Knickers!

knitting book

I was having a chat with a friend recently when the subject of knickers came up – or to be more precise it was the word ‘knickers’ because it seems that it’s a quintessentially British word and I must admit that I often use it when I’m mildly annoyed by something. Oh knickers, or Knickers to that or Don’t get your knickers in a twist – that’s Joan’s favourite.

I had an elderly friend who was quite obsessed by knickers and it was never long into any conversation with her before the word popped out. The word knickers somehow lightens a moment and brings a smile to many a face – don’t ask me why! The word underpants just doesn’t have the same panache and briefs sounds too legal.

Anyway, I was flicking through my copy of Modern Knitting Illustrated (1945) when I came across the above ladies who are modelling what was obviously the height of wartime fashion in Britain and would have been the sort of thing which my friend Marjorie was wearing at that time.

All I can say it no wonder that old parachutes were in such high demand for making into knickers because wearing those ones illustrated must have been akin to wearing a hair shirt. Parachute silk next to the skin must have been heaven compared with wool. They’re knitted in 2-ply wool and it would have been real wool, nothing like nylon or anything else man-made, and you know how much wool makes you itch!

I wish I could remember what it was I read recently which had a woman reminiscing about London during the war and saying that there was no getting away from it – London was smelly. No wonder as what with only being allowed one bath a week and the difficulty in getting clothes dry in our weather, I suspect that knickers were only washed once a week too!

Blackie’s Children’s Annual

I have a lot of collections of ‘stuff’, often completely useless and worthless but just pretty, such as shells and stones and there are the books and china of course, old brooches and boxes, old postcards… the list goes on and on. But I’m absolutely not going to start a collection of Blackie’s Annuals although I believe they are collected by a lot of people.

Blackie's Children's Annual

I just came across this one at the weekend whilst looking for something completely different – a set of pine shelves which I want for the kitchen but am having no luck finding. In fact today I just bought wood to have a go at making them myself, with Jack’s help. I wish I had been able to take woodworking classes when I was at school, I would have loved that.

Anyway, I’m rambling, back to Blackie’s Children’s Annual, I couldn’t resist buying this one but unfortunately it doesn’t have any clue inside it as to when it was published. It must have been sometime during World War 1 because of the endpapers, beautiful wee soldiers, in kilts too albeit rather short ones.

Front Endpapers

Back Endpapers

Also the very first story in the book is about a father going to war, he’s in the Special Reserves and the family’s ‘fraulein’ is having to return to Germany. So I’m plumping for Christmas 1914 for the publication date although Jack thinks they wouldn’t have had time to get it published in time for Christmas 1914. I think it was probably all ready long before Christmas and they just added the first story about the war and the endpapers to catch the spirit of the times. After all – the war was going to be finished soon wasn’t it?!

Actually I’ve just realised that the front cover was almost certainly designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh as he did a lot of work for Blackie’s books as well as designing Hill House in Helensburgh for him.

If you’re interested there are more images of Blackie’s books here.

Deer, garden and dogs

A couple of weeks ago we saw four deer together close to where we now live, that’s the most we’ve seen at any one time, the same day one jumped out of the undergrowth right in front of us, it was being chased by a dog but luckily its owner called it off and it was an obedient dog.

deer

But now look what has happened, I knew it would snow, just as everything was growing nicely in the garden.
snow 2

As you can see it had already begun to melt away by lunchtime. We got about three inches of snow which I know is nothing compared with other people but I’m longing for the spring and as it’s March it should be getting warmer, not colder. My new fruit trees are all showing signs of growth too, I suppose it could be worse, they could be flowering and frosted flowers would mean no fruit at all. The two bird boxes which I’ve attached to the fence have been getting interest from the blue-tits, I hope some of them decide that they are just the sort of des res that they are looking for.

snow 3

So it was a day for indoors, I actually baked Joan’s Muffin Surprise and also some treacle scones, the only kind I’ve had much success with in the past. I’m going to try cherry scones soon though.

Here’s a photo I took a few weeks ago whilst out on a walk. I was amazed and a wee bit trepidatious when I saw this woman coming along the path with a whole load of loose dogs, not a lead in sight. She had nine dogs – seven Border collies and two Border terriers, but I had no need to worry because she was top dog and she had them under complete control, which is more than can be said for a lot of dog walkers. God alone knows what her house must be like with that lot though!

dogs 1

By the way I was checking the spelling of trepidatious (or trepidacious as an alternative) and found this thread. I was surprised it was first noted only in 1904. That’s the sort of thing that interests me but it might not anyone else. Own up if it does.

The Final Deduction by Rex Stout

The Final Deduction cover

The Final Deduction by Rex Stout was first published in 1961. Althea Vail is a rich woman, married to a much younger man and when she turns up at Nero Wolfe’s door saying that her husband has been kidnapped it seemed to me that this was going to be an obvious plot to figure out, in fact I nearly rolled my eyes.

However there are plenty of twists and turns and I just love being in the company of Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe, not forgetting Fritz the chef, I wish he could come and cook for me!

I hadn’t realised until I read this one that in US-ian the word kidnapped is spelled with only one ‘p’ (apparently) unless they got it wrong all the way through my copy of the book. I found it very difficult to NOT read it kidnayped – you live and learn.

The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson

 The White Bird Passes cover

The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson was first published in 1958. It’s very autobiographical, based on Kesson’s poverty stricken childhood in a small town in the Scottish Highlands.

Liza McVean is a young unmarried woman and mother to Janie who is 8 years old at the beginning of the book. They live in ‘the lane’ which is a slum area of the town. There don’t seem to be many men around, the lane is ‘run’ by a few prominent women in the community one of whom makes sure that the people in the lanes abide by her rule of which toilet they should use. It seems there were only two outside toilets for the whole community.

In some ways it seems like a loving and caring place to grow up, despite the poverty, bugs, nits and the fact that some of the women are obviously ‘on the game’ as their only means of surviving. In fact Liza herself seems to have been pushed down that road too and it’s probably that which makes the ‘cruelty man’ decide to remove Janie from her home and have her placed in an orphanage.

Liza had had a good upbringing herself as the reader can see when the two of them go off to visit her mother on the family farm. The mother is welcoming but Liza’s father doesn’t acknowledge either of them. I suppose Liza had brought shame on him and there was never going to be any forgiveness for that, so Liza and Janie are left to sink or swim and under the circumstances sinking is much more likely.

The first part of this book was really good probably because she was reminiscing on what had been for her happy times but it sort of ran downhill when Janie was taken away to the orphanage. She did eventually get over being torn from her mother whom she had really loved and she turned out to have a brain and a real aptitude for learning and writing in particular but those in charge of the orphanage didn’t believe that a female from such circumstances should be given the chance to rise above them and get an education.

Given that the book is set in the 1920s, that attitude to females isn’t the least bit surprising as it wasn’t any better in the 1970s and it was only fairly recently that it dawned on me that, of all of my many schoolfriends, it was only the ones who had no brothers who were allowed to go on to college or university. I actually overheard my own mother saying to another woman – “There’s no point in putting any effort into daughters as they just grow up to push prams”!! It’s a wonder more of us didn’t go doo-lally.

I read this one as part of the Read Scotland 2015 Challenge.

Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office by Hugh Lofting

Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office by Hugh Lofting was first published in 1924. I’ve enjoyed a few of the books in this series but this one just didn’t hit the mark somehow. The pushmi-pullyu was homesick for Africa and asked Doctor Dolittle if he would mind taking him to Africa for a few weeks holiday so he could walk around his old grazing grounds once more.

Doctor Dolittle is happy to oblige him and so he buys an old boat and off he sails with some more of his animal friends. After enjoying a good holiday they set sail for home but when they find a weeping woman in a canoe they have to stop and help her.

The woman Zuzana is weeping because her husband has been taken captive by slavers, so Dolittle and his animal friends track the slave ship down with the help of a British Navy ship which is also trying to put the slavers out of business.

So – job done, all’s well that ends well – except Doctor Dolittle has the idea of using the world’s birdlife to run an airmail postal service, thus enslaving all birds! Bizarre, as if they don’t have enough to be getting on with themselves.

I usually only read one or maybe two books at a time although I will put quite a few books on my Goodreads reading list and work my way through them, this one has been weighing on my conscience as it has been languishing on Goodreads for ages – awaiting me finishing it, whilst I started and finished umpteen other books in that time.

It did get better towards the end but it isn’t a great idea for a children’s book. Doctor Dolittle has learned to speak to animals of course and I was interested to read in Wendy Moore’s biography of the anatomist John Hunter that it’s thought that Hugh Lofting took Hunter as his inspiration for Doctor Dolittle.

If you’re interested you can have a look at lots of Dolittle images here.

The Martyrs’ Monument at Calton Burial Ground, Edinburgh

A few weeks ago I was contacted through my blog about the Martyrs’ Monument in Edinburgh’s Calton Burial Ground. Martin, a student who was doing a short film about it as part of his course, asked me if I would mind saying a few things about the monument on film.

Martyrs' Monument 1

That was far too high profile for me, I like to lead a fairly anonymous life but I asked Jack if he would do it and as you can see he was happy to do so, he’s much more at home with that sort of thing than I am.

Martyrs' Monument 2

Although the monument – the massive obelisk at the left – was erected in 1844 by The Friends of Parliamentary Reform, the men that the monument commemorates were martyred in 1793 and 1794 when they were transported to Australia, for having the temerity to ask for the vote for ordinary working men. You can read about it here. Revolution was in the air I suppose and those in power here were terrified that the French Revolution would spread to Britain, so the men were sentenced to 14 years in the penal colony in New South Wales, tantamount to a death sentence. William Skirving, the one which I’m related to according to family legend, died of dysentery there.

Martyrs' Monument 6

It was nice for us to be able to help Martin with his course work.

Martyrs' Monument 4

If you want to visit the cemetery too you might find this short film from Edinburgh Video Guide helpful.

You can see more images of Edinburgh’s historic Calton Burial Ground here.

The sharper eyed amongst you may have noticed a statue in the background of the top picture that looks very like Abraham Lincoln. That’s because it is. It’s on a memorial to Scots who fought in the US Civil War.

Scottish American Soldiers Memorial

The Knife Man by Wendy Moore

The Knife Man by Wendy Moore was published in 2005, if you haven’t already read Anbolyn at Gudrun’s Tights review you should have a look at it here.

It’s quite bizarre that I learned of this book through a blog written in Arizona (I think). The Knife Man of the title is John Hunter who was born in East Kilbride, Scotland in 1728. He didn’t come from a wealthy family and although he had lots of siblings most of them didn’t survive to adulthood. He was the youngest and his brother William, older than John by 10 years had gone down to England to further his medical career. John wasn’t a bookish boy, in fact he really wasn’t interested in education whilst at school and he just wasn’t a successful student but when his brother invited him down to London to help him with his work in his anatomy school, John turned out to have a great aptitude for the job. He went on to prepare and preserve thousands of anatomy specimens, many of which can still be seen at the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow University, where I have been a frequent visitor for years, small boys especially enjoy the exhibits. I must admit that I didn’t even know why it is called The Hunterian!

John Hunter’s research really started modern surgery, doctors were really quite clueless about most medical problems and were more likely to kill their patients than cure them, bleeding people to death or feeding them dangerous compounds. As Hunter wasn’t actually a doctor he was looked down on by medics but as he was successful in curing people of problems which had previously ended in death or at best amputation – he was obviously very popular with his patients. This didn’t endear Hunter to medics and he made a lot of enemies amongst them which impacted on him to the end of his life.

Hunter had a huge following amongst students of surgery and was very popular with them, despite the fact that he wasn’t a good communicator, his lack of people skills held him back, he wasn’t willing to hob-nob and smarm the right people. On the other hand he was willing to administer his skills to poor people for free and was kind and caring.

It must have been quite unsettling meeting Hunter though as I’m sure most people would have been thinking that he was probably more interested in getting a hold of their dead body than getting to know them, especially if they had some sort of malformation. A vast number of fresh corpses were needed to teach his students anatomy, each one supposed to be given a body to dissect themselves. One of his pupils went on to develop the first vaccine for smallpox.

John Hunter was obsessive about his work and he kept outgrowing his premises as his collections grew, it all cost eye watering amounts of money and whilst his older brother William who had no wife or children, had laid up treasures in this world, in fact he was a miser, John spent every penny he could on his obsession, collecting unusual wild animals – alive and dead. Unfortunately John neglected to provide for his wife and children which had terrible consequences for them.

John worked such long hours that he really worked himself to death, dying at the age of 65, in fact it’s amazing that he lasted as long as he did. John Hunter counted amongst his friends such luminaries as Adam Smith the economist, James Cook the explorer, Dr Johnson, James Boswell, Tobias Smollett and David Hume the philosopher all of them Scots apart from the unfortunate Johnson. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at their gatherings.

John Hunter was Robert Louis Stevenson’s inspiration for Jekyll and Hyde and it’s thought that Hugh Lofting based his Doctor Dolittle books on him too – I can definitely see that.

This book is a fascinating read, I could go on about it for ages, it isn’t really a dark book, despite the fact that Hunter’s work obviously involved body-snatching and even experiments on animals at times, I like to think he gave them some laudanum as he liked animals I’m sure. This book comes under the category of biography but it’s also a history of modern medicine, as opposed to what had been practised until then, medicine hadn’t advanced since Greek times, in fact John Hunter had gone to Cambridge University at one point and had left in disgust as there was nothing that they could teach him, they were stuck in the past.

You can see images of The Hunterian Museum here.

More Changes

I’ve had so much trouble trying to get a photo on my header, the theme I chose just didn’t like any of the photos I tried and cropping only distorted them, so as you can see I have a huge photo of the Forth Bridge as my header at the moment, I plan to change that from time to time. I just have a few more things to add to the sidebar.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished reading The Knife Man by Wendy Moore – what a fascinating read that was, I’ll be blogging about it very soon. I only heard about The Knife Man because Anbolyn @ Gudrun’s Tights reviewed it, I must say that the internet and visiting other people’s blogs has enriched my reading experiences no end.

Some Changes

I thought it was about time I had a bit of a change on Pining, after all I’ve been blogging for just over six years now and I had never changed a thing, not my gravatar (which never looked like me – I hope) or header or anything.

As you can see it’s a bit different from what it was but it’s a work in progress, I’m having some trouble with my header, but I hope to sort that out soon.