This week Scotland has been enjoying wonderful weather for once and March temperature records have been broken. It got to 73F in some places, I think it was about 69F at the beach in Kirkcaldy when I took these photos.
There were actually people sunbathing in their bikinis but I decided against shocking you. It has to be said that Kirkcaldy central beach definitely isn’t one of the bonniest beaches in Fife and there are much nicer ones just a stone’s throw in each direction along the coast. The nearby small towns of Aberdour and Kinghorn have beautiful sandy beaches too.
As you can see the sand here has teeny wee bits of coal, just like grit mixed in with the sand. A legacy of the coal mining days of the area, of course all the mines were closed down years ago.
The water is beautifully clear though and this photo is actually all water as the tide was coming in. The Firth of Forth is certainly a lot cleaner than it used to be. It’s just at this point that it turns into the North Sea.
Back to the town again and you can see those three blocks of high flats which are so visible from Edinburgh and North Berwick. If you look closely you can see the massive yellow crane which is being used in the construction of the new swimming pool, although why we needed a new one is a mystery to me because the old (1980s) pool seems absolutely fine.
So, that was Kirkcaldy on one of the hottest March days which we have experienced. Why is it that when it’s a hot temperature we always revert to using Imperial measurements? We go back to those 70 Fs and know exactly what it means, hot to us but mild to other people no doubt. Then when it’s cold we are back to using centigrade and moan that it’s -15 C or whatever!
This is one of the books which I pick up and dip into every now and again, I suppose you’d call it a coffee table book. It has over a hundred illustrations of beautiful colourist paintings by F.C.B. Cadell
G.L. Hunter and
who were the most famous artists of the Scottish colourist movement. You can see some images here of colourist paintings or art which has been influenced by them.
The paintings are gorgeous and I have the added excitement of recognising lots of the subjects in the paintings as most of the artists painted beaches and cottages in Fife and the east of Scotland, as well as rivers and hills in the west of Scotland.
They did get further afield though and there are plenty of paintings of places in France and various other places that attract artists.
If you ever get a chance to see an exhibition of their work you should jump at it as I don’t think you’d be disappointed. The museum in Kirkcaldy has a very good collection but sadly it’s closed at the moment whilst work is being done on the building.
The first time I went to a colourist exhibition as soon as I entered the gallery I saw a beach painting and I said that must be a beach in Scotland, because there were several people on the beach and they all had their coats on! A typical Scottish July probably. But we can’t complain this year because my closest beach has already had people sunbathing on it – in bikinis. In March – unheard of!
I might show you some photographic evidence of that soon – well maybe not the bikinis!
Evee asked me if I had seen the bobbin lace exhibits when I went to the Creative Stitches event in Glasgow a few weeks ago, and of course I had, so here are just a couple of photos which I took when I was there. I really wanted to show the different designs of the bobbins which are used in the process. You can see them in the photo below. To me they look pretty enough to be earrings.
Here are more bobbins as well as different types of lace on display. Just gorgeous.
The amount of work and concentration involved in making pillow lace is mind-boggling to me, I just know that I could never manage it. I’d end up banging my head off a wall with frustration, but Evee is part of a lace-making group and to me that means that you must be close to the top of the tree as far as lace crafting is concerned, it’s much more difficult than crochet for example, and I’ve never managed anything more difficult than granny squares. Hooks are not my idea of fun.
I think I’m only happy doing things which don’t require too much attention, so I can knit or sew at the same time as watching TV or chatting. Well you’ve got to multi task!
The Ivy Tree is Mary Stewart’s version of Josephine Tey’s vintage crime book Brat Farrar. I read that one last year and really liked it so I was a bit dubious about reading the Stewart take on the same sort of storyline.
It’s set in a farm in Northumberland in the north of England, Roman Wall country. The elderly owner is failing fast and there’s doubt as to who the property will be passed on to after his heir, his 18 year old grand-daughter Annabel, walked out after a row eight years previously, never to be seen or heard of again.
His great-nephew, Con, is desperate to get his hands on the farm and when one day he sees Annabel’s double, a young stranger from Canada, he and his half-sister Lisa cook up a plan to secure the farm with the help of the doppelganger.
Initially I thought it was a wee bit of a cheek on Mary Stewart’s part to so blatantly nick Josephine Tey’s idea but she mentions her several times in The Ivy Tree and I like to think of Stewart reading Brat Farrar and saying to herself “I could do better than that” – and she did!
There were unexpected twists and turns right to the end of The Ivy Tree, and you can’t say fairer than that.
So here we are again for part two of that rural walk in Fife and this is another photo of a horse, the one which didn’t come down for a drink but just wanted to see what we were doing. He wasn’t at all impressed with us.
Onward and upward! A golf course does bite into the farmland but I try to ignore that fact as there are so many of the flaming blots on the landscape around Fife.
Yet another path which is going to look entirely different within a couple of weeks.
Some daffodils on the edge of the path.
Eventually you reach this ruined tower which I think has something to do with the Scott family of Michael Scott fame.
Further on you get this view of the tower and you can see that there are people living right next to it in converted farm buildings.
Looking in another direction you can see a railway viaduct which is still in use and the Firth of Forth beyond it. The hills of North Berwick on the other side of the Forth are visible if you click to enlarge.
This is Jack yomping along amongst the broom which is blooming early this year, some of it has been flowering for weeks. This part of the countryside was a railway track which was closed down in the 1960s when Dr Beeching devastated the British railway system, cutting off many rural areas completely. It later transpired that Beeching had an ulterior motive as he had gained financially from the exploit. Surprise surprise!
A close up of the broom, so called because it was cut and used as brooms in the distant past. Its botanical name is Planta genista and it is what the Plantagenets took their name from as it was their emblem.
As you can see the ground here is very marshy and some of it is flooded despite the fact that it has been really dry recently.
On the way back home now and I took this photo of the tree shadows on a ploughed field, it looked much better in reality but it’ll be interesting to see the contrast when all the leaves are burgeoning in a few weeks.
More tree shadows.
It’s nice to be able to have a walk in the countryside on my doorstep but it has to be said that there’s not much in the way of wildlife. We met four horses, one flying goose, one boxer dog, one rottweiler(scary), we heard one cockerell and said hello to two friendly farm women – and that was it, apart from one very long-dead sheep. It took us two hours and ten minutes to complete the walk and if I sat in my garden for that long I would see hundreds of birds visiting it. The countryside seems to be fairly bereft of birdlife, I suppose there are richer pickings for them in gardens.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your walk, we went home and made some coffee, so imagine you’re having some coffee/tea and cakes along with us, I wish I could offer you some real ones but at least the virtual ones are calorie free!
I hope you’ve buffed up your virtual hiking boots because we’re off on a walk along a country track. We usually stick to walking along the esplanade or around a local park during the winter months but on Sunday it was a lovely day and we decided to go off piste and took a path out of the park and down to what has recently been called Wizard’s Walk after Michael Scot who was a scholar and apparently had ‘second sight’. He lived in the Balwearie area in the 12th century. You can read about him here.
This is a carved thistle at the beginning of the walk which has been made from an old tree stump. The path leads you to a wee stream or burn which is quite pretty as it tumbles over the rocks. I think this stream fed one of the many mills which used to make linen in the town.
The field on the other side of the burn is home to a couple of very quiet horses who are obviously great pals. They both came over to have a look at us but only one came down into the stream to have a nice drink. At the moment the wild garlic is just beginning to flower and the air is fairly pungent with it, it seems to be taking over the whole area.
The horses didn’t stay long and then ambled back to their favourite corner of their field.
At the end of the path we turned right and walked up a fairly steep farm track. The trees are still bare as you can see, apart from all the ivy which is galloping up their trunks and throttling them. I’d pull it all down if they were my trees. I’m going to go back this way in a couple of weeks just to see how different it all looks.
When you reach the top of the track there’s a good view of open fields, I think in a few weeks this place should be transformed when all the trees come into leaf and the crops start growing – whatever they are.
I don’t know about you, but I think this ploughed field is a thing of beauty. It must be quite a skill to be able to plough on what is quite steep and undulating land. It looks like it has been quilted.
This is another pair of horses which are further up the hill, they were too busy eating to even notice us, it’s nice that they seem to keep them in pairs so that they are company for each other.
The walk took us just over two hours but it was such a lovely day and there was plenty to see, it’s just great to be able to stretch your legs somewhere different after the winter. Don’t put your virtual boots away yet. The walk is only half done. Come back tomorrow for part two!
This book was first published in 1924 and it’s the spoof autobiography of Augustus Carp who lives in Camberwell,London. He’s a humourless, religious pedant and a bufoon. A ghastly character all round really who resorts to blackmail to get on in the world but never sees his own behaviour as bad.
It is funny but I think it’s one of those books which is best shared with a friend(s) and read out aloud. There’s an introduction by Robert Robinson, the book was a family favourite, he was introduced to it by his father and it became a sort of touchstone for them, something which they communicated by.
It’s like a nasty version of Diary of a Nobody, the difference being that Mr Pooter is a harmless likeable chump, the opposite of Carp. The book has illustrations by Marjorie Blood who was also a cartoonist for Punch.
The author of the book was a mystery for years but it was discovered after his death that he was in fact Sir Henry Howarth Bashford an eminent Hampstead doctor who eventually became Hon. Physician to King George VI. He wrote numerous professional works but Augustus Carp was his only foray into comic fiction. He died in 1961.
I read about The Classics Club on Anbolyn’s Gudrun’s Tights and decided to join in too. You can read about it here.
I’ve listed 55 books which I intend to read within the next five years although in truth I hope it won’t take me so long. These are all books which have been in my house for years, waiting for their moment in the sun but I just haven’t got around to them. Apart from the Freeman Wills Crofts books near the end, I’ll be able to borrow those ones from my library and those are the ones I’m looking forward to reading most because I so enjoyed The 12.30 from Croydon and I love reading vintage crime. I’m going to read The Scarlet Letter first because it’s one of the ones which I think I should have read absolutely yonks ago.
When I get to the end of the 55 I’m going to reward myself with – a pat on the back and more books!
1. Deerslayer by J. Fenimore Cooper
2. Uther and Igraine by Warwick Deeping
3. Heroes by Thomas Carlyle
4. The Lady of the Camelias by Alexandre Dumas
5. Swan Song by John Galsworthy
6. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
7. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
8. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
9. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
10. The Talisman by Walter Scott
11. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
13. Nana by Emile Zola
14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
15. The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
16. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
17. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
18. The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett
19. Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett
20. The Naulahka by Rudyard Kipling and W. Balestier
21. O Pioneer! by Willa Cather
22. Moby Dick by Hermann Melville
23. The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby
24. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
25. An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym
26. The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
27. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
28. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
29. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
30. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
31. Witch Wood by John Buchan
32. The Courts of the Morning by John Buchan
33. The Gap in the Curtain by John Buchan
34. Love by Elizabeth von Arnim
35. The Corn King and the Spring Queen ny Naomi Mitchison
36. Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys
37. A Favourite of the Gods by Sybille Bedford
38. Poor Caroline by Winifred Holtby
39. The World my Wilderness by Rose Macaulay
40. Salem Chapel by Mrs Oliphant
41. The Republic by Pliny
42. The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West
43. Chatterton Square by E.H. Young
44. Not So Quiet by Hellen Zenna Smith
45. The Tenth Man by Graham Greene
46. The Third Man by Graham Greene
47. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
48. Felix Holt the Radical by George Eliot
49. The Box Office Murders by Freeman Wills Crofts
50. Inspector French’s Greatest Case by Freeman Wills Crofts
51. Mystery in the Channel by Freeman Wills Crofts
52. Man Overboard by Freeman Wills Crofts
53. Mystery on Southampton Water by Freeman Wills Crofts
54. The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts
55. Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
I’m not really superstitious but I feel that as this challenge is such a prolonged one I really have to say that I intend finishing these books – and I’m borrowing a phrase from my late Mum here – If I’m Spared – and I’m saying it on behalf of everyone else taking part too because I just feel that these things shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s bad luck. Do I sound a bit mental? Don’t answer that!
I was watching TV a couple of weeks ago and there was a programme on about Scottish words. They asked Jackie Stewart the 1960s/70s Formula 1 racing driver – and several times World Champion – what his favourite word was and he said jiggered. It’s a good long while since I heard anyone using the word and I have to say that it isn’t really one that you look forward to using. It describes something that is broken and an online dictionary says that jiggered is used in the place of a profanity or something rude.
I remember though that we used to say that we were jiggered when we were exhausted and for some reason I had it in my mind that it was used because jigging (dancing) was always so tiring. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever been to a Scottish country dance!
Anyway I had a look on You Tube to see if there was anyone using the word jiggered but couldn’t find anything, I did however see this video of women (and a man who shouldn’t have been there) ‘waulking’ tweed and singing in Gaelic. Do you remember way back in the 1960s BBC Scotland used things like this as fillers, except the women were wearing ordinary clothes? It passed for entertainment then. Then there’s a ceilidh band called Jiggered tacked onto it, they’re not bad though. They seem to have been at the Viking Festival in Largs.
This book was published in 1990 and it begins with the hereditary Lord Suzy shouting “This is Rape” – his home has been burgled during the night as they slept and he feels violated. He can’t stop talking about it and when he and his wife attend a dinner party soon afterwards he is still relating the experience.
It was an okay read but I was glad that it didn’t take long as it’s only 145 pages. I find Spark’s books to be very ‘curate’s eggish’ – I don’t normally rate books but if pushed I would give this one no more than 2 out of 5. The whole storyline is quite predictable. There are no likeable characters and it really annoyed me that she has a character with red hair who is evil and the fact that she has red hair is talked of by others – “…what malign vibes that girl gives out! That red hair – ”
I had thought that that Victorian habit of giving the bad guy red hair had died out but apparently not with Spark. It’s so lazy, just like giving the baddy in a western a black hat or making the evil person in a modern film a chain smoker. It gives sustenance to those idiots (and there are plenty of them around) who think that it’s acceptable to make denigrating remarks to people simply because of the colour of their hair. They wouldn’t get away with it if they were making remarks about the colour of a person’s skin, so I don’t see why it should be acceptable for hair colour. There are characters in this book who tell the police that a person’s red hair is natural -as if it means it’s a foregone conclusion that they are a murderer.
It all adds to the nonsense which redheads are expected to put up with. I’ve always just assumed that people who do that are sick with jealousy!