Newhailes – National Trust for Scotland

A couple of weeks ago we decided to take ourselves off for a visit to Newhailes, a National Trust for Scotland property near Musselburgh and not far from Edinburgh. Have a look at the Undiscovered Scotland website here.

New Hailes

We were told not to take any photos of the interior, something that I know the National Trust high ‘heidyins’ are now allowing in all their properties, but this house only has small guided tours and the guide was having a nightmare with a couple of the other visitors so I decided not to argue the point. You can see some of the interiors when you click on the link above.

Newhailes 10

The house has been conserved and preserved rather than buffed up to look as it would have looked when newly built. It gives it a more lived in feeling rather than the sort of stage set look that you often get when viewing these old buildings.

The original owner of the house designed it himself, he was the architect James Smith and he bought the land in 1686, but over the years the house has been added on to. James Smith had originally intended to become a Roman Catholic priest and studied in Rome but he gave up to become an architect. He ended up marrying twice and fathering 32 children, so I think it’s fair to say that he must have realised just in time that he was not cut out to be a priest!

The house is copiously decorated with shells, particularly scallop shells which are of course the emblem of Saint James (no I’m not a Catholic, it’s just one of those things that I thought everyone knew) but I had to tell the guide about that and I’m not sure she believed me. Anyway, it made me laugh to think that James Smith had purloined the saint’s emblem for his own use.

If you’re in that area Newhailes is definitely worth a visit.

The word heidyins does of course mean – those in charge.

No Highway by Nevil Shute

No Highway cover

No Highway by Nevil Shute was first published in 1948. Shute was of course an aeronautical engineer and pilot and he worked in that industry at the same time as he was writing his earlier books. In No Highway Shute has plundered his experiences of working within the aviation industry.

The tale is told by Dr Scott, the head of the Structural Department at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Theo Honey is one of the employees he is in charge of, Honey is a strange character as far as everyone else is concerned, he has weird ideas about religion and being able to gain information through using a planchette. Honey’s wife was killed when their home was bombed during the war and he has been left to bring up their young daughter on his own.

Honey is completely obsessed by his research on stress and metal fatigue in aircraft and he thinks he has discovered that the newest trans-Atlantic Reindeer aircraft is likely to suffer catastrophic damage involving the tail falling off after they have flown around 1400 hours.

Nobody wants to believe his research outcomes and his weird interests are used against him, to paint him as someone not to be taken seriously. One Reindeer aircraft has already crashed into a mountain but as usual the crash has been blamed on pilot error. Honey and Scott believe that if they don’t stop the other Reindeers from flying then more people will die in crashes. Honey is sent off to Canada to look for evidence of metal fatigue on the crashed aircraft, and ends up taking desperate action to stop the plane he is on from flying on when it stops to refuel.

This is a good read, at times quite gripping and also involves quite a lot of romance as Honey is one of those men who are obviously in need of the love and care of a good woman to nurture and protect him. He brings out their mothering instincts, much to the amazement of the more worldly men around him. .

Short break and trip ideas in Scotland

If you’re looking for short break and trip ideas in Scotland you might be interested in this link. You’ll find seven incredible trip you could take this weekend (if you are lucky enough to be in Scotland of course)

I love bridges and the Clachan Bridge on the Isle of Seil in the photo below looks like something out of a fairy tale illustration to me.

clachan bridge

Death in a White Tie by Ngaio Marsh

Death in a White Tie cover

Death in a White Tie by the New Zealand author Ngaio Marsh was first published in 1938 but my copy is a 1949 reprint. It’s a Chief Detective-Inspector Alleyn mystery and the setting is London high society where Lady Alleyn, the detective’s mother is going to be attending debutante balls, chaperoning the daughter of friends who are living abroad. It’s not something she’s looking forward to, the whole process is exhausting and she is a lot older than she was when she did it for her own daughter. It throws her into the society of old friends and it soon becomes apparent that not all is as it should be.

Alleyn is aware that there’s a blackmailer operating in London High Society, he has inside information and ends up attending some of the functions his mother goes to, in an attempt to unmask the blackmailer.

I enjoyed Death in a White Tie which kept me guessing and in some ways Marsh’s writing reminded me of A Game of Thrones as she had no hesitation in introducing the reader to a loveable character – only to dispatch him violently. That’s very different from Christie’s and even Sayers’s writing where you often don’t meet the victim until the body is found, or they are particularly unlikeable people.

I was interested in this passage:

How many of these women were what he still thought of as ‘virtuous’? And the debutantes? They had gone back to chaperones and were guided and guarded by women, many of whose own private lives would look ugly in this flood of hard lights that had been let in on Lord Robert’s world. The girls were sheltered by a convention for three months but at the same time they heard all sorts of things that would have horrified and bewildered his sister Mildred at their age. And he wondered if the Victorian and Edwardian eras had been no more than freakish incidents in the history of society and if their proprieties had been as artificial as the paint on a modern woman’s lips.

I think that’s a fair description of the Victorian and Edwardian era, but those years lasted so long that people forgot how bawdy and raucous society had been in earlier times. Writing like Chaucer’s would probably have shocked the Victorians rigid. Is all that Victorian prurience something we have to blame Prince Albert for? Was it the upsurge of a middle class due to industrialisation in Britain? Just wondering.

I know, I wandered again, but it’s an interesting subject. Getting back to the book, I think this is the best Ngaio Marsh book I’ve read so far.

20 Books of Summer Challenge

I’m taking part in 20 Books of Summer @ 746 Books.

I’m doing quite well, and that probably says more about our lack of summer weather than anything else. I’ve actually read more books than these seven since the 1st of June, but you can see below the ones from my original list that I’ve read so far.

1. An Autumn Sowing by E.F. Benson
2. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
3. Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
4. Madam, Will You Talk by Mary Stewart
5. A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor
6. A Place to Stand by Anne Bridge
7. The Moon King by Neil Williamson
8. Runyon from First to Last by Damon Runyon
9. Resorting to Murder – Holiday Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards
10.The Suspect L.R. Wright
11. Noble Descents by Gerald Hanley
12. Silence for the Murderer by Freeman Wills Crofts
11. Crime Out of Mind by Delano Ames
12. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
13. The Prince Buys the Manor by Elspeth Huxley
14. Headless Angel by Vicki Baum
15. The Weeping Wood by Vicki Baum
16. Justine by Lawrence Durrell
17. Fillets of Plaice by Gerald Durrell
18. Daniel Plainway by Van Reid
19. Love at all Ages by Angela Thirkell
20. A Desert in Bohemia by Jill Paton Walsh

Gordon and Laura’s Wedding part 2

wedding photo 3

Our two handsome lads have always been opposites so it was no surprise when Duncan said that he wouldn’t wear a kilt. Gordon has his own kilt and wears it quite often, probably because he has been to a lot of weddings recently. Each to their own, the brothers get on well together, probably because they are opposites.

wedding photo 14

The wedding cake decoration is based on the logo of Gordon’s favourite band Forward Russia. No, not many people have heard of them, Gordon has quite an eclectic and sometimes quite obscure taste in music.

wedding photo 16

Laura is a big fan of cheese and she had joked to her girlfriends that she would really like a cheesecake as a wedding cake, so they concocted this alternative tower of cheeses for her.

wedding photo 24

And above they are cutting their real cake. The top half was Gordon’s favourite – carrot cake. The bottom section was madeira.

If you want a laugh have a look below at me in a hat, before I ditched the jacket and hat. I took advice from everyone on the hat and they all said wear it. Hmm – I can imagine what will be said about it in years to come! That’s the only photo I have of me at the wedding at the moment, I hope the others are better!

The tables were all named after albums by I Like Trains, another of Gordon’s favourite bands.

wedding photo 12

The photo below is of the ladies all dancing to Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, and doing all the actions. I have the original album that the song was on and I find it quite amazing that all these years later women who weren’t even thought of back then are dancing and singing along to her music. The good stuff never ages I suppose.

wedding photo 31

Gordon and Laura’s Wedding

The Stephen/Hobson wedding in Glasgow was a great success. Yes it actually was a piss up in a brewery so it couldn’t really go very far wrong, there was no chance of drinking the place dry. I only recently discovered that people in the US have never heard of the often used British phrase – they couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery to describe someone who is useless at everything.

Below is a photo that Jack took as we all waited for the arrival of the bride. Gordon is on the far left of course with his older brother Duncan beside him, Duncan won’t wear a kilt as you can see. Gordon’s kilt’s tartan is called Spirit of Scotland I believe. The other handsome chaps are friends from schooldays.

wedding photo 1

Of course The West Brewery has a bar/restaurant within it as well as function rooms and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more professional and hard working. The registrar was booked to come along and perform the actual ceremony, something that she must do several times each day probably but she took her time over it and had a lot of sensible things to say about marriage and relationships, maybe she doubles as a marriage guidance counsellor too! That was the first time I had been at a non-religious marriage and I must say I was very impressed with it.The registrar asked for no photos to be taken during the actual ceremony, I think that is sensible too.

So we scoot on to a photo taken after the event, just after the signing of the legal paper. It’s all red eye but you get the general idea.
wedding photo 5

Laura went for a 1950s style dress and hairdo, very stylish and different. Her hair is usually in shades of red/wine but she went for dark roots, ash blonde and purple underneath.

wedding photo 7

Gordon made all the ‘flower’ buttonholes and Laura’s bouquet from paper featuring the names of each persons’ favourite band and album names. It was all very music themed.

Below is a photo of their first dance, you can see that Laura means business as she has changed into her dancing shoes! As you see, the dress is longer at the back and underneath are tulle petticoats in purple, green and turquoise. It reminded me of a peacock’s tail. Lovely.

wedding photo 30

Below – Duncan and his partner Alex look like they’re really enjoying the beer!

wedding photo 22

It was a memorable day and I can’t wait to see the photos the photographer took.

wedding photo 8

Wedding Weekend

It has been very quiet on ‘Pining’ over the last few days, that’s because we’ve actually been in that west that I pine for – Glasgow to be precise, celebrating our youngest son’s wedding. A great time was had by all and if you’re very unlucky you might see some photos of us all soonish.

Here is a photo of the venue to be getting on with.

More Garden in mid July

garden 1

Here are just a few more photos of my garden, taken today. I was surprised to see how much it has changed since April when the photo below was taken.

my garden

garden 2

Again, it looks very different below. This is still a work in progress though as you can see from the photo below I was busy cutting away turf to make room for plants, and I still haven’t finished the work on that flower bed, more turf has to come out.

my garden

The tree right in the middle of the photo has grown a lot, it’s a cherry blossom but it hasn’t flowered yet – fingers crossed it will next year. I love those Dutch irises.

garden 3

Book Purchases

We were in Edinburgh on Tuesday, right in the middle of the city – Princes Street, we don’t often go there but I wanted to visit the Habitat store. It was a bit of a shock to discover that Habitat has gone from Edinburgh, I knew the one in Glasgow had closed. I suppose we have the internet to blame for that, apparently it closed about five years ago and I’ve only just found out, so obviously they never made much money from me.

Anyway, we rarely go to Edinburgh without visiting Stockbridge, the secondhand bookshops are far more my cup of tea than the shops in Princes Street, or Shandwick Place for that matter. Stockbridge is about a 20 minute walk from the centre of Edinburgh and it’s like a wee separate town, with lots of independent shops – and charity shops of course. You can see some images of parts of Stockbridge here.

I was lucky bookwise as you can see.


A lot of them are childrens books, but I like to catch up on what I missed out on as a child. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Nancy Drew book, but I know that Joan @ Planet Joan is a big fan so I couldn’t resist buying:

The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene.

The Marvelous Land of Oz by Frank Baum. I’ve yet to read The first Oz book although I have the second.

The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff. It’s about Britain just after the Romans left, a dark time of change and upheaval. (Does it remind you of anything?!)

Once Upon a Time by A.A. Milne. This book was first published in 1917 but my copy is a 1962 reprint. It’s a series of hilarious adventures apparently – involving a cloak of darkness, magic swords and seven league boots. It sounds like fun – for children of all ages.

A Folly of Princes by the Scottish author Nigel Tranter is set in Fife where I live and involves some of the local castles and King Robert III, it should be interesting as although Tranter wrote fiction his books were well researched.

Crime at Christmas by C.H.B. Kitchin was first published in 1934 but this one is a 2015 reprint by Faber and Faber. I’m going to keep this one fro Christmas reading.

Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes – another Scottish author – was first published in 1938 and it was recommended to me by a blogger yonks ago. I have read a lot of his books, including the ones he wrote under the name J.I.M. Stewart and I always enjoy his writing.

I think you’ll agree that I had quite a successful day in Edinburgh – despite not being able to do my planned shopping in Habitat.