Highland Hiatus

As usual I had planned to schedule a few blogposts for when we were away in Fort William and Inverness, but I was so busy beforehand that I never did get around to it, so it has been unnaturally quiet on ‘Pining’ this last week. For good reason though, as you might know Peggy of Peggy Ann’s Post is staying with me this month and we were joined on our Highland sojourn by Evee of Evee’s Blog and of course Jack was with us – he was our driver!

I worried about the weather as Fort William is infamous for being wet and of course it was wet when we got there but the drive up until then had been mainly dry, if a bit grey. We were there just last June and had great weather just a few miles north of Fort William so managed to take some lovely photos of the Spean Bridge area, sadly the weather this time was grey and very windy – when is our summer going to arrive? Anyway if you don’t know what the Spean Bridge area looks like you can see lots of images of it here. So we didn’t hang about there long this time.

When we arrived at Fort William it was chucking it down with rain and we made for the bookshop which Jack and I had been lucky to buy some books in last year. The shop owner was just about ready to close it but within less than 5 minutes – I, Peggy and Evee had managed to find books which we had been looking for. I was chuffed to find the third book in the McFlannel series by Helen W Pryde and I also bought a book about Hugh Lofting the writer of the childrens series, Dr Dolittle. Peggy got a whole load of books by and about O. Douglas (Anna Buchan) and Evee bought a couple of books by Maurice Walsh which she had read back in the year dot and wished to revisit. Now she has me thinking that I should read his books too, as if I don’t have enough books already in my piles!

Anyway, it turned out that it was just as well that we bought books in Fort William as the famous bookshop Leakeys in Inverness turned out to be a big disappointment for us, although Evee did manage to buy a few books. I would say that all of the books there are vastly overpriced, a lot of them aren’t in alphabetical order – come on – pull your socks up, it’s a nightmare if books aren’t in some sort of order, I was tempted to start sorting them out myself.

It’s always the way of it, much longed for trips to ‘special’ bookshops always end up being a damp squib for me, then I find treasures in the most unexpected places. Oh well, it all adds to the spice of life I suppose.

Seals at Seafield near Kirkcaldy in Fife.

seals

Peggy had never seen seals in the wild before so we went to Seafield by Kirkcaldy in Fife in the hope that there would be some basking on their favourite rocks and as you can see we were lucky, there were loads of them.

seals

Sadly they were unusually silent, but the one on the wee rock in the middle of the photo did put on a good show for us, hauling itself onto the rock then immediately flopping off again to go for a quick swim around before taking up its original position again. Those seals deal with the rocks much better than we do, we were in danger of breaking our necks while we clambered over rocks to get closer to them. Peggy said it was many years since she had done anything like that. Two limpet shells were liberated from the beach by her, she had never seen them before, that was a surprise to me.

ship

It was a windy day, in fact we’ve had a lot of windy days since Peggy got here and she now realises how wearing the wind can be, especially when it nearly knocks you over. There weren’t many ships about.

Cramond, near Edinburgh

We’ve been dashing all over the place this past week trying to show Peggy some of our favourite places, and one of them is Cramond, an old village not far from Edinburgh. Cramond is a really ancient settlement with evidence of occupation as far back as the mesolithic and bronze ages as well as some of the Romans having been there.

Cramond

You can see lots of images of Cramond here, but I just took the couple of photos above and below of some lovely boats. Click them to enlarge!

Cramond

Dog Grooming – Dutch Style

It’s the time of the year when if you have dogs you’ll probably be going crazy with the amount of hair which they are shedding at the moment.

If you happen to be living around north-east Holland, around about the Groningen area you should do yourself a favour and take your dogs to a very good dog groomer – Kirsty Skirving. Not only is she a great groomer, she’s also a whizz with dogs with behavioural problems. www.activedogcare.nl

Kirsty's van

A Farm in Fife

sheep and lambs

You might know that Peggy of Peggy Ann’s Post is staying with me at the moment and one of the places she really wanted to visit is the farm in Fife where the Scottish crime author James Oswald breeds Highland cattle and sheep, so that was one of our first ports of call.
lambs

Almost all of the sheep had had their lambs recently and they were happily doing sheepish stuff in a large field, but there were a few lambs and sheep which were being kept in a sort of creche consisting of a large open ended poly tunnel which keeps the worst of the weather off them but allows them to have the benefit of fresh air.

lambs and sheep

Some of the lambs had been abandoned by their mums and others were there because their mums didn’t have enough milk for them. One wee lamb had been lying at an awkward angle inside his mum and so he was born with distorted front legs but they seem to be straightening out as he grows although I think they’re still a wee bit swollen.

lamb
There are also a few big fat sheep in with the lambs, a couple of them are past their due date for giving birth, ladies in waiting!

James kindly took time out of his busy life to drive us to the field where his ‘coos’ were busy munching away. I think everybody loves Highland cattle and I remember a time when they were really quite rare, but they are becoming more common now, partly because they are so placid. They backed away from us when we went into their field but when they realised we weren’t a threat to them they settled down and became quite interested in us I think. Some of the cows are around 15 years old and he knows them from birth so I suppose they’re like part of the family. The cow on the far right of the first photo looks rather comical as it looks like it has a set of horns front and back like a pushmi-pullyu.

Highland cattle

James Oswald and Peggy

James gives all his cows names and there are several generations of them in this field. People tend to think of Highland cows as being red haired but some of them are sort of honey blonde and even black. The cow which he called Catriona has black hair, I couldn’t help thinking that she should have been a redhead. The females seem to be kept for breeding but I suspect the males which are born have a somewhat shorter life. James Oswald says he would never want to give up on his animals to concentrate solely on his writing.

Highland cows

Highland cow
The farm’s location is wonderful, what a view he has from his front window, which looks right over the River Tay to Perthshire, or should I say Perth and Kinross nowadays? But I’ll show you that in another blogpost.

The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop by Gladys Mitchell

The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop by Gladys Mitchell was first published in 1930 and it’s the second book in which Mrs Bradley is the sleuth. She’s a particularly unappealing elderly lady with yellow skin and fingers like claws who has a horrible habit of addressing people younger than her as ‘child’. Under those circumstances I find it amazing that she didn’t become a murder victim herself.

But it’s a man’s body which has been discovered hanging up on meat hooks in a butcher’s shop, having been cut up into joints. However the head is missing.

Rupert Sethleigh, the owner of the local manor house is also missing, supposedly having suddenly left for America, but that seems unlikely. Sethleigh is not popular in the neighbourhood and it turns out that he’s a blackmailing moneylender with lots of potential enemies. Is he the murder victim?

I can’t say that I was enthralled with this book but it took me a while to get through it, just because I’ve been busy recently and it seemed to me to be a bit disjointed (no pun intended – or was it?) The blurb on the front from the Independent says ‘Superbly odd’ – it’s definitely that. On the other hand it does have a skull on the cover so if you’re that way inclined that’s a plus. One reason why I prefer vintage crime to contemporary crime fiction is that I find the modern book to be more grisly than I’m comfortable with but I found the idea of a murder victim’s limbs and torso hanging up on butcher’s hooks in a shop fairly horrible and quite extreme for something published in 1930.

From the Guardian

We’ve been fairly busy since Peggy flew in from Pittsburgh on Wednesday, but today we had a lazy day after such a tiring one on Saturday when we went to the antiques fair at Ingliston in Edinburgh and also to the huge booksale at St Andrew’s and St George’s church in Edinburgh’s George Street. If you’re in the city you should look in there, it continues until the end of the week I believe.

So today I had time to catch up with the Guardian’s Review section, here are a few articles which I found interesting.

In this article some well known authors write about the children’s books which shaped their imaginations.

I was really interested in this article by Julia Blackburn about John Craske, a little-known Norfolk artist who turned to embroidery in later life.

You probably heard that the crime writer Ruth Rendell died during the week. Jeanette Winterson and Val McDermid write about her here.

On Friday we went to visit the crime writer James Oswald on his farm in Fife and he was very generous with his time, showing us his sheep and Highland cattle. I hope to have some photos from that visit to show you soon.

After Flodden by Rosemary Goring

After Flodden cover

I read After Flodden by Rosemary Goring for the Read Scotland 2015 Challenge but mainly because Margaret at BooksPlease loved it so much, you can read her review here.

It’s a bit of Scottish history which isn’t written about often, mainly because it was such a disastrous and painful time I suppose. Rosemary Goring managed to weave a believable and exciting storyline, I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, which is due out next month – Dacre’s War.

If you’re interested you can see my photos of the actual Flodden battlefield here. I took them a few years ago.

Peggy and me

Well here it is, the photographic evidence that Peggy of Peggy Ann’s Post DID brave the flight over that pond to Scotland. We’re really enjoying ourselves as you can see. I’m just hoping that that blue jumper/jersey which I’m wearing is just bumphled up at the side, making me look fat, not that I’m vain or anything!

K&P

Peggy is of course sylph-like. I wonder if feeding her a Scottish diet of haggis, cakes and tablet (not all at the same time) will have any effect on her? Find out at the end of her visit!