The day after we inadvertently visited the lovely wee village of Collessie we managed to find Backhouse Rossie Estate. It was a gloriously sunny day, but dare I say it – too hot! The gardens are wonderful, the only downside being that we were there just after the climbing roses had finished, I must remember to go earlier next year. The estate is actually on the road to the small town of Auchtermuchty – yes that IS a real place name.
As you can see, there’s woodland beyond the walled garden. We did go for a walk there, mainly to get into some shade.
This fountain is one of the more traditional water features.
There’s a rill leading to a pond.
You can’t really see it in the photo below but the rill is filled by the water which bubbles up from this stylish sculpture.
The photo below is of the East Lomond hill, a view over the garden fence, not a bad setting for an estate.
I took lots of photos so there’ll probably be a couple more blogposts about this lovely estate garden.
Guest in the House by Philip MacDonald was first published in 1956 and it’s the first book by the author that I’ve read. He wrote under various names and he was one of the many men who took to writing thrillers/mysteries after serving in World War 1, but writing was obviously in his blood as his grandfather was the very successful Victorian Scottish author George MacDonald and his father Ronald was also a writer.
The setting is California where an Englishman who had been a Lieutenant Colonel in WW2 is so down on his luck that he decides he must visit an old wartime friend of his. He is driving a borrowed Alfa Romeo so on the surface Ivor Dalgleish St Pelham St George, V.C, D.S.O is very respectable and well to do looking, but in fact he has only a handful of dollars left to his name, hence the visit to his old friend, whose life he happened to save during the war. From the beginning the reader realises that he’s a con man.
Jeff Gould is very happy to see his old friend although his wife Mary isn’t so keen, but their house guest makes a best friend of the daughter/step daughter of the home so it’s two against one and she has to make him welcome.
There are tensions within the marriage though which is a second marriage for Mary and the strife is caused by Mary’s first husband Victor who is demanding to have more access to his young daughter. His daughter doesn’t know him at all, Mary is determined to keep her away from her ‘dodgy’ father who has tricked her into signing an unusual divorce/child access agreement. Victor has already squeezed $10,000 from the couple to stay away from them, and that has caused them a lot of financial problems and now Victor has come back for more money.
I’ll give this book three stars on Goodreads I think. It’s well enough written but I wasn’t comfortable with the plot which involves a decent couple being manipulated by two very unlikeable men. I’ll definitely try another of his books though if I come across any on my wanderings.
Yesterday Morning by Diana Athill was published in 2002 and it’s subtitled A Very English Childhood which no doubt is what she had but she was also part of a very privileged and well off family. She was loved and cherished, it was all ponies and servants and living in a huge house on the Norfolk estate which belonged to her grandfather. All of the cousins saw it as their home as the aunts were all married to men in the armed forces who were mainly out of the country most of the time, so the women all seemed to have gone ‘home’, well it’s one way of getting out of having to grapple with your own housekeeping and servants I suppose!
But the book begins with Diana Athill’s mother hardly being able to believe that she now has a 70 year old daughter. The mother was 92. “She was well aware of being a very old woman, but she still felt like the Kitty Athill she had always been, so it was absurd to have another old woman as a daughter.” Her mother lived until the age of 96, but Diana is still going strong, she had her 100 birthday in December.
This is another enjoyable read from Diana Athill, but it’s so sad that her entire adult life seems to have been blighted by her being emotionally damaged by being dumped by her fiance who immediately married someone else, she had loved him since she was 15. He was in the RAF during WW2 and was killed a week after that. Apparently she was afraid of being hurt again so never became very deeply involved with anyone again.
There are quite a lot of short You Tube videos of Diana Athill talking about her life and writing. She must be just about the last person alive with that sort of accent, a sort of 1930s BBC announcer voice.
Let’s pretend that we’re going on a wee walk through the local woodlands in Fife. I took these photos on May 20th just when we were grabbing every good day – just in case it was the last of the summer.
It was such a late spring that a week or so before these photos were taken there was hardly any sign of green at all, but suddenly everything just exploded when our seemingly never ending winter lost its grip. There’s a wee wooden bridge in the distance – it’s perfect for playing Poohsticks, but I usually just hang over it nowadays looking for fish, and sometimes I see one or two.
The burn is fairly silent until it reaches a tumble of stones and old displaced cobbles, evidence of what had been a ford until the rushing water took its toll.
Here and there there are groves of these ferns, so elegant looking as they unfurl, I think they might be Shuttlecock ferns but there are so many different kinds, I’m not sure. I’ve just noticed that there are hogweeds beginning to grow on the edges, I hope they don’t eventually crowd the ferns out.
This woodland was part of a Victorian private estate but is now freely open to the public.
It’s not all green!
We’ve now reached the rhododendrons, these ones were obviously planted here because they’re directly opposite the front windows of the ‘big hoose’ which is now a hotel. I just noticed a couple of days ago that those posts with wire fencing on them to the far right of the photo below have small padlocks attached to them, so that fad which started in Paris must still be ongoing, crazy, but no doubt the padlock manufacturers are happy about it. I think the ‘fence’ looks completely out of place though.
I hope that that stretched your legs a bit and maybe cooled you down if you’re still stuck in intense heat. The rain arrived here today, I’m not complaining about it as it’s badly needed, I just wish that we could arrange for it just to rain overnight!
Apple Bough by Noel Streatfeild was first published in 1962 and it’s about the Forum family which consists of two boys and two girls. Their parents are quite feckless really where the children are concerned as they’re both more interested in their own lives, the father being a musician and the mother has taken up painting – to the exclusion of just about everything else. Money is always a problem, but when it turns out that the eldest boy Sebastian is a gifted violinist Miss Popple is employed to teach all of the children as an ordinary school is of no use to Sebastian.
Apple Bough is the name of the family home and they all love it, but Sebastian’s talent means that they end up travelling the world in his wake, something which seems exciting to begin with but soon palls as far as the other children are concerned. The parents are far too busy enjoying themselves at all the parties involved and being the parents of a child prodigy that it never occurs to them that the three other children are losing out on having lives of their own. The children are more mature than their parents are as quite often happens in some families. Eventually it all ends well though. This was an enjoyable read albeit a bit unlikely and far-fetched at times.
The Poison Bed by E.C. Fremantle was published in 2018. I decided to read this one after reading Helen’s much fuller review at She Reads Novels, you can read it here.
Each chapter of this book is titled alternately him and her. He is Robert Carr and she is his wife Frances and they’ve been imprisoned in the Tower of London. It’s a mighty fall from grace for them both as Robert had been a favourite of King James VI – or James I if you’re more used to the English title of that first Stuart king to succeed Elizabeth I of England.
Frances had been married previously, very unhappily, as a Howard she had been used by her family to promote their power but her husband wasn’t interested in her and Frances fell for the king’s favourite. Eventually she gets an annulment and marries Robert, a man whose relationship with the king should mean success for the couple but everything begins to unravel and when Robert’s previous ‘friend’ dies horribly fingers are pointed at the couple.
I really liked this one and it’s the first book I’ve read by the author but I’ll probably read more by E.C. Fremantle.
The National Museum of Flight at East Fortune, North Berwick is home to commercial aeroplanes as well as military ones, and most of those ones you can actually board and have a look around.
Below is a Dan Air Comet.
And its cockpit.
A British Airways BAC 1-11
Now I have to admit that I had never heard of Sheila Scott, but she flew solo around the world in 1966, in 33 days in her ‘plane Myth Too.
It’s a Piper Comanche and as you can see from the photo it’s quite bashed up, but this damage was inflicted on Myth Too by the man that it was sold to! You would think she would want to hold onto that ‘plane but maybe she needed to sell it to buy another one.
And now for Concorde.
Concorde’s engines and fuselage.
Jack standing underneath Concorde.
And Concorde’s cockpit which I have to say looks absolutely terrifying to me.
This Concorde had to have its wings temporarily removed when it was put on a barge on the Thames as part of its journey to East Fortune, the landing strips there aren’t quite long enough for Concorde to be able to fly there. You can see the photos here.
One day last month we visited The National Museum of Flight at East Fortune airfield in North Berwick for the first time. It’s a great place, there’s so much to see, including an actual Concorde!
Quite a lot of the original buildings are still in existence, during both world wars this place was bustling with activity, and had thousands of men and women from many various countries stationed here. It’s obviously on a large rural site and the closest town is North Berwick, not that that is exactly a metropolis.
Below is a photo of the control tower.
There’s a good mixture of civilian and military aeroplanes, below is a Hawker Harrier jet.
A Messerschmidt Komet.
A New Zealand War Memorial.
An ejector seat from the 1960s.
And beside it is displayed this actual World War 1 Sopwith Camel seat which is made of wickerwork and looks like a cut down garden chair.
We had to visit the cafe of course and it’s decorated with lots of stylish replica posters. I had hoped that they would have some for sale in the shop but of course they didn’t. The poster below is displayed in the museum, from the days when air displays were all the rage, this one took place not that far from where I live.
I took lots of photos, next time I’ll show some of the civilian aircraft – including Concorde.
The Silver Bead by Helen Dunmore was first published in 2003 and it’s the third in a trilogy, the only one that I’ve read though. It’s aimed at girls who are just about to move up to secondary/high school.
Zillah and Katie have just experienced the last day of primary school and are planning to have the best summer holidays ever. Zillah’s parents have a farm but things are tough and they’re diversifying so Zillah’s mum is serving cream teas to visitors, helped by Zillah and Katie who have been friends for years. But as often happens in life their plans are overtaken by circumstances that they could all do without.
This book is entertaining for females of all ages, I can’t imagine it would interest boys, although they would also benefit from the book’s attitude to people who are a bit different from others, such as those from the travelling community.
Rosabelle Shaw by D.E. Stevenson was first published in 1937. I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I realised that D.E. Stevenson had named a character Rosabelle. I was at school with a girl with that name and I’ve never heard of anyone else having it – well not until I read about the tragic drowning of Rosabelle of Ravenscraig Castle which inspired Sir Walter Scott to write a poem which you can read here.
Rosabelle Shaw is set in Scotland, it begins in Edinburgh 1890 where Fanny quickly ends up marrying and moving to a new life in rural Scotland where her husband John is a farmer. Rosabelle is their first-born but as you would expect John is keen to have a son eventually, but when a ship is wrecked on the nearby rocks the only survivor is a baby boy. John does his best to track down the parents but has no success. Unfortunately Fanny has already bonded with the baby which she names Jay, and she has no intentions of giving him up anyway. From the beginning the child comes between the couple and things only get worse as the years go on.
I ended up enjoying this one although for a large part of the book the manipulative and deceitful nature of Jay and the way that Fanny puts Jay before her own children and husband made it an uncomfortable read, but it eventually ends well for the Shaw family.
I might be reading too much into D.E. Stevenson’s writing but it seems to me that she often gives a wee nod to other Scottish authors, there’s the use of the unusual name Rosabelle – a nod to Scott, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the house of Shaws appears in Catriona – Robert Louis Stevenson’s sequel to Kidnapped.
I rather like the cover of the 1967 edition of the book which I managed to borrow from the Fife libraries reserve stock. It looks like an authentically Scottish scene for the historical setting.