The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: August 6th 1983 by Hilary Mantel

23 September 2014 14:16

On Saturday the Guardian review published Hilary Mantel’s new short story about the assassination of Margaret Thatcher, if you’re interested you can read it here.

Mantel was inspired to write the story after catching a glimpse of Thatcher from her window. You can read about it here. She had some difficulties in working the whole thing into a short story and when she managed it it was sold to The Telegraph for tens of thousands of pounds apparently. Obviously the subject matter doesn’t appeal to your average right-wing Telegraph reader. So the Guardian published it instead.

Now the Conservatives are complaining that the short story should never have been published, and there are talks of involving the police. It seems that nowadays we are not to be allowed to even think about things which might possibly upset some people on the extreme right. You can read about Hilary Mantel’s reaction here.

Thinking about doing something doesn’t come close to actually doing it, neither is writing about it. If it were I would have spent most of my life in jail!

Forthcoming Rebecca Read

22 September 2014 20:22

Joan from Planet Joan and I are planning to do a Rebecca re-read, hoping to write about our thoughts on it sometime towards the end of October. If you fancy joining in with us you’re more than welcome, whether it’s a re-read for you or you’re a first time reader of Rebecca. In fact I’d be really interested to hear what a first time reader thinks of the Daphne du Maurier classic which has always been a favourite of mine. Maybe it will seem too dated for readers now, but I don’t think so, I hope not anyway.

I believe that Peggy at Peggy Ann’s Post is going to join in with us, and maybe Michelle of In the Silver Room too, I think.

The Netherlands

22 September 2014 00:20

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The photo above is the first view we got of the place we were staying in in the Netherlands, you can see the stables straight ahead where the four horses live, there were five but one died a few months ago – old age, she had a good innings.

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As you can see, the house itself is thatched although not completely thatched, in common with a lot of Dutch houses. The tiles are shiny black ones, very different from the orange terracotta tiles which are common in Scotland, and those ones came originally from the Netherlands too, as ballast in ships. All of the houses in the area are different from each other. The farmers just seem to have drawn houses and got local builders to put build them. It’s just as well that the houses were individual as it helped me to recognise places, otherwise the very flat landscape bamboozled me, I need hills and natural outcrops to help me to know where I am.

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The wee house which you can see to the left of the main house is completely thatched and in the past it was used for cooking and eating in. The farm workers weren’t allowed to trail their muck and mud into the house so the farmhouses all have these structures. Now the mini house is used as a laundry room, like an updated wash house, very handy as it keeps all the washing machine noise out of the house.

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The photo of the stained glass above is one of five windows which were in our bedroom. I love stained glass and I think this design would transfer really well into a patchwork quilt design. Maybe one day I’ll get around to doing it!

Billy by Pamela Stephenson

21 September 2014 00:01

The biography Billy by Pamela Stephenson was one of the books which my brother gave me during my recent visit to his home in the Netherlands, he is obviously trying to make room for more books, like most of us.

I started reading it on the six hour ferry trip from the Hook of Holland to Harwich and almost got to the end of it when it was time to roll off the ferry.

Pamela Stephenson is of course Billy Connolly’s wife of some 30 odd years and as she is now a clinical psychologist it seems that she is the perfect partner for him. Her profession must certainly be a help with understanding the complex personality which is Billy.

As a Glaswegian myself I recognised a lot of the descriptions and experiences of life in the city. I lived the first five years of my life in a different part of the city but so many of the stories of Billy’s early life brought back memories of back courts where the ‘big’ boys spent their time doing crazy things, jumping over wash house roofs and such, the pre-cursor to those people who participated in that mad building running and jumping craze of a few years ago – what was that called?! I well remember my sister shouting “Mum, Jacky’s dreeping!” – meaning that my brother was risking life and limb by dropping down from very high walls.

This book was first published in 2001 and Stephenson tells of Billy’s life from birth until then. His childhood was incredibly traumatic as he suffered physical and sexual abuse within his family on a daily basis, it’s quite incredible that he survived it and turned into the multi-talented person that he is now.

Billy is the first to admit that there are loads of guys in the west of Scotland with the same snappy ability to make people laugh, it’s just part of the character of the west, and something that I really miss.

Sadly Billy has recently been diagnosed with early Parkinson’s and prostate cancer – both on the same day, how unlucky is that? But he’s not downhearted and seems to be making a fine recovery from the cancer anyway. If you’re a fan of Billy you’ll find the book really interesting, although given the subject matter it’s obviously not a laugh a minute.

Living near Glasgow as I did back then when he was just beginning his career I occasionally saw Billy around the place, sometimes in John Smith’s Bookshop perusing the books, he’s a keen reader, then of course he moved to Drymen when he started to get quite well known within Scotland, again not far from where I lived. My brother rubbed shoulders with him at various things to do with shipbuilding back then in the late 1960s when Billy was doing the folk stuff which kicked off his career at the same time as working as a welder.

The thing which brought him to the notice of the wider public in the rest of Britain was his take off of Tammy Wynette’s song Divorce, in 1975. He was on Top of the Pops with it and his version got higher in the charts than Tammy’s.

He followed that up with a spoof of YMCA in 1976.

The Result – No

19 September 2014 23:14

I couldn’t bear to watch even one result coming through last night, I went to bed with a book and woke up to the news on our clock radio this morning. I must admit that although I didn’t expect a Yes vote to win I did think it would be closer.

The sad fact is that so many people were just too afraid of change. People were worried about their pensions and interest rates and most of the folks who are feeling fine and dandy and living a comfy life were too afraid of a possible lowering of their living standards. I think that that is what bothers me most, the No voters are short sighted and are just thinking ‘I’m all right Jack’ and to hell with the people who are definitely not all right. The Yes voters were often voting Yes because it was a ray of hope on the horizon, in an area which has had all of the industry shut down over the years and nothing replacing it except the possibility of a low paid zero hours contract if they are lucky. I feel ashamed that those people have been given yet another slap in the face – and from their ‘ain folks’.

We were love bombed towards the end of the campaign and now that Westminster have the result they wanted they can go back to ignoring Scotland again. They promised non-specific jam sometime in the future and a large amount of the electorate clutched on to that, devo max seemed a better option than a jump into the unknown.

I watched the Scottish BBC lunchtime news today and a reporter interviewed two men who had been standing in a queue waiting to to buy a new gadget which was just about to be put on sale, a new iPhone or something. They had both voted No and that says it all really. The sort of people who were afraid that they might not be able to afford a new toy voted No, obviously not worrying that there are other people who are having to rely on food banks to feed their kids because there are no jobs for them. I felt ashamed of those men. I expected that a Yes win might mean some leaner years for me but it would have been worth it for the greater good.

Already Nick Robinson, the BBC political correspondent has been on the TV news saying that as there is going to be a Westminster election in the not too distant future those promises need never be thought of again. If the electorate doesn’t get rid of Cameron in an election then the Tory party probably will and whoever takes over from Cameron can just say that he didn’t agree to any more power being given to Holyrood.

Am I downhearted? Well I was, but not for long. I view this result as a bit of a hiccup in the history of Scotland’s independence – which we will get eventually. At the beginning of the campaign the number of people who were in favour of independence was very small, it’s quite amazing that 45% voted Yes, especially when you take into account the lies and biased reporting on the BBC. Has anyone told that chap Nick Robinson that he is supposed to report on things in a fair and balanced manner?!

As ever the last word should be reserved for good old Robert the Bruce: Try, try again!

Yes or No? Scotland’s Independence Referendum

17 September 2014 23:47


These are a couple of the sights which I saw in rural Fife today. The first photo is of a house in Falkland, the inhabitants are obviously proud Scots who want to let everyone know that they will be voting Yes in tomorrow’s independence referendum.

The photo below was taken not far away from the Yes house. You can’t see it clearly as the No was written in blue on the hay bales by the local farmer. The banner above says Proud to be Scots. Delighted to be United.


There have been similar sights all over Scotland, often the opposing posters are in neighbouring fields, so even the farming communities are completely split by this big decision.

I did think that I would be one of those people swithering over the ballot paper but quite a while ago I decided to vote Yes, for lots of different reasons.

The No voters are cramped by fear of the unknown and most of them seem to be voting No because they have a fear that they will soemehow lose their old age pension. I have no such fear as I have already been bounced out of a pension by the recent decision takers at Westminster. I also think it’s hilarious that people are worried about the paltry pensions which they get at the moment, just about the lowest in the European Community.

My main reason for voting Yes is my worry about the future of the National Health Service. The powers that be at Westminster are busy planning to privatise the health service and I have no wish to live in a country which chooses to allow businessmen to make profits from sick people, that’s obscene and completely immoral as far as I’m concerned.

Another reason I’ll be voting Yes is the fact that Cameron has promised to hold a referendum about the future of the UK in Europe – in 2016 I believe. I don’t know of anyone in Scotland who wants to leave the European Community but I do know that England is full of people who want to leave Europe. From those so-called middle class Little Englanders (the type of person who when you are introduced to them as a Scot say to you - Well the least said about THAT the better. Really they have no manners at all!) to the rabidly mental HATE tattoed skinheads of the BNP and not forgetting the Ukip weirdos.

Of course I want to get rid of nuclear weapons from Scotland too. If we didn’t have that horrific base in the west of Scotland then we wouldn’t have had the likes of Obama weighing in with his thoughts on the matter. Is it just me or do other people think that it’s just outrageous when people from other countries try to exert pressure on us?

If as is predicted tomorrow’s vote ends up with a very narrow win for the Better Together No voters, it’ll be very interesting to see what will happen if the UK tries to take Scotland out of Europe. What will the No voters feel like then?

Whatever happens, we’ll definitely have an independent Scotland eventually, no matter what nonsense the bankers and businessmen spout. It might not be in my lifetime though and I might just have to put up with devo-max.

At the moment though I’m worried about poor wee Nicola Sturgeon, the poor lassie looks knackered. She could be doing with a few bowls of my home-made soup to build up her energy again!

Rosamunde Pilcher – her 90th birthday.

17 September 2014 14:17

I’ve been enjoying reading Rosamunde Pilcher’s books for a few years now, not nearly as long as my childhood penpal has been. Rosamunde Pilcher’s books are amazingly popular in Germany. I so wish that I could visit Bude in Cornwall to attend the celebrations to mark her 90th birthday, but as we have just returned from holiday it’s just not possible, Cornwall is a long way from Fife. If you live within easier striking distance you might want to hop along to Bude and take part in the celebrations.

Debbie Cousins has written to me about a couple of events to celebrate Rosamunde Pilcher’s 90th birthday and 25th anniversary since the publication of The Shell Seekers.

We are hosting an art Exhibition in Bude, inviting Cornish Artists to participate by submitting their work inspired by “The Shell Seekers”. The event will be from 11 Sep-4 Oct 2014 in Bude, there is also a food festival planned over weekend of 19-21 Sep. We have a limited number of signed novels available.


The Shell Seekers: Cornish Artists and Artisans Honour Rosamunde Pilcher
11 September 2014 – 4 October 2014
The Castle, Bude, Cornwall, UK EX23 8LG

Two special events in Bude, Cornwall have been planned to celebrate author Rosamunde Pilcher’s 90th birthday. The author’s novels are mainly based in Cornwall and filmed adaptions attract flocks of tourists, particularly German, every year.

Rosamunde Pilcher’s birthday, in September, will also mark more than 25 years since the release of one of her most famous works “The Shell Seekers” – the story of a family heirloom painting.

The Bude events are an exhibition entitled “The Shell Seekers: Cornish Artists Honour Rosamunde Pilcher” at The Castle, from 11 September 2014 until 4 October 2014
and an inaugural Bude For Food festival, showcasing the very best food, drink, hospitality and restaurants Bude and the surrounding area has to offer, from 19-21 September 2014, also at The Castle grounds. Visitors will also have the opportunity to purchase the original art from the exhibition.

The Shell Seekers was published in 1987 and is a semi-autobiographical novel revealing life from the Second World War to the 1980’s. Following the life story of Penelope Keeling it examines her relationships with her parents, husband, her three children and lost loves, with resounding honesty. “The Shell Seekers” is a painting bestowed on Penelope as a wedding present from her father, a famous painter. Penelope has a dilemma of what to do with the painting, as her father’s works have become very valuable.

Cornish Artists who would like to take part in the artists’ exhibition should get in contact with Lynne Holehouse, at Seventh Wave Gallery in Bude, or for the Bude For Food Festival please contact Richard and Fionagh Harding from Cornish Charcuterie. Visitors will be able to keep up to date with these events through website.

German tourists come to Cornwall thanks to ZDF, a Germany TV production company who has produced more than 100 of Rosamunde Pilcher’s stories for TV and are set and filmed primarily in Cornwall. These programmes have become a Sunday TV institution for German families.

We look forward to welcoming you to these events.

Seventh Wave Gallery – Tel: 01288 356935
Bude for Food Festival – Tel: 07436 531689

Holland (The Netherlands)

16 September 2014 22:39

On the second day of our Netherlands holiday my brother and his wife drove us to Maarssen to visit their son and his family. It was a long journey and Jack was happy that he wasn’t driving as he had already driven from Fife to Harwich earlier in the week.

We always think that the house prices here are eye watering but it’s much the same everywhere I think. It’s obviously the availability of well paid work which pushes up the prices and houses within commuting distance of The Hague are very expensive but stylish I think and there’s a canal at the end of the road with large boats going up and down it. Unfortunately I didn’t get my camera out fast enough, but a large Red Cross boat floated past the end of the street. I had no idea that they took folks away for day trips, maybe it only happens in the Netherlands.
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Above is a photo of part of our canalside walk.

And below is just a bit further along the path, the wee white building was originally a tea house and they are dotted all along the canal, some still in use as tea rooms.

The Netherlands
Anyway, we felt that we were seeing the ‘real’ Netheralnds where people actually live, off the tourist track, in fact we didn’t go to any touristy places.

It looks to me like the building below was originally a boat house which has been filled in to make a room just above the water level.

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These are the sorts of houses where my nephew and his family live, he and his wife had three wee girls within three and a half years, and we all walked along a path by the edge of the local canal, making our way towards a good eatery. I had a huge pineapple and apple filled pancake, apparently a traditional Dutch dish.

Dutch House

I love gates of any kind, whether they’re rickety wooden ones or fancy wrought iron ones like the gates below. I wondered what sort of building they could belong to, but not for long as just a bit further along the path we got to the fancy house which goes with them.

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It’s the town hall which is obviously used for weddings, going by the red carpet and stretch limousine. I’m not keen on those big monstrosities, a lovely old vintage car would have been much more stylish but each to their own I suppose.

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There are interesting houses and large buildings all along the path and lots of boats travelling on the canal, small privately owned boats as well as large barges. In fact the canal network is well used and they keep a lot of traffic off the roads by using the canals to deliver things, instead of having everything moved around on trucks, as happens in the UK.

More Dutch photos soon.

Back from Holland

14 September 2014 23:47

Late last night we got back from almost two weeks away in Holland, a trip which we had been hoping to do for the past 38 years or so but never got around to it due to family and financial constraints, I blame the eye watering mortgage interest rates which we suffered in the 1980s when we were buying our house. Anyway, we had a great time visiting the Dutch branches of our family tree, and their various animals – three horses, one pony, one border collie and an American pit bull terrier which is owned by the youngest of the family. I never thought that I would be licked by a pit bull, it was a bit scary but I did end up patting him, or clapping him as we say in Scotland when we stroke a dog.

Today I’ve been busy trying to get back to normal, you know what it’s like when you’ve been away for a while. Piles of everything to be done and piles of post to be looked through. There were almost no referendum fliers so it looks like the activists are mainly sticking to busy places near the centre of towns – not that I’m complaining about that. We couldn’t even escape the referendum in Holland as it featured on the news there too and even a supermarket check-out chap was asking us about it when he realised we were Scottish – oh all right, I told him we were Scottish when he heard us speaking English and I couldn’t let him think that we were English could I!

So lots of photos have been taken and it was only when we were on the ferry on our way back to Harwich that I realised that we didn’t take any photos of ourselves while we were there. Well, why would we, we know what we look like!

Tomorrow I hope to get some photos on pining, they’re mainly of very flat countryside and I do mean flat, it’s a bit unnerving as I find it difficult to recognise places when there aren’t particular hills to help me. I was reduced to memorising what houses looked like as they are all designed by the original owners, so no two are the same.

Jack didn’t have any problems with driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road even although we drove off the ferry and straight on into the heavy rush hour traffic of Amsterdam.

We didn’t visit Amsterdam itself this time, I’ve been told that the queues at the big art galleries there are huge and apparently you have to queue for hours to get into the Anne Frank house and are rushed through in about 10 minutes. It’s not a place that I want to visit anyway as I think I would find it too sad.

I took the photo below when we went to visit my nephew and his family, they live near Utrecht and we walked along the path beside this canal to get to a good eatery where we had lunch.


More photos tomorrow.

Hadrian’s Wall

6 September 2014 15:00

I mentioned in an earlier blogpost that I’m going to be starting a wee course on Hadrian’s Wall later in September. If you are interested it’s not too late to join in. You can enrol here.

The six week course structure looks like this:
Week 1: Welcome to the Wall: An introduction to the Wall, the course and the course team
Week 2: The Roman Army in Britain
Week 3: Frontier communities: Life on the northern frontier from the late 1st to the early 3rd century
Week 4: Ritual, religion and the Roman Wall
Week 5: Conflict, consolidation and renaissance: Life on the Wall in the 3rd and 4th centuries
Week 6: The ending of the Wall

There are more courses available here.