31 March 2010 11:05
I’m supposed to be using the library instead of buying books nowadays as we will probably be down-sizing at some point in the nearish future, due to the fact that we don’t want to be rattling around in a big family house when the family has flown the nest.
Unfortunately, we recently discovered a great second-hand bookshop which is only about a two mile walk away from our house. It’s just impossible to resist, and as my husband said – there are worse vices to have.
So, in the last week I have bought:
Vanity Fair by Willliam Thackeray – I’m blaming Jane GS for this one.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – We only had a paperback.
Swan Song by John Galsworthy – I had to complete my set.
The Novels of Thomas Love Peacock – Only had a few before.
Basil by Wilkie Collins – I’m blaming The Classics Circuit.
Miss or Mrs? by Wilkie Collins – DITTO.
Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer – DITTO.
The Battles of the Somme by Martin Marix Evans – I’m blaming
Gabrillo Princip for that one.
One of my grandfathers was at the Somme and we’ve been to visit one of the preserved battlefields where the Canadians had been in the front line.
Well worth a visit if you get the chance.
The removal men complained enough when we moved here, about the number of heavy boxes of books which we had. We’ve had more than 20 book buying years here since then. I suppose we should get rid of a lot of them – in fact I have given a lot to charity over the years. Often I’ve regretted getting rid of a particular book and wonder why on earth I parted with it.
I suppose there are worse problems to have, but I can hear that book shop shouting to me. Well, I forgot to buy their copy of Anna Karenina.
29 March 2010 11:05
Teuchter is what someone from the Highlands of Scotland is called by people from the Lowlands. It is pronounced – tyou-chter.
The word has derogative connotations, meaning something like a country bumpkin. Someone who isn’t very knowledgable, a bit of a simpleton in the big city.
Teuchter is always said scornfully, which brings me to the belief that if Scotland did have independence, it wouldn’t be all that long before we were split down clan lines again. Let’s face it – we are really tribal.
Or is that just in the east of Scotland and I have lived here so long that I think it is normal for people to be insular and cliquey.
They do say that ‘It takes a lang spoon to sup with a Fifer.’ after all. I’ll certainly never have a spoon lang enough.
On the other hand, I don’t mind Teuchters at all.
26 March 2010 11:05
The Eye in the Door is the second book of The Regeneration Trilogy, and it was the winner of the 1993 Guardian Prize for Fiction. The action has moved from Scotland to England and the storyline centres around Billy Prior, who had been one of Dr. Rivers’s patients at Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh. Billy is still suffering from black-outs which are happening more and more frequently and are lasting for longer. He has no idea what he is doing during his ‘lost’ hours.
It is now 1918 and Billy (or Prior as Dr. Rivers had addressed him) is now out of the hospital and is working for Intelligence. The work involves tracking down deserters so they can be convicted and jailed.
As it is set in 1918 I suppose that class has to come into it and Billy Prior is that very unusual thing – a working class officer. Dr. Rivers had called the rest of his officer patients by their first names.
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Regeneration, I don’t know if it is just because the first book in the trilogy had a lot about Sassoon, Owen and war poetry in it, which I have always been interested in. Sassoon does crop up again towards the end of the book, having been shot in the head by his own NCO who had mistaken him for a German.
Certainly, Pat Barker has again incorporated real events such as Alice Wheeldon’s trial into the story, but a large amount of the book is about Billy Prior’s bisexuality and I don’t find that very interesting. So, it was illegal, but it wasn’t anything new.
Anyway, I’ll be reading the last part of the trilogy The Ghost Road soon.
25 March 2010 11:05
This monument is situated at the roadside just north of Burntisland in Fife. It commemorates Alexander lll who fell off his horse and broke his neck near or at this spot.
He had been warned not to travel on such a dark and stormy night but he was a middle-aged man who was keen to get back to his new and much younger wife.
He was travelling from Edinburgh to Kinghorn and when he became separated from the other horsemen in his entourage, the accident occurred. You would think that they would have taken better care of the king.
There is a plaque by the side of the monument with an inscription in Scots lamenting his death.
I wonder if there were any conspiracy theories going around at the time. There certainly would be nowadays. His death brought on Edward I of England’s attempt to take over Scotland which led to the long set of wars to maintain Scottish independence involving William Wallace and Robert The Bruce.
The monument was erected to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Alexander’s death. As you can see it is in need of a bit of sprucing up, I think it suffers from being so close to the passing traffic.
We visited it on Sunday which was just two days after the 19th and I had expected to see a wreath there as they used to have a procession and a bit of a ceremony, but there wasn’t any sign of it. Maybe that custom has died out.
We walked to the monument from Kirkcaldy, taking the coastal path as far as Kinghorn. Then you have to go by the road to Burntisland.
It was a much longer walk than we had anticipated. We aim to walk for about an hour every day, just to keep in shape. However this took us over two and a half hours there and back, it probably works out at about 9 or 10 miles. We didn’t feel too bad considering it’s the first really long walk of the year.
24 March 2010 11:11
I quite like the cover which I’ve shown above but my copy is the original old Penguin one,which is very battered now as it belonged to my grandad. The book was first published in 1933.
I first read Scoop when I was about 18, many moons ago and I actually found myself laughing out loud at it. Believe me when I say that – as a dour Scot – that doesn’t happen to me often.
This book is a famous satire on journalism and although it was published so long ago, I doubt if much has changed in that industry – apart from things being sleazier now.
John Boot a young novelist asks the influential Mrs. Stitch to get him a job in journalism abroad so that he can avoid a girlfriend who is becoming too serious for his liking. She gets Lord Copper, owner of The Daily Beast to give him work as a war correspondent.
Unfortunately there is a man already on the payroll by the name of William Boot who writes a weekly column on the countryside and wildlife and he ends up being sent to East Africa as a war correspondent by mistake.
The ideas in this book are similar to the hilarious T.V. programme Drop the Dead Donkey, with ‘news’ being made up and manipulated. Well worth a read.
It’s hard to believe that Scoop was written by the same man who wrote Brideshead Revisited. I loved that book and the T.V. series too, but they are so different from each other.
By all accounts Evelyn Waugh was a pretty ghastly person though.
I reread this book as part of the Flashback Challenge. I did enjoy it but I didn’t laugh as much this time. Either because I already knew what was coming or maybe I’ve just become more of a sobersides in my old age.
23 March 2010 11:23
It was number 1 son’s birthday recently and although he isn’t mad keen on cake, I felt the need to bake one for him. We ate it with home-made vanilla ice-cream and he did enjoy it after all. It’s a very simple recipe.
200g/7oz self-raising flour
25g/1oz cocoa powder
6 tablespoons milk
Grease 2 x 18cm/7 inch cake tins.
Cream the margarine and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one at a time. Mix the cocoa powder into the flour and add it to the cake mixture, folding it in with the milk to form a dropping consistency.
Divide the cake mixture equally between the two tins and bake in a preheated oven, 180 C (350 F), Gas Mark 4, for 20-25 minutes until risen and firm. Leave in the cake tins for 5 minutes, then remove from tins and cool on a wire rack.
Sandwich the two cakes together with chocolate buttercream or whipped cream as desired.
To make buttercream:
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of boiling water
125g/4oz butter or marg.
250g/8oz icing sugar sifted
Blend the cocoa powder with the boiling water, then cream the butter/marg with the icing sugar until light and fluffy. Then beat in the cocoa mixture.
This should be enough mixture to sandwich the cakes together and cover the top. Decorate to your taste. I used broken chocolate pieces. Enjoy.
22 March 2010 11:11
The word Sassenach comes originally from the Gaelic word Sasunnach, meaning Saxon. Now it is used to mean an English person.
Some people use it to mean Southerner and as that is all relative to where you are, it isn’t unheard of for a Highlander to call a Lowlander a Sassenach.
Mind you – as a Lowlander myself I would take great umbrage if anyone dared to call me a Sassenach. Not that I’m racist or anything! But I am a Viking/Celt, definitely not a Saxon.
21 March 2010 15:57
For me, silence is never golden as I suffer from tinnitus, so I like to have some nice background noise as often as possible, so that the ringing noises are drowned out.
So when I’m in the kitchen I always have a radio on. We have two there, one of which is permanently tuned to 5 Live, which can be quite annoying because most of the time they seem to be talking about football. Plus they speak as if it is actually important, when IT IS ONLY A GAME.
The other radio was a present from son number 1 – a digital one which is retuned often. I love the World Service but quite often it is engulfed by football too. Radio Scotland is good for more local news and travel reports.
On Sunday I’ve been listening to Jarvis Cocker on Radio 6 whilst I’m cooking the Sunday roast and probably won’t be able to do so for much longer as it is in line to be cut in order to save money. We all know a much better way of making cutbacks, just half the pay of the fat-cats at the BEEB, they’ll still be getting too much money even then.
I’m maybe the last person in the world to have discovered Radio 7. Son number 1 steered me towards it one night last week and they were transmitting programmes from 1943. I think it was a celebration of the BBC’s 21st birthday. Great stuff. So during this week I’ve been listening to Alan Bennett and Nick Hornby giving readings.
Of course I can always listen to it on the iPlayer too. It helps to drown out not only the tinitus, but also the horrible noises which our computer is making from time to time. I think it must be on its last legs, poor thing.
20 March 2010 11:03
Huntingtower was first published in 1922 and is quite different from the other Buchans which I have read (the 39 Steps and Greenmantle.) Unusually, it has a bit of romance in it. This one is set in Scotland in he spring of 1920, starting off in Glasgow and moving on to the south-west of Scotland.
Dickson McCunn has just retired from a very successful business as a grocer in Glasgow. Having sold the business he is very well off, but with his wife having a holiday at the East Neuk Hydropathic (spa), he decides to take himself off on a walking holiday in the south-west. On his wanderings he meets a young Englishman by the name of John Heritage who has been in the First World War and is now a paper maker with hopes of writing poetry. They discover that they both have a love of literature and a friendship ensues.
Meanwhile, the Gorbals Die-Hards – a gang of five young lads from Glasgow who are known to McCunn have been given some money by a well wisher so that they can go on their idea of a Boy Scout camp. They are far too poor to be able to join the real scouts as they mainly have no parents at all or are just completely neglected.
Whilst walking through a remote coastal village McCunn and Heritage discover a mystery involving the factor of the local mansion and they uncover the fact that two women are being held captive there. One of them is Saskia, a Russian princess. (Remember that this book was written not long after the Russian Revolution.) At the time there were rumours that one of the Romanov princesses had managed to escape from Ekaterinburg. There were certainly plenty of ‘white’ Russians who had escaped to other parts of Europe including Britain.
The Gorbal Die-Hards are coincidentally camping nearby and become involved in the adventure. It’s a bit like a fairy-tale for adults really.
I enjoyed this book but I think that it might be annoying for people who find reading a Scottish dialect difficult. The Gorbals Die-Hards speak in particularly broad Scots but they are the best part of the book really. There is a very good glossary at the back of the book plus copious notes.
John Buchan had been a favourite author of the Russian royal family. His previous book Greenmantle was a great hit with them. I just wonder if they managed to take a copy of it to Siberia with them.
19 March 2010 20:23
I’ve been hard at it in the garden over the past few days. It’s been such a long hard winter, the garden was just full of detritus that had to be cleared away.
It’s amazing what a few frost free days can do for growth though and plenty of things are beginning to poke their noses through the earth.
I haven’t spotted any ants so far and I’m hopeful that the terrible long cold spell has done for a lot of them. I did see one ladybird which I think is quite an early visitor for this area anyway.
As you can see the crocuses are doing their best at the moment but the daffodils are only half as tall as they should be and nowhere near flowering yet – which is just as well given that we had a howling gale during last night and all today. That’s normal for this time of year though.