A Chasm in Time by Patricia R. Andrew

 A Chasm in Time cover

A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century by Patricia R. Andrew is a beautifully produced book and a great read. Anyone interested in art and history will find it fascinating I’m sure, you don’t have to be Scottish!

I was most interested in the World War 1 art which features such images as warships in Scapa Flow and the Firth of Forth, but it isn’t only war and weaponry that feature in the paintings. I particularly like James McIntosh Patrick’s Tay Bridge painting, but I hadn’t realised that this was the view from the front of the artist’s house. The government had commissioned art which showed the civilian side of life during the war.

The Tay Bridge from my Studio Window

Tay Bridge
The domestic scene below is of the view from the back of the artist’s house, showing his wife hanging out the washing and their wee daughter helping.

A City Garden
a city garden

There was only one thing that annoyed me about this book – it should have been proof read more closely. I know, I know, you could say that for almost any book nowadays. I think people run a spell checker and think that will sort things out but it doesn’t weed out such things as abroad when aboard should have been printed, or panting instead of painting. There were also quite a lot of hyphenated words where no hyphens should have been, such as wit-nessed, com-bination and Cran-ston. I think these must have come about when the book was being set out differently and not corrected when the design was changed. But that’s me being nit-picking, it’s just that I know that if I had written such a lovely book I would have been furious at these mistakes.

I borrowed this from the library but I intend to buy a copy of it as I know I’ll want to dip into it now and again.

St Athernase Church in Leuchars, Fife

Leuchars in Fife is a village just five or so miles from the far bigger and better known town of St Andrews, and probably that’s why we had never been there before, as St Andrews is my favourite place in Fife and by the time we’ve had an afternoon out there I’m usually tired and just want to get home.
St Athernase

Last Wednesday we planned to visit Leuchars at last, mainly to see St Athernase Church, we had seen an information leaflet about it, aimed at tourists I suppose but you know what it’s like – you rarely visit the places on your own doorstep. The really ancient part is the rounded area with the tower. Until recently I had assumed that all these old churches had originally been Roman Catholic but of course there was a Celtic church originally and at some point the RCs took over.

St Athernase

There has been a church on that site since around 1225 and although quite a lot of the church from that date is still surviving it was damaged during the Reformation, so there has been some rebuilding done over the years and the main part of the kirk which houses the congregation was built around 1745. It’s the really old bit that has the most charm for me though. I love the gargoyle-like faces on the wall which is where the original altar would have been. To me they don’t look at all Christian, more Viking or Celtic.
St Athernase

The next day was Maundy Thursday and although I’m not at all into organised religion it seemed apt to visit an ancient church around Easter. I think all of those really old churches, or kirks as we call them in Scotland, were built on the highest land in the settlement they were located in. So you have to walk through a gate and up quite a few steps to reach the churchyard. Almost as soon as we got into the churchyard a man approached us and asked us if we were documenting the graves, we aren’t of course. He was thinking of doing it if nobody else is, and I can’t find any evidence that it has already been done, I hope he takes on the task.

St Athernase

We were just looking around the churchyard, never thinking that the church would actually be open, but the minister – Rev. John C Duncan – hailed us and asked us if we would like to look around the inside – and so he ended up giving us a very interesting guided tour. I’m usually quite wary of ministers but this one couldn’t have been nicer, perhaps his previous experience of being a minister in the army made the difference. He was awarded an MBE for his service.

Luckily it seems that the Christian fundamentalists (the equivalent of those maniacs destroying everything they don’t approve of in the Middle East) didn’t spend too much time trying to destroy St Athernase because they were probably in such a hurry to march on to the more important St Andrews Cathedral – and they certainly well and truly smashed that.

If you’re interested have a look at the images of Leuchars here. There used to be an RAF station there but recently the army took over from them.

St Athernase

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

Madam Will You Talk? cover

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart was first published in 1955 but my copy is from 1969 as I think you would have realised from the cover. When I was reading this book I didn’t realise that it is actually the first book that she had published, it certainly doesn’t read like a first effort.

Charity is a young widow and when she decided to go on a road trip to Provence she asked her close friend Louise to accompany her. Not long after arriving at their hotel Charity befriends David an English teenager who is staying there with his French step-mother. It transpires that David’s father Richard has been tried for murder but has been acquitted, and when Charity overhears a conversation she realises that Richard is in France and is trying to track down his son. She is sure that David is in danger, he certainly seems to be terrified of his father.

I really enjoyed this book which is a mystery, adventure, romance and travelogue all rolled into one. There are some lovely descriptions of the countryside and there’s a hair-raising high speed car journey with Charity as the expert driver, something quite advanced and new for a female character in 1955 I think.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge.

More of my spring garden in Fife, Scotland

<clematis alpina

I had clematis alpina in my old garden, the one I worked in and planned for 26 years, and since moving to the new and at first very empty garden I’ve been planting a lot of my old favourites again, this one was a must have. I love everything about it, the shape, size, colour and the fluffy seedheads when the flowers have finished.

Amelanchier canadenis

Amelanchier canadensis (above) is one of the several trees I’ve planted, in fact I probably have too many trees, if that’s ever a possibilty. The flowers don’t last very long but they’re worth having, very delicate looking and pretty, I’ve planted another specimen by the back fence but I think I might grow that one as a large shrub, hoping it’ll become nice and bushy.

apple blossom

I’m fairly sure that the blossom in the photo above is apple, but then again it might be plum. Whatever, I’m just chuffed that several of my fruit trees are flowering for the first time since I planted them three years ago.

quince flowers

The photo of the ornamental quince above is a bit blurry, sadly this one doesn’t have the fab scent that the apricot coloured one in the old garden had. I’m still trying to track down a specimen of that one.

Below is a wee anemone, it survived the winter well and I’ve bought some more of them for the front garden.
anemone

Fritillaries, I love them, but quite a few of the flowers have got holes right in the middle of the petals, it looks like something has chomped its way out of the buds. These ones are fine though.

fritillary

The auriculas below are plants that I’ve never grown before, I had always thought they wre too delicate and tender to be left out over winter in Scotland but these ones are thriving and will need to be split up when they stop flowering, which won’t be for ages. There was quite a craze for these plants, especially amongst the French Protestant Huguenots who fled to Britain to avoid persecution from the Catholics in France.
auricula

If you want to know a bit more about the plants and the Huguenots have a look here.

Election – again

Skip this if you’re sickened by politics as this is a bit of a rant – I’m just incensed!

For lots of reasons I’m furious about this upcoming General Election. For one thing we had only just been to the council offices to arrange postal votes for the local council elections taking place on May the 4th in Scotland, when we will be away on holiday. We confidently told the woman attending to us that we only wanted the postal vote for those elections, never thinking that there would be a General Election on June the 8th when we will be in Orkney, so we’ll have to go and sort out postal votes for that one too.

That’s annoying enough but when I put the TV on to watch the 1 o’clock news and saw that Theresa May had decreed that she was having a General Election I was fairly flabbergasted. So much for her saying that we needed a period of stability. I suppose that in the grand scheme of things what she has done is preferable to Thatcher who deliberately provoked a war between the UK and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, knowing that the jingoistic tabloids would adore it and ‘winning’ a war would guarantee her re-election. I don’t know how many mothers’ sons died in that ‘police action’ an awful lot that’s for sure, but one would have been too many.

With the Conservatives being miles ahead of Labour in the polls at the moment it seems that May has decided to take the advantage, no doubt knowing that if she holds on until 2020 when the election should have been due, things will be much worse economically all round when the effects of Brexit start to bite.

It’s no wonder that so many people decide to steer clear of the ballot booths as it seems that no matter which country you look at the politicians just lie their heads off to get elected, with absolutely no intentions of keeping to their promises. The most blatant one that I witnessed was just one minute after the polls had closed on the EU Referendum – when Nigel Farage said that the only thing he regretted was the bus advert that said that Brexit would mean 350 million pounds A WEEK would be going to the NHS. Something that was obviously never going to happen – but so many people actually believed it.

So how much is this snap election going to be costing us – the tax payers? At a time when everything has been pared to the bone in the NHS and education and essential services and our roads are falling apart due to the never ending austerity – this election is the last thing we need. The TV news is full of members of the public being asked by news journalists who they will be voting for and an astonishing amount of them are saying Conservative, it makes me wonder, are the interviews edited that way or do the people genuinely think that a Conservative government with a large majority will not beat them to the ground via taxes? whilst their rich corporate friends get off without paying any tax at all.

It’s a fact that the Conservatives spent far more money than they were legally allowed to on the last general election and there should have been up to 36 by-elections in the constituencies where they cheated. They were taken to court about it and lost because they had in fact cheated, but now that will all be swept under the carpet and forgotten about – but not by me, I have a very long memory where election cheats are concerned.

It’s not democracy as I know it. I really wish that we had an entirely different system where there would be an equal number of MPs for each political party so that there was always a balance of power via coalition. It’s the only way that extremists can be reined in and the ordinary people be protected from people who have no idea what it is like to worry about keeping a roof over their families’ heads. But coalitions are roundly despised by all politicians as power and hanging on to it is the only thing they care about. They certainly don’t care about us.

I knew as soon as May got the job that she would be even worse than Thatcher – given her background it was inevitable (believe me I write from experience) but one good thing is that she is so blatantly duplicitous and treats her colleagues with such disdain that she will never last as long as Thatcher, they’ll get rid of her the same way though.

election

The Gems of Secret Scotland from Visit Scotland

Visit Scotland have sent me 27 ‘gems of secret Scotland‘ I’m not sure how many of them could be seen as secret but I’ve only visited around half of them. I’ll be going to Orkney in the summer though so I’ll be able to tick a few more places off the list.

But Loch Katrine (below) is one of my favourite places, somewhere I’ve been visiting since I was a wee girl.

Loch Katrine

I’m planning to visit the Isle of May this summer too so I’ll be getting up close to puffins for the first time ever.

Isle of May

And I’ve never even heard of Sueno’s Stone but I love standing stones so that’s definitely going on the list of places to visit.

Sueno's Stone

Have you been to many of the locations mentioned in the Visit Scotland post?

Au Reservoir by Guy Fraser-Sampson

 Au Reservoir cover

Au Reservoir by Guy Fraser Sampson is a continuation of E.F. Benson’s hugely enjoyable Mapp and Lucia series. I’m not usually at all keen on such things but for those of us who love to be in the company of Lucia and Mapp and all the other inhabitants of Tilling (Rye) in East Sussex, Au Reservoir is faithful to Benson’s characters and the situations they usually got themselves into so that’s a big plus.

Mind you Benson’s characters were so well drawn with so many eccentricities that I think it would probably be a fairly easy job for anyone with a gift for writing to cobble together a book written in his style, like a sort of join the dots exercise.

This book is slightly updated for modern readers with Major Benjy being a bit more risque than he could get away with before and a few incongruous words were used by Lucia who would never have referred to her living-room, it was always her drawing-room and she wouldn’t have used the word specialty, she would have said speciality – as I would too!

The Labour government and high taxation is mentioned a lot, which put me in mind of Angela Thirkell’s post war books. As I recall it was usually just the local rates that got Benson’s Tillingites aerated.

As you would expect from the title this is the last of these books and I found the ending quite sad. No more Moonlight Sonatas for Lucia and Georgie. What am I saying? What a relief for the Tillingites!

The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton

I’m still stuck in World War 2 but this time it’s a fictional book, The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton was first published in 1947 and if you enjoy a World War 2 English setting then you’ll love this one.

Miss Roach is a rather lonely woman in her late thirties, she’s a reader at a firm of publishers and like many people she has been bombed out of her home in London so she has taken up home in a suburban boarding house in Thames Lockdon (Henley-on-Thames) and she is having to commute into the city every day by train.

The boarding house is populated by single people all older than Miss Roach, the women are of the genteel variety, but it’s Mr Thwaites who is a thorn in Miss Roach’s flesh. Thwaites is an elderly man who gets his kicks picking on Miss Roach at every opportunity, usually at meal times. He’s a bully and a buffoon and Miss Roach dreads mealtimes, but when an American serviceman comes into her life things seem to look up a bit.

There seems to have been quite a fashion for books with a wartime boarding house setting, I suppose it was a new experience for strangers to be thrown together as they were and as such it was a rich source of copy.

I have a confession to make – this was actually a re-read for me, but it was a long time before I realised that! It seems that I read it way back in 2011 and during this re-read I kept thinking I’m sure this must have been made into a film, because it seems so familiar. But at no point did I think I had already read it – until I got almost right to the end – honestly – what am I like?!

Anyway, I still enjoyed it and if you’re interested in what I said about it in 2011 you can read that post here

Some Guardian links

I’ve been watching and really enjoying The Durrells on TV and I read a lot of their books way back in the 1970s, so I was interested to see that there’s a new biography of them out now, by Michael Haag called The Durrells of Corfu. It looks from the review though that it might be a bit of a missed opportunity as according to this article by Kathryn Hughes (who seems to know a lot about that family) Haag has stuck to the previous Durrell mythology as written by themselves and has ignored the even more interesting aspects of the family.

There’s a roundup of new thrillers here if that is your interest.

I’m interested in reading a new book called How to be Human by Paula Cocozza which is about an urban fox.

Donna Leon fans will want to read this interview. She tells why she has turned to eco-detective fiction. I have to say that I’ve never read anything by Leon but I know that Joan of Planet Joan is a fan so I’m going to give her a go.

Every Guardian Review section seems to increase my list of books to read, but I can’t not read it!

Pattern by Emma Bridgewater

Pattern cover

Pattern by Emma Bridgewater is a must read for any fans of Emma Bridgewater’s pottery, a real eye candy publication. But it’s also an interesting read with Emma Bridgewater explaining how the company was developed with help from her husband Matt and later on some other designers.

She has also added in some of her family’s favourite recipes. It all adds up to an entertaining reading experience. It’s a follow up from her book Toast and Marmalade.

If you don’t know about Emma Bridgewater pottery you might like to have a keek at some images here.