends with them heading out into the wild countryside for a friendly bit of close physical combat.

There are some nice bits of description of the flora and fauna of the Peak District, in between manly deeds of virtue and valour, and a couple of interesting minor characters (much more interesting than the two heroes, who are practically interchangeable): the local sage/doctor/college graduate and an underestimated miner’s child. The whole thing can be found on-line here.

There are also some glorious blurbs for other books from the same publisher, suitable for presentation as prizes (our copy was presented to my great-uncle Maurice, for “good behaviour”, in 1899). Will copy them out for your edification and amusement later in the week.

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Holiday drawing to an end

So, I’ve had my almost three weeks of recharging my batteries in the heart of County Down, and wish I could have the same again. But tomorrow the long drive to Kidderminster, and on Sunday the long drive from there back to Belgium, and then on Monday back to work. (Plus I’m then travelling in the Balkans from today week to today fortnight.)

It’s been a quiet break. Most years we engage in a manic round of seeing old friends and Doing Things; our only such excursion this year was to see F’s godfather, who isn’t very independently mobile.

But the highlight was certainly the trampoline, bought for his nieces and nephew by . It’s not easy to get the girls to cooperate fully with photography, but I did get at least proof that B was jumping (the fiendish split-second delay on the digital camera is a real bane):

U is still not totally happy about being photographed, so the “jumping” picture is less convincing, but in fact she used it more than the other two put together (despite the effect the static electricity had on her hair):

F of course knows about posing for the camera:

All great fun, and yet also strangely reminiscent of Philippe Halsman’s pictures of Richard Nixon, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, jumping:

Be that as it may, I’m glad to have had this break, especially since it was combined with Worldcon. And now I hear that MeCon will be next August, so I may be able to get my fix next year as well.

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