Daily Archives: Saturday, 9th Apr 2016

Weight and Stuff Report – 9 April 2016

Down a bit more today, in the usual random manner.

After doing the shopping I persuaded myself to go out to the coast to have a play with my 100-400mm lens. I was hoping to see some big ships waiting to come into the Tyne, but there was a distinct lack of them. I did see something on the water which was mildly interesting, and which will appear here in due course.

I also had a go at trying to photograph some birds, which is always a challenge. I got maybe one usable shot of a bird in flight, which again will follow later. But I did get one that was quite happy to pose. Well, he might not have realised he was posing, as I was using the long end of the 400mm lens. My research suggests this is a male starling in winter plumage. Any ornithologists in the audience are encouraged to correct me if I’m wrong:



Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/210s
Focal length: 400mm
ISO: 400
Taken: 9 April, 2016
Location: 55° 2.0344′ 0″ N 1° 25.9412′ 0″ W

Now that’s exactly the kind of shot that I’d never have got with a shorter lens – I’d have had to get too close to the bird and probably scared it off, which is exactly the kind of thing I don’t want to do.

I walked a little way down the coast before my annoying heel started to be really annoying, at which point I found the nearest bus stop and had a ride back to Newcastle and then home.

Robert Rankin – The Antipope

And so we begin the Great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon with his first novel, which is the first in what the cover of my old paperback edition[1] describes as “The first novel in the now legendary Brentford Trilogy”, a trilogy that may have more than the traditional number of volumes, as we shall see. It was first published in 1981, and I must have caught on to it a few years after that, if my memory is moderately correct.

But enough of such digressions, and on with the book. This is where we first meet the legendary denizens[2]  of Brentford and the famous Flying Swan in particular. There’s the ever-present Neville, the part-time barman[3], Old Pete (with his dog Chips), the inventive Norman Hartnell (who we’re advised we shouldn’t confuse with the other Normal Hartnell), the rather odd Soap Distant, the adventurous Archroy, and more. But most importantly, we meet the stars of the show: Jim Pooley[4] and John Omally. These are our reluctant and frequently accidental heroes. Frequently drunk, always under-employed and with a knack for finding trouble, they’re immensely likeable characters, and it’s always a delight when the next Rankin book includes them.

A lot goes on in this book – there are incidents that would be remarkable enough to make a nicely episodic story about life in Brentford – the mystery of the disappearing canal, for instance, but there is, of course much more.

It all starts with the appearance in Brentford of “a beggar of dreadful aspect”, who unaccountably makes people feel the urge to cross themselves. This beggar appear to several of the borough’s residents before settling at the Seaman’s Mission. And begins to develop his power.

As his power grows, he reveals himself to be none other than[5] Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI[7], back from the dead to restore himself to his Papal throne and generally take over the world. He’s got some quite nasty assistants and the ability to influence people to follow him. It’s up to Jim and John, guided by the wise Professor Slocombe to combat the forces of evil and save Brentford, if not the world.

This is all done with much silliness, many outrageous gags and a gloriously eccentric cast of characters. It’s quite lovely, and if you haven’t read it, you should give it a try.

And can I suggest that if you’re going to buy it, please go for the eBook – these are self-published by Robert (thanks to a publisher not having the right words in a contract), and will benefit the writer much more than buying a DTV.

[1] 1994 printing – I’d previously borrowed it from the library
[2] Look, this is the kind of book that has denizens in it. If you can’t handle a denizen or two, you’re probably on the wrong site. Come to think of it, you may be on the wrong site even if you can handle a denizen or two.
[3] Yes, I know. You’ll need to get used to that sort of thing
[4] Who is more or less Mr Rankin’s alter ego thingy
[5] The use of “none other than” is, of course, redundant, but it’s the sort of book that inspires that kind of nonsense. And other kinds.[6]
[6] Like these footnotes
[7] Look him up: not a very nice chap at all

The Great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon

Readers[1] with functioning memories might recall that  three years ago I embarked on my Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon, which involved reading all of the Discworld books in sequence. Well, the time has come for another marathon. Taking what little remains of my sanity in hand, I’m embarking on another re-read-athon: the works of the brilliant, bonkers, and barking (well, more Brentford, really) Robert Rankin.

I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the onslaught of insanity by listening to the audiobooks over the last mumble months, but now the time has come to actually read them. In original published order. I’ll be posting individual review posts and updating the Robert Rankin page with links as I go. Unless it all proves too much and I get carried off somewhere…

First post coming soon.

[1] AKA unicorns, or mythical beasts of your choice