Bragging

Went to see Billy Bragg in Islington on Friday. A benefit for Hope Not Hate, the anti-fascist organisation, it was the most mainly-political gig I’ve seen from Billy in — well, maybe ever. By which I mean, ‘Sexuality‘ and ‘Upfield‘ were the only non-political songs he did. And at least the latter of those actually is political (“I’ve got a socialism of the heart,” after all), despite being about meeting angels.

He was on great form. He’s turned sixty now, and was joking about having a bus pass.

Support were The Wakes, a Glasgow band with obvious Irish connections. Very much in a Pogues mould. I only heard the tail end of their set, but thoroughly enjoyed it.

Oh yes: and I think this was the first time I’ve ever seen Billy when he didn’t do ‘A New England.’

Bragging

Walking on Glass by Iain Banks (Books 2018, 18)

A novel of three parts. Two of them are — probably — tightly linked. By some interpretations, anyway. The third — which is the first as presented — brushes up against one of those two, and is to a small extent influenced by it. But in no way that I can discern is it really linked to the others. Which kind of makes me wonder what it’s for.

I mean, sure, maybe he just wanted to tell that story, with no more reason than that. That would be fine. But since the three are presented under one common title, I’ve got to assume that they share more than just a passing brush with simultaneous walks and some sugar in a tank.

The title itself is interesting. The only people who are literally walking on glass at any point are the two exiles from a galactic war in the far future (if that’s really what they are). But glass suggests fragility, slipperiness: maybe everyone is walking on glass, as everything could collapse under them at any moment.

It also suggests transparency: maybe everyone can be seen at any time. If you walk on a sheet of glass, you can be viewed from below. Which sounds not unlike the crosstime telepathic viewing that people in the castle are apparently doing of people in Earth’s past.

All of which leads me to the conclusion — which I didn’t actually expect when I started writing this — that my long-preferred interpretation is the correct one: that Quiss and Ajayi really are former warriors who have been banished to the castle as a punishment for misdeeds. The castle has the technology to let people live vicariously in the minds of humans from its past. At one point Quiss probably touches Grout’s mind and partly causes the road accident.

Is Grout really an exile from the same war, or a similar one? Probably not, but maybe. Maybe someone like Quiss or Aliya touched his mind at some earlier, vulnerable time, and something of their experience passed in to Grout.

But again, what of Graham’s story, and Sara’s betrayal? What does that have to do with the bigger stories?

I remain unsure.

Walking on Glass by Iain Banks (Books 2018, 18)

The Water of Life

Or at least a container for it. It’s Bike Week this week, and as I happened to be cycling through Islington anyway, I was caught up by the members of the local LCC. They were offering a free cyclists’ breakfast, and a Dr Bike clinic. I had already had breakfast, and my bike was serviced recently, so I didn’t stop for that (though it is making a strange noise again, so perhaps I should have).

However they were also handing out free water bottles, which is just what I needed: I just noticed this morning that mine is cracked, and in any case it’s very prone to making the water taste plasticy. So I accepted that gratefully, and am giving something back by adding what tiny amount of Google juice I can to the URL that is printed on the bottle: Islington Borough’s Green Travel page.

Now get on yer bike, everyone.

The Water of Life