Georgian Edinburgh

Georgian House

At last we got around to visiting The National Trust’s Georgian House in Edinburgh at number 7 Charlotte Square. It’s obviously the house on the left of the photo above with the posters on the railings outside it. The house which it is attached to, the central building, is Bute House which is the official residence of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Edinburgh is famous for its Georgian terraces and crescents. These buildings were designed by Robert Adam who was of course born in Kirkcaldy.

Georgian House in Edinburgh

And hallelujah, The National Trust have just changed their policy on internal photos of their properties and you can now snap away, as long as you switch the flash off. Above is a photo of the sitting-room.

Georgian House

Across the landing is the drawing-room, you can see the decorative frieze/cornicing is the same in each room. The drawing room is the one which would have been used for dancing, after the rug had been rolled up. The NT have recently had a fitted carpet installed in the room, apparently they did have them in Georgian times. The window dressing is those fussy, flouncy swag blinds, which I always thought were a Victorian fashion, but you would think that the NT would get the historical details correct so I’m not sure. I do know that I’ve always hated those dust catching ruched blinds and much prefer straightforward simple curtains. I think it was the designer Sir Terence Conran who when those fancy blinds were popular again in the 1980s described them as being like tarts’ knickers. I bow to his superior knowledge!

Georgian House  commode

Between the two rooms there’s a small alcove in which is situated this commode, there wasn’t much space to take a photo and unfortunately it’s blurred as you can see, but you get the idea. There’s just a bucket underneath!

Georgian House in Edinburgh

Above is the main bedroom, which has beautiful and cheerful yellow wallpaper which didn’t really come out all that well in this photo. The bed is gorgeous though, in fact all of the furniture in the house is elegant, so much more stylish than Victorian furniture is.

Georgian House in Edinburgh

More photos of the Georgian House tomorrow, but meanwhile you can take a virtual tour of it here.

A Particular Eye for Villainy by Ann Granger

A Particular Eye for Villainy by Ann Granger was published in 2012 and it’s the first book that I’ve read by the author.

The setting is London in the 1860s and the story is told by Elizabeth Martin Ross and her husband Inspector Ben Ross, taking turns to tell the tale.

Mr Thomas Tapley was a neighbour of the Ross’s, he was an elderly gentleman, it looked like he had seen better days but he seemed friendly enough and harmless. So when he is found in his rented rooms, having been bludgeoned to death there are few clues to go on. But Mrs Ross had seen him on the day of his death and she is quite sure that he was being followed by someone dressed as a clown. She has a particular fear of clowns ( I know the feeling!) and her husband the inspector is inclined to put her suspicion down to her own aversion to clowns.

I quite enjoyed this one although I think it would have been better if I had started reading from the beginning of the series, I think this is the fourth one. I guessed the culprit fairly early on in the book. I’m not sure if I’ll read any others in this series as I have so many books and series to catch up with. I also feel that I should pay more attention to the many unread books of my own which I’ve been neglecting. They’re the bookish equivalent of the cobbler’s weans who went barefoot!

Cove in Berwickshire, Scotland


A couple of days ago we went to visit our good friend Eric who lives close to this wee cove, which is actually just called Cove, in Berwickshire. As you can see the tide was fairly far in but we still managed to get a bit of a walk along the beach. At least one of the houses in the background is a holiday let, fine for a holiday but a bit too close to the sea for my liking, for all the year round living.


The nearest big place is Dunbar which was at one point quite a popular holiday destination, but this wee remote stretch of beach is far nicer and I have to say a lot more pleasant smelling than Dunbar was on the same day.


It was the houses above which I was most interested in, they’ve been built on a narrow lump of rock which is surrounded by the sea, or should I call it the Solway Firth? I’ve always said I would never want a house too close to water but these two have obviously been standing there for well over 100 years and they haven’t been washed away yet. You can see Uther the red and white setter having a good old sniff around.


I don’t think anybody lives in the houses nowadays, they seem to be just used for storing fishing gear.

Below you can see the sea wall, Jack, Eric and Uther. We knew that it was hot, in fact as hot as it had been all so-called summer, but we later discovered that despite it being the last day of September, it was hotter in Scotland than it was on the Cote d’Azure. There’s really no accounting for our weather but it makes life interesting I suppose.



If you look closely below you should be able to see a couple of scuba divers who seemed to be having fun. I’ve never done that, in fact I never will as I’m not a great swimmer, but I’d love to see what it looked like underwater there.


Jack remarked that Cove reminded him of Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire, but being a good Yorkshireman Eric of course had never been there. Well you never do get around to visiting the tourist attractions on your own doorstep do you?!

The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh

The Late Scholar cover

The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh and published in 2013 is one of those books in which she has taken the Dorothy L. Sayers characters, Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey and written a tale, supposedly in the style of Sayers. I read the first one which Walsh wrote, actually she finished a book which Sayers had begun, and I wasn’t too convinced by it as I recall.

But either I’m getting less fussy or this one was better. Set in 1953, Peter is now the Duke of Denver due to the death of his elder brother and part of his duties is to be the ‘visitor’ of an Oxford University college, St Severins.

There has been quite a lot of upset at the college between two warring factions of fellows. Some want to sell a rare book which may have been owned by King Alfred, and some of the writing in it may even be by the king. The other faction want to sell the book so that some land can be bought as a money making opportunity for the college.

The voting for and against has been at a deadlock and it seems that in desperation someone has taken to murder as a way of winning the vote. Harriet and Peter, with the help of Bunter of course sort things out.

Jill Paton Walsh does a good job of writing the characters, albeit they are less witty, mainly because they are now married, the storyline lacks the ‘will they won’t they’ sparkle of the earlier Sayers books. Peter and Harriet are now an old married couple with almost grown up sons, the chase has been long won and Peter doesn’t have to dress up in a harlequin suit again. A shame really as it was fun when Harriet kept turning his offers of marriage down. Especially as a large amount of the female readers would have jumped at the chance to marry someone like him, including Sayers herself.

The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola

The Belly of Paris cover

The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola was first published in 1873. I’ve only read two of his books prior to this one and of those Germinal was my favourite, but this one is running it close.

It’s the story of Florent, a young man who had been caught up in the Paris street riots of 1853 and although he was innocent of any wrong-doing he ended up being transported to Devil’s Island, just because he had got blood on his hands. After years of starvation and bad treatment on the prison island he managed to escape and travel back to Paris and that is when the book begins, with a half-dead Florent entering Paris which he doesn’t recognise as there have been so many changes since he has been away.

A huge market place has been built near the area where he had previously lived, Les Halles as the market is called provides what amounts to a feast for all the senses as Zola describes everything he sees there. This is not always good, you definitely won’t be keen on reading this book if you are a vegan or even a vegetarian, the descriptions of the fish market and meat and poultry was sometimes a bit too over-powering. The fruit and flower markets feature too, easier on the mind’s eye as you might imagine, but the cheese market was definitely more than a bit whiffy!

Most of the market workers are women and very strong willed and Les Halles is full of gossip, mainly completely made up, people like to think the worst of their neighbours.

Florent ends up working as a fish market inspector which pushes him into close proximity to the women who scare him. He had intended to go back to his old work – teaching, but he couldn’t get a job. Lisa his very business minded sister-in-law persuaded him to take the market job, which is really like working for the government, something which he swore he wouldn’t do. Florent ends up getting mixed up in politics, which you know is only going to end in tears.

This book is about the people of Paris, most of whom seem to be doing very nicely in the stable atmosphere of the Second Empire, and they have no wish to rock the boat. They are the fat people, only concerned with business and the getting of money. Florent is on the other side, the thin people who are more interested in building a fair society. Guess who wins in the end?!

Apparently Zola spent a lot of time in the area of Les Halles to capture the atmosphere of the place and the people, his decriptions of the area have been of use to historians as Les Halles were demolished and it’s only from Zola’s desciptions of the buildings that people know how they looked.

I read this book as part of my Classics Club challenge.

The Belly of Paris is one of the 20 books which make up Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series.

TV – a great new season – so far

There have been times fairly recently when I thought I had really fallen out of love with television as I never seemed to bother to watch most of the new things which were being broadcast. I gave up on Downton Abbey because of the greed of ITV which meant that there were more commercials being screened during Downton time than actual Downton Abbey. It put me right off commercial TV altogether.

I’ve always enjoyed watching The Bake Off. I’m not a big fan of Paul Hollywood, I don’t find him objectionable though, I am quite a fan of Mary Berry however, since watching her on a TV cookery programme which was on in the afternoons in the 1970s. It was partly her old-fashioned oh so proper Englishness (but not snooty) which I liked, but now I like her for being so positive and determined to try to say something good about some aspect of the contestants’ efforts. I’ve come to realise that in life one of the most important things is to be kind, or at least not to be vicious, some people seem to think that that’s entertainment, pulling someone’s best efforts apart, but it’s not my idea of comfy viewing.

The Bake Off is the only thing of that sort which I’ve watched. I’ve never seen ‘Strictly’ or any of those jungle/island/Big Brother things, frankly I’d rather do just about anything else. I sometimes feel a bit odd, not quite part of society as all these types of programmes feature so highly in day to day living, but I don’t even recognise most of the names of the people involved in them.

So I was watching very little of ‘new’ TV and was almost always watching re-runs of old programmes if anything at all, but I’ve been drawn into new things this season and really enjoying them, despite sometimes being quite determined not to like them. The programme which comes under that category is Cradle to Grave which is apparently about the teenage years of the DJ/entertainer Danny Baker, never a favourite of mine, but it has been a really nostalgic step back into the 1970s for me, the time when I was a teenager too.

Doctor Foster was well trailed as a must view so I gave it a go, mainly because I really like the actress Suranne Jones, and I’ve not been disappointed although I just have to shout advice at her on screen, she’s not taking any of it though!

The new series of Doctor Who is fab, Missy played by Michelle Gomez is wonderful and I’m warming to Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I love it when they both start speaking in their normal Scottish accents, but David Tennant will always be my favourite Doctor.

I’ve been enjoying watching Boy Meets Girl which is about a young chap who happens to start dating a transgender woman/man. It’s funny and very well acted, with an actual transgender person acting in it. It’s very brave apparently for the BBC to take on this subject, brave it might be but it’s definitely entertaining.

Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You is a series about how foetuses develop and what happens when the development goes wrong, fascinating for the science and the people involved who have gone bit wonky in the womb but it hasn’t got them down.

I see that on Wednesday there’s a new Simon Schama series – The Face of Britain which looks like it’ll be interesting. There’s a book to go with the series and you can read the Guardian review of it here.

On Thursday BBC 4 there’s Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor, a year in the life of an oak tree.

On Friday BBC 1 – The Kennedys has been tipped by the Guardian as a pick of the day. The setting is again the 1970s, so I think it’ll be another nostalgia trip.

It looks like I’ll be doing nothing but watching the telly, but I promise you I’m still getting plenty of reading in, just don’t look at the state of my house!

Have you been watching anything good on TV recently?

Dead Souls by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol

Dead Souls by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was first published in 1842. In the author’s preface he says that he wrote the book to show commonplace types of Russian people and the vices, weaknesses and shortcomings within Russian society.

The main character Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov is a middle aged bachelor, he’s not at all wealthy but aspires to change that situation and has hit upon an idea to improve his finances. Chichikov arrives in a small town and goes on a charm offensive, buttering up all the government officials and landowners in the area. At the time the book is set in there are infrequent censuses and as landowners have to pay what amounts to a poll tax for every serf that they own it means that they end up paying tax for people who are dead. The dead serfs aren’t removed from the tax system until the next census comes around.

Chichikov plans to buy up the dead serfs or souls as they are known, at a cheap price and the landowners are only to eager to sell their tax burdens on to him, although they have no idea why he would want to do them this favour.

Chichikov realises that if he goes to a bank and tells them that he owns a large number of serfs they will advance a huge amount of money to him, basically using the serfs as collateral, which means he could buy an estate of his own, or just pocket the money.

The townspeople are naturally suspicious of a person who wants to buy up dead serfs and all sorts of rumours go around about Chichikov and eventually he has to leave the area and travels to a different part of Russia where he tries the same scam again.

In fact it seems to me that Chichikov is never going to learn anything from his mistakes, he’s just going to repeat them all again, with his lying and cheating getting worse each time. Gogol wanted to highlight the greed and corruption within middle class Russian society and government officials. He certainly managed to do that and there are parts of the book which are daftly amusing. The third part of the book was burnt by the author and so the book is unfinished, in fact it ends mid sentence, which I found very annoying. I didn’t love this book but as with many classics, I’m glad that I read it as now I feel that I’ve added to my knowledge of Russian literature.

What strikes me about the whole thing though is that at the time that Dead Souls was written Gogol was obviously happy to write this book which slags off government officials, for the enjoyment of the readers. So the Imperial Russia of 1842s was a very much easier place to write about the shortcomings of society, compared with Russia of 100 years later, as in 1942 if anyone had denigrated the Communist officials like that they would have been quickly marched off to a labour camp, if not shot.

I read Dead Souls as part of the Classics Club, another one ticked off my list. I was also reading it along with Judith, Reader in the Wilderness, and she should be blogging about her thoughts on it soon.

My garden in August

Katrina's garden

Above is a photo of part of the back border of my garden. When we moved here just 18 months ago there was nothing here except grass, very rough grass at that, but already I’m having to move some plants as they’ve outgrown their space. The lilies in pots are the ones which I grow to put into any bare spots in the border but I didn’t have any gaps to fill.


Above is a close up of a lily with a salvia creeping in. I took these photos in July when everything was looking its best but it’s still quite colourful now, considering we’re reaching the back end of September.


The irises are completely over now so this is a nice reminder of how lovely they were, I must get some more iris bulbs.


The clematis is beginning to twine around the trellis of the garden seat, it has flowered quite well but the honeysuckle which I planted at the back of the seat hasn’t flowered at all yet – maybe it will next year.


This rose opens up very pale pink tinged with deeper pink as you can see, but as it ages the colour deepens. I really must dig through my plant labels to see what it’s called.

obelisk + sparrows

My garden is still very much a work in progress, as every garden is, the obelisk above is one of the more recent additions. I love the way the birds claim everything for themselves as a handy perching place. When we first moved here there were hardly any birds visiting but as soon as I started planting things they came in to have a look and see what was going on. I have sweet peas planted at the base of the obelisk and a Tayberry bush winding around it.

pergola + obelisk

If you look closely at the top of the fence you can see the birds sitting there, looking like they’re waiting in a queue, taking their turn

to enjoy a good dust bath.

orange lily

I’m looking forward to the time when the fence is more or less covered by climbing plants and shrubs, the plan is for the garden to sort of blend in with the trees on the other side of the fence, which is a wild area leading to a woodland.

Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer

Why Shoot a Butler by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1933. As you would expect from such a title it’s one of her thrillers, rather than her more well known fare of historical romances, although in my experience she never could resist writing some romance into any book that she has written.

This is only her second thriller I believe and for me it’s main problem is that it’s about 100 pages too long for a 1930s thriller/murder mystery, which makes for a fair amount of tedium along the way.

Her amateur detective is a barrister called Frank Amberley. On his way to a weekend in the country he comes across a young woman standing by the roadside, next to a car. It’s foggy, but she doesn’t seem to have been in an accident, on closer examination there are bullet holes in the car windscreen.

So far so good because I much prefer a thriller to get going early on, but it doesn’t half slow down over the 312 pages. This one was written very early on in her writing career and I think she improved a lot later. There isn’t even so much of her trade mark witty repartee between the characters. I’m glad I read it though, I think I only have Envious Casca to read now – of her thrillers – it seems I have bucketloads of her Regency romances to read though. I think I’ll be choosier about reading them, and stick to those that are highly recommended by bloggers.

Smut by Alan Bennett

Well I had already finished reading Smut – two unseemly stories – by Alan Bennett, when fellow blogger Jo @The Book Jotter mentioned that it probably wasn’t a good one to start with as I hadn’t read anything by him before. I know what she meant as I’m sure it’s not typical of his writing as it is fairly smutty as you would expect from the title, it isn’t one to give to your strait-laced aunties or grannies.

Smut contains two novellas, or two long short stories, whichever you prefer. The first one is called The Greening of Mrs Donaldson which is about a middle aged widow who is struggling money wise after the death of her husband. She takes in a couple of lodgers, student medics, and they encourage her to get some part time work at the local teaching hospital. So far so ordinary, but things do take a turn to the more risque side of things, not really my cup of tea.

The second one is The Shielding of Mrs Forbes. You’ll not be surprised to learn that Mrs Forbes is – a middle aged woman. She’s a bit of a harridan, obsessive about her darling son, and Mr Forbes is really of no interest to her at all. This story is a bit more straight forward, hmm, perhaps that’s not quite the right phrase, given the subject matter.

Anyway, the stories were okay-ish. The blurb on the back says that they are naughty, honest and funny. The Radio Times said – ‘Hugely entertaining… an absolute joy’. But I’ll stick with my okay-ish!